Some big news …

… least for me. Princeton University Press has agreed to publish my book, Economics in Two Lessons: Why Markets Work and Why they can Fail so Badly. I’ve been working on it for seven years, but it’s finally done. It should be published in the first half of 2019.

Stay tuned for news on a possible Australian edition.

What I’ve been writing in the last seven years or so (Part 1)

Now that I’ve finished a draft manuscript of my book, Economics in Two Lessons, I’m getting around to jobs I’ve been putting off for a long time (I started the book in 2011), such as updating my CV. At the moment, I’m working on publications in Internet outlets such as Aeon, The Conversation and the ABC’s (sadly departed now), The Drum.  I’ve listed  a bunch over the fold. The titles are mostly self-explanatory, so please take a look at any that seem likely to be interesting. If you’re so inclined, please comment.

There are plenty more to come, as and when I get free time and the inclination.

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Ghosts of privatisations past … and future?

Most people won’t recognise the name “Leo Hielscher” unless they regularly cross the eponymous* bridge (better known by its original name, the Gateway). But he is a figure of great consequence in Queensland, responsible for the downfall of two governments. Hielscher ran the state’s finances for decades, and was the architect of the Bjelke-Petersen strategy of an extractive economy based low taxes, low services and low skill. His proudest boast was the state’s AAA credit rating

The low point of his career was probably the leadup to the 2009 election when Anna Bligh announced that, rather than cut infrastructure spending or sell assets in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, she would allow the state’s credit rating to be reduced to AA+. Bligh was re-elected, and promptly announced a massive program of asset sales. This was one of the rare instances where I was directly involved in the policy process, providing advice to the Queensland Council of Unions, and in this capacity I got to observe Hielscher in action. He was very effective in pushing the (economically spurious) case for asset sales and the need to regain the AAA rating.

Bligh, and her Treasurer, Andrew Fraser pushed through the asset sales and pushed the Labor government off a cliff, being reduced to seven members at the 2012 election. Of course, Bligh landed on her feet, ending up as CEO of the Australian Bankers Association. I didn’t get such a ringside view of the process that led Campbell Newman and Tim Nicholls to adopt their catastrophic “Strong Choices” asset sales campaign, but I have no doubt that Hielscher played a significant role in the background. Both Campbell and Nicholls have duly been consigned to well-deserved political oblivion.

Now the rightwing Australian Institute of Progress has staged a reunion.

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When is a record not a record?

It’s been  cold here in Brisbane for the last few days, at least by our subtropical standards, with overnight minimums of 6 degrees in the city, and negative temperatures in  towns like Stanthorpe in the nearby Granite Belt. That occasioned lots of news coverage, with the observation that this was the coldest temperature we’ve had since 2014 and one of the coldest since 2000. The same was true for much of Eastern Australia. Melbourne had its coldest morning in several years, and  a couple of towns in NSW had the lowest minimum for several decades.

All of these are “records” in the trivial sense that we record the temperature every day, but none of them are records in the commonly used sense of “lowest (or highest) value in the relevant record”. That didn’t stop the usual denialist suspects claiming a RECORD (all caps in original) and evidence of global cooling. The Daily Mail  claimed “Australia’s east coast shivers through its coldest EVER morning” even though the sub-headlines made it clear this wasn’t true.

What’s striking here is that the same people who are willing to claim that the Bureau of Meteorology is part of a world-wide warmist conspiracy to doctor climate records are eagerly credulous about any piece of data that suits their case. Next time we get record heat, the conspiracy theories will be wheeled out again, but for now the Bureau is an unquestionable source of scientific evidence.

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