Wednesday, May 07, 2003


Yet another article in a US publication about lessons from New Zealand's market "reforms" that concludes that we should've had more of them. It's interesting reading, if only for the complete disconnect between the views of foreign economists and people who actually live here and suffered through Douglas and Richardson...

Things that stuck out:

  • It lambasts proportional representation as "an electoral system institutionally destructive of good government", and laments the fact that parties of the right can no longer use economic crisis to gain power and enact dogmatic marketroid policies. I think this speaks for itself as to the anti-democratic beliefs of right-wing economists; it's also amusing to note the similarity with the Marxist doctrine of the "dictatorship of the proletariat".
  • There's a throwaway line about parties like Labour appealing to "softer values such as fairness". In contrast with the rigid (tumescent?) values of the Market, I suppose.

    (Interestingly, the ideological basis of market fundamentalism is all about fairness. A particular version thereof, cast solely in terms of transactions, and with the result that whatever outcome the market produces is by definition fair, but the attempt to claim "soft" and "unquantifiable" moral language is there.)

  • Standard bemoaning of our tax-rates:
    The new top rate cuts in at $30,000 U.S. - equivalent to 60 percent of average New Zealand incomes but less than one-third higher than the average Australian salary.

    I'm not sure what he's trying to say there, but he certainly doesn't mention that the median (as opposed to average) wage here is about US$ 12,000 per annum, or that the top rate affects only the highest 18% of wage-earners (that stat courtesy of some ACT junk-mail which arrived in my letterbox).

Naturally there's no mention of the human cost of the reforms. Foreign economists seem spectacularly uninterested in the soaring unemployment, or the creation of an underclass where we didn't have one before. Instead it's all (pathetic) growth statistics, and dogmatic claims that we'd be so much better off if we'd only exterminated those troublesome unions, completely privatised our health and education systems, and dropped our wages even further. Which is probably true, if you take "we" to mean the Business Round Table.

Anyway, a lovely piece of econodrivel, which would no doubt make Don Brash's supporters in the National caucus all misty-eyed for the glory days.