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We are all beneficiaries

Written By: - Date published: 9:04 am, August 23rd, 2012 - 85 comments
Categories: benefits, Deep stuff, human rights, welfare - Tags: ,

Deborah Russell is a lecturer in taxation at Massey University (and she recently joined the Labour Party). Deborah wrote an opinion piece for the Dominion Post on Tuesday setting out some constructive thoughts on welfare. With her permission we’re reprinting extracts here. I suggest you go to the original and read the whole thing. (Certain Labour MPs need to read it twice.) r0b


People who need a benefit should get it
DEBORAH RUSSELL

It’s easy to criticise the welfare system. Beneficiaries get too much money, too many of them cheat, and it all costs too much. But the unrecognised reality is that our comprehensive health and welfare systems create freedom and security for us all. …

The outrages of ill luck can happen to any of us. We are all vulnerable to losing our jobs. Jobs that seem secure, such as working for the Government, can disappear. In a struggling economy, small businesses and large go under, taking livelihoods with them. Even if the economy is thriving, we may become ill, perhaps with a chronic illness that prevents us from working. Arthritis, depression, cancer, multiple sclerosis – there are many diseases that may not kill, but debilitate, so a person cannot hold down a job or run a business. …

The welfare system is by no means luxurious. It is much easier to live well if you have a job. Nevertheless, our welfare system and our health system give us real security. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to pay taxes have a straightforward reason to support the welfare state: it’s simple prudence. One day, it may be our turn to depend on the state.

But when we criticise people who receive welfare, we are not just imprudent. We also undermine the security of our friends and family members and fellow citizens who depend on the welfare system.

If we complain about teenage mothers, and insist that someone ought to control their income and make them stop having babies, we make every sole mother worry about interference. If we mutter about a person on the dole who spends time working on his house instead of looking for a job, we tell unemployed people that their every action is subject to scrutiny. We become a surveillance society, rather than a civil society. We are ever ready to pop our heads over the back fence, and complain about the neighbours. We turn everyone who receives a welfare benefit into an object of suspicion. …

Our health and welfare systems are based on need, not some notion of worthiness. If we are in need, we are entitled to assistance, and that means that we may live as free citizens. It means that we are secure from economic fear, secure from absolute want, and secure from the interference of our neighbours. That freedom and security makes all of us beneficiaries of the welfare system.

85 comments on “We are all beneficiaries”

  1. Craig Glen Eden 1

    Trevor Mallard should read this then resign in shame.
    “Our health and welfare system are based on need, not some notion of worthiness”

    Sadly for Labour Trevor the scalper knows no shame so he will continue milking the political system for all its worth.

  2. I think the Dom Post probably owns the copyright now… But fair use and all. Many thanks for linking to the piece on The Standard, r0b.

    The comments thread on Stuff is interesting. There are plenty of people there who wholeheartedly endorse the ideas in the article. I think there’s plenty of people who would like to start hearing a new narrative about the welfare state and why we need one, contra the bennie bashers.

    Deborah

  3. gobsmacked 3

    Thanks Deborah (and Rob). Sorry I hadn’t read the original piece – it kind of got sabotaged yesterday.

  4. Carol 4

    This is an excellent piece, based in reality, that aims to shift the narrative away from the beneficiary-bashing dog whistle.

    This should be part of a wider narrative that includes availability of jobs that provide a living wage, and the unsustainable growth in the income-wealth gap.

    It needs to highlight where the most substantial and damaging bludging goes on, amongst the wealthier classes.

    • aerobubble 4.1

      We all pay tax, GST went up under National, many whose income is too low never access
      many of the services provided by that taxation, and so are provided a cash payment. The
      parasites that live a top of the pile believe three things, they have no duty to others, do
      not benefit from either such payments (alleviates poverty, disease and slavery-oppression, etc)
      or from the system itself (a CGT would actually regulate and measure, thus cleaning up
      the disparity from the lack of this tax, and that’s a benefit to society and the economy, as yet
      more rush to have their Capital gains taxed in Australia) and actually does not fairly recompense
      those at the bottom (for obvious reasons in we’d all give up our day jobs). So trust a
      politician to choose to take a bunch of moronic positions that essentially beat up on the poorest,
      its wrong, its would be an outrage but for the general right wing propaganda framing of language
      we all too often see in the media. Take Joyce, he was allowed to suggest that not having
      a CGT was good for the economy, despite most people with economic degrees noting
      quite clearly not taxing capital gains distorts our economy, disincentives long term investment,
      as shorting is tax free.

  5. Tiger Mountain 5

    This debate needs to be continually revisited until some progress is made by the left, rather than allowing vandals like Rebstock and Bennett to make the running.

    • a 21st century definition of work–paid, unpaid, underpaid, precarious, internships, etc.
    • a universal basic income for all citizens to largely replace the benefit system (even our ‘friend’ Gareth Morgan supports some form of UBI)
    • Labour MPs (Greens and Mana don’t) to stop bennie bashing. Sue Bradford for almost a decade was the only consistent voice in parliament for beneficiaries and their children
    • Recognition of middle class welfare for what it is, to reduce stigma on other beneficiaries. WFF in work tax credit saves a lot of family asses in this country, asses that should be joining unions and organising to obtain their own wage increases from employers rather than other taxpayers. The figures show that union members are the only group of workers (CEOs excepted) to have consistently got wage rises since 2008.

  6. Polish Pride 6

    “Our health and welfare systems are based on need, not some notion of worthiness. If we are in need, we are entitled to assistance, and that means that we may live as free citizens. It means that we are secure from economic fear”

    No one is a truley free citizen under the current system. 99% are enslaved to the system. The simple fact of the matter is that thwe overwhelming majority work for the system rather than the system working for us which it could be redesigned to do.

    Under the current system no one can truly be free from economic fear. Economic fear does not disappear for me because if I lose my job I can go on a benefit. If this happens I will not be able tro afford my mortgage, I will likely lose my house and struggle to make ends meet. In such a position under the current system I will live with economic fear every single day.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      Under the current system no one can truly be free from economic fear. Economic fear does not disappear for me because if I lose my job I can go on a benefit. If this happens I will not be able tro afford my mortgage

      People with mortgages are supposed to be afraid. That’s why they are named as they are.

      • aerobubble 6.1.1

        There was story on Campbell Live, a father signed for his kid to get a car. His
        kid needed for a job, that he lost, and his wife also lost their job. Now the
        question for me is, sure your right, that economic fear is oppressive, but
        that it hasn’t been sufficiently oppressive to convince this family to have brought
        a moped instead of a big SUV. Its true that the b*st*ards who then used this
        family for shameful rent seeking… but hey, we’re all propagandized into believing
        the economy is fine, that the downturn will turn, just stick with National.
        It wont because our society, like any machine, relies on energy, as petrol
        cost rise so the amount of unnecessary activity, churning people into indebted
        debt junkies, will abate and the economy will necessarily continue to shrink.
        Labour will get into power, will introduce a CGT, cutting the profits of
        landlords and thus reduce their influence that is stopping more homes from
        being built. Mortgages wont always be so onerous, its just a lot of
        weak minded people believe that to be rich they have to accept this madness
        about profits having to be hard won at the expense of others (typically their
        own family, friends, community), when do otherwise would make it all
        easier.

  7. the sprout 7

    An excellent piece, thank you deborah. Now if only the neoliberal leaders of the Labour caucus cared about social justice more than their own self-interest .

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      Well, in front of meetings of Party Members they say that they do. Is that good enough?

    • Polish Pride 7.2

      No politician cares about social justice enough – if they did we would shift to a system that can remove poverty and work towards freeing people from having to work to survive. That system is a Resource Based Economy.

      Instead we continue with a system that makes people redundant because of advances in technologty…. Thinks about that for a second – Our society has advanced technologically to the point where a human is no longer needed to perform a role. But because of the system they must find another job in order to survive…..because that is the way the current system works. This is lunacy.

      • Colonial Viper 7.2.1

        a system that can remove poverty and work towards freeing people from having to work to survive.

        Nah disagree here. Couch potatoes with things delivered to them on a silver platter is not what we ‘need’.

        • Polish Pride 7.2.1.1

          That is not in my view what would be delivered nor would their be no work to be done in such a system. When you have a day off do you just sit at home and watch TV. If you only had to work say 2days per week for arguments sake is that all you would do.
          Remember I am talking about a system where resources are readily available for your use – something I doubt many start up communes were able to provide. They would have had their own dynamics and problems. What I am talking about is not a commune model either. (Answering the response below also
          Surely you have things that you are passionate about or at the very least interested. Things that you say you would like to learn about (history, astonomy, knitting, musical instrument, X, Y, Z) Things you would like to try, (Diving, painting, X, Y, Z)….if only you had more time.
          Remove the addiction to money from the equation and you remove a significant barrier to solving many of the problems our civilisation faces today.

          The greatest advances in human history came from people who were passionate about something. I am talking about a system that gives people access to the time and resources to do that. to be passionate about something.

          Because someone may decide to waste their life and freedom such a system would give as a couch potato is not a reason to not do it.

          We have a system right now that does not give everyone this opportunity and we have many many couch potatoes and many people working in a job they hate or at best tolorate because it enables them to survive in the current system. We can do far better than that. But not under the system we have.

          I would much prefer to live in a world where I am free to find things to be passionate about and do them, rather than a system that keeps people as a slave to it because they might be a couch potato in a new one.

          Forget about everyone else for a second….imagine if you lived in a world where you only had to work two days per week. imagine you had access to the resources you wanted/needed. What would you do with your time>?…..sit on the couch and watch TV!?!

        • Polish Pride 7.2.1.2

          Nor would things be delivered on silver platters many of the functions would work much as they do now. Want food go to the supermarket and get what you need. Want petrol go to the gas station and get it.
          I envisage that the additional free time would have someone develop a viable solution to move us away from oil dependancy very quickly, because they would have the time and the passion to do so as one example.

        • Draco T Bastard 7.2.1.3

          People won’t become couch potatoes. People want to work and be challenged. If the job that they were doing is removed while maintaining their living standard they will look for something else to do. Society then has a responsibility to ensure that they have the resources and networking available to let them find it. Our present system actually removes those resources from them and thus keeps them from being productive.

