Friday , November 22 2019
Home / Eric Crampton
Eric Crampton

Eric Crampton



Articles by Eric Crampton

Really protecting tenants

4 days ago

The government is making it harder for landlords to evict tenants, among a few other changes to the Residential Tenancies Act. 

It’s a brilliant bit of politics. 

Suppose that successive governments have so screwed up the rules around getting new housing built and the incentives facing councils to consent new housing that we wound up with a housing shortage. 

Suppose further that your government got elected on a promise to fix the mess – but has achieved close to nothing on the file after two years with an election coming. Kiwibuild was never going to work, and wound up being a costly distraction from the real supply issues at play.

And suppose further that you really need anger about broken housing markets to be directed away from the government. 

What better play than

Read More »

Police and guns

4 days ago

If this is right, it looks like New Zealand needs better police rather than stricter firearms laws. 

Here’s Derek Cheng at the Herald:

The man accused of the March 15 terror attack was supplied 2300 rounds of ammunition by using a police mail order form that also revealed to police he had an AR-15, a parliamentary select committee has been told.The information was part of a submission from licensed firearms dealer Paul McNeill to the finance and expenditure committee, which is considering the Government’s second tranche of gun law reform.McNeill, who is also director of the Aoraki Ammunition Company, appeared before the committee on Friday via video link, but his submission was quickly taken offline in case it might affect the accused’s right to a fair trial.He told the committee he

Read More »

Confusing the Monster-Ometer with the Frog Exaggerator – again

8 days ago

The latest results from the NZ Health Survey are up.And so is Alcohol Healthwatch’s take on those stats. They take it all as reason for tightening control on alcohol.

Go and have a look at the stats for yourself. For each of a pile of indicators, MoH slices up the data by gender, by age, and by ethnicity. It then says whether the difference between the latest stat and last year’s stats, or 2014/15’s stats, or the 2011/12 stats for the series that go back that far, are statistically significant.

Now one immediate problem is that if you’ve sliced up the data two dozen ways and you’re running comparisons between three pairs of years for each of those slices, you’ve got a lot of potential comparisons. 24 comparisons per indicator times 3 year-pairs of comparisons, for the indicators

Read More »

Film subsidies are stupid, a continuing series

9 days ago

So. 

The New Zealand government, committed to wellbeing, believing that tax is love, wanting to ensure that every loving tax dollar spent provides the greatest possible increase in wellbeing, and fronting the Christchurch Call to stop harmful speech, has put $243,000 towards a Chinese propaganda film with the tagline "Anyone who offends China, no matter how remote, must be exterminated."Thomas Coughlin has the story over at Stuff:
The film was not made directly by the Chinese Government, but by a slew of Chinese state-owned enterprises, including the China Film Group Corporation, China’s largest film producer, and Bona Films.Bona Films is a subsidiary of China Poly Group, another state-owned enterprise. China Poly Group is an unusual conglomerate housing the world’s third largest art

Read More »

Semester Abroad Sanctuary

9 days ago

The Chinese University of Hong Kong does not look like a safe place for students.After the Canterbury earthquakes, a lot of universities, both here in NZ and elsewhere, made it really really easy for Canterbury students to do a semester as visiting students.I don’t know how many students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong would want a semester abroad in New Zealand. And it could be that the messes there will be over by the time university starts up again in New Zealand.But it could be good if New Zealand’s universities had a chat with each other, and with Immigration New Zealand, about what they could do in hosting students from Hong Kong needing a safe space come the next semester, should it remain unsafe in Hong Kong.Update: Why not consider semester-abroad students from Hong Kong

Read More »

Campaign finance balloons

10 days ago

I used to spend a bit of time on campaign finance when I taught public choice – the evidence on whether money buys politicians’ votes, extent to which campaign expenditure influences outcomes, different models of lobbying activity and the like. 

I liked there to note that campaign finance reform is a bit like squeezing on a balloon. Things will always pop back out in other places, and you have to watch for that.Guyon Espiner’s found one spot where the balloon has bulged out:
A mysterious foundation that loans money to New Zealand First is under scrutiny, with a university law professor saying although it’s lawful, it fails to provide the transparency voters need in a democracy.Records show New Zealand First has disclosed three loans from the New Zealand First Foundation. In 2017, it

Read More »

No pressure

12 days ago

I’d failed to keep up with South Park and have finally caught up with most of the excellent Season 19. 

After a Whole Foods opens up, Randy Marsh finds himself charity-shamed for not wanting to add $1 to his purchase to help increasingly dubious causes, then shamed for only adding a dollar.In my reader mailbag, I find the following. It was emailed to parents at one of the Wellington primary schools:
November 8, 2019Support Staff Make a Significant Difference For All Our ChildrenI know you will all agree that this talented team of staff make a significant positive difference to our school, including our library and teacher aide staff. Their collective agreement is currently being negotiated between NZEI and the Government. These staff are currently employed directly by the school but we

Read More »

Regulatory plumbing and insurance pricing

12 days ago

Insurance pricing winds up a mess when the government leans on insurers to not price insurance fairly. 

Minister Robertson last week admonished insurers not to use more granular pricing in ways that would leave some parts of the country uninsured or ‘uninsurable’.Currently, people who live in low risk places cross-subsidise people who live in high risk places. This happens explicitly through EQC, which does not risk-base its prices for coverage. But it also happens implicitly when the state either hints or (now) shouts that it’ll come down hard on the industry if prices are set to reflect risk.And it then all causes a mess.In the absence of the regulatory shadow, we’d expect one of two things to happen. Either insurers would start offering cheaper insurance deals based on granular data

Read More »

Illicit markets and Bali Booze

14 days ago

The Herald reprints an Australian story on a couple of tragic deaths in Bali from drinking cocktails that had methanol in them. 

The story argues that methanol is likely the result of home distillation.
But what the young tourists were experiencing was far from a hangover. They’d consumed a toxic cocktail laced with methanol hidden in their drink.Without taste or smell, the young travellers had no idea what they’d been served at the bar.Methanol, while closely related to ethanol (which is found in wine, beer and quality spirits) is far more toxic and can be found in drinks made from home-distilled spirits.Commercially made spirits are safe to consume because manufacturers use technologies specifically designed to ensure methanol is separated from the ethanol that goes into the bottles

Read More »

Ice Cream Makes You Happy

15 days ago

An excellent response to a stupid complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, a ludicrous ruling from the ASA, and a milquetoast response from the manufacturer.

First, the stupid complaint about an ad outside a dairy noting "Ice Cream Makes U Happy". 

I wonder if E Fowler has ever tasted ice cream. And wouldn’t kids who’ve walked a kilometre from school to the dairy deserve an ice cream?The ASA upheld the complaint. Absolutely absurd, inside-the-asylum stuff:
A majority of the Complaints Board said the advertisement could undermine the health and well-being of individuals. This is because the advertisement contains an implicit claim that there is a link between ice cream and happiness. The promotion of this link could potentially undermine the health and well-being of

Read More »

Vaccination, compulsion, and paternalism for the lower orders

16 days ago

The National Party has come out in support of encouraging greater vaccination uptake.But it sure isn’t the way I’d do it.National’s suggested docking the benefits of those on benefit whose kids aren’t keeping up with their vaccinations. Some in National have suggested extending that to payments under Working for Families, but that appears more controversial.We can go back to first principles and note that there’s a reasonable case for government intervention to encourage vaccination – as I have done previously. There is compulsion all over the place in public health, except where there’s an actual market failure case for using compulsion.I think that case is strongest when it comes to those workers most likely to be in contact with not-yet-vaccinated youths, and with people whose immunity

Read More »

Not an unintended consequence

18 days ago

Remember how Labour was elected on a promise to ban foreign speculators from the NZ housing market, then set legislation that was far far broader than that?

Stuff’s Susan Edmunds reports on one of the inevitable consequences of that legislation:A UK-born New Zealand permanent resident says he’s been cut out of the property market by restrictions on foreign buyers, because his job requires him to spend time overseas.Residential land can now only be sold to people who are citizens or permanent residents, with exceptions for Australians and Singaporeans.But people with a residence visa need to meet conditions. They must have a residence-class visa, must have lived in New Zealand for the past 12 months, have been present in New Zealand for at least 183 days of the past 12 months, and be a

Read More »

Data preservation?

