Sunday, July 31, 2005

Family policy

The following parties generally support freedom of choice - Greens and labour and act.
The parties such as national, united future NZ first tend to be more traditional and will be more likely to pass laws that protect some sort of traditional values.

Family support and taxation - This generally relates to support for traditional family units, tax credits family allowances child allowances and so forth. As a social liberal I think policy on the whole should be neutral to things such as "the structure of the family". Focusing on things like this just for the sake of it is likely to result in compromises towards inferior policy.

I am quite interested in the green policy of a minimum tax rate of 0% as exists in sth Korea to avoid wasting time taxing that group. And the dissipation of good parenting strategies is a good idea however I am aware that often methods popular in academia are not actually good parenting strategies. What one needs are strategies that have been objectively proven.

I think there is a major problem where indoviduals are penalised in the current system with abatements and so forth when they admit they live in a family - or they pay more tax if one person takes on a second job and the other stays home. We should look into methods to make taxation and income neutral to relationship status and ideally also neutral to changes such as the above. otherwise the government is paying people to seperate, this is antisocial.

The government should make no record of marriage in this context and stay out of hte business of rewarding or punishing people for doing it.

I probably on balance support Labour on this topic.

Voter's Note

Please note that with all these policies the country is currently somwhere near where my "median voter" was situated in the earlier post. this means that you can assume a vote for labour is a vote to move slightly left a vote for united future is a vote to stay still a vote for national is a vote to move somewhat more to the right, a vote for the greens is a vote to move so far left you fall off the edge of reality. of course it isn't quite that simple but that will help as a rule of thumb.

Economic policy

Again the left aims for equality the right aims for efficiency as a result of government not interfering.

I suggest the government should try to follow economically optimal policy on each issue. This means it will tax money where it can do something sensible with that money that will give a return on investment. For example general policy areas like education or specific policies like buying Air NZ. Each decision should be valued on its own merits like a business would value decisions and made with a very long term outlook in mind.

Taxes - I think there are many economically rational things the government can do - I also think that there is a lot of wastage in government. I therefore support higher taxes to fund the new rational policies and lower taxes where they are justified by reductions in spending. It doesn’t really mater where the tax level is as long as you create more value than you destroy since it will just push up incomes.
Taxation also serves the purpose of fighting the increace in the spread of incomes - this is good because it preserves the market and reduces the slow monopolization of money and reduction of incentive to work for certain sectors.
It is nonsense to have a target level of taxation without a target level of spending and the level of spending is a moving target. I generally am in favour of paying off debt where that debt is not directly attributable to an investment that earns a rate of return exceeding the cost of that debt. Basic economics.

Export/industry - the government should have a highly coordinated export/industry policy it has gone some way to structuring this in its growth and innovation framework but it can go further in enacting the policies.

Tariffs - I am very in favour of free trade HOWEVER other countries must reciprocate - otherwise we pay for their development. Furthermore there are certain situations where protecting an industry may help it to develop and if this can be done without retaliation it makes good pragmatic policy. We must prevent politics from being a reason for such protection. In the vast majority of countries with protections the main reason is getting support from interest groups - for example French farmers. Farming is not an industry that should be protected because it does not offer the development potential that would be required to justify the protection. If you want to be a technology powerhouse you won’t get there by just focusing on being a really efficient farm - worse yet the farmers may well force through policies that undermine the other industries. You may at some stage have to discourage certain industries in order to encourage progress to another level - this is what Singapore did.

Employment relations - discourage strikes - strikes destroy value and are what I term a negative strategy. People and organizations that cause strikes should be exposed to the costs they cause for others. However in place of these union strikes the employers must have protection - too often laws go unenforced in he workplace and therefore there needs to be a fairly powerful fining authority for workplace disputes. However I am generally anti red tape so laws should be made as simple and flexible as possible.

Roding and infrastructure - the resource management act has stood in the way of projects like the eastern corridor - remove the act so that these projects can proceed. As act says the "Primary role of government should be to ensure that the road system is efficient whether publicly or privately provided. Encourage introduction of economic pricing for road usage." (The first one I can quote!) Beautiful pragmatism there.

Also we should prevent local input into whether there will be speed bumps or high curbs on the roads - no one wants noisy cars driving down their roads but it serves no purpose just forcing them to someone else’s road.


The right generally opposes welfare and where it accepts it thinks it should be the absolute minimum to survive until you get a job. The far left believes it should be universal at a reasonable level of income.

