Wednesday, 19 June 2013

If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for everything

I was born a fair while ago – oh alright a long while ago. But in the context of human civilisation it was less than a nanosecond ago. The point is; that I was born into what was at the time an optimistic little country. It was then, and is still now, sometimes referred to as God’s Own Country or Godzone for short. Kiwis still had a bit of that pioneer spirit and a fair measure of pluck.

It was all a little primitive and we had to endure a bit of a razzing from visitors who thought they had taken a step back in time. Comments like, “I went to New Zealand but it was closed” reflected the popular view of those abroad that had even heard of us. Compared to people from Europe and the USA we lacked sophistication and a wider world view. It was understandable with our geographic isolation at the time.

In those days most of our population had little experience of other cultures (although even then they were probably less inward looking than the Americans), but I digress. Our geographic isolation and the sort of communications systems available at the time meant news took longer to get to us and new technology took even longer. The latter was also hindered by import restrictions, costs of freight and economies of scale.

However aside from all of that, life was pretty damned good for the average Kiwi. Unemployment was almost unknown; only 15 people were unemployed in New Zealand around the time I was born. As a result poverty was extremely rare. Most Kiwi families operated on the old model of Dad going out to work to support the family while Mum’s role was to stay at home and raise the kids. Admittedly in those days there were social mores that dictated that situation, but just the same, the majority of families were able to manage on that one income with few worries. If Mum went out to work it was usually only to get some extra spending money for luxuries. Few if any families needed two incomes to cover their ordinary living costs.

So where did it all go wrong? How did we get from 15 unemployed people to today where it is actually very hard to get a straight answer on how many people are out of work?

The closest I could get to working this out was the figure for the number of people receiving unemployment benefit. There are currently around 50,000 of those, but that does not account for the many unemployed people today who are on other benefits or receiving no benefits at all. It is probably fair to say the real figure is nearer to 100,000 than it is to 50,000. In other words we probably have the equivalent of the entire population of one of our larger cities out of work at present. When you look at it on that scale it is truly scary. The Government should be mindful of this, because if that many people became organised they could cause some major headaches for them.

Admittedly today you have to take into account all those women who would not have been in the workforce back when I was born, but even if you calculated them at one for every male, then the figure would double and we would still only have around 30 such people. Instead we have a figure that has increased by between 500,000 and 700,000%!

At that time weekly wages for most people ranged between £8 and £12 per week which on a straight conversion basis would be between $16 and $24 per week or between $832 and $1,248 per annum. Today we are TOLD they are around $41,000 although we know these are artificially inflated by a large number of people earning in excess of $100,000. The true ‘average’ (really the mean – and it is in more ways than one) would be nearer $30,000. In other words it has increased over the last 60 years by between 3000 and 3500%.

Today there are very few families that can afford the basics of life unless both adults are working – and even then many still can’t make ends meet. So despite the fact that our wages have increased by more than 3000% most families need two incomes to stay afloat. Either our money is now worth considerably less or the cost of living has risen by tens of thousands of percent.

With this thought in mind I checked up on house prices and I found the average house purchase 60 years ago would have set you back about £2000 or $4000. This was equivalent to about four times your annual salary. Today you can multiply that cost by 10,000% which is at least three times what our wages have increased by. I think we have found at least one of the culprits.

Of course cumulative inflation over the decades is another culprit, because every time prices rise more than incomes your money is effectively devalued. The same is true whenever a government decides to print more money because money that is not backed by something of value such as a tangible good or service is of no value and merely devalues the rest of the currency. This is what G Edward Griffin describes as a hidden tax on all consumers. This method is probably the most sinister way in which our cost of living has been increasing because it is being influenced by powers beyond our shores. Griffin’s book, The Creature From Jekyll Island explains this far more eloquently than I ever could.

So far I have blamed inflated prices which are more often than not caused by greed, and tinkering with the money supply as reasons why New Zealand (formerly known as Godzone) appears to be heading at breakneck speed to hell in a handcart. But I am reminded of the words of those great sages of my era (Mick & Keef) when they sang “I shouted out who killed the Kennedys, When after all it was you and me”.

We let them do this to us, folks and the sad fact is we continue to bend over for them. Our niceness (in some cases) and our fear (in many more) have stifled our ability to kick butt when we need to. You can’t change the world overnight, but you can make some change if you start saying NO when confronted with something that is not right.

Make an old man happy and start standing up for your rights, Kiwis. You just might be surprised how much you can achieve. 

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