No, apparently. There he was this afternoon at St Andrews on the Terrace, reviving long-disproved "economic" theories. I emphasise that word, because the claim from the left that Brian Easton is an economist is preposterous. He is nothing of the sort. No, dear reader. He's a pinko commie liberal, and an overweight and repulsive one at that, who feeds off Government grants and Government-funded research organisations to bleat his propaganda.
I was shocked to read that Brian Easton is still alive. Here was me, innocently assuming that some patriotic chap had finally lynched him for boring an entire community of Listener readers to death. But it warms my heart to see such a relic of the past attempt to claw his way back into the political debate.
It is one of the great joys of election time that characters previously considered extinct re-emerge every three years. Pseudo-intellectual "economists" attempt to impart their socialist political views as economic analysis. They invent obscure arguments along the lines of "a surplus isn't really a surplus", ignore the difference between capital and operating expenditure, and then pompously shout down as ignorant anybody who disagrees with them.
Not for them the basic facts of world economic truth, which has been relatively constant since the first cave-man decided to harvest a mammoth, and then got cranky when a few of his lazier cousins started demanding their "fair share". Not for Brian Easton the essence of economics: that people create wealth, rather than governments.
But let's have a look at one of Easton's recent statements:
"Governments do not deliberately encourage waste, and are prompt to deal with cases brought to their attention. There is no question that there is inefficiency in the government sector, just as there is in the private sector. "
No, Brian. Despite spending forty years on campus--some of us got away with just six--you have not learned some fundamental rules about reality. Labour Governments DO encourage waste. They will hide expenditure wherever they can, in the most obscure possible special causes, so that they can then claim that there is no money left for tax cuts. And they typically do not hide that expenditure in health and education--although even there there is considerable scope for economising. And comparing the private sector to the Government sector is just patently dishonest. The private sector is exposed to constant competitive pressure. If I allow inefficiency in my business, then my competitor will make more money than me, and be able to produce his goods and services more cheaply, and be able to drive me out of business. Government has no such commercial pressure. Government is the biggest monopoly in the New Zealand market, and as a monopoly that isn't subject to any commercial controls, it is inherently extremely inefficient.
But Easton continues with this gem:
"Some tertiary spending has been wasteful: short courses with little educational value, poorly monitored by the funder. The government is addressing the problem: hopefully it will redirect the savings into higher quality long term courses. A National government could use the savings for income tax cuts. That would be regrettable, because our tertiary sector is underfunded. To take the money from it would increase user charges on students."
Priceless stuff. And equally disingenuous. Hard to claim that the Government is addressing the problem, when after six years of the Tertiary Education Commission, which was supposed to improve education and standards, the standard of tertiary education has gone backwards. Easy, crude solution: abolish the TEC, abolish all publicly-owned tertiary providers with the exception of the seven original universities, and only fund non-University courses that have been partly-funded by Industry. Yes, that's right. Unless you're an apprentice who's being sponsored by an employer, you've got no right to waste your stupid life away on the Government purse, pursuing stupid happy-clappy "media studies", with no future. If you want to cut yourself off from the real world, pay for it yourself.
As for asserting that eliminating wasteful courses will increase user charges on students, that is simply illogical, Brian! Listen up, Brian. I know you're bung-eyed, and all, but are you looking at me? WITH BOTH EYES? Just think about it, Brian. If Bob is doing a hip-hop course, and Jane is doing a business degree, and Bob's hip-hop course is eliminated, that doesn't mean that Jane's business degree becomes more expensive.
There are two hundred thousand students studying at polytechnics. Simple solution: cut them. Let's be easy on polytech students, and assume that a whole half of them are actually studying things that will get them a job down the track. So half of them move into industry-sponsored apprenticeship training, and the other half won't be wasting a half billion dollars of taxpayers' money.
Likewise, get rid of the wananga. They are a waste of space, full-stop. Seventy thousand students receiving tax-payer's money to learn obscure culture courses does not equate to good educational value. But let's pretend, again, that half of the resource at Wananga can be redistributed to the high-value academic, university institutions. There, you've just saved another hundred and fifty million.
Then scrap the Tertiary Education Commission. Get rid of all the mindless bureaucrats who have caused tertiary education to go backwards, despite massive increases in funding. Then bring in some fiscally astute and responsible people--twenty should do it--to monitor expenditure across the sector. There. Another hundred million saved.
And woooo! Guess what! We've already paid for substantial tax cuts!
It's not hard to do, Brian. As long as you're not limp-wristed and looking for every excuse possible to rob the taxpayer of what he's rightfully earned for himself and his family.