Bryan Caplan and David Henderson  

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Segregation Equilibrium... My Student's Real Economist...

I'm quite happy to fill in for Bryan while he's holidaying in California. I finished up at GMU about three years ago before taking a job at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Bryan's given me a bit of a promotion in his description by calling me Prof; the Kiwis follow the Brits in academic ranks. I'm Senior Lecturer here, which I suppose would fall somewhere between Assistant and Associate Prof in US terms.

Bryan paints me as an angry man. In my defence, I'll note that I scored low on all the other component parts of neuroticism. On net, anger has fallen considerably since arriving in New Zealand. I'll try to come up with some suitably angry posts to make Bryan happy though. Reasons for reduced anger:

  • The safety nuts haven't yet taken over here. You're still free to injure yourself in interesting ways. Mountain roads to ski fields are exhilirating and terrifying; occasionally, cars fall off of them. The Department of Conservation might warn you against doing something particularly stupid, but you can feel free to ignore them. When folks win Darwin awards as consequence, there's no hue and cry for stricter safety regulations.
  • Politics is more relaxed. The Prime Minister lent her voice to an episode of BroTown, a cartoon that sits somewhere between Simpsons and South Park. The leader of the ACT Party spent a few weeks on the NZ version of Dancing with the Stars.
  • The Broadcasting Standards Authority is a good deal more relaxed than the FCC. Free to air broadcast television includes South Park, Deadwood and the Sopranos. In response to complaints, the BSA is far more likely to tell folks to stop whinging than it is to levy fines.
  • Society failed to implode after the legalisation of prostitution and gay marriage (civil unions).
  • I haven't had to worry about the terrorism alert status since I got here.
  • It's an easy 25 minute commute from beach to school.

On the downside:

  • I've yet to find a single Ethiopian restaurant.
  • Tyler Cowen told me that New Zealand would teach me the importance of fixed costs. He wasn't wrong.
  • Broadband speed is about 5 years behind that in the States. Recent moves to local loop unbundling make it unlikely that there will be any significant investment in fibre optic connections to residences.
  • David Friedman says we'll expect cold houses in warm climates as consequence of rational maximisation. I think the theory applies doubly so when the housing stock was built by Brits holding near-Lysenkoist beliefs about the merits of harsh environments for child-rearing.

I'll try to remember what the Beltway was like prior to my next posting. I can feel the anger rising already...


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COMMENTS (10 to date)
dearieme writes:

Summer is lovely in Christchurch, isn't it? And the beach, and Lyttleton Harbour, and the crater rim road and..... The price you pay is living in wooden tents.

Patri Friedman writes:

I'd love to see more posts about living in NZ, it's top on my list of places to expatriate to, and I'd like to learn more.

Topics of interest: Taxes, drugs, guns, culture...

Eric Crampton writes:

Dearime: Summer is great. We're living in South Brighton on Estuary near the school -- 4 minute walk to the beach. It's great. The Council's also opening up zoning around the pier for more intensive residential development, which should be all to the good. Winter's fine conditional on being willing to burn a lot of firewood.

Patri: Will see what I can do for you on more Kiwiblogging. On net, I feel much freer having moved here than I did in the States.

liberty writes:

I love Ethiopian food. Have only found Ethiopian in NYC, though I guess most big cities in the US might have at least one restaurant. Just bought an Ethiopian cookbook but have not yet learned the trick to getting the bread right. I read on the Amazon reviews I think that there is a trick not explained in the cookbook, so I will give it another shot one day.

asg writes:

Can you elaborate on the fixed costs thing?

a different Eric writes:

I think Eric is referring to the fact that small markets will have less variety. Firms won't introduce new products because in a small market the amount of profits earned won't cover the initial costs of developing the product.

Eric Crampton writes:

Instead of taking a greater quantity of short trips within the US, I take fewer, longer trips. Getting across the pacific is a big 24 hour fixed cost followed by jet lag.

Intead of ordering lots of small shipments from Amazon, I make a small number of really big orders. There's a fixed cost to shipping as well as a variable one.

Instead of friends and family coming to visit frequently for short periods, they come infrequently and stay for weeks or months.

...

C L writes:

Eric,

Can you comment on the comparison of cost of living between NZ and Washington? I've been offered a position with an NZ company in Wellington. I've visited NZ many times and love it, but they seem unwilling to go above half the salary that I'm earning here in Washington, DC. Is the cost of living really that much lower? (even in Wellington?) Or would I be taking a huge hit?

Kent writes:

Ethiopian food must be about the only sort of food not available in NZ. For example, did you know that Wellington has more Malaysian restaurants than any city outside of Malaysia?

I certainly miss them now I am in London...

j.d.d. writes:

C.L. -- Wellington is comparatively inexpensive compared to a big city like NYC or Sydney. Trademe.co.nz is the eBay of NZ and also has a lot of real-estate listings to give you an idea of rent/housing prices. It's a very compact city, great for strolling, many hills and bays, some quite dramatic scenery, and lots more not far away in the south island. Wellington city itself is surprisingly small. A lot of workers commute from Porirua, the Hutt, or Kapiti Coast. City iself has some interesting locals, and quirky public architecture. Because its the capital I think it has received more than its fair share of infrastructure funding over the years.

Quite a few different migrant communities. Some good eatin'. Cheap meat and fish. Fresh good-quality fruit-n-vege are readily available at the inner-city farmer's market every sunday. Unleaded gas $1.75/litre. Going to see a film will cost you about NZ$12.

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