(The 5th of 8 posts about my new life in New Zealand)
Obviously there is both an upside and a downside to living in New Zealand. All developed and developing countries are forced to operate under the same corporate-dominated capitalist system.
New Zealand is no exception and has many of the major economic and social problems other developed countries are experiencing. In a few areas, New Zealand has adopted some of the worst aspects of global capitalism, which results in uniquely negative consequences for the New Zealand public. For the most part, Kiwis retain their commitment to a “democratic socialism” as practiced in most of Europe. The result, in my view, is a society and culture that tends to be far more humane than is found in the US.
That being said, New Zealand shares a number of pernicious social problems found in all modern capitalist countries:
- Worsening income inequality – only 10% of Kiwis have incomes above $72,000 ($58,216) in US dollars), whereas half the population earns less than $24,000 ($US 19,405).
- Irrational and blind adherence to a continuous economic growth paradigm. In a small country like New Zealand, this has a devastating impact, in terms of water contamination, habitat destruction and environmental toxins in the food chain. Over the past two decades, dairy intensification has made the most of New Zealand’s picturesque waterways unsuitable for swimming (due to cow shit and fertilizer run-off.
- Slow uptake of renewable energy production (owing nonexistent finance capital or government subsidies)
- Slow uptake of sprawl prevention strategies essential to the development of cost-effective public transportation.
- Heavy corporate media emphasis on stereotypical female roles, resulting in massive pressure on New Zealand women to look young, thin and sexually attractive. Fortunately cosmetic surgery is much less common here than in the US – there aren’t enough Kiwis who can afford it.
- Factory shut-downs and movement of well-paid union and manufacturing jobs to overseas sweat shops.
- Massive household debt (146% of disposable income largely owing to chronic low wages).
- Diets which are excessively dependent on foreign food imports, as opposed to more sustainable reliance on locally and regionally produced food.
- Factory farming of pigs and chickens. Thanks to the high prevalence of battery hen operations (and constant exposure of chickens to feces), New Zealand enjoys the highest per capita incidence of campylobacter infection in the world.