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Institutions, Social Norms and Well-being - WP 02/12

Publication Details

  • Institutions, Social Norms and Well-being
  • Published: Aug 2002
  • Status: Current
  • Author: Petrie, Murray
  • JEL Classification: D7; Z13
  • Hard copy: Available in HTML and PDF formats only.

Institutions, Social Norms and Well-being

New Zealand Treasury Working Paper 02/12

Published: June 2002

Author: Murray Petrie


This paper discusses the intrinsic and instrumental value of governance and social norms to the well being of New Zealanders. The interaction between informal social norms and formal institutions is also discussed. An attempt is made to identify the channels and precise mechanisms through which governance and social norms respectively may impact on well-being. Empirical evidence on these effects is cited, and the relevance of the evidence to New Zealand is assessed. A range of suggestions is then presented for strengthening the governance of public institutions in New Zealand, focusing on improvements to transparency, accountability and integrity within existing constitutional arrangements. Finally, some tentative remarks are made on the potential role of government in influencing the evolution of social norms, and managing tensions between conflicting norms in New Zealand.

Table of Contents

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List of Tables

1 Introduction

2 The Intrinsic and Instrumental Value of Good Governance

3 Social Norms and Government Institutions

4 Channels through which Governance and Social Norms Impact on Well-being

5 Strengthening the Governance of Public Institutions in New Zealand

6 Conclusions


twp02-12.pdf (388 KB) pp. 39

List of Tables



This paper was drafted during the course of the author’s work as a consultant for the Social Policy Branch of the Treasury on the Inclusive Economy Project. It draws in places on a background paper prepared by Nick Mays and Murray Petrie,  “Social Capability and its Links to Aggregate Production”, unpublished draft, 5 December 2000. In addition, helpful comments have been received on earlier drafts of this paper from Roger Falloon, David Galt, Hauraki Greenland, Andrew Hampton, Steve Hunt, Nick Mays, Matthew Palmer, Jeremy Pope, Roger Procter, Tony Sole, Elizabeth Thomas, David Webber, Alan Webster, and Michael Woolcock. Helpful comments were also received from participants in a Social Policy Strategy Group seminar on this topic in Treasury on 28 February 2002.


The views expressed in this Working Paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the New Zealand Treasury.  The paper is presented not as policy, but with a view to inform and stimulate wider debate.

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