This morning during a Q and A current affairs programme I tweeted the following tweet. “#nzqanda Social bonds experiment risky. Can’t solve social problems separate from wages, jobs, tax, governance issues @NZQandA” Six people retweeted it and many marked it as favourite, showing it resonated with others watching the programme.
Quite frankly the Minister of Social Development, Anne Tolley, is bound to fail with this experiment. And it is not just that you can’t privatise social welfare and expect good results. It is because the whole political system is one system so you can’t put welfare in a silo, treat it separately and expect good outcomes.
Yesterday I heard Kim Hill in a Radio NZ interview with UK Renegade Economist Ross Ashcroft utter this telling remark: “It seems nothing you can do in an economy isn’t going to cause some bad effects somewhere else.” Well Kim you hit the nail on the head there! Everything is connected. And it is not just within the economic system. It is the tax system, the welfare system, jobs, governance, the credit system and wages structures that are all tied up together. Change the paradigms of a few of these and the whole system gets tweaked for the better.
So how do we get a healthy economic system that results in good social outcomes? Looking at the range of social problems from truancy, mental health problems, crime, family dysfunction, stress, educational issues, loneliness, health where does it all stop and where is the best place to intervene? Try education of young mothers? Oh no, they are victims of domestic violence and poverty. Try wages alone? Oh dear the businesses shed jobs. Try crime alone? Nothing changes. Poverty persists, the wealth gap keeps widening. Try housing without changing the tax and rating systems? Oh dear, you get urban sprawl and an inability of councils to build essential infrastructure so you get more social problems. Fix the money system by itself with zero interest rates but fail to address the tax system? You just exaceberate the housing bubble and widen the wealth gap further.
Whanau Ora , a cross-government system, an approach that places families/whānau at the centre of service delivery, requiring the integration of health, education and social services, gets it right as far as it goes. This system treats the family as a whole system and refuses to accept that ten state agencies must enter the home that has a social problem. Everything affects everything else. The presenting problem of the misbehaving adolescent may reveal a range of other issues – domestic violence, poverty, educational failure and health problems, housing problems, job insecurity and so on.
But even the integrated Whanau Ora programme can’t solve the fundamental issues of a structurally faulty currency system, tax system, welfare system and governance system. A currency must circulate at an optimal pace, businesses must create well paid and satisfying jobs and be constrained by a tax system that protects exploitation of the habitat.
One of the more interesting admissions from the Minister of Social Welfare was that a lot of problems can be solved locally rather than centrally. Panel member Josie Pagani agreed. Yet devolving functions in the way we have previously understood it isn’t going to work either. Why not? Because the state can still intervene, give councils less money, legislate to put further financial burden on councils and so on.
The only way to restructure an economy is to change four major paradigms. Instead of central devolving functions and finance try the other way round. Instead of banks creating the country’s credit as interest bearing debt, let the people create their means of exchange interest free. Instead of taxing work and spending and enterprise, let’s put a rental on the exclusive use of the commons like land, minerals and so on. Instead of a welfare system that is asset and income tested, let’s give a basic income derived from the land rents that were previously privately captured.
There is a great deal of thinking to do. When the global financial system’s huge credit bubble finally bursts let’s make sure we start again, but start properly. The New Economics movement is a vehicle for this new thinking. We can and we must develop a new economic system that works for nearly all life. Otherwise we are going to repeat the same failed experiment. And it is not just the social bonds experiment.