by Brian Easton

The theories one uses needs to be explicit, especially when the issue is as complicated as Brexit or Trump.

Two of my intellectual mentors, Maynard Keynes and Karl Popper, give broadly the same advice. Be aware that you are using theories; be sensitive to their assumptions, to their limitations. Very often our public discussions involve no awareness of the underlying theoretical constructs, let alone their weaknesses (as well as their strengths).

This column is not about the Government successes nor the Opposition failures. Its purpose is to learn from the various flapdoodles, some of which are significant, some of which are trivial.

Own Goals

What advice does Trump’s book give to the current President of the United Sates?

Back in 1987, Donald Trump published a book that was part autobiography and part extended essay on how to become a winning negotiator. The Art of the Deal became a number one bestseller, and it was one of the things which put Trump into the public spotlight.

The Ardern-Peters Government appears to be comfortable with neoliberalism. Is that because it does not know of any alternative?

The awarding of a knighthood to accountant Rob McLeod raises some interesting questions about the attitude of the government to Rogernomics. I am not competent to judge McLeod’s worthiness for the award; I am a republican and do not approve of titles. Nothing written here should change your view of McLeod, nor the worthiness of his knighthood.

If improved financial regulations wont prevent crashes, what is the point of them?

The background to this column is that I am greatly influenced by Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) who saw innovation at the heart  of capitalism. Sometimes the risks taken to innovate go belly-up and firms crash; with knock-on effects. Those crashes are therefore an integral part of the innovation which goes with the rising level of material production and capitalism.

The Way the Voting is Organised Matters Too.

In 2004 I had the privilege of a Fulbright Visiting Professorial Fellowship to the US to further my studies on globalisation. Because an early stage of international integration is regional integration, I was interested in America. It is not only an economic story but a political one, so I spent some of my time looking at the development of the US constitution.

We have known since last May that the March 2018 Population Census is badly flawed. Does it matter? What can be done?

A modern state depends on a regular population census. It is usual at this stage to mention a host of administrative services – such as the funding of District Health Boards – which require accurate population counts. But the use of the Census is wider than that.

That our bureaucrats failed to be prepared for a new government, is an indication of deeper problems.

For those interested in the totality of New Zealand politics the most extraordinary story of the year may be the finding that our public service was, broadly, unprepared for the change of government.

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.