The 10 great neoliberal myths of NZ


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30 years of neoliberalism in NZ has created important pillar myths that need to constantly be reinforced and worshiped unquestionably. We are not allowed to challenge these scared cows, we must not ever disagree with them and we must always accept them. Attempting to unpick these myths threatens the structural integrity of the pillars neoliberalism has established and will see your opinion marginalised or sidelined for pundits who preach the free market gospel.


10: Rugby! Rugby! Rugby! 


It is vitally important that the public are kept distracted by corporate rugby at all times. It keeps us locked into an anti-intellectualism that promotes public sphere debate to be focused on sport rather than societal and political issues. Distractions for the masses is an old game, but this focus ignores the fact that NZ is an incredibly creative country ripe for challenging and questioning the very limitations a Rugby first culture generates. Look at the World Economic Forum where we are ranked as the 3rd most creative country in the world…

- Sponsor Promotion -

These are the world’s most creative countries
How is creativity connected to global economic development? A new study by the Martin Prosperity Institute, titled the Global Creativity Index 2015, presents a new model of economic development. It calls this the “3Ts” – talent, technology and tolerance – and ranks 139 nations on each of these pillars, as well as their overall measure. The three dimensions are described as follows:

1. Technology – Research and development investment, and patents per capita
2. Talent – Share of adults with higher education and workforce in the creative class
3. Tolerance – Treatment of immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians

…by ignoring our creative talent for a Rugby über allies culture we shut down the ability to question ourselves which is why Key is so wedded to the All Blacks.


9: Clean & Green


It is vital for neoliberalism that the myth of NZ being clean and green is never questioned. The pollution our powerful farming lobby get away with because of their close connections to the National Party can occur because we lie to ourselves about the level of real pollution we create. This need to hide our pollution was the main driver by Key as Tourism Minister to dump our 100% Pure marketing logo as it opened us up to claims of greenwashing by European markets. The achilles heel of free market capitalism is its need to destroy the environment with its endless growth model so the myth that we are not polluting our environment has to be a powerful one. You can see the power of that ignorance when you consider that NZ has one of the highest percentage of climate deniers in the developed world. 


8: Poverty denial


It’s important for neoliberalism that we pretend to still be an egalitarian nation. That pretence means that the system can never be challenged. Despite housing affordability now being the worst ever on record, and inequality soaring…

Nearly one in three New Zealand children ‘living in poverty’
“Child poverty – it’s not choice.” That’s the message that outgoing Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills wants to spread through social media in a challenge to Government policy.

His latest annual Child Poverty Monitor, out today, says children living in households earning below 60 per cent of the median household income after housing costs, have almost doubled from 15 per cent of all children in 1984 to 29 per cent last year. Children hospitalised with poverty-related illnesses more than doubled in the 1990s and have increased further in the recent recession.

“Everything points to things being far tougher than they were 30 years ago. That’s not right in a country like ours and it’s not fair,” said Dr Wills, whose five-year term as Children’s Commissioner ends in June. “Today I’m asking New Zealanders to show they share our concern by spreading the message #itsnotchoice.

If they visit our website they can take part in a selfie campaign and show that we’re all behind the need for things to change for our kids.”

Political scientist Dr Bryce Edwards said the message was “a beautiful contrast” with Prime Minister John Key’s claim in 2011 that “anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice”.

…we must always pretend that we are an equal country. Poverty denial means we never have to confront the uncomfortable truths of privilege.  The 305 000 children living in poverty are constantly decried as ‘relative’ poverty so that their plight is never taken seriously.


7: A benign Government


The growing nature of the Police state in NZ has to always be hidden behind the veneer of the Government being benign. The search and surveillance powers given to state departments and Police, 24 hour warrantless surveillance powers of the SIS, the mass surveillance powers of the GCSB – all of these powers have occurred with bugger all judicial oversight. The alarming increase in budgets and unchecked power for our intelligence apparatus has been allowed because NZers think Key is benign, if a Labour Government had attempted to bring these vast erosions of civil liberties into power, every mainstream media outlet would be calling for open revolution, such is the strength of the double standards of the NZ voter. Privatising the state security services is an abomination that is barely discussed.


6: NZ settled ‘peacefully’

290513 The Marlborough Express Al Nisbet cartoon

NZ needs to pretend that our history is the whitewashed version espoused by Key…

New Zealand ‘settled peacefully’ – PM
New Zealand was “settled peacefully” by the British, the prime minister says, despite thousands dying in the land wars after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.

…Over half our prison population are Maori. Maori perform poorer in education. Maori face deeper poverty and inequality. Maori lost 95% of their land in a century and were almost wiped out as a race.

We have a Police force who admitted last year that they have an ‘unconscious bias’ towards Maori and a mainstream media who didn’t even mention this astounding announcement. You have a GCSB and SIS who were just outed as racist scum yet gain more and more and more unchecked power.

Just think about that for a moment – if the US or Australian Police admitted they are biased against minorities it would have led media there – it happens in NZ and no one mentions it.

Think land confiscations are history footnotes? You have had one of the largest land confiscations in NZs history when Labour stole the foreshore and seabed and you have a new land confiscation looming as the Maori Party work with National to lower the threshold for collective Maori land decisions.

You don’t hear those stats much when we talk about Waitangi Day – you hear white people moaning that they can’t really enjoy Waitangi Day because Maori keep whinging about all the lies, broken promises and land confiscations that have made the Treaty look like a joke.

We are casual about everything in NZ and this is especially true of our racism. We have a dark garden variety bigotry towards everyone not white in NZ, Asians, Pacific Islanders and Maori all suffer from it daily.

In a depoliticised wasteland that is our mainstream media where a racist like Paul Henry and a rich bigot like Mike Hosking control most of the airwaves, this real debate about our racism sits unchallenged in the corner like that drunk South Island relative you only see at Christmas, ready to pounce at any moment with their ill educated brain farts.


5: Social Policy is research based and Private sector beats Public sector

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Under National, empirical evidence has been replaced with ideological nonsense. Private prisons, charter school, weakening worker rights and privatising state housing has no evidence of working, but National do it anyway. Look at how the booze industry has managed to just fund its own ridiculous research to try and mould social policy. Look at how Treasury was ignored that a sugar tax would work…

Treasury’s advice on soft drink tax revealed
Treasury told Government ministers a tax on soft drinks was one of the “most promising” options to cut high obesity levels, newly released documents show.

…ideology over facts and the move to privatise state services is an essential myth of neoliberalism…

The private sector is more efficient than the public sector
The abiding myth of mainstream economics is that governments should minimize their role in the economy – or, put another way, get out of the way of the accumulative drive of the rich. It’s an ideological position that suits governing elites and has led, among other things, to a fire sale of public assets and the increasing privatization of what were once public goods and services. The magic of the market and the vigour of private enterprise will make the cream of cost-effectiveness and efficiency rise to the top. At least, that’s how it’s spun.

Increasingly also, sell-offs are seen as a way for governments to ‘cut debt and plug budget deficits’, regardless of common-sense doubts that this may not be for the best as, usually, you can’t sell the same thing twice. Thus The Wall Street Journal applauded Australia and New Zealand/Aotearoa’s record privatizations in 2013, by gushing: ‘Their privatization sprees have injected needed cash into government coffers and freed the governments to focus on their core missions while injecting life into both markets.’


4: Rape Culture


We ignore the devastating impact of women treated as second class citizens and abused by rape culture. Tens of thousands of victims of sexual assault and rape have gone without any justice and the response is total silence. If we were serious about combating rape we would have proper sexual education programs in all schools that included consent lessons and would run mass media social advertising campaigns telling men that this is not acceptable, but when the focus is on the individual, we ignore hegemonic structures of power in society.


3: An independent South Pacific nation


Before the election Key said he would’t send troops into Iraq, after winning the election he promptly u-turned and agreed to send troops. Key said it was the price of being in the ‘club’, it was a line he would live to regret because what we saw in 2015 was Key’s total acquiescence to American Empire. Consider

Key’s desire to sign up to the TPPA highlights just how much we have lost our own voice as an independent nation.


2: The poor are to blame for being poor


One of the most important myths of neoliberalism is that the poor choose to be poor. Key claims child poverty and inequality is all about the poor taking drugs and that they ‘breed for money’. Blaming the poor for being poor absolves us of any obligation to do anything and it allows us to ignore our skyrocketing suicide rates.

Look at the mentality of the National Government who at one stage in 2010 tried to not allow funeral costs for the families of suicide victims because, as Nick Smith put it, ‘suicide is not an accident’. That cruelty mirrored Nick Smith trying to deny rape victims any counselling by defining rape as an ‘acute event’ rather than a mental illness.

Our under funded social infrastructure, our ‘me first’ consumerism, our 30 years of neoliberal mythology, our disconnection from one another, our untreated pain, our lack of hope from grinding poverty in a first world country, our toxic masculinity, our unspoken rape culture, our inability to express emotion beyond anger – all of this demands questions we don’t want to hear as a society and the shame of suicide continues to hide and smother any healing.

297 people died on NZ roads in 2014, 564 people took their own lives in that time.

We spend millions on road safety based on the premise that the road toll is a public health issue yet we don’t put any of that effort or political will into a suicide rate that dwarfs our road toll. Why? Because politicians don’t want the answer as to why so many of our fellow citizens decide to end their life in this supposed ‘gods own’.

1: We are a little battler country

Our greatest myth is that NZ is a tiny country, battling above its weight against huge countries. That is the reason we can’t do anything meaningful about climate change, that is the reason we don’t really have an ‘real’ poverty and it’s why we simply follow rather than lead any longer.

The truth is this lie is a necessary one used to lower our expectations. Here is the truth…

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…we play this ‘we are a tiny country’ schtick to avoid having to actually make any changes.


30 years of neoliberalism has empowered a few at the cost of the many yet we have a middle so desperate to be one of those that have ‘succeeded’ that we have lost focus on the values that make us New Zealanders.


  1. Great post Martyn. The map of New Zealand superimposed on Europe blew me away. We should get over our inferiority trip.

  2. The ” 3Ps ” are the Planet, People and Profit , and ALL in that order.
    Recently I considered changing the last ” P ” to Prosperity.

  3. Yes, Martyn.

    Not sure about the order, since rugby, the great distractor that stops people thinking, comes first most of the time.

    National Party slogan: ‘A better, brighter future.’

    They just didn’t say who would be getting it on their billboards.

    They meant corporate elites, plunderers and sociopaths, of course.

    Dumbed-down New Zealanders thought it applied to them.

    With everything that matters now going rapidly down the drain, presumably the next election round will feature:

    “No one could have seen it coming.”

    “Russia and China are to blame.” (Could be North Korea or Syria.)

    “Strong leadership from an experienced team will be needed to pull us through.”

    National’s forte is Orwellian bollocks that fools the uninformed.

  4. @ Waz . I know right ! ?

    But more amazing is this little pondered fact.

    There’s only 4.3 million of us!

    If that map was scaled to represent people per hectare? NZ would spread from Paris to Tokyo. That’d make NZ 11.6 times larger than the UK @ the UK’s 50 million.
    Blow a map of NZ up 11.6 times then do the comparison.

    That’s outrageous ! Do I have my figures right ? I’m numerically dyslexic

    There are 28 New Zealand’s in the USA as land area.

    NZ @ 268,021 sq km
    USA@ 7,663,941 sq km

    There are 74 New Zealand’s in the USA as Population.

    NZ @ 4.3 million
    USA @ 319 million.

    I have no idea what that all means.

    Perhaps it means we have a huge country when measured against people per sq K . And filthy rich in yadda,yadda,yadda’s .

    Now, what might that mean to an over populated world running out of shit?

    The 1 %’er gentrification of NZ mate.

    Could be worse. Maybe this’ll work out in our favour. I’m serious.

    I love the above photo of DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. I remember that particular scene well. I worked with Margo Robbie actually. Yes, I am that flash. She liked my dog. She was ambivalent towards me thank God. She’s gorgeous ! I mean really. She’s a lovely person…. and gorgeous ! OMG .

    Do you remember the real Wolf of Wall Street, once out of prison and speaking to Auckland’s investor hoards? No? Then watch the film. Quite bizarre. Quite apropos.

    A problem that’s developing is that we’re being programmed to loath those who are well heeled. We will ultimately hate the rich. We will feel inferior and subservient to the rich and the rich will be afraid of us and will , in turn, hate us back.

    That’s neo liberalism for ya. All cock and no class darling. If our rich were also classy ? They’d know how to treat us well and show us respect. But not our pack of fuckers. They’re mean and they like to be mean. They are , in fact , going to be their own undoing.
    Give a deviant fool like jonky and education and this is what you get.

  5. Shame we haven’t had some half decent politicans and Government over the last 30-40 years, we are in a right mess which has been caused by incompetent politicans?

    • No Jack – the politicians are VERY competent at implementing the neoliberal agenda. That’s the whole point of parliamentary democracy as we know it today. That’s why the working class is in the mess we are in today.

  6. On the last one, the myth of New Zealand being a “little battler”.
    The neo-liberals jump on either side of the fence here depending on what they think they can get.
    When they have a burst of energy they bring up the “New Zealand for a small country punches well above its weight” myth. This is when they want to talk about something that will distract everyone from the other items on the list. Almost inevitably the topic goes onto sport, usually rugby.
    However sometimes they jump the fence and go into depression about how New Zealand is just a small isolated little backwater that shouldn’t get grandiose notions of what it can achieve on the international stage. When this argument is trotted out it is usually because they can’t be bothered doing anything that sounds like hard work – you know – dealing with annoying things like the degrading environment, workers rights, refugees or famine in Africa.
    “We can’t do anything, we are too small to make a difference” is their cry. They are always good for finding excuses for doing nothing. I suppose that is appropriate for a political ideology that believes a government should act like a non-government.
    We also need a list of the top ten truths about neo-liberals.

  7. ‘Look at the World Economic Forum where we are ranked as the 3rd most creative country in the world…’
    All achieved during an extended period of hyper rugby focus. I wonder if the two things are simply and completely unrelated, despite Bomber’s fetish.

  8. ‘Look at the World Economic Forum where we are ranked as the 3rd most creative country in the world…’


    ‘It keeps us locked into an anti-intellectualism that promotes public sphere debate to be focused on sport rather than societal and political issues.’

    Maybe they’re completely unrelated and the author is just having a bit of a less than coherent rant.

  9. Neo liberal economics has been one big con job, the privatisation of State Assets which have been built up over generations of taxpayers funds have been siphoned off for a pittance to cronies of Government Officials in the Private Sector.

    These State Assets were Cash Cows generating good long term cash flows to help support Government and the Taxpayers. Why do you think neo liberal businessmen are in Government, surely they are not doing it for the well being of society and the lower socio economic groups?

  10. Great blog so keep me posted. Have voted since the early sixties so plenty of PM’s have gone by. Did not like all of them but all had some redeeming features.
    Sad to say our present PM has nothing going for him as far as I am concerned.However his bread and circuses keep the population happy.

  11. The mantra of neoliberalism was always that if the rich pay less tax, then the money would “trickle-down” to the poor and the country as a whole gets richer.

    Now they don’t even bother with that pretence any more. The 30 year revolution is complete as New Zealand approaches its most unegalitarian state in 50 years. My folks emigrated here and New Zealand was a paradise, there were 53 people unemployed and the Minister of Unemployment knew them all by name. Now New Zealand is a sad,composite pastiche of Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984. Oxfam identified the great inequality in the middle of last year and no doubt it has deteriorated further. (

    Your list of 10 myths shows the modus operandi of these fascists and 2017 can’t come soon enough.

  12. Great writing, I knew some of this, but to have it laid out in one place, and knowing that it will take either a revolution or a very strong political group to reverse this decay. Made me feel sorry for the future generation in this country, once referred to as “GOD’S OWN”

  13. I knew most of this, but to have it laid out in one article made me realise it will take a revolution or a very strong political group to reverse the decay in this country. I really feel sorry for the future generations in this land, once referred to as God’s Own.”

  14. I have looked into the Martin Prosperity Institute , the Global Creativity Index and the ” 3Ts ” and have difficulty buying into what I think is more neo-liberal bullshit. I would prefer to see attention directed towards the ” 3Ps “, that of the Planet , the People and then Profit , all in that order of priority.
    New Zealand is certainly lacking in respecting the ” 3Ps ” and we need look no further than the burgeoning dairy industry degrading our waterways right down to the ocean as a sorry example.
    Perhaps the last” P ” , profit , might be supplanted by a better word , that of Prosperity. We the baby boomers should be ashamed of inaction of the past past thirty and the next twenty years given the sad legacy the two generations hence WILL inherit.

  15. “…drunk South Island relative you only see at Christmas, ready to pounce at any moment with their ill educated brain farts.”

    Here’s a brainfart for you, go fuck yourself you supercilious northern wanker.

  16. The article should be titled” Another 10 stupid beliefs of the left”and one which which will ensure that despite needing an effective opposition in N.Z, the left are incapable of doing so and are so, out of touch with middle New Zealand that it is a joke.

    • Jimbob, Dave, and Dumb Southern Drunk; the intellectual wing of the Right; incapable of any rigorous analysis of issue. Like monkeys in a zoo, capable only of flinging their poo at something they don’t like or fully understand…


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