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Weekend reflections

March 31st, 2006

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

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  1. still working it out
    March 31st, 2006 at 20:35 | #1

    People outside of NSW may be interested to know that we currently have the Federal government and the NSW state government running advertising campaigns against each other.

    The State government is running ads complaining that $3 billion of GST revenue collected in NSW is not being returned to NSW and instead going to the other states like Queensland.

    The Federal government is running ads saying that the NSW government should cut taxes because they agreed to do this when the GST was introduced.

    The arguments are not new, but its the weirdest thing to see political ads years away from an election campaign in a fight between two levels of government.

  2. Terje Petersen
    March 31st, 2006 at 20:56 | #2

    What I find cute about the NSW ads is the way that describe the Federal government as stealing from NSW. Of course tax is theft but its quite unusual to see a government arguing that line.

    Maybe the NSW government should consider the fact that it is stealing from the people of my house. Bastards.

  3. Pinguthepenguin
    March 31st, 2006 at 21:18 | #3

    Tax is only theft in so far as a company using infrastructure without building it themselves or dumping waste into the ocean or rivers or any other way in which companies externalise costs is also theft…

  4. Pinguthepenguin
    March 31st, 2006 at 21:18 | #4

    ..perhaps that could have been worded differently, but you get the idea.

  5. Terje Petersen
    March 31st, 2006 at 21:26 | #5

    Yes taxation is a bit like pouring toxic waste into the environment. I agree with that.

  6. Zarquon
    March 31st, 2006 at 22:50 | #6

    Taxation is the price people pay for civilization. Anyone who doesn’t want to be taxed is free to live without the benefits of taxation in Somalia.

  7. March 31st, 2006 at 23:46 | #7

    I don’t mind tax, as long as it’s not too much and is spent wisely…

  8. April 1st, 2006 at 02:27 | #8

    As a Melbavostock Commissar, I always wonder if the figures include the way the nation’s federal taxes are spend disproportionately in NSW to run Commonwealth instrumentalities. The film industry is a good example – harvesting money from the total tax take to spend it on the Film Finance Corporation, the AFC, the ABC, Film Australia and SBS, all of which are headquartered in Sydney. While they disburse project money all over the country (though mostly to NSW), the wages and expenses components help the Sydney economy.

  9. April 1st, 2006 at 02:28 | #9

    Just wondering if anyone caught the earth shattering news that scientists at the European Space Agency may have created gravity in the lab.

    The ESA is one of the top science labs in the world. The researchers are all high class and they repeatedly checked their work before publication.

    “We ran more than 250 experiments, improved the facility over 3 years and discussed the validity of the results for 8 months before making this announcement. Now we are confident about the measurement,” says Tajmar.

    If this experiment is correctly interpreted and properly validated it will have the most momentuous affect on science and technology.

    First off it implies a major deficiency in the Einsteinian theory of gravity.

    Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity (GR)…predicts that the gravitomagnetic effect is virtually negligible, less than one part in a trillion.

    The effects measured by Tajmar and de Matos were a million trillion trillion times (30 orders of magnitude) stronger than predicted by GR.

    The experiment also provides a major breakthrough in the quest to build a Grand Unifying Theory between the quantum theory of EM force and the relativity theory of Gravity.

    ESA’s experiment, if validated, would provide the first such peer-reviewed confirmation of a relationship between electromagnetic and gravitational forces, heretofore considered separate forces of nature.

    Finally, the research opens the way to the long dreamt of technological vista: gravitational energy.

    It demonstrates that a superconductive gyroscope is capable of generating a powerful gravitomagnetic field, and is therefore the gravitational counterpart of the magnetic coil. Depending on further confirmation, this effect could form the basis for a new technological domain, which would have numerous applications in space and other high-tech sectors” says de Matos.

    I can think of a few military applications for a “gravity engine”. A big enough one could knock the planet out of orbit. Hope Al Quaeda dont get wind of it.

  10. Pingu the penguin
    April 1st, 2006 at 03:06 | #10

    I notice it is April the 1st.

