Sunday, April 29, 2007

Economist Cat Fight

I have recently discovered the blogs of two notarious economists, Greg Mankiw and Dani Rodrik. Both are Havard professors and authors of textbooks and journal articles I have had to read thus far in my economic studies. I mentioned to my dad the other day, that as an undergrad I never considered the authors of my undergrad textbooks as being actual people. I think I always considered them to be the work of a conglomeration of people conveniently written under a pseudonym.

But now that are not only actual identities but their latest thoughts on all things economic are handily delivered to my Google Reader as they are published and I am kept up to date on all the latest breaking news. (I are all riveted right now)

Recently, the two have been debating the benefits and costs of free trade primarily on prices and employment. There has been a bit of a back and forth and back again. As of today there appears to be a tentative consensus of which my favourite part is "The Carlos Diaz-Alejandro rule: For almost any particular conclusion you want to arrive at, there is some economic model that will take you there. If I have learned anything thus far in two semesters it is that.

So the whole heated debate has been all the better for me as I am currently researching a paper on the effects of trade on inequality in developing countries. Sometimes I just love the internet.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Anyone Thirsty?

Australia is in a water crisis. A couple of weeks ago Level 5 water restrictions were put into place in Southeast Queensland. This means that even activities like bucket watering of gardens is now restrictred. Individuals are expected to limit their water use to 140 litres a day. I am somewhat volumetrically challenged so I am still trying to get my head around how much water this actually is.

Households that exceed the suggested limits for extended periods of time will receive fines. Though these restrictions aren't going to help in the case of the family I met at the laundromat last weekend. This family of four had been warned that they were 5 times over the limit on their water usage. So they opted to wash their 10 loads of laundry at the laundromat so it wouldn't appear on their water metre. It wouldn't be a stretch to believe that the antique machines in use at the laundromat are stacks less efficient than whatever machine they might have at their residence.

This week John Howard announced that if the region surrounding the Murray River, the epicentre of Australia's produce growth, does not receive any rain in the next 40 days the irrigation systems provdiing water for local farmers would be shut off. Should this come to pass it would be a disaster for produce prices. As I've mentioned many times on this blog cyclone Larry caused the price of bananas to increase 600%. The Murray Region provides all the stables of fresh produce. Apples, oranges, pears, carrots, zucchini. The list goes on.

So supply is likely to drastically diminish and produce prices are anticipated to double immediately and continue to rise from there. The question supplementing suppy with imports of course comes quickly to mind. However, Imports of produce are neglibile due to a combination of trade protectionism and quarantine regulations (which I have heard are just a weak ruse for increasing protectionism) I just finished watching a news program where people were quoted that imports of fruit and veg would destroy Australia's agriculture sector and thus the Australian economy overall.

A quick search of the World Bank's development indicators revealed that Australia's agriculture sector contributes a mighty 3% to the Gross Domestic Product. Hardly the lynch pin of this developed economy. As a point of comparison wikipedia informs me that the services sector contributes 68% to the GDP.

So yes it is dire here in Australia. The Queensland government is rapidly building a desalination plant but with warnings that the dams will be empty in less than a year without serious rain, it is unlikely to be completed on time. I think the bigger question is not what is going to happen to the agriculture sector but rather what will happen to the entire nation when the taps completely run dry. A pretty scary prospect. I for one am glad that we hopefully won't be here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

sand truly does get everywhere

We decided quite last minute to spend our Easter break on Morton Island, a large sand dominated island just off the coast of Brisbane but after much calling around we at last had a spot on a vehicle barge and Saturday morning we packed up the car and headed off for a choppy ride across the bay. It was a fantastic mini-break despite the intensive and unrelenting winds plus occasional showers. I am in the midst of writing a paper but here are the highlights:
-awaking on the first morning to the most perfect rainbow I have ever witnessed
-seeing dolphins, manta rays, and sea eagles all from the comfort of our campsite
-forgetting the attachment for the camp stove and doing a stealthy raid to 'borrow' a hose from a discarded stove
-watching the sky turn from mauve, to tangarine to fiery orange each night
-heading out for a drive just after dawn and just enjoying the islands colours in the early morning light

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

if you don't find me here....

....i might be over at tumblr posting sometimes amusing, sometimes boring, mostly useless stuff.

oh, and i've been jumping on the flickr wagon (as you can see from my flash new badge to the right) but don't worry this is all in between reading piles of journal articles.