Monday, April 30, 2007

Some common sense on global warming

Even if you do not believe that government has any business trying to control, regulate and support "the environment", it is quite refreshing to read an expert opinion which suggests that even if government should intervene, the priorities are best place elsewhere. Bjorn Lomborg, author of the Skeptical Environmentalist, outlines his case in this interview:

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And, Professor, you've called spending several hundred billion dollars a year to combat global warming a bad deal for the people of the planet. How would you spend the money differently?

BJORN LOMBORG, Director, Copenhagen Consensus Center: Well, basically, Ray, the point is to say, we don't care particularly about climate change, per se. We care about, what are its impacts? We care about the people who are going to get more risk in flooding, the people who are going to get more exposed to malaria, the people who are going to die more because of heat waves. And those are the people we actually want to help.

So the question is: Can we do better? And my argument is simply, if you look, for instance, at the Kyoto Protocol, even if everybody did the Kyoto Protocol, including the U.S., it would have very little impact. It would basically postpone global warming by about five years at the end of the century, at a cost, as you mentioned, of about $180 billion a year.

Now, if you look at some of the other things, you could do great good in the world. You could actually do amazing amounts of good to many of the people who are going to get hardest hit by climate change through focusing on HIV-AIDS, malaria, malnutrition, free trade, agricultural research.

And that's actually what we've done at the Copenhagen Consensus Center, where we have some of the world's top economists, including four Nobel laureates. Look at all the great things you can do in the world, and they put all of those things I just mentioned up at the very top of where you can do the most bang for the buck. And they said, climate change, through Kyoto Protocol, is actually a bad investment. Simply for every dollar you invest, you only end up doing about 30 cents worth of good.

...

RAY SUAREZ: But you do accept the proposition that human activity is changing the climate of the planet?

BJORN LOMBORG: Absolutely. I think, as you also mentioned, we've seen huge U.N. climate panel reports come out, and they've been ever more certain that climate is changing. We do have an impact. And, therefore, it's also important that we address the question, what should we do?

But we've also got to remember, just like we know that it's CO-2 that causes a part, at least, of climate change, we also know that HIV causes AIDS. We also know that mosquitoes cause malaria. We know that lack of food causes malnutrition.

Now, we know a lot of these things. We don't fix all problems in the world right now. And so I urge people to start thinking, not just to go for the most fashionable problem, but to actually ask the very fundamental question of saying, if you can't do it all -- and clearly we don't -- where can you do the most good first?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Translating the double-speak of the ALP

Kevin Rudd has delivered his vision to the ALP conference. I will translate the empty political rhetoric into plain english for my readers.

Mr Rudd was greeted with a specially-commissioned song as he appeared at the Sydney Convention Centre this morning to address Labor delegates, flanked by the message "Australian Labor, Fresh Thinking''.
Wow.. Kim Jong Il, who is the subject of many (most) North Korean operas and musicals, would be impressed by this young socialist.
Delegates gave Mr Rudd a standing ovation as he walked to the stage, greeting his children and his wife Therese Rein on the way.
Don't you usually applaud AFTER someone has said something worthwhile ? I guess its the cult of the celebrity in action, kind of like seeing movie-stars head down the red carpet, or Al Gore attend a global warmenising conference.
"My name is Kevin, I'm from Queensland and I'm here to help,'' he quipped as he addressed his first Labor national conference as opposition leader..
= I am Kevin. I am here to meddle, control and regulate your lives.
In a speech on enduring Labor values, Mr Rudd said Australia was approaching a crossroads and Australians needed to deal with it head on.
Crossroads ? What are you on about Kevin ? How does this relate to policies and ideas ?
"One thing we know for certain is that the history of nations is made up of those who understand, anticipate and act on the challenges of the future. And those who do not. Those who instead bury their heads in the sand. Those who hope it will all just go away,'' he said.
= I will invent some problems and issues, without considering their priorities or real value, and then rapidly expand taxes and government power in harmful efforts to deal with these "problems and issues".

Notice the underlying assumption here ? That in order to do something, take action and act on challenges, it requires governmental action, planning and policies, rather than the millions of individuals freely and voluntarily responding to changing conditions.
Mr Rudd said Labor was at its best as a navigator of Australia's future, drawing on the achievements of past leaders like Ben Chifley and John Curtin.
= We love central planning at the ALP ! Don't let individuals decide, we can coerce them instead !

What achievements did those past PMs have ? Central planners really only have a record of failures next to their names. Bob Hawke was the best ALP PM because he massively deregulated markets, slashed taxes, separated monetary policy from the government and other policies to reduce the size of government. Look how well central planning worked for China, Russia, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.
"This election in just a few months time will be about the future versus the past,'' he said. And we friends are the party of the future.
"And our opponents, friends, have become the party of the past.''
Thats a half truth there. The ALP are the party of the past, relying on the old fashioned socialist methods of central planning, large government and massive bureaucracy. Freedom and individual liberty are the actual modern ideas that lead to the flourishing of western societies in recent centuries.

Mr Rudd outlined what he saw as the greatest challenges facing the nation over the next few decades.

End of mining boom

These included the end of the mining boom which had underpinned the nation's economic prosperity, global warming, the threat from terrorism and what he called the dysfunctional federal system of government.

= We do not like profit and free trade. Wealth must be crushed and redistributed.

Here it comes .. the ALP are openly admitting they will rape and pillage the economy. The mining sector is home to thousands of leading edge jobs and billions in investment. It is our major export sector and our living standards are indirectly tied to the success of this industry, fueled by economic growth from China.
According to Rudd, the mining boom had underpinned the threat of terrorism ? How exactly does that mechanism work Mr Rudd ?

