Sunday, May 11, 2014

LAW, POLITICS & FINANCE




CHRISTIANS HAVE A BIBLICAL MANDATE: BE POLITICAL


Originally published in The Age (Melbourne), Opinion, September 4, 2003
by Rowan Forster and Rowland Croucher
The comments by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer about clergy ‘rushing for cheap headlines’ by getting involved in political statements, and the subsequent debate got us thinking…
Barney Zwartz, in his article on meddlesome priests (The Age, Opinion, 2/9), notes that the Judeo-Christian faith is not only about personal piety, but also social justice. Interfering clerics and prophets have, for 3000 years, been the bane of those who benefit from an unjust political system.
Take for instance that troublesome Baptist minister, Martin Luther King. He really should have kept his nose out of political issues, and kept his dream to himself. The duly elected Governors of Alabama and Mississippi were doing just fine until he came along. Why is religion getting mixed up with human rights?
Then there were those interfering archbishops, like Desmond Tutu in South Africa and Janani Luwum in Idi Amin’s Uganda. They should have left their political leaders alone, to govern as they saw fit. Same goes for Cardinal Jaime Sin in the Philippines under the enlightened rule of Ferdinand Marcos, and church leaders who opposed Pol Pot in Cambodia.
And what about Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador? If only he’d kept his mouth shut, he might still be alive. As for the likes of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoller in Nazi Germany, they should have stayed inside church cloisters instead of blundering into political activism.
Closer to home, meddlesome clerics like Tim Costello and Ray Cleary shouldn’t be shooting off their mouths about gambling and other social issues. Don’t they realise gambling addicts have a democratic right to sacrifice their homes and families and commit suicide if they want to, without interference from religious do-gooders?
And it’s not just clerics, either. Look at all those religiously minded laymen and women who have meddled in matters that don’t concern them. Like William Wilberforce dragging his Christian faith into the slavery issue, or the Earl of Shaftesbury interfering in the politics of child labor and other forms of exploitation. Or William and Catherine Booth meddling in issues of social and economic inequality, and founding the Salvation Army.
Then there’s Elizabeth Fry interfering in the field of prison reform; Florence Nightingale who founded the modern nursing movement; Cicely Saunders who founded the modern hospice movement; Henri Dunant who founded the Red Cross; and other meddlesome religious zealots who founded Alcoholics Anonymous, Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity, Opportunity International, World Vision, TEAR Fund, and a host of other enterprises that can be traced back to a religious motivation.
Is a world without religious interference what we really need? The resultant welfare bill would send all governments flat broke. Expediency would be more likely to triumph over conscience, and brute force over moral persuasion. There’d be less of a check on the excesses of genocidal tyrants, murderous despots and ruthless pragmatists.
New Testament Christians, as Karl Barth pointed out, faced the dilemma of relating to Nero’s Rome, which in Romans 13 is a divinely-ordained institution to be obeyed, but in Revelation 13 is ‘the beast from the abyss’. When governments invoke order at the expense of freedom, tyranny usually results. But, yes, freedom without order is anarchy. The Christian social philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr used to say ‘There is no peace without power, and no justice with power.’ So a Christian has two responsibilities: to support legitimate law and order, but also to promote social justice.
Christians with a social conscience – whether clergy or not – have a biblical mandate to get involved in political debate. Pericles put it well: ‘We do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics minds his own business. We say he has no business here at all.’




~~


'One of the most amazing things about the debate we've had over financial reform since the crisis of 2008 is that we haven't really questioned the system itself, only the state of individual institutions. Stanford professor Anat Admati ... whose book 'The Bankers' New Clothes' has become a call to arms for reformers globally - has done just that. [Her] simple, powerful question: Why do banks, even under new postcrisis rules, do business with 95% borrowed money when no other business would dream of it? Why are banks special? Her answer: they aren't, and financial reform needs to go much further to reflect that. "Is this complicated, risky system the best we can have?" she asks. Thanks to Admati, central bankers, global policymakers and economists are starting to wonder that too.'

Time, May 5-12, p. 40.

~~

Over the years, political commentary - from both the left and the right - has grown more and more shrill. Both sides talk past each other in an endless repetition of poll-tested sound-bites.

Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, Time May 12, 2014, p. 94.

'One of the most amazing things about the debate we've had over financial reform since the crisis of 2008 is that we haven't really questioned the system itself, only the state of individual institutions. Stanford professor Anat Admati ... whose book 'The Bankers' New Clothes' has become a call to arms for reformers globally - has done just that. [Her] simple, powerful question: Why do banks, even under new postcrisis rules, do business with 95% borrowed money when no other business would dream of it? Why are banks special? Her answer: they aren't, and financial reform needs to go much further to reflect that. "Is this complicated, risky system the best we can have?" she asks. Thanks to Admati, central bankers, global policymakers and economists are starting to wonder that too.' Time, May 5-12, p. 40.

