Digested Read – Spirit Level 1: The Problem

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, September 17th, 2010 - 41 comments
Categories: equality - Tags:

Digested Read Digested – We’re succeeding materially, but failing socially.

We’ve never had it so good – the luxury and extravagance of our lives threatens the planet, we have so much… but somehow our lives seem to be a constant psychological battle against stress and emotional exhaustion.

Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett are a pair of epidemiologists with over 50 years of research into the social determinants of health between them; trained in tracing the causes of disease in populations.  They started trying to work out why the life-expectancy of one suburb can be more than 10 years less than a neighbouring wealthier suburb, and have ended up with something that could be called ‘evidence-based politics’.

They make no claims to be left or right on the political spectrum, and got top politicians from all parties to sign up to their equality pledge before the recent UK general election – including the new Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron.  Rather their philosophy is purely a scientific view of what works best for people – all people – in a community.

Research show that people feel that ‘materialism’ is coming between them and happiness.  People feel they are alone in wanting society to move away from greed and excess toward a way of life more centred on values, community and family – but in fact the vast majority feel the same way.  Mainstream politics doesn’t seem to tap into this feeling, and as such many have given up on society, and feel only able to better themselves as individuals – to society’s further ruin.

But what is the proof of the cause of the decline of community and the rise of the broken society?

This graph shows that above ~$US20,000 GDP/person, growth of wealth makes no difference to life expectancy.  But wealth within a society makes a great difference to life expectancy.  So additional wealth doesn’t gain a country more life for its citizens.  In fact we can generalise across a whole set of health and social indicators – additional wealth doesn’t seem to help with any of them:

But the rates of these various problems definitely varies between countries.  So what’s the difference between the US, UK & Portugal, coming out badly on so many indicators; and Japan & Sweden, which do so well?

Some countries have a far greater income inequality than others – the US, UK and Portugal are very unequal.  That’s us there, just above them after our great rise in Gini (link) in the late 80s and 90s.

So how does the graph look if we correlate with income inequality?

Suddenly the graph is linear.  There are various ways of measuring inequality (Gini, Robin Hood index, richest vs poorest 10 or 20%…) they all come out with a graph very similar to this.  The graph comparing US states inequality to social and health problems comes out similar as well.  So there is definitely a link between these problems and inequality.  I’ll go into more depth in each area in later blogs.

The Spirit Level authors believe income inequality is largely important as it is our current way of measuring hierarchy in society.  Other forms of inequality are probably important too, but income is where the data and evidence is, and it is the way society currently values people.  A certain level of wealth is required but in the wealthiest 50 nations virtually everyone has access to that.  So the problem is social distances and stratification – keeping up with the Joneses.

Second rate goods equals second rate people.  Status matters.  Having less than those next to us makes us anxious and stressed.  It affects our self-esteem.  We become self-promoting and insecure, as we are constantly in a race and scared of being found out as not as important (ie wealthy) as we make out to be.  We have less time to make and keep friends as we spend all our time trying to earn and spend our wealth to maintain our place.

In a more equal society the race isn’t so all-consuming, we have more friends, more trust, more community and more happiness.  But no less wealth.  He who has most toys doesn’t win, he just makes sure others lose out more.

For more detail: Read the book. Buy it and/or support the Trust.

Right-wing trolls: r0b had a recent post with links refuting the arguments you’re about to make…

41 comments on “Digested Read – Spirit Level 1: The Problem”

  1. SHG 1

    Why do people post 4-colour graphics as jpegs?

  2. tsmithfield 2

    There is plenty of criticism about various aspects of “the spirit level” that can be accessed online. Having thought about this for a few days now, there is one glaring aspect that I would like to point out. The study is mainly a correlation study. The well-worn phrase “correlation is not causation” applies here.

    For instance, In the last graph above, income inequality is shown as the IV and “health and social problems” as the DV. This implies that simply by sharing the wealth around more equally health and social problems will disappear. However, this makes no sense whatsoever.

    It would make a lot more sense to have “health and social problems” as the IV (the x axis) and income inequality as the DV (the y axis). This would imply that if we do something about the health and social issues then income inequality will reduce. For instance, if we improve parenting skills, take measures to improve educational outcomes etc, people are more likely to become well educated, get better jobs etc. If we do something about reducing smoking addiction, then people will be better off financially through not wasting money on smokes, and be healthier as well.

    • Puddleglum 2.1

      The well-worn phrase “correlation is not causation” applies here.

      Indeed. It could be a third factor that explains both … wonder what that might be? No, I don’t wonder: It’s the individualistic forms of life that underpin, and are reinforced by, capitalism. They produce both the inequality and the social and personal harms.

      That third factor even explains your ‘poor parenting skills’ factor.

      Well done TS – you led us to the cause.

    • Zorr 2.2

      I love this common misconception around the whole “correlation does not imply causation” issue. Correlation DOES imply causation – the issue ends up being that many people just assume that because it does that there is a relevant point to be made from just doing correlation studies and latching on to any results at all.

      Also, your labeling of the axes would be unscientific. You always have the fixed value as the x-axis and the variable as the y-axis. In this case the income inequality is a known fixed value and the y-axis is the value they are wanting to measure against it – in this case the social and health issues. Ultimately though, just another flash in the pan from you ts because that isn’t even an argument, just a diversion.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.3

      Still trying to deny reality there I see TS

    • Ari 2.4

      Correlation suggests possible causation, and shifts the burden of proof- that is to say, we should be suspicious that inequality causes health and social problems from that alone. You’re right that it doesn’t by itself prove anything, but I’d be genuinely curious to see what you think is actually causing this correlation if it’s not simply a linear relationship.

