Doug Myers, morality and business

By   /   April 10, 2017  /   26 Comments

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Across the media Myers is being praised as a business leader and philanthropist yet he made money not through his own efforts but through using his massive inherited wealth to exploit the free-market economic policies he championed, as a leading light in the Business Roundtable, alongside the Labour Party of the 1980s. That wealth he gained was at the expense of middle and low-income New Zealanders who continue to struggle today to provide that triple lining to the pockets of the super wealthy.

I never met Doug Myers but in the anti-apartheid movement we battled his father Kenneth Myers in the 1970s and 1980s. Myers was Chair of the Board of South British Insurance – a company happy to reap profits from investments in apartheid South Africa.

Myers senior would pooh-pooh concerns about racism in South Africa when questioned at company AGMs. He’d say things to the effect that the company didn’t necessarily agree with apartheid but business was business…

We were successful with our insurance companies campaign which, after massive disruption to company AGMs and many public protests, ended when New Zealand Insurance and South British Insurance withdrew their investments from South Africa.

20 years later I wrote to his son Doug Myers about another issue where morality and business collided and received a similar response. Morality had no place in business.

Like father like son.

When I heard of Doug Myers death yesterday my first thought was to wonder if he was one of the “highest net wealth individuals” in New Zealand who declared incomes of less than $70,000 a year. (The Inland Revenue Department tells us that half this group don’t pay the top tax rate which comes in at $70,000)

In November 2013, the Herald published an interview with Myers which gave an insight into the idle lives of the super-wealthy:

“And he’s still having fun. He sold his luxury superyacht Senses. That’s freed up time to try other things. This year he’s been in New York with his son, fishing in Alaska, flew to Burgundy with friends to visit vineyards and then down to Tahiti to go fishing with Marlon Brando’s son.”

Across the media Myers is being praised as a business leader and philanthropist yet he made money not through his own efforts but through using his massive inherited wealth to exploit the free-market economic policies he championed, as a leading light in the Business Roundtable, alongside the Labour Party of the 1980s. That wealth he gained was at the expense of middle and low-income New Zealanders who continue to struggle today to provide that triple lining to the pockets of the super wealthy.

The November 2013 interview with Myers finished like this.

“Life’s not fair and you need to accept it and get on with it. And do the best with the hand you’ve been dealt.”

Myers would have said the same thing to African slaves.

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26 Comments

  1. garibaldi says:

    Well written John. I will certainly not mourn for him,nor praise his practices (personal and business).

  2. Wensleydale says:

    Although speaking ill of the dead doesn’t sit well with me, anyone with an ounce of intelligence could see Meyers for what he was. A free-market zealot, born into wealth, who believed, much like Roger Douglas, that only he and those like him had the purity of vision to see what needed to be done. That the country must take its foul-tasting economic medicine, irrespective of the damage done to lives, jobs and families, and the market will adapt and compensate accordingly, providing for the collective needs of the nation’s populace. Except that it didn’t. And misery ensued. Imagine the good he could have done had he channeled that fierce intelligence and indomitable will in an altogether different direction.

    RIP Douglas Meyers, and my condolences to your family.

    • Once ......... says:

      Speaking ill will of the dead – doesn’t sit well with me either.
      But since he put his shit out there, he surely can’t be surprised at a response (in the spirit of all he supposedly stood for after all – going forward)
      Deepest sympathy to the whanau for their loss. For the wider public ………. mmmmmmm, I’d rather my sympathies were directed towards all the policies and outcomes this 1%er stood for. (and there are countless of them).
      I’m not actually speaking ill will towards the guy – just all and everything the pratt (who wasn’t actually that good A BUSININESSMAN good at – but rather a reliant on ‘old money’) stood for.
      Let’s NOT once again get all sentimental and reinvent history on the basis of a death shall we?
      Next
      Next
      Chuck Berry
      Fred Dagg
      name your idol
      Doug (doogie Mires) Miars ( pass me a beer )
      NJext next next

  3. Quicksilver says:

    Hearing the usual fawning accolades when one of the elite parasites snuffs it reminds me how totally owned our MSM is.
    I shall bite my tongue here except to say, to the men and women of NZ who have actually dedicated their lives to helping others, with little or no recognition – I salute you. You are the real heroes of our society.

  4. WILD KATIPO says:

    “Life’s not fair and you need to accept it and get on with it. And do the best with the hand you’ve been dealt.”

    Myers would have said the same thing to African slaves.

    ——————————————-

    Perfect Epitaph.

    • Siobhan says:

      He came close… “In a large country, like Brazil, it is possible to tolerate extremes in living standards.”…to paraphrase the rest of the quote, “extremes of wealth in NZ would be embarrassing”, though, clearly, not morally wrong.

      I’m not sure when that quote was from, but I do wonder if inequality has come along enough for the likes of Sir Doug to have felt that, “yes, I can tolerate extremes in living standards in NZ”.

  5. Melacon says:

    In 1995 Douglas Myers, at that time chairman of the New Zealand Business Roundtable, introduced Professor Richard Epstein, Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, to the audience at an invitation-only meeting in Wellington. We were to hear the inaugural speech of the Sir Ronald Trotter Lecture series. The topic was The Role of the State in Education. In his introduction, Doug Myers described Richard Epstein “as the Hayek of our times”.
    It was not the lecture that remains in memory, but an informal meeting of several members of the Business Roundtable, which occurred in the centre aisle of the hall after most of the audience left. The person I was with had engaged me in conversation, hence us still being in the hall.
    As Doug Myers walked from the stage towards the group he said, “Well gentlemen, we have almost got the country where we want it.” Twenty-two years later the effects of their efforts are acceptable to some but disturbing to many. Some will praise what they did, many will decry it.

  6. rik says:

    Instead of donating Money to the Arts & the Business School, why not to Auckland Hospital’s A & E Department where many of his product’s consumers ended up?

  7. countryboy says:

    I hope the bastard’s burning in Hell.

  8. AB says:

    “Life’s not fair”. I get rather sick of this smug little line.
    Usually I respond:”that might be true, but it doesn’t give you the right to make it even more unfair than it would otherwise be. It might actually imply an obligation to try and make it more fair”

    In truth, people who trot out this line actually believe its opposite. They think life IS fair and that people get what they deserve. That gives them the licence to act with impunity because whatever the effect of their actions on others it is somehow deserved and therefore OK.

    And on top of that they are totally unable distinguish between natural unfairness and man-made unfairness. There is plenty of natural unfairness (some people die of cancer at 40 and others don’t, some people are beautiful or uniquely talented when most others aren’t etc.). I see no need to add to this natural unfairness with a whole pile of man-made unfairness on top.

  9. Kiwionthenet says:

    RIP to a great man

  10. Once ......... says:

    I’ll read the above later, but I imagine like Duggie Boy, a Haggerman (if that’s how spell this opportunist’s neo-lib master of the universe)’s whanau (oh Dear me! you’ve impuned my krectour – going forwid) sees it).
    Diddums!
    Dissums dissums dissums.
    I realise you’d have hoped he could die in his grave ‘str8’ – but like most of the oppressed you’re responsible for – maybe they’ll just have to wriggle.
    Life’s so cruel eh?. Welome top reality (going forward).
    And even if you’d one, I’d have placed bets on your being awarded a dollar – but even THAT wasn’t going to come to pass

  11. mosa says:

    ” Life is not fair and you need to accept and get on with it” !

    The temerity of the wealthy and inherited class who dispense advice on life but have never had to live the cold hard world that most of us have to inhabit on a daily basis without the cushion of entitlement and a personal fortune.

    And yet always have an opinion and want to influence how this country will be run to better suit their business needs and personal wealth advancement and how much of the scraps the rest of us will get once they have taken the rest.

    I cant wait for the day when we can take back control of our country’s destiny for the people who wont accept the hand they have been dealt and want and deserve a hell of a lot better than what the Doug Myers of this world think they should be grateful for.

    Then we can tell them its their turn to go to hell !

  12. Takere says:

    Rich privileged prick …

  13. CLEANGREEN says:

    Spoilt rich little brat!!!!!

  14. Jack Ramaka says:

    The guy was born with six silver spoons in his mouth.

  15. Paul Judge says:

    Death, the great leveller

  16. Michal says:

    I don’t see this column as speaking ill of the dead so much as I see it as speaking truth to power!

    Him and his ilk are privileged people who dole out money they shouldn’t have in the first place – they call it philanthropy. I am extremely cynical at such acts. He was never ever going to have a change in his own lifestyle, not like the pensioner who gives $20 to the city mission lets face it.

  17. I agree with you totally,John. I do think it’s harder for those born into privilege to see its inherent injustice and the damage it does, and their resistance to understanding social injustice only deepens as the culture of wealth is ground into the souls of the rising generations. The blinkers are tailor-made. It’s the systems that distorts self-affirm.
    So it HAS TO BE social movements that re-form the systems.
    And the tools to drive and steer the change are best sought in the humanities: disciplines that have been sidelined by technocrats as much as by economists and elitists.
    Lets hope (and work) for an education system that unveils the mechanisms of impoverishment instead of celebrating and rewarding them.

  18. Adam says:

    And of course he was supping with other people’s silver spoons – mostly cousins. Coleman v Myers is an important case about fiduciary duty, after he cleared herest of the family out of the business. https://www.oxbridgenotes.co.uk/revision_notes/law-company-law/samples/directors-duties-1-cases