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Weekend reflections

April 13th, 2012

It’s time for another weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. Side discussions to sandpits, please.

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  1. Freelander
    April 13th, 2012 at 14:55 | #1

    Those God damned atheists will be at this weekend, spreading rationality and truth.

    Oh well. The ABC talk Dawkins a lesson by rolling out the village idiot to greet him on Q&A. You could see Dawkins, after his long flight was perplexed, thinking “What the f**k?”

    Nice one, ABC.

  2. Troy Prideaux
    April 13th, 2012 at 15:05 | #2

    @Freelander
    Ok, I’m going out on a limb here and entertaining the idea that Pell’s performance on Q&A might have touched a nerve there Tony :P

  3. Freelander
    April 13th, 2012 at 15:08 | #3

    Pell plays the role of village idiot so naturally…

  4. Tim Macknay
    April 13th, 2012 at 15:09 | #4

    Oh well. The ABC talk Dawkins a lesson by rolling out the village idiot to greet him on Q&A. You could see Dawkins, after his long flight was perplexed, thinking “What the f**k?”

    Which one was the village idiot – Pell or Tony Jones? Mind you, Dawkins is the official village spokes-idiot for the sociobiology cult, so the protocol was more-or-less correct.

  5. Sam
    April 13th, 2012 at 16:09 | #5

    Was shocked to see Dawkins fail to understand the Archbishop’s elegantly expressed point about human evolution and Neanderthals. Clearly, when your cousins die, they become your your parents. That’s just logic.

  6. April 13th, 2012 at 16:28 | #6

    Pell could have least gotten half of his facts right. Even little old layperson me could see the slight faults in his Neanderthal premise, as put forward by Sam. :/

  7. Freelander
    April 13th, 2012 at 16:28 | #7

    @Sam

    No. When your cousins die you’re allowed to marry them ((as long as they are not of the same sex) .

  8. Tim Macknay
    April 13th, 2012 at 16:34 | #8

    Neanderthals were destroyed in the flood. Because they were created by the demiurge. That’s all there is to it.

  9. Freelander
    April 13th, 2012 at 16:52 | #9

    Neanderthals were unintelligent Sheppard types, you know …

  10. Sam
    April 13th, 2012 at 16:53 | #10

    @Tim Macknay
    No Tim, Pell believes in Darwinian evolution, not the flood. Probably. Except that it can’t explain how life could evolve randomly. Certainly Dawkins has never talked about this. In any of his books. Certainly not multiple times in every chapter of The Selfish gene, Climbing Mt Improbable, The God Delusion, or The Ancestor’s Tale.

  11. Sancho
    April 13th, 2012 at 17:41 | #11

    I was disappointed that Dawkins gave credence to Pell’s assertion that the Nazis applied Darwinian principles, when what they applied was old-fashioned artificial selection – the exact same process the shepherds Jesus preached to used in breeding sheep.

  12. Sancho
    April 13th, 2012 at 17:44 | #12

    @Sam
    Pell believes in evolution because a council of men got together at the Vatican and decided it’s real after all, then got the pope to announce it.

    Apparently we should pay great heed to people who change their fundamental beliefs about the universe when a focus group thinks it’s politically useful.

  13. Tim Macknay
    April 13th, 2012 at 18:02 | #13

    @Sam

    No Tim, Pell believes in Darwinian evolution, not the flood. Probably. Except that it can’t explain how life could evolve randomly. Certainly Dawkins has never talked about this. In any of his books. Certainly not multiple times in every chapter of The Selfish gene, Climbing Mt Improbable, The God Delusion, or The Ancestor’s Tale.

    No it was the flood I tell you. And their selfish genes. And the ice age. And plus, we ate ‘em. And Richard Dawkins was also created by the demiurge. That’s why his genes are so selfish. And he married a Time Lord.

  14. Tim Macknay
    April 13th, 2012 at 18:03 | #14

    Apparently we should pay great heed to people who change their fundamental beliefs about the universe when a focus group thinks it’s politically useful.

    What does the NSW ALP have to do with this?

  15. Sam
    April 13th, 2012 at 20:08 | #15

    My uni friend gives almost all of his income to high impact global charities. His thoughts on giving are here http://pappubahry.livejournal.com/575656.html

    TLDR? Consider giving away 10% of your earnings. Right now, the top-rated charity is the Against Malaria Foundation.

  16. Troy Prideaux
    April 13th, 2012 at 21:06 | #16

    What does the NSW ALP have to do with this?

    Nah, the Catholic Church wrote that instruction manual and if there’s one fundamental principle or belief they won’t ever betray, it’s that one!

  17. Freelander
    April 13th, 2012 at 23:54 | #17

    @Sancho

    The nazis were into social darwinism which was nothing to do with darwin or darwinism but was popular before the war and not only among the nazis. Of course, their concept of fit was being ‘aryan’ (whatever that is).

  18. alfred venison
    April 14th, 2012 at 08:39 | #18

    why don’t organisers ever pair interesting debaters? and then just stand back & let them go at it? i mean pell -v- dawkins, especially in the anodyne q&a format, is a waste of time for me. time magazine, a few years ago, boasted a great debate with dawkins across from francis collins, that turned out to be a missed opportunity in the form of a pair of unrelated extended essays. boring. no debate there, either.

    so, how about terry eagleton as moderator, and, say, pell -v- jensen ? really, guys, what “is” the difference that keeps you apart? do tell.

    or how about pell -v- kenneth miller ? who’s god is stronger? or makes greater sense, theological or biological ?

    jensen -v- john shelby sponge, maybe ?

    dawkins -v- terry eagleton ?
    a. venison

  19. Troy Prideaux
    April 14th, 2012 at 10:49 | #19
  20. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 11:32 | #20

    @Troy Prideaux

    Oh! No!
    A new reason for paranoia in the land of the flea and home of the slave!

    Is there an unbeliever under the bed?

  21. April 14th, 2012 at 11:55 | #21

    Glad to have deliberately missed Q&A, again.

    It’s pointless to “debate” atheism.

    A: “I believe in god”.
    B: “I don’t”.
    A: “Dogmatic fundamentalist!”

  22. Wooster
    April 14th, 2012 at 12:00 | #22

    @Megan

    I’ve only ever watched Q&A twice – but I did make a point of watching Dawkins vs Pell.

    You’re right, these debates are pointless when all is said and done – especially on a disjointed shallow forum like Q&A.

  23. alfred venison
    April 14th, 2012 at 12:09 | #23

    thanks Troy Prideaux, that was interesting; i’ll swap you this:-
    “does secularism make people more ethical?”
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,777281,00.html
    “the most surprising insight revealed by the new wave of secular research so far is that atheists know more about the god they don’t believe in than the believers themselves.”

    i’ll second that, last year i did the pew research forum’s religion test & scored higher (9/10) than my believer workmates, falling over only on the jonathan edwards, great awakening question (i’ve read hofstadter since, “anti-intellectualism in american life”, so i’ll be ready next time).

    anyway, here’s pew’s take on this week’s republican primaries from a religious affiliation angle:-
    http://www.pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/Religion-and-the-2012-Republican-Primaries–Maryland-and-Wisconsin.aspx?src=prc-headline
    alfred venison

  24. alfred venison
    April 14th, 2012 at 12:28 | #24

    dawkins’ role is as apolitical oxbridge don from central casting in tweed jacket with patches on the elbows, bow-tie optional. i remember the advent of sociobiology, as if it were yesterday, and for my money i’ll take the late s. j. gould, or richard lewontin or hillary rose over dawkins any day. and in a more contemporary arena i align more with people llike eugenia scott in the defence of science education than dawkins.

    as Sancho notes, the vatican has made its peace with evolution, officially, back in the time of john paul 2, aided by repeated representations of american catholic scientists lawrence krauss (astrophysicist) ken miller & franscisco ayola (biologists) who at the time were working hard to head off a push from american evangelicals to enlist the vatican in their war against science. of course there are backsliders, like schonborn of vienna (ratzinger’s successor as vatican enforcer of the faith) and pell, in sydney, who blithely deviates from the official church line when it suits him & shows his true bigoted form, lately on q&a, where, his rhetorical imagination lapsing under pressure, he resorts to the darwin nazi bogus smear.

