Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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On Being Kiwi: The results

This post follows on from On being Kiwi: A Survey

100,000 Kiwis have now completed the survey. That’s 1 in 45 or 2.2% of the population.

I didn’t study statistics, so I’ll leave the detailed analysis to the experts. The best I can do is look at the figures and gain a general impression of what we as a nation are.

Firstly, where do I fit in compared to other Kiwis? As most guessed, my closest fit is Egalitarian, followed by Globalist. I am least like a Traditionalist.

The results are broken down into several areas:

Ideology

  • Māori: assimilation vs biculturism
  • internationalism: inward vs outward
  • Immigration: pro vs anti
  • Politics: libertarian vs socialist
  • Imperialism: independentist vs loyalist
  • Nationalism: universalism vs exceptionalism
  • Sport: Apathetic vs enthusiastic
  • Religion: secular vs religious

 Pride

A sense of pride in our:

  • nuclear-free status
  • scientific and technological achievements
  • lifestyle; achievements in art and literature
  • political influence in the world
  • fair and equal treatment of all groups in society
  • economic achievements
  • history
  • achievements in sports
  • armed forces

Flag

Preference for our current flag or the proposed replacement:

old_flag1 vs new_flag1

Symbols

Icons that we most closely identify as national symbols of Aotearoa New Zealand. Some of the symbols may not be familiar to you if you are not a Kiwi: All blacks; Beach holidays; Great outdoors; Haka; Kiwi; Pounamu; Rugby; Silver fern; The Queen; Union Jack.

How I compare with the typical Kiwi.

I want to explore some aspects of being Kiwi over upcoming posts, especially as there are some results I didn’t expect. Differences in sense of national pride, the flag ,and symbols, while of interest, are not particularly important to me and how I differ from the “typical Kiwi” is of no significance. On the other hand, those aspects covered under ideology are important to me, and I believe should be important to all New Zealanders.

A number of statements were given to which one had to supply one’s level of agreement. The choices were:

Strongly agree -> Somewhat agree -> Slightly agree -> slightly disagree -> Somewhat disagree -> Strongly disagree

I noticed that there was no “neither agree nor disagree” option, for which I’m grateful. Otherwise that would have been my first choice with too many statements.

Very briefly, my position compared to the NZ average is as follows:

Māori

I am significantly more in favour of biculturalism than average based on the following propositions:

  • somewhat agree that a history of discrimination has created conditions that make it difficult for Māori to be successful.
  • slightly disagree that Māori should not receive any special treatment.
  • strongly agree that Māori culture is something that all New Zealanders can take pride in, no matter their background.

Internationalism

I have an extremely outward view compared with the average NZer based on the following propositions:

  • strongly agree that refugees should be welcomed in New Zealand.
  • strongly disagree that New Zealand should focus only on domestic, not international, issues.
  • strongly agree that New Zealand should participate in humanitarian intervention efforts abroad.

Immigration

I am significantly more pro-immigration than average based on the following propositions:

  • strongly agree that all immigrants can retain their cultural values without being any less of a New Zealander.
  • somewhat disagree that most immigrants these days don’t try hard enough to fit into New Zealand society.
  • somewhat disagree that immigration is a threat to New Zealand’s culture.

Perhaps the above are understandable considering the wife is an immigrant, as is a daughter-in-law. A little known fact is that almost one in four New Zealanders is an immigrant.

Politics

I have strong socialist leanings compared to the average Kiwi – much more than I thought. This is based on the following propositions:

  • strongly agree that in New Zealand, the gap between those with high incomes and those with low incomes is too large.
  • strongly agree that wealthy people have a greater obligation than everyone else to help those who are in need.
  • slightly disagree that no matter what circumstances you are born into, if you work hard enough you can be as successful as anyone else.

Imperialism

I am less of a loyalist than the typical Kiwi based on the following propositions:

  • somewhat agree that the British monarch should no longer be New Zealand’s head of state.
  • somewhat disagree that New Zealand’s British heritage should be central to its national identity.
  • somewhat agree that it is important for New Zealand to retain its ties to the British Commonwealth.

Nationalism

I lean towards universalism more the the average Kiwi based on the following propositions:

  • strongly agree that Kiwis have a unique set of values that distinguish New Zealand from the rest of the world.
  • somewhat agree that New Zealand is the best country in the world in which to live.
  • slightly agree that New Zealand is not perfect, but its values are superior to others.

Sport

I am only slightly more apathetic towards sport than average. T found this rather surprising, as the typical Kiwi is not as enthusiastic as I believed. This is based on the following propositions:

  • slightly disagree that sport is too much a part of New Zealand’s national psyche.
  • slightly agree that nothing brings New Zealanders together like a sporting event.
  • slightly agree that good sportsmanship sets New Zealanders apart from other people.

Religion

This is one result that did surprise me. Although I don’t believe in a deity, I am ranked slightly more religious than the average NZer based on the following propositions:

  • slightly disagree that society would be better off if people were more religious.
  • somewhat disagree that we rely too much on science and not enough on faith.
  • somewhat agree that religion should not have any influence in the affairs of government.

So there you have it. I have nailed my colours to the mast, warts and all. I’ll elaborate on what I consider the most important in future posts. If you have a particular interest in any aspect of the survey that you would my opinion on, please do ask.

Does any of what I have revealed surprise you or contradict what I have revealed about myself either here on Another Spectrum or in comments I have offered on other blogs?


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On being Kiwi: A Survey

A countrywide survey about national identity is currently under way in Aotearoa New Zealand, and to date more than 30,000 Kiwis have participated. While the survey has been commissioned by a major NZ television network, the results are being analysed by independent academics, so hopefully the indicators of how we see ourselves will have some semblance of reality. I appreciate 30,000 participants might seem like a small sampling (a bit under 1% of the population), but the survey has some time to run before it closes. so hopefully more Kiwis will agree to take part.

The survey has identified six distinct archetypes of Kiwi nationalism and before I discuss the results in my next post, I summarise the six types below. Using what you may know of me, which type do you think I best fit and which I am least like?

Patriot (36% of Kiwis)

Patriots pride themselves on being New Zealanders and feel a deep sense of attachment to the Kiwi lifestyle. They see Kiwi values as unique and preferable to most others, and generally think that New Zealand is the best country in the world in which to live.

Most patriots are quite fond of New Zealand’s rugby and beer culture. They have an appreciation for New Zealand’s British heritage, but believe that New Zealand is culturally distinct. They see Māori culture as having a role to play in the country’s national identity, but place greater emphasis on Pākehā culture.

Patriots emphasise personal responsibility and generally believe that all New Zealanders can achieve their goals if they work hard enough. They tend to support free market ideals and believe that individual gains increase prosperity for New Zealand as a whole.

Egalitarian (22% of Kiwis)

Egalitarians care deeply about social and economic equality, both in New Zealand and overseas. They have a strong sense of both national and global identity, maintaining both a profound sense of belonging to New Zealand and a sense of kinship with others around the world.

Egalitarians are advocates for diversity in Kiwi culture. They embrace New Zealand’s liberal immigration policies and its multiculturalism. They see New Zealand as a country that welcomes newcomers and respects the contributions that they make to Kiwi society.

Egalitarians recognise Māori culture as an integral part of New Zealand’s national identity. They support polices that counter discrimination of Māori and believe that New Zealand should make reparations for past injustices committed against Māori.

Egalitarians generally do not identity with New Zealand’s British heritage and see the monarchy as a relic of its imperialist past.

Like most other New Zealanders, lifestyle and sport are prominent aspects of Egalitarians’ sense of national identity. They tend to be environmentalists and take great pride in the country’s nuclear-free status. They are broadly in favour of the redistribution of wealth in order to address inequality and often favour policies that benefit New Zealand as a whole over those that benefit themselves as individuals.

Loyalist (17% of Kiwis)

Loyalists express the highest degree of attachment to New Zealand’s British cultural heritage compared to other groups, and demonstrate the most support for the British monarchy. They show more support for the British monarchy than other New Zealanders. They typically feel that traditional values and the principles associated with Christian beliefs are an important part of New Zealand’s national identity. Loyalists are the most likely among groups in New Zealand to identify as being religious.

