The laurel wreath

Some good news! I’ve just been awarded an Australian Laureate Fellowship to work on uncertainty and financial crises. That means five more years of funding. I’ve been stringing various ARC Fellowships, Federation Fellowships and so on together since the mid-1990s, and there’s always an anxious wait when one is about to run out, and the new ones have not been announced – there’s no guarantee, or even presumption, that winning one means you will get another, and there’s plenty of competition, so it’s a matter of starting from scratch every time. The really nice time, starting now, is the last few months of the old grant, when I get to wrap things up and contemplate the start of something new. I’m very grateful to the Australian government for supporting me in my research over all these years.

52 thoughts on “The laurel wreath

  1. John,

    Please excuse my ignorance of the ins-and-outs of modern academia, but what do you use these funds *for*. To my naïve mind, economic research just needs an office, a high powered computer, a library, an internet connection, one smart economist and maybe some research assistants. I get even more confused when I hear legal academics talking about grant money. What am I missing?

  2. Well done and congratulations Prof Q.

    An aside, I have just finished reading Zombie Economics. As someone who has never studied Economics at any level I have to say I was very favourably impressed, so Thank You for that as well.

  3. I’m very grateful to the Australian government for supporting me in my research over all these years.

    Congratulations. But shouldn’t you thank the taxpayers?

  4. Congratulations! I wonder about how much is spent sometimes in deciding who to award these things to, both on the applicants as well as the government side. Deciding a five year award probably costs no more than a one year award.

  5. Good timing, JQ. The economic crises will be coming in quick succession from here on in. It will be important to have someone who knows what to expect and what to do about them.

    Did you pick up on the report that this summer’s ice melt is heading for a new record greater than 2007, and very significant that all of Greenland is losing ice volume at present (not just part of it).

  6. More certainty of funding for a study of financial uncertainty…

    On the other hand, uncertainty is inevitable.

    Best of luck!

  7. That is good news, but it hardly paints an amazing picture for any aspiring academic, in any field. When a well established Professor is anxious about getting grant money, what on earth is it like for a young academic trying to get themselves off the ground after their PhD/Post-doc? Speaking as one who was on that track: its pretty frightening.

    And people talk about academia not being “the real world”. I don’t know how much more real it gets when you are forced to justify your existence to all-powerful authorities every 3 years. Sure, you’re not manufacturing widgets, but neither is the guy in the Italian suit at the Paris end of Collins St.

    No job security, average pay (compared to what those graduates could be getting), and lip-service from most of the population. No wonder so many PhDs end up in consulting and government, way outside their fields of expertise. And then you wonder why all these people (myself included) spend all this time being paid/subsidised to develop skills that we essentially don’t need. Critical thinking skills, sure, but there’s probably fewer organic chemists out there doing chemistry than there are NOT doing chemistry.

    Oh dear, I’ve gone and gone on a rant… but good for you, JQ! 😛

  8. I was just hoping if you could provide me with some more information.
    As a taxpayer I’d like to know three things. Firstly, has the grant sum been confirmed, if so, how much is the total? Secondly, is the work going to be from a distinctly Leftist perspective? Lastly, will any attempt be made to present information from another point of view?

    Congratulations on the good news.

  9. How one would go about investigating uncertainty ‘from a leftist perspective’ I would like to know!

  10. @Freelander

    You start from a Robinson Crusoe basis and work your way through all the different forms of economy investigating crisis and uncertainty as you go. Not that I expect John to do this as government funding suggests our Mandarins want to link crisis and uncertainty and hope that this will erect a defensive wall around capitalism.

    Alternatively you could just regurgitate Marx who noted there was no ‘uncertainty’ about ‘crisis’ – but you really needed to start working with Marx in your undergraduate years – its too late now.

    There are other approaches.

  11. Thanks John, but I think my confusion is even more basic. Aren’t you a professor? With tenure? So isn’t your sallary paid regardless of the grant? To put it another way, if the grant money dried up, what would change? You’d still have a job and an office and a computer and maths/econ software and the library, right? So you’d lose the research assistants? Or does getting a grant mean you have to do less teaching so have more time for research (that and money for RAs and travel to o/s conferences seems to be the main deal for the academic lawyers I know)? See, I’m pretty ignorant of the realities here.

  12. @Freelander
    Ha maybe it will only involve left tail hypothesis tests or something 🙂

    Actually I think it is interesting that a lot of people on the right (probably a fair few on the left too) think that a scientific study can be conducted from a “leftwing” or “rightwing” point of view.

    Given this lack of understanding, it makes sense that many on the right are hostile to things such as climate change, evolution and fiscal stimulus multipliers. They see these results an extension of a school of thought they disagree with, rather than humanity’s best attempt at establishing unambiguous scientific facts.

    Scientific thought is the closest thing we have to pure objectivity. If it disagrees with your politics, it is almost certainly your politics that are wrong.

  13. @Benjamin O’Donnell
    Congratulations John. I don’t wish to detract anything from your achievement with this discussion. IMO, the Fed Fellows were established by the Howard gov to make universities internally less equal, possibly with the end effect of encouraging jealousy and infighting (the old divide and rule approach). One would have to be a real idealist to reject the offer of a big salary increase (ca. 2.5 x the standard prof salary at the time?) and no teaching for the fellowship duration. The current (Labor) incarnation is the Laureate scheme, which is a top-up on the University-paid salary and money for RAs etc..

    The aim also appears to be to reduce the teaching load on top academics to increase publication output and push the Unis up in the international rankings. It is hoped this will increase the demand for international fee paying students. One problem is that such students will never have contact with the top academics since they are relieved from their teaching duties and replaced by (young?) teaching-only, casual academics. But the international students don’t really care about this, since they usually just want the certificate with the Uni’s name on it.

    Another motivation for such fellowships is to “attract and retain” the best and brightest. But most recipients are already based in Oz and I question how many would leave if they didn’t get one. The real question is whether the money is effectively allocated. In the economics profession, possibly yes. In science, where most of these fellowships end up, Australia is kidding itself if it thinks it will get a return on research investment with the current state of manufacturing and technology transfer in the country.

  14. SiobhanH

    “is the work going to be from a distinctly Leftist perspective?”

    How can this work be anything but from a leftist perspective? The right thrives on uncertainty (fear) and creates the financial crises. It is the left that who clean up the mess and put things back together. It is the Ying and Yang of civilisation, with Nature as the “wild” card. Though, in the future Nature will be more wild,… and less “wild”.

  15. @plaasmatron

    1. Congratulations are definitely in order. Well done, and here’s wishing the research, analysis and writing all go well.

    2. Benjamin O’Donnell and plaasmatron raise some interesting questions. Exactly how does tenure, Professorship and Fellowship work these days? It would be enlightening if JQ or another knowledgeable contributor to this blog could explain briefly how it works and the general effect on teaching in the universities. (I am not making any implications about effects.) Or you might have a link to a good article that explains it.

    3. “Uncertainty and Financial Crises” seems a big (and probably highly technical) field. Any ideas on which areas you will be pursuing? Of course, it will be understandable if you want to keep your ideas and directions under your hat at this stage.

  16. @TerjeP

    If JQ needs to be grateful to taxpayers then taxpayers need to grateful to JQ in return for being one of the few social democratic and relatively heterodox economists to stand up against the damaging neocon, neoclassical, monetarist, managerialist and corporatist* assaults on our previously healthy mixed economy and working lives.

    * I could have added more adjectives but as they would have veered towards the expletive mode I limited myself.

  17. @Siobhan Harris

    I am not sure if you really are concerned about left wing bias in research and other areas like the media. Personally, I think it is a little quixotic to be concerned about left wing bias in a late stage capitalist system where right wing bias controls about 95% of the agenda, media and public discourse.

  18. I’m grateful to the Australian public in general (all of whom are both taxpayers and beneficiaries of public services) for the support they’ve given to research.

    The theory of fundamental uncertainty that I’ll be working on doesn’t have a simple left-right alignment. Historically, post-Keynesians like Minsky (usually viewed as left) and Austrians like Hayek (usually viewed as right) have been more enthusiastic than mainstream economists. But I’m developing the ideas in ways that I hope will appeal more to the mainstream.

    Policy applications aren’t predictable, but I guess there is now a broad consensus that regulation of the financial sector needs to be tighter and my analysis so far supports that. On the other hand, as I’ve mentioned in the past, the implications of my work for economic planning of most kinds are largely negative.

    As regards my career, I’ve hardly ever held a tenured position. With the exception of a brief and disastrous stint as a Department Head in the mid-1990s (neither my position, nor the department survived two years), I’ve gone from one research fellowship to the next. It means I don’t get to do any teaching, beyond guest lectures and similar. So, I focus more on things like the blog and columns as a way of transmitting my ideas.

  19. I’m grateful to the Australian public in general (all of whom are both taxpayers and beneficiaries of public services) for the support they’ve given to research.

    Fair enough. My earlier remark was a bit harsh in tone so just to be clear my congratulations was genuine. I’m happy enough debating research funding but this is obviously a personal achievement and deserves due recognition. So well done.

  20. Congratulations on getting the new Fellowship. I thought that you might be blackballed for failing to give due worship to the debt-pushers. I thought you’d get blackballed the moment you started on work that I thought was excellent work and stuff that we could both agree on.

    But will there be strings attached? Supposing you wound up advocating severe interest rate caps for all but the clearest of wealth-creating loans? Supposing you advocated severe interest rate caps for foreign-bank to domestic bank loans to fix our trade balance? (Its these loans that create our persistent export problems.)

    Supposing you thought that we ought curtail non-greenfields foreign investment. Issue shares for strategic infrastructure that only Australians could own. Or accept massive foreign investment but never from sources that could threaten us militarily. Supposing you were advocating a high RAR and the move towards more and more cash-money and less and less debt money? Or suppose you went so far as to say we ought aim for more cash then debt outright? Supposing you figured that Northern Hemisphere banksters should have their visas blocked on character grounds? Or that we should remove the public teat from our big four banks, wait until they crash and nationalise them?

    Any combination of the above could (to my mind) means you could lose your sponsorship forever. But the Soviets were never a threat to us in the way that these Northern Hemisphere charlatans are. They undermine all values. They water down all values and not just monetary ones. They undermine the libertarian idea of free speech by effectively becoming the real owners of all the newspapers. The inflated salaries of the CEO’s are paid out of their cheap ponzi-money, not out of shareholder funds, and they support “sure things” and market concentration with their pyramiding financial schemes. This makes the commentary of Terje seem rather dated when all the power is with these guys.

    If it were up to me and I was in the Northern Hemisphere I’d just go an arrest a bunch of these people.

  21. Surprised they fund deadwood

    Isn’t a bit lame to use nyms implying association with MIT and Harvard when you’re actually from a second-tier school a long way from Massachusetts? – JQ

  22. “Stiglitz has a book tipping a bucket onto market socialism and markets in general.

    You couldn’t have market socialism for the entirety of the economy. But there is not much wrong with having it for some sub-sectors. Road usage for example. The main thing is to bring back the price system to the private sector. Every time these useless bankers dream up these worthless derivatives, they are interfering in the price system. The derivatives either create or cover for phantom supply. Market socialism as a sub-sector is just a way of bringing rational pricing to areas where we want to maintain public ownership for fear of the cronyism that we see all around us now.

  23. @rog
    My group’s work for Garnaut had some impact. I also helped a bit in the push to give Queensland kids a prep year at school. And, going way back, I can claim a fair bit of the credit (or blame, if you prefer) for keeping food out of the GST.

  24. Four whole years without having to make grant applications? Sounds great.

  25. @Peter Smith
    That’s the best part!

    Though, to tell the truth, I would actually like writing grant applications, if there weren’t so much administrivial rubbish (budgets, timelines etc) associated with them.

    You get to list your greatest hits, then describe the exciting research you are going to do in a world where data is always accessible, experiments go as planned, theoretical problems dissolve in the face of your powerful analysis and so on. The reality is disappointing by comparison, but still rewarding enough to keep me going.

  26. Food out of the GST, have to applaud you for that one! Amazing the resistance to what should have been recognised as common sense. But then some economists seemed to see having everything under the GST as an aesthetic issue – those who see economics as not really dealing with the reality and instead see the whole exercise as something like flower arranging for intellectuals.

  27. Only some food is exempt from GST. My objection to the exemption is that I think social policy should be done once rather than as an addendum to each and every other policy. It’s less about aesthetics and more about trying to make public policy a little more transparent and policy permutations a little less perverse. That said it is hardly the biggest of issues.

  28. Surely having two policies which would do the job not nearly as well as a single policy simply to meet a philosophical criterion that you find quite appealing is precisely the type of aesthetic flower arranging referred to?

  29. “then describe the exciting research you are going to do”

    Are you confusing tense here? Perhaps its different in economics, but it seems to me that the ARC really wants done (or Discovered), lest the “preliminary data” not end up being publishable.

  30. Wonder what the motivation (or defect) is of the ‘missed harvard’ types? Animus for no clear reason.

  31. Apologies may be required.
    Yesterday I naiivley strayed to the catallaxy site and made some posts and comments on economics, I innocently asked one of the posters there if he/she had some feedback on Zombie Economics. Since then I have been the target of quite a lot of abuse, really very rude. I have been responding in a balanced and honest way, somewhat in the defence of ZE and JQ, more ridicule and abuse. So possibly some angry poster has come here, hence my apology if this is the case.

  32. Just had a quick look at catalepsy. Sinclair Davidson seems none too rational. In one of his posted thought bubbles he seems to be arguing that the Howard government becoming high spending, high taxing was some sort of consequence of his gun control and gun by-back policy. No laurel wreaths for that one!

  33. Don’t worry Xevram “Miss Harvard” aka “Mr Mit” aka “Kyle Lee” is a longstanding troll – he’s a grad student in the US who apparentlt feels threatened by my criticisms of DGSE macro, since he’s invested a lot of time in learning it.

    And apologies for letting you wander in to the cesspool that is the Catallaxy comments section. I left them on the blogroll since I had some productive exchanges back in the days when Jason Soon ran it, but I’ll take it down.

  34. @Conrad – that’s the way it’s standardly done. You get the research nearly finished so you can describe it accurately, get grant funding for it, then publish the results and use the funding for your next project so that you get it nearly finished, to apply for more grant funding, and so on.

    But in this case, I went for the high wire with no net – proposing to do research I haven’t yet started, although of course it draws on my earlier work. So, even with five years of funding, I need to get moving pretty fast.

  35. Professor Q,

    Are you going to be looking at uncertainty and economic crisis exposure due to Climate Change and terminal resource depletion (Peak Oil) as a part of this study?

  36. congrats JQ.
    read your book(actually bought it!)

    not only readable but understandable…wow.

    any chance of looking at the contribution of uncounted and unaknowleged wealth production by voluntary activities in society?

    and the value of such activities in maintaining a way of life that is the envy of the world?

    (can’t help myself—-that is the standard…not…that’s the way it’s standardly done.)

  37. Congratulations, JQ, to your latest research grant. ‘They’ should give you a supplement for your continuous public education, via your blog and elsewhere.

    Interesting to learn how you survived the mid-1990s.

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