In the midst of the chaotic aftermath of the Arab spring, I almost missed the fact that Tunisia had ratified a new constitution. The process has been sometimes chaotic, but it seems to have been a considerable success in the end.
Ramana (Going To Seed.) has been to a reunion of his old business class. Paul Barratt, too, has been caught up in aspects of his past; A day trip to Dangar Falls takes us back to January 1962; Those were the days takes us to his early days in Canberra; while On final for Armidale introduces you to our joint home town. Somewhat unexpectedly, Armidale was named top third Australian visitor destination for 2014. Paul's nostalgia trips are dangerous, given our shared history.
Email during the week from Karl Reed during the week reminding me of some 1984 events. At the time, we were trying to introduce new approaches to encourage the development of Australia's electronics, aerospace and information industries.
This diagram from the 1980s provides an overview of the areas we were interested in. Karl's focus was especially on the computing sector, reflecting both his academic interests and his role in the Australian Computer Society.
I argued at the time that industry policy constantly failed and was bound to fail because it was either too general (economy wide horizontal measures) or to firm or industry specific to be be really effective.
Part of the solution lay in taking a broad but related group of industries, focusing on shared opportunities and problems, integrating the policies affecting the group, thus facilitating development. Note the way that the diagram integrates manufacturing and services and links together broadcasting and TV with communications and information services. The internet had yet to arrive, but by the mid eighties the key convergence trends were emerging, as was the digital revolution. How might Australia best take advantage of these new opportunities, recognising that in a let the flowers bloom approach, we couldn't assume that the flowers would bloom in Australia. In fact, they didn't beyond a few scraggly blooms!
This work has a certain resonance today as the Australian Government wrestles with industry and firm specific issues in automotive and fruit canning. The Government has no intellectual or policy framework for dealing with these matters beyond the traditional tension of let the market prevail vs specific industry or firm assistance.
At his place, Winton Bates has taken a brief respite from his blogging holiday with How do peaceful societies come about? I think that one message I take from Winton's post is the importance of shared returns. Winton puts it this way:
If you want to start a virtuous cycle where peacefulness supports the growth of economic opportunity, you first need to have sufficient numbers of people who are able to perceive of opportunities to engage productively in mutually beneficial activities, and hence, to want to live in peace.
It's not an especially profound message, but I think that it is an important one. Shared benefits are central.