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Insights 37: 30 September 2016
Our latest report: What's the Catch? The state of recreational fisheries management in New Zealand
Dr Bryce Wilkinson writes "No need for a constitution"
Business backs putting interest back on student loans - Newstalk ZB

Enough with helicopter parenting
Jason Krupp | Research Fellow |
Next week New Zealanders will elect their local government representatives for the next three years. This is an important democratic right, and yet three in five New Zealanders will probably choose to do just about anything but vote. 

There are many reasons for this. An increasingly credible one is that central government, like an all-encompassing helicopter parent, has smothered local government into insignificance. Voters, not being stupid, can tell. 

This paternalism has resulted in a raft of changes to the Local Government Act since 2008. The most recent of which would allow central government to initiate restructurings of local water and roading assets, instead of leaving it to communities to decide.

Some may defend centralised direction for large infrastructure networks that require economies of scale to be efficient and straddle local authority boundaries. It might be justifiable if central government’s interest ended there, but it does not. 

Take for example the recently announced “national strategy” to tackle dangerous dog attacks in New Zealand. This is problematic for three reasons. First, it seeks to ban dangerous breeds even though there is little evidence to show that this approach works (the Netherlands reversed a ban on pit bulls). 

Second, since the decision is being taken at a national level, this policy will be implemented across all district, city and unitary councils, magnifying the first problem. Had one council passed a similarly poor bylaw the effects would be limited to their jurisdiction.

Third, central government’s intervention in this area muddies local accountability because it creates the opportunity for councils to blame poor local animal control on central government.

Even where Parliament tries to devolve decision-making, central government agencies fail to get the message. Recent changes to local alcohol policy were supposed to allow councils to set their own bar closing times, but the police, in threatening to appeal alcohol licences unless bars agree to strict conditions, is attempting to dictate local policy.

This seems bizarre when set against central government’s constant disappointment with the local government sector. Not a week seems to go by without some official complaining about the capability of local officials. 

If central government wants local officials to act like adults, it needs to stop treating them like children. Who knows, it might actually get people to the ballot box.

America’s agony of choice
Dr Oliver Hartwich | Executive Director |
Having attended a couple of conferences in Miami last week, it was time to fly back to New Zealand on Monday night (US Eastern Standard Time).

The in-flight entertainment on our domestic flight to LA was excellent: we had live TV, and the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was on. It was gripping television. Not because it was so good but because it was so bad.

As we were flying over Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, Trump and Clinton did their best to make me feel sorry for US voters. In this election, they are left with the choice between two undesirables.

Clinton’s performance was superficially flawless. She did not stumble. She did not show any weaknesses. She was never caught off guard.

Yet the former Secretary of State had nothing meaningful to say either and jumped from platitude to platitude, looking like the very caricature of a media-trained Washington insider. Her whole presentation looked sterile and rehearsed – and it probably was, right down to her last gesture.

With Clinton’s performance, it is not difficult to see why so many Americans are frustrated with the US political establishment. They are looking for something more grounded, more honest and less artificial than what veteran politicians like Clinton have to offer.

Trump is obviously aiming to present himself as that alternative. Yet as the debate showed, he is certainly no less dishonest than Clinton. And just as much as Clinton came across as too polished for her own good, Trump looked like an under sophisticated political cowboy.

To make matters worse, none of the two candidates had anything substantial or realistic to offer on policy. Much of the debate was about sideshows: Did Trump support the Iraq War? Would he reveal his tax return? Would Clinton release the emails she deleted? As if any of those questions had any relevance on the challenges America’s next President will face.

As I was watching the debate, one of the flight attendants interrupted me and asked how it was going. “They are as bad as each other,” I said. He sighed and nodded. “I am glad I am working so I don’t have to watch it.”

Sadly, either Trump or Clinton will be America’s next President. Or, as Niall Ferguson just put it, America’s only choice is which kind of mess it prefers.

In any case, I am glad to be back in New Zealand.

Can a woman mansplain?
Jenesa Jeram | Policy Analyst |
While most would say Clinton emerged the more composed and polished candidate in the United States presidential debate, it would appear Trump won at least one important battle.

More people were talking about him on Twitter.

Viewers expecting Trump to deliver a theatrical masterpiece were not disappointed. He contradicted himself, he used bizarre phrases (braggadocious is indeed a real word), and he seemed to lose his train of thought mid-sentence.

Those not enthused by the low blows, however, were appalled with Trump’s serious case of (the delightful portmanteau) mansplaining. One article complained that Trump dominated 62 percent of Twitter mentions. Shocking, right? The article argued this is just another manifestation of everyday sexism.

Was this a case of sexism, or simply Clinton failing to achieve foot-in-mouth equality? Either way, Trump hasn’t been the only mansplainer this week.

Though I generally try to avoid reading about anything Lizzie Marvelly says or does out of concern for my sanity, the Herald caught me by surprise.*  According to Marvelly, it turns out the ACT Party are mansplainers too!

ACT suggested it is time to abolish ‘demographic’ ministers, which includes the Minister for Women. ACT even compromised by suggesting a Minister of Gender, acknowledging that men are overrepresented in some concerning social statistics.  

I agree. Where there are poor social outcomes (for males or females), they should be dealt with by the associated ministry (health, social development, police, etc.).

ACT might have made the fatal mistake of commenting on a political issue that affects women, but Marvelly didn’t exactly point out why ACT was wrong.

Nowhere in her tirade did Marvelly point out what the Minister for Women could or should do. While she listed the many ways women are not equal, ACT probably wouldn’t deny there are areas where women lag in national statistics. ACT might disagree on whether there is a political solution.

So is mansplaining the term we now use for any time a man disagrees with a woman? Am I womansplaining by agreeing with a mansplainer?

Don’t get me wrong, I get sick of loud, rude, ignorant and condescending men too. I have also come across women with those same attributes.

But just as Clinton would not have gained from stooping to Trump’s level of (um) temperament, Marvelly does not gain much by playing the man, not the ball.

*If that sounds harsh, those are the words Marvelly uses to describe ACT.
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