Idlers and good-for-nothings

I’m in the midst of a book on the coming of Keynesian economics into the world and the disappearance of classical theory. I have just now finished a section discussing the first Keynesian textbook ever written, Lorie Tarshis’s The Elements of Economics, which I thought I might share a bit of which with you.

Tarshis’s text made Samuelson and other economic writers more cautious in how they discussed Keynesian theory. A passage such as the following would never again enter a Keynesian text, as accurate a reflection of the theory though it may actually have been.

“To put it bluntly, employment and income, in money terms, can be expended to respond equally whether the government sponsors useful public works like highway construction, or completely useless ones like digging ditches and filling them up again. In either case, because the income of the newly employed would be higher than before, they would increase their spending, so that the output of consumers’ good would be expanded and the upward swing begun. Naturally we should prefer projects which directly add to our real wealth. Flood-control projects, highways, parks, school buildings, research projects, housing, and so on are better than leaf-raking and useless excavations. But the latter are better than nothing, for even though the projects are useless, carrying them out leads to an increased output of consumers’ goods. And even though the men responsible for the increased demand were idlers and good-for-nothings, their dollars, in our economy, are as powerful as any others in increasing consumption, income, and employment.” (Tarshis 1947: 518)

Possibly the most revealing passage in the entirety of Keynesian literature.

It was overrun the following year by the first edition of Samuelson’s Economics, in part because Samuelson’s was a much better book, but also because he was a bit more candid about what Keynesian theory meant in practice.

Posted in Classical Economics, Economics and economy | 13 Comments

Chinese influence in universities

It used to be that communists hid under our beds, now they go to university. This story has been developing in The Australian over the last few weeks and has now jumped across to the AFR.

Education department officials as well as national security and cybersecurity experts will meet university representatives on Wednesday to thrash out guidelines governing collaborative research, amid government concerns over growing Chinese encroachment.

Senior sources said the government was especially concerned with collaboration in such areas as artificial intelligence, quantum physics and some engineering disciplines.

Now here is the crazy thing about university research – it tends to exist in the public domain. The very argument that the government uses to justify public subsidy for research should apply here too. The idea is that R&D is both non-rival and non-excludable and will under provided in a free-market. Now I’m not convinced that is entirely true – yet the very same government that makes that argument is trying to exclude (some) foreigners from doing research or accessing that research.



Posted in Education, Innovation, National Security, Oppressive government, Taking out the trash | 35 Comments

Pell Discussion Forum: August 21, 2019

Update I: Appeal Rejected.

Update II: The actual judgement.


352 We would refuse leave to appeal in respect of grounds 2 and 3. We would grant leave to appeal in respect of ground 1 (the unreasonableness ground) but, for the reasons we have given, would dismiss the appeal.


1179 I would grant leave to appeal against conviction on Ground 1. I would order that the appeal be treated as having been heard instanter, and that it be allowed. I would set aside each of the convictions sustained below, and the sentences passed thereon. I would further order that there be entered judgment and verdicts of acquittal on each charge.

1180 I would refuse leave to appeal on both Grounds 2 and 3.

Update III: PvO has this tweet.

I do have some sympathy for PvO’s  position. We have a process for establishing “facts” and that process has established that George Pell is guilty of a crime. To be sure Pell can still appeal to the High Court – and I think he should. But here is the thing – we keep hearing that trust in social institutions is eroding. The legal system itself is such a social institution. We are being asked to believe a very big claim – that George Pell is a heinous criminal on evidence that strikes me (and I’m sure many others) as being somewhat implausible. True – as PvO points out – I wasn’t in the church in 1996 and so I don’t know what happened. Mind you none of the juries or judges was there either. If they had been there would be eye-witness accounts to the alleged crimes.  Anyway, not only are we being asked to believe a very big claim, we are asked to believe that claim after Pell was not tried in open court. Now to be sure, apologists will make their excuses – perhaps there are good reasons why that had to happen, blah, blah, blah.

