Make no mistake we are witnessing a revolution in economics. Developments in market design are changing the way people interact in the presence of scarce resources and will undoubtably influence the way we think about economics. This is an economic revolution that has been directed by scholarly endeavours is being driven by the revolutionary zeal…(Read More)

Like most people highly-skilled professionals are lazy. They can’t help leaning on excuses in order to avoid completely thinking a problem through. While this tendency is arguably benign in a well-functioning private market—where somebody will in fact find it in their interests to consider a problem from all angles if it…(Read More)

The Monash Business Policy Forum has released its first two papers: The Agenda for the Review of National Competition Policy by myself Graeme Samuel and Chris Jose; and Principles for Australian infrastructure finance By Rod Maddock Also if you are in Melbourne this evening (Thursday November 14) Graeme and I will be presenting the paper…(Read More)

Are you a top economics honours or masters student in Australia interested in behavioural economics issues including field experiments the causes of happiness and the cultural barriers to peace and prosperity? Then read on. As part of an international research program into what makes regions and individuals prosperous and happy I am looking for Australian…(Read More)

Have a look at the beautiful graph below which depicts the main trends in Australian emissions and its promised emission reduction targets. Australia’s emissions trends 1990 to 2020 Note: trajectories to the 2020 target range are illustrative The dotted orange line shows the amount of greenhouse gas that Australia’s economy produces. It depicts…(Read More)

Given that this has reared its ugly head again here is a repost of a post from April 2013. The ANU’s Glenn Withers has a plan to securitise HECS debt. Professor Withers told the HES the main advantage would be that the government “gets the money now”. Rather than waiting for graduates to pay…(Read More)

What should Australia do about a slowly warming world? Join a small group of European countries who have more permits to sell than their own industry can manage to use? Join hands with a coalition of the desperate in enacting one of the front-runner geo-engineering solutions such as emitting tiny reflective particles high…(Read More)

Ahh Greg Hunt has got himself into a pickle by quoting Wikipedia on the causes of Australian bushfires. This amused me greatly and I wanted to write a post making even more fun of it. Sadly I did what I am not expected to do as a blogger and listened to the whole BBC interview…(Read More)

I remember the great bushfire in Canberra of 2003. I had only arrived with the family a week before and had just rented a nice house near the top of Mt Cook right in the path of an enormous bushfire that ended up destroying hundreds of homes. The heat of that day was immense: 40…(Read More)

Eugenics got a bad name after the second world war. It got associated with pseudo-scientific theories under which people at the bottom of the societal ladder were branded as hopelessly deficient for supposedly inalterable biological reasons. Societies’ less successful were quite literally seen as ‘untermensch’ (under-people) and the ‘science’ of heritable poverty height…(Read More)

For 14 months Australia has had an electronic national health register. It has almost nothing in it but the hope is that in years to come (when lots of people have registered) it will start to have all the information on someone’s health that floats around in the health industry. This includes discharge summaries…(Read More)

Is President Obama and his administration acting in a highly irresponsible manner in the current debt crisis in the US? At 8.30 am on Thursday 10 October we may get an answer to that question. At that time Jack Lew the US Treasury Secretary will begin testifying before the Senate Finance Committee. Secretary Lew…(Read More)

I was looking for evidence recently that tradies in Australia have become amongst the highest paid groups which would means a profound change in relative rewards in that it would mean that smart young men could then rationally choose not to bother with university but simply become a tradesman. Doing so I came across an…(Read More)

Boston and Wittenberg


There are aspects of the Tea Party movement that have some resemblance to the Protestant Reformation. Obviously the reformation is a turning point in human history whereas the Tea Party movement may turn out to be a historical blip but I think the comparison is illuminating. First there is the wish to return to founding…(Read More)

I don’t get it. Why would a failure to raise the US debt ceiling necessarily cause a default by the US Treasury? If I was unable to borrow any more money from my bank I wouldn’t then immediately go into bankruptcy. If my spending exceeded my income then I would need to earn…(Read More)

Barnaby Joyce has decided to support the sale of two northern territory cattle stations to Indonesian investors. According to the Australian this has led to claims of hypocrisy. My view is that it reflects a return to sanity. First foreign investment itself is not the ‘bad thing’ as it is sometimes portrayed in the popular…(Read More)

Re-published from Medium Malcolm Gladwell has a new book out entitled David and Goliath. It is about underdogs and is based on the classic David vs Goliath setting in which a shepherd David defeats a giant Goliath. I have yet to read the whole book — this isn’t a review — but in the very…(Read More)

Suppose you wanted to believe as I do that intelligence and vague ‘racial groups’ are on the whole unrelated from a long-run perspective. What would you then have to believe about genetics and IQ as well as the long-run effects of socio-economic circumstances on IQ to rationalise the overwhelming evidence that there…(Read More)

Coasian thinking


Ronald Coase passed away yesterday. In his 102 years he had an extraordinarily widespread impact on economics; especially its interactions with legal thinking. There is much discussion today about his contributions; in particular was the Coase Theorem really a theorem and the Coase conjecture ever proved. But in so many respects those discussions miss the…(Read More)

In previous elections I either gave a list of mistakes I wanted the next government to avoid or policies they could follow. Some of the mistakes I flagged in 2007 were indeed made and about half of a preferred policy was implemented no doubt entirely unrelated to my advice. In this election I want to…(Read More)

Boris Johnson the Mayor of London has been visiting Australia and wrote an opinion piece in the Telegraph about closer union between Australia and the UK. Johnson says “I don’t just mean that we once supplied them with the dregs of the Victorian penal system or that we have cricket and rugby in common…(Read More)

The other day I seem to have upset lots of people by claiming that fairness is a poor grounds for debate unlike productivity. My evidence for that was the question over whether the Coalition’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme was fair — Labor says it isn’t the Coalition (and Peter Martin) says it is and…(Read More)

Fairness is an awful word to use in debates. Scott Adams once called it the word that allows morons to participate in arguments. Children learn that one pretty early. But Labor started it by calling the Coalition’s Paid Parent Leave (PPL) scheme unfair. That scheme places a tax on business to pay for six…(Read More)

The tragic situation in Egypt is so complex and unpredictable that one can find many opinions on what various groups and people in Egypt should do but precious few predictions by ‘experts’ on what is actually going to happen. You can rest assured that whatever does actually happen will be seen as the ‘obvious’ way…(Read More)

As you may know over the last few years I have been arguing for a reduction in the price of common generic medications in Australia. Due to policy shortcomings Australia currently pays some of the highest prices in the world for many of its generic medications. For example a recent chapter of a CEDA report…(Read More)

With the next Australian election only a few weeks away now is a good time to say which economic micro and macro policies you think a next government can/should implement. Around and in between past elections I gave you my list of things to do and things not to do (see here and here…(Read More)

Hurt and truth


One of the more odd rules of social interaction is that the person in pain gets to own the truth and those without pain adjust. Think for instance about the words used to describe undesired traits that some people have to bear their whole life such as low intelligence or high BMI. As they are…(Read More)