I think there should only be one benefit because the benefits should be behavour neutral. this means you have no reason to want to move from sickness to unemployment to pension and you all have equal incentive to find a job if possible (yes including pensioners). This also makes administration easier.

I am very interested in the concept of a universal benefit. Now you may have heard of it as a socialist policy but in this context it is a little different. The major problem with the current policy is that some members of society will face marginal tax rates (the effective tax on earning another dollar) close to or over 100% - I personally have been exposed to a well over 100% tax rate where my benefit (student) was reduced by more than the additional amount that my partner earns. Basically punishing me for her working an extra few hours.

This cannot be allowed to happen.
A universal benefit allows us to help the poorest in society to not starve and yet not distort the behaviour of any other group. For middle class to rich people it will amount to a small tax deduction to poor it will be a small payment.

On to more general welfare policy...

A government should realise that you cannot let people starve - if you reduce a part of society to desperation you are likely to have to fight them and poverty can become a trap. HOWEVER the main reason is not a poverty trap it is lethargy - i.e. people getting in a habit of not working. This means there is some value in forcing people to work (although there are also costs it must be measured against). And the government has an obligation to use any tools it has to get these people work even as far as it might start counting payments as debt and taking assets from them or requiring them to move to places where suitable work is available.

Living on current unemployment rates is possible and in fact quite easy IF you are not a person who has a need to buy consumer goods or a person who can’t understand finances properly (I speak from experience). However most people do have trouble with finances unfortunately some of these people will be poor at any income, but it also means that htey will have the incentive to work at almost any income also.

My hard headed pragmatism leaves me somewhat closer to national on this issue although I doubt they are ready for my universal benefit proposal.

Asset testing - well a universal benefit would solve the problem but In the current system I have a neat solution - when you first go on a benefit you probably need to be tested (including the value of your home) after that you can save all you like.

time limits on benefits - on a case by case or a time limit basis people could be required to do some work - either something with value or if supervision costs too much (i.e. for particularly low value employees) then just production of something that can demonstrate they did the equivalent of a 8 hr days work - this is good because it creates work habits.

Child care and return to work policies - a universal child care benefit and various other policies to make making good childcare decisions cheaper.

Superannuation - Rise the age to 70 just based on the fact that people are now healthier when they are older - the argument for 65 has expired. Furthermore the benefit should just be an unemployment benefit - many can work perfectly well at 70 or 75 no reason to take them out of the work force unless they genuinely cannot work.


Basically the right supports private health care based on arguments that it is efficient. The left supports full public health care based on arguments for fairness.

I suggest that private health care is actually not very efficient (see the USA) and bureaucratic public health care ends up failing to be fair due to its inefficiency (take waiting lists for example).

In order for a health care system to achieve the aims of helping the largest number of people as much as possible it needs to be both coordinated (probably on the whole public) and highly pragmatic - i.e. safe from issue by issue political meddling but obliged to meet targets.

Operations that get people back into the work force or anything else that pays for itself should be highly prioritised and fully public ally funded. However governments should get away from naming a set amount of sex change operations or whatever they wish to offer each year and just allocate resource where it is most desperately required at any moment.

On this issue I am probably closest to labour not that one can tell a hell of a lot of difference in their fairly hot air filled proclamations.

Education 2

Breakdown of positions

Early childhood - subsidized early childhood care with schooling with established early childhood methods - it is a public good to provide early childhood education and socialization and it is never too early to start.

tertiary student allowances - there should be only one benefit - the unemployment benefit (or a universal benefit) - students who are unemployed should get that at that level there should be no punishment for studying besides the direct costs. Fees should be set depending on the course some will be free some won't even have student loans available. Student loans MUST cost the students at least the cost of capital to the state. It is better to have reduced fees than a zero interest policy.

Access to schools - No strong position but would look into removal of zoning

Education policy

There are two main arguments in education policy
1) The right (national act) see schools as no longer having competitive systems that encourage achievement and that trying to improve the system without addressing this is futile. Education is generally seen as a means to an ends (work).
2) The left sees schools as having large numbers of people who cannot achieve because they are disadvantaged. They see these people as needing a hand up and see raw competition as something that will just make it more difficult for these people furthermore that it is a public good and not a means to an end.

Both are correct. Competition is one method of encouraging people to achieve and education should be widely available and seen as a public good.

In this area I probably most closely resemble the conservatives. I believe that things that are not given clear guidance become guided by things such as internal politics instead.

