Author Archives: Geoff

Real Economies, Faux Economics and the Destruction of Universities

[No taker for this yet. The number of outlets for seriously non-mainstream thinking seems to be shrinking.]

This year’s Nobel prize in economics spotlights a core deficiency in mainstream ‘neoclassical’ economics, one of many. It is pseudo-science. It needs to be banished from government, universities and our thinking. Defensible alternatives are available, but marginalised.

The prize was awarded for showing that higher pay can increase employment. This is a direct contradiction of the simplistic ‘law’ of supply and demand, a core concept of the dominant ‘neoclassical’ school of economics.

Supposedly, if the price of cabbages increases then fewer cabbages will be purchased. Similarly, if the price of hiring someone goes up, then fewer people will be hired. Well, not always.

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A Parliament of Subversives and Traitors

[Published at Independent Australia 6 Oct as ‘AUKUS nothing more than a re-election stunt’. A more petty and partisan headline than mine. Oh well.]

Only once has Australia been actually threatened with military invasion, and the bellicosity of an Australian Prime Minister played a significant part in bringing on that threat. Now another Prime Minister’s provocations will put us in harm’s way again. Whose interests are served by such blind animosities?

At the 1919 Paris peace conference Australian PM Billy Hughes argued loudly against a Japanese proposal to insert an anti-racism clause into the charter of the League of Nations. Its rejection ensured the League would be a white man’s club, which suited the European powers whose dirty work Hughes was unwittingly doing. Humiliated, the Japanese declined membership of the League and began to prepare for war.

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You can’t argue with deniers, just throw them out

[Published by Canberra Times 24 Aug.]

Zali Steggal OAM, Independent MP for Warringah

You can’t argue with climate deniers, they have a never-ending supply of excuses. You won’t persuade the Coalition, the mining industry has hijacked it. Labor is too scared and too compromised to do what is needed. That is why your greatest power is your vote.

If you usually vote for one of the old parties, you need to change your vote. Find a candidate who rates global warming a top priority, who will stop the huge annual fossil fuel subsidies and switch them to renewables, who will disallow any new carbon extraction projects, and who will release the brakes on a rapid phase out of fossil fuels, supporting the workers as we go.

That candidate might be an Independent or with a minor party. If your response is ‘Oh I could never vote for them’, think about that.

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Is Bruce Pascoe’s ‘Dark Emu’ dead?

[Just published in the Canberra Times($), with a few editorial liberties.]

Bruce Pascoe’s popular book Dark Emu argues that First Australians lived complex lifestyles that included durable dwellings and cultivation of food and that they were far from the old ‘primitive nomad’ label.

However a new book, Farmers or Hunter Gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate by Peter Sutton and Keryn Walshe, is severely critical of Dark Emu, claiming it is riddled with errors, is derogatory towards hunter-gatherers, neglects the spiritual side of First Australians’ lives and pushes antiquated ideas of ‘progress’. Several historian reviewers seem to agree the new book ‘demolishes’ Dark Emu.

Paul Barry, of the ABC’s Media Watch, lamented that he and many people accepted Pascoe’s claims too uncritically, yet now they seem to be accepting the new book’s claims just as uncritically.

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Dark Ostrich: the attack on Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu

[Just published at Pearls & Irritations.]

Academics generally do not like outsiders trampling through their patch. Angry people are prone to missing irony. Semantics can be tricky when translating between very different cultures. These three factors seem to explain a fair bit of the vehement critique of Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu in the new book Farmers or Hunter-gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate, by Peter Sutton and Keryn Walshe.

As an academic who has done a bit of trampling in others’ patches myself, I recognise some common defensive responses. ‘That’s not original, we’ve known that for decades.’ ‘You haven’t cited all my favourite sources.’ ‘You didn’t investigate this or that possibility.’ Yet sometimes an outsider can bring a fresh and stimulating perspective that carries some significant truth, even if it has its flaws, and certainly an outsider can be accorded some basic respect.

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It’s time – for another Labor split

[Published yesterday at Independent Australia. Meant to be provocative, and it seems to have worked on that site. Don’t know if it will get any wider circulation.]

Andrew Fisher, three times PM, and a proper Labor leader.

This time the split would be for the benefit of workers and progressives, rather than betraying them. Labor’s long-standing small-target, Coalition-lite strategy is a clear failure, and fails the country. As Labor shows no sign of changing, any members with a shred of integrity should quit.

The previous three Labor splits featured desertions to the conservative side of politics: Billy Hughes, Joe Lyons and the Democratic Labor Party. That can’t happen now because Federal Labor as a whole deserted to the neoliberal side in 1983.

The result has been accumulating disasters, but neoliberalism still promises to deliver worse: an ever-feebler economy along with the full-on police state and climate catastrophe, unless and until neoliberalism is fully repudiated. There is no prospect of that repudiation without a fundamental re-alignment of power, and votes. Continue reading

What does Gallipoli mean to us, and who says?

[First published in BWD magazine, autumn 2021, Braidwood NSW.]

The word Gallipoli evokes one of our most potent cultural stories, but in truth it is not one story but many. There are stories of sacrifice and national identity, but there are also stories of folly and destruction, and stories overlooked. We all, presumably, want to honour the fallen but there are those who, wittingly or otherwise, exploit the stories for other purposes. Can we have a conversation about these stories? Can we talk about which stories to keep, whether some might be corrected or discarded and others picked up? Continue reading

A modest proposal for generating useful analyses of economies

[Published in Real World Economic Review #95, Davies, Geoff (2021) “A modest proposal for generating useful analyses of economies: a brief note.” real-world economics review, issue no. 95, 22 March, pp. 118-123, http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue95/Davies95.pdf. Some other comments are at https://rwer.wordpress.com/comments-on-rwer-issue-no-95/ and https://rwer.wordpress.com/2021/03/25/a-modest-proposal-for-generating-useful-analyses-of-economies/.

This is written for ‘heterodox’ economists, those who recognise mainstream (neoclassical) economics is nonsense, but who seem to flounder around not knowing what to do instead. It is a little more technical than my usual posts, but the message does not depend on the details.]

I propose that economists leave philosophy alone for a while and instead try analysing some actual economic observations.

I have observed much discussion among heterodox economists about what science comprises, whether one could do “scientific” economics, and what ontology, epistemology, etc, etc, might be involved. If, for example, economies are historically contingent, how could one hope to do a rigorous analysis. I have also observed much concern about the complications of people and societies and the resulting alleged need for elaborate statistical analyses to extract an object of interest, followed by the construction of an elaborate mathematical model that includes many nuances of human behaviour.

I think the challenge is not nearly so daunting. An economic analysis does not have to emulate the precision of (some) laboratory physics to be useful. It does not have to yield a literal prediction. If one steps out of the equilibrium mindset of the neoclassical mainstream one can find obvious phenomena crying out for explanation, a financial market crash for example.

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Forget empire and swaggies, we need an anthem for all of us

Provoked by piss-weak, one-word Scotty and feisty Julian ‘Matilda’ Cribb, I offer my anthem words that come from a rather different place.

[Published at Pearls & Irritations.]

I was inspired by an early episode of Redfern Now, the one in which the scholarship kid at the posh school refuses to sing the AAF words because they insult his people. There are so many things wrong with those words. You can go through and pick at ‘boundless plains’ and ‘girt’, but for me it’s the whole tone and package.

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Cost, value and the society we might have

[This was drafted around the time of the delayed budget in October 2020. Too much was happening and I suppose the world moved on before I could submit it anywhere.]

The budget frenzy does not just highlight the familiar, toxic social and political priorities of this Government and much of the Parliament, it prompts deeper probing into common assumptions, perceptions and framing. What kind of society is desirable? What kind of society is feasible? How could we create it?

The budget is an opportunity to spell out, again, how misguided are some standard economic precepts. It reveals how profoundly awry are our conception of an economy and a society, our operating assumptions on human nature and our place in the world, and the aspirations we fall miserably short of.

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