Archive

Archive for August, 2017

Universal Basic Income: What to aim for and how to get there

August 22nd, 2017 8 comments

That’s the title of a presentation I gave to a workshop on UBI run by the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. I wasn’t able to attend in person so I called in for my session. The result is that I can’t give a summary of the event, but Tim Hollo has one here. My presentation is here. Also, there’s a Facebook group and a couple of useful links.

Categories: Economic policy Tags:

Monday Message Board

August 21st, 2017 4 comments

Another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Some unsolicited advice on equal marriage

August 20th, 2017 33 comments

I’ve seen quite a number of church leaders making statements in support of a No response to the Turnbull government’s ABS survey on equal marriage. In nearly every case, there isn’t much of an argument on the merits of why the state should enforce their views about marriage. Rather, they express concerns that, if equal marriage is allowed, they will be forced to conduct marriages, or to employ members of same-sex married couples.

This seems like a nonsense to me. If that is the real concern, the obvious answer is to support a bill in the current Parliament that allows equal marriage but entrenches the right of the churches to discriminate in this way. That’s a compromise that would almost certainly be accepted, and once in place, would be hard to change. What government, having reached a compromise that more-or-less satisfies everyone would want to reopen the can of worms?

On the other hand, suppose that the survey yields a No response thanks to the advocacy of the churches, or even worse, there’s a Yes majority in the survey but the LNP right blocks legislation? Then, when Labor gets in, there’s no obvious reason to make concessions to a group who’ve shown themselves to be implacable opponents in any case.

Speaking more generally, it’s obvious that (nominal) Christians are going to be a minority of the Australian population quite soon, and, quite possibly, a small minority in a few decades. So, it would make good sense for the churches to dissociate themselves from people like Kevin Donnelly and Lyle Shelton who argue that the majority (currently Christian) should be able to impose their views on the minority. A whole-hearted commitment to strict governmental neutrality in matters of religion would make much more strategic sense.

Update I just saw that George Brandis made the same point. Not sure what I think about that.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Left hand, meet right hand

August 17th, 2017 13 comments

A crucial part of the case for the Adani coal project is the “pit to plug” strategy in which companies in the Adani Group would mine coal in the Galilee Basin, transport it by rail to Abbot Point, ship it from there to India, burn it in Adani Power’s coal-fired power stations and sell the generated electricity to Indian consumers. This claim is important to Adani for three reasons

* First, it is supposed to mean the big decline in the world price of coal since the project began is not a problem. The idea is that Adani Power will take the coal regardless of price
* Second, it undercuts arguments that exports from the Galilee Basin will compete with other Australian coal mines, leading to a loss of jobs
* Finally, it is central to the argument that the Adani project is necessary to end energy poverty in India.

All of these arguments have been rehearsed at length in the Australian media. But it seems that the memo hasn’t reached Adani Power in India. A month or so ago, they span off their Mundra Power station, loaded with a lot of debt, into a subsidiary, and offered a 51 per cent interest to the Gujarat government for a nominal price. Now, they have announced a strategy to get access to allocations of domestic coal and “do away the need for importing coal”.

Meanwhile, it’s interesting to take a look at the Adani jobs portal, announced with some flourish a month or so ago. When it was set up, there were only a couple of dozen Adani jobs on offer. Now there are none at all, though there are a handful on SEEK. AFAICT, the only people employed at the Townsville Regional Headquaters are 80 or so people who have been moved there, presumably from Brisbane.

Given the lavish promises of hundreds or even thousands that have been made to the people of NQ, isn’t it time Adani put its money where its mouth is?

Categories: Economic policy Tags:

What’s left of libertarianism?

August 14th, 2017 27 comments

Liberaltarianism

….. Read more…

Categories: Politics (general) Tags:

Monday Message Board

August 14th, 2017 14 comments

Another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Millennials are people, not clones

August 11th, 2017 3 comments

The Washington Post has an article on millennial attitudes to Trump, broken down by race/ethnicity. The results won’t surprise anybody who’s been paying even minimal attention. Other things equal, millennials are even more hostile to Trump than Americans in general. Of course, other things aren’t equal; as with the population at large, African-Americans most unfavorable to Trump, and whites are least so, though no group is favorable on balance.

What’s surprising, or at least depressing, is the contrarian framing of this as a counter-intuitive finding, against a starting point assumption that millennials should have uniform views. I can’t blame the author of this piece for taking this as the starting point; it’s taken as axiomatic in the vast output of generationalist cliches against which I’ve been waging a losing battle since the first millennials came of age in the year 2000.

Just to push the point a little bit further, this study only disaggregates millennials by race. If, in addition, you took account of the fact that millennials (on average) have more education, lower income and less attachment to religion than older Americans, you would probably find it impossible to derive statistically significant differences based on birth cohort.

Categories: Boneheaded stupidity, World Events Tags:

Alternatives to Adani

August 9th, 2017 10 comments

It’s obvious to anyone who cares to look that the Adani rail-mine-port project is an environmental and economic disaster area, and that claims that it will generate thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue are nonsense. But that’s little comfort to people in the region, facing high unemployment following the end of the mining boom and the general slowdown in the economy. What’s needed is a positive alternative, and a development strategy that’s adapted to the future rather than the post. Adani’s application for a $900 million concessional loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to finance the rail component of the project raises the obvious question: if this money is available, what more productive ends could it be used for?

Farmers for Climate Action commissioned me to do a report on this, focusing on alternative investments in the agricultural sector. It was release at the weekend, and got some coverage, including in The Guardian. The report is here, along with a summary

Categories: Environment Tags:

Sandpit

August 7th, 2017 1 comment

A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Monday Message Board

August 7th, 2017 7 comments

Another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

My latest regular email ….

August 4th, 2017 1 comment

… is over the fold. Contact me on [email protected] if you’d like to be added to the recipient list.

Read more…

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Another appearance (updated)

August 2nd, 2017 2 comments

I’ll be on Sky at 7pm tonight talking to Peter Switzer talking about Zombie Economics and my views on the Australian economy.

Update There’s a link to the talk here

Categories: Economics - General Tags:

Special bonus talk: Customs House tomorrow 8am

August 2nd, 2017 Comments off

Any Brisbane readers interested in my talk on toll roads have a special opportunity to hear it tomorrow morning at the Customs House, with breakfast starting at 8am. It’s the UQ School of Economics annual Colin Clark lecture, and the scheduled speaker has fallen ill, so I’m off the bench as a substitute. More details shortly, I hope.

Categories: Economics - General Tags:

The nuclear renaissance dies, forgotten and bankrupt

August 2nd, 2017 24 comments

Unless you were paying very close attention, you probably haven’t seen the news that construction of two Westinghouse AP-1000 nuclear reactors at the Virgil C. Summer plant in South Carolina has been abandoned, following the bankruptcy of Westinghouse earlier this year. There are two more AP-1000 reactors under construction at the Vogtle site in Georgia, which are also likely to be scrapped. Either way, this seems the right moment to mark the end of the nuclear renaissance which offered high hopes in the early 2000s. The biggest remaining carbon capture and storage project, the Kemper plant in the US, was also abandoned a month ago.

So, at this point, there is no alternative to the combination of renewables, storage and energy efficiency. This would be a good moment for those environmentalists who accepted and promoted the nuclear story to recognise that any further efforts in this direction can only harm the prospects for a low-carbon future.

More soon on this, I hope

Categories: Economics - General Tags: