If publisher Random House’s poorly-maintained website is a guide, Andrew Charlton‘s book Oznomics: Inside the myth of Australia’s economic superheroes, was going to be more humorously titled Does My Boom Look Big In This?: The truth behind Oznomics. But with the precedent of the best-selling Freakonomics and the local Gittinomics Random House must have thought another nomics neologism was more likely to sell books.

Oznomics is a textbook-polemic hybrid. It’s part of a welcome trend of books trying to simplify and popularise economics, taking us through some fairly orthodox micro and macro-economic ideas in the Australian context. But it mixes this with more partisan goals and and a more aggressive tone than the other pop economics books of the last few years.

So along with explanations of why protectionism is bad, we get the protectionists continually referred to as ‘sandbaggers’, because when the ‘tidal wave’ of competition arrives, their first instinct is to ‘stack sandbags on the beach to protect their territory’. The metaphor doesn’t really work as it relies too much on us remembering his original tidal wave metaphor (and how often do Australians sandbag beaches?), and ends up looking like a shot that is a cheap as the Chinese goods that the protectionists are trying to keep out. I’m as against protectionism as Charlton, but the insult was irritating me, and I expect it would be more off-putting for others less used to free trade ideas than I am. People need to be taken gently through counter-intuitive ideas.

And anyone who has ever dreamt of voting Liberal – and there are plenty of protectionists among that group who need to hear Charlton’s message – Continue reading “Oznomics”