An Integrated Approach to Redistribution: Issues of Policy, Economics and Information
This thesis considers how best to administer redistribution policies. It focuses particularly on the information needed to assess relative circumstances, the implications of the government collecting such information, and processes by which the appropriate information may be assembled and assessed. In New Zealand, as with many other OECD nations, the Government's redistribution policies are administered through a range of different agencies, with duplication in some areas and gaps in others. An integrated approach to redistribution systems may offer a means to improve equity and efficiency. Part One discusses the assessment of relative well-being, and adopts the choice set as the intellectual device for this purpose. The time period for the assessment of income is examined in detail, with the conclusion that a long period should be used except where the individual is constrained to operate under a short time horizon. A new concept of "bankability" is developed as a means of identifying those operating under such constraints. Part Two uses the philosophical foundations of the value of privacy to develop a new statement of the right to privacy, such that everyone should be protected against the requirement to divulge information, unless that information is the "business" of another party. A view on the business of the state depends on one's ideology of the state. Since it is generally accepted in New Zealand in the late twentieth century that the state has a role in redistribution, the state has some right to collect information for that purpose. However, the rights of the state are moderated by the existence of a common law tradition of respect for individuals. A set of criteria for evaluating redistribution systems is devised in Part Three. These criteria, which include consideration of the information to be collected, individual control over personal information, and administrative simplicity, are then used to identify significant weaknesses in the systems currently used in New Zealand. The main problems identified are the collection of inadequate information, duplication, and complex institutional structures; the main virtue of the current systems is that information provided is only used for the purpose for which it was provided. An alternative approach is outlined which would address the problems while retaining the current protection of privacy interests. This thesis is a mix of inter-disciplinary academic enquiry and policy development. Part One is an amalgam of economic and philosophical approaches, Part Two involves philosophy and politics, and Part Three applies the theoretical considerations to issues of public administration.