Godwinning the thread: – Nazis, and Nats on work-for-dole

Over at frogblog, it was suggested that I was Godwinning the thread re my comment on Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws’ legislation (promoted by the local National Party MP Chester Borrows) to ban displaying gang patches in Wanganui. I posted a brief comment in German:

Herzlich willkommen in die Flussstadt. Arbeit macht frei!
[Translation: A wam welcome to the River City. Work will set you free!]

The reference to the “Arbeit macht frei” signage that was depicted at several Nazi concentration camps caused somewhat of a reaction. I’m very careful about when I make analogies to Nazi Germany (or similarly fascist regimes), but think there is a time when it is appropriate. When fundamental human rights (such as freedom of expression, freedom of religious or ethical belief, freedom of association) are being seriously eroded, I think a comparison with Fascism or Nazism or Stalinism is justified.

Which brings me to the National Party’s position on work-for-dole. They haven’t yet clarified this if they are the major Party in Government after the next election, but when they were last in Government they implemented, and for the last 3 elections have advocated, that people who are unemployed will be denied benefits unless they undertake to do unpaid work.

Now, to me, that is little short of the “Arbeit macht frei!” that was displayed at several of the Nazi concentration camps. Work (and work hard, and for nothing) and you will survive – don’t work (for nothing), and you will die, or at least suffer severely!

The reality is that such a policy forces people who are unable to find paid work to work for nothing. The effect of such a policy is that they and their family lose their home and starve if they cannot find paid work – unless they sign up to the State to work for nothing.

That to me is slavery, is fascism, is Nazism, is Stalinism. Essentially, it is “comply or die”!

I make no apologies for associating the slogan “Arbeit macht frei!” with it. What do others think?


28 thoughts on “Godwinning the thread: – Nazis, and Nats on work-for-dole

  1. Except that working for the dole is not working for nothing, it is working for the money one receives from the government. Totally different.
    Anyway it could ahve many green applications like getting them out there planting trees along rivers and on state land and fencing off rivers for farmers or sorting recycling or even taking appart old machines, leaving those with heavy metals to trained prisoners of course. lol. The main component of course being that it is totally optional, of course there would be no benifit after the first time period if you failed to participate in work.
    The gang patches legislation is just idiotic though.
    And in answer to your question on frogblog; yes i do respect you alot of the time for the manner in which you contribute; but when you make a post such as the one above that respect is for ovious reasons absent.
    and comparing it to nazism is just appaling.

  2. Sapient, don’t you think that if people do work like “planting trees along rivers and on state land and fencing off rivers for farmers or sorting recycling or even taking apart old machines” they should be paid at least the minimum age for it?

    I have no problem with works schemes that pay people who would otherwise be unemployed the minimum wage (apart form the fact that the minimum wage is still too low for people to survive on without Goverment welfare assistance).

    I do have a problem, though, if pople are told they will be required to work wherever the State decrees, for no wages – just the subsistence of the dole.

    I’m not sure I fully understand your comment “The main component of course being that it is totally optional,…” but I agree with that sentiment.

    I fully support people who are uemployed being given “optional” – i.e voluntary – opportunity to both upskill themselves and contribute through voluntary work to society.

    Where I have a problem, and where I compare it with fascism, is not wth the upskilling, which I think should be compulsory, but with being reuired to work at some menial task, and without any skills enhancement, and without being paid even the statutory minimum wage.

  3. Frog, Toad, acknowledged, but it seemed Frog’s use was more an allusion than a direct comparison. Anyhow, I really don’t like holocaust comparisons – and I really didn’t like that one.

    People who invoke the Nazi’s anymore than is strictly necessary should be banned from the internet – well, no one should listen to them or frequent their sites.

    For a start, there is a huge difference between making people work for their unemployment entitlements (which I think is usually a stupid idea for a number of reasons), and people being sent to death camps. I shouldn’t have to say that.

    Secondly, there are much better illustrations of the ideas you are expressing. To simply try and equate it to the Nazi regime is laziness. The restriction of rights to those considered ‘criminal’ without any specific evidence of their guilt of any crime is far from isolated. We might consider historic political organisations in NZ which could easily have had this law used against them, such as the Polynesian Panthers or trade unions who sewed patches to their clothing. We might consider the present Government’s asset forfeiture bill which does the same thing.

    And the third point, about some being considered less human than others is again not something that the Nazi’s were unique in. If history and the present teach us anything it is that it is very easy to demonise a particular group and then pass a law against their existence. Invoking the holocaust also tends to single it out as an act unprecedented in human history, when there have been many similar genocides and persecutions in the 20th century alone.

  4. Toad, i didint say they wouldint be paid the minimum wage; the way that i would like it the volume of their benifit after being on the benifit for a month would be determined by the hours they work up to a maximum cut off.
    by the optional part i mean that they dont have to work but if they dont work when that work is availible then they get no benifit.
    though i would rather it was under the minimum wage personally because otherwise it would end up like the railways used to be. its all about incentives.

