Wednesday , August 5 2020
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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

Why a Job Guarantee will require higher taxation

5 days ago

Ever since I wrote Work for All with John Langmore back in 1994, I’ve been pushing the idea that a path to full employment requires an expansion of publicly provided services. For about the same length of time, Bill Mitchell has been putting forward similar (but not identical) proposals. At some point in this process, Bill became one of the advocates of what’s called Modern Monetary Theory, which makes the point that taxes don’t (directly) “fund” public expenditure. Rather, they ensure that the total demand for goods and services (for consumption and investment) don’t exceed the productive capacity of the economy, thereby generating inflation.

This reframing raises the question: does a Job Guarantee require higher taxation? The answer, using MMT reasoning, is “Almost certainly,

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Sandpit

6 days ago

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

To be clear, the sandpit is for regular commenters to pursue points that distract from regular discussion, including conspiracy-theoretic takes on the issues at hand. It’s not meant as a forum for visiting conspiracy theorists, or trolls posing as such.
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Now is the time to reduce overlong working hours

9 days ago

That’s the title of an article I published in Independent Australia last week. An important part of it was support for the German Kurzarbeit scheme, which pays most of the wages lost by employees when working hours are shortened due to the recession.

There’s a striking contrast with the push by Josh Frydenberg to allow employers to cut hours and wages at will. It’s pretty clear that the days of “we are all in this together” are fast disappearing.
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Monday Message Board

9 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 end of interest

10 days ago

Although my book-in-progress is called The Economic Consequences of the Pandemic, a lot of it will deal with changes that were already underway, and have only been accelerated by the pandemic. This was also true of Keynes’ Economic Consequences of the Peace. The economic order destroyed by the Great War was already breaking down, as was discussed for example, in Dangerfield’s Strange Death of Liberal England.

Amid all the strange, alarming and exciting things that have happened lately, the fact that real long-term (30-year) interest rates have fallen below zero has been largely overlooked. Yet this is the end of capitalism, at least as it has traditionally been understood. Interest is the pure form of return to capital, excluding any return to monopoly power, corporate control,

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The end of capitalism

11 days ago

Amid all the strange, alarming and exciting things that have happened lately, the fact that real long-term (30-year) interest rates have fallen to zero has been largely overlooked. Yet this is the end of capitalism, at least as it has traditionally been understood. Interest is the pure form of return to capital, excluding any return to monopoly power, corporate control, managerial skills or compensation for risk. If there is no real return to capital, then then there is no capitalism. Not just a result of the pandemic. A trend that goes back to the GFC.
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End oil imports

14 days ago

One of the consequences of the pandemic has been the realization that reliance on the ready availability of imported goods may be a problem in a crisis. This isn’t new, particularly in relation to oil, which plays an outsized role in geopolitics. The supposed need to protect sea lanes, and particularly oil supplies against disruption has been a major part of the rationale for naval defence spending. And we have repeatedly been criticised for failing to maintain stocks of refined petrol.

I’ve been underwhelmed by some of these arguments, but it seems as if it’s time to take them seriously, particularly in relation to oil. If we are to decarbonize the economy, we need to reduce our consumption of oil, ultimately to zero. The obvious place to start is by reducing imports of oil,

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Sandpit

16 days ago

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

To be clear, the sandpit is for regular commenters to pursue points that distract from regular discussion, including conspiracy-theoretic takes on the issues at hand. It’s not meant as a forum for visiting conspiracy theorists, or trolls posing as such.
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Monday Message Board

16 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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A trillion here, a trillion there, pretty soon you’re talking real money (creation)

18 days ago

As with most really neat sayings, the original (with billions, instead of trillions) is misattributed, in this case to the late Senator Everett Dirksen, a conservative Republican who nonetheless helped to write the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The saying can be traced back to an unsigned New York Times article in 1938, which said ““Well, now, about this new budget. It’s a billion here and a billion there, and by and by it begins to mount up into money”. This in turn improved on earlier versions going back at least to 1917US GDP today (Over $20 trillion) is around 250 times as high, in dollar terms, as it was in 1938, so replacing billions with trillions isn’t much of a stretch.

With that in mind, what should we think about the $2.4 trillion pandemic relief package, and the likelihood

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The climate emergency after the pandemic

19 days ago

In an excess of zeal, I’m planning an Australia-specific book (working title, Australia after the Apocalypse: rebuilding a livable future) which will deal with the social, cultural and economic implications of the bushfire and pandemic catastrophes. This will complement The Economic Consequences of the Pandemic which will be global in its scope, but more narrow in its focus on economic issues. Over the fold, the opening section of a chapter on the climate emergency

Among the many lessons drawn by ‘hard-headed’ observers from the 2019 election, the most important was that climate change had to be put into the ‘too hard’ basket. Our experience since then has shown this lesson to be radically mistaken.

First, the bushfire catastrophe made it obvious that catastrophic global

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Hard-hat utopians

21 days ago

That’s the title of my latest piece in Inside Story, pointing that, even though the occupations most affected by the Covid pandemic are dominated by women and young people, government responses have been focused on ‘hard hat’ sectors, mainly employing prime-age men.

I appeared before a Committee of the Queensland Parliament making this point. I don’t think I had a lot of impact, but I will keep on pushing.
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The Republican phase transition

21 days ago

I’ve been reading the latest (excellent as usual) book from Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality . The opening paras read

This is not a book about Donald Trump. Instead it is about an immense shift that preceded Trump’s rise, has profoundly shaped his political party and its priorities, and poses a threat to our democracy that is certain to outlast his presidency. That shift is the rise of plutocracy – government of, by, and for the rich

This passage reflects the conflict between two propositions that I (and lots of others, I think) have been grappling with(1) The rise of Donald Trump represents a radical transformation of the Republican party and American conservatism(2) Everything Trump has done is a

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Monday Message Board

23 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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Sandpit

26 days ago

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

To be clear, the sandpit is for regular commenters to pursue points that distract from regular discussion, including conspiracy-theoretic takes on the issues at hand. It’s not meant as a forum for visiting conspiracy theorists, or trolls posing as such.
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The General Theory and the Special Theories

26 days ago

The title of my book-in-progress, The Economic Consequences of the Pandemic is obviously meant as an allusion to Keynes’ The Economic Consequences of the Peace, and one of the central messages will be the need to resist austerity policies of the kind Keynes criticised in his major work, The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money. That title, in turn was an allusion to Einstein*, and the Special and General theories of Relativity.

The special theory Keynes wanted to replace was that of classical economics, in which the economy always tends to full employment unless governments or unions get in the way. The implication of classical economics, articulated in the Great Depression by Mellon (“liquidate the rottenness”) and in the Lesser Depression by the advocates of

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The end of ecomodernism

27 days ago

I was due to appear tomorrow before the Environment and Planning Committee’s inquiry into Nuclear Prohibition in Victoria, but I’ve just been advised that it’s been deferred until after the lockdown. I’d just finished writing a supplement to my earlier submission which concluded that there was no real support for the kind of ‘grand bargain’ I’d earlier proposed, combining a commitment to a rapid phase-out of coal with a removal of the prohibition on nuclear power. It’s over the fold.

The most important group of nuclear power advocates who have consistently promoted concerns about climate change as the main reason for their advocacy have been the self-described ‘eco-modernists’. The main organizational focus of ecomodernism is the Breakthrough Institute, established by Michael

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Masks (repost from a month ago)

29 days ago

Now that the World Health Organization has finally endorsed a recommendation for wearing masks in public, it’s time for Australia to do the same.

The most important case is that of public transport including air travel. Urban public transport is vital, but until we take the necessary steps on masks, we will be stuck with recommendations to avoid peak hour travel, guaranteeing a return to private cars and congestions

The airlines have been the biggest transporters of the pandemic and have continued to behave irresponsibly, packing planes as full as possible without any requirement for masks. It’s time for government to step in and order them to require masks as a condition of travel.

Update: Obviously, the Victorian outbreak has increased the urgency of this. The Rail,

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Shellenberger

July 6, 2020

Michael Shellenberger’s “apology essay” is the last gasp of “ecomodernism”

Although ecomodernists make a lot of claims, the only one that is distinctive is that nuclear power is the zero-carbon “baseload” energy source needed to replace coal, and that mainstream environmentalists have wrongly opposed it.

Historically, there is something to this. It would have been better to keep on building nuclear plants in the 1980s and 1990s than to switch from oil to coal, and it was silly for Germany to shut down nuclear power before coal

. But none of that is relevant anymore, at least in the developed world. Solar PV and wind, backed up storage are far cheaper than either nuclear or coal. As a result, there have been very few new coal or nuclear plants constructed in developed

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The Economic Consequences of the Pandemic

July 6, 2020

That’s the title of a book I’ve agreed to write for Yale University Press (their editorial director) Seth Ditchik commissioned my previous two books, Zombie Economics and Economics in Two Lessons when he was at Princeton UP.

When we first discussed the book, I took the view that most of the writing would have to be done after November, since the outcome of the US presidential election would be crucial to developments in the US and globally. I’m now working on the assumptions that(a) Biden will be the next president(b) he will have a workable majority in Congress.(c) mainstream Democrats recognise the need for radical change, and Biden will align with the mainstream position as he always has done

The first of these assumptions was problematic until recently, but seems safe

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Monday Message Board

July 5, 2020

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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Trumpism after Trump

June 29, 2020

Predicting election outcomes is always risky (for example, the People’s Action Party could lose the current election in Singapore), but life involves taking some risks. So I’m going to predict that Trump is going to lose in November, and lose badly*. He is far behind in the polls, substantially further than in 2016. More relevantly perhaps, the resurgence of the pandemic in Arizona, Florida and Texas has ended any chance that the economy will be successfully reopened and the pandemic clearly under control by November, not to mention giving the citizens of those states very personal reasons to vote against him.

What will happen to Trumpism after Trump’s defeat, in the US and globally? Here are some very disorganised thoughts.

A big part of Trump’s appeal is that he is a winner,

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Monday Message Board

June 29, 2020

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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If we could design JobKeeper within weeks …

June 27, 2020

… , we can exit coal by 2030. Here’s how to do it.

That’s the title of my recent article in The Conversation. It’s a summary of a report, titled Getting Off Coal: Orderly, Early Transition to Minimise Impact for Australian Economy which was published recently by The Australia Institute.
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STEM (from Twitter via spooler)

June 27, 2020

A striking thing about Tehan’s university reform. Conservatives hate science even more than humanities, & feeling is mutual. Every scientist I know loathes them. Polling says my colleagues are a good sample. Only 6 per cent of US scientists are Republicans (huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/only-six…)

Rightists like technological goodies, but even there they want to fight culture wars, against renewable energy for example. In this context, is there a non-racist version of the “cargo cult” trope? It would be applicable here.

Twitter thread here
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The simple but difficult physics of losing weight

June 25, 2020

Following up this CT post on health living,, everyone has their own story and their own health. That’s true, but we are all subject to the same physical laws. So, here’s my story and some thoughts on the physics.

I managed to lose about 12 Kg over a couple of years, almost entirely through exercise.

The basic physics is simple(1) weight loss = (kilojoules burnt – kilojoules consumed)*k,(2) kilojoules burnt = base metabolism + work done

where k ≃ 0.025 is a constant reflecting the rate at which your body converts kilojoules of food energy into kilograms of fat. If you can alter the right hand side of (1) through any combination of diet and exercise then you will lose weight.

The problem is that altering either of these, or even altering while holding the other constant is

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Monday Message Board

June 22, 2020

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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Post-pandemic, here’s the case for a participation income

June 19, 2020

That’s the headline for my latest piece in Inside Story.

Here’s the standfirst

For less than the cost of the Coalition’s Stage 3 tax cuts, Australians can be paid adequately to look for work or participate in socially useful activities
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Sandpit

June 18, 2020

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

To be clear, the sandpit is for regular commenters to pursue points that distract from regular discussion, including conspiracy-theoretic takes on the issues at hand. It’s not meant as a forum for visiting conspiracy theorists, or trolls posing as such.
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Mr Dooley, right again (crosspost from Crooked Timber)

June 17, 2020

The decision of the US Supreme Court, that the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was entirely predictable, based on the century old observation of the fictional Irish-American bartender Mr Dooley observed “The Soopreme Court follows the illiction returns.” As I said in 2018

At most, the court constitutes a veto point, able to block legislation that can be represented as violating constitutional protections. But most of the progressive agenda is clearly within the power of the legislature and executive. If the Democrats win the next few elections, the Roberts Court will be as much of a disappointment to its creators as the Warren Court in the 1960s

A decision restricting the interpretation of the Civil Rights Act would

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