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Populism and population decline

Written By: - Date published: 7:55 pm, June 9th, 2018 - 63 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags: ,

As we enter the era of relative world wide population declines (apart from Africa), we are are also seeing the era of populist movements trying to put the finger in the dike. The two are related. Many in the big cities beset by congestion and housing issues as the young flood into them both locally and from all around the world may not be aware of that. But the voting patterns showing the distinct differences between the large urban centres and those in the declining regions are quite clear. This was the pattern of partisan voting from the Trump populism to Brexit.

There was an excellent opinion piece in the New York Times “As Population Growth Slows, Populism Surges” that highlighted this.

The last time that populism — what we broadly define as political movements that ostensibly set the interests of “ordinary people” against elites as well as an “other” — swept across Europe and the United States was marked by the same combination of slow economic and fertility growth that today prevails in advanced industrialized countries in the West and Asia.

Economies have recently picked up some steam, but not before nearly a decade of sluggish economic growth — and, in most of the world, declining fertility rates.

Since the 1960s. Fertility rates have been starting to fall below replacement rates almost everywhere.

The fact is that all of East Asia, all of Europe, and all of North America are experiencing birthrates that are below replacement level — which means, simply, were it not for immigration and longer life spans, all of these regions would be experiencing year-to-year population decline.

Iran, Brazil and other emerging-market countries are on this list as well. Fertility rates are falling rapidly in India, the world’s most populous country after China.

Only the African continent is poised for significant population growth in coming decades.

Now if you’re reading this and you live in any one of the world’s 500 largest cities, you probably have little personal awareness of the imminent onset of global population decline. That’s because the entirety of the increase in global population outside of the African continent is already being captured by those 500 largest cities with populations of over one million people. In other words, with the significant exceptions of the African continent and the less-than-half-a-percent of the planet’s habitable surface covered by the world’s 500 largest cities, the earth is today experiencing net population decline.

In the past decade people in rural, remote places have been disproportionately losing not just jobs and opportunities, but people, elementary schools and confidence in the future.

This isn’t that hard to see even in New Zealand – which throughout my lifetime has been one of the most urbanised countries in the world. When I was doing an MBA and then working for a few years in Dunedin in the mid 80s I did a lot of travelling in the South Island. As an Auckland raised mid-20s, I was astonished about how empty the South Island was.

Recent trips down there outside of the tourist seasons and areas make me realise just how much emptier the landscape is even over the last twenty years. Sure you can get stuck in tourist and truck traffic in Ashburton. But the little towns in the rural support zones are just shadows of what they were. And the larger ones haven’t grown much if at all.

It is the same throughout the most of the hinterlands of New Zealand that I have lived in or visited. Except around the cities, tourist centres and the areas where dairy has boosted already low populations. Which have been burgeoning. The following map shows the population growth between the 2006 and 2013 census (source Figure NZ). The pink and light green and negative or minimal growth. But you can imagine (because I can’t find one offhand) that a population density chart would show massive spikes in Auckland and lesser ones for Wellington/Hutt and Christchurch – and everything pretty empty everywhere else.

Population growth rate in NZ 2013 vs 2006 census percent compound annual growth rate

Click for source

At one stage back in the 80s and 90s, I imagined that the growth of the net would allow the distribution of the populations more widely in coming decades. But that is just information. It ignored the effects of supply chains and concentration of the physical. Over the last couple of decades, I have become increasingly involved in our rapidly growing tech export economy and having to come to a less optimistic view.

When you’re dealing with hardware and services related to the software that I develop, you need to be physically close to your support networks. We need the concentration of specialist support companies engineers and skilled staff that a large city supplies, the transport systems for materials and people and even just the local supplies of sundry supplies like specialised cables, connectors and bolts. Above all we need to have access to international airports with regular flights to our customers and fast bandwidths.

I’m writing this from the city state of Singapore (population about 50% larger than than NZ in an area quite a lot smaller than Auckland) where I have spent 7 weeks tweaking the software, firmware and hardware for a delivery of a massive (>NZD 100 million) contract for a customer site. This is a project that has taken years of concentrated effort by hundreds of people both in NZ, here in Singapore, and across multiple locations across the globe to bring to fruition.

It is hard to see how we could do this from somewhere like Dunedin or Palmerston North or Gisbourne. I can’t even see how how it could be done from Wellington/Hutt because their regional specialisations don’t foster the required kinds of engineering cooperation (and their airport doesn’t have enough international flights). We barely have enough in Auckland to sustain this kind of effort, as is shown by the difficulty in recruiting people with needed skills.

But what it does mean is that the high paying jobs and the multitudes of people that those high paying jobs support concentrate and will probably continue to do so. That is where the jobs, productivity, and ability to easily move between similar enterprises

But it also means that across the globe the young flock in ever increasing numbers to the major cities, and those staying behind increasingly are divorced from the world economy. It shows in how they bloc vote.

