Police Commissioner: prison breeds crime

Written By: - Date published: 6:30 am, November 26th, 2010 - 230 comments
Categories: crime, law and "order", prisons - Tags:

It’s pretty bloody late in his tenure to be saying it, but Police Commissioner Howard Broad has joined with every expert in telling politicians that their braindead, populist policy of increasing the number of crimes and ramping up prison sentences has to stop. It’s not a solution to crime, it’s making it worse.

Here’s what Broad had say to the law and order select committee:

“traditional model of policing” had “delivered a wave of criminals in to the system – an absolute wave”. He told reporters prison was for “serious offenders”.

“It’s tempting to use prison as a minor, intermediate sort of sanction.

“But the evidence seems to be that the `university of the prison’ is a fact and it exists and that we should do everything we can to avoid people going down that track.

“One of the worst things that you can do for an emerging young offender is to group them together with other emerging young offenders. The whole idea is actually preventing crime in the first place.”

You know, there are some people who are so dangerous that they need to be locked up for the safety of others. But those people are few and far between. Sending every young, poor kid who commits a crime to jail doesn’t stop them committing crimes, it makes them more likely to offend in the future.

At $100,000 per year per prisoner, this is a hellishly expensive exercise in counter-productivity.

A smart society would instead invest that $100,000 a year into getting young people into work with job creation programmes and on building more liveable communities that don’t facilitate crime.

The stats don’t lie: unemployment is the driving factor behind a hell of a lot of crime – the numbers suggest that if you could eliminate unemployment 20% of crime would go with it. Eliminate poverty in general and I’m sure that number would plunge even further.

Instead, we’re imprisoning exponentially more people at massive cost, and we know it just makes things worse.

Why are we throwing away so much money and so many lives?

230 comments on “Police Commissioner: prison breeds crime ”

  1. Good comment Eddie.

    New Zealand needs to have a rational debate on the subject. The current system is not working. If any other policy failed as often as incarceration does there would be immediate change.

    The debate has to be a rational one though, free of the hysterical views of the SST and Act.

    • Rob 1.1

      Why, do those groups do not have valid veiws as well, that they would like to express. Its a great notion to invite across the board the debate and I am sure that everybody sees the futility in crime and punishment , however you then destroy all rational notions of cross coomunity involvment by immeadiatly restricting views of groups that may disagree with your own.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1

        Why, do those groups do not have valid veiws as well, that they would like to express.

        No they don’t as the evidence shows. More people in prison = more crime. If we want to reduce crime then we need to reduce the need for people to become criminals to survive and that means making sure that everybody has enough to live on and that they are included into society. Basically, everything that NACT and, to some degree, Labour stands against.

  2. KJT 2


    “But if we are not to lurch from one ineffective and increasingly punitive
    reaction to another, the debate must be reasonably informed. Not just about the
    facts of crime. But also about the principles and practices our law requires and how
    criminal justice fits into the wider legal system and its principles.”

  3. zimmer 3

    If prison breeds crime, what bred the original crime to get to prison?
    Often a prison sentence is a last resort, people commit crime numerous times even before the threat of prison is hoisted upon them.

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      If prison breeds crime, what bred the original crime to get to prison?

      Dude read the Christian bible and find out 🙄

      Now lets get back to sorting out our prison problems – that’s up to us – and ridiculous chicken and egg jokes don’t help. Unless you can tell us how to stop the prison chicken from cyclically turning back into the prison egg, since that is what our recidivism rates tell us is happening.

      • burt 3.1.1

        Chicken and egg is exactly the point Colonial Viper. Prisons are getting full so hey lets lift the bar for custodial sentences…. You may remember a skit from a Monty Python episode; The only way to reduce the number of offenders is to reduce the number of offences.

        If nothing is illegal then nobody breaks the law – sounds a bit like Broad’s comments.

        The key concern I have is that crime and punishment is a political football and sentencing is driven by (and modified for) prison populations. That’s entirely the wrong way to go about it but I do understand there are practical considerations like physical cell numbers.

        If you are in a position to have access to the right data and you do some analysis of the offending statistics you will note as Broad indicates that offending frequency and severity increase sharply following the first custodial sentence, in most cases. But is that telling us we should stop locking people up ??

        Lets see, if the number of people getting caught speeding starts to climb and the number of speeding offences being issued starts to increase do we increase enforcement and start putting big signs everywhere saying shit like “it’s not a target”, “you will be caught” or do we increase the speed limit by 10kph and reassess it in time for the next election ?

        • Colonial Viper

          yeah thanks for your useless analogies.

          This is about giving people productive roles in society and giving them a stake int heir communities.

        • burt

          Yes I though you would see the paradox in the speeding driver policy compared to Broad’s “today” position of custodial sentences and I also expected you to shoot the messenger. Thanks for not letting me down.

          • bbfloyd

            burt… it wasn’t the messenger he shot, no matter how much you needed it to happen, it was the uninformed rubbish you put up as an argument. just this time, try to react like a grownup and don’t waste our time with your personal problems…

            this govt’s approach is reactionary in the extreme, so encouraging the development of a “police state” mentality among the general population would be the natural extension of that philosophy. other words that could describe their approach would be “mindless stupidity”, until you factor in their plans to encourage private prisons… then it starts to look sinister..

            • burt

              Labour made it easier to get parole and how did that work out ? National plan to build more prisons which just might be a reaction to Labour’s failed policy – but hey lets just pretend the blue team are just building prisons to throw money at their rich mates cause that makes a good sound bite.

        • felix

          Lets see, if the number of people getting caught speeding starts to climb and the number of speeding offences being issued starts to increase do we increase enforcement and start putting big signs everywhere saying shit like “it’s not a target”, “you will be caught” or do we increase the speed limit by 10kph and reassess it in time for the next election ?

          Um, you try to figure out what will actually make people drive more safely (if that’s the problem to be solved.)

          Or back on topic, regarding crime you try to figure out what will stop people spending their lives hurting other people (again, if that’s the problem to be solved.)

          And apparently throwing them in prison doesn’t work, according to everyone who has studied the problem, and now even according to the Commissioner of Police. So what else do you suggest?

          • Bright Red

            Or you make the roads safer using the models of the Netherlands and Sweden, which have the lowest road fatalities per head of developed countries (apart from the UK, surprisingly) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-related_death_rate.

            successful practices in these countries are: median barriers on open roads, narrower town roads which make them quicker to cross for walkers and force drivers to pay more attention, less use of traffic lights, which encourage drivers to drive on automatic, rather than thinking.

            all the evidence is there

          • burt

            Sorry, far to much revenue provided by issuing speeding tickets with a 3kph tollerance. Can’t do that here.

            • felix

              So you don’t have any thoughts about the topic at hand?

              Just want to waffle on about speeding tickets instead?

              I have some thoughts about those too (drive slower you fucking idiot), but how about this whole prison problem?

              • burt


                I don’t care if people get caught speeding, that’s their fault for speeding. I’ve had 1 speeding ticket in my entire life and I deserved it. (I have been driving for about 30+ years so clearly I’m not a recidivist speeder)

                My point is felix, and you might want to address it as well, when prison population (in isolation) becomes a policy influencing factor for custodial sentencing – we have already let the tail wag the dog. It is exactly like saying to a police officer – only issue 20 tickets then go back to the station or we will need to acknowledge we have lost control of driver behaviour.

                • bbfloyd

                  burt… can you explain to me how your life story has any relevance to the subject being discussed? or how your theories on NZ driving standards are relevant to prison numbers?

                  you really are becoming a bit of a bore…

                • felix


                  Prison numbers are not the issue. The rate of criminal offending is.

                  Broad is saying – and almost anyone who studies the field agrees – that increasing the former does not appear to be decreasing the latter.

                  You’re fighting a strawman burt. And as usual, he’ll probably give you a pasting.

                  • Swampy

                    Simple answers: you look at (perhaps) the welfare system, the education system and failure of parenting. However it is not trendy to look at the way these have changed over a generation and say we should turn back the clock. I don’t see any of the left parties moving this way, about the only good thing lately is Sir Geoffrey Palmer having deja vu about the alcohol law liberalisation he put through in the 80s.

          • Bright Red

            or we could design the roading so its safer. Take the examples of Netherland and Sweded – two of the safest countries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-related_death_rate

            the model includes: median barriers on highways, narrow roads in towns that make drivers think more and roads quicker to cross, using roundabouts more than traffic lights because they make drivers think rather than go into automatic and lose concerntration.

            • ianmac

              And in that town in Europe where they removed all traffic signs and traffic lights and the accident rate dropped dramatically.

              • KJT

                Reminds me of the introduction of rigid documented type safety policies. Accidents went up because people had the expectation that all the emphasis on safety meant they no longer had to look around for hazards because the new policies were “safe”.

                The first head injury we had in ten years was from a safety helmet that blew away and hit someone. At a time when there were no actual hazards that would require a safety helmet.

    • jcuknz 3.2

      The answer is social conditions as answered above … but I also believe that normally if a person has a position they value in society they will be less inclined to risk it by breaking the law. There is also the likelihood of being punished … did the broken windows policy in New York really work?

      • Colonial Viper 3.2.1

        yep agree jcuknz; give people a productive role in society, give them opportunities to work hard and move forward, make them feel included and supported in communities so that they can do so.

        That will keep most of those young’uns going to prison now on the straight and narrow.

        Except youth unemployment (18 years +) in places like Dunedin is almost 30% now. Its a crime and social catastrophe in progress.

      • KJT 3.2.2

        More equal societies have much less crime. Addressing social disadvantages and poverty are proven to reduce crime, but that is too hard for the “lock em up and throw away the key brigade”.

        Better to spend the 100k in primary school years to help a person have a place in society than having to lock them up 15 years later.

        • burt

          So more monitoring of the kids progress in education and more active management of academic outcomes then… Perhaps some form of national standards would help with that….

          • Colonial Viper

            Thread derail FAIL

            Hey by the way burt, where are all those productive cycleway jobs that Key promised us for the young people?

            • burt

              Good question, where are they. I’ve got my bike ready and I’ve got an extended xmas break about to start so I want to ride them. Perhaps the prison population could be put to work building them.

              • jcuknz

                The trouble burt is that it is cheaper to have people on the dole than create jobs for them, even like building the cycleways need so badly to keep the idiot cyclists away from motor vehicles. Proper cycleways, not just lanes on the road with cars parked inside so that inattentive motorists can open their doors and push cyclists under trucks.

                Community service could help both the prison and unemployed situations.

                Though as in New York if you create cycle lanes, decent wide ones equal to a car lane to cope with many cyclists, you hold up motor traffic and set up friction between groups of road users. {A recent NYT story]

          • Swampy

            Nah, just let parents choose the school they want to send their kids to. No roll restrictions.

  4. Rosy 4

    When even Tory ministers have turned away from locking people up, it is surely time for our politicians to start considering there are better ways to deal with crime than building mre prisons.

