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Monday Message Board

May 31st, 2004

Time as usual for the Monday Message Board. Post your thoughts on any topic (civilised discussion and no coarse language).

It’s time, as usual, for the Monday Message Board. Post your thoughts on any topic (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please).

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  1. Robert Love
    May 31st, 2004 at 10:39 | #1

    Regarding Dennis Shanahan’s long article trying to reposition Howard in the American on Saturday.

    “Far too many people, including people in the Labour Party, are looking at this through the prism of the domestic political debate and thinking, ‘Oh well, every setback will vindicate our position even more’: They are playing with strategic dynamite.”

    If you put this in the past tense, and change Labour to Liberal, is there any better definition of Howard’s own folly?

  2. Homer Paxton
    May 31st, 2004 at 11:23 | #2

    Can I get any feedback on the banning of people on Blogsites.
    I am thinking of Jack Strocchi and his banning on Tim Blair’s site.
    He has said Tim wouldn’t agree with the banning but nevertheless Tim has gone along with it.

    Is there any reason for banning somoeone from a blog apart from coarse and libellous language?

    In Jack’s case is Tim as culpable as the person who has banned Jack? Should Tim go elswhere as a matter of principle?

  3. May 31st, 2004 at 11:27 | #3

    I appear to have been sin-binned from Tim Blair’s site, as a result of a verbal stoush with some of the more belligerent commentators. I took to calling people who disagreed with my point of view as “idiots”, as a form of pre-emptive blog war fare. Sort of punishment fitting the crime.
    The penalty appears to have lapsed as I have slunk back onto the site without arousing any ire from Andrea Harris, Tim’s scary web mistress.

  4. May 31st, 2004 at 11:45 | #4

    Andrea hosts the site, and can ban/unban/triple ban with no returns anybody she chooses to. Because she monitors comments a lot more closely than I do, I’m totally happy to go along with Andrea’s selections.

    Homer, who doesn’t have a site of his own, uses others’ websites as a platform for his commentary, and complains when that platform is denied (to anybody). Has he ever donated to any of the sites he reads every day?

  5. John Quiggin
    May 31st, 2004 at 11:46 | #5

    I think it’s up to the judgement of the site operator. I don’t see a free speech issue since anyone who can log on to the Internet in the first place can set up a blog if they feel like it.

    That said, I think judgement should be exercised carefully. I’ve banned one person whose views and mode of expression I found too offensive for me to wish to engage in debate, and I don’t regret it. I’ve also edited out coarse language and warned a couple of commentators that they are going beyond the bounds of civilised debate.

    On the other hand, if I found I had to censor people all the time, I would probably either change my rules, close of comments or give up blogging altogether.

  6. May 31st, 2004 at 12:34 | #6

    Reminder, particularly to JQ: I’ve contributed my larger feedback on the JQ review of why democracies lose small wars. Further feedback welcome, and I hope I didn’t miss the boat getting it together.

  7. May 31st, 2004 at 12:35 | #7

    I have no complaints to make towards Tim.The ban was a sin-bin, after the issue of at least two yellow cards. So I can’t really complain. He actually put in a good word on my behalf to Andrea, who finally relented.
    Then I lost it again. But we all lose it now and again, as both Pr Q and Tim B know to their chagrin.
    I did feel that the general tone of Andrea’s site encouraged brutal keystroke-to-keystroke combat. The “trolls” were at a political disadvantage when when they responded in kind, on account of Andrea’s partisan refereeing. This made banning agressive me-types, whilst leaving the anti-me-typess free to flail away, a little bit anomalous.
    Regarding the flow of resources, commentators do get a soap box to air their views, free of charge. They have an obligation to add value when they comment, ie provide a link or quote relevant to the discussion or donate.
    I can’t say that I have donated to Tim’s site, apart from sending him money for the Bali victims and standing him a few drinks now and then (hey Tim, its your shout!).

  8. John Quiggin
    May 31st, 2004 at 12:39 | #8

    PML, my response will take the form of a revised draft. I’d welcome more comments from others addressing the points you raised or bringing up new ones.

  9. May 31st, 2004 at 13:44 | #9

    Hello,

    I’ve already sent this to JQ, but I think most of you would like to read this. It is a link to Sen. John Faulkners’ maiden speech to parliament in 1989, which includes some surprisingly accurate predictions if John Howard were to become Prime Minister.

    http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/senators/homepages/first_speech/sfs-5k4.htm

  10. wmmbb
    May 31st, 2004 at 22:58 | #10

    More often than not my comments are seemingly completely ignored. Needless to say, as far as I am concerned, any of my comments can be banned on any pretext that the blog holder/ site operator desires. Attempted segue here with a question: Is commenting on blogs an important use of time?

