Inequality Aspiration Envy

Written By: - Date published: 11:04 am, May 19th, 2010 - 71 comments
Categories: budget 2010, capitalism, class war, equality, john key, national, Social issues - Tags: , , ,

Inequality

Inequality is immensely damaging to society. Over a huge range of important social indicators, the more unequal a society is, the sicker it is. The case is best made by a book called “The Spirit Level”, and by the organisation behind it, The Equality Trust. Here’s the case in summary:

Why More Equality?
Our thirty years research shows that:

1) In rich countries, a smaller gap between rich and poor means a happier, healthier, and more successful population. Just look at the US, the UK, Portugal, and New Zealand in the top right of this graph, doing much worse than Japan, Sweden or Norway in the bottom left.

2) Meanwhile, more economic growth will NOT lead to a happier, healthier, or more successful population. In fact, there is no relation between income per head and social well-being in rich countries.

3) If the UK were more equal, we’d be better off as a population. For example, the evidence suggests that if we halved inequality here:

– Murder rates would halve
– Mental illness would reduce by two thirds
– Obesity would halve
– Imprisonment would reduce by 80%
– Teen births would reduce by 80%
– Levels of trust would increase by 85%

4) It’s not just poor people who do better. The evidence suggests people all the way up would benefit, although it’s true that the poorest would gain the most.

5) These findings hold true, whether you look across developed nations, or across the 50 states of the USA.

For more details see the evidence page: “Details of the data and statistical techniques we use are available on the Statistical Sources and Methods page and the international dataset can be downloaded here.”

Phil Twyford wrote on this research at Red Alert. I think it’s fair to say that an understanding of these facts is in our DNA here at The Standard. And the Greens just released an entire alternative budget based on an understanding of the damage caused by inequality.

It is shocking to me that New Zealand has such high levels of inequality and such high levels of social problems. The last Labour government had begun to turn it around at last (according to the Ministry for Social Development and the OECD). In their budget tomorrow National are set to go back to the old ways, and deliberately widen the gap.

Aspiration

Tory governments have only one tiny fig leaf to hide behind when nakedly redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich. That fig leaf is the “aspiration” argument:

‘Finance Minister Bill English today confirmed Budget 2010 will be delivered on May 20 and will set out important policies to lift economic growth and give hard-working New Zealanders incentives to get ahead’

Making the rich richer is supposed to give the rest of us, the huge majority, “incentives”. It will make us aspire to work harder and get ahead. I’ve written on this before. This argument supposes that all we hard-working New Zealanders don’t currently have enough incentive to get ahead. We just work hard every day for the hell of it I guess. But suddenly some how the knowledge that those on huge incomes will pay a few percent less in taxes will suddenly fire up the ‘get ahead’ spirit that we had previously been lacking, and we will all go out and work even harder, or suddenly have brilliant ideas, found companies, and all become millionaire CEOs in a nation where no one cleans the toilets. Hurrah!

This argument is absurd. It’s bollocks. We have aspiration already. We have incentives already. We’re hard-working already. Capitalism depends on a supply of cheap labour and most people will never be rich. Knocking a few percent off the taxes for the rich won’t change any of these facts. What it will do is give more money to those who don’t need it by taking it from the poor. There’s no honest way to justify such robbery, so it’s hidden behind the flimsiest nonsense about “aspiration”. How do they get away with it?

Envy

But National’s story gets even more incoherent. As the country wakes up to the nature of this budget for the rich, the Nats are getting nervous. Key is telling us not to be jealous, to avoid the sin of envy:

We can be envious about these things but without those people in our economy all the rest of us will either have less people paying tax or fundamentally less services that they provide

So, how are envy and aspiration different in end effect? Both are based on wanting what we don’t have. On the one hand we are being told that we’re giving more to the rich to give us all incentives to get ahead, and on the other hand we’re being told that we shouldn’t want their wealth. Aspiration Good Envy Bad. So are we supposed to want what we don’t have or not? National – which is it?

Conclusion

National’s profoundly confused messages and “aspirational” arguments for rich tax cuts make no sense at any level. We’re already motivated to work hard, we already want to get ahead, tax cuts don’t change that. If making the rich richer was good for society then all the inequality indicators at the start of this post would point the other way. But they don’t. Increasing the gap between rich and poor is bad for society, not good.

The aspirational figleaf is in tatters and the naked redistribution of wealth is revealed. The Nats are about what they have always been about, making the rich richer at the expense of the poor.

71 comments on “Inequality Aspiration Envy ”

  1. Get rich or die tryin…if you can’t beat ’em, you have no choice but to try to join ’em by whatever means neccessary. The wages of sin is rewarded by gov’t.

    It’s the unavoidable bright future we should aspire to and work towards if we wish to survive and prosper in the world.

    How do they get away with it?

    Natural selection. Nature selects for the greedy and the selfish. Survival of the fittest means survival of the richest. It’s evolution and you cant fuck with that. The inequality gap is the evolutionary gap between homo superior and homo saps.

    The message is, if you dont want to be a greedy selfish fatcat then you dont deserve to live (here) and we (the gov’t) will punish you for it…being poor in a land of opportunity is a crime.

    • Bored 1.1

      You have them by the balls Pwog, bit of social Darwinism in every “rich prick”…The end result for the likes of Hotchin are interesting…he is too scared to leave a bland high end tropical security gated prison of his own chosing, and he pays a lot of cash for that. Darwin Award there for stupidest holiday possible (though at the expense of others, perhaps some more Darwins for those aspirational investors who gave him the cash). Thorstein Veblen would have loved this, as would have Robespierre in a different way.

  2. ianmac 2

    The very rich work very hard to earn heaps of money because they have a burning desire to aid society with payment in taxes and by donating soup kitchens for the destitute. They, like John Key are rilly rilly good people. It is simply not true that many hide their income in trusts and tax right-offs to avoid paying income tax. Tis just envy to suggest this! Shame on you.

    • DeepRed 2.1

      Somehow that works out a lot better in a darkened auditorium with a giant projector screen showing a smile & wave.

  3. I accept the premise that societies where the wealth is spread more unevenly perform worse and am interested in why this should be the case.

    I have thought for a long time that most kiwis material wealth is fine and we actually do not need more. Too much rather than not enough food is a problem. Aspiration seems to relate to a bigger car or a second flat screen.

    The reason that an unfair society does not work I think is primarily for three reasons:

    1. Work life balance is shot to pieces. Average workers have to work for too long to provide for themselves and their families.
    2. There is a resentment at the totally selfish behaviour shown by the wealthiest. Hotchin’s recent antics are an example of this.
    3. A society dominated by the idea that the market should judge is less compassionate and more brutal than a society where the desire to make sure that everyone is looked after forms part of the decision making process.

    If you wanted to boil it down to a simple proposition perhaps more balanced societies perform better because they are more compassionate.

    • Olwyn 3.1

      I suspect that unequal societies also render those with the means more risk averse, since there are fewer floors between the penthouse and the basement if you fall. Hence there is an impulse to hang onto and accumulate easily gained wealth (land and ex-public assets) rather than do anything productive or creative. If this is true, then inequality is bad for the economy, along with everything else. But it’s good for a small number of people who would cheerfully let the world go to hell in a handcart if they can just get their 15 minutes of feeling superior to others.

  4. Bored 4

    I get accused of envy every time I mention some form of equality ..bit sick really considering my personal circumstances are somewhat better than most. I don’t aspire to more; I have got plenty more than I really need. Having said that we do need to get to grips with envy and aspiration.

    I tried putting it through 180 degrees, and the result is interesting. The rich may well be the really envious ones; I suspect this motivates them to chase one another (keep up with the Jones) and stokes their psychotic need to be “better’ than the rest of us. This they argue results in “progress’ for all, it is their self serving actions that give us all benefit. The co-operational model has not occurred to them as probably more motivational and effective.

    The aspiration bit was interesting too when inverted, the right want us to aspire only for ourselves. It’s personal they say. The news is however (as the case studies you use demonstrate) is that aspiration for the group easily trumps the individual, even down to individual benefit. The left need to promote our own version of “aspiration’.

    • Pascal's bookie 4.1

      “The rich may well be the really envious ones;”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucky_duckies

      Who are these lucky duckies? They are the beneficiaries of tax policies that have expanded the personal exemption and standard deduction and targeted certain voter groups by introducing a welter of tax credits for things like child care and education. When these escape hatches are figured against income, the result is either a zero liability or a liability that represents a tiny percentage of income…
      …Say a person earns $12,000. After subtracting the personal exemption, the standard deduction and assuming no tax credits, then applying the 10% rate of the lowest bracket, the person ends up paying a little less than 4% of income in taxes. It ain’t peanuts, but not enough to get his or her blood boiling with tax rage

      A Wall St Journal editorial

      I will spend a year as a Wall Street Journal editor, while one lucky editor will spend a year in my underpaid shoes. I will receive an editor’s salary, and suffer the outrage of paying federal income tax on that salary. The fortunate editor, on the other hand, will enjoy a relatively small federal income tax burden, as well as these other perks of near poverty: the gustatory delights of a diet rich in black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, chickpeas and, for a little variety, lentils; the thrill of scrambling to pay the rent or make the mortgage; the salutary effects of having no paid sick days; the slow satisfaction of saving up for months for a trip to the dentist; and the civic pride of knowing that, even as a lucky ducky, you still pay a third or more of your gross income in income taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes and property taxes

      A response from a reader

    • Lew 4.2

      Bored, as Cactus Kate would say, stop ruining it for others. You got yours. Why should you care about those who are too useless to get theirs?

      Bloody pinkos. Etc.

      L

      • Bored 4.2.1

        Thanks Lew, its hard being a pinko. Must be my Judeao Christian ethical heritage…’there but by the grace of God go I”…and I am not even religious.

    • DeepRed 4.3

      “The left need to promote our own version of “aspiration’.

      We already have a term for it – it’s called the “ladder of opportunity”. We need to pick it up and run with it, not pull it up so others can’t climb it. (pun fully intended)

  5. Croc 5

    Please don’t use the phrase ‘survival of the fittest” in this context. It’s misleading.

    “The phrase “survival of the fittest” is not generally used by modern biologists as it does not convey the complex nature of natural selection, so they prefer and almost exclusively use the latter term (natural selection). Survival is only one component of selection. For example, where a number of males survive to reproductive age, yet only a few ever mate, the difference in reproductive success would stem from factors other than the ability to survive, such as an ability to successfully attract mates. In an evolutionary reproductive sense, fitness is the average reproductive output of a class of genetic variants in a gene pool, and should not be confused with meaning physically fit – biggest, fastest or strongest – and which does not necessarily lead to reproductive success”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survival_of_the_fittest

    • pollywog 5.1

      jeez Croc…you’re a bit of a dry balls stickler for correct terms of reference aren’t ya ? I’m sure you get the gist of what i meant but whatevs, if it makes you feel better, i wont try and mislead you anymore…sweet ?

      • Croc 5.1.1

        Perhaps, but “survival of the fittest” has long been a term used by Adam Smith’s to justify aggressive economic policies that destroy the lives of the poor in the name of ‘economic progress’. It makes me cringe to see it used in this context, even as satire. As you were.

  6. Pete 6

    “The left need to promote our own version of “aspiration’.”

    Agreed. Though this should rightly be framed up around equality – and the benefits that a more equal society has on all levels of said society (though NEVER use the word ‘benefit’ – red rag to a bull).

    IMO the Greens have the best idea of this (Meteria framed her panel discussion on the Budget like this on Q+A in the weekend just gone, for example) – but they need to work on appealing more to an ADD public with shorter and shorter attention spans. That, and work on their image which is still considered (by far too many) as ‘hippies’, ‘commies’, ‘druggies’ and ‘the smacking police’ (though more often than not this aspect is attributed to Labour – go figure).

    R0B – thanks for the post – While I was reading it I was trying to think of evidence-based examples of neo-liberalism (especially some kind of similar long-term studies) that have proved, without any doubt, that the way of Douglas, Key et al WILL actually serve the NZ population in the way they seem to strongly believe it will. I’d really like to see that, so we can really do a weighing and balancing of facts vs facts… Anyway, made my day.

  7. ianmac 7

    I was talking to my sister the other day and trying to explain why I did not aspire to wealth in that I thought that wealth would corrupt my life in various ways. Standing behind me was a relative who has become many millions wealthy (software) and I could hear him muttering to himself. “Thats for real. Me too.” I did not let on that I heard him. I do believe that he is rather lonely as there is little reason for him to work and his kids go to an expensive private school and they want for nothing.
    Envy? How about pity?

  8. Rimu 8

    The Greens have been banging this drum for a while http://blog.greens.org.nz/tag/inequality/

  9. Fisiani 9

    This Budget is about giving people back some of their own money that they have been deliberately overtaxed by Labour for 9 long years/. Those that have been fleeced the most are owed the most. This is not about taking money from the poor. It is simple about righting wrongs. Get some lessons in logic.

    • Rimu 9.1

      Oh well, if we’re going to stoop to insults…

      Get some lessons in grammer and reading comprehension.

    • Mac1 9.2

      Fisiani, yes, it’s about righting wrongs and making sure that those who are ‘fleeced’ are repaid.

      The question is who in our society is being fleeced and what is being done by this government to rectify this? For example, Hanover clients, owners of leaky homes, underpaid workers, Southland coal miners, guest workers in the wine industry, buyers of petrol from oil cartels, the exploited, the poorly housed, those who are sick from industrial waste and pollution, communities bearing the burden of defunct tanalising mills waste ground.

      Fisiani, the list is very long and many could add to it. Somehow I believe that you will not convince me that your list of ‘deserving’ is more important, let alone’ deserving’, no matter what John Key might say.

      Then there are those who have been promised what has not eventuated. There are those who have been promised what would not happen but which is going to. The Budget will add to these lists tomorrow.

      The Great Shearer from Dipton will bring a chilly winter for many who will have been fleeced.

    • nzfp 9.3

      “Toi tu te whenua” Fisiani, the land was here before we arrived and it will be here after we leave, I agree with you, move the tax burden off labour onto what is provided freely by nature – land! Tax the land owners and banks that capitialize rent with a revenue neutral tax swap and capture the tax on resource rent. Land tax cannot be passed to renters.

  10. Anita 10

    r0b,

    I was interested to see that Australia shows more income inequality yet scored better on social problems that NZ, in fact it’s quite a long way off the trend line. Did you happen to have (or have read) a hypothesis for the cause of that?

    • r0b 10.1

      Hi Anita. No, I haven’t read anything about Oz specifically. Given the imprecision in data reporting collection and interpretation, I expect that every point on that graph is pretty fuzzy, and the location of Australia is well within the margin of error.

  11. This whole concept of tax envy is reversed. It is the wealthy that are jealous of the poor, at the low average tax rate that they pay. I can see many of them slaving away over their Excel spreadsheets now, trying to work out how much more they will get from Triple Dipton.

    Triple Dipton is apt on another level, considering that taxpayers on $70k + are envisaged to reap the benefits of three seperate changes in threshold/marginal rates. The only way regular folk can be like the Finance Minister is to play Lotto – Triple Dip (Lotto, Strike, and Powerball).

  12. Do note the rather trenchant critique of The Spirit Level raised by Chris Snowdon. Spirit Level does a lot of cherry-picking of countries and years to make its graphs look the way it wants them to. Adjusting things slightly makes the effects disappear. See here.

    And, Andrew Leigh, hardly anybody’s vision of a hard core right wing economist, also debunks the inequality-health links here. Effects seen in the cross-section disappear in the within-country time series.

    • Bright Red 12.1

      yeah Eric. The US is the model of a successful society, whereas Sweden, Denmark, Finland etc are hell-holes with high crime and millions of homeless where a privileged few live in opulence.

      Wait, I think I got that the wrong way round…

    • NickS 12.2

      Oh yay, although the author really should make something like Kare Fog’s Lomborg Errors site, because having a handy online resource is much easier than buying a book.

      Anyhow, there is one meta-analysis paper I looked at in the links on Leigh’s blog on this, that notes links between inequality and public health, via self-reported health stats :
      http://www.bmj.com/cgi/reprint/339/nov10_2/b4471

      There’s also a recent paper citing the above looking at TB in Latin America and how it is influenced by inequality and GDP growth.

      Rather interesting stuff, nowhere near as fun as ecology and evolutionary biology though 😛

    • r0b 12.3

      Is this the same Chris Snowdon who has written a book on smoking, claiming that the anti-smoking movement is (according to reviewers) “Puritanism disguised as science”? You’ll beg my pardon if I have a certain instinctive distrust.

      The Spirit Level authors couldn’t have reviewed every country, they reviewed countries for which they had the data – it’s all listed on their methods page. Anything short of every country in the world would have led to claims of “cherry picking” by those who wanted to deny the message. And the fact that the same trend holds (more weakly) over 50 states in America? That can’t be cherry picking too.

      There is plenty of academic and international research on the links between inequality and various health and social indicators. Browse away. Or start with something NZ based.

  13. @Bright: Note that I didn’t, of course, make that claim. Just that the nice straight upwards line goes away under a more comprehensive selection of country-years.
    @Nick: Will have to read those; thanks. I’d also really want those kinds of studies to be correcting for other kinds of heterogeneity. Suppose, for example, that the US has a big increase in inequality due to a lot of poor folks migrating in from Mexico. They have worse health outcomes than other folks in the states, but it’s the difference in cohort makeup that’s generated the overall health effects, not the change in inequality.
    @R0b: Same Snowdon, yes. I happen to agree with him on anti-smoking (I don’t smoke). Just wait ’till my OIA on MoH’s latest burp on fiscal costs of smoking comes through…. Snowdon claims that Spirit Level didn’t just pick country-years based on data availability; rather, data points that appear in some of their work disappear in other parts of their work, and that patterns of missing points happen to coincide very suspiciously with those points that would blow up their nice straight lines. He could be wrong: I’ve not fact checked him. But it’s enough for me not to take Spirit Level at face value.

    • r0b 13.1

      See my comment 12.3 above. I reviewed The Spirit Level work because it is one tidy package well presented, but the link between inequality and damaging indicators is widely supported by any number of studies.

      • Eric Crampton 13.1.1

        I totally buy that poor folks have worse health outcomes than richer folks. But, I don’t know how much of that is due to relative deprivation as compared to underlying factors that cause both low individual income and adverse health outcomes. See Linda Gottfredson’s work for starters.

        • r0b 13.1.1.1

          And what are these “underlying factors that cause both low individual income and adverse health outcomes” Eric? Do tell.

          • Anita 13.1.1.1.1

            Plenty of chronic health conditions will cause both lower income and a wider range of poor health outcomes. I’m not sure this is what Eric was suggesting tho, but there is definitely causal links in both directions between poor health and poverty, not to mention other factors which can result in both.

            • r0b 13.1.1.1.1.1

              Of course there are some specific effects like this. Large enough to explain the large scale differences that we see in the research linked to above? No. What Eric really meant was IQ, and I’m glad that he just came right out and said it in 14.

              • Oops, I hit the wrong reply button and wound up at 14 rather than 13.1111111111111; apologies.

                I don’t see any reason not to point to individual differences in underlying characteristics like intelligence, conscientiousness, or risk-preference as potentially giving rise to differences in social outcomes. Gottfredson’s work is on IQ, but it’s just as plausible to me that other personality characteristics also come in rather importantly.

                [I have replied to your 14 below –r0b]

              • Anita

                Is someone arguing that stupid people are less healthy simply because they’re stupid? Really?

    • NickS 13.2

      . Suppose, for example, that the US has a big increase in inequality due to a lot of poor folks migrating in from Mexico. They have worse health outcomes than other folks in the states, but it’s the difference in cohort makeup that’s generated the overall health effects, not the change in inequality.

      Except of course you need to know the leverage these immigrants exert on health statistics, which given the current levels of health care for poor and the the mid to lower middle class, the rather obvious hull hypothesis is that they don’t at the federal level, where the size of the US population crowds out the impacts of immigrants. However there might be some state or county level impacts, but of course data is needed.

      And given Snowden’s statements in that review on second-hand smoking, methinks perhaps his claims need to be taken with a strong pinch of salt.

  14. Gottfredson points to IQ differences, but you could also look to differences in individual propensity for risk-taking or conscientiousness. I’ll guess that your reply will be that IQ doesn’t exist. I’ll then reply by arguing that whatever IQ tests measure seems to correlate strongly with other things that seem to measure intelligence and that it also correlates well with income and other social outcomes. You’ll then say that tests are socially constructed and biased; I’ll point to Raven’s progressive matrices as being the most culturally neutral thing possible (as they’re complete geometric abstractions). You might then argue that IQ test results are the result of deprived environments; I’d argue that that makes the stronger case for fixing schools in low-decile areas than it does for broad-based redistribution while further pointing to the rather strong evidence that environmental effects dissipate over time in favour of underlying genetic factors. Your best reply then would be the Dickens-Flynn evidence for gene-environment interaction rather than a straight genetic effect; I’d then reply that the best policy would then remain better schools, not redistribution and that heavy redistribution could have perverse outcomes within the Dickens-Flynn model by reducing the returns to investment in cognitively enriched environments.

    I hope that’s saved a bit of time. Do read the Dickens-Flynn work though as it’s rather good.

    And, of course, Anita is right about the potential for reverse causation where health leads to income rather than the other way round.

    • r0b 14.1

      Well good for you, not afraid to come right out and say it: “Gottfredson points to IQ differences”.

      I’ll guess that your reply will be that IQ doesn’t exist.

      Why ever would I say such an odd thing as that? Of course IQ exists, and IQ differences exist.

      The easy caricature of your position is that you’re saying that the poor are dumb so it’s their fault that they’re poor (and also unhealthy etc etc). But let’s go beyond the caricature.

      Yes, you’ve saved us plenty of time. You understand the arguments about genetics. IQ, nature or nurture? Of course it’s a mix of both (quite a complicated interaction according to recent research, Dickens-Flynn, Poulton and the Otago longitudinal study among others). But nurture is massive, staring with maternal nutrition and lifestyle. In short, IQ isn’t a separate underlying “explanation” for inequality effects, it’s part of the same story, part of the evidence, part of the same self-perpetuating cycle. Inequality is (part of) the cause of low IQ as much as it is a cause any of the other poor social indicators above.

      How can you understand the nature / nurture arguments so well, and the implications of them so poorly? You can’t fix this by improving schools in poor areas, that’s a ludicrously impoverished view. School is only a very small part of the environment, of “nurture”. Once again, it starts with maternal lifestyle. It grows with pre-school environment. By the time they get to school, it is already far too late.

      Address inequality, address the environment much more generally, and IQ will rise, social mobility will rise, poor social indicators will fall.

      • Bored 14.1.1

        Does that mean rOb that as we get more equal our IQs will collectively increase, we can leave DENSA and make MENSA less exclusive?

      • Eric Crampton 14.1.2

        Gottfredson argues that greater cognitive capacity makes it more likely that folks follow doctor’s instructions and, in particular, complete courses of prescribed medication to the end rather than just stopping when they’re feeling better. This doesn’t seem implausible to me.

        Apologies for the caricature. I’d assumed that your “do tell” suggested scorn for the idea of IQ differences.

        I’d argue far less about “fault” and more about whether a particular intervention is likely to lead to desired effects if the proposed causal mechanism is wrong. If things were as simple as “rich folks can afford good food, insulation, heating, and doctors”, then income redistribution would be a more plausible fix to health disparities (leaving aside deadweight costs and longer term effects on growth). But if underlying variables are at play, then the policy won’t be as likely to have the desired effect.

