Friday 8 December 2017

Getting Labour "Off The Couch" To Break Unemployment's Vicious Circles.

Avuncular Intervention: Regional Economic Development Minister, Shane Jones, tells TVNZ's Q+A programme that he is determined to introduce measures which will ensure that his "ne'er-do-well nephews" get "off the couch" and into work. Historically, breaking the vicious circles of unemployment has required the state to become the employer of last resort.

YOU’VE GOT TO hand it to Shane Jones – he sure knows how to seize control of the political agenda! Ever since his provocative performance on last Sunday’s Q+A, his name has seldom been out of the headlines. More impressive still, his ideas are being debated everywhere.

Sparking a genuine national conversation on anything other than sport and celebrity sex isn’t an easy thing to do. Generally speaking, it’s evidence of somebody, somewhere, striking a nerve. In Jones’ case, the phrase that caused so many Kiwis’ knees to jerk was the one prompted by his determination to get his ne’er do well nephews “off the couch” and into work.

In many ways, Jones’ arguments for unemployed youngsters to be forced into the world of work are classic Labour. Traditional working-class New Zealanders have little patience with slackers and bludgers. Decent men and women measure their worth by the hours they put in. Neither are they fussy about the jobs they put their energies into. The main thing is to be busy; to contribute; and be seen to be doing everything possible to stand on their own feet and pay their own way.

The problem (if problem is the right word) with this “can-do” attitude, is that it’s, almost always, a reflection of the “virtuous circles” in which its exemplars have been raised. Families in which the virtues of hard work, and the need to “better oneself”, have been drummed into children from birth tend, strangely enough, to produce hard workers who better themselves. Success is thus rendered intergenerational: fixing the family’s upward social trajectory; and ultimately carrying them out of their class altogether. No matter how high such families may rise, however, the values that drove their success, providing they continue to be inculcated, prevent them from falling.

But, what about the much less fortunate inhabitants of “vicious circles”? Families broken by massive economic dislocation and enforced idleness. Families in which hope curdles and faith in the future withers. Households where all sense of self-worth is undermined by repeated knock-backs and rejections; where, even when work is secured, it is precarious, wretchedly-paid, and subject to conditions that only further erase any semblance of personal dignity. In these circumstances, the wonder is not that such vicissitudes precipitate addiction, desertion, violence and abuse; but that so many men and women struggle to resist the vicious downward spiral into indifference and despair.

The puzzle which Shane Jones has set himself, and (through sheer chutzpah!) the coalition government, to solve is: how to rescue those trapped in these vicious circles; and how to then install them in virtuous circumstances of sufficient permanence for that virtue to become self-sustaining?

Significantly, Jones is reaching back into New Zealand history for answers. Because, of course, this country has broken vicious circles before. To secure a decent life for the social casualties of economic depression and world war, the First Labour Government expanded dramatically the employment opportunities offered by the state. Tens-of-thousands of workers who might otherwise have subsisted from odd-job to odd-job, found permanent employment, with union-negotiated wage-rates and conditions, in the state-owned railways, postal and telegraphic services, and infrastructure projects. They may not have been the world’s most productive workers, but these state-provided jobs allowed them to establish homes and families, and to raise children untroubled by the viciousness of the downward spiral.

That Jones is experiencing resistance from his former Labour colleagues is one of history’s little ironies. Or, maybe not. Because it was the Fourth Labour Government who made such an issue out of the alleged “inefficiency” of New Zealand’s “feather-bedded” government departments. The much-vaunted process of “corporatisation”, out of which emerged the significantly-titled “State Owned Enterprises”, saw thousands of workers lose not only their jobs, but the economic and social security that came with them. Virtuous circles of fifty years duration were broken, and the vicious circles, which have become such a feature of the free-market era, began sucking thousands of New Zealanders into their whirlpools of dysfunction.

Shane Jones, and his boss, Winston Peters, both know that short bursts of employment, even for the minimum wage, cannot cure the effects of structural unemployment. They’re aware that the vicious circles of dysfunction can only be broken by the state-subsidisation of permanent employment.

And that will require the Labour-led Government to “get off the couch”.

This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 8 December 2017.


Polly. said...

