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Who is behind the New Zealand Initiative?

Written By: - Date published: 9:02 am, April 22nd, 2016 - 201 comments
Categories: climate change, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: ,

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Recent media has been marked by the New Zealand Initiative’s attack on the prospect of a sugar tax.  The proposal has been rubbished and the claim that there is overseas evidence that it works is disputed even though it is that compelling that David Cameron’s conservatives have decided to impose one.

The report is written in semi academic language but has a clear bias.  The conclusion is inevitable given the report’s starting points.  It says that it unashamedly takes “liberty” as a starting point and it claims that “paternalistic regulations” need scrutiny.

The report’s analysis suggests a very high threshold.  The benefits that income from a sugar tax could create are ignored.  And it expects compelling proof that a sugar tax will work before one is introduced.

This is a tough call.  Normally you have to introduce a measure to see what effect it has.  Expecting proof that it will work before it is introduced would normally mean that it will never be tried.

And the one size fits all approach ignores the endless variations of effects that a sugar tax will have on individual humans.  For some it will be a strong incentive to reduce the consumption of sugar, for others not so much.  But if it works some of the time then it should be considered.

This publicity spiked my interest.  Who is behind the New Zealand Institute and how is it funded?

Its website suggests there are at least eleven staff with some impressive CVs amongst them.  There is no sign of support staff and I presume they are also employed.  It must cost quite a bit of money to keep the organisation going.

Looking at the makeup of the board a few things scream out.  They are all male, appear to all be middle aged and older pakeha and clearly all have commercial backgrounds.  The backgrounds of the board members are lawyer (downtown firm), economist, company director, management consultant, accountant, businessman, banker, accountant and company director.

The NZI claims to be neither left wing nor right wing but it proudly prefers “Adam Smith’s invisible hand to government’s visible fist”.  It is the successor of the Business Roundtable which was created during the height of Rogernomics by founders who eventually formed part of the Act Party.

There is no sign of any financial records.  For entities who insert themselves into public policy debates financial transparency should be a requirement although the board makeup clearly denotes in general terms how it is funded.

The incident highlights a problem for the left.  There really is no equivalent progressive think tank.  When you think of other entities such as the sock puppet Taxpayers Union there is definitely a weighting to the right.  The strongest voices on the left tend to be dedicated amateurs or academics with Gareth Morgan’s foundation providing interesting and quirky and occasionally left wing commentary and analysis on issues.

And if you want to understand how important the issue of balance is then consideration of the treatment of Climate Change provides a perfect example.  A recent Guardian article highlights how poorly the UK media has handled the issue.  And we are not talking about marginal rags.  We are talking about the Times Newspaper.

From the Guardian:

The Times newspaper has been criticised for “poor quality” and “distorted coverage” of global warming by a group including some of the UK’s most eminent scientists, the chair of the government’s official advisers on climate change and a former chair of oil giant Shell.

“If you lose trust, you lose everything; and on this issue, you are losing trust,” said the group, in a letter to the Times editor, John Witherow, seen by the Guardian.

The group says the Times’s coverage: “appears designed systematically to undermine the credibility of climate science and the institutions that carry it out, and the validity of programmes aimed at reducing emissions.”

“Climate science has proven remarkably robust to repeated scrutiny, and multiple lines of evidence indicate that climate change and ocean acidification pose serious and increasing risks for the future,” the group says. “There is abundant evidence also that decarbonised energy systems can provide energy security at reasonable cost if they are properly planned.”

This issue also revolves around the use of a private organisation, the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

The GWPF is a thinktank led by former chancellor and climate sceptic Lord Lawson, and regular Times columnist Viscount Matt Ridley is a member of its academic advisory council. “It would be deeply perturbing to find that a paper as eminent as the Times could allow a small NGO, particularly one whose sources of financing are unknown, a high degree of influence,” says the letter to Witherow.

By all means these debates should occur.  But as a minimum if a private organisation attempts to control and dominate a public policy debate there should be full disclosure on how it is funded.

201 comments on “Who is behind the New Zealand Initiative? ”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    This interview between Guyon Espiner and the head of this “New Zealand Initiative” group is worth listening too:
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/201797890/is-it-better-to-be-fat-and-happy-or-skinny-and-miserable

    Good job by Guyon.

  2. Myrtle 2

    Interesting qualifications among this group. Did they bother to ask people who may actually have some impartial knowledge? Eg public health doctors, GPs, Pacific or Maori health workers who sees the effects of obesity-induced diabetes, heart disease and cancer every day? I don’t include Johnathan Coleman who is supposed to be a doctor/medical practioner – he is just a traitor.

  3. Ovid 3

    The New Zealand Initiative is a registered company, rather than an incorporated society, which seems a little odd given its purported function. There are a total of 4 shares in the company. 3 are held by its chair, Roger Partridge and 1 is held by Dean Bracewell, who is not on the board. Bracewell is managing director of Freightways.

    One of NZI’s members, Gallagher Group, gave $60,000 to the National Party last year (and $45,000 to Act in 2014). They gave $86k to National in 2011 – at first that is not so odd for an election year, but most of that was a $66k donation on 20 December, one month after the election.

  4. Sacha 4

    “The NZI claims to be neither left wing nor right wing”

    Pfft. They’re blatant libertarians. And look at Hartwich’s previous job in Australia.

    • John Shears 4.1

      +Sacha forget the buzz words Libertarians take the view that all government is bad but curiously they gather around extreme right wing political movements like Roger Douglas practised and then the Act Party and now the National Party.

      Whilst Trade unions are looked down upon because they try to look after their members such as fighting Talleys for example, Libertarian unions are fine or so their founders and members say.

      Notice that they all come from business & money backgrounds and that new elitist group , CEO’s.

      They also are very well off as far as money is concerned.

      A pox on their house I say.

      • Richard McGrath 4.1.1

        “Libertarians take the view that all government is bad”

        Not so – the libertarian view is that the function of government should be limited to protecting individual rights. You are referring to the anarchist view of government.

        • Frank Macskasy 4.1.1.1

          “Not so – the libertarian view is that the function of government should be limited to protecting individual rights. “

          Not quite true, Richard. Libertarians advocate protecting individual property rights.

          There is a big difference.

          • Richard McGrath 4.1.1.1.1

            Not quite, Frank. The fundamental right is the right to act in order to sustain one’s life. From that, all other rights (including property rights) are derived.

  5. TC 5

    Yet another front on behalf of vested interests like the taxpayers union, kiwiblog, the oily orca etc.

    Gez we need a proper media as this one could be dissected and laid bare with one decent current affairs piece

  6. Colonial Viper 6

    These idiots are corporate libertarians; they are not true libertarians who believe in the right of ordinary people to govern themselves as they chose to and see fit to.

  7. Peter Archer 7

    This is a NZ equivalent to the extremist market fundamentalist Amercian “think tanks”, like the ones funded by the Koch brothers, etc.

    It is very revealing that there are NO social science specialists there! Where are all their political science people, sociologts, etc? There are none!

    Where are the specialists with academic credentials that give them expertise and credibility in critiquing social policy? There are none! That fact along destroys the credibility of this group, and makes it blatantly obvious they are just a vested interest pressure group, pushing extremist ideological dogma, thinly disguised as “research”.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      It is very revealing that there are NO social science specialists there! Where are all their political science people, sociologts, etc? There are none!

      There are plenty of social science specialists, political science experts, psychologists, etc. working for right wing interests. That’s partly why they have been so successful at changing the modern world in the way that they wanted.

  8. Sirenia 8

    It would be good if media prefaced any reporting of any NZI work with the words ‘the rich white men who make up the NZI think’. It is just the new face of the Business Roundtable. They have very good access to the media.

  9. Macro 9

    The NZ “Initiative” is the equivalent of the US Heartland Institute – it is simply there to promote doubt and division and thereby lessen any regulatory impacts for its primary funders the tobacco industry and now the sugar industry.
    Any pronouncement they make should be taken with large lashings of salt.

