11 thoughts on “Unlocking Australia

  1. I basically agree with that. I admit myself surprised that Australia bent the curve down so much. I did not expect that. We appeared to lock-down too late (to my mind) but somehow we dodged a major outbreak. I am bit worried about the schools though. A full opening for term 2 could be a real problem. I hope the “rebel premiers” hold firm on that one.

    In larger terms (referring now to wider economics) I find myself very concerned that the major political parties via their leaders and hacks are all talking of a “return to normal” and “paying down the debt”. This is rampant nonsense. If we continue with market fundamentalist neoliberalism we will be in terrible trouble on all fronts. When will they realize that we need fundamental changes? This neoliberal system is not working for workers, the poor, young people and students. That’s about 3/4 of the population. it’s also not working for the ecosystem.

  2. As a non-economist, I’d never seen the variant ‘benefit-cost’ rather than the other way around. Is there a reason for preferring the former to the latter? (Beyond the obvious one that it’s a choice to highlight benefits in general over costs)

  3. Claiming they are motivated by concern for the welfare of ordinary people, the capitalist class is desperately pushing for a quick back to business as usual despite clear scientific advice pointing out the obvious risks . i suspect its not even protection of their profits that is behind the urgency- they are stupid but not that stupid. I think they are afraid of this positive demonstration of state power, they dont want any realignment of priorities or people starting to think things could be otherwise. For us life must remain only a frantic rush to maximise consumption .

    A few Aussie politicians are following Trumps lead and going hard on China now. Why doesnt the WHO go into the US and audit their bungled response ? – because like China ,the US has the right to say no to that.

  4. I wonder if J.Q. will ever comment on the ontology problem of conventional economics? Is he willing to unlock that box? I am sure J.Q, has a lot of thoughts on economic ontology. The whole issue is implicit in the rank-dependent, generalized expected utility model. The problem to my mind occurs with the utility concept itself . “Utility” is not a real dimension in scientific terms. Time, space and mass are examples of real, scientifically treated dimensions. “Utility” and its measure the “util”, denominated in the numeraire, the dollar in our case, are not scientific or objective measures.

    The util, and its numeraire, is at best an heuristic measure “valuing” (via markets) human needs and desires, which we know from modern marketing, advertsiing etc. are considerably malleable or plastic. If the util and market values in utils are not an objective measure of anything how can market values be argued to make efficient use of resources? This is use is only at best efficient in meeting (highly moulded and influenced) desires. It is not and cannot be efficient in allocating rare resources in ways which are ecologically supportable and sustainable or even meet the needs for human equality. The market can never make an ecological or environmental determination. Only impact science can do that. This brings up the need for the appropriate environmental regulation which I know J.Q supports.

    However, the ontological problem of (conventional) economics goes far deeper than that. I will post a summary of an ontological framework for examining these problems in the Sandpit.

  5. Yes, neolib is always about ideology, denialism, fantasy psychoses and greed. This stuff is always an assault on the text, the attack by lunatics on the sustaining base rather than genuinely obstructive bolt-ons conjured out of fantasy; about the mania depicted in the old fable about the death of the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg.

    Here is some thing of an illustration of what Quiggin is describing, an inconceivable for sane people, possibility:

    Heavens above, I would not be putting up if it was not going to chill you to the marrow.

  6. I am scientifically concerned and politically suspicious about the push to keep open or precipitously re-open schools in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. My scientific concerns center on the medical pathology issues surrounding a new, unknown pathogen. It IS new, that is why it is known as novel coronavirus. We do not fully understand this virus yet. Assumptions are being made about its impact on young people and through them about its impact on the rest of the population. These assumptions are precisely that: just mere assumptions.

    The assumptions include;

    (a) children rarely get it;
    (b) if they get it, it is harmless in children;
    (c) children are not spreaders;and
    (d) sequelae will be harmless to non-existent in children.

    (Sequelae : Conditions following on and resulting from a disease.)

    Now, all of these assumptions MIGHT be correct but we simply do not know yet. To proceed incautiously is very unwise. A number of things known about coronaviruses and RNA virus pathogens in general should give us serious cause for concern.

    (1) The COVID-19 disease is caused by the virus SARS-CoV2 (taxonomic name). This is a virus in the SARS group. That is an extremely dangerous set of viruses as we know.

