September 27, 2015

A brief history of Liberal politics

British Liberal Prime Minister - David Lloyd-George
A liberal is someone who believes in liberty and equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views, depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas and programs such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religioncivil rights, democratic societies, and international cooperation.
Liberalism rejected the notions of hereditary privilege, state religion, absolute monarchy, and the Divine Right of Kings. The 17th-century philosopher John Locke is often credited with founding liberalism as a distinct philosophical tradition. Locke argued that each man has a natural right to life, liberty and property, while adding that governments must not violate these rights based on the social contract

Liberals opposed reactionary conservatism and sought to replace monarchist absolutism in government with representative democracy and the rule of law.

Although British classical liberals aspired to a minimum of state activity, the passage of the Factory Acts in the early 19th century which involved government interference in the economy met with their approval. In this period, the dominant ideological opponent of classical liberalism was conservatism, but liberalism later survived major ideological challenges from new opponents, such as fascism and communism
By the end of the nineteenth century, the principles of classical liberalism were being increasingly challenged by downturns in economic growth, a growing perception of the evils of poverty, unemployment and relative deprivation present within modern industrial cities, and the agitation of organised labour. The ideal of the self-made individual, who through hard work and talent could make his or her place in the world, seemed increasingly implausible.

During the 20th century, liberal ideas spread even further as liberal democracies found themselves on the winning side in both world wars. In Europe and North America, the establishment of social liberalism became a key component in the expansion of the welfare state. 

Lloyd George and Churchill passed the 1909 People's Budget, aimed at the redistribution of wealth.
Another early liberal convert to greater government intervention was Thomas Hill Green. Seeing the effects of alcohol, he believed that the state should foster and protect the social, political and economic environments in which individuals will have the best chance of acting according to their consciences. The state should intervene only where there is a clear, proven and strong tendency of a liberty to enslave the individual. Green regarded the national state as legitimate only to the extent that it upholds a system of rights and obligations that is most likely to foster individual self-realisation.

This strand began to coalesce into the social liberalism movement at the turn of the twentieth century in Britain. The New Liberals, which included intellectuals like L.T. Hobhouse, and John A. Hobson, saw individual liberty as something achievable only under favorable social and economic circumstances. In their view, the poverty, squalor, and ignorance in which many people lived made it impossible for freedom and individuality to flourish. New Liberals believed that these conditions could be ameliorated only through collective action coordinated by a strong, welfare-oriented, and interventionist state. The People's Budget of 1909, championed by David Lloyd George and fellow liberal Winston Churchill, introduced unprecedented taxes on the wealthy in Britain and radical social welfare programmes to the country's policies. It was the first budget with the expressed intent of redistributing wealth among the public.

 In New Zealand the Liberal Party was the first real political party.   It governed from 1891 until 1912. The Liberal strategy was to create a large class of small land-owning farmers who supported Liberal ideals, by buying land and selling it to small farmers on credit. The First Liberal government also established the basis of the later welfare state, with old age pensions, developed a system for settling industrial disputes, which was accepted by both employers and trade unions. In 1893 it extended voting rights to women, making New Zealand the first country in the world to enact universal female suffrage.

New Zealand gained international attention for the Liberal reforms, especially how the state regulated labour relations.[1] Of special note were innovations in the areas of maximum hour regulations, minimum wage laws, and compulsory arbitration procedures. The goal was to encourage unions but discourage strikes and class conflict.[2] The impact was especially strong on the reform movement in the United States.[3]

In New Zealand the Liberals enjoyed a brief resurgence as the United Party under the leadership of Sir Joseph Ward between 1928-30.However, during the 1930s Liberal parties began to be squeezed between left wing socialist parties and right wing conservative parties.  During the Great Depression and World War Two Liberal parties tended to join in Coalition governments in the interests of national unity.

September 14, 2015

Something wrong with unjust financial system

The Caritas social justice week dvd. was shown in north Wellington tonight. The guys attending reflected on the growing gap between the rich and poor in New Zealand; the urbanisation and decline of provincial towns and the need for rebuilding linkages in communities which build trusting relationships (social capital).

One of the case studies dealt with a vulnerable woman who borrowed money from a loan shark for a washing machine. There is something very wrong with a financial system that allows loan sharks to exploit the poor and vulnerable, which allows bank interest rates of more than 20% when the OCR is less than 3% and which uses taxpayers to bailout owners of large financial companies who made bad business decisions.

The enormous power granted to global banking corporates means such organisations wield more financial power than some governments. The huge and growing tsunami of debt owed to banking and financial companies now threatens the stability of economies worldwide.

We need a financial system that upholds human dignity and promotes participation by all. 

March 22, 2015

Vodafone Foundation Making A World of Difference

Vodafone Foundation is a charitable trust determined to make a real difference in the lives of young people in Aotearoa New Zealand. Here's one of the examples of how we do that.

March 20, 2013

NZ's debt to rest of world grows

Net foreign liabilities - a measure of what New Zealand owes the rest of the
 world - rose to $150 billion or 71.7% of GDP in the year according to a Radio NZ report

For a small economy, distant from world markets and reliant so heavily on one export sector this news should be cause for concern.  We need a coherent strategy to develop at least two other major export sectors.  ICT looks as if it could grow into one of those.  Either way an economy owing so much to offshore financiers will remain vulnerable to external shocks until it has a plan to diminish that vulnerability and then executes against that plan.

One element towards a comprehensive solution is that the government must get back to surplus at the earliest opportunity.  But wouldn't it also be smart to look to the private sector savings levels and reduction of household debt to contribute to this overseas-debt reduction cause?

March 18, 2013

Businesses opposed to new tax on mobile technology

Inland Revenue's latest tax tightening proposals will hit smaller businesses the hardest with extra compliance costs, the Employers and Manufacturers Association says in a recent EMA media statement
"The impact of the new taxes on car parks along with the proposal to tax the personal use of mobile phones and laptops will aggravate compliance costs for all businesses but especially SMEs," said Kim Campbell, EMA's chief executive.
"It's absolutely not worth IRD proceeding with this.  A recent national survey of ours found 47 per cent of employers allow the personal use of smart phones, and 35 per cent allow personal use of tablets and laptops provided for business purposes."
Certainly if you accept the principle that governments should tax those things they want less of then taxing mobile technologies seems like a backward step in the move towards more efficient 21st century business practice. 
The IRD should not be trying to determine the extent to which households or businesses should use new technology. That is the practical effect of this tax proposal.  Like the carpark tax the costs and unintended distortions of this new tax proposal outweigh any meagre benefits.  

Disclaimer: the author is employed by a telecommunications provider.

February 21, 2013

Minister welcomes investment in New Zealand

Minister of Communications, Hon Amy Adams, today welcomed the news that another hi-tech company was opening up new jobs in Wellington. Centrist Comment says this is precisely the sort of new hi-tech investment Wellington requires. 

February 20, 2013

Govt operating deficit smaller than forecast | The National Business Review

According to a recent media report Govt operating deficit smaller than forecast | The National Business Review the government's books are in better shape than expected.  However, the main reason is that budgeted expenses did not arise when they were expected.  They will however arise later on so there is no room for complacency in terms of the government's goal of achieveing a budget surplus in 2014-15.  Given the high level of private debt its important that the government finances are brought back into shape sooner rather than later.  The challenge is how to balance a tight fiscal policy against keeping the emerging economic growth rates going.