Posts by BenWilson

  • Hard News: This Anzac Day,

    ...and more of this: http://d3nd7i493f0o21.cloudfront.net/assets/upload/278694/38098424/DSCF0279.JPG

    "LET THESE PANELS NEVER BE FILLED"

    Best sentiment in the entire Museum.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8945 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: This Anzac Day,

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8945 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: This Anzac Day,

    My hopes for the 21st Century Anzac legacy: 1/3

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8945 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: This Anzac Day,

    WW1 is as long ago for us as the Napoleonic invasion of Russia was for them. Despite my family having been in it, I'm losing interest. The military parades seemed like an appropriate memorial for those who had been in wars, although for most of my life that would have been WW2 vets. Now they're gone and there's only the grim memorials that I occasionally visit with my boys for educational purposes. I don't really want to make a song and dance about it for them.

    The worst thing about WW1 is WW2. It was like we learned nothing and had to do it all again, but 5 times harder. I can't romanticize anything about that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8945 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: What has Neoliberalism Done for…, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Would tiny house oficionados want to buy and live in a house someone else had built, or would it feel like it was built for someone else’s needs and tastes and not their own?

    Sort of like boy racers and their cars? Practically every modification is at a loss... :-)

    I don't know. I'm not a big fan of the idea. What tussock said. I've no problem with people wanting to get back to doing things like housebuilding themselves, but I don't think it's a long term solution for housing shortages in NZ on its own (although it could play a part). Housing is a massive problem, with many contributing variables.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8945 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: What has Neoliberalism Done for…, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Except that research has found that some cultural groups prefer to live with extended family

    Of course. My neighbor on both sides are like that, and it's not because they're poor. They renovated to massively extend the dwellings, and the whole range from little babies through to grandparents are all there. It's a great set up. The parents work full and part time, the grandparents do a lot of child-minding and generally keep the gardens and house in good order, and the teens/twenty somethings are mostly in education, but also have their own garage lair with a pool table and stereo. The presence of family prevents them getting carried away with their parties. Everybody is busy, there's always someone around for company and security (my own house feels a lot safer with all the people around - particularly the teens who hang around out on the street at night).

    But some people don't prefer it, too, but have little choice. Young adults, particularly. Not everyone within a cultural group has the same opinion, and you might get a very different answer from a young man or woman about how much they like living with their mum and dad at the age of 22 if getting a small place of their own were within their means, if the question is asked when the parents aren't there. Having every human you associate with, particularly your sexual partners, vetted by the (p|m)atriach is something many would gladly drop.

    Incidentally, my own dad was also brought up that way, so I don't know how much it's about cultural groups. He was just a working class 3rd generation white NZer. He has plenty of fond memories from his childhood with the ever-present extended family and their raucous gatherings, but he also said he was royally sick of it as a young man, felt spied on, tied down, overly controlled. Fortunately, he lived in a time when he could buy a small house for $5000, after renting a whole bunch of similar setups. He could do it up himself, got paid generous penal rates for weekend work so he could put himself through university whilst raising a young family and paying off a mortgage. There is very little of this kind of thing going on now.

    I'm not saying that we should rewind to this, though, because it's not possible. Those little houses in St Mary's Bay are worth millions now. But very small dwellings are not something we couldn't do with more of. I think apartments would be better, they can be centrally located and reasonably priced compared to houses, whose land value makes them completely uneconomical. Or perhaps terraced houses with very small land sizes and a lot of house.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8945 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: What has Neoliberalism Done for…, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Tiny houses will not solve their housing situations.

    They might help though. Part of the reason the extended family might all be in one house is because grandparents and young adults can't find anywhere small and affordable. Not that I'm a fan. I'd suggest apartment blocks for maximum efficiency for such dwellings.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8945 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: What has Neoliberalism Done for…, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Any estimates of their work ethic are wild guesses at best.

    Yup, there would be enormous variance, depending on the conditions. A starving animal will do every thing it can all the time to get food. A big predator sitting over a kill can do nothing all day except lie around, eat, drink, and sleep. If you hit an extremely rich area of food then idling for months on end is possible. If times are very tough then struggling from dawn until dusk to scratch up food and shelter might be necessary. We see fluctuations like this in the natural world now, with massive herd migrations totally changing the food sources in an area from one season to the next, as rainfalls cycle entire regions from desert to lush plantations, or snowfalls meaning basically nothing growing for a good 6 months.

    Minor adaptions could mean massively extended periods of either the feast or the famine, possibly even for years or decades at a time until some new problem arises, some new rebalancing. A new hunting technique, a new symbiosis with another animal, a new prey emerging in large numbers or a new predator for your normal food.

    Humans developing the ability to adapt extremely rapidly via tool use and possibly speech probably meant that new feasts could be found quickly. But our main competitors would be other humans who could soon turn that feast back into a famine.

    So in the end, who knows? Average human workloads in the range of working all the time to none of the time (ETA: Just like they are now).

    The important question for us is not how much could we work, or how much have we historically worked, but how much do we want to work, and how much do we want work to be something we are forced to do, rather than just wanting to do. Because as a species now, we are nearly in the position of the entire range that primeval humans had forced on them being something we can just choose amongst*. So long as we can control our population, we can basically choose how much work we do, from none all the way through to all the time.

