Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009: the year to devalue awards

After Barack Obama being granted the Nobel Peace Prize for absolutely nothing, the New Zealand Government has now granted Helen Clark the Order of New Zealand.

However, given the list of those who already hold it includes:

- Ken Douglas, who spent a good part of his career cozying up to the brutal murderous dictatorship of the Soviet Union, before softening up;
- Jonathan Hunt, a man whose Parliamentary career includes NZ$29,000 of taxi expenses, a man whose greatest achievement was being part of the reforms of the 1980s, like well just over half of the Labour caucus then (who aren't there); and
- Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan, whose greatest achievement was winning a Ballroom and Latin American Dancing contest, otherwise she has been thought of by more than one as one of the laziest Cabinet Ministers in recent history;

then you already know it's barely worth using such an award to help hold a door open.

The Key government in granting this to its political enemy speaks volumes of how nothing much has really changed. Clark's record at the UNDP is at best disappointing, at worst appalling. As Prime Minister she was notable for being a control freak, notable for increasing taxes, dramatically increasing the size of the state, widening the role of the state and using personal attacks instead of arguing politics on philosophy, economics and merit. She presided over increasing the range of people dependent on the state on income, she demanded the bureaucracy not give free and frank advice when she didn't like hearing it, but most of all she made no great particularly historic contribution. Jim Bolger at least led a government which for three years, did implement some significant reforms (not all being steps forward, the RMA being the worst).

So that's 2009 ending, with a major international award being rendered meaningless, and New Zealand's highest domestic honour proving that mediocrity remains the standard of achievement lauded by New Zealand politicians. Most of all showing that after one year, the majority might have voted out Helen Clark in 2008, but enough of you voted in her philosophical and spiritual kin at the same time, with a blue tinge. Which is, of course, what National has really always been, except for a three year period when Ruth Richardson gave the Nats a bit of testicular fortitude.


Reggie said...

Well done Scott.

That was the best summation of this whole pathetic mess I've read so far.

ZenTiger said...

I also point out that as Labour allowed NZ to slide further and further down the OECD rankings, and after Key dismissed the Brash report and with it the stated goal of seeing us climb back up the ranks, the value of the award "Order of New Zealand" is correspondingly lower.

It's almost ironic.

Anonymous said...

do I sense the colour green...? And not of the environmental kind.

Anonymous said...

Yes Ruth Richardson. It was in 1992 that the National Govt decided there was far too much red tape tying up the building industry and so set about freeing it up. Shonky builders, architects and building materials quickly became the norm and today we have about 90,000 houses that are substandard and leaking. Estimated cost of repairs around $11,500,000,000. Health problems associated with this estimated at an extra $500,000,000. People affected can always seek redress through the courts (as per the Libertarian bible) but we all know that is not going to happen and besides many of the people responsible can now not be touched. They have "arranged their affairs" to suit. So this is a good example of how market forces have delivered a product that has nothing going for it and left many people, especially the older ones, fearful for their future. I'm surprised you didn't mention this.
Zen Tiger you may recall that during the 2005 election Don Brash was furiously denying the policies he is promoting today were in fact his hidden agenda, ready to be implemented should he form the government. And don't get me started on Rodney Hyde, the darling of the right...Ian

ZenTiger said...

Ian, that wasn't market forces by itself, that was also Council demanding payment for inspections on quality that wasn't there.

Anonymous said...

Zen, the cost of inspections is incorporated in the cost of the building consent. If for any reason extra inspections were needed then an extra cost would be incurred. Many councils handed over inspections to private inspectors. These people would be under real pressure to pass shoddy work knowing that they may lose future business if they refused to give it the tick. A number of these privateers crashed spectacularly leaving councils to deal with the wreckage. I found myself in a similar situation on an industrial site. I had relocated an old free standing jib crane. It required inspection by a registered engineer before it could be put back into service. An engineer from a reputable company inspected the crane and expressed doubts about deflection under load. Our site engineer simply shrugged and said that it would be no trouble to engage an inspector who would pass the crane fit for service. The crane was passed that day. Market forces. Ian

Libertyscott said...

Zen: Quite!

Anonymous: Why the hell would I would the Order of New Zealand? How sad is someone who sees that as a goal to work towards?

Ian: Peter Cresswell has written lucidly about the building sector and knows far more about it than myself. However, it does not take away from what Richardson did to get spending under control after Labour starting spending up large in the final years of the 80s. She did more for the economy than anyone else who won that damned award. The key issue is incentives, if the incentives is to pass an inspection by the state then it invites some corruption, if the incentive is to deliver a service to someone who will rely upon your judgment, you might find things to be different.

NZ is not as litigious as the US, but it is a core role of the state to have a legal framework that allows fraud and negligence to be prosecuted and sued for.

If people don't seek redress through the courts do you think taxpayers should have to carry that loss? I saw a shonky house go up near where I used to live in Wellington, it seemed cheap and nasty and sure enough it proved so after a few years so it was being sold at a heavy discount.

The difference in approach is between those who want politicians and bureaucrats to make decisions for them and protect them from harm, rather than those who want people to take more care and responsibility themselves and have the law there as backup when they are defrauded. I know which one is cheaper in the long run and is less likely to see freedoms whittled away for the "public good".

Anonymous said...

Liberty, the incentive is profit, nothing else. Your comment about incentives and the state makes no sense. Why should incentive and the state result in corruption? Why did those second rate builders and architects go to work each morning? Profit. The inspector reports to the builder or speculator, not the person who buys the shithole down the line thinking they have bought a sound building. The speculator doesn't give a shit. The house will be sold, the money pocketed and on to the next site. No, I don't think it is up to taxpayers to bail out these unfortunate home owners but can you imagine the situation with 90,000 people cramming the courts? The cost would be enormous. As I said many of those responsible can't be brought to account. This is clearly a case of market forces not working for the good of the people. And yes the Govt clearly has a role to play in the building industry given the shambles that private enterprise has delivered up. Ian

Andrew B said...

That was $29k spent on taxis *in a year* by Jonathan Hunt.

And the Peace prize had previously gone to Yasser Arafat for agreeing to reduce terrorist attacks on Israel. Those things are a waste of space.

neno said...

The lefties should never let his five years in politics, three as Leader of the Opposition, get in the way of the fact that Don Brash was for nearly fourteen years the Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and a highly regarded international economist. Like him or not, Brash has been committed to public service for longer than most of the squeaky wheels who froth at the mouth over whenever younger generations point out what a wreck NZ will be in years to come because of the selfishness and short-sightedness of voters today. I happen to think NZ would be far better placed economically AND socially under a Don Brash prime ministership. The world is changing people, little old NZ is not going to stop it.