New Zealand is now worse off than ever

New Zealand is now worse off than ever. By Oliver Hartwich.

This week marks five years since Jacinda Ardern became New Zealand’s 40th prime minister. …

New Zealand in 2022 is a different place than it was in 2017. … The changes that have happened under Ardern have happened faster than usual. In many instances, they have been more profound, too.

External events like the pandemic may have accelerated the pace and depth of change. Still, they cannot explain it entirely. Other countries also went through the pandemic, but the shifts in New Zealand feel more dramatic.

I emphasise the word ‘feel’ in this context, which might be frustrating if you are an empirically-minded social scientist. But what Ardern has changed in New Zealand does not easily lend itself to measurement. It is hard to put a number on a country’s social or cultural temperature.

Yet to anyone in New Zealand, it is obvious that something has changed in those past five years. Visitors, who may only frequent these shores every few years, will surely notice the differences even more. …

Polls about the direction of the country under Ardern’s premiership have shown the two most extreme values ever recorded: First overwhelmingly in the right direction, then overwhelmingly in the wrong direction.

Some changes are both deep and superficial. The best example is the greater visibility of Te Reo Māori, the Māori language.

Now being used everywhere, from weather reports to the names of government agencies, the indigenous language has gained much traction since 2017. The momentum behind the change is so strong, a change of the country’s name to Aotearoa may well be on the cards in the coming years. …

It does signal a greater role not just of the Māori language but of Māori-derived concepts more generally.

The use of indigenous concepts is more common now than it was in 2017 in areas such as education, science, and law.

Alongside these changes, the nature of the state in New Zealand has evolved too. In 2017, New Zealanders had a rather functional, sober relationship with the state. It was the organisation one relied on for basic functions and protections. Few New Zealanders had greater expectations of it than that.

Under Ardern, the state has assumed a role beyond its functional aspects. That is most obvious in the so-called ‘well-being budgets’.

Instead of simply allocating funds to various government departments, the state now aims for something higher: it aspires to uplift its citizens in an almost spiritual manner. Whether it succeeds in that quest is a different question, but the very idea of the New Zealand state has changed under Ardern.

What has not changed are some negative trends that have plagued New Zealand for many years before her: the country’s sluggish productivity, its declining education system, its infrastructure deficits, its ridiculous house prices. In each of these areas, the problems have continued or indeed worsened.

Ardern’s record is one of deep change in the nature of the New Zealand state and its relationship to citizens. On the country’s most pressing social and economic problems, Ardern has not achieved any improvement. On many measures, the country is actually worse off than it was when she became Prime Minister.

New Zealand (soon perhaps to be renamed Aotearoa) is quickly retreating from the modern age.

Imagine turning to Maori culture for scientific practice! Or shoving aside the world’s dominant language to make room for a tiny dead-end backwater language! This takes pandering to identity groups way too far. Stupid is as stupid does.

So, what sort of leader does this to a country? From Wikipedia:

She joined the Labour Party at the age of 17. After graduating from the University of Waikato [with a Bachelor of Communication Studies in politics and public relations] in 2001 [aged 21], Ardern worked as a researcher in the office of Prime Minister Helen Clark. She later worked in London as an adviser in the Cabinet Office. In 2008, Ardern was elected president of the International Union of Socialist Youth. Ardern was first elected as an MP in the 2008 general election, when Labour lost power after nine years. She was later elected to represent the Mount Albert electorate in a by-election on 25 February 2017. …

In 2014 Ardern was also selected, attended and graduated from the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Forum of Young Global Leaders, founded by Klaus Schwab, which takes place in Switzerland. She remains involved publicly as a part of the Young Global Leaders Alumni Community, and speaks at WEF events.

No experience outside politics, no interest or talent shown at anything other than climbing the greasy pole of politics, she rides the dominant political paradigm for all it’s worth. In other words, a clueless ideologue.