Podcast – Homelessness

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

Three expert guests share their knowledge regarding the state of homelessness in New Zealand.

  1. Part I: Alan Johnson (Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit, Salvation Army)
    Overview of homelessness in NZ; statistics; geographic differences across NZ; reasons driving homelessness
  2. Part II: Matthew Mark (City Missioner, Christchurch City Mission)
    Homelessness in Christchurch including post-earthquake
  3. Part III: Green Party Co-Leader MP Marama Davidson
    2016 ‘Ending homelessness in New Zealand’ report; government actions on reducing homelessness

Transcript – Homelessness

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Podcast – Child poverty and the Budget 2018

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

For the second year in a row, Speak Up-Kōrerotia has partnered with CPAG (Child Poverty Action Group) to record a show about child poverty and the Budget. As the first Budget of the new Labour/New Zealand First/Greens coalition, it was expected that the 2018 Budget would see an increase in spending in key areas such as housing and education – but what do the experts say about it?
Speakers were recorded at the Christchurch post-Budget Breakfast MCed by Jane Higgins.

  • Paul Dalziel talked about economy and child poverty
  • Lucy Daeth talked about wellbeing, the All right? campaign, and Christopher Robin
  • Christina McKerchar talked about children and healthy and junk food

Transcript – Child poverty and Budget 2018

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Redesigning the Welfare State in New Zealand: Problems, Polices, Prospects Cover of Child poverty in New Zealand Cover of From innocents to agents Cover of The child poverty debate Cover of Twelve thousand hours Cover of Wellbeing economics Cover of The New Zealand project Cover of Children of Rogernomics Cover of Economic futures Cover of For Each and Every Child Cover of The New Zealand economy

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Podcast – Child poverty and the Budget 2017

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

Co-host Sara Epperson of CPAG (Child Poverty Action Group) joins Sally Carlton to interview Paul Dalziel, Professor of Economics, Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit at Lincoln University, and Helen Leahy, CEO of Te Putahitanga, Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency for Te Wai Pounamu, on the Budget 2017 as viewed through the lens of child poverty.

  • Part I: Paul Dalziel
    Budget 2017 in its economic context; key elements of Budget 2017; putting Budget in layperson’s terms
  • Part II: Helen Leahy
    Budget 2017 and its implications for whānau; family vulnerability and resilience
  • Part III: Discussion
    Government-civil society partnerships and the importance of holistic approaches to family wellbeing; pros and cons of statistics-based funding models; prioritising economic growth against other types of growth

Transcript – Child poverty and Budget 2017

Mentioned in this podcast

Find out more in our collection

Redesigning the Welfare State in New Zealand: Problems, Polices, Prospects Cover of Child poverty in New Zealand Cover of From innocents to agents Cover of The child poverty debate Cover of Twelve thousand hours Cover of Wellbeing economics Cover of The New Zealand project Cover of Children of Rogernomics Cover of Economic futures Cover of For Each and Every Child Cover of The New Zealand economy

More about Speak up – Kōrerotia

The show is also available on the following platforms:

Margaret Wilson and the Struggle for New Zealand Sovereignty

Cover of The Struggle for SovereigntyWORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View events at the Christchurch Arts Festival was awesome enough to have Margaret Wilson speak out of her accumulated legal and political wisdom on Sunday 30 August. Bronwyn Hawyard, author and political scientist at the University of Canterbury, ably chaired the session.

It’s not often that, in your own town, you get a highly accessible ex-Speaker of the House coming to give an intimate talk about critical political issues. And listening to someone with her background had me in awe given that she’s the Former Attorney-General, Minister of the Crown, current Professor of Law. Nothing too serious …
UBS Bookstand

Shifting points of view sessions. WORD Christchurch events at the Christchurch Arts Festival. Sunday 30 August 2015. Flickr 2015-08-30-IMG_9004

Her exposition at the festival was related to her nifty little book The Struggle for Sovereignty: New Zealand and Twenty first Century State. We have a paper copies and eBooks in the library. This short work provides a concise perspective on how – since the economic reforms of the 1980s – the core parts of the sovereign New Zealand state have been eroded and compromised by globalization and the neoliberal, free-market ideology – basically the deregulation, privatization and legislation which seems to give large business entities powers which don’t keep them accountable to citizens.

