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

Paying It Forward Not Payback Or Paywalls

Inequality and crime go hand in hand. There is enough research now to make that abundantly clear. We can have more police to catch people who take what they want but will never be able to afford to buy. We can introduce harsher sentences. We can build more prisons. But we will never have a safe place to live until we address the root cause – some people have far too much and others not near enough. Continue reading

Mean(s) Testing

Everyone deserves a liveable income whether in paid employment or not; our society relies on a great deal of unpaid labour to function. A liveable income for everyone is only fair. And being fair is something that most New Zealanders pride themselves on.

The flip side of this is the amount of time spent worrying about unfairness. It is good to worry about unfairness if it is confined to worrying about people missing out on basic entitlements and taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Unfortunately these days it seems to have gone the other way. The focus is on people getting things others don’t think they are entitled to. Mainly directed at those who get very little by those who have already got a lot. Continue reading

Beneficiary Bashing – Are NZ Voters Smart Enough To See Through It?

Paula Bennett’s press release this week has sparked fears that the elections will descend into a beneficiary-bashing fest.

New Zealand was one of the first countries to embrace a social welfare system and has always been well regarded internationally because of that. It is one of our greatest achievements, along with being the first to give women the vote and declaring our nation nuclear free.

The recognition that the state should not just be there in the case of unexpected misfortune, but actively promote the welfare of all citizens, was innovative and visionary. It is what defines New Zealand as a great place to live. It means that we are all equal. Everybody can participate in the things that we all enjoy. Continue reading

Political Decisions Determine the Number of People Out of Work, Not Crystal Ball Gazing

New Zealand is widely credited with being the first country in the world to introduce a social welfare system at the beginning of last century. Once again we are leading the way in welfare but this time not in a good way, the Alliance Party believes. We have become the first country to commission an actuarial valuation of our benefit system for working age adults. Continue reading