by Brian Easton

It’s time we stopped looking at Winston Peters through the spectacles the Rogernomes gave to us

One has been amused by the discovery by so many right-wing commentators that Winston Peters is not the devil incarnate that they have portrayed for twenty-five years and their surprise that he proved to be such a successful acting prime minister while Jacinda Ardern was away.

What is the actual state of the economy?

When I was closely associated with a business opinion survey many years ago, we found that the responses about the state of the economy were virtually valueless. If you asked a business whether they were taking on labour, selling more or investing more, their predictions in one survey correlated with what they say happened in the next.

Proposals to change the unsatisfactory status of two vital heritage institutions are meeting strong resistance from their current host.

In 2010 the State Services Commission, in its bureaucratic arrogance, decided to merge Archives NZ and the National Library into the Department of Internal Affairs. National cabinet ministers, under the thumbs of their departments, agreed (such instances are more common than is usually admitted).

I was asked to nominate ‘the three big things [the current government] should be tackling and is not’. Here is my answer.

I am going to eschew the usual response of various specific policies (such as a capital gains tax, resolving the Working for Families mess, spending more on the arts or establishing something like Australia's National Disability Insurance Scheme) and instead identify three strategic issues. But first a background.

Trump is going to war for the wrong reasons

From my office window I can see the single lane at the end of a motorway, usually filled with a queue of slowly moving cars. The conventional wisdom is that it should be two-laned to remove the blockage, but that does not look beyond the tunnel to the end where there the road meets a major junction with traffic lights.

The consequences of Britain leaving the EU have exposed the complexity of one country’s economic relations with its partners.

I have found Brexit rivetting. As a piece of Econ 101, it is straight forward. (OK, I simplify; it is rare for first year students to study in any depth the implications of intra-industry trade, supply chains, the economies of scale and of agglomeration in international trade.)  But first year economics courses teach little about institutional underpinnings.

The High Court recently decided that when the Ministry of Social Development calculates a social security beneficiary’s income any mortgage and credit cards loans she received were not income. Quite right, but it took a tortuous path to come to the right conclusion.

Had the Court come to any other conclusion, those businessmen jailed for fraudulently booking their business loan receipts as income (to hide a deficit in their flow of current receipts) would have asked for their sentences to be quashed and for compensation for wrongful imprisonment. What it would have meant for the private and public accounts of the nation boggles the mind.

A Harvard academic explains why some kinds of democracy are becoming less popular.

Too often we discuss ‘democracy’ without defining the term; too frequently the result is talking at cross-purposes. This confusion has become acute in recent years when discussing whether ‘democracy’ is in retreat (the subtext being that it was in an expansionary phase not so long ago).

Why are we not worried by an unmarried mother leading the country? Once we would have been.

Once in the 1970s, I was approached by a producer about whether I had a proposition which could be debated on television. The idea was to use a court format with a jury of twelve to decide. I suggested a number of possibilities; they picked the notion that marriage should be between two people and that the state should not be involved (except that it might have a voluntary register).

Mike Hosking’s statistical ignorance is so extraordinary that one’s immediate reaction is that a description of it was satire; nobody could be as ill-informed as that – and certainly not a major public commentator.

The details are amusingly told on the Spinoff website, but briefly the NZ Herald reported an Auckland Transport survey of 1459 people which stated that ‘support for cycling overall is at 57 per cent, with 34 per cent saying they are “very supportive”.