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Give the future a vote

Written By: - Date published: 1:32 pm, May 5th, 2012 - 93 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, democratic participation, political education - Tags: ,

One of the frustrating things about democracy (aided and abetted by systematic flaws in our reasoning skills) is that it in most cases it results in governments that are bad at addressing long term challenges. The need to maintain short term popularity (and the oppositional system that creates incentives for vested interests to spread FUD) results in governments that are unwilling to propose radical changes, and particularly unwilling to ask any kind of sacrifice from the electorate. It’s all about the illusion of short term gain. The long term pain is somebody else’s problem.

Peak oil and climate change are two big, obvious issues where most countries are failing to take the required action. Here’s another NZ case in point:

Govt must address costs of ageing – NZIER

However, New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) chief executive Jean-Pierre de Raad says the Government should be looking ahead for a way to deal with the long-term costs of an ageing population. …

He says this year’s Budget “doesn’t do anything about [long-term costs]” and while it is important that New Zealand addresses the effects of the global financial crisis and local events like the Christchurch quake, “ultimately we have to turn our minds to the long term”.

“[These are] big-ticket items that may be good politics but they’re poor economics… we will need to tackle them at some stage, and it’s better to do them sooner.”

I see the problem, but I don’t see the solution. How to we improve the consideration of long term issues in the political process? How do we build in incentives to take these issues seriously? How do we, in effect, give the future a vote?

93 comments on “Give the future a vote ”

  1. Bemoan Riot 1

    Alas, voters and politicians will always be self-serving to some extent.

    Education as to the importance of being involved in the political process would be a good start.

    A move to limited direct democracy on important future issues would be a good way to remove party politics from these big decisions.

    In terms of the ageing population, means/asset testing should be introduced in regards to NZ’s largest benefit, NZ Super.

    If our elderly can comfortably support themselves in their dotage they do not require the saftey net of a state pension.

    This will free up a millions to start tackling the issues of an ageing populations AND other future issues.

    • McFlock 1.1

      Means testing pensions is simply trimming the crumbs to use for another meal.
      We need a systemic change in approach, from tax reform to more investent in social services (including education and health).

      • Do you have any data that actually suggests means-testing doesn’t return much more than it would take to implement?

        • McFlock

          No direct evidence. My rationale is simply:
          Pensions are about $12b a year.
          Sounds great if we can save that much, but realistically we’d probably be looking at a quarter of that at the most.  Feck all in relation to what we need to spend in health, education, and of course in paying back government debt.
          Like I say – we need a systemic change in approach – including higher taxes for higher tax brackets.

          • Matthew Whitehead

            Right, I’d agree it’s never going to return the whole shortfall in funding pensions, but it would go a long way and is absolutely worth the political capital it would take to implement.

            • McFlock

              I disagree – it opens the door to shifting the goalposts for entitlement, in exchange for a saving that is akin to pissing on a brushfire.
              Weren’t the Cullen tax cuts something like $10 billion dollars alone? That’s almost the entire pension bill right there! If we rebuild the tax base, there won’t be a fiscal requirement to introduce means testing.

  2. Jenny 2

    How do we build in incentives to take these issues seriously? How do we, in effect, give the future a vote?


    Well for a start we could put the income tax rate up to 75% for those earning over $1million dollars* a year.

    As is being proposed by the new prospective French president, Francoice Hollande, who is currently leading the polls over Nicolas Sarkozy.

    *(or 1million Euros equivalent)

    • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 2.1

      What a complete non sequitur, Jenny.

      Q: How do we build in incentives to take these issues seriously?

      A: The square root of raspberry must be legalised.

      • weka 2.1.1

        I’m sure the idea of taxing extremely rich people at 75% would incentivise many voters 😉

        • TheContrarian

          “Well for a start we could put the income tax rate up to 75% for those earning over $1million dollars”

          Yup, that’d be a good way of making sure no one invests, prospers or stays in NZ.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Had plenty of investment, prosperity and people staying in NZ last time that the top tax rate was around that mark. In fact, the lack of investment, prosperity and people leaving seem to have coincided with the lowering of the tax rates.

            • TheContrarian

              75% is less about making the poor richer and more about making the rich poorer. It becomes a penalty for success.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Nope, it’s about realising that such massive accumulation that we get from present policies is bad for the economy.

                • So the exact opposite must then be the answer?

                  • Pascal's bookie

                    Strawman alert.

                  • Draco T Bastard


                    What ever makes you think that comes close to being a valid question? Some accumulation is reasonable and even sustainable. People having millions of dollars and the wealth and power that goes with it isn’t.

                    • But where do you decide enough is enough? Do you put a limit on how much someone can earn? If so how is that decided outside some arbitrary measure?

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      But where do you decide enough is enough?

                      That would be up to the community deciding what is a reasonable living standard in relation to the resources that the community has.

                      Individualism is a dead end. We should know this by now as we see increasing poverty and declining resources.

                    • TheContrarian,

                      The whole point of a resort to democracy in decision making is that many decisions have inherently uncertain outcomes and contestable assumptions underpinning them. (Note that the decision not to tax is as ‘arbitrary’, in your terms, as the decision to tax at a certain rate.)

                      True, no-one knows the ‘correct’ value of when ‘enough is enough’, given all the value assumptions required to make that ‘calculation’. But that is not a compelling argument that no decision should be made about that amount. In fact, it’s quite beside the point.

                      Belief in democracy is the view, in effect, that even if we make the wrong decision at least ‘we’ made it – not some arbitrary individual or small group that happened to possess some incidental attribute, like wealth. 

              • Carol

                Maybe it would put an end to the notion that gaining a load of money for yourself is a measure of “success”?

                • It seems, in fact, to be more correlated with the profession you choose, (up to a certain point) who your parents were, and who your social circle is, than actually how much you succeed by any other objective measure than simply accumulating money.

      • Jenny 2.1.2

        Q: How do we build in incentives to take these issues seriously?

        A very good question:

        Seriously? How can Labour supporters be taking these issues seriously, when under the headline ‘Give the future a vote” Anthony is giving a sneaky plug for Labour’s version of ‘Austerity’.

        Raising the retirement age is a retrograde step which will force older workers into the workforce increasing the blight of youth unemployment, already Obscenely high. Labour by giving the wealthy a free ride, and blighting the job hopes of a generation will actually prolong the recession.

        Labour will find out, as National is finding out, and as the right wing Republican US President Herbert Hoover found out in the ’30s. Austerity will not end the fiscal problems caused by recession. Hoover the epitome of the capitalist self made man began his administration with big tax cuts for the rich and business that he had promised them in his election campaign. Hoover’s tax cuts were also on the advice of Andrew Mellon the secretary of the Treasury who had previously overseen big tax cuts for the rich under previous Republican administrations.

        Mellon insisted repeatedly that tax cuts for the well off were affordable, even in the face of the 1929 market meltdown. In a weird echo of Bill English, Mellon asserted in a formal statement to the press after the Wall St. crash of ’29, “Our estimates indicate that the government should close both the fiscal years 1930 and 1931 with a surplus,”

        However, forced by events, President Hoover had to reverse his and Mellon’s tax cuts. Further, Hoover went on to enforce the single biggest tax increases on the rich in US history, before, or since. Not even bettered by the member of America’s wealthy elite who replaced him, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who continued and expanded this new policy direction.

        • Puddleglum

          Very good comment, Jenny.

          ‘Affordability’ (of the pension or of tax cuts for the wealthy) is not a technical matter – it is a political (and moral) one. 

        • r0b

          under the headline ‘Give the future a vote” Anthony is giving a sneaky plug for Labour’s version of ‘Austerity’.

          huh? How do you figure that Jenny?

        • Look, I want to find a way to pay for those entitlements too, at least for people who need them. But we need to do so in a way that doesn’t punish younger New Zealanders when we have an increasing proportion of our popular getting older, and may eventually end up in a situation where we have a shrinking labour force. That’s not an easy decision to make, and it’s not just some code word for austerity. What we’re talking about is intergenerational fairness, where we don’t simply have older generations in effect stealing from younger ones by making increasingly short-term decisions.

  3. weka 3

    “in most cases it results in governments that are bad at addressing long term challenges. ”

    Has that always been true? What happened in times like during WW2? When enough people understand the deep shit we are in, things will change. Maybe effort should be put into achieving that – educating the public about the things that will really affect them and their grandchildren over the next decades.

    • Viv 3.1

      WW2 was a recognisable immediate threat, not an example of Governments thinking a decade or more ahead.
      But you are absolutely spot on when you suggest we should be “educating the public about the things that will really affect them and their grandchildren over the next decades”
      Unfortunately the owners of main stream media have a vested interest in the status quo and seem happy for the general public to stay blissfully unaware of the realities of climate change & peak oil and we know what’s happening to alternative sources of information (RIP Stratos & shortly TVNZ7)
      Without public pressure on politicians to consider long term issues most will focus only on the immediate future.

      • Jenny 3.1.1

        WW2 was a recognisable immediate threat, not an example of Governments thinking a decade or more ahead.


        Strangely, Viv, government leaders on both sides talked of consequences for their actions (or lack of action), lasting a thousand years.

        …. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour!”

        And Viv, I would disagree that WW2, or more accurately, a Nazi take over was “a recognisable immediate threat”. Many of the ruling circles inside and outside the British government were fully prepared to make their peace with fascism. Just as many leading circles in this country are fully prepared to appease those responsible for climate change. (It took a Churchill to forcefully wake the appeasers up to the very real possibility that they and their families could also become victims of fascism.)

        To give the future a vote, we should be demanding all action to fight the immediate recognisable threat of climate change. Not petty quibbling about which colour of austerity to impose necessary to maintain to maintain low tax rates.

        • Colonial Viper

          One good thing: austerity and economic decline slows down the rate of GHG emissions.

  4. Policy Parrot 4

    There is a need for reform/fresh thinking – a Neo-Socialism if you like. Perhaps the starting point could in fact be the market system. Most democratic socialists do believe in a mixed economy to some point. Wherever the market was judged to fail (according to minimum economic, social and environmental standards), significant adjustments would be made so that these outcomes would be met.

    A lot of current bureaucratic systems have not been exposed to this type of thinking and only exist because they are the status quo, and have significant resources and personnel opposed to reform. It would be interesting to examine the original reasoning for their existence, and perhaps wondering if we could somehow do it better.

    Much of the economy however has now been exposed to this type of market forces, so we can already see where market failures and needed allieviations are required. It is important to make sure that any solutions do not lead to worse unintended consequences (i.e. the solution should not be worse than the original problem).

    Personally, the current tax system with all its holes and loopholes is certainly something that does not have vertical equity, and is thus unfair. There are some simple solutions to this which do need to be implemented if we are to have fair tax system, i.e. a conditioned land tax, in combination with a slightly altered version of GM’s Big Kahuna. Look at all the allowable deductions and make their eligibility require a positive test. A related issue is local body rates – should they be axed, and central government be required to fund local authorities on the basis of population? (be some kind of formula not exact pro-rata recognising that smaller and rural councils obviously have a higher fixed cost relative to their population size).

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      Personally, the current tax system with all its holes and loopholes is certainly something that does not have vertical equity, and is thus unfair.

      After considerable thought on that subject I’ve come to the conclusion that there shouldn’t be tax deductions at all. The tax deductions for privileged groups that we have now is too complex to administer adequately and, by it’s very nature, allows some people to get away with not paying the taxes that they should be paying.

      • rosy 4.1.1

        Agree it’s unfair and agree there shouldn’t be tax deductions – especially ones you can offset against other income. But imo that’s just tinkering. I agree more with Policy Parrot – there needs to be a rethink about how the tax system works.

        As it stands now wage and salary earners are paying for everyone – the poor don’t spend enough (because they don’t have enough) to cover their use of public goods and the very well-off don’t spend enough in NZ, and spend too much on GST-exempt financial services to cover their use of public goods, and that’s without ‘streamlining’ their obligations. wage and salary earners even pay to have their own jobs subsidised for a living wage.

        Labour, if not pushing for an examination of FTT should be promoting capital gains as the real estate version of GST to create a bit of understanding that mortgages and property gains don’t attract GST – so much for much-praised, complete GST system. It’s only complete if you don’t have assets.