  5. Yep, Sapient, if they are paid at least the minimum wage, then all is good.

    Otherwise it is slave labour.

    Which brings me to George’s points. If you don’t have any money, you don’t eat, and consequentially you become very ill or die. That’s not terribly far from what I was posting about the Nazi death camps – just substitute “unemployed” and “Maori” for “Jewish” and “queer”.

    In a tribal society where all members of the family live in the same village and there are family who support those who don’t have or can’t get work, it all works out okay -unless the State intervenes to force people off their land that they have subsided on for centuries. There, your family will support you if you are unemployed,

    But New Zealand is not such a society. Most of the collectively owned Maori land has been alienated, adn Maori now have a minimal economic base in their own country.

    An unemployed person in Christchurch, whose family all live in Whangarei, will not be likely to receive that family/whanau support. Or, if there are political and/or religious differences, an unemployed persom may not be be prepared to accept family/whanau support with strings attached.

    Ultimately, I think the role of the State in this regard is to care for and support the most vulnerable.

    It compromises that role if the State undermines the rights of employed workers on low wages by forcing people to work for a pay rate that is even lower than the statutory minimum wage.

  6. The minimum wage is recognized as the main cause of unemployment. In the case of New Zealand the minimum wage is far too high as the purpose of this particular mechanism is to ensure that an individual working full time can make ends-meet; something one can do comfortably from working only two full time shifts per week; assuming one is supporting oneself only.
    How does the state undermine the rights of employed workers by employing those whom are not otherwise employed at a rate smaller than the minimum wage to do work that would not otherwise be done?
    The role of the state in unemployment is to ensure that individuals whom find themselves unable to find employment due to circumstances not of their control are able to return to employment, the implications of that for the dole means that an individual should be paid enough to ensure they are able to keep levels of subsistance which will allow them to return to work. How they aquire that money, be it through work for state or sitting on their butt, is irrelivant to that purpose though work for a low income is likley to provide significantly more motivation.
    I could of earned more on the dole than i was working at a supermarket, wheres the motivation in that? and the answer is not that the minimum wage is too low.

  7. Sapient – why is the unemployment rate at 25 year lows when the minimum wage is higher in real terms than it has ever been? There is little empirical evidence to support your assertions.

    Frog – there are many things wrong with a work for the dole scheme (unless under depression type conditions). They’re repressive and frankly counterproductive. I happen to agree with the thrust of your argument. But there is a large gap between a state offering a conditional safety net and actively sending people to die. Your argument is lost through hyperbole. Which ultimately why godwinning wrong – you obscure the points you’ve made with a false or overstated analogy.

  8. Unemployment is low because the market has been growing at a rate greater than the rate of increase of supply.
    As people spend more and demand more products the price at which those products can be sold increases, this generates more profits per unit. With an increased profit per unit a company that had previously found the marginal cost of employing a extra staff member to be larger than the marginal benifit may now find the marginal benifit to be the greater and as such will hire more staff until the costs again exceed the benifits. This results in a decrease in availible labour; the result being that comapnies will employ for the same rate a employee that would be less productive or will pay a worker whom would be just as productive more, the end point being that less people are unemployed as before the disparity between economic and population growth.
    If the market would lift the value of unskilled labour above the minimum wage then the unemployed population would decrease rapidly as the price per worker raised rapidly as more people were demanded and more saw it as worth their time to work.
    That is vastly simplified but it is more or less accurate, the low unemployment rate reflects the value of workers input relative to the minimnum wage, the accual point of the minimum wage from year to year is irrelivant without comparison to the demand for labour.
    As for empirical evidence, well, pretty much every single economic transaction reflects it in some light, its the simple law of supply and demand. the minimum wage lifts the marginal cost of an employee artificially; the result being less incidences of marginal benifits surpassing marginal costs.

  9. It occurs to me that it is common for students to live in flats and dorms but if you offered it to benificarys then the left would be up in arms over benificary rights. ironic really that those whom work to improve themselves and have potential to improove the country and have little availible ime to work are treated worse than those whom get to sit around all day detracting from society.

  10. Sapient said: The minimum wage is recognized as the main cause of unemployment. In the case of New Zealand the minimum wage is far too high as the purpose of this particular mechanism is to ensure that an individual working full time can make ends-meet; something one can do comfortably from working only two full time shifts per week; assuming one is supporting oneself only.

    Recognised by whom? This is neo-con propaganda that is not borne out by the evidence. Treasury evaluated the impact of the increases in the youth minimum wage earlier this decade. The evaluation found that participation of young people in the labour market actually increased, rather than decreased, following the increase.

    The other problem I have with work-for-dole schemes is that they actually destroy jobs as public sector employers get work done by work-for-dole workers that they would otherwise have to employ people to do.

