Pundit Columns on the Covid Crisis

I was writing almost weekly about the Covid Crisis during its peak of between March and June 2020. Not that I had any technical expertise in the area (in the following please allow for that) but its impact on economics areas where I had some expertise was great. Here is a list of the Pundit columns with a brief account of what is in each.

Black April, May And June? (March 17, 2020)

By early March it was evident that the Covid virus was going to be a major international problem. As well as reading the contemporary literature. I looked at what history might teach us. I acknowledge that some of the thinking in the column about the future course of the virus was wrong, because I did not envisage a lockdown. I was probably not too far from what insiders were thinking a little earlier. This led them to think about alternative strategies, and ultimately the lockdown.

GFC Vs Covid-19 (March 20, 2020)

The date of this column is close to the previous one indicating they were coupled. My concern was that the commentariat’s approach to dealing with the economic disruption from Covid-19 was based on the GFC. Yet, as I explain, the two are economically quite different. Again I am relatively pessimistic about the course of the impact of the virus (but not overly wrong had I been writing about many other countries). Note that the column was published on the day that a temporary border closure was imposed (and therefore written a few days earlier).

Dealing With The Covid-19 Tsunami (March 24, 2020)

The third in the series, responding to the Economic Response to Covid-19 package a week earlier.

Backstage And Theatre (April 02, 2020)

The Covid Crisis gave an opportunity to make the general point: we pay insufficient attention to the officials servicing the politicians. The final sentence may be the truest sentiment that I wrote during the crisis. ‘A good number of today’s overworked officials will tell their grandchildren “this was my finest hour”.’

A Child’s Introduction To Quantitative Easing (April 14, 2020)

While this column does not mention Covid-19 directly, it was an attempt to explain the consequences of the government’s fiscal response to the lockdown. It substantially increased spending while revenue fell and so its borrowing increased. The column contributes to a vigorous debate among economists at the time by recalling the often-overlooked principle that every liability is matched by an asset.

Where Is The New Zealand Economy Going? (April 17, 2020)

The Treasury published a preliminary assessment of their thinking about the course of the economy under the lockdown. I argue that the structural change is going to be much greater. (See May 22 for more on the Treasury view.)

How Much Unemployment? (April 21, 2020)

This is a followup of the previous (April 17) column which argues that the common account of how unemployment will evolve may be wrong. It argues that while there will be much unemployment, it will be more spread out.

About The Economic Future: Good Questions – Uncertain Answers (April 29, 2020)

A review of the state of the world and New Zealand economy in the light of the Covid Crisis.

Covid19 And History (May 04, 2020)

With my book Not in Narrow Seas: The Economic History of Aotearoa New Zealand out in May it seemed apposite to reflect how it had shaped my thinking on the Covid Crisis.

If It Takes Too Long To Produce A Covid Vaccine (May 11, 2020)

I have no expertise on the development of vaccines, but it was clear that experts were in disagreement. I used the possibility that there would not be an effective vaccine to discuss the significance of border controls.

What The 2020 Budget Forecasts Mean (May 22, 2020)

By now we are in Alert2 but still with rigorous border controls on people. My post-budget column is an account of how Treasury expected things to evolve. It will be evident from the April 17 column (and mentioned in this one) that I am uneasy with the underlying assumptions. However the task of the column was to explain what the government’s chief economic advisers were thinking.

Hinges Of History: After Covid-19? (June 26, 2020)

From June I began easing back my writing about Covid-19. This is a summary of a paper I was asked to give about the implications of a post-Covid world, where I argue (cautiously) that we may be entering a new era. See September 18 for another discussion.)

The Third World War (September 4, 2020)

This column asks in what sense there is national unity (the Team of Five Million) over Covid-19 looking back to the Second World War as an earlier occasion. It follows up of the previous week’s column Whither Nationalism? The second half uses the world war analogy to reflect, gloomily, on the failure of the world to unite against the Covid-19 ‘warriors’.