Bureaucracy Bound

Today, I’m an academic. Tomorrow, I become a public servant. After some generous arm-twisting from the brother of a famous econ-blogger (and no small amount of flexibility from my senior ANU colleagues), I’m taking a six-month secondment to the Australian Treasury. I’ll be a principal adviser in the social policy division, working on issues such as health, education, and labour markets.

The position will run in two three-month blocks: July to September, and December to February. Not surprisingly, the job requires that I cease media commentary, stop writing my column for the AFR, and close down this blog.

The last will be perhaps the biggest lifestyle change for me. Since I began blogging in July 2004, I’ve written nearly 2000 posts, or about 1.4 postings a day. There have been several times when I’ve contemplated giving it up, but the pleasures of being able to get an idea out into the world meant that I never quite managed to kick the habit. My guess is that I’ll get the blog going again in March 2009, but it’s possible that I’ll move on to other things (there are a couple of books I’ve wanted to write, and directing blog time into book time might turn out to be sensible in the long run).

I’ve never worked as a public servant before, so I’m not sure whether I’ll be temperamentally suited to the role. One of the great joys of academia is being able to choose what you work on each day. When I chat with friends who are working for this government, this doesn’t sound like one of the luxuries they presently enjoy.

Still, for an Australian social democrat, this seems like a unique time to try and have some impact on policy (however small it might turn out to be). As anyone who’s read my stuff would know, I’m keen to push ideas around getting more great school teachers in front of low-income kids, improving the evidence base on Indigenous policy, getting more information into the public domain, and perhaps even getting a randomised trial or two underway. Worst case scenario is that I get to learn a bit about how government works, and spend six months in a department run by Ken Henry, one of the more impressive people in Australian public life.* That doesn’t seem like much downside risk to be bearing.

So it’s goodbye from me, at least for a little while. Thanks to my readers: commenters and lurkers all. It’s been a pleasure.

* Once he returns from his wombat-shooting trip, that is.

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46 Responses to Bureaucracy Bound

  1. alao says:

    All the best Andrew. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog entries over the past year and really hope you can get your ideas implemented as government policy.

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  3. PS says:

    Andrew, as a public servant and someone who has attended a few lectures of yours, I’m thrilled at this news – the public service needs people like you and better interaction with academia. Best wishes.

  4. EconoMan says:

    Wombat-shooting ???

    Might see you ’round the office

  5. Congrats and good luck, Andrew!

  6. Andrew Leigh says:

    Economan, I was pretty sure he had a reputation for this. An SLR is the weapon of choice, if I’m not mistaken. Look forward to catching up.

  7. Good luck, but don’t forget to come back and blog all about it!

  8. GavinF says:

    I would guess you may be providing advice on our current cabinet submission… please be gentle heh heh. Good luck with it!

  9. David says:

    Good luck and thanks for all the insights on your blog – hope you do choose to return to it next year!

  10. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Whatdowewant? Tax cuts.
    Whendowewanthem? Now.

    Enjoy.

  11. Russell says:

    Andrew of course you can keep the blog going – how would public servants fill the day without blogs to read and comment on?

    This is very annoying .. my reputation at work has been most enhanced by putting on our intranet all those interesting and amusing articles you find!

  12. Patrick says:

    Disappointing if understandable that you can’t blog.

    But all the best and best of luck!

  13. BuueacracyRules says:

    Just think of the change in sartorial splendour to that of a brown cardigan wearing bureaucrat! Keep up the good fight.

  14. Martha Maus says:

    Congratulations and good luck. I hope you enjoy yourself.

  15. Jono says:

    Congratulations Andrew.

    As a free-marketer, I only hope that you manage to advance social policy as best as possible, by identifying the many areas where government action causes the most harm and economic loss, rather than suggesting new schemes and policies.

    Abolishing welfare, allowing more private enterprise and de-regulation of health and education achieve more than any public spending ever could.

  16. John Hannoush says:

    All the best for the secondment. Like Russell, I will have to work harder to impress associates with fresh economic thinking.

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  18. Spiros says:

    Harry Clarke’s brother got you a job in the Treasury?

  19. GJ says:

    A pleasing (if temporary) exercise, Andrew.

    I don’t quite understand why the blogging ban – surely it could be made subject to appropriate guidelines. Are you sure it was initiated by “someone’s brother” and not the Teachers Union!!

    Voices of reason are just as much in short supply in the blogosphere as they in MSM. You will be missed.

  20. You will be missed. As a couple of people have mentioned, the blogging ban is understandable but harsh. Hope you come back refreshed!

  21. Vee says:

    I finally add you to my RSS feed and you up and quit. Who will keep us up to date on median income for individuals and households now?

  22. Tim Watts says:

    Tilting at windmills here I know but….

    While it may well have been unsurprising given the inertia and resistance to change of the Australian public service, but it needn’t have been inevitable that Andrew be required to shut down his blog during his period of public service.

    Consider the UK Civil Service’s new Principles for Participation Online:

    http://tokblog.org/?p=623

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  24. Nigel Tao says:

    You’ll also spread the word about Chapmanesque income contingent loans, right?

  25. christine says:

    Or perhaps a Gruen brother?

    Many congrats, Andrew. I think you’ll enjoy yourself. Treasury was very very good to me. And more back and forth between PS and elsewhere is a very nice thing too.

    And remember to be good and do your part to help train the upcoming generation – I suspect that’s one of the most important jobs there, much harder than the equivalent in teaching (though that’s a bit of guesswork).

  26. Susan Prior says:

    I’ll miss your blog and your articles Andrew. Thanks for being so supportive over the last four years.
    You may like to read this timely article we popped up yesterday. It should give you all the info you need to know in your role as a public servant! 🙂 “The five paradigms for success as a government employee
    All the best.
    Susan

  27. derrida derider says:

    So you’re working for David, and I can make a guess on what. I too will miss your blog – though it ought to have been possible for you to keep blogging, just more circumspectly (ie avoiding lots of topics). But you may not have time ….

  28. Dean says:

    Best of luck! I really do hope you return, as I’ve really enjoyed your blog.

  29. Congratulations. Should be interesting.

  30. AndrewN says:

    Long time reader, second-time commenter.
    As you leave academia for Treasury, I join academia from Treasury (though a different one).
    Congratulations on what will be a fantastic development for policy in Oz. I look forward to Treasury advocating/funding randomised trials, beefing up funding to the ABS and cutting middle-class welfare.
    Well I look forward to knowing you’re trying, at least!

  31. Luke says:

    Andrew – best wishes with the career move.
    I was a public servant in Australia for 20 years before taking up a contract position here in Dubai. The last two of those years I established my knowledgefutures blog on which I published items of interest for me and others. I was careful to make sure that I did not comment on public policy or major items that I was working on.
    I believe that there are workarounds to continuing to be a public servant while having a public blog at the same time. It would require quite a different approach by yourself. Perhaps some people in AGIMO who published a consultation paper on public service blogs might provide some perspectives.

  32. Guy says:

    Congratulations Andrew, and I hope your role in the public sector turns out to be a good one for you. Will miss the blog though!

  33. Evelyn H says:

    Welcome Andrew. I am very pleased to see the news. Hope you crash through!!!!

  34. Good luck & have fun. But whatever you do… make sure you escape after 6 months!

  35. ChrisPer says:

    Well done!

  36. Adrian Wong says:

    Andrew, all the best!

  37. john jansen says:

    If I may kid you I am an economic blogger myself and I am the proprietor of the abovecaptioned doamin name at and website.

    I was checking my ranking at the 26econ site and I had climbed to 88th which is my highest ranking in my 6 months of blogging.

    I checked to see who was in the 87 position and found your blog.

    So now that you are taking a hiatus it will be easier for me to move up.

    I am kidding of course and wish you all the best in your enterprise as a public servant.

    As I mentioned I have been blogging for a little over 6 months and it is a labor of love. I must imagine that you must leave it with some mixed feelings.

    Once again ,all the best.

    John J Jansen

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  39. invig says:

    Good luck Andrew!

    But would it be possible for u to publicise on this blog any policy that u are responsible for producing?

    After all, the last thing you need is not having someone like me criticising it lol 😉

  40. Kevin Cox says:

    Andrew

    I am going to miss your blog. Come back and do not get trapped by the apparent feeling of power. You are much more useful to the community teaching and getting your ideas out to the wider groups.

    It is short sighted of the Treasury to require you to stop blogging. I think they would get better value from you by REQUIRING you to blog and getting back comment from the hoi poloi. They could do this in a way that would still protect the Treasury while getting comment from the wider community at the formative time of setting policy. Treasury need to have exposure to a wide set of ideas so they can make a choice because as someone said economics is really about choice and why are ideas any different. That is, the best ideas will rise to the top if enough people choose to embrace them – but if they are not heard?

  41. Peter says:

    If the British Foreign Minister can have a blog, where he regularly comments on his own and other Government’s foreign policies (as well as more serious matters of diplomacy, such as international football results), it hardly seems fair that you can’t.

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  44. Arjay says:

    Take time to descend from your pedestal and see how the real world of private enterprise which generates the wealth and taxes,makes it all happen.
    If Kevin and Labor take us for granted,they’ll be gone come the next election.

  45. Bill McCubbery says:

    Good luck!

    But have “they” found a way to silence you?

    Paranoid? ONLY if the suspicion is inappropriate!

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