My class at a language school in Spain was asked what we would do if we found a wallet.
There were 12 students from eight countries. I was the only New Zealander and the only one who said I’d try to return it to the owner or hand it in to the police. The others asked if that was typical of Kiwis.
I said I thought it was but the reaction to the woman who found $1,700 and handed it to police made me wonder if I was wrong.
Breakfast called her the last Good Samaritan and expressed surprise at the honesty.
But this shouldn’t be news, it should be normal behaviour and I was relieved to hear on Jim Mora’s Afternoon’s yesterday there are plenty of other Good Samaritans and that honesty isn’t unusual.
Whether you abide by the eighth commandment, thou shalt not steal; the golden rule do unto others as you would have them do unto you, variations of which are found in many religions; believe that what goes round, comes round, or that virtue has its own reward, honesty is the best policy.
It’s a sad reflection on other countries that this isn’t normal, but we can be grateful that at least in this little corner of the world taking what isn’t yours or making no attempt to return something you find to its rightful owner, intact and entire, is regarded as wrong.
A question from the floor at a public meeting in Wanaka three years ago asked then National Party leader Don Brash why he always talked about money and the economy rather than things that mattered like health and education.
He responded that a growing economy was the means to provide better social services.
This is echoed in Treasury’s Briefing to the Incoming Minister of Finance :
Future gains to economic growth will need to be driven by increases in productivity growth. Improving productivity will have benefits for individuals, businesses and for society as a whole. A more productive New Zealand will offer our people opportunities to earn world-class incomes without having to go overseas to achieve this. It will allow New Zealand businesses to provide sophisticated products to the world without having to relocate their head offices. Higher incomes will underpin a public sector that can provide high-quality services, which will lead to improved social outcomes in crucial areas such as health and education.
Higher productivity will make New Zealand a more attractive place to live, work and do business with and from.
That reminds me of this quote from Margaret Thatcher:
No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well.
This is a simple concept but achieving the economic growth we need to provide the standard of living and social services we want is more complicated and we can’t leave it all to government.
They can implement policies which enable and encourage improved productivity but they can’t create wealth, thats up to people and businesses.