Friday, May 30, 2008

Here's the problem with the American health system

The American health system is a pretty big disaster. Prices are ridiculously high. Inefficiencies and waiting lists for those who do not have private health cover are not also terrible. Having said that, here is a hard truth:

America is definitely not a textbook example of private health.

One of the biggest myths out there is that American health system is an example of free markets gone wild, of capitalism and of privatisation. This lie is used as a throw away line by progressives and socialists who favor the expansion of the state, and the elimination of private business in the health sector.

And whilst they do not yet have "universal" coverage but they are 90% of the way there since SCHIPS and other reforms.

We know Britain, Canada and France are textbook examples of universal public health, and they totally suck. Health services are literally rationed out to millions. You wait months, or you die waiting, or you run off to America to pay for an operation. For decades, the civilised world has decided not to ration out food which is vital and essential to our well-being. Food stamps, queues and rationing are a thing of the Soviet era... If only rationing medicine was not !!

The Angry Economist nails it with one simple paragraph.
Our current health care mess was caused by wage and price controls during WWII. Wages were limited, so to attract the best employees, employers bought them free health care. After the war was over, employees took free health care for granted. Health care was still affordable then, because most people paid for it out of pocket. Now that very few people have to pay their own medical bills, they don't care how much health care costs, so they don't care to economize, and the medical industry is happy to oblige their spendthrift ways. Everybody complains about how the insurance companies don't want to pay for anything. If people were paying their own money, they wouldn't want to pay for anything, and the medical industry would find itself needing to keep the cost of health care low.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ayn Rand's brilliant tribute to capitalism

Halfway through Atlas Shrugged, one of the reasonable and rational philosophers, Francisco d'Antonio makes a brilliant speech in defence of profits and money, to an audience of progressive socialites. Here it is in full. It is not just an economic defence, but an entirely moral and philosophical defence of the value and usefulness of money.

It is a highlight in an enthralling work of literature, and it comes in response to a sneering socialist's comment that money is the root of all evil.


So you think that money is the root of all evil?" said Francisco d'Anconia. "Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

"When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears not all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor--your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money, Is this what you consider evil?

"Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions--and you'll learn that man's mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.

"But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man's capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made--before it can be looted or mooched--made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can't consume more than he has produced.'

"To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return. Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to the men who buy them, but no more. Money permits no deals except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of the traders. Money demands of you the recognition that men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their loss--the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery--that you must offer them values, not wounds--that the common bond among men is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of goods. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men's stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best that your money can find. And when men live by trade--with reason, not force, as their final arbiter--it is the best product that wins, the best performance, the man of best judgment and highest ability--and the degree of a man's productiveness is the degree of his reward. This is the code of existence whose tool and symbol is money. Is this what you consider evil?

"But money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. Money is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of causality--the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind.

"Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants: money will not give him a code of values, if he's evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he's evaded the choice of what to seek. Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors. The men of intelligence desert him, but the cheats and the frauds come flocking to him, drawn by a law which he has not discovered: that no man may be smaller than his money. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

"Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth--the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money? Do not envy a worthless heir; his wealth is not yours and you would have done no better with it. Do not think that it should have been distributed among you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one, would not bring back the dead virtue which was the fortune. Money is a living power that dies without its root. Money will not serve the mind that cannot match it. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

"Money is your means of survival. The verdict you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life. If the source is corrupt, you have damned your own existence. Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to men's vices or men's stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hope of getting more than your ability deserves? By lowering your standards? By doing work you despise for purchasers you scorn? If so, then your money will not give you a moment's or a penny's worth of joy. Then all the things you buy will become, not a tribute to you, but a reproach; not an achievement, but a reminder of shame. Then you'll scream that money is evil. Evil, because it would not pinch-hit for your self-respect? Evil, because it would not let you enjoy your depravity? Is this the root of your hatred of money?

"Money will always remain an effect and refuse to replace you as the cause. Money is the product of virtue, but it will not give you virtue and it will not redeem your vices. Money will not give you the unearned, neither in matter nor in spirit. Is this the root of your hatred of money?

"Or did you say it's the love of money that's the root of all evil? To love a thing is to know and love its nature. To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men. It's the person who would sell his soul for a nickel, who is loudest in proclaiming his hatred of money--and he has good reason to hate it. The lovers of money are willing to work for it. They know they are able to deserve it.

"Let me give you a tip on a clue to men's characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.

"Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another--their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.

"But money demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to keep it. Men who have no courage, pride or self-esteem, men who have no moral sense of their right to their money and are not willing to defend it as they defend their life, men who apologize for being rich--will not remain rich for long. They are the natural bait for the swarms of looters that stay under rocks for centuries, but come crawling out at the first smell of a man who begs to be forgiven for the guilt of owning wealth. They will hasten to relieve him of the guilt--and of his life, as he deserves.

"Then you will see the rise of the men of the double standard--the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money--the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law--men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims--then money becomes its creators' avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they've passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.

"Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society's virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion--when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing--when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors--when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you--when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice--you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that is does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.

"Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked, 'Account overdrawn.'

"When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, 'Who is destroying the world? You are.

"You stand in the midst of the greatest achievements of the greatest productive civilization and you wonder why it's crumbling around you, while you're damning its life-blood--money. You look upon money as the savages did before you, and you wonder why the jungle is creeping back to the edge of your cities. Throughout men's history, money was always seized by looters of one brand or another, whose names changed, but whose method remained the same: to seize wealth by force and to keep the producers bound, demeaned, defamed, deprived of honor. That phrase about the evil of money, which you mouth with such righteous recklessness, comes from a time when wealth was produced by the labor of slaves--slaves who repeated the motions once discovered by somebody's mind and left unimproved for centuries. So long as production was ruled by force, and wealth was obtained by conquest, there was little to conquer, Yet through all the centuries of stagnation and starvation, men exalted the looters, as aristocrats of the sword, as aristocrats of birth, as aristocrats of the bureau, and despised the producers, as slaves, as traders, as shopkeepers--as industrialists.

"To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a country of money--and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, man's mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being--the self-made man--the American industrialist.

"If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose--because it contains all the others--the fact that they were the people who created the phrase 'to make money.' No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity--to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality.

"Yet these were the words for which Americans were denounced by the rotted cultures of the looters' continents. Now the looters' credo has brought you to regard your proudest achievements as a hallmark of shame, your prosperity as guilt, your greatest men, the industrialists, as blackguards, and your magnificent factories as the product and property of muscular labor, the labor of whip-driven slaves, like the pyramids of Egypt. The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between the power of the dollar and the power of the whip, ought to learn the difference on his own hide-- as, I think, he will.

"Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns--or dollars. Take your choice--there is no other--and your time is running out."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Go back to space, you astronaut !

Andy Thomas spoke before the Senate telling us Australia needs a space agency. Funded by tax dollars, of course.

Dr Thomas told a Senate inquiry into the space industry, sitting in Adelaide today, that Australia should establish a dedicated space agency to foster expertise in everything from satellite technology to rocket launching.

He said even modest investment now, through collaborative projects with other international space agencies, would help Australia boost national security and strengthen the national economy.

"Imagine then the sense of national pride ... imagine the excitement young people would feel knowing an important discovery regarding climate change, or an image from the moon, or the discovery that life once existed on Mars had an Australian origin.

"Imagine the community response knowing there's an Australian flag on the side of an instrument sitting on the surface of the moon or on Mars.

Oh come off it. What a waste of effort. This would cost billions to put a flag on the moon, surely there are better things we can do. It doesn't put food on the table, it doesn't provide us with services or housing (not that bureaucrats do a good job of that with our tax dollars either !)

But unfortunately for Andy, we've actually seen an emergence of the private sector in space travel in recent decades, and launching rockets into space no longer belongs in the realm of big government.

Dr Thomas said that without Australian investment and the development of a space industry, future Australian children would be unable to view images of human footprints on the Martian or lunar surfaces with any sense of national pride.

"I consider this a very bland legacy to leave the next generation," he said.

I'll take bland and wealthy over exotic and bankrupt any day !

Atlas Shrugged doublespeak

The book continues to enthrall and captivate me. It seems that at each turn of events, as the entrepreneurs valiantly and heroically overcome massive obstacles to build the railroads, employ massive resources, innovate and overcome new regulations and government hurdles, the "looters" and competitors head to Washington to pass ever increasing "progressive" regulations and bills.

They are all doublespeak, because they have benign names yet they have disastrous consequences.

Each bill increases the power and scope of the government, and further restricts entrepreneurs and capitalists. And many government councils also form to consolidate power and control over an industry.

  • The Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule is passed by the National Alliance of Railroads in section 145, allegedly to prevent "destructive competition" between railroads. The rule gives the Alliance the authority to forbid competition between railroads in certain parts of the country
  • Equalization of Opportunity Bill A bill designed by the Looters that proposes to limit the number of businesses any one person can own to one.
  • Friends of Global Progress is political organization run by Claude Slagenhop and supported by Philip Rearden. It is a sponsor of the Equalization of Opportunity Bill.
  • Preservation of Livelihood Law, which would limit the production of Rearden Metal (the biggest producer of steel in the industry)
  • Fair Share Law, which would give an equal amount of Rearden Metal to any customer who wants it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Its 2008 and people still cheer for central planning ?

This disgraceful Age editorial (is there any other kind) by their "city editor" Royce Millar, calls for the Premier "to manage the city" ?!?!

Somebody needs a history lesson about central planning and big government bureaucracy.

Not only was it central to the communist system, and one of the first things written about in the communist manifesto by Marx and Engels, but since it was first tried after the Russian revolution in 1917, it has repeatedly and dramatically failed throughout all command economies. Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea, China, Russia, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

Well.. that isn't going to stop some of the medics at The Age from prescribing the same poison to beautiful Melbourne. You see, despite the facts, somehow there are people who think their vision of society and their efforts at engineering an entire freakin city of individuals is a noble goal that deserves government intervention.

Usually we call these people authoritarian thugs

MANAGING a city cannot be easy. But it has to be done.

Melbourne 2030 was at least an acknowledgement that the city needed managing.

The strategy was built on three key premises: restricting growth through an urban growth boundary; making the city more compact by encouraging housing in designated activity centres; and a dramatic boost in public transport use.

Implementation has been poor on all three fronts. About 60% of new population growth is in fringe municipalities; the urban growth boundary will move to accommodate growth; apartment construction in established areas has increased, but mainly in the expensive central city. Public transport use is nominally up, but as a proportion of overall transport use it has been stagnant since 2002.
Yesterday's changes do little to slow growth on the fringe, and despite prompting by 2030 auditor Professor Rob Moodie, the Government has not taken up the idea of specifying minimum dwelling densities on greenfield sites. Other than flagging another reworking of its transport plan, it gives little hope that public transport may soon be a practical alternative in the outer suburbs.

So lets summarise and cut through the double-speak. What are the ideas being suggested by our elites who work for the Spencer Street Soviet ?

  • People are too dumb to choose where to live, and the government ought to force them to migrate to dense areas
  • People are too dumb to build apartments except for the inner CBD. They should be living in small apartments in the suburbs.
  • People are still too stupid to stop using their cars and use public transport.
  • Government ought to legislate minimum dwelling densities to force people to live in crowded conditions.
  • Government ought to stop people building new homes on the fringe of the city.
  • Motorists need to be punished and taxed so heavily that they will be forced onto the public transport system (to make it a practical alternative)
This paragraph towards the end also shows the socialist writer Royce Millar's contempt for our freedom, liberty and individual choice.
Professor Moodie recommended the Government consider "inclusionary zoning": requiring developers to provide some social housing as part of their projects. The Government has not acted. And without action on affordability, the only apparent substance in yesterday's reforms — the fast-tracking of planning for apartments in activity centres — will do little more than give developers permits to buy and sell.

You see how simple their mindset is ? If government does not act, problems will not be solved. And of course there is ABSOLUTELY NO FRICKIN DOUBT in the narrow mind of the writer that government action will have absolutely no side effects and will create no new problems.

Tell him he's dreamin !

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rudd's broken promises

For a guy who promises to cut spending, slash the number of public servants and for his razor gang to find real ways to reduce government expenditure, this action shows that he doesn't intend to back up his words.

The newest bureaucracy to burden society is the Australian Social Inclusion Board.

Andrew Landeryou has the full press release, which he aptly describes as "a complete wank". What follows is the biggest waste of tax dollars imaginable, towards some more Rudd-style feel-goodism. (My comments are in red italic below)

Australian Social Inclusion Board

The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister will today attend the first meeting of the new Australian Social Inclusion Board.

Every Australian should have an opportunity to be a full participant in the life of the nation. (what a very vague goal that is) Unfortunately, too many Australians remain locked out of the benefits of work, education, community engagement and access to basic services. (locked ? you mean they can't find work ? And what exactly is 'community engagement' ? Is it something a murderer or paedophile does ?)

