Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Australian Labor government on censorship

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I am so pleased that Australians seem to have awoken to the ineptness of the Rudd government. I was very critical of the Liberal government with its First Home Owners Grant and assorted policies, but Labor falls to new depths of - not simply incompetence - but ethical depravity..... all in the name of ethics. For example:
1. Its Robin Hood-styled policy of redistributing income from the 'wealthy miners' to the poor 'under-superannuated'
2. The proposed internet censorship bill - see
a. “Conroy's internet censorship agenda slammed by tech giants” by Asher Moses, SMH Online, website, March 23, 2010
b. Google keeps private Wi-Fi data” by Asher Moses, SMH Online, website, 24th May 2010.
c. 'Petulant' Conroy accuses Google of 'single greatest privacy breach' by Asher Moses, SMH Online, website, 25th May 2010.

The problem I have with the censorship laws proposed are that they have the capacity to give the government that capacity to regulate criticism. It is characteristic of Russia's fascist leader Putin...so Rudd must be somewhat envious of his position.
I am reminded of my criticism of an TV3 story in NZ on 'receding glaciers' to the NZ Broadcasting Standards Committee. The idea of Rudd appointing a group of people to regulate what websites we can see strikes me as VERY DANGEROUS to political freedom. It makes you wonder whether these people are so myopic that they can't see the implication of their policies, or whether they simply have some fascist theorists working in their backoffice. In my case, the NZ Broadcasting Standards Committee, which no doubt comprises a group of government-appointed liberals, did not exercise good critical thinking skills, and little respect for standards of scientific evidence.
Andrew Sheldon

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Should voting be compulsory

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Australia is just one of 32 countries which oblige its citizens to vote, and among 19 who compel their citizens to vote through coercion. I guess its not compulsion like the 'death march' to Auschwitz, but given the absence of principle, maybe we are not too far removed. What made Nazism possible were two factors:
1. Arbitrary rule displacing principles of law - we have seen an increasing shift from common law principles to arbitrary statutory law.
2. Collectivist ethic - the sacrifice of the minorities interests for the sake of the majority. We have a Senate which is purportedly to protect minorities, however it hardly does a satisfactory job when its party-affiliated members cross over into government. Huge conflict of interest there, but no one speaks about it.

So what are the arguments for compulsory voting. According to the Australian Electoral Commission, the arguments are:
1. Voting is a civic duty comparable to other duties citizens perform eg taxation, compulsory education, jury duty. I actually repudiate all those obligations because I think nothing good can come from having to forced upon you. If an education is good despite being compulsory, its only a matter of time before it will not be a particularly appealing education.
2. Teaches the benefits of political participation. Nonsense. Force does not convey any education. In fact learning stops when force is applied and fear takes over. Are people fearful of voting? No, because they are unthinking, compliant zoombies who do not think beyond their immediate materialistic needs or their careers or investments, where they strive to amass materialistic fortunes. They have long repressed the fact that they wear an intellectual straightjacket. They have compartmentalised their minds to focus on the 'material'.
3. Parliament reflects more accurately the "will of the electorate". No form of representative democracy will represent the 'will of the electorate'. It does not even represent the 'will of the majority', since there is an endless array of choices on which any particular person can agree or disagree with a party, and 98% of them are not even raised at election time. Even those raised are over-simplified, and liable to change anyway. If you want to continue this fantasiful argument consider that the majority in most institutions is always wrong because they are usually not critical thinkers. Human advances are made not by majorities but by lone individuals like myself. Very small minorities who don't take kindly to being forced to do anything.
4. Governments must consider the total electorate in policy formulation and management. And how is it to do that without any moral guidance? I must confess that if you approach the Australian and most Western Constitutions, the way the contemporary parties operate is actually unconstitutional. I would not expect anyone though to care if they are sold on the current 'pretense'. People are not very good with details. I of course support a system where reason is the standard of value. Clearly representative democracy is not achieving that, but it ought to be a requirement of the judiciary to ensure it is....its just they are not very good at their job. i.e. They have given parliament more consideration than Common Law...all to our detriment. Common law is actually pretty reasonable compared to the 'will of the electorate', as we have already established, and as it conveyed by the complication of the law, and the endless loopholing to circumvent it, whether by corporations, individuals or government itself. Of course government is not very good at regulating itself. So as you can see - the electorate drew the short straw - it always does under this system - whether by design or intent. I suspect an accident at the point of inception....today its hard to know.
5. Candidates can concentrate their campaigning energies on issues rather than encouraging voters to attend the poll. This logic is dubious. Why not simply have a mail-out of policies and spare us the 'one-liner' campaigning slogans, then have written and live parliamentary debates to create a competitive scenario.
6. The voter isn’t actually compelled to vote for anyone because voting is by secret ballot. True, they can pretend to vote for a candidate. It makes little difference whether they vote for a person or pretend to vote. They ought not be required to support the government's pretense of legitimacy.

Now let's look at what the Australian Electoral Commission posits as reasons cited for not voting. The government has a huge conflict of interest on this issue, so we are going to extend their meagre list:
1. It is undemocratic to force people to vote - an infringement of liberty. Indeed it is. The greater problem here is that they consider it the arbitrary right of government to proscribe what your rights are, so they have you caught by your genitalia. I would argue that whilst it is a social contract which might enforce and codify rights, the moral basis for rights is human nature, or 'natural law'.
2. The ill informed and those with little interest in politics are forced to the polls. Well I would argue that the 'informed' who vote are just as ignorant as the minorities who do. Its really not a question of education. No one ought to possess the power to initiate the use of force upon other people, unless they cede that right.
3. It may increase the number of "donkey votes". Well perhaps the greatest donkey vote is the requirement to pretend that you had a choice in the first place. If you asked people if they respect or support a certain candidates values, you will find marginal support. i.e. It was a 'relativist' vote of support, not an absolute vote. So who is the donkey now? The guy who does not preserve the pretense of a choice, or the zoombie who turns up on polling day thinking he is going to make a difference. Joke!
4. It may increase the number of informal votes. If this is a factor, I don't see it. I think the AEC threw this 'incidental item' in just to make the list look complete.
5. It increases the number of safe, single-member electorates - political parties then concentrate on the more marginal electorates. Nope, another non-issue.
6. Resources must be allocated to determine whether those who failed to vote have "valid and sufficient" reasons. Yeh, we don't want to waste resources dealing with people who don't agree with us. Just ignore them and they will join us; after all we control the military and police. "What can they do? Win the moral argument?" "So old fashion". "No one respects ideas anymore".
The most important reasons are my own additions:
7. Respect for truth. If people have the opportunity to convey a lack of respect for the process by which their representatives are elected, they have the opportunity to repudiate the system. Otherwise the system has no accountability measure. No way of saying this system suxs. The only people who would want that lack of accountability is MPs who profit from the current system.
8. Respect for truth. Representative democracy selects the most popular leader. But just as we know parenting is not a popularity contest, we also know that political leadership ought not to be based on popularity. Nor should the incumbents be able to retain their power through coercion. They know they don't have legitimate control, so they use the threat of force to preserve the pretense of legitimacy. That is why the Australian government (i.e. The AEC) does not publish statistics about the number of unregistered voters.

