Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Do politicians ever learn? More stimulus

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Most OECD countries are burdened with huge debts. These debts are the result of policies that encouraged debt creation. The solution of the Australian government is to 'double-up', to in effect support the policy of the Australian Liberal Party by not only continuing the policy of offering cash grants to home buyers, but increasing the grants to make it easier for them to buy. This is great short term policy. But understand where this is going. ITS GOING TO SCREW BUYERS and everyone else, and here is why. These people are going to be taking out variable rate loans because they can see that interest rates are falling, asset prices seem to be reflating. The problem is inflation. We are going to see a lot more inflation. These people are going to be screwed by higher interest rates at some time. That's not to say you should not buy, but this is a traders market, not an investors market. The long cycle is over. This is the time to jump on short waves (rallies), and play on the soft stuff. Do you really want to commit to another home. What else is there? Well I recommend foreclosed Asian property because its still very cheap and higher yields will drive a lot of money there. Otherwise I would stick to trading equities, particularly precious metals. But what them first. They might fall back in the short term because of falling interest rates and a resurging stock market. More likely I see gold consolidating until the rally is over, then gold will take off.
This is another example of politicians compromising the long term future of the country for their short term political careers. We need political reform! Watch my blogs for the answer. I've got a book on this coming.
Andrew Sheldon

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The politics of wind farms

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There is an emerging battle in Australia centered in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. The pertinent governments are pushing for the development of wind farms to meet the government's target of 20% renewable energy. It seems an unlikely target. The power is required to meet the needs mostly of the cities, but the generation will occur in the countryside. Therein lies the problem. Some farmers witnessing a decline in on-farm earnings and few opportunities to generate off-farm earnings are keen to receive royalties and upfront payments for a wind farm. The problem is - the neighbours are not happy. I have some sympathy for their position. Many farmers value the rural life and wind turbines on the horizon are not an attractive feature for many people. Some don't mind them. Clearly these people are put out by the personal gain of certain farmers.
I actually think farmers should have the right to do with their property as they wish so long as it doesn't impact on the neighbours property. Herein lies the problem. The scenic view of a property is impacted by what your neighbour does. Should the neighbour have recourse to prevent a development?
Rural communities are very cohesive, yet such issues are dividing farmers as much as coal mines in Gunnedah, NSW. Business people welcome the jobs and prospect of more patrons. Farmers and lifestylers lament the prospect of damage to their lifestyle and the ambience of the place. Sometimes the risks are exaggerated. There are coal mines in the Gloucester area, but if you were driving through you would never know. There are also mines in the Hunter Valley and they are ever-present. Clearly people want and expect a say in how their environment is developed. As it stands, they don't have that power. State governments generally make such planning decisions, and mining is conducive to job creation.

It is difficult to stop mining because the right to mine is vested with the state governments. The right to export is vested with the Federal government. In the case of wind farms its a personal decision by the farmer. The best suggestion I can make to farmers who don't want wind farms is:
1. Decide if your property has a consistent wind breeze
2. Get all the property owners in the area to sign an agreement to have their property placed on a register of 'no wind farms'. This agreement would be a legal document preventing the person from developing a wind farm, and that restriction would be transferred with the property.
3. A legal requirement for the owner to sell the property with a notice of restraint on the development of wind farms

Critics of wind farms might be unreasonable, but that depends entirely on their point of objection. The proponents of wind farms have equally dubious opinions. The idea that wind farm critics are 'scared of progress' is a stretch. There are valid reasons for not wanting them.
Andrew Sheldon

How constitutional is your constitution?

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Ever wondered how fair governments are? Is it lone individuals, or is there something fundamentally wrong with the way government’s are organised. In the UK yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling ordered that all assets held in Britain by a troubled Icelandic bank be seized in order to protect the interests of British depositors with funds in the Iceland bank. There are several problems with this:

1. He used anti-terrorism legislation in order to seize the assets
2. He effectively placed Britain’s interests above those of bank depositors in general.

This was a gross misuse of authority for several reasons:
1. British banks which loaned funds to the Icelandic bank are more culpable for the Iceland bank failure than any depositors
2. British depositors should rank equally with all other depositors
3. The Chancellor is over-extending himself on this issue, using powers he does not have. It’s a total misuse of power. There is no element of terrorism, and it highlights the danger of countries enacting legislation in times of emergency
4. The capacity of governments to act this way highlights the dangers of arbitrary rule, and undermines the credibility of the justice system

We need to draw a distinction between the two elements of the justice system. There is the part of the justice system concerned with common land, which is basically logical. Then there is the enacted laws which are approved by parliament. It is these laws which cause all the grief because they are arbitrary. It matters little whether they are created for the purpose intended, misused or serving the interests of the country, they are immoral. The parliament of each country needs to be abolished and a few framework needs to be established on a similar framework to common law – a framework based on reason. Reason permits no contradictions or arbitrary actions as we have seen evidenced today. Such actions reflects flaws in Western constitutions. It is not so much a loophole in the law as an illogical legal structure inherent in the constitutions of all Western governments, which are for the most part based on the UK model of governance. There will come a time when others will question this model – just as I have been doing. Mind you, I could be labelled a terrorist in a number of countries for questioning the validity of the constitution. Need I say more! Reason has been quashed by coercion. Well....not quite.
Andrew Sheldon

Saturday, September 27, 2008

McCain vs Obama

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In the most recent debate between the presidential contenders, both were disappointing. There was no knock out punch. The problem as I see it was that Obama failed to make a connection. He made the point that McCain was privy to Bush's plunders, but McCain was able to argue that he had opposed all the policies that are a blight on the Bush record.
This leaves open a blaring contradiction. Bush had the support of someone in the Republican Party. Now McCain is the main of the moment. The implications is that a lot of the people who supported Bush must be supporting McCain.
Not convinced? Well its the Republican Party that made it possible. It was Reagan that put the US in debt, it was Clinton that pulled the US through it. It was the Bushs' who put the US back in debt, now looks like it will fall upon the Democrats to again get the US out of debt. I had to laugh when I saw assertions by Republican congressmen that the problem was caused by greedy capitalists. The common denominator is the Republican Party.
Andrew Sheldon

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Why are CEOs being rewarded for self-serving packages

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It really is not good enough for US Treasurer Henry Paulson to come out and say he will make concessions to Congress to have caps placed on US salaries. There are several problems with this:
1. Weak regulation - the government is not even looking at white collar crime; since they make no resources available for it.
2. Too late - what is the point of capping salaries 20 years after the problem started. The last generation of CEOs has retired or converted their options into shares, and in most cases sold out.
3. Too little - The CEOs have engaged in self-serving action at the expense of shareholders. In Australia that is a breech of duty. Not only should those funds be recouped, but directors should no longer be entitled to options.
4. Standard of value - The standard of value by which CEOs are paid should be the same by which shareholders are paid, the share price. The difference is that the CEO should be paid a basic salary plus a performance incentive based on the extent to which he out-performs the broad index. This would mean the best CEOs are attracted to the best performing sectors, which is where you want the best people. Though someone might argue you should compare them with same industry CEOs. I have some sympathy for that view.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, September 15, 2008

Unbloody believable - corruption under Bush

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Being a supporter of small government, you might have expected me to be a supporter of the Republicans, however my contempt for Bush and the Republicans has sunk to a new level. I was reading about Alan Greenspan's forecast for the US economy. For the life of me, I don't know how Greenspan could be so blind or repressed, to be unable to see the consequences for his own actions. He talks down the economy, but he otherwise seems oblivious to the fact that he caused it. He is not alone. My mother's boyfriend, also a conservative seems to be suggesting that the Labor Rudd government is responsible for the weaker Australian economy. As much as I think Rudd has been a disappointment, I would have to conceed that he hasn't had the chance to really do any damage yet. I would love to be the journalist who asks Greenspan what part he played. I could retire after asking that question. It would be worth being blacklisted by every media outlet. Talking of blacklisting. In an interview on Dateline, George Negus was implying that Naomi Wolf was being sensational by suggesting that the USA had become a fascist state. Ask yourself why a bestselling author would now be blacklisted by the media. Why is she only showing on foreign media by a government TV channel, which has a reputation for political independence? I can't imagine that George Negus would have been bought off, though I guess he has worked before with the large private TV stations. Does he owe someone a favour. Read his transcript for his interview - it struck me as highly impartial. Poor interview as well, and quite condescending. I note that the media is particularly critical of the Independents in the Australian politics. Its true that some of these players are very unpolished. I guess for the media, unpolished politicians are a little uninteresting. Scandal though is valued when it comes from the main parties, but quashed when it comes from Independents. In the Philippines they of course kill critical journalists.

But in a related article I learned something shocking about America which I did not know. The government controls an appropriations committee which dolls out money to politicians around the country. We have this in Australia too, though its much more blatant in the USA. They function as personal investment funds, and there is evidence of course that these funds are used to pay backhanders to the sponsoring Senators. The bulk of the money goes to marginal seats, helping to keep the government in power. Just like campaign funds the burden of these dispersements are increasing each year.

