As 2018 comes to a close, it is time to reflect on the last 12 months and consider what the next 12 months might bring. Selecting the Prime Minister’s summer reading list is a chance to think about what skills and capabilities might be required to make the most of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. This is the basis of my selection, along with consideration of the goals the Prime Minister has set. As the middle of the election cycle, 2019 is a time to focus on delivery and execution.
My selection this year is determined by the distrust, uncertainty and unrest we are seeing globally, whether it’s the yellow coats protests in France (almost 80% of the public support the ‘yellow vest’ protests), the excessive inflation in Argentina (some economists forecasting inflation at more than 40% by the end of 2018), the frequent changes of Australia’s Prime Minister (since 2007, not a single prime minister has survived a full three-year term), the tension in the UK over Brexit (A recent study found 42% of voters still believe the red bus slogan ‘we send the EU £350m a week – let’s fund our NHS instead’ while 36% didn’t believe it and 22% were unsure). Of course, this is without even talking about US, Russia and China.
From the Institute’s perspective, making democracies work requires investment, timely and trustworthy sources of information and robust regulatory and parliamentary systems. The size of the challenge is best illustrated by the infamous statement that Rudolph W. Giuliani made in his role as Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, ‘Truth isn’t truth’. He made the assertion during a Meet the Press interview with Chuck Todd on 19 August 2018 ‘while discussing his worry that the president would perjure himself if he testified in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation’. Yale Law School librarian Fred Shapiro, editor of the 2006 book The Yale Book of Quotations, recently announced Giuliani’s quote as his choice for ‘most notable quote’ of 2018 because it best reflects the ‘the spirit of the times’.
In light of this, the first three books have been chosen to help build an effective democracy. The fourth book is by Neville Peat, one of the Institute’s patrons. Lastly, I have included the Institute’s forty-year youth journal, the Āpōpō Journal.
- Why We Get the Wrong Politicians by Isabel Hardman
- The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis
- The Perils of Perception by Bobby Duffy
- The Invading Sea by Neville Peat
- Āpōpō Journal by the McGuinness Institute
Harden sets out ways the parliamentary structure could be improved the last chapter, Lewis provides insights into ways to improve the transition from one government to another in the first chapter titled ‘tail risk’ and Duffy lists ten ideas for forming more accurate views of the world in the final chapter.
Neville Peat puts forward a case for a stronger focus on infrastructure and in particular, local government powers to help communities to manage the impacts of climate change. New Zealand needs to get ready for climate change. In 2018 we have reviewed climate change information in annual reports and the results were alarming. In 2019, we will be working hard to contribute to a discussion that improves climate change reporting. If New Zealand can get this right, climate change information should lead to the right decisions being made for all New Zealanders and that no one group within society is taken advantage of or discriminated against.
The Āpōpō Journal is a unique publication developed by and for 18 to 25-year-old New Zealanders to help them shape their long-term future. It provides space for users to reflect on their past experiences, plan for today, and prepare for tomorrow. The journal is a celebration of our diverse nation, and teaches the importance of using hindsight, insight and foresight to navigate future pathways. Featuring life skills and practical advice, an evolving personal time capsule, historic national events and future-thinking tools, Āpōpō Journal allows young New Zealanders to explore life’s challenges and opportunities through a new lens. Āpōpō Journal has been designed not for one specific year but for the next 40, so it can be used at any point from 2019–2058. The journal has been included in this list because it aims to help build skills and capabilities in the next generation of legislators and decision-makers.
It is has been a very good year at the Institute. I am delighted with the team and the work we have produced, but it is now time to relax and reflect. I hope you all read some great books, have some memorable conversations, get some sand between your toes and watch a few sunsets.
Best wishes and happy holidays from the team at the Institute,
What other reviewers have said about the books selected:
Why We Get the Wrong Politicians by Isabel Hardman (2018, UK)
‘This is a really good book. Well-structured and well-written, it marshals well-selected statistics and combines them with human stories to cast valuable illumination on how politicians really spend their, often frustrating and miserable, time. The author makes some useful suggestions about how we might get more effective MPs without pretending that she has a magic cure. If Isabel Hardman does not have all the answers to what’s wrong with our political culture, she certainly asks the right questions.’Reviewed by Andrew Rawnsley, The Guardian
The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis (2018, US)
‘Many of the problems our government grapples with aren’t particularly ideological,” Lewis writes, by way of moseying into what his book is about. He identifies these problems as the “enduring technical” variety, like stopping a virus or taking a census. Lewis is a supple and seductive storyteller, so you’ll be turning the pages as he recounts the (often surprising) experiences of amiable civil servants and enumerating risks one through four (an attack by North Korea, war with Iran, etc.) before you learn that the scary-sounding “fifth risk” of the title is — brace yourself — “project management”.’Reviewed by Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times
The Perils of Perception by Bobby Duffy (2018, UK)
‘The “in touch” politician masters misperception of fact […] There are two books on this subject that are essential reading for people wondering why society seems so febrile: The Perils of Perception by Bobby Duffy, now the head of the Policy Institute at King’s College London; and Factfulness by Hans Rowling, a Swedish doctor who is now dead. These books are based on opinion poll surveys by IPSOS in 40 countries and they show that people are more pessimistic and negative about the world around them than the facts reveal they should be. […] what Duffy’s book shows is that when confronted with facts that disprove misperceptions, people typically reject the facts. [Downer closes by stating:] What percentage of Australians think that overall they are happy or very happy? The average guess is 53 percent. The reality? An incredible 82 per cent. So being “in touch”, in reality, means knowing most people are pretty happy. Who’d believe it?’Reviewed by Alexander Downer, Australian Financial Review
The Invading Sea by Neville Peat (2018, NZ)
‘During his 12 years as a councillor with the Otago Regional Council and Dunedin City Council, Mr Peat was closely involved in studying, mapping and measuring the coastal areas around Dunedin. […] Of the country’s 78 councils, 63 are responsible for coastlines. Two-thirds of Kiwis live within 5km of the sea. […] The Invading Sea was not written to spread panic, but to call for government, councils, communities, scientists, planners and engineers to focus harder on achieving solutions.’Reviewed by Brenda Harwood, Otago Daily Times
Āpōpō Journal by the McGuinness Institute (2018, NZ)
‘The Āpōpō Journal means that I’m always
thinking about tomorrow – that’s what this journal
‘Social media can provide a visual timeline of your
life, but this is something different. Writing in a
journal helps me to remember things.’
‘I like the freedom of the blank pages. I can design,Reviewed by young New Zealanders, www.apoponz.org
or draw it to look how I want.’