Mrs Wilson argues that the NZ State: the public service, the legal system and New Zealand’s constitution, are (often by default) providing a fertile ground for deregulation which affects society in all sorts of detrimental ways. Over recent years, Government policy has re-ordered the New Zealand economic environment in keeping with the neoliberal philosophy, and this is exemplified in insecure work and the trend towards free trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Insecure work – In another basic example of how things are going, Mrs Wilson points out that around 30% (over 600,00 humans) of the NZ work force is employed in “insecure/precarious” working conditions – meaning that such roles are “casual”, “fixed term”, “zero hours” etc. Which gives employees minimal bargaining rights for better pay and conditions and no certainty with regard to secure hours for the future. She claims this is due to the global neoliberal trend which NZ has adopted and favours “contract work” over “wages”, as keeping people on contract keeps them working more efficiently, whereas “on wages” people take too long – so the neoliberal (in)sensibility goes.

The TPPA could potentially enable large multi-national businesses the right to sue the NZ Government if our Government enacts laws which hinder their ability to make money – say if we had legislation which made plain packaging on cigarette packs mandatory – a business may have legal recourse if the courts deemed plain packaging affected their ability to make a profit.

Margaret Wilson and Bronwyn Hayward
Margaret Wilson and Bronwyn Hayward. Shifting points of view sessions. WORD Christchurch events at the Christchurch Arts Festival. Sunday 30 August 2015. Flickr 2015-08-30-IMG_8959

It seems our wonderful Pacific democracy is somewhat undermined – as policy can be rushed or hushed through Parliament without the public knowing or debating the nature of its contents. The Select Committee process can be circumvented due to the policy process being carried out “under urgency” – Parliament can rush through policy faster than normal because of some special “urgent” circumstances. All this basically means it’s very hard for the public to make submissions regarding certain policy initiatives. Which is what the Select Committee process is often for.

Margaret Wilson points out that it might be time for Kiwis to really get hold of our State and demand some changes to our Constitution, for example, which could usher in a more robust regulatory regime and pull back the neoliberal economic steam roller so as to make NZ a fairer, more equitable society – maybe resulting in some better contractual conditions and pay for workers somewhere down the line.

However, I asked her if New Zealand even has a “constitutional culture”, and she said one of the things which came out of the most recent constitutional inquiry was that Kiwis generally don’t have a basic understanding of what a constitution even is because its not taught in schools or referred to and celebrated as a crucial part of our history. Unlike the Americans, who have a very staunch constitutional culture. Just think gun control!

Maybe time to teach politics in schools.

Her book “The Struggle for Sovereignty: New Zealand and Twenty first Century State”, is a great tool – a short and to the point read about these technical political issues.

Here’s some quotes from her session:

The evils of inequality

Cover of The spirit level: Why more equal societies almost always do betterThe gap between the rich and the poor has become one of the most topical issues in many countries post GFC (Global Financial Crisis) and post Neo-Liberal economic reforms. More and more people seem to feel that the rich (particularly the super-rich) don’t pay enough tax and have managed to sneakily get away with taking no responsibility for the GFC while the rest of us languish in our lacklustre lifestyles working squillions of hours per week…and all the while paying our fair share to keep society running! Or so the Russell Brand sentiment goes.

So its against this backdrop that The Spirit Level should be read, I guess…

The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone is among a handful of cornerstone works for anyone who is interested in 21st century political and economic thought. I reckon. In fact, I’d almost argue that it is a grand thesis which seeks to give policy advice on how to solve (or markedly reduce) a catalogue of society’s ills through its recommendations and findings.

Inequality = poor outcomes

The key message that authors (and epidemiologists) Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett want to drive home is that the more “unequal” a society is, the more likely that society is to manifest higher degrees of illness, mental illness, drug abuse, widespread poor educational outcomes, obesity, social mobility and cohesion, violence, teen pregnancy, among other societal ills such as rapacious consumerism.

The focus on “inequality” is really on Income Inequality – the income gap between those at the top, middle and bottom. The argument being that countries with larger income gaps experience more societal ills.

International research

Their claims with regard to what drives poor outcomes in terms of societal well-being are backed up by some quite robust research comparing and contrasting various developed countries (and comparing States to States in the USA). Lots of graphs, statistical data etc drawn from reputable organisations such as the United Nations and the World Bank (among many others).

However, not all variables are taken into account which might frustrate some people – claiming rates of obesity are higher in the USA compared to Japan because of the USA’s rough private healthcare system is a bit unfair when you leave out factors such as Japan’s healthy and entrenched culinary traditions, and genetic factors (skinny genes).

More tax…good?

But, it also seems that countries which have higher income taxes and high levels of wealth redistribution (i.e gather large amounts of tax revenue to pay for generous education, welfare, healthcare and maternity leave programmes) are more “equal” than countries which have low taxes and far less social spending – we see less of the aforementioned health and well-being problems if we practice the former!

