The expert on everything

January 27th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Adam Dudding at the SST profiles Gareth Morgan:

Setting aside the unprovoked Yank-baiting, let’s have a quick recap of the people to whom Morgan has recently offered free, potentially unwelcome, advice.

Cat-owners, obviously, and he embellished his position by telling The Atlantic magazine: “The most oft-heard and erroneous utterance we get here from cat owners is, ‘Oh but my pussy only kills rats and mice, he’d never harm a native bird.’ As you can see this denial verges on explicit stupidity.”

He told Wellington’s Phoenix football team (which he part-owns) it needed to start playing a more “attractive” attacking game (the team has since performed even worse than usual). Fans who disagree are “pathetic” and “don’t know much about the game anyway”, he told Radio Sport.

Last year he told the Greens they don’t understand economics, urged farmers to abandoned “environmental retards” Federated Farmers, and suggested the government totally restructure the tax and welfare systems.

He’s co-authored books setting the record straight on climate change (it’s happening), public health (it needs reform), the world’s fisheries (they’re running out), and the finance industry (it’s ropey). When his investment company, GMI, launched its own KiwiSaver fund in 2007, part of his pitch was that all the other providers were doing it wrong. When challenged last year about the fund’s underwhelming performance, he said investors and the financial media were ignorant.

Taking an interest in the world is one thing, but the sheer breadth of Morgan’s claimed areas of wisdom, and the fact that his personal wealth allows him the time to run around sharing it, have seen him become arguably New Zealand’s biggest know-all.

Everyone is ignorant and pathetic except Gareth it seems.

Naturally, he claims to know what he’s up to.

Apparently, behind the provocations and the droopy moustache lies the coolly calculating brain of a trained economist who still believes in the miracle of the market and the rationality of people – just so long as they’re well-informed (which isn’t to say he’s a fellow-traveller with the free-market fanatics of the ACT party, whom he considers “mad” and “disgusting”).

Questioning the status quo “is just a natural effect of being trained as an economist. You tend to be looking at the public good.”

His methods, as irritating as they may be, are simply about efficiently disseminating high-quality data. “You basically scatter the chooks and then you say, ‘Calm down. I’ve got your attention. Now look at the evidence.’ “

If only that was the case. But in reality his cat jihad is the exact opposite of what you’d expect from even a primary school economist. The most basic thing in economics is you look at both benefits and costs. Morgan has just done a rant about the cost of cats, and ignore any benefits. That isn’t high quality data. That is low quality polemics.

Eric Crampton does what Morgan didn’t, and applies economics to the cat issue. Eric also linked to a website showing with great humour how lethal cats are. Far far more effective than what did.

Also Claire Browning at Pundit exposes some hypocrisy:

Gareth’s speech to our 2012 conference was a doozy. A cautionary tale of the “green extreme”, on how “tub-thumping activism” was giving conservation a bad name, he rounded off by telling a 14 year old girl (a guest of ours, who stood up and bravely, passionately challenged him in front of a room of 300 people) that her question was “pathetic” – and somewhere in the middle of it all, offered this:

“2. … polarization of views on conservation – if you’re pro-conservation you’re anti economic growth. This needlessly alienates huge numbers of people from conservation that should be our constituency.

“Considered conservationists need to have the courage now to disown publicly this behavior,” he said, and ensure that those responsible for it were marginalised.

Shouldn’t you at least practice what you preach? Browning also points out:

Gareth’s playing politics. He wants something moderate, if we’re lucky; he’s flying a kite for something extreme.

For better or worse, he’s started a predator-free New Zealand debate. Yay! I wish it were PFNZ we were debating, not cats! I agree with him: “some of the debate has been pretty facile” – chiefly, the information on his own website.

But there’s no use (my friend and former colleague Nicola) whiningabout how the results of this are “frankly disturbing” – rambling about how some of your best friends are cats, etc. He threw a grenade, and lit a fire – he is the grenade, his own wee self-contained incendiary device. Not much cause for complaint about the results, and Gareth sure isn’t complaining.

What we’ve also got is a sort of low-grade civil war in which – redubbing his own words to our conference – “if you’re pro-bird, you’re anti-cat”. And what’s really disturbing here is the lack of policy smarts about it.

Having found your problem, is the response well-targeted? Is it a proportional response? Benefits vs costs?

From the people who weren’t Gareth, we learned what those of us with cats already know: there’s no basis to vilify all cats. Not all house cats are hunters (I’m not offering this on my own observation, although this is also true). Even among those who are, overall, imperfectly, it probably works out:

And Claire provides lots of links.

Having your son earn you lots of money doesn’t make you an expert on everything.

This is not to say I think Morgan is of no value. I’m reading his book on Antarctica at the moment, and it is pretty good. I’ll do a review when I have finished. But any value from his energy and contributions is fast disappearing as he becomes just an angry ranting rich guy. Morgan should practice what he preaches and actually provide us with high quality data.

Richard Boock reviews his performance as a team owner:

If a presentation was to be made on “what not to do as a pro sports team owner”, Morgan’s example this season would be front and centre. It was funny enough when he started rebuking the local media for not being sufficiently sycophantic in their reporting, and threatening to take games away from Wellington unless more people attended. As a Twitter pal mentioned, it was like he was channelling Basil Fawlty, berating folk for daring to complain.

Still, Morgan’s most recent strategy, attacking his own fans’ views as “pathetic”, and “unsophisticated”, and suggesting many didn’t understand the game, was staggeringly funny even by his standards. Forget the pot and the kettle for a moment, the idea he thinks anything positive will come from slagging off his own customer base is standup comedy material. What will he do next to fans? Threaten to lock them out?

One could almost make a comedy show from it indeed!

21 Responses to “The expert on everything”

  1. Colville (3,123 comments) says:

    Is Gareth looking for a spot on the Green list?

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  2. labrator (2,466 comments) says:

    No wonder his son ducked and ran for cover as soon as he was successful. New Zealand doesn’t want any body to stand out, our tall poppy syndrome knows no bounds.

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  3. alwyn (510 comments) says:

    What is it with people named Gareth?
    When I saw the title of this piece my first thought was to wonder what the little idiot from the Green party, Gareth Hughes, had come out with now.

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  4. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    As a commentator I quite like Morgan – I often disagee with him, but there’s an occasional bit of thinking that’s outside the usual spectrum of conformist Kiwi thought. It does seem that the media think that, because he’s rich, they have to take him seriously. I’m sure a hundred other people have ranted on a website someplace about exterminating cats, and nobody took any notice. Can’t really blame Morgan for the media’s behaviour.

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  5. Manolo (22,056 comments) says:

    Like the Luddite co-leader Norman, Morgan, the know-it-all, is destined to become a Green Party member.

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  6. Reid (21,429 comments) says:

    His coaching “assistance” and his cats comment are telling, aren’t they. In the sense of the former being something where how could anyone possibly imagine they could do a better job than people who’ve been in the game all their lives and the latter for being something where how could anyone possibly think the people who own these animals would ever take him up on the idea?

    I mean it’s not rocket science, is it. They seem to have come in rapid succession too. Perhaps Gareth who was quiet for ages has tipped over the edge. Perhaps he’s thought, fuck it, I’m both brainy and rich so from now on I’ll just say whatever the fuck I’m thinking off the top of my head and I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks. Perhaps that’s what’s happened. A bit like Bob Jones but without the warmth and charm.

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  7. Kimble (4,637 comments) says:

    It wouldnt be so bad if he wasn’t promoting untruths as fact.

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  8. Yogibear (442 comments) says:

    What worries me is this increase in public profile from an already publicity seeking individual is a precursor to a Wellington Mayoralty bid

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  9. Fox (213 comments) says:

    You know, the arrogance and smugness that Morgan tends to emanate certainly make it awfully tempting to lay into the guy.

    I am however held back by the fact that although he is occasionally (and many would argue increasingly) misguided, he does mean well.

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  10. Kimble (4,637 comments) says:

    Lenin meant well.

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  11. SPC (8,704 comments) says:

    Sounds like Gareth Morgan would be a dangerous rival to Kiwiblog and whaleoil if he went into blogging.

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  12. pq (728 comments) says:

    For the uninitiated on the ludicrous Gareth Morgan, he does in fact have a website.
    This is frequented by young unsophisticated greens and Socialists and ….oh God yes, Bernard Hickey.
    And as Farrar suggest they knoiw everything,
    Bernard Hickey would not recognize the truth if we hit him on the head with it.
    Before I go on, it is worth knowing that Morgan has co credibility at all, in political or social circles.
    I checked.
    Morgan is a sociopath, and I will tell you why.
    He wants to divert 2 per cent of every New Zealanders assets, every year continuous, into a tax which would be redistributed to people he favours.
    He would wreck your fathers inheritance for anoither he preferes.
    Go to his site, read carefully and you will see how mad he is, the Prime Minister called him barking mad, a nice joke referring to his big hair lip mouth, palate thing, and the facts that cats can not bark.
    Remember Morgan does not want capital gains once, he wants it every year, and from everybody.
    Barking mad Gareth Morgan

    go to

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  13. Longknives (6,406 comments) says:

    Any truth to the rumour Gareth ‘Expert on Everything’ Morgan is being commissioned to write the new Bain Compo report?

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  14. Steve (North Shore) (4,962 comments) says:

    Morgan is the new Al Whore, well in NZ anyway

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  15. Naturesong (23 comments) says:

    You folks do realise that Gareth is trolling don’t you?

    Don’t Feed the Trolls!!!!

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  16. hj (8,596 comments) says:

    David Farrar reviews Poles Apart…. yeah right!

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  17. Nigel Kearney (1,991 comments) says:

    Morgan is becoming the NZ equivalent of the Kardashians. Nobody really know why he is famous, but somehow his random idiocies always seem to find their way into the newspapers and on TV.

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  18. paul henry (49 comments) says:

    I think Morgan won’t come back from this. From now on he’ll just be that mad cat-hating fool, the son-made man from Wellington.

    Make’s me wonder what Sam Morgan is REALLY like, underneath the unassuming front.

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  19. hj (8,596 comments) says:

    Love to see David Farrar’s review (refute) of Morgan’s other books: Poles Apart; Health Cheque; Big Kahuna.
    I suspect we are playing the man here and not the ball.
    I like cats but a cat that doesn’t hunt is boring – may as well have a stuffed one. It’s in their genes.

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  20. Tom Jackson (2,553 comments) says:

    How dare people have ideas that others disagree with.

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  21. Dave Mann (1,774 comments) says:

    As a joke, when my cat jumped up on the kitchen bench I told him off with “I’ll get Gareth Morgan to sort you out!” To my astonishment the poor cat looked absolutely terrified and vowed I’ll never threaten him like that again.

    I wonder, though, if “Basil Morgan” would have the same effect? 😀

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