  5. ianmac 5

    There are those who believe that all those in prison are evil violent people and should stay there forever. (Experts reckon that there would be about 100 out of 8,000 who would be in that group.)
    They also believe that prisons are cushy hotels with central heating and widescreen TVs. (I spent a few hours in a low level prison, as a visitor and it was a terrible depressing place.)
    They also believe that people like “us” would never be in prison. (Just the you know who, and they ask for it!)
    If these things are commonly held beliefs and supported by political parties, what chance is there of Broad or Lashley making any difference at all? There must be many MPs who would support action to reduce prisoning, but hey. No votes in that eh! Didn’t Phil Goff do a serious study of this a few years ago but then backed off reform?

    • Swampy 5.1

      Well mate, it’s easy
      I didn’t vote for parties like Labour who liberalised the sale of alcohol and are now having to eat their words (for example).
      I didn’t vote for the DPB to be introduced so teenage girls can leave school and go on it with no hope of being a productive contribution to society and bringing up their kids in a sole parent home living on welfare (a huge disadvantage in itself)
      Can’t think of any more examples at the moment so that will have to do.

      Social engineering has a LOT to answer for.

      • Jilly Bee 5.1.1

        Swampy – I believe it was Jenny Shipley’s National [led] government who liberalised the sale of alcohol in the late 1990s.

        • Jim MacDonald

          Yup. Shipley Government mid-1999 (circa July/August). Conscience vote. Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill re lowering of minimum drinking age form 20 to 18.

        • Colonial Viper

          How unfortuante for Swampy that people here have a memory.

          Swampy – we can consciously discuss and choose the type of society that we want to live in or we can let the corporates and commercial interests choose for us. Waddya reckon?

  6. Jim Nald 6

    Let’s see who would be best to locked up for the safety of others. Ummm …

    How about bankers?

    3 strikes at unjustified bonuses and they’re out.
    Double-bunk them. Hell, triple-bunk. Well, why not just dormitorise them. Cheaper.
    Throw away the key.
    Oh alright, let’s show some compassion:
    Let them have Parker Bros/Hasbro’s Monopoly. They can keep themselves entertained for the rest of their lives in jail.

    At $100,000 per banker in jail, that would be good value.
    Actually, excellent value and great returns for the benefit of the global economy.
    Now, that would be truly SENSIBLE. Where is the Sensible Sentencing Trust when they are really needed?

    • burt 6.1

      Good luck when the bankers political party gets popular by offering a one off “vote for lollies” scramble and decides that union members should be in jail. I’m sure they will show some compassion and offer all union members a one-size-fits-all t-shirt to wear.

      Fashion and politics are not the best drivers for judicial policy.

    • Colonial Viper 6.2

      Yeah we actually need a lot fewer investment bankers in society. And Gawd help the real economy of any country who decides to put one of those hucksters in charge.

    • KJT 6.3

      Putting away some white collar criminals would be an excellent idea.
      A hell of a lot of the blue collar ones would stop offending if they had a stake in society, but white collar crims already have, so are proven to be true sociopaths without possibility of redemption.

      But they only get a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket. 300 hours community service for stealing $35000.
      No charges at all for insider trading in failing finance companies expecting bailouts, selling NZ assets to their mates at half price, transfer pricing to avoid taxes, using trusts and fake transactions to avoid liability for negligence and negligent management. Not to mention selling us down the river, for corporate mates, with bodgy free trade agreements.

      • burt 6.3.1


        You could have picked a better case: How about being elected PM after stealing $800,000 !

        • KJT

          Could call it public interest.

          If we prosecuted all negligent and dishonest politicians who would be left to Govern us. :-)???

      • burt 6.3.2

        Ooops sorry, that was one of Broad’s not in the public interest to prosecute cases wasn’t it.

      • burt 6.3.3

        Insider trading…. Don’t sell your Air NZ shares just yet…. Not in the public interest to prosecute.

        I’m getting a fair idea where Broad is now coming from.

      • Swampy 6.3.4

        Do you think the police will charge Hubbard?

        Mind you that guy in Nelson who ripped off millions over data compression got 5 years, I was amazed.

  7. Billy Fish 7

    I see McVicar is now calling for the Commisioners head on a plate for his comments

    It’s a damn good thing the small minded hypocrite has no influence in Parliaments………oh damn!!!

  8. tc 8

    What on earth would he know anyway, or that pesky law commission regarding law making or teachers about education standards etc etc

    Where does this SST get all it’s dosh from ? Garth McVicar must struggle to be heard over the sound of his knuckles dragging on the floor.

    • Colonial Viper 9.1

      Yeah McVicar needs to be put away himself. IMO the man is vindictive, petty and punitive, no more no less. Oh, and as Clayton Cosgrove said, a hypocrite.

  9. Bosses need to criminalise the working class to divert attention away from their organised crimes such as bank bailouts.
    It demonises an underclass and forces law abiding respectable workers into a SST huddle to defend their homes from invasion. Whereas the banks are the real home invaders.
    The petty bourgeois small property owners are the most panicked imagining that graffiti is a sin against their property rights. NZ is a petty bourgeois country. So while the banks bankrupt small business, its Maori activists who are painted as the threat to property rights.
    Most petty crime is poverty driven property theft by workers. You can’t solve that crime without recognising that property is theft. Expropriate the expropriators is the solution to crime.

    • burt 10.1

      Yeah that will work, so when somebody flogs my car I get locked up because I owned a car – wow, the left really are the brains trust aren’t they.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      Yeah thanks Burke, good to know that you are standing up for the commercial interests of construction companies of private prisons.

      • Burke 11.1.1

        Or, say, the interests of those most affected by crime – Maori, Pacific Islanders and those from the same social strata from where criminals are drawn – i.e. the people expected to pay for your social experiments.

        • Colonial Viper

          Sorry mate correct me if I am wrong, I think that you’ve just said that the best way to protect Maori and Pasifika is to imprison their brothers and sisters, their sons and daughters.

          Buddy that is YOUR social experiment and by the way it is a failure.

          • Burke

            Did I really say that?

            Are you denying that Maori and Pacific Islanders are the chief victims of crime?

            Or, to take a leaf from your book, do you simply not care about the suffering of Maori and Pacific Islanders?

            • Colonial Viper

              Now you care so much about them you are willing to lock them up? To lock their fathers and sons away? To lock their brothers away? Hey good social experiment how is that working out for Maori and Pasifika so far?

              • Burke

                Allow me to explain since, not to put too fine a point on it, you seem to be a bonehead.

                The principal victims of crime are people of the very same social strata as that from which most criminals are drawn – i.e. the poor, oppressed and ethnic minorities.

                Being lenient on criminals might salve your bourgeoisie guilt, but it also exposes the struggling to the added stress of having more criminals about them.

                • felix

                  Who mentioned “being lenient on criminals”?

                  The point is that locking people up, while appealing to your authoritarian sadistic racist mini-mind, doesn’t actually reduce crime.

                  That’s what Broad pointed out, and it’s what almost everyone who studies the field agrees on, and it’s what you and burt and Hide and McVicar are so desperate to avoid discussing.

                  • Burke

                    Right – so since making the comment that there might be costs associated with lessening incarceration – and that those costs might fall most heavily on the most vulnerable, I’ve been accused of being a racist, an authoritarian, a sadist, a dickhead, an imposter, a right winger and a Rodney Hide fan.

                    As someone who’s not fundamentally against the left, this is the reason I can never join it – Orwell was right, there’s too much dehumanising hatred here.

                    • Burke

                      I forgot to add I am also a shill for corporations wanting to build more prisons. Hopefully some money comes with that as it would make paying the power bill a bit easier.

                    • lprent

                      Testing isn’t it.. You’ll get used to it around here…

  10. Treetop 12

    Poverty, low self esteem/self worth, unemployment, mental illness, having been sexually abused, drinking alcohol to excess, being uneducated e.g. illiterate, I would say that 80 % of the prison muster has at least two of the mentioned problems.

    Unless the causes which increase the prison numbers are addressed it is inevitable that crime will rise. Broad does not mention anything to reduce the cause of offending.

    The government seem to be taking a weak approach on the Law Commissions recommendations on alcohol. There is a link between alcohol and crime, this is what Broad needs to get through to the government.

    • burt 12.1

      Broad does not mention anything to reduce the cause of offending.

      Exactly, he seems to just say we have too many people in prison so we better stop locking people up for all the things we currently lock them up for.

      Perhaps he wants Helen to come back and tell him which offences are now not in the public interest to prosecute.

      • Colonial Viper 12.1.1

        Its funny that you think you know more about this subject than Broad; you are making shit up and putting it in his mouth.

      • felix 12.1.2

        he seems to just say we have too many people in prison so we better stop locking people up for all the things we currently lock them up for.

        No, he says locking them up isn’t working to reduce criminal offending.

        Shit burt, do you read anything at all?

      • Treetop 12.1.3

        Burt you opinion is as valid as anyone else. Were I to be paid $500,000 per year I would be ashamed of myself for not offering anything to reduce the cause of offending.

        • burt

          I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong, but without looking at the increase in terms of first time offenders and repeat offenders the whole rant from Broad is just a political stunt.

          The way I see it, if we are getting a lot more first time serious offenders then the solution required is very different than if the ‘wave’ is mainly re-offenders.

          Where Broad gets a little wishy washy is he talks about a wave of crime and the university of prison but isn’t offering any hard numbers on reofender rates and/or success/fairure of programs to reduce reoffending.

          • Burke

            It seems likely. You’ve got to factor into consideration the fact that Howard Broad is a fairly left-wing fellow (http://www.stuff.co.nz/blogs/opinion/16723) and is therefore somewhat disposed towards utopianism and the Nirvana fallacy.

            “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” as Voltaire said, though one economist put it better as:

            “The view that now pervades much public policy economics implicitly presents the relevant choice as between an ideal norm and an existing ‘imperfect’ institutional arrangement. This nirvana approach differs considerably from a comparative institution approach in which the relevant choice is between alternative real institutional arrangements.”

            • Colonial Viper

              Yeah good ol Right Wingers, now the Commissioner of Police is into political stunts, Nirvana and is suddenly “wishy washy”. Frak what a laugh you guys provide.

              Broad is spot on, get it into your heads that reality has a Left Leaning bias, and he has seen the crap first hand from the frontline for years. I’m glad he has both the compassion and the steel to stand his ground.

              • Treetop

                Do the crime, do the time.
                Those who wish to change, do change.
                Human nature, is human nature.

            • felix

              Hey Burke,

              Did you offer that link as some sort of reference to back up your statement that “Broad is a fairly left-wing fellow“?

              If so, your entire basis for making such a claim is that in the opinion of an anonymous author on a Stuff opinion page:

              on matters relating to the Treaty of Waitangi [Broad] is probably further to the left than I am

              That’s your reference. You’re awesome.

              • Burke

                Forgive me, you can’t see the author but it was Chris Trotter – should be easy enough to substantiate.

                Someone else might have made a reasonable guess that Stuff isn’t in the habit of publishing column length comments by anonymous commenters.

                Apology accepted in advance.

                • felix

                  For what?

                  Whoever the author is my point stands.

                  • Burke

                    It falls, because your point was that it was an anonymous author. In fact it was Chris Trotter, New Zealand’s premier socialist (corroboration: http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2007/10/growing_concern_over_arrests.html)

                    • felix

                      Read it again dickhead.

                      My point was that you referenced the opinion of one person saying that on one issue, they reckon that Broad is to the left of them.