However, the authors seem more concerned about Income Inequality (even if the average income is quite good but the top income markedly better), not so much tax. But what is outstanding is that pretty much all of the “most equal” countries have really high income tax regimes (Japan, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway).

So you are kind of left to draw your own conclusion about which is the most important – income equity or high tax rates, or both?

Sadly, New Zealand and Australia rank really highly in terms of inequality according to the authors, and therefore, this is what drives a variety of problems here and in Oz. Not just “people being lazy” etc.

Don’t be put off the by the academic sounding nature of the book, it’s really well written which makes all the technical sounding stuff really palatable.

Why are some countries prosperous, and others not?

Cover of Why Nations FailWhy Nations Fail is pretty much a must read for anyone interested in why some countries are prosperous and liberal, and why others aren’t. That doesn’t mean that I espouse its blatant and latent prescriptions or agree with the entirety of the historical narrative that it provides. However, this book deals with the moot and divisive questions which have been rousing academics and lay persons for a long time now: why are some countries rich, productive and (mostly) safe, while others are poor, unproductive and unsafe (internally and externally)?

Economist Daron Acemoglu and political scientist James Robinson attempt to provide answers to these questions through a relatively intensive historical, economic, legal and political exposition. What they come up with is intriguing and fresh. First, the authors attempt to debunk the familiar theories of progress (or lack of) which claim culture, weather and geography are the underlying reasons countries and people groups sink or swim economically and socially. Their primary thesis for what enables countries to enter prosperity rests on what they label and describe as “extractive” and “inclusive” political, legal and economic systems of exchange, but with this comes a focus on institutions, as it is institutions which are pivotal in fostering or hindering political and economic development and innovation.

“Extractive” systems are loosely defined as exclusive political and economic systems where power is centralized and where there are few checks and balances on that power – thus keeping those in government and the elite of such systems free from legal processes which might undermine their monopolies on power and industry. Therefore, such systems don’t foster competition and most importantly innovation, because if citizens in such economies pioneer certain innovations, then they may loose the rights to be partakers in the dividends that such innovations provide due to elites hindering their involvement as economic actors.
Fundamentally, these systems don’t protect private property rights as there is no real legal provision for such rights, or the multiple institutions to keep corruption at bay simply don’t exist (like a Commerce Commission or a State Services Commission). These systems basically restrict wealth creation as those in power want to slow technological progress so that their sector of the economy remains under their control. Essentially innovation among citizens equals competition, and competition brings about instability for an illiberal regime.

“Inclusive” systems, however, distribute power to more citizens because individuals have the ability to amass wealth through innovation and development, and those ruling and overseeing various sectors of the economy don’t hinder their progress because there are numerous legal processes and stipulations in place which prevent them from doing so. What flows from this inclusive institutional framework is incentives: incentives to study, work, save, create, share and innovate, because such toil will not be in vain, and will provide rewards. This framework fundamentally comes down to such rights being embodied in laws, as humans cant be trusted, a typical constitutional theory which simply isn’t manifested in many countries.

All this might seem a bit simplistic, or even obvious. But the authors draw on centuries of economic and social history to get their points across, which actually leads to 500 page readerthon in which the authors communicate their core messages through different points and examples – typical of the academic requirement to produce lots of evidence so as to ward off scrutiny. This includes some fascinating stuff from the history of post-Renaissance Europe, the Americas, the two Koreas, Africa. They consider the divergent paths taken by the English and Spanish colonial super powers in their acquisition of new lands and the processes they set up for governance which led to (a degree of) inclusion or exclusion today. The authors provide clear historical links between the colonial era and now which flows nicely and doesn’t seem disjointed.

Further, they make a bunch of predictions. China, they claim, will not be able to sustain its massive economic growth (8.85% over the last 4 years), because they do not have the requisite inclusive political systems. Their economy is like that of Soviet Russia which sustained massive periods of growth from the 50s to the 70s, but simply could not last due to individual citizens not being able to take control of their innovations in a constrained environment.

I still feel factors such as climate and geography have a significant bearing on a country’s ability to become prosperous. But the findings in this book reveal a dimension critical to the discussion of economic, political and human well-being. This dimension is so fundamental that aid, culture, trade, geography and climate are all contingent on there being inclusive institutional frameworks.

In New Zealand, while we aren’t a perfect country, we arguably take our democratic and economic institutions for granted. It is fair to say that many (most?) countries throughout the world don’t enjoy the liberal framework that we do. This book demonstrates how and why this is.

Limits to economic growth with Tim Jackson

Cover of Prosperity without growthSometimes it seems like the two most irreconcilable disciplines are economics and ecology. The latter is arguably more scientific, but despite this, since the Second World War economic concerns have taken precedence at the forefront of politicians’ minds and those of the populations they govern.

It is becoming apparent that economic growth (generally considered by many to be a very good thing), has probably been one of the primary drivers of environmental degradation due to the resource-intensive processes which fuel modern economies – whether such economies are:

  • liberal -capitalist systems of exchange (like New Zealand),
  • somewhat socialist – like the Nordic/Scandinavian models,
  • or State-driven like those of China and, arguably, Russia.

There are other factors contributing to environmental problems (such as population growth for example), but there seems to be more and more evidence emerging which demonstrates theenvironmental problems caused by consumerism, and this extends beyond wicked corporations polluting on a large scale etc. On an individual level, we don’t just consume the wrong things, we consume too many of the wrong things because most items and consumables don’t dissolve into the earth, they are also made, moved and packed through resource intensive processes. Many such things are not necessities, yet we lust after various items, and the widespread acquisition/consumption of them throughout the world via imports and exports is a large part of the sum of economic growth!

This is why Tim Jackson’s book Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet, is so timely, because it provides a well thought out critique of one of the primary measures of economic success – Economic Growth. Yes there is other information to consider with regard to economic well-being, as there are a variety of variables which economists, investors and bankers look at as economic indicators, but economic growth is something we are told is very important and a critical measure of a political regime’s success. Add to this the wooing of voters through financial hand-outs and cheap services, and sometimes it seems like the voting hordes overlook environmental issues so long as we have our health care and our iPhone.

Cynical much? O.K, yes, but are we being mislead with the idea that things are better than they actually are? Mr Jackson helps uncover where we are really at. Take for example certain buzz words and terms which are bandied around by economists, marketing people and the media (who are arguably marketing people). One such term is “efficiency” – “we need to be more efficient”, “we are more efficient” and “we are becoming increasingly more efficient”. All of which is true, efficiency is important, but we mustn’t be fooled by our own hype. One of the interesting things Mr Jackson points out in his book is that efficiency isn’t necessarily a good thing, because in the last decade or more we have done things “more efficiently”, BUT we have also done more of them!

When manufacturers can do more with less, and faster (i.e efficiently), they often pump more items out at a cheaper price. Then, mesmerized by our own consumerism, citizens buy more and use more than we need because things are so cheap, and, instead of making something last we throw it away and buy a new thing. Add to this planned obsolescence (the deliberate act of building a product with a short lifespan), and we are maintaining the same pre-existing level of environmental degradation prior to our economies becoming “more efficient”. So, we’re told that our economies are “more efficient”, which in a way is true, but is that always such a good thing?

The good thing is Tim Jackson is an ecological economist and Professor of Sustainable Development with a background in maths. So he brings a rational argument to the table. What I’ve ranted on about here is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what his book covers. We still need economists to help run and analyse economies, but while we talk about economic and fiscal sustainability, we need to consider environmental sustainability and our individual actions too.

Have a look at Tim Jackson’s Book Prosperity Without Growth, but also, David Suzuki’s work From Naked Ape To Super Species is the perfect companion to Mr Jackson’s work as it considers the same issues through the lens of biology and genetics.

Tim Jackson TED talk

The pivotal role of silk knickers

Friday evening’s Festival session with John Lanchester in conversation with Rod Oram saw a capacity crowd in the GeoDome. What had the potential to be a depressing comment on Western society was immediately set on a different track when Rod, introducing his guest and talking about the fall of the West, said, “Sorry if I sound excited, but I am!”, and then went on to talk about silk knickers. Those who had read Lanchester’s book Capital clearly understood the reference, but there were a few slightly startled expressions in the audience as well. Oram did promise that by the end of the session he would return to the knickers, and with that assurance the questions started.

Lanchester started writing Capital before the bubble burst, saying he knew that at some point the boom would turn to bust, but he ended up effectively writing ‘in real time’. Oram asks about the connection between Capital, published this year, and Lanchester’s non-fiction commentary on the global financial crisis, Whoops! Why everyone owes everyone and no-one can pay (2011).  Lanchester says,

You can do anything you like in a novel, but you you can’t explain: explanations break fiction.

He says that fiction has to feel true, without necessarily being true, unlike in real life, where things often don’t feel true but are. (I think to myself, that could pretty much sum up Christchurch’s experience of the last two years).  There’s more talk about some of the words that came up in the session with Chris Cleave on Thursday – obliviousness, and Shaw’s concept of the suspension of disbelief. Lanchester points out that in some ways this could be a mitigating factor for the behaviour of the super-rich financiers and those economists who have toppled us into this crisis.  I’m not sure that the audience buys into this, but he says whatever their actions, they did (mostly) believe in what they were doing – it’s just that there was a fundamental flaw in their model of the world.

