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Free market quake

Written By: - Date published: 9:43 am, August 3rd, 2011 - 52 comments
Categories: capitalism, Deep stuff, disaster - Tags: , ,

For quite some time now I’ve been meaning to write about how the Christchurch quake was giving us a salutary lesson on how the “free market” handles a major disaster. But (with hat tip to Bryce Edwards) I see that novelist and poet Fiona Farrell has made a much better job of it than I would have:

‘Free-market quake’ turns citizens into assets

There have been two kinds of quake in this city.

The first was geological. The earth shook, as it has shaken many times before. In different eras, this would have caused no more than some shock to the people living on the surface. They would simply have decamped, moved away from the wet places and the rock falls and set up home somewhere more solid. End of story.

But in 2011, an earthquake has another dimension: it is a social and political event. We can adapt to the geological quake, but this other dimension is a completely different and more challenging matter.

In Haiti when a quake hit, a socially negligent government abandoned its people to chaos. In Japan, a highly organised system mended the mess left in Kobe within two years. The Christchurch quake is happening within a particular political setting.

There is still a lot of that wonderful traditional community energy about, but this energy is being expressed within a wider political framework, led by a government ideologically committed to not interfering in the workings of private business.

So, the future of the city lies not with democratically elected government, but with private insurance companies: big multinational companies like State and Tower and EQC, which is at base not some benevolent government department like the old Ministry of Works, with blokes in cardies testing every rivet, but a government entity that in 2009 entered a contract with an international company, Gallagher Bassett Services, whose head office is a shiny tower on Two Pierce Place, Illinois. …

‘BIG CLAMMY PAWS’ OF INSURANCE COMPANIES

The city is in the big clammy paws of insurance companies and all the consultations, the vision groups, the creative planning meetings to determine the future shape of Our City, are sideshows. The main event is determined by a government that consistently agrees to be powerless before the demands of international business.

In this system, New Zealanders are not citizens with rights but assets to be traded round a table. We make a profit or a loss for the shareholders in a company. Our wellbeing is not their primary focus.

The much-maligned nanny state, the welfare state, had as its focus our individual wellbeing. But not any more. Not in John Key’s New Zealand.

That is why he can head off to India to have his photo taken with his wife at the Taj Mahal while people have grass growing in the living room and children have to be bathed in plastic barrels.

He can exist in a kind of presidential isolation, his presence not really necessary unless required for a flattering photograph.

The real force driving this city’s recovery is business negotiation. Private rather than public figures are dictating the pace of recovery. Their faces are not familiar from the television. Their voices are not heard answering hard questions on Morning Report.

FREE MARKET EARTHQUAKE

This is a 2011, free market, market-driven earthquake. … [It] is simply sordid and painful, an endless tussle with private business.

And maybe it could be different. Disasters happen in a context.

When the world markets crashed back in 1928, there was chaos in this country for seven years. A conservative government permitted suffering rather than intervene. It let the market decide. But in 1935, a different ideology was set in motion: things changed. People were able to attend a doctor, go to school, earn an income, live in a leakproof state home, lead a decent life.

This quake is no different. It’s a disaster. But it’s the political structures we create to respond to disaster that make the difference.

The “free market” exists to make profit. It does have some advantages when everything is running smoothly (if we ignore the facts that it takes no heed of externalities such as pollution, and that we live in a world of finite resources). But the free market is hopeless in tough times. It never wants to pay out or clean up the mess. Like the recent massive government / taxpayer bailouts of the broken financial sector, dealing with disaster needs strong government.

We should keep all this in mind in the face of right wing “small government” rhetoric and the ever growing risk that NZ will privatise its few remaining public assets. There are big challenges ahead, and the free market isn’t up to it.

52 comments on “Free market quake”

  1. ghostwhowalksnz 1

    Whats the information on Gallager Bassett Services ? Are they a broker or reinsurer or they a branch of Blackwater ?

  2. tsmithfield 2

    Nah. The free market left to function properly solves the problems, even in disasters.

    I did a paper in economics as part of my degree a few years ago. We studied the effect that government-imposed price controls had on the recovery. The basic points we covered are included in this article.

    • freedom 2.1

      “Nah. The free market left to function properly solves the problems, even in disasters.”

      you should do stand up, you really should, quality material like that.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.2

      We’re watching the effect of the free-market on Chch right now – it’s not working. All I can assume from this basic observation of reality is that your “paper” was based upon delusion.

    • Colonial Viper 2.3

      Wow does ts not know that when there is more risk than profit, the private sector will flee and rely on the Government to guarantee their risks?

      There’s no money in saving your sorry ass in a disaster ts, so why would the private sector throw you a life ring?

      Weaken government and leave yourself at the mercy of privateers, fool.

    • KJT 2.4

      Pity you did not study some history of disasters as well.

      Like the tsunami in Asia. The “free market” tried to grab the locals waterfront land for profit while they were in inland refuge centres.

      New Orleans. The “free market” closed the schools and community centres so those communities will never rebuild.

      Christchurch. Earthquake victims in limbo for over a year while insurance companies send in endless assessors to delay or get out of paying.

      Lyttelton may have to be abandoned because “free market’ will never insure the town again.

      Somalia. The “free market ” sells weapons to all sides while most Somali cannot buy food. Wealthy employers of Somali pirates making fortunes.

      And the ultimate triumph of the “free market”. Less than 1% of the worlds population have most of the wealth.

      Works so well!!

      • Colonial Viper 2.4.1

        Less than 1% of the worlds population have most of the wealth.

        Works so well!!

        1) The number is probably around 0.1% of the world’s population (top 7M people) holding more than 50% of the private wealth.

        2) Yes for them it works very well. Just the way they like it.

  3. vto 3

    Fair points. The biggest problem for Christchurch at the moment is insurance.

    For virutally everyone if you cannot get insurance you cannot build. The city will not be rebuilt unless insurance is available. If the private insurers will not insure Christchurch again then what do we do? Ask for a form of state-provided insurance? What would the rest of NZ think of that?

    And if a form of self-insurance is not possible, what then? I suspect the city will not be rebuilt and it will die a slow death. Fortunately, as I understand it, the insurers want to reinsure Chch (because, simply put, it is good business) and that will happen once the shakes stop.

    It is all about the shakes stopping.

    As for the free market and market forces… It is absolutely true that nothing will be rebuilt unless it is paid for. Aside from Council and government buildings, all buildings are going to be paid for by private people. That is driven completely and utterly by market forces. Who wants to work where and in what sort of building.. what the business is and how much it can afford to pay for a roof over head … Straight forward and simple. So in many ways it is correct that the rebuild is being driven by private interests. I do not see another way. Those private interests are made up of everyone – from a single shop owner on the CBD fringe to large corporates like Ngai Tahu and everyone in between.

    So I don’t think it is about ideologies and their effects on recovery, it is about paying for it. And that is highly personal and private. And the cry “the market is hopeless in tough times” I don’t think is quite right either. If the insurance matter was cleared then you would see the city bound back with boundless energy and that would be entirely due to market forces as people wanted to return to live and work.

    some 2c

    • KJT 3.1

      It is illogical to have private insurance companies.

      Insurance is cheapest when the pool of insured is very large.

      Like the whole population of a country.

      Like ACC before it was deliberately mucked up.

      Like Unemployment benefits and health care.

      No private company can ever match the cost effectiveness of a nationwide State provided insurance safety net.

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        Insurance is also cheaper if you do not have to satisfy larger private shareholders seeking to maximise return on their capital.

  4. DonKey 4

    Portobello Antiques: The shop is gone, thanks

    The shop and our home are now gone. We only had 5 hours in total to salvage items from the shop. Everything in our apartment was destroyed in the demolition. I would like thank those people who made it all happen, and hope it never happens to you.

    The person from civil defence who told be that my warehouse was destroyed when it was not even damaged.
    The people from ERNI who never contacted me regarding salvage.
    The policeman who accused me of being a looter while salvageing my posessions and who detained me under the civil defence regulations.
    The USAR team and the policeman from NSW who took the Santa Claus from my shop and took each others photos with it posed beside wrecked cars.
    The engineer from Wellington who insisted in being paid in $250 an hour in cash to facilitate access.
    The civil defence employee who acted as safety officer and also insisted in being paid $100 an hour in cash.
    The Army person who prevented me from salvaging items but told me I was welcome to pick through the rubble after demolition.
    The person from CERA who removed the approval for salvage from my file.
    The person from CERA who put the building on the urgent list and denied salvage during demolition.
    All the people who never kept me informed of what was happening regards demolition and and salvage and all those people who promised to get back to me who never did.

