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John Quiggin

Shibboleths (repost from 2011)

by John Quiggin on June 14, 2018

Reading the latest post from John H, I was reminded of this one from 2011, about when the baton was being passed from Palin to Trump. A few thoughts on this

  • Agreeing with Corey’s take, there’s very little in Trump’s consistent denial of reality that wasn’t evident back in 2011. Trump’s change has been to make obvious what could previously be ignored
  • The eagerness with which virtually all Republicans (including Republican-voting “independents”) have embraced Trump refutes my suggestion that they will ultimately be turned off by this stuff
  • It’s striking that around the same time, Jonathan Haidt was getting lots of praise for The Righteous Mind. By taking conservatives’ self-descriptions as accurate, and ignoring evidence like the prevalence of birtherism, Haidt concluded that liberals had a caricatured view of conservatives, and their values of “Loyalty, Authority and Sanctity”. Now, it’s obvious that, for practical purposes, the caricature is the reality.

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The release of the trustees reports for Social Security and Medicare has produced the usual crop of alarmist articles, though with more pushback than in the days when the political class was united around the idea of a “grand bargain”. So, I thought I’d repost this piece from 2014.

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Economics in Two Lessons, Chapter 11

by John Quiggin on June 6, 2018

Thanks to everyone who commented on the first ten chapters of my book-in-progress, Economics in Two Lessons.

Here’s a draft of Chapter 11: Market failure: Information, uncertainty and financial markets
. Comments, criticism and praise are welcome.

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Yet more on the generation game

by John Quiggin on June 5, 2018

Following my critique of generational cliches in the New York Times a while back, I was invited to talk to public radio program Innovation Hub. Here’s the link. If you couldn’t get past the NYT paywall, this gives a pretty good idea of my argument.

Percentiles (repost from 2011)

by John Quiggin on June 3, 2018

I’m reposting this piece from 2011, as a prebuttal of arguments like this. I give a bit more detail here.

One of the most striking successes of the Occupy Wall Street movement has been the “We are the 99 per cent” idea, and more specifically in the identification of the top 1 per cent as the primary source of economic problems.

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The South China Sea: Reposts

by John Quiggin on May 24, 2018

That’s partly because I’m trying really hard to focus on finishing my Two Lessons book, but also because so many of the debates that come up have been had many times before, and I don’t feel like repeating myself. So, I’m going to try reposting older material. The risk is that it will be out of date, but on an early sample, it’s surprising how little I would change if I were rewriting.

I’m going to start with the current topic of hyperventilation in the Australian media: China and the South China Sea

Here are a couple of posts

Feel free to comment, but, unless you have something new to say, try not to reopen topics that have already been done to death in the comments on earlier posts.

Economics in Two Lessons, Chapter 10

by John Quiggin on May 16, 2018

Thanks to everyone who commented on the first nine chapters of my book-in-progress, Economics in Two Lessons.

Here’s a draft of Chapter 10: Market failure -Externalities and pollution. Comments, criticism and praise are welcome.

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Marxism without revolution: repost

by John Quiggin on May 8, 2018

It was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx a couple of days ago. I planned to repost my series from 2011 on “Marxism without Revolution”, but didn’t get to it. I was reminded when Matt Yglesias mentioned it on Twitter, so here it is, in three parts.


GMI + JG = paid work as a choice for all

by John Quiggin on April 23, 2018

I’ve been arguing for a while that a Guarantee Minimum Income (or Universal Basic Income) ought to be combined with a Jobs Guarantee to would make paid work a genuine choice for everyone. To spell this out, the GMI/UBI would make it possible to live decently without paid work, while a Jobs Guarantee would ensure that paid work was available to everyone. As a medium term policy, the best form of GMI would, I think, be the participation income advocated by the late Tony Atkinson. That is, a payment conditional on some form of social contribution, including voluntary work, study and childcare. Support for such a policy entails a direct confrontation with the punitive attitudes behind policies like Work for the Dole, while still maintaining the widely-held principle of reciprocity.

I was going to write more about this, but I just received an article by Felix FitzRoy and Jim Jin, in the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice which presents the argument very well. So, I’ll just recommend that to anyone interested in the issue.

What’s in a name?

by John Quiggin on April 21, 2018

Daniel once quipped that political views among the Crooked Timber team span the gamut: from social democrat to democratic socialist. Having spent the past fifteen years wearing the “social democrat” label, I’ve now made the shift to “socialist and democrat”. I’ve talked a bit about my reasons at my blog, and there’s been an interesting discussion there. Readers are welcome to join in there or discuss here, as you please.

Economics in Two Lessons, Chapter 9

by John Quiggin on April 19, 2018

Thanks to everyone who the first eight chapters of my book-in-progress, Economics in Two Lessons. I’ve found the comments on Chapter 8 valuable, but haven’t yet found time to edit in response to them. Soon, I hope!

In the meantime, I’ve posted a draft of Chapter 9: Market Failure. Comments, criticism and praise are welcome.

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Blowing stuff up

by John Quiggin on April 15, 2018

A while ago, I had a multi-topic post covering some things I hoped to expand on. One of them was this

Blowing things and people up is seen as a demonstration of clarity and resolve, unless someone is doing it to us, in which case it’s correctly recognised as cowardly and evil. The most striking recent example (on “our” side) was the instant and near-universal approval of Trump’s bombing of an airfield in Syria, which had no effect at all on events there.

We’ve now had another round of bombing from Trump, and yet more instant applause. As I reread the para above, and looked at evidence on the general ineffectiveness of airstrikes, it struck me that there is a big asymmetry. The satisfaction we get when our side blows something or someone up is trivial in comparison to the hatred generated when we are on the receiving end. In most cases, the people and resources mobilised against the bomber far outweigh the physical destruction the bomber can inflict. Here’s a study (paywalled, but the abstract is clear) making that point about Vietnam; it seems to be entirely general.

I’ve talked here about large-scale aerial bombing, but all of these points apply with equal force to bombing campaigns undertaken on the ground by non-state actors, going back to the “propaganda of the deed” in the 19th century. Experience has shown that deeds like bombings and assassinations make great propaganda, but not for the side that carries them out.

Hackery or heresy

by John Quiggin on April 9, 2018

Henry’s recent post on the irrelevance of conservative intellectuals reminded me of this one from 2013, which concluded

Conservative reform of the Republican party is a project that has already failed. The only question is whether the remaining participants will choose hackery or heresy.
Overwhelmingly, the choice has been hackery (or, a little more honorably, silence).

The case for hackery is put most clearly by Henry Olsen. Starting from the evident fact that most Republican voters are white nationalists who don’t care about small government, Olsen considers the options available to small government conservatives. He rapidly dismisses the ideas of challenging Trump or forming a third party, and concludes that the only option is to capitulate. Strikingly, the option of withdrawing from party politics, and arguing for small government positions as an independent critic isn’t even considered.

As Paul Krugman has observed recently, conservative economists (at least, those who comment publicly). are a striking example for the choice of hackery over heresy. Krugman, along with Brad DeLong, has been particularly critical of a group of economists (Robert Barro, Michael Boskin, John Cogan, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Glenn Hubbard, Lawrence Lindsey, Harvey Rosen, George Shultz and John. Taylor) who’ve made dishonest arguments in favor of corporate tax cuts.

Recently, an overlapping group (Boskin, John Cochrane, Cogan, Shultz and Taylor) have taken the hackery a significant step further.

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Economics in Two Lessons, Chapter 8

by John Quiggin on April 8, 2018

Thanks to everyone who the first seven chapters of my book-in-progress, Economics in Two Lessons. I’ve tried to think about all of them and respond to as many as possible, but I’m seeking comments from quite a few sources and may have missed some. Feel free to remind me if you think you have a point that’s been overlooked.,

I’ve just posted a draft of Chapter 8:Unemployment. This is one of the most important chapters in the book where I confront a central error in both Hazlitt and Bastiat – the implicit assumption that full employment is the norm in a market economy. So,

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Economics in Two Lessons, Chapter 7

by John Quiggin on March 27, 2018

Thanks to everyone who the first six chapters of my book, Economics in Two Lessons. That brings us to the end of Lesson 1: Market prices reflect and determine opportunity costs faced by consumers and producers.

Now its time for Lesson Two: Market prices don’t reflect all the opportunity costs we face as a society.

I’ll start with a brief intro and then the draft of Chapter 7: Property rights, and income distribution

As usual, I welcome comments, criticism and encouragement.
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