19 days ago

Is there any requirement that public agencies not have data destroyed?Ages back, I’d put in an OIA request of IRD looking for the tax polling data that they had commissioned. If you’ll recall, IRD was accused of partisanship when it had Colmar Brunton run some polls on public views on different taxes, and the polling included some political identification questions for the respondents.I never bought that there was any partisan purpose to the polling – IRD has good reason to want to know attitudes to tax. And political identification questions could simply be part of the standard battery of questions provided in the baseline poll that IRD’s questions were added to.So I OIAed for that underlying data, figuring that the data’s being public would mitigate any worries about partisan use of the

Read More »

Public health, externality, and vaccination

24 days ago

Paternalism is contentious. Arguments for state action to protect us from ourselves are fraught. I come down pretty heavily on the anti-paternalism side of the argument, but I’ve heard respectable defences of paternalism.

But policy around vaccination is hardly paternalistic. There’s a clear market failure that could be pointed to in any sound Regulatory Impact Statement.In a place with relatively high vaccination rates, the primary benefit from your getting vaccinated goes to other people. The risk of catching anything is low, because everyone else is vaccinated. If you also get vaccinated, you very slightly reduce your already low risk of catching anything. You also very slightly consequently reduce the risk of anyone else catching anything – there’s still risk among those who are

Read More »

Locked data filing cabinets

25 days ago

Over at Newsroom, I argue for opening up some of New Zealand’s locked government data cabinets as part of government’s maintaining social licence to collect it in the first place. 

Since I’ve been a bad blogger lately and didn’t get this up when it first came out, I’ll put the whole thing here rather than just a snippet. Enjoy!

When Arthur Dent complained that he had not been informed of Council’s plans to bulldoze his house for a bypass, Mr Prosser, the Council officer, calmly told him that the plans had been on display for months – in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’. Arthur found the plans there the day before the bulldozers showed up at his door.A lot of New Zealand’s government data feels

Read More »

No collusion

26 days ago

The kids still haven’t colluded against us in our sealed-bid tender process for the household chores.
I go through it over in our Insights newsletter. 
The Tender YearsDespite all your predictions to the contrary, the children still have not colluded against me.On finding out that the Crampton household’s way of divvying up the chores is somewhat nonstandard, I reported on it in a May 2018 Insights column in case others might find it helpful. I was honestly a bit surprised that nobody else seemed to have figured out this obvious solution.For specific chores that go over and above the ordinary household expectations, we use a sealed-bid tendering system. We put up the chores we would like to have done; the children submit their bids to perform those chores; we announce the winners of the

Read More »

Justice and a grifter

28 days ago

Viewed one way, justice has been met.Viewed another way, a serial and malicious grifter has been able to use the legal system and new cultural norms at very low cost to impose substantial costs on others.Jessica Yaniv is a transgendered Canadian woman who bullied aestheticians, often migrant women, with threats of legal action if they refused to wax her scrotum.The Human Rights tribunal came to what I think was obviously the right decision:
"Self-identification does not erase physiological reality," said Jay Cameron of the the Justice Centre. "No woman should be compelled to touch male genitals against her will, irrespective of how the owner of the genitals identifies."The ruling also found that Yaniv engaged in improper conduct by misleading the tribunal, by being untruthful, and by

Read More »

Careful what you wish for: tech and democratic accountability

29 days ago

It will not be wonderful when every country is able to issue global take-down notices.

Here we go. Now India is ordering platforms to take down information globally based on Indian laws. Which seems perfectly reasonable, since France, Austria, and Canada all get to do it. But that’s exactly the problem: every court in every country will want to do the same thing. https://t.co/5fx6pZCviV
— Daphne Keller (@daphnehk) October 23, 2019
 A lot of folks at NetHui seemed to yearn for a world that would very quickly lead to this.

Read More »

Ruling out doing anything about 99.83% of the world’s emissions

29 days ago

My column in the Fairfax papers today argues that the Zero Carbon Bill shouldn’t rule out New Zealand pursuing opportunities to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions abroad. 

