The FIRE Economy

The FIRE Economy

New Zealand’s Reckoning

The FIRE economy – built on finance, insurance and real estate – is now the world’s principal source of wealth creation. Its rise has transformed our political, economic and social landscapes, supported by a neoliberal regime that celebrates markets, profit and risk. From rising inequality and ballooning household debt to a global financial crisis and fiscal austerity, the neoliberal ‘orthodoxy’ has brought instability and empowered the few. Yet it remains remarkably resilient, even resurgent, in New Zealand and abroad.

In 1995 Jane Kelsey set out a groundbreaking account of the neoliberal revolution in The New Zealand Experiment. Now she marshals an exceptional range of evidence to show how this transfer of wealth and power has been systematically embedded over three decades.

Today organisations and commentators once at the vanguard of neoliberal reform, including the IMF and Financial Times journalist Martin Wolf, are warning the current model is unsustainable. A post-neoliberal era beckons. In The FIRE Economy Kelsey identifies the risks posed by FIRE and the barriers embedded neoliberalism presents to a progressive, post-neoliberal transformation – and urges us to act. This is a book New Zealand cannot afford to ignore.

Jane Kelsey talks to the Fabians, 5 August 2015

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Print publication:
Ebook publication: Jul 2015
Pages: 344
RRP: $49.99
ISBN: 9781927247839
ISTC: A022013000006178
DOI: 10.7810/9781927247839

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'Trading Places: Running NZ like an investment fund', John McCrone, BusinessDay, 6 February 2016

'Jane Kelsey: Govt spin won't stop TPP facts emerging', Jane Kelsey, NZ Herald, 13 October 2015

'We need to start having that debate before we have a crisis. We need to stop dealing with domestic problems in ‘silos’ and look at the systemic issues behind them. We need to plan and think ahead, not just focussing on the individual risks that could arise. We need to look at what is being said internationally and how we could do things differently – both to pre-empt another crisis or if one was to happen.' Jane Kelsey to Law News, Issue 32, 18 September 2015

'Professor Jane Kelsey discusses new book', Kirsty Lawrence, Manawatu Standard, 10 September 2015

'Jane Kelsey's The FIRE economy debunks the myth of neoliberalism', Morgan Godfery, Sunday Star Times, 30 August 2015

'Scorched earth', Bruce Munro, Otago Daily Times, 3 August 2015

'How does the TPP affect little old me at home', Jane Kelsey with Mike Hosking, Seven Sharp

'New Zealand in Denial: a review of Jane Kelsey's "The FIRE Economy"', Wayne Hope, The Daily Blog, 27 July 2015

Extract from The FIRE Economy, Scoop, 17 July 2015

'Jane Kelsey - The Fire This Time', Radio New Zealand, Sunday Morning, 19 July 2015

Coverage of the Wellington launch, Scoop, 15 July 2015

Jane Kelsey with Philippa Tolley, Insight, Radio New Zealand, 12 July 2015


'In this thoroughly researched analysis of the genesis and form of New Zealand’s financial sector, Kelsey decisively illustrates how the complex confluence of political and economic conditions, ideas and practices that constitute the financial world rely on and reproduce very concrete relations of exploitation, inequality and the general state of economic, political and social crisis in which we find ourselves today.' Shanti Daellenbach, New Zealand Sociology, 30, 4 (2015)

'Jane Kelsey’s new book is a tour de force, a fascinating account of how the neoliberal “revolutionaries” (as they thought of themselves) went about embedding neoliberal principles at the commanding heights and all the way down to the nooks and crannies of New Zealand policy and institutions (education, health, welfare, civil service, diplomatic corps, post office, infrastructure), from 1984 onwards.' Robert Wade, New Zealand Studies Network, 22 December 2015

'An essential critical read on the state of New Zealand's political economy by our most prominent dissident academic. Prof Kelsey provides a rigorous analysis of dangerous trends in our small and vulnerable economy, now dominated by Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (Fire). She identifies how neoliberal capitalism maintains and extends its hold, even while its dysfunctional aspects become more obvious.' Victor Billot, Otago Daily Times, 2015 Must Reads, 21 December 2015

'Hopefully everyone in NZ who was talking about Thomas Piketty’s Capital earlier this year has latched onto this one by now too.' Kathryn Carmody, Booknotes Unbound 'Favourite books of 2015', December 2015

‘Just about any page of this book highlights well-argued conclusions or eye-popping data. The reader often has to stop to take in the ramifications … it is much more readable than a work dealing with such complex and technical issue could have been. It’s still a dense read, but all the more rewarding for that.’ Paul Little, North and South, October 2015

'The main strength of the book lies in how it integrates analysis and description with the call for an effective counter discourse, and for a reorganisation of the social forces that were locked out of the political process in the transition to neoliberalism. The central subject is not really the FIRE economy, but rather the neoliberal system on which the continued survival of FIRE is predicated.' Giovanni Tiso, 27 July 2015

'I believe Auckland University Law Professor Jane Kelsey has written a very important book, warning us that our economy is being burdened with unsustainable debt and that we are sleepwalking to a potential financial crisis. She is not alone in her stance.' Mike Hutcheson, Idealog, 23 July 2015