Spam, buses, and votes: A Bleg

I have seen a lot of talk about the “vote buses” running around, and I’ve been wondering – do they really make much difference?  Is it a prisoner’s dilemma (more a zero sum game) where parties have to spend money on the bus tour if the other party is to keep their vote the same, and if they didn’t the bus tour would be “super effective” – or are bus tours ineffective, and political parties just do this because they believe they are effective?

Then I looked in my email and noticed that the quantity of politics related spam was increasing at a seemingly exponential rate.  Exacerbated I did what anyone would do, passive-aggressively complained on social media:

Unsurprisingly to anyone who reads the blog, I was never going to be very responsive to the communist cat-call given I think it makes no sense.

As a result, I was just wondering if anyone has any knowledge about the effectiveness of political marketing techniques, especially during different stages of the election cycle. Marketing is a general issue that we’ve written a little about here (here, here, here – and which is related to views on addiction), so any research you guys know of would be of genuine interest.

Conspiracy theory of the day

This election hurts my head, so I thought I’d note down some of the strange thoughts it is giving me.  View this as no more than the ramblings of someone who hasn’t had enough sleep.

I was talking to my Mum yesterday, and we were both surprised with Laila Harre being involved in the Internet Party – with the “robust debates” between members and a range of incompatible belief structures seemingly undermining the idea that this was an alliance based on ideology.

I say alliance, as both my Mum and me remember her from her days in the Alliance party, and we both have massive respect for her as a politician and for her work outside of parliament.  In this way, her leadership of Internet-Mana funded by a misogynist millionaire (no more offence intended than the offence I’ve taken from some of his tweets about women) and the fact she didn’t stand in a winnable electorate both seem strange.

But then it occurred to me, perhaps she is part of the Chris Trotter school of politics – where the ends justify the means, the ends in this case being the removal of the “right” from power, given that “progressives” are inherently “good” while the “right” is inherently “evil”.

In this case, Internet-Mana actually constituted a threat to the progressive program – as it predominantly ate up the votes of established left-wing parties.  Becoming leader of the party, undermining it, and using its funding to push a narrative that will mainly support the Greens on election day, are all actions consistent with this.

Like I say, this is a conspiracy theory with no substance.  But this has been a very strange election …

Why I’m voting Civilian

I don’t like to talk politics, and I don’t like to “pick” parties.  I don’t like the arguments that cause more heat than light, and I genuinely think that the vast majority of the people in parliament are good people – so the attacks on these people that occur just upset me.

Last Friday when I wrote this I was on the fence between National or Labour – and after I’d picked one I was going to decide whether I’d vote for the party, or a support party (the Greens or the Maori party were my picks).  I had found this election hard to make a pick on, but I’d generally preferred the policy costings and transparency compared to other times, so I was feeling good.

What was missing from the post I wrote last Friday was a section I deleted at the end (a point 11).  This point said that any information about the undermining of New Zealand institutions, such as through TPPA agreement details being made public, dwarves the issues I have discussed in terms of voting importance for me.  In this section I had written that I only left this to the end, as I had sufficient trust in New Zealand political institutions that I don’t expect this to turn into an important issue.

Now we have the recent discussion of Project Speargun, adding to the long process of New Zealand integrating itself into a global data connection network – a process that has been going strong as part of a war on terror that has included both Labour and National governments.  With obfuscation always part of the discussion around these types of issues, it has also become more likely we’ll see the same sort of lack of clarity around the TPPA in NZ – irrespective of the party that is in power.

It is with this sort of disenfranchisement that I initially recommended having a protest vote party – such as the Civilian Party – exist for.  As a result, for consistency sake I will likely vote for them on Saturday (the first time I haven’t voted early in my life as I wait for information).  Let me discuss.

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Epsom Property Rights

I had been thinking a bit about the apparent inconsistency between David Seymour arguing against intensification in Epsom whilst simultaneously being part of the ACT party, which wants to repeal the RMA is generally against regulations.  I first read about it in Russell Brown’s post The Ides of Epsom.

Apparently, Seymour reconciles these things through appealing to an argument about “property rights”

What I’m arguing is that the people of Epsom have bought into certain property rights and the character of their community …

Now, most economists would agree that it is important to have a good system of property rights,so I was intrigued by this argument. I was going to examine this issue myself, but Eric Crampton has put this to bed quite succinctly in the tweet below. As Eric points out, unless there is a covenant in place, there is no “deal” that is being broken, which is what economists would be worried by.

Update: Eric has a much fuller discussion on his blog here

Green party costings

I kindly received an email via the Green party yesterday pointing me to the costings on their website.  I see that the costings (here) were looked at by two independent economic consultancies – BERL and Infometrics (which is my workplace).

I haven’t been involved with any of it, or talked to any of the people involved.  So I’m going to give my views.  This is independent of any affiliations I have of course – on this blog I prefer to call a spade a spade rather than worry too much about what other economists think of me 😉

One thing I will point out, after reading the Infometrics report for the first time, is that they don’t say the things in the Green’s summary – but if you do a costing for a party, that is the way they will sell it.  The BERL tables on the other hand do imply what the Greens take from them – and that is very disappointing as they are misleading.

Still I’m getting ahead of myself.  Remember what this blog is like – it isn’t that policies are “bad” or “good”, those statements largely require value judgments.  Instead, there are trade-offs, and also for certain policy aims different policies may be a more direct way of getting to those aims.  Those are the types of constructs we’ll work over when looking at all party policies, and as a result the tone will sound critical irrespective of whether I like the policy or not – as almost all policies do have losers, which politicians understandably don’t want to talk about.

Something else I’ll note – if any other party does something like this, could someone send it to me.  I am very busy at this moment and struggle to keep up with political news on top of the types of things I am focusing on for work 🙂

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Greens announce greater income redistribution: What does it mean?

I have been remiss talking about this election – as I am a touch bogged down.  My apologies – I’ll try to write about things when I see them.

As a result, here is the Green’s plan to increase the level of income redistribution.  From the Stuff article:

  • 3 per cent – of taxpayers affected by the Greens new top income tax rate of 40 percent on every dollar earned above $140,000
  • $500m – the extra revenue raised every year from their new tax rate
  • $620 million  – raised from hiking the trust tax rate to 40 percent and limited tax avoidance through trusts
  • $60 – a week extra in a Childrens Credit, which would extend the In-Work TAx credit to parents currently ineligible
  • $2,200 – in a Parental Tax Credit over ten weeks for new born babies whose parents don’t get Paid Parental Leave.

The Greens are a left-wing party, and they are suggesting greater redistribution through the tax-benefit system, and less work testing for benefits.  That is consistent, good good.

Of course the costing are not perfect, but political party costings never are.  At least, on the face of it, they aren’t blatantly ridiculous.

Update:  Good post by Seamus Hogan here.  I’m surprised we made so many of the same points without communicating – there must be a strong econobond going on.

Now as they are a political party they are keen to talk up the benefits, but I thought I should note a few countervailing factors here:

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