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Tyler Cowen

Feisty, Protectionist Populism? New Zealand Tried That

Spoiler alert: It didn't end well.
Robert Muldoon, campaigning in 1975.

Robert Muldoon, campaigning in 1975.

Source: Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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.