  11. Waratah
    April 1st, 2006 at 03:30 | #11

    My cat exerts a disproportionately large gravitational attraction on living bodies with a greater mass than itself. Could it be a genetically engineered secret military weapon escapee?

  12. April 1st, 2006 at 04:46 | #12

    Waratah, do you mean that dogs are inexorably drawn toward your cat at a swift and accelerating pace?

  13. conrad
    April 1st, 2006 at 07:42 | #13

    I don’t mind tax, as long as it’s not too much and is spent wisely either. Unfortunately, I’m not going to reccommend the Aus. government for “spent wisely”.

    Zarquon said : “Anyone who doesn’t want to be taxed is free to live without the benefits of taxation in Somalia”

    Thats not true. I would have to get a Somalian visa and go through immigration there, which I presume isn’t free. Alternatively, I could live with a lot less tax just as easily (in fact, probably more easily) in Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, or quite a few other nice places.

  14. gordon
    April 1st, 2006 at 09:27 | #14

    Zarquon, Kerry didn’t spend much time in Somalia, and he managed to avoid paying tax for years and years. As John Garnaut wrote in the SMH on 18 March 2006: “…if everybody, even most people, paid tax on what they really earned, we’d lift government revenue by $10 to $20 billion, we’d have an equitable system and no one would be paying more than 30c in the dollar.”

  15. April 1st, 2006 at 09:34 | #15

    The paper Relativity and Quantum Cosmology: Experimental Detection of the Gravitomagnetic London Moment was published on 09 MAR 2006. It was publicised a bit in the physics media over the next couple of weeks.

    Look I am not a physicist or a person with any special mathematical ability. So it is difficult or me to properly criticise this paper.

    I certainly have trouble believing that there is a big hole in Einstein’s theory. (Conservation of Energy, Angular Momentum!) But I don’t think this is a hoax, or if it is it is the most elaborate one I have ever come accross.

  16. Bill O’Slatter
    April 1st, 2006 at 12:15 | #16

    Quoth Stroccer “I certainly have trouble believing that there is a big hole in Einstein’s theory. (Conservation of Energy, Angular Momentum!)” . It is not that there is a big hole in Einstein’s theory ; it is that his theory and quantum theory may be unified as at the moment they are not. ( Not by any tested theory)

  17. April 1st, 2006 at 13:25 | #17

    Tax is technically described as an unrequited payment, i.e. there is no quid pro quo in there for the payer. In this respect it is different from, say, rent.

    To the extent that something constructive is done with tax revenue, some people argue that that makes it moral. But that is a red herring. Nothing requires constructive use of the funds, and – more to the point – consent is not obtained in advance, implicitly or explicitly. Whether the end use is constructive or not, the payers might not agree with them anyway. If anything, tax systems say “jump or be pushed” – pay without a fuss or struggle and pay anyway.

    Tax is theft precisely because of this uncoupling of the end use and the payers’ wishes, aggravated by that element of iron fist in velvet glove. Even if many people do consider tax a price paid for civilisation, that no more cures the original act of taking from being of the same nature as theft, than would a charge of rape be cured if the victim later forgave the assailant – let alone if most victims did but some did not.

    Of course, people do not provide implicit consent merely by existing, nor do they actually get civilisation from governments; some actually harm it, and all prevent those things from being achieved in non-governmental ways, very dog in the manger. The “you are here means you consent” argument only applies in special cases, like poll taxes on resident foreigners with homes to go back to – and even then, only when those homes do not oppress them in similar ways.

    As well, there is the whole issue of lesser evil, if things would be worse otherwise. But we can’t keep our thinking straight if we tell ourselves that Robin Hood was not a thief because on the whole he was good; it just lets us feel right about ourselves and our rolling over. It’s like using the Ptolemaic understanding of the solar system instead of the Copernican.

    And, once that wrong understanding is in place, it allows things that do not have mitigating end uses. Most particularly, it allows old uses to continue even when they no longer mitigate more than they harm, and it stops people thinking about alternative sources of revenue and/or ways of achieving the desired end results that do not involve tax, ones that might not have been practical earlier but that may become so – especially if we work towards such transitions.

