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Podcast episode

EP100 – Incentivizing Vaccinations or Cash for Jabs

Governments around the world are experimenting with various incentives such as cash and free beer to encourage vaccinations against COVID-19.  Episode 100 explores what an optimal incentive could look like.

Australian economist Isaac Katz discusses his proposed vaccination incentive with Economics Explored host Gene Tunny. You can read all about Isaac’s plan in his discussion paper Incentives for achieving COVID 19 herd immunity through vaccination.

Key features of Isaac’s plan are:

1. Rewards (incentives) could be in the form of payments to each vaccinated individual, and eligibility to win a significant lottery prize and smaller prizes. 

2. The incentives would only be payable if a specified national vaccination rate is met by a specified due date.  Incentives would not be paid prior to the due date.  This approach creates a focus on the objective – which is to maximise the national vaccination rate.  Rewarding individuals for being vaccinated without recognising the national objective will fail to promote community based actions to increase vaccination rates.

About this episode’s guest

Isaac Katz is a Director of Harding Katz Pty Ltd, a small consulting practice based in Melbourne specialising in utility regulation, energy market reform, business strategy and applied economics.Isaac was previously a Senior Manager with Cap Gemini Ernst & Young in Melbourne from October 1997 to September 2001.  He has provided economic and regulatory advice to regulators, Government and regulated businesses on a wide range of strategy and policy issues.

Prior to moving to Australia, Isaac worked as a senior economic assistant for the UK electricity regulator (now Ofgem); and as a pool price analyst for a regional electricity company.  Isaac also worked as an economist for Railtrack plc, focusing on aspects of the regulatory framework prior to and immediately after privatisation.

Isaac has a Master of Arts, Economics, from Cambridge University and a Master of Science, Business Economics, from Strathclyde University.

Links related to the conversations include:

https://theconversation.com/free-beer-doughnuts-and-a-1-million-lottery-how-vaccine-incentives-and-other-behavioral-tools-are-helping-the-us-reach-herd-immunity-160591

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-58020090

Please get in touch with any questions, comments and suggestions by emailing us at contact@economicsexplored.com. Economics Explored is available via Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcast, and other podcasting platforms.

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Podcast episode

EP90 – Lockdown Cost-benefit Analysis with Professor Douglas Allen

Episode 90 of Economics Explored features a discussion regarding COVID lockdown costs versus benefits with Professor Douglas Allen from Simon Fraser University, Canada. Professor Allen has concluded COVID lockdowns have been the greatest peacetime policy failure in Canada’s history. Please check out our conversation for Professor Allen’s justification for this claim.

Links relevant to the conversation include:

Professor Allen’s Lockdown CBA for Canada

Economist: Lockdowns ‘Greatest Peacetime Policy Failure’ in Canada’s History – Foundation for Economic Education

Our World in Data – Coronavirus

Please get in touch with any questions, comments and suggestions by emailing us at contact@economicsexplored.com.

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Podcast episode

EP79 – Running the numbers on COVID-19 measures

One year on from when many countries started imposing tough COVID-19 control measures, Economics Explored host Gene Tunny asks eminent Australian finance Professor Peter Swan whether lockdowns pass a cost-benefit analysis test. In Episode 79 Running the Numbers on COVID-19 measures, Professor Swan says he stands by his view expressed last year that they do not. Listen to this episode to hear why Prof. Swan believes this is so.

About this episode’s guest – Professor Peter Swan

Professor Peter Swan AO FRSN FASSA is currently in Banking and Finance, UNSW-Sydney Business School. Peter completed his Honours Economics Degree at ANU, his PhD at Monash and after a visiting position at the University of Chicago, joined the Economics faculty at ANU, then to a chair at AGSM (UNSW), and was foundation professor in the Finance Department at the University of Sydney prior to returning to UNSW in 2002 with a Scientia Professorial Award in 2003.

He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia in 1997 and gained recognition in the Queen’s Birthday Honours lists in 2003 and 2016 with the Order of Australia (AM) and (AO), respectively. In 2018 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales (FRSN). His Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) Citation states: “For distinguished service to finance and commerce as a leading academic, journalist, and commentator on domestic investment, and on a range of political and economic issues.” His Member of the Order of Australia (AM) Citation states: “For services to academia as a scholar and researcher and through contributions to public policy in the fields of economics and finance”.

Links relevant to this episode

Prof. Swan’s Quadrant article Run the Numbers, Survey the Folly

Open letter from 122 Australian economists: don’t sacrifice health for ‘the economy’ (which Prof. Swan critiques in his Quadrant article and in this episode)

COVID-19 deaths worldwide per million population as of March 19, 2021

If you’d like to ask a question for Gene to answer in a future episode or if you’d like to make a comment or suggestion, please get in touch via the website. Thanks for listening.

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Podcast episode

EP68 – COVID and Wartime: Comparison of economic impacts

Economics Explored episode 68 COVID and Wartime features a conversation on whether COVID can be compared to wartime, which considers the different scales and scopes of the shocks, and what it all means for prospects for economic recovery. Economics Explored host Gene Tunny, an Australian professional economist and former Treasury official, speaks with businessman Tim Hughes, also based in Brisbane, Australia.

Gene and Tim conclude that a comparison of COVID to wartime isn’t valid. One reason is that World War II required a complete reorganisation of the economy to maximise production for the war effort, while COVID has involved restrictions that have reduced economic activity. 

Links relevant to the conversation include:

Comparing COVID-19 to past world war efforts is premature — and presumptuous

US Council on Foreign Relations Backgrounder on The National Debt Dilemma

Brookings on What’s the Fed doing in response to the COVID-19 crisis? What more could it do?

Australia’s Boldest Experiment (excellent book on Australia’s wartime economy)

Robert Gordon’s The Rise and Fall of American Growth (outstanding book by a leading US economist containing a great discussion of America’s wartime economy)

Aussies over-confident after being over-compensated by Gov’t for COVID-recession

Mint security lapse amazes judge (story about theft from the Australian Mint in early-to-mid 2000s)

Finally, the word Gene got stuck on at 6:55, irredentist, means, “a person advocating the restoration to their country of any territory formerly belonging to it”, according to Oxford Languages.

If you’d like to ask a question for Gene to answer in a future episode or if you’d like to make a comment or suggestion, please get in touch via the website. Thanks for listening.

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Podcast episode

EP66 – Money and Cryptocurrency

When I recorded the latest episode of my Economics Explored podcast last Friday afternoon, the price of one Bitcoin was a bit above US$18,000 after having failed to get beyond US$20,000 in the previous weeks. In my chat with my friend Tim Hughes, I said who knew what it would end up at when the episode was finally released. Well, it turns out that the price of one Bitcoin has finally gone beyond US$20,000 (check out this Coindesk report).

The US$20,000 Bitcoin price is the latest illustration of the Greater Fool Theory. If you’re buying Bitcoin at this price you’re speculating/gambling you’ll find a greater fool who’ll buy it at a higher price. Coindesk suggests there could be a lot of greater fools out there:

Breaking above $20,000, which represented a significant hurdle in the mindset of most traders, is entirely new ground for bitcoin and opens the doors for a climb to $100,000 over the course of 2021, according to some.

As I discussed with Tim, and in my Queensland Economy Watch post from Saturday, Huge swings in Bitcoin value make it hard to believe it will ever replace traditional currencies, I’m very sceptical about the value of Bitcoin. But, hey, it’s 2020, and Bitcoin’s insane valuation is just another marker of this extraordinary year.

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