In conclusion, there are 5 compelling reasons for not supporting compulsory voting and no legitimate reasons for preserving what is simply a crap-bag system. The reason it continues is because most people are psychologically repressed or feel compelled to accept the system. Over-arching these arguments though is the more fundamental conclusion - REPRESENTATIVE DEMCRACY IS A SHAM....fight for consensus based democracy where reason is the standard of value.
Andrew Sheldon

How representative is democracy - Australia & NZ case study

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Its interesting to reflect on just how 'representative' democracy is. I'm 42 years old and have voted once in my life - I think in about 2003-4 for the Australian elections. I wouldn't have done it if they hadn't come looking for me. They also recently tried to get me to sign up recently in NZ, however I told them I don't believe in the concept of representative democracy. So I was interested to assess the interest of other New Zealanders. In NZ, you are required to enrol, however it is voluntary to vote. See Elections NZ for the results from the 2008 election.
That said just 92.4% of NW'ers are enrolled. That's just the numbers enrolled. It is voluntary to vote, and the number of people who vote is just 79.5% based on the last (2008) election. The implication is that over 30% of the NZ population who have the right to vote, but not the obligation think its not worth it. One would wonder given the system.
Now, for those of you who think direct democracy is a good thing, you might want to consider the results of the 2009 referendum in NZ. Of the 92.4% of NZ'ers who are registered to vote, just 50% of them elected to do so.
It would be interesting to talk to these people to find out exactly why they don't vote. Don't expect any of the main political parties to take an interest because clearly they are beholden to a system which preserves the pretense of their 'representativeness'.
The implication of this news is that no party actually has a majority of parliament and thus the right to govern if you accept the logic of democracy. Don't get me wrong or repudiate the idea that 'might makes right', yet its surprising that the electorate preserves this pretense given the highly unimpressive performance of government in all Western democracies.
By no means am I suggesting 'compulsory voting like in Australia. Yes. In Australia, you do not have the 'right to vote', you have the obligation to do so. These clever NZ'ers seem to have seized on the idea that you can't force people to elect people. A right to vote is the right not to give credibility to a bad system of governance.
In Australia, voter participation in elections is far higher at 95% for the 2007 election. There is a $50 fine if you don't enrol, though I must confess that I only voted for the first time in 2005(?), and have no desire to endorse the institution again by voting. I guess I could argue that it was worthwhile just seeing how the process works.
It is very hard to find information on the Australian Electoral Commission website about how many Australian are registered to vote. Interestingly, the participation rate of Australian voters was around 78% (like NZ) until the government made it compulsory I guess in 1924, when it suddenly jumps to the 95% level. In fact, the AEC does not release statistics on voter registration. I can only tell you that I registered once in 2004 because I felt under duress, but I have simply consoled myself with better principles since. There is however other evidence to suggest a good many people are not 'represented' by representative democracy. According to a AEC study:
"The first Australian Election Study, after the 1996 election, showed [just] 74% of respondents supported compulsory voting at federal elections".
That number was the same in a 2001 study. Australia is one of only 19 countries, and only one of a few industrialised countries which enforces voting. Interestingly, the participating rate for voting in the UK is even lower at just 61%. If you consider the number of people not-registered, it is apparent that representative democracy has a credibility problem. The Australian government does not disclose the number of people who 'choose not' to acknowledge its 'mandatory' registration to vote. Many people think that it is only mandatory to register and to mark off your name at the polling booth, but in fact the High Court has ruled that you are obliged to vote unless a court rules that you have a valid and acceptable reason not to vote. i.e. I can logically prove that representative democracy is a sham, so I guess I would be freed from the requirement to go to gaol. But who knows given the 'institutionalised coercion' under this system. Perhaps the government-appointed judges want to make an example out of me. Who can tell under such arbitrary rule. We only know the fascists rule.
Andrew Sheldon

Three strikes and you're out

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Living in NZ at the moment leads me to the question of which party to vote for..... vote...if I believed in the concept. Anyway looking at the parties on offer - The Labor Party (socialists-collectivists), the National Party (i.e. Conservatives-collectivists), the ACT Party (Libertarian Party, slightly collectivist), I am compelled to argue that the ACT Party provides the greatest promise in two respects:
1. It has the best intellectual base, best policies
2. It has the 2nd best leader - the current PM does present better
3. It has the potential to control the balance of power in parliament - not a fair place to come from, but a good basis to make change. i.e. If you believe in representative democracy, how could a minority party holding the balance of power serve representation. It doesn't. But then representative democracy is a sham. Consensus based democracy gets full marks.

This brings us to the ACT Party's policy on 'Three Strikes' - a popular conception from Conservatives. I am not a big fan of the policy, though it has merits if one recognises the following. This is an excerpt of my posting on their website:

The appeal of this policy is that it embraces the dictum that 'there ought to be consequences for actions'. It fails though in several respects:
  1. The same does not hold for parents, so children not raised by healthy values really get very little empathy. i.e. The context is dropped. Sadly as a society we only have an interest in people when they commit a crime. This is way too late, so there really needs to be done more through the education system and parenting education to resolve early childhood issues.
  2. 'Three strikes' does not really convey any education or values
  3. Society does not possess much in the way of integrity, so its inevitable that people screw up.
Andrew Sheldon

Why are Western politics less extreme?

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In my previous article I was reflecting on the differences between Western and Russian politics. Russian politics seem so much more extreme than ours. i.e. Mikhail Khodorkovsky posed a threat to President Putin, so he was sent to gaol for 6 years. It is improbable that he will ever be released as long as Putin is in power.
You can't do that in Australia....well you don't need to. Consider Pauline Hanson. After 3 months in gaol people did not identify her as a victim. She made a mistake, but the opposition parties had achieved their objective. They had sabotaged her credibility prior to an election. That would not work in Russia because no one has credibility. Corruption is expected. Maybe you expect the same of Australian politicians. More than likely you thought prison was a little extreme for her.

In the West we tend to rely on financial or punitive threats to attain compliance. But in poor countries this does not work because people have so little money. They need to threaten lives in order to achieve political outcomes. This is extreme I grant you. The alternative is to arrest people on trumped up charges and detain them in prison for a decade until a time when people no longer care. Are you about to protest in the streets for a single person? I doubt it.

I guess this is another element - the ideological weight of people's values in the West tends to be more motivated by financial considerations than political issues. Note that one of the endearing legacies of organised labour is their greater 'passion' for politics. They really get out and campaign, just like the churches. The liberals however are more interested in making money, and using it to make a difference. Money works if people are motivated more by money than ideas.
Andrew Sheldon

Comparing Russian and Australian politics

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Do you look at Russian politics and think you are glad you don't have to contend with fascism like in 'that country'. Well maybe you do. Here is a story by CNN about Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former CEO of Yukos, the oil company he purchased in an oil privatisation. This story is basically that he is in prison because he under-stated or evaded taxes. He is close to being released, so a number of other charges are being made against him by President Putin. Now the reason why Putin is alleged to have placed him in prison is because he was an prospective political opponent of him. He was considering running against Putin in the election, and was otherwise financing opposition parties to Putin. The implication is that you have no rights is you challenge power in Russia.
Now lets look at government in Australia. Some years ago this awkward, naive Queensland woman was receiving a great deal of political support in Australia because she did not fit the usual political mold in Australia. She spoke honestly, and argued for some issues which a segment of Australians were concerned about. I don't support her views, but she received a lot of support from those who agreed with her 'white Australia' agenda. This women was of course Pauline Hanson. Prior to the coming election, this women was rolled by interests associated with Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party. We do not hear any defence of Pauline by the Labor Party, so you might conclude that they had some sympathy with the Liberal Party on this issue. Maybe you were thinking that Labor just didn't like her politics. But there is more to this. This was an intent to preserve the duopoly in Australian politics - between Liberal and Labor.
Consider the example of the Liberals going after Kevin Rudd in the case of 'Ute-gate', where he was supposed to be the benefactor of election contributions which were not registered. The Liberals really went after Rudd. That's ok for Labor, because it might discredit Rudd, but not the Labor Party. The party is a brand, or independent identity, so it tends to preserve its amoral agency. i.e. We do not blame the brand for failing, we blame the CEO. But what if that organisation or political structure is flawed in its construction because of a lack of competition, perhaps because it preserves certain financial benefits for politicians. i.e. Life time pension as an MP. Does that not support my argument that Hanson was rolled in the same way that Mikhail Khodorkovsky was rolled in Russia? Of course Russian politics are so much more 'extreme' than Australian politics.
Tony Abbott orchestrated the arrest of Pauline Hanson for election contributions. She served 3 months in prison if I remember correctly, before a judge overruled the decision. Perhaps the judge ruled that it was a trivial complaint compared to what other parliamentarians do in the grand scheme of things, with their abuse of MP allowances. Consider though that Abbott had done what he wanted to do. He had discredited a political aspirant. To be sure she was not going to be an important force, but she threatened to divide the Liberal Party vote, and in the process she was going to cost the Liberal Party the election. She was rolled because she was a threat. Mikhail Khodorkovsky was rolled because he was a threat.
So do you think the answer to fascism under Kevin Rudd is to vote for a Liberal Party member? I don't think so. I think you're best prospects for freedom in Australia is to vote for Libertarians, both in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Is that enough? No, not for sure. The Libertarians are not an intellectual group, so they are not going to overturn the intellectual issues which are undermining the country. They will however be a reprieve from statism.
Interested in why Russian politics are more extreme that Australian politics? See my next post.
Andrew Sheldon

The mythology of democratic-based freedom

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Please debate me! In my last post I raised the prospect of rising fascism in Australia, and in fact all Western countries. Its not a new phenomena, its just that the prospects are becoming increasingly intellectual, and not simply economic. Society will tolerate certain inappropriate actions by government. But things get to a point where people's minds are being subverted, and fascism is allowed to escalate out of control without repudiation. The reason that there is no opposition is because the minority which might oppose it have no recourse to prevent it. This is the case today with IMF Australia being prevented by a government agency from obtaining certain information from the banks. This of course is not the end of the story. IMF can take the matter to the High Court to overrule ASIC, however this does not preclude the government from legislating to prevent any recourse.
The reason why I am calling for debaters is because I think just simply dismiss my assertions with little regard for my counter-arguments. So I open the opportunity for readers to debate me if they disagree.
I raised this issue in my local philosophy club. I think I left them worried. Certainly I left them thinking. I am the only one in the group under 55yo. Most of them are retired. One of the objected to my suggestion that democratic outcomes were arbitrary. Her argument was that when all stakeholders come together you get this lovely 'compromise'. The problem with a compromise is that its a departure from logic, and other people's capacity to comprehend or accept your argument. This is a problem because its justification for not seeking a consensus. Its justification for not reasoning with people, but simply imposing decisions upon them. i.e. How do you compromise with a thief. He comes to your house and demands at the point of a gun his right to your property. You say: 'I can't afford to lose these things'. He says 'OK, I'll compromise. You can retain half'. Maybe you accept his offer because he has a gun. But might you also think, that is not good enough because it is in-principle my property. You might get lucky, but so long as reason is not the standard of value is the extent to which you have no rights. But you know that because government does not wait for you to donate money to finance its activities, it instead imposes taxes upon you.
If someone is making an assertion, and you have the right to participate in the discussion, the process only has utility if your opinions have standing. It is not enough that they read your comprehension, they need to recognise its objective validity, or debate its invalidity with you. If they don't, then there is no prospect of reconciling ideas, and life becomes one of imposition, coercion, victimisation. This is therefore not a regime for freedom from oppression, democracy becomes a forum for legitimatising it.
An example was the call for submissions for human rights. My submission was not accepted because it did not meet the arbitrary standards of the Committee. Nevermind, I never thought it was going to serve any purpose anyway. It was always going to be a facade. The reason why a clergy was appointed was to give the process the 'appearance' of legitimacy, i.e. The church has the traditional high moral ground right? Well, less so I guess since the child molestation issues surfaced, but still the church has residual credibility which they do not deserve.
Another example was the uranium call for submissions. In this case, the government choses to acknowledge your contribution on some trivial or incidental way, like my assertion that 'there are 3 uranium mines' in Australia. This is expected to warm my stomach, to make me feel like a proud Australia. i.e. Like having your photo in the press. On the contrary, it made me feel like these people have utter control, and this process of parliamentary inquiries is really a rhetorical side-show.
So why is the parliamentary process and such processes which involve stakeholders inherently flawed? The reason is that participation is nothing but part of the story. Unless there is a requirement for opponents to challenge your assertions, then truth is not going to be established, one way or another. You cannot trust people to have empathy for your interests because they will argue that some other group will suffer greater loss, so they have more standing. It ought not to be a political vote. It ought to be a principled and rational outcome, which leaves all parties responsible to the extent that they had responsibility, and rewarded to the extent that they earned their concessions. These outcomes are best achieved by markets.
Take for instance the issue of tax? Its hard to say whether miners will pay more tax or less. They have a lot of power, but that is only advertising power. They need a moral argument to roll the government, and given everyone thinks 'rights' are entitlements, they will need to pay more taxes to pay your superannuation. There is of course competing principles here:
1. Your right to a public rent for the use of natural resources
2. Their right to know the outcomes before they invest. i.e. It would be unfair for them to be taxed at the proposed rate in those cases where they have spent money in support of those projects.
Andrew Sheldon

Is fascism on the increase in Australia

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In early May 2010 IMF Australia was being swamped by bank customers dismayed by the bank fees charged by the largest Australian banks. Despite transactions costs of less than $1, the banks were often charging between $15 t0 $65 in Australia.
IMF established FinancialRedress.com.au to enlist bank customers in a nationwide class action. The company had 20,000 supporters for its actions before the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC) ruled that it would (favour the banks) by not giving IMF access to disclosure information from the bank.
The move highlights the cozy relationship between the government and the banks. The first responsibility of the government ought to be to protect the legal rights of its citizens, and yet here was a case of a government agency acting as an obstacle to the people reclaiming an estimated $5 billion in bank fees which clearly many Australian bank customers consider excessive.
The other important responsibility is to define objective principles for rights. Unfortunately the West has not really given full recognition to those political rights sanctioned by the United Nations under the Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other declarations. Many countries argue that these rights do not reconcile with their own political systems, or that they have already protected these rights. The reality however is that only limited protection is offered. Another problem is the failure to protect economic rights. Political rights which do not extend to economic rights are superfluous because in a highly organised society no one can afford to lose all of their economic wealth. The gross violation of economic rights is imposed under the rhetoric of economic rights. The problem is that governments have conjured up economic rights (with the help of vocal socialists and liberals) which constitute impositions upon the rights of others. This is logically a contradiction in terms. i.e. Your right to free health care is an imposition upon doctors to provide that care, and an opern-ended commitment by others to finance it. Rights have ceased to be 'protections', and are not imposed as 'obligations'. The manifest outcome of such a system is that economic values are no longer earned, they are assumed as entitlements. We have long recognised the failure of socialism, but we refuse to acknowledge the slow drift to values within Western society towards fascism, as we saw in Germany in the 1940s. We are once again failing to learn from history. Germany was particularly vulnerable because of its philosophical legacy of Kant, Hegel, etc. Today, you might be surprised how reverred these philosophers are among Western academics.

