On the road

I’m off today on my long-planned trip to Jerusalem and Paris. Posting will be intermittent (not, I hope, nonexistent),so feel free to use this post to start up any new discussion you like.

For those who want something to chew on, Ken Parish has returned to the fray with a series of excellent and thought-provoking posts. This one manages to move effortlessly from Gen X to economic growth in China and there’s also a discussion of Latham’s values.

Update My connections are working OK so far, but then, I’ve only got as far as Brisbane airport

Poverty and income gaps

A couple of readers have written to me suggesting it would be a good time to post about poverty and income inequality. First, I’ve been alerted to this story by Miranda Devine saying that the tragic house fire in Sydney a couple of days happened because the family couldn’t afford blankets. It’s often been asserted that poverty is an out-of-date concept, but there is still plenty of absolute deprivation in modern societies. There’s some evidence onhunger in the US here. Although I don’t have the data handy, the proportion of the population living below the US poverty line (based on a PPP conversion) is actually slightly higher in Australia than in the US – much higher in both countries than in most developed countries. Of course the biggest problems are those of indigenous Australians (from Devine’s report, this includes the family in the Sydney tragedy) but there’s nothing to be complacent about more generally. And there’s no justification for looking only within Australia. We can ignore poverty in the world as a whole if we choose, but that doesn’t mean the world will choose to ignore us.
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Guns, smoke, global warming and Microsoft

If you’ve spent any time around the blogosphere, or looking at thinktank websites, you’ll be aware that the following opinions tend to go together:

* widespread ownership of guns saves lives

* tobacco smoke is harmless (if not to smokers then to anyone who breathes it second-hand)

* global warming is a myth

There’s not too much mystery about this. The kinds of characteristics that would encourage the adoption of any one of these beliefs (make your own list) obviously encourage the others. What’s surprising to me is how frequently, at least among thinktanks these opinions are correlated with support for Microsoft, and, more particularly, denunciation of open-source software.
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Licensed to kill

According to this report, the man who killed two students and wounded five others in shootings at Monash Uni a couple of years ago is “not guilty due to mental impairment”. It’s a pity those responsible for giving him a license to own four guns didn’t inquire into his mental state first.

More Fed Fellow Fun

I’ve been enjoying a visit from my friend and co-author Simon Grant for the last couple of days. We’ve been working on fairly abstruse aspects of the economics of uncertainty, though with an eye to practical applications to issues like an analysis of the precautionary principle.

However, we downed tools this afternoon when it was announced that Simon has been awarded a Federation Fellowship. This is only the second such Fellowship in Economics, mine being the first.

Obviously, I’m very happy about this, and particularly about the fact that it will bring Simon back to Australia (he’s currently at Rice university in the US).

UKIP

The success of Eurosceptic parties like the UK Independence Party, which advocates British withdrawal from the EU, has contributed to generally negative coverage of the recent EU Parliamentary elections. Although I disagree with UKIP, I think its success is a good thing.
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