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

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

Breaking the pharmacy cartel - The Dismal Science

Feb 15, 2019

I wish that government spent even half as much time looking at how its existing regulatory structures create cartels as it did in the rest of its antitrust enforcement. The Herald reports that a new entrant has finally started shaking things up in pharmacy, reducing costs to consumers. They get the framing entirely backwards, focusing on reduced earnings among the Chemist Warehouse’s nearby competitors. I wish they’d open an outlet in Wellington so I could have a look. Here’s a dumb small example of what things are like here. I occasionally have minor heartburn. In North America, I’d buy a big bottle of Tums antacid. It’d take me a year to go through the big bottle. Now they sell them there in even bigger bottles: 330 tablets for $13.44 – $0.04 per tablet. Add on exchange rates and GST … Read More

Good character? - The Dismal Science

Jan 14, 2019

National wishes to impose a ‘fit and proper persons’ test for those supplying legal medicinal cannabis. National’s associate health spokesman Shane Reti said medicinal cannabis manufacturers and employees should be “fit and proper persons”. National has proposed clean slate legislation requiring no terms of imprisonment and no convictions for seven years for employees, and even tougher standards for licence holders including no associations with gangs. “The industry was adamant that it understood the need to be absolutely squeaky clean in this new industry and they were up for that,” Reti said. David Farrar suggests it is appropriate that those in the industry have no convictions within the past seven years. I keep saying the best approach to cannabis legalisation is to look at alcohol and see whether the rules there would work for cannabis. For alcohol, a … Read More

Bias toward action? - The Dismal Science

Nov 15, 2018

Kiwis so-inclined can petition their Parliament for legislative change. But they cannot petition Parliament to maintain the status quo. Victoria University’s Chris Eichbaum wants the government to ban private fireworks displays. This is just phenomenal. With this level of support we now have an opportunity to get them issues in front of law makers and to push for the necessary changes https://t.co/Ada1CsW6xv pic.twitter.com/5bpeJgoLym — Chris Eichbaum (@ChrisEichbaum) November 6, 2018 I kinda like fireworks, so I submitted a petition asking the government to maintain the current rules. I started from Chris’s petition, added the word ‘not’ in a couple spots, listed some of the ways that fireworks are awesome, and submitted it. A few days later, I got a very apologetic phone call from the Clerk’s Office saying that it’s only possible to petition … Read More

Have you considered using prices? - The Dismal Science

Nov 08, 2018

Talk about an elephant in the room. Radio New Zealand’s story on unregulated informal sperm donor networks is a great chronicle of what happens when you ban payments for sperm donors, without once mentioning that the whole thing is a consequence of a ban on payments for sperm donors. It’s like a murder mystery where all the facts are laid out, but nobody has figured out who the obvious killer is. It really is the butler! Why hasn’t anyone arrested the butler! What do we find in this story? Waits at official fertility clinics of 18 months to two years (blamed in part on increased demand from single women); High costs at fertility clinics: $300 for an initial consultation, donor’s testing costs of $1500… Men shunning clinics because donating at the clinic is costly to them: “The clinics, they … Read More

Doing less good than we could – carbon edition - The Dismal Science

Oct 09, 2018

New Zealand has an emissions trading scheme. It isn’t perfect. But for the sectors covered by the ETS, including transport, best policy for reducing carbon dioxide emissions is fairly simple: buy and retire credits.  The government simply cannot know whether the cheapest way of reducing CO2 emissions is by getting the least efficient cars off the road; having people switch to electric cars; planting trees; improving methane capture at landfill – or something else entirely. So stories like this are a bit depressing: As well as looking to revamp the Government’s car fleet, there are number of other options Shaw is considering. These include exploring the idea of increasing tail pipe emission standards – something the Productivity Commission recommended in a recent report. “We’re also examining the Productivity Commission’s proposal for a feebates scheme – which lowers the upfront … Read More

Five dollar prize - The Dismal Science

Oct 03, 2018

I’ve been absolutely loving Tyler Mahan Coe’s podcast series on the history of country music and the country music business. Every story is fascinating. A lot of the stories aren’t good for the kids. But I played the one about the Louvin Brothers (nee Loudermilk) for the kids. I paused it after this bit too see if they could figure out what was going on. Can you? Charlie Loudermilk and his big brother, Ira, hated every day of picking cotton except one. That was the day Colonel Loudermilk took the three oldest kids out to the field, right at sunup, and showed them all a $5 bill. He said whoever picked the most cotton that day would get to have the money. $5 might as well have been $500 to these kids; they hit the cotton rows at top … Read More

Carbon emissions and the Taranaki ban - The Dismal Science

Sep 28, 2018

MBIE’s advice on Labour’s ban on Taranaki oil and gas exploration suggested that global emissions could go up. Could that happen? It depends on what you think’s going on in the rest of the world. Suppose that the whole world were under a binding emissions cap under a global cap and trade regime. If New Zealand produced less natural gas and some stuff that used to be produced with natural gas here instead were produced using coal in China, global emissions would not go up. There’d be a slight decrease in emission permit purchases in New Zealand and a somewhat larger increase in emission permit purchases in China. The price of permits would go up, some lower-valued things that otherwise emitted carbon would stop happening (with those permits then sold back into the system) or some production processes elsewhere … Read More

Confidence in the Vice Chancellor - The Dismal Science

Sep 19, 2018

In a prior life, I was on Academic Board at the University of Canterbury as Economics Department representative. The meetings were usually tedious. Much of the point seemed to be to provide a forum for people to air their grievances so they could feel they were listened to, but without consequence. There’d usually be somebody who’d make a five-minute speech about how neoliberal managerialism was ruining everything, and then would be happy enough until making the same speech again a few months later. It all helped me realise that the point of meetings often is not to achieve any outcome at all, but to make people feel listened to. But it was also an important way of finding out what was all going on in the rest of the University and initiatives being pushed that we needed to pay attention … Read More