Governing the Poor: Evidence from New Zealand’s Tax and Welfare Systems


  • Lisa Marriott



This study examines six situations in New Zealand where individuals receiving welfare benefits receive more punitive treatment than other citizens. Comparison to tax evaders, tax debtors and taxpayers in general is made throughout the article to highlight the disparities that result from regulatory processes that govern the poor. A neoliberal paternalist perspective is used to highlight the discriminatory treatment of those who are least privileged in society. This framework provides visibility to recently introduced market logics, use of surveillance, increased obligations associated with welfare receipt and increased use of the penal system to punish those who offend against the welfare system. The study reinforces the punitive outcomes that arise from modern-day governance of the poor.


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