                      It means nothing.

                    • Pascal's bookie

                      Burke. Few points.

                      Firstly, Trotter isn’t left on ‘matters relating to the Treaty of Waitangi’. This is not a secret thing.

                      Secondly, even if he was, Trotter saying Broad is ‘probably further to the left’ of him on that particular issue wouldn’t amount to anything like evidence that Broad is ‘a fairly left wing fellow’.

                      Thirdly, the article you cite for evidence of Broad being ‘a fairly left wing fellow’, is about Broad arresting a bunch of lefties and assorted radicals under the terrorism legislation.

                      This does not make for a strong case.

  11. Burke 13

    I’ll see your Howard Broad and raise you a Theodore Dalrymple, the great prison doctor and pschyhiatrist:

    “Moreover, prison is not a university of crime as is often alleged. If it were, one might expect that prisoners sentenced to longer terms had higher degrees in crime: that is to say, were more likely to re-offend. But in fact they are less likely to do so; prison is therefore the place where criminals learn (eventually, for they are not quick learners on the whole) not to re-offend. ”


    Thanks for conceding on my earlier post, by the way.

    [lprent: Bad word. Almost as bad as pwned – find another one to use that doesn’t imply victory. ]

    • lprent 13.1

      Of course it could just be that people (especially males) are less likely to offend as they get older. It is pretty clear that is what shows up in the stats for both first and repeat offenders. Testosterone has some interesting side effects in increasing stupidity.

      Also your quote ignores at the longer the term, the less opportunities that prisoners actually have to offend when they’re bubbling over with stupidity.

      The real question is if the prisoners currently being incarcerated are worth spending $100k per year to prevent their contact with the rest of the population, or could a more effective and less costly solution be found?

      • Burke 13.1.1

        Your second paragraph speaks volumes – though I’m not sure you can grasp its logical implications.

        As to the ‘real question’ – your proposal is a variant of the Nirvana fallacy.

        “The unasked but obvious question is, of course, ”What is the cost of not imprisoning criminals?”

        As the world’s greatest contemporary philospher once pointed out:

        In Britain, where the “alternatives to incarceration” vogue has led to only 7 percent of convicted criminals being put behind bars, the annual cost of the prison system has been estimated at just under 2 billion pounds sterling. Meanwhile, the annual financial cost alone of crimes committed against the public has been an estimated 60 billion pounds sterling.

        In the United States, the cost of incarcerating a criminal has been estimated as being $10,000 a year less than the cost of turning him loose.

        In all these calculations, we are leaving out the costs of violence, intimidation and the fears that people have for the safety of themselves and their children, not to mention the sense of helplessness and outrage when society refuses to pay as much attention to innocent victims as it lavishes on the criminals who victimize them.”


        • Colonial Viper

          Hey smart, Burke, the more people we incarcerate the more wealthy our economy is going to be since there is a solid ROI for each person behind bars yeah? Explains the US highest rates of incarceration in the world and how well they are doing financially today.

          • Burke

            Correlation fallacy alert!

            • Colonial Viper

              Hey buddy you proposed that there was a $10K p.a. benefit to putting each US person in prison.

              • Burke

                Incorrect – Thomas Sowell said that there is a 10K pa benefit in putting each US criminal in prison. Keep trying.

                • Colonial Viper

                  So you do not back that view then? Make it clear that you do not and we have no argument.

                  • Burke

                    I agree with the view that it is probably cheaper to lock up criminals than it is to experiment with non-custodial punishments.

        • lprent

          Burke, some actual links to numbers would be useful for your argument. Your phil may be great at some level, but it is hard to see it from his article. Showing where he is getting his numbers from is not one of his best traits. That makes article anecdotal, and therefore pretty much bullshit.

          As for the second para, I’m usually sarcastic…

          • Burke

            Okay – fine. I admit that I’m not going to go and check Dr Sowell’s numbers because, like everyone here, I have a job and family etc. Having read many of Dr Sowell’s articles and books I trust the man. Does that let me off the hook? No. But it is a valid method of making your mind up. As the real Burke noted, life would be impossible if we vigorously had to prove each and every premise on which we arrive at our conclusions – that is the proper (and legitimate) use of prejudice in the proper sense of the word.

            But what it all boils down to is this: it is one thing to quantify the costs of incarceration and enter it into evidence against the practice. To make a non kneejerk judgment, however, we need to consider the costs, social as well as economic, of not incarcerating people with a proven disposition towards criminality – and who in society is most likely to bear those costs.

            • Burke

              Ultimately my approach to statistics is the same as everyone else’s – I am inclinced to believe the ones that confirm my preconceptions and disinclined to believe the balance. Show me anyone who says differently and I’ll show you someone who’s quite self-deluded.

            • lprent

              I’d agree that all the factors need to looked at. But knee-jerk reactions I unubstatiated statements are not useful

              • Burke

                Right – and the point I’m making is that embracing a visceral reaction against the downsides of prison, of which there are many, is not the way to go when you consider which people will be bearing the immediate costs of a policy change.

                No one who is a principled conservative would argue in favour of tough punishment for its own sake, or against alternatives if he thought they were viable. But to voice sceptism of the latter and a reluctant belief in the prudence of the former is not racist.

                • lprent

                  I haven’t directed any charges of racism against you. Some implicit nativity perhaps in making unsubstantiated assertions.

                  The problem is with prisons as far as I’m concerned is the all too human tendency to kneejerk into thinking that hiding social issues by shoving people in them is daft. That is what has been happening for the last 20 odd years with an ill informed public pushing politicians towards making arse scratching a prisoner offense. I’d like to see some actual debate about the costs and benefits of the policies.

                  For instance one of the costs of putting people in prison is as basic as that prisoners don’t pay taxes or for that matter usually learn anything useful for when they get out. If the intent is to be punitive and to make sure people are prevented from becoming useful members of society then they certainly appear to be succeeding.

                  As someone else pointed out, getting into a serious relationship, having kids, a permanent job, doing remedial education, or getting a mortgage often prevent many people from the types of idiot offenses that many are going to prison for. But they can’t do any of those from inside…

                  So there is a unseen cost in holding people in prison. It prevents them from growing up. That has a number of lost opportunity costs for the community that you didn’t factor into your equations. And that Sewell seems to have overlooked those as well? Why exactly do you think this anecdotal pontificator is worth reading?. He seems to be as vague about detail as Brownlee is.

                  • Burke

                    I am not saying you have, but most of the other commenters undeniably did.

                    Thomas Sowell is the man’s name. The opening to his wiki page suggests he has somewhat greater gravitas than Gerry Brownler, and counsels against dismissing him as an ‘anecdotal pontificator’:

                    “He is currently a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In 1990, he won the Francis Boyer Award, presented by the American Enterprise Institute. In 2002 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal for prolific scholarship melding history, economics, and political science. In 2003, he was awarded the Bradley Prize for intellectual achievement.”

                    If you’re at all interested in understanding the arguments of those you disagree with, rather than just slamming them, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to familiarise yourself with that side’s intellectual heavyweights.

                    I would read his bio on the wiki page too – before anyone accuses him of writing from the perspective of white privilege.

                    • Pascal's bookie

                      So he’s a senior fellow at a conservative think tank, that yes, is attached to the Hoover library that happens to be at Stanford. Of those prizes only the National Humanities Medal isn’t from an ideological foundation. These are groups that reward orthodoxy within a school rather than intellectual heft I would think.

                      Is his work peer reviewed at the Hoover Institution? Just asking because I’ve always wondered how these things work.

                      His bread and butter seems to be columns at Townhall and worldnetdaily, the intellectual heavy weight arena for conservative thought, I assume.

                    • Burke

                      Again, from wiki:

                      “# Sowell’s book Race and Economics greatly influenced Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Thomas read the book in 1975, and later said that the book changed his life.
                      # Bates College in Maine has an endowed professorship in economics named after Sowell.
                      # Playwright David Mamet has called Sowell “our greatest contemporary philosopher.”
                      # British Historian Paul Johnson shares Mamet’s opinion in his book A History of the American People”

                      He’s also written about 30 highly acclaimed books on politics, economics and race and he has a distinguished academic career. Yes, he also writes for a less erudite audience as well.

                      I don’t agree with all of his opinions but the man is basically the Pope of American conservatism so if you care about debate, he is a heavyweight.

                    • lprent

                      Look, I’m a science grad with a MBA in operations. I work as a high end programmer. Everything I do is based on measurement, numbers, and structure. As far as I’m concerned pulling numbers out of the air to support a argument is simply a waste of bandwidth – irrespective of who it is.

                      I’m essentially immune from hero worship, assertions about peoples past performances or taking anything on faith where it involves an assertion. They carry no weight with me at all. I like being able to go back to the source data. That is because history shows me quite clearly that when assertions of fact are not challenged and become articles of faith they often cause horrible consequences down the line. It is pretty easy to draw examples – for instance the early 20th debate about eugenics comes to mind.

                      Goebbels, Wishart, and other such people more in love with their own arguments than facts do this frequently. There is are several blog sites in NZ that specialize in it. This one doesn’t.

                      To give you an idea of my disrespect for claimed authority, you only have to read my occasional posts. For instance, there is a post around here somewhere where I had a go at what professor emeritus actually means in practice. In many cases I think it means coasting on the past while not bothering to read on current or updated material. I frequently note this happens amongst people who are ‘respected’ and simply coast on reputation with some of the most amazing crap I’ve ever heard and who don’t bother checking anything. They obviously don’t like giving sources – they might be checked..

                      So please don’t bother with appeals to authority. The absolute best it ever does for me is to make me more willing to check the logic and numbers. But in this case, there isn’t anything to check. Which I usually find means that the numbers are cherry-picked, irrelevant, and if examined too closely would probably disprove the argument of the writer.

      • hateatea 13.1.2

        ‘Of course it could just be that people (especially males) are less likely to offend as they get older.’

        It could even be argued, although it shouldn’t, that they commit fewer criminal offenses because they are in gaol for so much longer for whatever offense they were incarcerated for in the first place.

        The real reason is, as you say Lprent, that most people offend when they are quite young. With age, responsibilities such as marriage, a mortgage and a job, many move on to be, relatively speaking, reformed citizens.

        Of course there are people who are just bad, but there are also those who are mad, sad or otherwise unwell (alcoholics and other addicts). Without the stability that many of these formerly had in terms of health ‘institutions’, they are imprisoned at a frightening rate but not treated for their illnesses nor adequately supported once their term of imprisonment ends.

        It is sad but true that there are even those who offend just so that they will be incarcerated and have a roof over their heads, regular meals, routine and companionship. It is a cold, hard world when you are homeless, virtually unemployable, illiterate, unwell etc etc.

        We have been moving back to the extremely punitive days that saw the foundation of Australia. What a commentary that is on our society.

        I don’t particularly like what I know about Howard Broad but it is surely part of his job to voice thoughts such as these. Of course, he is safe to do it now as Judith Collins has already begun looking for his replacement

  12. jbanks 14

    So what kind of punishment will naughty people get as a disincentive to crime if not jail?

    • Burke 14.1

      Well, the general idea is not to – we are not supposed to expect people to know that rape or assault is wrong, ergo, we cannot blame them or hold them accountable.