I don't know how anyone can argue that we are not within a period of fascism. Would you like another example? Malaysia is benefiting from a resurgence of popularity by Anwar Ibrahim, the would-be prime minister of Malaysia, who was jailed by Mahathir cronies for sodomising his driver. Mahathir has long since disappeared after a long rein in Malaysian politics. But Anwar has again been charged with sodomy just prior to the leading party vote. I would not be surprised to see Anwar assasinated or jailed against for sodomy. And I would be surprised if this results in riots in Malaysia. So you would think that Western politicians would be outraged by these events in Malaysia, but no! Very little commentary at all. Why? I think its because they are scared to become under criticism themselves. I don't know if you realise the dichotomy that our elected officials have created. They have liberalised markets, and I guess you could argue they have increased market competition. But in politics they have entrenched their own parties position. Global governments support dual-party systems despite the fact that these are rife for collusion. You might think they are competitive, but understand they play in a certain way. There are rules of engagement. They know they will have power roughly half the time, and if they opportunity only comes once in a lifetime its worth it. It need not be a dual system. In Japan, its the omnipotent Democratic Liberal Party that has controlled government for 75 years, aside from a very short hiatus. The conceals the fact that the DLP comprises factions that distribute gratuities like its Xmas.
The Philippines is so corrupt its amazing. Its beyond comment. Its guilty by reputation. I notice that governments do seem to have rules of engagement. It was when evidence emerged that the Philippines government was engaging in political killings that the US government actually stepped in and said something. As far as I can see there are secret rules of engagement. They will permit anything but political killings. Clearly the reasons for this are self-serving. Imprisoning a person is OK under these rules. That's why no one cared when the 'red racist' Pauline Hanson was imprisoned by Tony Abbott in Australia, and no one cared when Anwar Ibrahim was imprisoned in Malaysia on trumped up charges, and will again. I would not be surprised if President Obama is assasinated by the Republican Party. Of course they will pay a white supremist with self esteem problems to do the damage, and then they'll kill the evidence trail. Its all very predictable if you look at the trend. That is of course if Obama is any different. Kennedy didn't want to play ball, so he got assasinated. There is no reason to believe that Obama is anything but a fascist team player. There is hope because he has been in politics for less time. Any idealism in him though will be corrupted or he will be eradicated. The rules change if you don't play by the rules.
The most cynical aspect of this presidential campaign I have seen so far is the appointment as Senator Palin as the Vice President nominee. Aside from the fact that she appears to be a credible candidate, I would make the following points:
1. Palin attracts the female vote that Obama snubbed when he shot down Hillary, which was the right thing to do. Hillary is a control freak who would never have played 2nd-in-command.
2. Palin supposedly a strong force against party corruption. I personally think that is political spin because she comes from the state (Alaska) which receives the greatest funding by 'earmarks' These funding instruments are a scam story in themselves. Alaska gets 10x more funding from 'earmarks' than any other state. That makes her vulnerable to the Republican party appropriations committee. So she is a puppet.
3. She is a gun-totting politician

I conclude that there is so much spin on Palin that she is not going to know which way is up. Just ask yourself why this woman from nowhere is elected. Its all politics of managing perceptions. The Republicans are vulnerable on the female vote and corruption. The media has painted this woman as the party sheriff who is going to clean up corruption. As soon as the election is over, the party will pull her aside and say 'If you don't play by the rules' we will cut funding to her electorate in Alaska. Global politics have become so dirty, and there are few places in the world where its so 'clean' and slimy as the USA. In the Philippines its far more impersonal. They just shot you from a distance.

What is more concerning to me is how the general population is so indifferent to these issues. They just turn off. Their attitude is - I can't do anything about it - so i'm going to look after number one. My problem is that these political parties are going to get a little desperate and start killing opponents. What will these compliant voters say then? The old idea that you can always vote them out is nonsense. These fascists are in both parties. No one represents the workers anymore. That is the rhetoric. Those union leaders who don't play ball are either paid off or removed by the upper echelons. There are few unions with any power anymore. This is not new. Union leaders in Japan have for decades been paid off. They were even given positions on the company board of directors.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, September 01, 2008

The dishonesty & ignorance of Australian politicians

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Its interesting what politicians convey when they argue in parliament. Consider today's parliamentary session in Australia. A string of Liberal Party MPs asked questions along the lines of "Why has economic growth fallen by half since Kevin Rudd, Labor leader has taken over the leadership". Why has inflation increased, why has interest rates risen, why has real wages fallen. These questions are surprising because:
1. The Liberal Party is blatantly and systematically dishonest for arguing the point, because it was an orchestrated campaign to discredit Labor for something that the Liberals did under their 10years in opposition.
2. It highlights the lack of respect the Liberals have for facts
3. It highlights the lack of respect for voters, treating them like the idiots they often are.
4. It highlights the idiocy of the government of Kevin Rudd because the best Kevin Rudd could do was say "Is that all you can do, talk down the economy".
Andrew Sheldon

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Good comedy

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George Carlin was one of my favourite comedians and best of all be brings his stinging philosophical attacks to You Tube. Check out:
The guy died a few months ago.
Andrew Sheldon

How is your monetary policy?

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Are your monetary settings not quite right this morning. Nothing like a Police rendition to restore your vitality. Watch this video:
Andrew Sheldon

Zeitgeist Movie

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Check out the following movie This phenomenable movie documents evidence to support its premise that our political, religious and financial institutions (central banks) exist to serve their principles and the rest of us are just slaves to be manipulated. It also posits that a great many international events like WWII, the Vietnam War and 9-11th were events precipitated or staged by vested interests to bring the world into war, because financial and political interests were served by these developments.
I dont think I fully support the conclusions made in the docmentary, but I agree with a great many. The argument that US government lured the US into war to help investment bankers make money seems a stretch to me because:
1. The war was inevitable since Hitler was conquering Europe
2. I dont think investment banks benefit from war. The argument that investment banks benefit from financing war neglects the fact that they benefit more from funding peace-time expansion, since wars destroy productive capacity whereas peace-time expansion creates, so creates many more financing opportunities. So maybe Rockefeller made $US230mil from financing the war, but would he not have made more financing peace.
3. A counter-argument could be made however that this private financing of war is offered selectively to those loyal central bankers like JP Morgan and Rothschild. The implication is that these larger banks, which are co-owners of the Fed Reserve (a private institution) are benefiting at the expense of other banks by virtue of their government favours. So I suggest their needs to be evidence to suggest that these loans by central banks were not put up for tender. Since tendering is a modern process, this assertion probably has some merit. The same point can be made about Halliburton (George Bush) and the contracting tenders for the Iraq war. You would need to look at the processes for selecting tender winners. Many bidding pre-qualification criteria are actually staged to favour a certain bidder. George Bush's relationship to the Bin Laden family supports collusion in this instance.
Its a compelling video with many interesting themes. If you dont already have Bit Torrent installed you can download it from the website (link Make a note of the folder the torrents are downloaded to, so you can open it in a media player.
If you like the video, dont forget to direct your friends to this page.
Andrew Sheldon

Breakfast anyone?

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Start your day with some Bernacke crunchies to increase your vitality and sustainability:
Andrew Sheldon

Whats wrong with business

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This is a good light-hearted read on the business world - see

Andrew Sheldon

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Missing Qantas flight recorder suspicious

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Does anyone believe that there are no suspicious circumstances behind the explosion of the fuselage in the Qantas flight from London to Melbourne via HK. There are several reasons why I think this information is suspicious:
1. I remember my mother telling me how there was an explosion in the Australian parliamentary building years ago, yet it was never reported. There are of course several reasons why government might want to conceal such matters:
a. It doesn't want to show that its not in control, that its security systems are flawed
b. It doesn't want to encourage copy-cat terrorists
2. The flight recorder was wiped of its content for the critical period of the explosion. According to CNN Australian transport department "officials discovered that the period when the crew was dealing with massive depressurization had been recorded over". This would have to be considered suspicious.
3. Gas tanks just don't explode. Something has to cause structural weakness. Might the bottle have been dropped and maintenance crew decided not to report it. If that were the case it seems unlikely that the gas bottle would explode mid-air since the atmosphere in the plane is constant, and the bottle pressure is going to be constant or slowly declining, depending on what the gas was. It seems more likely that a terrorist group recognised the opportunity to use a gas bottle on the plane to cause an explosion.
4. The flight was from London to Australia. There seems great irony in the fact that the two countries who figured prominently in their support for the USA during the Iraq War are now associated with a mid-air (terrorist bomb) blast.

Why cover up the incident? Well successful terrorist acts would be a nail in the coffin of the aviation industry at this time given they are already struggling with discount airlines and high fuel costs. They dont need their complacency about airline flights being identified. Do I think this 'apparent breach of security' is reason to increase security? No. The reality is that terrorists can only bring down a small fraction of the flights in the sky, so aviation will continue to be the safest mode of travel. You might wonder what the real threat is. I believe the greater threat is government who conceals information - supposedly for the sake of consumers. We have no power to decide what is risky enough, to know whether there is adequate security or not, to know information on whether its safe to fly or not.
Andrew Sheldon

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Priorities & the impact of mining

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There is no question that we need minerals for sustaining human lives and development, but when you consider the prices paid for those minerals, its worth pondering whether its worth the price. Great importance is placed by government upon economic growth because that is what sustains job creation, which gives people a sense of value. But it becomes apparent that sometimes countries engage in relationships with others for entirely different reasons than economic interest - reasons such as defence. Australia has long wanted to align itself with the USA and Britain for defence reasons. The government seems to have had considerable insecurity on this point.

