Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Who created the underclass?

If John Key is the solution, then we're really in the shit. Feeling annoyed this morning that anything as vacuous as John Boy's blatherings of yesterday can be taken any way but with a laxative, I stumbled up on this over at Cafe Hayek, which I've changed only slightly, as is 'The Kiwi Way.'
Call me cynical but I doubt that most politicians who promise to solve (real and imaginary) problems by passing statutes and peddling policy truly believe their own rhetoric. They might not disbelieve what they say, but I'm convinced that politicians don't ponder the complexities of reality deeply enough to convince themselves of the truth of what they proclaim. They say what they say and promise what they promise chiefly as a means of ascending to power and glory.

I suspect that people self-select into politics because they have an unusually large lust for being in the limelight and an unusually small concern for the ethics of the actions they must take to get there. And because enough voters stand ready to blame their own (real and imaginary) misfortunes on the evil doings of "the rich" or "the corporate elite" or unprincipled power-seekers eager to ride this ignorance into office.
If John Key's underclass exists anywhere, I reflected that it surely exists in South Auckland, and I thought back to a comment I made last year after the seventh homicide in South Auckland in just three months and on the back of a new government programme that was launched then "to take on South Auckland's street violence problem" (and that predictably has had no discernible impact):
Let me give you something to think about: No part of New Zealand has had more government than South Auckland. Most of South Auckland is government-planned, government-designed, and built with government money -- and every new problem attracts more government action plans and even more "resources."

Government houses fill the suburbs, people overwhelmingly on government benefits fill them, children go to government schools where the latest fashionable government curricula and government educational programmes are delivered, and (if anecdotal evidence is correct) there are more government programmes, government plans, government agencies, and government-employed welfare agents per-square kilometre than anywhere else in the country outside parliament and its surrounds.

The result has not been good. In fact, it has been catastrophic.

Might I invite readers to have a really good, hard think about that.
Do you think that more government programmes, or more government-sponsored programmes -- peddled by whichever party in whatever fashion -- are really going to fix the problems that too much government in the lives of people has already helped to create?

When government is the solution, there's every chance that it was government that created the problem. Will even more government remedy that? Lindsay Mitchell puts it bluntly: Whatever the arguments about the legitimacy of the dropping unemployment figures, "[don't] forget there are still almost 300,000 working age beneficiaries - double the number we had 20 years ago..."
The underclass isn't everybody on a benefit. It's a group of people who refuse to live in society in a peaceable, co-operative and constructive way. Their thoughts are only for today and themselves. If they aren't already criminals of some kind they are on the fringes. And it isn't an "emerging" class of people. But, judging by what we read in the newspapers and what we see on TV, or what we experience firsthand as victims, it is growing. Bugger reported crime levels. Look at victims of crime surveys.

Then if you looked at WINZ records most of these people are there. They abuse welfare, they abuse or neglect their children, they abuse each other. But most of all, they abuse opportunity.

This country, with its passion for egalitarianism, has bent over backwards to give each and every person opportunity and many have simply hurled the opportunity back in the faces of well-meaning people.
That's true, isn't it, and no amount of blathering -- however well-intentioned -- can change that. As the Libertarianz spokesman to deregulate welfare Peter Osborne says,
"John Key's mumblings of 'The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All' is typical PC speak for further political meddling into our lives and more disastrous social engineering.... If life is to have any meaning or value people must help each other by choice, not through involuntary redistribution."
That's the basic truth that all the talk of government assistance for the underclass fails to address, isn't it: that if anything has created this underclass, then it is government assistance and forced redistribution. More of the same will only bring more of the same.

LINK: On the nature of politics - Cafe Hayek
Key's speech "ho hum" - Lindsay Mitchell
More government. More programmes. More violence. - Not PC (Peter Cresswell), Sept, 2006
The great con that is social welfare - Peter Osborne, Libertarianz, Scoop

Politics-NZ, Politics-National, Welfare
, Auckland, Libertarianism


  1. I guess the issue that concerns me, PC, is how to retreat from the current bloated welfare state.

    Of course Government, and welfare, creates dysfunctional families that have no connection to society other than through the negative impacts they have on society.

    I don't advocate more intervention. But I don't think simply cutting off all welfare immediately is the solution. My view is that a different kind of intervention with a very different purpose is the solution.

    The current purpose of welfare is to sustain a person's living while they are unable to provide for themselves. What it does, of course, is make people unable to provide for themselves, because they are dependent on welfare.

    New Zealand's underclass--in South and West Auckland, in Porirua, and increasingly in provincial New Zealand--isn't capable of functioning in normal society. When you believe it is normal to commit violent crime, breed children for no other purpose than that it is physiologically possible to become pregnant, and contribute to a ghetto society, you're not really capable of anything other than a dysfunctional life.

    The pinko liberals squeal at any attempt to encourage dysfunctional people to live within normal society. Making dysfunctional children of dysfunctional parents attend school is an outrageous attack on their civil liberties. Requiring long-term unemployed to get a job when available threatens their self-respect. Providing incentives to people to make the right choices pisses off the chardonnay-swilling, Labour-voting wankers in Grey Lynn.

    So, yes, I'm in favour of very strict rules around welfare. I'm very comfortable with putting in place absolute requirements of civil behaviour, and parental responsibility. I've blogged about the specifics today.

    Because the purpose should be to remove the need for welfare entirely.

  2. What is hilarious is DPF's "reaction from the blogosphere" post. If you just read DPF, it's like reading the NZ Herald on climate science: no dissenting voices, not even in the blogosphere.

    But anyway, I might stand for office in South Auckland this year, I'll have to work on my limelight skills and surgically remove my conscience it seems.

  3. nicely put, allthough surely anybody other tan clarke and crew running the country would be an improvement.
    Egalitarianism would have to be the worst swear word in use today.

  4. "I guess the issue that concerns me, PC, is how to retreat from the current bloated welfare state."

    I don't see John Boy reflecting that concern at all, I'm afraid, and (without either endorsing or criticising the proposals posted on your blog today) in no way would I expect anything put together by John Boy's "tasked" spokes-things to reflect anything close to what you've proposed.

    Too radical for John Boy's blandishments, even if he were to accept your goals.

  5. John Key is a bad joke.
    What we have now is a choice between Marx Lite and Marx-even-liter.
    Obviously, the Nats are setting out to capture the welfare vote because it's such a huge slice of the electorate.
    Equally obviously they're not going to risk pissing that lot off.
    Nothing will change, whatever label the government wears.

  6. It must be nice to live in a world where complex social problems are easily fixable by simple catch phrases like "less government."

    I agree that not everyone who is on a benefit is part of the underclass as defined- which I take to be recidivist criminals with generally dysfunctional lives- who are bad parents, constantly engage in anti social behaviours etc. I might be thrown out of the pinko liberal club for saying this but I'm well aware that a small minority of this type exist & I think they are a problem- a drain on the taxpayer, yes, but more particularly a problem for their neighbours who live in close proximity to them. Also poor children born to this kind of dysfunction will have to be quite exceptional if they are to break the cycle of the bad start they have been given through no fault of their own.

    But you can't seriously believe that criminals and malingerers are a new thing. They existed a long time before the so called bloated welfare state. For a Victorian perspective read London Labour and the London Poor and see the distinction there between the deserving and non deserving poor. Or maybe read Dickens. For a Medieval perspective you could try some of the material following the Black Plague when there was a shortage of labour. People like that do not exist because of the welfare state. They exist anyway.

    I don't know what the answer is- maybe there isn't one- but there are things the state can do to mitigate problems and try to provide pathways out of the mire for at least some - literacy programmes, compulsory education and so forth.

    I won't be voting for Key because I think Workfare is an equally simple minded response to a complex social problem. It might- stress might- be something that would be beneficial for a small number of beneficiaries but I think the vast number need a far more nuanced approach.

    Beneficiary bashers for example seldom take the time to think about how a lot of people- women mostly- on benefits are caring for children with severe physical and developmental problems. Somebody who basically has a life sentence of caring for a child with severe autism alone following a marriage break up isn't going to be helped by mandatory participation in make work schemes. People like that deserve our compassion and support. People unemployed because they have never learned to read need a literacy programme--and so forth.

    I realise that 99% of people discussing this on the internet really aren't interested in considering alternative perspectives but rather prefer engaging in knee jerk responses based on their existing prejudices so I probably just wasted the minutes of my life I spent typing this. Oh well.


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