I am somewhat surprised to read that the Business Roundtable and New Zealand Institute are to merge.
The theory behind the merger appears to be that the country isn’t big enough for two economic think-tanks. But I just can’t see how the merger can work without one organisation swallowing the other.
The two organisations have traditionally looked at the economy from completely different perspectives. The BRT’s prescription for our ailments has typically been to promote a small-government low-tax minimal-regulation environment. Its neoliberal economic outlook harks back to the 1980s. Many people would argue that the current state of the world economy is proof that neoliberalism has been a total failure and that a new model is required.
By contrast the NZI’s reports on our economy have tended to be more focused on looking at the “big picture” stuff, like innovation, skills and economic development, but without assuming the answer lies in only one direction.
It would be tempting to think that the failure of neoliberalism has made the BRT unsustainable as an organisation, and that with the passing of Roger Kerr the think-tank is now prepared to look at other ways to grow the economy besides cutting taxes and bureaucracy.
But I suspect it will be difficult for the neoliberals within the BRT to throw away their religion that quickly.