Published Work 2012

The following is a list of the 2012 publications on my website. Some consultancy work and most of my writing on the history of New Zealand is not there. The publications are grouped into research topics (which means there is some doubling up) and are itemised in the order of publication.  There is a a short contextual introduction for each topic.

  1. Economic History and Political Economy (includes Demography): 15 Items
  2. The Purpose of the Economy: 5 Items
  3. How Markets Work: 8 Items
  4. Policy Initiatives (includes Poverty): 9 Items
  5. Macroeconomics: 14 Items
  6. The International Context: 6 Items
  7. Critiquing Public Policy: 12 Items

1. Economic History and Political Economy (*Demography)

The big effort remains the history of New Zealand For which I wrote about 60,000 words (in addition to revising chapters) and am up to the late 1970s. Most of this material is not on the web, although I am thinking about publishing the quantitative appendices in web form in 2013.

The list includes some material based on the history, and some articles which amount to notes for future chapters.

Only indirectly mentioned in the list is that I have been on the independent panel assisting the Treasury in their Long Term Fiscal Projection to be published at the end of 2013. I guess it is for them to rate my contribution, but I have thought that my historical work was of value; you cannot really project fifty years out on the basis of knowledge of the last few. I’d hope my modelling and policy skills have been useful too.

I have also been doing some work as a social statistician on ethnicity, social class and educational achievement. The report is not quite ready for publication. I am not sure if the work is important, but it is enlightening to me.

(I have separated out demography because this year I was appointed an honorary fellow of the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis at Waikato University. This adds to fellowships at the Institute of Public Policy, AUT; SHORE, Massey; Stout Research Centre, VUW and the University of Otago’s Wellington School of Medicine).

2. The Purpose of the Economy

Ever since my first economic teacher, Alan Danks, warned the class against treating GDP and such as being ultimate measures of welfare I have been concerned with the purpose of the economy and how it relates to a holistic human life. Wellbeing research in recent years has made it possible to progress the issue. Occasionally I have been given the opportunity to ponder on the issue in public. (Like almost all of my work the new material is based on previous research.)

3. How Markets Work

One of the central themes at the University of Sussex where I taught in the 1960s was how markets worked and how they could be harnessed for social outcomes. It has remained a persistent research theme of mine. This year I began bringing together a critique of light-handed regulation while providing an alternative policy framework of social market regulation. This may well be influential in New Zealand economic management in the future, but only because New Zealand has got so far out of line with conventional economic practice.

4. Policy Initiatives: (*Poverty)

As I have often grumbled, I am not into the ‘bugger the analysis; let’s get onto the policy’ approach which is riddled through the New Zealand public dialogue. Focusing on analysis and how policy occurs means I focus on policy frameworks (such as light handed regulation and its alternative) and dont always get into detailed policy prescriptions. But sometimes I write about policy to illustrate analysis, and sometimes in the depths of analysis one sees amazing policy options.

Towards the end of the year as a part of the light-handed regulation theme, I began seeing a set of public institutions which seem quite diverse and yet are organised around the same core analytics – ACC, BPGC; EQC, probably some others including part of the health system – with the purpose of encouraging prevention and early identification before the event and reducing transaction costs after, I am not sure where the analysis will go; I shall be watching this space too.

I’ve separated out poverty research. Although there is not much recorded here I did one major project in 2012 which should be published in 2013. Poverty (and income inequality) is becoming fashionable but far too much is analytically less sophisticated than what I did when I set up the paradigm forty years ago – as nice illustration of the ‘bugger the analysis’ approach. The consequence is most of the policy discussion does not address the real issue.

5. Macroeconomics

My macroeconomic work over the year, has centred on anxieties that we could let our debt situation get out of control with a Greek outcome. One of the constant themes in Listener columns has been the need for fiscal restraint (although I am much more willing to contemplate raising taxes that the government) but also we need to worry about private debt as well as public debt. (There has been much less work this year on economic growth – the Long Recession continues.)

Amazingly this year I solved a theoretical problem which has been gnawing at me for three decades: how to characterise a three commodity economy. It leads to an amazing – and yet so simple – conclusion. There is a locus – a formal relationship – between net savings and the real exchange rate. In simple terms we cannot get that exchange rate down unless we increase national savings. To be frank the result is so simple, so elegant that someone must have identified it earlier – or else I have made an analytic error ☺. In my view the result suggests both quite a different view of macroeconomic management in a small open economy, and yet – strangely – one which is not too different from that which I have been developing in the past.

6. The International Context

Not much this year, because I was not asked to do much. Most are Listener columns concerned about the state of the world economy. In 2013 I am planning to travel to Malaysia and Indonesia with a grant from the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

7. Critiquing Current Public Policy

It has not been a good year for the government with its lack of depth becoming increasingly apparent in terms of serious public mistakes. Criticising it is for the politicians (including those who disguise themselves as commentators). On occasions I join in with critiques. Sometimes it is where the government has got itself into a muddle and where a bit of hard-headed analysis provides some insights; sometimes it is a thought-piece trying to set out a framework to think about the government’s problem.

It is surely not coincidental that the last item for the year was a Listener column around the themes of the meaning of wellbeing, the existence of social change and the need for prudence.