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Monday, 9 July 2007

Kiwisaver or why I am not a centrist

A little while ago a friend and I were discussing New Zealand politics with an American associate. My friend spoke of how he was an economic centrist and I informed him I was not. The topic got to kiwisaver, a policy with which he agreed. I thought his comments were interesting. Basically he cited anecdotal evidence to support the contention that many New Zealanders do not save money. He then noted that kiwisaver will mean that they do, seeing this was a good result one should support kiwisaver. The conversation was prematurely ended. But I thought my friend had revealed something important about how social policies are often justified in New Zealand.

Now let’s assume for the sake of argument that the conclusion he supported with anecdotal evidence is also supported with empirical evidence and is also true. The argument then is something like this:

[1] Kiwisaver results in more people saving

[2] A policy that results in more people saving is justified


[3] Kiwisaver is justified

Now this argument is formally, valid and I have granted that [1] is true. However, [2] is clearly flawed. To see why imagine the following; suppose that one discovered that you could convince people to save by threatening to kill them if they did not. A state policy of issuing such threats would therefore bring about more people saving, and hence by [2] be justified. But such a policy is not justified, why? Because it achieves this good result by unlawful means; by threatening violence against innocent people consequently, the fact a policy results in my people saving by it’s self is insufficient to justify it.

It seems then that [2] needs amending, what is needed is something like

[2’] A policy that results in more people saving, and achieves this by lawful means is justified

But now [1] and [2] do not entail [3], to entail [3], [1] needs to be amended to [1’]

[1’] kiwi saver results in more people saving and achieves this by lawful means

However, the problem now is that affirming [1’] is not justified by the evidence I granted for the sake of argument above. There I assumed that the evidence suggested that Kiwisaver resulted in more people saving. This does not show us that it does this by lawful means, this latter claim is a moral or normative claim not an empirical or sociological one.

Moreover not only is [1’] not supported by the evidence, I am inclined to think that [1’] is false. We need to remember that kiwisaver is taxpayer funded. What does this mean? It means that kiwisaver works this way. Person P signs a contract with another person Q where Q agrees to pay P in exchange for labour. The state however, steps in and threatens P, telling him that if he does not give the government some of the money he has worked for and is entitled to by contract the government will separate him from his wife and kids and lock him up (violate his liberty). In other words Kiwisaver achieves its goals by threatening violence against others. Threatening to violate there liberty rights if they do not comply.

Don’t get me wrong here, I am not an anarchist; I am not saying that the state is never justified in threatening people or taking their life liberty or property. What I do think however is that one needs justification for this. If we are to avoid tyranny, then it cannot be the case that the state can just do this whenever some good consequence or cause would be furthered by doing so. Policies like kiwisaver appear to be premised on the denial of this principle they suggest that merely helping others save is sufficient justification for threatening others with violence.

This is why I am not a centrist, and why I am not a leftwinger. While the left claim to be opposed to violence they really are not. They in fact have a very low threshold of opposition to opposing violence and are willing to use it for almost any reason at all. The left tend to oppose violence when its being used against criminals, such is in cases of capital punishment or in just wars where aggressive or tyrannical regimes are being resisted by force. However, when it comes to innocent people, people who have committed no crimes the left will justify violence for almost any reason. If a policy has a good consequence, such as helping people save, or helping a person educate there children, or helping people artists paint a picture, or whatever, they will allow the state to threaten innocent people to do so.

I find this morally perverse, justice requires distinguishing between the innocent and the guilty, those who are threatening others and those who are not. A just state concentrates threats of violence and if necessary uses violence against the latter and not the former. The state can collect taxes for this purpose but it cannot threaten people for any reason it likes no matter how socially useful such violence may be. Yet the political left have distorted our culture that people now, apparently in large numbers, will justify threatening their law abiding neighbour to help them save money.

This opposition to violence, and wanting it limited by principle is central to me; My faith in fact teaches that God opposes such violence and we have a sacred duty to avoid it. This is why I oppose killing unborn children who are not threatening the lives of their mothers. It’s why I do not oppose executing criminals or fighting in just wars, and it’s why I oppose economic policies that justify threatening people with violence and utilise coercion to bring about monetary or economic gain. Violence must be used to punish the guilty and protect the innocent from attack. Not turned against the innocent for social gain.

And that is why I am not a centrist. If opposing arbitrary violence against the innocent makes me a “rightwing extremist” so be it.

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