    You all made the most unpleasant episode in our lives just that little bit more unpleasant.
    Our thoughts will always be with you.

    • vto 4.1

      Sorry to hear that Don. It is heard a lot.

      My opinion, from going through this also in a different form, is that it was not done well. It could have been done a whole lot better. The authorities should have had plans to deal with just such an event striking a large NZ city – not talking about the emergency situation, talking about the post-emergency situation. Very poor on the public service side.

      And as for those hourly rates, it is fucking obscene. People and organisations at the moment down here think they can just pluck some random number out of thin air and hang people out to dry on it. Obscenity is what it is. From engineers to public servants, as you say Don. In fact hourly rates right across NZ seem out of kilter. In my various business when I ask what a providers costs are I am constantly amazed at how much people think they are worth. Hundreds of dollars an hour for unqualified tripe. It is bullshit. rant rant. Check out how much your local Council charges per hour for their receptionist alone…. but sit down first.

      • Puddleglum 4.1.1

        Very poor on the public service side.

        Hi vto, I think one of the points of Farrell’s article is that what looks superficially like a ‘public service’ organisation (i.e., EQC), actually isn’t.

        You could probably have counted the number of EQC public servants on the fingers of one hand, prior to the quakes (I ‘exaggerate’). Rather than maintaining direct control of the process through public oversight the government chose to farm out (contract out) the post-disaster recovery to private business. The processes that this private business is running are what are causing so many people so many problems.
        Another point is that the very decision of the government to wait for the private insurance companies to give the nod is an indication of a particular ideology – that ‘the market knows best’. Your point about insurance being the problem is also something that Farrell points out. 

        As for the local Council receptionist, it is one thing what he is charged out at, it is quite another what he is paid. Councils are dominated by people imbued with ‘business’ perspectives – despite supposedly being public servants – so I guess we can’t expect much else.

        The corporatisation of government (central and local), once again, is what Farrell’s article is about. Government is privatising itself, both in fact and in ‘attitude’.

        [I had intended to mention Farrell’s article in Open Mike so it’s good to see it as the basis for a post. Thanks Anthony.] 

        • vto 4.1.1.1

          You may well be right Puddle in that contracting out of core government services (such as planning for post-disaster situations) has led to a different mindset which has led to these problems. If so, it needs to change because it has failed. In fact one way to force that change, using market mechanisms, would be to sue the contractor that operated the EQC prior to the quakes because clearly their service has not performed.

          And re Council charges I understand completely and that riles me even more. The fact they charge private business rates for a public service (with less service and responsibility and obligation and risk) is bad enough. But given the poorly rates of pay for various such receptionists just makes it worse. Rant over.

          Regarding the government waiting for private insurers to give the nod before proceeding is a little more complex. I am not sure how government could force anything other than the insurers contractual obligations. It is not possible for the government to force insurers to insure.

          Biz this afternoon has confirmed again how desparate the situation is without insurance. Some buildings are underway, as I understand, with construction insurance in place but with no insurance in sight once complete. Those owners could well be stuck between a rock and another rock depending on their circumstances, such as funding issues.

          Perhaps one way the government could step in to assist is in providing a form of state-backed insurance. If people could get insurance right now then the place would be on fire (in that good sense).

          • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.1.1

            Regarding the government waiting for private insurers to give the nod before proceeding is a little more complex. I am not sure how government could force anything other than the insurers contractual obligations. It is not possible for the government to force insurers to insure.

            Require insurers who wish to operate in NZ to operate throughout ALL of NZ.

            Any insurers who do not wish to do that can exit the market; the Government will acquire their insurance clients.

            Government returns to being an active player in the insurance market. Same as it is being forced to do now.

            Not that difficult was it.

            • vto 4.1.1.1.1.1

              “Require insurers who wish to operate in NZ to operate throughout ALL of NZ.”

              That means of course that the rest of NZ would be subsidising those parts of NZ that are not insurable, such as Christchurch, Ruapehu’s crater rim, those parts of Hawkes Bay that are eroding into the sea, etc. Great idea but best see whether the bulk of NZ is willing to underwrite others folly in building and living in places of high risk.

