Starting in the 1930’s, New Zealand built a sprawling welfare state designed to insulate its citizens from the devastation wrought by the Great Depression. Said state kept growing to the point where by the 80’s, New Zealand arguably had more in common with communist states than with other Western democracies. State-owned corporations controlled large chunks of the economy, from forestry to manufacturing. Government regulations dictated everything, from what prices shops were allowed to charge, to how many products factories were allowed to manufacture, to how far truckers were allowed to transport goods. The top marginal tax rate was 66 percent.
While New Zealand prospered in the 1950’s and 60’s, the seed corn always runs out. By the time the 70’s rolled around, New Zealand was one of the poorest countries in the West, deeply in debt and borrowing like mad to keep the lights on. Exports to the U.K. collapsed following that country’s entry into the European Economic Community, worsened by the New Zealand dollar being artificially pegged to the U.S. dollar. Innovation died out, as businesses focused on appeasing the country’s all-powerful bureaucracy rather than improving the quality of their products or services. Emigration to Australia and other countries skyrocketed, along with the unemployment rate.
At the center of New Zealand’s economic dysfunction was Prime Minister Rob Muldoon. Much like other Right-wing parties in the West after World War II, Muldoon’s National Party had long given up on being conservative and instead tried to out-Left the Left at every election. Muldoon came to power in 1975 after promising to replace the incumbent Labour government’s superannuation (pension) scheme with one that paid out sooner and to more people. Combined with his status as Minister of Finance, he held a dictatorial level of control over the New Zealand economy, and he intended to use it to prop up the welfare state as reality closed in.
Muldoon’s tenure was defined by his failed attempts to bail water out of New Zealand’s sinking ship, from a series of grotesquely expensive public works projects (known as “Think Big”) to a total freeze on wages and prices in 1982. After a National backbencher refused to support the government’s policy on nuclear weapons in 1984, Muldoon got drunk on live television and called a snap election, losing decisively to David Lange’s Labour Party. Despite being a Left-wing party on paper, Labour had fallen under the influence of Roger Douglas, a reformer who sought to restructure the New Zealand economy along free market lines.
The next six years saw New Zealand radically reshaped. Under Douglas’ tenure as Minister of Finance, the government streamlined inefficient state-owned corporations, eliminated unnecessary regulation, and removed subsidies for many industries. Lange’s government also slashed tax rates, removed controls on foreign exchange, and allowed the value of the New Zealand dollar to float (Muldoon’s refusal to devalue the dollar nearly led to an economic collapse in 1984).
The rapidity with which the government rewrote New Zealand’s economic landscape was somewhat masked by Lange’s progressive social policies, which included making the country a nuclear-free zone (splintering the ANZUS alliance with Australia and the U.S.) and ameliorating relations with the Maori. In the short-term, Rogernomics (the term for Douglas’ reforms, akin to Reaganomics in the U.S.) caused massive social upheaval. For example, removing agricultural subsidies caused severe hardship for many Kiwi farmers, while whole rural towns that were dependent on state-owned enterprises were wrecked by mass layoffs.
Revolution emphasizes in its interviews that New Zealanders—even those who were adversely impacted by Rogernomics—agreed that change had to happen. Muldoon’s New Zealand was well on its way to becoming what Greece is today: bankrupted by bureaucratic mismanagement and having its finances controlled by the IMF or other unaccountable international organizations. As Geoffrey Palmer (Lange’s successor as Prime Minister) puts it in the film, “You can’t have social justice if you’ve got no economy.”
The scope of New Zealand’s economic breakdown was so severe that Jim Bolger’s National Party, elected in 1990 on the promise of halting Douglas’ reforms, was forced to continue them through Finance Minister Ruth Richardson and her cuts to welfare benefits. Rogernomics and Ruthanasia bore fruit in New Zealand’s comparatively free, prosperous economy today; New Zealand ranks #3 on the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom while the U.S. isn’t even in the top ten.
While dry at times due to its mid-90’s visuals and aesthetic, Revolution is propelled forward by candid interviews with many of the major players in New Zealand’s economic renaissance. David Lange steals the show as a jolly, witty fat man playing good cop to Roger Douglas, whose blunted affect and chomo mustache make him the movie’s obvious heel. The film ends with the 1996 election, in which New Zealanders, disgusted with both National and Labour, vote in a series of minor parties with the aid of proportional representation.
My takeaway from Revolution is that socialism corrupts White people as assuredly as it corrupts everyone else. Five decades of a cradle-to-grave welfare state made New Zealanders lazy and complacent. As r/K selection theory shows us, free resources inevitably breed a nation of sexually deviant layabouts. A society where success is determined not by your intelligence or ingenuity but by how well you can game the bureaucracy is one that will inevitably fall apart, regardless of its racial composition.
While far from the most riveting series, Revolution is worth a look as an examination of a White society degraded by generations of gimmedats. Alt-Right proponents of a controlled economy would do well to study how well it worked in New Zealand.