Michael Reddell

More people means more emissions. So how about fewer people? - The Dismal Science

May 24, 2017

I’ve never had that much interest in climate change.  Perhaps it comes from living in Wellington.   If average local temperatures were a couple of degrees warmer here most people would be quite happy.    And as successive earthquakes seem to have the South Island pushing under the North Island, raising the land levels around here –  you can see the dry land that just wasn’t there before 1855 –  it is a bit hard to get too bothered about rising local sea levels.  Perhaps it is a deep moral failing, a failure of imagination, or just an aversion to substitute religions.  Whatever the reason, I just haven’t had much interest. But a story I saw yesterday reminded me of a post I’d been meaning to write for a few weeks.  According to Newshub, In documents released under … Read More

New immigration data from Statistics New Zealand - The Dismal Science

May 22, 2017

One can, and does, grizzle about the range and quality of New Zealand’s official statistics.  But last Friday saw a small but welcome step forward. On various occasions I’ve written about the limitations of the permanent and long-term migration data.  Those data are based on the self-reported intentions of travellers at the time they cross the New Zealand border, and people can and do change their minds.  That is as true of New Zealand citizens coming and going as it is non-citizens. Prompted by the Reserve Bank, in late 2014 Statistics New Zealand published a paper containing some experimental work they had done trying to estimate the actual permanent and long-term movements (ie allowing for the ability of travellers to change their minds and their plans).    That work confirmed that, while the broad patterns were similar, on occasions … Read More

New Zealanders’ population choices - The Dismal Science

May 20, 2017

The other day Statistics New Zealand released the annual data on New Zealand birth rates.  There was some coverage of the continuing drop in teen birth rates (it was what SNZ highlighted), but the chart that caught my eye was this one.     I’d been under the impression that New Zealand’s birth rate was at, or just above, replacement (roughly 2.1 births per woman, thus allowing for early deaths).   And, according to this summary indicator, it was for a few years not that long ago.    But that is no longer the case. But what most interested me –  and it isn’t data I’ve ever paid that much attention to –  was the longer-term averages.  It turns out that for forty years now, New Zealand’s birth rate has averaged below the replacement rate (1977 was the last year the TFR had been … Read More

What (e/im)migration data to use when - The Dismal Science

May 02, 2017

I was having a conversation with someone the other day, trying to explain both what data there were on movements of people into (and out of) New Zealand, and which data was useful for what purpose.  Reflecting on that afterwards, it seemed that a post might be useful.  This follows on from my post last week on the Herald’s misleading article on “work visas”, but is intended to be much general, not aimed at anyone  or any recent comment in particular, and to be something I can refer (others) back to. For those who find my discursive posts a bit trying the quick summary is that if you want to talk about immigration policy –  something that only affects non-citizen movements –  use the MBIE data.  MBIE, of course, could and should make it much easier to do so. Being an island a … Read More

Natural resources: Norway and the UK - The Dismal Science

Mar 31, 2017

The contribution of natural resources to the prosperity of nations is much-debated.   There is little doubt that a) natural resources can be wasted, mismanaged etc, such that a country well-provided for by nature still ends up pretty poor (Zambia is my favourite example, partly because I worked there), and b) that it is perfectly feasible for some countries to do very well indeed with little in the way of natural resources (one could think of Singapore or Japan, but also Belgium or Switzerland).    The quality of the human capital of the people in a place, and the “institutions” that are put in place or sustained, make a huge difference.   Location looks as though it might matter too. But equally, it is easy to think of countries where it is pretty clear that natural resources have made a great deal of … Read More

What does the OECD really have to offer us? - The Dismal Science

Mar 24, 2017

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is often loosely described as “the rich countries club”.  It isn’t an entirely accurate description –  there are several high income oil exporting countries who don’t belong (as well as places like Singapore and Taiwan), and some countries that are members (notably Mexico and Turkey) aren’t particularly high income.     But it is a grouping of mostly fairly advanced fairly open economies (New Zealand’s been a member since 1973).   And the organisation claims to be able to offer useful advice to countries as to how to improve their economic performance.  I’ve become increasingly sceptical of that proposition, especially as regards New Zealand. On a biennial cycle the OECD’s Economic and Development Review Committee (EDRC) meets in Paris to review each member country’s overall economic performance, and offers some specific advice both on general economic management … Read More

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