Inline image 1

~~

Oh, and another comment on Australian politics: 

Would Abbott's approach be closest to "Tea Party" agendas than that of any right-wing mob in he Free World outside the U.S.?

+ Upper-middle class entitlement
+ Climate change denialism
+ Inadequate family welfare
+ Ethically flawed immigration policies
+ Probably the last government in the Free World to legislate for Marriage Equality?

What else? 

~~

Double standards / keeping confidences...

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop blasts her predecessor Bob Carr for writing a book and revealing snippets of conversations  between himself and foreign governments...

But she herself was party to her government's decision to overthrow the established convention that records of Federal cabinet discussions should be kept confidential for 30 years - a sensible convention which allows government ministers to speak freely and frankly.

Am I reading this right? She's more concerned for confidentiality for foreign governments than for Australian ministers, when it suits her...

Pot/kettle? Double standards when it suits? 

Help me someone: I wouldn't like to criticize this good-looking lady unfairly...

~~

An open letter to Scott Morrison


Immigration Minister Scott Morrison , who
declared in his maiden speech to Parliament
that his values and principles are derived
from his Christian faith and from Scripture.
6/03/2014

by Linda Cusworth, Christian freelance writer and member of the Combined Refugee Action Group in Geelong
Dear Mr Morrison,

I have read on several occasions that you identify William Wilberforce as one of your heroes.  Wilberforce is also one of my heroes.  Not least among the reasons for this is his persistence in letter-writing to government officials, to call for the humane treatment of people who were oppressed.  He wrote letters for 20 years before slavery was abolished in England.  I have been writing to you regarding your cruel and inhumane asylum seeker policies and operations for almost five months now.  I hope you are prepared for the next 19½ years of letters you will receive from me, should you remain in office that long.

I have appealed to you on matters of language.

Article 31 of the UN Refugee Convention says that, while it is usually illegal to enter a country without a valid visa, it is not to be considered as illegal, if it is for the purpose of seeking asylum. Yet, you continue to use the words “illegal maritime arrivals” and “entering illegally” in reference to people who are seeking asylum.

The Coalition’s use of phrases such as “Operation Sovereign Borders”, “border protection”, “matter of national emergency”, “military response” and even “war”, conjures up the idea in the national psyche that Australia is somehow being invaded by aliens who will destroy life as we know it.  It breeds fear and hatred among average Australians in the same way that the language of Joseph Goebbels spread fear and hatred in Nazi Germany.  However, this does not appear to bother you.

I have appealed to you on matters of international law.

As a UN Refugee Convention signatory, Australia is prohibited from imposing penalties on people entering for asylum if they are coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom is threatened.   The UNHCR defines “coming directly” as arriving without having been offered protection and security in another country first (UN High Commission on Refugees Guidelines on Detention of Asylum Seekers).  Yet the penalty of off-shore detention is being imposed on those who arrive by boat in order to seek asylum.  Anyone who arrives by plane, or anyone who overstays their visa, is not sent to Nauru or Manus Island.  Not one person has had their claim for asylum heard since Manus Island re-opened in 2012.  People are not merely waiting in immigration detention for security clearances and ‘processing’; they are being jailed for having arrived by boat.  Along with this, asylum seekers living in the community in Australia have been denied permanent protection, subjected to codes of conduct and made the lowest priority for family reunification, only if they have arrived by boat.  These are penalties that are being imposed for attempting to enter Australia without authorisation, even though it is unlawful to impose such penalties.

I have appealed to you on matters of human rights.

In the two letters I have received from your office, I have been told that “The Government of Australia takes its international human rights obligations seriously and will continue to adhere to those obligations”. Yet one letter also stated:

“Those seeking to come on boats will not achieve what they have come for, but will be met by a broad chain of measures, end to end, that are designed to deter, to disrupt, to prevent their entry from Australia and certainly to ensure that they are not settled in Australia.”

These two statements are diametrically opposed.

People seeking protection must not be prevented from entering a UN Convention signatory country.  They must not be returned to a country where their life or freedom is threatened (The 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, UNHCR, page 5). Yet your department turns back boats from Indonesia, and returns asylum seekers in Australian Government-funded lifeboats, without hearing their claims for asylum.   Your government paid for Navy ships to patrol the Sri Lankan coast to prevent Tamils from escaping persecution to seek asylum elsewhere, and returns people to the countries from which they have fled.

Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights says this:

“Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.

“Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.”

However, your department persists with punitive, indefinite, arbitrary detention for those who have committed no crime.  Some asylum seekers have been waiting in detention for over four years without having their cases heard.  According to Nauru’s foreign minister, people are likely to be kept in detention there for more than five years.

Your response to my letters has been to assure me that “Australia is working closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”.  However, in its press briefing notes on February 21, the UNHCR stated:

“We stress the obligation of Australia, PNG and Nauru to ensure that the human rights of asylum seekers are protected in accordance with international standards. The practice of detaining migrants and asylum seekers arriving by boat on a mandatory, prolonged and potentially indefinite basis, without individual assessment, is inherently arbitrary. Moreover, alternatives to immigration detention should always be considered.

