Saturday, July 29, 2023

Bryce Wilkinson: Why 'Wellington' can be sure it knows what is best for us

Everyone knows that Wellington’s CBD will thrive when those who know best ban cars.

People will love coming into the CBD to buy bulky products, such as a microwave, to cart home on the handlebars of their bicycles. Buses are an option too, in between shortages and strike action, but bicycles are better for us. Wind, rain and steep hills heighten the experience.

Delivery firms will love supplying CBD businesses. Motorised roller skates could flourish.

Well, everyone knows this, except a few neoliberal economists and other equally misguided people.

Some deluded economists think that allowing people choice in transport options, and in what to supply and buy more generally, is good. The choice process produces useful information about availability, preferences and cost.

These economists are even silly enough to think that an exchange between a willing buyer and a willing seller must be mutually beneficial. They appeal to TradeMe transactions.

They seem to think that the prices discovered by such voluntary processes can usefully inform our plans and reveal our affordable options.

All right-thinking people know these neoliberals are hopelessly wrong-headed.

Price discovery is flawed. It is flawed because people are not fully informed. We do not really understand our choices. We get confused.

It is also flawed because humans are flawed. We make mistakes. Sometimes we are irrational. Choice confuses us.

That is why politicians and officials who do know what is best for us must step up. Our wellbeing drives everything they do.

Government saves us from ourselves by taking as much of what we have earned as possible. Whatever it took last year is not enough – after all, we still mess up.

More and higher taxes are the only moral options. What could be more moral than a majority voting to tax a minority more heavily?

Since voluntary price discovery is flawed, prices imposed by government are best.

Zero prices are the ideal – free medicines, free childhood education, interest-free student loans and much else. Free is good.

All right, all right, it is not really free. You worked to pay the taxes. But it feels free and that is good for your wellbeing. Even better if others are paying more. Fairness demands nothing less.

Look at it this way. If government does not exist to save us from ourselves, why do we have so much of it?

Dr Bryce Wilkinson is a Senior Fellow at The New Zealand Initiative, Director of Capital Economics, and former Director of the New Zealand Treasury. His articles can be seen HERE.


Anonymous said...

If you want to know how to do shopping go to Singapore.
I’ve never seen so many shops, underground, overground and anything in between.
It is however accessible by car, MRT, bicycle and foot. All options are on the table to get people in and out of Orchard Road, which would have to be worth $millions per square foot.
My point is why do councils think that cutting off the CBD from traffic is going to make them successful?
It clearly isn’t. Try walking in downtown Auckland for a sobering wake-up call.
Which brings me to the next gripe, how much $ is being spent on consultants to push these nonsense ideas when a $2k plane ticket could show you how it’s done.

DeeM said...

"If government does not exist to save us from ourselves, why do we have so much of it?"

I think a lot of people are too scared or able or willing to take responsibility for their own lives and exercise their own choices. They've been molly-coddled and spoilt for too long.
They imagine that government looking after them does a far better job, despite countless examples to the contrary. And, it gives them someone to blame when it all goes wrong. I mean these days, it's inconceivable that you should be to blame for your own bad decisions, right?

But just look at how often and how badly our senior politicians stuff up. So much so, that they're resigning in droves.
Come on, can you really do a worse job than that?

Kawena said...

To err is human. To really STUFF (excuse the pun) things up requires a computer,