by Brian Easton

This was an introduction to a presentation by Stephen Jacobi: "TPP – Where to from Here (And How Did We Get Here Anyway)?" To a NZIIA lecture, 2 September 2015. (Some editing)

It was suggested I first say a few words about the context in which the TPP and other trade negotiations are occurring. At the heart of economic progress is specialisation. That Economics Stage I comparative advantage model that you were taught said that by specialising and trading its surplus a country could be better off.

The flag debate tells us something about the quality of design in New Zealand

I am not going to tell you about the right choice for New Zealand’s flag. That would invalidate the point of the column. Certainly I shall vote for one; much of my response will be an instinctive opinion. What I shall probably miss – what we are currently missing – is expert guidance on the characteristics of a good flag.

Notes for Radio NZ Nights with Brian Crump: 11 August, 2014

The indications are that economic growth is slowing down from the boom rates of the last few years. The slowdown may turn into a contraction – that is, output may fall. There is a view that the contraction began in the middle of 2015. (It is not possible to be sure. All the data is not in and is subject to measurement error.

Trust Us?

If you think you know what has been going on with the TPP, you have not been following closely enough. However, here are a few matters for clarification.

Why does it occur, when does it work? 

Allow me to share a puzzle. Public sector outsourcing (a.k.a. ‘contracting out’) has been increasing in recent decades. It is not the same as ‘privatisation’ because the government retains the role as a funder but it outsources the task to a private provider – which may be a corporation or non-government organisation.

Fracking has changed the energy outlook, with major geopolitical implications 

About a decade ago, there was much concern about ‘peak oil’ – that the production of oil would peak and then fall off quickly leaving the world’s transport system stranded. The idea is really an extension of the two hundred year old insight of Thomas Malthus that the demand from an increasing population would exhaust food production with resulting starvation  because land was limited.

Treating the Auckland housing bubble as a supply-side problem doesn’t work; neither does blaming some group without a careful analysis of what is happening. What might work?

There are two separate Auckland housing issues which are only loosely linked. The first, dealt with here briefly, is providing sufficient housing in the region.

Whatever the answer, what are we going to do about it?

Steven Joyce, Minister of Economic Development and most other economic things, was hardly helpful when he dismissed talk of an economic recession on a recent TV3

We need to distinguish the sovereign state from the people it governs, and the other political institutions between. 

Things are moving so fast in the financial negotiations between Greece and the Troika (European Central Bank, European Union, and the International Monetary Fund) that there is little point in my trying to comment on them. But there is a structural issue which most commentaries overlook.

Recent publications suggest that the children who live at the bottom in economies with high inequality have reduced life chances.

The grandfather of modern distributional research is Tony Atkinson, a British economist who began in the 1960s a lifetime career studying the British and world income distributions and other related ones.