US media compares Robert Muldoon to Trump

Sir Robert Muldoon Donald Trump
The powerful and feared politician dominated NZ - but led us to disaster (Getty)

As America comes to grips with the Trump presidency, experts are looking overseas to find political parallels - and some are looking to NZ.

Bloomberg opinion writer Tyler Cowen has explored the links between President Trump and New Zealand politician's former prime minister, Robert Muldoon.

He writes that they were both powerful and populist national leaders who took on the press and their own parties in their march to victory.

"Meet Robert Muldoon, prime minister of New Zealand from 1975 to 1984. For all the comparisons of President Donald Trump to Mussolini or various unsavory Latin American leaders, Muldoon is a clearer parallel case," Mr Cowen writes.

Like Mr Trump, Mr Cowen says Mr Muldoon ran on a protectionist platform that aimed at creating full employment and self-sufficiency.

He cracked down on illegal immigration and instituted polices to make New Zealand great again.

Mr Muldoon had a knack for appealing to average Kiwi voters, and he was a ferocious debater who enjoyed taking on hecklers - including one time when he punched demonstrators.

He was one of the first Kiwi politicians to understand the power of television, and he dominated the medium, often going around interviewers to speak directly to the public.

"When Muldoon spoke, he so often made the issue about him. His slogan was "New Zealand -- The Way You Want It," Mr Cowen says.

He certainly wasn't politically correct, once saying "New Zealanders who emigrate to Australia raise the IQ of both countries".

Mr Muldoon was loved by his supporters - "Rob's Mob - and he didn't try to appeal to the opposition.

He was sceptical of free trade and promoted the "Think Big" interventionist state policies aimed at funding large industrial projects, especially those in the oil and energy sectors.

Mr Muldoon also dealt with social change and bitter opposition. He continued the crackdown on illegal Pacific Islander overstayers - the 'Dawn Raids' - as well as supporting the 1981 Springbok rugby tour.

But it all went wrong for Mr Muldoon. The economy crashed, with inflation rates rising to over 15 percent, and he lost the 1984 election to Labour after calling a snap election while drunk.

Labour overturned his economic policies and instated the 'Rogernomic' freemarket reforms, while Mr Muldoon watched from the sidelines.

"One lesson from the comparison is that a leader like Muldoon can be fairly popular, as he stayed in power from 1975 to 1984, winning three terms despite mistakes, antagonisms and policy failures," Mr Cowen writes.