Bookblogging: new name(s), new intro (slightly updated 18/8)

The current working title for the book is Zombie Economics: Six Dead Ideas that Threaten the World Economy (suggestions for a better subtitle are welcome) and that requires a new intro.

Also, I’ve come to the view that “market liberalism”, as opposed to “economic liberalism”, is a better name for the viewpoint, based on the efficient financial markets hypothesis and other ideas criticised here, that has dominated policy thinking in recent decades.

Any thoughts on these points, or the revised intro, would be most welcome.
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The politics of the CPRS

In the process leading up to the Senate’s rejection of the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, no one has covered themselves with glory. Starting with the Independents, there’s little that can be said about Fielding except that the sooner he is sent home to nurse his delusions, the better. Nick Xenophon has unfortunately followed his customary line of trying to come up with his own alternative scheme. At this stage of the game, this position is not much different, in practice, from Fielding’s, though it offers more chance of a rethink on the second round. The Nationals have pretty much followed the Fielding line, and the Liberals have been all over the shop, as usual.

That leaves Labor and the Greens, neither of whom can be particularly proud of themselves. In the absence of a disaster, they will control the Senate between them in the next Parliament and will have little choice but to make deals on climate policy. As a leadup to this, it would be great if they could have reached an agreement on an improved, if still imperfect, CPRS. But Labor is more interested in wedging the Libs, and the Greens are more interested in political purity.

What would an improved CPRS look like? First, as I’ve argued already, the government’s conditional target of 25 per cent is about right. There’s no way Copenhagen will produce a number much larger than this – the US is offering 17, and the EU 30 with an asterisk (a choice of start date that makes them look particularly good). The 5 per cent target could be higher, but really, if we don’t get a global agreement, nothing Australia does really matters. The big flaws in the CPRS are the excessive giveaways of free permits (and the correspondingly limited compensation for households and displaced workers) and the fact that the design negates the benefits of any voluntary reductions (I initially thought the changes announced in March addressed this point, but they don’t).
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Light blogging ahead

A combination of work, travel and my book commitment means that blogging here will be light for the next few months. I plan to post excerpts from the book in progress, and I’ll try to put up open threads from time to time.

GLAM-Wiki & Coral COE

I’ll be appearing tomorrow (virtually, via Skype) at this event which promises (and may well help to deliver!)

Thousands of years of heritage at your fingertips

Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums and Wikimedia:
Finding the Common Ground
glam.wikimedia.org.au
6-7 August 2009, Australian War Memorial, Canberra

More details here

Meanwhile, in meatspace, I’m speaking tomorrow and Friday at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies symposium Securing Coral Reef Futures on 6th and 7th August in Brisbane at Customs House. There’s a public event on Friday evening

Is this the same Steven Pinker?

A couple of days ago, Jack Strocchi and I were discussing Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate, a book which I thought, when I reviewed it in 2002, was much below the standard of his earlier work, though no worse than the average book about the ‘nature-nurture’ controversy. In particular, I thought his discussion of war and violence was hopelessly confused, putting forward a Hobbesian view of violence as the product of rational self interest as if it was consistent with the genetic determinism that was the central theme of the rest of the book.

Now, via John Horgan at Slate, I’ve happened across this broadcast by Pinker at TED (which, by the way I’ve just discovered and is excellent). The broadcast has a transcript which is great for those of us who prefer reading to listening.

In this piece, Pinker appears to me to change sides almsot completely, from pessimist to optimist and from genetic determinist to social improver. Not only does he present evidence that war and violence are declining in relative importance, his explanation for this seems to be entirely consistent with the Standard Social Science Model he caricatured and debunked in The Blank Slate. He’s still got a sort of rational self-interest model in there, but now Hobbes is invoked, not for his ‘nasty, brutish and short’ state of nature, but for his argument that the Leviathan of social order will suppress violence to the benefit of all.

But even more striking is this:

[Co-operation] may also be powered by cosmopolitanism: by histories and journalism and memoirs and realistic fiction and travel and literacy, which allows you to project yourself into the lives of other people that formerly you may have treated as sub-human, and also to realize the accidental contingency of your own station in life; the sense that “there but for fortune go I.”

I agree entirely, but we seem to have come a long way from the African savannah here.

After the EMH, what next?

Writing a critique of the Efficient Markets Hypothesis in terms rigorous enough to stand up to scrutiny, but comprehensible to the average reader hasn’t been easy, and I still have a lot more work to do. But thanks to the help I’ve had from commenters here and at my blog, and from other readers, I hope to make a go of it. Now comes the hard bit: suggesting some alternatives, both in theory and policy. I’m not by any means satisfied with this draft. In particular, I need to go back and get a better linkage to the question “if the market price for assets is not the “right” price, what is?”. But, I thought I’d do better getting some help and criticisms now, rather than trying for some more polish first.

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