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Knowlegable economic commentary still exists

I saw the latest Government Finance Statistics released by the ABS today just after I read the Financial Times where there was an article by former Cambridge Professor of Modern History, Peter Clarke entitled This is no time to throw away the crutches. There was a symbiosis in time. Then I read all the geeing up that is going on about rising manufacturing output in China and Japan and the News Limited themes that we have to get interest rates up sooner rather than later or the inflation genie will escape and I remembered the real world.

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Japan – up against the neo-liberal machine

I have been intrigued with Japan for many years. It probably started with the post-war hostility towards them by the soldiers who saw the worst of them. The Anzac tradition was very unkind to Japan and its modern generations. It always puzzled me how we could hate them so much yet rely on them for our Post-World War II boom. I also thought we owed them something for being part of the political axis that dropped the first and only nuclear weapon on defenceless citizens when the war was over anyway. Whatever, I have long studied the nation and its economy. So yesterday’s election outcome certainly exercises the mind. Will it be a paradigm shift or a frustrating period where an ostensibly social democratic government runs up against the neo-liberal machine? I put these thoughts together about while travelling to and from Sydney on the train today.

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The natural rate of interest is zero!

The media is increasingly reporting that the RBA will hike interest rates by the end of 2009. I consider this to be a nonsensical suggestion given that unemployment and underemployment will still be rising and it is unclear whether employment growth will be anything than near zero at that time. From a theoretical perspective, at the root of all the conjecture, whether the journalists actually realise it or not, is a concept called the “neutral rate of interest”, which is just another neo-liberal smokescreen. That is what this blog is about.

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How do labour markets react to capacity utilisation changes?

As part of some research I am doing for a book that will come out next year on the dynamics of recessions I have been looking at asymmetries in the response of the labour market to changing economic activity. The analysis has produced some very interesting set of graphs that inform us, very starkly, how recessions damage the labour market. They also reveal why I am at present dubbing the current downturn the underemployment recession.

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Fed Reserve about to take over New York Times!

Strange events come together sometimes. One was the continuing railing against the ABC, our national broadcaster by the failed former federal treasurer. He somehow thinks the national broadcaster continues to display left-wing bias. The other event was an astonishing interview on a popular national ABC program where the content was about as far away from the sort of thing the failed former treasurer was railing against. The ABC program interview will have New Yorkers marching in the streets to defend the buildings of their famous newspaper. Here is how the events unfolded.

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It is good they are not in Treasury any more!

In today’s Australian newspaper ex Federal Treasury official Tony Makin writes that We keep repeating Keynes’s mistakes. Do we now? The story is a litany of half-truths and basic conceptual errors. He is now a professor of economics. Bad luck for his students. The article, one of a regular contribution he makes to the increasingly squawking right-wing News Limited daily, is a classic example of how to deceive the public with spurious economic reasoning – that the author knows most of the public will just accept without question.

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When leading economists become part of the problem

In yesterday’s (August 23 2009) Financial Times, so-called financial markets expert Nouriel Roubini wrote that The risk of a double-dip recession is rising. The American academic was recently in Australia as a speaker at the Diggers & Dealers Forum which is an annual mining conference. The problem is that Roubini is an influential advisor to the US Government and so will have a hand in determining the direction of fiscal policy. He continually demonstrates, however, that he does not understand how the fiat monetary system operates and in that context becomes part of the problem.

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More fiscal stimulus – what shape recovery?

There is a lot of speculation in the financial press about the shape and timing of the recovery. As one article implied there is a veritable alphabet soup out there. Tied in with this speculation is the disagreement about whether governments have provided enough fiscal stimulus. The conservatives are mounting a vigorous campaign to choke off any more fiscal expansion. However, given how poorly the labour markets are functioning and the fact that they trail behind the output side of the economy by some quarters, there is a strong case to be made for more fiscal stimulus to be applied. I definitely see this as being required in Australia – a third package aimed directly at employment rather than consumption. Not many will agree with me though.

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A baby-sitting economy …

Someone wrote to me today and said they had been reading Paul Krugman’s 1999 book Peddling Prosperity, where he presents the now-famous baby-sitting model. You can read a shortened version of the model HERE. The reader asked me whether the model had any relevance to modern monetary theory. The short answer: yes but not necessarily in the way Krugman thinks (he is still locked into gold standard thinking).

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