Enlightenment Now

An interview relevant to Steven Pinker’s latest book Enlightenment Now:

The way to deal with pollution is not to rail against consumption, according to public intellectual Steven Pinker. He explains himself to Andrew Anthony, of The Observer.

If moral values are nothing but cultural customs, would you agree that our disapproval of slavery or racial discrimination or the oppression of women is just a Western fancy?

Say the word ‘‘ enlightenment’ ’ and it tends to conjure images ....

Stocks weren’t made for social climbing

Profits are the proper gauge of a company’s value to consumers—and to society.

By Andy Kessler

Wall Street considers it a truism that money sloshes around the globe seeking the highest return. But there are countless investors, believe it or not, who are willing to accept lower returns. P.T. Barnum supposedly said there’s a sucker born every minute. Many of them go into so-called socially responsible investing. Laurence Fink of BlackRock , which manages $6 trillion in assets, is only the latest to evangelize this fad. But the basic....

Recent changes in the NZ CPI Basket

New Zealand lifestyles are changing and to reflect this a number of items have been deleted from the Consumer Price List Basket and replaced with more commonly purchased items as per this article from Scoop:

Statistics New Zealand has rejigged the consumers price index basket in its latest three-year review, adding body massages, Airbnb and Uber and removing DVD and Blu-Ray players.

“People are spending more online to rent a taxi, or a house for a night, and less on in-car satellite navigation and DVDs,” Stats NZ said. The basket is a reflection of New Zealand society and how it has changed over time, said prices senior manager Jason Atte....

Supporting wind and solar energy at the expense of the environment

Some useful facts here from Matt Ridley:

You can always tell when there is a United Nations Climate Conference of the Parties (COP) coming up, because there are any number of carefully timed press releases about how hot it has been or is going to get in the future. The media has been snowed under with such things for a while now, and sure enough, ....

Trump vs. the Deep Regulatory State

The tempestuous president is overseeing a principled, far-reaching reform of agencies that had exceeded their constitutional writ.

By Christopher DeMuth

Federal regulation has been growing mightily since the early 1970s, powered by statutes that delegate Congress’s lawmaking authority to mission-driven executive agencies. Beginning in 2008, the executive state achieved autonomy. The Bush administration during the financial crisis, and the Obama administration in normal times, decreed major policies on their own, without congressional authorization and sometimes even in defiance of statutory law.

President Trump might have been expected to continue the trend. As a can....

NZ’s financial position–but will it stay this way

The public balance sheet shines a light on both the assets that are available to a government but especially the risk and liabilities that have been built up.  This Policy Insight from ICAEW and Ross Campbell aims to help public officials understand what is in their Balance Sheets. The value of the information about different sorts of assets and liabilities and how some governments around the world are using it to support more effective policymaking. In particular to help government ask the right questions to make the most of their financial information, for example:

  • What assets do they have and are they getting....

A few facts are sometimes useful

Typically a dollar raised via tax needs to earn $1.21 to break even.

Thanks to Kiwiblog for this breakdown on the possibility of a royalty to be imposed on exports of bottled water:

Labour and NZ First coalition deal includes an agreement to impose a royalty on exports of bottled water.


Protectionism or Free Trade

Sunday’s Victoria drama where Queen V attempted to protect the local silk weavers reminded us of the futility such things and of the unintended consequences.  Posted recently on Home Paddock’s blog , this open letter to the French Parliament, originally published in 1845, also shows why this doesn’t work and the argument for free trade:


From the Manufacturers of Candles, Tapers, Lanterns, sticks, Street Lamps, Snuffers, and Extinguishers, and from Producers of Tallow, Oil, Resin, Alcohol, and Generally of Everything Connected with Lighting.

To the Honourable Members of the Chamber of Deputies.

Open letter to the French P....

Why Do Donuts Disappear at Faculty Meetings?

Think of the tragedy of the commons the next time you are tempted to take the last donut.

Anthony Gill

As a professor, I’ve attended many administrative meetings. The one near-constant thing I, and others, have noticed at these meetings is that the coffee always runs out, but at least a small remnant of a donut remains. Why this occurs tells a great deal about how we use social norms to solve pool resource problems common in economic life. And how those socia....

The Lessons of Fidget Spinners

Toy fads come and go and it seems Christmas doesn’t get a look-in anymore. A toy which was destined as an aid for children with a learning disorder becomes a fad before you know it. The lesson is in how quickly this can happen without regulation and with the help of social media.

YOU can spin it on your nose, chin, finger or tongue. Some include LED lights, others resemble a ship’s wheel, or even a skull and crossbones. The fidget spinner has three paddle-shaped blades attached to a central, weighted disc containing....

In Defence of the Dismal Science

Economists have received a bad rap in recent years, but their devotion to data still offers the most practical, bias-free way to assess our most pressing problems


By Greg Ip

Aug. 25, 2017

Earlier this month, a Greek court convicted an economist for what amounted to doing his job. In 2010, Andreas Georgiou took over Greece’s statistical agency and revised upward the figures for the country’s debt, which had long been suspect, in order to meet European Union standards. Ever s....

The Gender Pay Gap – getting to the real problem, not the bumper sticker

The Economist 23 August 2017

Are women really paid much less than men for the same work, as is often claimed? Figures from 25 rich and middle-income countries gathered by Korn Ferry, a consultancy, show that women make 98 cents for each dollar earned by men employed at the same organisation, level and job function. Overall, women earn on average 79% of what men do, but this gap can be almost entirely explained by the fact that men are more likely to do highly paid jobs—not because they are paid more than women doing the same work. In Britain, France and Germany, for example, around 80-90% of executive jobs, and less than two-thirds of clerical ....

Missing Report–Building Trust for Life Beyond Work

Income after work: comment on the “Missing Report” paper Chamberlain and Littlewood July 2017. This paper raises significant analytical questions about a topic that is too often and dangerously treated as a short term political play thing to grab votes. Here are some comments:

Michael Chamberlain and Michael Littlewood’s report The Missing 2016 Review: building trust for life beyond work provides welcome if demanding scrutiny of what is loosely termed retirement policy in NZ. Welcome because they probe issues which are all too frequently dismissed summarily with a shrug of the political shoulder. Demanding because in this area the ....

Serendipity in science

A chance finding may lead to a treatment for multiple sclerosis

It has to do with sunscreen

EXPERIMENTS that go according to plan can be useful. But the biggest scientific advances often emerge from those that do not. Such is the case with a study just reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. When they began it, Hector DeLuca of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and his colleagues had been intending to examine the effects of ultraviolet (UV) light on mice sufferi....

Blockchain the Transformer

Do yourself a favour and read this to “get it” about blockchain and why it matters… or try to make time stand still.

This from Kevin Cooney – ASB’s National Manager Rural:

It’s vital that New Zealand’s agri industry pays close attention to blockchain development and ensures we are well positioned to capture our share of new value this technology could unlock.

Mention blockchain and agriculture in the same breath, and the image of a heavy duty chain towing one farm vehicle behind another pops into my mind.

Turns out, that’s a handy analogy. Like a physical chain, blockchain connects parties directly with one ....

Males and Females–the differences in the way our brains are wired

This post by Priceonomics shows just how differently males and females think – the differences in their internet searches and popular websites is staggering. Interesting too to see where millennials go for their information and entertainment.

Data source: Quantcast

The number one website with the most female traffic is Zulily, an ecommerce site selling clothing, toys, and home products at deep discounts. Women also made up the majority of traffic at ....