Home > Oz Politics > Some interesting quotes

Some interesting quotes

October 5th, 2009

Glenn Milne

Any other outcome than the endorsement of Dutton by the Gold Coast Liberals would render the party not worthy of a vote across the country.

(Dutton lost).

Tony Abbott

The argument [on climate change] is absolute crap. However, the politics of this are tough for us. Eighty per cent of people believe climate change is a real and present danger.”

Malcolm Turnbull

I am very committed to my service to the people of Wentworth and I’ve got no plans to leave,

(on this, see JK Galbraith)

Miranda Devine

the fact is that you can articulate a position on climate change that does not dispute man’s contribution without buying into a complicated ETS,

lunka ??????? zoo ????? ???? ??????? ? ? ???????????? ????

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  1. Jim Birch
    October 5th, 2009 at 08:59 | #1

    The brain is an evolved computer whose programs were sculpted over time by ancestral environments and selection pressures experience by the hunter-gatherers from who we descended. Individual behaviour is generated by this computer, in response to information the person experiences. Although the behaviour these programs generate would, on average, have been adaptive in ancestral environments, there is no guarantee that it will be so now. Modern environments differ markedly from ancestral ones, especially social environments.
    – Leda Cosmides

  2. Rationalist
    October 5th, 2009 at 09:09 | #2

    Interesting how this pans out, I heard there is a possibility for a couple of safe seats where the MP might be tapped on the shoulder…

    As Peter Brent says, a 2010 election with Turnbull as leader will yield a 53/47 in favour of Labor and seats in the high 80s (88 he mentions). He also says, anyone but Turnbull (such as Abbott or Bishop), make it 54/46.

    I think these are sound, but certainly are not party destroying stuff.

    Mal will negotiate on the ETS, it will be passed with increased industrial protections we will go to Copenhagen and it will fail.

  3. djm
    October 5th, 2009 at 09:09 | #3

    Does anyone listen to Milne anymore?

  4. Rationalist
    October 5th, 2009 at 09:15 | #4

    Hmm, I suppose I can’t do anything without a quote.

    “The rich man was the innocent beneficiary of his own superiority. To the enjoyment of wealth was added the almost equal enjoyment which came with the knowledge that one had it because one was better.”

    J.K. Galbraith’s The Age of Uncertainty

  5. Ikonoclast
    October 5th, 2009 at 10:46 | #5

    Tony Abbott says, “The argument [on climate change] is absolute crap.”

    Apparently Tony Abbott knows more about climate change than all the leading scientists in the field. Mr Abbott refutes their position (which is based on empirical evidence and many of the known laws of physics which have been derived and devloped since about Newton’s time until the present day) by saying it’s “crap”.

    Let’s apply Mr Abbott’s method to other areas of human endeavour.

    1. Nuclear physics is crap. The bomb was just a fluke.
    2. Medical science is crap. The fact that appropriate antibitotics stop bacteria is just a fluke.
    3. Shakespeares works are crap. All the major critics are wrong and I’m right.
    4. Beethoven’s music is crap. All the major critics are wrong and I’m right.
    5. Einstein’s theory of relativity is crap. The fact that predictions made by theory have been verified empirically is also crap.

    6. GENERAL RULE – Anything asserted in any field by the best minds in human history is crap. My own untutored prejudices count for far more and I have this magically powerful and dismissive word (crap) which I can use to prove to myself I am right about everything.

    That, my friends is the level of Tony Abbott’s intellect. And that guy gets elected to parliament! Scarey isn’t it?

  6. Rationalist
    October 5th, 2009 at 11:20 | #6

    “Global warmers predict that global warming is coming, and our emissions are to blame. They do that to keep us worried about our role in the whole thing. If we aren’t worried and guilty, we might not pay their salaries. It’s that simple.”

  7. October 5th, 2009 at 12:45 | #7

    Ikonoklast, applying your own rule 6 to your own comment says that that is crap. For instance, for all you and I know Abbott has taken different expert advice and that remark of his is not his reasoning at all but his conclusion. I do know that Steve Fielding’s very similar position was arrived at in just that way. It might still be wrong, but it is not vacuous.

  8. Alice
    October 5th, 2009 at 12:46 | #8

    Really – how much longer do people have to put with Mr People Skills?
    Its really scary – Ill never forget the night he spoke hellfire and brimstone pro war Iraq rhetoric downloaded from US republican websites and read straight to the audience ( in North Sydney at a debate)…I wondered how, then, a man like that gets elected to parliament? There is not an eloquent bone in his body. Not even an Australian view. Not even a speech written beforehand (the lazy creature didnt fool anyone..).. John Vale ran absolute rings around Abbott

  9. October 5th, 2009 at 12:57 | #9

    “(on this, see JK Galbraith)”.

    This one? “Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists”?

  10. John Quiggin
    October 5th, 2009 at 14:23 | #10


    “For instance, for all you and I know Abbott has taken different expert advice”

    While different advice might have yielded conclusions different from those of the experts, it would not thereby be “different expert advice”, unless you interpret “expert” to mean something other than “expert in climate science”. To confirm this you need only look at the Inhofe/Morano list of “dissenting scientists” which includes such prominent climate scientists as Jennifer Marohasy and Alan Moran.

    At this point, the only ones deceived by this stuff are those who want to be deceived, a category which unfortunately includes most of the Liberal backbench. Abbott is reaching the point of cognitive dissonance where he realises that he would be much better off if he believed the experts than if he continued to accept the favoured myths of his tribe.

  11. robert
    October 5th, 2009 at 16:16 | #11

    Alice writes: “John Vale ran absolute rings around Abbott.

    Wasn’t it John Valder, rather than John Vale?

  12. Michael of Summer Hill
    October 5th, 2009 at 16:21 | #12

    PM Lawrence, all the experts agree on one issue that greenhouse gases endangers the public’s health and that should be sufficient for Australia to clean up its act.

  13. charles
    October 5th, 2009 at 18:05 | #13

    PM Lawrence:

    The liberal party are on the wrong side of:
    -Public opinion.
    -International political momentum.
    -Science (more likely to be right that someone sucking facts out of the end of their finger)
    -Nature (If the science is right that’s the killer; as it heats up they are going to look sillier).
    Business (there is money to be made in going green)
    -Country voters (farming is changing and the smart ones know there is money to be made converting carbon dioxide back to trees)

    How can a political party be so dam stupid.

