My blog is just about a week old, and I haven’t found the Internet this exciting since I discovered Usenet in the early 90s. Even setting up my website five years ago was not as good. Despite wildly varying ideological views, I’ve had a friendly welcome from bloggers across the board, and I’m already getting links and referrals (My return links will be up soon, I promise). It really seems as if blogs might deliver on the original promise of the Web – certainly the technology seems ideally suited for individuals and small groups, with no obvious way of scaling it up to corporate level. No doubt I’ll get jaded and disillusioned one day, but I hope it will be a long way in the future.
This piece on sweatshops by Nicholas Kristof has had a lot of favorable links from the more right-wing members of the blogging community. I found it disappointing. Not that he isn’t right in what he does say, namely that a ‘living wage’ must be assessed in comparison to the alternatives, not to wages in rich countries.
But he stops where the really tough issues start, namely what rights workers for Nike (etc) in poor countries should have. I suggest that they should have the same rights regarding union organisation etc as workers in rich countries. Of course, many of Kristof’s newfound admirers would agree, but with the proviso that no-one should have any union organisation rights.
The proponents of privatisation are crowing following the recent sale of Sydney Airport for $5.6b. On the other hand, writing in the Australian eight years ago, I asserted that privatisation would mean higher charges, higher taxes or both. Was I right? The profitability of Sydney Airport has increased dramatically. But the increase came as a result of a near doubling in aeronautical charges at the facility. This is on top of increases in all the other charges (parking, concession rentals and so on) and the introduction of a slew of new charges (e.g taxi levies). If the government had kept the airports, the flow of money from these charges would have more than outweighed any savings they will get from repaying debt with the sale proceeds, implying a capacity for lower taxes or more spending in the long run.
This pretty much sums up what is wrong with the government’s telecommunications policy. If you think Telstra is too big for its boots now, wait until it’s a privatised monopoly lobbying (and threatening) governments to secure favorable treatment. As Tanner says in the article:
“Telstra has far too much power, it treats consumers and shareholders with disdain and now it’s out threatening legal action against the person who is the alternative minister who is in charge of them.”
New articles on the website
Crossed wires on Telstra Australian Financial Review, 20 June.
Even the old is new again Australian Financial Review, 6 June.
Time to earth electricity Australian Financial Review, 23 May.
Stick to a few principlesAustralian Financial Review, 9 May.
UK turns left for national health Australian Financial Review, 24 April.
The cost of doing nothing Australian Financial Review, 11 April.
I finally got around to checking out the International Democratic Union, of which our own John Howard was recently elected president. I was mainly interested in the repeated use of the phrase “centre-right” to describe someone who is, on his own assessment, the most conservative major party leader Australia has ever had (given his embrace of radical economic reforms, ‘right-wing’ would actually be more accurate than conservative).
The IDU goes further, claiming to embrace parties of the ” centre
and centre right”, and the meeting of the IDU was accompanied by lots of triumphalist rhetoric about the recent electoral successes of the centre-right.
To my mind, the term “centre-right” suggests people like moderate Republicans in the US, Tory and Liberal Party “wets” – all endangered species, if not extinct. The only Liberal “moderates” I can think of are Marise Payne and perhaps Amanda Vanstone, both peripheral figures in the Howard government. The few remaining Republican moderates are either defecting (Jeffords) or being replaced by hardliners.
Admittedly George Bush ran as a “compassionate conservative”, but his government has clearly been a coalition of orthodox rightwingers (Cheney, O’Neill) and the far-right (Ashcroft, Wolfowitz). Colin Powell is the only senior figure who could remotely be described as “centre-right”, and his influence on policy has been modest.
The swing to the right in Europe has followed the same pattern. The striking feature is the disappearance of the old centre-right and its replacement by coalitions of the right and far-right, notably in Austria, Italy and Denmark . This followed the move by parties of the Left to take over the ground formerly occupied by the centre-right, both in substance and in style.
What I’m reading:
The Consolation of Philosophy, by Boethius. This work, written when the author (a 5th century Roman noble in the service of the Gothic king Theoderic) was imprisoned and awaiting execution, is the inspiration for the recent popular book by Alain de Botton. Is philosophy really a consolation in times of suffering? I don’t know, but I also don’t know of anything better.
Bush declares war!!
Sacrifice Is for Losers
(on death duties)
It’s interesting to compare US and Australian coverage of the ballooning US current account deficit. The ABC ran the deficit as the story, noting the reaction on the currency markets ABC News – US account deficit reaches record blow out
NYT buried the deficit blowout in a business story about the dollar. Dollar Hits a 2-Year Low Against Euro And, following its standard practice, it assumed that readers of its business pages would not know what the current account deficit means, glossing it as eA broader measure of the country’s international financial standing’. Even the WSJ does this.
Most of the US media don’t even cover the trade deficit to any extent, let alone the current account. A search on Moreover :: Business Intelligence & Dynamic Content reveals mostly non-US coverage.
So the average American, even an assiduous reader of the newspapers, is basically uninformed about what would anywhere else be regarded as a balance-of-payments crisis. By contrast, the foreign affairs coverage of the NYT has always been excellent and, since September 11, the same is coming to be true of other US media. Perhaps they’re right not to worry, but the currency markets don’t think so.
This is my first blog entry. I aim to use this blog both as a running commentary on what’s happening in Australia and the world and as a guide to
developments on my website, http://www.uq.edu.au/economics/johnquiggin/
Comments much appreciated at John.Quiggin@anu.edu.au