              You see, this Christchurch problem with private insurers and free market forces is in fact a fantastic example of how the market can work. Private insurers are unwilling to risk their capital insuring Chch at the moment. That is because it is too risky. That is a private risk assessment that has come about because people (the insurers) are simply not willing to put their money there. People in Chch should take note and not build until such time as the insurers are prepared to – this is one of the indicators, among many, that Chch is once again safe. Take cue from the free market. Whereas a state-funded insurance, where it is somebody else’s money and consequently not the same level of assessment is carried out, could and would imo make all sorts of mistakes. Simply because it is not their money. Dunno about you but most people in this world place a far higher degree of care around their money than they do others money.

              • I can see your point vto but I think it gets things back to front. You may have noticed (and wondered) why, in many ‘Third World’ countries villagers doggedly rebuild in dangerous places. It’s not just about the inability to go elsewhere: it’s also about a different way of evaluating the worth of a place (and its ‘fit’ with how you live) than might be determined through a market or any other utilitarian/instrumental assessment of ‘worth’.

                Relying on insurers’ willingness to take financial risks is actually abandoning other – very human – criteria for making decisions. Where someone lives has many more psychological and social psychological dimensions than can be translated into market responses.

                Of course, financial necessity is important, but if a government guranteed insurance were available that wouldn’t simply mean that some massive moral hazard is being created. It could also mean that some evaluation other than market valuation is feeding into society.

                I suspect that a government guaranteed insurance, combined with people’s memories of these events and their desire not to experience anything so devastating again, would make the kind of rebuilding, form of infrastructure, etc. something quite novel, even revolutionary.

                People are not stupid and they would try their best to act in ways that serve their interests. A government guaranteed insurance would provide them with sufficient security to plan new ways of inhabiting this land. Without that security, yes they would probably up and leave and simply try to live in the same manner as they always have – just somewhere else.

                Such government ‘interventions’ can release new ways of doing things that a market can’t conceive of. 

              • Colonial Viper

                That means of course that the rest of NZ would be subsidising those parts of NZ that are not insurable, such as Christchurch, Ruapehu’s crater rim, those parts of Hawkes Bay that are eroding into the sea, etc. Great idea but best see whether the bulk of NZ is willing to underwrite others folly in building and living in places of high risk.

                Sorry mate but Christchurch our 2nd biggest city has suffered a major tragedy and setback. You can call it subsidising them or you can call it helping fellow NZers. Your call whether or not you want to view that relationship in terms of financialisation.

                You’ve also decided to abdicate the sovereign responsibility for deciding the future of a major NZ city to foreign re-insurers who don’t even live here.

                Or perhaps you truly believe that Christchurch should be abandoned? In that case the Government should make it official immediately and abandon the entire settlement. After all you’ve likened Christchurch to a cliff face sliding into the sea.

                You see, this Christchurch problem with private insurers and free market forces is in fact a fantastic example of how the market can work. Private insurers are unwilling to risk their capital insuring Chch at the moment. That is because it is too risky.

                I was going to say something very rude and blunt to you. But I’ll let it go at this: Christchurch is no riskier to ensure now than it was 10 years ago. Or will be 10 years from now. EVERYONE has known that the city is surrounded by major faultlines. EVERYONE has known that half the city is built on silt. The RISK has always been there.

                You are running with a major misconception of what “risk” is. I’ll frame it this way: if there are absolutely no more major shakes in Christchurch for the next 12 months, nothing over a 3.0, will the risk of another major quake in Christchurch occurring have gone up? Or gone down? Or be just the same?

                Seriously, think about what is meant by your use of the term “because it is too risky”. What does that even mean? When you can go on the market today and by insurance against bankrupt, corrupt, spiralling Greece defaulting? Isn’t the fact that you can’t buy insurance for Christchurch evidence of market failure? How is it that you are trying to sell the breakdown and locking up of market activity as a market success?

    • I too am sorry to hear about Portobello Antiques Don. You probably wouldn’t remember now but back in the ’90s an ex-girlfriend of mine’s mother knew the Portobello people. We had our photos taken out the back with a whole lot of interesting old stuff before we headed off to a goth ball in about ’97 or ’98 I think. It pisses me off pretty royally to hear that you were jerked around so much on top of losing the place. Sounds like you had to deal with a bunch of petty sadists. They’re the real looters as far as I’m concerned.

    • ropata 4.3

      FYI the shop owner is actually Deric Blackler not “DonKey”, (that was my misnomer, sorry)

      Blackler has been battling the authorities since March:
      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10710637

      Sian van Dyk, curator at Te Manawa museum, says Blackler is very well-known for having collected a large amount of New Zealand colonial furniture, and a lot of his antiques have been bought by museums in New Zealand and Australia. Portobello Antiques is “not just your run-of-the-mill antiques”, she says. “[The items there have] real cultural value.”

      He [Blackler] is appealing to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage Christopher Finlayson to help. A message received from Finlayson’s secretary, in response to a request for support, said “the most likely scenario unfortunately is there won’t be a great deal we can do – but we’ll do our best”.

      Crispin Howarth, Curator Pacific Arts at the National Gallery of Australia, said in a letter to Finlayson that “to not attempt to retrieve key objects in Blackler’s possession at the property will mean objects of New Zealand’s heritage will be wilfully destroyed.”

      “To do nothing is a neglectful option.”

      Thanks to King Gerry for bulldozing $400,000 of salvageable cutural heritage.

    • Vicky32 4.4

      Oh my giddy aunt! How terrible, what profiteering, this is just awful.

  5. tsmithfield 5

    In the example from Hurricane Hugo I mentioned in my earlier post, there was a major shortage of ice in this disaster. This was because the electricity system had failed, and people wanted ice to keep meat etc in their freezers cold. Due to the relative shortage of ice compared to the demand, the price of ice went sky high.

    The local government brought in price controls for ice due to the public angst about the price of ice. The consequence was that ice was supplied to anyone who could afford the low price. Since the basic problem was a lack of supply, the stocks of ice were quickly exhausted. This meant that many people who desperately needed ice, and would have paid the inflated price for it, missed out. Whereas many people who wanted ice for trivial reasons got it.

    There was a similar situation with chainsaws and plywood. When price controls came in, out-of-town retailers who were happy to supply at the higher prices and make a killing couldn’t be bothered when the price controls came in. This meant a lack of resources and a slower recovery.

    • freedom 5.1

      Please tell us how the free market would have responded to the ice issue. I really want to know.

      i suspect somehow the high price they would have set certainly would have restricted sales, but at what cost? Please Tsmithfield show us the freemarket way to disaster recovery enlightenment

      • mik e 5.1.1

        National will deal with the Quake the same way they have dealt with the leaky homes fob every body off and then pay them a pittance .

  6. tsmithfield 6

    The basic problem was a problem of supply. There simply wasn’t enough ice. If the local government wanted to control the price, it would have been much better for them to find ways to increase the supply of ice to meet the demand rather than legislate a price. Then everyone would be happy.

    The market works both ways though. Like in Christchurch, where my wife saw candles in Mitre 10 (normally about 4 bucks a box at the supermarket) going for $14 per box. It appears they had stocked up large hoping to make a killing. Then all the power came back on. I assume they would have had to do some major discounting to clear the stock, possibly incurring a loss in the process.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      lol

      wait until the markets starts issuing mortgage backed derivatives for ice and for candles in war torn areas.

      Stupid

      Markets are to be our servants not our masters

    • Draco T Bastard 6.2

      If the local government wanted to control the price, it would have been much better for them to find ways to increase the supply of ice to meet the demand rather than legislate a price.

      While I agree that the government action was wrong so would leaving it to the free-market. The actual rational course of action would have been to pool the ice and the food that needed preserving into one place and set up a community kitchen. That way the ice and food would have lasted longer and everyone would have been fed.

      • tsmithfield 6.2.1

        Probably some merit in what you say. It would have to be within the constraints of economic viability and practicality though. It might be most economic for the council to bring in some generators and ice-making equipment to increase the supply.

        • Draco T Bastard 6.2.1.1

          You’d probably want to do that as well as pooling together. That way you wouldn’t need to divert as much resources to producing ice as you would if the ice was going out to lots of individual locations.

          In any situation you want to use as few resources as possible which is impossible under a free-market system which always tend to using as much as possible.

          • Colonial Viper 6.2.1.1.1

            Yep.

            Its more profitable to expend the maximum amount of resources as possible, as quickly as possible at the highest price possible. Make your money and get out, in other words.

            Trying to make a given limited quantity of resources “last” brings into the equation the uncertainty of market/price change.

  7. tsmithfield 7

    You really don’t understand the concept of “market”, do you?

    Anything the government does, for instance, setting price controls, becomes an input into the market, that in turn has an affect on supply and demand. So, government activity becomes part of the market, not separate from it. Any attempt at “control” by government becomes part of market activity. So, there is no sense in which the market can be our “servant” because the market is all encompassing and all absorbing.

