But entrepreneurship remains underrated. Entrepreneurs’ alertness to opportunity, and determination to see it through, are a fundamental source of rising living standards.
But public sector entrepreneurialism often goes unnoticed. Results may not always be as desirable as in the private sector, but who are we to judge?
So let us recognise some remarkable public sector entrepreneurship.
Local government candidates extolling the merits of new cycleways feature in NZTA advertisements. The ads will have to stop running during the regulated period, but name and face recognition count for a lot. Voter memories might be short, but they aren’t that short.
It’s an innovative move that, somehow, seems allowed by law. So why shouldn’t they?
Public funding of sympathetic documentaries about Members of Parliament who are sympathetic to public funding of documentaries? It’s obvious win-win in hindsight, but it took entrepreneurial alertness to spot the opportunity. Kudos to New Zealand On Air.
And let’s not forget EECA’s exceptional achievement earlier this year. Deeming a consultant’s presentation as mere opinion, and out-of-scope of my OIA request, rather than in-scope advice? A masterstroke!
The Wiri alcohol licensing trust has been promoting candidates for local body elections – including election to their own board.
Unlike some other licensing trusts, Wiri has no monopoly on local alcohol sales. But friendly councillors would be helpful when central government considers tighter alcohol restrictions.
Local campaigner Nick Smale complained Wiri’s actions were unethical. But should we blame the Trust? They discovered an opportunity. That kind of gumption should be celebrated rather than discouraged.
Monopoly licensing trusts able to earn cartel-like rents could follow Wiri’s entrepreneurial example. In 2014, the Auditor General said they were “probably the least scrutinised part of the public sector.”
Lack of oversight provides tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurial innovation. Why not recycle trust cartel profits directly into billboard and radio campaigns for friendly candidates? It’s an entrepreneurial opportunity ready to be taken up.
So stop complaining about a moribund public sector. Innovation is all around us. You need only be alert to see it.
If New Zealand’s high schools taught civics, they could even rename it “Entrepreneurial politics”.
Dr Eric Crampton is Chief Economist at the New Zealand Initiative. This article was first published HERE