Salvation army “state of the nation” report

Via the Herald I spotted this State of the Nation report by the Salvation Army (Note:  The core report can be found here).  It is nicely put together, taking a whole series of publicly available data and making it fit for public consumption!  Also I appreciate their focus on shining attention on issues that get underplayed in public – let us be honest, house prices and interest rates get more play in the media than they really deserve, while some issues around poverty and discrimination receive less play.  I don’t blame the media for this, it is just the way of things, but having analysts publicly trying to talk about these other issues (as the Sallies is) is choice.  I tried to make this point when discussing the report on the panel.

Of course, you know me.  I find the “scoreboard format” a bit naff – making these things into strict “targets” can be a bit misleading.  Furthermore, the report embodies a set of value judgments – and these just may not be the moral judgments of the public.

Here are the notes I quickly tied together when I found I would have to speak on the report.  The notes have very little to do with anything I said – as they involved discussing and critiquing the report, when the interview ended up being a defence of the focus of the report.

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New Zealand’s sexiest economist 2014: Voting

After an exhaustive nominations round the final 20 New Zealand economists have been selected.  To quote from someone who nominated for this round of “New Zealand’s Sexiest Economist” (NZSE).

At first I thought this was ridiculous.  But thinking about the work New Zealand economists do, I think there are a lot of ‘sexy economists’ ~ Anonymous

I’ll be honest, I’m impressed with the list of economists we ended up with from nominations.  Looking through the list of people who got into the final twenty, and those who missed out, I see a series of names of people who’s work I enjoy.  Sure there are a lot of other economists I’d love to see represented but opportunity cost right!

The poll

Here is the poll.  The top 20 were selected via the quantity of nominations they received.  We had 51 economists nominated, which was pretty exciting!  A lot of the nominations were from other economists, and people were incredibly supportive of the quality of each others work when nominating.  Compared to the partisan ego fights we all publicly see on US and UK economics blogs, this shows that the economics community in New Zealand is incredibly warm and excited by good work.

To help you make an informed decision, below the poll is a profile section.  I am sure that after reading the profile section you will want to vote for all twenty of the candidates, and so below that I’ve included a gallery because … why not!

Who is New Zealand's sexiest economist?

  • Marie Marconnet (27%, 273 Votes)
  • Özer Karagedikli (16%, 158 Votes)
  • Geoff Cooper (15%, 150 Votes)
  • Zoe Wallis (12%, 125 Votes)
  • Jane Turner (4%, 43 Votes)
  • Vladimir Petkov (4%, 38 Votes)
  • Chris Green (3%, 30 Votes)
  • Kevin Fox (2%, 25 Votes)
  • Paul Conway (2%, 23 Votes)
  • Steve Stillman (2%, 19 Votes)
  • Andrew Coleman (2%, 19 Votes)
  • Sharon Zollner (2%, 18 Votes)
  • Jean-Pierre de Raad (2%, 17 Votes)
  • Adolf Stroombergen (2%, 16 Votes)
  • John Gibson (1%, 13 Votes)
  • Gareth Kiernan (1%, 9 Votes)
  • Darren Gibbs (1%, 8 Votes)
  • Dominick Stephens (1%, 7 Votes)
  • Jacques Poot (1%, 6 Votes)
  • Nick Tuffley (0%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,003

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The poll will run until midnight on Saturday March the 1st.

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More questioning of the efficacy of Kiwisaver

On stuff I noticed the following comments by Michael Littlewood.

“Simply citing that there are 2.2 million members and $19 billion in the scheme doesn’t actually tell you anything,” the paper’s author, Michael Littlewood said.

“It just tells you that KiwiSaver’s popular – and why wouldn’t it be, with the incentives that it has.”

Littlewood said with the limited data available, there was no way of knowing whether New Zealanders would have saved just as much without KiwiSaver.

This is true.  Back in 2008 we mentioned research by John Gibson and Trinh Le calling into question claims that Kiwisaver had “increased national savings” – in fact suggesting that the make-up of Kiwisaver had reduced national savings.

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Trade-offs are more complicated than Okun’s leaky bucket

A popular story in macroeconomics and broad public economics is that of Okun’s leaky bucket (Okun 1975).  This essentially states that we can think of redistributing income like using a leaky bucket to move water – where the loss of income associated with the loss of efficiency is the water that falls out of the bucket on the trip.  This gives us our basic “equity-efficiency trade-off“.

Both the Spirit Level and a lot of the “new economics of income inequality” (namely the work on rent seeking) is trying to turn this on it’s head by saying that, not only does the efficiency vs equity/inequality trade-off not exist, but it is often the other way around.  When a mechanism is given, which can in turn be tested, I am fine with this (eg I am not discussing the types of studies Offsetting touches on here).

However, when it comes to directly determining policy about redistribution this use of the leaky bucket has stretched the metaphor too far.  Policy has more dimensions than a couple of synthetic aggregreates (GDP and inequality measures) which get confused for the much broader terms ‘efficiency’ and ‘equity’. Read more

A couple of recent NZ posts on inequality and poverty

I enjoyed these two posts by Bill Kaye-Blake – one on inequality, and one on poverty. [Also add this recent post]

I suggest you go give them a read if you haven’t already ;)

Note:  Looks like this accidentally turned into a link post …

Note this is good.  Real good.  The sheep analogy is one of the banes of my life … it gets whipped out whenever someone wants to make a social claim but not actually defend it ;)

Also, good post in a series on poverty here.

And Ryan Avert discussing the Piketty book.  Also assortative mating – I remember my high school economics teaching talking to me about this with regards to inequality!

And this post where a physicist discusses economics saying what “scientists” would look at with inequality.  That is fine, his description of what a scientist would do looks like an oversimplified view of what economists already do so that is all gravy ;)

Krugman makes a good point about negative labour supply effects.   Something that increases labour supply does not necessarily increase welfare/satisfaction etc etc, the fact the two often get mixed up has vexed me for a long time.  Krugman is also very right here when he discusses the return of “macroeconomic popularism” – the effect of policy is a harder question than many people give it credit for!

Marginal Revolution touches on income volatility for high income earners.

I heard that I was in this Radio NZ report.  Hopefully I didn’t say anything too inflammatory – I save that for when I’m blogging.