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After decades of careful research, if economists had to rank what policies were good ones and which were bad ones, the good would include:

  1. Unemployment Insurance of limited duration (no longer than around 6 months)

  2. Charter Schools which are based on the idea of private provision with public funding

  3. Extending the retirement age in the face of the ageing population

Bad ones would include:

  1. Subsidies (like to NZ Steel) and Command & Control Regulations for dealing with pollution (instead of relying on pricing the cost of the carbon externality)

  2. Industry-wide union bargaining

  3. Centralization and lack of quality competition in the supply of health-care services

So what has PM Hipkins done since becoming a Minister and PM? Dump the good policies and keep the bad ones. Why? A thirst for power that has driven him to follow focus groups, his comms staff and daily polling which is telling him where short-term advantage may lie.

His first act as PM was visit Auckland to see the Chamber of Commerce - it told him to open the immigration floodgates. The effect on infrastructure & wages of local workers was ignored. The Chamber also told him it didn't want unemployment insurance since it meant contributions by firms. It won and ordinary Kiwi workers were sold out, as they would have benefited from this scheme. The PM just wanted to grab some of the business vote from National and ACT - workers who he pretends to stand for were shafted.

Hipkins is selling himself as a regular kid from The Hutt. He is not. He is a street fighter from the Hood who plays by no rules & fights dirty - not caring about who he hurts in the process since winning at any cost is the only goal.


Chris Bishop has had to face the media in a car-crash interview with Jack Tame defending the National Party's U-Turn on housing that he admits he had no idea about it until his leader said he was tearing up their policy when answering a question at a community event. Allowing cities like Auckland to develop outwards into "greenfields" goes against all advice given by academic economists, who recommend going high, very high, not out. Bishop told Jack Tame that a "lot of academic research" and "economists" who he has consulted support their new urban policy. Not true.

What is the point in us flying out to NZ at enormous cost folks like the world's leading urban economist, sending them to Wellington to meet with Ministers and top civil servants, giving them world-class advice and then for those people to turn around and throw that advice in the rubbish bin. I'm talking, of course, of Harvard Professor Ed Glaeser's visit to NZ that I helped organize about 7 years ago. For goodness sakes, his visit was even sponsored by an old friend of the National Party, beer baron Sir Douglas Myers, who knew you had to scour the world for the best when making important financial decisions. We could only convince Glaeser to come out to NZ because he was a friend of an acquaintance of mine, Dave Mare, the Kiwo founder of Motu. They met each other at Harvard University. It wasn't the money - it was the friendship that was the ultimate reason for his trip.

Glaeser makes the economic & environmental case for building denser, higher cities, backed with ample evidence. One of his papers is called, "How Skyscrapers Can Save the City". On Bishop's argument that cities need to have the option of going out, not just up, bull. How about this fact: Singapore, where 5.5 million people live, has an area of 728 square km - Auckland is far bigger. The Singaporeans went high because they can't go up. It is one of the most prosperous, high productivity countries in the world.

Urban economists, engineers & architects are excited about the new frontier of green, livable, skyscrapers that bring people together in exciting, vibrant spaces. New technologies are allowing cooler than ever, amazing high rises to be built. Who cares what Bishop says about politics, but when he says "academic economists" support going out not up, he's talking nonsense. Why should we bother bringing out to NZ big names in world economics, when every bit of advice they give Members of Parliament is treated like a joke?


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Robert MacCulloch

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