"When I look to the next decade, the future I see for Australia is one fundamentally shaped by the rise of China and the rise of India,'' Mr Rudd said.

"The future I see for Australia is one in which our current mining boom does not last forever, and rather that simply being the lucky country , we will have to make our own luck.

Does anyone take these speeches seriously ? This guy is delivering the most empty rhetoric ever. No ideas, no hard policies, only veiled threats at further regulation and taxes. No appreciation of the dynamic and robust nature of free markets.
"The future I see for our country is also one challenged by long term energy security, climate change and its impact on water security, food security and national security.''
Once again, can this ego-maniac acknowledge that the future isn't shaped by one man, and that its often random, unpredictable and that millions of individuals contribute towards it, rather than one Supreme Overlord of Australia ?
The sheer arrogance of this man, as he prepares to lord it over all of us, is breathtaking.
He accused the Howard government of failing to embrace the opportunities to deal with the challenges the country faced.
More to the point, he was upset that the Howard government didn't expand and grow its powers fast enough to deal with invented problems and to steal more liberty and property from the proletariat.

He pledged Labor would face the future with confidence, determination and fresh ideas.

"I am an unabashed optimist when it comes to our country's long term future,'' Mr Rudd said.

He restated Labor's commitment to its core values such as equality of healthcare and a social safety net for all.

Labors core values = pouring billions of taxes, taken from succesful income earners, into healthcare, welfare and other grand schemes, and then claiming that it really makes a difference.
"Australian people want prosperity but they want prosperity with a heart,'' Mr Rudd said.
Aww.. how lovey dovey. Prosperity, with a heart !! As opposed to heartless prosperity ?
"Mr Howard doesn't really believe in a single idea which didn't appear on black and white television,'' Mr Rudd said to laughter and applause from the crowd.
"No one is a bigger fan of Ward Cleaver than me, but I've got news for Mr Howard, the world has changed since Leave It To Beaver,'' he said of the American 1950s TV show.
Wow what an amazing phrase, but how incredibly dishonest. Mr Howard doesn't believe in mass media, internet, technology, aviation, mass transit, medical breakthroughs ? I didn't realise that Leave it to Beaver was part of the Liberal Party manifesto ?! its full of all this other stuff, like principled support of freedom, liberty and property rights.

But he reminded the party faithful that Labor would not be able to clinch victory at this year's federal election if it only relied on voter unhappiness with the government.

"As I've said to my colleagues on many occasions: we will not win this election on the basis of a protest vote against Mr Howard alone,'' Mr Rudd said.

Thats true. I'm unhappy with the current level of taxes and governmental interference at the moment. And quite correctly, I won't be voting for the ALP because they are definitely worse than the current mob.

Alternative plans

"We can only win it on the basis of a positive vote for us - and our alternative plans for Australia's future.''

Mr Rudd reiterated Labor's plans to improve public education, invest up to $4.7 billion in a new high-speed national broadband internet network, and tackle problems with business regulation to help boost productivity levels.

See.. its all about the plans. Mao and Stalin had plenty of plans. And Rudd will too. Plan to spend. Plan to tax. Plan to regulate. Plan long term. Expand the plan. Make it grand. Think big. Tax big. Steal more than ever before. Regulate and control the population. Brainwash them if necessary. Introduce new laws and powers to coerce us.
And he repeated his promise to dump the government's industrial relations policies "once and for all'' and introduce policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.
60 percent by 2050 - he wants 60 percent of Australians to stop breathing ? Stop living, Stop using cars, stop using heating, stop using technology, stop communicating. If that threat isn't enough to scare you away from voting for the ALP, then what is ?
"We can build productivity growth through an education revolution, the application of new technologies, by freeing up our businesses from unnecessary regulation and by encouraging a new age of innovation - including our critical manufacturing industries,'' he said.
Yay ! The revolution is coming. Those revolutions are really popular amongst socialists, and they always result in .. misery. Since when has the ALP ever freed up anybody from unnecessary regulation - aren't they the bastards who always introduce it in the first place ?!
"I don't want to be a prime minister of a country that doesn't make things any more.
What in the universe could this mean. We are producing more than ever. I'm not sure what "things" he is referring to, so the safest action would be for Rudd to quit before the election !
"And we are capable of building this prosperity on the back of these reforms - without throwing the fair go out the back door.''
Throw it out the front door then.. what is it with these socialists and metaphors !? Can't they speak in plain english, tell us what policies and actions they believe in, and what examples they are drawing upon ?

With classic liberals and capitalists, its very easy to elaborate policy details on the spot, and draw upon dozens of examples to justify the effectiveness of liberty and property rights. I feel that the ALP will avoid using proper English to describe their ideas and principles, because they mostly fall under the category of "central planning" and "socialism". When you look up how those philosophies have fared in other nations in the past, its plain as daylight to see that its a disaster waiting to happen. So naturally, the ALP use doublespeak and distorted metaphors to hide their agenda.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Reuters caption of the day


In case you can't see the screenshot clearly, the caption reads:
"Palestinians attend a demonstration against violence in Gaza April 23, 2007. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa (GAZA)"

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Gold Standard is Required to Preserve Liberty

Below is the full test of a post written by US congressman Ron Paul, America's last hope for liberty in the presidential elections. He discusses why a gold-backed currency is essential.

Most appealing is his unwavering commitment and his integrity, especially compared to other presidential candidates like Romney, Clinton and Giuliani who stick their nose in the air to see which way the wind is blowing before deciding what they support in any given month.
(hat tip: Daily Reckoning)
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The cost of war is enormously detrimental; it significantly contributes to the economic instability of the nation by boosting spending, deficits, and inflation. Funds used for war are funds that could have remained in the productive economy gto raise the standard of living of Americans now unemployed, underemployed, or barely living on the margin.

Yet even these costs may be preferable to paying for war with huge tax increases. This is because although fiat dollars are theoretically worthless, value is imbued by the trust placed in them by the world’s financial community. Subjective trust in a currency can override objective knowledge about government policies, but only for a limited time.

Economic strength and military power contribute to the trust in a currency; in today’s world trust in the U.S. dollar is not earned and therefore fragile. The history of the [U.S.] dollar, being as good as gold up until 1971, is helpful in maintaining an artificially higher value for the dollar than deserved.

Foreign policy contributes to the crisis when the spending to maintain our worldwide military commitments becomes prohibitive, and inflationary pressures accelerate. But the real crisis hits when the world realizes the king has no clothes, in that the dollar has no backing, and we face a military setback even greater than we already are experiencing in Iraq. Our token friends may quickly transform into vocal enemies once the attack on the dollar begins.

False trust placed in the dollar once was helpful to us, but panic and rejection of the dollar will develop into a real financial crisis. Then we will have no other option but to tighten our belts, go back to work, stop borrowing, start saving, and rebuild our industrial base, while adjusting to a lower standard of living for most Americans.

Counterfeiting the nation’s money is a serious offense. The founders were especially adamant about avoiding the chaos, inflation, and destruction associated with the Continental dollar. That’s why the Constitution is clear that only gold and silver should be legal tender in the United States. In 1792 the Coinage Act authorized the death penalty for any private citizen who counterfeited the currency. Too bad they weren’t explicit that counterfeiting by government officials is just as detrimental to the economy and the value of the dollar.

In wartime, many nations actually operated counterfeiting programs to undermine our dollar, but never to a disastrous level. The enemy knew how harmful excessive creation of new money could be to the dollar and our economy. But it seems we never learned the dangers of creating new money out of thin air. We don’t need an Arab nation or the Chinese to undermine our system with a counterfeiting operation. We do it ourselves, with all the disadvantages that would occur if others did it to us. Today we hear threats from some Arab, Muslim, and far Eastern countries about undermining the dollar system- not by dishonest counterfeiting, but by initiating an alternative monetary system based on gold. Wouldn’t that be ironic? Such an event theoretically could do great harm to us. This day may well come, not so much as a direct political attack on the dollar system but out of necessity to restore confidence in money once again.

Historically, paper money never has lasted for long periods of time, while gold has survived thousands of years of attacks by political interests and big government. In time, the world once again will restore trust in the monetary system by making some currency as good as gold.

Gold, or any acceptable market commodity money, is required to preserve liberty. Monopoly control by government of a system that creates fiat money out of thin air guarantees the loss of liberty. No matter how well-intended our militarism is portrayed, or how happily the promises of wonderful programs for the poor are promoted, inflating the money supply to pay these bills makes government bigger. Empires always fail, and expenses always exceed projections. Harmful unintended consequences are the rule, not the exception. Welfare for the poor is inefficient and wasteful. The beneficiaries are rarely the poor themselves, but instead the politicians, bureaucrats, or the wealthy. The same is true of all foreign aid– it’s nothing more than a program that steals from the poor in a rich country and gives to the rich leaders of a poor country. Whether it’s war or welfare payments, it always means higher taxes, inflation, and debt. Whether it’s the extraction of wealth from the productive economy, the distortion of the market by interest rate manipulation, or spending for war and welfare, it can’t happen without infringing upon personal liberty.

At home the war on poverty, terrorism, drugs, or foreign rulers provides an opportunity for authoritarians to rise to power, individuals who think nothing of violating the people’s rights to privacy and freedom of speech. They believe their role is to protect the secrecy of government, rather than protect the privacy of citizens. Unfortunately, that is the atmosphere under which we live today, with essentially no respect for the Bill of Rights.

Though great economic harm comes from a government monopoly fiat monetary system, the loss of liberty associated with it is equally troubling. Just as empires are self-limiting in terms of money and manpower, so too is a monetary system based on illusion and fraud. When the end comes we will be given an opportunity to choose once again between honest money and liberty on one hand; chaos, poverty, and authoritarianism on the other.

The economic harm done by a fiat monetary system is pervasive, dangerous, and unfair. Though runaway inflation is injurious to almost everyone, it is more insidious for certain groups. Once inflation is recognized as a tax, it becomes clear the tax is regressive: penalizing the poor and middle class more than the rich and politically privileged. Price inflation, a consequence of inflating the money supply by the central bank, hits poor and marginal workers first and foremost. It especially penalizes savers, retirees, those on fixed incomes, and anyone who trusts government promises. Small businesses and individual enterprises suffer more than the financial elite, who borrow large sums before the money loses value. Those who are on the receiving end of government contracts–especially in the military industrial complex during wartime– receive undeserved benefits.

It’s a mistake to blame high gasoline and oil prices on price gouging. If we impose new taxes or fix prices, while ignoring monetary inflation, corporate subsidies, and excessive regulations, shortages will result. The market is the only way to determine the best price for any commodity. The law of supply and demand cannot be repealed. The real problems arise when government planners give subsidies to energy companies and favor one form of energy over another.

Energy prices are rising for many reasons: Inflation; increased demand from China and India; decreased supply resulting from our invasion of Iraq; anticipated disruption of supply as we push regime change in Iran; regulatory restrictions on gasoline production; government interference in the free market development of alternative fuels; and subsidies to big oil such as free leases and grants for research and development.

Interestingly, the cost of oil and gas is actually much higher than we pay at the retail level. Much of the DOD budget is spent protecting “our” oil supplies, and if such spending is factored in gasoline probably costs us more than $5 a gallon. The sad irony is that this military effort to secure cheap oil supplies inevitably backfires, and actually curtails supplies and boosts prices at the pump. The waste and fraud in issuing contracts to large corporations for work in Iraq only add to price increases.

When problems arise under conditions that exist today, it’s a serious error to blame the little bit of the free market that still functions. Last summer the market worked efficiently after Katrina - gas hit $3 a gallon, but soon supplies increased, usage went down, and the price returned to $2. In the 1980s, market forces took oil from $40 per barrel to $10 per barrel, and no one cried for the oil companies that went bankrupt. Today’s increases are for the reasons mentioned above. It’s natural for labor to seek its highest wage, and businesses to strive for the greatest profit. That’s the way the market works. When the free market is allowed to work, it’s the consumer who ultimately determines price and quality, with labor and business accommodating consumer choices. Once this process is distorted by government, prices rise excessively, labor costs and profits are negatively affected, and problems emerge. Instead of fixing the problem, politicians and demagogues respond by demanding windfall profits taxes and price controls, while never questioning how previous government interference caused the whole mess in the first place. Never let it be said that higher oil prices and profits cause inflation; inflation of the money supply causes higher prices!

Since keeping interest rates below market levels is synonymous with new money creation by the Fed, the resulting business cycle, higher cost of living, and job losses all can be laid at the doorstep of the Fed. This burden hits the poor the most, making Fed taxation by inflation the worst of all regressive taxes. Statistics about revenues generated by the income tax are grossly misleading; in reality much harm is done by our welfare/warfare system supposedly designed to help the poor and tax the rich. Only sound money can rectify the blatant injustice of this destructive system.

The Founders understood this great danger, and voted overwhelmingly to reject “emitting bills of credit,” the term they used for paper or fiat money. It’s too bad the knowledge and advice of our founders, and their mandate in the Constitution, are ignored today at our great peril. The current surge in gold prices - which reflects our dollar’s devaluation– is warning us to pay closer attention to our fiscal, monetary, entitlement, and foreign policy.

A recent headline in the financial press announced that gold prices surged over concern that confrontation with Iran will further push oil prices higher. This may well reflect the current situation, but higher gold prices mainly reflect monetary expansion by the Federal Reserve. Dwelling on current events and their effect on gold prices reflects concern for symptoms rather than an understanding of the actual cause of these price increases. Without an enormous increase in the money supply over the past 35 years and a worldwide paper monetary system, this increase in the price of gold would not have occurred.

Certainly geo-political events in the Middle East under a gold standard would not alter its price, though they could affect the supply of oil and cause oil prices to rise. Only under conditions created by excessive paper money would one expect all or most prices to rise. This is a mere reflection of the devaluation of the dollar.

Particular things to remember:

  • If one endorses small government and maximum liberty, one must support commodity money.
  • One of the strongest restraints against unnecessary war is a gold standard.
  • Deficit financing by government is severely restricted by sound money.
  • The harmful effects of the business cycle are virtually eliminated with an honest gold standard.
  • Saving and thrift are encouraged by a gold standard; and discouraged by paper money.
  • Price inflation, with generally rising price levels, is characteristic of paper money. Reports that the consumer price index and the producer price index are rising are distractions: the real cause of inflation is the Fed’s creation of new money.
  • Interest rate manipulation by central bank helps the rich, the banks, the government, and the politicians.
  • Paper money permits the regressive inflation tax to be passed off on the poor and the middle class.
  • Speculative financial bubbles are characteristic of paper money - not gold.
  • Paper money encourages economic and political chaos, which subsequently causes a search for scapegoats rather than blaming the central bank.
  • Dangerous protectionist measures frequently are implemented to compensate for the dislocations caused by fiat money.
  • Paper money, inflation, and the conditions they create contribute to the problems of illegal immigration.
  • The value of gold is remarkably stable.
  • The dollar price of gold reflects dollar depreciation.
  • Holding gold helps preserve and store wealth, but technically gold is not a true investment.
  • Since 2001 the dollar has been devalued by 60%.
  • In 1934 FDR devalued the dollar by 41%.
  • In 1971 Nixon devalued the dollar by 7.9%.
  • In 1973 Nixon devalued the dollar by 10%.

These were momentous monetary events, and every knowledgeable person worldwide paid close attention. Major changes were endured in 1979 and 1980 to save the dollar from disintegration. This involved a severe recession, interest rates over 21%, and general price inflation of 15%.

Today we face a 60% devaluation and counting, yet no one seems to care. It’s of greater significance than the three events mentioned above. And yet the one measurement that best reflects the degree of inflation, the Fed and our government deny us. Since March, M3 reporting has been discontinued. For starters, I’d like to see Congress demand that this report be resumed. I fully believe the American people and Congress are entitled to this information. Will we one day complain about false intelligence, as we have with the Iraq war? Will we complain about not having enough information to address monetary policy after it’s too late?

If ever there was a time to get a handle on what sound money is and what it means, that time is today.

Inflation, as exposed by high gold prices, transfers wealth from the middle class to the rich, as real wages decline while the salaries of CEOs, movie stars, and athletes skyrocket– along with the profits of the military industrial complex, the oil industry, and other special interests.

A sharply rising gold price is a vote of “no confidence” in Congress’ ability to control the budget, the Fed’s ability to control the money supply, and the administration’s ability to bring stability to the Middle East.

Ultimately, the gold price is a measurement of trust in the currency and the politicians who run the country. It’s been that way for a long time, and is not about to change.

If we care about the financial system, the tax system, and the monumental debt we’re accumulating, we must start talking about the benefits and discipline that come only with a commodity standard of money– money the government and central banks absolutely cannot create out of thin air.

