Tuesday, 3 March 2015


Radio New Zealand featured Alan Gibbs on Sunday. It's worth a listen.

I love the story of Ralph Hotere installing an artwork at Gibbs's farm. Hotere was lauding communist Cuba, so Gibbs brought him to Cuba to show him what it was like. Travel to Yugoslavia and East Berlin had convinced a younger Gibbs that socialism didn't work; Hotere was a bit more immune to updating based on evidence.

His discussions of the import licensing regime under which NZ operated is also worth hearing - especially for the kids who hear all the critique of the reforms of the 80s but who are clueless about why they were needed. That's from around the 25 minute mark.

At the 35 minute mark, he describes how in the 1970s his trucking company had to get licences for each truck, with opportunities for his competitors to object. Fortunately there's nothing like that now.

When entrepreneurial energy goes into figuring out how to get import licences and local regulatory monopolies....

HT: Jenesa Jeram


  1. I happened to hear part of the Gibbs interview on Sunday and was rather taken aback about his comments about "savages" and "the problem of illegitimacy" (referring to people having children without also being married). These comments struck me as rather out of touch with reality in the sort of way peculiar to rich old white straight cis men.

    As someone who is very much a non-expert on the economics, hearing him make these comments that make him seem rather oblivious to his enormous privilege did make me think he likely wouldn't understand (or perhaps care about) the impacts his economic and political views would have on those less well off than him.

  2. Listen to the whole interview. Ignore the editorialising and listen for how the regime worked pre-reform.

    The economic literature, to which it would have been helpful for Alan to have pointed, does very strongly suggest that changes in family composition feature strongly in poverty and inequality. I urge you to check Isabel Sawhill's work on the topic at Brookings.


  3. If pre-1984 New Zealand regulation was still in place today, you would need to apply to the reserve bank for a foreign exchange licence each time before you used Amazon one-click to buy a book or subscribe to a journal.

    If you think that is going too far and that regulation deserves to be repealed, but still have issues with other post-1984 reforms, all you are is Roger Douglas lite.

  4. Changes in society often bring about practical difficulties, but often solutions are found for these as well. We have gained increased sexual self-determination, but we have yet to learn how to use it responsibly.

    Unfortunately, by our band-aid solution of subsidizing poverty, we discourage and delay this adaption

  5. Gibbs talks about a social issue that is profound, but thus far we pretend is not a problem. As times goes on we will be less politically correct about it. We won't have much choice.

    -What is political correctness? Thinking 'nice' things ahead of 'real' things. It's an embarrassment and a dangerous one at that.

    I did a talk on this issue, if there is interest.


  6. ...Just another thought.

    Maybe one of the reasons why most people don't listen to politicians and think tanks, etc, is because we don't talk about what is *really* real?

    We have these massive elephant in the room social issues, and we talk about economic growth as we believe people are going to be any happier for being richer than they are now...when deep down they know they won't be. And indeed the vast majority won't be.