Thursday, June 26, 2008

Privatising the forests

Privatisation is about as popular in the present political environment as Clint Rickards doing stand-up in a home for battered women.  No airport shares must be sold to Canadians.  No Air New Zealand shares must be sold to New Zealanders.   And the likes of TVNZ, NZ Post, Kiwibank, Solid Energy, Landcorp, Ontrack, Broadcast Communications Ltd, MetService Airways Corporation and the state-owned power generators ... well, don't even think about it.   Keeping state assets in state hands is supposed to be a "public good," no matter how badly mismanaged the asset.

There are people who will die in a ditch to fight any privatisation of state assets.  That is, any privatisation except one. On this one they have a blind spot.  It's when state assets are given to people with brown faces as payment for things we haven't done.

Note that $400 million of state forestry assets are being given to Maori, not to Maoris -- that is, they are being given as one lump to seven central north island tribal leaders, not as shares to individual iwi members (not to mention the $40 million that lawyers involved have pulled down for doing the deal).  Just as with previous "treaty settlements" that handed over forests and fisheries to a Browntable of  tribal leaders whose snouts are raw and bellies full from years of feeding from the trough, control and privilege is being handed over to a those at the top tribal table, leaving individual iwi members unlikely to see any benefit. 

This is the Maori version of trickle down

Frankly, whatever the injustice of taxpayers paying tribalists for things they didn't do, I'm all in favour of taking land out of the commons, and taking state assets out of state hands -- removing assets from the state's cold dead hands by any means necessary -- but there's no point in simply transferring assets from one munted bureaucracy to another. 

A property right has been created where it didn't previously exist, and that's a good thing.   But yet another opportunity has been lost here to take tribalism out of the mix altogether.  Instead of being detribalised, Maori are being retribalised -- and this is to no-one's benefit but the tribal leaders themselves. The answer would have been to transfer title NOT to tribal leaders in one lump, or to iwi as a whole, but to individuals in the form of transferable shares that would give them control over the asset they've been granted.  Those who've been awarded the shares will be able to do anything they wish with their own share -- which will give an accurate indication of how much they really value this land -- and as Ronald Coase points out (for those who object to privatisations effected in this manner), it's in the nature of things that land titles so created will eventually tend to end up in the hands of those who most value them.  All that's needed is to start the process.  [More on the process proposed here.]

Everybody would win if things had been effected in such a fashion -- except of course for the Knights of the Brown Table for whom fame and fortune now await.  

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8 Comments:

Blogger Dave Mann said...

Good post Peter!

I hijacked your 'scum' post previously (apologies) with a comment about this scandalous travesty - but you must have been already writing about it and your post says it much better than I did, so nice one thank you.

I am really glad to see some discussion about this opened up. The MSM seem to be completely oblivious to this outrage.... either that or they are so cowed by political correctness that they don't dare to question it.

6/26/2008 11:25:00 am  
Blogger Luke H said...

Great post PC. Back when the seabed and foreshore thing was going on, Phil reckoned that the whole thing should be given to Maori in the form of freehold title. Even if such redistribution isn't 'fair' or 'equitable', having the whole thing finally in freehold private ownership would be better than public ownership.

6/26/2008 11:51:00 am  
Blogger Bryan Spondre said...

"The answer would have been to transfer title NOT to tribal leaders in one lump, or to iwi as a whole, but to individuals in the form of transferable shares that would give them control over the asset they've been granted."

Doing that would require identifying which individuals are eligible for a share. That would mean identifying which individuals are Maori ( and of course identifying the characteristics that make an individual Maori). THis , I imagine, would be far to threatening to those on the gravy train. We might discover that being Maori is just a completely artificial construct.

6/26/2008 11:57:00 am  
Anonymous Sus said...

"either that or they are so cowed by political correctness that they don't dare to question it."

Oh, I think it's safe to bet on that, Dave.

Isn't it fun to play with other people's money!
Isn't it a hoot to openly bribe people in election year!
And isn't it so bloody convenient to accuse anybody who has the temerity to even question the legitimacy of dishing out these sort of sums, of being racist?

Challenging the R-word is a no-go area for lefty journos. Best to say nothing, eh.

6/26/2008 12:01:00 pm  
Blogger Bryan Spondre said...

"Isn't it a hoot to openly bribe people in election year! "

And when you are looking down the barrel of losing all the Maori seats you need all the bribes the taxpayer can afford.

6/26/2008 12:06:00 pm  
Anonymous Sus said...

Bryan, wasn't it Voltaire who defined govt as "the art of taking as much money as possible from one group of people and giving it to the other"? I always liked that.

Also Oscar Ameringer:

Politics: the art of obtaining money from the rich and votes from the poor, on the pretext of protecting each from the other.

6/26/2008 03:41:00 pm  
Blogger Stevew said...

Oh well, at least now that they've received their compensation, they'll be able to stand on their own feet and won't need any taxpayer funded health programmes, educational institutions etc.etc. etc....... will they?

6/26/2008 03:42:00 pm  
Anonymous LGM said...

Sus

Voltaire neglected to mention that, during the process of taking from group to give some to the other, there is much ticket clipping and commission writing and make work...

LGM

6/26/2008 04:00:00 pm  

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