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September 21, 2008 | by  | in Online Only |
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The Idiocy of VUWSA Candidates: An Open Letter

In the lead up to the VUWSA elections, the VUWSA candidates are presenting their vision for the association. But most of their promises do not make any sense, and would result in harmful consequences. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Let’s start with probably the most idiotic of the ideas. Sam Oldham wants to “end private profit from student hostels.” This idea is particularly stupid for several reasons. The first is that profit is the price we pay for efficiency. If companies were not seeking to profit, instead merely seeking to cover their costs, then there is little incentive for them to choose less-expensive alternatives. Why would you choose a lower-cost input over a higher-cost input? You wouldn’t. Prices would ultimately increase for hostels, because there is no incentive to avoid inefficiency.

The first reason presumes that people remain in the student hostel business. But why would they? The second reason it is a stupid idea is because the first thing hostels would do is close down. Why operate a student hostel as a charity, when you can convert it into apartments, or a youth hostel, or any other enterprise, which makes money? If I told McDonalds that they could not operate at a profit, those franchises would quickly become a KFC or a Burger King. Because people like to improve their own self, the only way to prevent profit but maintain production is by coercion. Socialism will always require force and coercion. It is a philosophy based on theft and slavery.

The third reason why the idea is absurd is also the thing that will save us from Sam’s complete idiocy. VUWSA has no control over student hostels. So even if you like his idea, he can’t implement it. Then again, if you’re foolish enough to like the idea, you probably won’t understand that VUWSA has no power to implement the plan.

So that’s Sam Oldham. But the idiocy does not end there. Next we have Jasmine Freemantle. Jasmine says that she will “maintain and build student clubs, NOT SELL THEM OFF.” At first, I thought Jasmine was being generous – I thought she was personally going to build and maintain student clubs for us. But what she actually means is taking more of your money, and showering clubs with it. She’s not doing anything other than the stealing; you’re doing the rest. But what about the idea that she will not sell them off? Well, who was planning to sell them off? What does VUWSA own that it could sell?

So far as I can see, a Club is comprised of two elements. The Members of the club (who cannot be sold), and the assets of the club. VUWSA has the right to sell off the assets of clubs that dissolve. So, in those peculiar circumstances – where a club that both had assets and then dissolved – can VUWSA sell their assets. Here’s my question to Jasmine: if a club has failed, why do you want their assets taking up space someplace when clearly they’re not wanted? Although, in fact, there have been no asset sales, asset sales would be a good idea. I imagine you’d struggle to find a willing buyer for the Debating Society’s banner stand – but if you could find one, and Debsoc no longer existed, why not sell it off?

We also have Marika Pratley, who is promising cheaper text books. She’s planning to do this by reducing the amount of money that would become part of the VUWSA trust, which receives the profits from Vic Books. This probably isn’t the worst idea ever, because I don’t want some losers from VUWSA spending trust money on buildings that they’ll run poorly.

These promises are stupid, but luckily they probably won’t happen. Even stupid ideas which are possible – like Joel Cosgrove’s free printing – never came to fruition. In fact, he has been such a useless President that we should be grateful; if he had achieved more, he would have done more harm. I’d rather a lazy and incompetent President who draws a salary rather than one who actually does things.

There are some promises that are made by almost every candidate. One of those is “fighting fee increases.” This promise confuses the fundamental role that prices play in society. Prices seek to efficiently distribute scarce goods. If an apple costs $1, I may not buy it. If it costs 50c, then I may buy it. Prices determine the distribution of apples by determining different people’s subjective preferences. We know what happens when we have price freezes, which is what candidates are saying when they want to fight fee increases.

The first thing that usually happens is queueing. The market cannot respond to set the price at a level that clears a good – there is excess demand at the current price. If you would have been willing to pay a higher price, you end up in a queue. In other words, the cost of the good does not change, you pay some of it in dollars, and some of it in wasted time. Ever had to sit in the aisle of a packed-out first year law class? That’s queueing. Thanks fee-maxima policy.

The second thing that happens is the quality of the good deteriorates. Inner-city New York has had rent control for many years, where the Government fights “fee increases” by evil rapacious landlords. The thing is, the landlords are still evil and rapacious. If you couldn’t make profit from your building, would you look after it? Would you maintain it? Would you install Sky for your residents? No, you wouldn’t. That’s why those areas of inner city New York which have rent control are areas full of dilapidated buildings in which it is unsafe to live. And that’s why many of the courses that you will study at University are sub-par.

The other promise that every one makes is that they will campaign for a “Universal Student Allowance.” Some people argue that a USA would transfer wealth from the poor to the relatively wealthy. The average wealth of a University student is higher than average, and so this would seem to be correct. Often these people support targeting assistance to those “in need.” Maybe. The real answer though is to end assistance, regardless of your parents’ level of income.