“We encourage Australia, PNG and Nauru to review their Regional Resettlement Arrangements urgently to find principled solutions that are fully consistent with international human rights standards, including the right to seek asylum, the right to freedom from arbitrary detention, and the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

In a condemning judgment last year, the UN found Australia’s indefinite detention of refugees to be cruel, inhumane and in breach of UN conventions, and ordered refugees detained by ASIO be released and paid compensation.  Yet the Australian Government has made no moves to do so.

And so I now appeal to you on matters of personal values and of faith.

I read the transcript of your maiden speech to Parliament with great interest.  In this speech, you declared that your values and principles are derived from your Christian faith and Scripture.  You quoted Jeremiah 9:24 and said this:

“From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family.”

Justice and righteousness would welcome transparency instead of secrecy. They would be honest and open, rather than avoiding questions and withholding information about “on-water operational matters”. Justice and righteousness would welcome inquiries in order to demonstrate integrity.

Respect for rule of law would adhere carefully to international human rights laws, instead of using doublespeak and loopholes to ignore them.  Respect for rule of law would be less concerned with people’s mode of arrival, and more concerned with the fulfilling of human rights obligations now that they have attempted to arrive.

Compassion and loving-kindness would not need to clarify a question about a man who took his own life in immigration detention. Compassion and loving-kindness would automatically understand that the question, “Could this have been prevented?”, related to what could have been done to prevent the man’s death, not whether or not he could have prevented overstaying his visa.

Compassion and loving-kindness would not have implied that the young man, brutally killed while under the Australian Government’s supervision and care on Manus Island, brought the violence upon himself.  Compassion and loving-kindness would have said something like: “Tragically, a man who was being held in one of Australia’s off-shore immigration detention centres has been killed.  There will be a thorough investigation into how this could have possibly happened, to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. In the meantime, I extend my sincere sympathy to his family and assure them that everything will be done to give them the answers they need.”

Fighting for the opportunity for everyone to fulfil their human potential would not include returning people to homelands to face persecution, beatings, torture and execution. It would not include causing a severe, negative impact to people’s mental health through ongoing uncertainty and indefinite detention.  Fighting for the opportunity for everyone to fulfil their human potential would not cry, “saving lives at sea” only to have people killed in detention or take their own lives due to the depression and despair brought about by Immigration Department policy.

In your speech, you went on to talk about your vision for Australia being a nation grounded in generosity of spirit.  You echoed the words of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy when you said, “As global citizens, we must also recognise that our freedom will always be diminished by the denial of those same freedoms elsewhere, whether in Australia or overseas.”

Generosity of spirit and the offering of freedom would not translate into locking up children indefinitely on Nauru, in conditions which have been condemned by Amnesty International and the UN.  Generosity of spirit and the offering of freedom would not insist that people seeking asylum must join a mythical, world-wide queue for protection, which is anywhere other than here.

An understanding of the concept of “global citizens” would work with world leaders to find humane solutions to the global humanitarian issue of people fleeing war and persecution.

I cannot help but wonder what happened to the man who so eloquently espoused his values, and principles of Christian faith, in a maiden Parliament speech.  Perhaps he never existed at all, and they were just meaningless words read from a piece of paper.  Perhaps he was sincere at the time, but he lost himself somewhere beneath ambition and a lust for power.  I’m not sure which scenario I find more disturbing.  What I do know is that the Bible says that the way we treat “the least of these brothers and sisters” is the way we treat God (Matthew 25: 31-46). 

You have said that, for you, “faith is personal, but the implications are social.”  I can see no evidence of the implications of faith in Jesus in the cruel, harsh and inhumane asylum seeker policies you have put in place.   Your speech mentioned that Lincoln said, “Our task is not to claim whether God is on our side, but to pray earnestly that we are on His.”

While you might be able to avoid the questions in my letters, it is not so easy to avoid God’s questions.  I sincerely hope you have thought through your answers.

Yours faithfully,

Linda Cusworth

TMA, April 2014, 19-20

~~

In November 2008, while visiting the London School of Economics, Queen Elizabeth II asked why nobody had predicted the financial crisis. A group of eminent economists subsequently wrote to the queen to answer her question. They blamed a "failure of the collective imagination of many bright people" and admitted to a "psychology of denial".

However in light of such a significant divergence between prediction and outcomes, the methodology underpinning the work of economists rightly comes under scrutiny. It took a queen to ask why the emperor had no clothes. Now, perhaps, it is time for a reassessment of the exclusive use and acceptance of the "scientific approach" in academic enquiry.

Mary McKenna, in The Melbourne Anglican, April 2014, p. 22.

~~
Is there an economist here...?

