Bloomberg View columnist Terry Cowen writes
What would you think of a Western democratic leader who was populist, obsessed with the balance of trade, especially effective on television, feisty and combative with the press, and able to take over his country’s right-wing party and swing it in a more interventionist direction?
Meet Robert Muldoon, prime minister of New Zealand from 1975 to 1984. For all the comparisons of President Donald Trump to Mussolini or various unsavory Latin American leaders, Muldoon is a clearer parallel case.
Some of the similarities are striking. Muldoon often made rude or unusually frank comments about foreign leaders (including U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the Australian prime minister), and his diplomats worked hard to undo them. When Muldoon spoke, he so often made the issue about him. His slogan was “New Zealand -- The Way You Want It.”
His most significant initiative was called “Think Big,” and, yes, it was designed to make New Zealand great again. It was based on a lot of infrastructure and fossil fuels investment, including natural gas, and it was intended to stimulate the country’s exports and remedy the trade deficit. Because New Zealand’s parliamentary system of government has fewer checks and balances than the American system, Muldoon got more done than Trump likely will.
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