Monday, March 31, 2014

The politics of Jesus (Monday 31 March 2014)

In NZ this year we have an election coming up, 20 September 2014. Personally I am unsure which party to vote for (party vote) let alone who to vote for (to be MP for my local electorate). If my votes are to be 'true to Jesus' what analysis of the situation (state of the economy, state of the nation, state of local community and national society) will guide me, perhaps you too?

Currently we Kiwis live in a period of life which could be described by future historians as one of our golden ages. In modern history our nation has had its economic ups and downs but currently we seem to be in an up period. We are doing a roaring trade with the world as one of the great farms of the world, increasingly as a farm providing produce for China. On our farm we make lots of money from running a rather large herd of dairy cows, but also from cattle, sheep, a little bit from the sheep's wool, a vineyard and some forests. There is even a small quarry where coal can be dug up. If politics is about what happens to the farm's profit/loss account then voters would be stupid to vote for a new manager of the farm.

But is that what politics is about? It could also be about what is happening to the individual wallets of the voters. From that perspective life in NZ is uneven. Some wallets are bulging, other wallets are empty. (My hunch is that polls showing the National Party in the 45-50% support range mean that the majority of wallets are not empty, many are reasonably thick and some are bulging). The left-wing approach to politics is to try to even up the amount in each wallet while the right-wing approach is promote an economy in which all wallets have even opportunities to be filled.

For those reflecting on the politics of Jesus, what is important? The overall profit/loss account of the farm? The distribution of wealth across each wallet? The opportunity for each wallet to be filled according to a mix of hard work and entrepreneurial activity?

These days politics also has a green dimension: is the farm being run in a way which is non-polluting? There is a Treaty dimension expressed in at least two ways: who actually owns the farm? Whether wealth is distributed in an even manner or opportunity to access the wealth of the farm is available evenly to all, does this translate to equality between Maori and Pakeha?

Other questions emerge. Are the children on the farm being well educated? When the workers get sick, is there a great health service? What happens t people unable to work?

What might the politics of Jesus contribute to attempts to answer these questions? Next week: equality in the kingdom and its reverse economics.


Caleb said...

"The left-wing approach to politics is to try to even up the amount in each wallet while the right-wing approach is promote an economy in which all wallets have even opportunities to be filled."

I couldn't let this slide... it seems you're confusing a right-wing caricature of left-wing with reality, and confusing right-wing justifications for right-wing politics with reality.

I think (at least in NZ) all well-meaning right-wing and left-wing people attempt to "promote an economy in which all wallets have even opportunities to be filled." To channel Dworkin, this is done by equalising undeserved inequalities as much as possible, while leaving room for inequalities that spring from choices, for which people should be held responsible. The difference is that right-wing and left-wing people disagree slightly on how to achieve this equality of opportunity (largely because we disagree about which inequalities result from personal choices and which are undeserved).

I think the best short-hand way to explain right-wing and left-wing thinking is to explain it in terms of how we respond to the status quo (economically speaking; the capitalist system).

Almost everyone basically agrees on the kind of fair system we want: equality of opportunity, honest work bringing honest gain, harm and laziness discouraged, etc. The difference is whether we see this as our end goal or our current reality.

To use the words of a recent blog articulating this idea, it's the difference between assuming justice and creating justice.

(Economically speaking,) right-wing people tend to assume the capitalist system is basically fair as it is, and they've absorbed its ideology a lot more; they tend to assume people's wealth or suffering are the result of their personal choices more than structural injustices. Left-wing people are a lot more suspicious of the status quo; they try to point out where it's unfair so as to make it more fair. They're more likely to attribute inequalities to injustice.

This idea of a basic stance towards the status quo could also explain why research has found right-wing people to be happier (left-wing source here) and left-wing people to be more intelligent (right-wing source here).

It could also help explain why certain economic policies tend to go with certain social policies. That is, people who are suspicious of our economic relations are more likely to be suspicious of our gender and ethnic relations and believe ongoing transformation is necessary. But people who think there is basic justice in capitalism seem more likely to think we've dealt with sexism, racism and colonial exploitation and we should now eradicate all 'special treatment' laws predicated on ongoing injustice.

