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Inequality: a big issue for our time

Written By: - Date published: 6:43 am, February 7th, 2012 - 218 comments
Categories: equality, newspapers, uk politics - Tags: ,

The Herald looks like it has an excellent series this week, on Auckland: A city divided by income.

It’s an issue that has been waiting to be examined in the local context in more depth.  It’s been quite a big issue in the UK for a while, with The Spirit Level making an impact before their 2010 election.  The US got into it with Occupy Wall Street and their newspapers followed.  Now it seems the Herald will examine the issue in the developed country with the greatest increase in inequality in the 2 decades after 1985 – New Zealand.

They’ll examine how food charity was virtually unheard of before the welfare cuts of 1991, to now having Work and Income giving out 544,000 food grants last year, and food banks becoming normal.  How diseases associated with poverty doubled in the nineties, paused for a decade, and are now on the rise again (any correlations with governments there at all..?).  How in the mid-eighties the mini-suburbs in Auckland had very similar median incomes, and now they are vastly spread.

One of the scariest points is showing how in 2006 dollars the median income went from $23,100 in 1986 to $26,800 in 2006.  Not much of an increase over 2 decades, while the wealthiest have had huge increases – 400-fold for top CEOs if the very similar experience of the UK is anything to go by.  The pie grew, but only a very select few got a bigger slice.

Internationally the disparity has led to the head of Deutsche Bank fearing a social time bomb, and suggesting bankers need to justify their salaries.  Just 7% of the UK public have said that pay of over GBP1 million can be justified, resulting in the Tory government introducing measures to ensure shareholders have a binding vote over CEO pay.

What pressures will result here when the inequities are examined more thoroughly?  When people examine the real life cases of those on household incomes over $150,000 (the top 10%) and their lives compared to the many – particularly those in the working poor with household incomes of $42,000 or less.  Incidentally the family in the linked story are in the 4th decile – meaning more than 30% of households are poorer than them.  How much more of a struggle to get by do they have?

Will the pressures result in a desire to follow the IMF’s advice to reduce inequality by “more progressive labour income taxes” and “strengthening the bargaining power of workers”?  After all, as Bill Rosenberg of the CTU notes, the workers share of the pie correlates strongly with union membership and powers…

218 comments on “Inequality: a big issue for our time ”

  1. Zorr 1

    Counting down until the RWNJ Ayn Randists are here telling us how we should be so happy that their masters deign to piss down on us from on high and we should just be happy to have a job…


    • Carol 1.1

      They’ve already been at it on Cunliffe’s thread over at RA. People saying if they can’t live on $42000 they’ve made poor decisions etc.

      • Colonial Viper 1.1.1

        Although I’d be happy if NZ’s median income was $42k…instead, its a full 30% lower than that.

      • mickysavage 1.1.2

        Agreed Ann.

        They need to have poor labelled as “undeserving”.  They do this by finding a fault, any fault with one of the subjects and then declaring solemnly that ALL poor are therefore deserving.  They did it in Cunliffe’s post.  The logic is if poor person A has defect A, B, C or D then all poor people have a defect.
        But this ignores societal trends.

        For instance when a trend like the appearance of third world diseases appears RWNJs think it does not matter that a significant number of cases occur, the individual parents must be to blame.  This then lets RWNJs decide that nothing needs to be done and make them feel better.  

        But it will never address the clear problems that we are facing. 

        • just saying

          To reassure themselves that they aren’t heartless a-holes, bene-bashers will often say that we need to get the boot into the ‘undeserving’ in order to free-up ill-spent resources for those in genuine need, who, they opine, aren’t getting anywhere near enough. They will often then tell a story of someone they know with a severe and obvious illness or diability, and then blame the bludgers who, they believe are the majority of beneficiaries, for causing the unnessary hardship and suffering their friend’s brother or whatever, is experiencing due to woefully inadequate benefit levels.*

          It’s interesting to ask them to estimate how many people they believe are genuinely in need of the welfare safety net.

          *for those in need – for everyone else that money consitutes a lucarative “lifestyle”.

          • muzza

            See what happens when those same people you refer to are asked if they understand that “corporate welfare beneficiaries” are the biggest bludge in this country..

            They will stare blankly at you, because welfare is only for the lazy, poor and undeserving. The times I have raised it, given references to back it up, and explained how its tied in with the legislative and financial, monetary systems etc, they simply can’t get their heads around the concept, that the “rich” in many cases are theives, low lifes and receivers of tax payer handouts, far in excess of the funds any beneficiary will ever remove from the system!

            • marsman

              muzza. Interesting how the MSM NEVER talk about Corporate Welfare. It would be great to see a list of the Corporate Bludgers ( including those that hide their incomes in tax havens) so that we can all start pointing the finger at them, and boycott them. Would you care to share your info?

              • Gosman

                What is your definition of Corporate Welfare? Perhaps you could highlight some examples.

                • vto

                  What is your definition of the Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme?

                  What is your definition of the $400million going to farmer’s irrigations schemes?

                  What is your definition of the $35million “loan” to Mediaworks.

                  on it goes…

                  where to nobody knows …

                  • marsman

                    Perfect.Thanks vto.

                  • Gosman

                    So you think a loan is the same as welfare do you? That could lead to some radically reorientating of the welfare system. Instead of paying beneficiaries we could lend them the money that they would pay back once they have got themselves into a job.

                    • Te Reo Putake

                      We do that already, Gossie. Beneficiaries are required to pay back anything given to them over and above the basic weekly entitlement. ie if the fridge packs up and WINZ give money to buy a new one, it must be paid back.
                      I don’t see the loan to Mediaworks as welfare by the way. It’s clearly a bribe.

                    • Gosman

                      I’m meaning all welfare payments not just loans above the base.

                      If it was a bribe I’d be asking for my money back if I was in National. Certainly TV3 has been much harsher on National than TVNZ.

                    • McFlock

                      Indeed – TV3 flogged the govt with a scented shoelace, TVNZ merely used cheaper scent. 

                      Except the bits with Garner, who spent much of the campaign massaging a soothing cream onto Key’s back. Oh, and the hour advert on radiolive. 
                      A deferred payment of rent might be okay. $40 mill, even as a loan, is a fecking gift.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      It was a loan at sub-market rates. One that MediaWorks could have got from a bank at market rates. So, yes, that “loan” was corporate welfare.

                  • Gosman

                    While we are at it let’s apply the same principles of the Retail Deposit Guarrantee Scheme to Welfare. A certain proportion of the income from your job is guarranteed by the Government so in the event of you becoming unemployed you will still have an income. In return you lose control of all your assets. Sounds like a plan to me.

                    • vto

                      Collins dictionary – welfare: financial and other assistance given to people in need.

                      get with it gosman

                    • Gosman

                      Simply having a functioning State could be argued is welfare then.

                      You want a list of all those people receiving corporate Welfare then it would include ALL businesses.

                      Of course when you do that you kind of diminish the whole name and shame approach you are looking for. You are free to boycott all businesses if you want though.

                    • vto

                      So then gosman you accept that, for example, the Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme fits within the definition of welfare outlined in the Collins dictionary.

                      That is a good start.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Welfare for the Rich, Austerity for everyone else.

                  • KJT

                    Wrong. They are bribes!

                    Welfare is the universal health, unemployment and old age insurance we pay taxes for.
                    Just as well the private sector havn’t been able to get their hands on it. Or we would be paying twice as much for less service, as we do with power, banking and household insurance.

                    I am not opposed to supporting NZ business in principle.
                    NZ businesses pay tax here too. (Some).

                    All other, functional, countries in the first world support their own businesses.

                    Just to things like the lunacy of bailing out failed financial gamblers, destroying our manufacturing for illusory increases in export markets for farming and selling assets at fire sale rates to Nationals puppet masters.

                    You could call that corporate welfare, I suppose.

                    • Gosman

                      The Government owns the majority of the power industry and also a bank. Yet they are not any cheaper than the private sector for some reason. Even if your flawed theory was correct then it would make sense for Governments to control ALL businesses or at least far more than they currently do now. How come no major political party, (even Mana), is advocating mass Nationalisation?

                    • KJT

                      Gosman proves he cannot read yet again.

                      When Kiwi bank started all the Aussie banks had to reduce the economic rent they were taking from NZ. They had to stop constantly finding new fees to charge.

                      The value of Kiwi bank is as much in keeping the other banks honest as in its own profits.

                      The power industry is run on corporatist lines. Private sector style. With all the overpaid dysfunctional management and bleeding of small customers to attract big ones, that implies.

                      Government deliberately made the State owned power companies pay big dividends, to make sure they did not out compete the private ones. More corporate welfare if you like.


                    • Gosman

                      Your views on the impact of Kiwibank on the other banks here would have more validity if you could produce evidence that the other banks have had their profit margins significantly reduced as a result of Kiwibank’s entry into the market. Have you got any evidence like this?

                      I’m asking because I worked for Kiwibank and I assure you the bank didn’t find it easy to make money because the other banks were overcharging for their services. It was also run by managers who largely came from the other banks and run along similar lines so your distinction between Kiwibank and the power companies doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

                  • Cactus Kate

                    VTO I think I’ve covered the silliness of two of those three bits of corporate welfare and my views on welfare for farmers is well known. I’ve been one of the loudest attackers of the bailout of SCF and Treasury for its role in it.
                    If the Herald wants to serve up a farmer whining about being too poor to pay for water then I’m more than happy to serve them the same treatment.

                • marsman

                  E.g. VERY low rates for electricity for Comalco.

      • Perhaps they did make “poor decisions” – they voted National.

  2. tc 2

    Speaking to a truckie back after many years overseas, getting $2 hour more against the rises the top tier have gotten over the last 10 plus years.
    Jobs more dangerous with a higher standard of care now…..he’s wondering WTF have I done, welcome home to the brighter future don’t expect any improvement.

  3. David Cunliffe has a heart felt comment on the issue at Red Alert.

    He then gets attacked by a succession of trolls.  All the normal attack lines come out, one of the benefit recipients gets his character attacked, and David is being accused of beating up on the rich and wanting an “envy tax”.  Even Cactus Kate makes an appearance!  She accuses one of the subjects as being poor because of lifestyle choices …

    And another troll complains about being in moderation …

    Good on David for speaking his mind.  And Red Alert could probably use a bit of advice on how to run the site.


    • Bored 3.1

      Inequality has some bedfellows that need more mention: exclusion and exclusiveness. It is all about which side of the divide you reside on.

      Good examples are the generational thing of parents wanting advantage for their own: private schools, uni etc, and even when an outsider beats that shut doors based on where you went to school, old boys ties.

      What we are now facing is an economic system that encourages furthewr stratification of class based on income.

    • Cactus Kate 3.2

      I am a supporter of David Cunliffe Micky and regard him as the finest financial brain in the Labour Party. But the waffle he’s served up here on inequality is ridiculous and in this couple he backed a loser. He should leave hugging the unskilled and hopeless to the lesser qualified women in the Party and focus on proving his intellect in the Finance portfolio v Bill English.

      • RedLogix 3.2.1

        Anyone who resorts to calling people less fortunate or privileged as ‘hopeless’ is only telling us something about themselves.

        • Roger Dewhurst

          Cactus Kate wrote “unskilled and hopeless” not “less fortunate or privileged”.

          There is some ambiguity in Cactus Kate’s comment. She might have meant that two classes of people, one unskilled and the other hopeless. She might otherwise have meant that unskilled are hopeless. There are some unskilled simply because their IQ is too low to enable them to become skilled. There are others whose IQ is high enough but have not availed themselves of the opportunity, which universal state education provides, to become skilled. Privilege is no guarantee of success in life. Some effort is also required.

      • mickysavage 3.2.2

        Kate, Cunliffe has an impressive understanding of finances and economics.  But he also has a heart.  His post was obviously an example of where he let his heart speak.

      • It never ceases to amaze me how some people can think that kids (let alone their parents or other adults) deserve to go hungry. If we can possibly provide for them and encourage them back onto their feet, we should. We should put policy in place that ensures there are jobs available for everyone who is able and willing to work, and we should have a fair system that provides for those that aren’t.

        And here you are advocating that we gut welfare even further because apparently only having four dollars to spend on food is too much for people you don’t approve of. I almost hope you push that idea even more aggressively so it shows everyone how utterly morally bankrupt the right-wing of politics has become- because sooner or later the public will have had enough of it, and they’ll kick everyone who enables or apologizes for that kind of policy out of government, and if they can manage it, out of parliament too.

      • “He should leave hugging the unskilled and hopeless to the lesser qualified women in the Party …”


        Is it me, or was that an outrageously sexist statement?!

        You left out the bit about staying in the kitchens and cooking some ——g eggs.

        • Roger Dewhurst

          That is not sexist. She was simply drawing a distinction between the better qualifies women in the party and the not so well qualifies ones. She certainly did not claim that men in the party are better qualified than women in the party. They may well be of course but that is another issue.

  4. Nick K 4

    John Key has more money than I do. That is inequality. How do we solve it?

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 4.1

      That’s not inequality silly: no-one’s trying to hold you back or stop you getting rich. But when the gaps between the top and the bottom get too great, the negative effects of this affect everyone, even you, and even John Key.
      Still, it’s good that you’re trying so hard to understand. Bravo.

      • Gosman 4.1.1

        That is your opinion. The authors of the Spirit level have also tried to make this case but very badly. The problem is absolute poverty not inequality.

        • Kotahi Tane Huna

          What brainless crud, Gosman. Are the authors of The Spirit Level the only epidemiologists you’ve ever heard of? Is that why you’ve got a ready talking point about them rather than about the entire subject?
          No doubt David Cameron’s government is responding to this research because it’s so crap. No doubt American academic journals are publishing this British research because it’s so easily debunked.

          Or maybe you just can’t cite a single piece of serious peer-reviewed research to save your life, let alone your argument.

          Meanwhile, in grown up land…

          • Gosman

            I am relaying information that I was told by a NZ Epidemiologist.

            The Spirit level is not highly regarded. This is because of the inclusion of the outliers and the selection bias evidenced throughout the book. The only defence of the inclusion of the outliers I have seen is that this is acceptable when looking at differences between countries for some reason.

            I put this to the NZ Epidemiologist and was advised that this would only apply if you were including ALL countries in the study. As soon as you apply a selection criteria that the Spirit Level authors have then good practice is to exclude outliers to remove bias and ‘noise’ from the results.

            As for you bringing up David Cameron’s government into this discussion, I believe they are just implementing a massive amounts of cuts to the public sector. How does this fit in with the Spirit level view of the World?

            • Kotahi Tane Huna

              Still on about The Spirit Level? You seem to have a bee in your bonnet about it, and yet somehow you still embody abject failure on the citation front.

              Oh look, another paper not authored by Wilkinson or Pickett that says you haven’t got a clue.

              • Gosman

                I am merely pointing out the flaws in The Spirit level which suggests that the subject is not settled and passing on the opinions of other Epidemiologists. There is a large amount of evidence accumulating which supports this view. Have you read The Spirit level delusion (see http://spiritleveldelusion.blogspot.co.nz/)?

                • Kotahi Tane Huna

                  Flaws in peer reviewed research get exposed by peer-reviewed research. I seem to recall this has been pointed out to you before, and the responses to the criticism you linked. And yet here you are trying to pass these failed talking-points off on me as though all that never happened.

                  You wouldn’t know a flaw in methodology from your elbow. If you did, you would have linked to the paper your mythological informant published, debunking Wilkinson and Pickett and establishing his or her credentials as an epidemiological force to be reckoned with. You see, in epidemiological circles, the ability to impress Gosman don’t mean shit.

                  • Gosman

                    Bollocks. You are hiding behind the whole ‘ It can’t be wrong if it is peer reviewed’ nonsense. I suggest you read Ben Goldacre at Bad Science to see why Peer review is no guarrantee of good science.

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      I suggest you come to the completely trivial conclusion that it is the best method we’ve got, but honestly, it’s not like scientists are going to pay the slightest attention to what you think, are they?

                • Kotahi Tane Huna

                  Oh, and as for “the subject isn’t settled” do you honestly think this lame garbage has currency here?
                  We need better wingnuts.

                  • Gosman

                    Why bring climate science in to this when the discussion is about Epidemiology?

                    • McFlock

                      same bullshit, different paddock.

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      Poor Gosman, perhaps you should try reading the article.

                      “knowledge about science is not binary – science isn’t either settled or not settled. This is a false and misleading dichotomy. Instead, we know things with varying degrees of confidence – for instance, conservation of energy is pretty well accepted, as is the theory of gravity (despite continuing interest in what happens at very small scales or very high energies) , while the exact nature of dark matter is still unclear. The forced binary distinction implicit in the phrase is designed to misleadingly relegate anything about which there is still uncertainty to the category of completely unknown. i.e. that since we don’t know everything, we know nothing.”

                      Don’t strain yourself trying to understand this.

            • McFlock

              Really? Who?
              Was the epidemiologist commenting on the detail of the work, or that the problem was absolute poverty vs inequality?
              The fact is that the easiest and quickest way to address inequality is to address absolute poverty, so that point is a red herring anyway.
              As for the stats issues, even if you are accurately reporting what you were told (some of the subtlety of the methodological minutae might have been missed), the Spirit Level is still a pretty hefty pile of evidence to call bullshit on. Not least of which because it is not a “revelation” so much in the literature as it is an excellent resource to collect the evidence and present it in a way that even a tory can understand.
              Whether they want to is the question.

