In a recent contribution to his column ‘A View from Afar’, US-trained political scientist Paul Buchanan seeks to establish a framework for assessing the quality of New Zealand democracy.

True to the title of his column, Buchanan looks at the ‘big picture’ of politics in NZ and, ignoring party maneuvering or short-term scandals, casts it in a not-too-rosy glow. In his opinion, the quality of democracy in NZ is (for various reasons, see the full article) not bad, but declining.

For me, the most interesting part of the article is its third paragraph, where Buchanan seeks to claim the ground of democracy analysis in NZ as a political scientist. He laments the lack of deep insight on the topic, which has instead been left to ‘voting behavior specialists … Cultural relativists … constitutional law experts … In each case the focus is on the why and how of contemporary democratic practice in Aotearoa rather than the fundamentals of it.’

Good justification for deeper analysis of NZ politics from a big-picture, comparative perspective.