Election data from the past two years plainly describe the consequences of these demographic dynamics: Most advanced industrialized countries are dominated by two competing political movements that either awkwardly inhabit the bodies of existing political parties or create new ones more to their liking. One movement extols the values that are a practical necessity in dense, interconnected cities: interdependence, internationalism and the embrace of “diversity” (defined along multiple dimensions). Another movement extols the equally necessary virtues of people in rural areas: self-reliance, autonomy and the embrace of immediate community and place.

For the United States, urban cores of big cities vote Democratic (72 percent in the 2016 presidential election). Small cities vote Republican (73 percent), as do rural areas (85 percent). More evenly divided suburban areas and middle-size cities decide the outcome.

In the Brexit vote, 84 percent of the voting districts in England’s largest cities (London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds) voted to remain in the European Union, while 87 percent of those in rural areas voted to leave.

A consistent theme is the relative decline of native-born populations in relation to immigrants. In the United States, according to the Migration Policy Institute, the immigrant share of the population increased from 5.4 percent in 1960 to 13.5 percent in 2016, while in parallel the fertility rate halved, going from 3.6 to 1.8 births per woman overall.

Only Japan, the country most identified with population decline, appears to have resisted the current populist wave — arguably either because its restrictive immigration policies immunize its native-born population from fears of demographic obsolescence, or because it already experienced a populist surge, with disappointing results, when the tradition-breaking Democratic Party of Japan was voted into power in 2009.

Globally we can expect more of this to happen as the world’s population approaches equilibrium and possibly starts to fall later this century – see the DESA projections. World wide since the 1970s we have been nearer the lower projections rather than the higher.

Fortunately New Zealand’s existing very high urbanisation is likely to, at least in part, protect us from the worst aspects of demographic induced populism. Just our top 3 urban centres which contain most of the export related jobs account for 48.9% of the population at June 2017. Unlike many other states we lack the large combined populations of small towns and rural communities being decimated by changing demographics and the voting issues that they cause.

But I suspect that around the world we are going to see more of the go-back populism and the opportunistic politicians like Donald Trump or the Brexit leaders exploit. As the opinion piece from the NYT points out, the worst case scenario already exists – Russia.

If there is one country that has been in the vanguard of both demographic decline and the political exploitation of the frustrations it engenders, it is neither Japan nor any of the countries just discussed. Rather, it is a country whose population began to shrink 15 years before Japan’s; a country whose leader declared in a 2006 address to the nation that the demographic crisis was “the most acute problem” facing his land; a country in which the battle between the rural “narod” (the common people) and the urban intelligentsia was a defining feature of political life for most of a violent century. That country is, of course, the Russian Federation, and the leader who expressed this concern is Vladimir Putin.

But the fact is that Putin for the benefit of his political support has concentrated on populist policies that are directly in conflict with the kinds of things that enhance a country to earn and grow. Basically they force stagnation. The contempt for the rule of law, both within Russia and internationally in the pursuit of political control doesn’t help with investment either by skilled labour or capital. Both flee or never come into countries whose dominant political ethos is that of a kleptocracy.

But the important thing to take away from this post is:-

Population decline is here, but unevenly distributed. When it comes to the politics of the 21st century, that geographical unevenness makes all the difference.

63 comments on “Populism and population decline”

  1. weston 1

    Russiaphobia EVERYWHERE these days !!!

    • Treetop 1.1

      Big brother is in your face, hooked up to your smart phone and has a joint bank account with you.

      Pretty much, doesn’t matter what you call it (Russiaphobia) I know what you mean.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.2

      No matter how many smears you parrot, there’s nothing uniquely “Russian” about populist kleptocracy. Try thinking for yourself for a change.

  2. Treetop 2

    So it’s about whether you can afford to live and eat. If you are not eating properly and becoming unwell due to your home, having children is not a good idea.

    Overall is there a decline in the health of the population?

    If so is this going to have an effect long term regardless of being psychological/physical or both?

    • lprent 2.1

      I suspect it is more about hope for the future than anything else. In particular from the lack or prospects in areas with static or declining populations.

      In the regions that have declining younger populations because of diminishing job prospects, there is a strong tendency to vote against things rather than for things.

      Since that means virtually every area that isn’t in a growing urban hub across much of the world, we get populist movements capturing votes – usually based on myths about immigration or ‘stolen’ jobs or for a mythic past or whatever.

      Meanwhile the growing urban areas tend to vote quite differently and with more thought for future prospects engaging with the rest of the world than current difficulties. This was particularly evident in Brexit or the Trump presidential election. But also in places like the recent Italian elections.

      Even in the places without effective voting, you see the same thing happening. But more at the economic level in terms of migration and investment patterns.

      The underlying cause appears to be the loss of growth due to the changing demographics and the strong pull of the young towards the larger urban centres because that is where the interesting and better paid jobs are. Even if people aren’t in those better paid jobs then the urban centres tend to have better prospects from a higher ability to move between employers and more money.

      When all the areas were growing because the fertility rates were high through most of the post WW2 period there was a much higher tendency to vote for the future. That has shifted to a pattern more orientated to vote for blame over the past 2-3 decades as wage increases stalled and in most cases the household wages have effectively dropped against household costs.

      The only countervailing trend that I see against the urban drift is that the cost of housing tends to accentuate in the areas of higher nett inwards migration either from the rest of the country or from immigration. The larger urban areas world wide all seem to have rising housing cots.

      I suspect that this pattern is accentuating as the fertility rates diminish.

  3. Ad 3

    National are definitely superior at spanning New Zealand’s rural base compared to Labour’s concentration on specific areas of a few cities; almost all of the nation is painted blue.

    The Australian equivalents of National are almost as good at cross-regional appeal.

    But that hasn’t led to a rise in populism there.
    Or here.

    Nor in Canada, despite very similar demographic trends:


    I’d argue that Britain’s electoral results have less bearing on New Zealand than Australia’s do. And our own population structure and geographic dispersal and hollowing-out is comparable to Canada’s. Our relationship to Australia both politically and in shared population origin and interests is most comparable to that between the United States and Canada. Canada and Australia are better markers to whether populism is a relevant measurable phenomenon here.

    The post is skirting around the problem of the left’s failure on Europe to make the left attractive again; the socialists and the social democrats are getting pantsed by the hard right, even more than the centrist-right parties are.

    If the Democrats could remember the fire and brimstone that Huey Long brought to Louisiana, they could start to match the superior rhetorical skill of Trump.

    Populism is here to stay: the unanswered question is whether the left can learn the language of populism and in doing so successfully reinvent itself within demographic change.

    • lprent 3.1

      But Aussie as well as NZ are far more urbanised than the UK or the US. Of course they are quite different. Auckland alone is something like 35% of our population

      Even Canada is. I know less about Canada, but it looks like about 30% of their population is in cities their top 3 cities and probably 40% in their top 6 or so.

      I wasn’t particularly concerned about populism here or in Aussie simply because the neither country has the bulk of their population in smaller cities and towns or rural areas. In our case 48% of the population is in 3 urban centres. In aussie over 50% of the population is in their top 3 urban centres. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_in_Australia_by_population

      That was what I was arguing, that we (and the aussies) have less of an issue with these kinds of demographic changes driving populist movements than most of the world simply because we have fewer people in the small centres and rural communities. That is why the populism of NZ First or Pauline Hanson’s political vehicles is so muted politically compared to other regions.

      I am however somewhat concerned about the rest of the world that hasn’t had such recent settlement.

      The US for instance has a pretty small proportion in their larger cities. Roughly a third (and we are down to 40 cities at that point many with population declines)

      And the UK has a quite different picture with a couple of cities much larger than Auckland and then the bulk or the population in places small than Wellington/Hutt.


      That is much more like the rest of the world than NZ, Austrailia, and Canada which are pretty much outliers in the demographics.

      I’d suggest that you read the post again and think about it.

      • Ad 3.1.1

        You are getting slightly clearer.

        But if rural depopulation relative to urban centres was a cause of the far right rising, we would expect it also to see it in Japan. 2009 was a blip.

        Nor South Korea. Democratic Labour and Democratic National remain in different forms as they were.

        We see its rise in France which is so dominated by Paris, but rural centres are also strong and remain heavily subsidized in so many ways.

        We see it in Scandinavia and Germany and Hungary and Austria, but it’s a whole lot easier to argue that from immigration, lack of assimilation, and basic racism, than from rustbelt rural decline and depopulation.

        Urban drift doesn’t account for the accelerated rise of the right in the US either, because those who move to the cities and its enforced cosmopolitanism far numerically outweigh those who stay.

        China has the fastest acceleration of urbanization and rural village decline in the world, but the government keeps delivering for the cities so it’s in check.

        India has very strong sectarian politics now, rather than urban drift politics.

        I can see why you make the United States rustbelt areas argument, maybe also England. I just don’t see the evidence for it elsewhere. I’d rather be an okie from Muscokie than a … well, the sentiment is still strong from urban centres. Plenty evident from commenters here when they talk about farmers and those from rural centres.

        It’s an argument that looks for the blame of the decline of the left against the hard right – but looks for it everywhere except in the left itself.

        • Pat

          “It’s an argument that looks for the blame of the decline of the left against the hard right – but looks for it everywhere except in the left itself.”

          If the conflict is not left/right however (as many observers have noted) but rather opposing ‘virtues’ then seeking fault within “the left” will serve no useful purpose.

          It dosnt make the solution any easier.

  4. Stuart Munro 4

    I’d be cautious of retailing a line like “myths about immigration or ‘stolen’ jobs”.

