Sunday , November 17 2019
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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

Publication lags

3 days ago

Among the many thoughts prompted by the bushfire disaster one relates to the shift from the “Defend or Leave” approach that was recommended in the 2000s, to the current policy of “evacuate before it’s too late”.

In the aftermath of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, I did some work on this topic with a colleague, Tyron Venn. Our conclusion was summarised in the title of our paper “Early evacuation is the best policy“. We included a discussion of how climate change would make the problem worse.

When we first adopted this title, it represented advocacy of a radical shift in policy. But the time taken to prepare the paper, followed by several rounds of refereeing, and getting it published meant that, when it came out in 2017, it was old hat. And the referees raised so many

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Decarbonizing steel production

4 days ago

The global fire crisis has brought home the need for a drastic and rapid reduction in emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. We already have the technology needed to replace nearly all carbon-based electricity generation with renewables, and to use electricity to drive nearly all forms of transport.

Among the more intractable problems are those relating to industrial uses, of which the biggest single example is steel. We can make substantial shifts towards a “circular economy” by recycling scrap in electric arc furnaces, but we still need a carbon-free process for producing new steel from iron ore.

The most promising approach (DRI) involves using hydrogen to directly reduce iron ore to iron, which can then be used as feedstock for an electric arc furnace. An

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My best review ever

4 days ago

I don’t know how many referee reports I’ve received over the course of my career – certainly many thousand. Some have been insightful and helpful, some have missed the point entirely, and some have been outright nasty. But I just got the nicest report I’ve ever had, and I can’t resist sharing the opening paras, with my thanks to the anonymous referee. The paper in question is my contribution to a special issue of Econometrics on the replication crisis, arguing that the crisis can be understood as a kind of market failure. Here’s a link to the draft

*Report 2*This paper is as I expect from this (actually quite famous) author, i.e. insightful. provocative, polished, knowledgeable, analytically very tight, and just overall a pleasure to read. If there were more

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What limited hazard reduction burning? Climate change.

6 days ago

Between making calls not to politicise the bushfire disaster, Barnaby Joyce and others have been busy denouncing the Greens, who allegedly prevented hazard reduction burning. This isn’t actually true: The rate of burning in NSW has more than doubled.

But there is one factor that has clearly limited hazard reduction burning. Because of the increased frequency of hot, windy days, even in winter, the window of time in which burning can be undertaken without the risk of accidentally starting fires has been narrowing. Here’s an example from August 2017, with authorities calling on landholders to limit burning off whenever possible, and noting that a number of hazard reduction burns have already escaped.
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Triggering global warming

7 days ago

It’s tempting to dismiss Deputy PM Michael McCormack’s attack on “inner city greenies” who draw the link between climate change and bushfires as an ignorant rant. In reality, McCormack is pointing to a central truth about rightwing denialism on this issue.

Deniers like McCormack don’t (in most cases) believe the stupid things they are saying about climate change. It’s a shibboleth (a signal of tribal membership) and for this purpose, the stupider the better.

Nor is primarily about the economic interests of the fossil fuel lobby. McCormack doesn’t (AFAIK) have any coal mines in his electorate, and the farmers who put him in Parliament are being hit harder by the drought than anyone else.

In reality, it’s all about the inner city greenies: that is, people like the readers of

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Armistice Day

7 days ago

With the smoke of a global catastrophe swirling all around, I nearly forgot to mark the end of the Great War, the (the first stage of the) long-ago catastrophe that defined most of the 20th century, and is still causing chaos and suffering even today. Lest we forget.
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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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Wouldn’t know if their a**e was on fire

9 days ago

From 2014, sadly more apposite today
John Quiggin
As I type this, it’s currently 35 degrees, at 9am on an October morning in Brisbane. And, while one day’s temperatures don’t prove anything, a string of studies have shown that the increasingly frequent heatwaves in Australia can be reliably attributed to global warming. We haven’t had an El Nino yet, but according to NOAA, the last 12 months have been the hottest such period on record.

It will be interesting to see what the denialists come up with in response to this combination of record breaking local and global warming. We can safely rule out anything along the lines of “as a sceptic, I like to wait for convincing evidence before accepting a new hypothesis. But, with the steady accumulation of evidence I’m now convinced”. I

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Begging the question, or not

10 days ago

Over at Club Troppo, Nicholas Gruen says of the phrase “begs the question”

I love this term because it is such a simple, chummy way of naming something that’s maddening in is subtlety. To beg the question in its traditional meaning is to mistake the form of answering a question for its substance. One ‘answers’ the question by simply asking it again in another guise … Today, ‘begs the question’ is much more often used to mean ‘prompts the question’.

My response

The problem with the old use of “begs the question” is that it makes no sense. It’s a literal translation of “petitio principii”. The problem is that “question” here means “conclusion” and “begs” means something like “asks the listener to assume”. The modern use is also nonsensical. My solution is to use “offers a

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Sloan and Quiggin agree?

11 days ago

If there’s one reliable constant in Australian economic policy debate it’s that Judith Sloan and I will be on opposite side. However, she’s picked up my idea of a nuclear “grand bargain”, with the rather striking claim that the carbon price side of the deal is already done

Interestingly, professor John Quiggin, a left-wing economist, has given his blessing to the introduction of nuclear power in Australia. He does this on the condition that a carbon price also be introduced, which he sees as a necessary prerequisite to make nuclear power cost-competitive.The good thing is that we already have a (shadow) carbon price, given our Paris emissions reduction commitment. Estimates put a figure of $90 a tonne on the carbon price by 2030. This part of the bargain is ­already in

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Professional politicians

13 days ago

I plan a response to Nick Dryenfurth’s Blue Labor argument before too long. But for now, I’ll record one point of agreement. Far too many MPs, particularly on the Labor side are professional politicians, who have gone from university to a staff or professional union job (that is, not for a union of which they have previously been a member or activist) and then gained preselection through the faction system.

Worse still, for most of these MPs, political office isn’t the final goal, but a stepping stone to more lucrative opportunities in lobbying or the finance sector. Of course, those opportunities are mainly open to those who pursue right wing policies. That’s entirely consistent with belonging to the “Socialist Left” faction (exhibit A: Anna Bligh).

Following the success of

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What, if anything, is neoliberalism? (crosspost from Crooked Timber, repost from this blog 2002)

14 days ago

The comments thread on my WTO post raises the much-argued question of whether the term “neoliberalism” has any useful content, or whether it is simply an all-purpose pejorative to be applied to anything rightwing. O

In this 2002 post from the pre-Cambrian era of blogging, at a time when I aspired to write a book along the lines of Raymond Williams’ Keywords, I claim that neoliberalism is a meaningful and useful term, which isn’t to deny that it’s often used sloppily, like all political terms.

Some thoughts seventeen years later

First, this definition refers to the standard international use of the term, what I’ve susequently called “hard neoliberalism”, represented in the US by the Republican Party. I subsequently drew a distinction with “soft neoliberalism”, which

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Sandpit

14 days ago

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

14 days ago

Back again with another Monday Message Board. Normal service should resume shortly

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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Wrong ways to think about elections

17 days ago

I tried to avoid instant reactions to the election outcome in May. But now that lots of people are making claims I regard as dubious at best, I think I may respond. Before doing that, I thought it would be useful to make some general observations about mistaken/dubious claims that are commonly made in post election analysis, particularly following a close election.

Just about everyone, including me, is prone to these kinds of reasoning. Feel free to discuss, give examples, and so on.

The winning party/leader has demonstrated a deep understanding of the electorate, unlike the losersAt least when the margin of victory is narrow, this is magical thinking. If one or two voters in a hundred had decided differently, the opposite claim would be made with equal confidence.Factor X

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Arrogance destroyed the World Trade Organisation …

21 days ago

… what replaces it will be even worse. That’s the (slightly premature) headline for my recent article in The Conversation.

The headline will become operative in December, if as expected, the Trump Administration maintains its refusal to nominate new judges to the WTO appellate panel. That will render the WTO unable to take on new cases, and bring about an effective return to the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) which preceded the WTO.

An interesting sidelight is that Brexit No-Dealers have been keen on the merits of trading “on WTO terms”, but those terms will probably be unenforceable by the time No Deal happens (if it does).
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Monday Message Board

21 days ago

Back again with another Monday Message Board. Intermittent service for the next week or two.

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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Middle-aged Millennials stuck in the mud

October 16, 2019

Given that Millennials are now approaching middle age, could someone compile all the 1990s cliches about Boomers for recycling, rather than doing it piecemeal? Then we can use the Millennial stuff (lazy, entitled, not like in my day) on Generation Z. Personally, I’m waiting to hit Generation Trump.
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Don’t do useful research

October 14, 2019

That’s the message being given to Australian social science and humanities researchers from the systems of journal rankings adopted in many disciplines.

This point was made to the Senate recently by historians from opposite ends of the political spectrum, Greg Melleuish and Stuart McIntrye, who are more interested in researching and arguing about Australian history than in following Northern hemisphere fads

Here’s a submission I wrote in relation to Economic Analysis and Policy, the journal published by the Queensland branch of the Economic Society of Australia

Under the reward systems prevailing in most Australian universities, publications in a journal ranked B or lower has a negative rating. Despite (or perhaps because of) my success in publishing in Top 5 and other

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No true war is bad?

October 14, 2019

On Facebook, my frined Timothy Scriven pointed to an opinion piece by classics professor Ian Morris headlined In the long run, wars make us safer and richer It’s pushing a book with the clickbaity title War! What is it Good For? Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots.”. Timothy correctly guessed that I wouldn’t like it.

Based on the headline, I was expecting a claim along the lines “wars stimulate technological progress” which I refuted (to my own satisfaction at any rate) in Economics in Two Lessons”. But the argument is much stranger than this. The claim is that war, despite its brutality created big states, like the Roman empire, which then delivered peace and prosperity.

For the classical world at 100 CE or so, the era on which Morris is an

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Monday Message Board

October 14, 2019

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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We thought Australian cars were using less fuel. New research shows we were wrong

October 11, 2019

That’s the self-explanatory headline for my latest piece in The Conversation , written with Robin Smit of Transport Energy/Emission Research (TER), who did the research. It’s another point showing the falsity the Morrison governments claim that Australia can “do its bit” to reduce emissions even as his government does nothing.
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Ban gambling advertising

October 11, 2019

Lately whenever I watch advertising-funded TV (including SBS), something like a third of the ads are for gambling, and all of these promote gambling in an irresponsible fashion.

In particular, the ads are now primarily for racing and sports betting rather than, as in the past, for lotteries. Decades ago, I did a lot of research into gambling and reached the conclusion that lottery gambling is mostly harmless fun, but that all the other forms (pokies, casinos and sports betting) are pernicious.

The majority of the revenue for these forms of betting comes from a small proportio of heavy gamblers (about 5 per cent of all gamblers, IIRC). These gamblers have lots of problems caused by gambling, ranging from marriage breakdowns to bankruptcy. Not all heavy gamblers appear as

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Talking about sustainable economy tonight: Kenmore

October 10, 2019

Live in the Kenmore area? Think we could use a more sustainable economy and want to take action locally?   Join us this Thursday Oct 10th, 6:30 for 7pm, at the Kenmore Library when Transition Town Kenmore hosts UQ’s John Quiggin. He’ll give us his big picture take on where things are heading with a  talk on “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren: Why Keynes was wrong in 1930, but might be right today.” Free and open to all.
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The third lesson?

October 9, 2019

Another review of Economics in Two Lessons has come out. It’s by David Henderson and appears in Regulation, published by the Cato Institute (link to PDF). There’s a blog post with extracts here.

Unsurprisingly, given the source, it’s mainly critical of the analysis, but still has some kind words about the book. This para gives the flavour

Quiggin is a good writer who lays out much of the economics well. His analysis of rent control and price controls in general is a thing of beauty. Along the way, though, he makes small and big mistakes. He also shows by omission that the book, to be complete, badly needs a third lesson, on why government works so badly even when it intervenes in cases where markets work badly.

Tyler Cowen made the same point about a “third lesson” on

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Sandpit

October 7, 2019

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

October 7, 2019

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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