When I attend University, I am the overwhelming beneficiary. I get an education, and increase the chances that I will earn more in later life. There is little positive externality. Seriously, who gives a shit if you sound smart at your next dinner party talking about post-Marxism in the context of East-Indian literature? I’ll give you hint: probably not even the people at the dinner party. If anything, there’s probably a negative externality there. I would argue that lame degrees like commerce should be taxed rather than subsidised, but for the fact that I believe all tax is theft or slavery. So, stop trying to take other people’s money to subsidise your University attendance. Get a student loan, and pay it back (and they should bring back interest too). Or get a job.

Probably the best candidate, loathe as I am to say it, is Young Labourite Sonny Thomas. His policies are probably the least harmful. Some are even sensible. He thinks that we should get a proper accountant, rather than relying on some randomly elected student. That’s a good idea. In fact, if I didn’t think that voting was immoral (because it is the initiation of coercion), then I would probably vote for him. The problem with Candidates like Sonny is that they fool us into thinking that “if we vote for the right people” things will be OK. Any institution which relies on the right person is a shit institution. The institution either needs to set up incentives for good governance (and VUWSA clearly fails in that regard), or limit the power of the institution to do harm. The best way to do that would be voluntary union membership at University. Voluntariness gives the consumer of services power. Voluntary organisations give consumers the power to go “You’re doing a shit job, I’m leaving”, rather than “You’re doing a shit job, I’m protest voting Peter Manglethwaite, and hoping like hell we don’t get another idiot like Joel Cosgrove.”

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Comments (11)

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  1. Peter Manglethwaite says:

    Don’t think of a vote for me as a protest vote. Think of it as an investment, an investment into the future of Victoria University and an investment into short term debenture stock with a very nice return.

    The problem, I think, with all the other candidates – with the exception perhaps of Sean Connors – is that they’re all real.

    Let DEMOCRACY rain forth from the heavens of the student populace into the gutters of the VUWSA polling booths and write my name: PETER MANGLETHWAITE unto your ballot paper. I am the overly friendly tradesman that will poke big fuzzy things down the drains of accountability and clean out the crevices of fiscal responsibility.

  2. hungry says:

    OMG I READ FRIEDMAN AND RAND TAX IS SLAVERY LOLZ

  3. peaches and cream says:

    This is a good article – shame its a little too rabid on the libertarianism. Stephen is right though. Sonny Thomas is the only viable candidate. Hes the best of a bad bunch.

    Im probably going to vote for him.

  4. Gibbon says:

    what about the jasmine freemantle communist party link – eg joel cosgrove (who was a worse president even than nick kelly) has been urging people to vote for her

  5. cvalda says:

    You seem to have misunderstood the clubs issue, which is about club administration. Change Proposal outlines eliminating Clubs Development Officer in favour of outsourcing that role to the university itself. There could be accountability issues there.

    However, you reckon capital is fundamental and everything else is fascism so whatevz lol.

  6. Chris says:

    This is (I suspect) unintentionally hilarious: “you reckon capital is fundamental and everything else is fascism so whatevz lol.”

  7. mia wallance says:

    I can understand why people may chose not to vote. Democracy is not a perfect system and politicians are all too human… However, the plight of peoples who are given absolutely no power to vote, who have no choice but to suffer under dictatorships or other inhumane regimes, has convinced me that my right to cast my ballot is worth something. It was certainly something which people in the past (liberals included!) believed was worth fighting for – and hard won. Even if the system is at times dispiriting or downright dodgy, its the best thing we have at present. If someone can think of a better way to organised society or run VUWSA for that matter, I’d encourage them to stand. There’s obviously a hell of a lot of work involved so I’m impressed they manage it on top of work/studies at all!

    Mia

  8. Chewie says:

    //The first is that profit is the price we pay for efficiency. If companies were not seeking to profit, instead merely seeking to cover their costs, then there is little incentive for them to choose less-expensive alternatives.//

    How do you explain Unicomm vs. Weir Mr. Whittington. This ain’t no ECON textbook.

  9. Rabid Pragmatic Centrist says:

    It depends whether you are voting for a better vuwsa or a better new zealand. sure thomas may be a marginally less useless vuwsa pres but we can all agree anything which furthers his political career is going to hurt nz in the long term. think of the children. especially the retarded ones.

  10. Uncle says:

    I have been overseas for the past year. Can someone please convince me who to vote for, or alternately why not to vote at all?

  11. Galapogas says:

    Wow how lazy are you Uncle?

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