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Saturday, 02 January

16:34

What the unions really need John Quiggin

As I observed here, the Trade Union Royal Commission has spent tens of millions of public money to show that the corrupt behavior of a number of Health Services Union officials is the exception rather than the rule. The payments made to a dozen or more TURC lawyers, after a ‘limited tender‘ process of very dubious propriety, far exceed the amounts involved in any of the handful of offences alleged in the Commission’s report.

But that’s not to say all is well with the Australian movement. The steady decline in union membership is mostly the result of external causes (the increased power of employers, a stream of anti-union laws, and so on), but the unions haven’t always helped their own cause.

Here are some changes I think are needed:

* Term limits for union officials. To take just two examples, Bill Ludwig has been Secretary of the Queensland AWU since 1988 while Joe DeBruyn was National Secretary of the SDA from 1978 to 2014. Both men used their entrenched position to exert political power within the Labor Party, in ways entirely unrelated to the interests and concerns of their members. Which brings me to:

* Ending affiliation with the Labor Party (or any political party). Bob Hawke recently pushed this idea as a way of freeing the ALP from the corrupting influence of the CFMEU. But the real problem is the other way around. The ALP, like most Australian political parties is a shell, controlled by factional chiefs, notably including union officials who control important blocks of votes. Obviously, someone whose main role is as a party apparatchik can hardly do a good job of represent...

15:47

The Australian exception (crosspost from Crooked Timber Piketty seminar) John Quiggin

Note I wrote two pieces in response to Piketty’s Capital .

This one, on Australia, was based on one already published here, but I was asked to crosspost it and I’ve now done so.

Over the past forty years, leading developed economies, most notably the United States have experienced an upsurge in inequality of income and wealth. Most of the benefits of economic growth have accrued to those in the top 1 per cent of the income distribution. Meanwhile, living standards for those in the bottom half of the income distribution have stagnated or even declined.

Piketty’s work, published in reports and academic journals, has documented these trends. His book, Capital, not only brought the issues to the attention of a broader public, but presented an analysis suggesting that worse is to come. Piketty argues that we are in the process of returning to a ‘patrimonial’ society, in which income from inherited wealth is the predominant source of inequality.

Piketty’s work has previously focused mainly on the United States, but the research presented in Capital points to similar trends in the United Kingdom. Although inequality has grown much less in France, the third country on which he has detailed data, Piketty argues that the same trend will emerge unless there is a substantial change in political conditions.

To the extent that there is a general trend of the kind described by Piketty, we would expect it to emerge first in the English speaking world, where the shift to market liberalism and financialised capitalism was earlier and more complete. And, indeed, a sharp increase in inequality may be observed in other English speaking countries including...

05:00

Saturday Quiz – January 2, 2016 Bill Mitchell – billy blog

Welcome to the Billy Blog Saturday Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

1. Issuing government debt reduces the risk of inflation arising from deficit spending because the private sector has less money to spend.



2. A nation can export less than the sum of imports, net factor income (such as interest and dividends) and net transfer payments (such as foreign aid) and run a government sector surplus of equal proportion to GDP, while the private domestic sector is spending more than they are earning.

...

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Friday, 01 January

21:21

Asia’s New Year Economic Resolutions The Diplomat » Pacific Money

A tour of the prospects for the Asia-Pacific’s biggest economies in 2016.

Friday, 25 December

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