Economic law dictates reform at some point. But should we wait until the dollar is 1/1,000 of an ounce of gold or 1/2,000 of an ounce of gold? The longer we wait, the more people suffer and the more difficult reforms become. Runaway inflation inevitably leads to political chaos, something numerous countries have suffered throughout the 20th century. The worst example of course was the German inflation of the 1920s that led to the rise of Hitler. Even the communist takeover of China was associated with runaway inflation brought on by Chinese Nationalists. The time for action is now, and it is up to the American people and the U.S. Congress to demand it.

Regards,

United States Congressman Ron Paul of Texas
Before the U.S. House of Representatives

Can you trust the BBC ?

Robin Aitken has written an exposing book on the notorious BBC, and its radical left culture:

Monday, April 23, 2007

2 weeks till the spending spree !

From tomorrow, we can begin counting down to the release of the 2007-08 federal budget. It will be posted online here, at 7:30pm Tuesday 8th of May.

In many respects, it will be very tiring and predictable to go through. I will eat my shorts if these predictions do not come true:

  • The budget will spend more than any previous federal budget.
  • Spending on Centrelink will reach record levels.
  • Spending on education will reach record levels.
  • Spending on "the environment" will reach record levels.
  • No substantial income tax cuts. (maybe the brackets will adjust a few percentage points for inflation, but the rates won't drop)
  • No change to GST
  • No change to Pay As You Earn payroll taxes
The Liberal party will continue to ignore their manifesto and principles, which state that trade and enterprise are best left to free and unregulated markets, and that the scope of government activity should be kept to a minimum to maximize liberty and property rights.

It will then set out on a vote buying budget that wlll throw billions at massive segments of the population, including mothers, families, the elderly, university students, the unemployed, not to mention a range of influential lobby groups, first and foremost, the environmental alarmists.

The Liberals are foolish to go down this road of tax and spend with an election coming up. Nobody is better at that game than the ALP, who can outspend and grow government faster than any other party at present. The Liberals could commit to massive widespread tax cuts, and presenting themselves as a real difference to the ALP at the coming elections.

Imagine being able to choose between a party that offers to reduce the size of government down to 10% of the economy, that would tax and spend only 10% of your wealth and allow individuals to maintain a much larger chunk of their property, and then seeing the ALP offer to increase the size of government to well over 1/3 of our wealth, and proposing to control massive areas of industry and enterprise.

All that hot air and election rhetoric would be seen as just that - shallow vote buying.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Stating the bleedin' obvious

Baby bonus 'a waste of money'

THE baby bonus is being wasted on people who would have babies anyway, a Queensland economics academic says.

Professor Ross Guest of Griffith University's Business School also believes the bonus is unnecessary because the population will continue to grow naturally.

The baby bonus of $4000 is given to mothers on the birth of their children. It will rise to $5000 from July 2008.

Since its introduction in 2004, Treasurer Peter Costello has credited the bonus, along with an increase in childcare places and the childcare rebate, for boosting Australia's birth rate.

Prof Guest, the author of a recently published report titled The Baby Bonus: A Dubious Policy Initiative, today said the scheme was extremely inefficient.

"It's looking like the baby bonus has contributed at least to the up-tick in the fertility rate in Australia, but that doesn't make it good public policy," Prof Guest said.

Source

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Labor changes IR laws.. unions have a cow

Oh no, what would the ALP be without its union support. The unions are currently dishing out $100mil in advertising to help frighten the population over Howard's rather tame and minor changes to the IR laws, as the federal election draws ever closer.

But Kevin Rudd has shifted the ALPs platform towards deregulation. Unions hate freedom and enterprise, and are not impressed. I think Rudd knows he can do this without losing their votes, who else would they vote for anyway ?

Labor will back secret ballots on industrial action and will also radically alter its unfair dismissal platform.

Under the new plan, small-business owners with fewer than 15 staff will be able to sack workers who have been employed for less than a year.

For businesses employing more than 15 people, the exempt period will be six months.

...

...

Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union secretary Doug Cameron said he was concerned about the new policies, particularly in the areas of strike rights and unfair dismissal.

"We don't like to see lower capacity for workers to take industrial action," Mr Cameron said.

"There's some disappointment that unfair dismissal rights are not available for everyone (under the policy)," Mr Cameron said.

Looks like Rudd is going to annoy a lot of the socialist State Premiers, who each were calling for state based IR laws in response to the new federal laws:
  • Mr Rudd said secret ballots before strikes would be mandatory under a Labor government - the first time the ALP has demanded such a requirement.
  • Mr Rudd vowed not to reintroduce the state-based industrial relations regime, insisting he would create a uniform, national system
  • Labor also would ban strike pay, and would restore only limited unfair dismissal protection.

The presidential candidates.

With over 1.5 years till the presidential elections, you could be forgiven for thinking they were only months away. The media hype, the coverage of the major candidates from both parties, the analysis and discussion on their policies and stances, are pretty widespread.

The Democrats seem to have 2 major candidates.. Obama, a big government socialist, and Hillary Clinton, a big government socialist.

    LAMB: There’s a quote here. I want to ask you if you agree with this. This is from Alan Arenhault, author of “The Lost City” — you put it in your book. “The unfettered free market has been the most radically disruptive force in American life in the last generation.”
CLINTON: I believe that. That’s why I put it in the book.I think if you look at the argument we’ve had in our political life in the last several years, it’s been a false debate.We’ve pitted the government against everything else. Well, I don’t believe the government has had as big an impact as commercial television...
What the *(!&!

Does commercial television regulate your life, your property, your speech, roads, hospitals and schools, confiscate 1/3 of your wealth, and spend trillions on warfare and welfare ?

The Republicans have their own candidates, chief amongst them John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. Unfortuntely all of them have statist big-spending tendencies, none are genuinely committed to reducing the bloated size of government or restoring the US constitution.

