Archive for July, 2004


July 31st, 2004 6 comments

Passion of the Present has a detailed updae on the situation in Darfur. The most hopeful news in a generally depressing situation is that

The African Union is landing about 300 troops in a few days, to protect its monitors–some of whom are already in Darfur. The AU leadership is currently considering sending more.

This marks a welcome change from the past willingness of African governments to ignore each others’ crimes and failures in the interests of “African unity”.

It’s also promising that, while the Iraq war has made intervention more difficult (for example, by handing a readymade propaganda line to the Janjaweed thugs, who can present themselves as resisting “Crusaders”) it hasn’t stopped the US and “old Europe” co-operating to put pressure on the Sudanese government. That said, the situation in Darfur is bad, and not getting any better at present.

Here’s a report on the UNSC resolution

Categories: Politics (general) Tags:

The Stalinist delusion

July 30th, 2004 10 comments

Tyler Cowen says

If I could have the answers to five questions in political science/sociology, the appeal of Stalinism to intellectuals would be one of them.

I don’t think this is as difficult a question as is often supposed.

Most of the intellectuals who professed support for Communism during the rule of Stalin (and Lenin) were primarily victims of (self-)deception. They supported the stated aims of the Communist Party (peace, democracy, brotherhood), opposed the things the Communists denounced (fascism, racism, exploitation) and did not inquire too closely into whether the actual practice of the Soviet Union and the parties it controlled was consistent with these stated beliefs. I developed this point, and the contrast with the relatively small group of intellectuals who supported the Nazis, in a review of[1] Mark Lilla’s book The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics
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Categories: Politics (general) Tags:


July 30th, 2004 19 comments

I’ve been working on a piece about productivity, targeted as an Economics Briefing for the Fin Review. This used to be the Schools Brief, but they’re trying to broaden the appeal a bit. The target audience, I think falls into two groups

* Students with a year or two of economics under their belts

* The subset of the Fin audience with an interest in economic policy issues, as opposed to business news

Any suggestions or criticisms will be much appreciated.

By the way, I hope no-one minds being used as unpaid editorial advisers. The payoff is that you get to read stuff well before the print audience.
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Categories: Economics - General Tags:

Libertarians and war

July 29th, 2004 10 comments

Over at the Volokh conspiracy, Randy Barnett poses the question of what Libertarianism as a political philosophy tells us about foreign policy, and comes up with the conclusion “not much”, particularly in relation to war. He says his views are tentative and invites others to contribute to the debate. I’ll accept, partly because it’s intellectually interesting, partly because Jim Henley (who could, I think have done a much better job) has gone into hiatus, and partly because I think internationalism (at least my version of it) shares some points in common with libertarianism, while being opposed on others.
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Categories: World Events Tags:

Not a happy camper

July 29th, 2004 24 comments

Ross Garnaut has been highly critical of the FTA with the US and the way it has been debated. He has now broadened this criticism into a more generally pessimistic view of the Australian economy. Since Ross has historically been an optimist, this is quite a shift. He points to excessive domestic demand, the current account deficit and signs of incipient inflation, masked by favorable movements in terms of trade.

Garnaut argues that our impending decline is due to the abandonment of microeconomic reform. In my discussion of the Howard government in Robert Manne’s book of the same title, I also observed that microeconomic reform has slowed down substantially under Howard. However, I’m much less of a fan of microeconomic reform than Garnaut – the Kiwis had reform in spades, and it didn’t do them any good. In diagnosing the same imbalances, I’d point to causes such as the deliberate promotion of a boom, then a bubble in the housing market.

In addition, while I don’t believe in mechanistic business cycle models, I think there is some truth to the idea that, the longer an expansion goes on, the more fragile it becomes. A good run of luck breeds complacency, which encourages unsound investments and unwise consumption, and thereby brings about its own downfall. Garnaut rejects this view, saying “no economic expansion is doomed simply on account of its longevity”.

Categories: Economics - General Tags:

Generation game, Round 32964

July 29th, 2004 3 comments

How do articles like this one, with its daringly original reference to War of the Generations keep on getting published? Is there anything here that hasn’t already been said a thousand times by Paul Watson and refuted almost as often on this blog?

