Monday Message Board (on Tuesday)

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

19 thoughts on “Monday Message Board (on Tuesday)

  1. Regarding the symbolic 500k threshold of COVID-19 death in the US: Don’t forget undercounting. Excess death rates significantly exceed those 500k. Also bear in mind that the containment measures also have a number of positive health impacts regarding other causes of death, while the negative impact has been wildly exaggerated. So it’s a good bet the simple excess number is accurate or still undercounting the COVID-19 impact.

  2. Tweeted late yesterday evening by Simon Holmes à Court (@simonahac):

    “if you hear someone claim that #australia is doing it’s fair share on cutting emissions… please show them this chart from @TheEconomist.”

  3. Yes Australia is dragging the chain among all its trading partners with the notable exception of China. Not really surprising given that the current NP mob in Canberra want coal included in alternate energy targets. The myth of “clean coal” is going to be used to hold back Australia from an effective emission reduction policy. Luckily businesses and state governments are doing so much better in this area than the denialists in Canberra’s corridors of power.

  4. Anything! – to detract from the dole, Linda Reynolds, Craig Kelky?


    21 years ago – this is how Kurzweil’s predictions are fairng. I am glad some have become reality, others I am not so keen on happening soon. Obviously a glass half full type, brimming with positivity. It seems politicians love him “He has received 21 honorary doctorates, and honors from three U.S. presidents”. 

    Some may have string opinions re 
    …”Kurzweil wrote, “Despite occasional corrections, the ten years leading up to 2009 have seen continuous economic expansion and prosperity…” The prediction for 2019 says that phenomenon “has continued,””.

    “How Ray Kurzweil’s 2019 predictions are faring (pt 3)

    “This is the third entry in my series of blog posts that will analyze the accuracy of Ray Kurzweil’s predictions about what things would be like in 2019. These predictions come from his 1998 book The Age of Spiritual Machines. My previous entries on this subject can be found here: 
    Part 1, Part 2

    ●“You can do virtually anything with anyone regardless of physical proximity. The technology to accomplish this is easy to use and ever present.”

    ● “Rapid economic expansion and prosperity has continued.”

    “Assessing this prediction requires a consideration of the broader context in the book. In the chapter titled “2009,” which listed predictions that would be true by that year, Kurzweil wrote, “Despite occasional corrections, the ten years leading up to 2009 have seen continuous economic expansion and prosperity…” The prediction for 2019 says that phenomenon “has continued,” so it’s clear he meant that economic growth for the time period from 1998 – December 2008 would be roughly the same as the growth from January 2009 – December 2019. Was it?”…

    ● “Automated driving systems have been found to be highly reliable and have now been installed in nearly all roads. While humans are still allowed to drive on local roads (although not on highways), the automated driving systems are always engaged and are ready to take control when necessary to prevent accidents.”

    “The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence

    “Kurzweil believes evolution provides evidence that humans will one day create machines more intelligent than they are. He presents hislaw of accelerating returns to explain why “key events” happen more frequently as time marches on. It also explains why thecomputational capacity of computers is increasing exponentially. Kurzweil writes that this increase is one ingredient in the creation of artificial intelligence; the others are automatic knowledge acquisition and algorithms like recursion, neural networks, and genetic algorithms.

    “Kurzweil predicts machines with human-level intelligence will be available from affordable computing devices within a couple of decades, revolutionizing most aspects of life.”…

    RK quotes :
    “One of the advantages of being in the futurism business is that by the time your readers are able to find fault with your forecasts, it is too late for them to ask for their money back.”

    In Bring Dead Father Back to Life (2011)
    – “The Terminator’ is not an impossibility. I think that symbolizes the downside of artificial intelligence … but technology has a big downside in general. There is a bigger downside to not pursuing it.”

    His blog – looks like he is still on top of events;
    “Here’s a collection of the key stories on the web + in broadcast media — on the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) software being used in several ways to take-on the global corona-virus pandemic.

    “The ways AI is being applied:”…

    My prediction for 2042 – my predictions are mostly wrong. And the one’s that are correct will be because I made so many, one was correct.
    Is there a prediction law?

    And tropical in more ways than one, JQ:

  5. Reformed, and published – “then you can still predict the tail of y using the tail of x”. And my child just happens to be exploring continued fractions and the sq root of 65.

    “The Mathematics of Desistance

    “It’s a story that involves both neat mathematics and beautiful humanity.

    …” You can use them for computing square roots, for example. Continued fractions also connect to dynamical systems and fractals by way of Minkowski’s Question Mark function. 

    …” the paper of Havens, Barbero, Cerruti, and Murru. They show that if x is a “nice” continued fraction and if ad-bc equals 2 or -2, and if you compute y by the above formula, then you can still predict the tail of y using the tail of x.”…

    “Until you search online and discover Christopher Havens’s mailing address is at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, Washington. Christopher Havens is currently serving a 25-year sentence for murder.”

  6. The deadly cost of poor regulation.

    2 examples. Externalities used as rent. Both externalities are humans.

    1. Avoidable tragedy. Private nursing homes. “mortality of Medicare patients by 10%, implying 20,150 lives lost due…”

    2. And Physical damage by equipment. “This is a product that does almost 10x in damage as the market size.”. Other examples?

    Both need a Capital Damage Price. Or a caring state with “duty of care” enshirined, and sensible incentives and pricing.

    1. (Grrrr…)
    “Does Private Equity Investment in Healthcare Benefit Patients? Evidence from Nursing Homes

    …” Our estimates show that PE ownership increases the short-term mortality of Medicare patients by 10%, implying 20,150 lives lost due to PE ownership over our twelve-year sample period. This is accompanied by declines in other measures of patient well-being, such as lower mobility, while taxpayer spending per patient episode increases by 11%. We observe operational changes that help to explain these effects, including declines in nursing staff and compliance with standards. Finally, we document a systematic shift in operating costs post-acquisition toward non-patient care items such as monitoring fees, interest, and lease payments.”

    2. Great story.

    “This is a product that does almost 10x in damage as the market size”..

    “Dr. Steve Gass, inventor of SawStop
    Dr. Gass talks about creating a best-in-class power tool,

    …” The fundamental question came down to economics. Almost a societal economic structure question. The CPSC says table saws result in about $4B in damage annually. The market for table saws is about $200-400M. This is a product that does almost 10x in damage as the market size. There’s a disconnect—these costs are borne by individuals, the medical system, workers comp—and not paid by the power tools company. Because of that, there’s not that much incentive to improve the safety of these tools. Societally if there was an opportunity to spend $5 to save $10, we’d want to do that. But in this chain there’s a break in people that can make those changes and people that are affected, so it’s not done.”…

  7. Meanwhile, IEEFA published a press release on its webpage beginning with:

    “24 February 2020 (IEEFA Australia): Several of the 16 coal power plants in the National Electricity Market (NEM) will be financially unviable and at least one is likely to face closure several years sooner than planned due to coal plants’ poor flexibility and inability to adapt to a rapid influx of renewable energy, finds a new report from think tank, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and Green Energy Markets.”

  8. This was brought to my attention on The Real World Economics Review Blog.

    From the AFEE (Association for Evolutionary Economics):

    “February 24, 2021

    Subject: An Open Letter Regarding a Proposal to Dismiss 145 Faculty Members at the University of Leicester

    We are shocked to hear that 145 staff members have been placed at risk of compulsory redundancy at the University of Leicester.

    In particular, 16 people within the School of Business have been targeted because their work is deemed to fall within “Critical Management Studies” or “Political Economy”. Specifically, “class based” and “institutionalist” forms of political economy are deemed redundant. However, the “rational choice orthodoxy” has been excluded from this definition.

    The proposed action threatens academic freedom. It betrays a lack of appreciation of pluralism in academia, contradicting pedagogical research concluding that students learn best when presented with differing points of view, allowing students to consider the evidence, and come to their own conclusions.

    We support our colleagues in Leicester University. We hope that the administration will reconsider this action as contrary to academic freedom, contrary to student learning, and contrary to the advancement of economics.


    John Watkins, President
    Mary Wrenn, President-Elect
    Association for Evolutionary Economics”

    To learn more about this issue:


    My commentary:

    This is a highly disturbing piece of news. It indicates that the ideological, cultural and class war against heterodox economic views, against heterodox political economy views and against genuine attempts at scientific economics (where same could possibly be made genuinely scientific and/or avoid faux science) is being intensified. As the letter essentially, no views except those which express and encapsulate “rational choice orthodoxy” will be entertained or permitted.

    In a world dying from neoliberally intensified climate change, sixth mass extinction and ever-rising inequality., this ruling for a single orthodoxy lacking both empirical and ethical underpinnings should properly terrify us. At some point the people of the West are going to have to rebel against this or we are finished.

  9. Loooong read. 

    – “This is the 12th “Future of the Internet” canvassing Pew Research Center”.
    ““truth valuation” protocols”” [purportedly to ease fake news
    shades of Orwell – may I decide? ]

    “We are entering a post-democratic era.” 
    “Experts Say the ‘New Normal’ in 2025 Will Be Far More Tech-Driven, Presenting More Big Challenges
    “A plurality of experts think sweeping societal change will make life worse for most people as greater inequality, rising authoritarianism and rampant misinformation take hold in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Still, a portion believe life will be better in a ‘tele-everything’ world where workplaces, health care and social activity improve.”
    …” response to a set of questions in an online canvassing conducted between June 30 and July 27, 2020. In all, 915 technology innovators and developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists responded to at least one of the questions covered in this report.” 

    “Among the scores of changes they see is the emergence of: 
    ● an “Internet of Medical Things” with sensors and devices that allow for new kinds of patient health monitoring; 
    ● smart millimeter wave machines to diagnose people with disease symptoms; [used in ‘Snow Crash’ by Neal Stephenson]
    ● advances in synthetic biology and computational virology that improve drug testing and targeted disease therapies; 
    ● diagnostic screenings that cover a person’s diet, genes and microbiome; 
    ● handheld detection devices that citizen swarms [indicating market and policy failure] use to address environmental problems; and 
    ●a new class of tele-care workers.

    “Additionally, these experts forecast the creation of
    ●  3-D social media systems that allow for richer human interaction (sometimes via hologram avatars); 
    ● mediated digital agents (interdigital agents) gradually taking over significantly more repetitive or time-consuming tasks; 
    ● a “flying Internet of Things” as drones become more prolific in surveillance, exploration and delivery tasks; ubiquitous augmented reality; 
    ● an expanded gig economy built around work-from-home free agents; 
    ● urban farming that reaches industrial scale; 
    ● advances in trusted cryptocurrency that enable greater numbers of peer-to-peer collaborations; 
    ● locally based, on-demand manufacturing; 
    ● “local in spirit and local in practice” supply chains; 
    ● a robust marketplace of education choices that allow students to create personalized schooling menus; 
    ● “tele-justice” advances that allow courts to handle large numbers of cases remotely; 
    ● “truth valuation” protocols that diminish the appeal of disinformation; and 
    ● small, safer nuclear reactors for energy production.

    “At the more everyday level, these experts also think there will be 
    ● better speech recognition, facial recognition (including sentiment discernment from facial expressions), 
    ● real-time language translation, captioning and autocorrect capacity, 
    ● sensory suits, 
    ● robust video search, 
    ● body motion sensors, 
    ● 3D glasses, 
    ● multimedia databases and 
    ● broader network bandwidth that will enable full 3D virtual experiences and developments in AI allowing it to serve more of people’s needs.”

    “These themes and more are outlined in the accompanying tables.”
    “Privacy was always a luxury in the past – only the rich enjoyed it. Then it spread to a large fraction of the population in the West. Now it is receding again, in a way that mirrors the rise in inequality and the inevitable fall in civil liberties.”

    …” As a result, democracy will be on the defensive, its spread will be reversed in many parts of the world, and democracies themselves will infringe more on civil liberties. We are entering a post-democratic era.”

    Enjoy. And stay vigilant.
    And a bit if Nic Geuen and sortition too please. I suggested above a capital damage price. Please enlighten me as to which of the many proposals here, may be called ‘capital damage function’.

  10. Exceptional. Tribe beats pandemic.

    “This is the strongest single variable I’ve seen in being able to explain the severity of this most recent wave in each state. Not past infections / existing immunity, population density, racial makeup, latitude / weather / humidity, etc. But political lean.”

    “The 27-Year-Old Who Became a Covid-19 Data Superstar

  11. The ever-mysterious Prof Q (who is that masked academic?) has said
    in this specific case, it was Zuckerberg who attempted to bludgeon a democratically elected government into submission, while the established media worked through the normal political process.