      To someone, like Colonial Viper, for example, we cannot expect someone who happens to be Maori to exhibit the same propensity towards lawful behaviour as, say, a Fijian Indian.

      To me, such an idea is patronising and racist – but, hey, it’s a free country.

      • Colonial Viper 14.1.1

        Actually what is patronising and racist is having you pretend to be my spokesperson. Frak off.

      • felix 14.1.2

        Why don’t you log in as burt again and agree with yourself.

        • Burke

          Can you please explain your insinuation?

          • felix

            No I think I’ll just leave you to it. I have work to do and vodka to drink and transparent fuckwits like you bore me to tears.

            Enjoy your privileged racist bald-headed authoritarian bullshit while it lasts, scumbag.

            • freedom

              mmmmmmmmmmm wodka, if i wasn’t responsible for peoples’ lives tonight i would take your lead, have a couple for me felix

              and to those who think locking up every criminal is the answer,
              you clearly have no idea of the question

        • burt

          Ah, different people felix, ask lprent to offer and opinion based on IP address if that was me postign as Burke. It’s not like you to be so paranoid felix, roll them a bit thinner.

          [lprent: Different cities and quite different backtraces (but interesting). ]

          • Burke

            Felix’s eloquence truly is surprising in its width and depth.

          • Burke

            What, pray tell, is interesting about that?

            • lprent

              Read the privacy part of the policy.

              It means that I can’t tell you the details. But there was an assertion about identity so I used the IP’s to backtrack to locations and answered the question being debated. That is something I always find interesting when it comes up as it gives me a better idea of the current structure of the local net and where everyone is

    • burt 14.2


      I don’t actually disagree with Broad, just the information released to the public certainly leaves a lot of holes for speculation. If we are locking up too many people, and I kind of think we are, then what offenses that currently earn a stint inside will no longer do so.

      But to have a guess at answering your question; People now on home detention rather than being locked up elsewhere will be automatically eligible for a state house.

      • burt:

        I don’t actually disagree with Broad, just the information released to the public certainly leaves a lot of holes for speculation.

        I agree, though I’m not sure whether it’s the fault of Broad or of Stuff’s report. Simply saying “Golly gee, after five years of happily sucking up any extra funds, staff and powers you cared to give me, I’ve suddenly had a half-arsed epiphany” isn’t quite the standard of analysis I’d expect from somone we pay, as Treetop pointed out above, $500,000 a year to prevent as well as detect crime.

        But perhaps Broad had more to say. I might contact Police PR and see if there’s any briefing notes etc available. In the meantime, kudos to him for saying it, albeit belatedly.

        If we are locking up too many people, and I kind of think we are, then what offenses that currently earn a stint inside will no longer do so.

        Not at all. Broadly speaking, criminals fall into three categories: mad, bad and dispossessed / angry / poor / lacking a belief in a positive future for themselves.

        The mad need to be removed from our prisons and treated with compassion and respect in purpose-built facilities. The kind we used to have before politically correct nonsense said “care in the community” would provide for their needs.

        The bad need harsh punishments and intensive psychotherapy, but with the capacity to earn gradually improving conditions, and eventual release, after a sustained period of proving they no longer derive pleasure from harming others. (As lprent notes above, that may mean keeping them confined till age reduces their testosterone sufficiently. Others may improve quicker).

        The final category – which makes up the bulk of the prison population – are more complex. Many hundreds of thousands of words have been written about how to deter their offending. And almost none of it recommends longer sentences. But as KJT has already pointed out, lessening social inequality is known to have a highly positive correlation to crime.

        (and a note of admiration for ianmac’s insightful comment too)

        • RedLogix

          Thanks Rex… I was expecting that you’d arrive and put the whole thing into some cogent sense at some point.

          But as KJT has already pointed out, lessening social inequality is known to have a highly positive correlation to crime.

          At some point in this long and endless debate, I’ve come to realise that the RWNJ’s (and the bulk of talk-back land) have already made this choice. They actually prefer the crime and the prisons rather than deal with the social injustices and inequalities that are it’s real cause.

          • Rex Widerstrom

            Thanks RL. And then there’s that subset – of which Garrett is a prime example – who actually seem to get off on the idea of “scum” suffering. They’re perversely grateful that there’s a another subset of society who offend so that they can maintain a veneer of respectability while gleefully proposing as harsh a regime as they think they can get away with, without being called on their own psychopathology.

            If the public arose from its bed tomorrow and decided that torture was an acceptable response to crime, McVicar and Garrett would be first in line for the role of Dungeonmaster… bristling with righteous indignation and protesting that they were volunteering only to protect more “vulnerable” members of society from having to do it.

            I’ve been in prison with psychopaths, and worked with a few in the justice sector since. The television portrayal of the cherubic psychopath hiding his light under a bushel and fooling the experienced profiler might be true, but I’ve yet to meet one; they’re usually quite obvious. Which is why I can say with some confidence that, like those former inmates, McVicar and Garrett scare the shit out of me.

            • burt

              If the public arose from its bed tomorrow and decided that torture was an acceptable response to crime, McVicar and Garrett would be first in line for the role of Dungeonmaster…

              No, Benson-Pope would be first.

          • Swampy

            No they don’t. Their argument is that a liberalisation of sentencing (I remember 15 years ago Geoffrey Palmer brought in community sentencing in the 4LG) went hand in hand with other social engineering liberalisation in contributing to a rising crime rate. There is also a strong feeling in the community, as you will find if you ask anyone who lives near a probation centre, that society at large is being foisted with the cost of the failure of government policy to rehabilitate criminals and prevent crime. Quite why communities are expected to absorb parollees and pay the real cost of high crime that doesn’t appear on the government’s balance sheets is beyond me as well.

        • hateatea

          Rex, I agree with most of what you said (kind of scary because I usually don’t).

          One of the real issues we have is not how we deal with the really violent in our society, ie the murderers and rapists, but rather, the increasingly punitive incarceration of much lower level offending.

          Sadly, many young people are criminalised for things that would have merely earned them a very stern talking to by the local constable when I was a girl (quite a long time ago now I reluctantly admit). Much of their legal representation is legal aid and there is huge pressure to plead guilty when someone represented by a lawyer being paid out of their own pocket, or that of their parents, would get a much more thorough checking of the facts of the case and more cogent arguments for alternatives to imprisonment such as reparation, community sentencing, psychiatric assistance, particularly drug and alcohol, etc.

          Someone who already feels victimised by society because they are poor or illiterate will only come out of prison more bitter, angrier and less employable. It is a vicious circle.

          captcha: includes

          • Rex Widerstrom

            Thanks hateatea. If you don’t often agree with me feel free to challenge me on it… I come here for two reasons: to test my thinking on an informed audience and to learn 🙂

            Much of their legal representation is legal aid and there is huge pressure to plead guilty when someone represented by a lawyer being paid out of their own pocket, or that of their parents, would get a much more thorough checking of the facts of the case…

            That’s a hugely significant point overlooked in discussion of statistics. Accused persons are routinely offered reduced charges (by police) and sentences (by prosecutors) to get them to plead guilty. Asked to gamble your innocence (or even lesser culpability than the offences for which you’re charged) against a much longer sentence if you “try the court’s patience” by fighting and losing is an awful choice with which to be faced.

            I know the courts are over-run but when I hear of a judge giving “a discount for an early guilty plea” my blood runs cold, thinking it could possibly (note RWNJs: possibly be an innocent person railroaded to jail.

            As for the relative quality of “lawyers paid out of your own pocket”, well… some of my best friends are in the legal profession, as they say. But I’ve seen the reverse occur – a client with a hopeless case given false hope and run through all sorts of pre-trial nonsense and a trial, infuriating the judge, so as to bilk a larger fee from the mug before he’s sent down.

            Then there’s the stories of rank incompetence I could tell you, with as many privately practicing lawyers as legal aid ones figuring…

            I taught myself computing because I got sick of waiting for ages only to be overcharged for something that was usually fairly simple by a complete idiot whose knowledge of this arcane topic gave him an attitude of arrogance. When I first started encountering the police, I quickly realised I’d need to learn law for exactly the same reason.

            [Explanatory note to lawyers: that’s by no means all of you, or the bulk of you. But you know what some of your colleagues are like, because you tell me yourselves].

            [Note to those interested in legal discussions: For all it’s other faults, Kiwiblog seems to attract as commenters a number of scholarly lawyers – notably those who post as GPT1 and FE Smith, but there are others too. If you can squint when scrolling past the RWNJ “hang ’em all” stuff, their perspectives are always worth reading].

            • KJT

              Supporting a teenager in court recently.

              Firstly it took several phone calls, letters and personal visits to get the details of the police case from them. Which they actually are legally bound to supply to the defendant if requested.

              He was advised to plead guilty, even though he was not guilty of the main charge, as the cost of a lawyer to defend him was more than the likely fine.
              The, so called, legal aid lawyer refusing to do a defended case unless he was engaged privately was also a shock. The lack of fairness and exaggeration by the police was not calculated to engender any respect from the teenagers involved.

              No one but a lawyer was allowed to stand with him or support him in court either. This is a 16 year old.

              That experience convinced me that there are significant numbers of people who are guilty only of misdemeanors or innocent railroaded into guilty pleas for the convenience of the court or lawyers. Especially youngsters.

              Amazing the change in attitude when I turned up in a suit with a friend who worked at the court.

              • lprent

                It isn’t exactly uncommon. There have been a number of young guys that I’ve known about or of who have been pushed into prison simply because of lack of effective representation.

                The charges and evidence given by police to the court and defendants are frequently quite strange, usually bloated out with absolute crap (one I saw showed pages of photos of video tapes of coronation street episodes for no apparent reason) and often internally contradictory when you read the documents.

                Some of the sentences given are frequently completely out of proportion to the purported offense. Some are so ludicrously low for admitted offenses.

                However the costs of getting effective defense is also frequently ludicrously high.

                Basically I get the feeling that the courts, police, and for that matter the whole legal system could do with some pretty severe performance checking and explicit automatic penalties for miscarriages of justice.

            • hateatea

              Most of the time I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to challenge your views, Rex, so I stay silent. That way noone but me knows the level of my ignorance!

              There are some topics I feel knowledgeable enough about to put fingers to keyboard but there are so many well-educated and well-read people here that I am guilty of allowing others to argue for me, but thank you for acknowledging my thoughts.

              As for ‘private practice’ lawyers, I am sure that there are those who take cases to ludicrous lengths to extract larger fees but at least those clients are afforded the full benefits of our justice system.

        • M

          ‘The mad need to be removed from our prisons and treated with compassion and respect in purpose-built facilities. The kind we used to have before politically correct nonsense said “care in the community” would provide for their needs.’

          Rex, a point that needs to be repeated and often as these poor buggers really are at the arse end of life. Where I live there is this woman who looks after many older men who are real down and outs suffering with alcoholism and mental health problems and people look down their noses at her because she’s not in any way “fashionable” and probably could make the acquaintance of soap and water more often but the thing is that she really cares for these men.

          This is where a place like Kimberley in Levin could have come to the aid of men such as these where there would be three changes of staff per day with proper rest for the caregivers instead of a continuous 24 hour shift for this woman. I was angry when Kimberley closed because although I realise that intellectually impaired and otherwise disabled people with mental health or addiction problems have rights, so do the people that are forced to look after them continuously without a break. There is respite care for main caregivers but it is very hard to access because many people just do not want to do that kind of work. I remember talking to a couple who were very scared as to their son’s future once he turned 21 and was out of the school system because they were afraid that if either of them or the other two adults in the household fell sick how would they cope with their son’s very high needs. Their son would wander off the property and go and lie down on railway tracks etc so shifts were organised among the adults to keep watch on this one person.

          Apart from the truly bad in prison, if the government were committed to full employment then I think rates of offending would decrease markedly. If this means subsidising employment to some extent then so be it because there is going to be a cost somewhere to keeping people gainfully occupied – I’d rather it be a person working, having a structure to their day and a pay packet than someone marking time behind bars.

        • Swampy

          Whilst there is much in your post I would agree with I don’t think that Workman and Co’s liberal touchy feely ideas like suggesting prisons be abolished or that crime is not rising are going to find much sympathy from the electorate.

  13. coulda kept this guy locked up for few more years i reckon…grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

    Tagger killer Bruce Emery is to be released from prison in time for Christmas, but has to address his “mood” issues, the Parole Board says.

    In February last year Emery began serving a sentence of four years and three months for the 2008 manslaughter of 15-year-old Pihema Cameron.

    Emery stabbed Cameron shortly after catching him spray painting his fence in south Auckland. He said he never intended to kill the teenager.

    This afternoon the Parole Board announced Emery would be released from prison next month.


    • Colonial Viper 15.1

      Yeah…waiting for the RWNJ’s to raise a fuss saying the system is too lenient on this crim. Waddya think the chances are?

      • hateatea 15.1.1

        A snowballs chance?

        Younger and brown and he would be denied parole this early, in my jaundiced opinion

    • burt 15.2

      gold response from Colonial Viper. That is comment of the day.

    • weizguy 15.3

      The problem with this case wasn’t the sentence, and certainly isn’t the parole board. I sincerely doubt that he’s at high risk of reoffending, and as a result is not a danger to society. Since he’s served the punishment, it doesn’t make sense to keep him in longer.

      What upsets me about this case is that I believe the jury was manipulated into a manslaughter verdict. This, for me, was a clear case of murder, and if the demographics were different, we most probably would have seen the right verdict (this is only my opinion of the facts based on what’s been in the media since).

      It is important that we don’t let our dislike for the hypocrisy of the SST on this case improperly influence our opinion of Mr Emery. I know I’ve had to fight this particular emotional response.

      A better question to ask of people like the SST is: Why are you comfortable with this sentence? Why are you comfortable with the parole board on this occasion?

      As for the Captcha: “Misled” – the jury?

      • pollywog 15.3.1

        i caught a kid tagging my car once. he denied it and kept lying to say he didn’t do it. unfortunately for him he couldn’t spell the word he tagged properly, so i got him to write it out again and he spelt it the same way.

        i slapped him round the head, made him cry, clean the tag off and told him if he wants to be famous then tagging is not the way.

        and to think i could have chased him down the road, stabbed him, killed him, only got manslaughter for it and serve less than 2 years jail.

        uhhh…maybe not, cos i’m Pasifikan so the law and sentence would have been interpreted to account for that and i would have prolly been charged with murder and got 14 years no parole.

        like this guy who, although not Pasifikan, can be argued to have acted in self defence…

        Raymond Piper was murdered when a plan to teach him to respect his partner’s family went wrong because he fought back.

        His partner’s mother paid $3500 to have him harmed. The last straw had been him causing trouble at his partner’s 21st birthday party.

        But the 23-year-old bit the man paid to attack him, 51-year-old Ainsley Brent Anderson, and pulled a knife.
        Anderson also had a knife readily to hand in his car and repeatedly stabbed Mr Piper.

        “I did not intend to cause serious injury as I thought he would tell Hanna [Mr Piper’s partner] and she would nark on me.”

        Anderson pleaded guilty of murdering Mr Piper and was sentenced in the High Court at Wellington today to serve at least 14 years of a life imprisonment term.


        who knows what the sentence might have been if he’d made himself more presentable to the judge by wearing a suit and pleaded self defence ?

  14. RedLogix 16

    If prison was the sole and complete answer to crime, then the logical conclusion of burt/burke’s thinking would be to lock up all males between the ages of 15 and 45.

    And never releasing the one’s who show any sign of ‘atitude’.

    • burt 16.1


      So what crimes that currently earn a term inside would you change?

      • RedLogix 16.1.1

        One of the guys next door has just spent three months in Rimutaka for hassling his ex girlfriend (a bit of pushing and loud lip) while drunk. Yes like all the guys in his immediate circle he’s been nothing but a shit magnet all his life. Trouble is all he knows. And hearing some their stories makes my ears bleed…even if only half of it’s true.

        But the three months in prison has not helped one little bit. If nothing else he’s just more resentful, staunch and hopeless than before. Yet he’s actually quite decent and useful when he’s sober. He’s a good worker and an excellent painter who takes real pride in doing a good job.

        The social gap between us could not be greater and it’s really difficult treading a line between bullying and patronising him and his mates. From time to time they try and pull a fast one on us, but in a pretty half-hearted manner… like they feel obliged to try but their heart really isn’t in it. All the same I’d be able to help them more if only they were a little more reliable and trustworthy.

        They’ve reached an age when it’s very difficult to change much for them, but there is no doubt in my mind that they are very much a product of a highly unfair and unequal social system.

        You ask what would I change? Surely it is unlikely that the laws would get changed much… but the current system where young offenders go through a highly predictable series of escalating steps, building up a list of offences until judges have no alternative but to toss them in prison is dumb. Everyone honest who works in the system thinks it is dumb too.

        Conventional rehabilitation is hard because mostly it comes too late in the cycle. Whatever it is that is going to make a difference, whatever will reverse the inevitable rise in the ‘prison culture’… it must change their lives from birth. How do you imagine we might achieve that?

        • Burke

          One thing we do agree on. Short sentences such as that are a waste of time.

        • burt


          How do you imagine we might achieve that?

          Minority report ?

          I think we also need to look at the welfare system, what incentives it has to make people stay engaged with society and their own community.

          • RedLogix

            The film of course is an exploration of the fatal logical flaw at the heart of ‘pre-cognition’. The context, crime and prevention, is merely the setting… Minority Report really doesn’t progress our argument in the real world.

            Yet while pre-cognition is fatally flawed in terms of the individual, nonetheless we can make reliable predictions about the future. For instance if you toss a single coin, there is no reliable way for me to predict heads or tails. If on the other hand you toss the same coin 1000 times, I can make a very good prediction about how many of them will likely land heads or tails.

            While no-one can predict the life and choices of any one individual, we can make reliable predictions about large groups of people. We know that if you marginalise, alienate and generally disrespect a portion of the population, economically or socially… then a predictable portion of their young men, who’ve know nothing much but trouble all their lives, will make trouble for others.

            • Swampy

              Society doesn’t marginalise people. They become marginalised because of their families’ attitudes to life, to a large extent.

          • burt

            Introducing minority report also serves to show the fiction of predicting crime in a way that is reliable enough to act on that prediction. I agree that statistically you could easily say people from [xyz suburb] and [x%] more likely to be involved in cime than people from [abc suburb]. But pick a different crime and the stats move as well. So we are back to what laws do we have that currently have a custodial sentence that is inappropriate ?

            Perhaps the bigger question is are we going about certain social enforcement functions the right way at all using the law rather than some other approach? Is the crime and punishment model the right thing for all the things we use it for ?

            • RedLogix

              I agree that statistically you could easily say people from [xyz suburb] and [x%] more likely to be involved in cime than people from [abc suburb].

              Well gee… isn’t that a clue about what the root cause might be? I’ve spent most of my life in a technical career making big complex things work. Very early on I learned that the best way to have an easy life is to not just fix what is broken, but to figure out why it broke and fix that as well. Otherwise I just get to keep on repeating myself and I don’t know about you I quickly find that sort of thing boring.

              Is the crime and punishment model the right thing for all the things we use it for ?

              Interesting. As Rex points out, probably most people who are in prison probably shouldn’t be there. Some clearly should… no-one is dodging that. But for once we agree, once we allow for some wider thinking, there is a huge amount of room to explore effective changes.

    • Burke 16.2

      Contra RedLogix – there is no answer to crime. I think it is the height of arrogance to think that we can even reduce crime to it’s sociopathic core. I agree that it is foolish hand out life sentences for a third offence – you will end of warehousing old men who present little risk to society.

      Insofar as there is an ‘answer’ to crime, therefore, it is to give a stiff first sentence to violent offenders.

      • RedLogix 16.2.1

        it is to give a stiff first sentence to violent offenders.

        And given that if you ever release them before they are old men that they will almost certainly offend again, probably even more seriously, and if you release them as old men they will never be able to cope outside… then logically the answer is to never release them.


        • Burke

          Correct – if they continue to reoffend. It’s not a perfect solution but posit a workable alternative that doesn’t result in terrorising those of us who live in poor suburbs.

          • RedLogix

            Of course they will continue to offend. Even the Commissioner for Police himself can see that. Everyone working in the system knows that prison simply creates more crime. All our experience tells us that if you release them as we do now they will most probably commit more crime. Which simply ensures your ‘poor suburbs’ continue to be endlessly ‘terrorised’.

            By your reasoning you really have to throw them in prison for life… for the first offence.

            Indeed why wait for that first offence? Why not just throw all males in prison at age 15? Efficient and would almost guarantee no crime. (Well yes it’s absurd, but it’s the logical end-point of your line of thinking.)

            posit a workable alternative that doesn’t result in terrorising those of us who live in poor suburbs.

            Clue… why not get rid of the ‘poorer suburbs’. Violent crime may well just be a symptom of the environment.

            • Burke

              Argument ad absurdum. Incidentally that’s actually been tried – ever been to Cuba or China?

              Stiff first sentence for a first offence and lock them up until they’re not dangerous for the second. I believe that some people can be rehabilitated, but I believe the desire and the will to do so can only come from inside. I do not believe it is outrageous not to waste state resources into non-custodial measures when they have not been shown to work.

              • RedLogix

                Argument ad absurdum is not always as pointless as it may seem. Often it’s a useful tool to strip away a layer of woolly thinking. As I said above, if prison was the sole and only useful response to crime, and if we wanted to make ourselves safe from crime, then logically mandatory imprisonment for all males would achieve that.

                Which reveals the poverty and hopelessness of that line of thinking.

                What about the mandatory elimination of gross poverty and inequality? Or would you prefer to put up with the endless crime?

                • Burke

                  I was afraid you’d say that. Look, it’s been tried and the result was the imprisonment of about a third of the world’s population and nearly 100 million corpses.

                  The only true solution, I suggest, is organic institutions – ie families, religion, public morality, honour and local communities. Those things aren’t coming back, however.

                  • RedLogix

                    Look, it’s been tried and the result was the imprisonment of about a third of the world’s population and nearly 100 million corpses.

                    That’s just a shuffling around of your prejudices. I suggested nothing of the sort.

                    families, religion, public morality, honour and local communities.

