The BBC recently reported that Dutch authorities had removed singing road lines one day after their installation. Special strips in the asphalt played the anthem of the Friesland province if motorists drove over them at the correct speed of 60 kph. The move was designed to promote safe driving at correct speeds. However, the noise drove neighbouring villagers to distraction. Some enterprising motorists drove over the strips at high speeds trying to play the music at double speed. Read more
Richard Baker is the Research Director at the New Zealand Initiative. He has over 25 years’ experience as a commercial lawyer and senior executive in the banking and wealth management industries.
Richard was Director of Research at the Institute of Directors where he wrote the first edition of The Four Pillars of Best Governance Practice. Besides doing his bit to minimise New Zealand’s current account deficit with a modest sheep and beef operation, Richard maintains a key interest in sound policy and effective decision making.
He holds a Bachelor and a Master’s degree in law from Victoria University and an MBA from INSEAD in France.
Phone: +64 4 494 9104
Government regulation plays an important role in productivity growth. It matters. Read more
There is an old saying that when you are in a battle with yourself and you win, you still lose. Perhaps the same thing can be said of our housing shortage. Read more
An Auckland apartment complex has just taken advantage of the new Unitary plan and opened without any carparks. The developers point out the proximity of public transport. This is a genuinely excellent example of bold thinking which appeals to, and can reveal, consumer preferences. Bravo! But, in a flight of fancy perhaps, why stop at car parks? I have always had a problem with kitchens. They are places that vegetables come from. Read more
Lyndon Johnson once said of his unrelenting critics that if he walked on the Potomac, headlines would criticise him for not being able to swim. I was reminded of this when I read Oxfam New Zealand’s comments surrounding the release of the latest Oxfam report “Reward Work, not Wealth”. Among many evils, Oxfam decried billionaires and wealth inequality in particular. The degree of wealth inequality within some developed countries is an issue to be reflected upon. Read more
What’s the difference between Oxfam and the Tinder dating app? One concerns itself with issues of equality and fairness across swathes of the world’s population; the other is a charitable organisation set up in Oxford by the Quakers in 1942. While Oxfam has just released a report on global inequality, I found my attention this week drawn ineluctably to another study highlighting gross unfairness and inequality in our world. Read more
Voltaire wrote that one great use of words is to hide our thoughts. I remembered this when Grant Robertson said the tax working group would improve “fairness” in the tax system. I don’t mean to suggest the Minister was dissembling or concealing some ulterior purpose. While fairness is part of the New Zealand kaupapa, literal “fairness” is however an unhelpful word. What does it mean? Let me illustrate with reference to three traditional models of fairness; equality of outcome, equality... Read more
On 3 November I wrote about the Manukau DHB’s refusal to entertain the idea of a Ronald McDonald house at Middlemore Hospital. On further enquiry this decision becomes even more risible. It appears that the decision was an executive decision on the advice of health professionals, not a board decision. I cannot elicit any response or explanation from the DHB. This is disappointing from an institution that needs to be engaged with its community and stakeholders. Read more
Idiocy comes in many forms. Some people choose not to vaccinate their children. Others think it better to extract multiple teeth from school children rather than have them drink fluoridated water. In some American states disturbed fantasists may openly carry loaded assault rifles in public, near schools and playgrounds.In New Zealand, our latest idiocy is to deny gravely ill children and their stressed parents the succour and respite of special accommodation and rest at the hospital. Read more
Going to sleep at night, in bed with a hot water bottle and a teddy bear, it is comforting to know that somewhere some academic is toiling away, advancing the frontiers of knowledge. Associate Professor Ranjit Voola of the University of Sydney Business School has done this. He has announced that business must "unlearn" the purpose of business. According to reports, he said that business must stop its sole devotion to maximising shareholder value. Read more
A solipsist is a person who believes that only they exist. For a solipsist, the external world only exists through their perception of it. When two solipsists meet, there is always silence. They wonder which one of them is a figment of the other’s imagination. Solipsists are self-centred. The external world exists only to serve their purposes.A remarkable example of New Zealand political solipsism occurred last week. Read more
A popular myth is that NASA spent millions of dollars producing a writing pen for the Apollo space programme. The space pen could write in zero gravity and would not leak combustible graphite into an oxygen rich space capsule. The Russians went in another direction and just used a pencil. The truth is that both used special space pencils but the myth still satisfies for its appeal to simplicity. Read more