Another possible explanation for the government's move is the recognition that they ought to have acted sooner. Their tardiness in regulating the banks could possibly be censured by the Supreme Court.
We are accustomed to governments fighting for freedom in far-away lands, but such actions by government highlight the spectre of fascism in our own backyards. The plethora of statutory law developed in recent years appears to be limiting the recognition of our Common Law rights to justice. The difference between Common Law and Statutory Law is the nature of how the law is developed. Common law is based on principles of justice. Statutory law is arbitrary. It balances arguments, but it does not seek rationality, integrity or to resolve disputes. Readers might like to ask themselves to what extent these outcomes are rational. A great number of statutory laws were enacted to address the flaws in previous enacted laws. The problem is that one arbitrary law is held out of context, requiring another arbitrary law to correct loopholes or exceptions. The result has been an ineffective, costly legal system, and true arbitrary outcomes, where people have no certainty over their outcome. For this reason, few people have the finances to challenge outcomes, nor to seek legal remedies. The consequence is thus an asymmetrical and arbitrary relationship with governments and corporations, which very much defines fascism. People expect to see goose-stepping military battalions marching done the street, but fascism is, like other forms of tyrannical collectivism, an expression of the ethical principle that your interests as an individual are arbitrarily subordinated to the good of society. That is an arbitrary standard, so society often declines into a state tyranny where it is the good of the government which is preserved with the help of media, banks and large corporations fearful of being marginalised. Here is a case of the government siding with the banks. Here is a display of fascism.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, May 14, 2010

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Today we gained the clearest evidence that the Western world is in a state of fascism. Never mind what you might think of Russia with its killings of political dissidents, or control of the media. We have today seen once again evidence that the Australian government has no interest in justice. What we can expect are efforts to sabotage the realisation of political rights, efforts to defend the actions of bank executives, as well as current practices. Why? The rhetoric could be anything from 'legal precedent', 'fine details in the law' or 'destabilisation of the banking system'. What it will in fact be is simply government efforts to intervene to protect banking executives who protect it. Whether its a 'conspiracy' or simply two parties preserving some loyalty or independently seeing the value of the relationship matters little. The consequences are clear - the government does not represent the interests of justice - it represents particular vested interests which:
1. Preserve the power base of the two major parties - 'the duopolistic solution'
2. Preserves the administration of the current political party

The details of the transaction are evident at SMH Online. Basically ASIC is preventing IMF Australia, which is mounting a class action against the banks, from getting access to disclosure statements. This is despite IMF representing bank customers. This people highlights the conflict of interest between the banks and the government. The government is obstructing the course of justice. It will be interesting to see how the Liberal Party will handle this issue. It will certainly test the question of whether there is a 'co-sonspiracy' between the two major political parties. i.e. Rules of engagement between the parties likely involve efforts to preserve those systems and policies which help those two parties remain in power. i.e. This political duopoly is entrenched.

It has been 6 years at least for myself waiting for these political parties to act. I have been waiting for them to legislate against the banks. I could ill-afford to waste money taking legal action against CBA/Comsec, and now there emerges a 'financial solution' in the form of IMF Australia (i.e. FinancialRedress.com.au), and the ASIC obstructs it. Clearly the reason ASIC is doing this is because if IMF is successful, it will be incredibly embarrassing for the government, because it did not act to address the problem. It will highlight the bleating inadequacies of our political system. i.e. That banks can rip off millions of customers 'small-time' and get away with it. Finally after taking 6 years of crap from them, a 'white knight' emerges in the form of IMF Australia, and the government 'harpoons' them, preventing them from acting through the courts to get justice for most Australians. The government is embarrassed. Any resolution it makes will be a half-measure to protect its interests. I think the reality is that government knows the costs of this action are greater than has been disclosed. You see the banks are not simply liable for damages over bank fees, but also broker fees. e.g. Comsec owes me $20,000 in over-charged fees for its stupid broking platform. Its later actions caused me a further $10,000 in losses because they issued certificates and closed my account without adequate warning. The reality is that this 'political solution' is a cover-up.
Australians have no rights....you never did...you simply are living an illusion. Justice is unaffordable, offers no protection, and you live in hope that you can hobble through life without being affected.
It will be interesting to see if IMF takes action in the High Court to demand the release of this information. These are of course delay tactics. Labor would like to see the issue addressed by Liberals so it reflects on them. But really its a 'conspiracy'. I have long recognised that any action by myself to seek solutions by government, or through ASIC, always amounted to zero. Why? Lack of resources was the standard answer. Here is a case where there are private resources, and the government is preventing it. Why? It ought to be clear.
Andrew Sheldon

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The intellectual decline of the business sector

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The Australian government is threatening to adopt a new Resource Rent Tax. In protection of its interests, miners are saying things like "You will stop us creating jobs" - the government is saying 'we will create more". The miners are saying "But we pay more tax than the banks", the government is saying "Not according to our calculations". The government is saying 'resources are a public asset', the miners are replying 'we already state royalties'. Resources are of course regulated by the states, thus if the Federal government takes a cut, it will undermine new projects, which will undermine the State tax receipts as well. Not that WA or Qld will have a shortage, but they might appreciate the excess, and certainly other states will be missing out.