                    Was tried for most of human history with extremely variable results. Actually most Greens envisage a society with similar features. I know I do. But clearly these things are only a pre-requisite… there has to be a larger force at work.

                    If the ‘mandatory elimination of poverty’ does not work for you… how about if we all believed in it and chose to eliminate the unjust extremes of wealth and poverty simply because it was the right and ‘publically moral’ thing to do?

                    Or are you happy to put up with the crime and bulging prisons instead?

                    • Burke

                      Despite your apparent need to slay monsters, I am not ‘happy’ with the idea of bulging prisons – what I am saying is that ‘the mandatory elimination of gross poverty and inequality’ begets coercion and tyrany and ultimately results in nothing more than the equal sharing of misery.

                      It is not ‘shifting prejudices around’ to be wary of uptopian thinking and wary of the catostrophic and horifiying consequences of 20th century attempts at the ‘mandatory elimination of gross poverty and inequality’

                    • RedLogix

                      Well the point is that if you don’t want to even think about addressing the root causes of crime, then you are condemmed to endlessly dealing with the consequences.

                      You can hardly complain about crime… you’ve choosing to tolerate it rather than prevent it.

                    • Burke

                      The ‘root cause’ of crime is not injustice per se, but the incontrovertible fact of human nature, which is why ant-communism could only its utopian vision by 80 years of dehumanisation – and why they turned their entire countries into barbed wire ringed prisons.

                      Does that justify doing nothing? No. It does, however, suggest caution about utopian notions such as “the mandatory elimination of gross poverty and inequality”

                    • RedLogix

                      The ‘root cause’ of crime is not injustice per se, but the incontrovertible fact of human nature,

                      Original sin eh? On this I disagree totally. “Human nature” is too often nothing more than a miserable excuse for a failure to exercise choice. While we share many instincts and desires with other mammals, uniquely adult humans have the capacity to choose our behaviours. But necessarily this capacity has to be developed, to be inculcated as it were. It does not arise spontaneously in brute environments of bitterness and dysfunction.

                      If you deny the human capacity for rational moral choice, what is the point of your religion?

                  • MrSmith

                    unfortunately families = children = population something we already have to much of especially Catholics .
                    Religion = false hope.
                    public morality = we are only moral because we are selfish, we see the benefit to ourselves in getting along.
                    Honor ? Honor and obey maybe, no thanks.
                    Local communities, now this is a great thing as I live in one .

                    • RedLogix

                      And that Mr Smith is pretty much a shuffling of your prejudices too.

                    • Burke

                      As a practicing Catholic I am saddened to learn that there are too many of us. To which government department should we report for mandatory sterilisation.

                      Look, how often do you hear anyone on the right ever specifically propound a laissez-faire mentality? Very rarely – it is usually reserved for ACT supporters and other’s beholden to the empty creed of libertarianism.

                      It’s not as if nothing can be done to discourage criminality – but nationalising the role of local communities is not the way to go. A succesful attempt would aspire to the ethos of subsidiarity.

                      As a middle ground, the Swiss model of the welfare state would be preferable (source: http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/all/6142898/swiss-welfare-runs-like-clockwork.thtml) Merely increasing central distributed transfer payments, while decreasing the punitive nature of criminal justice is not going to increase a sense of personal responsibility..

                    • Pascal's bookie

                      Look, how often do you hear anyone on the right ever specifically propound a laissez-faire mentality?

                      Been on the internets long, have you Burke?

                    • Burke

                      Care to explain?

                    • Burke

                      Try to think about it this way. I, along with a majority or New Zealanders, am actually in favour of a smaller, less extensive welfare state. I probably go further in my desires than most New Zealanders.

                      Does it follow that I, and those in agreement with me, am in favour of lassaiz-faire? Am I really against helping anyone else? To disagree that a monolithic state, manned by our masters in the public service, is the best way of administering said help is not to say such a thing. I suggest few conservatives find Ayn Rand less venal or ugly than Karl Marx.

                      As evidence I offer the, basically uncontested fact, that conservatives give significantly more to private charity than progressives do (across income strands and social strata). For convenience I cite the following New York Times column by uber-lefty Nicholas Kristof as evidence (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/opinion/21kristof.html). Now, some will cry foul given that this study, incontrovertible as it is, is an American study – but I see no reason to think the case is otherwise in New Zealand (especially as there is a syllogism to explain it).

                      How does this comparison affect the dichotomy, commonly sustained in The Standard between caring and generous progressives and uncaring and dispassionate conservatives? Answer: it demolishes it.

                      The best explanation, which fits the data as well as conservatives’ own explanations of their motives, is this: Progressives believe that assistance should be delivered by an impersonal and coercive government machine. They accordingly care less for voluntary personal charity. By contrast, conservatives believe assistance should be delivered voluntarily by personal charity, and care less for impersonal and coercive governmental machines.

                      The approaches are different but neither is lassaiz-faire. Like ‘trickle down’’ economics, the term is primarily employed in such a way to demonize the conservatives – perhaps out of excessive self-regard by the person using the term.

                    • RedLogix

                      I, along with a majority or New Zealanders, am actually in favour of a smaller, less extensive welfare state.

                      An attitude you would no doubt cling to .. until the day you stood in need of it yourself. Such is the stink of the smug and self-righteous.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      By the way Burke you are a laugh and a half by claiming that you are part of a majority of NZ’ers (I am guessing about 10%) who think that we should have a smaller welfare state and leave people to rot, all for the sake of affording tax cuts for the already rich and well fed.

                    • Pascal's bookie

                      Care to explain?

                      Sure. I’m saying that on the internets you find people of a rightward disposition propounding a laissez-faire mentality about as often as you find pictures of cats.

                      Which is to say, a lot.

                    • Descendant Of Smith

                      “Progressives believe that assistance should be delivered by an impersonal and coercive government machine.”

                      That’s the bullshit statement.

                      Actually I believe that support for those in difficulty should be provided by a benevolent and caring welfare system and not at the whim and favour of those people who hold the purse strings and pick and choose whom they will support.

                      That fairness comes from equity of access for all in need.

                      I’m happy to pay more tax for that to happen and therefore am making my contribution. I trust that the government that we elect will act fairly and responsibly towards my fellow citizens for I have entrusted them with my wealth to do so.

                      I understand that my own personal biases are not the best way to decide who is in need and that morality perceptions of who is deserving should not come into it.

                      I look at the history and legacy of charitable orphanages and poor houses and I think never ever ever again should the poor and unwell and indigent be at the mercy of the well off.

                    • Swampy

                      @RedLogix …
                      26 November 2010 at 9:38 pm

                      We don’t a bigger welfare state. Why is putting more people on welfare good when it is inextricably linked with social deprivation?

                      I am always struck by the contrast between young teenage DPB receipients and the mums I know who put their young kids into childcare and go out and work. The main difference between the groups is their level of work skills. The majority of those on the DPB should be put on the dole instead, and required to find work.

                    • Swampy

                      @Burke …
                      26 November 2010 at 8:48 pm

                      Very interesting that article. In the first page
                      “In Britain, 46 per cent of our children are born out of wedlock. In Switzerland the figure is where ours was 25 years ago, vastly lower at 16 per cent.”

                      More interesting as you read further on why that is the case.

                      We need to get to the point where our government goes even further in overhauling the DPB than is currently the case.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Swampy, so where exactly is this “WORK” you keep speaking of?

                      I know unemployed graduates and experienced workers lining up for jobs which are not there. Tell me where I can find this “WORK” you keep referring to and I will point them the way.

                      Also please explain how further reforms of the DPB system is going to make this “WORK” appear.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Burke we have to give young people a stake in their communities and ensure that they have good jobs which give them a strong social structure to work within.

                    Your idea of simply waiting until people commit a crime and then to put them away for as long as it takes is both wasteful and vindictive.

                    There is no way that we should model ourselves after the punitive and unaffordable US system.

                    • Burke

                      How hollow are the accusations of self-righteousness when I, at least, am not imputing selfishness as the motive of the left. Yet, for advocating a personal approach to assistance, for reasons of social cohesion as much as anything else, am slandered as wanting to leave people to rot.

                      If it is as simple as that, please explain why conservatives give far more of their own money and time (willingly) than do progressives – over and above their tax requirements.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Burke – lolz at trying to take the moral high ground. OK then where are your stats on how much NZ conservatives give compared to NZ liberals?

                      Also, tell me how much more US conservatives intend to give to the unemployed when unemployment payments extensions starts to expire this Sunday, an expiration which will soon effect almost 2 million Americans?

                      Simply put mate, ad hoc charitable giving cannot and does not replace established and systematised Federal (Government) assistance.

                    • Pascal's bookie

                      And remember that many US conservatives tithe to their strange little cults. And lie like flat fish.

                      I hardly find the studies about conservative vs liberal generosity convincing.

                    • Descendant Of Smith

                      “To disagree that a monolithic state, manned by our masters in the public service, is the best way of administering said help is not to say such a thing.”

                      And you lose credibility when you say crap like this. Most public servants are ordinary people who come from the very communities they live in who work there because they wish to give service to the community.

                      If there’s a screw-up it’s from the politicians trying to catch votes and from private enterprise who want to take the best and scrap the rest. The NZ public service is well respected by international standards.

                      I don’t what’s got up your goat – mate I’ve been screwed over by private enterprise many many more times than I’ve been screwed over by a public servant and I’ve been told what to do much more often by a corporate halfwit than the odd public official.

                      If you’re suggesting that private masters are somehow benevolent and kind I can find you plenty of examples past and present where they are not.

            • Swampy

              How would you do that?

      • @Burke:

        I think it is the height of arrogance to think that we can even reduce crime to it’s sociopathic core.

        I’m not entirely sure what you mean by that so apologies if I’m misinterpreting. Not all crime has a sociopathic core. I don’t think I’m a sociopath but I committed crime (stole bread and milk from mailboxes in the days when both were delivered) when I was hungry and thirsty. So non-sociopathic was I that I took note of whose stuff I’d taken and made sure never to impose on the same person twice.

        I know that’s a trivial example, but crime can arise from mental illness, desperate need, stupidity… vast amounts of crime arise from the desire of a young male (usually under the influence of drugs and / or alcohol) to impress a young female.

        We can, however, separate within a “triage” section of a modern correctional facility the mad and the bad (being genuine sociopaths; they’re usually not that hard to spot as their crimes generally had an emphasis on hurting someone else, either way in excess of what was necessary to steal something or just for the hell of it). They need to be treated differently from the rest as their criminality does have a “sociopathic core”.

        Insofar as there is an ‘answer’ to crime, therefore, it is to give a stiff first sentence to violent offenders.

        It may surprise you to learn (if you’ve followed my comments on justice issues here or elsewhere) that I broadly agree with you. Just that the sentence shouldn’t be served in a jail, or anything like it.

        Again very broadly, I think the people who talk about “a spell in the army” or “National Service” or “boot camp” are on the right track… they’re just not understanding the psychology of young offenders.

