Economists Couldnt predict A sunset

Speakers for Topic 2:

Roughly For – Professor John Quiggin,

Roughly Against – Dr. Bruce Littleboy

Key Questions: 

  • Has neoliberal market orthodoxy being proved wrong by the GFC?
  • Was the subprime collapse caused by government intervention or lack thereof?
  • Is there any truth to trickle-down theory or does it just mean the poor get trickled-on?
  • Are markets naturally efficient in the first place?
  • (If we get around to it) Should the state provide welfare?

An Idiot’s background guide to the topic:

Prior to the GFC, many well-meaning Economists had come to the conclusion that Ronald Reagan wasn’t too far off the mark when he declared in his 1980 inaugural address “Government is not the solution to our problem, Government IS the problem.”

Free market economists rallied to the call, and, true to form, developed a range of assumptions, hypotheses and graphs to support their argument. Most prescient among these was the ‘Efficient Markets hypothesis’. For the uninitiated, the EMH can be summarised as ‘hang the sense of it, this whole market thing seems to be sorting itself out ok without us, so why don’t we all just go and have a drink or several’.

During the subsequent years of American economic expansion – and the self-declared triumph of neo-liberalism (lets call it ‘happy hour’), Economists seem to have grativated away from devising strategies for equitable growth and towards the behavouralist and experimentalist route that reached its zenith with ‘Freakonomics’.

This sexy new ‘pop’ Economics might sell books, but some feel it is a complete prostitution and debasement of Economics as a profession – to the point that asking a respectable Economist about Freakonomics is akin to asking a field surgeon in Haiti about botox (not least because it seemed to imply that Economists were genuinely interesting people to talk to at parties).

Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winning Economist, thinks all Economic theory from the last twenty years needs to be scrapped. But that’s what Friedman said about Keynes twenty years earlier…so who’s right? And if they can’t make up their minds anyway, why should we even listen to them?

After the GFC, which saw several trillion dollars simply disappear from the global economy, it’s worth finding out if Economists really know what they’re talking about – Does government intervention in the economy actually make us worse off? Are markets efficient? Are Economists interesting people to speak to at parties?

Learn more, at POLITICS IN THE PUB @ UQ

In the beginning: Does Australia need a charter of rights?

Welcome to the first post of ‘Politics in the Pub @ UQ’

Sitting in their ivory towers, fiendishly plotting last-minute revisions to Semester finals over a bottle of 1982 Penfolds grange, lecturers and (occasionally) tutors can sometimes seem slightly removed from the humdrum reality of poverty-stricken studentdom.  What are they like, many wonder, in a casual setting…in an informal situation in an informal venue like a pub?

It is our mission to ameliorate this misguided view of your lecturers and demonstrate that they are in fact, normal people, capable of enduring a pub just as much as anyone else.

So to the first topic - ‘Does Australia need a charter of rights?’, held on March 10th at 4pm in the UQ Staff and Graduates club,

Speakers: (Pro-charter) Former Senator for Queensland with the Democrats (1997-2008) Andrew Bartlett (click here for his blog) and (anti-charter) University of Queensland Garrick Professor of Law James Allan.

An idiot’s guide to the topic:

Against:

The proposal for a national charter, designed to safeguard a series of selected ‘inalienable’ rights, is currently struggling to keep its head above water. Indeed, only last week, the Sydney Morning Herald declared the proposal “dead in the water”.  Former NSW Premier Bob Carr has gone even further,  comparing the advocates of the charter, to bit-players in a recreation of Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch. Anti-charterists basically oppose the un-democratic nature of the innovation, based on a reluctance to allow the final say on morality to a panel of seven unelected, generally elderly, and definitely white judges. Their argument is naturally slightly more complicated than the previous sentence, but for a one-line explanation, it will have to do.

For:

Those in favour of the charter point out that Australia is one of only a handful of developed nations lacking a document enshrining domestic universal freedoms – a seeming oddity given that Australia was one of the first signatories to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Even an Australian’s right right to freedom of political expression, for instance, is drawn from a crafty interpretation of the Australian constitution (a decision which only came about in 1992). A charter, it is argued, would remove the need for such ‘judicial activism’ (not to mention making life a lot easier for students of constitutional law).  Proponents of the charter also point to individuals who seem to lack access to legal rights, claiming that a charter would prevent, or at least give legal recourse, to people such as Mohammed Haneef, refugees in mandatory detention and detainees of ASIO.

Undecided:

Then there is the camp for the undecided, people unsure where to fall on the troubling nexus between ‘what’s right’ and ‘what works’; even if a charter is – in principle – inherently good, will its creation only serve to further complicate and add an extra layer of red tape to politics? But then…if its the right thing to do and it gives a voice to the voiceless, what’s a little extra red tape in the scheme of things?

For links to further resources, refer to the ‘topics’ tab above.  To get involved in the discussion, come on March 10th!

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