Damien Grant: Living wage a travesty

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There's possibly no other country that has taken care of its least productive citizens as well as NZ does today, says Damien Grant. Photo / File
There's possibly no other country that has taken care of its least productive citizens as well as NZ does today, says Damien Grant. Photo / File

Before you decide to support the living wage campaign, consider these three issues.

First, if someone wants to sell you their labour for $14 an hour and you choose to pay them more, the difference is charity. Many people enjoy the sense of power they receive by giving alms in this way and that is their right, but let's not disguise the truth.

Second, an adult earning the minimum wage is doing so because they lack the skills or talent to earn more; a lifetime of decisions led them to this point and if they remain on a low income it is because they choose not to commit to the investment in themselves needed to command a higher wage.

Third, those struggling on a minimum wage are insulated from true penury because taxes pay for their pension, health care, to educate their children and subsidise their housing.

There is possibly no country, now or in history, that has taken care of its least productive citizens as well as New Zealand does today. If charity begins at home, and in my view it doesn't, our house is in order.

Now consider a Syrian refugee. They have no safety net and through no fault of their own find themselves prevented from taking any steps to advance their own cause. Exiled, isolated and largely abandoned by the world. Because they do not live within our borders should we discount their suffering?

Most importantly, if another person's need creates a moral obligation on you to assist, where does this obligation end? By this logic, a decision to take your wife to a restaurant is immoral because that indulgence could have helped feed a poor family.

Who you support is your choice but let's again face the truth. Syrian refugees do not vote in our council elections. If they did, Len Brown and Alasdair Thompson would have been fawning over them. However, being robbed does not constitute charity, and rates are not paid voluntarily. They are extracted by force by a statutory body that has the power to sell a defaulter's property. Rates are levied as a percentage of value, meaning a minority of property owners and businesses pay most of the council's bills. The vast majority of voters are not ratepayers or pay a nominal rates bill so the cost of paying for a living wage does not fall on them; yet they get to obtain self-righteous pleasure by voting for a council who will take, by force, money from those productive members of their community to pay for their virtue.

If I may suggest, this is unfair.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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