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What Kaipara and Athens might learn from each other

  • May 17th, 2012

The protesting ratepayers of Kaipara have good reasons to gripe:

  • None of them ran up the huge debt that will double their rates over the next several years, and keep multiplying them, it was done for them by their duly elected councillors;
  • None of them could stop the budget blow-out on a foolishly lavish sewage scheme, only the officers supervising, and perhaps some councillors would have known enough;.
  • Few if any of them would have endorsed the central government drive for such folly, in new requirements and guidelines on water quality and sewage treatment
  • Many of them may have voted against the mayor and councillors particularly responsible.

But we all suffer from bad government. There is no court to award protection from such unfairness. There is no cosmic 'Fair Go" or 'Target' to remedy failures of democracy by exposing the idiocy of those responsible.

Sure, central government might rescue Kaipara residents from the costs of their bad choice of leaders, by spreading it over even more people with even less ability to prevent the folly.

But rescuing people from the consequences of their neighbours taking local democracy too lightly, must surely compound the problem. Matamata will be in line for the same. Hamiltonians whose Councillors blew $30m on street racing without apparently even knowing it would love to be relieved of their Claudelands debt.

Auckland and Wellington voters elect green nut-jobs whose affection for trains is a matter of faith.They have faith that central government will gift them their train sets, unfortunately with some historical base. It is now clear that Michael Cullen rescued Toll Holdings and committed us to the waste of billions on our rail without Treasury advice that would have been unwelcome. Judged on the finance company director standard he'd be in jail.

The left/green faith in trains has nothing to do with public transport efficiency – buses are demonstrably better.  Only faith can overcome the overwhelming international evidence that commuter trains justify their vast costs only in dense cities of great size..

Many of the  Kaipara considerations for central government are similar to those facing the Germans who will decide whether Greeks should be rescued from the consequences of decades of electing fools and crooks to lead them.

I predict that the Germans now have little alternative but to show Europe there is no rescue of voters who would elect a gambler like Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras. He promises Greeks that the capitalists can't afford to enforce austerity.

Now they've no choice but to let the smaller country (Greece) go  to stop the democratic rot in Spain, Italy and now France. As long as voters think there is a Father Christmas somewhere, they are rewarded for electing con-men. The soothers of the left who are not liars must feel deep down that somewhere some fat capitalists have a store of wealth that can be looted to avoid having to pay the moral and now financial  bills for  their dishonest welfare state.

We shall see, in Kaipara and Greece. 



As Liberty Scott said, Austerity is not a policy choice on a whim, it is…just living within your means.”

However, the problem is not people “taking local democracy too lightly” but rather too much democracy. As long as a majority is able to elect a government that is unconstrained in its demands on the productive minority, governments will continue to bankrupt their countries trying to meet the fiscal whims of the people who elect them.

Benjamin Franklin anticipated exactly this outcome when he said, “Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner,” and he and his fellow founders made a decent attempt to put constrains on American governments. But even the US Constitution has not been able to stop America going down the same track as much of Europe (although the Supreme Court might yet be bold in respect of Obamacare).

Only a constitution that absolutely constrains how much a government may raise through taxes, and what it may spend it on, will prevent such situations from continuing to arise in future.

  • Don McKenzie
  • May 17th, 2012
  • 1:47 pm

A weakness in the local body rating system in my opine is that all on the electoral roll can vote for council. Only those who pay rates directly and have avested interest as to what is spent by council should have a vote. D

  • peterquixote
  • May 21st, 2012
  • 8:09 pm

We quite frightened here in Christchurch Stephen, will you bail us out friend, we love you Aucklander, will you bail us out

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