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Iraqi elections

December 16th, 2005

The Iraqi elections appear to have gone well, with a high Sunni turnout. Hopefully, the post-election haggling won’t take months like last time, now that there is no longer a requirement for a two-thirds majority.

The big question now is whether this will lead to a US withdrawal, either because the new government demands it or because the Bush Administration decides to declare victory.

Among the possible victory conditions, the holding of elections is the only one likely to happen any time soon. There’s no reason to think that the insurgency will end as long as the occupation continues – similar insurgencies have lasted for decades in many countries.

As for training Iraqi troops, it’s clear that the problems here are not going to be resolved simply by the passing of time. Basic training for US marines takes 13 weeks, and (IIRC) the Iraqis get less, so obviously there has been plenty of time to train troops. The real problem is that any serious armed force is bound to be under the control of one or other of the militias, which might turn against the US.

A staged withdrawal would probably lead to an intensification of the insurgency in the short run. But the end of occupation would reduce support for the insurgents in the long run. It’s not a great option, but it’s hard to see a better one.

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  1. Steve Munn
    December 16th, 2005 at 20:43 | #1

    I strongly disagree with your claim that the insurgency would end if the Coalition pulled out. Indeed, I think it would intensify if the Coalition withdraws before the insurgency is disabled.

    Insurgent chief Zarqawi has made it clear that he regards the majority Shi’ites as infidels. He has no time for the Kurds either. I think the insurgency would be emboldened by a Coalition pullout and would encourage all out war against both groups, especially the Shi’ites. In such a situation the Kurds might unilaterally declare independence, which would be violently opposed by Turkey. I can also see Iran and Syria sticking their beaks into the conflagration.

    The insurgency has to be smashed before the Coalition pulls out if Iraq is to have any chance of building a stable democracy. Nevertheless, if the new Iraqi Government demands that the Coalition withdraws by a specified time then it will have to withdraw. To do otherwise would be both strategically and morally wrong. Having said that I think the new Government will want the Coalition to hang around until it feels confident the back of the insurgency is broken.

  2. Ian Gould
    December 16th, 2005 at 21:47 | #2

    As it happens Steve I agree with your conclusion – that a full-scale withdrawal at this time would be unwise.

    Howaver I have to disagree with this statement:

    “Insurgent chief Zarqawi has made it clear that he regards the majority Shi’ites as infidels.”

    Zarqawi is the leader of only one of several factions within the insurgency and probably not the largest one.

  3. Steve Munn
    December 16th, 2005 at 23:57 | #3

    Ian Gould says: “Zarqawi is the leader of only one of several factions within the insurgency and probably not the largest one.”

    I must admit I simplified matters to some extent, for the purposes of brevity. I realise the insurgency isn’t one dimensional. The pro-Saddamists, for example, are also significant players. The Shi’ite al-Sadr and his followers appear to no longer be part of the insurgency. That bloke still worries me though.

  4. December 17th, 2005 at 00:43 | #4

    Sigh. Gone “well”? There is a self enforcing dynamic in these things, because those who don’t participate get marginalised even if they don’t endorse the result. It’s clearly at work among the Sunni now. All that remains is for them to discover the tactics the Irish used – join and sabotage, all the while asserting that their participation does not imply endorsement until people get the message and they can divert from the lines laid down by these internal dynamics.

    I can quote chapter and verse on all this, and I will if people ask, but I warn you that it is copious. For now, note that one cannot infer endorsement from particpation – it’s actually a stitch up effect inherent in representative democracy that manufactures apparent consent. It sometimes feeds back into participants so that they eventually settle for small tactical victories by working the system that they originally wanted to abstain from in entirety; they lose themselves in the process.

    As, when and if that happens, one may call the democracy a “success” – but only in its own terms, not in terms of the people subjected to it. Do please read some anarchist thinking on the subject.

  5. Steve Munn
    December 17th, 2005 at 01:12 | #5

    PM Lawrence- If you possess a formula for the governance of a community that it superior to representative democracy, please share it with us. If not, stop wasting everybody’s time.

  6. conrad
    December 17th, 2005 at 05:47 | #6

    Steve, I didn’t find PML was wasting my time. What percentage of countries with major categorically distiguishable groups (that quite possibly really dislike each other) where people vote based almost purely on ethnic or religious lines have representative democracies that work over the long term without great loss to one of the groups ?

  7. Hal9000
    December 17th, 2005 at 08:43 | #7

    Much of this thread seems to be being conducted by folk whose knowledge of the subject is entirely gleaned from US propaganda. This is understandable, given most journalists in Iraq never venture outside their fortified hotels other than to go to Green Zone press conferences whose connection to reality echoes the old Baghdad Bob’s during the invasion.

    “Insurgent chief Zarqawi” … is not even Iraqi, and is responsible for a tiny fraction of the daily death toll. He is a convenient bogeyman for the US, which has been running the line that ‘foreign terrorists’ are responsible for the insurgency. If you believe that, I’ve got a relative in Nigeria who needs to move some cash and you look to be the person for the job. It is true that most of the death toll is caused by foreigners, but the ones responsible fly planes, speak a mongrel version of English and hunger for MacDonald’s hamburgers.

    All, repeat all, of the parties participating in the election other than the Kurds have as their number one policy the withdrawal of foreign troops. The Kurds just want their own country and if they get it (and they are well advanced in that direction) Turkey is likely to join the fray.

    Iraq today combines the unattractive features of Iraq under Hussein and a warlord state like Somalia or Afghanistan. Death squads, disappearances, torture, kidnapping, chaos and private armies. To imagine Jeffersonian democracy springing from this toxic sludge is to enter a fantasy world. What a glorious success the invasion has been.

  8. Ros
    December 17th, 2005 at 09:34 | #8

    There must be something wrong with me in that at this moment, while it is of interest to us as well as the Iraqis what will be the possible program now of Coalition presence and involvement, I don’t wish to analyse and dismember this event, or hear again the determined voices decrying the honesty and hard work of these people seeking to build for themselves an honourable and decent democracy. And, as always for some, denying that they will achieve it.

    Rather I marvel at the courage and determination of this much put upon people and enjoy words such as these from a friend of ITM�S., and I would suspect a Sunni.

    “From 59 to 64 to 70%…in one year our people have proven that the future belongs to them and not those whose claws scarred Iraq’s neck.

    A few bombs and some bullets, that’s all what the terrorists could do to interrupt the carnival in Baghdad. The people heard the explosions but those weren’t loud enough to distract the marching hearts from their destination. I saw our policemen yesterday showing their hearts too when they refused to wear their armors, maybe because they didn’t want to let anything stand between our hearts from theirs.�

    Go and read and enjoy. And maybe what Iraqis have to say about themselves and their country deserves some acknowledgement. If they think that participation infers endorsement of their fledgling democracy and it’s goals, well good luck to them and I respect their ability to make it so, despite the hard road and the inevitable glitches.

    “It is a day we will await to come again for four long years…to do the right thing again or to correct the mistake if we did one yesterday.�

    Seems to me like this chap has a view of democracy that I can relate to.

    And to smile at photos of Iraqis such as Muhaisin Bidairy Abdullah “who was born in 1900 and I think he is the oldest amongst the voters came leaning on his grandsons and could hardly breathe with tears visible in his eyes “

    Or a middle Aged Iraqi women proudly and joyfully clutching with her purple finger her Iraqi flag emblazoned with “Vote for Iraq�

    Some of the pictures that have come to us from Iraq I think deserve to be amongst those that stand as historical pictorial records of ordinary humanity at it’s best.

    The sum is greater than the parts and with so many citizens of Iraq being such great and determined parts who knows what Iraq may achieve. There is a freshness and excitement about them, much ignored by many of those who claim to be credible spokespersons for (and against) the west which can, I have concluded, only see a world that matches their own sad tired miserable souls.
    To predict doom gloom and failure is not only nothing better than guesswork predicated on the failures of our past, it is plain mean.

    http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/
    Along with PM they ran a sort of online election room following the election from 8 centres in Iraq.

  9. Katz
    December 17th, 2005 at 09:56 | #9

    Steve, PML is simply enunciating the truth that most of the civilised world made when Bush announced his ridiculous frolic in Iraq.

    But Bush was so dazzled by Neocons’ absurd dreams and the prospect of cheap oil to fuel America’s “non-negotiable” way of life, he ignored both moral and practical arguments against invasion.

    Then Bush made matters worse by listening to the military fantasies of Donald Rumsfeld. Bush ignored the warnings of actual grown-up military experts in preference to Rumsfeld. Remember Rumsfeld’s serial redisignations of the insurgency? Here is a man who believes that reality can be made to conform to words.

    Because Bush listened to Rumsfeld, he could not increase US military commitments without admitting that his administration had miscalculated. Instead, Bush proclaimed “Mission Accomplished”!

    Thus Bush found himself in the position of a gambler who thinks he has bet on a sure thing, and lost. He knows that to win he must double-up, but he doesn’t have the guts. Nor can he walk away from the table. He sits there, playing with his remaining chips and seething about his own stupidity. Thus, Bush doesn’t have the stomach to “smash the insurgency”.

    This Iraqi electoral process — three votes! — represents the ultimate defeat of Bush’s hopes for postwar Iraq. I won’t call these hope “plans”, because as the Downing Street Memos reveal, no real planning happened. The present Iraqi government is essentially the front for Shiite militia. Iraq is now thoroughly islamicised. The US invasion of Iraq is a victory for the Ayatollahs. The recent enormous political victory for fundamentalism in Iran must have sent a chill down Bush’s spine. Remember how the American adventure in Iraq was supposed to serve as an example for the entire Middle East?

    The Bush Clique now knows that they must withdraw, but they cannot admit defeat. Thus, the Iraqi elections will be spun as a victory for American plans. The American withrawal will be timetabled according to the US domestic political cycle, notably the half-term congressional elections where Republicans are facing a holocaust.

    But American withdrawal will have little to do with the stability of Iraq. Not long after American Iraq veterans get their “victory parade”, Iraqis will be preparing to ramp up their civil war. Bush, in Dead Duck mode, will threaten and moralise.

    But the Americans won’t be going back to Iraq.

    So Steve, you ought to be asking the Bush Clique about its formula for governance if Iraq.

    The Bush Clique broke Iraq and now they discover they can’t afford to buy Iraq.

  10. December 17th, 2005 at 12:42 | #10

    Katz, JQ started the post with: “The Iraqi elections appear to have gone well, with a high Sunni turnout. ”

    The elections (3 in 12 months) show that the “Bush clique” never intended to “buy” Iraq.

    If Iraq was all about oil, all about naked imperialism, why go through all the nonsense of nation building and elections. Might have been much easier just to have locked down the whole country, and run the place from Washington.

    Why also run the risk of a (democratically elected) Shia run Iraq?

    How can according to your words: “This Iraqi electoral process — three votes! — represents the ultimate defeat of Bush’s hopes for postwar Iraq.”

    The election is being contested, of course by religious parties, but also by secular lists. If the elections were then just a ‘US conspiracy’, why allow the presence of the Islamists on the ballots?

  11. December 17th, 2005 at 13:50 | #11

    Steve Munn, there are no magic bullet answers, and what is more your counter-criticism is like saying nobody is allowed to criticise unless they have answers. It’s like saying you can’t tell a taxi driver he’s going the wrong way.

    If you do read the anarchist criticisms, you will see that you are requiring that insight to reverse itself and somehow come up with ways of governing, when its great achievement is to recognise our own fallibility!

    On the other hand if you feel that it is wasting your time to tell you that you are wasting your time on a vain search for something that isn’t there, why, I’ll leave you to waste your own time.

    I remember once that I saw an ice cream van about to drive off with a power connection still screwed into a permanent socket, so I tried to get the driver’s attention. He thought he had better things to do than wind down his window and react to my frantic waving, so he kept manoeuvring until it seemed convenient to him to condescend to address me.

    “What do you want?”, he asked grumpily. “Well”, I replied, “I was going to tell you that your power fitting was still permanently connected. But it isn’t any more.” And sure enough, he had some dangling torn wires and no means of reconnecting when he got to his next site.

    There’s a moral here somewhere.

  12. December 17th, 2005 at 14:00 | #12

    Oh, Ros, I have no problem with people building democracy for themselves, but it is sheer hypocrisy to set up a nominal system that rules permanent minorities and pretend that (a) democracy justifies it, and (b) their attempts to mitigate the damage done to them by particpating amount to their endorsing part (a). Point (b) gives the spurious appearance of “their own democracy” applying to all participants, even those who just don’t want to be marginalised.

    I told you that the Irish found this the hard way. Would you criticise the Parnellites for frustrating parliamentary procedure at Westminster, on the grounds that they were sabotaging the efforts of the people of all the British Isles at getting a workable democracy?

    In the same way, there is no single Iraqi people, to the extent needed for meaningful democracy. Democracy works like tying a knot and standing back saying that you aren’t holding the ropes on. With time, the captive may grow to fit his bonds, as in Hawaii, so that undoing it would be even worse after that – but that does not make the original exercise ethical.

    You become guilty of the (metaphorical) idolatry of setting ends above means when you elevate “democracy” to the status of an ideal objective rather than an occasionally useful technique for implementing and expressing something else that needs to be justified on its own separate grounds.

  13. December 17th, 2005 at 14:04 | #13

    I meant, setting means above ends. Oops.

  14. Katz
    December 17th, 2005 at 14:10 | #14

    W by W,

    Everything you say is logical, until you learn a few facts. Then you discover that the real world is a much untidier place than the neat little model you have of it in your mind.

    1. The Bush Clique didn’t want these elections. Ali Sistani intimidated the Bush Clique into holding the first in the series. Since then, the Bush Clique has been trying to play catch-up and to spin this process of US domestic political purposes.

    2. Even the Bush Clique is too smart to induslge in “naked imperialism”. But oil is precisely what was on the mind of the Bush Clique when it seemed to them that the Iraq frolic was going well for them. I invite you to Google Executive Order 13303, You will notice that the Bush clique were fixated on Iraqi oil. If the Bush Clique had really been interested in the welfare of ordinary Iraqis, EO 13303 would have protected the trade in dates, and not oil. Of course, this little plan sent up in smoke when the Iraq frolic turned pear-shaped. No one mentions it any more.

  15. Ros
    December 17th, 2005 at 18:07 | #15

    Thouroughly confused now as to what democracy is, I would still argue that the understanding of the Iraqi hopeful that
    “It is a day we will await to come again for four long years…to do the right thing again or to correct the mistake if we did one yesterday.�
    Is confirmation of his grasp of democracy and falls within
    “an occasionally useful technique for implementing and expressing something else that needs to be justified on its own separate grounds.�
    And what if he had the same language as you PM and considered himself an observer rather than a participant in the challenge of reaching for democracy as a process and as an objective.

    Apart from that I cheerfully confess that I am struggling to understand much of what you say. Knots, ropes and Hawaiians really passes me by. Or like if I am setting means above ends, how is it that I am, it would seem, setting democracy, the ideal thing, above, democracy, one of the ways for implementing and expressing, say, the Rule of Law? You make me feel that it may be that I am in fact living in a matrix and that democracy is in the main either fraud or conceit.

    I do ask you about this if I may,
    “In the same way, there is no single Iraqi people, to the extent needed for meaningful democracy.�
    Though I am left with the sense that meaningful democracy is for you the most rare of beasts, when would a nation such as ours move past the point at which we would no longer constitute a single people to the extent needed for meaningful democracy. Maybe of course that is very much a matter of personal judgement. As the Iraqis at this point declare that is what they are and wish to be, is their judgement not enough, and doesn’t that sense of one nation grow as a result of calling it thus. And it is hard to see Shia Muslims as being more different to Sunni Muslims than Australia’s first people are to the many and varied immigrants. Or should I understand that we are not a meaningful democracy.

    As to what happened with the Irish, well, the place that Iraq is in now is unique as are all moments in history, similarities with other unique moments does not change the fact that the differences mean that Iraq’s outcome will be something else. Maybe even a meaningful democracy, they might show us all.

    It is not unintelligent or time wasting to consider that in a chaotic situation what may emerge might just as well be good for Iraqis as bad, and that they have the wherewithal to push events that way. And that what emerges will be both democratic in form and function, and that it is possible for those outside to try and influence the wave to that better end. And to suggest that to see Iraqis as incapable of achieving this because of their particular circumstances (if superior beings such as Europeans couldn’t get there from such a start!) is to correspondingly serve to influence to that dark end for Iraq so beloved by many.

    And Oh, PM, it may be something about the way you give advice that inspires others like ice-cream vans drivers, to wish that you wouldn’t.

  16. December 17th, 2005 at 18:26 | #16

    Katz Says: December 17th, 2005 at 2:10 pm “W by W, Everything you say is logical”

    Thank you – I thought so too.

    But re: your points 1 & 2.

    1. “The Bush Clique didn’t want these elections. ”

    Have you a source or two for this claim, that you could point me to

    Even if true, this was probably a timing issue, rather than one of principal.

    2. “Even the Bush Clique is too smart to induslge in “naked imperialismâ€?. But oil is precisely what was on the mind of the Bush Clique”

    Of course oil was important. Via increased exports, the oil revenues would be immeidately used to rebuild Iraq’s economy brought to its knees by Saddam’s kleptomania and the sanctions. Iraq has nothing else it can use to generate international finance quickly and so readily, so of course oil would be a priority in nation building. Petrodollars would have been used to rebuild Iraq, rather than reliance on US government funds.

  17. Steve Munn
    December 17th, 2005 at 19:15 | #17

    I agree with Week by Week. If the US was only interested in oil then they would have patched up relations with Saddam. It was also pragmatic for the US to secure oil installations immediately after the occupation since oil is central to the Iraqi economy and hence the post war recovery. Katz is making wild claims without any evidence. Feel good conspiracy theories are no substitute for thoughtful analysis.

  18. Katz
    December 17th, 2005 at 21:50 | #18

    Steve and W by W,

    Perhaps you could read EO 13303, summarise for yourself what you understand it to mean, and then critique my, and many other similar, interpretations of it.

    i’d be happy to discuss your interpretations. With all due respect, I’m much lest interested in discussion your a priori understanding of the world.

    Here’s a place to start: what precisely is meant by, and what are the consequences, of the President of the United States declaring a “national emergency” *after* most of Iraq had already been invaded and occupied?

    Feel free to go on from there.

  19. abb1
    December 18th, 2005 at 06:35 | #19

    …and the prospect of cheap oil…

    The do want to control oil, but they don’t want cheap oil necessarily.

    Oil was cheap during the Clinton administration, so cheap, in fact, that Texas (where it costs about $20 to extract a barrel) had to get out of the game almost completely. Texas oil-men have no reason to complain now.

  20. jquiggin
    December 18th, 2005 at 07:31 | #20

    WbyW, Bremer wanted a system of caucuses with selected participants and Sistani rejected it. Search for Sistani on this blog and you’ll find plenty of discussion at the time, for exaple this post

  21. December 18th, 2005 at 13:41 | #21

    Katz re: EO 13303

    I found the official transcript here (of all places at a NASA .gov domained site) http://nodis3.gsfc.nasa.gov/displayEO.cfm?id=EO_13303_

    EO 13303 was amended in 2004 http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/actions/20041130.shtml which “extend to the Central Bank of Iraq the same immunity from attachment and other judicial process granted to the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and to Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products.”

    The EO is fairly dense legalese.

    I think you using EO 13303 is pushing the conspiracy thing too far.

    It extends immunity to the Iraqi Development Fund and all petroleum related products etc. The reason why the Development Fund was immune as they needed to be free from any legal liability inherited from the Saddam regime. The reason why petroleum products etc were ‘immune’ again owed to corrupt contracts and arrangements for oil struck by Saddam.

    Are you therefore saying that the Iraqis (post Saddam) should continue to be bound to Saddam initiated contracts and arrangements? That is what the French and the Russians argued pre-and immediately post-liberation.

  22. Katz
    December 18th, 2005 at 16:09 | #22

    W by W,

    EO 13303 isn’t a conspiracy. Unlike many EOs, it was promulgated openly and in the first flush of apparent victory in May 2003.

    Indeed EO13303 is dense legalese.

    Your analysis of EO 13303 is correct, as far as it goes.

    EO 13303 offered blanket immunity to anyone dealing in Iraqi oil from any legal proceedings whatsoever. Such a provision goes far beyond protection from immunity from inherited liabilities to the Saddam regime. In fact, it is difficult to imagine how parties involved in Iraqi oil could be liable for anything. As you say, the EO is dense legalese. Persons skilled in legalese could draft an order that encompasses your reading, and nothing more.

    I note that you haven’t addressed the question as to why the matters dealt with in this Executive Order might occasion the declaration of a “National Emergency”.

  23. December 18th, 2005 at 16:58 | #23

    Katz you raise two points.

    1.”EO 13303 isn’t a conspiracy. Unlike many EOs, it was promulgated openly and in the first flush of apparent victory in May 2003.”

    If the promulgation was so open and apparently transparent what’s the fuss all about? If it wasn’t “open and apparently transparent” then there may be a problem.

    2. Re: this Executive Order might occasion the declaration of a “National Emergency�.
    My guess is that the promulgation needed legal authority, and as the top link in my earlier post shows, that the legal authority was vested in the “…the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, as amended (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.)”

    Perhaps this explains the “national emergency” thing, as both statutes reference ‘emergency’ in the titles!!!

  24. Steve Munn
    December 18th, 2005 at 17:05 | #24

    Katz- Why not demonstrate some solidarity with the Iraqi people, who have just turned out in huge numbers to vote for their representatives? Even in Sunni areas, turnouts of 70% and more have been estimated. About 48 different parties were listed on the ballot papers, which seems like a good range of choices to me. Such a successful exercise in democracy is surely more worthy of comment than finding excuses for churlish grievance mongering.

    In any case, presumably the Iraqi parliament can pass any law it wishes in relation to oil, thus making EO 13303 obsolete. I also note that you have failed to provide any evidence that any significant scandal arose out of the Executive Order.

  25. December 18th, 2005 at 17:45 | #25

    Ros, I couldn’t make it any simpler and short enough to fit here, because it just isn’t that simple. I can give you a few slogans if you like, like the anarchist one about “don’t vote, it only validates the farce”, but that would be begging the question of which votes are farces and which ones aren’t.

    Out and out anarchists think that all votes are farces. Me, I accept democracy as means but not as ends, and I truly see the Iraq nonsense as a stitch up of the usual sort when you rig things. It’s nothing but a recap of the Athenians (and later the Macedonians and the Romans) using “democracy” as an excuse for empire building and a technique for client state rule at the victims’ expense.

    Now, I can mention “Hawaii” so you can read up the history of US imperialism there via dummy democracy, but the one thing I can’t do is tell it short and simple. It works by misdirection, and it takes a lot of work to unpick it. The existence of dupes and hypocrites in Iraq in no sense validates the farce. Some have been conned, and others hope to use the techniques to advance their own particular agendas. But there is no “Iraqi nation”, for the simple reason that the USA undercut British efforts in that direction after Suez, efforts that had been working since the ’30s.

    I can’t fight that misdirection without either making simplifying assumptions that accord with your preconceptions (which would build in your answers), or by making correct assumptions that you would immediately spot meant that I hadn’t proved the point – that I myself was begging the question.

    So, despite history not repeating precisely, go and look up some of the episodes I mentioned like Irish constitutional history, then try to draw out more general lessons from that. You may find it more widely valuable, but it will illustrate that the forms of democracy and the sincerity of some of its advocates just don’t get you to the point where it is a good thing in and of itself.

    Winston Churchill’s comments about it being least worst do not make it good in either the moral or the efficiency sense, and they don’t mean you can stop asking once you have satisfied yourself that you have got democracy; if anything, a working democracy only means that doing the right thing is now down to you and there is nobody else on the spot. But Iraq isn’t even that, it’s just an excuse to declare mission accomplished all over again. From the US point of view a successful stitch up is good enough, because it would mean that the interests in place in Iraq would lock in an ararngement convenient for the USA.

    Now remember, that was a short response to your criticisms. You need to look up the anarchist strand of thought to see more of the gaps in all this conventional wisdom. (And don’t get the idea that they have answers either, or that people aren’t allowed to point out problems unless they come to you with overwhelmingly persuasive answers of their own.)

  26. abb1
    December 18th, 2005 at 19:38 | #26

    Not to mention that a bit of sovereignty would seem like a vital ingredient and prerequisite for any ‘democracy’ to qualify as being ‘least worst’. Without sovereignty it’s just a charade, sophistry.

  27. SJ
    December 18th, 2005 at 20:07 | #27

    Katz- Why not demonstrate some solidarity with the Iraqi people, who have just turned out in huge numbers to vote for their representatives?

    Yeah, Katz, why can’t you just suck down the right wing talking points and smile? It’s all about, you know, solidarity. And processes, maybe. (Not due ones, though). You seem to be asking for, like, outcomes or something.

  28. SJ
    December 18th, 2005 at 20:12 | #28

    Second bit shouldn’t have been quoted. That was me.

  29. Terje Petersen
    December 18th, 2005 at 20:53 | #29

    For now, note that one cannot infer endorsement from particpation – it’s actually a stitch up effect inherent in representative democracy that manufactures apparent consent.

    I agree with PML that democracy has next to nothing to do with consent. Democratic government is a beast that we submit to merely because we must. Like all forms of government a democratic one forces us to do things that we would not otherwise do.

    Government is a brutal beast and democracy merely offers a way to make the beast a little less volatile in its temperament.

    Might does not make right, even if the might stems from having the majority on your side.

  30. SJ
    December 18th, 2005 at 21:24 | #30

    Government is a brutal beast and democracy merely offers a way to make the beast a little less volatile in its temperament.

    Might does not make right, even if the might stems from having the majority on your side.

    Jesus. This anarchist crap is tiresome. Are you so niave that you think that eliminating elected governments will eliminate “might is right”? Perhaps you think that “money is right”, and that there’s some benevolent defference between “might” and “money”. FFS.

  31. Terje Petersen
    December 18th, 2005 at 22:00 | #31

    Are you so niave that you think that eliminating elected governments will eliminate “might is right�?

    No I’m not.

    However neither am I so naive as to think that creating elected governments will eliminate “might is right”. It just changes the nature of “might” without addressing the question of “right”.

    PML made the point that participation is not consent. I agree with this basic point. Do you refute it?

    Regards,
    Terje.

    P.S. I am not an anarchist any more than I am a pacifist. However both ideals have something useful to say about the way we construct our world.

  32. SJ
    December 18th, 2005 at 22:19 | #32

    PML made the point that participation is not consent. I agree with this basic point. Do you refute it?

    I do not.

    The statement I take issue with is this one:

    Government is a brutal beast and democracy merely offers a way to make the beast a little less volatile in its temperament

    I know that you don’t claim to be an anarchist, you claim to be some kind of small government libertarian.

    What, in your opinion, is the proper way of taming the “brutal beast”? Why is government a “brutal beast”?

  33. Katz
    December 18th, 2005 at 22:21 | #33

    “Katz- Why not demonstrate some solidarity with the Iraqi people, who have just turned out in huge numbers to vote for their representatives? Even in Sunni areas, turnouts of 70% and more have been estimated. About 48 different parties were listed on the ballot papers, which seems like a good range of choices to me. Such a successful exercise in democracy is surely more worthy of comment than finding excuses for churlish grievance mongering.”

    Steve, I wish the Iraqi people every happiness. I doubt that the coming civil war in Iraq will last as long as the Saddam regime. It may be as bloody. Did the Bush Clique expect to create a Shiite theocracy that controls a large proportion of the world’s oil? I think not. It’s up to the American voters, who have only two viable parties to vote for, to decide whether the got their money’s worth. (I wish the American people every happiness too.)

    “In any case, presumably the Iraqi parliament can pass any law it wishes in relation to oil, thus making EO 13303 obsolete. I also note that you have failed to provide any evidence that any significant scandal arose out of the Executive Order.”

    My original point about EO13303 (go back and read it) is that the whole project was a ludicrous failure. Events have overtaken the Bush clique’s May 2003 rosy scenario of US hegemony in Iraq that would have made EO 13303 relevant. Despite Bush Administration brags to the contrary at the time, he US isn’t going to get its oil from Iraq, except on the world market. The American voters might like to consider that as well next time they go to the hustings.

