Friday's Top 10 with NZ Mint: Inequality redux; value added; money and happiness; new gold standard; the world in 2050; 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. Inequality, again
How do we fairly distribute income and wealth in the age of the robots?

In a world where capital actually does earn most of the income, how do we design 'fair' redistribution.

It's a problem economists are starting to work on - especially as our current 'redistribution' policies aren't really working. In every society, inequality is growing. 

Noah Smith, an assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook University, has a useful piece on the issue in The Atlantic.

The big question is: What do we do if and when our old mechanisms for coping with inequality break down? If the "endowment of human capital" with which people are born gets less and less valuable, we'll get closer and closer to that Econ 101 example of a world in which the capital owners get everything. A society with cheap robot labor would be an incredibly prosperous one, but we will need to find some way for the vast majority of human beings to share in that prosperity, or we risk the kinds of dystopian outcomes that now exist only in science fiction.

2. Better trade measures
Export/import data is a crude and distorted measure of what trade is worth to a country. What really matters is the value added by domestic activity. The WTO and OECD have launched a new database focused on value-add, and that huge surplus China has in its trade with the US is substantially revised down on the new measure. More here

Business competitiveness and export performance are increasingly tied to countries’ integration into global production chains and a willingness to open markets to wider imports, according to preliminary international trade data released today by the OECD and the WTO.

"Countries’ capacity to sell to the world depends on their ability and readiness to buy from the rest of the world," OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said during the launch of the new database in Paris with WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht and New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser.

"Our new work with the WTO allows us to see more clearly than ever before how blocking imports will damage a country’s own competitiveness. Trade negotiations have to catch up to these new realities, and countries need to implement policies that help their firms better manage their place in international value chains,"

Among the key findings are:

- China’s bilateral trade surplus with the United States shrinks by 25% on a value-added basis, reflecting the high level of foreign-sourced content in Chinese exports.

- One-third of the total value of motor vehicles exported from Germany actually comes from other countries, while nearly 40% of the total value of China’s electronics exports come from foreign sources.

While conventional trade data suggests that services represent less than one-quarter of total trade, on a value-added basis services trade reaches an average 50% of OECD countries’ exports, and well above that in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy – in large part because services add significant value to manufacturing output.

Bilateral trade surpluses of major commodity exporters like Australia, Brazil and Canada with their key trading partners shrink on a value-added basis, as their raw materials are further processed by trading partners and then re-exported – highlighting where these countries might "move up" the value chain.

They released a rich database and some very useful visualisation tools. OECD, WTO, WTO (although I found the WTO dashboards very hard to access).

3. Income and wellbeing
Yes, it seems money will buy happiness - according to a study from the Public Policy Department at The Wharton School. The researchers plotted 122 countries' responses to a Gallup World Poll on well-being against each nation's real GDP per capita (adjusted for purchasing power) and found a strong correlation. Well-being rises with income at all levels of income, across countries. And New Zealand does very well. Yet another reason why its great to live here. More analysis here »

Moreover, the data show no evidence for a satiation point above which income and well-being are no longer related. 

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

as at 11:10am Today
9:00 am
Yesterday Four
weeks ago
year ago
NZ$1 = US$ 0.8405 0.8414 0.8346 0.8003
NZ$1 = AU$ 0.7956 0.7980 0.7960 0.7712
TWI 75.50 75.41 74.41 71.48
Gold, US$/oz 1,688 1,676 1,696 1,656
Dow 13,602 13,488 13,320 12,488
Copper, US$/tonne 7,911 7,945 7,825 8,185
Volatility Index 13.59 13.42 17.84 20.89

5. 'A new gold standard is being born'
Or, so says Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph today. Personally, I have my doubts. There is no where near enough of this commodity to underpin proper trade. Besides its value is only in [some] people's heads. It has no intrinsic value; without speculators it would be worth very little. Scarcity is its only real claim to fame and that seems a pretty naive basis for either a store of value or as a means of exchange. Surely we can (and have?) come up with far better solutions.

My guess is that any new Gold Standard will be sui generis, and better for it. Let gold will take its place as a third reserve currency, one that cannot be devalued, and one that holds the others to account, but not so dominant that it hitches our collective destinies to the inflationary ups (yes, gold was highly inflationary after the Conquista) and the deflationary downs of global mine supply. That would indeed be a return to a barbarous relic.

Hopefully, it will be nothing like the interwar system. That was a dollar peg that transmitted US deflation to the whole world when the Fed tightened too hard in 1928 and went berserk in 1930.

A third reserve currency is just what America needs. As Prof Micheal Pettis from Beijing University has argued, holding the world’s reserve currency is an “exorbitant burden” that the US could do without.

6. ZeroHedge is rarely right
Judging by the comments on this site, we have quite a few gullible readers who think ZeroHedge (Tyler Durden) knows what they are talking about. The problem for ZH is that they have been making out-there assertions for years now and few have come anywhere near to passing. Noah Smith takes stock.

Now, Zero Hedge and the whole "goldbugosphere" tries to push the idea that they understand macroeconomics better than everyone else out there - that what is "obvious" to them is not obvious to most of the world, which is still in thrall to (Keynesians, neoclassical econ, Xenu, take your pick). But this also does not mean that gold prices can be expected to rise. Because even if it's true - suppose goldbugs are much much wiser and savvier than the rest of humanity - the only reason goldbugs wouldn't have already been able to push gold to its optimal price would be if goldbugs were liquidity constrained. But if that's the case, the only people who will believe in the predictions of higher gold prices will, by definition, be people who are unable to take advantage of their superior wisdom and savvy.

7. The new science of pleasure
Anyone who has followed this Top10 series will know that traditional economics appears to be under constant attack - from outlier economists, mainly. Actually, like any hard science, it is that relentless challenging that makes it an enduring way to think about how people organise and react to the incentives they face on a daily basis. (And when there is no disagreement - ie certainty - it will no longer be a science, it will be a religion.)

Anyway, behavioural economics, the study of 'animal spirits' is the current fashion, and it has a lot to recommend it. And a recent contribution comes from Daniel McFadden, a Berkeley professor. He has a new paper out that reviews how psychology, biology, and neurology are ganging up on economics to prove that, when it comes to making decisions, people are anything but rational.

Derek Thompson talked to McFadden and reviews his arguments.

8. Innovation by design
If you are a ceo of a New Zealand business, we highly recommend you make some time (40 mins) to watch this video. It will be some "common sense" but that becomes obvious only after Geoff Suvalko leads you through the principles of design-led organisation. Bookmark this »

9. The world in 2050
PwC has produced a Report (out of London) detailing how they see the world in 2050. They think China's GDP will grow almost 5 times - seems unlikely to me. They also see Australia slipping out of the top 20 and Indonesia, Nigeria and Vietnam racing up the rankings. These predictions seem to assume resource constraints will be overcome and that is a head-scratching assumption. They also don't see Japan moving its ranking down much, which also surprised me.

  2011 2030 2050
PPP rank Country GDP at PPP
(2011 US$bn)
Country Projected
(2011 US$bn)
Country Projected
(2011 US$bn)
1 US 15,094 China 30,634 China 53,856
2 China 11,347 US 23,376 US 37,998
3 India 4,531 India 13,716 India 34,704
4 Japan 4,381 Japan 5,842 Brazil 8,825
5 Germany 3,221 Russia 5,308 Japan 8,065
6 Russia 3,031 Brazil 4,685 Russia 8,013
7 Brazil 2,305 Germany 4,118 Mexico 7,409
8 France 2,303 Mexico 3,662 Indonesia 6,346
9 UK 2,287 UK 3,499 Germany 5,822
10 Italy 1,979 France 3,427 France 5,714
11 Mexico 1,761 Indonesia 2,912 UK 5,598
12 Spain 1,512 Turkey 2,760 Turkey 5,032
13 South Korea 1,504 Italy 2,629 Nigeria 3,964
14 Canada 1,398 Korea 2,454 Italy 3,867
15 Turkey 1,243 Spain 2,327 Spain 3,612
16 Indonesia 1,131 Canada 2,148 Canada 3,549
17 Australia 893 Saudi Arabia 1,582 South Korea 3,545
18 Poland 813 Australia 1,535 Saudi Arabia 3,090
19 Argentina 720 Poland 1,415 Vietnam 2,715
20 Saudi Arabia 686 Argentina 1,407 Argentina 2,620

In a companion report on banking over this same period, you can see why CBA and ANZ are focused on many of these fast-growing economies.

