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  • Robert MacCulloch

Here we go again: another row about the 1980's economic reforms

Don Brash has defended the pro-market reforms of the 1980s in Newsroom:


https://www.newsroom.co.nz/brash-non-je-ne-regrette-rien


His article drew a scathing reply from political commentator, Brian Easton. He asserts that "People suffered as a result, Don, people suffered ... You can be sure that had the neoliberal policies succeeded, the Rogernomes would be loud in their self congratulations. Their silence, in Brash’s case in the key areas of macroeconomics and distribution, tells you that even they think they failed. Yet the consequences of their measures haunt us to this day":


https://www.interest.co.nz/opinion/111152/economist-brian-easton-takes-issue-recent-comments-don-brash-rogernomics-and


I have a comment to make on this idea that NZ has become a miserable, mean and haunted society since those reforms. The government's own criteria of success is "well-being". For a long while now, ever since data has been collected on subjective well-being in NZ, which was AFTER the reforms of the 1980-90s (i.e., long before our current PM was elected) this country has ranked as being one of the happiest in the world. The questions include the following: "On a ladder from 0 to 10 with 0 at the bottom and 10 at the top, how close are you to the best possible life?" and "Overall, all things considered, how satisfied are you with the life you lead?". These are considered the best questions to measure national well-being.


And surveys of "social capital" which measure how kind, generous and trusting are people, how much they donate to charity and help support their local community regularly rank NZ at number one in the world. And that again way pre-dates the election of our current PM and is for periods of time AFTER the 1980-90s reform programme.


So although Mr Easton contradicts Don Brash by saying that "The statistical evidence does not support him" I would conclude that the statistical evidence on well-being doesn't support Easton's assertions that social welfare dropped post the reforms of the 80s and 90s. It couldn't have been any higher!