The Important Thing About Income Inequality is What You Do about it – Exploring the Path to Reducing Income Inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand
While the tents of the Occupy protesters may be moved on, the issues of income inequality will not be pushed to one side so easily. The backdrop of massive international social and economic disparities shape the context for the particular challenges we face in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Deputy Prime Minister Bill English has said that the important thing about income inequality is what we actually do about it. This lecture looks at our current situation and asks – what (if anything) is being done about inequality right now and what more we could do. Can we find a path to a social and political consensus on income inequality and what might that path look like?
Rhema Vaithianathan of Auckland University recently entertained Fabian audiences in both Wellington and Auckland with a review of the evidence on when assets sales could be judged to be appropriate (yes, there are some circumstances). She also discussed what the costs and benefits of such sales might be. Her presentation can be downloaded here.
Dr David Tripe from Massey University School of Banking Studies and Dr Bill Rosenberg of the NZCTU spoke on this topic on Monday 7th November in Wellington.
David explained the role of the rating agencies in relation to corporate and sovereign debt, showed that New Zealand's risk profile lay more with private debt owed through the banks than with government debt, warned against the risks underlying the persistent current account deficit, and concluded that while further downgrades were possible the main risk lay in a sudden drop in ratings which was dependent on the banks' own ratings. A copy of his presentation can be found here.
Bill Rosenberg looked at the philosophy underlying the criteria used by the agencies in evaluating sovereign debt, showing that they looked not only at the levels of debt but also made a political assessment of governments' willingness to pay, in other words their willingness to place debt repayment above other political and social policies. His conclusion was that the development of good social and economic policy should downgrade the significance of the role played by the agencies. Bill's presentation can be found here and a detailed paper here.
Brian Easton, one of New Zealand's foremost independent economists, argues in this Fabian lecture that in a time of prolonged economic stagnation we should not equate income with wellbeing, or pursue income growth at all costs. Instead following Aristotle we should promote the good life well lived, as well as with Amartya Sen enhancing people's life opportunities. Certain sorts of collective spending, better health and education, lower income inequality and less stressful unemployment may all contribute more to our economic well-being.
Brian's presentation may be downloaded here.
A highly successful NZ Fabian Society seminar, Fresh Ideas for the Productive Economy – The Search for Solutions, featuring some of New Zealand’s leading business commentators, economic analysts, innovators and entrepreneurs, was staged in the Legislative Chamber of Parliament on Wednesday 27 July.
Here is an e-magazine with contributor papers. An outline of the proceedings can be found here, with papers and presentations available here as they come to hand. For ongoing email updates on this topic, please sign up to the Search for Solutions mailing list.
- We Ignore Demographics at Our Peril
- Is NZ Smarter than Other Countries, or Simply Special?
- Reconstructing Christchurch - Papers Available
- Plans for a Productive Economy
- April 2011 Newsletter
- The Case for Public Spending
- Public Spending: The Driver of Economic Growth
- 2010 Wrap Up
- Issues in Privatisation – Costs & Benefits
- Your Kids Aren't Happy - a Group of Young Economists Talk About Their Future