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Maxim Institute - real issues - No 193

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 193








The significant rise in public spending by the United States government seems to suggest that the party supposedly in favour of limited government, the Republican Party, now believes that big government is good government; as long as they are the ones governing. Federal spending is up eight percent since 2005, and 33 percent since 2001. The government spends more today per household than it has since the end of World War Two.

Closer to home, government spending continues with the roll-out of the Working for Families package. While the National Party continue to criticise administrative blunders, they have not articulately critiqued the assumptions regarding the legitimate role of government that underlie the package.

The question of legitimacy is all important when it concerns the use of power. Like the big-spending Republicans, all political parties make different assumptions about the value and nature of human freedom, and consequently, the degree to which government power should be both enforced and restrained in order to protect it. People are different and when free people act, they will experience different outcomes. This is why there is always a trade-off between freedom and equality which is usually paid for at the other's expense.

Two assumptions embedded in the extended Working for Families package are that take-home incomes should be subsidised in the interests of equality rather than need, and that it is a legitimate role of government to mitigate the outcomes of each individual's unique decisions. Raising a family is costly and couples who make that choice should be applauded and supported by the community which benefits from that decision. Thankfully, this is happening in New Zealand. Those tax-payers without dependent children already support families to a significant extent through the public provision of education and subsidised health-care. Society also provides a welfare safety-net for those in genuine need, but whether welfare should extend to income redistribution is an entirely different matter.

If we accept the assumption that the government is justified in using power to arbitrarily equalise incomes, what is left to restrain it from redistributing and spending further?

It is often said that oppositions have principles and governments have programmes. Sadly one assumption which eventually finds its way into nearly every cabinet room is that big government is good government as long as it is ours.


Freedom of speech is seldom tidy. In recent weeks the Austrian government sentenced former Holocaust denier David Irving to three years in prison, Muslims burned down Danish embassies and Catholics staged prayer and protest and threatened to boycott CanWest MediaWorks – all different forms of protest against offensive words, pictures and ideas.

There are many courses of action available to people wishing to exert pressure on publishers and broadcasters they believe have crossed a line of acceptability, but according to one expert, invoking the arm of the state is seldom the most effective way.

Dr Newell Grenfell who founded the company which established television ratings throughout Southeast Asia, has a lifetime of experience in market and media research. His advice to people wishing to affect the decisions of the nation's media is to voice their concern with the advertisers in no uncertain terms.

Dr Grenfell says: "Television stations count their audiences in tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands. So when viewers write to the station about something, it's usually a drop in the bucket in relation to the size of their audience...But if one of their advertisers tells the station they are getting complaints from the buying public, the station really sits up and takes notice. Because it's the advertisers who provide the money that keep TV stations on air."

According to Dr Grenfell, it would not take too many advertisers withdrawing their advertising dollars to see a broadcaster respond to public pressure. It is important to remember that citizens can encourage one another to freely act responsibly.


The '40 hour famine' has become an annual event in many schools around New Zealand. The famine is World Vision's primary fundraising event in which many New Zealanders, especially school children, are sponsored to fast from food for 40 hours. The event serves several purposes: it generates money for relief and development projects, helps New Zealanders better understand that children living in poverty are not as fortunate as they are and inspires them to consider how their small sacrifice can make a big difference to someone else.

The theme of this year's famine is child labour. The money raised will go towards projects which bring children out of labour and into education. World Vision have said: "Child labour doesn't work; it means kids are working 12 hours a day, leaving no opportunity for education or hope for a better future, let alone a chance to escape the poverty cycle."

To find out more, or to sign up for the famine, please visit: http://www.famine.org.nz/default.aspx


A new proposal to get prostitution off Manukau streets is currently before Parliament. The proposal is the Manukau City Council (Control of Street Prostitution) Bill, which passed its first reading last year and will soon be considered by a Select Committee.

If passed, the Bill will make it a criminal offence to solicit prostitution in a public place in the district of Manukau. The definition of soliciting will affect both prostitutes and their clients.

The Bill will also make it a crime to engage in certain conduct connected with street prostitution. This will include anti-social behaviour such as excessive littering and threatening behaviour as street prostitution is seen as a root cause of these problems. The Bill gives the police powers to enforce the law, setting out hefty fines for those caught in breach of the rules. The scope of the Bill is limited to street prostitution and will not affect the operation of brothels, which remain legal under the Prostitution Reform Act 2003.

It is pleasing to see Parliament respond to the legitimate concerns of the Manukau community and no doubt other local authorities will be keeping a keen eye on the progress of this Bill.

If you would like to read the Bill and an explanation of it, visit: http://www.knowledge-basket.co.nz/gpprint/docs/bills/20050061.txt

If you are interested in making a submission on the Bill, you have until the end of Friday 24 February 2006 to do so. A copy of a submission can be sent by email (with hard copies following by post), so there is still time to have your say.

For more information on how to make a submission, go to: http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/Programme/Committees/Submissions/lemccprost.htm


A new private member's bill to establish a 90-day probation period for new employees has just been drawn from the ballot. The Employment Relations (Probationary Employment) Amendment Bill is sponsored by Dr Wayne Mapp and in his words, will "ensure we have workplace law that will help New Zealand close the production gap with Australia". Dr Mapp also notes that "New Zealand and Denmark are the only two countries in the OECD that do not have a probation period for new employees". The Bill will be debated in the coming months.


"It is one of the greatest weaknesses of our time that we lack the patience and faith to build up voluntary organizations for purposes which we value highly, and immediately ask the government to bring about by coercion (or with means raised by coercion) anything that appears as desirable to large numbers. Yet nothing can have a more deadening effect on real participation by the citizens than if government, instead of merely providing the essential framework of spontaneous growth, becomes monolithic and takes charge of the provision for all needs, which can be provided for only by the common effort of many." Friedrich A. Hayek (1899-1992)

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