Kia Ora New Zealand

Dr Patrick Carvalho
Insights Newsletter
25 January, 2019

Being the most recent addition to the New Zealand Initiative research team, I would like to briefly introduce myself. My name is Patrick – also known more commonly in some social interactions as the “Father of Liz” or the “Husband of Julia”. I am originally from Brazil but have also lived and worked in Australia and the United States.

From a public policy perspective, I have been fortunate enough to closely examine a range of social experiments in different societies and the idiosyncratic rules they abide by. Interestingly, in my experience, quite often allegedly righteous and morally superior policies tended to produce the greatest devastating effects.

As a trained economist, I am always looking for potential pitfalls of unintended consequences in supposedly well-intentioned policies. In the words of Nobel-laureate Milton Friedman, “one of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results”.

In short, incentives matter, and these are determined by the rules of the (policy framework) game.

In Brazil, for instance, I was a vocal opponent of the government’s price controls on energy, including petrol, which according to the official storyline were designed to thwart inflationary pressures but had precisely the opposite effect. In Australia, a same-same-but-different type of price controls on labour costs designed to sustain wages and benefit the working poor and middle class was in effect crippling the job market chances of the most vulnerable in society. In the United States, unfunded public state pension promises – based solely on overoptimistic actuarial assumptions – led to frustrating policy reversals in recent years, with many more required painful adjustments yet to come.

In all these international cases, supposedly well-intentioned policies simply did not produce the intended results. Although superficially different, they all equally ignored the correct market incentives to fix the problem.

Having said that, I consider myself even more fortunate for being welcomed at The New Zealand Initiative. It is encouraging to be part of an organisation guided by a diligent commitment to policy prescriptions that are logic-driven, evidence-based and outcome-focused.

I am also excited to be in New Zealand, where Julia and little Liz will soon join me to call home. I look forward to exploring the amazing natural landscapes here with the family, as well as contributing to better public policies.

Kia ora Insights readers, it is a real pleasure to meet you.

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