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Evolution and Crime

Written By: - Date published: 12:19 am, December 28th, 2008 - 76 comments
Categories: police, prisons, science, scoundrels - Tags: ,

The Economist is one of the few main stream media that seem to be flourishing in the days of decline for most media outlets. This is probably because it offers truly interesting comment and opinion.

For instance in the current science section, they have “Darwinism:Why we are, as we are, a view on the current trends in evolutionary theory related to society. I’ve picked out a few bits about the evolutionary role of crime.

Now this is not the mindless use of evolution professed by some of our more stupid trolls. They never seem to have learnt why Social Darwinists are considered to be fools for ignoring the societal glue of altruism and its relatives. Humans evolved as a social species and evolved society as a means to continuing development on the same lines

For instance, there appears to be a blind faith insistence by some that more rapid and longer incarceration has a noticeable effect on crime. There is essentially no evidence that this is or has ever happened. Policy makers should probably learn more about the factors that actually drive crime in evolutionary terms. There are remarkable similarities in criminal patterns worldwide when you eliminate age and population density factors. For instance in the age ranges and frequency of homicides.

An evolutionary analysis explains many things about crime (and not just murder)—particularly why most criminals are males of low status. A woman will rarely have difficulty finding a mate, even if he does not measure up to all her lofty ideals. In the world of Moulay Ismail the Bloodthirsty, however, a low-status man may be cast on the reproductive scrap heap because there are no women available to him at all. Though the world in which humanity evolved was nowhere near as polygamous as Moulay Ismail’s, neither did it resemble the modern one of monogamous marriage, which distributes women widely. In those circumstances, if the alternative was reproductive failure, risking the consequences of violence may have been are worth the gamble—and instincts will have evolved accordingly.

Like the Economist article, I’d suggest that politicians and the publics ideas about causation of crime are incredibly weak and depend far more on wishful thinking than analysis. For instance ‘born criminals’, racial characteristics of crime, and poverty driven crime don’t appear to be supported by the evidence. In the latter case the correlations can be explained as easily by status and reproductive failure. As the chart above notes for its area, crime is largely the province of males. This tends to indicate that it is as much a reproductive strategy as a male peacocks tail. In its typical acid tongue, the Economist notes:-

Sexual success, by contrast, tends to dampen criminal behaviour down. Getting married and having children—in other words, achieving at least part of his Darwinian ambition—often terminates a criminal’s career. Again, that is a commonplace observation. However, it tends to be explained as ‘the calming influence of marriage’, which is not really an explanation at all. ‘Ambition fulfilled’ is a better one.

Now obviously this is not going to accord with some peoples ideas. As the article states close to the beginning

Traditionally, the answers to such questions, and many others about modern life, have been sought in philosophy, sociology, even religion. But the answers that have come back are generally unsatisfying. They describe, rather than explain. They do not get to the nitty-gritty of what it truly is to be human. Policy based on them does not work. This is because they ignore the forces that made people what they are: the forces of evolution.

Perhaps our law makers and upholders of the law should learn a bit more about the sciences of human behavior and its evolutionary background. Because it is difficult to see what much of the law and order debate in the recent election had to do with reality.

76 comments on “Evolution and Crime”

  1. r0b 1

    Interesting post Lynn, thanks for that. Nice to see some topics like this, not necessarily on current political issues, but looking for the real explanations that underlie social behaviour and important social / political issues.

    I was going to take issue with the conclusion – if the alternative was reproductive failure, risking the consequences of violence may have been are worth the gamble – as far too simplistic – until I read the article. The full article is a good summary and makes a reasonable case, I do recommend that people read it before piling in with any knee jerk responses!

  2. lprent 2

    rOb, yeah. The problem is that if you are trying to compress into about 400 words, it gets impossible to be precise. This one wound up as 600 odd words on one aspect of a much larger article. Which was itself a summary of some of the study and thinking of one aspect of explanation across a number of areas.

    What I wanted to do with this post was point out an alternate way of thinking about the issue, and get people reading the article.

    Personally, I’ve always found thinking about the evolutionary approach has been the most effective in understanding the patterns I see in people. Strip away the rationalizations that people place on things and assume that humans are smart social animals. That seems to work more often than not. It is a pity that research in this area seems to be constrained.

  3. Peter Burns 3

    I think the holistic approach to tackling the current scourge of crime is a far better option than evolution methodology, which has failed and mass produced moronic heartless filth.
    Must go, got to get to that Church on time.
    God bless.

  4. Anita 4

    One of the frustrations for me about this kind of “Darwinian” analysis is the way in which it overlooks biology and focusses on providing a scientific rationale for “rational choices”.

    A more biochemical analysis would look at the chemical soup that makes us up and discuss, for instance, that the curve in the graph looks a lot like the graph of testosterone over the lifetime (although the decay curve is not quite as steep and also the male/female differences in testosterone levels which also match the statistics. They could then discuss the evolutionary advantage of testosterone levels like that.

    I’m not arguing against a Darwinian analysis, just that pop science tends to focus on higher order behaviour and ignore the fact that we are no more than chemical soup. Many behaviours can be better explained by a kind of biochemical determinism than an attempt to apply Darwinian logic to a pure free will model..

  5. marco 5

    I agree there needs to be a better approach to crime prevention in this country, however there also needs to be a sense of justice for the victim. The reason for this is its generally victims who campaign for tougher sentences, which galvanises opinion and influcences policy.
    The best form of crime prevention is a higher standard of education. Most violent offenders (although not all) have a lower level of education. This ifluences reasoning and decision making.
    Manurewa which has been in the news with regards to its violent crime, only has 35 percent of its under 5’s in early childhood education. A quick check around Manurewa shows that all its early childhood providers are full meaning there is a huge market for more childcare providers in the area.
    This is both a failure of private enterprise (plugging the hole in the market) and the government (who fail to make it attractive to become a provider in the area).

  6. Anita 6

    marco,

    The reason for this is its generally victims who campaign for tougher sentences, which galvanises opinion and influcences policy.

    Many victims of crime don’t campaign for tougher sentences. Some even campaign against prison sentences for the types of crimes of which they have been victims.

    That the crime-and-punishment lobby is so successful in the media is not because all victims of crimes are behind it. It’s because of a very successful media strategy, and the media’s appetite for crime stories and extreme points of view.

  7. RedLogix 7

    But just because the shape of the murder rate/age curve is the same in the UK as it is in Chicago, does not discount the fact the UK curve is still by far the better one to have. What this does tell us is that while the underlying cause of murder is the same everywhere, external social conditions play a dominant role in determine just how many murders occur.

    The best analogy that comes to mind is say, shot noise in electronic circuits. While the root cause is the same (the stochastically random motion of individual electrons), the actual amount of noise in any given circuit is also directly related to absolute temperature.

    Given that humans evolved within a purely Darwinian framework over millions of years, it is entirely unsurprising that the root causes of our behaviour also have Darwinian explanations. But the pre-eminent feature of humans (I won’t say unique) is our astonishing ability to form and manipulate purely asbtract concepts. It is this faculty that allows us to ‘step outside of the box’, to become post-Darwinian as it were. Religion has long proposed a dual nature to humanity. The essence of this idea that is while our mammallian-derived behaviours are largely predictable, hard to change and destructive, we are also possessed of another nature that is creative, contemplative, and transformative.

    Our life in this world necessarily constrains us into inhabiting the body of an ape, with all the hardwiring and firmware that evolution has endowed us with. But we also get to play with the application layer. The fact remains that the total murder rate in Chicago and the UK is differrent, AND that we can manipulate this if we choose.

    In fact taking the article to it’s logical conclusion, we could almost eliminate murder if we arranged our society to ensure most people married and had children much younger than our present custom, pretty much from the age of say 16 onwards. A society that was so ordered as to make such young families sucessful (emotionally, financially and socially) would look a fair bit different to ours present form, but is not wholly unthinkable. And that is the point.

  8. lprent 8

    A: Sure we are a chemical soup.

    The point I was trying to make is that the debate about crime is just weird. It ignores virtually everything known about human behavior and concentrates on the corny discredited solutions. It seems to operate on the general basis of “it it didn’t work last time, maybe it will this time”.

  9. Anita 9

    lprent,

    the debate about crime is just weird. … It seems to operate on the general basis of “it it didn’t work last time, maybe it will this time’.

    Isn’t that the definition of insanity? :)

  10. Ianmac 10

    It follows I suppose, that the Destiny Church has a valid function in helping to provide a base for males to be successful and therefore create fewer criminals. They seem to my middleclass eyes to be a bit dodgy, but like the Salvation Army they are probably a vital part of society.

  11. burt 11

    lprent

    The point I was trying to make is that the debate about crime is just weird.

    It might not be weird, perhaps all that you thinking it is weird tells us is that you don’t understand it.

    I think Anita has made a very valid point, I could probably use that same graph to illustrate road deaths as a result of stupid driving behaviour (arguably criminal behaviour – arguably not). I could probably also use that graph to show number of times a hormonal pimply faced person (male or female) masturbates each year.

    But hey that wouldn’t be using the graph to preach my ideology would it.

  12. Mr Magoo 12

    Merry xmas everyone and soon to be happy new year for you guys I hope. Yes I am happy, I am not working and this always makes me happier. :)

    I lament that an article on scientific rigor uses a graph with three plots from random places and implies from this that crime is very similar all over. Now I have no idea if it is, but I am damned sure that graph proves absolutely nothing and is VERY misleading.

    But that is what you get with journalists I guess. Their science is about as good as their ethics.

    Having got that off my chest. Interesting point about getting your freak on stopping crime. It figures.
    We are just rutting animals in a field. :)

    PS: Yes, that last post was intentionally and ironically vulgar.

  13. RedLogix 13

    Is this the point you are referring to Burt?

    A more biochemical analysis would look at the chemical soup that makes us up and discuss, for instance, that the curve in the graph looks a lot like the graph of testosterone over the lifetime (although the decay curve is not quite as steep and also the male/female differences in testosterone levels which also match the statistics.

    I was wondering if Anita was going to spot the obvious question that might arise from her biochemical explanation, is that if it is true, then can we infer that young males in Chicago have roughly 30 times the testosterone levels of young males in the UK? (Hell this may be true, I don’t know.)

    Captcha = thrust 17 (errk!)

  14. Anita 14

    burt,

    I’m not sure I was making the point you think I made :)

    We are chemical soup, many of our patterns of behaviour have biochemical drivers seated in our evolutionary heritage we should consider this, rather that the need for vengeance or populist political point scoring, when we design our law and order, education and health policies.

  15. Anita 15

    RedLogix,

    I was wondering if Anita was going to spot the obvious question that might arise from her biochemical explanation, is that if it is true, then can we infer that young males in Chicago have roughly 30 times the testosterone levels of young males in the UK?

    An lo, we have yet another example of proof that it is neither exclusively nature or nurture :)

  16. Interrogative Mode 16

    Hmm. Thought-provoking post. I’d be interested in what the paper’s authors have to say about domestic abuse. We know that men (it’s almost always men) who were abused as children are more likely to abuse their own children and their partners. The behavioural explanation for this seems to me to be far more on point than any evolutionary explanation.

  17. RedLogix 17

    Some of the source documents by Martin Daly and Margo Wilson are here.

  18. RedLogix 18

    A fast skim through their material yeilds this one critical clue:

    The results of these analyses support the proposition that the degree to
    which resources are unequally distributed is a stronger determinant of levels of
    lethal violence in modern nation states than is the average level of material
    welfare.

    In other words they consistently find that the GINI (income inequality) coefficient (especially when used on a local or regional basis) is the best predictor of violence. Young males, shut out from reproduction by severe social inequality, have nothing to loose by engaging in risky behaviour (even murder), because in essence, the reproductive difference between keeping one’s nose clean and dying celibate, and taking a risk and dying young is nil. For young male with no opportunity to attain a mate legitimately, it is worth the risk to attain one by behaving badly, even if the downside is death. (A rather brutal reduction of the old obervation that nice guys really do finish last.)

    Conversely one could draw the obvious conclusion that monogamous societies which strive to moderate the extremes of wealth and poverty, allow for an equality of opportunity and security, and encourage the formation of stable families… are going to experience the lowest levels of violent crime.

    Kind of bleedingly obvious really, so why does our public policy persist in heading off in entirely the opposite direction?

  19. Ag 19

    Kind of bleedingly obvious really, so why does our public policy persist in heading off in entirely the opposite direction?

    Because it is written by social dominators who see themselves as winning this “contest”?

  20. Paul 20

    of course the difference between England and Chicago may well be simply down to the availability of weaponry – young males in England may end up in a punch up outside the pub while in Chicago one of them pulls a saturday night special – the initial arguments may be similar but the results are amplified by the tools available

  21. burt 21

    Interrogative Mode

    It’s always the step father, quite possibly the step father that was messed up by an abusive parent (step father) themselves, but nevertheless it’s usually the step father occasionally the uncle.

    RedLogix

    Kind of bleedingly obvious really, so why does our public policy persist in heading off in entirely the opposite direction?

    Because our social policy is incapable of reducing the problem to it’s root cause as you have done. We cannot provide breeding vessels as a compensation for young male antisocial or dangerous behaviour. Therefore we seek to address another more PC factor and we administer more welfare and/or harsher sentences and pretend we are dealing with it.

  22. Anita 22

    burt,

    It’s always the step father, quite possibly the step father that was messed up by an abusive parent (step father) themselves, but nevertheless it’s usually the step father occasionally the uncle.

    Nope. Craig Manukau, Lilybing, Sade Trembath, and the Kahui twins for starters.

    I need to walk in the sunshine now.

  23. Peter Burns 23

    Anita, contrary to feminist ideology the presence of the biological father does help in the nurturing process and provides the much needed balance craved by healthy and happy children. Family breakdowns are always aided by the no fault divorce system in which the bio dad is shafted into oblivion by a gender bias de family court of mongrels. The system breeds resentment! Criminals abound – build more jails dumbos! Anybody remember the days of mum, dad and the kids. What century was that? Why do I bother. What year did Coral B get killed. RIP Kahui Twins etc…etc…

    Don’t forget to put on your sun cream and I hope you don’t get mugged by young thugs.

  24. Ari 24

    ROFL Peter…

    The presence of the father only helps when the father has half a clue. Abusive and manipulative parents can be worse than no parents at all. That goes for mothers as well as fathers. What Anita was saying was that it’s not exclusively step-fathers and uncles who are to blame for abuse- which seems a pretty logical conclusion.

    Get off your hobby horse ;)

  25. Peter Burns 25

    I know I hit a tender point when Ari starts a reply with ROFL. Yawn, so predicable. Rising crime rates and family breakdowns go hand in hand when a family unfriendly government does not endorse the traditional family as the fundamental building block of society. But, you know this and we sit on different sides of the ideological fence. Please don’t insult my intelligence with pathetic jibes like ROFL and hobby horse.
    How many more prisons shall we build Ari?

  26. Carol 26

    I welcome any nuanced approach to understanding crime, especially when it includes a consideration of social class differences and issues of relative power. However, an evolutionary approach seems pretty limited to me. A sociological one seems more helpful.

    The problem with using crime stats is that they don’t fully reflect the violence and other crimes actually happening or the social class distribution of the perps: eg with domestic violence.

    How much white collar crime is masked by the people with most power? Who defines what counts as a crime? How many police officers (from middleclass backgrounds) commit and get away with illegal acts of violence or other crimes in the course of their jobs? Violent crimes against humanity, initiated by middleclass men (and women) in positions pf political power are not included in national crime stats: eg Iraq, Palestine etc.

    What evidence is there that large numbers of women are attracted to men who commit crimes? Many pacifist and/or non-criminal men are very attractive to some women.

    IMO it’d be more fruitful to look more closely at the contexts in which crimes occur with a focus on socioeconomic and political factors.

  27. Peter Burns 27

    Yes Carol I find it rather offensive that police officers and judges can continue working with protection orders in place. Doesn’t DV count for the slimy – underhand judiciary!? Silly me, evolution dictates that the selected few are different in a world of the survival of the fittest. Thanks Charles. Want a Bible in hell mate?

  28. RedLogix 28

    Considering only the category “fatal batterings of small children” the data is very striking:

    Australian data indicate an even larger Cinderella effect. Wallace (1986) reported that perpetrators of fatal baby batterings in New South Wales in 1968-1981 included 11 putative genetic fathers and 18 stepfathers, even though the victims’ median age was only 12 months. Strang (1996) reported that comparable cases for the country as a whole in 1989-1993 included 11 children killed by putative genetic fathers and 12 by stepfathers, although the victims’ median age was in this case less than 1 year.

    For both of these samples, the age distribution was such that fewer than 0.5% of a random sample of same-age children from the population-at-large would be expected to have had a stepfather according to Australian Family Characteristics Survey data, and the estimated relative risk from stepfathers vs genetic fathers exceeds 300-fold.

    From Daly and Wilson again. here

    Sorry if the data is a dated, but there is little reason to think this affects the takeaway conclusion much. A similar highly elevated risk is found in most countries with reliable source data.

    There will be of course genetic fathers who do kill children, but the authors stress that these cases often present quite differently; the usual history being of a parent either depressed or alienated from his family commits a murder/suicide in which the minimum of actual suffering is inflicted, death usually inflicted by gun or asphyxiation.

    Also of interest:

    Nevertheless, all available evidence indicates that excess risk from stepmothers (relative to genetic mothers) is roughly on the same order as excess risk from stepfathers (relative to genetic fathers).

    although they emphasise that the actual number of children who live with stepmothers in these modern times is very low. (In contrast to pre-Industrial times were death in childbirth was very common and step-mothering was the usual resort. Which is why this whole phenomon is called the “Cinderella Effect.)

    Carol:

    How much white collar crime is masked by the people with most power? Who defines what counts as a crime? How many police officers (from middleclass backgrounds) commit and get away with illegal acts of violence or other crimes in the course of their jobs? Violent crimes against humanity, initiated by middleclass men (and women) in positions pf political power are not included in national crime stats: eg Iraq, Palestine etc.

    Couldn’t agree with you more, but the thread was mainly focussed on the root causes and responses to the kind of violent crime that captures popular paranoia.

  29. Anita 29

    Peter Burns,

    Anita, contrary to feminist ideology the presence of the biological father does help in the nurturing process and provides the much needed balance craved by healthy and happy children

    I think you’re disagreeing with me about something I didn’t say (and don’t believe).

    In fact I think you’re disagreeing with feminism for something that it (to the extent feminism is a single belief structure) doesn’t believe either.

  30. burt 30

    My comment about the stepfather’s earlier in the thread was partially tongue in cheek. Clearly it’s not always the stepfather but as the statistics dug out by RedLogix support – there is a very amplified risk to children with step parents.

    This sort of non genetic offspring abuse is common across much of the mammal species. We think we have evolved eh…. We are indeed a chemical soup.

  31. Rex Widerstrom 31

    Like r0b, I’m pleased to see analysis of issues outside of reaction to a particular incident. Not only because this is something The Standard does particularly well, but also because it takes some of the heat out of the comments if people aren’t reacting to some horrendous slaughter and can thus think more dispassionately. So thanks, lprent.

    Being a particular hobby horse of mine, there’s so much I want to comment on here I could easily exceed the length of the original post (a sure sign your comment is too verbose ;-) ). However there’s a point Anita made that jumps out for me at present:

    Many victims of crime don’t campaign for tougher sentences. Some even campaign against prison sentences for the types of crimes of which they have been victims

    I recently had lunch with a member of the Prisoner Review Board (formerly known as the Parole Board) in WA. She’d grown up watching domestic violence by her father on her mother, then been a victim of it over a prolonged period by the father of her child. She became a member of the government’s Victims Reference Group and then was appointed the first “victims’ representative” on the Board.

    Despite the fact that she personally was a delightful person I approached her with my guard up. I wanted to challenge her on whether her appointment was any more valid, than, say, a representative of the wrongfully accused or those whose sentences were excessive compared to others of a similar nature.

    But her attitude to prisoners totally disarmed me. She’d taken the time to think through the issues and her responses didn’t seem to be at all motivated by fear, revenge or prejudice. She had the capacity to see prisoners – and victims – as individuals with individual needs and whose paths to being “fixed” differed greatly.

    Despite the intensity of what she’d endured (she was the first person in WA’s history to be granted a lifetime restraining order against her former partner) and despite working with hundreds of victims since then, she’d retained – or perhaps recovered – her humanity.

    Rather than challenge her I listened, and learned. And amongst the many things I was taught was that Anita is absolutely right: not all victims want longer and harsher sentences. Some actively oppose it. Most can see that offenders are individuals, and that what works for one won’t necessarily work for another. And that the time to ask them what they want isn’t just after they or their family have been offended against, or as the sentence is handed down. They admit their thinking at such times isn’t rational – which is, of course, exactly why the SST choose those moments to exploit them.

    And because they were victims they know that what’s most important isn’t that the Garth McVicars of this world get a pulpit from which to preach their sermon of dehumanisation and punishment, but that other members of society are stopped from becoming victims too.

    And if the price paid for that is to treat prisoners like human beings it’s a price the vast majority of victims say they are only too happy to pay.

  32. RedLogix 32

    We are indeed a chemical soup.

    But that overstates the case in the other direction. The other fact that is relevant here is that the huge majority of step-parents do a wonderful job, all the more admirable given their relative lack of genetic drive to do so. We have to keep in mind that extreme child murders and abuse are still relatively rare.

    Yes we are a chemical soup, but one with the astonishing faculty of self-reflection.

  33. Chris G 33

    Interesting thread all round. Great post and good user comments.

    Crime just seems to be the most difficult problem to even attempt to solve in our society. I think our first problem is that we never have open discussions and debate on causes of crime, we only hear from (in the media) this one sided victim/vengeful perspective and I think its this huge obstacle for us moving forward in anyway – Its sort of created this Cartesian thing going on like ‘We’re all victims and over there are the dogs who roll in crime’. Eg.It doesnt help when you get dopes like Michael Laws week in week out in the SST decrying criminals as ‘brown, uneducated underclass’ without offering any realistic solutions to solving crime other than alluding to long jail sentences.

    It also doesnt help when you get a flurry of Anti-Abortion lobbyists using the Nia Glassie et al. cases as examples of why Abortion is bad! They essentially believed that those crimes were committed as some part of evidence of why abortion is bad. That just gobsmacked me when I read all those letters to the editors. Surely it should serve as a case for pro-abortion… anyway, I digress slightly.

    The point im getting at is that we are rarely, if ever, shown reasoned debates or inferences about causes of crime. Threads like this should be up for more widespread, public discussion. Instead we get this crap ingrained in our national psyche by the media that we can place a ‘box’ around criminals and we tackle them as a side issue by listening to fuckin McVicar and Michael Laws and hear Rodney the Razor Saying he’ll get tough on crime… but how the hell will he pull through?

    I hear what your saying Peter B with regards to the importance of family, but. What is it, at a policy level, that can strengthen families? Tax cuts? – bollocks (refer: families under $44K in latest tax package), ultrafast broadband – bollocks……. Spying on Greenpeace? (Okay that wasnt at a policy level, but I had to chuck it in)

    Once again I stream of consciousness and I wont bother to check over what I’ve scrawled…Take from it what you will.

  34. Bill 34

    What exactly is crime when it’s at home?

    Killing a Muslim may be a crime today, but during the crusades was a sure way to heaven.

    Killing your neighbour might be a crime. Killing over a million Iraqis isn’t. Apparently.

    Stealing a handbag is a crime. Stealing a pension fund?

    To argue that the marginalised and dispossessed ( the people ‘crimes’ are invented for after-all!) are more disposed to being criminal is….whatstheword? I’ll settle for ‘not very ingenious’ when you look at it face on for a second.

  35. RedLogix 35

    Bill,

    Again the same answer as to Anita, who raised the same issue. I agree with you, but for the purpose of the thread we had discounted the wider questions you raise. In all three examples you mention, deplorable acts are justified by power elites protecting their interests via a conventional wisdom.

    How about this idea? The very broad overview of history (sort of Toynbean-ish) suggests that social evolution consists of a series of stages, each one embracing a wider moral horizon than the one before.

    At some stage in our pre-history the prime moral value was the survival of your family, and secondarily your familial tribe. Civilisation has progressed as we have been able to extend that loyalty to larger and larger constructs, religion, city, culture, race, and state. An act (such as disembowelling a thief from a rival tribe) that was acceptable, indeed praised at one stage, is deplored and criminalised at a later stage.

    Killing Muslims en-masse is ok while you are at that moral stage, (and sadly lots of people still are)… but the horizon has shifted since the time of the Crusades.

    Killing your neighbour is an act committed by an individual, and society is long accustomed to regulating the behaviour of individuals. Much less so when it becomes a question of regulating the behaviour of the so-called ‘sovereign state’. Collectively we lack the institutions and will to convict a rogue state that illegally kills a million Iraqis, but at least there are many, many others in the world who now recognise it as a moral wrong. Consider the few lone voices who protested WW1, compared to this, so maybe we are progressing painfully in the right direction and will get a proper International Court within our lifetimes.

    Again stealing handbags is a crime we are accustomed to dealing with. Vulnerable women have been robbed since time immemorial, while the complexities of the monstrous Ponzi scheme that is Wall St and global finance is only just being grasped by most of us. This kind of non-violent (yet hugely destructive) crime is something relatively new in human history, with the fall-out really only hurting us three times, 1873, 1929 and 2009. Each time we think we have put in place safeguards to prevent it happening again, but each generation in it’s hubris forgets and gets suckered by the cheaters all over again. When enough people truly believe greed is good… dissenting voices and whistleblowers are silenced and eventually things go very bad.

    (It turns out Madoff bribed the SEC to give him a clean bill of health, despite numerous very clear concerns having been raised about his fund. The rot had infected the whole system, it had to collapse, and take with it all the pernicious crap about ‘self-regulating free markets’.)

  36. Rex Widerstrom 36

    Ohh this thread is so good I just wanna strip down to my togs (why is it no Australian understands this term?) and wallow in it. Sorry about that mental image…

    Carol asks:

    What evidence is there that large numbers of women are attracted to men who commit crimes? Many pacifist and/or non-criminal men are very attractive to some women.

    In my experience it very much depends on the “class” into which you were born. Where I grew up, in a distinctly lower socio-economic area, nice guys do finish last in the reproductive stakes. They did when I was young and by all accounts still do. Hence I do question that part of The Economist‘s conclusions.

    Growing up, the aggressive, if not violent, boys – those who rarely attended school and disrupted it when they were there – were like magnets to “good” and “bad” girls alike. I’ve seen mothers – from the mothers of girls I grew up with to the mothers of my daughter’s friends 20 years later – encouraging relationships with boys who had a steady job, a car, some dreams and at least some prospects, all to no avail. It was the ones who stood over those kids for their money or to “borrow” their cars to whom the girls almost always flocked.

    When I returned to the school as Chair of it’s Board I was only slightly surprised to learn that, while in my day the ‘pecking order’ amongst boys was determined by how many girls one could seduce and then abandon this was now so commonplace as to hold no cachet at all – status was now gained by the number of girls one could impregnate and abandon. Thus there were teenage boys proud to have had, in some cases, two or three children, all to different mothers.

    The problem with the conclusion that:

    …Sexual success, by contrast, tends to dampen criminal behaviour down. Getting married and having children?in other words, achieving at least part of his Darwinian ambition?often terminates a criminal?s career.

    …is that amongst lower socio-economic orders sexual success doesn’t equate with “getting married and having children” any more. Instead it has come to be viewed as a scorecard – like how many people you’ve robbed or how long you’ve spent in juvenile detention – as merely an indicator of your “success” as a societal outcast.

    Then we have a generation of children growing up and knowing that’s the entire extent of the regard held for them by their biological fathers…

  37. Ag 37

    Each time we think we have put in place safeguards to prevent it happening again, but each generation in it’s hubris forgets and gets suckered by the cheaters all over again.

    We do nothing about the root of the problem, because most of our cultural mechanisms for dealing with bad behaviour assume some form of the free will theory, which is usually tied to some vestigially Christian belief that everyone has an equal chance to be good or bad.

    Of course, it isn’t true. Some people are born bad, and others are made that way with no way of going back. Anti social personalities and social dominators abuse this belief to the detriment of everyone else.

    As usual, the first people to think about this knew the answer. Even Plato understood that the primary focus of any large organization ought to be to discover some way of measuring those who are psychologically unfit to be put in positions of authority over others, and then preventing those people from ever being put in such positions. It’s amazing how well things run when that happens (although it mostly does by accident).

    My favourite claim of his is the one that says that anyone who has the remotest interest in exercising political rule ought for that very reason to be excluded from consideration as a potential ruler.

  38. Anita 38

    Carol,

    What evidence is there that large numbers of women are attracted to men who commit crimes? Many pacifist and/or non-criminal men are very attractive to some women.

    A Darwinian argument would be that a woman should be attracted to men who are most likely to successfully reproduce the woman’s material.

    In my nice middle class enclave that means men who will be financial successful so that our children will not only survive childhood but also have the best possible educational and economic outcomes, giving them the best possible chance of reproducing successfully. So yeah, I should choose intelligent, driven, healthy and non-violent (more likely to not get himself killed).

    In a more violent and less financially able place perhaps I would be better to choose a man able and willing to win physical contests. That way he’d live to breed and support me and my children and our children, in turn, would be more likely to survive a physically violent world.

  39. uroskin 39

    Looking at the graph cynically, I can’t but think that if we locked up all males when they hit puberty until they have grown a brain, there’d be no crime.

  40. merl 40

    This is not a position that I hold (just a random neuron sparking in the back of my brain).

    But when I read the argument about “Sexual success, by contrast, tends to dampen criminal behaviour down. ”
    That seems to me to be an argument to ‘lock them up and throw away the key’. If you penalise crime by essentially removing their ability to procreate, then would the be considered a sufficient deterrent?

    Assuming of course that the above point is correct.

  41. ak 41

    Lovely post Lynn, and great thoughts everyone, even Peter4 (notwithstanding the mental image from Rex, but at least you kept your cossie on…budgiesmuggler?)

    Like all great theories (and beliefs), Darwinism is open to interpretation and abuse. It can elicit the cruel, tory “survival of the fittest” mentality, and also the more enlightened “social Darwinist” staged evolution outlined by Redlo.

    Both interpretations can be useful. The “testosterone/reproduction” scenario outlined above rings particularly true as an explanation of youthful status-seeking: the variable that cries for attention is the (socially defined) definition of status.

    As Red points out, where wealth is more evenly spread, education and skills will carry more weight. In 1950’s NZ, where the postmaster lived next to the doctor, the man who had “passed UE” or “can play the piano” – (or the ultimate, the “university man”) had the status – and got the girl.

    Nowadays, status is all money, and the fifty-million dollar paper-shuffling cipher is the new role model. Being the baddest biker or growing the big crop are indeed the rational choices for those ill-equipped to scale the increasingly-steep conventional ladders.

    So where does the current social definition of status come from? Same place as most of our definitions – the brightly-coloured box that leaves pulpit, principal and whanau in the grey and dusty shade The handfuls of professional persuaders that daily bombard our youth with compelling messages of bliss-via-wealth in order to please their employers.

    The (mainstream) media is the messenger. Which is why this interwebby thing has such huge potential: witty, pithy, well-made clips on U-tube garnering millions of hits accelerating Red’s social evolution – and nerdy left-wing computer geeks the new sex-symbols. (might even be a bit-part for Peter Burns as the reformed villain..)

  42. Rex Widerstrom 42

    (I swim in rugby shorts, actually… though only in my pool since a shark took yet another swimmer in shallow water near where I live, and the mad Aussies won’t dream of getting rid of it. I’m all for conservation till I’m dinner, then Darwinism kicks in in a big way).

    I’m not sure we can lay the blame entirely, or even mostly, at the feet of the media – much as I’m always happy to lambast them for the crap they peddle, and not just in the ad breaks.

    Aside from promoting rampant consumerism, which no doubt contributes to raising desire which can be met only by theft or perhaps even robbery, TV is still pumping out the same morality tales that have emerged from pulpit and principal for centuries.

    Take “Californication” as but one instance, since it upset the moral orthodoxy so much. Yes, it showed a man indulging in emotionless sex and large volumes of drugs and booze. But he was unhappy. He yearned for a life with his wife and daughter and, at the very end of the first series, he got it. Redemption arrived in the form of the nuclear family.

    Every show popular with young people – from “Buffy” to the new “90210” – is packed with interweaved morality tales: it’s bad to cheat; boys who treat girls with contempt might seem superficially attractive but they’re ultimately bad news; mums and dads might be hopeless nerds but they love you and usually know best… and so on.

    Yes, you may watch a diet of these shows (interspersed with ads) and feel the urge to go out and get a flash car or an iphone, by illegal means if necessary. But the urge to bash for no reason at all? To rape? To murder? To allow yourself to be impregnated by a male who clearly will not give a damn for you or the child? To harm a child, sometimes to the point of senseless torture and death?

    The status that comes from a trail of unwanted offspring, or the amount of harm – for the sake of harm – you’ve done to others isn’t, I don’t believe, generated by television or even violent video games.

    It’s somewhere in that “chemical soup” Anita mentioned, and we’re far from understanding it.

    Just last night I watched a documentary (not everything on the idiot box is for idiots, thankfully :-D ) which showed experiments proving, amongst other things:

    – That if a subject is asked to hold a warm cup of coffee prior to being asked to assess someone else’s personality, they will mark that person much higher than if they are asked to hold a cold drink with ice. Experimenters postulated it was something to do with the infantile warmth = comfort reaction.

    – That a subject shown a series of random images (selected by computer), some of inanimate objects and some of people doing things designed to elicit an emotional response will begin to react emotionally 3 seconds before the “people” image appears even though they seemingly have no way of knowing which type of image they’re about to see. Experimenters couldn’t attribute it to anything but precognition.

    We’ve barely touched on the mind’s complexity nor understood its uniqueness, yet we’re arrogant enough to think that threatening everyone with longer and longer sentences is going to act as a deterrent.

    Sometimes I cannot help but conclude we’re only one step removed from chopping off the hands of thieves…

  43. RedLogix 43

    Fantastic comments everyone, esp ak… I envy the clarity and vividness of your writing.

    Sometimes I cannot help but conclude we’re only one step removed from chopping off the hands of thieves

    Actually a bit of a misapprehension. The Koran only specified the removal of the left little finger for the third offence. In the context of the barbaric, tribal society that prevailed in 7th century Arabia, where normally a suspected thief would be killed on the spot, this punishment was considered by many at the time absurdly ‘bleeding heart do-gooder’ liberal. (An irony you might appreciate Rex.)

    It was a much later fundamentalist perversion of the Koranic Law that led to the practise of removing an entire hand. Sort of like how it’s hard to find much justification in the New Testament for burning witches at the stake.

  44. Chris G 44

    Rex “not everything on the idiot box is for idiots, thankfully”

    Agreed. Exception:channels 70-75 on Sky (Discovery, History, Animal Planet and Doco channel etc) are the only things worth watching

    And of course Aljazeera english. But I just look at that via the web!

    I digress (Sorry mods)

    Back on: “I can’t but think that if we locked up all males when they hit puberty until they have grown a brain”

    Seems very sensible…. It would be interesting to look at the same crime graphs for countries like Malaysia and (Singapore?) where males enter compulsory military training after high school. When they re-enter society… How does the crime graph look?

    Food for thought. But I wont be the role of researcher for that, its too late.

  45. Bill 45

    Redlogix

    The idea you posited that we are undergoing some type of moral evolution, while appealing, just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The focus of our morality shifts over time and societies, but our basic (in)humanity persists.

    I don’t know how accurate your example of a tribe dis-emboweling a thief from a rival tribe is, but the members of gangs approve of terrible acts of revenge on others. ( Think of the ice man executions as an example?)

    Is a wider moral horizon a step forward, or a merely an indication that all horizons are wider? If I now identify with a nation and a large religion rather than a tribe and a shaman, doesn’t it merely open the door to worse excesses (pogroms directed at and cleansings of, vastly more ‘others’ than would have been possible in a tribal set-up?)

    And although many people protested Gulf Slaughter 2, how many less protested Gulf Slaughter 1…or the sanctions…the destruction of Afghanistan…world wide hunger…Gaza…and on and on.

    We are, at the end of the day, still cave men and women who merely collectively posses more technology and fewer world views; much homogenised…both borne of cunning and fear. The technology and world views mutate rather than evolve, while the fear and cunning remain constant, only their focus shifting.

    While it is true that we could devise cunning systems that rewarded the better aspects of human nature/behaviour, the reality at present is in the opposite direction. Hardly a sign of us evolving towards better selves.

  46. deemac 46

    I knew a guy who’d been in a tough prison in Northern Ireland (or northern Ireland, depending on which foot you dig with… ) for a couple of years and he said if you don’t get the message after six months you never will; though of course there are some people in the latter category.
    It’s worth noting that “an eye for an eye” in the bible is actually a demand to RESTRICT punishment to a proportionate response, ie if you lose an eye you can only demand an eye, as previously any dispute involving injury could soon escalate into a blood feud involving whole families and lasting for generations.

  47. Rex Widerstrom 47

    Bill:

    While it is true that we could devise cunning systems that rewarded the better aspects of human nature/behaviour, the reality at present is in the opposite direction. Hardly a sign of us evolving towards better selves.

    Bingo. Whether it’s the Taliban choosing to pervert Koranic law as RedLogix mentions above or our politicians choosing to play the “get tough on law and order” card to garner votes, this is an area of failure for which our leaders must carry more blame than most – because the populace understandably finds it difficult to set aside their fear and think logically – especially with crime the lead story on almost every bulletin.

    While there were widespread protests in the US against the Iraq war, for instance, how many people turn out to protest every time a death row inmate is executed? A handful, comparatively.

    Because it’s easy to decide that shooting or bombing civilians thousands of miles away is wrong – even if a miniscule percentage may one day possibly join a Qaeda and pose a risk on US soil – but it’s much harder to dismiss state sanctioned murder of one’s own citizens (or, in NZ’s case, sentences so long there’s no hope of rehabilitation) because we lack an understanding of the underlying issues and the efficacy of alternatives. Heck, some of us haven’t taken the trouble to consider that there are alternatives… we just go to bed at night trusting that the state will keep us safe till we wake.

    It therefore falls to our leaders to have the courage to study the facts, listen to opinions, even experiment a little with the solutions. To be brave enough to admit that the hang ‘em high brigade do have a right to a voice in the debate – but no greater voice than anyone else. To craft policies that don’t have the superficial attractiveness of longer sentences but which might, if the leaders held to their course, produce results over times that would help convince the populace of their effectiveness.

    Yet no government has done this, ever, in New Zealand and only rarely in any Western deomcracy – and then in an overly cautious way that has damned it to either failure or mediocre results.

    I’m normally amongst those objecting loudest when a politician or party says one thing and then does another. But on this issue we desperately need someone who’ll take a “Roger Douglas” approach to justice – do it, ignore the critics, almost certainly make errors along the way, but change things so fundamentally that there’s no going all the way back, because there’s simply no other way to achieve change. People will see it – and any Opposition will strive to portray it – as putting people’s safety at risk. The fact that better assessment of prisoners would inevitably see some – the true sociopaths – serving longer sentences (while receiving better treatment) would be lost in a babble of slogans.

    Instead we see government after government make the wrong noises, take the wrong decisions, and eventually lose to another government whose policy is to do the same wrong, only more of it.

  48. RedLogix 48

    Bill,

    I can see what you are getting at, but I don’t think it invalidates the basic thesis. The moral horizon has made it generally wrong and illegal for individuals to kill for a very long time, but murders still occur.

    Just because a prohibition is not 100% effective, does not mean that we would be better off not having it.

    Rex,

    Lets see if this puts the problem in a lumpen sort of nutshell.

    1. Humans have an innate instinct to distrust and dehumanise outsiders. Unscrupulous political leaders with little else to offer, like exploiting this instinct to distract from internal issues and unite an otherwise sceptical, fractious community behind them. This has always been a cheap source of political power.

    2. Modern civilisation, if I stick with the notion of an expanding moral horizon, now generally encompasses in effect, the whole of humanity. The Declaration of Universal Human Rights (among many other things) for example, means that it is no longer acceptable to demonise others simply because they are of other race, nationality, religion and so on.

    3. This means that the modern world offers a general lack of acceptable ‘outsiders’ to for our leaders to exploit, whereas criminals offer a soft target, because their actions do arouse strong emotions of despair and disgust. In the absence of an alternative, dehumanising them becomes a prime option for a politically weak leadership.

    4. With the happy connivance of a profit driven media, the ‘law’n’order’ issue becomes an auction of the stupid, resulting in stupider sentences, almost certain recividism and an inevitable escalation of the very problem they were claiming to solve.

    5. But of course an expanding criminal class (or even the perception of one) is in reality serving the underlying political drivers. A politician or party, who actually succeeded in reducing crime would be acting against the interest of the political establishment. Nations most stressed, difficult to govern or simply cursed with lazy incompetent politicos, would logically be most prone to punitively expanding their prison populations as a way of diverting attention from underlying, dangerous and challenging questions that the establishment is unwilling to face. (Like why do Maori represent 50% plus of NZ’s prison muster?)

    This analysis begs the question then, where is the circuit breaker in this mess? It identifies that the root locus of the issue lies with the relationship between the political classes and the electorate, and it tells us that reforming prisons and prisoners ultimately is futile, if it ultimately suits our political masters that they don’t.

    Is it simply a case of bringing enough people to awareness (by whatever means) so that they can see the process at work? Where is the point of leverage here?

    But on this issue we desperately need someone who’ll take a “Roger Douglas’ approach to justice – do it, ignore the critics, almost certainly make errors along the way, but change things so fundamentally that there’s no going all the way back, because there’s simply no other way to achieve change.

    I have to like the boldness of it, but by itself there is no political payoff for whoever undertook such a thing, just a vociferous triumverate of an Opposition, Media and a Public baying for blood. Something else is required. The only forces more potent that ‘fear of the stranger’ are forgiveness, compassion and love for the fallen ones. As you have described in a post above:

    But her attitude to prisoners totally disarmed me. She’d taken the time to think through the issues and her responses didn’t seem to be at all motivated by fear, revenge or prejudice. She had the capacity to see prisoners – and victims – as individuals with individual needs and whose paths to being “fixed’ differed greatly.

    How is this almost magical transformation wrought? You have seen it with your own eyes, so you know it is possible and I am not just going off on one of my pollyana-ish tangents again. And if it one person can do it, what is the means by which we all can? How do we get from the sanctified individual, to the sanctified society? I don’t believe this is the hopeless task it seems, because over and again our history has examples of seemingly instrangient generations of impossible prejudice melt away at the right moment, with the right touch.

  49. ak 49

    A fine nutshell Red: and your optimism is justified. As you note, the list of targettable “outsiders” has shrunk rapidly since we and Pollyanna were born.

    Gays, blacks, women, crips, loonies, Jews, Catholics – even reds under beds, with the fall of the wall – now off the menu for all but the tiny group of sociopathic flies that lazily drone around the reeking Rightblog recta.

    I’d thought Race was our final frontier: but even there, the electoral mood demanded Key’s balancing-Act act with Pitariana. Even the language has flip-flopped dramatically since Orewa One: “inclusion” is the new blue/black for our golden kid and his bullet-point council.

    When the strike wing of the exploiter axis is reduced to scraping the barrel-bottom for mythical armies of health bureaucrats (or lightbulbs!) to scapegoat, it points to the end of an era.

    You’re wrong, Rex and Bill. Seen too many minor miracles. Humanity’s venom and misery has no innate or a priori mass: rather an inverse correlation to education and communication. Long way to go of course, but there’s silver dew-drops all over this beautiful Web.

  50. Rex Widerstrom 50

    RedLogix:

    It’s almost 7pm, it’s 38 degrees outside, a glittering blue pool beckons and yet your comment offers a stronger attraction. Damn you!! :-P

    I’m essentially in agreement, though I think it might be possible, by some lucky accident, to find a politician willing to do what’s right despite the lack of short-to-medium term political payoff – as, in fact, was Douglas. Trouble is, almost every wide-eyed candidate these days sees themselves as a future PM and won’t dare say anything that has been rinsed through several focus groups and then blanched to remove any vestigal traces of controversy.

    I didn’t have long enough with the woman I’ve mentioned above to delve into the how… I had too many mundane questions about the thinking of the Prisoner Review Board as a whole. I’m hoping we can meet again.

    An interesting instance that did arise during the same conference was that of Belgium and the Dutroux case. Dutroux, you’ll remember, was the sadist with a habit of kidnapping young girls and keeping them locked in his basement. When he was arrested and briefly imprisoned on an unrelated matter there was no one to feed his current captives and two young girls died.

    What was remarkable was that the parents of the victims led marches (called the “White March” and involving 350,000 people) and made statements not calling for Dutroux’s castration (nor for him to be shown unusual mercy) but for a wider investigation of corruption and an overhaul of the police and justice systems.

    There was also an entirely different system at work – in common with much of Europe Belgium has an investigative legal system. Judges are required to conduct an investigation into the case; and in Belgium there are three police forces – judicial, state and communal (local) – which operate independently, and even in conflict and competition with one another.

    Because of numerous questions surrounding the case (including whether policement had particpated in some of Dutroux’s kidnappings and whether he was protected as a police informant) there was a full enquiry into the case including 280 hours of televised hearings. Its first 300-page report was unanimously adopted by the Belgian parliament in 1997 and focussed on three key areas: streamlining the three overlapping police forces; training and new procedures on how to respond to missing persons reports; and fundamental reforms of the justice system.

    So, in short, the parents of the victims (and some of Dutroux’s earlier victims, who’d survived) concentrated their anger and the energy it produced on improving the system.

    True this didn’t encompass issues of rehabilitation and recidivism but nor was there a McVicar-like “let’s re-introduce capital punishment” response.

    I’m not, at this stage, sure how they overcame their understandable thirst for vengeance but I’m in touch with a Belgian researcher (via the Prison Reform Group of which I’m a member) and hope to gain some insight. I’m sure all of the factors outlined above were in play, but even in combination they don’t explain it adequately.

    Do Belgians have innately better natures than NZers? Does our adversarial court system encourage us to see things in black and white, with the guilty person irredeemably bad and no one else responsible for their actions? Are the Belgian media different to NZ’s?

    Although I suspect we could answer yes to all of these questions I don’t think that explains the difference. While we can work to change these attitudes as you suggest, that process makes glaciation look rapid.

    In the meantime, I still maintain our best hope lies with a politician who has (ironically, given the double entrende) conviction and courage.

    ak: I admire your optimism, truly. But you’re deluding yourself if you think the narrow minded revenge-driven bloodlust is confined to a single blog (or two, or three). Read the comments section of “The Herald” lately? I regularly try to engage with the populace over here in WA on justice issues via a local newspaper’s blog. Their most recent consensus was that it was unfortunate that a woman suffering post-natal depression who took her child in her arms and jumped from an 8th floor balcony had not died along with her infant. A few voices suggested she didn’t deserve to die, but perhaps to spend life in a cell. They were denounced as “softon crime”. I sincerely wish you were right; I’ll weep with joy when and if you become so; but experience suggests we’re far, far from the tolerance you imagine you can see.

  51. r0b 51

    If anyone is still following this thread, I have a question. Assume that this evolutionary account of crime is completely true. Now what?

    I’m a big fan of evolutionary explanations in general, they can be very compelling and powerful. But they also frustrate me, because it’s hard to build on them, to use them to guide future action. An evolutionary explanation is pretty much saying well, this is just the way we are, the way we’re made. (In such a case we happen to know quite a lot about the details – evolution – but it might just as well be an ineffable God, or some other cause).

    So specifically then in this case – assume that this evolutionary account of crime is completely true. What does this understanding change? How does it guide future policy or action?

  52. ak 52

    It’s a real long-term thing r0b. Millions of years – hard to translate into things to do tomorrow. But a handy mental tool to see how far we’ve come in such a short time – and to comprehend facts like a 1.6 billion-people smiling country abounding under practical Christianity while the USA broils in fat: and why Maori and PI grow while colonists fret and sweat.

    And crims have always lacked only love: it’s their definition, completely true alright r0b, nothing new there, thanks Charles. Take our feet off em, water, sun, the right dirt and watch em recover, every time.

    Future policy? Depends on human evolution, but l suss that eugenics is out, so only one way for the Keyster to go really: and looking back at the past 50 year rate of progress, I’d say the next decade’s gonna be a cracker. Revolutionary even – Darwinistically speaking, of course.

    Happy new decade r0b – I reckon you’re gonna love it.

  53. Ag 53

    So specifically then in this case – assume that this evolutionary account of crime is completely true. What does this understanding change? How does it guide future policy or action?

    It means that we don’t waste time with silly right wing lectures about “responsibility”, and that we tailor our society to minimize the risk by providing young men with jobs and economic security to make it easier for them to marry and have children.

    Our societal prohibition against polygamy already helps to lower the rate of young male violence (polygamy actually benefits women over men, but don’t let feminists hear you utter that little truth), but providing public support of expectations of social norms regarding monogamy and fidelity would also help. If this sounds socially conservative, then that’s because it is to some degree. One reason such rules existed was to tamp down male violence, but our society seems to have conveniently forgotten that (on the other hand prostitution ought to be legal).

    Of course right wingers will moan on about social engineering, but who gives a damn about what those deluded idiots have to say. A society that ignores evolutionary psychology does so at its own peril.

    We also tailor our prison sentences to keep young men who prove violent in jail until they are 35 or so. By that time most of their angry juice tends to have run out.

  54. r0b 54

    Happy new decade r0b – I reckon you’re gonna love it.

    I do hope so! And to you ak, and to all here. (I’m off the net now for several days, but I’ll be fascinated to check this thread again when I get back!)

  55. Rex Widerstrom 55

    I’d answer r0b’s questions with: nothing much. Evolution provides one tool too help explain the problem, but isn’t a great deal of help in crafting solutions.

    Just to pick up on one point Ag’s made: silly right wing lectures about responsibility aren’t so silly if they’re talking about balancing that against the second part of your praragraph – providing people with jobs and economic security.

    A judge in Australia was ridiculed when, confronted with an 11 year old Aboriginal girl brought before him for the umpteenth time for burglary and similar offences, he said “behave yourself for six months and I’ll give you a bike”. But it actually worked. With another, even worse, young offender, he offered the chance of a holiday with him and his wife. Not sure how that one turned out.

    Where the right fails when talking of “responsibility” is that they ignore human nature and expect that responsibility to be inculcated solely by a “good talking to”… or a prison term.

    Any parent who’s said “behave or I’ll smack you” knows that any effect is likely to be short term, and only engender resentment. “Be good all year and you can have that bike you wanted” tends to work better, as does “stop that or I’ll take the Playstation away for a week”.

    Even though the good behaviour is initially only acting against type, often the unruly child discovers that, when they’re not stressed and yelling, mum and dad aren’t too bad after all. And good behaviour becomes a habit. An ownership leads to pride in what you own and a desire to take care of it. And so on.

    I’m not suggesting rewarding crims for not mugging us by handing out free Holdens – which is how the right sees many programs aimed at helping the underclass. They tend to see the left as wanting to hand out privileges (paid for by their taxes), without any accompanying responsibilty.

    Neither answer, IMHO, is right. Instead I am positing that social contracts, which trade privilege for responsibility, can be part of the answer – and not just to crime.

  56. Chris G 56

    Ill second the amazement of this thread. It truly is fascinating. I’ve barely contributed but mainly just read what you jokers have to say – Quality.

    That is all.

  57. RedLogix 57

    I’m a big fan of evolutionary explanations in general, they can be very compelling and powerful. But they also frustrate me, because it’s hard to build on them, to use them to guide future action. An evolutionary explanation is pretty much saying well, this is just the way we are, the way we’re made.

    Yes that is sort of true, but that may be just because this science is so new to us; we are the very first generation of humans to be faced with this evidence based evolutionary social dynamic, and it is like we have yet to figure out the best way to unpack the potential. But maybe this thread has been making little steps in the right direction.

    I want to see if I can wrap together Rex’s critical point above, with the idea of ‘future discounting’.

    A society where there primary political driver is capitalist self-interest, tends towards increasing inequality of wealth and opportunity. As wealth concentrates into fewer and fewer hands, so does opportunity, leaving the huge majority of people with less opportunity… and critically far less security. (So far this is just standard Marxism I guess.) Not only does the gradient between sucess and failure become too steep for an increasing portion of the population, at some point class divisions become so entrenched, people realise the rich have pulled the ladder up behind them.

    When a person perceives the environment around them is insecure, they will discount long-term investments because of the very real risk that they will never get the pay-off. This is called ‘future discounting’. Instead they will resort to short-term tactics that yeild immediate results…even if the longer term consequences are bad. (An increased crime rate is merely one expression of this at the lower boundary of acceptable social tactics.)

    Moreover both males and females participate in this process; with males taking increased risks as the disposable gender, and females selecting the risk takers in order to secure protection and resources for their children, In a dangerous socially incohesive environment, not only do nice guys finish last, but so do nice girls, but the tactics they both use to improve their chances are for very good reasons different. (Notably if the environment becomes too hostile, even the girls give up trying to have children, transitioning quite dramatically into bad behaviour and crime simply in order to survive.)

    The power of an evolutionary explanation, is that it informs our rational mind what the problem is, and what actions will be effective. It is as if we were faced with a complex unruly machine that we have finally discovered the long-lost program documentation for; finally we can set the damm thing to doing some useful work.

    The rational choice is to substitute service to others as the prime social driver, instead of self-interest. This yields a completely different result. Now prosperity becomes a tool for helping others, those who have the opportunities that wealth creates use them to also increase the opportunities for others. This in turn increases their opportunities and over time replicates itself virtuously. It also reduces the perceived inequality gradient in society, and increases security… which reduces ‘future discounting’. This means long-term investments in people and the environment become worthwhile because the pay-off is not only greater… but far more likely to be realised.

    The correct response as Rex lucidly outlines above, is BOTH reward and punishment. Our current punishment system is really just an institutionalised form of revenge… and entirely absent any meaningful reward. The supposed reward is their eventual release; right back into the shit pile they came from. There is no choice, opportunity .. nor even security… in what we are doing. The real choice we should be offering criminals needs to be far more clear; continue on your current anti-social path and be separated from society, or change and participate in it.

    The problem is that it is totally unjust to offer a criminal MORE opportunity than is generally available to most people, especially those struggling honestly at the lowest margins. And for many criminals… they make the not wholly irrational choice that they would sooner be in prison and maintain their self-respect on their own terms (however much you and I might deplore that)… than be openly humilated as the lowest of the low on our meanest streets.

    What all this tells us is that poverty is the cause of crime, but not in a way we usually think of. It depends on what the cause of poverty is. If it is the result of a universal lack of resource and development, then everyone is pretty much in the same boat and the inequality gradient (GINI) is fairly mild. By default everyone has pretty much the same order of opportunity, even if it is fairly limited, and the general level of social security, while compromised by physical things like poor food, shelter and health… is at least evenly distributed. This means that crime has a very poor pay-off, there is not much to be gained even if there is not much to be lost either.

    If however poverty is deeply endemic in a society that is actually very prosperous, this is a wholly different thing. Now there IS the appearance of something to be gained from crime, however short-term and illusory it may turn out to be. (And of course the most effective criminals may go on to be very respectable pillars of society indeed..). Moreover such inequality gives the criminal a self-serving rationalisation to justify his actions, because “hell everyone else is a self-serving prick anyhow, why do I have to change?”.

    Worse still it frustrates most attempts at rehabilitation because the effective choice between being imprisoned behind physical bars, and imprisoned in poverty.. in terms of security and opportunity… are not so very different.

  58. Carol 58

    This is a very interesting discussion. The main problem I have is differentiating a sociological explanation from a Darwinian one. Most of the convincing explanations for crime expressed here, seem to me to be more sociological than Darwinian (eg inequalities, social values/goals that become unachievable to large sections of society etc).

    There maybe is an underlying social evolutionary explanation, but is it needed to support the sociological ones? The main evolutionary element that seems to be included in these arguments makes me a little uneasy as it seems to be quite conservatively heteronormative and gender-normative, positing the main (or even only) relevant human drives as being towards hetoerosexual coupling and reproduction. This seems to incorporate an underlying stereotypical gender division in which males are the criminals and/or perpetrators of violence, and women seek a male partner for security and protection for them and their children.

    I have always felt there is far more to human motivations and underlying drives than a desire, always focused on the future, to reproduce new generations. I do concede that this heteronormative, gender-normative reproductive drive in an evolutionary theory, only needs to apply to the majority of people for the community to be reproduced. It doesn’t automatically dismiss those who fall outside this norm.

    But it still leaves me feeling uneasy and dissatisfied with a social evolutionary explanation.

    BTW my understanding of classical physical evolutionary theory is that it is not explained by human motivations or drives, but almost by unintended results of a group fo organisms’ adaptations to their environment. ie the organisms most suited to existence in their environment will survive over other organisms least suited to that environment. So if an organism has drives that are maladaptive or less adaptive than that of another organism, that organism will die out.

    But how can such explanations be easily and credibly adapted to explanations of differences in class behaviour? Other people may be a step ahead of me on this. But I find it quite hard to pull all these threads together into one comprehensive theory.

  59. RedLogix 59

    But how can such explanations be easily and credibly adapted to explanations of differences in class behaviour?

    Would you be willing to consider class behaviour to be the two biological drives of ‘group identification’ and ‘self interest’ manifesting together in a sociological complex?

    Humans do have an innate drive to belong to a group and behave altruistically. This makes sense as the isolated individual is not only likely to die, but will fail to reproduce.

    On the other hand when resources are limited, then self-interest demands that we compete for them. This makes sense as poverty causes early death and failure to not only to reproduce, but death of the children as well.

    For most of our history resources have been limited, so self-interest has tended to dominate, but fundamentally neither can our altruistic social drives be totally displaced either. This means that we have to operate both drives in some kind of compromise with each other.

    Naturally (and essentially) there is always some variation in wealth. This creates opportunities for those in different strata to create perceived ‘classes’ within society. This satisfies our ‘socialising nature’ as class group then treats it’s own as ‘insiders’ and other classes as ‘outsiders’. Which of course the economic self-interest of the most powerful wealthy group, acts to amplify and make permanent, the original wealth variations in the first place.

    The modern technological world we live in has released potentially unlimited resources (yes the planet is still finite, but we have endless opportunity to use resources in smarter and more effective ways), therefore realistically we have the opportunity to switch from competition to cooperation. Rationally this leads to an unlimited win-win scenario for the entire human race.

  60. Carol 60

    Oh, yes, RL. I am very interested in this dynamic between group-allegiance and self-interest. In fact, I am at present reading a book that focuses just on that: ie between human tendencies to act cooperatively verses that of (capitalist) competition. It draws strongly on Marxist theory, and focuses on the dynamic between cooperation and competition within network/informational capitalism (characterised as the current form of capitalism). The book is a difficult read in terms of its language and style. This may be because the author’s first language is not English (I think Austrian). It is:

    Fuchs, Christian (2008) Internet and Society: Social theory in the Information Age.

    Fuch’s argues that there is an antagonism between cooperation and competition in this latest manifestation of capitalism (eg as seen in online gift economy like open source software and wikis, verses attempts to commodify the Internet and digital culture generally). Fuch argues that within this informational version of capitalism, the fundamental antagonism (between cooperation and competition) has a Marxist type potential for the present form of capitalism to self-destruct, or at least evolve into a non-capitalist form of society. Though he also says that, this won’t happen as some form of inevitable evolution, but through individuals struggling to enable or free up the (cooperative) potential within the system to promote revolutionary change.

    Yes, RL, I have long thought that there is some sort of basic human tendencies towards cooperation and competition. I think both have helped to benefit human societies and their technological and social achievements. I have thought that problems arise when these two elements are out of balance. This has happened within neoliberalism with its dangerously extreme focus on individualistic competition.

    I am not sure what the biological basis is for these two tendencies of cooperation & competition, but they do seem to be necessary for the survival of human society. This does not require that everyone be focused on reproducing (over-population can threaten survival as much as underpopulation, or inadequate care for the young). Some people who don’t have children, contribute to the overall success of society by working (cooperatively) for its betterment( eg within social services etc, or even sometimes within business).

  61. RedLogix 61

    Carol,

    Very interesting. I wonder if I could try another approach here. Consider the American experiment with alcohol in the 1920’s; the Prohibition.

    We all know that the unrestrained abuse of alcohol is a terrible thing; imposing enormous costs to society. Yet when the state imposed draconian restrictions, the result was entirely peverse and counterproductive and the experiment was eventually abandoned.

    And as should be totally obvious to all but the most blinkered ideolog, unrestrained, ‘self-regulating’ capitalism is a total disaster. Yet attempts by the State to impose restrictions on capitalism are often less effective than we hope for, and finish up being resented and rejected by the electorate. (The Soviet state being the most egregious example.)

    Yet if as an individual and alcoholic truly determines to go sober, it can and will happen. I personally only drink very modestly (mainly a few glasses of nice reds) from time to time… I can choose not to abuse alcohol… and do so successfully.

    Equally there are any number of wonderful individuals who give generously of their time, energy and wealth to help their family, their friends and others less fortunate than themselves. Millions of individuals successfully put into practise the ideals of socialism every day. In other words, what we dream of achieving, is successfully actualised by millions of individuals everyday, but the overall oppression of a hostile society limits and frustrates the effectiveness of their altruism.

    (And this is why right wingers so often come at us with from a ‘there is no such thing as society’ perspective. In this one sense they are correct, that individuals routinely achieve what as a society we routinely fail at.)

    The missing link is this; how do we get from inspiring the few individuals to inspiring the whole of humanity?

  62. RedLogix 62

    Carol,

    Very interesting. I wonder if I could try another approach here. Consider the American experiment with alcohol in the 1920’s; the Prohibition.

    We all know that the unrestrained abuse of alcohol is a terrible thing; imposing enormous costs to society. Yet when the state imposed draconian restrictions, the result was entirely peverse and counterproductive. The experiment was eventually abandoned.

    And as should be totally obvious to all but the most blinkered ideolog, unrestrained, ‘self-regulating’ capitalism is a total disaster. Yet attempts by the State to impose restrictions on capitalism are often less effective than we hope for, and finish up being resented and rejected by the electorate.

    Yet if as an individual and alcoholic truly determines to go sober, it can and will happen. I personally only drink very modestly (mainly a few glasses of nice reds) from time to time I can choose not to abuse alcohol and do so successfully.

    Equally there are any number of wonderful individuals who give generously of their time, energy and wealth to help their family, their friends and others less fortunate than themselves. Millions of individuals successfully put into practise the ideals of socialism every day. In other words, what we dream of achieving, is successfully actualised by millions of individuals everyday, yet one cannot help but observe that a hostile or indifferent society limits and frustrates the effectiveness of their altruism.

    (And this is why right wingers so often come at us with from a ‘there is no such thing as society’ perspective. In this one sense they are correct, that individuals routinely achieve what as a society we routinely fail at.)

    The missing link is this; how do we get from inspiring the few individuals to inspiring the whole of humanity?

    PS The prior post in moderation can be deleted please.

  63. RedLogix 63

    I have long thought that there is some sort of basic human tendencies towards cooperation and competition. I think both have helped to benefit human societies and their technological and social achievements. I have thought that problems arise when these two elements are out of balance.

    Agreed. But what if our thinking that this kind of ‘either/or’ balancing act was too limiting? What if we could have BOTH competition AND cooperation at the same time?

    What if for instance, we redefined competition so as we vied with each other to be of the greatest possible cooperation with each other? It is not so silly; just a question of what we believe in.

  64. ak 64

    ….classical physical evolutionary theory is that it is not explained by human motivations or drives, but almost by unintended results of a group fo organisms’ adaptations to their environment.

    Absolutely Carol: certainly not explained by human motivations (as it explains development prior to humans even existing), but rather a stunningly simple and compelling explanation of the inevitable physical reality.
    Random mutations occur at conception (how/why is a whole nother story which doesn’t matter) and those best suited to the world they meet at birth will survive.

    Many won’t even make the hatching: miscarriages, stillbirths, dead-eggs – sans or defective in some essential feature, never made the first cut. And runt of the litter, spotted tail at a pedigree stud, twin-headed or even boy-calf on a dairy farm (twin udders might be different) – bad Darwinian luck, baby.
    The “invisible hand” of brutal reality weeds out the weak and the fittest survive: and those survivors in turn fight tooth and claw to ensure their own genes survive in further offspring. Beautiful, simple, accessible theory at the individual level – and many are happy to leave it there, embrace the individualistic “chemical soup” nihilism of the pure Libertarian, and live and die as a dog-eating dog.

    The vast majority aren’t though. Its a pretty bitter soup – and as top dogs we’ve long since left the individualist jungle – in fact it’s how we got out.
    Even dogs (and Libertarians) will form packs: bees and ants have done pretty well out of being hard-wired for self-sacrifice. Ants at the lead of an army on the march will cheerfully pile in and make a bridge of their own dead bodies. We did the same at the Somme. Our greatest heroes have faced down tanks, cut their lifeline to save their pals, risked disease to save the lowly – as one famous bloke said, “No greater love….etc” – and He and his disciple Karl seem to be pretty widely accepted still.

    And there’s a hint, when it comes to understanding our social evolution. Look back. The jungle delivered us huge brains – and philosophies and ideas are the “genes” of our social evolution. What works and endures will survive and prosper – so what has endured longest might just be our best bet. Such random mutations as colonisation, centrally-controlled markets, free Markets, Chicago School economics, imperialism, chauvinism – all gulped oxygen for a time, but succumbed to the rapidly-changing reality.

    And there’s another clue: and where the theory becomes less useful. Time has shrunk. Thanks to that big-brain-delivered technology, change has accelerated exponentially. Even our big brains struggle to process alarming developments like finite resources, shifts in societal power-balances, global warming or economic turmoil: we cower and fret, grasp wildly at archaic ideas (or even inanities like lightbulbs!), and all the time our socio-evolutionary psyche restlessly scans the horizon for that elusive Third, fourth or fiftieth Way – the mutant and miraculous instant Key to nirvana. (Jesus, look at the time, better land this lumbering hulk….)

    Forget about a second coming, we haven’t used the first yet – but even it’s partially-implemented record is top of the longevity pops so far. Puts us lefties on the right side of history. Rex and Redlogix are onto it: use those big brains and thoroughly research what’s worked – then use that technology to disseminate that knowledge to every other big brain on the globe. Just as reality changes apace, so too can social evolution: but only if the pure oxygen of competing ideas can elude the filters of current vested interests.

