Monday Message Board

Back again with another Monday Message Board.

Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page

20 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. “The Supply Chain Gang

    “It’s true that these problems need to be fixed, but Biden’s “liberal international order” is not the solution. It’s a blue hat with a nostalgic slogan on it.

    “The spine of this liberal order is the global supply chain, a magical formulation that is meant to make us believe capitalism has an organized nervous system we can study. The supply chain is written about and thought about as an organic structure shaped by the markets and supported by reasonable states and leaders who appreciate the balance between competition and cooperation. In recent years, much of the content of liberal newspapers like the Financial Times has been devoted to news and analysis and commentary that implicitly calls for the maintenance of the supply chain and its tributaries through investment and multilateral agreements. The promise of Biden is a return to the efficient production and distribution of goods and services along this chain, and so to the jaunt of progress.

    “It’s not so much that the supply chain isn’t real—it’s just the aggregate processes of production throughout the world. The problem is that Covid-19 should have wrecked this myth for anyone who still believed in it.”..

    JQ “Starting with trade, the reaction to Trump’s various trade wars has shown that the 21st century system of world trade based on complex supply chains involving many different countries is quite fragile. An across-the-board tariff rate of 10 per cent, the level that prevailed in 1960, would render supply chains with multiple border crossings uneconomic. The more likely pattern, again as illustrated by Trump, would involve a lot of unpredictable variation.”…

  2. It feels as though Australia is a bit complacent regarding Covid-19 vaccination. Yes, we are doing well so far, but why wait until March to vaccinate?

  3. Maybe because others nations can save up to a couple of thousand lives in the meantime by using those doses? The gain of starting early for Australia in contrast is only very limited. This is just a very small-time window where doses are incredible scarce. It is very good for the world that Australia is sitting out that window.

    Somewhat related: It turns out, elderly care workers here (Germany) have an above average propensity to anti vaccination nuttery. The first vaccinations were/are done in elderly care homes to both the workers and the residents. So far, at least 80%, often far more of the elderly took the vaccine everywhere data was published. The elderly care workers on the other hand, there are incidences with only 30%….. Elderly care workers that reject vaccination face no negative consequences whatsoever. They should be fired.

  4. Good old corona: Ireland somehow managed to go from 52 cases per million a day on 12 December (7 day average) to 1300 on 10. January. Test positivity rate is rising along, suggesting the actual development is even worse. One thing that might have helped that development is that schools remained open during the Irish lockdown. School age children are often asymptomatic. So infections often remain undiscovered. Unfortunately, against all previous hopes, it looks more and more like they are just as contagious as adults anyway. At least when they are infected with the new English Variant. Independent of the English variant/children factor, such a sharp rise suggests Ireland went from relatively strict lockdown (besides the school opening) into full carelessness mode. Dumb.

  5. Does humanity have a death wish? It seems we walk, or are led, into trouble that could be lethal. This attraction to the dangerous seem ghoulish, but it may simply be a human trait. There are stupid accidents every day. Our leaders always do something stupid that put us all in danger: cut back on funding to hospitals and health spending in general; go to a ‘war footing’ when really they should be talking peace terms; and, lately, being more concerned about profits than about lives. You get what you elect; but really it is amazing how we seem to elect the wrong people. Don’t know if there is any answer. If it is imbedded in our psyche, then we are stuck doing dumb things and/or being led by dumb people.

  6. There is the Eros and Thanatos theory of both Greek Mythology and Freudian theorizing. In many ways, Freud mined Greek Mythology for his theories. Insofar as there is any validity in Freudian theory then the Greeks really got there first in understanding the drives of humans.

    On a sidetrack, Freud was a genius. He was also a charlatan in some serious and concerning respects. It is possible for a person to be both a genius and a charlatan but I might write about that another time.

    Nietzsche had something perceptive to say about followers.

    “You seek something? You wish to multiply yourself tenfold, a hundredfold? You seek followers? Seek zeros!” – Nietzsche.

    This plays on a pun in German, IIRC, where the word Nietzsche uses, which above is translated as zeroes, is better translated as “nulls” and via that pun can mean zeroes OR human nobodies. You as the “one” get zeroes to follow you and multiply your power by powers of ten. However, there is a problem when the “one” is actually a zero too, like Trump. Raise zero to any power and the product is still zero.

  7. Does humanity have a death wish? It seems we walk, or are led, into trouble that could be lethal.

    Humans can learn how to do good risk assessments, but we are not naturally good at it in general; untrained, we do it poorly in many cases. You might want to classify being poor at risk assessment as a form of stupidity, but it’s a highly specific form of stupidity and doesn’t mean that people are stupid in general.

