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Roundtable and NZ Institute morph into new libertarian think tank

BUSINESSDESK: The country’s newest libertarian think tank, the New Zealand Initiative, was launched last night in Wellington, merging the New Zealand Business Roundtable and the New Zealand Institute into a new body to lobby for pro-market economic and social policies.

Leading the new organisation will be German-born economist Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich, a research fellow at the Australian Centre for Independent Studies, a Roundtable-equivalent organisation that at one stage had operations in New Zealand.

Former National Party Finance Minister Ruth Richardson is among the CIS’ former directors, along with former New Zealand Treasury Secretary Murray Horn and Geoff Ricketts, a Roundtable stalwart, tax expert and former director of the Fay Richwhite merchant bank.

While Dr Hartwich is a fresh face for New Zealand, he is a well-known television and print commentator in Australia on a wide range of economic issues from the eurozone crisis to welfare reform to the politics of climate change. 

Before his CIS involvement, he was chief economist at a UK think tank, Policy Exchange.

“The New Zealand Initiative is supported by a foundation membership of major company chief executives,” said roundtable chairman Roger Partridge, who also chairs law firm Bell Gully, and the institute’s chairman Tony Carter, who formerly headed the Foodstuffs co-operative and is chairman of Fisher & Paykel Healthcare.

Messrs Partridge and Carter will jointly chair the new body, which Mr Partridge said had occurred because both organisations “recognised that the New Zealand market was not big enough for two independent CEO think tanks and could see that by joining forces they could be much more effective.”

He added: “We found we had a strong sense of common purpose. We want to help shape the landscape and start a national conversation on ideas that have intellectual integrity and rigour and the potential for profound, positive long-term impact on the well-being of New Zealand."

The New Zealand Initiative would “build on the legacies of its two founding organisations and will focus on raising debate on public policy and contributing bold, rigorously-researched ideas to achieve a more prosperous future for New Zealand,” the co-chairmen said in a statement.

The roundtable was founded in 1985 and was an early private sector advocate of the economic reforms of the fourth Labour government. It was led throughout its history by former Treasury economist Roger Kerr, who died last year.

The New Zealand Institute was established after the 2003 “Catching the Knowledge Wave” conference, sponsored by the University of Auckland, and was initially envisaged as a less doctrinaire alternative think tank to the roundtable.

Its influence, however, appeared to wane after the departure of its original director, David Skilling.

Both organisations held to principles of non-partisan, public interest advocacy, which the New Zealand Initiative will also share.

The merger comes at a time when other business lobby groups are also merging or closing, most notably the recent folding of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development into Business New Zealand, the closure this week of the Greenhouse Policy Coalition, and the creation of a new Financial Services Council from several smaller bodies.

Comments and questions

Thanks for the article. For info on people using voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues, please see http://​www.Libertarian-Internation​ , the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization...

Hopefully will be useful in countering govt's tendency to vere left.

'Libertarian' and 'thinktank' are not words one would normally find juxtaposed.

Well said CP - 'Libertarian' is a much better bedfellow with 'immature crackpot'.

The immaturity and inaccuracy of this comment is astounding. There are many economists that agree businesses can run themselves best without appealing to a government, who often pushes their own agenda and not one of the people.

Then you need to get better informed.... Libertarian think tanks are found in many countries...with the thinkers some of them most respected academics in the world. Of course Libertarian values like freedom,protecting individual rights and peaceful voluntary free market interaction amongst people are only radical concepts to those who want to use force and to control the lives of others...

Spot on, James. Well said. And how sad that libertarian thought, the classical liberal notion of the free individual, is now so vilified in the West. The tyranny of the majority has sold our freedoms to politicians offering bribes in return.

There is a good reason it is "so vilified in the west" most think tanks are lobbyists under another name. "We think it is better for all if we do this" which usually translates to " We think it's better for us if we do this" With the all in the equation having to bear the brunt of the cost.

Is there really a need for another right wing think tank?

"Another" right wing think tank?

Unlike virtually all other OECD countries, NZ has no think tanks at all, apart from "The New Zealand Initiative".

This is either the cause or effect of the apalling lack of sophisticated political/economic debate in this country.

Our political media are obsessed with celebrity gossip, and the real issues are debated online (if at all).

Completely correct. Moreover NZ mass media journalists are almost universally economically, financially and numerically illiterate with disastrous results for an informed electorate.

The new Institute would do well to focus on promoting proper economic education in high schools so future generations will have the basic tools to deal sensibly with important issues. Much of the present generation is a lost cause.

Since wealth creation AND DEBT REPAYMNENT is PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT SOMEONE'S VOLUNTARY OR ENFORCED CONTRIBUTIONS AT THE EXPENSE OF HAND-TO-MOUTH CONSUMPTION (SAVINGs), should not the new think tank pay more attention to how to raise our personal and collective savings and investment rates (perhaps through elaborating on David Skillings "Ownership Society" concept?) - rather than continuing along libertarianist ideology, which perpetuates socio-economic polarization into haves and have-nots?

