Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rates & Taxes

No taxation without representation. That was the rallying call of the American Revolution.

I am a believer in democracy. It has its flaws but by and large it enables people to have a say in how they are governed. I agree with the novelist E. M. Forster when he wrote an essay titled Two Cheers For Democracy.

When I was teaching I became involved in teacher politics. I became chair of the Waikato Region of PPTA. I recollect leading my delegation in the annual August AGM – members included Bruce Beetham and Mike Minogue, both expert in challenging the chair. Every year there was a heated debate at the regional meeting as members discussed remits. Some people wanted to tie delegates’ hands – they had to vote as the region had dictated at its meeting. I always argued for some freedom of movement for I knew that sometimes arguments were advanced at the AGM that had not been canvassed at the regional meeting.

I thought of those days when I heard discussion on the radio about legislation to cap rate rises to inflation. While I understand concerns about rapidly escalating rate rises I don’t believe the answer is to prevent them by such legislation.

Part of the reason for recent rises is central government has been passing more responsibility to local bodies. But councils also need room to maneuver in light of new or unexpected circumstances, perceived needs, or replacing outdated plant.

Ultimately the people decide when they vote at the next election.

The mess that California has got itself into reflects democracy gone mad. A series of binding referendums have hamstrung the government’s revenue supply which means it has lost the ability to supply and support essential services. It is issuing IOUs in an effort to cope with the financial crisis.

Taxes and rates are inevitable. Let’s concentrate upon electing the best possible people to represent us. They need watchdogs but ultimately that’s the electorate’s job. Those representatives need and deserve some flexibility.

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