In print today

I’ve got two newspaper articles out today.

In the Australian Financial Review, a piece written jointly with Warwick McKibbin and Richard Holden, arguing that the Reserve Bank should dump inflation targeting and switch to targeting the level or growth rate of nominal GDP. Paywalled, but a near-final version is over the fold.

And, in Inside Story, a piece looking at the kinds of reforms we need once the lockdown phase of the pandemic is over. Rather than trawling over the remnants of the neoliberal reform agenda, I argue we need transformative changes such as a participation income.

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May Day

It’s the May Day public holiday here in Queensland, transformed, like every other public event by the coronavirus pandemic.

Most obviously, there is no May Day march for the first time in many years (possibly since the first march in the 1890s, I haven’t been able to find out for share).

More significantly, ideas associated with May Day that seemed to belong to a distant past have suddenly become crucially relevant. The most important of these is the injustice, inefficiency and absurdity of a society where those who do the most vital work are underpaid and disregarded, while the biggest rewards go to a class that turns out to be of no use when it really matters.

There is already pressure to ‘snap back’ to what was seen as normal in the recent past as soon as, or even before, the pandemic is controlled. But the message of May Day is that a better society is possible, and that the achievements of the workers movement over the past century can and should be defended and extended.

Among the many changes we need is a push to reduce inequality through both predistribution (changing the way the market rewards work) and redistribution (taxation and transfer payments). In practice that means higher minimum wages, higher wages for those who provide us with the basic wages we all need, and better funding for public services of all kinds. For those at the top of the income distribution (including professors and the many senior administrators who outrank us) that implies lower market incomes, and forgoing the tax cuts promised (and legislated) for the future.

Fundraiser for MS

I haven’t done a fundraiser for a while, but this seems like a good time. Like everything, the Brissie to the Bay cycle fundraiser for Multiple Sclerosis isn’t going ahead as usual. It’s been replaced with a challenge where participants record their own efforts and set targets for distance and fundraising. I aim to cycle at least 400km in June (my average is around 200), and raise $1000 or more in the process.

Feel free to suggest challenges of your own, with a donation to back them. For example, if anyone is willing to stump up $100, I’ll cycle around Mt Coot-Tha in Brisbane (only 10km, but very tough).

You can donate here and also sign up yourself if interested.

When elephants fight …

Our policy on fights between the US and China, until now, has been to avoid them, regardless of the merits. On the coronavirus, both are badly at fault, arguably the US more so. And there’s no obvious reason why Australia has any special interest in working out who is to blame.

What Morrison should do next

I was contacted by a Greek language newspaper with questions about the next steps in economic policy. On the assumption that most of my readers don’t read Greek, I’m posting my response here

The Morrison government’s economic policy response to the pandemic so far has been broadly appropriate, putting practicality ahead of ideology in general. There are numerous anomalies arising from the haste with which the program was developed and from some residual ideological constraints (such as hostility to the university sector)

The program should facilitate a rapid recovery from those economic impacts directly linked to lockdown measures as these are relaxed. However, there has so far been little recognition of the problems that will continue in the medium and longer term.  The economy will undergo a substantial restructuring reflecting the effective end of international travel, at least until a vaccine is developed and globally distributed.

To deal with these continuing problems the government needs to
(i) Convert the JobSeeker payment into a Guaranteed Livable Income, available to everyone unable to find paid employment and willing to make a social contribution in other ways, such as volunteering(ii)  Use the JobKeeper payment as the starting point of a Job Guarantee, in which the government commits to achieve full employment through a combination of wage subsidies, training programs and direct job creation.


A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on. I’ll open this by saying I agree with the view that even an optimal response to the pandemic by China would have given the world only a few days more notice, and that most Western governments would have wasted that time anyway.