Child Poverty in New Zealand

The Guardian has published a story by Eleanor Ainge Roy about child poverty in New Zealand. The article in the link makes a emotionally gripping story but it is pretty much useless from the analytical point of view. Indeed, Eleanor Ainge Roy pushes buttons that are more a cause of the problem than a part of the solution.

The underlying fact is indisputable. New Zealand (and most other nations) have been on a trajectory away from equity for a long time. (I'd say that the shift began about 45 years ago in New Zealand.)

Let's begin with a simplified economic model.

For most species of animal (but not humans), their niche-space is largely tied to their genes. That means that they can grow their number to fill a niche-space that is pretty much fixed. Further population growth causes privation. But the privation is not uniformly distributed upon all members of the species. The young and the old are least capable of utilizing the niche-space so those are the parts of the population which are culled whereas the able-bodied adults suffer little stress, if any. (Culling the young, before they can reproduce, is, of course, a major part of the evolutionary process.)

For humans the situation is somewhat different. Human ingenuity enables technologies and organizational methods to extend the human niche-space on time scales that are much shorter than the evolutionary time scale. The most significant technological extension happened with the development of effective methods for exploiting fossil oil shortly before and during the second world war --- followed by organizational restructuring so that those new methods could be widely applied.

So let me posit a theorem:
"The human niche-space is determined by: (1) available resources, (2) technologies that are both useful and available, (3) organization structures that are both useful and acceptable to the population."

Thus, human ingenuity can greatly extend the human niche-space. But we should not presume that useful innovation can be turned on like a tap. Rather, useful innovation might well tend towards an asymptote.

Now we are at a point where we can outline a scientific model for economics. Picture the human niche-space as a large set of potential jobs. Assume that the niche-space has recently been vastly extended, so that most of those potential jobs are empty. In such a circumstance, people will only occupy those jobs that are satisfying to them. If there are shit jobs that must be done, they will be well-paid in order to get them done.

Economists hate that state of affairs, because the economy is much smaller than it would be if there were more people to fill more of the potential jobs. Big business hates that state of affairs because captains of industry hate the idea of having to pay low-skilled people a lot of money to do shit jobs. So, economists, big business and politician's are very much inclined to promote population growth in order to "grow the economy". This is the path that Norman Kirk took way back in the early 1970's! Kirk died, but his philosophy lived on in all successive governments --- Labour and National alike.

The price that you pay for growing population is that some people are forced to occupy lesser places in the niche space. This is sad for the underclass but it is great for those on the top of the economic totem pole --- they don't have to pay their underlings so much because there are so many people scrambling for the scraps in the niche-space. As more people are squeezed into less congenial jobs, new parts of the human niche space become assessible for those who run sweatshops, for slum landlords, for those who traffic in human flesh, for those who traffic in human misery.

Of course, the whole game is predicated upon sufficient people following the breeding strategy of having as many offspring as possible. I am quite convinced that couples, on average, would be smart enough to reject that strategy were it not for the relentless indoctrination by growth-pushers.

By the early high-school level, a proper scientific education should have included evolution and ecology at least to the point where everyone understands that filling the human niche-space causes: poverty for many, extreme wealth for a few, and a total crushing of many of our animal planetmates.

Any government that pays people for having children is a growth-pushing government. They are therefore also an inequity pushing government and a poverty-pushing government. Any politician who suppresses the message about the consequences of continued population growth is a poverty-pushing politician.

The responsible thing for a government to do is to provide services for children --- that is quite a different matter from "family benefits and taxation exemptions" --- services actually add to the total resources that society equitably apportions to each child and that means fewer children that receive more services/opportunities and will grow up to occupy the more satisfying portions of the human niche-space.

Thus, I would damn Norman Kirk to Hell --- if such a place existed --- because he was the man who first articulated a "need to import people to New Zealand because there was a labour shortage". I damn Hillary Clinton for being an intelligent woman who chooses to be willfully ignorant in order to push poverty for her own benefit. And I damn Eleanor Ainge Roy because she is merely exploiting a story and playing right into the hands of the growth-pushers. John Key must be smirking, more slaves...