Uncitizens

datePosted on 12:21, July 29th, 2009 by Lew

A lot of self-described liberals or libertarians are arguing that the extent of peoples’ membership in society should be determined by their economic contribution to it, and a few, ignorant of reality, are even arguing that their membership in society is determined by their economic contribution.

People like Peter Cresswell, who asks “What gives bludgers a right to privacy?” The answer, of course, is that they have the same rights as anyone else. Peter, citing an imaginary selection of rights which apparently does not include any right to privacy, argues that the beneficiaries’ rights impinge upon his, and theirs should give way. Beneficiaries, to him, are uncitizens.

People like Cactus Kate, who reverses the rallying cry of the American Revolution to read “no representation without taxation” under the delusion that its meaning persists unchanged. She argues that franchise should be restricted to those over the age of 25, except where they earn $60,000 per annum or more. With reference to the current case, she restates the common refrain that “the taxpayer is paying for their lifestyle therefore should have knowledge when the beneficiary is whinging about benefits paid to them”, which essentially translates to “beneficiaries don’t have rights to privacy”, per PC. Beneficiaries, and those under 25, and the poor, are uncitizens to Kate.

People like David Farrar, who makes the same argument that, because the information concerns welfare, the people in question have reduced rights to privacy; but realising the paucity of that stance, goes on to rationalise it with ever-decreasing logical circles. I needn’t even specify the depths to which the KBR have sunk on this issue; so much for David’s moderation policy.

People like Bill Ralston, who argues that when one screws with the media bull, one gets the horns, and when one reveals any details to the media about one’s case, it’s open slather. For Bill, it’s not beneficiaries who are uncitizens – it’s ‘people who speak to the media’ who have reduced rights. I wonder if he realises the chilling effect of this could do him out of a job.

People like jcuknz in the comments here who, to be fair, is only repeating what he’s read elsewhere.

People like the callers to Paul Holmes’ and Michael Laws’ talkback shows this morning, who think their right to know trumps another’s right to have their personal information remain private.

People like Matthew Hooton who, like Ralston, thinks that by going to the media the women in question waived their rights to privacy but, paradoxically, who also thinks that people going to the media with personal information should sign a privacy waiver to prevent disputes such as this. Hooton also has the gall to refer to the information control methods of Soviet Russia in criticising their actions – not, mind you, the government’s punitive use of personal information for political purposes, which bears a much stronger resemblance to the authoritarian methods of the Soviets.

Far from being liberal, or libertarian, these arguments belong to oligarchs. Far from the liberal creed of holding the rights of all people to be self-evident, these explicitly call for rights to be attached to wealth or some other form of privilege. They believe that people who are dependent on the state ought to be at the mercy of the state. It is perhaps no surprise that it is these people whose rhetoric and iconography is littered with terms and images like “slave of the state” – for that is what they imagine being otherwise than independently wealthy should be. These are people who would restrict participation in democracy to economic status – who pays the piper calls the tune, and who pays tax may vote, presumably in corresponding measure.

These people are just as bad and foolish as the doctrinaire Marxists who argue that nothing matters other than what is strictly material. Their argument is the one which holds that, if a group of people share a meal, it’s not relevant where they eat, what they eat, what they drink with it, who chooses, what they talk about during dinner, what concessions are made for the purpose of sharing – the only things which matter to them is who pays for the meal and how much it costs.

That is a bare and miserly sort of humanity. Other things matter. A person’s a person, no matter how small.

L

48 Responses to “Uncitizens”

  1. roger nome on July 29th, 2009 at 12:57

    A well argued post Lew.

    There’s, a seemingly paradoxical authoritarian streak that runs through right-wing liberal thought. In this area it seems to arrise from a resentment of taxation. That resentment is transferred on to people who aren’t “net tax-payers” and especially beneficiaries (even though only small proportion of the tax they pay goes toward the benefits of unemployed working-age people). It’s a way for them to express their outrage at being taxed, without attacking things which are popular . i.e. health, education, roading, and superannuation – which incidentally account for over 80% of government spending. The likes of DPF know that they can’t argue for large cuts in these areas, because it’s politically untenable. Instead they use the disingenuous “bash the bludgers” rallying cry to promote their cause. They grab the red-herring, turning the vulnerable in society into scape-goats for their cause. That’s why i can’t stand these people – they’re nasty, cowardly bullies, and deserve to be outed as such.

  2. Anita on July 29th, 2009 at 13:13

    I think that taggers are similarly uncitizens.

  3. Idiot/savant on July 29th, 2009 at 13:38

    A person’s a person, no matter how small.

    Or, to use the traditional version, “the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he”

    And yes, I think it is interesting how enlightenment liberalism has been twisted by Libertarians into a justification for the very aristocracy it was initially a rejection of.

  4. Pablo on July 29th, 2009 at 14:03

    Great post Lew. Anita and you have been on top form as of late.

    It strikes me that there are two dimensions to the Right’s bifurcated view of citizenship. One is the psychological dimension, whereby many of those who express Right-leaning views appear to have an inherent meanness of spirit or malice imbedded in them. One only has to read some of the more notorious right wing blogs to see this malice in action–it is not ideological; it is ingrained. This does not mean that all Left-leaning people are pure and kind-hearted, as anyone dealing with Leninists and Stalinists can attest. It just seems that in the NZ context the Right has a disproportionate hold on meanness, and your cited examples provide evidence of this.

    The compounding factor is the ideological dimension. Since the rise of market-driven ideologies as the dominant social paradigm circa late 1980s, its has become fashionable not only to be a maximizer of one’s opportunities at the expense of others, but to ridicule and denigrate those who are unable to maximize their opportunities, even when the opportunity structure presented to the latter under market conditions is far more restricted or limited by the very logics and structures that its champions extol as social panaceas. Moreover, notions of empathy, compassion and horizontal solidarity based on notions of universal rights have been replaced by vertical hierarchies based upon notions of socio-economic class entitlements overlapped on identity, whereby those at the top feel justified in lording over those below them, who just happen to be disproportionately of a different colour, idiom or race. Given the success of the market project (at least in becoming the dominant social construct), members of disadvantaged groups (to include the middle classes) have moved to emulate the attitudes of their economic superiors. This may be an example of false consciousness, but it is very real as social practice.

    In other words, the inherent psychological disposition of some Righties towards malice is reinforced and encouraged by the market logics that currently dominate the construction of the social order. This in turn has spread to the general population as the preferred way to approach life–i.e., “me first, stuff the rest.” That is, perhaps, a natural way of things in authoritarian societies where imposed hierarchies are the norm. But it is deleterious in the extreme to the substantive bases of democratic society, particularly small and insulated ones. That such views currently prevail in government is therefore worrisome.

  5. BLiP on July 29th, 2009 at 14:12

    Yes. It seems the love of the dollar has seeped into the wider, more human aspects of our society. We see this reflected in the way we measure the wealth of the nation where no account is taken of the fact that, for most of us, a sea clean enough to swim in and eat from is but an hour-or-two drive away. What price is that? Why is a tree worth more dead than alive? And why, when the economists derive their values, is there nothing to account for the hours I spend doing voluntary work or for the time spent raising children? Are these these things really worthless to the nation?

    As for cost, what price are we to pay for the deliberate generation of malice and envy by our leaders and their Kiwiblog/talk-back minions? How many good people with good ideas have been silenced this week? What cost is there when political thought is twisted into contorted representations of the opposite of the ideals originally intended, where left is right and freedom is slavery?

    And now, it seems, a person’s ability to contribute to society is to be measured on how many dollars they have in the bank and what is the source of their income. How much further down this dead-end, filthy back street alley must we go?

    Another thoughtful post which leaves me with more questions than I started with. Thanks L.

  6. James on July 29th, 2009 at 14:45

    People like Cactus Kate, who reverses the rallying cry of the American Revolution to read “no representation without taxation” under the delusion that its meaning persists unchanged. She argues that franchise should be restricted to those over the age of 25, except where they earn $60,000 per annum or more. With reference to the current case, she restates the common refrain that “the taxpayer is paying for their lifestyle therefore should have knowledge when the beneficiary is whinging about benefits paid to them”, which essentially translates to “beneficiaries don’t have rights to privacy”, per PC. Beneficiaries, and those under 25, and the poor, are uncitizens to Kate.

    The fascinating thing for me is how people like this don’t think this has ever been ‘tried’ before. What do they think Western societies were like before the 20th century? It didn’t work (in the sense of surviving) then; I’m not sure why they think it will now.

  7. Quoth the Raven on July 29th, 2009 at 16:01

    To be fair there is only one libertarian there – PC and I believe he is an objectivist. So what did Ayn Rand think of libertarians:

    Because Libertarians are a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people: they plagiarize my ideas when that fits their purpose, and they denounce me in a more vicious manner than any communist publication, when that fits their purpose. They are lower than any pragmatists, and what they hold against Objectivism is morality. They’d like to have an amoral political program.

    I have never considered any of the others to be liberals either. I always considered them to be conservatives. It seems to me that you’re trying to tar people with the same brush.

    I/S – Has that ideology been twisted by libertarian marxists, by libertarian socialists, by green libertarians and so on?
    I note that people have rightly been criticised, as I have too, on this site for misusing the “socialist.” I would like to see the same consistency applied to the word libertarain. That’s not to say that there aren’t vulgar libertarians, like PC, but there are vulgar socialists as well.

  8. [...] has been added to the policy because as Lew points out there appear to be morons in government, blogs, and in journalism who appear to think that by speaking out on a blog about [...]

  9. Lew on July 29th, 2009 at 16:08

    QtR, Rand’s definition of libertarians isn’t really relevant to the point. As to your ongoing crusade to reclaim the word – good luck.

    The reference was to ‘self-described’, and generally to those who claim ‘liberty’ as a key plank in their ideological perspective; not to those who you deem to be liberals.

    I agree that, judged on these utterances, they’re not real libertarians, or liberals. Or more realistically, those aspects of their argument are not consistent with genuine liberty (everyone has blind spots, after all).

    Without qualification, this all begs a pretty big question about the definition of liberty, though, which is why I couched my post in terms of the enlightenment liberal tradition. That, also, is the tradition from which most of those I referred to claim ideological descent.

    L

  10. Quoth the Raven on July 29th, 2009 at 16:23

    I should’ve noted the self-described bit. Nevertheless I wouldn’t call Ralston, Hooton, or Farrar liberal.
    It’s not about reclamation it has never stopped being used by those on the left. The left where the word originated. Further, if I was in europe I’d have no trouble being understood when talking about libertarianism. It’s a shame that how Americans started using the word in the mid-twentieth century has so caught-on.

  11. Lew on July 29th, 2009 at 16:28

    QtR, they all appropriate the ideological status and rhetoric of classical liberalism; explicitly and advisedly in Farrar and Hooton’s case, and implicitly but quite strongly in Ralston’s case.

    L

  12. Quoth the Raven on July 29th, 2009 at 16:36

    I don’t disagree there. You’ve called them out on thier hyocrisy – the idea of your post and a good one it is. I still think they are conservatives. Conservatives often use the rhetoric of classical liberals. Are you saying that they are not conservatives and that they are liberals?

  13. Lew on July 29th, 2009 at 16:59

    QtR, all the named people I selected because they are classical liberals or libertarians, or at least they have a reasonable claim to such. The point was about how people steeped in partisan rhetoric can lose their way. There are plenty of others who I could have included who weren’t such, but the point isn’t that authoritarians can’t consistently be authoritarian; the point is that liberals can’t be.

    I don’t think it’s fair to describe DPF or Cactus or Hooton or Ralston as conservatives, and it’s manifestly false to describe PC as one – it would be a misuse of the term. It could be that they simply have a liberal front for illiberal perspectives, but I don’t think that’s the case. That isn’t to say that they don’t hold authoritarian, conservative or illiberal views on some issues, however, while still being mostly, generally, classical liberals or libertarians at heart. Such classifications are not simple, no matter how tempting it might be to boil them down into pithy labels.

    It is good that Madeleine Flannagan has skewered the “beneficiaries have no rights” line of rhetoric.