  18. April 1st, 2006 at 14:14 | #18

    Bill O’Slatter Says: April 1st, 2006 at 12:15 pm

    It is not that there is a big hole in Einstein’s theory ; it is that his theory and quantum theory may be unified as at the moment they are not. ( Not by any tested theory)

    Thats true but it is not the import of the ESA paper. The paper points out an anomaly between Einstein’s theoretical predictions about the strength of artificial gravitational fields and the empirical values actually contrived by the ESA’s superconductive gizmo. This is a problem of reconciling Einstein’s General Relativity (GR) theory of gravitational force with experimental evidence. This is not the same as the problem of reconciling Einstein’s GR theory of gravitational force with quantum theories of the other three forces.

    What the ESA paper demonstrates (?) is that Einstein’s GR theory underestimates the strength of “artificial” gravity by 20 orders of magnitude. Science Daily reports:

    Although just 100 millionths of the acceleration due to the Earth’s gravitational field, the measured field is a surprising one hundred million trillion times larger than Einstein’s General Relativity predicts.

    This implies that the generation of gravitational force, and its utilisation as energy, is much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much easier than previously thought.

    So with a properly contrived gizmo one could extract alot of energy from not alot of mass.

    It makes you think.

  19. stephen bartos
    April 1st, 2006 at 14:18 | #19

    I’m posting a cut down version of a recent article on the AWB which may be of interest to those who have been following the affair. Longer than usual, but that’s what John intends this section for anyway.

    The AWB story continues to unfold at the Cole inquiry, but already contains enough lessons in governance for many articles. This examines just a few: the corporate governance of AWB itself and weaknesses in external monitoring and regulation.

    The big political question – whether/when the government knew about the kickbacks – is still unresolved, pending further evidence, and strictly speaking beyond the terms of reference of the inquiry anyway.
    Ironically, the worse the AWB looks, the more plausible is the claim that the government itself was misled.

    Ministerial involvement must lie somewhere between two extremes: a) neither knowing nor having any reason to inquire about the kickbacks and b) explicitly endorsing them. Both are implausible. No matter what you think of it, the government is not likely to have explicitly approved these payments. Equally, even strong supporters of the government have argued it could have asked more searching questions at the time. Where exactly the government falls in between these poles is not yet settled – which is why it remains hotly contested.
    On broader governance matters, the AWB structure is not ideal. There are two classes of shareholders. Class A shareholders dominate the Board – these have to be wheatgrowers. Class B shareholders, ordinary investors (who may also be wheatgrowers) have a minority of Board positions and little real voice. Unlike most listed companies where shareholders as a whole vote for the Board, Class A shareholders elect directors from regional constituencies (it’s reminiscent of Senate elections). This means that accountabilities on the Board are divided.

    The handling of the matter reveals governance failings being played out. Large scale bribery when revealed hurts the reputation of the company involved not just in the market where the bribe occurred but elsewhere among buyers who think “if they do this in secret with one buyer, I wonder what else they are doing behind my backâ€?. Arguments that the affair would have remained low profile if the government had not called the Cole Inquiry are misguided. It was already known via the Volcker inquiry into the UN oil for food program. The risk in having an inquiry is far outweighed by the risk of not having it and seeing competitors spread the story out over many years with whatever spin on it they choose. The government did the right thing in calling an inquiry. Australian interests have been affected not because there is an inquiry but because the kickbacks were fundamentally stupid. The oil for food program was high profile, high risk; this was not a low grade ‘facilitation payment’ to some underpaid government official or customs inspector, it was a means of transferring a large sum of money to a government in the international spotlight. What was the AWB thinking – that this would never come out? So there are problems in governance not just structurally but also in relation to risk management.