    NZ has had pretty high per capita migration, mostly at the unskilled end. Workers didn’t request it, and it has had had the effect it was designed for – suppressing wages and inflating property, along with the unintended effect of suppressing productivity.

    In spite of heroic levels of disinformation the picture of our real estate sector is starting to reveal 20-30% of foreign buyers crowding out locals. Issues like poverty and housing won’t go away until this kind of thing is addressed, however much the Blairite “left” might prefer to pretend that anti-immigration sentiment is race based and can therefore be ignored by “progressives”.

    • saveNZ 4.1

      Yep, I think people would have little interest in population if it was not people seem to be finding reverse discrimination in NZ.

      For example when do Tech firms in NZ arrange free holidays for attending job interviews for local tech workers like they do for overseas workers, (https://www.travelandleisure.com/trip-ideas/new-zealand-jobs) it’s the opposite they spend most of their time trying to keep wages down which of course leads to many highly skilled Kiwi workers leaving as they have a glass ceiling here… and getting a raise to match the sky high costs of living in Auckland and Wellington often proves difficult…

      likewise teachers from overseas offered $5000 “relocation cost’ for 1 year of work, https://www.newzealandshores.com/nz5000-incentive-overseas-teachers-bridge-skill-shortage-gap/

      Or how about having $50,000 construction type “decorators’ ‘shortages’ coming in from overseas on $20 p/h to live in Auckland. https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/102427066/construction-industry-facing-shortfall-of-thousands-of-workers

      … as well as driving down wages, it adds more pressure to local health care, transport, housing and all the other social services… if the new workers have a baby/accident/ etc in the years they are here … all eventually paid for by the local population getting poorer and poorer as their wages and jobs and conditions and social services they pay taxes for, are getting lower while the multinationals can profit by using cheaper labour for builds that if they go wrong, the local rate payers will be up for the remedial costs for…

      There is also a massive amount of skilled tradies who live in Northland that could be utilised for Auckland. The big problem they have is that living in Auckland on $20 p/h is not that feasible and employers in Auckland are not that keen on bothering to help with accomodation etc.

      Something is fucked in government thinking when they are spending millions on job creation in Northland when all they need to do is do an audit and they will find that the people there are actually skilled tradies, many Maori who got put on the scrap heap because among other things some of them need help with the organisational side and presentation for the “Auckland’ discrimination.

  5. Pat 5

    Is a pretty good case for the increasing polarisation….and suggests a double edged sword that may ultimately be used for Seppuku

  6. lprent 6

    NZ has had pretty high per capita migration, mostly at the unskilled end. Workers didn’t request it, and it has had had the effect it was designed for – suppressing wages and inflating property, along with the unintended effect of suppressing productivity.

    I’d agree except that isn’t what I have seen. I have spent the last 20 years in an professional area that has had about 80-90% of the jobs being done by immigrants.

    Before that I spent most of the previous 15 years in a declining manufacturing industry area that would have fitted what you described. Starting from an almost unbearable shortage on factory labour in 1975 when I was first working as a schoolkid through to when the tariff barriers protecting inefficient and overpriced industries were removed.

    The tech industries have for the last 2-3 decades have sucked up every graduate or moderately skilled amateur (hey I’ve never actually completed an actual computing qualification) produced locally for the export tech industry. The same applies to damn near every other tech based industry in the urban centres from the film industry in Wellington and west Auckland to the exporting vertical market engineering firms down in Christchurch or Hamilton.

    Our immigration has had, for a long time, a lot of relatively unskilled or unemployable coming in because of their bloody stupid points systems that over emphasises paper qualifications rather than relevant work experience and places absolutely no emphasis on export or tourism relevance. But it hasn’t been that much compared to those coming in with relevant skills to replace the low-paid jobs as the local manufacturing ran down with higher paid ones in other areas.

    Sure, you tend to find a quite a few highly qualified taxi drivers who have experience that is pretty damn domestic economy like doctors, accountants, university lecturers or nuclear physicists – all of which there is either little demand for outside of our already over supplied domestic economy.

    But the large bulk of permanent immigration over the last 25 years has been for skilled people supplying expertise for our exporting or tourism industries from what I do, to the graphic artists working for Weka, or to the staff at the hotels for our tourists. We simply couldn’t have built an economy where the tourism income for the country is quite a bit larger than dairy and tech exports nearly are as well.

    It is only recently with the recent National Party habit of ignoring economic realities in favour of their investments in educational institutes with dubious economic or educational value that we have started to effectively started importing more low return immigration.

    • Stuart Munro 6.1

      …and perhaps a few niches like horticulture and the fisheries charter vessels.

      In some circles the effect of the Gnat’s open slather policy is going to take quite a while to be absorbed.

      • lprent 6.1.1


        I aren’t too happy with the Nayional policies on giving rich people a free immigration pass either.

        Offhand I can’t think of many that have built enterprises in NZ with sustainable employment. ie not simply property investment or employing personal servants.