(It's certainly a more effective explanation than the language of "liberal," which struggles to explain why "socially liberal" people are usually not "economically liberal." The answer is that liberating people oppressed by dominant systems is in no way the same thing as "liberating" a dominant system and dominant people from regulations and responsibilities.)

On the other hand, this viewpoint could also explain why not everyone who is "left-wing" or "right-wing" on one issue will fit the same categories on another issue. Someone may have more reason to be suspicious of the economic status quo than the gender status quo, for example. Or vice versa.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb
No caricatures are involved in suggesting the basic difference above between left-wing and right-wing approaches to economics.

It is not a caricature because what are the current cries of the left-wing: higher benefits, higher minimum wage, living wage, tax the better off more the fund the foregoing, concern about rapidly increasing inequality, support for state school education rather than charter schools (i.e. teachers on same pay scales), opposition to performance based funding for teachers (i.e. same amounts in wallets no matter what ability). These are not caricatures but real, current items on left-wing agenda around the world. To assert a concern for levelling of wealth distributed across individual wallets says nothing about whether the left support equal opportunity or not. However some rhetoric from left-wing politicians does raise the question whether there is widespread left-wing support for equal opportunity (e.g. why has Labour here suddenly pushed wood ahead of other building materials? why is Labour threatening to close down charter schools when they become government?).

Otherwise your analysis of the complexities of life when viewed from the left and the right is well articulated and represents dimensions to the matter I have not touched on.

Caleb said...

I don't think any of those policies suggest equality of outcome rather than opportunity. The incomes of the bottom half of NZers, and particularly benefits, have stagnated since the 80s, while the incomes of the very richest have skyrocketed. A progressive tax system is designed to partially offset inequality in pre-tax income, but our tax system has become considerably less progressive since the 80s and again under this government, even as pre-tax income inequality has risen. These are all symptoms of out-of-control rises in income and wealth inequality, which has numerous health and social problems (links: 1, 2), most notably the massive rise in child poverty in NZ.

Most pertinently to this topic, the kind of inequality we're seeing is completely out of whack with anything that could possibly be considered fair reward for fair work, and threatens equality of opportunity by decreasing social mobility, leaving more and more people in generational patterns of povery, and making the idea that anyone can succeed less and less plausible. You don't have to promote total equality of outcome to oppose this horrendous inequality by suggesting measures like increased minimum wages (cf. Boris Johnson's support for the living wage), higher benefit rates, and returning to a more progressive tax system. No party in NZ comes close to promoting equality of outcome. Certainly not Labour, who are still considerably to the right of what was mainstream in NZ until Rogernomics... They and the Greens are a LOT closer to laissez-faire capitalism than to an extreme and individual-squashing version of socialism that promotes equality of outcome.

A quick(ish) word on your education examples... The (relatively) left-leaning parties in NZ oppose performance-based pay and charter schools partly because they have more faith in certain public goods being provided by not-for-profit entities (cf. previous comments about the right having internalised capitalist ideology more), and partly because they listen to teachers more. My parents are both teachers, and teachers (even those who lean to the right on other issues) are universally opposed to running schools on a for-profit basis, as well as performance funding and performance pay. These policies undermine the collegiality teachers need to teach well, not to mention favouring the schools that are already doing well (the wealthy schools).

The opposition to charter schools goes far beyond any objection to teachers (or should I say "teachers" with reference to some charter school employees) being on different pay scales.

It is true that, like all unionised workplaces (education is one of the only industries left that still has strong unions), teachers do tend to support all teachers being on the same pay scales rather than individual agreements, because that means the teachers are better valued for the huge (and increasing, thanks to this govt's education policy) amount of work they do. They leverage their collective bargaining ability to ensure equal opportunity for decent pay.

