Weekend Reading: John Quiggin: Economic Policy for the 21st Century

John Quiggin: Economic Policy for the 21st Century:

A POLICY AGENDA FOR THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY
Policy debate dominated by discussions of ‘reform’ Policy agenda set in 1980s >* Irrelevant or counterproductive today We need a 21st century policy agenda Previous reform era provides a way to think about this.
AUSTRALIA IN 1980
A small rich industrial country (Arndt) Value chain model (primary, secondary, tertiary) State-driven industrialization generated large secondary sector No answer to the crisis of the 1970s Postwar policy agenda exhausted and unsustainable
AUSTRALIA AT THE CROSSROADS
Two paths forward: Mercantilist vs Libertarian Freebairn and others advocated libertarian path Australia abandoned mercantilism, but did not fully adopt libertarianism
THE POLICY PROBLEMS OF 1980
Inflation and crisis of Keynesian macro Wages and labour market rigidity Structural adjustment >* Tax reform >* Fiscal crisis of the state Failure of financial regulation
THE POLICY RESPONSE: MICROECONOMIC REFORM
Inflation targeting >* Labor market deregulation Tariff reform: GST + Option A >* Trilogy (fiscal constraints) Financial deregulation
STILL DRIVES POLICY DEBATE
Reflexive responses not analysis Examples >* Crisis rhetoric around debt and deficits Fear of wage breakout >* Car industry as the historical enemy
FATIGUE OR EXHAUSTION
Elite policy discussion suggests public suffering from ‘reform fatigue’ Reality is that reform program is exhausted Key elements either completed, overdone or irrelevant
AUSTRALIA IN 2015
A knowledge economy An exporter of education An island of macroeconomic success in a world of policy failure Increasingly(?) vulnerable to climate shocks A complex and diverse society
TWO VIEWS OF THE FUTURE (FROM QUEENSLAND)
Four pillars (Newman): Agriculture, mining, construction, tourism Smart State (Beattie) Knowledge-based industries 20th century vs 21st
THE POLICY PROBLEMS OF 2015
Knowledge economy Climate change End of (last?) mining boom Financial sector Inequality and inherited (dis)advantage Global failure of macro policy
THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY
Obsolescence of value chain model Information and Internet Public goods and household production Education and training Research, development and communication
THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY
Computing and telecommunications key to innovation Stagnation in transport, previously the leading sector Australia’s productivity debate misses the point
DEATH OF THE VALUE CHAIN
Creation, dissemination and use of knowledge central to economic activity Does not involve processing of physical inputs Irrelevance of C20 notion of value added
THE RISE OF THE INTERNET
Developed as by-product of university research communications Architecture depends mainly on open- source software Value depends primarily on user-generated content: blogs,Twitter, Facebook Important but secondary role of physical infrastructure Info superhighway metaphor both illuminating and misleading
CONTRIBUTION TO GROWTH
Currently accounting for 20–30 per cent of GDP growth McKinsey, World Bank, OECD, Allens Implies more than 50 per cent of TFP growth Even larger impacts on household sector Still ignored in policy debate
SCALE ECONOMIES IN INFORMATION
Cumulative and interactive nature of knowledge Implies potential for unlimited (qualitative) growth, even with finite resources Central difference between endogenous and classical/ exogenous growth theory
INFORMATION AS A PUBLIC GOOD
Non-rival Cumulative Exclusion difficult/inefficient ‘Publicness’ increases as dissemination costs fall by orders of magnitude in Internet era
CENTRALITY OF NON-MARKET ACTIVITY
Wikipedia the canonical example But even commercial services are almost entirely non-market. 500 million tweets per day, Twitter revenue $0.01/tweet Facebook 300 billion user hours/ year, FB revenue $0.03/hour
IMPLICATIONS FOR REFORM AGENDA
Prices and incentives less relevant Financial sector has extracted wealth but not created it 1990s dot-com bubble Need to take human capital seriously
AUSTRALIA’S POLICY: FAILURES AND SUCCESSES
Telecommunications failure: reform produced an incumbent monopolist hostile to innovation Education broadly successful: but deregulation agenda looks to failed US model Research, development, innovation: policy spasmodic and perfunctory
A POLICY AGENDA FOR THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY
Knowledge as the driver of productivity Universal access to high-speed Internet Universal post-school education Expanded and democratised program of research and communication
HIGH-SPEED INTERNET
Australia lags badly Failure of first round of telecoms reform (Telstra) NBN:A missed opportunity?
UNIVERSAL POST-SCHOOL EDUCATION
High school completion already accepted as a norm (over 80%) Need to do the same for university/ TAFE/trade training Success since 1980 but Deregulation/competition agenda going in the wrong direction
RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATION
Spasmodic commitment to research Misguided focus on commercialisation Communication to broad public is essential Done better before 1980? >* The Conversation: A model for the future
COMING, READY OR NOT
Experience of 1980s reform shows attempts to resist structural change are futile Knowledge economy is already here and will only become more important over time

Originally published at www.bradford-delong.com.