Nonsensical 'Common Sense'

Responding to the article by Robin Charteris (ODT, 9.9.08), Calvin Oaten throws up that all too familiar and increasingly useless term ‘common sense’. His call for an injection of “some commonsense and responsible fiscal management” is of course somewhat typical of the arguments put forward by the ‘Anti’ Stadium crowd these days.

For a start, what is common sense. It’s like that other meaningless phrase “P.C.” (more to the point un-PC) which it too readily bandied about by the media and commentators alike these days. For Mr Oaten’s argument to have any meaning, we would have to qualify what he means by common sense. I always thought it was common sense not to put a fork into a power socket (hence those annoying plastic kiddie covers). However our electrician informs me that while it was common knowledge that electricity can kill you, modern plugs like the one we have built into our house can’t kill you like the old ones did. So while it was thought of as common sense, it was in fact a historical fact, and something that won’t be thought of at all in the future. What made sense to me, made no sense to our sparky at all.

Common Sense in the way that Mr Oaten means, is in fact Mr Oaten’s sense. To him his argument makes sense, and thus it really should be common, considering other people agree with him. However as there are many people n this town who would not agree with his opinion, ‘common’ is a relative term, and sense for one person is madness or otherwise to another. For me it makes sense that my team Everton should get TV coverage of each and every game, but to supporters of other teams, that would be insanity. Common sense is in fact a simple catchphrase for those whom do not pocess the strength of argument to fully explain their position, or indeed that position is pretty much indefensible (or an untruth), there is no way I could arguably defend my above statements about Everton FC and world media domination. Common sense is more or less always a defence policy when argument is un-quantifiable and based less on facts than it is on opinion.

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.
Attributed to Albert Einstein”

The second part of his argument against the stadium relies upon “responsible fiscal management”. Again this is highly contentious and open to interpretation. The National Party believes that it is “responsible fiscal management” to borrow from overseas funds to pay for election pledges of Tax Cuts. Labour and other parties of the left disagree and that this is irresponsible. I have two good buddies at the London Stock Exchange and Treasury who have the greatest of arguments as to what is “responsible fiscal management”, do you think they could agree. Again Mr Oaten is working off a biased position, which to him looks like irresponsible fiscal management lacking of common sense, but to others is indeed to opposite.

Unfortunately the final suggestion in Mr Oaten’s argument are so typical of the anti-stadium brigade that it falls within the ‘untruth’ and mischievous nature of their argument. He heaps the profitable and exceedingly popular Chinese Garden in with the so called “hopelessly uneconomic projects” that the DCC has or is about to undertake. I’m not sure where Mr Oaten gets off with such a suggestion, but it is seriously lacking any common knowledge (that stuff that is actually out there and is quantifiable), relying on so called common sense (you know the stuff that he has a ‘feel’ for). However, not only does he have his facts wrong on the Chinese Garden, he has no way what so ever to qualify the presumption that the stadium will be an “hopelessly uneconomic project”. This is of course not what the economic predictions for the stadium claim, nor what in reality might (or might not) happen. He has no way of knowing in 3-5 years time if the stadium will or won’t be a “hopelessly uneconomic project”.

But then these arguments are all too common from the anti-stadium crowd.


Filed under Media

6 responses to “Nonsensical 'Common Sense'

  1. Elizabeth

    I asked Calvin Oaten about the reference to the Chinese Garden prior to publication…to me it seemed to be his comment, in fact he was quoting Robin Charteris – but the format of the opinion piece failed to make this clear, and the subeditor didn’t assist it either.

    Calvin’s reply to my query was: “The comments on the Chinese Garden were Robin Charteris’ in his editorial, not mine. Time has proven him wrong on this one. I have never had any strong opinion on the garden, either for or against.”

    Incidently, the Chinese Garden was opened by the Prime Minister today.

