Friday 21 August 2015

The modest Dr. Wilkinson

Bryce Wilkinson writes in response to Chris Trotter's generous crediting of him for many of the reforms of the 1980s:
To set a few things right for the record: 
  1. Economic Management was the work of many. It was the pooled work of many divisions, only two of which were economic divisions. My input related to areas that involved Economics I division, which was where I was the time. The central figure was Dr Graham Scott. He led and coordinated its production, oversaw its contents and structure and wrote some of the major sections himself. Murray Horn helped Graham pull it together. Graham reported to Jas McKenzie who was also a major intellectual force. Roger Kerr's role was seminal as head of Economics II division. But his team contained very impressive people pulling their weight. All in all it was an incredible team effort, having to be written in a few weeks because of the snap election, when public policy settings were unsustainable. 
  1. Economics II at the time was staffed by some excellent young economists, but the only one that I can think of who had a recent US university education at the time was Rob Cameron. He studied at Harvard's Kennedy School as I recall. (He was on a Harkness Fellowship). The Kennedy School was not Milton Friedman's Chicago. 
  1. Rod Deane was never a member of Treasury's "Think Tank". He was in the Reserve Bank. 
  1. There was no special adviser called Doug "Anthony". Perhaps you meant Doug Andrew. 
  1. Economic Management was not a monetarist document. If anything it reflected a Harvard/Yale view rather than a Chicago view. For example, it did not advocate target growth rates for M2, or any other monetary or credit aggregate. 
  1. The foreign exchange crisis in 1984 was real. The outflow of cash in that last few months of Sir Robert Muldoon's administration was such that the Reserve Bank did not have the reserves left to defend the currency on the Monday after the election on any prudent projection of the likely demand. This was no figment of anyone's imagination. The notion you try to convey through double quotes of a contrived conspiracy theory is spin that is detached from this reality. 
  1. Where am I reported as saying that "racist attitudes and red tape were making New Zealand one of the most restrictive regimes in the world"? New Zealand does have one of the most restrictive regimes (involving red tape) on the OECD's measure. (See chapter 3 of The New Zealand Initiative's 2013 report Capital Doldrums summarises international rankings of NZ's FDI regime, in particular chart 7 on page 25.) Fear of foreign influence does not have to be primarily racist. I made this clear in some of my interviews, but I don't know to what extent those components were broadcast. For the record, I don't think racism is a major factor behind NZ's regime. I doubt if it is even a material factor. Who in NZ would feel racist towards Australians, for example?  

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