    I suggest that the “normal political process” is one designed for and by Murdoch so it’s a bit rich to complain that Zuckerberg didn’t use it. The whole point of the exercise is to make sure that the Murdoch media continue to have an outsize influence over who gets to govern Australia (and the manner in which it is governed).

    The reason the rape issue had blown up now is that Murdoch needs a stick to beat the Liberals with. His media aren’t suddenly converts to the idea that rape is bad, they’re just pushing the same old “disobedient politicians get punished” line.

  12. Moz,

    When the corporations fight, the people get crushed. Based on the reputed Zulu saying, “When the elephants fight, the ants get crushed.” Is it hoping for too much to think that the people can get the corporate oligarchs fighting with each other and then step in and demand that a democratically elected government resolve matters in favor of all the (little) people? I do have a shred of optimism left… maybe.

  13. Ikon, the ALP have no ability to resolve the crisis, it’s strictly oligarch vs oligarch and we just have to hope that there’s something left afterwards. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because Mr Prosperity Gospel is being disciplined by his boss that he’s not beholden any more. The acid test is what the Liberals do to the ABC and SBS, or for the independent media, but so far there’s no sign of any change in policy towards either.

    If this little kerfuffle lasts until the election I would be stunned, because there’s been no sign from Our Lord Rupert that he favours the ALP this time. I reckon someone will get demoted, or there’ll be a reshuffle, or some other minor gesture of supplication; the dogs will stop barking; and the caravan will move on. Eventually Michelle Grattan will write another “balanced” take on the issue concluding that Murdoch is right and didn’t Scotty do well so we know that it’s over.

  14. Moz,

    The system is not sustainable. The question is what will the masses do when climate change, mass extinctions, mass human deaths and mass loss of property kick in. At some point all of this must hit the fan. What then? Do the oligarchs waltz through that while we all die? Maybe. It’s hard to say though. All of the oligarchs’ security forces and all of the oligarchs’ drones can’t even control Afghanistan. I can’t see them controlling a seriously collapsing US or UK (which are both on the brink of collapse). Just gotta hope nobody hits the nuke button.

  15. I dunno, the below piece on AlterNet makes the point that killing ~200,000 US citizens to make the point that a Republican government can’t work does not seem to have generated any meaningful response from the victims… if anything the Trump vote went *up* where they killed the most people.

    I had a different US’ian make the same point about the death toll compared to WWI and WWI earlier in the week.

  16. I agree pretty much with the Alternet article. I wouldn’t give Ayn Rand much “credit” though. She’s just another symptom, not a cause. The causes and origins of the USA’s problems go much deeper, right back to first white settlement in North America and the behaviors of the Spanish, English and French colonialists (mainly) and then the white Americans when they became Americans.

    It was a potent mix. Three competing hyper-cruel, hyper-greedy, colonial powers. A first semi- globalizing of the political economy of Europe in colonial form transitioning to proto-capitalist form but still also well within the primitive accumulation phase of stealing everything from the indigenous peoples. A super-rich new continent with an extraordinary bounty of every resource needed for development from the 16th C to the 20th C as it turned out. Fertile lands, great rivers and lakes, tremendous forests, vast grass plains, endless game, teeming fisheries and every mineral and fossil fuel needed (as it turned out) for the most rapid development. Endless immigrants… the tired, huddled and poor of Europe. Endless slaves (black and brown) to do the horrendous work that white men could not or would not do: fully expendable and inclduing those resistant to the malaria that was brought with them.

    The riches were there and a long semi-anarchic period ensued with the Spanish, French, Brits, Americans and indigenous nations fighting each other in ever-shifting alliances and blasting wildlife non-stop. The Americans who triumphed built a nation based on murder, rapine, conquest and the seemingly endless exploitation of nature. Money, military and the musket was their holy trinity. That level of success based on murder and theft feeds the most grandiose fantasies of endless promised wealth and manifest destiny along with an ideology of absolute entitlement to wealth by force. It’s in their national DNA and psyche to an extent that (I think) they are incurable other than by the cure of self-destruction. Perhaps black, brown and non-elite white people can finally change that. Let’s hope so or I see no future for any of us.

