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. Once again Victorias privatised federally administered aged care system has let us down ,there are some cases in there now. Last time there were hundreds of deaths there and none in the state government owned and administered ones. Amongst other things the state government ensures that workers cannot work across several facilities and that they get financial assistance if they need time off work .

  2. “Why didn’t suicides rise during Covid?
    By Cory Doctrow

    Answer imo – helicopter money, stable accommodation. Certainly not access to services.

    Whiplash after pandemic supports gone and lack of psych services (preventable) after droughts fires especially rural areas, may see a rise.

    A lot of prominent suicide experts need a rethink. Especially one I respected.

  3. JQ, I’m interested to hear your take on ” It is now harder for this kind of originality to gain traction.” especially since Ein2L.

    “Why Economics Is Failing Us
    The profession suffers from a lack of boldness and imagination

    By Tyler Cowen
    Mon May 24 2021

    …” There is little doubt that the current method yields more reliable results. But at what cost? The economists who have changed the world, such as Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes or Friedrich Hayek, typically had brilliant ideas with highly imperfect execution. It is now harder for this kind of originality to gain traction.”…

  4. I am not an expert on diseases, but it would seem that having a 14 day quarantine in a hotel in the middle of a CBD carries a risk, that while low in frequency, is extremely disruptive in its severity, once realised. Four shutdowns of major city areas in Victoria, and other shutdowns around Australia. Looking at the origins of each shutdown, apart from the very first shutdowns across the country, everything else is about quarantine failing to work well enough.

    There’s no denying that quarantine is not easily done; on the other hand, we know what would work far better than the current hotel quarantine in capital city CBDs. Put up purpose-built, air-gapped, quarantine facilities, well outside of the major conurbations and suburbs and CBDs. Do that, and the chances of person-to-person transmission inside a quarantine facility drop dramatically. No shared air, means far fewer chances of accidental transmission.

    Let’s say the current shutdown in Victoria costs between 700 and 1400 million as a hit to the economy. Is that sufficient to justify purpose-built, out-of-city, quarantine? Or the risk of yet another such shutdown, is that worth the doing nothing?

    No quarantine is perfect. However, the likelihood of an infected person leaving quarantine is greatly reduced by using open-air facilities, with individual—air-gapped—huts/dongas/tents used for each quarantined person and/or family. As there is essentially no likelihood of us getting enough vaccinations fully completed in the current calendar year, we know we must live with the threat of escape from confinement when in quarantine. We have some empirical data now, on the general risks of capital city quarantine hotels. So, every extra percent or two you shave off the risk of accidental transmission in quarantine, amounts to a huge reduction in economic disruption. Isn’t this rather obvious? Or am I missing something?

  5. Don, I don’t know whether you listen to the ABC’s Coronacast (, presented by Dr Norman Swan (physician and broadcaster, producer and present of _The Health Report_) and Tegan Taylor (health and science journalist from the Science Unit), but regular listeners to the podcast (such as myself) are well used to Norman Swan stating the case that hotel quarantine is just not good enough and that dedicated quarantine facilities are the way to go: we’ve had one leak after another from hotel quarantine, he says.

    So it’s not just you, that’s at least one well-informed observer making substantially the same case.

  6. Thanks, J-D. It’s good that at least a few medical types are willing to say CBD hotel quarantine is dangerous. As Swan seems to have said, we knew this, this time last year. Here we are. Only a federal government is responsible, given the issues have been much the same, state by state, and territory, month by month. The one thing that has changed, that’s the virulence, or at least the infection rate, of the various mutations of the SARS-Covid-19 virus. Sometimes, viruses mutate to less lethal variants; sometimes, they don’t. While virulence mightn’t be different, the apparent increase in (air-borne) infectivity of the most recent mutations means that we have to have state-of-the-art processes for quarantine. How the snek dose hotel quarantine in CBDs factor into that state-of-the-art, I wonder? As no more than Smo in this field, I can still do odds, work out overall effectiveness, and hotels ain’t cutting it. Not CBD interior corridor based hotels, at any rate. The old, cut-price country motel, single floor and all facing out onto their own porch, those ones might be okay. Couldn’t hurt to try them out.

    The way I see it, is the likelihood of an accidental cross-infection in hotel quarantine (per unit time) is quite low, but given the extended time frame (e.g. 12–18 months and counting) for which the quarantine project must run, the overall history is that multiple accidental infections, or undetected cases, will almost certainly escape hotel quarantine. The impact is a product of frequency of the escapes, and of the severity of the shutdown measures to contain the consequent/subsequent community outbreaks.

    The latest Victorian shutdown is probably because of an escapee infection/cross-infection that came from South Australia. It could have been that the infectee stayed in SA, even in the Adelaide CBD. Turns out, this one went to Vic. This isn’t to blame either SA or Vic; it just shows this will happen, and given the variants of the disease, the glacial pace of vaccination, and the probability of needing booster shots, all of that means we can’t afford to ignore quarantine measures as if they are merely a short-term matter. Quarantine is here to stay, at least for the next year or two or three. We need a systematic approach that works across all Australia, especially given the fact that escapee infections can land interstate, as in the SA to Vic case.

    What is so difficult about putting up some minimally furnished Dongas, or huts, or tents, and giving them some kind of deep cleaning between occupancies? Got to be safer than using confined space areas like hotel rooms and corridors. Gee, could it be as costly as Work-for-the-Dole private company welfare, for instance? (And the latest journalism shows that to have been ineffective at best, and counter-productive at worst). Just sayin’.

  7. There’s an anonymous hotline for anyone thinking about suicide pretty much everywhere in addition to the standard medical support, for example here one in Australia, you’ll find one in every location with a one minute google search:

    Was surprised to read that 4,3% of the US Population had recent suicide thoughts. I knew it was quite common, just not that it was that common.

  8. Maybe it is worth telling a rather weird positive story about improvements crisis support from my home region Bavaria. It all started out with a typical right wing government initiative to give police even more leeway to collect and register each and anyone that might be a threat to anyone. Muslim, football fans, people associated with the wrong political party etc…. the usual groups with the usual non requirements to have any proof, or even serious suspicion. Don’t ask me for details or how the general register played out in the end, it seemed wise for my personal mental health to not dig too deep into the topic.

    Here comes the weird positive turn: The register was initial supposed to include people with mental health issues, including some degree of abandoning medical confidentiality. After a major outcry from just about anyone involved, that part was walked back and replaced by something useful: A 24-hour crisis hotline that has a broader mandate and broader resources than the standard suicide hotlines, including an emergency in person visiting service.

  9. KT2 raises an interesting point. Originality is needed more than ever in economic thought development. After this pandemic finishes for most countries, whenever that may be, economies will need new paths to sustainable economic development. A suggestion already out there is that it will be from the area of innovation and technology that new economic development will be sourced. Adam Smith proposed innovation in work practices to speed up productions processes. Later David Ricardo added innovation in international trade practices. After fifty years of technological advances, Alfred Marshall proposed the adoption of mass production and utility. Out of the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes added a stroke of genius when he proposed a consumption led path to economic development.
    All these original ideas were poorly implemented as pointed out by KT2. Adam Smith could not have known that, and from his post as a moral philosopher not have approved, his ideas would be used to justify child labour. David Ricardo was so appalled at the way his principle of comparative advantage was used to implement economic imperialism that he foresaw his own theory, Alfred Marshall probably despaired of the military application of his utility theory. John Maynard Keynes was so disappointed by the way economists implemented his original ideas that he stated in 1946, “I am NOT a Keynesian.”
    Today we face new challenges. Overpopulation, climate change and nuclear disasters have all arisen this century as threats to humanity.
    One area of originality is in the use of technology to combat these big three issues. Overpopulation is being addressed by ways and means to achieve negative population growth. For the first time since the war, the population of mainland China may decline in the next ten years. The population of Europe is only being maintained due to the surge of refugees into that continent, Smaller nations also face periods of negative population growth.
    Climate change is the most insidious of these three threats. Not only humanity suffers, but so do all the endangered species we are sending towards extinction. Energy generation technology is trying to mitigate some of these adverse outcomes. Research into the reduction of greenhouse gases from livestock is now being applied. Lifestyles changed during the pandemic have boosted the trend towards working from home. A lot remains to be done in eliminating the social costs of overproduction. Once again the application of the above technologies has been poor. Many good innovations have been handicapped by the obsession with political ideologue that debases scientific predictions.
    Nuclear disasters are the often forgotten threat to human and species survival. Many nuclear power generation schemes have been handled poorly and continue to pose an ongoing threat, Some countries have banned the use of nuclear generators but they are the exception to the rule. A fascination with nuclear weaponry still gripes too many countries.
    Economics came out of moral philosophy. Over the last two hundred and fifty years it has lost touch with its roots. Original thought in economic theory is often discouraged at best and more often ridiculed. But without new ways to combat the economic problem in this century, humanity will lose its last chance to establish sustainable economic development. As Edward de Bono once said
    “Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic.” .

  10. The army could make a big tent city in an oversized area somewhere to quarantine arrivals who agree to stay in that kind of accommodation . Drones could monitor compliance from above .The cost of lock-downs must be bigger than doing so .We will need quarantine again sometime in the probably not to distant future .

    The mental health of people living precariously that I know of improved during Covid due to stimulus bonus money and less hassling from authorities.

    As for future economics ,I think we need to look at the idea of debt forgiveness again .Pandemics are the kind of event which has triggered forgiveness or renegotiation in the distant past .Whenever I hear of business people or employees saying they cant survive another lock-down I ask why ? Who will you owe money to that is saying ‘ pay up or be homeless ‘ ? Who might they in turn owe money to who could threaten them ? Where does the chain of threats end ? Unforeseen events have always been levers used to pry wealth from the less fortunate and direct it into the hands of economic elites .Long ago debt forgiveness was used repeatedly ,by the palace , to preserve social harmony . There was a cycle of elite dominance followed by forgiveness. Gradually elites gained total possession of the political class and we are where we are. Jesus tried to stop the slide ,the bible promotes debt forgiveness enthusiastically (mentioning abortion only once ,or arguably not at all ) .Debt forgiveness was the subject of Jesus’ first sermon.

    From Turkish writer in exile Ece Temelkuran writing of her countries slide into dictatorship – “Our mistake wasnt that we didnt do what we could have done ,rather that we didnt know that we should have done it earlier “

  11. A bleg on mRNA vaccine patents. As far as I can make out, the key patents (2006 and 2013) are held by Hungarian biochemist Katalin Karikó ( and U Penn professor Drew Wesismann, They have licensed it to public-spirited BioNTech, where Karikó sits on the board, and to its American rival Moderna. The important thing here is that they have not restricted their technology to a single licensee. Avoiding tech monopolies on crucial inventions should not however be up to individual whim.

  12. James, a fair bit of new transmission capacity is going ahead (Victoria NSW Interconnector West) or looks like it will go ahead in Oz (Project Marinus — more interconnectors to Tasmania), thanks to low interest rates. Falling storage costs mean its possible it won’t pay for itself, but if it helps us shut down coal capacity sooner, I still call that a win.

  13. Who knew the Rubicin has to be crossed to get to the OECD? Maybe this route is the way for climate denieers only from Australia.

    Matius Corman certainly crossed the Rubicon on the way to the OECD!

    Corman Before Rubicon & OECD;
    “… as recently as February 2020, when Cormann accused the Labor party of making “extremist pronouncements” pledging to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

    “What I am saying is making commitments, meaningless commitments without actually properly assessing what the economic cost is, the impact on jobs, the impact on power prices and the impact on emissions, is extremist and irresponsible,” Cormann told Sky News at the time.”

    Après Rubicon;
    “…this week, Cormann has used a “vision statement” for the position to declare that pursuing “effective global action on climate change is a must and we must get to zero net emissions as soon as possible”.

    Power corrupts – both ways. I hope we get Matius to take the stand at the 2030 Royal Commission into Idealogical Conversions regarding Climate. Oh how he would dissemble.

    I wint be checking how the ‘sky is falling in’ news reports it.

  14. For the “nonsensical” record. Thanks JQ, Saul et al…

    “Scott Morrison says the coronavirus recession is ’30 times worse’ than the GFC. Is that accurate?

