Requirements for a good society – part two
5 February 2023
In part one, Bruce Cotterill shared that his first five ‘must haves’ for a good and decent society were law and order, healthcare, education, equality, and political integrity and transparency. In this video Bruce shares part two of his priorities and aspirations for New Zealand.
Welcome back. We’re discussing my top 10 requirements for a good society. You might recall my first five ‘must haves’ were law and order, healthcare, education, equality and, political integrity and transparency.
At number 6 I’ve listed trade. Trade is a critical ingredient of a good society. People need access to goods and services. Trade is about making things and selling things. It’s about providing services to those who need them. Trade enables us to buy the things we can’t create ourselves and sell the things we can. Trade enables necessities and luxuries alike to be delivered to the people who demand them. Trade also creates the economy. An economy where a small community or a large nation can earn its keep: creating income and creating jobs. Trade is pivotal to economic well-being and success. At the most basic level, trade creates opportunity for communities to gather and grow. Relationships are often built around the trade of goods and services, and those relationships pave the way for new opportunities and new communities.
Number 7 is transportation. Every person needs access to transport. But transport has to be available. Whether you travel by car, bus, plane or even boat, the ability to do so is first and foremost. Thereafter that transport must be affordable. Without affordability, the benefits of access can be lost. I’m a fan of specialising in a few transport solutions that are affordable and highly accessible rather than trying to have a bit of everything which may not meet either of those criteria. I like ferries because many of us live near the water, and that highway is already there and is refreshed daily. I also think that we are too late to the party for trains to be successfully integrated into our transport infrastructure. That solution is simply too expensive. So more ferries and less trains would solve a lot of challenges. But every person has different transport needs, and so it must be multi-faceted, timely and flexible. Transport enables people to move around for education, jobs and sports. Transport enables trade to occur and relationships to be built. But we have to make it easy.
At number 8, good economic management and a fair tax structure are critically important. We expect that the elected leaders of our communities, towns, cities and country will manage our collective affairs responsibly. We want to achieve good terms for our trade and positive outcomes for our people. We want to ensure that critical portfolios, including those such as policing, health and education, are appropriately funded. We need to ensure that the taxes paid to support such services are borne fairly by the community that benefits from them. We wish for the recipients of those taxes – our elected officials – to be responsible with our money, and, where necessary, to incur debt in a manner that is appropriate and sustainable.
At number 9, irrespective of our success or failure, we must ensure that our good society makes a special effort to look after those who can’t help themselves. This is a critical function of decency. The aged, the mentally ill, the physically damaged, the abandoned babies, the mal-treated, and the victims of violence. However they came to be where they are, we need to be able to help them in a manner that is efficient, caring and timely. Somebody once said that “you can judge a nation by how it treats its most vulnerable”. That’s not a bad rule to live by. But it must be done properly and respectfully. And in most civilised societies today, it’s an enormous job that requires highly qualified people, world-class facilities and appropriate financial resources.
Finally, but most importantly, my number 10. A decent society must have a strong, independent and reliable media. Everywhere we look today, there are messages that seek to influence our thoughts and opinions. By the time we get to work each day, we have seen at least one hundred messages. Many of those communications have come through social media, a source not known for its accuracy. Other bulletins come in the form of paid ads targeting us and the ability to influence our opinion. Such an environment requires certain sources of information, particularly news and current affairs, to be well-informed, factual and utterly reliable. Both locally and internationally, there are many media sources that do not provide that level of comfort. But good media needs to find its pedestal once more, and in-depth investigative journalism, no matter how uncomfortable it leaves us, must be celebrated.
So that’s my top 10 necessities for a good and decent society.
We’ve always considered ourselves a good society, and rightly so. But we’re struggling to maintain that position. The reality is that every aspect of a good and decent society requires serious improvement in our special little country. We may be sliding, but that slide is reversible.
You could say that this is merely a list of issues with little in the way of solutions. However, you can also read it as a list of aspirations or priorities. Aspirations to do better across a variety of areas where we’re currently not doing well. A shopping list for our future leaders if you like. Would you rather spend one billion dollars on helping overseas countries deal with climate change or on three new hospitals?
Thanks again for joining me. Have a great week.
I’m Bruce Cotterill, for The Common Room.