Monthly Archives: September 2006

Speculative drilling

For any lecturers looking for a question to go on their undergraduate econometrics exam, Crikey provides some excellent raw material. 15. Do petrol prices fuel political popularity? Richard Farmer writes: In the United States, where some of the pollsters track the standing … Continue reading

Posted in Economics Generally | 3 Comments


This is over a year old. But it’s funny, and I’ve never seen it before, so maybe you haven’t either. From When you’re out to eat with friends and family, it can be challenging to decide what to order … Continue reading

Posted in What I'm Reading | 3 Comments

Devils and angels

A friend of mine has just joined the London office of a US law firm, Morrison & Foerster. So her work email address ends with As if to compensate, her home email address ends with

Posted in Eclectic Observations | Comments Off on Devils and angels


Next time someone asks you “what’s the point of blogs?”, you can answer “well, there’s one case in the US where they might have saved a guy from being executed”.

Posted in Blogging | 9 Comments

Wanna bet?

On the principle that “none of us is as smart as all of us”, Inkling now allows people to establish their own prediction markets (hat tip: Ian Holsman). The big questions are: will enough people bet for the prices to … Continue reading

Posted in Australian Politics, Economics Generally | 4 Comments

What's the tightest race in Australian political history?

In a new paper I’m working on with Amy King, we say: The closest Australian electoral race at a federal level was for the seat of Hawker (SA) in 1990, where the margin was 14 votes. (Blair Trewin shows the … Continue reading

Posted in Australian Politics | 11 Comments

Where to learn about churn and burn

For one of the most interesting welfare debates in Australia this year, check out this thread at Club Troppo. It exhibits many of the things I love about the Ozblogosphere: contributions from people on both sides of the political fence, … Continue reading

Posted in Blogging, Inequality, Low Wage Work | 1 Comment

Can. Talk

Econblogger and public intellectual Nicholas Gruen will be giving a lunchtime seminar at the University of Canberra tomorrow (Wednesday), on the topic How to choose your job, your oncologist, your fund manager and you real-estate agent: improving information flows in … Continue reading

Posted in Economics Generally | Comments Off on Can. Talk

Thought-provoking papers that have crossed my desk recently

Income and happiness: Evidence, explanation and economic implications Andrew E. Clark, Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields There is now a great deal of micro-econometric evidence, both cross-section and panel, showing that income is positively correlated with well-being. Yet the … Continue reading

Posted in From the Frontiers | 1 Comment

Robson Rotated

As Sinclair Davidson kindly noted in comments the other day, Gary Nairn, the Special Minister of State, wrote a letter to the Australian Financial Review last Friday to criticise my paper with Amy King on ballot order: Your “Ballot change urged … Continue reading

Posted in Australian Politics | 6 Comments

Blackjack's Legacy

With Mark Vaile stepping down from the trade portfolio so he can focus on rearranging deckchairs, his deputy Warren Truss has taken over. Which makes it timely to ask: when the Coalition is in power, why does the National Party get the … Continue reading

Posted in Australian Politics | 3 Comments

What I'm Reading

I’ve recently finished reading All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren’s novel that fictionalises the life of Louisiana governor Huey Long (the movie version, starring Sean Penn, is out later this year). My friend Macgregor recommended the director’s cut – the … Continue reading

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Spring Seminars

The ANU RSSS economics seminar schedule for September and October is over the fold. All welcome.

Posted in Universities | Comments Off on Spring Seminars

What they're saying about us in Luxembourg

I reported last month on a simple exercise I’d done that seemed to show the post-tax distribution of income in Australia becoming more unequal under the Howard Government. In response, a few readers wrote that these figures seemed to be at … Continue reading

Posted in Inequality | 8 Comments

The Reckoning

In an important exercise (and one that might give pause to anyone thinking about signing a multi-authored letter), the Institute of Economic Affairs has published a thoughtful 25-year retrospective about a 1981 letter to the Times opponents of Thatcher’s macroeconomic policies. With contributions … Continue reading