    Right now, the American people have to decide whether it would be a good idea to impeach Bush for breaking federal law with his past recourse of warrantless surveillance and for his promise to go on breaking the law.

  34. Seeker
    December 18th, 2005 at 23:22 | #34

    This seemingly well informed article might be relevant to the discussion:

    http://www.commondreams.org/views05/1216-30.htm

  35. abb1
    December 19th, 2005 at 00:16 | #35

    Crude Designs: The Rip-Off of Iraq’s Oil Wealth.

    A short version in the Villagevoice: http://villagevoice.com/news/0548,ridgeway,70401,2.html

    A new report called Crude Designs: The Rip-Off of Iraq’s Oil Wealth, prepared by a British consortium, reports that oil deals involving Iraq will be a bonanza for American and other Western companies. Iraq is expected to retain ownership of only 17 out of some 80 known oil fields, and these fields probably will end up under regional—not national—control.

  36. December 19th, 2005 at 08:06 | #36

    Katz Says: December 18th, 2005 at 10:21 pm “My original point about EO13303 (go back and read it) is that the whole project was a ludicrous failure. Events have overtaken the Bush clique’s May 2003 rosy scenario of US hegemony in Iraq that would have made EO 13303 relevant. Despite Bush Administration brags to the contrary at the time, he US isn’t going to get its oil from Iraq, except on the world market. The American voters might like to consider that as well next time they go to the hustings.”

    Katz, apart from be condescending, you are wrong.

    You have the talent of typically being both.

    We’ve disproved your claim in an earlier post. Why are you holding onto EO13303 as being some sort of holy grail confirming your conspiracy theory.

    What next: finding some regulation concerning parking infringements in Bagdad which can be linked and weaved seamlessly into the whole conspiracy?

    It’s getting tiresome.

    Merry Christmas.

  37. Katz
    December 19th, 2005 at 14:20 | #37

    Katz said:

    â€?EO 13303 isn’t a conspiracy.”

    Weekly Said:

    “[Katz w]hy are you holding onto EO13303 as being some sort of holy grail confirming your conspiracy theory. ”

    Katz says:

    Huh?

  38. Terje
    December 19th, 2005 at 15:31 | #38

    Why is government a “brutal beast�?

    Because it governs without consent. Because its modus operandi is force. Because it is funded through theft. Because its clutches are inescapable.

    What, in your opinion, is the proper way of taming the “brutal beast�?

    A couple of options. Start by have as little as is possible (without leading to instability that might lead to anarchy and hence warlords and hence big government). Institutionalise small government using a consitution, decentralisation or any other institutionalisation or structural means possible.

    You can separate the functions of government (executive, judiciary, legislative branch etc).

    Ensure a vibrant media and free speech.

    You can vest powers in regional governments ensuring that power is distributed and there are easy options to flee abuse of power.

    A democratic selection process may be part of the equation to assist in keeping the actions of those in government accountable.

    Democracy may be necessary however it is certainly not sufficient.

    Add a dose of eternal vigalence.

  39. SJ
    December 19th, 2005 at 20:29 | #39

    I see. US Libertarian Party talking points.

    No, thanks.

  40. Terje Petersen
    December 19th, 2005 at 21:11 | #40

    In my view it would have to be better than “social democracy”.

  41. SJ
    December 19th, 2005 at 22:07 | #41

    No, quite simply, it isn’t better.

    The stuff you’ve listed, which the Libertarian Party has taken from various places (the US Constitution, a misquotation of Wendell Phillips, etc), is all well and good on the surface.

    But the Libertarian Party’s philosophy, at its heart, is that property rights are paramount, human rights be damned. And there is simply no way that this position doesn’t devolve into either anarchy, or armed feudalism.

    You can dream on about this stuff, Terje, but it gets tiresome for those of us who went through the same phase in our teens/twenties, and then worked out that it’s ultimately just ****.

    Edited for coarse language. Please refrain

  42. Terje Petersen
    December 20th, 2005 at 09:13 | #42

    property rights are paramount, human rights be damned.

    Where did I say that we should damn human rights? I think human rights (ie free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom of movement) are of central importance. In fact I think rights based ethics worldview is the appropriate starting point for formulating any just political system. I would support a constitutional bill of rights that elevates such human rights to central prominence in our political system. Whilst not infallible such documents do historically provide some restrain against government excess.

    it gets tiresome for those of us who went through the same phase in our teens/twenties, and then worked out that it’s ultimately just ****.

    I think you are talking ****. You can’t deal with the things I said so you introduce other stuff and then attack it. And then you complain that its is tiresome to deal with people who disagree with you.

    I was a socialist dreamer in my teens but these days I have grown up. Its a pity I still have to put up with other peoples socialist ****.

    Now shall we pepper **** all over this discussion or can you say something meaningful.

    Edited for coarse language. Please refrain

  43. Andrew Reynolds
    December 20th, 2005 at 12:32 | #43

    SJ,
    Some of us believe that all power corrupts. Most social democratic systems entrust (IMHO) too much power to the government, creating too much corruption.
    I was a libertarian long before I heard of the US Libertarian Party. I gave up on enforced wealth redistribution systems once I realised that they all had two faults by their very nature – a) the power to forcibly redistribute was always abused by those doing the redistribution, not through any fault of theirs necessarily, but because of the corruption that will accompany power and b) the very act of forcible redistribution reduces the ability of the community to generate the wealth that is the solution of the problem.
    Government will remain a brutal beast because, as a strong centre of power, it cannot be other than a source of corruption. We need a government to do certain things in the community, but, as Terje says, it needs to be limited, constrained and controlled. Any system that trusts its government too much is condemned to failure.
    Maybe one day you will truly reflect on the nature of government and its history. Until then, enjoy your ambitions of social democracy – if not your use of language.

  44. Terje Petersen
    December 20th, 2005 at 13:55 | #44

    a) the power to forcibly redistribute was always abused by those doing the redistribution, not through any fault of theirs necessarily, but because of the corruption that will accompany power and

    b) the very act of forcible redistribution reduces the ability of the community to generate the wealth that is the solution of the problem.

    In other words:-

    a) The agent/principal problem.
    b) The laffer curve. *

    * Actually the laffer curve is focused on how public sector revenue is effected by high taxation rather than how the summation of private and public goods is effected. The summation of both quantities shows a more pronounced case against high levels of taxation, so in fact Andrew was wise to use the word “community”.

  45. Steve Munn
    December 20th, 2005 at 14:53 | #45

    I don’t want to say too much about the right-libertarianism espoused by Andrew and Terje. This is because I think it is bunk, untested and its proponents are ideological zealots. In other words, it is a bit like Marxism (although Marxism has been tested).

    However I’ll make the following criticisms.

    -right-libertarianism is a fundamentally selfish, individual orientated philosophy. In practice, it would impoverish community life.
    - right-libertarianism places far too much faith in the “market” for wealth distribution. The market (which never actually exists in a pure form- check your economics 101 text books boys) has no in-built fairness mechanism.
    - the right-libertarian idea of democratic Government as a “brutal beast” doesn’t match the reality. You will note that in the race riots, it was the police arm of Government that constrained the vicious mob and rescued the “Lebs” from harm. This a good example of good Government protecting us from our own base instincts.
    - In many jurisdictions democratic Government has been ahead of public opinion in granting individual rights. For example the abolition of anti-homosexual laws in most Australian states preceded a softening of public opinion.
    - universal access to quality education, basic social welfare and health care increase the wealth of everyone, even if they require a significant redistribution from the rich to the poor
    - poverty, which would rise enormously under right-libertarianism, would reduce the liberty we all have, for instance by increasing crime rates. I would prefer not to have gated communities in this country, thank you very much.

    One last point- Isn’t there a right-libertarian site somewhere were you guys get all warm and fuzzy? Too many threads on PrQs site seem to get railroaded by discussion of right-libertarian ideas.

  46. Pinguthepenguin
    December 20th, 2005 at 15:49 | #46

    Steve, I think though the problem is always about finding the right balance. Particularly when we see how poorly centralised economies work.
    I think it is a question of which problems do we want to market to solve, and which ones do we decide to keep under our (read government) control?

    While I may not agree with the right-libertarian point of view as described by Terje and friends, I do think they make a valuable contribution and would rather they posted here than got “warm and fuzzy” on some right-libertarian site elsewhere.

  47. Andrew Reynolds
    December 20th, 2005 at 15:51 | #47

    Steve,
    Last point first. I prefer discussing things with people I disagree with. If you don’t, fair enough. I normally find the debate here interesting and stimulating. If I wanted to discuss it with people I agreed with I may as well talk to myself. I also value PrQ’s intellectual honesty in allowing debate on most topics. Too many blogs (daily flute for example) delete comments they do not agree with.
    .
    OK, item by item:
    - Community life, as you call it, is generally stronger in the communities where the government is weaker. Give it some thought and look around the world. The freer the society, the more the community works together. In any case, it is socialism, with its emphasis on forced redistribution, that assumes that people will not give willingly. Is it socialism that assumes that people are fundamentally selfish. You may think that people are fundamentally selfish – I do not.
    - See the point above. I believe people are naturally fair and capable of recognising what is just and what is not. You may disagree – that is your right. Personally, I can think of several examples of ‘pure’ or nearly pure markets, but the strength of the position is that it does not rely on market purity. Read your Hayek and get back to us. The economics 100 I took was taught by unreconstructed Keynesians and I found it of little value, as the 70′s stagflation had proved – to my satisfaction at least.
    - I have never claimed we do not need a government to enforce a monopoly of force and I am not aware of any libertarians who have claimed otherwise.
    - granted, but libertarians would have been in the forefront of the movement to grant individual rights against conservatism on both sides of the political debate. It is what we do.
    - a large State is not needed to ensure this. For example, if the ideal is to ensure access to schooling for all, why does the State have to own the schools?
    - individual freedom is strongly positively correlated with the overall wealth of the society, blowing your last point out of the water. As for gated communities, with the sole exception of the US, they only really exist in countries who have not got a properly functioning system of law and order.

  48. Terje Petersen
    December 20th, 2005 at 16:07 | #48

    This is because I think it is bunk, untested and its proponents are ideological zealots.

    I’m getting the impression that you have strong feelings on the topic.

    right-libertarianism is a fundamentally selfish, individual orientated philosophy. In practice, it would impoverish community life.

    An interesting assertion. I will wait patiently for the rationalisation.

    right-libertarianism places far too much faith in the “market� for wealth distribution. The market (which never actually exists in a pure form- check your economics 101 text books boys) has no in-built fairness mechanism.

    I have no faith that the market will redistribute wealth. However as I am not in favour of redistribution this is hardly a criticism.

    the right-libertarian idea of democratic Government as a “brutal beast� doesn’t match the reality. You will note that in the race riots, it was the police arm of Government that constrained the vicious mob and rescued the “Lebs� from harm. This a good example of good Government protecting us from our own base instincts.

    My instincts don’t tell me to bash “Lebs”, do yours? I support the actions of the police in Cronulla. I think they were heroic individuals who put themselves in harms way to protect members of the public. I have never argued that government abstain from law and order.

    Law and order is way down the list in terms of government expenditure. Its a small ticked item.

    Anarchists may argue that we don’t need police however very few libertarians take that position.

    In many jurisdictions democratic Government has been ahead of public opinion in granting individual rights. For example the abolition of anti-homosexual laws in most Australian states preceded a softening of public opinion.

    I don’t know if your assertion is true. However in any case I think that this would be an example of government being undemocratic. I support the abolition of anti-homosexual laws.

    Have you given much consideration as to who made these laws in the first place? Oh thats right it was a democractic government.

    universal access to quality education, basic social welfare and health care increase the wealth of everyone, even if they require a significant redistribution from the rich to the poor

    Mostly they don’t involve a redistribution. Most people pay taxes roughly equivalent for the services they get in terms of education, social welfare and health care. Its still a wasteful activity.

    Real acts of charity (ie redistribution to the very poor) only involve a very small percentage of the population.

    You overstate your case.

    poverty, which would rise enormously under right-libertarianism, would reduce the liberty we all have, for instance by increasing crime rates. I would prefer not to have gated communities in this country, thank you very much.

    Poverty has become a useless word. The socail value of this word has been totally debased by the left. Do you mean poverty or equality?

    I disagree with you on this point but I suggest that any discussion will be mostly semantics.

    Isn’t there a right-libertarian site somewhere were you guys get all warm and fuzzy? Too many threads on PrQs site seem to get railroaded by discussion of right-libertarian ideas.

    If PrQ asked me to stop contributing to his website then I would.

  49. Pinguthepenguin
    December 20th, 2005 at 16:36 | #49

    “Mostly they don’t involve a redistribution. Most people pay taxes roughly equivalent for the services they get in terms of education, social welfare and health care. Its still a wasteful activity.”

    I’d like to see something backing that up Terje.

    Do you dispute that “universal access to quality education, basic social welfare and health care increase the wealth of everyone”?

    I feel much better living in a society where access to these basics at least is assured for anyone regardless of how fortunate they have been in life (financially or otherwise). Leaving it up to “the market” leaves a lot of people behind.

  50. Sean
    December 20th, 2005 at 16:55 | #50

    A minor point related to some experience I have – after 13 weeks basic, you can march, iron, and polish, possibly have a good handle on the rank system, and can shoot under supervision on a range.

  51. December 20th, 2005 at 18:24 | #51

    Sean, yes. What genuine military types understand (and those like me who have actually researched it), is that basic training really only gives a sort of first fermentation and that – starting from scratch – a fully trained soldier actually needs some two years duty, including some 1% deaths in training, to be as good as is needed (i.e. against similar calibre and equipped forces).

    Some cultures don’t start from scratch, since they have much of the ethos in place during growing up, and the proper use of a reservists’ training scheme (apart from PR) is to provide a sort of pre-cooked pool that “only” needs around six months to be brought up to speed. A while back I wrote an article for the ADA which mentioned these points, which is somewhere on my publications page

  52. Terje Petersen
    December 20th, 2005 at 21:40 | #52

    I’d like to see something backing that up Terje.

    Sure. For more details take a look here:-

    http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=3351

    EXTRACT:-

    It is commonly believed that the primary role of the welfare state is to redistribute resources from rich to poor. This was its original intended purpose, and there is still some redistribution going on today, but much of the $175 billion spent on the welfare state now goes back to the same people who contributed the money in the first place. We pay high taxes to fund government services (often of poor quality) which we could have purchased better for ourselves if only the government hadn’t taken our money.

    The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) estimates that in 2001-02, an average couple with pre-school children paid $374 each week into the welfare state through direct and indirect taxes, but received $320 of this back in welfare benefits and services. Couples with older children paid $474 into the welfare state budget and got $564 back. For these families, the welfare state is not redistributing money, it is churning it.

    Of course, people with low or no incomes at any one time generally get more back from the tax-welfare system than they put in – but over time, they too often end up financing their own benefits. Income mobility is common (only one-quarter of households under the poverty line in 2001 were still there two years later). This means even those who are heavily dependent on the welfare state at one point in their lives often become net contributors at another, so over a lifetime they pay for much or all of what they receive.

    Ann Harding at NATSEM shows that even the lowest lifetime earners end up paying for half of all the income support they receive through their lives and for more than one-third of the value of government-provided health care they consume.

    At least half of the $175 billion of tax revenue spent on the welfare state last year will probably find its way back to the people who paid the money in. If we could eliminate this churning, it would release $85 billion which could fund spectacular tax cuts without making anyone worse off. We could, for example, raise the tax-free income threshold to $20,000 and combine it with a flat 10 per cent income tax.

  53. Ian Gould
    December 21st, 2005 at 13:11 | #53

    >Community life, as you call it, is generally stronger in the communities where the government is weaker. Give it some thought and look around the world. The freer the society, the more the community works together.

    Yes, this is what makes Haiti, Somalia and the Congo the Earthly paradises we all know so well. That and the liberal gun laws , of course.

  54. Steve Munn
    December 21st, 2005 at 21:12 | #54

    Terje, this article is from the smelly Peter Saunders who emanates from the even more smelly CIS think tank. The CIS, like the IPA, receives million in corporate funds but refuses to identify its donors. None of this gives me any confidence in their objectivity.

    I wonder what Mr Saunders has failed to tell us, and whether he has cherry picked figures that favour his claims? In any event, lets read between the lines of this text, from your quote:

    “Ann Harding at NATSEM shows that even the lowest lifetime earners end up paying for half of all the income support they receive through their lives and for more than one-third of the value of government-provided health care they consume.”

    Sanders fails to indicate what percentage of people qualify as “lowest lifetime earners”. In any event, that two-thirds of their health expenditure and half their income is subsidised defeats his argument in my view.

    Do you really shiver and quake under your doona every night because of your fears about the “brutal beast� of democratic government? Or are you being less than candid?

  55. Steve Munn
    December 22nd, 2005 at 00:47 | #55

    Terje- I said: ” In many jurisdictions democratic Government has been ahead of public opinion in granting individual rights. For example the abolition of anti-homosexual laws in most Australian states preceded a softening of public opinion. ”

    You replied: “I don’t know if your assertion is true. However in any case I think that this would be an example of government being undemocratic. I support the abolition of anti-homosexual laws. ”

    The site http://www.cpsa-acsp.ca/paper-2003/tatalovich.pdf contains a paper that addresses the issue of capital punishment, abortion and gay law reform in several democratic jurisdictions. You will note plenty of examples that support my point about democratic governments conferring rights (liberties) ahead of majority opinion.

    You further say: “Have you given much consideration as to who made these laws in the first place? Oh thats right it was a democractic government.”

    You are wrong again Terje. Such laws generally date back to colonial or feudal times.

  56. Ken
    December 22nd, 2005 at 07:57 | #56

    The Libertarian model (like most proposed ideal models) sounds like something that would work reasonably well so long as it’s peopled by 100% ethical, honest, clear thinking, educated, courageous, tolerant, philanthropic, discerning types preferably without strong ethnic, religious or other affiliations. I suspect with a population of real people, particularly non-uniform social groupings in close proximity, with lots of unpleasant historical baggage it would be a recipe for third world factionalism and armed conflict even more so than the mess that already exists. I don’t know how to get peaceful law and order established as the norm in a place like Iraq – even overwhelming military force appears unable to get a grip on the problem perhaps because short of total obliteration that kind of force is ultimately not that overwhelming. It’s the “hearts and minds” that need to be won over but changing people’s minds is often a multigenerational excercise that would probably be antithetical to notions like freedom of religion, political affiliation and free speech. Refusing to keep track of or acknowledge the real numbers of Iraqi casualties can’t help either – if the reality on the ground is vastly worse than the official estimates it undercuts any notion that the new regime is going to do and act as they say they will. The foreign military presence is surely both a stabilising and destabilising influence simultaneously. To those who lost family or livelihood directly or indirectly, (no doubt from embargo, Desert Storm days and even earlier), a hated presence. There has to be at least some portion of Iraqis who are fervent patriots who consider any foreign troops in Iraq an anathema that should be fought to the bitter end – something I’d think many US patriots might understand although often one brand of patriot can’t accept that any other kind has any legitimacy. There are the others who fervently want the foreign forces to remain there in the hope that the promised democracy, freedom and law and order will eventuate – these may even be a majority even if they don’t feel any real gratitude or liking but feel the choice is between Bad and Badder. Balancing the need for strong internal security and fairness and justice has to be – a balance. I don’t think any idealogy can do it; it’s by compromise (itself an anathema to most varieties of idealogues) and letting past grievances go, by allowing others to disagree and not taking the law into their own hands yet remaining courageous in standing up to take part but not supporting corrupt and narrow interests that law and order can gain some ground. That doesn’t appear to happening.

