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Insights 42: 3 November 2017
Dr Eric Crampton tells Newstalk ZB that new taxes, higher minimum wage will cost jobs
Go Swiss: Learnings from The New Zealand Initiative's visit to Switzerland
Dr Randall Bess on the government splitting up MPI

Swiss lessons in subsidiarity
Dr Oliver Hartwich | Executive Director |
To put it mildly, the three parties forming the new government are diverse. Their philosophies do not always overlap. Their electorates have little in common. Their histories are not without tension.

Yet there is one area on which Labour, NZ First and the Greens are not only in alignment. It is also an issue which differentiates them from National.

I am talking about subsidiarity.

Subsidiarity means that problems should be solved at the lowest possible level. Where a city can deal with an issue, a region should not do it. And where a region can tackle it, national government should stay out of it.

The previous, National-led government was the party of traditional, New Zealand centralism. Its view of the world was hierarchical, looking from the capital to the regions.

No wonder that National was fond of council amalgamations. It did not trust local government, least of all smaller councils.

It was an apt view for a conservative party to hold. At least if you overlook Maoridom, New Zealand had never been different. Since colonial times, it was a top-down nation.

The new government parties hail from a different tradition. Labour and the Greens both subscribe to subsidiarity. They both believe in bottom-up decision-making. In fact, Labour’s own party organisation works that way.

NZ First, meanwhile, has always had a strong focus on regional New Zealand. It may not call its philosophy subsidiarity. But NZ First’s instincts are often local and regional.

With these philosophical underpinnings in mind, I would like to recommend our report Go Swiss to the new government.

Go Swiss summarises the learnings from the Initiative’s delegation visit to Switzerland.

We took our members there to learn about the world’s most decentralised country. We found a place that does not only do things differently from New Zealand. It does them a lot better too.

In Switzerland, subsidiarity is not just a theoretical concept. It is alive in a vibrant local democracy. It shows in frequent referenda at all tiers of government. It results in great competition between neighbouring councils and cantons.

Our new government is committed to subsidiarity and the regions. But this should lead to more than a billion-dollar fund for development. It requires a complete rethink of central-local government relations.

Switzerland delivers the blueprint. And the Government should consider it.

The Initiative released Go Swiss: Learnings from Switzerland on Monday. The report is available on our website.

A burger a day...
Richard Baker | Research Director |
Idiocy comes in many forms. Some people choose not to vaccinate their children.   Others think it better to extract multiple teeth from school children rather than have them drink fluoridated water. In some American states disturbed fantasists may openly carry loaded assault rifles in public, near schools and playgrounds.

In New Zealand, our latest idiocy is to deny gravely ill children and their stressed parents the succour and respite of special accommodation and rest at the hospital. I refer here to the recent decision of the Manukau District Health Board to refuse an offer of a Ronald McDonald House at Middlemore Hospital.

This thinking has found its way south where a lobby group is asking the Southern DHB to make the same decision for a rebuilt Dunedin Hospital. Accepting assistance from a purveyor of unhealthy food is unacceptable.

It is difficult to see how the cost-benefit ledger for this decision is anything but positive. In the credit column, desperately ill children and their parents get to stay together at a critical time. This means a lot.

I know. My daughter spent a week in the hospital in a serious condition and my wife and I were immensely grateful for the services at Ronald McDonald house. The DHB also gets to provide the highest level of care and convenience for patients and their families. In doing so, it saves millions of dollars.

In the debit column, it is a fast food provider who pays the bills. Put another way the “ban them” school of public thinking wants to teach a fast food company a lesson. What a gloriously meaningless gesture. Cannot New Zealanders be allowed to exercise their own judgment on the probity of who funds patient and parent care, especially when it is their children’s care at stake?

Over indulgence in fries, burgers and shakes is a poor health decision. As an occasional treat in a healthy lifestyle, it doesn’t harm the body or deaden the mind. We can rely on methamphetamine or reality television to do that. If we banned everything with a potential to harm from over-consumption baked beans would have to be the first to go.

Let us hope that the Manukau DHB revisits, resists and repairs this extremist thinking and that wiser southern heads reject the Dunedin proposal. Empty and harmful gestures may be useful in politics but please keep them away from our children.

Libertarian experimentation
Jenesa Jeram | Policy Analyst |
Why did the libertarian chicken cross the road?

None of your business! Am I being detained?

With jokes like these, it really is a mystery why libertarians do not have more friends.

Indeed, a recent Washington Post article even included ‘befriend a libertarian’ in a compilation of ideas on how to fix American democracy.

Sure, that piece was written by a libertarian. But in an age of deep political divisions in the United States, and creeping talk of anti-immigrant sentiment on home soil, maybe it’s time to give libertarians a chance.

As Katherine Mangu-Ward put it in the Washington Post piece, libertarians are the ‘gateway drug’ to transpartisan understanding.

They’ll agree with ‘the left’ on civil liberties and social liberalism, and they’ll agree with ‘the right’ on fiscal constraint.

Libertarians believe that the people who make up a government do not always know best. That might sound a little harsh, but consider a quotation in the induction pack for our new ministers.

“I literally didn’t have a clue. I didn’t even know what a submission was. Literally nothing.”

That was an actual quote from an actual minister in the United Kingdom.

Here is another.

“…sometimes I would write ‘yes’ on a bit of paper and things would happen, which was a bit of a revelation.”

It is likely those quotes were included to humanise the role for our incoming ministers. But if those quotations fill you with dread, or at least an inkling that perhaps society should not have such high expectations of government, you might just be libertarian.

Of course, ministers will also rely on expert advice. But you don’t need to be a keen political observer to realise that experts do not always know what is best for us.

Anyone following the Married at First Sight television fiasco would also question whether experts know us better than we know ourselves. The randomness of Tinder appears to have a better success rate for marital bliss.

For what it’s worth, libertarians do not have an official stance on the value reality television contributes to our cultural understanding.

As our new government already signals a hodge-podge of socially conservative ‘tough on crime’ policies, education reform that will have the teachers’ union dancing in the streets (according to a left-wing blog), and everything in between, perhaps a few more libertarians will come out of the woodwork.

At least experimenting with this gateway drug can’t do much harm.

Trust me, I’m an expert.
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