Crime and poverty in South Auckland are once again in the headlines, just as they have been every month for the last ten years, and probably will be for the next ten as well. Despite government programme after government programme after government programme, it just doesn't get any better, does it.
Crime and poverty in South Auckland is not the result of a shortage of money or a full moon, it's the result of an excess of poor choices. Many of those poor choices have been from politicians, who have sat back and watched as government programme after government programme after government programme has had absolutely no positive effect on either crime or poverty, and yet have never bothered to themselves whether it's their own programmes that might be to blame.
Let me give you something to think about: No part of New Zealand has had more government than South Auckland. And I suggest, as a former resident of the place (and one who still visits to help out with my old footy team in Manurewa*), it's no accident that no part of New Zealand is less attractive.
Most of South Auckland is government-planned, government-designed, and built almost entirely with government money -- and every new problem attracts more government action plans and even more "resources."
Government houses fill the suburbs and people overwhelmingly on government benefits fill those houses, from which children emerge every day to go to government schools where the latest fashionable government curricula and government educational programmes are delivered, and their parents emerge every three years to tick the box of the political party promising even more government intrusion, and even more suffocation of enterprise.
If anecdotal evidence is correct, there are more government programmes, government plans, government agencies, and government-employed welfare agents per-square kilometre in South Auckland than there is anywhere else in the country outside parliament and its surrounds. And the place is a disaster.
Might I invite readers to have a really good, hard think about that as they read the daily headlines that emerge from there.
The problems of South Auckland are not too little government, but too much. If there is a violent underclass, and South Auckland seems to be doing its best to prove that there is, then it is the perverse incentives created by government paternalism and forced redistribution that has given birth to it. Between them they remove any reward for responsibility -- and if South Auckland really is poor in any one thing, it it this.
Paternalism undermines responsibility. Dependency creates disaster.
Lindsay Mitchell put it bluntly last year: "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," and many of them live (and vote) in South Auckland.
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.
I've written before about this, and I'll give you the links in a moment, but think for a moment about just one phrase above, and how the incentives created above have fostered what it describes: "Their thoughts are only for today..."
That is the problem at the heart of South Auckland. Think about it. How you solve that takes more than just another government programme.
Tomorrow I'll mention some solutions -- some of them hard, some of them easy, none of them involving knee jerk bans on bottle stores, armed police patrols, or more social workers.
The warrior culture of South Auckland, Part 1 - NOT PC (October, 2005)
The 'warrior culture' of South Auckland, Part 2 - NOT PC (October, 2005)
More social workers, more violence - NOT PC (November, 2005)
The great con that is social welfare - Peter Osborne, Libertarianz, Scoop, (January, 2007)
* I'll be out there at Mountfort Park on Saturday, in fact, installing barbed wire around the interchange bench. ;^)