Media release: We don't know how lucky we are in this country

Media release
2 September, 2017

This year’s election campaign has been just a little bit crazy. But New Zealand remains the world’s last sane place, says The New Zealand Initiative. It is important to keep it that way.

The Initiative today released Chief Economist Dr Eric Crampton’s essay, The Outside of the Asylum. Its lighthearted take makes a serious point. Regardless of election year shenanigans, New Zealand gets a lot of things right that other countries screw up. For example:

  • New Zealand’s GST is clean and simple. Meanwhile, the State of Wisconsin issued a 1400-word memo defining, for tax purposes, exactly what an ice cream sandwich is.
  • Security at New Zealand’s airports remains proportionate to risk and makes travelling easy. Security theatre elsewhere makes air travel a nightmare.
  • American civil asset forfeiture rules encourage American police to seize innocent Americans’ cash, cars and houses – with little recourse. Adjusting for population size, police in America kill 37 times as many people as do New Zealand’s generally unarmed police. Policing in New Zealand remains generally sensible.
  • Despite New Zealand’s problems in liquor licensing, brewing and distilling is relatively simple. And excise taxes make more sense than state monopoly alcohol retailers – like Ontario’s, where every thirsty resident can be held to ransom when the union staffing the state monopoly stores decides to strike.

But New Zealand should not take its Outside of the Asylum status for granted.

“We don’t know how lucky we are here,” said Dr Crampton. “Because the tax system just works, it’s easy to imagine that it would be simple to do things like exempt healthy foods from GST. But we forget that Australia tries to do that – and wound up having to fly in an Italian bread expert to help decide whether a ciabatta was untaxable bread or a taxed cracker. New Zealand’s sane system does not require bread-deciders.”

Worse, the permissive system that let Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck play with rocket engines when he was a teenager is under threat from an increasingly rigid health and safety regime.

“In a world that’s growing increasingly crazy, simply being sensible is a strong point of comparative advantage for New Zealand. We need to guard that advantage,” Dr Crampton concluded.

You can download The Outside of the Asylum, on our website.


Chief Economist Dr Eric Crampton is available for comment. To arrange an interview, please contact:

For further information:

Linda Heerink, Communications Officer
The New Zealand Initiative
Phone: +64 4 494 9109
Mobile: +64 21 172 8036

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