Home > Oz Politics, World Events > Anti-americanism redux

Anti-americanism redux

November 25th, 2005

Following the recent discussion here of critics of US foreign policy being labelled as anti-American, I saw a snippet in the Fin (subscription required) in which the Wall Street Journal (also subscription required) applied the same epithet to anyone critical of US labour market institutions and their outcomes, even extending this to former PM Bob Hawke, about as prominent a supporter of the US alliance as you could find, though, like many others, a critic of the Iraq war. The relevant quote

Even Labor leaders who have previously been strong supporters of the alliance have not hesitated to stir anti-US prejudices this time. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke warned that making it easier for workers to negotiate wages directly either their employers would be “a move down the path to” horror of horrors “an Americanisation of labour relations

Unfortunately, my efforts to find the full piece have been unsuccessful – I assume it’s behind the paywall somewhere. I’d appreciate it it anyone could supply the full text.

I’d be interested to know, for example, whether the WSJ has extended its net to catch that notorious anti-American, John Howard, who has warned against taking the “American path” in relation to gun laws and tort litigation.

In the meantime, let me offer the hypothesis that lots of American workers share the “anti-American prejudice” that they would rather have a union on their side than enjoy the benefits of direct “negotiation” with employers. For example, this Gallup Poll reports that 38 per cent of Americans would like to see unions have more influence, as against 30 per cent who would prefer less. And I’ll guess that the WSJ itself would be happy enough to endorse Howard’s anti-Americanism, at least as far as tort law is concerned.

Update Thanks to several readers, the full column is over the fold

Australia’s Labor Reforms
November 22, 2005

From the death of that most cherished of Australian traditions — the weekend barbeque — to couples divorcing and a rise in the homicide rate, no scare story is too far-fetched for die-hard opponents of labor reform down under.

Trade unions brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets of major Australian cities last week in the biggest protests the country has seen in seven years. And their Labor Party backers were quick to warn of all manner of dire consequences if Prime Minister John Howard succeeds in reforming Australia’s outdated labor laws.

Never far below the surface, the anti-Americanism of Sydney’s left — still furious at Mr. Howard’s resolute support over Iraq — is back with a vengeance in this latest battle. Even Labor leaders who had previously been strong supporters of the alliance have not hesitated to stir anti-U.S. prejudices this time. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke warned that making it easier for workers to negotiate wages directly with their employers would be a “move down the path to” — horror of horror — “an Americanization of labor relations.”

Such rhetoric belies the modest nature of the Howard government’s proposals. Even if its Work Choices Bill is enacted, all Australian workers will continue to enjoy generous labor protection — including an A$12.75 (US$9.30) minimum hourly wage, four weeks annual holiday, and a year’s unpaid leave for new parents.

What will change is a belated recognition that labor union protections, aside from infringing on human liberties, are obsolete in today’s Australia. Two decades of economic reform (much of it initiated under Mr. Hawke’s leadership) has produced a entrepreneurial economy where one in ten are self-employed and union membership has fallen to less than a quarter of the workforce.

You wouldn’t know that from Australia’s labor laws, which still ban employers from negotiating directly with their employees, unless they match the wages and conditions set by state-run arbitration bodies for workers in that industry across Australia as a whole. Remove that restriction, as the Howard government is finally proposing to do, and you remove one of the main reasons stopping union membership from plummeting even faster. Other reforms would further reduce union power by insisting that strike votes or other industrial action require secret ballots, and simplifying the maze of more than 100 laws currently governing industrial relations.

Hence the scare stories, and the ferocity of the counter-offensive by the union movement and its Labor allies. They represent an Australia of old battling for its political survival. Having already been dealt a blow by Mr. Howard’s reelection with an increased majority last year, and a swing in his favor among the blue-collar workers who were once Labor’s staunchest supporters, they know how much is at stake.

For all last week’s street protests, the chances are they will fail again. The Howard government’s parliamentary majority all but ensures the bill will be enacted. And modern Australia has shown through its voting habits, and changing employment patterns, an understanding of how true job security comes not through restrictive labor laws, but from a flexible labor market that helps fuel continued economic growth.

Devastating though it may prove to union membership, the bill is only a first step in this direction. As Mr. Howard said recently, “In a year’s time, people will look back and say why on earth did people try and exaggerate and scare us.”

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  1. avaroo
    December 8th, 2005 at 07:33 | #1

    Luskin has a good point about ivory tower types. It appears that there’s bad blood on both sides (DeLong and Luskin) which makes what both say suspect. In any case, Luskin’s point that a study that covers so few years really isn’t adequate is a good one.

