Home > Regular Features > Monday Message Board

Monday Message Board

February 24th, 2013

Another Monday Message Board, a few hours early for once. Post comments on any topic. As usual, civilised discussion and no coarse language. Lengthy side discussions to the sandpits, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:
  1. Chris Warren
    February 25th, 2013 at 07:27 | #1

    How to get US gov. deficit below 1 trillion?

    Cut workers, cut workers entitlements, and make conditions worse for the poor.

    This looks like how events will transpire when automatic 85 billion in cuts impact after 1 March.

    ABC’s AM covered this today – and the picture is not pleasant.

    Poor ol’ America, finally realising that the cost of Empire eventually exceeds the benefits of Empire. They may have to take their aircraft carriers and troops back home after all.

  2. February 25th, 2013 at 08:32 | #2

    I read “Uranium exports: bonanza or bust?” with interest.
    I am in no way an expert. I rely on others – I read stuff and try to evaluate. (I am even open to the idea that somehow, some day, nuclear m power could be for the public benefit. But so far I have not come across evidence for this)

    My question is – In the light of the current promotion for small nuclear reactors, is the thorium reactor deal likely to become a reality? And if so, what will that do to the uranium industry?

    I find it quite amazing that an amateur like myself can ask this question, when apparently nobody in Australia’s nuclear lobby is talking about this.

  3. Ikonoclast
    February 25th, 2013 at 08:41 | #3

    A few points are worth noting. First, a government with a fiat currency can fund its deficit by running deficit budgets. It has no need to borrow in its own currency. A budget deficit or budget surplus is not intrinsically good or bad. A deficit or surplus is only good or bad relative to the needs of the economy. A depressed economy needs a budget deficit to inject spending power and stimulate aggregate demand. An overheated economy needs a budget surplus to reduce aggregate demand. This is capitalism with a Keynesian twist.

    Second, yes the costs of expeditionary empire often exceed the benefits in the long run. The US is now in that phase. The Chinese model of incremental border expansion (over the centuries and millennia) seems to have proved more effective. Of course Russia and the USA historically expanded in the same manner (albeit in more of a rush) while the east was available to Russia and the west was available to the USA. But there are no unclaimed territories left except perhaps inhospitable Antarctica.

    Ultimately the capitalist system must fail. I am not enough of a student of technical political economy to be able to comment on the falling rate of profit theory. However, it is clear that the natural tendency of the modern capitalist political economy (unmodified by social democracy) is to move almost all the wealth away from workers and into the hands of billionaire corporate capitalists. This process is unsustainable. At some point the impoverished workers will rebel, at the ballot box if they can, or otherwise at the barricades. In addition, the endless growth capitalist system is in fundamental conflict with the finite resource limits (stocks and flows) of the earth.

    Third, the full compatibility of capitalism and authoritarianism ought to be noted. The Chinese “Communist” party dictatorship has had no trouble transmuting its system into a blend of state capitalism and crony capitalism. As always the “ownership” of masses of capital by an elite few (an egregious artificial construct not to be confused with the ownership of limited personal property by the many) confers on those few the “right” to dictate to the many.

    Capitalism will fall as it is unsutainable. What will follow is impossible to predict in large part because the biosphere will be so damaged we can have no real idea of what it will support in terms of human systems.

  4. Jim Birch
    February 25th, 2013 at 10:03 | #4

    Ikonoclast :
    …However, it is clear that the natural tendency of the modern capitalist political economy (unmodified by social democracy) is to move almost all the wealth away from workers and into the hands of billionaire corporate capitalists.

    I can’t see that’s a given, at all. If you look at the period c.1980 to 2008 you might think so, but that was a period (rocket) fuelled by debt so a lot of people adopted a works-for-me mentality; basically, the billionaires apparently weren’t hurting them. In tighter times this generosity might not apply. I’m not very awed by the intelligence of the average voter, but they aren’t completely stupid.

  5. may
    February 25th, 2013 at 11:57 | #5

    speaking of the last sentence in the previous comment.

    fin agin careering on..

    p6.

    former West Australian premier Gallop to Professor Gallup to Professor Gallup to Professor Gallop.

    i know,i know, small minds watch small things.

  6. Ikonoclast
    February 25th, 2013 at 12:24 | #6

    @Jim Birch

    It is a given. When social-democratic welfarism is removed from the capitalist system all money, wealth and power gravitates to the capitalists. It’s proved by the laissez-faire capitalism of the 19th C and the US neoliberal period (1970 to 2013 and continuing). The only period when things moved the other way was when democratic, welfarist and workers’ rights principles held sway politically. Capitalism is antithetical to true democracy. How is autocratic control and exploitation via the possession of capital anything but oppressive and anti-democratic? It’s in fundamental contradiction to civic democracy and workplace democracy.

