A progressive alternative economic agenda

This is a statement released yesterday and endorsed by a group of unions and individuals, including me. It calls for a progressive alternative economic policy. It’s a statement of principles rather than a program, and essentially a restatement of the social democratic position that represents the best of the Australian labor movement, free of both dogmatic leftism and the capitulation to market liberalism we’ve seen over the past thirty years or so.

A program developed on these principles would, I believe, be electorally popular if only we could get it before the public. But the policy elite, including journalists and the press, remain under the spell of market liberalism, despite its evident failures. So, our public debate will continue to be dominated by silly pointscoring about debt, deficits and the need for “reform”.

The full text is over the fold (the link goes to a properly formatted version)

Media Release
June 25, 2015
People’s movement needed to achieve
a progressive alternative economic agenda –
a secure prosperous and sustainable future for all Australians
A new grassroots movement is underway which should demonstrate to next month’s ALP National Conference that there is strong community support for a progressive change to Australia’s cosy consensus-at-the-top that ‘markets are best’.
Instead of a public debate about the real drivers of and dangers to our economic and social security and prosperity, the focus continues on ‘more of the same’ extreme fetish for a Budget surplus, smaller government, lower taxes and ever more privatisation and deregulation.
A People’s Economic Alternative is emerging to call on Australians to engage with each other to devise a new economic direction which can overcome the ever-widening inequality and ever-greater insecurity that mark the lives of more and more people, and meet the challenge of ecological sustainability at a time of accelerating and unmitigated climate change.
A People’s Economic Alternative is an initiative of trade unions, welfare, community and political organisations. These organisations have memberships totalling over 300,000 and this is the basis for a new grassroots initiative to change the debate over the next two to three years.
The global economic system, especially in Europe, continues to be marked by high unemployment, recession or very low growth, and harsh policies directed at the majority of working people rather than on the rich who refuse to sacrifice. Fundamental reforms to the way finance functions haven’t materialised, neither have changes in the dominant economic agenda of further de-regulation, privatisation, shrinking of the state and dilution of social contracts. Unlike the period following the Great Depression, it seems few countries have learned any lessons from the GFC. Eight years on, more financial shocks are to be expected, not fewer.
In response to the continued dominance of the neo-liberal agenda, the labour and broader social justice movements want to put forward a credible, well-defined, economic agenda as a progressive alternative.
A progressive agenda needs to take the latest thinking in economics and marry it to progressive Australian values and traditions. The labour movement, as the voice of workers, and the broader social justice community, has the capacity and social connections to lead such a great project.
A People’s Economic Alternative is trying to reverse a three decade’s long conventional wisdom about what constitutes good and credible economic policy.
We intend to build a nationwide campaign for a progressive political economic strategy. That involves a broader debate about how the economy and politics work to mainly benefit the rich and powerful, and what are the basic values that a progressive economy should serve – security, fairness and ecological sustainability. The economy should serve society, rather than the reverse.
To begin this process of challenge and change, the People’s Economic Alternative has proposed a set of values and principles that can underpin a new progressive economic agenda and a process for uniting the many dynamic parts of the labour and broader social justice movements.
For further comment, contact:
Andrew Dettmer AMWU 0419 899 345
Prof John Quiggin 0400747165
Fran Hayes f-collective 0419 416 061
Underpinning values
Equity; Fairness; Equality of opportunity; Recognition of the rights of future generations; Basic equality of outcomes, e.g. a living wage and dignified social support; Recognition of roles of both markets and government; Respect for science and education, e.g. economics is much more than a slogan like ‘markets rule’; People’s wellbeing is the ultimate objective, not profits.
10 Principles
Principle 1: Economic growth is not an end in itself, but is a means to better the lives of the Australian people, including future generations.
• The environment, mental and physical health, strong communities, security, art, freedom, and fairness matter as much if not more for wellbeing as growth in income and wealth.
Principle 2: Economic growth must lead to broad-based and inclusive economic development. No discrimination – all citizens have the right to participate fully in the society
• Growth must benefit all – women, the aged, youth, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples, immigrant communities. Strengthen human rights laws and agencies.
Principle 3: Government benefits must be targeted to those in need, adequate to achieve their goals and not used as punishment.
• People have a right to sufficient welfare support or a living wage.
Principle 4: Good budget management is essential, but this means ensuring solvency, not a blind insistence on budget surpluses.
• A budget surplus is not the measure of good policy, which should aim to fulfil the government’s role in a solvent way. If you don’t need our money, give it back to us.
Principle 5: Fair regulation means that we all get a go. Good regulation recognises Principle 1: it is people’s welfare, not just economic growth, which matters.
• Reject the idea that regulation is a ‘bad’. Non-income drivers of wellbeing need strong regulation to support them.
Principle 6: Workers have a fundamental human right to organise, collectively bargain and take democratically-determined industrial action.
• Workers are people, not just units of production – an economy should work for people, not the other way around.
Principle 7: Provision of government services by an independent and impartial public service is an important responsibility of our elected government.
• We want a government that understands and does its job as best as possible, not one that doesn’t think it has a job.
Principle 8: Companies and high income earners must pay their fair share.
• Our tax system is skewed for high income earners – it needs to be re-balanced and made fairer.
Principle 9: We need a broad-based economy, and not one simply based on agriculture, resource extraction and the services sector.
• The government has a strategic industrial role to play, to ensure a diversified economy.
Principle 10: Trade is crucial, but it must be fair and in the national interest.
• Trade shouldn’t be used to place corporate interests above people’s interests.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union National; Construction, Forestry, Mining & Energy Union; Finance Sector Union National, Maritime Union of Australia Sydney Branch; Fire Brigade Employees Union NSW Branch; National Tertiary Education Union NSW Branch; ALP Socialist Left NSW; Greens NSW; SEARCH Foundation; Evatt Foundation; F-Collective; No Westconnex Community Action Groups; Migrante Australia; AFTINET; Australian Political Economy Movement; Immigrant Women’s Speakout; Asian Women at Work.

194 thoughts on “A progressive alternative economic agenda

  1. Troy Prideaux :
    I have to disagree with you there Iko. Yes, they have to take responsibility for letting Greece into the Euro (which, yes, probably caused most of these problems for Greece), but Greece has to take most of the responsibility for the money it borrowed.

    Mind you, I think it’s pretty universally accepted that much/most of this debt has to be written off – the creditors have no chance of ever getting it back.

  2. > but Greece has to take most of the responsibility for the money it borrowed.

    The money was “borrowed” to “stabilise” the greek banking sector, or in other words it’s not a structural / domestic-policy-problem problem but a euro-wide — thus europe-wide — banking one. The banks should have been bailed out by the ECB or left to collapse: the nature of currency union means it’s the role of the currency authority, not the domestic governments, to backstop the banks.

    [because the design of a currency union takes away the infinite backstop capacity from the domestic governments. And if you can’t solve a problem, it’s not your responsibility to solve it.]

    Greece is carrying the bag for central-european-government — Juncker, ECB — failures. That’s why they’re so petulant.

  3. @Collin Street

    Greece is carrying the bag for central-european-government — Juncker, ECB — failures. That’s why they’re so petulant

    That. But there is also an auto-da-fe component to it. Burning the heretic will presumably stamp out heresy. Not.

  4. Troy Prideaux :
    … but Greece has to take most of the responsibility for the money it borrowed.

    This is a platitude. This borrowing was made under a previous government based on attacking Greek workers and pensioners and leaving other interests untaxed.

    The creditors need to take equal responsibility for the money they lent given the fact that all lending carries risk. If they assessed the risks incorrectly – they should bear the loss.

    Loans to Greece are at over 2% interest when Greek GNI is in decline and lendings have been imposing all manner of other conditions.

    By electing SYRIZA Greece is saying it wants a break from the past when borrowings and other injustices increased.

    Capitalism is based on borrowings and if interest rates exceed income then the lender has contributed to the catastrophe.

  5. @Ivor
    Fair enough, but things like the Greek pension system needed to be substantially reduced. It was ridiculously generous to the point of being completely unsustainable. Yes, creditors need to take some responsibility and hey, let’s face it, it’s a write-off. Greece also has a responsibility to be transparent when securing such financing.

  6. @Troy Prideaux

    I remember distinctly that at the time the Euro was established there were specific criteria that EU members were supposed to meet in order to qualify for admission to the Eurozone, and that it was publicly reported (although not, of course, officially avowed) that Greece did not, on an honest accounting, meet the criteria, so that its admission was achieved by fudging. Anybody complicit in that fudging shares in the responsibility for what’s happening now.

  7. I did not wish to imply that the Euro-elites deliberately trashed the Greek economy. They did not deliberately do it, they accidentally did it, but in a thorough and systematic way because their economic assumptions, theories and programs are demonstrably wrong (theoretically and empirically) and lead to financial imbalances and crises in the Euro system.

    The main problem is that the EU is a currency union but not a full Federal political union with both horizontal and vertical fiscal transfers across the entity enacted as a true Federation of states acts would do like the USA or Australia. We help our poor states all the time with fiscal transfers. It’s part of being a Federal nation.

    Now that the EU elites have caused this Greek crisis (via their fallacious economic theory) they are culpable for;

    (a) not changing theory in the face of empirical outcomes which refute the theory;
    (b) not making adequate straight fiscal transfers and/or forgiving debt for Greece;
    (c) not changing policy and programs away from failed austerity and other neoliberal measures;
    (d) not considering the real human cost of austerity being imposed on Greece.

    The reasons the EU elites continue to refuse debt forgiveness are domestic-political in Germany and France (basically). These nations are protecting themselves from most of the pain of their bad Euro policies and concentrating and inflicting all the pain on the Greek people. It’s a clear case of the strong oppressing the weak, of the rich oppressing the poor.

    The claims that Greek Pensioners were over-compensated even before the latest pension cuts do not seem to hold water.

    The OECD report “Pensions at a Glance 2013 – OECD and G20 Indicators – Greece” notes;

    1. “Old-age income poverty (in Greece) was around 16% in Greece in the late 2000s.”

    2. Greece’s expenditure on pensions at just under 14% of GDP was higher than the OECD-28 average of just over 9% but lower than that of Italy and France and not all that much higher than Germany at about 11% of GDP.

    3. About 39% of Greeks participated in the workforce aged between 55 and 64 participated in the workfroce compared to about 48% in the OECD as a whole.

    4. Gross replacement rate of pensions compared to work income:

    Average earner 53.9% in Greece and 54.4% in OECD.
    Low earner 75.4% in Greece and 71.0 % in OECD.

    These figures do not support any contention that Greek pensioners have an unduly good deal compared to the OECD. They might the contention that Greece as a weaker economy has trouble supporting these pension levels. Maybe if the EU was serious it would have an EU wide pension scheme and treat all pensioners equally. But then the EU isn’t really serious about helping ordinary people. It’s all about running a technocratic monetary system for the rich elites.

  8. Fair enough, but things like the Greek pension system needed to be substantially reduced.

    If greece has a structural economic problem of such significance as to put debt repayments into question then debt repayments need to be moratorimatesised until they’re fixed. If greece is able to meet repayments then it doesn’t have a structural economic problem.

    The troika can’t have it both ways, not without being vile stupid hypocrites. If they expect debt repayments now, then that’s inherently a statement that they believe that the greek economy in its current state can support the payments and then there’s no need for economic restructuring: if they want to force restructure, then that’s a declaration that the repayments are under current conditions impossible… and debt should be halted until things are fixed, based on performance metrics on the greek economy.

    There is no intellectually coherent and morally respectable framework you can put the troika’s actions into.

  9. > it doesn’t have a structural economic problem.

    “doesn’t have a structural economic problem such as to justify intervention by creditors”; greek internal inefficiency is greece’s internal problem, not something that concerns creditors unless

    A debt contract is a debt contract, not a lifestyle contract.

  10. @Ernestine Gross

    First to Morrison’s policy on the pension. Given the numbers available, this policy goes toward reducing income inequality for retired people.

    This is specious. Yes, as an egalitarian I favour reducing inequality, but as a humanist, I favour just dealing. What happens if you can have only one of these? I would prefer the latter. Having a more egalitarian set of provisions where some live in squalor is not as good as a less egalitarian system in which everyone’s needs are met, even if the top 20% get more than they genuinely need.

    Yes it is a small step but it is a step in the right direction.

    I don’t agree it is. It buttresses a system that is both inadequate (and thus a failure) and unfair in equity terms. This diverts political attention from the cradle to grave advantages of whole swathes of the elite.

    Furthermore, this policy goes toward reducing the budget deficit. Yes, it is a very small step toward this objective but it is a step in the right direction.

    But a) it’s not the only way this could be done and b) it’s not the most equitable way it could be done and c) it prolongs an unjust distribution of lifetime benefits and d) reducing the deficit is not and ought not to be the core business of government. Delivering adequate services to those who need them and nurturing authentic community (in part by promoting equity) are the core business of government. If these are done periodic deficits and surpluses will tend to balance each other out over time. The capacity to service debt maintainably is a sign that government is functional but not that it’s attending well to its most important mandates.

    In the end, what I’ve proposed is a set of arrangements that would meet the needs of the least advantaged 80% of the population well and yet would be maintainable and almost certainly less inegalitarian a distribution (in a whole of life sense) than we have now. Politically, it would be far harder for the right to subvert and ensure that everyone could live in dignity post-full-time work.

    More broadly while the principle of ‘baby steps’ being better than large leaps for complex things sounds good, in cases where the value of solutions declines sharply with delay, baby steps may not be far better in practice than backward steps. How much longer should our retired folk spend living below the poverty line? I’d say not a day, and $780pa certainly isn’t going to cut it.

    Time to junk the old system and junk the privileges that are its handmaiden, IMO.

  11. Good to see this sort of big picture thinking which is otherwise so lacking in current political debate.

  12. On Carbon Emissions.

    China is going to “try” to make reductions, which is good.

    Xinhua reports:

    BEIJING, June 30 (Xinhua) — China on Tuesday made fresh pledges on fighting climate change, setting out ambitious targets beyond 2020 in what it calls its “utmost efforts” in tackling the global challenge.

    The world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 60 percent to 65 percent from the 2005 level by 2030, according to China’s intended nationally determined contributions (INDC), an action plan submitted to the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

    That goal will be a big step further from China’s previous emission control target, which eyes a decrease of 40 percent to 45 percent from the 2015 level by 2020.

    In 2014, carbon emissions per unit of GDP was 33.8 percent lower than the 2005 level.

    The enhanced actions “represent its (China’s) utmost efforts in addressing climate change,” the INDC said.

    Acting on climate change is driven by China’s domestic needs to ensure economic and ecological security, as well as by its sense of responsibility to fully engage in global governance, according to the document.

    China’s move came amid calls for faster progress on climate talks ahead of a key UN conference in Paris late this year, when the U.N. hopes the international community will reach a new, universally binding climate pact with a long-term goal of limiting the maximum global average temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

    All parties are expected to submit their INDCs before the Paris meeting. However, as of Monday, only 39 countries of the 196 parties to the convention had submitted their INDCs, according to the UNFCCC website.

    Speaking at a high-level U.N. meeting on Monday, China’s special representative on climate change Xie Zhenhua said “there is very little time between now and the Paris conference”, urging all parties to submit their INDCs and strengthen the implementation.

    China’s pledges also added spotlight to the climate issue on the agenda of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s trip to Europe.

    Li arrived in France on Monday after wrapping up a trip to Belgium, where China and the European Union (EU) issued a joint statement to enhance cooperation in the uphill battle against global climate change.

    In its INDC, China reiterated its stance that climate talks should follow the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities, equity and respective capabilities.

    It called on developed countries to “undertake ambitious economy-wide absolute quantified emission reduction targets by 2030” in accordance with their historical responsibilities.

    Moreover, the Paris agreement should set quantified targets and a roadmap for developed countries’ financial support to developing countries in the fight against climate change, according to the document.

    It said the scale of financing should increase yearly starting from 100 billion U.S. dollars per year from 2020 and that the fund should primarily come from public finance.

    China has reached out to other developing countries to help them cope with climate change. Since 2011, China has accumulatively invested around 44 million U.S. dollars in South-South cooperation and provided assistance to other developing countries through low-carbon products, training and capacity building.

    As a developing country with a population of more than 1.3 billion, China is among those countries that are most severely affected by the adverse impacts of climate change, according to China’s INDC.

    Apart from the emission target, China also lays out plans to expand the share of non-fossil fuels in its primary energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030 from the 11.2-percent ratio in 2014, and increase the forest stock volume by 4.5 billion cubic meters from the 2005 level.

    China intends to achieve the peaking of carbon dioxide emissions around 2030 and will make best efforts to peak early, the INDC said, reiterating a goal set in a joint statement between China and the United States — also a big carbon emitter — in November 2014.

    According to the statement, the United States has set a target of reducing its emissions by 26 to 28 percent from its 2005 level by 2025. Enditem

    It seems like they are more serious about it than Australia is. We may end up being sorry about pretending we are superior.

  13. @Fran Barlow

    I knew before commenting that you don’t agree with the decision of the Greens on the specific policy in question because you explicitly considered it to be a mistake. For reasons I gave, their decision on this policy makes sense to me. There is no new information in your reply. I am not a member of the Greens.

  14. @Fran Barlow

    LOL, if there is anything I have learned by blogging on this site it is that people like Ikonoclast, Fran Barlow, Ernestine Gross, Tim Macknay, Megan et. al. can forget about changing each others’ views. 😉

    I mean this of course where their views differ. There are also overlaps of course.

    What does this mean I wonder? It means I think that each of us has thought a lot about our views, a lot about what we know and (in at least my case) even made extensive deductions in matters which we don’t know a lot about. We each have extensive rational and rationalised frameworks. It’s hard to change those. Only strong objective empirical evidence can do that and only when we are still open to empirical evidence. And not all matters have conclusive empirical evidence due either to lack of data, impossibly extensive complexity or in many cases essentially non-empirical aspects to the debate.

  15. @Ernestine Gross

    I know, but I saw your response as an opportunity to challenge the paradigm that you advanced, which paradigm lies also at the heart of centre-right politics. My response was not merely for you but for anyone who might be inclined to give that paradigm credence.

  16. @Sandwichman

    Humorous but not quite true. Facts do sometimes change people’s minds. Facts in debates rarely change peoples’ minds that is true. Facts found by scientific and empirical inquiry do change the minds of scientifically and empirically minded people. And facts on the ground do change people’s minds. I mean the latter when they meet facts in practice, in the field as it were, as opposed to “meeting” facts in theory and debate.

  17. @Ikonoclast

    I’m sure that’s true in some cases, but I don’t think it’s true generally. My post above was after all an instance of one person on your list changing her mind after reflecting on challenges from others whose standing to challenge she questioned.

    Over the years, I have held one view and then changed it upon reflection and/or new data. I was once a Laborite, then a Maoist, and for a long time a Trotskyist and now I’m a left-of-centre Green. I once opposed then became agnostic on nuclear power, then supported it as a step forward in combatting climate change and am now back with being agnostic.

