Monthly Archives: May 2008

An autumn afternoon in Melbourne

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Some snaps from a sunny autumn after­noon in Melbourne.

High food prices accelerate structural change in Europe

Thirty years on, the Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy—or, rather, most of the CAP’s mar­ket inter­ven­tion but not the pay­ments to farmers—is being dis­man­tled faster than planned due to high food prices that have seen both bor­der bar­ri­ers and ‘inter­ven­tion’ buy­ing dropped.

The €45bn-a-year com­mon agri­cul­tural pol­icy has been blamed for dump­ing sub­sidised food on to poor coun­try mar­kets, dis­plac­ing local pro­duce and dri­ving farm­ers off their fields. How­ever, export sub­si­dies should expire in 2013 and under reforms unveiled on Tues­day almost all pay­ments would be linked to land area rather than pro­duc­tion. The Dan­ish com­mis­sioner said the reforms would free farm­ers to pro­duce for the mar­ket. She pro­posed to abol­ish the require­ment to leave 10 per cent of arable land fal­low and scrap caps on milk pro­duc­tion by 2015. State inter­ven­tion buy­ing of crops that farm­ers can­not sell, except for wheat for bread, would be abol­ished.”  extract from: Finan­cial Times

Mar­i­ann Fis­cher Boel’s pro­pos­als, that she spins as a ‘health check for the CAP’, are described in a speech she gave last week at a Brus­sels plan­ning conference.

The net benefit of emissions controls

Eng­lish math­e­mat­i­can Free­man Dyson, has reviewed Wm. Nord­haus’ account of his eco­nomic mod­els of emis­sions con­trols. Nord­haus claims that pas­sive ‘back­stop’ mea­sures sig­nif­i­cantly out­per­form the cat­a­strophists’ pref­er­ence for stran­gling car­bon emis­sions. But, as Dyson points out, Nor­dahus has not con­sid­ered the sci­en­tific merit of any of the con­trols he mod­els and has not pro­vided much detail of the pas­sive measures.

An encouraging Growth Report

Commission On Growth

I have had a chance only to skim the Intro­duc­tion but I already like the Report from the Com­mis­sion on Growth and Devel­op­ment. Its under­stand­ing of eco­nomic devel­op­ment tes­ti­fies to the authors’ deep expe­ri­ence. Exam­ine a devel­op­ing econ­omy sink­ing into poverty and you will usu­ally find dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances (geog­ra­phy, demog­ra­phy, his­tory) but also, in every case, gov­ern­ment that is mediocre at best; often self-serving and unaccountable.

Suc­cess­ful cases share a fur­ther char­ac­ter­is­tic: an increas­ingly capa­ble, cred­i­ble, and com­mit­ted gov­ern­ment. Growth at such a quick pace, over such a long period, requires strong polit­i­cal lead­er­ship. Pol­icy mak­ers have to choose a growth strat­egy, com­mu­ni­cate their goals to the pub­lic, and con­vince peo­ple that the future rewards are worth the effort, thrift, and eco­nomic upheaval. They will suc­ceed only if their promises are cred­i­ble and inclusive…

Another tricky dick

In 1995, I went to Havana to try to inter­view [con-man Robert] Vesco in jail. I failed, but found his part­ner in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal enter­prise, Don­ald M. Nixon, widely known as Don Don, who hap­pened to be a nephew of the for­mer US pres­i­dent. Proudly show­ing me a custom-made Havana cigar in the shape of a large penis, com­plete with tes­ti­cles, Don Don told me: ‘Bob [Vesco] is the most bril­liant man I’ve ever met’”  extract from: Finan­cial Times Obituaries

Democrat trade policies would hurt low-income Americans

James Surowiecki makes a plau­si­ble case in a straight­for­ward way. Although it’s dif­fi­cult even for Paul Krug­man to find solid evi­dence that trade with China, for exam­ple, has cut wages, it’s appar­ent that the defla­tion of con­sumer prices has helped aver­age– and low-income Amer­i­cans most.

Obama and Clin­ton, in their desire to help work­ing Americans—and gain their votes—are push­ing for poli­cies that will also hurt them”  extract from: The Free-Trade Para­dox: James Surowiecki

David Brooks: The Farm Bill

My col­leagues on The Times’s edi­to­r­ial page called the bill ‘dis­grace­ful.’ My for­mer col­leagues at The Wall Street Journal’s edi­to­r­ial page ripped it as a ‘scam.’ Yet such is the logic of col­lec­tive action; the bill is cer­tain to become law…”  extract from: Talk­ing Ver­sus Doing — David Brooks — New York Times