There must be some aims that we wish to achieve in our education system and we must create incentives for everyone to work towards those aims. Personally I think the main aim is return on investment - we want the students to be educated enough that they will be able to pay taxes that can be used to educate the next generation.
Therefore, the teachers and lecturers must be measures in some manner that encourages them to educate students in this way. A teacher that is able to get students better marks in external exams should thus be paid more a teacher that cannot improve their marks should be fired or moved to another area. Furthermore teaching is a very important job in society - sufficient money must be allocated in order to attract the right people.
The case is even worse in tertiary education than secondary where lecturers design and mark their own courses - teach what they want and then are hired or fired on the totally unrelated ability to publish articles.

But not all of this is related to the teachers. There is a fundamental problem in our schools related to streaming and the ability of students to choose.

First we encourage students to do science and so forth during school all the way up to 7th form BUT what if the person already knows they will be a plumber? There is nothing wrong with being a plumber you may well make twice as much as the biologist but you may still find yourself pushed into biology classes that will go to waste. So for one policy they should stream education as early as possible.

Second students are not particularly great at making economically rational choices. For example students vastly overestimate the value of degrees and you may be surprised to know many higher degrees actually reduce your lifetime earnings (because you have to spend some years studying of them). Worse yet many short degrees such as tourism and broadcasting are also outright wastes of money for almost all participants since they teach very little that is required for the industry.

In order to address these problems the government should be selective in regard to where it provides funding. Courses such as engineering that it knows will pay for they many times over in taxes later on can be fully funded. Courses like ancient history? Well if you have reason to believe it won’t pay for itself then the students should have to pay. This will help students to see clearly what courses will help them get good jobs and further encourage lecturers to design good courses.

A final problem is the foreign student issue. More foreign student’s good right? Well yes in the long run but in the short run it can cause universities to do stupid things. For example let’s see a uni can have 300 engineering students per year and the country needs 300 per year then 200 foreign students come in - they take 200 places (pushed by their parents possibly). The uni now considers making the school bigger - but it can’t do that immediately it has to buy land hire staff go through bureaucracy. Net outcome? Less engineers in NZ when the foreign students go home.

I dont trust any political party to do this right but national is most likely to start to adress the problem.

general principles

The first topic on the site is general principles

There are a collection of parties that are in favour of what I might term Libertarianism the only significant one being ACT. They believe that the market can run the economy all by itself.
On the other side of the spectrum we have parties that believe in equality and the government taking steps to ensure that income is distributed fairly equally amongst people.
Those in the former group also tend to be a little morally conservative and those in the latter group tend to be slightly more morally liberal. As paradoxical as this is philosophically it is a result of the age and demographics of their supporters.

I think this is an unfortunate division because in reality the correct decision is sometimes more government and sometimes less government.

Governments should leave ideology of this sort at the door when considering a new proposal and realise that sometimes buying an asset might be good for policy and selling it might be good in other cases.

So these parties can be aranged on the spectrom approximatly thus
greens - maori party - progressives - Labour - UF - NZfirst - national - act
the average NZder is around where UF stands or possibly just within labour (from most polls) and the average NZfirst supporter is closer to labour than national this means the major left party is "center left" while hte major right party is "right" take from that what you will.

Anyway to declare my position I am a serious floating voter - I have voted national and NZfirst in the past and have also been a labour supporter. I am currently undecided. But I am quite anti Green/Act.

Maxim launches a political site

Maxim has launched a site to inform the public on the election it seems quite good nad not much bias.
In hte light of this I will start a series on my opinion and the parties oppinion on major issues

Friday, July 01, 2005


These are my fundamental principles in order

1) I am a Utilitarian - I believe policies should be made in the interests of all people.
Some confuse utilitarianism with socialism actually it is very different - this is what I might term "short sighted utilitarian" these people try to do what is best for people in the next few seconds. In order to make the right long term decision we must consider that things such as capitalism make useful tools, and sometimes it will be in the interest of all to NOT help someone who is in need because those resources are needed elsewhere or because he needs to learn to help himself.

2) I am a pragmatist
I believe there are no simple rules that always work. The world is full of greys not black and white and any simple rule will just prevent you from seeing the real best answer. For example, I see no problem with hypocracy if some unpredicted situation forces you to go against what you said.

3) I am not a wishful thinker
I constantly look for views that are against my own self interest and look for negative outcomes in my own theories. I see the lack of negative outcomes as just a result of you not looking for them. I think very few people in the world are honest to themselves.

4) I believe in logic
I think the world is fairly easy to understand when you are not looking at it through biased eyes. Everything from quantum physics to human politics is fairly straight-forward as long as you look to understand (even if difficult to predict).