by Brian Easton

The growth of farm output may be slowing. Specialty cheeses show an alternative strategy of further post-farmgate processing.

Land for farming ran out in the 1950s. Farm production intensified. We shifted from more dollars of farm output by using more land to getting more dollars per unit of land. Among the challenges we had was to replace the nutrients we were depleting from the soil – notably phosphates. Fortunately the world’s reserves of cheap phosphates have not yet all gone.

By exploring the multiple worlds she grew up in in New Zealand, Helene Wong’s memoir ‘Being Chinese: A New Zealander’s Story’ tells us much about our worlds too.

Economists have a predilection for the open economy  because, I think, openness to trade tends to be associated with openness to ideas, to technologies, to people, to opportunity, to the future. So the import controls on carpets in the 1960s meant New Zealand was unprepared for the rise of synthetics which decimated the market for coarse wools, crashing their prices in 1966.

Jenny Shipley says the middle class has captured the welfare state. But did she understand what the welfare state actually meant before she began attacking it?

In her interview with Guyon Espiner, Jenny Shipley regretted that the ‘middle class’ were still beneficiaries of the welfare state. Now the term ‘class’ is a summary of a lot of complex ideas useful in social discussions, but I cannot recall it being used by such a senior politician – at least not since Harry Holland.

Answering that question proves to be challenging. This preliminary assessment suggests the economic benefits to incumbent New Zealanders may not be great.

During the Vogel boom, say between 1871 and 1881, the population of New Zealand doubled, as did real GDP (as best as we can measure). That means per capita GDP was much the same at the end of the boom as it was at the beginning. Was it a boom then?

If the Commercial Miracle of Newspapers is Over, What will Replace It?

Newspapers have been a commercial miracle. For a very small outlay one got access to a surprisingly wide range of news, opinion and information. Part of the explanation was economies of scale, but the trick was that much of the industry’s revenue came from advertising.

Much of the commentary on the budget was shallow. What is really going on is that the changes are small but they reflect a particular political perspective. The financial threat was hardly discussed

Allow me to be irritated by the trivial discussion which surrounds the government’s annual budget. The budget is simply the government setting out its spending, revenue and borrowing plans for the year, as required by legislation and as has been a fundamental part of the constitution for three centuries.

Following up my ‘AUT Policy Observatory’ report on ‘Housing Prices Relative to Consumer Prices: An Analysis’.

Last week the Reserve Bank reported stress tests to assess the ability of borrowers to cope with higher mortgage interest rates. Assuming 7 percent p.a.

Or has Labour lost its clothes or forgotten how to put them on.

Some Labour supporters are disturbed that the government seems to be stealing their policies.

Managing the government’s fiscal deficit need not mean cutting social expenditure.

An economic Austerian is someone who advocates cutting government spending, particularly social expenditures, in order to eliminate a government’s fiscal deficits. (The name is a portmanteau of ‘austerity' and ‘Austrian' from the neoliberal ‘Austrian School of Economics'.)

Do residential care workers deserve the big pay increase they are getting?

The recent historic pay equity deal for aged and residential care workers raises a tricky clash between quite different accounts of how the economy should work. Many people think that workers should be paid at a rate that reflects their social worth; others – mostly economists – think they are paid at their marginal product,  which I explain below.