Archive for January, 2005

Tsunami appeal afterthoughts

January 17th, 2005 5 comments

Once again, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the tsunami appeal, especially cosponsors. Most of the pledges have already been redeemed, and the remainder are flowing in as people get some free time (I got notification of one more just as I was typing these words). In this post, I want to answer a few questions that were raised in the course of the appeal. In fact, part of the idea was to get people thinking about such questions.
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Categories: Life in General Tags:

Autonomy (crossposted at CT)

January 17th, 2005 15 comments

Following a lead from Bill Gardner I’ve been reading >The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects our Health and Longeivityby Michael Marmot[1]. The core of Marmot’s book, which is fascinating in itself is his empirical work showing that, as you move up any kind of hierarchy (Marmot looked at British civil servants) your health status improves. I’ve done a little bit of work myself relating to the links between health, education and life expectancy at the national level, and Marmot’s micro findings fit very neatly with mine.

What’s even more interesting though (to me and to Bill, I think) is the general idea of autonomy as a source of good health[2]. He debunks, for example, the long-discredited, but still widely-believed notion of executive stress and shows that the more control you have over your work environment and your life in general, the less likely you are to suffer the classic stress-related illnesses, such as heart disease.

It seems to me that autonomy, or something like it, is at the root of many of the concerns commonly seen as part of notions like freedom, security and democratic participation. I’m still struggling with this, but reading Marmot has crystallised some thoughts I’ve had for a long time. I’ve put some thoughts over the page – comments appreciated.
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Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Are high oil prices here to stay (repost) ?

January 17th, 2005 10 comments

There’s been a lot of interest in oil lately, so I’m reposting a piece I posted last year (here and on Crooked Timber if you want to check the comments from last time). Also of possible interest is this older piece on whether the Iraq war was all about oil ? And here’s a piece about the idea that America has a crucial concern in making sure that oil is priced in dollars, not euros.
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Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Good things about John Howard, part 1

January 17th, 2005 Comments off

As part of the fundraising appeal for the tsunami, I offered to write sincere praise for John Howard, at a rate of 100 words for each $50 pledge. The offer was taken up by commenter 2dogs, who generously gave $50. As I plan to try this shameless stunt again, I’m going to do the easiest 100 words first, focusing on the last few weeks. If you want to see praise for Howard on some other topics, wait for the next fundraiser when the offer will be reopened (or until he does something I regard as praiseworthy enough for a post). In the non-adversarial spirit of the exercise, I’ve closed this post to comments, but if you have something to say on the topic, you can comment here. With those preliminaries out of the way, here’s my 100 words.

Howard’s response to the tragic tsunami disaster has been virtually faultless. He was the first national leader to offer significant financial assistance and the size of the offer, coming from a small country like Australia, helped to shame bigger countries into offering more. The decision to focus our aid efforts on Indonesia was the right one, both in terms of need, and of our national interest. At times like this, we see John Howard at his best. His reactions to such disasters are pretty much those of the average Australian and, nine times out of ten, that’s a good thing.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Tsunami offer

January 17th, 2005 1 comment

I mentioned, but didn’t spell out, Nicholas Gruen’s tsunami offer, which you can access at Peach Home Loans

Welcome all from John Quiggin’s great blog! If you’ve made a comment on his blog, the tsunami victims have already got $1 from us – we’re matching John’s contributions dollar for dollar. Here’s our additional offer to you. If you have a loan of over $200,000 contact us, and if we can’t save you at least $10,000 in repayments over the life of your loan (assuming a 30 year term starting from now) we’ll pay $50 to you or to a tsunami charity at your choice. If you refinance through us, we’ll pay $2 to the tsunami charity for every $1 of rebate you forsake – up to a charity payment of $200.