        • Populuxe1 7.2.1.4

          The wisdom of Aesop

      • prism 7.2.2

        Polish Pride
        We used to have many start-up communes in NZ in the 60-70s. The sort of things you are saying is what closed down most of them. People didn’t want to work till they felt like it. Playing guitars and singing about not working and the beauty of life where you didn’t have to work, and the wrongness of people trying to make you work was more appealing. But they still wanted meals, if they weren’t too high to eat.

        • Polish Pride 7.2.2.1

          I am not taklking about starting communes on masse. A certain type of person would have gravitated towards communes as you have described. I am talking about changing the system so that all have much more free time. Having the system work for mankind instead of the other way around. Are you telling me that if we did this you as a normal person would suddenly abdicate your personal responsibilities to yourself and your family and the system? That you wouldn’t be able to feed yourself or your family because you would not be able to resist the temptation to get high and play the guitar and sit around doing nothing all day long….? I doubt that would be the case for the vast majority of the population.

          • prism 7.2.2.1.1

            Polish Pride
            More time – yes. When the space comic strip The Jetsons started the future was shown as pushing buttons to make machines go, and lots of spare time.

            We used to have weekends, now our weeks don’t end really. We used to have minimum pay for so many hours so you couldn’t be at the beck and call of employers for whatever work they chose to parcel out, and even that uncertain. So some respect for human needs would mean that government ensured that workers had proper breaks and a 3 day weekend would be nice. More hours could be worked on the four days, and glidetime within parameters would be good.

            But don’t be too sanguine about people not being able to provide for their family. Alcohol and gambling addiction can be a trap that eats up people’s will and priorities. There are different ways of getting high than what we think of as ‘bad drugs’.

          • Mike 7.2.2.1.2

            A world without money is far too greater leap of the imagination for most people it seems. I have discussions about this with friends and they inevitably base things they say around still having a monetary system. They seem to think that without money as a reward people won’t work because there is no incentive to do so. This is wrong in my opinion as they argue that people won’t be able to afford things without money, forgetting that we’re talking about a system with no money.

            Money is a hindrance to progress. Many argue the opposite, saying that money facilitates progress for example investment in science and research, paying for large scale tech implementations, etc. But think about it, for example, we have the technology, capability and resources right now to build a network of high speed mag lev trains or other forms of clean public transport. Why don’t we? Because it costs too much. Scientists could be far more advanced in their research, if they only had enough funding. Millions are dying of starvation yet just one american corporation disposes of over a billion tonnes of food product every year because it’s cheaper to throw it away than to feed starving people? Money always inhibits progress. We live in a system where scarcity creates value rather than abundance , including money, which is more valuable when scarce.

            Activities which are detrimental to society and human kind such as war, illness and disease, financial speculation, greed, etc; are the activities which within our monetary and economic system are rewarded with massive profits. Activities which benefit society such as good education, curing illness, providing adequate food and housing for everyone and so on are not profitable.

            Some commentators estimate that without money, we could be up to 1000 years more advanced technologically than we are now. The trouble is that we are so brainwashed into depending upon our monetary system that we simply can’t comprehend a system without it.

            Without money, there will still be people who will work as nurses and doctors, teachers, scientists, food producers, etc, because those people love doing those things.

            If we continue down the path we are currently on, then there would seem to be only two outcomes; A world police state with one world government and one world digital currency (no cash) and likely a microchipped at birth population, or some kind of massive revolution or uprising once the lack of money reaches a critical mass of the population.

            Our monetary system of exponentially increasing debt and the inequality it creates is the greatest current threat to our future and has to change

          • Populuxe1 7.2.2.1.3

            Work expands to fill available time.
            Automation doesn’t make more free time so much as it reduces employment.
            The assumption that all human beings would put free time to constructive use is plainly contrary to the experience of the human condition. We are not all universally noble or stoic.
            It would be far better to acknowledge and reward those part time and voluntary workers for whom a benefit is their primary source of income.

             

            • fatty 7.2.2.1.3.1

              All good points, and all true. But they are only true under capitalism…you’ve described exactly why capitalism is failing us

              • Populuxe1

                Capitalism is a deeply flawed method for distributing resources, but in a capitalist society one may choose to live communally – the reverse not so. Capitalist society protects the rights of minorities in a way that Communist one’s ideologically cannot.

                • fatty

                  I’m not suggesting communism, but if I was….communal living within a capitalist society means that you are excluded from resources and still subject to the downsides of a greed based system – high crime, pollution, and limited access to assets, etc
                  To say you can live communally in a capitalist society is like saying you can live an individualised life within a communist society – by not interacting with anyone. It is possible, but it’ll be a sad life, and you’ll be excluded from almost everything.

                  “Capitalist society protects the rights of minorities in a way that Communist one’s ideologically cannot.”

                  I doubt it, both communist and capitalist societies have a long history of subjugating minorities. It depends what rights you are talking about, if its basic human rights then I would say communism is far better at protecting those rights

                  • Populuxe1

                    Look at it this way. If New Zealand was a Communist state, Maori would have no chance of actual ownership of their tribal lands which are a significant aspect to their identity.
                    In the modern Capitalist society a woman may own property and therefore be independent of men. In a Communist state she would be dependent on the State, and let’s face it, how many Communist states have women in significant positions of power within the Party. To the contrary, they have been treated as glorified baby machines and that’s about it.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      In the modern Capitalist society a woman may own property and therefore be independent of men.

                      BS

                      I highlight the word you use “modern” because it points to the SOCIAL JUSTICE reforms inacted which have NOTHING to do with the inherent economics of capitalism.

                    • fatty

                      “If New Zealand was a Communist state, Maori would have no chance of actual ownership of their tribal lands which are a significant aspect to their identity.”

                      Land ownership is a capitalist construct, Maori had no concept of land ownership until capitalism was introduced. Maori identity is tied to the land, not their land. You really need to stop looking at everything through the lens of capitalism

                      “In a Communist state she would be dependent on the State, and let’s face it, how many Communist states have women in significant positions of power within the Party.”

                      You are confusing capitalism with women’s liberation. Women were, and still are, controlled quite effectively under capitalism. Women’s rights have been increasing in spite of capitalism, not because of it. Women own far less property than men do.
                      Can you name two similar cultures from the same era that prove your point?

                    • Mike

                      Capitalism, Communism, all of the ism’s are simply different kinds of livestock management approaches, and we’re the livestock. We need a whole new radical way of operating.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  All communities are inherently commun1st. Can’t get away from that. Capitalism is a system placed upon that commun1st base and, when it becomes to great within that society, the base collapses. As we’ve just seen – again.

                  BTW, I think you’ll find that it’s far easier to be an individual within a communist society than within a capitalist one. Capitalist accumulation by the minority prevents the majority from having access to the resources they need to be an individual.

                  • Populuxe1

                    That’s only your opinion – cite a reference or give an example. I know quite a few people who lived in formerly Communist countries and they would seem to disagree with you – proof being defection. Hell, almost every dissident author disagrees with you.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      There were no Cmmunist Eastern Bloc countries. Just centralised, authoritarian, police state controlled ones. Get up to speed man.

                    • Populuxe1

                      @CV

                      I highlight the word you use “modern” because it points to the SOCIAL JUSTICE reforms inacted which have NOTHING to do with the inherent economics of capitalism.

                      Yes. Exactly. Capitalism doesn’t give a shit about race, gender or sexual orientation, and it doesn’t preclude social welfare or civil rights, nor the fight for them – once you’re in, however, you stay in. In other words, you have no point.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Capitalism doesn’t give a shit about race, gender or sexual orientation, and it doesn’t preclude social welfare or civil rights

                      Meh, it did for a couple of centuries. Because its the values of the society which are important, not the fact of capitalism or not.

                      Democratic socialism will trump capitalism any day. Because the one value capitalism does care about is whether or not you are capital rich, or whether you are a nobody not even worth considering.

                      The banksters don’t care about your social justice values. They just want to control your economic life.

                    • Populuxe1

                      @CV

                      Democratic socialism will trump capitalism any day. Because the one value capitalism does care about is whether or not you are capital rich, or whether you are a nobody not even worth considering.

                      Social democracies still have a capitalist framework – that’s the point of socialism – to ameliorate the excesses of capitalism. Someone’s still got to pay the piper at the end of the day.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Someone’s still got to pay the piper at the end of the day.

                      And who is this “piper” exactly? The banks? Wall Street?

                      EDIT

                      I’m not talking about “social democracies” lol

                    • Polish Pride

                      “Someone’s still got to pay the piper at the end of the day.”

                      Can you even conceptualize a system without money Populuxe?
                      Can you conceptualize a system that serves Mankind rather than the other way around like we have today?

                      If you design the system from a blank sheet of paper to come up with a system that satisfies the needs and wants of people, you don’t end up with capitalism. If you came up with the need for money as we have it today I would seriously be questioning why you had to add it in and what additional value it adds to your system.

                    • lprent

                      Ummm – so how many kiwis live in Aussie? Why do they live there? Perhaps you would look at the obvious expanations first rather than the religous

                    • Gosman

                      Funny then how this mysterical concept of ‘Democratic Socialism’ remains out of reach even in places which attempt to follow similar principles.

                      It would be like if I postulated a perfect Libertarian world where everyone gets along with the minimum of laws and there is no poverty as everyone is acting in a rational self interested way which benefits society as a whole. It is essentially meaningless twaddle with no basis in reality. Much like these dreams of ‘true’ socialism here.

                    • Polish Pride

                      Gos – at one time the world was thought to be flat. Anyone saying it was round was at best thought to be speaking meaningless twaddle with no basis in reality.
                      At one time manned flight was thought to be impossible, anyone saying it was possible was speaking meaningless twaddle.
                      The same is true for every significant advancement in human history…
                      Everything great including Capitalism, at one time had not basis and reality. But histrorically every system has had a beginning, a middle, and an end. This will include Capitalism.

          • jcuknz 7.2.2.1.4

            It would be good to work less, like three days a week the snag is paying for one needs on the wages that three days produces, and having some left over to pursue those interests. One thing there could be no unemployment and that money could fund ‘interests’.

      • dave brownz 7.2.3

        It’s not “lunacy”, its the logic of the system which traps workers in a downward spiral of destruction because one class owns the means of production.
        The precondition for any utopian striving is the expropriation back of the property and wealth expropriated from generations of workers.
        The only ‘narrative’ that will achieve this end is the ‘truth’.
        That capitalism has made huge advances by developing the productivity of labour but has reached the point of exhaustion where to survive it must destroy the fruits of that productivity and with it the planet.
        Ergo. Revolution is on the agenda to expropriate back the means of production and with it control over our future.
        For that to happen people need to stop worrying whether any parliamentary party will ever be a vehicle for workers and join the “return to Marxism”.
        http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/04/the-return-of-marxism
         

        • Polish Pride 7.2.3.1

          I agree with your sentiments (well sort of) but Marxism too is a failed system historically speaking. Any system that retains money will enevitably lead us back to the same position we find ourselves in today.
          A fundamental problem with Marxism is that the goal is still around high levels of employment. A very flawed and shortsighted way of thinking with technology able to replace the need for people in a vast number of roles. Although it would see a fairer distribution of resources than what we have today. It still robs people of their full potential and ability to do things they are passionate about. You will still find people spending time in jobs they hate or at best tolerate. Their are now better options.

          The system I am referring to is not Utopian. People will still need to work. The system is a Resource Based Economy with Direct Democracy

          • dave brownz 7.2.3.1.1

            “Marxism is a failed system too”
             
            But if you read even basic Marxism you would realise that what you call “Marxism” in practice was far from it. The application of Marxism failed because the working class was denied control over the means of production by the survival of global capitalism.
             
            “Money” as we know it today is the measure of value as produced under capitalism. It would end with capitalism – and a smart card which keeps a running tally on ‘credits’ would be all that is needed.
             
            “There are now better options than work”. 
             
            Again Marx more than anyone explained how that would happen. ‘Work’ is specific to the mode of production. In a post-capitalist society ‘work’ would be redefined. Necessary work (to maintain and reproduce society) would still have to be done but only take up a small part of the day. Society (through democratic planning) would decide democratically how work would be shared and its product distributed.
             
            Marx spoke of socialism as a transitional phase during which the formula would likely be that each got back what they put into society: “From each according to their work to each according to their “credits””. As society developed the capacity to overcome scarcity (technology would allow necessary labour to reduce to almost nothing) this would give way to communism: “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need”. 
             
            The definition of utopia I use is of a future ‘ideal’ society that exists as a blueprint but has no map as to how to get there. ‘Resourced based economy’ is an abstraction and is universally true. ‘Direct democracy’ demands that the producers have control of the ‘resources’ i.e. means of production and control over what is produced and distributed and can direct it democratically to meet everyone’s needs.
             
            Marxism has the advantage of providing a map and a strategy for realising such a future society. It has demonstrated its ability to begin to do this even in the worst possible conditions before being driven backwards by global capitalism; imagine what it could do under much better conditions when the world’s workers unite to expropriate the expropriators.
             
             

            • Polish Pride 7.2.3.1.1.1

              Hmmm very interesting Dave…
              I have done much thinking about what would be required for the implementation of a RBE interestingly one of the concepts I applied was time banking that could use a smart card to keep a running tally on hours.

              I wouldn’t have said that direct democracy demands that producers have control of resources. Resources under RBE are for the benefit of everyone and the structure including control of resources is up to the people in the direct democracy. It would be wise in my view to have the resources controlled by the people. This is an area where I would differ from Jacque Fresco who says everything as far as allocation of resources should be left to computers to determine the best use of. There is merit in that as it takes out the darker side of human nature from the equation. I am not sure if I have explained that very well but I did on reading your post see a significant similarity with how I would implement control of resources in RBE.

              Either way I am all for a system that would see peoples needs and wants met and is geared to removing the need for people to have to work more than is necessary…. or exactly as you have described…

              The other thing I would want to ensure which is where I saw the role for direct democracy is that (to use DTBs phrase) non hierarchical and is instead flat as far as governance goes. I see Hierarchical structures in governance of society always leading to a situation where there are the haves at the top and the have nots at the bottom and the eventual decline of the system as a result. Am I correct in that what you have said caters for that too. If so how do you ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself if you do not implement direct democracy with it?

              • On producer control, I am assuming that everyone produces within a division of labour subject to one’s ability. 
                 
                This means that the subjects in society are everyone of whatever  abilities and needs. There is no class division so no hierarchy. 
                 
                However getting to this point needs some material preconditions.
                 
                Marx said that capitalism will not be replaced until it has exhausted its historic potential. That includes an advanced technological level capable of producing ‘plenty’ in relatively little labour time. That would mean for the first time society could leave classes behind because there would be no competition to own and control production when there is sufficient to meet all needs.
                 
                That is why the revolution in the Soviet Union ultimately failed. It took place in a relatively backward country where capitalism was not long established. It was isolated when revolutions failed in more technologically advanced countries so it didn’t meet the material requirement to create ‘plenty’. The workers ceased to control the economy and were replaced by a bureaucratic caste who mismanaged planning, creating massive shortages, recreating ‘scarcity’ and policing it with a repressive state apparatus. 
                 
                In other words, true democracy requires plenty, which capitalism today is more than capable of producing in harmony with nature, once it is transcended by a classless society. 

                • Populuxe1

                  It also failed catastrophically in already industrialised nations like Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany.
                  Imposition of a system on people who don’t want it is criminal and wrong – and most people do not want to live in a collectivised system.
                  Karl Popper offers excellent criticism of the many flaws and failings of Marxism, and Ferdinand Lasalle had already pointed out to Marx that the development of capitalism and the failure of any sign of a natural evolution to Communism was fairly good evidence that Marx was wrong.
                  Funny thing about Revolution – it’s just using violence and terror to impose your will on others. Anything that requires a Revolution is, by definition, something not wanted by the majority.

                  • Socialism had already failed in the SU when the Soviets occupied Eastern Europe. What resulted was a hybrid form of society as an extension of the SU. Since they led to a SU type of scarcity and authoritarianism they were unpopular and like the SU were replaced by a movement to restore capitalism. 
                     
                    So you cannot then say that such societies being unpopular are an argument against collectivisation where that is democratic and provides plenty. No society has been able to realise that state. And I have explained why above.
                     
                    Popper and Lasalle did not offer an proof that humanity will not make the transition from capitalism to socialism since that is not determined by mechanical laws of history or refuted by isolated instances of failure. Unlike Marx these gentlemen did not understand Hegel.
                     
                    There is nothing funny about revolution it happens when it is needed and it is much less violent and destructive than the society it replaces. I presume you count yourself part of the popular majority that benefited from the bourgeois revolution.
                     
                    We own much to the bourgeois revolution which enabled capitalism to escape the barriers of feudal society and make the huge advances that today are the pre-conditions for another revolution to create a truly democratic, collective society.

                    • Populuxe1

                      Socialism had already failed in the SU when the Soviets occupied Eastern Europe. What resulted was a hybrid form of society as an extension of the SU. Since they led to a SU type of scarcity and authoritarianism they were unpopular and like the SU were replaced by a movement to restore capitalism. 

                      Interesting that in a society where the man on the street could quote Das Kapital chapter and verse, they wanted to bring back Capitalism rather than try and established a pure form of Marxism. And please don’t refer to the USSR as socialist – it was no such thing, ever, going all the way back to Lenin.

                      So you cannot then say that such societies being unpopular are an argument against collectivisation where that is democratic and provides plenty. No society has been able to realise that state. And I have explained why above.

                      Yes I can because there are no Communist states that are not dictatorships and unpopularity is one of the best arguments against anything (murder, for example, is unpopular). The most socialistic of the Scandinavian/Nordic countries have never pursued it. The idea of a “democratic” one party state is a nonsense. Generally speaking individuals do not like limits to their personal ownership of property imposed upon them.

                       
                      Popper and Lasalle did not offer an proof that humanity will not make the transition from capitalism to socialism since that is not determined by mechanical laws of history or refuted by isolated instances of failure. Unlike Marx these gentlemen did not understand Hegel.

                      I can’t disprove the existence of Santa Claus either, but that doesn’t give his existence validity. Socialism, poppet, is not the same as Communism, it’s where sensible left wing people stop before it all goes insane. Popper certainly did understand Hegel – that’s why he understood it to be a pathetic attempt to justify the absolute rule of Friedrich Wilhelm III, and in bk II of The Open Society and It’s Enemies rightly declared Hegel the inspiration for all of the totalitarian ideologues of the 20th century. Isaiah Berlin listed Hegel as one of the 6 architects of modern authoritarianism.

                       
                      There is nothing funny about revolution it happens when it is needed and it is much less violent and destructive than the society it replaces. I presume you count yourself part of the popular majority that benefited from the bourgeois revolution.

                      Bullshit. Both Pre-Revolutionary France and Tsarist Russia showed signs of liberalisation, and you cannot seriously tell me that the French Terror and Stalin’s endless purges were better than what they replaced. You are singing the old saw about needing to break a few (l)eggs to make an omelette. Where is the omelette? I doubt it would taste very nice.

                       
                      We own much to the bourgeois revolution which enabled capitalism to escape the barriers of feudal society and make the huge advances that today are the pre-conditions for another revolution to create a truly democratic, collective society.

                       
                      Hahahahaha – you said “bourgeois”…. Twice…. You really have drunk the Kool-Aid. Don’t even get me started on why Communism is completely incompatible with the rights of indigenous peoples for example… ROFLMFAO!

                    • Colonial Viper

                      You really have drunk the Kool-Aid. Don’t even get me started on why Communism is completely incompatible with the rights of indigenous peoples for example… ROFLMFAO!

                      Despite the fact that most tribal cultures are inherently highly communistic

                      You really are narrow sighted

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      The idea of a “democratic” one party state is a nonsense.

                      Good job that nobody, except you, mentioned it then. We’re not talking about a state that has parties at all – just democracy.

                      Generally speaking individuals do not like limits to their personal ownership of property imposed upon them.

                      No they don’t and yet we still have rules and regulations mostly those which have been forced upon the populace from the top of a hierarchy.

                  • Populuxe1

                    @CV

                    Despite the fact that most tribal cultures are inherently highly communistic
                    You really are narrow sighted

                     
                    Narrow sited maybe, but familiar enough with anthropology to call bullshit. All tribal cultures include elements of reciprocity and exchange, whether physical or in terms of mana. And whence last I looked, we are not living in a tribal society. I love the smell of Ad Hominem in the morning, it smells like VICTORY.
                     
                    @DTB
                     

                    Good job that nobody, except you, mentioned it then. We’re not talking about a state that has parties at all – just democracy.

                    So you don’t regard the freedom of association as democratic, or indeed the choice of how one is to be governed? Interesting.
                     

                    “Generally speaking individuals do not like limits to their personal ownership of property imposed upon them.”

                     

                    No they don’t and yet we still have rules and regulations mostly those which have been forced upon the populace from the top of a hierarchy.

                     
                    Which is relevant how? That doesn’t mean one should exchange a glass ceiling for a brick wall. Some of those rules and regulations, by the way, do place controls on the rich and those should be strengthened and protected.
                    The lack of reply buttons after a certain length of thread is a bit unfortunate – it gives the unwanted illusion of surrender.

                    [lprent: Be extremly careful of any comment that reads to me as a owned/pwned/claiming victory tactic. I tend to prevent the boring exchanges that will result by removing one or more participants as early as possible. If you are lucky and I am in a good mood I will warn first. Consider yourself warned. ]

                    • Populuxe you don’t actually engage with ideas that threaten you and I can’t be bothered repeating them all.
                       
                      Revolutions are necessary and violent because they overthrow an existing social order that has reached it limits. That existing order exhausts its ability to increase the productivity of labour without destroying its base the producing class itself.
                       
                      The bourgeois revolution is a fact. The bourgeoisie had to overthrow the feudal ruling class that was taxing its profits and preventing capital accumulation and thus the development of the modern industrial economy.
                       
                      The socialist revolution will be a fact as the proletariat will have to overthrow the capitalist ruling class that is driving down the share of value workers get to the point where they cannot reproduce themselves and survive. 
                       
                      To explain the necessity of revolutions Marx borrowed not Hegel’s reactionary politics but his dialectical method of analysing society as a contradictory totality that drove its laws of development. Marx rejected Hegel’s idealism for  historical materialism. Man is the subject of history not God.
                       
                      Unless you grasp that method you will be forever stuck with third rate apologists for capitalism like Popper and Berlin that stick labels on things and then spout the same old bourgeois nonsense.
                       
                      You are right to say the Soviet Union was never socialist. So how does the SU under Stalin and the E.European states become ‘communist’ when this bears no relation to what Marx means by communism?
                       
                      To understand what you label ‘communist’ you have to understand the method Marx took from Hegel and use it to explain that the SU under Stalin was a contradictory totality with its own laws of motion.
                       
                      The contradiction was between post-capitalist state property and a bureaucratic caste that usurped the product of labour. This produced a contradiction that led to a decline in labour productivity to the point of stagnation.
                       
                      One of the ‘facts’ that is otherwise inexplicable, that workers knew their Marxism, yet chose capitalism was a result of this contradiction.  To begin workers wanted socialism. In Hungary in 1956 workers tried to overthrow the Stalinist regime and take democratic control over production. They hoped that would increase the productivity of labour and equality of distribution.
                       
                      But this ‘political’ revolution was suppressed and the law of economic stagnation set in. By the 1980s most of those who wanted to defend state property in the name of Marx had been defeated by the Soviet dictatorship and so chose capitalism.
                       
                      None of this is very difficult. It just requires a open mind and an ability to comprehend Marx’s dialectical method of critique.
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       

                    • Colonial Viper

                      😯

    • Dr Terry 7.3

      Labour politicians ought to be compelled to read a history of their forgotten saint, Michael Joseph Savage (though this would play hell with their consciences, which I hope they have.

  8. Tom Gould 8

    Deborah writes that ‘we are entitled to assistance.” Be that as it may. But the conflict is, and has always been, around how much assistance we can afford and how we will pay for it. If we are to develop a new public consensus around 21st century welfare, and we certainly need one, we will need to have an honest conversation about both sides of the coin. Actually, the issue of access to work and how jobs are created and sustained is part of that conversation too, IMO. Underpinning this would have to be an acceptance of the market place. If we could pull that off, then we would have genuine “freedom and security”.

    • crashcart 8.1

      The market place got us where we are. The conversation would be more constructive if instead it was focused around those who used the market place to make themselves incredibly rich then when the whole house of cards fell down expected every one else to clean it up while they walk off to retire in comfort. Rather than blaming those at teh bottom some redress needs to be made by those who created the problem.

      • Tom Gould 8.1.1

        Nonsense. Your comment simply provides the futility of even opening the conversation. There is no difference between your ‘eat the rich’ world view and the ‘all beneficiaries are bludgers’ world view you reject. I guess you will just have to get used to losing and moaning about it.

        • weka 8.1.1.1

          You don’t happen to work for the Syrius Cybernetics Corporation do you?

        • crashcart 8.1.1.2

          Hold the phone, I’m a reject who is crazy to raise the subject of adressing systems that allowed a few elite rich to nearly collpse the financial sector and then almost completely walk away with rewards in many cases. Yet your the sensible one who thinks we should be cuting money from the poor who didn’t cause it because we just can’t afford it.

