Friday, 17 October 2008

Election Survey: Richard McGrath (Libertarianz)

This response is our first from a Libertarianz candidate - Richard McGrath is their candidate for Wairarapa and number 2 on the Libz party list.

The Questions & Answers
Question 1. What do you believe is currently the single biggest issue facing New Zealand women, and how would you like to address it if you are elected?
State interference in women’s lives – Libertarianz would trim back the state to three basic functions – police, justice and defence.

Question 2. New Zealand women are paid, on average, over $300 a week less than men, and the difference is worse for Maori and Pacific Island women. What do you propose as a first step towards closing the gender pay gap?
Libertarianz don’t see that as a problem. The logical way to pay workers is based on their productivity. If a woman is more productive than a man doing the same job, rationally speaking she should expect to be paid more. Unfortunately, many employers do not act rationally. However there should not be laws against acting irrationally per se. Fortunately, irrational employers tend to disappear in a free market economy.

Question 3. Do you think NZ's current approach to reproductive rights (abortion, contraception etc) is correct? (Yes or No or No Answer, please)
If not, what changes would you want to make?
No – Libertarianz would make abortion on demand legal up to 24 weeks gestation, possibly later. A woman’s body belongs to her, no-one else. We don’t believe there is a ‘right’ to contraception or any other sort of health care, as it implies that someone could therefore be forced to fund and provide that care. A woman who finds herself pregnant has sole discretion about whether she gets an abortion, but also sole responsibility for the child if she decides to remain pregnant and raises a child.

Question 4. The police and the courts do not work in preventing violence against women. What other government actions would you take to ensure women can live without fear.
Increase penalties for violent crime – third conviction for a violent offence should mean locking up for life. Keep psychopaths locked up forever. State should attempt where possible to force perpetrators to compensate their victims. Allow women (and anyone else) to use handguns in self-defence.

Question 5. Those who do the caring work in our society, paid and unpaid, are often the least recognized and the lowest paid, and they work the longest hours. What do you see as the priority to address these issues for those caring for our sick, our elderly and our children?
This is an employment issue and government should not stick its nose in. Radical tax cuts commensurate with a scaling back of government spending would allow the workers of today to make provision for their care when elderly, so that they can afford adequate home or rest home care. Deregulate rest homes, etc., so that they are not so expensive to run.

Question 6. The Ministry of Health has recently launched a campaign to encourage breastfeeding and is now recommending that babies be breastfeed to at least one year old. What do you think the government could do to ensure that every woman who wants to breast feed can?
It’s none of the government’s business, it’s a matter for mothers to sort out, using community based supports such as La Leche and Plunket as needed. It is an educational matter. Those people who wish to promote breast feeding should do so themselves, and use their own money to do so.

Question 7. What single measure do you think our political organizations could take to better encourage young women to be involved and take on leadership positions in our communities?
Leadership positions should go to those those most competent and qualified, and not be based on sex, race or any other accident of birth.

Question 8. Do you see domestic violence as an issue for women, for men, or for all New Zealanders? (Women, or Men, or all New Zealanders please)
If elected, what strategies would you like to pursue to eliminate domestic violence?
Violence per se is an issue for everyone. Men and children and the elderly are often victims of domestic violence. Elimination may not be possible as you can’t lock someone up before they commit a crime. Families should be encouraged through education to avoid using violence as a solution to problems. Tougher sentencing for violent crimes. Enact a free market economy to increase employment and prosperity, reduce taxes to increase average wealth. Wind down public welfare and farm it out to charities and private groups that target the needy so much more accurately.

Question 9. Successive governments have effectively cut the Domestic Purposes Benefit. Do you believe people raising children alone should have sufficient financial support from the state so that they do not need to go to work until they believe that is the best choice for their family? (Yes or No or No Answer, please)
No – it’s their choice to breed. If you encourage single parent families financially, you will get more of them. Libertarianz would stop the DPB after 3 years if elected.

Question 10. Women do the vast majority of cooking and shopping, and increases in food prices are a burden borne disproportionately by women. What do you think our government can or should do to ensure that everyone has access to good food?
By ensuring a free market, clamping down on fraud and coercion but otherwise staying out of the picture. There is no ‘right’ to good food, or I would be eating caviar and sipping champagne as I type these words.

Question 11. Do you have any further comments that you wish to make about the role of women in our society? Please feel free to share your thoughts here.
Women have the same individual rights as men. There are no ‘group’ or ‘collective’ rights in society, only individual rights. There is no reason why women should not be able to scale the heights in a free society. The problem is that we don’t yet have a free society.


Anna said...

A woman should bear 'sole responsibility for the child if she decides to remain pregnant and raises a child'? No paternal support?

Interesting that Mr McGrath names organisations who should take responsibility for promoting (and paying for the promotion) of breastfeeding, but doesn't specify who should educate families about violence. Who would do this education, and ultimately, why should I have to pay to educate someone so they won't hit me? That's a kind of tax on vulnerable people!

Alison said...

There is no ‘right’ to good food, or I would be eating caviar and sipping champagne as I type these words.

... and that's what we call "privilege", folks.

Hugh said...

Criticising a libertarian's expression of his views on the internet. Really, what's the point?

It's easiest to just distract them with a photo of Ron Paul taped to a candy bar and get out while the going's good.

Anonymous said...

***t’s none of the government’s business, it’s a matter for mothers to sort out, using community based supports such as La Leche and Plunket as needed. It is an educational matter. Those people who wish to promote breast feeding should do so themselves, and use their own money to do so.***

I'm the treasurer for my La Leche group and we already struggle to do as much as we do (and we do heaps) on the teeny, tiny budget we can scrape together from donations, grants and fundraising. to suggest we should do MORE with our own money out of the goodness of our hearts is insane.

Anna said...

I suppose the libertarian response would be that if your work is truly valuable, the market would support it HM. Sigh.

peteremcc said...

no, the libertarian response would be that if people we're paying 40% of their income to the government, they'd have more to donate.

funnily enough, this is also united future's response.

just because the government isn't providing something, doesn't mean no-one else will.

infact, often it's the fact that the government IS providing something that prevents others from doing so (crowding out or sucking up resources etc)

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately when the main beneficiaries of your work are small babies and their mothers reducing the tax on their (likely non-existent) income is going to make very little ability to their ability to donate or pay of services.

Anna said...

There are so many things wrong with hard core classical liberalism/neoclassical economics that one doesn't really know where to begin.

For starters, they assume a market characterised by perfect information. The new mother already knows enough about breastfeeding to realise what she doesn't know, where to get help, and why she needs it.

As HM points out, the greatest beneficiaries of breastfeeding are babies. Babies don't have money.

Some things are either natural monopolies, or can be more cheaply or efficiently run by the state. That's why we don't have a proliferation of privately-owned roads criss-crossing the country willy-nilly. It's silly. We have pretty much one set owned by the state.

To use the example of breastfeeding once again, why in God's name would you assume that people would donate whatever they saved on tax to a breastfeeding organisation? If you assume that people are fundamentally self-interested (as libertarians do), it's hard to imagine men donating to such a thing. Perhaps even women wouldn't. The cost of securing infants' health would fall entirely to the small bunch of women who give a rat's arse. As it does now, in large part.

Presumably, in the libertarians' ideal world, one of the advantages of voluntary rather than state provision of certain services is that voluntary services are subject to market logic - they have to produce services which consumers actually want, rather than the one-size-fits-all shite that the state presumably provides. We might get, for example, a bunch of services helping domestic violence survivors, all of which spend a large portion of their funding marketing themselves to potential punters, trying to convince the public that their service is better than anyone else's rather than working together in a collegial way and exploiting economies of scale. What a giant victory for commonsense that would be.

Funny that libertarians see a role for the state in defense and policing (ie securing private property), but not in securing the health of infants. Surely health is one of the more important forms of private property, if you want to look at it like that? Male priorities perhaps?

Last but not least, Mr McGrath's choice to interpret 'good food' as caviar and champagne is pretty puerile given that he's a GP.

richard mcgrath said...


I don't see how you can have it both ways. I believe a woman's reproductive functions are her responsibility. If pregnant, she can choose to abort, and the male partner shouldn't be able to block this decision. But if she decides to carry on with the pregnancy, that is also her decision, and she retains responsibility for the child that arrives, including financial.

richard mcgrath said...

Very good Hugh, but Libertarianz does believe in freedom of speech, which is not what we have in this country when radio stations are too scared to broadcast interviews with political candidates for fear of legal reprisals, financial penalty and insolvency.

richard mcgrath said...


I commend La Leche for its great work. In the past I have personally contributed to its coffers with a cash donation.

I don't think charity, as you have described it, is insane. But you may find if the services of La Leche were marketed well enough, people or organisations would purchase the services La Leche offers.

Part of the problem with the government providing welfare and other services is that they (the govt) has an unfair advantage in that it can fund raise by coercion (taxes) whereas organisations such as La Leche cannot.

richard mcgrath said...


'Valuable' is a subjective word. Valuable to whom? Just because you believe a service or commodity is valuable doesn't mean there will be a market response.

If there is a DEMAND for your work, then the market will respond, once people become aware of your product or service.

It is, of course, your responsibility to make people aware that your service exists.

richard mcgrath said...

Hungrymama said:

"Unfortunately when the main beneficiaries of your work are small babies and their mothers reducing the tax on their (likely non-existent) income is going to make very little ability to their ability to donate or pay of [sic] services."

On the other hand, the Libertarianz policy of scrapping GST will give people a 12.5% reduction the cost of goods.

Also, a Libertarianz government would not stop people bartering for services, unlike the current system where the IRD would be on your case before long.

For example, in the case of La Leche, some of the mothers to whom this organisation gives its time and expertise could, if they wished, contract to provide this service to five or ten other mothers in the future, after suitable training and review. No money need change hands, but a contract could be entered into.

Just a thought off the top of my head, but the possibilities for helping the less well off without charging them are limitless.

richard mcgrath said...


To address a few of your comments:

1. Libertarianism does not assume 'perfect information'. Austrian free market economics makes no such assumption simply because it is utterly absurd.

Of course, mothers usually have access to multiple sources of information - whanau, family, nurses, midwives, doctors. While not perfect, often the advice from these sources is very good.

2. 'Natural monoplies run by government' implies the use of coercion by the state to stop other competitors entering the market. Libertarianz opposes this.

Your example of roads is a good one. There are, in fact plenty of private roads around, which function perfectly well for the people that use them.

But say State Highway One was privately owned. It would be in the owner's interest to have as many people using that road as possible, and for them to be happy using the road so that they would want to keep paying to use it. It's not as if motorists aren't paying now for the use of the roads.

Telecommunications was a govt monopoly at one time - just look how deregulation and the freeing up of the market has improved services for customers.

3. I'm not assuming people would donate to anything with the saving they would make on taxes. I would expect them to act largely in their self-interest. It is not the government's business how people spend their money in a free country.

My point is, a lot of people are prevented from supporting as many charities as they would like becuase of high taxes and commodity prices.

4. Anna - I agree with your comment that working together in a collegial manner and exploiting economies of scale helps consumers. Which is why I was involved in the merger of 4 small medical practices into one big center in the town where I am based.

This sot of thing arises naturally in a free market. The government- run Commerce Commission does its best to block such co-operation and Libertarianz would abolish it.

5. 'Securing the health of infants' is the responsibility of the child's parents, not the rest of us. The parents, of course, are free to ask for assistance from any interested parties.

I'm sorry Anna but I don't see health as private property. There is no right to good health, or to a limitless supply of technologically advanced health services paid for by somebody else.

There IS a right to life (i.e. the right to act in furtherance of one's continued existence, provided one does not harm others as a result), liberty (freedom from coercion by other people and by the government) and the pursuit of happiness (again, provided you don't initiate force against others in the process).

As for the comments on 'good food' - that can mean whatever you want it to mean. I still maintain a litle caviar and champagne every now and then is a wonderful thing!

richard mcgrath said...

Anna said:

"Who would do this education, and ultimately, why should I have to pay to educate someone so they won't hit me? That's a kind of tax on vulnerable people!"

You wouldn't HAVE to pay anyone anything in a free society Anna. I agree that would be a tax on the vulnerable. The Libertarianz Party abhors taxation on principle, because it represents an initiation of force by the government.

Policing, justice and national defence, on the other hand, are examples of DEFENSIVE force, where the government can rightly act on behalf of the victims of aggression. These are the proper functions of the state which Libertarianz supports.

Anti-violence education might come from private organisations who could be contracted by schools or even interested groups of parents, Maori tribal groups, or other interested parties.

Service clubs such as Lions, Rotary, etc., might wish to contribute to the cost of this education, as they have been funding community organisations for years. There are so many solutions out there to the cost of providing antiviolence (and other) education, aside from taxpayer ( funding and direct user-pays.

Anna said...

Thanks Richard - I enjoyed reading your responses. A couple of things: natural monopolies have by definition neither competitors nor the threat of competitors, so they're not subject to market discipline - the thing which is supposed to protect consumers and ensure quality and efficiency. If the monopoly is owned by the state, there is at least a notional ability for consumers to have some influence through the democratic process.

You mention that "'Securing the health of infants' is the responsibility of the child's parents, not the rest of us", but do you mean the mother in this case, since the mother signals her willingness to take sole responsibility for the child by not having an abortion?

If you assume people are self-interested, as classical liberalism does, it becomes very difficult to explain the altruism that most parents (and particularly mothers) show for their children. It doesn't really work to say on one hand that people are self-interested, and on the other rely on altruism to care for kids, and other groups which have beneficiaries of the welfare state (eg people with disabilities, the elderly and the sick). If people withdrew their altruistic support, as they would be quite entitled to do, vulnerable people would die. This might be a social consequence you're prepared to live with, but you really ought to admit it. I assume that when you say children are their parents' responsibility, you mean that there should be a legal responsibility? Why a legal responsibility to care for this group of people and not, for example, children without parents?

You state that policing, justice and national defense are areas in which the state can properly and rightly act, but I am unsure by what criteria you've picked them. I'm not sure why defensive or negative rights are any more special than others formulated by anyone else. There are no such things as 'natural' or indisputable rights - only ones which are more legally and morally defensible than others. And the rights you prefer do of course involve coercion - they just involve coercion in the defense of values which you believe are important. If I tried to steal your TV, you would have no qualms about the use of force to deter me. If I was dying of some curable disease, you would reject the use of coercion to tax you to pay for my treatment. That seems fair to you according to your set of values - fair enough - but a different theorist could likely make a quite cogent argument as to why my life is more important than your TV. Neither set of values is preordained as right or proper.

Good luck for the election. I went to Otago with Bernard. He was fun to have a beer with, despite being hopelessly misguided... ;-)

richard mcgrath said...

Hi Anna, thanks for your comments. To address some of the points you came back with:

I take aboard your thoughts on monopolies. They can only exist, though, when the government STOPS other players from competing with whatever exists at that point. The Libz Party opposes monopolies EXCEPT those which provide the police, justice and national defence functions (e.g. there can and should only be one objective justice system).

Yes I do mean the respective mothers being responsible for securing the health of their infant(s).

Good point about the altruism of parents for their children, a point I have pondered myself and read about. I have concluded that because children are so valued by their parents, they are, as it were, an extension of the parents. After all, the parents (in a nuclear family) actually hold the rights of their children in trust until the children are mature enough to assume these rights for themselves (e.g. parents make the decision about whether a child should or should not handle a firearm). Love for your own children is therefore an extension of your self-interest. Giving money to a charity for which you really feel a philosophical or political affinity is also a form of self-interest. Giving money to a charity whose actions and philosophy you oppose would be altruistic.

Altruism, as I read it, refers to the sacrifice of a cherished value (e.g. spending one's hard earned dollars on one's children) for a much lesser value (or non-value), e.g. spending the same money on pokies or giving it away to a stranger.

Yes, Anna, withdrawing your financial support from someone in need may lead to their decline and even death, but the moral point is that provided you have earned the money by a free exchange (e.g. your labour for someone else's money, where no coercion is employed on anyone in the process), only you have the right to say what happens to that money.

But say the government takes that money from you and sets up, say, a public hospital system. What is the guarantee that just because a needy person with a detaching retina is referred into that system, that they will be seen promptly and not lose their eye months later? because that's exactly what the Health and Disabiity Commissioner is mulling over as you read this.

I am prepared to live with the consequences of me having the sole right to say what happens to the money I have rightfully earned. How can some politician from a socialist political party claim that he or she has a greater right than I do to say how that money should be spent? It's a property rights issue, Anna.

People who feel that others in need have a greater claim on their dollar than they do are welcome to help others. I think most people would probably help others in their family, peer group and local community, but I can understand a person in Rotorua being aggrieved that the money they were going to spend on another pair of shoes for their daughter has been taken by the government (in tax) and given to a complete stranger on the unemployment benefit in Invercargill, when the person in Rotorua may be philosophically opposed to the concept of paying people not to work.

The decision to limit a libertarian government to the functions of national defence, policing and justice is based on the principle that the government's role is to protect the rights of its citizens.

Without a police or justice system, there would be anarchy and the inability to provide ultimate resolution of disputes between opposing parties in a peaceful manner, in situations where out of court settlement via mediation and/or arbitration is unsuccessful.

A justice system decides who wins a legal argument and has the teeth to enforce the decision. A police force can intervene when someone claims that their rights are being, or have been, violated (e.g. when robbery, assault or rape have been committed).

Libertarians believe in the concept of non-conflicting individual rights and the non-initiation of force principle. That's why it is valid to act in self-defence and to retaliate when someone has used aggressive force against you. That first act of aggressive force, of course, is unacceptable.

Libertarians believe people should live in peaceful co-existence. If you want to change someone's behaviour, then do it be means of persuasion, bargaining and rational argument, NOT through the use of, or any threat to use, physical force to get what you want.

That's why it's unacceptable for the World Wildlife Fund, or the homeless stranger, to point a gun at you when they ask you if you can spare a dime. Likewise, the IRD should not be allowed to raise money from people to pay for state-owned schools, hospitals, etc, by threatening the same people with confiscation of their assets and imprisonment. It's just not a nice way to behave.

Your life vs my TV - it's all about property rights. There should be no clash between the two. Put simply, the need of one person is not a claim upon the property or life of another person.

Sorry this post is so long winded but the issues are quite fundamental and at the core of libertarian values and beliefs.