by John Q on September 17, 2013

I’ll be at Brisbane’s Avid Reader bookshop this evening, helping at the launch of Pushing our luck: ideas for Australian progress, a new book of essays from the Centre for Policy Development. We’ve got a few years to reflect on policy ideas following the recent election win for the Murdoch-LNP, so this is a good time to get started.

While I’m at it, I’m going to mention a bunch of books I’ve read, and intended to write about, but haven’t had time (may do so later)

Earthmasters: Playing God with the Climate by Clive Hamilton, is about geo-engineering, often presented as the backstop alternative to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As the title indicates, this book is an argument that reliance on geo-engineering is a recipe for disaster. I agree, though I think it’s clear that sometime this century we are going to have to find a way to achieve, in effect, negative emissions, that is a situation where human and natural processes take more CO2 and methane out of the atmosphere than they put into it. That’s not exactly geoengineering, but it is a conscious intervention to change the atmosphere, or at least return it to an earlier state

Battlers and Billionaires: The Story of Inequality in Australia by Andrew Leigh, economist and MP. A great book on the looming end of the “fair go” in Australia. I’d put more emphasis on the role of policy and less on technology than Andrew does, but that puts me in a minority among economists.

The Infinite Resource by Ramez Naam. This is the book that Bjorn Lomborg ought to have written, instead of the silly and deceptive “Sceptical Environmentalist”. Naam doesn’t pretend that the risk of environmental catastrophe is spurious or that markets will fix the problem by themselves, but nonetheless has an optimistic take on the scope for innovation to allow the human race to not only survive but thrive.

Occupy the Future a volume of short essays arising from the Occupy movement. Lots of useful resources here

Masters of the Universe:Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics by Daniel Stedman Jones. Not a new topic, but a lot of new information and analysis – well worth reading.

The New American Economy:The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward From 2009, interesting in itself and because Bartlett is one of the most notable examples of the intellectual trend of conversion from right to left, evident since the late 1990s, and reversing the pattern of earlier decades.

Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway Another older book, but indispensable now that the merchants of doubt and delusion have gained political power here

Bankers, Bureaucrats, and Central Bank Politics: The Myth of Neutrality by Christopher Adolph. Makes the obvious but vital point that central bankers aren’t neutral bureaucrats. For many, central banking is a step towards, or an interlude in, a career in the financial sector, and the policies they advocate while in the public sector reflect this.

That hasn’t left a lot of time for fiction, but I think I have now read everything by the late and much-missed Iain Banks (including all the SF stuff written as Iain M. Banks).



James Haughton 09.17.13 at 3:25 am

There are a lot of books out there with “Occupy” on the cover – are there any that particularly stand out from the crowd?


reason 09.17.13 at 9:46 am

Who are the other examples of conversion from Right to Left besides Bartlett. And I suspect he would disagree somewhat with that description – he probably is one who thinks he didn’t leave the GOP it left him.


Theophylact 09.17.13 at 2:13 pm

Have you read Raw Spirit?


John Quiggin 09.17.13 at 10:26 pm

@JH I’d appreciate recommendations from readers on this

@reason This post from last year lists Bartlett, Frum, Lind,Phillips, Fumento, Brock and Sullivan (some have moved further than others).

More recently, at least more recently noticed by me, Diane Ravitch, Kerry Emanuel, and Norman Ornstein (the last two would say “the GOP left me”). In the blogosphere, Jim Henley, John Cole, Charles Johnson.

And there are moves from centre-left to left (relative to the US spectrum) like Krugman and Stiglitz.

@Theophylact – I should. I expect I’d enjoy the writing, though some bad experiences in my youth have made it hard for me to enjoy whisky.


Tony Lynch 09.18.13 at 4:00 am

some bad experiences in my youth have made it hard for me to enjoy whisky…

Do tell!


ajay 09.18.13 at 8:51 am

I think I have now read everything by the late and much-missed Iain Banks (including all the SF stuff written as Iain M. Banks).

Depressing moment last week when I cracked open “The Hydrogen Sonata” and thought “this is the last time that I will ever read a new Culture novel”. It was really good, too.

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