Austrians surge in NZ

Interesting to see that the ACT party , led by Rodney Hyde, has a slice of the action in New Zealand. The party is described as the most free market party to have seats in Parliament anywhere in the world. When I ran into Rodney Hide at the Mont Pelerin conference in Christchurch 1989 he had some hair on his head and he was just starting to read Human Action the magnus opus of von Mises. He was a determined man so he probably read right through to the end. Good luck! Good to see that Roger Douglas is on the team as well.

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10 Responses to Austrians surge in NZ

  1. Chris Lloyd says:

    Here is one of their policies: ‘Bring back private prisons – now best practice overseas….More secure, more humane, cheaper prisons.” I cannot see how private prisons have an incentive to be anything but brutal. Look at the immigration detention centres that were run by a prision firm. Don’t you love the way people claim that their own pet theory is best practice overseas. Those clever Kazakstanis.

  2. conrad says:

    “I cannot see how private prisons have an incentive to be anything but brutal”

    Try substituting “public” with “private” and see if it makes any difference to the truth value of that sentence.

  3. Chris Lloyd says:

    Public prisons are answerable to the minister, who is answerable to parliament which is answerable to the people. You obviously see government as some kind of enemy whereas I see the government as an extension of me and my communitys values. This is closely related to my lack of need for a gun, or for dressing up in jungle greens on the weekend and or waiting for the race war.

    You could probably build incentives into private prison contracts, for instance by paying them $x per year after the prisoner is released and giving them y% of the prisoners tax. But ultimately, private prisons are answerable to the bottom line. They would have to be so heavily regulated and inspected, it is not worth the trouble.

  4. Yes Chris, but you must realise there is a bit more to it than that. I’m not particularly trying to defend private prisons, but those incentives are not too flash all the way down to the individual cell level in public prisons. And if you or your kin go to private schools, that’s often not just because you want to lavish more money on your own or your kids’ education, it’s that those values that the public sector is supposed to be there to represent get represented alongside other values – like let me see

    * Minimising taxes and therefore the salaries of those on the public payroll
    * Keeping out of the daily paper – at least in a bad way
    * Helping the Minister hang onto marginal seats

    And so it goes.

  5. Jacques Chester says:

    Public prisons are answerable to the minister, who is answerable to parliament which is answerable to the people.

    I learnt this in Law 101 also. Too bad it’s essentially a myth these days. One way or the other, Ministerial Accountability is dead.

  6. Patrick says:

    I appreciate Nick’s irony, but find the principles he appears to be endorsing even more bizarre than the manner in which he has expressed them. Conrad’s statement seems fair enough to me and if it is risible then surely it would not be too much to answer it?

    Bearing in mind Jacques’ thoroughly sensible comment.

  7. Chris Lloyd says:

    Conrads statement was I cannot see how public prisons have an incentive to be anything but brutal. I am not sure how to respond to this apart from the way I have. He is making an unsubstantiated assertion that governments have an incentive to be brutal. The only way I can make sense of this is to infer that he believes the government is some kind of enemy, which lead on to the whole libertarian uni-bomber thing.

    Jacques comment that the system does not work as perfectly as one might believe from law 101 does not get us very far. On this argument, we would abolish the police. It doesnt need to be perfect. But at least stuff ups of the order of Cornelia Rau get brought to light and embarrass the government. The ministers involved paid a heavy political price. Brutality in prisons does get revealed, those who run the prisons do know that the public look over their shoulder from time to time, and they cannot hide behind commercial in confidence clauses.

    If we are trying to find a governance system that truly fails to live up to its ideal, we cannot go past corporate governance. Personal ambition and greed, immersed in a culture of secrecy and deal making. And the humble share holder has virtually no power to change things, despite what one might learn in Corporate Governance 101 Jacques.

    I must say that I could not make head or tails of Nicks comment.

  8. Jacques Chester says:

    Jacques comment that the system does not work as perfectly as one might believe from law 101 does not get us very far. On this argument, we would abolish the police.

    Whaaaaaaat?

  9. terjepetersen says:

    Public prisons are answerable to the minister, who is answerable to parliament which is answerable to the people.

    Given that private prisons are paid for by the government on a fee for service basis I would think they are also answerable to the minister.

  10. conrad says:

    Chris,

    my comment is just that most prisons in the world are brutal, and most prisons are run by governments. Any evidence that having public/private prison systems makes any meaningful difference? I’d be happy to see it. Simply pointing out that private prisons are aweful places isn’t exactly the best comparison, since the baseline is that prisons are aweful places.

    There is in fact an argument for having a cheaply run prison system (apart from the deterrent one). This being that the cheapest way of dealing with crime is to stop it in the first place. If you spend a huge amount on prisons, then you are not spending that money on people who may be far more amenable to help than those inside. Of course, there are levels of this argument — you obviously don’t want people coming out worse than they come in and becoming more of menance when let out, and there are some people inside that certainly would be and are amenable to help.

    I should say here that this argument mainly applies to some proportion of the male population. I think in countries like Australia, 90% of females are in for drug crimes, as are a smaller proportion of the male population. The simple solution here would be to let them out and forget about the war on drugs, in which case you wouldn’t have a public/private problem at all with this group.

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