So many thoughts and words and ideas to try to sum up from this session – Lanchester talks about the ‘prioritisation of fragmentation’: the increased speed of living which means that all of us feel we are running faster and faster just to stay in place; the shift from economics being about philosophy and ethics, to being just about mathematics, and the belief that economists stopped asking questions about how things work because they thought they’d figured it all out, that they ‘understood’ the market, and the world.

Oram asks a question about the state of play in Europe and whether we should be afraid.  Lanchester says a total meltdown in Europe would have terrible consequences for everyone in the world, not just the Northern hemisphere.  He says we are really close to the cliff edge, and that fundamentally we are just waiting for Germany to get the chequebook out.  He thinks eventually Greece will default and be kicked out, and that then Germany will use that as leverage.

There are questions about rising inequality, about the Occupy movement (it’s a harbinger, not an anomaly), and the trickledown effect (“manifestly not true”).  Lanchester notes, “Luxury by definition is completely pointless, but we talk ourselves into believing it’s essential: ‘If I could just have that, I’d be happy’.”  (Back to the silk knickers at this point).

Lanchester’s answer to Oram’s final question: What do you think about foreign investment bankers? brought a quote from a previous session with Chris Cleave: “Hanging’s too good for them …”, which was met with thunderous applause from the audience; and with that the session was over.  And thanks to all for another thought-provoking, inspiring and challenging hour at the Festival!

Chandran Nair talks about Consumptionomics

It’s now a few weeks since we returned from the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, and some of the sessions and speakers are still floating in and out of my rather erratic brain.  Chandran Nair’s session on Consumptionomics is one of the ‘stickiest’ ones …

Chandran Nair is a brave man.  He is very upfront about a few things: he is NOT an author, NOT a writer, NOT an economist, and he strenuously denies it when people suggest he might have a “greenies” interest in the environment. And when we don’t even get through the Chair’s introduction to the Michael King Memorial Lecture without a Shouty Man’s heckling from the balcony, he is serene and forthright about how very unpopular his message is.

To really understand the message, as with many non-fiction speakers, you need to read the book, and I thoroughly recommend finding it and doing just this.  In the meantime, however, here’s my attempt to summarise what will probably (for me at least) turn out to be 2012’s most unsettling and thought-provoking Festival session.  (So don’t go shooting the messenger!)

In essence, these are the main points:

  • The current narrative of economics is from the West, and as such is heavily weighted towards Western ways of thinking – individualistic, consumer-driven, reliant on democratic models.
  • Most of us have a “pedigree of denial”, and dwell within “a climate of lying and denying” (purposeful or not)
  • The 2008-2009 crisis was the trigger: Asians were told that they were the new environmental and consumeristic ‘bad guys’ and that the responsible thing for them to do was to spend their way up and out of the crisis, but ALSO to use fewer resources while doing so – this is actually not possible.
  • We are seeing the dying pangs of the US and EU as global superpowers, leading to the rise of Asia as world leaders
  • BUT the painting of the 21st century as the “Asian century” is bad because it leads Asians to think that it is now “their turn” to have “all the things”, to “win at consumerism”, to have lots of stuff.
  • For Nair himself, the challenge of coming from Asia means that his message had to get more and more extreme in order to be heard, and he also decided that he’d never have a big audience anyway, so it didn’t matter …
  • His message is actually quite simple, if controversial: Bling is Out, and Less is More; Asia must reject the Western model (which promotes relentless consumerism, voodoo economics, and the constant ‘buy 1 get 1 free’ mantra); we need fewer human rights.  (You can see why his message might be seen as a little confrontational …)
  • The only way for this to work is to follow traditional Asian societal models – Asians cannot live like Westerners.  They must embrace the “restrain and restrict” message of societies like Singapore, and (even more contentious a suggestion) China.

This slightly dizzying summary in no way illustrates the nature or ‘feel’ of the session, with its already-mentioned Shouty Dude, myriad of business suits interspersed with a fair sprinkling of more alternative-looking types, and a really very challenging message, but will hopefully inspire those with a socially- or economically-enquiring mind to explore further!

Get ya geek on: Really useful resources for NCEA Economics

Cover image of "Year 11 economics study guide"Put this wealth of NCEA Economics information in your knowledge bank and laugh all the way to exam hall.

So where did we find these great resources? On The Pulse, the library’s website for teens.