    i’m surprised & disappointed that dawkins didn’t more vigorously rebut the darwin nazi association, eugenia scott sure as hell would have, had she been on the show. even a fuzzy boundary post modernist like terry eagleton wouldn’t have let that one past without more demur. and i’m intrigued, that pell resorted to it at all, as its originally an american evangelical (protestant) smear & part of a vain, conservative push to discredit a science the vatican has officially made peace with. and this from a man some tout as pope material himself, for chrissake ! i think his ready resort to this groundless smear shows what a bottom of the barrel intellectual pell really is.

    there are christian evangelical scientists who teach “evolutionary creation” at university level: that is, straight up modern biology informed by the, scientifically strictly unnecessary, premise that god created the world & evolution is her modus operandi, now let’s buckle down & do some biology. google “denis lameroux & evolutionary biology”. lameroux (who has doctorates in biology, theology & dentistry) would love to teach at an evangelical college, but none will have him, for obvious reasons, so he teaches at a small catholic college in canada. the head of the anglican (episcopalian) church in america, katharine jefferts schori, has degrees in biology & theology, taught oceanography at seattle, and campaigned for her position (they’re elected in america) on a platform that included evolution as established science & god’s way of creating creation. openly sporting a background like that, and starting from behind as a woman, she still got the gig. thanks god for making not all religious people attention seeking square dancing hillbillies swilling clear liquid from jars. alleluhia, amen.
    alfred venison

  25. Sancho
    April 14th, 2012 at 12:44 | #25

    Catholics are also behind the geocentrism revival. It’s small and cranky for now, but history indicates that religions cling to more extreme beliefs the more they feel under pressure.

  26. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 13:48 | #26

    @alfred venison

    I’d like to see the sort of ‘debate’ once so popular in Rome. Pell versus a lion would be a pay-for-view event!

    Christians won few of those match ups.

  27. Wooster
    April 14th, 2012 at 13:54 | #27

    @Freelander

    I had no idea prior to the debate that “Cardinal” Pell was such an intellectual pauper.
    I think that in any debate between a lion and Pell, one would expect the lion to triumph (unless it was a particularly stupid lion : )

  28. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 14:02 | #28

    @Wooster

    Yes. It would make a ‘meal ‘ of him; have him for breakfast!

  29. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 14:03 | #29

    Christian. The other food group!

  30. JB Goode
    April 14th, 2012 at 18:47 | #30

    @Sancho
    Do you include CAGW in that?

  31. Alan
    April 14th, 2012 at 20:45 | #31

    Catholic acceptance of evolution long predates John-Paul II. Pius XII endorsed theistic evolution in Humani Generis. Unlike the fundamentalists, opposition to evolution has just never been central to Catholic thought because Catholics are not hung up on biblical literalism.

  32. Wooster
    April 14th, 2012 at 22:09 | #32

    @Alan

    Humani Generis “….considered the doctrine of ‘evolutionism’ a serious hypothesis, worthy of investigation and in-depth study equal to that of the opposing hypothesis…”

    John Paul II cited that “…new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis…”
    http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_jp02tc.htm

  33. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 22:14 | #33

    Yes. Popes have always been pragmatic, if amoral; willing to make inevitable adjustments to the product to retain punters. Hell,this is a brand that predates Coca-cola by millennia.

  34. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 22:21 | #34

    Look what they did with the breaking bread with the customers concept. Ending up giving them a wafer that makes a potato chip look obese could you manage to cut product costs anymore??

    Brilliant!

  35. Alan
    April 14th, 2012 at 22:26 | #35

    Pragmatism does not apply. Churches that don’t teach biblical literalism (the vast majority of Christian sects, especially outside the US) have just not had a problem with evolution.

  36. alfred venison
    April 14th, 2012 at 22:28 | #36

    a ceasefire began when pius 12 proclaimed the church was not at war with evolution, or science; peace was made when john paul 2 affirmed science generally in strongly endorsing evolution specifically.

    “today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis. in fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. the convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.”
    j-p 2, address to pontifical academy of sciences 1996-10-22.

    the catholic church is indeed less into biblical literalism, in the 6 days of creation sense, but the dogged objection to same sex marriage seems to have an anchor in a literal reading of one stricture, among many, found in leviticus. in this facet of biblical literalism it seems the catholic church aligns with the fundamentalists.
    a.v.

  37. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 22:34 | #37

    @Alan

    Oh, come on! All of them were brought kicking and screaming …

    And if they had retained their medieval influence, believers in evolution would be burnt at the stake.

    How clerics long for those good old days. Back when they wouldn’t have to suffer the current exposure of their extracurricular activities!

  38. Alan
    April 14th, 2012 at 23:04 | #38

    @Freelander

    Actually, no. I don’t know how many times it is necessary to say that evolution is just not an issue for most branches of CHristianity. There are lots of good reasons to damn the Catholic hierarchy, but this is not one of them.

  39. Freelander
    April 14th, 2012 at 23:29 | #39

    @Alan

    Yes. As I’ve noted, mainstream Christianity is brought kicking and screaming to any admission. Very pragmatic; they so whatever needs to be done, after the inevitable kicking and screaming.

    Mind you they hanker for the old days. Burning opponents at the stake was so much more satisfying than grudging concessions.

    How big George did hanker for pleasanter times during his q&a big day out.

  40. alfred venison
    April 15th, 2012 at 00:27 | #40

    there are reactionary churchies & there are liberal churchies; let their politics & their social positions be the measure of them. the vatican’s position on evolution, for example, assists american progressives in their on-going struggle against intelligent design. for its publicly stated position on this issue i applaud the catholic church. note: pell is out of step with the official line. he is, in my opinion, an authoritarian personality with a limited intellect, an air head in high office, who it appears (most recently on q&a) is more accustomed to getting his way by official fiat than by intellectual argument.
    a.v.

  41. Alan
    April 15th, 2012 at 06:53 | #41

    @Freelander

    To the extent your turn ‘em or burn ‘em claims are true (I actually think they owe more to the black legend and Hollywood than anything else) do you think they apply only to Christianity?

  42. Freelander
    April 15th, 2012 at 07:04 | #42

    @Alan

    Interesting argument. Fine for mainstream Christianity to be evil because they are not the only ones. Clearly you are a theologian!

  43. Alan
    April 15th, 2012 at 08:00 | #43

    No, I’m not setting up a tu quoque argument. I’m interested in why the record of Christian atrocities (often of specifically Catholic atrocities) is treated as a given but non-Christian atrocities are simply assumed out of the picture.

    I do not see atrocities of any kind as good, and it is intellectually promiscuous of you to claim I do. I do argue that as soon as you count, say religious atrocities as worse than secular ones, or atrocities in the name of one religion as worse than atrocities in the name of another, all you are really doing is behaving exactly as does Torquemada in the Mel Brooks film.

  44. Fran Barlow
    April 15th, 2012 at 08:41 | #44

    Well done on one matter at least Ms Gillard

    Gillard to miss London Olympics

  45. Katz
    April 15th, 2012 at 10:11 | #45

    Flash!

    Animals have souls!

    TONY JONES: Where did the soul come from then in the point of evolution?

    GEORGE PELL: The soul is the principle of life. There are animal souls.

    Presumably animal souls are as immortal as human souls. That being the case, is there a goldfish heaven, or do the souls of all beings spend the rest of eternity in the same place?

    Or are animal souls not immortal? And if so, at what point in the evolutionary timetable did hominids’ mortal doula become immortal?

    Enquiring minds want to know.

  46. Katz
    April 15th, 2012 at 10:12 | #46

    Doula = souls. Dumb iPhones.

  47. Freelander
    April 15th, 2012 at 10:24 | #47

    Fish have souls; sole have souls.

    Alan, you have collapsed into incoherence, even by theological standards!

  48. Wooster
    April 15th, 2012 at 10:39 | #48

    “mortal doula” does have a certain ring to it.

  49. Katz
    April 15th, 2012 at 10:52 | #49

    I don’t wish to carp, but if carp have souls (like sole) are these souls (as opposed to sole) immortal.

    And if this is the case does the Church object to using the green needle on the family moggie. After all, that moggie could be euthanised in a state of feline sin, in which case the green needle could be condemning Fluff to feline perdition.

    Pell has opened a can of theological worms, especially in light of the admission that these very worms have souls.

    Is it a sin to put worms in a can?

  50. Freelander
    April 15th, 2012 at 11:04 | #50

    Are there heavens for sole souls? And if not, why not? And original sin? Sans the existence of Adam and eve.? (Myths you kknow.)