  2. Ernestine Gross
    December 8th, 2005 at 08:38 | #2

    Avaroo,

    If you mean to say that you, Avaroo, believe Luskin has a good point about ivory tower types and it appears to you, Avaroo, that there’s bad blood on both sides (Delong and Luskin) which makes what both say suspect and you, Avaroo, believe Luskin’s point that a study that covers so few years really isn’t adequte is a good one, then just say so. Nobody would have to bother responding for there is no law which prevents anybody from believing whatever they like. If you were to believe, and I am not saying you do, that the moon is a piece of Swiss cheeze, then that’s fine. But writing as if it would be a fact would cause a major problem and endless posts.

    Incidentally, intellectual honesty seems to be getting so popular that even the advertising industry has taken note of. In Australia there is an add for beer which goes something like this: This is an add, this is an expensive add, it better sells a lot of beer. I like it.

  3. Terje Petersen
    December 8th, 2005 at 11:35 | #3

    EG,

    I like that add also. But will we be buying more beer?

    Regards,
    Terje.

  4. Ian Gould
    December 8th, 2005 at 12:27 | #4

    “Luskin has a good point about ivory tower types.”

    Yeah what would they know about real financial markets?

    “Keynes’ brilliant record as an investor is demonstrated by the publicly available data of a fund he managed on behalf of King’s College, Cambridge.

    From 1928 to 1945, despite taking a massive hit during the Stock Market Crash of 1929, Keynes’ fund produced a very strong average increase of 13.2% compared with the general market in the United Kingdom declining by an average 0.5% per annum.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keynes#Investor

  5. December 8th, 2005 at 22:45 | #5

    I have somewhere heard that Keynes’s skills as an investor were learned through a hard apprenticeship, during which he lost a spectacular amount of money for Kings. Quite possibly his innate skills were quite typical, only few of his competitors had the opportunity to develop theirs.

  6. Ernestine Gross
    December 8th, 2005 at 23:01 | #6

    P.M.L: “I have somewhere heard that Keynes’s skills as an investor were learned through a hard apprenticeship, during which he lost a spectacular amount of money for Kings. Quite possibly his innate skills were quite typical, only few of his competitors had the opportunity to develop theirs.”

    Question 1: Should a similar inference be drawn about all financially successful people?

    Question 2: If the answer is Yes to Question 1, what would be the logical consequence for a ‘fair’ income distribution?

    Question 3: If the answer is No to Question 1, why pick on Keynes?

  7. avaroo
    December 9th, 2005 at 07:21 | #7

    Yes Ernestine that is what I not only meant to say, it’s also what I did say the first part of your post). Congratulations. The second part of your post is just drivel and we both know I don’t do drivel. Sorry.

  8. Ian Gould
    December 9th, 2005 at 08:10 | #8

    “I have somewhere heard that Keynes’s skills as an investor were learned through a hard apprenticeship, during which he lost a spectacular amount of money for Kings.”

    He started managing King’s funds just before the crash of 1929.

    Whil King’s is the only public record of Keynes’ investments, he died an extremely wealthy man.

  9. Ernestine Gross
    December 9th, 2005 at 13:55 | #9

    Avaroo says:

    1. “Luskin has a good point about ivory tower types.”

    2. “Luskin’s point that a study that covers so few years really isn’t adequate is a good one.”

    I disagree with statements 1 and 2. However, in a subsequent message Avaroo advised that these statements are his personal believes. Of course I accept his right to his personal opinions.

    3. “It appears that there’s bad blood on both sides (DeLong and Luskin) which makes what both say suspect.”

    I don’t understand the sentence in 3. However, I could understand a slight different sentence, namely: It appears that there’s bad blood on both sides (DeLong and Luskin) and if this were to be found to be the case then it might make what both say suspect.

    I don’t have any interest in having the uncertainties in the revised sentence in 3. resolved because DeLong is not essential to the crucial question on statistics.

  10. December 9th, 2005 at 21:05 | #10

    EG, on your questions to me:-

    (1) I wasn’t drawing an inference so much as framing a hypothesis. I know full well that there isn’t sufficient evidence to draw that inference. On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be enough to support the idea that Keynes was an outright financial genius either.

    (2) You are venturing into areas of personal value judgments here. I do have personal values I could apply, but it seems quite counterproductive to do that in a forum like this.

    (3) The answer to this is easy – Keynes was the particular case that just came up on this thread.

  11. Ernestine Gross
    December 9th, 2005 at 23:56 | #11

    PML:

    True, I did state your initials and hence my questions appeared to be directed at you. Its done, so its my loss to have excluded the possibility of getting answers in general.

    The statement: “Quite possibly his innate skills were quite typical, only few of his competitors had the opportunity to develop theirs.” is a sentence which comes close to the proposition that: While skills and work are necessary conditions for wealth acquisition (excluding inheritance), they are not sufficient. Luck is involved too.

    Given this inference, which I believe is quite reasonable, my questions are directed at logical consistency rather than personal value judgements.

    I am not quite sure whether your intended meaning re Keynes being a genious or not is limited to his investment activities in financial markets. The important point in this forum seems to me to be that Keynes provides a good example which contradicts the apparent perception that academics (‘ivery tower’) are ignorant of what happens in the ‘real world’ (which on this occasion includes finacial markets).

  12. avaroo
    December 11th, 2005 at 07:08 | #12

    That’s an awful lot of writing (your post at 1:55, Dec 9) for not much point, ernestine.

  13. Ernestine Gross
    December 11th, 2005 at 08:30 | #13

    Merry Christmas and a successful and happy New Year.

  14. jquiggin
    December 11th, 2005 at 15:56 | #14

    avaroo, given your earlier injunctions to politeness, I’m unimpressed by your recent contributions. I imagine they reflect a realisation that on all substantive points your claims have been demolished.

    Next time, I suggest you choose a source who has at least completed college – there are plenty of conservatives/free-marketeers more credible than Luskin (indeed there are few who are less so).

  15. avaroo
    December 27th, 2005 at 05:11 | #15

    You’re free, of course, to imagine anything you like. There’s never a reason for rudeness on the internet.

    And as impressed as I am with your “academic” credentials, I’m sure you won’t mind if I select my own sources.

  16. December 27th, 2005 at 14:21 | #16

    Am I missing something? Does having “completed college” somehow confer insight or perceptiveness onto someone? Is there a group in society who actually consider the opinion of one who has “completed college” to be of more weight than the rest?

  17. Ian Gould
    December 27th, 2005 at 14:30 | #17

    Steve, when someone (Luskin) holds himself out as an expert in a particular area (and Avaroo cites that person’s “credentials” in that specific area as a reason to believe their statements) then it is relevant to note that the only verifiable credential that person has is running a mutual fund that lost 75% of its investors money.

  18. December 27th, 2005 at 17:01 | #18

    Ah, thanks Ian. I see, this Luskin has very little to jerk his thumb at. Agree with you totally on his financial record, but I don’t see how Luskin’s “completing” or otherwise of college has any bearing on his natural abilities (or lack of them)?

  19. Ian Gould
    December 27th, 2005 at 19:01 | #19

    Steve, if we were discussing his opinion of say, plumbing, sports results or 19th Century Russian novels I’d agree that his Uni record is completely irrelevant.

  20. December 27th, 2005 at 21:29 | #20

    I really must be missing something, aren’t a person’s financial credentials usually in inverse ratio to any uni record?

  21. jquiggin
    December 28th, 2005 at 16:48 | #21

    Steve, check here. Short answer, you really are missing something.

  22. December 28th, 2005 at 20:39 | #22

    Hmmm, ten to fifteen year old reports which demonstrate that the more education someone has the higher their salary.

    Very interesting, but isn’t the issue related to an opinion somehow having more weight if the giver of the opinion has “completed college”?

  23. SJ
    December 28th, 2005 at 21:10 | #23

    steve at the pub Says:

    Very interesting, but isn’t the issue related to an opinion somehow having more weight if the giver of the opinion has “completed college�?

    No, the issue is this:

    Sorry jquiggen, but I’d put Luskin’s credentials up against those of anyone here.

    Luskin has no credentials:

    1. That which entitles one to confidence, credit, or authority.
    2. Evidence or testimonials concerning one’s right to credit, confidence, or authority: The new ambassador presented her credentials to the president.

    Luskin doesn’t have a degree or anything else which could be interpreted as a credential.

    Luskin’s opinions have exactly as much weight as yours or avaroos, or mine. It’s pointless to appeal to Luskin as an authority, because he isn’t one. Understand?

  24. December 28th, 2005 at 22:12 | #24

    I agree that this Luskin appears to be lacking in the credentials department.

    Perhaps I grabbed the wrong end of the stick by assuming Luskin’s views were being granted less weight for the trite reason that he had not completed college.

  25. avaroo
    January 6th, 2006 at 05:13 | #25

    Luskin’s views are granted less weight by some people for the simple reason that he disagrees with just about everything Paul Krugman has to say. (and Luskin is hardly alone in this) Luskin actually backs up what he says though.

  26. jquiggin
    January 6th, 2006 at 05:53 | #26

    Avaroo, lots of economists disagree with Krugman and are taken seriously by people like me and Brad DeLong. Luskin isn’t taken seriously by any economist I know, on either side of these debates, because he clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about.

  27. avaroo
    January 6th, 2006 at 06:03 | #27

    We’re all entitled to our views, inlcuding you John. That was my point.

  28. avaroo
    January 6th, 2006 at 06:06 | #28

    DeLong appears to have a personal issue with Luskin, but whomever uses the term “idiot” first in a debate is usually the loser, and it looks like De Long has that sewn up. It’s hard to take anyone using name-calling as a tactic in a debate very seriously.

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