days 23 – 30: the week since

Talk–always hard to know how cheap–how dear–usually, Oh


–there is talk of the coming recession–“like none in our lifetime” (whose? a strange shared lifetime?)–and of the autocracies evolving from draconian measures adopted under exceptional and unprecedented circumstances.

I don’t think this is the danger.

It is at once sillier. And finds its niche (whose? a strange shared niche?) in the devolution of public powers.

The danger is not an evolution but a kind of by-kill or by-product or friendly fire effect from states of emergency having been declared and prompting more or less sensible public policy-making.

The danger is localised autocracies.

Devolved ones.

Not centralised ones.

Maybe even networked ones.

After all, is Trump really the danger?

The fact that he has the Button in his manbag, as Stewart Lee writes, that a sociopathic narcissist can unleash worldwide atomic conflagration on a Twit-whim, a Twhim, a Twheem, spells trouble. But it’s the kind of trouble we know how to get ourselves out of because we’ve got ourselves into it before. Or, rather, because we have, out of familiarity, a kind of habit of stupidity–out of the bad habit of being human–, we don’t. We sit and watch spectacular stupidity engulf the world like an atomic conflagration we are a hair’s breadth from.

The political danger if we really want to talk–and face the bill of talk–about autocracy is that the government at the local level, that councils arrogate to themselves powers they have not known before.

Our own mayor in Auckland earns a lot. But Stephen Town earns just under $700,000. Along with 7 other staff of Auckland Council who earn over the Prime Minister’s $471,000 (B.C. – before COVID-19); while 48 Council employees earn more than Mayor Phil Goff’s $296,000–it is alleged here.

These guys–six of the 7 earning close to what Stephen Town does are men–are clearly oligarchs already. (Same source.)

The annual rate of pay above which Auckland Council staff have been asked to take pay cuts voluntarily is $100,000. It has neither yet been advised who has volunteered–although we know the Rt. Hon. Ardern has–nor by what amount to have their pay docked. And who can doubt that it will be on the front pages of our popular presses and bruited widely on Council websites and through the Social Media Council employs staff to manage?

Some social services are being asked to take contact tracing data from the public which uses them. They are being asked by the Ministry of Health of New Zealand to ask of their users, members, patrons (but never customers) contact information. This information the Ministry undertakes to destroy within 60 days. However, responsible for the forms staff fill out to supply this data is Council … and herein again a wheel turning … without the gears necessarily meshing … because the ones responsible for putting together the forms to extract the data from the users, members, patrons, civilian population are not the ones who are responsible to that population. What are then the responsible ones being paid to take responsibility for?

What does Stephen Town and other CEOs in the staff oligarchy actually do? I see him smiling a lot. And I saw a funny picture with some grinning partner to his device in the foreground that made it look like he is a dwarf. Which is not in itself funny. But under the circumstances is.

The forms gathering data being made out by its service providers for Council include a privacy policy that is Council’s. The usual we can as we see fit … The problem arises that the we is not the Ministry of Health of central government but that of local government.

Is central government the third party to local government? as per the privacy policy’s sharing with third parties in the provision of Council services?

But this logic of devolution of responsibility goes further: paradigm shifts in budget spending are not in and on principle transferred from central to local government.

If the Council wants austerity to reign–and cover its deficit–and keep on paying its staff-oligarchy it will have it.

If this is not the paradigm of the NZ Treasury … the reality is the autocratic possibility of local government devolved through the services it pays the money to, the money that doesn’t reach the people or the city.

Of course from a business perspective the high salaries of Council CEOs are justified. It’s just it is no longer the paradigm of the Ardern government to conduct this kind of salary pissing contest.