Eric Crampton

Dr Eric Crampton joined the New Zealand Initiative as Head of Research in August, 2014. He served as Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Economics at the Department of Economics & Finance at the University of Canterbury from November 2003 until July 2014. The Dismal Science syndicates some of his blog posts from Offsetting Behaviour. Eric is on Twitter @ericcrampton

Borders and Bubbles - The Dismal Science

Aug 11, 2020

There’s no Covid on the Cook Islands. But isolation-free travel into New Zealand from the Cooks looks to be a long way off.  The Prime Minister confirmed on Monday that Cabinet had considered draft text being worked on via officials which will become the basis of an agreement for quarantine-free travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand. “That draft text is near conclusion,” Ardern told reporters. “The next phase will be the verification phase; that is where we have officials on both sides who undertake work on the ground to assure ourselves that we’re meeting the expectations on both sides.” Ardern said the Government’s expectation is that there will be travel between officials undertaking that verification work within about the next 10 days. She said the third phase will be the finalising of details. The Government will get advice … Read More

Education departments are weird - The Dismal Science

Aug 11, 2020

So our Joel Hernandez has completed some more work on what’s all going on in New Zealand’s school system and an Auckland Uni education prof is mad about it.  Oh well. Joel’s long term project has been to look at differences in outcomes across students and schools, using the administrative data held in the StatsNZ data lab to adjust for a rather broad assortment of things that students bring with them into the classroom. Naive league tables will credit, or damn, schools for outcomes that are largely due to differences in the communities that those schools serve. Getting better measures on outcomes, adjusting for the differences across families that we can see in the data lab, helps. Our measures don’t tell you what’s going on in any particular school, but they do let you know whether a … Read More

Safe arrivals - The Dismal Science

Jul 29, 2020

If entry into New Zealand from abroad is safe, it should be allowed.  People arriving from places that are Covid-free, or no more risky than New Zealand, and who get here on flights that do not intersect with risky places, should return to normal travel arrangements. Currently, the Cook Islands, the rest of New Zealand’s Pacific Island realm, and Taiwan would fit the bill – along possibly with Vietnam, if the epidemiologists figure that’s safe. Similarly, any Australian states that get things reliably under control and maintain adequate border measures against the states that haven’t, could be invited into our Pacific ‘bubble’. Entry from other places needs to be made safe. And New Zealand needs to scale up its managed isolation system so that more people can join us – both Kiwis abroad returning home and others who might wish … Read More

Almost anything beats prohibition, including the draft cannabis legislation - The Dismal Science

May 06, 2020

The draft cannabis legislation, as written, is better than prohibition. Even without amendment, those inclined to vote should vote for it. There’s still a lot in it that I don’t like though. The prohibition on growers also running retail operations, presumably intended to prevent large commercial grow operations with vertically integrated retailers, will also prevent anyone from running the kinds of cellar-door operations that have been very important in wine tourism. Sure, cannabis is nothing like wine. But is it that hard to imagine folks spending a morning at a grower’s in Northland, seeing he fields, meeting the growers and workers, touring the facilities, sampling some of the product , having a bit of lunch maybe with a nice wine, ordering some for delivery back home, then bicycling over to tour a different one in the afternoon? A whole lot … Read More

Tourism and the ETS - The Dismal Science

Dec 20, 2019

Eloise Gibson covers the carbon costs of tourism over at Newsroom: But in reality: “value-led tourism growth may actually worsen those pressures that are linked with consumption. Higher-value visitors, by definition, consume more goods and services, all of which have an associated greenhouse gas and solid waste footprint. To the extent that these goods and services are relatively energy intensive (e.g. car rather than bus travel, hotel rather than campground accommodation, helicopter rides rather than hiking), high-value visitors will again have a relatively large greenhouse gas footprint.” While the report concludes it is possible for smaller number of wealthier tourists to put less pressure on wastewater and waste disposal services, that only works if the total number of visitors falls.  “Any such improvement relies crucially on any growth in higher-spending tourists being accompanied by
 a reduction in their lower-spending … Read More

Illicit markets and Bali Booze - The Dismal Science

Nov 11, 2019

The Herald reprints an Australian story on a couple of tragic deaths in Bali from drinking cocktails that had methanol in them.  The story argues that methanol is likely the result of home distillation. But what the young tourists were experiencing was far from a hangover. They’d consumed a toxic cocktail laced with methanol hidden in their drink. Without taste or smell, the young travellers had no idea what they’d been served at the bar. Methanol, while closely related to ethanol (which is found in wine, beer and quality spirits) is far more toxic and can be found in drinks made from home-distilled spirits. Commercially made spirits are safe to consume because manufacturers use technologies specifically designed to ensure methanol is separated from the ethanol that goes into the bottles we purchase. Home brew systems, however, makes separation more difficult … Read More

Vaccination, compulsion, and paternalism for the lower orders - The Dismal Science

Nov 07, 2019

The National Party has come out in support of encouraging greater vaccination uptake. But it sure isn’t the way I’d do it. National’s suggested docking the benefits of those on benefit whose kids aren’t keeping up with their vaccinations. Some in National have suggested extending that to payments under Working for Families, but that appears more controversial. We can go back to first principles and note that there’s a reasonable case for government intervention to encourage vaccination – as I have done previously. There is compulsion all over the place in public health, except where there’s an actual market failure case for using compulsion. I think that case is strongest when it comes to those workers most likely to be in contact with not-yet-vaccinated youths, and with people whose immunity may otherwise be compromised. So, ECE workers and … Read More

Public health, externality, and vaccination - The Dismal Science

Oct 31, 2019

Paternalism is contentious. Arguments for state action to protect us from ourselves are fraught. I come down pretty heavily on the anti-paternalism side of the argument, but I’ve heard respectable defences of paternalism. But policy around vaccination is hardly paternalistic. There’s a clear market failure that could be pointed to in any sound Regulatory Impact Statement. In a place with relatively high vaccination rates, the primary benefit from your getting vaccinated goes to other people. The risk of catching anything is low, because everyone else is vaccinated. If you also get vaccinated, you very slightly reduce your already low risk of catching anything. You also very slightly consequently reduce the risk of anyone else catching anything – there’s still risk among those who are vaccinated, and there are others out there who cannot be vaccinated because they either are immunocompromised, … Read More

Google keeps making our lives better - The Dismal Science

Jun 19, 2019

Navigating post-earthquake Christchurch was tough. Every day brought a new set of road closures to route around. And they weren’t always easy to predict in advance. If enough roads were closed on the south side of town, I’d want to take the longer northern loop to get from New Brighton to the University – but I wouldn’t know that until I hit the closures. So I’d then asked some friends at Google whether this couldn’t be automated (and posted on the basic idea here). Traffic flow data already held could be used to infer road closures. If everyone who’d been recommended to follow Dyer’s Road down to Ferry Road took a turn on Linwood instead, and nobody was on that small stretch of Dyer’s Road, it would be a safe guess that it was closed. Why not flag it … Read More

Data termination - The Dismal Science

May 23, 2019

Awww, nutbunnies. In April, Paula Penfold and Eugene Bingham reported that 2500 women had had their requests for abortion turned down over the last decade. Me, and a few others, immediately started imagining some rather interesting research that could be done if those records could be linked up in the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI). So I started making enquiries. It’s not a study I’d ever do as part of the day-job, but if a few queries from me could help the academics who would actually do the studies and tell me interesting things about the world I didn’t know before – well, I was happy to poke around to see whether that data could be linked up in IDI. It can’t be. Or, at least, not easily. Consulting physicians provide to the government reporting on approvals and rejections, case-by-case, … Read More