I haven’t looked into the service Nicholas is offering, but he is a very able economist, reliable person and generally a good bloke, so I think it’s worth a look.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

A quick report on the tsunami appeal

January 17th, 2005 3 comments

Thanks to everyone who helped the tsunami appeal by commenting, linking and especially by cosponsoring. I’ve sent my money off, and emailed all the donors to advise them how much they’ve promised. I’m really impressed at the way many of the regular commenters here, including some who are regular sparring partners, dug deep to help this appeal. Quite a few have given more than their already generous commitment Here’s my preliminary list[1] of donations.

Andrew Norton 47
anon 235
anon 70.5
Harry Clarke 94
Jack Strocchi and Claire Rodda 47
Mark Bahnisch 47
Nicholas Gruen 470
paul2 47
Peter Fuller 94
quiggin 500
rdb 500
saint 100
wbb 60
wmmbb 94

The total is over $2400, or more than twice what I originally anticipated giving. I plan to give my leftover $500 to another good cause, and I hope to run another appeal like this before too long. I’ll make a longer post about the whole event, and some of the issues raised, soon.

fn1. My administrative skills are not what they might be, so if I’ve omitted anyone, or made any other errors, please advise me.

fn2. In return for 100 words of praise for John Howard, which will be coming soon.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Monday Message Board

January 17th, 2005 15 comments

It’s time for the regular Monday message board, where you are invited to post your thoughts on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Creative giving part 3

January 15th, 2005 459 comments


I haven’t managed to come up with a creative new idea for helping the tsunami aid appeals, so I’m going to copy Michele Agnew. From now until midnight Sunday, I’ll give one $A to the Australian Red Cross tsunami appeal for each comment[1] I receive on this post, up to a maximum of 1000.

To add a tiny element of novelty, I’m inviting others to join the effort by sponsoring this offer at whatever rate they can afford. You can work out your maximum exposure from the limit, for example, if you offer 5 cents a comment, you’re promising to give up to $50.

If you’re interested, please send me an email at j dot quiggin at uq dot edu dot au. I’ll record it in the updates with your name, pseudonym or anonymously as you prefer. When the appeal is over, I’ll write and tell you how much you’ve promised. Feel free to nominate a charity of your choice.

Update The Eudora mail server is running hot, with the first contributor to join the effort already coming through:
William Burroughs’ Baboon” says pls put me down for 10c per comment
Update 10:12 pm An anonymous regular reader offers 50 cents per comment, nominating World Vision
rdb offers 50 cents per comment
Nicholas Gruen offers to match me dollar for dollar, in return for an ad. Accepted!
That’s $4.10 $3.10 per comment! (sorry for late-night arithmetic errors)

Update 6am
An anonymous regular reader offers 15c per comment
“Saint Straightjacket” offers 20c per comment, up to $300

So we’re up to $3.45 per comment, and the total amount raised is nearly $500, with most of the day still left to come.

It’s particularly good to see lots of visitors from Tim Blair’s blog – a reminder that, whatever our disagreements, we can all work together at a time like this.

In the comments, Tim has offered $100 if I shave my beard off. That’s nowhere near enough, but I’m eager to secure Tim’s money for the cause so I’m making a counteroffer in the spirit of national unity and cash for comment. If Tim will give $100, I’ll write a 200 word post saying exclusively good things about John Howard. I’m willing to increase the amount proportionally for further pledges from Tim’s (or my) readers, until I run out of good things to say.

Update 10:30am We’re well over 200 comments now, and thanks to the generosity of cosponsors, within sight of the original target of $1000, with the capacity to raise a lot more

wmmbb has offered 20c a comment, up to a total of 500
Mark Bahnisch has offered 10c a comment

I’m really impressed by all of this. Quite a few cosponsors have offered more, in relation to their means, than my starting offer. This is one area where I’m unreservedly in favour of competition, and I’m already thinking about my next move.

I’d also like to thank everyone who’s linked to the post. In particular, I now have a full set of Tims, at least among the blogs I read regularly: Tim Blair, Tim Dunlop, Tim Lambert and Tim T have all sent visitors this way. For any other Tims or non-Tims who want to link, there’s still more than 12 hours to go.

