Sunday 28 February 2016

Hey, Bomber! Inter-generational War Is Not the Answer To Auckland’s Problems.

Open Season On Baby Boomers: The highly topical second episode of the multi-media talk-show Waatea Fifth Estate covered the controversy surrounding housing intensification and the Auckland Unitary Plan. The otherwise excellent show was marred only by the casting of the Baby Boom Generation as the guilty party. Ageism can no more supply a progressive answer to Auckland's housing problems than racism or sexism.
NO, NO, NO, BOMBER!* This ageism has got to stop – now. You wouldn’t permit anyone writing for The Daily Blog to discriminate against people on the grounds of race, gender or sexuality. So what, in the name of Progressive Politics, are you hoping to achieve by blaming everyone born between 1946 and 1965 for Auckland’s housing crisis?
The Baby Boom generation didn’t choose their parents, Comrade! Any more than a black man chooses his ethnicity, or a woman chooses to be born female. Scapegoating people on the basis of their date-of-birth makes no more sense than scapegoating them because of their genetic make-up, or because their sex chromosomes are XX and not XY.
I’m genuinely affronted by all this Baby-Boomer-bashing, old friend. And if you want to know why, then I’d invite you to sit down and watch Episode 2 of Waatea Fifth Estate, and every time the word “Baby-Boomer” or “Boomer” is used, to mentally over-dub the word “Jew”.
Can you imagine the firestorm of criticism that would erupt if Jews were accused of preventing young Kiwis getting into their first home? Or if Jews were accused of taking all the good things that were on offer in the 1960s and 70s, and then denying them deliberately to succeeding generations?
Any broadcaster disseminating such ideas would immediately fall foul of both the Race Relations Act and the Human Rights Act. Because it is a criminal offence to incite racial hatred, and/or, to discriminate against one’s fellow citizens on the basis of their ethnicity or religious belief.
And while we’re on the subject of the Human Rights Act (1993) perhaps it would be helpful to point out that Section 21 of the legislation includes, among a long list of “prohibited grounds of discrimination”, the ground of “age”.
Also worth considering is the prohibition contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention against the imposition of collective punishment. Article 33 clearly states that: “No persons may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”
Progressive people are rightly outraged when the Israeli authorities inflict massive material and human damage on Palestinian communities in retaliation for the hostile actions of a few Hamas fighters. I would, therefore, like to hear the explanation for why we shouldn’t be just a teeny-wee bit upset when an entire generation of human-beings is blamed for societal ills they did not create and which a great many of them – myself included – wholeheartedly deplore.
Because, to be honest, Bomber, your eagerness, in Episode 2 of W5E, to see the planting of Generation X and Y settlements in the Baby Boomer occupied territories of Auckland’s leafy suburbs would have done the average West Bank Israeli settler-developer, and his IDF-protected construction teams, proud.
Forgive me, Comrade, but fomenting inter-generational warfare (which, ultimately, entails turning children against their parents or grandparents) is not, and can never be, a progressive cause. Indeed, it strikes at the most primal forms of human solidarity, and at the most essential drivers of human co-operation. Worst of all, Bomber, it misdirects the legitimate rage of those denied the social goods their parents were able to enjoy away from the social class which bears the actual responsibility for their destruction.
Just ask yourself, Bomber: Was it the Maori New Zealanders born between 1946 and 1965 who deliberately destroyed their own employment opportunities? Are they the ones responsible for gutting their rural communities? Did they set out to create urban breeding grounds for crime, domestic violence and drug abuse? And was it the Pasifika Baby Boomers who deliberately ran down their local schools and health services? Are they the ones responsible for the decay of social housing in New Zealand? Did Pakeha Boomers demand the destruction of their own unions? Must they be held responsible for the political marginalisation of the entire working class? And did all of these groups really conspire to thwart the aspirations of their own children and grandchildren?
Those responsible for the hollowed-out shell that is 21st Century New Zealand society are Baby Boomers only in the sense that they are also human-beings. They changed this country for the worse, not out of some mysterious generational impulse precipitated by listening to the Beatles or eating Eskimo Pies, but because it was in their interests to destroy the social-democratic beliefs and institutions that had so successfully limited their ability to enrich themselves, and which, if left in place, would have further undermined their political and cultural power.
The truly outrageous aspect of Auckland’s housing crisis is how effectively Auckland’s citizens have been excluded from playing any role in fixing it. The Auckland Super City is democratic in name only. It’s true purpose is to create opportunities for property developers (and all of the other businesses their activities sustain) to go on making profits. The power of Auckland’s ruling class will not be broken by setting one short-changed generation against another, but by creating a movement in which old and young join forces to determine what needs to be done, and out of whose pockets the money to pay for it should be taken.
* “Bomber” is the nom de guerre of Martyn Bradbury, Editor of The Daily Blog. Martyn and the author, Chris Trotter, have been friends and comrades since the mid-1990s.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Saturday, 27 February 2016.


