74 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Although it was originally based on the famous book, “Limits to Growth” it now appears that this is, finally, starting to occupy the minds of the more progressive elements in society.

    The ABC Ockham’s Razor program is a good example. I am tempted to post the whole transcript, but this would exceed the attention span of most bloggers.

    But here is the link:


    The real question is whether we can continue a capitalist economic system if there is a stationary or decreasing population?

    Obviously the population cannot continue forever simply because there is not enough land for people to stand on after 15 more doublings.

    Tough but true.

  2. @Ivor

    Broadly, I am in agreement with the message. The Erlichs’ formula requires modification I believe. Currently it stands as;

    I = PAT, or impact equals population times affluence times technology.

    It probably should be I = (PxAxDT)/(CTxSxE) or some such where the new terms are:

    DT = Dirty Technology (serious negative externalities).
    CT = Clean Technology (no serious negative externalities).
    S = Sustainable Substitutions.
    E = Efficiency gains.

    This is only a very, very rough attempt at modifying their formula but in principle we must admit that there are divisors as well as multipliers possible in the impact equation.

  3. @John Mashey
    Yeah, it was a “captain’s call”, something our Prime Minister Tony Abbott is fond of making. There are a lot of bemused ex-CSIRO scientists out there, sacked last year because of an alleged government budget emergency, and now the government stumps up $4 million cash to parachute Bjorn Lomborg in. It’s pretty hard to see this as anything but a political move by our “coal is good” Prime Minister.

    If only the slashed mental health charities could have $4 million parachuted in; if only the Indigenous literacy programs could see $4 million suitcases dropped off at the door; if only the de-funded regional health specialists could see a $4 million gift. If only.

  4. @Ikonoclast

    I tend to ignore pop-formula such as that one.

    The key reality is exponential growth.

    This is the core of capitalism (but not of socialism). The necessity of exponential growth of Capital, based on constant rate of profit, is what is forcing society to its own destruction.

    It is that simple.

  5. This answer has nothing to do with economics or knowledge. My concept of Capitalism has always been one of boom and bust. Grows, destroys itself and new wave of capitalism emerges from the ashes. Depressions, in my uneducated belief is, are a part of the capital system. Yes, boom and bust. Therefore exponential growth is not needed. It is all about winners and losers. Never about the good of the people or nation.

  6. Do not know if war and national disasters, causes capitalism to begin again, in relation to growth.

  7. Ivor :
    I tend to ignore pop-formula such as that one.

    I=PAT is not a pop formula. It comes from legendary academic Paul Ehrlich who as still an excellent practicing biologist in his 80s know all about exponential growth, and his colleague John Holdren currently Obama’s Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Holdren has also developed a variation to relate impacts to energy usage.

    At worst you could say its a metaphor but really all its saying is impact is a function/product of population affluence and technology.

    I=PAT is also a simple way to understand CO2 impacts – and how we need to control not simply emissions but their underlying causes, hence the importance of Limits to Growth.


    Separately its great to see you plugging the ABC talk based on Haydn’s book of the same name.

    A problem with LtG and I=PAT sustainability is its still mainly discussed with rare exceptions within the Ecological Economics community while more conventional (Environmental) Economists seem to sideline it that I’ve seen.

    An arguable exception is Tim Jackson’s Prosperity without Growth whose subtitle is in fact “The transition to a sustainable economy”. However if you look closely you will see a different beast to Haydn’s reflecting their different perspectives.

    That said Jackson is currently working with a well known Canadian ecological economist Peter Victor. One hopes they can help kick start the integration of ecological economics into the mainstream which is so badly needed and perhaps intrigue $Ikonoclast.

    And maybe in the interim John might beguile us with a comparison of Prosperity without Growth with Haydn’s take, he not being a newcomer to this razor wire fence.

  8. @John Mashey
    We are acquiring a Lomborg Confusionista Centre. Just in time too as his interest in the quality of semen, sperm counts and quantity of ejaculate relative to frequency of masturbation and intercourse is exactly what Australia needs right now. See p 240 of ‘The Skeptical Environmentalist’ for totes TMI. The Danes, ya’ gotta love ’em.

  9. Could I just mention the disastrous situation in Nepal? I have worked there recently and know a little of the political situation there.

    Nepal is one of the poorest countries. It has not had stable central or local government for many years. It is in about as bad a position as any country I can imagine to handle this earthquake disaster – the lack of infrastructure and cohesive government a real constraint. The deaths, destruction of families and household property and the devastation of centuries old historical institutions is a crushing blow to a country that was already doing it very hard.

    Despite its problems the Nepalese are among the kindest, most welcoming citizens I have ever encountered. They will bounce back from this disaster but it will take a lot of time and much foreign aid effort. Foreign aid needs will extend well beyond the initial period of addressing this disaster. The immediate need, of course, is for cash.

  10. @Newtownian

    I half agree with you, but ..

    I have the same concerns over the SETI Drake equation. It pretends to offer an understanding that is actually not there. These devices, in different fields, are more emotional, subjective, politically distorted or just naïve, than useful.

    You may see some conceptual problems with Ehrlich’s formula when you try to put dimensions to each side of the equation.

    Tim Jackson, essentially follows the Cobb-Douglas structure where growth is implicit. He just wants to insert his factor “E” as well as the usual K and L. [pg 210-11]

    His understanding of capitalism is naïve [p200] and his understanding of options is inadequate. In fact he says:

    Exploring these otions in detail is beyond the scope of this book


    However “options” is what the world needs.

  11. In the aftermath of the executions, The Australian is pushing hard on Indonesia and I can’t guess their angle. Any other time The Oz is indifferent, if not supportive, toward punishing drug traffickers and of the death penalty itself.

    What’s their game? Setting the stage for the PM to get all shirt-fronty and look like leader in a showndown with Indonesia?

  12. @Sancho

    My guess is that it is nothing more than cynical posturing for domestic political consumption.

    If they were seriously upset Australia would stop training Indonesia’s death squad, Kopassus.

  13. The Oz is an entirely ideological operation. I can’t see them going against type just for a quick bit of populism.

    My best bet is the Liberal Party and NewsCorp decided they could use the executions as a bit of political theatre about patriotism and generate a narrative about a regional bad guy to focus attention on when the government flounders next.

    You know, with us or against us, axes of evil…all the stuff the US did a decade ago, which seems to be the current government’s blueprint for here.

  14. Yes, I wasn’t suggesting that News Corp was going rogue – I meant by “cynical posturing for domestic political consumption” pretty much what you said (LNP and Murdoch singing from the same song-sheet but purely cynically).

  15. Today, it is revealed that the Abbottians removed the statement of opposition to the death penalty from the high level guidelines that the AFP operate under: the Abbottians claim they did it so the AFP wouldn’t be constrained from international cooperation against terror plots—meaning they think it’s okay to execute terrorists.

    In other words, their opposition to the death penalty is conditional, depending on the nature of the crime. Now, in the situation where a mass murder by a would-be terrorist is known to be in the pipeline, I’m pretty confident that even with the previous statement of opposition to the death penalty, the AFP would have had the necessary freedom to say, on balance, we have to take into account the lives at risk if we do not cooperate internationally, so yes we will cooperate—even though it might put the would-be terrorist at risk of receiving the death penalty. And even if they didn’t have that freedom, I’m sure they could put the situation to the minister of the day, quickly and expeditiously, to get a clearance to act.

    In other words, removing the statement was a symbolic act, signalling the AFP to be free to risk the death penalty being applied to Australians who are convicted of some capital crime when overseas.

  16. Show me a group of Australian death penalty supporters and I’ll show you a group of LNP voters. The claim that capital punishment is abhorrent to a conservative government is breathtaking in its chutzpah, and that demonstrates it.

    Just think: if the police hasn’t been given the okay to expose Australians to the death penalty, there’d be no executions to leverage for political gain now.

  17. Barnaby Joyce has come out in favour of the death penalty, arguing there should be a “debate” about it in Australia. Christ, what a troglodyte.

  18. @Tim Macknay

    Barnaby Joyce has come out in favour of the death penalty, arguing there should be a “debate” about it in Australia.

    I was under the impression we had that debate years ago. Mr Joyce can’t have been paying attention.

  19. @zoot

    I’m absolutely against capital punishment.

    However, if we’re going to have a “debate” I’d introduce the suggestion that if it were introduced the first up to the plate should be the people from the ALP who re-opened our refugee concentration camps and allowed the privatised abuse of children for profit and ideological ends.

    Not so fast Barnaby, next up would be the LNP people who continued it.

    Taking us into illegal wars of aggression (a la Nuremburg trials) could follow – ‘Hello’ John Howard.

    Hypocrites should really be careful what they wish for.

  20. It appears that the rabbit hole has deepened in libertarian land: Leyonhjelm has apparently employed one Helen Darville, previously Helen Demidenko and author of ‘The Hand That Signed The Paper’. She has an article at the Gruad, utterly intellectually bereft, citing a preposterous cast of characters, in favour of ‘the right to offend’ instead of the right to free speech.


    But watch that space: libertarian space cadet advised by exposed fraud. Should be good.

  21. Forrest:

    “absolutely happy to cap my production right now” … “and we’ll find the iron ore price goes straight back up to $US70, $US80, $US90”.

    “I’m happy to put that challenge out there – let’s cap our production right here and start acting like grown-ups,”


    Initial response –

    “Attempting to cap pricing or fix pricing, even making the attempt, is illegal,”

    Considered response –

    “The ACCC has taken into account Fortescue’s position that Mr Forrest’s comments were made “off-the-cuff” in response to audience questions, were hypothetical and intended to encourage a policy debate about the long-term future of the iron ore industry,”

    PATHETIC. I am not saying punitive measures are warranted – I don’t know the rules – but surely the reasons above cannot be the basis of a decision.

  22. @matt
    Where’s the case for prosecution? I can’t see any flaws or inconsistencies with the explanation? How can you prosecute someone for just making a statement? Not only is there no case, the ACCC have lost numerous high profile cases where there was actually a case wasting countless millions of taxpayer dollars in the process. So we should waste more?
    Let’s also get some perspective here: it’s in the National interest for Fortescue to do well – they’re a *VERY* substantial contributor to providing the standard of living we enjoy today and they’re one of the very few large companies paying the full 30% company tax in this country plus state mining royalties and all the other taxes they’re obligated to pay.
    The gentleman making the statement is one of our top philanthropists who has committed to donate half his family’s fortune to charities and is one of (if not the greatest) contributor to Australian indigenous and regional communities in the country and is held in high regard for his morals and ethical practices.
    This isn’t a greedy mining tycoon making billions and wanting more – Fortescue are currently on their knees and again, it’s not in anybodies interests for such companies to go down.

  23. @Troy Prideaux

    [Twiggy Forrest] is one of (if not the greatest) contributor to Australian indigenous and regional communities in the country and is held in high regard for his morals and ethical practices.

    What utter bollocks.

  24. @Tim Macknay
    Ok, the latter part of my statement can be debated, but I don’t think you can question his commitment to such communities.

  25. This article in New Matilda is a good one, exposing the schizophrenic nature of Australia’s supposed total opposition to the death penalty anywhere and any time. In short, we don’t really let the existence of the death penalty deter our AFP and other government organisations from working with international counterparts, horse-trading information of political value, as well as of police value.

    Politicians and diplomats will always seek ways of installing wiggle room in any agreements to share information with other countries of dubious judicial, political, and military practices. It will take some brave politicians in Australia, from all major parties, to get together and declare that Australia really does oppose the death penalty in all circumstances, no matter to whom it is applied or why. But we won’t.

  26. @Troy Prideaux
    Forrest may well have a strong personal desire to help Aboriginal Australians, but there is a large amount of legitimate debate about the legitimacy of his approach, and what, if any, benefits it actually delivers.

    What is clear is that Forrest’s high profile commitment to assisting Aboriginal Australians has not done any harm to his public profile, nor is it likely to have adversely interfered with the approval processes for his various mining projects.

  27. On consideration, I probably could have done with one less “legitimate” in that last comment.

  28. Regardless of Mr Forrest’s moral standing, he was as safe as houses on hic comment. Capping production in the hope of triggering a supply/demand response and capping or fixing pricing which requires oligopolistic or monopolistic powers, are chalk and cheese. The ACCC was on a hiding to nothing and the statement may well have been a huge face saving exercise for them.

  29. @jungney
    I’m not sure how one gets clearance to post links here without being sent to moderation limbo for eternity, but Glenn Greenwald has an article up on The Intercept about McIntyre, Turnbull and free speech.

    You’ll have to ask Google for it.

  30. @2 tanners
    Yes, it’s difficult to see how Twiggy merely verbally expressing the desirability (from his point of view) of a cartel could violate Australian Competition Law, in the absence of any more substantial effort to bring about (and any real possibility of bringing about) an actual cartel.

  31. @Sancho

    Any comment with more than one link in it automatically goes into moderation; and if you start by hitting the ‘Reply’ button that creates one link to begin with.

  32. I’m also not in the “Saint Twiggy” camp.

    He certainly talks a good talk, but the nitty-gritty is far too neo-liberal for me. And real live actual results don’t appear to be as good as predicted. Also, he advocates for lots of government money to go to private corporations rather than to individuals or being spent on government services.

    Here is a paper by an expert in the field. Dr Jordan’s conclusion (mostly focused on the “Forrest” report):

    The practical difficulties of the Forrest Review are rooted in a philosophical stance that represents the primary problem as one of ill-discipline borne of overly permissive government funding. According to the Review, while welfare recipients need to be disciplined through income management, the providers of publicly-funded employment and training programs must be disciplined by tying the bulk of their income to 26-week employment outcome payments. In the process, the Review argues, the power to dictate what training to offer must also be granted singularly to employers who say they can guarantee jobs.

    These philosophical underpinnings dramatically oversimplify the very complex realities of seeking to improve Indigenous employment participation. Just as not all welfare recipients have behavioural problems that can be solved through a Healthy Welfare Card, there are many barriers to employment that will not be overcome by linking training and employment services to 26-week outcome payments or prohibiting funding for training not attached to a guaranteed job. Instead of addressing these problems, the recommendation to replace existing services with VTECs risks undermining the sustainability of these services and what flexibility and responsiveness to client needs they still have.

    This is not an argument for the status quo. Nor is it intended to diminish the positive outcomes that can be achieved when providers seek partnerships with employers to match job seekers with identified jobs (whether through a VTEC, JSA, RJCP or the IEP). Crucially, however, such approaches ought to form part of much broader development strategies that are specific to needs in remote, urban and regional locations. For remote areas, in particular, these strategies must also include support for job-creation through small businesses and locally-directed community development projects and not just the training needs of pledged jobs elsewhere.

  33. I’d be interested in JQ’s (and anyone else, too) view of this article by Andrew Cockburn.

    Put simply, the evidence suggests that killing the “Kingpin” of an organisation tends to increase rather than decrease the things the organisation was doing. The comparison he uses is the failure of the strategy in the “War on Dr*gz” and the “War on Terrrr”.

    Self-evident one would think. Therefore, are the people who keep advocating and running these concepts dumb zealots or evil zealots?

  34. @J-D
    Thanks. Mine are automatically moderated even with a single link. I’ve also noticed that there are a few non-obscene keywords that get mine binned.

  35. @Sancho

    One way around it (the banning of links) is to paste the link, but with the obvious bit missing or deliberately broken, e.g.:



    h t t p ://johnquiggin.com/2015/04/27/monday-message-board-277/#comment-256395

    Then anyone interested in the link can re-build it to see it.

  36. @Megan

    Therefore, are the people who keep advocating and running these concepts dumb zealots or evil zealots?

    Or evil dumb zealots?

  37. If it’s any consolation, I’ve been posting here for about ten years but in the last couple of years I’ve been banned from even posting a comment that links my name to my website in that field, the one that specifically asks for your website.

    But spambots get through quite regularly. Freedom is various and selective.

  38. @zoot


    But I was trying to draw a distinction between the two. Either dumb or evil.

    I’d like to give them a choice. Which one, for example, is Obama? I’d say he isn’t “dumb” so that only leaves “evil”. And so on…

  39. I am not consoled! Free speech means my most trivial thoughts must be broadcast unto the world without impediment or delay!

  40. > Which one, for example, is Obama?

    I mean, the us generals aren’t at the point of assassinating ministers who were insufficiently pro-chinese-peasant-murder, but I think obama is more aware than most that the military represents a political bloc as much as a tool of the state; acqiescence is not advocation.

  41. It’s been reported in the Oz that Google is paying its way

    Technology giant Google last year paid $11.7 million in corp­orate tax to Australian government coffers, on revenue of $438.7m and profits of $58m.

    My steam driven calculator makes that a profit of 13.2%

    Other and possibly more reliable sources give a Net profit margin of 21.1%


  42. Being a global company Google is able to shift resources to locations which are more profitable

    Google Australia managing director Maile Carnegie had conceded at earlier hearings that revenue gained by Google for advertising services from Australian customers was booked in Singapore, although she would not disclose the value of this revenue as it would be in “breach of US financial disclosure rules”.

    Mr Jordan said: “Whilst it is true that some tax is paid in Singapore, we believe it’s a very small amount as revenue booked in Singapore is moved to a tax haven, Bermuda, through a series of licensing fee payments. This means the majority of profits made in Australia end up in Bermuda where no tax is paid.”

  43. @rog

    That would be the “Oz” that is owned by News Corp, another giant global corporation that pretends to “pay its way” tax-wise – but in reality does not.

  44. @rog

    If revenue is 438 million and profit is 58 million, then does this mean that costs were 380 million.

    Google does not have enough presence in Australia to incur spending 380 million pa. This is equal to around a workforce of 10,000 jobs.

    So what costs does the ATO accept? Obviously not Australian costs.

  45. This is in today’s Fairfax papers.

    I think there is an elephant in the room here, namely that the original concept of HECS, and Richard Blandy’s 1979 proposal for a graduate tax that was an intellectual precursor to HECS, were based on assumptions about the labour market and the position of university graduates within the labour market that have largely ceased to be valid. Feminists would argue, and I would support the argument, that these proposals were also based on an implicit gendered assumption of the “graduate” as a male full-time breadwinner employed full-time without interruption from graduation until retirement.

  46. were based on assumptions about the labour market and the position of university graduates within the labour market that have largely ceased to be valid.

    But it was designed so that if those assumptions turned out to be false the cost would fall on the state, not the students. The students were insulated from any downside risk except lost time in the workforce.

    [My perspective is that any retrospective fee increase on graduates would be a “taking”, and that if it applied differently to people who went to uni when there were no fees and those who went when there was HECS it would be very very difficult to describe it as being on “just terms”.]

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