Government control over us versus our right to free choice

Governments have to have some control over it’s citizens. Laws are generally for our protection and benefit, and taxing us is essential for providing public services and essentials like adequate health care and education for everyone.

But most of us don’t want to much control over our lives, and want to retain as much freedom of choice as possible.

Governments continually deal with trying to find the right balance between things that will put some controls and restrictions and responsibilities on us, and allowing us freedom of choice and to take responsibility for our own lives as much as possible.

Lana Hart (The Press) has a fairly scathing political lean, but also asks some reasonable questions in The sweet spot of government power (government power will never be sweet for al of the people all of the time).

No matter where the Sixth Labour Government and its coalition partners looked, there were things to fix up. Efforts to rid the halls of power of the stink of neglect permeated their work in the first year of their political residence, bringing more resources, stronger interventions, more oversight, and better support for the defenceless in our society.

‘Stink of neglect’ is an unfair appraisal, but there are always things to ‘fix up’ for any incoming government (and any returning government).

But we don’t want our governments to go too far in their control over our lives. We don’t want them needling into our private lives and making decisions that we should make for ourselves.

We want the right balance of government in our lives.

I’m sure it is a constant juggle to get the equilibrium right between enabling the government to create safe and fair living conditions for all their residents while allowing people the autonomy to make their own choices.

How far should government go at gathering information that, at some stage, may be helpful to a family in need?

This is a tricky question. Many of us probably don’;t want the government gathering our personal information – except when it may help us. Having our health records on hand if we need emergency care in any part of the country could be quite beneficial to us, even life saving.

At what stage does the government use the force of its many resources to intervene in a sector – such as water safety, housing, and tourism – that might better be left alone? When does a government that needs the support of New Zealand businesses have to step up its mandate to regulate it more tightly?

In the vast house of government, these questions must keep the occupants up at night.

Every Cabinet, and each Minister should be considering these things continually as a standard part of their demanding jobs.

As well every party and each Member of Parliament should be looking at a decent balance between freedom and intervention. Opposition MPs need to weigh up holding to account versus using the public to score political points. Parties need to develop good policy that doesn’t use our lives as political footballs – and in particular they should not bribe some voters at the cost of others.

Surely this – enabling people to live good lives –  is the role of all governments, whether local or national. They should exert some influence over us with legitimate rules without getting in the way of our individual rights to autonomy and free choice. Since some of us need more help than others, governments also need to step in to even out the inequalities that life throws at us.

Enabling people to live good lives? Or allowing us to live the lives we choose as much as is possible in a fair society, taking into account the rights and needs of others living in our community?

The reality is that some of both is required.

Less than a third of Cabinet are female

Jacinda Ardern has been a staunch supporter of equality. Just yesterday she promoted equality in rugby – see Rugby doesn’t deserve to be New Zealand’s national sport, equality or not.

But the day before she diluted the female presence in her Cabinet, from 35% to less than a third, by demoting Clare Curran to reduced ministerial duties outside Cabinet. Now:

  • 3 of the top 10 Ministers are female (still)
  • 6 of the 19 Ministers in Cabinet are female
  • 2 of 6 Ministers outside Cabinet are female
  • 2 of 3 Supporting Party (Green) Ministers are female (still)
  • TOTAL 10 of 28 Ministers are female

In the place where Ardern could walk the walk on her equality ideals, Government, she is falling well short.

It could be that there are not enough female MPs in the three parties in Government who are experienced enough or capable enough to fill the top positions in equal numbers to men, but this must be a bit embarrassing for Ardern.


Men’s issues and inequality

Inequality doesn’t just affect women, it can affect men too, sometimes differently to women, but there are prejudices, unfair sweeping criticisms and institutional biases against men as well as against women.

This shouldn’t detract for issues that women face, they are overdue for addressing, but things aren’t entirely stacked for men and against women.