In November 2008, while visiting the London School of Economics, Queen Elizabeth II asked why nobody had predicted the financial crisis. A group of eminent economists subsequently wrote to the queen to answer her question. They blamed a "failure of the collective imagination of many bright people" and admitted to a "psychology of denial".

However in light of such ...See more
Top of Form
1Like ·  · Promote · Share
  • Sue WillisRoberta HamiltonGreg Colby and 20 others like this.
  • Eileen Ray Economics doesn't work. In the very first lecture students are told that it is all about what can be measured, so all the important things in life (love, beauty, truth, old growth forests, caring sharing, friends, family ...) which can't be measured are irrelevant. Then they go onto develop theories around what gives the greatest satisfaction - which is really just a study of greed, not a response to real life.
13 hours ago · Unlike · 4
  • John Tudor Having majored in Economics at Melbourne Uni many (many) years ago - I can recall the sense of astonishment I felt when at the final lecture in Eco III, the lecturer emphasised what an inexact "science" Economics was, & how difficult it was for economists to agree with one another in terms of economic projections! I think he also would have found the Queen's question difficult to answer!
13 hours ago · Unlike · 3
  • Evan Hadkins Some did. Not many though. For a good critique of the neo-liberal tosh see Steve Keen's Debunking Economics. He shows that it doesn't work even given it's own assumptions. He's an Aussie.
13 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Lyn Kelly Thanx Evan  That s the one. Keynes - economic health. Kinsey Report - biological health. 
12 hours ago · Edited · Unlike · 2
Markets are by definition an expression of collective psychology, which means they're effectively impossible to forecast. It's not like forecasting the weather; if I think it's going to rain tomorrow that doesn't affect the chance that it will actually rain, but if everyone thinks that the economy will go into recession next year, that expectation will cause that to happen. So if everyone knew there was going to be a crash, that expectation would create a crash.

There are technical issues around the creation of subprime mortgages and how they were priced which are relevant to the trigger for the Great Recession, and those could have (should have?) been dealt with, but I'd argue that's an expression of the collective psychology issue.
11 hours ago · Unlike · 4
Marion Post Wolcott Man washing car at Sarasota, Florida, trailer park January 1...See more
  • Michael Kruse Ryan above makes important observations. Harvard Economist Greg Mankiw, leading author of economics textbooks, had a great piece in NYT lately. He writes:

    “… We economists often have only a basic understanding of how most policies work. The economy is complex, and economic science is still a primitive body of knowledge. Because unintended consequences are the norm, what seems like a utility-maximizing policy can often backfire.

    So, what is the alternative? At the very least, a large dose of humility is in order. When evaluating policies, our elected leaders are wise to seek advice from economists. But if an economist is always confident in his judgments, or if he demonizes those who reach opposite conclusions, you know that he is not to be trusted.

    In some ways, economics is like medicine two centuries ago. If you were ill at the beginning of the 19th century, a physician was your best bet, but his knowledge was so rudimentary that his remedies could easily make things worse rather than better. And so it is with economics today. That is why we economists should be sure to apply the principle “first, do no harm. …”

    Most economists I know do fess up to limitations. But for those bashing economics, give me your alternative? As soon as you say we should adopt this policy not that, you have made a judgment about how the economy works based on ….. what precisely? Epistemology 101. How do you know what you think you know? The blurry indistinct vision of economics is not a convincing case for the blindness of ideology, hunches, and tea leaves.

    http://www.nytimes.com/.../economic-view-when-the...
Economists’ advice on policy is based not just on their understanding of how the...See more
  • Alan Austin No, some economists did predict the GFC. One was Nouriel Roubini at the Stern School of Business at NYU. There were a few others.
    But John Tudor is correct about ecomomics being an inexact science.
    So was Professor Roubini just lucky?
    I remember one of my ecnomics lecturers observing that economists have predicted eleven out of the last four recessions.
7 hours ago · Unlike · 4
  • Michael Kruse And if you put all the economist in the world end-to-end you still wouldn't reach a conclusion. 
7 hours ago · Unlike · 5
  • Abbie McPhie As a market researcher, we usually make fun of economists for forecasting based on junk data and not knowing what questions to ask. I don't want to know what they think of us 
5 hours ago · Unlike · 3
A mathematician, an accountant and an economist apply for the same job.

The interviewer calls in the mathematician and asks "What do two plus two equal?" The mathematician replies "Four." The interviewer asks "Four, exactly?" The mathematician looks at the interviewer incredulously and says "Yes, four, exactly."

Then the interviewer calls in the accountant and asks the same question "What do two plus two equal?" The accountant says "On average, four - give or take ten percent, but on average, four."

Then the interviewer calls in the economist and poses the same question "What do two plus two equal?" The economist gets up, locks the door, closes the shade, sits down next to the interviewer and says, "What do you want it to equal"?
5 hours ago · Unlike · 4
  • Alan J Gijsbers For a good basic lay introduction to economics try Ian Harper ' s "Economics for life" which shows the strengths and limitations of economics and of our need to consider how to best manage scarce resources
4 hours ago · Unlike · 2
  • Alan J Gijsbers Ian's book was the Christian book of the year and also tells the story of his journey into faith.
3 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Michael Kruse Harper's "Christian Theology and Market Economics" ain't to shabby either but certainly more academic and pricey. When people ask me about suggestions, my first is usually John Stapleford's "Bull, Bears, and Golden Calves: Applying Christian Ethics in ...See More
3 hours ago · Unlike · 2
  • Elizabeth Mcalpine The book I have ever read on economics was by EF Schumacher called 'small is beautiful' a study of economics as if people mattered.
2 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Sharon Letchford After working in corporate finance for many years, I'd have to agree with Ryan Reynolds. Over those years I also I developed a passionate sense of disgust with fund managers (they were my clients!) who all try to 'outperform' one another and in doing so wreck the market for the rest of us. I'd still take shares over cash or property any day though- and none of those over Eileen Ray's 'irrelevancies'!
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ROWLAND CROUCHER <rcroucher@gmail.com>
Apr 10
Reply
to Jan
Is there an economist here...?

In November 2008, while visiting the London School of Economics, Queen Elizabeth II asked why nobody had predicted the financial crisis. A group of eminent economists subsequently wrote to the queen to answer her question. They blamed a "failure of the collective imagination of many bright people" and admitted to a "psychology of denial".

However in light of such ...
However in light of such a significant divergence between prediction and outcomes, the methodology underpinning the work of economists rightly comes under scrutiny. It took a queen to ask why the emperor had no clothes. Now, perhaps, it is time for a reassessment of the exclusive use and acceptance of the "scientific approach" in academic enquiry.

Mary McKenna, in The Melbourne Anglican, April 2014, p. 22.
Top of Form
3Like ·  · Promote · Share
  • Carey CrossthwaiteTim McCowanRichard Fay and 26 others like this.
  • Eileen Ray Economics doesn't work. In the very first lecture students are told that it is all about what can be measured, so all the important things in life (love, beauty, truth, old growth forests, caring sharing, friends, family ...) which can't be measured are irrelevant. Then they go onto develop theories around what gives the greatest satisfaction - which is really just a study of greed, not a response to real life.
  • John Tudor Having majored in Economics at Melbourne Uni many (many) years ago - I can recall the sense of astonishment I felt when at the final lecture in Eco III, the lecturer emphasised what an inexact "science" Economics was, & how difficult it was for economists to agree with one another in terms of economic projections! I think he also would have found the Queen's question difficult to answer!
  • Evan Hadkins Some did. Not many though. For a good critique of the neo-liberal tosh see Steve Keen's Debunking Economics. He shows that it doesn't work even given it's own assumptions. He's an Aussie.
  • Lyn Kelly Thanx Evan  That s the one. Keynes - economic health. Kinsey Report - biological health. 
23 hours ago · Edited · Unlike · 2
Markets are by definition an expression of collective psychology, which means they're effectively impossible to forecast. It's not like forecasting the weather; if I think it's going to rain tomorrow that doesn't affect the chance that it will actually rain, but if everyone thinks that the economy will go into recession next year, that expectation will cause that to happen. So if everyone knew there was going to be a crash, that expectation would create a crash.

There are technical issues around the creation of subprime mortgages and how they were priced which are relevant to the trigger for the Great Recession, and those could have (should have?) been dealt with, but I'd argue that's an expression of the collective psychology issue.
22 hours ago · Unlike · 4
Marion Post Wolcott Man washing car at Sarasota, Florida, trailer park January 1...See more
  • Michael Kruse Ryan above makes important observations. Harvard Economist Greg Mankiw, leading author of economics textbooks, had a great piece in NYT lately. He writes:

    “… We economists often have only a basic understanding of how most policies work. The economy is complex, and economic science is still a primitive body of knowledge. Because unintended consequences are the norm, what seems like a utility-maximizing policy can often backfire.

    So, what is the alternative? At the very least, a large dose of humility is in order. When evaluating policies, our elected leaders are wise to seek advice from economists. But if an economist is always confident in his judgments, or if he demonizes those who reach opposite conclusions, you know that he is not to be trusted.

    In some ways, economics is like medicine two centuries ago. If you were ill at the beginning of the 19th century, a physician was your best bet, but his knowledge was so rudimentary that his remedies could easily make things worse rather than better. And so it is with economics today. That is why we economists should be sure to apply the principle “first, do no harm. …”

    Most economists I know do fess up to limitations. But for those bashing economics, give me your alternative? As soon as you say we should adopt this policy not that, you have made a judgment about how the economy works based on ….. what precisely? Epistemology 101. How do you know what you think you know? The blurry indistinct vision of economics is not a convincing case for the blindness of ideology, hunches, and tea leaves.

    http://www.nytimes.com/.../economic-view-when-the...
Economists’ advice on policy is based not just on their understanding of how the...See more
  • Alan Austin No, some economists did predict the GFC. One was Nouriel Roubini at the Stern School of Business at NYU. There were a few others.
    But John Tudor is correct about ecomomics being an inexact science.
    So was Professor Roubini just lucky?
    I remember one of my ecnomics lecturers observing that economists have predicted eleven out of the last four recessions.
18 hours ago · Unlike · 4
  • Michael Kruse And if you put all the economist in the world end-to-end you still wouldn't reach a conclusion. 
18 hours ago · Unlike · 5
  • Abbie McPhie As a market researcher, we usually make fun of economists for forecasting based on junk data and not knowing what questions to ask. I don't want to know what they think of us 
16 hours ago · Unlike · 3
A mathematician, an accountant and an economist apply for the same job.

The interviewer calls in the mathematician and asks "What do two plus two equal?" The mathematician replies "Four." The interviewer asks "Four, exactly?" The mathematician looks at the interviewer incredulously and says "Yes, four, exactly."

Then the interviewer calls in the accountant and asks the same question "What do two plus two equal?" The accountant says "On average, four - give or take ten percent, but on average, four."

Then the interviewer calls in the economist and poses the same question "What do two plus two equal?" The economist gets up, locks the door, closes the shade, sits down next to the interviewer and says, "What do you want it to equal"?
16 hours ago · Unlike · 5
  • Alan J Gijsbers For a good basic lay introduction to economics try Ian Harper ' s "Economics for life" which shows the strengths and limitations of economics and of our need to consider how to best manage scarce resources
15 hours ago · Unlike · 2
  • Alan J Gijsbers Ian's book was the Christian book of the year and also tells the story of his journey into faith.
14 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Michael Kruse Harper's "Christian Theology and Market Economics" ain't to shabby either but certainly more academic and pricey. When people ask me about suggestions, my first is usually John Stapleford's "Bull, Bears, and Golden Calves: Applying Christian Ethics in Economics, 2nd Ed." It is written as a supplement to Intro to Econ textbooks. He was professor of mine at Eastern Univ. and it was one the most balanced books I've read.
14 hours ago · Unlike · 2
  • Elizabeth Mcalpine The book I have ever read on economics was by EF Schumacher called 'small is beautiful' a study of economics as if people mattered.
13 hours ago · Unlike · 2
  • Sharon Letchford After working in corporate finance for many years, I'd have to agree with Ryan Reynolds. Over those years I also I developed a passionate sense of disgust with fund managers (they were my clients!) who all try to 'outperform' one another and in doing so wreck the market for the rest of us. I'd still take shares over cash or property any day though- and none of those over Eileen Ray's 'irrelevancies'!
12 hours ago · Unlike · 2
  • Leon Gettler As someone who reads and works extensively in economics, I believe the failure to predict the crisis comes down to two issues. The first is a social cognition, or not-invented-here, bias where the mainstream economists refused to adopt an idea because it came from outsiders. The second failure comes down to confirmation bias, which leads people to filter, or interpret information in a way that confirms existing ideological preconceptions. That said, it wasn't just the economists who got it wrong. Many investors lost money because they ignored warnings about the housing bubble, national debt, trade deficit, inflation and currency risks
10 hours ago · Unlike · 2
  • Kevin Close So economics is the result of what people do in response to what they perceive other people have done. But our perceptions are filtered and biased.
    Where large hands can "pull the economic levers" as in our Labor Govt' response to the GFC or the ongoing Chinese economy, there is greater stability.
9 hours ago · Unlike · 2
Keynesian economics is about money supply. Ideally if you increase the money supply in a recession, the economy will be stimulated an a reasonable level, and employment will be restored. If money is added to the economy without production then the result will be boom and bust. From the 1880's onwards this has been the cycle of things. The current time is a good time to invest as the prediction is increased interest rates in the future.
6 hours ago · Unlike · 2

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World Bank 1981 - about 52% of the population of the developing world lived on less than $1.25 a day. By 2008 that share had shrunk to 22%, owing largely to gains made in Asia.

But (International Monetary Fund) - all economies suffering a widening gap between te rich and the poor in past three decades. 'Worsening inequality slows the pace of growth and heightens economic instability.'

'Conservatives are committed to the idea that wealth created at the top "trickles down" to everybody even though a growing mountain of evidence tells us that simply does not work in the real world. On the other side of the spectrum too many people believe what is good for business - free-trade agreements, deregulation - is bad for the little guy. The answer lies in the middle: promoting business-friendly policies that unleash growth while, at the same time, taking steps to ensure the benefits of that growth are spread more widely and equitably.

- Michael Schuman, 'Bridging the Wealth Gap', Time, May 19, 2014, p. 14.

===

When French academic Thomas Piketty's blockbuster 685-page book 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century' was published (year?) it sold 200,000 copies in its first year, and hit #1 on Amazon's best-seller list.

Its thesis: The rich really are getting richer. And their wealth doesn't trickle down. It trickles up.

'Since the rate of return on capital is greater than the growth in the economy as a whole, people who get most of their wealth from investments inevitably grow richer and richer compared with those who get their money from salaries or wages.'

Picketty doesn't begin from a conservative or liberal ideology: 'I didn't start from a political position but from a goal of understanding what the facts would tell us about inequality'.'

The supermanagers - CEOs, bankers, accountants, lawyers etc. that Occupy Wall Street railed against - increasingly receive up to a third of their incomes not in salary but in stock options and stock equity...  As James Galbraith and Travis Hale have shown, 'during the late-1990s tech boom, changing income inequality tracked the go-go Nasdaq to a remarkable degree...'

'Solution? According to Piketty, it's a global wealth tax... Some kind of all-surveying, universal wealth duty was an idea that preoccupied both Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson, and [yes] it remains "utopian".

The closest the US has come to levying a 'wealth fee' came in the form of an estate tax at death - but political interests from both political parties joined forces to water it down over the past 25 years. Time: 'Even so, the remnants of what has been derided as the "death tax" keep accountants very busy...'

Time: 'It took decades of debate to create the income tax. People said it would never happen. But it did happen.'

Rana Foroohar, 'Marx 2.0', Time, May 19, 2014, pp. 30-34.

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America is a Christian nation? Muslims I know (and some Christians) think America is one of the least Christian nations on earth with it's addiction to alcohol, abortion, pornography and sexual immorality of all kinds. In America prayer in public schools is banned. If it were a Christian nation this would not be the case. It's not the case in Muslim nations.
From the Business section of the AGE today (14/4/14):

How much do we pay for superannuation? Research from Rainmaker estimates Australians paid $18.6 billion in fees for their retirement savings to be managed last financial year.

That is equivalent to $1075 for every adult in the country, including those who don't even have super.

It's the same amount that was paid out last year by Medicare, which provides free or subsidised healthcare services to the entire population. And just like Medicare costs, super fees are likely to swell, with the total super pool tipped to triple over the next two decades.

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UK politicians united against global corruption

Members of Parliament representing all major parties gave support this week to ending corrupt practices that steal $1 trillion from the global economy every year.
The politicians gathered for a photo shoot in the Great Hall of Westminster six months ahead of a key gathering of world leaders at the G20 in Australia on November 15th and 16th.
Holding a giant trillion dollar note to highlight the huge amounts of money that go missing due to secret greed, the nine MPs showed cross-party support for efforts to restore these assets to citizens.
The global EXPOSED campaign, which calls for integrity in all areas of public life, organised the photo shoot as part of its efforts to influence the G20 to make important decisions to cut down on corporate practices designed to avoid tax.
The reputation of the UK Parliament may have been shaken in recent years by scandals to do with over-claiming of expenses but the MPs at the photo event clearly stated their support for probity. Many of those present are involved in the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Corruption which seeks to tackle corrupt practices in the UK and across the globe.  
Joel Edwards, who heads the EXPOSED campaign, says, “The hidden and murky world of corruption can be complicated: we understand bribery, but profit shifting, tax evasion, procurement deals and money laundering are complex ways companies and individuals escape paying their fair share of taxes. The good news is that the G20 nations are keen to tackle these things – and Christians are making a loud call for justice.”
The call for action at the G20 follows the UK’s lead in tackling corruption at previous meetings of the G8/G20. Conservative MP, Gary Streeter, says, “I’m proud that the UK has taken a lead on anti-corruption measures at the G8 and G20. But we can’t do it alone. Agreement at the G20 in November would give a big boost to all nations to track bribe payments, tax evasion and hidden profits. That would help honest business to thrive and help governments have more money for things like schools and hospitals.” 
Labour’s spokesperson on international development, Gavin Shuker, also at the photo event, says, “It’s great to see politicians from all parties supporting better integrity in the ways business and public officials operate. I think we can be hopeful that action taken by the UK and all the other G20 nations can actually bring change that will benefit all nations. So we encourage Australia to make better governance a high priority.”
It is estimated that £3000 a second is lost to corruption in Africa alone[1], and as much as $21 trillion is kept in tax havens by the world’s super-wealthy[2].
EXPOSED has collected over 73,000 signatures so far from across the world calling on G20 leaders to take action so that all citizens in rich and poor communities can benefit from good governance. The petition will be presented to the Australian Prime Minister in June and to the G20 in November.