Jigsaw said...

Expecting logic from Bradbury is a far stretch.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Got sick of Bradbury when he insisted on reading his columns on national radio, instead of actually talking :). It pains me to say this, but Conservatives don't have a lock on idiocy.

Gerrit said...

I hope we get a better response here, to this debate, then a certain Darth Smith ranted on about the same posting at the Daily Blog.

"they bought there homes at 3 to 1 income ratios and where able to pay the mortgages off in reasonable time frame and it is that generation who benefited form speculation the young people are being given the two fingers by this group and are being told to suck it up and internalize a life hopelessly high debt poor work conditions no home of there own while paying the debt mountain created to hand tax cuts to this overly privileged group of parasites well its not fukken good enough and if a war is necessary then war it is"

One can tell his/her age by the lack of punctuation, capitalization and spelling (there = their).

My challenge to those young people who think they are being given the double digit salute by baby boomers, go to your parent and call them parasites, than declare war on them if they don't bulldoze the family house and put up a cheap, six story apartment building.
Baby boomers are fully aware there is a problem to be faced (having kids and grand kids).

Declaring them parasites and waving the battle ensign is not going to solve the problem.

How to get the balance and fairness of the wealth transfer from one generation to the next is the real question.

One note of concern the council is not facing up to is that the infrastructure, to enable multi unit dwellings to replace single units, is simply not adequate. Vector is today talking of needing $B1.5 to upgrade electricity and gas supplies to cope.

bob said...

Beginning to see that Bomber is a dickhead...Good sign.

Anonymous said...

Bradbury is a loud mouthed ill informed fool.
Personally, my politics is well to the right of yours, Mr Trotter.
But I respect your analysis, knowledge and intelligence.
Dimpost is another left wing blog that is on my reading list.
Bradbury is never more than a witless sloganeer.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Ah well Bob – his saving grace is that he annoys the shit out of Conservatives :).

Anonymous said...

Jews aren't stopping young people from buying houses. Boomers are.




Anonymous said...

Martyn Bradbury's interview and your post both fail to highlight the cause of the raging high prices for homes in Auckland.

In 2008 the Labour government did a free trade agreement with China which amongst other matters "allowed Chinese people the right to buy properties in New Zealand whether or not that Chinese person resided in NZ or not".

Rich Chinese have taken advantage of that situation and have been buying property particuarly in Auckland since then, "legally and unfettered".

The present Labour party leaders are quiet on their mistakes of 2008.

Patricia said...

Instead of blaming anybody could we not sort out the problem by introducing a really fast train service - like they have in France. Say from northland to Auckland and wherever south to Auckland. Would that provide the people with the ability to perhaps buy their own home? I have always thought that there should be a very fast train service through Christchurch from Timaru up to Pegasus. It would enable the small towns to grow and the people would have a much better lifestyle living in the small towns than all of them be trying to be cramped into one place like Auckland Such a service would have to come from Government but until we have a Government that actually thinks about infrastructure - a bit more than a national cycle way - and thinks about its people dream on Patricia, dream on.

jh said...

Shouldn't we be blaming progressives for the housing crisis? After all it was progressives who decided a predominantly European NZ was undesirable. Countering that required high migration. I clearly remember Helen Clark's scathing "NZ needs a bigger population!". The process has been kept going by the property, construction and finance sectors but (according to the Savings Working Group) has had the opposite affect to the intended.

jh said...

“Well what you said about the nation, I agree with that. The nation is a racist mechanism both internally and externally in the way it includes and excludes, ah, the nation it comes form the word natio which means to be born is a racist concept. To move beyond that is one of the settled tasks.

The housing crisis is a result of undemocratic behaviour by progressive politicians (and later those who serve the vested interests)

jh said...

We had a meeting at the Brake Street hall in Upper Riccarton to discuss rezoning in Ilam/ Upper Riccarton. As far as I could tell there were no media or politicians attending (the Labour candidate at that time was James Dann of Multicultural Aotearoa).
The Council's man went through his spiel (as I remember it) like this: " The old plan was out of date before the earthquake" "Central Government has certain imperatives: we have to do this, this and this". All this showed up "central in a very good light (efficient and business like).
I asked the first question: "you were saying that central government has certain objectives. Is it true that population increase is an objective of central government?"
He squirmed: "well we have immigration and you have to have opulation increase to increase the wealth, so I suppose it is an objective of central government"

His contention is contradicted by Treasury Working Paper 14-10

Based on a large body of new research evidence and practical experience, the consensus
among policymakers now is that other factors are more important for per capita growth
and productivity than migration and population growth. CGE modelling exercises for
Australia and New Zealand have been influential in reshaping expectations.

Thanks for allowing my views Chris Trotter. I'm not allowed to post on the Green Party blog, The Standard, Public Address, Pundit, The Auckland Transport blog, Whale oil, The Daily Blog, Kiwiblog.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Actually JH, it was conservatives who were always angling for a bigger population. Especially economists as I remember.

greywarbler said...

If you are going to blame progressives, then make sure you choose the particular sub-culture to aim at. There is a huge number of progressives who used to vote Labour at the time Helen Clark was pronouncing various non left approaches, who are agitating to get this sub-culture out to the fringes where it belongs now. Somewhere near Epsom I think.

You are ignoring the current direction of the left when you make comments like that. It seems that you are fixated on changing the font on the documents preparing to announce change, when it is the words and their meaning which should be your focus.

There is no cohesive Labour mass giving continuity with Helen Clark and her cohort. Have the continual efforts to renew Labour and change direction gone unseen by yourself. If so how?

jh said...

Yes I use progressive because these groups /factions don't have a label. Really you would have to follow a flow chart to classify peoples point of view?

Daniel Copeland said...

I must point out that the Boomer generation had their education paid for by their parents' taxes, and then made their children pay their own way through student loans. I know for a fact that many of them didn't want this, but they still benefit from it. That puts them in the same boat as white people who aren't personally racist and men who aren't personally sexist (both categories that include me): they didn't cause the problem but they do benefit from it, and thus they have a particular responsibility to help fix it.

Charles E said...

The idea of generations is daft in the first place. There is really no such thing as baby boomers, which makes BB's assault even more ridiculous, unhelpful and I agree Chris, downright offensive. Attacking essentially made up groups in society is lazy and the sign of a second rate mind at work.

The Auckland housing problem is common around the world in places where lots of people (of all ages) want to live. Many many cities have this issue today of ever rising land and building costs due to excessive demand from the mere fact there are so many people wanting to live in big cities. Over half the world's population now lives in large cities and the proportion increases every year. That probably will not change for a long time but it is not an age related issue at all. It's a complex issue and I do not know the solution. Probably nobody does as it is a 'systems failure', if a failure at all.

Currently high demand for housing is true of NZ in general, and a sign that we live in a highly desirable country. That of course is partly because of our liberal, democratic, free enterprise economy and culture. In your 'good old days' fewer people wanted to live in our socialist paradise, as it was dull as ditch water.
In contrast there are hundreds of completely empty cities in China, but curiously their awful government can't persuade people to move there. Perhaps the solution would be to have a communist government here. Then we'd have depopulation and BB would shut up for a change.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"In your 'good old days' fewer people wanted to live in our socialist paradise, as it was dull as ditch water."