    I do not accept that one automatically forfeits one’s rights just because they accept welfare. Further, I don’t believe any of you really think that either – are you arguing that those who are on benefits have no right to life because they are bludgers? Of course not! One’s rights are inalienable, they apply by virtue of one’s humanity. Yes they can be forfeited but only by restricted circumstances such as due process of law or self-defence where the restriction speaks directly and is in proportion to the wrong action the person engaged in. Therefore, if a right to privacy exists then it is not extinguished by virtue of a welfare cheque.

    (From the Not PC thread linked above. I can’t figure out how to link direct to the comment, sorry.)

    Perhaps all is not lost in those blue tents over yonder.

    L

  14. Quoth the Raven on July 29th, 2009 at 17:26

    I certainly don’t think all is lost for those in the blue tents. Many of the views at not PC I hold as well and I didn’t call PC a conservative. That would be ridiculous. I have called right wing libertarians kindred spirits before. I would recommend Rothbards: Left and Right the prospects for liberty. I intentionally left Cactus out of the list, because she is quite liberal.
    I really do not consider Farrar, Hooton, or Ralston classical liberals. You’re going to have to explain to me in more detail why you consider them classical liberals. Because, occasional rhetoric notwithstanding, I don’t see it. Maybe liberal-conservatives would be best to describe them?

    I’ll add that National are after all considered a conservative party.

  15. Quoth the Raven on July 29th, 2009 at 17:34

    I’ll add something else. You called Chris Trotter a conservative (well on his way to becoming). I really don’t see your problem with me calling Ralston et al conservatives.

  16. Lew on July 29th, 2009 at 18:04

    QtR, we’re getting into the self-identification/other-identification debate again. That’s not germane to the point of the post. Of course you (who are particularly sensitive about liberty) will claim that Farrar, Hooton and Ralston (whom you despise for their differences on liberty) are illiberal.

    That National “is considered” a conservative party is likewise not germane. It’s also “considered” a liberal party, as is ACT. These labels are disputed, which is why I didn’t really get into them. Happy to have the debate, but now (and in this context) is probably not the time.

    As far as that statement about Trotter, I redacted it with the admission it wasn’t warranted. I certainly don’t think he has an unblemished record of progressivism (and retain differences with his interpretations) but as I’ve said, it’s possible to have a few blind spots and not be utterly disqualified from the cults of liberty.

    L

  17. Tom Semmens on July 30th, 2009 at 09:02

    Brilliant post.

  18. Tom Semmens on July 30th, 2009 at 09:24

    In other words, the inherent psychological disposition of some Righties towards malice is reinforced and encouraged by the market logics that currently dominate the construction of the social order. This in turn has spread to the general population as the preferred way to approach life–i.e., “me first, stuff the rest.” That is, perhaps, a natural way of things in authoritarian societies where imposed hierarchies are the norm. But it is deleterious in the extreme to the substantive bases of democratic society, particularly small and insulated ones. That such views currently prevail in government is therefore worrisome.

    I am of the view that if you study the characteristics of what we politely term “neo-liberalism” (or as you put it Pablo “market logics that currently dominate the construction of the social order”) what you discover is it is really no more than a re-invention of a (mild form?) of fascism, a sort of “market fascism.” The meanness of spirit you speak off makes sense if you view it through the lens of fascist authoritarianism, where the weak are to be disposed of in any way the strong see fit.

    As you allude to in the quote above, the biggest worry is that this form of fascism has now achieved a syncretic legitimisation – that is, it appeals to broad swath of individualistic voters and it has managed to convince at least a section of our mainstream elites (and probably a majority of our business elites) that it can serve their purpose better than democracy.

    As the attitudes illuminated by this recent affair demonstrate, Fascism in any form cannot co-exist for long with liberal democracy. Something will have to give.

    Just as an aside, I am fascinated by the writings of the more hardline supporters of neo-liberalism that the web has given voice to. Amongst the biggest supporters of Nazism – the class from which, for example, the bulk of the officers of the Waffen-SS were drawn – were the lower middle class, who found in the SS a social status denied them by regular society. An anecdotal review of the grammar, spelling and general vocabulary of the more extreme supporters of market fascism online would indicate to me a similar social and educational profile. I am sure there is a thesis there for someone…

  19. Peter Cresswell on July 30th, 2009 at 12:08


    A lot of self-described liberals or libertarians are arguing that the extent of peoples’ membership in society should be determined by their economic contribution to it. . . . Peter . . . argues that . . . Beneficiaries, to him, are uncitizens.”