When we look at the world, people seem seem to be engaged in a pursuit of financial assets and even physical assets, and in the process they have lost perspective as to what else is important. I know the Filipinos (for all their faults) have not lost perspective on this issue because they are constantly fighting for something more than these values that foreign governments would impose upon them.

I suspect the people of Bougainville are not to different in this respect. Back in the 1980s natives on the island fought against the PNG government for their right to self-determination, and they won it. They won it because they were culturally distinct from PNG, and historically separate from the Solomon Islands. The rebel leaders argued that the Bougainville copper mine operated by CRA (now Rio Tinto) was producing vast amounts of revenue for PNG, but little of the money was being spent in PNG. Well the mine has long since been mothballed, its plant destroyed. But it had a very good case to argue. How fortunate they are. But one must be mindful, are they sacrificing one type of tyranny for another? Recently the President of the country died. He was a respected man. It will be interesting to see how future leaders fare. That was the economic fight. The other aspect of the fight was the environmental disaster. Leaders of poor countries all too often are impressed by the revenue earning capacity of these mines. One need only look at Google satellite images to see the damage done to the property of local communities. Mostly we are talking about contaminated water supplies and fish, which could mean high heavy metal concentrations in food supplies as well. But then you look at the considerably greater damage performed by nature in terms of volcanic eruptions on Bougainville and you wonder if humans are not too bad. :)

The experience goes to show how unfair governments can be with respect to the interests of particular people in society. Being a Western colony, I am quiet sure the PNG constitution would have been framed by the colonists, so we can reflect on democracy as the cause of this problem. Why should we be surprised that the majority would take advantage of minorities, no matter how unintentional those consequences might be. I have read that Australia has one of the unfairest and most complicated tax systems in the world. Reading the Bougainville Constitution, I an wondering if this small country will be any better off.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, June 27, 2008

What is wrong with unfettered gun ownership

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Where do the US presidential candidates stand on gun control? Well, John McCain has supported a Supreme Court decision overruling a District of Columbia handgun ban. Democrat Barack Obama sought to take the middle ground by saying he favors an individual's right to bear firearms as well as a government's right to regulate them. What does that mean? Does it mean he has no principles, or does it mean he believes it depends on the context? We don’t know. But since you asked, where do I stand on this issue.

I support the idea that people should have rights, but I do not think those rights are arbitrary dogma. The issue is not whether you should have a right to own a gun, but 'why' you should. People can have good or bad reasons for owning a gun, so should we not draw a distinction. So what would constitute a good reason?
1. A need to control feral animals or predatory wolves that kill farm stock
2. A soldier who needs to train for military action
3. A security officer who needs to protect the movement of valuable cargo
4. A police officer who has to apprehend people who are accused of initiating the use of force.

The implication is that there are good reasons for people to hold a gun. I would suggest that there a lot of people in America who hold guns because they have a right, but moreover they have an unhealthy purpose:
1. Protect themselves from street violence: This is a rationalisation. If you live in an area where violence is so bad, the solution is to move, not to hold a gun. A great many gun crimes arise from the disarming of people who control guns.
2. They want the power to respond to violence, eg. Meet force with force, such as street gangs. This is illegitimate because it is not the role of the general citizenry to enforce the law
3. They want to protect themselves. Guns will not protect you unless you are trained to use them. Why? They are more likely to be used by ‘break & enter’ people searching your home, and more than likely against the owner returning too early.
4. The argument is made that everyone should have the right to defend themselves. Well I think we do, in the sense that we support a police force and military. This is different from enforcing a person’s right to hedonistically pursue their own concept of justice. Everyone should be accountable for their actions, and not necessarily after the fact.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld Americans constitutional right to own guns and struck down the 32-year-old ban. McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, heralded the decision as “a landmark victory for Second Amendment freedom”. Really? The arbitrary freedom to own a gun is the hallmark of a hedonistic state. It comes as no surprise that the USA has the highest levels of gun-related crime....because it recognises the ownership of guns as a legitimate right.

The next question is, having granted people a right to hold guns, how would you repeal it. The problem of course is that there are so many guns in the USA. It would be a huge task to remove them from the market, and a huge cost. Australia 10 years ago paid that price. It resulted in a lot of damaged guns being handed in. I guess it could be argued that even a damaged gun can be used to coerce people. I’m not aware of the impact it had on crime.

The difference between and libertarians is that they see guns as not imposing on people. I care to differ. People’s right to hold guns is an imposition on the community if they don’t recognise the need for community vigilance. Sport gun shooters should be able to shoot, but only in suitably secured shooting galleries where people sign a disclaimer so they can be shot at, and shoot at targets.
The problem I believe is that libertarians equate ‘political correctness’ as moral virtue. Just because a person has not been convicted of a crime does not mean they are suitably ready to possess a gun. Here is why:

1. A great many mentally ill people would be allowed to own guns since they need only evade being diagnosed as mentally ill. That is an easy rationalisation for parents and victims to make. Who wants that label?
2. Law abiding is far from the equal to moral virtue. We don’t allow anyone to be a policeman do we. Well maybe we do, but they should be required to demonstrate superior ethical principles. I dare say that lack of care is the reason why there is so much corruption in police forces around the world.

So when McCain talks of the “struggle against those who seek to limit the rights of law-abiding citizens”, I understand that he lacks objectivity and is really a supporter of unchecked, arbitrary ideas. He saids “We must always remain vigilant in defence of our freedoms”. No actually, we need to be vigilant against politicians who:
1. Don’t define their terms
2. Assert arbitrary rights – some of which can constitute claims on other people’s rights
3. Who support ideas out of context

But is this really what John McCain is about. Does he not recognise that there is a broader context. Afterall, I don’t he believes that American criminals should be allowed to own guns. So he does have some sense of reality.

There are those who want to outlaw certain types of guns like assault-style weapons, but I don’t see a need for a distinction on gun types. They are all lethal. People will make the argument ‘where will it end? Should be outlaw kitchen knives too’. The answer to that is that we need implements to eat, and that life requires some element of risk. We don’t endorse the use of (steel) knives in prisons for that reason because they have a good chance of being used as weapons. There is also less potential for a knife to be used as an instrument of mass murder. The perpetrator is likely to be apprehended. In these matters, the pros and cons of prohibition need to be assessed.

It must also be remembered that perpetrators are themselves products of the system. The extent to which we assert arbitrary political views, and in fact any ideas lacking objectivity, integrity and honesty, is the extent to which we are actually sponsoring crime against other people. Given the context of dubious social values, it strikes me as prudent that vigilance over weapons of mass crime be restricted. Need that vigilance be required in future under a rational social framework? We will not know for a long time. But eventually we embrace such a concept because rationality is exceeding practical when reason is the standard of value.

The next question is whether gun manufacturers, distributors and sellers should be responsible for any carnage perpetrated by their customers. I actually believe they should be responsible. Just as the police should be responsible for no properly training the police in use of weapons. This aspect of gun control would be particularly powerful. Gun owners whose weapon is not licensed, the serial number has been removed, or has not been properly secured, or whom do not report the stealing of a weapon should also be responsible.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, June 13, 2008

Paid maternity leave in Australia for small business

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The concept of paid maternity leave is under consideration in Australia. This benefit is already offered in a great deal of OECD countries, though what does it say when most of those countries are the European 'nanny states'.
The article by the Sydney Morning Herald makes the point that small business will be particularly punished by this policy. This is what happens when arbitrary government steps in and makes decision. So what is the solution. If we leave it to government a great many women will be discriminated when they go looking for jobs because they have a 'serious BF' or because they have 'child bearing hips'. Scared employers are likely to make such rash judgements because they will be discriminating if they even ask a 'wrong question'. It strikes me also as unfair on big business if small business is excluded from all these labour costs but they have to bear the burden. You could argue that big business gets other concessions, but wouldn't it be better if all concessions were placed on fair terms. The solution!

Paid maternity leave is a silly concept unless its offered as a package of benefits. Unless this is the case people are goning to be treated unfairly. At the job interview, an employer stipulates how much each benefit is worth to them, and the employee decides accordingly. An employer offers what they can, the employee takes the conditions that suits their future values.

For example, an employer contracts for child care services with a local provider, and in so doing determines their cost of providing this service. If they can't get the service, the employee makes up the difference. That is just one benefit they offer. A single male employee might prefer an extra weeks paid leave. At the end of the day, its not about giving workers more concessions, but giving them more flexibility to choose the concessions they want. If they dont end up having children, then they should be able to get paid holiday instead.

The government need not even be involved. The reason they are involved is that governments create burdens on people. Any benefit comes at anothers expense. Politicians creates a culture of victims and perpetrators. If the government established a concept of fair pay and gave people flexible ways of earning that remuneration package, and gave the market the power to determine the value of that package of benefits, I think you will find business will have a totally different perception of employee benefits.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, June 06, 2008

Are we any less humane?