  14. Fmark
    October 5th, 2009 at 18:46 | #14


    I rather thought it was this one:

    Anyone who says he won’t resign four times, will.

  15. Michael of Summer Hill
    October 5th, 2009 at 19:23 | #15

    Rationalist, just a while ago one of the smart arses, Victorian Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield argued against any ETS amendments before Copenhagen on grounds there is not enough info as to ‘what a majority of nations intend to do’. What a lot of codswallop.

  16. Alice
    October 5th, 2009 at 19:34 | #16
  17. Rationalist
    October 5th, 2009 at 19:35 | #17

    @Michael of Summer Hill
    I am all for amendments but Copenhagen will fail.

  18. Alice
    October 5th, 2009 at 19:37 | #18

    PM – both Tony and Fielding are VACUOUS. SO are the AGW denialists. OK OK I admit they are not VACUOUS. many of them are making a whole lotta money pushing the VACUOUS views – so maybe they are self interested, rather than VACUOUS. It doesnt matter, they are still WRONG.

  19. Alice
    October 5th, 2009 at 19:39 | #19

    because they ahve an ageing shrinking constituency and no young blood. Plus they ignore the young. Plus they just are stupid (cant help themselves…). JH did them in for street cred. Its gone.

  20. Alice
    October 5th, 2009 at 19:53 | #20

    I dont recall the quote of Galbraith’s you made PM Lawrence (do you have a page no??)

    What JK actually said was “conomists have a passion for refinement. It is also a useful form of employment. And the ability to know and understand refinements is our test of whether an economics student is a genius or only a near genius.”

    Galbraith also noted (and this is not directed at you PM but just generally) that “the theory (neoclassical economics always glossed over the fact that the rich balanced their satisfactions at the margin with a lot more purchases than the poor.”

    The idea of a geneal equilibrium was that of Walras (Ernestine knows this) (professor at Lausanne) – this system depended on the competition of many small fims and thus an uninhibited rule of the market – no-one had sufficient power tio control the price…
    Fast forward. This no longer exists. We are teaching 19th and 20th century economics in the 21st century. Marx’s monopolising capitals have monopolised globally. The world has changed and the models are a century behind.

  21. SeanG
    October 5th, 2009 at 20:22 | #21

    The Coalition is a rabble.

    For all you believers out there: http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/5389461/the-great-global-warming-scam-ctd.thtml

    The more these stories come out, the more it begins to filter to people that climate change is not an issue. It is, but I think you are arguing the case poorly.

  22. Michael of Summer Hill
    October 5th, 2009 at 20:24 | #22

    Rationalist, now give me your reasons as to why Copenhagen will fail.

  23. Ikonoclast
    October 5th, 2009 at 20:29 | #23

    I disagree P.M.L. Abbott’s position is clearly vacuous. The notion of “different expert advice” in the hard physical sciences is a nonsense. Climate science is physics and chemistry and nothing else. Admittedly, it is extremely complex, has an immense number of variables to take into account and is still a work in progress. Nonetheless, it belongs to the realm of hard science.

    Those who think science is about seeking opinions are wrong. Science is about seeking real world evidence. I seem to recall that Steve Fielding took advice from the government scientist and other scientists expert in climate science. He then went away and sought other opinions. Clearly, he didn’t like the real world evidence presented by experts in the field so he sought others who would tell him what he wanted to hear.

    The clear problem with people like Abbott and Fielding is that they are scientifically illiterate. They don’t understand what science is or how it works. They are also philosphically illiterate. They clearly don’t understand the basics of epistemology and they confuse belief with knowledge.

    Dare I add, Abbott (despite his alledged education) is probably even theologically illiterate, both in the head and in the heart. Otherwise, he would show a little more humility, a little more sensitivity to others and a great deal more concern for stewardship of the earth.

  24. Michael of Summer Hill
    October 5th, 2009 at 20:40 | #24

    SeanG, give me your reasons as to why the majority of scientists are wrong on global warming.

  25. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    October 5th, 2009 at 21:50 | #25

    This article is about politics as a form of sport. It’s half time and despite the red team playing a rather ordinary game the blue team is down several points and losing badly. The score is all anybody really cares about when suddenly the blue captain starts swearing at his own team and now the crowd is egging for some biffo. What a day, what a game!!

  26. SeanG
    October 5th, 2009 at 22:03 | #26

    @Michael of Summer Hill

    I don’t think they are wrong – I think the policies are wrong and that is a problem of politicians.

  27. Ken Miles
    October 5th, 2009 at 22:59 | #27

    “Global warmers predict that global warming is coming, and our emissions are to blame. They do that to keep us worried about our role in the whole thing. If we aren’t worried and guilty, we might not pay their salaries. It’s that simple.”

    ‘Fess up, you ripped this line off a creationist.

  28. Crispin Bennett
    October 6th, 2009 at 06:35 | #28

    Ken: it’s a quote from a Nobel Prize Winner no less. Kary Mullis is a chemist with the genius to not only unveil the Great Global Warming Scam, but also the HIV Causes Aids Scam and the Conspiracy Against Astrology prevalent amongst many UN-sponsored so-called “scientists”. I suspect he could be The One to finally disprove the egregious myths of smoking-induced lung cancer and NASA moon landings.

  29. Rationalist
    October 6th, 2009 at 06:36 | #29

    @Ken Miles

    “Global warmers predict that global warming is coming, and our emissions are to blame. They do that to keep us worried about our role in the whole thing. If we aren’t worried and guilty, we might not pay their salaries. It’s that simple.”

    * Kary Mullis, Winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

    Is this person a creationist? I don’t know, nor do I care. I thought it was witty since so many people involved in this AGW thing rely on it for their income, such as JQ and others.

    @Michael of Summer Hill

    I think it will plausibly fail because politicians are negotiating it :).

    To be honest, my blunt OP does not explain the situation well enough, it is more complex an issue. I think in the current circumstances, without a breakthrough of some kind (I don’t seem to see one happening, although I am not a mystic), the conference will fail to achieve anything meaningful. In turn, the Democrats will lose at least 3 or 4 Senate seats in 2010 and perhaps more in 2012 and the issue could be up shit creek for years to come.

    Waxman Markey won’t get to 60 votes, it might die in committee, it could be carved to pieces if reconciled, the Parliamentarian may reject it completely. Nothing is happening without the US.

    Then again, a breakthrough of some kind might occur and something more meaningful will then eventuate.

  30. Alice
    October 6th, 2009 at 07:47 | #30

    @Ken Miles
    Oh no Ken – creationism eh…(how simply tragic).BTW Kary Mullis who was responsible for the quote is also an AIDS denier and (get this) an LSD enthusiast

    I Mullis took one too many trips!!!

    But wait for it – I can top that one…..Burger King Franchisees are supporting the denialists as well…

    The world would be much less interesting without lunatics wouldnt it…???

  31. Freelander
    October 6th, 2009 at 09:41 | #31

    @John Quiggin

    So I have been told by former colleagues, Alan Moran’s great acomplishment when he was a public servant (and was in charge of regulation review) was to have food saftey deregulated along with the getting rid of food inspectors. Apparently, you don’t need these regs and regulators? Maybe it is a social darwinist view. The occassional bout of food poisoning will weed out the weak!

    I am not sure what his ‘scientific’ qualifications are, unless, we economists are now classified as scientists? Maybe we should be making that claim? After all the Nobel is for ‘Economic Science’.

    Friedman was another who didn’t think you needed food regs. The market solves these problems. For example, if you buy a defective parachute, after you use it you probably won’t buy a parachute from that place again, and they are likely to go out of business without the repeat trade, or so the argument goes.

  32. Freelander
    October 6th, 2009 at 09:49 | #32

    The Ig Nobel’s have been awarded: http://www.boston.com/news/health/blog/2009/10/ig_nobels_hold.html

    The Economics Ig Nobel

    “Economics: The directors, executives, and auditors of four Icelandic banks — Kaupthing Bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir Bank, and Central Bank of Iceland — for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa — and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy.”

  33. Alice
    October 6th, 2009 at 10:58 | #33

    My JK
    “The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character building values of the privation of the poor.”

    Worth his weight in gold.

  34. Alice
    October 6th, 2009 at 16:12 | #34

    says “Maybe it is a social darwinist view. The occassional bout of food poisoning will weed out the weak!”

    Thats the whole problem I have with mindless deregulation EXACTLY like this. The weak can get sick and die as a result of someone elses shabby business practices and that will cure them. Someone tell me why we pay governmnets to be governments, if it is not to regulate business practices in a sensible fashion.

    Call me old fashioned, but with de-regulation like this, the government itself is doing us more harm than good.

  35. Alice
    October 6th, 2009 at 16:20 | #35

    Here is another piece of mindless de-regulation Freelander. A relative of mine has worked many years for the Department of Health, monitoring the physiotherpists registration board. This board hunted down people who were illegally putting up shingles to say they were physiotherapists. Down back alleys they hunted and closed down people who were twisting other people’s appendages and backs with no training whatsoever. Now this board is to be privatised, effective nest year. Tell me what incentives a private sector organisation has to close down the shonks and illegal physiotherapists and to chase them down back alleys to close them down???

    No, my guess is the new private physiptherpists registration board, will have little interest in anything but collecting registration fees on an annual basis from proper physiotherpaists.

    Its like a union gone horribly wrong. Pay up for nothing.

    Another case of mindless de-regulation. We have or we “had” these government controls for a good reason – to protect the general public from fraud but now it seems fraud, even in governments, has become acceptable.

  36. SeanG
    October 6th, 2009 at 17:36 | #36


    Maybe if you worked in the private sector you would see how soul destroying regulation can be!

  37. Freelander
    October 6th, 2009 at 17:36 | #37


    Friedman argued that such shonks shouldn’t be regulated at all. He claimed that the market would sort it out. Apparently though, there is a neck cracking manoeuvre that some manipulators, whose training is not science based, like to do that runs the risk of a person dropping dead a day or two later. Conveniently, not at the partitioner’s premises. The problem with cracking someone’s neck is that there is a large blood vessel that is wrapped around the spine at the neck and if you crack someone’s neck you stand a reasonable chance of creating a tear in this vessel. A day or two latter the tear can open up with a quick loss of blood or the tear can provide a good site for clotting to form. When a clot breaks off it provides a different way to depart.

    As for unionism, a couple of the strongest unions are the medical union and the pharmacists’ union. Given that you need very little training to do what pharmacists do which is take the box specified by the prescription off the shelf and put a typed sticker on it, why do you need to be trained a pharmacist at all. Once apon a time you did need the training. Back when pharmacists made the potions. Now you don’t. In third world countries, so I have been told, you don’t need any pharmacist training to do the same.

  38. SeanG
    October 6th, 2009 at 18:08 | #38


    The longer the recession lasts, the more each natural disaster is attributed to “catastrophic climate change” and the longer politicians are focused solely on an ETS and this type of article will become more and more prominant and precipitate a change in public opinion.

  39. Alice
    October 6th, 2009 at 18:35 | #39

    says “Friedman argued that such shonks shouldn’t be regulated at all. He claimed that the market would sort it out”.

    Friedman is part of the freaking problem. The market does NOT SORT IT OUT.

    Id rather have my pharmacists trained bso they know what dosages the doctores SHOULD NOT be prescribing. Pharamcists were always a double check.

    As for Friedman – he can go to an unregulated retirement home where the food is crap and teh care just as unregulated….its a shame he id dead and he cant experience the rest of his life in a place like that…

    Im over Friedman. A MUCH over rated economist who set himself up to challenge the greatest economist of this century,,,,but in the end, his challenge has failed miserably.

  40. Alice
    October 6th, 2009 at 18:35 | #40

    spelling is shocking …sorry

  41. Freelander
    October 6th, 2009 at 18:59 | #41


    Agreed. I would like to have seen Friedman and his ilk ship-wrecked on a desolate island where they open up the box of emergency provisions, etc., and find nothing but vouchers entitling the bearer to all sorts of useful things, backed by the issuer, which can be exchanged for those goods with any provider they choose. Maybe this would be their first experience of market failure?