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Greens economic policy, part 2

July 29th, 2004 21 comments

The discussion on the Greens’ economic policy has been really great, and very helpful to me. Its helped me in working the short extract I posted into an opinion piece for the Fin, which came out today (posted below the fold). I’d like to thank everyone who took part in the discussion – in more or less subtle ways, they’ve helped to improve the final article.
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Categories: Economic policy Tags:

Merom review

July 28th, 2004 2 comments

In response to a couple of requests, I’ve belatedly posted the published version of my review of Gil Merom How Democracies Lose Small Wars. Feel free to post your own thoughts.
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Categories: Books and culture Tags:

Another language query

July 27th, 2004 5 comments

Following on the question of whether Alan Woods’ description of me as “quite bright” was high or faint praise (Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber discusses the US-UK division on this), I have another question.

I’ve noticed that the New York Times uses the word “debtor” interchangeably to mean either “person who owes money”, as in this story which refers to debtors in bankruptcy or “person who is owed money”, as in this story on Iraq and this on Mike Tyson.

Is this standard US usage, or just bad subediting?

Categories: General Tags:

Greens' economic policy

July 27th, 2004 65 comments

Here’s an extract from a piece I’ve been working on which will appear in Adelaide Voices

Having been disappointed in the economic policy offerings of the major parties, it is natural for an economist to look to the offerings of the remaining serious alternative, the Greens (it seems unlikely that the Democrats will manage a serious run), with a mixture of hope and trepidation; hope because the Greens have generally been willing to take a stand and trepidation because the economic policy platforms of minor parties frequently contain large elements of wishful thinking, small-group hobby horses and plain irrationality

It turns out that trepidation is unnecessary. The Greens economic policy is, quite simply, the most coherent and intellectually-defensible document of its kind ever put forward by an Ausralian political party. At the level of broad principles, it begins with the recognition that economic policy must be financially, as well as environmentally and socially, sustainable. Far from seeking cheap popularity by arguing for both tax cuts and increased public expenditure, the Greens have insisted that public sector debt should be matched by adequate capacity to service debt, and that dubious financial expedients like the use of privatisation to reduce measured debt should be avoided.

The policy is just as good in detail as it is in broad outline. The proposed tax policy initiatives, including a return to full capital gains tax, an assault on tax avoidance and a carbon tax, are just the kind of initiatives that Labor ought to be proposing. Unlike the modern Labor party, the Greens have no hesitation in espousing equality as a goal of economic policy.

Sad to say, in most electorates, a vote for the Greens will have purely symbolic significance, and it will be the allocation of second preferences between Liberal and Labor candidates that really counts. Moreover, it is doubtful that many Green voters will be motivated primarily by concerns about economic policy. Nevertheless, anyone who decides to vote for the Greens on the strength of their support for the environment and opposition to war should be encouraged to know that they are also choosing a party with a policy that is economically as well as socially responsible. If only the major parties could claim as much.

I’d be interested in readers’ comments.

Categories: Economic policy Tags:

Monday Message Board

July 26th, 2004 13 comments

It’s Monday again, and time for the Monday Message Board. Post your comments on any topic (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please).

Since most of my regular commenters participate in MMB, this is a good time to announce that GG Sedgwick is running the 2004 Blog Comments Award.

There’s no category in the awards for this, but I’ve always believed that this blog has the best comments section in the Oz blogosphere, and one of the best anywhere. Thanks to all those who’ve made it so.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

What I'm reading

July 25th, 2004 7 comments

The Yellow Admiral and Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian. These are respectively the 18th and 20th in the Aubrey-Maturin series. I particularly enjoyed Aubrey’s role as a paternalist squire preventing the enclosure of a local commons – almost the only time in the entire series where he is heroic and successful by land.

Blue at the Mizzen brings me to the end of the series, always an ambiguous feeling for me. There’s still a couple I haven’t managed to get hold of, including The Nutmeg of Consolation and The Hundred Days. Perhaps I should set up one of those Amazon wishlists

Categories: Books and culture Tags:

Big government is good for economic freedom

July 24th, 2004 5 comments

Over at Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok recently presented a graph showing a positive correlation between UN measures of gender development and the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom Index. Of course, Alex presented the usual caveats about causation and correlation, but he concluded “at a minimum the graph indicates that capitalism and gender development are compatible contrary to many radicals”

This prompted me to check out how the Economic Freedom index was calculated. The relevant data is all in a spreadsheet, and shows that the index is computed from about 20 components, all rated as scores out of 10, the first of which is general government consumption spending as a percentage of total consumption. Since the Fraser Institute assumes that government consumption is bad for economic freedom, the score out of 10 is negatively correlated with the raw data.

Looking back at Alex’s post, I thought it likely that high levels of government expenditure would be positively rather than negatively correlated with gender development, which raised the obvious question of the correlation between government consumption expenditure and economic freedom (as defined by the Fraser Institute index). Computing correlations, I found that, although it enters the index negatively, government consumption expenditure has a strong positive correlation (0.42) with economic freedom as estimated by the Fraser Institute. Conversely, the GCE component of the index is negatively correlated (0.43) with the index as a whole. By contrast, items with a strong ideological component, like labour market controls, were very weakly correlated with the aggregate index.
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Categories: Economics - General Tags:

McKibbin on the Castles-Henderson critique

July 24th, 2004 7 comments

Warwick McKibbin has a piece in today’s Fin (subscription required) endorsing the Castles-Henderson critique of the modelling behind IPCC projections of CO2 emissions. He refers back to a paper, with David Pearce and Alison Stegman, for the Lowy Institute (PDF file). I’ve read the paper and I think it’s broadly correct. On the other hand, I’ve previously argued that the Castles-Henderson critique is invalid (see also here). So what gives?
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Categories: Environment Tags:

The Google circle

July 24th, 2004 6 comments

I found this mildly snarky piece from Alan Wood in today’s Oz

Google’s worth is not only preoccupying Wall Street advisers and investors, but has generated a great volume of argument on the web itself, which can of course be tracked by using Google. One of the first into the fray was Australian economist John Quiggin, described on his own website as “more intelligent than Britney Spears”.

A popular market guess of the value of Google’s equity is $US20 billion ($28 billion) to $US25 billion, with more recent estimates of $US30 billion or more. Quiggin, who is in fact quite bright, said he couldn’t draw a plausible earnings path that would yield a present value of $US25 billion at any reasonable discount rate.

But what’s really interesting is that I didn’t have to look for the article. It was sent to me by Google news alerts. As I said in the original discussion, I use Google all the time, but unless text ads have a subliminal effect for which Google is being paid, I’ve never contributed a penny to its revenues, and quite possibly never will.” This implies that the social value of Google is more than its market value.

Categories: Metablogging Tags:

Why does the efficient markets hypothesis matter ?

July 23rd, 2004 20 comments

Reading the discussion of earlier posts about the efficient markets hypothesis, it seems that the significance of the issue is still under-appreciated. In this post, Daniel Davies pointed out the importance of EMH as a source of pressure on less-developed countries to liberalise capital flows, which contributed to a series of crises from the mid-1990s onwards, with huge human costs. This is also an issue for developed countries, as I’ll observe, though the consequences are nowhere near as severe. The discussion also raised the California energy farce, which, as I’ll argue is also largely attributable to excessive faith in EMH. Finally, and coming a bit closer to the stock market, I’ll look at the equity premium puzzle and its implications for the mixed economy.
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Categories: Economics - General Tags:

More on the National Water Initiative

July 23rd, 2004 Comments off

I was overseas when the Council of Australian Governments (bearer of the unlovely acronym COAG) announced the details of the National Water Initiative. Based on the newspaper reports I read at the time, my preliminary evaluation was quite negative.

I’ve now had the chance to read the actual announcement and supporting documents, and I’m feeling a lot happier. The crucial clause is the one about reductions in water usage, which says

a framework that assigns the risk of future reductions in water availability as follows: -

* reductions arising from natural events such as climate change, drought or bushfire to be borne by water users,

* reductions arising from bona fide improvements in knowledge about water systems’ capacity to sustain particular extraction levels to be borne by water users up to 2014. After 2014, water users to bear this risk for the first three per cent reduction in water allocation, State/Territory and the Australian Government would share (one-third and two-third shares respectively) the risk of reductions of between three per cent and six per cent; State/Territory and the Australian Government would share equally the risk of reductions above six per cent,

* reductions arising from changes in government policy not previously provided for would be borne by governments, and

* where there is voluntary agreement between relevant State or Territory Governments and key stakeholders, a different risk assignment model to the above may be implemented;

This seems like a pretty good balance to me. The ten years to 2014 should provide enough time to deal reasonably with the worst mistakes of the past. After that, it’s fair enough that governments should bear most of the risk if they’ve still overallocated water.

A nice feature for me is that the time-scale fits neatly with my proposal for governments to meet environmental goals by purchasing reversion rights for water allocations in ten years’ time.

Categories: Economics - General, Environment Tags:


July 22nd, 2004 15 comments

As far as I can see, the Right seems to be winning the scandal wars just at the moment. I didn’t follow the Plame-Wilson scandal the first time around, so I can’t really tell how damaging or otherwise the latest claims from US and British intelligence may be to Wilson’s credibility. Similarly, although it seems clear that Sandy Berger has made a fool of himself , I have no idea what this means for anything that might possibly matter. Finally, it appears that last Thanksgiving in Iraq, Bush posed not with a fake turkey, but with a display turkey, never intended for carving but to adorn the buffet line. I’m glad that’s been cleared up.

All this confirms me in the view that the kind of “smoking gun” or “what did X know and when did s/he know it” scandal that has dominated politics since Watergate is a waste of everybody’s time. The real scandals are those that are, for the most part, on the public record.
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Categories: Economics - General Tags:


July 22nd, 2004 8 comments

I managed to prove Milton Friedman[1] right in fine style today. First I gave a talk on the FTA to about 700 high school students, which was supposed to sell them on the idea of studying economics at UQ. In return (and in addition to a small gift from the Queensland Economics Teachers Association) I got an invitation to lunch which I declined so I could lunch with the seminar speaker in my other department, Political Science and International Relations (it was Joe Camilleri, talking on Islam and the West). Arriving early, I ordered straight away to beat the rush, only to discover that, had I waited I would have had my lunch paid for out of some fund or another.

So, if there are any free lunches about, I wasn’t getting them today. Instead, I paid three times (giving the talk, turning up at the seminar and handing over the cash) and only got fed once. Fortunately, I love giving talks and (given a good speaker) like attending seminars.

fn1. Although Friedman and Robert Heinlein usually share the credit for this acronym, Tyler Cowen points out that it should actually go to Alvin Hansen, America’s most prominent early advocate of Keynesianism, and someone whom the average person with a TANSTAAFL bumper sticker might be surprised to find they agreed.

Categories: Economics - General Tags:

Arbitrage and the video store

July 22nd, 2004 20 comments

A discussion about excessive advertising over at Troppo Armadillo led me to think a bit about the fact that I never watch movies on commercial TV any more, because there are too many ads. Being an economist, I naturally like to assure myself that my conduct is rational, so I did the numbers.

The Media Watch story linked by Ken Parish indicates that TV stations are allowed 15 minutes of ads per hour, which implies that a 2-hour movie can be padded out with around 40 minutes of ads. This seems consistent with my memory of the last time I tried watching such a movie.

For most of the movies shown on commercial TV, I have the alternative option of walking to the video store up the street (10 minutes return) and hiring a video or DVD ($5 max). So, the trade-off is $5 vs 30 minutes. in effect, the TV station is paying me $10 an hour to watch ads. Since I value my time at more than $10 an hour, I choose the rental option.

This seemed convincing to me, but how generally applicable is it? Not everyone lives as close to a video store as I do, but then you can always rent a week’s worth of videos at a time, so the allocation of 10 minutes per movie seems reasonable. As regards the $10 an hour, I have, I think it a perfect arbitrage argument. The average video store pays $10 an hour[1], usually has casual work going, and, in most cases, will let the staff borrow reasonable numbers of videos free of charge.

fn1. I’m ignoring tax here, but if your marginal tax rate is an issue your time is worth more than $10 an hour.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Some links on the Middle East

July 21st, 2004 Comments off

Just a few links with useful info and argument on various aspects of the situation in the Middle East and the surrounding region (very broadly and loosely defined)

* An excellent piece by Stephen Kinzer on Turkey’s democratic Islamist government, and the prospects for admission to the EU

* Juan Cole points out that the case against Iran is every bit as problematic as the case against Iraq.

* Also via Juan Cole, two views on the Wall being built by the Sharon government

* A powerful piece by Nicholas Kristof on Rwanda and Darfur

Categories: World Events Tags:

The virus of error

July 20th, 2004 4 comments

In the most recent London Review of Books, Hugh Pennington has a generally excellent article on measles and erroneous (to put it charitably) research linking the combined MMR vaccine to autism. It’s a pity therefore that, on a peripheral issue, he perpetuates an equally glaring error, saying

‘Most people have an intuitive appreciation that the best vaccine programme, from an individual’s point of view, is one where almost everyone else is vaccinated while they are not, so that they are indirectly protected without incurring any of the risks or inconvenience associated with direct protection.’ If too many people act in this way, the infection becomes commoner in the population as a whole, and returns as a real and significant threat to the unimmunised. This is a modern version of the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ described by Garrett Hardin in his influential 1968 essay: 16th-century English peasants had free grazing on commons; their need to supplement food supplies and income was very great; the resulting overgrazing wrecked the commons for everyone.

