Friday 8 March 2013

So where the bloody hell are ya?

Oliver Hartwich's column in the NBR reminded me of the old Australian tourism campaign that highlighted all the beautiful empty places there, then asked "So where the bloody hell are ya?"

Hartwich notes that New Zealand's openness to immigration and wide variety of skilled migrant categories for fast-tracked work visas that lead quickly to residence haven't turned into a flood of new immigrants; he says we gained a net 12 people in the year to January. Hartwich worries that the sales job we do for the tourists isn't the sales job we need to do to make people want to live here. "Clean and Green" is nice to visit. But there are lots of places like that.
New Zealand has far more to offer than its natural beauty. We should let the world know about it.
While the Australian tourism ads hide the ridiculously terrifying spiders, ours don't mention the cost of living. New Zealand is a very expensive place to live. Housing is exceptionally expensive for what you get by international standards. The government now seems committed to breaking the local urban planning nightmares that entrench high land prices. I hope they do a thorough job of it.

I agree with Oliver that the branding needs to change. New Zealand has an absolute advantage in beauty, but there are lots of other countries that have beautiful vistas. Our comparative advantage is our sane policy environment. We are growing insane more slowly than the rest of the world. There are threats to our "Outside of the Asylum" status. But, on the whole, we do well. Nobody here thinks the Prime Minister should have a button that lets him murder people, domestically or abroad, citizen or not, for example. And we don't have police checkpoints where thugs demand to know whether you're a citizen. New Zealand ranks as the most free country in the world. It's worth testing whether a campaign targeting that would work.

I met this morning with Chris Read, who took on my honours project this year to test the sensitivity of international migration to differences in measured freedom. That might be a first cut in seeing whether this kind of campaign could prove effective.

I worry that Americans claiming to love liberty, by revealed preference, might just really enjoy carping about civil liberties whenever their preferred party is in opposition. Few of the Democrats who hated what Bush did to civil liberties seem to mind when it's their guy with the murder-button; few of the Republicans rightly excoriating Obama said much when Bush started this all up. Moving, that's expensive, takes you far from friends and family, depreciates your social capital, and might cause an income drop. And being outraged on Twitter is more fun when the hated other team is in the same country. I'm starting to think that you people actually like US airport security because you get to complain about it when the other team is in office and fantasize about how your team would change things. Prove me wrong.

Oh - The Economist just listed New Zealand as the best place in the world for working women. We somehow managed this while having very free labour markets and minimal obligations placed on employers around maternity leave. Maybe New Zealand's been on the right track by subsidising daycare rather than making it really expensive to hire women of childbearing age. Again, we do well by being Outside of the Asylum.


  1. "Maybe New Zealand's been on the right track by subsidising daycare"

    Are you sure you're a libertarian?

  2. I said "rather than". You think employment mandates are better?

  3. No, but I do not see how they are worse, all else being equal. Should the taxpayer pay a little for someone else's choice to have a child, or should the employer pay rather more for employing someone who has a child?

  4. The upshot of the former is the usual dwl from income tax, with a net transfer to families having children. The upshot of the latter is a very strong disincentive to hire women of high maternity risk, with a rather large burden put on those women who cannot credibly commit to that they wish a highly focused career and are not planning on taking maternity leave.

    Maybe I could be convinced the latter is better on a "the worse the better, until the stink is so great the State collapses" argument, but I don't put much weight on its working out.

  5. One advantage for NZers if we could get immigrants of this type is that it would increase the number of voices in favour of retaining our relative freedoms. As a small country it wouldn't take much of an immigration change to start having a real impact on the centre of political gravity - towards freedom (social and economic). Sure, probably a pipe dream, but a nice one to imagine.

  6. ah yeah, we just love Australia, at the heart of a New Zealander is the love and admiration for the bigger brother

  7. If the libertarians can't get 20k to migrate to New Hampshire, I'm not optimistic that many would migrate here. Emigration is expensive, and most claiming a love of freedom really only love talking about it.