All this political 'energy'. Sometimes I think the world is just not worth all the effort. Some people seem just not worth the effort. But what else is there to live for but to complain to various interest groups, to get the best possible outcome. I frankly would prefer the mining industry, as useless as they are, to retain the profits rather to witness the frustration of governments falling over themselves to waste the money. I still feel this way, even after the following dialogue with a mining industry executive over the last few days. It goes like this.
1. Soliciting interest in Resource Rent Tax issue
I raised the issue of the Resource Rent Tax issue, suggesting this would be a huge impediment to the Australian economy, and would ultimately prove to be another unsavoury move towards fascist. I also suggested that on these issues the mining industry was its own worst enemy. His reply was supportive and positive:
"What we are seeing with Rudd and co is indeed fascism. They believe they know what is best for us all and that they can have a command economy. This is much worse than the Whitlam years which were bad enough. I don't see how anyone with half a brain could be anything but sceptical about climate matters. The miners do not present well. We are dealing with really evil people in Federal government just now. I will copy this to .......... who will be interested in what you are up to. They are very much "on the case" of this latest taxation proposal, as they are attacking the ETS".
Ok, we have established that he is politically correct. My concern is here that any effort has to display integrity, otherwise your argument falls apart. I am a bit disappointed with my reply to him because I should have taken more time writing it. I am overwhelmed by all the things I am trying to achieve, so I often tend to under-invest in important points...but this was my reply in part...The problem is I tend to presume or hope that I will be having a dialogue with people who have healthy self-esteem and a primary respect for facts. In fact, I get defensiveness and vulnerability...and I must admit I did not put my best foot forward.
2. Going slightly off track
"You mentioned that Rudd was bad, and I agree, but if it was just Rudd I would not care because he would be replaced within a year. Howard's First Home Buyers Grant is an example of government over-stimulating the economy for its own advantage. Its no better than India's price controls. Rudd then 'doubles up' when he joined the roulette table. This is more serious because it is a succession of political failures which reflects upon a poor system. Representative democracy is a 'false promise', we need a consensus based democracy where reason is the standard of value, not arbitrary vote buying, concessions, extortion. Certainly we need to remove the duopoly if there is to be good policy".
He probably didn't have a problem with that. The problem I have with it is that I am trying to educate him because I lack confidence in people's ability to grasp ethical principles. My 'defensiveness' comes after years of treading softly around people's egos....well their presumption of one. Its the next section where I should have worded it better.....I've altered it slightly to remove a personal reference....as this is intended to educate not disparage.
3. Establishing ethical framework
"I don' think ...... was selfish. This is a flawed conception amongst the general community, including business. Philosophers never challenge it; they assume it. That it is moral to serve others. Its the ethics underpinning socialism and fascism (Hitler: You are nothing, your nation is everything). Capitalism is selfishness - 'trading value for value'. But people stop there. Integrating with that moral concept is Masalow's hierarchy of values, and Rand's theory of values. The issue is not just that you act in your self-interest, but that you possess a coherent framework of values, so you 'know what constitutes your self interest'."
4. Fixing up my mistake
In fact philosophers don't so much assume it, they rationalise it. It is however probably my attempt to personalise it where I went off track....and condescending. Hmmm... well I actually don't know how to breach this topic without making people feel vulnerable, but sure as hell this comment did not help. Kind of embarrassed to disclose it, but in fairness to the counterparty..... I was trying very hard to be conciliatory...like stepping on stones to avoid bruising his ego...but on reflection I did a bad job of it. Really bad :( Unsurprisingly it had the opposite effect. I really ought to proof read this stuff. My comment was - some context missing:
"Very healthy I'm sure, but to the extent that your moral standard is 'perhaps superficially' altruism (non-selfishness) is good, then you might be placing yourself in a moral conflict as well, and perhaps carrying some guilt for that. You are selfish, and you should be proud of it, though I might suggest being tactful about how you present that knowledge. There is a difference between being altruistic and generous. Your success has met all your needs, so you are in a position to be 'generous'.
If you identify it as Rudd's moral high ground, you are actually living or affirming Rudd's conception, the conception of 2000 years under pre-science religion. If you can appreciate that, then you might appreciate the battle miners have is not political, its actually in the fields of epistemology-ethics. Miners tend to be a pragmatic lot like yourself".
Well - poor grammar to be sure, though mostly correct. Its just poorly argued. I might add that my dubious efforts to convince a business executive that the business community cannot win (and has not won) a battle against government by fighting at a political level. It has in the process conceded the realm of ethics, values and ideas to government. But it goes further because wealthy CEOs around Australia are - from a longer term perspective - shooting themselves in the foot by failing to support ideas which provide them with an ethical defense as well as a 'pragmatic' one because ultimately they cannot win the political contest without a moral code. Since most CEOs are mere managers, then ultimately the cost is being borne by shareholders. The reply was the following:
"I wish you well with all this but frankly I don't have time to be engaging in this sort of analysis. I truly wish you luck in putting the blow torch to the belly of the government but could not give a stuff about a lot of the other matters to which you are applying your superior intellect, eg. what is "selfishness" or what isn't. I believe I use the word correctly, end of story".
The implication is that CEOs and all Australians are financing the enemy. They pay taxes which are used to fund academics who are attacking their best interests. The government also uses its tax dollars to develop new taxes. Consider the following papers:
1. Paper 1 - The theoretical or ethical justification - It argues in essence that we need to turn away from selfish rationality and embrace cooperation and reciprocality. Anyone who has a sound understanding of markets, psychology will recognise that cooperation is selfish, its simply a broader perspective of self interest that incorporates others needs. This is what I was trying to communicate to the executive above. i.e. We give to get. If we don't get we stop giving. We initiate giving because we trust the counterparty. If we don't have trust in them or the process, then we don't initiate. This does not dawn upon academics because they feel compelled to provide a rationalisation for altruism. After all how are they to they justify living off expropriated wealth if they do not have the values to support the 'common good'. Their flaw goes even deeper than the CEOs. Alas, we will all pay the price.
2. Paper 2 - The practical or political execution - Treasury report on the Resource Rent Tax
It is rare that you will find a report by industry defending itself. If you do its likely to be about how many jobs they create, exports they generate...tax they already pay. This is amusing...they make a virtue of paying tax (i.e. sacrifice). This justification comes from Adam Smith. It was a novel idea back in the 18th century, however its time to develop a theory of values. Hehe. Rudd must be laughing "Allow us to make you more virtuous, you haven't sacrificed enough though". The industry is too busy making short term money to worry about their long term enslavement. I have no doubt that Hitler had the same easy path to infamy. I might add that, just as people only start worrying about kids when they start breaking laws, so the community only starts worrying about their government when it starts killing people. Rest assured you will not miss the first few hundred. The US only complained about political killings by its 'ally' government in the Philippines after they killed over 600 political opponents. I guess it could be argued those dissenters were collectivists, but by no measure is the Philippine government defenders of freedom. The Church was one of the last to end its support for Hitler....just as it was one of the last to acknowledge child abuse. All these philosophical perspectives - apart from mine - has one thing in common - a lack of respect for truth (or the facts of reality).
Remember however that owner CEOs have more invested than 'manager' CEOs, and yet these people are not really stepping up. People like John Talbot (Macarthur Coal), Andrew Forrest (Fortescue Metals) and a great many others have a great deal more reason to adopt the right strategy. I think one of the biggest problems with capitalism is the fact that 'managers' control the assets more than owners. It ought to be good reason for people to invest in 'owner' companies. Though they also present risks since society is structured on the wrong ethical principles.
Some will be critical of my interpretation because its just one man. He is surely not representative of the rest. Well I will let you know how many others step forward. As Dr Phil says "This is not my first rodeo". Incidentally, his psychology is underpinned by the same ethical conflict. I don't expect any. Not totally their fault. Their education system is the same as yours and there is great practicality in being "goal-orientated". But you need a breadth of knowledge to see around corners.

Perhaps the bigger issue is that this guy probably loathes me more than the academics who he is obliged to finance because of government-instigated tax expropriation. They live off his 'enslaved hide', but I guess I took something more valuable to him than money (which he has plenty of). I took away his pretense of cognitive efficacy. Not that he is an idiot. He is a smart guy. Just he is not mindful of what is important. Ethics. Not that he's criminal...just he does not have an explicit appreciation of his values.
So what do I need from such people? Credibility certainly. A good argument gets you so far. Under the current political system; reason is not the standard of value. But how do you get people to listen when you have no authority. Frankly I don't want power, I just want government to renounce its coercion. I don't need money from these people. Unlike the bureaucrat and academic I can support myself. Of course I'd love to be able to fight a High Court case to defend liberty, but honesty that is for people who have greater diplomatic skills than me. Ultimately that is the biggest aspect of making money these days. Friends with shared goals and values. I can't say not being validated with endorsements or praise by others is a little frustrating, but ultimately I guess its a hard slog and I've not earned it. My people skills are not there yet. Frankly I can't be bothered, so hopefully there is a diplomat among you who will carry that torch. I will however chisel away at the coal face hoping that someone will be burning the stuff at the surface. More probably it will just rot, just as there were unused stockpiles of product in Stalinist Russia rotting....waiting for some customer.