This social exclusion is a significant barrier to sustained prosperity and restricts Australia’s future economic growth.

Promoting social inclusion requires a new way of governing. Australia must rethink how policy and programs across portfolios and levels of government can work together to combat economic and social disadvantage. (Hmm, "new way" .. "rethink".. let me go out on a limb here and guess it will involve bigger government and new bureaucracy?)

The Australian Social Inclusion Board which brings together leaders from around the country, will be instrumental in meeting this challenge. ( BINGO ! Good guess)

Tackling disadvantage involves generating effective, practical solutions at the level of government, local communities, of service providers, employers and of families and individuals themselves.

The Australian Social Inclusion Board will consult widely and provide views and advice to the Government.

The Board will be asked to focus on the most disadvantaged geographic areas and communities in the nation. (And they will of course propose solutions that tax and burden those who aren't needy)

In doing so the Board will be asked to make recommendations on policy that could change the lifetime circumstances of jobless families and children at risk. (like what ?? more welfare ? more government services ? more state intervention ?)

The Rudd Government has already begun work on a number of priorities which are important to the social inclusion agenda, including work on homelessness, a disability and mental health employment strategy, closing the gap for Indigenous Australians and universal access to pre-school. (and just how spectacular a failure are those feel-good measures ?)


Do read more.. and scroll down to see some of the celebrities included in the Board, such as Eddie Maguire, a Catholic priest and just about every social worker this country has ever produced.

Monday, May 19, 2008

If you're gonna privatise, then do it for real

In the land of Oz, we bitch and moan about the failures of our past privatisations. Look at Telstra ! Look at the train network ! Look at the trams ! Look at the banks !

Now just because our media elites and chardonnay socialists complain about privatisation, it doesn't make it true.

You see, when you privatise an industry, not only do you allow private 'for-profit' enterprises to own and operate the business, but you REALLY allow them to own and operate the business as they need to, in order to respond to the dynamics of free markets and to changing market conditions.

Hence you don't regulate the life out of an industry. But why do we have hundreds of pages of regulations telling a telecoms operator or a train network or an airline exactly how they must provide services, how much they can charge their customers, and if they can expand or contract their network ?

The fear-mongering socialists amongst us fear the evil capitalists and their profit-making mentality.. scary !!

Look at the horrible outcome since Telstra was partly privatised and other competitors were granted licenses. Optus, Vodafone et al. Telecoms have become infinitely cheaper and better for millions of Australians !

But meanwhile, the socialistas lobby government to regulate every industry, every water and electricity provider, every train and tram company - tell them the what, the how and the how much they must provide. Its not a free market, its a regulatory minefield.

Japan is smarter than us, and has one of the best rail networks on the planet. It was fully privatised in 1987 and trains have an average delay of 0.6 minutes.

Now they are privatising Japan Post. Good on them.

Doing a crime doesn't make you a criminal

Because sometimes, the criminals and mafia bosses are themselves are the ones who pass ridiculous laws. There is no better way to protect the racket you are in than to pass laws against competition and other kinds of products and services. So we end up with hundreds of silly laws. Case in point:


On May 1, Pennsylvania state troopers arrived at the home of Mennonite farmer Mark Nolt, seizing a reported $20,000 to 25,000 worth of farm equipment and placing Nolt under arrest. His crime? The illegal sale of unpasteurized milk and other dairy products.

And Nolt isn't alone. In February, federal investigators subpoenaed two employees of Mark McAfee's Organic Pastures Dairy in California. Though the subpoenas do not indicate the purpose of the investigation, McAfee told me the feds were seeking evidence that his dairy was selling unpasteurized milk for human consumption across state lines.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Question of the day

How are libraries filled with books different to libraries filled with videos and DVDs ?

Obviously, what they loan out is different. I'm not after that answer.

Why is one treated as a "public good" to be operated by councils and funded by taxes?

And the other one manages to operate by private enterprises where rentals are funded by people's savings. I'm not against the concept of a library that loans out books at all. But why do we still spend millions operating libraries for books, when they can be privatised and run like a business ?

(assuming there is some demand for books - which there undoubtedly is due to the thriving business of Borders, Amazon et al).

Flying pig moment of the day

When will I ever again see a headline that combines the words - "Greens .. oppose .. tax" ?

THE Senate is threatening to blow a $3bn hole in Kevin Rudd's first budget as the Greens warned they may oppose the alcopop tax hike.

Your tax dollars at work

Courtesy of the Victorian gov't, here is the biggest waste of tax dollars I've seen recently.

Media Internships, Government Branch The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) is leading a whole of Victorian Government suite of initiatives to strengthen community harmony, build resilience, and help to counter negative stereotypes which may be expressed in response to contemporary social issues. Muslim communities have been under particular pressure, indicating the need for initiatives to promote a broader understanding of Islam and Muslim culture and lifestyles amongst the wider Victorian community.

In this context, DPC is seeking applications for the 2008 DPC Media Internship Program. The Media Internships will commence during the university vacation period between Semester 1 and 2, 2008 (from mid-June to mid-July 2008). The Internships will run for a total of up to 2 months (up to 8 weeks), and may involve a combination of full-time and part-time employment. Applications close COB Monday 26 May 2008.

Position Details

The Media Internship seeks to:

1. Increase the interns’ awareness of the operations of Victoria’s mainstream media;

2. Provide an opportunity for the interns to engage with mainstream media staff and diminish cultural barriers;

3. Enable the interns to identify ways to increase knowledge and understanding within the mainstream media of issues affecting and relating to Victoria’s Muslim communities;

4. Increase awareness within the host media organisations about the diversity and complexity of Victoria’s Muslim communities;

5. Develop the interns’ practical newsgathering skills and journalistic experience within a mainstream media organisation; and

6. Enable the interns to develop their leadership potential.

Organisational Environment:

The interns will be employed by DPC, and seconded to a Victorian-based mainstream media organisation, such as a commercial or public television network, newspaper or radio station.


The Media Interns will undertake a combination of day-to-day tasks and journalism work. Duties may include compiling or checking standard editorial material, basic research, reporting, writing, photographic or editorial work under close supervision and working/liaising with a variety of staff and members of the community.

Key Selection Criteria:

DPC are seeking applicants who can demonstrate that they are completing their final year of journalism studies, or are a practicing journalist in a non-mainstream media outlet. The applicant must have an appreciation and thorough understanding of Muslim culture as well as a strong sense of newsworthiness and commitment to news journalism as a career path. The applicant must demonstrate strong research and written skills, and possess the ability to prepare concise and accurate news stories information to short deadlines and have excellent attention to detail, including good proof reading and sub-editing abilities.


People often refer to these things as "jobs", but I am always quick to point out that they are not jobs in the economic sense. Your labour is not being employed towards a productive end and the employer is not exchanging any of their property (i.e money) for your services.

Instead the government is literally throwing somebody else's money towards somebody who can fulfill a role that they invent. Not because they need the skills to perform an economic function, to manufacture something, to provide services that are in demand. But because governments will not exist if they don't put on a moral and benign appearance. So we promote vaguely defined positions which don't have to produce anything tangible - about community service, social officers, cultural awareness, indigenous affairs, women's representatives etc etc etc.

I like my government small, simple and not certainly not racist. Why should one particular community deserve a media intern to represent them and not another ? (I am definitely *NOT* advocating all communities be represented).

Why not have colour blind laws and the function of local government ought to be simple - collect the garbage, sweep the streets, provide road lights and maintain the roads. Roll back the thousands of public servants who earn money but don't satisfy market demand for anything.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Won't somebody think of the polar bears

Astonishingly, because the polar bear population is healthy and growing, this headline was published today:

US lists polar bears as threatened species

WASHINGTON: The US Government has listed polar bears as a threatened species, warning that melting of Arctic sea ice is risking their habitat.

“Today I am listing the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act,” said Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, after satellite imagery found ice coverage had fallen to its lowest level yet recorded.

The Government was acting on advice from scientists and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mr Kempthorne detailed greater steps to monitor polar bear populations in Alaska and outlying islands in the Beaufort Sea, and more co-operation with foreign governments to protect the species.

Earlier in the week, the Boston Herald suggested what some of the dire consequences of this stupidity would be:
If the bears were listed, the service would be obliged to designate "critical habitat." The Endangered Species Act provides that each federal agency would have to `insure that any action authorized, funded or carried out by such agency is not likely to jeopardize any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification (our italics) of (critical) habitat of such species."