    • You really don’t understand the concept of “market”, do you?

      I think I do.

      It’s what Hooker once called a ‘global theory’ – like quantum mechanics or Skinner’s radical behaviourism. That is, not only does it provide hypothesese about phenomena but it also specifies what is to be counted as a phenomenon and all legitimate ways of measuring those specified phenomena. It is, in effect, a fly bottle, out of which the ‘flies’ (theorists) cannot escape.

      That lack of an opening to the fly bottle of market theory is because it is primarily a logical model rather than a scientific theory. Unless the logic is flawed, there is no possibility of encountering disconfirming observations. Any observations that might initially have the appearance of being disconfirming instances can be reliably explained away by further application of the basic logic of the model.

      As quantum mechanics and Skinnerian behaviourism show, that doesn’t mean that such ‘global theories’ are useless, but it does mean that one should be aware that one is ‘trapped’ within the fly bottle. Your comment to the effect that “the market is all encompassing and all absorbing” actually refers to the logical fly bottle (i.e., the model), rather than to lived reality.

      BTW, your ‘ice’ example sounds very much like Eric Crampton’s fictional ‘water bottles’ example he touted in a perspective piece (in The Press) last year after the September quake. Shame he didn’t know about your actual example.

      • tsmithfield 7.1.1

        Thanks for the comment.

        If you have read my other comments above you will see that I don’t actually object to governments taking action within the market, so long as the action is counterproductive to the objectives. So rather than arbitrarily regulate prices, I would prefer governments to take action to increase (or sometimes decrease) the supply or demand side of the equation. For instance, the council fast-tracking the consent process for land inc ChCh so that an adequate supply is available to meet the demand at a reasonable price.

        • insider 7.1.1.1

          A very similar debate took place over ffuel prices after Hurricane Katrina. In that case they were left free to float and there was a spike which prevented hoarding or massive queues, and prices rapidly came back. I believe that was in contrast to a similar emergency (Hugo )a few years before where price controls led to buying panic and queues.

          • Colonial Viper 7.1.1.1.1

            hahahahahahahahahahahahaha

            price spike of food and water during an emergency

            rich people get to eat and drink

            poor people starve or use the last of their savings to feed their family

            so fucking clever

            • insider 7.1.1.1.1.1

              I’m talking a couple of days – most people either have that much stored in the pantry or won’t starve over such a short timescale. Check your CD emergency manual for advice. Funny how a socialist thinks water has to be bought. Never think of alternative sources like say a water tank or rain? It doesn’t have to come in shiny plastic bottles.

        • Puddleglum 7.1.1.2

          I can see your point (though I think you meant “not counterproductive”?).

          My issue is that in a crisis situation people have dire needs and the best way to meet them is through direct provision rather than the market. It makes no sense to sell people goods and services that are necessary for life when they have been through a natural disaster (e.g., hoping that the market will ensure that people who need water will get water).

          Trapping thought into how a market would solve the issue (i.e., trapping thought in the fly bottle) is, to my mind, incredibly naive to the point of brutatlity. Here in Christchurch people were provided with water tankers, blankets, refuges, food, etc.. No-one suggested that the market provide these necessities. I thought that was your argument. Direct provision (i.e., all of us looking after each other) should continue until ‘normal service’ is resumed.

          Edit: I also think that ‘looking after each other’ should be a far more regular activity, even sans a disaster.

    • mik e 7.2

      tsfd Keep praying to the market gods, countries that have sustained growth don’t bother with your prescription.flimflam BS thats all it is.You show me a country which has sustained growth with free market policies over the last 20 to30years.

  8. The problem with people like Tsmithfield is they have no idea or even a shred of empathy for anyone outside of their own little (well off) circle. They measure everything by money . They see nothing wrong with a government giving me personally another $100 a week in the hand when I already earn $100K . I’m not at all struggling and was that really fair? Not only this but guess where the money came for my tax cut? Yep, the very people who could well not afford it. A shame on them in a country where 1 in 4 kids are living in struggling families below the poverty line.

    Yes TSmithfield I know you don’t believe that as it you live in a bubble completely unaware that a great many struggle in this country. Oh that’s right. It’s all their fault cause they don’t work hard enough. In your little bubble, there are apparantly 1 million high paying jobs and anyone not earning big bucks is lazy. In your world we don’t need bus drivers, retail workers, cleaners, gas station attendants, teacher aids, cafe workers, librarians and so on. In your world everyone is allwhite.

    In 30 years of following politics I have never felt so disgusted by a government who so blatantly favours the well off, and sells the majority and our futures down the river.

    Whiteon man.

    • tsmithfield 8.1

      Are you auditioning for brainless tirade of the year?

      • Draco T Bastard 8.1.1

        I think that would be you TS. I’d say you got it in the bag in the bag as well.

        • tsmithfield 8.1.1.1

          So what part of what appleboy said actually addresses any of the points I have been making? Or are you just batting for the team no matter how poor the contribution is?

        • bbfloyd 8.1.1.2

          i am a little shocked that ts, who likes to lecture on the “reality” of the free market, is doing no more than defending profiting from tragedy.

          i have heard this kind of utter drivel from more overeducated mediocrities than i care to try to enumerate..

          arguing from a position that accepts that the human victims of natural disasters are no more than acceptable collateral damage is despicable in the extreme…

          hang your head in shame ts… your humanity is under question… do you not understand that?

          • insider 8.1.1.2.1

            Floyd

            If you had a business like a petrol station how would you allocate the limited amount of fuel? Bearing in mind that you have no idea of when you might be resupplied and might have a period without any income but still face costs relating to your business.

            First come first served and as much as you can take? Ration 20 litres each? Price increase to manage demand? Close up shop? On what basis would you make the decision?

          • tsmithfield 8.1.1.2.2

            Actually read what I have been saying.

            I don’t object to governments taking action to remedy the supply side of the equation which will keep prices in check and ensure demand is met. I do object to governments setting arbitrary prices which only causes shortages and exacerbates problems.

            • Colonial Viper 8.1.1.2.2.1

              Bring back price controls.

              After all, that’s what financial manipulators do now to the prices of specific equities and commodities.

            • mik e 8.1.1.2.2.2

              There is a huge over supply in the building industry right now with the lowest housing permit numbers on record this includes the new temporary houses.Plus National did nothing to stop builders from going to Australia knowing they would be needed for reconstruction last sept. A small country like ours needs intervention .Like once those builders have left they won’t be coming back, because they are better looked after in Australia Super Wages and better management.

              • Colonial Viper

                Australia entering its sharp contraction now. It will play out over the next 6-12 months depending on what trouble China gets itself into.

                US is frakked. They’ve just released private sector lay off intentions numbers – up 59% year on year.

                This isn’t a double dip, its a sky dive without chutes.

    • insider 8.2

      “government giving me personally another $100 a week in the hand when I already earn $100K ”

      Did you get Working For Families?

  9. Pretty half-assed analysis I would say. Where does the market stop and ‘nature’ start?
    Most of the effects of this disaster were made by capitalism in its allocation of fixed capital and labour. The actual earthquake just triggered the disaster waiting to happen. Haiti was even more a ‘man made’ disaster. Also a 7.1 but victims numbered between 15,000 (Red Cross) and 300,000 (Preval the President).
    Here’s a Marxist analysis from April 2
    http://redrave.blogspot.com/2011/04/disaster-capitalism-downunder.html
    Also a follow up: http://redrave.blogspot.com/2011/06/quake-city-resists.html

  10. On most levels, the mis-use of State assets (ie; owned by us, the People) is a rort that cannot and should not be tolerated. Housing Minister, Phil Heatley is correct when he reminds us that,

    “The state housing system is designed to help people in their time of need. It’s unfair and unacceptable for people to abuse the system and commit fraud to get benefits they are not entitled to. People who deliberately rip-off the system deprive families in real need.”

    Although I note that Mr Heatley’s admonitions did not stop certain Ministers of the Crown from ripping of the tax-payer, when it suited them…

    “Changes to the ministerial allowance came after Deputy Prime Minister Bill English was caught claiming $1000 a week in expenses to live in his own home in Karori. He paid back $12,000. ” – http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/5005906/Housing-MPs-cost-taxpayers-more

  11. gnomic 11

    Somewhere on the net I read the following blog comment. What he said.

    “The market always makes the best choice. However it is best for the rich who own the big players in the market, not for the workers or consumers.”

    http://news.slashdot.org/story/11/08/02/0355242/Are-We-Seeing-the-End-of-Big-Oil?

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