  51. Katz
    April 15th, 2012 at 11:10 | #51

    Yes, Pell’s cosmology fails the most basic test of internal coherence.

    At least the Hindu assertion of tortoises “all the way down” is internally coherent.

    See what happens to belief when it tries to confirm to reason?

    Do infinite tortoises have infinite souls?

  52. alfred venison
    April 15th, 2012 at 11:13 | #52

    it must have been one hell of an organisational coup when father arizmendiarrieta found enough time between burning people at the stake & being on a fascist hit list to found the mondragón cooperative.
    a.v.

  53. Freelander
    April 15th, 2012 at 11:22 | #53

    If sole have souls, can the commit sins? Do they sin? And what, for them, constitutes a sin? Do they have their own ten commandments? And if they do have original sin, did god come down in the form of a sole and get himself executed for the remission of sins? If he did, clearly death by crucifixion was out of the question. Did that sole ‘rise’ again on the third day? And if there was a sole son of god what does that mean for the trinity?

    Clearly, all a make work project for theologians.

  54. Alan
    April 15th, 2012 at 11:35 | #54

    There actually is no Hindu turtle or tortoise cosmology. It is an urban myth beloved of Westerners looking for exotic Eastern stories to prove how superior the mythology is once you escape from Europe.

  55. Freelander
    April 15th, 2012 at 11:37 | #55

    Maybe there’s a sole Pope? But I thought Catholics had the sole Pope?

  56. Wooster
    April 15th, 2012 at 11:39 | #56

    @Freelander

    A dead sole would certainly move towards ascension by the third day, whiffiness rises – does it not?

  57. Katz
    April 15th, 2012 at 11:39 | #57

    The Sole Messiah could perform the miracle of the loaves and humans.

    An extract from the Sole Messiah’s Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the ophthalmically asymmetric, for they shall see the same side of the argument — twice.”

  58. alfred venison
    April 15th, 2012 at 11:46 | #58

    thank you, Alan. i’m still listening.
    a.v.

  59. Freelander
    April 15th, 2012 at 11:51 | #59

    @Katz

    Very good! Maybe we can be human members of their religion? Further work on the theology and there could be a generous tax break in it …We could set up a charity for the care of battered sole.

  60. Alan
    April 15th, 2012 at 11:51 | #60

    Thank you AV. Amusingly enough the various ichthyopneumatic questions raised in this thread all get carefully considered affirmative answers in the Hindu/Buddhist and Jain traditions. Except of course for the non-existent world-turtles…

  61. Katz
    April 15th, 2012 at 11:56 | #61

    Shorter Alan: made-up cosmology is more coherent than orthodox cosmology.

  62. Katz
    April 15th, 2012 at 12:00 | #62

    So long as the communion service features large dollops of lemon butter.

    And think of sole confession: “Stop it, my son. Otherwise you will go binocular.”

  63. alfred venison
    April 15th, 2012 at 12:26 | #63

    Alan
    not to mention the greco-roman tradition, which has a guy named atlas, standing on nothing in particular, patiently holding the world up on his shoulders. i’m stumped, though, how to classify the “non-existent world-turtle” in relation to the “invisible pink unicorn”; are they birds of a feather or sui generis?
    a.v.

  64. Katz
    April 15th, 2012 at 12:39 | #64

    I wish to point out that the original conceit featured a tortoise and not a turtle.

    Turtles insinuated themselves into the figure because Americans don’t know the difference between a turtle and a tortoise.

    World turtles are parasites on world tortoises.

  65. Hal9000
    April 15th, 2012 at 12:40 | #65

    @alfred venison
    AV – I thought Atlas stood on the Earth in order to support the heavens, as the poor Titan’s punishment for backing the wrong side in the war of the Titans and the Gods. At any rate, that version sounds perfectly sensible to me. I don’t know whether Atlas was a patient penitent, but it’s probably a better gig as divine punishment than poor old Prometheus copped. Tantalus, come to that, copped a pretty stiff sentence, and he was the boss’s son…

  66. Alan
    April 15th, 2012 at 12:42 | #66

    Shorter Katz: Citing as Hindu myth something that no Hindu actually believes is intellectually defensible.

  67. Katz
    April 15th, 2012 at 12:48 | #67

    How do you know that no Hindu believes in the World Tortoise?