        For persistent young offenders I believe – through a lot of reading and first hand observation – that reparation (e.g. cleaning up their own graffiti, working to replace something they’ve damaged) and facing the people they’ve hurt (in the broadest sense of that term) can help deter many. Take the “fun” out of low level criminal activity by making the consequences shameful (but privately shameful) and boring and you’ve achieved deterrence.

        But then you’re faced with the fact that young people are hardwired to varying degrees to seek out risk and excitement (which is why controlled race areas would be the best hoon deterrent etc).

        That’s where a “boot camp” comes in – but not a punitive, yelled-at-by-a-pretend-sergeant-major comes in, but a kind of “Outward Bound for Ratbags”.

        I’ll probably leave it there and wait for someone to claim I’m rewarding criminal behaviour before I explain the psychology behind that… 😉

        • Burke

          Sigh. I am badly outnumbered here.

          Perhaps if I explain further what I meant.

          By talking about the sociopathic core of crime I am referring to the type of crime that can never be eliminated because it is committed by sociopaths. By talking about the goal of reducing the phenomenon of crime to its sociopathic core I am talking about the, well intentioned, desire to create a world where only sociopaths commit crimes (because no crime is committed out of, say, desperation or need).

          My view, however, is that such a world is impossible.

          • Maynard J

            You seem to be agreeing with Rex – there’s a level of criminality that will never be stopped. I agree there.

            But then you seem to say we can’t achieve 100% reduction in the rest, so don’t try. Do you not think that making an attempt have an effect? Or do you think that unless we can get there 100% (viz. “a world where only sociopaths commit crimes”) nothing will change? Locig suggests otherwise.

  15. MrSmith 17

    At the moment we turn kids into competitive aggressive clones, national standards is just another way of making a competition out of school, sport in new zealand is something we worship, just look at out national game, gladiatorial violence , if we put a fraction of the money we waste on sport and competing against each other into cooperation and understanding we might just turn out some doesn’t human being in time, but the Nacts don’t want people thinking for themselves that would be dangerous.

    • burt 17.1

      If you want to remove competition from the basic makeup of humans then you had better find a way for woman to get pregnant via a sperm selected in a lottery.

      • RedLogix 17.1.1

        Agreed the competitive drive is innate in humans… well most creatures really.

        But only humans have the choice in what we will compete over.

        • KJT

          Well. Most of the really great human achievements were and are the result of co-operation. Even the corporation involves a group of people working towards a common goal.

          Management studies show that people work best in groups even when competing..

        • burt

          But they also need leaders, and leadership has a competitive component in itself. I think saying teams are not competitive in themselves is completely wrong. People do work best in teams with good leadership, no argument. You might take a socialist approach and pay all the team the same, but a natural human hierarchy is always present and is part of the team dynamic.

          • KJT

            Yes. Good leaders are part of the dynamic. The best leaders though are the ones who feel they lead as servants of the team, not their master. The boss that says,” what do you need from me to do the job”. That is the skill they contribute. Others contribute different skills.

    • Swampy 17.2

      The only thing that is different about national standards compared to the rest of assessment methods in schools is that the data is reported to the Government.

      Anyone who opposes national standards should quantify their response according to this incontrovertible fact.

  16. MrSmith 18

    Yes we are competitive, but we need to be educated as to why we are, not encouraged at every turn to compete, I am as competitive as any body, but I understand it now as a evolutionary handover that we need to rise above as humans, it turns us against each other in my opinion.

  17. As much as I despise ghouls like McVicar and Garrett they’re entitled to their opinion. They are (or rather should be) merely lobbyists. Their policies should be analysed and judged dispassionately by the people responsible for making our laws – our politicians – as should the policies of Rethinking Crime and Punishment and others active in the sphere.

    That the SST is listened to while everyone else is ignored is entirely because the “facts” they feed politicians on both sides of the aisle provide easy fodder for manufacturing fear come election time. And that fear is then used to seek votes. It is, in short, a political protection racket.

    To date the NZ media have shown no interest in subjecting this pantomime to any degree of scrutiny. Elsewhere, however, the signs are more promising. With the Victorian election looming, Melbourne’s Age published a scathing two-page spread on how both the major parties are using fraudulent information on crime to compete for votes.

    It added an editorial which says, inter alia:

    …political claims about the safety of our streets are more concerned with perception than reality, with both parties guilty of spinning the statistics to suit themselves. David Chalke is right when he says ”the debate we should be having is how to fix the data”.

    The Liberal Attorney General in NSW, former prosecutor Greg Smith, last year pledged to end the “law and order auction” that happens every election.

    It’s a pity his Victorian counterpart couldn’t have displayed the same courage. And, with NSW heading into an election soon, it remains to be seen whether Mr Smith keeps his promise.

    • Colonial Viper 19.1

      They’re entitled to their opinion alright, but I do not believe that they are entitled to frame the entire discussion and they certainly aren’t entitled to monopolise air time by focussing on a failing vindictive and punitive approach to law and order.

      • And that’s the fault of the media and politicians, who pander to them to the virtual exclusion of alternative viewpoints.

        Every time they do it, they should be called on it.

    • Swampy 19.2

      Workman et al are hard pressed to explain a non-increase in crime when the police themselves have recorded a staggering increase in assaults against officers.

  18. ianmac 20

    Sadly Mr Smith you are probably right, especially in the case of competition for kids. It is the adults who impose importance of winning on kids. Of course you play as well as you can but once the game is over that should be the end. If kids grow up as winners and losers, the cooperative elements get subjugated.
    And I wonder if that over-accent on competition leads to competing with cars, aggressive driving, cheating to win and all those other debits in our society, and ironically as kids age so many opt out of sport?

    • Descendant Of Smith 20.1

      As someone who has played and captained sports teams for a large number of years the notion that it’s all about winning is just absolute crock.

      Most of us who actually played sport played hard and fair and while winning was important it was not the overriding factor. Participation, effort, physical exertion, fair play, not cheating, discipline, fitness, teamwork and so on were all far more dominant in players thinking.

      I would argue that the withdrawing of sport as an essential activity, the introduction of Saturday and Sunday trading removing the ability of all but the elite to play, the profit incentive that means fans are needed to fill seats – not participants to actually play, the resulting individualisation of sport to those than can be played by one person cause you can’t get a team together, the introduction of competitive models into schools, the marketing and selling of “necessary” expensive equipment and so on have moved most sport from being the participatory social activity it once was. Sports not the problem – people are and particularly those that don’t play.

      Some people need the company of others to enjoy sport – others can manage the solitude of long distance running. I don’t get individual sports in the slightest, my wife who has swum and dived all her life doesn’t get team sports. We’re different but neither of us are wrong in our preferences.

      As sport as become ever increasingly the domain of those with money those who are particularly kinisthetic and team orientated have been marginalised into fans or bypass sport altogether and turn to fighting and gangs.

      No surprise to me.

      What amazes me is how having removed these sorts of opportunities for many we want to send them to military boot camps and teach them fitness and discipline.

      Sport is a much better option.

      First thing I’d do is ban Saturday afternoon trading so people could go back to playing – or alternatively spending time with family.

      I don’t get the sport haters either though most I have met do seem to enjoy the fitness aspects of running, jogging, swimming and so on. I think like my wife they don’t get the team thing and so then think it’s somehow strange and wrong.

      • burt 20.1.1

        Keep em in sport to keep em out of court. I know a talented basketball coach who says that regularly.

        I agree, pandering to the fact that we can’t all be winners and that’s not fair, we though it would be nice if we let the kiddies make their own choice. The unintended consequence is that the people who could most benefit from some structure and engagement in their lives slip though the cracks and slide off the rails.

        • Colonial Viper

          Sport is a crucial ingredient in helping keep young people involved socially and involved in the wider community. Exposure to individual responsibility, team work, self discipline, comradeship, competitive spirit and self belief etc are all so important.

      • ianmac 20.1.2

        Descendant of Smith. “Most of us who actually played sport played hard and fair and while winning was important it was not the overriding factor. Participation, effort, physical exertion, fair play, not cheating, discipline, fitness, teamwork and so on were all far more dominant in players thinking.” (Wonder if that’s how the bulk of the kids saw it?)
        What a great plan and very desirable. In my experience it goes wrong when young kids are expected to win because there is a cup to win, and hey kids lets just use the best kids and you others can just watch. From the safety of the side line, parents and coaches yell at their kids and it is not encouragement. School honour is at stake and later kudos and admiration and reward goes to the “winners.”
        It is of course much easier to argue that kids must toughen up, must be brave losers and gracious winners, and get used to the tough life.
        Funny that something like 80% drop out of voluntary sport by the time they are about 15.
        And they would be the ones who would otherwise have benefitted from all that great plan that you described.

        • Descendant Of Smith

          Yeah but the figure used to be much lower for all and more of the reasons I’ve described.

          There are many small towns now that no longer have sports teams, there are many impoverished communities that used to have but no longer do.

          Financial cost, lack of leadership, having to spend more time at work to earn a decent income, both parents having to work to survive, used pays pushing the cost of sports fees up as councils charge more and more for the grounds rather than this being seen of social benefit – all these things make it harder and harder for ordinary people to play sport.

          There’s simply not equity of opportunity.

          I don’t disagree that there aren’t bad parents and competition can go too far but having played and participated in a range of sports for over 30 years that can be managed.

          If there’s no opportunity when you leave school then that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be.

          I was involved with a cricket club for twenty plus years that kept fees at $40-00 per year as opposed to the $140+ that other clubs were charging. I had no shortage of players who if not for that fee structure would have been lost to the game. Normal everyday people who just wanted to play.

  19. Burke 21

    @Redlogix – while I would prefer to leave religion out of this altogether let me just say this. Human nature, giving in to animal instincts, is a miserable excuse for hurting other people. I don’t deny the capacity for rational moral choice. What you call the capacity to choose our behaviour, what I might call ‘free will’ is indeed. From my perspective the capacity is not to eradicate the darker sides of human nature, but the capacity for individuals to overcome it.

    Now, it is my view that religious discipline can help individuals overcome the temptaton to horridness – but I hardly expect many people who comment on this site to agree with that proposition. But that is where we are different and we have obviously arrived at an impasse.

    • Colonial Viper 21.1

      People are always better off with a faith element or spiritual element in their lives IMO. Something which lets them reach into a world which is greater than just base individualism.

      • Descendant Of Smith 21.1.1

        I suspect that you’ll find us more tolerant than you think – there’s a strong diversity of opinion. While I think god is a nonsense and doesn’t exist I clearly understand it’s historical and current significance and the aspects of our culture and history that it brings to the table.

        Those that find comfort and the motivation to support their fellow man – well and good.

        Those that use it for other purposes a pox on you.

        I’m quite comfortable simply believing in our own capacity to support each other without any sort of divinity being involved – faith in humanity to be nice and do good.

        • RedLogix

          While I think god is a nonsense

          Of course… the God that most people try and capture within their limited human imaginations can only ever be a nonsensical caracature of the Divine. People who prattle on that they have a ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ especially provoke me to want to reach out and choke them… but that’s just me being curmudgeonly.

          Just because something is beyond our capacity to understand, does not mean it cannot exist.

          Those that use it for other purposes a pox on you.

          Couldn’t agree more. Fundamentalists is the word you are looking for.

          I’m quite comfortable simply believing in our own capacity to support each other without any sort of divinity being involved – faith in humanity to be nice and do good.