        Most seem to have treated NZ as convenient bolthole in case their lives or fortunes are possibly in danger offshore.

        Maybe James Cameron with giving work to Weta. But I suspect that the highest real investment from rich list immigrants in the NZ economy has come from Kim DotCom’s legal fees.

        The best affluent immigrants I have seen tended to wind up sailing here on vacation after finishing up their business elsewhere and decided to stop here. Met a couple of export businesses started up like that.

    • SaveNZ 6.2

      “The tech industries have for the last 2-3 decades have sucked up every graduate or moderately skilled amateur”…. yep but the tech wages are not increasing like they should, and quite a few big firms are making the more experienced workers redundant so they can hire, cheaper workers in… Big lawsuit in the US against IBM for discrimination against older workers doing this, btw, older workers are considered to be 40+! https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/03/22/ibm-eliminated-more-than-20000-american-workers-over-the-age-of-40-report/

      Funny enough most of the tech that runs our economy aka all the Internet and protocols etc, seems to be invented by workers over 40+ now, so not looking good getting rid of the age group of original innovators of the actual tech …. but I guess it saves money for the accountants who just look at the sticker price per worker, not what they have achieved (or not achieved).

      Not so good for Kiwibank and all the other companies in NZ struggling with competency tho…

      I think sucking up every graduate or moderate graduate is probably not a good idea…

      • saveNZ 6.2.1

        I meant to say ““The tech industries have for the last 2-3 decades have sucked up every graduate or moderately skilled amateur”, this seems to have become a liability… such Kiwibank, as Talent 2, and many other NZ IT projects being outsourced overseas or gone wrong or not achieving what they should have…

        Many of our best and brightest in Tech are sought after in the rest of the world and our government prefers the risk of overseas hire of someone cheaper either onshore or offshore, or an overseas manager like 8 million Theo Spierings types that arguably have sent their company backwards, rather than incentivising or looking at why so many skilled Kiwis are overseas or under-utilised on undercut wages, … and what that has cost in our productivity and our belief in ourself as a nation.

  7. Tamati Tautuhi 7

    Under the Tory Government of John Key & Bill English we have had mass immigration into NZ, however the Government has no accurate records of who is buying the real estate and what their nationality or residency status.

    The problem has been we have had speculative buying from both on shore and off shore buyers in a market which is in an under supply situation, the number of new houses being built in NZ can not even accommodate the new immigrants and those coming here on student visas.

    Also we have had no new hospitals or schools built, the Asset Sales earmarked for this Infrastructure just did not happen under the Tory Government of John Key and Bill English.

    • Treetop 7.1

      There is enough land in NZ to build new houses. Until they are affordable to be built they will not be built.

      I have been to Auckland approx 12 times in the last 2 years. Everytime I go up there I go and have a walk around where there is peak building. I see who is doing the building, who is selling the home and who is occupying the home.

      I wonder if the tax take is less than it could be. Tradies are very good at net working.

      • Tamati Tautuhi 7.1.1

        … and a certain ethnic group are very good at minimizing their tax payments ?

        • Treetop

          I do not have evidence of a particular ethnic group minimising their tax payment. I do know that the building industry is open to concealing the correct amount of tax that is required to be paid.

          A self employed tradies hours are near impossible to track and mates rates do not help either. Multiply this and it comes to a lot. Cash transactions are also a problem. There are people purchasing homes who do not even need to take out a loan from a bank.

          Part of the problem of a housing shortage in Auckland is that the weather is warmer there than in Wellington, Christchurch or Dunedin. As well business opportunities are more abundant in Auckland.

          • Tamati Tautuhi

            … and it is more comfortable sleeping out in the open in Auckland rather than the Southern Cities, especially if you can not afford a car for accommodation.

            • Treetop

              Sleeping out in the open should only be when you go camping/tramping. A car should only be needed for transport and not accommodation.

              It needs to be the priority of every MP to address housing. I have said this before.

      • Just not true Treetop. Sorry.
        New Zealand is sparsely populated
        By any metric.
        The problem is that neo-liberal governments in NZ have been guilty of only promoting growth in the major cities to benefit the 1%.
        With sensible goals involving localized solutions, many small towns in NZ could easily provide more than enough land to take up the housing slack.
        Of course this would also require taxation planning and other non neo-liberal government policies to make NZ houses cost 3-4 time the average blue collar Kiwi’s take home salary, not the 8-10 times it is now.
        Reducing the monopolies on building materials sales would be a good start.
        This is called debt slavery…and the reason the banks in NZ are the highest profit earners.

        • Treetop

          Just not true.

          Can you be more specific on the not true.

          There is enough land in NZ to build new houses. I was talking about the affordability being the main problem.

          I nearly added that promoting growth for the elite is also a factor.

          It is clear to see why people on 80k in Auckland are being shut out of the property market.

        • saveNZ

          The Amazon rain forest is sparsely populated too, so if you want to use the argument of a set space per person, there is the argument, cut it down and build more houses! Those natives are just wasting space that productive industry or populous countries could be utilising!