    Throughout all of this, for me anyway, I have been driven by a yearning for intellectual and ethical rigour and of course for social justice, defined broadly. These are tricky things because we human beings continue to live and prosper/suffer which decisions are made or not made, and new numbers of humanity, each with a claim, are added to our ranks even as these words are being typed.

    It might be that the vehicles on which humanity is travelling are fundamentally damaging and ought in theory to be scrapped and replaced with an entirely new system, but to do that we would have to bring those vehicles to a halt and dismantle them and build anew while all the while 7 billion people wondered how they could get through the next 24 hours.

    Reconfiguring the vehicles while they are in motion and full operation is a less tricky task but still far from easy, and comes at the cost of accepting the ongoing damage that those vehicles are doing to the passengers in the here and now and their prospective interests. The progress of the vehicles changes and constrains possibilities.

    Accordingly, it’s never quite clear whether discontinuous or continuous change is the better strategy, and if the former is how discontinuous a change is optimal and with which human agency one should seek to effect the changes needed. I don’t mind conceding that in paradigmatic terms, it is questions such as these that trouble me most greatly.

  18. @Fran Barlow

    You write that ‘in cases where the value of solutions declines sharply with delay, baby steps may not be far better in practice than backward steps’.

    That statement would fail to provide an answer to the question ‘Are baby steps in practice better than backward steps?’

    If I ask somebody

    ‘Is this one darker than that one?’

    and get the answer

    ‘It may not be far darker’

    or if I ask

    ‘Is this one shorter than that one?’

    and get the answer

    ‘It may not be far shorter’

    or if I ask

    ‘Is this one stranger than that one?’

    and get the answer

    ‘It may not be far stranger’

    then the impression created is that the person I am asking is uncomfortable answering the question and is trying to evade it.

    In a parallel manner, the way you have chosen to express yourself creates the impression that you are trying to evade acknowledging an aspect of the truth that makes you uncomfortable.

    If you don’t want to create that impression you might want to consider expressing yourself differently.

  19. @J-D

    In a parallel manner, the way you have chosen to express yourself creates the impression that you are trying to evade acknowledging an aspect of the truth that makes you uncomfortable.

    If one accepts that parallel universes exist, one can scarcely deny it. The probative value of what obtains in parallel universes for this universe is impossible to assess and therefore ought not be considered until the said value can be quantified and mapped to this one.

    I confess that I am not greatly exercised by how I might appear in a parallel universe, in large part because I’m not confident that they exist and am thus not ethically burdened by them.

    In this universe of course, I’m also unable to determine the impressions of others, and it’s certainly possible that some will be impressed in just the way you outline. Yet I believe that those I seek to influence will for the most part accept that my formulation should be construed as saying that in some circumstances those things that are described by some as ‘baby steps’ really will have no greater value to their ostensible beneficiaries than backward steps; that such steps are illusory at best, and to the extent they serve to divert minds from addressing the problem, perhaps even worse than backward steps, assuming these latter motivated people to address fundamental problems in a system.

    I hope that helps.

  20. @Fran Barlow

    I did not ‘advance a paradigm’. I told you why I don’t agree with you disagreeing with the Greens on one specific policy item even though I am not a member of the Greens.

    Your list of what you would like to have is just another one of the various lists you have produced in the past on several subjects. Questions of feasibility (real resource as well as financial), coherence with other policy objectives or actual policies, the information, expectations, preferences of other people never features in these lists. Your approach is akin to that adopted by Joe Hockey with his May 2014 budget. Whether it is ‘left’ or ‘right’ doesn’t matter. What strikes me is the dogmatic element in the approach. I don’t agree with it.

    I do hope the Greens don’t pay much attention to you because their policy objectives are good ones. They are concerned with the big issues of our time, framed in a manner that is plausible.

  21. @Fran Barlow

    I didn’t write anything about parallel universes. I didn’t write anything about universes at all.

    It never occurred to me that somebody reading the expression ‘parallel way’ would automatically associate it with parallel universes and nothing else.

    The concept of things being parallel is far older than the concept of parallel universes, and has frequently been easily understood by many people who have no familiarity with the concept of parallel universes.

    However, in order to avoid confusion, I shall strive to avoid using the word ‘parallel’ in future exchanges with you.

  22. @Fran Barlow

    How would you distinguish between the kind of circumstances where baby steps are worse than backward steps and the kind of circumstances where they are better?

  23. @Ernestine Gross

    Everyone who puts or accepts a case for something is party to a paradigm of one kind or another. Often, people assume their views spring untainted by ‘dogma’ ‘ideology’ or in your case ‘a paradigm’ but there’s no escape. Every one of us must stand on some ground otherwise that lever with which we want to move the world will have no force behind it.

    I genuinely don’t know whether my party will pay much attention to my ideas but I feel obligated to work to see that it does. The sums involved in giving benefits on the scale I proposed above to the roughly 2 million people in Australia qualifying are certainly less than the sums paid in super concessions now, and with apt adjustments to marginal taxes and other taxes and charges there would be no problem at all meeting future liabilities.

    I am glad you support my party even if you sharply disagree with me. Even if my party does ignore my input, it will still be much the best of those contesting government in this country.

  24. @J-D

    It occurs to me and I suspect, a number of others here that your reasoning sometimes comes from a parallel universe. You seem to contest semantic points just for the idle amusement of the exchanges. I took the opportunity to satirise your style with my own idle whimsy.


  25. @J-D

    I would need to know

    A) about the costs of inadequate action or deferred action that was part and parcel to the baby steps program


    B) the extent to which the baby steps barred or limited the path to adequate action

    and whether and to what extent A and B produced greater harm (both in direct and dynamic terms) relative to the specific likely consequences of the backward steps.

  26. This is actually a climate change related event but I thought I might post it here as this thread is more active, so that some of you might see it (and even be able to go to it if you’re in Sydney). Be really interested to hear what you think of it if anyone does go.

    Sydney Ideas
    Professor Dipesh Chakrabarty
    Climate + Capital

    Co-presented with the Sydney Environment Institute and the Laureate Research Program in International History

    Professor Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago

    ‘If, indeed, globalization and global warming are born of overlapping processes, the question is, how do we bring them together in our understanding of the world?

    ‘In his pathbreaking essays on ‘Climate and Capital’, Dipesh Chakrabarty has opened up the exploration of the implications of the science of climate change for historical and political thinking.

    In this conversation, University of Sydney professors Glenda Sluga and David Schlosberg take up the themes of Dipesh Chakrabarty’s work to ask: What value does history have in tackling and understanding the political, social, cultural, and economic challenges posed by climate change? Can we reconcile the imperatives of capitalism and the objectives of tackling climate change?

    Professor Dipesh Chakrabarty is the Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor in History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the College at the University of Chicago. He is also a faculty fellow of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory and an associate faculty of the Department of English. He is a founding member of the editorial collective of Subaltern Studies, a co-editor of Critical Inquiry, a founding editor of Postcolonial Studies, and has served on the editorial board of the American Historical Review.

    Thursday 23 July, 2015
    Law School Foyer
    Level 2 Sydney Law School Annex
    Eastern Avenue
    The University of Sydney

    I can’t post the RSVP details but I guess anyone interested could ring the organisations involved.

  27. @Fran Barlow

    I am aware that I care about precision more than many people do; but to interpret a reference to parallels as a reference to parallel universes is the reverse of precision.

  28. @Fran Barlow

    No. I can’t see your logic. You oppose a move that is an improvement because its not the best move possible. That is fine if you are in control and can decide what happens. But you aren’t in control, so go with the best possible.

    Unless you want to play the wrecker…

  29. @John Brookes

    As always, it depends.

    As a teacher, I typically have to take ‘baby steps’ when framing learning because these are the only steps possible for a particular cohort. Equally, when pleading for resources, one typically has to make do with less than what would be optimal. I get that, and don’t rule it out.

    On the other hand those ‘baby steps’ don’t reinforce an unjust system or otherwise subvert education. They leave open the possibility of better outcomes and further improvement.

    This is not the case, IMO, with the particular policy we are discussing. The system we have now is not amenable to incremental/continuous change, and participating in trivial continuous change subverts our standing to argue for discontinuous change in the future. This is clear here because our error was predisposed by our previous defence of the old taper. Based on nothing but a prior position in 2007, a wink from ACOSS, and a tatty little $780 scrap from the table, without consultation with the party as a whole, we locked in behind an unjust set if arrangements. It was essentially reflexive arbitrage.

    Candidly, if my party were to adopt my position above, we would still not be able to implement it in the foreseeable future, but we’d have created a breach in the consensus on tinkering with the system and have opened a space on the left for more equitable dealing. Something a good deal better would have been possible and importantly, our hands would have been cleaner on this policy.

    One day, perhaps a regime in which we were the minority partner might have implemented it. That can’t happen until we junk this policy.

    I hope that clears matters up.

  30. This is not the case, IMO, with the particular policy we are discussing. The system we have now is not amenable to incremental/continuous change,

    Well it is, obviously, but I am saying that as things stand those incremental changes in practice won’t make it less unjust in any meaningful sense. Only a direct challenge to the paradigm can open the political space needed for measurably better outcomes.

  31. @Fran Barlow

    I understand if somebody says ‘Making this slight improvement now will make it harder to achieve a much more drastic improvement in the future’, and I expect that (or something like it) is true in some cases — maybe in many cases. I find unconvincing your reasons for concluding that it’s true in this case.

  32. J-D from a ‘Sandpit’ in April:

    …you aren’t interested in discussing what I actually meant, you just want to complain about the particular form of words I used to express that meaning. Why?

    Just saying.

  33. @Megan

    I am not sure whether to feel flattered or disturbed at being tracked so closely.

    I am interested in discussing what Fran Barlow actually means.

    I was also interested in discussing the particular form of words she used to express that meaning, although I hope that wasn’t a complaint.

  34. Neither. It just stood out so prominently at the time that it was unforgettable.

  35. @Megan

    Well, I remembered it when you cited it, but I’d forgotten it until then. So apparently you find me more memorable than I do myself.

  36. When someone makes such an issue, so consistently, of taking pedantic/semantic language points rather than directly engaging with the core point another person is making – it tends to stand out if they then plead the opposite.

    Ikon, Fran and I (and maybe some others I have left out) have noted this trait previously.

    Your penchant for precision is apparently selective.

  37. @Megan

    Years ago I read somewhere about the distinction between wanting to be right and wanting to have been right. It was supposed to be essential to the scientific attitude to value being right over having been right. The model is supposed to be the distinguished senior researcher who responds to a presentation by thanking the speaker for proving wrong the position the senior researcher has held to throughout his career.

    Just as there is a difference being wanting to be right and wanting to have been right, there is a difference between wanting to be clear and precise and wanting to have been clear and precise. I strive to place more importance on being clear than on having been clear.

    If an expositor’s statements are misunderstood, or not clearly understood, the expositor can react by trying to clarify the position, which can be helpful, or by insisting that the position has been clear all along, which is unlikely to be helpful.

    In this case, I initially found Fran Barlow’s remarks unclear, but then she clarified them, and I was grateful and responded positively, accepting her attempts at clarification.

    In the instance you cite, I initially expressed myself in a way that failed to make my meaning clear. When I realised this, I attempted to clarify my meaning. My interlocutor disregarded this. The comment you cited was a comment on the way my interlocutor was rejecting my attempts at clarification.

    What was being done in response to me in the earlier case, rejecting my attempts at clarification, was the opposite of what I did in the present case, accepting Fran Barlow’s attempts at clarification.

    I hope this helps to make my position clearer.

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