    (2) No vaccine has ever been successfully made for a coronavirus of any kind. This might be because sufficient funding and research effort has never yet been directed at creating such vaccines. However, it is also the case that significant technical obstacles and difficulties exist. These might mean that making a vaccine for the virus is technically impossible because the biologies of pathogen and host (humans) render it essentially impossible in biochemistry terms. There are even cases in this area of research where attempts at vaccines have the opposite effect. That is they lead to greater vulnerability to the infection. Instead of conferring immunity, they increase susceptibility. This is one form of response which means creating a vaccine could prove scientifically impossible. Hence, we cannot simply assume at this stage that a vaccine will be possible.

    (2) No natural immunity to any coronavirus infection (which includes about 20% of common colds) has ever been known to persist for more than about one to two years. If SARS-CoV2 is like all of its “cousins” then natural immunity to SARS-CoV2 will wear off and people will be able to catch it again and again over time. Seasonal or even non-seasonal waves of COVID-19 will arrive to wash through the population. Some virus diseases (dengue fever is an example) are worse the second time they are caught. The body is “primed” to be more susceptible the second and subsequent times around. These kinds of diseases are termed “biphasic”. A reinfection can cause greater harm or even death and/or the disease can remain dormant in some part of the body and re-emerge later very possibly in a more harmful episode.

    (3) A growing number of discharged coronavirus patients in China and Japan are re-testing positive after recovering, sometimes weeks after being allowed to leave the hospital. It is not known yet whether these are true biphasic re-occurrences, “mere” reinfections or the results of test mistakes at the initial “cleared” test stage. However, these developments should instill in us great caution going forward. This sort of viral behavior would be consistent with the known possibilities of the “families” of viruses in question: first coronaviruses and then RNA viruses in general.

    (4) COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV2 pathogen is having baffling effects on other organs during the course of the disease. At first it was thought that oxygen deprivation (from the pneumonia effects) was causing this extensive organ damage. It is almost certainly an explanation for at least some of the damage. However, there appear to be other baffling effects which might not be explained by this cause. Of particular concern are effects on the heart, especially heart rhythm, which appear to be leading to an increase in heart attacks in some victims. Pre-existing conditions obviously complicate this picture. The true picture is unknown at this stage but again caution ought to apply.

    These known facts and concerning unknowns strongly suggest schools should not reopen again, at least not in the next three months or until further definitive facts are known from peer reviewed research. Research is obviously proceeding at a hyper-accelerated rate so very possibly we will not have to wait too long for the results. Re-opening schools will mean complete eradication of the virus will become an impossibility. Yet, it may be, if all our worst justified fears about SARS-CoV2 prove true, that complete eradication is the only measure that will prevent COVID-19 becoming a long-running scourge, for decades perhaps, of the human race. Children infected today may have heart problems in their teens or twenties. That might be a stretch, or it might not not, but we simply do not know at this stage and that is the very point. (Later heart problems can be caused by rheumatic fever for example. Admittedly that is bacteria caused.)

    In relation to the above dangers, keeping schools closed for another three months and having children doing online learning would be a workable policy and would protect children, teachers, parents and the general community. It is unknown whether some children can be super-spreaders for example.

    As to my political suspicions, the real concern for orthodox education by the authorities might not be so much for the arts and sciences (which of course are very important) but for the implicit ideological and obedience training which children receive at school. Children are basically schooled in the self-serving myths of capitalism, private property, nationalism, imperialism, elite rights (in the elite schools) and in uncritical obedience to the existing ideological and dogmatic authorities.

    Because of the unknowns at this stage, a further three months shutdown of schools would be wise until more empirical facts are known. Social policy should not be incautiously advocated without full knowledge of the known empirical epidemiological and immunological facts and without a healthy respect for further unknowns: facts yet to emerge from empirical investigation. The corporate capitalist authorities are not to be trusted. Their only concern is for social control and capitalist profits. The people, the citizens, need to exercise their independent knowledge and judgment.

  7. It is actually quite elementary. Schools have to remain closed because opening them would place all teachers over the age of 50 at quite significant risk. One large local government employer set the bar for defining sicnificant risk as over 65 years old. My understanding is that the preliminary indications are that a person 65 years old who tests positive for the virus and who goes seeks medical treatment because of symptoms has a 4% chance of dying. That seems to me to set quite a high risk for execusing people from work. At age 50 the risk would be less. But is it less than 1%? I do not think so.
    Therefore if schools are reopened we are essentially telling teachers over 50 years old to go in to a war zone.
    And the story does not end there. Some teachers could be under 50 but have spoused that are not only over 50 but even over 60.
    The only way that this humanitarian problem can be solved is by getting the Chinese to give the world outside of China the vaccine. The one thing that is likely to get them to do that is for the US to sue for peace. The US will have to offer its unconditional surrender to China and its ally Iran if we, those of us outside of China, want to think that we are safe again.
    Of course that feeling of safety will just be an illusion. The coronavirus may not be huffing and puffing to blow our houses down and devour us, biosphere collapse will still be around though.

  8. Recent events, from the ongoing climate crisis disasters to the pandemic, have shown that we need an essentials-only economy. The world has enough resources for our needs perhaps but certainly not for our greeds.

    What are the things that have to be discontinued? Here’s a basic list based on emissions intensity.

    Phase out urgently and concurrently:

    (1) Coal, oil and gas power plants except gas peaking plants;
    (2) Residential power and heating energy use except that produced by renewable energy;
    (3) Personal automobiles and then all internal combustion engines;
    (4) Deforestation, land use change and activities degrading land;
    (5) Energy system internal uses and losses including fugitive emissions. (Achieved by 1 above.)
    (6) Commercial power and heating energy use except that produced by renewable energy;
    (7) High meat consumption.
    (8) The keeping of pets (each medium dog requires emissions equal to a medium SUV.)

    These are essential processes which need new techniques to reduce emissions:

    (1) Cement, ceramics and glass production;
    (2) Livestock farming;
    (3) Iron and steel manufacture;
    (4) Shipping and Aviation.

    These are wasteful and inessential activities which need to be seriously reduced, perhaps by up to 80% or more. (We are talking about saving the planet and civilization here. We cannot afford to take the attitude that we can’t do without these things. We can do without 80% of these things.)

    (1) Tourism;
    (2) Professional sports and big event entertainments;
    (3) Tourism aviation: implicit in (1)
    (4) Cruise ship holidays: implicit in (1)
    (5) The production of excess edible fats and sugars for junk foods.
    (6) Alcohol and gambling.
    (7) Fast food outlets, pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants.

    This would mean a major re-organization of the labor force and a major re-tooling of the real economy. Employment and/or income need to be provided for all adult citizens. Enough jobs could be found in:

    (a) Renewable energy transition and build-out;
    (b) Energy saving passive-design refits;
    (c) Building mass transit infrastructure and interstate electric rail for passengers and freight.
    (d) Increased medical and dental services provided free by the state;
    (e) Increased education services provided free by the state;
    (f) Increased child are services provided free by the state;
    (g) Increased welfare and social services.
    (i) Increased environmental remediation.
    (j) Increased scientific research in all important fields. Fully reconstitute the CSIRO as a federal national R&D organization with strong government funding.

  9. Fine Tunning:
    Come on you would deny children the abiiity to own a Scottish Terrier, or a Chihuahua?
    And as far as alcohol goes I think that you mean Vodka, right? After all how much energy does it take to age grape juice or apple juice for wine? If wine is allowed you have to allow beer. It goes with out saying.
    Then although I grant you that gambeling is a bad entertainment lots of people really enjoy it. Furthermore gambeling is nationalized it can be used for the public good. Gambling on some US indian reservations is an important source of revenue for the tribes. It can be seen as a painless form of repatriations.
    I strongly agree with the cruise ship holidays. Each cruise ship could be converted in to a huge number of solar panels.
    Then I would also like to add one point in which a lot more people could be employed. That would be as reporters for government owned news agencies. These news agencies could have a Chinese Firewall between them and the government. Like the US Postal Service for example.
    In this crisis privacy has to go out the window. I mean that it has to be completely crushed. Any who even utters a complaint about the lack of privacy has to be skewered.
    The only thing that privacy is good for is cheating. People have to be discouraged from cheating by the knowledge that they will be discovered and they will probably be punished. Ok they will know that if they can hang the jury by getting a few jurors not to convict because they think that a law is an unjust law they may get away with breaking the law. But they are going to have to know that they are breaking the law at considerable risk. A system needs to be designed in which everyone is subject to equal survelience. Liberals have a tendency to clamour for government transparency yet at the same time they clamor for for being exempt from government survelience. What a crock of shit. These knuckleheads obviuosly do not realize the damage to the planet that a conspiracy of private individuals can cause.

  10. Ikon,

    That list looks good but my immediate response is that now is the time to plan on opening a speakeasy. I recently read a history of Sydney’s crime boom during WWII and it speaks a lot about the irrepressible opportunism of certain classes of idlers and gougers, including the Police, who would fit right in with your economic plans to shutter social gathering by going to the black economy pretty much overnight. Unless you plan very harsh penalties for such activities in which case I shall be prepared to don the hood myself.

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