Palmy: better with economists

A couple of weeks ago Matt and I had the pleasure of attending the annual NZAE conference in Palmerston North. Attendance was disappointingly low, which I blame on Palmy, but it was great fun nonetheless. For that we can thank Seamus, who blogs at Offsetting Behaviour: he organised the whole thing, presented a couple of papers, and somehow didn’t end up looking frazzled the entire time. In fact, it ran incredibly smoothly from the perspective of an attendee, with only a few minor hiccups at the conference awards that I’m sure were intentional gags to provoke a few laughs! So thanks to Seamus and the organising committee for an excellent event and we look forward to seeing more of you there next year.

I didn’t manage to see everything I wanted to but here are a few highlights. I’m sure Matt will want to add a few of his own, too.

  • The blogging session was novel and saw a great presentation from Berk Ozler. If you’re not already reading his blog, Development Impact, you can read what he had to say about the conference here. The following panel discussion was interesting, although it would have been nice to have more time for comments and discussion from the floor. I hope it encouraged a few more people to comment on the NZ economics blogs; I’ve certainly seen a few attendees of that session jump into our comment threads since, which is great!
  • The keynote’s I saw were all fantastic. Lutz Kilian’s presentation on oil markets was more interesting than oil market econometrics have any right to be. He’s also a very forceful and persuasive presenter; I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the other side of an argument with him, that’s for sure! Leslie Young’s comment on the complexity of financial systems and the differences between China and America’s markets was also very insightful.
  • Watching Andrew Coleman advocate for a capital gains tax, followed immediately by Seamus putting up a slide entitled ‘Capital gains taxation is an insidious taking’, was entertaining. I don’t think they actually had a substantive disagreement but it’s always fun to see two excellent economists take opposing sides in a debate.
  • Arthur Grimes’ presentation on wellbeing indices brought interesting empirics to the discussion of their value over and above GDP measures. I think that’s worthy of a blog post on it’s own.
  • But the best part of a conference isn’t the papers, it’s the people. NZ economists are an incredibly friendly, knowledgeable, and welcoming bunch so I highly recommend turning up next year, if only for the beer and banter!

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NZAE conference

Well, the NZ Association of Economists conference is done for 2011. It’s a chance for all economists to get together and talk nerdy without fear of social reprisals, although the food is another popular topic of conversation — it was pretty good this year, if you’re wondering. There were plenty of great presentations and star turns from both Tim Harford and Ricardo Reis. The latter hung around for most of the conference and even attended the dinner, which left me completely starstruck!

Of course, it is also a chance for bloggers who normally interact only through the interwebs to talk in person and this conference was no exception: as the sole representative of TVHE I was accosted and lambasted by both Eric and Seamus from Offsetting Behaviour for our lack of recent activity. As Matt has previously mentioned, things have been a bit busy for us at work lately but blogging is Matt’s second highest priority so he’ll be back just as soon as he has a free hour or two.

In lieu of a post about Serious Issues I thought I’d let you know what the bloggers at NZAE got up to. Read more

LEANZ March 09 Wellington Seminar

Topic: Seeing the future: Prediction markets and the wisdom of crowds

Speaker: Matt Burgess, Chief Executive, iPredict

Date: Monday 23 March 2009

Venue: Level 17, Chapman Tripp, 10 Customhouse Quay, Wellington (please note that there is no access to the building after 6pm)

Time: Refreshments from 5:30pm, seminar at 6pm

RSVP: to: (please note that an RSVP is not compulsory, but we would appreciate hearing from you if you plan to attend)


Prediction markets have been counted among the most intriguing institutional innovations of the last quarter-century. A prediction market is a share market for future events in any field, including politics, business, and social outcomes. Traders in a prediction market take a position on the likelihood or expected outcome of a future event. The market price that emerges from trading is the prediction, and reflects the wisdom of the crowd.

In the twenty years since their invention in the United States, prediction markets have developed an extraordinary forecasting record and have outperformed every competing forecasting institution, most notably election polling. Prediction markets have several characteristics that give them strong advantages over rival forecasting methods. They are robust to manipulation, they require only a few traders to produce excellent forecasts, they can be run using real or play money, and market-based forecasts are a low cost alternative to polling, experts and group deliberation.

Matt Burgess describes what prediction markets are and their history, shows that they are one example of a recent harnessing of the wisdom of crowds, compares their performance to a range of alternative forecasting methods, and looks at the performance of New Zealand’s real money prediction market iPredict since its launch in September 2008.


    Matt Burgess is the Chief Executive of iPredict, the real money prediction market owned by Victoria University and the Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation (ISCR). He is a Research Associate at the ISCR.

LEANZ March 09 Auckland Seminar

This month’s seminar by the Law and Economics Association of New Zealand (LEANZ):

Topic: Perspecitves on the ‘credit crunch’ and the state of finance markets

Speaker: Brendan O’Donovan, Chief Economist, Westpac

Date: Tuesday 10 March 2009

Venue: Chapman Tripp, Level 35, ANZ Centre, 23 Albert Street, Auckland

Time: 5:15 pm for a 5:30 pm start, followed by refreshments

RSVP: to:


As talk of the ‘credit crunch’ has given way to assessments of how long and how deep a recession will be, it is more important than ever to get an informed perspective on the negative and positive features of financial markets here and abroad.


Brendan O’Donovan has been Chief Economist with Westpac since 2003. Previously he has worked as Chief Economist for National Bank and worked as a macro-economist at the NZ Institute of Economic Research. Brendan has been published in NZ and international journals. He is a regular on the speaker circuit and is frequently providing comment to the media.

LEANZ Auckland November Seminar

Next Law and Economics Association of New Zealand (LEANZ) seminar in Auckland:

Using the law as a last resort in policy making: challenging the ‘Working for Families’ redistributive package (Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) v the Attorney General, 2008)

Speakers: Dr Susan St John, University of Auckland Business School

Date: Thursday 13 November 2008

Venue: Buddle Findlay, Level 18, PriceWaterhouseCoopers Tower, 188 Quay Street, Auckland

Time: 5.15 pm for 5.30 pm start, followed by refreshments

RSVP and topic details below

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