Real Issues Blog

Ever heard of Jackie Robinson?

Alex Penk
08 December 14

In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play major league baseball since the 1880s. One of the most celebrated men in baseball’s history, his story is told in the movie 42. I watched it on a recent long-haul flight, and the abuse he received and the courage he showed were both pretty remarkable. They also highlighted an important truth: that every human being has incredible dignity. + more

"Talking bollocks" about Band Aid 30

Jane Silloway Smith
01 December 14

Criticisms abound for Band Aid 30’s hit single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” The pop artists who took part could have raised more money for the fight against ebola by paying their fair share of taxes. The song’s lyrics are patronising to Africa and its people, portraying a whole continent as a diseased and passive wasteland in dire need of the help of nice white people. As a fundraising effort, Band Aid 30 is selling a simplified message that money cures.+ more

Doing good and making money

Jeremy Vargo
25 November 14

Tattooed across Travis’ shoulder and back are two taniwha, locked in battle. Markers of his heritage, they present a visual challenge: dark and light, good and evil, greed and generosity constantly at war. As today’s business culture grows more and more aware of its impact on the world, some view solely profit-motivated business as “the dark side,” in competition with a society that cares for the needs of its people. + more

Productivity and why it's important

Nathan McLellan
18 November 14

In the recent Speech from the Throne the National-led Government stated its commitment to “build a productive and competitive economy.” This pledge to boost New Zealand’s productivity comes in the context of the oft talked about income gap between New Zealand and other developed countries, like Australia. But why is this income gap important in the first place and what does it have to do with productivity?+ more

The tragedy of Brittany Maynard

Jane Silloway Smith
11 November 14

When we create categories of people whose lives fall outside the protection of the law, we change the way we as a society view the value of those lives. We believe the Brittany Maynards of the world who tell us that life is only valuable if it is without pain, without difficulty. We believe it about ourselves, and we believe it about those around us.+ more

The awkward reality about marriage and inequality

Kieran Madden
06 November 14

For richer, for poorer: an important vow, but not as risky as it might sound. Richer is much more likely. Researchers at the American Enterprise Institute estimate that in the US, the median income for families would be 44 percent higher if the proportion of married families was the same today as it was in 1980. This socio-economic gap is widening between families with married parents and those without, in what the researchers call “family inequality.”+ more

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