Thursday 22 December 2022

To be rescued from the Wellness Regime

TVNZ's "Creamerie" series was excellent. In it, a virus has killed off all the men. The surviving women implement a dictatorship of wellness. 

I wonder if its writers spent too much time dealing with the New Zealand public service. 

Josie Pagani skewers some dripping work out of Treasury.

The Treasury has released a new report to accompany its Living Standards Framework.

The framework is a salad of abstract concepts like ‘’knowledge’’, ‘’voice’’ and ‘’subjective wellbeing’’ attractively arranged in columns and bubbles with no development of logical relationships between them. Nor any use of old-fashioned analytic tools such as whole sentences.


I expect policy advice to highlight the costs and benefits of alternatives, to strip bare tradeoffs, and present practical menus of options. I expect sophisticated evaluation of whether policies are achieving what they are meant to.

When advice instead hides choices behind wellbeing mush, no political constituency is ever built for underlying ideas. If no-one can disagree with ‘’wellbeing’’ then no-one can ever win an argument for it either.

The idea of ‘’wellbeing’’ as a political project has emerged from the takeover of our social institutions by an educated middle class that thinks it's being progressive. Instead it signals its elite status.

Treasury is meant to be the government's lead economic advisor. Parts of it seem unfit for purpose. 

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