  2. Which editorial was that from. It certainly wasn’t from his ‘Time to polish off the knockers’ opinion piece.

    But thanks for clarifying that Elizabeth. I guess it goes to show that we can’t take the media’s word for presenting the facts as they should be.

    Probably like you I don’t have strong feelings on the Gardens, but I do have a season membership and am just so happy for them that is has been such a success. I only wish the Otago Museum takes note and looks at the outrageous price it charges for a family season pass – seriously can anyone afford them? The first week we were in Vancouver last year, we bought season passes to the Aquarium. They were affordable and it was a great family break, hint hint Otago Museum.

  3. Elizabeth

    According to Calvin’s article it was Robin Charteris’ ODT editorial published 30/1/06 titled “The Rates Burden”.

    Agree re Otago Museum’s prices – unfortunately, the museum is not funded properly and still has to spend much of its activity time fundraising, with effect on the price of passes. See the great inequity of national museum funding caused by Te Papa Tongarewa soaking up the majority of dollars.

  4. Peter Entwisle

    The Chinese Garden is not profitable Paul, and not even the city council has ever pretended it would be. It operates at a net loss as most public facilities do. The stadium would be another much bigger loser, costing the city $9.7m per annum, on the figures in the DCC’s chief executive’s March 14 report.

    We’re not talking about businesses here – although some people seem to think we are. If you have too many of these loss-making service providers the cost of rates and charges rise to a point where living and doing business in the city start to become less economic than doing the same elsewhere. While the net cost of having the Chinese Garden is relatively modest that for the stadium is much greater and coukld seriously strain the city’s finances. If you don’t believe me read the report. It’s on the city’s website and also on the StS one.

  5. Elizabeth

    ODT reported (4/9/08) the garden “has more than doubled its expected income since it opened on July 8, taking $122,000 in its first 53 days of operation”.

    Dunedin City Council community life general manager Graeme Hall said the garden was expected to take $1000 a day once it opened, but had averaged $2300 a day, despite bad weather.

    The income was from entry fees, food sales, merchandise from the shop and from tours.

    While some of the money came from $15 season tickets, which would only provide early one-off payments, those made up less than half the tickets sold.

    Good returns were expected to continue as summer began, the cruise ship season started, and more tours of the garden were provided.

    The early success may be good news for ratepayers. The total expected budget for this financial year was $629,000, with $364,000 to come from revenue and $265,000 from rates, but it appeared more than the entire budget could be covered by revenue.

    It was up to councillors to decide what to do with any savings, but usually they would be used to pay off loans, he said. “It should be self-sustaining.”

    The council’s i-SITE visitor centre had put together a package offering entry to the Chinese garden, Glenfalloch Woodland Garden, Larnach Castle garden and the Otago Museum’s tropical forest exhibition, he said.

  6. Much appreciated Elizabeth. I hope the Gardens do well, in fact I am a huge fan of all manner of these types of public facilities.

    But the figures I was trying express were based on this ODT report and I just didn’t search hard enough. So I guess Peter is right, it’s not running at a profit, but then again seems I am right, it’s more or less fiscally neutral at this stage, which is as good as gold in this day and age.

    When we were in Vancouver last year, the second day on the ground we bought an annual pass to the Vancouver Aquarium at roughly $150NZD (previous NZ to CD dollar conversion). With this we were able to also take one extra adult (great for mother in law visit to Vancouver). Now in any language that’s a pretty attractive package, and on those rainy Vancouver Autumn days we made the most of that place. Compare that with the Otago museum, $480 2 adults and 2 kids. Don’t get me wrong I love the museum, I think I have taken my 5 year old more than 300-400 times (good coffee), but there is no possible way I could justify half a grand for membership of that place, and even casual visits are limited to the free exhibits.

    Short reply long, the Gardens have done exceedingly well and we aren’t even in the peak tourist summer season – how far is it from the train station to the gardens for all of those Cruise ships? The Otago Museum is priced out of the local market, but is still doing well, I wish they would acknowledge the locals want to use this facility more if only they could afford so.

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