Time to un-Grinch
Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 21 December 2018
Wellington is starting to empty, the morning commute is getting shorter, and the capital is finally feeling like summer – all signs that Christmas is not far away.
And so it is the time of the year to thank you, our readers, for your interest in the Initiative’s work.
From a policy perspective, New Zealand’s 2018 was not quite as eventful as most observers predicted. The (now no longer) new Government established so many inquiries and working groups that we saw less policymaking and more policy preparation.
That is not a criticism. Quite the opposite.
The sudden ban on future oil and gas exploration demonstrated the benefits of preparation by its absence. We wish the Government had taken the time to also consult and prepare in this case.
Similarly, the opposition dedicated a good chunk of the year to dealing with itself.
Again, that is not a criticism but something to be expected after nine years on the government benches. Policies need to be reconsidered, organisational structures need to be adjusted, and some people need to move on.
Considering that 2018 was a year after a change of government, it was calm. Which makes the contrast with the rest of the world even stronger.
In London, Brexit has turned politics into a Shakespearean play. In Washington, Donald Trump makes House of Cards look like a comedy series. And in Canberra, we witnessed more absurd theatre with yet another change of Prime Minister.
Considering the crazy world out there, it is nice to be in New Zealand. And there are more reasons to be positive.
The Cato Institute just published its new Human Freedom Index. New Zealand ranks third for economic freedom and sixth for personal freedom.
As our chief economist Eric Crampton pointed out in today’s National Business Review: “No country that outranks New Zealand in economic freedom beats it in Cato’s measure of personal freedom, and every country earning a higher personal freedom score than New Zealand has a lower economic freedom score. So New Zealand provides an unbeatable mix.”
Of course, there could be the odd improvement – not least in housing affordability, education and regulation. But to point that out at this time would be a bit Grinch-like. So let’s pause our policy commentary here.
Instead, from all of us at the Initiative, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.