Support John Abraham

Potty peer Christopher Monckton has stepped up his campaign to shut down John Abraham’s debunking of one of his talks last year, by asking supporters to flood Abraham’s university with emails demanding it start a disciplinary inquiry.

I can only endorse this comment on Monckton and the lunacy of a world in which someone like this is taken seriously.

Update I thought Posterous would include the link automagically but apparently not. Here’s Garth Renowden’s site where you can support Abraham and/or bag Monckton.

The case for the Greens

As I said last time, I’ll be advocating a vote for the Greens. Unlike some commenters here, I plan to give my second preference to Labor[1]. To justify my second preference first, I regard the Liberals under Abbott as utterly unfit for government. Abbott has behaved as an unprincipled opportunist throughout his period as opposition leader, denouncing “great big new taxes”, then proposing taxes of his own with no regard for consistency or good public policy. In office, I expect he would discover that he had a mandate for the hardline rightwing policies he has always favored.

Coming to the choice between Labor and the Greens, this isn’t the first time I have given a first preference to the Greens, but it’s the first in some years. The main substantive issues that concern me are economic management and climate change, but these issues (and particularly climate change) can’t be separate from questions about process and principle. The government has done a good job on economic management, while the opposition has been consistent only in error. On the other hand, the government has made a terrible mess of climate change policy, almost entirely because of its reluctance to deal with the Greens and to confront the opposition and the lobby groups that back them. In the long run, the only way they will be able to govern effectively is through co-operation with the Greens, and the sooner they are forced to realise this the better.

It’s obvious at this point that the CPRS proposed last year is dead, and that a new ETS will have to be developed, hopefully when we have seen some more progress in other countries. For that reason, I think a carbon tax, with few exemptions and a tight cap on compensation to emitters is the best way to go. The Greens idea of a two-year interim carbon tax would be a good starting point for discussion and there is still time for Labor to announce in-principle support for a deal of this kind.

On other issues such as asylum seekers, the government’s position is carefully ambiguous, while the opposition is as close to overt racism[2] as it has ever been. A big vote for the Greens would force the government back towards a decent position.

Then there is the machine politics that led, first to Rudd being forced to dump the CPRS, and then being sacked when this decision had such disastrous consequences. Without excusing Rudd for some earlier failures on the issue, this alone would be enough to deprive Labor of my first preference in the presence of any decent alternative.

It seems reasonable to hope that the Greens will get enough votes to hold the balance of power in the Senate from July 2011. It seems unlikely, except by a fluke that they could do the same in the House of Representatives. But the loss of even two or three inner-city seats would put Labor on notice that its core support can’t be taken for granted.

I’m even marginally hopeful as regards the seat of Ryan, where I live. The incumbent Liberal, Michael Johnson, has been disendorsed over corruption allegations, but claims to be the victim of factional smears and is running hard against the official LNP candidate. The Greens have done well in the past, and might benefit from a flow of preferences.

fn1. This assumes that there is no preference deal made that would lead me to think otherwise. For example, if Labor were to preference Steve Fielding or the like again, I would consider exhausting my Senate ballot in a way that gave a preference to neither major party (to see how, read here.

fn2. The one genuine example of “political correctness” in Australian politics is the one that prevents us from using the word “racist” to describe racism, but there’s no doubt that’s what it is.

Back on air

The final proofs of Zombie Economics went off to the typesetter this morning, and you’ve all seen this evening’s news. So, I guess it’s time for me to end my hiatus, and make whatever contribution I can to the marvel of democracy. Not to keep anyone in suspense, I’ll be advocating a vote for the Greens.

The crisis of 2011? — Crooked Timber

I’ve been too absorbed by my book projects and by Australian politics (of which more soon) to pay a lot of attention to the forthcoming US elections, but it seems to be widely projected that the Republicans could regain control of the House of Representatives. What surprises me is that no-one has drawn the obvious inference as to what will follow, namely a shutdown of the US government.

It seems obvious to me that a shutdown will happen – the Republicans of today are both more extreme and more disciplined than last time they were in a position to shut down the government, and they did it then. And they hate Obama at least as much now as they hated Clinton in 1995 (maybe not quite as much as they hated him by 2000, but they are getting there faster this time).

The obvious question is how a shutdown will be resolved. It seems to me that it will be a lot harder for Obama to induce the Republicans to back down than it was for Clinton. IIRC, no piece of legislation proposed by Obama has received more than a handful of votes in the House, and (unlike the case with Bob Dole in 1995) no aspiring Republican presidential candidate will have an interest in resolving the problem – the base would be furious. On the other hand, the price Obama would have to pay if he capitulated the Republicans would demand from Obama in a capitulation would be huge, certainly enough to end his presidency at one term. So, I anticipate a lengthy shutdown, and some desperate expedients to keep things running.

As far as I can tell, there is no mechanism for resolving this kind of deadlock – the House can’t be dissolved early as would happen in a parliamentary system. I think the Founders probably envisaged the House as having a “power of the purse” comparable to that of the British Commons. Whether they did or not, I’m sure this argument will be made, probably by people who have argued, until very recently, that the power of the Executive is essentially unlimited.

But, my understanding is limited and I’d be keen to hear what others think about this.
[1] I’ve tried to clarify my point about capitulation, which was poorly expressed the first time.

The crisis of 2011? — Crooked Timber

I’m not a big fan of Obama either, but Bob McManus’s ipse dixit about what would happen strikes me as wildly eccentric. But at any rate, it seems to me that in any showdown Obama is bound to win. The Republicans don’t have a party leader, as Obama is the de facto leader of the Democrats. And nobody can get more media attention than the President of the United States. So in terms of “messaging,” Obama easily comes out ahead; he will win any public relations war. Also, keep in mind that Republicans in Congress now take pride in being—- and more importantly, are publicly identified as—- the Party of No (forgive the shopworn phrase). The Republican base sees this as good; Democrats see it as bad; and the rest of public is mostly somewhere in between. But the point is that they are publicly identified as reflexively obstructionist. If a shutdown comes, then, the Republicans will naturally be seen as the cause, rather than Obama.

Those are my two cents, but the only special insight I have is American citizenship, nothing more.

How Obama caused the recession — Crooked Timber

The idea that Obama (or rather, the wisdom of crowds in anticipating the election of a socialist-Islamist Obama administration) caused the recession is getting another run, this time from Nobel[1] prizewinner Ed Prescott. I haven’t been able to track down more than a precis of Prescott’s argument, but I assume it’s similar to the version put forward by Casey Mulligan. I had a go at this in my Zombie economics book [2], and here on CT, so, I thought I would link to it here, to give a bit of context to the current flap.

[1] Yes, yes, I know about the Sverige Riksbank. And winners of the economics prize aren’t the only ones to say silly things later on.
[2] Still on track for Halloween, and already taking pre-orders! Join the Facebook group here.