But the word "scales" shows that this is not about equality of outcome. An experienced teacher with management responsibilities and many qualifcations gets paid a lot more than a teacher fresh out of college. This is equality of opportunity, not outcome.

Caleb said...

Also, with regard to polls indicating most people's wallets are full, I think there are a few problems with that... for a start, Roy Morgan, the most reliable poll (the only one not to exclude the 20% of generally poor and young people without landlines), has them at the bottom of your 45-50% scale, neck and neck with Labour+Greens. iPredict, which came closer to any poll last election, has them at 44%. So it looks like if an election was held tomorrow it would come down to the minor parties, so who knows what would happen (admittedly iPredict does give a 74.4% chance of a National-led govt winning).

Secondly, even if National were polling at 50%, that wouldn't show that most people's wallets are full; at most it would show that of the people who intend to vote (120-year lows last election, and we know the rich vote more frequently than the poor), half intend to vote National ... many of whom will indeed vote because they feel like the economy's going well, or at least well for them; but many of whom will vote for various other reasons.*

The reality is that the economy is not doing great in most of the country - the only growth we have is due to the Canterbury rebuild.

* A few possibilities off the top of my head...
- the fact that National's message is a lot more consistent with the dominant ideology of our society
- people's post-neo-liberalism tendency to identify with the interests of the rich rather than the poor, because they're ashamed to be poor and hope to be rich some day
- personality politics and the fact that people apparently love Key
- the corporate media not being critical enough - not surprising when there's many times more govt spin doctors than political journalists
- the media telling people again that the election's a foregone conclusion
- the media generally favouring National
- Labour's failure to articulate a coherent alternative
- National being way better than Labour at PR
- etc.

Caleb said...

Oh, I didn't respond to your point on wood. My answer is I don't know enough about that policy to comment, but I never claimed to be a defender of Labour anyway. My point was only that all NZ parties aim to promote equality of opportunity, but have different ideas on what that means, and all their ideas are open to criticism.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb
If the economy is doing so poorly except in Canterbury (and then only because of the rebuild) how come I have one family member on my side of the family about to open a new media circulation on the West Coast and another family member on the other side open a branch of his business also on the Coast! The rebuild has nothing to do with burgeoning growth of dairy support or processing buildings as I travel through mid and south Canterbury!

I stand by my assertion that arguments that the left-wing wants to see an evening up of what are in individuals wallets. Some on the left such as yourself may be comfortable with only the poorer wallets receiving more and other much fatter wallets receiving as much or more than presently. But have you actually thought through your position?

Increasing the amount in the wallets of the poor necessarily means raising benefits and that money comes from tax, not from thin air. Increasing the amount in the wallets of the lowest paid necessarily encroaches on the profits of the businesses which employ them, and thus the amount in the wallets of the owners is less.

Is a true socialism of 'outcomes' a more realistic position than the one you espouse?

It is not true that all parties in NZ aim to promote equality of opportunity. To oppose charter schools for instance (whether from laudable reasoning such as you give above or for other reasons) is to deny an important possibility for equality of opportunity (in this case for poor, socially immobile through the current system to find another route to social mobility).

To take another example, it is far from clear to me that the Green Party espouses equality of opportunity given all the opportunities for growth and development of trade, energy and farming which it opposes.

Jean said...

Caleb, I agree with your reference to NZ's tax system. We have one of the flattest tax systems in the world. I know many celebrate when rates are lowered (short term gratification), and politicians use it as a bribe to lower taxes to win votes but ultimately as you poiint out Peter taxes fund our social welfare system - for which I am thankful we still have despite it's imperfectness. This would be a good point to address pre-election. I would not like to end up like the U.S. low taxes and a health system where people with curable conditions die because they don't have health insurance and the U.S. also boasts the highest child poverty rates in the developed world.

I don't feel qualified to comment about the economy as I do not know enough.

I have though been witness to how national has quietly 'changed' core government policies with little publicity. When they first came to power they merged NZAID with MFAT and changed the focus of allocating aid to developing countries from poverty alleviation to economics (without consulting those working in this sector, and making redundant the people in the governments Council of International Development who opposed the move). The secrecy and underhand way this was carried out concerns me.

