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Yearly Archives: 2015
Dear Valued Readers,
It has been a while since I’ve written, mostly because I have become busier working on business ideas so I haven’t had the time to blog as much as I used to. I have missed having the opportunity to research economic issues that interest me and you, my readers. But it has been good that something is keeping me off the streets besides blogging. Just in case you’re wondering, no, I haven’t become a genuine barefoot economist, I can still afford to live and eat in relative comfort.
So what have I been doing with my time? I’ve joined two partnerships. One is a drycleaner and the other is a consultancy/investment company partnership. I’ve also been working to setup a financial co-operative to invest and assist social enterprises and other co-ops. I’ve also help planned and gone on a soccer tour to China. In between all that, I managed a side trip to the Sunraysia fruit fly exclusion zone to take my wife to see what a desert looks like.
Read on, if you must find out more about what I’ve been doing.
I have travelled to Asia many times. I have experienced the traditional elegance of Japan, the ferocious hordes of China, eaten yum cha in Hong Kong, seen the defiance of the Vietnamese, tubed on the Mekong, experienced the wonders of Angkor Wat, got lost in Bangkok, marvelled at the efficiency of Singapore and got food poisoning in Malaysia. But one thing I haven’t done, until now, was swim in the beaches of Asia.
The Victorian Auditor General’s Office (VAGO) has just tabled a report into the ‘Operational Effectiveness of the myki Ticketing System’. For those of you who are Melburnians or who have visited Melbourne, you will know how much this ticketing system is despised. Even more than Collingwood. Myki was meant to make public transport travel so much easier in Melbourne and the State of Victoria. But it hasn’t turned out that way. The reason myki is so hated my Melburnians is that it is a big, expensive IT project that has gone horribly wrong, yet our Government in their wisdom decides we should live with it despite its many shortcomings and having the opportunity to use a cheaper alternative. Unfortunately, this is a global phenomenon: in the UK there is the NHS computer system and in the US there is healthcare.gov. Some consultants have claimed that 75% of IT projects fail. Why do so many big, expensive IT projects fail to deliver? What can the sorry, sordid tale of myki tell us about why IT projects fail? And what can we learn from it?
Prof. John Nash, one of the intellectual parents behind game theory died with his wife in a car accident on the night of 23rd May 2015. Tragically, his death occurred after returning from Norway where he received the Abel Prize, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in mathematics (fun fact: there is no Nobel Prize for mathematics). He also has a Nobel Prize in Economics. It was for his work in game theory that won him this award, specifically in defining what is now called a ‘Nash Equilibrium’.
Game theory existed before John Nash, but the only equivalent equilibrium concept was the MinMax theorem formulated by John von Neumann (another fun fact: apparently he inspired the mad scientist character in the movie Dr Strangelove). Unlike the MinMax concept, the Nash Equilibrium was a broader solution concept that could be applied outside of zero sum games. For me, what inspired me to study game theory was that it could help explain why we live in an imperfect world. Without the Nash Equilibrium, game theory and economics wouldn’t have the power it has today. We would all believe that somehow we can’t do better than competitive markets. Well, game theory and specifically using the Nash Equilibrium concept allows us to look at the choices that face people, firms, politicians and see whether or not we could have done better. In this article, I want to examine some specific cases that we can all observe. But first, what is the Nash Equilibrium?
I remembered in the good old days when it was a breeze getting around Melbourne, assuming you were driven (by my parents, not a chauffeur). Now, that I often travel by car for meetings, I notice how some of my favourite short cuts are no longer the fail-safe ways of cutting travel time. Even driving in the middle of the day could test the patience of a saint. We are lead to believe that more roads will reduce congestion. But the facts will tell you otherwise.
A couple of weeks ago, after I posted “Was it Worth It? The Benefit-Cost of Air Pollution in China“, I was asked by Ecoscore to think about the benefit-cost of Australia procrastinating on a carbon price.
— Ecoscore (@ecoscore) March 19, 2015
So, using my understanding of Australia’s carbon policy and economics what do I think? Has it been good for Australia? What can the rest of the world learn from Australia?
My brother sent me a link for Under the Dome and asked me what I thought of it. Under the Dome is a brave documentary on how China’s policy of develop at any cost is costing the people it is meant to benefit. It is made by Chai Jing, a former investigative journalist of CCTV (the State-owned TV network), and was originally hosted on the People Daily’s (another State-owned media organ) website until the Chinese Government ordered its removal. What I find most interesting about the documentary is how personal it is: this documentary rams home the point that the cost of environmental pollution is deeply personal, not an ideological preoccupation of the rich, Western global elite.
Environmental impacts have been depicted as a rich world obsession. But we can see in China that the people most affected are ordinary people, not the elite of the business and political cadres. Ultimately, people will suffer the costs of pollution. The costs to people are the result of environmental degradation and should be weighed against the economic benefits of development in public policy analysis. This blog post will ask the question, was all the air pollution worth it?