Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Coalition victory looking less likely

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I might have to eat my words. From what I have read two of the Independents dealing with the government are liberal 'progressives'. This strikes me as a contradiction in terms, particularly when you look at their track record. Firstly I applaud the ascension of independents. We do not have any effective competition in parliament, so we need more of them. The problem is that they have no resources or knowledge. They are radicalised by the fact that they are ignorant 'idealists', and as they say, nothing is as dangerous as a 'little bit of knowledge'. The problem of course is that our media favours the major parties, and this is bad for two reasons:
1. The independents are not taken seriously, not trusted, as nothing is known about them
2. The independents are unable to attract the support of wealthy Australians. i.e. They lack credibility.

This is why we are left with 3 independents who might well decide the outlook for government. It only now comes to my attention that Rob Oakshotte and Andrew Wilke want to see the Coalition take steps on emissions. Geez! Here is the problem:
1. Human induced climate change is a nonsense, and these candidates are not critical thinkers, or well-read, because they are independents with no time or resources. So who wins in a debate between parties reticent to say there is no human link, and uncritical scientists, who treat science like it was a popularity contest. We all lose.
2. The Coalition I guess is a positive for emissions by deciding to cut immigration. This is an easy policy for Labor however to match....at least for this term. Oakshotte might be happy with that as a compromise. Katter will love it.

It gets worse. Recently I was watching a presentation given by Dick Smith, who because of the scientific acumen of his 8yo daughter, has decided to take up the cause of Population Growth. Among the listeners was an independent Rob Oakshotte. I hate to think what we learned at this seminar. You can read my response to all their assertions in this blog post, but it shows where the Member for Port Macquiarie is heading on public policy....into the wilderness.

The implication is that a deal between the Independents and the two major parties is looking less likely. The reality is that these guys - particularly Rob Oakshotte and Andrew Wilke - will want to shore up their electoral support by forming allowing one team to form a government. The implication is that - taking voters to another election is not likely. They might be punished as 'obstacles to government' if they did, and no one wants that. Bad competition is better than none. For this reason, I think a deal will have to be done, and the Liberals still seem to be the most likely to lead government. I must say however that I am a little less confident, the more I read about these independents.

I really am trying to believe in the 'Independents', as we need competition between the parties. The problem I have is that they support non-issues like climate change, and I even saw Rob Oakshotte at Dick Smith's Over-Population seminar. So I guess he is anti-immigration. I think they are just trying to show us they are bipartisan. You can't take anyone at face value anymore in politics. Its not about facts, its all about perceptions. Don't expect any integrity from these people...its all 'game play'. They end up being corrupted by the process. It taints all who dare to engage. In the meantime, we all get stressed out pondering the implications. Great system!
Andrew Sheldon

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Population growth - is it a problem?

