An Easter story: earning redemption on earth

It’s Easter. A time of redemption. But of what?

The traditional Christian Easter story is of the redemption of sins through a symbolic death.

In behind it lies a notion of reciprocity — debt and obligation. Maori call it utu. We each incur debts to others of widely varying sorts (including money) which create obligations to others. The “others” might include nature and, in green parlance, the planet. read more

Turning the Key on social innovation

Geoff Mulgan worked on Tony Blair’s “third way” for seven years. He thinks that in the changed world that comes out of today’s big mess there will be a bigger place for social innovation. He will bring that message here next week.

Mulgan is one of a growing number of heavyweights who think the world — at least, the rich world — will not, upon economic recovery, revert to how it was before debt got big and trust vanished and the financial system popped. read more

Small people can make a small country big

Mike Moore, Don McKinnon, Helen Clark: top multilateral jobs after top domestic jobs. What has New Zealand got?

First, connections and track record.

As trade minister in 1984-90 Moore was a great mixer, a vigorous proponent of free trade despite his early socialism and a perennial generator of a wide variety (and quality) of ideas — plus books to convey them. McKinnon resolved the Bougainville standoff with Papua-New Guinea. read more

Key's two contracts with voters

State-owned enterprises make money for taxpayers. But do they make enough? John Key’s government wants more. But Key has “contracts” with the voters which limit his options.

SOEs were set up to be sold. For that they had to be turned into fully commercial operations, making profits and paying dividends to the taxpayer. read more

When muddle through works — and doesn't

John Key take note: Kim Jong Il, whose dynasty has impoverished and starved his people, has been re-elected to North Korea’s legislative assembly with a 100 per cent vote. In a world that is in economic reverse, are the North Koreans on to something?

For two decades there has been anguish about our economy’s slide down the OECD wealth and output ladder. We are now in the bottom third of the 30-nation group. Miracle-economy Ireland, once a sick joke, roared past. read more

Commonsense and a mellowing Hide

Commonsense is a common casualty of theory and ideology — and of policy when theory and ideology get too big a run.

The world is in a banking pickle because some brilliant mathematicians parted some excited bankers from commonsense with a formula which purported to reduce risk to once-in-a-universe-lifetime levels, provided there was a diversified portfolio. Commonsense would have advised a scan of history: there had been three of the sorts of events which falsified the formula in the previous 80 years. read more

Key and Rudd: a really important chat

Just out of his “100 days”, John Key is off to Australia tomorrow for the annual prime ministerial bilateral. There is much to do.

There is much to do at home, too — not least to develop policy options against the developing possibility of a depression. A “jobs summit” and bankrolling “icon” companies are short-term recession fixes. A depression is long-term and life-changing. read more

The Power game: easy politics, hard policy

Judith Collins has sharp teeth. This week they went deep into Corrections Department chief executive Barry Matthews because of the report on (mis)management of parolees (with not enough staff).

Tony Ryall has chomped on Otago District Health Board chair Richard Thomson and spat him out because he was the chair when a massive fraud was discovered (though he fixed it). read more

Coming to the aid of an interdependent world

Tim Barnett, former Labour chief whip, has landed a big international job, combating AIDS, based in Cape Town. Helen Clark is pitching for chief of the United Nations Development Programme. That makes two points.

One is that many of our bright people do big jobs elsewhere. The other is that ours, for all its frequent small-village myopia, is a very internationalised society, inextricably wired into a world in which nations and peoples are increasingly interdependent. read more

When up to the ears in debt, borrow. Really?

Here’s a bright idea: when you get into trouble by overspending, spend your way out.

Doesn’t compute? Well, it does in Washington, London, Canberra or in a capital city nearly everywhere in the rich world. Governments are throwing money at consumers, directly in grants and tax breaks and indirectly in saving firms and so jobs. read more