  8. J-D says “classify being poor at risk assessment as a form of stupidity, but it’s a highly specific form of stupidity “.

    Risk perception. Prescient. This was penned in 1993 “the conflicts and controversies surrounding risk management are not due to public ignorance or irrationality but, instead, are seen as a side effect of our remarkable form of participatory democracy, amplified by powerful technological and social changes that systematically destroy trust.” (^1.)

    Via interesting undark article… “Decades of research on risk perception can help us understand the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol.

    “But the through-line was that different groups can perceive the same risk through vastly different lenses. And in the case of White men, it is often a lens that seeks to preserve institutionalized cultural identity and societal status.”

    “Perceived Risk, Trust, and Democracy

    Paul Slovic
    First published: December 1993
    Citations: 900

    Risk management has become increasingly politicized and contentious. Polarized views, controversy, and overt conflict have become pervasive. Risk‐perception research has recently begun to provide a new perspective on this problem. Distrust in risk analysis and risk management plays a central role in this perspective. According to this view, the conflicts and controversies surrounding risk management are not due to public ignorance or irrationality but, instead, are seen as a side effect of our remarkable form of participatory democracy, amplified by powerful technological and social changes that systematically destroy trust. Recognizing the importance of trust and understanding the “dynamics of the system” that destroys trust has vast implications for how we approach risk management in the future.

    Risk Analysis
    Volume 13, Issue 6

  9. I think we have evolved proximal or near-at-hand risk-assessment in relation to other humans and the environment but not distal or distant risk assessment. The latter has to be culturally or scientifically learned of and assessed . Climate change comes under the latter category. People are mostly smart enough to not foul or ruin their own nest, their own possessions and property, but not smart enough to avoid fouling the whole earth environment. Capitalism promotes an ideology that we can do anything we like to nature and that nature is and will be infinitely accommodating to us. Or it promotes the idea that we don’t need nature at all and that we can decouple from it. These are just absurd beliefs based on magical thinking and completely refuted by modern science. But most modern humans, even in the West, are still functionally scientifically illiterate. The capitalist oligarchs want them that way.

  10. Ikon, “The latter has to be culturally or scientifically learned of and assessed .”

    Even scientifically literate may ‘percieve’ risk differently.

  11. We still need to be vigilant at home.

    Sack an Auditor-General? Or the government?

    AG says he will “consider” an audit in 2021/22. Pascoe says “CDG spending will pass $5 billion on its present timetable of running until 2026″(^1). Too late.

    Take it away AG.
    (Why no audit? See ^2.)

    “I have carefully considered your request in relation to other competing priorities for audit coverage across the public sector, including audit topics related to the government’s response to COVID-19, and have decided that an audit of the CDGP is not a higher priority than other audits currently included in the AAWP. On this basis I have decided not to include an audit topic on the CDGP in the 2020-21 AAWP. I will however consider the matters you raised in the consideration of audit topics for inclusion in the 2021-22 AAWP.

    Yours sincerely

    Grant Hehir

    I know I am supposed to know, but please, someone, inform me:
    what we are missing from the constitutional, legislatures and laws and regs, which allows for this; (answer see ^3.)

    “The CDG scandal is already nearly 30 times bigger than the notorious #sportsrorts pork barrel, on its way to 50 times.”

    “Michael Pascoe: Government’s peak corruption scheme scores $400 million in 2020

    “The federal government’s corrupt Community Development Grants  reached another milestone last year – some $400 million dished out in political bribes, nudging the CDG total close to $3 billion since the racket was started by the Abbott government in 2014.

    “At the current rate of rorting, CDG spending will pass $5 billion on its present timetable of running until 2026, by when it will have played a role in buying votes in four federal elections – assuming a Coalition win in the next one and that it doesn’t further inflate its slush fund of choice if it feels the need.

    “The CDG scandal is already nearly 30 times bigger than the notorious #sportsrorts pork barrel, on its way to 50 times.

    “But it was and is corrupt. That’s what politicians using many, many millions of public money for the sole purpose of holding power with no regard for ethics or equity is: Corruption.

    The Morrison government has taken this corruption to an unprecedented level. It works and the Coalition is getting away with it – so it won’t stop.”

    What astounds me even more?

    “That was courtesy of reader Vince O’Grady’s mastery of spreadsheets to mine the GrantsConnect site lists of government grants and to connect the grants to electorates.

    Thanks Mr O’Grady!

    Oct 21 2020

    “Audit watchdog barks despite government shortening the leash

    “A little noticed mid-term review by Australia’s Auditor General of his own work goes a long way to highlighting why the Morrison government has cut Grant Hehir’s funding.

