The visible hand in economics

Archive for July 2008

As I said, I will discuss the RBNZ speech from yesterday.

Personally, I thought the speech was spot on – Dr Bollard understands the issues associated with inflation targeting, but he also more than understands the benefits.

Look at this statement surrounding oil prices shocks:

Instead, the key policy requirement in this situation is to allow the initial externally driven relative price changes to occur, but keep monetary policy sufficiently firm to ensure that generalised second-round inflation effects do not take hold – in other words, to keep inflation expectations anchored.

This is all I wanted the Bank to say in their latest statement – that they would react to the second round of price increases stemming from an increase in oil prices if it occurs. Tell the market that, although the CPI figure looks bad, once we’ve cleared the recent shocks inflation will again be the primary concern.

Furthermore, the Bank damned alternatives to inflation targeting – specifically:

Another alternative that could appear superficially attractive is to require monetary policy to target multiple objectives such as growth, employment, export and the balance of payments. This was the approach taken in New Zealand and many other countries in the post-war period up to the early 1980s. It inevitably had a short-term focus, and resulted in stop-go policies and high inflation. We now know that one instrument cannot succeed in achieving multiple objectives over the cycle. The move to inflation targeting, with its single, clear objective, resulted from the lessons learned in that period. We do not want to re-learn those lessons.

Very good :)
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I’m currently in the US on business/visiting family and thought I might share with our kiwi readers back home some interesting things (from an economics perspective of course!) that I have come across in my travels. I’ll post any other random things I come across while in the land of the free.

A few things have jumped out so far:

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The Standard(*), No Right Turn(*), and Hard News(*) have all commented on a graph showing the declining share of labour compensation in national output over the period 1981-2002. The claim/implication is that right-wing policies have contributed to the drop in labour’s share, and that the Labour government’s policies have reversed that trend somewhat in recent years. Does this explanation make sense?

Source: Stats NZ (national accounts)

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According to the Rates Blog, Dr Bollard will be doing a speech on “Flexibility and the Limits to Inflation Targeting”.

I am looking forward to the speech – it is an important issue, and Dr Bollard and the staff at the RBNZ definitely know what they are talking about.

Generally I have shown myself to be an inflation hawk and passionate lover of inflation targeting (*) (*) – but I am looking forward to hearing the arguments provided in this speech, and will be more than happy to be proven wrong if that is the case ;)

I may write about the speech at some point – if there turns out to be anything of great interest in it.

Update: The speech was very good – I will comment tomorrow, another commentator is writing something tonight and I’m not a fan of having more than three posts a day on the blog ;)

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Over at Econlog they mention a uncomfortable question that is asked at Instapundit:

If somebody offered us our current income tax system for the first time, would we buy it?

Now when we have defended progressive taxes on this blog we have often assumed that it is a revealed preference for society – in fact this is a favored measure we have for actually revealing (to some degree) what is optimal (here, here, can’t actually find any of the tax posts :) ).

How could this work? How could we have a system that is not optimal.
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In a discussion on our trade balance frog blog states that mainstream economists won’t talk about the import side of the ledger. Now I’m a mainstream economist (I think I should put that on my business card :) ) so I decided that I should take up the challenge.

So lets have a look at the tables. First I will discuss Frog Blog’s claims about the import series, and then I will discuss the way I see it:

Update:  Anti-Dismal captures the essence of confusion surround the issue of exports and imports here, fundamentally reminding us all that it is consumption that is good – not employment per see (the end is the target, not the assumed means!).  Very good :)

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When people look at government they often see a group of people that they feel are responsible for taking care of the country. Looking deeper, some people see a representation of society that is supposed to do what is in the social interest. Looking again we might see an organisation who is dominated by interest groups and competes with other institutions for resources in the national economy.

All these views of government are true. This does not make them evil or virtuous, they are merely a central component of the current social structure.

Now no matter what view you have of government, there is one thing you are likely to believe – that government should do what is in your countries best interest. However, is this right?

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