Pesseconomists

My initial degree was Economics and although I would never call myself an “Economist” I think I can a least understand enough to critique nonsense from those in that discipline. In New Zealand we have a lot of that but the worst trait is the pessimism. If some of these people have their ideas taken seriously – or have much influence – that pessimism risks being self-fulfilling prophecy. Our young people, especially, deserve better.

A baseline for optimism about the world to which our country belongs is the 2018 book Factfullness (Ten reasons we’re wrong about the world and why things are better than you think) by the late Hans Rosling. Connected to that is the brilliant website www.gapminder.org Both detail the incredible improvements in the human condition over time … and how that is accelerating.

There is abundant information that, despite glitches, this is the best time ever to be growing up and there is every reason to envision and plan for a future we can only be optimist about. Improving productivity, opening up land for housing in NZ, using new technologies to solve old and/or persistent problems. Instead of whining or being satisfied with status quo these qualified people should be creating a 25 year vision to see our nation and the broad demographics within it … leading the world.

Here is one example. Shamubeel Eaqub in an article titled Do young people have it tougher than their parents did? he acknowledges that many things are cheaper, but housing is tough. Then, instead of creative economic solutions, he simply fuels the interage-rage.

“Realistically, for the average young person today, no amount of regular and disciplined saving will give them the same access to homeownership and housing costs. For that, young people need to get politically active. The political narrative is still focussed on and for baby boomers. Until the younger generation’s issues become the dominant political issues, nothing will change.”

So – don’t seek the highest paid, highest skilled jobs. Don’t be an entrepreneur and/or innovate around things NZ and the world needs. Don’t go overseas for a while (or for life) to a higher paid economy. And, especially, according to Eaqub, don’t save – it is a forlorn method – wait until you can simply control the vote and smash the oldies.

Another is University of Auckland economist Tim Hazledine who shows how he thinks of fellow kiwis in an article titled: Why the transtasman income gap is larger than it appears. He acknowledges that at present New Zealanders earn significantly less than people in comparable countries but pay a lot more for most things.

“The Australia/New Zealand income gap is actually larger than it appears. It’s not just that we earn less, it’s also that when we spend what we earn, we get less value for our money. New Zealand is a pricey country.”

His vision and solution is simply to be resigned to this state of affairs because Kiwis are by and large a bit lazy and don’t care. According to Hazeldine we “want” to earn less and pay more. I’m not kidding.

“You can probably see by now where this is going. If we all pay too much for just about everything, then it must be because that’s what we all want to do: an inevitable complement to the easy-going life on the production front.”

They are both wrong in their outlook and neither get you charged up to make a difference from such pessimism. One education example shows how a different approach can work. My first teaching job was from 1991-96 at Tauranga Boys College under the superb leadership of Graeme Young. During the last ten years it has been led by another fabulous Principal in Robert Mangan. Both men led/lead with optimism and vision. I have watched the school with massive respect over the years since I left.

In an article on possible solutions to improve Maths teaching in New Zealand I read this:

“Maths was very much alive at Warner Cowin’s house when he was growing up.

In fact Cowin, who is of Ngāti Porou and Pākehā descent, had the perfect maths situation – his mother is a secondary school maths teacher, his father a plumber who used maths in practical applicaton in his job as a plumber.

The Māori entrepreneur went to a school, Tauranga Boys College, that expected academic, sporting and personal achievement from its students. Because his reading wasn’t great, he gravitated towards science and mathematics.”

Three other recent graduates from that school? Kane Williamson, Sam Cane and Peter Burling.

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