The curious Dr Wilkinson
Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 19 August 2022
There is an old tradition in academia to publish a Festschrift to honour significant birthdays of eminent scholars.
It is not something we do in think tank land, so we should at least celebrate Bryce Wilkinson’s 75th birthday in Insights.
Among Bryce’s many talents are his incisive economic analysis, his hard-hitting commentary and, at times, his poignant satire.
Though all true, that misses some more important traits.
One of them is Bryce’s insatiable curiosity. For most people, a job is a job. For Bryce, it is his passion.
Over the years, there have been countless quick conversations at the coffee machine, which ended up in Bryce following them up with research. Hours or days later, we would then receive a collection of Excel spreadsheets regarding a question that came up that way. Not that it mattered for any current project, but simply because Bryce wanted to know.
Perhaps that is why Bryce loves his work. For him, it is all a learning experience.
That is why, even after a decade on the SuperGold Card, Bryce still comes to the office every day. He often arrives first and leaves last.
Bryce’s passion for learning and economics is infectious. And it is because Bryce makes it infectious.
Especially for his younger colleagues – so, relatively speaking, for all of us – he is always ready to lend a hand, provide advice, peer-review your writing, or connect you with one of his many mates.
That is yet another of Bryce’s qualities. Having worked in policy for many years, he has established a vast network of contacts. So even if he does not know the answer to a question, he sure knows the person who does.
During New Zealand’s great reforms of the 1980s, Bryce was a key figure in Treasury. As an official, he shaped what would become known as ‘Rogernomics’. During that time, highly motivated and exceptionally qualified public servants like Bryce developed public policy.
With this extensive experience of New Zealand policymaking, Bryce has become a walking encyclopaedia of economic and social history. His publication record with the Initiative is testament to that.
Over ten years at the Initiative, Bryce has covered foreign direct investment, fiscal policy, monetary policy, social policy, economic history, Pharmac, Fair Pay Agreements, climate policy – even scaffolding regulation.
We are lucky to have Bryce at the Initiative. As he celebrates his special day, we wish him many more years of economic curiosity.