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Recently there have been a number of calls by prominent Australians for curbing or ending population growth. These Australians come from Bob Carr, the former NSW Premier, who was promoting a book by Mark O'Connor called 'Overloading Australia', and also Dick Smith, the founder of the Australian electronics store and Australian Geographic Magazine. Now both of these people are environmentalists, so no surprise that they want to curb population growth. I want to however provide counter-arguments to all of their assertions....and I mean all of them.
Firstly I am not an advocate of strong population growth because I see the justification for it as self-serving government policy rather than a desirable feature for the Australia population. Governments want to expand population in order to increase economics activity. The reason that they resort to population growth (as well as 'inflationary' money illusion and debt-financed spending) is because the centralised government they entail, and the democratic foundation undermine the natural formation of capital and improvements in productivity. This issue is beyond this blog post, however my assertion is that centralised, democratic government undermines economic productivity, and population growth and ramped up consumerism/spending is intended to compensate governments for the 'control' they need over your money, lives and values.
So let me deal with the issues they draw attention to:
1. Climate change. Dick Smith argues that 75% of Australians disbelieve human-induced climate change. Firstly, I am surprised that that number display good judgement. His argument is that - we should curb population 'just in case we are wrong'. No, we should curb government powers if we are wrong, and any government intervention into economic activity could only impose unjustifiable costs in the short term, making us less able to deal with the problem in future. Also science is not a popularity contest. You bring conflicting views together to reconcile differences. The better argument wins. The climate change advocates don't want that debate because they are winning the 'popularity contest' with government.
2. Population growth. Dick Smith says we need to curb population growth because it is doubling every 30 years. True enough, but that is not going to be representative of future decades. The wealthier societies become, the fewer children they have. You cannot simply extrapolate these numbers. Those numbers also pre-date efforts to curb population growth with abortion, contraception and education.
3. Population limits. He cites arguments that Australia can only sustain a population of 26 million - when the current population is 21mil. I would argue that we can support billions in Australia. He of course wants to protect flora and fauna which I have little regard for. Life has appeared and disappeared throughout the Earth's existence. We have the power to create ecosystems which serve us. But Dick has this attraction for the 'intrinsic' natural system. Well, let him pay a premium for that. He is free to buy a piece of Kurringgai National Park in Sydney now.
4. He cites depletion of resources. This is also a nonsense. Australia is the driest continent, but it has vast amounts of water. Consider a number of issues...We hardly charge farmers to retain or utilise the stuff, so their use is very wasteful. Even our agricultural preferences (i.e. meat production) are wasteful. We have the power to recycle or process water...probably at select locations along rivers, when such processing is required. If there is a value, the money will be found...and we need food. So we will dump energy uses before we starve. It will be those 'breeding' Africans who will be incentivised to stop breeding if there are food shortages. Australia is of course a major food exporter. We could export 10x more grain if we did not export meat. I have not even made any allowance for technology, better use of land. He went to Japan. Did he notice that the Japanese use every inch of hill side for farming.
5. No need for population growth. Dick Smith throws the issue back at capitalists who argue there is 1000 years of coal in the ground, probably 50,000 years of uranium, and a constant stream of solar. He asks what is the benefit of population growth? Well I agree with him. Aside from the strategic need to keep up population numbers with a rapidly industrialising collectivising China, there is probably no great need to add to the global population, but no compelling reason not to either. So strategically, it helps us keep up with China. I would however argue that if we adopt a meritocratic government, and adopted a coherent and logical set of philosophical values, then maybe China would be more impressed by our economic model, and would be more inclined to join us, rather than beat us. But so long as we pursue democracy, we are stuck with 'low growth' inhibitors, and the need to offset these factors with stronger immigration and monetary illusion. Its a false economy, but if you like democracy, this is the hopeless policy you signed up for. If you want to reduce population growth, you ought to be repudiating democracy, and embracing a meritocracy, which would place greater emphasis on productivity rather than dubious economic activity measures of prosperity like GDP.
Finally to answer Dick Smith's question...what are the benefits of over-population...it is simply this...the right to have children. The desire to over-populate requires education. He has a platform, but really he is confronting the wrong issue. Such is the case with hopeless liberals like Dick Smith, Al Gore, Bill Gates, etc.
6. Do we want to live in a confining environment? He makes a comparison with living in a submarine. The analogy is hardly representative. Firstly society is transforming just as quickly as it is growing. Yes, the population has doubled in the last 20 years, our energy consumption per capita has greatly increased, but its now falling. Energy has got expensive, so we are cutting. The internal combustion engine is only 26% efficient. The next ones will be 50-60% efficient, and they will recover heat, so raising them to 85%. Already such fuel cells are available. These crude ones run on gas, and we have plenty of that. The next ones will run on concentrated solar, maybe uranium, and it only gets better.
7. Depopulation is ok. He does not know much about Japan. Property prices fell their because they were in a bubble, not because of depopulation. Of course there is cheap property in the rural areas because of depopulation. I guess he is against people migrating to the cities because they abandoned homes in rural areas to do that. The reality is that cities are vastly more efficient that rural village communities.
6. Cities allow the rural areas to be preserved in their natural or modified agricultural setting. They are dynamic places. He complains about population, but is very selective in his analysis. Japanese people love living in the cities. They like the space of Australia too, but most love Japanese city life. They just don't like the collectivist values which impose external standards upon them.
7. He argues that the USA was more prosperous in the 1950s, and seems to attribute its falling economic position to population growth. This is nonsense for a number of reasons. Firstly, the US wealth distribution is less equalised, 2nd the US has grown since the 1950s, just at slower rates, and that is largely because of increased size of government, and structural loss of competitiveness due to the liberalisation of oppressed Asia. The US has also been defending the world, a role it did not perform before the 1940s.
8. He offers a less than convincing reason for attacking economies of scale, in fact he seems to highlight it as a value for population growth. I will argue on his side, that economies of scale actually alienate consumers, and we will see more product differentiation in future. Why? Governments are currently favouring corporations. I think there will be more balanced perspective in future when we have a coherent concept for rights.
9. He makes the argument that its a finite world. It is essentially infinite when we watch technology transform our world. In future maybe we will alter human DNA so we are the size of dwarfs, so we need less food. Well I think dwarfs are 'hot'.
10. He makes claims that 'we are desalinating salt water - its obvious we have gone too far'. Nonsense, we didn't need to establish a desalination plant, we simply needed to charge people for water so they don't leave running taps. We could divert water into Sydney storages, or we could recycle, or we could recover water from the energy we use, and of course we can desalinate, and there is no harm in that.

Dick Smith argues that 'our system is addicted to growth'. Its not addicted, it just serves politicians who want to control us. Interestingly he adopted this campaign after talking to his daughter. He is trying to educate the world by offering $1mil to the best response from an under 30yo. Why? Does he value childish ignorance or wistful idealism more?
He calls himself a capitalist...no way...he's a liberal. How does a capitalist influence? He can't buy votes. He has to manipulate policy with coercion to do that.

Bob Carr has also jumped onto this issue. His arguments are even less compelling. He argues that we are not as 'agriculturally endowed' as the well-watered USA. Actually that is not true if you reflect on our wasteful water utilisation, the fact that we are a 'food basket for the world', that we waste water growing grain for cattle, when we are diet-wise better off eating more carbs. All the arid interior needs is water, and we can even induce that by using artificial structures to create rain. Consider the possibility of inducing orographic rain effects in Western Australia, not with mountains but artificial structures made from high-strength alloy steels. Australia has vast deposits of titanium and iron ore....and its mostly in WA. Perfectly located for 'mountain'building'. A dream? Maybe...as I'm sure there are more than a dozen ideas which will come to mind before this is an issue. The most likely is the normal course of recycling materials, efficiency drives as costs rise, less consumerism, fewer children, resulting in population topping out in about 30 years....yes 7 billion people later...and you will not even notice them, as they will be crowded into better designed cities....maybe in just 20m2 of ergonomically designed space, eating a low-carb diet. We won't even need the topsoil blowing into the Pacific Ocean. That will be fertiliser for the sea.
Really much of this thinking is about preserving a certain way of life. Australians seem to have this 'dreamy' view that that have a great life. Yet, if this is true, why are so many Australians and NZ'ers living abroad....in crowded cities like London, Tokyo. Are these not simply the rantings of proud, collectivist individuals?
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, August 23, 2010

Coalition to win the election

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It appears that the Coalition is going to win Australia's 2010 election despite a hung parliament. The result is clearly a Coalition win because the Coalition has 71 votes, Labor has 70 (plus Greens 1), there are 3 rural independent seats, and there are still 4 seats undecided.
The three rural independents all have a coalition background, and they appear to be voting as an 'independent bloc'. We might wonder whether these three MPs are the basis for a new political party. We might wonder what the Coalition can offer these 3 MPs. More than likely it will be better telecommunication services for these 3 rural electorates. Clearly rural communities will dislike Labor's emissions trading regime, and they will also dislike the tax proposed by tax on coal and iron ore miners. So it is also good news for miners.

