the daily column

Mining is Making Aussies Lazy

Interesting post from the MacroBusiness blog: looks like the widely reported cringe about Australia’s workplace productivity declining is far too overblown. To quote:

In his speech Dr Parkinson quoted figures showing that Australia’s annual productivity growth slipped from 2.1 per cent in the 1990s to 1.5 per cent in the 2000s. It is far more illuminating, however, to describe the productivity performance of the non-mining and mining sectors of the economy separately. This can be done by removing both mining output and the hours worked in the mining industry from the national figures and analysing the residual.

When such an adjustment is made productivity growth actually increases from the 2.1 per cent cited by Dr Parkinson to 2.4 per cent in the 2000s in the non-mining sectors of the economy.Figure 2 provides a comparison of the trend in productivity in the mining and non-mining industries over the period 1995 -2010.

The results of this disaggregation make clear that the existing industrial relations and wage setting arrangements in Australia are not acting as an impediment to productivity growth. The measured decline in average labour productivity is being caused by the unprecedented haste with which Australia’s mineral resources are being extracted. That is, high commodity prices are encouraging mining companies to exploit mineral deposits that require more energy, more capital and more labour to extract an additional tonne of output.

In the meantime, the headline is being reported as a crisis for Labor’s Fair Work IR laws, when it’s really just the result of an industry growing at a bonkers rate.

asides history

The Founding Fathers in a new light

History diversion: Today I learned… the “Founding Fathers” of America might not have been so pure in their motives after all:

As Ethan Allen: His Life and Times, a new and frustrating biography by Willard Sterne Randall, shows, Allen is hard to write about. He poses a challenge not so much because he is different from more famous Founders like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Benjamin Franklin but because he resembles them perhaps a bit too much—in ways most Americans prefer not to think about.

Indeed, who wasn’t a land speculator in this freewheeling age? George Washington, a former surveyor, had amassed thousands of acres in the Ohio valley and spent 10 years lobbying the governor of Virginia to legalize his titles. Gen. Thomas Gage, who would lead British forces against Washington, held 18,000 acres, and had married into one of the greatest landowning families on the continent. When fighting broke out in 1775, these contested speculations loomed in the background.

If Allen had one thing in greater quantities than courage and verve, it was good timing. In the spring of 1775, just as officials were planning to arrest Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, a far greater insurrection broke out in Boston. Had the imperial crisis not come to a head just then, Allen would surely have been captured and executed.

and, alluding to the religious context of the time, the article makes mention of Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason, a text by one of the Founding Fathers that explicitly attacks Christianity in its then-modern form, along with straight-out calling the Bible just another book. Imagine someone on the level of the US President saying that these days – it’d cause apoplexies across the US and be liable to see him impeached before the week was through!

Fascinating that the US has warped into the strange country with conflicting drives that exists today.


Russell Brand on the London Riots

Russell Brand writes surprisingly well on the causes of the London/UK Riots:

Why am I surprised that these young people behave destructively, “mindlessly”, motivated only by self-interest? How should we describe the actions of the city bankers who brought our economy to its knees in 2010? Altruistic? Mindful? Kind? But then again, they do wear suits, so they deserve to be bailed out, perhaps that’s why not one of them has been imprisoned. And they got away with a lot more than a few fucking pairs of trainers.

These young people have no sense of community because they haven’t been given one. They have no stake in society because Cameron’s mentor Margaret Thatcher told us there’s no such thing.

If we don’t want our young people to tear apart our communities then don’t let people in power tear apart the values that hold our communities together.

Fascinating. Between this and Brand’s semi-eulogy of Amy Winehouse, I’m fascinated by the writing of this man that comes across as such a crass simpleton. I guess there’s really a difference between the public and private personas after all.


Political reality

Alan Kohler: A Surplus of Political Stupidity:

We are about to get a lesson in the absurdity of political discourse: the government is going to be accused of ‘breaking a promise’ if a global downturn prevents the budget from returning to surplus by 2013, or if it sensibly decides to put off the carbon tax.

In normal life, we adjust according to circumstances. A company, for example, might decide to do something next year, but if things change the board will meet again and put it off. If they didn’t, they’d be sacked.

In politics, however, there are only broken promises; if you make a sensible decision to change course because the wind is blowing a different way, you get pilloried instead of praised.

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