    “Professor John Quiggin, of the University of Queensland’s School of Economics, told Fact Check the “30 times” claim is nonsensical and the calculation illogical.

    He noted that if the growth rate in 2009 was zero per cent, then “you’d get the conclusion that the (current) crisis was infinitely bad”.

    Independent economist Saul Eslake, of Corinna Economic Advisory, also queried the use of the figure.

    Mr Eslake says the global recession brought about by the pandemic has certainly been “significantly worse” than the one arising from the GFC, but it is “almost certainly not [worse] by a factor of 30 — and probably not even by a factor of 15”.

    Professor Jakob Madsen, of the University of Western Australia, says the Prime Minister’s comparison was “amateurish” and “ludicrous” and demonstrated the inherent danger in measuring changes from rates of figures close to zero.

    “It’s just nonsense,” Professor Madsen said. “People must not do that, but you see it all the time.”

    Associate Professor Mark Melatos, of the University of Sydney, says the “30 times” comparison is “not a very useful description”.

    He noted the global financial crisis arose from within the financial system and was “very different in nature, not just size” to the pandemic recession.

    By contrast, the pandemic has been an external shock.

    “In the GFC case, people chose to reduce spending because they were scared,” Dr Melatos said.

    “In the COVID recession, people were forced not to spend, even though they could afford to.”

    “So, yes, the contraction in real GDP is (roughly) 30 times greater, but that’s like saying an orange is 30 times larger than a grape.

    “True, but not particularly useful [because] the two recessions are not comparable.”

    “The ‘scars’ and recovery trajectory
    “Using figures from the IMF’s April 2021 report, world GDP rebounded to growth of 5.4 per cent in 2010, a turnaround of 5.5 percentage points. The IMF is forecasting growth of 6 per cent in 2021, which would be a 9.3 percentage point turnaround.

    “Professor Quiggin says that while the GFC extended across several years and the effects lingered, the pandemic is resulting in “a kind of V-shaped recession”.

    “Output fell sharply (last year) while [lockdown] restrictions were in place, but recovered most of the lost ground quite fast once restrictions were lifted,” Professor Quiggin said.

    “To be fair, that recovery was largely due to the fact that most nations, including Australia, took strong action to maintain household incomes and prevent a cascade of business failures.

    “By contrast, responses to the GFC were inadequate nearly everywhere (Australia and China were exceptions) and were followed by a shift to austerity which produced a decade-long disaster.”

    “Mr Eslake says the most recent recession has been shorter than the GFC recession, and the recovery in the past several months has been significantly stronger than a decade ago.

    “This is mainly due to the “vastly greater amount of fiscal stimulus deployed in response to it”.

    “The recovery from the most recent recession has also, so far, occurred more quickly, in the sense that it has taken less time to reverse the losses of output incurred during the recession,” Mr Eslake said.
    “In its April 2021 World Economic Outlookreport, the IMF says that as a direct result of the “unprecedented” policy responses by many nations, “the COVID-19 recession is likely to leave smaller scars than the 2009 global financial crisis”, assuming the pandemic can be brought under control by late 2022.”

  15. Any application to memory, networks, economics, decision theory, or social science? And just wow.

    “How Slime Molds Remember Where They Ate

    “These simple organisms physically encode food locations to solve complex tasks

    “Like all slime molds, Physarum polycephalum has no brain or nervous system—yet it somehow “remembers” food sites for future reference. In a new paper, biophysicists Mirna Kramar and Karen Alim of the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen, Germany, describe how the organism’s internal structure changes to encode past food locations.”…

  16. Interesting:
    “The government of Mauritania and renewable energy developer CWP Global have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a 30 GW power-to-X project. “This momentous announcement sets the stage for development work to begin on what will be the world’s biggest renewable energy project, exporting green hydrogen and its derivatives to global markets,” reads the note released last week, adding that the hybrid wind and solar project will be located in the north of the country on a desert site of approximately 8,500km2. [JW that’s a square 92km on a side] According to CWP, the $40 billion (€32.7 billion) project promises “some of the cheapest clean energy in the world.””

    Mauritania is a vast and very poor country, mostly desert, with a tiny population of 4.5m. Total generating capacity is only 380MW, which this project, if realized, would increase by a factor of 78.

    CWP is a smallish European green energy group, active in Australia. It’s very early days and the pharaonic scheme may never happen: but nature is on its side – sun, wind, cheap land, and proximity to North Atlantic markets. Mauritania has respectable inland iron ore mines, so a hydrogen DRI plant is feasible too.

    Neighbouring Western Sahara has the same conditions minus the iron ore, and even less population (0.5m).. But outside investors will be scared off by the political risk, as Morocco’s annexation of the territory, and effective control of most of it, is not recognized internationally (though Trump broke ranks to buy Moroccan recognition of Israel). Any megaprojects would have to be underwritten by the Moroccan government, which could work

  17. SPOILER ALERT! Don’t read article if buying book. I stopped.

    “Edward St. Aubyn Wraps Serious Thoughts About Science in an Entertaining Package

    “Previous generations worried about nuclear war. Now, Francis thinks, “there was clearly no need for a war to lay waste to the biosphere; all that was needed was business as usual.”

    And book 2 mentioned in above: “He’s so well-conceived that he rivals what might be my favorite minor character in fiction: Mary Anne, the sarcastic daughter of the hard-nosed Marine fighter pilot in Pat Conroy’s “The Great Santini.” When her father makes her cry during a car trip, Mary Anne catches her tears in a spoon and flicks them at the back of his shaved head.”
    ymmv, or enjoy.

  18. Coal prices surge as a consequence of climate change (hot America using more air con) and due to coal mine closures. The greater the pressure on coal supplies the greater will be these price effects and the bigger the rewards for non-compliers with climate policies. At the same time the poorer will be the economics for using coal.

  19. The NSW Productivity Commission has published its “Productivity Commission White Paper 2021: Rebooting the Economy”. It includes (on page 14):

    “This White Paper identifies 60 opportunities that can help to reboot productivity growth. These stand on four foundations: talent; investment and innovation; housing; and infrastructure and natural resources.”

    On page 23 (Energy):

    “New South Wales faces limited gas supplies, even with new import facilities and domestic extraction. A strategic approach to gas extraction and demand management is necessary to meet the State’s gas needs within the constraint of a net zero economy by 2050.”

    Lifting the ban on nuclear electricity generation for small modular reactors.”

    On page 228 (in Box 5.14):

    “This technology is current being developed in the United States, where NuScale Power expects to have its first small modular reactor operating by 2026.”

    Click to access Productivity%20Commision%20White%20Paper.pdf

    Except NuScale Power’s 12-reactor Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) in Idaho Falls, Idaho, has seen expected costs double from $3 billion to $6.1 billion and its completion date moved from 2026 to 2030,
    per the GreenTechMedia Oct 2020 article headlined: “NuScale Faces Questions on Nuclear Reactor Safety and Financing Its First Project”

    Meanwhile, the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility published a report titled “Eyes Wide Shut: Problems with the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems Proposal to Construct NuScale Small Modular Nuclear Reactors” by M. V. Ramana, dated 30 Aug 2020, that includes in the Executive Summary:

    “For all these reasons, UAMPS members may wish to consider ending their pursuit of small modular nuclear reactors and avoid the sunk costs of a project that is very unlikely to achieve its target price or produce electricity at a cost competitive with proven alternatives. Pursuing cheaper, currently available solar, wind, energy storage (batteries), and energy efficiency would be a more reliable path for UAMPS to shift to a carbon-free energy future.”

    Click to access EyesWideShutReport_Final-30August2020.pdf

    Ian Dunlop, Director of Breakthrough, National Centre for Climate Restoration and former Chair of the Australian Coal Association, was in a Zoom conversation on how Bradfield CAN find solutions to Australia’s immediate existential national security threat – climate change, which is now available in the YouTube video titled “Bradfield can do better on climate – In conversation with Ian Dunlop – 3rd June 2021”. Ian’s presentation is introduced from about the six minute mark and ends around the 25 minute mark, followed by Q&A.

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