Thou shalt not steal

Left unchecked crime would create winners (criminals) and losers (victims), a fact which has obvious equity implications. But crime also has economic costs, not just to victims but to society as a whole. The vast majority of crimes do not simply involve a transfer of wealth or enjoyment from one person to another, but a net loss to society.

Forestry fortunes looking up

The New Zealand forestry industry has had to contend with achanging regulatory framework and wildly fluctuating global demand over thelast couple of years.  But there have been some promising developments sincemid-2009.  Export tax hikes in Russia have helped push world forestry prices upmore than 43% over the last nine months. Suddenly, the future doesn’t look toobad for New Zealand log exporters.  With the supply of logs picking up again,both the value and volume of New Zealand log exports should hold up over thenext 3-5 years.

Affordable housing is a simple equation

Zoning regulations exist for several good reasons, but overzealous planners can forget that zoning comes at a cost. When land is not allowed to migrate towards its best use, it can cause distortions in the market. Restricting the supply of land available for residential housing inevitably causes house prices to rise, and it is one of the reasons why New Zealand has some of the most expensive houses in the world.

The pension should stay

Apparently there is a growing rift forming between the baby boomers and the younger generations. Some have gone so far as to warn that there is a "generational war" coming, as generation X and Y try and wrestle back political and economic control from their parents. But from where I stand as a member of Gen-Y, things don’t look so bad. Our living standards and expected lifetime income are much higher than my parents’ generation enjoyed.

Is Georgie Pie the price of having a minimum wage?

Like the 30,000 members of the facebook group "bring back Georgie Pie", I have fond memories of the franchise. Some would swear by the taste, but the biggest attraction for many was that the pies were cheap. Georgie Pie’s $1, $2, $3, $4 menu became legendary in fact, but therein lies the problem. The economic and regulatory environment has evolved since the 1990s, and the costs of doing business for an outfit like Georgie Pie have increased substantially.

Taking the P out of GDP

Recessions always create winners and losers, which is why we have a welfare system to smooth part of the burden. But at least society as a whole is now getting wealthier again right? Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple, and economists have taken the 0.1% growth recorded in the June quarter with a grain of salt.

Re-tapping the car markets potential

Total car sales during the first quarter of 2009 were down40% from a year earlier, representing a difficult time for anyone trying tomake a living in the automotive industry.  But the question on many people’sminds is whether car sales will regain their former glory once the economyimproves.  This article provides five-year estimates for the three drivers ofcar sales – replacement demand, ownership rate, and household formation.  Carsales appear to be well below fundamentals at present, and are poised to risesignificantly when the economy improves.

We’re still an agricultural economy at heart

No matter which way you look at it, agriculture is bigbusiness for New Zealand’s economy.  Together dairy and meat accounted for 34%of the total value of exports for the year to June 2009.  There are also spin-offbenefits to the economy from having a thriving agricultural sector, includingintellectual property that is licensed offshore.  Much of the recent talk abouteconomic recovery has centred on household spending, but a strong agricultural sectorwill be required to underpin any sustainable growth on the other side of therecession.  This article looks at the recent trends and future prospects forthe dairy and meat industries, and specifically at the recent jump in lambprices. 

Don’t let the sun go down

Ever since the General Motors’ car Sunraycer won the inaugural 1987 world solar challenge, many people have been intrigued by the prospect of a viable solar car. A car that runs on free energy from the sun without the need to stop and refuel would be sure to turn a few heads. But the reality then, as now, is that such a car could not be built with available technology. Drawbacks include the weight of the batteries that would be required, the low efficiency of cost-effective solar panels, and the fact that solar panels on moving vehicles are not constantly exposed to the sun. While we may see solar panels extending the range of rechargeable electric cars in the near future, pure solar-powered cars remain the domain of hobbyists.

Live and let live

Sir David Attenborough brings a distinctive style to his documentaries, and Iwould count myself as a fan. But I was a little surprised to hear of hisrecent appointment to head the Optimum Population Trust (OPT). The OPT is anorganisation whose members generally believe that the earth has reached orexceeded the level of population it can sustain long-term. But the problem isthat these views have been around for a long time, and disaster has not yetbefallen the human race. Somewhere in the midst of the hype andmisinformation, sound policy decisions need to be made that will affect all ofus.