NOT PJ: Public Finances
This week Bernard Darnton looks at what happens when you sup with the devil and ask for seconds.
The media is aflutter with concern for the “right to privacy” of two beneficiaries who chose to whine about their finances in public. The aggrieved pair are “astonished” and “flabbergasted” that Minister for Westie Affairs Paula Bennett trumped their “right to privacy” with “turnabout is fair play.”
Mses Fuller and Johnston were the stars of a Sunday Herald story histrionically titled “Govt axe destroys dreams.” There are innumerable cases where government axes – or at least sharpened clipboards, suffocating paperwork, and strangulating red tape – do destroy dreams. In some crappier parts of the world the government axes are less metaphorical and more, well, axe-like.
In this case, however, the dream was the dream of yet more free cash from the government. The axe was a budget decision that there would be minutely less money dished out on education subsidies this year – probably because most of it got spent on basket-weaving and similar nonsense. Bennett’s crime was to inform us that the Sunday Herald’s two heroines were already pulling down about $80,000 between them.
Welcome to the welfare state: Give a man a fish and he’ll demand chips too.
Sue Bradford immediately accused Paula Bennett of beneficiary bashing. Mind you, anyone who suggests that it’s not the state’s job to provide free breakfast in bed with extra caviar is accused by Sue Bradford of beneficiary bashing. Listening to her is just extra wear and tear on my eardrums that I can do without.
Somehow, Annette King has concluded that the financial affairs of Fuller and Johnston are private and should remain secret, even after Fuller and Johnston have published details of their financial woes, alongside suitably sad photographs, in the Sunday Herald and also after King herself had discussed said financial affairs in Parliament.
Nope. The way that modern democratic socialism works is that thousands of wannabe beneficiaries gang up every election and vote themselves the contents of each other wallets. This system supposes that the contents of everyone’s wallets are of intimate concern to everyone else involved. So it’s a bit bloody rich for the supporters of this scheme to complain when those of us who pay the bills find out where the cash actually goes.
There is such a thing as the right to privacy but it derives from the right to property. What goes on in my house is my business because it’s my house. But that changes if I invite the Sunday Herald into my house to show them the broken windows and mildew and to have dejected photos taken. And if someone then points out that it’s not as crap as I’d made out I can hardly complain. And if I was using the publicity to try and convince people to chip in and buy me a spa pool I should probably just slink back to where I’d come from.
The details of my income are private because they’re a purely voluntary arrangement between me and my employer. They don’t concern anyone else. Those of Mses Fuller and Johnston on the other hand (and that of Ms Bennett, for that matter) concern everyone who has their pay packets raided by Inland Revenue to fund our gargantuan welfare state.
The debate has been framed as a big, bad government picking on a couple of helpless individuals battling to improve themselves. A big, bad government trying to chill the free speech of a couple of citizens who dared to criticise it. In fact, the ones telling this story are the ones trying to make the government bigger and badder.
If you don’t want the government to tell everyone your income then stop voting for governments that demand to know how much you earn.
* * Read Bernard Darnton’s column every Thursday here at NOT PC * *