The three independents are:
1. Rob Oakeshott in Port Macquarie, NSW. He is a likely Conservative supporter given his pragmatism.
2. Tony Windsor, New England NSW is a former National (Conservative), so he is likely batting with that team.
3. Bob Katter, Cape York, Nth Qld is another former Conservative (National Party)

All 3 independents have said they will back the party with the best chance of forming a stable government. That is destined to be the Liberal-National Coalition, as the Gillard leadership was in question prior to the election. Windsor and Katter are likely to want concessions by the Liberals on rural services like telecommunications.

The reality is that for all these independents, there is little prospect of them forming an agreement with Gillard. They will dislike her climate change policy, and at least Katter will be against the mining tax. The other two are likely to be more pragmatic, and the Liberals can argue that even if they do not offer the 'full telco' investment of Labor, they are not killing mining investment either. It will make it harder for the government however if these voters require nationwide telco coverage. I expect they will accept a compromise rather than test the electorate on another election.

Andrew Wilkie, is likely to win his seat, and is probably supportive of Labor, but he might be split, since he might force Gillard to move away from core policies. The Liberals for the Perth seat of Hasluck, Ken Wyatt, is close to victory. Whilst newly-elected Greens member Bandt, will support Gillard.

With three seats too close to call, it will be a week before we have a result and can know the government. Under Australian constitutional convention, Ms. Gillard, the standing prime minister, cannot form a minority government until the Australian Electoral Commission has officially declared the election result. The last time an Australian government had to rely on the support of independent lawmakers to form government was in 1943.
Andrew Sheldon

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Comedy - Your voting choices

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A few thoughts about politicians for a bit of self-reflection. Its not the politicians, its the system. Do what it takes to change the system. It starts with education!

Andrew Sheldon
Resource Rent Tax
Applied Critical Thinking | www.SheldonThinks.com

A false political dichotomy - Left vs Right

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Today I received an anonymous email citing a UK newspaper article saying all types of things about Julia Gillard. First of all, I could care less about Gillard, and I certainly don't like her politics, but neither do I like Christian 'lesbian hating', religious nutters on the Conservative side, and I include Tony Abbot among them. What he did to another idiot 'Pauline Hanson' highlights the vacuous ideological foundation from which he has ascended. The Liberal Party really has reached new lows to appoint him their leader. Did they not learn anything from Bush?
Herein lies the problem....Too many of you people are uninformed Christians. I have said enough about your idiocy on my religion blog, so here I want to deal with the issues in this email, because contrary to the source being a "UK newspaper", a Google search of the contents showed that it came from idiots in Australia. I will not repeat the email, I will merely list a similar source of it online. These things can go viral, so I just want to make sure it does not with appropriate corrections & clarifications:
1. Gillard is a lesbian - News to me. Does not surprise me...but who cares! Religious nutters will not vote for her anyway, they will vote for the other collectivist candidate. Tony Abbot. If she is a lesbian, why does she hide it? Probably because she would be a target for idiots. Dishonesty is justified if its to protect a value, and not to defraud one.
2. Gillard is a socialist - former president of a student union. No kidding? That one I knew. But why is that surprising given that she works for a collectivist party like the ALP.
3. Gillard is pro-abortion - How surprisingly intelligent of her. The evidence is on her side.
4. Gillard the moderate - Ok, this is the only fair assertion, and its really not controversial. Yes, Gillard played a part in the ALP's hopeless policies, and from her you can expect more hopeless policies. Is she trying to be a moderate? Yes, if you mean pragmatic, she is to be sure. What about Abbot though? Does he tell us that he prays 3 times a day, and gets guidance from God? No.
5. Gillard is a foreign debt builder - Frankly I think it makes little difference whether one borrows in Australia or abroad, governments should not have the power to extort wealth or income from private citizens unconditionally. There is no prospect of accountability. An unconditional relationship is slavery. The constitution provides some weak 'conditionality', but such 'abstract' provisions are weak in the face of 'explicit' statutory, arbitrary provisions for government to do as it pleases.
6. Gillard liked boat people - Maybe but it might be another thing for her to sell it to the electorate given she is already allowing 300,000 immigrants into the country.
7. Emissions Trading Scheme - Yes, correct. The EMS is a tax collection scheme. Global warming is overwhelmingly a natural phenomenon, and human population and emissions will have peaked before we need to worry about an 'anthropogenic' factor.

So what does this anonymous email tell us. It tells us two things:
1. We have a F***Ked choice in a two party election, where we are given two collectivist parties - so called 'left' and 'right' wings, but these terms are poorly conceived, so I don't like to use them.
2. That the writer of this article does not have a solid intellectual grasp of political philosophy, otherwise they would see that they are part of the problem. Wrong strategy. The problem is bigger than Gillard. But everyone is so short term, concrete-bound thinking.
So you choice is clear.....you have no choice. Idiot or idiot. That is freedom under democracy. Anyway thanks for the deluded information just prior to my non-participation in the election.
Andrew Sheldon

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Privacy - need we worry?

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The CEO of Google has come out stating that we ought to give more thought to the data we place on the internet. This might on the face of it appear a surprising statement from a Google CEO, given that they are in the business of online information provision. I take it from these statements that the company is concerned with its vulnerability in the data security stakes, given the following issues:
1. Security issues at Facebook
2. Public liability of BP in the Gulf of Mexico

Government is increasingly going after governments for failures to protect people, the environment from all those nasty externalities. Google wants to I guess throw some responsibility back towards the user.

