Real Issues Blog

Imagery vs. injury

Jeremy Vargo
28 October 14

Our task as 21st century consumers of global media is to manage this double-edged sword of awareness. Gopnik’s call is for us to compassionately respond to the “injuries” of specific events when possible, and refuse to allow repeated imagery to create a “perpetual loop” of fear. I would add that regularly finding a place in the sun without cell reception helps a great deal. + more

The business of social investment

Kieran Madden
21 October 14

We spend a lot on welfare. According to recent Treasury figures, of the $92.2 billion the Government spends, $50.5 billion flows into welfare, health and education. The thing is, this spending doesn’t necessarily translate into transformed lives. In what I’ve heard wryly described as “trickle-down social policy,” sometimes our most vulnerable don’t actually get the help they desperately need. + more

Shading between the lines

Jeremy Vargo
16 October 14

There is a whole spectrum of grey colouring between the staunchly defended lines of our perspectives and experiences of life. Our conversations and understanding of one another will be much richer, more generous, and humane if we can step past our lines, and ask sincere questions before giving hasty answers. + more

What we learnt at the Maxim Institute poverty roundtable discussions

Kieran Madden
08 October 14

Recently, we held a series of roundtable discussions where we brought together policy-makers, academics and practitioners as part of our multi-year project aimed at tackling poverty. Far from being mere talkfests, valuable insights arose from diverse perspectives about what it’s like to live lives deprived of what most Kiwis take for granted and how we can give struggling families the help they need and deserve. + more

HeForShe is for me

Jeremy Vargo
30 September 14

Words are interesting. Have you ever thought about how a word finds a common meaning and embeds itself in the way we talk, giving us new ways to speak, write, and even think? And how about when that meaning changes over time; who gets to make that change, and how long until the rest of us catch up? + more

Talk is cheap

Kieran Madden
22 September 14

Talk is cheap. This is particularly true at election time, where there is certainly no shortage of talk. There is also no shortage of polls. While most of these are political, heralding never-ending speculation from talking heads about governing arrangements, kingmakers and coat tails, sometimes I’m surprised by ones that shed much-needed light on policy questions.+ more

Choose, and choose wisely

Jeremy Vargo
16 September 14

When I was 10 years old, I volunteered to distribute pamphlets for one of the electorate candidates in our area. Each day of my school holiday I would fill up a shopping bag with stacks of shiny brochures, grab my Dad’s Walkman, and progress assertively around the streets of our neighbourhood filling letterboxes; proudly marking my route on the electorate map.+ more

Prudence and grit

Kieran Madden
08 September 14

What separates righteous anger from rioting mobs? What triggers the turn from peaceful protest against injustice, to looting and violence, on the scale most recently seen in Ferguson, Missouri? In a recent piece in National Affairs, Richard J. Reeves, former advisor to UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, offered an answer.+ more

What's wrong with binding referendums?

Jeremy Vargo
03 September 14

Direct democracy or, majority rule, is appealing to those who are confident that their views and needs sit comfortably within the majority. We will always rail against an imperfect system when we disagree with its outcomes, but we should be wise to the potential dangers of replacing parliament with an opinion poll. + more

Minimum wage, minimal help

Kieran Madden
27 August 14

If raising the minimum wage is actually going to help kids in poverty-stricken working families, those on a minimum wage actually need to be in poor families. In reality, minimum wage workers are perched on all rungs of the household income ladder. An analysis by two academics in 2008 suggested that only forty percent of minimum-wage workers live with households in the bottom three income brackets, with more than sixteen percent living in homes that sit on the top three rungs of the ladder.+ more

What I didn't know about ISIS and Iraq

Jeremy Vargo
19 August 14

First of all, ISIS stands for “the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” ISIS was formerly a branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq that has been rebuilding over the last 3 years after it was decimated by the US military in 2006. Their intention is to set up a new Islamic state—or “caliphate,” an extreme Islamic theocracy ruled by an imam or “caliph”—in an area that takes in northern Iraq and a large chunk of north-western Syria. + more

MMP refresher - the paths to power

Jeremy Vargo
18 August 14

Last week, my friends got into a heated discussion regarding David Cunliffe’s statements about Internet Mana. He said he wouldn’t have their MPs in his Government, but he would work with them. “Isn’t that the same thing?” they asked. The answer is no, but to make the distinction there’s a few key things about the way we do politics in this country that we have to wrap our head around. + more