Home > Economics - General > Talking at Melbourne Uni tomorrow night

Talking at Melbourne Uni tomorrow night

May 5th, 2011

6.30pm, Friday 6 May 2011
Basement Theatre, Business and Economics Building

Professor John Quiggin, University of Queensland, presents “What have we learned from the Global Financial Crisis?” at the Department of Economics – Melbourne Institute Public Policy Lecture 2011.


Here’s the link

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  1. Chris Warren
    May 5th, 2011 at 13:26 | #1

    I wonder how many times the words “capitalism” and “per-capita debt” will feature?

    0? 0?
    1? 1?

  2. Ikonoclast
    May 5th, 2011 at 14:51 | #2

    I notice the absract says “the lessons of the Global Financial Crisis are there to be learned, even if it takes a renewed crisis to drive them home”. That is certainly true and it probably will take a renewed crisis to do just that.

    Meanwhile, the closer we get to the real and final crisis, the greater the denial becomes on the part of those supporting business as usual, namely the corporate capitalists and our suborned governments. The truth is that not only is capital in conflict with labour but (endless growth) capitalism is in conflict with (the limits to growth in) nature. These two conflicts will see the collapse of late stage capitalism within one generation (approx 20 to 25 years) or less.

    There are two kinds of austerity presecriptions, the one we don’t need and the one we do need. The first and wrong one is the prescription that cuts public spending (especially on the poor and public infrastructure), cuts taxes on the rich and then subsidises corporate capitalist activity. The second kind, which we actually do need, would prescribe larger public expenditure, larger taxes especially on the rich and rich corporations, and major public works on energy saving mass transit and renewable energy schemes whilst reducing environmentally destructive over-production and over-consumption of luxury and discretionary consumer items.

  3. djm
    May 5th, 2011 at 15:51 | #3

    Is it open to the hoi polloi? If so, does one need to register?

  4. John Quiggin
    May 5th, 2011 at 16:02 | #4

    I don’t think any registration is needed, and as far as I know it’s open to all. On a Friday night, I imagine the problem will be filling the hall.

  5. Ernestine Gross
    May 5th, 2011 at 17:27 | #5

    @John Quiggin
    Until about mid-2007, Friday night used to be the time when a lot of finance people hit the pubs. Hope you won’t talk to the converted.

    Incidentally, are you going to mention the unmentionable – increase in taxes for some segments of income earners at least in those countries where there are serious financial constraints?

  6. Alice
    May 5th, 2011 at 18:08 | #6

    @Ernestine Gross
    Ernestine – would you mind elaborating on the unmentionable? I really would like to know what you imply?. Who are the segments of income earners you refer to?

    Genuine question from a lesser educated mortal.

  7. Ernestine Gross
    May 5th, 2011 at 20:08 | #7


    For example, top income tax bracket, earnings from mining activities, earnings on some financial transactions (there is also the tongue-in-cheek spin-tax – you don’t remember this post?).

  8. robert (not from UK)
    May 5th, 2011 at 22:05 | #8

    Certainly I hope that I can attend.

  9. Alice
    May 5th, 2011 at 23:15 | #9

    @Ernestine Gross
    I remember. What a good idea. If we levied the spin tax on all forms of spin Ernestine, a lot more economists would also be contributing something positive.

  10. Ernestine Gross
    May 6th, 2011 at 08:56 | #10


    You may have better information but it seems to me that economists – even those who uphold dead ideas – aren’t good at spin.

  11. Chris Warren
    May 6th, 2011 at 10:26 | #11

    Ernestine Gross :

    You may have better information but it seems to me that economists – even those who uphold dead ideas – aren’t good at spin.

    I am thinking the exact opposite.

    Mainstream economists can only offer spin. How else can two economists win the Nobel prize for saying exactly opposite things?

    The Austrian diversion is just another type of spin, as is Steve Keen’s little excursions.

    Textbook economics seems to give you many concepts that can be spun in any number of ways?

    Do many suppliers really have supply schedules that follow their marginal cost curve?

    Does the circular flow really operate when the economy is pumped with debt, etc etc?

    These are all precepts that really are little more than tacit ideological agreements within academia, business and government. They can only clasp their hands in economic-prayer and hope that if it worked in the past – surely please let it work in the future.

    This is their death spin.

  12. Ernestine Gross
    May 6th, 2011 at 11:50 | #12

    @Chris Warren

    Well, this is your spin on the word spin. My post was addressed to Alice and I have received no new information from her (or you) to change my mind.

  13. Alice
    May 7th, 2011 at 07:03 | #13

    @Ernestine Gross
    I have to agree with The observation.

    Is there any news back from the Lecture? Update?

  14. robert (not from UK)
    May 7th, 2011 at 12:29 | #14

    Well, Alice, last night’s Melbourne Uni lecture was well attended, no doubt of that. I did get there, and when I arrived five minutes before starting time, the rather large lecture hall contained few empty seats. At first there were problems hearing Professor Quiggin’s voice in the back row (where I was), but a tweaking of the relevant microphone solved those difficulties.

  15. may
    May 7th, 2011 at 15:55 | #15

    one piece of spin that can be done without is the pretence that government is just another business.

    pretending that duly elected representatives of the people have no more right in the public weal than market players.

  16. Ikonoclast
    May 7th, 2011 at 16:02 | #16

    @Chris Warren

    Chris, not even I (the Ikonoclast) hold such an iconoclastic view of all economists. For sure, much (perhaps all) neoclassical economics is nonsense. It is the mainstream now so it has coloured your view. But to me, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Keynes, The Chartalists from Newcastle Uni, John Quiggin and Steve Keen to name, a few all make considerable sense in different places in their works.

  17. Alice
    May 7th, 2011 at 20:13 | #17

    @robert (not from UK)
    Robert – tell me more – here was I thinking that the place would be half empty…..
    Reception to Profs talk? Any other interesting bits. Has anyone learnt anything from the GFC
    Well Ive learnt something…someone robbed businesses of ethics and insisted on whacking the profit motif on everything (no you cant guess) and I simply love this piece from a wonderful economic historian called Deirdre McCloskey.

    Fellow bloggers, this will blow your mind and if its isnt what it appears… just hang in there..till the very end.


  18. Alice
    May 7th, 2011 at 20:17 | #18

    Damn – I had a such a good link for you all and Ive been moderated.
    Lets see if just the link works anyway…you can do without my comments. Hang in there with this piece until the end.

  19. Ikonoclast
    May 8th, 2011 at 07:18 | #19


    I really hope you weren’t linking to that article with implied approval. It is so bad that it is its own satire. Sure, it gets 1 out of 100 because it criticises agency theory but beyond that I cannot find a single thing in its favour.

    The author criticises “journalese” and then writes a whole article that is pseudo-scholarly jouranalese. The author actually says that science is rhetorical!

    “Since Thomas Kuhn we have known that science is rhetorical… An economic science, like a physical science, is words all the way down.”

    This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the hard sciences (and Kuhn for that matter). At the leading edge of theoretical science, rhetoric may play a part in advocating a new theory to colleagues. However, a theory must be tested when valid tests can be devised. If comprehensive testing falsifies the theory then there is no longer any recourse to the court of rhetoric. The theory is dead.

    The author’s key thesis about capitalism (or the modern industrial economy from circa 1800 if you dont want to use the word “capitalism”) is that its long term trend to date has always been up so this means it will always go up. The speciousness of this reasoning ought to be too obvious to need pointing out. Offering as proof that a trend will continue indefinitely, the simple fact that it has continued to date! Thus I would conclude from looking at babies and children that humans grow forever.

    The author overall evinces a cavalier attitude (there is no other way to put it) to objective truth, to methods of argument (even own precious and beloved rhetoric) and to the manifold failings of capitalism.

    As I said, were I marking it as an essay (as a citizen-marker for I am not in any formal teaching position) I would give it 1/100.

  20. Ernestine Gross
    May 8th, 2011 at 08:12 | #20

    “one piece of spin that can be done without is the pretence that government is just another business”

    I’d say, the spin in this case is the pretence that the proposition belongs to mainsteam economics.

  21. Alice
    May 8th, 2011 at 08:36 | #21

    Well Ikono – I have to admit I struggled with all but the last section which is why I said stay with it…but having said that it does bring in the broad sweep of history and I do think it gives a powerful serve to agency theory and the idea that everything is based on actors acting in their own self interest

    …and that extends on to the ridiculous notion that government is just another business, that it has a duty to profit, that that is somehow the highest and most honourable objective, that a user pays priority should be applied to the activities of the government in every library, community hall, registration body, statistical collection agency and so on, that bureacrats should run around finding elaborate ways to price their services, and that price is such a deity that it should be stuck, poked, squeezed and manipulated into government systems where it has no right to be and has never been before.

    Price and profit is not the only thing that matters in this world and I think the article makes this point well with the following comment

    All the Chicago economists strode past meaning — love, temperance, courage, justice, faith, hope — and fixed on the individual agent’s prudent self-interest. In his study of marriage, for example, Gary Becker elevated self-interested exchange between agents he called “M” and “F” to the whole purpose of the institution, and put the word “love” in scare quotes.

    Yet meaning matters in business as much as love in a marriage, courage in an army, or justice in a court of law, contrary to agency theory.

  22. Chris Warren
    May 8th, 2011 at 09:11 | #22


    I see no sense in Keynes or Keen. Keen, following Minsky only criticises some forms of debt and his understanding of Marx is rude, crude and juvenile.

    It is not often recognised, but all these new economic theories, after Ricardo and Marx in the late nineteenth century are essentially deliberate attempts to “put a check upon the influence of Karl Marx”.

    It is more explicit than that. This became the task of universities – for example:

    In Germany, where the university is but an organ of the state, teachers of political economy have felt it incumbent on them to put a check on the influence of Karl Marx, which has come to be a potent factor in public life … The Austrian school, which began the attack (on the Ricardian basis for Marx’s theory) presently won a leading place in German economic discussion, and the reputation of that school spread rapidly abroad [Hourwich, Isaac A, Journal of Political Economy II (December 1893-September 1894), 235-250.

    Since then, and because of this manipulation in university output, Europe was plunged into two cataclysmic world wars interspersed with a cataclysmic depression and is now on the precipice of another.

    Keynesianism, marginalism, and the subjective theory are all just modernist versions of the same 100 year-old desire to “put a check upon the influence of Karl Marx”.

  23. Alice
    May 8th, 2011 at 09:14 | #23

    @Ernestine Gross
    Ernestine….I do think that pretense belongs to mainstream economics. I do think Price and profit has been elevated to superhero status by mainstream economics. I do believe mainstream economics ignores relationships, human beings and the virtues and ethics. I do believe this view started its current life with the Chicago school, I do believe that they are the source of what is not only wrong in mainstream economics, but is now also wrong in mainstream economic policy and is now also wrong in how we manage and run our institutional funtions of government.

    Is it not true that the career path for most successful policy economists resides firstly in their successful econometric skills, a step up to a bank or financial institution and from there to Treasury to continue the elevation of the almighty profit and price and market worship, and that extends straight back down to harsh removal of public services which used to provide not only a sense of shared community values to the majority but delivered real value and real savings to ordinary people (not just the poor but also the middle – the great washed majority in fact) because there once was no price on the service?

    I went to a dinner party and once and met one such economist way back in 2002 and I asked him a question about economic policy on something or other and he said “there is only one thing that matters in economics – price, price, price.” End of conversation for me, find someone more interesting to talk to. You cant talk to people all night about the sun god.

    Well pricing government services is in fact stealing that price from the majority and rewarding it to some other group, and likely not the majority. Thats all it is.

    It has been part of maintream economics. The current ruthless egocentric econometric rationally narrow model obsessed view was born in the Chicago school in the 1960s and was then “spun” across economic departments around the world (with the support of complicitly self interested powerful politicians and central banks) where it still requires complete subordination and repression, to its views.

