The New Zealand economy and politics: the revolution and the future

Seminar: America’s Relations with Australia and New Zealand Beyond the Turn of the Century

University of Maryland

Baltimore, 8 November 1999

Abstract: Just as a vigorous flowering of the arts in the 1980s signalled New Zealand’s true emergence as an independent (decolonialised) nation, it energetically espoused neoliberalism, the third radical policy shift in its 160 years of Anglo-Celtic rule. This third “New Zealand model”, which attracted considerable international interest from economists, businesspeople and such diverse politicians as the government of Mongolia, the Japanese House of Councillors and Vice-President Al Gore, is now embedded in policy. But, while the economy is undoubtedly more flexible and robust, it is (for various historical and contemporary reasons) still far short of neoliberals’ high-wage, high-performing ideal and it has left most citizens political “outsiders”, at odds with the “insiders” in the business, bureaucratic and political establishments and this has destabilised politics. Other “outsiders”, the indigenous Maori, are posing demands for power- and resource-sharing which many non-Maori find threatening but which seem likely nonetheless to lead to constitutional change in the next decade. To reconcile these disparate dimensions in a stable society and politics, the search is on for a new political language. read more