[1] Speech by Catherine McKinnell MP, co-chair of the APPG against Corruption to Parliament on December 9, 2013

[2] Reported by the BBC in 2012 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18944097 

~~~



David Reynolds
 · Friends with Don Cameron and 13 others
Far be it to disagree with my esteemed science colleague, but . I have now read quite a bit on this subject, I find peer reviewed papers are the best place to go, anything else is really just an opinion piece.
There are very few such papers which support the climate change denier position, and to be honest I am yet to read one which I find convincing. By contrast there is an abundance of work supporting anthropogenic climate change, the vast majority of it supported by compelling data.
For me, the debate is now over. With the existing data it is abundantly clear that climate change is real. If new data becomes available I am very open to reconsider my position.
Sadly, I find that the denier camp seems to be exclusively populated with two groups of people (often intermixed), those with a passionate, conservative political agenda, and those with a conservative evangelical religious mindset. Often the latter seem to posit that all scientists are evil and teach evolutionary theory.
I am more than happy to receive evidence that anything I’m saying here is wrong. I’m open to change. However I suspect that I will just get the typical tirades of those who don’t really understand why they believe what they do.



~~

Everyone happy with all that?


Pope on Unequal Wealth
by MARTIN E. MARTY
Monday | Dec 2 2013
Pope Francis                                            Credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales) / flickr
“Pope attacks ‘tyranny’ of markets in manifesto” (Chicago Tribune, Nov. 26), “Pope Assails ‘New Tyranny’ of Unchecked Capitalism” (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 26), “Pope Francis the Revolutionary” (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 28) are just three of the thousands of headlines in newspapers and on blog posts this past week.

The focus of these headlines—Pope Francis’ “apostolic exhortation”—wiped out all competition for attention among opinion-makers and reporters who deal with significant news in the spheres where religion (once a.k.a. a “private affair”) and everything public meet.

First, this is so because the Pope, any Pope, commands notice as head of the Catholic Church and its more than one-billion adherents. Second, it is so because this Pope, with his refreshing statements, has surprised pro- and con- religion world citizens and observers on the left, right, and center. Third, journalists, commentators, and their readerships and audiences can grow, have grown, weary of the obsessive preoccupation with sex-related issues which has dominated the media for years. They are not alone: the Pope is also weary of what he calls such “obsessive” concerns and says he wants to change the topic. And, fourth, because he has lifted up the often-obscured, but certainly the oldest, ethical issue in the Christian treasury, rooted as it is in the Gospels, the whole New Testament, and the Hebrew Scriptures, which Christians share with Jews.

A student in one of my courses used a ruler to measure how many inches of type in his New Testament were dedicated to various topics. “Homosexuality” took up about two inches in the Pauline writings, and that was that. “Birth control?” Zero. “Abortion?” Zero. I don’t mean to trivialize these subjects, but this student chronicler found that throughout his Bible, the ethical focus for individuals and “the people of God,” more often than not—in many, many inches or feet of measured type—dealt with “economic inequality,” “unequal wealth,” and the “tyranny” of various economic orders or disorders.

Champions of inequality, in their legions of legions, should not quake because a mere pope speaks critically of the way of life they champion or embody. “We” are accustomed or even wired to turn off visions of the poor. Nicholas D. Kristof, in the New York Times (Nov. 27), pointed to a typical finding, this time by Susan Fiske of Princeton: “When research subjects hooked up to neuro-imaging machines look at photos of the poor and the homeless, their brains often react as if they are seeing things, not people.” Fiske’s analysis—and you do not have to be a Princeton psychologist to observe this—“suggests that Americans sometimes react to poverty not with sympathy but with revulsion.”

I like the words “often” and “sometimes” in the previous two sentences, for they suggest that positive visions, criticisms, and appeals “often” and “sometimes” bypass our neuro-imaging blockings and do inspire sympathy. Pope Francis believes that, and “exhorts” others—not only Catholics—to react with sympathy, and then to change, and act on the many levels where inequality goes unnoticed or where notice can do some good.

Some of the media images of Thanksgiving/Black Friday week showed that not all citizens are idolaters of wealth, but displayed their generosity of spirit and how, both personally and through organizations and political approaches, they worked to effect change.

References and Further Reading:

O’Leary, Naomi. “Pope attacks ‘tyranny’ of markets in manifesto.” Reuters. Chicago Tribune, November 26, 2013. Accessed November 30, 2013.http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-pope-document-20131126,0,2437489.story.

Moloney, Liam. “Pope Assails ‘New Tyranny’ Of Unchecked Capitalism.” Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2013. Accessed November 30, 2013. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB20001424052702303281504579221933931268354.

Weigel, George. “Pope Francis the Revolutionary.” Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2013. Accessed November 30, 2013. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304017204579224030204080004.

Burke, Daniel. “No more business as usual.” Belief Blog, November 26, 2013. Accessed November 30, 2013. http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/11/26/pope-calls-for-big-changes-in-the-church/.

Kristof, Nicholas. “Where Is the Love?” New York Times, November 27, 2013. Accessed November 30, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/28/opinion/kristof-where-is-the-love.html?_r=0.

Photo Credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales) / flickr
Author, Martin E. Marty, is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Modern Christianity at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His biography, publications, and contact information can be found at www.memarty.com.
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