Saturday, 29 December 2012 - 4:24pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 29/12/2012 - 4:24pm

I think Paul Krugman is currently circling around some interesting territory with his concept of "capital-biased technology", but contrary to the title, I don't think the data presented in this article - on the share of GDP going to labour - really has much to do with that.

Unless he's arguing that recessions are correlated with rapid technological change, a more or less conventional shock doctrine explanation serves much better: At times of crisis dish out austerity to the poor, and fiscal stimulous (or "money", as it's sometimes known) to the rich, with predicatable consequences. Then as the general economy improves, labour's share of GDP recovers somewhat, though not to previousl levels, and repeat the process when the next crisis hits. In fact, it also seems from this distance that some of the sharp drops fit very well with other public policy initiatives such as the "Reagan revolution" and the Bush tax cuts.

While I don't think it's the primary cause, I don't doubt that the long term trend is to some degree a consequence of technological change, in so far as new technological developments favour the interests of capital over labour. Since it is overwhelmingly capital that controls the allocation of resources to research and development, it's hard to imagine how the inverse might come to pass. And Krugman's prescription - to maintain the level of social spending at something like it's current rate by funding programs through something other than taxes on labour, perhaps even (gasp!) new taxes on capital - is perfectly sensible. (Though how he squares this with his advocacy elsewhere of a consumption tax, I don't know.)

A more fundamental solution to this trend would be to fund research and development in the public interest, perhaps through government agencies incorporated for that purpose. I recall Australia used to have one of those, before it was turned into a primarily commercial entity and patent troll.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012 - 10:48pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Wed, 19/12/2012 - 10:48pm

The Federal Republic of Germany is looking to fill the newly-vacant role of idiot. The successful applicant will be a self-starter who is constantly seeking new experiences and keeps an open mind with regard to the laws of physics. Salary: negotiable. Pension plan: N/A.

Friday, 30 November 2012 - 10:43am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Fri, 30/11/2012 - 10:43am

In all seriousness, this is nuts. Decoding this "plan" from euphemisms back into English, we have:

  • Rolling back the government's feeble gestures in the direction of environmental responsibility, because obviously climate change is a lie masterminded by [insert name of favoured global conspiracy here].
  • Cutting taxes on the local wealthy (Gina wants her driveway pebbledashed with diamonds - very tasteful) and foreign corporations.
  • Cutting wages and conditions for workers.
  • Cutting government services and support for the needy.
  • Subsidising transport costs for big business, because why should Gina pay for shipping our non-renewable resources overseas?

This is all textbook, long-discredited, supply-side, trickle-down, voodoo economics serving no purpose except class warfare. If there were problems with investment and production, we'd be seeing inflation, and we're just not. I'm no fan of Labor, but "the weakest jobs growth in more than a decade" is not a bad result compared to other wealthy countries who have followed the gifts-for-the-wealthy-austerity-for-the-rest prescription as proposed above since 2008. The GFC is a demand crisis, and what you do in a demand crisis is raise taxes on the wealthy, increase income support to the poor, and increase spending on infrastructure that serves the needs of the local population, not mining companies.

I'd be surprised if early drafts didn't also include cracking down on illegal latino immigration, since this is a near-verbatim copy of the Romney-Ryan "plan". Here's wishing the coalition the same degree of success, for all our sakes.

Update: This just in: the AFR reports the resources boom is "faltering faster than expected", which is pretty much - erm - as expected. So from here on in, you can subsidise, cut taxes, and flog workers all you want, but it's not going to make the Chinese buy raw materials for products they don't plan to manufacture, and couldn't sell if they did. And also as expected, the knock-on effects elsewhere in the Australian economy are already evident.

Friday, 30 November 2012 - 9:56am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Fri, 30/11/2012 - 9:56am

"Our Deregulation Reform Agenda"? I know the Advocate likes to see itself as a feisty little campaigning tabloid, but to have it's own Deregulation Reform Agenda, with capital letters and everything, is jolly impressive.

I'm joking of course. It's an absolute outrage. If mere independent local councilors can deliver press-ready copy, why can't the National Party get their act together? The staff at the Advocate are professional journalists; they have better things to do than translate press releases into the third person. They probably have four or five photos of the mayor to build stories around, an ambulance or three to chase, and a baker's dozen of local businesses receiving prestigious industry awards to churn through in time for Saturday's edition.

I mean, it's the age of the Internet, isn't it? Traditional media have to compete with bloggers, who really just echo content generated elsewhere, whereas struggling local papers like the Advocate have press releases, wire services, and advertorial copy to contend with. Meanwhile the National Party are living in some Woodward and Bernstein time warp where they probably imagine journalists have nothing better to do than original investigative reporting. Just goes to show how out of touch they are.

Update: I see "our Deregulation Reform Agenda" has been amended to "a Deregulation Reform Agenda". Now, your bonus question for extra points: What is a Deregulation Reform Agenda, other than three random, focus-group-tested words smooshed together?

Are they proposing reforming deregulation? That is, conceding that deregulation has been a rotten idea all along, and the time is ripe for re-regulation? That is an Agenda, with a capital "A", almost as appealing as my Sobriety Reform Agenda. Excuse me while I implement it.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012 - 4:46pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Wed, 28/11/2012 - 4:46pm

I'm having a hard time believing that the revenue from coin-operated light switches figured very prominently in the Group Cex Club's calculations here.

The overwhelming incentive for clubs to support so-called "intra-clubs" is the pokie tax rebate rort, aka. ClubGRANTS. The parent club works out how much pokie tax it doesn't want to pay, invoices it's intra-clubs for that amount - ostensibly for the services it provides to them - and immediately "donates" the money back. The NSW government then obligingly deducts the pretend value of these "donations" from the club's pokie tax bill.

