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Weekend reflections

November 24th, 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. November 24th, 2006 at 16:36 | #1

    Here’s a little plug, something fun for your weekend if you are in Sydney this SAT and it’s all for 2 good causes:

    Sydney Festival for Peace – 25Nov2006
    All funds raised on the day go to the Burj el Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon and to Doctors for Iraq. Visit : http://www.apheda.org.au/projects/mideast and http://www.doctorsforiraq.org

    Festival for Peace – Saturday November 25

    Benefit for the victims of war in the Middle East
    PioneerPark, Norton st Leichhardt, 11-6pm
    Performers include:
    Cafe of the Gate of Salvation, Shimmer, Wire MC,
    Jesse Morris and the Project, Andorra, Gisele Scales,
    Jakalene eXtreme, NOMISe, Jamal
    Plus many more bands, speakers and performers

    Hosted by Leichhardt Council. Supported by a coalition of local peace groups, Islamic Friendship Association, Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine, and Stop the War Coalition.
    Volunteers WANTED! Contact 0408 619 152 or 0409 148 226
    http://www.myspace.com/sydneyfestivalforpeace http://www.stopwarcoalition.org

  2. November 24th, 2006 at 16:53 | #2

    This seems a lot more fun though! ;-)

    Anti-War Activists Plan ‘Global Orgasm For Peace’
    http://wcbstv.com/topstories/local_story_323212551.html

    The Global Orgasm for Peace was conceived by Donna Sheehan, 76, and Paul Reffell, 55, whose immodest goal is for everyone in the world to have an orgasm Dec. 22 while focusing on world peace.

    “The orgasm gives out an incredible feeling of peace during it and after it,” Reffell said Sunday. “Your mind is like a blank. It’s like a meditative state. And mass meditations have been shown to make a change.”

    The couple are no strangers to sex and social activism. Sheehan, no relation to anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, brought together nearly 50 women in 2002 who stripped naked and spelled out the word “Peace.”

    The stunt spawned a mini-movement called Baring Witness that led to similar unclothed demonstrations worldwide…

    http://www.globalorgasm.org

  3. November 24th, 2006 at 16:54 | #3

    It is interesting to note that Greg Lindsay of the Centre for Independent Studies recently became the President of the Mont Pelerin Society, set up by Hayek and others after World War II to keep alive the ideas of classical liberalism. Greg assumes the seat that has been warmed by some very eminent bums including that of Hayek himself, also Friedman and Buchanan.

    The foundation membership included Milton Friedman, Frank Knight, Ludwig Mises and Karl Popper, so that there was plenty of room for disagreements on details, including some very large details like the degree of state intervention that is OK and some esoteric topics like the status of a priori truths.

    Mises was not happy with the degree of intervention that most of the others were prepared to tolerate, and that would have applied especially to Popper who was a social democrat despite his concern about the downside of big government. It has been reported that Mises was carerful how he formulated propositions about a prioris when Popper was in the room to minimise the risk of an explosion. It is amusing to note how two of the most powerful and effective intellectual supporters of liberalism in the 20th century managed to avoid all public mention of the massive achievements of the other. Similarly their admirers have also not been able thus far to generate the synergy that should be achieved from the merger of their strong points and the elimination of their errors.

    The book that Mises wrote called “Liberalism” is on line in its entirety at the Mises Institute. There is a great deal of overlap between the ideas in this book and the contents of Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies, indeed the Mises book is a more concise statement of the leading principles that are required to achieve peace, freedom and plenty. It is interesting to note that section 2 of the Introduction on Material Welfare provided a counter-argument to the people who claim that indicators of happiness call into question the value of the market liberal program.
    http://www.mises.org/liberal/isec2.asp

    Mises pointed out that liberalism does not promise happiness, just release from poverty and servitude. People have to find happiness in themselves and their human relations. It is not a valid criticism of liberalism that it fails to make people happy, although we know that anti-liberal policies can result in death and suffering on a massive scale.

    In 1989 the Mont Pelerin Society held a regional conferenced at Christchurch, the place where Popper wrote The Open Society and there was a session with some papers on various aspects of his work. This was not the high point of the conference. James Buchanan played hookey and went off with Thomas Sowell to sample the produce of the local vinyards. He apologised later but he didn’t need to because the full texts of all the papers were distributed in advance and people mostly went to sleep during the session anyway. The three speakers all stood up at the lectern, pointed the top of their heads at the audience and read the full text of their papers from beginning to end. The papers were quite long, it was after a generous lunch served with wine, the sun was shining through a wall of west facing windows and the not exactly youthful libertarians dozed off in droves.

    My commentary on the other papers was also distributed in advance and I spoke after a tea break so most of the audience was awake, at least when I started. I departed from the script to suggest how some of the key points from the three papers related to some other interesting papers that were delivered at the conference. The text, as circulated, can be found here.
    http://catallaxyfiles.com/?p=2064

    Colin Simkin, Popper’s friend from Christchurch, was antagonistic to the Austrians and he even challenged them from the floor one morning, casting scorn on the apoditic a priori. His timing was bad because it was near the end of the morning session and the Austrians were more interested in lunch than debating with an old social democrat.

    There is also a Thomas Sowell story. Just before the closing dinner some of the local Young Socialists formed a ragged picket line in the street to protest the presence of fascists in god’s own country. They looked a bit like this young fellow (1982) only less elegant in dress and grooming. http://economics.gmu.edu/pboettke/bio.html

    Some of us went out to have a look and as I stood beside Sowell I said aloud, to nobody in particular “Sort of takes you back doesn’t it�.

    He said “Boy, you sure know how to hit a man where it hurts”. I didn’t realise at the time that he had been a Marxist in his youth.

  4. November 25th, 2006 at 05:41 | #4

    I’m curious about what the situation is in Australia wrt releasing raw price information by the government agency in charge of computing the official inflation number. Here is a story of a few questions:

    Inflation and Transparency

    A few monthes ago I asked various economists, including Bernard Salanié (see comments) why the administrations computing inflation didn’t make their raw price data available since it would end conspiracy theories, endless debates about the magic “global” inflation number and provide quite useful data to taxpayers who all have different perspectives on inflation : yound, couple with or without children, old or retired face very different inflation, different regions face different prices level and inflation, etc…

    The near unanimous answer (see the comments in the link above) was that data can’t be released otherwise store owners would change their price behaviour (and that I didn’t know anything about economics, etc… nothing unexpected).

    After a while, encouraged by Max Sawicki who told me honnestly not knowing the reason and that Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) people were nice people, I decided to fire a few emails.

    More here:

    http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2006/11/20/143350/23

  5. Mike Hart
    November 25th, 2006 at 11:53 | #5

    Another perspective on the catastrophe called Iraq, the other side of the body count. How does 3000 widows and countless orphans created in that society every month of the years take your fancy? Given the parlous state of anything called a working society or economy in that country have a thought for all these women and children in their struggle to survive and lead anything approaching a peaceful life. I guess this is what Milton Fiedman once shruggingly said was a bit of a problem, ‘externalities’. Still better to have political principles than ever admit to mistakes gives you a remarkably clear conscience.

  6. November 25th, 2006 at 23:14 | #6

    Deepak Lal, a leading commentator on Third World issues and globalizaion is in Sydney on Monday to talk about the future of foreign aid.

    http://catallaxyfiles.com/?p=2135

  7. November 26th, 2006 at 10:11 | #7

    The Victorian election result was very disapointing for me. Facists First polled well, the DLP (Yes the DLP) is likely to take the final upper house seat for Northern Metropolitan and the Greens didn’t improve of last elections performance and have gone backwards in some places such as Richmond.

    Stephen Fielding was even handing out HTVs at my local, which is one of the Greenest booths in the State. The new Northcote member is the wife of the idiot who gave Facists First a free kick in the Senate (and ALP voters a kick in the guts). The same guy masterminded the scare campaign against the Greens in the inner city, where upstanding citizens such as Peter Garrett were brought in to say that Greens were preferencing the Liberal Party, an outright lie. Unfortunately there are no laws against lying and you can’t defame an entity.

  8. November 26th, 2006 at 10:54 | #8

    At long last John Winston Howard made it to a Vietnam battlefield this week. As PM of this country it was right and mete that he should lay wreaths at both the Australian and Vietnamese War Memorials at Long Tan.

    However the discussion on the rightness of the war subsequently was illuminating.

    The fact that Howard remains err… recalcitrant on the point of the validity of the war and Australia’s commitment is extraordinary enough but what was particularly vomit making was his shedding of crocodile tears over the treatment of Vietnam veterans since the end of the war. Given that Howard was by any measure a community leader and mostly in a position of some influence in all the years that the next logical question was why the hell didn’t you do something about it. The media let him get away with it.

    Likewise they let him get away with never having to explain why he did not enlist in either the permanent or reserve forces so as to participate in some way, even minor, in a conflict which he vociferously supported.

  9. Mike Hart
    November 26th, 2006 at 18:50 | #9

    Albert that is the great thing about being so principled, savings you admitting you made a mistake saves you having a conscience. As Benjamin Disraeli said, “a Conservate Government is an organised hypocrisy”. The most galling thing is little winnies claim that the original principle upon which we went to Vietnam is one he stood by, that I think was the discredited ‘Domino Theory’, the press did not pick that up either but then again he is a lawyer by training, so he employs all the legal tricks of never admitting liability, creating doubt, disputing facts and fighting over word meanings, works every time. You may not win, so long as you do not lose. Have a good weekend.

  10. November 27th, 2006 at 06:05 | #10

    Can someone explain the policies that the Viet Kong and the North Vietnamese were planning to put in place to promote freedom and prosperity in the South?

  11. jquiggin
    November 27th, 2006 at 06:48 | #11

    “Can someone explain the policies that the Viet Kong and the North Vietnamese were planning to put in place to promote freedom and prosperity in the South?”

    This seems an odd use of the hypothetical “were planning to”, Rafe.

  12. December 2nd, 2006 at 15:05 | #12

    So what policies did the North Vietnamese actually put in place to promote freedom and prosperity in North and South?

    And who thinks that the policies that they implemented are desirable?

  13. jquiggin
    December 3rd, 2006 at 19:06 | #13

    Well, the most obvious policy was, having won the war, to stop it. I imagine that the millions of Vietnamese who are alive as a result, think it was a desirable policy, whatever the merits of the various political and economic policies that accompanied it. As regards freedom and prosperity, from this distance, the place appears better in both respects than in, say, 1973. Not in the way Ho Chi Minh hoped perhaps, but peace has a way of producing good outcomes.

  14. December 3rd, 2006 at 21:44 | #14

    John, how was the situation of the ordinary people of Vietnam improved by communist rule in place of the French colonial administration?

    Why did a million people flee from the North to the South after the partition?

    Why was Ho prepared to kill as many of his people as it took to win the war and invade the South? For what purpose? To institute the kind of regime that had already shown itself in the Soviet experience to be morally and economically bankrupt?

    Have you learned nothing from the totalitarian experience of the 20th century?

  15. jquiggin
    December 3rd, 2006 at 22:27 | #15

    “Why was Ho prepared to kill as many of his people as it took to win the war and invade the South? For what purpose?”

    Why were you (unless I’m misreading you dramatically) prepared to kill as many Vietnamese people as necessary in a failed attempt to stop Ho? For what purpose? Why do you support a war policy that’s killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis? For what purpose? Where do you, and the governments you support, plan to kill hundreds of thousands of people next? For what purpose?

  16. December 4th, 2006 at 05:38 | #16

    John, I would like you to tell me what you think the ordinary people of Vietnam gained from the communist regime that replaced the French colonial rule in the North and, later, the regime in the South?

    What principles do you use, apart from the vindication of victory, to justify communism and and the violent takeover of nations by communists?

    Please stick to the point. Feel free to start a separate thread on Iraq.

    If you must introduce Iraq, I had grave reservations about intervention and you are not helping the discussion by making assumptions about my position. However the purpose of the intervention was to get rid of one of the nastiest dictators that we have seen, with a proven track record of crimes verging on genocide. The aim was to set up a multi-party democracy, functioning under the rule of law and maintaining a range of freedoms. The point is, that aim is defensible in a way that the aims of the communists in Vietnam were not (as some have apparently realised, sadly late in the day).

  17. December 4th, 2006 at 10:06 | #17

    A few monthes ago I asked various economists, including Bernard Salanié (see comments) why the administrations computing inflation didn’t make their raw price data available since it would end conspiracy theories, endless debates about the magic “global� inflation number and provide quite useful data to taxpayers who all have different perspectives on inflation : yound, couple with or without children, old or retired face very different inflation, different regions face different prices level and inflation, etc…

    Laurent,

    Your question is an excellant one. I think that what is needed is some competing indexes published by private think tanks. These would never agree with the central bank figures (or the ABS in Australia) but they would allow for some serious debate if they diverged too far. The demand for explainations would then hopefully lead to greater transparency.

    Many of the Supply Side economists in the US (those from the Wanniski/Mundell school of thought) use a transparent index called the gold price. It is published on the front section of the financial pages of pretty much every newspaper. And by some simple conversion you can quickly determine how many gold grams the Australian dollar is worth today (38 millgrams) and how it is trending relative to say the ten year average (the needle is pointing towards devaluation/inflation). Of course commodities don’t signal the rate of consumer price inflation so much as point to where it will be heading if the central bank does not change tack (although changes to their interest rates targets are not a clear indication of a new tack). And even then if you want to be specific in your forcasts you need to crunch it through a formulation called the GVM.

    http://www.supplysideforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=136&highlight=gold+value+model

    The lack of transparency they we currently have is good for central bankers. It means that they can waffle about bubbles and risks and blame the private sector for the failings of monetary policy if it should come to that. Alan Greenspan used this smoke and mirrors trick to great advantage. I can’t see why they would willingly change.

    I know a lot of people don’t like the gold standard. However it had the novel advantage of being completely transparent. And even if you don’t think the gold standard is modern enough you could still go for the Bancor system of fixed exchange rates that Keynes proposed and be way ahead in terms of central bank transparency (not to mention global financial stability).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bancor

    It seems however that using commodities as a common “unit of account” will continue to be a dirty concept for the forseable future because people seem to just love handing blank cheques to their government.

    Regards,
    Terje.

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