Michael Reddell

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

Wellington…still growing sluggishly - The Dismal Science

Aug 02, 2016

There was an annoying story on the front page of the Dominion-Post this morning.  The online version of the story is headed “The big squeeze: Wellington’s population could almost double in the next 30 years”, a proposition which appears to be based on nothing more than annualizing last year’s estimated population growth for the Wellington city area.  I suppose anything could happen.  The annual immigration target could be doubled or trebled, central government could go on a massive expansion path, or the private sector could discover hitherto untapped opportunities in Wellington. But if Wellington has outstripped Dunedin over the years, it has hardly managed strong growth.  I went back to my 1913 New Zealand Official Yearbook.  Back then, greater Wellington made up 17 per cent of the total population of the 14 large urban areas (a group made up … Read More

Young UK voters and the EU: then and now - The Dismal Science

Jul 23, 2016

Since the successful Brexit vote on 23 June, there has been a great deal of (mostly rather disdainful) attention paid in some quarters to the demographic breakground of the support for Leave and Remain.  Among aggrieved Remainers there has been a particular focus on the fact that –   at least among those who bothered to turn out to vote –  young voters had fairly strongly favoured Remain.  In Lord Ashcroft’s exit polls, the Remain/Leave split among voters aged 18 to 24 was 73 per cent in favour of Remain, and 27 per cent in favour of Leave.  Among the (much larger group of) voters aged 65 plus, 60 per cent favoured Leave and 40 per cent favoured Remain.   Here is the graphic from the Ashcroft polls. The rising generation favoured Remain and only the old really wanted Leave (although the margin … Read More

Immigration is “a good thing”, and that is all we need to know - The Dismal Science

Jul 04, 2016

I’ve been struck again over the last few days by the determination of our “elites” –  whether from the left-liberal end of the spectrum, or the (rather smaller) libertarian end – not to actually engage with the data on New Zealand’s experience of large scale immigration. In their amusing tongue-in-cheek simplified retelling of English history, 1066 and all that, Sellars and Yeatman had most things classified as “a good thing” or “not a good thing”. There seems to be a world view, straddling National, Labour and the Greens, and ACT as well, that in some sense “immigration is a ‘good thing’” and that is really all that needs to be said on the matter.  Much the same goes for the media.  The plebs just need to get with the programme –  perhaps having it explaining to them again, slowly and clearly … Read More

Skills matter… and we already seem to have them - The Dismal Science

Jun 30, 2016

Earlier this week the OECD released Skills Matter, a 160 page report on the results of a programme of surveys of adult skills in OECD (and a handful of other) countries. As usual with OECD reports, it is full of fascinating charts.  Here is how they describe the programme: In the wake of the technological revolution that began in the last decades of the 20th century, labour market demand for information-processing and other high-level cognitive and interpersonal skills is growing substantially. The Survey of Adult Skills, a product of the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), was designed to provide insights into the availability of some of these key skills in society and how they are used at work and at home. The first survey of its kind, it directly measures proficiency in several information-processing skills … Read More