As I’ve pointed out previously Hardin’s story was, in historical terms, a load of tripe.

It’s interesting to note that, in repeating Hardin’s story, Pennington adds the spurious specificity of “16th century England”, whereas Hardin’s account was not specific regarding dates and places, and therefore harder to refute. This is characteristic of the way in which factoids are propagated.

Categories: Life in General Tags:


July 20th, 2004 15 comments

Don Arthur and Ken Parish have been discussing values and civility, with links to other bloggers. Both posts are well worth reading. I don’t have anything new to say on this at present, but civility is the kind of thing that’s better shown by example than described in the abstract. With some exceptions, and with occasional lapses by nearly everyone, I think Ozplogistan sets a pretty good example. I rarely agree with, for example, Andrew Norton or John Humphries Humphreys, and frequently disagree with Ken Parish, but we manage to have productive discussions despite this.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Rational manias

July 20th, 2004 49 comments

There’s a cottage industry within economics involving the production of historical arguments giving rational[1] explanations of seemingly irrational historical episodes, of which the most famous is probably the Dutch tulip boom/mania. This Slate article refers to the most recent example, a complex argument regarding changes in contract rules which seems plausible, but directly contradicts other explanations I’ve seen.

Once opened, questions like this are rarely closed. Still, articles of this kind seem a lot less interesting in 2004 than they did in, say, 1994. In 1994, the efficient markets hypothesis (the belief that asset markets invariably produce the best possible estimate of asset value based on all available information) was an open question, and the standard account of the Dutch tulip mania was evidence against it. In 2004, the falsity of the efficient markets hypothesis is clear to anyone open to being convinced by empirical evidence.
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Categories: Economics - General Tags:

DeLong on interest rates

July 19th, 2004 3 comments

There’s an interesting piece by Brad DeLong in Saturday’s Australian Financial Review, which I can’t find anywhere online.He lists four reasons why interest rates can be expected to rise in the future. The first two are just two facets of the same thing – the embrace of deficit finance by the US Republicans in both Congress and the executive branch. The third is closely related: the failure of Western European governments to address the coming fiscal crisis associated with retirement income policies. All of these are currently being offset by the willingness of the Chinese and Indian central banks to buy US and Euro bonds in an effort to maintain competitive exchange rates. But this can’t last forever.

The fourth factor is “the inability of Western European governments top enact sufficiently bold liberalising reforms to create the possibility of full employment, together with the failure of Western European monetary policy to be sufficiently stimulative to create the reality of full employment”. I have some doubts about this. Leaving aside any questions about the efficacy of “liberalising reforms”, it’s far from clear that the adoption of stimulatory monetary policy in the short run is conducive to low nominal interest rates in the long run. I would have thought that just as stimulatory deficits in a recession need to be offset by larger surpluses during booms, an active monetary policy implies a larger variance in interest rates over the cycle.

More significantly, it seems to me that, on a crucial point Brad has the argument backwards. He says “Believers in low interest rates … point to rapid technological progress, which has boosted output.” In general, technological progress ought to create new investment opportunities at high rates of return, while the associated increase in asset values should raise current consumption. This should raise the real rate of interest, not lower it. In fact, this is precisely the argument Brad makes in relation to India and China.

On checking, I was surprised to find out that the ratio of nonresidential gross investment to US GDP is near an all-time low, at 10.0 per cent (you can get the data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis . Taking account of the increasing share of computers and software, which have high depreciation rates, it seems likely that the net investment share is lower than ever. Maybe this can be explained if all the technological progress takes the form of capital-saving reductions in the cost of computing and telecommunications. This would reduce demand for capital (but ought to increase demand for labor, something that has evidently not taken place).

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Monday Message Board

July 19th, 2004 24 comments

It’s Monday again, and time for the Monday Message Board. This is a chance for everyone to give their comments on any topic. Also, if you have longer pieces you’d like to draw to the attention of readers, feel free to post a link. I’ve been a bit slack about policing the “no coarse language” rule in the last couple of weeks, but please adhere to it and stick to civilised discussion.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

PPPs – the magic pudding lives

July 19th, 2004 1 comment

There’s quite a good piece on Public-Private Partnerships by Graeme Hodge in today’s Age. Fair and balanced, but providing some justified scepticism. Meanwhile the news page of the same paper has a perfect example of the magic pudding mentality that still underlies most advocacy of PPP arrangements.

