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Weekend reflections

August 16th, 2009

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. As always, civilised discussion and no coarse language.

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  1. philip travers
    August 16th, 2009 at 21:26 | #1

    And it comes to pass Cubby Station Queensland and the Murray Darling is back on the agenda via Senator Xenophon.Will all the problems that seem to be the errors of States be superceded to the C’Wealth? I want to solve this problem,at least in a conceptual way,the practical men and women, can look at it as a thought bubble,and I don’t want them to lose that,for that is the concept.It seems the storage of water for purposes of cotton growing etc. is the declared income interest of both owner and Queensland Government. Whereas the ex-Queensland Public Servant and others are aware of what a public service is.We are being told the climate is measuring hotter at landscape level..the country is getting drier….all this is potentially and measurely near true,so even sending the giga volumes of water to South Australia doesn’t exactly mean the water quality will be high by the time it does all of its journey.So ,if Cubby Station was a public service providor rather than cotton farm interests,how could that storage be useful for other states and environmental end users!? Simply by technically enhancing the quality of water,and being paid as a Public like Utility for doing that, except for its private owner shareholdings. It’s oxygen qualities could be industrially added,and the resultant water may then last longer where ever it goes.Is the Murray Darling really that friendly to the water quality as it is now!?Is it really true,by simply having enough flow in the water systems as naturally developed ones, that, then destroys that….. in the environment of the rivers that reduces flow and quality!? The answer to the problem of the Murray Darling natural systems requirements and irrigators etc. may,in fact be storage first,improve the water quality and release water for all purposes on matters of climatological values and basic chemistry in a biological sense of river health.That is apply mathematical tools to release dates to insure better quality water arrival.The outcome still needs fair water prices,that can only come about by fair investment matters,not penalties ,but fair business transactions so all users including environmental use is maximally fair,seen to be fair,and finally said openly as fair.Local Cubby Station jobs are also important,so looking at massive ,but low cost Dome or Domes,Bucky Fuller style over the dam site, may yield more varied outputs other than direct on water surface cotton growing.That is, state water users elsewhere invest in these Domes and production could be then transported to farm properties later to enhance market oppurtunities.If business who can do the building of this aren’t maximising their profits immediately,there could be farms right across the states who then could be willing to invest in Dome or on farm production facilities,including grasses[fodder] for livestock, where minimising costs of water usage are keenly sort.A whole of production synergy needs exploring without the maximising profit approach at the base,but across the users,as the users see the reasons for the need of that profit to enhance their own profits.Take the water cost gamble out of the equations for mutual obligations,trading and development.Mutually explored investments across state users of waters and their governments.I say ,take a trip on the less penalising side.Tomorrow needs you!

  2. Ikonoclast
    August 17th, 2009 at 20:51 | #2

    Michael Cathcart’s book the “Water Dreamers” (which I have not read yet) sounds interesting. A speech of his is on ABC Hindsight.

    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/hindsight/stories/2008/2272369.htm

    Early on he says, “… Simon Ramsay of the Victorian Farmers Federation says the government is distorting the market and that will force up the price of water—which it obviously will.

    Now in one sense, it seems to me that Mr Ramsay is right. Giving $3 billion to select individuals so that water can flow down a river does sound like absolute madness. If you came into the story late, and thought, ‘What on earth is going on?’ You would think, ‘This is crazy—we have to pay $3 billion to let water run down a river?’

    It’s a fair indication that water policy in white Australia has been shaped by absurd and irrational factors. And really it’s that irrational dimension that’s my topic for tonight. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not against the water buyback, but the fact that we’ve got ourselves into this position is bizarre.”

    I agree with him. Our water policy is in a bizarre mess just as our carbon pollution reduction policy is in a bizarre mess.

    Scientists can outline the problems (not perfectly but to some considerable extent) but then we proceed to attempt to deal with these problems with a mix of populist politics, interest group lobbying, selective compensation and free market economics. It’s hard to see how we can avoid this haphazard approach in an eclectic, democratic, mixed economy society. Such a society has proved reasonably able at meeting many short to mid-term challenges but seems unable to meet the challenge of changing course to avoid long term disaster.

    I don’t at all want the above to be taken as endorsing any shift to a more authoritarian society. However, how can a democratic society where a majority of the citizens are still scientifically illiterate make logical decisions based on empirical evidence and so make the long term changes necessary for its own survival? This is the question that faces us.

    The mental world of most citizens is much more furnished by marketing, religion, faith-based reasoning and wish-fulfillment thinking than it is by any rational empirically based philosophy. How can such a society make logical democratic decisions? Sadly, it’s not possible.

  3. Alice
    August 17th, 2009 at 21:10 | #3

    Do we or do we not have a chance to buy back Cubby? They need to get on to it NOW – not just whinge about Cubby.

  4. August 17th, 2009 at 21:42 | #4

    Subject: New article by Jim Stanford

    Dear friends,

    Today we have published another article on the global financial crisis by Canadian economist and author Jim Stanford.

    The article is well worth a look – and Jim still has two meetings to go on his Australian speaking tour.

    For details see the Left Focus blog:

    http://leftfocus.blogspot.com/

    Some time next week we will also be publishing a new article on pension reform.

    As always, your comments here and at the blog are welcome.

    sincerely,

    Tristan

  5. August 17th, 2009 at 23:07 | #5

    Alice,
    Looks like we got shut down on the other thread – I presume that was because it became too long. My question there was whether you based your entire case on housing prices – yes or no? If it is no, what else do you want to bring in? I do not want to have to chase a moving target, so let’s sort out all the targets in advance.

  6. August 18th, 2009 at 00:43 | #6

    A while back I canvassed a submission to the Henry Tax Review on the Retirement Income System here on this blog, and another more general one here on the Australian Libertarian Society blog (covering employment issues etc.). These are now available here and here on the Henry Tax Review page for retirement income public submissions, and here and here on the Henry Tax Review page for public submissions received after 14 November 2008.

  7. Alice
    August 18th, 2009 at 09:31 | #7

    @Andrew Reynolds
    Ok then bring this one in Andy – the failure of most other deciles of income earners failing to benefit as much from any growth as the top decile. That really gets up my nose because its been primarily the top that has had the resources to tell everyone else (media and funding of stink tank propaganda) how well we have been doing over the past thirty years compared to the thirty years before…when in fact it was the wealthiest that grabbed most of the gains and most other groups barely moved their lot in real terms and quite a few lower deciles declined in real terms. Oh and why is inequality in tax incomes (lets call that first port of call) worse against every decade marker except 1950 (and of course inequality was bad that year because of the wool export price that went to the wealthiest). Now IS MORE UNEQUAL – against every decade marker. Nice for the rich to tell us how well we all are doing when it relaity it has been them that has been doing very nicely thankyou over the past thirty years (and not the rest). Financial sector fables Andy.

  8. Alice
    August 18th, 2009 at 09:37 | #8

    @Andrew Reynolds
    Andy – we didnt get shut down, you just lost the post because its gone down the list…

  9. August 18th, 2009 at 11:29 | #9

    “I do not want to have to chase a moving target”

    Way too late, Andrew.

  10. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 18th, 2009 at 11:40 | #10

    John, today it has been reported that Australians perceive themselves to be happier and better off than their overseas counterparts. Hmm not sure about this unless a comparative study has been done.

  11. August 18th, 2009 at 14:12 | #11

    Alice,
    Last time I went to that thread it was closed after 348 comments.
    .
    The lowest decile is even more of a moving target than you are. Study after study has shown that people in that decile are not trapped there and that they frequently move out of it and others move in – just as people regularly move into and out of the top decile of income.
    Quite a few in the bottom income decile are those who are unemployed and then get a job and move out. Others may fall out of employment and move in. Only a very small percentage stay there for any length of time.
    Of course, if you have any studies contradicting that view I would be interested.
    Trying to look at long periods and treating those in the lowest income decile as somehow detached from the rest of us (I, incidentally, would have been in there from time to time) is simply wrong.
    Back to the point, then – housing. Anything else?