The reality is that people do post a lot of material on the internet, but far from causing the 'loss of jobs' which is the concern, might it actually change the way we view people. Might we actually come to realise that we all have skeletons in the closet, and the best way to learn about people is not to make snap judgements, but rather to learn something about their fundamental character values, their suitability for the job, etc. Perhaps far from simply shifting the burden to the discloser, a greater burden might fall upon the reader of the data to actually analyse the data rather than making snap ill-informed judgements. We will watch social trends with interest.
Cynical observers might disagree, but in some respects we live in a far more reflective society than just a decade ago. Perhaps that is partly because there is more information, but also because there is more reflection, whether its an Oprah or Dr Phil exclusive, or a reality TV show like CSI. TV characters have more depth these days, though it would be a stretch to say that are any more realistic depictions of how people really are, or any improvement in terms of insights as to why they are the way they are. More empathy? No yet, but maybe its coming.
Andrew Sheldon

An election statement from Fortescue Metals

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Here is a statement made by Fortescue Metals in the last week of the election. Since I support their efforts I will post the message here:
As the Federal Election draws closer, Australians remain deeply concerned about the impact the Mark 2 Super Tax (Minerals Resources Rent Tax – MRRT) will have on the Australian economy and our communities.
Unfortunately for all except the big three multinational miners, the construction of the Mark 2 Super Tax has been shrouded in secrecy.
The Mark 2 Super Tax is as equally unfair as the Mark 1 version, and the ability to model its affects, and in turn finance projects, remains debilitated by the lack of detail and transparency of the new arrangements. We estimate that the marginal rate of tax has fallen from around 57% (Mark 1 Super Tax – RSPT) to around 50% (Mark 2 Super Tax - MRRT) but this remains substantially above the 40% rate that is the next highest rate to be found anywhere else in the world, so will render the Australian mining industry uncompetitive in the global industry.
The changes in the new tax are biased against infrastructure providers like Fortescue, which provides third party access to other smaller miners, so imposes an additional handicap on companies’ ability to fund and construct their own infrastructure. We’ll become a nation that can’t survive without the Government teat. Also, Mark 2’s debt finance benchmark advantages large, multinational, companies with large balance sheets, as opposed to Australian mine development companies like Fortescue that rely on commercial finance to fund project and infrastructure development.
Government and the three multi-national, multi-commodity resource companies hatched a secret agreement that benefited them only. Those companies, and their associated industry representative bodies, were forced to sign secrecy agreements that prohibited them from discussing the Mark 2 Super Tax until after the election. Commentary with the media was banned. What could be so bad in that agreement with our Government that the Australian people are not allowed to judge it - until after they cast their votes?
I urge you to contact the editors of local, state and national newspapers in your state immediately to ensure our voices are heard during this important week for our nation. The following is an example of a letter you could send to your relevant media organisation.
Andrew Sheldon

Vote buying at its worst

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Ever wondered why the immigration numbers have spiralled from 147,000 to 300,000 since 2007, i.e. since Labor was elected to government. There are several reasons, all of which have nothing to do with good, coherent policy, and everything to do with political vested interest. It is not even an original policy either.
1. Rudd believed in a ‘Big Australia’, whilst Liberals will curtail immigration. Might that be because immigration is good for Labor, that polls show that immigrants vote for a social democratic party like the parasitic parties in their country of birth?
2. Labor likes to rely on immigration to sustain growth, to fund its programs, i.e. It needs more slaves to get more money. The Liberals in contrast appear to want to free us from slavery since they have no policy to increase taxes
3. Labor seems incongruous because they want to increase immigration, which can only greatly expand global greenhouse gas emissions. Do they really believe in climate change, or was it only ever about increasing tax on carbon. The reason is that when you ship a poor person from a developing country to the West, their per capita consumption takes off.
4. Labor ended the 'mandatory detention' policy which took a hard line on people smuggling. He allowed those detainees to settle in Australia. Why? Because they would be follow Labor voters. Did he lose much sleep over this issue in the prior years before the election.

The parallel is made with Obama in the USA. Obama will be keen to add a few million illegal aliens to the electoral roll prior to the 2012 election. This is cynical politics. Do you still believe in democracy?
Andrew Sheldon

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Drink driving - its a matter of principle?

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Another day of useless politics in NZ. The issue of the day is drink driving. The media showed that a person could drink 9 standard drinks in an hour and still be under the limit of 0.08. The media is pushing for the limit to be reduced to 0.05, the same level as in Australia.
The National Party is saying that they are considering the alcohol limit, however they would like to perform more research. Who can argue against more research right? Well I guess those people who risk having family members killed whilst the government procrastinates might have some opposition to that 'procrastination policy'. The fact is that there is already a great deal of scientific research for the government to consider. The government however has said it wants to consider NZ based research. I personally think NZ'ers are bigger 'yobbos' than anywhere else in the world, and so a lower limit is required. The alcohol culture in this country is truly entrenched.
No, John Key, there is nothing remarkable about NZ'ers that makes your drivers better than elsewhere in the world. In fact the improbability of a car passing you on the road probably makes you less prepared for the one that does come, not to mention they stray sheep. And NZ roads are worse than most countries I have used, though somewhat more scenic. That is just one more reason to think they are dangerous...people watching the scenery and not the road.

This is clearly a difficult policy for the government. Why? Well, you can expect that this is unpopular for their rural electoral base. What is National if it is not a farmer-based organisation. This is a delay tactic. It knows it needs time to convince the electorate. i.e. Stubborn rural voters who like to drink and drive. In fairness, they have a point. The chances are that when a country lad drinks and drives, he will probably only kill himself or get a mean headache on his way home. That is not true for people in the city. Ought we therefore to have 'region-specific' limits on drink driving? In a world where we are all burdened by others through the tax system, you might object to even a person having the 'right to be stupid' by being allowed to drink to excess. I say cut them lose, and require them to have insurance, or otherwise self-fund their medical bills if they fail to listen. Better still, adopt a 'user pay' tax to fund kids who drink and can't drive well enough to stay on the road.
People might object to two different rules, but farmers do have a point. They are probably more likely to drive home alone, they are more likely to run off into a ditch than have a head-on collision, and they probably know how to drive better under the conditions of being blind every night. This might be the way to go, and of course parents can have their own policy. i.e. Get a drink-drive conviction and you don't inherit the family farm.

