Retreating for good

Dr Eric Crampton
Insights Newsletter
12 April, 2024

Adam Smith warned that meetings of people of the same trade quickly turn into conspiracies against the public or contrivances to raise prices.

He neglected to mention the benefits of meetings of people from vastly different trades. Their common interest is in good policy, sound markets, and an environment for prosperity.

The Initiative’s members span the breadth of the economy. Our annual Members’ Retreat last week was excellent.

Members discussed the challenges they face in their sectors, heard from Ministers and Opposition spokespeople about their policy agendas, and learned from subject experts on important topics.

The two retreats we have had in the first year of new governments seem to have had a different energy than others. Ministers are fresh to portfolios. There has not been time for them to be captured by officials or to be shuffled away from the portfolios over which they have laboured for years in opposition.

Our members heard from the Ministers of education, transport, social development, regulation and housing. In each case, Ministers were not just passionate about fixing the policy messes that they face. They also presented ideas for change that reflected sound public policy principles – often guided by work the Initiative has produced.

We will continue to help advance better policy. Senior Fellow Michael Johnston leads a team reforming the curriculum for Minister Stanford. During his address, Minister Bishop said I am to be on a small team of urban economists helping with housing reform. I served on a similar team advising on Associate Minister Twyford’s urban growth agenda.

We heard great ideas from outside of government policy circles, too.

Canterbury University engineer Alan Scott outlined new research at the country’s universities on carbon sequestration and storage.

One of those ideas is being trialled by a Canterbury-based startup led by Mark Chadderton, who told us about his work. If their project is fully successful, global warming becomes a solved problem. Their work is recognised by Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy initiative and is in contention for Elon Musk’s XPrize for carbon removal.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s Rangimarie Hunia explained how their iwi is driving better outcomes for their community.

And The Australian’s Greg Sheridan challenged us to take foreign policy more seriously. The geopolitical environment is far less benign.

This year’s retreat was excellent. And if next year’s brings reports from Ministers delivering on the vision they outlined this year, it will be even better.

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