        My best read of the IQ lit is that heritability is very high – best estimate around 0.6. I totally grant your point on maternal pre-natal environment. But, heritability estimates typically come from environments where within-womb effects are fixed: they compare IQ differences between identical and fraternal twins to tease out these effects. I’d also worry that the potential for maternal nutrition to improve low-decile outcomes with sufficient redistribution are overstated. Blackwell’s Pregnancy and Breastfeeding supplement, for example, with a nice mix of folic acid, iron, omega acids and so on, is cheap enough that it’s implausible that just low income explains folks not buying it; I’d also be surprised if such supplements weren’t available by midwife prescription if particular deficiencies were identified. And, a decent healthy diet just isn’t that expensive if you’re careful about things. We often cook dinners that cost on par with or less than takeaways.

        • r0b 14.1.2.1

          Not quite sure what you’re arguing at this point Eric. My argument is that if we address inequality then IQ will rise, social mobility will rise and poor social indicators will fall.

          Been a pleasure chatting but I’m off now for a bit.

        • Puddleglum 14.1.2.2

          Where to begin?

          Heritability, for a start, is not a measure of the ‘amount’ of intelligence or any other characteristic that comes from ‘the genes’. Heritability is an estimate of the amount of the variance in measures of a characteristic (e.g., I.Q. scores) that can be attributed to genotypes as opposed to epigenetic processes. So, take five people who have IQ scores of 100, 101, 102, 103, 104 and 105. They each have one child. Those children, respectively, have IQ scores of 71, 72, 73, 74 and 75 (or, if you like, 131, 132, 133, 134 and 135). If we assume that all the children experience identical environments then the heritability estimate for IQ will be 1.0 (i.e., 100%). Hang on, though – if IQ has a heritability estimate of 1.0 then why do all the children have IQ scores 30 points lower (or higher) than their parents?

          The ‘answer’ of course, is that heritability estimates have absolutely nothing to say about the causes of IQ scores. Odd, isn’t it? But, there you go – a basic intro to that particular statistic. (Clue: Heritability says something about causes of variation in IQ scores within a particular population, all other things being equal). Having a lower IQ than others could only be said to be primarily genetically determined if one adopted what appears for some to be a particularly seductive assumption: the ‘benign society assumption’. This is the assumption that in our modern, western. liberal democracies we have something approaching a utopian meritocracy in which the main determinant of each person’s life success lies within them. It’s part of ‘our’ myth. It’s a blatantly ideological and political myth but, strangely, it is routinely made by people who seem to think they are being remarkably non-political.

          On your other comments re: inequality. Snowdon’s criticisms are not ‘trenchant’ they are ‘carping’. Simply apply Snowdon’s own criticisms to his ‘selections’ and you’ll get a curiously surreal effect. Why didn’t he want to add Zimbabwe to the Spirit Level graphs, I wonder? Or how about any number of radically unequal third World countries with massively enriched but tiny elites? (Haiti anyone?) Would it simply be that he thinks he can ‘explain’ those cases of poor health outcomes in terms other than ‘inequality’? (e.g., ‘corruption’, ‘poor governance’, etc.) and so he wouldn’t want those cases to ‘obscure’ the effect he wishes to highlight (that ‘inequality’ has no effect on general well-being and may even enhance it)?

          And, as for changes over time within a country (i.e., the Leigh work you highlight), it lacks awareness of that most obvious of effects (and one that I would have thought a non-ideologically driven economist would have instantly recognised): the ‘ceiling’ effect. It’s the classic case of ‘diminishing returns’, since life expectancy increases are almost totally down to lowering of infant mortality, the ‘low hanging fruit’ of improvements in ‘health status’ (between 1850 and 2004 life expectancy for a white seventy year old in the US has increased by a magnificent 2-4 years). That is, the lifespan of humans has barely budged despite all the public health and medical technologies thrown at it.

          The Netherlands (low on LE increases but high on equality improvements on Leigh’s graphs), for example, starts the period with a high overall Life Expectancy. Interestingly, it still managed to improve life expectancy and become less unequal during a period of massive immigration from communities having much lower Life Expectancies. Further, from 1983/4 until 2000 there was actually an increase in mortality amongst the ‘oldest old’ in The Netherlands. Nusselder and Mackenbach (International Journal of Epidemiology 2000;29:140-148) suggested that this might have partly been due to a cohort effect where patterns of smoking at an early age could explain the increases in death by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (interesting in the light of Snowdon’s and your aversion to anti-smoking ‘zealots’) and – in addition and particularly relevant to the point I’m making – less mortality (and, therefore, ‘selection’) at earlier ages may have resulted in a frailer population of the ‘oldest olds’ as the century came to a close. That is, the Netherlands hit a ceiling and its sterling efforts at younger ages started backfiring at older ages.

          Why is it Eric, that you seem on these and related issues to always push for some pro-free market, libertarian explanation when so many others are begging to be heard?

    • Anita 14.2

      I’ll actually argue for compounding not just reverse causation. Someone has poor health, so they earn less, so their health gets poorer, so they earn less, and so on.

      One of my many bugbears at the moment is that if I wasn’t so middle class (and therefore entitled, articulate, high earning and well connected) I’d be either dead or stuck in invalid’s benefit hell. It’s not my IQ that has kept me safe, it’s my sense that someone should be fixing this (and will dammit!), that I can (and do) argue my case with health providers and bureaucrats when needed, that I pay for insurance which allows me to buy my way around roadblocks, and have a wide network of the similarly middle class who know who to go, how to ask, and go into bat for me when necessary.

      When I say “If I was born poor I’d be dead” I mean it – and that’s in our egalitarian society.

      • r0b 14.2.1

        It is inspirational to hear stories like this – and there are many of them – I know others who could tell the same story word for word…

        • Anita 14.2.1.1

          “inspirational” or “depressing”? I often wonder whether it would be possible to find the other people out with health like mine and apply my middle-class-ness to their lives.

          • pollywog 14.2.1.1.1

            Yeah…that’s the other thing about how wealth skews natural selection. Maybe some ‘rich pricks’, like genetically shallow blue blood aristocrats, weren’t meant to survive, but by the millions donated by private donors towards research, it is possible to cheat nature/evolution and prolong life, to continue breeding weak rich offspring.

            I suppose the natural justice thing is, ‘rich pricks’ tend to only breed with ‘rich prickettes’ so in the long run, barring discovering the secret of immortality, they’ll die out soon enough and their wealth will be redistributed.

            And at the other end of the scale, poor people who breed like rabbits, create genetically stronger offspring, as any weakness dies of in infancy and being more adaptable and resourceful to survive, means they can go on to become rich…as long as they play the “aspirational” game.

      • Eric Crampton 14.2.2

        There’s one area in which I’ll agree with you completely: midwifery. Connected smart middle class folks know that there’s massive heterogeneity in qualifications among carers, ranging from a few months’ training as a midwife to folks with Bachelors’ of Nursing with a midwife specialization. And so those of us who are least likely to have complications know to move very very fast to secure the services of the highly qualified midwives. The last to move will be the ones most likely to need the more qualified carers and who’ll find that they’re left with the folks who are left. Who I’m sure are nice people, but aren’t going to be as capable as the folks grabbed first. Of course, the reason for the current state is a prior government’s decision to provide fixed compensation to lead maternity carers regardless of qualification.

        If what we care about is that poor people get access to decent health care services, doesn’t it make more sense to give money to poor people coupled with mandates to purchase health insurance rather than have a public health system? In the latter, rationing will typically lead to the well-connected folks getting what they need at the expense of the marginalized; in the former, insurers compete to provide services for poor folks who are able to afford insurance because of the income transfer. Take everything currently spent on government health care, turn it into lump-sum transfers for poor people coupled with mandates that they purchase at least catastrophic health insurance coverage.

        • Bright Red 14.2.2.1

          “it make more sense to give money to poor people coupled with mandates to purchase health insurance rather than have a public health system? ”

          No. It doens’t work and you know it doesn’t. You’re assuming informed, time-rich customers who can choose the best option for their needs. What we need is a system that allocates resources to need efficiently and relieves people of being expected to choose between providers when they’re in urgent need.

          Your system sounds horribly complicated and in it all the providers would be profit-making, raising costs.