The environmentalists, if not the service, could claim that any activity that emitted carbon dioxide, the chief gas causing the supposed warming, could not be authorized, financed or done by a federal agency. The agencies would have to bring the modern world to a crash as no fossil fuels could be burned in power plants, no highways built and so forth throughout the economy.
And it seems the report upon which this foolish decision was based is far from perfect:
A new study has claimed that the research done by the US Department of the Interior to determine if global warming threatens the polar bear population is so flawed that it cannot be used to justify listing the polar bear as an endangered species.

The research came about when on April 30, US District Judge Claudia Wilken ordered the Interior Department to decide by May 15 whether polar bears should be listed under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. But, after professor J. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School and colleagues undertook an audit at the request of the state of Alaska , they found the Interior Department report to be flawed.

As part of the subsequent study, the authors examined nine US Geological Survey Administrative Reports. Professor Armstrong and his colleagues concluded that the most relevant study, properly applied only 15% of relevant forecasting principles and that the second study only 10%, while 46% were clearly contravened and 23% were apparently contravened. Further, according to them, the Geologic Survey reports do not adequately substantiate the authors' assumptions about changes to sea ice and polar bears' ability to adapt that are key to the recommendations.

"These studies are meant to inform the US Fish and Wildlife Service about listing the polar bear as endangered," said Armstrong. "After careful examination, my co-authors and I were unable to find any references to works providing evidence that the forecasting methods used in the reports had been previously validated. In essence, they give no scientific basis for deciding one way or the other about the polar bear," he added.
On a personal level, I find this incredibly stupid. Last night I just read the chapter in Atlas Shrugged were Washington passes the "Equalization of Opportunity Bill" which causes dozens of American industries to hit the wall and suffer. Also in the novel was the proposal by "community of disinterested citizens" to investigate Rearden Metal for its safety when used in railroads. The citizens started signing a petition to prevent the railroad for opening for 12 months until an investigation was carried out. The fact that this would have caused bankruptcy for several involved firms in massive projects was totally disregarded.

I recommend everyone read Atlas Shrugged. Its as relevant as ever.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pork pork pork pork

The Australian has a list of budget items that are known before the official announcement tonight. The list is staggering. There is not a single area of society where government doesn't meddle.

Just remember, the problem isn't spending on health, education, aged care.. the problem is when you hand over most of your money to politicians to do it for you. The good bits are in green (hard to find !) and the bad news is in red.


* $1 b to fund disability services and increase support for carers, including $100 m for supported accommodation for the disabled.
* Retention of the The Conditional Adjustment Payment worth more than $100 m a year to aged care homes.
* $420 m over three years to fund almost 130,000 places a year for respite for the elderly and disabled.


* Climate change announcements to exceed $2 b. (!!)

* $500 m for a National Clean Coal Fund including: $50 m in a Queensland pilot coal gasification plant, $50 m to demonstrate carbon capture in NSW and $ 5 m for mapping and testing carbon storage in Western Australia.
* Low-interest green loans of up to $10,000 for water and energy efficiency will be offered to 200,000 existing homes.
* Rebates of up to $1000 will be offered to up to 225,000 homes to install solar and heat-pump hot-water systems.
* Rebates of up to $500 will be on the table for up to 500,000 homes to install new piping for greywater or rainwater tanks.
* Rebates of up to $8000 for the installation of rooftop solar power panels
* Landlords of up to 300,000 homes will receive a rebate of up to $500 to install insulation.
* Subsidies for businesses that retrofit existing buildings to help reduce their carbon footprint.
* Grants of $10,000 to $500,000 for small and medium manufacturers to become more environmentally friendly.
* A $100 m national manufacturing network will provide small to medium businesses with expert advice on how to improve their energy and water efficiency.
* $150m will be spent on an energy innovation fund to keep scientists and researchers in Australia.
* $15m for a Clean Energy Export Strategy to help Austrade promote and compete for clean-energy exports.
* $20m for a Clean Energy Enterprise Connect Centre to research and improve products.
* Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Tweed Heads targeted under a $100 m Community Coast Program.
* Local councils will be able to apply for grants of up to $50,000 to help communities plan for coastal inundation, storm surges, health risks from tropical mosquito-borne diseases and more severe tropical cyclones.
* $200 m pledge to sustain the Great Barrier Reef. (!!)
*Schools will to apply for up to $20,000 to install 2 kilowatt solar panels and rainwater tanks.
* Deception Bay PCYC to receive $250,000 for solar heating panels for its pool.
* Surf Lifesaving Clubs to share in up $3 m for rainwater tanks under the Government's National Water Security Plans for Towns and Cities.