    • Bunji 2.5

      Correlation doesn’t imply causation, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing ‘look over there’.

      But the Spirit Level does look at a number of studies for various effects that look at correlation vs causation – does trust cause income difference or vice-versa. You can guess the conclusion given the book’s premise…

      The graphs have a particular format to make them easy to read. They all have the same simplified format, so you don’t need a science degree to understand it all. Having a science degree myself, I miss the detail; but prefer that it’s in a more widely understandable format.

      (SHG: which format would you prefer me to re-save them into? PNG? I exist to make y’all happy…)

      And TS – people who aren’t desperately trying to catch up on income tend to have more time to spend on their parenting skills, their children’s education etc. Equalising income a) won’t happen overnight and b) if it did it would still have a lag before some problems were solved/showed significant improvement.

      • SHG 2.5.1

        Just teasing mate, although you could have posted them as 4- or -8-color gifs and they would have looked better and been much smaller 🙂

        • Bunji 2.5.1.1

          Ah, but I have a philosophical objection to gif. Having programmed graphics applications in the past and then you have to *license* gif, I’m all about the png. That’s the best you’re getting.

          But then png is the best.

  3. roger nome 3

    You’re right – tsmith, i’ve heard that more unequal societies are targeted by extra-terrestrials for abductions as they offer more variety accross the human spectrum. The abductions harm poorer people more because they are better abducties (people won’t notice they’re gone as much). This is the crucial variable that the authors of the spirit level are missing – or is there a cover-up going on? (i.e. earth’s scientists being told to lie about global warming so the communist space lizards can centralise power and turn earth into a gulag planet).

    Can you email me? I would like to co-author a piece for investigate magazine with you about this pressing issue…

    • tsmithfield 3.1

      Zorr, as I understand it there are numerous variables from various studies that have been combined together to become one variable (index of health and social problems). The fact this has been described as an index means that it could validly be used as the x axis, so I am not sure your argument is sound.

      The problem with trying to address “health and social problems” by equalising income is that it does not change human habits that are causing the “health and social problems”. For example consider the examples often cited of people who have become instantly rich through a Lotto win or the like and then lose the money within a short time frame. Consider the likes of Mike Tyson who came into boxing with a lot of behavioural issues. Getting wealth did not change his behaviour.

      However, by looking at the picture the other way, and seeing “health and social problems” as the causal variable, then we can actually do something to address the problems that are stopping people from getting ahead. Simply throwing money at people simply won’t do this.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        Nobody has said anything about throwing money at people. More that we should be looking at getting a more equal share going rather than giving it all to the worthless rich people.

      • Puddleglum 3.1.2

        Hi TS,

        Don’t you like my idea that there may be a third variable that causes both inequality and social and health problems? If not, why not?

      • bbfloyd 3.1.3

        ts.. you highlight a basic stumbling block to creating balanced societies.

        the philosophy that everything that ails us can be fixed with money. most people i know who are in the “deprived” sector of society don’t see having more money as any more than a basic necessity, required because their utilities and groceries etc, are purchased with money. given the choice, most would prefer to be self sufficient, and most have the skills and knowledge to do that.

        the fact that money is a necessary commodity for basic survival in todays society is seen as one of the largest sources of sress by these groups. unfortunately, we have government that, it seems is hellbent on ensuring that the aquisition of money is as fundamental to our continued participation in society as breeding.

        can’t help but wonder if commodity based economics wouldn’t lend itself to a more balanced approach to social outcomes

  4. roger nome 4

    ts – there are other simiar studies that have found the same thing.

    http://www.ccsd.ca/pubs/2002/olympic/indicators.htm

    The challange for the right is to replicate these studies, and see if the results come out different. But that won’t happen will it? Because “reality has a left wing bias…”

    • tsmithfield 4.1

      Roger, I am sure there are plenty of studies that are showing similar things. However, in each of the studies I would give the response I have given above.

      At least what I have proposed can be operationalised in specific changes that will improve people’s capability to get ahead. What I am suggesting will enable people to develop life-long habits that improve their life over the long-term.

      Simply equalising income does not achieve this. All it does is make people richer for a time. However, as it has been said before, if all the wealth in the world was distributed equally, it wouldn’t be long before most of it was back in the hands of those who had it in the first place.

      By actually giving people tools to improve their own situation they have the opportunity to generate sustainable wealth that will close the income gap in a more sustainable way. What objection do you have to this course of action?

      • mcflock 4.1.1

        By actually giving people tools to improve their own situation they have the opportunity to generate sustainable wealth that will close the income gap in a more sustainable way. I agree fully, TS.

        There are two ways for an individual to generate sustainable wealth: the work of their mind or the work of their body. I believe that everyone should be given these tools to generate their own wealth.

        To give them an effective mind, education up to and including tertiary level should be freely available.
        To give them effective bodies, we must give them healthcare, shelter, clothing and nutritious food.

        I am glad we are in agreement, and will look for you at the next socialist rally.

        • tsmithfield 4.1.1.1

          Actually, I think the tools are much more fundamental than that. For instance, I know someone who is a multi-millioinaire who has reached that position using tools that are available to nearly everyone.

  5. roger nome 5

    ts – i agree that the changes would take a decade or two have their full impact. I don’t see this as an argument to not impliment them however.

  6. roger nome 6

    ” Simply equalising income does not achieve this.”

    So we have a pronouncement from an anon blogger with no back up facts or argument, versus decades of meticulous research by experts… hmmm which side to pick…..

    • tsmithfield 6.1

      Since these sort of studies are invariably correlational it is quite open to see the research from the other direction. One way to determine which direction is most likely to be the correct view is to come up with some logical ways in which the effect might occur. I think its quite easy to see how improving educational outcomes etc will increase the likelihood of succeeding in life and thus earning more money.

      I don’t think it is at all easy to see how simply giving people more money will improve their outcomes. In fact, in many cases it might actually make things worse for people. For instance, what would be the likely effect of giving more money to a heroin addict?

      So roger, which part of my statement below do you disagree with and why?

      I said: “By actually giving people tools to improve their own situation they have the opportunity to generate sustainable wealth that will close the income gap in a more sustainable way.”

      • Puddleglum 6.1.1

        Sorry to pursue you, TS, (see comments above) but you seem to think that causality can only be from A to B or from B to A.

        What about a third variable? I’d really like to know what you think of that. (It might also help explain why, as you put it, if all the income were ‘equalised’ it would soon end up with an unequal distribution.)

        • Bunji 6.1.1.1

          I think ts is confusing income with wealth, and maintaining a system that pushes wealth to an elite.

        • tsmithfield 6.1.1.2

          You are quite right, Puddleglum. And this is one of the failings of the research in that it has lumped numerous variables, each with their own diverse 3rd variable relationships into one neat variable “index of health and social problems”.

          However, the approach I am suggesting would deal with third variable problems in the process of dealing with other issues. It is probably a lot harder than redistributing wealth, but in the long-term it is likely to be much more effective in achieving the same end.

  7. roger nome 7

    “I don’t think it is at all easy to see how simply giving people more money will improve their outcomes.”

    But we’re not not talking about “giving people more money”. We’re talking about changing the social contract so that the health and happiness of the people is improved. That you discount the evidence in favour of your bluster does not show you in a favourable light.

  8. KJT 8

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting that unskilled get paid the same as skilled workers for instance. The problem is the gross inequality of income where a manager gets 100’s of times more pay than his/her staff. Or the owners of capital are able to remove most of societies wealth as of right even if it means other people live in unnecessary poverty.

    As Warren Buffet said. “There is class warfare and it is my class, the rich class, that is winning”

  9. tsmithfield 9

    Roger nome: “But we’re not not talking about “giving people more money”. We’re talking about changing the social contract so that the health and happiness of the people is improved. That you discount the evidence in favour of your bluster does not show you in a favourable light.”

    I think in some ways we are talking about the same thing. I am all in favour of people improving their situation in life and improving their outcomes. However, this is probably where I would differ from the socialist perspective which is largely based around taking money from the wealthy and redistributing it. However, that doesn’t in itself achieve anything to improve the ability of people to move away from dependence on others, or to change dysfunctional behaviours.

    I think that improving the ability of people to build their own wealth, prosperity and well-being is a through helping them overcome dysfunctional behavioural patterns and increase their skills and abilities is a much better long-term solution. This concept doesn’t seem that radical to me.

    • felix 9.1

      Interesting that you consider the poor to be dependent on the rich.

      It seems to me to be quite the reverse – that the wealthiest people in society are the ones riding on the backs of the rest.

      • tsmithfield 9.1.1

        I guess you could have that perspective.

        However, I see the roots of poverty are in dysfunction rather than inequity.

        The way I see it is that socialists want to take people out of the gutter to achieve equity. I don’t think this approach actually achieves very much other than to shift existing wealth around.

        My approach is to take the gutter out of people. This is much harder, but is likely to result in the pool of wealth actually increasing rather than just being shifted around..

        • Puddleglum 9.1.1.1

          TS, I think you’re confused abut socialism.

          Socialism is not about redistribution; it’s about re-organising society in such a way that work, community processes and the general economy are based on and run by the people in those workplaces, communities and economies.

          Socialists qua socialists, are opposed to the notion of limited liability companies, private corporations, etc., and their ability to be treated as legal individuals, because they see them as vehicles deliberately constructed for the leveraging, appropriation and accumulation of wealth for an individual person (or persons as shareholders) out of the work of a collective of people who do not fully share in the benefits of that production.

          They suggest a range of cooperatively controlled and run ‘entities’ to produce goods and services and participatory collective processes for determining what gets produced, how much, when, etc.. In addition, they advocate alternative processes for rewarding individuals’ economic activity to that of the market price for particular forms of labour. The assumption is usually that some individuals will receive greater reward than others, but just not in the extreme way it can happen in a capitalist market economy with its contraptions such as companies, etc. that allow immense differentials in how individuals are ‘rewarded’ for their economic activity.

          What you describe as ‘socialism’ is actually some hybrid of modern social democratic and liberal approaches. With these, capitalism is accepted as the best way to organise and run most of the non-state economy but they apply some degree of constraint to, regulation and limitation of that activity.

          Social democrats/liberals are the ones who use redistribution primarily to compensate the losers in an economic system that they tend to think cannot be (or should not be) replaced, while realising that it produces harsh and unfair outcomes for many people.

          More on topic, the best way to “take the gutter out of people”, as you put it, is to re-organise the social system that creates gutters so that it no longer does so.

          My point in response to your suggestion is that ‘poor parenting skills’ and other forms of what Richard Prebble used to call “behavioural poverty” are actually generated by market capitalism, as a general tendency,

          That’s because the incentive and impulse towards so-called economic efficiency encounters all non-market processes of social cohesion, connection and self-maintenance and organisation (e.g., parenting) as obstacles to the process of capital growth and wealth accumulation. At best such a society ends up commodifying those social processes and selling them back to us.

          For example, we all need connections to others (family, friends, etc.). Capitalist evolution results, necessarily, in the dismantling of communities, families, friendships and other forms of social support and connection. After creating a world in which people routinely move about and migrate for jobs and other opportunities. and, as a consequence, repeatedly leave family and friends and break social connections to place, those connections then get sold back to us (in emaciated form) via mobile phones, social networking sites and so on.

          The same pressures and incentives that dismantle other social processes have exerted themselves on parenting. Parenting isn’t an instinct. It needs to be passed on by exposure (from childhood) to others raising children. It needs to happen in a family life-sphere that is essentially organised around raising children not around earning incomes in workplaces far-removed from the domestic world. It needs to happen in a broader society, economic system and culture that is, itself, organised around the process of reproducing, socialising and enculturating new human beings rather than one organised around reproducing wealth and capital. (In evolutionary theory, it’s all about achieving an integrated balance between material ‘survival’ – economic behaviour – and reproduction.)

          In the latter society, the best that can be done is to sell ‘parenting’ back to parents via daycare, parenting books, tapes, etc.. In New Zealand – because of social democratic/liberal initiatives – we also have the non-market ‘redistribution’ of parenting skills via Plunket, Ante Natal groups, state-funded fostering, CYFS and the like.

          You’re right, ‘getting the gutter out of [society]’ is much harder and will no doubt take much longer than getting particular individuals out of the gutter. But some of us are trying to do just that. And at least some of those trying to do that call themselves ‘socialists’. Want to join the effort?

          • mcflock 9.1.1.1.1

            It depends on whether you are using the strict political philosophy “socialism”, the popular interpretation of “socialism”, the obscure RWNJ “socialism”, or socialism as a continuum of beliefs from communism through democratic socialism to social democrats and, indeed, hybrid state/private enterprise mixes of any degree.

            I remember two good comrades having a drunken argument as to whether they were social democrats or democratic socialists. The only thing that was important was that they were to the left of Labour5.

            • Puddleglum 9.1.1.1.1.1

              Fair enough, mcflock. To be honest – and despite that comment – I’m not that fussed about definitional debates unless they make a point.

              The point I wanted to make to TS was simply that redistribution is the bare minimum response to the problems of inequality. Reorganising society goes more to the root of the problems – including the parenting issue he was concerned about. If socialism was just the advocacy of redistribution then just about every western government and party that has ever existed has been socialist – so that definition really doesn’t help discriminate anything, politically.

  10. RedLogix 10

    ts
    My approach is to take the gutter out of people. This is much harder,

    You’re right, it’s much harder because you’re locked into a perpetual egg chasing chicken loop there.

    There is of course a thread of truth in what you are saying; dysfunction creates chaos. That’s obvious, but the immediate question that follows is ‘what causes the dysfunction?’. If you are simply going to say that it’s because they are ill-bred, brown or simply bad people…. then you’ve really just parked yourself into the ‘blame the victim’ garage.

    Equally the left is probably guilty of ‘throwing money at problems’ and hoping they will go away to a greater or lesser degree. Up front and personal, dysfunctional adults, chaotic families and the damaged children they create are not easy problems to solve. Ask any social worker.

    Put like this it’s not hard to understand that inequality and dysfunction are mutually interdependent sides of the same coin. The decent individual does not thrive in an indecent society.

    When life is nothing but a series of dissapointments and failed plans, it’s far less likely someone will be keen to commit to long-term goals and delayed gratification. When the ladder’s is too steep, there are too many others ruthlessly crawling over you to get up it as well , or when you get to a certain rung those above start pulling it up behind them… there’s just too much risk you’ll never get to the pay-off.

  11. tsmithfield 11

    RedLogix: “You’re right, it’s much harder because you’re locked into a perpetual egg chasing chicken loop there.”

    Of course I realise this. However, resolving the “egg” inequity side of the equation by shifting resources from one pocket to another doesn’t actually do much to catch up to the “chicken” dysfunction side of the equation. In fact, as I pointed out above, there are situations where this approach can be counterproductive.

    However, resolving the “chicken” dysfunction side will actually result in the “egg” inequity being caught in a sustainable way.

    Those countries in “The Spirit Level” that are high in GDP and low in dysfunction might well generating high GDP because of low dysfunction rather than the opposite direction that “The Spirit Level” proposes. Do you agree?

    • tsmithfield 11.1

      BTW, Red, I’m not thinking in terms of blaming people for their circumstances. Rather in terms of recognising that their are problems that need to be addressed so people can advance and improve their circumstances.

    • RedLogix 11.2

      It’s late and I’ve a big day tommorrow. Below is a repost of something I put on an earlier thread:

      The argument here is not unlike the one around the Laffer curve.

      Absolute equality can only be achieved at the expense of extreme interventions, the costs of which greatly outweigh the marginal benefits involved in eliminating the last few marginal degrees of inequality.

      Absolute inequality, ie where one person owns everything and all the rest of us are his/her chattels is equally undesirable.

      Logically somewhere in the middle must lie an optimum. Exactly where is hard to determine, because although there is a wide spread of GINI coeficients across the nations, there are also a wide range of other uncontrolled variables and data uncertainties that make ‘eyeballing’ the data a completely useless tool. (The obvious parallel with the climate change debate is rather compelling.)

      The argument can only hinge on whether in general NZ is on the positive or negative slope portion of the curve. NZ is in fact one of the more unequal nations, and more importantly over the last 30-40 years our GINI has been increasing at a faster rate than any other OECD nation. During that same period many of our social indicators have detoriorated.

      The chances that we are on the positive portion of the curve (ie that increasing inequality would yield positive social outcomes) is slim to zero.

      .

      The Spirit Level arrives at the same conclusion, but with an observational methodology.

      I’m happy to accept that there is a mutual, self-reinforcing interdependence between the individual and the society they live in. Put simply, while each is responsible to make the best of the opportunities they find in life, equally we are our brother’s keeper. Personal and collective responsibility is not an either/or choice….

  12. roger nome 12

    Have you read kierkegaard RL?

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Hard News: A fun but flawed weed documentary
    Patrick Gower is good value when he's high. Not that I've ever, you know, got stoned with him. But in the second part of his documentary Patrick Gower on Weed, he does what you'd expect in a modern weed documentary and immerses himself – first with a doctor, then a ...
    2 hours ago
  • Candidate Survey: Western Bay of Plenty – Local Body Elections 2019
    We surveyed candidates on their attitudes to issues facing the Western Bay Region, find out what they think: “Closing the Gap” Tauranga, one of the area groups of Income Equality Aotearoa NZ Inc., has surveyed all candidates in the three local body elections to discover attitudes to some basic issues ...
    Closing the GapBy Tracey Sharp
    9 hours ago
  • Project Nettie calls on scientists to defend biology
    Please spread widely, and sign, to support science and rationalism over the new irrationalism sweeping universities and institutions.  PROJECT NETTIE Sexual reproduction, the generation of offspring by fusion of genetic material from two different individuals, evolved over 1 billion years ago. It is the reproductive strategy of all higher animals ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    10 hours ago
  • I’m glad I don’t live in Auckland
    Just when I was thinking that Palmerston North's mayoral race (which includes a convicted child molester / public wanker and a convicted child beater) was the worst in the country, Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere opened his mouth:Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere is being slammed for using the words "sieg ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    10 hours ago
  • Index of Power Update, 2018-19: China #2
    We reprint below an article from the excellent website the Economics of Imperialism by Tony Norfield This is an update of the statistics for my Index of Power, using data for 2018-19 and discussing what a country’s ranking reflects. The major change is that China’s rank has shifted up and ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    12 hours ago
  • Climate Change: A history lesson
    Why is New Zealand climate change policy so crap? The Herald this morning has a long article on the twists and turns of climate change policy in New Zealand [paywalled / depaywall script], which shows where we've been. The short version is that the government first began worrying about this ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    13 hours ago
  • What the All Blacks Mean to Us
    The All Blacks have been, for more than a century, arguably the most successful International sports team in the world. But they are more than that; even for those Kiwis who are immune to the charms of rugby (and there are more than a few), the All Blacks are ambassadors ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    16 hours ago
  • No one is born into the wrong body
    A short and incredibly powerful speech from a young lesbian woman. No one is born in the wrong body. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 day ago
  • Contempt
    Back in June, the UK Court of Appeal ruled that that country's continued arms sales to Saudi Arabia were unlawful. So you'd expect that the UK government stopped approving them, right?Of course not:The government has apologised for breaching a court ruling against the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 day ago
  • Covering up the cover-up
    Yesterday NZDF officials were put on the stand about the lies they had told over Operation Burnham, making implausible claims that it was all a big mistake. But along the way, we learned they had already been put on the spot about it by a previous Defence Minister, who had ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 day ago
  • Not as important as they think they are
    Farmers have been whining a lot lately, about the methane targets in the Zero Carbon Bill, about Canterbury's proposed nitrogen limits, and about the government's new proposals to stop them from shitting in our lakes and rivers. These policies are "throwing farmers under the tractor", they will force farmers off ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 days ago
  • Behind Every Good Woman Should Stand – Another Good Woman.
    Alone, Alone, All, All, Alone: To argue that the Prime Minister is the victim of her advisers’ failure to keep her informed may offer Jacinda some measure of exoneration – but only at the cost of casting her as a hopeless political ingénue. A star-dusted muppet, whose only purpose is to ...
    2 days ago
  • Poor quality, poorly educated kiddie ‘Journalists’ spreading fake news
    In times of hysteria about the “World coming to an end” and “rising sea levels” so-called ‘Journalists’ who can barely spell words longer than four letters are having a ball! Though the majority of the Public have worked out that manmade climate change is nothing short of pseudo-science, and the ...
    An average kiwiBy admin@averagekiwi.com
    2 days ago
  • Chris Trotter on the BFD
    I don't want to give pblicity to certain parts of the internet that are better left to fester in their own irrelevance (I know, a bit like this place) but the listing of Chris Trotter as a 'author' on Cameron Slater's spinoff website, the BFD requires some explanation.Now, I don't ...
    2 days ago
  • Sex is not a spectrum
    The text below is a Twitter thread by Heather Heying that explains the essence of sexual reproduction and it long evolutionary history. She is an evolutionary biologist and a “professor-in-exile” after she and her husband, Bret Weinstein, stood up to supporters of an enforced “Day of Absence” for white staff and teachers ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 days ago
  • Climate Change: Trees, aviation, and offsets
    With crunch time for new Zealand climate policy approaching, most of the New Zealand media have got on board with a global reporting effort to cover the issue. There's one strand of stories today about polling and what it shows about changing public attitudes to the crisis, but the strand ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 days ago
  • Pissing-Off The Israelis Is A High-Risk Strategy.
    Dangerous Foes: For those readers of Bowalley Road who feel disposed to dismiss any prospect of an Israeli destabilisation of New Zealand politics, the example of the United Kingdom repays close attention. Ever since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party, the Israelis have sanctioned, funded and ...
    2 days ago
  • Something to go to in Wellington
    Make It 16, the youth-led campaign to lower New Zealand's voting age, is holding an official campaign launch at Parliament this Friday from 16:30. If you'd like to attend, you can register using EventBrite here. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 days ago
  • A founding member responds to Peace Action Wellington
    by Don Franks It was a lovely sunny Wellington afternoon with blue skies above  the beaches.  In Courtenay Place, political activists packed out a stuffy upstairs room for an important meeting. The assembled pacifists, anarchists, communists and independent young radicals of Peace Action Wellington felt the need for a mission ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 days ago
  • “Mistakes and errors”
    Current and former NZDF top brass are being publicly grilled this week by the hit and run inquiry over their public responses to allegations of civilian casualties. Previously, they've claimed there were no casualties, a position which led them to lie to Ministers and to the public. Now, they're saying ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 days ago
  • “Homosexuality is same-sex attraction and relationships, not heterosexuals with delusions of gende...
    by Rafael D. Quiles (gender-critical gay man from Puerto Rico) The writing on the wall is right in people’s faces and people just don’t see it or don’t want to. What could actually possess a heterosexual male to want to feminize himself and claim that he is a lesbian? Because ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    3 days ago
  • Trump: “Where’s my favourite dictator?”
    From the Wall Street Journal:Inside a room of the ornately decorated Hotel du Palais during last month’s Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, President Trump awaited a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. Mr. Trump looked over a gathering of American and Egyptian officials and called out in ...
    3 days ago
  • Magdalen Burns, 1983-2019, fighter for women’s liberation
    by the Redline blog collective At Redline we are very saddened to hear of the death of Magdalen Burns who passed away on the morning of Friday, September 13 (British time). Magdalen was a great fighter for the rights of women in general and lesbian women in particular, a defender ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    4 days ago
  • Parliament and the Executive
    The Brexit issue has certainly brought with it a series of apparently difficult constitutional issues, many of them concerning the respective roles of the executive and parliament. Most of them arise because of the unwillingness of MPs, despite their professions to the contrary, to be bound by a constitutional rarity ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    5 days ago
  • The Abigail Article; Martyn Bradbury’s Article, and My Response
    . . This blogpost is different to my usual format of reporting on issues… Since July 1011, I have blogged on a variety of political issues; near always political and/or environmental; mostly highly critical of the previous National Government. Other issues included Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and repression of ...
    Frankly SpeakingBy Frank Macskasy
    5 days ago
  • Police will have to wear silly Buckingham Palace hats from now on, says Police Minister
    Those close to the Police Minister believe the initiative may be the result of Nash “seeing a great deal” on AliExpress. In a move that comes seemingly out of nowhere, Police Minister Stuart Nash announced this afternoon that he expects all frontline staff to don bearskin hats, famously worn by ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    5 days ago
  • A sensible crackdown
    The government has released its Arms Legislation Bill, containing the second tranche of changes to gun laws following the March 15 massacre. And it all looks quite sensible: a national gun register, higher penalties for illegal possession and dealing, tighter restrictions on arms dealers and shooting clubs, and a shorter ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    5 days ago
  • California bans private prisons
    Private prisons are a stain on humanity. Prison operators explicitly profit from human misery, then lobby for longer prisons terms so they can keep on profiting. And in the US, prison companies run not only local and state prisons, but also Donald Trump's immigration concentration camps. Faced with this moral ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    5 days ago
  • Why PPPs are a bad idea
    When National was in power, they were very keen on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) - basicly, using private companies to finance public infrastructure as a way of hiding debt from the public. They were keen on using them for everything - roads, schools, hospitals. But as the UK shows, that "service" ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • A Movement That No Longer Moves.
    Moving And Shaking: There was a time when people spoke matter-of-factly about the “labour movement” – a political phenomenon understood to embrace much more than the Labour Party. Included within the term’s definition was the whole trade union movement – many of whose members looked upon the Labour Party as ...
    6 days ago
  • NZ ‘left’ politically embracing extreme postmodernism
    by Philip Ferguson Much of the left, even people who formally identify as marxists, have collapsed politically in the face of postmodern gender theory of the sort pioneered by American philosopher Judith Butler. For Butler even biological sex is socially constructed. “If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    6 days ago
  • The obvious question
    The media is reporting that the (alleged) Labour party sexual assaulter has resigned from their job at Parliament, which means hopefully he won't be turning up there making people feel unsafe in future. Good. But as with everything about this scandal, it just raises other questions. Most significantly: why the ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • The moment I found out that you found out, I acted swiftly
    By Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern I am every bit as angry as you are. I am every bit as disappointed as you must be. The people with power, oversight and the ability to do something about these processes within the Labour Party should be ashamed. Whoever those people are, I ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    6 days ago
  • This is why people hate property developers
    Property developers think there is an "oversupply" of houses in Auckland:High turnover rates and falling prices may be a sign that there are too many new houses going in to some parts of Auckland, commentators say. [...] Property developer David Whitburn said there was a "bit of an oversupply" in ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • Australia to Pacific: “Fuck you, you can all drown”
    World leaders are meeting in New York in two weeks for the 2019 Climate Action Summit, where they are expected to announce new and more ambitious targets to stop the world from burning. But the Australian Prime Minister won't be there, despite being in the USA at the time:Scott Morrison ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    7 days ago
  • Implausible ignorance
    Labour Party president Nigel Haworth resigned yesterday over the party's sexual assault scandal. But while that's good news, its unlikely to take away the stench of a coverup. Because according to Paula Bennett in Parliament yesterday, pretty much everyone in the Prime Minister's office was involved as well:I have been ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    7 days ago
  • Labour’s Fatal Flaw.
     Two-Faced? Labour insiders' commitment to the neoliberal status quo puts them at odds with their party’s membership; its trade union affiliates; and a majority of Labour voters, but this only serves to strengthen the perception they have of themselves as a special elite. Among the lesser breeds, they’ll talk up a ...
    7 days ago
  • Ten reasons the Tories do NOT want an election
    There has been a lot of talk about Boris Johnson wanting an election, and he has blustered with great gusto about 'chicken' Jeremy Corbyn refusing one, but I think there are many reasons why he is secretly glad he has been refused the opportunity:The Tories are an utter rabble,tearing themselves ...
    1 week ago
  • Prorogation Illegal, rule Scottish judges
    Scottish appeal court judges have declared that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to the October Brexit deadline is unlawful. The three judges, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, overturned an earlier ruling that the courts did not have the powers to interfere in the prime ...
    1 week ago
  • Let me explain what I meant by Everyday New Zealanders
    By Simon Bridges. The following is a press release from the office of Simon Bridges, leader of The National Party. Key ora, New Zealand. Happy Maori Language Week. Look, I’m writing to you today because I want to clear something up. There’s been a lot of kerfuffle around some things ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Yes, the SIS is subject to the Public Records Act
    I understand there's some stuff going round about how the SIS "was removed from the list of public offices covered by the Public Records Act in 2017". The context of course being their records derived from US torture, which will be disposed of or sealed. The good news is that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • An evidence-based discussion of the Canadian fluoride/IQ study
    Dr. Christopher Labos and Jonathan Jarry discuss the recent Canadian fluoride/IQ research. They provide an expert analysis of the paper and its problems. Click on image to go to podcast. The critical debate about the recent ...
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: Australia in denial
    Australia is burning down again, and meanwhile its natural disaster minister is denying climate change:Australia’s minister responsible for drought and natural disasters, David Littleproud, has said that he doesn’t “know if climate change is manmade”. Clarifying earlier comments that the question is “irrelevant” when considering the Coalition government’s response to ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Philippines activist speaking on the Duterte tyranny
    Auckland Philippines Solidarity is excited to host Professor Judy Taguiwalo for a speaking tour of NZ in September. She is a well-known activist in the Philippines and was a political prisoner under the Marcos dictatorship. Professor Taguiwalo briefly served as a Cabinet member under President Duterte but was forced from ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Disgust
    I have no special insights to offer on the Labour sexual assault coverup. All I have is disgust. Disgust that an organisation could fail its people so badly. Disgust that they punished the victims rather than the perpetrator. Disgust that its party hacks are apparently blaming the victims for demanding ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speak Up for Women calls out Greens’ censorship
    This open letter to the Green Party was penned after an opinion piece by Jill Abigail, a feminist and founding member of the party, was censored by the Greens’ leadership. (Redline has reprinted her article here).The intolerance of the Green Party leaders and their acceptance of the misogyny of gender ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Member’s Day: End of Life Choice, part 3
    Today is a Member's day, and David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill continues its slow crawl through its committee stage. They're spending the whole day on it today, though the first hour is likely to be spent on voting left over from last time. After that they'll move on ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Flight to Los Angeles turned back after passengers decide they don’t want to go anymore
    An ambitious plan to fly to Los Angeles petered out into a brief sight-seeing trip and a desire to return home and get some sleep before work tomorrow. Air New Zealand has confirmed a flight to Los Angeles last night was turned back about a quarter of the way into ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Indigenous Futures: defuturing and futuring – an analytical framework for policy development?
    There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it ...
    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    1 week ago
  • Cadbury rumoured to be releasing the Pineapple Trump
    Here’s another novelty chocolate to shove in your gob, New Zealand Cadbury could be seeking to make itself great again with a rumoured new release: Pineapple Trumps, a spin on its classic chocolate-encased pineapple treat and do-it-yourself tooth remover. The global confectionery manufacturer and bumbling “before” character in an infomercial, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    1 week ago
  • Māori Language Week with The Civilian
    Kia ora, Aotearoa. It’s that magical time of year. Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. In English, the week that frightens talk radio. As you probably know by now, all your favourite media outlets are participating, some more successfully than others. Stuff has changed its name to Puna for the ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Will Horizons act on climate change?
    Local body elections are coming up next month. And it looks like all Palmerston North candidates for Horizons (the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council) want to take action on climate change:Climate change is set to be a key issue in Palmerston North for the next three years if those wanting to get ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • BORA reform is stalled
    Eighteen months ago, the government promised to strengthen the Bill of Rights Act, by explicitly affirming the power of the courts to issue declarations of inconsistency and requiring Parliament to formally respond to them. So how's that going? I was curious, so I asked for all advice about the proposal. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Corbyn and Brexit
    As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity. The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • A ditch for him to die in
