The Oz jumps the shark

Seeing a link to a story headed Cheney brings out the hate in peaceniks I thought it would be the usual stuff from one of the increasingly desperate pro-war pundits at the Oz. But this piece purports to be a news story.

The actual events detailed in the story don’t do much to justify the headline or the similarly hyperbolic opening paras. A small group of protesters (about 350) marched down George Street despite not receiving police permission. Scuffles broke out and ten people were arrested and charged when protesters tried to break through police lines. No injuries were reported on either side. In other words, a run-of-the-mill minor demo just like hundreds of others we have seen.

Although the Oz has been increasingly detached from reality lately (its editorial the other day referred to Howard’s triumph over Rudd in the Obama stoush, and it has long since lost the plot on global warming) it has generally made at least some attempt to adhere to the idea that news and opinion are supposed to be separate. Obviously, that particular shark has now been jumped.

What’s wrong with happiness measurement ? (crossposted at Crooked Timber)

Over at Club Troppo, James Farrell summarises the main elements of the economic research agenda on happiness, and some of the standard objections to it. For those who came in late, and probably didn’t imagine economists ever thought about happiness, the crucial finding is that “Cross country data shows pretty consistently that on average happiness increases with income, but at a certain point diminishing returns set in. In the developed world, people are not on average happier than they were in the 1960s.”

The data that supports this consists of surveys that ask people to rate their happiness on a scale, typically from 1 to 10. Within any given society, happiness tends to rise with all the obvious variables: income, health, family relationships and so on. But between societies, or in Western societies like Australia over time, there’s not much difference even though both income and health (life expectancy, for example) have improved pretty steadily for a long time.

I’ve long argued that these questions can’t really tell us anything, and an example given by Don Arthur gives me the chance to put it better than I’ve done before, I hope.

Suppose you wanted to establish whether children’s height increased with age, but you couldn’t measure height directly.
Read More »

Revising my priors

Looking at the desperation with which opponents of climate science, and of sensible policy responses such as Kyoto, are holding on to positions that have clearly become untenable, has prompted me to think about my own views on a range of issues, to see whether I am holding on to beliefs that can’t be sustained in the light of accumulating evidence.

The most obvious problem for me is that of continued macroeconomic stability in the face of trade and current account deficits driven (or so it seems) by speculative asset price booms. I’ve long argued that such deficits can’t be sustained and that neither Australia nor the US is on a path to a smooth adjustment. However, while deficits have continued and, in the case of the US, grown steadily, evidence of anything but smooth adjustment is certainly thin on the ground.

The rapid growth of China, and the apparent willingness of the Chinese government (and maybe also the public) to hold low-return $US assets and to buy large quantities of commodity exports from Australia has rendered previous projections largely irrelevant. While the “Bretton Woods II” story that emerged a couple of years ago seemed implausible to me, it has held up pretty well so far.

While I’m not ready to join the optimists just yet, it’s clearly necessary to rethink the implications of a Chinese economy that is already a substantial part of the global total, and growing rapidly.
Read More »

RSMG back on air

Things have been pretty frantic at the Risk and Sustainable Management Group (my research team at UQ, focusing on the Murray-Darling and related issues) as we raced to prepare five papers for the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society meeting in Queenstown NZ last week. There’s lots of news about this at the RSMG blog.

We’ve also had a complete redesign of our website, which is now located here. We’ll be updating Working Papers and adding lots of publications in the near future.

I plan to write more about water and climate at this blog in future. Discussion much encouraged.

Revising my priors

Looking at the desperation with which opponents of climate science, and of sensible policy responses such as Kyoto, are holding on to positions that have clearly become untenable, has prompted me to think about my own views on a range of issues, to see whether I am holding on to beliefs that can’t be sustained in the light of accumulating evidence.

The most obvious problem for me is that of continued macroeconomic stability in the face of trade and current account deficits driven (or so it seems) by speculative asset price booms. I’ve long argued that such deficits can’t be sustained and that neither Australia nor the US is on a path to a smooth adjustment. However, while deficits have continued and, in the case of the US, grown steadily, evidence of anything but smooth adjustment is certainly thin on the ground.

The rapid growth of China, and the apparent willingness of the Chinese government (and maybe also the public) to hold low-return $US assets and to buy large quantities of commodity exports from Australia has rendered previous projections largely irrelevant. While the “Bretton Woods II” story that emerged a couple of years ago seemed implausible to me, it has held up pretty well so far.

While I’m not ready to join the optimists just yet, it’s clearly necessary to rethink the implications of a Chinese economy that is already a substantial part of the global total, and growing rapidly.
Read More »

Another own goal for the denialists?

Blogospheric opinion has divided on predictable lines over the Queensland Land and Resources Tribunal’s rejection of objections to a new coal mine by environmental groups who wanted offsets for the carbon emissions of the mine. Brickbats have come from Andrew Bartlett, Tim Lambert and Robert Merkel, while Jennifer Marohasy and Andrew Bolt have cheered the Tribunal and its presiding member, President Koppenol.

But this looks awfully like an own goal for the denialists to me.
Read More »