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World trade is now America versus China (and Russia)

22 August 2017 | David James

xxxxxThe anti-Russian frenzy in the United States amounts to little more than a great deal of evidence that the intelligence community suspects there might be a great deal of evidence that the Russians have been meddling. It has to rank as one of the biggest, and most orchestrated, blind alleys of modern media coverage. When a journalist says an anonymous ‘respected source’ thinks the Russians are up to something, this writer is always left wondering: respected by whom? His dog?

Why musicians are the canaries in the coal mine

20 August 2017 | Terry Noone

xxxxxTo get a good idea of where employment practices are headed, a good place to start is the music industry. Musicians have been the canary in the coalmine. The gradual removal of their work place rights, and even basic remuneration, points to what happens when there are no effective constraints on employers’ behaviour. Instead, they are being offered ‘exposure’—and, as one muso quips, ‘you can die of exposure.’

Of murderers, bastards and inequality: neo-liberalism's failure

15 August 2017 | Andrew Hamilton

xxxxxCometh the hour, cometh the third murderer. So now inequality is in the spotlight and is being booed off the stage. It is blamed for the rise of populist politics, and more fundamentally for economic stagnation. The economic neo-liberal orthodoxy, that so implausibly claimed that economic competition unfettered by government regulation would benefit all of the citizens, has produced the gross inequality that hinders economic growth. 

Outlawing smoking for the young is a social responsibility

30 July 2017 | Collince Adienge

xxxxxWhen limitations are placed on an individual’s liberty some people will call it bureaucracy or tyranny; others will say that they have been denied an opportunity to make decisions. The common sense middle position is typically that freedoms should be protected if they do not infringe on other peoples’ rights. 

Where is money headed?

29 July 2017 | David James

Obituaries pageThe daily fluctuations of financial markets and the fractious debates over economic policy are concealing something deeper and much more disturbing. The future of money itself is in question. A decade after world banking almost collapsed in the global financial crisis, the questions raised have not been answered.

Bitcoin revolution is a matter of trust

29 June 2017 | David James

BitcoinOne of the more interesting recent developments in finance has been the creation of Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies. They are being touted as a revolution in how we think and use money. Alternately, there are many who want to go in the opposite direction, back to the gold standard. Both sides have a common enemy: money whose value is determined by government dictate. Allowing governments to dictate in this way, they argue, is the core of the problem. To a significant extent, they are wrong.

What lies beneath the finance industry's water words

04 June 2017 | David James

Paper boatOne thing that is rarely done is a literary-style analysis of the language used in finance and business. It can quickly reveal the sleight-of-hand, even outright deception, that plague these powerful sectors. To take one example, finance language heavily relies on water metaphors, which are deeply misleading. It is unlikely that this is done deliberately; it is more probably reification (making the intangible appear to be concrete). But its consequences have been, and remain, devastating.

Millennials want to change the world through their work

14 May 2017 | Rachel Kurzyp

Millennial and Boomer badger money-focused Senior Manager. Cartoon by Chris JohnstonKids these days. We can't hold down a job, we expect to be promoted before we've proven ourselves and we put our career needs before the needs of an organisation. We're the largest age group, making up 37 per cent of the Australian workforce, yet we're expected to shut up and wait our turn. What is it about millennials that has everyone scared? People claim the stereotype is based on generational cohort, not age. But for young Australians in the workforce, they are one and the same thing.

Budget's bank slug flouts the property precipice

09 May 2017 | David James

Banks logosThe $6.2 billion the government will raise through a levy on bank liabilities not only shows how out of favour banks have become, it is also, in effect, a de facto tax on property lending - a counterbalance to negative gearing and capital gains tax breaks. It is a tax on property lending because nearly all the banks' loans are mortgages for housing, or business loans secured with property. Of course the banks will pass the extra cost on to their customers, so it becomes a tax on borrowers.

Beyond fake news lies the fog of fake figures

01 May 2017 | David James

GDPFake news aside, increasingly, we live in a world of fake figures. There is a cliche in management that 'what gets measured gets done'. In public discourse that might be translated to 'what gets measured is considered real'. One obvious fake figure is GDP, which is taken as a measure of national wellbeing. In fact, it is just a measure of transactions. If money changes hands because something disastrous happens then GDP will rise. That is hardly an indicator of national wellbeing.

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