Friday, March 30, 2012

Ravin' about Trayvon, Diplomatic Indulgence and Lombard Convictions

The Trayvon Martin case in the United States seems to me to be typical of the lunacy that has possessed the Western world in the early 21st Century.  No one, least of all President Obama, seems interested in the facts - it has become a witch hunt reminiscent of 16th Century New England.  Listening to the media and the rhetoric of activists like the Reverend Al Sharpton and the Reverend Jesse Jackson (why are they so often priests?) you would think that a redneck had executed a black man in cold blood and with impunity.  Those are not the facts as I understand them.

What actually appears to have happened is that a local Hispanic community watch volunteer named George Zimmerman (dubbed a "White Hispanic" when his ethnic origin is mentioned at all) shot Martin while the 6 foot, 2 inch-tall Martin was beating and kicking Zimmerman on the ground.  But irrespective of the facts in the case, it is reprehensible for the President to interfere in a case that is sub judice.  How can the authorities and the courts possibly  determine the rights and wrongs of the case now when the President has waded in and called Martin "the son I could have had?"

In New Zealand, the cause du jour for the left-wing media in recent days has been whether a bunch of highly paid diplomats should keep their swimming pools, cocktail parties and chauffeurs.  The chief executive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade announced plans to reduce staff and diplomatic posts to help balance the Government's budget.   Never have so few owed their privileges to the indulgence of so many.  The worst aspect of this issue is that the chief executive of MFAT, John Allen, who was acting on the instructions of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully (aptly referred to as the "Short-assed Machiavellian" by blogger Peter Cresswell), is now being hung out to take the blame by said minister. So much for the  concept of ministerial responsibility that is traditionally such an important part of our Westminster form of government.

Talking of witch hunts, this week we have also seen the sentencing of the directors of failed finance company, Lombard, amongst them former National Party cabinet ministers, Doug Graham and Bill Jeffries.  As blogger-lawyer and former MP Stephen Franks points out here, this was a conviction under a strict-liability law that ignores whether there was any intent to deceive investors (and, in fact, the judge in the case conceded that there wasn't).  So, these directors were guilty of nothing more than being directors of the wrong company at the wrong time.  The directors themselves did not gain from their crimes and, in fact, a couple of them were by all accounts financially ruined by the failure of Lombard.  But this type of case brings out the schadenfreude in the media and public and the baying for more blood, such as the calls to strip Doug Graham of his knighthood, is a bit like quartering the condemned after they have already died on the scaffold.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

New Zealand's Precarious Economic Position

The New Zealand Government has announced in its Budget statement for the last two years that it expects to balance its books by 2014.  This seems increasingly unlikely.  Like a sunny weather forecast that is corrected as the storm approaches, the Government has been revising its numbers as 2014 approaches.  Last year the Government spent nearly 1/3 more than it took in revenue.  This year it is projecting still to spend more than 20% more than it takes in revenue and the numbers are still getting worse.

The main problem with the Government's financial outlook is that it is dependent on economic growth.  Last year the Minister of Finance was saying GDP growth would reach around 4% by 2014.  This seems increasingly optimistic.  Our current GDP growth is around 1% and even that is dependent on the highest commodity prices New Zealand has ever experienced.  Commodity prices are starting to decline and the trend is likely to accelerate.  Add to this the fact that Europe and the United States are still in the grips of economic stagnation in spite of a very tentative recovery in consumer spending and jobs and you have a very risky economic scenario for New Zealand.

The Government has proclaimed that it expects the Christchurch earthquake to add 1.25% to economic growth every year from 2012 to 2016, which is based on a economic misunserstanding known as the broken window fallacy.  Rebuilding Christchurch only diverts investment from other potentially more productive areas of the economy and adds costs to everyone (look at the rise in your insurance premiums this year, if you don't believe me).

I am normally an optimistic person but I am more pessimistic about New Zealand's immediate economic prospects than I have been since the late 1980s.  If everything goes our way, we may have a modest economic recovery over the next few years, but it won't see the 4% economic growth by 2014 the Government hopes for.  And if the world economy does not recover strongly and if commodity prices continue to fall, we will see a significant worsening of our terms of trade with a consequential negative impact on every area of our economy.

New Zealanders need to prepare for very tough economic times ahead.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Time to Abandon Fraudulent ACC Scheme

New Zealand has a socialised accident compensation scheme run by a government agency called ACC.  Originally intended as a workers accident compensation insurance fund, ACC has become anything but.  What it has really become is a parallel welfare system and an attractive prospect for those who think that someone else should support them.

There are several aspects of the scheme that, in my view, make it inherently corrupt.

The first is that when it was introduced, the right to redress for injury under common law was prohibited.  This has led to a culture of non-accountability in New Zealand.  Criminals can assault with little prospect of financial penalty for their actions, likewise negligent employers and traders have little incentive to ensure the safety of their workers and customers.

The second is that its original purpose seems to have been turned on its head.  It is now, in my experience, almost impossible to get compensation for a genuine work-related injury.  The only time I have tried to claim compensation in recent years (a small claim for physiotherapy on a neck injury) I was actually told that if I had incurred the injury on the sports field or the skifield I would be able to claim but because I got the injury at work, I couldn't.

The third issue is that it is hideously expensive.  Premiums for employers and self-employed peope are supposedly based on risk factors.  But I have a sedentary, office-bound profession and the only injury I have ever incurred is the one mentioned above.  Yet my premium, at around $4000 per annum, is twice what it costs me for full health insurance for my family, a policy on which we frequently make claims.  In my case it is money for absolutely nothing.

The scheme is meant to be user-pays but it seems to be selectively so.  Motor cycle riders are charged around $400 a year on top of their vehicle registration as an ACC contribution but bicyclists (or rugby players, to take another example) are charged nothing.  My premiums must be going to subsidise others who are in genuinely higher risk categories than me and I suspect the portion of premiums paid out of taxes for non-workers and non-work injuries does not cover anything like the true cost of these claim.

The worst thing about it all is the scheme's dishonesty.  It is not, and never has been, an accident insurance scheme.  What it is really is a parallel welfare system funded by an additional dollop of tax on the most productive is society and it allows the NZ Government to hide this extra tax under the pretence of an insurance scheme.  It is dishonestly abused by work-shy layabouts, who are occasionally exposed on video as perfectly capable of working when they have been drawing accident compensation payments for years.

It is time we abolished the pretence of this fraudulent scheme and returned to private insurance provision and the right to seek redress in the courts.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Maori must take responsibility

The following is, for the most part, a comment I posted on Lindsay Mitchell's blog Tip of the iceberg about the over-representation of Maori in crime, child abuse and welfare dependency.  Her posting was prompted by the conviction of a young Maori man, Raurangi Mark Marino, for the rape of a 5 year girl in a camping ground in Turangi, New Zealand.  Marino's father and mother are members of the criminal, violent (and predominantly Maori) gangs Black Power and the Mongrel Mob that are known to use rape as an rite of passage for young inductees.

In her post, Lindsay quoted Peter Buck, one of the most prominent Maori leaders of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, who said:

“The [Maori]  communism  of  the  past  meant  industry,  training  in  arms,  good physique, the keeping of the law, the sharing of the tribal burden, and the preservation of life. The communism of today means indolence, sloth, decay of   racial   vigour,   the   crushing   of   individual   effort,   the   spreading   of introduced  infections,  diseases,  and  the  many  evils  that  are  petrifying  his advance.”

The following (with minor edits) is what I said in response to Lindsay's posting.

The sorry state of Maori today, filling the courts and prisons for violent crime, overwhelmingly dependent on welfare and failing to perform by almost any accepted aspirational and moral measure, is a huge indictment on the resurgent Maori tribalism and the billions of dollars thrown at them by successive governments.

The problem is, I think, partly that Peter Buck and many contemporary apologists for Maori performance have got it wrong. Maori 'communism' (and I think that is a good term) in the past may have been about "the keeping of the law, the sharing of the tribal burden, and the preservation of life," but it was also about preserving a brutal, paternalistic, cannibalistic, genocidal Stone Age society with little going for it except for some fine primitive art. Black Power and the Mongrel Mob are the precise modern expression of this culture.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that a young Maori man brought up in such a culture feels it is acceptable to rape a 5 year girl because, as gut-wrenching as this crime is to you and I, it pales into insignificance compared to the wholesale female infanticide that was practiced by Maori society prior to the establishment of British rule.

The answer is not more Maori tribalism, tradition and culture, nor more handouts. Such policies are just producing more disaffected Maori youth who believe it is their right to take anything they want by force, even the innocence of a 5 year old girl. The answer is that Maori must be forced to take individual responsibility for being productive, moral members of society. The sooner Maori themselves and New Zealanders generally realise this, the better.