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Weekend reflections

July 31st, 2009

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. As always, civilised discussion and no coarse language.

Categories: Economics - General Tags:
  1. Michael of Summer Hill
    July 31st, 2009 at 20:47 | #1

    John, wright-wing conservatives governments really amaze me for in Croatia the centre-right Croatian Democratic Union introduced a “crisis tax” in order to keep the country’s ailing budget “above water”. What next.

  2. Melaleuca
    July 31st, 2009 at 23:01 | #2

    I have come to an hypothesis that religiosity and anti-science sentiments are a consequence of poor primary education curricula. I developed my hypothesis by accident, and after many years of feeding my little black dog. My little black dog is always content to see me slice a chunk of sausage for his evening meal. It is my practice, however, to then slice the chunk into smaller bite-size pieces, otherwise the LBD will carry the whole piece to his beanbag and make a mess. I noticed that the the more a slice the chunk, and the smaller the pieces become, the LBD starts becoming agitated. I don’t believe that this is due to him being thwarted in his desire to chew the bigger piece – rather I think my LBD does not have the concept of conservation principles; he thinks that the smaller I chop his sausage, the less there is. I recalled from Education Psychology lectures that young children at also lack this concept of conservation: they think that cordial emptied from a jug into glasses has somehow become less; that the chocolate bar divided into pieces is less. They think that the sum of the parts is LESS than the whole. At some stage in their development, most children come to realise and accept the conservation principle: that dividing any whole into parts is a zero sum game. Some children (and my LBD) never make this connection with the real world, and are always susceptible to the suggestion that a spirit can inhabit or vacate a tree or cloud or burning bush; or turn lead to gold or wine to water; and they never think “wait a minute! how can the energy suddenly manifest HERE and not be missed THERE? And how do THOSE electrons know that they are supposed to be effected by magic, and not the ones next door? And since POWER is the ability to do work, and work is the expenditure of ENERGY, where does the faithhealer FIND the energy to tell those nasty little cancer cells to stop?”
    My little black dog thinks I am a (mean) god because he thinks I make part of his dinner disappear. But I make him feel good by taking him for walks, and giving him biscuits, and he is VERY loyal.

  3. August 1st, 2009 at 00:11 | #3

    Which part of primary education curricula is supposed to fix this errant worldview regarding conservation? Also have you tried getting a cat?

  4. Salient Green
    August 1st, 2009 at 08:26 | #4

    Christine Milne has dubbed the CPRS as the Continue Polluting Regardless Scheme.

    Anna Bligh has aligned herself with the Greens by calling for a ban on big political donations and having publicly funded elections. I think it’s an excellant plan. Can anyone see it as a bad thing apart from the cost to the taxpayer?

  5. Fran Barlow
    August 1st, 2009 at 08:42 | #5

    @Salient Green

    What cost to the taxpayer?

  6. Salient Green
    August 1st, 2009 at 08:59 | #6

    Fran, the entire cost of the campaign would be funded by the public except for donations under $1000. An allowance would be paid for all advertising etc. Apparently that is the way it is done in Canada.

  7. August 1st, 2009 at 09:18 | #7

    Is a slow down in contraction a recovery?

  8. Cavitation
    August 1st, 2009 at 09:54 | #8

    I have just read Malcolm Turnbull’s article in the Australian, and I recommend its perusal by anyone interested in politics and economics. The first thing that struck me was its tone. Statesman like it certainly is not! Doesn’t Malcolm have anyone on his staff who can proofread it, and tell him that adopting a childish smarmy tone is political poison? It reads like it was written by a schoolboy angry at being forced to do homework. It’s rude and full of emotive language. As a supposed response to PM Rudd’s article of the previous week, it falls completely flat, and shows up the differences between the two men – Rudd’s being serious and professional, and Turnbull’s being like a ratbag blogger (present company not meant, of course!)

    The second issue is that Mr Turnbull is completely rejecting Keynesian economic solutions. He is very angry at the government’s stimulus spending and quotes Australia along with Sth Korea and the US as having the highest spending, as compared with Germany with the lowest. As most economic commentators seem to be most approving of how Australia and South Korea have handled the world financial crisis, and are coming to accept that the US has managed to pull thru it amazingly well, and also are putting forward Germany as the worst of the major economies in handling the crisis, I wonder why Malcolm Turnbull is making this specific reference? He says that the Liberal Party is wrongly characterised as neo-liberal extremists, but the rejection of Keynes and a rollback of the US “new deal” policies of the 1930 is a core belief of the US neo-liberal movement.

    To me, his whole argument is odd. How do others think?

  9. Fran Barlow
    August 1st, 2009 at 10:09 | #9

    @Salient Green

    I’d disagree with them getting one red cent from the public to run their campaigns.

    Keep the donations up to $100.

  10. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2009 at 10:16 | #10

    John, unless Andrew Macintosh has new evidence his conclusion will ostensibly be the same ‘the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases would have to be stabilised at a level significantly below the current concentration, which is approximately 430 ppm CO2-e’. But it is not a pipedream.

  11. Salient Green
    August 1st, 2009 at 13:17 | #11

    Fran, are you letting your contempt for politicians get in the way of a practical election? Then again, it could be a good thing by way of them being forced to deal with more of the voters face to face. I have never been doorknocked by a politician in my 35yrs as a voter and there are a few who could benefit from meeting me, for mixed reasons.:)

  12. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2009 at 13:32 | #12

    John, I find it very strange that climate change sceptics continue to raise nonsensical issues when governments around the world are increasing being pro-active in limiting environmental harm.

  13. Fran Barlow
    August 1st, 2009 at 14:20 | #13

    @Salient Green

    I haven’t felt that voting in any election for any body has been justified in more than 30 years, so it would be strange if I started advocating that public moneys be paid to

    a) encourage voting
    b) publicise policies that I find offensive — (eg opposing climate change mitigation, abortion; gay marriage; invading other countries; CC&S etc

    How do you feel about money being paid to help Wilson Tuckey or Stephen Fielding get elected?

    I’m pretty dirty on that.

    Personally, I favour sortition for selection of candidates and direct democracy for determining macro policy issues and controversies. If such a system were set up, I’d change my mind on public funding and voting.

  14. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    August 1st, 2009 at 17:27 | #14

    What’s Steve Keen up to these days? Is he a little pissed off at better than expected economic prognoses?

    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2008/10/23/steven-keen-on-debt/

  15. Alice
    August 1st, 2009 at 17:31 | #15

    @Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    Ill give it another year Dolly until we can say the cat is alive.

  16. Kevin Cox
    August 1st, 2009 at 17:59 | #16

    Cavitation,

    It is difficult for Turnbull. He has bringing out the debt scare as he feels he has to differentiate himself and he thinks that negativity and fear sells. His problem is that no one believes what he says. Many of us believe that he would do the same thing if he was in power and taking advice from the Treasury.

    It would be interesting to see what would happen with a different approach. Why not agree with the stimulus and disagree with the way it is being done and on how the money is being spent.

    I think whichever party decides to spend money investing in renewables rather than waiting for the emissions trading scheme to get underway would get a lot of kudos. Let us say Turnbull came out with a vision of spending $50 billion on renewable energy systems rather than handouts for Christmas and an ill thought out upgrade to the nations school gymnasiums. There are ways to give a stimulus for renewables that would have an immediate effect and most people would see it as money well spent as they can see how it will pay for itself and it could be done in a way that everyone gets part of it. e.g. give everyone $2,500 that must be spent on investing in ways to reduce green house gases.

  17. Salient Green
    August 1st, 2009 at 18:22 | #17

    “How do you feel about money being paid to help Wilson Tuckey or Stephen Fielding get elected?”
    Yes Fran, I’m not happy about it either and I would add Abetz and Macfarlane MP to the other two space-wasters.

    I feel it is more important to ban the large corporate bribes/donations which is going to be difficult enough and only possible by replacing that money with funds from the public purse under tight regulation.

  18. Fran Barlow
    August 1st, 2009 at 18:33 | #18

    @Salient Green

    This is a false dilemma. Staunching the flow of funds from the elite to political parties does not entail handing them a new cash cow.

    It is possible for grassroots fundraising to work, but as I said, I’d prefer a fundamentally different system

  19. Fran Barlow
    August 1st, 2009 at 18:36 | #19

    @Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer

    Last time I bumped into him at the Heterodox Economists’ do at the Coogee Bay last year he was talking of a 40% decline in Sydney house prices. I shared his view (though not the magnitude) of the fall, but apparently he sold his house and moved.

    It does seem the combination of measures by governments in the major industrial powers has put a floor under the collapse — so I suppose you could take that as a tick for neo-Keynesianism.

  20. Tony G
    August 1st, 2009 at 20:17 | #20

    OH dear, David Karoly and his six mates won’t be happy.
    Considering they are from the First Church of Climate Apocalypse.

  21. Melaleuca
    August 1st, 2009 at 20:40 | #21

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Thanks for your question.
    In the same way that remedial maths teachers will use money as a means to improve a student’s understanding of arithmetic and maths operations, students who have an unshakeable belief in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, a God who is 3-People-In-One or a Human who insists He/She has All The Answers should be redirected to the sandpit and be given all the Tonka toys they want, and water and dirt and string and wire and odd bits of wood; and they should be asked regularly if Something can be made from Nothing; and, if Something they had not made had appeared in the sandpit, could they think of a Way that it could have got there; and if they see a puddle that has the shape of a face, they could be encouraged to also look at clouds.
    And as you imply, there are many insights to be had by the observation of animals.

  22. August 2nd, 2009 at 00:53 | #22

    For an interesting amateur comparison of the economic stimulus packages used in the USA and Australia during the Great Depression Tim Andrews has been playing with excel.

    http://blog.libertarian.org.au/2009/08/01/stimulus-economics-the-data-says-no/

  23. Crispin Bennett
    August 2nd, 2009 at 06:30 | #23

    Anyone see the Oz yesterday? Rupe has clearly had a burst of integrity and told the editor to stop the pretence that it’s anything other than a cheesy Liberal booster paperblog. The Australian news section consists of page after page of relentlessly incompetent anti-Labor opinion. There’s a hilarious story by some dimwitted blogger calling themselves ‘Matthew Franklin’. The headline: “Chinese watching Labor Conference”. The content: 20 countries have sent observers to the Labor conference. Like most Oz bloggers (about 50/50 Springborg/Abbott sock puppets, I am told), “Franklin” loves the word ‘communist’, especially when situated within a few words of ‘Labor’. Linguists and good old fashioned psychoanalysts could have a field day.

  24. Fran Barlow
    August 2nd, 2009 at 08:20 | #24

    @Tony G

    Interestingly, you’ve chosen an article to which I responded at the time. Well done.

    Fran

  25. Alice
    August 2nd, 2009 at 09:05 | #25

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Terje – Id like to know exactly where in the ABS statistics your Tim Andrews got his unemployment “statistics” for the decade of the 1930s. Perhaps you could ask him as it is a libertarian blog and I dont generally frequent those blogs. My understanding is that unemployment statistics were not collated by the ABS at that time yet he claims his stats were based on “ABS statistics.” Interesting.

  26. August 2nd, 2009 at 09:37 | #26

    Alice – I’m not your messenger boy. If I as a libertarian can fathom the courage to comment on a socialist blog such as this one then I’m sure you can pass comment at a libertarian blog without it killing you. You obviously managed to read the article without getting libertarian germs.

  27. Ken
    August 2nd, 2009 at 09:41 | #27

    Does anyone besides me seriously wonder about the motives for the strong commitment to ‘clean coal’? Surely Rudd and co can do the arithmetic; 3 times as much CO2 as coal burned to make it, much more difficult (ie expensive) than coal was to dig up to separate, transport and dispose of. There is no way it can ever be low cost even for the first plants which would be the ones with the right geology underneath suitable for pumping it deep into and expecting it to stay there forever. After that it gets ever more difficult and expensive. Seriously, can anyone reasonably expect even a significant portion of the gigatons of CO2 to be successfully disposed of at any kind of reasonable cost?

    So if it’s so clearly an ultimate dead end why the unequivocal support for it? Why the allocation of more R&D funding than any renewables? If the money is tight, how can it be justified to pour more money into something that can’t work than money on things that have an existing track record, that can only be improved by economies of scale, in a nation richer in renewable potential than most?

    After some consideration I can only conclude this is a message, firstly to the fossil fuel industry, of undying support and secondly to the public, who might suspect that ongoing expansion of coal mining and export is against our global interests in the new climate reality. So if ‘clean coal’ gets anything less than full support it might look like it doesn’t deserve it!

    Honestly I can only think we are seeing shades of The Hollowmen; renewables getting more than ‘clean coal’ would give the impression that ‘clean coal’ isn’t a viable clean energy alternative and the pressure to begin cutting back our reliance on coal would grow. So allocate more to ‘clean coal’ than renewables, giving the impression it’s an achievable option and at the same time giving a good excuse to ignore the inconvenient fact that, as the world’s No.1 exporter of coal we are a big part of the problem, and of course, justify the continued massive expansion of coal mining and export.

    And I thought Hollowmen was satire!

  28. Fran Barlow
    August 2nd, 2009 at 09:57 | #28

    @Ken

    For the record, Ken, I’m against spending one red cent on CC&S, in part, on the grounds you suggest. Essentially, the talk of “clean coal” is an expensive and counterproductive (from the public interest POV) bit of political theatre, created and played so as to mollify industry opposition to CO2 abatement and to deflect the idea that green intitiatives are antithetic to job protection.

  29. August 2nd, 2009 at 09:59 | #29

    Ken – as I think about the issue more I begin to agree more with your view on this.

  30. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 2nd, 2009 at 10:53 | #30

    Ken, you are oblivious as to what is happening in the real world. You only need to read up on other areas of the economy to realise Australia is not standing still when it comes to R & D and greenhouse gas. Today Dr Beverley Henry provides some evidence that, “The emissions from both beef cattle and sheep have dropped by about 10 percent overall since 1990. And if you look at the amount of beef, where production has gone up, there’s been a 9pc reduction in the amount of emissions per kilogram of product’. And whilst we are heading in the wright direction, the high social costs of rewarding bad behaviour and of handing out free permits to the worst polluters in this country is in my opinion ‘bad policy’.

  31. Alice
    August 2nd, 2009 at 11:50 | #31

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    LOl Terje – I get enough libertarian germs in here…is there a vaccination? I support individual freedoms too but not to the extreme of disorder..as some libertarians appear to endorse. Terje – would you support individual freedoms and no regulation in a 7 year old’s classroom? Just wondering.

  32. Alice
    August 2nd, 2009 at 11:58 | #32

    For the record I am in agreement with Ken on this as well…clean coal supports coal exports and ignores Australia’s nasty role as a major supplier to GW.

  33. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 2nd, 2009 at 13:16 | #33

    Crikey John, now the biggest neo-conservative free-marketeer has put his mitts in the cookie jar raking up $1.04 million from the public purse between May last year and May 8 this year.

  34. Donald Oats
    August 2nd, 2009 at 14:05 | #34

    @Crispin Bennett
    In agreement with you on that one; page after page of trying to make Labor look bad, instead of reporting the news. It’s a shocker, which is why I don’t pay money for such low quality toilet paper anymore.

  35. Ikonoclast
    August 2nd, 2009 at 14:18 | #35

    Most assuredly, the CPRS is the Continue Polluting Regardless Scheme. Clean coal is a dirty lie. Joke question: How do you get clean coal? Joke answer: You whitewash it.

    Carbon dioxide sequestration will never work. Not a chance. The technical and scale problems are immense. The energy cost to liquify, transport or pipe, pump at pressure and so on will be so high that it will likely take 50% of the energy produced to sequester the CO2. Add that to all the other inefficiencies and energy losses and one can see what a hopeless proposition it is.

    Carbon dioxide sequestration is a bait and switch. Bait people in into clean coal and then get them to switch (perforce accept) the only real possible outcome which is diirty coal use for another 50 years.

  36. Alice
    August 2nd, 2009 at 20:19 | #36

    For all the “lower taxes…lower taxes…smaller govt”… libertarians /conservatives in this blog Id like to post a link

    http://www.uts.edu.au/about/executive/vc/20071008.html

    (its about rare thing that I agree with Prof M but but on this I concur wholeheartedly and its actually well said and deserves a round of applause.)

  37. Ken
    August 4th, 2009 at 11:21 | #37

    Michael, I’m not oblivious to the genuine efforts going on in Oz, just astonished and appalled by the disconnections – between the arms of gov’t dedicated to emissions reduction and the ones dedicated to the expansion of coal mining and exports, between the short term financial benefit to Oz by maximising coal mining revenues and the long term consequences to our agriculture and our national treasures like the Great Barrier Reef, between the illusory belief that our country is a minor player in this, whose decisions will have little effect and the reality of our place as a major player who’s decisions have enormous consequences.

    The allocation of greater funding for ‘clean coal’ (which can’t be a real solution to emissions) than funding for technologies that show genuine promise is apalling mismanagement of our nation’s money at best. It’s use as a propaganda tool to give ‘clean coal’ an image of being a real choice and as an excuse to entrench the continuing growth of the use of coal – in the face of the abundance of quality scientific advice of the real costs and consequences – leaves me grasping for words.

    All the local emissions reductions proposed for Australia are overwhelmed many times over by the increased global emissions from the coal we sell. This is Australia’s true, real ongoing contribution to climate change and without dealing with coal exports the efforts to make a positive difference locally pale to insignificance. Make no mistake, the international community won’t fall for a carbon accounting scam that ignores what we export.

  38. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 4th, 2009 at 11:48 | #38

    Ken, I have been arguing against Labor’s ETS policy for quite a long time on the basis it is bad policy and irresponsible rewarding bad behaviour and of handing out free permits to the worst polluters in this country by encouraging them to carry on business as usual. And whilst I’m all for renewables we have to face reality.

  39. Ken
    August 6th, 2009 at 08:04 | #39

    Michael, I agree the rewarding of bad behaviour is the wrong way to deal with any issue. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘we have to face reality’; climate change is the serious reality we need to face and I don’t believe it’s beyond our capabilities to deal with it but it needs genuine appreciation of it’s seriousness and urgency. Unfortunately, the very real efforts and achievements will be overwhelmed by ongoing bipartisan support for the expansion of coal mining and exports. Only by disbelieving there will be serious economic impacts of climate change can this be justified. Use of coal is at the heart of this issue and policy that not only allows it to be ongoing, but to massively expand it defies logic.

  40. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 6th, 2009 at 08:22 | #40

    Ken, the reality is governments around the world lack the political will to go one step further and fingers crossed Copenhagen will force Federal Labor to see the light of day and do the wright thing rather than just mouth off about how green it is.

  41. Tony G
    August 6th, 2009 at 21:36 | #41

    JQ regurgitates this repeatedly;

    ““you have strongly held views rejected by nearly all mainstream scientists in the field makes you considerably worse than a dummy in my book.

    Stolen from Gordon Robertson @JM’s blog;

    “What experts, what fields? Generalizations like yours are what drive alarmist dogma. I was debating (one sided) with an AGW advocate the other day and asked him to name an objective poll that showed the majority of climate scientists agreed with the AGW theory. I asked him 4 times and each time he came back with no answer and more rhetoric.

    I agree that you would get unanimity if you polled all climate modelers. The mistake you alarmists make is thinking modelers represent climate science. They do not, they represent climate modeling, and there may be a lot of them because anyone can run a climate model. Most of you speak as if climate modeling is climate science and that climate scientists like Richard Lindzen, with 40 years in the non-modeling, direct observation school are skeptics not worth bothering with.

    The IPCC represents climate modelers and they are well represented by the IPCC. The IPCC admitted in TAR that they were going to use models exclusively to ‘guess’ at future climate states. They do not predict future climate states because the IPCC made it clear that is not possible, and Kevin Trenberth concurred. Out of the 4000 reviewers on the IPCC, only about 250 are degreed climate scientists or meteorologists. The rest are scientists from all disciplines.

    Among the skeptics you might get partial agreement on AGW. John Christy of UAH claims CO2 ’should’ warm the atmosphere and Patrick Micahels feels ACO2 contributes to the warming. The latter simply does not think the amount of warming contributed is worth the bother. Therefore a straight yes/no poll would reveal nothing.

    Can you answer this question please JQ

    Let me put it to you this way. Among all climate scientists with a degree in the discipline, or among meteorologists, or among physicists, what percentage of those people agree with the AGW theory? How many of them just don’t know?”

    Produce the poll so we can have a look at it.

  42. Ken
    August 10th, 2009 at 21:56 | #42

    Michael, I expect we will come to see serious action but not from our current crop of politicians. I doubt Copenhagen will do it, but it will come; the big coal suppliers will be as much pariahs as the big coal users. Soon enough to save the Great Barrier Reef? It’s looking very unlikely to me.

  43. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 10th, 2009 at 23:06 | #43

    Ken, my understanding is that come next December in Copenhagen countries will agree to a target of between 25-40% in an effort to stabilise global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees and that this position is non negotiable. Time will tell.

  44. August 11th, 2009 at 06:36 | #44

    Alice – the ABS does actually provide such date in their annual Year Book.

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