To be clear, PvO’s position is the “responsible” position, the “appropriate” position, the  “bourgeois” position, the “moderate” position, and dare I say it, the “conservative” position.  Yet I do not consider myself to be unintellectual or pig-headedly ignorant.

Update IV: From the comments.

I probably don’t belong in this “centre right” blog, but I do believe in open and logical, fact based discussion, so please accept my somewhat dissenting comment in the constructive manner in which it is intended.

There are only 3 individuals that know what happened on that day in that church, and god depending on your beliefs.

One committed suicide and his evidence was not available to this trial.
One gave his evidence in the trial under the rules of our legal system.
One gave his evidence in the trial under the rules of our legal system.

Under the laws of Australia the judges enable both sides to present their evidence and arguments to the jury. The jury, made up of the peers of the accused, then decide which side they believe is presenting the truth.

That is the same arrangement that any of us would face in a similar situation.

C. Pell may be innocent, but the rules under which we agree to live by, find him guilty and that decision has been made by a majority? of the jury and the judges after listening and reviewing days and days of evidence.

Why is it that people on this blog believe that their opinion is more correct than those people of the jury and the judges, whom as a society we delegated the decision to.

What we as individuals desire or believe in our hearts or minds is utterly irrelevant.

If we believe that our emotional and unfounded beliefs are more valid than those of our legal system, then our society has some big problems.

No individual is above the law, even the Pope.


Posted in Open Forum | 593 Comments

Tuesday Forum: August 20, 2019

Posted in Open Forum | 1,071 Comments

Q&A Forum: August 19, 2019

Posted in Open Forum | 109 Comments

Shut it down … this time, the CSIRO

Just how bad has the CSIRO become?  Once upon a time, it was involved in producing high quality applied research.  Those days are truly gone.  Just check out the Australian National Outlook 2019 document if you are in doubt.

But I received this zinger this morning from its media department – lots of communications graduates employed there, no doubt – and many groans emanated from our house.

But it’s science-based, according to the utter guff in the press release.  That’s right, a science-driven approach to tackle declining trust in corporations.  Oh please.

The one organisation that the public should no longer trust is the CSIRO itself.

Check it out.

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has developed and commercialised a new science-driven approach to tackle declining trust in corporations, enabling companies to better manage their social licence to operate, starting with mining and agriculture.

New business Voconiq  was launched to scale up CSIRO’s community insights service, formerly called Reflexivity. It captures real-time insights into community sentiment across time and locations, and aims to help industries and communities build greater trust and mutually-beneficial outcomes.

A social licence to operate continues to be a top business risk facing industry today, as highlighted in CSIRO’s recent Australian National Outlook 2019 report.

“Our social insights capability has grown strong market demand from customers including BHP, Rio Tinto and the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia, so we were able to spin out Voconiq, creating a new Australian company poised for international growth,” CSIRO Mineral Resources Director, Jonathan Law, said.

“This move means more businesses will be able to draw on CSIRO-developed science through Voconiq, who can grow their service to benefit more communities, the resources sector and any other industry where community trust is essential to their business.”

Voconiq already has operations underway across five countries and in key Australian mining regions, including the Pilbara, WA and the Hunter Valley, NSW. A new agreement with Newmont Goldcorp in the city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, WA was implemented this month as the company continues to grow.

The Voconiq methodology involves community engagement, community surveys, data collection, analysis and reporting in a clear framework that companies can proactively respond to.

It is underpinned by more than a decade of CSIRO research that shows trust between companies and the communities they work alongside is a key factor influencing a social licence to operate. When companies lose community trust, conflict can occur equating to potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in delays or the complete abandonment of a project.

Voconiq CEO Kieren Moffat, a former CSIRO senior research scientist, said that their service is about moving companies from a transactional approach to working with communities in a long term and constructive way.

“Our service enables companies to systematically understand the complex sets of issues and concerns held by communities, while providing communities with a constructive way to have a voice and influence company decision-making,” Dr Moffat said.

In its first year, Voconiq will focus on delivering for its current portfolio of clients, including recently-secured contracts with Newmont Goldcorp, AgriFutures Australia and LiveCorp. It has longer term plans to expand further into the infrastructure, oil and gas industries and to provide its services to communities directly.

Voconiq will also build on previous national-scale research undertaken in CSIRO, including national attitudes to mining surveys for Australia, China and Chile, and most recently for Australian Eggs.

CSIRO continues to maintain a strong social science focus across a range of industries, including mining, tourism, the marine environment, energy and onshore gas, such as through the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance.

The Voconiq team was supported by Australia’s national science and technology accelerator, ON, powered by CSIRO  .

Posted in Uncategorized | 84 Comments

This land is my land, this land is Greenland

From the icy tundra
To the icy tundra
This land was made to protect the Arctic from the Russians and the Coms

From out of left field it definitely is, but filled with sense and sound political instincts. Also taken seriously here, if a bit whimsically: YES TO ACQUIRING GREENLAND!, although mostly taken seriously among the comments:

Why is no one talking about PDJT’s true motivation, which is to keep the Chi-coms out of the Arctic? They have already approached Denmark with the idea to build airports there. The Danes may think they’re too smart to fall for a BRI swindle, but that’s irrelevant. Their Navy isn’t nearly as impressive as it was 1000 years ago, and their sovereignty over Greenland is only as strong as their armed forces. They should sell it while someone is still willing to pay.

Greenland is not a part of Denmark, it is a dependent territory with some self rule. Offer each family in Greenland $1Mil and have them vote on it. It could acquire status similar to Guam or PR, if not statehood. And yes, Greenlanders most certainly feel looked down upon by “mainland” Danes. BTW, it would not be the last real estate transaction between the 2 countries. US bought the Virgin Islands from Denmark in 1917.

China apparently tried to build 3 airports in Greenland recently, an obvious threat to the US. Also, the US is trying to check Russian efforts to gain strategic and economic control of the Arctic. It may not be long before Denmark has no choice in the matter. If Denmark were smart, they’d negotiate a percentage of mineral and tourist revenues.

I connected the dots yesterday when I read an article about a speech Pompeo recently gave to the Arctic Council about the need to defend the Arctic from Russian-Chinese encroachment. It mentioned that Greenland has a claim under international law to a huge swath of the Arctic and surrounding ocean. It also revealed that Democrat hero and MSM icon Truman formally offered $100 million for Greenland for the same reason, but was turned down.

Denmark only holds Greenland because of NATO. Without U.S. security guarantees it would be part of the Soviet Union today. (Without U.S. security guarantees there would be a Soviet Union today.)

Posted in International | 43 Comments

Terry Barnes: Reduce smoking rates to 10 per cent by 2025? Legalise nicotine vaping.

Last week, federal Health minister Greg Hunt was at the National Press Club selling his vision of the Coalition’s health policy for the next three years.

Good on him. There was much good stuff in what he said.

Amongst his statements of priorities, however, was this:

Today, I want to announce that the Government will set a new target of reducing smoking rates below 10 per cent by 2025. This may be one of the most important things I ever have the privilege of being involved with. We’ve already committed $20 million to the education campaign but there is more to be done and we’ll develop that with the health preventable and mental health.

How that target is to be achieved, when the adult smoking rate has flat lined around the 14 per cent mark for more than five years, is the $64,000 question.  More graphic product warnings? Still higher extortionate excise on tobacco products?  More of the social marketing that allows governments to believe, like Tinker Bell, that they’re doing something but achieves nothing except enriching advertising agencies and media companies?

