Recent news on fraud prosecutions has put a spotlight on the kind of landed-gentry society New Zealand has become.
Tax evasion is 33 times costlier to the economy than welfare fraud, but the latter is 10 times more likely to prosecuted. The chances of being caught, prosecuted and imprisoned are higher for poorer people, than for rich, white collar criminals.
This is a reflection of New Zealand’s increasingly class stratified society, loss of collectivism and political philosophy that entrenches it further.
A criminal is a criminal, the ‘system’ should be disinterested in their backgrounds and wealth status. But the evidence shows that is not the case.
Instead we increasingly live in a divided class system. Those with wealth, even if ill-gotten, are better able to mount a vigourous defence and gain leniency in prosecution and penalty. Those without wealth are more likely to fall into, and remain in, a crime-infected poverty trap.
There are clearly two different New Zealands in the justice system, just as there is across our growing and declining regions, or between home owners and renters, or boomers and millennials. We are pitting parts of New Zealand against others, and inevitably the entrenched and rich versus the rest.
At its worst, this a reinvention of the abhorrent class system many of the colonialists coming to New Zealand sought to escape.
We don’t treat white collar crime with the same kind of severity as other crime.