One example that is often quoted is the apparent assumption by police that in violent domestic situations men are the instigators and perpetrators and are the ones that must be removed from family homes. I don’t know how true this is now, in 2018, because the treatment of domestic violence has changed markedly over the last fifty years, but it is an obvious issue of concern still.

A thread at Reddit looks at men’s issues: ‘You idiots, Google it’ – Jack Tame fires up over commenters asking ‘where’s International Men’s Day?’

“I’d love to have a conversation about men’s issues that wasn’t set in the frame work of anti-feminism or misogyny for once.”

“Check out r/menslib. It is just sub to say these are the issues facing men, and no, feminists aren’t the cause.”

“I was going to recommend the same place. Good, positive community. Feminist aligned, rainbow alphabet friendly. Angry misogynists need not apply…”

On domestic violence:

I think it’s fair to direct some criticism at feminists for at least not helping, if not holding back addressing men’s issues.

A good example of this is domestic violence research. Feminist researchers pushed there ideological point of view and inhibited research that showed female perpetrators and male victims. See this articleThis video has clips of a Dunedin Longitudinal study researcher talking about the problems they had with sharing their research. Here another video of a partner violence researcher talking about the difficulty of presenting research that is counter to the feminist ideological position.

On the bias towards women’s issues:

I think there is a real issue with influential feminists and feminist theory though.

For example, Dr. Jackie Blue from the human rights commision frame gender equality as exclusively a woman’s issue. Julie Anne Genter believes there is no need to have specific measures to address men’s inequalities. It these attitudes from people in power that make progress on men’s issues difficult.

I don’t know if this is accurate about Dr Jackie Blue and Julie Anne Genter.

As Minister for Women it is Genter’s job to advocate for women, not men.

And what’s wrong with that, exactly? As a male, I too am concerned about men’s issues in terms of mental health, education and justice laws. These are inequalities that can and should be solved through fixing policies within these particular areas and overcoming the societal problems that cause these discrepancies in the first place (eg. alternatives in the justice system towards rehabilitation will by definition benefit men primarily). Women face unique institutional barriers in representation in parliament, pay equity, and have unique health issues that men don’t face(in terms of pregnancy etc.) that need require a dedicated policy more than the equivalent for men do.

Nor, am I convinced it’s JAG’s job to institute these changes. Why not take it up with men that are directly responsible for these issues? Like Ministers David Clark for Health or Kelvin Davis for corrections?

Health and Corrections (prisons) are two areas that men can have disadvantages – far more of them are imprisoned and stuck in incarceration, re-offending cycles, and screening programs for illnesses that largely afflict men lag that of women’s health issues.

Life expectancy for men still lags that for women.

Men face unique institutional barriers as well albeit different ones. I’m actually researching this at the moment so I can make a submission to the UN human rights review. The biggest issue so far is that we haven’t been reporting violations of men’s human rights to the UN. We should have equality under the law, and currently, we have a few laws that discriminate against men. This has not been reported. The amount of violence against women has been reported, but the figure for male victims have been left out.

Another issue is that the Ministry for Women is the government’s expert on gender. It unreasonable for the MfW to have the expertise and knowledge of men’s issues. Cabinet papers are required to have a gender analysis, but this is focused on the effects on women.

Some of men’s issues simply haven’t improved. Boys and men have been behind in education for decades. Suicide rates for men have dropped since the nineties but have flattened out and are still significantly higher than the lowest point. The Justice Minister isn’t interested in addressing the bias against men in the justice system.

You can’t have one gender equality standard for women and another for men. That’s not gender equality.

I’ve made a similar point before – equality means equal standards for anyone regardless of gender.

Problems aren’t always gender equal – for example men are more likely to be violent than women 9but not exclusively), and breast cancer and prostrate cancer are not gender equal.

The argument that women’s issues are different or worse isn’t an argument against a men’s ministry (or equivalent) it’s an argument for a women’s ministry.

The fact that we have some stubborn negative outcomes for men that we haven’t been able to make good progress on in the current system should be enough to consider a men’s ministry or some specific intervention.

Another consideration is that we have obligations under human rights treaties to protect men’s and women’s rights equally.

I wonder if how exactly people expect individual government departments will address men’s issues? Perhaps they will need a men’s advocate for each department and someone to coordinate between departments? Maybe someone who is an expert on men’s issues and can be consulted by other ministers?

A contentious comment:

Except mainstream Western feminism is the very thing that is trying to keep men from discussing their issues. When it began criticising patriarchal gender roles and stereotypes, it made men analyse their own situations and they began to realise things weren’t right.

Feminism needs men to be complacent and accepting of their lot in life. More so it relies on men and their sacrificial tendencies, their need to work for the greater good in order to actually advance their agenda. Hence why feminism doesn’t want men becoming aware because it would result in women losing social and legal privileges, something which the movement today does not want.

A response:

That is just not true. I have lost men in my life to suicide and it has been feminists who offered the most support and only feminists that have been interested in discussing gender roles and the influence they play in the suffering of many men in our society let alone acting to challenge those roles.

Just as male equality and female equality and genders issues are not equal, not all feminists and feminist issues are equal.

There is a tendency to highlight the worst rather than the best examples of feminist activism.

A response to Jack Tame’s comment:

Well he has a point. “What about men’s day” is often used as a reason not to care about woman’s day rather than a genuine call to arms on men’s issues. I do support more attention on a specific men’s day/issues focus tho.

One thing in which men are, in general, not equal is their reluctance or inability to discuss serious issues. There has been a tendency for men, in New Zealand at least, to be ‘strong, silent types’, with debate over ‘strong’.

It can be a weakness to keep problems to yourself. It can adversely affect your well being, and it increases the risks of pent up anger exploding into violence, or of pent up depression or feelings of hopelessness resulting in self harm and suicide – men unequally figure in suicide statistics.

If men want better advocacy on male issues they need to take responsibility for it themselves and not moan about the gains that women’s advocacy have made in recent decades.

If men want a Ministry for men or an International Men’s Day then men should make them happen.

Inequality will not be resolved by inaction.

Green ‘inspiration’ – promoting gender imbalance

Greens have shifted from being a pro-gender equality party to a pro-female party.

Their latest newsletter (from Sarah Helm, Green Party Campaign Director) is titled “More great Green inspiration for you – Campaign Update Newsletter”, and opens:

Here’s another campaign newsletter of interesting sharable content including how many women we have in our top 10, our transparency around donations, our policies to end poverty, and ways you can help.

It promotes:

Image of Green candidates Leilani Tamu and Elizabeth Kerekere
making a heart shape with their hands

Did you know that 7 of our top 10 candidates are women? That’s more than the top ten lists of Labour, National and NZ First combined!

Labour are likely to get 50 or more MPs, close to half of whom could be female, or three times or more the number of female Green MPs.

If Greens get between 6 or 9 MPs only 2 will be men.

Check out the graphic below, and visit our candidates list to learn more about our great Green leaders and what they’re up to. 

Greens are now openly promoting significant gender imbalance. In the past they promoted gender balance.

They still have equality written into their policy: “The Greens envision a world where there is equality between men and women. ” But that is in ‘Women’s Policy’, and they don’t have ‘Men’s Policy’.

Two years ago James Shaw put this out:

Greens will ensure gender balance in Cabinet

The Green Party is today announcing that, in Government, it will ensure half of all Green Cabinet Ministers are women, and will call on other members of any coalition Government it is involved in to do the same.

Green Party Co-leader James Shaw announced to the CTU conference in Wellington today that the Green Party would put gender equality at the heart of any Government it is involved in, starting with equal representation in Cabinet.

Greens are unlikely to be able to dictate gender balance in Cabinet. There won’t be a Green Cabinet. At best Greens will be a minority in a Labour Cabinet – on current polling they will be lucky to get a fifth of Cabinet being Green (about 5 MPs) so they won’ty have much say on the overall mix.

And if NZ First is also in Cabinet that will make things more difficult, as they have just one female in their top 8.

“Our hope is that by leading by example, and ensuring gender equality at the Cabinet table, the Green Party can stimulate and support a wave of gender equity reforms for women who work,” Mr Shaw said.

“Just 30 percent of Cabinet positions are currently held by women, and only 32 per cent of MPs in Parliament are women. If political parties are serious about ensuring women across all workplaces are paid more and given the opportunity to take on senior roles, then political parties should start by getting their own houses in order.

“By committing to a gender balance in Cabinet, the Green Party won’t immediately fix the inequalities women are forced to deal with at work every day, but it will show that we are committed to gender equality everywhere, starting with where we work ourselves,” Mr Shaw said.

“A Government with 70 percent of its Ministers men isn’t good for women and it isn’t good for New Zealand.

Now the Greens are promoting a 70% gender imbalance as “great Green inspiration”.

The top 10 on the Green list, with the approximate % vote required to get each person in on the list, and the gender %:

  1. James Shaw 5.0%
  2. Marama Davidson 5.0%
  3. Julie Anne Genter 5.0%
  4. Eugenie Sage 5.0%
  5. Gareth Hughes 5.0%
  6. Jan Logie 5.0% (females 67% )
  7. Chloe Swarbrick 5.2% (females 71% )
  8. Golriz Ghahraman 6.0% (females 75% )
  9. Mojo Mathers 6.8% (females 78%)
  10. Barry Coates 7.6% (females 70%)
  11. Jack McDonald 8.4% (females 64%)
  12. John Hart 9.2% (females 58%)
  13. Denise Roche 10.0% (females 62%)
  14. Hayley Holt 10.8% (females 64%)
  15. Teall Crossen 11.6% (females 67%)

When the Greens put this list out they had hopes of getting a much bigger vote share, but current polls have them around 5-6%. Even if they end up getting a bit more than that they still look likely to have somewhere around two thirds or three quarters female MPs.

And they say this is “great Green inspiration for you”. If you are female perhaps.

Greens are obviously targeting female voters (not surprising given their female imbalance), and this is where Labour are doing very well. Women in particular like Jacinda Ardern.

Greens are trying to compete with the most popular politician in New Zealand for votes – that’s a large part of the reason their support has slumped.

US federal judge rules on breast equality

A judge in Colorado has ruled that male and female breasts are equal and and ordinance in the city of Fort Collins allowing male breasts to be bared in public but banning the exposure of female breasts was discriminatory.

The Denver Channel: Federal judge grants injunction barring Fort Collins from enforcing rule banning topless women

A federal judge on Wednesday granted a preliminary injunction that will prevent Fort Collins from enforcing a city ordinance that bans women from exposing their breasts in public, other than for breastfeeding purposes.

U.S. District Court of Colorado Judge R. Brooke Jackson handed down the ruling Wednesday four months after he allowed portions of the lawsuit to proceed on the grounds the ordinance violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

The city of Fort Collins had sought to dismiss the claims that the statute violated the Equal Protection Clause after it successfully got some of the other initial claims in the suit tossed by Judge Jackson in October.

The statute in question, which said that “[n]o person shall knowingly appear in any public place in a nude state or state of undress such that the genitals or buttocks of either sex or the breast or breasts of a female are exposed,” was revised in November 2015.

Judge Brooke wrote:

“Unfortunately, our history is littered with many forms of discrimination, including discrimination against women. As the barriers have come down, one by one, some people were made uncomfortable. In our system, however, the Constitution prevails over popular sentiment.”

“I do not accept the notion, as some of those courts have, that we should continue a stereotypical distinction ‘rightly or wrongly,’ or that something passes constitutional muster because it has historically been part of ‘our culture.

We would not say that, rightly or wrongly, we should continue to recognize a fundamental difference between the ability of males and females to serve on juries…Or between male and female estate administrators…or between military cadets…or between the ability of males and females to practice law…nor should we.”

