by Brian Easton

Although completed a decade ago, Tony Judt’s history of postwar Europe presaged some of the challenges that it faces today.

Shortly after the collapse ot the Berlin Wall in 1989, one of our greatest contemporary historians Tony Judt resolved to write a book to sort his thinking out. It took fifteen years, but the resulting Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 is an (almost 900-page) extraordinary achievement.

Big data can be used for good and it can be used for evil. Some recent public research illustrates the former but there are doubts about some private uses

It is not generally realised that Statistics New Zealand has a large research database – the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) – containing microdata about people and households from a range of government agencies, SNZ surveys including the 2013 Census, and non-governme

Economists and policy analysts have paid insufficient attention to the distributional consequences of change. Hence the rise of the angries.

In order to get to this column’s conclusion I am going to recall a little of my scholarly journey.

Far too much public commentary on wealth inequality obscures what is actually is going on. 

This column is a grump about the poor quality of public discourse. It is illustrated by the recent outburst over the distribution of wealth in New Zealand and some rather inept public responses to the recent re-publication of some data, where people with little expertise used the opportunity to pursue their political and ideological goals while displaying, to the expert, their incompetence.

What can we learn about health care systems and the US from the muddle that America is getting into over Obamacare?

Donald Trump is not particularly interested in policy. When he promised to replace Obamacare – the current US health system – with something which would be better, he was responding to the conflicting demands of his supporters and certainly did not have a plan. It will be the Republican-dominated Congress which will lead the way with a bill for him to sign.

International comparisons suggest that New Zealand secondary students are not doing well. It may even be that recent policy measures have worsened their performance.

The 2015 results for the  triennial OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) evaluation were reported just before Christmas so they did not get much coverage. We need to think about them. Many will jump to a conclusion that the current government’s education policy is failing. Certainly the international evidence does not suggest it is succeeding.  

How does a post-truth world work? Some psychological findings may be useful. (The Oxford Dictionary definition of ‘post-truth’ is ‘Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’ The Dictionary labelled it the word of the year 2016.)

This columnist is greatly perplexed by how in today’s post-truth world people hold views or which are not true, which may be contradictory but which are held with a tenacity which belies their falsehood. This is sometimes called ‘truthiness’; the views are believed to be true because they confirm beliefs. But that is a label, what is going on?

A recent decision by New Zealand on Air in response to the changing media technologies raises a range of issues about how the platforms are used. 

The announcement by New Zealand on Air that it was changing its mode of funding is a reminder of the current turmoil in the media from the convergence of platforms (delivery systems).

A book about two psychologists who have altered the way we think about the way we think.

For many people, Michael Lewis is best known for his 2010 book The Big Short and the follow-up film, which describes the carryings-on of the financial sector in the American housing market which underlay the Global Financial Crisis.

Your In-tray is piled high.

Dear Bill,

I recall when you first entered Parliament 26 years ago, it was widely thought you were prime-ministerial material. You’ve made it. Congratulations.