Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fiona Mackenzie: Our Fatal Flaws

I’ve just read a great book – “Why Nations Fail…….the Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty”.  Based on 15 years’ research, it’s no light read but it has much to say that is relevant to New Zealand. I hesitate to condense it, but feel some key messages are important.

The book dispels the arguments that wealth and prosperity can be due to climate, geography or culture. Rather it’s the openness and accessibility of institutions a country operates under (both economic and political). These determine whether people feel they have a chance of being heard and, most importantly, whether it’s worth investing their time, effort and resources in trying to achieve anything. Fundamental human psychology, really!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Karl du Fresne: We don't know how lucky we are

Perhaps our politicians aren’t such a bad lot after all. Consider the following.
British Conservative MP Patrick Mercer recently resigned as party whip after the embarrassing disclosure that undercover reporters had paid him £4000 – part of a promised contract worth £24,000 a year – to ask questions in Parliament, supposedly on behalf of Fijian business interests. Only days later, two Labour peers, Lords Cunningham and Mackenzie, were suspended by their party after being filmed boasting how they could get around House of Lords rules to promote clients’ interests.

Mike Butler: Fisheries bill exempts tribes

A bill aimed at protecting workers on fishing boats in New Zealand waters has had a last-minute change at select committee stage that would exempt tribal quota owners, some of whom have been linked to some of the worst abuses of the system.

The Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, which initially required all quota holders to use New Zealand-flagged vessels by 2016, was amended by parliament's primary production select committee to give the chief executive of the Ministry for Primary Industries the right to grant exemptions to operators whose catch entitlement is ''derived from settlement quota'' - a reference to Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Richard Epstein: Justice for Trayvon Martin?

Our country has had its fair share of racist travesties, but the George Zimmerman verdict is not one of them. 

As the country well knows, in a Seminole County courthouse on July 13, 2013, a six-woman Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman of charges of both second-degree murder and manslaughter for the killing of an unarmed 16-year-old Trayvon Martin. Ordinarily, a jury verdict signals an end to public controversy on a particular case. But not in this case. The post-trial events have turned a powerful lens on modern American society. That lens reveals a deep distrust of the operation of our criminal justice system by millions of Americans who think that Zimmerman’s acquittal amounted to a travesty of justice.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: Shooting oneself in both feet – Western ineptness vis-à-vis the Syrian conflict

In the course of an announcement that a Free Syrian Army commander had been killed by a rival rebel group linked to al-Qaida, the BBC spoke of the emergence of a ‘civil war within a civil war’. David Cameron has intimated that he is starting to understand the stark options staring him in the face in Syria and has made some noises about supporting ‘the moderates’ while keeping any military aid (which has not been forthcoming) out of the hands of the ‘extremists’. The Western powers seem to be waking up to the reality of Syria, but it is probably too late for them to make any meaningful contribution to sorting out the mess.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mike Butler: Govt earthquake paranoia

“Paranoia” and “chaos” are two words used by Napier’s mayor and a leading architect to describe the government’s earthquake-proofing initiatives after the earthquakes that devastated Christchurch. Napier mayor Barbara Arnott terms the government response as “paranoia”. “I think people have got to take a step back and think quite hard”, she said. (1)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Chris Trotter: Thoughts on Tariana Turia’s “Whanau Ora” Programme.

Far from being a modern and progressive social programme, Whanau Ora has been, from its very inception, an attempt to present a politically inspired programme for the enrichment of private individuals as a bold reassertion of traditional Maori values and practices. 

Jacinda Ardern is right and wrong about Whanau Ora. She’s right to insist that any programme funded by the state remain accountable (both figuratively and literally) to the state. But she is quite wrong to identify Whanau Ora as a progressive measure worthy of Labour’s support – provided it remain under the supervision of Te Puni Kokiri.

Bryce Edwards: NZ Politics Daily

It’s been a week of debates about economics, ethnicity and inequality. The most interesting story of the week combines all three issues – the controversial decision announced by the Minister of Whanau Ora to shift provision of the funding outside the walls of the state. This has alarmed Chris Trotter who has condemned the whole programme, saying: Nothing Progressive About It: Thoughts on Tariana Turia’s “Whanau Ora” Programme. Similarly, on the right, Muriel Newman says that essentially Whanau Ora is a ‘Maori-only welfare programme’ and the latest change hands the power and funds over to Iwi leaders – see: Institutional racism. Newman also critiques historic and contemporary attempts to introduce Treaty clauses into government legislation.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Matt Ridley: Nobody ever calls the weather average

Karl du Fresne: Gender, booze and drugs

ONE OF THE most interesting aspects of the recent upheaval in Australian politics was the way in which sexual politics intruded on media coverage.

High-profile female commentators such as Anne Summers and Kerry-Anne Walsh conspicuously lined up on the side of the deposed Julia Gillard. It was hard to avoid the conclusion that they saw Gillard’s overthrow by Kevin Rudd as part of a gender war.

Mike Butler: Tribal charity review needed

Ngai Tahu chair Mark Solomon tried to deflect criticisms of lack of accountability around businesses posing as charities, of individuals being paid too much, and that too little was being distributed. Since the tax tribal corporations are excused paying is enormous, and since there is an expectation in the public's mind that tribal businesses will pay their fair share and compete on a level playing field, a review of the tax treatment of treaty settlements and tribal charitites is urgently needed.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mike Butler: No right to trade in Arab world

The Arab Spring was a demand for freedom, not necessarily democracy, according to British political journalist Fraser Nelson. Mohammed Bouazizi started the so-called Arab spring by burning himself alive on a Tunisian street market two years ago.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Mike Butler: Lest we forget the Waikato war

The Waikato war was fought 150 years ago but land confiscations that resulted from defeat are still as raw today, a Waikato-Tainui spokesman told Radio New Zealand on Friday, the anniversary of that war. Although Waikato-Tainui executive chair Tom Roa said the tribe has moved on from grievance mode to one of prosperity, his attitude on the confiscations implies that despite 1995 “settlement” of $170-million, grievance is never far from the surface.

Mike Butler: A timeline of faulty racial policy

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira’s demand for no-deposit home loans for Maori is the latest strident demand that usually results in some concession from an appeasing government. The call for Maori self-determination may be traced to 1935, when the Communist Party of New Zealand ran in the general election of that year on a platform that included “self-determination for the Maoris [sic] to the point of complete separation.” 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lindsay Mitchell: Pension - What the UK and US save, NZ will pay for

The DomPost today reports on the Ministry of Social Development's push to get more retirees to claim pensions from their birth country to offset what New Zealand has to pay out. Fair enough. NZ has long held reciprocal pension arrangements with a number of countries.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Benjamin Herscovitch: Authoritarian China’s successes vindicate liberalism

China seems to offer an alluring alternative to the liberal orthodoxy of open markets and societies. With its combination of repressive one-party rule and state capitalism, the Middle Kingdom is expected to surpass the United States in sheer economic weight by 2018 and boast more middle-class consumers than Europe and the United States combined by mid-century.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Lindsay Mitchell: Radical feminists push for Labour Party quotas

Listening to the radio news  last year, I heard a mild-mannered fellow attending the 2012 Labour Conference questioning the merits of a female quota applied to electorate committees and candidates. He had hardly begun when he was jeered down by other audience members. It was a window into Labour Party politics I would rather have not looked through.

Ron Smith: Experiments in Democracy

Do recent events in Egypt constitute a failure of democracy, or a triumph of civil society, or a bit of both? It is hard not to be ambivalent as the latest iteration of the ‘Arab Spring’ plays out in Cairo and around the country.  On the one hand, it is scarcely a year since Mr Morsi became president, after what seemed to have been free and fair elections, and now the Army has intervened and he is in military custody (with other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood). 

Matt Ridley: The Tabarrok curve - striking a balance between intellectual property and freedom to innovate

The economist Arthur Laffer is reputed to have drawn his famous curve—showing that beyond a certain point higher taxes generate lower revenue—on a paper napkin at a dinner with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in the Washington Hotel in 1974. Another economist, Alex Tabarrok of George Mason University, last year drew a similar curve on a virtual napkin to argue that, beyond a certain point, greater protection for intellectual property causes less innovation. He thinks that U.S. patent law is well beyond that optimal point.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Peter Saunders: The moral case for a smaller state

The CIS believes in finding non-government solutions to society’s problems. But why not use government, given the resources and power it has to change things? Three answers are commonly given. The first is economic. Demands on government are potentially infinite, the budget keeps expanding and big projects often go wrong. There has to be a limit. But not everybody agrees. If something really needs doing, they say, government should find the money. Australian public spending is less as a percentage of GDP than in many other developed countries; we could spend more.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Richard Epstein: In Defense of the NSA

Its wiretapping program has been derided as an intolerable invasion of individual privacy rights, but it has benefits for national security.

This past week, Roger Pilon of the Cato Institute and I wrote an op-ed in The Chicago Tribune that gave a qualified defense of the controversial NSA surveillance program. Libertarians from the left and the right have come together in shrill opposition to the wiretapping program; they object to the government’s collection, retention, and examination of sensitive individual data.