What is going to happen to interest rates? What predictions should you trust?
Thomas the Think Engine | An economics blog
by thomasthethinkengine
1y ago
Everyone’s excited about this chart. It shows official interest rates racing up to almost 3 per cent by the end of the year. That would be one of the fastest interest rate rise cycles in history and would make a lot of people with mortgages rather unhappy. This market – the Interbank Cash Rate Futures market – has a very good recent history of prediction. It was insisting rate rises were coming in 2022 when the RBA was assuring us they were not. But how accurate are these predictions more generally? Where do they come from? What assumptions do they make? I did some digging. First I contacted ..read more
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Oblivion: Did we really forget the Spanish Flu?
Thomas the Think Engine | An economics blog
by thomasthethinkengine
3y ago
Did society really forget the Spanish Flu? This entire series of posts rests on the claim we did. Yet memories of the Spanish Flu – also known as the Great Flu –  exist. Obviously they do. The disease has a Wikipedia page. Science is still studying it – in 2018 a special Spanish Flu edition of the American Journal of Public Health came out, in honour of its 100-year anniversary. It even has a couple of references in pop culture. The book Pale Horse, Pale Rider, is about the ravages of the 1918 flu. So how can we say that the flu – which killed as many as 50 million – was forgotten? To ans ..read more
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Oblivion Part 4: Learning from Stories
Thomas the Think Engine | An economics blog
by thomasthethinkengine
3y ago
How do we remember? Stories. Since forever. Long before TV. Long before books. Humanity is hard-wired to LOVE stories, and pay attention to them. In recent history, one story stands out. An epic narrative that gripped the west, the English speaking world in particular. Including parts of the world that have, incidentally, done a terrible job of handling the pandemic. Game of Thrones. George R R Martin has sold around 100 million copies of his book series A Song of Ice and Fire. The television adaptation – Game of Thrones – drew up to 20 million viewers. That’s for each episode, when it was sho ..read more
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Oblivion, Part 3
Thomas the Think Engine | An economics blog
by thomasthethinkengine
3y ago
A bit over ten years ago, the city of Brisbane flooded. It was a major event. I watched a lot of news that week, and they played and replayed this amazing video. It captures one perspective on the floods, from a town just outside Brisbane. The 2011 flood was the costliest flood in Queensland history – but not the biggest. A flood in 1974 had brought higher water levels. The incredible urban growth in the intervening years, however, meant 2011 was a bigger deal, affecting more people. We learn a couple of surprising things about memory from this event. First, the 1974 floods helped save Brisba ..read more
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Oblivion. Part 2.
Thomas the Think Engine | An economics blog
by thomasthethinkengine
3y ago
“We believe that if an event is historically significant – if it affects many, many people, if it changes the fate of countries in the world, if many people die from it, it will inevitably be remembered. That’s not at all how it works. -Professor Guy Beiner, Historian We go through earth-shattering disasters. Ones we can learn from. Afterwards, we forget the disasters and throw away the lessons. When the disaster happens again, we are flabbergasted. We throw our hands in the air. The word unprecedented issues incessantly from our stupid mouths. Millions of people die. We need to learn from the ..read more
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Oblivion: How Society Forgets
Thomas the Think Engine | An economics blog
by thomasthethinkengine
3y ago
I’m cross. All around me I see people learning the wrong lessons. If we waste 2020, if we fail to draw the correct lessons from it, that will be a worse disaster than the pandemic itself. The world was ill-prepared for the pandemic. Terribly ill-prepared. Cast your mind back to March or April 2020. The shortages, the confusion, the awful and irreversible policy failures – they were not evenly distributed across the world. Early success in battling the virus was seen in some countries. Taiwan did well. Mongolia had almost no coronavirus for about a year. China cracked down hard and has kept SAR ..read more
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I wrote a book! Incentivology.
Thomas the Think Engine | An economics blog
by thomasthethinkengine
5y ago
I started this blog 10 years ago, in what was probably the best decision in my professional life. I left my public service job and began what became a whole new career. Now, with a decade of writing about economics behind me, at the Financial Review and as a freelancer, I’m happy to say that I have had a book published! Writing it has been a heck of a process. It started out like this, just a bunch of ideas on the wall. And after a lot of hard grind, today it looks like this: There were speed-bumps of many kinds. Including a terrifying moment when I tipped water all over my computer a few we ..read more
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