What has got me most annoyed about this issue is the fact that the National Party claim to be handling this issue in a way which resembles 'principle'. According to the NZ Herald, the party frontbenchers are having a 'conscience vote' because its a 'matter of principle'. Well I ask: When is it not a matter of principle? Every issue ought to be a matter of principle. The only REAL principle in the mind of the MPs must be the prospect of losing votes. Guys...this is serious..This could lose us a lot of votes.
The reason why this is a joke to me is because everyone thinks that democracy is a principle. It is not. It is a repudiation of intelligibility, integrity and principles. Consider this. This issue threatens the National Party's power base, so they are going to have a vote to establish what that they ought to think. It is not an issue of superior argument....it comes down to a vote. If the better argument is on the wrong side of the majority, that is a 'principled decision'. It highlights the fact that democracy is nothing more than the arbitrary legitimatisation of unprincipled people who symbolically have the power of pointing more guns at you than you can point at them. Reason goes out the window because the majority have the 'right' (or is it the indulgence) to discard arguments and insist that they don't need reasons, because they hold the majority.
That is the quality of your political system. The system that underpins Western injustice.

You might ask - How does one establish a principled approach to drink driving on this issue? Do people have the 'Right to be Stupid or Not'. Also where does one person's responsibility start and another persons' end. Good questions. One might hope they start with a principled set of values which integrate with one's other principles. Hard to fathom? Well, let's give it a go.

Principles ought to apply to all people. If they don't apply to some people, there ought to be a principle which exempts them. This is referred as 'the context'. The fact that farm boys deal with generally difficult conditions to city folk, this is reason for different policies in different areas. There is of course a risk associated with all practices, and corresponding benefits. i.e. If bicycle riders are being killed too frequently, do we adopt a 40kmph speed limit, or do we remove bicycles from the road? False alternative you say? Perhaps...but the point is that there is a statistical realm upon which decisions need to be made. So long as those decisions are based on reasonable appreciation of the facts, and not spurious correlations established by poor scientists, then we can feel comfortable with our decisions. We can also make provisions for people, such as farmers, who might live and act in a different context.
At the end of the day...if people had more sensible political values, better thought processes....perhaps they would make better drink & drive decisions. When I look at our political system, I can conclude only "WHAT DID YOU EXPECT". Treat people like idiots, and they behave like idiots. Our political system does not require us to think, so we don't. You think politics is so unimportant to your life. Think again....its core to your value system.
Government accounts for 30-50% of a nation's GDP, it sponsors the welfare state, and the guilt industry than accompanies it, it sponsors public education, it tacitly approves of religious (so called 'private' education, despite the fact that only a church could compete with a free system), and it develops all the laws that have you jumping in & out of your 'punitive' thankless skin each day. It does the same for all the institutions you work for. So it has you repudiating principles because principles have disappeared from your life. Its all about arbitrary rules. You are already thinking like the bureaucrats you used to laugh at. i.e. Remember when you went to the post office to get your mail but there was some silly reason why you could not have it. It was not a good reason. It was just some arbitrary govt rule which the bureaucrat was not willing to break, even though no bureaucrat ever loses their job. Yep, that is you today.
And so here we are...you children are not thinking about the consequences of their actions...and they are thus to go off and drink drive because they are bullet proof. Right? Wrong. It does not end there though. There is a bigger message.
So you thought democracy was about freedom? Think about. Its a facade. Its all about the politicians..well they think it is. The system does not even serve them. They are powerless suckers, more than you. But you have in common a belief in the same rhetoric. The tyranny of the majority, may as well be a minority. The problem with fascism is not that you are under the powers of a minority which imposes arbitrary powers. The problem is that you are under arbitrary coercion.... it makes no difference whether its a majority or a minority. Its a gun in the head either way.....except they don't show you the gun. But you know its there. Its the prospect of negative consequences, whether its the powers of arrest or seizure of the tax office, or the ability to alienate you from your friends. Do you think your friends will want to know you if you diddle on your tax. You would have betrayed them. They have loyally paid tax, but you gipped out. That is the system you signed up for.
Andrew Sheldon

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The way we look at markets - part 2

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The last essay was about how individuals look at markets. In this article I want to examine how a journalist looks at the markets. This article was in the NZ Herald "Capitalism 'still the only game in town" by David Teather, Larry Elliott and Jill Treano, 11th August 2010. I will read through the article and comment on sections of it:
"It is related to the end of ideology. Capitalism is still the only game in town".
The notion that capitalism is not based on an ideology is fundamentally wrong. Any action points to a value system, even if you were to be motivated by random actions. I might argue that there must be some underlying content to your ideas, even if 'be random' is all that you could come up with. The ideology of capitalism is controversial. There are many rationalisations. Among these are utilitarianism. i.e. The notion that capitalism is justified by its positive consequences. Another is that capitalism is consonant with religious beliefs, and finally the notion that capitalism is consistent with our nature as human beings.
Neither could markets be considered the only game in town. It is but an element in the 'game', and the game is based on political power plays rather than any respect for rational discourse.
"It is a way of life that we all enjoy. We are still locked into the mindset that rising house prices are a good thing. It will be a good sign that we are moving to a more constructive way of thinking when we don't cheer every time house prices go up".
This strikes me as a biased opinion. There are of course people who have missed out on buying a property, who will lament the unfairness of current property prices, or the unattainability of owning a home. Consider how unfair we might consider government zoning regulations which artificially raise property prices in a country with one of the lowest population densities in the world.
The credit crisis had been brewing for a number of years, as rising interest rates in the US led an increasing number of low-income homeowners on so-called sub-prime mortgages to default. But the pivotal moment arrived when a French bank issued a statement that most would consider arcane - but which would have profound consequences.
BNP Paribas told investors in two of its funds that they would not be able to withdraw money because it was no longer able to value the assets in them, due to a "complete evaporation of liquidity" in the market. Money markets became petrified. Banks refused to lend to each other".
Such stories of course highlight the artificial distortion of markets by governments. Government artificially pushed credit too low, resulting in a stretched 'rubber rebound' in credit terms, asset prices and thus economic demand. We have known that this was going to happen for a decade, yet people talk about being surprised by it.
"For a time it seemed as if some commentators were right to predict a radical overhaul of the old world order that had existed for the 30 years since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher had encouraged a laissez-faire approach".
Still we are left with the idea that this is laissez faire capitalism. Nonsense, we live in a world where governments account for anything between 25 to 60% of GDP. Surprisingly the freest countries are the developing world are countries like Nigeria and the Philippines when it comes to government impositions, but the political assassinations and lack of law in these areas is obviously the counter-argument. Government accounts for 16% of GDP in the Philippines, and that is with a lot of corruption.
"Heads rolled. Three years later, the politicians who steered Britain through the crisis, and arguably helped to cause it, have lost their jobs and many bankers moved on. The banks have since become more conservative - so much so that politicians are now attacking them for not lending enough".
This is nonsense. There was a complete lack of accountability for the way money and politician was managed in this period. There have been slight improvements, but rest assured it was probably more perceptions and soft markets which have curtailed corrupt or abusive practices.
"Gieve says the broad package of measures agreed between the G20 and in Basel, requiring banks to hold more capital, increase transparency and defer bonuses, has broadly addressed some of the problems that led to the credit crunch".
The banks were scarcely the problem. It was the government and Federal Reserve who created the distortive market conditions. Failure to realise these points means nothing was learnt.
Andrew Sheldon

