Posts Tagged ‘Philip McCann’

Commentary round-up

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

A regular feature spotlighting new writing (and audio) from top commentators Rod Oram, Colin James and Brian Easton.

The most recent Listener article online from Brian Easton is China or Bust: “The Chinese economy is trying to drag the rest of the world out of this great recession. But isn’t it vulnerable to a financial crisis, too?”

Easton has also released a very timely paper entitled Taxing Harmful Drinking:

This paper argues that the harm from the consumption of alcohol can be reduced by targeting the minimum of price of alcohol, but by using an excise drawback rather than setting a minimum price of alcohol.  By doing so the profits from the price hike goes to the public exchequer rather than the industry.

This means “those purchasing cheaper absolute alcohol will pay more excise duty on their absolute alcohol than those who are purchasing more expensive liquor”. Sounds a bit regressive to me (though Easton pre-emptively dismisses that as a “cheap shot”).

In Business as usual is not coming back (Otago Daily Times), Colin James declares:

There is no way back to the way things were. Too much has changed — in fact, was changing underneath well before the financial crash.

Those changes are technological — digital technology has accelerated globalisation in all its forms and is altering social interaction — geo-economic — China’s rise and the North Atlantic countries’ subsidence into debt — and geopolitical — rearrangement of international institutions to reflect the transit of economic power and consequential strategic rebalancing.

These huge changes are reshaping our society and economy and that in turn is changing the underlying factors in policymaking.

In this context, he is generous towards National’s efforts to adapt, but also praises Labour:

Labour is edging towards a restatement of economic approach to reflect some of the post-crash writing by the likes of Joseph Stiglitz, Dani Rodrik and Robert Skidelsky. Thanks to the energetic Clare Curran who this coming Saturday is running a day-long workshop on open government and its policy implications, Labour is getting a grasp of the implications of the digital technology age.

(Rodrik was also name-checked in the New Zealand Institute report I reviewed in this week’s column.)

James’s column for the Fairfax papers is The small and the big and the Bill of Rights, which argues that Rodney Hide is a more serious figure than he’s given credit for, especially when it comes to regulatory and local government reform, where his changes ”amount to small-c constitutional change”; and that the Bill of Rights “has had much more influence on Parliament and the courts than expected in 1990″.

Rod Oram’s Star-Times column is Super city debate overlooks wealth. It draws on the ideas of Philip McCann (who I’ve discussed before and will come back to soon) and argues:

To help it connect with the world, New Zealand must have a truly international city.

Auckland is the only candidate. But Auckland will always be too small to achieve that on its own. Even when, 20 years from now, its population is 2 million, overseas competitors will continue to dwarf it. Sydney’s population is already as big as New Zealand’s.

So we need a radical rethink, one that engages all of urban New Zealand in the quest to build a truly international, but distinctly Kiwi, urban offering to the world. We are, after all, one of the most urbanised nations on the planet.

Oram also talks to Nine to Noon about how four of our major companies (Telecom, Kiwibank, Graeme Hart’s Pactiv and Fletcher Building) are performing, with an emphasis on their strategies (and a digression on broadbank policy).

If you’ve read other insightful pieces of commentary this week, particularly from a progressive perspective, let us know about it in the comments thread below.

Weekend reading, 20 August 2010

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Shaun Hendy – Picking Winners?

Back in March, at about the same time I was noting the differing views on the focus for science in New Zealand of Rod Oram and Paul Callaghan, Callaghan’s deputy at the MacDiarmid Institute, Shaun Hendy was rebutting Oram as well in his regular blog A Measure of Science on the Sciblogs site. I subsequently discovered his work through a series he did about the ideas of Philip McCann, and since then A Measure of Science has been a valued part of my regular reading list. This latest post is also about the focus of science, and also discusses McCann. Hendy, like me, attended a recent seminar by McCann (foreshadowed here), and he takes issue with McCann’s contention that New Zealand must pick winners if it wants its innovation spending to have any impact. I won’t do justice to his argument if I summarise or excerpt it, so I’ll just encourage you to read it!

Paul Krugman – Attacking Social Security

Leading progressive economist Paul Krugman this week mounted a defence of current provisions for retirement income in the US that closely parallels the arguments of our own Peter Harris. Krugman writes that:

an aging population will eventually (over the course of the next 20 years) cause the cost of paying Social Security benefits to rise from its current 4.8 percent of G.D.P. to about 6 percent of G.D.P. To give you some perspective, that’s a significantly smaller increase than the rise in defense spending since 2001, which Washington certainly didn’t consider a crisis, or even a reason to rethink some of the Bush tax cuts.

He is particularly strong on the issue of raising the age of entitlement:

The currently fashionable idea of raising the retirement age even more than it will rise under existing law — it has already gone from 65 to 66, it’s scheduled to rise to 67, but now some are proposing that it go to 70 — is usually justified with assertions that life expectancy has risen, so people can easily work later into life. But that’s only true for affluent, white-collar workers — the people who need Social Security least.

I’m not just talking about the fact that it’s a lot easier to imagine working until you’re 70 if you have a comfortable office job than if you’re engaged in manual labor. America is becoming an increasingly unequal society — and the growing disparities extend to matters of life and death. Life expectancy at age 65 has risen a lot at the top of the income distribution, but much less for lower-income workers.

StatsGuy (The Baseline Scenario) – Good Government vs. Less Government, Or: Why the Heritage Freedom Index is a Damned Statistical Lie

In a guest-post at The Baseline Scenario, StatsGuy does a wonderfully statistical analysis of the Heritage Freedom Index that right-wing commentators claim provides evidence for the efficacy of ’small government’. His conclusion:

The Heritage Freedom Index is really a composite of measures that get at two different things: Good Government, and Less Government. Overall, the Good Government factors tend to dominate, and drive a lot of the correlation with good economic and quality of life outcomes. When one splits out the factors, the case for Less/Weaker Government weakens substantially, and the case for Clean/Non-Corrupt/Efficient government strengthens considerably.

Rayhan Haque (Left Foot Forward) – Winning the argument on taxation is the key to reviving the left

Many of the references in this post are quite specific to the UK, but it’s still worth a read as the main points are fairly generalisable. Haque’s four principles that “should inform any new tax system for the left” are:

  • Firstly, it must be progressive.  This means seriously re-considering the merits of personal allowances.
  • Social justice is equally important. Taxation is one of the most powerful ways in which to shape socio-economic relations.
  • Public support for taxation is crucial in preventing alienation and disenchantment.
  • The final principle to shaping a new tax system is competiveness. Taxation should be used to forge a stronger, just and more sustainable economy.

Idiot/Savant (No Right Turn) - Against a split drinking age
Andrew Campbell (The Standard) - How to be a lazy politician
Matthew Yglesias – Yes, More Efficient Government Helps Taxpayers
Kevin Meagher (Left Foot Forward) - Kevin Meagher’s top five most influential left wingers
Hilary Wainwright - David and Ed Miliband – if you really want to move on, listen to your father