Published August 10, 2023
Populist conservatism has been on the march around the globe in recent years. But in New Zealand, many conservatives are beginning to embrace an old ideology: libertarianism.
This surprising trend is thanks to David Seymour, leader of New Zealand’s classically liberal ACT Party. He has rapidly transformed his faction from a nearly extinct institution to a vibrant, growing movement, setting an example for conservatives worldwide.
Seymour is a young intellectual. The 40-year-old became politically active in college, unsuccessfully running for Parliament in 2005 against then-Prime Minister Helen Clark, a Labour Party member. He then went to Canada to work at a free-market think tank, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, for four years. That experience, he told me in an interview, gave him a chance to read classical liberal economic thinkers such as Karl Popper, Friedrich Hayek and Thomas Hazlett, reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s intellectual journey during his pre-political era.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He was the Thomas W. Smith distinguished scholar in residence at Arizona State University for the winter/spring 2023 semester.