Now what?

NZ has emerged safely from the first wave of the pandemic. Only 21 people dead of the virus, and other causes of injury and death actually declined such that overall we’re ahead of where we would have been. Most businesses and schools have reopened. Limits on public gatherings are lifting. Etc.

But the border is still mostly closed, which is a big deal for an island. Tourism and travel, paired with immigration for work and education, have driven a lot of the country’s prosperity over the past 50 years. So now what?

Nobody knows, of course. Back in the good old days, the field we now know as “economics” was often called “political economy.” And so it surely is. The world is very obviously a giant experiment in how groups of people, polities, will make money for themselves. It always is, of course, but you can really see it now… the rules of the game are clarified and the different choices stark, the consequences measurable in the short term. Are you China, or Sweden, or New Zealand, or the USA? Do your polities end up with death, or debt, or hunger? All of the above? None? It doesn’t take a PhD or a supercomputer to answer. People die or they don’t, there are jobs or not. Easy.

Here, we are heading into an election. Our sainted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has kept us safe so far, and is the most popular leader of the modern age. Besides using her prodigious leadership skills, she’s done what she was ideologically predisposed for: rolling out a massive government program to dictate every aspect of people’s lives. And it worked!

But now the Opposition has a chance to sow doubt… can this Young Socialist really regrow an economy? Or just take on more debt? Can she hold her own with the public- and private-sector plutocrats we will need to inject their money into our island paradise?

So far, the opposition National Party’s campaigners appear as effective as a pack of bumbling, spiteful middle schoolers, and it seems likely that we’ll get another three years of Jacinda and her slightly wobbly circle of Ministers. So let’s find out what results this experiment brings!

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