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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

Another High Court disaster, coming up ?

2 days ago

Unsurprisingly, the rejection of Cardinal Pell’s appeal against his conviction for sexual abuse has led to the expectation that the case will go to the High Court. As far as I can tell, there are quite a few bad reasons for the High Court to take the case, but no good ones.

The bad reasons (all related to each other) are

Cardinal Pell is an important personHe is strongly backed by other important peopleThere is a lot of public interest in the caseWhat is missing is any legal issue raised by Pell’s conviction. The Appeal Court unanimously rejected suggestions that the trial judge made errors in his directions. The central remaining issue is whether the victim’s evidence was sufficiently credible to make it open to a jury to bring in a guilty verdict or whether the evidence of

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Cutting the financial sector down to size

5 days ago

That’s the provisional title I used for my latest piece in Inside Story. Peter Browne, the editor, gave it the longer and clearer title “Want to reduce the power of the finance sector? Start by looking at climate change”.

The central idea is a comparison between the process of decarbonizing the world economy and that of definancialising it, by reducing the power and influence of the financial sector. Both seemed almomst impossible only a decade ago, but the first is now well under way.

There’s also an analogy between the favored economists’ approach in both cases: reliance on price based measures such as carbon taxes and Tobin taxes. Despite the theoretical appeal of such measures, it looks as if regulation will end up doing much of the heavy work.
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Sandpit

5 days ago

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

5 days ago

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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Economics in Two Lessons, reviewed

6 days ago

A couple of reviews of Economics in Two Lessons have come out, from opposite ends of the political spectrum. The more interesting is Max Sawicky’s in Jacobin.

Sawicky does a great job in summarising the key ideas in the book. His is probably the best review so far for non-economists to get an understanding of the main themes.

Given the Jacobin audience, the key question is “Why should a socialist read a book about markets?” As Sawicky observes, the answer is easy for socialists in the Bernie Sanders mould – I share their views, a fact that is obvious to readers of this blog.

More generally

Quiggin’s deconstruction of Hazlitt’s “Lesson One” provides a lesson in “know your enemy” for anyone left of center. If your only instruction in economics was a principles course,

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Give children the vote

7 days ago

Looking at the array of ignorant and vindictive old men attacking Greta Thunberg and other young climate activists, the case for lowering the voting age is just about unanswerable. Anything that could be urged in justification of stopping 16 year olds, as a group, from voting, is equally applicable to those over 60 (a group to which I belong). Over 60 voters are, on average, poorly educated (the school leaving age in Australia was 15 when they went through and I assume similar in most places), and more likely to hold a wide range of false beliefs (notably in relation to climate change).

Worse, as voters the over 60s have ceased to act, if they ever did, as wise elders seeking the best for the future. Rather (on average) they vote in a frivolous and irresponsible way,

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Adani beware: coal is on the road to becoming completely uninsurable

9 days ago

That’s the headline for my latest piece in The Conversation. Although I use Adani as a convenient example, it’s about the bigger issue of whether insurers will flee from the potential litigation liability of insuring fossil fuel producers. Of these, thermal coal miners and generators are the most vulnerable because they are already marginal in economic terms.
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Monday Message Board

12 days ago

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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Hard cases make bad laws. Bad judges make them worse

16 days ago

Another day, another disastrous and anti-democratic decision from the High Court. The Court has already disqualified a large proportion (perhaps a majority) of Australians from standing for Parliament. It has now excluded a huge group from any participation in our democracy, beyond the bare right to vote.

The case in question concerned a public servant, employed in the Immigration Department, who criticised the department under a pseudonym (which proved inadequate to conceal her identity). This was obviously problematic: anyone who directly criticises the policies they are paid to implement creates concern about their ability to do their job properly.

So, the Court could easily have found against the employee in a narrowly drawn judgement that simply applied standard

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Are SMRs vaporware

16 days ago

It seems as if nuclear fans in Australia have given up on conventional Generation III/III+ reactors such as the Westinghouse AP1000 and Areva EPR: unsurprising in view of the massive cost overruns and delays experienced in attempts to construct them.

They’ve also gone quiet on the prospect of more advanced “Generation IV” reactors. Again that’s unsurprising. Most of the leading research projects in this field have been abandoned or deferred past 2030, even for prototypes.

The great hope now is for Small Modular Reactors, which will, it is hoped, be assembled on site from parts built in factories. The idea is that the savings in construction will offset the loss of the scale economies inherent in having a larger reactor (arising ultimately from the fact that the volume of a

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Rethinking nuclear

19 days ago

Apparently, in order to placate Barnaby Joyce and others, there will be a Parliamentary inquiry into nuclear power. I was thinking of putting a boring submission restating all the reasons why nuclear power will never happen in Australia, but that seemed pretty pointless.

Given that the entire exercise is founded in fantasy, I’m thinking it would be better to suspend disbelief and ask what we need if nuclear power is to have a chance here. The answer is in two parts:

Repeal the existing ban on nuclear powerImpose a carbon price high enough to make new nuclear power cheaper than existing coal (and, ideally gas) fired power stations

My initial estimate, based on the Hinkley C contract in the UK (price of $A160/MWh) is that the required price is at least $100/tonne of CO2.

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Monday Message Board

19 days ago

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

19 days ago

A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.
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How do student evaluations survive?

20 days ago

Among the few replicable findings from research on higher education, one of the most notable is that student evaluations of teaching are both useless as measures of the extent to which students have learned anything and systematically biased against women and people of color. As this story says, reliance on these measures could lead to lawsuits.

But why hasn’t this already happened. The facts have been known for years, and potential cases arise every time these evaluations are used in hiring or promotion: arguably every time the data is collected. And student evaluations are particularly popular in the US, where litigation is the national sport. Yet no lawsuits have yet taken place AFAICT.

Maybe the zeitgeist is changing. I was going to write this post before seeing the

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Cheap at twice the price

24 days ago

One of the vanished joys of academic life is the experience, after publishing an article, of getting a bundle of 25 or 50 reprints in the mail, to be distributed to friends and colleagues, or mailed out in response to requests from faraway places (if you live in Australia, everywhere is faraway), often coming on little postcards. Everything is much more efficient nowadays, and I just finished throwing away my remaining collection of reprints. But now, an electronic ghost of the reprint has come to visit.

Earlier this year, I contributed an article to a special issue of Globalizations on “The diffusion of public private partnerships: a world systems analysis”. This is a fair way outside my usual academic area of expertise, a fact which may be apparent to readers who know more

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Monday Message Board

26 days ago

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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Mesmerised by Messmer

26 days ago

Faced with glaring evidence of delays and cost blowouts, advocates of nuclear power invariably fall back on the same argument: France did it in the 1970s, why can’t we? An obvious riposte is that France can’t do it any more, as shown by the Flamanville fiasco. A more reasonable answer, which I put forward some years ago, is that the 1970s program depended on characteristics of the French state at the time: centralised, technocratic and with complete control of the energy sector. Those characteristics can’t be replicated today – the state doesn’t have the same power to ignore public opinion or to direct investment.

In writing this, I wasn’t aware of the details of the French experience, which make the point even more clearly. The French nuclear expansion began with the

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Economics in Two Lessons, by Captain Haddock?

27 days ago

Last week, I did a couple of events in Melbourne for Economics in Two Lessons. One was at Readings in Hawthorn, where my old friend and colleague Al Watson kindly introduced me. The other was at the University of Melbourne, organized by the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, of which I’ve been a member for 40 years now.

Max Corden, Australia’s greatest living economist, was going to give the talk there, but was unfortunately taken ill. Another old friend and occasional collaborator, Nicholas Gruen stepped in and, among many other reminiscences, mentioned by (long ago now) resemblance to Captain Haddock, friend of the cartoon hero Tintin.

You can read the full talk at Club Troppo or in the more elegant venue of The Mandarin.
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Monday Message Board

July 22, 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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The R word, fifteen years on

July 20, 2019

Back in 2004, I wrote that

There is only one real instance of political correctness in Australia today and that is that you are never, ever allowed to call anyone a racist. It’s OK to say that Adolf Hitler was a racist, and that apartheid was racist, but the idea that any actual Australian could be a racist is utterly taboo.

Of course, the same was true in the US. But after two and a half years of an openly racist Trump Presidency in the US, the taboo seems finally to be open to challenge. Opinion writers and individual Democratic politicians have been calling out Trump’s racism for some time, but news reports have stuck with lame euphemisms like “racially charged”, or saying that “critics have called it racist”

In the wake of the House resolution condemning Trump latest

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Movers and stayers

July 18, 2019

A lot of discussion of immigration is framed around the distinction between movers and stayers. Until recently, most of what I’ve seen has framed “stayers” as those who see their economic interests as being threatened by competition from immigrants. To protect themselves, they want to restrict immigration, even if the consequence is to restrict the opportunities for “movers” from their own country. The harm to these “movers-out” is just collateral damage

But lately I’ve been seeing a different account, in which it’s the departure of the movers-out that is causing problems by reducing the supply of workers to provide services to, and pay taxes to support, the stayers (particularly, the old). In economic terms, the obvious solution would be to replace the movers-out with movers-in,

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It’s come to this

July 18, 2019

To say I’m depressed about the current state of Australian politics would be an understatement. But of all the things that depress me, the possibility of a section 44 case against Josh Frydenberg is the most gratuitously awful. If someone had said, ten years ago, that the Australian-born son of a Jewish refugee was ineligible to stand for Parliament because he had failed to secure necessary documents from the neo-fascist government that currently rules Hungary, they would have been laughed at, and rightly so.

Yet, that appears to be the state of the law, as rendered by our appalling High Court. I don’t what I find worst about this. Is it:

The gratuitous silliness of the specific rulings in s44 cases ?The absurdity of legal literalism, particularly in the context of

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Adani’s silent partners

July 15, 2019

A month after Adani got the final approvals for its Carmichael mine, it’s still hard to work out what’s going on with Adani and the Galilee Basin in general. Adani has been making a fair bit of noise, but the project still seems to consist of tree clearing and road building.

To get past this stage, and without significant in-house experience of major projects, Adani needs partners: engineering design firms, construction contractors, and so on. And even if no external funding is needed, the project still needs insurance, which is getting harder to come by.

Adani claims it has insurance lined up, but declines to say which firm is providing it. Assuming the claim is true, the obvious explanation is that the insurer is worried about reputational damage from being associated with

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Sandpit

July 15, 2019

A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.
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Book launch in Melbourne (please plug!)

July 15, 2019

The Melbourne launch for Economics in Two Lessons, will be at Readings Hawthorn Wednesday 17 July and also at University House, Melbourne Uni, 4-6 pm Friday 19 July. Free, no booking required.

It looks as if there have been some problems with the publicity, so if anyone can share this with Melbourne friends likely to be interested, I’d be very grateful.
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Monday Message Board

July 15, 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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The three party system after the election

July 13, 2019

I’ve been writing for a while about the global emergence of a three party system, consisting of (a) the Trumpist right, (b) a green-socialist-social democratic left and (c) the remains of the former consensus between hard and soft versions of neoliberalism. How does this analysis look after the Federal election and Labor’s defeat?

The first point to observe is the crucial role of essentially random shocks. As with Trump and Brexit, we’d be having a very different discussion if Labor had managed a couple of percentage points more. But that didn’t happen, and Labor’s shock at the result has turned into a complete collapse.

Second, it briefly appeared that Morrison might make a break with Trumpism and try to regain the centre ground. The most notable move in this direction

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Book launch in Melbourne

July 10, 2019

The Melbourne launch for Economics in Two Lessons, will be at Readings Hawthorn Wednesday 17 July and also at University House, Melbourne Uni, 4-6 pm Friday 19 July.
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Irregular email update

July 10, 2019

Here’s my email update. Sign up if you’d like to get it delivered to your mailboxHi all,It’s been quite a while since my last email news, which I sent out before the May election.  Following Labor’s loss, I resolved to avoid commentary on political strategy or day-to-day politics, and to spend more time thinking about global and long term issues, such as climate change and the global choice between socialist and Trumpist futures.I’ve mostly stuck to that resolve discussed the topic. I did a radio debate with conservative US commentator Joshua Muravchik, on the topic Is socialism still relevant in 2019?  and wrote articles about the need to face up to climate change sooner or later and Libra, the new Facebook cryptocurrencyThe Brisbane launch for Economics in Two Lessons was at

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