Trade Agreements For The 21st Century

The world has changed significantly since the emergence of ‘free’ trade in the 1980s. In 2017 tariffs are the least of our worries.

We now know that the earth’s resources are finite and are being used up much faster than they can be replenished.

We know that carbon dioxide emissions are set to cause catastrophic climate change if we do not act quickly to reduce them. Continue reading

Time To End The Love Affair With Profit

Profit – what’s left over after all the expenses are paid, that’s all it is. But it has achieved cult status in the last few decades – since gambling on the share market became a favourite sport for those with a few dollars to spare.

Profit, or potential to make a profit, determines the size of the dividend shareholders get each year. CEOs’ reputations, and salaries, are based on their ability to keep growing the profits of the organization they spearhead.

But profit means only one thing, exploitation. Workers are paid too little. Consumers are charged too much. Natural resources are acquired too cheaply and/or shortcuts are taken around health and safety and environmental protection. And it means not sharing ideas and information that could improve the lives of people everywhere. Ever-increasing profit usually means exploitation in all of these areas. Continue reading

Crime And Punishment Is Not An Election Issue

Do we want to reduce crime in this country? If so, electioneering politicians should butt out. ‘Getting tough’ on criminals, such a popular election year mantra, is nothing like the same as reducing crime. To mete out a tough punishment means waiting until a crime is committed – a bit late for the victim of the crime.

Crime has been trending downwards for the past decade or so. Despite that, most people having the impression that crime rates are going up. We are wasting money on more prisons – and now Boot Camps. They are just vote catchers for the National/ACT government. Continue reading

Sometimes “The Law Is An Ass”

One of the most persistent cries this week – from even nice, well meaning people – has been, “the law is the law, you’ve got to obey the law.” But sometimes, to quote Charles Dickens, ”the law is an ass”.

The rule of law is important, but not an end in itself. Laws are supposed to serve the people. Not vice versa. Good law empowers everyone. Good law does not oppress anyone.

Laws are a product of society at a snapshot in time, more particularly the dominant sector of that society. There are plenty of laws that are or were designed to protect the interests of that dominant sector at the expense of other sectors of society. Continue reading

An Instant Solution To The Housing Crisis?

Too many people do not have a home to call their own simply because they can’t afford one. Something needs to be done now. We can’t wait for new houses to be built. Besides, it is generally acknowledged that the problem is not a shortage of houses, but a shortage of affordable houses. New housing developments to date have only provided a fraction of the affordable houses needed.

The quickest and easiest fix to the affordable housing crisis might be for the government to take a leaf out of the land bankers’ book and start their own land bank, with a twist – a public land bank with houses on it. Continue reading

Are We Ready to Get Serious About Reducing Inequality?

Inequality: we know it’s bad for everyone. We know we need to reduce it. We want to reduce it – sort of.

The worship of wealth goes deep. The exorbitantly expensive cars, private jets, yachts, mansions, luxurious holiday homes, clothes, the glamorous lifestyles enjoyed by the very wealthy are beguiling. The prestige, the power, the ability to get anything you want whenever you want it. These are things that most people, if they were brutally honest, would find it very hard to say ‘no’ to. Are we ready to give up the dream that one day, with a bit of luck, our horse will come in and we could find ourselves a multimillionaire? Continue reading

Enough About Immigration – Change the Record Please!

It is disturbing that immigration has become an election issue. There is nothing to debate. New Zealand is a relatively underpopulated nation. We can absorb more people. We need to absorb more people if climate change causes sea levels to rise and forces our Pacific Island neighbours from their homes. Or if war or lack of access to basic resources such as food and water make some areas of our planet unliveable. Continue reading

Uncap Health Funding

Somewhere, somehow we have become conditioned to the idea of health funding being capped.

We complain often that the healthcare budget is not big enough, but do not ask why it should be capped in the first place. Medical procedures are not something people undergo for fun. Surely everyone who needs medical treatment should get it as soon as possible? Continue reading

Mondelez – The Good News And The Bad News

The good news is that Mondelez International (which owns, amongst many things, Cadbury in Dunedin) reported a first quarter 2017 operating profit of 39.4%. It is paying out a quarterly dividend of $0.19 (US) per share to shareholders.

This is wonderful for our New Zealand Superfund which has over $21 million worth of Mondelez shares, and the ACC investment fund and the Kiwisaver investment funds which have Mondelez shares in their investment portfolio.

The bad news is it has cost 350 Cadbury workers in Dunedin their jobs. Continue reading

Cleaning Up The Mess Neoliberals Left Behind

Former National Prime Minister Jim Bolger has admitted Neoliberalism was a mistake. It is music to the ears. May he be the first of many to recant.

It would be churlish (but tempting) to point out that the Alliance Party and others warned at the time that Neoliberalism would be a mistake. Neoliberalism, we said, would lead to poverty, inequality, and unaffordable housing and all the social problems associated with this.

The Left was right. But now is not the time to gloat. Too much damage has been done. Now is the time to talk about how to clean up the mess the Neoliberals have left us. Continue reading