Thursday, 3 November 2011

Pro-choice means opposing welfare 'reform'

I don't have time to write a long rant about this - it's late I only have time for the principle:

Being pro-choice means creating a world where every person who is pregnant can make a decision free of any form of coercion whether or not they want to continue the pregnancy.

The welfare reforms proposed by National are economic coercion.*  Supporting women (and all pregnant people's) right to choose, means opposing these reforms and going further and demanding (among other things) a living wage for women on the DPB.

********

I'd like to say more about the 'reforms' themselves and explain why they aren't actually about getting women on the DPB into work, but misogyny and punishment.  But all I have time for is this:


[Text "Want a job, Bro?" "You know I can't do your ghost jobs, John" for context see youtube]

* As are the current DPB levels which were deliberately set at levels that were unable to buy adequate food

27 comments:

LudditeJourno said...

Hear fucking hear. I have been so angry about this I've been unable to write about it at all. What kind of world do we live in where these kinds of reforms do not immediately attract universal condemnation??????

Muerk said...

Being pro-life means I hate them too. Punishing women who get pregnant on the benefit means a rise in abortions because women will feel trapped. If we don't support single parents people are going to abort.

I'm disgusted.

Anonymous said...

How far would you take this principle.

I am pro free speech, in that I dont believe the government should coherse me not to speak my political opinions or support a political party. But my ability to do either of those is limited by the fact that I have to turn up to work for 40 hours a week.

Does that mean that if the government doesnt give me enough free money to live comfortably so I can spend all day ranting on blogs and delivering leaflets that they are impinging on my right to free speech?

Scott Chris said...

LudditeJourno says:- "What kind of world do we live in where these kinds of reforms do not immediately attract universal condemnation??????"

The kind of world that is attempting to make the single parent life style choice less appealing. Those on welfare are supported by the largess of society as a whole.

Welfare is not a right.

It is charity.

It is also a trap.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree Maia - I just posted about this on the disabilities post on the Abortion and Morality page yesterday, cross posted here for relevance:

...

I think abortion of fetus identified as having Downs Syndrome is hugely fraught. I wouldn't do it personally; I wouldn't even take the test. I don't want to condemn someone who decides otherwise. What I'm afraid of is that the inverse would happen: it would become the social norm to abort fetuses with disabilities, and parents who chose not to would be stigmatised for burdening society with people who need extra care.

Actually I think it's arguable that this already happens in stigmatising teen parents and solo mums, particularly beneficiaries. Some people seem to have the attitude that "no-one has to have children, so if you do, you should be prepared to look after them". This is NOT a pro-choice position. It does NOT value a woman's choice, which may be to go through with a pregnacy despite the fact that the timing is inconvenient and she's not well resourced to look after the child.

- Elley

LudditeJourno said...

Scott, do you have any idea what it's like to be a single parent, living on a benefit? What about the child of a single parent, living on a benefit? Do you really imagine life there is so fabulous people (mostly women) are choosing living on buggar all money, with judgments galore (like yours) about their decision-making, and possibly very little support around child-rearing?
Welfare is not charity, it should be about ensuring people have enough to look after themselves and their children so that the whole of society does not have disenfranchised and empoverished citizens.
I'd like to live in the kind of world that was attempting to make the exploitative, greedy, competitive power over life style choice less appealing. It would be a much safer, kinder and joyful place.

Anonymous said...

@ Scott

Grow a fucking heart dude!

E.B.

Suzanne said...

@ Scott

Welfare is not charity. It's justice. I wouldn't want to live in a society that didn't provide support to every member, especially children, especially single parents. Anyone raising kids is actually contributing to society, so why shouldn't society support them back?

That said, the best form of welfare is to help someone to be self-supporting, once they're ready. For that we need decent jobs with high wages and flexible working conditions, and training and support for those currently out of work. We need employers willing to take people on part time, and willing to make work fit in around people's lives.

Hugh said...

Actually, Scott, it is a right. At least at the moment.

Scott Chris said...

LudditeJourno says:- "do you have any idea what it's like to be a single parent, living on a benefit?"

(sorry for the slow response.. didn't get email notification of other posts... didn't tick the box)

No I don't, but to a person with low expectations in life and low self-esteem, I'd imagine it could seem quite comfortable. That appears to be a problem to me. There are those who through unfortunate circumstances must ask the rest of society for help, which society obligingly provides in accordance with its humanitarian function. There are others who view this assistance as an opportunity to avoid a human beings inherent obligation to provide for themselves. I'm not blaming them for this attitude, I'm simply trying to think of practical measures to disincentivize solo parenthood as continuing to be a lifestyle choice.

