The story of New Zealand’s fall and rise, as the country — once bankrupted by decades of socialism — fought its way back to prosperity through radical free market reforms. Trailblazers: The New Zealand Story credits: [Dir: James Tusty & Maureen Castle Tusty/ Narrator: Johan Norberg/ 60 min/ Documentary/ Econ 101, Anti-Socialism, Pro-Capitalism]
Note: the full documentary may be viewed online here.
Imagine living in a country where you need a permit to go on a holiday; where you need a note from a doctor to buy margarine; where you must wait months and months to buy a car or have a phone installed — that was New Zealand thirty years ago. It was, as one businessman called it, “a benign North Korea,” a country drowning in well-intended legislation and regulation, with a correspondingly sclerotic economy kept alive only through generous government subsidies. Then, in 1984, the foreign credit lines that funded the subsidies suddenly ran out, precipitating a financial crisis and new elections.
In such a situation, some would have doubled-down on socialism, nationalized everything, opted for full state control and ownership, and ended up like Venezuela. But ironically the newly elected Labour Party government – usually a proponent of left-wing solutions – took the opposite path under its farsighted finance minister Roger Douglas. The economy was radically deregulated, state companies were privatized, and subsidies were eliminated. The new polices, dubbed “Rogernomics,” restored New Zealand’s prosperity and made its economy one of the freest in the world. (The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom currently puts New Zealand at #3 out of 180 countries, just behind Hong Kong and Singapore.)
You learn all that in Trailblazers: The New Zealand Story, an upbeat, well-organized documentary that relates these events in an easily comprehensible way through interviews with government officials, entrepreneurs, and ordinary New Zealanders — all against a backdrop of lovingly photographed New Zealand countryside.
The story told is instructive and one worth remembering. Virtually all democratic governments worldwide seem to be headed, in varying degrees, in the direction of eventual fiscal crisis. It’s mighty handy that New Zealanders have, through their own example, shown the path back to stability and prosperity, for those with the courage to follow it.
How to See It
“At one time, New Zealand had the most government-controlled economy that existed outside the Iron Curtain. The government impacted every aspect of a person’s life. Government permission was even required to subscribe to an overseas magazine since it was considered an economic import. By 1984, New Zealand was in serious financial crisis and unable to borrow any more money. Finance Minister Roger Douglas, a member of the left-leaning Labour Party, took office the midst of this chaos, implementing a dramatic change in government thinking. He instituted the most radical economic liberalization reforms, dubbed “Rogernomics,” ever seen. The reforms resulted in hardship on the road to recovery, but most say the end results have been worth the efforts. New Zealand has since emerged as a world leader in economic freedom. Our new documentary, Trailblazers: The New Zealand Story, explores this transformation, introducing us to the bold politicians who stayed the sometimes-bumpy course, as well as many of the extraordinary people who’ve built new lives for themselves, their families, and their fellow Kiwis by seizing the economic opportunity that resulted.”
–Free To Choose Media