    “In a nutshell, Mr Hehir takes his statutory independence too seriously and has exposed unethical performance in the federal public service that he sheets home to the culture of the government itself.

    ^3. – “The Auditor talks of “too strong a focus on red tape reduction … too often at the expense of effective outcomes” and of operating “under a self-regulatory approach” that provides almost “no formal mechanisms … to provide assurance on compliance”. (End ^3.)

    “The shameful COVID-19 unpreparedness of aged care facilities directly under the funding and control of the Commonwealth is more than enough evidence of this.

    “Mr Hehir defends his credibility saying “under auditing standards a negative conclusion can only relate to a material finding”  – in other words it must be fact-based.”…

  12. JQ, must be a quote or footnote here;

    This was written in 2009 by Dem Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) [who] “had just delivered an overwrought jeremiad comparing the Republicans to Nazis on Kristallnacht, lynch mobs of the South, and bloodthirsty crowds of the French Revolution.”^4.

    But this comment is about trickle down.

    The Australian Labor has recently dropped policy to alter capital gains tax. The IPA won. This time.

    Yet the Democrat US Sen Sheldon Whitehouse who said above in 2009 has recently tweeted [^3.] regarding this paper below, which pulls the rug from under trickle down. And see below his excoriating comment touching all tropes re US history and Affordable Care Act.

    This paper suggests both a one off 5% wealth corona tax and altering capital gains. “Policy makers shouldn’t worry that raising taxes on the rich to fund the financial costs of the pandemic will harm their economies,” Hope said”.

    Albo are you listening?

    “Fifty Years of Tax Cuts for Rich Didn’t Trickle Down, Study Says

    Paper Title:
    “Economic Consequences of Major Tax Cuts.”

    “Their findings published Wednesday counter arguments, often made in the U.S., that policies which appear to disproportionately aid richer individuals eventually feed through to the rest of the economy. The timespan of the paper ends in 2015, but Hope says such an analysis would also apply to President Donald Trump’s tax cut enacted in 2017.

    “Our research suggests such policies don’t deliver the sort of trickle-down effects that proponents have claimed,” Hope said.”


    Click to access Hope_economic_consequences_of_major_tax_cuts_published.pdf




    A Senator asked to pray for a senator to be sick so to not pass Affordable Care!

    … “Said Durbin: “When it reaches a point where we’re praying, asking people to pray, that senators wouldn’t be able to answer the roll call, I think it has crossed the line.”

    “Actually, the line was crossed long ago, during the summer of death panels and socialists. But Democrats weren’t in the best position to take the high road Sunday evening. One of their own members, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) had just delivered an overwrought jeremiad comparing the Republicans to Nazis on Kristallnacht, lynch mobs of the South, and bloodthirsty crowds of the French Revolution.

    “Too many colleagues are embarked on a desperate, no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, obstruction and fear,” he said. “History cautions us of the excesses to which these malignant, vindictive passions can ultimately lead. Tumbrils have rolled through taunting crowds. Broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from southern trees.” Assuming the role of Old Testament prophet, Whitehouse promised a “day of judgment” and a “day of reckoning” for Republicans.”

    “The day’s ugly words were a fitting finale for the whole sorry health-care debate of 2009”

  13. Below is a recent tweet from Good Morning Britain (a UK TV equivalent to Australia’s Sunrise), including a 1:42 duration video:

    “The met office has released a report looking at the fingerprints of Climate change in the UK in 2020.

    The UK had the 3rd warmest year on record.

    @Lauratobin1 explains if we didn’t have climate change, it’d happen once every 90 years BUT now we can expect it once every 2 years.”

    I haven’t seen an explanation like that here on Aus TV.

  14. Just had a feeling of parallel universes regarding corona measures. My approach is to decisively not push the envelope on what is still legal regarding personal contact. And not much is legal for me in the first place. Why? I’m unemployed and private contacts are restricted quite severely here – only one person from a different household is allowed on a single day. Either way, I live in the same house with my father – so typically is stay in close contact with him and avoid other direct personal contacts outright, otherwise using the phone a lot. When stuff comes up that might get me infected but should be done anyway like going to the dentist – I switch to keeping distance to my father for at least a weak and add some other riskier activities to that day or to a couple of days.

    So the dentist was quite what you’d expect with the current COVID-19 numbers: Everybody wears ffp masks, mandatory hand disinfection and scheduling that ensures there is no crowding of patients.staff.

    Next: Added a visit to the general practitioner to pick up some prescription.(after calling when it would be a good time to avoid waits crowds etc with COVID-19): Oh well – the usual chaos, just too many people around both staff and patients to keep proper distance as it should be and quite a long wait. Most of the staff wearing cheap masks. Well the general practitioner is at least much better than my now former psychiatrist that is still shaking hands, wears no mask and insists his patients take off theirs because he otherwise can’t diagnose properly.

