Sometimes everything comes together in unintended ways. That has happened to me this week. I am moving office tomorrow, and I am also moving home, and if that wasn’t enough, I received a call from a union I help out with advice who wanted some urgent work done. The major employer had presented a sort of ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ offer that if accepted would see the workers more than 8 per cent worse off in real terms at the end of the 4-year agreement than they were when they last had their pay adjusted. This sort of offer – at a time the RBA is claiming the labour market is incredibly tight just beggars belief. Anyway, the point is that I have very little time this week for blog posting. Some years ago I read a research report that demonstrated that standard economics programs at our universities breed people with sociopathological tendencies who elevate greed above empathy. There is clearly some self-selection bias because the studies have never really isolated the impacts of the teaching programs from the tendencies of the students going into the programs. But as one who has been through the mill from go to woah (PhD) the standard mainstream curriculum is pretty grim and most students in my years just went along with it. I was thinking about this when I read a Discussion Paper (No. 1938, July 2023) from the Centre for Economic Performance at LSE entitled – Are the upwardly mobile more left-wing?. After I had read that paper, I noticed a UK Guardian article (August 6, 2023) which carried the headline – Are richer people really more rightwing? – which discussed the LSE research and I thought that was a curious perversion of the original title.
Today, I am Perth giving a keynote presentation to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) 2023 Congress. My talk is titled – Why fiscal fictions lead to inferior health policy outcomes. Given the travel time to the other side of the world (the continent at least) – us East Coasters get restless when we have to come here – and my commitments at the Congress, I haven’t time to produce a post. So today, thanks to our regular guest blogger Professor Scott Baum from Griffith University who has been one of my regular research colleagues over a long period of time, we have a discussion about fiscal fictions and higher education policy, which is a very nice dovetail to the theme of today. Today he is specifically going to talk about the current concerns about student debt in Australia. Over to Scott …
It is Wednesday and I have been busy on other writing projects. But today I offer some data analysis on the Greek fire tragedy as well as a short video promoting a very important festival that is coming up. Then I offer some personal insights on the accusation by the right-wing press that on-line learning is just a ruse for lazy “work-shy” professors. And to calm us after all that – we have some fine jazz from 1960.
It is Wednesday and I am now unable to get home to Melbourne as a result of the border closure between Victoria and NSW. That closure is the result of the incompetence of the conservative NSW government who thought they could beat the Delta variant of COVID and leave Sydney open for business. They have now learned that their claim to be the world’s best virus containing government were hubris and so regional NSW is also suffering, what will be a very long lockdown. Victoria has sensibly closed its border as have the other states to NSW, which now is an isolated, pariah state. Pity the NSW Labor opposition is so weak. Anyway, today is a few snippets about the British Labour party being so weak, some reflections on monetary sovereignty, and a note that the barbarians are trying to kill off social sciences in our universities. Then some happiness via some great bass playing.
It is Wednesday and so a few snippets and some Afrobeat. Today, I briefly discuss a rather extraordinary claim by the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia that Australian employers refuse to pay higher wages in an environment where the federal government is biases aggregate policy towards surplus creation, even though that strategy was temporarily disabled during the first year of the pandemic. The overall austerity environment has distorted business decision-making to such an extent that firms are now obsessed with cost control and have forgotten that spending equals income and by encouraging a high wage, high productivity culture, their profits rise as well. Win-Win. At present it is lose-lose.
When the conservative fight back against the social democratic era following the Second World War began in earnest with the publication of the Powell Manifesto on August 23, 1971. The US Chamber of Commerce commissioned lawyer, Lewis Powell, to craft a strategy to restore the dominant position of corporate America, which had felt diminished by the gains made by workers and citizens from social democratic policies. The memo was published as the – Attack on American Free Enterprise System. The agenda spelt out by Powell in the memo was wide-ranging and was subsequently implemented with spectacular success. It formed the basis of the neoliberal thrust against the gains made by workers and citizens, in general during the full employment era, which was supplemented by the welfare state of varying coverage and generosity depending on which country we consider. The Powell memo aimed to ensure that corporate interests were dominant in public decision making. The blue print developed by Powell is continually recycled and developments during this pandemic are no different.
It is Wednesday and despite being on the other side of the Planet than usual (in Helsinki at present) I am still not intending to write a detailed blog post today. I am quite busy here – teaching MMT to graduate students and other things. But I wanted to follow up on a few details I didn’t have time to write about yesterday concerning the role that NAIRU estimates play in maintaining the ideological dominance of neoliberalism. And some more details about the Textbook launch in London on Friday, and then some beautiful music, as is my practice (these days) on Wednesdays. As you will see, my ‘short’ blog post didn’t quite turn out that way. Such is the tendency of an inveterate writer.
Regular readers will know that I place great value in the disciplines we broadly describe as the Humanities. An understanding of knowledge that history, language, philosophy, geography, politics, sociology, anthropology, music, drama, classical studies and the like is essential if we are to advance societies and avoid the mindless descent into tribalism and authoritarianism. Last month, two things were revealed. First, the Federal Minister for Education vetoed successful grant applications for funding under the Australian Research Council processes, effectively politicising the process. He took exception to the topics. His decision was only revealed months later through interrogations during a Senate Estimates hearing. Second, an Australian university released a research report it had commissioned – The Value of the Humanities – which sought to articulate “the value of the Humanities to students thinking about their education and career options and to businesses faced with hiring choices”. It shows the immense value that teaching and research in the Humanities brings to employers, individuals and society in general. It makes the Federal minister look like a fool, although that was not its intent. A fool and one who is deeply insecure about allowing knowledge to proliferate. The latter is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime.
Its my Friday lay day blog where I just wander around in the time I allocate to writing this blog. The venality of neo-liberal governments is never far from the surface. The more successful ones manage to mostly hide the nasty stuff they get up to from the general public or assuage public concern via their spin doctors. Sometimes, an outrageous decision breaks out of the cocoon of spin and demonstrates the sheer bastardry of the political elites. That happened in Australia over the last week when it was announced that the Australian government was providing $A4 million to the University of Western Australia to set up a new think tank under the influence of a Dane Bjørn Lomborg – who has been described as a “sceptical environmentalist” (Source). Our Prime Minister has favourably quoted Lomborg’s work in his own work and is the Australian leader who abandoned the carbon tax and thinks continued use of “coal is good for humanity” (Source).
There was an interesting article this morning in the Fairfax press (September 29, 2014) – OECD figures show public benefits more than individuals from tertiary education – which used the recently released – Education at a Glance 2014 – to compare private and public (social) returns from tertiary education. The results are that private net returns outweigh social returns in the majority of nations but not for the UK, Australia, Japan and Korea. The results have implications for the debate about who should fund tertiary education – the private individuals (or families) of those undertaking it or the government. They also highlight that one should be somewhat protean in outlook and avoid falling into Groupthink.