  11. By that i mean every respectable economist, in this instance i refer to the current governer of the american federal reserve, in individual whom is by no means a neo-con and has infact on several occasions called for an end to cost externalisations by charging for resouce extraction and use of resources.
    Of course it increased, they were getting more money. it forces companies to pay more than they would otherwise be willing to just stay afloat and that translates into price inflation. it was demand that decreased due to an increase in the minimum wage as the marginal cost increased.
    Those jobs are one which shouldint exist in the public service in te first place, it is already far too big. the only reason they would do those jobs is because we are already paying them anyway so we might as well get a service out of them and give a stronger incentive to get back to work.

  12. I’d also point out that by making people work from the dole, you actually take away time from their job search, possibly preventing them getting into paid work, in addition to the other couple problems mentioned earlier.

  13. realisticly you cant say they spend all week looking for jobs, if they need to then they have got something seriously wrong with their approach!
    if we assume they get 150 per week for the dole and they make minimum wage (what is it? 11.50?) at 21.5% income tax rate (thats average including ACC levies for the lowest tax bracket isint it?) thats 17 hours per week work, thats less than an average part time worker and thats 190 gross. lol.
    oh, poor hard done by dole bludgers! 17 hours work per week? how inhumain!

  14. Sapient- usually people who don’t get off the dole quickly do have something wrong with their approach. That’s the whole reason they don’t get off the dole despite all the pressure WINZ puts on them!

    And you’ve missed the crucial point here- they do not get minimum wage on work for the dole schemes. If they only worked 17 hours a week and for minimum wage, then the only remaining problem would be the shrinking of the paid workforce.

  15. Okay Ari, lets get down to business, lol.

    Providing opportunities for benificiaries to find employment;
    For those off work for a period longer than two months;
    – Provide a one-off grant for clothes suitable for job hunting.
    – Provide compulsary workshops which address the manner in which one should present oneself when searching for work and when comunicating with a potential employer.
    – Provide, for an introductory period, a subsidised wage.
    – Teach money management and work ethics.
    – Increase provision of light-skil training in such a way as to increase the potential market.

    Working on the same assumptions as previously mentioned; Working 17 hours at minimum wage under the standard tax rate including ACC levies one would earn $150 dollars a week; equal to the standard pay out excluding the accomodation benifit. If tax was removed that would equal $195, only $15 dollars short of the current total including accomodation benifit but excluding the $50 transport assistance, as such by removing tax and leaving work at 17 hours or increaing it to 18 the accomodation benifit for individuals on the dole would also be paid for.
    Allow individuals to choose how often they work, within certain limits, and adjust their earnings accordingly.
    Considering that the work offered may be alot more desirable, enjoyable and flexible than accual market jobs; I would suggest paying a lower rate so as to incourage movement.
    Those undergoing training would be exempt from having to work; those undergoing tertiary education would be paid the same and treated the same as students, including paying for their tuition. Students of course being paid a universal above subsistance level allowance.

    Since those on the dole will be getting paid it anyway the effective cost of labour is free to the ground level force. As such many things that may benifit the community but not be normally economicly viable becoem viable so long as the marginal extra cost of administration and materials stays bellow the marginal benifit to society. As such the work provided would not signifcantly compete with current jobs.

    Their are many things which could potentially benifit from such work, but in my examples I will focus on those which I would quite like to see put into place in the Manawatu.

    Educate those individuals whom have been on the dole for a period longer than one month on basic fencing and tree planting and have them plant and fence off the rivers on public land so as to stabilise banks, clean rivers, protect against floods and provide habitiats for local aquatic species.
    Offer the service to farmers at the level of materials cost in an effort to decrease nitrogen run-off and cows near rivers aswel as the other afforementioned benifits

    Introduce a councel schemme whereby each residence is provided with a large green bin for deposition of non-organic recyclable rubbish, employ the individuals on the dole in sorting such materials and putting them through the recycling process.
    Pay small fees for machines such as fridges and computers to be turned in to the recycling center and offer a service to pick up from residences; train some individuals in safe basic deconstruction of these which would then be sent to prisons where inmates take the individual components apart and continue the recycling process, in so doing decreasing polution from heavy metals.
    The inmates in the afforementioned process would require some basic mechanical training which can be credited as part of the rehabilitation process, earning them a qualification.
    The materials regained from the recycling process can then be on-sold to assist in paying some of the associated costs and decreasing reliance on newly extracted or produced materials.

    There would have to be more scheemes than just the two afforementioned but ive already spent too much time writing this so I will let your imagination or sense of practicality detirmine the rest.
    I must get back to study.


  16. Sapient: We already do much of your bullet-pointing. Not all, but some.

    As for your work schemes: Great, but why not just offer them as part-time work and simply aggressively push the terminally unemployed towards them? Why bother forcing people to work for the dole or lose their benefit when WINZ is already very proactive in getting people into work?

  17. I know we do, with those there should be no problem finding work.

    if you make it optional it looses all its point, the sole point is that those who are terminally unemployed and want to be that will be made to work and that may provide motivation to get the into the work force.

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