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

I also see the perception of 'welfare as a right' to a flawed sociological concept, both philosophically and in practice. Yes, we are products of both our genetic make up, and of the social environment, but there is no moral imperative that I know of that says life has to be fair. Morality as I understand it is constructed upon the assumption that human beings are selfish, but reasonable, so what that means to me is that I am obliged to be selfish, but reasonable too in accordance with that assumption.

Suzanne says:- "Welfare is not charity. It's justice."

I disagree. I know of no moral imperative that states that life has to be fair. Personally I would like it to be fairer, but I do not believe that obligation free welfare is the right way of achieving this goal. Quite the opposite in fact.

>>"Anyone raising kids is actually contributing to society, so why shouldn't society support them back?"

I don't agree with this assumption. Society is a symbiotic relationship. Those with a false sense of entitlement do not see it in these terms. Mind you, I support their right to try to get as much as they can get, albeit in a much more practical way.

Suzanne said...

Scott says:

"Morality as I understand it is constructed upon the assumption that human beings are selfish, but reasonable, so what that means to me is that I am obliged to be selfish, but reasonable too in accordance with that assumption."

Ah Scott, see there's the problem. Morality as I understand it is all about striving to make the world a more just and equal place, where everyone has a decent standard of living and and is able to pursue a meaningful life according to their own understanding of what that is to them. Morality is constructed on the premise that we are responsible for our own actions, and that these actions matter. We are fundamentally a free beings, able to choose how we go about our lives. So we could choose to be selfish pricks, or we could choose to help one another and create a just society.

Do we have an inherent obligation to provide for ourselves? Yeah, sure, I'd accept that. But we also have an obligation to provide for others in our society. Not to do so is just plain selfish.

Scott Chris said...

Suzanne says:- "But we also have an obligation to provide for others in our society. Not to do so is just plain selfish."

I accept that idea, but as a former idealistic lefty turned libertarian, I've changed my mind as to how to most effectively tackle the problem of uneven distribution of wealth and opportunity.

I've also come to the conclusion that human beings as I see them are primarily self interested, and that even altruism and philanthropy are selfish acts. And yes, even compassion and love are selfish emotions. Fortunately we are reasonable beings though self deluded with romantic ideals IMO.

For better or worse, we live in a market driven capitalist world (some would say it's an effigy to our speciel character) in which our local industry can only fairly compete internationally in a business friendly lightly regulated and lightly taxed environment.

That involves getting leaner and meaner in the short term, as well as shedding some of the burden of an overblown and inefficient government, so that the collective pie can grow, thus bringing up the overall standard of living.

I can hear the howls of derisive and cynical laughter at what sounds like a righty scam, but believe me, the wealthier the citizens, the more money there is to be made, so it is in our everyone's interests to make everyone richer.

(Apart from the Environment's of course, but as a lover of natural habitat and its native constituents, I won't digress onto that subject ATM)

Suzanne said...

I've always thought the "grow the pie, don't just squabble about how we cut it up" argument is the worst possible argument in favour of libertarian capitalism. If there's enough to go around, surely no-one should be starving?

Perhaps it was a fair argument globally in the 1940s, when the world needed to recover from the war and produce enough food to feed everyone (I don't know, I'm just guessing here). But if we think of what the actual pie looks like today in New Zealand or globally, the argument just falls to pieces. And that's inevitable - at some point, presumably the pie is going to be big enough? Doesn't Graeme Hart have enough money already?

To put the wealth inequality in context for New Zealand, imagine 10 people at a dinner party with an actual pie, cut into 10 pieces, so there is theoretically enough for one piece each. The "richest" person would get 3 pieces of pie. The "poorest" person would get a quarter of a piece of pie. Maybe we would need to grow the pie in a society where there wasn't enough to go around. Fortunately, that's not the society we live in - all we need to do is share the wealth better.

I do agree with you though that simply having generous welfare payments isn't the whole solution. We need to have full employment in decent jobs with decent wages and decent working conditions. We need a higher minimum wage. We need to make sure everyone goes into some form of post-secondary training. We need to have at least one year of paid parental leave for all mothers. We are actually rich enough to do this as a country, we just choose not to from a misplaced idea that gross inequality is OK, or would magically be solved if only we focussed on producing more wealth. Over the past 20 years that's the system we've tried, and it hasn't worked.