10. Today's quote
"If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments." Earl Wilson

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?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment or click on the "Register" link below a comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current Comment policy is here.


Judging by the comments on this site, we have quite a few gullible readers who think central bankers know what they are talking about. The problem for central bankers is that they have been making out-there assertions for years now and few have come anywhere near to passing.

Can you point me at someone in here who thinks CBs know what they are doing?  Of course opinion on what they should be doing differs vastly.
Some say raise OCR, I for one say drop it to 1% and have a nice day.

rc - That's a great link.  How refreshing to see a politician telling the truth.

No problem. My thoughts exactly!

#1. It is interest that is the mechanism for the redistribution of wealth. I can't see it being given up so the inequality will continue until there is collapse. What happens after collapse is the really big question.
That cartoon by Matt is really mean, but funny as hell.
#5 Gold won't work as a standard if it has interest attached either.

"#5 Gold won't work as a standard if it has interest attached either."
Yes it can and did work. All interest represents is a time preference. This works with hard money. Not with fiat because credit creation at no cost will short circuit your and my time preference (interest).
Governments will not want hard money. It's too democratic in the sense that we can vote with our money so to speak.
Gold under the matress is as good as anything. No need to chase phantom profits a la sharemarket, capital gain etc. Interest is at your discretion, risk vs reward. But at no time can your gold be "printed away".
Of course the banks will  fight this tooth and nail.

Short answer because I am heading out, if a gold standard worked we will still have one. Economic theory never fully accounts for the human factor you see. 
Keep in mind money is simply a proxy for real things, but I am glad you introduced interest as a  time preference. See the redistribution of wealth caused by interest is actually stealing another mans time, gold or not. 
Gold might have its day though, when fiat collapses. I also see gold as a store of wealth as a separate issue to gold as currency.

I think that there is a very good argument for keeping the two roles of money i.e. medium of exchange and store of value as separate functions.  Therefore there would be two forms of money performing these two different roles.  Obviously gold would perform the role of store of value.

Good points. 
The US is creating credit at a minimum of $85 Billion a month! at essentially no cost. This is a mamoth amount of credit. Most of this is exported and NZ is a recipient of some. Can we simply work harder, make do with less, beat up on those without to save money? All to try to earn an honest living?
Of course not. We will be swamped. Theoretically all the farmland in the country could be bought with easily created cheap credit from the US alone. China is drowning in US dollars.
My point is gold will resurface as a stabilizer of trade and value. It is starting to happen now. Will we use gold as money,  probably not.
Credit today is losing it's meaning, as money and a store of value. 

#1 - I remember discussing this 35 years ago. The rich can't buy 150 toasters apiece, so somehow the ability to get a toaster has to be devolved to 140 or so. That can be done by tax, or via mob-looting/anarchy. Tax is a better option.
#2 - They'd be better measuring energy-in, energy-out, and applying an efficiency correction.
#5 - same as #2. They should use energy as the basis, after all, it's to one true underwrite.
#9 - I've just finished Jaques Attali's 'A Brief History of the Future'. He doesn't get it, allee same these guys. It can be excused as ignorance, and laid-off on the failure of their economics education, but ultimately these folk are not telling the truth. Ultimately, the media should be informed enough to point that out, although the religion vs Darwin lesson suggests it's a long road to publicly disprove vested-interest horseshit. Especially if the media income is based on said excrement.........

#9 - I hope that in the future someone digs out this report to see how (in)accurate it was.  For China to have a GDP 5 times its current size what quantities of energy and commodoties will it be consuming?

#7 - "economic science" is a laughable oxymoron

Yes, the approach of the Top10 items will be changing next week, starting Tuesday.
Bernard is back!

David Chaston: could you please consider doing a LOCAL "around the traps today" at the close of business each day? The over-emphasis on things China in the Top Ten at Ten each day needs a counter-balance.

