Review: Ruth, Roger and Me: Debts and Legacies, by Andrew Dean

unnamedRuth, Roger and Me: Debts and Legacies, by Andrew Dean
Bridget Williams Books, Wellington, 2015.  Paperback, PDF electronic and Kindle

During the 1980s and ’90s the structure and direction that the New Zealand economy had broadly followed since the mid-1930s was radically altered by Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson, two Ministers of Finance who for the most part shared a common ideology though they belonged, during the times they held power, to political parties that claimed to have opposed principles, policies and traditions.

Andrew Dean is a New Zealand Rhodes scholar, now completing his studies in Oxford, whose experience of growing up in the new economic environment created by ‘Ruth and Roger’ was entirely different to that of his parents, and in this short and marvellously angled book he examines what these changes have meant to the country in terms that he groups under the labels of Discomfort and Disconnection.

Part discourse, part argument and part memoir, Dean’s account of the new ‘freedoms’ that have created huge and narrow gains for a few and large and wide-ranging losses for society as a whole is not a polemical tract: its questions and commentaries are rational, temperate and troubled, and all the more engrossing and devastating for being so.

Kevin Ireland