Lies, damned lies and the National Accounts

We close down much of the economy for more than a year and this is where we supposedly now find ourselves: Economy back in record recovery. And looks who the star of the recovery has been.

Australia’s economy is larger than before Covid-19 triggered the worst recession in a century, with GDP lifting by 1.8 per cent over the first three months of the year to confirm the most rapid recovery from a downturn in peacetime history.

National accounts figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show quarterly economic activity reached $501 billion in real GDP terms, 0.8 per cent above the pre-pandemic peak of $497 billion in the December quarter of 2019.

The economy grew by 1.1 per cent over the year.

Victoria was the best performing state, with its final demand jumping 2.3 per cent in the quarter as the momentum from its delayed reopening late last year carried into early 2021.

If you would like something a bit more realistic so far as the economy is concerned, there is this chart below on seasonally adjusted growth in wages between September 1998 and March 2021. A very dismal story and these have not even been adjusted for movements in the price level.

The National Accounts are an absurdist Keynesian form of misleading indicator that never tells you what you really want to know, unless you know where to look and how to interpret what you read. Despite what that GDP stats might say, living standards are falling and are only going to get worse, assuming they ever get better again.

For more on just how much of a junk science Keynesian economics is, I invite you to have a look at THE GEEK IN PICTURES: KEYNESIAN CRIME WAVE EDITION from Steve Hayward at Powerline. I will only take in one of his graphs which is this: The Number of Democrats relative to Republicans for Each Academic Discipline. Even economics has 5.5 Dems for every Republican – a left-right balance of 5.5:1 – which is why Keynesian economics remains the standard issue nonsense that it is.

LET ME ADD: I probably shouldn’t buy into this since it will be misunderstood at every level but the question of my interest in rising real wages was mentioned in the comments. As it happens, I used to write the employer economic submissions to the National Wage Case from 1980 through until 2004 and even presented the employer submission from 2002 to 2004. And if you will note, during my time within the system, wages continued to rise, which was, in fact, the aim of every one of us who were party to wage fixation in those days. Real wage increases without inflation was the gold standard which was the outcome we all sought.

Alas, it has always been a mantra on the Coalition side of the fence that wages should be left to the market with no institutional interference of any kind, the sort of system that exists absolutely nowhere in any place on earth. In fact, Australia had, and may still have, the best wage fixing system in the world which is based on ensuring money wage growth is kept within the limits permitted by the growth in productivity. Of course, Labor has even less of an understanding of these issues, but was saved time and again by decisions of the centralised system which made the effort to encourage money wage restraint but higher output per hour worked.

It is a bad business that this ethos has disappeared from our wage system along with the outcomes which were not so long ago absolutely routine. There are probably  a host of reasons but I have been away from it for too long to know what they are. But if anyone believes that higher government spending and an enlarged public service are part of the answer, they could not be more wrong. That is a large part of what has gone wrong with very little indication, given the deficits that are now being routinely run, that anyone will anytime soon figure out what needs to change, or will be able to put those changes into effect.

1 thought on “Lies, damned lies and the National Accounts

  1. Pingback: Lies, damned lies and the National Accounts - The Rabbit Hole

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