At the time that the fourth Labour government introduced the neo-liberal agenda in 1984 there was a genuine sense that something needed to change. After nine years of the most socialist government New Zealand had experienced in recent times under the Muldoon administration something had to be done.
But has New Zealand ever had fully neo-liberal economy? With the continued subsidisation of some corporate industries such as the aluminium smelter, the oil & gas industry, and the dairy industry through the crown irrigation fund I don’t think so. Roger Douglas wrote his book ‘Unfinished business’ discussing these issues amongst other things.
Today I think people are beginning to ask has Rogernomics worked. Asking if it time to consider another way to manage the economy. Personally I always thought that the reliance on the market to fix all ills was swinging the pendulum too far. The very notion that trickle down was going to work ignores the fact that not all people and businesses have equal opportunity.
By accident of birth everyone is born with differing ability to take advantage of opportunities which are presented. Someone born with a silver spoon in their mouth is far more likely to end up with an enhanced ability to earn rather than someone who is born into a inter-generational beneficiary dependence. Yet the free market philosophy dictates that everyone has equal opportunity to make good. The seemingly ever increasing inequality gap should be enough to dispel this particular notion.
More importantly than personal inequality is the growing power of corporations over the small to medium sized businesses who remain at the engine room of the New Zealand economy. This is something that these owners have often discussed with me. It’s all very well ignoring the pleas of those individuals at the bottom of the heap but when hard working Dave the Plumber is beginning to question if he is getting a fair deal then it should be clear to all that something is not right.
So whilst the neo-liberal agenda remains alive and well in New Zealand, I think the winds of change are coming. Winston and the Greens have both campaigned against it’s excesses. The interesting ones to watch will be the Labour Party and whether they ever gain the courage to adjust the economy away from favouring those who have gained the most under the neo-liberal agenda – the corporates – to favouring the average Kiwi.
Submitted 7 February 2018