Category Archives: Literature and Culture

Valuation Guidance for Cultural and Heritage Assets

Review of report prepared by the Treasury Accounting Policy Team, for The Treasury (November 2002) prepared for Archefacts.

Keywords: Governance; Literature and Culture;

In 1974, with the construction industry, straining under the demand to catchup on the backlog of housing, was running out of building sites, the government instructed its agencies to identify suitable land they had available, and release them onto the market. The policy failed because it transpired that most had no idea of what land they possessed (or, probably, any other of their government assets).

Different Kinds Of Countries and Cities: The Distances Between Them.

Cultures of the Commonwealth The Urban and the Rural No 9, spring 2003, p.25-35.(1)

Keywords: Globalisation & Trade; Literature and Culture;

Geoffrey Blainey titled his seminal history of Australia The Tyranny of Distance, arguing that

In understanding Australia’s history, the idea of distance may be as revealing as say Frederick Jackson Turner’s ‘frontier theory’ is in probing the history of the United States. Distance – or its enemy, efficient transport – is not simply an explanation for much that happened in Australia’s history. Once the problem of distance is understood it also becomes difficult to accept many of the prevailing interpretations of other events in Australia’s history. Distance itself may not explain why they happened, but it forces a search for new applications.(2)

He could have said the same for New Zealand. For if external distance tyrannised Australia, New Zealand was more distant – even from Australia. (The physical distance from Canberra to Wellington is roughly the same as from London to Moscow.)

A Dissertation on Rare Essays

Presentation to ‘First Loves’, a session at ‘Reader’s and Writer’s Week, 17 March 2002.

Keywords Miscellaneous

Sometime in middle school – between Standard Three and Form Four – my class was read Charles Lamb’s Dissertation on Roast Pork. It may have come from a school journal, because others of my age have a similar memories, whereas commonly those who are a little younger dont know the essay. …

The Other Side Of the Ditch Cartoon Exhibition

Notes for Panel Discussion, National Library, 14 February, 2002.

Keywords: Globalisation & Trade; Literature and Culture;

The superficial relationship between Australia and New Zealand was captured by last night’s Evening Post article ‘Why do We Hate Australia?’. The short answer is, of course, if the ‘we’ refers to New Zealanders, that we dont hate Australians – we have a complicated relationship with them which is similar to a couple of siblings living with one another in the same unfashionable corner of a city.

Copenhagen: Can We Ever Really Know?

Listener 29 September 2001.

Keywords History of Ideas, Methodology & Philosophy; Miscellaneous (Literature)

The ‘Copenhagen model’, developed in the 1920s, remains the foundation of the quantum mechanics account of the atom which physicists use to this day. Two of the revolutionary developers were Dane Niels Bohr, then about forty, and German Werner Heisenberg, in his twenties. …

A Little More Than Kin: Petty Politics and External Threats

Listener 12 May, 2001.

Keywords: Macroeconomics & Money

Richard’s Brattigan’s four hour film of Hamlet included bits of the plot which are often omitted in the cut version of the play. I was particularly struck how the invasion of Denmark by Prince Fortibras of Norway, suggests that the events at Court at Elsinor were but petty politicking. I had similar feelings while reading the New Zealand media pages on the internet while I was overseas. The nation’s main concerns seemed to be the activities of various members of parliament and their spouses. Now, just as there is a problem if one suspects one’s stepfather has bumped off one’s father and taken over his job, it is important we have honest and competent politicians. But perhaps the economic storms outside the country deserved a little more attention.

Cultural Commerce

Listener 2 September 2000

Keywords: Literature; Social Policy;

This column is written more in sorrow than anger. Hopes were high when the then Leader of the Opposition, Helen Clark, announced that on assuming the premiership she would also take the Arts and Culture ministerial portfolio. The National Government had been squeezing public spending and that, with the appointments it was making, was generating an authoritarian, politically correct, and backward-looking distribution of the limited funds and leadership in the arts and heritage sector. Hopes were exceeded with Clark’s announcement of some $86m funding for the next three years, although much was a catch-up of the deficit arising from the miserliness of the previous government.