    Well I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am arguing no such thing.

    I suggest you read and report what people write, rather than simply making stuff up. You simply end up making a poorly cooked stew from too few onions.

  20. Lew on July 30th, 2009 at 12:27

    Peter,

    You question whether beneficiaries should have rights to privacy. That is an argument that they should have fewer rights than non-beneficiaries (since non-beneficiaries do have rights to privacy). Assuming you genuinely believe this, you’re arguing that the right to privacy rests, not on someone’s status as a person in society, but on some other status (in this case, economic independence).

    If you think you’re not arguing that, I invite you to clarify your position.

    L

  21. Peter Cresswell on July 30th, 2009 at 12:49

    “You question whether beneficiaries should have rights to privacy. That is an argument that they should have fewer rights than non-beneficiaries (since non-beneficiaries do have rights to privacy)”

    Well, no I didn’t. I questioned whether anyone had a “right” to privacy.

    My apologies if that was too subtle for you.

  22. Lew on July 30th, 2009 at 13:26

    Peter,

    So if nobody has a right to privacy (patently not the case in law, and a bit alarming in principle, but nevertheless), why mention beneficiaries at all?

    L

  23. Peter Cresswell on July 30th, 2009 at 13:52

    You still trying to imply I’m saying something I’m not?

  24. Peter Cresswell on July 30th, 2009 at 14:00

    Actually, I’ve just reread that post and I can see how you could misunderstand it, so I’ve amended it slightly to make it clearer — and added a “class-free” update. :-)

  25. Quoth the Raven on July 30th, 2009 at 14:01
  26. Peter Cresswell on July 30th, 2009 at 15:37

    In answer to your other ‘question,’ Lew, i.e., Do we enjoy a right to privacy?

    My answer I’m not so sure we do.

  27. Lew on July 30th, 2009 at 16:24

    Peter, I’m not sure if you posted a link to something supporting your point, but if so, it didn’t come through.

    I’m pretty sure we have a right to privacy which is secured in law in NZ (as well as most other places). Whether that right is legitimate or not seems to be what you’re driving at. But that’s a different argument altogether.

    Edit: Silly me, refreshing Not PC I now see the post on privacy, and have amended the link to it. Sorry about that.

    L

  28. SPC on July 30th, 2009 at 21:46

    The issue is not going away with the “drinking age” back up for review.

    If one accepts the argument that we are all equal citizens, rights are those rights we all have. Rights which those who are voters recognise and yet can review. In that sense the term political or sovereign citizenship applies as it excludes those under 18 (except where they are given rights).

    So by what right do voters and their MP’s decide to limit the rights of those aged between 18 and 20 to less than those of other political/sovereign citizens?

    We are of course in the area of the Human Rights Act and the Bill of Rights – age discrimination.

    Listening to Geoffrey Palmer on Close Up (who once wrote Unbridled Power) say the police say this … the Americans do that … to justify his negation of the equal citizenship/civil liberties of all political/sovereign citizens … was most “enlightening”. Is police convenience and/or the example of the nation of the death sentence law and the incarceration of 1% of the population also going to also be the guiding principles on civil liberty and our judicial/penal system … ?

    One is left wondering whether it is the “deprivities” (a made up word which explains it well enough) of age which provides the motiviating fear of youth, or some need to exert some seniority (lord it over others) hubris which capture so many of the “mature” to the embrace of authoritarianism.

    Old age is a shipwreck … (or is that a younger dieting model as wife).

    Thus of course the old joke that the Tories of the House of Lords never had any fear of the appointees of (or the long terms of) Labour governments because by the end of them most of their appointees were voting along with the other “conservatives”.

  29. SPC on July 30th, 2009 at 22:09

    The issue is not of course the right to privacy (and yet defence of the right to privacy is an issue), but how the dependent are being warned to silence.

    This is in two forms.

    Firstly any minority that can be separated from the pack and exampled as weak/less than equal – such as women on the DPB, those men who are unemployed and those 18 and 19 (it reminds me of work for the dole – below minimum wage and Brash’ advocacy for a lower wage than the minimum wage for those hired off the UB) .