It's a neat little swindle, but sadly it does have it's limits, and in this case it turns out not to be worth $50,000. Sorry, snooker players; you've outlived your usefulness.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012 - 12:14am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Wed, 28/11/2012 - 12:14am

The gap between "I've had a few drinks, I'm feeling pretty good, and have half a mind to go mad and stay up all night," and "Actually, I think I might turn in shortly," is now somewhere in the region of thirty seconds.

Saturday, 24 November 2012 - 1:01pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 24/11/2012 - 1:01pm in

Let's look at the constitution of this latest brains trust:

  • A Coffs CBD landlord who is doing very well thank you out of the status quo,
  • A shopping mall architect,
  • A builder who cheerfully admits decades of responsibility for metastasising the Group Cex Club, the biggest and ugliest concrete bunker in the region,
  • GM of property speculators Gowings, a company so lethally parasitic they were able to suck the life out of the oldest and most respected retailer in Sydney.

I admit I can't imagine how the Coffs CBD could possibly be a more depressing place, but I daresay these fellows could.

Saturday, 24 November 2012 - 12:35pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 24/11/2012 - 12:35pm in

I've always been very impressed by how natural and untainted by "improvements" are our local beaches and surrounds, and was quite disappointed to learn that this is more the result of benign neglect than good management. Here's hoping council staff put their shoulders to the wheel and ensure Operation Boob Job collapses under the weight of it's own terms of reference.

Friday, 23 November 2012 - 9:45pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Fri, 23/11/2012 - 9:45pm

It's good to see the Coffs Clarence police are finally unleashing a storm of responsibility on the threat of congregating carelessness. All too often law enforcement becomes bogged down by tedious distinctions between legal and illegal activity. To D.I. Lindsay and all in the LAC, I say "Mate, I'll always give you the heads up."

Remember kids, always hitch your loose thumbs securely behind your belts.

Saturday, 17 November 2012 - 9:26am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 17/11/2012 - 9:26am in

"Douglas! Come meet our new tenant!"

A large teddy bear of a man, cleaning the lenses of a pair of reading glasses on a corner of his cardigan, rounded the corner from the large living area at the far end of the hallway.

"Isn't he a handsome boy?" gushed Glenda proudly, as though assuming some responsibility for whatever comeliness was to be found there.

"Fine looking fellow," he concurred, smiling warmly. "Doug Henshaw. Pleased to meet you." He extended a hand, which Tim shook, detecting not a trace of macho over-firmness. "Let me show you to your digs."

What the estate agent had described as a granny flat, Tim would have described as a small house. It was situated halfway down a concrete path that ran the length of a huge back yard, and reminded him of the detached cottages in a caravan park where his family had stayed on one particularly rainy and generally ill-fated holiday. Except that it was nice. Overwhelmingly nice. Everything in the place had been procured and assembled with such a painstaking attention to niceness that he could only imagine that on completion, the person responsible had promptly committed suicide, their lifelong devotion to all things nice complete. "Good heavens! This is palatial! Are you sure you're charging enough?"

"Very kind of you to say so. We had it fixed up for my mother a few years ago. Only accumulating dust since. She passed away in intensive care; never got to stay a single night in the end."

"I'm sorry." And relieved. As a lifelong ardent sceptic, Tim knew he would otherwise be listening out for her ghost at night.

"Very satisfying the way the family came together for her. Lovely service, beautiful headstone."

Tim had been searching Doug's countenance for a trace of the mean streak that he'd been warned about, and concluded he'd find more lurking menace in a litter of labrador puppies. Both Doug and Glenda spoke with the slightly slurred diction of the stroke victim, the perpetually slightly drunk, or the very expensively educated. Tim guessed the third, and possibly the second. Still, the genial attitude was infectious, and he was beginning to feel very good indeed about his new situation.

"You can bring your car around the side when you're ready."

"That's okay," said Tim, heaving his bags onto his new double (queen sized?) bed, "I don't have a car."

"Ah! Might be able to help you there. I have a cousin in the trade. He should be able to sort you out with something reasonable."

"Don't have a license, in fact." Then, realising this may be interpreted as an admission of being a serial dangerous/drunk driver, he added "Never had one."

"Oh." Doug seemed genuinely flummoxed by this and unable to formulate a response. "Never mind," he said at last, "We're about to pop into town to run a few errands. I daresay you'll want to get settled in."

"Yes. I might go for a walk later. Thanks for the very kind welcome."

"Very pleased to have you. Good to finally get some use out of the old shed. Feel free to pop in whenever you need anything, or just for a natter. We keep a very open house. Truth be told, Glenda's often at a loose end since she retired, and a bit of conversation now and then will keep her from going completely ga-ga." He winked conspiratorially, and Tim couldn't help but smile.

"I'll do my best."

His new landlord departed with a cheery wave, leaving Tim to marvel at how yet again he'd managed to land on his feet. Tucking a few nagging threads of guilt into the back pockets of his mind, he lay on the bed, giving it an experimental bounce as he took in the details of his new home. His bed was at the far end of the cabin, beside a curtained window looking out onto the garden. Nice wardrobe at the end of the bed, with a nice but empty recess for a TV which he would fill in due course. Nice lounge, nice coffee table, nice kitchenette in the far corner with a very nice breakfast bar affair surrounded by nice stools. The door to what he assumed was a nice bathroom/laundry was mercifully closed. He would save that niceness for later. No point overdoing it.

After a nap, he would have a shower and amble down to what on his map was labelled "New Town Shopping Centre". Tim was very pleased to see the map had a picture of a half-full glass at one corner of the complex, which he took to denote some sort of pub. "Very nice," he mumbled to himself as he kicked off his shoes and drifted off to complete the previous night's sleep.