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Speaker: The End of Consumerism

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  • Rich of Observationz,

    he entertained some profoundly politically incorrect opinions

    Like, being an actual Nazi

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Christiaan,

    "and the absence of any means for a fairer distribution of wealth"

    Personally I'd prefer to have a go at a different economy (parecon) but in your opening paragraph you point out one of the very best ways to distribute wealth more fairly in a capitalist economy: high minimum wages.

    Helps with that society thing too: http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/

    High minimum wages. It's the new black.

    London, UK • Since Dec 2006 • 121 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    Bravo! Excellent post. Considering our own median income is around $25,000, I laugh when i hear Dr Bollard pleading again for us to save money, not spend it. What used to be called the working class top up their mortgages (if they're lucky enough to have one) and credit cards to finance fairly ordinary spending - a decent car, computer connectivity, a real holiday (shock, horror).

    My school leaver son has been working for six months in the wonderful Dickensian world of the service economy, where he is employed for three fulltime days per week, and any other days that might arise. It means he earns more than the dole but not enough to save. This is common practice. I've met many parents whose school leaver children they support themselves when they can't find work, or only get a few hours, because Winz are so thoroughly unpleasant to teenage job seekers. Keeps those jobless figures down.

    You still pay more tax if you have more than one job. The government still keeps Child Support payments from the children they are intended for, if their single parent is on a benefit. In many cases, the child support equals a substantial portion of the benefit cost, so in reality the DPB costs the taxpayer very little. The DPB is well on the way to being ushered out of existence, as "mothering" is no longer relevant or valuable - only professional childcare will do. NZ governments haven't had a social conscience or worked for the benefit of the people since 1984.

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    The only thing saving capitalism from revolutionary forment is the total discrediting of Marxism as a credible alternative.

    At the moment western working and middle class populations have lapsed into political lassitude, helplessly suffering from an economic version of battered wife syndrome.

    Since communism is discredited and the elites increasingly seem incapable of self-reflection let alone self reform. what will the answer be? Where will people seek solutions? One thing is for sure - the current sense of disepoerment and hopelessness is not sustainable. It MUST eventually find an outlet.

    I fear the decline of middle class will see them seek refuge in their political movement of choice in an economic crisis that afflicts them, and we may see the rise of new flaovur of syncretic Fascism in the West. It will be a new political order of demagogues blending loathing of the globalised capitalist elite, discredited traditional deomcratic vehicles and an anti-crime, anti-immigration authoritarianism into a single populist ring wing program.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    If the United States economy, and by implication the global economy, more or less recover, as well they may, the cycle will repeat, since the elite will not forgo any part of what they regard as their due without an enormous fuss. The recent and continuing spectacle of British parliamentarians helping themselves to public money through a variety of rorts is testament to the sense of unlimited entitlement that infests, and paralyses the elite. The late, paralytic Parliamentary speaker's first reaction was not to address his problems, of which he, not being entirely stupid, was doubtlessly aware, but rather to seek legal means of preventing a newspaper revealing the shyster antics of his charges.

    Woah, Ken: you're in danger of tilting into nihilism here.

    The British Parliamentary expenses system, established in good faith, turns out to have been unacceptably abused by many MPs. That abuse reeks of entitlement. But many other MPs have not behaved in this way -- some of them seem quite saintly in their claims. Operating a democracy does cost some money.

    And who brought this to the attention of the public? The newspaper owned by the billionaire Barclay brothers, The Daily Telegraph. I'm not sure it's all as cut-and-dried as you suggest.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    ...but in your opening paragraph you point out one of the very best ways to distribute wealth more fairly in a capitalist economy: high minimum wages.

    We have a global economy nowadays where the effective minimum wage is $2 per day, so we could increase that to say $5 a day.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Woah, Ken: you're in danger of tilting into nihilism here.

    I am not so sure. The fact that the attack on the credibility of the democratic institutions is being led by a flagship newspaper of the very oligarchs that Ken says are incapable of reform surely reinforces his argument, more than those MP's who behaved well weaken it.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Suffering dissonance now. Can you both rage against the plutocratic pilfering elite and against the attack on democracy implicit in revealing the pilfering to the long-suffering public?

    But yes, as a general point, harnessing public resentment against elites gets you some strange places: look at the incoherent Tea Party movement in the US.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    You still pay more tax if you have more than one job.

    That's not quite right. You pay more PAYE (i.e. deductions from your wages as you go), but at the end of the year when you do your tax return, you should get a refund. Someone who earns say, $30,000 from just one job should end up paying exactly the same amount of tax as someone who earns $30,000 from two jobs (all other things being equal). However the person who has two jobs may have paid more tax deductions from wages during the year through PAYE, so she should get a refund to bring her to exactly the same amount of tax paid as the person with one job.

    The moral of the story? If you have two or more jobs, do your tax return!

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    The moral of the story? If you have two or more jobs, do your tax return!

    I have had five employers in the last year, and having just received a tidy refund I can only agree with this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    The moral of the story? If you have two or more jobs, do your tax return!

    Previously when everyone had to do tax returns, I used to get one in the mail. Along with all the material from my employers and bank required to do it. Not only do I not get a return now, I don't get anything from my bank or employers as far as I'm aware.

    Am I being screwed through inactivity?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Like, being an actual Nazi

    Funny that the article shouldn't mention the book that he wrote and self-published, The International Jew.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    harnessing public resentment against elites gets you some strange places: look at the incoherent Tea Party movement in the US.

    Incoherent is the word, and an incoherent opposition is just what the "pilfering plutocratic elites" cultivate, insofar as they have a plan. Marx would have no trouble analysing the tea party movement: just another example of false consciousness.

    The Telegraph, like its Sydney namesake, is an excellent example of a paper that takes its readers' anxieties and delivers them up to those they might otherwise threaten, all the while turning a profit, insofar as that's possible for a newspaper these days. Marx had a genius for analysis - as Claude Levi-Strauss described, like a geologist revealing the earth's history from the strata of rocks. His proposed solutions, though, were - and are - sadly lacking.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Shay Lambert,

    It will be a new political order of demagogues blending loathing of the globalised capitalist elite, discredited traditional deomcratic vehicles and an anti-crime, anti-immigration authoritarianism into a single populist ring wing program.

    And yet the response in the US as they hurtled towards the cliff edge was to vote in some relatively unknown black dude who appealed to their better natures.

    This system maybe fundamentally flawed but it's the only system that takes into account human nature - both the good and the base. That makes it pretty resilient - don't forget, it took less than a generation to go from the Great Depression, which makes this current crisis look like kiddie's play, to an unprecedented level of capitalist consumerism.

    Kafkaesque bureaucracies

    Don't knock 'em - lots of people are employed by Kafkaesque bureaucracies. Their work maybe pointless and contribute nothing to society, but no more so than most jobs if you look at them from a high enough perspective.

    Auckland • Since May 2009 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    Don't knock 'em - lots of people are employed by Kafkaesque bureaucracies. Their work maybe pointless and contribute nothing to society, but no more so than most jobs if you look at them from a high enough perspective.

    It's the inertia and risk-averseness you might get in any large, established organisation, I suppose. From experience these bureaucracies are composed of a lot of very intelligent and capable people who are actually desperate to make some kind of detectable real-world difference, despite the inertia that can often set in.

    This post is my own personal view and is not approved or otherwise endorsed by the Ministry of Kafka (Manatu Kawhika).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • Shay Lambert,

    inertia that can often set in.

    One of the great benefits of this current system is the bureaucratic inertia that prevents rapid, revolutionary change - which never seems to work as well as the revolutionaries said it would.

    So let us celebrate the faceless bureaucrat, for his/her risk averse unproductiveness is truly the glue that holds our society together.

    Disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the bureaucracy.

    Auckland • Since May 2009 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    And yet the response in the US as they hurtled towards the cliff edge was to vote in some relatively unknown black dude who appealed to their better natures.

    And while the teabagging tendency drives further and further into its frenzy, the research says the people largely aren't going along with it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Can you both rage against the plutocratic pilfering elite and against the attack on democracy implicit in revealing the pilfering to the long-suffering public?

    Part of ensuring a Randian Nirvana is to convince people the government and democratic institutions are part the problem, not part the solution.

    One thing I think has become clear - and that is the globalised, authoritarian neo-liberal project cannot co-exist with inclusive and progressive democracy. One or the other must prevail. Now, I don't believe neo-liberalism has a "plan" in the same way the Cylons had a "plan" but I do believe that like all ideologies it has an agenda that all it's adherents understand to a greater or lesser extent.

    To me, Neo-Liberalism shares many of the organisational characteristics of Bolshevism. Most business elites display classic "vanguard party" behaviour. There is a rigid adherence to a centralised dogma. Democratic centralism is the prevalent decision making mechanism within modern business organisations.

    I've just finished re-reading a history of the 1930's. The thing which struck me most forcibly was how complacent we are today in our assumption of the self-evident superiority of liberal democracy. Such wishful thinking was not possible in the 1930's. And I was also struck by how quickly, once people start questioning it, democracy can fall.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • Shay Lambert,

    self-evident superiority of liberal democracy...once people start questioning it, democracy can fall.

    Yet they seem to keep coming back to it...

    After the multiple experiments that rose in its place throughout the 20th century, we now know that liberal democracy - even if we can never quite get it completely right - is vastly superior to the alternatives.

    There's always some smart arse who thinks they have a better idea for running the show. The problems arise when individuals disagree with their idea. Democracy at least allows for disagreement.

    Auckland • Since May 2009 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    And while the teabagging tendency drives further and further into its frenzy, the research says the people largely aren't going along with it.

    Well its an astroturf isn't it? It'll arc along like the Anti-War brigades of the last lot, providing a backing focus for general discontent and picking up a few new followers who will be directed to vote against this administration. And after the current opposition are duely elected back into power, the movement will fade out of awareness even whilst those newly elected proceed with 99% of the policies the movement ostensibly opposed

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Part of ensuring a Randian Nirvana is to convince people the government and democratic institutions are part the problem, not part the solution.

    Somalia, anybody? No government or red tape to speak of, which is all well and good. Until the local warlord starts demanding his cut, of course. And when the bodyguards start asking when their next pay day is, well, you get the picture.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5420 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Somalia, anybody?

    Funny you should mention Somalia. I heard a Rand devotee* interviewed on Australian radio in the mid-90s. Raising the role, or lack thereof, of altruism in Rand's world view, the interviewer asked what she'd have done for the poverty-stricken locals if she'd found herself in contemporary Somalia. The answer was that she'd have high-tailed it out of there pronto. Enlightened self-interest & all.

    *And a devotee he was, as the envy in his tone revealed when he described how an ashtray once used by the goddess has recently sold for a couple of thou.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    What we now may be seeing, as the purchasing power of the majority fades, is the decline of consumerism and a change in the form of society.

    Has the purchasing power of the majority actually faded? Adding together the poverty reduction that has occured in China, India, Brazil and other developing countries over the last 50 years gives a figure that would seem higher than any possible number of middle class 1st worlders who have seen their relative income drop.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Not only do I not get a return now, I don't get anything from my bank or employers as far as I'm aware.

    Am I being screwed through inactivity?

    Why do you think there's a huge business scamming people to do the meagre work involved in claiming back over-paid tax? Seriously, all those tax agents that offer to tell you if IRD owes you money, for a measly cut of any refund, they're a scam. The minimum fee I've seen from any of them was $20, assuming you're entitled to money. Given that requesting a Personal Tax Summary online from the IRD website takes about ten minutes (at the outside, if you have the paperwork at hand, and you need that same paperwork for any of the agents so you lose nothing by doing it yourself), they're charging you $120/hour. For most of us, our time is worth considerably less than $120/hour. The handful of people whose time is worth more, well, they very likely already have an accountant who's on top of all this stuff for them anyway.

    You can claim back for up to seven years. Your PAYE details are held by IRD, so you need nothing from your employers. If you've made money from interest or dividends, it's legally required that the payer furnish you with the necessary information about gross payments, withholding tax, imputation credits, and withholding payments if any. Get those (the payer is required to maintain their records for seven years, so they'd better have copies even if you don't!) and you can request Personal Tax Summaries for the relevant years. It's painless, and once you've supplied bank account details to the IRD they'll credit any refund within, usually, a couple of days. I've never had to wait more than three.

    Oh, and make sure you're requesting a Personal Tax Summary. If a PTS shows a debt to IRD, you're not legally obliged to pay it. If you do a full IR3 and it shows a debt, you are. A PTS isn't deemed to be "taking a position", in tax parlance, meaning that you haven't actually said to the IRD "this is the state of my tax affairs for the year."

    The above is not legal advice, etc. It is, however, the considered opinion of someone who's been claiming refunds for the last three years, including going all the way back to the 2003 year when I found out just how incredibly easy it was to do online. That's before I studied tax, too.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Ah OK. No I do get a PTS every year, so I'm probably even.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

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