    This is designed to provoke the allegiance of the man who has a job (and with them women who have working partners) to identify with the values of both “working” capitalism and social conservatism – via the appeal of a populist fascism (the bullying of targeted minorites dependent on public support/protection – socialism).

    The wider and prime issue is the promotion of the premise of self reliance, those with the money to finance private education and private health care being seen as better than those with public providers.

    Paradoxically this is to be made explicitly manifest in transferring of public money and resources to private education and health providers.

    Finally the ultimate action dependent on the maxim that jobs dependent on private sector capital are better than jobs in the public sector – the numbers with jobs in the latter being reduced so that more become dependent on jobs provided via private capital. The theme is that a focus on profit for capital is the more desirable than service to the public good. Another way of saying that the economic machine/the provider imperative is more important than the the community/the social fabric of the group.

    John Key was once dependent on state housing …

    Is the standard now that anyone who complains about the standard of their state house, or lack of access to a state house, will have the Housing Minister expose their private affairs in the public media?

    Will any company seeking a lower tax rate have their tax record …

  30. Lew on July 30th, 2009 at 22:42

    SPC,

    Intriguing comments, and please forgive my horribly convoluted reply.

    You’re right that the issue isn’t privacy, but intimidation – but privacy (or the right to it) is the weapon employed to intimidate in this case. This is largely why I haven’t engaged PC on the interesting questions he raises about whether there are philosophical grounds for a right to privacy – the fact is that such a right does exist in our society, so it’s moot in the local case.

    I don’t quite accept your rationale about rights and youth, or the liminal space which is created by shifting boundaries of adulthood. (I did beg this question in my post by referring to “persons” when actually I meant “adults” as defined by society.) Since rights are granted by society (and can be granted or rescinded no other way, since they aren’t existent in nature or god-given) I think the answer to “by what right do voters and their MP’s decide” is “by their right as society and its legitimate representatives. That is to say; society, or its legitimately elected representatives, are able to make any change to the rights of people within that society, supposing only that that do so by society’s consent. The nature and definition of societal consent is a tricky matter which I’ll elide for now, but its presence or absence is the key point: with society’s consent something may be good or bad, but regardless it is legitimate; while without consent, regardless of whether it is good or bad it is illegitimate.

    Returning to the matter of privacy for beneficiaries. If the position that they do not or should not have the same right to privacy as others was behind Bennett’s releasing the details she did (as I believe, and as many of her apologists suggest) then it was both bad and illegitimate; bad because there is no reason an adult in liberal society should have fewer rights than another adult, since rights accrue to a someone by virtue of their status as an adult, not by some other status; and illegitimate because society has explicitly decided that beneficiaries do retain the same rights as other adults.

    On the other hand, if parliament votes to lower the drinking age it may be bad or good (depending on your perspective) but it is at least legitimate.

    L

  31. SPC on July 30th, 2009 at 23:11

    But if beneficiaries have the same rights as others to privacy despite being beneficiaries, then so do those age 19 and 20 have the same rights to access to alcohol as others despite being age 18 and 19 …

    If “society” can reduce the access right “to some”, can it not also reduce the right to privacy “of some” – either by explicit mandate of parliamentary law or act of elected executive government.

    I would see both as equally inappropriate (which was the point of my convoluted posts). My policial activism supports bringing more of public law/executive practice into accordance with the HRA, not less.

  32. SPC on July 30th, 2009 at 23:25

    Of course I meant to post

    But if beneficiaries have the same rights as others to privacy “despite” being beneficiaries, then so do those age “18 and 19″ have the same rights to access to alcohol as others despite being age “18 and 19″ …

    If “society” can reduce the access right “to some”, can it not also reduce the right to privacy “of some” – either by explicit mandate of parliamentary law or act of elected executive government.

    I would see both as equally inappropriate (which was the point of my convoluted posts). My political activism supports bringing more of public law/executive practice into accordance with the HRA, not less.

    How one manifests this principle – by constitutional restraint, common acceptance of the premise in practice, or constant representation whenever the rights of some are under challenge is beside the point.

