What might a treaty look like?

Here is a link to a companion article to Treaty: Yeah, Nah, Maybe which I cross-posted here at Troppo from The Summit a week ago:

Another article published there a couple of days ago (The hidden karma of Aboriginal affairs policy …) is also relevant.

I am publishing them at The Summit partly because in a valiant if possibly futile attempt to have a positive effect on government in the Territory (or at least public discussion about it) after 4 years of deeply depressing rule by the Giles CLP government, and partly because previous experience suggests that most Troppo readers aren’t all that interested in Territory legal and constitutional issues. These links are for the discriminating few!

Posted in Indigenous, Law, Politics - Northern Territory | 1 Comment

Trump: the system is working

If you’re at all like me, you see and hear a bunch of people complaining that with the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, the world has gone mad and anything could happen. The New York Times today published a column by a former assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, Jack Goldsmith, that should act as a tonic.

Goldsmith points out an important fact about the Trump presidency: The system appears to be working. The Trump presidency is just two months old, and already Trump’s seemingly remarkable connections to Vladimir Putin’s Russian government are being investigated by the FBI. And with attorney-general Jeff Sessions recusing himself, that investigation is being led by a respected career prosecutor who is now deputy attorney-general, Rod Rosenstein.

Meanwhile the Senate and House intelligence committees are both doing their own reviews, and Republican members of Congress like John McCain are needling Trump pretty sharply. You remember McCain. He’s the former presidential candidate and POW of whom Trump quote: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

If you’re as cavalier as Trump seems to be, your deeds and statements catch up with you.

Notes Goldsmith:

… While there is no doubt that partisan politics will inform what many in both congressional parties do in this matter, one should not overlook what is truly remarkable here: In the second month of a new presidency, several bodies in a Congress controlled by the president’s party are conducting high-profile, politically fraught and hard-to-control investigations that potentially implicate current and former administration officials and former campaign officials.

All of these actors and institutions are holding the Trump presidency to account. They are endeavoring to uncover the truth about the manifold Russian mysteries. And they can, if they see fit, take action with effects ranging from publicity and embarrassment to political damage with electoral consequences to criminal prosecution to impeachment if appropriate.

It’s true that the process of accountability is halting and frustratingly slow. But this is as it should be. The stakes could not be higher for our democracy …

I could be wrong (as I was about the chances of Trump winning) and a year from now this will all have gone away. But don’t dismiss the possibility that systems of checks and balances work.

Posted in Politics - international | 9 Comments

Two types of strategy: Part One


Further critical discussion of a range of aspects of strategy can also be found here

Corporate strategy is a comparatively new field which, took off a decade or so after WWII. There were various technical disciplines maturing in WWII like operations research and some institutional development around that in universities like the Cowles Commission at the Uni of Chicago and defence related establishments like RAND.1 Herbert Simon, who later won a Nobel in Economics and is associated with the word ‘satisficing’ was also part of this adventure. Like the habitual, superstitious use of CGE modelling in policy analysis and advocacy today, these techniques were typically oversold and led to various disasters – perhaps best illustrated by the technocratic prosecution of the Vietnam War under Robert Mcnamara. But one can at least analytically separate this overreach from the idea that, if they’d been used with more intellectual humility the new tools had some value.

Following this period, strategy various entrepreneurs found ways of scaling the sale of consultancy services to firms to assist them develop strategy. I have my doubts about this stuff. I’ve never found it very persuasive and one of its distinguishing characteristics is its analytically looseness. But it isn’t snake oil – or isn’t inherently snake oil. SWOT analysis has always struck me as a very commonsensical heuristic or set of prompts to adopt if one is trying to think about the future of an organisation or part of it.

BCG Portfolio Planning MatrixThis matrix may not seem worth a lot to you. It doesn’t seem a lot to me, I have to admit. But it made the founders of Boston Consulting a shedload of money.

Continue reading

  1. A lot of this is written up in Philip Mirowski’s magnum opus, Machine Dreams the full text of which you can download from this link should you wish.
Posted in Business, Cultural Critique, Economics and public policy | 7 Comments

Billy-goats, Nannie goats and Scapegoats

When Harry Fired Sally: The Double Standard in Punishing Misconduct, Mark L. Egan, Gregor Matvos, Amit Seru – #23242 (CF LS)


We examine gender discrimination in the financial advisory industry.
We study a less salient mechanism for discrimination, firm discipline
following missteps. There are substantial differences in the
punishment of misconduct across genders. Although both female and
male advisers are disciplined for misconduct, female advisers are
punished more severely. Following an incidence of misconduct, female
advisers are 20% more likely to lose their jobs, and 30% less likely
to find new jobs relative to male advisers. Females face harsher
punishment despite engaging in less costly misconduct and despite a
lower propensity towards repeat offenses. Evidence suggests that the
observed behavior is not driven by productivity differences across
advisers. Rather, we find supporting evidence for taste-based
discrimination. For females, a disproportionate share of misconduct
complaints is initiated by the firm, instead of customers or
regulators. Moreover, there is significant heterogeneity among
firms. Firms with a greater percentage of male executives/owners at
a given branch, tend to punish female advisers more severely
following misconduct, and also tend to hire fewer female advisers
with past record of misconduct.

Posted in Economics and public policy, Gender | Leave a comment

Morale and public goods: some unsurprising research

Does the reliability of institutions affect public good contributions? Evidence from a laboratory experiment By: Jahnke, Björn ; Fochmann, Martin ; Wagener, Andreas

Reliable institutions – i.e., institutions that live up to the norms that agents expect them to keep – foment cooperative behavior. We experimentally confirm this hypothesis in a public goods game with a salient norm that cooperation was socially demanded and corruption ought not to occur. When nevertheless corruption attempts came up, groups that were told that “the system” had fended off the attempts made considerably higher contributions to the public good than groups that only learned that the attempt did not affect their payoffs or that were not at all exposed to corruption.

Posted in Cultural Critique, Democracy, Economics and public policy | Leave a comment

Seeking traction in the swamp of identity politics

I was listening to a recent episode of Big Ideas featuring Steven Oliver who gave a good account of himself I think. He also recited a poem which has gone viral on YouTube. You may have read it, heard it or heard of it. I liked the poem also. I also agree with the point he’s making that there are all manner of celebratory days in the Australian calendar and yet there’s none that celebrates the indigenous people of this continent.

Yet I was also somehow saddened. If this is the most important thing to Oliver and others prosecuting the cause, well and good. But I have to say it leaves me somehow disoriented. Can you think of any liberation movement worth its salt seeking as their central ask something so easily granted – and therefore so easily ignored in its spirit – as an annual commemorative holiday. I can’t really say I have anything to put in its place. But I can say that things are most assuredly not good in so many areas of aboriginal welfare. And yet the three biggest things I can think of in aboriginal political aspiration in the last decade or two are the Apology, the Recognise campaign to remove some junk DNA from our constitution and now the agitation over Australia/Invasion Day.

John Howard held fast to his immense lack of generosity in refusing to give an apology. But if it’s an apology you’re after it seems very odd to then campaign for one from someone who, if you manage to politically browbeat him into giving you one will make you feel cheated. It certainly won’t be an act of generosity which I thought was kind of the point of an apology. Then there was a fine apology from Kevin Rudd. And what did it count for? Perhaps people who know more about it can fill me in.

There was the ‘Closing the Gap’ process if I’ve got the propaganda name correct which was delivered in the same old way and which has no doubt improved a few things, but not many and not much. (There was also ‘reconciliation’ about which I recall agreeing with Germaine Greer that it was hard to know what it was. Who was being reconciled to whom? How? It was cranked up during the tenure of John Howard who pretty obviously didn’t give too much of a hoot for any of it. But it was easy enough for him to intone the word. The whole thing was like some ad campaign.)

Meanwhile as the Rudd Government announced it was closing the gap by the time it was well and truly out of office, the ‘intervention’ rolled on, if I recall correctly rebadged as something or other – ‘Unchain my Heart’ comes to mind, but that was the theme-song behind the WorkChoices ads, or perhaps it was the GST. Since then the biggest profile thing has been the Recognise campaign which completely mystifies me and seems to be running into the same sands the Republic ran into. The whole process is built on ambiguity. Activists use the ‘hook’ of the remaining sections of the constitution that were enacted with discriminatory intent but are not being, and are highly unlikely to ever be used in such a way. An agenda starts rolling to clean up the drafting, but though the ‘hook’ was minimalist, the activists now target more substantial action. But this doesn’t really make much sense. There’s no particular consensus on what should be done. I expect there would be disagreement between those of goodwill towards aboriginal people as to whether legal changes in the constitution would do much good if enacted and of course there’s a fair bit of non-good will around to help stymie stronger ambitions in any event. Continue reading

Posted in Indigenous | 20 Comments

Treaty: Yeah, Nah, Maybe

Cross-posted from The Summit.

It was surprising (at least to me) that there wasn’t more discussion at the NT Governance Summit surrounding the question of a possible treaty between Aboriginal Territorians and the Northern Territory Government. It seemed as if most of the current and former politicians and politically engaged Territorians in attendance regarded the subject as one from cloud cuckoo land, not a fit topic for serious political debate by mature adults.

It’s certainly true that until the last year or so the question of a treaty was one mostly discussed by lefties and dreamers. Prime Minister Bob Hawke raised it as a serious question in 1990 but dropped it like a hot potato when a couple of influential State Premiers objected strongly. Not long after the High Court’s Mabo decision was handed down and treaty talk just dropped off the public radar. The issue hasn’t surfaced again seriously until very recently.

Continue reading

Posted in Law, Politics - Northern Territory | 8 Comments