July 15, 2012

Saturday Extra

ABC Radio National

The New Gilded Age

Geraldine Doogue:
The three richest Australians now own more than the million poorest Australians.
That's pretty amazing, isn't it?!
(Making sense of 2016, 13 February 2016)

Yuval Harari (1976) [Professor of History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem]:
As of early 2016, the 62 richest people in the world were worth as much as the poorest 3.6 billion people!
Since the world's population is about 7.2 billion, it means that these 62 billionaires together hold as much wealth as the entire bottom half of humankind.
(Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Penguin, 2015, p 347)

Hugh Mackay (1938) [Social Researcher]:
More than 700,000 children are living in poverty. …
About 2 million Australians are either unemployed or underemployed.
100,000 Australians are homeless.
We are further from egalitarianism than we were 50 years ago.
(The state of the nation starts in your street, The Conversation, 2 February 2017)

Simon Marginson

Professor of International Higher Education, University College London

I suspect the eye of the needle has closed a bit, when you're trying to enter the upper echelons of society.
And that's the result of this massive shift of inequality: when you look at the figures it's quite staggering when you look at the top 1% of the top 1% [ie the top 1 in 10,000] taking nearly all the fruits of economic growth. …
[So, when you] look at the position of the top 1% in incomes:
  • in the US they've got 20% of all income,
  • in the UK they've got about 16%, and
  • in Australia they've got 10 to 11%. …

If a child is from a very wealthy family, they really aren't going to need to go to university to have a successful life, because they're going to inherit from this generation of super-managers with super salaries.
And you're going to see a build up of old style wealth in the next generation — people who are living on capital income and property. …

Education is still very important for the lower middle-class family. …
[But if] the rich are exiting the tax system [and] aren't really sharing the benefits of a common approach to education or health or any other … public service, then they're [unlikely] to pay for it either.
[In] that situation, those who are benefiting [from the common project] are also carrying the cost as well, so their net position is reduced. …

The working of the market doesn't create the inequality that's now quite extreme by international and historical standards — it's the tax and transfer and public spending side of the United States that turns market inequality of a moderate level into extreme inequality in terms of final incomes.

(Education and social mobility, 25 July 2015)

Wealth is always much more concentrated than labor incomes. …

There has been an explosive growth of managerial salaries in the US and UK …
Highly paid managers often set their own remuneration, including bonuses, or negotiate their remuneration with boards of like-minded folk on which they themselves sit. …
[Between] 1980 and 2010 the share [of income in the US] held by the top 0.1% rose from 2% to nearly 10%.
[And, by 2030, it is anticipated that] the top 1% in the US will receive 25% of all income …
In the UK between 1980 and 2010, the income share of the top 1% moved from 6 to 15%, reaching the highest level since the 1930s.
(pp 12-13)

In the next generation, when today’s super manager salary is tomorrow’s inheritance, society will become more closed at the top, reducing meritocratic mobility into and within the elite, while at the same time income shares will continue to decline at the middle and bottom of the pyramid.

In the US the top 1% recovered quickly [following the 2008 recession,] securing 93% of all additional income in 2009-2010 while the average homeowner lost more than a third in property value.
In both the US and UK the shares of the top 1%, 0.1% and the top 0.01% are now climbing above pre-recession levels.
[The financial industry captured] more than 40% of all US profits prior to the recession …
After triggering the crisis, the … sector has been able to use the crisis to further expand its share of wealth.
(p 14)

The lesson of the last fifty years is that higher education does not [create] egalitarian societies on its own, though it can facilitate them. …
In aggregate, what happens with incomes, wealth, labour markets, taxation, government spending, social programmes, and urban development, are overwhelmingly more important.
(p 20)

[The University of California has] a more egalitarian entry policy than Oxford and Cambridge …
[It has] as many low-income students, and students from under-represented minorities, as the whole Ivy League.
Under the progressive tuition policy, 40% of undergraduates at Berkeley are subsidized by other students and pay no tuition, and two thirds of all students receive at least some financial aid.
Half of all of Berkeley’s students graduate with no debt.
(p 21)

(Valuing Research into Higher Education, Keynote Address: 50th Anniversary Colloquium, Institute of Education, University College London, 26 June 2015)

Fiscal Hypocrisy

Geraldine Doogue:
… Angela Merkel's judgement … was that the Germans really believe in honoring their debts, by and large …
(The Future of the Euro, 15 April 2017)

Joseph Stiglitz (1943):
[Historically,] Germany has been among the biggest defaulters and one of the biggest recipients of debt write downs after WWII and in other instances …
(Stiglitz on Greece and climate change, RN Drive, 10 July 2015)

Thomas Piketty (1971)

In 1945 [Germany and France] had public debts greater than 200% of GDP.
By 1950, debt had fallen to less than 30%.
What happened — did we suddenly run budget surpluses big enough to pay off such a debt?
Obviously not: it was by inflation and repudiation, pure and simple, that Germany and France got rid of their debt in the previous century. …
Yet since 2010-11, those two countries have been explaining to southern Europe that their public debts will have to be paid back to the last euro.
This is a shortsighted selfishness [which] has led to a generalized recession in the Eurozone.
Meanwhile, economies everywhere else have started recovering, both in the United States and in the EU countries outside the Eurozone. …
(p 149-50)

Greece is expected to run an enormous surplus of 4% of GDP for decades, in order to pay back its debts. This is an absurd strategy [which] France and Germany … never applied to themselves.
(p 160)

[A] single currency can't function with eighteen different public debts and eighteen different interest rates on which financial markets can freely speculate.
There needs to be massive investment in training, innovation, and green technologies.
We're doing exactly the opposite: right now, Italy devotes nearly 6% of GDP to paying interest on its debt and invests barely 1% of GDP in all of its universities.
(p 150)

It is urgently necessary to put Eurozone public debts in common, so that markets will stop imposing erratic and destabilizing interest rates on this or that country, along with the corporate tax, which multinational companies are evading on a massive scale. …

In concrete terms, a new Eurozone fiscal chamber, made up of deputies from the national parliaments' finance and social affairs committees, would decide by majority vote on the amount of public debt that the European treasury could issue annually, after a public and democratic debate and on the basis of proposals from a European finance minister responsible to that chamber.
But each national parliament would remain entirely free with regard to its overall level of taxes and spending, and of course, with how they're distributed.
(p 99)

(Chronicles On Our Troubled Times, Viking, 2016)


The New Gilded Age

Who pays for solar?

Heads I win. Tails you lose.

Religious Fascism

Anywhere but here

Malaysian refugee policy

Counting the Dead: Sri Lanka

Clean energy subsidies

Taking Responsibility

Land of the Free

The Ethics of Incentives

Saturday Extra

Geraldine Doogue

  • Tobacco free portfolios, 13 October 2018.
    Bronwyn King: Oncologist.
  • A New Prime Minister, 25 August 2018.
  • America's Opioid Crisis, 18 August 2018.
    Beth Macy.
  • Robert Manne, 24 March 2018.
    Robert Manne (1947): Emeritus Professor of Politics, Latrobe University.
  • Infrastructure investment, 18 March 2017.
    John Quiggin (1956): Professor of Economics, Queensland University.
  • The American Democratic Party, 16 July 2016.
    Thomas Frank: Listen Liberal, Scribe, 2016.
  • Investing in a fossil fuel free future, 31 May 2014.
    Pilita Clark: Environment Correspondent, The Financial Times.
    Charlotte Wood: Campaign Director, 350.org; Leader of Go Fossil Fuel Free Australia.
  • Who pays for solar, 2 November 2013.
    Tristan Edis: Editor, Climate Spectator.

    Geraldine Doogue
    Last week the Australian Energy Market Commission released a Strategic Priorities Report that highlighted the potential for solar-powered homes to possibly be charged higher fees to access the electricity grid.
    There's now an estimated one million of our homes with solar photovoltaic panels … that the report says are among those being subsidized by other consumers.
    This has sparked further debate … as to whether solar PV panel owners are subsidizing those with air-conditioners. …

    Tristan Edis
    The fundamental challenge we've got in [the] electricity supply industry
    The poles and wires that supply power to you are bit like a main road into a city and most of the time they're completely uncongested.
    Then for very short periods of time there is a like a 'peak hour' on our electricity network.
    So they need to be built to cope with that very short period of the year, maybe a few hours in the year, where we have a very high peak demand.
    And so it's a like a pipe that has to deliver water.
    It has to be built to cope with that very short period of time.
    But the way we charge for our electricity is based upon the average consumption over a period of time — not the peak.
    And that's because we've had these old accumulation meters that couldn't tell the time.
    They didn't have a computer chip.
    They had no idea what the time was, they just measured in incrementally over time and a guy came to front door every 3 months and said:
    Okay, you've consumed this much electricity.
    No-one knew how much each person was consuming at the peak time and how much load they were putting on the electricity network.
    And now what's happening is … some people are installing solar panels on their roofs, others are doing … amazing things reducing their electricity consumption with more energy efficiency.
    And so we're seeing [total] electricity demand now going down …
    And the electricity network businesses are saying:
    Well, I've invested all this money in building poles and wires to cope with a certain peak demand but now I've got less electricity flowing through these wires with which I can recover my costs. …
    Geraldine Doogue
    It's a question of where they're seeking to recover some of that.
    And the argument is that the solar have had a … disproportionate benefit … because they've had the money to invest in solar PV. …
    That there's a cross subsidy underway.

    Tristan Edis
    The [fact is] everyone is subsidizing everyone because the way [we charge] for electricity is not based on your peak demand, its not based on how much of that network capacity you use at the peak period …
    [In the past the] government estimated that is a cross-subsidy of $7,000 from households that don't have air-conditioners to households which do install air conditioners. …

    The problem we have is a more systemic problem in the electricity market where we just don't price electricity properly to reflect the demands that we put on the infrastructure.

    It didn't really bother [the electricity companies] that people were installing air conditioners because that increased electricity consumption … and enabled them to grow their … profits.

    The reason they're kicking up a stink [about solar now,] and trying to … create a story about rich solar owners hurting the poor — which is actually not accurate — is more to with the fact that:
    [These] guys are posing a threat to [our] business!
    Its posing increased competition!
    People installing solar means less demand for more electricity infrastructure [and] generation.
    And so these electricity companies are trying to create a story that:
    Oh, solar is being cross-subsidized and isn't that a horrible thing!
    But they never complained to the same degree about air conditioners — or other measures that were cross-subsidies — because that suited their business interest. …

    Some state governments, particularly Queensland and NSW, are reluctant to [roll-out] smart meters — meters that can tell the time.
    And until those are rolled out, we are stuck with an imperfect way of charging for electricity based on averages rather than peak demand. …
    Because there was such a disaster with rolling out smart meters in Victoria [where people] were being charged several hundred dollars for a smart meter and nothing changed.
    And so people got very angry with the government … and so that scared off other state governments from doing a similar exercise.
    But in the end Victorian households will be better off as a consequence.

  • Kim Williams leaves News Corp, 10 August 2013.
    Tim Elliott: Journalist, Fairfax Media.
  • The PNG solution, 20 July 2013.
    James Jupp: Adjunct Associate Professor, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University.

    Geraldine Doogue
    In a move that [Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd] claims really will stop the boats, Australia has signed this agreement with [Papua and New Guinea —] effective for the next 12 months [—] whereby all [irregular maritime arrivals] will be sent to PNG and processed on Manus Island.
    If they're found to be genuine refugees, they well be settled there, or another safe country, not here [in Australia]. …

    James Jupp:
    There's been a steady movement away from the [Refugee] Convention ever since [former Prime Minister Paul Keating] introduced mandatory detention in 1991 …
    And then it gradually escalated because it became a political issue between the two major parties.
    [Recently it has progressed to] a state of social hysteria …

    The numbers of refugees coming to Australia [in the last few years] are high by our standards, but they're certainly not high by the standards of other countries in the region.
    Indonesia gets more than us.
    Pakistan gets infinitely more than us.
    As long as the war is going on in Afghanistan, there'll be a regular movement out of Afghanistan — that's both into Iran and into Pakistan.
    The one that really changed the situation was the Sri Lankan one because apparently our government hadn't fully realized what was happening in Sri Lanka.
    And we were surprised by the sudden arrival …

    Geraldine Doogue
    But it's now the Iranians, because the Sri Lankans allegedly have stopped coming because of that incredible publicity drive by the government.

    James Jupp:
    {Iran is a very repressive country against religious minorities.
    And we have large Baha'i community in Australia now who've come entirely from Iran in the last few years. …}

    [The people smugglers' are] not just making money from the fares to come here — which are often quite low. …
    But where they're making money, and this is what the Chinese did … for a hundred years, is in collecting money from the relatives of people who are still in the country of origin and charging extremely high interest.
    So even if they don't send any boats at all they're still making money from the ones that they've already sent. …

    We've had these statements in the last two or three days by people like [the Foreign Minister] Bob Carr about how these people are all coming to get 'sugar on the table' — which is a funny expression — without them having been cleared.
    We've got thousands of people who haven't been cleared.
    How they can say they're economic migrants I don't know.
    That's a propaganda term that's used in Europe as well. …
    It's not based on anything except prejudice against people coming.

  • Malaysian refugee policy, 20 July 2013.
    Christopher Leong: President, Malaysia Bar Council.

    [The Malaysian] government announced that it proposes to allow refugees and asylum seekers … access to lawful employment. …
    The offshore refugee processing proposal by the Australian government … was set set aside … by the High Court of Australia on the basis that there was no assurance in Malaysia, of Malaysia's obligations to provide minimum protection and basic human rights to refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia.
    The High Court specifically said they needed to see … three things …
    • that the contracting party … is a signatory of the UN convention of 1951, or
    • that the assurances as to the processing and protection of refugees and asylum seekers are grounded in … domestic legislation …
    • that it is not merely appearing in legislation in words [but is] it is in fact given in effect to [in practice. …]
    There are about 105,000 refugees as at May of [2013].
    And 91% of these refugees are from Myanmar. …
    The children to not have access to the national education system, although they have some limited access to informal education.

  • Happy Birthday Mandela, 20 July 2013.
    Colin Tatz: Professor and Visiting Fellow in Politics and International Relations, Australian National University.

    Colin Tatz:
    Nelson Mandela … endured twenty-seven years of imprisonment: some [18] years of it on the dreadful Robben Island …
    [This] guy emerges and he puts his arms around his enemy and says: 'I love you like a brother'.
    What could be more Christ like than that?
    Turning the other cheek, embracing the enemy, welcoming the enemy …
    Some time ago there was a television clip of him sitting down … and having a cup of tea with [his former] warder at Robben Island. …

    F W de Klerk … headed a [National Party] government that, in the 20th century, that was only one step removed from Nazi Germany in its fascist ideology. …
    It was a fascist ideology by any yardstick that you care to [use].
    In fact, it was probably the most draconian country outside of Italy's Mussolini, Franco's Spain and Hitler's Germany.
    And not for a short period, but for … nearly three centuries. …
    And it's that man who forms a partnership with Mandela — has the foresight to see where the bloodbath is going and he heads it off in partnership with a man whom he imprisoned. …

    Geraldine Doogue
    [You've also written that] Mandela, by being … a man of such virtue … turned around a long angry vengeful Dutch Reform fundamentalist view … that blacks could never achieve true spirituality with the white man. …

    Colin Tatz:
    What drove South African racism, and the whole apartheid era [was] not politics or political ideology but religious ideology …
    The whole essence, the whole fulcrum on which White Afrikaner nationalism was based was their Dutch Reform Church Calvinism.
    It was their view that God had dispensed this order of things.
    God made the white man to sit on top.
    God ordained that the black people were to be the perpetual servants: the hewers of wood, the drawers of water.
    That [as the] son's of Noah [they] were cursed forever.
    [So] they could never achieve this true spirituality with the white man.
    So no matter how many PhDs they had, no matter how many professors they had, they were doomed to be the black people that they are. …

  • Photographing and saving the icy realm, 20 July 2013.
    Paul Nicklen: Biologist and Photojournalist, National Geographic.
  • Egypt and military might, 6 July 2013.
    Robert Springborg: Professor of National Security Affairs, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California.
  • Politics: Leader of the gang (repeat), 6 July 2013.
    Glyn Davis: Professor of Political Science, University of Melbourne.
  • Great Southern Land, 8 June 2013.
    Steve Bibb (Executive Producer) and Ivan O'Mahoney (Series Producer and Director): Factual, Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder.
  • Albinisim in Tanzania, 1 June 2013.
    Josephat Torner: Albino rights campaigner.
    Harry Freeland: Writer, producer and director — In the Shadow of the Sun.
  • A new way of thinking about economics, 13 April 2013.
    Robert Johnson: Executive Director, Institute for New Economic Thinking.

    The derivatives business … is 97% dominated by six banks.
    They make about $35 billion a year.
    [If] you properly structured derivatives — put them on [properly capitalized] exchanges, made them more transparent [—] they would lose 20% of that profit per year: $35 billion profits, 20% of profits, $7 billion a year.

    You get a financial bill through congress about every five years.
    So the excess profit is about $35 billion.
    [It] turns out the banking lobbies … spent about $600 million — which overwhelms American politics.
    It's the dominant force in American politics …
    For $600 million, these guys can protect $35 billion of profit. …
    Fabulous risk-return for them, terrible for society. …
    So they're still playing a game of: heads I win, tails you lose. …

  • Sri Lanka: still counting the dead, 9 March 2013.
    Frances Harrison: Former foreign correspondent for the BBC and resident correspondent in Sri Lanka, 2000-2004.

    [According to a second report released by the UN last year] possibly 70,000 civilians … were killed [over a 5 months period] {in an area of 35 square kilometres that gradually shrank and shrank. …}
    We are talking about an incredible scale of bloodshed.
    [War] crimes, crimes against humanity and persecution [committed] by a government which basically violated all the norms of international law. …

    We're [now] four years down the line.
    There's been no devolution of power deal, no concessions, no sense of reconciliation.
    Just a kind of tighter grip on the people who live in these areas.
    More military sent and deployed there. …

    [In] these conflict areas, people can't even mourn the dead, they're not free to do that. …
    They can't have church or temple services, and almost every family lost someone.
    So if you treat people like that, four years after such a massive amount of bloodshed, of course, eventually, another generation will want to take up arms and take revenge. …

    On the part of the Tamil diaspora … there was quite a lot of support for the LTT and their aims.
    [They] funded it …
    [They] supported it politically [and] morally.
    And they didn't really ask that many questions about what this armed group did with their funds.

    So the fact that … the Tamil Tigers, were recruiting children [and] were not allowing civilians to leave the war zone.
    These are quite serious things that changed the moral balance of what happened at the end of the war.
    Most of the diaspora supporters of the Tigers who funded them to the tune of, its estimated, $200 million a year – they knew this, and they kept quiet about it.
    [They] should have exerted more influence and taken some responsibility for what the Tigers did wrong.
    [Even] now many refuse to acknowledge they did commit war crimes as well as the government. …

    Last November and internal report, that the UN secretary general commissioned, looking at the UNs role in Sri Lanka in 2009, was leaked. …
    That report is extremely revealing about some of the top UN officials, particularly those in New York, who deliberately held back from briefing with diplomats crucial information about casualties that they had at the time.
    Had those been made public at the time, at least the world would have known what was going on …
    It might not be that anything would have changed, the outcome may have been the same, after all we know what's happening in Syria, and still there isn't any intervention. …
    The UN collected casualty information, unconfirmed reports from teachers, clergymen, doctors, and other local NGOs – which came to a total of 50,000 … injured and dead …
    They kept it [quiet, because they] were concerned that it might not be 100% accurate ..
    [And they] undermined its credibility in public. …

    There are tens of thousands of Tamils the northern areas displaced in a long term chronic way because of the [increasing numbers of] army camps that have been set on their land …
    [People] can't reclaim their homes, because the army [is] occupying those areas – an army that's increased in size since the end of the war.
    [There's] now one soldier for every five civilians in the northern area.
    [It is,] in effect, a military occupation …
    [And] there really isn't a security justification for having that kind of militarization in the north-east four years after [the end of the] war. …

    [In spite of the Tigers being designated a terrorist organisation, UN officials have] direct evidence [that the] majority of the killing in 2009 was [committed] by the government forces …

    [It's known that many people] didn't join [the Tigers] voluntarily, they were forced to join. …
    [So when assessing asylum seekers] you need to look at the individual cases.
    [Many] of these people are civilians who [have witnessed] appalling war crimes and … suffered extraordinary horror … who then find themselves in detention.
    And, of course … you're not going to find out [about]{the stories of rape and sexual abuse] in a detention center [because] the whole community is there …
    [Victims] are simply not going to talk about it in front of another Tamil, because of the stigma. …

    The war is not over.
    It's just one sided.
    What is going on is a continuing persecution of Tamils in the north-east …

  • The rise of the electric bike, 22 December 2012.
    Marilyn Johnson: PhD, Research Fellow, Institute of Transport Studies, Monash University.
  • Inequality, 8 December 2012.
    Alain de Botton: Philosopher.
  • Clean energy subsidies, 14 July 2012.
    Martin Wolf: Chief economics commentator, Financial Times.
  • Economic Growth, 20 October 2012.
    Michael Webber: Associate Director, Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, University of Texas, Austin.

    Geraldine Doogue:
    The Brookings Institution had calculated, it was about $72 b had gone [into clean energy subsidies] going back to 2007-08. …

    Michael Webber:
    Most of that number is loan guarantees for nuclear. …

    [Texas] was the first state to have a renewable portfolio standard [renewable energy target] …
    Governor Bush was a big supporter of renewable power …

    Geraldine Doogue:
    Damien LaVera [Department of Energy]:
    Subsidies and government support have been part of many key industries in US history: railroads; oil, gas and coal; aviation …
    (New York Times)
    Michael Webber:
    One of the great traditions of American industry is to forget their own subsidies and criticize the others. …
    For internet, for telephones, for [every technology you can imagine] there's been some sort of subsidy …

    As the new industry gets subsidies, the old industry, which once had subsidies, complains about the new one.
    So we forget our own history every 40 years and go through this process repeatedly.

    Geraldine Doogue:
    The total lifetime subsidies … for oil and gas were $446 b [as of 2009.]

    Michael Webber:
    [The] most profitable companies … in the world still get hand-outs from all layers of government …

    [Corn] is one of the worst ways in the world [to make biofuel. …]
    [Corn] based ethanol gets four major subsidies.
    • [You] get money to grow it.
    • [We] have a mandate that requires us to buy it [10% of liquid fuels]
    • [We,] who are required by law to buy it are given a tax credit to buy it [and]
    • there's tariff imposed on foreign imports on Brazilian based sugar-cane ethanol …

    Imagine making a product [which the] government gives you the money to make …
    The government requires people buy it.
    The government gives money to people to buy it.
    And the government makes you competitors more expensive. …

    I loved visiting Australia …
    [You] confront environmental challenges, you don't ignore them. …

    We have more wind power in Texas than any other state in the United States.
    We're the sixth largest [producer of] wind-power in the world. …
    We've proved renewables can be profitable and clean and can be integrated with [existing energy options. …]

    Geraldine Doogue:
    The $1.2 b Solar Dawn project in Queensland [has] been put on hold.
    Even though almost $450 m has [already been invested].
    The Queensland government pulled $75 m …

  • Western, Bruce.  US prisons and social mobility, 23 June 2012.

    Bruce Western:
    The US is 5% of the world's population, but about a quarter of the world's prison population.
    The incarceration rate has grown tremendously over the last four decades.
    There are now over two million people in prison. …
    [For] African American men, with very low levels of schooling … the chances that they are going to go to prison at some point in their lives is around 70% …

    I've been working on this problem for 13 or 14 years …
    Criminal justice policy changed fundamentally in the 1970's.
    Before that there was a strong committment to rehabilitation …
    As the country moved towards the right politically … getting tough on crime rose to the top of the political agenda.
    The system became much more punitive.
    Prison time became the presumptive sentence for drug offences.
    Very long sentences began to be implemented for people committing violent crimes. …

    [The] prison system as a response to intractable social problems in really poor communities.
    [It's] a warehousing of people who are viewed as threatening and troublesome. …

    [Because] a large share of that population is in prison … I estimate the unemployment rate in the US is [underestimated] by about two%age points. …

    Kids at the top of the income distribution are living essentially as they did 30 or 40 years ago … completing high school and going on to university.

    At the bottom, there's been a massive change.
    These kids are much more likely to be raised in single-parent families.
    40% of births in America now are non-marital births and that's disproportionately drawn from the bottom of the social hierachy.

    Incarceration contributes to the adversity of family life.
    It contributes to family disruption.
    There's research which shows when a child experiences the incarceration of the parent they're more likely to encounter depression, behavioral problems, diminished school achievement …
    The problems that are visited upon the parents are inherited by the children.
    [We] suspect this will affect the children's outcomes when they become adults. …

    We've had a very large rise in income inequality … that dates from the 1970's.
    Part of this is a very dramatic rise in incomes at the very top …
    But at the bottom there's been a stagnation of living standards.
    The economy has grown a lot, so there's a group at the bottom that's not sharing the prosperity of the rest of the country. …

    This is a repudiation of … the American Dream.
    Of the previous three decades … in which there was a protracted period of economic prosperity that was very widely shared …

    [Progressive] groups are on the defensive right now [including the labor movement which] it seems, is really in it's death throes. …

    Geraldine Doogue:
    America has the least equality of opportunity of any of the advanced economies.
    (Joseph Stigliz)
    Bruce Western:
    [This] period from 1980 onwards [is] a time of [conservative] backlash [against] a long period of progressive social policy: [the] civil rights movement, affirmative action, equality of opportunity …
    [Against] government over-reaching …

    The civil rights period, which was very attentive to race and gender inequalities … was not sufficiently attentive to labor and economic inequalities. …

    In the United States the racial imbalance is about six to one.
    African Americans are about six times more likely to go to prison than whites.
    In Australia, it's almost exactly the same, if we look at indigenous Australians and compare them to white Australians. …

    There is a kind of genius in American politics.
    [A] real pragmatism about it that recognizes problems and aims to solve them.
    So I retain some hope for that …

  • Democracy: is there a better system?, 2 June 2012.
    Carne Ross: Former British diplomat; Founder and Executive Director, Independent Diplomat; Author, The Leaderless Revolution: How ordinary people will take power and change politics in the 21st century.

    I’d worked on Iraq for many years and it was very, very shocking to me to see my colleagues, who I thought of as decent, honest people, basically lying to the British people about why we went to war.
    [We] knew the evidence [and] it didn’t equate to what was said in public …

    … I had believed in democratic government composed of decent right-thinking people … could solve the problems of the world.
    [In] fact, the evidence that confronted me was that that is not the case. …

    [There] are systems of mass participation in decision-making — so-called participatory democracy …
    In places like Porto Alegre in Brazil you’ve had 50,000 people taking part in decisions to set the budget for that city.
    It has killed partisan politics, it’s produced much more equitable outcomes in terms of the provision of city services, it has created a new political culture. …

    A belief … in self-organised politics is not a belief in anarchy in chaos — rather the opposite. …

    [People] feel they have no power, they just pass them on to the politicians, hate them for messing it up but they don’t take responsibility themselves.
    There is a deeper element to this: that actually if we are genuinely concerned about these problems, if we genuinely want to address them, then we have to act ourselves, because the current system is simply not working.
    I frankly don’t see an alternative. …

    [Research] that has been done on deliberative systems … shows that when you give complex decisions to groups of people and actually allow them to pull them apart, address them, get expert opinion

    1. they end up more educated about those problems than they were before,
    2. they tend to reach consensus more easily; [and]
    3. there’s less partisanship.

    There’s less sense of trying to win an argument, more a sense of actually trying to find a common approach to solve a problem that concerns everybody.

    [Why] don’t we just give it a try?

    I’m not arguing that we should get rid of government tomorrow — that would be chaos, because we haven’t built up a culture of mutual trust and collaboration …
    [But] why don’t we just give this a try at local level: local participation in budget-making, local decisions, and build up a culture from the ground up? …

    [In] order to find new modes of political cooperation, we’ve got to start thinking about what would actually work.
    [By] learning new habits of [mass] collaboration based on some clearly stated values about respect, about consensus, about inclusivity [we] can actually begin to change the way we think about politics.

  • Australia's energy future, 21 April 2012.
    Mark Diesendorf: Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Institute of Environmental Studies, University of New South Wales.
  • Enlightenment discussion, 7 April 2012.
  • The ethics of incentives, 31 March 2012.
    Ruth Grant: Professor of Political Science, Duke University; Author, Strings Attached: Untangling the ethics of incentives, Russell Sage & PUP.

    What I am trying to do … is to get people to think about whether the transaction model of relations between people is appropriate in every institution of life.
    In the family?
    In schools?
    Or is it something that we should be leave in the marketplace?

    Lots of incentives are okay. …
    [My] point is to make the distinction between the ones that are, and ones that aren't.
    I elaborate certain standards that help us make those judgements.
    One is that the transaction has to be voluntary.
    It has to be for a legitimate purpose.
    It has not be not damaging to the character of the people involved. …
    Sometimes you need to be concerned about the fairness or the effectiveness of an incentive. …

    Using financial incentives to recruit subjects for medical research. …
    As long as people are fully informed of what they're getting into.
    And as long as the people conducting the research have made a responsible judgement about the scientific necessity of the research and the appropriate level of risk.
    I don't see that a financial incentive is a problem. …

    We now have a situation where almost 95% of felonies are settled with a plea bargain. …
    There is a question about voluntariness.
    If a prosecutor says to the defendant:
    You have a choice, you can go to trial and have a risk 20 years in prison, or you can take the deal and have five years in prison with parole after three.
    That looks like a pretty attractive offer.
    But if the implication is, if you don't take this offer, I going to throw the book at you when we get to court, the offer has this implied threat …
    [So] it's not clear that the defendant is acting freely instead of under duress. …

    But the issue that concerns me [most] is whether the state really ought to be able to try to buy a person's constitutional right to a trial.
    Because, the justice system is supposed to do two things.
    It's supposed to find out who committed the crime and then it's supposed to punish them appropriately.
    In a plea bargaining situation you get one of two results.
    You either have an innocent person plead guilty, or you guilty person get less than they deserve.
  • Saturday Extra, 11 September 2010.
    Edward Luttwak (1942): Senior Associate, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington.

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