Ok, I apologised to the executive concerned for my condescending manner....which was actually not intended, since I respect the guy. He responded...
"No problem and no apology required. You are trying to achieve a good outcome and have good values. I do admire that. And you have tenacity which is great".
This leaves a question in my mind...is he just being polite/diplomatic, or does he really mean it? I think he means it because he is the type of guy who speaks his mind. This prompts me to ask - am I good in a selfish way, or an altruistic way, since I think selfishness is good, and he thinks it's bad. By that I mean selfish in the 'principled' enlightened way. I also think he is selfish, but in the guilty, apologetic, conflicted way. Mixed economies persist because good men do nothing....well nothing to reconcile mixing of values. Enuf said.

Andrew Sheldon

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ethical implications for our CEOs

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I have long argued that wealthy business people are partly the problem. They are partly the reason why we have declining freedom. The reality is that there is some measure of 'material' practicality in their philosophy, but they really don't want to identify the nature of the statist which controls their economic well-being. Whether they are 'intellectually-challenged', compartmentalised thinkers or repressed, or simply goal-orientated in a different direction, the implications are the same as for the parent who chooses to focus upon the growth of the business, as opposed to the proper development of their children. Years later they will disparage the child for their decisions, with no regard to the values they have modelled, or the choices they have made. Just as they are dumb-founded by the final reality of their child which has become a delinquent, so they are dumb-founded by the decline of their country into fascism. They did not see it happen because of their selective focus, and failure to analyse ideas.
So when I had the opportunity to challenge the ideas of our society with a CEO. At first I found him surprisingly agreeable. Well I should not be surprised, as my politics were consistent with his economic interests. Consider his politics:
"What we are seeing with Rudd and co is indeed fascism. They believe they know what is best for us all and that they can have a command economy. This is much worse than the Whitlam years which were bad enough. I don't see how anyone with half a brain could be anything but sceptical about climate matters. We are dealing with really evil people in Federal government just now".
The problem is that he does not grasp the ethical implications of his ideas. Clearly he is opposed to governments imposing their values on him, regardless of what they are. My counter-argument was multi-faceted because I wanted to give him the utmost possibility to integrate a lot of ideas across a range of subjects. e.g. The ethics of his friend/partner, his own values. I think I overwhelmed him and made him feel threatened. For a person with a great deal of pride in his acc0mplishments, influencing people is really a hard task. So I failed in this regard. My reply was very long, so I will only address his response to it:
"I disagree that “capitalism is selfishness”. The quality applies to the individuals, not to “isms”. There are selfish capitalists, selfish socialists, selfish people of religion, etc, just as there are unselfish people with the same political or philosophical bents".
The problem here is a lack of understanding of human motivations. He is not identifying the underlying motivations behind human thought and action. He in effect lacks 'humanities' science, which might be a good thing if he studied the topic at a university because he might have ended up a conflicted humanitarian. This is a flawed conception of selfishness and selflessness in the general community, including business leaders. We are raised with the belief that it is moral to serve others. Its the ethics underpinning socialism and fascism (Hitler: You are nothing, your nation is everything). It is not simply a moral imperative, it is a value alternative. People choose to be altruistic; it is not simply a case of having it thrust upon them by statists. He makes no distinction, so he does not see the underlying science.
He also makes no distinction between competing priorities. i.e. Masalow recognises that people have a hierarchy of values, and that they will prefer one to another. i.e. The love and satisfaction of one's wife to one's pet dog, to the extent that there is a conflict between them. Rather than regarding love as a trade - value for value - he sees love as altruistic. He does not recognise that altruistic love would mean loving her for her flaws (not in spite of them). Why then does he wonder why he did not fall in love with the most worthless girl who threw herself at him. Because he made a value judgement based on her virtues. Mind you, I don't wish to imply that all people make healthy value judgements. But these are psychologically healthy people with good values.
The other aspect of his reply was that 'selfishness' relates to psychology, not to philosophical values. In this regard, he does not identify the integrity of politics and ethics. Pity! I even provided him with a clue, i.e. Trade is based upon the exchange of value for value, which is inherently selfish or self-serving. You don't screw people out of self-interest, you screw people because you are self-loathing, which is the providence of altruists who create nothing, and thus have nothing to trade by flaws or vice. Their tools are guilt, coercion, manipulation like the promise of unconditional love. In fact most people are some blend of these attributes.

My conversation to this gentleman did not have the desired response. Pity I am too busy or overwhelmed to craft a better letter. Too busy to invest in anyone person. I do respect him. The reality however is that people are simply overwhelmed by the implications of these ideas. CEOs are hard nuts to crack because they are not accustomed to feeling vulnerable. We are raised to be strong, even to the point of denying reality. He really doesn't want to deal with these issues. Better to know on the first letter than invest a great deal of time in a relationship which was destined to fail. Keep..keep trying. :)
Andrew Sheldon
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Society today is a mixed economy, just as it has been for the last few centuries. Over time it has lingered between differing levels of state coercion by arbitrary force and free and unfettered private action. The need for regulation has been used for justifying both legitimate (i.e. courts) and illegitimate (i.e. welfare) state intervention. The problem of course is that 'unconditional' servitude establishes no moral standards of conduct or any economic standards for performance. It did not matter that democracy provided representative government, it only mattered that governments 'tried' to achieve it. It did not matter if welfare resolved the poverty problem, it only mattered that governments tried to resolve them. People thought this was morally decent, and decency trumps practical considerations like the right to choose how to utilise one's property, or the right to withdrawal your support from programs which do not satisfy your standards. When taxation becomes involuntary expropriation, public service becomes slavery. The 'conditional statement' (or performance incentive) needs to be returned to public administration. This was actually the basis upon which the feudal lords paid the monarchy. i.e. The landed class or nobles paid the monarchy taxes in order to protect them from invading armies. Today, there is no performance criteria. Now we have 'unconditional' slavery.
We have never had capitalism. Its not that its not practical. It did not exist centuries ago because of the poverty. The only education they needed then was about rights. i.e. They only needed to know that each individuals life was a value, and yet people still don't recognise that today. They are instead burdened with unearned guilt as children, unexplained moral imperatives, unreasonable school rules, unreasonable taxation burdens, misdirected hatred by employers/employees, or other vested interests. No one questioned the ethical principles underpinning their moral code.
Today we have public education, however it is hardly an education if it only teaches us to be well-trained slaves, and effectively entrenches slavery. If you wonder why you have greater political rights or freedom (i.e. The right to freedom of movement), it is because you have less economic freedom. The fact that economic prosperity has delivered you greater wealth, has not so much unshackled you, but bonded you to the state. Business groups will not support economic freedom today, just as the wealthy liberal or worker will not freedom, because they have too many 'economic interests' to lose, and no effective voice in parliament. Of course a great many people delude themselves into thinking they have a voice or a vote. The reality is that they have nothing that is substantive.
Andrew Sheldon

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Judicial activism - intervention needed into parliamentary failure

