Failing system becoming more bizzare

Have our economists finally gone mad, asks John Highton.

A joke  that I always liked indicated that weather forecasters were invented to make economists look good. This resonates with the widespread feeling that economic theorising and forecasting are unreliable.

Unfortunately, the joke is now on us as more and more bizarre economic ideas are made reality.

What really sticks in my craw is the prospect of negative interest rates. As good little "Capitalists'' we were always taught that saving was a virtue and that building up a nest egg for retirement was a major life goal. Now we face the prospect of negative interest rates that tell us that saving is bad and we should spend all our money now. This is bizarre and defies common sense.

Can we still even call ourselves a capitalist society if capital is made a liability by negative interest rates? What has become our priority if not capital? If we look at what has been protected above all else in recent times it has been banks. Every effort has been made to preserve them when they have malfunctioned. Furthermore, all the economic adjustments that have been made have increased the power and influence of banks in our lives. In recent times we seem to have switched from "Capitalism'' to "Bankerism''. Everything that we have done has been to the advantage of banks and our "local'' (Australian) banks continue to behave badly but still make record profits.

Despite this we are still leaving it to bankers to come up with solutions. Is it any surprise, then, that the answers are mainly to the benefit of banks?

Will our current "Bankerist'' policies of negative interest rates achieve their goal of igniting business activity? The answer is no. Common sense says that force-feeding businesses with negative interest rates when they are not "hungry'' will not work. Everything indicates that businesses do not feel like making major commitments at present and the global situation is certainly not conducive. Thus, present global economic circumstances and leaving the banks in charge suggests that interest rates will continue to fall, businesses will not respond, and that we will continue on this surreal path to negative interest rates.

Another bizarre aspect to this is that there seems to be no squeak of protest. Do we all accept that what the banks are doing is for our benefit or will the main beneficiaries once again be banks and house prices? I think it is time that we said through our political representatives that enough is enough. It is clear that the current economic thinking is not going to achieve positive outcomes. These policies will take us into uncharted economic waters that become progressively more weird and unrecognisable as time goes by.

I really hope that someone is going to have the courage to step forward and say that enough is enough.

It is time to stop this strange economic fantasising that will not work in the real world, and point to some real and practical solutions.

With banks and businesses locked into this failing system that becomes more bizarre by the day, it has to be central government that steps in to point to a sensible solution.

What better than a Labour-led government to put some tempting morsels in front of our businesses to whet their appetites?

Now would be a good time to come to our senses and to commit some serious money to work on our very weak infrastructure and to aim for some meaningful real-world economic goals such as increased productivity.

In New Zealand we have always prided ourselves in having some common sense so let's demonstrate that by getting real.

  • John Highton is an emeritus professor with the University of Otago's Dunedin School of Medicine.



Low interest drives housing inflation. It locks young families out of the housing market.

It doesn't show up on inflation statistics, so wage inflation stays low. That might be good or bad depending on whether you work or employ.

Low interest makes shares prices jump. Good for share holders and Kiwi-savers.

Low interest makes asset prices jump.

Lots of moves against the young.

I find it a little bit of a strange joke that a professor from the School of Medicine is trying to give economics advice. Would it not be so much more sensible if a professor from the School of Economics wrote an article on economic and capitalist policy and the professor from the School of Medicine gave advice on medicine instead?

I agree with the view on negative interest and getting what we need built but disagree that it’s the bankers creating the current situation.
The level of anxiety created by leftist politicians, educationalist, main stream media and the IPCC are paralysing business and destabilising our society.
Cutting the regulation and let people get on with their lives is the best way to fix motivational issue.

Negative interests rates. Does that mean savers pay interest on their savings and lenders are paid interest on their loans? Sounds like the road to perverse banking.






Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter