Wednesday's Top 10 with NZ Mint: Austerity vs stimulus; 'simplistic nonsense'; thorium; new vs used imports; credit ratings; cancer rates; Dilbert, and more

Here's my Top 10 links from around the Internet at 10:00 am today in association with NZ Mint.

Bernard is on his summer break and will be back on January 22, 2013, from Wellington.

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to

See all previous Top 10s here.

1. Why austerity works and fiscal stimulus doesn't 
As far as Anders Aslund is concerned, the debate is over. The two options have been tested, and one comes out a clear winner. Here is an extract from his recent opinion piece on

After five years of financial crisis, the European record is in: Northern Europe is sound, thanks to austerity, while southern Europe is hurting because of half-hearted austerity or, worse, fiscal stimulus.

The predominant Keynesian thinking has been tested, and it has failed spectacularly.

The starkest contrasts are Latvia and Greece, two small countries hit the worst by the crisis. They have pursued different policies, Latvia strict austerity, and Greece late and limited austerity. Latvia saw a sharp gross domestic product decline of 24 percent for two years, which was caused by an almost complete liquidity freeze in 2008. This necessitated the austerity that followed.

Yet Latvia’s economy grew by 5.5 percent in 2011, and in 2012 it probably expanded by 5.3 percent, the highest growth in Europe, with a budget deficit of only 1.5 percent of GDP. Meanwhile, Greece will suffer from at least seven meager years, having endured five years of recession already. So far, its GDP has fallen by 18 percent. In 2008 and 2009, the financial crisis actually looked far worse in Latvia than Greece, but then they chose opposite policies.

The lessons are clear.

2. GM is the only way
One of the original crop-destroying anti-GM activists has had a change of heart. You can read about him here, and see his video and speech to the recent Oxford Farming Conference here. He now says the argument that we can only save the earth and feed its people by using organic food as "simplistic nonsense."

If you think about it, the organic movement is at its heart a rejectionist one. It doesn’t accept many modern technologies on principle. Like the Amish in Pennsylvania, who froze their technology with the horse and cart in 1850, the organic movement essentially freezes its technology in somewhere around 1950, and for no better reason.

3. 'Clean' nuclear power
Is the future nuclear power from thorium? Ambrose Evans-Pritchard thinks it may well be. And he thinks China is developing the skills necessary to control the technology.

The aim is to break free of the archaic pressurized-water reactors fueled by uranium -- originally designed for US submarines in the 1950s -- opting instead for new generation of thorium reactors that produce far less toxic waste and cannot blow their top like Fukushima.

"China is the country to watch," said Baroness Bryony Worthington, head of the All-Parliamentary Group on Thorium Energy, who visited the Shanghai operations recently with a team from Britain's National Nuclear Laboratory.

"They are really going for it, and have talented researchers. This could lead to a massive break-through."


4. Today's raw market data ...
A quick holiday update:

as at 11:10am Today
9:00 am
Tuesday Four
weeks ago
year ago
NZ$1 = US$ 0.8340 0.8372 0.8392 0.7800
NZ$1 = AU$ 0.7959 0.7971 0.7972 0.7637
TWI 75.08 74.56 74.91 69.95
Gold, US$/oz 1,645 1,645 1,701 1,615
Dow 13,332 13,378 13,122 12,385
Copper, US$/tonne 8,006 7,996 7,966 7,503
Volatility Index 13.84


15.90 21.07

5. Market shift
As usual, we bought more used imports in 2012 than real new cars - but it was a surprisingly close-run thing. Our love affair with used imports seems to be ending. We have bought less and less since 2010. But we have bought increasing numbers of new cars.

It could be because of the tighter emissions standards on the used imports, or it could be because new cars are actually pretty inexpensive. One thing is for certain, we are not financing them in the way we once did - the consumer credit data clearly shows that.


6. The post-crisis crisis
Joseph Stiglitz warns against focussing on current crises and ignoring the bigger problems we face.

As we struggle with today’s crises, we should be asking whether we are responding in ways that exacerbate our long-term problems. The path marked out by the deficit hawks and austerity advocates both weakens the economy today and undermines future prospects. The irony is that, with insufficient aggregate demand the major source of global weakness today, there is an alternative: invest in our future, in ways that help us to address simultaneously the problems of global warming, global inequality and poverty, and the necessity of structural change. 

7. Do credit ratings really matter?
Key countries have been downgraded and there has been little consequence. At least that is what William Pesek implies, and he points out that we are about to witness a major test of their relevance in Japan. The Japanese are going all-out to reinflate their economy, taking drastic measures.

Taro Aso, 72, sure is a busy man. While most Japanese of his vintage are happily ensconced in retirement, Aso has three new jobs: deputy prime minister, finance minister and minister for financial services.

This trifecta of responsibilities means Aso has been deputized to end deflation and weaken the yen once and for all. As he endeavors to do what no one has done before, Aso also will conduct an experiment of great interest to policy makers and investors: testing whether credit ratings matter.

8. Cancer death rates
We noticed a story about US cancer death rates and how they were trending down encouragingly. A quick search for NZ equivalent rates turned them up easily, so here they are compared. Definite progress being made, and you are definitely better off in New Zealand. 

9. Cartoonists field-day
Yeah, I know - just too many cartoons about the US fiscal cliff and debt ceiling. Enough already, you say. Well we will scale them back, but some are still pretty good.

10. Today's quote
"If all the rich people in the world divided up their money among themselves there wouldn't be enough to go around." Christina Stead

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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#1. This article is a redherring for neo-liberal economist. They show only one side of the coin but not the other. It is an article of falsehood and pure spin.

The latest EU jobless figures show exactly why the writer is wrong and is spinning like a sputnik without it's giro. 

The figures just revealed by Eurostats on Lavis unemployment is 14.1% after 5 years of austerity from 15.7% last year. Meanwhile it's economy has imploded and income gap has widen to it's highest on record.


The neo-liberal policies is clear....KILL LABOUR SAVE CAPITAL.


#5 There are two factors why we are importing new cars :

a. New Zealanders are now buying more small cars than bigger cars because of higher fuel prices.

b.Older small cars from Japan do not comply with the new emission standards and therefore cannot be sold in NZ. This leave the market for new small cars to be imported

No big secret here.

Yes its utter deluded crap, but it does show how loony the austerity side still is, which means this will continue.

Latvia is still way down 5 years on, it dropped 25% and is still down 15%.  There seems to have been massive emigration, somewhat hiding the true un-employment level.

Nothern Europe is still fine, well maybe because some there were not in such debt and were stimualing, 

“A very expansionary stance for Germany therefore has to be dealt with ..”

The others look pretty bad,

Though if you include say Holland as northern Europe thats looking dodgy.

How much austerity has Germany done btw?   seems to be none. Or the fact that Sweden is very socialist and supportive of the un-employed, that isnt austerity in action.  Or how well Poland is doing?

Greece is late and limited?

oh boy....

So many holes in the austerity mantra it isnt funny.


David might as well add links to the flat earthers, climate change deniers and Illuminati conspiracy theorists.


Thanks for the heavy lifting, steven. This meme has been so thoroughly debunked by now that I find it surprising anyone would think this lightweight drivel is news. Still, as Adolf Hitler's propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels used to say, 'If you are going to tell a lie, tell a big one'. Shame on you

What's loony is that govt spending has become such a large part of "economies" that the debate/argument is about austerity or stimulus.  What's loony is that after decades/centuries of applying "economic theory" there is still debate over what works.  What's loony is that "economic" measurements is purely about quantity of spending and relies on the rape, pillage and exploitation of natural and human resources.  What's loony is that civilisation/society and "standard of living" as we know it revolves around "economics", the monetisation of basic necessities of life and everything else, and how much is spent on crap we don't need.

What's loony is that any of this needed pointing out.  What's loony is that instead of addressing "economics, economic theory" as one of the problems we continue to apply it.  What's loony is that the majority of us are so indoctrinated into the system that we continue to rely on "experts" and political "leaders" to solve the problems that along with our help they created in the first place.

"The significant problems we face today cannot be solved by the same thinking that created them" - Albert Einstein


More on Latvia that explains it well  and also covers why some want to pust the idea that Latvia is some sort of success. It sounds more and more like some sort of sick joke.


Latvia statistics show both retail sales and industrial production up 8.7% and 3.9% respectively compared with November 2011 so something good is going on.


The argument that because something is down from the 2007 high so the policy has failed is somewhat eroneous.  If we wish to measure the effect of any policy we track back to the point in time when that policy was enacted.


