Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Who to vote for at the coming General Election (14 Oct 2023)?

Some critical votes around the world loom - the Voice referendum in Australia, the Presidential election in the States (ok, in dates, a long way off, but in candidates gearing up to trump one another, it is all happening now) - and here in NZ our triennial General Election.

Why "critical" here in the Blessed Isles?

My concern is the direction of travel our economy is travelling in. We don't seem to be in great shape. Perhaps we cannot do any better - it is always the case that we are somewhat subject to global winds etc (if so, let's vote for the incumbents). Perhaps we can - we are not completely powerless (if so, let's vote for change).

In my understanding of modern, Western, liberal democracies, the economy matters for any aspiration we have: improving housing, health, education, defence capabilities, welfare for the vulnerable, superannuation for the, ahem, older persons [I may be biased on this one!!] - all need $$$. And the basic question for any election is not whether Christchurch will host the Commonwealth Games in 2026 [nuts!!] or whether the Government should provide free (basic) dental care for all [actually a meritable, Green Party proposal], but how we produce $$$, how we should tax those $$$, and what is a wise, fair and fruitful distribution of those $$$ (i.e. when we cannot do everything we conceivably would like to do with taxed $$$, what is highest and best use for them)?

Should we change the Government? If so, to what party or combo of parties?

I don't want to answer that question here since that then becomes quite directive. But I am happy to make a few observations :)

1. I find each party has a policy or policies I could vote for AND a policy or policies I would prefer not to vote for [but I will vote, so I may have to swallow a dead policy rat].

Now, sure, that could be said pretty much every election, but this election my own assessment is that some policies are very objectional!

2. I am concerned about talk of a "wealth tax" (Greens, Te Pati Maori). In principle we who are not wealthy could warmly vote for such a policy. In practice, what would the effects of such a policy be? For example, if it drove wealthy NZers overseas, or to at least re-locate the headquarters of their businesses overseas (i.e. in a more friendly tax environment), would we damage our economy, not only resulting in fewer tax dollars than anticipated but also in fewer jobs?

For non-Down Under readers: there are always possibilities for Kiwis to re-locate to Australia when we don't like how things are here. We cannot operate an economy here which ignores Australian realities such as their housing affordability, wage rates and tax rates.

3. Shouldn't we put more (political) energy into growing our economy so the tax take grows with it in a natural way? Everyone benefits from a growing economy (even though, acknowledged, people will benefit in different ways and to different degrees).

4. Which party both addresses fundamental questions of education - we seem to have decreasing rather than increasing rates of literacy and numeracy - and proposes achievable answers to the questions?

Again, "it's the economy!" Economies grow with better education.

5. Is war looming in the Pacific? If so, which party is best geared to respond, whatever "respond" means or should mean? Are we too dependent economically on China? (The answer pretty much is "yes"!) Can we change that? What value do we place on human rights and freedom of speech - in China right now, and here if  (or, as) China's influence grows? 

It is not clear to me that any of our political parties is willing to engage with these questions with boldness and frankness.

6. In the plethora of talk about bicultural life here, and longings for or fears of "co-governance", we need to find a way to honour the Treaty of Waitangi, to improve the well-being of Maori in Aotearoa New Zealand today, and to work for justice. 

All parties have something to say on this, but all parties are not united in what they are saying ...

For Christians, there are a number of issues touched on above (and other issues not touched on here) which invite us to consider what it means to be a society with each member a human being made in the image of God, with resources available to meet our material needs, and possibilities for providing opportunities for the flourishing of the human spirit.

Lord, guide us!


liturgy said...

"I find each party has a policy or policies I could vote for AND a policy or policies I would prefer not to vote for"

Imagine (also following the recent spate of ministerial changes) having separation of powers so that the Executive wasn't drawn from (and within) the Legislative. Currently in our system, the Prime Minister casts about the party's MPs - "you lived on a farm as a child, you can be Minister of Agriculture... you were a truck driver once, you can be Minister of Roading..."

We could have a real MMP legislative chamber, deciding things issue by issue, rather than the current three-year absolute control by one group while the other group simply asks questions and yells in speeches but has no say or sway whatsoever until the people head to the polls once again there years from now.

Dreams on


MsLiz said...

Apparently Moody's view of our economy isn't so awful ... press release 03 Aug.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Liz and Bosco

I agree that a second house would be good, but not if anyone in it is titled "Lord" or "Baroness"!

That link re Moody's is put out by the Finance Minister himself! Notwithstanding Mood's good NZ mood, we are struggling with inflation and with wages/salaries not able to match Oz.

MsLiz said...

Yeah :D Mea culpa. In my defence the release has the Moody's link and includes quotes from the content. [To follow the link required registration, I wasn't keen to follow through]

Anonymous said...

A brief note of thanks to + Peter for this series of exploratory OPs on whole kinds of salient, neglected, and fascinating topics. It has also been good to hear Jean's, John's, and Bosco's voices again, and to see Liz and occasionally Mark sticking with it.

When he was teaching seminarians, Jens used to emphasize that preaching is not a weekly reiteration of the gospel. Rather it is using the biblical text to help listeners who know that the gospel is true to see their world as it truly is.

And although Karl Barth never completed the projected ecclesiological parts of his Church Dogmatics, it seems likely that he intended a turn to the paradox that the Body is most in Christ not when it is obviously religious but when it is receiving the world back from God as a gift.

In a similar way, some theologically Eastern figures like Alexander Schmemann and John Yiannias, to name just two, stress that the Body just is the visible society that emerges as the Three engage the creation.

+ Peter's questions have gotten more scriptural and even cheerfully dogmatic and evangelical as they have been less explicitly churchy :-D


Anonymous said...

Erm, climate change?

Jean said...

Interesting prospect Bosco. Certainly having party wars - where one threatens to scrap policies bought in by the other and vice versa doesn’t have a lot of attractional qualities. Certainly the policies being put forward by parties at the moment do not lead one to lean to much towards one party or another!

Re the economy I am not so knowledgable in that area +Peter but I am not convinced how are economy is growing is the central contributing factor to some of our systemic issues. The growth in inequality - the divide between rich and poor in NZ has been growing for a long time independent of economic success (e.g. economic success alone does not seem to lead to bridging this gap). Interestingly I see this play out in my extended family with some cousins being beyond wealthy (kids at private schools, overseas uni’s, multiple houses and their parents uncomfortable at their children’s wealth), and other cousins struggling. The letter from 90 wealthy NZers asking for a wealth tax was quite the novelty https://www.1news.co.nz/2023/05/11/90-wealthy-kiwis-sign-open-letter-asking-to-pay-more-tax/… and in respect to tax the individual Australian income tax rates except for their lowest bracket are higher than ours. Also at the risk of putting my political foot in things in regards to infrastructure for both health and roads, and our education system rather than improving these social areas suffered from major under-investment when building the economy was our countries primary focus and we are now paying the price for that so to speak. I accept economics are an important factor in any countries operation however, if they become the driving force I think other things are overlooked. Take for example (sorry BW) the US Health System, the wealthiest country in the world, the most expensive system in the developed world, while covering fewer people and having compared to many countries poor overall health outcomes (ranked 24th).

How does this relate to theology and faith lol 😂 will have to ponder that one… stewardship I guess, wise stewardship… I am keen to read that biography of the NZ missionary doctor in Bangladesh.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for comments above!

Rhys: fair point, I haven’t said anything about climate change policies/proposals.

Why might I have missed that (I ask myself)?

Perhaps because no party is actually offering anything which will make much difference to what we are already doing AND is a something which is achievable?

Even this week’s $2b announcement by Labour seems, well, interesting as a paper proposal, and not a distinctive change which will take place within some specific time frame.

A further thought, returning to the age old question of what Oz is up to: we are a small nation shutting down extraction of natural fuels over time; Australia is bigger, extracts (literally) tons of stuff, including coal, and exports it to one of the world’s greatest polluting nations (maybe two, India as well?). Its resulting economy offers attractions to Kiwis to leave our islands for their brighter lights and higher dollars. A real difference down under would be Australia closing its mines - good for the world and good for us retaining out talent!

MsLiz said...

Re climate change initiatives it can be easy to miss knowing about positive things that are happening, an example I came across yesterday was at the new milk powder factory near Gore. They started with a coal-fired boiler but recently (in July) installed an electrode boiler, expected to be commissioned in October. The other will become a backup. According to the ODT its the first high-pressure electrode boiler at a milk powder factory in New Zealand. "The project has been approved for $5 million in co-funding from the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry Fund." https://www.odt.co.nz/news/the-south-today/electric-upgrade-mataura-valley-milk

Jean said...

Hi Liz a good point to raise…. While many of us will acknowledge environmentally we have gotten ourselves into a sorry state it is encouraging when you see how many projects and initiatives are currently around to help remedy or mitigate this. As for mining and Australia +Peter that industry certainly would impact on Australia’s economic position alongside their economies of scale in terms of importing compared to NZ’s population.

A lot seems to come down to priorities and trade-off’s whether economic, environmental or social both nationally or internationally. When our dairy industry entered into mass irrigation to sustain higher milk yields on farm land not other-wise suitable for dairy farming the income gained increased while the nitrates used on soils impacted waterways and growing awareness of the carbon footprint rose. For decades developed countries have used raw products from developing countries added value through manufacturing/processing and benefited from the exchange. Trans-national companies have used free-trade zones in countries with cheap labour to avoid paying tax and taken profits off-shore (and then we visit dollar shops and play our part in it all : ) ).

Christian stewardship, ‘everyone according to their need’ the concept of the common good, love thy neighbour…, the social implications of the year of jubilee, cast your bread upon the waters, leave the gleanings for the poor, sabbath for the land as well as the people…. Etc. Not many of us like to give up things (such as eating vegetables out of season to reduce carbon emissions or suspending people’s debts when they fall on hard times)…. However, perhaps it is our lens that is off-skew at times, when you are able to see the benefits of good stewardship it is easier to buy into it - excuse the pun. Take our on-shelf Fair Trade banana brand All Good, when I know 150 growers in a co-op pay their staff decent wages, the product is organic, and health and education facilities are also provided with the proceeds of this product convincing myself to pay $1 more a bunch comes easier. Nor does paying tax that supports a public health system - acknowledging there is room for improvement : ) - that saved my nephews life which would never have been feasible privately do the extensive care he required.

And again sorry off-topic, and on a tirade, not sure what this has to do with the election!

Anonymous said...

Good tirades, Jean.

"not sure what this has to do with the election"

Perhaps elections should have more to do with your tirades? What I hear in them is reasonable caution about the balances that regulators of industrial value chains have struck between efficiency at scale and fit for use. Should voting constrain these balances? If so, how?

When the throughputs are capital or energy or medical care or transportation or land use or education or homebuilding, we feel that there are urgent public and private stakes in these processes. Yet our systems of political, industrial, and corporate governance did not evolve to strike intelligent balances between global and local scales, public and private interests, and efficient and fitting processes.


MsLiz said...

Thanks Jean, resonates with me, surely 'Christian stewardship' implies we should be aware of what's happening in our corner of creation. Which party wins at Election time affects legislative priorities and focus.. which is best placed to consult with our diverse communities, scientists, economists, etc and generate a way forward that balances economy and quality of life? Your example of nitrates for instance.. health risk to rural people dependent on bores due to increased nitrates in groundwater.

~what prompted above comment was an April Stuff article I read this morning which highlighted a huge disconnect between science and law with respect to Braided Rivers and the need for a specific legal definition for braidplain.

ECan lost a High Court case that curbed their efforts to effectively regulate activity on the braidplain. They were trying to protect against flood devastation (and consequent damage to houses and developed land) but lost due to the citing of an old Supreme Court decision from over a century ago based on a definition for riverbed that's inadequate for braided rivers.

Remedy requires amending the RMA (the government's supposedly overhauling the RMA anyway). In a system where it seems old laws trump modern science in the courts, whoever's in government needs to be proactive in getting this stuff sorted! Sure opened my eyes to the complexities inherent in our legal system :(


Jean said...

It is a dilemma BW as governmental involvement is often seen as regulation - albeit there are different types of regulation. An encouraging example was my niece whose art class went to a local beach to collect rubbish to illustrate the state of our oceans and they couldn’t find any!! Apparently due to resource consent processes the business close by are duty bound to keep the section of beach that runs alongside their business free of rubbish!

Your second paragraph 8.14 is an interesting point. If not for the common good what did our governance structures evolve to do - I guess for business it was primarily making a living and expansion? Yet politics surely must have had some sense in its development of maintaining a healthy society in all forms, or was power a primary motivator or the personal advantages that come with being involved?

For myself after thinking about policies/parties approach to different matters, I look for integrity in politicians who advocate for what they hold as important regardless of whether that will get them the top job or win the biggest popularity contest. And I am not very keen on slander of other parties or being bought by election promo’s that target specific people in order to win votes aka the career politicians who change their opinions each election depending upon what they think may reel in those with a particular mindset.

Anonymous said...

"If not for the common good what did our governance structures evolve to do?"

Conversation often gets stuck at just this point.

We (dis)like our polities as embodiments of aspirations that we care less or more about (eg the common good). But in every sphere of life, catastrophes, dangers, and crises that are not normally inspiring have shaped the institutions that we know through generations.

Most institutions do satisfactory work or they would not survive competition with their rivals. But they do much of that good work in spite of their pretenses rather than because of them.

Tastes differ. Some eat cake for the cake, others for the icing. Some want the *effectual truth* about our human associations (Machiavelli, Joseph Schumpeter), others some lyrical rationalization for ideal participation (Plato, John Rawls). If the latter persist in their folly, they can become wise, but hereabouts I myself have usually preferred the former.

Individuals fail and often sin when they identify the character and will of YHWH with their own temperaments. Down the years at ADU, we have heard love love love opposed to every discipline and law law law that rages at clouds for not being cubes. Listening to the Lord's critique of such log-eyed mote-picking in St Matthew vii 5, one could hear that (1) this is deeper than miscalculation, (2) acting on a magnificent moral sentiment is no guarantee that one is not also doing extravagant evil, (3) dialogue in him is an occasion of metanoia, and (4) we find his will together and he blesses that search.

So conversation about any human association will be better as it gives roughly equal time to both the goods that it may secure and its own character as a creature (not) surviving in time.