Creative destruction

I’ve always had a soft spot for the idea of creative destruction, even though my understanding of the it is well below par.

I found the following article interesting, in the way it used the idea of job creation and destruction to describe the process of changing unemployment.  It gives us a good idea about the massive flows associated with input changes in the labour market.

Using this concept, it describes how the composition of employment in NZ is changing, with more highly paid, high value jobs being created, at the expensive of low value, low skill jobs.  In my opinion, and the opinion of the article, this is a good thing.  What do you think?

What is the RBNZ talking about

“New Zealanders have been showing early signs of moderating their borrowing.”

Does anyone know what these early signs are. From what I can tell, the growth in household borrowing is at record highs, in fact todays M3 data confirms that. If anything, household borrowing seems to be accelerating, I’m sure it will slow eventually, but why did the RBNZ say that if they didn’t mean it.

My suspicion is that the RBNZ wanted to talk the exchange rate down. They said that the level of our exchange rate was the result of New Zealanders borrowing too much, and buying things from overseas. As a result, higher interest rates will stop New Zealanders doing this, helping the exchange rate.

Now that is a load of crap. Our Reserve Bank needs to take a big long look at itself, and realise that it has been acting like a 14 year old girl who got a pimple just before the big ball. Stop making excuses for our inflation and just deal with it! I wish the Reserve Bank governor was a computer.

A little bit of risk is a dangerous thing

So, our dollar has fallen 5% against the US, and 8% against the yen in the last few days. While some people may think that the prospect of no more interest-rate hikes is the driver, the truth is that market participants have become a bit more risk-averse.

A little bit of wobblying in the US stock markets, and suddenly a bunch of people have decided to unwind carry trades, and as we are the number one carry trade country, our exchange rate eased. That is why we are only down by 2% against the Aus$ since Thursday, they were a carry trade currency as well.

I expect us to stay around in the mid-70’s, we might even climb up a bit against the US. After all, this new found risk is based on subprime lending worries in the US, and the fundamentals of the strong NZ$ (high interest rates, strong commodity prices) are still in place. However, if asset prices (especially housing) start to ease too quickly, our exchange rate might be in for a bumpy ride.

GST as a neutral tax?

I was reading a quick little post on Econlog. In it they say that you should not tax income, you should tax consumption. Ergo we should remove income taxes and replace them with a higher rate of GST.

The main criticism I often hear about this is that GST is regressive. Now I used to spout that line as well, after all poor people have a lower marginal propensity to save then wealthy people, as a result they spend more of their income, and so more is taxed.

However, then I was told to think about it a different way. Over our lifecycle we should spend all our money, so that we are on the boundary of our budget constraint. As everyone spends all their income over their lifetime, GST must be a flat tax.

Now you could make GST a progressive tax by having a higher rate of tax on luxury items (although that distorts the market by changing the relative price of goods). As a result, changing from income taxes to GST seems to make sense, if you think it is more efficient.

In the above article they said that income=consumption+savings+charity. They said that savings and charity should not be taxed, and that is why we need a GST tax. Now, as we have said that savings become consumption over time, that doesn’t hold, and you can get tax rebates on charity. As a result, the only reason I can see to switch to an only GST tax will be if it is easier and cheaper to administer, and I seriously doubt that setting up a progressive GST schedule will be easy or cheap to administer.

Note: The labour market distortion still exists with a GST tax, since even though your disposable income is higher, the cost of everything is also high, so the real return for an hour worked is the same.

Spending on government employees

An interesting new blog on stuff tells us why interest rates had to rise. Now I agree that people in the public service are being paid too much (as I don’t work there 😉 ). However, I’m not sure that public sector core wages are the main reason for inflationary pressure (although they do play some part in the wage bargain in the private sector as well). I think that it is a broader issue, with wasteful government spending in health and education the major drivers of our inflationary mess, along with low rates of productivity growth (in both the private and public sectors).

Ultimately, much of the current inflation problem comes from government failure. There is a role for government in society, but I’m not sure that the Labour government recognises the appropriate boundaries associated with that role.

You don’t mess with the Guv’nor

Bollard has shown who wears the pants. In raising the OCR today, he has shown his disregard for Dr Cullen’s mischievous feints at invoking his powers to override the price stability objective. He has also shown the market that he’s willing to back up his tough talk on the housing market – now on its “third wind”- even if this means ratcheting up interest rates even further as the Kiwi dollar reaches record highs.

Ultimately these actions will help bring the currency down. The Kiwi is underpinned by interest rate expectations, and only by raising rates today could he claim – credibly – that inflation is coming under control, meaning further hikes were unnecessary. So far the market appears to have believed him.

Perhaps this was unnecessarily hard on the housing market. The higher rates will bite hard as fixed rate mortgages continue to roll off over coming months. But then again, why not? A few months ago, a sharp correction in the housing market would have spelt disaster for the economy, with only government spending staving off risk of recession. But now a dairy commodity boom is underway, providing a massive boost to the incomes of farmers and wider economy. This means Bollard can afford to be more aggressive with domestic demand, coming down harder on the housing market. Showing that he is, indeed, still the Guv’nor.