Saturday, October 06, 2007

What if Buchanan is a leftie?

I am unimpressed by the attacks on Dr John Buchanan by politicians and right-wing commentators such as Janet Albrechtson in The Australian. It is irrelevant from the point of view of assessing his criticisms of the current industrial relations system whether he is a partisan, socialist supporter of the ALP of not.

In the Australian community about half the population vote for the ALP and half for the Coalition parties. It is not a criminal offence to vote Labor and, although Buchanon seems to show a certain amount of naiveté, (a revealing speech he gave is here) the substance of his academic research needs to be attacked not his private political views. I feel much the same about general criticisms of the ABC on the grounds of left wing bias – sometimes it’s ‘the government oughta’ attitudes does irritate me but, on the whole, the ABC does a good job of providing information and quality programming. Whether or not Kerry O’Brien is a Labor supporter or not is irrelevant – he is a capable interviewer and delivers an interesting, informative output.

As I have argued before one needs to look at outcomes not motives. The academic work of Buchanan can and should be attacked – I criticised it here - but let us forget about his politics.


Bring Back CL's blog said...

totally agree

whyisitso said...

Harry you're just showing solidarity with a fellow academic. Way out political beliefs will inevitably inform and bias academic "research". When academics go public with their "research" on a political issue that is a political act and they have to expect a political reply. Crying "I'll sue ya" tells us a lot more about such cry-baby geezers than about their attackers.

whyisitso said...

Andrew Norton has an interesting piece on this issue in his own blog. One quote:
"Before we are even out of the executive summary, we are told that there is an ‘alarming level of acceptance of long hours’. Only 40% of men working more than 50 hours a week want to work fewer hours it seems. But if people like their jobs, why is it ‘alarming’ that they want to spend more than 50 hours a week at them?"

What I object to is so-called academics using such biased adjectives such as "alarming". Such words betray a pre-disposition that totally militates against objectivity. Buchanan is a polemicist, pure and simple.

hc said...

whyisitso, I agree with every point you make. I still disagree with the notion of attacking sduch people on the basis of their ideological priors.

But sure attack the loose reasoning and the foolish claims.

It is not academic solidarity at all - I share little in common with the masses of prejudiced, lightweight Australian labour economists and IR people.

But I read what they say and sometimes learn from them.

Bring Back CL's blog said...

whyisitso, it is clear you are not a social conservative.

Take married people. working such hours show a blatantly selfish disregard to one's husband/wife and/or children.

I applaud such right wing statments and query both you and Harry's pinko views.

Incidentlay both Hocket and Costello were inaccurate.

hc said...

I am not opposed to restrictions on working hours under some conditions - they can prevent 'rat race' externalities.

Given our social wealth we can all get by with less work, more leisure and more time to ourselves. I'll post on this when I get the chance.

chrisl said...

So why DO we work so much Harry?

whyisitso said...

You're certainly becoming a bit of a pinko, Harry. Advocating that the government restrict working hours for people who have a perfectly legitimate preference for what they are doing is nanny state extremism. Who the hell is the guvmint to say I can't "overwork" if I think it will do me some good. I may be "misguided" but hey, that's my business. You have no business telling me what's good for me. You're starting to sound like Clive "Lenin" Hamilton or silly Ross Gittins, that trumped-up accountant who knows more about economics than any economist.

hc said...

Whyisitso, It would take a whole post but note I am careful to make the claim fairly conditional. In the 'rat race' models of economics your utility depends on your income relative to others so if others work harder, and increase their income, they make you worse off.

This suggests a possibloe reason for hefty progressive taxes and for limiting work hours on the grounds that working a bit harder will not contribute much extra happiness overall. I'll post on this when I get a chance - yes you need to qualify it for low income workers.

whyisitso said...

"your utility depends on your income relative to others so if others work harder, and increase their income, they make you worse off."

Maybe for some people, but I know many people who are relatively worse off now than a lot of their friends but are very much better off financially today than they were ten years ago. I'm one of them. I'm very happy with my situation, doing things in retirement that I never thought I'd be able to afford when I first retired.

In any case it's not for the government to decide on the levels of "utility" (to use that rather sterile economists' term) for individuals, and to legislate accordingly. As I said before, Harry, that is nanny state extremism. If not being concerned about keeping up with the Joneses is eccentric, well so be it. I should be allowed my bit of eccentricity.