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Insights 7: 6 March 2020
Introducing an Australian-style exemption to our unjustified dismissal laws would be a win-win for both firms and vulnerable workers, writes Roger Partridge
 
Podcast: Our newest researcher David Law talks about his time at the OECD
 
Oliver Hartwich tells Radio NZ's The Detail there is a chance we could see a rise in populist parties in New Zealand

Why Western civilisation is worth defending
Dr Bella díAbrera | Director 'Foundations of Western Civilisation Program' at Institute of Public Affairs | insights@nzinitiative.org.nz
New Zealand is vulnerable to the same threats to their freedoms Australia is struggling with – and arguably the risk has already arrived.
 
The worst assault across the ditch comes initially out of US and UK universities where a hybrid utopian movement of the most dangerous aspects of postmodernism and collectivism has been rebooted in the form of social justice, intersectionality and identity politics.
 
The movement caricatures and diminishes the history of Western civilisation, which they have weighed and found wanting, vowing to destroy it.
 
Broadly, they call themselves ‘progressives’ or ‘social justice warriors’. These new utopians hubristically claim to know exactly why the world has gone wrong. They conclude — much like philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau — that Western values and institutions are behind every type of suffering, pain and inequality and must be removed so we can create an earthly paradise to finally ‘get it right’.

This movement describes Western Civilization not much more than a story of white male patriarchy wielding power over and oppressing women, racial minorities and the poor. From their platforms in education, the media, corporate diversity departments, the law and government, these progressives work diligently to shove society towards their brave new world – whether society wants it or not, and often at society’s expense.
 
One of the recent targets for this movement is the attack on the institution of “Australia Day” by agitating for it to be called “Invasion Day.” This idea suggests that, according to progressives, nothing good at all came from the introduction of Europeans to the Australian continent.
 
But everyone in Australasia is, without exception, heirs to the cultural, political and economic legacy of the Western civilisation despised by progressives. The first settlers brought the ethics of Christianity, the ideals of sovereignty and the accountability of individuals. They also introduced modern ideas of liberty counterbalanced by a strong respect for the rule of law.
 
These institutions made New Zealand and Australia the free, prosperous, civil and stable societies they are today. Even newcomers can enjoy these same freedoms which have been tested and defended in both wartime and in peace. Migrants risk their lives to enter our two countries because, to put it simply, they are good places to live.
 
The threat to these values from the progressive movement is rising every month. But all is not lost. Normal, hardworking people are noticing and pushing back against the ‘social justice’ efforts to reshape this treasured and unique society.
 
Folk from every generation are displaying a deep faith in the beliefs and institutions of Western civilisation. They believe strongly in its culture, philosophy and laws. Above all, they believe it is worth preserving.
 
Dr Bella d’Abrera is director of the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program at the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne. She will be giving the keynote speech at the NZ Initiative’s Annual Retreat Dinner on 12 March in Auckland.

A virus was always the Sword of Damocles over globalisation
Nathan Smith | Chief Editor | nathan.smith@nzinitiative.org.nz
Since 2008, a contagion spread through the developed world: people felt that elites and politicians were looking out for each other and forgetting them.

With this new coronavirus, murmurings about a travel ban has begun since Christmas as the virus jumped beyond China. But it took weeks for the government to enact one.

When it did, the media immediately started publishing stories about how the ban “feeds racism” and should be dropped. Other stories warned it might undermine all the good work our MFAT officials had done to build up trade ties with China.

The government has since resisted university requests to ease restrictions on Chinese student travel and has even extended the ban despite diplomatic jabs from Beijing. But a poll this week showed 34% of Kiwis are dissatisfied with the government’s response so far (47% satisfied and 19% unsure).

The public intuitively knows if enough workers in heartland New Zealand get sick, entire companies might shut down for quarantine. With some folk barely scraping together funds to survive each month, any added stress from an illness could ruin them.

They’re not going to favour a company’s bottom line or MFAT’s personal relationships. And they expect their leaders to think this way too.

Understandably, governments juggle many interests and most people don’t have the skills to parse all the reasons behind its decisions. But there was nevertheless an odour of reluctance among officials to implement any ban at all. The smell had a tinge of the GFC to it.

It would have been easy in this crisis for the government to prefer the interests of hard-won diplomacy and officials might have persuaded the public to be more lenient. Instead, it shut the borders without really having a cost-benefit analysis to offer the public about why it chose this.

However, facts don’t matter in politics, only persuasion matters. The public learned during the GFC they should watch their leaders closely in case they bend to the interests of the influential few.

It looks like the ban delayed the virus from reaching the country, so the government can tick the “good decision” box. But there remains a widespread suspicion that the decision about which group’s interest to prioritise could have gone the other way.

Globalisation only works with the consent of the governed and too many bad decisions on that road might reverse that consent. The Covid-19 crisis highlighted that the government must boost its persuasion skills if it is to convince the public it has their interests at heart in this new global world.

Itís only logical
Dr Eric Crampton | Chief Economist | eric.crampton@nzinitiative.org.nz
Social norms can persist well past their use-by date because they can be so hard to change. Nobody wants to move first, lest they be considered the weirdo.

Fortunately for you, I’m happy being the weirdo.

It’s time to abandon the handshake and its even more grotesque cousin, the hug-and-kiss hello.

Handshakes have a history. Greek artwork from twenty-five hundred years ago depicts them. People speculate that the handshake originated as a credible demonstration that the right hand held no weapon: an open hand of friendship showed one was not an overt threat.

Times change. As Stephen Pinker points out, European murder rates were thirty times higher in the Middle Ages than presently so it is awfully unlikely that the person approaching for an introduction is about to stab you. The handshake is not needed.

Other threats seem more pressing.

Work published in 2014 in the American Journal of Infection Control showed that the average handshake transfers twice as much bacteria as a high-five. The authors noted that similar results were likely to apply for viruses.

And we are now on the verge of a new pandemic.

The offered hand, today, is not a mark of peace. It is rather an unintentional but real threat of harm. And I wonder about pandemic preparedness in companies in which senior executives still go for the handshake. If I were an active investor rather than a Kiwisaver I’d take it as a signal to short.

Fistbumps are clearly an improvement. They are only 20% as risky and could be a good alternative for those who, unlike me, are shy about being a bit rude. It’s easier for the person offering a handshake to shift to a fistbump – at least among cohorts young enough to recognise the gesture.

But surely we can find alternatives that forego hand-touching entirely.

There’s the “Ebola Handshake” – a bumping of elbows encouraged by the United Nations as alternative to handshakes during outbreaks of the virus in West Africa.

Iran’s Covid-19 outbreak has introduced a brand-new greeting: bump your right shoes together, then your left ones.

But there’s one I prefer to any of those. One that conveys exactly the right sentiment.

Put up your right hand. Split your index and middle fingers from the ring and pinkie fingers to make a wide V, with the thumb held out broadly.

Live Long and Prosper.
 
On The Record
 
All Things Considered
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