New Year’s Resolution: Get a handle on inequality in New Zealand

By Matt Nolan 07/01/2014

It is 2014, isn’t that nice.

As I’ve promised, this year I’m going to write more on income inequality (and broader issues of inequality) when I get the opportunity.  With the recovery in the labour market and economy running above expectations, there may be less need for us to comment on macroeconomic issues here – a welcome change from when we started posting and the Global Financial Crisis took root.

However, this isn’t really an issue that an individual, or even a single discipline, can cover in the detail it deserves – so I am hoping that a wider variety of individuals from the broad church of social sciences can come visit us here to deliver guest posts on the issue.

Furthermore, we’d like to think about this in a New Zealand context – we mostly write about the New Zealand economy here (although James is doing a good job covering the UK), and recognising how different the issues are here than overseas is important.

This thinking is important.  As Len Kenworthy says (via Economist’s View):

I believe, as I said earlier, there are good reasons to object to the high and rising level of income inequality in the US. Yet I fear the American left’s recent move to put income inequality reduction front and centre might be harmful rather than helpful. It may foster a conviction that the key to addressing America’s social, economic and political problems is to reduce the top 1%’s share or the Gini coefficient.  That could distract attention from more direct and effective efforts to address those problems.

This is a view I agree with, and one of the key issues I had with the suggestions put forward in the Spirit Level.  Questions of policy are not easy, and trying to flesh out both a description of the trade-offs involved and an admission of the principles of fairness we may value are essential before we can even think of reaching a policy conclusion ;)

Ed: Originally appeared at TVHE 1 January.