  7. Uncle Milton
    February 25th, 2013 at 13:13 | #7

    Ex Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser has a piece in today’s Fin arguing that Brisconnect’s airport toll road is a great deal for the Queensland taxpayer, because Queenslanders get to use the road forever, while the losses on the investment are borne by private equity investors and banks.

    It’s a pretty good argument, and I can personally vouch for the time savings that the road brings (well worth the toll, in my opinion). It would be an even better argument if the Queensland Government-owned Queensland Investment Corporation hadn’t been an equity investor in Brisconnections. No doubt Fraser would argue that QIC is independent of government and makes investment decisions based on normal commercial considerations, and it is inevitable that some investments turn out to be duds. Well, maybe, but Queensland taxpayers have still lost their dough in this venture. Maybe they will make it back buying all of Brisconnections at a fire sale price.

  8. February 25th, 2013 at 13:55 | #8

    I saw Lincoln on the weekend and was suitably impressed. I have noticed that much of the strongest criticism of the film in the States has come from the nuttier elements of the Right wing, for whom Lincoln was an appalling man for having a war in the first place/infringing civil liberties/not really liking blacks at all, etc. In Australia, the only criticism I have seen about it being a “whitewash” similarly came from Chris Berg, and Bolt had a bit of whine too.

    However, even Harry Clarke, of the sensible right, found it boring (although his criticism is just aesthetic, not ideological.)

    So what say the readers here, who have seen it?

  9. kevin1
    February 25th, 2013 at 14:53 | #9

    Interesting article on Crikey documenting the decline in science journalism here and around the world: “Perfect job to endangered species: demise of science journalism” by Leigh Dayton, formerly the Oz science writer. As if we need less science info in our newspapers. Without sounding too ponderous, isn’t it agreed that if the financial sector is the lubricant of the economy, info and analysis has the same function in democracy.

    Doesn’t it underline the current relevance of a “public interest” model of journalism. But how can the high fixed costs be covered, and independence guaranteed, at least to a high level? I have heard claims that both the Al Jazeera and Global Daily Mail are susceptible to owner influence.

  10. Troy Prideaux
    February 25th, 2013 at 15:10 | #10

    @steve from brisbane
    I enjoyed it and the performances within. My wife fell asleep halfway through, but she’s not really into politics.

  11. Troy Prideaux
    February 25th, 2013 at 15:16 | #11

    @kevin1
    The avg Joe just seems more interested(entertained) with opinion than boring ol facts and objectivity. Maybe we need more Chas Licciardellos with more of those (easy to grasp) statistical charts on our news services (whichever medium that’s through).

  12. Jim
    February 25th, 2013 at 19:54 | #12

    We might not have paid for it through Government, but have you checked your compulsory superannuation to see if you were indirectly exposed to the dud investment??? I was.

    So often with these projects, achieving project finance is more important than whether the project is actually a good one – hence no independent BCA. Governments want infrastructure built without the debt on their balance sheets. Enter the engineers (big fees for design and building the infrastructure) and the financiers (big fees for organising the finance and selling it off to clueless institutional investors). Hey presto. Everyones a winner (Government, engineers, financiers) on the back of some dodgy traffic forecasts…… except the poor unsuspecting workers who lose out via their super. A real “zinger of a deal” to quote the ex-treasurer.

  13. Jim Rose
    February 28th, 2013 at 10:14 | #13

    @Ikonoclast Rise up ye workers, rise up, for you have nothing to lose but your suburban home, I Pad and air-miles?

  14. Chris Warren
    February 28th, 2013 at 10:26 | #14

    @Jim Rose

    And more than that – Suicides increase too.

  15. Will
    March 2nd, 2013 at 09:38 | #15

    Unsurprisingly the economic brinksmanship of the US right continues unabated. Failure to come to some kind of agreement with respect to the budget deficit meant the implementation of stiff spending cuts across the board. Meanwhile, unemployment is still almost 8% (while the Federal Funds rate is the same place it’s been for the past 4 years: 0.25%). Analysts already anticipate the killing of GDP growth with the inevitable ripple effects around the world.

