Opening gambit

I am starting this blog site because after more than 40 years writing about or contributing to public policy, I think maybe I have something to say which will be of interest to some of my friends and others.

The intention is to focus on public policy and the media both in New Zealand and overseas, and as far as possible stay on the issues rather than the personalities.   For openers:

I am an economic rationalist with a social democratic overlay.

We live in great times – the best in the last two thousand years.   History shows that the open economy plus democracy, is the best model humans have come up with so far.  Not perfect but better than the alternatives such as monarchies, dictatorships, feudal leaders,  tribalism and theocracies.

While genes plus the environment seriously influence how people behave, they don’t determine it – we have free will and can change our futures for better or worse.  I notice this theme was picked up by the new National MP for Northcote Dan Bidois, when talking about his upbringing which was seriously challenging for everyone involved.

New Government:  While there are and will be actions I don’t support, fresh eyes usually bring some positive change.   There are fewer than five million people in this small remote land.   While it’s a disadvantage in many ways, it also provides the opportunity to be super agile.  We throw that away with complexity in respect of state agencies.

Why have 21 District Health Board when we could have say three regional health boards integrated back into the Ministry of Health or maybe a New Zealand Health Service, which would also include Pharmac and Medsafe?

Eight universities is a few too many so thank goodness there won’t be any more.  However 17 polytechnics is clearly far too many because a few are not presently viable.   Rather than the war or attrition, why doesn’t the government orchestrate several mergers?  Their behaviour over recent decades of expanding into Auckland and offering courses because the funding is there, as distinct from real need etc, makes a nonsene of the original concept of regional post-school training institutes.

And while we are about it, why not merge parts of the Ministry of Education, the Tertiary Education Commission and the NZQA, into one Ministry of Tertiary Education and Training, leaving what remains folded back into the Ministry of Education?

Treaty of Waitangi issues.  The abysmal failure of our education system to teach New Zealand history in a comprehensive manner, is both baffling and a cause of some unnecessary angst about some actions of the Government.   However I am deeply concerned about where this expansive concept called “partnership” will lead.   A serious erosion of our democracy is one possibility, and we should have an intelligent discussion about that, and not hurl abuse at those such as the Hobson’s Pledge group who question the “partnership” concept.

Trump:  While he has many seriously unattractive features, and, for a man who has traveled, is very ignorant about how the rest of the world, he does actually make some valid points.  For instance he is right to call out China over trade and investment but creating a trade war with Europe, Japan, Canada and Mexico, is nuts.

Yes Nato ought to spend more on defence and rely less on the USA.  Trump’s recent behaviour should bring home to the Europeans they cannot rely on NATO for the US to defend them against say Russia.  However, as we all know, US defence spending is what keeps the military industrial complex going – it is not altruistic.

I can visual how Germany, with its great engineering capability, could quickly create a massive defence force capable of defending it and neighbouring countries.  It has been done before and the USA might reflect on that before pushing harder.

His tactics with North Korea (I am crazier than you), may well work in the long run but that will take a while to play out.   And yes some deregulation was ok but he is overshooting on the environment and tax reform was certainly needed but the likely deficit will affect us all negatively in the long run.

With the Marshall plan and other steps to create the post-war international order (World Trade Organisation, IMF, World Bank and the UN) the USA played a giant sized role in leading the era of prosperity and relative peace.  It is tragic that Trump wishes to destroy so much of that.  But this is the new reality we all have to accept or see if there is a better way, that also deals with the legitimate concerns of those in many countries who don’t believe they have benefited from internationalism




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