    This question arises from my statement that I was going to use my time effectively, which I have discover via Stephen R Covey, a management guru I suppose, means doing things that are important but not yet urgent. As an unemployed person since 12 March I have being on a sabbatical, which sadly is coming to an end this week, at least in the short term. So I have in the order of 800 hours available to me, and while I cannot calculate my time allocation exactly, I doubt in retrospect whether I have spent even 30% of this time doing things that are important but not urgent. I have got some work and renovations done around the house which otherwise would never have been done. Over a cup of tea today, discussing things with my builder, I have the barebones for examining a business model, which may or not work.

    The major problem I had as an unemployed person, after I had sorted out my issues with my previous employer – a process that took far too much time, more their doing than mine – was to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity. One way I found to deal with this issue is to create deadlines. Of course, the loss of income can be serious practical and emotional handicap. And my subjective experience, bearing in mind I have knocked back as well as being knocked back, was that opportunities are tighter in my field than might be supposed by the unemployment figures. One reason in the call centre/customer service skill set field is that many university students are employed on a part time basis, which raises the bar in terms of ability. Typing speed and accuracy, data entry, and familiarity with spreadsheets are skills in demand. Some of us are not typists. The existence of more capable workers, in my observation, does not necessarily flow into more intelligent management systems (and perhaps for understandable reasons).

    Unemployment is such a job in itself, that I have not had time to submit my usual level of uncommented upon comments. Finally, Joseph Schumpeter, at least, saw unemployment is a positive frame:
    “The proper role of a healthily functioning economy is to destroy jobs and put labor to [more effective?] work elsewhere.”

  11. Harry Clarke
    June 1st, 2004 at 00:29 | #11

    The Productivity Commission a few years ago argued that legalised gambling created more consumer benefits than social costs. This always struck me as one of their more stunningly shallow and silly reports given the social horror they so accurately identified as a consequence of legalised gambling.

    Now in the light of John Cain’s comments and Police Chief Nixon’s arguments the Bracks Government in Victoria is being forced to address the links between money-laundering at Crown Casino and organised crime.

    The Casino it seems fleeces unwise workers and takes a hefty cut from organised crime.

    My contribution to Monday Message Board. Let’s gradually eliminate the junkie-like dependence of State Treasuries on gambling revenues and (i) actively discourage gambling by restricting the issue of new poker machine licences (ii) establish a sunset clause on all casino licenses and (iii) provide accurate information on gambling illusions in schools and on the media to discourage gambling.

    Gambling is like dope. Its use is partly a question of availability. Driving it underground isn’t ideal but quasi-laissez-faire is worse.

  12. kyan gadac
    June 1st, 2004 at 00:35 | #12

    Here’s a head’s up on Aussies working at Abu Ghraib. The estimable Robert Fisk reporting that the mysterious Staphanovic of CACI fame (CACI’s the mercenary firm in charge of interogations at Abu Ghraib) ‘may also be’ an Australian (as well as a mercenary! which is worse?). Anybody know any ex SAS blokes called Staphanovic?

    Now I know that Fisk is often regarded as unreliable although unpalatable may be closer to the mark(IMHO), but this may explain the apparent nervousness of Howard and Co today in Parliament when discussing the travails of Major Cole.

    P.S.
    I reckon the Travails of Major Cole has gotta be a cert for a musical, a black version of The Rocky Horror Show….

  13. John Quiggin
    June 1st, 2004 at 13:36 | #13

    wmmbb, I enjoy reading your comments even if I don’t always respond. I think commenting on blogs is a form of conversation. Like conversation in general, it’s sometimes worthwhile and sometimes not.

    Harry, I broadly agree with you, though I think (as I do with dope) that gambling isn’t always bad. In particular, I think the enjoyment associated with lotto and similar games outweighs any negative social consequences. Here’s my submission to the PC inquiry

    kyan, I’m pretty sure it’s been established that this guy is from Adelaide – your spelling may be off and may inhibit Google

  14. Homer Paxton
    June 1st, 2004 at 14:47 | #14

    Jack it must be catching I have now been banned from the Gravett empire.

    It appears ‘rightwingers’ have a lot in common with Usama. He bears no criticism either.

  15. Harry Clarke
    June 1st, 2004 at 14:56 | #15

    John, I read your gambling paper — its a good read — and have doubts about an aspect of it. The casinos have done well (I am told) because the price of gambling (expected loss per dollar) is lower in casinos. This suggests more price elasticity in the demand for gambling than you suggest is likely.

    Your suggestion to remove monopoly controls on gambling would attract lots of entry which, with competition, might reduce further the price of gambling and increase the demand for gambling services.

    People would gamble more frequently but their expected losses per dollar ‘invested’ would be lower. Their overall losses increase if the volume effects dominate the reduced loss effects which (I think) is the case if demand is elastic.

    In this case competition drives a bad outcome doesn’t it? I have similar vague thoughts about the undesirability of having competition in insurance if a moral hazard drives insurance demands.

    Your remarks on the limited case for dope are interesting. Were you a flower child in the 1970s? Are you one now?

  16. Uncle Milton
    June 1st, 2004 at 18:33 | #16

    Harry

    do you have any suggestions on where state treasuries might get the revenue they would lose without the pokies? Junkie-like their dependance on gambling taxes may be, but they pay for a lot of schools and hospitals.

  17. Harry Clarke
    June 1st, 2004 at 18:44 | #17

    Uncle Milton, You would be better off taxing anywhere else that is (a) not so highly regressive and (b) does not rely on the social evils (divorce, suicide, family distress) that are associated with problem gambling that underlie the profits of the casinos and pokies.

    Victoria lived without 15% of its budget being financed by gambling taxes for a long-time. Why not again?

  18. Uncle Milton
    June 1st, 2004 at 19:06 | #18

    Harry, state governments don’t have a lot of taxing options. The Feds have the income tax and the GST, and the High Court won’t let the states levy excise taxes. In the good old days when Victoria had no gambling taxes, it taxed tobacco, alcohol and petrol, which it’s not allowed to do anymore. Services were cheaper to provide, in real terms, than they are now.

    This is why the states are so dependant on gambling taxes.

    Take away gambling tax revenue, and you would need some combination of higher payroll taxes, higher land taxes and higher stamp duties. Which would you suggest?

  19. Harry Clarke
    June 1st, 2004 at 20:06 | #19

    Uncle Milton, tax up to the point where the marginal cost of doing so equals the marginal benefit from public spending.

    The marginal cost of taxing gambling is high because it relies on creating a class of problem people who destroy their own lives and those of others with gambling problems. Whether addiction to gambling is an externality or not is irrelevant — there are starkly real social costs of problem gambling and social benefits are non-existent.

    Hence either cut the spending because the costs of getting the taxes is high or replace these costly taxes with taxes that are also costly but less so.

    And, no, I have not evaded your question. But I have reposed it in a better way.

  20. kyan gadac
    June 2nd, 2004 at 05:06 | #20

    A possible taxing option for state governments – a road transport tonnage levy.

    Insofar, as road revenue is equated with road transport costs it’s well demonstrated that heavy road haulage doesn’t pay it’s way. Estimates of 5 to 10 times as much costs in road repairs versus income from rego and other fees.

    The very whisper of such a suggestion to a politician is usually greeted with fear and loathing at the thought of the power of the road transport lobby. But such spinelessness is usually hiding guilt about the idea actually having merit.

    Albany port is expecting to ship 2 millon tonnes of wood chip mostly moved by road. A tax of $1/tonne would start to make a dint in the expected road bill(about $10m locally but the figures are rubbery) Compare this to the actual cost of $20 – $25 tonne quoted for the cost of transport from the farm to the port, out of a FOB price of $85 tonne at Albany port.

    These figures are just for one industry that I know something about, but I assume that bulk road transport costs are similar for other industries. A $1 a tonne(per 100km say) would have limited impact on short haul heavy road tranpsort.

    Long distance road haulage (especially to outback areas) would need to be protected from such a tax because of it’s impact on prices of consumables. A sliding scale, decreasing as the length of the overall journey increases, would help offset some of the obvious complaints.

    It seems particularly iniquitous that the woodchip industry in particular, gets serious tax breaks and then benefits from distortions in road tax/spending.

    This has the added benefit of increasing rail patronage where state governments still may have rental income options(if they haven’t sold it off completely)

  21. Uncle Milton
    June 2nd, 2004 at 10:17 | #21

    Kyan, whatever the merits of a road tonnage transport levy, it would probably be successfully challenged in the courts, as an excise tax.

  22. k
    June 3rd, 2004 at 01:14 | #22

    But is a transport levy an excise? It’s not a tax on production but a rent charged for the use of the road? I’d defer to more educated minds if I’m wrong but that was my naive idea.

  23. June 3rd, 2004 at 12:45 | #23

    My own thinking was to go for a seriously modified land tax, a tax on the fixed assets of businesses (commercial plant and property), not on their value but on a sliding scale according to the class of asset (so much per 10 ton truck, so much per retail sq. m., so much per retail street frontage, so much per heavy manufacturing sq. m., etc.). The ideal of the regression analysis would be to correlate rates with average use in an area, so that there wouldn’t be much change in an individual business’s burden if it invested – that would tend to increase the aggregate for other nearby businesses more.

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