by Brian Easton

Brexit illustrates the challenges of economic independence and interdependence.

Over the next week the British Parliament debates the terms for Brexit or not. There is no point in my trying to guess what might happen. There are many opinions and they all contradict one another; probably all will be wrong.

We need to rethink our strategy towards migrants.

The European Union’s single market strategy is based on the four freedoms of the movement of goods, capital, services, and labour. While each is complicated, it is the fourth which has proved the most contentious. Arguably, it was that experience which tipped many English into voting for Brexit and it has affected the politics of other parts of Europe.

How prepared are we for the next international financial crisis?

Adam Tooze’s magisterial Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World emphasises the role of wholesale financial markets in the global turmoil. Retail financial markets involve deposits placed in banks and other financial institutions.

We need to learn what happens when public spending is repressed. It does not lead to efficiency gains. Sometimes the consequences are disastrous.

The private enterprise failures in the Global Financial Crisis led to public expenditure changes. The Americans poured them into subsidies supporting the bankers, the Europeans went for Austerianism cutting back in the public spending on the ‘undeserving’, The Chinese – the last Keynesians? – splashed out on infrastructure, which has enhanced their growth prospects.

Walter Scheidel’s The Great Leveler says that it is – almost.

This column is an exploration of the recently published The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century. But first I need to attend to a couple of analytic points.

How prepared are we for the next international economic or financial crisis?

In order to maintain international liquidity during the Global Financial Crisis, the US Federal Reserve and other central banks arranged $US580b of ‘currency swaps’ in which for a limited period they exchanged US dollars for the local currencies.

A new book extends the challenge of how to have a decent society for all. We can do better.

From the 1930s when GDP was first systematically measured, economists knew that it was not a good measure of wellbeing.

And how should we tax sugar? The science and the economics are more difficult that one might think.

There is a rising obesity epidemic here and abroad. Obesity impacts on people’s health, their longevity and the costs to the medical system (in that order of importance). One response has been that there should be a tax upon sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). That would discourage their use, reduce the sugar intake and reduce obesity – or so say the advocates.

Does the Government’s Big Surplus Mean it Can Spend Up and Tax Down?

The Government has reported a much bigger than expected budget surplus for the last fiscal year – $5.5b on one measure. I am out of the country so I cannot do the hard grind to tell you what happened (but remember that a deficit or surplus is a very small number compared with the two big ones which are subtracted from one another to derive it so that it is subject to high volatility).

The Prime Minister told the UN that she aimed for New Zealand ‘to be the best place in the world to be a child’. Once we said it was.

 I do not know whether we were once the best country in the world for children. Certainly when I grew up in the 1950s we thought we were – even if there were no systematic comparisons. We returned from our OE in 1970 with that belief.