Friday, September 05, 2008

Dear Ratepayer

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:



North Shore City Council sent me a glossy newsletter, being one of their ratepayers, with a handy break-down of how each dollar of my hard earned money is spent. By my reckoning I could cut that rates bill by half on my first morning in office with no adverse effects. Those in bold are gone!

Wastewater = 23 cents.
Keep the council doing this, and other infrastructure related tasks for the time being.

Public transport, roads and footpaths = 17 cents. It's a shame they grouped these together. As with wastewater, roads and footpaths are infrastructure and we'll keep those under the council's remit. But there is no reason why getting from "A" to "B" should need government funding. There are quirks to this as transport uses roads set out by and destinations zoned by government, of course uselessly as anyone who has suffered through the Esmonde Road and Lake Road cycle lane upgrades is painfully aware. Still, interfering more with subsidies won't help any, just privatise it and leave it alone, the market works just fine.

So we'll guess and take 5 cents off for public transport leaving 12 cents for roads.

Parks, beaches and sportsfields = 15 cents. Ceased and sold to interested parties and sports clubs immediately.

Environmental planning = 11 cents. Gone. I don't need my environment planned, thanks. I'm not four years old.

Libraries = 7 cents. Also gone. perfectly good books are dirt cheap from second hand bookshops.

Stormwater = 7 cents. It is infrastructure so we'll keep it.

Community services = 5 cents. Can't think of anything worthwhile this could be.

Environmental programmes = 4 cents. I don't need my environment programmed either, just bugger off!

Economic initiatives = 3 cents. Gone. What in God's name is a government doing involving itself in the economy?

Leisure services = 3 cents. Gone. As with parks and sportfields I am quite capable of sorting out my own free time.

Governance = 3 cents. Keep, just running costs.

External levies = 2 cents. Keep.

All up we're keeping only 47 cents of the current dollar. For the average North Shore ratepayer with an $1800 rates bill for this year I'd give them back $900, or $17 per week!

11 comments:

stephen said...

perfectly good books are dirt cheap from second hand bookshops

No they're not. Have you been in a second hand bookshop recently?

Eric Olthwaite said...

Yes they are. I go into and buy from second hand bookshops a few times each week.

Anonymous said...

Trying for the Lindsay Perigo Blithering Idiocy Awards are we? Apart from the fact you ignore what a staggeringly good job the private sector made of our banking sector (BNZ collapse, 1990), railways (TranzRail, Toll, 1993-2008) and airline (Air NZ, 1997?), you have left roads under council. Why are roads (a private transport mode) more in need of nanny state than public transport?

Aside from that, I think you'll find environmental planning somewhat necessary if you don't want your neighbours building unconsented 20 storey apartment blocks, or someone upstream of 'your patch' of stream dumping their oil in their patch, only to have gravity donate it to you...

If ya really want to save on councils, sack the policy staff - they are truly useless nowadays, as they just contract out any real work. That comes across portfolios, but is a real cost-saver!

HORansome said...

Because Devonport has two rather good secondhand bookshops it's rather easy to forget that elsewhere secondhand books are pretty expensive.

Anyway, libraries are important not just because they lend books out but also because they retain books. You couldn't write a (decent) history of Devonport, for example, via secondhand bookshops. They have a paucity of necessary sources. You could if you went to the Devonport library. Libraries are a necessity for a civilised society and, I believe, core infrastructure.

Eric Olthwaite said...

Apart from the fact you ignore what a staggeringly good job the private sector made of our banking sector (BNZ collapse, 1990), railways (TranzRail, Toll, 1993-2008) and airline (Air NZ, 1997?)

And you ignore the role that governments played in those. To quote from my colleauge Liberty Scott:

The ones most subject to criticism are largely criticised on flawed grounds (Air NZ, NZ Rail, Telecom).

Take Air NZ. After privatisation it was hamstrung by two actions, both of governments. It saw expansion as necessary in an increasingly competitive market, and wanted to enter the high cost Australian domestic market, but the Australian government prevented it, so it bought 50% of Ansett, with many government terms and conditions stopping it from making serious efficiency improvements to that airlines. Its second and most fatal problem was that the NZ government effectively vetoed by delay the investment of capital by a willing investor – Singapore Airlines – which had it been allowed, would have avoided the government bailout.

