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Maxim Institute - real issues - No 246

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 246

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 246 29 March 2007 www.maxim.org.nz

Social justice and the case for connection Governor-General to launch new book from Maxim Institute Day-care has long-term effects on child development A Europe of results?


'Reinventing New Zealand's Welfare State' Review of statistics on families underway

Social Justice And The Case For Connection

This Friday Maxim Institute will host over 200 invited community, business, academic and political leaders at the Auckland Town Hall, THE EDGE(R), for its 2007 Forum - Pursuing Social Justice in New Zealand.

The Forum will explore the case for connection; the idea that people's needs are best met in a relational way by those around them. Institutional or bureaucratic help, which is non-relational and typically focuses on material needs, is only ever second-best. Well-being is far more than one's bank balance, and no government can take the place of the community in bestowing identity, securing belonging, shaping character or showing love.

These things, which are vital for human flourishing, are forged and sustained through living and dynamic relationships with family, communities, iwi, voluntary organisations and faith communities. Social justice is not something which we can abdicate to government; it makes demands of each one of us, to care for and to connect with others.

The Forum will feature a top line-up of local and international speakers, including: leading social scientist, Professor David Fergusson; Principal Youth Court Judge, Andrew Becroft; Social Research Director at Australia's Centre for Independent Studies, Professor Peter Saunders; and Families Commissioner, Lyn Campbell. A panel of MPs from major Parliamentary parties will also discuss and debate how government can respond to the challenge of reinvigorating civil society in New Zealand. Throughout the day, delegates will be inspired by stories of ordinary Kiwis taking the initiative and making a practical difference.

Read more about the Maxim Institute Forum 2007

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Maxim Institute is delighted that His Excellency the Governor-General of New Zealand, The Honourable Anand Satyanand PCNZM, will officially launch a new book from Maxim Institute, Pursuing Social Justice in New Zealand: 14 New Zealanders share their stories of communities helping people in ways government cannot, at the Maxim Institute Forum on Friday 30 March.

The book, which was edited by Maxim Institute Policy Analyst Ruth Porter, features compelling arguments and inspiring stories from a diverse group of New Zealanders. Among the contributors are former All Black captain, John Graham, who considers the importance of volunteerism in sport; Maori Party co-leader, Dr Pita Sharples, who describes what insights Maori can offer to the concept of social justice; and Ruby Duncan, a former nurse who spent nine years working in a slum in Manila, who reflects on how their community projects changed the lives of many people at risk.

Pursuing Social Justice in New Zealand lays out a stirring challenge: the relational fabric of family and community life must be strengthened if social justice is to thrive. We all have a part to play and a responsibility to act.

Read more about the book and order your copy online

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Latest research findings reported in the USA indicate that day-care impacts negatively on children's behaviour, even up to age 12. Children who were in day-care any time from birth until age five, for a period of a year or more, were more likely to show disruptive behaviour eight years later. This is the conclusion of the latest report from the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development.

However, results also indicate that while time spent in day-care has moderate effects on child development, the quality of parents' care has a far stronger impact. While this may reassure parents who have no other choice but to use day-care, the findings clearly indicate that sustained time in day-care is not ideal for children.

The finding, that children who were exposed to early and sustained day-care showed more behavioural problems, persisted even after family characteristics, family conflict and the quality of the day-care centre were taken into account. However, as is the case with all research, the report does have limitations. Firstly, the study does not use a representative sample, so care has to be taken when generalising the findings. Secondly, the design of the study does not allow us to draw strong conclusions about whether increased day-care directly causes greater behavioural problems, or is merely associated with them. Nonetheless, these results from the largest and longest-running study of day-care in the USA confirm earlier research surveyed by Maxim Institute which found early and sustained day-care is associated with moderate increases in problem behaviours, lower socio-emotional well-being and slight improvements in cognitive development.

Parents should be encouraged by the implicit message of this research, that they have a unique role to play in their child's development. With the weight of evidence suggesting that replacing parental involvement with day-care is related to poorer outcomes for children, it is time for us all to acknowledge and honour the vital contribution that parents make.

Read Maxim Institute's Research Note The effects of early and sustained day-care during the formative years for infants

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Ordinary Europeans are increasingly disillusioned with the results of political union of the EU, and the politicians and technocrats know it. The leaders of Europe gathered last weekend to celebrate the 50th birthday of the EU, the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome. In an attempt to re-envision a tired and frayed 'European ideal', the occasion was marked by issuing the 'Berlin Declaration', which states that 'European unification has made peace and prosperity possible' and calls for 'a renewed common basis' for the EU.

Despite the lavish fanfare and the thin veneer of unity, observers might be forgiven for thinking the EU is now a solution looking for a problem. The rhetoric of the Berlin Declaration is populist in nature and is meant to justify the EU's existence to Europeans who no longer see why the idea of Europe is needed. In the same vein, the President of the EU Commission, José Manuel Baroso, has started talking about 'a Europe of results'. With GDP growth hovering below two per cent each year since 2001, and the average unemployment rate still high at 7.5 per cent, it is not surprising the Eurobarometer poll has shown 50 per cent of Western Europeans do not consider EU membership 'a good thing'.

With the original vision for Europe limping to a standstill, one purpose of the Berlin Declaration is to affirm (and hence create) a significant global role for the EU in the future, with references to addressing climate change, world poverty, energy security, terrorism, organised crime and illegal immigration. These initiatives are about centralising governance for the sake of centralisation, with all the problems of remoteness and lack of accountability this brings. In reality, this centralisation means member-states will have to comply with new regulations and directives in areas where consensus is likely to break down and the objectives will likely prove impossible to meet.

There are two lessons for New Zealand. First, big problems like climate change are not necessarily dealt with better by a higher form of government like the EU or the UN. National governments are more than adequate for the task. They are closer to the people whose lives are affected by the decisions that are made. Further, in a world where governments commit to more and more international treaties and protocols, New Zealand should be mindful that these obligations have a real impact on law and life here. There is no better illustration than the past 50 years of European integration.

Read the Berlin Declaration

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A new Issue Analysis by Professor Peter Saunders from the Centre for Independent Studies critiques the ever-increasing size of government in New Zealand, fuelled largely by an inexorable rise in welfare spending. Most of this rise is driven by 'churning', that is, by government taking tax so that it can give it back to the same people who paid it, in the form of benefits and services. Churning has undesirable economic effects like inefficiency and the creation of bad incentives. It also limits people's ability to make choices for themselves and undermines personal responsibility and community ties. The report recommends three major policy changes to reduce 'tax-welfare churning while still ensuring that everyone is guaranteed a decent, basic level of provision': a tax exemption for income below the minimum subsistence level; personal savings accounts for all workers to take the place of government assistance in times of sickness or unemployment; and options to opt out of the government health and superannuation schemes in return for tax reductions.

Read the Issue Analysis Reinventing New Zealand's Welfare State


Statistics New Zealand recently released a report detailing new information needs for families, the first since 1978. Significant changes in New Zealand families since then meant there was a need for a review of the type of information collected about families. Key gaps in existing information include a lack of information on family structures and the type of support families rely on. Maxim Institute made a submission on the review and is pleased with its findings. These findings will be assessed in a separate project, after which there will be a decision as to whether this information is included in new data collection procedures.

Read more about the Review of Official Family Statistics


'Human connection, and the cohesion it gives rise to, is vital in the life of a country. In attending to the social fabric which undergirds our country, in caring for others, we become most truly ourselves, yoked into community and into belonging . . . . Social justice really does begin in our own hearts, and on this side of the fence.'

Ruth Porter, Pursuing Social Justice in New Zealand


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