  12. Alice
    August 18th, 2009 at 14:33 | #12

    Listen Jarrah and Andy

    Dont you accuse me of being a slippery moving target!!
    Andy you asked me to sort out targets in advance…so Im doing it! (as asked)

    To housing costs as a percentage of income over time, I added inequality of tax incomes over time and I just thought of a third – increasing concentration of firms in the supermarket grocery sector (essentials) and the effect on retail prices for consumers.

    Fair is fair. Ill give you two constraints. Take it from 1960 to now and make it Australian. I dont want to place too much of a burden on you Andy…!!. Oh and stats please – not just sweeping statements from you two slippery characters..LOL!

  13. August 18th, 2009 at 14:50 | #13

    The inequality of tax incomes over time would be good – but let’s not kid ourselves that people in the lowest decile stay there. To include that in th estudy is the work of a major piece of reserch, not a blog comment. If you want to do that I suggest you look to a major university’s economic research department.
    The third one (concentration of market power) is (IMHO) irrelevant, as the effects cannot be seperated (from a welfare POV) from he prices charged. If the prices drop then I would count that as a net improvement, whether or not it has come at the expense of a corner store closing down.
    We are back to just house prices, I think.

  14. Jim Birch
    August 18th, 2009 at 15:00 | #14

    MOSH #10. Happiness IS a slippery thing to measure. To make matters worse, newspapers love printing unqualified chat points that may bear little relationship to the actual research (if there was any).

    If your interested, there’s a good short piece on happiness and satisfaction measures (as text or podcast) at the RN site.

  15. Ernestine Gross
    August 18th, 2009 at 15:30 | #15

    Ikonoclast, I don’t have a solution either to the problem you describe. I can offer a guess though: Delegation and restoration of the notion of ‘professional services’ (instead of knowledge, health, education workers who are managed by so-called managers who often seem to rely on the glue of PR rather than having a clue). My guess is based on the observation that people entrust their personal wellbeing to medical professionals (I don’t buy the idea that people ‘choose’ medical practitioners like they choose a between chocolate and strawberry ice cream). Further, there was a time when people delegated scientific and technical matters to ‘boards’ (water, ….) or organisations such as the Australian Acoustics Institute (maybe I got the exact name wrong), staffed by reasonably well paid and well educated people with reasonably secure employment and career paths within a public sector that is independent of political fads and industry influence.

  16. Alice
    August 18th, 2009 at 15:40 | #16

    I seem to always be agreeing with Ernestine – now many of these public boards have been privatised we just cant damn well trust the info coming out of them! For example, LPI services – I think its land and property information – this is the name of the old Valuer Generals department (or now serves the valuer generals function). Does anyone really imagine LPI do the correct, rather than the fastest, land valuation work now?
    Dont forget we all pay rates based on their land valuations …

  17. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 18th, 2009 at 18:45 | #17

    Jim Birch, if one does a survey in places like Ravensthorpe the end results would differ and in my opinion is a more accurate assessment of peoples feelings towards the GFC and not what is being portrayed.

  18. Ikonoclast
    August 18th, 2009 at 19:48 | #18

    In response to Ernestine’s post. Yes, I think we have privatised many services which properly belong in the public sphere. Of course, the phrase qualifier “properly belong” would need a good deal of explanatory definition. In addition, many of these privatised or quasi-privatised entities are run by the “generic managerialists”. The quasi-privatised entity managers are amongst those John Ralston Saul called “capitalists in drag”. Capitalist managers who manage but do not own and thus are not actually running risks for themselves.

  19. Ikonoclast
    August 18th, 2009 at 20:54 | #19

    OK, I thought I would have a crack at “services which properly belong in the public sphere”. This topic does refer back to the first post which explicitly canvassed the water issue and the questions of public and private ownership of water resources.