    *I mean choosing collectively, here. Obviously the rich have been able to choose not to work forever. Which makes them possibly the best case study as to the optimal condition – being freed from want, what work output do rich people maintain for the best, happiest, most fulfilled lives? It’s isn’t obvious that the answer would be zero – that could be a recipe for isolation and depression, a common problem for the rich, just as it is for the unemployed poor. And there are plenty of rich workaholics too – we would want to assess how well they’re living too.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8945 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: What has Neoliberalism Done for…, in reply to Dave Hansford,

    Loved your post, but gulped when I saw this:

    Sorry about that, I wasn't really sure what you meant, glad you've clarified.

    It is absolutely NOT a binary option.

    Agreed, Bart. And I totally agree with:

    And hence we should try something else, which might also not work.

    Although I'd say that we have already tried raising taxes as a way of raising money for government expenditure. There are other ways to achieve the same thing, so it's not all in that basket. One of the most obvious other ways is what National has been doing, borrowing money. That is clearly unsustainable. Another way is to sell off assets. That's a one time thing for each asset, and so also unsustainable. Another is to squeeze more profit out of state owned assets. Tried it by turning them into SOEs...didn't work, which is why they're selling them. Another is for the government to invest in more business itself, buy more assets that have cash flows. We haven't really tried that much since Muldoon, even though the things he built have in the long run made handsome profits. Another is to do the whole Green thing of charging for pollution.

    Then there is the untouched virgin territory of using the money supply itself. An old, old idea, that never quite made it into practice in any stable sovereign nation. Practically everywhere this is outsourced to banks via loans now. The natural endgame of doing it like this is that the banks and the super rich own everything. This would seem to be a cycle that's repeated many times in history going back into the ancient world. It almost always ends very badly, with a decline into massive disorder follow by a resetting, usually violently. This was never more poignantly so than the last time, when the geopolitical makeup of the world was radically reorganized. From that springboard we had a period of fantastic prosperity, even for the conquered. But, as always happens, the iron law of oligarchy seems to apply to money and it eventually concentrates.

    Now a violent resetting of the world order really isn't an option. We almost don't have any other option than to find a better way. We've never before been at a time when it was more obvious how much less we need to do to create genuine human happiness than before, and yet we insist on making human slog or blind luck the only path to it, and so people have to compete with each other to slog harder than the rest for less money, when the world is literally awash with it, just in far too few hands, typically the lucky rather than the sloggers.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8945 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: What has Neoliberalism Done for…,

    Can I suggest that this become a go-to thread for this entire topic, and we shoot for a record number of comments? This is a major and open issue, and it's constantly being raised.

    I've no time right now to comment at length, got to go avail myself of one of the last standing excellent bastions against neoliberalism, the public health system. My son's badly smashed arm gets free care. The probable cause of it (his multiple disabilities) also does, via the ACC system, one of the best systems of its kind anywhere in the world. Unfortunately it's predicated around identifiable accidents rather than just general misfortune, so other disabled people get nowhere near the standard.

    But a couple of little things jump out at me:

    I need to imagine, then create, a better life. The enormity of that, and the uncertainty of the outcome, would freeze me to the spot if it weren’t for the galvanising realisation that this must not continue. Neoliberal policy has delivered us to a poorer, greedier, uglier and unjust place.

    This is the greatest dilemma of all. We can mostly agree that neoliberalism has not done us very well economically, although there's a great deal of firming up of any definitions to get that into useful territory. But our big problem is a lack of viable alternatives that are inspiring in it's place. I don't think it's a coincidence that the huge rise in neoliberalism was simultaneous with the collaspse of Soviet communism. Do we need a new -ism? Or are all solutions piecemeal, different for every time, place, issue? I think that a piecemeal approach is very rational, but in face of an aggressive ideology, it can and has been easily divided and conquered.

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

    I think this is hanging on to massive ideological baggage too. The dichotomy of tax-and-spend vs drop-tax-and-let-consumers-spend pits an older ideology against the super-predator, and really, the population of the older ideology is just crashing. Fortunately, tax-and-spend is not the only alternative.

    To me, if we are at a capitalist crisis, perhaps we should soberly evaluate whether the solution we came up with last time really is as good as it could be. We now have a welfare state to compare with. We have 80-odd years of history to see how it went. As many note, it wasn't all peaches even before neoliberalism. Also, the world has changed, particularly technologically.

    We need to face a question that becomes more urgent every year - should the entire basis of our economic well-being always be predicated on human work? Is taxing workers and companies really the only possible way that things could be organized?

    I found it interesting that Bruce Beetham's election was mentioned in the initial post as almost a pivotal moment for Dave Hansford in ideologically committing to neoliberalism. Since Beetham was not a neoliberal, I'm not sure I see the connection. Social Credit has all but entirely disappeared since the 1980s, and with it one of the major economic alternatives.

    In it's place (but probably not with the same people) we have the Green Party as the new third party of the left, who also have an alternative vision, in which it is not work and profit that is taxed, but a holistic appraisal of the full true cost of businesses and services especially at the environmental level. This has to be at least considered as a viable economic alternative.

    So, in summary, the really big question here is not "Has neoliberalism failed us?", but "What would be better?".

    Gotta go...cuz later.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8945 posts Report Reply

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