But yes ultimately the difficulty is the policies of Labour and National are very closely aligned. Perhaps it is time for the church to use it's voice, not in support of particular parties but to advocate for transparency, stewardship, social justice and integrity.

mike greenslade said...

"Increasing the amount in the wallets of the poor necessarily means raising benefits and that money comes from tax, not from thin air. Increasing the amount in the wallets of the lowest paid necessarily encroaches on the profits of the businesses which employ them, and thus the amount in the wallets of the owners is less."

No necessarily Peter. Reducing tax for the poorest does not increase benefits or raise tax for the wealthy. It increases spending and so businesses (and therefore employment) can benefit as well.

Taxing the poorest does not raise much revenue, but is primarily done in the interests of perceived equity. It is a populist vote catcher.

Caleb said...

I do think the left and right probably have different ideas about equality of outcomes... Left-wing people are probably more likely than right-wing people to suspect that fair economic systems will produce roughly equal outcomes. And right wing people are probably more likely to see inequality of outcomes as a good thing (the supposed aspirational effect).

But there's a difference between what we suspect is the healthiest state of affairs and what we actively aim to create. I still think all NZ parties aim for equality of opportunity, but have different opinions on what that means. Opposing specific opportunities for specific reasons (e.g. charter schools, environmentally damaging industries) doesn't mean opposing equality of opportunity.

Your personal experiences don't negate the statistics on the economy. However, you are right to note that not everything that happens in the Canterbury region is rebuild-related. Dairy is also huge in Canterbury and huge for our economy, as you note in your original post - though not without its significant costs to environment, working conditions for e.g. migrant labourers, and democracy (Amy Adams' conflicts of interest being only the latest public example of the latter).

Caleb said...

Some measures to combat inequality may indeed involve increased tax burdens for the rich, but they're the people in the best position to afford higher tax burdens - especially in NZ at the moment; the richer you are in NZ, the more dramatically your income has gone up since the 80s - and the more dramatically your tax burden has gone down! Shifting the tax burden more onto the rich would only be a partial return to how things used to be in NZ. The rich are also the people who benefit most from our society as currently run, so it's only fair that they should contribute more to pay for a stable society and a well-policed private property system. The thinly veiled threat that any limits on the rich's exorbitant incomes will ruin society by curtailing their ability to be "job creators" strikes me as little more than pro-inequality propaganda.

But as others have said, increasing the incomes of the poor doesn't necessarily mean raising benefits and therefore taxes. Increasing the incomes of beneficiaries does, but this can actually save the taxpayer and community far more by improving health and crime statistics (on both these issues, prevention is much cheaper than cure). Increasing the incomes of the working poor could involve equalising incomes pre-tax, for example through a raised minimum wage, limits on ratios of highest to lowest-paid employees in an organisation, reversing neo-liberal laws that shifted power from employees to employers in pay negotiations, encouragement of co-operative business structures that tend to lead to more equitable wages and profit-sharing, etc. Increasing the incomes of the working poor in NZ would actually save the taxpayer money because we wouldn't have to subsidise employers paying poverty wages, as we currently do with WFF and other welfare payments to working people. Increasing the incomes of poorly-paid employees has also often been observed to increase productivity for various reasons, so it helps their employers too.

Giving wealth to one group doesn't necessarily mean taking it away from another. It could mean creating a better state of affairs for the production of more wealth for everyone; NZ has notoriously low productivity and low pay and long hours are notoriously bad for productivity. We help create wealth, so wealth is not a zero-sum game; we can grow the pie. This is what right-wingers are often claiming when they say that giving more money to the rich doesn't necessarily take it away from the poor. It works both ways!

