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John Quiggin

John Quiggin

He is an Australian economist, a Professor and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland, and a former member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority of the Australian Government.

Articles by John Quiggin

Climate change and the strange death of libertarianism

2 days ago

It wasn’t that long ago that everyone was talking about the “libertarian moment” in the US. Now, libertarianism/propertarianism is pretty much dead. The support base, advocacy groups and so on have gone full Trumpists, while the intellectual energy has shifted to “liberaltarianism” or, a more recent variant, Tyler Cowen’s conversion to “state capacity libertarianism“.

Most of those departing to the left have mentioned the failure of libertarianism to handle climate change. It was critical for two reasons. First, any serious propertarian response would have required support ofr the creation of new property rights (emissions permits) and the restriction of existing ones (burning carbon). That would imply an acknowledgement that property rights are natural relations between people

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Blackrock and the AAA rating

3 days ago

Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager has announced some big steps towards divestment from thermal coal. As I observe in this article in The Conversation, Blackrock’s shift marks the point at which divestment has become the norm for financial institutions, and continued involvement with coal a choice that must be justified in the face of the evidence.

As has already happened with Adani’s Carmichael project, thermal coal miners and power station developers will soon find it impossible to get external finance except from government and government-backed sources, such as China’s Belt and Road initiative. The Australian government is already pushing in this direction.

That brings us to the next step in divestment: government bonds. The Swedish central bank has already

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Economic estimates don’t account for tragic bushfire toll

4 days ago

That;s the headline for my latest piece for Independent Australia Obviously, costs like ecosystem destruction and the deaths of millions of native animals can’t easily be put into the framework of the National Accounts. But, even if we stick to the National Accounts, Gross Domestic Product is a terrible measure of economic welfare. As I always say, there are three reasons for that; it’s Gross, it’s Domestic and it’s a Product.
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Sandpit

7 days ago

A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.
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Monday Message Board

7 days ago

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

http://eepurl.com/dAv6sX You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page
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Consumed by fire (crosspost from Crooked Timber)

8 days ago

(Most of this will be familiar to regular readers of this blog. But it seems simplest to crosspost the whole thing, rather than do a separate version).

It’s been hard to think straight with the fires that have burned through most of Australia for months. Brisbane was among the first places affected, with the loss of the historic Binna Burra lodge, on the edge of a rainforest, a place where no one expected a catastrophic fire. But, as it turned out, we got off easy compared to the rest of the country. Heavy rain in early December helped to put out the fires in Queensland, and we can expect the delayed arrival of the monsoon in the near future. By contrast, southern Australia normally has hot, dry summers and this has been the hottest driest year ever. The increased likelihood of

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On CNN

8 days ago

If all goes to plan, I will be on CNN International Newsroom at 3pm Brisbane time talking about economic impact of #AustralianFires My preliminary estimate of costs, at least $100 billion.
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Australia is promising $2 billion for the fires. I estimate recovery will cost $100 billion

9 days ago

That’s the self-explanatory headline for a piece I wrote for CNN Business in the US. Major contributors to this number, beyond the direct loss of property include

damage to the tourist industry (I estimate up to $20 billion)health effects, including 1000 or more premature deaths from smoke (up to $10 billion)need for massive expenditure to deal with future disastersecosystem destruction and wildlife deaths (impossible to value, but catastrophic) Share this:Like this:Like Loading…

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Slow Burn

11 days ago

That’s the headline for my latest piece in Inside Story, with the summary

Hundreds more deaths will result from the particulates created by Australia’s current crop of bushfires

At the time of writing, at least fourteen people have been killed by this season’s bushfires. And with most of January and all of February still to come, the number is sure to rise. But these dramatic deaths are far outweighed by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of deaths that will ultimately result from the toxic smoke blanketing Australian cities.

The most dangerous component of bushfire smoke are tiny particulates, no more than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, known as PM2.5. Over the past twenty years, studies have shown that high levels of PM2.5 have contributed to millions of premature deaths

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Old men behaving badly (3rd repost)

13 days ago

I first posted this in 2011, reposted it in 2014 and again in 2019. Sadly, nothing changes, except that the old men keep getting stupider and behaving worse.
John Howard’s endorsement of Ian Plimer’s children’s version of his absurd anti-science tract Heaven and Earth has at least one good feature. I can now cut the number of prominent Australian conservatives for whom I have any intellectual respect down from two to one.[1] Howard’s acceptance of anti-science nonsense shows that, for all his ability as a politician, he is, in the end, just another tribalist incapable of thinking for himself. [2]
Although not all the tribal leaders are old men, an old, high-status man like Howard is certainly emblematic of Australian delusionism . Like a lot of old, high status men, he stopped

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Monday Message Board

14 days ago

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

http://eepurl.com/dAv6sX You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page
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The opportunity cost of destruction

15 days ago

With much of Australia suffering catastrophic fires and the beginning of a new war with Iran, lots of people are thinking about the idea that such disasters are good for the economy, because of the work generated in rebuilding homes, producing war materials and so on.  In my book Economics in Two Lessons, I explain why this is wrong (this is one point where I agree with Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson. Here’s a link to  Chapter 6: The opportunity cost of destruction
US President Eisenhower got it right when he said

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

And the same is true for the destruction visited on us by Morrison, Trump,

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Climate deniers are worse than antivaxers but get treated better

15 days ago

One point that’s come up in discussion of the fire cataclysm is the fact that anti-vaxers are viewed with contempt, and subject to sanctions like “no jab, no play”, while climate deniers are still given respectful treatment, media platforms and so on. The explanation is simple enough: climate deniers are rich, powerful and numerous, including most of the rightwing commentariat and much of the government.