        Basically imo the tax system is broken and the future this will become more apparent – especially in terms of GST and in the changes to gifting assets to trusts – and this must be fixed to be able to plan for the future.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Basically imo the tax system is broken…

          As it was designed to be. It’s not an accident that a few people can dodge taxes through tax deductions and exemptions while the majority can’t.

  5. ianmac 5

    Law and Order: Some countries developed long term plans involving the MSM actioning a huge drop in Crime reporting, rehabilitation of criminals, education for disadvantaged, shorter sentences, victim support, and prevention of criminal pre-cursors. They developed a nationwide ethos of support. Sweden and Finland (again). And over the next decade or so it worked to bring down the imprison rate to a fraction of ours.
    Know any politician who would step and lead? (Shearer might?)

  6. ianmac 6

    Maybe a four year term of office would help as long as the incoming policies to develop long term plans were actioned.
    Cross party consultation and avoiding one-up-manship would help long term plans. But….

  7. Jenny 7

    The top considerations I would suggest for voting for the future are:

    1) Serious concrete measures to constrain and limit those activities – responsible for climate change.

    2) Tax measures to reverse the financialisation of the economy – responsible for the recession, resulting mass unemployment and growing inequality and poverty.

    Other than being a palliative to appease the privileged, raising the retirement age will achieve neither.

    Instead Labour should stick to their promise to repeal the tax on fresh fruit and vegetables.

    Labour should legislate to tax financial speculation, currently completely tax free.

    Further Labour should promise to repeal National’s increase in GST to 15% and repeal National’s tax cuts for the wealthy.

    Instead of tax cuts for the rich, top end tax rates should, as being proposed by French president hopeful Francois Hollande be raised to 75% of income.

    A major investment in Green Jobs similar to Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ which was paid for by his predecessor’s huge tax increases on the rich.

    • “top end tax rates should, as being proposed by French president hopeful Francois Hollande be raised to 75% of income”

      That is ridiculous. I don’t need the tax cut that National handed out but 75% is where tax becomes penalty. Even Belgium, which has the highest income tax in the world, stops at 50%

      • Jenny 7.1.1

        Au Contrarian

        A great opportunity for New Zealand to become a world leader again.

        • TheContrarian

          NZ: leading the world in penalizing success

          • Pascal's bookie

            Hey bro, just an exercise in contraianism, shall we try and come up with some arguments for very high top marginal tax rates?

            Just as a way of challenging the conventional wisdom that they are simply ‘punishing success’ or ‘jealousy’ or other such blatherskite.

            It might be that the blatherskite wins, and that it really is the only way of looking at it. I fucken doubt it though.

            Right of the top I can think of two lines of thought that iopen up interesting angles for thought.

            1) marginal utility. It’s not self evident that someone who is earning a million a year will put the next dallar they earn to a ‘better’ use than someone who is earning 30K. I know that when I’m flush, for example, I’ll spend money more foolishly than when I’m broke. I think this probably happens a lot.

            2) Really high marginal tax rates will change behaviour in terms of how companies set renumeration. If a co owner knows that if they pay themselves that next million in salary it will get taxed heavily, it could well be that they decide to invest it back in the company instead. Perhaps in new plant, or more jobs, or even higher wages for people further down the chain.

            This might mean that the really high marginal tax rate doesn’t actually collect much money, but it might influence behaviour at the top end towards behaviours that generate more grwoth than just accumulating wealth at the top.

            I don’t know, I’m just riffing, but often the conventional wisdom acts like a dead end.

            • TheContrarian

              Because you like memes…


              • Pascal's bookie


                • Ok ok…I had a read and you seem to have committed an offense against the law of excluded middle argument here. Maybe not but did you consider that possibly the owner (or co-owner) might just not bother starting a business here in the first place or move somewhere with more competitive tax rates?
                  *Sorry, I meant you committed a false dilemma not excluded middle argument.

                • Pascal's bookie

                  ‘maybe not’ indeed. You’ll note that I used the phrase “it could well be that ” acknowledging that there could be any manner of reactions.

                  It might be the case that companies refuse to set up in places that have very high top marginal income tax rates. But if you’ll note that in the options I listed, the alternatives I thought of to paying the ceo that next million, was to either pay it to someone else, or to retain it in the company.

                  The money doesn’t go nowhere, there are places in can go to other than the government, or the already wealthy.

                  But you are kind of missing the point. I’m just curious to see if you have any contrarianism in you. I’m seeing a lot of conventional wisdom. which is fine of course, whatever rocks your boat.

            • rosy

              btw the Brits have worked out that 48% is the optimal tax rate at the top end for a maximum collection over avoidance ratio.

            • Gosman

              1) What is your definition of foolish spending?

              2) Possibly, but it could also encourage them to invest in unproductive areas which benefit them personally as it is regarded as a cost (e.g. flash new premises and computers). This is because any productive investment that results in a higher profit will be taxed heavily. Unless you are stating that the Company tax rate will remain low. In which case high valued individuals will just set up companies and be paid via these vehicles thus avoiding the higher tax rate.

          • Jenny

            NZ: Leading the world in penalising excess. (After France that is)

            There fixed it for you. Don’t bother thanking me, Contrarian. It’s the least I could do.

            • TheContrarian

              Who are you to decide what is excess? What gives you the moral authority to decide, if I work 12 hours a day for 20 years to work myself into a position to pay myself a cool Million per annum, that it is excessive? Who are you to decide “that’s enough”?

              • Draco T Bastard

                …to pay myself a cool Million per annum, that it is excessive?

                Yes. Who are you to decide that the community owes you so much?

                Who are you to decide “that’s enough”?

                It’s not “us” as an individual but the community as a whole deciding the best use for its resources.

              • Jenny

                There are many more who work 12 hour a day for 20 years with very little break, just to get enough to pay the bills necessary to survive, let alone raise their children in comfort and security.

                And before you say it. I don’t gamble, I don’t drink, or smoke, I work hard, but I’m still broke.

                Even if I worked every second, of every day, for a year I still would not clear “a cool Million”. I would like to suggest to you. That those who do, don’t do it with their own work, they have other people doing it for them.

                While there are children going hungry in this country. (or anywhere) I feel I have every right to decide that some are not only getting far more than they need, but far more than their deserved share.

                After many decades of slaving away for the “millionaires” I feel I at the very least deserve a pension at the age of 65.

                • Pascal's bookie

                  I feel I have every right to decide that some are not only getting far more than they need, but far more than their deserved share.

                  Indeed. Everyone has the right to form an opinion, and advocate for that opinion, and try and get it through as policy. And it seems to me that society does have the right to enact policy arrived at democratically.

                  The alternatives are worse, IMO.

                  • “Everyone has the right to form an opinion, and advocate for that opinion, and try and get it through as policy. And it seems to me that society does have the right to enact policy arrived at democratically.”

                    How about asset sales?

                    • Pascal's bookie

                      Of course. Why on earth not?

                      And of course, people opposed have the right to try and and stop it.

                      How far did you say you were through a post grad politics degree again?

                      This is basic stuff.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      We’re getting seriously democratic about them now especially considering that this elected dictatorship is trying to sell off our stuff against our wishes.

                    • Jenny

                      Yes. How about asset sales?

                      A minority government that preserves it’s thin majority through Peter Dunne. Who claims that he listens to the people but closed down his own poll when it showed that the people don’t agree with him over asset sales.

                      And even if Dunne did decide to vote down this NACT rip off. The government have signalled that they would undemocratically force it through with the veto, over the objections of parliament.

      • KJT 7.1.2

        91% top tax rate did not stop the USA becoming the richest economy in the world.

  8. I see the problem, but I don’t see the solution. How to we improve the consideration of long term issues in the political process? How do we build in incentives to take these issues seriously? How do we, in effect, give the future a vote?

    The first thing that has to happen – ditch the partisan negative left v right politicking and build a structure to debate together and work together. This needs to be outside parliament, they won’t change there unless they are pushed to follow.

    When we have a democracy based neutral structure to work under we can start to make progress having decent discussions about long term issues.

    Otherwise we will remain opposed from habit, shouting insults from opposite sides of self built fences.

