Saturday, October 29, 2011

Farewell Roger Kerr - one of New Zealand's intellectual giants

I am genuinely saddened at the news of the premature passing of Roger Kerr, news we all knew would come in due course. I only met him a couple of times, and we talked about – unsurprisingly – a free market approach to transport.  He came on a march FOR capitalism, remembered my name and we had a great chat about a wide range of issues. He always was softly spoken, gentle, intelligent and played the ball, not the man.   For those unfamiliar with him, he was one of the architects of the free market reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, as a public servant and then as Executive Director of the Business Roundtable.  A role that saw him receiving nasty brickbats.

I can confirm what Lindsay Mitchell said of him:

He was very experienced and accomplished. I was out of my league. But neither the audience nor myself was made to feel as though Roger was superior, above us, imbued with some god-given truth. Roger knew that persuasion meant honest and non-personal debate. In fact I think he was Mr non-Nasty. A rarity in the emotional arena of philosophical ideas.

Roger made time for people. He was humble and magnanimous. He could never have met the low standards of politicians and political debate in the house.

Cactus Kate’s comments about the strength of his writing are also true. He was one of the best writers to synthesise free market economics and public policy in a coherent, intelligent and eminently readable way:

What he leaves behind for us younger members of the VRWC is literally a lifetime of wonderfully written literature, speeches, opinion and research….It is not often in life you get to meet someone so academically smart who doesn't sit in an ivory tower on the taxpayer tit.

David Farrar has pointed out how Roger could have easily gone overseas and earned much much more money, but his interest was in New Zealand and in making New Zealand a happier, wealthier, more prosperous and free country:

Roger had a great love of New Zealand. I have no doubt he could have earnt much more money if he had not devoted the last 25 years to establishing and growing the Business Roundtable. While of course his views were controversial and often unpopular, Roger was only motivated by a genuine desire and belief that they would make New Zealand a better place.

Roger was genuinely a man who was easy to respect, whose mind was that of a giant, and who didn’t let the insults and hatred spun by some on the far left affect how he communicated. He wasn’t baited by the intellectual midgets who couldn’t respond to him with their minds, so responded to him with threats.

He lived a life of remarkable achievement, got to see his ideas implemented in many ways, and saw the fruits of it. However, there was always so much more to do. It was shown in that he blogged up to the end with a post from the 28th. He is a tremendous loss from New Zealand public life. His contribution has been immense, the likes of which puts the political circus of the election look so shallow and frankly inept.

The only wonder I have is why this man did not become Sir Roger Kerr. Given some of those who gain such a title, he is undoubtedly one of those who deserved it so much – although his own modesty and personality was hardly one of a man who demanded or expected such a thing.  He CNZM was so late,  no doubt because both National and Labour politicians were either too gutless or churlish to recognise someone who was out of their league. 

However, one of the more poignant tributes come from Lindsay Perigo's interview with him earlier this year.  His introduction is written here.  

I wish his wife (former ACT President and now candidate, Catherine Isaac) , family and loved ones sincere commiserations. His legacy is one to be proud of, and his memory, influence and contribution will long be part of New Zealand’s history.


ZenTiger said...

Thanks for your eulogy.

Anonymous said...

He is a great lose,his contribution was really immense.
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