“After much thought, I have concluded that going out on this lonely limb is the right thing to do. I have no more right to fall back on ‘the way we have always done it’ than those who have reassessed their thinking.”

The Fort Collins City Attorney responded with this statement:

“In light of the Order issued Wednesday, the City is prohibited for now from citing women for exposing their breasts in public under the City Code, pending a final decision in this case.

While the Judge has acknowledged the other cases upholding similar laws, he concluded he is likely to find the City’s restriction on female toplessness in public is based on an impermissible gender stereotype that results in a form of gender-based discrimination.

The City is reviewing the Judge’s decision in this case and City legal, policy and enforcement staff will be considering the City’s options for next steps in light of the Order.”

In New Zealand in 2012 Stuff reported in Nudity not necessarily an offence

Section 27 of the Summary Offence Act 1981 classifies indecent exposure as occurring when a person who, in or within view of any public place, intentionally and obscenely exposes any part of his or her genitals.

Bare breasts are not indecent exposure.

However, that does not mean a topless sunbather will be safe, at least in the New Plymouth district.

A bylaw passed in 2008 prohibits any person to be or remain upon any part of a beach unless properly and sufficiently dressed.

The Bill of Rights should at least ensure equal rights for any gender.


Is ‘equality’ newspeak for socialism?

Is the push for ‘equality’ – income equality, educational equality, social equality – just newspeak for socialism?

Everyone is equal, but some people are more equal than others.

In an opinion at NZ Herald Martin Thrupp, head of Te Whiringa School of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Waikato, asks Why has NZ society become so hard-hearted?

Have we as a society become more hard hearted? Or is Thrupp confusing a resistance to being socially and politically manipulated with a lack of caring?

Thrupp sounds more like a political activist than a university head of department.

Recently a group that brings together various organisations concerned with poverty and inequality in New Zealand society sent out an invitation.

The Equality Network announced a day hui in March on the theme “Talking so that people will listen”. Some of New Zealand’s most indefatigable campaigners against poverty and injustice have issued the invitation.

What struck me about the planning is that it involves “a draft communications resource that will draw on the latest research about framing, political communication, and what works and what doesn’t when it comes to changing people’s minds”.

In a country that once prided itself on social mobility for ordinary people, it is telling that we now need such concerted efforts to get the public to care enough about inequality. Yet as the invitation explained, “we’ve convinced a growing number of people that income inequality is one of New Zealand’s biggest problems. But if we’re going to turn that concern into the momentum for real change, we’re going to have to persuade a whole lot more people”.

What Thrupp fails to realise or acknowledge is that the income equality activists have done a poor job of framing and political communication which alienates many people from their cause.

Most people simply don’t believe that a quarter of New Zealand kids are living in real poverty.

So what has caused today’s hard-heartedness?

Three decades of neo-liberal politics has changed Kiwi outlooks. There is also the greed and fear of the housing market, distractions like the flag campaign and Mr Key’s personal life, compassion fatigue brought on by 24/7 media and probably many other factors as well.

Does that sound more like an objective academic or a political activist? Thrupp would not look out of place as an author at The Daily Blog.

Nevertheless responsible political leadership could make a big difference.

Implying that current political leadership is irresponsible.

A responsible government would recognise that the aspirations of individual parents for their children need to be tempered by the common good. As John Dewey famously said, what the best and wisest parent wants for their own child, that must the community want for all of its children.

Except that the wants of parents – even “the best and wisest parent” – varies, so a one size fits all community is not what most people will want.

For this reason, governments should be interested in reducing residential and school segregation through housing policy, restricting “choosing up” into higher socio-economic schools and curtailing the growth of exclusive schools whether public or private.

Does Thrupp want all schools to be the same so they all produce the same bricks in the wall?

Unfortunately the Key Government has been unable or unwilling to take strong action in any of these areas. Housing segregation has been left largely uncontained and schools in the most popular areas are overwhelmed with enrolments.

Many people want their kids to go to the schools they think are the best – should be this not be allowed?

All this has limited Ministers Tolley and Parata to banging on about standards of teaching in disadvantaged schools, ramping up assessment and setting targets for improvement. None of these policy directions will make any significant difference because they ignore the central problem, the social polarisation that continues to overtake our school system.

Is Thrupp wanting not just income equality but also social equality and educational equality?

Charter schools won’t help either, and for the same reason. They provide much hyped alternative provision for the poor but leave untouched the great social divide in education.

One of the aims of Partnership Schools – they are referred to as charter schools by opponents – is to provide education for kids who are failures in the normal school system.

Yet if schools could be made less socially polarised, those schools currently disregarded by the middle classes would become more acceptable to them.

How do you make schools “less socially polarised”? Enforced social equality? As if all families want the same sort of society to live in?

And once the children of professional parents began attending less elite schools, many of the financial, reputational and other problems of those schools would get sorted out quite quickly too.

That sounds like waving some sort of equality wand to make everything great.

Overall it does come back to the understanding and outlooks of the public, both because our political leaders are elected and because today’s governments are so poll-driven. So let’s hope the Equality Network gets real traction.

Perhaps the Equality Network should do some polling. Then they may find out that many people see through their fake framing and poor political communication, and that neither parents nor children don’t like being forced to be ‘equal’.

A more genuine “raft of measures” around inequality could make a big difference if New Zealanders want a better future for this country.

A ‘genuine’ raft of equality, of sameness, of socialism? That’s what it sounds like to me.

The Equality Network:

The Equality Network brings together the groups who are responding to this concern by campaigning to reduce income inequality and create greater well-being and life chances for all. Our profound belief is that in a more equal society, everyone is better off.

Everyone is equal, but some people are more equal than others.

What is socialism?

Socialism means genuine social equality, on a world scale. It means that satisfying the basic rights of the working class—the right to a job, education, health care, a secure retirement, a decent standard of living, a world without war—is the aim of society, not the enrichment of the financial elite.

Socialism means the extension of democracy to the foundation of all of society: the economic process.

So we all get to vote on giving ourselves more money? Equal to everyone else of course.

Turei on kids and inequality

From a speech by Metiria Turei at the TEDxhomeBushRdWomen event in Wellington – Grandmas Shoes: Poverty, Headology and Deep Freedom

(Animation: three children discuss the economic system “So what’s happening with all our money?” “We’re giving it to the government and they’re giving it to the rich people.” “And they’re spending it on stuff they don’t need.”)

We can’t keep telling kids it’s going to be ok; they know it’s not ok. We have to make it ok.

So how might we transform the world of our children, once we have listened to their needs. How can we ensure genuine equality of opportunity for all our kids?

Roberto Unger is a Brazilian social and legal theorist and philosopher who offers us the concept of deep freedom. Deep freedom not shallow freedom. He sees equality as part of deep freedom.

He says that a society that deliberately creates inequality and then resorts to redistribution to soften the impact, is not only useless but inhumane.

To have every citizen be deeply free – our institutions, economic, political, social need to be purposefully built to deliver equality.

Just making little tweaks in a band aid response to inequality is not good enough for our kids.

So I, Metiria, grown up, accept responsibility for delivering a genuinely transformed world for our children, not for perpetuating one that embeds inequality.

It’s unlikely children would discuss the economic system. And if they discussed it as above they would have been indoctrinated with a false situation. Poorer families with children  receive more than they give, most “rich people” pay far more to Government than they receive.

You can’t get much more socialist than “our institutions, economic, political, social need to be purposefully built to deliver equality.”  This almost makes Russel Norman appear economically moderate in comparison.

“Poor kids” being used to promote socialism. Poor kids if the Green Party succeeds. They mean well but their idealism is unaffordable and unattainable.

We the people…

From Barack Obama’s inuaguration speech:

“We, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”

Our country face this issue too. The big (and ongoing) argument is how to address this – by knocking the top down or by doing whatevr possible to lift the bottom up.