If I Had a Magic Wand ... | Opinion

If John Key could implement any policy he wanted tomorrow … it would be to change the flag. (I’d vote for Kyle Lockwood’s design.) But in all seriousness, if we could magically make anything relevant to our nation’s governance happen, what would it be?

My first act would be to legalise cannabis, because, as recent Transport Agency public service announcements suggest, New Zealand seems to be well adjusted to it by now. Bakeries are also on board – they can’t wait for the increase in business as well the daily comic relief. Oh, and apparently Dunedin can be like Amsterdam (instead of a smaller Wellington).

My second act would be to grant residency to international students who have graduated in New Zealand. I’m open to some fine-tuning on this policy proposal, but it would help with our current chronic skills shortage. Also, we would be incentivising study in this country. Considering that international students pay unsubsidised tuition fees, each of them contributes far more to the economy than domestic students: they pay more to the University they attend, improving that institution in the process, and they bring a substantial amount of money into the country on an individual basis. Plus, if rich people can get residency in New Zealand, why is it not the same for young students who want to make an honest go for themselves in an awesome country?

I would make polluters pay. To offset the inevitable increase in the cost of living, income and corporate taxes should be reduced, as should GST. Taxing positive contributions to the economy, such as productive work and market transactions, is counterproductive. Taxing negative externalities such as pollution puts pressure on polluters to find better alternatives or to pollute less. I would also give the negative income tax a go and scrap the minimum wage.

Why not wave my wand at poverty?

Stopping at-risk (and ordinary) youth from having their employment and travel prospects hindered by possession of a harmless drug will prevent some poverty. Reducing the impact of pollution, which exacerbates certain conditions most prevalent among the poor, will also help to reduce poverty. Getting rid of the minimum wage will get some unemployed into work. Supplementing incomes by way of a negative income tax will give the working poor a break. Allowing international students to stay in New Zealand and to contribute to the economy of a country they love helps us all.

I was waving my wand at poverty.
This article first appeared in Issue 23, 2013.
Posted 2:39pm Sunday 15th September 2013 by Guy McCallum.