          Two problems. One is that you are now more or less at the mercy of individual interpretation as to what exactly is ‘nice’ and ‘good’. Lots and lots of wriggle room there.

          Secondly, as you get older you rather tend to loose faith in the idea that most people want to be nice and good just off their own initiative. People rather need something larger than themselves to be inspired by, something greater than the mire of the daily grind to widen their vision.

      • Zorr 21.1.2

        CV, I usually agree with a lot of your comments but this one really riles me. Your post suggests that having a degree of faith/spirituality in your life makes you a better person? I call bs on that. It also seems to more explicitly state that a lack of this element means that, as humans, we revert to a base individuality. To me this demonstrates a lack of understanding of the biology surrounding the social aspects of humans. There are a multitude of labels for those that don’t play well with others and -do- revert to such individuality and generally the labels are such things as “autism”, “aspergers” or varying degrees of “psychopathy” and “sociopathy”. Not happy labels at all and ones that we would hope would not apply to the populace at large.

        “Religion gives people bad reasons for acting morally, where good reasons are actually available” — Sam Harris

        • Colonial Viper

          Hi Zorr,

          I should add that what I consider ‘faith’ or ‘spirituality’ is somewhat broad. Certainly not always what one might recognise as ‘organised religion’.

          Also to clarify I didn’t say that it makes someone a ‘better person’, but that it can be an ingredient which is beneficial to a person (however quantitatively or qualitatively they might measure that in their own lives). That is for each person to determine for themselves too, not for someone else.

          • Descendant Of Smith

            Just because something is beyond our capacity to understand, does not mean it cannot exist.

            Nope it’s not beyond our capacity to understand. I understand it perfectly. The notion of god developed as a means to explain the world around us. The part of the brain that responds to religious thought is predominantly the primitive part of our brain – there is a particular congruity across all religions with the more modern part of the brain shutting done and the sense of self disappearing while in religious thought whether it be praying, chanting, meditating etc. That feeling of being at one with the world and all is right.

            As our brain further developed more organized religion developed as did the rules and rituals and notions around it.

            As science developed then we found other ways of explaining the world and discovered that many things we thought were wondrously created by deities were actually normal everyday events – wonderful and amazing none-the-less but no third party influence.

            That doesn’t we that our notion of spirituality is defunct – we clearly need this and god and religion still sustains that need for many people.

            For me a simple belief in humanity sustains that need.

            Not hard to explain at all.

            Secondly, as you get older you rather tend to lose faith in the idea that most people want to be nice and good just off their own initiative.

            not for me. I continue to see everyday people being good and helping their fellow man. There are many many things to be proud of in our society – there’s still much more work to be done and there’s plenty of people doing it.

    • ak 21.2

      Then why not exhibit that discipline. His sole instructions when pressed were Love and Forgiveness. Yet you’d lock up the good thief. He’d throw away the Key – and all he represents. And you know it: but writhe in your weakness.

      • RedLogix 21.2.1

        It’s been a while since I’ve been compelled to say this ak… but you keep humbling me.

        Enough for the day. Tommorrow the Tararuas, a day with some green behind the eyeballs. Nite all.

      • Burke 21.2.2

        Right – because if I passed by a man beaten and bloody on the roadside I’d walk by, all becuase I believe present welfare systems are counterproductive.

        Do you see that there is a difference between being charitable by giving away your own possessions and forcing other people to give theirs away?

        If I walk down the street and see a homeless man and give him money to buy a pie or whatever – that’s Christian charity. If I hold a gun to the head of the next man walking down the street and ask him to give me money to buy a pie for the homeless man, and then pocket a third of it for my own costs – that’s not Christian charity.

        • ianmac

          It is assumed that Spiritual means the same as Religious. That is that God is watching me and that all wonderful things are his work. I think, as an aethiest, that there is wonder of all those beautiful things like a stormy sea, or a mob of sparrows tussling, or my peas knowing how to pod but it has nothing to do with someone’s god.
          Therefore a moral position that I won’t pinch your stuff even if I reckon I can get away with it, may be Spiritual but not religious.

        • Descendant Of Smith

          No-one is forcing you to give anything away. Go live somewhere else.

          In this country we have agreed as a community to help and support each other through taxation. It’s part of what we have agreed to as a community – just like we have agreed to be a democracy and we’ve have agreed to be tolerant of religion.

          You’re not forced to live here.

          Go go to your idyllic tax free community.

          So what would you pay tax for – roads, police, prisons, electricity.

          Why are people in need less important than those things? Why should they depend on the chance of some kind Christian soul working past to get help.

          More and more you sound like an American conservative. You’ve got the slogans and the rhetoric down pat – it’s a cultural understanding of how NZ developed it’s social conscience and policies and led the world in these areas.

          To my ears you sound more bizarre by the moment.

        • M

          Burke, I think state involvement is necessary for people’s welfare because for the most part it is largely impartial if somewhat impersonal.

          Relying on private charities to help those in need is a nice idea but human nature being what it is, can be extremely subjective. Who determines the deserving? Is it people who go to church on Sundays, are white, slim, not tattooed, teetotalers etc? If a person suspects they are being refused aid because they are wrong for whatever reason they may feel they won’t get a fair shake from a privately run charity and would probably be too cowed to speak up whereas the state has legislation and rules clearly laying out entitlements.

          I would hope that for most people a society would mean sharing resources not hugging them to yourself and doling them out in a possibly very uneven way.

  20. Burke 22

    @Colonial Viper

    Why laugh at the idea that I could be motived by a principled moral approach – because I disagree that impersonal assistance is inferior to personal assistance? As far as I know, no such study exists for NZ giving – understandable, given our size, perhaps. But in a very similar country why should we think that the basic rule doesn’t apply. Why would you think NZ conservatives would be more miserly than American conservatives?

    Personal assistance might not be as systematic, or I might even concede, as efficient, as centralised impersonal assistance. It is, however, more flexible and better for social cohesion.

    You might scorn American charity, but by any objective analysis the level of their private giving is the best in the world. American foreign aid, for example, looks somewhat unimpressive if you look at public funds. Amazingly, however, public aid is only 21% of American foreign aid – the rest being given privately (which makes America the biggest aid donor in the world). The private aid component is also the ‘best’ aid in terms of quality and producing results.

    @Pascal’s bookie …

    You might call religions such as the Catholic Church a ‘strange little cult’ – but it is also the largest charitable organisation in the world.

    You say that you find studies of relative generosity unconvincing. Why? Because of your contention that conservatives, such as myself, lie.

    The phenomenon is well documented. Google Albert Brooks. Furthermore, there is a adequate syllogism that explains it. Occam’s razor suggests it’s correct. A need to build yourself up by running down other people on the other hand suggests otherwise.

    I hardly find the studies about conservative vs liberal generosity convincing.

    • Pascal's bookie 22.1

      I wouldn’t call the Catholic church a strange little cult. For one thing, it’s huge. For another, it doesn’t demand a tithe. I certainly agree it does good works, my father was just this year recognised by the holy see for some of his. But that doesn’t make the parish collection for the upkeep of the clergy, charity.

      I was quite obviously talking about the many evangelical churches that require tithing as a religious obligation, much of which seems to end up spent on megalithic monuments to greed, or on the spreading of the faith. I’d hardly say that counts as charity. I also don’t think giving money to some anti abortion outfit, or some ‘institute for the promotion of virtue and the suppression of vice’ is charity, (here I am talking about the various politically active conservative christian lobby groups that focus exclusively on ‘culture war’ issues). Your mileage may vary of course as to whether these are ‘charity’. As would the donors, but that is the point. If you’ve the wit to see it.

      • Burke 22.1.1

        I am not going to defend evangelical churches – but on the subject of culture wars I will warn you to take heed of the recent election of Timothy Dolan as head of the USCCB.

        I will concede that religion does play a big role in that the Brooks study does show that libertarians are the least generous givers. Nevertheless, even evangelical churches provide a wealth of social services in education, the direct provision of food and clothing and, perhaps most importantly, drug and alcohol problems. Granted, the infrastructure is not perfect, especially at megachurches whrere you have pastors skimming off the top, but the money is freely given and THAT makes a big difference.

        Another good take on it by a Pulitzer Prize winner here: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/03/conservatives_more_liberal_giv.html

        • Pascal's bookie

          ‘Give 10, 15, 20 percent or go to hell’ is not ‘freely’ given. It is a religious obligation. The money is described as gods money. To not tithe is theft from god. This is not charity.

          What of the Catholic church’s statements on state provision of welfare, health and the like. I’ve not seen her condemning it.

    • Colonial Viper 22.2

      Burke, unemployment payments for almost 2M Americans start expiring this weekend. Congress shows no inclination to extend them even though that would help to protect the most vulnerable. What are conservatives going to do to compensate their fellow citizens who are facing a fall now not just to poverty, but to actual begging?

      Simply put – established systematised Government welfare cannot be replaced by adhoc giving.

      • Burke 22.2.1

        You do realise that they just printed an extra $600,000,000,000.00 during QE2. Do you know what they spent that money on? Financing the deficit for the next sixth months.

        Theat’s the problem with systemised welfare, it takes no account of means.

      • ianmac 22.2.2

        When I did house to house collections for charity it was often the parents of barefoot kids in basic housing and damn-all visible material things, who gave something. The number of rich looking houses where either the door wouldn’t open or if it did there would be an abrupt No, and shut door.
        I suppose that the one rich household or business that gave a big donation would count as cancelling out all those little donors.

        • jcuknz

          The trouble for the rich is that they live on their credit cards and don’t have much cash around for charities. I was struck by the way pensioners, admittedly some years ago and living in pensioners’ housing, were generous in their giving.

          • Jum

            I went to collect donations for a leaving present and went to the ‘big boss’. All he had in his pocket was 80c. He didn’t offer to write a cheque either…

  21. Swampy 23

    What Broad said and what you are saying (along with RCP, the Howard League and even the writer of the newspaper article) seem to be two different things.

    “But Mr Broad said the “traditional model of policing” had “delivered a wave of criminals in to the system – an absolute wave”.

    There is nothing in there at all that says anything about “increasing the number of crimes” or “cutting prison numbers”. Broad appears to be saying that there has been an increase in the amount of crime being detected and pursued by the police. Either the police are getting a better clearance rate or the level of crime is actually increasing.

    It is not without question that “traditional policing” is not the whole answer and that society will have to find other means of dealing with the increasing crime rate, but the increased levels of incarceration are not occurring because of tougher sentencing or increased penalties. There is a great increase in community based sentencing to the level that many people get home detention or probation for crimes that would have automatically earned a jail sentence a generation ago.

    Broad should be applauded for his honesty in saying as plainly as he can that the crime rate is increasing. Liberals like RCP and their array of academics (I know one or two myself) lined up to persuade people that there is no increase in crime are not cutting it.

    • Colonial Viper 23.1

      Broad appears to be saying that there has been an increase in the amount of crime being detected and pursued by the police.

      This is total speculation on your own part unless Broad referenced increased crime clearance or conviction rates. Which he did not, as far as I could read.

  22. Jim Nald 24


    Broad going.


    Govt appoints new Police Commissioner.

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