As we say goodbye to 2020 and welcome in 2021, it's a good time to catch up on the very best of the Herald columnists we enjoyed reading over the last 12 months. From politics to sport, from business to entertainment and lifestyle, these are the voices and views our audience loved the most. Today it's the top three from Matthew Hooton.
The undisputed leader of the nation
Back in March when the pandemic reached the shores of New Zealand, Matthew Hooton predicted that in the next political poll Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's "good in a crisis" rating would be through the roof.
Even the fiercest critics of her usually incompetent regime recognise she rises to the challenge during a crisis, he wrote.
Whatever the epidemiologists tell her, Ardern is not wrong to respond to such pressure in the early stages, knowing she will later need to maintain public co-operation for measures more associated with totalitarian dictatorships than liberal democracies.
Why we can trust Ardern to get us through this
If a week is a long time in politics, then in a global pandemic, a single day is an eon.
Intense political and perhaps legal debate will rage over the next 20 years about whether Ardern should have put New Zealand into lockdown a bit earlier or a bit later than 11.59 pm on Wednesday March 25, 2020.
Academics in medical journals will still argue such things in 100 years as they plan for the great pandemic of the 2100s, just as today's epidemiologists have spent their lives studying the 1918 influenza pandemic and the various waves of polio outbreaks from the 1920s to the 1960s.
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One thing is clear. Free-market capitalism is unsurpassed at inventing, creating and producing houses, cars, iPhones, cool sneakers and jeans. We need to get back to it as soon as we can. But if you're wanting to win a war, the system you're looking for is effectively communism.
Save lives, but at any cost? That's Ardern's awful dilemma
There is little doubt that the Prime Minister was right to lock down the country. Faced with a rhinoceros racing towards you, there's no time to think. The best strategy is to run for your life, climb a tree and wait to see what happens.
If future historians quibble with Jacinda Ardern's decisions, they'll more likely debate whether her initial response was staunch enough, especially around border control.
But the lockdown will turn out to be the easy decision. More difficult is lifting it.