The way we look at markets - part 1

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The way people talk about markets has a big impact on our relationship to other people. Markets is synonymous with 'free markets' for many, but that is not the case. Many people equate free markets with unregulated or 'unfettered' markets. There is however a big difference in styles of government regulation. There is intervention which enables, and then there is regulation which distorts. I would argue that politicians are notoriously bad at managing money. There is a reason politicians never go broke...they are too cowardly to invest their own money, they would prefer to invest yours. That is the type of culture they are 'invested in', the safety of manipulating people in the political realm. Perhaps some of you live your life the same way. i.e. Treating the boss nice so you can rise the corporate ladder, then doing to him what he did to others.
This approach to live achieves some measure of success. It is short-sighted, concrete-bound, and does not give one much pride, but it enriches your bank balance until:
1. Your resentful, disrespectful wife takes it from you in a custody battle
2. The tax office decides you have too much and takes it from you
3. You realise that you never really enjoyed anything you did, so the money means nothing after all. Those nice cars, clothes were all just a way to pretend you had something, were something, achieved something. You are living a lie. It was always for someone else, i.e. others standards, others values, others judgement, others achievement. Where is the self-worth? You could spend a lifetime evading that question.

Why then do we want politicians managing or regulating the economy? If not them - who? The problem is not politicians per se, but how they think, and why? Our political system is the result of flawed ethics, and deeper still, a flawed theory of knowledge. We seem to accept that if a majority of people think they are right, they are entitled to place us in tyranny. That is the democratic process. Markets to some extent function the same way, but with limitations. i.e. A fiduciary duty to act in the interests of shareholders. There is no such obligation upon politicians. Well, nothing explicit anyway. Just a vague concept of 'good government'. I would love to test it if anyone cares to fund a High Court battle. Don't believe in High Courts? Yeh, me neither...not as they are structured. No accountability.

A distinction needs to be made between the types of regulation. Intervention which enables market by protecting people from force or fraud, or by establishing certain standards of practice, such as disclosure or labelling. The importance of standards is that they are objective, and not based on the arbitrary whim of stakeholders, or government. This is not the case. Government tends to look after its supporters. This turns government into a political weapon of vested interests. Who can know what is right, if right is some arbitrary position.

How superficial it is that no distinction is often made between the types of regulation. Simply all regulation is good, or all regulation is bad, or regulation is efficient or inefficient. I find it simply a matter of principle. Arbitrary impositions are indefensible and result in loopholing, and are doomed to fail. Business groups seem to fully accept the need for arbitrary intervention, and squabble over the nature of those arbitrary rules. This is where they fail.

The problem is analogous to the libertarian who has no objective philosophical basis to their desires for freedom. They are the tyrants of the future, who when we finally recognise the value of liberty, we will sell it out in a moment by having the wrong underlying philosophical values.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, August 06, 2010

AMEC-funded mining industry advertisements well-targeted

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My congratulations to the mining industry for creating a well-designed advertisement highlighting the various arguments against the adoption of a mining tax. Here is a series of advertisements here. I'm sure it will be a huge success because it highlights some of the many ways in which the tax will hurt Australians, and the unfair way in which the 3 major miners have acted to establish barriers to entry for the rest of the industry. The campaign by AMEC strikes me as far better orchestrated than that by the major miners Rio Tinto and BHP. Like I say - those larger companies are run by 'managers' not 'shareholders'. It makes a huge difference to their decision-making.
Andrew Sheldon

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

How fair and efficient is our justice system?

