by Brian Easton

Shirley Smith would say that in her childhood she was known as the daughter of (later Sir) David Smith, then she was known as the wife of Bill Sutch and later as the mother of Helen Sutch. Throughout her life she struggled to be a person in her own right.

There are a number of ways of reading Sarah Gaitanos’s biography Shirley Smith: An Examined Life. In my view – I knew Shirley a little – she would want to you to read it as her struggle to be recognised, as a person.

If the Government is serious about redirecting policy towards wellbeing, it is going to have to do a lot more than making the odd statement in the budget.

On the Friday morning previous to Budget Thursday, the Prime Minister gave what amounted to a pre-budget speech. It was not welcomed by the listeners, even though most New Zealanders may have found it promising But the audience was from the Auckland Business Community (ABC) and the speech gave little acknowledgement to them or their concerns.

The Chatham Islands are a world we have left behind.

The Chatham Islands (Rekou in Moriori, Wharekauri in Maori) lie about 800kms to the east of New Zealand but given they are on the other side of the 180-degree meridian one might think of them as New Zealand’s most westerly isles, way past Australia.

Can we consume limited resources forever? Is economic growth just a Ponzi scheme in which we borrow from the future? Is economic growth as we know it coming to an end?

Over two centuries ago, the first-ever professor of economics, Thomas Malthus, predicted that levels of personal income would stagnate. He argued that there was a limited supply of land and that, given diminishing returns, additional farmers would produce less additional food until eventually they would not be able to feed themselves.

The government has promised a ‘wellbeing budget’. No one seems to know what that means. We can set out some preliminary economic understandings.

There is a story of a little old lady who woke up after a close election and was told that the result was a ‘hung parliament’. She responded that she did not know what that meant, but it sounded like a good idea.

While Chris Lee’s “The Billion Dollar Bonfire: How Allan Hubbard and the Government Destroyed South Canterbury Finance” traces the rise and fall of the finance company, it also provides valuable insights into how the financial system works – or doesnt.

At the core of a successful economy is ‘trust’. Buy a can of beans and your decision depends on trusting a whole chain of suppliers. Admittedly, you also trust that the law is working in your favour too; it usually does.

Traditionally Capital Gains Tax (CGT) has been politically untouchable. What does the handling of the issue tell us about the government’s political skills?

The focus of this column is what we can learn from the government’s handling of the capital gains tax issue. However, let me first say something about the case for it.

Are New Zealand managers good enough; are we relying too much upon them?

A senior official in the State Services Commission once told me that they thought that they got only about 60 percent of their appointments of their chief executives right. Some closer observers of the state sector thought that the official was optimistic. Let’s stick to the 60 percent, although it would not matter for this column’s purposes if the true figure was 80 percent.

The Public Finance Act is one of those boring statutes which shapes the nation’s wellbeing.

The power to tax and spend is at the heart of our constitutional democracy. In 1649 the English beheaded their monarch; one of their grievances was that he was levying taxes without parliamentary authorisation. The 1688 Bill of Rights, which limits his successors, is one of the few English statutes which is a part of our written law.

Inequality is not confined to income and wealth; it is in our healthcare and education systems. Is Labour trying to reverse the trend?

Eighty years ago, the First Labour Government imbedded New Zealanders’ aspirations for an egalitarian society in the welfare state it created. Thirty years ago, both the Labour and National Governments began an assault on that egalitarianism and the traditional welfare state.