          Likewise burning down all the forest in Indonesia so they can plant palm oil….

          Or forcing Scandinavian countries to fill up with migrants as a density measurement…

          Get rid of the world diverse plants and animals as they don’t need space.

          Battery farm animals and use GM and intensive monoculture crops.

          The world is a big place. We need diversity.

          If you love densely populated places, Asia is the place to go but telling the rest of the world to be like them, obviously does not seem to take into account many of their own people are trying to escape as fast as they can with poverty, lack of social welfare, corruption, lack of educational opportunities, lack of democracy, pollution, low wages, poor conditions … etc etc

          Bringing it to NZ, and making 30%+ of Kiwis live in further poverty is not really going to be a win it is escaping the problems..

          If we lived in the land of plenty where everyone had a decent home and job and there was plenty to go around, sadly in NZ, what the government’s policies are doing is more around displacement and replacement, bringing down wages, increasing homelessness and pollution and decreasing our educational and health standards… we are sliding down the OECD scales…

          • Treetop

            I have seen a number of documentaries on the Amazon forest. I have seen it being demolished, polluted and financially exploited.

            Do I want this for NZ, the Amazon forest or else where?


            If people cannot afford to purchase housing in Auckland or afford rent and they are sleeping out in the street or in a cramped car when they could be living in an area not so densely populated you have taken offence to this.

            The divide between the haves and have nots needs to be narrowed.

            I like NZ Firsts rural policy.

      • Tamati Tautuhi 7.1.3

        Is $550-$600k really an affordable home ?

  8. So Iprent, how about some examples of Putin’s…” contempt for the rule of law, both within Russia and internationally in the pursuit of political control”.
    You ruined a great and well written article with this Russia bashing at the end

    • One Anonymous Bloke 8.1

      The refusal to extradite Lugovoy, the 2006 law that gives Putin the right to murder “extremists” and “enemies of the state”, the annexation of the Crimea, the supply of chemical weapons equipment and expertise to Assad.

      These are off the top of my head. There are plenty more examples. So many in fact, that I don’t believe you can be ignorant of them. To be clear, I just called you a liar.

      • All unsubstantiated, and unproven examples. Especially the last two. All chemical weapon use in Syria has been by the US backed “moderate rebels”. All false flag attacks. In the last since case, one has to ask why Assad would gas his own people when he had the terrorists defeated and negotiating peace. Nobody believes that he did such a stupid thing.If you don’t know that, you are reading the wrong comics my friend.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          The refusal to extradite Lugovoy isn’t “unsubstantiated”, you lying fool. It’s official policy.

          Ditto the 2006 murder law. You don’t actually know shit about Russia, do you.

          Finally, you mendacious wretch, I’m talking about the provenance of the Scientific Studies and Research Center, not the recent chemical weapons attacks on civilians perpetrated by Damascus.

          Lift your game, Dishonesty Boy.

          • Dennis Merwood

            What a delightful debater.
            No wonder you want to remain anonymous! LOL
            Would be promptly disqualified at the Oxford University Debating Society.
            If I wanted this kind of exchange, I’d go down and pick a fight at the local biker bar.

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              You’d lose that too.

              All my points stand. Especially the ones about your dishonest ethics.

          • adam

            You chemicals comment was quite dishonest One Anonymous Bloke.

            The twisting and turning on it makes your whole argument look like you trying to win by shouting louder.

            Don’t you think any discussion on Populism should included a few more examples, rather than the tired repetition of lets hate Russia memes.

            Just off the top of my head, France, Italy, Hungary and Poland come to mind.

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              Moscow’s support for Syria’s chemical weapons program is well documented and predates the civil war. If you can’t grasp how it illustrates Moscow’s contempt for the rule of law, that’s on you.

              Seriously Adam. what part of “the supply of chemical weapons equipment and expertise” are you disputing?

              • adam

                That a response to you via chemical weapons attacks, was a legitimate response to what you said. And yeah on this issue, the “they do it too” does make the USA and Co scum as well. If you think it get Russia off, then that is your problem.

                Seeing as we using wikipedia.


                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  I made no statement about chemical weapons attacks, Adam. That was Dennis, trying to shift the goalposts.

                  • adam

                    A legitimate response to your bomblastic style, you do it often enough.

                    So rather than go for abuse, “you mendacious wretch” you could just respond to clarify what you were saying.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      My belief in Dennis’ dishonesty is at the heart of my responses, Adam. With all this poisonous disinformatsia around, why should propagandists get a free pass?

                      On the contrary, I believe they should be treated with public contempt, just like Jonathon Coleman or Judith Collins. Trying to find common ground with the Tea Party is a mistake.

                    • adam

                      But, I think, I’m not alone on this, I’ve only seen a couple of comments by Dennis Merwood.

                      So I have no idea he is what you say he is. Until such time as he proves himself as such, huge levels of scepticism on my part of your analysis.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Google is your friend: he claims to be an “American” (I don’t think he’s from Mexico but). Lauds Trump. bristles at any criticism of Putin.

                      I’m comfortable with my response to his effluent.

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              Also, recognising that Vladimir Putin is a murderous thief is not the same as hating Russia, no matter how many times you parrot third party smears to that effect.

              • adam

                Yawn, here we go again, miss the point and go all out on your pet topic.

                You know their are other bad people out there? I’m not arguing Putian is not one of them. But then again, I’m sure you have other words to put in my mouth again, like you usually do.

                • Adam, I’m new here. But a quick learner. Once I read about Putin being a “murderous thief” I try to resist engaging with said poster. LOL

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    In this example, we see Dennis casting poor Vladimir as the damsel in distress, OAB as the monster, and Dennis as the knight in shining armour, riding to Vladimir’s defence.

                    Heroism like this surely merits some sort of romantic epic poem.

                    • adam

                      When a response from a rational person would have been.

                      Putain as a long time hard right populist, has only got more hard line to keep in power to this point.

                      A good example of this is Oleg Sentsov, a film director arressted in a sweep in Crimea.


                      A twist on that story was the disappearance of some of the members Pussy Riot protesting his release.


                      By the way, the Russian Embassy address is 57 Messines Rd, Karori, Wellington 6012 if you’s like to write a letter supporting the release of Oleg.

                    • Think I’ll go down to the local biker bar. Probably find more civil discourse there, and less pseudo intellectual posturing and name calling.

                    • RedLogix

                      @ Dennis

                      OAB has a long history of personal attacks and belligerent engagement around here … most of the regulars shrug him off the “smug overbearing pseudo wanker” adam concisely characterises him as below. If he behaved like that in a biker bar, he’d fast gain unwelcome attention; lacking that option here we mostly just skirt around him.

                      Oh yes he’s smart, educated, expresses himself well, and anything but ordinary. He’s put a lot of effort in here over time, but I wonder exactly what he thinks he’s achieving.

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Don’t forget to take all those legitimate and well-documented examples of Putin’s contempt for the rule of law with you.

                    Take your hypocrisy too: there’s nothing “civil” about parroting Kremlin talking points.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Several points here.

                  Putain (very apt malapropism which I endorse without reservation) is the “bad person” under scrutiny. Listing all the others brings nothing to the table.

                  Putain is not Russia, and yet any criticism of him is met with accusations of xenophobia, rather than substantive rebuttal. The difference has been pointed out so many times that further repetition can only be explained as deliberate diversion. If you’re going to employ dishonest rhetorical tricks, you can expect robust responses.

                  Appeals to what a “rational” person would do are called “gaslighting”, Adam. Butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth eh.

                  • adam

                    LOL, have you really started doubting your own position? I somehow doubt that. At this point I think your doing what you accused me of doing, employing a dishonest rhetorical trick. Irony can be a wicked thing.

                    I don’t disagree with you on Putin – I just think the way you argue about Putin is wrong. If getting people to listen and understand the issue is the main point, then they way you do it is bloody awful. As your above methodology shows really well.

                    If you feel personal attacks and put downs will help, carry right on. But the reality is – it’s tired, boring to read, and quite childish. And does you no favours. You can be simply be dismissed as a overbearing smug wanker.

      • Tamati Tautuhi 8.1.2

        … very similar the the US annexation of Cuba ?

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          So if you can find someone else who “did it too”, that gets the Kremlin off the hook? Pfft.

  9. Actually there is no similarity at all. And BTW Russia did not “Annex” the Crimea, just as The US did not Annex Cuba.

  10. Carolyn_Nth 10

    A very interesting and thought inducing post and NYT article that it draws on.

    It is very useful to see how population trends relate to voting and political/social movements and trends.

    I also think LPrent has identified an important exception re-Canada, Aussie and NZ. This tends to counter the deterministic inevitability expressed by the NYT article authors, Philip Auerswald and Joon Yun. Their article reads like there are processes in motion that are somehow natural and unstoppable. They are looking for ways business can capitalise on such trends, so don’t want them changed.

    What Auerswald and Yunv ignore is the underlying cultural and political process and power relations that influenced the rise of digital technologies and their strong place within current approaches to economics.

    This is probably, at least partly, because of where the NYT authors are coming from.

    Auerswald is focused on Global entrepreneurship and sees coding as some kind of metaphor for the evolution of humans/society. (read some of the reviews).

    Yun is an investor and a hedge fund manager. He is President of Palo Alto investors: A hedge fund.

    Basically, these guys are looking for ways big business can capitalise on current trends. They are not so focused on the best ways of organising societies and economics for the benefits of all.

    Digital technolgies did not become the focus for development by investors and big business by accident or via some unstoppable natural process. It was deeply linked to activities of finance capitalism – hence why Silicon Valley rose to prominence, with its proximity to venture capitalists in LA, and it’s links with Palo Alto. Same geographic area.

    The rise of digital technologies, especially in the forms they are taking, is deeply intertwined with the rise in power of financial entities in the “neoliberal” shift since the 1980s.

    This recent article by Evgeny Morozov in the Guardian, focuses on the power dynamics underlying the current trends with digital technologies. “US power to rule a digital world ebbs away”

    Basically Morozov is arguing that US global dominance in recent decades rode on the myth that technology is “a natural, neutral force that could erase power imbalances between countries.”

    Such tropes helped conceal many basic truths about the actual relationship between technology and power. First, the global village was global only to the extent that its main patron – the US – needed it to be so. Second, there was nothing natural or neutral about the standards, networks and protocols of the digital universe: emerging from the cold war, most of them aimed at extending US influence.

    My bold.

    Morozov also argues that this myth is being exposed by Trump, as US dominance in technology is in decline. He paints a picture of a fairly chaotic situation where there is a power struggle going on globally, and where the outcome is uncertain.

    Consequently, I don’t see the current dominance of cities over regions as being inevitable or the best for future societies. And as LPrent indicates, NZ doesn’t really fit the pattern elsewhere.

    Changes in power relations, and in underlying values and ways of thinking can lead to changes in a different direction: for society, politics and technologies.

    • lprent 10.1

      We are a state that started as effective sewerage and water systems became relatively easy to create. It meant that as a country we haven’t had the devastation of city plagues apart from the 1918 flu epidemic. There was a real shortage of concentrated large cities prior to the 19th. They tended to kill their citizens.

      Rome and later Bryzantium being an obvious exception due to some large scale engineering. There were some really large urban centers in South America and in South East Asia. But they tended to extend over very large areas interspersing farming and other forms of orest agriculture with urban villages. They also had short life spans.

      We were also a long skinny country that made first shipping and later, when developed, railways relatively easy to put in. That meant that there was less incentive to do every thing really close to the customers.

      It was much the same in Aussie – mostly confined to large coastal strips until well into the 20th.

      Both states urbanized almost from their formation despite their agricultural and mining economic base.

      • Carolyn_Nth 10.1.1

        Yes, geography and population are significant factors. But they are not the only ones. There’s also social, cultural, economic and political values, attitudes and practices, and power dynamics, which have an impact on how technologies develop.

        Colonisation was not ground zero in the “formation” of NZ and Aussie cities, towns and regions. Tangata whenua had already developed a differing set of practices and values in relation to the environments of Aotearoa.

        Europeans brought with them farming and urbanising practices and cultures that interacted with the local environment. These were in keeping with imperialism and the developing capitalist ethos of the time. They also brought some anti-class distinction and liberal values.

        Hence the development of industrial style farming and timber extraction industries. In the latter 20th century, under further pressure from the most powerful global economies and corporates, this developed into intensive dairying practices, out of keeping with the sustainability of the environment.

        In the 19th century Europeans brought with them the practices and values of the time in developing towns and cities. They developed roads on a geometric grid pattern – straight roads laid out at right angles to each other. That worked well for flat environments like Christchurch but wasn’t so suited to building roads in Auckland’s hilly environment. This was part of Europeans imposing their values on the environment.

        In recent decades, neo-conservative, trans-national capitalist priorities impacted on the development of digital technologies and businesses – the primary consideration being profit making, and not what is most sustainable for local environments, communities, cities and regions.

        There are power struggles within the development of digital technologies, with multinational corporations driving developments in their interests. However, as the likes of TS show, digital technologies (websites, blogs, social media) can be used for non-profit making activities – nevertheless, they do so under pressure from the power of corporations to make digital technologies work in their favour.

  11. Tamati Tautuhi 11

    Is $550-$600k really an affordable home ?

    • lprent 11.1

      Depends what you do and what you use it for. Even at todays prices I don’t need anything anything in that price bracket. For me it’d be like wanting a recent car rather than my 20 year old toyota (that gets less than 5kmon the clock each year)

      I brought my one bedroom apartment for 170k in 1998. I thought it was expensive then. But as a singleton I rattled around in it for more than a decade. When my partner moved it, I just threw away some acculmulated junk and installed all of books in the calibre server as epubs.

      My partner brought her almost identical one on her own for 460k last year – and dragged me kicking an screaming out of my nice dark programmers ground floor cave into the 3rd floor light. I have my screens in the darkest section of the apartmmet and whimper about glare.

      But neither of us need or want a garden. I had one – it was deep and fervent and known as the cats toilet because it was less effort than kitty litter.

      We don’t have kids, and in my case the size was always in part a deterrent against guests and other peoples kids. Besides I have my dining rooms along Ponsonby and K Roads.

      There is enough room for all of our workstations and servers.

      Depends what you need your living space yo do.. I mostly work, sleep and hang out in ours.

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