Latvia didn't implement austerity in 2007 (or 2008 for that matter), most of the measures were taken in 2010 and 2011.  So to start measuring from that point in time isn't valid if we're looking to see what effect the policy had. you are saying that the austerity had a huge net benefit? apart from that being patently In which case Greece, Ireland Spain etc should all be showing huge gains, or maybe the UK, or the USA?. Instead we see huge wage devaluations, emigration and hardship....for really negligable gain. In terms of policy actually there are other effects at play.


In terms of policy actually there are other effects at play.

Certainly the case in the US.

November Consumer Credit Soars, Driven By Student And Car Loans: 95% Of All 2012 Consumer Debt Funded By Uncle Sam

Or indeed,

"What recoveries they have enjoyed, many economists put down to geography. Christensen said: "If you compare the Baltic states to Bulgaria, which has passed similar austerity measures and has not recovered in any way to the same degree, there is only one real difference and that is, who's your neighbour."

maybe consideration should be given to one effect of austerity, like 30% un-employment while its still at 15%...BUT

"Demographers estimate that 200,000 have left in the past decade – nearly 10 per cent of the population – at an accelerating rate that reflects the austerity being inflicted."  so the true un-employment could be closer to 25%....

So if we take Greece at 26% and heading to 28%

why isnt greece recovering?





What I am saying is the policy was put in place in 2010 on.  So any measurements and comments using 2007 on as a benchmark are flawed.

Having payed back the load from the government, and the government sold the last of its shares, AIG is thinking of suing the U.S. government for not giving it a more favourable bailout

Organic farming is low input farming just like GM crops are desigend to be, they don't need to be at odds.  Organic farming also aims to protect bio diversity, without that biodiversity there wouldn't be the resistant genes around for the GM scientists to use.

GM crops however are not generally low input and not low cost.  They tend to need very specific pesticides in the exact quantity and fertilizer in the right quantity.  If you are down on either, GM crops can produce very poorly, less than traditional crops apparantly. The GM seed itself is often one time use and expensive, seems some companies GM products are being kicked out by Nations who have seen that they have not lived up to expectations.  Not only that, companies like monsato will take your "organic" seed and check for contamination by their GM crop, if so they sue, even if its drifted across from someone else and its not your fault.

GM companies will also patent "natural genes" making it impossible for others to use those common genes themselves.  Look out some of maori and NZ farming for hits from US patents.

Really when you supper with the devil, make sure just whats on the menu....


Very interesting thanks for the info.

Completely nuts that they are able to patent a gene found in nature...

There is a lot of info out there, to get specifics, google is your friend.

Yes I think its nuts they can do so, such genes exist, its merely we as humans do not know of them. So the first finder who patents a gene gets its use. However indigenious ppl can often be using a herb whos properties are what they need yet could be charged with patent infringement just because a company patented that gene...



I think GM crops is a classic example of something that needs to be Open Source.

It has the potential to benefit millions, but the economic and ethical structures around GM make it's introduction far more problematic than it needs to be.

VL - Where do you get your information from regarding the potential benefit to millions?


Maybe you should read up on the high suicide rates in India's farming community - and  the cause is failed GM crops which bankrupted the farmers who were convinced to switch to GM production.


Superweeds in the US are causing all sorts of problems in the round-up ready GM crops. The sprays that have to be used to control the superweeds are nasty and will kill off all the good soil microbes which are essential and have you considered the spray residue that will be left on the crops which are used for human and animal consumption.


GM crops have not provided higher volumes of production per acre. In fact conventional farming methods have higher production levels over a three year period.


You should also read some of the peer reviewed studies on Cancers (particularly stomach cancers) from consuming GM foods. Most of the worlds supply of cotton, soy and corn is now GM. So everyone who consumes these products will be at risk - I certainly don't see  any benefit in that. 


You might also try reading up on the nutritional value of GM crops, conventionally grown crops, organics and biodynamics. Agriculture is changing and many growers are now implementing new methods of farming that concentrate on producing a crop which has higher nutritional value than conventional or organic foods. 

While I pretty much agree with you 100% on GM, VL makes a point that is valid.  By this I mean the present GM crops are produced to maximise the Agri-industries profit and not the food output, quality or minimalise inputs and eco damage.  Open sourcing GM would allow the open source style of development and outcome.  The classic example is linux coming from no where and being as good as or better a computer operating system than any closed source product on the market and importantly a lot cheaper, in fact free.



Yeah Steven thats right. The point I was trying to make is that GM is not inherently unsupportable, but it needs to be done with the right motives. I have no doubt that the use of GM crops has caused problems, but those problems are more likely to be caused by the attitude and methods of the companies introducing them, rather than the technology itself. GM does make me a bit nervous, but I wouldnt rule out the possibility that it could be beneficial.


That said, a mate of mine runs a conventional dairy farm in Taranaki, and his neighbour is organic, and the organic farm is waaaaaaaaay superior in terms of aesthetics, what PDK  I think calls EROEI, and the vibe (y'know ,  Mabo) 

Notaneconomist is entitled to be sceptical, but I don't think we should imbue the technology with the same arsehole tendencies of the companies who own the technologies....


Re 3: 'Clean' nuclear power

Here is a good video: Kirk Sorensen on Thorium.

The Thorium based nuclear reactor theory has been around for as long as the Uranium based one.

The Anglo-Americans chose the Uranium option as it supplies nuclear fuel for atomic bombs.

(Don't forget this was during the "Cold War" days.)

Re #2, GM is the way! It depends on what part of the market you want to be in. GM is at the budget, animal feed, done by unpaid robots, cheap junk-food, garbage end of the spectrum, and organic is at the expensive, wholesome, life giving, labour intensive end of the spectrum. It is like you want a pair of running shoes. Do you buy the "Nuke" trainers from the $2 shop for $11, or the "Nike" from Rebel Sport for $129? Do you buy "Budget Brand Coffee" powder $3.99 at New World or the Moccona for $11.99? The only people eating GM food are those that can't afford good food or don't care about good food.


Please name one hotshot, TV star, movie star, buisiness tycoon, scientist, doctor etc that would seek out GM food to eat for themselves and for their family. I have never heard  of one. IMO, it would be like feeding your family dog roll.


The obesity we are seeing today is directly connected to huge amounts of cheap, crappy food.


NZ is a tiny little food producing country. If we go the GM route we will lose. If we go the Organic route we will win- economically, longevity, sanity, BMI, employment and as a desirable green, high end destination. It is a very important decision

Re #1

I'm getting really really sick of the so called austerity stimulus debate being framed as a black vs white debate. Dialectic method has been in existance in one form or another since adam was a cowboy. Come to think of it, I'm sick of this precut idiotic 'this or that' frame reference being used by nearly all media and commentators all the time.

Aren't we better than that yet?

This goes for the #2 GM article as well.

Frankly, no, in here and indeed amongst "experts"  we seem to be in a time of increasing extremist polarisation, we have an ever more far right in the US Congress and a dominant school of economics, that of fresh water supporting them. The general populace isnt paying much attention meantime, to busy trying to survive or get even more wealthy. They will do shortly though when the sh*** really hits it, but I expect no matter how obvious it is many ppl will still vote the same way, not that there is a huge choice.



...I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.

As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely...

Yeah, Right.

A la la land liberal, no one has such a right, nature does not grant that. A society attempts to grant that, except of course then we expand our population past what can be sustained ie take no responsibility for our reproduction, so in due course nature will correct us.


I remember being part of a small counter protest to an anti-gm march in Dunedin back in the day. A few gentics and microbiology students and me. We had alot of fun walking up to people who were brainwashed into saying 'Ban GE" and asking "Do you know what a mitochondria is?". The best answerwas you'll have to talk to our supervisior who was from Greenpeace and didn't have a clue either.

So brain washing, no climate change doesnt exist despite the huge evidence it does....sounds similar?

In terms of mitochondria you dont need to know the detail sometimes just the effects and the data and evidence.  An example would be the wright brothers, pretty sure that there was no general mathematical understanding of how a plane flew ie how lift is generated, just that it could/did.

So the detrimental effects of GM crops in the 3rd world in particular  are clearly being demonstrated, a live experiment with real people, its not going to well.  


Steven, I never said climate change doesn’t exist just that it is natural, non-anthropogenic, and probably non-threatening, even beneficial.

Oh, and that fear of climate change is being used to pursue other agendas.

People gotta be scared of something and in a socialist state they must have someone to blame for all their powerlessness.

My point about mitochondria is they majority on board the anti-everything express such as climate change doomsters, anti-GMsters, and the extreme fringe of let's just kill 90% of the human population to save the planet for me and minesters, have no clue what they are babbling about and just endlessly repeat sound bites and slogans in a style very reminiscent of propaganda everywhere.

Goebbels would be proud.

GM is really cool tech and needs to be explored more. It is used for less than beneficial purposes such as forcing US farmers of their families land, before we even start with the effects in the third world which largely flow on from the green revolution of the 1940's to 1970's and the over use of chemicals in general.

New things no matter how well intentioned can be misused. The tech that gave us mas vaccination can produce germ warfare.

In GM the original use of the terminator gene for instance was to prevent GM crops being able to self seed so they could not contaminate other crops. Monsanto patented it and used the same mechanism for more nefarious ends.

As Max Cavalera once roared;

"Biotechnology ain't what's so bad, but like all technology, it's in the wrong hands, dumbfuck corporations don't give a damn, when lots of people die, from plans they've made."

Point being there's no problem with the GM tech, unless your a full bore hemp sandal vegan and your objection is on moral grounds to the endless permutations of say, Dolly the sheep, that did not work and had to be put out of there misery. But if you eat meat and wear leather, use cosmetics, pharmaceuticals etc then don't even break for that high ground.

As for the Wright brothers, at least one of them had a published opinion that heavier than air flight was impossible, before they did it.

An example which has a lot of relevance for the peak everything debate.


In my book, Bruce, you're a fool now.


Along with a lot of others.


Your dogma appears to be spin 101 - if you can't deny it, at least dodge the blame.


As for the 'peak' bit at the end- with finite resources (particularly ones that are burnt/can't be recycled) there will always be a peak. The only variable possible is time.


Your argument is that 'it hasn't happened yet, so it won't.


That is stupid. Nothing more, nothing less. You stated that 'it didn't run out in the '70's'. So what? I suggest you do your homework, and ascertain exactly what they DID say. Otherwise, you're just another mantra-bleater, and there are enough of them.


I was wrong about you being 30 years adrift, though. Apologies about that. It's more like 40.

PDK & Stevie,

Correlation does not imply causation. Basic logical & scientific principle.


Learn & apply.


Im sorry but you are laughable.


hmm I  thought maybe you could think, I see I was incorrect.


Steven - BruceH probably can think. The question is whether his blinkered spin - and it is spin - is a result of too many generations of swede-consumption too far south, or a serious attempt at spin on-behalf.


The latter would fit; the nonsense about Allison and 'lots of farmers' and 'I have heard' is the kind of stuff we started to see with Shipley. His above comment is classic Shipley-onward spin 101 too; his is the causation/correlation misdiagnosis, the classic move is to throw what you're guilty of at the opponent, and slow their argument while they rid themselves of the stuck mud.


The process requires a complascent/compliant - or straight-out dumb - media.


Who is he 'on-behalf' of? Fed Farmers, the Nats or both, one would assume. He comes from the same neck of the woods that C.O. does (for some reason I have that poster picked as an ex-chair of FF) and I've caught him out on spin too. Ultimately, they are both peddling propaganda at this point, and the truth usually will out. There will be some who believe the propaganda, some who need to believe it, and some who know it's horseshit. Interesting to ponder which, in each case.


It should be an interesting year - spin and belief can't alter physical realities.

Some latvian jokes.....kind of sets the scene for how bad its been there for a long time.

What are one potato say other potato?
Premise ridiculous. Who have two potato?

How many Latvian is take screw in light bulb?
25. One screw in, 24 ride bicycle generator for 1-hour shift. But time probably better spend search food.

Is dead dog in road. Is dead Latvian in road. What difference?
Dog have fur keep warm. Also, freedom. And dog try eat poop for pleasure not just survive. So many thing!

Questioning: Why did chicken cross road?
Answering: I have not seen chicken since I was very young, on my parents' farm. This is before the Cossacks slaughtered them. I can still hear screams of sister as soldiers rape her. But back to question, where did you see chicken? I am very, very hungry.

Latvian walk into bar with pig on shoulder. Bartender say, “That look delicious!” But pig say, “No. Is Latvian. Taste is similar to dog.”


I think GM stuff is wonderful. If I feed my cows on modified feed and the cows were modified I'd make so much more money and I would feed so many more poor people and the world be a better place with no wars or chid abuse  or jails or ..... What ever.