    • North 9.1

      No sorry Macro we’re off salt hahaha.

      • Macro 9.1.1

        Hardening of the arteries?
        If you swallow any of the crap offered by the NZ “Initiative” you will certainly develop hardening of the heart. Not a pleasant condition either.

  10. …the claim that there is overseas evidence that it works is disputed even though it is that compelling that David Cameron’s conservatives have decided to impose one.

    Surely you can’t imagine that whether it works or not was a serious consideration for the Tories? For my money, what they found compelling was the “seen to be doing something” factor and the results of internal polling outweighing the views of industry lobbyists and people with any sense.

    The NZ Initiative is indeed a well-funded right-wing think tank, but as long as they have Eric Crampton bringing skills like this to the debate, they’re onto a winner. What counts isn’t how many White people you have in your group or how much money you have, it’s how strong an argument you can muster. Crampton has very strong arguments, the tax enthusiasts have appeals to emotion and the good old fall-back “Something must be done! This is something – therefore it must be done!”

  11. Phil 11

    I am dubious about a sugar tax in the same way I’m dubious about things like: plain packaging for cigarettes; fines for not wearing a helmet whilst cycling, and; requiring daytime-running headlights on cars.

    If the implementation of these policies does have a statistically positive effect in the area of interest, then it indicates there is something much more fundamentally broken in society that is not being addressed.

    It might make some people feel warm and fuzzy to know that fizzy drinks are subject to higher levels of tax, but lets not pretend we’re actually addressing the root causes of obesity.

    • Sirenia 11.1

      It is just a start and not the only solution, of course. It signals to people that non-sugar alternatives are cheaper and better for you, and also to industry to reformulate their product. Also that the government is serious about a public health issue and not just listening to the food and beverage lobby.

  12. Andrew 12

    I don’t care for the talk implying that one can be an honourable libertarian. There is nothing moral or right about being a libertarian, it is an evil philosophy from beginning to end. It is essentially a holocaust for the poor and it is giving up on any idea that we can build anything beginning to resemble a just society.

    • Paul 12.1

      Any Rand founded an evil cult.

      • Stuart Munro 12.1.1

        Rand’s response to the Soviet regime was not unreasonable – it is her apes and successors who never lived under a totalitarian regime with socialist pretentions that have no excuses.

        • Richard McGrath 12.1.1.1

          Not sure what you mean, Stuart. Are you saying Rand wanting to live in freedom was a reasonable response to her experiences under socialist rule, but anyone with the same views who hasn’t lived under socialist rule is being unreasonable?

          • Stuart Munro 12.1.1.1.1

            Rand rejected altruism as a fraud by which people claim privilege and oppress others. She had bad experiences with an essentially criminal regime – which mitigates her behaviour. Any biologist will tell you that altruism is a real thing among social animals, of which humans are one.

            She had the courage of her convictions which led to some very unwise life choices. I recommend http://www.amazon.com/The-Passion-Rand-Barbara-Branden/dp/038524388X if you admire Rand and haven’t read it.

            The extension of generalisations about socialism from eastern Europe into western democracies is generally misplaced. They are poor specimens of socialism, and not particularly relevant as supposedly inevitable outcomes of whatever Fabian proposal is presently up for debate.

            One finds this same overextension in Hayek, for all that he remained a good friend of Popper. Popper had however seen a healthy Fabian socialism – he taught philosophy at Canterbury – and thus remained moderate.

            • Richard McGrath 12.1.1.1.1.1

              “Rand rejected altruism as a fraud by which people claim privilege and oppress others”

              Stuart, I think her objection to altruism (as opposed to benevolence) rested on her rejection of self-sacrifice. Altruism is the ultimate expression of “others before self”, and as her standard of the “good” were things that nourish and enrich human life, self-sacrifice is incompatible with the good.

              Impressed that you have done some reading around Rand. I’m aware of the criticisms of Rand from those who were close to her.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Yes, even her closest victims noticed the massive gulf between Libertard and Earth.

              • Stuart Munro

                Rand is interesting from literary, historical and philosophical perspectives – I had a prof., Jindra Tichy, who was keen on her. Then I worked on Russian charter vessels and got some eastern European perspectives on the Soviet experiment and read most of her stuff and some biographies over the years. Seamen read a little more than landsmen, on average.

                My take on Rand is that a strong version of her views isn’t tenable or isn’t wise, but that some of what she has to say is relatively sound. Where she went wrong is an uncritical embrace of capitalism – I might even describe this as infatuation – which is always a fault with any set of political beliefs. In this she resembles Hobbes, whose embrace of a bad sovereign – any sovereign – reflects his experience of civil war, but may not be the best lesson to draw from his often rather perceptive writing.

                Atlas Shrugged is an interesting discussion point as our world suffers declining social and economic participation – social as measured by Putnam’s work popularised in Bowling Alone https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowling_Alone and economic in terms of the rising metric that this and many other governments refuse to call unemployment, but are not involved in work education or training. Our current society seems to be headed into the dead zone described in the novel, though the way out of it that I prefer is probably more Brunner than Rand http://www.amazon.com/Stone-That-Never-Came-Down/dp/0450032949 . As Hutcheson showed, enlightened society is the best way out of a recession.The rough layout of an economy that maximises social and economic participation has been established. No-one in contemporary politics seems to know this however.

      • Richard McGrath 12.1.2

        “Any Rand founded an evil cult.”

        Not just any old Rand, but Ayn Rand.

    • North 12.2

      Perfectly said Andrew @ 12. Logically and logistically it could lead only to slavery for most. Free to be obscenely wealthy and own people. Free to be a lowly impoverished owned slave. Ahhhh…….the sweet scent of Free-dom !

    • Phil 12.3

      libertarian… holocaust for the poor

      The great thing about living in our society, with libertarian freedom of speech ideals, is that you can say the things you say and I can call you a paranoid delusional jackass.

    • Richard McGrath 12.4

      “There is nothing moral or right about being a libertarian”

      That’s fairly harsh, given that the central tenet of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle – that the initiation of force against others is wrong. To argue against that is to argue that it is acceptable to force peaceful people into doing what you want them to do, regardless of their wishes. In other words, you endorse slavery.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 12.4.1

        To argue against it, all you have to do is notice that the closer to Libertarianism any country gets, the more slaves there are: the actual real world effects of your fatuous notions are the exact opposite of the rhetoric you espouse.

        • Richard McGrath 12.4.1.1

          “…the closer to Libertarianism any country gets, the more slaves there are…”

          So Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong are bursting at the seams with slaves? And North Korea, the Soviet Union and Red China had none? Even in those nice little labour camps in Siberia?

          • One Anonymous Bloke 12.4.1.1.1

            In North Korea, the Soviet Union and China, the weak prey upon the strong just as they do in New Zealand Singapore and Hong Kong.

            Libertarianism favours the strong, and right now, in New Zealand, the number of children living in poverty – comparing apples with apples, has doubled since 1984.

            In so many ways you have utterly failed to grasp, poverty is violence. Whom will you inflict your vile creed upon next?

            • Richard McGrath 12.4.1.1.1.1

              “In so many ways you have utterly failed to grasp, poverty is violence. Whom will you inflict your vile creed upon next?”

              Yes, I guess the philosophy that accepts the existence of reality, uses reason rather than mysticism as the basis of knowledge, accepts that every person is a worthy end in him- or herself, and believes that free voluntary exchange is the only moral basis of human interaction, IS a pretty vile creed.

              I accept that “poverty” is often associated with violence, for example when people are prevented from bettering themselves through voluntary exchange of their labour for money – through such things as minimum wage laws and other government interference in the labour market. Robbery, extortion and fraud are other examples where violence can cause poverty. War between governments has historically been a cause of poverty.

              But poverty does not necessarily imply violence. It can result from poor lifestyle choices.

              • Colonial Viper

                You speak so highly of being a wage serf, you should try being a wage serf yourself.

                • Richard McGrath

                  I have been an employee, if that’s what you mean by wage serf. It’s much easier in a lot of ways than being self-employed!

              • adam

                At yet Richard McGrath many libertarians oppose free association in any form. Like unions and workers co-ops. Actually your lot have gone to great extent to undermine and destroy any working people collectives – especially if voting records of libertarians in the USA are brought into the discussion.

                Actually it’s at this point where the rhetoric about freedom hits a few snags ah Richard McGrath. The voting record of libertarians is full of hard nosed, no exactly freedom loving voting. Libertarians have a record supporting Laws which undermine peoples freedom. Funny that.

                • Richard McGrath

                  You’re wrong there – libertarians support trade unions and worker co-operatives to the point where they, or the government on their behalf, employ violence as a tactic. Can you give examples where libertarians have supported laws that undermine the freedom to act peacefully?

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Yes: deregulation. The “high trust” (aka Pike River) safety regime.

                    Witless gimps mouthing platitudes such as “no intelligent company director would kill their own workers”. Flailing incompetence in possession of dogma and a ministerial warrant.

                    • Richard McGrath

                      I don’t know the ins and outs of the Pike River tragedy. But how does deregulation undermine voluntary activity and trade?

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Why are voluntary activity and trade your cherry-picked benchmarks, when I specifically mentioned health and safety? Your opinions – and the incompetence they foster – depend on you never knowing the “ins-and-outs”.

                      The real world doesn’t conform to the crackhead’s twisted vision. Pay it no mind.

                    • stunnedmullet

                      ..wah wah…OAB resorting to bad faith debating……wah wah………

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                No, Poverty is violence done to the poor. It isn’t the poor doing it. It wan’t the poor who fucked the entire world economy a few years back, and it sure as hell wasn’t poor people who drove unemployment from 2.7% to 6% between 2007 and today.

                Nor was it the poor who made economic incompetence a virtue, and doubled the rate of child poverty since 1984.

                It was trash like you. Own it, get some personal responsibility then fuck off to Randistan.

        • stunnedmullet 12.4.1.2

          Congratulations OAB you just won the internet prize of the day for the most retarded comment

          • One Anonymous Bloke 12.4.1.2.1

            Nope, just one you disagree with, and that’s the extent of your contribution.

            Meanwhile, if Ayn Rand bludges on Medicare while snorting crack in a forest, will a Libertarian ever have anything other than empty rhetoric to show for it?

            • stunnedmullet 12.4.1.2.1.1

              You are a dribbling fool, raging against all and sundry that don’t share your particular worldview whether they are of the political left or right, what a pathetic life you inhabit.

              Lprent’s hound indeed.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Empty rhetoric, and flaccid ad hominem tantrums. Meanwhile, my life is fine: warm house, good relationships, rewarding work,

                Got anything substantive to say, trash?

                • stunnedmullet

                  Yeah most have noticed your empty rhetoric, and flaccid ad hominem tantrums, not to mention your dishonest bad-faith approach to discussion.

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Imitation: not merely the sincerest form of flattery, also the only weapon in a Rand-parrot’s arsenal 😆

              • Barfly

                you stunned mullet are a jackass

            • Richard McGrath 12.4.1.2.1.2

              Yes Ayn Rand used Medicare – she’d been forced to contribute to it for years by the IRS, so she was fully entitled to do so. I’m sure she would have gladly paid the costs of her medical care, either directly or via private insurance, had money not been coerced from her and invested in the American socialised health system. But she wasn’t given that option.

              • Colonial Viper

                Wow, Ayn Rand opted to use a socialised government entitlement?

                Thanks for that information.

                Great that it was available because she was a pauper in her older years and relied on the good graces of the social welfare state.

                • Richard McGrath

                  Yes she used Medicare, and was morally entitled to as she had been forced to contribute to it.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    she should have taken a principled stance and foregone using it, if indeed she believed in the values you claim.

                    • Richard McGrath

                      She probably would have, if the government had refunded her enforced contribution.

              • adam

                Of course she was – go live anywhere else.

                If you don’t like socialised medicine go live in somewhere else. Simple, I sure you can go create your utopia in Africa somewhere.

                Rand was a hypocrite, no different than Marx.

                • Richard McGrath

                  Stock standard reply – if you don’t like being oppressed under socialism, go live somewhere else.

                  No-one is saying Rand lived a perfect life. She was reportedly very intolerant of anyone whose opinions varied only slightly from hers. But on the Medicare issue she was morally entitled to use what she had been forced to pay into, like using a superannuation fund into which one has been forced to contribute.

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Nobody forced her to choose the USA over Somalia.

                    • Richard McGrath

                      You’re right, no-one forced her. At the time she emigrated from Soviet Russia, the USA was possibly the best choice as it was still largely a capitalist country at the time.

        • Stuart Munro 12.4.1.3

          I’d be inclined to be a little more specific – Libertarians in a normal human society benefit from altruism without contributing. They are the ultimate freeloaders.

      • Nic the NZer 12.4.2

        The central tenant of every political philosophy is the non aggression principal. The only difference is the definition of what force in each philosophy constitutes aggression. The rest is just a bunch of special pleading favouring wealth.

        • Richard McGrath 12.4.2.1

          Any political philosophy that values the collective over the individual, that prohibits an individual from acting peacefully and freely in his self-interest, breaches the non-aggression principle.

      • AB 12.4.3

        ” the non-aggression principle – that the initiation of force against others is wrong ”
        Interesting that actual libertarians (as opposed to any notional ‘libertarianism’) have a narrow definition of ‘force’. For example they seem to have no issue with one person harming another through the exercise of greater economic power.

        And then on reflection it becomes plain – the types of ‘force’ they want to rule out are the ones that they don’t have the power to exercise, and the types of force that are permitted are the ones where they do.
        It is like everything in right-wing ideology however noble-sounding – simply a disguised expression of self-interest.

        • Richard McGrath 12.4.3.1

          Good point, AB. But there is a difference between political power and economic power. And there is a difference between power and force. Someone with economic power should still not be able to use aggressive force against anyone else.

          How does someone ‘harm’ another person through peaceful exercise of economic power?

          There is nothing wrong with rational self-interest pursued peacefully, it is far preferable to the sacrifice of others to you or of yourself to others.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 12.4.3.1.1

            How does someone ‘harm’ another person through peaceful exercise of economic power?

            By switching off their electricity, for example. By raising the rent. By attacking the incomes of lowest paid workers. By espousing Objectivist gibberish while holding the office of Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

            By not realising that Grey’s Law is talking about you.

            • Richard McGrath 12.4.3.1.1.1

              Your answers, as usual, are made without context, and thus are meaningless.

    • Saarbo 12.5

      +1

  13. The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 13

    It says that it unashamedly takes “liberty” as a starting point and it claims that “paternalistic regulations” need scrutiny.

    Sons of bitches.

    Liberty must be stamped out!

    • Paul 13.1

      Corporate libertarians pretend to care about Liberty.
      They don’t.
      More fool you for believing extreme right wing think tanks.

    • Colonial Viper 13.2

      Hey how about freeing ordinary workers from debt, freeing them from having to follow dictatorial orders from stupid managers and stupid business owners, freeing them from having to follow rosters and work routines that they have zero power and zero influence over?

      Not so keen on actual liberty now, are you?

      • stunnedmullet 13.2.1

        That’s crazy talk !

      • Richard McGrath 13.2.2

        “Hey how about freeing ordinary workers from debt”

        Debt they took on willingly?

        “…freeing them from having to follow dictatorial orders from stupid managers and stupid business owners”

        You mean instructions from their employers?

        “…freeing them from having to follow rosters and work routines that they have zero power and zero influence over”

        Depends what sort of contract they have signed. A switched-on employer will want to hear ideas that increase productivity, and will want to retain employees who come up with good ideas.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 13.2.2.1

          And then, the next thing you know, the Talley’s employed practical Libertarian principles and put the ethical competition out of business.

          Paging Dr, McGrath, it’s time for your reality check.

          • Richard McGrath 13.2.2.1.1

            “Talley’s employed practical Libertarian principles”

            By which you must mean they used no coercion or fraud in their dealings with others.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 13.2.2.1.1.1

              No. Surely you’re familiar with the admiring tones of your beloved crackhead’s paean to William Hickman.

              • Richard McGrath

                Rand admired one aspect of Hickman’s psyche – an attitude that people don’t exist for him, i.e. shouldn’t be sacrificed for his needs or desires. I haven’t seen any evidence that she endorsed his murderous behaviour.

                • Colonial Viper

                  The idiocy of the self made man. I guess he gave birth to himself and changed his own nappies too.

                  • Richard McGrath

                    “The idiocy of the self made man. I guess he gave birth to himself and changed his own nappies too.”

                    You’re deliberately misinterpreting my words. Read them again: Rand admired one aspect of Hickman’s psyche – an attitude that people … shouldn’t be sacrificed for his needs or desires.

                    And you seem to imply that no-one should take any credit for their own success in life.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Not without acknowledging that an entire community around them plus Lady Luck also deserves credit.

                    • Richard McGrath

                      “Not without acknowledging that an entire community around them plus Lady Luck also deserves credit.”

                      I largely agree with that, CV, though usually to a minor extent.

        • You never read anything from the famous Libertarian philosopher John Stuart Mills, did you? Just as there is no such thing as willingly selling yourself into slavery, there is also no such thing as willing indebting yourself into slavery, so your arguement that people willingly take on debt is rather analogous to contending “why didn’t they fight back?” as defense for an assault.

          I’m not sure I’d go quite as far as CV in comparing the workforce to slavery, but I do wonder frequently about the economic circumstances of people who moralise about debt the way you are now, and if they’ve ever been in a truly desperate financial position.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 13.2.2.2.1

            Wonder no longer: they pretend poverty is a result of poor choices because they’re pretending their personal good fortune is a reflection on their character and competence.

            It’s self-serving confirmation bias parroting the ravings of a crackhead. Interesting from an anthropological perspective and that’s it.

            .

          • Richard McGrath 13.2.2.2.2

            Debt willingly entered into (e.g. a mortgage agreement on a home) is not slavery. I’m in that position. But I agree, often it’s not easy to avoid taking on debt. But I know people who despite being of modest means, avoided debt throughout their lives (including saving the full price of their first house). So it can be done.

            • Colonial Viper 13.2.2.2.2.1

              Debt willingly entered into (e.g. a mortgage agreement on a home) is not slavery.

              You fucking dick, how can you call a death loan (mortgage) not a coercive form of slavery?

              I guess you also think that the Black Africans who were rounded up on to ships also had a choice to fight to the death or throw themselves overboard to avoid their fates.

              But I know people who despite being of modest means, avoided debt throughout their lives (including saving the full price of their first house). So it can be done.

              Yes, and if a rich man can get a camel through the eye of a needle, he too can go to heaven.

              • Stuart Munro

                Interestingly, the mortgage is relatively new to Asia. In Korea traditionally one saved for a first apartment and paid not rent, but jonsei – a large deposit from which the landlord derived an income through interest. This allowed continued saving towards ownership without the level of endebtedness we have normalised in NZ. The system is breaking down with the collapse of interest rates, but it shows that the banks’ preference is not the only way real estate saving can be structured.

                The area is certainly ripe for reform.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Bill has a lot of ideas around good alternatives to this shitty mortgage system that the debt overlords love to subjugate the people with.

              • Richard McGrath

                A mortgage is not slavery – it’s an agreement to pay off a loan one has taken out. If you breach your contract, you have agreed in advance that the lender can liquidate your property and recover his debt from that.

                Are you suggesting that people be forbidden from borrowing money using their home as security. No-one forces a person to take a mortgage, so it’s hardly coercive, and the consequences of default are not slavery but forfeiture of some of the money borrowed.

                Who’s the “fucking dick” now, Mr Loo?

  14. Mrs Brillo 14

    Yep, the old Business Round Table wearing a false moustache.
    And just as credible.

    One of my favourite vintage Tom Scott cartoons had our beautiful planet turning, and a meeting of businessmen, labelled Business Round Table, on a separate orbit somewhere out in space. (It’s not on the web, goldurnit.)

  15. One Anonymous Bloke 15

    There really is no equivalent progressive think tank.

    Quite true: the Left has peer review.

    • Sacha 15.1

      You can only review something that is published. Who is publishing and packacking left perspectives other than a handful of small outfits like Bridget Williams Books?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 15.1.1

        Universities, scientists, and other reality-based researchers.

          • Colonial Viper 15.1.1.1.1

            Jeeezus are you guys the ultimate example of non-reality group think posing as reality based independent thought.

            Which by the way, is how Economics Faculties and Business Schools around the world have carefully controlled and limited their profession to focussing on orthodox neoclassical economics, while sidelining any economist with marxian or other alternative perspectives.

            At least debate how fucked up the corporate journal publishing system is or how easily the peer review system can be gamed or how corporations like Big Pharma simply pay for ghost writers to do the statistics and write the papers while paying academics to add their names as authors for the easiest quickest peer reviewed published papers ever.

            Or how hardly any public intellectuals today write to be understood by ordinary people or how they reduce focus on controversial areas of academia which might be deterimental to their own tenure or promotion track in the establishment universities, all of these things reducing the relevancy and importance of universities to the real problems facing society in real life today.

            Jeeezus.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 15.1.1.1.1.1

              🙄

              Putting words in mouths and thoughts in minds. Stop projecting your feeble misanthropy: you’re boring.

              • Colonial Viper

                People simply need to google each of the points I mentioned to understand how well known throughout academia and the world of academic publishing these problems are.

                I would start with the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and her comments on how medical publishing and research has been corrupted by big pharma.

                Also the articles in Nature magazine on the severe weaknesses in the peer review system.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Yes dear.

                  • weka

                    He does have a point OAB. Medicine is the one I am most familiar with, and it’s mess. That’s not my opinion that’s the opinion of steadfast supporters of the model, including journal editors.

                    Beyond that, the fact that so many academic papers are pay to view suggests that there is something very wrong.

                    btw, you could always explain what you meant if you think CV (or I) got the wrong end of the stick. Then your idea can be reviewed by your peers.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Heh!

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      “The worst possible system apart from all the other ones” – does that phrase ring a bell in this context, Weka? It should, because I’ve employed it in answer to CV’s feeble projections enough times.

                    • weka

                      That’s the argument that keeps science as dysfunctional as it is.

              • I was trying to think what the right word was, and you’ve nailed it: misanthropy. The actual effects of CV’s view of science academics are well described here: https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/04/21/kevin-folta-reflects-winning-ag-comm-award-year-attacks-anti-gmo-activists/.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Add to that the fact that big science and technology today are mostly tools of transnational corporations and the military industrial surveillance complex.

        • Sacha 15.1.1.2

          There are few voices from academia in our day-to-day political discourse. In practice, universities act as a great way to separate thinking from society. Under this govt, they are also under pressure to focus on teaching what business wants. Seems unlikely to be what left politics needs.

          • Colonial Viper 15.1.1.2.1

            Yep. But some people are in total denial about this.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 15.1.1.2.2

            That isn’t quite what I meant.

            Right wing “think tanks” exist solely because fact-based research invariably debunks right wing reckons, so they need to invent a bunch of bullshit to avoid saying “make our donors richer now!”. What use is such distorted sophistry to the Left?

          • Bill 15.1.1.2.3

            Don’t quite know where best to drop this comment. Cutting to the chase – get money out of scientific research.

            Achieve that, and climate scientists won’t produce Pollyanna-ish reports that appease funders. Get money away from science and the whole ‘fat is bad for you’ bullshit that rode off the back of an absolutely shockingly bad piece of so-called scientific research and that gave rise to government health guide lines on low fat diets, that in turn resulted in shit foods being packed with processed carbs (sugar)… would never have happened.

            As for a ‘left wing think tank’….fuck that.

            edit. And yes, for the love of god, tear down those fucking pay walls!

            edit number 2. Can we stop calling aspects of social study, science? It isn’t and so shouldn’t be allowed to elevate itself through mis-use of the term.

            • weka 15.1.1.2.3.1

              I don’t mind social science being called that. Science comes from the Latin ‘to know’ and there are a range of sciences not just the hard science that most people hold up as the gold standard. We can develop processes fir critiquing different kinds of science methods rather than saying thus one is best when it’s patently flawed eg you fat hypothesis example, which is not an aberration.

              • Bill

                The fat hypothesis sold itself as science when there was no fucking science behind it whatsoever. The fact it was able to label itself as scientific gave it undue credibility. Leave the term science to fields like physics and chemistry…stuff that can be subjected to scientific method.

                What’s wrong with terms like ‘social philosophy’ or ‘the philosophy of nutrition’ etc? It’s a term that’s esteemed enough but it doesn’t come wrapped in some package claiming (by exploiting a common mis-perception of science) that the contents are beyond question.

                That makes it much harder to lobby on. I’d contend that if the fat shite hadn’t been able to label itself as science, then convincing governments to run anti-fat/meat/dairy public health programmes would have immensely more difficult for industry lobbyists. Secondary thought – it might also mean that profit driven, business friendly ‘scientific research’ got less funding from vested interests 😉

                note: that doesn’t mean that aspects of (say) nutritional study couldn’t rightly claim to be scientific…just (maybe) that it would have to demonstrate some level of scientific veracity before being wrapped in its garb.

                • weka

                  Hmm, I think the whole problem with Ansell was around how society uses/misuses science. From what I remember he was referencing hard science, he just misused it. And a whole bunch of vested interests kicked in which is part of the reason why peer review failed.

                  I think it’s far too late to call anything that’s not hard science something other than science. Nutrition relies on hard science as much as it does on other things, hence Ansell wasn’t engaged in social ‘science’, he was engaged in medical science. The science that under-cut his hypothesis was there, but the processes on how science get used meant that his theory got the upper hand.

                  But I’m also thinking about things like qualitative research. Case studies are an important part of developing knowledge, but they’re not hard science. I don’t see any need to call them philosophy when they are engaging in metholodogical research (although by all means let’s call the theoretical development philosophy).

                  And if we want to get to the really touchy feely stuff, we can look at studying social phenomena. But bear in mind that there are issues here around gender and ethnicity. If we say that physics is science and qualitative research isn’t, our society generally says the former is better and more important than the latter, and gets funded better. Thus if you look at medicine, what men value is hierachised over what women value, hence nurses do more qualitative research than doctors and get paid less to do it. There’s been good academic feminist work done on this dynamic as well as theory being developed from within various disciplines (eg nursing).

                  There’s nothing wrong with qualitative or ‘soft’ science. It’s how you process, critique and apply the knowledge that counts. So you don’t do qualitative research to develop pharmaceuticals, and you don’t do quanitative research if you want to understand why Māori are more likely to see a traditional practitioner and not tell their GP. Marginalising the latter just marginalises it.

                  http://researchguides.ebling.library.wisc.edu/c.php?g=293229&p=1953453

                • weka

                  I’ll have a think on some examples, but I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of cases of hard science being corrupted by process and vested interests. Hard science should never be beyond reproach. It always comes with bias and should be understood as such. It’s that it’s considered almost flawless (or if you are OAB, the best we’ve got therefore we should use it) by some people that allows it to be corrupted and to fuck up so often.

                  • Bill

                    Don’t bother with the examples. Of course science gets corrupted. All I’m saying is that when non-scientific stuff gets to call itself science, then it can have an impact on society (or whatever) that’s both negative and way beyond what it merits. And I’m saying that both those things would be lessened where it was robbed of its label.

                    Go to Uni and you can study various social sciences – eg, political science. It’s all a fucking nonsense born of a drive by those involved in those fields to be ‘taken seriously’….it’s the idiot goal of various theoreticians and what not to be considered as scientists in some shape or form.

                    Maybe it stems from ‘the enlightenment’ and its elevation of science as that encompassing ‘true’ knowledge. I dunno.

                    All I know is that it’s bullshit that throws the door open wide to an array of charlatans and various dubious fields of research and/or fields of dubious research that in time come with a ‘gold star’ of accreditation attached…usually after a number of decades and a heap of lobbying and publishing. Psychiatric medicine is, to me, a nice example of all of the worst that false claims to the mantle of science can lead.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      psychiatric medicine is a long established branch of the medical profession and very well supported by Big Pharma…some say that between 1998 and 2008 antidepressant use in the USA increased by 400%. That’s impactful on society.

                      All I’m saying is that when non-scientific stuff gets to call itself science, then it can have an impact on society (or whatever) that’s both negative and way beyond what it merits.

                      Knowledge from other civilisations, other times and other cultures do not need – or even want – the approved western stamp of “science” to be valid and to have impact on society.

                      Of course, typically the western (colonial) viewpoint of other peoples, other cultures and other civilisations were that they were “backward”, “primitive”, “uncivilised” and yes, “unscientific.”

                      The usual pejoratives.

                    • Absolutely. Social science is completely different from “science” without the “social” in front of it, and social scientists who try to call what they do “science” should be ridiculed into silence. One involves the scientific method, the other involves lies, damned lies and statistics. It’s a huge difference.

                    • Knowledge from other civilisations, other times and other cultures do not need – or even want – the approved western stamp of “science” to be valid and to have impact on society.

                      Indeed they don’t need it. They do, however, need some actual evidence that what they call “knowledge” is actually “knowledge” and not “shit someone made up once and it stuck”, otherwise we’re going to need a new definition for the word “valid.” I’ll leave aside the “have an impact on society” part, because if history teaches us anything, it teaches us that stupid, shitty ideas can often have an impact on society.

                    • Bill

                      I’ve no argument with your comment.

                      I guess I should have pre-faced all I said with in western culture or in relation to western culture or given the west’s various bases for, and hierarchy of knowledge…for example and etc, etc, etc. 😉

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Indeed they don’t need it. They do, however, need some actual evidence that what they call “knowledge” is actually “knowledge” and not “shit someone made up once and it stuck”, otherwise we’re going to need a new definition for the word “valid.”

                      *Shrug*

                      The old civilisations don’t see that the western colonials have any kind of lock on what valid knowledge is and what it isn’t.

                    • Bill

                      meh – political, social and other inquiries can involve “lies, damned lies and statistics”, but can also involve intuition, insight, and meaningful, useful and applicable thought and not any “lies, damned lies and statistics” at all.

                    • The old civilisations don’t see that the western colonials have any kind of lock on what valid knowledge is and what it isn’t.

                      Well, sure. Superstition-based cultures don’t have to swap out superstition for rationalism and no-one should try to force them to. When it comes down to it, there’s shit that works, and shit that doesn’t. Rationalism and the scientific method are the best ways yet known for achieving “shit that works” – if others would prefer less-effective methods, they’re welcome to them.

                    • weka

                      Don’t bother with the examples. Of course science gets corrupted. All I’m saying is that when non-scientific stuff gets to call itself science, then it can have an impact on society (or whatever) that’s both negative and way beyond what it merits. And I’m saying that both those things would be lessened where it was robbed of its label.

                      Ok. From what I remember the fat hypothesis wasn’t based on social science it was based on medical science eg the Framingham Heart study, which was epidemiological. I guess you could say that epidemiology doesn’t fit the hard science category, but you can’t really do medicine without it. Keys selected the data to suit his theory. He wasn’t doing social science. According to many he wasn’t doing any kind of science, but that’s the problem with science. It doesn’t acknowledge its biases nor its flaws. The method itself is built around the idea that it is flawless and that creates the problems.

                      My point here is that the problem isn’t hard science, soft science, social science, it’s that we are often bad at applying critical thinking to what we are reading or studying, and that applies just as much to hard science as soft. You can rename things but it won’t change that dynamic, and actually it will probably reinforce it because it then further hierachises how we gain knowledge.

                      I’ll leave political science aside, because I don’t have a background in it and can’t comment (am happy to accept your assessment of it). But relegating all social science to somehow being lesser is to hugel problematic, for the above mentioned reasons (sexism, racism etc) amongst others.

                      I think we are also mixing up definitions. Even if we leave out social sciences, there is still a lot of science that doesn’t meet the physics/chemistry restriction. What happens to that?

                    • weka

                      Indeed they don’t need it. They do, however, need some actual evidence that what they call “knowledge” is actually “knowledge” and not “shit someone made up once and it stuck”, otherwise we’re going to need a new definition for the word “valid.” I’ll leave aside the “have an impact on society” part, because if history teaches us anything, it teaches us that stupid, shitty ideas can often have an impact on society.

                      Sure, but the point again is that the colonising cultures get to deem what is ‘actual evidence’. Often that comes from huge ignorance of what phenomena is being studied. I had a conversation on ts the other day about the value of phytotherapy in the face of the end of the age of antibiotics and was talking with people who didn’t seem to realise that there are plants (not plant derived drugs) that are effective antibiotics and that there is a huge history of use amongst many cultures pre-penicillin. I don’t mind the ignorance, but I do object to the prejudice and pejoratives. In the age of the internet it’s astounding that people still don’t know that plants have antibiotic and antiseptic properties, both in theory and in practice. THAT’s the kind of prejudice that other systems of knowledge gets judged from, and it basically renders the West idiotic (hence we’ve used up the true value of antibiotics in a mere half century).

                      btw Traditional Chinese Medicine had an intact system of treating a wide range of illnesses and promoting health for thousands of years before Western medicine got to the point where it is now. Let’s not forget that the Chinese and many other cultures had successess when Western doctors were still blood letting and prescribing arsenic. The TCM system is evidence based, but it doesn’t fit so easily in the Western mindset or way of understanding things. That’s why it’s taking us so long to understand what TCM is and where it’s useful. The only way you can write TCM off is to say that Chinese people are less intelligent than Westerners (and yes, in China they integrate both systems in their medical and health care).

                    • weka

                      “Rationalism and the scientific method are the best ways yet known for achieving “shit that works” – if others would prefer less-effective methods, they’re welcome to them.”

                      That’s a belief system. And irrational when you apply evidence-based criticism to it.

                      It’s pretty easy to demonstrate that there are other methods for achieving shit that works, and the realyshame here is that what you are suggesting actively promotes suppression of those other methods and leaves us with less choice not more. You think it has to be one or the other. Everyone else knows that we can have both or more.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      I can only say that post fossil-fuels, that traditional Chinese medicine (and other traditional indigenous medicines not reliant on a high energy industrialised world) will become ever more popular throughout the entire world.

                    • weka

                      Yep. One of the more hopeful aspects of our situation.

                    • That’s a belief system. And irrational when you apply evidence-based criticism to it.

                      The history of the last 300 years says otherwise, but whatever floats your boat.

                    • weka

                      That’s an assertion not based in fact. But whatever floats your boat.

                    • Robertina

                      @weka In the recent Guardian long read on sugar, Ancel Keys was called the ”original big data guy” whose method used large data sets from countries, yet was easily manipulated by excluding countries that would not support the thesis.

                      Have been reading recently* how an obscure 1980 letter to the editor of a medical journal was magnified and misinterpreted in later years to play a huge part in the change in prescribing protocol for opiates.
                      The letter had said less than 1% of hospital patients prescribed opiates became addicted, and that stat became a mantra in pain medicine. But it said nothing about how addiction would affect outpatients, even though this was the group affected by the prescribing change.
                      It was known as Porter and Jick, and became cited as a ‘landmark study’, when it was nothing of the sort.
                      Of course it suited the agenda of pharmaceutical companies, which no longer wanted patients to attend multidisciplinary pain clinics, over 90% of which closed within a few years.
                      And it suited doctors for whom dealing with frustrated pain patients could be hard.

                      * in the book Dreamland, by Sam Quinones.

            • Psycho Milt 15.1.1.2.3.2

              And yes, for the love of god, tear down those fucking pay walls!

              Like most other people, publishers expect to be paid for their work. There’s an issue involving how much academic publishers charge for their content, ie they’re gouging us because they can, but there’s no issue with the fact that they get paid for providing you with a particular journal article, any more than there’s an issue with the fact that the supermarket expects you to pay for that stuff in your trolley.

              • Colonial Viper

                Oh fuck off, its not the corporate publisher’s work, the papers are the work of the academics.

                And its clear that the publishers are gouging the tax payers on this.

                Public universities should get together and lock out the damn corporate publishers by starting their own publishing house.

                Corporate profiteering and pricing society out of knowledge that has been generated by public monies is not on, despite your daft position.

                • Oh fuck off, its not the corporate publisher’s work, the papers are the work of the academics.

                  It sure is. And the academic is free to publish their paper via the university’s institutional repository, rather than having it published in the leading journal in their field. Funnily enough, they prefer to have it published in the leading journal in their field, nevertheless.

                  Public universities should get together and lock out the damn corporate publishers by starting their own publishing house.

                  Funny you should say “Oh fuck off,” because that’s exactly my reaction. I’ve been working in this field since the late ’90s and was at a presentation by Stephen Harnad in 2001 on what’s wrong with academic publishing and how academics could seize control back from the publishers by publishing pre-prints of their published work in open-access repositories. It was very encouraging, and a lot of us put a lot of effort into making it happen. We’re still putting in the effort, the publishers are still gouging us, and academics would still much prefer that someone citing the article they got published in Nature should be citing that one and not some version they found in an open-access repository. Utopias tend to have significant barriers to access.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    From a political perspective, the public no longer cares what the ivory tower says, just as the ivory tower no longer cares what the public thinks.

                    And the gap grows larger by the day.

                    • From a political perspective, the public no longer cares what the ivory tower says…

                      Oh, please. NZ has a staunch and lengthy history of anti-intellectualism. Where does “no longer” come into it?

                    • Colonial Viper

                      And the other half of it? That universities are caught up in their own little world of irrelevancies far away from the concerns of the public?

                    • Incognito

                      @ Colonial Viper 23 April 2016 at 10:42 pm:

                      That universities are caught up in their own little world of irrelevancies far away from the concerns of the public?

                      Right, universities are well-known for brainwashing their academic and professional staff; we all know this. Academics don’t belong to unions and have never heard of student unions either.

                      Academics don’t have ordinary lives, they don’t have children going to schools and playing sports, and they don’t rent or mortgage themselves up to their eye balls to live in an ordinary house in the suburbs.

                      Academics are not ‘normal’ humans who live in the ‘normal’ every-day world.

                      Is this how you really view universities and academics or do you just have a low opinion of them?

                      Please do tell, what are universities and academics supposed to do or to be, according to you, what is their place and purpose in our modern society?

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Incognito, I didn’t say that academics were inhuman. On the contrary, they are very human.

                    • Incognito

                      @ Colonial Viper 24 April 2016 at 2:25 am:

                      What a disappointing reply! It begs the question: why even bother?

                  • weka

                    “It sure is. And the academic is free to publish their paper via the university’s institutional repository, rather than having it published in the leading journal in their field. Funnily enough, they prefer to have it published in the leading journal in their field, nevertheless.”

                    Pretty disingenuous argument there PM. Many academics would support open access if that system existed. It doesn’t and they will be penalised if they don’t publish via the existing system. The idea that academics are free to do what they want is just silly.

                    Tell me what purpose is served by access to this article costing 83 GBP? It’s a viewpoint article that is pretty central to one of the major health issues of our time. The authors even say “Physicians and patients should engage in open discussion about these complex issues. The media should better un- derstand and communicate the message so that as a community the approach to screening can be improved.” Yet patients and much of the media will never have access. And you can only read the that recommendation in the full article.

                    http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1722196

                    • Many academics would support open access if that system existed. It doesn’t and they will be penalised if they don’t publish via the existing system. The idea that academics are free to do what they want is just silly.

                      An open-access system does exist, and has existed for over a decade. The first open access repositories were already being created when I was listening to Harnad talking about it in 2001. My university’s had an open-access repository since 2006, and most other universities are the same. When I say that most researchers would prefer their research to be published in leading journals in their field rather than making it open access, I’m talking from direct personal experience of delegating staff members to try and persuade researchers to commit to making their research open access, and having those staff members fail despite their best efforts.

                      Because of the above, the answer to why JAMA charges 85 quid for an article is “Because it can.” That’s the single biggest problem in academic publishing and it’s bleeding universities white, but the what-to-do-about-it part remains elusive. The fact that we don’t have a solution yet isn’t for want of trying.

                    • weka

                      We’re using the term open access differently. As a member of the public who is directly affected by many aspects of scientific research, I am excluded from that knowledge base. That’s wrong, and the reason it happens is because of capitalism but also because the power structures don’t want to share power. I agree the solutions aren’t straight forward, but Universities in particularly should be looking at their ethical stance on this.

                    • Incognito

                      @ weka 23 April 2016 at 10:28 pm:

                      Universities are forking lots of money for journal subscriptions and access to databases. So, you would think it is in their interest to support alternatives that are potentially cheaper and, at the same time, address some of the very valid criticisms raised against peer review.

                      However, because of the international rankings of academic institutions and national competition for PBRF money universities ‘encourage’ their research-active staff to publish in so-called top or high-impact journals. The underlying incorrect reasoning is that a paper published in a top journal is by default a top paper. The whole situation is schizophrenic; on the one hand trying to change and improve the system and on the other hand feeding the beast so that it stays strong & healthy.

                      Much peer-reviewed published research stems from public-good or charitable funding and contributes to mankind’s overall knowledge that should be used for the greater good. Unlike other market ‘products’ or ‘commodities’ scientific knowledge is worthless if not shared and arguable it becomes more ‘valuable’ the more (often) it is shared. If you have time I can highly recommend this article: The Winner Takes It All – An Economic Take on Science.

                    • weka

                      Thanks Incognito, that’s what I was thinking but good to have it described so clearly.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      patients and much of the media will never have access.

                      Depends what you mean. The Lancet, for example, is free. That isn’t the significant barrier to most, though: the barrier is study, or to put it another way, ignorance. Railing against ignorance is futile: no-one can know everything.

                      Anyone can apply the scientific method, though, or how would right wing lies ever get debunked?

                    • weka

                      “Depends what you mean.”

                      I mean that the way medical research is protected and controlled works against society and people. Information that is this important should be accessible. I’m aware that some journals allow access (good on them), but that doesn’t help if the thing someone needs to read is pay only.

                      “That isn’t the significant barrier to most, though: the barrier is study, or to put it another way, ignorance. Railing against ignorance is futile: no-one can know everything.”

                      I wasn’t talking about knowing everything, nor was I railing against ignorance. I was objecting to people having incorrect opinions based on ignorance and projecting prejudice because of that. Nothing wrong with being ignorant.

      • weka 15.1.2

        “You can only review something that is published. Who is publishing and packacking left perspectives other than a handful of small outfits like Bridget Williams Books?”

        Would you not see the blogosphere as part of that?

  16. cyclonemike 16

    I’ve always thought that if I struck a really big Lotto win the first $5 million or so would go into seed money for a left-leaning think tank. It is the only way to balance out the right’s nonsense.
    And if the releases were dished up to them on a plate, the media would run with it.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 16.1

      The reason the Right needs think-tanks is that they can’t handle the truth: I’m quite happy to derive left-wing facts from peer-reviewed journals, thanks.

      At a time when the Rights’ attacks on education are doing serious harm, the left’s job is to first defend, and then repair our schools and universities, not compete for funding.

      • cyclonemike 16.1.1

        That might work for you but how many times have you seen TS commenters complaining about the problems with dealing with the main stream media?
        A lefty think tank would help with that. It’s job would not be to preach to the converted but to get some alternative views of politics across to the voters who still rely on the MSM to shape their views.

      • Sacha 16.1.2

        “I’m quite happy to derive left-wing facts from peer-reviewed journals, thanks.”

        And how is that changing society for you, then?

        • One Anonymous Bloke 16.1.2.1

          The same as for anyone else: great leaps forward have occurred and some steps back.

      • cyclonemike 16.2.1

        Nice, but they’re not making much impact are they. Need more money, resources and ideas.

  17. Saarbo 17

    A very powerful group pushing pure free market philosophies, plenty of power and money in that group. But have a listen to Ken Shirley at about the 2 minute 30 mark in this RNZ interview…this illustrates brilliantly the big problem with pure free market philosophies…it is the workers, the people right at the bottom of the chain that wear the pressure. Ironically he uses Fonterra as an example, except their drivers are by far away the most professional and well trained (and Unionized)…he wasn’t referring to these drivers though, he was referring to the “contractors”. In many ways this interview, I suspect inadvertently, provides plenty of “evidence” why free market policies can turn to shit.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/201797736/chronic-shortage-of-qualified-truck-drivers

  18. Craig H 18

    For a think tank supposedly all about the economic impact, or lack thereof, of a sugar tax, they totally ignored the Economics 101 reasons for a sugar tax – the externalities of the cost to the health system.

    • Colonial Viper 18.1

      Just note that “Economics 101” is full of neoliberal lies.

    • Robertina 18.2

      They’ve gone to a darker place than that in respect of externalities.
      The poor can live short and brutish lives and save us a few quid, apparently.
      Which even considered on their own terms is crap as it ignores the nature of chronic conditions like diabetes and addictions, and effects on children.
      From the report:

      ”In purely net fiscal terms, some ‘ill-advised’activities may even save taxpayers money.
      For example, obese people are statistically underrepresented in crime statistics, and
      people who die early cost less to the state in superannuation and end-of-life care. Now, illness and early mortality are tragic for a multitude of reasons, but from a fiscal perspective, these regulations are not always about minimising costs
      to the public health system.”

      http://nzinitiative.org.nz/site/nzinitiative/files/The%20Health%20of%20the%20State.pdf

      • Colonial Viper 18.2.1

        The Nazi state also had tonnes of clever and intellectually worded justifications for the things they did.

        • adam 18.2.1.1

          You are missing out Franco, he had whole ministries to make sure evil sounded good. Had the Church even, odd institution the Spanish church – just really odd.

    • … the externalities of the cost to the health system.

      Do you really want to go there? If we want to recover the externalities that sugar consumption imposes on the health system, it would be way more efficient to bill fatties and Type 2 diabetics directly.

      • Craig H 18.3.1

        That’s one of the reasons people argue user pays – I don’t like User Pays, but it’s an argument that can be made.

        • Colonial Viper 18.3.1.1

          For god’s sake man charge the people profiting from this not the people dying from it

          • Psycho Milt 18.3.1.1.1

            Good luck demonstrating that anyone ever died from eating sugar. Also, sugar consumption’s falling while the rates of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes are rising, so there’s no compelling case for singling out sugar as the cause.

            Even more also, sugar’s not dangerous when used as directed, ie as a sweetener for occasionally-consumed treat foods, so it’s not like we’re talking about tobacco companies here. If there really are people who are making themselves diabetic solely through excess sugar consumption (rather than the more credible candidate, consumption of refined carbs in general), those are the users that “user pays” arguments need to target.

            • Colonial Viper 18.3.1.1.1.1

              People simply need to get on Youtube and search for some of Lustig’s presentations on fructose and on sugar in general.

            • Sacha 18.3.1.1.1.2

              “sugar’s not dangerous when used as directed, ie as a sweetener for occasionally-consumed treat foods”

              Unfortunately the ‘food’ industry is mainly using it as an easy preservative to support supply chain timelines.

  19. Eileen Gregory 19

    This group published an op-ed piece in DomPost a few weeks ago on education. Whoever wrote it appeared to have a pretty good connection to current Treasury thinking on how to change to school funding. The writer then took this thinking and pushed it out to right-wing extreme, ie using dodgy data to rate teachers, etc. Out there, but not in a good way

  20. Matthew Hooton 20

    Here is the answer to your question.
    It is not a secret.
    http://nzinitiative.org.nz/About+Us/Membership/Our_members.html

    • mickysavage 20.1

      Most of the members are not a surprise but Wellington City Council and Kiwibank?? WTF?

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 20.2

      Their membership is damning (given what they lobby about – while pretending it is actual credible expert info), but not a secret.

      Their sources and amount of funding is a secret, and it is essential information. For all anyone knows, the sugar “study” might have been fully funded by food stuffs and imperial tobacco, both companies with a vested interest in resisting health-oriented regulation.

    • Saarbo 20.3

      Ok, looking at this group, there wont be a sugar tax.

  21. peterlepaysan 21

    A lot (actually most , if not all) of the money behind the NZI will come from the same sources as the Heart Foundation and their siblings around the globe.

    I defy anyone to unearth the real donors to to the Heart Foundation.

    The usual suspects arise.

  22. Incognito 22

    If you want to answer the question who’s behind the New Zealand Initiative you should go back to its inception at least: Roundtable and NZ Institute morph into new libertarian think tank. It is a most revealing article and if you dig deeper you will not be disappointed.

    I held Dr David Skilling in high regard but things changed after he left the New Zealand Institute; I would not label the New Zealand Initiative “non-partisan”. They seem to follow a pseudo-rational and semi-scientific approach with very little attention to morality or ethics as far as I can tell.

  23. North 23

    Get the pretensiousness and cheap snobbery of their “Fellow” bullshit.

    http://nzinitiative.org.nz/About+Us/Staff.html

    Bunch of neo-lib salespeople ahead of anything genuinely directed towards the greatest good…….

  24. Wainwright 24

    I thought everyone knew the Initiative were the Business Round Table. Of course they’re biased to big business. Problem is they have a point. Sugar taxes only work by punishing the poor for being unable to afford healthy food. That’s not very progressive policy.

  25. Stuart Munro 25

    Coming back to the report – it is well structured but fails on content.

    It attempts to conflate freedom of individual choice with freedom of corporate interests to exploit neural and psychological factors for gain, which states may very properly wish to discourage.

    It does not seem to be aware that the e-cigarette’s advantage is that it does not fill lungs with particulate matter, or that the rationale behind banning smoking in bars was not a patriachially induced public safety fiat but a worker safety issue for staff who are obliged to work in such environments constantly and thus suffer an appreciable level of elevated risk for which employers and patrons are not disposed to pay.

    That said, the enthusiasm of states for pigovian taxes is often misplaced. It would not be amiss for states to directly regulate sugar levels in drinks. The customer is perfectly free to add more if they choose – but most would not choose to do so. A declining sugar content regime for drinks operating over a long period would reduce public taste for sugar and reduce obesity without particularly draconian impositions on anyone.

    • A declining sugar content regime for drinks operating over a long period would reduce public taste for sugar and reduce obesity without particularly draconian impositions on anyone.

      It would? Says who? There’s no evidence for that whatsoever. Intuitively believing that something must be true doesn’t make it true.

      • Stuart Munro 25.1.1

        Just because you’re too lazy to google it doesn’t mean it ain’t so:

        http://jn.nutrition.org/content/early/2012/05/02/jn.111.149575.full.pdf

        There is an abundance of evidence that increasing levels of sweetness are an acquired taste.

        Moreover you can experiment yourself with sweetened and unsweetened drinks – with time either version becomes palatable.

        • Psycho Milt 25.1.1.1

          I meant there’s no evidence a declining sugar content regime for drinks would reduce obesity. There’s no evidence for it, in fact we have a situation in which sugar consumption is falling but obesity is rising.

          • Stuart Munro 25.1.1.1.1

            Show me your evidence that sugar consumption is decreasing.

          • Stuart Munro 25.1.1.1.2

            This suggests that the apparent decrease is misleading. Mann is the local man in this field – I wouldn’t quibble with him if I were you.

            http://www.scielosp.org/scielo.php?pid=S0042-96862003000800003&script=sci_arttext&tlng=pt

            • Colonial Viper 25.1.1.1.2.1

              Psycho Milt is a self proclaimed pro academic pro evidence based intellectual, I am sure he has solid peer reviewed publication back up for all his claims.

            • Psycho Milt 25.1.1.1.2.2

              Mann brings to mind the old adage “Science progresses one funeral at a time.” That aside, from the linked article:

              Thus there is considerable evidence suggesting that sucrose and other free sugars contribute to the global epidemic of obesity.

              Absolutely. The science is settled. Don’t eat any more of this shit than you have to in order not to become that guy no-one wants to invite because he’ll lecture you about food.

              Reducing the intake of sugars may make a useful contribution along with other measures in reducing the risk of obesity and its clinical consequences.

              Well, yeah – it may do. Assuming that the measure proposed:
              1. Actually reduces the intake of sugars.
              2. Prevents substitution of the sugars with other refined carbs that have the same effect as sugars.

              That’s where the evidence peters out and the gap is filled with assertions and wishful thinking. Eric Crampton in the article I linked to above lists various reasons why we shouldn’t just assume a sugar tax would have the effects its enthusiasts would like it to have. His arguments apply equally to capping the sugar content of drinks.

              • Stuart Munro

                If you leaf even cursorily through the research the pattern emerges that SSDs (sugar sweetened drinks) are a good target for regulation because calories ingested from them do not appear to trigger satiation responses – thus a person on an otherwise relatively acceptable diet may consume 15-20% excess calories merely by being a SSD consumer.

                Now, I will grant that the WHO’s recommendation of a 20% tax on these products may not directly achieve the ends for which it is designed (though the proceeds are to be diverted to education campaigns) but the professional caution empirical researchers are obliged to maintain should not blind us to the fact that SSDs contribute little or nothing to health or nutrition to compensate for their deleterious effects.

                A government need have no qualms about banning them outright, if no constructive mitigating proposals are advanced by their producers.

    • Sacha 25.2

      “It would not be amiss for states to directly regulate sugar levels in drinks. ”

      Exactly. Ban the poison.

      • Stuart Munro 25.2.1

        I was thinking of something less obstrusive – decrease sugar levels in the likes of Coke by 5% a year for ten years, and establish the halved level as the new maximum then. If popular support was for a greater reduction, fine, but halving sugar levels in processed foods would do great things for public health. It is the processed foods that are problematic according to Michael Pollan http://www.amazon.com/Cooked-A-Natural-History-Transformation/dp/0143125338

        The problem has been corporate creep – much like the super-sizing that happened in MacDonalds, sugar content has been a field for inappropriate competitive strategies. We just need to bring the trend back under control. Of course with the publicity of the move, and less sugar-habituated taste buds, more people would choose to further reduce their intake. It wouldn’t hurt to get medical input on the proposal, but it shouldn’t drastically affect the business even of soft drink manufacturers.

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