Inside Story is currently featuring an extract from my new book 'The Economics of Just About Everything', which looks at the unexpected benefits of Australia's gun buyback scheme. Read on...
THE UPSIDES OF THE BUYBACK
On the chilly Melbourne evening of Sunday 9 August 1987, nineteen-year-old former army cadet Julian Knight drank several beers at the Royal Hotel in Clifton Hill then packed a bag with an M14 semi-automatic, a Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic, and a Mossberg pump action 12-gauge shotgun. As he later told the police, “I wanted to see what it was like to kill someone.”
Most bullets are less than a centimetre wide, but when they enter a person’s body they make a far larger hole. One reason for this is that, once inside your body, a bullet begins to “yaw,” or tumble. Because bullets are a few centimetres long, the tumbling effect is far more destructive than if the bullet had continued to travel in a straight line.
In addition, a cushion of air known as a “pressure wave” precedes the bullet, temporarily creating a cavity inside the body that can be much wider than the trajectory of the tumbling bullet. The combined impact of a tumbling projectile and a pressure wave means that the entry wound can be as small as a fingernail, while the exit wound can be as large as a tennis ball.
The Australian Financial Review was good enough to publish an extract from my new book 'The Economics of Just About Everything', which you can read here.
If you like what you see, why not support your local independent bookstore by buying a copy?
AN ECONOMIST'S GUIDE TO ONLINE DATING
What’s a desperate and dateless economist to do? The economics of dating comes down to three simple rules:
1. There is no perfect match, but some matches are definitely better than others.
2. You won’t know how well suited you are to someone until you get to know them.
3. Time is scarce, so a decision based on limited information is probably better than no decision at all.
The challenge of dating is that you don’t have enough information and you don’t have enough time to get it. To give you an idea of just how severe the problem is, let’s imagine that you’re aged 18 to 25, and you’re trying to find the person you’re best suited to in that age range.
To begin, there are about 1.5 million men and 1.5 million women to choose from in Australia. If you picked a sex, and spent only three minutes with each of those people, then it would take 25 years of speed dating to find the person you liked the most. Things are harder still if you want more than three minutes to assess each person, if you’re bisexual, if you want someone older or if you think true love resides overseas.
Fortunately, economic theories are rarely deterred by problems involving large numbers. Better yet, economists are familiar with precisely this kind of problem. It’s called an “optimal-stopping problem”.
Despite the Abbott Government's promise before the election that there would be no forced redundancies in the Australian Public Service, there are reports today that The Treasury has launched a 'spill and fill' process that will lead to up to 40 forced sackings. Here's my comments in response:
DON'T SACK TREASURY MUMS
The Abbott Government has broken yet another of its pre-election promises, with news that staff at The Treasury are being forced to take part in a ‘spill and fill’ process that will result in up to 40 forced redundancies.
Before the last election, Tony Abbott promised that any jobs lost in the Australian Public Service would go through ‘natural attrition’, and stated:
“I really want to stress that we are not talking about forced redundancies, we are talking about not replacing everyone who leaves, that’s all.”
This morning I spoke with Mark Parton on 2CC's Breakfast program about the government's moves to force up to 40 Treasury workers to accept involuntary redundancies. Here's the transcript:
THURSDAY, 31 JULY 2014
SUBJECT/S: Forced redundancies at The Treasury
MARK PARTON: The Canberra Times is reporting this morning that The Treasury is forcing nearly all of its staff – including newly-recruited graduates and women on maternity leave – to reapply for their jobs. They've gone with this so-called 'spill and fill' to dismiss about 40 staff, with the central agency conceding that its voluntary redundancy process has run out of steam. We always thought that would be the case!
Andrew Leigh is the Federal Member for Fraser and he's on the line right now, morning Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning Mark.
PARTON: There was always talk about this being done naturally, but the plans of this government – and indeed, it must be said, the plans of you blokes when you were in power – there was always going to be a point where the voluntary stuff just didn't cut it.
LEIGH: Mark, we were always clear before the election that there wouldn't be forced redundancies, as were the Liberal Party. It was their pledge beforehand, and when we said there was going to be more than 12,000 jobs cut and that we'd see forced redundancies, they called us liars. But frankly this is another broken promise from Mr Abbott, who is now making all the Treasury staff re-apply for their jobs. Including women on maternity leave, new graduates who have just been hired - it's a pretty shocking way to treat some of Australia's best economic minds.
This week I've been launching my new book 'The Economics of Just About Everything' with a series of public lectures around Australia. Here's the text from the Canberra launch, which was generously hosted by my old colleagues at the Australian National University:
WHAT DO DATING, DIETING AND SPORTS STATISTICS HAVE IN COMMON?
LAUNCH OF 'THE ECONOMICS OF JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING'
ANU, CANBERRA, 29 JULY
Can I of course acknowledge that we are meeting tonight on the land of the Ngunnawal people, and recognise their elders past and present. There are so many good friends present in the room tonight, but I wanted to particularly acknowledge Bob Gregory and Rabee Tourkey for putting this together, and Beth Lawton and her team for making tonight happen. It was an event whose boundaries continued to expand and I'm very grateful to all of them for allowing that.
This book, 'The Economics of Just About Everything' comes from being at ANU and having extraordinary colleagues. I see many of them here around me in the room today, and in some sense this is your book as much as mine because I had such interesting and productive collaborations with many of you.
As Bob said, the book is 'The Economics of Just About Everything', and when I mentioned this to my seven-year-old son, Sebastian, he said: 'Has it got dragons in it?' Sadly, I had to say: 'No, it doesn't have any economics of dragons.' And likewise, it doesn't have anything on the economics of Liberal Party leadership, or indeed on Labor Party leadership. But there are other contributions that you'll have the chance to read about.
This morning I talked with David Lipson and Alan Tudge about the Abbott Government's harsh new Work for the Dole requirements (and also snuck in a plug for my new book, The Economics of Just About Everything!). Here's the transcript:
E&OE TRANSCRIPTTELEVISION INTERVIEW
SKY AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 28 JULY 2014
SUBJECT/S: MH17; Work for the Dole; Joe Hockey’s unfair budget.
DAVID LIPSON: Joining me now to discuss the day’s issues, Alan Tudge from the Liberals and Andrew Leigh joining me here in the Canberra studio from the ALP. Thank you both for joining us. First you, Alan Tudge, on this mission in Ukraine - a reminder if any was needed of the dangers posed to those Australian Federal Police and others going to the site with this heavy shelling cancelling, or at least delaying, the operation.
ALAN TUDGE, PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE PRIME MINISTER: I think that’s right, David. I think the word though is delaying rather than cancelling. We have an absolute determination to ensure that the remains can be secured and identified and returned back to Australia. But we want to get in there, we had hoped to get in there last night our time and will be monitoring the situation very closely. When it is safe to do so the team led by the Netherlands, including Australian Federal Police, will be going in there to monitor the site, secure the remains and bring them home.
LIPSON: Andrew Leigh, the cooperation of the rebels is crucial to this mission, and as such, we've seen the Prime Minister appropriately temper his language towards them compared to the descriptions we used about a week ago. Are you satisfied that everything is being done to minimise the risk for our police and others?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Absolutely, David. This is fully supported by the opposition. I think Alan spoke well in speaking about the importance of securing the remains there. One of the victims was in my own electorate, a memorial service was held for her last week and it just brings home to me how important it is for all of those families to secure the victims’ remains and secure that crash site, absolutely vital.
This morning I spoke with Fairfax Media's Breaking Politics program about the government's harsh new Work for the Dole requirements and the inequality in Joe Hockey's budget. You can watch the full conversation here:
I recently sat down with Jonathan Pryke from the Development Policy Centre to talk about inequality and how developing countries can manage this important challenge as their economies grow. Here's a quick summary, but you can also listen to the full discussion here:
Inequality: should developing countries be worried? An interview with Andrew Leigh MP
by Jonathan Pryke and Andrew Leigh
I began by asking Andrew why he sees inequality as such an important issue:
I think inequality is a public good… I’ve always liked the John Rawls Veil of Ignorance way of thinking about this, where he asks you to imagine what sort of an income distribution you’d want if you were in utero and about to be born into a society where you didn’t know if you’d be born into the top 5th or the bottom 5th. Would you want the kind of Australia where the top 5th has 62% of the wealth and the bottom 5th has less than 1% of the wealth? If you knew that there was an equal probability of you ending up in either of those two quintiles, would you maybe want a more egalitarian distribution of income?
My latest opinion piece in The Australian looks at how increased diversity in our community can enrich Australians socially, culturally and economically. Here's the details:
Urgent case for a diverse nation, The Australian, 24 July 2014
PROGRESSIVES are often most comfortable making a political or moral case for diversity: that it is a necessary corollary of liberalism in a multi-ethnic society or, more optimistically, a social good in itself.
This is no longer enough. Our ideas must expand beyond platitudes about multiculturalism giving us good places to eat. We need to recognise the real economic and social benefits that flow from diversity and acknowledge the challenges so we can find ways to maintain cohesive societies in the face of these.
To see the positive impact of diversity, go to Silicon Valley. Half of all start-up teams include a first-generation migrant, from Russian-born Sergey Brin at Google to Hungarian-born Andy Grove at Intel.
Speech: Growth and diversity - how immigration creates opportunities and challenges for Australia and the United States
Overnight I gave a speech to the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, DC, exploring how the increasing diversity of our communities creates both opportunities and challenges for Australia and the USA. Here's the full text:
PROGRESSIVE POLICY INSTITUTE
WASHINGTON DC, USA
WEDNESDAY, 23 JULY 2014
Thirteen years ago, in summer 2001, I worked as a fellow here at the Progressive Policy Institute. Here I was lucky enough to co‑author reports on digital government and the digital divide, attended stimulating seminars by resident and visiting experts, and even helped put on an ‘Aussie breakfast’ of bagels and vegemite.
I knew Americans tend to be pretty self-assured, but even so I was particularly struck by the confidence that the Progressive Policy Institute had a fresh idea to contribute to just about every policy conversation in this city – and you were right! Like a Gaul in Caesar’s Rome, I drank it all in.
Think-tanks play a vital role in our democracy. Located at the intersection of academia and politics, you help to make university research accessible, and forge new policy proposals based on the best available evidence.
The Progressive Policy Institute (with, at that time, the Democratic Leadership Council) has played a special role. After Democrats lost Presidential elections in 1984 and 1988, your organisations were crucial in reclaiming the notion that governments could lead from the ‘radical centre’.
You showed that a belief in tackling poverty and inequality could best be realised by a commitment to open markets, a culture that fostered entrepreneurship, a commitment to strong economic growth, and rigorous evaluation of social programs. You reminded progressives that values must come first.