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Maxim: Real Issues No. 172, 1 September 2005

No. 172, 1 September 2005

How to reduce child poverty?

Police and public confidence

Essay competition: the separation of church and state

New political forums

How to reduce child poverty?

This week the Every Child Counts coalition released its ratings of party policies according to how they would affect children. The Greens won the loudest praise for their goal of eliminating 'child poverty' by 2010, with National and Labour lagging behind.

Everyone wants the best for children and Every Child Counts is right to highlight the importance of the next generation and the legacy we leave them. Sound policy considers long-term effects, and certainly children are part of that future.

In New Zealand, the concept of 'child poverty' as defined by Every Child Counts is relative, not absolute. Therefore, if every person in NZ was given $10 000 tomorrow, and the cost of living did not rise, the number of children in 'poverty' would not decrease, because 'child poverty' is normally measured against median incomes. Effective poverty reduction will include short-term assistance and work towards long-term sustainability. It will address the factors contributing to a family's situation and whether it is actually improving, hopefully, to the point that a family can overcome their dependence.

A family's economic situation depends on many factors, including the often overlooked family structure. Family breakdown often damages the wealth of a family, and certainly inhibits its ability to be economically independent. The children are likely to suffer, either financially and/or emotionally. It is important to consider how political party policies will help children in poor situations, but the contribution of policies to family breakdown cannot be ignored. Even then, the genuine wellbeing of children rests primarily in the hands of parents, whanau and communities, not state agencies.

Police and public confidence

It should be no surprise that frontline police do not believe their own statistics on the level of crime in New Zealand. The reported fall in recorded crime is misleading. If crime is falling, why do we need to keep increasing the number of police? Crime is increasing, but much now goes unreported, particularly minor crimes. Some police even claim they do not report thefts of their own property. According to Senior Constable Craig Prior in Christchurch, criminals admitted 100 car break-ins during one night, but only three owners complained.

The problem is not so much an inefficient or inadequate police force, but rather a crisis in the belief that justice will be done. In any democracy, that is deadly. It is a truism that justice must be done and be seen to be done. But that can only happen in a nation that really understands the connection between private virtue (responsibility) and the will to punish and prevent crime. Confidence in crime prevention, reporting and punishment is a direct consequence of a policeman in each citizen's head, or even better, in each citizen's heart. The dynamic of trust between the police and the ordinary citizen is critical.

In New Zealand, we need to re-learn the sovereignty of freedom that previous generations so strenuously worked for, our inheritance from the Judeo-Christian worldview and common law. If we work for it we will own it. It is that ownership that gives good order to a nation.

Essay competition: the separation of church and state

The tension that exists between church and state has rested uneasily throughout the two millennia since Jesus of Nazareth responded to questions from the Roman Imperium and the Jewish rabbis, saying: "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's". Church and state both lay claim to the loyalty of the hearts and minds of men, but when the church is absorbed by the state we get totalitarianism.

A clue to any resolution is to consider the unique claims of each institution. A state claims the right to use force - in gathering taxes, policing order and defending the realm. A church claims access to transcendent truth - in human purpose, conscience and nature. As Alexis de Tocqueville rightly said, "Though it is very important for man as an individual that his religion should be true, that is not the case for society. Society has nothing to fear or hope from another life." Although, it should be added, society has much to fear if it fails to be just.

Tertiary students entering the Centre for Tomorrow's Leaders Essay Competition will be considering the issue of the separation of church and state as they compete for the first prize of $2000. Further details of the competition, which closes on Friday 23 September, can be found online, at: http://www.maxim.org.nz/essay

New political forums

With just over two weeks until the general election, make sure you know what you are voting for, by attending a political forum near you. Maxim Institute 2005 Political Forums taking place in the coming week include:
Maungaturoto Saturday, 3 September
Dargaville Saturday, 3 September
Palmerston North Monday, 5 September
Greenlane, Auckland Tuesday, 6 September
Wellington Tuesday, 6 September
Gisborne Wednesday, 7 September
Wainuiomata Thursday, 8 September
For details of where and what time these great events will be held, visit: http://www.maxim.org.nz/events

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Voltaire (1694-1778)

Men are equal; it is not birth but virtue that makes the difference.

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