    These are made worse by a lack of strong oversight of the AWB. It is consistently observed in government that a monopoly misbehaves unless it has independent oversight and regulation. We have been here before – the Asia Dairy affair of the 1970s, when a subsidiary of the Australian Dairy Corporation was caught out engaged in corporate malpractice, attracted a Senate inquiry and heightened scrutiny and audit arrangements for statutory marketing corporations. In the case of the AWB, the supervisory body is the Wheat Export Authority. Under its act the authority has five members. The chair, Tim Besley, is a well respected figure, but the structure of the authority is dubious. Of the remaining four members, two are appointed by the Grains Council of Australia – so have an automatic conflict of interest. One is a departmental nominee, coincidentally at present from a farming background, but more importantly, answerable to the Agriculture Minister. The Uhrig inquiry pointed out forcefully the conflicts of interest inherent in departmental officers being on boards. The last spot, an independent member, has been left vacant for some time by the Minister. This is hardly a strong, independent regulator. Under this structure it cannot have either bite or bark as a watchdog. If the AWB monopoly is retained, there has to be a tougher regulator – something recognised widely, including on the government side by wheatgrower Senator Heffernan.

  20. Razor
    April 1st, 2006 at 15:44 | #20

    Marko, I agree with you, however the ‘spent wisely’ bit always seems to be FUBAR.

  21. Zarquon
    April 1st, 2006 at 16:16 | #21

    PM Lawrence you blithely ignore that taxpayers do get a say, it is not direct but it’s more say than they get in how a private business spends its money which may be in completely psychopathic, environmentally destructive and socially corruptive ways.
    Saying tax is theft is no more than the logical fallacy of ‘poisoning the well’, because taxation is entirely legal and so is not theft. if your ideology has as it’s base nothing but logical fallacies it’s simply built on sand and of no practical use.
    And speaking of practical: although you claim there are better ways to build a civilization than with taxation based government, I see you do not provide any examples. Until you can so demonstrate I will remain profoundly skeptical that any alternative is in any way possible.

  22. Dogz
    April 1st, 2006 at 16:26 | #22

    Jack Strocchi:

    What the ESA paper demonstrates (?) is that Einstein’s GR theory underestimates the strength of “artificial� gravity by 20 orders of magnitude.

    It makes you think.

    It made me think that it is almost certainly a load of bollocks, so I dug a bit deeper.

    The main paper has only been submitted, not accepted for publication. Same with the other paper by the same authors containing their theoretical demonstration of the anomaly.

    Ok, only a black mark, but not necessarily fatal. What about the papers themselves? Well, in the first paper they refer to other work of their own. They have managed a couple of publications in Physica C, which is not an altogether terrible journal. However, they also refer to one of their own publications in the Journal Of Theoretics, which describes itself as:

    the field of study which utilizes creative thought, disciplined logic, and the current knowledgebase to develop credible scientific theory.

    Yeah, right. Pass the bong, man. A perusal of Theoretics’ serious paper list reveals a veritable smorgasbord of fashionable pseudoscience.

    Still, so far only meta-arguments against the veracity of the author’s claims. What of the actual content of their submissions? Here’s the experimental anomaly their results seek to explain:

    In the experiment with the highest precision to date, Tate et al reported a disagreement between the theoretically predicted Cooper-pair mass in Niobium of m*/2me = 0.999992 and her experimental value of 1.000084(21), where me is the electron mass.

    Ok, so this is all to explain away the difference between a theoretical value of 0.999992 and an experimental value of 1.000084 +- 0.000021. Apparently

    …This anomaly was actively discussed in the literature without any apparent solution.

    Ooh. Smoking gun. An unexplained anomaly in the fifth decimal place!

    Rather than accept that such an anomaly is almost certainly due to an overlooked experimental artefact, the authors instead propose that one of the most elegant and best-validated theories of the 20th century is out by 20 orders of magnitude.

    Hmm. I wouldn’t recommend trading your BHP shares for ACME Gravitomagnetic Hyperdrive Inc. just yet…

  23. April 1st, 2006 at 18:09 | #23

    Zarquon I think Somalia is a good example. Also look forward to Iraq being a shining beacon of the benefits of a country with no Government in the next few years .

  24. Seeker
    April 1st, 2006 at 19:17 | #24

    I agree with Zarquon, Marko and Frank Blues about tax.

    PM Lawrence: Are you trying to argue that taxation is somehow comparable to rape?

  25. April 1st, 2006 at 22:09 | #25

    Zarquon,
    You get a say every time you buy a product or service. The ‘democracy’ of the market, which is only the accumulated buying and selling decisions of all of the individuals interacting, is far more immediate and direct that the voice of any or all of the world’s governments.
    .
    Frank, Zarquon and others,
    You confuse libertarianism with the (left-wing or occasionally right-wing) idea of anarchism. I suggest a quick visit to wikipedia if the definitions are confusing you.

  26. Zarquon
    April 1st, 2006 at 22:49 | #26

    AR: I note you put democracy in quotes. In fact it is completely wrongheaded to mistake a market for any kind of democracy, since the goal of the market is profit, not any kind of representative government. In fact markets only act fairly when regulated, and it is beyond bizarre that Libertarians think that markets are any kind of replacement for government.

  27. ADW
    April 2nd, 2006 at 10:48 | #27

    For those interested in the potential of the internet to affect politics and the prolitical process, this New York Time article is a must read. Of course, what happens in the US will happen here… http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/02/washington/02campaign.html?hp&ex=1143954000&en=003299f756f21d88&ei=5094&partner=homepage

  28. avaroo
    April 2nd, 2006 at 11:18 | #28

    Interesting article ADW. And all true, but it misses the larger point that in the US, more and more Americans are getting ALL their news through the internet, including MSM, but much of it not MSM. It’s not just political news that’s coming more and more through the internet. My kids don’t know about watching the nightly news, they have no allegiance or viewing loyalty to The Today Show or Good Morning America or any MSM. I think we will be the last generation to have depended on MSM for most of our news. I no longer pay much attention to any MSM myself. It’s so much easier to get on the internet when I want to, not when network scheduling says I should be watching the news.

  29. April 2nd, 2006 at 13:24 | #29

    The internet and the blogsphere present a challenge to the established media because they do some things better than such as interactive comments and links, but as television did not replace radio, so I expect they in turn they will not be replaced by the internet.

    However, newspapers are another matter. It seems that even when they are making what seems a reasonable profit, and have cultures of good journalism as indicated by a history of winning Pulitzer Prizes they can perish at the dictate of the money managers. Such an outcome is what I gathered to several Knight Ridder newspapers, a story reported by John Nichols for The Nation and then carried by Common Dreams.

    Besides what may seem to be deep-seated economic factors, newspapers have other problems. Sometimes newspaper columnists are worth reading, although most of the polemists should perhaps be writing blogs. Then I could ignore them, they would not irritate me, and they would not take up unnecessary space. Unnecessary space is a major problem for newspapers. Even during the week, most sections other than the news section and the puzzles are simply excess baggage to be discarded at the first responsible opportunity.

    Much of the time, I am both reviewing and repeating information and opinions I have seen in various newspapers. Perhaps it was relevant anyway, but with the recent “Americanization� of work relationships, two articles have caught my eye.

    There was the NYT article, “Retraining Laid-Off Workers – But for What?�, reflecting on American experience observed that:

    More than 45 percent of the nation’s workers, whatever their skills, earned less than $13.25 an hour in 2004, or $27,600 a year for a full-time worker. That is roughly the income that a family of four must have in many parts of the country to maintain a standard of living minimally above the poverty level. Surely lack of skill and education does not hold down the wages of nearly half the work force.
    Something quite different seems to be true: the oversupply of skilled workers is driving people into jobs beneath their skills and driving down the pay of jobs equal to their skills.

    And then there was the column by Robert Kuttner in the Boston Globe who points out:

    However, it is worth leaving the immigration debate to explore the deeper causes of stagnant living standards that make so many Americans fearful of immigrants. In the current recovery, for the first time since the government has kept such statistics, median household income has lagged behind inflation in a recovery for five straight years.
    Census data show median household income fell 3.8 percent or $1,700, from 1999 to 2004, according to economist Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute (on whose board I serve.) And this drop occurred during a period when average productivity rose three percent per year.
    Moreover, as economist Jeff Madrick has observed in his book ”Why Economies Grow,” , the reality is worse because prices of commodities that make us middle class are rising much faster than inflation generally: housing, college education, health care, and also child care. These very rapid price increases are offset by falling costs of consumer electronics, basic food, and clothing, creating misleadingly low inflation measures.

    That may be true, and probably relevant to the Australia, but it seems to me immigration would have an impact on low skilled workers, and the juxtaposition of the two quotes seems to suggest that in turn has an impact on median, i.e. middle class, incomes. Hence, it seems to me, presuming similar variables at play, aside from open immigration, there is no ground to be complacent about the “flexibility� policy of the Federal Government. The further implication might be that university education is judged as becoming irrelevant to a defined spectrum of the population, perhaps starting with closing down the humanities on the basis that it should be a private activity, and having the ultimate justification of saving money.

    When they work, it seems to me that despite the new electronic technology newspapers may be irreplaceable, since where else can such information be sourced?

  30. derrida derider
    April 2nd, 2006 at 13:33 | #30

    Andrew, If the free market is just economic democracy, with people voting with their money, its an extremely skewed democracy – some people have many, many more votes than others.

  31. stoptherubbish
    April 2nd, 2006 at 16:05 | #31

    Did anyone see Kevin Andrews on Insiders today? What a dope-Pity Barrie Cassidy didn’t have the presence of mind to ask Andrews what sort of choice employees have when it is legal to deny them their choice of a union collective agreement and how legislation that makes it legal for employers to do this could possibly be called ‘workchoices’.

    The IR laws go from strength to strength-make no mistake neo libs out there-the campaign is growing hard and fast below the radar mostly out there in places where millionaire ideologues rarely venture. You can hear the pennies dropping faster and louder every day. Don’t you worry about the ACTU camapign-It is being run in every community organisation in the country. As I once wrote here, you can fool people about children overboard, and you can scare them about interest rate rises, when most people don’t know how it works, but are scared s******s about their mortgage payments, but you can’t fool people about their pay and conditions, and nor can you make them like or believe their employer or stop them being frightened of them. They may have to sign AWAs to get the job, but they still have the vote-for the time being. Roll on the next election!

  32. Derick Cullen
    April 2nd, 2006 at 16:35 | #32

    Medians (for example: median income, median house prices) are one indicator of central tendency, with the disadvantage that the value attributed can be dragged up or down by outliers more readily than other measures of central tendency. For example the impact of the sale of a Potts Point mansion on median Sydney house prices.

    Pessimism about median incomes should be calibrated by looking at averages and perhaps modes as well.

  33. conrad
    April 2nd, 2006 at 16:58 | #33

    Derick, I think you nead to learn statistics better.

    Medians are not typically affected by outliers, which is often why there are used instead of means.

  34. April 2nd, 2006 at 20:53 | #34

    Zarquon et al, “having a say” isn’t so in some places that have governments collecting taxes. In any case, it has more to do with the point of whether the victim forgives than with whether the taking is consensual.

    Even in those places that do run a democracy – even leading aside how “real” it is – the people cannot speak for individuals except in so far as there has been a delegation like that. That hasn’t happened for centuries. If anything, those claiming to represent the people now are the government.

    Legalising something has nothing to do with anything being right or wrong; they are usually in alignment, but there is no necessary connection. Legalising tax doesn’t stop it being theft.

    And yes, there is a commonality (I am not saying equivalence) between rape, theft, and tax. Each is violating the same principle: taking something that touches someone’s identity (which is what property is, if you don’t use the term in a special way, e.g. like an estate agent). I’m not suggesting that a petty theft is as bad as rape, just that both are violating the same principle.

    By the way, I have heard that – with the exception of the UN interregnum – conditions in ungoverned Somalia have been improving steadily under the warlords as they find a modus vivendi and the people can pick and choose among them with no governmental monopoly of violence. They are certainly better off than under their last Soviet client dictator. Warlordism only works out worse than governments when the governments prevent the warlords from having any long term interests. The problem is that, over time, they evolve into force monopolists – i.e. governments. They are at their best when they reach the stage of petty principalities. Somalia hasn’t yet reached that, but it’s better off than under UN control.

  35. Steve Munn
    April 3rd, 2006 at 01:18 | #35

    Peterson, Reynolds and Lawrence, this “tax is theft” mantra is getting boring beyond belief. If you feel you are over-taxed then feel free to migrate. There are plenty of places, like Somalia, where the tax man is unlikely to bother you.

    The only right libertarian I know of whose arguments demonstrate the existence of a brain is Jason Soon at Catallaxy. Why don’t you guys spend more time there as it could only benefit your flimsy notions. You guys seem to put your feet in your mouths each time you try to spruik your silly bandwagon.

    Australia has one of the lowest tax rates of any first world nation. For God sake, quit flogging that dead horse. :(

  36. Zarquon
    April 3rd, 2006 at 06:59 | #36

    Each is violating the same principle: taking something that touches someone’s identity

    Funny how this argument didn’t work for Aborigines to be given land rights.

  37. Terje
    April 3rd, 2006 at 18:30 | #37

    PM Lawrence: Are you trying to argue that taxation is somehow comparable to rape?

    Yes!!! Another great analogy. Tax is like toxic pollution and it is like rape.

    Peterson, Reynolds and Lawrence, this “tax is theft� mantra is getting boring beyond belief. If you feel you are over-taxed then feel free to migrate.

    I might retort by asking if you feel so passionate about tax then why you don’t move to Ethiopia where farmers get to sacrifice 89% of their produce to the central government or to Niger where they those who are starving must remit over 59% of their income to the government and then another slab in GST.

    Or I might ask why women who are beaten and abused on a daily basis by their husbands don’t stop whinging about it and just move out. I am sure their complaining must cause youmuch annoyance also.

    However to answer your question directly my main concern about living in Somalia is cultural. I don’t speak the language and my family all lives here. Also much of their physical capital was destroyed in wars waged in the name of governments and it will take some time to rebuild.

    Although as PML has pointed out the UN report on Somalia indicates that they are moving ahead reasonably well without any central government to speak off. In some areas of human development they are moving ahead quicker than their highly governed neighbours. And they are building fixed capital like mobile phone networks quicker than in other parts of africa.

    Now would you rather I cut off your left hand or your right hand?

  38. Terje Petersen
    April 4th, 2006 at 23:53 | #38

    For those that think a country without a government is all bad a few articles on Somalia:-

    1. http://www.peterleeson.com/Better_Off_Stateless.pdf

    EXTACT:-

    Indicators of Somali welfare remain low in absolute terms, but compared to their status under government show a marked advance. Under statelessness life expectancy in Somalia has grown, access to health facilities has increased, infant mortality has dropped, civil liberties have expanded, and extreme poverty (less than $1 PPP/day) has plummeted. In many parts of the country even security has improved. In these areas citizens are safer than they’ve been in three decades (UNDP 2001). Somalia is far from prosperous, but it has made considerable strides since its government collapsed 15 years ago.

    2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4020259.stm

    EXTRACT:-

    It takes just three days for a landline to be installed – compared with waiting-lists of many years in neighbouring Kenya, where there is a stable, democratic government.

    And once installed, local calls are free for a monthly fee of just $10.

    International calls cost 50 US cents a minute, while surfing the web is charged at 50 US cents an hour – “the cheapest rate in Africa” according to the manager of one internet cafe.

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

    EXTRACT:-

    Only when it comes to public goods or to private goods with strong spillover effects—roads,
    monetary stability, a legal system, primary education, a cross-border financial system—does
    the state seem to be sorely missed. But even here the private sector has developed creative
    approaches that partially substitute for effective government. As a result, Somalia boasts lower
    rates of extreme poverty and, in some cases, better infrastructure than richer countries in Africa.

  39. April 6th, 2006 at 00:36 | #39

    SM, what I point out in response to others, meeting their particular points, is hardly a mantra. If anything, “why don’t you emigrate?” is a mantra, ignoring as it does the lack of places worth emigrating to (either because they are part of this same harmonising global community, or because they are places that wouldn’t welcome peaceful penetration and are suffering the repercussions of recent outside intervention like Somalia).

    But as it happens I already tried that emigration trick, although it only got me out of the fire into the frying pan. Frying pan is as good as you can manage with that trick.

    More to the point, even if all untaxed places were worse, whether actual ones or including hypothetical ones, it would address neither of the two main points: that governments tend to work like ground cover plants and thwart alternative methods of dealing with problems so that they are the only remaining practical sources of solutions (and so deserve no credit); and that the “theft” element has nothing to do with the things done with the loot or with the constrained after the fact acceptance of any good coming out of it, but rather with the involuntary nature and human targetting of the original taking.

    BTW, I recently came across that same “leave if you don’t like it” mantra exploded on someone else’s blog. If you want I’ll try and track it down.

  40. Hal9000
    April 7th, 2006 at 07:49 | #40

    PML et al – it’s simple, really. All you need to do is convince enough of your fellow citizens to dissolve the state, and bingo! Perhaps you could make a start by joining a political party – the Confederate Action Party is about the closest to where you want to be. If past CAP election results are any guide, however, you’ll need to have a few spare readies to pay those pesky deposits post-election.

  41. April 8th, 2006 at 16:09 | #41

    Hal9000, it’s not that simple (taking your comment at face value rather than as irony). The system is rigged, either consciously or unconsciously, to favour middle men. That’s why Pauline Hanson had to set up One Nation as her own intermediate body rather than running as an independent, which is what a true safety valve democracy would have allowed (with the bad effect that it endured within the system even after the original pressure had dissipated). There are also all sorts of parliamentary rules and regulations that require members to be activists rather than work to frustrate the workings, the way the Irish were able to in the 19th century; the system does not allow people to function within it if they disagree with it.

    And, of course, there is always the groupthink tendency to be co-opted by that value system, so even people of sound conscience like Tony abbott come to justify politicians by pointing accurately at the irrelevant fact that they work very hard. Your advice is like telling someone whose car is stuck in the mud to rev the engine harder; it just digs you in deeper.

    Short of violent action, which itself also undercuts the object of the exercise, I only know of two general approaches to changing the system. One is to be prepared to jump in if events do undercut it, offering a realistic alternative way of doing things. The other is to find ways of opting out within the system, so that islands of refuge form (these two approaches are mutually compatible). Even without achieving major change that way, there is always the chance that this example and education might slow or stop the tendency to make things ever worse, or might even provide specific policies that retrieve some of the ground and that governments might poach. That would at least be an improvement, even though it wouldn’t make the leopard change its spots. (By the way, did you ever hear the one about “Can the leper change his socks?”)

  42. Terje Petersen
    April 8th, 2006 at 21:36 | #42

    PML et al – it’s simple, really. All you need to do is convince enough of your fellow citizens to dissolve the state, and bingo!

    I don’t want to abolish the state. I think it is a necessary evil. However I do want a hell of a lot less government. Of course I accept that short of a violent revolution convincing fellow citizens is the main avenue for change. Which is why I try and avoid being silent on the issue.

  43. April 9th, 2006 at 15:24 | #43

    But the state only remains a necessary evil for so long as it – or we – don’t address the things that make it necessary in the first place. And the state never does have reason to work itself out of a job. I have a number of thoughts on how to address this dilemma, including getting the turkeys to vote for Christmas for other turkeys, so consolidating current politicians but ringbarking future ones and grandfathering out the problem areas.

  44. Terje Petersen
    April 9th, 2006 at 23:34 | #44

    It sounds a little like what the Latham/Howard tag team did for politicians superannuation.

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