  42. Alice
    October 6th, 2009 at 19:25 | #42

    Sounds exactly like the “market sorting it out view” that Friedman helped create…a a box of useless transactional promises on a desert island for a market with nothihng to sell and no public sector agency to set up a search party. Sounds a good end for Friendman and ilk to me Freelander. Let them experience the unkind psychotic market at its worst first hand…but Ill bet Friedman never minded getting paid lots to write economic theory for the wealthy who advocated the character building values of the privation of the poor (as long as it wasnt the wealthy stranded on the desert island of course).

    Friedman was a conservative who lent his economic skills to other conservatives. He did not work for mankind.

  43. Joseph Clark
    October 6th, 2009 at 19:56 | #43

    Alice. Most economists, even the really left-wing ones, have a lot of respect for Friedman even if they disagree with his views. People who call Friedman names and say he was an idiot and didn’t care about the poor (he very clearly did) look silly to economists on all sides of the debate.

  44. Alice
    October 6th, 2009 at 20:28 | #44

    @Joseph Clark
    Joseph. I dont like being misquoted, misinterpreted or misprepresented and you have managed at least two of those three. What I said was, Friedman was a conservative who lent his skills to other conservatives and he dedicated most of his career to furthering the conservative cause. Thats reasonably well known Joseph.

    I said Friedman was a much over rated economist. This is a comment… not “calling Friedman names” Joseph. There is a difference, and no one here called him an idiot (but dont tempt me Joseph).

  45. Freelander
    October 6th, 2009 at 20:29 | #45

    @Joseph Clark

    Nonsense. I am not left-wing and I am not alone in thinking that Friedman was extremely silly. He wasn’t an idiot, but he was an excellent sophist. He was great at debating and had a reputation for making up facts to support his position. His convoluted nonsense arguments did have some artistry. A good example was his essay “The Methodology of Positive Economics” which was quite rightly ridiculed when it first came out by Paul Samuelson, and less astringently by Herbert Simon and Ernest Nagel. Nevertheless, this essay became much read and has misled generations of young economists and encouraged them to engage is similar silliness. His Magnum Opus, “Free to choose”, is one of the silliest books I have ever read. It is a riot. That said, it would be unfair to characterise everything he did or said as totally vacuous. Work on the consumption function wasn’t too bad although the PIH seems wrong. Dusenberry’s theory, although not as elegant and hence ignored, is probably a more accurate characterisation. Also, there is nothing wrong with the Friedman test. Maybe he should have stuck to statistics?

  46. Alice
    October 6th, 2009 at 20:46 | #46

    @Joseph Clark
    I will also suggest Joseph – you get yourself a ciopy of “free to choose” – the much feted book by Friedman and if it takes you longer than a day or two to read it, I will be amazed. Thats how long it took me and to say I was underwhelmed is an overstatement.

  47. Joseph Clark
    October 6th, 2009 at 20:48 | #47

    You are making my point. I’m not sure if you are an economist but you display some understanding and respect for Friedman’s work, though you disagree with it.

    I’m not sure how many people would agree that FTC could be called Friedman’s ‘Magnum Opus’.

  48. Joseph Clark
    October 6th, 2009 at 20:54 | #48

    I didn’t like FTC when I read it many years ago. I thought it was completely wrong. But it challenged my ideas and made me think. I remember having arguments with people who agreed with Friedman at the time.

  49. SeanG
    October 6th, 2009 at 20:57 | #49

    Friedman is not overrated either in his work or in his influence. Indeed, when it comes to influential economists Friedman is right up there with JM Keynes, Adam Smith and David Ricardo.

  50. Fran Barlow
    October 6th, 2009 at 20:58 | #50

    @Joseph Clark

    Who are the left-wing economists who have a lot of respect for Friedman?

    For some reason I can’t get the name Pinochet and the term “Chicago School” out of my head when I hear of Friedman.

  51. SeanG
    October 6th, 2009 at 21:06 | #51

    Larry Summers, for a start, Fran.

  52. SeanG
    October 6th, 2009 at 21:07 | #52

    @Fran Barlow

    You do realise that it was quite a while after the coup that the Chicago School really came into their own in Chile?

  53. Fran Barlow
    October 6th, 2009 at 21:09 | #53

    Define “left-wing”


  54. Freelander
    October 6th, 2009 at 21:12 | #54


    Yes. Friedman is right up there, in terms of influence, with Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Adolph. Though his place in the pantheon of positive contributions to economic thought is no where near JM Keynes, Samuelson or Arrow. He is vastly overrated. Like L Ron Hubbard, he is, or has been rather influential, mostly over the last thirty years, but hopefully that will pass. Not all new religions persist.

  55. Freelander
    October 6th, 2009 at 21:14 | #55


    It is not true that members of the Chicago School visited Chile to help their economy. It was just a tourist thing. They liked watching people dropped out of helicopters!

  56. Freelander
    October 6th, 2009 at 21:16 | #56

    It is amusing to claim that Larry Summers is left wing. Haven’t you heard of the World Bank memo?

  57. SeanG
    October 6th, 2009 at 21:18 | #57


    I think that association is beyond pale, Freelander.

    “Chicago School” were a group of five or so Chileans who studied in Chicago. They then invited Milton Friedman over to help with the economy. You do realise that there was riots in the streets before the coup? You do realise that 20% inflation or whatever was damaging the social fabric? (Yes, killing 2000 students and unionists also damaged the social fabric).


    He signed the world bank memo, didn’t write it, and there are wackier left-wing academics out there urging even more extreme and nutty arguments.

  58. Freelander
    October 6th, 2009 at 21:34 | #58


    You do realise that the whole destabilisation was created by the US government and the CIA in conjunction with those who took over. Very similar to the 1953 coup that the CIA organised to overthrow the democratically elected Iranian government and install the Shah of Iran. In that case the CIA also organised ‘riots’ etc. (We all know how that ended with the Shah finally being overthrown and a far worse situation than anything the US could have imagined.) The US also took various measures to destabilise the Chilean economy. If you know anything about US and South American history, you would know that the US has been meddling in South American politics for a long time to assist US corporate interests, much to the cost of the ordinary South American.

    As for Larry Summers, wrote it or only signed it, don’t know, wasn’t there. But it is a joke to call him left wing and only serves to identify your position on any spectrum. You are aware of his various views?

  59. Joseph Clark
    October 7th, 2009 at 00:47 | #59

    @Fran Barlow

    I think our host would have a fair amount of respect for Friedman’s work, though obviously not his politics. Lots of free market economists have a a lot of respect for his work too. Economics is different from politics. Many economists have political beliefs and make political arguments but these are usually quite removed from their academic work.

