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Thursday
Jan132011

Donating for Them, Or for Yourself?

Updated on Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 13:56 by Registered CommenterMCJ

Accompanying the Twitter commentary of the Queensland floods (see #QLDfloods) I’ve noticed a number of people writing that they’ll donate $1 every time their message gets “retweeted” (RTed; forwarded, in Twitter, parlance). The first message I saw was from @lilithia. I can’t say for certain whether she started the trend, and once I started looking I found several others – e.g. @AUSteambieberr, @bree_101, @xander85 –, but they all seemed to share two initial characteristics:

  • These were ordinary people
  • The donations were uncapped

The second point, especially, struck me: late last year Daniel Keogh, a science presenter on the ABC, promised to donate $5 to beyondblue(1) for every time he was retweeted (until 10pm), but his offer took off and he ended up with a nominal figure of over $17,000 dollars. That was far above Keogh’s self-imposed limit, but he ended up donating $5000 and the story made it into the papers.

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Tuesday
Jan042011

A Cauntionary Tale

In my least proud internet banking moment, I once entered the “wrong” password so often that the account was suspended, only to realise that I’d mistyped my client number and had thus accidentally caused someone else’s account to be suspended.

Happy new year.

Monday
Sep132010

Arranged Marriage vs. Free Choice: the Wrong Statistic

In an short piece entitle “Pitfalls of Passion” in the August 29 issue of “Sunday Life”, Bella Ellwood-Clayton writes that “[t]he type of love Westerners chase doesn’t, by and large, last. Arranged marriages, on the other hand, have a global divorce rate of about four per cent compared to Australian, American and Canadian figures, which place us at about the 40% figure. So what do do countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India – where most marriages are arranged – know that we don’t?

This statistic is not only rubbish, it is insults (through ignorance) the plight of those women who are forced into arranged marriages.

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Thursday
Aug262010

Second-hand Markets for Used Games

There’s a bit of discussion over at Penny Arcade on the practice of buying used games rather than new ones – views apparently range from “It’s basically piracy” to “It’s legal, why should I care if the developers don’t get my money?”

Here’s my contribution:

Hey Gabe,

I’m an economist as well as a gamer, so a few thoughts from that direction: while a second-hand game purchase doesn’t directly benefit developers, it’s not a 1:1 decrease in sales – I might purchase more new games if I know that I can sell them later (like buying a new car every 10 years when the old one is still drive-able), and/or use the money used from selling old games to buy new games. Cheapskates who wait for used games probably wouldn’t buy new games, anyway – they’re paying with their time (waiting for games to appear on the second-hand market) rather than money. Second-hand games also increase exposure in younger/poorer audiences that later, when they have the money, can go out and buy new original games.

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Monday
Aug162010

Dick Smith's Population Puzzle; a Q&A

Whadaya reckon about this whole Dick Smith $1m prize thing? He seems to be after a practical strategy for decoupling economic and physical growth. It’s not like people haven’t been thinking about that already. What are your thoughts?

 

I see three questions:

 1) Do I agree with Smith’s premise?

 2) Do I agree with his goal?

 3) Do I agree with his methodology of achieving that goal?

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Friday
Aug062010

Countering Some Poor Arguments for a Mining Tax

I was recently asked to comment on an article in The Age by Michael Gilding, entitled “More tax dollars and less mining? That’s a win-win situation”. Here is my response:

Short version: Gilding identifies several problems for which a reduction in mining – though it might help – is the wrong solution.

Longer, point by point version:

Gilding’s first argument, that “mining sucks oxygen (capital investment) from the rest of the economy”, is one I can’t support. The reason is that a basic tenet of economics is that people (the market) make their own best decisions – in this case, investing in mining rather than, say, toll roads. The first rule of taxation is therefore that it distorts private decision-making as little as possible, which makes justifying a mining tax on the grounds that it distorts decisions problematic. (The RSPT, I note, was lauded precisely for NOT distorting investment decisions.)

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Wednesday
Jun092010

A Bit of Alright

A hot topic of discussion in the Jones household these past few weeks – we’re crazily exciting – has been the subtle slide of (young) English speakers to using nouns as adjectives. 

I had said something was “a bit crap”, and my dad retorted that, if at all, it was “a bit crappy”. I try and be correct in my language usage – or, at to be more precise, to only break the rules deliberately – so this misstep made ponder about where this had come from. We couldn’t think of too many examples: I’ve heard people refer to things as “pretty shit”, or “kind of poo”, and, notably, the ABC’s The Hungry Beast has a segment highlighting things they think are “a little bit bullshit.”

So, when did we start corrupting “crappy” and “shitty” to just “crap” and “shit”? And is it something confined to defecations-related words? 

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Friday
May212010

Resource Super Profit Tax (RSPT) for Dummies

Updated on Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 23:03 by Registered CommenterMCJ

Since the Australian Government announced its Resource Super Profit Tax (RSPT) recently, based on one of the recommendations of the “Australia’s Future Tax System” review (colloquially known as the “Henry review”, after the head of Treasury, Dr. Ken Henry), it’s become a big topic of discussion. Having had a chance to look at the actual proposal, I feel that much of the mainstream media coverage (including the Government’s attempts to “sell” the tax) has been pretty poor, and am going to have a crack at explaining it:

Underpinning the tax is idea of what we’re taxing: natural resources (i.e. minerals). These natural resources have the characteristic that they are non-renewable – once they’ve been dug up and sold, they’re gone for good. This is quite different to most things produced in Australia, which are goods or services that to a greater (services) or lesser (some goods) extent can be produced again, and again, and again. You can milk a cow today, and milk it again tomorrow; milking it today does “rob” future generations. However, if we mine something today, we can’t mine it again tomorrow: the resource is gone.

Further, natural resources aren’t private. They aren’t skills someone has learnt; they aren’t objects someone has bought or created. They are parts of our country, and as such belong to all Australian citizens. As the Government says (PDF, 372 KB), “If the community undercharges for the use of their non‐renewable resources, it is akin to under‐pricing the sale of a public asset.”

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