Although both groups are wrong, and present a huge danger to the community, it’s important to observe that most anti-vaxers (the exceptions are charlatans like Andrew Wakefield) are honestly concerned about the health of their children, and have simply latched on to misguided information. By contrast, as I said in this 2013 piece,

The difficulty is that the proportion of

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Slow burn

18 days ago

That’s the headline for my latest article in Inside Story. Summary graf

Hundreds more deaths will result from the particulates created by Australia’s current crop of bushfires

At the time of writing, at least fourteen people have been killed by this season’s bushfires. And with most of January and all of February still to come, the number is sure to rise. But these dramatic deaths are far outweighed by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of deaths that will ultimately result from the toxic smoke blanketing Australian cities.

The most dangerous component of bushfire smoke are tiny particulates, no more than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, known as PM2.5. Over the past twenty years, studies have shown that high levels of PM2.5 have contributed to millions of premature deaths in

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Intersectionality vs dominant identity politics*

20 days ago

Shorter JQ: Although the idea of intersectionality emerged on the left as a solution to problems involving class and identity politics, it turns out to the be the natural response to the rise of dominant identity politics on the right.

As I see it, intersectionality combines a recognition that people are oppressed both through the economic structures of capitalism and as members of various subordinate groups with a rejection of both:

“essentialist” identity politics, based on the claim that some particular aspect of identity (gender, race, sexuality, disability etc) should trump all others; and“working class” politics, presented as a politics of universal liberation, but reduced by the failure of revolutionary Marxism to another kind of identity politics (I took this

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Sandpit

21 days ago

A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.
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Monday Message Board

21 days ago

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

http://eepurl.com/dAv6sX You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page
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Tolerance, acceptance, deference, dominance

23 days ago

Warning: Amateur sociological/political analysis ahead

I’ve been thinking about the various versions of and critiques of identity politics that are around at the moment. In its most general form, identity politics involves (i) a claim that a particular group is not being treated fairly and (ii) a claim that members of that group should place political priority on the demand for fairer treatment. But “fairer” can mean lots of different things. I’m trying to think about this using contrasts between the set of terms in the post title. A lot of this is unoriginal, but I’m hoping I can say something new.

Starting from the left (in more senses than one), tolerance involves the removal of legal barriers to being recognised as a participating member of the community, with legal

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Back to man bites dog: yet another #Ozfail

24 days ago

Yesterday, the Oz ran the headline “Labor fails to win the middle ground”, reporting the unsurprising Newspoll result that high income earners[1] on $150000 or more mostly vote for the LNP.

Today, it’s done a backflip, quoting Joel Fitzgibbon as saying that Labor is losing its working class base.

Nothing too surprising here, but its worth remembering that the two-party preferred vote in the May election was 51-49 for the LNP, whereas the polls predicted 51-49 for Labor. If Labor were losing badly among both the well-off and the working class, this would be impossible.

[1] Recall that in Ozspeak, “middle” means “upper”
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Dog bites man: also, high income earners vote LNP

25 days ago

To read political commentary recently, in Australia and elsewhere, one would imagine that working-class voters have deserted Labor and other left parties en masse, and that these parties now depend on the votes of wealthy inhabitants of the inner city.

The Oz (not linked) has just down a breakdown of recent newspolls, which shows this to be pretty much the exact opposite of the the truth. Of course, being the Oz, this is given the negative spin that “Labor fails to win back the middle” (remember that in Ozspeak, and most political commentary, “middle” means “top”[1]. It’s also important to note that most of the discussion compares Labor to the sum of the Liberal and National Parties. This count the Greens, who are effectively part of a fractious left coalition, as well as

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Burning the surplus

28 days ago

Scott Morrison’s total paralysis in the face of the bushfire emergency gave rise to the most convincing excuse for his recent disappearance – he wasn’t doing anything anyway, so why shouldn’t he go?

Part of his problem is that any serious discussion of the problem involves climate change, and even one pull on that thread would risk unravelling the shroud of deception he and the rest of the right are sheltering beneath.

But surely Scotty from Marketing could come up with a campaign that appeared to take action on the bushfires themselves without doing anything about the underlying cause. There’s another factor that hasn’t been mentioned, as far as I can see.

What credibility the government has is tied to its claim that this is the year we will return to surplus for good. The

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Open forum for climate denialism

28 days ago

Following some recent discussions, I decided to relax my usual policy of banning climate denialists. So, I’m opening a forum where anyone who thinks they have something useful to contribute on the topic. Some rules

Real names only, no pseudonyms. If you have something to say on this topic, own it. If your point is on this list, don’t bother making it. For the moment, only climate science arguments, not policy claims like “Australia only contributes 1 per cent”. Initially, at least I’d prefer to leave the field open to sceptics/deniers. The rest of us can have our say a bit later.

To prevent spam/trolling etc all posts from new contributors will be moderated.
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Monday Message Board

28 days ago

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

http://eepurl.com/dAv6sX You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page
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Mainstream media remains quiet on Scott Morrison’s untimely holiday

December 20, 2019

That’s the title of my latest column in Independent Australia, which came out on Thursday. The news has just come in that Morrison is to curtail his trip and return home. Strikingly, it was the lead headline on news outlets, including the ABC, Guardian, and Fairfax/Nine that failed to report Morrison’s absence for days, then buried the news in stories leading with other topics.

All of that led me to some ill-tempered Twitter exchanges (the usual kind of Twitter exchange, I guess) with a variety of journos, including Lenore Taylor and Katharine Murphy, who gave equivocal denials that the PM’s Office had ordered their papers not to report to the trip, before closing the discussion, and declining further comment.

The core of the problem, I think, is that I’ve given up on Labor.

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Total failure

December 19, 2019

The country is on fire. And:

The PM disappears overseas. His supporters spin the fact that it’s only his second overseas holiday this year (not second holiday, or second largely recreational OS trip)The media are ordered not to report the fact, or even that we have an acting PM. Compliance is near-total until Twitter outrage puts the issue into the international pressTory-fighter Albanese gives Morrison a free pass. Still hasn’t pushed the government on link to climate change. Would rather bash the Greens over ancient history disputes.If there has ever been a more comprehensive failure of our political class, I’m not aware of it.
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The system works, now and then

December 16, 2019

Among other activities, I write or sign on to, lots of emails to business leaders and others, protesting against environmental failures, abuses of workers rights and so on. Occasionally that contributes to a win, but hardly ever do I get reply.

I recently wrote to the CEO of Siemens, , protesting against the decision of the Australian branch of the business to work with Adani on rail signalling systems for the rail line to the destructive Carmichael mine. I was quite surprise to get a response, as follows:

Dear all,

Thank you for your mails addressing your concerns on Siemens delivering rail infrastructure for the Adani project in Australia.I have not been aware of the matter until most recently. Likely given the relatively very small number of the rail signaling business

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Fudge

December 15, 2019

As I’ve said previously, explaining election losses after the fact is too easy, since changing any factor that caused a loss of significant numbers of votes would (other things equal) turn the loss to a win.

Still, one thing that’s struck me about several recent elections lost by the left is that they combined a generally coherent platform with a fudge on a central issue. Examples are Corbyn on Brexit, Shorten on Adani and Clinton on the TPPA.

I don’t want to make too much of this. The decision to fudge in each case reflected the reality that going either way would cost at least some votes, and might not get enough new ones to make up.

Still, Shorten didn’t gain anything by hedging on Adani, and lost quite a bit. If he had announced the end of new thermal coal, he

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No takers for a nuclear grand bargain

December 14, 2019

A while ago, I made a submission to a Parliamentary inquiry into nuclear power and, in particular, the removal of the 1998 legislative ban on nuclear power. The inquiry was pretty obviously a stunt aimed at placating Barnaby Joyce and the nuclear lobby[1], but I decided to take it seriously and ask what would be needed to give nuclear power any chance, economically and in terms of social acceptance, in Australia.

I proposed what’s been called a grand bargain , lifting the ban in return for a commitment to decarbonize electricity by 2040, and a carbon price increasing steadily over time to achieve that goal.

The Committee has now reported, and, unsurprisingly no one is interested in the idea of a grand bargain. In fact, the idea wasn’t mentioned, not even to dismiss it. Nor, as

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Pasokification

December 10, 2019

That’s a term coined to describe the fate of the Greek social democratic (and nominally socialist) party PASOK, which implemented austerity measures in the wake of the global financial crisis, and was subsequently wiped out, with most of its voters going switching their support to the newly created left party Syriza.

In France, Germany and the Netherlands, much the same has happened with the Greens gaining many of the votes lost by social democrats. Broadly speaking, the more a social democratic party has gone for centrist respectability, the worse it has done. In Spain, the Socialist Party has formed a coalition government with the leftwing populist party Podemos. In Portugal, confusingly there is both a Socialist (anti-austerity) and Social Democratic (pro-austerity) parties.

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Anti-politics from the inside

December 7, 2019

There have always been lots of people who saw nothing in politics except a bunch of windbags scoring points off each other. And a year or two back, there was a thing called anti-politics which attempted to give some kind of intellectual basis for this sentiment.

Although I’ve known lots of anti-political/apolitical people and paid attention to the discussion of anti-politics, it’s always been something I’ve viewed from the outside, and as a problem to be remedied by doing a better job of explaining the importance of political issues. I’ve often (in fact usually) been highly critical of the political positions of the major parties, but always highly engaged.

But now, I’m suddenly experiencing anti-politics from the inside. The country is on fire, and there’s no end in sight.

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