Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Karl du Fresne: Professor Misery-Guts

How the left hate it when international surveys show New Zealand doing well. It undercuts their basic thesis that the country desperately needs rescuing from the clutches of cold-hearted capitalists.

Professor Marilyn Waring, who gives the impression of being a career misery-guts, went to great lengths on Morning Report to pour scorn on an international index that rated New Zealand No. 1 in the world for social progress.

Waring, who teaches social policy at the Auckland University of Technology, wasn’t terribly clear about what she didn’t like about the Social Progress Index. Academics often have difficulty expressing themselves plainly. But she was certainly keen to talk it down.

I think most New Zealanders are smart enough to understand that international rankings are not foolproof. However they are a useful guide to where we stand, and this index – pioneered by Harvard University business professor Michael Porter – seems a genuine attempt to measure countries’ wellbeing in a more holistic way than by simply looking at gross domestic product.

That wasn’t good enough for Waring, although she could only resort to waffle when interviewer Susie Ferguson attempted to establish exactly what it was that she objected to, or how countries’ wellbeing could be more accurately measured.

I suspect the basic problem is that academics like Waring spend much of their time sounding off about all the things that are wrong about New Zealand, and it’s a huge inconvenience when a reputable research project confirms that in fact we’re blessed to live in one of the world’s freest and fairest societies.

Karl du Fresne blogs at

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