Brian Caldwell, the outgoing dean of education at Melbourne University, has called on the Bracks Government to follow the lead of the Blair Government in Britain, which is rebuilding schools in partnership with the private sector…Professor Caldwell said that while the Government was moving “quite impressively” to improve the quality of buildings, the cost in many schools was enormous.He called on the Government to adopt the policy of the Blair Government, which is rebuilding schools in urban areas. It often involved the private sector building schools and leasing them back to the Government, which paid them off over 25 years.

Caldwell doesn’t mention cost savings or risk transfer or any of the other reasons why PPPs might be worthwhile, he just seems to think that this is a way of getting money for nothing.

Caldwell on to say that the British PPP program is “coupled with redesigning the educational programs of the schools.” But there is, in general, no link between PPP construction and educational programs, which are typically still public in these cases. Conversely, there are plenty of examples of partial or complete privatisation of education in systems where the public maintains ownership of the school buildings (as with PPP construction, the record of such ventures is mixed at best).

Categories: Economic policy Tags:

Another enterprising university disaster

July 18th, 2004 10 comments

A few years ago, Monash University was being described as the first global university‘ on the strength of its multiple campuses in Australia, Malaysia, the UK and South Africa. Along with Alan Gilbert of Melbourne, then VC David Robinson[1] was one of the leading promoters of the idea of the ‘enterprising university’. In practice this meant using the public endowment of the university to establish private, for-profit offshoots, an agenda that is still being pushed vigorously by Tim Dodd and the AFR Higher Education Section. Robinson aimed for a campus on every continent, while Gilbert pushed the idea that the Internet could be used to bring academic handloom weavers into the factory age, an idea embodied in U21 Global.

Now Monash’s African operation is described as a money pit. Exactly the same could be said of U21Global[1], a $US50 million enterprise which has so far produced nothing more than a very ordinary online MBA to add to the hundreds already on the market.

The question of why, outside narrowly vocational training, for-profit educational ventures are almost invariably unsuccessful is a complex and difficult one. But the facts speak for themselves. From an Australian perspective,an equally important question is why university managers (mostly former academics with no obvious qualifications for a business career) entrusted with large sums of public money have been allowed to dissipate it in money-losing speculative investments.

fn1. Robinson got sacked a couple of years ago over a plagiarism scandal. As I pointed out in a very early post, this was hypocritical behavior on the part of a University council that backed his anti-academic agenda. “University managers have done their best to suppress the assumptions of free exchange of information in which notions like ‘plagiarism’ make sense. In the brave new world of ‘intellectual property’, you nail down what you can of your own ideas and appropriate anything from the common pool that hasn’t already been grabbed. The former vice-chancellor of Monash seemed entirely suited to the new world, and it was hypocritical to sack him.”

fn2. As with Monash, the term “global” is an aspiration rather than a reality. In practice, U21Global does not even try to compete outside the Asian market, and it seems that it is increasingly focusing on Singapore, its physical location.

Categories: World Events Tags:

The new Iraq

July 16th, 2004 11 comments

Although there’s plenty of news coverage of inquiries into the “intelligence” that justified the Iraq war, coverage of events in Iraq itself seems to have declined sharply since the formal handover of sovereignty and the shutdown of the Coalition Provisional Administration. There seems to be a general media consensus that things have gone quiet, with the result that, when the usual news of bombings, kidnappings and assassinations is reported, it’s always prefaced with something like Suicide Blast Shatters a Calm (NYT 15 July) or after a week of relative calm (Seattle Times 7 July).

Regardless of the calmness or otherwise of the situation, the installation of Allawi as PM has certainly produced a new dynamic. Allawi has moved quickly to establish himself as a strongman, resolving by default the questions left unanswered in the “handover”. His announcements of emergency powers and the establishment of a security service/secret police have been criticised, but they amount to little more than the assumption of powers previously exercised by the CPA with no legal basis of any kind. The big question before the handover was whether any new military operations would be under the control of the interim government or of the American military. Allawi has moved pretty quickly to ensure that he will give the orders here, putting the onus on the American military to come to his aid if his forces run into serious resistance.
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Categories: World Events Tags:

Read it first in blogs

July 15th, 2004 6 comments

Today’s SMH reprints a piece from the NYT on the impact of the Free Trade Agreement on pharmaceuticals. The Ozplogosphere was all over this a couple of days ago.

Categories: Metablogging Tags: