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Fiscally conservative Labor & the spendthrift Coalition

Steve Koukoulas points out in Business Spectator that the final budget of the Gillard Government was the most contractionary since 1971. The deficit was 1.7% lower in real terms than in the previous year. (Recall that the stance of fiscal policy is measured by the change in the deficit not its level). Government spending fell […]

Jade Scorpion

In the AFR Friday I read an amazing story that seems so fantastic that it strains credibility. A province in northern Myanmar (Burma) mines jade primarily for the Chinese market. Up to 500,000 workers in these mines are kept addicted to Golden Triangle heroin by mine bosses who subject them to slave-like working conditions. An […]

Summary for policy-makers from IPCC

This important scientific report (as with previous IPCC reports) contains a summary for policy-makers. I am reading it now. I am interested in the observation that climate change will intensify El Nino events although specific rainfall effects remain less specific than one might hope for. This is an important document for my own research so […]

Australian art

I have read a number of very negative reports on the Australian Art Exhibition in London. I have not seen it but a recurrent criticism is that it is too “representative” at the expense of quality. Commercial aboriginal art is described as “tourist tat” which, in my judgment, is a fair and accurate description although […]

Sins of the father

This is the tragic tale of the wife of one of the Indians sentenced to hanging for rape and murder. Her life, and that of her son, is bleak given the actions of the father. Not because the father is a rapist but because she now has no husband to provide her with subsistence. It […]

Daft policies 4: Sacking skilled civil servants

The sacking of three Departmental Secretaries and achieving the “voluntary departure” from Treasury of Martin Parkinson seems to me a bad idea for a Coalition that does not have an abundance of talent. That some of these people pursued policies that were sought by Labor is irrelevant – these men are skilled civil servants who […]

Daft Coalition economics 3: Paid parental leave

The word “daft” here needs to be qualified. It is certainly daft in the restricted sense that it is a substantial non-means-tested handout made at a time when the Coalition is spreading stories about a deficit and debt crisis. Given that this crisis is largely a myth this type of objection probably isn’t that serious. […]

Daft Coalition economics 2: Abolishing carbon charging

It is universally agreed by resource and environmental economists that the most efficient (= the cheapest) way of realising a given level of carbon emissions is to price these emissions. The reason is that then only those with lowest costs of cutting emissions will do so. This outperforms across-the-board regulations. This policy can take the […]

Daft Coalition economics 1: use it or lose it

Minister for Industry MacFarlane has told Australian miners to rapidly develop their undeveloped mining leases or risk losing them. This is daft economics. The decision to defer development of a site will not be taken if the site is profitable. The deferment will occur only if such things as labour costs are too high or […]

Summers out

The decision of Lawrence Summers to abandon his quest to chair the Fed is a good one. His past mistakes/conflicts of interest in opposing regulation of the finance sector should disqualify him and, in the end, it effectively did. Summers is untrustworthy in terms of apparent conflicts of interest and given his extreme right-wing politics […]

Expensive gadget economics being cannibalised

In my very limited spare moments I have been fooling around too much with photography and not doing much blogging. In an earlier post I noted that Apple seem to have run into a period of diminishing returns in innovating their iPhone – the market agreed too slashing billions off Apple’s market capitalisation over the […]


Greatly enjoyed Baz Luhrmann’s “Gatsby”. A triumph after the poor “Australia”. Cinematically refined and beautifully scripted I thought this was an enlightening portrayal of New York 1922 and a great love story between Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Daisy. DiCaprio’s performance was perfection. A lot of poetry in this movie on extravagance and mystery that resolves […]

New iPhone puts me to sleep

There is something almost bizarre about this spuiking of the new iPhone. Yes, you can get it in pink! Here is the New Yorker on the “mundane new iPhone”.

I wonder if Apple Corp is finally heading the way of Nokia. Out of new ideas and relying purely on spin to sell more essentially embellished […]

Triumph of politics

The Coalition win with a 1.2% swing to the Liberal primary vote and a 0.9% swing to the Nationals. The main gainers were the “others” (Clive Palmer, perhaps a Libertarians etc…) – no mainstream groupings here. The election was a vote against mainstream political parties in Australia although Tony Abbott ran a much better campaign […]

Hitting Assad

There is no question that Syria’s Bashar Assad is one of the Middle East’s worst tyrants. I am sympathetic to the American position here – that he should be punished for using chemical weapons against his own citizens – the videos I saw were horrific – particularly the distraught father trying to rouse his dead […]

Vote Labor

Who am I to make such a claim? Particularly when my long-term distain for anything associated with Kevin Rudd is one of the few consistencies in my politics. Rudd is a grub who was kicked out of the PM position because he couldn’t manage or lead, who then undermined his replacement and damaged his party […]

Ronald Coase RIP

I have just read that Ronald Coase has died aged 102.

Certainly one of the greatest figures in modern economics. His “dumb” question “What is a firm?” was one of those “dumb” questions that transformed microeconomics. A firm as an island in an ocean of markets. On the island market forces didn’t operate – managerial […]

Lankov on North Korea

I am fascinated by North Korea and the book by Andrei Lankov intensifies my fascination. Its a bit like the guilty pleasure of gawking at an extreme traffic accident. A Stalinist monarchy that has survived its own massive and obvious internal contradictions. Lankov’s premise – the North Korean leadership is ruthlessly logical and efficient. They […]