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It’s the society stupid

Written By: - Date published: 2:06 pm, September 17th, 2013 - 102 comments
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What comes first – the economy or the society? The only point of having a good economic policy is because you have a strong vision for society to which the economy contributes to build.

The media keep saying David Cunliffe has a left wing economic policy. Actually he has a left wing social policy which is built on the best traditions of the Labour Party egalitarian values. To deliver on that vision the Party needs to have a strong left wing economic policy but one that is aligned and contributes to that social vision. It seems to me that that is what it is doing, putting the social vision first.

Cunliffe set it out nicely, in short, on the radio yesterday – where people have a fair go regardless of their background and that fair go includes having a warm secure home, a job that pays a decent wage and live in an environment that will be sustainable for generations to come. This is a social not an economic vision – the economy serves the community and not the other way around. Building an economy that provides for this requires jobs growth (e.g R&D support, training policy, supporting a diverse industrial base, a tax system that builds the productive economy, strong public services etc etc), labour market regulation (e.g allowing for fair distribution of income in wages), housing policies that deal with supply ( e.g. both good state housing supply and support for low cost housing), and a green growth agenda (e.g R&D, investment in public transport, supporting green business innovation etc etc).

This really is the fundamental difference with the current Government. It has no vision for society – it has no concept of it. It only has an economic policy and that operates in a vaccum. The Governments bottom line is that business has conditions to grow (and only some businesses actually) regardless of who benefits from that growth, how that growth is achieved or at whose expense (including through tax funded subsidies, removal of employment rights, low and unsustainable wages, unacceptable workplace accident rates, environmental damage and dodgy favouritism like in the Chorus, Warner and Sky deals).

This economic policy is operated regardless of why it might grow and what it contributes to a good society. It has an economic policy without a social vision. Whereas Labour thinks the Chicken and Egg are mutually reinforcing – National is all Chicken.

The problem the Government has however is that apart from this approach being socially unsustainable, its economic policy is failing because a strong society and good economy are inter-connected, and in the wake of this failure it is causing irreparable damage to the society. Stories of families unable to pay for prescriptions (charges up), new home buyers now paying higher interest rates than others (nothing to address the housing crisis leaving it to crude measures by the Reserve Bank), the privatisation of our beautiful schools, university standards falling (have you notice how the fall in international rankings by Universities is of no big concern yet national standards in schools is of the utmost importance?), and numerous other social ills (unemployment etc) is disasterous, and the cost of living outstripping even middle income families in the absence of a system for fair wages distribution is now the reality.

A conversation about what an economic policy looks like within a broader vision for society and the environment is long overdue and now that it is happening – it gives me hope!

102 comments on “It’s the society stupid ”

  1. Sable 1

    Yeah don’t expect the mainstream press to endorse this view they are too busy licking Keys boots….Lies and social inequality is all they care about….

  2. karol 2

    National is all Chicken.


    A conversation about what an economic policy looks like within a broader vision for society and the environment is long overdue and now that it is happening – it gives me hope!

    Yes, and may it continue – but it needs all of us participating for the discussion to keep happening.

  3. Macro 3

    Helen I’ve just finished reading an excellent book entitled “What’s the Economy For, Anyway?” by John De Graaf and David K Bakter, and it covers very much what you address in your above post. They sum it up with the simple maxim

    “The greatest good, for the greatest number, for the longest run”

    The first part of this is taken from J. S Mill and Bentham Utilitarianism, the second – for the longest run acknowledges the need to take cognisense of needs of future generations and the fact that we live on a finite planet.

    The problem as I see it is that for many the paradigm is that the economy embraces all things – the environment included. Whereas in reality the reverse is true – that is, the economy is a subset of our environment.

    Thank you for an excellent post and your tireless work on behalf of others.

    • Helen Kelly 3.1

      Will look it up – thanks

    • thechangling 3.2

      The answer is Cosmopolitan Social Democracy (CSD) originally devised by David Held and critiqued by Brian Roper, a political historian at our own Otago University.
      CSD lays out the international policy changes and argues for the replacement of neo-liberal based political institutions such as the WTO, IMF, WB etc Their replacement needs to be adopted so individual countries can not be ‘undermined’ when they begin nationally based policies that create, maintain and distribute jobs, incomes and wealth and remove themselves from FTA’s that continually drain away jobs from local economies.
      I’ve asked this question of Labour MP’s twice now as to whether they intend to front up to the WTO and tell them to reject their insane policy that keeps us with 160,000 people permanently unemployed until systemic change begins at the international level.
      So far there is no reply.

