Growing Inequality in Queenstown
November 5 2018 by David Gibbs
As you read this the US is voting in their mid-term Congressional elections. This may curb the President’s capacity to change the world in his own image, but it’s unlikely to curb the vitriol and polarizing environment coming out of that country. President Trump represents constituents who felt they didn’t have a voice in politics and they are a group that are frightened and angry. What does this have to do with Queenstown? I think plenty! We are not immune to international trends and the lurch to the hard right is also happening throughout much of the world and many of the same issues are prevalent in Queenstown.
The first issue is the conduct of our institutions, which came to a head back in 2009 when the Global Financial Crisis happened. The bedrock institutions, especially the financial institutions, were shown to be unethical, corrupt and self-serving, all at their customers’ expense. Their behaviour led to the market crash because there were no institutional checks in place and western countries, including ours, relied on self-regulation. This turned out to be a mistake and we all paid (and are still paying) the price. By the way, not one senior financial executive paid any price, let alone went to jail, in fact quite the opposite – we (through the Government) bailed them out and on they went unchecked.
The second issue is that faith in the democratic system and politicians is declining. A reason is the political system is open to special interests, including foreign government interference. There is much publicity about Chinese interference in our system. Lastly, the 2009 GFC started a massive shift in the size and influence of the middle class, which is shrinking rapidly, leaving many families to no longer believe their children’s future will be better than their own. Wealth is being consolidated into a much smaller group, the super-rich, while the majority are not seeing their incomes rise while the cost of getting into the housing and investment market gets away. The service industry, which is the bedrock of our economy, continues to function at or just above minimum wage while the cost of living is rising – particularly the cost of rent, petrol and fresh food.
This especially impacts Queenstown and while there are some efforts around affordable housing it’s insufficient and doesn’t directly deal with the causes that are driving housing unaffordability. The issue is getting more and more traction.
The seeds that have created the political environment in the US are prevalent here and we must guard against them getting a foothold. Income inequality is a serious issue and as it gets worse the language of creating scapegoats, demonizing people and social media abuse will also grow and I for one don’t want that for Queenstown.
Lakes Weekly Bulletin