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  • rmacculloch

The Tall Poppy Syndrome Strikes Again: The Fourth Estate tries to bring out the worst in Kiwis

Whatever one's views of National's new leader, Chris Luxon, the NZ Herald, Newshub & Stuff turned out in force to throw mud at him for being .. oh no .. hard working & successful! Yes, the green eyed monster of envy rises again. Newshub ran the line, "National Leader with Seven Properties Wouldn't want to see house prices fall dramatically". Are they for real? Are they seriously inferring that owning some real-estate has given the Leader of the Opposition a vested interest in terms of perverting public policy to keep property prices high? Newshub went on to say,"he's so rich he doesn't even know how rich he is". MP David Parker couldn't contain himself, adding, "it does show that you know, some people are pretty privileged". I hope, from what I know of David, that he's including himself in that category.

Stuff put the tall-poppy-envy-feeding-frenzy into overdrive by blurting, "Soaring house prices mean new National Party leader Christopher Luxon is effectively earning about $90,000 a week in capital gains on his seven properties". The Herald piled in as well.

And after its property rants, Newshub reported on an interview which "hit" Luxon and Deputy Nicola Willis with "economy 101 basics". With respect to a question asking about current median rental levels, Newshub screamed, "Willis guessed $450 a week. She was $100 out on Trade Me's latest rental price index of $560". But Trade Me is not a reliable statistical source for rental prices. It just records places advertised on Trade Me Property! The median rent across "all property types" reported by Tenancy Services NZ is $500, which is CLOSER to Willis' estimate than Newshub! Maybe its Newshub which doesn't know economy 101.

And on that note, in economics 101 one learns that individuals (and countries) which do well are typically driven by a belief that there is a reward to hard work - that effort and ability lead to success. Amazingly, a huge majority of Americans and Chinese BOTH share this SAME belief. It drives their populations to do better. The belief is referred to, respectively, as "the American Dream" and what President Xi has now coined "the Chinese Dream".

That dream, however, can be threatened by corruption, by the illicit accumulation of wealth obtained through State transfers to private individuals. When people take a view that an individual's wealth was illegitimately obtained via political connections, it's damaging to the workings of markets, which rely on incentives in the form of returns to effort & ability. Now Chris Luxon, who I've never met and have no vested interest in defending, is by all accounts a hard working & driven person who was CEO of Unilever in Canada & Air NZ. It would be hard to find anyone who has earned their money more legitimately, more honestly than him. He'd appear to be the very embodiment of a "Kiwi Dream".

So why has the mainstream media tried to associate his wealth with capital gains & property investment in a way that links his success not with hard work, but with an attempt to sit back on easy street & ride the housing market? The property market has little to do with how Luxon earned the vast bulk of his wealth which was acquired in high level corporate jobs and which he is now simply saving and investing.

So shame on the NZ Herald, Stuff and Newshub. For preaching to the young people whom we educate that success in this country doesn't come through studying & exerting effort. Yes - you've all been busy promoting a view that we have political leaders, who are representative of many Kiwis, living off capital gains in the property market and, as such, wealth in NZ has an illegitimacy to it. Yet that is an unfair, biased & gross mischaracterization of Chris Luxon's path in life. You just picked on the wrong person. And at a national level, you picked on every Kiwi who has helped make this country the least corrupt place in the world, so you're wrong on that level also!



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