Rant: Social justice warriors, the environment, and Green parties

There have been blog posts about centre-Green parties (on TVHE here, here, here), I’m a bit fatigued with politics right now and want to focus on my research so I don’t want to get into that.

One thing I keep hearing, repeatedly, about a centre-Green party is that it doesn’t make sense because it involves hating people.  I hear the same thing about anything people don’t agree with, repeatedly.  Emails, phone calls, on twitter – for some reason people want to tell me how much other people hate people, and so they hate people or me or something.  I don’t know, whenever I hear blind hate it never makes much sense to me – but certain comments have pushed me into a rant.  It is a blog, these things happen sometimes, sorry.

The short version of my post is that the people saying this are disrespectful individuals who have no respect for other people and the difficulty of issues of social justice.  But if you want the full rant click below (and it is a furious rant with more colourful language).  For those who dislike rants (as do I), you could read this old post where I lay out a neat discussion of why social justice issues are core to all parts of the political spectrum, the focuses on “types” of injustice is what differs.

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Quote of the Day: Garner on the Greens

Duncan Garner is a bit of a stirrer, but he pulled out some interesting numbers in his article yesterday arguing the Greens should move to the centre:

The Greens talk poverty and social justice, but the poor aren’t listening – and they’re certainly not voting for them. Look at these telling statistics from the poorest electorates in the country:

In Manurewa, in the crucial party vote, just 868 people voted for the Greens; in Manukau, East it was just 744; in Mangere, it was just 865.

Now look at the two most wealthy suburbs in NZ:

In Epsom, the Greens got 3415 votes; in Wellington Central, they got 8627 party votes, more than Labour’s 7351; in Auckland Central the Greens got 4584 votes, compared to Labour’s 4758.

I would really want to see some more numbers around this, but if this is a general trend, then it would suggest either:

  1. The Greens’ support is from the relatively well-off who care about the poor, rather than the poor themselves; or
  2. People who care about the environment tend to be relatively well-off.

Now I’m sure the make up of the Green support base isn’t that stark. But in the context of our discussion (e.g here, & here) about a centrist Green party, if the Greens moved to the centre they would likely lose group 1 but keep group 2.

The interesting question therefore is what proportion of their support base falls into both camps (i.e. care about social justice and the environment) and what weighting they place on both issues. This then follows on to the question of what is the untapped support base of people who care about the environment but generally vote National?

Scientists as advocates … and humility around value judgments

I keep seeing tweets like this – like multiple times a day for several weeks now:

So I thought I should provide my thoughts.

I agree.  Scientists are people and should be able to say what they believe in … as long as they:

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New Zealand politicians want everyone elses wages cut

Our Prime minister, John Key, has decided to say the following:

Prime Minister John Key has indicated he thought the New Zealand dollar’s fair falue was around 65 USc and that it would be logical for the Reserve Bank to intervene to push the New Zealand dollar lower, given it was currently well above where it was fundamentally fairly valued.

Key restated his view that currency intervention was not effective in the long term to try to shift the underlying value of the currency, but agreed it was “fairly logical” for the Reserve Bank to intervene when the currency was so far away from its fundamental value.

Lots of people may think this, most of them without any thought or interest about asking “why” the dollar is where it is, but lots of people do think it.  But a sudden drop in the New Zealand dollar is akin to a cut in wages – all those imports suddenly become more expensive.

Given their standing and thereby ability to seemingly signal intervention in markets, the prime minister and finance minister really need to keep quiet about policy where there is an independent body involved – as it both creates volatility and indicates that such things are a more political issue.  I was pissed off when Cullen did this, pissed off when Key has done it in the past, and I’m pissed off hearing it now.  I don’t care if someone asked the frikken question, part of central bank independence is having fiscal authorities show a bit of discipline with their comments.

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Blue Green party: background reading

Stoked to see Gareth Morgan’s post yesterday calling for a Blue-Green party. He sums it up well in this passage

A Bluegreen party would emphatically express New Zealanders’ preference for clever and clean as the way we want our dollars earned, while leaving National and Labour to fight over how social justice is best promoted – via National’s preference for capacity building through education and training, delivering more flexible employment and wage-setting practices; or via Labour’s penchant for widening and lifting of social assistance, greater progressivity of income tax, widening the tax base on income from capital, and greater protection of labour in the workplace.

Matt and I have been talking about this since 2008 when all the TVHE authors took a political compass test as a gimmick to provide content for the blog. Due to a combination of laziness, a lack of money and no desire to get involved in politics, we haven’t done anything about our great idea. That was 6 years ago and a lot has changed since, but we still think there is room for a centrist Green party and so are stoked to see Gareth using his profile to have a serious conversation about it.

Matt did a good post on this about a year ago (There is some pretty robust discussion in the comments section).  When discussing the failed Progressive Greens party at the 1996 (which David Farrar mentions in his post on Gareth’s post) he noted: Read more

Bleg: Child poverty, problem definition and solutions

Hey all.  I see that National has made child poverty a focus of their new term – cool.  Obviously “Child Poverty in New Zealand” has been a persuasive book, and I really need to read and review it here.

This is an issue that is definitely important to consider, which means we need to think carefully about what issues we are looking at addressing, what policy tools there are, and what trade-offs exist when you use them.

I first noticed the National party focus from this tweet:

Followed by this tweet:

Ignore the fact that this is a Labour person trying to claim that they’ve “won” some argument here – in truth this really illustrates to me how poor the “left vs right” divide is at saying anything.  Child poverty and lack of opportunities is an important issue, moving towards restrictions on foreigners buying land is not comparable and not part of the “same agenda”.  We can be internationalists and care about poverty.

Still, I’m getting off tack – I would like you guys to have a crack at stating some of the “problems” and policy “solutions” involved in the space of child poverty.  If you know anyone who has some views on this, would you be able to send this to them and get them to write in the comments.  I’d like to get a bunch of feedback in, and see if we can do a series of posts on the issue.

And in case someone turns up here saying economists don’t care or think about the issue, thereby illustrating they don’t know anything about either me or the economics discipline, read what I said about food in schools.  And take into account that the vast majority of working economists I’ve talked to about that post have said they agree with me.  And further note that economics is the study of trade-offs, we only agree with this policy as the trade-offs involved fit our personal value judgments, so we are more than accepting of disagreement – in that way, please try to come at us with a neutral stance ;)