  33. Lew on July 30th, 2009 at 23:30

    SPC,

    But if beneficiaries have the same rights as others to privacy despite being beneficiaries, then so do those age 19 and 20 have the same rights to access to alcohol as others despite being age 18 and 19 …

    In this hypothetical the ground for reducing the rights would be redefining them as non-adults. So society gets to retain its claim that all adults retain the same rights – it’s just that 18 and 19 year-olds aren’t. Putting it another way, it’s not an arbitrary decision to restrict some adults’ rights – its an arbitrary decision to define some people as non-adults with respect to a certain thing.

    I agree that this isn’t consistent – but definitions of adulthood aren’t, anywhere, in any society, whereas definitions within adulthood are more so (and there exists now a strong philosophical norm of inherent equality for all adults). I also agree that they should be more internally consistent, and more consistent with other, external norms. I can see strong justifications for a single age of majority at which everything kicks in – but I can also see serious social and practical problems with this.

    Ultimately, I trust civil society to manage things like this pretty well – that’s why I emphasise legitimacy. Of course, it’s not true in all cases, and I certainly don’t think that legitimacy equals rectitude. The case of child discipline is one such – I would oppose a reinstatement of any provision which afforded any less protection from violence to children than the protection enjoyed by adults, even if society (and its legitimately-elected leaders) legitimated it.

    The question everyone should reflect on is, I suppose, is what drives my inconsistency?

    L

  34. SPC on July 31st, 2009 at 00:05

    What’s the difference between defining other voting citizens as below some “adult age in relation to alcohol” via legislation and the executive defining people on benefits as ceding their adult rights to privacy.

    There is already an “age of majority”, the voting age – it is those under it who get the rights allowed them. Those of it (voting age) have sovereign rights of citizenship.

    PS It is on the basis of some notion of well meaning authoritarianism/paternalism, that parents claim to know best about smacking their children and older people claim to know what legal drinking age is best for people under 20 (it can be equally well argued that it is all about what is convenient to parents rather than good parenting, and as for what society chooses to do to manage the more active social lives of younger singles – from threats of religious judgment over drinking and consequent nakedness to mere control of access to legal supply of alcohol because of the cost of this social activity, is it not all about reducing the cost on others (when the largest cost of all is all those old people being supported by tax paid super)

  35. Lew on July 31st, 2009 at 00:36

    SPC, the age of majority is not synonymous with the voting age, and that’s precisely the point – because the definition of ‘adult’ is so malleable it is easier to redefine the boundary in given cases than it is to redefine which rights accrue to those with the definition of ‘adult’.

    A more elemental definition of ‘age of majority’ would be the age at which one may legally reproduce – sixteen and three-quarters. There are others. It depends which you want to privilege for a given argument.

    However, your observation points out an important aspect of how democracies work: any party who votes to give a certain group of its voters fewer rights can expect to lose support from those voters. So I see nothing whatever coming of the Law Commission’s recommendations regarding the drinking age.

    L

  36. Paula Bennett's Privacy | From the Morgue on July 31st, 2009 at 20:48

    Paula Bennett’s Privacy…

    Latest political drama convulsing its way through the NZ political commentariat: the new Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, has responded to criticism by violating the privacy of the critics….

  37. SPC on August 2nd, 2009 at 23:30

    If the age of majority is not synonymous with the voting age, it then has no meaning.

    The voting age has effective meaning because of

    1. the political participation
    2. no age discrimination is in the Bill of Rights/HRA. While no age is specified, only those of voting age are involved in the process of giving this weight in the election to election political process.

    Those of that voting age cannot easily specify any age of majority other than the voting age without being guilty of age discrimination.

    They can however recognise universal rights applying to all regardless of age and otherwise grant particular rights to those under 18 based on their authority as political/sovereign citizens (such as driving a car under 18 etc).

  38. Cactus Kate on August 5th, 2009 at 02:26

    1. What crazy system allows people to vote themselves an income?

    That is not what democracy was intended to achieve. The notion is a very old fashioned one before governments started to buy votes with silly spending promises that the nation could not afford.

    It is akin to children being allowed to decide what parents buy for them.

    That doesn’t work as a model either.

    2. What about the right to privacy among the wealthy? Every year our richest New Zealanders have their names printed on a list with their net wealth. Every year company directors and CEO’s have their names printed with how much they are earning, as do the All Blacks, the Black Caps etc…

    Didn’t see an outcry from the left when this happens.

  39. roger nome on August 5th, 2009 at 09:46

    That is not what democracy was intended to achieve.

    Here goes redbaiter’s female equivalent again with the “no true scotsman/democracy” argument. The welfare state is in fact very popular in all democratic societies, so you’re always going to have it …. that’s unless you want a kind of hyper right-wing fascism? But you wouldn’t want that now would you redbaiter/cactus?

  40. Lew on August 5th, 2009 at 10:13

    roger, Kate may be many things but Redbaiter’s equivalent she ain’t.

    Kate,

    1. What crazy system allows people to vote themselves an income?

    Any democratic system with a welfare state. Arguing it’s a crazy system is one thing – arguing that those who benefit from it are the equivalent of children is quite another.

    2. What about the right to privacy among the wealthy? Every year our richest New Zealanders have their names printed on a list with their net wealth.

    False equivalent. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in most of these cases the information will be speculative (rather than authenticated) or released by permission of some sort (as a matter of agreement between a person and their employer or shareholders), or as a matter of public knowledge. In cases where ‘rich people’ have their income details revealed by the government agency charged with safeguarding the information (the IRD) stringent penalties apply to the releasers.

    L

  41. Anita on August 5th, 2009 at 10:16

    Lew,

    Also people who take a job which requires salary disclosure are choosing between options. People on the DPB are exercising a last chance entitlement because they have no other option.

  42. Cactus Kate on August 5th, 2009 at 10:20

    Lew

    1. I am sure at the advent of democratic systems there was little forethought for the idea that the majority receiving benefits from the State could hold the minority paying for those benefits to ransom every election year.

    Welfare used to be for the genuinely needy. Now any middle-class breeder can receive it.

    2.

    You are wrong

    Precise figures of CEO and Directors pay is in the back of audited financial statements, prepared by law at least once a year. These are NZ’s most successful wage earners. Their pay – published. AND bonuses as well as share options etc…

    And how much of a privacy breach is it to have your wealth estimated EVERY year? Do we have a NZ’s poorest list as well? Nope.

  43. Lew on August 5th, 2009 at 10:26

    Kate,

    Yes, the income of (some) CEOs and directors is a matter of public knowledge. This is part of the deal when you take such a job. By all means, advocate for that law to be changed, if you think it unjust – but it doesn’t follow that some other arbitrary group ought to be subject to similar disclosure on an ad-hoc basis.

    It seems the logical answer your argument advocates is more privacy, not less.

    L

  44. Roger Nome on August 5th, 2009 at 10:36

    roger, Kate may be many things but Redbaiter’s equivalent she ain’t.

    I disagree – she’s intolerant, extreme right, and loves using the “no true scotsman” argument. A good enough fit for me.

  45. Pablo on August 5th, 2009 at 12:06

    Roger. Could you please give us a break from your repeated personal attacks on people whose ideology differs from yours? Geez, you basically contribute nothing but invective to the threads, and quite frankly it appears pathological. CK may have views that are antithetical to yours and mine, but that is no reason to lose the plot and compare her with RB.

  46. SPC on August 5th, 2009 at 21:30

    The majority do vote and thus participate in determining

    1. the existence of WFF (most families)
    2. tax paid super to ALL (once they reach 65)
    3. the tax level, net income levels.
    4. the provision of free public services.

    The issue is that employees receive income and have it taxed (including fringe benefits and perks/allowances for travel and accommodation)

    Those receiving public entitlements often have them means tested – income and assets (including their partner – which is why a person with a partner earning the minimum wage gets nothing when they lose their job and why no one on accommodation supplement support gets as much as even half their rent cost).

  47. [...] that power comes from the barrel of a gun, that only the whims of the mighty matter — is a bare and miserly sort of humanity. And if that’s how Aotearoa actually is, then I say: come the feminised, Māorified [...]

  48. [...] has been added to the policy because as Lew points out there appear to be morons in government, blogs, and in journalism who appear to think that by speaking out on a blog about [...]

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