31 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. The posts on Crooked Timber about American charter schools are all closed now, but I saw some interesting research on Facebook posted by the World Economic Forum, about the factors that influence whether someone is happy and has a high wellbeing score.

    A lot of people on the charter school threads on Crooked Timber commented to the effect that inequality was the most important factor, and charter schools couldn’t make good impacts without dealing with underlying inequality.

    But this research says that inequality isn’t the most important thing and also that Qualifications aren’t the major factor in deciding an adult’s life satisfaction, but Emotional Health at age 16 is the major factor.

    Family income contributes higher to someone’s Qualifications (0.16) , but the major contributor to Emotional Health is not family income (0.07), but their mother’s mental health (0.19).

    The conclusions are that family life and the quality of schools, and also physical and mental health, are more important for someone’s life satisfaction, than inequality is. Not that I am saying high levels of inequality isn’t a problem, but I think the research is interesting nonetheless.


  2. The election of Donald Trump, and his appeal to “alienated” former workforce of the Rust Belt brings into focus the question, what is to be done after neoliberalism? I would have thought the outcomes would always have been predictable. Why is it that we think in terms of financial returns, and not social and ecological consequences? (My proposition is that mathematics is taught as objective abstraction). One suggestion, if the Trump Administration was serious about restoring jobs is to reinstate tariffs. That might “work” for some jobs as a short term remedy. The Green Army, for example, was probably a good idea with the potential for a cross party policy formulation.

  3. There are already signs of a new wave based on some substitute to the overuse of monetary policy. Quantitative easing has not rebooted the global economy, due to hoarding. With sovereign debt so high, the strict Keynesian solutions cannot be applied. So the trend is to find a third way out of chronic unemployment, underemployment and under-investment. It might surprise some to learn that John Maynard Keynes was a mathematician. He probably would agree with wmmbb about how mathematics is taught. As a former high school mathematics teacher, I certainly know where he is coming from, but am not sure where he is going with his “cross party formulation”. Keynes was clear on his opinion of politicians who essentially either, did nothing, or, stood and watched as central banks did the wrong thing.

  4. @wmmbb

    What is to be done after neoliberalism?

    “If the whole of modern society is not to perish, a revolution in the mode of production and distribution must take place.” – Engels.

    “A look around us at this moment [i.e., 1916 Europe] shows what the regression of bourgeois society into Barbarism means. This World War is a regression into Barbarism. The triumph of Imperialism leads to the annihilation of civilization. At first, this happens sporadically for the duration of a modern war, but then when the period of unlimited wars begins it progresses toward its inevitable consequences. Today, we face the choice exactly as Friedrich Engels foresaw it a generation ago: either the triumph of Imperialism and the collapse of all civilization as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration – a great cemetery.” – Rosa Luxemburg.

  5. Just read your article on the Productivity Commission in the Guardian. It is about time someone belled the cat on this organisation. I actually think you have been a bit lenient on them.

  6. I’m not quite getting the role of the ACCC and a govt that ostensibly supports a free market.

    Recently the ACCC recommended that Telstra be excluded from an auction on mobile frequencies because, in their opinion, Telstra already has sufficient. Heeding the ACCC advice the govt blocked Telstra saying “that the auction promotes competition and that the spectrum is allocated in the long‑term interests of end-users”.

    Without providing evidence it seems that the govts role is ideological only. It’s actions must be frustrating to Telstra who argue that their exclusion from the auction would reduce the competition and influence the final price.

  7. Ikonoclast – I agree that we have some serious problems but I don’t see how fundamental change can be achieved except incrementally. Even major economic and societal breakdowns seem unlikely to be cause for transformative and unifying change. The name in common is pure coincidence but the Fabian approach may be ultimately be the most fruitful – it makes more sense to me than most means used to enact change; some of our society’s institutions and conventions, flawed as they are, are dispensed with at our peril.

    More steps back lately as I see it than forward and potentially leading to a dire absence of any steps forward combined with blind and wilful leaps backwards; the rise and re-legitimising of bigotry and exclusivist rather than inclusivist politics (One Nation. Lambie. Abbott/Bernardi/Christensen etc. Trump. Brexit. ), egged on by news media that seem incapable as well as stubbornly unwilling to be responsible for their own influence and liking for the sensational and emotive. Or their partisanship and surprisingly insular group think.

    Revolutions – even if the extent of discontent was widespread, extreme and dire (and I don’t actually think the discontent is that deep or sufficiently delineated) – tend to be messy, unpredictable in outcome and with too much collateral damage. Inspired and inspiring leadership for change seems in short supply and I think we are socially more fragmented and reluctant to unite in common cause than ever. Perhaps the multi-cultural and fractally divided modern Australian society simply cannot unite in the ways that our forebears did but the racism and bigotry and tribalism that went with monocultural Australia (if it ever truly existed) persists and finds new causes and new expressions. Without offering any viable pathway to bring that desired unity back.

    Which ends up sounding a lot like the desire for that kind of change will be popular and pursued aggressively whilst being in opposition to the kinds of transformation desired by me or by you or by similar progressively (?) minded people. Societal catastrophes, in such circumstances, will not be recovered from easily. And so, back around to incremental change and a hope that some inspired leadership emerges.

  8. Is there an alternative to violent revolution? A moral revolution involves a fundamental retelling of the human story. Who are we? What are we?

    George Monbiot has some ideas which seem to relate to the redefinition and restoration of the commons. This reminds me of the 17th Century, Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth. Some of my unknown ancestors lost that battle over time, which made them amenable in due course to land agents from the distant colonies with stolen indigenous land to offer.

    George Monbiot observes:

    “A commons is an asset over which a community has shared and equal rights. This could, in principle, include land, water, minerals, knowledge, scientific research and software. But at the moment most of these assets have been enclosed: seized by either the state or private interests and treated as any other form of capital. Through this enclosure, we have been deprived of our common wealth.”


  9. @J-D

    It’s a compound statement. Which part or parts are false in your view? Perhaps you think a world war is not a regression into barbarism? Perhaps you think we have not now entered the era of unlimited wars? We wage wars still limited in space and mode but unlimited in time-span. Witness the USA’s endless wars. Imperialism is coming up against limits to growth and climate change. Will this not result in depopulation, desolation, degeneration?

    A person predicts “If you drop that ordinary glass over a tile floor it will shatter”. You would argue while it was still falling, “See, it did not shatter, your prediction is wrong.” Those with the ability to understand and predict material trends long term can see where matters are heading. Those with very short horizons to their thinking can see and predict nothing.

  10. Here is a question that could be addressed to Bill Mitchell’s blog, except that answers would be likely to be non-intuitive and opaque.

    What if EVERY country in the world was the issuer of its own sovereign currency. What if they would as a standard ongoing budgetry strategy, simply “print” enough of that currency for worthwhile, constructive purposes.

    And please don’t reply with instances of some countries having already done this. The key concept here is “every country”.

    Would such a strategy, in a kind of self-cancelling way, lead to a devaluing of all currencies? Of currency per se? And what might be the undesirable consequences, if any?

  11. Ikonoclast :
    It’s a compound statement. Which part or parts are false in your view? Perhaps you think a world war is not a regression into barbarism? Perhaps you think we have not now entered the era of unlimited wars? We wage wars still limited in space and mode but unlimited in time-span. Witness the USA’s endless wars. Imperialism is coming up against limits to growth and climate change. Will this not result in depopulation, desolation, degeneration?
    A person predicts “If you drop that ordinary glass over a tile floor it will shatter”. You would argue while it was still falling, “See, it did not shatter, your prediction is wrong.” Those with the ability to understand and predict material trends long term can see where matters are heading. Those with very short horizons to their thinking can see and predict nothing.

    Rosa Luxemburg did not write ‘we face the prospect of “the collapse of all civilization as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration – a great cemetery” at some indefinite point in the far future, maybe a hundred years from now, maybe even longer, who knows, I can’t say, but some time, eventually, you can bet on it, even it if doesn’t happen until after everybody alive now has died, and their grandchildren, but it still will happen, I know it’, and if she had it would not have been impressive, it would have made herr seem foolish.

    Rosa Luxemburg was forty-five in 1916. There are people who were forty-five in 1916 who grew old and died without experiencing ‘the collapse of all civilization as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration – a great cemetery’, and their children and their grandchildren grew old and died without experiencing those things, and now their great-grandchildren are old and still haven’t experienced those things. My point isn’t that the world might not be facing those things now; my point was that Rosa Luxemburg wrongly thinking the world was facing those things in 1916 has no evidential bearing on the question of whether the world is facing them now.

  12. dedalus,

    First, to orient our thinking;


    There is a bit of a mix here. The list includes countries in the ECU of course.

    Now, countries which currently have their own currencies currently print “enough of that currency for worthwhile, constructive purposes” in the estimation of their own governments or own ruling authorities of the day. It is the “enough” that is open to judgement and interpretation. Countries vary in position, especially with respect to underutilized capacity and available resources relative to money available to mobilize capacity and resources.

    The question is unclear and leaves too many variables undefined/unaccounted for. It’s not possible to give an answer to such a nebulous question, but that is in my opinion only.

    At the same time, the question raises, very validly in my opinion, the issue of the fallacy of composition. Assuming MMT principles would work for a country with arguably underutilised capacity and spare resources, Australia for example for the time being, would it work for every country with underutilized capacity and spare resources if every one of those implemented the policies simultaneously? Personally, I don’t see why not, and I can’t see reasons why the currency market could not handle the movements, but maybe I can’t imagine ramifications far enough. However, many countries are not now in the position of having spare resources (apart from spare human resources). That is if we take ecological footprint analysis to be valid and pointing to a real problem of overshoot in many countries already. So the question is somewhat hypothetical. It assumes no real world limits for any country whereas ecological footprint analysis already shows many countries in overshoot… if you give that credence.

  13. Here is the latest report on the debacle in the vocational education and training sector.

    My view (and I would be interested in JQ’s view) is that this is not so much a neoliberal debacle as a Third Way debacle. By this I mean that it is the combination of neoliberal elements (private, “market”, provision) and the residual social democratic element (funding through income-contingent loans) that has enabled the emergence of the racket in the form it has taken.

    A strictly neoliberal model involving charging of up-front fees to students by the private providers would also be objectionable, but in different ways (inequity, the mix of course offerings not being oriented to social needs, denial of opportunity to those most in need, etc.).

  14. @dedalus Works fine until you enter into trade between sovereign states, which would require faith by one in the currency of the other. Using a third medium, like gold, is one way to exchange wealth.

  15. @Paul Norton

    I reckon you are right. Without the HECS-HELP loans the students would never have signed up because few could have paid the fees up front. What if they’d gone to a bank to get a loan to pay the fees? They would have been laughed out of the bank manager’s office. The dodgy VET providers business model depended on the students getting “free” money from the government and then handing it over to them.

    There are many lessons. One is that government bureaucrats can be hopelessly naive. They probably thought that these VET providers were men of honour, like vice chancellors used to be.

  16. @Ikonoclast
    I don’t mean the normal increase in the money supply through standard means. I mean the printing of money in the weimar republic or zimbabwean sense. It seems to me that for MMT to work, only some, not all, sovereign governments can do it. To use a crude analogy, standing up at a football match is fine. It gives you a better view. Until everyone else stands up.

  17. @rog
    That is what I was thinking. A currency has a certain value, by usage, by tacit agreement between all stakeholders. By the market, if you prefer. If a single government, for example, cancelled its debt in the currency of its own country by creating funds “out of thin air”, that currency would probably not much be affected. That, I think, is what MMT is saying. What I fail to see MMT explaining is what happens if ALL governments did this. The whole system of fiat currency would be in danger, would it not?

  18. @rog

    The ACCC has advised the government to exclude Telstra from the auction so that the spectrum will go to another business and thereby increase competition in the market for services that use that spectrum as an input.

    By accepting this advice the government will forgo revenue from a more competitive auction process in return for later competition in the market for services that use the spectrum sold, that should lead to better outcomes for consumers.

    In my opinion, this is good. The government is trying to maximise the benefits to consumers rather than revenue.

  19. @J-D

    Oh pish tush, J-D and I thought you were going to have a go at this: “This World War is a regression into Barbarism.”

    Clearly this (WWI) war wasn’t a regression into barbarism because the glorious Judeo-Christian Europowers had never left barbarism. As she quite clearly understood when she wrote “The triumph of Imperialism leads to the annihilation of civilization.”

    The Euros had been bloodthirsty, robber baron ‘colonialists’ for at least 500 years before WWI – more than time enough – as, for instance the Spaniards showed in southern ‘America’ and the British in India and Australia – for much “annihilation of civilisation”. Both that of the conquered and that of the conquerors.

  20. @GrueBleen

    When Rosa Luxemburg wrote about what ‘we’ face ‘today’ and what Engels ‘foresaw’ a generation earlier, she was not referring to what had already happened to the Inca Empire over three centuries before that.

  21. @J-D

    Hmm, you’re usually much more perspicaciously literal-minded than that J-D.

    What do I have to say to you to convey the simple point that I wasn’t particularly interested in what Rosa thought about the future, but her total failure to understand that WWI wasn’t a regression, but simply a continuance of the barbarism that the Euros had exhibited for at least 500 years (actually a lot longer, but who’s counting).

    Now I don’t really care if you’re so caught up in your own concerns with criticising Ikono, but I thought you could at least comprehend simple English, especially when the main point is emphasised.

  22. @GrueBleen

    One aspect of my literal-mindedness is that when somebody posts a comment as a response to one of my comments, I interpret it as if it is intended to be response to my preceding comment.

    In this case, although your comment was posted as a response to my comment, its intended meaning was not (I now realise) actually responsive to my comment, and this resulted in my misinterpreting you.

  23. @J-D

    Ok, I will try to take more notice of that in future.

    However, I will try to point out that my ‘response” is actually germane to your response. Rosa is exhibiting a common form of intellectual, and likely emotional, fixation – ie that somehow Europe was ‘civilised’ and that WWI was a ‘regression’ from that state and hence things were going downhill and terrible consequences would ensue.

    You were, I believe, trying to point out that her ‘predictions’ for the future had not, in fact, come even moderately closely to passing. My thesis is that is largely because Europe has, in fact, very slowly got more ‘civilised’ after – and at least partly because of – WWI and later WWII.

    I would also point out that to a very large extent, Europe’s bloody colonialism ended because there basically wasn’t anywhere left to colonise – and indeed a number of ex-colonies had eventually achieved self-sovereign status (as indeed the colonial ‘Dominion’ of Australia did in 1986).

    So all in all the “the period of unlimited wars” that Rosa envisioned isn’t happening. Though just to be complete, we do all recall the times of the Cuban Missile Crisis and how many thought that we were about to have the war, not to end ll wars specifically, but in fact to end all wars by ending the human race. Just a shade more insanity in the Kremlin and in the White House and we might have made it.

  24. @Sam That is all well and good in theory but if you look back at the Hilmer report and its influence on govt policy esp the telco industry you could wonder what the actual benefits to the end user have been. Nationally Optus and Vodafone continue to underperform leaving Telstra as the fall guy while the govt seeks to enforce a level playing field.

    On a global basis, by comparison with giants like Vodafone and Optus, Telstra is a small company yet the govt is seen to be acting for these foreign entities. In the mean time end users are still waiting for equal access to a proper NBN.

  25. @J-D

    Regarding Rosa Luxemburg,

    Whilst Rosa Luxemburg may have, on occasions lacked good judgemnt, she stands more than head and shoulders above the corrupt ruling oligarchs of her own country and all the other countries who started the tragic 4 1/2 year slaughter which began in August 1914. Rosa Luxemburg, together together with Karl Liebknecht, opposed that war from the outset and never once ceased speaking out against it. For that she and Karl Liebknecht were imprisoned in June 1916 for two and a half years.

    In January 1919, after Germany was defeated, the workers of Berlin rose up against the government that had led them into that war. Luxemburg and Liebknecht both supported that uprising.

    Had that Spartakist uprising succeeded, Hitler’s Nazi Party would never have seen the light of day and the slaughter of the Second World War 20 years later, in which 60 million perished, would have been averted.

    Instead, the Spartakist uprising was crushed by the army with the help of Freikorps mercenaries. Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were murdered by the Freikorps on 15 January 1919. Many of the Freikorps mercenaries were to subsequently form the vanguard of Hitler’s Nazi Party.

    As described in “The Lost Revolution – Germany 1918-1923” (1982) by Chris Harman, there were several more attempts by German workers to overthrow their corrupt oligarchs. All attempts failed, unfortunately for Germany and the rest of humanity.

  26. I can’t find anywhere that the CIA actually says anything about Russia and the US 2016 election.

    Their homepage is: https://www.cia.gov/index.html

    Everything else is simply scuttlebutt pushed by outlets and organisations with an anti-Russian/pro-war agenda and little remaining credibility.

    If there is evidence then the people of the 5-eyes nations should demand to see it.

  27. D,

    You should know that neither the CIA nor any of the other United States’ intelligence agencies have competence sufficient to have prevented the Russian intelligence agencies from giving the 2016 Presidential election to Donald Trump.

    So I hardly think that the Russian hacker who stole the election from Hillary Clinton really earned the “Person of the Year” award bestowed upon him by the Russian news agency RT.

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