Loyalists generally view Māori culture as playing an important role in New Zealand’s national identity and are sympathetic to Māori efforts to overcome the injustices associated with colonialism. They often believe, however, that policies to make up for past injustices are unnecessary.

Loyalists cherish the lifestyle New Zealand offers and see sport as a major theme in its national culture. On average, Loyalists tend to be older than other New Zealanders and live in more rural areas. They traits they value most are tolerance, generosity, and religious faith.

Traditionalist (14% of Kiwis)

Traditionalist are enthusiastic supporters of the Kiwi way of life and its sport culture. They believe in upholding traditional New Zealand values and in preserving the nation’s cultural heritage.

New Zealand’s British heritage features relatively prominently in Traditionalists’ conception of national identity, and they are more receptive to the British monarchy and the Commonwealth than are most other New Zealanders. Traditionalists tend to believe that the contributions of Māori to New Zealand’s national identity are overstated, and prefer that religious and ethnic minorities integrate more deeply into mainstream Kiwi society. Traditionalists believe that New Zealanders should be regarded as individuals rather than as members of any particular religious or ethnic group. They generally feel that political correctness has gone too far.

Traditionalists often think that New Zealanders should focus their attention on their communities and are the least likely among Kiwis to express a sense of belonging to a more global community. They express concern that foreign influences are negatively affecting the Kiwi way of life, which is reflected in their scepticism of the value of immigration to Kiwi society. Traditionalists frequently believe that New Zealand’s culture is changing too fast and that the values that have kept New Zealand strong need to remain at core of its national identity.

Globalist (7% of Kiwis)

Globalists believe they are as much a part of the world as they are part of New Zealand. They are the least likely among New Zealanders to express a sense of nationalism and prefer to think of New Zealand as part of a broader global collective. Globalists tend not to see New Zealand as an exceptional place in itself, but focus instead on universal values shared by people around the world.

Globalists are enthusiastic about cultural diversity. They welcome immigration and think that multiculturalism enriches New Zealand. They support raising Māori culture to greater prominence in Kiwi society and believe Māori are victims of colonisation who remain oppressed to this day. Māori culture plays an important role in Globalists’ understanding of New Zealand’s identity. They do not feel a strong attachment with the country’s British heritage, which they see as part of an imperialist past.

Globalists are very sensitive to inequality in New Zealand and believe that society’s social and economic ills arise from an unjust political system. They tend to view capitalism with suspicion, believing that it often reinforces inequality. They are thus strongly in favour of measures to redistribute wealth in New Zealand with a view to improving Kiwi society as a whole.

Sceptic (5% of Kiwis)

Sceptics are unique in that they tend not to identify with typical Kiwi stereotypes. Iconic aspects of Kiwi culture such as lifestyle and sport tend not to have the same resonance with Sceptics as they do with other New Zealanders.

Sceptics exhibit lower levels of national pride than do most other New Zealanders. They tend not to express the same sense of belonging to their country and community, and are often unsatisfied with the conditions of both. They tend to be cynical about the usefulness of government and the least likely among Kiwis to take an active interest in politics or civic life.

Sceptics value perseverance and hard work, but are still doubtful about whether their efforts will vastly improve their lives. They often feel that, despite their efforts, they are not able to get ahead.

Sceptics are typically unsympathetic to arguments that minority groups in New Zealand are discriminated against and do not usually support the Treaty claims process. They feel that many New Zealanders have faced difficult circumstances and that no single group should be given special treatment. Sceptics take moderate positions on immigration and multiculturalism, perhaps owing to the fact that a relatively high proportion of Sceptics are themselves immigrants.

I’ll cover some of my observations in the next post on this topic, but I do want to mention one aspect here. One set of questions asks us to rate our personal sense of pride as a nation in ten areas. One area in particular stands out as having the highest sense of pride, irrespective of archetype. That is in the area of our county’s nuclear-free status. While I’m not surprised that Kiwis as a whole take pride in our anti-nuclear stance, I am a little surprised that it is so universally felt.

 


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Farming butterflies is a dangerous business – it’s official

Currently a bill is making its way through the New Zealand parliament, updating health and safety in the workplace. Michael Woodhouse (Minister of Health and Safety) has signed of on a list of high risk industries. These industries must appoint a health and safety officer if the workers want one. Fair enough, you might say, and I would have thought so too – until the list of high risk industries was published.

As you might expect, mining is on the list, but strangely, laying explosives for building demolition isn’t. Neither is dairy, cattle and sheep farming, which account for a third of all work place injuries and more than 100 deaths over the last five years. On the other hand, worm farming, butterfly farming, lavender growing and managing a mini-golf course have been classified as high risk industries.Why?

Worms and butterflies have a tendency to attack en mass any unsuspecting worker, smothering and devouring their hapless victims. Lavender plants send out tendrils to trip farmers before sucking the life blood out of them. Mini-golfers who play a poor round take their frustration out by wrapping their club around the head of the nearest course attendant. Yeah, right.

So why is butterfly farming considered more dangerous than laying explosives? Statistics. And we all know statistics don’t lie, don’t we? They may not lie, but they don’t always tell the truth in a meaningful way. And this is what appears to have happened in this case. How?

First some background for those not familiar with the situation in Aotearoa New Zealand. Medical treatment is either heavily subsidised or free depending on where the treatment occurs. Hospitals are free, GPs, medical centres, physiotherapists, etc are subsidised. Funding for the treatment of illness and disease is sourced from general taxation and administered by the Health Department.

On the other hand, medical treatment for injuries are paid by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). ACC funding comes from three sources. Work place injuries are funded from a fee paid by employers, based on the number of employees and the type of work undertaken. Injuries from motor vehicle accidents are funded from a surcharge on motor vehicle registration fees, and varies depending on the type of vehicle. All other injuries are covered by a fixed rate tax on personal income, which is deducted by the employer and paid to ACC via the Inland Revenue Department.

ACC keeps detailed statistics based on industry and types of work in order to levy appropriate fees from employers. This information was too detailed for the purposes of the legislation, so to simplify the system, data was collected by industry only and the number of categories was reduced. Worm farming, butterfly farming and Lavender growing are grouped under farming – other.  That by itself is bound to cause problems as they are grouped with other types of farming that are far more dangerous, such as crocodile farming. We’ll get to crocodiles shortly.

In compiling the figures someone decided that a population of 4.5 million wasn’t of sufficient size to gather reliable data from, so they decided that as Australia has more than 5 times as many people as New Zealand, they would include data from there as well.

Unfortunately Australia is very different from New Zealand. While NZ has very hilly and mountainous terrain, Australia is flat – very flat. Farms are large and farm transport is likely to be a Land Rover, a pick-up truck or similar vehicle with an enclosed cab. NZ farmers are more likely to get around on a quad bike, even on terrain where quad bikes shouldn’t go. Quad bikes aren’t required to have a roll cage and as a consequence are one of the most common causes of farm related accidents in NZ. By including data for dairy, sheep and cattle farming in Australia, with the NZ data, these industries appear safer than using NZ data alone.

Now we come to the crocodiles. The only place you’ll see a crocodile in NZ is in a museum, stuffed. But in Australia they are farmed, and you guessed it, they are classified as farming – other, as is emu farming. As a result, farming – other becomes a dangerous place to work.

Okay, I’ve explained why those seemingly innocuous farming activities have been classified as high risk, but what about mini-golf? That gentle sport is in the category recreation – other, the same as white water rafting. Need I say more?


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Ownership Of The Christian Message: A response (part 1)

Over on Amusing Nonsense, siriusbizinus posted an article on the Ownership Of The Christian Message which posed the question of how are Christians collectively responsible for the extreme views expressed by some who claim to be Christians. To some extent the question is a  meaningful or as meaningless as posing the question of how responsible are RNZSPCA and Forest and Bird for the actions of militant anti vivisectionists  After all, they are all concerned to some extent about the welfare of animals.

While some may scoff at a comparison between holding a religious or spiritual belief with a concern for animal welfare, in a New Zealand context this, I believe, is valid. The first question that needs to be asked is what do we mean by “Christian”. Immediately I run into problems. Most of the readers of this blog are from North America (approximately 70%), while only only a small number are from Aotearoa New Zealand (15%). I follow a number of Websites on WordPress and elsewhere that discuss religion and spirituality. Of these the largest grouping would be those whose writers express atheist or anti-religious sentiment. Of these, most are former Christians. It is very clear to me that what is understood by religion, and Christianity in particular, varies considerably depending on the society one lives in.

There are similarities between America and NZ: Both are secular states with no official religion. Both value democracy and freedom of expression. English is the predominant language in both countries and most of the inhabitants have European ancestry. Both are nominally multicultural societies.

There are also significant differences also. The role the state plays in the lives of its citizens are very different, as are society’s concepts of nationhood and patriotism. In America, politicians appear to need to openly express their faith in order to gain office, whereas in NZ such a stand invites voter turn off. In relation this discussion, there are two important influences that need to be considered: That of the Church, and that of the indigenous culture.

At first glance, NZ is a Christian society. The 2013 census reports that slightly less than 5 out of 10 NZers acknowledge a Christian affiliation, while 4 out of 10 acknowledge no affiliation. However, this is somewhat misleading. Before 1986, NZers were required to write their religion in response to the question, “What is your religion?” which implied they were expected to have one. In 1986, the question was the same, but eight options were given including the option of “No religion”. The result was an increase of those who claimed no religion from 166 thousand in 1981 to 534 thousand in 1986. A three fold jump in five years! The number of those with no religion have been climbing ever since.

The census only asks religious affiliation, regardless of how tenuous that affiliation might be. It doesn’t ask the participants what they believe. For this, I have in large part relied on Spirituality and Religion in the Lives of New Zealanders released by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society (hereafter refereed to as the Journal). This paints a very different picture.

The Church has had little impact on the lives of Kiwis. In the early 1900s less than 1 in 5 attended church. Today that figure is around 1 in 10. As with census figures, church attendance doesn’t give an accurate picture of what we believe. The Journal surveys the religious beliefs of NZ every seven years, the most recent being in 2008. The International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) questionnaire was used to capture the religious landscape.

Less than 1 in 12 Kiwis believe that the Bible is the Word of God, yet we have quite a high level of religious belief. For example, 6 out of 10  believe in the probability of life after death, 3 out of 10 in the probability of reincarnation, and 4 out of 10 in the possibility of some faith healers possessing supernatural abilities, that star signs can affect one’s future, and that some fortune tellers can predict the future. 1 in 8 Kiwis believe in the possibility of Nirvana, which is more than those who believe the Bible is the Word of God. Almost 1 in 3 believe in supernatural power of ancestors.

Aotearoa New Zealand is becoming a less Christian nation but has a growing sense of spirituality. Of those who follow a religion (Christian or otherwise), a little over half believe they are a spiritual person interested in the sacred or supernatural. What is significant, is that 3 out of 10 NZers don’t follow a religion yet claim to be a spiritual person interested in the sacred or supernatural.

When the question of being a spiritual person was asked in England, two thirds of respondents claimed to be spiritual. However this was in face to face questioning, where the interviewer was able to explain what was meant by spiritual. in response to the same questionnaire as put to NZers, the result was similar to the NZ response. It’s therefore safe to assume that a similar level of spirituality exists in New Zealand: 2 out of 3 NZers have some level of spirituality.

What I find significant is the few Kiwis have a negative attitude to religion or non-belief. 8 out of 10 believe there is some truth in many religions, while only than 1 in 14 believe there is truth in only one religion. Only 1 in 10 have a negative attitude towards Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism. 1 in five have a negative attitude towards Islam, and only 1 in 10 have a negative attitude towards atheism or non-belief.

I had intended this post to be a response to siriusbizinus in its entirety, but all I’ve managed to do is give a background from which I can formulate a response from a NZ context. I will conclude my response in a following post where I will cover what the Christian message is from a New Zealand perspective, and what significance “ownership” has.


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America the Land Of The Free: Fact or Myth (part 3)

In my previous posts in this series I looked at press freedom and economic freedom. In this post I’ll look at a freedom that every American believes they excell at – democratic freedom.

Democratic Freedom

Firstly, lets look at some figures from Freedom House.

What does Freedom in the World measure?
Freedom in the World assesses the real-world rights and freedoms enjoyed by individuals, rather than governments or government performance per se. Political rights and civil liberties can be affected by both state and nonstate actors, including insurgents and other armed groups.

