Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 in Review

2011 has been an interesting year.

Early in the year we had the second severe earthquake in Christchurch and this one killed nearly two hundred and left the city with massive destruction. The earthquake was instructive not so much in terms of what it taught us about the impact of such a seismic event on buildings and lives (which was pretty predictable) but in what it taught us about the behaviour of our Government in such a situation. The dust had barely settled before they had deployed troops and armoured personnel carriers on the streets of Christchurch and were arresting and prosecuting property owners for attempting to gain access to their own properties. Clearly John Key's Government has no respect for individual liberty and property rights.

A month after the Christchurch earthquake, Japan suffered a much more devastating one combined with a tsunami that killed more than fifteen thousand people. In spite of its much greater impact, Japan is well advanced with its reconstruction effort.  In the meantime, our national and local governments continue to dither and obstruct those who want to rebuild their lives in Christchurch.

During the year it became blatantly obvious that "spend and hope" economic policies were never going to lift the Western world out of recession. Certainly it is hard to see how more of the same medicine that caused the crisis will cure it. In New Zealand our Government is spending $18B this year more than it takes in revenue, despite increasing consumption taxes and many government charges. Our minister of finance promises we will return to government fiscal surpluses by 2014 but given his projections are based on 4% economic growth and our current rate is about 1%, this seems like very wishful thinking.  In the meantime, various ignoramuses camped in parks around the world, under the "Occupy Wall Street" banner, have chosen to scapegoat bankers as the cause of all the world's problems in a slanderous campaign that is reminiscent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion that the Nazis used to rally political support in the 1930s.

Governments around the world continued to erode the rights of their citizens with ever more instrusive security and surveillance laws in the name of the so-called War Against Terror.  The least you can say for the panjandrums involved is that they are relatively indiscriminate in their abuse of citizens, as this report of the US TSA's actions attests.  The US Government finally killed Osama Bin Laden but if the Al Qaeda leader's aim was to destroy the liberties that Westerners enjoy, then he has certainly achieved what he set out to do.

Late in the year we had an election and New Zealanders chose to re-elect John Key's National Government in coalition with a motley bunch that including a former National Party minister who was standing for a party whose principles he clearly does not believe in, a former Labour Party minister who jumps in bed with whichever party will give him a seat in cabinet, and a party based on the racist principle that Maori deserve preferential treatment in our society.  I cannot see John Key's appeal as he and his government seem to me to be entirely without any political principles.

The political finale of the year was the death of Kim Jong Il, the nutcase who has ruled North Korea since the death of his father who was the previous nutcase leader of that country. Kim Jong Il managed to annoint his third son as his successor, the sole selection criteria apparently being that the third one was the only of his sons who was not mentally handicapped or gay. It is a sad indictment on humanity that we still have such tyrants as leaders of a significant number of countries.

And finally, we have this incident to greet us a few days before Christmas - an horrific crime against a defenseless 5 year old girl in a New Zealand campground.  It is no surprise that locals report the perpetrator may be a member of the Mongrel Mob - a predominantly Maori gang whom the authorities treat as a welfare organisation rather than the violent, drug-running, raping bunch of thugs it really is.

On that depressing note, I wish you all a very safe and pleasant Christmas and all the best for 2012.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Morality of Welfare

This blog incorporates the comments I posted on Karl du Fresne's blog this week. Karl posted about a documentary that aired on TV3 during the last week of the New Zealand general election campaign (and of course TV3's timing was not coincidental - it was just part of their on-going pro-Labour, pro-Greens editorial campaign). I didn't see the documentary but in Karl's view it was "very one-sided", presenting the "message...that the welfare state has failed our poor."

This sort of overtly left-wing polemic always tries to cast the rest of us (i.e. those other than the 'deserving poor') as uncaring and immoral. How could we in good conscience possibly let one child anywhere go hungry? It never asks the same question of the parents and extended families of such children, assuming that they must be victims of circumstances like their children.

Those who oppose further extension to the already ubiquitous welfare state, and who oppose further taxation increases to pay for it, are often put on the back foot by such arguments. They seldom challenge the de facto position that there is no moral argument that could possibly be put forward to justify less state intervention in the welfare of poor children.

Well, I am not afraid of entering the moral debate on the side of the oppressed taxpayer. My comments on Karl's blog follow.

I guess you could call the welfare state 'compulsory altruism', if that is not too much of an oxymoron. The system of taxation and redistribution through welfare is enforced by the state's exclusive legal mandate to use violence (and if you don't believe this, then let's make taxation voluntary tomorrow and see what happens).

So, the moral argument in regards to welfare is whether it is right for the state to threaten and use violence against some people to force them to support others (whether such people are deserving or not may change the weight of the argument but not the principle).

I believe that a rational, moral society is one where families and communities look after those less fortunate than themselves. I also believe that a rational, moral society is one where no man or woman is forced to work for the benefit of another (or another's children).

I don't believe these two things are mutually exclusive, but so long as the taxation and welfare system is based on the threat of violence, it will lack any real moral mandate in my view, no matter how many heart-rending documentaries appear on TV.

Forcing people to work for someone else's benefit is slavery. The needs of others do not justify this slavery no matter how compelling that need. The only choice we have is to submit to the slavery or join the ranks of those benefiting from the corrupt welfare system. The system may make most New Zealanders feel like they are part of a 'caring society' but we should not pretend it is anything other than extortion based on the threat of violence. It is certainly not moral.