This is a very good description of the 'we know what's good for you' crowd so beloved of, and populated by, socialists.

Did any of the people who appointed this guy try reading some of his writing....


From the Brisbane Times:

Every vice is really a blessing in disguise
Oliver Hartwich
January 12, 2010.

"Thank God for the porn industry. The seemingly questionable industry does not care about morality, but is nevertheless a constant source of innovation and social improvement.

On Monday the Herald reported from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas where 3D porn was the hot issue for technology geeks this year. A porn actress, who had just starred in one of the industry's first 3D films, was quoted as being ''very excited'' to pioneer this new field. She should be. Once again, the porn industry turns out to be a force for good - unintentionally.

Schools will use new 3D television techniques to teach. Imagine how geography lessons will come alive if classes can virtually wander in faraway places using 3D glasses. Physics and chemistry experiments too dangerous or complicated for classrooms could also be shown on a 3D screen.

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Should the parents of the future wish to thank the brains behind these teaching improvements, they would be surprised. Far from being the result of some philanthropic engagement, the new technologies will have been conceived not in an ivory tower but as a byproduct of the sex industry.

Porn producers couldn't care less whether they were doing a service to society as long as they can line their pockets. Yet when you look at porn's track record, it has always been at the forefront of technological change. The development of video tapes and DVDs probably owes as much to the demand for sex movies as it does to less raunchy sorts of entertainment.

The internet is another case in point. With some justification, sexual needs could be called the mother of the web's invention. Without streaming videos of screaming porn stars, bandwidth would not have been added so fast to the global net. Online learning, iTunes and WebTV later benefited from an infrastructure that had been erected for something completely different.

But if porn is the mother, then another P is the father of the internet: the Pentagon. Had some military strategists not looked for a technology to make networking between their departments more efficient, the internet would have never started.

Good intentions pave the way to hell, but that's only half the truth. Even more astonishing is that selfish, dubious and even plainly evil plans often pave the way to a better future.

To students of literary classicism this is nothing new. In Goethe's Faust, the demon Mephistopheles describes himself as ''part of that force which would do evil evermore, and yet creates the good''. Two German journalists, Dirk Maxeiner and Michael Miersch, rightly called this insight ''The Mephisto Principle'' and wrote a book about. It carried the nice line ''Why it is better not to be good.''

Maxeiner and Miersch had a point, and that was before the invention of 3D porn. They noted, for example, there had never been a war between two nations if McDonald's had branches in both. It was trade, they claimed, that made countries co-operate peacefully, not some humanitarian ideals. Or, as the great French economist Frederic Bastiat put it: ''When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will.''

The economic crisis has made it popular to denounce all business activity as driven by excessive greed. This misunderstands the role of greed. You may be as greedy as you like, but if you don't produce good products and services you will never find customers to buy them. And if you treat your customers in an unfair way, you will soon enough lose them.

Entrepreneurs who are profit-driven - or greedy - have no other choice but to continuously improve their services, and in doing so inadvertently they do good.

There is not a single vice that could not also be a blessing in disguise. Laziness is no exception. Harry Truman once quipped that ''whenever you have an efficient government you have a dictatorship''.

That lazy government officials could be preferable was demonstrated nicely in Hong Kong. When it was still a British crown colony, its financial secretary, Sir John Cowperthwaite could not be bothered collecting extensive statistics; he just kept taxes low and regulation to a minimum. Whether this was genius or just plain laziness, it definitely helped to make Hong Kong one of the most prosperous places on the planet.

It's a thought to get used to. Sometimes a porn producer can do more good than a dutiful politician.

Dr Oliver Hartwich is a research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies."

And what's your problem with that? Doesn't he have a point?

The point is the guy does not know what he is talking about. Since when did the porn industry invent 3d television?

Far from being the result of some philanthropic engagement, the new technologies will have been conceived not in an ivory tower but as a byproduct of the sex industry


Sure they use the technology but the technology is not a byproduct of the sex industry.

If a guy is to be in charge of a think tank he really should base his thoughts on facts

I wouldn't base my decision on his ability to do his job in this instance, with his column writing.

Pack followers hate independents.

I'm interested to know what the new 'libertarian' NZI's stance is on monopoly fiat money?

Are they in favour of the centralised economic power of Reserve bank interest rate manipulations; hand in glove with the State's monopoly to print money?

Bunter. Socialism uses force. Libertarians promote choice, and the non-initiation of force.

But the anarchy without legally enforceable rules would not really suit libertarians either?

At last I'm starting to feel at home in the 21st century! When does Adolf return?

What many libertarians forget is that you need a strong, democratic state to guarantee individual freedom. Otherwise you end up with the freedom to get shafted.

Since the liberty to get the under-employed productive to let them "go west" and create farms in the wilderness does not exist anymore 0 ther are no huge reserves of cheap, empty lands - would not a systmatic life-long personal wealth creative (retirement) savings and investments rule be the most effective way to reduce widening welfare demands?