An exceptionally fine blog post …

I don’t imagine we’ll be running Best Blog Posts this year.  Certainly I won’t have time to be involved.

Moreover, we never actually anointed an annual winner in any event, just an undifferentiated group of 30 or 40 of the best from the non-MSM blogosphere.

However, if I WAS selecting a single best blog post for 2011, I wouldn’t have even a moment’s hesitation.  It would be Australian Exceptionalism by Scott “Possum Comitatus” Steel published this afternoon on Crikey. I had to stop myself from running into the street and shouting  “YES!!! EXACTLY!!! WHY COULDN’T I CRYSTALLISE IT ALL SO POWERFULLY? WHY CAN’T JULIA OR (GOD FORBID) KEV?”  It’s worth reproducing a substantial extract over the fold but do yourself a favour and read the whole thing. Moreover, although it’s a paean to Australia’s general excellence, all governments since Hawke/Keating and the Australian people generally are entitled to the credit:

So this is our economic reality – we are the wealthiest nation in the world with 75.5% of our adult population making it into the global top 10%, our economy has grown faster than nearly all others (certainly faster than all other developed countries), our household income growth has been one of the fastest in the world (including our poor having income growth larger than everyone else’s rich!), we have the highest minimum wages in the world, the third lowest debt and the 6th lowest taxes in the OECD and are ranked 2nd on the United Nations Human Development Index.

And this didn’t happen by accident.

This happened by design.

This happened because of 30 years of hard, tedious, extraordinarily difficult policy work that far, far too many of us now either take completely for granted, or have simply forgotten about.  We have, without  even realising it, created the most successful and unique economic and policy arrangement of the late 20th and early 21st century – the proof is in the pudding. A low tax nation with high quality, public funded institutions. A low debt nation with world leading human development and infrastructure. The wealthiest nation in the world where even though our rich get richer, our poor have income growth so extraordinary that it increases at a faster rate than the rich expect to experience anywhere else in the world but Australia. A nation where we enjoy the highest minimum wages in the world.

But so many of us simply deny it – the conservatives deny it because it’s more convenient to whip up hysteria about their political enemies. Filling the heads of Australians with complete lies for partisan advantage and not giving a pinch of the proverbial about the human damage that would be wrought if they ever succeeded in getting us to talk ourselves into a recession of our own making . That’s not to mention many of their ideologues – denial is an absolute must when any acknowledgement of our actual economic and social reality would be to admit that their extreme policy fetishes are just pissing in the wind.

The broad left in Australia deny it, because to admit our economic and social reality is to admit that we’ve actually solved most of the big problems that other nations are still grappling with, and they had little to do with it. The problems we have left in Australia are difficult and sophisticated, requiring  a level of thoughtful engagement far beyond the scope of occupying Fuck Knows Where in tents. If the US government responded to the Occupy Wall Street movement by implementing a large policy program that Australia already has – Occupy Wall Street would declare victory and go to the pub!

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Pedro
Pedro
9 years ago

I dunno, the hard work was done, it seems to me, between 1986 and about 2000. For most of that time the two major parties were largely united in supporting serious economic reform. The trend is now away in both camps with an instinctive Grouper on one hand and the current govt on the other.

How many policies of the present govt are advancing that reform and how many are gnawing away at it?

Patrick
Patrick
9 years ago

I do share Pedro’s reservation that there no longer appears to be the sense of ‘hunger’ about the government, on either side, that there was for quite some time and which was visible in their policies.

No-one can seriously pretend, for example, that Labor’s current IR policies are not gnawing away at Australia’s position, or for that matter our largely bipartisan immigration rules, or the opposition’s (hopefully reducing) apparent refusal to develop policies (although this is partly the product of earlier success, there are not a lot of low-hanging fruit!), or the current government’s apparent resolution to shred Australia’s tax system in the name of Budget Surplus!TM.

Nonetheless that post says a lot of things that should be said more often and louder.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
9 years ago

Patrick, it is rather easy to say current IRa rules are not gnawing away.Where is the evidence?

On tax the budget isn’t going to get back into black because of of an increases in taxes. Even assuming the current projections are correct taxes as a % of GDP will still be lower than under the previous Lib government.

