Archives for October 2022 | Josie Pagani



What does it mean to be a conservative?

Britain’s Conservative Party is the oldest and most stable parliamentary party in the world. The origin of ‘’Tories’’ dates back to the English civil war and the previous King Charles.

The definition of the ‘’right’’ of politics has its origins in the French Revolution of 1789. The National Assembly met to draw up a new constitution. Those who thought the King should have an absolute veto over policy sat on the right, while those who didn't sat on the left. Put another way, those who wanted stability, tradition and incremental change were ‘’right’’. Those wanting radical change quickly were ‘’left’’. Ever since, the right has stood for institutions and order, the left for change.

Austerity-practising libertarians, populists and nationalist culture warriors don't leave much room for traditional conservatives who believe that tradition is a source of wisdom, while change, if needed, should be careful.

Classical conservatives believed in a transcendent morality represented in a stable and predictable social order, backed by customs and bolstered by institutions like the rule of law and nationhood.

The new conservative voter is less likely to believe that private property is inseparable from freedom and must be protected, and less likely to be mistrustful of concentrated power, whether in government, business, church or unions.

In her Stuff column, Josie argues that conservative voters are left with few options. Neither side of politics is home for them.

Shakespeare, clear language and accountability

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, has released a report, Environmental reporting, research and investment – Do we know if we’re making a difference? The presence of a question mark in a headline usually indicates the answer is ‘’No’’.

We do not have a system of accountability capable of telling us what is happening at the level of the government as a whole. Neither do we have clarity and transparency about what we’re trying to achieve, and without that, there can be no accountability. Instead, there is a maze of strategies and agency-level initiatives, and virtually no systematic way to evaluate whether we’re making a difference, he says in the report.

Auditor-General John Ryan agrees: ‘’I am concerned that it is often not clear to the public or Parliament what outcomes are being sought by governments, how that translates into spending, and ultimately what is being achieved with the public money the Government spends – about $150 billion last year,’’ he said.

In her weekly Stuff Column, Josie argues that, ‘’From clarity comes transparency, and from transparency emerges accountability and improvement.’’

Immigration doesn't keep wages down

The Nobel Prize for Economics was won last year by David Card for his 1980 study on immigration and wages. Back then, about 125,000 Cubans arrived in Miami within a few months, all eligible to work immediately in the United States. The greater Miami workforce jumped by 7% in weeks and the number of low-skilled workers increased a whopping 20%. What do you think happened to wages?

Professor Card showed that the sudden supply of new workers had no negative effect on wages for the low-skilled natives of Florida.

But surely simple supply and demand should dictate that more low-skilled workers lowers wages? Card reassured policy-makers that simple logic was wrong.

The reasons have been debated ever since, but the results are widely accepted: Local low-skilled workers transitioned into jobs that required good English, while new migrants took jobs that didn't need language skills.

Josie argues that immigration doesn't suppress wages, in her weekly Stuff column.

More answers to complex questions

Question: King Charles has cancelled a visit to the COP27 summit where countries attempt to slow climate change, after the UK prime minister, Ms Truss, ordered him to stay away. What would happen if the New Zealand prime minister ordered the New Zealand King to attend?

Answer: Awkward.

Question: King Charles will still be King by the time this column is published. Will Ms Truss still be prime minister?

Answer: I don’t have that information, but the good news is that there are only seven more Tory prime ministers to Christmas.

Question: Has Ms Truss doomed her government to defeat by announcing large tax cuts for the poshest Poms, funded by the most borrowing ever in peacetime, panicking financial markets, enriching hedge fund managers, and causing interest rates to rise by more than the value of handouts?

Answer: Kwasi Kwarteng, her Chancellor of the Exchequer, is now known as 'Kamikwasi'. You decide.

Question: Is postal voting an anachronism now that post boxes appear to have gone the way of rotary dial phones, the PM’s popularity and kale?

Find out then answer, and whether Three Waters will be stopped by the local body elections in Josie's Stuff column here.

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