Play the ball and not the man
The import of Gerard Henderson’s diatribe in today’s SMH is that the media has done a “soft” job on my views, which have only gained notoriety because of the extreme prediction I have made—about the forthcoming economic downturn qualifying as not merely a recession, but a Depression. It seems I’ve only got attention because of my extreme views, while the media has let the side down by doing a “tabloid” job only and not subjecting my views to scrutiny.
In fact, as many in the media know, I have gained attention because of my Debtwatch Report, which will be two years old as of the next issue (No. 28, to be published in November the day before the RBA meeting). The journalists who have reported my views—including of course Kerry O’Brien, who gets special attention from Gerard in his mockumentary—have read my analysis for two years now. I saw no sign of any attention to the analysis behind my predictions in Henderson’s piece—apart from possibly a “just in case” concession towards the end where he noted that “His predictions of a debt-induced decade-long depression … may be correct.”
In that case, the commentator who deserves the approbrium for “tabloid” journalism is Henderson himself, and not the ABC nor the Daily Telegraph, nor Sixty Minutes. They, after all, read my research, have quizzed me extensively about it, and made the decision based on investigative journalism that my views deserved coverage.
For this, I applaud them—for standing up for the principles of the Fourth Estate. Standard economic commentary has been dominated by the cheerleaders for the policies which have led to this crisis, while the authorities themselves and the academic profession of economics itself have turned a blind eye to any arguments that questioned the mantra in favour of deregulated finance.
I know this from extensive experience. I have made five applications for ARC funding to investigate the dynamics of debt-deflations and Depressions in the last ten years; all have been unsuccessful (including one time when I topped UWS researchers on the ARC’s then published referees’ point scores, after which seven UWS researchers received funding—but I was not one of them).
I made a submission to the Wallis Committee in July 1996, in which I warned that securitisation of loans could lead to a crisis exactly like the Subprime crisis that has now unfolded—and of course my comments were ignored.
I wrote to the RBA in June 1998 offering to hold a seminar on the “Financial Instability Hypothesis”, which is the foundation of my argument that we are likely to experience a Great Depression. The offer was declined.
As has often been said, official channels are often clogged to make sure information and criticism doesn’t get listened to. When I saw the debt that Australia’s speculative bubble in real estate (and belatedly shares) had got us into, I decided to turn to the journalistic profession to raise the alarm. To their credit, since I made a good case and the empirical evidence was compelling, journalists listened to me.
So Gerard, maybe you should do some investigative journalism now too. Go to my blog www.debtdeflation.com/blogs, where you will find Debtwatch Reports going back to November 2006, and academic papers on debt deflation published as long ago as 1995 (maybe even read Debunking Economics). And if you’d like to take a real risk and play the ball rather than the man, I’m more than willing to give a seminar on debt deflation at your Sydney Institute.
Over to you.