Then why do we get those thousands of English migrants? I suspect high wages and good working conditions. I know that's what brought my parents here. Of course they were lower class and skilled workers, but they didn't care it was "dull as ditch water" which it actually wasn't if you knew what you were doing.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Daniel Copeland.

This is an extremely revealing comment, exposing as it does the intellectual framework of Boomer-Bashing.

First and foremost, the approach is ahistorical. Daniel's description of events simply elides the presence of other voting blocs in New Zealand society in the 1980s and 90s. Baby Boomers have only ever made up 25 percent (or less) of the NZ population, and yet Daniel is arguing that this minority, voting as one, enhanced their own situation at the expense of their children's.

Of course the Baby-Boomers have never voted as one (anymore than the "RSA Generation" did, or young people today do) so the historical narrative collapses here altogether.

But Daniel isn't through just yet. He then moves his argument onto the familiar ground of identity politics. The Baby Boomer generation is assumed to be a category like "White", or "Male", and accused of having benefited from its categorical nature to such a degree that personal dissent from this privileged position must be discounted.

Once again, the assumptions are heroic. All Baby Boomers are assumed to have benefitted from their historical privilege. Daniel advances no evidence for this whatsoever. There is no acknowledgement that many Baby Boomer parents have impoverished themselves by spending whatever assets they may have built up on getting their kids through varsity and helping them into their first home.

I'd be interested to hear how this constitutes a "benefit" of Baby-Boomerdom for anyone except their kids!

I could go on, but I believe I've said enough to expose both the ahistoricality and category errors basic to Daniel's flawed argument.

If his thinking is typical of the rest of his generation's, then we are all in a lot more trouble than I thought!

Charles E said...

Daniel: "...they have a particular responsibility to help fix it".
Now how is that going to work exactly? Bring in a special tax just for those born in NZ between 1946 and 1965 who went to Varsity? Call it the 'Punitive BB Tax' eh. It will have to be massive as there are not that many of us left and a huge number more people in tertiary study now. Funny that, how many there are now when it's so expensive. Perhaps the well off boomers are paying for their children so actually doing a fine thing already mate? I am doing just that for example.
No the only way would be to increase taxes across the board significantly to pay for all fess plus a living allowance for all tertiary education.
Problem is Daniel, you'd be paying that tax and also all those already out there working who have large loans, and all the trades people, cleaners etc.. Yeah not a great vote winner I would have thought.
Best idea to 'fix' the problem, if it is one, would be to discourage people from going to Varsity and encourage them to take up a trade or start a business instead. A great many people make a considerable success of their lives without tertiary education, which is over sold I believe.

J Bloggs said...

Just going to dispute one point there, Chris - based on the 1981 census data, and taking a narrow definition of baby boomer to restrict the range to match the census age bands, the "Boomer Population" as defined as those between 18 - 34 years in 1981 (1947-1963) made up 27.8% of the population. (source: The New Zealand Offical Yearbook, 1984).

The NZ yearbook for 1987-88 goes on to say that "Another trend which has major socio-economic significance is the steady rise in the proportion of total population in the younger working ages, 20–44 years, from less than 32 percent in 1961 to over 37 percent in 1985 — a consequence of the post-World War II high birth numbers" (emphasis added by me). While not all of those are technically Baby boomers (that would be the 20-39 yr olds in 1985), it would fair to say that the boomer portion would likely to be close to, if not in excess of 30% (unfortunately, this yearbook doesn't have the neat breakdown of age data the 1984 version contained to make an accurate sum).

Lindsey said...

I am a baby boomer. When I bought my house (the only one I have ever owned)in 1981 the BNZ had a policy that they would not lend to unmarried women to buy houses. I was 31 years old, had nearly 30% deposit and was earning way more than enough to meet the payments but the only way I could get a loan was to have my Father counter-sign it. However, I am very much in favour of housing choices so that young people, and lower paid people can have a chance to buy in Auckland. Otherwise, when that howling mob from Wednesday's Council meeting are enjoying the view from their 4th floor apartment in the retirement village (because that is what is being built these days), they had better be able use Skype as that is the only ay they will be able to see their grand children as they won't be in Auckland.

Anonymous said...

You've opened yourself up here, Chris.

"Baby Boomers have only ever made up 25 percent (or less) of the NZ population, and yet Daniel is arguing that this minority, voting as one, enhanced their own situation at the expense of their children's."

That's a dishonest interpretation of the post you were responding to. When we are talking about generations in this way, we are talking about tendencies. Of course, not all boomers vote in the same way in the same way that not all liked the Beatles and so on, but that doesn't stop there being a tendency among people of that age to have done so. Similarly, the boomers are a large cohort compared to others and thus have greater political influence. The basic claim is that were the boomer cohort in line with previous population trends, our politics would be quite different.

It is absolutely no accident that the rise of neoliberalism and user pays and many of the other ways in which the costs of living have been shifted onto younger people happened at almost exactly the moment when the boomer cohort reached the age when people typically start paying more into the welfare state than they are getting out. Boomers are quite happy to accept that their political rise brought us more liberal attitudes towards homosexuality and other identity issues, but they seem to get all fidgety when economics is brought up. Believe me, the perfidy of the boomers is blatantly obvious to pretty much everyone younger than them – especially those who work with the ones who still won't retire..

This is just what happens when you have such a population bulge. It's no individual person's fault. Nobody chooses to be born, and none of the boomers were responsible for the Second World War. It has had a number of unpalatable consequences. Some have been mentioned, but a couple of of the important ones is the replacement of high culture by countercultural infantilism, and the replacement of liberalism by a shallow, self regarding narcissism.

Kevin Welsh said...

I take you point Chris, but anyone who witnessed the spectacle at the Unitary Plan meting in Auckland on February 24th was shown what a selfish bunch of pricks those in that age group can be.

Brendon Harre said...

I think the better way to frame the debate is to understand there is two sides to NZ.

There is leafy suburban NZ where roughly 50% of NZ adults live and they live in roughly two-thirds of the houses, which they own. The vast majority of them are satisfied with their lives. They live in a stable community. I suspect this side of NZ easily buys into John Keys and Mike Hosking superficial -life is great in NZ …… Many from this side of NZ do not understand their is another of side of NZ. Demographically this side of NZ are older, wealthier, whiter and more likely to vote -probably in a way which reflects their high levels of satisfaction in NZ life.

The other side of NZ also contains roughly 50% of NZ adults and they live in roughly one-third of the houses, which they rent. Statistics show they are much less satisfied with their lives -especially if they have children. Because for this group life is much grimmer -because they are the transient community side of NZ. They do not have security in their lives – landlords can and do regularly evict them on short notice. So this group do not have long term relationships with GP practices, schooling, community groups, sports teams…. This group live in much less space and that space is often older, colder, moldy and overcrowded -leading to diseases, stress, social problems and mental illness…. This side of NZ is despondent and cynical that society is interested in helping them. Demographically this side of NZ is younger, poorer, browner and less likely to vote -probably because life has taught them to be cynical of politics.

I believe this is the underlying socio political economy behind the Unitary Plan debacle. The leafy suburb group does not understand the transient community group. Because of that lack of understanding, they lack empathy and therefore they will not find space or share resources with them.

I kind of discuss this as part of an introduction to a technical economics paper outlining some difficulties for the market to provide intensification of housing.

I recommend you watch the video contained in the article -Efeso Collins -actually uses the words transient community to describe his South Auckland polynesian local government constituents.

The paper was divided into 4 parts, the other three were.

Richard Christie said...

Bradbury's 'blame it on the Boomers' is simply dog-whistling.

It diminishes his status as a political commentator.

Richard McGrath said...

@Anon (28/2/16 @ 1414): Boomers are not stopping anyone from buying houses. Boomers are individuals acting in the context of local government blocking new housing subdivisions at Auckland's boundaries, and national government making building new homes expensive (via the RMA) and the renovation of existing ones expensive/impossible (via the heritage listing of buildings which negates property rights). In any case, Boomers cannot legally prevent anyone who has the money from buying any house.