Archive for April, 2006

Triangular trade

April 11th, 2006 34 comments

The term “triangular trade” is commonly used in international economics in response to concerns about bilateral deficits*. The general idea is that, even though a bilateral relationship may involve large imbalances, global flows of goods and services must balance in the long run.

In some respects, the pattern of trade between Australia, China and the United States fits the triangular trade story neatly. Australia exports lots of raw materials to China, which in turn exports a wide range of manufactures to the US, which exports high-tech goods and services to Australia. Much the same story is true, with other Asian countries such as Japan in place of China.

In the ideal version of the story, Australia would run a surplus with China, China with the US, and the US with Australia, and these (along with other bilateral balances) would wash out to leave all three countries in balance. The point of the “triangular trade” idea is that it’s a mistake to worry about bilateral balances, when trade benefits everyone.

But the Australia-China_US triangle fails to match this story in two crucial respects. First, instead of trade balance, Australia and the US have large and growing deficits, while China has a large and growing aggregate surplus. Second, the trade triangle is entangled with a triangular strategic relationship, in which Australia has to deal with the great power rivalry between the US and China.

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Categories: Economics - General Tags:

Clean Start – Fair Deal for Cleaners Campaign

April 10th, 2006 125 comments

With lots of legal protections for workers gone, and an openly hostile government, new strategies and organising methods are needed. Cleaners face particular difficulties working in isolated conditions and prone to all kinds of exploitation, especially as so many organisations have sacked their cleaning staff and replaced them with contractors. The Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union international campaign to improve working conditions for cleaners. You can read more about the Clean Start campaign here.


Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Monday message board

April 10th, 2006 42 comments

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. As usual, civilised discussion and absolutely no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

The Generation Game, again

April 8th, 2006 30 comments

Today’s AFR (subscription required) has a piece on Gen X and so on by Deirdre Macken. It’s a bit more sceptical than usual, partly because Macken is no fool, and partly because it links to the discussion at Catallaxy of Ryan Heath’s Please Just F* Off: It’s Our Turn Now. also discussed here. As I mentioned, I doubt that we’ll ever see a better title for a generation game book than this one.

Generational and other forms of categorization (whether or not it’s of any value) is essential to marketers trying to pitch their services to those with goods and services to sell. And the “Angry Young Man” genre stretches back to the dawn of writing (angry young women seem mostly cast their arguments in terms of feminism, or anti-feminism, rather than explicitly generational politics). So I don’t suppose it’s going to go away, no matter how many times the silliness of it all is pointed out.

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Update on propaganda and advertising

April 7th, 2006 13 comments

A year or so ago, I was surprised to find out that a fair bit of the news on US TV is actually advertising produced by corporations and fed into news broadcasts with spurious “reporters”. The NYT has an update, with a report by the Center for Media and Democracy on the extent of the practice.

Categories: General Tags:


April 7th, 2006 9 comments

Following up a post by Kieran at CT quoting Douglas Adams’ line that “You may think it’s a long way down the street to the Chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space” I thought I’d try to work out the scale of comparison that is, in some sense directly available to us and compare it to the scale of the universe. (I’m bound to make a mistake here, but what are comments threads for if not to fix these things).
Read more…

Categories: Science Tags:

Weekend reflections

April 7th, 2006 14 comments

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Guest post from Greg Buckman

April 7th, 2006 48 comments

Reader Greg Buckman has sent in his first venture into blogging, a response to Clive Hamilton’s Quarterly Essay, Whats Left: The Death of Social Democracy. Discussion welcome, with particular stress on civilised and constructive debate.
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Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Some good news from Iraq

April 6th, 2006 47 comments

There’s not a lot these days (here’s a roundup from Winds of Change), but it’s definitely good news that Saddam Hussein is to stand trial on genocide charges, relating to his campaign against the Kurds in the late 1980s.

The crimes for which Saddam is currently being tried, relating to torture and executions of about 100 people from the village of Dujail following an attempted assassination during the Iran-Iraq war, are terrible, but if the same criteria were applied generally, a large number of world leaders would be in the dock along with Saddam (Fallujah, Grozny, Tienanmen Square and the list goes on).

By contrast, the “Anfal” campaign against the Kurds was a genocidal atrocity. If the death penalty is ever justified, it’s justified in this case and whatever the legal technicalities, there’s no doubt of Saddam’s guilt.

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Categories: World Events Tags:


April 5th, 2006 80 comments

Andrew Leigh has moved to a new, more mnemonic location. He has a post which concludes that, although the Iraq war has turned out badly, it seemed like a good idea at the time. So, on the information available at the time, he suggests, he was right to support it. Much the same point has been made in discussion here. Tim Dunlop criticises this, pointing out that lots of people (in fact, the majority of people in most countries) looked at the same evidence and came to the (ex post) correct conclusion that war was a bad idea.

I want to pick up a different point. It’s still possible to argue (not convincingly in my view, but not absurdly) that who supported the war made a reasonable judgement on the available evidence, including the evidence supporting the existence of WMDs, provided by Bush and Blair. Only if you discounted this evidence, as bogus or at least slanted and exaggerated, could you draw the right conclusion. As we now know, the evidence was bogus and the whole UN process was a sham since Bush and Blair had decided to go to war anyway. But, someone who assumed that they were presenting the best available evidence, and accepted their repeated claims that war was a last resort, might reasonably have support the war.

However, Andrew wants to go further, saying “given the information then available, I still think Blair, Bush and Howard made the right call.” I can’t see how this claim can be defended. Clearly, Bush and Blair had the information that only later became available to the rest of us showing the spurious nature of the ostensible case for war.
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Categories: Metablogging, World Events Tags:

More doubts on PPPs

April 3rd, 2006 27 comments

As reader Jonno points out in comments to the previous post on this, the problems with Public Private Partnerships are beginning to become apparent even in the UK where, under the name of the Private Finance Initiative, the idea has been pushed strongly by both Conservative and Labour governments.

This report in the Guardian indicates that the UK Treasury is pulling back from an aspect of the PPP model I’ve long criticised, the bundling of “soft services” like cleaning and catering into contracts for the construction and maintenance of hospitals and schools. The British government is still pushing ahead, under intense pressure from the business interests who benefit from these schemes, but the Treasury Report while unsurprisingly positive in tone, stresses the subsidiary role of the PFI, which is expected to account for between 10 and 15 per cent of total investment in public services.

Categories: Economic policy Tags:

Monday message board

April 3rd, 2006 40 comments

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. As usual, civilised discussion and absolutely no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Ideas Festival

April 1st, 2006 4 comments

I’m giving two talks at the Ideas Festival this weekend, both paired with blogger and economist Andrew Leigh. At 11:45 today it’s

Who will serve?
Who will be the worker of the future, where will they come from and how old will they be

at the Cremorne Centre, QPAC, Southbank

and at 1:30 tomorrow Gross national happiness in the Recital Hall.

It’s been great so far. I missed Cory Doctorow’s talk, but I got the chance to meet him and discuss DRM and related issues. More on this soon, I hope.

Categories: Books and culture Tags: