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Monday Message Board

March 19th, 2012

It’s time for another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. As usual, civilised discussion and no coarse language. Lengthy side discussions to the sandpits, please.

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  1. March 19th, 2012 at 16:10 | #1

    This is a topic that isn’t common of what’s typically discussed here.

    I recently chanced on the concept of ProBono Economics, which started in the UK in late 2009. It is a charity that matches volunteer economists with charities wishing to address questions around measurement, results and impact.

    I’ve been rather intrigued by this concept. Out of curiosity, I searched for similar institutions in Australia and Southeast Asia but found none. I would think such an institution/concept would work rather well in Australia and Southeast Asia where there are plenty of charities.

    Any views on this?

  2. March 19th, 2012 at 16:37 | #2

    I was saddened by the death of Margaret Whitlam. A very decent person who (I think) was widely respected by all sides of politics. An iconic Australian.

  3. John Quiggin
    March 19th, 2012 at 17:54 | #3

    It’s a good idea, Jasmine. I do a fair bit of pro bono stuff, but I’m well enough known that people approach me. An exchange of the type you describe would be great for young/early career economists to get involved in some work of real value, along with the (necessary, but often unsatisfying) rituals of the Job Market Paper and so on.

  4. March 19th, 2012 at 19:24 | #4

    @John Quiggin

    Thanks! I wasn’t thinking of being involved in ProBono economics type of work initially. But, that was a good idea you gave me. It could be a good experience in future.

    A friend in the US and I were discussing about the concept of ProBono economics the other day. It’s been a while since the ProBono economics charity was set up in the UK. We were wondering why hasn’t any economists in the US, or Australia tried to set up a similar mechanism/institution. Even as well known economists like you are approached directly, there should certainly still be many other charities/institutions out there that could do with the help of economists who might want to help? A mechanism like this could help?

  5. Freelander
    March 19th, 2012 at 21:44 | #5

    @Jasmine

    Why not set up a site listing research requests from charities etc., along with who to contact if interested in undertaking the research? A site could even provide a directory of researchers interested in doing pro-bono work.

    Maybe Google or some other organisation might be willing to provide a small grant for development of the idea, site or for site administration?

  6. Freelander
    March 19th, 2012 at 21:48 | #6

    meant to include “in Australia”…

  7. paul walter
    March 19th, 2012 at 22:52 | #7

    As the sad case of Jennifer Marohasy continues to demonstrate, how does an advocate or activist keep their integrity when dependent on outside funding?
    As Media Watch showed tonight, some people will hold to the truth, others gladly sell their asses to the highest bidder, so there is going to be the additional problem of separating real organisations from bogus or astroturfed ones. ones.

  8. Freelander
    March 20th, 2012 at 00:32 | #8

    If you do the research for free, that is pro bono, then the you are less likely to ‘sell your ass’ because selling doesn’t come into it.

  9. paul walter
    March 20th, 2012 at 00:38 | #9

    Freelander, was only responding to suggestions of funding for a prospective brolly organisation along these lines mentioned in posts previous to mine.

  10. Chris Warren
    March 20th, 2012 at 09:53 | #10

    Richard Wolff’s recent video:

    “Getting through the gobble-gook of international finance (credit default swaps), French millionaires tax, trial of Iceland Prime Minister Geir Haarde, American income spread and damage to workers consumption, etc…”

    1 hr 15 mins + questions

    http://rdwolff.com/content/global-capitalism-monthly-update-discussion-march-2012

  11. Tim Macknay
    March 20th, 2012 at 10:43 | #11

    Paul Walter, you used the words “Jennifer Marohasy” and “integrity” in the same sentence, and as a result, it’s impossible to make sense of what you’re saying. Can you please rephrase in a manner that makes grammatical and semantic sense? ;)

  12. John Quiggin
    March 20th, 2012 at 10:47 | #12

    What Tim said :-)

  13. March 20th, 2012 at 10:58 | #13

    @Freelander

    Interesting suggestion. I’m not sure if I’ve the power (for the lack of a better word) of initiating such a project. But I can certainly raise awareness with an article, in hope that someone else would do so.

    On a side note, I actually sent an email to ProbonoEconomics. I was told they currently do not have intentions of expanding outside of UK at the moment as the organisation is still in its infancy stage. So, I suppose there’s definitely scope for something similar in Australia.

  14. Freelander
    March 20th, 2012 at 12:59 | #14

    A website for Australia could be something very simple just allowing the listing of requests with the requestors contact details. That would require the least maintenance.

  15. paul walter
    March 20th, 2012 at 15:13 | #15

    Tim Macknay, not without getting sued.

  16. paul walter
    March 20th, 2012 at 15:29 | #16

    Tim, just briefly because JQ and others are conducting a conversation about organising a vital form of pro bono work.

    Would like to say the thing with Marohasy is not gender based or personal, she’s only useful here as another example of the lobbyist as a species, its practices and mentality. Toby Ralph on QA last Monday is another example. Think also of a certain cast of lawyer, Costello from Dollar Sweets to treasurer and Julie Bishop from advocate for James Hardie also to government. Also Costa and others who pass themselves off as Labor and work a specifically anti-labor agenda.
    Arguably, Marohasy and others learn science to undermine it; I can’t think of anything sicker, can you?
    No doubt someone like Prof.Quiggin could think of like-minded souls passing themselves off as”economists”.