Unchanging Fashion: Pete Seeger’s Journey Of the Spirit

Music in the Air, No 10, Winter 2000, p.6-9.

Keywords: Literature and Culture;

Looking back over eighty years of life, as Pete Seeger may well have done in May 1999, one seeks patterns and consistencies. There is the big pattern, of course, the living the eighty years, and the consistency of having been a professional folk singer for the last sixty, with his father, Charles, as a collector of folk songs before that. From the songs he wrote and sang, one might see Seeger’s life as a jumble of topics and engagements, held together by an enthusiasm for singing, considerable technical musical skills, and an involvement in radical causes.

Shakespeare As Economist

The Merchant of Venice is About the Meaning of Value as Well as Justice.

Listener: 1 January 2000

Keywords: History of Ideas, Methodology & Philosophy; Literature and Culture;

Just as a successful television series for in one channel will generate an emulation series by a competing one, Elizabethan playwrights would take up another’s theme. Thus Christopher Marlowe’s popular The Jew of Malta elicited Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. But the master transcended Marlowe, as a barbaric tale becomes a meditation on the meaning of economic and social value. The reflection appears in all sorts of places: the lead casket, Bassino’s choice which gives him Portia’s hand, requires a commitment of a considerable investment: “who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath,” (not to mention Shylock’s ducats and Antonio’s bond). Their courting includes playful allusions to commerce (Bassino courts “by note”, a bill of exchange), as do other dialogues. The contrast in the trial scene between law and mercy might usefully be explored by those into the new subject of the relationship between economics and law. In the title role, Antonio the merchant, is contrasted with Shylock, the money-lender. Antonio makes his income from advances for risky merchant trading voyages where he gains a share of the profits or loses the advance. Shylock’s income derives from interest on loans.

Kulturkampf: Commercialisation Wars Against Arts

Listener: 31 July, 1999.

Keywords: Governance; Literature and Culture;

What have the following in common?

* The disappearance of the National Art Gallery;
* National Archives sued by its stakeholders in the High Court;
* The public outcry over the National Library’s proposed reorganisation.
* The National Trust under severe financial pressure;
* Te Papa confused with an amusement arcade;
* Radio New Zealand’s considering privatising its news service;
* The lack of local content on television.
* User charge threats to your local library;
* Victoria University of Wellington selling off a McCahon painting?

The Whimpering Of the State: Policy After MMP


Auckland University Press, 1999. 269pp.

The policy process has changed dramatically following the introduction of MMP. Fascinated by the theatre of politics, we too easily ignore the major changes in policy approaches and outcomes. Today, without an assured parliamentary majority the government has to consult over its policies rather than impose them. Along with the increasing recognition that the policies of the past have failed, the policy blitzkrieg has almost ceased and commercialisation is being shelved.

The Whimpering of the State looks at the first three MMP years with the same lively, broad -ranging and informed approach as Easton’s successful The Commercialisation of New Zealand, which described the winner-takes-all regime before 1996. Again there are case studies: health, education, science, the arts, taxation. retirement policy, and infrastructure. Policy possibilities are explored. Yet, as the title of the book suggests, any releif from the ending of Rogernomics is offset be a realistic pessimism arising from a shrewd analysis of the continuing deficiencies in New Zealand’s political and social structure. Although written for the general public, this book will also be read by politicians, policy analysts and students, and will shape policy thinking in the MMP era. Publisher’s Blurb

Economics for Children

C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’ is a parable about the economy.
.Listener 2 January 1999.

Keywords: Literature and Culture;

A hundred years ago, scholar, critic, novelist, C.S. (Clive Stapleton) Lewis was born. Like his close Oxford friend, J.R.R. Tolkien (of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), Lewis was an Oxford professor. He is best known for his religious writings (notably The Screwtape Letters and The Four Loves), a science-fiction trilogy, his autobiography A Grief Observed, which became a film Shadowlands, and his Chronicles of Narnia for children, especially The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which was turned into a film. Lewis’s greatest work of scholarship was The Allegory of Love, about the courtly love tradition of medieval times.

The Broadcasting Reforms

Appendix to Chapter 4 of Commercialisation of New Zealand. An excerpt was published in J. Farnsworth & I. Hutchinson (ed) New Zealand Television: A Reader, 2001, Dunmore Press, p.225-230.

Keywords: Governance; Literature and Culture;

It is very easy to argue that there is something special about some economic commodity such as broadcasting, but to overlook there are other activities which are just as special, such as hard copy periodicals. A good magazine shop sells over 5000 titles. They range from daily newspapers to monthly science journals, from gardening to financial investment. In a big city there will be dozen of competitors also selling titles, as well as specialist shops for ethnic language literature, rock music, obscure political views, to whatever. Alternatively there is subscription by post. This extraordinarily rich supply in response to a myriad of public demands is provided without significant government involvement other than the framework for normal commerce.

Globalization and Local Cultures: an Economist’s Perspective.

In J. Davey (ed) Globalisation and Local Cultures: Emerging Issues for the 21st Century, the proceedings of a seminar is sponsored by the Federation of New Zealand Social Science Organisations, the Royal Society of New Zealand, and the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO. 27 June, 1997. p.20-27.

Keywords: Globalisation & Trade; Literature and Culture;

Globalization might be justified by David Ricardo’s pregnant insight of 150 years ago, that it may be in the material interests of a region or country to withdraw from producing a product where it had an absolute advantage in production, in order to produce another commodity for which it had a comparative advantage. By trading the comparative advantage commodity to another region or country in exchange for the other commodity, both benefit. This suggests regions or nations will become increasingly specialized in the production of products which can be traded, presaging the globalization of the world economy which has been evolving since the nineteenth century, if not earlier.

BOOKSHOPS AND POLITICAL SHOPS

Paper for the Conference of Booksellers New Zealand, Auckland, July 30, 1996. Inner Wellington where I live is littered with bookshops. To start mid-city at Manners Mall, where Eileen’s Bookshop sells magazines, greeting cards, lotto tickets, but no books. A little way along is Unity, which sells only books except for a very few specialist…
Continue reading this entry »

Images Of Economics

What Results When a Poet Tackles Economics

Listener: 28 October, 1995.

Keywords: Literature and Culture;

It is hard to provide concrete images of the economy, as is evident from the boring covers on most economics books. The title and author may be in large letters, or perhaps there are graphs and diagrams, but a compelling image is rare.

Muldoon in Fiction: Politicians and Intellectuals

This is a revised version of the paper presented to the Stout Research Centre Wednesday Seminar, 9 August, 1995. Other versions are ‘Piggy in the Middle’ Metro August 1996, p.82-7, and ‘Muldoon, Robert’ in R. Robinson & N. Wattie (eds) The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, Auckland, p.384-5.

Keywords: Literature and Culture; Political Economy & History;

Bill Pearson’s 1952 Landfall essay “Fretful Sleepers: A Sketch of New Zealand Behaviour and its Implications for the Artist” argues:

“No people is easier for governing. Though `Hitler’ and `dictator’ are common as terms of abuse (usually applied to a foreman who puts production before sociability) there is a lurking respect for the dictator because he has all the authority and gets things done. When the Upper House went no one cared. It was only workers of the big unions, and the watersiders themselves, who were concerned at Mr Holland’s emergency regulations, and a few intellectuals. Fascism has long been a danger potential in New Zealand. Of course fascism does not just occur: it is a deliberate strategy used by money-makers threatened with social discontent. But in countries nominally democratic, fascists have first to prepare the ground. In New Zealand the ground is already prepared for these conditions: a docile sleepy electorate, veneration of war-heros, a willingness to persecute those who don’t conform, gullibility in the face of headlines and radio peptalks.” (p.3-4) [1]