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There is currently a case being fought out in the media. It concerns a woman Kristy Fraser-Kirk, who was sexually harassed by the former chief executive of David Jones, Mark McInnes. She is seeking $37 million in a civil action against the CEO and company.
My concern with this case is the interests of shareholders. We have a corporate structure in the country which effectively makes companies defendants for the behaviour of CEOs. Is it the responsibility of passive shareholders to compensate aggrieved victims of any civil standard. Shareholders are in a very weak position to settle such matters, and even CEOs will not always have control of these situations. Clearly, if Mark Innes perpetrated actions as it is alleged, then he has actively sponsored ethical mis-conduct, both as a role model, and as a principal to the act.
He is however the CEO. What are subordinates going to do? Risk their careers? Why should they? Kristy Fraser-Kirk didn't until far later. It could be argued that she allowed the 'culture' to continue as much as anyone.
I would suggest that if anyone ought to be responsible for this civil action, the burden ought to fall upon the CEO and the directors who appointed him, and whom failed to establish adequate procedures for eradicating such actions. In such circumstances as they might have done that, then the case can focus on the effectiveness of those measures. I see no reason why shareholders in David Jones ought to pay for such actions. This 'collectivised' justice is nonsense. It really is injustice. More importantly it leads to no change in behaviour. The perpetrators and enablers need to be punished, not the passive shareholders with no executive powers or direct interest in the case.
The same can be said for legal cases against government. The reason why government ought not to run any commercial or organised endeavour is because they have no civic responsibility. They are utterly unaccountable because they have no personal money at stake. Even the prospect of criminal action is limited for some office bearers because of they are subjected to parliamentary-based impeachment proceedings rather than court proceedings. This is just another failure in our parliamentary system.
There is also the issue of the amount of the civil punitive damages sought of $37 mil. Clearly this amount does not represent the 'damages' done to the victim, but is an attempt to claim punitive damages for women collectively, whether those women are victims at David Jones or in society in general. The reality is that the victim ought not decide who gets what, nor any non-profit she sets up. The court ought to recognise that most people do not take action against companies, and that there is a role for the government in punishing such action. I would suggest that the need for such punitive action is justified only by the fact that justice in the West is so inaccessible because of its cost and inefficiency. Thus it is deemed desirable to 'really hurt' the perpetrators so that other people are 'educated'. In fact, such justice is not really justice, since coercion does not educate, it merely modified or represses behaviour. This is why so many foreigners go offshore....to abuse children and others with less (economic and thus legal) power. We are - as a society - massive evaders. We don't resolve child abuse, which outsource it to Asia and other developing countries. Ask yourself how AIDS got to countries like PNG. Do you imagine that there are so many Papuans flying around the world infecting everyone. No, its Western cultural imperialism of a new type. The type where the West represses problems, and in effect drives them offshore. The cause is ultimately the system of executive administration - our method of decision-making which is the cause of the problem. This depends on our 'flawed' theory of knowledge...our epistemology.
Andrew Sheldon

Gillard’s climate change committee

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The latest idea of Julia Gillard in the run-up to the election is a 'populist stunt'. She is proposing a committee of 100 citizens to decide the structure of any climate change measures. The problem with this suggestion is that votes - not reason - will be the standard of value. Ought this be a problem? Yes, because it does not resolve anything, and creates new risks. Consider the following:
1. MPs are popularly elected citizens, so how more representative can a collection of people be which she chooses. Of course the means by which these people are to be selected will be 'worked out after the election'. Nevermind that the exercise will be sabotaged from the start. It is all 'smoke and mirrors', and rest assured the 'committee' will achieve even less than the Human Rights Committee that Kevin Rudd established after the last election.
2. Is this a repudiation of the 'representativeness' of the parliament, or their incapacity to develop a climate change solution. Interesting idea. We will not know more until we see some detail as to how she intends to structure this organisation. Regardless, it strikes me as simply a populist policy intended to throw the issue of climate change back at the public. i.e. Telling the public what they want to here. Who could oppose 'direct democracy'...well I will, because I know it will do nothing for sound judgement.
3. Technical capability is surely one aspect of any judgement which will fail to get a sound board. Consider that we already have a lot of novices in parliament with inadequate life experience or technical knowledge. They are after all lawyers with no life experience, most of whom went straight into parliament. Do they learn anything on committees? Well, I say they would scarcely learn anything about 'industry problems', and anyway, they don't write the reports anyone, some idiot backbencher does.

At the end of the day, I think Labor knows there is no climate dilemma. There is only the dilemma in pretending that they support climate change until science can offer more resolute or definitive answers to the cause of climate change, which I suggest is solar flares and the Earth's orbit around the sun. In the meantime Labor are killing time with delays and committees which decide nothing. A committee will make findings and then the government will simply walk away from its findings, arguing that its just another opinion. Interesting, but of no definitive value. No reasons given, no accountability. And you people think you have an answer for political discourse in democracy. Think again. Put Gillard on trial - fight for a meritocracy!
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, August 02, 2010

What is the outlook for Chinese capitalism

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There is a critical issue which seldom gets addressed. What to do about China? China was long considered the evil empire by the West. It had a number of unsavory features we associate with collectivist regimes:
1. State funded activity
2. State coercion
3. State sponsored tyranny against foreign nations like Nepal, Taiwan
4. Abuse of human rights

In the 'modern era' it is apparent that China appears to be embracing capitalism. At the same time the West seems to be moving more and more towards fascism. Is this a happy marriage?
In this interesting article Professor Usha Haley highlights some of the risks of doing business with China, as well as quashing a popular notion that China is only good at labour-intensive activities. In fact there are several risks posed by China:
1. The lack of high level conceptual thinking in the realm of philosophical values. Hopefully that conundrum will be resolved in the West soon enough to prevent chaos in China.
2. The prospect of Chinese business and public enterprises stealing Western technology. Even if one company buys it, rest assured that their competitors will be stealing.
3. The cultural legacy of Chinese people repudiating state intervention into their lives, and thus tending to act with little regard for the law, whether near-objective (common law) or statutory (mostly arbitrary) impositions.

This all poses a risk to the West because it is destined to result in arbitrary politics which will either result in civil war in China, as competing interests seek personal or "social" justice, or trade wars, and the like with the West. All these issues are not new. They were placed out on a smaller stage in the 1960s to 1980s. The difference is that the USA carried the burden because of the Cold War, and then finally Japan came around as North Korea and China looked more difficult.
What is one to make of India and Pakistan? Well these countries make an interesting counter-punch to any Chinese belligerence. They give one the confidence that some global balance will be struck, that all the collectivist countries in the world will be cancelled out. This will mean war of course rather than any respect for human nature.