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CNN has a story of a 71yo man in HARTFORD, Connecticut being knocked down by a car and people seemingly not attending to him. So was the story. Are we really so inhumane? Looking at the issue, it appears that police have blown the issue out of proportion. Lets consider the context:
1. Four people called '911' within one minute of the hit & run. Anymore calls could have just delayed others getting their emergency call attended to. Maybe we have a nice balance.
2. Hit & runs are not a new phenomena, its just that this one had bad video to reaffirm the point
3. There were pedestrians standing around, seemingly indifferent to the victims needs, or maybe they didn't know what to do, and were waiting for someone who could help to step up. Its understandable that people who seem helpless would be turning away from the victim and calling out 'anyone a doctor'.

Its worth considering what contributes to inhumanity. I think the following factors would give a victim of an accident less likelihood of being attended to.
1. A victim lived in a collectivist state where each individual was worth less than the state
2. The victim is responsible, ie. People rationalise that this incident occurred because of the victim. ie. By behaving carelessly or arrogantly. True or rationalisation
3. Bystanders could not relate to the values of the victim, ie. They had not been involved in an accident before, they were young and they had no old living relatives, etc.
4. The bystanders have a collectivist/nationalist identity, thus they are inclined to dismiss the needs of others
5. Their were other people around so each bystander felt less responsible, whether because they were less close so or didn't see it happen. People might be inclined to move away to diminish their sense of responsibility, maybe at the same time asking 'Anyone a doctor', and then stopping.
6. There was evidence to suggest that other bystanders were taking action, so we feel less need to participate
7. Bystanders might feel threatened if they attended to the victim, i.e. They dont want to place their own lives at risk.
8. Bystanders have more pressing personal issues so they are inclined to dismiss the needs of others. If own own lives are tough we are less inclined to invest in the lives of others.
9. Bystanders felt powerless to help because they had never been placed in his situation

So when we consider these factors in the context of this incident, it is apparent that some of these factors are valid.
1. This incident occurred in a poor neighbourhood where people are struggling with higher petrol prices, food costs, and a weaker outlook.
2. The US has one of the strongest traditions of individual rights, but fascism is slowly increasing, so people feel more apathetic and passive than ever
3. There were a lot of people around, so clearly people were reticent to act first, and seeing others act, they were more likely to just watch then obstruct or help those taking action.
4. Bystanders would have rationalised that they could do nothing because they had no medical training. What they could have done is at least controlled the traffic.

Is it any different in other countries? I was on a train in Japan in a half-full carriage. There was a drunken man on the train. The train came to a stop suddenly, and this man lost balance or consciousness. His head hit the floor like a billard ball - very hard. People just stood looking at him for minutes wondering what to do. Mostly people don't see a responsibility and they call the train conductor. The train waited for 20 minutes for help to arrive.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, June 02, 2008

Oh shit where is this going? Life in the Philippines

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After Brian Gorrell's exponential rise to notoriety, I am starting to get a bit worried. I actually have something to say about the Philippines having lived here for 18mths, and lived in several countries. I appreciate the positive feedback from some Filipinos,. But there has been negative feedback as well. I think from people associated with DJ Montano, but perhaps just other 'very proud' Filipinos. I also realise that there are idiots in every country, and in the Philippines people carry flick knives. It bothers me that my GF might be in danger, or that it might affect her job. Unlike Brian I am not identifying the people I critique. The intent is to change lives rather than destroy them. People will say that criticism doesn't change people, but it does if people are not defended by others who just want to avoid conflict. Some battles have to be fought. My GF can make up her own mind whether she wants to fight. I do it with words, but I know there are 'chest beatiing' cavemen out there who do it with flick knives, etc. I would prefer to live in a world where people are accountable rather than tolerated, but neither do I embrace a public lynching.
I think there will be those who will attack me because on the criticism and profile Brian Gorrell has gathered. Yes, another Australian. They dont fall too far from the same tree.
I'm not saying all Filpinos are bad. Mostly I spend my time with my GF, but otherwise I meet a lot of people who seem to be looking for some advantage or whom express dubious values. The feedback from my GF about what Filipinos (mostly middle aged women) say to her is pretty bad too. Its along the lines of 'what you can get from foreigners'. In a certain context it could be considered joking, but these are strangers we have met.
It was just this weekend that a women suggested to my GF that she should get pregnant to 'lock me in'. Three years ago on a holiday to the Philippines with my Japanese ex-GF, a Filipino women was gesturing to my her that she should 'use this' (pointing to her vagina) to lock me in so to speak. Very crude, very blunt, and for Westerners pathetic. Desperation comes with the territory. I'm not saying such thinking doesn't exist in the West, just less extreme.
In Australia, I've had materialistic women ask if I live locally (in a high class suburb), what type of car do I drive, and I guess asking 'what do you do?' is a universal question that might provide an indication of income. But this only occurs in the snobby suburbs and is often English girls from North England trying to lock in a 'worthy partner'. But what is surprising in the Philippines is the extent to which there is 'cultural acceptance' of this behaviour, and the blantant directness of the proposition. Westerners are much more subtle. I guess you could say Filpinos are more honest about it, but it says something that these people see no shame in it.
Like I say some of the nicest people I have met are Filipinos. I can recall some particularly real and sincere conversations with Filipino strangers I could never hope for with people from other countries. I love that openness of Filipinos. But I dont think honesty and sincerity need be lost for the sake of ethical standards. I dont see any dichotomy there.
A poster on another blog made the comment "U look at the person as a whole. Everyone has his own dirty little secret". I agree, but for the reasons I'm mentioned, there is something more unhealthy about the Philippines. But I would add that it is important for each of us to be the best possible person we can be, and not hypocrites. Its not because of poverty, though clearly desperation would make it easier for people to rationalise. A call centre owner gave an example of a Filipino agent who embezzled funds to finance his sick father's medical treatment. Its a big problem. This call centre owner said 'he doesn't trust any of them' - but I dont believe they mean that. There is no basis for saying its a universal, but it is a significant share of the Philippine population.
I disagree with 'shoeboxfame' who said "What others think about me is none of my business". In response I suggest 'people should judge and be prepared to be judged', but its clear in my mind that the world is just not ready for that. People are insecure, they don't reason well, so they resort to smearing. And to her last point - "either he's Australian or a politician", I dont think I am a typical Australian. I'm probably identify more with American values, but only 3% of that population if I was to judge. Dont consider myself a politician, though passionate about the topic. I could not engage in politics in a world where reason is not the standard.
Andrew Sheldon

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Here's a vote for Obama

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I read this quote on a forum post and had to mention it...

"I think america is ready for a black president. i mean we just had a retarded one".
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, May 09, 2008

Bank welfare reaches its zenith

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This story highlights the pathetic state of corporate welfare in Australia and other western countries. The policy is being adopted in Australia, the USA, Britain and Scotland, and I dare say it will be copied in other countries.
Andrew Sheldon

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Filipino Sense of Entitlement

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I have made the point that a great many Filipinos have a sense of entitlement that stretches around the world. Here is a dialogue between my girlfriend and a relative that strikes me as not too unfamiliar. See 'A Sense of Entitlement'. The targets for such behaviour are foreign boyfriends (sometimes called sugar daddies), siblings and cousins living abroad. Fortunately these Filipinos abroad are greatly influenced by their foreign cultures and the way their relatives treat them, so enventually I think they tend to confine their gratuities to parents, and maybe siblings.
Usually the foreign boyfriends die, as they are usually old men chasing young girls.
Andrew Sheldon

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Feedback on Philippine politics

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It was to be expected that my comments on Philippine politics would draw some heated replies. I even got a subtle threat, but its part of 'life in the Philippines'. So what do we draw from this feedback. Well I am accused of generalising. Yeh. I did and will continue to do so as a matter of logic. I have made the point on others blogs that argument is about breaking ideas apart - generalising is about defining principles or the essence of ideas, differentiation is about identifying and explaining the things which account for differences. Most people of course have not studied logic so they are disparaging on all generalisation. Of course one should not make sweeping generalisations, as they are over-simplifications. Many people however are disparaging of all generalisation. They don't differentiate between sweeping generalisations and the process of generalisation. Why? Well usually its because:
1. They are anti-conceptual, or ineffective thinkers
2. They have a collectivist or social identity.
3. They lack self esteem, so they are threatened by others critical remarks.

These issues are actually related. I have made some disparaging remarks about Philippine culture or values. So these offended people can't formulate an argument to counter mine, can't formulate an argument in defence of Philippine values, so instead they resort to threats and smear. Really they just reveal themselves as part of the problem.
The next issue is the social identity. Most countries have a social identity; certain characteristics that define the nation's pride. For the Japanese its Mitsubishi, for the French its wine, for Australians its the beach and lifestyle, for the USA its cheap petrol and the right to pay $6/hour. But where is the tangible value in such 'pride'. Really its quite false. Firstly I reject that idea that pride has anything to do with collectives. Pride is an attribute of the individual. Even in the context of a team, what is pertinent is how much you contribute to the team, not that the team one. Same goes for cheer leaders. The Japanese citizen who takes pride in their national icons is a fake. I might add that Japanese companies are amongst the least efficient companies in the world. Why? Because their profitability is based on the extent to which workers sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of the corporate bottom line. Because they have a tragic sense of life, they accept that plight.
Lastly a person with self esteem is not threatened by other people's feedback. They instead accept that others have differing views, whether they have less respect for them, or choose not to read their material. Certainly they dont where the burden of collective tags.

Anyway to all the critics.... keep it coming. I love it. And to the few supporters. Thank you for proving there is hope for the Philippines. Even if its the hope of being on the next flight to LA :) Well you can't lose your sense of humour. Not unless you can't get a visa.

Some critics cited by poor English and grammar as the basis for their criticism. Isn't it interesting what people choose to focus on. Firstly I dont feel compelled to follow the rules of English. Why because they are illogical. In defence of Filipinos. Why should they have to learn such an illogical language. I have no knowledge on Tagalog, so no comment. Also I dont edit my posts often because I dont have the time. The disparaging remarks do prove that at least that the most anti-conceptual among you do understand the words, even if you dont make the connections, and I dare say thats because these ideas raise conflicting premises in people's minds. Some people are scared by contradictions. We are greatly challenged in the modern society to know more. People are intimidated by the burden. Some people dont know how to cope. Repression is ever present. People refuse to acknowledge what is. Other people enable them. Its not just the Philippines. I dont know any country which is free of this. Its a very human CHOICE.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, April 28, 2008

The misuse of the media

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The sad reality is that every media is subject to manipulation, misuse or mismanagement. A corporate with the intended to service a certain goal can be maligned to serve the interests of one (or a group) of shareholders or employees. A web site which is intended to provide information can be used to misinform or malign another person. That is what we are seeing with respect to Brian Gorrell. Brian has his problems, but in the minds of DJ Montano and his partners in his shared delusion we are seeing an attempt to malign the truth to preserve the fraud - not just an attempt to misinform, but to hide their own vulnerabilities, as well as the weaknesses embedded in the Filipino culture. Every culture has its weaknesses, just as every culture has its strengths. There are qualities amidst the Filipino people which I dont see anywhere else - both on the side of good and bad. The problem is too many of the bad have too much power. And the rest find it hopeless or otherwise just sit on the sense because they are making money.
In the following links you will read about the maligned mind of 'Lulu'. The story starts with my comments on Brian and BJ on my blog, and the Philippines is general. People might not like generalised statements, but the reality is that human knowledge (logic) is based on generalising and differentiating. Its how we understand the world. So please brace yourself as you come to terms with a dubious Christian soul called 'Lola'....Lola, Looola, oh oh, Lola, oh, oh, oh, Looola. He He. See This post.
Andrew Sheldon

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Team Brian vs DJ

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The Philippines is under seige. You might be wondering whether Brian Gorrell is a con artist after recent revelations i have seen on the internet. I am starting to read a lot of scandalous stuff on Briab of late. There are several reasons why I am suspicious:
1. It took a long time for the accusations to come out
2. No one is actually stepping forward in the public eye to state the facts

Several observations I have:
1. DJ Montano has a vested interest in undermining the credability of Brian. Apart from the fact that he is destroying the life of DJ, he is also undermining the credability of his family. They are being pushed into a corner with no where to go. Its not like they are rich enough to go to another place, and who wants a 'coke head' for a migrant.
2. The Philippines is full of people with a distorted sense of reality
3. The Philippines is full of cheap labour. People who would write alot of shit for the sake of a few busks, so DJ has a few people he could employ.
4. The Philippines is full of cheats. As much as I dont like disparaging 'collectives' or countries, if the shoe fits, then wear it. Does that mean all Filipinos are cheats? No. Does it mean there is likely to be one in the family? Most likely. And its likely that 80% of the family will distance themself from a cheat, but 20% will defend him, and there reputation, just to retain their deluded sense of importance. Of course cheats need victims, as do parasites that live on other family members. The Philippines 'culture' is supportive of this regime. I went to a party last night. I was not obliged to take any wine or beer. Of course someone has to provide. I guess someone socialite is the best bet. Someone who wants to display their success, or their parents. Of course no one talks in such terms, they are not honest enough too, but that is the crux of the social interactions. Those that dislike the Philippines culture leave the country. Thats why there is a disparity between those Filipinos who live outside the country and those maligned souls that live within. The church is an institutional sham for distributing political power and money to those that prop up the system.
5. Are Filipinos among the most scandalous people in the world. Actually I think so. I think they are among them, 'collectively speaking', up there with the Russians, Arabs and Chinese. Its not genetic of course, its generally speaking cultural. But what is culture? If you want to be specific - its values.

So why do I suggest Filipinos are so bad? Well Filipinos are very affable people, very easy going, so very easy for some people to take into their confidence. It is afterall how they live their lives, 'in each others pockets'. That's how they live their lives. Thats why most want to get out of the country. Well aside from the money, well-paying jobs abroad. They offer trust (sometimes because they have nothing to lose, sometimes so they can make you feel guilty), but they mgiht expect it in return. Be careful. Westerners are not so accustomed to pushing for trust, you earn it in time, so you might be coerced into giving it because they are such naturals at winning our confidence. The crucial difference is then, do they use that trust to screw you or not. I think having the opportunity is one thing. Then they have to justify it. I find a great some Filipinos have a highly distorted sense of reality. I think this comes from the maligned values from being conquered as a nation, the hypocrisy of the religious instititions, the '2nd-hander' social values which defines people by how much money they have, who they know. I think in the business sector fewer people earn such credit (money & power) that way, through rout. I think they are more shrude in their dealings with people, but they still use graft to great effect.

On that note, I look at my knowledge of Filipinos. Well most of them are poor, so I dare say most of them are not going to come to my attention, for good or bad. It is actually very rare that I have any sought of relationship with them. Alot of them smile like I'm someone's desert, like I'm someone's ticket out of the country. I'm told they have a special respect for foreigners, but no. I think its more like relish. So I get the sense that they feel they have been dealt a bad hand by being born 'Filipino' and they relish the opportunity I present. If not as a boyfriend, then as a sponsor for a visa, a free 2nd hand computer, advise on immigration, a little generosity. Some are more tactful than others. Some are very patient. My landlord asked me for my computer only after being a tenant for a year. Only met her a few times.
So what are Filipinos recognised for? Well this is not fair. If I was to ask what Australia is famous for it would be kangaroos, beaches, etc. So maybe that means little. There are people from both country working hard and doing great things. Well I know after last night that not all Filipinos are great singers, and seldom with an original song, at least not in English. Some Filipino won the boxing lately. But then it turns awry. I know a Filipino home nurse managed to screw a billionaire magnate's family out of money in Australia. More pathetic was the ostantaceous way in which she conducted herself on TV. I know that a Filipino Michael DeGuzman was implicated for fraud in the Canadian Bre-Ex scandal worth billions to some. There is all the prostitutes in the Philippines, all the young girls that are dating guys 30-50 years older than them. Why? I guess money is more important. The Philippines is not alone. It happens in Thailand as well. Then just in the news yesterday, there is the news that a Philippines health insurance defrauded the US military out of $US100 million. Well I guess we should not be surprised that it was the US government lost the money, the way they throw it around. See the story US military health scandal. To be fair US military were implicated as well. I wonder if they were enabled by the culture. Travelling around Asia I find a great many Westerners of dubious ethic. No doubt they entered Asia with a bad ethic, just it was enabled by the local culture. But look how the problem fested under US government sanction.

Living in the Philippines there are other reasons why I think Brian and his backers are on the right (truth) team. I observe living in the Philippines a few cultural reasons why people are more inclined to cheat, defraud, etc. There is a weak sense of reality, and there is a tolerance of deceit. Afterall this country has the worst ranking for corruption in Asia. Corruption here is a joke, and its seldom ever reported. If it is, no one is likely to investigate it. An keen invesigator will likely be paid off. Lastly I think the country's religious convictions are to blame. If its moral to give, its practical to take. This country would have to have the worst sense of entitlement. What is yours, is to be shared.
Andrew Sheldon

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Source of Filipino problems

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Philippines Daily Inquirer journalist Gemma Dimaculangan, in a call to all Filipinos, exclaims in print “We can do much more for our country” (23rd Apr08, page A14). This is nothing more than an empty appeal to nationalist pride, which is the typical nonsense from public dignitaries. Filipinos need something more concrete. They need accountability and they need public figures to set the example. If you want effective leadership from your political leaders, first you need measures that ensure compliance. Western governments had lawlessness on the ‘wild west’, and there is two qualities that eradicated it:

1. Enforcement

2. Accountability

Once the enforcers outnumber the transgressors, the number of transgressors falls. It is no longer practical to be a criminal. Today corrupt officials act with impunity because senior officials laugh it off as ‘Filipino culture’. So how do you end corruption? Well it starts at the top, not at the bottom.

1. Journalists gather to establish a position of unity that says ‘No to corruption’. Journalists establish a union or membership, with the rule being they agree not to engage in corruption. If they engage in corruption they lose their membership. The peak body needs to secure the agreement of media groups. Members need to tell corrupt officials they cannot be bought, that they cannot be blackmailed, they cannot be threatened.

2. The journalist peak body needs to have an amnesty where journalists who in the past have been paid to write certain articles will not be punished for prior transgressions. They should be able to confidentially divulge their acts to the peak body.

3. The peak body and media groups need to train journalists to become better critical thinkers, to know how to identify a story, to pursue the facts. The reason that corrupt officials act with impunity is that they are not accountable. Journalists are the only people with the capacity to ‘name & shame’ officials, and as a consequence prompt the government to increase enforcement.

4. Harsher penalties are likely to follow since the government will not want to convey any sympathy with corrupt officials.

5. Journalists need to maintain their vigilance in ensuring the government does not just respond with rhetoric, but responds with meaningful action. They need to ensure corrupt officials are dealt with in accordance with 'due process'.

The Philippines is not corrupt because of corruption as this article states. This country is in ‘bad shape’ because the people with the power to end corruption don’t take the necessary steps. The corruption was there from the start. Its always been like that. Its always been practical to buy loyalty. The solution to the problem starts with journalists. The Philippines needs journalists who engage in investigative called 'intellectuals'.

You can't expect lesser people to turn down opportunities for graft if the opportunities are taken by others. These people get rich by robbing the poor, middle class and rich. Really they make no distinction. Everyone pays a huge opportunity cost. The poor have no education to avoid it, even if they dont have much to lose. The aspirational middle class are greedy for more money, so they are inclined to be held back the most. For the rich its a significant cost of doing business.

But Gemma is on the right track. She needs I think to incite disgust among her fellow journalists, to organise them under a pact, as opposed to making empty statements about how bad things are. We know the general state of things. She is one in a position to take action in the right forum. This is a start, but its a false start. There are corruption cases that we never get to the bottom of. There needs to be a campaign of disclosure. The media should create a 'hotline' for members of the public to call when there is a politician sniffing cocaine, or a one paying bribes. A lot of these deals are done behind closed doors. Fine. It takes two to make a deal. Sometimes they are rejected. Let the facts remain on the record. There will be attempts to discredit people. But actually thats harder to do than you think. Bad people have a track record. Cynics will say that they just have not been caught. But more often than not they start small and scale up their indiscretions.

For teachers to enlist students in empty rhetoric because the democratic process really gives them no power. What good is a choice if you have 'no choice'. Why is multiple competitors good in the private sector, but not desirable for government?

Andrew Sheldon

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Political rhetoric - who does it serve

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In the 1960s John F. Kennedy made the now famous quote "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country". I saw in a newspaper in the Philippines an appeal to the same thinking. I guess some Filipinos think following in the footsteps of the USA would be a pretty good step since its the world superpower.
But I reflect on these words and dont think anyone really understands the implications of them. Firstly I dont think this quote implies you should serve or be loyal to your country. I think it was intended to suggest that you should not wait for your country to step up and serve you, that people should take responsibility for their lives.
But if I was to read this quote literally, it suggests that our relationship to our country is one of sacrifice, and that sacrifice is in our favour ('what your country can do for you') or the country's ('ask what you can do for your country'). Since 'our country' is really other citizens, its really compelling us to serve others instead of them serving us. Since they are similarly compelled to serve us, it strikes me as socialism. But no one draws that conclusion about this famous quote. More importantly no one does it - so why do we accept this rhetoric. Well maybe because its voluntary, and we perhaps the only difference that can be made of ethics of Christianity (which is popular in the Philippines and USA) is that Christianity is voluntary, whereas communism is coerced. Some people think ideally that capitalists should renounce their wealth. Most collectivists just think it should be taken 'for the good of society' - whatever that is.
But is altruism really the noble ideal that everyone thinks it is? I care to differ. I think it establishes a culture of entitlement where people assume the role of perpetrator or victim. Its not a basis for respect for between people. So is there any basis for giving. I think so, but not as an act of virtue, rather as an act of pride. I think you give to people only after you have brought joy to your own life. I think you give to people from a surplus to those whom you think worthy, which means people who are serving themselves. I think to do anything else is a betrayal of what is good or right about the world. On a psychological level people that do it are engaging in manipulation. And they do it. Politicians, employers, parents - they all do it. Behaviour well modelled in society, supported by ethical concepts reinforced far back before the 1960s....more like 1960BC.
Andrew Sheldon

Whats wrong with Philippine politics

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The simple answer is a great deal if you judge by the figures on economic growth. You could be forgiven for thinking the economy is shugging away quite nicely, but one has to note that its supported by 4 issues which are not of its own making:
1. Strong commodity prices
2. Remittances from Filipinos abroad - which should actually be seen as a negative because these are family members who sympathise with the plight of their family members, or its Filipinos who were forced abroad by a lack of opportunities or adequate pay. No other comparable country has such a large proportion of their population abroad.
3. Strong money supply growth - I dont know if this is because of government printing money. It might be repatriated funds going into local property to be enjoyed by future retirees and local family members.
4. The call centre industry - Americans saw the opportunity, but now Filipino companies are finally developing the market.

Well thats the economy. It has lagged others - the question can be answered on multiple levels.

Competitive advantage
This country is not open to competition. In fact its rather closed. There are alot of industries where foreigners are just not invited. I think there are political obstructions to this at a very high level. Foreigners cannot own an educational institution. You might wonder why? Certainly foreigners have at least a 'growth story' to teach Filipinos.
I think there are alot of Filipinos in positions of power who do not want to surrender their cozy position, like the Catholic Church keeping control of the education system. But in most areas I dare say its just the process that undermines change. So what is wrong with the system.

Democracy does not work
Democracy only works is so far as it offers stability, but it does not guarantee rational outcomes. Only a properly structured political system can deliver rational outcomes. In Philippine politics there is utterly no sense of reality. By that I mean you never see the truth emerge. Everything is done behind closed doors. No one is held accountable for what they say or do. These people at the top of the pyramid are supposed to be role models, but read the newspaper, and you would have to conclude that its a joke. But this is democracy.

The ethics of the Philippines
The democratic institutions in the Philippines were borrowed from the USA. They work better in the USA to be sure, but then that is a relative standard. Things could be better in the USA when you consider their crime rates, monetary largesse, debt levels, government policy, etc. But we can argue that our politics is a product of people's understanding of how the game is played. The system stays in play because Filipinos dont see the big picture. The Philippines is a poor country, and they have an underfunded education system. Teachers are not well trained, but parents are even worse. I have never seen a more self-indulgent citizenry in my life. They eat rubbish with no regard for theit health, they spend money like there is no tomorrow, they live off their relatives abroad, and have a matching HUGE sense of entitlement upon anyone with money, whether its a rich uncle, foreigners or relatives abroad.
They lack the ability to think well. They have limited capacity to conceptually think, though that is to be expected in a poor country, even among the educated elitists, whom you would expect to be self-important, arrogant and defensive about the lack of accomplishments of their country in the modern era. I was in Baguio City a few months ago reading how the Philippines bought in cheap labour 50 years ago to build the highway there. What? Is that a misprint? Nope. It was not so long ago that the Philippines was behind Japan. What a change for the worse. So if we dont expect Filipinos too be smart, what should we expect? Well how about working?
This culture is not geared towards education to be sure. In fact its hard to find a province which embraces education as a political priority. Quezon Province strikes me as one of the better ones since it has 12-14 libraries from memory. How are kids supposed to develop in such a lawless land. Anything goes here. I know why Filipinos are so deaf, why they so easily turn off, its because they grow up in such noisy chaos. How could anyone think with that? I moved out of an apartment for less than the people in slums would be putting up with. This strikes me as a leadership problem. Filipinos have been used to servitude.

Historical legacy
I think the Philippines has to come to terms with its history. I think the Philippines value system went down the toilet under the Spanish occupation, and that fact was never acknowledged. It doesn't require alms from Spain, but the issue needs to be acknowledged because this is a nation of victims. It extends beyond the 'comfort women' in Korea, Malaysia, China (also Philippines), etc whom were exploited by the Japanese. This goes further back, but its impact is far more pervasive on the culture because it was 150-odd years...not a few years. That has scared the country, and the impact of the Americans and Japanese did not help, not to mention the Catholic church, business, in fact any authority that has managed this society.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sharing power

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People think governments want to stay in power. But they dont - they will happily share it. I think the major political parties know that they would both be loosers if they engaged in political cat fights among themselves. They would be opening themselves up to 'third' parties. In Australia there is no serious contender as a 3rd party. The Democrats were always on a path of self-destruction or irrelevance. One Nation posed a threat to the Liberal-National alliance, but the Minister Tony Abbot managed to have her put in prison for things that happen in the major parties every term. Public abuse of expenses. She lost credibility, sadly Abbot did not. I've never seen anything so malicious in my life. Dont think we need that type of cunning in politics. Which gets to the crux of the modern political system.
The major parties have an understanding, just as national governments have an understanding. They dont enter into the political fray of other countries. Thats considered 'bad politics'. The difference of course is that you expect an opposition party to ''keep the bastards honest". But thats not the case anymore. That type of accountability only undermined both of the leading parties. So now they have 'rules of engagement'. They are gentlemen of course, so there are certain things you dont talk about. Some things are probably quite appropriate, eg. You dont get into the lives of politicians wives or children.
But there are rules which are designed to keep both parties in control of politics. Those rules are there to help them share the cake, since they want you to think its a 'fair competition'. Just as you dont see politicians dont compete in parliament over their remuneration. Instead the debate is held over Xmas session when everyone is happy. Such matters are agreed outside parliament.
The intent is to entrench the 2 major parties so the voters have the pretense of a choice, but actually we all know that a duopoly is far from a free market in ideas. Its actually just a recipe for collusion. Its not a basis for informed debate, its a basis for backoffice deals. The existence of a parliament is starting to make less sense than ever. The rhetoric and pretense aside, parliaments exist for the sake not of giving you representation, but rather to give politicians jobs and a travel allowance.
They just want to have the opportunity to 'be' in power, the sustainability of that position is less important. They don't play for keeps, they just want to be at the table to ensure they 'get their cut'. The Conservatives and Labor/Democrats are not enemies - they are allies intent on sharing the same prize. The system is designed so that they win by virtue of having held office. Think about it:
1. Power
2. Corporate directorships
3. Lifetime pension

Yeh it might be boring to you, but its appealing to these 'safety-conscious' people. You think it takes courage to be a politician? Why do they refuse to hold an independent judgement, let alone express one? They have the perfect mind to get out of problems - a good memory, but not the capacity to solve problems - a critical mind. The people that run the country are more likely to be in the backoffice, but paradoxically they too have been corrupted by the process. They are also safe people. The soul of a bureaucrat is not what leads a country for the same reason - they are anti-intellectual - anti conceptual.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, April 14, 2008

Democratic facade highlighted by the Philippines

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By last posting on the Philippines highlights the fallacy that democracy is a credible political system. Typically anyone airing criticisms of democracy would be labelled as a fascist or communist, but my learned friends no nothing of such concepts if they dont understand their philosophical foundation, which they dont.
By getting back to concrete reality, because some of you will be getting bored. We have a concrete example of 'vested interests' in the Philippines, families related or associated with some of the wealthiest families in the country, who are able to influence the course of justice, who are able to malign the pursuit of truth, who are able to wrecklessly steal money without regard for the interests of others.
Now I here you say 'Thats not the democracy that you signed on to!!' But isn't it? Sure the Philippines is a more blazen version of West democracy, but its the same institutions. I know I've seen some pretty dodgy examples of 'due process' in Australia. Is it any better in the USA, Britain or Canada? I think not. I am speaking of:
1. Rhetoric of regulation: There is barely any regulation of corrupt business in Australia. I have seen the media pursue more cases of wrongdoing than the regulators, and that ignores the fact that the media gives their case load to the regulators. Do we really want the media regulating corruption and crime. What we see instead is the empty symbolism. The high profile case of Rene Rivkin. Some powerful people must have hated him because they really made an example out of him. I wonder is it because he didnt give any political party campaign contributions? Was he an embarrassment to someone?
2. Political vested interest: I have seen governments misuse their political powers to perform certain illegal acts like sky on people, use defence personnel for non-defence purposes.
3. Political opportunism: I have seen a government minister have a political opponent placed in prison for a minor matter that would have been laughed off if one of his cabinet colleagues had done it.

But getting back to the Philippines because that is where things are so bad that any deceit educated person knows this fragile democracy needs help - and its not from democracy. So what does the Philippines need? What does any country need? I would suggest a country is only as good as the people who participate in it, but that responsibility does not fall equally on all people, and in the Philippines it falls on a smaller percentage of people than it would in other countries. Yes we demand a certain level of ethical conduct from voters that they will vote out bad people, but it goes even deeper than that. What I see evident is an absence of reality about this sordid affair in the Philippines, and given the support of the Philippines people, mostly expatriates, I think there is a good chance that the Philippines could be the birthplace of something more special than democracy - its a meritocracy. Critics would argue that the Philippines is already a meritocracy in as much as the countries is controlled by a political and business elite. But lets not forget that some of these business leaders were just good in business, some received government favours. Some likely just acted with little regard for government, and maybe that is a good thing. Ultimately power is vested in the politicians who are voted by the people. So where is the prospect of 'good governance' when the uneducated are determining public policy. Little surprise they have a propensity to vote for 'underdogs' who quickly align themselves with the elites. So how do you find people with integrity? Well integrity is a derivative of honesty, which presupposes a respect for reality. Where are you going to find much allegiance to that in democracies which 'might makes right', where the number of people you know or how much money you have determines the 'right'
Well in the Philippines, there is a group of Filipinos who are supporting Brian Gorrell because he has brought back a sense of reality to the Philippines. He is important because he is not just describing an isolated incident of corruption or wrongdoing, he is exposing a culture of deceit. And what is even more telling is the extent to which the media is implicated by creating a facade which was intended to appear objective. Its very clear that this is a major political storm because no one is willing to touch it. This guy is up to 5mil hits on his blog and he deserves them.
The world has yet to appreciate the implications of this blog because it highlights the extent to which a blogger can have such power. What if a blogger could capture the same power in future? Might he be able to bring down a government. Don't think government is looking into blog censorship for your interests. If they walk over your 'rights of free speech' to prevent cases of libel, it is to protect them.
The sad part of Brian Gorrel's blog is that whilst he seems certain to get his money back given the level of support for his crusade by Filipinos, the issues which he raise and why they occurred are likely to die. Fortunately he has enough 'dirt' on this family to keep this issue hot for a while yet. I am captivated by the importance of this issue and how governments around the world will respond.
Andrew Sheldon

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Philippines pandamonium

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This blog is raising a storm worldwide, but particularly in Australia, the Philippines, the USA and HK. Its having repercussions on so many levels - Manila 'high' society is under the spotlight, and then there is the power of the internet to smear or expose.
This blog reveals the inner secrets of Manila's richest people in a 'tell all' by a gay Australian man who had a Filipino boyfriend who stole $70,000 from him, according to the blog. The guy is Brian Gorrell, and his ex-BF is 'DJ'. This guy is getting 50,000 hits a day as a result of the detailed research he offers. TV stations even interviewed him.

The interesting aspect of this blog is that the author is really implicating himself. One has to respect him for standing up to the guy whom he accuses of stealing $70,000, but is he really standing on firm ground. Would he reflect on them just as badly if he was not screwed over by one/all of them? Is he not just snubbing them because they snubbed him by tacitly supporting his former BF. That strikes me as a typical 'human' trait by today's standards. People seldom stand up for truth. They defy objective reality in an instant to retain the confidence of other people. These people have just less sense of reality because they are buffered by their money, just as school kids are buffered by the safety of their institution, the military and academics are protected by lifelong tenure/pension, and welfare recipients sometimes offered unconditional payments.

I think if this guy was really the saint people are professing to be, then he would not be living among them. He would not have gained their confidence. Anyone who rejects these people or is rejected by them, knows the division of values involved. Those alienated by 'high society' are the real saints because they have preserved their intellectual freedom or independence. Is this guy a saint because he implicated them? Is he a changed man because he is now critical of this 'high society' he embraced just months ago. I think not. Is his rejection of these people over a very concrete $70K a sign of his intellectual conversion. Nope. I think its just vengence. Brian Gorrell is the same guy he was several months ago - just he knows the poisonous chalice he holds.

Brian was a victim of the same values which he holds. He was just too innocent to know. How else would be gain their trust. These are perceptive people - they know when an outsider has breached the walls. I know because I was never able to permeate the walls, as much as I tried as a youth. In time I realised that I could not be that way, that I had to preserve my intellectual independence and integrity, and hope that would lead me to 'my type of people'.

Brian has strayed from home, but I dare say he will find his way back to something that looks remarkably like the home he left, just a more familiar one in Australia.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, March 31, 2008

Maternity Leave in Australia - a tax on fertility

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According to the Sydney Morning Herald “Union call for longer leave” we don’t need to have a discussion about maternity leave because most countries around the world already offer 12-14 weeks. Its a no brainer. Never mind the fact that a person might take maternity leave and never come back after giving birth. Never mind the fact that most countries around the world are socialistic EU countries with much higher tax rates. Never mind the fact that subjugating our minds to the collective wills is as pathetic, as are the voters in those countries who probably decided it was a no brainer as well.

The problem I have with subjugating the business communities industrial relations policy to a universal government policy is that it creates a sense of entitlement. Is it not better for all employees to have a remuneration structure that values workers on an equal basis – their capacity to generate income for the company? This policy ‘initiative’ does not do that. What it will do it make women less employable, though given the tight labour market it won’t show up for a few years, except for the higher inflation. Maybe that’s the appeal of this policy. Maybe maternity leave will conveniently be excluded from wage calculations, so magically we don’t have inflation.

Consider that ‘universal childcare, maternity leave’ is just going to make women less employable. Wouldn’t it be better if prospective parents along with single people had the opportunity to select the benefits they received at the start of their career? If we don’t level peg then we will have any mothers will ‘child-bearing hips’ being discriminated for being considered of ‘fertile age’. The implication of that is that there will be politicians in ‘9 months’ clambering to adopt more legislation, this time to prevent discrimination against women because employers have so many burdens placed on them. Might they have a point? Would it not be better to have a framework for equal treatment rather than appeasing every vested interest groups and turning their every need or desire into ‘universal policy’. This is far from progressive policy, rather its fascism at its worse, since it was achieved without even a debate. No minds! Collectivists should be proud. You spread the right fertiliser, you get the right pig food. I dont expect a good defense from the business groups. They are equally as mindless.

