David and Lili's World Tour

NEW ZEALAND

September 2008 - Christchurch

Lili and I live in New Zealand !!

Our stuff is in a shipping container somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, we're camped in a rented house. We bought a car and two bikes. Our plan is to get permanent visas under the skilled migrant category, since my computer skills are on New Zealand's "long-term skills-shortage list." Meanwhile, I have a work permit, having lined up a job during our camper van tour. It's an interesting job, but I'll refrain from going into details; this is not a blog about computer engineering.

As a non-native speaker applying for permanent residence, Lili had to take a standardized English test (IELTS). She did not have to pass with a specific score only because we are married. Instead we had to pre-pay for English classes at the local Polytech based on the difference between that specific score and her actual mark. While I work she studies...

Meanwhile we find New Zealand to be a fantastic place. It is friendly, green, healthy, safe, with (relatively) good government and a (relatively) good economy.

As for the government, Kiwis do complain about their particular breed of corruption, but compared to the USA and Brazil, well, no contest. The government has been ruled by the Labour Party for 9 years, but the National Party looks likely to win the next election (on the promise of lower taxes). Roughly speaking, the NZ debate is wholly to the left of the American debate. While Americans debate war tactics, NZ promotes peace. While Americans debate universal health care as a distant dream, NZ already has it. While America is in deep financial doo-doo for decades of unsustainable corporate greed with too little government regulation, NZ is a world leader in sustainability. While Americans abhor taxes, Kiwis appreciate the benefits of having the government manage certain sectors of the economy, so as not to leave important services in the hands of greedy corporations. New Zealand's schools are pretty good too. I despise paying taxes in the USA because I disagree with the government's priorities. In New Zealand, I don't mind. I love to see the healthy kids playing in the numerous parks after school. In this regard, Christchurch is like Denver was when I was a child in the 1960s. New Zealand has a single house of Parliament with a Prime Minister, and no constitution. This means that much of the work of government gets hammered out in a single room, which is efficient, and transparent. It helps that there are only 4 million people. NZ is easier to govern than most countries, and as a consequence, it has better government! Kiwis do complain, as they should, whenever corruption shows its ugly head. Being critical of bad government is patriotic.

As for the NZ economy, it is good, but people are being pinched by high food and petrol prices, just like everywhere else. Many aspects of the current crisis are global. Housing prices are falling. Many young people move to Australia or Europe to make more money, so there is a skill shortage. You could move to New Zealand, too, if you have the right skills. Refer to: www.immigration.govt.nz

Several of my American friends said that they might move to New Zealand (or Canada, or Europe) if John McCain defeats Barack Obama. The world needs a radical change in American leadership. Obama offers that change, we hope. McCain does not. But Obama might just lose. The American mass media continues to do a pathetic job to inform (the Internet offers hope). GO OBAMA !!!

December 31, 2008 - Christchurch

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Life is good in Christchurch. The big novelty is having all our stuff. Work is good. Home is good. Christchurch is nice. The downside is being so far away from family and friends. Skype helps. And we have new friends, mostly expatriots here for the quality of living. In 2009, remember: no matter how bad the economic crisis might become, at least Bush is history. Lili and I are delighted that Obama won, but is he a miracle worker?

July 2009 - A year in New Zealand

Kia Ora. This is the longest I've gone without an international holiday since 1994. But that's OK. We like New Zealand. And we're about to go to Brazil, Peru and Bolivia on holiday! Meanwhile, life is good. We feel vindicated that we made the right choice; New Zealand does indeed get top rankings for livability. Christchurch is a bit cold and rainy at times, but we don't mind. We put on rain gear and bicycle just the same, past perfectly manicured gardens along quiet streets with children playing.

As for the current financial crisis, wow! About 3 years ago, we put our World Tour on pause to sell our house in Colorado. I'm glad we did. This crisis was predictable back then. The housing market was an obvious bubble, and the financial derivatives market is worse. This bubble is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 Quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000.00) dollars! Bailing out a few Wall Street firms does not go to the root of the problem. Here is the best explanation of the mega-bailout I have yet to read. It's time for the government to take over the Federal Reserve Bank (The Fed), and more. Believe it or not, the USA does not create its own money, it borrows it from The Fed, with interest. Why should the government pay for something it can do itself for free (as Abraham Lincoln did)? The banks are all-powerful, and their greed is insatiable. They took over with the passage of The Federal Reserve Act of 1913. This needs to be fixed.

When people find out I'm American they often want to talk about politics, but when they think I'm Brazilian they bring up soccer. I have yet to hear a Kiwi say anything negative about Barack Obama. The only critical voice is my own. I like Obama. I gave money to his campaign, and compared to Bush I think he's a genius and a saint, but I remain deeply concerned about his approach to reforming the banks. Giving new regulatory powers to The Fed doesn't do the job (although it is abundantly clear that speculative markets need new regulations, and probably something like a Tobin tax as well).

In my opinion, we are collectively underestimating the degree to which this matters, as it defines the future of the global economy at a critical juncture for humanity. Obama's team is composed of insiders who helped create the problem, not of outside experts who predicted it. The key word needs to be sustainability, not growth, per se, and without volatile speculation, an economy based on real things and not funny money created on a computer screen, an economy that values human needs over corporate profit. Instead we are helping banks that are too big to fail to grow even bigger. Sigh. It does not have to be this way. Read this for a different perspective. We give Obama the benefit of the doubt; we think Washington should bail out homeowners and let certain banks fail, but the Trillions did put the brakes on economic free fall, and it's not too late to reform Wall Street. Thank God we don't have a president named Sarah Palin.

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