Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Would it be possible to turn back the clock?

I suspect that most of you will call me an economic moron and a nostalgic twit, but I am way past giving a hoot about such easily thrown rebukes. That’s one good thing about getting older. I want those of you with a memory that goes back to the 1960’s to go back to that time (in your head, because I haven’t been able to find a workable time machine) and think about what we had. Try to keep it realistic and clear the fog from your rose-coloured sun glasses.
The 1960’s represented a time when we had almost full employment and a very robust local manufacturing sector. Names like F and P along with the iconic Crown Lynn were known by everyone. There were many other names that have gone, along with the jobs. We even had cars assembled in NZ and for a while we experimented with a car and a strange looking utility vehicle. That it was a joke doesn’t matter. We were prepared to try almost anything.
All this came at a price of course; nearly everything was expensive, even with some subsidies from the Government. Everything imported had high taxes and some of the prices would have your head reeling, if they were converted into today’s money.
We had to think before we purchased a major item like a TV for instance. There was only one channel and it was in black and white. I well remember our family arriving in Auckland and I had never seen a TV. The poor neighbours had to put up with us watching through the windows until my parents paid an astronomical price for a TV. If you wanted a new car, you had to go on a waiting list and a ‘late model’ trade-in was essential. The colour--- whatever was available. Of course if you had overseas funds, then you didn’t have that problem.
I suppose it came down to meeting your needs rather than your wants. Weekend shopping was years away so if you were lucky, some of the shops were open on Saturday morning. Weekends really were weekends and the family actually had time to do things together.
You know how things have changed---for the better? ---- That’s over to you. Do we return to those times and have a ‘protectionist economy or do we stay with the purely free market version? Other countries continue to subsidise their industries to protect employment and local production. Why do we have to be so pure then? Would the world come to an end if we re-introduced some of the subsidies from the past? I don’t know and the economists will never agree. Do we continue to run down proven industries like the railways and the support structures they need? Take the Gisborne rail link and the workshops that could have built to new electric hardware. Surely there could be a better balance, rather than the gung-ho lowest price approach we now have---read, ‘but it from China,’ a country that is not averse to protectionist policies. I am sure the USA is going to rue the day when they went down the ‘buy it all from China’ policy.
So, is the road we have travelled the right one or are we just going to become a ‘food producer for the rest of the world’? Maybe it is too late to turn back the clock. Maybe I am suffering from ‘future shock,’ a natural affliction for one looking at later years in life.