  17. James Haughton
    March 20th, 2012 at 15:44 | #17

    @paul walter
    Marx used the word “lumpenproletariat” to describe the “refuse of all classes”, those who were below the proletariat and preyed upon them, including “swindlers, confidence tricksters, brothel-keepers, rag-and-bone merchants, beggars, and other flotsam of society”. Similarly, one can fairly describe Marohasy, and others of her climate-change-denying, Ron-Paul-worshipping, pseudo-think-tank-working ilk as “lumpenintelligentsia”. It’s even in the 2012 Oxford English Dictionary.

  18. James Haughton
    March 20th, 2012 at 15:56 | #18

    It strikes me that the new Global Mail set up by Graeme Wood might be likely sponsors for a Pro Bono Economics sort of organisation. I imagine that the research would generate interesting stories for them.

  19. Freelander
    March 20th, 2012 at 20:17 | #19

    @paul walter

    Speaking of Marohasy and stink tanks, the intellectually lazy and integrity challenged seem to do ok, and seem to be blessed in that they appear to suffer no cognitive dissonance from the ‘services’ they supply (to the ‘market’).

  20. paul walter
    March 20th, 2012 at 22:16 | #20

    Zigactly
    Freelander.
    Back to the “pathology”aspect?
    Hey, beaut doco on the Murray Darling tonight, a celebration of the work of the ABC’s late Paul Lockyer and his tragically killed crew, as he unwound the ending of the big drought of the ‘noughties throughout the system, right through to the reviving of the southern lakes of SA.
    Mind you, the doco stopped with the helicopter tragedy, so the heavy rains just last season are not accounted for.

  21. Xevram
    March 21st, 2012 at 09:23 | #21

    OK it’s Wednesday and this is off topic (s).

    But I am interested in an Economists perspective of the recent Michel Janda article…………

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-03-20/janda-urban-myths/3900906

  22. Ernestine Gross
    March 21st, 2012 at 13:27 | #22

    @James Haughton

    “lumpenintelligentsia” – aha, the power of compounding words.

    How about a still longer one: Lumpenintelligentsiaglitterati?

  23. paul walter
    March 21st, 2012 at 15:30 | #23

    Enestine, your antidisestablishmentarianistic take is supercalifragelisitic.

  24. John Quiggin
    March 21st, 2012 at 16:12 | #24

    @Xevram
    I agree with everything in that piece

  25. paul walter
    March 21st, 2012 at 19:19 | #25

    We are, “forever blowing (real estate) bubbles”.

  26. Xevram
    March 22nd, 2012 at 08:31 | #26

    Thanks Prof Q,
    my reading of the Henry tax review was that he reccomended ammending the laws around negative gearing. I can accept that it is political suicide for any government to do away with negative gearing all together but surely some adjustments and tweaking of the laws has got to help.
    Something has got to give surely, my own teenagers are absolutley determined to never invest in real estate, after all they have had first hand experience of the ‘costs’ of the mortgage debt and I dont just mean financial. I live in Darwin and have been in the Territory for 20 odd years, affordability of living up here has always been an issue and I dont just mean real estate. I have met, befriended and said goodbye to too many people to count, most have had to leave and head back south, in large part driven away by the costs of living.
    Now we are in a time where we are looking at massive devlopment and opportunity around Inpex and another LNG plant, that is of course fantastic and welcome news. It seems like a double edged sword, we can never get enough workers, skilled and otherwise, and yet when they get here accomadation is scarce and what they do find is astronimcal to buy or rent. Average weekly house rental is $600 to $800, a 2 basic bed unit can be anything up to $450 a week.
    OK Darwin is at the end of a 2000 km + transport link and everything you see comes in on a truck, so we accept the transport levy but too many times it is an excuse for unjustifiable charges, resentment builds. Look at our recent cash for containers debacle.
    Well no point moaning about it, 30 % odd of the population up here have it way worse off, the future will no doubt judge us all very harshly. I am hard pressed to think of a more repressive, demeaning and despicable policy than waht the ‘Intervention’ has been and continues to be. But I am not Indeigenous and dont really have the qualification to make that judgement.
    Apologies for the rant.

  27. Dan
    March 22nd, 2012 at 11:03 | #27

    I’m trying to buy a place in Inner Sydney within 10km of the CBD (where I work, play, and I think will be most resistant to any future slumps) and entirely agree with Ian Winter at AHURI that we’re moving to a landed gentry model. On a single income, even a decent one, it’s really hard and with rents what they are saving for a deposit is brutal.

    Luckily my baby boomer parents did great out of property and are kind enough to give me a leg up (cf. landed gentry).

    Given that at least in Sydney housing seems to be a supply-side issue (one that the pollies frankly don’t want to do too much about) it’s hard to see under what circumstances the bubble might burst, though.

  28. Chris Warren
    March 22nd, 2012 at 11:28 | #28

    @Dan

    My inner city Sydney real estate tip.

    Ask the real estate agent to keep an eye out for “company title” flats where the company does not allow renting.

    Australian banks will not lend on Company Title, but Citibank has in the past.

    These prices were much more reasonable because investors are kept out.

  29. Dan
    March 22nd, 2012 at 11:37 | #29

    Thanks Chris!

  30. March 22nd, 2012 at 14:22 | #30

    @Jasmine
    Jasmine,
    We’re a group of Melbourne-based economists who do pro bono work for community groups and NGOs. As Prof Quiggin suggests, we get significant input from undergrads and masters students keen for some “real world” experience (I’m doing masters myself). Most of our recent pro bono work has focussed on reviews of economic impact assessment and cost-benefit analysis of mining projects. I’m not sure if that’s what you’re interested in, but see examples at http://www.ecolarge.com/category/news/.

    We also do paid consulting work for larger environmental NGOs and animal welfare groups, also on the website.

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