This Distinguished Fellowship award is made to the most popular economist to the New Zealand public over the last thirty years. The only recognisable New Zealand economist to most people on the street would be Dr Brian Easton. For his long running Listener articles and the research that backed them up, Brian Easton is a most worthy recipient of this highest honour of the New Zealand Association of Economists.
Brian Henry Easton was born in Christchurch and like many famous economists, first trained in mathematics (with an economics minor) at Canterbury. He graduated from Victoria University in economics in 1966 while working at the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, an institution he would return to direct from 1981 to 1986. Brian lectured early in his career at the University of Sussex and for twelve years at Canterbury University.
Brian’s capacity to write fortnightly economics articles for the Listener for 27 years is a signal to his commitment to understand the New Zealand economic and social environment, and to publicly communicate on an extremely wide range of issues in both micro and macroeconomics. It points to his 27 page CV of research and consulting papers that underpinned his guest lectures, honorary fellowships, travel awards and public commentary in print, radio and television.
In 2003, the University of Canterbury awarded him the degree of Doctor of Science for his research on the political economy of New Zealand. Political economy was well chosen because Brian has never been restricted by the neo-classical paradigm like so many with this pedigree. He eclectically mixed the mainstream paradigm Keynesianism, Institutionalism and work from other social sciences.
In his twenty years since leaving NZIER, Brian has been an independent researcher, and economic commentator, while holding positions at one time or other in five of New Zealand’s universities, currently including an Adjunct Chair at the Institute for Public Policy, Auckland University of Technology. He has also held visiting fellowships at the University of Melbourne, where he was Richard Downing Research Professor, and Georgetown and Harvard Universities, as a Fulbright New Zealand Distinguished Visiting Fellow.
Brian published eight books on macroeconomics, public policy, and political economy. He edited or jointly wrote another four books and he has published over thirty research monographs and reports.
His research career started with income distribution, but it widened into areas of social policy, health economics, macroeconomics, economic growth, and history.
Much of Brian’s research began with what the numbers emanating from statistical offices really mean. Few can match his understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of New Zealand’s official statistics. Brian is a quantitatively oriented, applied economist – a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society and a Chartered Statistician – and he is on advisory committees to the Statistics New Zealand and The Treasury. He is currently the economist on the Growth and Innovation Board; the private sector advisors to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on the government’s economic policy.
For his engagement with the economics profession, with policy makers and with the public, Brain Easton is a very suitable candidate for the award of distinguished fellow of the New Zealand Association of Economists.