    Some books well worth reading are;

    “1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created” is a nonfiction book by Charles C. Mann first published in 2011. It covers the global effects of the Columbian Exchange, following Columbus’ first landing in the Americas, that led to our current globalized world civilization. It follows on from Mann’s previous book on the Americas prior to Columbus, “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.” – Wikipedia.

    The Course of Empire (Trilogy of the West #3) by Bernard DeVoto

    Within these massive and deep historical currents what are we? Flecks of foam? Specks of silt? That’s about all we are. I don’t think humanity can change its course now or undo what is has done.The damage is too great. Of course, I get up every day and plant native plants (some days) on my acre and a half, try to remedy the erosion and keep a pet free zone that wildlife can use while the domesticated hounds of civilization bark all around me… curse their flea-bitten hides. 😉

  17. In 1906 Werner Sombart wrote the Book “why is there no socialism in the United States”.
    Among many other things, the book compared the death rate per train kilometre in the US and a variety of European nations. Passengers were killed a lot by trains back then* in general. All European nations had a lower death rate. Securing train crossings costs money and the money/life trade off apparently was already exceptional back then in the US.

    It is still a non-trivial issue today with some indications that we still sometimes underinvest. We got a foot crossing with two lives lost in the last decade in my community for example that just does not get a security update.

  18. Despite decent rains, some dams are apparently not filling much.

    Latest regional NSW dam levels Feb 25-26;
    * Blowering Dam: _ _ _ 75.8% of 1,613,741 ML
    * Brogo Dam: _ _ _ _ _100.7% of _ _ 8,980 ML
    * Burrendong Dam: _ _ 39.5% of 1,189,000 ML
    * Burrinjuck Dam: _ _ _ 67.4% of 1,026,000 ML
    * Carcoar Dam: _ _ _ _ 29.6% of _ _35,800 ML
    * Chaffey Dam: _ _ _ _ 42.1% of _ 102,868 ML
    * Copeton Dam: _ _ _ _17.4% of 1,364,000 ML
    * Glenbawn Dam: _ _ _ 50.4% of _ 750,000 ML
    * Glennies Creek Dam: 46.1% of _ 283,000 ML
    * Hume Dam: _ _ _ _ _ 53.9% of 3,005,156 ML
    * Keepit Dam: _ _ _ _ _38.3% of _ 420,000 ML
    * Lostock Dam: _ _ _ 102.4% of _ _ 20,000 ML
    * Menindee Lakes: _ _ 17.9% of 1,731,216 ML
    * Oberon Dam: _ _ _ _ 32.1% of _ _45,000 ML
    * Pindari Dam: _ _ _ _ 11.5% of _ _312,000 ML
    * Split Rock Dam: _ _ _12.4% of _ 397,000 ML
    * Toonumbar Dam: _ _101.0% of _ _11,000 ML
    * Windamere Dam: _ _ 28.8% of _ 368,000 ML
    * Wyangala Dam: _ _ _59.2% of 1,217,000 ML

  19. Tweeted earlier today by David Wallace-Wells (@dwallacewells), author of “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming” (including a link to New York Times article headlined “Global Action Is ‘Very Far’ From What’s Needed to Avert Climate Chaos”):

    “Pledges submitted to the UN are not the sum total of global commitment to climate action, but they demonstrate a terrifying shortfall of ambition: adding up, in total, to just 1% reduction in emissions by 2030, rather than the 45% the UN says is necessary.”

    Published by Futures of Sustainability, Universität Hamburg on Feb 24, at YouTube is a video titled “David Spratt: “Existential climate risk, markets and the state””, duration 24:09, featuring David Spratt contributing to a talk session “Prospects: Crisis vs. Collapse”.

    From time interval 00:35, David Spratt says:

    “So, it’s from this perspective that I’ll make some comments on climate risk, markets, and the state. And I guess my essential point is that when risks are existential, markets fail, because they cannot adequately deal with such risks. They cannot mitigate the threat to society as a whole. This is true for, for weapons of mass destruction, it’s true for pandemics, and it’s true for ecological collapse, where the primary risk management responsibility lies with the state. It’s also true for climate disruption, where markets have failed to heed the high-end risks, especially non-linear impacts and ‘tipping points’ which are difficult if not impossible to model, when the costs may be infinite. When damages are beyond calculation – that is when the damages are infinite, which is what we are facing – then cost-benefit analysis, conventional risk analysis, and learning from failure, are approaches which do not work.”

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