    My phrase “services which properly belong in the public sphere” presupposes a public sphere larger than the minimalist governing state of fisc, courts and military. It presupposes a state which will involve itself in health, welfare, education and “strategic” infrastructure. The latter means strategic in the social and economic sense though it could mean strategic in the military sense as well.

    It is through the democratic demands of the majority of the people that the modern democratic nation state involves itself in health, welfare, education and strategic infrastructure whilst at the same time regulating (to some considerable extent) the operations of the market. Therefore to impute in any way that the democratic state lacks the legitimacy to operate in these areas is to impute that democracy itself is an illegitimate form of government.

    We are a democratic, free-market society. Note that I ended that sentence with the word “society” not the word “economy”. Note that I place the adjective “democratic” before the compound adjective “free-market”. We are a society not an economy. The fact that we are democratic is more fundamental than the fact that we are free-market. We are a democratic society and one aspect of our society is that it has an economy and indeed a particular form of economy.

    The economy is only one part of the complete whole which is our society. I know I have belaboured the above point but it needs to be belaboured. Too often we call ourselves an economy rather than a society. It’s like treating a human being as a body rather than as a person. Or referring to persons as “customers” rather than as people. Indeed, to the coporate managerialists we are customers and not people. However, I digress.

    Given the legitimate democratic demand for the state to be involved in health, welfare, education and social services generally as well as strategic infrastructure, we are now faced with defining the proper ambit of this involvement, for the purposes of demcratic debate of course. We are further faced with integrating this with a moderated free market and creating a genuine democratic, mixed economy society. After all, the demands for a moderated free market (free within limits) and for the protection of the principle of private property are also legitimate democratic demands, at least in Australia.

    The above suggests a “proper spheres” argument; namely that there are proper spheres for public and private operations in the economy. It further suggests that we may be able to delineate these spheres to some reasonable extent although never perfectly. There will always be fuzzy areas.

    The basic difference seems to be that the democratic sphere is about decisions made in common about matters held to be of common (shared) concern. The private sphere (be it personal or economic or some amalgam thereof) is about private decisions which are of major import to the individual and possibly to closely connected individuals but of diminishing or even vanishing import to other individuals. The phrase “diminishing or even vanishing import” needs to be further qualified. A good part of this potential quality of diminishing or vanishing import may be generated by the ability of generally unconnected others to exercise free will or choice in relation to opting in or opting out of being affected. The obvious example of choice is the choice to buy or not buy something in the market.

    To Be Continued…

  20. Donald Oats
    August 18th, 2009 at 21:51 | #20

    Public libraries, for the dissemination of knowledge, as archives for Australian history and geneology, for the encouragement of regular reading, and for access to a range of media not available (by way of combined cost) to one individual. The bigger public libraries also provide a role as a meeting place for social interaction.

    Museums for similar reasons as libraries, but with an extra focus on science.

    Art Galleries for similar reasons as above, but with an extra focus on culture.

    Police, Fire and Ambulance/Emergency services. Gaols and correctional officers.

    Universities, and especially the research component. The shift to user-pays and commercial research deals has actually made universities into political participants, which is ironic given the level of private money now. The research component has been slowly distorted to better suit commercialisation of intellectual property. Private ownership of IP is fine for companies, but is contrary to what should be the research goals of universities – providing open access by way of research articles, conferences and the like, rather than trying to hide (commercially) favorable research results from view as long as they want.

    These are just a few of the things that I think should be part of government responsibility – there is a public good in each of these, although I know the university one is contentious.

  21. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 21st, 2009 at 19:33 | #21

    John, if Premier Rees wants to win the hearts and souls of NSW voters then he should listen to the coalition of community groups who want to keep Sydney’s famous green and gold ferries in ‘public hands’. Statistics show Sydney Ferries are safe, reliable, popular, cheap and a fun way of sight-seeing Sydney Harbour day and/or night. Listen to papa Rees for he knows best.

  22. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 22nd, 2009 at 08:43 | #22

    John, it seems like the Nationals have had enough after a topsy turvy fifty year Coalition marriage with the Liberals which remains in name only and former Nationals leader John Anderson wants out. And whilst the Nationals try to sort themselves out this weekend Turnbull plans to visit Grovedale next Monday and attend a jobs forum.

  23. Alice
    August 22nd, 2009 at 19:04 | #23

    @Michael of Summer Hill
    Moshie – I wish you would stop getting in here plugging NSW labor for all you are worth.
    They have failed us. Transport is a mess. A total and utter mess. NSW labor has out liberalled the liberals for failed petty measly privatised transport options that inavriably involve them handing swathes of what used to be “public roads” (our roads that we have already paid for….in the past from our taxes) to some petty criminal, shonks in the private sector who deliver revolting deals with high contingency liability costs (which we again pay for when they sue the NSW state government).

    Jess Moshie – you are seriously starting to annoy me with the blind allegiance to a govt that has DONE NOTHING. Its rail we need. Its damn obvious and its about time they got their collective heads around the NOW HUGE problem instead of tinkering at the edges of media BS with your help Moshie.

    Dont you get it? NSW labor (and every NSW state govt before them for the past thirty years) are hopeless incompetent bungling fools who like their political remunerations and political power and not much else and they have privatised so much public sector expertise they dont have it any more (and nor do we – the residents who carry the cost of their incompetences).

  24. Alice
    August 22nd, 2009 at 19:27 | #24

    @Michael of Summer Hill
    And Moshie …Papa Rees as you so affectionateky call him.. for a leftie …is on the privatisation bandwagon withn the best of them. Its all gone too far Moshie. lefty in name only. He (Rees) is as freakin right wing (pardon the expression)n right as the rest of his messed up schizophrenic party.

    Moshie – you better face facts. They have BUCKLEY’s chance ine the next election. I dont want to see the libs get in because it wont be any better but thats whats going to happen. Im just hoping for a greens swing big enough to keep the bastards honest. What more can anyone hope for?

  25. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 22nd, 2009 at 20:00 | #25

    Alice, you seem to blame Rees for all of Labor’s past sins which is none of his doing but he is learning fast. Thumbs up Rees.

  26. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 22nd, 2009 at 22:38 | #26

    John, a bit of history was made last weekend when Professor Uri Davis of al Quds University (an Israeli Jew) was elected to Fatah’s 120 member governing body the Revolutionary Council. Maybe this will break the ice and bring peace to the Land of Canaan.

  27. Kevin Cox
    August 23rd, 2009 at 05:23 | #27

    Ikonclast,

    I have rephrased and reoriented the Rewards idea to fit in better with the existing system. That is, it becomes more easily explained and we do not have to invent any new institutions or laws to implement.

    I believe it achieves what you are seeking by broadening the “public sphere” to include the public:) while still using markets to do what they are good at when allowed – and that is to distribute resources in the most efficient manner.

    Any questions and points of clarification eagerly sought.

    Now my regular business is purring along I have more time to devote to turning the idea into a working system.

    I am also looking for a good stickable title and am starting to favour

    “Zero Interest Loans for the Public Good” or the broader concept that includes such things as distributing health funds “Democratization of Government Spending”

    http://cscoxk.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/the-democratisation-of-government-spending/

    You may also be amused by

    http://cscoxk.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/banks-not-the-cause-of-the-gfc-but-the-solution/

  28. Alice
    August 23rd, 2009 at 11:58 | #28

    @Michael of Summer Hill
    Moshie – you say Rees is learning fast but not fast enough. He needs to disconnect his strings from the puppet masters who control him or the voters will disconnect the lot of them (I think its way too late anyway – even if he does it wont save NSW labor). They have been so busy running a political pary they forgot they were running the state of NSW.

  29. August 23rd, 2009 at 12:05 | #29

    MoSH,
    Care to let us know which of NSW Labor’s “past sins” you have even been openly critical about? I am guessing there are very, very few of them.

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