Back to the issue of Chinese 'core capabilities'. China is a huge melting pot of interests. It is a very large market. It is capable of a great deal of things. It will play a role in almost every sector. The notion that they can only build cheap, widgets is nonsense. They actually supply a lot of sophisticated technology already to certain sectors like mining, metallurgy, and other industrial technology. The same can be said for India. They are big countries with a lot of resources. Those resources have only ballooned with all the foreign investment and export surpluses. The fact that state enterprises are able to throw money at opportunities might result in failings, but it might also result in new discoveries, and more importantly a more rapacious development.
Andrew Sheldon

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Debate on the legitimacy of statutory law

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In this debate I am taking on a member of Political Forum.com on the illegitimacy of statutory law. My argument as stated earlier is that its arbitrary and that the democratic 'tyranny of the majority' is a breach of people's rights, and thus the system ought to be repudiated as a gross breach of personal freedom.

There are a lot of unthinking people around who want civil rights. I agree you don't have them, but precisely because you don't have them, any efforts to attempt to introduce them will result in a false promise. Its like John Howard sabotaging your right to a republic. He chose the questions which sabotaged any prospect of it.
We don't need civil rights; we need disbandment of arbitrary statutory law, and elevation of respect for common law, which predates statutory intervention. The idea that some parliament represents the people is a nonsense. The cold 'heartless' judicial interpretation of legal principles is a far superior defense of our rights. For this reason, I look towards judicial activism for protection, not civil rights, which could only be arbitrary statutory constructs, and therefore dubiously enacted. Are you expecting rights to be enacted by the agent which abuses them? Think again.

Response by Royd Bogan: "Common law isn't able to function by itself in a complex society".

Statutory law is necessary. Really? Would you care to prove that point. I would suggest it depends on how you want it to function. If you want it to expropriate funds from people...yes, true enough, it does not allow that.
Its why we have it....to expropriate. We went from the tyranny of kings, to the tyranny of 'lords' (minority), to the tyranny of the majority. Next is the tyranny of the climate facade. Then we would have gone full circle, back to the tyranny of the 'lord' dictator. Why? Because principles were not considered practical.

Response by Royd Bogan: "Have a look at the statutes of any parliament in Australia. See what they regulate or deal with, eg telecommunications. Now tell me statutory law isn't needed".

Response by MegadethFan: "Statutory law is needed in all cases".

That is an unsubstantiated assertion....falls flat don't you think?

Response by Royd Bogan: "No it doesn't. My example of telecommunications law shows that statutory law is necessary in a more complex society".

Nonsense. If we need a parliament to achieve a sensible telecommunications framework, what capacity do they as a parliament have which you and a group of mates, or even an anarchy does not? Force? Are you saying good policy just needs the coercive state to achieve a 'logical' outcome.

We have assemblies (parliaments or Congress) not because we could not otherwise reach a decision, but because people don't think we have time, or the capacity to deal with opposition, regardless of whether it is reasonable or flawed.
You would be surprised how simple and how harmonious society can be if people live according to principles, with a respect for logic/objectivity. I know because I've been among such people. But all that is repudiated by 'practical' people like yourself who want action before thought. Ask yourself why there is little serious debate in parliament. Its because its results do not matter. Its easier to pay off people than convince them....as they don't think like their counter parties.
Andrew Sheldon

The problem with anarchism and liberal democracy

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The following forum discussion comes from a dialogue I am having at Political Forum.com, which you can follow if you like at their website.

Royd Bogan;2771977: "Anarchism is what you described as, "libertarian state is desired with protection of Common law. No initiation of coercion, only as self-defense or restraint".

Anarchism repudiates organised govt. Therefore no recognition or repudiation of rights. There is no basis for objectivity with respect to repudiation of force. It is therefore a lynching by the most powerful interests. I am not suggesting that there cannot be more than one govt, I am suggesting there needs to be organisation to achieve objective justice..

Royd Bogan;2771977: "Liberal democracy is a compromise only in the sense that it attempts to minimise the fallout for the minority. I don't think that's particularly objectionable".

In fact it causes the fall-out for the minority. It is suffers from a more fundamental contradiction in epistemology. It holds that the arbitrary majority (i.e. democracy) can impose themselves upon the minority. Even if there are protections for them in law, as there is supposed to be with a Senate, arbitrary legislation will loophole any 'spirit of the law' provisions or protection. Thus Liberal democracy is a destined to fail.

Royd Bogan;2771977: "Common law is too simplistic for modern industrialised societies. It is the basis for statutory law to build on. In fact we'd be well rid of some of its aspects, at least in the criminal side of the calendar".

Common law is fundamentally a rough conception of objective law. It build a set of principles upon which the rights of people are recognised. You might not choose to recognise those fundamental principles, but there development in feudal times was the result of their practical application. The problem was of course no great legacy of logical thought, merely precedence. The epistemology of the time, and even contemporary epistemology, unfortunately does not support any fundamental validation of common law, but the argument is there to be made. I'll make it myself one day, when it becomes a priority.
Andrew Sheldon

Abbot and Gillard are liars - so we have a political consensus

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The idea that Tony Abbot is honest is nonsense. The democratic political process turns them all into liars. Here is a sample in respect of Tony Abbot. It refers to a conversation between Abbot and Latelines Tony Jones during the 2004 election. I don't accept that its his private business. Its a public issue. The sensibility of the issue is that he is implied to have mustered the support of Archbishop Cardinal Pell to oppose the Labor education policy.

My intent is not to influence anyone to vote for Labor. They are even more deluded and dishonest. The intent is to encourage people to break this horrible system, by whatever means they find desirable, whether its protests, voting for a minority. My preferences being:
1. The Secular Party of Australia
2. The Liberal Democratic Party - they also evade issues, but at the very least let's have some real competition in politics, even if reason is beyond these people.

Furthermore lets ridicule the absence of coverage for minority members for the Senate. The media should offer some coverage of these people if we are to have any chance of breaking the deadlock of the current two-party system.

Frankly I find 95% of Australians and every other country to be liars. These are very ordinary people, and if you look at how you elect people, you might wonder why you get representatives who are anything live the 'common man' in the street. Its what you voted for.
Andrew Sheldon

ConvinceMe.Net - Anyone up for a debate?