    Next itinerary: Meeting spots for people with mental health issues are allowed to stay open this lockdown. Sort of an exception that allows to meat more than one person for private reasons. The protocol is albeit pretty strict: Disinfection, Mask and Distance mandate, limited number of people in a room etc…… Not many visitors there besides me, which makes sense from a risk point of view, in particular since most visitors have to use the bus to get there.

    But now comes the punchline: The entire staff was there, all off them, having a nice group chat. They just had supervision. Apparently you absolutely have to do supervision now, that just can’t wait, and it is has to be done in person. Another bunch of people with long public transport commute.

    Frankly it did not look like any of them were unhappy or even aware they might have done something questionable while all the infection experts beg employers to switch to remote work wherever that is possible. On the contrary. With little actual work, due to the visitor numbers reduced by COVID-19 risk (offering video conferences to visitors is of course a no-go, so there’s no workload from that either) they looked all quite happy to have friendly group chats.

    Unfortunately, media reports match my experience. There is only very little actual regulation – no mask mandate at the office workplace even in a cubicle farm as long as one sits 1.5 meters away from the next person. Large conferences remain legal.

    Of course there are the usual stupid bosses that order people to work at the office for the usual stupid boss reasons. But that’s not all there is. Now that legal private contacts are reduced rather strictly many office workers are also very eager to work in the office, so they have private legal private interactions with bigger mixing crowds Great.

    It is not like I’m a small radical minority bitching about that extraordinary privilege and the consequences of it for the infection situation. In fact, it sounds like the political winds are now turning into the direction of my preferences. NOW they do. Now that we regularly have days with more than 1000 covid death and research data shows that “strong recommendation” with no legal consequences whatsoever to switch to remote work have little consequences.

    Politicians just lack the balls to create a prevention paradox. That might have saved some 40000 lives, made everyone’s life easier and even increased GDP (the latter one it seems the most important). But it might have polled bad. So they don’t start with strict measures, that could then be relaxed when things go better than expected. Rather they start with the softest possible measures deemed insufficient by the experts* and wait until the death rates are sufficiently bad that public opinion begs for stricter measures. What a cynical game.

    *The issue is not helped by confident more or less pseudo experts that get a large microphone: There are the medical lobby know nothing apparatchiks that are taken serious because they are doctors by training and doctors always know. Or the Profs – any Prof will do no matter what kind of speciality or how non-existing his research record about anything is. As long as it’s a Prof or a medical Ph.D., that person must be taken seriously, in particular if he (in this case it’s not my conservative resistance to gender correct speech, there is no she i’m aware off in that genre) tells what the let people die for profit lobby wants to hear.

  15. hix,

    Welcome to the “Often right seldom listened to” club. I also consider myself a member of that club too. People completely ensnared by capitalism believe all its myths. Outsiders like you, I and many other people see the myths of capitalism and general modern self-indulgence and selfishness for what they are.

    We outsiders are not necessarily smarter. In fact, we probably are not. But being an outsider to the current system means one is not brainwashed by the myths of the current system. Rebelling against the myths of the current system and arguing against them in an outspoken manner even at work (as I did against work methods I knew would cause people in the community major grief) can stall your career and eventually get you sacked (as happened to me). Those who see the system is wrong and speak up get sidelined and pushed on to the scrapheap. By this process, the system actually gets stupider.

    The perspective of outsiders, people with medical conditions, people “on the spectrum,” the marginalized, oppressed minorities and so on are all extremely important. They (we) are in many ways the canaries in the coal mine warning the competent, healthy but mindless automatons of neoliberal obedience that their system is leading us all into disaster. More power to you and your views!

  16. Re: Twitter and Facebook accounts of D.T. closed – problem for free speech?

    My proposal, spelled out below, is probably rejected as naive or not implementable. But here we go.

    If posters on social media could be educated the way theoreticians in economics are then the rules would be:

    1. Make explicit the assumptions needed to arrive at a theoretical conclusion.
    2. Distinguish between an empirical fact and a theoretical fact (conclusion – results – derived by means of deduction) and an opinion.
    3. Reference source of empirical fact and theoretical results used.

    Not all rules would need to be followed by everybody depending on the content they wish to publish. In most cases stating ‘In my opinion’, followed by ‘I assume it makes sense’ would be sufficient.

  17. I think there is a grave danger, that the American version of a vaccine, which is no vaccine at all, is going to discredit vaccines more generally. MRNA vaccines are not vaccines and it would be good if we had a different name for them.

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