True enough -- but it's not quite enough. Reflecting on Douglas achievements from 1984-88, Douglas' former colleague Michael Bassett called the Lange/Douglas reforms "a revolution of sorts," but even if a new generation of activists has apparently been sold the line that a revolution was what was had back then, it's time to be reminded that it wasn't one at all.
Recall for instance that when Lange called for his famous 'cup of tea and a lie down,' Douglas had just announced both a Flat Tax (which everyone now remembers) but also an accompanying welfare scheme called the 'Guaranteed Minimum Family Income,' which everyone now would like to forget -- paricularly Douglas supporters. It would have done for New Zealanders what Helen's 'Working for Familes' has only just done - made most New Zealanders into welfare moochers. If this was a revolution, it's no wonder it was one that today's Labour ministers were able to buy into.
Lindsay Perigo, who as the country's foremost interviewer at the time was front and centre for that whole era, rejects absolutely any idea that it was a "revolution," even "of sorts." Talking to an American audience ten years ago about the myth of revolution, Perigo explained how the various reforms have ultimately failed — and describes the philosophical revolution it will take for liberty to succeed":
When I first spoke on a similar topic to an [American Objectivist] gathering in 1995, I said that New Zealand was a nation reformed by Hayekians, run by pragmatists & populated by socialists. The editor of 'Liberty' magazine, Bill Bradford, quoted that line in his March 1997 'Liberty' article, 'Revolution in a Small Country,' a glowing account of the nature, scope & future of New Zealand's economic reforms...As the man says, I commend it to your attention: 'In the Revolution's Twilight.'
In a fit of ridiculous hyperbole, Mr Bradford implicitly likened New Zealand's revolution to the Industrial Revolution itself; he called it the "one occasion in the twentieth century when the Leviathan State has been successfully challenged," and described its architect, Sir Roger Douglas, as "the most effective libertarian politician of this century" who "slew the statist dragon."
Well, I hate to be a party-pooper, but Bill Bradford was wrong on all counts. The Industrial Revolution analogy is self-evidently fatuous; the Leviathan State in New Zealand is as invasive and pervasive as ever — indeed, more so; and Sir Roger Douglas, effective politician though he undoubtedly was, was and is most assuredly no libertarian. What the New Zealand experience affords, is — an intriguing object lesson in how far one can go, in a democracy, in making economic changes without a proper philosophy, without a popular mandate, and therefore, without accompanying attitudinal changes.
And as I've said myself before, if it's a revolution you really want, then the place in which to start is with that attitudinal change -- getting a revolution going on inside New Zealanders' heads.