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Guest lecture

How Valuable to us are Government Services?

Event series: 

Abstract from Prof Simon Kemp's Guest Lecture presented at the Treasury on 07 August 2007.

Prof Simon Kemp

Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury

Simon teaches part of two third-year classes on economic industrial and organizational psychology, and psychological research methods. At the postgraduate (Master's degree) level, he runs a year-long course on economic psychology. Simon regularly supervises Honour's projects and Master's theses, normally at the rate of about 3 per year. At present he is supervising three Ph. D. theses, three Master’s theses, and six projects in Applied Psychology. Simon is a member the University of Canterbury’s Human Ethics Committee, and the Department of Psychology’s Coordinating Committee. He is also Director/Coordinator of the department’s program in Industrial and Organisational Psychology.

Current society memberships

International Association for Research in Economic Psychology, American Psychological Association (Foreign Affiliate), Cheiron

Editing and editorial boards

Simon was editor of the Journal of Economic Psychology (published by Elsevier in The Netherlands) from 2000 to 2005 (from 2000-2003 he shared the editorship with Peter Earl). He is currently on the editorial board of the Journal of Economic Psychology, Judgment and Decision Making, and the New Zealand Journal of Psychology, and a consulting editor for Greenwood Press. Simon regularly reviews for a variety of journals and publishers, and occasionally for research granting agencies.


Governments spend a great deal of money. Does the money get spent on what people value? I examine some methods that might help answer the question, and present some results obtained from them. Overall, there does not seem to be a very close match of spending to value. However, people appear to value government goods in a rather simplistic way. For example, they do not readily distinguish the marginal and total utility obtained from them; nor do they have a good idea of what services cost to provide. It is possible that their knowledge and thinking is simple, because there is little pay-off for developing more sophisticated concepts.

Last updated: 
Monday, 15 October 2007