    Hence my inordinate optimism in this wonderful new-fangled tool and folks like youse Standardistas and commenters. Happy New Year and keep up the good work.

  65. Bill 65

    Been dipping into this thread off and on. Some interesting stuff. However, one painfully obvious point that seems to have been overlooked is that the article linked from the post posits an explanation from a vacuum. By that I mean that it discounts the environment (capitalism) within which it’s topic (human behaviour) exists. Further, it decries the descriptive nature of other analysis and then offers up a purely descriptive analysis!

    Attempting to explain behaviour through evolutionary theory is, I’m sorry to say, completely bogus and nothing beyond an interesting mental exercise. Sure we have biological parameters and motivations. But that is only a part of the story. And a not very interesting part at that. ( I cannot flap my arms and fly and I cannot think or behave in ways that are not human. Big deal.)

    But are we to believe that capitalism is neutral with regards the effect it has on behaviour? Why would we believe such a ridiculous suggestion and why would anyone suggest such a thing in the first place? Could it be because without that premise being accepted the authors would have nothing to say?

    We are multi faceted and our intentional environments offer incentives and disincentives to certain types of behaviour. We live in an environment (Capitalism) that rewards some of the worst behaviours and motivations which is enough by itself to act as a disincentive to some of the better expressions of being human. ( Under Capitalism, good guys come last).

    Forget evolution in this context and forget about putting the blame for this state we’re in on unimaginative or self interested leaders. Those leaders sought a mandate and for some reason that escapes me, people keep on giving a mandate to leaders in order that they make life altering decisions on behalf of others. Were there any evolution in the sense that some commentators have suggested, (evolution as a progression; a process of betterment) ,we would surely have outgrown that particular stupidity long ago n’est pas?

  66. RedLogix 66

    Attempting to explain behaviour through evolutionary theory is, I’m sorry to say, completely bogus and nothing beyond an interesting mental exercise

    I guess that had to be my initial response when I first encountered these ideas some years ago. It turns out that Darwin’s theory is far more generally applicable than even Darwin himself could have suspected. It is in fact one of the two or three most potent ideas humanity has ever had… and that is scarcely exaggerating. Most people are reasonably comfortable with the basics of evolution as we learnt it at school, but the the cutting edge of evolutionary theory has swept a deep transformative path through biology and now through sociology, in a way that until recently I was quite unaware of.

    Radio NZ had an excellent series of talks about a month ago.

    There is a lot of great material in them, but the fifth lecture by Professor Russell Gray is especially apposite.

  67. Bill 67

    Ok. Will give a listen. Sceptically. And if they allow space for the intentional environment….a dynamic of our behavioural patterns in context, then I’ll allow that it’s not bunk. But so far it’s a theory in a Petri dish. Cheers for the links.

  68. RedLogix 68

    Just listened through one of them again, and found it really worthwhile.

    Actually I totally agree with you… somewhere way up in this thread I think I was pretty much saying the same thing, that while the human physical being is definitely an evolved creature, complete with a whole range of complex evolved behaviours that very much drive aspects of our behaviour… our most distinctive feature (I’ll hold back from the word unique, it’s too limiting) is our ability to conceive and manipulate purely abstract concepts. Much of Prof Gray’s talk explores the outlines of this faculty, giving examples of how it might express itself in say toolmaking, language and so on.

    And of course it is from this ability for abstract thought, springs what you have called the intentional environment.

    Curiously enough of course, all the religions have made explicit reference to humanity having a dual nature; essentially the same idea but using of course a non-scientific language to express it.

  69. Rex Widerstrom 69

    I wondered how long it would be till someone proclaimed “capitalism is the root of all evil” ;-)

    Unmitigated capitalism is a recipe for disaster as is, at least IMHO, unmitigated socialism. It could be argued that enlightened capitalism would offer just the sort of Utopian society where everyone could prosper and crime would thus be much reduced. The kind of altruism mentioned above, such as Bill and Melinda Gates’ support of microloans (amongst other charitable enterprises) is offering an essentially capitalist solution to the problems of poverty and thus, indirectly, crime.

    I think Redlogix almost has it with:

    What if for instance, we redefined competition so as we vied with each other to be of the greatest possible cooperation with each other?

    That, though, ignores the very strong motivation still within our brains to win, be the best, run the fastest, make the most money. Rather than try to go so far in the other direction, why not at least start by encouraging everyone to strive to win, to acknowledge their achievement when they do, but acknowledge also their “sportsmanship” along the way? Just as sport has awards called “best and fairest” implying the two qualities are inextricably linked.

    Rather than denounce capitalism, why doesn’t the left counter the “rich list” with the “altruism list”? Acknowledge the (usually) hard work and intelligence that’s gone into making the pile, but also the generosity of spirit in giving some of it away?

    And concentrate not on those who chuck some at the opera or the ballet (in return for a corporate box, usually) but those who truly want to change society.

    Rather than hiss at the telly every time the BRT comes on, let’s do a NZ version of The Secret Millionaire – a show that simultaneously shows that capitalism works for those who can master it, but that those who have can, and should, remember what it’s like to have not. And that they can instigate huge change through relatively small investment if done cleverly.

    On a different note…

    The stabbing over the “frightened cat” has awakened the commentariat and the response is universally one of condemnation of the Parole Board (because the stabber was close to release), calls for longer sentences, etc etc. I’ve even had to get very crotchety at one person who (no doubt “jokingly”) suggested the cat problem could be solved by “giving 1080 to the vermin… and then the cats”.

    I envy other commenters their optimism, but the dissemination of rational argument which you’re advocating as a means of societal change works only when it comes up against another rational, though perhaps mistaken, argument.

    The nuances of correctional policy, let alone the underlying causes of crime, cannot be debated with someone who, as RedLogix perfectly described on the “prison tucker” thread, has dehumanised the people about whom they’re being asked to change their opinions.

    And those people, I’m afraid, are the majority. Vast numbers of them are Labour voters (it’s these people who peeled off to support NZF in the mid-90s, though the “other” then were immigrants). Some probably even vote Green. I’ll guarantee that outlook finds favour with a proportion of members of the Maori Party, despite their whanaus’ appalling over-representation in our prisons. And of course it’s a favourite theme of the right – even those who are utterly liberal on every other social issue.

    So sorry to beat the same drum, but I don’t believe this is an area where change will come from popular opinion. It’s one that requires brave, even reckless (from the POV of the proponent’s career) political leadership.

  70. Rex Widerstrom 70

    I should note for the record that I appear to have misinterpreted the comment about “vermin” I referred to above and that the commenter says he was referring to actual vermin (rats and mice), which I accept.

  71. RedLogix 71

    Rex

    I’m very concious that I (along with most others here) have had a pleasant few days THEORISING over crime, criminals and how it all comes about, and what might hypothetically be done to improve matters.

    But Rex, at each turn you bring us back to the truth; a gritty reality that you are actually DOING something about. For that I stand in sincere respect.

    The stabbing over the “frightened cat’ has awakened the commentariat and the response is universally one of condemnation of the Parole Board

    Curiously enough today we nearly lost our faithful old dog. She was chasing sticks in the river and swallowed a bit too much water. For a few moments she was choking and floundering very badly in about a foot of water… if I had not got to her PDQ she would have drowned. Gave us both a bad fright.

    People love the animals in their lives, and this man serving his sentence loved this cat… and when this other bloke scares it he reacts emotionally… just like 99% of all other humans do. (The other 1% are psychopaths and I’m not sure about them.) Prisons are evil, evil places…and in them people get worse not better, and mad, vicious stabbings are nothing especially new or unusual in these places. It is probably a wonder they do not occur more often. And few of us who have not so much as spent several seconds inside a prison, should be so cock sure as to exactly how WE would react under the sustained stress of being forced into such a dehumanising place.

    Am I excusing this act? Of course not. It was wrong, and the man will pay a consequence for it. And being stabbed in the neck will likely affect the victim’s health all his life. A needless tragedy for the both of them really.

  72. ak 72

    Rex: Unmitigated capitalism is a recipe for disaster as is, at least IMHO, unmitigated socialism.

    Granted, under the current understanding of the terms. The point I was (rather clumsily) trying to make is that neither exists as a pure (or “unmitigated”) entity – and never has. Rather, these concepts (and others) have interacted and produced a single evolving socio-political reality since the coining of the word “capitalism” as the initial explanation for a particular stage of political evolution around the 18th century.

    Today’s “capitalist” countries, with progressive taxation, public companies, employment law etc., have little in common with the system that dragged feudalism into the satanic mills. And “pure socialism” has never been even approached in practice: it can be more usefully viewed as a similarly-evolving ameliorating reaction to the downsides of capitalism. Karl was right – it’s just that good things take time, and rarely turn out exactly as you planned.

    ..but I don’t believe this is an area where change will come from popular opinion. It’s one that requires brave, even reckless (from the POV of the proponent’s career) political leadership.

    Oooooo…..dunno, Rex. Fiats don’t have the best track record (the 125 I had was a real lemon… ;)
    True, the public will accept the odd “punt”: Roger Douglas was given rope to produce our “Switzerland of the South Pacific”, but as he well knows, it punishes failure heavily – and as you note above, in the area of punishment it has a particularly short fuse. It just threw out a perfectly good government because it tried to curb child-beaters, remember? Nope, any govt going “soft” on crims without a mandate will be caned black and blue at the first opportunity.

    Sorry, but public opinion is all, especially in these focus-group/permanent-poll days. And sorry too to keep beating this drum, but public opinion is at the mercy of the media. Clubs, dances, lodges, union meetings, the flix, neighbours, churches – all fading relics of the glory days of social interaction and opinion formation – the box and the dailies hold a growing monopoly on our hearts and minds.

    Rex Widerstrom’s thoroughly informed and eloquent positions on Correction hold a power born from experience that resonates with truth (and even blows kiwiblog flies out the door I see): he’ll be read once or twice by a motley handful of tragic die-hards, while the asinine bile of Laws, George and McVicar is pumped almost daily into the living rooms of millions. Don’t blame the millions, Rex. It’s literally all they know.

    Which brings us back to evolution (and incidentally to a prediction from Marx): technology has lured us into this blind alley, and it can take us out again. Bring on that fibre to the gate, Johnny boy, and limber up your fingers, Rexes of the world.

  73. Bill 73

    Competition can be fun and affirming. But in the capitalist scenario where the winner takes all and everyone else loses…well, far too much weight to undesirable traits is necessary if you don’t want to wind up last. And ‘last’ includes second.

    Facile examples. The Crystal Maze was a game show where teams had to cooperate to get anywhere. It stands in sharp contrast to the ‘Survivor’ type shows where cooperation is ultimately subverted by the individuals need to turn everyone else into losers.

    Can we can have what we want and desire without the rapaciousness of Capitalism? Yes. But only if we reward better aspects of our behaviours and create systemic disincentives for behaviours currently associated with success under Capitalism.

    Our internal and external environments create a reinforcing loop. Under Capitalism, it’s a fairly negative reinforcement. The solution is to break the cycle.

    And that means no Capitalism. And it does not mean a socialist state either. And it can not mean solutions being crafted and handed down from leaders because in such a situation we are already back to a scenario of privilege. And privilege encourages ‘means to an end’ mentalities and behaviours…much like Capitalism.

  74. RedLogix 74

    The Crystal Maze was a game show where teams had to cooperate to get anywhere. It stands in sharp contrast to the ‘Survivor’ type shows where cooperation is ultimately subverted by the individuals need to turn everyone else into losers.

    That is not a facile example. It is a powerful instance of exactly how parts of our media machine has completely trashed it’s moral compass.

    And it gets pumped straight into the formative brains of our young people. It is this kind of thing that really scares me.

  75. Carol 75

    I said:

    I have thought that problems arise when these two elements are out of balance.

    RedLogix replied:

    Agreed. But what if our thinking that this kind of ‘either/or’ balancing act was too limiting? What if we could have BOTH competition AND cooperation at the same time?

    What if for instance, we redefined competition so as we vied with each other to be of the greatest possible cooperation with each other? It is not so silly; just a question of what we believe in.

    I was a little confused by this response because, RL, you just seemed to be repeating the same idea I expressed, but seemed to misunderstand me. Actually, I think we are really in agreement.

    When I talked of cooperation and competition being out of balance, I was not thinking of an either/or situation. It’s more that both exist, as fundamental elements of human society, but that competition has dominated over cooperation. So to get back into balance would have them both co-existing on an equal basis.

    Fuchs convincingly argues that the information society, the Internet etc, are fundamentally constructed as cooperative enterprises, with lots of individual autonomy for participants who are distributed across a decentralised network. But big corporates have increasingly colonised these cooperative enterprises, and have moved in the opposite direction towards more centralised control, based on competitive market ethos aimed at making big profits. Think for example of social network sites that big corporates have been taking over: corporates that amalgamate others, and get bigger and more centrally controlled. Meanwhile the users continue to operate cooperatively, with a certain amount of independence. But it is the competitive ethos that dominates and has most control and power, and makes money from it all. (That’s the antagonism built into the current system between cooperation & competition)

    These big corporates also often encourage cooperative practices amongst their workers, who are given a fair amount of opportunity for decision-making, flexibility etc. But, ultimately it’s a way of getting the workers to (apparently willingly) participate in furthering the competitive profit-making goals of the elite in control of the enterprise.

    Along with this comes a certain amount of worker insecurity, especially in moments of crisis as we have now. And many are excluded from the major rewards of the system, and are likely to become criminals and commit acts of violence, as others have discussed above. I was reminded of this when I read news reports (eg on Stuff) of the increase in domestic violence reported by women’s refuges over the Xmas-New Year period. This seems to be a response to the increase in worker and/or unemployed insecurity during the global financial crisis.

    So basically, we have a system where a wealthy & powerful elite has co-opted cooperative methods and enterprises, in the service of a highly competitive system.

    The alternative is to use the cooperative potential of contemporary technologies to work towards a situation where cooperation and competition are more equally employed and in balance with each other. But I’m not sure exactly what that would look like. However, the aim would be for a more inclusive system than the divisive competition-dominated hierachy we have now. And therefore, hopefully, less crime and violence.

  76. Rex Widerstrom 76

    ak:

    Actually I was having a wee nudge at Bill for his “nice guys finish last under capitalism” comment ;-) Quite a few nice guys have finished last under socialism too.

    You’re of course completely right that any government that was perceived as going “soft on crims” would be committing electoral harakiri in the present environment. But it’s all about how you sell it politically.

    I’d simply sell it as an attempt at a solution to having the occasional sociopath slip under the gaze of an overworked psychologist, to be released into the community ready to engage in a fresh round of slaughter – i.e. longer sentences for truly dangerous crims.

    Of course to achieve that we need more prison beds. So do we waste the taxpayer’s dollars on building new prisons just to accommodate non-violent offenders? To hell with them… they don’t deserve a nice new prison. Let them repay the rest of society by working to repair the damage they’ve caused and/or to make general reparation…

    Of course someone from the “hang ‘em high” brigade would cotton on, and McVicar would be let out of his cage to snarl and wail, but if one seizes the initiative one sets the terms of the debate. I’d love to see how he constructed an argument against longer sentences for the truly dangerous…

    Bill:

    Hadn’t heard of “The Crystal Maze” but it’s helped to… crystalise, if you’ll pardon the inadvertent pun… my thinking on the media’s potential to change attitudes through shows which don’t attempt to pilgerise on some weighty topic but in fact tap in to formats people already have an appetite for, like game shows.

    I shall do some more thinking on the topic this year, and endeavour to do something about it. I’d been considering something on documentary lines, about the lives of prisoners etc… but this line of thinking is potentially much more effective. Thanks for that.

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    Transport Blog | 22-10
  • Ebola Fear outstrips risk
    It's not just that Ebola sounds like a modern day black plague and probably originated from blood sucking bats living in dark caves - reason enough for people here in the United States to react like there's a Zombie-Vampire apocalypse...
    Pundit | 22-10
  • National lets Shell drill illegally
    Back in 2012, National passed the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act. At the time, they made a lot of noise about how this was the first legislation to properly protect the EEZ, and that it would...
    No Right Turn | 22-10
  • The crime is not being rich, the crime is we don’t tax all the income tha...
    In our last blog we looked at whether the claims of ‘rock star’ economist Thomas Piketty held any water or not. Short answer is that some did, some didn’t. In this blog we turn to what we should do about...
    Gareth’s World | 22-10
  • Justice for Nisour Square
    On September 16, 2007, Blackwater mercenaries ran amok in Nisour Square, Baghdad, indiscriminately firing at civilians. 17 people were killed and 20 injured. Today, a US jury has convicted them of that crime:Three security guards working for the private US...
    No Right Turn | 22-10
  • The gentle art of believing nothing
    I remember, quite a few years ago now, Jenny Shipley addressing a room and asking the question, “What is the purpose of the National Party?” The answer was: To defeat the Labour Party. National was there to be the party...
    Occasionally erudite | 22-10
  • Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 – what really happened?
    Three months after the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine the world is no wiser about what, and who, caused this crash. Well, we have the preliminary report but this only confirmed the bleeding obvious (“the aircraft was penetrated by a...
    Open Parachute | 22-10
  • It’s about history… & votes & elephants
    I think I'll start at the end. Andrew ended his recent post like this:...
    Pundit | 22-10
  • More than 20 jobs saved at Auckland faculty of education
    The union and TEU members at the University of Auckland have managed to reduce proposed compulsory job cuts at the faculty of education from 35 down to just two. Local TEU organiser Enzo Giordani said feisty staff with a staunch...
    Tertiary Education Union | 22-10
  • Gordon Campbell on the tokenism of New Zealand‘s role against Islamic Sta...
    Was John Key born lucky or what? Political performance tends to be judged on three things – the unemployment rate, the petrol price at the pump, and the market value of your house. This year, Key was lucky enough to...
    Gordon Campbell | 22-10
  • MIT chaos following job cut announcement
    Chaos reigns at MIT following last week’s announcement that the polytechnic will cut 68 full time equivalent jobs, according to local TEU organiser Chan Dixon. Over a thousand people have signed a petition opposing job cuts at the polytechnic. Staff are...
    Tertiary Education Union | 22-10
  • Auckland staff call for Living Wage
    The Living Wage Network held a rally and barbecue this week calling on the University of Auckland to become first New Zealand’s Living Wage university, by paying all staff, both directly employed and contracted staff, a living wage of $18.80...
    Tertiary Education Union | 22-10
  • Otago debates one off lump sum
    The University of Otago has not offered its staff a pay rise on their rates at collective agreement negotiations, opting instead to offer a one-off lump sum of $1000, which will not go ‘on the rates’. TEU members at the...
    Tertiary Education Union | 22-10
  • Speaker: David Fisher: The OIA arms race
    Good afternoon everyone. I am David Fisher, a reporter with the New Zealand Herald. I have worked as a journalist for 25 years, mainly in New Zealand but across a number of other countries.I think there's some value before I...
    Public Address | 22-10
  • Employment law first act of new government
    As the prime minister promised, his government has rushed to push through its Employment Relations Amendment Bill as one of its very first actions this week. The bill, which union members and workers have actively opposed for the last year,...
    Tertiary Education Union | 22-10
  • 7 inspiring stories of communities taking action for climate
    Stories of communities taking action for the climate and refusing to accept the plans of polluting fossil fuel companies are happening more and more. Here are just a few inspiring climate acts of courage taken by doctors, villagers, students, farmers,...
    Greenpeace NZ blog | 22-10
  • Blowin’ in the wind
    Wind power has a pivotal role to play in the world's energy supply over the next few years. By providing huge amounts of clean, affordable power, it can buy us time in the fight against global warming while revolutions in...
    Greenpeace NZ blog | 22-10
  • Wanted: more fertiliser and horse manure
    Equality enriches the soil, just like manure, but a lot less stinky (For our opening week, we asked all our contributors to think about why they’re On The Left, and what the next three years holds for the left, the...
    On the Left | 22-10
  • PM gets it right about Auckland, mostly
    Prime Minister John Key is dead right when he said: First home buyers in Auckland might have to consider an apartment in order to get onto the property ladder, Prime Minister John Key says. After all, the locational efficiencies of...
    Transport Blog | 22-10
  • John Key’s Multiple Identities
    Question to the Prime MinisterRussel Norman: How many times since November 2008 has he spoken with Cameron Slater on the phone and how many times, if any, has he txted him?Prime Minister: None in my capacity as Prime Minister.John Key...
    Local Bodies | 22-10
  • Where is the Middle?
    When Labour decides who will be the next leader, it is of interest to all of us involved in politics. After all the person chosen could be New Zealand's next Prime Minister. So the debate on the nature of the...
    Pundit | 22-10
  • Labour Needs A Civil Union With The Greens
    Much has been written about where Labour needs to go from here. One issue which doesn’t seem to have generated much interest is what do they do with the Greens?...
    Pundit | 22-10
  • More Latté Than Lager: Reflections on Grant Robertson’s Campaign Lau...
    The People's Flag Is ... Mint Green? Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern (whom Twitter immediately dubbed Gracinda) pose in Mint Green for one of the glossy women's magazines. In a non-revolutionary era, superficial is about as deep as it gets. BIKERS?...
    Bowalley Road | 22-10
  • Auckland’s disturbing panopticon
    Earlier in the month, we learned that Auckland was planning to install a creepy panopticon, complete with ANPR and facial recognition, for vague and undefinied purposes. This produced a flurry of OIA requests via FYI, and one of them (for...
    No Right Turn | 22-10
  • How to Sell a House: Free Advice from a couple of experts. (Self-Described!...
      In the 32 years that Judy and I have been together we have bought and sold quite a few houses. Six years is the longest we  lived in any one of those houses.  Our friends regard us as gypsies. The...
    Brian Edwards | 22-10
  • Judith Collins’ two-tier OIA service
    Back in August, we learned that sewerblogger Cameron Slater was receiving extraordinary OIA service from then-Minister of Justice Judith Collins, in one case receiving a response to a request within 37 minutes. But it wasn't just extraordinary for its speed;...
    No Right Turn | 22-10
  • Fluoridation – a racist conspiracy?
    Political activists campaigning on health issues often resort to scaremongering. This can be dangerous – especially when their stories have no real basis but rely on selective and distorted information. Paul Connett’s Fluoride Action Network (FAN) often resorts to this sort of scaremongering. Now...
    Open Parachute | 22-10
  • What have people in Africa been doing since the Ebola outbreak started?
    by Andy Warren In a word – dying.  But not from Ebola. According to WHO data it looks like this: However, fear and anxiety are the sexiest ingredients of any story today – rather than boring facts. Ebola fits perfectly...
    Redline | 22-10
  • What have people in Africa been doing since the Ebola outbreak started?
    by Andy Warren In a word – dying.  But not from Ebola. According to WHO data it looks like this: However, fear and anxiety are the sexiest ingredients of any story today – rather than boring facts. Ebola fits perfectly...
    Redline | 22-10
  • Unbelieveable
    This week we've seen the Prime Minister desperately trying to cover up his war plans by pretending that Obama's war-planning meeting was just a "regular" meeting of defence partners which we just happened to be attending. Over on Kiwipolitico Pablo...
    No Right Turn | 22-10
  • Are the police using ANPR to target the disabled?
    The media this morning is full of stories of the paralysed man caught driving using a walking stick to reach the pedals. Its good that he's off the road, but there's one point in the story which raises questions:The driver...
    No Right Turn | 22-10
  • Like a cult…
    When a party loses badly, the public expects a bit of sorrowful wailing and beating of breasts. To say “This is what we did wrong, and this is how we’ll fix it” is an important part of restoring trust with...
    Occasionally erudite | 21-10
  • Does Money make Money?
    ‘Rock star economist’ or ‘inequality messiah’ French economist Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty First Century has outsold every other book on the planet this year. The book is so popular because it floats the idea that money makes...
    Gareth’s World | 21-10
  • Cycling: the benefits of complete networks
    A group of New Zealand researchers recently published an excellent paper on the costs and benefits of investing in a complete cycle network and safe street design. Their paper, which is available online, found that: the benefits of all the...
    Transport Blog | 21-10
  • Life isn’t fair. But it should be.
    (For our opening week, we asked all our contributors to think about why they’re On The Left, and what the next three years holds for the left, the government, and New Zealand.) I was not an angelic child. My mother...
    On the Left | 21-10
  • Up here on Planet Key
    ...
    On the Left | 21-10
  • TDB Today: Reasons not to be cheerful, Part #272b
    In my post at The Daily Blog this week I take inspiration from the great Ian Dury, and reflect on the disconnect between political ambition and the state of the climate system as it continues to warm. It will be...
    Hot Topic | 21-10
  • Otago dairy farms fail basics
    I’m really privileged to take on the responsibility of the water portfolio. Eugenie Sage has done excellent work in this area in the last term of parliament and provided a great platform for further work. Last Parliament my bill to...
    frogblog | 21-10
  • Tracking the performance of the 1 hour Xero model
    DISCLOSURE: I hold Xero shares.  Last year I built a very quick and dirty spreadsheet to analyse Xero, and wrote Valuing Xero – in one hour. The article was cross-posted to the NBR, where it attracted far more comments. More on those...
    Lance Wiggs | 21-10
  • Hard News: Media Take: The creeping politicisation of the OIA
    Brent Edwards' story last week on official advice to ministers on child poverty was interesting not only for its substance, but its circumstance.Edwards explained on Morning Report that he originally requested the first of the documents (some of them now nearly...
    Public Address | 21-10
  • Emails from the candidates
    As part of the NZ Labour leadership election, the candidates are able to email the party membership and sell themselves. Knowing how messy Labour’s membership list can be, I thought I’d reproduce the emails in case anyone wants to use...
    Progress report | 21-10
  • Gordon Campbell on Pharmac, Gough Whitlam and Sleater-Kinney
    Ridiculous reported comments on RNZ this morning by Trade Minister Tim Groser, as he sought to dampen down concerns about yesterday’s leaked draft of the IP chapter of ther Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations. According to Groser, ‘extreme’ positions are common...
    Gordon Campbell | 21-10
  • @akltransport – Please fill in a form
    Social media has become an important tool for many organisations in how they engage with their customers. It’s become a tool for both marketing and customer service, and there are a number of examples organisations who do it right. Some...
    Transport Blog | 21-10
  • Questions and Answers – October 22
    Press Release – Office of the Clerk Child PovertyGovernment Priorities and Policies 1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Acting Deputy Leader – Labour) to the Deputy Prime Minister : Will he make reducing child poverty a Better Public Service target given the...
    Its our future | 21-10
  • Alpaca Metropolitan – On The Left Special!
    ...
    On the Left | 21-10
  • Video Against Poverty
    Schoolgirls in Kalimpong, West Bengal, India.  Photo / Julie Zhu This is week two of my givealittle.co.nz campaign Video Against Poverty and I'm more than 2/3 of the way to my goal of $2600.00.  This has been totally unexpected and is a really...
    Notes from the edge | 21-10
  • Why I’m Left
    I’m Left all the way down to my bones. My bone marrow is made up of lots of microscopic Karl Marx mustaches. It’s partly why I’m so curmudgeonly. When I was born I was brought home from the hospital to...
    Tangerina | 21-10
  • Gordon Campbell on Pharmac, Gough Whitlam and Sleater-Kinney
    Column – Gordon Campbell Ridiculous reported comments on RNZ this morning by Trade Minister Tim Groser, as he sought to dampen down concerns about yesterdays leaked draft of the IP chapter of ther Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations.Gordon Campbell on Pharmac,...
    Its our future | 21-10
  • Green Party expresses sympathy for Canadian shooting victims
    The Green Party expressed its solidarity with Canadians and the Canadian Parliament today, offering its sympathy for family and friends of the soldier killed in the attack. "Our thoughts are with all those caught up in the shooting in Canada...
    Greens | 22-10
  • Prime Minister must honour his promise
    It’s time for John Key to honour his promise to the Pike River families, says Labour MP Damien O’Connor.  “International mine experts have confirmed the view of WorkSafe New Zealand and many miners on the West Coast that it is...
    Labour | 22-10
  • EPA finds Shell Oil illegally drilled two wells
    The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has concluded that Shell Todd Oil Services (STOS) broke the law by drilling two wells without a marine consent off the coast of Taranaki, the Green Party said today. The EPA conducted an inspection of...
    Greens | 22-10
  • Soaring rail use in Auckland shows need for rail link now
    News that Aucklanders overtook Wellingtonians as the biggest train users is further evidence the Government needs to start work on the Auckland City Rail Link now, the Green Party said today.Auckland Transport said today that in the year to September,...
    Greens | 22-10
  • Tea breaks gone by lunch time
    Labour is calling for an eleventh hour reprieve to employment law changes which could see thousands of Kiwi workers not covered by collective agreements lose their smoko breaks, its spokesperson on Labour Issues Andrew Little says.“How cynical that on the...
    Labour | 21-10
  • Metiria Turei to lead fight on feeding hungry children
    Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei is urging all political parties to support the Feed the Kids Bill which she inherited today from Mana leader Hone Harawira.Mrs Turei, who leads the Green Party's work on child poverty, will pick up Mr...
    Greens | 21-10
  • Otago dairy farms fail basics
    I’m really privileged to take on the responsibility of the water portfolio. Eugenie Sage has done excellent work in this area in the last term of parliament and provided a great platform for further work. Last Parliament my bill to...
    Greens | 21-10
  • A mighty totara has fallen across the Tasman
    The New Zealand Labour Party expresses deep sadness at the death of former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam, aged 98. “Today a great totara has fallen across the Tasman,” Labour’s Acting Deputy Leader Annette King says....
    Labour | 21-10
  • Note to National: Must deliver on child poverty
    John Key and his Government will be held to its promise to make child poverty a priority, Labour’s Acting Deputy Leader Annette King says. “In its priority-setting speech today the Government stated child poverty would be a major focus for...
    Labour | 21-10
  • New Analysis show Government cut tertiary education funding
    New analysis done by the Green Party today shows the Government has made cuts to funding of tertiary education since 2008.Figures compiled by the Parliamentary Library show that between 2009 and 2015 Government funding to Tertiary Institutions dropped by 4...
    Greens | 21-10
  • Students doing it tough as fees rise again
    The Government is making it increasingly difficult for Kiwis to gain tertiary education as fees continue to rise and access to student support becomes even more restricted, Labour’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “Steven Joyce is shutting a generation...
    Labour | 20-10
  • Key misled New Zealand on Iraq deployment
      John Key was misleading New Zealanders prior to the election when he ruled out New Zealand special forces being deployed to Iraq, says Labour Defence Spokesperson Phil Goff.  “Post-election he has cynically disregarded that by saying that deployment of...
    Labour | 20-10
  • Swearing about swearing the oath
    Yesterday, I was swearing. Swearing the Parliamentary oath, that is. But, under my breath, I was also quietly swearing about the archaic, colonial form of that oath and its inappropriateness for today’s Aotearoa New Zealand. To be permitted to speak...
    Greens | 20-10
  • Damning report on Ruataniwha dam numbers
    When I presented my submission to the Board of Inquiry on the Tukituki Catchment Proposal I compared the proposed 83 metre high Ruataniwha dam with the Clyde Dam and noted the risk of cost blowouts in the construction process.  The...
    Greens | 20-10
  • Church congratulated on child poverty stand
    The efforts by the bishops of the Anglican Church to ensure that the issue of child poverty is not forgotten is a call to all New Zealanders to take action, says Labour’s Interfaith-Dialogue Spokesperson, Su’a William Sio.   “I think...
    Labour | 19-10
  • Labour names Review Team
    Labour’s New Zealand Council has appointed Bryan Gould as Convenor of its post-General Election Review.  He will be joined on the Review Team by Hon Margaret Wilson, Stacey Morrison and Brian Corban (see further biographical details here). The Review Team...
    Labour | 19-10
  • Labour backs urban development plans
    Auckland Council’s plan to set up an urban development agency is to be applauded and central government should get behind it to make it a success, Labour’s Auckland Issues spokesperson Phil Twyford says. Auckland Council CEO Stephen Town has indicated plans...
    Labour | 18-10
  • New Zealand can be rightly proud of seat on Security Council
    Gaining a seat on the United Nation’s Security Council shows the sort of standing that New Zealand has in the world and the quality of the long campaign that we ran over nearly a decade, says Foreign Affairs spokesperson David...
    Labour | 16-10
  • NZ has opportunity on UN Security Council
    New Zealand has an opportunity to make a major contribution to the strengthening of international law and institutional capacity through its upcoming two-year tenure on the United Nations Security Council, Green Party spokesperson on global affairs, Dr Kennedy Graham said...
    Greens | 16-10
  • MPI still dragging the chain over causes of food bug
    The Ministry of Primary Industries’ release of Environmental Science and Research’s initial reports regarding the sources of a nasty stomach bug will be little comfort to the 127 people affected by it, Labour’s Food Safety spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “This...
    Labour | 16-10
  • Treasury officials should try working without food
    The Green Party is challenging Treasury officials to work for a week without eating properly, in light of their advice to Government that a food in schools programme is not needed."Treasury's advice was that providing food for children in schools...
    Greens | 15-10
  • Councils need to better protect our drinking water
    Environment Canterbury (ECan) is proposing several variations to its regional land and water plan that will allow for increased nutrient and other pollution from irrigation and intensive agriculture on the Canterbury Plains. Commissioners are hearing submissions on Variation 1 to...
    Greens | 15-10
  • National needs to commit to making NZ workers safe
    The National Government must do more to help make New Zealand workplaces a safer place to work in, Green Party industrial relations spokesperson Denise Roche said today.Data released by Statistics New Zealand today showed that workers in the fishing and...
    Greens | 15-10
  • Key commits to deployment before consultation or analysis
    John Key’s offer to consult Opposition parties on whether to deploy New Zealand forces against ISIS looks increasingly like a PR exercise only, says Labour’s Defence spokesperson, Phil Goff. “The presence of New Zealand’s Chief of Defence Force at a...
    Labour | 15-10
  • National must end ideological opposition to raising income
    If John Key is serious about tackling child poverty he must approach it with an open mind, and overcome his ideological block to raising incomes as a solution, the Green Party said today.Papers released to Radio New Zealand today show...
    Greens | 14-10
  • Pentagon links climate change and terrorism
    Yesterday the Pentagon launched a plan to deal with a threat that “poses immediate risks to national security”; one that “will affect the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the nation”. It wasn’t referring to Ebola or ISIS. It was...
    Greens | 14-10
  • Four Nominees for Labour’s Leadership
    As at 5pm today four valid nominations had been received for the position of Labour Leader, as follows: Andrew Little(nominated by Poto Williams and Iain Lees-Galloway) Nanaia Mahuta(nominated by Louisa Wall and Su’a William Sio) David Parker(nominated by Damien O’Connor...
    Labour | 14-10
  • Green Party calls for consultation over terrorism law changes
    The Green Party has today written to the Prime Minister asking him to engage in wider consultation prior to changing any laws as a result of the recently announced terrorism law reviews, said the Green Party today. In a letter...
    Greens | 14-10
  • MPI must name product and supermarket chain
    The Ministry of Primary Industries must name the product responsible for severe gastroenteritis affecting people around the country, and the supermarket chain distributing it, Labour’s Food Safety spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “The Ministry seems to be more concerned about protecting...
    Labour | 13-10
  • John Key dishonest about reasons for wanting to change terrorism law
    John Key is misleading the public to push through terrorism law changes under urgency, the Green Party said today. On Sunday, John Key stated that it is not illegal for someone to fight overseas for a terrorist group, such as...
    Greens | 12-10
  • Law changes shaping up to be worse than first thought
    The Prime Minister needs to be up front about exactly what changes he is planning to make to the Employment Relations  Amendment Bill, Labour's spokesperson on Labour Issues Andrew Little says.Interviewed on Q&A yesterday John Key said he did not...
    Labour | 12-10
  • Rapists, not Tinder, the threat to women
    Blame for rape and sexual assault should only ever be laid at the door of the perpetrator, not dating services or the actions of women themselves, Labour’s Associate Police spokesperson Kelvin Davis says. “Tinder is not the problem and women...
    Labour | 09-10
  • Safer Journeys For People Who Cycle
    You have a rare opportunity to tell the people who are making the decisions on cycling how to make it better. The Cycling Safety Panel is seeking feedback on their draft recommendations for improving the safety of cycling in New...
    Greens | 08-10
  • Subsidising more pollution will undermine water clean-up plan at Te Waihora...
    In 2010, NIWA found Canterbury’s Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere had the worst nutrient status of 140 lakes around New Zealand that it measured. In 2011, the National Government committed to spending $15 million across the country through the Fresh Start for...
    Greens | 08-10
  • Adding value not herbicides
    The HT swedes, and other brassicas, might seem like a good idea to farmers struggling against weeds but like the GE road, is this the path we want our agriculture to be treading? The Federated Farmers President, Dr William Rolleston...
    Greens | 07-10
  • ‘Blame the Planner’ bizarre approach to child poverty
    The National Government is stooping to a bizarre new low in blaming "planning processes" for poverty and inequality, after spending six years doing nothing about either the housing market or child poverty, the Green Party said today. Finance Minister Bill...
    Greens | 07-10
  • Media Advisory
    MANA Leader, Hone Harawira will not be available to speak with media today regarding his release “Recount Just One Step To restoring Credibility”. He is however available for media comment tomorrow, Tuesday the 8th of October, all media arrangements are...
    Mana | 07-10
  • RECOUNT JUST ONE STEP TO RESTORING CREDIBILITY
    “I have applied for a judicial recount of the votes in the Tai Tokerau election because it is one step in trying to restore credibility to the electoral process in the north, and, I suspect, in all other Maori electorates...
    Mana | 07-10
  • MANA SEEKS TAI TOKERAU RECOUNT
    The MANA Movement is supporting Leader Hone Harawira’s application for a judicial re-count in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate for the 2014 general election. President Lisa McNab says there are a number of serious issues of concern regarding the ability...
    Mana | 07-10
  • MANA to fight mass privatisation of state housing
    Announcements over the past 12 hours from the Minister responsible for Housing New Zealand, Bill English, and Minister for Social Housing, Paula Bennett, make clear the government’s intention for the mass privatisation of state housing. This comes during the middle...
    Mana | 07-10
  • Journalists have right to protect sources
    Legal authorities must respect the right of journalist Nicky Hager to protect the source of his material for his Dirty Politics book under Section 68 of the Evidence Act, Acting Labour Leader David Parker says. “It is crucial in an...
    Labour | 06-10
  • It shouldn’t take the Army to house the homeless
    National’s move to speed up its state house sell-off shows it is bankrupt of new ideas, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “National has been in office for six years, yet the housing crisis has got worse every month and...
    Labour | 06-10
  • Government must lift social housing supply, not shuffle the deck chairs
    National's decision to shift the state provision of housing to third parties is a smokescreen for the Government decreasing the provision of affordable housing, the Green Party said today."What National should be doing is increasing the supply of both social...
    Greens | 06-10
  • Election 2014 – the final count
    While we have to wait for the final booth level counts we can now see how well we did in the specials and look at electorate level data. First off special votes (and disallowed/recounted votes etc). There was a change...
    Greens | 06-10
  • We need more houses, not Ministers
    The Government’s decision to have three housing Ministers will create a dog’s breakfast of the portfolio and doesn’t bode well for fixing the country’s housing crisis, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “New Zealanders need more houses, not more Ministers....
    Labour | 05-10
  • MANA’S CHALLENGE TO THE 51st PARLIAMENT
    Ten years ago I led 50,000 Maori on the historic FORESHORE AND SEABED MARCH from Te Rerenga Wairua to the very steps of this parliament, in a march against the greatest land grab in the history of this country –...
    Mana | 03-10
  • Is this really necessary?
    No one denies chief executives should be well paid for their skills and experience, but it is the efforts of all employees which contribute to company profits, Labour’s Acting Leader David Parker says. “Salaries paid to chief executives come at...
    Labour | 02-10
  • Lyttelton Port workers also deserve pay rises
    Hard slog by Lyttelton Port workers contributed to strong financial growth for the company and they deserve to be rewarded for their work as much as its chief executive, says Labour’s Acting Leader David Parker. “Lyttelton Port chief executive Peter...
    Labour | 02-10
  • Māori Party must seek guarantees on Māori seats
    Labour is calling on the Māori Party to ensure protection of the Māori seats is part of its coalition deal with National which is being considering this weekend, Labour’s Māori Affairs spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta says. “For the third consecutive term,...
    Labour | 02-10
  • Donaghys job losses another blow to Dunedin
    The loss of 30 jobs from Donaghys rope and twine factory is yet another blow to the people and economy of Dunedin, says Dunedin South Labour MP Clare Curran. “Donaghys was founded in 1876; the company has survived two world...
    Labour | 02-10
  • 5AA Australia – NZ on UN Security Council + Dirty Politics Lingers On
    5AA Australia: Selwyn Manning and Peter Godfrey deliver their weekly bulletin Across The Ditch. General round up of over night talkback issues: Thongs, Jandals and flip-flops… ISSUE 1: New Zealand has been successful in its campaign to become a non...
    The Daily Blog | 22-10
  • When I mean me, I mean my office & when I call whaleoil I mean not as m...
    This. Is. Ludicrous. Green Party co-leader Russel Norman put the first of what are likely to be many questions about Mr Key’s relationship with Slater, asking him how many times he had phoned or texted the blogger since 2008. “None...
    The Daily Blog | 22-10
  • A brief word on describing the Government as ‘boring and bland’
    The narrative being sown is that this Government will be a boring and bland third term. Boring and bland. Since the election, Key has announced he is privatising 30% of state houses without reinvesting any of that money back into housing society’s most...
    The Daily Blog | 22-10
  • More Latté Than Lager: Reflections on Grant Robertson’s Campaign Launch.
    BIKERS? SERIOUSLY! Had Grant Robertson’s campaign launch been organised by Phil Goff? Was this a pitch for the votes of what few Waitakere Men remain in the Labour Party? Was I even at the right place? Well, yes, I was....
    The Daily Blog | 22-10
  • About Curwen Ares Rolinson
    Curwen Ares Rolinson – Curwen Ares Rolinson is a firebrand young nationalist presently engaged in acts of political resistance deep behind enemy lines amidst the leafy boughs of Epsom. He is affiliated with the New Zealand First Party; although his...
    The Daily Blog | 21-10
  • About Kelly Ellis
    Kelly Ellis.Kelly Ellis – As a child, Kelly Ellis didn’t so much fall into the cracks, but willfully wriggled her way into them. Ejected from Onslow College – a big job in the 70s – Kelly worked in car factories,...
    The Daily Blog | 21-10
  • About Kate Davis
    Kate Davis.Kate Davis – Having completed her BA in English and Politics, Kate is now starting her MA. Kate works as a volunteer advocate at Auckland Action Against Poverty and previously worked for the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective. Kate writes...
    The Daily Blog | 21-10
  • Parker does a Shearer – oh for a Labour Leader who can challenge msm fals...
    Sigh. It seems David Parker has done a Shearer… Like a cult and too red – Parker on LabourLabour leadership contender David Parker says Labour borders on feeling like “a cult” and must look at its branding – including its...
    The Daily Blog | 21-10
  • A brief word on the hundreds of millions NZ is spending on the secret intel...
    The enormity of the mass surveillance state NZ Government’s have built carries a huge price tag… Kiwis pay $103m ‘membership fee’ for spyingThe $103 million taxpayer funding of New Zealand’s intelligence agencies is effectively a membership fee for joining the...
    The Daily Blog | 21-10
  • Where. Is. Jason. Ede?
    Where. Is. Jason. Ede?...
    The Daily Blog | 21-10
  • Labour’s Din of Inequity
    Watching Labour’s leadership candidates on Q+A on Sunday, I noticed the ongoing use of terms like “opportunity” and “aspiration”, and “party of the workers”. What do these mean? We glean much from Labour, and from the media about Labour, but not...
    The Daily Blog | 21-10
  • “Blue-Greenwash” fails the test when it comes to endangered dolphins
    National’s pre-election promises saw some wins for the environment – perhaps as the party sought to appease its “Blue-Green” voters and broaden its popular appeal. Some of the ecological gains were a long time in the making, overdue even– such...
    The Daily Blog | 21-10
  • Reasons not to be cheerful, Part #272b
    Why don’t you get back into bed? The next few years — the rest of this century — are not going to be pretty. There is an obvious disconnect between any remaining political ambition to fix climate change and the...
    The Daily Blog | 21-10
  • OIA protocols and official advice ignored to hide Child Poverty
    It might not seem so now, but child poverty was a major election issue. What a pity we did not have the full debate. In that debate it would have been very helpful to have seen the Ministry of Social...
    The Daily Blog | 20-10
  • Previewing the 4 candidates for Leader of the Labour Party
    The extraordinary outbursts by Shearer last week highlights just how toxic that Caucus is. Shearer was on every major media platform as the ABC attack dog tearing into Cunliffe in the hope of diminishing Cunliffe’s support of Little by tearing...
    The Daily Blog | 19-10
  • GUEST BLOG: Kate Davis – the sudden explosion of ‘left’ blogs
    Time to Teach or more people will suffer from P.A.I.D. Political And Intellectual Dysmorphia.I was on the Twitter and a guy followed me so of course I did the polite thing and followed him back. He wrote a blog so...
    The Daily Blog | 19-10
  • Ego vs Eco
    Ego vs Eco...
    The Daily Blog | 19-10
  • We can’t let the Roastbuster case slip away
    Those of us (like me) left with hope that the police would aggressively follow through on the large amount of evidence on offer to them (let’s not forget they forgot they even had some at one point) in the Roastbusters...
    The Daily Blog | 19-10
  • Food, shelter and medicine instead of bombs and bullets
    The on-going conflict across the Middle East – due in large part to the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq – has created another humanitarian crisis of biblical proportion. The essentials of life are desperately needed in Iraq and Syria...
    The Daily Blog | 19-10
  • The politics of electorate accommodations
    National’s electorate accommodations with ACT and United Future were a big factor in it winning re-election. Interestingly, there is another electorate accommodation scenario whereby the centre-left could have come out on top, even with the same distribution of party votes....
    The Daily Blog | 19-10
  • Why you should join the TPPA Action on 8 November
    On 8 November 2014, thousands of Kiwis will take part in the International Day of Action to protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The rally cry for us is TPPA – Corporate Trap, Kiwis Fight Back. Why should you join...
    The Daily Blog | 19-10
  • GUEST BLOG – Patrick O’Dea: no new coal mines
    Green Party and Mana Party policy is “NO NEW COAL MINES!” Auckland Coal Action is trying to put this policy into action on the ground. ACA after a hard fought two year campaign waged alongside local residents and Iwi, in...
    The Daily Blog | 19-10
  • Comparing Police action – Hager raid vs Roast Buster case
    This satire had the NZ Police contact TDB and threaten us with 6months in prison for using their logo.   The plight of Nicky Hager and the draconian Police actions against him has generated over  $53 000 in donations so...
    The Daily Blog | 18-10
  • Malala Yousafzai, White Saviour Complexes and Local Resistance
    Last week, Malala Yousafzai was the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Since her exposure to the worldwide spotlight, her spirit, wisdom and strength have touched the hearts of people everywhere. However, there have been cynics who have argued that...
    The Daily Blog | 18-10
  • Jason Ede is back – but no media can interview him?
    Well, well, well. Jason Ede, the main figure connected to John Key’s office and the Dirty Politics black ops is back with a company with deep ties to the National Party. One thing you can say about the right –...
    The Daily Blog | 18-10
  • GUEST BLOG: Curwen Rolinson – Leadership Transitions In Other Parties: A ...
    As cannot have escaped anyone’s attention by now, the country is presently in the grips of an election and campaign that will help determine the fate of the nation for years to come. It’s gripping stuff – with clear divides...
    The Daily Blog | 17-10
  • SkyCity worker says she faces losing her house
    SkyCity worker Carolyn Alpine told the company annual shareholder’s meeting today that she faced the prospect of losing her house because the company had cut her shifts from two a week to one without consultation. The solo mother, has worked...
    The Daily Blog | 17-10
  • Greg O’Connor’s latest push to arm cops & 5 reasons not to
    I was wondering at what point within a 3rd term of National that Police Cheerleader Greg O’Connor would start trying to demand cops be armed. O’Connor must have thought to himself, ‘if bloody Key can get us and the GCSB vast new...
    The Daily Blog | 16-10
  • You can’t have crisis without ISIS
    So the new scary bogeyman ISIS might have chemical weapons that the US secretly found in Iraq, but America didn’t want to expose this find because the WMDs were actually built and made by the US and Europe, the two powers...
    The Daily Blog | 16-10
  • NZ WINS UN SPIN THE BOTTLE! Privately sucking up to America for a decade me...
    Oh, we are loved! Little old NZ, the 53rd state of America after Israel and Australia, gets to sit at the adults table for the special dinner party that is the UN Security Council. How delightful, a decade of privately...
    The Daily Blog | 16-10
  • MEDIA BLOG – Myles Thomas – A World Without Advertising
    Non-commercial broadcasting and media. It’s a solution for all manner of problems ailing our tender nation… voter engagement, unaccountable governance, apathy, stupefaction, public education, science in schools, arts appreciation, cultural cringe… But no-one could’ve guessed that non-commercial media might solve...
    The Daily Blog | 16-10
  • March against war – 2pm Saturday 25th October
    March against war – 2pm Saturday 25th October...
    The Daily Blog | 16-10
  • Whack a mole as US govt foreign policy
    Whack-A-Mole was a popular arcade game from my youth.  It consisted of a waist high cabinet with holes in the top. Plastic moles seemingly randomly pop out of these holes. The purpose of the game was to hit as many...
    The Daily Blog | 16-10
  • In Paean of Debt
    This week is ‘Money Week’. It’s an opportunity to promote to the middle classes, and anyone else who will listen, the virtues of wise ‘investment’. The aims are to promote the mystical (and indeed mythical) virtues of saving for the...
    The Daily Blog | 16-10
  • The last 48 hours – Poverty denial, war denial and unapologetic abuse of ...
    The bewildering speed of events that simply end in Key shrugging and proclaiming he doesn’t really give a shit is coming think and fast as the Government suddenly appreciate the full spectrum dominance they now enjoy. Here is Radio NZ...
    The Daily Blog | 16-10
  • GUEST BLOG: Pat O’Dea – Mana 2.0 Rebooted
    Internationally the news is that Evo Morales of Bolivia won big with Left Wing policies But what are the chances that the Left will make a resurgence in this country? As the internecine struggles between the Left and the Right...
    The Daily Blog | 15-10
  • The Blomfield IPCA letter – Has Dirty Politics leaked into the NZ Police ...
    It’s difficult to know what to make of the IPCA letter to Matthew Blomfield over Slater’s continued insistence that the hard drive taken from Matthew wasn’t stolen.  Slater has selectively cherry picked the Police referring back to his claim that Blomfeild perjured...
    The Daily Blog | 15-10
  • ​Media release: Rail and Maritime Transport Union – Auckland move for K...
    The Rail and Maritime Transport Union is questioning a KiwiRail proposal to progressively relocate its Zero Harm personnel from Wellington to Auckland. “The purpose of the Zero Harm team is to drive KiwiRail’s performance in health and safety.  Rail is a...
    The Daily Blog | 15-10
  • Amnesty International – Friend request from an IS militant
    There’s always that one person, that one Facebook friend, usually a musician or event promoter, who, when you so foolishly accept their friend request, will completely inundate your news feed with copious event invitations and promotions. The person who, despite...
    The Daily Blog | 15-10
  • NZ should follow the UK and recognize the Palestinian state
    Over the past two weeks, the United Kingdom and Sweden have made headlines through their decisions to recognize the state of Palestine. They are hardly the first nations to do so. Indeed, 134 countries have, in various ways, given formal...
    The Daily Blog | 15-10
  • The Discordant Chimes of Freedom: Why Labour has yet to be forgiven.
    WHY DOES THE ELECTORATE routinely punish Labour and the Greens for their alleged “political correctness” but not National? It just doesn’t seem fair. Consider, for example, the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 – the so-called “anti-smacking legislation” –...
    The Daily Blog | 15-10
  • Hosking or Henry – Which right wing crypto fascist clown do you want to w...
    So Mediaworks are finally going to make some actual money from their eye watering contract with Paul Henry by launching a new multi-platform Breakfast show over TV, Radio and internet. This is great news for Campbell Live who have dodged...
    The Daily Blog | 14-10
  • Families need more money to reduce child poverty
    Prime Minister John Key is mistaken to rule out extending the In Work Tax Credit to all poor children (The Nation 11th Oct) and Child Poverty Action Group challenges government advisors to come up with a more cost effective way...
    The Daily Blog | 14-10
  • GUEST BLOG: Kelly Ellis – Don’t shit on my dream
    Once were dreamers. A large man, walks down the road and, even from 200 yards there’s light showing between his big arms and bigger body. It’s as if he’s put tennis balls under his arms. Two parking wardens walk out...
    The Daily Blog | 14-10
  • Labour and ‘special interests’
    The media narrative of Labour is that it is unpopular because it’s controlled by ‘special interests’. This ‘special interests’ garbage is code for gays, Maoris, wimin and unionists. We should show that argument the contempt it deserves. The next Labour...
    The Daily Blog | 14-10
  • Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Ru...
    . . Continued from: Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Tahi) . National’s housing development project: ‘Gateway’ to confusion . Perhaps nothing better illustrates National’s lack of a coherent housing programme than the ‘circus’ that is...
    The Daily Blog | 14-10
  • Here’s what WINZ are patronisingly saying to people on welfare when they ...
    Yesterday, a case manager from WINZ called to tell me that I needed to “imagine what I would do if I did not have welfare”. I replied “Well, I guess if I couldn’t live at home, I would be homeless.”...
    The Daily Blog | 14-10
  • David Shearer’s ‘no feminist chicks’ mentality highlights all that is...
    Mr Nasty pays a visit Shearer’s extraordinary outburst last night on NZs favourite redneck TV, The Paul Henry Show, is a reminder of all that is wrong within the Labour Caucus right now… He said the current calls for a female or...
    The Daily Blog | 13-10
  • Greenpeace 1 – Shell 0
    Greenpeace 1 – Shell 0...
    The Daily Blog | 13-10
  • GUEST BLOG: Kate Davis – A Tale Of Two Cities
    Sunday was surreal. I went for a drive and ended up in a different country. It wasn’t intentional but those days of too many literally intertextual references seldom are. There is no doubt that the Sunday drive this week had...
    The Daily Blog | 13-10
  • Auckland Rates Rises Out of Control
    Responding to the NZ Herald report that Auckland ratepayers will face an average of a 29 percent rates increase, Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says: “These rate rises show that Len Brown's spending is out of control.”...
    Scoop politics | 22-10
  • Protest at New Plymouth Oil and Gas Expo
    About 30 protesters from Climate Justice Taranaki, Frack-free Kapiti, Te Uru Pounamu Action Group, Oil Free Wellington, Frack-free Manawatu and the east coast protested yesterday outside New Plymouth's biennial Oil and Gas Expo at the TSB Stadium....
    Scoop politics | 22-10
  • FMA warns consumers about cold-calling investment offers
    The Financial Markets Authority (FMA) is warning New Zealand consumers and investors to be wary of cold-calls asking them to buy shares or put their money into offshore firms....
    Scoop politics | 22-10
  • Comprehensive plan needed to end child poverty
    Child Poverty Action Group says it is vital the newly re-elected National government takes a planned and comprehensive approach to reducing child poverty in New Zealand....
    Scoop politics | 22-10
  • Metiria Gets Feed the Kids
    Yesterday the Speaker of the House advised that he had accepted my request to transfer my Feed the Kids (Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment) Bill to Metiria Turei of the Green Party....
    Scoop politics | 22-10
  • DIA undercover investigation leads to jailing
    An undercover Internal Affairs investigation has led to a Hastings man being jailed for three and half years....
    Scoop politics | 22-10
  • Call on Minister McCully to pursue the case of Balibo Five
    Media Information: Call on Minister McCully to pursue the case of journalist Gary Cunningham and the Balibo Five...
    Scoop politics | 22-10
  • Australia and NZ actions on press freedoms alarming
    Global support for investigative journalism in Australia and New Zealand is a welcome response to law changes and a police raid, says the Pacific Freedom Forum...
    Scoop politics | 22-10
  • Call for release of French journalists in West Papua
    West Papua Action Auckland, the EPMU Print and Media Council and the NZ Media Freedom Network call on the Minister of Foreign Affairs to speak out in support of the two French TV journalists whose trial has just begun in...
    Scoop politics | 21-10
  • Court of Appeal: Dotcom v 20th Century Fox Film Corporation
    A The appeal is dismissed. B The 20 August 2014 order of the High Court dealing with confidentiality and the 29 August 2014 order of this Court dealing with confidentiality are set aside. C The confidentiality orders set out in...
    Scoop politics | 21-10
  • Glassons Blasted For Glamourising Animal Cruelty
    Clothing brand Glassons have found themselves embroiled in another controversy after launching a new advert featuring a girl riding a bull. Animal advocacy organisation SAFE have asked them to remove the ad immediately as it glamourises animal cruelty....
    Scoop politics | 21-10
  • Smuggling honey into New Zealand isn’t sweet
    Smuggling honey into New Zealand isn’t sweet Federated Farmers Bee Industry Group applauds the tough line taken by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Border Staff at Auckland Airport. In deporting the couple found trying to smuggle bee products...
    Scoop politics | 21-10
  • Taxpayers’ Union Responds to Joyce on Corporate Welfare
    Responding to Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce’s defence of corporate welfare , Jim Rose, the author of Monopoly Money , a Taxpayers Union report on corporate welfare since 2008, says:...
    Scoop politics | 21-10
  • Speech from the Throne brings welcome focus on children
    Today’s speech from the Throne confirms the Government’s focus on children, youth and their families in the areas of health, education, youth employment, poverty alleviation and Whānau Ora; now the challenge is to ensure every child in New Zealand...
    Scoop politics | 21-10
  • John’s Job Fairs no fix for unemployment and poverty
    “John Key has clearly been looking to the US for his latest bright idea on dealing with employment issues,” says Auckland Action Against Poverty coordinator Sue Bradford. “Job fairs where the desperately unemployed queue in their corporate best to compete...
    Scoop politics | 21-10
  • Speech From the Throne Foreshadows More Corporate Welfare
    Responding to the Governor General’s Speech from the Throne, which outlined that the Government’s intentions for the next Parliamentary term would include further Business Growth Agenda initiatives, Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan...
    Scoop politics | 21-10
  • Green MP to speak at panel on Rainbow Mental Health
    Hamilton, New Zealand: Recently re-elected Green Party MP Jan Logie will be a guest speaker at a panel on the mental health of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trangender, Takataapui and Intersex people taking place on November 1st as part of the...
    Scoop politics | 20-10
  • Evidence Supports GE Moratorium
    Federated Farmers spokesman Graham Smith's call for a 'rethink' on release of GeneticallyEngineered organisms is misguided, and instead it is time for a formal moratorium on GMOs in the environment.(1)...
    Scoop politics | 20-10
  • Chatham Rise mining could have impact on whales and dolphins
    Wellington, 21 October 2014--Mining phosphate on the Chatham Rise, off the east coast of New Zealand’s south island, could potentially have many impacts on marine mammals like whales and dolphins, the Environmental Protection Agency was told today....
    Scoop politics | 20-10
  • Council endorses Nanaia Mahuta as the next Labour leader
    Te Kaunihera Māori, the Māori Council of the New Zealand Labour Party, have passed a resolution to endorse the Hon Nanaia Mahuta as the next leader of the Labour Party...
    Scoop politics | 20-10
  • Kaumatua to organise petition to end Maori seats
    Ngapuhi kaumatua David Rankin has announced that he will be organising a nationwide petition to seek support from Maori voters to end the Maori seats. “These seats are patronising”, he says. “They imply we need a special status, and that...
    Scoop politics | 20-10
  • Announcing a New Voice for The Left
    Josh Forman is pleased to announce the creation of a new force on the Left of politics in New Zealand....
    Scoop politics | 20-10
  • Public services held back by poor workplace culture
    A new report by Victoria University’s Centre for Labour, Employment and Work shows that public servants are working significant unpaid overtime to ensure the public services New Zealanders value are able to continue....
    Scoop politics | 20-10
  • iPredict New Zealand Weekly Economic & Political Update
    Andrew Little’s probability of being the next leader of the Labour Party has reached 70% and Jacinda Ardern is favourite to become his deputy, according to the combined wisdom of the 8000+ registered traders on New Zealand’s predictions market, iPredict....
    Scoop politics | 20-10
  • Prison Drug Treatment Unit marks a milestone
    Christchurch Men’s Prison’s Drug Treatment Unit (DTU) celebrated the completion of its 50th six month Drug and Alcohol Programme today, with the graduation of a further twelve offenders....
    Scoop politics | 20-10
  • Security Council seat a chance for NZ to empower women
    The UN Women National Committee Aotearoa New Zealand (UN Women NCANZ) welcomes New Zealand winning a seat on the United Nations Security Council and is calling on New Zealand to use its position to proactively promote effective implementation of the...
    Scoop politics | 20-10
  • Waipareira and ACC sign Partnership
    Waipareira and The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding at Whanau Centre, Henderson – marking a special day for the West Auckland Urban Maori organisation....
    Scoop politics | 20-10
  • Humanitarian aid desperately needed in Iraq and Syria
    Global Peace and Justice Auckland is calling on the government to provide humanitarian funding for non-aligned NGOs (non-governmental organisations) in the Middle East rather than give any support whatever for the US-led military campaign in the area....
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • Court Judicial Decision: Dotcom v The USA: 17 October 2014
    The United States of America is seeking the extradition of Messrs Dotcom, Batato, Ortmann and Van Der Kolk. The matter has been before the Courts on numerous occasions, and no further recitation of the facts is needed....
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • Marshall Island poet speaks at UN climate summit
    “The fossil fuel industry is the biggest threat to our very existence as Pacific Islanders. We stand to lose our homes, our communities and our culture. But we are fighting back. This coming Friday thirty Pacific Climate Warriors, joined by...
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • Many tourist car accidents preventable
    Simple steps could dramatically reduce the number of accidents involving tourists, says the car review website dogandlemon.com ....
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • RainbowYOUTH: 25 Years, 25 More
    In 1989, a group of young people in Auckland got together to form a support group for LGBTIQ youth. They called it Auckland Lesbian And Gay Youth (ALGY). After 25 years, several location changes, a name change, a brand reboot...
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • Outdated Oath shows need for Kiwi Head of State
    MPs are sworn in today and New Zealand Republic has written to MPs asking them to talk about why 121 New Zealanders elected by the people of New Zealand and standing in the New Zealand Parliament swear allegiance to another...
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • Council shouldn’t revenue grab from windfall valuations
    Auckland Council should state clearly they will not try and capture revenue as a result of the latest valuations and needs reminding that the City’s skyrocketing property values doesn’t change the level or cost of Council’s services, says...
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • EPMU endorses Andrew Little for Labour leadership
    The National Executive of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union unanimously endorsed Andrew Little for the role of Labour leader, at a meeting held yesterday. “I have been speaking to our workplace delegates at forums across the country over...
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • World Food Day promotes Agroecology not GE technology
    The UN has stated that agroecology is a major solution to feeding the world and caring for the earth....
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • Labour Names Review Team
    Labour’s New Zealand Council has appointed Bryan Gould as Convenor of its post-General Election Review. He will be joined on the Review Team by Hon Margaret Wilson, Stacey Morrison and Brian Corban....
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • Contenders for Labour leadership debate for first time
    The contenders for the leadership of the Labour Party debated for the first time on TV One’s Q+A programme today....
    Scoop politics | 19-10
  • UN Ambassador Jim McLay on TV One’s Q+A programme
    New Zealand's United Nations Ambassador Jim McLay on TV One’s Q+A programme....
    Scoop politics | 18-10
  • The Nation: RSA President BJ Clark & Ian Taylor, New NZ Flag
    Lisa Owen interviews RSA President BJ Clark and tech innovator Ian Taylor about changing the NZ flag...
    Scoop politics | 18-10
  • The Nation: RSA President BJ Clark & Ian Taylor, New NZ Flag
    Lisa Owen interviews RSA President BJ Clark and tech innovator Ian Taylor about changing the NZ flag...
    Scoop politics | 18-10
  • Lisa Owen interviews Foreign Minister Murray McCully
    Murray McCully says New Zealanders can expect a 5-10 year engagement against Islamic State if we join military action in Iraq and the government will take that “very carefully into account”...
    Scoop politics | 18-10
  • Lisa Owen interviews Julia Gillard
    Julia Gillard says there is “sufficient evidence” to fight Islamic State and does not think it will increase the risk of a domestic attack...
    Scoop politics | 18-10
  • NZ businesses to make child abuse a priority conversation
    Many leading New Zealand businesses have partnered with national child advocacy organisation Child Matters to participate in the fourth annual ‘Buddy Day’ - New Zealand’s only child abuse prevention awareness day....
    Scoop politics | 17-10
  • Tribunal decision significant for SMEs
    The Human Rights Review Tribunal decided this week in favour of an employee’s right not to work on Saturdays for religious reasons. The decision may still be appealed but the Director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings, Robert Kee,...
    Scoop politics | 17-10
  • On The Nation this weekend
    This weekend on The Nation… New Zealand has been elected to the United Nations Security Council, but what happens next? Lisa Owen interviews Foreign Minister Murray McCully from New York about our goals for reform, what America wants from us...
    Scoop politics | 17-10
  • 1000+ supported by Te Arawa Whanau Ora
    Over 1000 individual whānau members are leading happier, healthier, more successful lives as a result of eight passionate and committed Māori organisations working at the coalface to help whānau find success....
    Scoop politics | 17-10
  • Nomination for Board Members Now Open
    CRF’s objective is to create opportunities for people from refugee backgrounds to lead fulfilling lives and contribute to every area of New Zealand society. It is an organisation that undertakes advocacy work using the strengths-based approach,...
    Scoop politics | 16-10
  • Anglican Family Care Otago staff to take industrial action
    Social workers, family workers and support staff working for Anglican Family Care in Dunedin and South Otago will take industrial action after their employer refused a pay increase that would keep up with the rising cost of living....
    Scoop politics | 16-10
  • Use UN Security Council role to overcome inaction and injust
    Amnesty International welcomes New Zealand winning a seat on the UN Security Council and is calling on New Zealand to use the role to ensure the body lives up to its role of safeguarding global peace and security....
    Scoop politics | 16-10
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