  4. Tracey 4

    Agreed. This government and many of its apologists make the assumption that if everyone has money then society is taken care of … but overlooks the fact that everyone doesnt have money and “being patient” for over 30 years in the vain hope of it materialising is wearing thin.

    Be clear on what kind of society you want to live in and create and then build the ways to sustain it.

    It’s this difference that leads to people accusing the right of being uncaring. They get upset largely because they believe that promising some money in the future is the best way to care for people. They cannot counter the argument that it simply hasnt trickled down and has had over 30 years to dribble down.

  5. Crunchtime 5

    Labour believes in Chicken and Egg – both come first. National is all chicken!

    Love the metaphor here. 🙂

    Seriously, I think Labour really does need to stop thinking about policies in terms of “right” and “left”. Only what is best for the nation. Key and other National members (including it seems the press) love to be able to put things in little boxes named right-wing and left-wing.

    Ultimately this leads to thinking in terms of ideology. We don’t need ideology. We need policy that is good for NZ as a whole.

    In Cunliffe’s opening speech: “If putting a warm dry home around every Kiwi child and making sure their tummies are fed and they have shoes on their feet is suddenly far-left, well go ahead with that tag,”

    In other words. Cunliffe actually doesn’t actually care if others try to label a policy as “hard left”. He cares about whether it produces the best possible result.

    Society before Economy! Damn straight.

    Margaret Thatcher once said “there’s no such thing as society” – and put in place policies that were terribly destructive to society at the same time that Rogernomics was doing the same to NZ.

    Society not only exists, it’s a huge part of what makes us human, it’s everything to do with what gives us the right to call ourselves “civilised”.

    • Tracey 5.1

      Margaret Thatcher satisfied those who could be describedas the new aristocracy. corporate success folks who believe the masses are stupid and need to be duped for their own good.

      imagine key as the lord with some land, servants, a fiefdom…thats how he and the new aristocracy view the world. 19th century but with them in the big houses.

      hence the excitement at holidaying with the queen.

    • karol 5.2

      I agree that political parties don’t need to hammer the left-right thing and that Key is trying to use it as a smear.

      However, there is now way anyone can articulate a political position, that isn’t based in an “ideology”, or basic values.

      Ultimately this leads to thinking in terms of ideology. We don’t need ideology. We need policy that is good for NZ as a whole.

      The last sentence is actually underpinned by left wing values.

    • Rodel 5.3

      Crunch time
      Yeah but Margaret Thatcher was whatever is the female equivalent of a selfish dickhead.A brain yes but anatomically displaced.

      Helen Kelly has her brain and heart in the same place and wiIl l hope, one day be our next Helen Clark.
      Imagine the future our kids would have 9 years of the second Helen as our Prime Minister. (Dumb tory comments will be ignored)

      • Crunchtime 5.3.1

        That’s pretty much what I said. 🙂

        Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan (and the Bushes after him, and to an extent even Clinton), Roger Douglas, Ruth Richardson… ideological peas in a pod.

        Karol: Call them “left wing values” if you must, if I were forced to label sensible policies for all New Zealanders as anything, pin them on the political spectrum, I’d put them in the exact centre.

        Key would have you think that anything that isn’t hugely favourable to the rich and big corporates as “left wing”. It’s not. Policies that favour middle-income New Zealanders are centrist. That’s where the bulk of Cunliffe’s (and Labour’s) policies are.

        • Rodel

          Thatcher and her ilk (Key and his colleagues included) and I’m sorry to say most of my good Tory friends (yes have some) are intellectually unable to grasp abstract concepts like ‘society’ as their education is limited to ‘groceries’, ‘futures trading’ or similar where the only relevance is the differential between the buying and the selling price, an attitude exemplified by our trader PM.They are unable to see outside the box.
          Sadly many kiwis have been manipulated by politicians,economists and the media to think only in this restrictive way.
          I hope Cunliffe and Parker’s team can change this mindset.

  6. Tracey 6

    “Let me issue and control a Nation’s money and I care not who makes its laws” – Rothschild.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      exactly. Its why the bankers were fine with left wing parties pursuing social liberal identity agendas, and ignoring the economic and monetary issues that the bankers really care about.

      • Tracey 6.1.1

        The pay out to the banks may be the biggest legal rort in history. I’m loving the campaign of Bill Nighy.

        And yet we are told it’s not this simple. But it is. It really is.

      • karol 6.1.2

        As Helen says, the left needs to deal with both social policy and economic policy in tandem. And it is crucial for policies that aim to work for a fair and less unequal society, to have an economic policy that is u underpinned and foregrounded by social policies.

        It suits the right to divorce economic from social policy.

        To get the people involved in a bottom up democratic society, the kind of society we are aiming for needs to be front and centre.

      • Lara 6.1.3

        Oh so true

        [lprent: Please settle on which handle you wish to use. We have have to release it from moderation each time you change it. ]

  7. Bill 7

    needs to have a strong left wing economic policy but one that is aligned and contributes to that social vision

    Hate to be picky. But how on earth can you have left wing economics that don’t contribute to social well being? Even I, as a market abolitionist, recognise that left wing economics in any type of market context are more geared to social good while right wing ones are more geared to private profit.

    Are you being defensive over charges of Labour pursuing left wing economics and so deflecting or being somewhat apologetic by elevating society and divorcing the two? I really do hope not. Now isn’t the time to apologise, explain away or diminish a commitment to left wing economics.

    • Helen Kelly 7.1

      Hate to be picky but you are being picky – no I am not

      • Bill 7.1.1

        Good. Just can’t understand the inclusion of that confusing, misleading and redundant ‘but’ then. 🙂

        • karol

          The problem is that “neoliberalism” has been very successful in separating the financial aspects of economics from society, and supposedly “left wing” parties have embraced a soft version of that. So the inseparability of left wing economics and society need stressing.

        • Rogue Trooper

          tsk, tsk Bill 🙂

  8. Clement Pinto 8

    Helen, nice article there. I agree wholeheartedly.

    Every policy, be it social, economic or environmental that any leader, political party or Government propose, should have the good of society and the welfare of the common people paramount in its thinking and execution.

    I would like to see Labour party and its leader come up with exciting, just, sensible, essential and fair social, economic and environmental polices to help the country, all the people, but especially the less privileged.

    We need policies that put a break on uncontrolled, greedy, so called ‘free’ market that continually widens the gap in wage, income and wealth between those at the top and those at the bottom. Such a society is not only unfair, it is uncivilised and should be an anathema for every one. The Labour party and Mr Cunliffe should not be hung up on left or right or centre policies but encompass and use various sensible fair methods to make our country a great, independent and just place for everyone, the wealthy, the poor and those in the middle.

    Someone being rich is not a problem. The problem is being rich AND being a government beneficiary with huge tax breaks, dodging taxes, getting subsidies, exploiting workers and thus being a sub civilised dishonest human.

    The wealthy need to be just and realise that their wealth HAS come from society and primarily from those that are less wealthy. They have to begin to learn to welcome higher tax rates for higher incomes to give some small reasonable fair share back to society. Even Warren Buffet says the wealthy should be taxed more. The wealthy need to realise the inequity and unfairness there is in the ever increasing wage, income and wealth gap and disparity between the top and bottom in society due to the uncontrolled exploitative nature of the free market and capitalist philosophy.

    The government needs to find ways to reduce this income gap in society before the
    masses themselves may decide to rise up and violently revolt against such excessive disparity and exploitation.

    It is therefore also in their own interest for the wealthy to change their selfish uncontrolled capitalist greed mentality and embrace socialist ideas in their philosophy and practice.

    • Rogue Trooper 8.1


    • Draco T Bastard 8.2

      Someone being rich is not a problem.

      Wrong. Someone being rich is a major problem as it means that resources that could be going to better uses are locked up tight and only used at the rich persons say so and they will only say so if they get richer. It’s why we have poverty in this land of plenty.

      • Clement Pinto 8.2.1

        Wanting to be rich and improve one’s status is a natural instinct and need in every human being. You can not prevent it by platitudes or laws. It is counter productive, unwise and undesirable top do so. Both common sense and history shows that. What is essential is to allow conditions for people to get wealthier but expecting and demanding of them to give some of their wealth generously back to society to help the rest of society to improve too, as I stated in the last four paragraphs of my post.

        • Tracey

          i dont and i have had the opportunity as a lawyer and walked away. greed might be an instinct but wanting to be rich surely isnt.

          • Clement Pinto

            It is your right to lead the life the way you prefer. Being frugal, altruistic, simple, modest may be an ideal way of life for some. The majority may have a different view.
            I am wondering how life as we know it today would have been had many of the entrepreneurs, job creators and risk takes had also walked away as you did without perusing what they accomplished : Bill Gates, Steven Tindal, Mark Zuckerberg, Fisher & Paykel etc.

            • Tracey

              yes, but that’s not what you wrote is it? Re-read your post which I replied to.

              you seem to also assume that by not pursuing money I havent accomplished anything of import?

              • Clement Pinto

                No, I did not assume so.

                • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill)

                  Really interesting conversation Clemento, Tracy and Draco,

                  I think what you say, Clemento, re acknowledging ‘drives’ and not squashing them, has a lot of merit, however, you conflate the drive to be rich and to have social status with need.

                  I think to call these two things a ‘need’ might be an intellectual error.

                  Needs are something we can’t live without. Food, and water and shelter are needs. Love, too, is probably a need. (Social status perhaps connects with love).

                  Therefore, things you list as needs are not needs; they are perhaps closely associated with needs. Both social status and wealth make meeting our needs easier, however they are not needs.

                  In the system we have money is:
                  a) means of meeting one’s needs,
                  however it is also
                  b) a way of gaining social status and power.

                  Accumulating vast wealth for social status or out of a neurotic fear of not having enough, interferes with other’s meeting their basic needs. (due to point a. )

                  Perhaps money needs to be somehow divorced from social status by using it solely for its prime purpose; helping meet needs. In this way curbing wealth accumulation would not be the same as curbing people’s other drives.

                  • Clement Pinto

                    One can not live on bread alone. One might prefer butter, buns and cake too.

                    Who is to say/control what level or type of food, shelter, clothing or need or want one should have or be entitled to?

                    Different people have different needs and wants. It should be an individuals choice. So should the desire to be wealthy for whatever reason.

                    What the society and government SHOULD insist/control is that the wealthy do pay back generously by way of progressive taxes to help others in society also enjoy basic needs, services and opportunities. The government should always strive to reduce the widening gap between the wealthy and the poor, by working at the top as well as at the bottom. That is simply common sense, just and fair.

                    No person, rich or poor is an island. Every individual is a social being that cannot exist without his/her fellows beings. No one is self-sufficient and everyone relies on the other for successful survival.

                    What we need is an ardent, sensible, just and fair socialism that is practical and realistic.

                    • McFlock

                      Personally, I regard the desire to have much, much more than one could reasonably need while other people starve as a dysfunctional personality disorder. I’m not talking about striving for excellence, but striving for riches, power, or even mere fame.

                      Everybody has some desire for comfort and self-determination, but why would a millionaire emigrate to Russia simply because they don’t want to pay a higher tax rate in the country that enabled them to be a millionaire?

                      It’s a bit like the difference between someone who’s a bit messy about the home and someone who’s a 30-year hoarder, almost getting buried in the piles of junk. One is within the limits of reason, but billionaires who fund propaganda organisations to keep the majority poor have something wrong with them. But capitalism encourages this sort of dysfunction, it doesn’t cure it.

                    • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill)

                      @ McFlock,

                      +1 Very much agree

                      @ Clemento

                      I agree with most of what you say, however at first you imply an aversion to people’s predilections-not just needs- being ‘controlled’.

                      I sense that you are veering into licentiousness, rather than catering to ‘freedom’ or ‘freedom of expression’ here.

                      The difficulty with living in groups is that one person’s freedom can be the cause of another’s oppression; therefore it is fair that people have freedom of choice/expression only when their choices do not impinge on others to make similar choices.

                      When people accumulate vast sums of money, they are curbing others choices. This can be the result through a number of ways. They can physically gather more than their fair share of resources, they can cause more than their fair share of environmental damage, they have more power to control the laws, and can shape them to their advantage, they can have a powerful voice in order to get people believing that those who have less than them are in that position because they are wrong (therefore can be treated sub-humanly), they can influence people, they can bribe people. Not all wealthy people do conduct these activities, however one would have to be blind not to view current financial crises and not see that this type of behaviour has been going on for some time, and had it not we simply wouldn’t be having this crises.

                      Please remember that corporations are also considered ‘persons’ under the law.

                      So please take a second look around you and realise that curbing someone’s behaviour or wealth is not always a case of oppressive ‘anti-freedom’ laws, these laws, in fact, can free many people’s lives up that those with wealth wouldn’t think twice about oppressing; actually, it is clear that there are many in powerful positions right now as I write who don’t think twice about oppressing others and condemning them to the wastebasket of humanity; just so they can carry on following their ‘freedoms’. (Airstrikes: Syria, Iraq….)

                    • Clement Pinto

                      McFlock, I agree, but how much is too much? Who sets the limit or parameters and how? How do you stop or control ‘excessive riches, power or fame’ as you put it? And is it about personal wealth, family wealth or company wealth? It is a complex problem with no easy, fair workable solutions.

                    • McFlock

                      But it is easy to get the low hanging fruit – e.g. 90% tax on $1mil income and above.

                      See how much that helps fix problems for people at the other end of the spectrum, and start working on more “complex” solutions from there.

                    • Clement Pinto

                      Blue leopard, I don’t clearly understand most of what you have penned about what you think I wrote. This might help : “What the society and government SHOULD insist/control is that the wealthy do pay back generously by way of progressive taxes to help others in society also enjoy basic needs, services and opportunities. The government should always strive to reduce the widening gap between the wealthy and the poor, by working at the top as well as at the bottom. That is simply common sense, just and fair.”

            • Draco T Bastard

              Why would they stop doing what they were doing just because they wouldn’t get rich?

              One of the things that I learned in one of my course is that you don’t put an entrepreneur in charge of a company as it tends to crash the company as they chase their dreams. Thing is, no matter what, entrepreneurs will chase their dreams which is why so many of them aren’t rich.

      • Crunchtime 8.2.2

        By some measures David Cunliffe is rich. Is that a problem?

        I would venture to say that it’s not a problem. People being fairly rich and well off isn’t a problem in and of itself.

        The scale of wealth and the gap between rich and poor – the inequality – is a problem.

        As Clement said, corporate welfare is a big problem because it contributes to inequality.

  9. Saarbo 9


    You should be in the Labour Caucus.

  10. Mary 10

    Labour does not have a left-wing social policy, Helen, not entirely. I think you’ve been hoodwinked by all of the “fair go” rhetoric. Nobody bothers looking at the detail of Labour’s policy on social security benefits anymore because the climate has shifted to one where beneficiaries do not count. David Shearer did not say “Labour is the party for workers” for nothing. Labour used to be a party for the poorest of the poor as well but not now. I do not know if you are familiar with Labour abolishing the special benefit and obliterating the statutory purpose of the social security legislation which was about meeting need and replacing it with “work will set you free” – in an environment where there are no jobs – but to me that’s not left-wing social policy. Labour has not made one jot of an effort to counter these accusations yet people are still being sucked in to thinking Labour’s social policy is left-wing. Judge a society on how it treats it’s poor. Labour sent the latest government social security fraud bill to the select committee – horrendous. Labour’s not even pretending to be left-wing anymore. It just isn’t politically sexy to say beneficiaries should be able to have a life. Your piece failing to mention beneficiaries and Labour’s social welfare policies suggests to me that this is the new way of describing “left-wing social policy”. We need to start doing what Sue Bradford has suggested we do which is to publicly attack Labour for its abandonment of our most vulnerable, and that we may need to start viewing Labour “in the same way as we see National, as simply an enemy of the most vulnerable and defenceless in our society.” This is pretty heavy stuff but we are sick to death of what is quickly beginning to be regarded as a hatred of the poor in the same way as the right hate the poor. I’m guessing we’re getting quite close very public criticism of Labour’s stance on benefits, beneficiaries and social security:


    • Rogue Trooper 10.1

      hmmm. Ponderable.

      • Mary 10.1.1

        Attack Labour on its social security/beneficiary stance and it’ll lose votes to Mana/Greens. At the same time Labour will take votes from Nact. Win/win? Would there be a significant group within Labour who would privately welcome this approach and result?

        • Rogue Trooper

          hard to evaluate from the rhetoric (btw, that is well conveyed and provoking Mary) whether to over-estimate them, unlike some folk around these parts.A strength is my autobiographical eidetic memory… Excellent work though thank-you.

    • Polish Pride 10.2

      The problem you have is that no matter what (overall) policy you enact it is always done by taking from one group and giving to another. It doesn’t matter whether it is Labour or National.
      to over simplify the Left wing policy essentially takes from the rich to give to the poor. Rightwing policy does the opposite and enacts policy that redistributes wealth upwards.
      In either case, this results in those being taken from eventually getting numbers vote in a party that does the complete opposite, so at best you get to implement the policies.
      We swing backwards and forwards every 6-9 years and at best we end up with a poor halfway house and a system that fails to meet the needs of many.
      Labour is not the party for the workers and neither are the Unions. If they were they would seek to free workers from having to work. We have the technology to Automate over half the jobs currently performed in society and should move to a system that takes from no one but enables everyone to have the things they want and need. Only then will you be able to achieve the things for society that you so desperately want to, many of those things being quite noble. But in order to do it you have to move away from a system that takes from one group in order to provide for another. Whilst you continue to do this you will continue to fail in achieving the society you want to have.

  11. Ad 11

    After 30+ years of one variant of neoliberalism, including the Clark government that ran away from big conversations let alone “the vision thing”, I do not believe New Zealand functions sufficiently well to have that conversation you want.

    We are riven by inequality and poverty (including telecommunications and transport poverty), no longer have a common discursive xperience that tv used to provide, and remain blighted by massive levels of loneliness and suicide.

    Cunliffe is a start and could make change to New Zealand. But we can’t even hold a year-long conversation about constitutional change for any meaningful conclusion let alone result.

    We have minor patriotic moments about sport, but other than sport have little binding us together as a collective will or identity. I think the last 30 years have taken that out of us.

    The grand activist movements – including for workers – of the 1970s and 1980s are almost cold ash.

    In the foreseeable future there is no capacity or will for the conversation you want.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      Yep. The rebuilding has to start at the very basic levels. Its always been far easier and faster for the neoliberals to take things apart than for the left to build things up.

      • Mary 11.1.1

        “Its always been far easier and faster for the neoliberals to take things apart than for the left to build things up.”

        Like the decades it took to develop a climate of opinion based on looking after your neighbour and that a caring society is good – destroyed in less than ten years from 1991. And it doesn’t help when the Labour Party not only does nothing to fix things but carries on with the exact same uncaring and destructive agenda.

        • karol

          We need to play our role. Parties are more likely to pick up on such values and policies if their is a ground swell from below amongst the wider community.

          • Colonial Viper

            Absolutely. You work hard to vote your favourite politicians into office, and once they are there, you have to keep working on building the pressure to make them do the right things. That’s how it has to work.

        • Draco T Bastard

          …destroyed in less than ten years from 1984.


          • Mary

            Sure, I understand. I think though that Labour from 1984 paved the way that allowed the shift in thinking and acceptance of neo-liberal beliefs by the general populace which really took hold in a cultural sense from 1991 with the Employment Contracts Act, benefit cuts, market rents for state housing tenants, user pays in education and health etc. That 1991 to 1999 period was significant in this regard.

      • Ad 11.1.2

        Don’t agree. Nationbuilders come in both parties. As do dog-whistle patriots.

        It is historically very possible, it’s just a ways back.

        Remember, MMP came in under Bolger.

    • Bill 11.2

      Ad. Even the most vile neo-liberal doesn’t steal icecream from a kid on a summer’s day. And the same person would probably save the same icecream eating kid if they were able, should they get in bother. Thing you forget in your above comment (much of which I agree with) is that basic human nature has persisted in spite of having 30 years of neo-liberal individualism imposed on it.

      Maybe.. just maybe, the Labour Party can provide a spark that lights people’s imaginations and demands and elevates our inherent, but suppressed better natures again.

      • Ad 11.2.1

        I have a huge number of National friends and they’ve built much of this country.

        Just don’t give me that hopey-changey stuff yet.

        • Colonial Viper

          A lot of Southlanders in English’s electorate hate the fact he is selling off power assets. It simply runs against their conservative grain of building up assets for the next generation.

          Of course, they’re still not going to stop voting for him 😈

        • Murray Olsen

          The differences between hopey changey and Aotearoa are that most of us aren’t as blindly loyal to one of two parties as the seppos are, and we have Greens, Mana, and even Winston First. Despite the garbage in right wing blogs, I don’t think many of us see Cunliffe as a messiah. I see him as someone who, because he’s now where he is with the abilities he has, can play an important part in a wider movement. Victory depends on all of us and what we do, not just on one leader.

        • Tracey

          wow they must be tired

      • Mary 11.2.2

        “Maybe.. just maybe, the Labour Party can provide a spark that lights people’s imaginations and demands and elevates our inherent, but suppressed better natures again.”

        While we must remain hopeful, there’s been very little evidence of this happening, if any at all. For this reason we need to do more than just hope, and that’s keep reminding Labour that this is what it needs to do. Even if this means putting energy into a Mana/Green opposition. Nothing else has worked so far. Labour needs more than a shot over its bow. A good and proper wounding it seems is what is needed right now.

  12. Lefty 12

    Capitalism has its own characteristics that have little to do with good or bad intentions, conversations or society.

    Neo liberalism was what had to happen to overcome its last systemic crisis. That is failing to give security, even to the ruling class now, and they are casting about for their next trick.

    The traditional social democrat policies of Keynesian economics and the welfare state are not going to work again – they only worked for a while because of the particular conditions after WW11.

    Cunliffe is unlikely to be able to escape the imperatives of capitalism and they have nothing to do with warm dry Kiwi kids with full bellies I’m afraid.

    Around a third of potential voters understand our politicians have nothing to offer and fancy promises from a party that is a serial betrayer of the poorest people in society are not going to fool them again so Labour is going to have to win its support from the right/centre (whichever you prefer to call it).

    And that will be very bad news for those on the bottom of the heap.

    I would seriously like to be proved wrong but it would be a triumph of hope over experience and intelligence to believe Cunliffe or any other social democrat is going to put giving people power before saving capitalism.

  13. Virginia Linton 13

    Great piece Helen.

  14. neoleftie 14

    Gosh beautiful well written.
    Society, community, people,
    Its time for a discussion, as you suggest, regarding how the large societal construct interacts with the economic system, and what needs to change to reflect the new direction and vision…a new or next way is needed to solve the coming global instabilities and challenges of energy, climate and resources.

  15. Rogue Trooper 15

    Good Ol’ Boys, Kentucky Fried Chicken, finger clickin’ good!
    (Yep. no freesias sorry, plenty of thyme). 😉

  16. thor42 16

    One of Cunliffe’s “bright ideas” is to raise pay-rates for the low-paid.

    Result? Some companies will lay off some of the said low-paid (or not employ them in the first place).

    Other companies are very likely to raise their prices, and others may go under completely.

    Others may disappear because the employer moves to Australia because his taxes have now increased (Cunners’ “rich pricks tax”) so we lose their taxes completely.

    Gee….. we’re back to where we started.
    Well done, David Cunliffe.

    I have already seen an article where a coffee-shop owner said “are you ready for $8 coffees?” Other food prices will go up as well – you can guarantee it. Firms have to recover their costs one way or another, don’t they?

    For someone with a Harvard education, Cunners seems to have a remarkably poor grasp of basic economics.
    Raised wage costs = higher prices and layoffs
    = poor people no better off.

    • thor42 16.1

      I have a post from a blog elsewhere (the post is by an employer) – consider THIS, David Cunliffe –

      “I will be starting the person on $15 p.h., and if they are any good they will be on $17 p.h. after 90 days. It will only be 20 hrs per week to start with, but it’s still a shitload better than the dole, and they get to learn new skills.

      But no, Labour would rather tax me until my nuts bleed and keep someone under control on a benefit.”

      • Colonial Viper 16.1.1

        You do realise that it has been National increasing taxes like GST, on petrol, making employers pay $45 to file annual reports for companies, don’t you?

        Also you do understand what happens to monies taken in taxes right? The government spends that money back into the private sector. The money is not destroyed when it is taxed; it is kept moving through the economy.

        In fact, do you know anything?

        The example you quote: $17/hr is only a small fraction away from the living wage of $18.40/hr.

        So what’s the problem again?

      • Tracey 16.1.2

        Um, if he/she is paying above the odds now it is not them the gun is aimed at, it is aimed at the big corporations and businesses who keep on paying a poor minimum wage no matter how much profit they make. It’s their nuts that need squeezing. So within 90 days your example is almost at the living wage and therefore has nothing to fear from David Cunliffe. For another $20 a week your example is at the living wage. I am prepared to bet it wont break that business.

        On the other hand if your example thinks that $300 per week gross is a liveable wage…

        Ideology can be hard to shake.

    • Tracey 16.2

      yup the sky will fall and the economy will collapse if the lowest paid get fairer wages. Better to be on a wage that doesnt enable you to thrive and ensure the highest paid maintain or increase their position.

      Most SMEs i have contact with dont pay minimum wage to ll they “could”. They pay higher.

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 16.3

      Thor, can you cite a single real world example where raising the minimum wage led to decreased employment levels?

      Or perhaps I should just remind you that Cullen raised the minimum wage nine times in nine years and the employment level increased, just as it did in numerous empirical studies from the USA etc.

      So come on, put up or shut up. Show us your comment amounts to something more than lazy repetition of faith-based economic zombies.

      I dream of better wingnuts.

  17. Draco T Bastard 17

    Social Democratic Economy: Part 2

    There’s two major problems:
    1.) We don’t know what the economy is and
    2.) We don’t know what the purpose of the economy is either

    Without knowing these two things we’ve been indoctrinated into believing that the economy is money and it’s movement. This has resulted in the widespread delusion that profit is good which means that the economies purpose has defaulted to that of profit.

    We on the left need to clearly define a vision of community and how the real economy of the sustainable resources we have can be used to support that community.

    • thor42 17.1

      “…the widespread delusion that profit is good…”

      Uh…. even “communist” China has a capitalist profit-based economy now. Nasty nasty “profit”…… 🙂

      As for so-called “rich pricks” that Cunners likes to poke abuse at –
      many of those “rich pricks” are employers. Are *jobs* bad?

      Many will also help out with voluntary work, coaching sports teams and so on, as well as making donations.
      Gee….. nasty nasty rich people! How evil they are!

      • Colonial Viper 17.1.1

        Nice derail attempt. No one said rich people were “evil” (apart from you). You just made that up because you are a loser who cannot construct a sound economic argument.

        DTB is quite right in his remarks that excessive profits are a drag and a drain on communities, and need to be eliminated.

        As for so-called “rich pricks” that Cunners likes to poke abuse at –
        many of those “rich pricks” are employers. Are *jobs* bad?

        Are you really going to start using the line that rich people are “job creators”?

        Fact: a rather large proportion of rich people make money by eliminating jobs, reducing pay and cutting back on staff hours. That’s because jobs are a COST on a company’s financial statements. Don’t you know anything?

        • Tracey

          The Warehouse created some minimum wage jobs BUT assisted in the collapse of the apparel industry in NZ.

          Banks make billions in profits but had to be sued by IRD to pay their share of taxes. We had to waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars chasing them to pay only what they owed. Despite their enormous profits they balked. Or because of their enormous profit they balked. Dont make this into an attack on mum and dad businesses because it’s not, but let yourself be duped into thinking it is, so you can keep being rogered by the current government to help orgs like the banks make even more money and try to void paying their share…

          Anger canbe good, misdirected anger is self destructive.

      • Draco T Bastard 17.1.2

        Uh…. even “communist” China has a capitalist profit-based economy now.

        Communist China isn’t communist no matter it’s name. Just like the DPRK isn’t democratic. The lack of democracy is why China isn’t communist.

        As for so-called “rich pricks” that Cunners likes to poke abuse at –
        many of those “rich pricks” are employers.

        No they don’t, the community employs them. No demand from the community, no job. Being rich doesn’t change that.

        Many will also help out with voluntary work, coaching sports teams and so on, as well as making donations.

        And so do poor people. In fact, research has shown that poor people give more in respect of their income than rich people.

        Gee….. nasty nasty rich people! How evil they are!

        Yes, they are. They steal from everyone and then demand handouts when their economic system looks like it might make them poor.

      • Tracey 17.1.3

        oh good someone who is still relying on 2004/2005 rhetoric to make their argument.

        poor people also help out with voluntary work, coach teams and so on…

        no one I know thinks having money is evil or creating jobs is evil. Why do you think a living or fair wage is evil? How would your business go, say, for a month, with no employees?

        you sir need to change your handle to Chicken Little…

  18. Rogue Trooper 18

    Thor? I’m tho thor I can hardly think. … … 😀

  19. tricledrown 19

    Their is no other way thor your name is appropriate rocks in your head!
    John Banks cup of tea nasty peasants and old people referances!

  20. xtasy 21

    Dear Helen Kelly –

    I have NOT forgotten, that you signed up to health policy statements that were designed and influenced by such like Professor Mansel Aylward, Dr David Bratt and the likes, who have developed plans in the UK and here in NZ, to usher sick and disabled into jobs on the open job market.

    You were sent information about the agenda behind it, but have not bothered to distance yourself from the ulterior motives behind the UNUM insurance initiated and biased, unproved “research” by the department Mansel Aylward heads at Cardiff University in Wales. Hence I suspect you support also the welfare reform drive pushed by this government we have now, as that is also based on the views and flawed “findings” so often quoted by the same two “professionals”:


    “Ready, Steady, Crook” by Dr Bratt, likening benefit dependence to “drug dependence”:

    An analysis on the flawed “science” being relied on:

    Professor Gluckman’s (Science Advisor to the PM John Key) report on the government failing to use and adhere to true scientific evidence:



    Perhaps you may wish to clarify your stand and have all this researched and responded to at some time?

    Best wishes X

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