Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why being sucked in by “scientific consensus fads” is deadly…

The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet. By Nina Teicholz. Simon & Schuster; 479 pages; $27.99. Scribe; £14.99. Buy from;
A historical study of how fat came to be demonised, especially in America, by a mix of academics, government officials and food companies, and how the few sceptics who dared take on the fat orthodoxy have been much disparaged for their pains. Detailed in its research and eloquent in its argument, this is the year’s most surprising diet book.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Unhealthy ignorance and healthy foods

Green “healthy food” spokesman Kevin Hague says he has a problem with Food and Grocery CE Katherine Riches “conflict of interest” in being a member of the Health Promotion Agency  which, amongst other things, promotes healthy food while at the same time heading an organisation whose members make a profit out of distributing and selling food.

He’s right. He does have a problem.

Like the numerous others who still some 5,000 years on from first ever production, do not understand what a profit is.

At the simplest level of course, people selling healthy food make a profit. The production of muesli, St John’s Wort, mescaline weeds and all things green and vegie is undertaken for profit – just like the production of pies, potatoes and steak.

A profit is the cost of risk. Risk is an input to making healthy and unhealthy food. Without that input there is no production – healthy or otherwise. Just as a car will not provide transport without fuel so a food business will not provide food without the input of risk.

The cost of providing that risk input (the risk the business will lose its shirt) happens to be called profit. Profit does not come from the devil, thin air, nasty CEs, National Party voters, Labour Party Voters, Kim Dotcon, people who with Commerce degrees rather than BAs in literature or from people who don’t like Morris Dancing.

Profit is the cost of risk pure and simple. If you want healthy food you must pay for the risk involved in producing that food. Just as you must pay for the risk involved in producing unhealthy food. The cost of that risk is called profit.

Sending Katherine Rich out of the room, or asking the Minister of Health to fire her or asking the Auditor General to dispatch her to the corridor will not eliminate the need for profit.

It might though, hinder production of healthy food because the Food and Grocery Council members know more than a little about how to manage risk and profit in food production.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Grandiose poverty statements both bury the desperation and understate the progress

In N.Z. poverty is defined by some – including various quasi official qangos as including all who earn less than 50% of the median wage:


The line has been trending down since 1990. Is there no poverty? Of course there is. Big gesture alarming statistics hide the extent of extreme poverty while burying the hope which improvement over time is offering.

Study of those in absolute poverty shows they are living far differently from those earning the $30,000 a year the “poverty line” sets – because its a meaningless number – especially if you are poor.

On the other hand even the minimum wage for a 40 hour week delivers a gross income above that line… again probably meaningless because circumstances vary so much.

A more useful idea centres on the fact that a smaller and smaller proportion of people stay low earners for any length of time providing they can enter the workforce. The stress then needs to be on up-skilling to do that and making sure the workforce is easy to enter.

Monday, December 1, 2014

More “F word” problems…

“Forcing in an illiberal way the French style of equality of outcome, cutting down the tall poppies, envying the silly baubles of the rich, imagining that sharing income is as efficacious for the good of the poor as are equal shares in a pizza, treating poor people as sad children to be nudged or compelled by the experts of the clerisy, we have found, has often had a high cost in damaging liberty and slowing betterment.  Not always, but often.”  

McCloskey, D. p.31

Measured, Unmeasured, Mismeasured,  and Unjustified Pessimism: A Review Essay of Thomas Piketty’s  Capital in the Twentieth Century , Erasmus J of Econ and Phil. (forthcoming).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Free(er) trade in India–quote of the week

From the Economist “India has never been able to manage a free trade policy – even with itself”.  There possibly is hope if they can get states and the centre to stop warring amongst the unproductive over spending the spoils of taxes which belong to the productive. The proposed GST could do that… courage please.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Latest Stats NZ jobs and wages

The latest jobs and wages data from Stats NZ finds:

  • Employment up 72,000 in last year, being 66,000 full-time and 6,000 part-time
  • Unemployment down 14,000 in last year
  • Labour force up by 57,000
  • Unemployment rate down to 5.4%, from 6.1% a year ago
  • NZ 9th lowest unemployment rate in OECD of 34 countries.
  • Unemployment rate now 0.7% lower than Australia and US, 0.9% lower than UK and 1.5% lower than Canada
  • The NEET (Not in employment, education or training) rate for under 20s down to 7.2% from 8.1% a year ago
  • Average weekly earnings up (over year) 1.8%, being 2.2% in private sector and 1.4% in public sector
  • Average hourly earnings up 2.4%, being 3.0% in private sector and 1.0% in public sector
  • Male hourly earnings up 2.0% and female hourly earnings up 2.7%
    Thanks to David Farrar, Kiwiblog for this summary