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Weekend reflections

September 9th, 2007

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. Hermit
    September 9th, 2007 at 07:57 | #1

    There’s something unsettling about record mineral exports at the same time as a likely dud wheat harvest. Whether this is Keating’s structural imbalance or just unsustainability is moot, remembering that we still have a trade deficit despite the big bucks. I know resource theorists say we should invest the proceeds and live off the interest but I don’t think it works like that in the real world. I’ve got a horrible feeling that we’ll end up with empty holes in the ground and a hungry population that expects the good times to continue.

    For example I predict PM Rudd will talk tough on climate but increase coal exports. The treadmill is going too fast to step off.

  2. September 9th, 2007 at 08:29 | #2

    yep, corporation/parliamentary states don’t plan past the next election, the next annual report. worse, the goals are ‘getting re-elected’, and ‘maximum profit’.

    so i argue for democracy. getting the future of the nation out of the hands of pms and ceos holds out some hope for long-term planning, in a sustainable society. otherwise the treadmill will dump us out in a wasteland.

  3. Jill Rush
    September 9th, 2007 at 09:25 | #3

    We are not quite in caretaker mode but through APEC we are making some very long term and radical commitments. As Hermit has pointed out – record mineral exports. We have blamed China for its reliance on coal but at the same time are selling record amounts of it to that country.

    The PM has talked up the terrorist threat and yet has just signed a treaty to sell more uranium to Russia although anecdotally there is the thought that Russian nuclear weapons are ending up in the hands of terrorists. The rush to sell Uranium carries with it the question of where will teh waste be stored. Back on Aboriginal lands seems to be the obvious answer. Not very good in the long term for the little children who are sacred. We won’t know the answer to that question until after the election but we do know that the USA is looking for a place to put its waste.

    The safeguards are probably as good as the safeguards for Workchoices. That is there can never be enough officials to do the work and there will be plenty of opportunity to fool the inspectors.

    The problems we face are not going to be changed by a change of government unless there is a real threat of a third power developing in politics to keep them on track as teh big parties find the same things attractive. The use of the public service and advertising to bolster their positions as well as the adrenalin rush of big deals.

    The Democrats are a spent force as they are unable to get their message across, Hansonism is also out of puff. We have a new party called What Women Want which puts a new twist on matters. Family First is scary for its links to right wing religion. Independents have a lot to offer although there are problems for them in getting a message out in terms of cost and recruiting supporters.

    The Nationals have lost power as even Barnaby Joyce has been brought into line with the dominant Liberal thinking. They have lost their voice; corrupted by the power of government. It may be different if they are in Opposition. The Greens are consistent in their messages and they are probably the main group to offer any kind of balance to rampant power. The religious based group of Family First is too likely to support the government of the day so are unlikely to act as a balance. Labor’s support for them over the Greens suggests that this is the case.

  4. gerard
    September 9th, 2007 at 12:03 | #4

    It is my understanding (quite possibly wrong) that Labor’s support for Family First over the Greens in 2004 cost the Greens the Queensland Senate seat which ended up going to Barnaby Joyce. If they do the same this year I’ll spew~~~~!

  5. gerard
    September 9th, 2007 at 12:06 | #5

    Why are people so much more worried about where the Uranium waste will be stored than where the Coal waste will be stored? I’ll tell you where the Coal waste is stored – in the atmosphere, in the air that people breathe. At least the Uranium waste can be sequestered somewhere where people won’t breathe it in. Selling uranium is probably more environmentally friendly than selling coal – so long as coal waste is pumping out of chimneys.

  6. gordon
    September 9th, 2007 at 12:33 | #6

    There has been a good deal of comment on the subprime meltdown and bailout on the US economics blog Economist’s View. I visit this blog regularly, because it seems to reflect a good cross-section of moderate liberal US opinion. There has been a progressive change in the tone of posts on the meltdown/bailout from an acceptance that some regulatory reform is required, to a preference for non-regulatory means of managing moral hazard (whatever that might mean) to, finally, what seems to be a belief that nothing (except an immediate bailout) is required. Some commenters on the latest, “do-nothing� post have now begun to speculate on where the next bubble will appear, and complacently anticipate large profits for those who pick the right class of assets or raw materials.

    One of the most depressing aspects of this abandonment of any policy response to what has been a fairly dangerous episode is the apparent desire of the blogmeister (Prof. Mark Thoma) to avoid any interference with the operation of the US Federal Reserve Bank. In that latest post I referred to above, he quotes with approval a chap called T.Cowen who has the gall to say: “ “. Cowen says this apparently with a desire to preserve the Federal Reserve’s “independence�. Cowen also refers to the danger to free trade from uninformed opinion.

    These comments are particularly depressing because they are about preserving shibboleths of economic theory regardless of cost. Cowen, and (through his approving quotation of Cowen) Thoma, are prepared to sacrifice any possibility of reform to the financial system because reform might interfere with the shibboleths of reserve bank independence or free trade. Unthinking and desperate preservation of shibboleths in the face of evidence is always sad, and is particularly sad when undertaken by men who pretend to professional expertise. It is even more sad when we consider that reserve banks aren’t really independent, and that trade isn’t really free. Once that is realised, we can see that attempts to “preserve� them amount to no more than a defense of a status quo in which the advocates have made themselves very comfortable.

  7. gordon
    September 9th, 2007 at 12:39 | #7

    The quote from Cowen was: “Fed watchers should resist the tendency to put all events into a simple or a morally plausible narrative. Monetary policy is a largely technical subject, and its ups and downs don’t usually fit into the kinds of emotion-laden stories that human beings apply to daily life. The “us versus themâ€? tag registers in human memory, but monetary policy is not always or even usually about moral issues…”

  8. observa
    September 9th, 2007 at 22:21 | #8

    No surprises with the footy over the weekend with all the home sides following the winning script, more or less. The Cats were not mucking around and suddenly had that Brisbane look of invincibility about them. Didn’t hear that ‘old shinboner spirit’ mentioned much today by the Vic scribes. Must have flown across the border to Port eh guys? The ultimate Premier is almost certainly going to come from either Port or Geelong and there’s no doubt which team will be raging favourite with the smart punters now. The Cats should bolt it in with that midfield, but funny things can happen in Grand Finals. We’ll see if the men from Alberton can get there and rain on the parade. I reckon they’re the only team left that are capable of doing that now, given West Coast’s injury list. They’ll need a fair ounce of luck though, as indeed every Premier does.

  9. September 10th, 2007 at 08:23 | #9

    Note: formerly, for a short period of time, I used the account name of ‘cacofanix’

    Naomi Klein : The Shock doctrine of neo-liberal capitalism

    This is from a review of Naomin Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” by Brian Lynch and Georgia Straight:

    Klein explains that she first noticed this pattern during a trip to Sri Lanka in the summer of 2005 to report on the devastation the Asian tsunami had wreaked on that country’s shores six months before. What she saw there, she says by phone from Toronto, was “a sort of amping up of a corporate agenda from free-trade light to free-trade heavy, with no veneer of consent–just exploiting people in their deepest moment of vulnerability and disorganization, when there’s no possibility of democratic participation”.

    Within mere days of the disaster, Klein says, the Sri Lankan government passed a bill opening the way for the privatization of water and began creating legislation to sell off the national electricity company. Moreover, by the time she arrived in the battered country, government officials had set up a “buffer zone” that stretched the length of the island’s east coast, preventing traditional fishing communities from returning to the waterfront to rebuild their shattered homes. The ruling was ostensibly for the sake
    of public safety, in case of another monstrous wave. But, as Klein argues in detail in her book, the motives behind it seemed questionable, given that the tourism industry was exempted from such restrictions. Resort owners in Sri Lanka had long sought to have the fishing villages removed from the otherwise pristine beaches; in fact, they had increased the pressure in early 2003, when the government began touting an economic-growth program, formulated in part by the World Bank, that singled out high-end tourism as the key to the country’s future prosperity in the global marketplace.

    “The force of that natural disaster,” Klein tells the Straight , “was immediately harnessed by international lenders…and the need for tremendous aid was used as leverage to make many of the countries hit by the tsunami, including Sri Lanka, submit to what used to be called ‘structural adjustment’–privatization and deregulation.”

    (daggett: perhaps we should look again at Austalia’s seemingly generous aid package to Indonesia for tsunami disaster relief in the light of this knowledge.)

    “When [Hurricane] Katrina hit New Orleans,” she says, “we started to see this very same pattern emerge instantly, and we started to hear immediately from the think tanks in Washington that this is really an opportunity to get rid of the public-school system and have a charter-school system, or to get rid of all those housing projects and turn them into mixed-use housing, which really means condos. Then I thought, ‘Okay, this is the thesis.’ But when I started to write, I realized that what I had thought was a new tactic–this use of disaster and crisis and trauma to impose these economic policies–has actually been in play now for 35 years. And so I sort of traced the
    roots of this chapter of economic history.”

    According to Klein, the roots go back to 1973, when the U.S.–backed toppling of Chile’s elected, left-leaning president, Salvador Allende, brought right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet to power. …

  10. September 10th, 2007 at 09:27 | #10

    A pictures from the LDP counter protest I attended during APEC.

    http://apec07.org.au/?page_id=3&px=%2FP1000605.jpg

    We were there promoting free trade and saying that Australia should unilaterally liberalise trade in line with the Bogor agreement (APEC 1994).

  11. mugwump
    September 10th, 2007 at 10:33 | #11

    I like the picture. Which one is you?

    “Freedom to trade is freedom to choose”. Simple and to the point.

    I also like:

    “Freedom is freedom”.

  12. September 10th, 2007 at 11:23 | #12

    There is a another picture at the following link in which I am holding a white placard (third from the left).

    http://ldpblog.wordpress.com/2007/09/10/apec-2007/

  13. Tom Davies
    September 10th, 2007 at 11:23 | #13

    Taking people’s land has nothing to do with ‘neoliberal capitalism’, which encourages the creation of secure, documented property rights, and everything to do with corrupt governments.

  14. September 10th, 2007 at 17:13 | #14

    People frequently seem to confuse (often deliberately) notions of American military imperialism with the ideas of capitalism. Maybe they don’t know that Adam Smith was Scottish. I’m not sure why this is because the USA is democratic and nobody confuses notions of American imperialism with democracy.

  15. gordon
    September 12th, 2007 at 13:09 | #15

    Thanks, Daggett. Interesting on N. Klein.

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