          ” In the latter, rationing will typically lead to the well-connected folks getting what they need at the expense of the marginalized”

          that assumes corruption. do you ahve any evidence it occurs in NZ? What really corrupts is the profit-motive.

          “in the former, insurers compete to provide services for poor folks who are able to afford insurance because of the income transfer”

          That’s so damn naive. The insurers’ aren’t in the business of paying out, they’re in the business of collecting premiums. They spend huge amounts denying people cover.

          “turn it into lump-sum transfers for poor people coupled with mandates that they purchase at least catastrophic health insurance coverage.”

          The last thing we want is the poor only to have health care in the event of catastrophic health problems. We need more preventative care. It saves health dollars and it’s better for the economy. You want a healthy workforce – that’s the whole reason that smart capitalists agreed to the public health system in the first place. Your model would also be politically unsustainable – health transfers would become treated like benefits are with constant pressure for cuts.

    • NickS 14.3

      /sigh

      The problem with IQ is that it can be influenced by cultural factors, but also it’s a rather poor predictor of economic success on its own if memory serves me right, per the holes ripped in to The Bell Curve over the years. And while improving schooling definitely helps, as other research has shown, the home environment also matters, the toys and parental and peer interactions help shape the development of people, and in an environment poor in these, controlling for other factors, there are negative correlations with IQ.

      And since income inequality can be used to predict home environment, it’s easy to draw causal relationships between it and IQ, as the idea would be that increased income allows for greater parental investment into offspring. Of course, it would help if someone handed over the /cluebat and let me loose on various “child-care” guru’s on the tv and other places. Because there’s an astounding amount of evidence-free bullsh*t out there. So, to put it more nicely, much better public education and a better attitude towards the fact it takes a society to raise a child, and that parents don’t always know best would help.

      As for sources, eh, brain fried from sleep deprivation, but it’s various bits from New Scientist, science blogs (not pseudo-science like Watts Up with That?) and observing human stupidity over the years.

      • Draco T Bastard 14.3.1

        and that parents don’t always know best would help.

        I’d almost be tempted to say that most parents, quite simply, don’t know how to be parents. As we’ve shifted more from a communal/extended family system to individualism this has actually gotten worse.

  15. Bill 15

    27 comments on inequality and the ‘s’ word hasn’t been used once.

    I find that kind of strange…even disturbing… given that socialism comes in many guises and encapsulates left visions of aspiration rather well.

    Anyway. Beyond that, you want to be done with the inequities of Capitalism? You might have to stop being so polite and step right on up and use that there dreaded ‘R’ word.

    Or maybe you just want to whine a little and propose a fiddling and a fuddling and a tinkering with the edges to blunt that there impact a bit…essentially propose the old turning Japanese trick to make things fine?

    • r0b 15.1

      You say you want a Revolution?

      • Bill 15.1.1

        Are you saying that reforms leading to NZ occupying the space on that graph where Japan is cuts the mustard?

        I’m saying that if you want an end to inequality then you cannot propose that we simply continue operating within a reforming capitalist framework because it has the promotion of inequality built in.

        • r0b 15.1.1.1

          Are you saying that reforms leading to NZ occupying the space on that graph where Japan is cuts the mustard?

          It would do for a start! Thing is, I think the only reliable way to actually get from here to there is incrementally. I know you disagree, and go for it, but I’m not up for a big debate on that right now (I’ve already spent too much of the day here – got to go for now).

          • Bill 15.1.1.1.1

            Your assumption on my thoughts is plain wrong.

            Maybe you are viewing revolution as an event rather than as a process?

            All processes are incremental although there may well be rather sudden shifts along the way.

            The potential point of difference between us would seem to be where we respectively wish to see things end up. I have no end point as such and no wish to preserve current institutions and systems as they place definite limits on what is perceived as achievable. They also tend to recreate conditions (such as inequality) that I would rather move away from or beyond.

            You want to take NZ to the Japanese location on the graph through reform? I’ll support you all the way. But I don’t want that to be seen as a destination. I want an ‘and’…I want the preparations for the next step to be under way even as we take the step to Japanese levels of inequality or whatever. And as the new aspirations are articulated and acted on, then again I want an ‘and’….

      • pollywog 15.1.2

        Prince and the Revolution ?

        reproduction of a new breed of leaders…stand up, organise !!!

  16. all_your_base 16

    I was skeptical about the causality stuff as well. Wilkinson and Pickett discuss causality in some depth in Chapter 13, p190 onwards though.

    The most compelling argument for inequality causing poor social outcomes and not the other way round seems to be the fact that “Even when you compare groups of people with the same income, you find that those in more unequal societies do worse that those on the same incomes in more equal societies.”

    They go on to say, “even if there is some loss of income among those who are sick or affected by some social problem, this does not begin to explain why people who remain on perfectly good incomes still do worse in more unequal societies.”

    • nzfp 16.1

      Is it a straight income to income comparison? Does it include such things as the cost of housing or the presence or lack of universal health care. In a society such as the US with median house prices requiring two adult incomes to service and the lack of universal health care – it has been demonstrated that a single health event resulting in one of the adults being forced to remain out of work would greatly increase the chances of bankruptcy and foreclosure etc…

      Listen to American economist Professor Elizabeth Warren discuss the issue of “The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class: Higher Risks, Lower Rewards, and a Shrinking Safety Net” at Harvard Law school.

  17. nzfp 17

    “It is shocking to me that New Zealand has such high levels of inequality ”

    It is certainly shocking but it is not surprising. Labour’s neo-liberal (Greenspan/Thatcherite) coup-de-tat of the mid eighties followed by successive National/Labour/National adherence to this demonstrably failed economic (religous) dogma has led to exactly where we are – on the slippery slope to a fascist United States.

  18. RedLogix 18

    Fanstastic thread everyone, especially to R0b for writing up the OP so well.

    I’ve been too busy today to participate, but I would have loved to…this above all other ideas has perhaps the most explanatory power, and to my mind is the core moral challenge facing the world.

    In the long run I expect that we will not permanently reduce the extremes of wealth and poverty either by revolution or by cleverly designed regulatory fiat.

    In the end we will achieve a more equitable society, when everyone realises that extreme wealth is actually a burden, and that it is in their best interests to behave with fairness and equity to all their fellow humankind. Such a transformation is well within our capacity.

    • r0b 18.1

      Cheers RL.

      Such a transformation is well within our capacity.

      I would love for someone to convince me that this is true. How about a post after the budget kerfuffle has died down?

  19. just saying 19

    Thank you for the above
    I’m so grateful that you brilliant people have articulated something that frightens me and that I believe is a huge issue for the left, the new -‘eugenics’ – meritocracy. The insidious assumption that we have now pretty much achieved a “just” society in which people now inhabit the level in society that matches their abilities and value. Privilege is no longer inherited, it’s earned. It worries me not so much that the rich and privileged believe it, but that, because of the way it has permeated the language, the media, education, every bloody thing, it turns those who are struggling against enormous obstacles, against themselves, and too often, each other, and beomes a big cog the vicious cycles of all the negative indices we’ve been talking about. Talk about self-fulfilling propheseies!
    I’m often not able to express myself very well, so I’m grateful to those of you who have taken the time to tease apart the threads in this matter.
    Anita, I’m not sure if this is what you meant in one of your posts, but I have health problems that I have only survived because of what I’ve always called “middle class nous”. Not ability, intelligence, emotional strenth, moral fibre…… I’ve known people with far more than me of all of these and more, who have died because they didn’t have this lucky, encultured, and certainly not innate repertoire. Many more suffer unnecessarily. The way things are going in New Zealand, more and more people will die or be consigned to society’s scrap heaps with the community including the victims themselves, telling themselves, that science has somehow “proved” that the problem lies within the individual and they only have themselves to blame. That its some kind of sad but inevitable reality.

  20. Puddleglum,

    I didn’t add in Third World countries for the same reason Wilkinson and Picket didn’t. Their argument is that inequality only affects outcomes after countries have reached a certain level of economic growth. For them, any country from Portugal upwards is wealthy enough. I merely point out that there are a number of countries which are wealthier than Portugal that have been left out, and—would you believe it?—none of them behave as they should do if inequality is the main driver of a nation’s performance. In fact, the least equal countries—Singapore and Hong Kong—tend to do the best.

    RoB,

    Since you’re so fond of the ad hominem, you won’t mind me mentioning that Richard Wilkinson has had a 30 year relationship with the Socialist Health Association and has been accused on several occasions, in peer-reviewed journals, of cherry-picking the counties he looks at when asserting the life expectancy/inequality hypothesis.

    • r0b 20.1

      Gidday Chris. I did note other work that you have done, and that it caused me to feel an “instinctive distrust”. If you claim that this constitutes “so fond of the ad hominem” then you’re considerably more guilty of the offence than I am.

      I was unaware of any issues with The Spirit Level research when I wrote this piece, but I’m quite prepared to believe that the authors might have gone too far in trying to present a watertight case. If it’s true, it’s a pity, because it does detract from their message. But it doesn’t mean that their message is wrong, and it doesn’t mean that the mountain of other research with the same result is wrong either. Inequality is damaging to society.

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  • Puffing Policy
    Public policy towards tobacco consumption remains politically sensitive. In 1983, a young researcher was told by a medium-level Treasury official that Treasury policy was to abandon excise duties on tobacco. The senior Treasury economist that I consulted, famed for his commonsense, snorted ‘we need the money’. He explained that no-excise-duty ...
    PunditBy Brian Easton
    5 days ago
  • Luxon is one of three prime ministers pressing for a ceasefire in Gaza – but the two-state solutio...
    Buzz from the Beehive Two days after hundreds of people rallied outside the New Zealand parliament and the US embassy in Wellington to protest against what they maintain is genocide in Gaza,  Prime Minister Chris Luxon joined with the Prime Ministers of Australia and Canada to express their  concerns that ...
    Point of OrderBy Bob Edlin
    5 days ago
  • All jellied up with possum grease
    1. Shane Jones, addressing the energy industry, called climate concern what?a. The only sane responseb. Undeniably valid c. Our last best hope d. A "religion" 2. Shane Jones’ demeanour in mocking and deriding climate activists can be observed in what other realm of human behaviour?a. Gleeful little boys pulling wings off fliesb. Gleeful ...
    More Than A FeildingBy David Slack
    5 days ago
  • Equality comes to Greece
    The Greek Parliament has voted for marriage equality: Greece has become the first Christian Orthodox-majority country to legalise same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples will now also be legally allowed to adopt children after Thursday's 176-76 vote in parliament. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the new law would "boldly abolish a ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    5 days ago
  • CHRIS TROTTER:  Iron in her soul.
      “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche   Chris Trotter writes – TELEVISION NEW ZEALAND is to be congratulated for inviting Chloe Swarbrick onto its Q+A current affairs show. The Green MP ...
    Point of OrderBy poonzteam5443
    5 days ago
  • The Hoon around the week to Feb 16
    Net emigration of New Zealanders overseas hit a record-high 47,000 in the 2023 year, which only partly offset net immigration of 173,000, which was dominated by arrivals from India, the Philippines and China with temporary work visas. Photo: Lynn Grieveson / The KākāTL;DR: The five things that mattered in Aotearoa’s ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    5 days ago
  • Stop Whispering.
    There's nothing to sayAnd there's nothing to doStop whispering, start shoutingStop whispering, start shoutingYesterday our government surprised a few of us by standing up for something. It wasn’t for the benefit of people who own holiday homes and multiple investment properties. Neither were there any tobacco companies or fishing cartels ...
    Nick’s KōreroBy Nick Rockel
    5 days ago
  • “I'm Not Keen on Whataboutism, But What About…”
    Hi,Not sure how your week is going, but I’ve had a pretty frustrating one. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it, and I think it’s perhaps distilled in this message I got on Twitter:What got me a bit riled up is that it was a response to the ...
    David FarrierBy David Farrier
    5 days ago
  • Gordon Campbell on National passing bad policies under urgency
    If National really had faith in its welfare policies, it wouldn’t be ramming them through Parliament under urgency – a step that means the policies can’t be exposed to select committee debate, public submissions, expert commentary, media scrutiny and all the normal democratic processes that this coalition appears to hold ...
    5 days ago
  • Weekly Roundup 16-February-2024
    It’s Friday so once again here”s our roundup of some of the articles that caught our attention this week. This Week in Greater Auckland On Monday Matt looked at the Government’s war on Auckland. On Tuesday Matt covered the ongoing issues with the rail network. On Thursday Matt ...
    Greater AucklandBy Greater Auckland
    5 days ago
  • The Dawn Chorus for Friday, February 16
    The six things to note in my view at 6.30 am on Friday, February 16 in Aotearoa-NZ’s political economy are: Read more ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    5 days ago
  • Iron In Her Soul.
    “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” – Friedrich NietzscheTELEVISION NEW ZEALAND is to be congratulated for inviting Chloe Swarbrick onto its Q+A current affairs show. The Green MP for Auckland Central is the odds-on ...
    5 days ago
  • Dig this
    Resources Minister Shane Jones yesterday told a breakfast hosted by Energy Resources Aotearoa precisely what they wanted to hear. “We campaigned to rehabilitate relegitimise and stand up for working families who derive their income,  derive their hope and derive purpose in regional New Zealand through a flourishing, growing, forward-leaning energy ...
    PolitikBy Richard Harman
    6 days ago
  • Skeptical Science New Research for Week #7 2024
    Open access notables Physics-based early warning signal shows that AMOC is on tipping course, van Westen et al., Science Advances: Here, we show results of the first tipping event in the Community Earth System Model, including the large climate impacts of the collapse. Using these results, we develop a physics-based and ...
    6 days ago
  • A rejection of the rule of law
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • Shrugging-Off The Atlas Network.
    Upholding The Status-Quo: The Left’s election defeat is not the work of the Atlas Network. It is not even the work of David Seymour and Act. It is the work of ordinary citizens who liked the Right’s stories better than they liked the Left’s. If the Right’s stories were made ...
    6 days ago
  • BARRIE SAUNDERS: Treaty Principles – all rather problematic
    Barrie Saunders writes – When ACT’s leader said they wanted legislation to state what the Treaty principles mean, my first thought was this will be controversial and divisive.  Clearly it is. The first reference to the principles of the Treaty were contained in the 1975 Act establishing the Treaty of ...
    Point of OrderBy poonzteam5443
    6 days ago
  • Luxon Rejects The “Rejection Election” At His Peril.
    Fitting Right In: National retailed a reactionary manifesto of right-wing, racially-charged policies to the electorate throughout 2023. No talk back then of ignoring the overwhelming political preferences of the voting public and making a strong stand on principle. If Luxon’s pollsters and focus-groups were telling him that the public was ...
    6 days ago
  • Valentine’s Day went unnoticed on the Beehive website – but it is not “baa, humbug” to celeb...
    Buzz from the Beehive None of our ministers – a quick check with the Beehive website suggests – found cause to mention, let along celebrate, Valentine’s Day. But two ministers – Agriculture Minister Todd McClay and Rural Communities Minister Mark Patterson – ensured that National Lamb Day did not pass ...
    Point of OrderBy Bob Edlin
    6 days ago
  • Are You A Leftist?
    Nothing To Lose But Our Chains: The emancipatory movement which the Left, understood correctly, has always been, cannot accommodate those who are only able to celebrate one group’s freedom by taking it from another. The expectation, always, among leftists, is that liberty enlarges us. That striking-off a person’s shackles not ...
    6 days ago
  • An unlawful directive
    An interesting question in the Parliamentary written questions feed today, from Jan Tinetti to the Minister of Education: Has she or her Office directed the Ministry of Education to not release Official Information Act material prior to the full twenty working days, if so, why? Given that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • I’ve been doing this all wrong
    Here are six words that are not easy to say but god it can feel good when you finally say them:I’ve been doing this all wrongFive years ago today I said to myself:What if I'm doing this all wrong?Five years ago today I said to Karren: I think I’m going to ...
    More Than A FeildingBy David Slack
    6 days ago
  • New study suggests the Atlantic overturning circulation AMOC “is on tipping course”
    This is a re-post from RealClimate by Stefan Rahmstorf A new paper was published in Science Advances today. Its title says what it is about: “Physics-based early warning signal shows that AMOC is on tipping course.” The study follows one by Danish colleagues which made headlines last July, likewise looking for early warning signals ...
    6 days ago
  • Drawn
    A ballot for five Member's Bills was held today, and the following bills were drawn: Parole (Mandatory Completion of Rehabilitative Programmes) Amendment Bill (Todd Stephenson) Goods and Services Tax (Removing GST From Food) Amendment Bill (Rawiri Waititi) Income Tax (ACC Payments) Amendment Bill (Hamish Campbell) ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • Valentines from ACT.
    Some of us make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day. We’ll buy the flowers, eye watering though the price spike might be. Say the things we should be saying anyway, although diminished by being scheduled for delivery. Some of us will even write long free-form newsletters with declarations of ...
    Nick’s KōreroBy Nick Rockel
    6 days ago
  • Tax cuts paid for by 13k more kids in poverty
    MSD advised the government that the indexation change it passed under urgency last night is likely to put around 7,000 extra children (and potentially up to 13,000) into poverty. Photo: Lynn Grieveson / The KākāTL;DR: The Government has reverted indexation for main beneficiaries to price inflation from wage inflation under ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    6 days ago
  • Fuel Tax Fight and Rail Fail update
    The two stories we covered at the start of the week continue to be in the headlines so it’s worth looking at the latest for each of them. Regional Fuel Tax Mayor Wayne Brown promised some ‘argy-bargy’ over the government’s decision to cancel the Regional Fuel Tax and he’s ...
    6 days ago
  • Climate Change: Arsonists
    Today, a major fire broke out on the Port Hills in Ōtutahi. Like its 2017 predecessors, it is almost certainly exacerbated by climate change. And it is still burning. The present government did not start the fire. But they piled the tinder high last time they were in power, gutting ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    7 days ago
  • I don’t know!
    http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/73411 7 examples And who actually makes the decisions? Vladimir Putin: I don’t know. America is a complex country, conservative on the one hand, rapidly changing on the other. It’s not easy for us to sort it all out.   Tucker Carlson: Do you think Zelensky has the freedom to negotiate the settlement to this conflict? Vladimir Putin: I don’t know the details, of course it’s difficult for me to judge, but ...
    1 week ago
  • Fresh thinkers
    Fresh thinking will always give you hope.It might be the kind that makes you smite your brow, exclaiming: Why didn't we think of that! It's obvious!It might be the kind that makes you go: Dude you’re a genius.Sometimes it will simply be Wayne Brown handing Simeon Brown his weasel ass ...
    More than a fieldingBy David Slack
    1 week ago
  • It is not about age, it is about team.
    Much attention has been directed at Joe Biden’s mental lapses and physical frailty. Less attention has been spent on Donald Trump’s cognitive difficulties and physical limitations, with most focus being devoted to his insults and exaggerated claims (as if they … Continue reading ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    1 week ago
  • ROBERT MacCULLOCH: Fletcher Building – it is time to break up NZ’s most useless company.
    Robert MacCulloch writes –  Gosh, the CEO of Fletcher Building, Ross Taylor, says today’s announcement of a half-year loss of $120 million for the company is “disappointing” and was “heavily impacted” by the Convention Centre losses. He must be crying all the way to the bank (to quote Las ...
    Point of OrderBy poonzteam5443
    1 week ago
  • Mortgage rates seen high for even longer
    Government and borrower hopes for early mortgage cost relief look likely to be thwarted. Photo: Lynn Grieveson / The KākāTL;DR: Stronger-than-expected US inflation data out overnight is expected to delay the first US Federal Reserve rate cut into the second half of 2024, which in turn would hold mortgage rates ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    1 week ago
  • Member’s Day
    Today is a Member's Day, the first of the new Parliament. And to start the Parliament off, there's a bunch of first readings. A bunch of other bills have been postponed, so first up is Duncan Webb's District Court (Protecting Judgment Debtors on Main Benefit) Amendment Bill, followed by Katie ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Three Waters go down the legislative gurgler – but what should we make of Local Water Done Well?
    Buzz from the Beehive Local Government Minister Simeon Brown – it seems fair to suppose – was flushed with success after the repeal of Labour’s divisive and unpopular Three Waters legislation. As he explained, repealing this legislation is a necessary first step in implementing his government’s Local Water Done Well ...
    Point of OrderBy Bob Edlin
    1 week ago