I think they need to include lotsa China stories to scare us witless ... 'cos , when you hunt around , it's jolly hard to find 10 terrible economics stories from anywhere else in the world , each day .....
..... the " double dip " recession didn't happen ..... no revisit of the US housing market melt-down , no second crash in shares ... Bernard H. & Steve Keen are each terribly wrong , still , and wise old Uncle Ollie ( Newland ) is equally and oppositely correct ....
Rock on 2013 .... let's see the NZX pile on another 25 % gain , that'd be sweet ....

There you go GBH, that's the spiri!t And the NZX ix the market to be in.
Good times are here, at least in the foreseable future.
Rock on 2013 and 2014!

Greetings Hevi : If you split the 25 % gain on the NZX into the two halves of the year , only 6 % of the gain was in the first 6 months , and 19 % occurred during the second half ......
..... what does that suggest to you ?
From my perseptive , it seems that momentum is increasing on the NZX , with investors piling back into shares ..... the gloomsterisers either were totally wrong , or just got their timing out ..... economies around the world are healing .... the Greek stockmarket soared last year , as did Venezuela ( up 215 % ..... who'd have thunk it ! )

Just as long as the unwary know some are better informed than others :
Presenting The S&P500's 50 Point Surge Courtesy Of The Illegal "Geithner Leak"
Gotta be entitled to be a real winner.

Questions without Answers?

Look at Gareth Vaughan's article - 8000 Mortgages per week - annualised 400,000

Then look at your article - Ineffective Negotiators

Then look at the questions at the bottom of your Ineffective Negotiators article

What is going on? .. I would like to know

Bernard is ...back..? are you meaning in the complete sense as in Wellington just didn't get him..? did he intimidate the the wrong pollie with that towering presence and quiet menace.. .....?  oh dear, he's not coming back, ...alone is he..?
Gosh it's like a little soapy with one of those yo yo goodbyes that go on for a season or two, till someone shoots him and we all want to know whodunnit.
the suspects....
Gareth <----<----<-----<----- 

" Weren't me , officerer ..... he shot himself dead 6 times , then handed the gun to me for safe keeping ! " ...
Some good graphs there - particularly the population/oil one. Good to compare with #9.
Or even how well Greece sint doing.....maybe davidC should pay attention to ppl and not smoke and mirrors.
"EGALEO, Greece—While patrolling on a recent cold night, environmentalist Grigoris Gourdomichalis caught a young man illegally chopping down a tree on public land in the mountains above Athens.
When confronted, the man broke down in tears, saying he was unemployed and needed the wood to warm the home he shares with his wife and four small children, because he could no longer afford heating oil.
"It was a tough choice, but I decided just to let him go" with the wood, said Mr. Gourdomichalis, head of the locally financed Environmental Association of Municipalities of Athens, which works to protect forests around Egaleo, a western suburb of the capital.
Tens of thousands of trees have disappeared from parks and woodlands this winter across Greece, authorities said, in a worsening problem that has had tragic consequences as the crisis-hit country's impoverished residents, too broke to pay for electricity or fuel, turn to fireplaces and wood stoves for heat."
NZ fortunately has only 4million ppl.....quite a lot of hydro and quite a lot of wood....

" Unemployed .... wife ..... 4 kids "  .....
Do you in all seriousness believe a mad Greek bearing an axe and an attitude ? ..... you can be a gullible bugger at times , steven ...
... those Greek guys are supplying the wood to Kwila !

comment deleted.

Re item 6: Zero Hedge
Wiki says they are a news agregation site, and that in December 2012, Bank of America blocked its employees' access to Zero Hedge.
I visit occasionally and have not noticed that they are a Gold pumping site myself

Zero Hedge?  I would say very pro austrian / gold

#5 'There is no where near enough of this commodity to underpin proper trade'.
Yes thats what some of us have been saying for ages. Gold is too cheap at todays prices.
#5 'Besides its value is only in [some] people's heads.'
Yes thats where the value of anything is, no matter what it is.
#5 'It has no intrinsic value; without speculators it would be worth very little. Scarcity is its only real claim to fame and that seems a pretty naive basis for either a store of value or as a means of exchange.'
Gold is money, everything else is credit. If gold was a consumerable it could not be money.
#5 'Surely we can (and have?) come up with far better solutions.'
Nope. Never have.
Finally Ambrose is starting to get it. Although he is still wrong about 3 reserve currencies, that will fail for the same reasons that a basket of currencies fail. In the end there will be just one.

I agree Economist. I generally respect David's views, but in this instance everything he said is utter nonsense. 

Most arguments against gold are utter nonsense, no matter who is mouthing them off.
The gold standard didn't fail, it was deliberately sabotaged for reasons I have already stated in prior posts.

'There is no where near enough of this commodity to underpin proper trade'  
That is a very ignorant comment from Berno, surely he understands its not how much gold out there that is inadequate, it is the arbitrary figure it is denominated in that is lacking!
Gold is an unattractive monetary unit simply because it is difficult to manipulate its value, thats about it.

Technically BB, you cant really alter the physical stock of gold, but you can alter its price by using paper gold derivatives - if you can get the other side to never ask for delivery of the gold and secondly get them to believe that there is real gold behind the paper contract....

double up

Everyone needs to answer this question , if gold is not money why then to the central banks around the world hold it ?? Why is the gold price manipulated and controlled by the big banks ?? gold is the last resort of central banks , once the gold is gone they have nothing left , why is America now drafting legislation to control the private purchases and selling of gold ? will they make gold illegal to hold at some future in time ?? USA can simply in conjunction with other central banks throughout the eurozone effectively wipe out their debt with iincreasing the price of gold , if you revert back to the bretton woods gold standard which is very possible gold would have a rough value of about US $ 20000 Per ounce at todays price. At present there is a gold war looming , we are seeing the chinese buying massive amounts of gold , as much as they can possible get there hands on , the cost to produce gold is going up & up , with the cost to recover gold going up do you think the price of gold will go down ??
Yu cannot burn gold , tear gold ,destroy gold , you can divide gold , and one day soon you will be able to buy gold. Germany repatriating their gold is because they do not trust the federal reserve ( bankers)  Central banks are printing money like there is no tomorrow and banks around the world are lapping it up ( think Auckland) this is waht happens when there is just to much fiat money in the system . I believe there will be a massive correction as this is the only way to restore a monetry system , there are 2 choices for the bankers  1- Either wipe out all debt ( who will do that ? and who gets the debt wiped) 2- revalue the USD to gold ( effectively wipes debt out) and the bankers get to keep the gold.
I think it is so easy to pick where gold is headed as well silver.

sorry at $ 200000 USD per ounce it wipes the debt of the USA with what they currently have or say they have

I believe the USA has long since leased all it's own gold, and the gold it holds for others, to the bullion banks, which have in turn sold it. Fort Knox is empty of gold (although it may well hold many gold plated tungsten bars).

yes and why has the Fed agreed to give Germany back some of its gold over 7 years, why not (if it is just a custodian) just deliver it over 7 days?

#7 The bush fire
If you don't look you won't see.
But it is also true that what you see may not be what you imagine it to be
If you look at the moon, you see what appears to be a circular object, a two dimentional object, yet we know it is a three dimentional  sphere.
The point is, just looking is something may not be enough. We often have to look deeper

#9 The world in 2050
I believe a lot will depend on science. I have already given my veiw of the future and i think it will be a science centuary, with nano tech, DNA and many other sciences changing the world forever. Just like the last two centuaries did.

Hopefully spelling and comprehension will have improved somewhat by 2050.

Pbbly txt lnguge wll hv tkn ovr .... nd mst f th vwls wll b xtnct ....


yeah most prolly right there....GBH
and the meek shall inherit my ass...! the dumb...the fornicating proliferators like their parishes to be dumb.....spell though they may be able.
Any hoo...HAPPY NEW YEAR my good man hope you had a blast.!!!!
It's Friday YAY..!
Now even though we kick off with a post coital honeymooner, I can somehow relate to the sentiment here.

Richard decided to tie the knot with his long time girlfriend. 

One evening, after the honeymoon, he was assembling some loads for an upcoming hunt. 

His wife was standing there at the bench watching him. After along period of silence she finally speaks. 

Honey, I've been thinking, now that we are married I think it's time you quit hunting, shooting, hand loading, fishing  and even golf . Maybe you should sell your guns and boat and clubs. 

 Richard gets this horrified look on his face. 

She says, "Darling, what's wrong?" 

”There for a minute you were sounding like my ex-wife.”

"Ex wife!", she screams, "I didn't know you were married before!" 

 " I wasn't "  



Happy New Interest .co....let's get some teeth back this year and do the Brian Spondre to some unsuspecting Crafar fist.


Hello Count : Salutations , and Happy New Year ....
... sad that the Spondre incident has drifted into the mists of time ... my guess for this year is that Bernard's meek ass will meet the sole of the boot of some disgruntled ex-property investor ....  ... it's a 30 % certainty ....
It's Friday , huh .... OK , then ....
Two jumper lead cables pop out of the car boot , and wander over to the local hotel ....
... the barman looks intently at both of them ....
" OK boys , I'll serve you alcohol on one condition .... you don't start anything ! " ....

Haha.....I'm gonna use that one...!

Hopefully you will finish spell checking the entire internet by then?

World wide topsoil degradation makes Time (the publication)
NZ farming practices have not exactly emphasised carbon renewal over time.

MikeB - your approach is doomed to fail.
The Titanic analogy applies. It's starting to sink. There are not enough lifeboats (which is the same as saying there are too many passengers - overpopulation). You are resource-constrained, it's a finite ship (planet).
The population problem should have been addressed long ago (not allowed on, in the analogy, post the publication of Limits to Growth, planetarily). Addrssing it now is too late. 
Science is wonderful, but no amount of cleverness will change the displacement required to float each passenger kilo. That is the cranial failure, in a nutshell, of the 'science will save us' brigade - science can't change physics. Science can achieve things - in the analogy, they would have to work out a way to build lifeboats out of the ship, build, man and launch them, within a single hour. During which the electric-power  system goes out of action.
They didn't, and the chances ae we won't. Some of us have built our own, but if the rest didn't learn from us fast enough, that probably won't help either them, or us. It was still the valid approach, from those who understood the problem early.
Even the best scenario - all passengers in lifeboats - is a far cry from everyonge cosily aboard the bigger vessel. BAU it isn't. No amount of clever-thinking can support an ever-increasing population ever-depleting the resources of a finite planet.
Just remember, Rumplestiltskin is still a fable; the energy required outvalues the gold......

#9 just cries out for a population column, because a lotta these countries are gonna have a fast-diminishing population.  Which is a GDP and demand deflator.  I'd single out Italy, Russia, China, Japan and even Germany here:  way below pop replacement rates and as the old sayin' goes, the future belongs to those who show up for it....
I do recall a current Torygraph piece which noted that Germany is assuming a tens-of-millions fall over this planning horizon:  85 to 60 something IIRC.
And the China demographics is finally getting an airing now and then (hard to centrally plan more babies, it seems).  The bare branches (single men) plus the skewed female/male ratio (around 1.18 IIRC) leads to the old joke that the Big C could be the first gay superpower since Sparta.
Demographics is Destiny, chaps and chapesses.

Hows the Govt going to wriggle out of this!!

Are YOU bright enough to spot the difference?
Scene 1
My grandfather paid taxes so he could recieve a pension when he retired
Then - My father paid taxes so my grandfather could get the pension because the government had no money
Then - I paid taxes so my father could get the pension because the government had no money
Then - My son paid taxes so i could get the pension because the government had no money
Scene 2
I paid into a private superfund so i could get the pension
Then - My son had to pay into a private superfund so i could get my pension because the fund had no money
Then - My grandson had to pay into a private superfund so my son could get his pension because the fund had no money
And so on
The difference is
You have all been conned into privatiseing your pensions
What will you agree to privatise next?

Both sound like Ponzi schemes

Latest on the robot economy, I wonder if this is considered in the 2050 predictions

thanks for the link.  very interesting trend which seems to be changing the game in so many ways