    • So far most of the suggestions have been policy/political. We have to start with that neutral structure with an agreement how it can debate and make progress on issues.

      I’ve made some progress in Dunedin getting support for a part neutral part cross party collective going. What has been absent so far is any serious commitment from the left. I won’t launch it until there is representative involvement from across the spectrum.

      Are you interested Anthony?

    • ditch the partisan negative left v right politicking and build a structure to debate together and work together

      Nah Pete this has been tried many times.  The greedy rise to the top when you have a system where everyone “works together”.  The left is there to advocate for the proper distribution of resources.  Looking for some ephemeral “consensus” only means that the rich get richer. 

      • Pete George 8.2.1

        The left is there to advocate for the proper distribution of resources.

        Very funny. Do you actually believe that?

        One of the biggest problems is when one side has the delusion that their way has to defeat the other lot and win everything for themselves. And are oblivious to the stupidity of their delusion.

        • mickysavage


          1.  Yes I do
          2.  Do you believe the world’s wealth is concentrated in too few hands?
          3.  if so what would you do about it? 

          • Pete George

            1. I think left, right and centre should work out between them the best balance of “wealth distribution”.
            2. To an extent, yes.
            3. a) There is virtually nothing I or anyone in New Zealand could do about it worldwide.
            b) In New Zealand I’d encourage a wide ranging non partisan discussion about what to do about it, try to discourage purely selfish views (“I want to vote to transfer money from others to me)” and promote any resulting conclusions to local and national politicians.
            (It’s not for me to try and dictate my own views, that’s what a lot of commenters are getting wrong on this post).

          • Pete George

            Here’s part of a comment (by someone else) that I think has a lot of merit.

            The purpose of both disciplines is to serve the people who populate an incredibly diverse society. Some people are born with more, or less capital – whether intellectual, monetary, or social. That’s the nature of society. But they all have a right to inhabit the planet and live a good life, interfacing positively with the citizens around them.

            We employ our politicians to reconcile the needs of these diverse citizens in a way that allows everyone to achieve their potential. We cannot make every citizen do so, but we can offer them all the best opportunity having regard to their capital.

            The political and economic system is there to meet the needs of the people, and not vice versa. Ideological posturing by career politicians without real life experience doesn’t cut the mustard. Voters want to know what kind of society New Zealand is going to be under any specific politician or party.

            We don’t know that. That is why ordinary people are disillusioned with politicians who blindly align themselves with ideological positions and parrot dogma, rather than talk about societal outcomes.

            There seems to be a preponderance of “ideological positions and parrot dogma” in the comments on this post, ignoring what I think is the key question ask by Anthony in his post.

            • Uturn

              So if you agree with this, you are saying that everyone should go through the motions, but not only that the staus quo should remain, it should be elevated to natural law and we should all be happy about it. Enforced inequality. Smile and pat the poor on the head and say, there there, you have all you deserve. Hello Feudal NZ. Really, Pete, you are an anachronism whose time is better spent over a well filled pipe of nostalgia.

  9. lefty 9

    Policies will always need to be contested as long as we live in a class society.

    Short term and basically mindless thinking is inherent in capitalism. The only thing that would be worse than what we have at present is if long term policies were cemented in place to deal with issues when those issues are identified through neo liberal lenses.

    The short term nature of policy making environment we are in is one of the few redeeming features of our system. At least some of the time policies can be reversed, although not often enough.For example Roger Douglas made sure we couldn’t reverse much of the harm he did, and John Keys sale of state assets will be similar.

    This post gives a very good example of the mess you can easily end up in if you try to deal with issues that have been defined by neo liberals without challenging their framework.

    What you identify as an aging population problem is in fact a problem of how we organise and reward work.

    We have not used new technology to reduce the hours of work and increase the hourly earnings of everyone. Instead the fruits of increased productivity have flowed into a the hands of a few while the rest of us end up overemployed, underemployed or unemployed.

    We have the mad situation where youth unemployment is soaring yet there is pressure on older people to keep working longer and longer.

    Silly economists tell us the way to address this is through austerity including putting up the pension age. Even sillier politicians buy into this and we end up with very one sided debates that look at the issue through financial lenses rather than analyse it objectively. This results in bad policy.