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About a year about I established Judicial Analytics to examine opportunities for private citizens to explore opportunities to seek legal remedies for unethical coercion, expropriation or extortion by governments, or agencies empowered by government. It is my view from my studies of the law that there is significant capacity within the law to take such action, which would limit the powers of government, however these matters need to be taken to the High Court, or the Administrative Review Council.
Statutory law is increasingly displacing Common Law, which is far superior in as much at it is based on sound principles, and those principles are based on logic and held in context. The opposite is true of statutory law. Its arbitrary, it often bears no relationship to other law, and it seldom retains any contextual clarity because there is no over-arching principle. This is why such law is controversial.
Clearly when parliaments were established there was the expectation that parliaments would be reasonable. The problem of course is that the 'founding fathers' did not expect the passing of a bill based purely on numbers to secure a parliamentary majority.
There is very little difference between the criminal act of extortion and the coercion being considered by the Rudd government to expropriate wealth from Australian miners. It really makes very little difference whether Australian voters support or are abhorrent of the process by which the act in executed. The parliament is acting inappropriately and the High Court ought to be acting with due regard for process, in the 'spirit of the Constitution'.
We have already seen in other countries like India where the failure of the parliament to enact rational or proper has resulted in the High Court taking its own initiative. Some people have this dogmatic idea that the role of parliament is to make the law, and the courts merely interpret it. But this is not correct. In the process of interpreting the law, the High Court has the power to create law. In fact, all courts have the power to 'create law' in this sense. Really the process is one of extending the law to a new & specific context, or in some cases, correcting an erroneous interpretation previously made. The Constitution has been pretty uncontroversial in the previous century. My guess is that this will change in coming decades.
Andrew Sheldon
Resource Rent Tax
Applied Critical Thinking | www.SheldonThinks.com

We should value our mining industry

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The Australian mining industry is currently being attacked by the Federal government, which is trying to extort higher levels of taxes from the industry, to cynically boost its electoral-buying capacity over the Liberals. It has always been characteristic of Labor to go where 'no man has been before', so Rudd is not fresh faced in this respect. Some criticisms made of the mining industry need to be refuted:
1. Mining companies earn excessive profits. Actually the reality is that profits from mining are very volatile. i.e. They go up 200-400% and then come down. Those profits are used by the industry to finance further mining capacity. If Rudd taxes that capacity to finance more mining, the capacity will be developed overseas. There are a plethora of projects overseas, and if the tax impost does not drive the investment offshore, the arbitrariness of the impost will. i.e. Higher cost of capital because of the higher sovereign risk investing in Australia.
2. Mining investment supports downstream investment in railways, loading facilities, shipping, port services, towns, engineering, catering contractors, etc. More investment here results in lower costs as any new projects benefit from older investment.
3. Investors benefit from the volatility. If you like investing, the mining industry provides a fast track to success. There is however corresponding risks to consider, so those higher returns are well-justified; particularly since Rudd takes no steps to provide ASIC with the resources to rein in some of the mining cowboys ripping off shareholders.
4. Miners helping the country. Mining has minimal impact on the countryside in Australia. We are a low-rainfall country and the benefits of mining dwarf the impact on the environment. Miners are responsible for their impact. Besides that they create jobs, attract a lot of investment, develop infrastructure, support public administration. Might we do better to respect the investors and executives who create the wealth. Are they self-serving....certainly. Without the self-respect and self-serving qualities of entrepreneurship, we could be living in far less appealing economic circumstances. We no longer ride on the sheep's back, its miners. Don't abuse the privilege, otherwise you might just see the succession of WA from the Australian Federation.
5. We have it too good. The reality is we take our mining industry for granted. If we did not have the mining industry, our economy would mirror NZ. We would have a weaker currency, and there would be an exodus of educated Australians to foreign countries, and we would become a nation of farmers and retirees like NZ. Our national incomes are 30% higher than NZ. I suspect that 15% is singularly the result of the mining industry. Its that important.
6. Mining companies are using foreign labour. True enough the mining industry is having to import skilled migrants because there is a shortage in Australia. Most of these people will stay in Australia. I have lived in Asia. Most are jumping at the opportunity to have a better standard of living. What people 'who don't travel' don't realise is that travel changes people. These 'migrants' are often taken advantage of in their home country, so they would prefer to stay here, plus the lifestyle reasons for staying. Their children are growing up here. The relatives back home just want their money. If we don't have babies, and you have centralised government, you will depend on population growth to keep productivity and economic activity growing.

So when I hear that "royalties from mining companies have decreased disproportionately to profits over the last decade from about 16% to 11%", I recognise that metal prices at that point were 300% less than now. i.e. Copper is now $US3.10/lb, it was then $0.80/lb, and miners struggled for 10-15 years. They were helped by a low $0.50 AUD, just as now they are injured by a $0.90 dollar cross-rate.
The argument that we all own the ground they 'pillage' has some credence, but the mining industry already pays a great deal of taxes. This is opportunism for Rudd to get elected. It is the same strategy as Rudd artificially restricting land releases for housing so that property prices rise for the betterment of some at the expense of others. This government is not 'pro-poor' it is self-serving at the expense of anyone and everyone.
Yes, of course multinational mining companies don't like imposts, particularly when its really extortion. These companies are investing billions in the expectation that the government policy or tax rates will be at certain levels....then Rudd applies a huge tax impost. Come on! They can't pass on the cost because its not applied to their competitors. Does Australia really want their government to have more spending money given their historic performance?

In the late 1800s and early 1900s Australia was said to 'live on the sheep's back'. Now we live on the 'miner's back', or investors back, who supports them. The relationship between miner and investor is complimentary, the relationship between government and mining is becoming intolerably parasitical. Government's power needs to be curtailed. This financial crisis was made possible because Howard and Rudd facilitated a huge expansion in global debt. They are complicit with the US government in causing the financial malaise. The mining industry should not pay for it. Even taxpayers ought not to pay for it. It should be repudiated because sovereign debt is extortion by the majority over the minority. Politics has to change!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Why are we drifting towards fascism

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This argument might be disputed by some, but let me present some compelling indicators:
1. The role of the state in the national economy
2. The expansion of statutory law - which displaces common law
3. The decline of intellectual thought
The first and third issues are indeed hard to demonstrate. In fact I actually think the education system today is better in ways than it was when I was young, and I think the quality of parenting is also much improved. I also think that the internet has made a great difference to people's education. Information is so much more readily available.

It is issue number 2 which stands out as particularly a problem. Government is the peak moral authority in any country. It basically sets the standards by which those subordinated by those laws behave. If the laws are vague, arbitrary, inconsistency, unworkable, poorly or inefficiently enforced, then that is a problem for the whole of society. This is the current state of affairs. So what has changed?
Well yes justice continues to be inefficient and expensive, but it is also intruding into new areas of our lives. This would not be a bad thing if it was rational law. i.e. Common law is the closest we have come to a rational framework, but it has been displaced by arbitrary statutory law. Why do I say its arbitrary? It is because it is negotiated in back offices, not logically integrated into a set of principles, which would be an ideological platform. The problem is the main political parties have such 'principles', its just that they will readily abandon them with any change in the political wind.
There is a dire need for political reform. The great problem as I see is that 'big business' who are in the best position to do something about this, are more interested in short range decision-making. They lack all respect for politics and really negotiate 'economic outcomes' divorced from political values. They are basically morally bankrupt. This is a problem because the concessions they will make will save them some grace tomorrow. But they will have conceded a 'significant principle' to the government. e.g. The right to know where they stand. A right to property. A right to freedom from coercion. These political rights have been surrendered; they need to be reclaimed. Government is run by incompetents. Australia should not be giving them more money. Look how they wasted it during the financial crisis. Consider who caused the financial crisis. It was not the banks actually; it was facilitated by US government policy through the Federal Reserve.
This week there was a gathering of well-organised public citizens. They are liberals concerned about such issues as global warming, peace on earth, animal rights, welfare issues, nuclear disarmament. The problem is that as business people 'make money', they surrender the realm of ideas to liberal idiots like this group - the UN Association of NZ. The UN used traditionally was supposed to defend rights. Basically the organisation is now run by liberals who are destroying it. Their agenda is no longer political rights. Today people in the Congo are being raped, pillaged and killed by armed guerrillas whilst the UN force remains on the sidelines and under-resourced. Instead the UN is more interested in sabotaging the intellectual framework upon which rights are based. Why? Because they never had an intellectual framework. Being an advocate of peace does not advance a value system. This is the nature of their moral bankruptcy. They want peace in Afghanistan (and elsewhere), but their feelings will not achieve it. They do not have the self esteem to mark a political argument, but they sway people with appeals to guilt and misplaced empathy through public conferences, seminars and protests like this one in NZ. They are built on a ground-swell of support by idiots who have no idea.
Peace is not a value. A prison is peaceful, though you wouldn't want to live in one. You can have peace in a free country because each person respects each others rights, or you can have peace because there is an autocrat forcing compliance. This is the direction in which politics has been moving since the 1700s. It leads us into economic crises or war, which forces a generation of capitulation, then it happens again. In those periods of 'soul searching' nothing is learnt because the introspection does not reach a level where the 'disease' of collectivism is repudiated. i.e. We all remember in 1993 - the Cold War was won. Today we are fighting a new 'Cold War' - a new expression of collectivism. It manifests as various forms of liberalism such as animal rights, global warming and welfarism. Its flawed philosophical premises remain unchallenged because business sees no practical interest in theorising values unless they make money. They think they are going to win people over by getting rich. It won't happen, even if you give them half the money you 'earn', they will win the 'moral sanction' to take anything which is not theirs for some 'common good'. Their welfare entitlement will undermine any good your efforts can achieve. It will undermine science, which is why you get such dubious research suggesting global warming and animal rights. Yes, primates have feelings, yes they are self-aware, but its not a basis for rights.
Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com

Monday, May 03, 2010

Our political paradigm - the basics

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Traditionally politics has been defined by entirely flawed conceptions such as 'left wing' or 'right wing'. Although you might have some notion of what there terms mean, I would suggest to you that they are entirely unhelpful, and that they are not going to help your intellectual development. Philosophy is perhaps the most under-appreciated subject. Most of us have a pretty bad perception of it....as I did over 20 years ago when I was introduced to it. The reason why people are so skeptical about philosophy is because they had read poor philosophy. A great many of them are conflicted, poorly structured, uncritical thinkers who don't define their terms, or they use arbitrary terms like 'left' and 'right' which sabotage their thinking. Its critical to know the basics of this subject.
A better conceptual framework to use is the following because it is actually consonant with the facts of your existence. Basically there are two ways to live:
1. With respect for facts - objectivity
2. With respect for society - necessarily subjective because any values are shared and do not relate to any personal context.

There are several different levels of philosophy - this is just an introduction. Metaphysics studies the nature of existence. Epistemology - the nature and means of acquiring knowledge, do we have instincts, can we derive values from facts; ethics - what values should we live by, and politics - what organisational structures best allow us to achieve our ethical ideals.

With respect to ethics, there are fundamentally two choices we confront - living for self or living for other. Most people have a false or flawed conception of ethics because they have an implicit or subjective sense of values. i.e. A value is simply something you want. This leads one into a flawed ethical value judgement on politics. It teaches people that any selfish act is bad, and any selfless act is good. i.e. It causes people to disparage people for being 'too selfish' or to rationalise that they were acting in others interests when they are really acting in their own interests.
It leads seemingly credible thinkers like Dr Phil to say things like a suicidal person is selfish for not thinking about the impact of his actions on his family. You really don't want to be telling a guy thinking about killing himself that he will hurt others feelings. Its like telling a guy he hasn't suffered enough. Guilt is never good therapy. But Christians love it.
Anyway, back to politics.
Since ethics is about living for self (selfishness) or others (altruism), you must be wondering whether there is a middle ground. There certainly is - its the state of most people's consciousness. A state of moral ambivalence and inner conflict which undermines their thought process and value system. It leads society to repression, anxiety and diminishes self-esteem. Don't expect a psychologist to tell you as much, as most are too flawed by university humanities departments. There are so many problems with education - on the one side public education with its collectivist values, on the other hand private school education with its religious education. These psychological conditions are well-embedded in society, so they are considered normal. You only see a psychotherapist if it impacts on your work or you maliciously shoot someone, and most people are in denial or they have adverse opinions of psychologists so they need to be given a subsidy to go.
Which brings me back to politics - there are two schools - capitalism and statism, and of course we are caught in the middle with a school called 'mixed economy'. This is not capitalism because there is a great deal of government intervention in the economy. The nature of the intervention comprises:
1. Arbitrary law - statutory law is overtaking common law, so you are increasingly subject to the arbitrary whim of Comrade Rudd. This ought to be repealed by a High Court challenge - so if anyone wants to fund me, I would happily try. This is an open invitation to the mining industry. 'Twiggy' gets a personal invitation. If government gets really crazy then arbitrary law turns into totalitarianism, but any arbitrary law is bad. Don't think it won't happy. You wouldn't be surprised if you listen to my father talk politics. He reckons we need more socialism. vomit.
2. Tax-funded welfare - since WWII we have witnessed a huge increase in welfare spending. Even companies get welfare these days. Increasingly government is the centre of business activity. More importantly the tax system is inefficient, its funds are misappropriated, poorly spent, and in fact they achieve the exact opposite of what they want to achieve. The government doesn't care because they function as a middleman. Just like your stockbroker. They don't care if you loss, so long as you keep trading. They hope you win despite their take, so they can get more from you. The difference between a stockbroker and Rudd is that your voluntarily entered into an agreement with your broker, and you have legal recourse. In the case of Rudd, only Twiggy can afford a High Court challenge.
In order to change the political system would require a huge change in politics. Its already underway. In India, there is already examples of the judiciary imposing itself into political areas seen as "statutory failure". We will see the same trend in Western nations. Its a precursor to a change in our political system. Its called 'judicial activism', and the outcome is likely to be consensus based democracy, where governments are obliged to act in accordance with principles as opposed to going off on a 'Beckham bender' like Rudd. Who saw this coming. I have always said socialism is not dead....Rudd has just changed its flag to yellow.
Anyway, so we have capitalism which is a system of government based on free trade, the trade of value for value, not to be confused with looting, fraud or stealing, which is actually at root where Rudd is coming from, i.e. expropriating other people's money and hoping you will be happy with you cut. Of course you will be until Rudd or his successor gets into your share after the next election. There is a philosophy underpinning capitalism; it is not simply a market system. There are of course many forms of statism of course - so many in fact that none of them work, so a new one is always under development. i.e. the next one will be based on animal rights and global warming. Never mind the flawed science behind both concepts.
1. Fascism - an alignment of the state with corporate interests
2. Feudalism - an alignment of the state with landowners.
3. Socialism - an alignment of the state with workers.
4. Monarchism - an alignment of state with the king/queen
5. Theocracy - an alignment of state with the church.
6. Ruddism - an alignment with whoever will keep you in power, and at the same time undermining any minority interest group in order to do it. i.e. Greens, church, workers, house buyers. Not a new strategy in the modern era when voters are 'swinging'.

I would suggest to you that Rudd's desire to tax mining is a cynical push to tax an industry which embodies just 3% of the workforce in order for him to captivate another 10% of voters with no interest in mining. Basically he is causing a huge shift in business for the sake of his political gain...because he wants to share a hot bath and back rub with the Chinese leader.
Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com

ConvinceMe.Net - Anyone up for a debate?