The exception to all these candidates is Republican congressman Ron Paul. A man who always votes "no" to spending and pork barreling. Every other candidate would sell their principles if they thought it would buy votes or influence. Ron Paul is the only principled and consistent man amongst the lot of them. And he stands for liberty and freedom.

Perspective

In Australia, we have the Office of Film and Literature Classification. The OFLC is supposed to review speech, media, TV and movies against its laws, supposedly to put appropriate ratings on content and to protect us from inappropriate material.

Over the last 2 seasons on Big Brother, the media, community groups, religious groups were in uproar because some guy exposed himself, and then another incident where a couple of guys held down a woman for a minute and "turkey-slapped" her. This 2nd incident was never broadcast on TV, only on the internet for subscribers.

Now.. for perspective, contrast the reaction with the muted approval of this kind of material:

A PRO-TERROR hate film that urges children to martyr themselves in Islam’s war on the West and calls Jews “pigs” has been rated PG by Australia’s censors.

Sheik Feiz Mohammed’s DVD box set, which also calls for the murder of non-believers, was initially seized by Federal anti-terror police.

But the Office of Film and Literature Classification has ruled that The Death Series is suitable to be bought and watched by children. The shock decision has seen the nation’s peak censorship body slammed as weak and out of touch by family groups and the Jewish community. It has also made a mockery of the Attorney-General’s plans to bring in tough new laws that ban material which “advocates” terrorism.

The PG decision comes as Australian-born Sheik Feiz, who is in exile in Lebanon, is still preaching to Australians by phone.

The films urge parents to make their children holy warriors and martyrs, and praises jihad as the pinnacle of Islam. The radical sheik makes snorting noises on the films as he vilifies Jews as the “army of pigs”. He blames a lack of courage for martyrdom on the battlefield for the “humiliation” of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Guantanamo.

The censors’ finding means children of any age can watch the films - but it is advised under-15s have a parent present.

The OFLC finding said the sheik’s calls to “jihad” and “martyrdom” were ambiguous. And it found that comments vilifying Jews as an “army of pigs” and saying “behind me is a Jew, come kill him” were mitigated by the context.

Monday, April 16, 2007

CF Light Bulbs.. a move to the dark ages.. a victory for Greens !

Surprisingly enough, the Sydney Morning Herald actually ran a piece casting doubt over the federal government's plans to bring in compulsory compact fluorescent light bulbs in 2009. It would seem that the environmental fanaticism of the editors was outweighed by their hatred of the Howard government when they decided to publish this:

Experts' dim view of green light bulb

THE cover story of this month's edition of Silicon Chip magazine is a comprehensive bagging of the Federal Government's plan to replace incandescent light bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescents (CFLs).

As publisher Leo Simpson points out, most domestic lighting use is at night, which means it is "merely using the 'spinning reserve' of our base-loaded power stations.

"You could switch all the lights off ... and the base-load power stations would still be spinning away, using just as much coal," he says.

In a six-page analysis, Silicon Chip , the bible for electrical engineers, identifies drawbacks such as the fact that a CFL light bulb "takes about 10 to 15 minutes to achieve full brilliance"; doesn't last long when used for frequent short periods; can't be used with a dimmer switch; and can cause electrical and infra-red interference to the point where "CFLs can completely obliterate [radio] reception in rural areas" - and if you have a "CFL in the same room as your TV or hi-fi system, the infra-red remote control may not work at all".

Heed the geeks.

Want a better health 'system' ? Vote LDP:

The current "system" is precisely that - a massive bureaucracy of regulations, constraints, regulations and licensing, heavily funded by taxes and encumbered with massive administration costs.

What the Liberal Democratic Party have proposed, in their draft policy, is a much better outcome driven by free market solutions, so instead of a monolithic system, you will have a more diverse market emerging which will benefit millions of consumers.

Some of the problems with the status quo are covered:

What Australia has is a system in which health costs are escalating faster than anything else and absorbing an inordinate amount of resources, while failing to meet the expectations of health care consumers.

It is a mixed public private system of health care delivery in which the public system is dominant. In theory, the private system is designed to permit access to those who are prepared to pay and to services that the public system is unable to provide. However, like the public system, the private system is so heavily regulated and controlled by government that it is unable to meet that need.
...
As a result the treatment decisions that doctors, administrators and consumers make are heavily influenced by the financial constraints and political agenda imposed by government. Further, since health care is only one of the services for which government has assumed responsibility, funding is dependent on government commitments in other areas of the budget.

And the LDP policy also acknowledges the current system also represents vote-buying efforts of politicians eager to secure support amongst minority special interest groups:
In determining its health care priorities, government is advised by a large group of professionals who have vested personal interests in gaining access to whatever funds are available. At the same time government is influenced by large numbers of community special interest groups whose votes are purchased in exchange for funding.
S0me of the moral hazards associated with universal health care are discussed:
Since government pays for most of the costs of poor health, people have a reduced incentive to take greater personal responsibility for their lifestyle choices and may risk more in the knowledge that the public system will cover their costs. Government then feels obliged to forbid these choices and legislate to prevent risky behaviour, infringing on personal liberty.
Here are some of the regulations that should be scrapped:

The LDP would take steps to create a more competitive market in the supply of medical professionals.

A significant contributor to the high cost of medical treatment in Australia has been the success of lobby groups in restricting the number of practitioners licensed to operate. The NSW Government has repeatedly complained that the Royal College of Surgeons deliberately restricts the number of trainees in order to limit competition. The Australian Medical Association also resists attempts to allow other allied health professionals such as pharmacists and nurses to provide basic health services.

....

The LDP would reform access to pharmaceuticals so that pharmaceutical prices were deregulated but consumers were able to maintain access to high priced products through insurance.

Pharmaceutical companies would set their prices according to market forces – encouraging innovation by producers and the appearance of a wider range of products on the Australian market.
If you are convinced that the LDP represents a positive innovation and a new direction from the last 40 years of statism and socialised health, then join the LDP !

Qutoe of the day

“It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one tenth part.”
– Benjamin Franklin

How much of our wealth is currently swallowed by taxes ? 35% ? 40% ? Maybe even 50% if you are succesful. And we tolerate this grand theft for what reason ?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sound money, or toilet paper ?

The ABS has the following table online:


Money base M3 Broad money

$m $m $m
2004 37,194 623,049 686,293
2005 38,678 678,292 764,400
(increase) 3.990% 8.867% 11.381%
2006 41,278 747,229 841,134
(increase)
6.722% 10.163% 10.038%

Money base - comprises holdings of notes and coin by the private sector, deposits of banks with the Reserve Bank, and other Reserve Bank liabilities to the private sector.

M3 - is defined as currency plus bank deposits of the private non-bank sector.

Broad money - is defined as M3 plus borrowings from the private sector by non-bank financial intermediaries (including cash management trusts) less their holdings of currency and bank deposits.

It looks to me as if the Australian Federal Reserve has been pumping out money recklessly and as the Austrian school warns us, this results in huge mal-investments which will eventually correct themselves, causing a pretty big shock to the economy. After watching this video of US congressman Ron Paul warn about the impending recession, it would be wise of people to take heed of these warnings.

The Austrians warn that the first sign of the coming crash is a contraction in the manufacturing sector, and thankfully, that hasn't occurred yet. But when it approaches, gold and metals will be looking very attractive to cautious investors who realise that after decades of inflating the moeny supply, currencies may not be worth the paper it is printed on.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Victorian police - a waste of resources

Even the most free market minded individuals, and fierce critics of large government, often draw the line at the industry for law enforcement, police and security. These are core roles that a vast majority of people believe are best left in the hands of the state. I also count myself as a supporter of government run police forces, rather than private security agencies, but I am not at all skeptical about a hypothetical world where private security firms are able to provide better outcomes using less resources.

Still, for the moment, police, prisons and law enforcement should be run by the government to ensure every single individual has their core rights (property, life, liberty) upheld.

Unfortunately for the bureaucrats in charge of the state of Victoria, the allocation of resources and the prioritisation of police efforts is dismal according to this report.

ALMOST half of Victorians convicted of serious crimes escape jail, an audit of sentencing shows.

The "soft approach" is underscored by Victorian courts jailing far fewer criminals than the national average.
Some of the figures below:
OF 414 individuals convicted of sex offences in all Victorian courts in the same period, 194 were jailed.

ALMOST 40 per cent of serious drug offenders walked free.

ONE in four people convicted of robbery offences escaped with a suspended or non-custodial sentence.

FORTY-ONE per cent of people involved in an abduction-related crime and 44 per cent convicted of deception served immediate prison time.
Other than the drug offenders category, which is really rather foolish to criminalise in the first place seeing as drug offenders do not violate anybody else's rights, the other categories are serious crimes that do indeed violate others basic rights and should be the primary focus of law enforcement and punishment.

Another part of the problem seems to be the Victoria police being unwilling to allocate much effort towards fighting serious crime. I wonder what is meant below when they refer to "community assistance, guidance and leadership" ? Since when is it the role of police to engage in these airy-fairy feel-good activities ?
The website states: "Since Victoria Police first began providing police services in 1853, its role has expanded from one focused primarily on law enforcement, to one of community assistance, guidance and leadership.

"Only about 20 per cent of police work is directly related to fighting crime."

Opposition scrutiny of government spokesman Murray Thompson said the statement represented "an extraordinary admission".

"Maybe some piccolo players from the police band could change their tune and start catching crooks," he said.

Police Association secretary Paul Mullett said at least 80 per cent of policing work should involve fighting crime.
Actually, reading further in the article reveals exactly what kind of wishy washy progressive efforts are being made by police:
Asked about the website statement, a Victoria Police spokeswoman said: "A large part of our role includes targeting community needs such as road safety, promoting and maintaining harmonious relationships within Victoria's diverse community, identifying crime and safety issues and establishing effective solutions.
Seeing as we live in the era of Bracks, the supreme bureaucrat who has doubled the number of public servants and massively increased regulations and legislation, this should come as no surprise:
"Police are not out there preventing street crime from occurring," he said. "Patrolling is not happening. It is not an issue of police numbers, it is where and how they are deployed."

He said too much time was now spent preparing data, filling in forms and meeting increasingly convoluted demands relating to briefs of evidence.

"Some general duties police are becoming little more than data entry clerks," Mr Mullett said.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

America, in 2050: Land of the thief. home of the bureaucrat

To the left-wing critics of American health, education and poverty rates, a strong message needs
to be drilled into their skulls - America is not an example of the failures of capitalism. It is not capitalist.

And things will only get worse. Is this not pure textbook socialism that is heading America's way ?

The current laws, as written, have put the U.S. on the road to France. The primary culprit is our programs for retirees.

According to the latest long-run outlook of the Congressional Budget Office, government spending may take up fully 50 percent of GDP by 2050.

Yet revenue will increase tremendously over the same time period. Revenue relative to GDP, currently a smidgen more than 18 percent, will climb to 23.7 percent by 2050 and extrapolate out to a whopping 27.5 percent by 2075. A spending binge is coming, and a good chunk of the revenue needed to pay for it is coming as well.

...

Why the big climb in revenue? There are three reasons. First, current law calls for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts in 2010. Second, the Alternative Minimum Tax, which isn't adjusted for inflation, sucks in more and more revenue over time. Finally, as the economy grows in real terms, more individuals get thrust into the top tax bracket.