The current Labour government let Air New Zealand fail so it could nationalise it and do a deal to part privatise it again with Qantas – which also failed.

...(skip Telecom)...

Then there is TranzRail. A great myth around that privatisation is that it was pillaged and stripped, and great profits were carved out of it with nothing left behind. This myth is peddled by the rail religious, when the truth is quite different. There was substantial investment in wagons, including on passenger services during most of the 1990s, and a big drive for efficiency, customer service and logistics. In other words meeting the needs of freight customers not politicians. Now some of the customers had a few issues when Tranz Rail wanted it to invest in wagons, and some lines had come to the end of their useful lives (worth running into the ground, but not worth replacing the wornout lines), but that was it. The anti-privatisation story doesn’t really bear close examination.


Why are roads (a private transport mode) more in need of nanny state than public transport?

They aren't. You'll notice my criteria is "no adverse effects" if something were removed from the council's remit.
In the end councils serve no useful purpose and should be done away with completely, but in the interim I presented a list of things that could be done away with. As an adult human being I am quite capable of buying my own books and sorting out my own leisure time so I don't need the council doing that for me.
The reason I left the rather large infrastructure projects like roading and wastewater under nanny sate is because transfering them to public ownership from government ownership would take some time and should be done as properly and as smoothly as possible.

Aside from that, I think you'll find environmental planning somewhat necessary if you don't want your neighbours building unconsented 20 storey apartment blocks, or someone upstream of 'your patch' of stream dumping their oil in their patch, only to have gravity donate it to you...

I think you will find that there is a perfectly capable centuries old tradition of common law...

http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/05/cue-card-libertarianism-common-law.html

...that handled and could handle both your nightmare scenarios. If you were going to build an apartment block or dump some oil it would be very much in your interest to make sure what you did was not going to infringe on the property of others.
Your beloved Nanny State fails miserably on this count - leaky homes anyone?

David S. said...

I have a couple of questions for you Eric,

1. Does the system you advocate outlaw collective ownership?

2. Does it also outlaw partial ownership, IE can I sell you land with the provisions? Do property rights have to be an absolute yes or no, or can I sell certain rights to it, say, the right to walk across it but not build on it etc?

Pretty silly questions tbh, but I thought I'd seek clarifcation

Eric Olthwaite said...

David S.

Hi David, no such thing as a silly question :-)

1) No. I don't advocate outlawing collective ownership.

2) Yes. I believe this exists at the present. You can buy an apartment but are restricted by caveats or easements as to what you can do.

Horansome

Devonport has three if you count the one on the Ferry building, which isn't all that bad.

On a completely unrelated matter, my copy of the Skeptic arrived this week, congratulations at long last.

David S. said...

For question two, was that a yes to outlawing partial ownership? I suspect you meant yes to whether I can sell with provisions?

If both of these are allowed, I'm not entirely sure how (at least in NZ) the system you describe is any different from what we have.

The government doesn't come in and impose rules on people without a mandate allowing it to do so. It may be a throw-back from the feudal age, but surely the owners of the land, IE the crown, had/have the right to set whatever rules they like? When the government passed into democratic control did this right suddenly disappeared in your eyes?

The government is essentially just a collectively owned business that has a complete monopoly on all the land, which allows certain rights to be leased to "private" (tbh there isn't really a difference between private and public) owners. Tax is essentially just rent, and you're trying to convince people to give up their property rights, their right to vote.

Now, I'm not advocating for or against our current system, but I don't see how taking an axe to the system that we have, and starting anew, with the same rules with which we already operate would change much in the long run. If anything it'll just put us back to where we were a few hundred years ago, with some advances such as a secular society. The only way the government would be guilty of a breach of property rights is if it prevented people from leaving the country.

What justification do you use for setting one set of rules for business and another set of rules for government? How do you justify recognising some rights as being valid, and others invalid? Or is it simply the case that you believe this is the the best method for decentralising control of society's assets?

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