Plain English Blog

The Austerity question

To spend or not to spend? British Conservative leader and now Prime Minister, David Cameron, proclaimed the “Age of Austerity” in 2009. Miriam-Webster dubbed it the word of the year in 2010. Europe grappled mightily with austerity through 2011. And by 2013, our Labor Government, in a tip of the hat to austerity, has promised to balance the budget. But now, in little ‘ole 2012, we are starting to see… Continue reading →

China Economic Update

Things are slowing slowly and that’s a good thing. With the trouble in Europe and the sluggish U.S. economy, an orderly Chinese slowdown is preferable to a crash. The data from the latest NAB report on the Chinese economy shows that tighter monetary policy over the past year has achieved its goal of a soft landing. Domestic activity eased and GDP growth dipped slightly to end the December quarter at… Continue reading →

Cyber-structural unemployment

The robots are coming… The concept of robots arose in the early 20th century; storytellers imagined how these mechanical workers would help us out. Since the late 20th century, robotic technologies have created everything from automated production lines to cute robot dogs. And now we’re putting robots on the battlefield. Better them than us, eh? Let’s blow our minds a little: pundits reckon the robotics industry is about where the… Continue reading →


Did I just hear the Chinese bubble bursting? I’m afraid so. And before it’s done deflating, we might hear a lot more: thunderous landslides, screams of panic, etc. Alarmist? Maybe. But when the stakes are this high, even a “maybe” warrants genuine concern. Of course, this bubble started with China’s mother of all stimulus plans in 2008/2009. Gordon Chang, an international lawyer and China analyst, has spent much of the… Continue reading →

Do you feel lucky?

If you’ve travelled, you’ve probably realized that Australia can be expensive. Cars cost a motza. Food isn’t cheap. And real estate prices just plain hurt. It’s enough to strain our cherished notions of the lucky country. The Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) has recently taken up the cause with a report on why many of our prices are too high, why the government is to blame, and what the government… Continue reading →

Gold and the throne game

What’s the story with gold these days? Short answer: it involves central banks and the never ending geopolitical quest for world dominance. Now for the long answer… Through much of 2011 gold was on a tear, even pushing through USD 1,900 an ounce, capping off a decade-long bull run. By September, the price was crashing, into the mid-$1,500s (it’s since recovered some). All this price movement has taken some of… Continue reading →

Europe – the sequel

Greek spreads now mean more to us than tzatziki. The European Union emerged in the early 1990s as a French-German idea to bind the region after the unexpected collapse of the USSR. 20th century Europe had twice torn itself to shreds and a union seemed like a great way to bury the well-used hatchets. But the great coming together hasn’t worked as planned: Greek spreads now mean more to us… Continue reading →

Europe the opera

What if the fat lady does sing? Right now the news out of Europe is bleak. The occasional static about rescue packages and glimmers of hope are ephemeral. But wait, there’s more! Just as it seems like it couldn’t get worse, S&P puts 15 European nations on credit watch! (Yes, that S&P, the company that rated the subprime mortgages AAA+ and we all know how that turned out…) As outlined… Continue reading →

The big bad market

Posted by Andrew Pegler What does it means to hear the market is “deserting” or “attacking” a particular European country? In other words how and why is the market giving countries like Greece and Italy – and increasingly France – such a hard time? Well just like the GFC before it, Europe’s woes all come down to debt, except this time it’s public sector or government debt. Most of these… Continue reading →

Tidbits of blog bits

Posted by Andrew Pegler This week, an assortment! Bit 1: Writing in Business Spectator, Gills says significant new technology promises to bring solar much closer to the cost of coal than anyone would have expected even just a few years ago. Some of these efficiency improvements are occurring right here in Oz, involving tiny nano-particles (50 fit on the end of a human hair) and a technology called plasmonics. As… Continue reading →