    Goddamn I loathe the loony right-wing losers who have managed to convince so many of their constituents that the end times are imminent and then do everything in their power to bring it about. In one year, the economy will be anemic, the depression will be prolonged totally unnecessarily, and the nutbar fringe conspiratard media will be jumping up and down with glee on how everything is Obama’s fault. Hope you like warm places guys, since you will be spending a long, LONG time in Hell.

  16. Jim Rose
    March 2nd, 2013 at 11:14 | #16

    @Chris Warren has life expectancy risen in the 20th century?

    Between 1850 and 1950, U.S. life expectancy at birth increased from 40 to 68 years.

    The 1930s was the worst depression ever. Life expectation between 1929 and 1939 increased by 4 years, and the heights of American men reaching maturity during this period increased by 1.6 cm.

    People in capitalist countries are taller and stronger. They’re more resistant to disease and more likely to overcome it when they do get sick. They live longer lives, lives less fraught with chronic ailments.

    In India, life expectancy at birth rose from 29 to 60 between 1930 and 1990.

    In 1880, a typical household’s annual food bills cost 1,405 hours of labor: half-year’s wages and this didn’t include substantial unpaid time in the kitchen. A year’s food now costs 260 hours of labor – that price buys greater variety and convenience including restaurant meals.

    Infant mortality is so low that almost any death leads to an inquest. A death of a mother in labour, certainly.

  17. Ikonoclast
    March 2nd, 2013 at 11:35 | #17

    Laugh it up Jim Rose. Depending on your age you will very likely see the collapse of capitalism. If you are under 60 you will almost certainly see it. You are in for quite a shock. This system in which you have a total religious-like faith is about to fail catastrophically.

    All of the advances you attribute solely to capitalism actually came from democracy, social welfare, science and technology interacting with capitalism. These phenomena and the multiplied emergent outcomes are not the same as simple capitalism per se. You conflate all progress solely under the banner of capitalism.

    Capitalism, as it stands, has no way of transitioning from endless growth to a steady (material) state economy. Capitalism has also developed no plans to do so and has no automatic or self-correcting mechanism to do so. Unfortunately our politics is captured by capital so we have no social or political plans for the transition either.

    It’s strange, limits to growth is such a very simple and irrefutable concept yet so few can grasp it. To refute the limits to growth hypothesis you would have to refute all the known laws of physics in general and the laws of thermodynamics in particular. Good luck with that effort!

    When relatively simple and fundamental empirical truths are denied by many in the face of mountains of real world evidence, the only explanation can be that many are blindly reasoning from faith. That describes the world I see very well. Most humans, sadly, reason from emotion and faith not from facts and logic.

  18. Jim Rose
    March 3rd, 2013 at 07:37 | #18

    @Ikonoclast The Earth’s carrying capacity is a central issue in ecological economics.

    Herman Dally and others put forward the idea of birth credits as the solution to the population bomb. A “choice-based, marketable, birth license plan” or “birth credits” for population control.
    • These birth credits would allow woman to have as many children as she wants, as long as she buys a license for any child beyond an average allotment that would result in zero population growth

    • If that allotment was determined to be one child, then the first child would be free, and the market trading the credits would determine the cost of the license for each additional child.

    Being nice members of the middle class, the penalty proposed for an illegal baby would be community service. I am sure most parents would welcome the break with free child care.

    Obviously, none of the proponents of birth credits seem to know of the length to which some will go to have children.

    Dally and his followers were smug enough to think they could see the future and were most concerned about the population bomb, but plainly they got the sign of the demographic crisis wrong. Sub-replacement fertility is now the demographic crisis.

    The price of those birth credits would be now lower than an EU carbon credit.

    p.s. I you really believe what you say, invest your retirement savings in resource sector shares – oil in particular – prices must be about to soar because of peak oil?!

  19. Chris Warren
    March 3rd, 2013 at 08:15 | #19

    More Rose propaganda:

    People in capitalist countries are taller and stronger. They’re more resistant to disease and more likely to overcome it when they do get sick. They live longer lives, lives less fraught with chronic ailments.

    This only applies to one pole of global capitalism. If you look at more representative capitalism – where the factories are – you find the opposite.

  20. Jim Rose
    March 5th, 2013 at 16:02 | #20

    @Chris Warren XAVIER SALA-I-MARTIN (2006) found that for 138 countries in 2000, poverty rates and head counts were between one-third and one-half of what they were in 1970

    There were between 250 and 500 million fewer poor in 2000 than in 1970. All eight indexes of income inequality show reductions in global inequality during the 1980s and 1990s.

Comments are closed.