New on the RSMG blog

There’s a heap of interesting stuff on the RSMG blog, up and running again now that the site slowdown problems seem to have been solved. And if you haven’t already, visit our sparkling new website with loads of working papers, reports and info.

Management response to the drought: The case of dairy

Upcoming events

Why be sustainable if the world is about to end?

Chile, and Australia’s role for investment and development

Farm Succession and Capital Gain

Water: Recent action and the state of play

Patenting Lives: A question of Law, Economics or Ethics?

Freakonomics and environmental economics

Running dry

My piece in today’s Fin (I’ll post it tomorrow) has some responses to Howard’s announcement that there may be no allocations of irrigation water for the year beginning in June, unless we get good rain. A quick summary
* Drought relief policy needs to focus on buying back excess allocation
* With inflows apparently suffering a long-term decline, across the board cuts will be needed
* In the short run, we may need to consider intervention and rationing to keep tree crops alive

Meanwhile, in Queensland, there is talk of evacuating towns that are running out of water. This seems an over-reaction (or more likely media beatup) to me. A reported cost of $8000 per week for tankers to supply water to a town of 1500 people is not a huge sum. Stlll, unless rainfall returns to higher levels soon, a lot of communities are going to face decline and maybe in some cases disappearance.

Workchoices in one sentence

In comments on a Fred Argy post about Workchoices and measures of economic freedom, Sinclair Davidson compares “the social democrat notion where workers have a right to work and employers the duty to employ” with “the more sensible notion of workers have the duty to work and employers the right to employ”. This is about as neat a summary of the contrast between social democratic and neoliberal views of the employment relationship as I’ve seen.

Gun laws save lives

It’s not a surprising conclusion, but given the controversy on this topic, it’s important to get the stats right. Andrew Leigh and Christine Neill have done a study concluding that, while the data set is too short for a conclusive resolution, the best estimate is the gun buyback undertaken by the Howard government after the Port Arthur massacre has saved between 1000 and 2500 lives. The work of Leigh and Neill is a response to a very dubious study claiming no effect that came out last year.


The New York Times magazine has a great piece on OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) who take jobs overseas to send money (remittances in the econ jargon) back home to their families. My UQ colleague Richard Brown has been working on the topic of remittances for years, but its only very recently that the topic has attracted any attention. An obvious implication of Richard’s work on the role of remittances in Pacific Island economies is that Australia should consider opening its labour market to workers from the region, a topic we’ve discussed previously.

Surprisingly, the strongest opposition to this idea has come, not from unions, but from the Centre for Independent Studies. While there are some plausible arguments here, I don’t think they would convince anyone starting from the presumption that unless there are good reasons to stop them, people should be free to move where they want. The CIS view seems to start from the presumption “we will decide who comes here and under what circumstances” (with the implicit assertion that we should feel free to make such decisions for any reason, good or bad, or for no reason at all) a popular view but scarcely one consistent with classical liberalism