The Zero Carbon Bill requires the government to focus on domestic mitigation opportunities. But the rest of the world provides 99.83% of the world’s emissions. Does it seem likely that all of the very best opportunities for mitigating emissions will be found here at home? We risk ruling out doing far more good than we otherwise could.A snippet:
I don’t know if anyone ever really believed manufacturing televisions in New Zealand made sense.Controls in place until New Zealand’s reforms prohibited importing fully assembled televisions, to encourage manufacture and assembly in New Zealand. But it resulted in nonsense

Read More »

Setting the marker for January – the wealth report

29 days ago

Every October, Credit Suisse puts out its report on global wealth. It’s not perfect, but it’s a decent best guess about global wealth and its distribution.And every January, Oxfam comes out with a The Sky Is Falling And Inequality Is Terrible gloss on the Credit Suisse figures. If you were teaching a How To Lie With Statistics course, the Oxfam reports would provide excellent fodder.So, a few highlights from the Credit Suisse report, so we don’t forget them come January when the Oxfam report comes out.The report is here.First up, New Zealand’s place in the global wealth inequality figures.[embedded content](And here’s a static version in case the interactive doesn’t work)

There are 172 countries with a Gini coefficient on wealth. New Zealand’s Gini (in red) is the 37th lowest.Among the

Read More »

Afternoon roundup

October 24, 2019

The worthies on a much-belated closing of the browser tabs:Zero waste protesters have been sending their rubbish to MPs using Parliament’s Freepost service. Could the rest of us do the same if central government waste disposal levies make using landfill a bit more expensive than it really ought to be?
Nice piece in The Atlantic on Article 25 of the Constitution, which allows for the removal of a President medically unfit for office. Trump’s speech in which he talked about building a wall in Colorado hasn’t seemed sufficient evidence of his madness for anyone to do anything about it as yet though. 
Manhole always sounded a bit iffy anyway. 
More evidence that flavoured e-cigarettes don’t encourage youth uptake and that there’s no youth nicotine epidemic in America. I hate that moral panics

Read More »

A version of antitrust I could support

October 24, 2019

I can see plenty of reasons why antitrust law is not applied to policies and regulations that restrict competition or create cartels, but it’s hard to see good reasons why antitrust law is not applied to policies and regulations that restrict competition or create cartels.I argue for parallel treatment (ungated).There are plenty of areas that would be eminently worthy of ComCom investigation, presumably through its new(ish) market studies remit. Basically, that lets ComCom run a study of a market to see whether there’s restraint of competition or cartel stuff going on.Here are a few areas where regulation and policy stifles competition and/or creates cartels:Building materials supply regulation in conjunction with council risk-aversion on building consenting caused by councils facing

Read More »

The Bank’s Bully Pulpit

October 13, 2019

This is bad.

The article is good. But the situation described is very bad.Here’s Kate MacNamara on Orr and the RBNZ.
It would be an open process, the bank said, welcoming all views. But that characterisation was soon at odds with the governor’s behaviour.Numerous parties involved in the submission process described a pattern of behaviour by Orr of belittling and berating those who disagreed with him.Orr has penned his critics letters and threatened to broadcast them. He has confronted submitters on the sidelines of industry conferences. Sometimes he called them up at odd hours to tear a strip off them for their views.There is reason to believe that his pointed criticism has diminished the range of parties willing to participate in the debate.At least one corporation that submitted views

Read More »

Special licences

October 2, 2019

Whenever a Rugby World Cup is on, Parliament has to legislate around the bureaucratic hurdles that District Licensing Committees have put in the way of issuing special licences.

Special licenses are supposed to allow bars to open at hours other than their normal licensed hours, if there’s some kind of special event on. And Parliament even noted international sporting events in the rationale for the special licences.Aimee Dartnall goes through the problems in how that works in practice:
Generally, applying for a special licence is a bureaucratic nightmare. First, applicants must contrive a special "event", and charge people to attend.Then they need to file an application at least 20 working days before the event to give the police, the medical officer of health and the licensing

Read More »

Referendums are great

September 30, 2019

I just love this thread about Saskatoon’s 1988 referendum on school store closing times. I’d not heard of it before; I was 12 years old in Manitoba when this would have happened.

Let me introduce you to the most confusing referendum result. It occurred in Saskatoon in 1988, held at the same time as the municipal election.
— Paul Fairie (@paulisci) September 29, 2019

It was about store openings, and there were five questions posed to voters.The first was straightforward enough:"Are you in favor of all stores being allowed to be open on Sunday? "YES 22,497
NO 35,319Simple enough — no to Sunday shopping.
— Paul Fairie (@paulisci) September 29, 2019

Question 2 is OK by itself."Are you in favor of grocery stores being open on Sunday?" YES 28,461
NO 27,485No general Sunday shopping, but

Read More »

Afternoon roundup

September 30, 2019

The worthies on the closing of the browser tabs:Australian water rats have figured out that the hearts and livers of poisonous cane toads are fine to eat. I would love to know how rats figured this out, and how the practice spread. 
Australia’s poisonous legislators have passed a piece of anti-terrorism legislation every 6.7 weeks since September 11, 2001. The water rats may not help in getting rid of this nuisance.
A perhaps-unintended consequence of anti-Uber activism in California making it harder for people to work as contractors: dancers at strip clubs become employees when many didn’t want to.
Merivale NIMBYs.
Another for the "I guess we just can’t have nice things" file. The Police Minister wants to allow pill testing at events; it’s an excellent harm-reduction strategy. New

Read More »

Policy bets

September 29, 2019

I’m a big fan of betting, but rules that stop players and coaches from betting make sense. You don’t want somebody to throw the game to make sure that their bet goes the way they’d hoped.Bernard Hickey’s morning roundup includes the following bit of news:
Prepare for policy shock – The UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment group, which has nearly 500 fund managers looking after nearly US$90 trillion in assets, warned last week that financial markets had not priced-in the likely near-term policy response to climate change. It issued a report on a new project called ‘The Inevitable Policy Response,’ which sees a political and financial tipping point by 2025 that forces dramatic political action. That would include “bans on coal, and on internal combustion engines; an increase

Read More »

…so long as they can write the hymnbooks

September 27, 2019

I took Wednesday afternoon off to attend a do at my daughter’s primary school. They had their own World of Wearable Arts show.For those outside of NZ, the WoW Festival happens annually in Wellington (it used to be in Nelson) and shows of just incredible design skills. I’ve attended a few times, and it’s awesome.There’s sometimes an underlying message in the costumes, but often they’re just fun.The school went for themes for their costumes, but things varied by classroom.The first classroom had students working in pairs or trios; one or two would read off a description of the work while the other modelled it.The first classroom had:An orange, telling us to make healthy food cheaper;
A carrot, telling us to make healthy food cheaper;
A broken television, telling us that we have too much

Read More »

On the merits of perspective

September 20, 2019

Me, over in Stuff, with a few helpful numbers that can provide perspective. Perspective is important. If you know a few basic figures about the size of the country, the economy, and government spending, you’ll have a better nose for detecting and dismissing nonsense claims. 

I lead off with the silly claims about the volume of litter:
That extrapolation generated big big numbers – 10 billion littered cigarette butts around the country, almost 395 million litres of littered disposable nappies, and the like.Anyone with a sense of perspective would have known those numbers were fishy.The government collects just under $2 billion in tobacco excise per year, and excise on a cigarette is just under a dollar per stick, so it’s likely around 2 billion cigarettes are smoked in the country per

Read More »

Does Market Economics understand either Markets or Economics?

September 20, 2019

Over in our Insights newsletter, I go through a bit more of the background materials on the government’s National Policy Statement on sensitive soils. 

I OIAed the supporting cabinet paper, which MPI released after the Ombudsman’s office gave them a very helpful hurry-up. Thanks Ombudsman’s office!The rest of MPI’s materials are here.And last week, Treasury passed along their advice on this stuff (another OIA request). I expect it’ll be up on their proactive release site in due course; I’ll copy some of it below and will get it up at our website if Treasury doesn’t have it up soon [okay, here you go].Here’s the column:
LOOKING-GLASS ECONOMICS AND HIGHLY PRODUCTIVE SOILSWhen Alice tried to recite one of her lessons while down the rabbit-hole in Wonderland, she thought only a few words

Read More »