Anti-trust articles: Fintech and 5G

One of the founding authors and editors of TVHE has a couple of cool anti-trust articles up for the Anti-Trust writing awards. I reckon we should go an give them some support. Will Taylor notes this on LinkedIn here – but if that doesn’t work for you the link to the voting for the two articles is here.



The voting is for the “reader choice” award – you can vote towards the bottom of each of these links.

Go give them a read – I definitely learned a thing or two. Anti-trust stuff is complex, but getting this right is incredibly important – and industrial economics is definitely the topic that “feels” most like real economics, with its mix of theory, application, data.

How we talk about the nature of work

Over two days Betsey Stevenson had two posts on the nature of work – both of which I agree with, and both of which sound like they may contradict.

So wait a second, if someone in a high status job gets paid more for the same effort and same contribution then why are we talking about marginal revenue product? Shouldn’t they already be rewarded by status? Is this a product of power? Let’s have a think

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Firms are greedy, but that isn’t the reason for inflation

With prices rising an increasing number of people are looking for a scapegoat. Fairly “obviously” the blame should be on those who are increasing prices – namely firms. This outbreak of greed is then being used as an explanation for why firms are increasing prices, and the suggestion is that – instead of cutting government spending or increasing interest rates, the solution is to break up monopolies.

Now I have no problem with breaking up monopolies, and I’m a huge fan of clear competition policy. But this isn’t going to deal with the “inflation” problem we are talking about. Let’s chat about it.

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Narrative, communication, and monetary policy

In a recent article on I chatted about monetary policy in New Zealand. As we’ve noted in the past, measures of price growth are pretty elevated in New Zealand – however, I make the case that RBNZ actions have been relatively appropriate (given uncertainty and the size and nature of the supply/income shock) but that it is their communication that lets the team down.

The comments below the article fundamentally think I’m misguided – and that the Bank has dropped the ball more fully. Blanchard also has an excellent post on the US case which may be also be used to be more critical of the policy operation of the RBNZ.

Although I am constantly misguided and wrong, there are two things I would raise here to defend my own position:

  1. With external shocks there was always going to be an “income loss” – fiscal and monetary policy determine how this is distributed. The Bank can’t make this type of “cost of living” crisis and related loss go away – it can only ensure that the transition back to their clearly communicated inflation target is “least cost”.
  2. Criticising communication is a big critique of the RBNZ – managing inflation expectations is their core job.

There is no point bagging an institution for things that are not their fault – but more transparent and clear communication about monetary policy, instead of every other issue that the Bank seems obsessed with at the moment, is needed. The current lack of communication about narrative/forward looking guidance about how the mandate will be achieved, combined with forecasts that arguably point to a general failure of the mandate, is a problem. If this type of failure doesn’t lead to changes in how monetary policy is communicated in the current environment, or lead to a situation where the responsible people at the RBNZ face consequences for this failure, then inflation expectations are going to become unanchored.

And I would argue that the nature of the comments on my article indicate that people’s faith in the RBNZ to manage inflation expectations is frayed – and their reaction reinforces the importance of the very communication issue I am pointing to!

If you feel compelled to attack the Bank further or launch into an impassioned defence, then go for it in the comments. I just want good policy communication and evidence-based policy that supports the wellbeing of New Zealanders – something that both the Bank and private sector commentators have a responsibility to up their game on, given the quality of the current discussion of New Zealand’s “cost of living crisis”. (Noting that a number of NZ economists – as shown in the comments of this piece – are trying to clarify what is going on)

Fiscal policy itself matters here, and clearly understanding the trade-offs associated with fiscal policy choices – at a minimum through the necessary monetary policy offset, but also through the distributional implications and consequences on growth and productivity – is another important area for discussion. Let’s leave this for another time though.

Excise taxes and policy incoherence in New Zealand

Ok, I’m coming permanently out of “proper blogging” retirement. Why?

The New Zealand government has decided to cut fuel taxes and RUC due to the “cost of living crisis” in New Zealand – egged on by the opposition and a range of New Zealand thinktanks and “thought leaders”. When a similar spike occurred in 2008 such a suggestion would have been ridiculed for being the ill thought out and incoherent policy it is – now it is the sort of stuff that gets a cross-party consensus and loud repeated cheers from the tens of New Zealand Twitterazzi.

Honestly, what is wrong with policy debate in New Zealand – when did we go from caring about policy outcomes and trade-offs to treating every policy decision as something that must be done urgently as if we are in the middle of an episode of West Wing. I mean, read the analysis in the two front-page articles on Stuff (here and here) – it is all politics and no consideration of trade-offs.

Want to understand why I see things this way – click the tab and read on.

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Happy Valentine’s Day: Economics and the nature of a gift

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone, from Gulnara and myself. To celebrate we’ve put up a video characterising two different ways of thinking about gift giving – specifically the conflict between telling someone what gift you want and the nature of a surprise gift.

People think and feel very differently about this, and fair enough we all have different preferences and have been raised in different gifting cultures (influencing the type of signal a gift is).

However, by thinking about why someone may feel differently about a gift allows us all to understand these different perspectives – as they say, economics is the path to tolerance, acceptance, and ultimately love.

We would love to hear how you think about both giving and receiving presents – what have we missed?