    It has diverted economics itself and many other institutions to the pursuit of markets, models and price …but in the end it has robbed economists of their speech, the people of their objections. Who can object to models that are not understandable – we can object to higher motor car registration fees but what is the answer to

    “Our models show that…”

    The Chicago school stole communication and meaning. Jibberish became the norm and not the exception, but to say it doesnt belong to economics – well I cant agree.

  24. Chris Warren
    May 8th, 2011 at 09:18 | #24
  25. Chris Warren
    May 8th, 2011 at 09:26 | #25


    It has been part of maintream economics. The current ruthless egocentric econometric rationally narrow model obsessed view was born in the Chicago school in the 1960s and was then “spun” across economic departments around the world (with the support of complicitly self interested powerful politicians and central banks) where it still requires complete subordination and repression, to its views.

    It goes MUCH further back – 1890’s. The Journal of Political Economy was produced by the University of Chicago only as the necessary ideological factory to underpin American fortunes in the light of early American trade unionism and the so-called “Populism” movement (1891).

  26. Alice
    May 8th, 2011 at 13:10 | #26

    Prof – spammer delete above Done, thanks

  27. May 8th, 2011 at 15:57 | #27

    Is it open to the hoi polloi? If so, does one need to register?

  28. Robert (not from UK)
    May 9th, 2011 at 08:58 | #28

    Alice, I’ve been unable to respond before now to your query re Professor Quiggin’s speech. But if you’re still following this thread, I can say that it was well attended, and that its format drew a good deal on the material Professor Q had discussed in Zombie Economics.

    The questions were few but, I thought, interesting. It seems that Zombie Economics has done pretty well in terms of both sales and critical reception. One questioner asked about the US Tea Party.

    Whether there has been any mass-media Melbourne coverage of the talk, I don’t know. Still, I’m glad I went. While I was fearing it might be a dry technical lecture, it wasn’t anything of the kind. There was even a reference to Talleyrand’s remark about the early-19th-century Bourbon royals having “learnt nothing and forgotten nothing.” (Similarly with lots of economists now, of course.) That allusion by Professor Q got appreciate chuckles from the audience.

  29. Robert (not from UK)
    May 9th, 2011 at 08:59 | #29

    Sorry, “appreciate” should be “appreciative.”

  30. Ikonoclast
    May 9th, 2011 at 09:44 | #30

    @Chris Warren

    I am a great admirer of Marx’s theoretical depth and perception in both economics and politics (true political economy). Marx’s diagnosis and prognosis for capitalism have proved essentially correct in all major details. Marx’s prescription for a cure (communism) I am not so sure about. I also join Popper in rejecting Marx’s (or at least Marxian) historicism of the deterministic variety.

    If you are going to have (or are forced to have for the time being) a capitalist economy then guys like Keynes (and locals Keene and Quiggin) are the type of economists you hope would be in the ascendancy.

    As a general statement, I will say that my world view is that physical laws and biological laws (the biophysical) control far more outcomes in human history than is generally credited. Also, I would say that I see man as essentially selfish and corrupt or as always tending to corruption. I see this not from a theological standpoint but from a realist and biological standpoint which emphasises man’s animal nature. Most ideals are inventions; “love” for instance or “devotion to a god or cause” which latter mostly become mere rationalistations for man’s most brutish, selfish and murderous behaviours.

    The idea that mankind would be any “better” under a different system is total nonsense. I can accept “better off” but not better in nature. Every system needs an enormous number of checks and balances to moderate the inhumanity of humanity. I certainly don’t make Marxism a religion any more than I would accept capitalism or christianity or any other system of thought as a religion. Religion is blik as a wise fellow said. Pure ideology and religion are both mere dogmatic systems. (I am not saying Marx is pure ideology but “Marxism” rapidly become that in Leninist and Stalinist Russia).

  31. Chris Warren
    May 9th, 2011 at 15:06 | #31

    Error establishing a database connection

  32. Ikonoclast
    May 10th, 2011 at 10:02 | #32

    Chris Warren :Error establishing a database connection

    LOL. Is that with irony alerts on? Are our minds not meeting?

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