Perhaps the Minister should look at our Anglosphere counterparts, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.  The UK last month released a Green Paper on preventive health that aims to make Britain smokefree by 2030.  New Zealand has had, since 2011 and therefore under National and Labour governments, a Smokefree 2025 policy that has been aspirational while smoking rates, especially amongst Maori and Pacific Islanders have remained stubbornly high.

But both Britain and New Zealand’s anti-smoking strategies now have one thing in common. Both embrace nicotine vaping as a new but effective weapon in the armoury to mitigate if not eliminate the mortality and morbidity destruction of combustible tobacco in cigarettes.

From the UK Green Paper:

The government is committed to monitoring the safety, uptake, impact and effectiveness of e-cigarettes and to assess further innovative ways to deliver nicotine with less harm than smoking tobacco. There is a large amount of research now available to support e-cigarette use as a safer alternative to smoking and help people quit smoking, and we continue to monitor the evidence.

From the NZ Government’s position statement on vaping:

The Ministry of Health considers vaping products have the potential to make a contribution to the Smokefree 2025 goal and could disrupt the significant inequities that are present.

In the UK and NZ, politicians and even the wokest of health bureaucrats has accepted that their smoking-reduction targets will not be met without the contribution of nicotine vaping. In the UK, the acceptance and market penetration of vaping largely accounts for a significant drop in the smoking rate from around 20 to 14.7 per cent between 2011 and 2018 – and it’s likely that British vaping regulation will be further liberalised post-Brexit.  In New Zealand, legislating to make nicotine vaping lawful is currently being completed, but already the government there has established websites and published other officially-backed public information about the stop-smoking potential of vaping.

Yet Australia refuses to join the party.  Hunt himself repeatedly has declared that legalised nicotine vaping “will never happen on my watch”, and a promise to his party room to fund an independent review into the risks and benefits of vaping, made before the last election when the Coalition expected to lose and Hunt presumably thought he’d never have to deliver on it, has not so far commenced, nor looks like it will for at least two years.

Hunt’s immediate policy problem, however, is that the Australian adult smoking rate has reached bedrock. It includes smokers whose determination to get their nicotine fix is so entrenched that they’ll pay even the eye-watering tobacco taxes that are there to boost consolidated revenue, and whose coffin nail addiction therefore is crucial to the government’s delivering its commitment to return the Budget to surplus in 2020.

The so-called “Australian model” of tobacco control – ostracising smokers by severely restricting where one can smoke, punitive tobacco excise, plain packaging and social marketing – has reached its limits of effectiveness, and to reduce smoking rates further needs both fresh thinking and embracing major disruptions like legal nicotine vaping.

Australian public health pooh-bahs, and the politicians on both sides who listen to them and fear them, are so wedded to what they’ve done for decades that they lack such fresh thinking and refuse to accept this reality.  As a result, Greg Hunt’s 10 per cent by 2025 target is destined to remain a throwaway line in a speech, unless he is willing to drop his wholesale opposition to legalised nicotine vaping.

Harvard-educated Hunt is no fool, and like any politician he likes to be on the ultimately winning side.  Provided he consults more widely, keeps an open mind to emerging evidence, ignores influential public health types blinded by their own self-perceived brilliance, and can at least consider vaping’s disruptive potential to slashing  smoking rates – as have Britain and New Zealand – there is yet a chance his aspirational 10 per cent goal is vaguely achievable.

It’s entirely up to him.

Terry Barnes is a policy consultant who formerly advised Howard government health ministers. He is also a Fellow of the UK Institute of Economic Affairs, and has never smoked or vaped.

Posted in Guest Post | 15 Comments

Why doesn’t the left prefer the truth to outright falsehood since the lies will create major harm in all our lives, even their own?

In case you didn’t see it. The media plus all of their readers and viewers prefer lies to truth. Why that is cannot be explained since the lies will make their lives far, far worse, while the truth will allow us to get on with our lives without ruining our futures.

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy, Media | 63 Comments

Open Forum: August 17, 2019

Posted in Open Forum | 1,958 Comments