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  • rmacculloch

It's all but confirmed - "tinkering" and "steady-as-she goes" are the new Kiwi economic philosophies

For the past eight years, those of us pushing for fundamental changes to how NZ institutions are designed, especially welfare, have been left frustrated by a political class who see virtue in changing very little. It's odd that in the sporting arena, Kiwis are thrilled and awed by radical innovations, such as the design of our America Cup boats, which now go at speeds many multiples of the ones just a few years back, whereas when it comes to major upgrades to speed up the economy, our politicians run for the hills.


I just wrote an article for the NBR on this theme (see below, behind a paywall). It included the lines: "By not facing up to our past, our political leaders have become unable to chart a path to the future. National has rarely ever been a party of change. Labour once was, although has now lost its revolutionary zeal in favor of a 'steady-as-she-goes' doctrine. The election debates made clear that its policies to fix poverty and inequality center largely on tweaks to the benefit system and minimum wage".


Ironically, today the Attorney General, David Parker, told Stuff News that "We were clear - no capital gains tax, no wealth tax ... We didn't say that we wouldn't tinker with the detail of existing taxes". Maybe Labour have discovered what National did years ago - namely that tinkering plays well at the ballot box. The problem is, its not just tax reform, its practically everything from health to education to retirement and our unemployment benefit system.


Out of all the explanations that have been given over the past several decades for our slow productivity growth, my primary suspect is culture. People have to want it. In the US, they have the American Dream, which is the belief that regardless of background, an individual who tries hard and is talented can achieve amazing success, with new inventions and progress for all of humanity as by-products. From my dealings with our politicians, its not clear that they believe in a Kiwi equivalent.


For sources, see:


https://www.nbr.co.nz/opinion/what-path-will-nz-be-next-three-years


https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/11/housing-bright-line-tax-on-property-actually-an-income-tax-labour-mp-david-parker.html