    Last week, English Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that he would rather die be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit. Unfortunately for him, the UK parliament accepted the challenge, and promptly dug one for him. The "rebellion bill" requires him to ask for and secure yet another temporary ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Warning! Warning! Danger Jacinda Ardern! Danger Marama Davidson! Warning!
    Lost In Political Space: The most important takeaway from this latest Labour sexual assault scandal, which (if I may paraphrase Nixon’s White House counsel’s, John Dean’s, infamous description of Watergate) is “growing like a cancer” on the premiership, is the Labour Party organisation’s extraordinary professional paralysis in the face of ...
    1 week ago
  • Union solidarity with Ihumatao land occupation
    by Daphna Whitmore Every Sunday for the past two months unionists from First Union, with supporters from other unions, have set out to the Ihumatao land protest, put up gazebos and gas barbeques, and cooked food for a few hundred locals and supporters who have come from across the country. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: The wrong kind of trees?
    Newsroom today has an excellent, in-depth article on pine trees as carbon sinks. The TL;DR is that pine is really good at soaking up carbon, but people prefer far-less efficient native forests instead. Which is understandable, but there's two problems: firstly, we've pissed about so long on this problem that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • No freedom of speech in Turkey
    Canan Kaftancioglu is a Turkish politician and member of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Like most modern politicians, she tweets, and uses the platform to criticise the Turkish government. She has criticised them over the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit by a tear gas grenade during ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speaker: Tadhg Stopford: Why I’m standing for the ADHB
    Hi there, just call me Tim.We face tough problems, and I’d like to help, because there are solutions.An Auckand District Health Board member has nominated me for as a candidate for the ADHB, because her MS-related pain and fatigue is reduced with hemp products from Rotorua.  Nothing else helped her. If I ...
    1 week ago
  • Good little vassals
    The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has published their report on whether the SIS and GCSB had any complicity in American torture. And its damning. The pull quote is this:The Inquiry found both agencies, but to a much greater degree, the NZSIS, received many intelligence reports obtained from detainees who, ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Who Shall We Turn To When God, And Uncle Sam, Cease To Defend New Zealand?
    Bewhiskered Cassandra? Professor Hugh White’s chilling suggestion, advanced to select collections of academic, military and diplomatic Kiwi experts over the course of the past week, is that the assumptions upon which Australia and New Zealand have built their foreign affairs and defence policies for practically their entire histories – are ...
    1 week ago
  • The Politics of Opposition
    For most of the time I was a British MP, my party was out of government – these were the Thatcher years, when it was hard for anyone else to get a look-in. As a front-bencher and shadow minister, I became familiar with the strategies required in a parliamentary democracy ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • More expert comments on the Canadian fluoride-IQ paper
    The Green et al (2019) fluoride/IQ is certainly controversial – as would be expected from its subject (see If at first you don’t succeed . . . statistical manipulation might help and Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear). Anti-fluoride campaigners have been actively promoting it ...
    1 week ago
  • The return to guerrilla war in Colombia
    by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh On August 29th a video in which veteran FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) commander Iván Márquez announced that they had taken up arms again was released. There was no delay in the reaction to it, from longtime Liberal Party figure and former president Uribe, for ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    1 week ago
  • Air New Zealand identifies this enormous plot of unused land as possible second airport site
    Air New Zealand couldn’t believe its luck that this seemingly ideal piece of real estate had so far gone entirely unnoticed. Air New Zealand’s search for a site to build a second Auckland Airport may have made a breakthrough this afternoon, after employees scanning Google satellite imagery spotted a huge, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Redline on the Labour Party
    No-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons. Nevertheless, there ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • New Fisk
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s failure
    When National was in government and fucking over the poor for the benefit of the rich, foodbanks were a growth industry. And now Labour is in charge, nothing has changed: A huge demand for emergency food parcels means the Auckland City Mission is struggling to prepare for the impending arrival ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Ardern attempts to vaccinate Clarke Gayford live on television to prove that it’s safe
    Gayford, pictured here on The Project, before things got wildly out of control. A bold public relations move by the Government to encourage parents to vaccinate their children has gone horribly wrong. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared on tonight’s episode of Three’s The Project, where the plan was for her ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Has Mr. Whippy gone too far by parking on our front lawns?
    Mr. Whippy’s business model has driven it down a dark road of intimidation. Residents in major centres around the country are becoming disgruntled by the increasingly aggressive actions of purported ice cream company Mr. Whippy, who have taken to parking on people’s front lawns and doorsteps in a desperate attempt ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Cleaning up the water
    Today the government released its Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, aimed at cleaning up our lakes and rivers. Its actually quite good. There will be protection for wetlands, better standards for swimming spots, a requirement for continuous improvement, and better standards for wastewater and stormwater. But most importantly, there's a ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Fronting up
    Today I appeared before the Environment Committee to give an oral submission on the Zero Carbon Bill. Over 1,500 people have asked to appear in person, so they've divided into subcommittees and are off touring the country, giving people a five minute slot each. The other submitters were a mixed ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
    Anti-fluoride activists have some wealthy backers – they are erecting billboards misrepresenting the Canadian study on many New Zealand cities – and local authorities are ordering their removal because of their scaremongering. Many New Zealanders ...
    2 weeks ago

No feed items found.