Well done so far Shane Jones.
Your hurdles are Taxinda, Grant R, Labour party and the unions.
Your supporters are just about everyone else including the unemployed.
Keep going strong Shane, your opponents do not have the answers.
Best of everything in your fight.

jh said...

Paul Spoonley:
We are globalising; we are part of a new era of globalisation and this country is actually transitioned into that, particularly with it's connections to the Pacific and Asia in a way that is quite impressive in many, many ways

Globalization as the abrogation of social contracts
The economic integration of any high-wage country with an overpopulated world is bound to lower wages and raise returns to capital, widening the gap between labor and capital toward the more unequal world distribution. The population explosion in the third world has not until recently affected wages in the industrial world. Populous India was not allowed by the British to compete in global markets with its cheap labor, nor did the Chinese Communists seek to compete in world markets under the isolation policies of Chairman Mao. Nor had the World Bank yet become converted to the now incontestable orthodoxy of export-led development based on free capital mobility.

We have an internationalised housing market - Neville Bennet

“Our story of bus drivers reveals the existence of the proverbial elephant in the room. It shows that the living standards of the huge majority of people in rich countries critically depend on the existence of the most draconian control over their labour markets – immigration control. Despite this, immigration control is invisible to many and deliberately ignored by others, when they talk about the virtues of the free market.” 
― Ha-Joon Chang, Twenty-Three Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism

Everyone should do their bit but the social contract is broken. "Celebrate diversity" doesn't work [is against human nature]. See The Great Debate Xenophobia Jeff Sachs 14:00

David Stone said...

Aint that the truth.
Long ago at the start of an elementary economics cause the questions economics needed to answer were identified.

Why? What? and for Whom ?

As long as they keep those in mind it'll be O K.

countryboy said...

shane jones is a yawn in trousers. A boring, flouncing, paper rustler. Perhaps worst of all ? He's dumb, and dishonest with it. He thinks his regurgitated rhetoric's going to work once they echo into this writers ear holes. He can think again. He’s the epitome of his private little solo shenanigans in that hotel room with our ministerial credit card.
My message to youth on the sofa would be to fucking stay there. If you do leap to your feet and with a fresh breeze in your hair and a flag to wave, you go and get that ‘Job’ ? You immediately become a slave to a sick system where poverty is a tradable commodity and any government ‘ hand out’ is our government subsidising corporate criminals who’ve swindle us all throughout the last thirty years. ( And beyond. ) Dodgy deals which were, I'm sure brokered by the likes of shansie jonsie who now try to hide his crooked plots by deflecting the blame on to societally abused young people too afraid and depressed to move.
I say fuck shane jones ! Lets ignore him like we should ignore don brash. Two losers on our $ix figure$ plus entitlements.
Finally. Before you, shane-zo jonesie, start beating up on powerless young people, you cowardly bastard, how about campaigning to re nationalise what were once our assets and services ? How about asking where michael fay and david richwhite put the BNZ after they brokered deals with our government back in the day? How about untangling ourselves from the spiders that are foreign banks ? How about, instead of exporting our timber we use it to build housing? How about creating rural economic ‘zones’ to encourage people to move out of the hyper normalised ( ) rat’s nest’s that are our cities and into food production for the starving millions who are soon to be on the move away from polluted water, rising sea levels and an ever increasing climate temperature?
But oh no. Shansie Jonsie’s too caught up in his own wankery to desperately try to prove he’s worth the money we pay him.
Well, here’s the kicker, as American$ might say... He isn’t.
The entire pull-yourself-up-by-your-boot-straps thing is a logical fallacy.

Chris Hedges . Another loser Pulitzer prize winning journalist and no doubt 'henchman to the Left' . jonky talking about Glenn Greenwald.

Chris Hedges
“Those who fail to exhibit positive attitudes, no matter the external reality, are seen as maladjusted and in need of assistance. Their attitudes need correction. Once we adopt an upbeat vision of reality, positive things will happen. This belief encourages us to flee from reality when reality does not elicit positive feelings. These specialists in "happiness" have formulated something they call the "Law of Attraction." It argues that we attract those things in life, whether it is money, relationships or employment, which we focus on. Suddenly, abused and battered wives or children, the unemployed, the depressed and mentally ill, the illiterate, the lonely, those grieving for lost loved ones, those crushed by poverty, the terminally ill, those fighting with addictions, those suffering from trauma, those trapped in menial and poorly paid jobs, those whose homes are in foreclosure or who are filing for bankruptcy because they cannot pay their medical bills, are to blame for their negativity. The ideology justifies the cruelty of unfettered capitalism, shifting the blame from the power elite to those they oppress. And many of us have internalised this pernicious message, which in times of difficulty leads to personal despair, passivity and disillusionment.”

peteswriteplace said...

One of your better posts Chris. Well written.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Polly - if the unions are against it how come I heard a union leader come out in favour of it the other day? All he wanted was for them to be paid slightly more than the benefit. This is bullshit stereotyping at its unthinking worst.

Jack Scrivano said...

I worked on a couple of regional regeneration projects in the UK. One of the things that surprised me – initially – was that it was the ‘kids’ with jobs who were the misfits in their community. ‘Sitting on the couch’ was ‘normal’. Working for the man was not. I even heard of kids quitting perfectly good jobs just so that they could fit back in with their peer group.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I taught years ago, a goodly selection of "layabouts" and "criminals" and some real layabouts and criminals :) – that's where I learned how to pick locks – some anyway. Later on through various activities some of these guys became PEP workers or whatever they call them now. I've met a number of them working on various walking tracks around the Wellington region, and without exception they were loving it. Most of these guys were pretty physical, they love being outside, they had something to do and they fed them like fighting cocks. I don't think New Zealand has quite got to the stage yet where people don't want work. That's usually a generational thing, and I don't think we've had quite enough generations – yet.
So, if as it appears they will be paid the minimum wage, I'm quite happy to have them doing productive work. I guarantee 90% of them will be happy to be doing productive work and getting a bit more than the bloody dole.
This is so much better than National's attitude of blaming them for their own situation, and trying to ignore them, while importing cheap labour from overseas.

greywarbler said...

You are no more individual than the others working for the man. The thinking individual has to plot out a course that enables him/her to function in and interact with society and have a reasonable standard of living. On the way you look for kindred souls and people with integrity, humanity and commitment to shared standards. Every day you sort through your prejudices and see if you need to shift any, and have a look at yourself and your gifts and faults and after that, try to enjoy the sweet moments, the humour, the opportunities for you, and to help make them for other people.

You don't spend it ranting and raving and encouraging others to sulk in their own shit. You are glorying in being misunderstood and being hard done by. You can satirise it, play at it, but not live by it and not discourage others from trying to make their own lives, find their own paths. It's a life, we have it, and we are lucky if it isn't too hard as some people struggle so much just to get water etc. Lift your eyes from your navel, or lower, and get out and get a bit of life, but don't make it a bite of life out of someone else's share, and pass on a bit of your bit.

Anonymous said...

Great to see that the public still prefer National over Labour in the Colmar Brunt poll. No post election bounce for Labour and no fall for National. So the people still speak, despite daft MMP. I bet Labour are worried, if NZ First are out of parliament (looking that way already) next time, so are they. Natural just restored, and the people's voice honoured, finally, as it should have been in the first place. Labour grabbed power at any price, and already, is paying the price. Kiwis like true democracy, not a system that gives a cunning opportunist unmandated power.


JanM said...

Len, what you are failing to take account of is that many left-wing voters, like myself and quite a selection of the people I know, bounce between Labour and the Green Party (and to a much lesser extent NZ First) almost as though they are aspects of the same entity. It is not, and never has been, a valid exercise to simply compare Labour and National - it just doesn't work that way.
Sorry, old chap

Charles E said...

greywarbler 15:51
Very well put indeed. In fact, just excellent in its insight I reckon.
I think I might just see you in a different light.
I particularly like this:
'Every day you sort through your prejudices and see if you need to shift any, and have a look at yourself and your gifts and faults and after that, try to enjoy the sweet moments, the humour, the opportunities for you, and to help make them for other people.'
I sometimes remember to try similar, but seldom get very far....

greywarbler said...

Right, I'm pleased you thought it was a good point. I will now see you in a different light, having sorted through my prejudices for the day and revised!