This is an election year. But the election that really matters for the future of New Zealand hasn’t been discussed at length in any New Zealand media outlet. In fact, the actual election is never discussed in the media.
It doesn’t matter who comes in and out of Parliament every 3 years. While politicians exercise a lot of power during their time in office – particularly if they’re a cabinet minister – it really is temporary power.
The permanent power still resides in the bureaucracy and its associated organs even after decades of structural reform. The best insight into what this segment of Wellington is thinking is simply to listen to National Radio.
The election that really matters is the fresh crop of policy analysts, the people who could conceivably work in the same area for the next 20-30 years.
In each department, for any potential policy, someone in Wellington opens up a blank Word document and starts typing.
This power is enormous – but the people who do this use phrases like “political neutrality” and “professional public service” to make any mention of any possible agenda when power is at stake seem ridiculous or conspiratorial.
In terms of economics, there is asymmetric information between politicians and their officials. Public choice economics is quite cynical – in fact, many dismiss some of its conclusions because “people couldn’t possibly be that ruthless”. It’s a shame that cynicism ends up being a valid strategy to examine some potential policy changes or legislative changes.