14th AIPEN Workshop

The 14th Workshop for the Australian International Political Economy Network will be held at The Australian National University, 6th-9th February 2024. You can read the Call for Papers here.

Here is my proposed paper that is presently under consideration:

The Mandarins of Martin Place Redux: Evaluating the Reserve Bank of Australia’s Post-COVID Monetary Policy and Transmission Shocks

Alex Burns (Alex.Burns@monash.edu), Teaching Associate, School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Monash University

Since March 2020, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has raised its cash rate from 0.1 percent to 4.35 percent (November 2023). The recent RBA Governors Philip Lowe (2016-23) and Michelle Bullock (September 2023—present) have followed an inflation targeting paradigm that has also shaped the Bernanke, Yellen and Powell era Federal Reserve central bank in the United States. The result has been macroeconomic transmission shocks that have revived debates in Australia about the long-term housing bubble, inequality, and social cohesion.

This paper makes several original contributions. It adapts a strategic subcultures framework used to study politico-military institutions and terrorist organisations to the policy study of central banks. It evaluates the efficacy and the effectiveness of inflation targeting in the post-COVID world. In particular, I highlight both long-term structural barriers in the Australian economy (higher education credentialism; human capital investment; the productivity ethos for employers and workers; skill-biased technical change; and access to finance capital for entrepreneurial investment) and novel, external geopolitical factors (including the Russo-Ukrainian War, the Israel-Hamas War, and supply chain shocks) as placing significant limitations on the RBA’s baseline model assumptions and its forecasting effectiveness.

I suggest further reform options for the RBA including more effective public communication of monetary policy and cash rate changes, and greater, more transparent academic contestability of monetary policy assumptions and transmission shock scenarios.

13th AIPEN Workshop Talk

I gave the following talk at the 13th AIPEN Workshop to be held at the University of Melbourne on 10th February 2023 – thanks to Dr Sara Meger and colleagues for organising. You can view the talk’s slides here, and hear the talk and Q&A audio here. In the talk recording I mentioned a Downtown Josh Brown piece called You Weren’t Supposed To See That.

From Jones to Sunak: How The City and Financialised Hedge Funds Shape The United Kingdom’s Political Economy

Rishi Sunak’s rapid ascension to becoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in October 2022 signalled how financialisation and capital accumulation shape the United Kingdom’s political economy. This paper investigates how Sunak’s career in Goldman Sachs and in the hedge funds the Children’s Investment Fund Management and Theleme Partners gave him the reputation and the decision-making skills to outflank former Prime Minister Liz Truss, whose Trussonomics fiscal policies sought to provide unfunded tax arbitrage for her 1% donors. The blow up in October 2022 of Liability Driven Investment leveraged strategies in United Kingdom pension funds created a classic Bagehot-style run on the gilt: financial markets reacted by deligitimating Truss and instead backing Sunak. I show how Sunak was able to use the unique meso-level (organisational) strategic subcultures of hedge funds to accumulate capital and to gain valuable tactical skills for his subsequent political career, from COVID-19 crisis alpha (reflected in Theleme Partners’ position size in the pharmaceutical firm Moderna), to pursuing new fiscal and monetary policies that reflected the City’s Big Bank deregulation experience under former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, far more than Liz Truss’s wishful idolisation of Thatcher as a leadership symbol. Global political economy lessons are drawn for future capital accumulation in Sydney (Australia), Tokyo (Japan), and Singapore financial hubs, despite the high likelihood of a bear market and continued geopolitical volatility. The likely result despite counter-hegemonic demands will be a version of the Matthew Effect: the (already) successful will become more successful.

AIPEN 11th Workshop Audio and Slides

I’m presenting at the Australian International Political Economy Network’s 11th Workshop on 6th February 2020 at the University of Sydney on political economist Branko Milanovic, Australia’s liberal meritocratic capitalism, and my PhD work on mobilisational counter-power. You can now read the talk abstract, hear the audio, and view the PowerPoint sides. Thanks to AIPEN for a travel grant to attend the 11th Workshop.

11th AIPEN Workshop Draft Programme

The draft programme is now out for the 11th Australian International Political Economy Network Workshop to be held on 6th and 7th February at the University of Sydney.

I am giving a talk on 6th February called Australia’s Liberal Meritocratic Capitalism and the Political Economy of Mobilisational Counter-Power (abstract).

AIPEN and the University of Sydney have kindly awarded me a travel stipend to attend the Workshop.

AIPEN 2020 Abstract

The abstract for a paper (to be written – accepted 29th November 2019) for the Australian International Political Economy Network‘s 11th annual Workshop, to be held at the University of Sydney on 6th and 7th February 2020:

Australia’s Liberal Meritocratic Capitalism and the Political Economy of Mobilisational Counter-Power

City University of New York’s political economist Branko Milanovic (Capitalism, Alone, Harvard University Press, 2019) has argued that Western countries like Australia personify a ‘liberal meritocratic capitalism’ that contrasts with China’s rising one-party ‘political capitalism’. However, Australia is currently experiencing significant social conflicts – illustrated by economic recession fears, corporate wage theft disclosures, inequality-based social stratification, and growth in climate change activist movements like Extinction Rebellion – that highlight divisive tensions in Milanovic’s ‘liberal meritocratic capitalism’. This paper draws on recent PhD qualitative research at Monash University to further develop the political economy microfoundations of an analytical theory of counter-elite driven change: mobilisational counter-power. I use process tracing to explore these significant social conflicts and what they may mean, in particular, for transdisciplinary narratives about ecological crisis, financialisation and labour exploitation.

Keywords: liberal meritocratic capitalism; microfoundations; mobilisational counter-power; political economy; process tracing