I may have complained about John Key's willingness to invest what are essentially pension funds into New Zealand infrastructure. I was not alone in complaining. But maybe that is not the end of the story.
Kiwiblog picked up on John Key's Wall Street Journal interview yesterday, and the UK's Adam Smith Institute blog mentions it also, with a headline 'New Zealand: A beacon of hope'. Neither publication is known for its socialist or interventionist leanings.
What is notable is Mr Key's terse but user-friendly way of expressing himself. It is unusual in a politician and refreshing. It reminds me of the way commentators comb through any words uttered by the US president (any US president) to look for intentions and meanings.
But there is also some clear thinking. For what little it is worth, his interview has earned a lot of Brownie points with The Optimist.
I found this passage particularly enightening:
The Key government also is wary of climate change orthodoxy. "Half of all of our emissions come from agriculture," he says, meaning cows "burping and farting." "We don't have an answer to that. . . . So at the moment, we either become more expensive or we cut production. And neither of those options are terribly attractive." Mr. Key is reviewing the economic impact of the previous government's cap-and-trade plan. "New Zealand needs to balance its environmental responsibilities with its economic opportunities, because the risk is that if you don't do that -- and you want to lead the world -- then you might end up getting unintended consequences."
Environmentalists would argue that when there are no answers, we must stop the activity. This is why they are often accused of wanting us to go back to living in tents next to the Nile. Mr Key comes from the angle that agriculture is happening, and rather than shut it down and do something else we should wait for answers. 'We don't have an answer to that' is the end of the story, for the moment.
Some would call this 'If in doubt, leave it out'.
There is a terrible risk with a crisis that the hand-wringers take over. Do something! Do anything! If what we do is a disaster, we can fix it up later, perhaps after our economy has been savaged by shutting down agriculture.
But there needs to be a strong strand in public policy of what might be called 'existing use rights' in environmentalist language. It seems to me that Mr Key has some respect for the status quo and is wary of tipping out the baby with the bathwater. This is of great comfort.
The parallels between environmentalists and what we might call 'recessionists' are strong. Both point to unique and new problems never before seen. Both declare that if we do nothing the world will end. Both demand urgent new action involving massive spending and new regulation.
At the moment, those who worry that the UK, USA and Australia will savaged by public sector debt, or environmentalism, have little comfort to keep them warm at night. Here in New Zealand the chill is still present, but Mr Key is keeping the fire on.