Sesame Street .. by Scorsese

This had my rolling on the floor. Enjoy !


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Auctioning off power

There is an interesting piece online about campaign finance, donations made to political parties and the huge budgets of some lobbying and activist groups.

Most people on the left interpret this as a sign of corrupt or immoral behaviour. Money influencing politics, buying power and buying votes.

But this paragraph hits the nail on the head:

The problem with increasing amounts of money spent on lobbying and politics isn't that Americans are spending more and more money to buy some influence in Washington; the problem is that we're giving Washington more and more influence to sell.

Nice as it may be to think otherwise, individuals, advocacy groups and corporations that give to political campaigns don't do so out of patriotism or civic pride. They donate because they hope to get something in return. It's not a gift, it's an investment.

...

...

This is where campaign finance reformers get it wrong. They think that with enough restrictions and regulations, with enough benevolent overseers and fair-minded enforcers, they can stifle the corrupting influences in Washington.

This is na├»ve. Corruption and power go hand in hand; or, as Lord Acton famously warned, power corrupts — and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The increasing amounts of money spent on Washington are a direct reflection of the increasing amounts of power we've given Washington to auction off.

Big government, once again, is the problem.

Dodgy headline of the day

At 9;30am, the RBA announced interest rates were unchanged. This was greeted throughout the media as a massive relief for home-owners, which is a fairly sensible interpretation.

But sometimes, newspapers prepare headlines before an actual event occurs. And it looks like The Australian really should re-think this headline:

Homeowners suffer rate pain

10.36am (AEST) THE central bank has today left the official cash rate on hold at 6.25 per cent but Australian households are still suffering interest-rate pain and coudl be forced to sell their homes, a NEWS.com.au survey reveals.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Globalisation is inherently good

As trade routes develop and the geographical reach of trade spreads, people are inherently better off. There is a law in economics, referred to as the law of comparative advantage, which states that the added option of trade is always an improvement over no trade, because even if one party is completely poor and unskilled, they still have a comparative advantage that they can use (i.e relatively cheap labor for example)

Protectionism and restrictions on trade are harmful. The most familiar kind of protectionism is when people suggest only Australian made products should be available to the market. Or that foreign imports should have a tariff or quota placed upon them.

This argument, although widespread, is utterly dishonest, which is plain to see if you extend the argument from your country, down to your local city, or suburb, or street ? Why not buy only bread that is made by people in your city, or computers that are manufactured by people in your suburb, or clothing that is made by people in your very household ?

Here is an illustrative example. A Philadelphia woman tried to produce a suit using only materials and labor from within 100 miles of her home. Suits typically cost between $300 and $1000 for the designer end. Look at how much effort went into producing this particular suit:

PHILADELPHIA — When educator and designer Kelly Cobb decided to make a man’s suit only from materials produced within 100 miles of her home, she knew it would be a challenge. But Cobb’s locally made suit turned into a exhausting task. The suit took a team of 20 artisans several months to produce — 500 man-hours of work in total — and the finished product wears its rustic origins on its sleeve.

“It was a huge undertaking, assembled on half a shoestring,” Cobb said at the suit’s unveiling one recent afternoon at Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art.

“Every piece of the suit took three to five pairs of hands to make,” Cobb added. “Every garment you wear took three to five pairs of hands to make too, but you don’t know whose hands or where.”

Cobb’s suit (see photo gallery) is a demonstration of the massive manufacturing power of the global economy. Industrial processes and cheap foreign labor belie the tremendous resources that go into garments as simple as a T-shirt.

Kevin Rudds economic ignorance

Peter Saunders writes an excellent piece criticising Kevin Rudd and his economic ignorance, which he plainly displayed for the world to see when he wrote a nasty hit-piece called "Howard’s Brutopia" late in 2006.

Whilst John Howard is hardly the embodiment of free market leadership, and his Liberal Party don't spend much effort adhering to its core principles, he is by far a safer bet than Kevin Rudd when it comes to appreciating free trade and identifying the dangers of regulation and central planning.

Saunders' summary:

Conclusion

Kevin Rudd’s recent reflections on capitalism, community and the Australian family represent the latest in a long line of Leftist arguments claiming that markets weaken social cohesion while governments strengthen it. But we have seen that this claim is empty and there is no evidence to support it. If anything, it is government intervention, rather than reduced regulation, that has been weakening family and community life.

It is unfortunate that Rudd should have chosen to kick off his leadership of the Labor Party by associating himself with such a discredited and tainted set of arguments and assertions, for not only is his claim wrong, but it is damaging to his credentials as a genuine reformer. As Noel Pearson notes, claims like these have more often been made by people who oppose the market reforms of the last twenty years and who feel threatened by ‘the uncertainty and rapid change of the modern, prosperous economy.’[27] Rudd is not one of these people. He claims to be a supporter of the market. He is a Labor moderniser, not an old-school reactionary. But the image he has created for himself with his recent rhetoric makes him sound more like ‘Old Labor’ than an advocate of the so-called ‘Third Way’ to which he says he is attracted

There is no future for a labor party which defines itself in terms of limiting and regulating the market. If Rudd really wants to carve out a distinctive political niche for himself, he should be thinking instead of how to use markets to give ordinary people more control over the key areas of their lives still colonised by governments—their health care, their welfare and their children’s education. Radical thinkers on the left are starting to discuss policy options like medical savings accounts and school vouchers, and they are openly debating the best way to reduce people’s dependency on government welfare hand-outs. These are the debates Rudd should be connecting with. That way he will not only win elections—he will also end up strengthening family and community life by restoring people’s responsibility for organising things for themselves.