              • Gosman

                I’m just pointing out that the conclusions that the authors of the Spirit level come to are not regarded as sound as people make out by other Epidemiologists for the reasons I outlined.

                • Colonial Viper

                  People at the top of the pile want even steeper gradients of inequality as it serves them well and weakens competition.

                • Kotahi Tane Huna

                  Oh it’s become Epidemiologists plural has it now? This story just keeps on getting better. What are their names? Tell me their names so I can read their peer-reviewed academic papers. In fact, tell me their names, or the citation reference for one of their peer-reviewed papers, or the title of one of their peer-reviewed papers, so that I can read them for myself.

                  Or are you just unprincipled and dishonest, trying to divert attention from child abuse and hardship, mental illness and violence?

                  Now then, these Epidemiologists. What are their names? Where is their work? It’s show and tell time.

                  • Gosman

                    I’ve also told you why it is a fallacy to assume that just because it appears in a peer reviewed journal it is above criticism. Ben Goldacre makes the case that a number of flawed studies have been pushed through the peer review process by pharmaceutical companies.

                    • McFlock

                      It might be a shock to you, but no publication is perfect. The question one needs to ask when critically reading something is “do its shortcomings overwhelm the case it is making?”
                      You are pointing to a couple of minor methodological issues in the Spirit Level, which are debatable. Actually, more correctly, you are claiming that an unnamed empidemiologist or epidemiologists with a capital “E” have mentioned to you that there are one or two subtle points of contention with some of the authors’ statistical methodologies.  
                      These issues, even if valid, are not strong enough to contradict the thesis of the book, bewcause the book itself is consistent with the other literature in the field.

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      Their names, Gosman. The Epidemiologists. What are their names? Please tell me I so want to read their work. Why won’t you tell me?

                    • Gosman

                      They are not minor methodological flaws.Including outliers in a study and selective choosing both the measures and the countries that you wish to measure allows a huges amount of bias to creep in to a study. It is also clear that the authors have a particular political view to push which certainly means they should be extremely careful about accusations of bias.

                      Have a talk with Epidemiologists, they will confirm what I have stated. There are a number of very good ones in NZ. I recommend the Otago school of medicine as a good starting point.

                    • McFlock

                      Have a talk with Epidemiologists, they will confirm what I have stated. There are a number of very good ones in NZ. I recommend the Otago school of medicine as a good starting point.

                      Back to capital E, are they?
                      Funnily enough, I know one or two – and like I say, the methodological debate you’re recycling doesn’t really damage the gist of the book.

                    • Macro

                      Ok so give us a clue..
                      Who wrote the article or is it just another piece of crap you made up?

            • mickysavage


              I am relaying information that I was told by a NZ Epidemiologist.
              The Spirit level is not highly regarded.

              And there is this bloke down the pub I was talking to the other day, I think his name was Trev, who said that Einstein’s laws of relativity was a load of crap.  And his comment completely matches my totally uninformed prejudices about the subject.  Must be true I tell you, must be true …

              • Gosman

                I’ve explained the reasons why the epidemiologists don’t regard the work behind the Spirit level as sound not just claimed they think it is so. If you disagree then argue why the points I have passed on to you are invalid.

                • McFlock

                  No, you claimed that an epidemiologist told you that they had some issue with the treatment of outliers.
                  This is a pathetically shallow wedge towards recycling the debates here and here and here and here and…
                  In fact, the imaginary epidemiologist is the only new thing you’ve contributed to the debate, and for all we know when you heard the stats issue they had you blew such a load that you missed the “but” part of their comment.

                  • Gosman

                    It isn’t recycling the debates. I am raising concerns that have not be dealt with. All I have seen in the replies to not excluding outliers is that apparently you can do that if you are comparing countries. I have addressed that by stating this would only make sense if you were including all the countries and not just a select few. Where in the previous debate was that point addressed?

                    • McFlock

                      You are raising the “concerns” at the beginning of the outliers debate once again, without addressing any of the points raised in the previous sessions. That is recycling. And if that is all you picked up from the previous debates, even among points you disagree with, you’re being intentionally obtuse. 
                      Just to be completely clear, and tell you what you missed in the debates you are recycling: the target countries were identified according to specific criteria outlined in the book, not a random sampling of countries on the planet. Outliers are therefore not as likely to be the result of statistical error rather than an actual observed value. And even if they were excluded, they would merely weaken the trend, not change its direction.
                      I’m off to bed.

                    • Gosman

                      By the way that last link you provided where you tried to argue that all the objections had been dealt with just highlights how they haven’t been, A number of poster such as tsmithfield were raising points about how the data points on their graphs are meaningless when outliers are ecluded. Quoted in this argument were a number of academics who agreed with this point. I also added a number of quotes from academics who disagree vehmently with the conclusions of the authors of the Spirit level and noone effectively countered this criticism. So to try and argue this debate around the validity of the Spirit level has been dealt with is a complete fabrication.

                    • McFlock

                      fuck, now gos is accusing me of fabrication. His imaginary “E”pidemiologist probably put him up to it.

                    • Gosman

                      Incorrect. If they were excluded they would seriously weaken the case the authors were making. However the question is why they weren’t excluded in the first place. It suggest a degree of bias in the selection criteria by the authors i.e. cheery picking data to get the desired outcome they were looking for. This is not just my opinion but of many others as well (as was shown in that last debate). Talk to some Epidemiologists. I think you will be surprised how W + P are not held in high esteem for their work on The Spirit level.

                    • McFlock

                      Come on Gos – if they HAD excluded the outliers they’d STILL be able to make the case, and then you’d be accusing them of cherry-picking their data because countries that fit their declared criteria were not in the frame. 
                      Your objective is simply to keep recycling the debate so that the debate about how to solve the problem is undermined. Exactly like climate change. Other wise you would have continued the previous threads on the points you thought were unresolved, rather than starting from scratch again.

                    • McFlock

                      By the way,
                      Outliers can be excluded as statistical noise, but sometimes it is the outliers that provide valuable information as to the aetiology of a health situation. This goes right back to the beginning of epidemiology as a discipline – it was an outlying case that convinced John Snow to take the handle off the Broad Street pump. So it all depends on the context of the situation. But feel free to keep bleating “epidemiologist” like a magical shield against the fact that you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.

            • Matthew Whitehead

              Sigh. Here, AGAIN, is the response of the authors of The Spirit Level to why some divergent data are outliers, and others are simply examples of a trend:


              The specific response you want is the one to statistical criticism:


              In it the difference between a discrete data point with a gap from the trendline and an actual outlier is explained. There are other corroborating factors that suggest that, for instance, the USA is not an outlier in many of their graphs.

              Also, there is a specific reponse to the “Spirit Level Delusion”:


        • Olwyn

          “The problem is absolute poverty not inequality.”

          This is a cop out. “Absolute poverty” means being under constant threat of dying from starvation. It is no place to draw the line in a society that purports to be civilised.

          I think that there may be societies in which deep inequality is less destructive than in NZ: places where the rich and poor have lives that do not much overlap, and the rich have their own business to attend to and no real desire for the resources of the poor. New Zealand however is no such place. In NZ the basic costs are roughly equal, but incomes are deeply disparate. Since the market determines the price of things on the basis of what they can fetch, most things are priced at a level that the poor find very hard to meet. They do not, however, have a real alternative, and if they found one, the aspiring middle class, who also feel the pinch in relation to what they think their lives should be like, would swoop on it, driving the price up.

          Look at the supermarket shelves that run out of the product in question: canned tomatoes, pasta, the cheaper lines of bread. There is never a run on organic free range spatchcocks. If you cannot address the cost of living, you can at least perhaps address the ability of all citizens to meet it. And this means reducing inequality.

          • McFlock

            Nice, though – by that definition gossy has admitted that NZ has kids suffering malnutrition

          • seeker

            ++++ excellent comment Olwyn, especially this well argued point –
            “There is never a run on organic free range spatchcocks. If you cannot address the cost of living, you can at least perhaps address the ability of all citizens to meet it. And this means reducing inequality.”

    • Dingo 4.2

      Make you Prime Minister?

  5. just saying 5

    There seems to be a concerted effort to ensure that Labour stay on the right of centre. National must know that if they roll out their agenda there is little chance they will be reelected, so it is very important that a Labour-led government in 2014 do nothing significant to undermine their six years of work. Which in turn will make the likelihood of National returning to power in 2017, under a heavy authoritarian banner to ‘clean up the streets’ of the ensuing civil unrest, all the more likely.

    The right wing commentariat seemed to play a large role in securing Shearer as leader.

    damn, did it again. This was meant to be a reply to Mickey at 3.

    • Gosman 5.1

      Yes we in the VRWC are all manipulating you. How does it feel to be a puppet?

      • just saying 5.1.1

        How does it feel to be a puppet?

        Well are you gonna tell us or what?

        • Gosman

          Oh very clever Just saying. Essentially the comment thread equivalent of a child replying to a taunt ‘I know you are, you said you are, but what am I?’

          • just saying

            Sorry Gossie, I thought your comment was a soliloquy like Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be……”

            My bad etc.

    • The Baron 5.2

      If the VRWC was so influential in the Labour Caucus’ decision to choose Shearer then:

      1) The Parliamentary Labour Party is well and truly fucked.

      2) They did Labour a favour – Shearer is electable.

      Not everything is a conspiracy, Just Saying. A bit less wakky bakky for you my friend, the paranoia is creeping in.

      • Colonial Viper 5.2.1

        Oh here’s The Baron trying to convince us that influential rich people don’t occasionally get together to plan and co-operate with each other in forwarding mutual interests, while attempting to keep such sensitive discussions confidential to themselves.

        Its not a conspiracy though, you are right, its just BAU for the Right Wing.

  6. Gosman 6

    Interesting that Bill Rosenberg in that NZ Herald article makes the link between compulsory Unionism and equality of income. I wonder if the CTU will push for the Labour party to adopt this as policy. I would absolutely love it if it did. However I doubt Labour would be that foolish to agree to do so.

    • So you are happy for Labour to do something meaningful about poverty on the basis that it may hurt them politically.  How weird and selfish is that?

      • Gosman 6.1.1

        Are you advocating for the reintroduction of Compulsory Unionism then mickeysavage?

        • Macro

          What a damn good idea! Good to see you are starting to think for a change.

          • Gosman

            I’d be over the moon if Labour agreed with this policy. I am still wondering though if mickeysavage agrees with that.

  7. Lanthanide 7

    I think this post is interesting and relevant:

    • Gosman 7.1

      Yes especially his comment about the rich getting away with murder. It certainly highlights the warped thinking of many on the left of the political spectrum.

      • Bored 7.1.1

        And there is no corruption on Wall St at all Gosman, only lots of flying pigs? And insider trading does not happen in NZ does it? Of course not. You are so full of bullshit.

        • Gosman

          That is like someone on the right highlighting cases of benefit fraud and trying to link that with all beneficiaries. You would rightly call BS on that one Bored.

          • McFlock

            An Economist once told me they were all crooks…

          • Bored

            Who but yourself would mention beneficiaries Gos: what venality are you recipient of? Still you are the only person I heard of who started at the bottom and went downhill.

  8. fisiani 8

    I laughed out loud when I saw that you are still salivating over the totally discredited and debunked Spirit Level nonsense


    [We’ve seen this totally discredited and debunked link over and over. In future just linking to it without any attempt at an argument or justifying why YOU have linked to it…. will be deleted. ..RL]

    • McFlock 8.1

      I mentally chuckled that you think that anything here counts as “salivating”, and anything there counts towards “discredited and debunked”.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 8.2

      fisiani, nope, I’m well beyond that stuff. I’ve been checking out more up-to-date studies, and looking at some of the work that Wilkinson and Pickett cite on violence and trust. Science keeps on building you see. You’re still trying to deny stuff that was published in 2004, and not to be cruel or anything, but unless you’ve got some argument based on actual, on-topic epidemiological academic papers I’m simply not interested in your opinion.

    • Gosman 8.3

      I’m sorry but it hasn’t been debunked. The criticisms of the book have been replied to by the authors, (quite badly in my mind) and then counter argued.

      I have also pointed out flaws that other epidemiologists have identified with the overall idea expressed in the Spirit level. Apparently that is not good enough to debate though.

      The point is this argument is far from settled and a biased and flawed book is not enough to settle it no matter how much leftists would like it to be.

      • Kotahi Tane Huna 8.3.1

        Back to the “isn’t settled” argument now is it? Are you completely ignorant or just wilfully obtuse? You had that argument mangled and shoved back in your face yesterday, but here you are back again like a zombie, moaning and shuffling and looking for brains to eat.

        You are lying about the so-called Epidemiologists that you would probably be defaming if they existed, or you would have told me their names and linked to their research by now. Why don’t you stop behaving like a gutless shill and prove me wrong? Because you can’t.

        Do you think that coming here and messing yourself day by day makes the right look good or something?

        • Gosman

          If you think I’m lying why don’t you go and ask some. There are several good ones at the Otago School of Medicine.

          It is disingenuous to state this argument is settled. Even all the debates on it here, (a leftist blog), have just led people to bring up point and counter point. For example the so called rebuttal of the criticism of the Spirit level was answered by the people making the criticism and I have yet to see an effective counter.

          • Colonial Viper

            Gos you don’t care about the facts and you don’t care about the value of anything non financial.

          • Kotahi Tane Huna

            It is disingenuous to tell lies about the notion that science is either settled or unsettled, a “false and misleading dichotomy”, as you have already been shown, but fail miserably to grasp.

            You are a perfect example of everything the right represents: deceitful and ignorant by equal measures, and your pathetic reliance on “blog science” attests to that.

            • Macro

              HEAR! HEAR!
              well said. 🙂

              • Gosman

                Ummmmmm…. Macro you may have missed the post by Kotahi Tane Huna where I received an apology on this. Perhaps you should read the entire comments rather than only the ones that you think are worthwhile. Then at least you won’t look as foolish as you now do.

                • Macro

                  No I don’t think that is the case at all!
                  I have read the entire comments and find that your continued trolling is little more than that!
                  I do not have any intention of apologising to someone who is solely concerned about their own wealth, and getting more for themselves at the expense of others, (which is all your commentary is about). You present yourself a “concern troll” but that is not your primary function. It is to divert attention to yourself and away from the topic in hand. There is nothing in your comments that suggests that you have any concern for those at the bottom of the heap in our society. Your only intention seems to be to discredit those who seek to improve the welfare of others. In my humble opinion such is the behaviour of a scumbag.

                • lprent

                  This one. I found that a rather interesting apology myself. Especially the paragraph before the actual apology where he states exactly what he is apologising for.

                  However, Gosman’s inability to cite his sources led me to the conclusion that he was fabricating; clearly there is a chance that he wasn’t.

                  Gosman, I apologise.

                  Someone has great future in politics ahead of them. I haven’t seen an apology framed quite that well for some time.

          • McFlock

            By the way, moron, it isn’t the “Otago School of Medicine”. It’s the Dunedin School of Medicine. At least try to LOOK like you know what you’re talking about.

            • Gosman

              Actually it is the ‘School of Medicine and Health Science, University of Otago, Wellington’. So you are quite wrong Mcflock. Not unusual for you.

              • rosy

                Quite wrong??? If you’re going to correct someone at least look it up, otherwise it looks like you’re trying to score points…
                There are 3 locations for Otago medical schools:

                The Division of Health Sciences consists of the Faculty of Medicine, which administers the School of Medical Sciences and three clinical Schools of Medicine located in Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington

                – Otago School of Medical Sciences (In Dunedin)
                – University of Otago, Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences
                – Dunedin School of Medicine
                – University of Otago, Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences

                • Gosman

                  That is quite correct. I never stated there was only one location for the Otago University medical school. The Epidemiologist who I have discussed this with is based in Wellington. I was pointing this out to McFlock who stated that it was the Dunedin School of Medicine.

                  • McFlock

                    “If you think I’m lying why don’t you go and ask some. There are several good ones at the Otago School of Medicine.”
                    I have no idea about who or where the imaginary epidemiologist you consulted was. You told me to consult one. It would be logical that given UO alone has several schools of medicine, you were referring to the one in Otago. 
                    Only you, Gos, would be such a dick as say “Otago” and then feel superior when people didn’t know you were talking about Wellington.

                  • The Epidemiologist who I have discussed this with is based in Wellington.

                    “Epidemiologist”? Just the one?

                    You’ve referred to “Epidemiologists” in your posts further up.

                    You’re not keeping your story straight.

                    • Gosman

                      No, the Epidemiologist who I spoke to about this, (Dr Kristie Carter from the Otago School of Medicine in Wellington), mentioned that the way which the findings in the Spirit level were presented were not well regarded by other Epidemiologists. Her immediate superior, (Professor Tony Blakely), even gave a talk about this where one of the Authors was present. It is all mentioned below Frank. You need to keep up with the discussion more.

                    • McFlock

                      the way which the findings in the Spirit level were presented were not well regarded by other Epidemiologists.

                      What about the findings themselves, or the existence of the relationship described?

              • McFlock

                Oh, you’re referring to the Wellington campus of the University of Otago? Thanks for narrowing it down, doofus. I just figured you were referring to the largest school of medicine UO has, not the chch, welly or auck ones. Now, who should I see in wellington?
                Shit – I’d better quickly check and make sure UO doesn’t have a Cook Islands campus – you might have been referring to that…

                • Gosman

                  No Wellington campus is fine. There are a few Epidemiologists there. I’m sure someone can help with your request.

                  • McFlock

                    So I note that you’ve completely abandoned any discussion about the use of outliers and are now just resting on a claim about what an anonymous epidemiologist told you.
                    BTW, I’m not in Wellington atm. But then it’s not my job to prove your fantastical claims one way or the other – that’s yours. And more specifically, if you want to test the validity of the use of outliers, go and ask a statistician. 
                    Asking an epidemiologist would be like asking an engineer about nuclear physics – they can do the basics, but the real theoretical grounding is the realm of physicists.
                    Who did you speak to?

                    • Gosman

                      The person I spoke to about this has a doctorate which has a strong statistical basis so I think they have a fair idea what they are talking about. I have told you that I am not identifying anyone individually as that is just opening them up to abuse from the likes of some irrate lefty. I have given you the specific department they are in so direct your attention there if you really want to know their opinions on the matter.

                    • McFlock

                       I have told you that I am not identifying anyone individually as that is just opening them up to abuse from the likes of some irrate lefty.

                      Um – where did you tell us that, Gos? I must have missed that line in this thread.
                      It is a novel argument, I’ll give you that. I can just imagine you as a defence lawyer – “your honour, I have spoken to an expert who has roundly disproved the prosecution’s case, so can you dismiss the charges immediately? No, I can’t name my expert, but they weren’t impressed at all with the prosecution’s case. I suggest you go find another expert and see if they agree with me, but if you can’t be bothered doing that then the only reasonable verdict is not guilty”.
                      Or option two is “Gos, I asked FIVE epidemiologists, and they reckon you’re completely wrong. I can’t name them, though, but they also think that the epidemiologist you spoke to was almost certainly taken out of context”.

                      But I think I’ll just go with the the analogy that if you can’t cook the meal yourself, get the fuck out of the kitchen. You’re just making a mess.  

                    • Gosman

                      Name them then.

                    • McFlock

                      nah, they might be harrassed by the cookie monster.

          • felix

            “Even all the debates on it here, (a leftist blog), have just led people to bring up point and counter point. For example the so called rebuttal of the criticism of the Spirit level was answered by the people making the criticism and I have yet to see an effective counter.”

            What bullshit.

            Your entire reason for coming here and wallpapering these threads is to create the illusion of debate, in that to a casual observer it might look like issues are being thrashed out between various opposing views.

            In reality, as anyone who reads any of these threads from top to bottom can attest, it’s just you repeating yourself for days on end while others patiently point out the gaping flaws (which you never acknowledge) and ask you to back up your statements with verifiable facts and sources (which are never forthcoming).

            It’s the most transparent, shameless kind of trolling there is, and I doubt you could find a single person who has ever engaged with you who would disagree.

            • Gosman

              Bollocks Felix. In those original debates on the topic a number of other posters raised concerns with The spirit level other than myself. For example tsmithfield made a number of pertinent points which, as far as I am concerned, were not addressed adequately. Additionally people keep refering to W + P’s responses to the original criticsm. They have not responded to the counter to their responses which point out that W + P ignored many of the questions posed to them.

              • KJT

                The “Spirit Level” is a book for lay readers expanding on other research and writings on the subject, all of which confirm their basic premise.

                You however, have produced no concrete arguments against the ideas expressed in the Spirit level.

                Keep spinning. It is amusing.

                • Gosman

                  I have yet to see any of these points effectively dealt with by anyone, including W + P.


                  • McFlock

                    I actually tootled over to that link, and reckon that W+P answered most of the questions pretty effectively, generally along the lines of following consistent international practise (and getting a common measure for damned near anything across e.g. the OECD is damned difficult).  There are none so blind as those who don’t understand basic population health statistics, and all that.
                    But thanks for wasting my time with a bullshit barrel-pushing link.

                    • Gosman

                      Bollocks. Take for example their reasoning for excluding the Czech Republic, South Korea, and Slovenia from the statistics. They tried to argue it had something to with where life expectency had nothing to do with gross national income. Yet all of these are shown as being higher on this particular measure than Portugal, which they included. So what was the reason the included Portugal and not the Czech Republic? They certainly didn’t respond adequately to that criticism.

                    • Gosman

                      Then there is fact they include Singapore for some measures but exclude it because of some convoluted reasoning about drugs. Why Hong Kong is excluded, (as a comparison to Japan), is not really explained at all.

                    • McFlock

                      you mean the bit where W+P say they used “World Development Indicators Database, World Bank, April 2004*” as a source, so to demonstrate a skewed methodology the blog’s inhouse troll argues that the so-called excluded countries were in the top 50 in 2005 and 2008 data? They worked with the most consistent set of figures they had at the time.
                      And Slovenia has a population of <3million.  You need bigger populations to cut down on randomness – 60 people get whacked in a plane crash over a really small country and your mort rate goes up by 20/100k.

                    • McFlock

                      Actually, the fact that you didn’t pick why Slovenia was excluded goes to show that once again you have no idea what you are talking about – you’re criticizing why they did X but not Y when you either haven’t read, or read but completely failed to understand, their methodology.
                      If you can’t cook, why are you in the kitchen?

                    • Gosman

                      What rubbish. There is nothing in Epidemiology that states you can only include countries with populations over a certain amount. I know this because the Epidemiologist I have been speaking with is looking to do a comparative study on the Pacific Islands. Given there is only one country in the potential study with a population over 3 million this would have been completely ruled out under your rather strange exclusion criteria. Not only that but it would make comparisons within countries such as the US difficult as a number of states have populations under 3 million (approximately 20). So where did you get this magical 3 million figure from Mcflock? Did you just make it up?

                    • McFlock

                      There’s not a concrete cut off, but big populations help narrow your confidence intervals and detect weaker associations with more precision, simply because the statistical noise is reduced.

                      And I got it from your own link, you doofus. The italicised bit where TSL methodology is quoted – I’ll even put the population filter in bold for you: 

                      From this list we selected the 50 richest countries, excluded those with populations less than 3 million and those without income inequality data from the United Nations.

                      Jesus christ, you don’t even read your own sources.

                    • Gosman

                      The Spirit Level includes not only comaprisons between nation states but also with nations, specifically between US states. Following your rather weird reasoning Mcflock this is not possible though as you can’t include countries that have populations < 3 million. How did the Authors of the Spirit level do this then Mcflock? Did the exclude the approximately 20 States with populations less than 3 million from their data?

                    • Gosman

                      You are now trying to argue it isn’t really a hard cut off. It is either a cut off or it isn’t Mcflock. Can you answer how the authors applied this cut off in relation to US states?

                    • McFlock

                      I’m not your epi tutor. I think I’ve already demonstrated that you don’t even read your own sources, so why should I do the hard work just because you’re an idiot?
                      Maybe you should go back to your imaginary epidemiologist and get them to hold your hand through TSL’s methodologies. 
                      In other words, piss off and only come back when you know how to cook.

                    • McFlock

                      The authors adopted filtering criteria based on the granularity of international analyses they wanted to perform. 
                      But I don’t expect you to understand that, because you are just a time-waster.

                    • Gosman

                      Excellent. Always good to see someone resort to personal abuse when they can’t answer the question. Kind of indicative of who has made the more pertinent points.

                      I’ll rephrase the question for you though simply to rub it in how silly you have been made to look over this whole ‘You don’t include places with less than 3 million people in Epidemiological studies’ nonsense.

                      Don’t you think it would have been appropriate for W + P to apply a similar population criteria for their comparisons of US states that they applied to their selection criteria amongst countries as a whole?

                      If not, why is it a problem with including countries with small populations in an international comparison but not States with small populations in an internal comparison?

                    • McFlock

                      Possibly, but then you’d also be looking at more consistent recording processes across the states than across the UN. Does Slovenia have the same effectiveness at reporting a wide range of measures as Canada? But US federally-mandated data would be consistently gathered. So one offsets the other. 
                      You’re comparing an apples methodology with an oranges methodology, which is a bit stupid.

                    • Gosman

                      Just to remind you Mcflock

                      “You need bigger populations to cut down on randomness – 60 people get whacked in a plane crash over a really small country and your mort rate goes up by 20/100k.”

                      How did the authors apply this logic to their comparisons between US States?

                    • Gosman

                      Now you are bringing in other criteria. Regrdless of the reporting standards doesn’t remove that problem that with small and large populations that you highlighted. Just to remind you it was that in small populations a relatively small event can impact on the statistics greatly. So why didn’t the authors apply a similar exclusion standard to their US study?

                    • McFlock

                      Stats 101: errors are cumulative.
                      Reducing a reporting error means you can accept another error level to look at the situation with the same granularity. Alternatively you can minimise all reporting errors to analyse a situation with finer granularity.
                      You haven’t mentioned the relative granularities of the US and international analyses. But at least you’ve moved beyond your invisible epidemiologist.

                    • Gosman

                      I know the Authors have stated that they useda 3 million population exlusion criteria for countries. They do so to justify the exclusion of Slovenia, (which conveniently doesn’t fit in with their theory).

                      I’m arguing that there is no reason they should use a population exclusion criteria at all or if they do then they should use it consistently across their data.

                      The fact they have one for Slovenia and not apply it to US states hasn’t been explained by you. In fact the reason you stated they used population exclusion, (i.e. relatively small changes can be magnified statistically in small populations), apply just as equally in comparisons between States as between countries.

                    • Gosman

                      I’ve also told you that I know about a proposed Epidemiological study of Pacific Islands. Now according to you this isn’t possible because apparently it is not possible to compare Papua New Guinea (Population over 6 million) with say Tonga (Population a little over 100,000). This would be interesting to know for my ‘imaginary’ Epidemiologist as they are looking at getting funding for the study.

                    • McFlock

                      I’m arguing that there is no reason they should use a population exclusion criteria at all or if they do then they should use it consistently across their data.

                      Stats 101: errors are cumulative.
                      Reducing a reporting error means you can accept another error level to look at the situation with the same granularity. Alternatively you can minimise all reporting errors to analyse a situation with finer granularity.
                      You haven’t mentioned the relative granularities of the US and international analyses.


                    • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell

                      First things first. Are we all now agreed on where the Otago Medical School is?

                    • McFlock

                      I’ve also told you that I know about a proposed Epidemiological study of Pacific Islands. Now according to you this isn’t possible because apparently it is not possible to compare Papua New Guinea (Population over 6 million) with say Tonga (Population a little over 100,000). This would be interesting to know for my ‘imaginary’ Epidemiologist as they are looking at getting funding for the study.

                      And I know about studies of smaller populations than that. But your epidemiologist would be framing the study criteria around the capabilities of their reporting sets and the significance of what they are trying to observe. For example, looking at a particularly low incidence (<1/1million) condition would be highly unlikely to get a statistically significant comparison between the two nations. 
                      That seems to be the bit you’re having difficulty grasping.

                    • McFlock

                      Gormless fool – much lolz.

                    • Gosman

                      So are you now trying to argue that the Authors of the Spirit level were comparing outcomes that have quite low incident rates?

                      Did they not compare similar measures between their studies of US States and their International comparison?

                      You have yet to show why having similar standards of data gathering reduces the potential statistical impact of lower populations in the case of the US. Quoting Stats 101 doesn’t cut it.

                    • McFlock

                      So are you now trying to argue that the Authors of the Spirit level were comparing outcomes that have quite low incident rates?
                      Nope. I’m just saying why one might use one measure to examine oranges and another to examine apples. If you want to know why W+P did something, read their methodology and find their response.

                      Did they not compare similar measures between their studies of US States and their International comparison?

                      As I recall – it’s been a while – yes. But lowering one error level (e.g. reporting) can compensate acquiring another (e.g. a smaller population)

                      You have yet to show why having similar standards of data gathering reduces the potential statistical impact of lower populations in the case of the US. Quoting Stats 101 doesn’t cut it.
                      It would if you knew anything about stats.
                      Let’s say something X happens at a pretty constant rate (say 5  per year) from year to year. Irregular reporting increases the spikes and troughs in observations of X from year to year, e.g. year 1 has 3, year 2 has 6 (false positive), year 3 has 4, and so on. Because calculating error rates and confidence intervals includes the standard deviation of the sample, this wide reporting error means that the range withing the confidence intervals is also wider. The intervals are more likely to overlap, so you’re less likely to make a significant observation.
                      Similarly, as population and sample size decrease, the standard deviation also increases, with a similar effect. 
                      BUT if you can lower the population deviation by looking at larger populations only, you could trade that in for a reporting error and still be able to say something other than “we couldn’t exclude the null hypothesis. At all.”
                      And then if you come across a more consistent dataset (e.g. swapping from global to federal), you can include smaller populations while still being able to demonstrate a statistical relationship.

  9. Rich 9

    I see the article mentions are almost-total GST coverage. A few things that are exempt – essential items for the likes of John Key and his mates I guess:
    – overseas travel (whether by scheduled or private jet)
    – yachts (registered and nominally based overseas)
    – beach houses in Hawaii (or any other sunny spot overseas)
    – Swiss bank account fees

  10. Kotahi Tane Huna 10

    OK time to eat humble pie: in my searches through Otago University in Wellington Epidemiology info, I have come across much information that broadly supports the thesis in The Spirit Level, including entire research programs to measure inequality against a range of outcomes.

    I have also come across a critique of its statistical methods. Now it is important to realise that this is a non-peer-reviewed critique that was presented at a conference that also included one Richard Wilkinson as a guest speaker. It is also important to realise that you can’t actually debunk The Spirit Level unless you are going to debunk the academic papers it is a summation of.

    It is also worth pointing out that Professor Tony Blakely’s criticism is of the scale of the relationship between equality and social health – not the fact that there is one.

    However, Gosman’s inability to cite his sources led me to the conclusion that he was fabricating; clearly there is a chance that he wasn’t.

    Gosman, I apologise.

    • Kotahi I don’t think you should apologise.  Gosman has been trolling hard out for the past couple of days.  It is as if he is being paid for it.

      If as you think possible what he is saying is correct then his comments are at a level of sophistication that only a National Parliamentary staffer could manage.

      Perhaps he should respond to your comments directly.

      For me I have spent a day trying to understand and respond to his comments.  He is one of two things, either really bright or really stupid.  Bt either way he has been trolling. 

      • Kotahi Tane Huna 10.1.1

        Well, that’s as maybe, but I’m apologising for my behaviour, not his.

        Thanks all the same 🙂

    • McFlock 10.2


      It is also worth pointing out that Professor Tony Blakely’s criticism is of the scale of the relationship between equality and social health – not the fact that there is one.

      That’s the bit that have a real issue with Gos on – whether he really spoke to someone or just found the statistical critique online, most of his criticisms/questions have been a lot of effort to distract from the basic observed relationship.
      To paraphrase Einstein, if the essential thesis of the book were wrong then only one point would have been enough.

    • Gosman 10.3

      Excellent stuff there and I can confirm that the person I spoke to is a colleague of Tony Blakely.

      • Kotahi Tane Huna 10.3.1

        Let’s see what they are working on then shall we? Lots of material here, for example. Well I never, Socioeconomic deprivation indexes. and studies that report on NZ’s Gini coefficient, as though it had some statistical validity or something!

        “Income inequality reduced slightly in the 2000s following large increases in the Gini in the 1980s–1990s. But is perhaps now increasing again.
        Social welfare policies have been implemented that in part at least are pro-equity, including Working for Families and (soon) Whanau Ora.”


        • Gosman

          I have checked with the person who I spoke to about this and she is happy if I mention her by name. She is Dr Kristie Carter. You can check out her credentials here (http://www.otago.ac.nz/profiles/otago015770.html)

          • Frank Macskasy

            Ok, you’ve named her.


            But here’s the thing, Gosman; unless/until Dr Carter herself states her position on “The Spirit Level”, I have no reason to accept anything that you allege she said.

            You’ve already proved yourself a manipulator of facts; some who uses info out of context; misrepresents what other people have said; and on at least two occassions (that I’m aware of), told outright lies.

            In short, whilst you appear to be clever with your words and reasoning – you’re also someone that I find to be a gross distorter.

            It’s also worth noting that your problem with “The Spirit Level” is not so much about it’s actual content – but it’s conclusions. As someone who stated on my Blog that unemployment is ok – I think we know where you are coming from on this,

            “People lose their jobs all the time. It is part of life. There is no natural right to be employed in a productive job. People who think like that created the mess that was the former Soviet Union and the Communist states of Eastern Europe.”http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2011/11/27/post-mortem-2-phil-goff/

            Personally, I view your lack of human compassion disturbing, when you can dismiss mass unemployment as an economic necessity.

            • Gosman

              Feel free to contact her about this. If I am misrepresenting her position then she could complain to the authors of this blog and have me banned from here. You’d enjoy that as you obviously don’t like viewpoints from the right of the political spectrum expressed in any way.

            • Gosman

              By the way I take offence at you stating I have lied. Please provide evidence for what I regard as an outrageous allegation.

          • Frank Macskasy

            By the way, Gosman, it seems that Dr Carter is engaged in the following research,

            New Zealanders like to believe their country is a place of relative equality; however, recent reports have shown that New Zealand is among the top 10 “most unequal” countries in the developed world in terms of income differentials. What that means, in a more specific sense, is being investigated by a group of University of Otago, Wellington, public health researchers…

            …Co-principal investigator Dr Kristie Carter and colleagues have published a number of papers showing increasing inequalities in health and income over the last 25 years using the Census, Statistics New Zealand Life Tables and the longitudinal Survey of Families, Income and Employment (SoFIE), testing assumptions about the impact of inequalities on health and vice versa.

            They have examined trends in life expectancy by ethnicity, income and smoking status in New Zealand from 1981 to 2004, revealing that gaps in life expectancy between different ethnic and income groups grew dramatically between 1981 and 1996, before stabilising, but with inequalities remaining in terms of survival and life expectancy.

            Source: http://www.otago.ac.nz/profiles/otago015770.html

            Which further indicates to me that you may be exagerating Dr Carter’s “concerns” with “The Spirit Level” .

            • Gosman

              Ahhhh no I’m not. As she told me last night she would love it if the Spirit level was as persuassive as some on the left make out it is. The concepts behind it are similar to what she is working on. However it just isn’t.

              • KJT

                Doesn’t matter. When you put the Spirit level together with other published studies, over decades, and direct observation, it is totally persuasive.

                Right wingers don’t like evidence though. reality conflicts with their world view.

                • Gosman

                  Not really. Dr Carter has stated she would love to see studies showing a string causal link between income inequality and negative outcomes for society.

                  • McFlock

                    I love the way that whenever you are too domb to make a point yourself Dr Carter steps in. Maybe she should get a handle here herself, and cut out a boring and stupid intermediary.

                  • Gossie

                    My eyes are hurting from all of the comments that you are posting.

                    You seem to be saying that “the Spirit Level” is not genuine 100% proof that inequality causes significant societal problems and that therefore it is a load of crap and there is nothing in it.

                    I can accept proposition 1 but proposition 2 is hopeless spinning of doubt in one direction into conclusive proof the other way.

                    And you also seem to be saying that one or two theories have been disproved therefore it is a complete pile of doggy do.

                    See why more than a few people are getting just a teensy bit angsty at your comments?

                    • Gosman

                      No, I’m stating that to try and push The Spirit level as definitive evidence that inequality is a causal factor in societal ills, (as implied in a number of comments by leftists here), is ill advised. This subject is very much still up in the air.

                    • McFlock

                      No, TSL is a good primer that illustrates the issues and the relationship.
                      “The issue” is giving pretty strong indications that it will land over the “causation” line – the bulk of the speculation is simply “how far over”.
                      Or were you once again trying to conflate the book with the wider scientific debate before and since the book was published?

                    • But it is social science. There never ever, ever is conclusive proof. All that you can hope for is the observance of trends allows you to draw reasonably precise conclusions then you act on them.

                      Lefties do it all the time and the funny thing is that their response tends to work and improve things.

                      Your approach would prevent the state from ever doing anything because the proof is not conclusive.

                      British American Tobacco would love you.

                    • Macro

                      Thinking about it, Micky, I’m not an expert (my wife worked for years in the field though), but I’m beginning to wonder if I’m not being a little harsh, and not appreciating what we are seeing here. Certainly lack of empathy, and fixation on a topic are high on the list.

        • Gosman

          By the way she is a bit of a leftie herself and would love it if there was persuassive evidence for the whole income inequality hypothesis in the Spirit level.

          • KJT

            There is persuasive evidence. From studies in many different fields.
            Unfortunately, too many academic studies are behind pay-walled journals. Who make far too much money out of, mostly, publicly funded research.

            The Spirit level examines it from an epidemiology view, but you can also see the effects of inequality just by looking around.

            The problems with too much wealth in the hands of a few, which is totally lost to the economy as the gamble it away on non-productive speculation in existing assets or spend it on Hawaii holiday homes, to the ruined lives of whose unable to get out of poverty traps and the prevalence of third world maladies in one of the worlds wealthy countries.

            To claim that the Spirit level has no credibility is just self serving spin, by those who are trying to justify unearned wealth..

            One of the distinguishing characteristics of RWNJ’s is they are able to ignore things they can see happening all around them.

            • Gosman

              I’ve told you that the Epidemiologist who I spoke to has stated that it is not regarded as persuassive evidence by other Epidemiologists. All it highlights is that there is a co-relation between income inequality and some of the meassures they looked at not that there is a causal relationship.

              • KJT

                As I understand it you were trying to pretend that too much inequality is not a problem in NZ. By claiming there are faults in the Spirit Level. Not that faults in details actually disprove the basic premise.

                The Spirit Level is trying to explain the results of a lot of research, over years, in a publicly digestible book.

                They have actually done a good job of showing the relationships.

                From direct observation as well as many studies I have read, it is a problem, dragging NZ down, compared to more equal countries, which we need to address.

                Do you agree, or not?

                • Gosman

                  Whether inequality is a problem or not is open as far as I am concerned. What can’t be stated is that The Spirit level is the definitive end argument for the pro side. I’m sure you can point to other studies which come to a similar belief yet the Science is not settled. Certainly that is the impression I have got from speaking with Dr Carter.

                  • KJT

                    The science is pretty settled from the research papers I have read.

                    More than a hundred, though my interest was more on the effects on the decile one children I was Teaching.

                    There, you can assess the effects directly for yourself.

                    A link for you.


                    You may want to read about the effects of the breaking of the implied social contract by those with power, on those without.

              • McFlock

                Piss off, gos – now you’re asking for definitive proof of a causal relationship from descriptive statistics?
                Descriptive statistics provide evidence of an association – in this case, pretty clear evidence. They don’t provide causal evidence, but without evidence of a relationship there’s no need to look for causation. So tsl is only one piece of the puzzle.
                But this is irrelevant, because you started the thread by arguing that the stats didn’t demonstrate any relationship because they were cherry-picked. I bet your epidemiologist didn’t say that.

                • Gosman

                  It was Dr Carter that brought up the problem with corelated and causal effect. In her mind the Spirit level did not make the persuassive case that income inquality leads to worse outcomes for society as a whole, which is the implication of The Spirit level hypothesis.

                  • McFlock

                    No, it wouldn’t, because it’s descriptive. But like a lot of public health stats, it would be unethical to do a case-control experiment.
                    What the stats can do is demonstrate a corelation, which can then be coupled with smaller-scale medical studies and link in biological plausibility. But you can’t have causation without corelation, and that’s the key step that TSL provides.
                    Of course, you’d have to be a blinkered moron not to suspect some causal relationship, but the current debate seems to be the mechanism thereof (largely in “stress” vs “structural deprivation” camps). But without e.g. observed global warming being corellated with greenhouse gases, the entire debate about greenhouse gas emissions would be pointless.

              • Kotahi Tane Huna

                Her colleagues don’t seem to agree with her. I’d be very interested to hear her response to the document I linked to, where three of them seem to be taking the opposite position. perhaps her opinion is a bit of an outlier.

                “For those interested in closing gaps between New Zealand and other OECD countries, the answer is still likely to be the same—maximising reductions in inequities may be the best way to lift the average faster.”

                Now when I say her response, I mean her verbatim response. Preferably with her name over it.

                I’d also be interested to know if she agrees with the statement that this government has taken steps to cover up the problem:

                “Much of the health workforce is acutely aware of the need to address inequities, and likewise the backroom funders and planners, but ceasing routine reporting on trends by sociodemographics leads to invisibility of the issue, and eventual disappearance off policy and practice radars.”

                • Gosman

                  Her colleagues don’t disagree with her based on that paper. That paper you linked to doesn’t mention The Spirit level at all as far as I can see. That is what I am claiming Epidemiologists don’t regard very highly not that they aren’t interested in the effect of income inequality on various measures.

                  • Kotahi Tane Huna

                    And you are the one arguing over research that was published eight years ago. I’m not. My argument does not rest on the merits or otherwise of The Spirit Level, and never did: I have quoted from entirely different work. Perhaps you missed that minor point. lol

                    • Gosman

                      Well then you’ve been wasting your time arguing the point with me. My focus in this discussion was to highlight the issues with leftists banging on about The Spirit level as if it is the bible in terms of showing the negative impacts of inequality. I am well aware there are studies out there that show similar outcomes, (again though whether corelated or causal is not clear). I am also aware that there are other studies which don’t show a link. What this suggests to me is that the science is not settled and this view has been confirmed when I have discussed the matter with Dr Carter.

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      “…the science is not settled.” Perhaps you missed the part where it was pointed out to you that pretending that science is ever settled or not settled is deceitful.

                    • Gosman

                      I am well aware that when you are talking about Science then nothing is really settled. I am more meaning in terms of the political debate. For example I am quite happy to state that the Science is settled in terms of AGW in that something needs to be done about it if we wish to mitigate negative impacts of Climate change. That is not to say the Science on the subject isn’t progressing and evolving.

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      Quick! Look over there!

                      No, Gosman, we are not talking about politics we are talking about Epidemiology. There is a broad consensus, in every paper and discussion document I have found thus far, that inequality and social ills are linked, and further, that addressing inequality is the most efficient approach to the problem.

                      I would be delighted to read any peer-reviewed and published Epidemiology that says otherwise, and you are welcome to cite some. Otherwise there is nothing you can add that has any interest to me.