          I also think I am far from an eat the rich point of view. I am more for acountability and learning from mistakes. People love to go on about how bennies should be accountable for their actions and it should effect the benefits yet happily accept it when those who made millions whilst rorting the system walk away free. Now I do agree chasing them for money back is a futile exercise so instead we shold be discussing what went wrong and how to prevet that happening again. Instead the only answer anyone came up with was to throw billions of dollars at the banking sector and let them carry on doing what ever the hell they want.

        • Colonial Viper 8.1.1.3

          Nonsense. Your comment simply provides the futility of even opening the conversation. There is no difference between your ‘eat the rich’ world view and the ‘all beneficiaries are bludgers’ world view you reject.

          Yeah there is mate. Don’t be ignorant. The most powerful, influential and wealthiest people in the world CAUSED the GFC.

          Not the downtrodden voiceless, powerless poor who bear the BRUNT of the GFC.

          I guess you will just have to get used to losing and moaning about it.

          You. Wish.

        • Polish Pride 8.1.1.4

          Tom there is simple solution to your way of thinking. Simply a work slowdown type strike to significantly decrease production levels. Many costs are fixed including wages paid on an hourly rate. This can quikly bring any business to its knees and thus the system if done on a large enough scale.

          • Colonial Viper 8.1.1.4.1

            Useless unions gave up the right for nationwide strikes. They are now illegal and you will go to prison.

    • weka 8.2

      The market place is where you buy and sell goods you can’t produce yourself. It’s not where you look after your neighbour who has fallen on hard times.

      • Colonial Viper 8.2.1

        Best not to confuse a neoliberal idea of a “market” with a ‘town square market place’. The former is a game system used to arbitrage money and advantage away from the many, into their own pockets.

        The second is a nice set up which helps people in a community to get together, gossip, share meals, see old friends, and generally have a nice time under the guise of doing commerce and getting the groceries.

        • weka 8.2.1.1

          Precisely. Which is why he should have said ‘the neoliberal mythology of the market’ instead of ‘market place’ 😉

    • Draco T Bastard 8.3

      Underpinning this would have to be an acceptance of the market place.

      Nope, what we need is more democracy and the marketplace is anti-democracy – just like it’s anti-free-market.

  9. captain hook 9

    hey what about a final [thanks but no thanks. r0b]

  10. Kotahi Tāne Huna 10

    See? Demolishing the bullshit right-wing narrative wasn’t so hard after all. Labour caucus take note, or remedial left-wing policy 101, whichever.

  11. vto 11

    New Zealand as a community produces a GDP of some $200 billion each year.

    That $200 billion is produced by all 4 million New Zealanders (with exceptions at the extremities which can be ignored for these purposes).

    We all benefit from each others activities and the gains should be spread more equally to represent the equal contribution everyone makes. e.g. Mothers raising workers.

    Can some right wing person please explain how this should not be the case?

    (and just one more thing – of those billiions, 1 of those 200 goes to ANZ Bank. How many of the remaining 199 go to BNZ, ASB and Westpac. Maybe 1 each? So now we have reduced from 200 down to 196. It is simply obscene)

  12. Mr Burns 12

    We are all beneficiares


    Speak for yourself. I made it through my innate talent, my obsessive hunt for the deal, my ability to evade environmental standards and the gross underpaying of my workers. Not to mention being able to afford the best accountants that money can buy.
     
    And apart from various tax breaks and receiving generous subsidies that the nuclear industry has the benefit of I have never received a benefit in my life.

  13. Michael 13

    “Richard Long is on leave.” Of course he is, or the article would have been spiked. MSD’s annual report on inequality finds much the same. The burning question is: what will Labour do about inequality? Precious little, if David Parker’s latest speeches are anything to go by (and they seem to be all we have to go by). Yes, growing the pie matters. But fairly distributing the pie matters even more. A good test of Labour’s sincerity on inequality is it attitude towards the Greens’ WFF extension bill. If Labour can’t support that, I can’t support it.

    • Colonial Viper 13.1

      There is no more pie growing to be had. Anyone who says otherwise wants to sell you debt or get voted in.

      Latest PMI numbers out of China point to massive contraction in every industrial indicator.

  14. Michael 14

    I don’t agree, Colonial Viper, that the pie cannot be grown. Only this week, one of NZ’s largest exporters landed a multimillion $$$ deal with Brazil. 10 years ago, we didn’t want to know where Brazil was, let alone trade with it. One reason for the change of attitude by our capitalists might be the fact that the middle classes in Brazil have increased in number, and purchasing power, at a greater rate than any time in its history (according to that lefty rag, “The Economist), largely as a result of progressive economic policies pursued by former Pres Lula da Silva and continued by his successor, Dilma Roussef (both famous lefties, excoriated by rightwingers for decades. I think ms Roussef may have even been tortured by them, like Michelle Bachelet, another stunning economic manager from the left). Until we abandon Anglo-Saxon capitalism’s fixation with short-term profit indicators (notoriously unreliable and susceptible to manipulation by those who benefit), in favour of more genuine indicators (such as environmental sustainability), our society will grow increasingly unjust and unfair.

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