* The first instalment of the $1 b to give all students from Year 9 to senior access to a computer at school.
* First instalment of the $2.5 b plan to build new trade centres in secondary schools
* An expected portion of the surplus to be used to top up the $6 b Higher Education Endowment Fund.
* $700 tuition vouchers for struggling students and summer school for teachers will be axed.


* Means-testing for Family Tax Benefit Part B, probably at the level of $150,000 for the main breadwinner, deceased from $250,000.
* A 50 per cent childcare tax rebate – an extra $71 for an average family, with two young children and a mother working two days a week.
* Government will raise the threshold for the Medicare Levy Surcharge for families from $100,000 to $150,000 and from $50,000 to $100,000 for singles.
* A new means test for the Baby Bonus will be introduced so high-income earners will miss out on the $4258 payment.
* A debit card that quarantines half a person's welfare for essentials such as food and clothing. Indigenous people in Western Australia and the Northern Territory targeted first.


* $40 m for extra English lessons.
* $9.2 m for migrant traineeships under the English and Work Readiness plan.


* $90 m over five years to employ up to 300 indigenous rangers.
* About $19 m to protect children from abuse in South Australia's Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.
* Up to $1 m over two years for extra playgroups in the Northern Territory.
* More than $6 m to tackle violence and child abuse in indigenous communities.
* Almost $40 m for the Indigenous Boarding Hostels Partnership, which provides accommodation for students to go to secondary schools in regional centres.
* $10 m to build an eco-tourism transit hub outside the entrance to the iconic Mossman Gorge north of Cairns.


* A new multibillion-dollar fund to pump money into national road projects with a particular emphasis on Queensland.
* Hundreds of grant schemes to be be axed.


* The threshold for the $600 Medicare surcharge will increase from $50,000 to $100,000 for singles and from $100,000 to $150,000 for couples.
* Boosting the former government's $1.8 billion mental health program to services outside the capital cities.
* An $87 to extend bowel cancer screening programs to 50-year-olds.
* 18 organisations to share in $3 m to work with families affected by substance abuse.


* Almost $8 b in tax breaks to be slashed over four years.
* Spending cuts worth more than $3 billion for the 2008-9 financial year
* Budget surplus of at least 1.5 per cent of GDP or $18 billion for the next financial year.
* Tax on expensive cars -- proposed increase from 25 per cent to 33 per cent on the GST-exclusive value of cars exceeding $57,123.
* Likely axing of annual $40 m program to subsidy ethanol production.
* Closing a $80m tax loophole used by the wealthy to reduce tax on share options.

* $17 m over five years to give more than 200,000 free driving lessons to learner drivers and their parents.
* $20 m over four years to improve the safety of aerodromes in remote and isolated areas of Australia

Budget 2008 - part 1

One of the first items from K-Rudd's first budget to reach the news was the health insurance changes.

It turns out that the public health system is getting a funding increase to the tune of $1bil. As usual, there is no discussion if this will do anything positive or create more bureaucrats, administrators and paper-shufflers. As usual, there is no discussion about the already bloated budget and whether it has been productive to shovel money to public health.

An interesting change, because it is actually a good one, was to raise the threshold of the Medicare surcharge from $50,000 to $100,000 for individual,s. Previously under Howard, there was a carrot and a stick approach to private health insurance. You would get the stick of an extra 1% tax on your income if it was over $50,000 and you didn't have private health cover.

So if you earned $60k and didn't take private health, you would be stung with an extra $600 in tax. This acts as a big incentive for people who earn over $50k to take out health insurance.

You would also get the carrot of a 30% rebate on the premium. Which still stands.

Rudd has lessened the stick by putting the income threshold where the surcharge kicks in up to $100,000.

So in the sense that less government meddling is a good thing, then this is an improvement. It will however push more people out of private and back to the crumbling public system where service is rationed out to those who can wait and hang on for months on end.

The problem with Rudd is that he is trying to engineer a better carrot and a better stick, but the approach is still a blunt instrument - government. It is a one-size-fits-all approach to a complex industry which should be coordinated by individual needs.

The governemnt ought to remove all carrots and all sticks. Not just for private, but for public. If I want to opt out of the public system and keep the medicare levy (1.5% of my income), then that should be my choice.

Rudd also plans to continue the $5000 baby bonus. The most misguided and hare-brained intrusion of government into the family home and people's private lives in a long long while.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Atlas Shrugged

I finally started reading before the weekend, and I find myself 100 pages into the book already.

Tis book is considered one of the greatest political tracts ever written, and is taught in American colleges. If only a wider audience could be reached.... but with talks of an upcoming Atlas Shrugged movie in 2009, starring Angelina and Brad, this novel could make a huge resurgence.

It is brilliant, illustrative and engaging. Written in 1957, the ideas it promotes are more relevant than ever.

The themes of work, accomplishment and the right to pursue individual happiness exists through every chapter.

The set of characters are all deeply engaging and well portrayed.

The sense of pride that the honest entrepreneurs gain through hard work and success are best shown by the attitudes of Dagny Taggart, Hank Rearden, Francisco D’Anconia and Ellis Wyatt. All of them accomplished executives in the mining, railroad or metals industries.

Ayn Rand also inserts many dishonorable characters and charlatans into her story;

James Taggart, the incompetent executive, as well as the bickering and parasitic socialite family of Hank Rearden are all entirely concerned with other people's affairs and how a society ought to make individual sacrifices for the common good.

Ayn Rand certainly had a fierce intellect. This book will make many readers appreciate the individual and their freedoms above any ambiguous concepts of society.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Centrelink should be run like a business

Which means, in a nutshell.. if they continue to operate as they have in the past, they will be forced to file for bankruptcy and go out of business or be taken over by new management.

Centre-flunk is an interesting website with hundreds of stories, anecdotes, links to news reports and discussion forums that tear into Centrelink.

Some of the rhetoric is a bit over the top, and I'm not sure how valid some of their complaints are.
I certainly don't agree with their calls to increase Centrelink's funding as a solution.

But this is what you get with government ownership of an entity. Is there a private business in operation today that has as many complaints ?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Rudd announces spending cut

A lot of political doublespeak in this article in The Australian.

The budget would deliver a 2 per cent cut to government departments' operational spending.

``We'll have to make significant cuts to a number of existing government programs to achieve that higher surplus,'' Mr Rudd said.

``I can announce today that this budget will achieve a one-off 2 per cent efficiency dividend across government.
Well 2% isn't huge.. but whats really worrying is that it isn't 2% of government spending in its entirety. Only 2% of the operational spending. Kevin Rudd should be a PR spin doctor with his invention of the phrase "efficiency dividend".

And it certainly is a one-off.. just watch as government continues to expand and blow its operational spending by billions more. The number of public servants has skyrocketed and roughly doubled in the past decade.
The budget would increase the child care tax rebate from 30 to 50 per cent and pay it quarterly, at a cost to the Government of $1.6 billion.
Well there goes the savings ! What a waste. Instead of letting parents research and make their own decisions on child care, the government is massively subsidising parents to buy child care services. Heres a novel idea - stop taxing the life out of us and then some parents will choose to return to the workforce !
It will also honour its commitment to help working families under financial pressure.
Ahh of course the mention of "working families". See how similar Rudd is to Howard ? We can expect another decade of middle class welfare and massive tax churn. The government takes ever increasing amounts of wealth, and it allows those who reproduce to keep a large share of it. Wouldn't it be simple to just let us keep our property in the first place ?

It seems Rudd entirely misses the mark.
``Inflation is not just a number on a page, it is not just a bureaucratic statistic, it is a cancer which eats away at the living standards of all Australians,'' Mr Rudd said.
Yep.. and lets ignore the elephant in the room. The RBA continues to destroy our currency and fuel inflation by its reckless monetary expansion. They'll buy any junk these days, take anything as collateral for their bonds, and double the supply of money every 10-15 years.

Why can't we just have a nice budget that halves income tax, gets rid of Centrelink and forces the RBA to return to sound currency. I guess it would be too easy and not grab enough headlines.

I'm back.. more to come

I've been back from a nice holiday in Phuket, Thailand. Soon I will humbly resume my blogging duties. Many issues to cover.

I've finished reading Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and now I will start on the much..much...much anticipated Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

There are plenty of news stories that are going to force me to vent my anger. Victoria's new 2am curfew for clubs. Victorias budget with hardly enough tax cutting, and way too much spending on "social justice" (what a conveniently vague expression that is Mr Brumby !).

Kevin Rudd boasts of his cutting government spending by $1.3bil. Thats a drop in the bucket. We need to multiply that by 100 just to get rid of Centrelink.

There shall be many new posts to come.