After more than a quarter of a century, the NBR Rich List 2012 still draws a variety of strong reactions, many of them negative.
My description last year that we should treat those successful in business as “national treasures” was especially controversial.
It would appear many New Zealanders – probably even a majority – object to wealth, even though by world standards this country’s levels of prosperity are modest indeed.
The campaign against the government’s decision to sell part of its shareholding in a few power stations has been framed as a debate between selling “our assets” to the wealthy few – and even foreigners, to boot.
But this discounts the phenomenal success of KiwiSaver and the high level of investments and savings by the vast majority of households.
So is this antipathy to wealth only generated by a hardcore minority, who reflect the opinions of those on the political left, abetted by the media and academia?
The answer would appear to be positive, given the lack of understanding of how wealth is generated and the role of private enterprise in the economy.
The Rich List provides insights into what one group of New Zealanders – and some foreigners who have invested here – have achieved. This has been at a time when many have lost the bulk of their savings with unwise investments in finance companies.
The lucky ones were bailed out by other taxpayers, through government guarantees, at the cost of more than a billion dollars and more debt for future generations.
The government is now committed to programmes in financial literacy. The Rich List has already provided this over 26 years, through booms and busts.