Archive for September, 2007

Wikipedia at 2 million

September 6th, 2007 3 comments

Sometime around next Sunday, Wikipedia will reach 2 million articles. It’s about eighteen months since the millionth article was added, and the number of new articles has stabilized at around 2000 per day. So the shift from exponential to linear growth (in article numbers at least) has taken place a bit sooner than I expected. Some disorganised thoughts follow.

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Categories: Life in General Tags:

Fat and thin

September 5th, 2007 37 comments

The latest Scientific American is all about food and includes the striking fact that there are now more people who are overweight or obese (1.3 billion) than people who are chronically malnourished (800 million). This makes it obvious that the world could feed all its people if we had the right social organisation. It’s closely related to the fact that there are now more rich people (by any historical standard, most people in developed countries are rich) than very poor people (income of less than $1US a day). The overlap here isn’t perfect – most of the malnourished are very poor, but obesity is mostly a problem of relatively poor people in rich countries, and it’s now common in poor and middle-income countries as well.

The main point though is that we have the resources to end poverty. Doubling the income of the very poor would cost about $300 billion a year, which is pretty close to the 0.7 per cent of total rich country income that was promised as a target for foreign aid years ago. We’ve got nowhere near that, and much of what is given doesn’t go to the very poor. Admittedly, there will always be leakage, but if the rich countries were prepared to allocate as little as 2 per cent of their income to a well-planned and well-funded effort, we could surely pull most people out of extreme poverty. The task would be made even easier if the benefits growth in China and India, both of which still have many very poor people) were spread a bit more evenly.

Categories: World Events Tags:

Monday message board

September 3rd, 2007 22 comments

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. As usual, civilised discussion and absolutely no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Foreclosure and bankruptcy

September 2nd, 2007 2 comments

A few weeks ago, I noticed this piece saying that the mortgage problem in the UK might be worse than that in the US. The reason given (also applicable to Australia) is that the UK boom or bubble in house prices has been much more dramatic than in the US. One statistic quoted in the piece was that there were 14 000 foreclosures in the first half of 2007 a statistic that, as the author notes, makes grim reading. It’s striking then, to read this piece in the NYTimes, predicting 2 million foreclosures in the US this year (since most mortgages are taken out by couples, many with children, the number of people affected is probably more like 4 million). Even allowing for the larger population in the US, this is a huge difference. It now appears that foreclosure has taken over from bankruptcy as the primary mode of financial catastrophe. (Bankruptcy rates plummeted after the “reform” of 2005, but seem certain to rebound in coming months).

Categories: Economics - General Tags:

Taking Aboriginal land

September 2nd, 2007 38 comments

One of the striking features of the government’s intervention in Aboriginal communities, embodied in the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 was how rapidly the ostensible motive of intervening to tackle social problems, most notably child abuse, was swallowed by the ideological push to refashion property rights, taking over land owned by Aboriginal communities, with the presumed goal of turning it into individualised private property

A question that’s come up a couple of times and to which I haven’t seen an answer is how this squares with the Constitutional requirement for “just terms” in acquisition of land and other property, and also the statutory requirements of the Lands Acquisition Act (unless these have been overridden by the latest legislation). Is there anyone with a legal background who can comment on this?

Update Several commenters suggest that the focus on the land grab is a reflection of the left’s concern with process issues or political advantage, and a lack of concern about child abuse. So it was striking to read in yesterday’s Crikey a pice by Anna Lamboys saying that that with half of the government’s six-month time frame completed, there are now some figures on
(a) the number of arrests for child sex abuse laid as a result of the intervention
(b) the number of referrals to child protection authorities
Results are over the fold
Read more…

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Weekend reflections

September 1st, 2007 8 comments

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.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Socratic forum wrapup

September 1st, 2007 3 comments

I was going to write a post about the Socratic forum, but Sam Clifford has done it. Here’s his summary of my piece.

John Quiggin illustrated the States-Canberra issue with the analogy of a dysfunctional household in which dad earns the money and mum spends it (this is the GST). Dad is in charge of things like keeping the house safe whereas mum is responsible for raising the kids and cooking the food that dad provides. While I don’t agree with this traditionalist view of the home (c. 1950s) it’s plain to see that it’s an adequate representation of the situation. Dad gets in mum’s way from time to time, telling the kids that they can have ice-cream (or an amalgamation plebiscite) after mum’s said no. What is needed, Quiggin argues, is a clearer division of tasks and the allocation of funding based on who needs to do what. If mum needs some money to buy new shoes for the kids, dad shouldn’t be whining about the fact that his tie’s not ironed.

That was a bit lighthearted, but Charles Sampford gave a more serious presentation of the underlying viewpoint. It’s based on the principle of subsidiarity, that is that responsibility for government functions should be at a level as close as possible to the people it serves, consistent with effective provision of the service concerned. See also Mark at LP, who takes a similar view.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags: