Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Mike Moore: A pretty ordinary rooster

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  • Hilary Stace,

    Mike Moore was famous for long rambling speeches without any full stops. I heard one in the1990 election campaign. There was a full half hour which didn't seem to have any completed sentences. Lots of useful stuff I'm sure, perhaps even visionary, but I couldn't understand a lot of it. He was also very socially conservative and no supporter of feminism.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3069 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    This is fascinating stuff Russell, it feels unusual to encounter a political leader so unabashedly discursive.

    Have a look at the prophecies … the prophecies will come true. The labour movement, we’ll go back to Rātana and do it ….

    An historical feature of ANZ that I find incredibly difficult to reconcile is that our strongest socialist movement hinged in part on an alliance between a major political party and the devotees of a faith healer.

    it’s a very sacred compact with Māoridom.

    Feels quite distinct from a laic concept of Māoridom (then or now): the stuff of legend.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2067 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Mike Moore was famous for long rambling speeches without any full stops. I heard one in the1990 election campaign. There was a full half hour which didn't seem to have any completed sentences. Lots of useful stuff I'm sure, perhaps even visionary, but I couldn't understand a lot of it. He was also very socially conservative and no supporter of feminism.

    That, plus the fact that Moore was seen to be too close to Roger Douglas, was a big factor in the Alliance getting 18% of the vote in the 1993 election. But the anomalies of FPP meant the Alliance got just 2 seats, prompting the shift to MMP.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5261 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    He was also very socially conservative and no supporter of feminism.

    In a later interview I did with him on 95bFM, he spouted a lot of hogwash about the impact of weed decriminalisation in the Netherlands. I corrected him pretty firmly live on air – and he actually backed down and apologised!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22007 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    ...there is an ideological fashion that came out of Chicago and other places in the 80s. You just do not find economists or economic writers who challenge this basic theory.

    Stiglitz? - he was doing much of his work in the 90's. I think the actual state of affairs was that all academics *in New Zealand* followed a doctrinaire neo-classical approach.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5482 posts Report Reply

  • Tinakori, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    After a Moore press conference in his office - when he was leader of the Opposition, - John Campbell said that it was like listening to a reading from Finnegan's Wake.

    This also caused difficulties for radio journalists. An RNZ reporter complained after another press conference that it was very, very difficult to get a usable piece of audio from Moore because he never finished a thought but would simply leap from part thought to part thought in an almost unstoppable stream of consciousness.

    In the RNZ interview he is lot more coherent but still has a tendency to leap from part thought to part thought without an effective segue..

    Wellington • Since Jul 2013 • 111 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tinakori,

    After a Moore press conference in his office – when he was leader of the Opposition, – John Campbell said that it was like listening to a reading from Finnegan’s Wake.

    That's brilliant.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22007 posts Report Reply

  • Hugh Wilson,

    Many moons ago when I was a graduate we had an event at which the then Treasurer Peter Costello was the star guest, and at the last minute MIke Moore - then head of the WTO - was added to the invite list. I was the hack doing name tags, but he took the time to shake hands and crack a gag at his own expense upon arrival (he wasn't the Mike Moore off Frontline) which I thought was decent of him. A few minutes later the two big men in the room had a big, sturdy handshake and there was almost a palpable sense of relief that no ego's had been displaced!

    Melbourne • Since Feb 2013 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Jim Cathcart,

    Well, Keynesianism is still valid. Not totally valid, we have a global market, but if it does work, it works for people on modest incomes. If you give them a break, put more money in their pockets, they’re going to buy local, they’re going to buy couches, not piss off and buy overseas wine or take foreign trips. That’s why the Budget took out two months’ retail spending this year.

    Well after time, we know that is nonsense. Case in point: Japan, which has seen more public spending relative to GDP than any other nation in history while h’hold incomes and h’hold savings continue to shrink. Perhaps Moore was envisaging a future of perpetual current account deficits and the wonders of a monetary mechanism that enables the banking system to “lend into existence”. If he were, then he was spot on. But if he were suggesting that Keynesian policy is an option that govts can unleash when needed for the security and incomes of h’holds, economic history shows that he is wrong.

    Since Nov 2006 • 217 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin, in reply to Hugh Wilson,

    I used to love Frontline! I hope it gets a showing on Netflix or the like at some point.

    Back to Mike Moore, I remember hearing in the late 90s from journos that he had retained a high profile if just because he was always ready and able to supply a reaction piece for radio or the like at a moment's notice, enhanced by his possession of some form of reasonable home studio in suburban CHCH. Which must have been rarer in those pre Skype/podcasting days.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1002 posts Report Reply

  • Bruce Ward, in reply to Jim Cathcart,

    Well after time, we know that is nonsense. Case in point: Japan, which has seen more public spending relative to GDP than any other nation in history while h’hold incomes and h’hold savings continue to shrink.

    It would be good if you could give a source for your assertion about spending relative to GDP, because it did not take me long to find, in the OECD data, some countries which appear to spend more than Japan.