Freedom House does not equate legal guarantees of rights with the on-the-ground fulfillment of those rights. While both laws and actual practices are factored into the ratings decisions, greater emphasis is placed on implementation.

Comparing our five countries, the USA, France, JapanSouth Africa and New Zealand, all achieve a score of  1 (Free) (on a scale of 1 to 7) for political rights and civil liberties, while South Africa scores 2 (Free) for each.

No doubt about it. The US does as well as many other countries. But lets look at another source – Global Democracy Ranking. According to their mission statement:

The Democracy Ranking is an annual ranking of all democracies (country-based democracies) in the world by focusing on the Quality of Democracy in an international perspective. The Democracy Ranking publishes the ranking scores and displays ranking score increases or decreases over time. The Democracy Ranking is a ranking of the Quality of Democracy in the sense that the ranking scores should reflect a ranking of democracies according to their differing qualities; and the Democracy Ranking is a ranking for the Quality of Democracy, because it wants to contribute conceptually to how democracy quality may be measured as well as wants to support the awareness how important democracy quality is for the further development, reform and enhancement of democracies.

They also state:

The Democracy Ranking applies the following conceptual formula: Quality of Democracy = (freedom & other characteristics of the political system) & (performance of the non-political dimensions) The non-political dimensions are: gender, economy, knowledge, health, and the environment.

The Dimensional structures (and weights) are: Politics (50%), Gender (10%), Economy (10%), Knowledge (10%), Health (10%) and environment (10%). The total score enables each country to be ranked.

Comparing our five countries we see the following rankings: USA 16th, France 15th, Japan 21st, South Africa 71st, and New Zealand 7th. The top three placings are held by Norway, Switzerland and Sweden.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) also ranks countries by Democratic Freedoms. It measures five criteria: Electoral process; Functioning of GovernmentPolitical participationPolitical culture; and Civil liberties.

Overall rankings (and score out of 10) are USA 19th (8.11), France 27th (7.92), Japan 20th (8.08), South Africa 29th (7.90) and New Zealand 5th (9.26). The EIU ranks Norway (9.93), Sweden (9.73) and Iceland (9.65) as the most democratically free countries. What will surprise most Americans is that the most free countries are those that embrace the welfare state.

Breaking down the USA and NZ results, we get: Electoral processUSA 38th= (9.17), NZ 1st= (10); Functioning of GovernmentUSA 24th= (7.5), NZ 4th= (9.29); Political participation USA 15th= (7.22), NZ 3rd=(8.89); Political CultureUSA 14th= (8.13), NZ 14th= (8.13); Civil liberties: USA 44th (8.53), NZ 1st= (10). NZ out performed the USA on all but one criteria, where both are ranked equally.

I’ve now compared press freedom, economic freedom and political freedom, and America, while not doing too poorly is certainly not performing as well as I expected.

Of the five countries I’m comparing, the order of ranking so far is:

Press freedom: New Zealand, France, South Africa, United States, Japan

Economic freedom: New Zealand, United States, Japan, South Africa, France

Democratic freedom: New Zealand, United States, Japan, France, South Africa

While America may still be a land of the free, it’s no longer (if it ever was) the land of the most free.


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America the Land Of The Free: Fact or Myth (part 2)

In my previous post in this series I looked at press freedom. In this post I’ll have a quick look at economic freedom.

Economic freedom

According to Wikipedia:

Economic freedom or economic liberty or right to economic liberty is the ability of members of a society to undertake economic direction and actions. This is a term used in economic and policy debates as well as a politicoeconomic philosophy. One approach to economic freedom comes from classical liberal and libertarian traditions emphasizing free markets, free trade and private property under free enterprise. Another approach to economic freedom extends the welfare economics study of individual choice, with greater economic freedom coming from a “larger” (in some technical sense) set of possible choices. Other conceptions of economic freedom include freedom from want and the freedom to engage in collective bargaining.

The Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal produce an annual survey of of economic freedom based on ten criteria: Business freedom; Trade freedom; Monetary freedom; Government size; Fiscal freedom; Property rights; Investment freedom; Financial freedom; Freedom from corruption; Labour freedom.

