Researchers warn that substance abuse among the elderly will double by 2020, but few journalists or policymakers worry about age pensioners squandering welfare money on alcohol and drugs. Things were different in 1905–6 when a royal commission looked at establishing a Commonwealth funded old age pension scheme in Australia. The commissioners recommended: "That a penalty should be imposed for supplying an old-age pensioner with intoxicating drink."
By 1901 both Victoria and New South Wales had established old-age pension schemes. And it wasn’t long before newspapers were running stories about pensioners spending all their money on drink. According to a 1901 report in Sydney’s Evening News:
As the festival is now upon us in Melbourne anyway, I’m sticking it up the front of Troppo for a while for your delectation. Below is a timetable of the French Film Festival in Melbourne together with a table of the films rating better than most. I hope it helps you get to see a film. And if you want to find the films in cities other than Melbourne, then feel free to hightail it to the festival website.
|Friends from France
|Jules and Jim
|Me, Myself and Mum
|Our Heroes Died Tonight
|The 400 Blows
|Venus in Fur
Work for the Dole doesn’t work, says economist Jeff Borland. Citing a study he and Yi-Ping Tseng carried out using data from the late 1990s, he argues that it does nothing to create long-term employment opportunities and too little to build skills. But maybe Borland is missing the point. Maybe Work for the Dole isn’t meant to help participants find work.
A new working paper (to be found here) by two PhD students in our school muses about whether firms optimise profits or returns-to-costs. Normally in economic papers you see the presumption that firms optimise profits, but from the point of view of investors allocating in lots of firms at the same time, it would seem to make more sense to presume they maximise returns. In many situations this will amount to the same thing, but not all situations: you for instance get a divergence as soon as you have some barrier to entry, which is rather common. Its the sort of paper that makes you remember your 3rd year micro lessons. Anyhow, if this is your cup of tea, here is their abstract:
We introduce a theory of return-seeking firms to study the differences between this and standard profit-maximising models. In a competitive market return-maximising firms minimise average total costs leading to output choices independent of price movements. We investigate the poten- tial for mark-ups over cost under both competitive and non-competitive market structures and characterise output and input choices under both, amongst a series of other interesting results. We also extend the model in the case of discrete output and input space and show what conditions are required of demand shifts for firms to modify their production plan.
Remember the last time the Coalition government was insinuating treachery on the part of the ABC, and making like it was about to take a cricket bat to it? That was back in the days when Prime Minister Howard’s government was keenly promoting our mission to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. (And by gee didn’t that turn out well?).
Back then Senator Richard Alston was considering installing an independent censor with powers over the ABC , if they didn’t answer the 60 charges of bias against the AM Program who had offended the government by improperly focussing on the quagmire aspects of the Iraq adventure rather that the glorious patriotic motives behind the decision to send brave lads off to war. Then as now the government reaction was just the pointy end of a broader campaign by the New New Guard to dismantle the national broadcaster.
Nothing much happened that time of course other than the ABC getting a bit of a rap over the knuckles, and installing some board stacks , it all eventually just ebbed away, until we returned to the general background noise of the quasi-conservative bloggers and their semi-literate fanboys muttering their incantations and poking pins in their ABC voodoo dolls.
Above is my presentation to the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society – the background blurb of which is here. You’ll find the first half of the presentation on the fractal ecology of public and private goods is effectively the same content as the first half of this presentation from late last year. However where the first presentation takes the introductory framework as a basis for talking about social capital, the same framework is used as a basis for sketching out a terrain for public-private partnerships. Anyway, I mention this to save you time. I’m not much of a fan of watching videos, as it’s more efficient to read something but in case you’re OK with them – here’s another. But if you want to read the ideas presented you can read them in very summary form in the column here. But I’ve also completed a draft paper on the whole thing. If you’re interested, please email me at ngruen AT gmail and I’ll send you a copy on which I’d be grateful to receive comments and suggestions for improvement.
It’s on again folks – or at least I’ve started to receive emails about it from you people. The incredible Troppo Crikey Sub. I’ve not been able to find, on a quick search, the savings on a one year subscription, but if you can give us the link, please do so in comments. We typically get enough subscriptions to get to the lowest price.
You know the drill. Send me a request at ngruen AT gmail. Please keep it as easy for me as you can. With over a hundred subscriptions, I don’t like answering questions etc. Just send me an email which I can put in a ‘folder’ to eventually send Crikey.
Postscript: Ignore most of what’s above. I’m just leaving it up there because we get remunerated by the word here at Troppo. But the bottom line is that if we get over 50 subscribers the price goes down to $99 – they’re clever these marketers, they know that we think that 99 is less than 100 which is quite a bit of money. In any event, Crikey are now sending out reminders to you if you’re already on the list. If so, and you want to proceed, please proceed with them. Deal done. There are 58 reminders going out and we have to get 50 subscribers to hit the psychological $99 price mark. If we don’t we’ll go over $100 and that’s a fair bit of money. If you are not an existing Tropscriber, or don’t receive an email by the end of this week, send me an email at ngruen AT gmail and I’ll swing Troppo’s bargaining muscle in behind your own (evidently) puny market heft.
The excesses of ethics committees are a pet hate of mine, but I’d always thought that for instance the Stanley Milgram experiment was an example of the kind of experiment where genuine ethical issues arose that might justify not going ahead.
But now I read on Wikipedia that:
In Milgram’s defense, 84 percent of former participants surveyed later said they were “glad” or “very glad” to have participated, 15 percent chose neutral responses (92% of all former participants responding). Many later wrote expressing thanks. Milgram repeatedly received offers of assistance and requests to join his staff from former participants. Six years later (at the height of the Vietnam War), one of the participants in the experiment sent correspondence to Milgram, explaining why he was glad to have participated despite the stress:
While I was a subject in 1964, though I believed that I was hurting someone, I was totally unaware of why I was doing so. Few people ever realize when they are acting according to their own beliefs and when they are meekly submitting to authority… To permit myself to be drafted with the understanding that I am submitting to authority’s demand to do something very wrong would make me frightened of myself… I am fully prepared to go to jail if I am not granted Conscientious Objector status. Indeed, it is the only course I could take to be faithful to what I believe. My only hope is that members of my board act equally according to their conscience…
Milgram argued that the ethical criticism provoked by his experiments was because his findings were disturbing and revealed unwelcome truths about human nature.
“as much as I don’t understand it, Jeffrey Sachs really, really, really doesn’t understand it.” Nina Monk, author of The Idealist
“I don’t want to argue with you Jeff, because I don’t want to be called ignorant or unprofessional. I have worked in Africa for 30 years. My colleagues combined have worked in the field for one hundred plus years . We don’t like your tone. We don’t like you preaching to us. We are not your students. We do not work for you.” USAID head Pamela White to Jeff Sachs.
I just listened to yet another excellent EconTalk, this time with the author of The Idealist, which is about Jeffery Sachs’ efforts to end poverty and how they ran into well known problems. Problems that not only could have been predicted in advance, but problems that were predicted in advance.
I started tweeting words to the effect that “I’d always thought Jeff Sachs was a snake oil salesman”. Then conscience clicked in. I thought I’d better check Troppo to see if I was right – as H.L. Mencken says “conscience is that little voice inside you that tells you someone might be watching”. In any event, I’m not unhappy with my response to Sachs before the data was in.
In many ways this story is of a piece with my dyspeptic take on Red Tape and Political Correctness.
One might write this off as just a pity, a small silly excess to which we have gone, but it is an example of a larger phenomenon that is becoming more and more evident and unfortunate – the domination of daily life with edicts from on high. In this case, an issue arises. Those at the top of the hierarchical system then get into ‘something must be done’ mode. It is time to issue instructions. So instructions are issued. The problem is that the issue may be one of considerable subtlety. In the case of regulation, we really need the people at the coalface to be thinking about the efficiency of what they’re doing within a larger whole. It’s very difficult for the top, or the centre to get this to happen – as it has to happen at the periphery, but no matter. We’ll issue instructions.
Enough said – or enough said for now - I’m quite busy.