A David Seymour interview

An interesting interview of David Seymour by Toby Manhire. A couple of extracts:

Is there a limit to privatisation? Where is the point beyond which you wouldn’t go?

The state should absolutely run a court system, should absolutely have police, should absolutely have a military, that’s just the basic thing so you can have property and be safe in yourself. That’s first. But then there’s a few more things. Some people make the argument that Victorian times were better, but I think it’s fair to have, basically, a social insurance scheme that says, look, you have unforeseeable risks, some people are just born with parents that either don’t want to or can’t afford to send them to school, and I think that the state should actually fund that, I don’t think they should be running all the schools, but they should fund it. And I think we should have some sort of insurance against bad things happening to you. I don’t have a major objection to the state running an employment insurance scheme, which is basically what it does.

But once you get past those things – security and a social safety net – then you suddenly find yourself with politicians who think they’re businesspeople, and it’s just too tempting to play around with other people’s money. There’s a regulatory role for the state, and that is things like fisheries, for instance. If everybody just took everything they wanted, there’d be no fish next season.

A good answer. The state is best as a regulator, not as a player. And where there is a need to fund something, that doesn;t mean they have to provide it.

Do you think that the level of child poverty in New Zealand is acceptable?

No.

What’s the solution?

There’s a couple of things. One is that a lot of the poverty you hear about is to do with the standard of housing that kids can access. We have an enormous shortage of housing. Here in Auckland we built 50,000 houses in the 90s, 40,000 in the last decade, and yet the city’s got 50% more people than it did in 1991, and the prices have gone up while the supply of houses has not come through. So in that environment you’re going to end up with kids in substandard conditions, living in cars and garages and stuff.

Another driver is that, frankly, you’ve got two groups of people. You’ve got people who desperately want to have kids, who wait and sacrifice until they’re well into their 30s and fret about that. On the other hand you’ve got people that have kids sometimes in their teens, and there’s no way you can provide – I couldn’t have looked after a kid when I was in my teens, I’m not sure I could now [he’s 32]. So that’s an issue.

I think we actually have to say what can we do to discourage people from having kids that they haven’t made a best effort to look after. There’s a whole spectrum of people in that line – probably a bit unfair to say there’s two groups; there’s two ends of it.

I think beyond that, the other question is how many of the kids in poverty have their own parents alienated from the education system, basically made to feel shit? I don’t think partnership schools are a silver bullet, I just think people should give them a chance. One of the things we’ve discovered: this girl said to me, “I never knew I was smart till I came here.” And the teachers told me they were trying to line her up to get a full-ride scholarship at Canterbury. That girl honestly thought school wasn’t for her, that she was a failure and all that academic stuff wouldn’t work for her.

Getting housing a bit more available, a bit more personal responsibility, a bit more education. Those are the main things you could do. And, arguably, benefits could be more generous if they were more targeted. But I don’t think anyone has the answer as to how do you give more money to people who already have kids, without some people in some places saying, well, that just makes economic sense – I live in rural Northland, if I have another kid I’m going to get another 80 bucks a week, that’s a lot of money to me.

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