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  • rmacculloch

Hang on TVNZ's Campbell Show. You misreported the Leader of the Opposition on inequality

In an interview with John Campbell, mostly on the topic of inequality, National Party Leader Chris Luxon said his way of helping everyone, regardless of background, to achieve the "Kiwi Dream", was to bring back Sir Bill English's "social investment approach". That approach is related, although not the same, as "cost-benefit-analysis", which is the subject of many economics textbooks. Whereas cost-benefit analysis tries to put a value on all of the social costs & benefits of a policy to help evaluate it, the social investment approach instead focuses on fiscal (that is, government) costs and savings.

So for example, maybe an "investment" by the government now of $50,000 on an effective young offenders program could save potentially millions of dollars in future years by preventing that person going on to become a hardened criminal (in which case vast police, prison and government counselling services may be consumed). In addition to fiscal costs, a "cost-benefit analysis" would include the costs to the victims of the crimes.

Now TVNZ report that Chris Luxon "said National's deputy leader Nicola Willis would be leading the work on the party's new social investment policy". However Luxon never described the "social investment" approach as a new "policy" in his interview. Since it is not a policy. It's just a method, a procedure, an approach conducted by actuaries for the purposes of analyzing whether a policy is a good one or not.

TVNZ may brush off this point as being a minor reporting mistake. But they've actually misquoted Luxon as having announced a new "policy" when he did not announce a new policy. And it reveals that TVNZ doesn't get the difference between a "policy" and valuation methods like cost-benefit analysis & the social investment approach which are used to work out whether a policy should be implemented.

Furthermore, Campbell aimed his show at querying the new National Leader on inequality, saying it was the issue he considered, along with the environment, to be "the single most important [one] in this country". But why would the State Broadcaster say those two issues are the most important ones? Why be so partisan? Why not include our shockingly low level of productivity in the list of most important issues? Is it because addressing inequality and environmental issues are more associated with left rather than right coalition governments?



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