    The real answers lie in having a basic liveable income for all, free access to a good education,good pay rates and affordable housing so people don’t have to work excessive hours to pay the mortgage.

    People would soon work the number of hours that best suited them. Bosses would lose control over our lives of course, but that is as it should be.

    This is not to say long term policies are not needed to deal with issues like peak oil, climate change or incomes. It is just that it will not be possible to develop good policies to deal with problems caused by a disfunctional system until that system is changed.

    There is a way to give the future a vote. If we run a fair and just society now that will flow through to the future. But if we were to project our present rotten system into the future by developing long term policies based on what we have, we would condemning future generations to a very miserable life.

  10. Bill 10

    Just a minor tweek, but if the opening line had read “One of the frustrating things about representative democracy is…” , then the solution to the problems posed in the last three sentences of the post would be seen to be contained in the opening sentence of the post: Democracy.

    ( Or let’s settle for fiddling with the fringes of a system that, even by the admission of social democrats, is utterly dysfunctional)

  11. Reagan Cline 11

    I think we could improve the consideration of long term issues in the political process by

    Giving governments a longer term – more time in power to enact legislation intended to influence longer term trends. The consequences would be apparent while the government passing the legislation was still in power and this would be an incentive to introduce better legislation.

    Election rhetoric stressing the importance of long term issues to the voters.

    A career public service staffed by clever, well educated, idealists to provide policy advise to governments

    No one knows what in 50 years time historians will regard as the most important long term issues facing NZ in 2012

    Certainly there are more of us older people alive now than ever before and we will need health care and enough money to house, feed and clothe ourselves.

    What a pity so many of us did not or could not save and invest for retirement !

    So the state will have to provide, paid for from taxation.

    Increase the tax by taxing capital gains on speculative ventures, close loopholes, compulsory superannuation payments by everyone – all people over 15 contributing a summ annually to a state run investment portfolio, a fully publicly funded health service provided by salaried staff, educated at the expense of the state and bonded for life, provide incentives to live a healthier life.

    Somehow make housing more affordable – to me this is the number one long term issue.

    Finally, encourage awareness of the future as being very much a continuation of the past and foster a new myth of newzealandness.

    Not neglecting the two generations that lived here, maori women and pakeha men, before the treaty and what they taught each other and their children.

  12. Election rhetoric stressing the importance of long term issues to the voters.

    Election rhetoric is mostly influenced by the media. They have very short term interests – advertisers and ratings.

    To change this you need to find a way of influencing a lot of people in competition with the sound bite obsession.

    • Reagan Cline 12.1

      I was thinking about the “quick fix” carrot of asset sales which was a big election issue.

      Looking back, the Greens and Labour (I was most interested in them) did draw attention to long term issues – the Greens adverts were all about the long term.

  13. Matt 13

    “If so how is that decided outside some arbitrary measure?”

    Uh, show me a measure of any kind which is not arbitrary. 

    • Reagan Cline 13.1

      You can put a limit on how much someone earns obviuosly by deciding on the salary or wage level and there are established mechanisms to do that – not arbitrary but based on negotiation and legislation.

      For the self employed and rentiers some control over what a person earns is possible via market forces, rent control and so forth, also not entirely arbitrary.

      By any measure, arbitrary or not, few would disagree that the range of disposable incomes is far too wide to allow for a full range of interactions between people – reducing what can be achieved when people feel able to work together for common good .

      The rich live in fear of loss. Those from the puritan WASP tradition endure a sense of guilt requiring endless self justification. The poor are unable to afford a decent standard of living and blame the rich..

      • Matt 13.1.1

        No, every human decision, collective or individual, is arbitrary precisely because it is a human decision and not dictated or decreed by God or the Universe. There is nothing you could say about tax (an arbitrary human creation) rates or income (another arbitrary human creation) thresholds or fairness (yep) that would ever pass the ‘not arbitrary’ test. So ignore those kinds of arguments, or better yet dismiss them as amateur hour sophistry.

        • felix

          I’m not familiar with a definition of the word “arbitrary” that includes every human decision, collective or individual – I’ve always understood it to relate the absence of reason or rationality.

