Michael Reddell

Are experts really being ignored? - The Dismal Science

Feb 20, 2017

A few months ago, I wrote a post on the role of “experts”, responding to a British journalist and author’s lament for the apparent willlingness of voters/societies to downplay, or even dismiss, the role of experts when it comes to making significant public policy decisions. In his column in yesterday’s Sunday Star-Times, local economist Shamubeel Eaqub returns to the theme. Experts are increasingly side-lined. Political leaders openly ridicule them and the public emphatically ignore their advice when voting. Our public servants at Treasury must have identified – “yes, someone feels our pain” – even unusually taking to Twitter over the weekend to draw attention to Eaqub’s column. I’m not sure when this golden age was, when “experts” apparently held sway with voters. I can’t think of a time in New Zealand, or British, history and although I know the … Read More

Brexit, Trump and all that - The Dismal Science

Dec 14, 2016

Last week, The Treasury hosted a guest lecture featuring two visiting academics under the heading Brexit, Trump & Economics: Where did we go wrong.  One of the visitors –  Samuel Bowles, now a professor at the Santa Fe Insitute -had been around long enough that in his youth he had served as an economic adviser in Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign,  and at other times as an economic adviser to the Castro government in Cuba.  The other –  Wendy Carlin –  is a professor of economics at University College, London. When the invitation went out, I was rather puzzled by the title?  Who was this “we” that apparently “got things wrong”?    After all, I was –  and remain –  keen on Brexit, and will recall for a long time the thrill of that June Friday afternoon as the results rolled in.  … Read More

Steven Joyce as Minister of Finance - The Dismal Science

Dec 08, 2016

Bill English is reported to have the numbers to become leader of the National Party and, thus, our next Prime Minister.  And if does succeed in that quest he has indicated that Steven Joyce will become the Minister of Finance. That news had me digging out a couple of posts I’d written this year on Mr Joyce’s comments and claims.  He has been Minister of Economic Development for some years –  years in which, as throughout the term of this government, there has been no progress towards closing the large productivity gaps with other advanced countries. In fact, over the last four years official statistics suggests New Zealand has had no productivity growth at all. In a post in April I posed A Question for Steven Joyce after an interview in which as Science and Innovation minister he argued for even … Read More

Key’s legacy – an economist’s view - The Dismal Science

Dec 06, 2016

Perhaps nothing became John Key more than the manner of his departure.  Tired –  “nothing left in the tank” –  and admirably unwilling to go into an election year and lie about his willingness to serve another full term, or to just struggle on, he chose to walk away instead. It is rare for political leaders to leave voluntarily when they are well, undefeated, and not facing any serious internal challenge.  Harold Wilson (in the UK) and Calvin Coolidge are two who spring to mind.  Enoch Powell’s maxim was that: “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.” John F Kennedy and Norman Kirk were examples of leaders cut off in their prime, and reputations shaped for decades by the combination of their short … Read More

Thoughts prompted by Cuba - The Dismal Science

Nov 28, 2016

Fidel Castro is dead.  Sadly, the same can’t be said for the brutal regime that has controlled Cuba for 57 years now –  the regime that suppresses speech, religion, and the exercise of democratic freedoms that we take for granted; the regime that executed thousands of its political opponents and which, to this day, imprisons many of those brave enough to stand against it; the regime that suppresses free economic activity; the regime that actively tries to stop its own people leaving. There have been plenty of awful Latin American regimes in the last 100 years or so, but fortunately most of the worst have now passed into history.  But not the Cuban regime.  I won’t rejoice in anyone’s death, but consider what type of man this was:  Fidel Castro had enthused about the idea of a nuclear attack on … Read More

US Election: We’re still here - The Dismal Science

Nov 10, 2016

For the last 24 hours, the US election has been much much more interesting that anything New Zealand-related that I might have written about.   Even my 10 year old came home from school yesterday telling me that her class had been following the early results intensely, even if (she reported that) some of the offspring of liberal Island Bay had apparently somehow become convinced that Donald Trump would soon be bombing New Zealand. I wasn’t a Trump or Clinton supporter going into the election, and am pretty sure that if I’d been American I’d have voted for neither of them (although one of the interesting things in the last few weeks had been the collapse of the third party candidates’ vote share).  I laid out some of my reasons on my other blog.  So unconfident was I in … Read More

Experts: harness them, don’t let them set the course - The Dismal Science

Oct 25, 2016

There was interesting long article in The Guardian the other day by Sebastian Mallaby, the author of a new biography of Alan Greenspan, on “The cult of the expert – and how it collapsed”.  His focus is central banking, but his concerns range much wider. For Mallaby, the (alleged) “collapse” of this “cult” is something to lament. Of course, when you are brought up the son of a former senior British ambassador, educated at Eton and Oxford, previously a columnist for the Financial Times and then the Washington Post, when you are married to the editor of The Economist, when your books are biographies of two prominent unelected figures – Greenspan and James Wolfensohn, former head of the World Bank –  and when your column is published in The Guardian –  house journal of the British left-liberal technocratic elite – such a lament might … Read More

Productivity growth: how have we been doing? - The Dismal Science

Oct 18, 2016

A few weeks ago I ran the chart below chart, showing quarterly real GDP per hour worked for New Zealand for the last decade or so.  I used an average of production and expenditure GDP, and Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) hours worked data.  The rather dismal picture was of no productivity growth at all for the last few years. Comparable quarterly data isn’t readily available for a wide range of other countries, so for such comparisons one is forced back onto annual data from international databases such as the OECD’s. And the international agencies take a while to get a full set of annual data –  thus, New Zealand’s annual national accounts for the year to March 2016 (used as the basis for the OECD’s 2015 annual numbers) won’t be released until next month. We aren’t the only … Read More

New Zealand – envy of the world, or middling at best? - The Dismal Science

Oct 05, 2016

Over the last couple of months I’ve lost track of the number of comments I’ve seen, from outlets that really should no better, about New Zealand’s economy at present being the envy of the world.  Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint seems a particularly egregious offender, but that might just be because I often have it on while I’m making dinner.  But I’ve seen similar lines in the Herald, from Business New Zealand and a variety of other outlets. The people running this line, when they aren’t just running propaganda, seem constantly to lose sight of just how much of our real GDP growth –  itself not that impressive by the standards of previous growth phases –  is accounted for by our very rapid population growth, in turn the result of our large (but fairly stable) inward immigration programme, and the … Read More

TVNZ on immigration: Hard Stuff or MBIE puff piece? - The Dismal Science

Sep 13, 2016

According to TVNZ,  “The Hard Stuff sees Nigel Latta tackling the key issues facing NZers”, funded with taxpayer’s money through NZ On Air. I don’t think I’d watched any of Latta’s programmes previously, but when I heard a couple of years ago that he was planning to tackle immigration I suppose I welcomed the notion that a mainstream broadcaster would give serious coverage to a major instrument of economic (and social) policy. Shortly after Latta’s new series got underway, I’d heard underwhelming things about the immigration episode from people who’d watched it on the website.  But I only got round to watching it this weekend, after it was broadcast last Tuesday. Frankly, even with the warnings I’d had, I was staggered at how much of a puff piece it was.  In many respects MBIE and the Minister of Immigration … Read More