I also agree that it's in everyone's interest to make everyone richer. However, it's not in everyone's interest to make some people richer while making some people poorer.

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/45/43/41527985.pdf

http://www.givingwhatwecan.org/resources/how-rich-you-are.php

http://www.nuff.ox.ac.uk/users/atkinson/AtkinsonLEIGH_NewZealand08.pdf

Anonymous said...

Well said Scott...quite right.Welfare is "charity" commited at gunpoint....and no-one has a right to the stolen property of others no matter how great their need may be.

Women have the property right to their own bodies and what they do with it...including abortion.But that same property right extends to all other people and their stuff too...you can't have it both ways and not be a hypocrite.

James said...

Susanna....wealth inequality in NZ basically comes down to an inequal ammount of productive effort....the market system works on the principle of justice...those who do get rewarded...those who don't...don't.Fair and how it should be.

Suzanne said...

@ James - I would accept that argument if there was a smaller differential between the poorest and the richest. A teacher doesn't work as hard as the school principal, fair enough the school principal should get paid more. The CEO of Westpac earns $5 million. Do you seriously think his "productive effort" is 140 times more than one of the bank tellers?

Scott Chris said...

Anonymous says:- "Women have the property right to their own bodies and what they do with it...including abortion.But that same property right extends to all other people and their stuff too...you can't have it both ways and not be a hypocrite."

So why doesn't the same argument extend to the rights of the being they carry inside them. They are connected by the umbilical chord, but their brains are not connected. It is a massive assumption to claim that an unborn baby is either "one with its carrier" or that it has no rights. You can come onto my property, but that doesn't give me the power of life or death over you unless you threaten to take my life.

And why does the father have no say as to the fate of his child?

The "pro-choice" construct is fundamentally flawed as far as I can see. That's not to say that a consequentialistic solution cannot be sought. I'm not a moral absolutist.

Scott Chris said...

Suzanne says:- "would accept that argument if there was a smaller differential between the poorest and the richest."

I agree that free market capitalism has some distorted characteristics. To my mind, the billionaire is an absurdity. However, a CEO being payed $5kk pa is paid what the labour market considers her to be worth. Just as someone whose skills are worth $9.32 an hour should be paid accordingly because that is her intrinsic market worth. Distort that, and you make her employer less competitive in the global economy.

The only way to avoid being poorly paid is to become more valuable to the economy, and the only way to achieve this is through better education. In my opinion, kids shouldn't be allowed out of school until they're educated. This would dissuade them from simply marking time until they can leave.

Suzanne said...

@ Scott

Well, one thing we agree on is that education is important. I would argue though that education of kids and social support for their parents, are strongly linked. A hungry child will not be able to concentrate well in school. A child who is sick all winter because she lives in a damp, cold house will not be able to learn effectively. Parents who don't have much money won't be able to afford to send their kids to educational school holiday programmes, pay for extra tutoring, pay for extracurricular activites, pay for school trips, etc. Some extremely talented kids will make it, sure. But they are the exception. The biggest indicator of whether a child goes to university is parental income - not the child's IQ.

As to the "market value of labour" issue...

Let's imagine there was no minimum wage and no social support for solo parents. Let's imagine how that would work in practice. Imagine someone whose skills have the "market value" of $9 an hour, and imagine this person is a solo mother with a six year old child. If she works 40 hours a week, she will earn $360 per week. After tax, we're talking $315 per week. How is she going to afford to feed herself and her child, and to pay for housing, power, doctors visits, clothes, after school care... Seriously, how? The argument you're presenting doesn't take real lives into account. Either you think that child malnurishment is no big deal (which I think is immoral); or there has to be some form of social support; or the labour market has to be structured so that this outcome doesn't arise (e.g. full employment and a living wage).

Scott Chris said...

Suzanne says:- "A hungry child will not be able to concentrate well in school.

Well, I suppose this is where the perceived "heartlessness" kicks in, because as far as I'm concerned, a person shouldn't live beyond their means. Having children is not a right. It is a luxury.

By the same token, I don't advocate pulling out the rug from beneath the feet of people who have learned to be helpless, but I do advocate weaning them off their dependent mind set. Steps could be taken to ensure the children of the poor do not go hungry, but those on welfare cannot, in my opinion, be permitted to be comfortable, as it gives them no incentive to better themselves, and a generous welfare system simply incentivizes complacency.

For a person earning $9 an hour 40 hours a week, I would like to see have access to free, fruitful and relevant education in order to better themselves, as well as have their accommodation paid for, but the subsidy should come from the government, not the employer.

But the assistance would definitely be conditional. This may seem harsh, but as a utilitarian and a liberal, I claim to aspire to achieve the greatest collective good.

Suzanne said...

Arguing on your own terms, I'd say that paying for a low-wage worker's accomodation is effectively a subsidy to their employer, who is not truly competative if they cannot remain profitable while paying their staff a living wage.

Also, if you're a liberal utilitarian then surely given diminishing returns, wealth distribution has a strong rationale?

And surely on any utilitarian conception, every child should have the same opportunities?

It sounds like you've read Robert Nozick without following it up with some John Rawls or G. A. Cohen. You might find the following interesting: http://www.tannerlectures.utah.edu/lectures/documents/cohen92.pdf

Scott Chris said...

Suzanne says:- "Arguing on your own terms, I'd say that paying for a low-wage worker's accomodation is effectively a subsidy to their employer"

Ah, a morally relative position. Good for you. It's the only way to see things for what they are. Yes it is a subsidy, but it isn't making the wage artificially lower. The wage is the actual market worth, so I disagree that it is a subsidy *to the employer*.(although it could be seen as such in relative terms) Also, it shows that I am not a pure libertarian, as I do believe in limited prudent intervention. (BTW, when I said liberal before, I meant classical liberal mongrel)

>>"wealth distribution has a strong rationale?"

Yes, and the uneven distribution of wealth is a very tricky issue. I won't bore you with my ideas for a fairer tax regime.

>>"And surely on any utilitarian conception, every child should have the same opportunities?"

Within reason, yes. I believe in providing this through education. Drastic redistribution of wealth would only work if the whole world does it. That ain't gonna happen any time soon. Practical reality says you've got to be competitive. I think Roger Douglas probably came to the same conclusion.

>>"It sounds like you've read Robert Nozick without following it up with some John Rawls or G. A. Cohen."

Nah, I might've read a wiki page or two, but that's the extent of it. Mostly I'm eclectic, and pick up unattributed concepts that make sense to me. Best way IMO, because I've found that even reading the likes of Noam Chomsky when I was younger sent me down quite a narrow path of thinking. What he had to say seemed to make so much sense that I began to prescribe it as dogma.

Lena said...

Scott, even with a good education, that doesn't neccessarily translate into a high paying job. I'm just about to finish a degree, and I'm really struggling to find a full time job. I currently earn about $250 per week at my part time job, and borrow the rest of my living costs from my student loan. Once I graduate, I will probably end up getting some sort of government support for a while.

It's not due to complacency that people don't work, it's primarily because there are so few jobs going at the moment. A part time, minimum wage job at the cafe I work in had over 200 applicants in less than a week. It's not as easy as just 'getting a job'

Scott Chris said...

Lena says:- "even with a good education, that doesn't neccessarily translate into a high paying job."

Well judging from what you have written, you are plainly well educated, so my guess is that your having a low paying job will be a temporary state of affairs. You would appear to be surviving okay, as you have nearly completed your degree, so I see no reason why you should need support from the government.

>>"it's primarily because there are so few jobs going at the moment."

That is a fair argument, especially in light of the fact that the economic model most governments adhere to require at least a 4-5% unemployed pool of *available* labour. Like I said before, I believe there should be a safety net, but it has to be uncomfortable and unattractive for even those with lowest expectations in life to be on. (Ideally, this 4-5% would not be comprised of long term beneficiaries, and they would be engaged in fruitful activity of one sort or another.)

Lena said...

"You would appear to be surviving okay, as you have nearly completed your degree, so I see no reason why you should need support from the government."

I've managed alright, because I have a family who provides some support, and I don't have children to raise or anything like that. Despite that, I live payday to payday, and 2 weeks from now I'll be in serious financial strife, as my wages only cover my most basic living costs like rent, power, water and some food.

Suzanne said...

@ Scott - did you watch the doco on child poverty tonight?

http://ondemand.tv3.co.nz/Inside-New-Zealand-Inside-Child-Poverty/tabid/59/articleID/4761/MCat/342/Default.aspx#

Scott Chris said...

Suzanne, no, but was it child poverty or child abuse?