          Could you provide a link to a definition which aligns with your usage? Thanks in advance.

          • Matt

            The first definition on Dictionary.com

               [ahr-bi-trer-ee]  Show IPA adjective,noun, plural ar·bi·trar·ies.


            subject to individual will or judgment without restriction;contingent solely upon one’s discretion: an arbitrary decision.

            Is there any human affair, any element or premise of civil society, that is not solely the product of human discretion?  

            edit: Bleh sorry, I am not sure how to make that formatting less broken.

            • felix

              That’s a fairly precise definition. It relates to decisions by individuals, and to decisions made without restriction.

              That’s not at all in alignment with your description “every human decision, collective or individual”.

              • Matt

                Sure it is, and it’s really a meta argument isn’t it. There is no decision one could not confront with ‘why that, instead why not this’.

                It doesn’t matter, for example, that something is the law and the judgment of the collective – laws and legal thresholds – drinking age, three strikes laws, you name it  – are routinely criticized as being arbitrary. A demarcation between individual discretion and collective discretion is like trying to decouple the value of the Yuan from the Renminbi. 

                And the notion that it is the lack of some sort of formalized protocol that makes something arbitrary does’t make much sense. The quality of being ‘not arbitrary’ cannot possibly depend on how arcane or byzantine the methods of arriving at a decision might be.

                Going back the beginning, there is no number or threshold that one could have presented to The Contrarian which would not have been met with the ‘arbitrary’ rebuttal, except for some number that he agrees with.

  14. Democracy is a tricky word. In capitalist society it’s bourgeois democracy. BourDem is derived from the ideology of the free individual subject in the market buying and selling commodities. That individual wants a state to protect his (sic) exchange deals so he delegates some ‘representation’ to the state to pass laws protecting his private property, contracts, etc with courts, police, army etc. He even elevates this to the idea of a ‘constitution’ which becomes the founding document of ‘modern civilisation’. 
    But this is arse about face. There is no free individual only unfree labourers and their exploiting capitalists (and some confused people in the middle). The idea of free or equal exchange is an inversion of unequal production relations. Marx called this the ‘holy trinity’ because wages, profits and rents appeared to be the equal entitlements of workers, bosses and landlords when in reality workers produce the surplus value that bosses and landlords expropriate. There is nothing fair about workers producing all three shares.
    Moreover, capitalism has reached its due date and is destroying humanity and nature (though nature entails humanity) so planning for a ‘better’ capitalist future is like buying a plot in the cemetery because there is no way that the bosses can keep their wealth without turning us into slaves again.  
    Once workers rise up and expropriate the centuries of expropriated labour back, then there is a human basis for planned production in harmony with nature. We have to do it soon or even the cemetery will be under water.

  15. Muzza 15

    When was the last time Nz had a govt that enacted policy which was in the best interests of this country?

    How long until we might have one that does in future?

    Until democracy is taken back, it will not been seen again on these shores. See the twisting by this govt over their asset sales policy, which a huge majority do not want! This is the politics we have had for 40 years now , and we will have it until people accept that the problem is, we don’t own out political system, nor the people in it! Without acceptance of this fact , Nz will continue to be hollowed out!
    The answer to Nzs future lies in people starting to accept reality, not accepting the corrupt dishonest , globally mind trained, rinsed out , brought off , souless individuals who are hand picked and then rinsed through foreign training “scholarships ” , foreign “internships” etc, then sent back to Nz to inact those policies , without any local considerations given, other than to how slowly does policy have to move in order that most people can’t see what is happening in front of them , to their country !

    Until ” society ” wakes up to some home truths, any parliament working for our country will never be seen!

  16. Muzza is dead right

    Perhaps we need to look back at the past thirty years to see what we have done wrong and put it right.  Labour could do great things with “mea culpa” for inflicting Roger Douglas and his cronies on us.  That is where things started to go wrong.

    Politics at both national and local level have been trivialised and diverted from the job of being in charge of the country.

    There is a complete lack of integrity and accountability and a total lack of vision.

    But worst of all the public have given up – we/they have become discouraged and disillusioned and disempowered and disgusted.  There is a singular lack of active involvement in the democratic process particularly by the young.


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