How did the five countries (USA, France, Japan, South Africa and New Zealand) perform? The rankings (out of 100) are: The land of the free, USA 12th (76.2), France 73rd (62.5), Japan 20th (73.3), South Africa 72nd (62.6), and New Zealand 3rd (82.1). The two Highest ranking countries were Hong Kong and Singapore, while the lowest ranked countries, as might be expected were North Korea and Cuba.

Of the 5 countries in my comparison, only New Zealand was classified as Free. The USA and Japan were classified as Mostly Free, while France and South Africa were classified as Moderately Free.

Comparing NZ and the US, America performed better at Labour Freedom (98.5 : 91.4) , Government Spending (51.8 : 43.0), and Trade Freedom (87.0 : 86.8), while New Zealand performed better at Property Rights (95.0 : 80.0), Freedom From Corruption (91.0 : 73.0), Business Freedom (95.5 : 88.8), Monetary Freedom (87.6 : 76.6), Fiscal Freedom (70.4 : 66.2), Investment Freedom (80.0 : 70.0), and Financial Freedom (80.0 : 70.0).

The Fraser Institute also creates an index of Economic Freedoms. They measure five broad areas: Size of Government: Expenditures, Taxes, and EnterprisesLegal Structure and Security of Property RightsAccess to Sound MoneyFreedom to Trade Internationally; and Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business.

The most recent Fraser Institute report ranks USA 12th (7.81), France 58th (7.21), Japan 23rd (7.60), South Africa 93rd (6.73), and New Zealand 3rd (8.25). As with The Heritage Foundation index, Hong Kong and Singapore came out on top, but neither Cuba nor North Korea were included in the report. The Fraser Institute list the Republic of Congo, and Venezuela as the lowest ranking countries.

A comparison between NZ and the US shows America performed better at Size of Government (5.3 : 5.6), and Labour market regulations (9.0 : 8.7), while New Zealand performed better at Legal System and Property Rights (8.8 : 7.7), Sound Money (9.7 : 9.3), Freedom to Trade Internationally (8.5 : 7.7), Credit market regulations (9.9 : 8.5), and Business regulations (7.4 : 6.7).

It’s somewhat of a surprise that when it comes to economic freedom, a country with a mixed economy outperforms a country purportedly based on capitalism and private enterprise.


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America the Land Of The Free: Fact or Myth (part 1)

Most Americans believe that the USA provides the highest levels of freedom and democracy anywhere in the world. This belief is also held by many people outside the USA. Is this belief based on fact, or is it simply a myth? I’ve chosen five countries for a comparison: USA, France, Japan, South Africa and New Zealand. The selection is purely arbitrary, but I have selected one country from the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. There are many non-governmental organisations that monitor levels of freedom, and I have selected published results from just a few. Again the selection is purely arbitrary. I’m not trying to do a precise measurement of the levels of freedom but simply to gather enough evidence to support the claim that “America is the land of the free”. This post, the first of several on this topic, will look at press freedom. At the end of the series I will give my subjective opinion on whether the statement is fact or myth.

Press freedom

Reporters Without Borders is the largest press freedom organization in the world with almost 30 years of experience. Thanks to its unique global network of 150 local correspondents investigating in 130 countries, 12 national offices (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Libya, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, USA) and a consultative status at the United Nations and UNESCO, Reporters Without Borders is able to have a global impact by gathering and providing on the ground intelligence, conducting cybersecurity workshops, and defending and assisting news providers all around the world.

Reporters Without Borders evaluates press freedom in approximately 180 countries each year. This year it ranked the USA 49th (score: 24.41), France 38th (21.15), Japan 61st (score: 26.95), South Africa 39th (score: 22.06), and New Zealand 6th (score: 10.06) . The top  three countries were Finland (7.52), Norway (7.75), and Denmark (8.24). The countries with the lowest levels of press freedom were Eritrea (84.83), North Korea ( 81.96), and Turkmenistan (80.81). Of the five countries, only New Zealand was rated with a good situation Press Freedom Index. The USA, France and South Africa were rated satisfactory situation, while Japan was rated noticeable problems. The USA ranking of 49th surprised me as I had thought the country would be in the top 10 countries and higher placed than New Zealand. I’m not sure why it received such a poor rating as I’m not aware of any US laws that limit press freedom more than in NZ. Perhaps the American press self censors more than the Kiwi press?

Part 2 of this series can be found here.


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On flu shots and statistical nonsense

This morning I took a pleasant twenty minute walk to my doctor’s surgery for a flu shot. This was the first time I have had a jab for the flu. It’s not that I’m afraid of injections, it’s just that I’ve never felt the need to be vaccinated against the flu.

Firstly, I’m one of those fortunate people who seldom catch the flu. If I do, It’s no more than a very minor nuisance.

Secondly flu shots aren’t cheap. My bank account would likely be lighter by around $50. That’s not an inconsiderable amount when my only regular income is my superannuation.

So why did I have one today?

It was free. As I recently turned 65, the health system in its wisdom has decided that I am eligible for a free flu vaccination. Do I really need it? possibly not. If the doctor’s surgery hadn’t phoned me, I would not have bothered But if it’s free, it’s worth considering. Besides, I’m not getting any younger, so I guess that the odds of becoming seriously ill with the flu is increasing.

While I was waiting the mandatory ten minutes after the shot before being allowed to leave, I picked up the morning newspaper. An article on the front page was titled “Dumb ways to . . . end up in hospital”. The statistics looked dubious immediately as one of the first “facts” they presented was that there were “nearly 200,000 hospital discharges in 2012”. That seemed to be an extraordinary low number for a population of 4.5 million people.

The article then went on to say that you were more likely to end up in hospital being injured by a powered lawn mower than being injured by a gun. Over 200 were injured by power mowers which means than more than 1 in a thousand admissions to hospital were caused by lawn mower injuries. That seemed an impossibly high rate. Perhaps I should stop mowing my lawn.

Following a few other statistics about the number of discharges following dog bites compared to bee and wasp stings, and similar inconsequential injuries, the article mentioned that almost 70,000 patients were discharged after suffering injuries arising from their medical or surgical care. What!? One in three people were injured while in hospital?

I’ve been in hospital more than 10 times over that last few years, so either I’ve been incredibly lucky, or there’s something I don’t know about but should. Then I remembered that lies and statistics often go hand in hand, and resolved to clarify the fact when I returned home.

Although I couldn’t find the statistics for the year quoted in the newspaper, I did manage to locate the statistics for the preceding year. And they paint a quite different picture.

The “nearly 200,000” referred not to total discharges, but to hospital discharges involving unintentional and intentional injury.The total number of discharges was a little over one million. This puts the rest of the statistics in a more reasonable light. The “statistic” on in hospital injuries included complications after surgery, abnormal reactions to medication, no matter how minor and several other cstegories. Actual “medical misadventures” totalled less than 500, or less than 0.05%. I can breathe a sigh of relief.

The statistic of one in a thousand discharges following lawn mower accidents drops to one in a thousand injuries requiring hospitalisation. Perhaps I’ll have to find another excuse to avoid mowing the lawn. 189 people were discharged following “contact with a powered lawnmower”, while 73 were discharged following firearms injuries. The statistics don’t mention the number of deaths, and as admissions nationwide don’t seem to be kept, I’m not able to ascertain the relative danger mowers and guns, but I think I can sleep safely knowing that mowers are more of a threat to life and limb than a gun.

One interesting fact that struck me was the difference in the rate of discharges between males and females. The total rates are quite similar, but of the more than 700 types of injuries listed I am hard pressed to find any where male injuries are less frequent than female injuries. For almost all types, males are two or three times more likely to be hospitalised than females. In the case of guns, 71 of the 73 cases were male, while for lawn mowers, 143 of the 189 cases were male. So far the only injuries I have found where females clearly outnumber males is falls on stairs (2341 vs 1431) and unspecified falls (3389 vs 2196). The disparity of injuries between the sexes is worthy of a post in itself.

I’ve always had a healthy dose of cynicism when reading/watching news, and the article in question does nothing but to reinforce that cynicism. It’s a shame that so many people are easily taken in by “facts” without doing a little research of their own.