Another meltdown at the Oz

As I’ve mentioned a few times, the Oz is extremely sensitive to blogospheric criticism. In response, its typical MO has been an unsigned editorial, or a piece by a ‘staff writer’, in which unnamed and unlinked (but easily identifiable) bloggers are castigated for their sins. Typically, the piece ends with a flourish of bravado, in which the brave, though anonymous, editorialist, backed only by the multi-billion dollar resources of News Corporation, pledges to carry on in defiance of the powerful, but unnamed, bloggers arrayed against it.

The script has been reversed, however, in the case of Grog’s Gamut, a pseudonymous political blog which made some useful contributions during the election campaign. Apparently acting under the misconception that public servants aren’t allowed to engage in political activity, Oz journalist James Massola took on himself to out the blogger concerned. He works in the film section of what was the Department of Environment, Heritage, Water and the Arts, which suggests that the potential for political activity to compromise his public service role is, shall we say, limited.

There are still some decent journalists working for the Oz, but the paper itself is a sad joke. On the other hand, as Steve Hind observes, the downmarket spiral of the Age and SMH (at least in their online versions) means that there is not much competition.

Conference like its 1999

A long time ago, I read an article whose author had read through all the leading economics journals from the 1930s. The striking finding was that only a tiny proportion of the articles published in those years concerned the Depression and what to do about it. This struck me as a disastrous state of affairs, and has been one factor in pushing me to comment on the important issues of the day, rather than to a narrow specialisation.

But, having attended the Australian Conference of Economists for the last couple of days, I have to say that a future historian of economic thought will be able to rewrite much the same article about the current crisis. Only a handful of papers presented at the conference have dealt with the crisis, even indirectly, and most of those have concluded that we only need marginal adjustments to our current way of doing things.

The opening plenary session, for example, was on inflation targeting and the main message was that, all things considered, inflation targeting worked pretty well in the Global Financial Crisis. Some tweaks might be needed in the future, but then again they might not. This was the same conclusion as at the Reserve Bank 60th Anniversary meeting earlier this year, and I find it pretty hard to believe.

About the best I can say is that, against this background, my Zombie Economics book stands out.

Sandpit 25/9

A new sandpit, the place for off-topic rants and lengthy one-on-one debates no-one else can really follow, because they missed the crucial contradiction between comment #347 and comment #186. Seriously, that kind of extended comments-thread debate is part of blogging, and I wouldn’t like to lose it. But, so far, confining it to the sandpit seems to be working pretty well.

Weekend reflections

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. In keeping with my attempts to open up the comments to new contributors , I’d like to redirect discussion, as opposed to substantive new contributions, to the sandpit. As always, civilised discussion and no coarse language please.

The text and the book

I’ve been living with the text of Zombie Economics for a long time and the cover art came out a while back. But now I finally have my hands on a physical copy of the book, and it’s surprising what a difference the real object makes. My immediate reaction was to open it with dread, sure that some terrible error would jump out at me, but that didn’t happen (no doubt the reviewers will find them, but that’s their job).

With that out of the road, I’ve been filled with irrational confidence. “Surely”, I think, “even the most jaded traveller, passing this book on the airport bookstall, will feel impelled to buy it”. No doubt, this optimistic glow won’t survive the arrival of actual sales figures, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.