Shares of the pie is a zero-sum game however... So, yes, increasing the proportion of wealth the poor get necessarily means decreasing the proportion of wealth the rich get. But, likewise, increasing the proportion of wealth the rich get (which has happened dramatically in NZ since the 80s) necessarily means decreasing the proportion the poor get; that hasn't come out of thin air either. Inequality that doesn't result entirely from personal choices is only (arguably) defensible if it means everyone is better off as a result; but this hasn't happened in NZ. Real wages have stagnated for the poorer half of people since the 80s... let alone the fact that even relative poverty has absolute effects on humans who are relational beings. Neo-liberal theory suggests an unequal economy will lead to economic growth and end up blessing all, but even the IMF has recently admitted that excessive inequality curbs economic growth rather than creating it.

Peter Carrell said...

I challenge you, Caleb, to think more deeply about the economy and what is being achieved in it.

Have real wages stagnated tout simple?

Is it not also true that (with the exception of housing) many things in life are cheaper relative to wages than they used to be?

It is the purchasing power of wages that matters, not what the dollars on the payslip say.

When I see what my children (roughly student/early wage earning generation) can do with the money they earn from ordinary jobs compared to what was possible when I was their age, it is hard to think that 'stagnation' has occurred!

Somehow this economy which you slate offers advanced medicine at reasonable cost, amazing communication and computing devices very inexpensively, and best of all, cars are so much better than they used to be.

Obviously all sorts of details can be debated beyond a few anecdotes, but life is better for all today than it was twenty, forty, sixty and eighty years ago.

I think we might remember that as we grapple with the present and future directions of NZ and the world.

Just to be clear: I am not disagreeing that inequality is something to explore further and to engage with, whether from a 'justice' perspective or, noting your points above, a 'relational' perspective or a 'growth' perspective. But I am gently prodding you to review whether there is as much to be gloomy about as you seem to be here!

Jean said...

Really? Peter are you sure there has been an improvement economically between the generations? : )

Short synopsis of a few economic differences (with a 20 year gap):

My parents generation (Them):
Nil to little unemployment
Getting paid to go to university
No student loan
Buying a house by age 24 (expectation of having one).
Morning and afternoon tea breaks while at work!
Employed continuously up to age 58, voluntary retirement.
Superannuation and health schemes part of employment, member of union.

My generation (Me):
A $30 000 student loan by age 25 (all wisely spent) and now re-paid.
No routine morning and afternoon tea breaks at work - can you believe it!!
No union, no superannuation or health schemes until kiwisaver.
Unemployed for 8 months out of university and sporadically thereafter until sufficient experience gained (graduate and post-grad qualifications).
Chronic Illness but not bad enough to make 6 month waiting list (e.g. not life-threatening) leads to seeing specialist for $360 per visit and further complications.
Would like to have a house someday, may not be possible.
Hoping they aren't going to raise the age of retirement past 65 and that the will be super by the time I get there.

I'll give you some commodities have become cheaper, and technology has developed in some cases making it cheaper such as phone calls and travel (as one would expect), and society has changed (e.g. people eat out more, women have more career expectations than just teaching or becoming a housewife).

Rebounding that there is a growing technology divide between people who can and can not afford to keep up with new technology and cheap commodities may not have come at a price for us (except temptation) but they have for those employed to make the products. It would be debatable if some commodities such as your basics food (groceries) and electricity are cheaper proportionally speaking.

Certainly there are more opportunities now and more access to opportunities; but these are available to all generations (some exceptions noted).

With just a little tendency for liking a good debate...

Every blessing.

Andrew W said...

"The incomes of the bottom half of NZers, and particularly benefits, have stagnated since the 80s, while the incomes of the very richest have skyrocketed."

I'm not sure about the timing in NZ, but here in Australia we've been implementing (more or less) increasingly "socialist" policies since the late 1960s and seen similar results. Has it occurred to anyone that efforts to reduce "income inequality" have actually perversely increased it? What sort of analysis could we perform to determine whether socialist fiscal policy is helpful or inimical to socialist outcomes?

(Tempted to point to China / USSR / North Korea - in all three, socialism brought increased poverty to the masses at the expense of a few. But perhaps they are extreme and unfair examples?)

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks all for great comments.

Thanks Jean for the comparison. There are many things to debate but I don't think many would say we live in the best of times with no further improvements to be made.

In respect of the past, for sure, it was better in a number of ways, but I recall poverty for some in the years others say all were equal, I recall full employment in the years when many women were expected not to work outside the home ... and, costs acknowledged, I would rather be sick today than forty years ago.

Caleb said...

Peter - see here, p. 6-7

Real wages are adjusted for increased costs/inflation; that's exactly what it is... I'm not talking about nominal wages (dollars on the payslip). Though I think it is adjusted for average costs across the board; some costs have gone down compared to the average while others have gone up (e.g. housing; see p. 14,69-72 here).

Your few examples about technological improvements and cheap medicines don't come close to outweighing the other factors Jean mentions.

Technology has improved, certainly, and we all enjoy that, but we also find the level of technology required to function normally in the world has gone up, and we seem to pay a lot more for technology than we used to (take cellphones; we've gone from nothing to an option $200 to a compulsory $200 to the exorbitant costs of today's smart phones; with planned obsolescence meaning they need replacing alarmingly often). Cars may be better than they used to be, but we can't afford one while we're saving for study, and we certainly won't be able to afford one when I am studying again, even with Milly's good full-time job. Trying to live as a couple/family off one income is another thing that's got a lot harder.

Healthcare is an interesting example, because our medicines are affordable largely because of Pharmac, which I acknowledge is a very good scheme despite being introduced by the 90s National government (it's now under threat from TPPA however). With regard to what causes health and illness, however, we should never forget that socio-economic factors play a much bigger role than medicines. We're now seeing the return of third world diseases like tuberculosis in NZ; not because medicines aren't affordable enough (though $5 per prescription doesn't help), but because housing and healthy food is too expensive and people live in cold, damp, over-crowded homes with poor diets and stressful lives contending with bad jobs (longer hours, poorer pay, poorer conditions) and/or WINZ. You may rather be sick now than forty years ago, but the poorer half of people were probably less likely to get sick forty years ago than now.

It's pretty much consensus that the Baby Boomers had it the best of any generation so far economically across the board: e.g. real hope of good jobs with good and fair pay, free education, affordable housing including a reasonable hope of owning a home... and even (for many) the ability to buy extra properties and make rent income and tax-free capital gains off of pushing house prices too high for most of Jean's and my generation.

So I guess it's your observations and experiences versus mine and Jean's about who has it better, but the statistics and generally accepted wisdom seem to be more on our side.

Re: doom and gloom... I tend to wear my black hat more than my yellow hat but I'm pretty happy nonetheless :)

Caleb said...

Andrew W, New Zealand pursued far more aggressive and extreme neo-liberal reforms than Australia in the 80s-90s; we've moved in the opposite direction to socialism. And we've fallen further behind Australia on incomes and living conditions over that same time (not necessarily causation, but correlation).

With regard to communism, I don't want to get embroiled in that debate, but I will link you to an extremely interesting discussion in the comments on another NZ Anglican's blog: here. Anyway, what happened in those countries is nothing like the policies represented by the left wing parties in NZ at the moment (who all promote some kind of compromise between neo-liberalism and the social democracy we used to have ... nowhere near socialism or communism, let alone totalitarian Eastern communism or 'communism').

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb
It is good that you smile.
Trading anecdotes does not constitute evidence but it does give a feel for where the complexities of life are heading.

Technology is way cheaper than it was whether we go back five or thirty years. Cars are more affordable than they were (e.g. it happens the other day that I saw the modern equivalent at $9995 of a car I purchased for $6000 in 1987 - no matching of inflation there). For most of the 1980s when a student or becoming one and finishing off being one I didn't own a car and when a student in the early 1990s there was no car either!

The great problem of today compared to yesterday, it would appear, is the cost of housing. We see, for instance, a lot of agitation about this in our media and on such matters there is no smoke without fire.

