Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist from Columbia University, visited the ANU and toured Australia briefly in July of this year. As a strong critic of deregulation and the American university system, his visit was extremely pertinent given the Government’s plans to deregulated university fees and cut Commonwealth contributions to the higher education. Nina Haysler reports on his speech for the 2014 Crawford School Oration.

 

On Monday the 30th of June, Nobel Prize Laureate economist, Joseph Stiglitz, gave an inspiring lecture at Llewellyn Hall for the 2014 Crawford School Oration. Stiglitz has spent the past two weeks touring Australia, sponsored by the ANU, and has been ruffling feathers throughout his flight.

In his speech, Stiglitz stuck it to university deregulation while Marnie Hughes-Warrington, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, sat next to him on the stage with a frozen smile on her face.

Stiglitz did not bring out the big guns against university deregulation until question time. An audience member highlighted how Christopher Pyne,  Australia’s Education Minister, had the goal of making Australian universities follow an American model and how our Vice Chancellor, Ian Young had been, the “poster boy of university deregulation in Australia.” Then, the audience member asked, what Stiglitz thought university deregulation could bring to the higher education sector.

With regard to universities, Stiglitz replied that we should be regulating more, rather than less. Stiglitz declared that “almost all of the successful universities in the US are state-run universities or not for profit universities”. He stated that private universities excel at one thing – “exploiting poor people”.

Referring to information asymmetries, the concept  for which he won his Nobel Prize, Stiglitz stated that the most difficult factor  with regard to the commodification of education is that people do not have the necessary information in order to know what they are purchasing. Thus, people, and in particular socio-economically disadvantaged people, are often exploited by universities.

“Crisis averted? Lessons from the Global Financial Crisis” was the title of Stiglitz’s 50 minute lecture that  provided current Australian political discourse with a refreshing taste of what the new budget, and more deregulation, threatens to generate.

Stiglitz spoke of how government regulation brought us out of the Great Depression. He pointed out the failures of neo-liberal laissez-faire policies. Rather than championing the ‘American Way’, he questioned Australia’s current budget and the government’s current direction, which is on the path to being more like the United States. A key theme of the lecture was how market deregulation can potentially lead to greater levels of inequality and stagnated growth.

Stiglitz raised his voice on how the United States failed to deal with the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and revealed how the economy “is not back to health”. The lecture also criticised the moves by the United States government to give money to banks rather than the individuals severely affected by the GFC, such as those evicted from their homes and forced into poverty.

At the end of the lecture, Stiglitz stayed around for an extra hour signing copies of his books for  audience members, an act that affirmed his celebrity status.

 

You can watch the 2014 Crawford School Oration given by Joseph Stiglitz on ANU’s Youtube Channel, ANUchannel