Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Vision Thing

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  • Keir Leslie,

    I don't need market perfection, I just need to be able to say that the market accurately reflect participant's views on value, which handily! we have basically defined as tautologically true. More importantly, I really don't think that there is a huge market failure in the market for legal services or engineering services. If there is, you could probably make a killing by exploiting that.

    (It's all a bit hypothetical anyway given that lawyers are not really paid more than engineers, which was the reason for the digression.)

    Since Jul 2008 • 1376 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    A PhD scientist with 8-9 years training starts at a CRI at about 50k and can expect to get up to about 80k after 20 years.

    Engineers get more in some industries abut not in others.

    I'm sorry Kier I just simply disagree with you that the "market" will sort it out. Call it an ideological difference.

    We exist in an essentially market driven environment now and the numbers of student willing to do science is steadily dropping. What's worse is the quality is dropping too. When you look to see where those really bright stage I students went, they went to one of the high paid professions.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3414 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to Idiot Savant,

    You can't just remove entire government functions by changing an organisation chart.

    Watching Key interviewed on Campbell Live - the correct answer is:

    Yes you can, and you can do that and more - they are embarking on a massive "change management process" of indefinite goals and no desired outcome - so much so that they are leaving it up to the process to give the re jigged public service its form and functionality – the needs of the public – public good won’t figure.

    They are embarking on this course because firstly they can and secondly because they want to. All you need is a one-vote majority.

    The slogan should be, "getting on with getting govt out of the business of govt". It will bite hardest in the small town and impoverished areas of "little" NZ.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1199 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    When you look to see where those really bright stage I students went, they went to one of the high paid professions.

    Again, what? Comparing a PhD working in CRI to a lawyer in private practice is so not apples to apples it's mad. PhD lawyers working in academia will be on similar salaries. (It's also total goalpost shifting to go from `engineers and scientists are paid many times less than lawyers' to `certain government employed scientists are paid less than lawyers'. CRIs are also noticeably stingy employees. I am sure you could find trades union lawyers or on pretty much nothing.

    If there are insufficient jobs for the scientists produced, and there are falling numbers of science students, that seems like a problem that will solve itself.

    And given that we subsidise undergrad science degrees to the tune of $30,000, and you seem to think that there's an overproduction of science degrees, I would suggest killing the subsidy and letting the universities set fees at market rates would help with that.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1376 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to DexterX,

    indefinite goals and no desired outcome

    To be fair, they are promising 10 key targets - which will have the same distorting impact as has been seen in health already. Those of limited intellect prefer stuff they can measure. Makes em feel more in control and relaxed, I guess.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16745 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    I would suggest killing the subsidy and letting the universities set fees at market rates would help with that.

    Let's only have rich scientists!

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7383 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    that way they could fund their own experiments. #winning

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16745 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Let’s only have rich scientists!

    Yeah, that is somewhat of a downside, although no doubt scholarships and suchlike will be available for the bright but poor. But that's not an economic problem --- which is how people are attempting to justify these policies.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1376 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to BenWilson,

    . The only people who aren’t social engineers are the apathetic,

    And that’s not in a bad way, we need them too. The apathetic are necessary also. That’s the 2 tiers that balances society. Those that can do and those that do. Equality.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6263 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Here's something to think about: the NZ legal system is world-class, if not world beating. It provides very high quality, unimpeachably fair dispute resolution at very very reasonable rates, using a sophisticated common law model that allows for easy interaction with most other Anglophone nations. In particular, there's close interoperability with Australian, Canadian, and English law. Why shouldn't we focus on that world class industry, instead of focussing on engineering, where, quite frankly, we haven't a hope of competing with the big boys?

    (I am very indebted to Daniel Davies' argument that the greatest natural resources of Britain are the common law and the English language in that order.)

    Since Jul 2008 • 1376 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    I found the Finnish thing kinda strange, to be honest.

    Not so sure about that. Other comparable nations like Ireland have gone pear-shaped, and Singapore is a transport hub that is technically not a liberal democracy. Fonterra is something of a Clayton's Nokia, so it makes sense in context.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4351 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    Why shouldn't we focus on that world class industry, instead of focussing on engineering, where, quite frankly, we haven't a hope of competing with the big boys?

    I presume you are taking the piss. More law students produces no economic growth at all. They don't export, they're quite likely to just leave and never look back, and if we had a glut of them, the only thing it would drive down is the price of litigation. Which would mean more litigation. Great. Zero sum game every time, minus costs. It's like saying we need more casinos, which only the locals can play at.

    We certainly need some lawyers, there's some basic proportion required to maintain the legal needs of society. But it's pretty obviously a broken society when the number of people doing that kind of business spikes upwards massively. It's not a good sign. They're a lot like soldiers, debt collectors, police. If you have a huge number of them, it's because times are very bad, there's war, or economic collapse, or crime.

    Having a massive upspike in the number of scientists is not like this. It's probably a sign that things are going great. Even better, a sign of a very well run society at it's absolute peak of civilization, is when you have large proportions of people also in humanities, art, music, education, architecture etc. Ideally these groups are not mutually exclusive - free humans would not need to specialize unless they actually liked to.

    But this would be a symptom. It isn't enabled until the society is organized to enable it. And producing the people without the means to support them, which in capitalism means them having a paid job, is putting the cart before the horse.

    There are alternatives to this kind of capitalism, of course.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8586 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to BenWilson,

    I presume you are taking the piss. More law students produces no economic growth at all. They don’t export, they’re quite likely to just leave and never look back, and if we had a glut of them, the only thing it would drive down is the price of litigation. Which would mean more litigation. Great. Zero sum game every time, minus costs. It’s like saying we need more casinos, which only the locals can play at.

    Broken Window Parable, much? There’d be jobs all right, but they’d always come at the expense of someone else. The spin doctoring and money laundering industries are added testament to that. Besides, NZ has had a glut of law and commerce grads for years.

    And to Keir: ever been to Silicon Valley?

    It’s not a good sign. They’re a lot like soldiers, debt collectors, police. If you have a huge number of them, it’s because times are very bad, there’s war, or economic collapse, or crime.

    You can also add razor wire installers, concrete barrier contractors, security personnel, arms dealers, vehicle armour fitters… you name it.

    What ties all these industries together is a focus on attacking the symptom.

    Such business is booming in parts of South America – it’s what we don’t want NZ to become. Unless of course, you have shares in the above, or you’re a Wall Street bankster.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4351 posts Report Reply

  • John Armstrong, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    It provides very high quality, unimpeachably fair dispute resolution at very very reasonable rates, using a sophisticated common law model that allows for easy interaction with most other Anglophone nations. In particular, there's close interoperability with Australian, Canadian, and English law.

    Not a lot of room for Maori in there, is there.

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 132 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to DeepRed,

    . . . focus on attacking the symptom.

    Exactly. It's the culture of risk aversion, driven by expensive and ongoing legal advice, that's currently paralysing Christchurch. And Paula Bennett's contribution is to train the unemployed as red zone security guards.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3553 posts Report Reply

  • Rob S, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Darwin or Wallace? One rich one not, same result.
    Who has altered the course of humanity more, lawyers or scientists?
    Question of the day.
    Off topic in a PA sort of way.

    Since Apr 2010 • 82 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    The assertion that you can't make money off legal services will come as some surprise to the London legal industry, which exports 3.2 billion pounds. Yes legal services are what you might call ancillary to the production of things, but these days the production of large numbers of physical objects is not a route to economic prosperity.

    Of course, legal services is just one example. Film making is another area where NZ is top class, and I reckon that it's absurd that we don't encourage more of our best and brightest into screen writing. Too many of them will get lured away by the comparably massive financial subsidies to do engineering and the sciences. And if you think it is hard getting a job as a PhD scientist, consider the job prospects for a humanities PhD.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1376 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    TOUGH EXAMINATION
    The idea of publishing employment success rates and salary levels of graduates of specific tertiary education courses will not go down well among some academics. In some countries - the US in particular - highly detailed information about graduates' employment prospects is gathered and sold by private publishers, with a huge influence on the fortunes of universities. As New Zealand universities struggle to compete internationally, it is hard to know whether such transparency would help, or make things even tougher.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10792279
    The times they are a changing.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    but these days the production of large numbers of physical objects is not a route to economic prosperity.

    At a personal level, that is true. You can make plenty of money as a person doing other things. But at a societal level, if your society is not making things, it's not going to be very long before it is beggared.

    Which is why I asked if you're taking the piss. You could just be talking at cross-purposes here, pointing out that individual economic prosperity does not lie down the path of investing in sciences and humanities, and one would be much better off to become an accountant or a lawyer. I would not deny that at all. I don't think others have, either.

    But to extrapolate the conclusion that we should therefore grow these industries for social wealth is totally fallacious. The actual contribution to the creation of real wealth by legal and finance professions is nil. They are the ultimate pie-dividers rather than growers - the accountants count the beans, they don't grow them. The lawyers resolve disputes about who gets to own the beans or where they can plant them. You need people to do these things, but if you have a farm with only accountants and lawyers on it, they will starve, until they start doing some actual farming.

    Yes, on the farm, it's likely the accountant or the lawyer might be paid more than the farmer. That's usually a sign that things are going badly, that the person producing the wealth is less valuable than the people distributing it. It disincentivizes being a farmer, meaning there is less food being made.

    To suggest legal services could save the economy is laughable. 3.2 billion pounds barely registers on the GDP of the UK, and their lawyers are in the most prime position to exploit any possible income, since common law was invented by them, spread by them at gunpoint, and they retain the highest court for a number of the ex-colonies. NZ does not have any of that. Ergo, if you want to make money as a law exporter, trained in the UK tradition, you go to the UK to do it. Which is exactly what vast numbers of legal trainees do, costing us their training for no return to our country at all.

    The same goes for the sister profession, finance. You might as well take what you've learned overseas. The perfect example of this is our very own Prime Minister, whose training cost was socialized, and who profits were expatriated and privatized. You can stay, and you'll be paid better than most. But you have nothing to export except the produce of other people in your society, really. Which is precisely what the finance industry think they are doing by selling off our power companies. It's like they actually paid for the things in the first place, or built them with their own hands. They've got all sorts of delusions about how what they're doing is a form of productive capitalist enterprise, when actually it is taking stuff away from others.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8586 posts Report Reply

  • Cecelia, in reply to Grant McDougall,

    Going back to Shearer and his competence: I'm still disappointed that he was chosen over Cunliffe. David Shearer seems to be a decent human being with sterling values and many well honed skills. As a leader of the opposition he looks like a man promoted above his level of competence, however, and his use of language is woefully simplistic: new, fresh, bright. I think it would have been easier to media train David Cunliffe to tone down his arrogance than to train David Shearer to be incisive.

    Hibiscus Coast • Since Apr 2008 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew C, in reply to DeepRed,

    How trickle-down economics works:

    A nice pisstake on it here too by colbert.

    The perfect antidote to anyone who invokes the infamous ’How Taxes Work’ urban legend.

    And as discussed before Red, snopes simply tries to find the author of this annecdote, rather than call bullshit on it.

    Auckland • Since May 2008 • 148 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Actually, 3.2 billion pounds as an export figure is comparable with the British universities, and apparently pharma and British aerospace. (3.2 billion is the export figure; the contribution to GDP is way higher, but of course you shouldn't want that to be high, because you'd argue it is merely guard labour.)

    You have a really weird division between real things and fake things which has no economic or factual foundation. (Suppose an accountant tells me not to make a thing no one wants, so instead I make a thing someone does. Has he contributed nothing real to the economy? Surely he has contributed more than I have, given he has saved us the existence of an unwanted thing and caused the existence of a wanted thing, whereas all I have caused is the wanted thing!)

    Since Jul 2008 • 1376 posts Report Reply

  • insider,

    I'm just as happy to laugh at accountants as all the other science and arts grads on here, but to dismiss them as contributing nothing is academic snobbery.

    Accountants are engineers just as much as a guy designing a physical structure; they just work with a different type of material. The structural engineer doesn't have unlimited steel and concrete to work with and part of his role is be as efficient as possible with what he has available. Change structural engineer to accountant and steel and concrete to cash and what's the difference?

    It's like reading Not PC with all this unqualified lauding of engineers and scientists as heroes of society.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2011 • 31 posts Report Reply

  • ScottY,

    Ben, with respect, I think you may be oversimplifying the role of lawyers in society. They are not just there to litigate and resolve disputes. A good number of lawyers (like myself) don't go anywhere near the courtroom, and spend much of their time acting more as facilitators, helping clients to do deals in ways that are smarter and return more to the client, and making sure disputes never arise. A good lawyer can be a valuable business adviser and can help their client grow their business. They can even help to "grow the pie" (even if I despise that term) rather than merely divide it.

    I'm not suggesting for a moment that lawyers are more valuable than other occupations, but most lawyers I know wouldn't be in their job if they didn't think they were actually helping anyone.

    Rant endeth.

    Yorke of The Atatu • Since Feb 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    All modern life is about the contract or lack thereof.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

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