  57. Terje Petersen
    December 22nd, 2005 at 08:33 | #57

    It’s the “hearts and minds� that need to be won over but changing people’s minds is often a multigenerational excercise that would probably be antithetical to notions like freedom of religion, political affiliation and free speech.

    Ken, I agree that changing peoples hearts is often a multigenerational exercise. However I would have thought that protecting the freedoms that you outline was a necessary precondition to creating a tolerant and peaceful community.

    You are wrong again Terje. Such laws generally date back to colonial or feudal times.

    Steve, I will accept that point on both accounts. You are right that most anti-sodomy laws predate democracy. And you are right that at previous times in my life I have been wrong.

    Terje, this article is from the smelly Peter Saunders who emanates from the even more smelly CIS think tank. The CIS, like the IPA, receives million in corporate funds but refuses to identify its donors. None of this gives me any confidence in their objectivity.

    So peoples personal hygene now determines the strength of their argument. A petty line of argument.

    The Libertarian model (like most proposed ideal models) sounds like something that would work reasonably well so long as it’s peopled by 100% ethical, honest, clear thinking, educated, courageous, tolerant, philanthropic, discerning types preferably without strong ethnic, religious or other affiliations.

    Most people are reasonably ethical, honest and clear thinking when it comes to the conduct of their own lives. Certainly we all make mistakes and none of us is perfect however I don’t believe that small government or smaller government requires some correction to human nature. In fact it is because of human nature that I believe we should have smaller government.

    If you think that people are generally unethical, dishonest and muddle headed then why would you let them vote or appoint them to high office. You seem to be arguing that government is populated by exceptional beings rather than people who are representative of the wider community.

    Do you really shiver and quake under your doona every night because of your fears about the “brutal beast� of democratic government? Or are you being less than candid?

    Few things cause me to loose sleep. Although occasionally a good idea or interesting question will keep me thinking such that I don’t fall asleep until the late hours of the morning.

    Perhaps the word “brutal” carries for some people too much implication of willfully evil. I don’t think democracy is willfully evil. I think it is like being in a pen with a 100 ton gorilla. The gorilla may not be evil but it will still cause you lots of problems and put limits on what you might otherwise do with your day. I would find the pen more comfortable if the gorilla (ie government) had a few restraints.

    My prefered form of government is Liberal Democracy with a federalist system that distributes most power (eg the power to tax the people) to regional government. I would contrast this with Social Democracy.

    I can’t envisage any system of government that I would support that did not include an element of democratic accountability. However I don’t think democracy implies conscent and I don’t kid myself that democracy guarantees freedom.

  58. Ian Gould
    December 22nd, 2005 at 17:39 | #58

    >The Libertarian model (like most proposed ideal models) sounds like something that would work reasonably well so long as it’s peopled by 100% ethical, honest, clear thinking, educated, courageous, tolerant, philanthropic, discerning types preferably without strong ethnic, religious or other affiliations.

    It also requires that you believe that everything was marvelous back before the insidious evil of the welfare state started ruining people’s lives.

    You then have to believe that the populations of the developed countries allowed themsleves to be conned into having their living standards and freedoms massive reduced while simultaneously bleieving that the descendants of those same peopel whould unerringly and infallibly make the correct decisions about such issues as which drugs are safe to take if only the darn government would let them.

    So you have to believe that past populations made incredibly stupid choices but that future populations will make extremely smart ones.

  59. Terje Petersen
    December 22nd, 2005 at 18:07 | #59

    So you have to believe that past populations made incredibly stupid choices but that future populations will make extremely smart ones.

    Actually you also have to believe in the tooth fairy as well. And you can’t believe in the merits of smaller government unless you tatoo the word “Gazoo” on your bum first. Very, very, very, very few people are aware of these necessary pre-conditions.

  60. Steve Munn
    December 22nd, 2005 at 18:47 | #60

    Terje- Have you thought about immigrating to Somalia? I believe they have a very small government.

  61. SJ
    December 22nd, 2005 at 19:45 | #61

    So, was the tattoo painful? Hope so.

    You make libertarianism sound like some kind of fruitcake religion…

  62. Ian Gould
    December 23rd, 2005 at 00:32 | #62

    Terje,

    But the key belief is that any and every social, political or environmental problem can be solved by a massive cut in marginal tax rates and sacking a few hundred thousand public servants.

  63. Terje Petersen
    December 23rd, 2005 at 09:40 | #63

    I will attempt to ignore all the drivel and stick with the meaningful comments.

    But the key belief is that any and every social, political or environmental problem can be solved by a massive cut in marginal tax rates and sacking a few hundred thousand public servants.

    So long as we want to talk about beliefs that lead to Libertarian thinking I can make myself a case example.

    I believe in smaller government and I believe that smaller government would create better overall outcomes. From a utilitarian perspective this is what my life experience, my reading, my debating with others, my intellectual reflection have lead me to believe. It was not some disease that I caught. It was not something that I was indoctrinated with as a child. It is the product of considerable life long reflection.

    You could just dismiss me as a nut job, however it would be you that was poorer for it and I am not going to cease existing just because you don’t like my perspective. You can suffer my perspective, ignore my perspective, debate my perspective or seek to influence my perspective. However my perspective still exists and I am not going to pretend otherwise.

    I don’t believe that every social, political or environmental problem can be solved with more government.

    I believe that a lot of governnment programs start out with good intentions but rapidly loose focus and drift into counter productive or inefficient activities. Too much focus is placed on the benefits of such intiatives without any real appreciation of the costs. Generally because the benefits are specific and tangible whilst the costs are distributed and intangible. Those responsible for managing government programs are not removed from the costs they incur but are intimate with the benefits they deliver.

    I believe that when you take resources from the community through taxation there is a significant opportunity cost. You lower the resources that are available for a creative civil society. You reduce the means that families have to look after themselves and eachother. You reduce the resources available to individuals and the creative solutions that they might otherwise develop. You reduce the capacity for businesses to grow and create jobs and products and services that serve the community.

    I believe that a lot of the social problems that government seek to fix are a product of too much government regulation or interference in the first place.

    I do not believe that the correct size of government is zero.

    I do not believe that we should abolish the police force.

    I do not believe that we should abolish national defence.

    I do not believe that we should cancel elections.

    All up this list represents a snap shot of what I believe.

    You are right to question the foundation beliefs that lead somebody to a course of action or a state of mind. All creative endeavour, all motive and direction is based on belief. This is not unique to Libertarians but is true of all people.

    I think that one of the things that makes me comfortable with the Libertarian outlook is a high degree of tolerance and regard for alternate lifestyles. I find that I generally like and get on with people of good will from any background. Even those that have a worldview radically different to my own.

    I believe that our communities, our families, our businesses, and our body politic would be healthier and more effective if we had smaller government. Obviously governments have qualities other than size. While I prefer small government over big government I also prefer honest government over dishonest government, just government over unjust government, efficient government over inefficient government, stable government over unstable government, accountable government over unaccountable government. Size is obviously only one of many variables.

    I seek creative ways to avoid government involvement in social and economic problems. In common with most Libertarians I look at a particular social problem and ask how can this problem be solved without government. Not because I think government can’t solve problems but because I am very conscious of the opportunity costs created when government based solutions are used. Socialist tend to see this approach as being bizzar. They generally misunderstand this reaction as being idealogically opposed to government. And I believe this is because they discount the diffuse and intangible costs of government action and generally look only at the tangible and obvious benefits. I think they lack a holistic appreciation of how one little thing effects another like so many ripples in a pond.

  64. John Humphreys
    December 24th, 2005 at 10:55 | #64

    Wow. Congrats Terje for being so patient. I haven’t learnt that skill yet.

    It seems the pre-requisite for attacking libertarianism is ignorance of what it means and a refusal to enter reasonable debate. Peter Saunders is ignored because the CIS is privately funded. People make absurd claims about libertarians all being selfish, and also believing that all people are perfect and philanthropic. Both are not only wrong, but inconsistent with each other!

    And when all else fails, the lower class riff raff start using the good old ‘get out of our country’ & ‘get your own blog’ routine mixed with a bit of spiteful wishes of pain.

    Ian — I don’t know any libertarian that believes what you say is the ‘key belief’ of libertarianism. Libertarianism does not require that you believe everything was marvelous in history, that people have historically been stupid or would in the future be extremely smart. Just plain wrong.

    The truth would be closer to — things are better now then they have been, but could be better still if people had more freedom. People always make some mistakes, but tend to be better judges of their own welfare than of others and practice rational ignorance in politics.

    In fact, there is almost nothing anti-libertarian on this board that starts with a correct understanding of libertarianism. Amazingly, some people here consider themselves thinkers.

    Good luck explaining it to them Terje…

  65. December 24th, 2005 at 11:33 | #65

    If government (on all levels and all sizes) did a better job, then there would be no need for libertarianism.

  66. Ian Gould
    December 24th, 2005 at 12:40 | #66

    >I do not believe that the correct size of government is zero.

