By PATRICIA EDGAR. Kids Technology and the Future: Radical revamp needed for Children’s TV content quotas.

Today’s kids are way ahead of our broadcasting regulators and television producers in the way they use both television and digital media. It’s time for a radical rethink of content regulations, quotas, and subsidy for children’s media education and entertainment in their best interest.

The Government continues to hold back from releasing any response to the Australian and Children’s Screen Content Review that reported many months ago. Clearly, in the lead up to an election, they do not want to ‘take on’ the production industry or the networks and the inevitable dispute that will follow if they reduce quotas or recommend the kind of changes sorely needed for relevant children’s television and media regulation. The producers are demanding ‘more of the same’ – that is increased quotas – across all media platforms, an unworkable proposition based on their self-interest. The networks are demanding relief from quotas which they say are not working in the digital media environment; a view also based on their self-interest. The Government is wedged between the two interests knowing a change in the system is necessary to provide content relevant to children’s needs and interests today. 

The aim of children’s media content regulation and subsidy must be to achieve the best from the myriad of media choices available to children in this new era, to further their education, social development and cultural understanding. That will require creative solutions from new leadership. 

Today’s producers need to acknowledge quotas were not devised to provide business support for them to crank out formulaic, banal series, akin to soaps, that have minuscule cultural and educational value, as many quota programs have become. It is their job to attract children with projects of substance otherwise they have no right to subsidy and regulatory support for their projects. Continue reading

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The Future of Politics: by John Burnheim

Politics is about constructing those public goods that are necessary for communities, are a minimum to deal with problems that threaten life itself.

In our present situation, the most serious problems are all posed on a global scale, as a result of the scale of our management of nature, the growth of populations, threats of nuclear war, the international monetary system and so on.

Our efforts to deal with these problems within the frame of nationalist politics are often counterproductive. If each is bound to put its national interests before all others, reasonable compromise is impossible.

Democracy is not helping, as long it pits the people of a nation-state against another, pits nation against nation. But the prospect of a global sovereign authority; like a magnified state threatens a horrific concentration of power.

The solution is a range of very specific independent authorities that each define the changes needed to solve their specific problem and demand that states accept and implement them. Many such authorities already exist, especially in such fields as communications. They work because there is little to be gained from defying them and dangers of retaliation.

They lack close democratic control. They are responsible mainly to expert opinion, which is inadequate to ensure general trust. Public opinion needs to be assured that the authority is needed and that is constitution is appropriate. As it operates it must be subject to a competent independent audit that assesses its work. My suggestion is that in each case this audit should be carried out or at least supervised by a small committee statistically representative of the most affected by decisions in the relevant domain.

In my view it is highly desirable that we start experimenting with such auditing.

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Infectious disease in the land of the free

Regional and Racial Inequality in Infectious Disease Mortality in U.S. Cities, 1900-1948
James J. Feigenbaum, Christopher Muller, and Elizabeth Wrigley-Field #25345

In the first half of the twentieth century, the rate of death from infectious disease in the United States fell precipitously. Although this decline is well-known and well-documented, there is surprisingly little evidence about whether it took place uniformly across the regions of the U.S. We use data on infectious disease deaths from all reporting U.S. cities to describe regional patterns in the decline of urban infectious mortality from 1900 to 1948. We report three main results: First, urban infectious mortality was higher in the South in every year from 1900 to 1948. Second, infectious mortality declined later in southern cities than in cities in the other regions. Third, comparatively high infectious mortality in southern cities was driven primarily by extremely high infectious mortality among African Americans. From 1906 to 1920, African Americans in cities experienced a rate of death from infectious disease greater than what urban whites experienced during the 1918 fl! u pandemic.

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Worldly wisdom (in my dreams)

A couple of weeks ago I got this email.

Dear Prof. Gruen,

I’m fifteen years old, I live in Memphis, Tennessee, and I’m very interested in economics. Recently I came across your interview on the Economic Rockstar podcast. I have a blog called Ceteris Numquam Paribus, where I post short interviews with economists such as Dierdre McCloskey, Diane Coyle, and Peter Temin. I was wondering two things:

1. If you were king for a day and could require all students to read one book in the field of economics, what would it be and why?

2. What course that is not normally required for an undergraduate economics major do you think all students should be required to take, and why?

Since I am familiar with the concept of opportunity cost, I understand if you are unable to reply. Thank you for your time!


Joseph Gray

My response is below the fold. Continue reading

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My presentation in London

Herewith my presentation in London “Economic reform thinking as if we’d bothered to do it” and Martin Wolf’s commentary on it beginning at around the 40 minute mark. Judging from audience comments, a good time was had by all.


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Evaluation: moving beyond well-meaning fads and towards a new professionalism

Cross-posted at the Mandarin.

Image result for new professionalism theory

The first image to come up in a search for ‘new professionalism’. A very nice image too, especially for Kandinsky lovers like myself.

Working in and around government for over three decades I’ve grown increasingly wary of fads. Remember ‘Reinventing Government’ which proposed government working more like the private sector, without carefully setting out how to do it? Today it’s design thinking, putting ‘users’ or the intended beneficiaries of programs at the centre of program design and delivery. It’s great that we’re trying to do so.

But we’ve been talking like this for at least two decades – since the ‘Third Way’ fad came and went. (Remember how ‘one size fits all’ wouldn’t do anymore? But again, we couldn’t work out how to do it.) And while promising demonstrations of design thinking proliferate – as they did for Reinventing Government and the Third Way, proving that there are some real prospects in the fad, we’re still miles from big systemic improvements. We’ve got some inklings of what we want, but we’re still stumped about how to do it.

The fads themselves are a symptom of the deeper, careerist malaise. The big civil service career rewards go to strategisers of high policy – orchestrators of fads from the top. Yet the knowledge we’ll need to transform systems around their users’ needs comes mostly from below – from workers in the field and those they serve.

Towards a new professionalism

We’ve been here before. As services in health and education were ramped up from the late 19th century on, we built professions to take us from fairly clear ideas of what we wanted, to working out the ‘how’. Continue reading

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Citizens’ chambers: towards an activism of selection by lot

When Ghandi was asked what he thought of Western Civilisation he said it would be a good idea. Ditto democracy.

In a recent paper, James Fishkin identifies some potential shortcomings of citizen’s chambers which justify his own preference for ad hoc, and temporary citizens’ panels. I think he makes some good points. I think his arguments need further exploration which I do in the first half of this post before articulating a more general unease at where Fishkin and many protagonists of sortition are coming from.

His central concerns with a citizen’s chamber are that it might:

  • have insufficient technical expertise
  • be susceptible to corruption and
  • not maintain the high quality “conditions for deliberation” that have been achieved in more ad hoc citizens’ juries.

These are legitimate concerns. But they have a ‘theoretical’ ring to me. Firstly Fishkin doesn’t provide much evidence that these problems would arise or if they did how bad they’d be. Secondly, he also fails to compare the likely problems with existing similar problems in the existing chambers. I’ll go through these arguments regarding each of the claims in a little more detail below before proceeding to my more general concern.  Continue reading

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