It’s rapidly coming up to the 2017 general election in New Zealand: the country will go to the polls on Saturday 23 September. We have a unicameral legislature in New Zealand, which means the vote will determine the make-up of the 120 seat House of Representatives only. We get to vote twice – once for the MP that we wish to represent the electorate in which we live (just like in the UK). The second vote is the more important “party vote” which is used to determine the proportionate make-up of the House. If a party gets 50% of the party vote then it will get 60 seats in Parliament, no matter how few electorate seats it wins. (If it wins more than 60 electorate seats then they receive that number of seats and the total seats in Parliament changes. Thanks to this feature of the MMP voting system, the number of MPs has in recent years been 121 or 122 thanks to parties winning more electorate seats than they would otherwise be entitled to based on their party vote.)
The current state of things is that the centre-right National Party is on track to again be the biggest party in the House, without winning a majority. It has some minor support partners, so if it gets 46% or above, it will in all likelihood form a government for the fourth term in a row. (A feat only achieved once since World War II.) On the left, the Labour party is polling about at 25-30% while the Green Party hovers around 10-12%. Recently the female Green co-leader (they must have a male and female leader at the same time according to their constitution) made the admission that, while she was on the benefit as a single mother in the early 1990s, she lied about the presence of her flatmates to the authorities to ensure that the amount of her benefit was not reduced. (She used it as an example of our terribly unjust system forcing her to lie and has since intimated that she will pay the money back. Whether she will face trial for fraud is another matter – probably not since she is not one of the hoipolloi.) This has caused a stir here and I do not think the Green co-leader has been received as sympathetically as she thought she might be. Furthermore, even if some people sympathise with her, I cannot see such an admission garnering many votes from the centre or the centre-right which is where the left parties need to grow their share of the vote if they are to be in a position to form a government come September 24. The Green party has also announced a significant loosening of the requirements for those receiving the benefit – for example removing the requirement to be looking for work, and removing the penalties for failing a drug test as a beneficiary, and removing the requirement that single mothers should name the father of their children and increasing the benefit paid by 20%.
This is all background for this interesting, and slightly alarming, piece by an opinion columnist in the Dominion Post newspaper last week. It is entitled “Why the Greens should offer tax cuts for the childless”. For our, demographic, purposes, the real meat is from about halfway down where the columnist makes some slightly outdated assertions I would have thought:
“Strangely, in an overpopulated planet, more stigma is still attached to women who decide not to have children than to women who believe it is their right to breed, and expect a government handout to support them from the get-go.”
Of course, the notion of an overpopulated planet has been with us for many years, decades and centuries, yet with 8 billion people on the planet, the world has never been better fed and the standard of living of the planet overall is at historically undreamed-of levels. Furthermore, in a few short decades the demographic story is not going to be overpopulation, except in Africa. It will be demographic implosion. Just ask Elon Musk…Secondly, is it true that there is such stigma attached to women who decide not to have children? I would think that such women who can have children and choose not to are probably making the wrong decision as I contemplate the joys that my own children have brought me. But I don’t think I stigmatise them. And I certainly wouldn’t say anything. Furthermore, I have no idea why the women that I know who do not have children are in that situation, so for me to stigmatise them would be presumptuous in the extreme. But maybe I’m wrong, maybe there is such stigma out there that I’m not aware of…
But because the planet is overpopulated, the author believes that a better policy for the Greens to have announced would have been a tax break for the childless:
“Deciding to have none-in-the-oven and stop sucking the planet of its valuable resources is a more rational decision than putting pressure on an overtaxed environment. But still the childless are viewed as selfish. Surely it would have been more in keeping with the Greens’ pro-planet philosophy to award tax cuts to the childless? It’s not just the cows who are gross waste producers.”
Of course, who is going to be paying for the healthcare and the pensions of the childless in the decades to come? The children of those who decide to have them now (and don’t get a tax cut for it). Perhaps there is merit in such a tax cut scheme if it were introduced with a scheme that one’s entitlement to pensions and heathcare as an elderly person was linked to the number of taxpayers one had “bred”. The matriarch of 15 grandchildren would stand to benefit…Finally, there is a slight difference between cows and people. People are not “gross” waste producers. Or at least, they are not just such things. They are also producers, conservers, technological innovators, columnist, Green party leaders etc etc That is, to look as people as waste producers is to look at less than half the story. It is synecdoche without remembering that the part describes the whole and that the part is not the whole. One hopes that the Green party don’t read this column and start getting any ideas…