Dan
Dan
9 years ago

Re: policy hunger – I think Kev came to power with an extraordinarily ambitious agenda, exemplified in particular by the overhaul of federal financial relations and the clarifying of accountabilities under the COAG National Agreements. It’s become a bit snipe-y since then but these are real runs on the board, with cross-party support and resistance.

I think the main policy challenge to overcome remains Indigenous disadvantage.

john
john
9 years ago

“Indigenous disadvantage” that is the hard one and is the one clear exception to the excepitionalisum .

Dan
Dan
9 years ago

We’re exceptional there for precisely the wrong reasons. I think we hae a lot to learn from the Canadians here.

Mike Pepperday
Mike Pepperday
9 years ago

To what extent is this prosperity due to the luck of high mineral prices and China buying?

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
9 years ago

Mike ,

if you read the post you will find out.

For most of the time mineral prices were quite low.

yes the post is quite good, don’t agree on minimum wages however

kymbos
kymbos
9 years ago

From memory, his ‘minimum wages to average wages’ comparsion omitted Norway, the only social democratic country in the list. That was conspicuous to me.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
9 years ago

Patrick

Prof Graeme Orr has a good article at ABC Unleashed about IR and the current Conservative meme that strikes are blowing out and/or this is responsible for lack of productivity improvement in recent years. Strikes are not blowing out, IR laws have not been significantly watered down, and none of the research on productivity suggests that the Fair Work Act is a significant factor. Indeed productivity was also flat through the Work Choices period.

Homer

What do you mean by “don’t agree on minimum wages however”? Do you mean you dispute the accuracy of the OECD’s figures (that’s where Possum got them)? Or that you don’t agree that minimum wages should be as high as they are? or that they’re too low? Or something else?

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
9 years ago

ken, the second bit.

I am not a catallaxy clown. I would not dispute the figures however lower minimum wages would mean a lower NAIRU as we observe in NZ.

on IR,

Fair work is about 1/2 the legislative pages workchoices was. It has little of the proscription as a result.
The NAIRU has not increased and wages are not rising as a result and neither is the RBA increasing rates to forestall inflation from wage rises.
It was an employer who wanted arbitration not a Union.

you can only strike at certain periods as well which is vastly different from the howard years

Possum
9 years ago

Kymbos,

Norway doesn’t actually have some widely recognisable “minimum wage” as such – which is why it’s not in most of the OECD minimum wage stats. Their effective wage floor comes out of the weird bargaining processes that are undertaken.

Fyodor
9 years ago

I am not a catallaxy clown.

All evidence to the contrary.

Not that I have a major beef with Possum’s essential conclusion – i.e. things are relatively good in Australia – much of his cross-country economic comparison, in USD-equivalent figures, is dramatically biased by the appreciation of the AUD over the past decade. Take out the currency effect and you begin to appreciate how “lucky” Australia has been in recent times.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
9 years ago

so sez the person who can’t even understand why structural deficits increased in Europe.

on your ‘reasoning’ Europe should be booming

Fyodor
9 years ago

so sez the person who can’t even understand why structural deficits increased in Europe.

Where was this? Source, please.

on your ‘reasoning’ Europe should be booming

What “reasoning”, KB Klown?

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
9 years ago

So you now are claiming Alzheimer’s.
Typical.

Writes something here and then ‘can’t remember it’.

Can’t remember saying what the alleged problem of structural deficits in most of Europe were despite having never read the IMF paper on the very topic which demolished your claim.

funny how you have never read anything about a topic you are always an expert on.

Fyodor
9 years ago

So you now are claiming Alzheimer’s.
Typical.

No, I haven’t claimed Alzheimers. I’m demanding evidence for yet another of your dopey assertions. You’re the one who keeps misplacing his imaginary sources. Which is typical of you, Old Timer.

Writes something here and then ‘can’t remember it’.

WHERE did I write WHAT? Put up or shut up, squibber.

Can’t remember saying what the alleged problem of structural deficits in most of Europe were despite having never read the IMF paper on the very topic which demolished your claim.

Ditto.

funny how you have never read anything about a topic you are always an expert on.

More fortunate than funny, I think – evidently expertise comes naturally to me. For you it comes not at all – which is more funny, for us, than fortunate, for you.

What’s rooly funny, however, is the way you refuse to back up your deluded witterings with stuff like evidence and logic. It’s a novel approach to debate that continues to embellish your reputation as a podium-level buffoon.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
9 years ago

Fyodor ,
no-one believes you when you forget what you stupidly say at THIS blog.

try and think up a decent excuse.

Yeah expertise is so good you do not ever know of important papers on a subject and then when I link them you can’t even understnd them!

Fyodor
9 years ago

Fyodor ,
no-one believes you when you forget what you stupidly say at THIS blog.

What have I forgotten? You refuse to show where you allege I wrote these fevered fantasies of yours. Show, don’t tell, KB Klown.

try and think up a decent excuse.

An excuse for what? Your bullshit?

I’m sorry, but thinking up a decent excuse for your cacophony of crapulent carry-on is far too difficult. Some things are simply beyond human expertise.

Yeah expertise is so good you do not ever know of important papers on a subject and then when I link them you can’t even understnd them!

Of which papers did I not know? Which papers didn’t I understand?

You have yet to present a single instance, and the reason why you can’t is obvious: didn’t happen and you are a liar for asserting otherwise.

rog
rog
9 years ago

So what’s this http://alizaybak.net/

Small detail I know but…

rog
rog
9 years ago

Small as in miniscule or even more tiny, at least.

Fyodor
9 years ago

So what’s this http://alizaybak.net/

It’s a URL, rog.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
9 years ago

no not mine yours.
Well there is the paper by the IMF on structural deficits in Europe.

I pointed out over half the rise was due to declines in Tax revenue thanks to the GFC.

Or there was the absurd claim that Adam Posen cherry-picked data in Japan that showed fiscal policy worked when it was used either in an expansionary sense or contractionary sense.

I do recall asking which part of the two DECADES of data was cherry picked but you didn’t answer.

yes and you an expert in understanding what a lie is.

how very convenient to possess such a bad memory

A very sad insecure person as well.

JC
JC
9 years ago

Some of that possum says it’s true. Having the highest regulated minimum wages is nothing to crow about though.

Two points.

How much of what possum says is caused by the currency appreciation?

How long can it continue when our productivity has been appalling over the last 7 to 8 years.

In terms of politics…

Hawke and Keating who started all this would be despised if they were in the current government as they were despised by the traditional left at the time.

I agree with Patrick and Pedro. All the good stuff that made us into a relatively flexible economy able to quickly take advantage of changes in global shifts is over and that applies for both major political parties.

I think we’ve peaked. The tumble could get quite ugly though.

Fyodor
9 years ago

no not mine yours.
Well there is the paper by the IMF on structural deficits in Europe.

I pointed out over half the rise was due to declines in Tax revenue thanks to the GFC.

You mean here? If so, I demonstrated in the following comments the lack of neither awareness nor understanding of the document. In fact, I pointed out, repeatedly, that your own source showed that the advanced economies’ budget deficits are structural, not cyclical. You were simply wrong to assert that revenue was the problem and not spending.

And, no, you did NOT point out that “over half the rise was due to declines in Tax revenue thanks to the GFC”. That would be your faulty memory causing you to lie yet again.

Or there was the absurd claim that Adam Posen cherry-picked data in Japan that showed fiscal policy worked when it was used either in an expansionary sense or contractionary sense.

You mean here? As I demonstrated using Japanese Cabinet Office Data, there was no material contraction in government spending in Japan and Japan’s persistent structural deficits failed to prevent prolonged economic stagnation. There is nothing absurd about stating these facts.

I do recall asking which part of the two DECADES of data was cherry picked but you didn’t answer.

No, you did not ask “which part” of the two decades of data was cherry-picked. That’s your faulty memory again, me old china.

The point is moot, however, as I demonstrated where Posen cherry-picked the data in my first reference to the Cabinet Office data.

yes and you an expert in understanding what a lie is.

I’m an expert, due to involuntary experience, in your lying.

how very convenient to possess such a bad memory

As I’ve demonstrated time and again, and yet again in just this comment, my memory is far superior to yours.

A very sad insecure person as well.

Heh. Source, please.

Tel
Tel
9 years ago

I think we’ve peaked. The tumble could get quite ugly though.

Agreed, but there’s a lot of tumbling happening out there so as the saying goes, “I ain’t trying to outrun the bear”.

rog
rog
9 years ago

I think we’ve peaked.

One thing that is beyond doubt is that in economics nothing is certain and despite all the alleged improvements and advancements we are still left thinking the unthinkable – that it could all go pear shaped tomorrow, or maybe the day after.

Pedro
Pedro
9 years ago

Helpfully the productivity commission has weighed in for the assistance of those who want to arm-wave about the FWA
http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/inquiry/retail-industry/report

“Fair work is about 1/2 the legislative pages workchoices was.”
Irrelevant.

This is not rocket science. Just ask anyone in retail.

There are a range of reasons productivity growth has been flat, but ask yourself whether the signs are that the FWA is helping or hindering.

“I think Kev came to power with an extraordinarily ambitious agenda, exemplified in particular by the overhaul of federal financial relations and the clarifying of accountabilities under the COAG National Agreements.”

Well we’ll mark that down as a fail. Though why anyone would get excited from a significant reform sense is beyond me.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
9 years ago

Pedro

It might have been a good idea to read the PC report before citing it as support for your position on FWA:

(1) The PC report lists numerous factors as impacting retail productivity, including planning and zoning laws, retail tenancy laws, trading hours regs, GST, and employment skills and training. You will note that most of these are State laws, and the majority of Australian retail businesses are in States that have had Coalition governments for long enough to have done something about these issues had they chosen.

(2) The PC makes no specific recommendations about labour market laws, it just suggests that retail be examined in the context of the forthcoming general review of the FWA.

(3) The figures and graphs in the PC report only go up to 2007-8 (i.e. the Work Choices era).

(4) Retail productivity actually fell slightly during the Work Choices period.

(5) Retail productivity has improved since 2007-8 (i.e. the FWA era), though mostly because of labour shedding subsequent to the GFC (no precise figures or graphs are given).

Neither (4) nor (5) really says anything meaningful in a comparative sense about WC versus FWA. All other things being equal, you would expect productivity to have fallen marginally during boom times (i.e. 2004-8) as employers took on more marginal staff to cope with the boom. Similarly you’d expect them to shed less productive employees in more adverse trading conditions after 2008. The productivity changes are sufficiently small that they don’t suggest anything more than those factors at work.

All that being said, there ARE real issues about labour market flexibility and especially weekend penalty rates in retail. However we should not IMO necessarily automatically accede to the demands of the retail sector. We should as a society decide whether we regard economic efficiency and optimally low prices as the only relevant factors, or whether social and cultural factors are also important. In Australia especially, sporting, cultural, community and family events tend to happen on weekends (although that’s less exclusively the case than it once was), and so people who are forced/choose to work on weekends suffer significant social and family disadvantage. We may think that people suffering those disadvantages should be compensated for them to the extent wages can do so, and that sending price signals to retailers with more marginal operations that perhaps they could reconsider the necessity of trading all weekend is a good not a bad thing.

Of course, we as a society must then understand that we are paying for supporting social ends, in that higher weekend wages will impact prices (or retail profitability to the extent retailers are constrained from raising prices by Internet shopping competition). Historically, however, Australians appear to have readily accepted that trade-off as a reasonable one. The fact that the Gerry Harveys of this world are getting more media exposure these days for their whingeing demands (no doubt due to the 24 hour media cycle and the vastly increased amount of space and airtime to be filled in cable, Internet etc) does not necessarily mean that Australians’ views about this have changed very much. Indeed the fact that we decisively rejected Work Choices in 2007 and that Tony Abbott still refuses to touch any suggestion of its revival with a barge pole indicates very strongly that most of us still hold those perfectly reasonable priorities.

Tel
Tel
9 years ago

This is not rocket science. Just ask anyone in retail.

To be fair, retail has been subject to tech shock (cite: Ruslan Kogan vs Harvey Norman) and probably we could say that online retail will end up overall being more efficient than shop floor retail (i.e. higher productivity). For that productivity to trickle down to the whole society will require efficient redeployment of the ex-retail staff. Very difficult to neatly link that back to any particular piece of legislation, I’m not sure how you propose to go about tracking the transition and redeployment process.

rog
rog
9 years ago

Pedro is just regurgitating partisan agitprop. Fiat were in strife in 2004 but after extensive analysis found that it wasn’t the workers it was management. So they dealt with it.

JC
JC
9 years ago

Of course, we as a society must then understand that we are paying for supporting social ends, in that higher weekend wages will impact prices (or retail profitability to the extent retailers are constrained from raising prices by Internet shopping competition). Historically, however, Australians appear to have readily accepted that trade-off as a reasonable one.

Do we say that and actually mean it Ken, now that you can purchase a pair of Levis for 38 bucks vs 130 bucks here (approx)? I’m not sure that’s the case any longer and was probably the case if people had the opportunity to shop online before.

6% of retail sales are now online and I bet the vast majority of that is clothing etc, which is a big big chunk of that segment.

Everything the productivity commission said sounds correct however the big fat hippo in the room is the fact that unlike say the US and even Europe wages in retail are extremely high and inflexible here. Elsewhere those wages particularly in the clothing segement are “varibable-ized” with a low fixed wage rate and a dangling commission carrot. Retailers and their employees need to be able to figure out what’s best for them.

Globalization is a bitch at times.

rog
rog
9 years ago

From JC’s wunderlink

this is the second pair of levis i ordered through amazon. it was identical to the first pair except the first was made in lesotho the second in egypt. both were 36×29, but the second, the one under review here, the one of egyptian manufacture, was somewhat tighter, really almost too tight, and the button hole was too small, had to be forced. clearly levi strauss no longer has the standard for which they were famous, and here as in so much else caveat emptor (latin for ‘buyer beware’).

fxh
fxh
9 years ago

I am not a catallaxy clown.

Pure gold homer.

I am not an animal

Still got Backman Turner Overdrive Greatest Hits on high rotation?

fxh
fxh
9 years ago

Levi’s wont allow direct shipping to Oz.

No matter where the 501’s were made.

And who’d wear anything else?

Dan
Dan
9 years ago

It’s true that stuff is cheap in the US – the economies of scale are ridiculous there.

Pedro@28: I don’t think it’s anywhere near as simple as giving it a grade (though I realise you were being flippant). The harmonisation of legislation, accreditation and so on under the auspices of the seamless national economy has enacted some very sensible reforms that are good for both business and the economy, the sacrifice made in that instance being less room for the states to move. So as with any policy area, there are winners and losers; the trick is to try and get more upside than downside, at least for the parties most affected. On those criteria the COAG reform agenda is a qualified success. But hey, someone had to do something, and doing so took guts.

Nabakov
Nabakov
9 years ago

“Levi’s wont allow direct shipping to Oz.”

Try this.
http://www.fetchusa.com.au/

Pedro
Pedro
9 years ago

Homer, I don’t think we are capable, as a nation, of deciding anything about anyone’s particular working conditions, unless you want to run a plebicite on retail penalty rates. Still, gotta love how your version of the Aussie way of life is determinant of somebody elses job conditions, and whether they have one.

Ultimately a lot of factors play into retail competition, and rents are ridiculous, but if you have an ear ache, do you ditch the medicine because your leg hurts too?

Rog, you’re a drip.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
9 years ago

Pedro,

I don’t know what you are on about. I have always been a strong supporter of EBAs and have never supported centralised wage determination unless you had to get money into profits instead of wages alah Accord.

FXH has never worn jeans in his life. He always wears beige safari suits whilst listening to Abba on his ipod

JC
JC
9 years ago

“Levi’s wont allow direct shipping to Oz.”

Really FXH?

I don’t wear Levis so I’m not ordering them, however I went right through the order process until I had to click onto the “buy” button and there were no restrictions on Amazon to send the jeans here.

And I’ve never heard of anyone having restrictions imposed for Levis and the reason I’m saying that is because someone recently alerted me to the price differential and the bought several pairs from the same site.