Starting in 2012, a quiet revolution began in the cities of New Zealand: the adoption of Living Wage policies. A powerful citizen’s movement, adopting quite similar tactics to those of the campaigners that secured Greater London’s Living Wage policy, secured similar commitments in city after city. In many ways this movement presaged and prepared the ground for Jacinda Ahern’s impressive campaign, victory and subsequent Premiership in New Zealand.
Through my UNISON connections with Deborah Littman, a fearsome force behind the establishment of the London Living Wage and an international campaigner for it, I came in contact with the movement and with the individual city councils who wanted to know the pros and cons of the policy.
New Zealand’s Treasury had produced a detailed but sceptical literature review. Auckland City Council asked me to review the review and paid me to do so. In the course of so doing, I consolidated an awareness I had already cultivated of the objective function of the institution of economics: to provide sophisticated, but profoundly wrong judgements about economic policies that conflicted with the doctrine of market perfection.
It would have been easy to respond to the review by simply pointing out the glaring and, I suspect, deliberate mistakes of interpretation and evidence collection in the Treasury review. But to do so would have been to enter into a kind of slugging match of opposed prejudices. This would have run counter to science. Pluralism compels us to examine, and carefully study the evidence for, the arguments of those we most deeply suspect, and present the case for both sides in such a way that the client, or as some might say, the victims, of the policies in question, may judge for themselves.
That is what I set out to do in my response.
The post contains:
- The Treasury review
- The brief for my response
- Other responses and materials I took into consideration, over and above the GLA research
- My response