    >I do not believe that we should abolish the police force.

    I know a number of libertarians who would argue that these statements automatically exclude you from being a libertarian.

    Tell you what, why don’t you nominate what you believe the optimal tax take for a developed country is?

    I’ve already said that I think the optimal figure is around 22-24% of GDP – soemwhat higher than the Us and Japan currently, soemwhat lower than Howard-era Australia.

  67. Ian Gould
    December 24th, 2005 at 12:43 | #67

    “the lower class riff raff”

    … so much for the purported libertarian egalitarianism.

    I come from the lower classes, I disagree with you regarding libertarianism, forgive me for not realising previously that this makes me “riff raff”.

  68. Ken
    December 24th, 2005 at 16:45 | #68

    Terje, my point was that changing people’s minds is not a quick or easy matter, and when ideas and beliefs abound that don’t accord with what those charged with the security of nations might feel are appropriate there is a potential for them to be restricted in ways that don’t fit with those ideals of freedom. If changing minds en masse is an objective, especially the supplanting of “undesirable” belief systems with another, it isn’t compatable with those ideals.

    How much democratic choice is real choice, well reasoned from sound knowledge and how much is it ongoing exposure to ideas and beliefs provided by those with an agenda? I don’t have to look far to see how much of current affairs in our mass media is reduced to emotive simplifications, by people and organisations with their, not our community’s, interests foremost. For most people there simply isn’t time or opportunity to consider these matters deeply, so political choices become that of choosing a team to be loyal to according to the quality and quantity of emotive rhetoric they are exposed to.

    As for your thoughts about small government, I’m not convinced. I think small communities are more, not less, likely to select and preselect according to affiliations and loyalties rather than by abilty and integrity. The right family, the right schools, the right church, the right friends and associations as well as favours and endebtedness are crucial criteria (although these aren’t missing from selection criteria with bigger governments when the process works through boys club type political orgs that openly state that loyalty to the Party is paramount and every utterance must be made in accordance with the agreed rhetorical party position).

  69. avaroo
    December 27th, 2005 at 05:59 | #69

    The US withdrawal will have to be a staged one. You don’t move 150,000 troops simulataneously. The elections are a huge milepost and a finger in the eye to the insurgents. Anyone in sympathy with the insurgents, wouldn’t have been interested in voting. I believe that Bush admin has already said that troops put in place specifically for the elections will be withdrawn, something like 9,000 troops. Could’ve been more, I can’t remember the exact number.

    While elections were important for the Iraqi public, it’s just as important to help the Iraqi police ans security be able to stand up to internal disturbances. There is no reason to believe that insurgents will magically stop killing Iraqis after the coalition leaves Iraq. The people must be able to defend themselves.

  70. Ian Gould
    December 27th, 2005 at 08:20 | #70

    The wonders of democracy Iraq-style:

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,17663906%255E1702,00.html

    THE bound and bullet-riddled body of an Iraqi student leader has been found, a few days after he led a campus march alleging fraud in last week’s election, a students’ group said.

    The body of Qusay Salahaddin was found close to a hospital in the northern city of Mosul with his hands bound behind his back and marks of strangling on it, a hospital source said.

    Gunmen took Mr Salahaddin, president of Mosul University’s students’ union, from his house last week and bundled him into the trunk of a car before driving off, said Mohammed Jassim, a friend of the victim. He said Mr Salahaddin used his mobile phone to make last-ditch pleas for help.

    “Save me, the Peshmerga have kidnapped me,” Mr Jassim quoted Mr Salahaddin, a Sunni Arab, as saying before the line went dead, apparently referring to Kurdish militia groups operating in northern Iraq.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-5500000,00.html

    BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Large demonstrations broke out across the country Friday to denounce parliamentary elections that protesters say were rigged in favor of the main religious Shiite coalition. ..

    Several hundred thousand people demonstrated after noon prayers in southern Baghdad Friday, many carrying banners decrying last week’s elections. Many Iraqis outside the religious Shiite coalition allege that the elections were unfair to smaller Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups.

  71. December 27th, 2005 at 13:37 | #71

    Avaroo wrote “Anyone in sympathy with the insurgents, wouldn?t have been interested in voting”.

    We’ve been over this point before. There’s a catch 22 in the mechanisms of democracy, that if you aren’t interested and abstain, you get marginalised and they carry on without you, claiming public backing from the percentage of the actual vote they did get.

    On the other hand, if the people who don’t want it vote so as to stop that happening, the spuyrious democrats keep going, claiming that the people against accepted the principle by voting in the first place.

    The only way round this dilemma is the one the Irish worked out in the 19th and early 20th centuries: vote, join, but then sabotage from within, making it clear all the time to bystanders that the participation is purely tactical to stop the catch 22 working. If they don’t make this continued public stand, many people buy into the catch 22 part about accepting the vote but then complaining.

    This is precisely what the current US approach is trying to do, labelling people as “rejectionists” so they can be marginalised, as though a condition of playing the game must be that they accept the key points that the USA wants to build in. Oh, try looking up the “no true Scotsman argument” sometime – deporting and disfranchising rejectionists works a treat, just like it did when the US rebels expelled the loyalists to create a “people” that agreed with them.

  72. Terje Petersen
    December 27th, 2005 at 13:54 | #72

    Tell you what, why don’t you nominate what you believe the optimal tax take for a developed country is?

    I’ve already said that I think the optimal figure is around 22-24% of GDP – soemwhat higher than the Us and Japan currently, soemwhat lower than Howard-era Australia.

    Ian,

    You think that Australia should be taxed less. I am happy to move to your target rate of taxation at 22-24% of GDP. At that stage I may may call for less tax still, however in the interum at least we should be allies.

    Personally I think that taxation above about 10% of GDP is excessive. However it is obviously dependent on the situation.

    According to the OECD data that I have the relevant tax as a percent of GDP in 2003 figures for selected countries are:-

    * USA 25.6%
    * Australia 31.6%
    * Japan 25.3%

    http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/18/23/35471773.pdf see TABLE 2

    As such I don’t know how you arrive at your comment that “I think the optimal figure is around 22-24% of GDP – soemwhat higher than the Us and Japan currently”. Using my OECD figures and your assertion then both Japan and the USA are slightly overtaxed.

    The nature of social security in Australia is also important. We increasingly fund old pensions using a compulsory fee called the superannuation guarantee levy. However we choose not to include this compulsory fee in our calculation of our tax burden. Even though comparable nations do include revenue raised for this purpose as a tax. If we corrected for superannuation then we would find Australia is even more over-taxed.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  73. Ian Gould
    December 27th, 2005 at 14:45 | #73

    The figures you quote include local and state government taxes and also social security contributions.

    Technically, US social security contributions aren’t usually considered a tax (which tends to exaggerate the difference in tax rates between the US and most other developed countries). (This is also how Singapore can claim to be a low-taxing state while forcing citizens to pay 25% of their income in the Central Provident Fund).

    State and local taxes are somewhat problematic since many of them (such as rates) are at least in part a fee for service.

    Incorporating state taxes can also lead to misleading comparisons due to large variatiosn within states – i.e. Alaska not only doesn’t collect a state income tax, it pays a dividend to residents.

    Most comparisons of international tax rates focus on national-level income tax and indirect tax collections as these are more consistent and more readily comparable.

  74. Ian Gould
    December 27th, 2005 at 14:52 | #74

    Avaroo: “Anyone in sympathy with the insurgents, wouldn’t have been interested in voting.”

    Some insurgent groups, such as al Qaeda in Iraq, threatened anyone taking part in elections. Others actively encouraged peopel to vote and threatened retaliation agaisnt any group attacking voters.

    To repeat, the Iraqi insurgents are not a monolithic group, as well as the Islamists aligned with Al Qaeda, there are secular Ba’athist nationalists and also tribal groups determined to secure as much power as possible in the new Iraq. Fighting and voting are simply different strategies towards the same end for some of these groups.

    Some groups seem quite happy to vote on Sunday and go back to fighting on Monday – this is especially true in Mosul where the number of votes each ethnic group’s candidates attracted is being used to advance claims and counter-claism about the ethnic composition of the city. (The Sunnis, Kurds and Turkmen all claim to be the largest single ethnic group in Mosul.)

  75. Terje Petersen
    December 27th, 2005 at 19:51 | #75

    The figures you quote include local and state government taxes and also social security contributions.

    Yes. A tax is a tax regardless of which layer it is imposed at. Given the variety of structures in various nations it seems futile to simply compare national taxes. Nations like the USA are highly federalist so you would hope that the national taxes were lower.

    I can’t bring myself to regard a nation as a low tax nation by excluding all layers of government (and their taxes) except the top layer.

    If we only looked at the top layer of governance in the EU we could claim that Europe is close to a zero tax utopia. Which would of course be a complete joke.

    Any meaningful comparison of juristictions has to look at all taxes paid across that juristiction.

    State and local taxes are somewhat problematic since many of them (such as rates) are at least in part a fee for service.

    Local governments may used the revenue raised through rates to provide services however that does not stop rates from being a tax. Otherwise you could pretty much argue that all taxes are not actually taxes which would be nonsence.

  76. Ian Gould
    December 28th, 2005 at 15:34 | #76

    “A tax is a tax regardless of which layer it is imposed at.”

    So vehicle registration is a tax; how about tolls on public-owned toll roads? How do they differ from tolls impsoed by private road-owners.

    Presumably water rates collected by an Australian local government are a tax but water rates charged by a private French company are not.

  77. Terje Petersen
    December 28th, 2005 at 16:22 | #77

    Vehicle registration is definitely a tax. Petrol tax is also a tax even if it is used to fund roads.

    I suppose you would argue that the medicare levy is not a tax? I would say that it most certainly is.

    At a guess I would say that the OECD answered your questions adequately when it compiled the tables. And hopefully it did so consistently across most nations.

  78. Ian Gould
    December 28th, 2005 at 23:42 | #78

    “And hopefully it did so consistently across most nations.”

    Trsut a man who once had to sit through a two day seminar on the latest revisions to the System of National Accounts (SNA) – it doesn’t.

  79. Terje
    December 29th, 2005 at 08:50 | #79

    Your example of toll roads would not seem to apply to local governments in Australia. All the public toll roads I can think of a state run. However you also exclude state taxes in your assessment.

    You discount the taxes of local and state governments by giving them a weighting of zero. This would seem to be the wrong weighting in my view. I would think that giving them a weighting of one (what I did) would be closer to the truth.

  80. Terje
    December 29th, 2005 at 16:52 | #80

    Terje- Have you thought about immigrating to Somalia? I believe they have a very small government.

    Somalia has been mentioned more than once in this discussion. I thought the following report from the WorldBank was interesting.

    http://rru.worldbank.org/Documents/PapersLinks/280-nenova-harford.pdf

  81. December 29th, 2005 at 23:46 | #81

    “So vehicle registration is a tax; how about tolls on public-owned toll roads? How do they differ from tolls impsoed by private road-owners.”

    This is straightforward. The state charges are all around and cannot be evaded except by encountering another charge from the same stable, while the private ones are not like that. The thing that makes the difference is the all-encompassing nature and tendency of governments.

    “Presumably water rates collected by an Australian local government are a tax but water rates charged by a private French company are not.”

    This is an interesting one. Here, it’s necessary to look behind the veil. The fees there aren’t a tax, any more than in the private toll example above, considered simply as a transaction between the consumer and the supplier. However, the initial privatisation had the character of a tax, capitalised as the sale price to the new owners, much like the sale of monopolies in Elizabethan England. The lower than market price actually paid represents a discount because of the eager (government) seller. The beneficiaries of that have often moved on, diversifying their initial post-privatisation holdings, so the current owners are often no more collecting a tax than any other capitalists – they didn’t get any discount.

  82. Ian Gould
    December 30th, 2005 at 18:09 | #82

    >You discount the taxes of local and state governments by giving them a weighting of zero

    No, I note the practical difficulties involved in making direct cross-national comparisons between them because they are more heterogenous between countries than are national level taxes.

  83. Terje Petersen
    December 30th, 2005 at 23:24 | #83

    Ian,

    Can you spell it out a little for me?

    Regards,
    Terje.

  84. Ian Gould
    December 31st, 2005 at 02:56 | #84

    To follow upon an earlier example I gave: in France water provision is mostly by private companies. This means that local government charges in France are lower than in Australia (for example).

    Speaking of water, in South East Queensland, there’s a for-profit company called Brisbane Water whicjh was created by merging the water processing and reticulation assets of the SEQ local governments and the former Sotuh East Queensland water board. Brisbane Water is owned by the local and state governments.

    Water services are billed to the consumers by the local governments and therefore count as taxes. The local governments then pay Brisbae Water to provide the service.

    If Brisbane Water billed the consumers direct, the charges woudl no longer count as a tax.

    Another example, Energex is a state-owned electricity company which has an effective monopoly over the retail electricity and gas market in South East Queensland. Because it’s a corporation, no element of its income is treated as a tax.

    Back in the 1960′s, Brisbane City Council provided electricity services in the Brisbane area. If the state government hadn’t taken over the BCC assets then corporatised them, those exact same charges would count as a tax.

    Depending on how the individual countries interpret the SNA rules (which depends on stuff like the legal status of various local government-owned entities) there are a wdie range of activities undertaken by local government which may or may no count as a tax.

    To return to BCC, bus fares collected by BCC could be argued to be a tax. On the other had, there’s a private bus company (Connex) which runs some services for BCC. The Connex services are integrated more or less seamlessly with the BCC services, Connex even accepts BCC tickets and Connex, on some routes at least, probably receives more revenue from BCC subsidies than from passenger fares.

    So what I’m saying is, it’s extremely difficult to determine a common understanding of what constitutes a local tax.

    To come back to the original reason this came up, if we’re going to nominate a figure for total governemnt expenditure as a proportion of GDP and include state and local government taxes, I’d need to revise my nominated optimal level.

  85. December 31st, 2005 at 20:47 | #85

    Ah, I see where your concern is, IG. I think the point at issue just there isn’t what actually ends up happening, but the reality of the nexus between paying and receiving services (in this case, water).

    Taxes are unrequited payments, which doesn’t mean that they don’t end up going somewhere useful (though whether there is a net benefit is a different question).

    Rather, taxes go into a common pool of general revenue, and even if there are moves to “hypothecate” them (commit them to particular purposes), it’s impractical to commit future governments as to what they can do with what they have got.

    Separating off the activity – privatising it – produces a more solid if not 100% reliable nexus.

  86. Ian Gould
    December 31st, 2005 at 22:42 | #86

    PM, in addition to that quite valid point, there’s also the fact that at the national level there’s a degree of uniformity in what taxes are spent on – defence, public order; aged pensions; disability support; debt service.

    But, to take another example at the local governemnt level, in Britain most public housing is owned and rented by “housing trusts” controleld by local governments. Depending on the legal structure of those trusts and their relationship with the local governments, rents paid ot such trsuts could be considered a tax.

  87. Terje Petersen
    January 1st, 2006 at 05:41 | #87

    Ian,

    My problem is that if you were to compare the tax as percent of GDP for the USA and Australia and you only looked at national government taxes you would be leaving out US state income taxes. On the face of it this would seem to me to distort the picture significantly.

    In Australia public hospitals are funded using tax revenue originally raised at the federal level. Whilst in the USA I understand it to be mostly raised at the state level.

    In the USA policing is mostly a local or state function. In Japan I understand it to be a national function.

    In Switzerland the bulk of the corporate and personal income taxes are levied at a regional level.

    So I acknowledge your concerns. But I still don’t see discarding state and local tax revenue as a helpful fix.

    When I said that you give a weighting of zero to local and state taxes you said that you don’t. However you seem to be repeating your claim that comparisons should best be made only on the basis of national taxes (due to some claimed homogeneous function of national governments).

    If we are to make meaningful comparisons between nations, for the purposes of understanding the effect taxes have on investment, incentives, growth, for an understanding of how tax cuts might effect public revenue etc, etc then we have a few options:-

    {a} Look at the national level only.
    {b} Look at all levels of government within a nation
    {c} Some other formulation.

    You seem to object to {b} however you state that you don’t advocate {a} either. So it would seem that you must have some version of {c} up your sleave. It is this formulation that I was hoping you might spell out.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  88. Ian Gould
    January 2nd, 2006 at 14:33 | #88

    Both measures are flawed but I tend to prefer the national-level comparison.

    This digression really started when you pointed out that my estimates for percentage of GDP taken in tax were low.

    I’ll accept your OECD figures.

    A couple of thoughts:

    1. Go rank those OECD countries by tax as a percentage of GDP and compare those results with their Human Development Index scores then derive the average long-term rate of growth in per capita GDP at purchasing power parity from the link I provide in the Dark Matter thread and see how that correlates.

    2. Given your preferred level of tax of 10% of GDP, why don’t you start, as an intermediate step, by nominating which areas of Australian federal spending you’d cut or eliminate to achieve a 50% cut in Federal spending.

  89. Ian Gould
    January 2nd, 2006 at 14:38 | #89

    http://www.budget.gov.au/2005-06/bp1/html/bst6-02.htm

    An overview of Federal spending by function can be found on page 2.

  90. January 5th, 2006 at 07:10 | #90

    So, despite history not repeating precisely, go and look up some of the episodes I mentioned like Irish constitutional history, then try to draw out more general lessons from that. You may find it more widely valuable, but it will illustrate that the forms of democracy and the sincerity of some of its advocates just don’t get you to the point where it is a good thing in and of itself.

  91. Terje Petersen
    January 5th, 2006 at 11:18 | #91

    Ian,

    Point 2. You start from the premise that every tax cut must be matched by a spending cut. Which is nearly as bad as Howard assuming that every investment must be met by an increase in tax.

    However I do think it would be wise to cut government spending. I would start with corporate welfare and move on to private welfare.

    If Howard had held spending constant when he came to power in 1996 we would have been able to nearly elliminate personal income tax over the last decade.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  92. Ian Gould
    January 5th, 2006 at 12:37 | #92

    Terje, the fuel and energy, transport, agriculture, mining and “other economic affairs” spending lines which would include the great bulk of “corporate welfare” account for around $12 billion.

    If we eliminate those functions completely (and ignore special purpose charges on industry in those areas such as fees for airport terminal use) you’re still be around $80 billion short.

  93. Terje Petersen
    January 5th, 2006 at 13:26 | #93

    Ian,

    You didn’t read what I said, or else you chose to ignore the bulk of it.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  94. Ian Gould
    January 5th, 2006 at 13:56 | #94

    Sorry, I keep forgetting that the incentive pixies will make a trip to Laffer-land and come back with a pot of gold.

  95. Terje Petersen
    January 5th, 2006 at 14:00 | #95

    You are forgiven.

  96. January 5th, 2006 at 22:16 | #96

    It looks as though “Nataly” is a sophisticated spammer putting in text drawn from elsewhere around here so as to look authentic.

    I think some parasites do something like that, covering themselves with proteins stolen from their hosts so as to pass inspection by the immune system.

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