NEW ZEALAND AS A MODEL
By Karl Arnold Belser
30 March 2015
I tried to write a short science fiction story called Zealand after my fourth trip to New Zealand
in 2004 because I was impressed with the way the country behaves.
I think New Zealand could be a model for the governmental structure in the rest of the world.
The country Zealand, the austral states of New Zealand and Australia, was the survivor of an apocalypse in the northern hemisphere. The reason these countries survived was because the northern and southern atmospheric hemispheres rotate in different directions with turbulence at the equator such that contamination from the north takes a very long time (thousands of years to get to the south.
I learned about this atmospheric separation first hand on my first trip to New Zealand in 1980 when I lay in the sun at my brothers home in Nelson and got a sun burn after fifteen minutes of exposure. The ultra violet (UV) light rays from the sun are much stronger in New Zealand than in the northern hemisphere because there is little particulate contamination in the air to block the UV. There are few active volcanoes and coal burning power plants in the southern hemisphere.
In my story the atmospheric separation would prevent the contamination from a nuclear war in the north from immediately destroying the lands in the southern hemisphere, Hence, everyone in the north might be killed by a nuclear war while leaving the southern hemisphere relatively untouched. This situation would give the people in the southern hemisphere a thousand years or so to figure out how to escape from earth. The problem with my story is that I could figure no realistic way to get people to a safer place. We are currently trapped on the planet Earth.
I just spent the last month visiting my brother and his family, and I am still intrigued with the behavior of the New Zealand people.
New Zealand is a sparsely populated country with an area about the size of Arizona but with an extent in latitude that corresponds to that of the United States from the Canadian to the Mexican borders. The population is currently about four and a half million people along with tens of millions of sheep, beef cattle and dairy cows. Huge forests of pine trees are raised like corn is raised in the US. The country is for the most part agricultural.
New Zealand does not allow genetically modified (GM) crops to be grown on its soil and it does not allow any nuclear powered ships to enter its waters or nuclear weapons to enter its territories. The country seems adamant about protecting its environment. Power is generated from hydro, geothermal and wind. I saw no fossil fuel power plants.
Even more importantly, the New Zealand government has implemented the social contract with its citizens in about the best way imaginable. My post Future Politics describes the importance of the social contract.
New Zealand has socialized medicine for everyone at a very low cost. It has a universal retirement system like the US social Security that covers everyone with the same annual income which is about two-thirds of the average New Zealand income. There may be poor people, possibly among the Maori indigenous population, but I saw no evidence of poverty anywhere I went, and I have now visited almost every major city in the nation. New Zealand's schools and universities are world class. Further the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) gave the Maoris excellent land, water and fishery rights, which is probably the most fair way any indigenous people were treated by European invaders. The Maoris still enjoy many of these rights today.
The nation has a positive trade balance, a balanced budget and relatively little national debt. It pays for the services it offers with a goods and services tax (GST) of fifteen percent on everything. There is also an income tax, but few people would have enough income to have to file for this taxation. The citizens seem happy. The standard of living is probably lower than in the United States as measured in dollars, but the quality of living is universally higher.
The government has a parliament and its representatives are chosen by plurality. The way it was explained to me is that every party gets elected representatives based on the proportion of the population voting for a certain party's candidate. Every party has a list of possible representatives whose top candidates fill the vacant seats in parliament. Several parties might have to join in order to form a government representing a majority of the population. This system insures that gerrymandering does not distort representation for minority groups like it does in the United States.
The rhetorical question I ask is: Given that a large number of countries are printing money and taking on enormous amounts of debt (quantitative easting) to maintain the standard of living of their citizens, why is New Zealand in such good shape financially with very little debt? The answer is not obvious, but I think that the root cause is that New Zealand citizens expect to pay for what they spend money on. So they have to make a decision about the worthiness of any expenditure.
For example, New Zealand has many main roads that are gravel (unsurfaced), many one-lane bridges, and some one-lane tunnels. I heard political candidates arguing about the trade offs between developing a sinking fund to pay for retirement and medical instead of replacing bridges and tunnels. The argument was that the one-lane and infrastructure in roadways are really not causing any problem. Why fix it if the infrastructure is not broken. Why burden the nation with a lot of debt if one doesn't really need to. Why not pay for the promises that the government makes.
I cannot imagine the United States ever behaving in this responsible manner. The United States has some two hundred trillion dollars (net present value) in promises for retirement and medical, which will be impossible to pay out. Few US politicians will even talk about this problem, much less about creating a sinking fund to cover these future costs.
I suspect that I have painted a more optimistic picture of New Zealand than any New Zea lander might paint. There are certainly problems that I am not aware of. However, the big picture seems pretty good, and I would hope that some of the nations in the northern hemisphere might follow in New Zealand's footsteps.
My conclusion is that there is hope for a good outcome in the uncertain future because at least one nation, New Zealand, is willing to forgo current spending to protect the future both environmentally and economically.
Last updated March 30, 2015
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