Rethinking how to get richer

Colin James for The Australian, 20 June 2011

How does a tiny economy ride the turbulent 2010s? By playing to strengths and thinking its way to new strengths. New Zealand has yet to do that rethinking.
The 2010s global economy is more interdependent and interconnected than five years ago. Pathways, technology and platforms are changing rapidly and unpredictably. Rising (but potentially unstable) Asia and its destabilising scramble for resources are reshaping the global order. People are moving to cities in huge numbers and cities increasingly drive global economic growth. read more

A rare opportunity for excellence

Colin James for Boardroom on Christchurch and Auckland 28 March 2011

Christchurch was a mostly flat and mostly unremarkable place, with a CBD out of proportion to its modern economic weight. That’s a common Wellington view. Sure, Canterbury is 15% of the national economy but much of that is outside Christchurch. What’s the fuss, now it’s (nearly) off the TV screens?
The fuss is the opportunity. For New Zealand. read more

Justice before politics

Random thought 27 March 2011

One of the great battles on the way from monarchy to democracy in Britain was the abolition of the bill of attainder. A bill of attainder was in effect a political trial of someone who had run afoul of the authorities. It was aimed at a person, not a type of activity. You could act within the law but nonetheless lose your head. read more

Day 30 on the lily pond: the perplexing point of the point of no return

Random thought November 13 2010

David Suzuki, to some a saint, told a Green-organised conference on 12 November that we humans are past the 29th day on the lily pond. That is, we are very near ecological catastrophe.

The 29th day is the name of a book by environmentalist Lester Brown, who posed an old French riddle: “If you place a lily pad in an empty pond and it divides to become two lily pads the second day, four lily pads the third day and eight lily pads the fourth day and you know that the lily pond will be completely filled with lily pads on the 30th day, on which day will the pond be half full?” read more

Real New Zealanders

Random thought

Is Paul Henry (presenter on state-owned Television New Zealand’s Breakfast “news” programme) a real New Zealander, that is, in his definition, one who looks and sounds like a real New Zealander?

If Henry is a real New Zealander, then a real New Zealander doesn’t speak with Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand’s very broad, that is, genuine, Kiwi accent. If Henry is a real New Zealander, then a real New Zealander is a “shock jock”, which was the Prime Minister’s description of Henry in his post-cabinet press conference (4 October 2010), thereby implying it is OK that the state-owned mainstream purveyor of “news” thinks a “shock jock” is exactly the right person to front a main “news” programme. read more

Spiking small-Auckland

Colin James on super-Auckland for Metro Auckland September 2010

Auckland is small. Until it figures how small it is, it won’t get big. Maybe it doesn’t want to.
Auckland is small in three ways: in population compared with great cities around the world; in creativity and economic innovation compared with the great international centres; and in its lack of large spirit. read more

Generating different leaders

Colin James for the Royal Society’s Kotuitui publication but not published when I refused to indemnify it against all conceivable legal and other challenges

Jon Johansson is a passionate man. He says so in the first sentence of The Politics of Possibility: “I love my country.” It’s an uncommon way for an academic to begin. His reason: “The first principle of any nation is its geography”. And this country is a village where, he says, politics is intimate and politicians accessible.
So Johansson sets out to describe our particular political topography and political flora and fauna. He mixes journalism into his academic inquiry: a Victoria University academic, Johansson relishes being a commentator in the old electronic media and in the evolving online version — and is a campaigning commentator, with some strong views (notably on the future republic) which he airs as an “instinctual centrist” with Aristotelian principles. read more


It is inappropriate for any government, being composed of only some political parties, to offer a political journalist an honour (however disinterestedly intended) and it is improper for a political journalist to accept such an offer.

Making the future public services "public"

Colin James’s article in Public Sector April 2010

Governments in the rich world got big and bold in the twentieth century. They got even bigger in the first decade of the twenty-first, when banks collapsed. Where was the public in all this?
The public was of two minds.

When the public saw need or want, as individuals, as part of an interest group or in a fit of altruism, it demanded more government, to start or stop something or to expand a service or make it free of charge. That way we got “free” health care in the 1940s, universal superannuation at 65 in the 1990s and regulation heaped on builders, real estate agents and electricity companies in the 2000s. read more

Moore contempt

From Michele Hewitson’s interview with Mike Moore, NZ Herald, 17 October 2009

Now, look, why does he [Mike Moore] always do this? He comes across as having a chip on his shoulder and he said, twice, that he did, a “working-class chip”.
I read a quote, from a Colin James review of one of his books, which noted this: “… the chip on the shoulder at not being taken seriously here at home by fellow-politicians, journalists and intellectuals …” read more