Posted in Economics Generally | 1 Comment

Teacher Talk

I’m presenting a paper on teacher quality in the ANU economics faculty seminar tomorrow (Thursday), from 2:00 to 3:30 in the Faculty Suite in H.W. Arndt Building. The paper is entitled “Estimating Teacher Quality from Changes to Students’ Test Scores”. … Continue reading

Posted in Economics of Education | Comments Off on Teacher Talk


I was in Sydney last night for the filming of next week’s SBS Insight show, dealing with teachers and schools reform (for those who haven’t seen the program, it’s a cross between Jerry Springer and Lateline). It’s invariably entertaining to … Continue reading

Posted in Economics of Education | 5 Comments

Correlation Leads, Causation Buried

The editorial in today’s Crikey email contains the best advice to journalists reporting on social science that I’ve seen in a long time. The headline last week promised exciting news: “Geniuses ‘less prone to hangovers’.” Could it be that the same … Continue reading

Posted in Media | 10 Comments

It's September 19, so….

Squalk. So, the infallible guy says he was wrong? Squalk. Arrrgh, y’ll no be talkin like that, me yeller feathered friend.

Posted in Eclectic Observations | 3 Comments

Teachers down, pollies up

Nathan Hoffman, the Former Assistant Director-General of Education in Western Australia, has put together a neat set of figures, comparing the best-paid Western Australian teachers with state backbenchers. With his permission, I’ve reproduced it below. Salaries of Teachers and Backbenchers … Continue reading

Posted in Economics of Education | 1 Comment

Sunday Reading

If you care about reducing poverty in developing countries and the United States, scrapping sweatshops and regulating Wal-Mart may not be the best strategies. it may sound silly to say that sweatshops offer a route to prosperity, when wages in … Continue reading

Posted in Economics Generally, Low Wage Work | 12 Comments

Grand idea?

Who said there was no money in policymaking? The IPAA (often confused with the IPA) is happily giving it away. 2006 Sir George Murray Award The Sir George Murray Award is Australia’s most prestigious essay competition in public administration. We … Continue reading

Posted in From the Frontiers | 2 Comments

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's flatscreen

After seeing a few colleagues working with large monitors, I’m starting to get screen envy. But I have two problems. First, as a big-screen neophyte, I have no sense of how much better it is to have a 30″ monitor … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Fair Merit Pay Schemes, Part II

It’s often said that teacher merit pay can’t ever work. I’m cautiously optimistic, though I agree with the critics that one of the biggest challenges is designing a fair merit pay plan. So I’ve started posting examples of different teacher … Continue reading

Posted in Economics of Education | 8 Comments

Don't bother with the life jackets

For anyone who flies regularly, the Economist’s truthful flight safety annoucement is a must-read.

Posted in Travel | 4 Comments

Norton Goes Solo

Andrew Norton, formerly of Catallaxy*, has struck out with a solo blog (“Observations from Carlton’s lone classical liberal”). Andrew’s a mate, and in my view one of the best public intellectuals on the conservative side of politics. He’s kicked off with … Continue reading

Posted in Blogging | 1 Comment

Ballot Order for Blokes

Amy King and I have just put out a paper estimating the effect of ballot order in Australian elections. We look at all federal elections since ballot order was randomised in 1984, which gives us over 500 races (ie. electorate … Continue reading

Posted in Australian Politics, Uncategorized | 26 Comments

The coke-coke elasticity

Economics can teach all kinds of quirky things. For example, if your biggest concern is that your teenager doesn’t use drugs, then you should be happy when the price of street sneakers goes up, and sad when the restaurant owner … Continue reading

Posted in From the Frontiers | Comments Off on The coke-coke elasticity

Psephological pointers

I’ve posted recently on the importance of using individual-level data if you want to know about individual level trends (the alternative is falling for the ecological fallacy – assuming that you can learn something about how poor people vote from … Continue reading

Posted in Australian Politics | Comments Off on Psephological pointers

Around the blogs

Malcolm Gladwell has two posts on the blogosphere and academic writing. I agree with him 100%. Joshua Gans argues that An Inconvenient Truth is the perfect kids’ movie. Fred Argy reckons that Australia has too much “upper class welfare”. Yobbo’s … Continue reading

Posted in Blogging | Comments Off on Around the blogs