    Nelson • Since Jul 2011 • 27 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    After around a decade of full-on coverage of Mike Moore's media-friendly personality, a bit of barrel-scraping was needed to dredge up further material once he became PM. A childhood friend of the guy who beat cancer and went on to appoint marching girls and footy players as 'cultural ambassadors' while touting lamburgers (and, according to McPhail & Gadsby, chocolate flavoured self-saucing wetas) described the fun they'd had playing in an abandoned house, where Moore would install himself in an empty box and pretend to be the TV. Given the opportunity he could "go all night".

    Moore revealed that the Disney movie Old Yeller was a favourite of his formative years. The "best doggone dog in the West" boy and his dog tale took a darkly moral turn after Old Yeller caught rabies protecting his frontier family from a marauding wolf. Boy became a man by stepping up, taking the gun from Mom and doing the tragic necessary. When it came to popping Palmer, Mike may already have had the script, almost like a prophecy.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4466 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*,

    Seems nice, candid, thoughtful, insightful even.

    But being Labour Party policy doesn't make the TPP any more attractive.

    I don't care that this puts me onside with the great orange man baby. It stank.

    Since Rogernomics, about which Moore is both blase and defensive, the steady increase in power given to employers over workers has resulted in the ever growing increase in wealth inequality. Or, as he puts it, adding to Kirk's dictum: more people with nothing to lose.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 387 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to James Littlewood*,

    Since Rogernomics, about which Moore is both blase and defensive, the steady increase in power given to employers over workers has resulted in the ever growing increase in wealth inequality. Or, as he puts it, adding to Kirk's dictum: more people with nothing to lose.

    When such people face barriers banding together and doing things like forming trade unions, there just happen to be more illiberal and destructive ways of monkey-wrenching the system. Such as Brexit and President Trump.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5261 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Jim Cathcart,

    Well after time, we know that is nonsense. Case in point: Japan, which has seen more public spending relative to GDP than any other nation in history while h’hold incomes and h’hold savings continue to shrink. Perhaps Moore was envisaging a future of perpetual current account deficits and the wonders of a monetary mechanism that enables the banking system to “lend into existence”. If he were, then he was spot on. But if he were suggesting that Keynesian policy is an option that govts can unleash when needed for the security and incomes of h’holds, economic history shows that he is wrong.

    Japan's economic system has been perverted by "roads to nowhere" pork-barrel politics - much like the US military-industrial complex - which isn't the same thing as well-managed Keynesianism. When the existing neo-liberal bubble is bursting, and Keynesianism is denied a seat at the table, there's a very real risk of the sort of weak leadership that was the Weimar Republic after the 1929 Crash. Amidst the confusion, a loud demagogue with a squared-off mustache promised to make Germany great again. The rest, as they say, is history.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5261 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*, in reply to Tinakori,

    has a tendency to leap from part thought to part thought without an effective segue.

    Got as far as when he bemoans the "Marxist detour", and claims there are no blue collar workers any more, and that unions make up only 10% of the workforce.

    That's not just a lousy segue. That's

    a) an outrageous and misleading exaggeration (no workers)
    b) an omission of the fact that low union membership is not a lack of workers, but a result of his government's policy and action to dismantle unions

    As Clive James said of Albert Speers, "He said something, but I couldn't tell what, because his mouth was full of butter, and it wasn't melting."

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 387 posts Report Reply

  • Jim Cathcart, in reply to Bruce Ward,

    It would be good if you could give a source for your assertion about spending relative to GDP, because it did not take me long to find, in the OECD data, some countries which appear to spend more than Japan.

    The data clearly shows Japan’s debt to GDP as the highest among OECD countries.

    https://data.oecd.org/gga/general-government-debt.htm

    Nevertheless, that misses the whole point that Keynesian policies (at their most generous) have failed to maintain h’hold incomes and savings in arguably one of the most productive countries in the world. That is why Moore and other proponents of public spending as a magic pill to support h’holds financially are speaking with forked tongues.

    Since Nov 2006 • 217 posts Report Reply

  • Jim Cathcart, in reply to DeepRed,

    Japan’s economic system has been perverted by “roads to nowhere” pork-barrel politics – much like the US military-industrial complex – which isn’t the same thing as well-managed Keynesianism.

    Oh, so you are saying that that the central planning can be better? Do you have any particular examples that you would like to share? And what relevance does it have to Keynesian policy and the financial state of h'holds? Japan has extensive public housing and probably the most advanced public transport on the planet. Has it maintained h'hold incomes and savings? Well no it hasn't. The h'hold savings rate went below 0 in 2014. This in a country renowned for being savers.

    Since Nov 2006 • 217 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Jim Cathcart,

    renowned for being savers

    when they have the opportunity; but several factors have been removing that opportunity. The Japanese bank interest rate effectively went to zero more than 20 years ago and some inter-bank rates went negative this year. So on the one hand, it’s likely Japanese who can save are still saving, but there’s increasingly little incentive to do it in banks. But on the other hand, there’s increasing income inequality in Japan as elsewhere, and an increase in minimum-wage temp work, so fewer households actually have disposable income to save. And on the wrinkled third hand, an increasingly ageing population who pretty much by design are now spending their savings. So when you look at the Japanese household savings rate across time, you are not looking at comparable populations.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1599 posts Report Reply

  • Bruce Ward, in reply to Jim Cathcart,

    The data clearly shows Japan’s debt to GDP as the highest among OECD countries.

    Now you are changing the basis of your argument. Your initial assertion was

    Case in point: Japan, which has seen more public spending relative to GDP than any other nation ...

    Spending and debt are not the same.

    Nelson • Since Jul 2011 • 27 posts Report Reply

  • Jim Cathcart, in reply to Bruce Ward,

    Spending and debt are not the same.

    No they are not the same, but govt spending ultimately leads to public debt. You will not find any economist finding fault with that assertion the Japan's public debt is the result of post-bubble Keynesian policies.

    when they have the opportunity; but several factors have been removing that opportunity. The Japanese bank interest rate effectively went to zero more than 20 years ago and some inter-bank rates went negative this year.

    Well yes. And the world that Mike Moore has inhabited, interest rates are higher because NZ needs to run perpetual current account deficits.to fund its lifestyle. Much like Australia, the interest rate must be positive in order to attract capital inflows. That's why NZ is regarded as a debtor nation and Japan as a creditor nation. However, that still ignores the point. There is no evidence that Keynesian policies at their most extensive have driven incomes or maintained h'hold savings. Holding onto an idea because you want to believe doesn't stand up to what we know and can to see.

    Since Nov 2006 • 217 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    I've really enjoyed the RNZ series and I'm looking forward to the rest of the interviews.

    I took Palmer to be saying that while many of the '80s reforms were worthwhile (the floating of the dollar, the abolition of import licensing, the Public Finance Act, the Reserve Bank Act, Palmer's own State Owned Enterprises Act, the Constitution Act) he thought the change that dislocated workers, farmers and protected industries was too rapid and that privatisation in particular was a mistake. I can understand that point of view.

    Moore paints with a broader brush and I have less of a sense of what he favours and what he now regrets. Perhaps he just knows how controversial the full Douglas prescription really still is.

    That's an interesting discussion about Japan. I'd just add that Japan suffered one of the biggest asset price and property busts in history in 1990. It's not easy to recover from economic trauma of that magnitude and I'd be slow to accept that its experience is evidence against orthodox monetary and fiscal policies.

    Suffice to say that it's generally a mistake to expose an economy to significant asset price and housing market inflation...

    Since Nov 2006 • 690 posts Report Reply

  • Jim Cathcart, in reply to WH,

    That's an interesting discussion about Japan. I'd just add that Japan suffered one of the biggest asset price and property busts in history in 1990. It's not easy to recover from economic trauma of that magnitude and I'd be slow to accept that its experience is evidence against orthodox monetary and fiscal policies.

    Suffice to say that it's generally a mistake to expose an economy to significant asset price and housing market inflation...

    Sure, but the argument that Japanese h'holds are still deleveraging after 30 years is a tough assumption, particularly when h'hold debt to GDP never went past 60%. Compare that to NZ where it is close to 170%. The reality is that the bulk of private debt in the bubble was held in the private sector, but the average h'hold was relatively sober.

    The idea that the Anglosphere can promote bubble economics and rely on the govt to step up to the plate when it all turns to custard is fundamentally wrong. While I harp about Japan, I can't really think of a better example of how Keynesian policy has not worked in terms of improving the lot of the family unit. In the case of NZ, there needs to be some strong discussion of what Keynesian policy actually means. For ex, public investment in housing is an obvious departure point, but it has the obvious pain points when the economy is being arguably driven by price speculation and its impacts on consumer spending. This is probably where the lessons from Japan are most relevant.

    Since Nov 2006 • 217 posts Report Reply

  • WH, in reply to Jim Cathcart,

    The best way of helping ordinary people avoid debt is to allow them to earn a good income while keeping their expenses low. The housing and rental shortage - a product of many years of governmental inaction - has forced many to take on additional debt and has lowered discretionary incomes.

    Most countries use a combination of fiscal and monetary policies and Keynesian principles are are generally considered to work. That said, you're right to insist that we shouldn't address our long term economic problems with only demand management strategies and ad hoc measures.

    Since Nov 2006 • 690 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    If Espiner's going for a theme in his interviews maybe it would be looking back with regret. Has he done three? It's all very nice for the interviewee to talk freely
    Whatever constrained them before now?

    But we are living still with the consequences of these interviewee's , now regretted, decisions, choice of political direction.
    As welcome as their change of heart is. There were a lot of other voices, for a long time prior, warning against where it would lead.
    Do they now think what they did amounts to an abuse of power, or was it just more mind numbing bumbling humanity...

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1612 posts Report Reply

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