Envirologue by Dave Hansford

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Envirologue: What has Neoliberalism Done for You Lately?

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  • Kumara Republic,

    I more accurately refer to it as feudalism, and so does Nick Hanauer. If it’s still showing on the arthouse circuit, catch Inequality For All. It’s about America, but the issues are just the same. If there’s only one fatal weakness of what you describe, it’s probably an economic bubble.

    My local DHB recently informed me, not that I would face a long wait for a consultation, but that it would not receive me at all.

    I was denied treatment last year for a rare dental condition, and the then Health Minister Tony Ryall’s response? “Arrange an installment plan.” That’s codeword for “you’re not a member of the country club, so bugger off.” I had no choice but to accept a voluntary reduction in pay to qualify for a Community Services Card, and even then I’m not getting many teeth pulled out just yet, mostly temporary fillings that fall out after a few days.

    I have an uncomfortable feeling that when the state wilfully denies help to those in need, it’s a form of social engineering to hoodwink them into joining the system and its associated abuses, by sending them the message that ‘hard knocks’ and Social Darwnism are the only ways forward – and turning them into so-called ‘Waitakere Men’ or ‘Essex Men’. Or otherwise "hiring half the working class to kill the other half' and scapegoating the downtrodden for middle-class shrinkage.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5430 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Curtis,

    There doesnt seem to be any indication that DHBs provided these sort of dental services back in 1984.
    The reality is that newspapers and tv dont have the audience they once had for current affairs. Pete Sinclair and Mastermind would have once had an audience number around 18%. Thats wasnt that high. Today if a show, any show gets 12 its a sensation.
    If I have the TV on at 8pm,I am looking on a tablet at tomorrows news. Some sort of talking heads show just doesnt cut it anymore

    Guys wake up, its been 30 years since the mid 1980s, but some seem to blame every change or undesirable feature on neo- liberalism

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • MaryAnne,

    We are waking up.
    Straight out ‘theft’ sits well in my mind, if Neo-Liberalism is not fitting.
    I started working, in my teens in the Seventies when there were industries everywhere. And I worked in several.
    ‘Want for nothing’ was the feeling back then in amongst my peers.
    Yes, decades have passed, but the general atmosphere today is that of shock at the state of affairs.
    I’m fortunate to have experienced what New Zealand was once like, compared to now.
    Something has to change, yes.

    Wairarapa • Since Apr 2015 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • WaterDragon, in reply to Steve Curtis,

    You may not have run across indications theat DHBs were providing such dental services Steve, but I can assure you it was happening- my mouth is testament to this.

    Behind you • Since Jul 2011 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Euan Mason,

    The biggest difference between neoliberals and old-fashioned laissez faire capitalists is that neoliberals hold no illusions that competition is a natural human condition. They know that people, if left to their own devices, are likely to trust each other and cooperate. For them, trust, cooperation and collaboration lead to inefficiencies and market failure, and the prime role of government is to force people to compete like rabid dogs.

    They also tend to believe that taxation is bad, because it represents a high level of social cooperation that will lead to a poorer country. They live in a world where Scandinavia doesn't exist.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Curtis, in reply to WaterDragon,

    but I can assure you it was happening- my mouth is testament to this.

    Its not to say it doesnt happen for special groups, mental patients, special needs patients, those with cleft palate and others with face or neck surgery.
    Oncology and pediatric patients and those injured in accidents. and similar.

    A complex or rare dental requirement in adults with no other medical issues havent been treated ( except pain relief). To somehow think this relates to a neo-liberalism is bizarre. There is no cause and effect here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Grant Taylor,

    Nicely written, Dave. My heart is with you and a fair slice of my mind as well.

    But NZ's economy has always existed in an international context. Much of the prosperity of my youth (mostly the 60s and 70s) was due to patronage from a country that my grandparents (all born in NZ) called 'Home'; when that stopped, everything changed, even if Muldoon et al tried to hide the reality.

    NZ is a sparsely populated island nation with a small population, geographically isolated in the South Pacific ocean. It is extraordinary that we have the standard of living that we do - and we only do so by the grace and favour of our 'trading partners' ('partner' is a euphemism here, as it is in business generally). I.e., to the extent that it suits them to buy from us whatever we have to sell them. Happens to be dairy at the moment. I remember when it was wool and vaguely recall the lamb economy. As a part of the technology sector, I am looking forward to the 'knowledge economy' taking flight - but I am not holding my breath.

    I loathe and detest neoliberalism on many levels but it is the tune to which the wealth in the world is currently dancing and we won't change that with a local revolution.

    But why the hell can't we have a government that does a better job of buffering its worst ills? We elected them to take care of our interests, not pimp us out.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2012 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    There were a lot of pretty terrible regulations in the late 70's, the Douglass gambit was they'd never get rid of the worst of it if they did it piece by piece and it was better to throw everything out and start again.

    But states with no regulation are all theft, ruin, and corruption, and we're all either a thief or their mark in the wake of that. If you don't have to sell people a safe car then you sell them a cheaper one that kills them instead, a house that leaks and rots where no one can see it happening, clothes made by half-starved slave children that fall apart in a couple of weeks, food loaded up with addicting crap that has people dropping in their 40's. For a while people sold bicycles that fell in half when you rode them at speed, neatly removing all the teeth of a good few children.


    So we got some of the good regulations back, but so many of the new ones have created the great Ponzi scheme of Fonterra, closed down so many of our regional jobs and services, put more and bigger trucks on the roads, built highways to nowhere with the scale of money that at least used to build productive infrastructure. Kickbacks abound, far bigger than the 70's and 80's ever managed.

    So we lost all the good stuff, and got all the bad shit anyway. Fucking great useless convention centres and sports stadia with gifts of public land on the cheap, sweet deals on prices for the well connected few. Monopolistic markets fixing prices to fuck over producers and consumer alike, obscene profits drifting overseas to be borrowed back at high interest for the next round of consumption.



    Just as well we got that inflation under control though, eh.

    Since Nov 2006 • 610 posts Report Reply

  • Roger Lacey, in reply to Grant Taylor,

    Nicely written, Dave. My heart is with you and a fair slice of my mind as well.

    +1 from me too.
    Unfortunately as Grant says, in the'80s the world had changed and was no longer going to buy our butter and wool at the same prices that made us prosperous in the '50s.
    With a bit of tinkering we could have sorted out many of the inefficiencies in our economy while keeping our social contract. Unfortunately we followed the American neo-liberal path which has impoverished many for the benefit of a few. No one in government or opposition (apart from Michael Cullen) has looked towards the future and made any plans for our ageing population, global warming or our increasing levels of poverty.
    Amongst neo-liberals (including our current government) there seems to be an unshakable belief that the free market fairy will fix everything once the price is right.
    They quote that the horse dung problem in London was fixed by the discovery of steam power and that the subsequent smog from coal fires was solved by clean burning petrol as if it was by the grand design of the market and patience will see a clean alternative to fossil fuels emerge. "Science will fix it." they say as they slash funding for science.
    In the meantime the population is told that the economy will collapse if we spend a cent of our taxes on feeding hungry children, that Auckland must sprawl further to appease the speculators and that every drop of oil, gas and coal must be extracted to maintain our current lifestyle.
    I believe there is a better way than that.

    Whatakataka Bay Surf Club… • Since Apr 2008 • 148 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Steve Curtis,

    Guys wake up, its been 30 years since the mid 1980s, but some seem to blame every change or undesirable feature on neo- liberalism

    Well, if it was so long ago that it's no longer an issue, perhaps you won't mind pointing to a period or periods between now and then where it hasn't been an embedded and on-going feature of almost every facet of daily life. Not 'slowed down', or 'mitigated in some small way', but 'actively reversed'.

    In the last 30 years, what companies have been taken back into public ownership? What large civic infrastructure programmes have been carried out - publicly funded and publicly worked, and publicly owned when completed? What legislation has been enacted to ensure that critical public services and infrastructure remain in public hands? What legislation has been enacted to protect the rights of workers and citizens, as groups rather than as individuals?

    The reason people still bang on about it, is because neo-liberal ascendancy may have started in the mid-'80's, but it hasn't stopped since. Left-ish governments may occasionally tap the brakes (with conservative ones smashing the accelerator pedal through the floor), but no-one's actually attempting to put the car in reverse.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Marc C,

    Yep, I relate to the sentiments and the disappointment of the author.

    Now we have many loaded with huge private, personal, household debt, while the government presents itself as a supposed “master of good economics”, pointing the finger at those “failed” European states, where things are supposed to be sooo bad.

    Yes, Europe and other places have their many challenges and problems, but what was achieved with the wealth and debt transfers?

    Many more now take on high debt, due to the housing price boom in Auckland and to some degree in Christchurch.

    A BS economic “success” built on an earthquake rebuild and high levels of migrations, but little else. Look at dairy now, and some other areas, and how the regions start looking at a gloomy future again. With Australia slowing, and China also, the two major trading partners and their situation will bring consequences to us.

    A “bust” may come, for the housing market, sooner or later, at least an adjustment, and then the many too high in debt will go down, forced to sell, and banks will lose, and all supposed “gains” will vanish.

    If only the manly too short sighted people would wake up, but it seems it first needs to land or crash hard, so they feel the pain, for an overdue change.

    But rest assured, the infatuation with one John Key will fade, it will fade soon!

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Rich Lock,

    Left-ish governments may occasionally tap the brakes (with conservative ones smashing the accelerator pedal through the floor), but no-one's actually attempting to put the car in reverse.

    I smiled at the analogy :-).

    Thing is - from a political ideology point of view, I'm with an academic named Steger, who suggest the dominant (Western) ideology is no longer neoliberalism, but globalism. This ideology is explained as having six core claims:

    1. Globalization Is about the Liberalization and Global Integration of Markets
    2. Globalization Is Inevitable and Irreversible
    3. Nobody Is in Charge of Globalization
    4. Globalization Benefits Everyone
    5. Globalization Furthers the Spread of Democracy in the World
    6. Globalization Requires a War on Terror

    The full article (well the first time it was proposed - and much more has been written since);

    http://mams.rmit.edu.au/es4cefpg6ifj1.pdf

    So, although I too long for that NZ I once knew - it's not an option to just put the car in reverse, as I think we're up against an even more insidious political/ideological premise than neoliberalism ever was. What makes things even more interesting in Steger's article is his concluding remarks, where he imagines what new forms of political/ideological positioning we might now see emerging to contest this dominant globalist agenda. In other words, Left (socialism), Right (conservativism) really no longer apply, as you have pretty much pointed out in your car analogy - Labour and National in NZ are both following the ideology of globalisation.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    as I think we're up against an even more insidious political/ideological premise than neoliberalism ever was.

    As I mentioned earlier in the thread, that 'even more insidious political/ideological premise' is likely neo-feudalism.

    Though people like Nick Hanauer - who's made it many times over in tech - and Robert Reich have realised what's going on, I sometimes wonder if the Rubicon has been crossed. In America, the emergence of the Occupy and Tea Party movements is an underlying symptom of the polarisation that's brewing in America, and it could make the 1981 Tour look like a playground fight.

    And for the history nerds among us, who'd be the 21st century Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination triggered a major diplomatic incident and ignited WW1? He'd likely be a head of state, worth billions, or both.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5430 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Marc C,

    A “bust” may come, for the housing market, sooner or later, at least an adjustment, and then the many too high in debt will go down, forced to sell, and banks will lose, and all supposed “gains” will vanish.

    If only the manly too short sighted people would wake up, but it seems it first needs to land or crash hard, so they feel the pain, for an overdue change.

    TV3's Brook Sabin of all people has basically thought out loud that Rome is burning and the emperor is strumming his lyre.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5430 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    On the other hand, it is hard to be too nostalgic for The Tour, nuclear ships, marginal tax rates over 60%, Bastion Point, 15% inflation, or Rongotai Airport.

    (Not saying that things are just ducky today, but the 1970s and early 80s was not a golden age I would want to return to.)

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to richard,

    (Not saying that things are just ducky today, but the 1970s and early 80s was not a golden age I would want to return to.)

    Indeed. It was also the time of the The Tour, massive and wasteful subsidies to farming, quixotic wage and price freezes, Dawn Raids, crippling interest rates and a currency crisis. Muldoon won two elections without even a plurality of votes. It wasn't a golden age.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Curtis,

    What large civic infrastructure programmes have been carried out – publicly funded and publicly worked, and publicly owned when completed?
    Well there was the Auckland rail double tracking and electrification and the new electric trains that finally are coming into service.
    The Auckland Hospital was totally rebuilt to replace 3 smaller ones
    At the moment there are 100s of millions spent by Watercare on new sewer and freshwater mains- largely out of sight, but still happening.
    There was the $700 mill 700KV main powerline from Auckland to just norh of Taupo, and big upgrade of the Cook St cables and substations.

    As for the lovely 1980s, a smalll business owner told me it used to take 2 weeks to get a delivery by rail from Auckland to Napier, werent allowed to use trucks that would come down overnight and would get it a day later. Not only were the railways protected, but many business had special licenses to shut out competition. Prices for a lot of items were in the exorbitant category.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    it could make the 1981 Tour look like a playground fight.

    Having been a primary school kid in the 60s in the US and then moving to NZ a couple of years before the Springbok tour - all I could think in 1981 was how this country really didn't know what civil unrest really looks like.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to richard,

    marginal tax rates over 60%

    Not sure why this is considered so vile and impossible. To a great degree it's where the ability to pay for public services came from. Once people have 'plenty', why shouldn't 'even more' be shared around?

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2109 posts Report Reply

  • Dave Hansford,

    I think most of us agree that we don't want a return to Muldoonism, nor a corpulent, inert welfare state. It seems a given that whatever comes next, it will be funded by an open economy, but I'd caution against assumptions that neoliberalism is "what were stuck with." That, to coin a good old conspiracy mantra, is exactly what they want you to think.

    Yes, the dominance of fundamental capitalism is almost complete, but it's still mortal. One thing's for certain, so long as we accept it, that's what we ARE stuck with. Our challenge is to reimagine the country – and the world – we want. Starting with the values we want to reinstate – the social contract we might draft. New Zealand badly lacks a vision – it's there for the taking.

    Nelson • Since Apr 2008 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    For me it's simple, we have been told taxation is bad. We have tried 30 years of ever lower taxes.

    Now we are one of the lowest taxed societies in the world

    Had all those ideologues been right we would now be one of the most successful nations in the world.

    IT DID NOT WORK

    A definition of stupidity is repeating the same action again and again expecting a different outcome and so New Zealand votes again and again for tax cuts.

    The most successful nations in the world have high taxes and that is not a coincidence it is cause and effect. High taxation leads to better societies. Anyone who argues against that is deceiving themselves and everyone around them.

    The things we complain about in NZ at the moment stem from our unwillingness to pay for the things we need.

    Want a health system that works - pay tax
    Want high quality public schools - pay tax
    Want high value state owned assets - pay tax
    Want scientific research to benefit NZ - pay tax
    Want public transport - pay tax

    If you voted for a tax cut you are to blame.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • Dave Hansford,

    I've no problem with taxes at all, but a buoyant social sector would, of course, depend critically upon creating a high-wage economy first. That's not something the conservatives will allow...

    Nelson • Since Apr 2008 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    This piece by Frances Joychild QC was posted on the Access blog. But it is a also a commentary on neoliberalism. http://eveningreport.nz/2015/03/24/frances-joychild-qc-on-the-fading-star-of-the-rule-of-law/

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3214 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Dave Hansford,

    depend critically upon creating a high-wage economy first

    No that's a lie as well. We have been conned into thinking we can't have higher taxation until after X or Y or Z happens.

    Whereas the opposite is true, we will never get a high wage economy (except for the very very rich) until we adopt a higher tax economy. Or at least that is what is true everywhere else in the world.

    Creating the social support system allows workers to be more productive - well to be fair that is only true everywhere else in the world - New Zealand could be the exception - sigh.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    IT DID NOT WORK
    If you voted for a tax cut you are to blame.

    But how could Key bend the will of a pliant nation if they are happy and looked after, no, fear and want are the best places to control folk from...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7944 posts Report Reply

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