Andrew Sheldon

Monday, March 24, 2008

The ease of being moral all the time

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Easter as you might expect from me is a time of throwing up for me. I have been too busy to find a reason until day – I mean aside from being Easter that is. I truly need to write more to counter the nonsense that’s already on the market. Ross Gittins, Chief Economist for the Sydney Morning Herald clearly needed a holiday because he didn’t think much before he wrote this piece “Most of us are moral most of the time”.

The book “Moral Markets” is edited by neuro-economist Paul Zak “argues that most people behave ethically most of the time”. With assertions like that I just know I don’t need to read it to know his philosophical roots – ‘relativism’. See for a definition.

It should not surprise anyone why we are ‘moral’ most of the time. The first problem is that morality is defined to be something that actually contradicts your human nature. Morality correctly should be that which keeps you alive. A decision to walk in front of a car is immoral because your intent is contrary to your life. If you can see any value in it, like killing yourself would end the plague, I would question whether that is the right approach. I would suggest going into voluntary quarantine.

After taking care of our short term survival, we need to look at more abstract values like sustaining a productive life. These are higher up on our hierarchy of values. Productive effort is act doing something of value, which in part is offering something that has utility, but its also about offering it at a lower price than others. That paradigm of competition is what drives progress, as well as being a source of pride for both the producer and the consumer. We have to remember that by virtue of productive effort, most buyers are also proud, proud that they have the capacity to buy useful products, which is derivative value of being productive. Of course if you are able to buy values from others as a result of theft, others charity, you can derive no pride, in fact you are more likely to be evading some horrible guilt or self-loathing. This is the morality of a parasite that lives off the efforts of others. Of course we can empathise with them because they have a reason for being like they are, but by enabling them you are actually making them worse. The non-judgement of ‘relativism’ is just as enabling to such people. That’s not to say you should string them up from the yardarm or exhort value from them before they screw you, it just means that you should not enable or validate their actions, which in an abstract sense is immoral, even if it breaks no legal rule.

One of the rationalisations of immoral people is ‘Its not illegal’. I can think of a great many actions which are not illegal, but which are immoral, just as I can think of a lot of acts which are moral but are illegal. The moral dichotomy is evident enough between countries, where we see different standards of morality, such as the death penalty for smuggling drugs in Indonesia versus a few years in Western countries.

Gittins asserts based on his readings that “most economic exchange, whether with people you know or with strangers, relies on character values such as honesty, trust, reliability and fairness. And a set of shared values is essential to the functioning of modern economies”. That is true enough.

Zak asserts "Exchange is inherently other-regarding". I would argue that that need not be the case. Counterparties can differ in the level of consideration that a counter-party displays for their interest, whether before they make the purchase or after. The problem arises because they differ in their expectations. Those differences in expectations can reflect price opportunism, otherwise ignorance on the part of the buyer or seller, whether it’s because he is unaware of a cheaper distributor, or because the producer does not know a cheaper way of making the product or a technique to make it better quality, or designed with more features, etc.

It is true that “Both you and I must benefit if exchange is to occur”. I don’t see virtue in the exchange because it satisfies both parties, the virtue lies in satisfying the interests of the buyer. On this point Zak is rationalising to make makes suit is altruistic, utilitarian code. We are not so indifferent that we would “consider not only one's own needs but also the needs of another”. In this instance utilitarianism drops the ball (context). If we were really so generous to place others interests equal to our own, then we would spend as much time tending to their needs as ours. In reality we are tending to them only so far as they are a customer. Over time, as our productivity and success blooms, we have a tendency to be more generous, that we are able to invest more time in our customers, if not on the basis of our hierarchy of values, in deference to our children, who also compete for our working hours. Our values are not just a ‘simple ranking system’, they are contextual, or at least they should be. We cant rationalise our time and say ‘we will spend 3 hours a day with our child’. That would be an intrinsic assertion. Objectivity demands that we do whatever achieves the purpose. In the care of a child ‘quality’ achieves a great more and is appreciated a great deal more than ‘arbitrary’ time allocations’. I don’t have children, but I can see the appreciation in the eyes of people whom I give advice too. If you don’t have the respect of your children its not because you have not spent enough time with them, its because you offered no value to them, and it could have been performed in 5 minutes. It never ceases to amaze me how many parents seem to regard parenting as a prison sentence. They will say to me ‘oh wait until you do it’. But the reality is that they just didn’t identify the value(s) to convey to their child. The best evidence of their lack of preparation is the fact that they are left defending or reacting in incidences with their children. They don’t have a strategy for developing their child. On some level the child knows it because its implied in their interaction, just as it is in the parents. The parent can take pride in his efforts if he has educated himself. Sadly most parents don’t prepare themselves, or more often they just model the parenting style of their parents. There is a science to parenting, and they have not discovered it.

Just to highlight the value of reading nonsense, sometimes scientists give you their underlying concrete evidence which they have misinterpreted. Zak makes the point that “Neuro-scientific research has generally failed to support Immanuel Kant's notion that morality is learnt by rational deduction. When viewing immoral acts, nearly all humans have a visceral, emotional and rapid neural response”. I would support Kant (whom I have little regard for) is right on this, but as Zak highlights we also have a sense within us that knows the moral virtue or immorality of acts. Children don’t just have explicit knowledge of morality, they are able to implicitly integrate material as well. This can be considered peripheral knowledge, but it is supported by the behaviour modelled by parents. The reason children in a rebellious state break it is because it is peripheral knowledge and they are acting contrary to those parties to whom they have no consideration.

Yes children’s values can be shaped by social expectations, but should they. I would argue they shouldn’t, but the reality is that it takes time for a child to develop a sense of themselves, who they are and what they stand for. Leave it to a neuroscientist however to imply that this is innate knowledge. Quote "These moral emotions have been localised to evolutionarily old areas of the human brain", Zak says.

The great aspect about philosophy that is deduced from facts is that you actually know things before anti-intellectual scientists. Zak saids “Many moral decisions, including market decisions, have both cognitive and emotional components”. Anyone who knows Ayn Rand’s material could have told you this 30-40 years ago, yet neuroscientists with the power of brain scanners can only tell us know. In Ayn Rand’s words ‘an emotion is an automatic response to a thought’. In my own words, you have an emotional response in response to an incidence whose nature is dependent on your value system. Two people in the same situation with different value systems would have different emotional responses, whether is their metaphysical foundation or their intensity.

The authors does acknowledge the role of self-interest as a critical ingredient in what makes markets work according to Gittins, but what the author seemingly fails to understand is the context in which selfish (moral) decisions are made. There is no consideration of the hierarchy of values on his part. In that sense he has a typical narrow economist understanding of self-interest. I wanted to convey the enlightened concept of self interest with respect to parenting. This is my contribution to the topic of parenting. I’m not aware of Rand’s attitude to parenting – I have never seen writings by her on the subject, other than saying she did not want to have children because they would have distracted from her writing. I see that as a sign of the importance she placed on parenting, but the greater importance she placed on her writing.

The author asserts "pure, unbridled self-interest does not a market make". Unfortunately the author does not have an enlightened sense of the meaning of self interest as conveyed by Ayn Rand. I must confess that Ayn Rand never regarded empathy as a virtue, and I would have to pronounce that myself, though alot of modern writers would share it. But empathy is actually not an act of altruism, its not sympathy or charity, its detached understanding.

Getting to the core of this person’s error – “moral” values are those that concern our relations with others. He is inclined to think that morality is a social virtue. This is where a great many philosophers become unstrung as it leads them to accept ‘the common good’ as a package as virtue. Would anyone say that a human needs no ethical guidance on a deserted island. A relationship to other humans is just one of the relationships you have with yourself. I’m not talking about masturbation but I could be since its a voluntary action like a great many others. Morality pertains to all human action that sustains our lives, not just those decisions that pertain to human interaction. Ayn Rand made the point that ‘it is on a desert island that a man most needs a moral code of action since he cannot rely on other humans to support him (in the form of family or the welfare state)’.

Gittins asserts the “authors aren't suggesting that people in market economies never lie, cheat or steal. Their goal is to explain why people don't do so more often. Exchange in markets requires the solving of fundamental problems of co-operation and reliability. Our external institutions, such as the law, often intervene when individuals and firms lapse from a given standard, providing reinforcement of our value-based expectations”. On that point I can agree with the authors because capitalism is the moral system. What they don’t realise is that the ‘altruistic values in society are the elements that actually lead to crime, lying and cheating’, so there attempt to reconcile capitalism with altruism looks like folly, and gives humans no moral guidance at all.

It leads them to conclude “The law, and the constant threat of its enforcement, is critical in providing the predictability and stability needed for markets to work”. The implication is that a good law is one that achieves compliance through coercion. Are we to assume that state-sanctioned laws are thus beyond question. The authors would seem to be supporting the worst possible elements of statism, albeit under the auspices of what they would call capitalism, but what is really fascism since its upholds state values above the individual’s.

I congratulate the authors for rejecting the premise that ‘markets are amoral’. I find being moral the easiest task. The trick is identifying a rationale moral code. Ayn Rand gave me critical insights at the age of 19yo, but it didn't stop there.

Andrew Sheldon

ConvinceMe.Net - Anyone up for a debate?