by Brian Easton

In too many areas the government is avoiding taking policy decisions. When it has to its panic measures are knee-jerk and quick-fix 

Just nine years ago, John Key, then leader of the opposition, spoke to the Auckland branch of the New Zealand Contractors Federation about housing affordability which he described then as a ‘crisis [which had] reached dangerous levels in recent years and looks set to get worse.’

The Reserve Bank cannot deliver affordable housing by itself. Its actions have to be coordinated with the government's. Unfortunately the monetarist framework of the Reserve Bank Act obscures this.

The tensions between the Reserve Bank and the Government over housing policy go back to the mistaken economic thinking in the 1989 Reserve Bank Act. Monetarism ruled and it is that underlying monetarist approach which is creating the tensions.

Too much of pop-economics is misleading to the point close to being lying. No wonder there is a widespread rejection of it by the populace. 

Journalists and other populisers get away with an economics which does not quite lie, but is often very misleading. This applies to Brexit, but let’s start off with the TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement).

Punitive public policy too often ignores its impact on the children involved. 

My last column described how the punitive measures we had for dealing with debtors were only abolished in 1989. Yet others continue to suffer from oppressive legislation – if they are low enough in social ranking.

Nineteenth-century migrants may have come here to escape oppressive laws, but the laws migrated too. It was late in the twentieth century that we abolished one of the most oppressive ones. Our origins are less humane than we like to pretend. 

Wilkens Micawber was incarcerated in a debtors' prison. It is said that he is modelled on Charles Dickens’ father, who suffered a similar fate. Meanwhile, his twelve-year-old son had to work in a factory. He hated the experience. A debtors’ prison appears in The Pickwick Papers, as well as David Copperfield, and most extensively in Little Dorrit.

It is unclear why anyone is voting for Britain leaving the EU nor, in many cases, why they are voting for remain. What are the possible alternatives? How is Britain or New Zealand to function in an increasingly globalised world?

As I put up this column, the Brits are about to vote on Brexit – whether Britain should withdraw from the European Union. We do not know what the outcome will be, for the opinion surveys are all over the place; in any case turnout may be crucial. In 1975 a similar referendum taken a couple of years after Britain joined went two to one for ‘stay’.

The economics of information shows that whatever happens, the solution our ailing newspapers to the digital revolution will not be a perfect one. 

An important notion in economic analysis is of a ‘public good’ (which may be a service). Not THE public good (a.k.a. the ‘common good’), which is shared and beneficial for all or most members of a given community. A public good in this narrow sense has two key features: it is ‘non-excludable’ and it is ‘non-rivalrous’.

Do you know what a bezzle is? Here is a book which explains the sophisticated financial system. 

The economic columnist I most admire is John Kay, who writes regularly for the Financial Times. He taught at various universities, was director of the independent think tank, Institute for Fiscal Studies, and has held a host of other interesting and important jobs.

A major preoccupation of the budget was preparing for the next major financial crisis. To do so it is reducing government spending relative to GDP. Where do tax cuts fit in? 

Our politics reminds me those weekly serial movies where each week the heroine ends in an impossible situation but next week she miraculously escapes and the action moves on to the next impossible situation.

The government has let the housing market deteriorate with measures which are insufficient, late and ineffective. As a first step we need to identify the underlying problems. 

The Prime Minister’s announcement that there is nothing new about homelessness is both an example of his strengths in reassuring the public that there is never really a problem and the weaknesses of the government’s policy approach..