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Weekend reflections

October 13th, 2006

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.

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  1. wilful
    October 13th, 2006 at 16:50 | #1

    For general interest, here’s a New Scientist speculative essay about planet earth where the humans vanish: http://www.newscientist.com/channel/life/mg19225731.100

  2. jquiggin
    October 13th, 2006 at 20:53 | #2

    test

  3. jquiggin
    October 13th, 2006 at 20:58 | #3

    My football post ran up against the usual faulty spam-detection problem, so here’s a comment from Liam Lenten

    JQ, Flotsam has a point on your first question, but in regard to the second one, the open-ended nature of the European leagues (promotion/relegation) makes it much harder to impose various revenue-sharing arrangements across all teams in the various leagues within one country (this is why the ‘Premier League’ broke away from the English FA). Furthermore, it is competition between the various top-flight leagues in different countries that prevents (say the Spanish League, La Liga) from imposing salary caps (or other labour market devices), as the best players would simply flood to Germany, Italy, England et al. These two factors are not problematic for the AFL, NRL (to a lesser extent) or the big-4 North American leagues – they are all closed-ended and highly monopolistic.

    Gazing into my crystal ball, while change here is possible, it would require so much co-operation from the various stakeholder groups (FIFA, UEFA, national assoiations, G-14, etc), that it is unlikely in my opinion.

  4. Paul Walter
    October 13th, 2006 at 23:31 | #4

    John is this spam-detection thing the reason why i kept getting back some sort of nonsense about “precondition failing” when I tried ed to comment about subceptional advertising etc on footy?

  5. October 14th, 2006 at 01:43 | #5

    Prof Quiggin,

    Muhammad Yunus, an Economist (and Banker) from Bangladesh has shared this years Nobel Peace Prize with the Grammen Bank. I found this out from a post by Prof Mankiw at his blog. Prof Mankiw’s post can be found here:

    http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2006/10/second-nobel-for-economics.html.

    The official announcement can be found here:

    http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2006/.

    Regards,

    Damien.

  6. Hal9000
    October 14th, 2006 at 07:00 | #6

    After all the sparring between Prof Q and Ian Castles on the statistics of climate change, I wonder whether either will comment on the Iraq war mortality stats spat. To my untrained eye, the Johns Hopkins methodology – http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673606694919/fulltext [registration required] – looks very much like the ABS employment stats methodology, with the added check of actual death certificates rather than reliance on self-reporting. The COW leadership has dismissed the study out of hand. However, they would say that, wouldn’t they, since if it’s correct the COW are responsible for the deaths of more Iraqis than that devil incarnate Saddam Hussein whose wickedness moved John Howard to tears.

    Like most of my fellow citizens I’m reliant on experts to tell me whether these stats are reliable or not. Can anyone enlighten me?

  7. jquiggin
    October 14th, 2006 at 07:52 | #7

    Paul, that’s the problem. I’ve started a new thread.
    Damien and Hal, I hope to post on these topics soon.

  8. Albert Ross
    October 14th, 2006 at 10:04 | #8

    Like most of my fellow citizens I’m reliant on experts to tell me whether these stats are reliable or not. Can anyone enlighten me?

    You don’t need to be an expert on stats to see that the methodology behind the John Hopkins figures is pretty rigorous and probably produces a valid figure with a low margin of error. Certainly the figure has a greater validity than the faith-based guesstimates relied on by Bush, Howard etc.

  9. gordon
    October 14th, 2006 at 10:08 | #9

    Advocates of carbon taxes as a strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions generally appear to think that Govts. will reduce other taxes if carbon taxes are introduced. For example, in his comment of July 9 2006 under the post “The Nuclear Option� (6/7/06), Prof. Quiggin said: “Finally, I don’t see carbon taxes as inequitable when you compare them to the taxes for which they would most likely substitute, such as general consumption taxes or payroll taxes…we need to make it clear that carbon tax revenue would be used to reduce other taxes.�

    Joseph Stiglitz has also advocated a carbon tax as a GHG-reduction strategy, and has also indicated that other taxes would/should be reduced if a carbon tax is introduced. He says: “It would be good if the world could agree to use the proceeds [of carbon taxes] to finance the range of global public goods that are so important for making globalization work better—for instance, for promoting health, research, and development. But that may be too ambitious. Alternatively, each country could keep its own revenues and use them to replace taxes on capital and labor: it makes much more sense to tax “bads� (pollution, like greenhouse gas emissions) than to tax “goods,� like work and saving. …Hence, overall economic efficiency would be increased by this proposal.�

    William Nordhaus, too, thinks that carbon taxes would allow reductions in other taxes: “If the carbon constraints are imposed through taxes that are then rebated in taxes that have approximately the same marginal deadweight loss as the carbon taxes, then the overall efficiency loss from taxation will be unchanged.�

    There are lots of advocates of carbon taxes in Australia. I think their case would be much strengthened if they would now identify the taxes that a carbon tax would substitute for, and give an estimate of the sizes of the tax reductions we should expect. It would also be nice to know whether support for a carbon tax would evaporate if it becomes clear that no such reductions would in fact occur.

  10. Hermit
    October 14th, 2006 at 11:29 | #10

    Whatever the merits of revenue neutral green taxes I don’t think Howard is the one to introduce them. His energy statement of a couple of years ago included a diesel excise cut and a reaffirmation of the sacred status of coal. I expect his next announcement to be delivered with a more furrowed brow and more funding for the long overdue technofixes, but no tax tradeoffs. There’ll be plenty on the sacrifices of farmers and water users but nothing to guarantee short term GHG cuts. I’d like to think that developments in the EU, California and the NE American states would hasten the conservative stance but I doubt it. Green taxes are a decade away in Australia.

  11. October 14th, 2006 at 11:58 | #11

    Interesting commentary on the Nobel Peace Prize winner from Peter Boettke.

    http://austrianeconomists.typepad.com/weblog/2006/10/another_nobel_p.html

    “I have long thought that the discipline of economics should be given the Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of the demonstration of how social cooperation under the division of labor results in a regime of private property and freedom of trade. From David Hume and Adam Smith to J. B. Say and Frederic Bastiat to Ludwig Mises and F. A. Hayek, the demonstration of how the harmony of interest can emerge on the market through the pursuit of mutually advantageous exchange is the core message of the discipline of economics and the foundation for peaceful coexistence among all people.”

    “I am thriled for Yunus and hope this will bring renewed attention to the plight of the underdeveloped world and the policy options needed to address the issue of extreme poverty. I do hope that the media attention will not use the occassion to endorse the grand plans that have been proposed by Jeff Sachs and others to “end world poverty” just because they sound good and obviously are well-intentioned. Sachs has a lofty goal no doubt, but one that will cause great misery if not pursued with humility and respect for local conditions. So rather than allow the attention brought by this prize to Yunus’s great innovation to help the worlds poor to embolden the social planners and would-be saviors of teh world to pursue their grand designs, the work of thinkers such as P.T. Bauer and William Easterly should be remembered. The path to development, as Yunus’s micro-lending demonstrates starts with small scale trading and indigenous entrepreneurship.”

  12. melanie
    October 14th, 2006 at 12:54 | #12

    Rafe,
    The literature on microfinance is less sanguine than the comment quoted above. Very poor people tend to have negative savings and one suggestion is that basically what Yunus has achieved is the tranfer of an income flow from the informal (moneylender) sector to the formal (banking) sector. The achievement of very low default rates is due to people borrowing from the informal sector in order to cover their repayments to Grameen-type banks. In the Vietnamese case, where the Social Policy Bank charges below market rates, this can only be done by large subsidies from other commercial banks, yet people still often have to resort to moneylenders in order to cover their bank repayments.

    Certainly there is a high demand for credit from small scale entrepreneurs, but the provision of such credit does not imply that they can escape from poverty.

  13. Mike Hart
    October 14th, 2006 at 21:05 | #13

    I see Bill Heffernan has raised the old go north and multiply fantasy as a ‘nation building’ project to deal with climate change. At least he admits there is climate change. But you really wonder about these people, have they actually had a look at the land they talk about? The Kimberleys is the exposed remains of ancient sea beds, all limestone and rock, hundreds and hundreds of miles of it, there isn’t any dirt in a lot of areas to dig its rock! Pilbarra and other areas are the same. So we are going to move the population of south eastern Australia to the North, good luck seeing its taken us 200 years to establish what we have put in place already.

    Similarly views in this weekends papers that farmers will have to give up water for the cities, get real, they do not have any water to give anybody. I do not think I have seen so much crap sprouted in a long time, well not since 2003 when we needed to free Iraq. All reminds me of the dead parrot sketch from Monty Python actually. Have agood weekend. Remember it will rain again but not enough, enough for everyone to forget about doing anything until next year, shudder to think about the BOP crisis that will ensue when we start importing food in 2007 and oil prices start to rise again after the US Congressional elections are over.

  14. Simonjm
    October 15th, 2006 at 13:38 | #14

    Th Solves Global Energy Shortage?
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/10/th_solves_globa_1.php

    From the article:

    •There is no danger of a melt-down like the Chernobyl reactor
    •It produces minimal radioactive waste
    •It can burn Plutonium waste from traditional nuclear reactors with additional energy output
    •It is not suitable for the production of weapon grade materials
    •The energy contained in one kilogram of Thorium equals that of four thousand tons of coal
    •The global Thorium reserves could cover the world’s energy needs for thousands of years
    •Norway has an estimated 180 000 tons of Thorium which based on the current price of oil is equivalent to 250 thousand billion US$, or 1000 times the Norwegian oil fund.

    Do we have any & I wonder why we haven’t heard more of this?

  15. Simonjm
    October 15th, 2006 at 14:22 | #15

    Ancient coral reefs
    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2006/1760541.htm

    In times of accelerated climate change, when sea levels change quickly, coral reefs can’t change quick enough and are either marooned in the air, or drowned in the depths. Ancient reefs offer information about climate changes in the past.

    Samples can tell researchers timings of sea level change, and change in sea surface temperature and salinity.

    For example, 14,700 year ago reefs drowned quickly when sea level rose 15-20 metres over about 500 years. These occurrences are known as meltwater pulse events, associated with catastrophic ice sheet collapse.

    I don’t remember who the eco skeptic was doubting coral reefs where in trouble, like the Polar bear in danger doubters one again they are wrong.

  16. Hermit
    October 15th, 2006 at 14:24 | #16

    Simonjm I’ve googled the issue of thorium in Australia. It turns out the Olympic Dam mine throws it away in the tailings along with rare earth metals that may also be valuable in the future. See
    http://www.pir.sa.gov.au/pages/minerals/commodity/rare_earths.htm
    No word on tonnages only that there are no plans to extract it at present.

  17. Joe
    October 15th, 2006 at 15:57 | #17

    Interesting comment in the SMH “Diary of a day trader”:
    ” I was thinking about this in relation to China. China is popularly thought of as a nice new Western-style Asian tiger, yet it remains an extraordinarily oppressive creature of habit – it can’t help bossing people about. Mao’s bulbous visage still glowers down from posters.

    China is a one-party dictatorship, nominally communist. The interesting thing is that its sweatshop labour is propping up Western capitalism.

    Without the Chinese wage slave we wouldn’t be enjoying these remarkably low interest rates and this fabulous commodities boom.

    It’s fascinating to watch China cheerfully crush its proletariat under the jackboot of industrialisation. The process makes Victorian England’s dark satanic mills seem positively homely.

    No one seems to mind: everyone seems rather delighted to see hundreds of millions toiling away on our behalf in ghastly factories. One has to hand it to these Chinese communists: they know when to unite their workers.” at http://www.smh.com.au/news/business/hi-ho-hi-ho-its-off-to-tonga-we-dont-go/2006/10/13/1160246326107.html

  18. Simonjm
    October 15th, 2006 at 20:31 | #18

    Hermit, typical but if the US isn’t interested nor are we.

    Has anyone seen

    Warming will cost trillions

    http://environment.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,,1921337,00.html
    ?

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