Sometimes cleverness can’t get you out of a hole

Kwasi Kwarteng – Britain’s top business minister – is smart. 

King’s Scholar at Eton; Double first from Cambridge; University Challenge winner; Kennedy Scholarship and a PhD in Economic History – from Cambridge.  With prizes along the way.


Continue reading “Sometimes cleverness can’t get you out of a hole”

Late Frost in Brexit Britain

Another sharp take on the resignation of Lord Frost – Boris Johnson’s chief European sherpa – from the folk at Eurointelligence.

Wonk-in-chief Wolfgang Munchau argues Lord Frost was one of the few (perhaps the only one?) of Boris’s close advisers that really understood the needs of a post-Brexit strategy:

“What Brexit requires, first and foremost, is a post-Brexit economic model.”

What model?

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Energy chaos – coming to a market near you

If the great Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, had been an economist he might have written: “All happy market outcomes are alike, but each policy error is disastrous in its own way”.

Certainly the implosion of the UK’s energy market manages to combine many familiar bad policy interventions, while nonetheless contriving its own unique set of outcomes.

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A NZ-UK trade agreement will be another – albeit small – step in the re-ordering of global trade

There is increasing chatter in London that the NZ-UK trade deal will be announced in days, with invitations to briefings being diaried for Tuesday.

But it’s worth noting that the UK commentators seem to be excising the prefix ‘free’ from the ‘trade agreement’, perhaps reflecting better understanding that these days there is no free trade without a substantial regulatory component.

While NZ’s producers will no doubt be grateful if they get an Australian-style phased reduction of tariffs and quotas as has been briefed, the non-tariff/quota regulatory barriers will be just as important in the long run.

That at least would seem to be the view of the eminent organ, the Irish Farmers Journal, in its assessment of the currently-fraught implementation of free trade arrangements between the EU, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain (ie, the UK minus Northern Ireland).

Continue reading “A NZ-UK trade agreement will be another – albeit small – step in the re-ordering of global trade”

NZ does better than Australia at Covid messaging but signals a different approach

Jacinda Ardern’s government got better press than Scott Morrison’s when it announced details of its ‘reopening’ strategy earlier this week.

This may seem a surprise given that both governments have no immediate plans to actually reopen – rather the contrary in fact.

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Will China’s communist party complete a second century?

The Economist has marked the 100th birthday of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with one of its context-rich historical essays.  It puts its money on the side of the party’s continuing adaptability and resilience.  This is probably the orthodox position.  But, as the Economist’s editorial staff themselves say when hedging their bets, only time will tell.

The more optimistic among us might look beyond the party’s seemingly-monolithic strength and see it – in pleasingly Marxist terms – as a prisoner of its own fundamental contradictions.

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The dismantling of free-market reforms – how Ardern is taking us back to the days when state monopolies limited our choices


The Ardern government is weakening many of the pillars of the free market reforms implemented in the 1980s and 1990s, including undermining the Reserve Bank and Fiscal Responsibility Acts.

 More alarming is its failure to learn that bestowing privileges on a few results in enormous costs for the many.

So says Nicholas Kerr, son of the late Business Roundtable executive director Roger Kerr.

A marketing consultant in Dallas, Texas, Nicholas Kerr delivered a  speech last month to the Dallas chapter of the Bastiat Society, an organisation established by the American Institute for Economic Research as a forum for business professionals to help advance peaceful trade and human flourishing.   

The speech (the full version can be read here) was headed Unleashing New Zealand’s Potential and Suppressing Washington State’s — Lessons for Texas.

Here’s an edited version: –  


While the New Zealand I grew up in during the 1970s and early 1980s was idyllic for most children, its citizens had long been experiencing declining relative living standards.  In the 30 years prior to 1982, New Zealand’s rank in the per capita gross domestic product league table fell from third to 32nd.

Government owned all manner of things, including but not limited to, one of the largest hotel chains in the country; a shipping company; both television channels (New Zealand only had two until 1989); many radio stations; most hospitals; major banks; a steel mill and a printing company; all the country’s airports, ports, universities and coalmines; half the country’s forests; and, the only telecommunications, electricity, airline, and rail companies. Continue reading “The dismantling of free-market reforms – how Ardern is taking us back to the days when state monopolies limited our choices”

Covid vaccine is important but it’s only a beginning

Never let a crisis go to waste, said Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s first Chief of Staff.  In the Covid-stricken northern hemisphere, some people have taken the message to heart.

The mood feels different from in the first wave.  Despite London moving into tier three measures, the volume of traffic is consistent with many people having adapted to new conditions.  The roll-out of the UK’s vaccination programme indicates a clearer direction and sense of urgency from the British government.  There is now a path, with the possibility of rapid improvement.

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Europe’s false step on tech

You’ve got to hand it to the EU’s leadership.  They are planning to welcome a Joe Biden victory with a proposal for renewed and refreshed co-operation – preferably on Europe’s terms.  

It is billed as a “once-in-a-generation” offer for the US to join the EU’s many committees and after the usual excruciating discussion, agree to adopt its approach in areas like digital regulation, competition policy, security and post-Covid action. 

No doubt a Biden administration will find something to like in the European menu.  But not as much as the Europeans might hope.

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