                  • McFlock

                    Much lolz.
                    Now your position isn’t that there is no connection between inequality and many social ills. It’s not even that such a connection isn’t well documented in the literature. It’s not even that the relationships documented in the Spirit Level aren’t real. Just that it’s a bit too pop-culturey to cover all the bases, not that it’s on the wrong track.
                    Nobody has said that TSL should be serialised in the annals of the Royal Society. All anybody has said is that it describes the current consensus pretty well in a way that non-academics can understand, and it has thorough citations if anyone wants to do more in depth reading.

                    • Gosman

                      No, I stated that the Spirit level certainly never provided persuassive evidence, (in the view of other Epidemiologists), that there was a causal relationship between income inequality and societal ills like the Authors claimed it did.

                    • McFlock

                      Actually, no – you said that the TSL authors had stated their case “very badly”. Now they are merely not “persuasive”.
                      “Very badly” would be treasury’s fanciful growth predictions which fly in the face of what they previously predicted vs what actually happened. “Not persuasive” is when the trend might be slightly weaker if you analysed the data in another way.

                    • Gosman

                      I stand by my comments in that I regard it as very badly presented.

                    • McFlock

                      Badly presented? Go tell it to Oprah’s Book Club.
                      The stats, broadly speaking, are fine.

              • I’ve told you that the Epidemiologist who I spoke to has stated that it is not regarded as persuassive evidence by other Epidemiologists.

                No, you did not say that.

                You stated,

                I’ve explained the reasons why the epidemiologists don’t regard the work behind the Spirit level as sound not just claimed they think it is so.

                – 7 February 2012 at 11:28 pm

                Epidemiologists, plural. Who are the other “epidemiologists“?

                Secondly, just because you told us that the Epidemiologist who I spoke to has stated that it is not regarded as persuassive evidence by other Epidemiologists is not the same as that person telling us her/his self.

                You have not given us any corroborating evidence; nor linked to any written material; nor even shared a direct quote with us.

                Considering you have mis-represented what people have written here , and elsewhere, in the past, why should we accept anything you tell us?

                • Gosman

                  I don’t misrepresnt anything Frank. I merely point out flaws in other people’s thinking and invite them to defend their logic. Much like I challenged you to explain why you brought the terms of trade into the discussion on selling farms overseas when one has no real connection with the other.

                  • There you go again, Gosman; misrepresentation.

                    The fact that you don’t accept evidence is not my problem.

                    The misrepresentation you’re using is this; I presented information; via links; to answer your questions; you chose not to read that information; you then shifted that responsibility from yourself to me.

                    Now you’re mis-representing that I failed to answer your questions?

                    And you wonder why people view anything you say with suspicion and distrust? And then mock you?

                    The fact is, Gosman, that if you manipulate facts and other peoples’ responses to suit your own ego, after a while you’ll be seen as a joke. Your arguments and facts are not intellectually honest (bright as you may be) and that is your own doing, not ours.

                    • Gosman

                      No, the problem is Frank I pointed out that you have a fundamental misunderstanding of basic economic concepts. You linked to articles describing what the Balance of Payments is not what the Balance of Trade is. The fact that you don’t seem to understand this is disturbing for someone who writes constantly about economic issues in his blog postings.

                  • Macro

                    “I merely point out flaws in other people’s thinking and invite them to defend their logic.”

                    You wouldn’t know a logical argument is you fell over it!
                    You’re only here to divert attention to yourself.

                    Your main methods are to misquote, and misconstrue, and indeed to even spin the argument 180 degrees – whatever will get the discussion away from the subject at hand.

                    All for the sake of protecting your ideological idiocy. Scumbag.

                  • McFlock

                    I don’t misrepresnt anything Frank.

                    Gooslander, you accused me of making stuff up simply for quoting the source that YOU linked to. That was pretty good misrepresentation right there.

                    • Gosman

                      No, I stated there was nothing in Epidemiolgy that you should exclude countries with < 3 million people. I was told by Dr Carter that you can have exclusion criteria based on a number of reasons so long as you explain them and are also consitent in their application So in terms of The Spirit level the US in itself should really be excluded from the comparison of all countries as it is so much larger than the rest. This is another reason why it isn't that well regarded apparently.

                    • McFlock

                      “So where did you get this magical 3 million figure from Mcflock? Did you just make it up?”
                      Oh, and they did explain what their filtering criteria were. And the consistency argument is one that you have no hope of understanding, because you don’t know a damned thing about stats.

                    • Gosman

                      I asked you a question. You answered it. The Spirit Level authors chose this 3 million figure. However, from what I can tell, the reason for doing so is not adequately explained and then not applied consistently.

                    • Gosman

                      I’d argue that other Epidemiologists do know a damn thing about stats and they have issues with the methodology and conclusions arrived at by the Spirit Level authors.

                    • McFlock

                      By asking it  – and using the word “magical” – you were accusing me of making stuff up.
                      Stuff that you should have read beforehand, because you linked ti it.
                      And I’d also argue that while epidemiologists do know a lot about stats, I have an issue with how accurately – both in method and intensity – their case can be presented by an innumerate and politically biased moron.

                  • I got bored reading Gosman’s circular “logic”… went of to watch “The Outer Limits” on dvd.

                    Those Zanti aliens were creepy little buggers…

                    The guy who did the soundtrack (Dominic Frontiere – sp?) also did the music for “The Invaders”.

                    Where were we…?

                    Oh yes. Gosman.

                    Sorry, you’ve added nothing of value to this debate. But that’s not to say that you don’t have a function here on “TS”; namely to keep the issue alive.

                    I noticed that you “forgot” to address my 2.22PM point above,

                    ” New Zealanders like to believe their country is a place of relative equality; however, recent reports have shown that New Zealand is among the top 10 “most unequal” countries in the developed world in terms of income differentials. What that means, in a more specific sense, is being investigated by a group of University of Otago, Wellington, public health researchers…

                    …Co-principal investigator Dr Kristie Carter and colleagues have published a number of papers showing increasing inequalities in health and income over the last 25 years using the Census, Statistics New Zealand Life Tables and the longitudinal Survey of Families, Income and Employment (SoFIE), testing assumptions about the impact of inequalities on health and vice versa.

                    They have examined trends in life expectancy by ethnicity, income and smoking status in New Zealand from 1981 to 2004, revealing that gaps in life expectancy between different ethnic and income groups grew dramatically between 1981 and 1996, before stabilising, but with inequalities remaining in terms of survival and life expectancy.”

                    Source: http://www.otago.ac.nz/profiles/otago015770.html

                    Which ties in well with this little piece, which makes the same linkages, using credible data, http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/richard-wilkinson-how-economic-inequality-harms-societies/

                    It seems, Gosman, that despite your mis-representations, deflections, and dissembling – you cannot ignore realities. People around the world are beginning to wake up to a very simple truisms about poverty, income levels, wealth gap, and critical social stresses.

                    And when billionaires like Warren Buffett start to voice serious criticisms about the current system – then there is something quite rotten with that system.

                    No wonder right wingers are starting to panic. Their fairy tales are starting to unravel.

                    By the way – even your own source, Dr Carter, has made reference to “showing increasing inequalities in health and income over the last 25 years “.

                    • Gosman

                      Yes it is correct that she is studying and looking for this connection. The operative word is looking and not just confirming what is already known. This is what I was advised by her. She would be over the moon if the Spirit level actually provided the evidence you think it does. The simple fact it doesn’t. Why do you think she didn’t just advise me that The Spirit level is a great work and backs up everything she is studying?

                    • Kotahi Tane Huna

                      lol Gosman’s hand picked source undermines his whole argument. No wonder he was so defensive about her identity. What a loser.

                    • McFlock

                      Yes- the “epidemiologists” who don’t think the Spirit Level demonstrates anything has been reduced to one (and that’s probably an exagerration of her position) who either believes that there probably is a causal connection between inequality and social ills, or who is purposefully milking the funding cow for all it’s worth by trying to find something she doesn’t believe exists.
                      As presented by gossy, of course – so take it all with a large mountain of salt.

                    • Macro

                      “Academics” have been arguing over minutiae since humankind learned how to argue. I strongly suspect that the arguments of Dr Carter to that of TSL are very much of that ilk.

  11. Colonial Viper 11

    The Righties are afraid of the Spirits haha

  12. Why do you think she didn’t just advise me that The Spirit level is a great work and backs up everything she is studying?

    Gosman, I don’t believe you.

    • Gosman 12.1

      Send her an e-mail then. I’m sure she would be happy to share her views.

      BTW you never did answer my question why your brought the terms of trade in to the discussion of the same of farm land overseas.

      • McFlock 12.1.1

        FFS gos – either point to actual sources that can be linked to, or get your epi tutor to comment here. Because your word isn’t worth spit, and it’s not nice to annoy people who have real jobs simply because a known bullshit artist is selectively paraphrasing their words.
        And now you’ve brought terms of trade into a debate about inequality – a true distraction troll.

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