Politicians and their rental castles

It’s not surprising, but it is important, that a review of the MP’s interest register has found 60% of MPs own at least two properties (while only 40% of the general population own at least one property).

It is not surprising because MPs are far better paid than most New Zealanders, and on average have had higher earnings before they reached Parliament. They are therefore looking to invest that money.

It is important though, because it reminds us about the difference between policy symbolism and private attitudes.

Politicians are people too. They can have public opinions which are different from their private behaviour.

Over the past few years, there has been a high profile discussion about whether New Zealanders invest too much in property. Many politicians and academics have criticised the nation’s “love affair” with housing.

You could decide to see the property investments of some politicians as mild sort of hypocrisy. But I see it as a refreshing signal of reality, and of market forces. Despite the policy rhetoric, our behaviours reveal what we really think.

This is one key to the task of political analysis; understanding the role of symbolism. You have to understand the politician as a person before you can fully understand the politics.

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