Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Steve Kates explains much better how the data early in the year was deceptive due to the dramatic impact of fiscal stimulus, and that the private sector recovery is yet to appear.
Monday, November 22, 2010
In both parenting and the legal system one must carefully consider the role of punishment. Recently, the discussion surrounding imprisonment has become focussed on rehabilitation, using recidivism rates inappropriately as a statistical measuring stick of success. This seems to be the product of confusing success in parenting with success in crime prevention.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Some of the critics of the implementation of Australia's fiscal stimulus fail to see the broader political picture. Professor Tony Makin, for example, argued that the fiscal stimulus was not necessary because adjustments in exchange rates and interest rates absorbed most of the impact of the crisis. Yet he gives no credit to domestic impact of fiscal stimulus from abroad, particularly with our main trading partners. His argument was that we should have been free riding on the stimulus of other nations.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Unfortunately I think it is the destabilising thing to do, and maintain that we may see this decision reversed in the future. With a housing market waiting to crumble, tourism and education exports fading, commodity prices peaking and inflation already moderating, expect some sullen economic data this festive season.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Nothing is so firmly believed as that which least is known - or why changing your mind is evidence of learning
For a second, consider of all our major public thinkers today. They do the opposite, constantly telling how sure they are of their beliefs and criticizing their “opponents” for changing their minds. Changing your mind is a good thing, Montaigne would say. It means you’ve resisted the impulse to think you’re infallible. He wrote that as part of his profession of getting to know himself he found such “boundless depths and variety that [his] apprenticeship bears no other fruit than to make me know much there remains to learn.” If only we could internalize that attitude—instead of feeling cocky when we learn something, acknowledge that it really just taught us how much more we need to learn. (here)While I often use this blog to vent frustration, propose new ways of looking at problems and possible unintended consequence of our actions, this does not mean that my ideas and opinions are as fixed once published. Indeed, if I look back at some of the opinions I held some years back I can imagine a heated debate between current me and previous me.
For example, for a period of time, I had a fixation about peak oil and what it meant for society. I thought in a linear manner, ascribing a reduction in total economic production possible to a reduction in technically possible rates of oil extraction, without thinking of behavioural responses and adaptations likely to take place including a renewed demand for alternative resources. My last post clearly shows that I have edged away from that view to a more reasoned and 'systems' view of economic behaviour.
I used to be passionate about ‘sustainable’ living (whatever that means). If we could only all do our little bit our environment, in the holistic sense rather than just the trees and animals sense, would be a better place to live. However, with more research into the matter it appears that while my own choices are the only ones within my control, there are offsetting effects from the actions of others that may render my personal actions ineffective.
While my ideas evolve slowly as I seek evidence one way or another, I can’t help but marvel at how quickly strongly held beliefs can change in a time of crisis, even when evidence for the new idea is as sparse as the one previously held.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
While I don’t doubt the finitude of many natural resources, and that the human population cannot grow indefinitely, I doubt that finite limits of resource inputs to the economy necessarily means that economic growth cannot continue indefinitely.
To be sure, I am certain that substantial unforeseen changes to the rate of extraction of some resources will lead to short-term disruption of established production chains, such as shocks to oil supply, but in the long run I see no reason that an economy with finite resource inputs cannot increase production through improved technology and efficiency.
I need to be clear that when I talk of economic growth I mean our ability to produce more goods and services that we value for a given input. Increasing the size of the economy by simply having more people, each producing the same quantity of goods, will be measured as growth in GDP, but provides no improvement in the material well being of society.
A better measure of growth is real GDP per capita. This adjusts for the disconnection between the supply of money and the production of goods, and adjusts for the increase in scale provided by the extra labour inputs. Even then, this may overestimate the rate of real growth occurring, as there has been a trend of formalising much of the informal economy, for example child care, which is now a measured part of GDP rather than existing as individual family arrangements.
On these adjusted measures economic growth is a very slow process. In a world where non-renewable resource inputs are fixed or declining, it is the rate of the decline and the speed of adjustment that will determine the overall outcome for our well being. If the rate of decline of non-renewable resource inputs is below the rate of real growth (our ability to produce more with less) and the rate at which we can substitute to renewable alternatives, we can avoid economic calamity in the face of natural limits.
Unfortunately there are other factors at play.
The rate of population growth will greatly determine the per capita wellbeing in a time of limited growth. While extra labour input will no doubt contribute to production inputs, my suggestion is that this input will be outweighed by a decline in complementary resource inputs. Remember, we care about real economic ‘wealth’ per capita, and with more people there is a smaller share of remaining resources each person can utilise in production, thus reducing wellbeing.
Further, we can begin to take productivity gains as leisure time instead of more work time, thus there is a possibility of maintaining a given level of production in the economy with fewer labour inputs over time.
There is also the reliance of our financial system on high levels of growth. Many economic growth critics cite the need for exponential growth of financial measures of the economy as being in conflict with any finite system. Yet the ‘system’ itself is a human construction and I seen no reason why a stable money supply cannot operate under various levels of growth (even prolonged negative growth) if used cautiously and with little leverage.
Often forgotten is that many resources are currently fixed and yet go unnoticed. There are always 24 hours in a day, but that doesn’t stop us producing more each day. If a shortage of hours was encountered, would a sudden change to 23hrs (a 4% decline) have a dramatic impact? Or would society easily adjust to this new environment of tighter time scarcity?
While a smooth transition to prosperity under much greater limits on resource inputs to the economy is theoretically possible, I don’t expect this to be our future reality. Self interested governments, businesses and the general public will react to short term shocks in unexpected ways, potentially promoting conflict, and taking the bumpy road. I have no doubt that there will extended periods of prosperity in the future, but also expect a rough ride to get to them.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Pool fences are only there to protect kids from parents who don't. There are no fences around all the lakes in Brisbane, Southbank's lagoons are not fenced, the Brisbane River is not fenced. Why? Because we are responsible enough to ensure our children don't get into danger in these areas.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
My point is, people are taking the cuts as real water then multiplying impacts to flow on industries then getting bigger and bigger impacts that border on ridiculous. These complementary agricultural industries are clearly already adjusted to any proposed cutbacks.