Incidentally, the paper you link to is interesting. In part it paints a picture of inequality not as bad as it is painted to be because it acknowledges the specific downturn effect of the global recession which was not a kind of event effecting economies in, say, the 1980s.

Jean said...

Hey Caleb in reference to "too high for most of Jean's and my generation." I am secretly hoping you are really young (it would give me a boost : ) ).

I think it's a little hard to compare economic welfare with the cost of cars, as technology (usually) develops and then becomes cheaper over time (e.g. televisions).

Whether women not working outside the home would bring us back to full employment - well I am willing to give it a go as long as you find me a nice husband : ) and I don't have to have 10 kids : ) But I do agree with Caleb living off one income now is a very hard thing.

I see two main social categories in this area. Families where husbands are well qualified but work extremely long hours, including travel, placing a lot of extra stress on the household relationships and the man's health (given the tendency towards salary - you work until the work is done - rather than wages). Or couples who have 8-5 jobs but both are required to work in order to afford what they need for their family unit. In this case, placing pressure (particularly women but also sometimes men) to work full hours and care for children, and removing the choice to be able to stay at home for their children.

Sickness I am not so sure about. I would say yes if I was suffering from something like a heart attack and needed an operation, or trusting the medication given for an illness (once again these improvements come from technology/knowledge advancement over time) but probably not so much in terms of access. I do not know what the previous generations paid but I am guessing they had easy access to doctors, even perhaps house calls, and no cost for visits? In Wellington now it is difficult to find a doctor at all who will take you on (making some go to after hours $90 fee), if you do have a doctor a three day average wait is expected, and cost for visit say around $50.

Part responsibility, for the shortage of medical staff, I believe lies in the cost incurred by those training (e.g. $20 000 per year ++ for six years, fees only). Part is the health system (getting only to see those requiring critical care - e.g. once it's too late to feel like you are doing much good; hence many who stay move to doing public and private). And thirdly the better pay and working conditions offered overseas by our Australian mates in particular.

On the positive note we are having a small influx of American doctors who are well trained. They willingly trade their more advanced technology for lifestyle, not having to pay so much in personal insurance and enjoy being able to see all patients who get an appointment as well as spending more than the health insurance's allocated 10 minutes with each patient : ).

But Peter "costs aside"?? I thought we were talking about costs? : ) ...

True though poverty exists and no doubt will in every generation. Politically speaking it would be good if the emphasis was on our christian concept of stewardship (making the best decision not only economically but taking into account future and social ramifications). Topically decisions around asset sales, affordable housing, preventative medical care, tax/minimum wage, addressing our high imprisonment rates, and the care of the land in dairy farming are high on this list at present.

Gosh now I am rambling, have a good day all.

Caleb said...

I'm not entirely sure I understand what you mean by the last paragraph.

Certainly the GFC shows us that not all equality/inequality is equal. Ie, the GFC has mitigated against income/wealth inequality in absolute terms because the very richest have lost money on their investments (ie, on the above-linked graph, the top decile's incomes declined from '07 to '10 while everyone else's stagnated). But if all that's changed is that the very richest have lost money on their investments, I don't think many (if any) of the damaging aspects of inequality have been solved.

Caleb said...

I agree about housing being a major problem of now compared to then, but income and wealth inequality have also got significantly worse, along with working hours and conditions, household debt, tertiary education costs (for the more privileged of our generation, like myself) and poverty (for the less privileged).

Caleb said...

To clarify, when I said "the last paragraph" I was responding to Peter's last comment.

Jean, sorry, I misremembered (?) what you said about 25, thinking you'd said you were 25 now. Plus, the differences you describe correspond quite well to my parents vs. me (i'm guessing your parents are somewhere in or near the boomer era?). I've always related more to Gen X than Gen Y myself, but I'm six years too young according to official NZ definitions.

Jean said...

Hey Caleb you are right my parents are baby boomers but they had me at a very young age. I probably used the 25 age as an example somewhere : ) . I was the first of the year with student loans...... We would welcome u to gen x sometimes it's more about experiences in common right? Have a good day.