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  • rmacculloch

National may gain (some) traction on "rules" and Labour lose (some) traction on excess "discretion"

Back in September we wrote a blog on the "rules vs discretion" policy debate. Proponents of rules-based approaches argue they are transparent & allow businesses to plan. John Taylor, the inventor of a famous rule on how to set interest rates, once characterized the choice as between "rules vs chaotic monetary policy".

The rules versus discretion debate in economics is one which the Kiwi public are mostly blissfully unaware of. Yet it's a debate currently dividing the nation. The PM & Minister Hipkins want to use their discretion to make decisions, which we all find out about daily at the 1pm press conferences. They're a form of rolling update on what these personalities are feeling, what they're thinking. A rules-based approach takes their personal judgements out of the equation. A simple rule would state, for example, that once the vaccination rate reached a given percentage then the country would open up in the following ways, a, b & c.

National may gain traction today by announcing a more rules-based approach. There's a feeling Labour's leaders just can't help themselves erring on the side of excess discretion, maybe since it shines more publicity onto themselves as individuals. This issue may open a re-election crack for the Nats, whereby Labour's greatest asset becomes its greatest liability. That is, trying to turn issues into comparisons between the personalities & benevolent discretion of our political parties' respective leaders can create, as Mr Taylor noted, "chaos". Instead clear, dispassionate, equitable rules that create a framework to allow us to just get on with our own private lives and work are what most folks want.



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