Update 1:34pm
Crossing the ideological divide, Andrew Norton offers 10c a comment
Paul2 also offers 10c
wmmbb offers 10c more
Harry Clarke offers 20c up to 500 comments

That puts us over $4 a comment, and with well over 300 comments, we’ve easily passed the original goal of $1000. But there’s still plenty of money on the table, so keep the comments coming in.

I forgot to mention it when I put this post up, and I’m not going to worry too much about it today, but this is a PG blog, so no more coarse language, please. Double entendres and dirty jokes are fine, as long as they’re funny.

I’ve had the first taker on the Howard challenge. “2dogs” has sent in his $50 to the Red Cross, and emailed me the receipt, earning 100 words of sincere praise from me for John Howard, to be published as soon as I’ve tallied up the donations and tied myself to the keyboard. Come on Howard-lovers, and set me a real challenge. I could write that much defending Don Rumsfeld, and have done so. 1000 words in praise of Howard might give me some trouble.

And here’s the ad I promised Nicholas Gruen, who’s agreed to match my donations. If you click here you can see a further generous offer from him.

<img src="wordpress/wp-content/images/Peachanimatedgifbanner.gif" href=""

Update 6pm We’ve passed 400 comments and raised more than $1500. Looking at the current pace, there should be more than 500 comments by the time the appeal ends, but probably not many more than 600. A number of cosponsors have limited their contributions to an upper bound of 500 comments, thereby giving themselves a fair bit of certainty. Now I’m appealing for some risk-tolerant types to cosponsor the remaining comments, starting at number 501. Why don’t you put in, say, 50 cents a comment. There’s a small risk that you might be hit for $250, but in the absence of a last-minute surge, it’s more likely to be around $50.

Update 10:30pm

Jack Strocchi and Claire Rodda have promised 10c per comment up to 500

Down and Out in Sài Gòn has promised 50c for each comment over 500. At this stage, it looks as if he(?) will get off cheaply, so let’s have a flood of last-minute comments.

Final Midnight has come to Queensland, and we ended up with 470 comments. I’m off to bed now, but in the morning I’ll send my own contribution, rounded up to $500, and advise commenters how much they’ve promised to pay.

fn1. At my absolute discretion, I’ll delete bots, spammers, repetitive commenters etc. If you don’t trust me to act fairly in this respect, don’t participate.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Income-related fines

January 15th, 2005 14 comments

A reader from Nowra alerts me to today’s SMH, which quotes me arguing that fines should be proportional to the income of the offender. I’ll have more to say on this Real Soon Now.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Please, not Beazley

January 15th, 2005 30 comments

It’s back to another round of Labor leadership speculation, and, inevitably, the first name pulled out of the bag is that of Kim Beazley. I’ve made all the usual arguments against him too often to repeat them, but there’s a new one that I think is relevant.

On current indications (these could change of course, but they’re what we have to go on), Labor is unlikely to win in 2007, so a successful appointment as leader would need to serve two terms in Opposition before becoming PM. Presumably, the party would want at least the option of two full terms from their leader in these circumstances. So, we’re looking at electing someone who (if successful) might still be leading the party past 2015. Beazley is 56 now, and not, at least in my perception, a young 56. Leaving aside the fact that (IIRC) Labor still has compulsory retirement at 65, can anyone see him as a credible leader for the next ten years and beyond?

Of course, that’s his whole attraction for quite a few of his backers. He’s a safe choice, meaning that he’s pretty much guaranteed to lose and go quietly after the next election, allowing a comfortable ride for [insert preferred name here].

It might be objected that John Howard was the same age when the Libs elected him leader, and that turned out well for them. But the electoral position was much more favorable and, after the demise of Hewson and the failure of the Downer-Costello dream team, there was no real alternative. In any case, Howard is, and always has been, a much more substantial figure than Beazley in all but the most literal of senses.

Labor isn’t short of options. I favored Rudd last time around, and I think he’s probably the right choice this time. But I’d also be happy with Gillard, and there are a string of reasonably able candidates who might turn out well, either in the long-term or to hold things together while the party recovers from the last election. Finally, although it’s looking unlikely that Latham can hang on, I don’t think he’s done a bad job in the circumstances, and if he does manage to recover in both health and political terms, I’d be glad of it.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Weekend reflections

January 14th, 2005 9 comments

This regular feature is back on line. The idea is that, over the weekend, you should post your thoughts in a more leisurely fashion than in ordinary comments or the Monday Message Board.

Please post your thoughts on any topic, at whatever length seems appropriate to you. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Yobbo with a beard, part 2

January 14th, 2005 10 comments

I’ve widened the page to 800 points, which looks better to me. If this breaks anybody’s browser could they advise me and I’ll put it back. Better still if someone could tell me how to get a layout that would be smart in these respects, they would get the priceless award of a free post on a topic of their own choosing[1]

fn1. I was thinking of a guest post, but actually, if someone could show me how to do this, I’d be willing to write a post on any topic they nominated (the more outlandish the topic, the more off-topic the likely result, of course). Also, how can I get my footnotes in smaller type? Is there a problem with WordPress and Textile?

Categories: Metablogging Tags:

League tables

January 14th, 2005 6 comments

Via the Fin, I learn that Australia now comes in 10-th place on the Economic Freedom Index ahead of the US at 12. This is, perhaps not surprising, as I’ve previously observed that big government is good for economic freedom, at least as measured by the EFI. I don’t think this is entirely a spurious feature of the Index. A strong state can achieve its ends with less interference in individual freedom (economic and personal) than a weak one. For example, a volunteer army, paid for by high taxes, is less intrusive on freedom than systematic conscription which in turn is less intrusive than a press gang, or the kind of backdoor draft now being imposed in the US.

But if we are going to have international league tables, I’d much prefer that we continue the competition of the past few weeks, to see who can give the most generous, and effective assistance to the poor people of the world. There’s some more on this topic over at 52nd state. As is so often the case, I have a big post on this topic planned, but haven’t had time to write it.

Categories: Economic policy, Life in General Tags:

Money-mouth intermediary needed

January 13th, 2005 28 comments

A decade or so ago, I wrote some modestly successful papers about the design of lotteries and the rationality or otherwise of buying lottery tickets. Having come to the conclusion that buying lottery tickets was (or at least could be) rational, it struck me that, apart from raffles and the odd birthday present, I’d never actually had a ticket in a proper lottery. So I went down to the newsagent on the assumption that I could hand over my money and get a chance at untold wealth. Instead I was confronted with a bizarrely complex lotto form (this was before scratchies, I think). I looked at it and decided it was too much trouble, and I would try to make my fortune the old-fashioned way[1].

Now I’m in a similar position. I’ve told the world the long-term US interest rate has to rise and, correspondingly, the price of US Treasury notes has to fall. Given that I don’t know when this will happen, I’m not willing to risk the unbounded losses of a short position. But I’d at least be willing to consider a modest flutter in put options, if the transactions costs weren’t too high and the settlement date were far enough in the future. However, although I’ve written plenty of papers about the properties of derivatives, the risks they pose to the world financial system and so on, I don’t know where or how to buy them, or what the costs are. The Sydney Futures Exchange seems to consider them too exotic. Any suggestions on easy ways to join George Soros and Warren Buffett will be greateful appreciated.

fn1. That is, as all Australian readers will know without being told, through real estate speculation.

Categories: Economics - General Tags:

Yobbo with a beard

January 13th, 2005 17 comments

I’ve still been getting reports that people have been having trouble reading the new WordPress blog. Fellow blogger “Yobbo” has kindly supplied me with his template, and I’ve followed his suggestion that I should differentiate by adding a beard. I’d very much appreciate reports on the change. At this stage, I want to focus mainly on blog-critical problems like unreadability due to overlaps between posts and sidebars, but I’ll also happily accept suggestions for colour schemes and so on. I’d like to hear from

* Readers who had problems with the old layout that have now been resolved

* Readers who have problems with the new layout that weren’t present in the old

* Readers who have continuing problems

Instant update The page looks too narrow for my liking, and I’ve already had one request to widen it. If it’s already filling your screen, and a wider format would cause problems, please advise me ASAP. If you agree that it’s too narrow, also please advise.

Categories: Metablogging Tags:

Curiouser and curiouser

January 13th, 2005 9 comments

My piece in today’s Fin puts the argument that long-term US interest rates must rise in view of the many pressures (increasing inflation, massive trade and budget deficits) in that direction, and that intervention to hold them down will eventually fail. (I’ve put it over the fold)

Coincidentally, the US trade deficit for November came in at $60 billion, easily breaking the previous records, and despite lower prices and a sustained devaluation relative to the euro, $A and other currencies (though not the Chinese renminbi).

This was, as far as I can tell a surprise to the markets (unchanged at $55 billion) was the par prediction, and the US dollar promptly weakened. But the 10-year bond rate remained unchanged. This makes no sense at all, but I’ve given up expecting financial market outcomes to make sense. General Glut has a chart from Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute on another aspect of the puzzle as well as detailed commentary on the trade figures summed up by the observation This report is ugly 1000 ways till Sunday

I think a partial resolution of the puzzle in the Scott chart is that the last turnaround in the trade deficit was achieved through a combination of depreciation, budgetary tightening, higher interest rates and demand contraction (that is, a recession). The same was true, broadly speaking, in Australia. There is, in general, no painless way of fixing a trade deficit on this scale.
Read more…

Categories: General Tags:

The IPA concedes

January 12th, 2005 24 comments

There’s an interesting piece in today’s Fin (subscription required) from John Roskam of the IPA. Looking at the possibility of big tax cuts from the current government, he bags Howard’s conversion to tax-and-spend social democracy before and during the 2004 campaign. He goes on to say

There is no overwhelming demand from the public to lessen taxes and, indeed, this is the nub of the problem confronting Liberal MPs and anyone else committed to tax reform

On the other hand, there is an overwhelming demand for better public services, and Howard has promised to meet that demand. Supporters of tax reform should seek to convince the public rather than taking advantage of an essentially accidental parliamentary majority to push through policies for which they have no mandate.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Evans and Astroturf

January 12th, 2005 13 comments

The weekend Fin (subscription required) has a profile of the eminence grise of right-wing Melbourne poltiics, Ray Evans. It includes a comment from this blog on the various Astroturf organisations Evans set up when he was working for Hugh Morgan at Western Mining (not greatly to the benefit of WMC shareholders as far as I can see). Here’s the quote used by the Fin

Australia has a string of such [Astroturf] setups, all apparently created by Ray Evans of the Western Mining Corporation. The most egregious is the Lavoisier Group, an organisation for climate change contrarians (about as plausible as creationists calling themselves the Mendel society) . If you move along to the (anti-Aboriginal rights) Bennelong Society you’ll find an almost identical website with the same postal address, shared with the (anti-union) HR Nicholls Society . The (monarchist) Samuel Griffiths society is from the same production line, though not quite as brazenly so.

So what is it about names like these that screams “Astroturf�? Most named institutes are either named in honour of the founder, or are explicitly partisan institutions whose name indicates their affiliation, as with the Evatt Chifley (Labor) and Menzies (Liberal) foundations. It’s not clear that those named would always agree with what is published in their names, but there’s some reasonable basis for presuming that this might be the case.

Categories: General Tags:

Nazis and Communists: a data point

January 12th, 2005 33 comments

In the discussion of the relative treatment of communists and nazis in Australia, I recalled reading that Menzies had visited Berlin not long before the war, and made complimentary statements about Hitler. Googling revealed only one supporting source, from the memoirs of communist Stan Moran, who also claims to have bestowed the nickname “Pig Iron Bob”. Moran says

In 1937 Menzies went to Germany to see Hitler but Hitler was too busy to see minor politicians, and all he saw was Himmler. When he returned he said “If you and I lived in Berlin we would say that Hitler had done a great job for the German people.�

This matches the quote I recalled, but raises the possibility that it is a spurious one foisted on Menzies by his opponents. Does anyone have any info on this?

Assuming the quote is valid, it rather undermines the claim that any flirtation with Nazism or fascism is fatal to ones reputation, while similar sympathy for communism is not.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Mieville miniseminar

January 12th, 2005 8 comments

I mentioned a while back that I was reading Iron Council by China Mieville as part of a mini-seminar being run at Crooked Timber. The discussion is going to open up on Tuesday (US time, I guess) and I’d encourage any interested readers here to participate. Anyone who wants to link should check back here or at CT then.

There will be review essays from Miriam Elizabeth Burstein, Matt Cheney, Henry Farrell, John Holbo, Belle Waring and me, with a response by China himself, and then comments from anyone who cares to make them. This is a bit (a long way, actually) out of my area of expertise, but I really wanted to be part of this venture, which I think has the potential to push the limits of the weblog form a bit further, and I have very much enjoyed Mieville’s work.

Update 12/1/4 The seminar is online. Go over and join the discussion

Categories: Books and culture Tags:

The Stalinist delusion (repost)

January 11th, 2005 49 comments

There’s been a lot of discussion on the Monday Message Board, responding to a piece by Gerard Henderson asking why Australian ex-Communists aren’t treated with the same disdain as ex-Nazis (Louis Nowra has said something similar). Meanwhile over at Catallaxy, they’ve been debating Mark Lilla’s book The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics This gives me a chance to repost my thoughts on this topic from last year.

Read more…

Categories: General Tags:

WordPress update

January 10th, 2005 2 comments

I’m still struggling a bit with WordPress, but I’ve at least managed to eliminate the “no links to first post” problem. If anyone has any suggestions for good templates to copy, or for easily implemented layout changes, I’m all eyes.

Categories: Metablogging Tags:

Creative giving

January 10th, 2005 5 comments

Here’s a neat example of creative giving. For 24 hours (this has apparently been extended a bit), Michele Agnew is promising to give a one dollar donation to Oxfam for each (non-spam) comment posted on her blog. The place to comment is here

Thanks to Scott Hagaman for the tip.

Categories: General Tags:

Monday Message Board

January 10th, 2005 30 comments

It’s time for the regular Monday message board, where you are invited to post your thoughts on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Placeholder entry

January 9th, 2005 5 comments

This is a blank post, put here to deal with problems linking to the top post on the page.

I’m still in relaxation/holiday mode, so I don’t plan a permanent fix of the problem for a while. Thanks to Yobbo, who has pointed out a diagnosis and possible solution in the comments.

Categories: General Tags:

The continuing tsunami

January 9th, 2005 5 comments

I watched some of the telethon last night and was impressed by the amounts of money being raised. The entertainment was a little less to my taste, but I suppose you can’t please everybody, so the aim is to attract as many as possible.

The worldwide response to the tsunami disaster has been equally impressive, though no more than was merited by a tragedy on such a large scale. But tsunamis are not the only disaster affecting humanity. Preventable diseases kill millions every year, and the disability caused by diseases like malaria is a huge drain on economic growth in many poor countries. For $US50 billion a year, we could implement the program proposed by the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health which would, quite literally, save millions of lives. Based on our share of developed-country GDP, Australia’s share of this would be only about $1 billion. The US could finance the entire program with the money currently being spent in Iraq. Europe and Japan could easily meet their shares by scrapping farm policies that harm both domestic consumers and poor farmers in less developed countries. Or the whole thing could be done out of private donations of around fifty dollars per person per year – well below one per cent of personal income.

If we could only make the kind of concern that’s been displayed over the past couple of weeks a permanent feature of our personal and political priorities, the world would be a much better place.

Update Reader and Uni of Maryland colleague Darrell Hueth points me to this piece by Nicholas Kristof arguing that the use of DDT in anti-malarial programs should be expanded. This issue has been debated at length on this blog, and I think Kristof gets the balance abotu right. Also, if you’re interested in an economic take on the costs and benefits of malaria prevention, the chapter by Mills and Shilcutt in Bjorn Lomborg’s book Global Crises, Global Solutions , coming out of his Copenhagen Consensus exercise, is well worth reading[1].

fn1. As I’ve previously observed, the Copenhagen Consensus, considered as a ranking exercise purporting to private that action to mitigate global warming is a bad idea, was a dishonest political stunt. But a lot of resources went into it and they weren’t all wasted.

Categories: General Tags:

Declining uni student numbers

January 8th, 2005 24 comments

The news that the number of university students is declining is far from surprising. The number of Australian students commencing degrees has been roughly static since the Howard government was elected and, contrary to election commitments, imposed broad-ranging cuts on the sector. Writing in the Oz, and also at Catallaxy, Andrew Norton argues that this isn’t a problem.

Norton makes a reasonable case that the decline is due more to a reduction in HECS-funded places than to increases in fees, but since both are policies of the same government, this is a distinction without a difference.

Norton continues with the general line that a contraction in the supply of university graduates isn’t a problem for Australia. His only evidence, though, is that some graduates are in jobs that don’t use their skills. As he concedes, this has always been the case, and the proportion hasn’t changed significantly. The BA driving a taxi was a stock figure in the 1970 (I knew several, so it wasn’t entirely an urban myth). It may well be that some relative expansion of TAFE would be a good thing, but we need expansion in postsecondary education across the board. In any case, TAFE has plenty of problems

Underinvestment in human capital is a big problem for Australia, and we will all pay the price in future.

Categories: Economic policy Tags:

Sistani rules, OK ? (again)

January 7th, 2005 10 comments

While most attention has been (rightly) focused on the tsunami tragedy, mayhem has continued in Iraq, leading to suggestions that the elections due for Jan 30 should be postponed. It’s clear enough by now that, in this respect as in others, the Fallujah operation has been a complete strategic failure, as well as being a moral catastrophe for the US[1]. The population, forced by the threat of US terror to flee the city, has not returned, and the idea that elections can go ahead there is a nonsense. Things are little better in the rest of the Sunni triangle. As a result, the elections will be far from satisfactory.

That said, the only real hope is that the elections will be held on time, that they will produce a clear majority for the Shiite coalition endorsed by Sistani, and that the newly elected government will simultaneously reach out to the disaffected Sunnis and demand an immediate timetable for US withdrawal. It’s clear by now that the presence of US forces has done more harm than good in the long run. If Bremer had gone along with Sistani’s proposal for elections a year ago, things would be much better in every way. On the other hand, the situation is now so bad that only a gradual withdrawal can effectively be contemplated. It appears that Sistani and the groups he has backed recognise both of these facts.

Read more…

Categories: World Events Tags:

Howard gets it right

January 6th, 2005 13 comments

John Howard’s response to the tsunami catastrophe has been exactly what I would have (and in fact did) advocate. I’m sure there is some fine print, but a billion dollars is a big commitment. Assuming it’s all new money, it will roughly double our aid/GDP ratio. Even if some of it isn’t new, it’s a big effort.

Update As pointed out by PeterL in comments, my holiday mental arithmetic is out by a factor of ten – current aid is about $1.5 billion per year, and the package is $200m per year

Categories: World Events Tags:

Does the Right Remember Abu Ghraib? (

January 6th, 2005 3 comments

Jack Strocchi sent me this piece by Anne Applebaum asking Does the Right Remember Abu Ghraib? . Since I’ve been critical of her recently, I’m pleased to endorse her comments here.

As recent comments on this blog have shown, the answer to Applebaum’s question is undoubtedly “Yes”. Commenters compared torture in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere to fraternity hazing. As Applebaum observes

U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have, according to the administration’s own records and my colleagues’ reporting, used beatings, suffocation, sleep deprivation, electric shocks and dogs during interrogations. They probably still do.

The legal adviser who provided the advice supporting torture as government policy, Alberto Gonzales, will shortly become Attorney-General of the United States.

Categories: World Events Tags: