The more we pay, the worse they get. I’m waiting for access to the full paper and will give more details on The Stump website when it arrives but given Australian federal members of Parliament are about to receive a substantial pay rise, this reference from the abstract is worth noting straight away:

“… an increase in salary lowers the quality of elected MEPs [members of the European Parliament], measured by the selectivity of their undergraduate institutions.”

The paper Labor Supply of Politicians by Raymond Fisman, Nikolaj A. Harmon, Emir Kamenica, Inger Munk and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research of the US,  looks at salaries paid to members of the European Parliament before and after the introduction of a law that equalised MEPs’ salaries.

It found that doubling a politicians salary increased the probability of running for re-election by 23 percentage points and increased the number of parties that fielded a candidate. In that sense, higher pay leads to greater competition for a position.

The downside to this increased competition is summarised thus on a Washington Post blog:

Fishman and his team find that higher paid legislators also tend to be of lower quality, as measured by the ranking of the university they attended. They’re also worse at their jobs, more prone to absenteeism and shirking responsibility once in office. “Overall, our evidence suggests that higher salaries lower the quality of elected [legislators],” they write. A salary bump looks to be a bit a double-edged sword in this regard, increasing competition for office but decreasing the quality of those who ultimately serve.

A defiant apple isle. State rights are alive and well. The Tasmanian government is snubbing its nose at the federal government and the World Trade Organisation by refusing to remove a ban on the sale in the state of New Zealand apples.

Tasmanian Primary Industries Minister Bryan Green is defying efforts from Canberra to comply with a WTO demand to allow the fruit into Australia because, he says, he fears the risk of fire blight pest.

Apparently what is helping the apple isle’s cause is the cost of the litigation necessary to enforce compliance. He told the ABC the Tasmanian market is too small for big importers to worry about.

Climate change gets serious. Perhaps now sweet-toothed pancake lovers of the world will demand their governments take action to do something to stop global warming.

Mother Jones reports how a few years ago, Martha Carlson, a veteran maple farmer, began noticing subtle changes in her 60-acre “sugar bush” in Sandwich, New Hampshire: Maple sap was unusually dark, and leaves were falling too early, never having reached postcard New England colour. Her sugar maples, some of them nearly 300 years old, were sick.

At 65, Martha now leads the crusade to save the New Hampshire sugar maples — and the multimillion dollar local syrup and tourism industries they provide — from disastrous climate change.

A measure of Queensland discontent. The pollsters are predicting a wipe-out for the Labor government of Queensland in the forthcoming election and the latest figures on house values suggest one reason why.

Figures from the property information providers RP Data show Brisbane house prices have fallen 7% in the last year and are now 9% below their peak level.

That’s a decline in worth of $35,000 to $40,000 for the average home owner and combined with a fall of a couple of percent in the value of superannuation holdings it’s quite sufficient to make anyone look for someone to blame.

The reality of the economics of austerity. From the BBC: Greece’s financial crisis has made some families so desperate they are giving up the most precious thing of all — their children.