41 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. This gem from Charles Sanders Peirce is wonderful.

    “Though infallibility in scientific matters seems to me irresistibly comical, I should be in a sad way if I could not retain a high respect for those who lay claim to it, for they comprise the greater part of the people who have any conversation at all. When I say they lay claim to it, I mean they assume the functions of it quite naturally and unconsciously. The full meaning of the adage
    Humanum est errare, they have never waked up to. In those sciences of measurement which are the least subject to error — metrology, geodesy, and metrical astronomy — no man of self-respect ever now states his result, without affixing to it its probable error; and if this practice is not followed in other sciences it is because in those the probable errors are too vast to be estimated.” – Peirce 1906, Collected Papers CP 1.9.

    Of course, those who reject science yet readily believe many things not-science would, if they could understand this passage, then misunderstand it.

  2. Innovation, comparative advantage and endless growth.

    On Wednesday 7 September in Brisbane, there will be a launch of a report by the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia on utilising Australia’s “comparative advantages”. Economist Prof Glenn Withers was chair of the writing team.

    Scientist Prof Ian Lowe will be first respondent and is expected to argue that there are biophysical limits to endless economic expansion; and that our nation’s comparative advantage in natural resources has been undermined by depletion and pollution.

    Registrations are open at the website of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. It could be an interesting debate.


  3. So the obvious question this morning, why didn’t you dissent from the CCA report and endorse the minority report?

  4. Just found this slightly aged but brilliant piece from David Harvey on the state of the world economy and why is it so to pirate old Julius Sumner Miller. Nothing has yet changed.

    Who said Marxists didnt have a sense of humour or at least dry irony? And I’m not talking about Groucho.

  5. @Mandas

    Why indeed? The majority might have thought it’s better to put forward some half-loaf-is-better-than-none policies this government might pay attention to, as opposed to the purist dissenting view that would have gone straight to the circular file.

  6. The principle of comparative advantage as outlined by David Ricardo is often used by classical economists, and market centric economists, to justify continuous
    economic growth. Walt Rostow wrote the antithesis to Marxian growth theory. In that
    antithesis, Rostow did not only restate comparative advantage as the growth
    but also quoted J.M. Keynes as saying that: ” If human nature felt no
    temptation to take a chance, no satisfaction (profit apart) in,,,,(planned investment)….
    there might not be much investment merely as a result of cold calculation.” (GENERAL THEORY page 150. This sounds like Keynes’s endorsing
    continuous growth. But it can also be read as a warning about using the principle of comparative advantage outside its human context. Satisfaction surely implies a better life, not merely more goods and services produced at the expense of the social costs.

  7. With respect to the CCA report and certain issues surrounding it, it does become emblematic of the whole debate over reform versus revolution. Is it best to attempt to reform a system or radically overturn it? The answer of course is that it depends. It depends on a myriad of factors and considerations which each person must assess as best as he or she can.

    In talking of reform or radical overturn of system, I need not be talking about a political economy system, although I could be. I could also be talking about an energy system. Let us necessarily, due to the context, restrict it to a debate about our energy system and its relationship to our need for a healthy, productive economy. I take “our energy system” to include agriculture as we get biological energy, and materials, for human activity and growth from the agriculture system. This is all still a very complex problem in its own right, so my statement about “a myriad of factors and considerations which each person must assess as best as he or she can” still holds.

    Without prejudging or presuming what J.Q.’s stance might be, I am quite sure that his stance will be complex; both precise and nuanced, which two aspects are not at all necessarily in contradiction. If we maintain a respect for the right to hold and develop in detail a minority opinion (made explicit by the tradition of a minority report) then we must at least equally maintain a respect for the right to hold and develop a majority opinion. I hope I respect both rights.

    In this case, my considered lay opinion (or bias if you wish to call it that) is for the minority opinion. However, I think it very likely that the decision where to fall on this issue (for a majority or minority opinion) must have been a tough one for all parties working in good faith, which I confidently take to be the entire committee.

    You see I am working on accepting different, considered opinions respectfully. 🙂

  8. Footnote to above: Do we need another sandpit? I mean not for CCA issues, which might be best held over for the time being, but for the related “economic growth” debate which seems to be ramifying above and getting beyond the dimensions of a Monday message board.

  9. Interesting that one former head of the Australia Institute, Richard Denniss, is taking the opposite side from another former head, Clive Hamilton, in the CCA split.

  10. @Newtownian
    Your #4

    Yes, well presented and very entertaining, Newt. And yes, a Marx humorist … sort of.

    And it covered just about all of the factors involved in the GFC except two:

    1. why was Lehman allowed to fail ? Basically, because a bunch of econorat neoliberals wanted to have a public beheading (or at least a serious genuflect to the gods of ‘Moral Hazard’). If Lehman had been stitched back together a la Bear Stearns, would we have had the GFC ?

    2. have you ruled out stupidity ? Or at least massive widespread incompetence. Nobody ever seems to understand just how widespread and destructive human incompetence is, day in and day out.

    The main argument against all forms of belief in a ‘system’ be it Marxism, Communism, Socialism, Capitalism, Mercantilism or even Feudalism, is that they all require learned expert capability from a species – ie homo sapiens sapiens – that is manifestly incapable of providing it. If you want some information on that, try Googling the post ‘On Incompetence’ at the blog ‘Stumbling and Mumbling’.

    The British – that nation of small shopkeepers – has, or at least had until hubris took over – a saying: ‘muddling through’. Now capitalism can basically ‘muddle through’ (and has done so for centuries), but anything that requires centralised command and control (plus planning) can’t, and won’t, because the requisite ability and persistent expertise just isn’t available within the human race. The truly great disappointment of human evolution is that meritocracies aren’t – meritocratic, that is. And they don’t have any sense of noblesse oblige either.

  11. GrueBleen :
    1. why was Lehman allowed to fail ? Basically, because a bunch of econorat neoliberals wanted to have a public beheading (or at least a serious genuflect to the gods of ‘Moral Hazard’). If Lehman had been stitched back together a la Bear Stearns, would we have had the GFC ?

    (1) Lehman were out of control. They were taking on ridiculous risk for earnings and market capitalization growth even by Wall St standards for those times.
    (2) We needed a crisis – one serious enough to provide the politicians the political capital to implement some serious reform, indeed one serious enough for them to be forced to act.
    Without serious crisis, the corrupt political system rules with nothing stopping it – regulations are further watered down, regulatory bodies are further reduced in size and power, oversight is further reduced, complacency is the norm etc
    Serious crises are the only speed bumps along the road that is a corrupt political system.

  12. @Troy Prideaux
    Your #18

    It’s really good then that letting Lehman fail and triggering the GFC has delivered us a now cleansed, fixed and fully operational economic system that we’d never have achieved otherwise.

    But if you can squeeze past your ‘bring down the temple’ viewpoint and can accept a modestly nuanced and basically factual analysis, try the twentycentparadigms blogsite for the post titled ‘Revisiting Lehman’ (or just check out the links on Mark Thoma’s Economist’s View site for “09-05-16” (or 5th September in local language).

    But yes, now that you make such a compelling case, I can see why the French needed Robespierre to institute the Reign of Terror. Without it, the French simply wouldn’t have had the crisis they had to have. And maybe the Germans and the Russians respectively last century too.

  13. @Troy Prideaux

    There are very good arguments that Goldman Sachs was out of control before, during and after the GFC. Yet GS was treated like a protected species as were its managers and execs. The market and governmental punishments, such as they were, were very partially administered. Lehman was left to go down the tubes and GS propped up to the hilt, along with others. Admittedly, the PTB couldn’t let the world economic system collapse as it was in very imminent danger of doing. However, once the crisis have been averted and matters stabilised a progressive financial and criminal investigation and reckoning should have occurred. Dozens, if not hundreds of key financial CEOs, execs, managers and assorted banksters should have been arraigned on serious fraud and misconduct charges. A great number of financial controls should have been instated or reinstated. Little to none of this happened to date. The system is no little fundamental state than it was before the GFC. The next crisis is no doubt on its way: precisely when is hard to say.

  14. @GrueBleen

    ” the requisite ability and persistent expertise just isn’t available within the human race. The truly great disappointment of human evolution is that meritocracies aren’t – meritocratic, that is. And they don’t have any sense of noblesse oblige either.”

    Is there a blog you read that informs this assumption you make about the human race?

    And if you think that human evolution is a disappointment; perhaps you don’t understand ‘evolution’? or indeed humans?

    What meritocracies that are not meritocracies are you thinking of when you say that they are not and do not have a sense of noblesse oblige. If so I suppose this sense must have come from somewhere?

    And ” but anything that requires centralised command and control (plus planning) can’t, ”

    So you think there is only a choice between capitalism and centralised command and control? You haven’t read Hayek then and have no truck with the idea of self-organisation?

  15. Things were dire, really dire, in August 2008. Something on the scale of the Great Depression or worse was entirely possible and the policymakers knew it. In those circumstances seeing that only the right people went to jail (or at least were denied their bonuses) had to be very much subsidiary to calculations of what would prevent the collapse of global capitalism within the next month.

    This was battlefield medicine so you wouldn’t be surprised if they made some wrong calls while under fire. But collapse was averted so I don’t think you can now confidently say which calls were bad and which good. The politically motivated mistakes long before, and long after, the crisis are much more clearly blameworthy.

  16. @Julie Thomas
    Your #21

    Aww, now don’t go all Ikonoclast on me Julie. I thought we were having a nice light-hearted interchange or three and then you do this to me.

    Ok, parade your PhD in biology and you can claim you know more about evolution than I do – it shouldn’t be hard. So then you can lecture me on Julie’s pronouncements on the wonderful successes of human evolution in creating a species that can make such a glorious success as the world today.

    No, Julie, I don’t just get my points from blogs – do you ? I have lived and worked and read and experienced over many years – quite probably a few more than you – and my view of human organisations is that they are mostly subject to that old joke: “if it’s a choice between a conspiracy and a stuffup, choose stuffup every time”. And there are so many to choose from.

    But do, please, prove me wrong – give me a list of many human organisations (apart from possibly the Catholic Church) that have been shining examples of successful ‘meritocracies’. I wait your wisdom, sensei.

    Otherwise, I am intrigued by your last thrust – please show me where I mentioned or dealt with “choice” anywhere in what I said. And also where I indicated that I have “no truck with the idea of self-organisation”. I look forward to seeing your chain of infallibly logical reasoning as to how you extracted these assertions from what I said.

    But no, you have got me there: I’ve never read Hayek – well, not as a complete work, anyway, just the odd extract or commentary. Life is too short to waste on the Hayeks that our very successful evolution throws up for us. I prefer to wait for the Keynes.

  17. Should politicians accept payment by third parties for personal travel. If they do has any law been broken? Reporting the payment has the merit of addressing accountability.

    On the question of resignation, if the Westminster conventions are to be honoured, then surely a government defeated on the floor of the House of Reps should resign.

  18. @wmmbb

    surely a government defeated on the floor of the House of Reps should resign.

    Only if it loses a vote of confidence, on the Westminster conventions.

  19. @wmmbb
    No. They have a travel allowance for work-related travel. Travel that is not work-related is private travel, and that should be paid out of their own income.

    I doubt any law is broken by accepting a payment for private travel, but as politicians are basically the public face of our democracy, what they do financially can taint our view of them, even if they had no nefarious intent. Politicians are in that class of jobs that do not separate easily into personal (private) time and public (job) time; fair or not, one bleeds into the other.

  20. @Apocalypse
    If that is the reason, then they have failed utterly to do their job.

    Public service and government advisory boards MUST advise governments without fear or favour, and MUST tell the hard truths. If they only tell governments what they want to hear, then they are nothing more than useless.

  21. I’ll never understand the media. Sam Dastyari is a dick to the tune of $1600 and the media are all over it, wall-to-wall coverage (including their ABC). $500k donation to the WA Libs from the same place and crickets.

    I feel like an alien.

  22. @David Allen

    I totally agree with all your posts above. It’s the clearest example of the grotesque double standards of the rich.

    A person gets a welfare payment for unemployment (a few hundred bucks a week) and he’s called a dole bludger. An official program was officially named “Work for the Dole”. Maybe it’s still called that, I am no longer up to date as a goverment employee with welfare policy (mercifully as both parties make a complete hash of it when in power). Imagine that, “Work for Dole”! I mean FFS if you work for it then it ain’t a dole.

    In any case, a few hundred bucks a week for unemployment makes a person a dole bludger but multi-millions for bankters for nearly bringing the global financial system to the crash and burn point are par for the course. Then they get off scot-free with huge injections in the multi-billions to keep their institutions, which they riddled with holes, afloat indefinitely; and then more self-awarded bonuses in the multi-millions while all the authorities look the other way.

    If you’d written a book predicting all this nobody would have believed you. Too preposterous. Yet here it all is as plain as day. Indeed, someone did write a book predicting all this in general terms (not every specific detail). Bloke by the name of Karl Marx.

    “Talk about centralisation! The credit system, which has its focus in the so-called national banks and the big money-lenders and usurers surrounding them, constitutes enormous centralisation, and gives this class of parasites the fabulous power, not only to periodically despoil industrial capitalists, but also to interfere in actual production in a most dangerous manner— and this gang knows nothing about production and has nothing to do with it.” – Marx, Capital Volume III, Chapter 33, The medium of circulation in the credit system, pp. 544-45 [Progress Press].

  23. @Mandas

    The majority CCA might genuinely believe that what they have recommended is the best policy, as well as making a judgement call that they have more chance of being listened to by saying what they did.

    The CCA dissidents have used the RBA, which acts independently of the government, as an analogy. But this is false reasoning. The RBA has the power to set monetary policy as it sees fit. The CCA doesn’t have any power to set any policy. Its role is purely advisory.

  24. I was surprised by the actions in Sydney and Melbourne to cancel celebrations of Mao’s 40th anniversary (d. 1976) based on concerns that public reaction would be disruptive. I have no idea if that were likely but coming quickly after demonstrations in support of the PRC’s tough stance on sovereignty in the South China Sea – with enthusiastic support from Sen. Dastyari – I’m wondering what is going on? Do we have a 5th column of cashed up migrants in our midst supporting the motherland whatever or are they matched by Red Guard survivors?

  25. @pablo

    ALP rightwing will do anything for money and care nothing about National sovereignty.

    Money first – consequences second – morality third.

  26. @David Allen
    Your #28

    In the lamd of the free and the home of the brave, they have a saying: IOIYAAR (It’s Ok If You Are A Republican).

    And even more so, it seems if you’re just a pretend Republican like Trump.

    How’s Sinodinos going these days ?

  27. @Ikonoclast
    Your #37

    Yair, but don’t worry Ikono, Mary Whitehouse has been dead for almost 15 years.

    And her claim to fame, as I’m sure you have been inform already is that she initiated a successful private prosecution against Gay News on the grounds of blasphemous libel, back in 1977.

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