Should We Sell New Zealand to China on A 99-Year Lease?

Many Kiwis are concerned about the amount of New Zealand land being sold into overseas hands. This concern has been heightened by last week’s sale of Westland Milk to China for $588 milllion. This essay asks an extremely controversial and unpalatable question: should we sell the country to the Chinese on a 99-year lease?

Thomas Porter of the Colonial Defence Force was a famously close ally of Ngati Porou war chief Ropata Wahawaha. When a captain, he served with the Ngati Porou contingent under Wahawaha that hunted down mass murderer Te Kooti in the Uruwera ranges. From the 1870s onwards, he was involved with work as a land purchase officer, a job made easier by his fluent command of Maori and his marriage to the daughter of a chief who had once paid for Wahawaha’s release from slavery.

Porter knew that the settler thirst for land was insatiable. The British Empire was possibly the most rapacious enterprise ever created by humans, and it had its eyes set on New Zealand. The Maoris would have to give up most of their land or be annihilated, as the Aborigines had been in Australia and the Native Americans before that on the other side of the Pacific.

However, Porter had a trick up his sleeve.

He was aware of the Highland Clearances, where the relentless desire for maximum profit had led to the evictions of tens of thousands of people from communal land in Northern Scotland from the middle of the 18th century. Some of the original landholders had survived the clearances by giving up their land on 99-year leases rather than selling it. By the time 99 years were up, the original pressure to sell had gone.

A great friend of the Ngati Porou, Porter did them a great favour. Instead of arranging for the land to be sold outright, he arranged for much of it to be sold on 99-year leases. This meant that the land was returned to Ngati Porou control in the years after World War II. Hindsight would prove this to be a stroke of genius.

A 99-year lease, Porter reasoned, would give the leaseholder all the security they wanted, as well as all the freedom they needed to use the land for whatever purpose. Consequently, there would no longer be any pressure on the Ngati Porou to sell it forever. So at the end of the 99 years, much of the original Ngati Porou holdings were still in their hands – and worth a packet.

This decision is part of the reason why the Ngati Porou are doing so well today compared to many other Maori tribes. Rather than accept a windfall that was inevitably squandered, the land was effectively put into a 99-year investment account. When that account matured, the whole tribe shared in the profits.

The Chinese demand for food products to feed their population of 1,400,000,000 is as difficult to meet as the Western demand for land once was. The Chinese population might not be growing any more, as birthrates have declined sharply since 1980, but Chinese wealth has been growing strongly since then, and their demand for food products has increased commensurately. The pressure to sell our land in the coming few decades will be immense.

This was a similar situation to what the Ngati Porou faced in 1870, and the factors that apply to us were considered by Captain Porter in his decision to arrange 99-year leases. We ought to ask ourselves if we should do the same. Would it not be better, instead of selling it for good bit-by-bit, to lease the whole country to the Chinese on a 99-year contract?

We wouldn’t be the first to have the idea. The Northern Territory Government has leased Darwin Port to the Chinese on a 99-year lease. This move has been criticised severely on account of its strategic implications, but the fact remains that Australia will get the port back after 99 years, the same way that the Chinese got Hong Kong back. So there is precedent, among other places faced with Chinese expansionism, to consider this option.

Some might not like the idea of selling the country into Chinese leaseholdership. They might reason that China is a human rights abuser, a corrupt, totalitarian dictatorship that strangles honest aspirations and which is incompatible with the Western desire for personal freedom.

However, these sentiments have to be balanced with the fact that the whole country is being sold into Chinese ownership anyway. Chinese nationals purchased $1,500,000,000 of New Zealand residential real estate in 2017 alone. Eight-figure sums are not uncommon for land purchases made by Chinese interests, many of which are owned in part by the Chinese Government.

Moreover, the old Western traditions of freedom are gone. Zimbabwe has legal medicinal cannabis, and Malaysia has announced that it will decriminalise it. New Zealanders are, therefore, less free than citizens of either Zimbabwe or Malaysia in important ways. Uruguay, South Africa, Chile, Mexico and even North Korea are further examples of countries with greater cannabis freedom than New Zealand. Our time as a human rights leader is long over.

Perhaps worst of all, New Zealanders are now going to prison for years for sharing videos, or getting harassed by the Police because they might like Donald Trump. There is ample evidence that we are no longer a free people, so there’s nothing to lose on that front.

Maybe it’s time to concede that it’s better to lease the whole country to China on a 99-year term today, get them to build some proper houses and infrastructure, and then to get it back in 2118, than to have it sold piece-by-piece into Chinese hands permanently. We would probably not suffer more under Chinese leadership than we already do under our own.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

The Best Way to Raise Wages Is to Strengthen The Negotiating Position of The Working Class

Low wages are blamed by many for the various social ills befalling the nations of the West. If only wages were higher, a lot of problems with housing, education and healthcare would be solved. Although this is true on the face of it, little thought goes into what actually leads to high wages. This essay explains.

A popular belief, particularly among young leftists, is that the wage being paid reflects the employer’s goodwill. This is true to a minor extent (it reflects the degree of solidarity that the employer has with their employees), but in practice the size of a wage reflects little else than the respective negotiating strengths of the employer and the employee.

These people don’t understand that a person’s wage is the result of a negotiation process, and that this process is determined by economic principles. In particular, the wage reflects what the employer and employee each have for a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) – the alternative that would arise if negotiations failed and both parties walked away from the table.

If the employer’s BATNA is to lose production and fail to fill orders because they are short-staffed, that employer’s negotiating position is weak. Likewise, if the employee’s BATNA is to get a well-paid job somewhere else, that employee’s negotiation position is strong.

Conversely, if the employer’s BATNA is to get the Immigration Minister to import cheap labour from the Third World and to hire them instead of a local, then that employer’s negotiating position is strong. Likewise, if the employee’s BATNA is that his family back in the Third World starves, that employee’s negotiating position is weak.

So it can be seen that a person’s wage is chiefly a function of the demand for that person’s labour and the supply of competing labour. All other factors being equal, the greater the demand for that person’s labour, the higher the wage, and the greater the supply of competing labour, the lower the wage.

If one wishes to raise wages, then, the only thing that will reliably work is to restrict the supply of the labour competing for those wages.

The capital owners of the West have always striven to minimise their labour expenses. The most effective way to do this is through slavery, because then the capital owners get labour (effectively) for free. The American cotton and sugar plantations of the 18th and 19th centuries were profitable because slavery minimised their labour expenses, and the closer a modern company can get to free labour, the better.

In the 21st century, the way to keep wages low is to import cheap labour from overseas. This has the massive benefit of allowing the capital owner to undercut the native working class, and to pay a fraction of their wage to the new imports instead. If the cheap labour is from a poor country, they will often be happy to live 20 to a house so that they can send some of their wages home in remittances.

Many modern enterprises in the West are only profitable because of importing cheap labour, but allowing this is a form of corruption that harms the working class. In a natural capitalist system, companies that can’t pay a living wage to their employees go out of business because they can’t find staff. Under the system we have, those companies import cheap labour and their previous staff go on the dole.

Despairingly, many leftists now think it is “racist” to oppose open borders, on the grounds that it’s mean to tell non-white people they can’t live in the West. These leftists are indifferent to the argument that opening the borders to cheap labour is against the class interests of the working poor. In fact, they often verbally abuse those working-class people for agitating for their own class interests, while the capital owners laugh all the way to the bank.

There is only one reliable way to increase the wages of labour. This way is to improve the negotiating position of the working classes. The negotiating position of the working classes can only be increased in two ways: by increasing the demand for labour, and by decreasing the supply of labour.

Only if the best alternative to a negotiated high wage is another high wage will the employer pay one. If the worker asks for a living wage and cheap labour is available, the employer will go with the cheap labour in almost every case. The employer doesn’t give a shit if this leaves the original worker unemployed – the cheaper the labour, the more profits for them.

The sad truth is that the international capitalist interests who have created this arrangement also own the mainstream media. As a result, this media has convinced us that this state of affairs is natural and that anyone who complains about their wage must be a racist. They don’t care if they’re hated – they still own everything and hate doesn’t stop them. What they do care about is a weakening of their negotiating position.

The New Zealand Labour Party – like neoliberal parties everywhere – has completely betrayed the New Zealand working class by keeping the floodgates of cheap labour wide open. It is by doing this that the Labour Party have kept wages low and contributed to the current social problems. As this magazine has argued previously, this betrayal risks that the New Zealand working class turns to fascism. The only way out is to strengthen the negotiating position of the workers.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

The Case For Cannabis: Legalisation Will Not Lead to A Black Market

One of the fears of those who are against cannabis law reform is that a legal system would lead to the growth of the black market in cannabis production. Therefore, it would be better to keep cannabis illegal. As this article will examine, this reasoning is based on at least two major errors.

The logic goes like this: it costs X amount of dollars to buy an ounce of cannabis – let’s say 300. Cannabis is likely to be taxed in a manner similar to alcohol, and alcohol taxes are reasonably hefty, so let’s assume at least a 20% sin tax on cannabis, plus 15% GST – this is already over $400 an ounce.

This could mean that legal cannabis will cause so much tax to be added to the cost of an ounce that black market operators will be able to undercut it. Since cannabis growing will not be cracked down on because of its new legal status, large numbers of people will be able to grow and to enter the black market at no risk.

This reasoning is false in two major ways.

The first is that is doesn’t account for economies of scale. On the black market – which is currently where all cannabis is sold – producing cannabis isn’t cheap. As mentioned elsewhere, home cannabis grows suck up as much as 1% of the electricity production of nations such as America and New Zealand. These are incredibly inefficient compared to warehouse grows.

Moreover, cannabis sold in a legal market, from dispensaries, would not carry the risk premium associated with a product sold on the black market. The risk premium is very high in the case of cannabis, because a lot of product gets intercepted by Police action before it ever gets sold, and the losses from this have to be balanced against finalised sales.

Taking both of these things into account, we can see that the production cost of legal cannabis, manufactured by the ton and distributed to pharmacies without interruption, is going to be a fraction of what it is currently. This means that it will be possible to put GST on it and a sin tax on top of that, and still sell cannabis for $200 an ounce, or less.

No black market producer could compete with this and still make enough of a profit for it to be worthwhile. So, if anything, legal cannabis would sooner wipe the black market out completely by undercutting it. This was a principle understood in Uruguay when they made cannabis legal in 2013 – they set the price of cannabis at $1 a gram.

The second major reason why we need not be concerned about a black market is because we have the capacity ourselves to more-or-less set the final cannabis price through taxation.

There are really two kinds of prohibition: hard prohibition and soft prohibition. What we have right now is hard prohibition, where the Police will physically smash anyone in possession of cannabis, or cultivating it. This is hard because it uses the full power of the state, and will go as far as killing you to enforce it, or putting you in a cage for several years. We are simply not allowed it and no correspondence will be entered into.

But making something legal, and then taxing it to the point where it’s almost impossible to afford, is a kind of prohibition. The New Zealand Government is currently employing soft prohibition of tobacco, in that it has been raising the tobacco taxes every year, with the stated intent of forcing tobacco cessation through making it unaffordable. This it believes is in the greater good.

Soft prohibition shares many of the drawbacks of hard prohibition. In the case of cannabis in New Zealand, we can see that black market tobacco has made a comeback, to the point where trade in it is believed to cost the New Zealand Government tens of millions is lost taxes every year. So we can see that high taxes on legal cannabis is a bad idea, if the black market is to be discouraged.

If cannabis legalisation was done intelligently – which is to say that it was done with an entirely different mindset to how prohibition has been done so far – we would set the level of taxation such that the transition to a legal cannabis market was a soft transition. In other words, we could calculate what the expected average production cost of an ounce of cannabis should be, account for profits, account for GST, and tax that total at a rate that would still allow it to beat the black market. This would achieve all major objectives at once.

Not only would cannabis law reform not lead to more cannabis being sold on the black market, but it would be the best thing to fight the black market. Cannabis law reform would allow legal sellers to undercut the black market through economies of scale and the removal of the risk premium, driving criminal gangs out of business.

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This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda V

This reading carries on from here.

The fifth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Business and the Public’.

Businesses have realised that their interactions with the public are not limited to selling their product. They also have to keep on side with that public, otherwise the latter will pass laws restricting the operational freedom of that business. This need to stay onside with the moral fashions of the public has created the public relations industry.

Incredibly for 1928, Bernays is already talking about the fact that it is no longer demand that causes goods to be supplied to the market. He is aware even then that demand is something that is created, and that this is economically necessary in an age of mass production owing to the size of the capital investment necessary to get started. This is entirely different to even a century beforehand.

It has meant that psychology is now necessary in order to conduct business. The minds of the market, both as individuals and as collectives, must be understood. The vast reach of mass media only makes this more important. “Business must express itself and its entire corporate existence so that the public will understand and accept it.”

A company must think hard about the impression that it creates on other people. This means that businesses have to think about things like the dress of their staff. Much of this sounds routine for 2019, so it must be remembered this book was written in 1928.

The propagandist’s work can be divided into two major groups: “continuous interpretation” and “dramatisation by highspotting”. The former is a kind of micromanagement of the public mind in all minor matters, whereas the latter attempts to create a striking and lasting impression. The appropriate method to use can only be determined after a thorough study of the needs of the client.

Bernays writes of his conviction that “as big business becomes bigger the need for expert manipulation of its innumerable contacts with the public will become greater.” Critical to this is finding common interests between the good or service to be sold and the public interest. This search can have an almost infinite number of dimensions. He emphasises against that the goodwill of the public is necessary for any success, in particular stock floats.

Competition is now so intense that almost every decision made by the consumer is someone’s interest. Even the choice of what to eat for breakfast impacts a large number of corporate interests, all of who want to sell their product. Bernays jokes that this might lead to people becoming fat out of a fear that manufacturers will go bankrupt if people don’t eat enough – bizarrely ironic considering our obesity struggles 90 years later.

Bernays finishes this chapter writing about the amusement industry, which has its roots in carnivals and “medicine shows”. They were the ones who taught business and industry about propaganda. Ultimately, propaganda is a dynamic industry that responds to changing trends, and therefore “Modern business must have its finger continuously on the public pulse”.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

Government Action on Housing Crisis Missing-In-Action

by MARTIN GRONBACH

I stare wide eyed at my phone and let loose a snort of equal parts disgust and derision.

The listing on TradeMe for my neighbour’s house has revealed their asking price.

$540,000.

This probably won’t be terribly offensive to those of you battling to buy your own home considering the average house price in New Zealand reached an eye watering $645,250 as of last year, but let me put my outrage in context.

This is the asking price for a reasonable 3-bedroom house in Carterton, Wairarapa.

Over half a million for a house in Cartervegas, with me as a neighbour? Get the fuck outta here.

If this what politicians put forward as the “affordable provinces” then any young person aspiring to one day own their own home is pretty damn screwed. Trust fund babies need not consider themselves applicable.

Last year I decided to ask the three local councils as to what actions they were taking to address the housing crisis and housing affordability.

The responses ranged from “We can’t do anything”, “It’s not our problem to solve”, “Define affordable” to “We are waiting on direction and leadership on the issue from central government”.

Local governments are not interested in taking a leading role in solving the housing crisis. Maybe this is due to the nearly non-existent representation of young people in local body politics, but that’s a topic for another time.

If not local government, surely our transformative coalition government could surely be trusted to be kicking arse for the long-suffering Kiwi first home buyer?

Brace yourself for crushing disappointment as the salvation of Generation Rent won’t be found with this current government – at least not this term.

Kiwibuild has been flogged by Labour as the band-aid to fix the housing crisis booboo as far back as 2012. However once in a position to actually implement the policy in 2017, it was quickly revealed just how little thought had gone into it.

The reality was that Labour’s fix for the housing crisis was over-hyped and under-cooked, inaccessible for anyone earning the average wage, that had school age children, or any number of the realities New Zealanders face. With the additional restrictions on selling the property within three years, designed to stop property speculation, people considering Kiwibuild are better off not using the scheme if possible, as buying on the open market doesn’t have any such restrictions and, in the end, any difference in the final price paid was negligible.

It’s a sad state of affairs that even with the supposed singleness of purpose and financial backing of the tax payer, Kiwibuild has completely failed to deliver for the majority of people that voted for it.

With numerous New Zealand based kit-set home manufacturers, even houses built by robots in Wellington, building houses isn’t the bottleneck. Land supply, and the price of ticking the boxes before building, however, is.

Reforming the Resource Management Act to allow for faster development of land should be one of the more obvious issues to deal with if the Government was actually serious about tackling the housing crisis. Likewise, opening up the building materials market to some international competition by way of reforming the New Zealand Building Code could potentially topple the monopoly enjoyed by a select few manufacturers price gouging the currently captive New Zealand market and further decrease building costs.

Another touted solution in the build up to the election was the so-called foreign ownership ban. Put forward by both Labour and New Zealand First, this would stop overseas investment in our domestic housing market. However, this did not mean ALL foreign ownership as Australians, who make up a third of all foreign owners of New Zealand property alone, as well as Singaporean nationals in the pursuit of a YET ANOTHER free-trade agreement, are still able to buy New Zealand property.

Again, this was found to be a relative non-issue as measly three percent of all property sold was to foreign buyers and that three percent was mostly made up of large-scale farms and stations, life-style blocks and shares in new-build apartment blocks. While I don’t agree with any foreign ownership of New Zealand land, in the context of the housing crisis, this is, and continues to be, an outlying issue, if not entirely separate from the housing crisis.

Generation Rent isn’t, and never was, in the market for a thousand acres of pristine South Island sheep country, so the foreign ownership ban had little real impact in this regard.

The main influencers of the housing crisis are two issues. The first was, and continues to be, New Zealand’s high levels of immigration. That contentious issue both Labour AND New Zealand First made a huge deal about during the opposition years and during the 2017 election, which our coalition government now seems reluctant to firmly act on, apart from putting the boot into low hanging fruit like the dodgy export education industry.

Ironically the fallout following the banning of Huawei from supplying equipment for the upcoming 5G rollout, the responsive drop in tourists and wealthy international students from China may end up having more of a tangible impact on addressing housing affordability that anything the Government has intentionally done to date.

The second genuine influencer is the rife accumulation, hoarding and speculation of housing by fellow, and now extremely wealthy, New Zealanders. The final word on cause of the housing crisis is that it is a mess of our own making. Kiwis ripping off Kiwis. Ever heard of a cap or outright ban on the number of investment properties? Me neither, and so long as we keep voting for the same four political parties, you never will.

With Generation Rent’s patience starting to wear thin and half their term over already, the coalition government can’t afford to continue to wear the kiddie gloves for fear of threatening the entitlement culture of wealthy New Zealand nor the construction sector lobbyists whilst avoiding the real causes of our housing crisis. 2019 will either make or break this government and younger people’s trust in it.

At the end of the day I don’t want or need 20 rental properties. No reasonable New Zealander does.

I just want the safety and security of providing a home for my wife and children that won’t be put up for sale as soon as the market conditions are favourable.

But not for over half a million in bloody Carterton, thanks.

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Martin Gronbach is an unashamed nationalist, self-aware 30-year-old boomer, active political shitposter, father, husband, engineering student and full member of Generation Rent who lives in the Wairarapa.

What Would the Average Hourly Wage Be in New Zealand If Wages Had Kept Up With House Prices?

New Zealand is torn by inter-generational tension right now. The young have no hope of finding houses they can afford and the old simply blame them for being too lazy to work hard enough to afford one. However, the numbers show that workers today get a much worse deal than they did 30 years ago. This article looks at what the average wage in New Zealand would be if it had kept pace with the price of houses since the late 1980s.

This graph from the Trading Economics website tracks the increase in the New Zealand Average Hourly Wage over the past 30 years. We can see that the average hourly wage in New Zealand, as of the beginning of 2018, is $31.03. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand website contains many interesting statistics and graphs, many of which can be downloaded from this link. This article will combine both sources.

In March of 2001, the House Price Index (from the RBNZ link above) stood at 700.2. At this time, the average hourly wage was $17.70. So if a person wished to purchase a $300,000 house, suitable for a growing family, they would have to have capital equal to 16,949 hours of work at the average wage.

According to this article by Human Resources Director, Kiwis work an average of 1,762 hours a year (this figure was for 2014, but for cultural reasons this figure does not change much over time). This means that, in March of 2001, buying a house suitable for raising a family in required capital equal to 9.62 years of full-time work at the average wage.

How does that compare to today?

After seventeen years of red-hot growth, the House Price Index now stands at 2480.8. This represents an increase of 254% over those seventeen years, and it means that a $300,000 house in March 2001 now costs $1,062,000 (all growth factors assumed equal). As mentioned above, the average hourly wage in New Zealand has increased from $17.70 in that time to $31.03, which represents an increase of 75%.

In other words, in January of 2018, buying a $1,062,000 house, suitable for raising a family in, requires capital equal to 34,224 hours of working at the average hourly wage. This is equivalent to 19.42 years of work at the average hourly wage.

We can see, then, that when measured in terms of a person’s ability to purchase a house suitable for raising a family in, the average New Zealander is less than half as wealthy as they were only 17 years ago. To have the same house buying power that it had in 2001, an average wage in New Zealand would now have to be $62.65 per hour.

People working in 1989 – when the majority of Baby Boomers would have been in the workforce – had it even better still. In December of 1989 the House Price Index stood at 453.5; the average hourly wage stood at $13.07 in the first quarter of that year.

So our standard family home that cost $300,000 in 2001 cost a mere 64.8% of that price in 1989, whereas the average wage in 1989 was 73.8% of what it was in 2001. Put another way, the average house suitable for raising a family in cost $194,400 in 1989, which represented capital equal to 14,873 hours of labour at the average wage. This was equivalent to a mere 8.44 years of saved labour.

The average house price has gone up 447% over the past 30 years in New Zealand; the average hourly wage has gone up 137% in that time. So to have the same house-buying power as the average New Zealand worker in 1989, a Kiwi in 2018 would have to get paid $71.50 an hour. This would allow them to buy a decent house after saving around 14,000 hours of the average wage, which is the standard of living that the average worker had in 1989.

In summary, the average New Zealand worker has lost almost 60% of the house-buying power of their wage over the past 30 years.

Buying a decent house in 2018 costs savings equal to 19.42 years of work at the average wage; 30 years ago buying an equivalent quality of housing cost savings equal to 8.44 years of work. So if a Kiwi left home at age 18 in 1970 and saved half of their income on the average wage they could own a house by age 35; a Kiwi who left home at age 18 in the year 2000 and saved half of their income on the average wage can’t expect to own one before they turn 57.

Despite tiny relative savings on consumer electronics, it’s obvious that the standard of living for young people is much lower nowadays than it was 30 years ago. The fact that wages haven’t come close to keeping up with housing costs is the main culprit.

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Dan McGlashan is the man with his finger on the statistical pulse of New Zealand. His magnum opus, Understanding New Zealand, is the complete demographic analysis of the Kiwi people. Available on TradeMe for $35.60.

Who Owns The New Zealand Media?

In more sophisticated countries, informed citizens go to considerable lengths to detect any biases among the people reporting the news. This is necessary to make sure that one develops a balanced, nuanced and independent opinion. Kiwis don’t generally bother with such things, preferring instead to believe everything we’re told like the good little lambs we are – except for this article.

It’s often remarked upon, by foreign visitors, that New Zealanders blindly believe everything they hear in the news. Conditioned into obedience by a brutal state education system that encourages bullying, social and emotional abuse, Kiwis are too afraid to question anything even vaguely resembling an authority, such as a television.

Given that we don’t question what the media is trying to tell us, it’s worthwhile figuring out who owns our media, because these same people effectively own our beliefs and opinions. In other words, let’s find out who own our minds.

We can find a ranked list of the major players in New Zealand cyberspace from Alexa. The two major internet portals in New Zealand are the New Zealand Herald and Stuff. You could confidently argue that the New Zealand online mediascape was an effective duopoly, with NZH and Stuff the only real players.

New Zealand Media and Entertainment (NZME) controls the New Zealand Herald brand, ranked by Alexa as the 9th biggest website in New Zealand. NZME is a large media conglomerate (by NZ standards, anyway), as can be seen from the list of newspapers they own at the bottom of their company page.

Finding out who owns NZME is not straightforward, because they are a publicly traded company on both the New Zealand and Australian stock exchanges. Helpfully, their own investor relations page lists their top 20 shareholders, but this doesn’t lead very far. All of the major shareholders are banks or holding companies for banks.

Number one on the list is Citicorp Nominees Pty Ltd, which is based in Sydney. According to Bloomberg, this company is a subsidiary of Citicorp Pty Ltd, which has been incorporated since 1954 and “provides a range of banking and financial products and services to retail, small business, corporate, and institutional clients primarily in Australia.”

One would think that this would surely be the end of the trail, but no. Citicorp Pty Ltd is itself a subsidiary, this time of Citigroup Holding (Singapore) Private Limited. This too, is a subsidiary: of Citigroup Asia Pacific Holding LLC, itself a subsidiary of Citi International Investments Bahamas Limited, itself a subsidiary of Citi Overseas Holdings Bahamas Limited, a child entity of Citigroup Inc.

Citigroup is a gigantic American bank, one large enough to be considered “too big to fail”, with its origins in the City Bank of New York, chartered in 1812. The closest Citigroup has to an owner, at 7.06% of the shareholding, is Vanguard Inc., “One of the world’s largest investment management companies” (as per their company page). In second place, at 4.76% of the shareholding, is State Street Corporation, another investment management bank. Third, with 4.51%, is BlackRock Inc., yet another global investment management corporation.

So that line of investigation doesn’t lead to any specific names, but neither is it any easier trying to figure out who is behind any of the other of New Zealand Media and Entertainment’s major shareholders.

J P Morgan Nominees Australia Ltd is at third place on the NZME shareholder’s list, with 12.69%. Finding out out who owns JP Morgan Nominees Australia Ltd is no easy task, as the article linked here demonstrates. One passage from the linked article reads “Unfortunately, it is practically impossible to track down the identities of those underlying shareholders through the various financial structures that hold shares for each other and on behalf of each other.”

If it’s practically impossible to find out who owns NZME, what about finding out who owns Stuff, the 3rd largest website in New Zealand?

Investigating this is just a shorter path to the same place. The Stuff brand is owned by Fairfax New Zealand Limited, a subsidiary of Fairfax Media Ltd., which is also publicly traded on the ASX. As it turns out, the second-largest shareholder of Fairfax Media Ltd. is none other than Vanguard Inc.

They only own 2.26% of the shares, however, so can only give us a clue as to the ownership of Fairfax Media Ltd. Looking down the list of funds and institutions that own shares in Fairfax, there’s little more than a pile of asset management companies, wealth funds and banks. As with Vanguard, BlackRock also appears on the list of major owners of both Citigroup and Fairfax Media Ltd.

The story with television media is little different to the story just described with print and online media. The New Zealand television market is, like the print and online media markets, an effective duopoly between Television New Zealand (TVNZ) and MediaWorks New Zealand.

TVNZ is Government-owned, but is almost entirely funded by commercials and is therefore little different to any other commercial broadcaster. MediaWorks New Zealand, for its part, is entirely owned by Oaktree Capital Management, which is (you guessed it) another global investment and wealth management fund.

In summary, no-one has any fucking idea who owns the New Zealand media, apart from the small niche carved out by TVNZ and the independents. Trying to pin it down to any one person is like trying to catch shadows in a jar. The best one can say is that the New Zealand media is ultimately controlled by global wealth management funds and corporations and their nominated representatives.

Being owned by such institutions tells us that the New Zealand media is run for profit and probably has little agenda other than commercial. In other words, there is little in the way of direct political propaganda or slanted editorial content, but one can expect the quality of the journalism to degrade to that which appeals to the lowest common denominator in society. Indeed, it has.

The astute reader will have drawn a connection between all of this bank ownership and the never-ending series of “I became a homeowner at age 21”-style stories. The reason for this is the banks benefit directly from a shallow, consumerist, disposable culture in which it’s considered normal for people move away from their parents and get a massive mortgage so that they can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of interest to a gigantic, parasitic investment corporation.

In other words, the owners of the New Zealand media directly make money from consumerist culture, in particular from people taking out loans to buy shit that they don’t need. This is why all manner of wasteful, extravagant and unnecessary consumer purchases are advertised, and normalised, by the New Zealand media.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Why Immigration Is a Weapon Of The Parasitic Rich

The parasitic class has many different strategies for destroying the mutual trust among the people – and opening the borders achieves several of them at once

Many were surprised, and many were not, by the news that the New Zealand Bus Drivers Union was opposing the request of Ritchies to import 110 indentured servants in the form of “migrant bus drivers”. Those who were surprised were those who thought that the union, being comprised ostensibly of leftists, ought to support bringing third-world people in to compete with the indigenous working class, because leftists are supposed to be all about solidarity for poor brown people.

Those who were not surprised were those who understand how reality works. The reality is that Ritchies put in such a low bid for the bus drivers’ contract that they couldn’t fill the positions with Kiwi staff, because the supply of people willing to work at wages that they can’t live off is almost nil. There is now an established precedent, however, for Kiwi employers who can’t find enough local suckers to subsidise their parasitic lifestyles: immigration.

Much like American employers with illegal Mexicans, Kiwi employers have cottoned on to the fact that maximising profitability is a function of minimising wages, and that minimising wages is a function of the leverage the employer has in the negotiation, and that this leverage is vastly increased if the worker is illegally in the country or wholly dependent on the whims of the employer for future work.

Not only does immigration give the local ruling class great power by populating the land with people dependent on them, but it also strengthens their economic position by destroying the leverage that local workers have in employment negotiations. This destruction of leverage is achieved by destroying the amount of trust that people have for each other, because solidarity is necessary to resist the depredations of the parasitic class and solidarity is primarily a matter of trust.

Game theory* tells us about the factors necessary for the evolution of trust.

The first is repeated interaction. People rarely trust others if they believe that they will never meet that other again, and for good reason: it makes sense from a game theory perspective to be more likely to exploit a person who you will never see again, for the reason that they will not be able to take revenge.

The greater the flow of people, the less repeated interaction there is. At one extreme end, there is very little solidarity in an airport terminal, for the reason that the vast majority of interactions here will not be repeated. At the other extreme, there is immense solidarity among members of a pioneer family deep in the Canadian wilderness, for the reason that virtually all interactions will be repeated.

The second important factor is the capacity for social interactions to be non-zero-sum games. In other words, trust only develops when social interactions result in clear mutual benefit. If either side feels like they lost out from the exchange, trust will dissipate.

Many people will make the claim here that immigration grows the overall size of the pie, for the reason that each new immigrant, even if they take up a job, creates at least one job’s worth of demand for other goods and services. This argument is often touted as a counter to the “Lump of Labour Fallacy” and, to that end, it has merit. But this argument ignores the impact of social status on a person’s well-being.

Social status is a zero-sum game in the sense that the higher one person is up the dominance hierarchy, the lower someone else must be. Low social status is extremely stressful – perhaps it wouldn’t have to be experienced as such in an ideal world, but we don’t live in one. In our world, a native person having to accept a lower social status than an immigrant is regularly experienced as a humiliation, for the reason that the native feels pushed out, as if by a cuckoo hatchling.

In a social environment where immigration means that the natives have to accept lower positions (such as an unemployment benefit in lieu of a living wage, as in the case of the indigenous bus drivers in the opening paragraph), there will naturally and understandably be resistance from those natives. This means that forcing it on those natives, against their will, will inevitably have the effect of causing those natives to hate the immigrants instead of trusting them.

The third important factor for the development of trust is to have low levels of miscommunication. As everyone who has spent any time on the Internet knows, clarity and precision are the cornerstones of communication, and when you have hordes of jabbering retards you end up having arguments and fights.

The greater the diversity, the greater the levels of miscommunication. This is because you have more languages and dialects to contend with, and any given person has an upper limit as to how many of these various forms of communication they can master. Exceeding this limit – which is guaranteed to happen if diversity keeps increasing – will cause miscommunication to happen.

Increasing the rates of immigration has the effect of bringing a diverse range of different forms of communication into everyday life, which increases the likelihood of someone misunderstanding someone else. So the greater the levels of immigration, the greater the levels of miscommunication and therefore the lower the levels of trust.

Who benefits from all this destruction of trust? The cheaters. The very same parasite class who entreats the Government to let them import indentured servants instead of paying a fair wage to local workers who are looking for employment. They benefit immensely from the destruction of trust, because an environment of distrust makes the people less able to organise to resist the hoarding of wealth, and this shifts the balance of power in favour of the wealthy.

The greatest trick the rich ever pulled on the poor was to convince them to open the net of solidarity so wide that no-one in it has anything in common with each other any more. The circle of trust has been cast so wide that it has fallen apart, and the traditional ways of re-forming bonds of trust have been destroyed or are severely discouraged.

This makes about as much sense as opening your pantry for the neighbourhood rats and mice to come and take their fill, on the grounds that rodents are disadvantaged compared to humans and therefore solidarity with other humans is a form of supremacism.

* For an outstandingly brilliant demonstration of the basic principles of game theory as it pertains to trust, see http://ncase.me/trust/

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand V

This reading carries on from here.

The fifth essay in The Interregnum is ‘Welfare and Precarious Work’ by Chloe King.

Unlike the other offerings so far, this essay actually resonates with people who are working class. Instead of waffling on about climate change and other shibboleths of the global elite classes, King focuses on real issues that affect real Kiwis: poor wages, poor security of work and a pitiful excuse for a social safety net.

This essay uses anecdotal examples of young Kiwis trying to make it in a workplace that is forcing them into ever worse conditions. The nature of work in New Zealand is becoming ever more stressful as things like the 90-day firing law undermine employment security, and the essay does a good job of showing how this leads to increased rates of mental illness.

It also correctly draws attention to the cruelty of the Fifth National Government. Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms now force people seeking a benefit to fill out a 48-page form of questions – obviously a considerable challenge to the kind of person whose literacy levels place them in precarious economic positions.

King also speaks to a very real sense of outrage when she writes about how mentally ill people are often bullied back into the workforce well before they are ready – a short-sighted approach whose shortcomings become obvious when the inevitable next mental breakdown occurs.

Describing something she calls “constricted choice”, King details a very real problem in the modern workforce: our choice of jobs has increased, but the average quality of those jobs has plummeted, meaning that Kiwis are essentially forced into taking poorly paid work out of duress. The fact that we have a wide choice of crap jobs doesn’t actually make it any better.

Ultimately, King hits the bulls-eye when she states simply that “Workers deserve to be paid fairly and treated with dignity and respect.” She is right when she points out that the nature of workplace relations in New Zealand have deteriorated to the point where the emphasis is on coercing workers into obedience rather than encouraging them.

The “politics of selfishness” is a very real thing, especially in New Zealand, and King rightly points out that she’s not asking for much when she posits that “no-one should work and be poor at the same time.” It’s not much to ask for, but we’re still not getting it, and the essay concludes with a call to collective action.

In summary, Chloe King’s piece strikes much harder and more accurately at the heart of the issue than the previous efforts in this book: poor living and working conditions right here, right now, not vague threats of what might happen in 50 years’ time. It is easy to get the impression that the left is going to do much better by proposing a universal basic income than it is by going on about climate change, and so for their sake they’d do better promoting voices like King’s.

VJMP Reads: The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand III

This reading carries on from here.

The third essay in The Interregnum is “Reimagining the Economy” by Wilbur Townsend. I must admit that reading a book that opens with several Marx and Gramsci quotes which then goes into radical economic intervention makes me think of the millions of people who starved to death in the 20th century. Despite that, I continue in the belief that the left must have learned to moderate its radicalism by now.

Promisingly, this essay opens by sticking to sober facts. Townsend points out that the economy has grown by 48% since 1990, but the average wage is only 22% higher, on account of that the dividends of this greater economic growth is not being distributed. Moreover, wages in finance and insurance have grown 62% while wages in hospitality have grown 3%.

“There is money being earned in this country but, increasingly, it isn’t being earned by us.” This is the central lament of this essay, and it’s a fair one. After all, neoliberalism and free trade are sold to the people as innovations that will increase the logistical efficiency of getting cheap goods and services to market. But it’s not worth saving $500 on a television if you also lose $15,000 in wages.

In an odd coincidence, the essay contains a reference to Luddites, in the context of people who opposed technological advancement on the basis that it destroyed labour opportunity, and who question the liberating potential of these advancements. Jonty Gillespie and the machine cultists in The Verity Key refer to people as Luddites if they’re not interested in going deep enough into a virtual environment to forget the outside world.

Despite representing working-class sentiments more faithfully than Morgan Godfery managed in his opening effort, the middle-class social justice warrior influence does shine through at some points in Townsend’s essay, such as when he laments that “Misogynistic workplaces” and “sexist bosses” are responsible for the dearth of female truckies and wharfies. One suspects that some of Townsend’s acquaintances would happily have a proportion of men castrated if such was considered necessary to “solve the gender gap”.

Like many in the left of today, biological explanations for gender differences are avoided with superstitious fervour.

The youthful idealism also shines through when he argues for a universal basic income.

No matter how good the arguments for a universal basic income are, we have never had one before and there are good reasons for this. Townsend possesses an eerie certitude about the idea that a universal basic income would lead to a sharp increase in the quality of life, and, although there’s good reason to agree with him, raising the spectre of people dropping out of society to move to Takaka and smoke bongs might not sell it to a Middle New Zealand that just put the National Party in power for nine years.

Townsend takes this idealism so far as to insist that the factories, machines and raw materials should be returned to the collective. He pre-empts the obvious criticism by acknowledging that historians don’t have much time for Communism, but he waves it away by saying “I suspect they just haven’t noticed it done well.”

Despite this, he makes a good point when he mentions that sovereign wealth funds could serve as the capital owners of a range of national assets or robot workfleets, and from there a universal basic income might become possible.

In summary, this essay mixes some good points with a terrifyingly nonchalant self-righteous belief in the primacy of Marxist ideas. It’s probably fair to consider this a piece inspired by youthful idealism, despite the intelligent points occasionally raised.