Saturday, November 11, 2006

Political Compass Meme

Economic Left/Right: 3.13
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.08

Helps to serve as a disclaimer for your posts :D - interesting that it does actually place me about where I would expect myself to be. From reading the posts around the blogosphere it sounds like it is relatively accurate...
So where do your persuasions lie?

Incentivising sub-optimal behaviour

The interesting thing in watching the latest round of commerce commission inquiries into Credit Cards and interchange payments is that the issues highly parallel many policy initiatives that Labour has been implementing these terms.

The primary issue with Credit Card interchange fees and the reason they stay high is because there is a behavioural driver towards using the most inefficient method of payment.

To explain (very briefly) - when you pay via Credit Card the charge for using the card (the net revenue) goes to the bank that has issued you with the card. IE you have an ASB Credit Card, when you pay with it ASB Bank makes money, and the bank that the merchant you are buying from actually loses money. When you pay via EFTPOS however it is the opposite way around - you pay with your ASB Bank EFTPOS card the ASB Bank loses a transaction fee to the merchant banking operation. In both cases the transaction switch (ETSL or EFTPOS NZ) takes a cut, but this can be seen as net zero across a comparison of transaction type.

So the issuing bank has a direct incentive to have you pay via the Credit Card, and not your EFTPOS card; which is why you get reward points on your Visa purchases, and pay transaction fees on your ETFPOS purchases. This is despite there being less parties involved in the EFTPOS transaction (no VISA / Mastercard to take their cut), and the overall system actually being cheaper and more efficient.

So as a consumer presented with the skewed information that we have at our fingertips it seems that we are better off paying via our Credit Card; and as an individual we are. However systemically this leads to higher prices, and in net terms we actually end up losing out as the amount we are paying for the goods includes a higher and higher percentage of averaged transaction cost rather than actual good / service provision.

Now apply this to the policy initiatives that Labour has used, particularly in the recent term:

WFF incentivises the premature forming of a family unit, particularly where an individuals wages / salaries are expected to rise over the medium term.

Stepped income tax brackets increases the incentive to use and retain lawyers / accountants increasing transaction costs rather than actual good / service provision.

Tax free student loans encourage borrowers to borrow as much capital as possible, and take the longest possible time to pay back - on the first major debt commitment they are ever likely to have.

Capital Gains initiatives encourage the diversification of a persons portfolio to be reduced, tending towards a maximum diversification across Australasia.

There are many more examples that they have given recently - take the time to think critically about the effects of your Governments policies - both in terms of what behaviour that encourages in terms of being beneficial to the individual, and whether the net effect is just an increase in fiscal drag on the economy.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Been out of touch

Just to make you jealous (our room with a view) - finally made it down to Queenstown for a week away (so no posting last week) - and it was more than enjoyable to cut oneself off from the world over that time.
So now this week will be a case of slowly emerging from the hermitage once again ;-)

And yes - we did the bungy; Nevis = 143m = 8.5 second freefall

Auckland, great city, great future, great big bill...

I'm presuming everyone in Auckland just received the latest Auckland City Annual Report Summary via their local pamphlet deliverer?

If not then you would have missed the delightful performance of our elected officials, who despite gaining $44 million more in revenue than forcast managed to outdo themselves by increasing expenditure by $209 million more than forcast to still reach a deficit situation.

To be fair they explain that much of this is due to one-off non-budgeted expenditure - but then again missing one-off expenditures from the budget that make up 37% of the original budget size would get most of us fired.

Meanwhile I'm sure everyone will be delighted to congratulate the 48 winners of $296,000 each in public works grants. I can partially understand the council wanting to get involved in flood risk reduction - but the question has to be asked at what point it would be more economical to buy the land as wetland reserve? Especially as the delapidated number of Kahikitea wetlands is recognised as being core to the plumitting native bird numbers. And that is before pointing out as a good Libertarian; why are the general Auckland pubilc being called on to increase the value of others property who specifically got their land for the price they did due to location and geological features that lead to the aforementioned flood risk.
You may find it harder to argue against me in favour of the council spending than you might think - my house happens to be on the edge of a 100 year flood plain. You may be willing to pay me to make that a 500 year flood plain, but personally I know that we got our land for the price we did because of it.