  • PM shocked and saddened at death of Efeso Collins
    “I am truly shocked and saddened at the news of Efeso Collins’ sudden death,” Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says. “Efeso was a good man, always friendly and kind, and a true champion and advocate for his Samoan and South Auckland communities. “Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go to his family, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 hours ago
  • Greater support for social workers
    The Coalition Government is enhancing the professionalism of the social work sector and supporting the vulnerable people who rely on them, Social Development and Employment Minister Louise Upston says.  The Social Workers Registration Legislation Amendment Bill passed its third reading in Parliament today. It amends the Social Workers Registration Legislation ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Government delivers greater freedom and choice for sick New Zealanders
    The coalition government is delivering on its commitment to making principled decisions by getting rid of red tape that doesn’t make sense and allowing sick New Zealanders greater freedom and choice to purchase effective cold and flu medicines. A bill amending the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 is being introduced, and changes to the Medicines ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Government begins reset of welfare system
    The Coalition Government is taking early action to curb the surge in welfare dependency that occurred under the previous government by setting out its expectations around employment and the use of benefit sanctions, Social Development and Employment Minister Louise Upston says. In 2017, 60,588 sanctions were applied to beneficiaries who ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • State of the Nation
    Ka nui te mihi kia koutou. Kia ora, good morning, talofa, malo e lelei, bula vinaka, da jia hao, namaste, sat sri akal, assalamu alaikum. Thank you for coming to my first State of the Nation as Prime Minister. Thank you for coming to a speech where I don’t just ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • West Coast tourism attractions officially open
    Regional Development Minister Shane Jones will attend the official opening of two highly anticipated tourism projects on the West Coast today – Pike29 Memorial Track, dedicated to the memory of the Pike River miners, and Pounamu Pathway. “The Pike29 Memorial Track is a way to remember and honour the men ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Independent ferry service advisory group in place
    Appointments to the Ministerial Advisory Group tasked with providing independent advice and assurance on the future of KiwiRail’s inter-island ferry service have been made, State Owned Enterprises Minister Paul Goldsmith says. “It’s important for New Zealand that KiwiRail is focused on ensuring safe, resilient, and reliable ferry services over the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Joint statement from the Prime Ministers of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand
    The Prime Ministers of Australia, Canada and New Zealand today issued the following statement on reports of Israel’s planned military operation in Rafah. We are gravely concerned by indications that Israel is planning a ground offensive into Rafah.   A military operation into Rafah would be catastrophic. About 1.5 million Palestinians ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Govt will deliver on expanded breast screening
    The coalition Government has made the first steps in delivering on its promise to  extend free breast screening to women aged 70-74, Health Minister Shane Reti says. “As part of the 100 day plan, the Government has now met with officials and discussed what is needed in order for the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Government announces woolshed roadshows in support of sheep farmers
    The Government celebrates National Lamb Day (15 February 24) and congratulates sheep farmers on the high-quality products they continue to produce. Agriculture Minister McClay hosted bipartisan celebrations of National Lamb Day with industry representatives at Parliament this week to mark the anniversary of the first frozen lamb exports that left ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Speech: Address to the NZ Economics Forum
    It’s great to be back at the New Zealand Economics Forum. I would like to acknowledge everyone here today for your expertise and contribution, especially the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Head of the Waikato Management School, economists, students and experts alike. A year has passed since I was last before you, and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Government tackling high construction costs
    The Government is focused on reducing sky-high construction costs to make it more affordable to build a home, Building and Construction Minister Chris Penk says.  Stats NZ data shows the cost of building a house has increased by 41 per cent since 2019, making housing even more unaffordable for Kiwi ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Labour’s Three Waters legislation repealed
    The Coalition Government’s legislative plan to address longstanding issues with local water infrastructure and service delivery took an important step today, with the repeal of Labour’s divisive and unpopular Three Waters legislation, Local Government Minister Simeon Brown says. “Repealing this legislation is a necessary first step in implementing our Local ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Cost of living support for beneficiary households
    The Coalition Government is delivering on its commitment to ease the cost-of-living by increasing main benefit rates in line with inflation and ensuring the Minimum Family Tax Credit threshold remains aligned with this change, Social Development and Employment Minister Louise Upston says. The Social Security (Benefits Adjustment) and Income Tax ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government announces agriculture delegations to better support Primary sector
    The coalition Government has announced ministerial delegations to support key areas across the Primary sector to deliver for New Zealand’s food and fibre sector, Agriculture Minister Todd McClay announced today. “I will be supported in my roles as Minister of Agriculture, Trade, Forestry and Hunting and Fishing, by three Associate ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Waikato MoU reinforces Govt’s commitment to increase NZ doctors
    The Government has taken an important step forward in addressing a critical shortage of New Zealand-trained doctors, with today’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for a third medical school, Minister of Health Dr Shane Reti has announced.  “Today’s signing by the Ministry of Health and the University of Waikato ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Speech – Lunar New Year 2024
    Annyeonghaseyo, greetings and welcome all. It is my pleasure as the Minister for Ethnic Communities to welcome you to the first Lunar New Year Event in Parliament. Thank you to our emcees for greeting us in the different languages that represent the many cultures that celebrate the Lunar New Year. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • More funding to Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti
    Urgent work to clean-up cyclone-affected regions will continue, thanks to a $63 million boost from the Government for sediment and debris removal in Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti.                                                                                                   The funding will help local councils continue urgent work removing and disposing of sediment and debris left from Cyclone Gabrielle.   “This additional ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Budget will be delivered on 30 May
    Plans to deliver tax relief to hard-working New Zealanders, rebuild business confidence and restore the Crown’s finances to order will be unveiled on 30 May, Finance Minister Nicola Willis says. The plans will be announced in the Budget which is currently being developed by Ministers.  “The last government’s mismanagement of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government advances Local Water Done Well
    The Coalition Government is continuing work to restore council ownership and control of water assets by repealing Three Waters and appointing a Technical Advisory Group to provide expert advice on the implementation of Local Water Done Well, Local Government Minister Simeon Brown says. “The Government will pass a bill to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Minister congratulates NZQA Top Scholars
    Education Minister Erica Stanford congratulates the New Zealand Scholarship recipients from 2023 announced today.  “Receiving a New Zealand Scholarship is a fantastic achievement and is a testament to the hard work and dedication the recipients have put in throughout the year,” says Ms Stanford.  “New Zealand Scholarship tests not only ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New diplomatic appointments
    Foreign Minister Winston Peters has today announced five new diplomatic appointments.  "Strong and effective diplomacy to protect and advance our interests in the world is needed now more than ever," Mr Peters says.  “We are delighted to appoint senior diplomats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to these ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Speech to the Committee for Auckland
    It is great to be here today at this event as Minister for Auckland and Minister ofTransport. Let me start by acknowledging each one of you and thanking the Committee forAuckland for hosting this event and inviting me to speak here today. The Committee for Auckland has been a symbol ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Getting Transport Back on Track in Auckland
    Transport Minister Simeon Brown has today confirmed his high-level transport priorities for Auckland, in the lead up to releasing the draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport. “Our economic growth and productivity are underpinned by a transport network that enables people and freight to move around safely and efficiently. At ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Government to axe Auckland Regional Fuel Tax
    Transport Minister Simeon Brown has confirmed that the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax will end on 30 June 2024. “Today, I can confirm that the Government has agreed to remove the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax in line with our coalition commitments, and legislation will be introduced to parliament to repeal the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Minister Calls for Work to Tackle Kina Barrens
    Changes to fishing rules and a significant science programme are being undertaken to address kina barrens, says Minister for Oceans and Fisheries Shane Jones. “There has been tremendous interest from iwi, communities and recreational fishers who had raised concerns about such kina infestations being a major threat to Northland’s marine ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Government law and order crackdown begins
    The coalition Government is making good on its promise to restore law and order by removing government funding for Section 27 reports and abolishing the previous Labour Government’s prison reduction target, Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith and Corrections Minister Mark Mitchell say.  “In recent years, the development of Section 27 reports ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Greater focus on getting people into work
    The coalition government will refocus employment efforts and the welfare system so that supporting people who can work into jobs is the number one priority, Social Development and Employment Minister Louise Upston says. “Of concern in the labour market statistics released by Stats NZ today was the number of youth not ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • One year on, NZ appeals for release of Phillip Mehrtens
    Foreign Minister Winston Peters has appealed to those holding New Zealand pilot Phillip Mehrtens in remote Papua, Indonesia, to release him immediately.  Phillip Mehrtens was taken hostage a year ago on 7 February in Paro, Papua, while providing vital air links and supplies to remote communities. “We strongly urge those holding ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Ministers reaffirm Pacific connections this week
    Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Health Minister and Minister for Pacific Peoples Dr Shane Reti are reaffirming the importance of New Zealand’s connections to the Pacific by visiting Tonga, Cook Islands and Samoa this week.  “New Zealand enjoys strong and long-standing relationships with our Pacific partners - especially in Polynesia, where we ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Rt Hon Christopher Luxon – Waitangi speech
    E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā iwi, rau rangatira ma. Tēnā koutou katoa. He tino mihi ki te mana whenua o tēnei rohe.  Mihi mai, mihi mai, mihi mai. Te whare e tū nei, tēnā koe.                               He-wāhi whakahirahira tēnei mō Aotearoa. Ka huri nga whakaaro, ki nga mate. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Government awards primary sector scholarships to students
    Six university students studying agriculture and science have been awarded scholarships as part of the coalition Government’s efforts to boost on-the-ground support for farmers and growers. “The coalition Government is committed to improving support and operating conditions for farmers and growers,” Agriculture Minister Todd McClay says. “We’re backing a range ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • High Court Judge appointed
    Attorney-General Judith Collins today announced the appointment of Wellington Barrister Jason Scott McHerron as a High Court Judge. Justice McHerron graduated from the University of Otago with a BA in English literature in 1994 and an LLB in 1996. From 1996 to 1999 he worked as a solicitor in the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • New Zealand provides further humanitarian support to Gaza and the West Bank
    Foreign Minister Winston Peters has announced that New Zealand is providing a further $5 million to respond to the extreme humanitarian need in Gaza and the West Bank.  “The impact of the Israel-Hamas conflict on civilians is absolutely appalling,” Mr Peters says.  “That is why New Zealand has contributed $15 ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Government consults on expanding COVID-19 Inquiry terms of reference
    The Government is delivering on its commitment to enable public input into expanding the scope of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into COVID-19 Lessons, says Internal Affairs Minister Brooke van Velden. “As committed to in both the ACT-National and NZ First-National coalition agreements, the public will be given the opportunity ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Tai Tokerau Water Boost
    A further $5 million loan has been advanced to the Tai Tokerau Water Trust for Te Waihekeora Reservoir, Regional Development Minister Shane Jones says.  “Water is a precious resource, Kānoa – Regional Development and Investment Unit at the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment have done amazing work in the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Fast track consenting in the fast lane
    The Government is progressing changes to resource management laws as part of its 100 Day Action Plan, with the first steps taken to establish a new fast-track consenting one-stop shop regime. “This new regime, which forms part of National’s coalition agreement with New Zealand First, will improve the speed and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • JOINT STATEMENT ON AUSTRALIA-NEW ZEALAND MINISTERIAL CONSULTATIONS (ANZMIN) 2024
    Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence the Hon Richard Marles MP and Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator the Hon Penny Wong hosted New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Rt Hon Winston Peters MP and Minister of Defence Hon Judith Collins KC MP on 1 February ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago

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