  60. Alice
    October 7th, 2009 at 07:51 | #60

    Dont ever forget Sean that the free market paradise the Chicago Boys and Friedman implemented in Chile, was done so at the point of a bayonet under one of South America’s most vicious dictatorships. Many of the people were divided on the legacy of this intervention seeing more suffering imposed on the poor with favouritism granted the rich. Friedman was a true conservative.

    It is also a fact that GDP growth in Chile in the years of the “free market” experiment was hardly great at 2.6% a year (74-89). In contrast growth before “Friedmans self named Chilean miracle freemarkets” was 4% between 51 to 1971. Free market policies also subjected the country to two major depressions in 74/75 then 82/83 with GDP growth falling 12% and 15% respectively. Like the US and most other industrialised nations, the de-regulation favoured the rich with income distributions increasing destitution to the poor (from 12% to 15% between 1980 – 1990) and rewarded the already rich by increasing the share of the top decile by 10% over the same period from a high base anyway (35% to 46%). By the end of Pinochet’s regime 40% of the population were in poverty.

    It is a miracle that anyone at all subscribes to Friedman’s own “Chilean Miracle” view. Utter nonsense.The rest of us and the statistics and undoubtedly the Chilean people have a hard time discerning improvements gained from the Chicago Boys happened at all? The nonsense just goes on..the same Friedmanesque neoliberal zombie denialist clap trap fed to the US.

  61. Alice
    October 7th, 2009 at 07:57 | #61

    @Joseph Clark
    Joseph – I think you should avoid making sweeping statements about what other economists may or may not think of Friedman or how they “make political arguments that are usually separated from their academic work” unless you are prepared to back it up with some quotes or evidence.

  62. Freelander
    October 7th, 2009 at 08:22 | #62


    Remember when that economy across the Tasman was described as ‘The miracle economy’ after Roger Douglas gave it ‘The Great Leap Forward’ of Friedman shock therapy. If you look at the stats, other than the additional recessions they have had compared with Australia, their real GDP per capita has fallen significantly against Australia’s since the mid ’80s. And remember the most recent ‘miracle economy’ Iceland, or Freeland as I think it should be called!

  63. modern
    October 7th, 2009 at 12:25 | #63


    I gather the memo was written in irony.

  64. derrida derider
    October 7th, 2009 at 15:38 | #64

    Who are the left-wing economists who have a lot of respect for Friedman?
    Me, for one. And I bet JQ does too.

    Its a joke to call “Free to Choose” his magnum opus – it was written for a popular audience and Friedman had his ideologue’s hat on, rather than his professional one, when he wrote it. That people think it his life’s work tells me they haven’t read very much Friedman at all. His professional magnum opus is usually considered to be “A Monetary History of the United States”, which basically created monetarism ex nihil.

    But as a professional economist there is no argument he was an exceptionally fine one. BTW, he and Galbraith were lifelong friends. And even where he was wrong (eg strict monetarism) his errors proved fruitful; he was certainly an original thinker.

  65. Fran Barlow
    October 7th, 2009 at 16:10 | #65

    @derrida derider

    So far, JQ has remained silent on the matter. I will modify since I am unaware of your status as an economist or as a left-winger: do any left-wing economists with a public profile respect him, and if so, on what basis?

    Self-evidently, he was an accomplice to the Pinochet regime after the fact, if not before as well. That alone is sufficient not to respect him, whatever the value of his ideas.

    That his ideas have come to underpin misery on all of the world’s continents merely adds to his err … status.

  66. Joseph Clark
    October 7th, 2009 at 16:28 | #66

    @Fran Barlow
    Most free-market people are polite and intelligent enough not to implicate the current political left with the actions of Mao, Stalin, Mugabe, the Khmer Rouge, etc. Saying that Friedman was an accomplice of Pinochet is on the same level. It’s worse actually because Friedman was very clearly and publicly against political repression in Chile and elsewhere.

  67. Freelander
    October 7th, 2009 at 16:43 | #67

    @Joseph Clark

    Which Friedman so clearly demonstrated by his trip to Chile. I suppose travel restrictions meant that he couldn’t help Germany or Japan with their economies during 1940-45 (without in anyway endorsing those regimes)?

  68. Fran Barlow
    October 7th, 2009 at 16:54 | #68

    @Joseph Clark

    Most free-market people are polite and intelligent enough not to implicate the current political left with the actions of Mao, Stalin, Mugabe, the Khmer Rouge, etc.

    Do you have a rigorously conducted survey on that? Please post the link here. That’s not my experience. In the US, it’s common to use “liberal” and “socialist” interchangeably.

    I’m perfectly happy to debate the provenance of my ideas and my responsibility or lack thereof for repression in the jurtisdictions you mention.

    Saying that Friedman was an accomplice of Pinochet is on the same level. It’s worse actually because Friedman was very clearly and publicly against political repression in Chile and elsewhere.

    Lip service is cheap and he was trying, unconvincingly, to separate his ideas from the method of implementation. The fact is that on the day after the coup, his acolyte’s “How to” the brick was on the democidalists’ desks. Orlando Letelier was tortured and ultimately murdered by people feeding at the same teat as those getting advice from him. And how did the conditions for the coup arise? US pressure. Coincidence? Hmmm

    Following the coup, Chile became one of the most unequal societies in the world.

    Later, Friedman went on to serve Reagan who was running his own subversion campaigns in Latin America. What a liberal! What a humanitarian!

  69. October 7th, 2009 at 17:25 | #69

    I would suggest that this is not a path you want to head down. If we are going to judge either of the broad political theories (“teh Left” or “teh Right”) by the political repression or body count that has resulted from each then the “winner” is not hard to pick.
    Again – I would strongly suggest you leave that one behind, for your own sake.

  70. Freelander
    October 7th, 2009 at 17:28 | #70

    @Andrew Reynolds

    Your shifting your ground. The discussion was about an individual and that individual’s actions which speak rather loudly for themselves!

  71. Fran Barlow
    October 7th, 2009 at 17:32 | #71

    Don’t do me any favours Andrew. I happen to know that the brutal dictators and autocrats of the world pay me no heed. Friedman on the other hand …

    It is the case that if one wills the end, one must will also the means. How could “Freedom to Choose” come about for those Chileans deprived of their freedom by that “Marxist” Allende? The pictures were graphic but the detail was hidden from public view.

    Ironic, don’t you think, that Allende chose the air force to fire on the palace and for the very chap he appointed to head the military to lead the coup?

    Quite a nice touch really.

  72. Freelander
    October 7th, 2009 at 17:48 | #72

    The US has a history of preferring dictators because democratically elected leaders can’t be relied on to do what they want. Of course, dictators are unwise to trust the US, the most recent example being the US’s former ally, Sadam Hussein who was very surprised when the US turned on him. After all he had done all that good work by attacking Iran. Apparently before he invaded Kuwait, he asked the American Ambassador about it. The reply was “They are not a ‘client’ state.” With the green light he went ahead. The Gulf War only happened because, apparently, the Iron Lady phoned G Bush the elder and told him that he was a wimp if he did nothing. Now George the elder wouldn’t want to be though a wimp, so it was all on.

  73. jquiggin
    October 7th, 2009 at 18:10 | #73

    “so many people involved in this AGW thing rely on it for their income, such as JQ and others.”

    This is untrue, but unfortunately fairly typical of delusionists, who ignore the fact that nearly all the “experts” on their side are, or have been, on the take from rightwing thinktanks and the Exxon lobby, then make this kind of spurious attack on mainstream scientists.

    To clarify, my Federation Fellowship, awarded under the previous government is concerned with adaptation to climate change, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin. It doesn’t depend in any way on whether climate change is anthropogenic and it’s still an open question how much of the observed climate change in the MDB is associated with AGW. On the current evidence, it probably is, but if it could be shown that some previously unknown natural cycle was responsible, that wouldn’t affect my work significantly.

    Similarly with the whole (projected) libel that scientists are promoting AGW to get grant money. There’s essentially a fixed pot of this money, so the more that goes to AGW the less there is for everyone else. If grant-grubbing were the motive, you’d never get all the world’s scientific organizations (none of which are dominated by climate scientists) endorsing AGW.

    The problem with delusionists is that they know that everyone on their side is either a crook (pushing a false line for financial or ideological reasons) or a crank, and they project the same on to mainstream scientists.

  74. jquiggin
    October 7th, 2009 at 18:14 | #74

    We’ve discussed Friedman and Pinochet here in the past (you can search). I’m inclined to a charitable view. Friedman’s position was that he gave the same economic advice to Chile and China and to anyone else who asked. You can call that naive, but he seemed sincere on this.

    If you want an example of a Mont Pelerin economist deeply implicated in Pinochet’s crimes, Hayek is your man (again, search and you will find).

  75. gerard
    October 7th, 2009 at 18:29 | #75

    Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” has the most devastating, impeccably sourced historical account of the Chicago School’s intimate relationship with 3rd-world fascism.

  76. Fran Barlow
    October 7th, 2009 at 19:44 | #76


    Friedman’s position was that he gave the same economic advice to Chile and China and to anyone else who asked. You can call that naive, but he seemed sincere on this.

    That’s as maybe JQ, but isn’t it telling that it was overwhelmingly brutal autocracies who thought his advice germane?

    I know that if some reactionary sociopathic autocrat contacted me after a post seeking my support in managing his/her political issues I’d be shocked and disturbed, but I’d not be civil in response. If two did I’d look myself in the mirror hard and re-evaluate what was wrong with what I was posting. A third and I quit politics altogether and take a vow of silence on all matters of public policy.

  77. Gerard
    October 7th, 2009 at 19:44 | #77

    I’m not inclined to a charitable view, because as I’m sure Friedman was aware, his policies would never be accepted in a democratic society and could only ever be imposed by state terror, as they indeed were

  78. Ken
    October 7th, 2009 at 20:17 | #78

    “The problem with delusionists is that they know that everyone on their side is either a crook (pushing a false line for financial or ideological reasons) or a crank, and they project the same on to mainstream scientists.”

    JQ, with that statement you have burnt any standing you might have had as a serious commentator on these issues. You are behaving like a typical political street fighter. That’s OK, but I expected better from someone of your standing.

  79. Ken
    October 7th, 2009 at 20:33 | #79

    The rules of political street fighting, as perfected by Paul Keating:

    1. Never acknowledge that there might be a scintilla of truth in what your opponent says.
    2. Suggest that his or her views are always the result of base motives.
    3. It is not enough to show that he or she is mistaken, he or she must be shown to be stupid or evil or both.

  80. jquiggin
    October 8th, 2009 at 06:17 | #80

    Rather than objecting to my statement, Ken, why don’t you disprove it?

    Name ten opponents of AGW who are qualified, active climate scientists, have no financial connection to fossil fuel industries etc and no connection with rightwing thinktanks or organizations. I can easily do the same on the other side. And I can go through the Morano/Inhofe list of 650 “scientific sceptics” and show that the vast majority of the people listed are unqualified cranks, ideologues or hired guns (in some cases, all three).

  81. Michael of Summer Hill
    October 8th, 2009 at 07:09 | #81

    Ken, you must really come off the grass for global warming sceptics are as JQ says mostly unqualified cranks, ideologues or hired guns who love spinning a yarn.

  82. Fran Barlow
    October 8th, 2009 at 08:11 | #82


    Speaking as someone who has argued the case for accepting the anthropogenic explanation of the current climate anomaly for some years, Professor Quiggin is right. The projection to which he refers is very common, in my experience.

    How many of them actually believe these claims or are merely trading in the populist animus towards scientists felt by educationally or socially marginalised people to secure advantage is impossible to determine. Certainly, if you look at Luntz’s advocacy, and that of Lawrence Solomon, it’s tempting to impute the latter in many cases.

  83. October 8th, 2009 at 08:43 | #83

    jquiggin#24 October 7th, 2009 at 18:14

    If you want an example of a Mont Pelerin economist deeply implicated in Pinochet’s crimes, Hayek is your man (again, search and you will find).

    Thats laying it on a bit thick. Hayek did not, so far as I am aware, participate or officiate in any of the Pinochet government’s business, let alone dirty business.

    At worst Hayek was an occasional apologist for Pinochet. A fellow-traveller or “useful idiot” of the Right, in his dotage. (By the time Pinochet got into power Hayek was in his mid-seventies and well past it.)

    Hayek apologetics on behalf of the Pinochet’s regime occupied the same morally awkward position as oh, say about half the 20th Century’s intelligentsia apologetics on behalf of Left-wing dictatorships, such as USSR, PRC & Cuba. There wouldnt be enough jails in Christendom to house the multitudes of fellow travelling intellectuals of that ilk “deeply implicated” in the crimes of communism.

    As Pr Q is aware, many of his most beloved Left-wing thinkers were fellow-travellers, commie symps or at least provided aid and comfort to our Cold War enemy at one time or another. One thinks of JK Galbraith, Joan Robinson, Andrew Glyn…the list is too extensive to be detailed here.

    I dont see Pr Q indignantly trashing their reputations.

    Regarding Hayek’s apologies for Pinochet’s Chile, circumstances are apparent which may extenuate his “crime” and mitigate his sentence. Pinochet was a mass-murder alright, but Allende et al were no angels. Allende had no right to send the Chilean politico-economy into the toilet on the strength of a mere 36% of the votes of the electorate. He came to power with Soviet KGB support, politically aligned himself with communist terrorists, was building a radical Latin American alliance with Cuba, nationalised half of industry, created hyper-inflation, stirred up racial tension and was guilty of constitutional abuses.

    When an administration that aspires to populist support manages to provoke strikes and demonstrations amongst small businessmen, housewives and truck drivers then you know something has gone badly wrong. In retrospect, Frei & Allessandri were far more appealing figures.

    Pinochet’s Chile was a far less monstrous regime than pretty much all of the Left-wing dictatorships sprouting up all over the Southern hemisphere at the time. It did achieve its stated mission, which was to restore political order and economic prosperity. It always governed with a view to handing back power to civil authority.

    However the Chilean Right (and Mont Pelerin liberals) would have served their long-term cause far better if they had allowed a democratic elections legitimate their case. After all, one can always privatise the nationalised industries etc as was done during the eighties.

    The situation of the Australian Right in 1975 was analogous. Fraser-Kerr did the Right’s cause much long-term damage through their constitutional shenanigans. (It now seems that Fraser was a Left-wing mole.) The Right would have been better off letting normal democratic processes run their course whilst the the Far-Left discredited the Whitlam regime’s sillier policies amongst mainstream voters.

    Personally I find the practice of ransacking the dusty political closets of one’s ideological enemies in search of skeletons to rattle to be tiresome and tendentious business. My father, a Christian Democrat partisan, always had a kind word for Stalin, You can hardly blame him since Uncle Joe saved our necks with all those Red Army offensives.

    “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.”

    Churchill on Stalin in 1941 (Godwin’s Law be damned.)

  84. jquiggin
    October 8th, 2009 at 09:25 | #84

    Jack, you’re spraying pretty widely there (“aid and comfort” rings very much of McCarthyism). I don’t know much about Joan Robinson’s politics, but neither Glyn nor Galbraith was an apologist for Stalinism and no such apologist is beloved by me.

  85. gerard
    October 8th, 2009 at 09:46 | #85

    I think Jack is referring to some approving comments that Joan Robinson made about the Chinese revolution. A bit of a false equivalence though as unlike the Chicago Boys she was never involved in drafting any dictator’s economic policies.

  86. gerard
    October 8th, 2009 at 09:58 | #86

    He came to power with Soviet KGB support, politically aligned himself with communist terrorists, was building a radical Latin American alliance with Cuba, nationalised half of industry, created hyper-inflation, stirred up racial tension and was guilty of constitutional abuses.

    translated from McCarthyese into English, what Jack is saying is that Allende was pissing off the ruling families of a typical 3rd World oligarchy, and so had to be killed, with his supporters disappeared and electro-tortured, in order to “restore political order and economic prosperity”. After all, he was guilty of “constitutional abuses” – luckily there was a non-abusive military dictatorship to protect the integrity of the constitution.

  87. gerard
    October 8th, 2009 at 10:55 | #87

    However the Chilean Right (and Mont Pelerin liberals) would have served their long-term cause far better if they had allowed a democratic elections legitimate their case.

    but that’s where you’re wrong Jack, for two reasons:

    1) Had Allende lost power in a fair democratic election (as he may well have done), it would have been even worse for the Right, because it would have proven that democracy and socialism can coexist.

    2) The Chicago Boy reforms were so cruel to the poor majority that they could only have been implemented under military rule. No party promising Mont Pelarin reforms could have won a second term and probably not even a first term if they were honest about their plans.

  88. Ken
    October 8th, 2009 at 13:32 | #88

    JQ, no I cannot, as I am not very interested in the arguments of AGW sceptics. I do accept the majority scientific view but also respect the courage of those who oppose it. Almost no money is being spent by the energy companies these days, so far as I know, and yet there is a significant number of people who have reservations about aspects of AGW. I am glad they do speak.
    I would admire even more a true blue believer in AGW who corrects some of the wilder claims of a few scientists and many politicians. Suggesting the earthquakes are a result, for instance.
    It is as if they have taken a vow not to object to anything said about AGW that accepts the case. Remember “no one on the left is my enemy”?
    Scientifically dangerous and politically foolish, I think.

  89. jquiggin
    October 8th, 2009 at 13:45 | #89

    @Ken , I hadn’t heard of this before, and had to resort to Google. Apparently, there is a theoretical possibility that melting ice sheets could cause a type of earthquake. But clearly this doesn’t apply to the earthquakes we have just seen, which are the standard Pacific Rim variety. If you can point to anyone making the contrary claim, I’ll be happy to say they are full of it.

    That said, I can’t see how maintaining a position that is ideologically comfortable, or reflective of personal prejudice, but is contradicted by the available evidence, can be described as “courage”. I repeat my statement – someone who maintains such a position to serve an ideological position or financial interest is an intellectual crook; someone who stubbornly advances a wrong position on an issue where they have no relevant expertise is a crank. These two categories exhaust the class of global warming delusionists (I leave aside the large numbers of people, including you apparently, who haven’t paid much attention and have been fooled into thinking there is a genuine debate going on here).

  90. Ken
    October 8th, 2009 at 15:23 | #90

    JQ Of course there is or should be a debate about some aspects of AGW. I know some scientists who squirm with embarrassment at some of Hansen’s statements and institutions that feed a few different assumptions into a model asnd pronounce :It’s even worse that we thought”
    But my friends will not say “I think you are going a bit too far” for fear of being accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
    This situation – which I know to be widespread – is not good for science or even, I believe, the public understanding and acceptance of AGW.
    And with a few exceptions -Nazism, antisemitism, Stalinism to name three – I believe it is a good and helpful thing to acknowledge that one’s opponents are probably acting in good faith.
    I guess that,.and the definition of courage, is where you and I agree.

  91. Fran Barlow
    October 8th, 2009 at 16:18 | #91


    Part of the grey area, Ken is what one disputes. The reality of the matter is that the basic science

    viz. increases in atmospheric CO2 and other GHGs are responsible for most of the 20th century temperature anomaly and nearly all of the late 20th century increase in temperature and are likely to drive further temperature increases during this century in the order of about 2-4 degrees C depending on the concentration at which CO2e is stabilised. Loss of Arctic sea ice and decomposition of West Antarctica are almost certainly a response to this forcing and thus will produce substantial sea level rises due both to thermal expansion and loss of mass from land-based glaciers

    is sufficiently made out to inform public policy. As the IPCC itself acknowledges, that does not mean that all inferences about the connections between various CO2 concentration, likely temperature responses and impacts on regional climate, sea levels, severe weather events, dynamic feedbacks etc are beyond honest scientific debate. These remain matters of contention in which modelling produces error bars with levels of confidence and so forth.

    Amongst the tactics of those seeking to subvert policy is to blur the differences between the basic science and impacts where error bars remain so as to discredit the former as unreliable. Another tactic is to slander the scientists involved as rent-seekers or grant-grubbers or to try holding them accountable for the comments of tabloid journalists. This requires no kind of “courage” and it is not honest “skepticism”. It is simply rock-throwing, sometimes as part of culture war and sometimes in the service of polluters’ interests.

    Courage and skepticism would involve developing a body of argument that better explained the data on warming than that of the mainstream and getting it peer-reviewed, because if they honestly believe that there is some other driver and they acknowledge, as they must, that this might have serious negative consequences for humanity’s life chances, then this would be the responsible thing to do. So far, no contrarian has done this or even mooted doing this. There is room also for courageous skeptics to challenge the IPCC’s models on climate impacts as too optimistic but again, so far, nobody who has tried this has been feted by the Inhofe crowd.

    If one were moved by the desire for truth or even human interest, one might wonder why this has not been done. But of course the contrarians are not moved by such considerations. They are moved principally by commercial interest and in advancing that interest have moved the least educated and most gullible of the populace to populist angst. That is not courage. It is merely self-serving cant.

  92. ken
    October 8th, 2009 at 16:53 | #92

    @Fran Barlow
    Fran, I agree with the first part of your post but not with the rest. And in particular I strongly disagree with your conclusion in the last para.
    Not much more to discuss, I think.

  93. jquiggin
    October 8th, 2009 at 18:22 | #93

    @Ken , I’ve undertaken some critical analysis of Hansen http://johnquiggin.com/?s=hansen

    I’m not aware of anything comparable on the side of the self-proclaimed “sceptics” – the typical mode is to jump from one silly talking point to another, with exactly the attitude “no enemies on the right” you mention.

    If you can point to an exception to this pattern, someone sceptical who nonetheless spends a good deal of time debunking the sillier delusionist talking points (and some of them are very silly indeed – see for example http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/global_warming/mckitrick/), please do.

  94. frankis
    October 8th, 2009 at 19:10 | #94

    Ken is unaware of more than 20 years of intense scientific debate “about some aspects of AGW”? The same sort of debate continues today all through the pages of the scientific literature. Ken, who are the alleged scientists you claim are acting in good faith and are not delusional, yet have been called delusional by JQ (#23)? Presumably your friends must be published climate scientists with a valid criticism of the IPCC’s presentation of the science, correct? Are they really too shy for you to name them?

  95. jquiggin
    October 8th, 2009 at 19:22 | #95

    Ken, you asserted on the basis of my claim that the sources cited by delusionists were nearly all crooks or cranks that I ” have burnt any standing you might have had as a serious commentator on these issues.” Yet you’ve repeatedly declined to give any examples to suggest that I am wrong. It really is time for you to justify yourself or withdraw this attack.

  96. Freelander
    October 8th, 2009 at 22:35 | #96

    An interesting rave by E Roy Weitraub who is a supporter of micro-based macro. If I interpret him correctly, rather than seeing mathematics as a tool for providing useful and informative aproximations that work well in economics, each in their own particular domains of applicability (and as unwise to apply outside to use these applicability zones), he seems to think that we are at a stage that with the right axioms a grand unified theory is possible. No one sensible disagrees with him, appparently?


  97. Ken
    October 9th, 2009 at 00:36 | #97

    Nothing to add or subtract from my earlier statements.

  98. frankis
    October 9th, 2009 at 08:17 | #98

    What I think Ken doesn’t understand is that where a scientist might not, for instance, _know_ that earthquakes may not in some way be connected to climate change the scientist, not being expert in the field, will be unwilling to publicly open his or her sceptical mouth on the subject. Privately, sure. Ken by contrast _has_ implicitly volunteered his “skeptical” opinion on this particular story of his (one I imagine not all of us have heard before his mention of it; I’ve no idea what its source is myself and don’t intend to look to find out). Ken’s expressed his opinion publicly on the story that he’s heard, yet …… Ken’s not a sciontist expert in _any_ scientific field would be my guess.

    And so it goes, and goes.
    I’m sure I’ll continue to be inclined to refer to people expressing their “scientific” opinions on matters in which they have no scientific learning or expertise as delusionists, and invite Ken to do the same.

  99. Freelander
    October 9th, 2009 at 08:57 | #99


    Over the last few years scientists have recorded ‘icequakes’ in Greenland, some over 5 on the Richter scale, apparently created by moving bodies of ice (instead of earth) and potentially linked to climate change.


    However, as for earthquakes caused by climate change I would imagine that no sensible person would suggest that unless they were joking. It is difficult to imagine a mechanism which would link climate change to earthquakes. Can you provide a link to someone who makes this claim?

  100. Freelander
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