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