    Hinduism is an incredibly heterodox religion.

    That being the case, the only sensible statement you can make on this topic is that you are not aware of any Hindu who may believe in the World Tortoise.

  68. Alan
    April 15th, 2012 at 12:57 | #68

    Easy, show me some actual evidence for a Hindu belief, not in world tortoise or world turtle, but in ‘the Hindu assertion of tortoises “all the way down”’. Let us hope your ‘knowledge’ of Hindu belief in the tortoise daisy-chain finds happier results than Freelander’s ‘knowledge’ that opposition to evolution was central to Catholic belief.

  69. Sancho
    April 15th, 2012 at 13:01 | #69

    Are you suggesting, Alan, that Catholics have been happily accepting of evolution since Darwin’s big idea was published, and that Catholic hostility to the theory is a myth?

  70. Katz
    April 15th, 2012 at 13:12 | #70

    No Alan. That is a cop out. Why should I be expected to justify your assertions of factuality?

    For the record, I’m happy to stipulate that the infinite tortoises figure is a western joke. But that does not mean that no Hindu has ever believed in its credibility.

    Religious doctrines have been based on my flimsy evidence than jokes. Take Mormonism for example. Millions of folks believe that Joseph Smith perceived divine truths by peering at rocks lodged in the crown of his stovepipe hat.

  71. alfred venison
    April 15th, 2012 at 13:41 | #71

    Hal9000
    you’re right, originally the burden was strictly the celestial sphere; only later does iconography & imagery stray to have him holding the world, as in ayn rand, or the sculpture on the building in collins street with australia facing forward. sisyphus got off lightly.
    a.v.

  72. April 15th, 2012 at 16:11 | #72

    Did anyone here Pell say, in his argument that Atheism equals Social Darwinism, that Hitler and Stalin are key figures of Social Darwinism? Now Hitler, with his hierarchy of the races and eugenics ideology, can be seen as prominent Social Darwinist, but Stalin? Stalin was a paranoid mass murdering dictator, but his ideology doesn’t really seem to be very Social Darwinistic to me. Thoughts?

  73. pablo
    April 15th, 2012 at 18:50 | #73

    An interesting Saturday round up that I’m reluctant to intrude on but perhaps with the mention of divine intervention in Pell’s case can I query the use of state funerals in Australia. This past week we have had the NSW funerals of Lionel Bowen and Jimmy Little. One got a state funeral, the other was farewelled by kin in Wallgett. I know nothing of the mechanism on how these tributes are determined nor do I want to buy into who was the more deserving. Are these things, like ‘national living treasures’ open to misuse? Are we just too polite in a religious way to query where taxpayers’s money should go in acknowledging the dead?

  74. Freelander
    April 15th, 2012 at 18:58 | #74

    @pablo

    Very good point. No reason taxpayer’s money should be wasted on these .. lf they are keen on getting someone else to pay why don’t they hold a whip’round? That way they would test how deserving of recognision.

  75. Troy Prideaux
    April 16th, 2012 at 11:02 | #75

    More mutterings from the Peanut Gallery (off topic from current conversations):

    With the ANZ bank raising its variable interest rates late last week out of sync with any reserve bank activity, it’s prompted me again to revisit an old idea (not original I’m assuming) of mine of complementing the variable interest rate mechanism as a lever to control inflationary activity with a variable GST lever. Ideally (in my opinion) the variable GST lever would be the primary lever to control general consumer spending activity with the interest rate lever as a backup or secondary lever for inflation control.
    Relying solely on interest rates as a lever provides various disadvantages – impacts the most vulnerable of society’s mortgage payers disproportionately more than everyone else and also impacts business investment and planning in undesirable ways. What’s more, the linkage between banks and RBA is growing more and more tenuous as the lure of overseas credit becomes increasingly popular.
    On the other hand, controlling a variable GST rate lever should theoretically impact consumer spending across the broad spectrum of society quite fairly and evenly with no direct 1st hand impact to business. The impact it has on economic activity is not quite as direct as interest rate fluctuation (eg, you’re only targeting consumer spending, not saving directly) but at least the extra revenue from a GST increase goes to government coffers and not extra interest payments made to some overseas financial institution(s) and central banks.

    I appreciate the task of selling such to the electorate could be quite a challenge.

    Thoughts?

  76. Fran Barlow
    April 16th, 2012 at 14:01 | #76

    @pablo

    I’m totally against using public money to honour the dead and that includes people whose service to working humanity I’d want to honour. I’ve no problem honouring public service* with public money, but that doesn’t entail prior death. Funerals are for the bereaved — and so they should pay for them.

    * IMO I don’t think “public service” should be defined by the government of the day. A jury of suitably qualified persons (say 12), chosen at random from a pool (say 5000), ought to be called upon on a quarterly basis to sit informally and determine what “public service” should qualify as honourable, how honourable it is, and how it should be acknowledged.

  77. Sancho
    April 16th, 2012 at 14:25 | #77

    I particularly dislike the lavish state ceremonies given for Australian soldiers killed in combat. It’s embarrassing to the military and pretty insulting to the nations that have very regular combat deaths because they’re deploying in actual hostile areas.

  78. JB Goode
    April 17th, 2012 at 19:56 | #78

    D y ndrstnd tht th rsn y r fr s bcs ths sldrs fght nd dd fr fr tht frdm.Why d y tk tht frdm fr grntd y ngrtfl wrtch.f y trd t xprss yr lks nd dslks bt th mltry whl lvng n th cmmnst tp f Cb y wld b nld t th wll,ltrlly.
    thnk yr cmmnt tht cmbt dths r rslt f dplymnt n ‘ctl hstl rs’ s pssbly th th mst stpd thng tht hs vr bn wrttn by hmn bng n th hstry f th wrld,whr d y wnt thm t b dplyd,Trrmlns?

  79. Freelander
    April 17th, 2012 at 20:06 | #79

    You are seriously deluded, Joey.

    Most soldiers do so because they were conscriptef , some volunteer because they have foolish notions of heroism. Few fight for freedom. Our freedom was only threatened in wwll. Those who fought that one were fighting for survival.

  80. Ernestine Gross
    April 17th, 2012 at 20:26 | #80

    @Troy Prideaux

    Like interest rate policies, your variable GST rate policy is a macro-economic idea. As such it ignores both, relative price changes (index problem) and the income distribution, cross-section as well as over the life-time of people. IMHO, a variable GST rate is possibly worse than variable interest rates in so far as low income people have discretion over borrowings but not over essential consumption items.

  81. JB God
    April 17th, 2012 at 21:46 | #81

    @Freelander
    Hello Neville Chamberlain,not everyone is as sensitive and caring as you or with such enlightened views on religious minoritys.Did you learn nothing in the school playground?

    I can’t be bothered following your silly trollery, but this appears to be a Godwin’s Law case, so consider yourself permanently banned – JQ

  82. Freelander
    April 17th, 2012 at 22:30 | #82

    @Ernestine Gross

    Another problem with variable GST is that it is totally impractical. Smart accountants would be very busy rewriting the dates of transactions to arbitrage the rate variations.

  83. Ernestine Gross
    April 17th, 2012 at 23:20 | #83

    @Freelander

    I suppose after Enron anything is possible – at least once. Otherwise the smart accountants know their ‘information system’ is based on invoice data and any rewriting of elements of invoice data is easily detectable.

  84. Freelander
    April 17th, 2012 at 23:25 | #84

    Not that easily detectable, but anyway there is legally plenty of flexibility in timing transactions. Lawyers would also have a field day.

  85. Sancho
    April 18th, 2012 at 08:46 | #85

    @JB Goode
    And here we go with the blind, hand-on-heart patriotic fury.

    Yes, yes. Unless there’s a state ceremony every time an army chef burns their hand, the communist terrorists have already won.

  86. Freelander
    April 18th, 2012 at 09:24 | #86

    @Sancho

    Goode had become God in his last apparition. So I can only conclude that he ascended into heaven.

  87. Troy Prideaux
    April 18th, 2012 at 09:47 | #87

    Ernestine Gross :
    @Troy Prideaux
    Like interest rate policies, your variable GST rate policy is a macro-economic idea. As such it ignores both, relative price changes (index problem) and the income distribution, cross-section as well as over the life-time of people. IMHO, a variable GST rate is possibly worse than variable interest rates in so far as low income people have discretion over borrowings but not over essential consumption items.

    I hear you Ernestine, and yes those on low incomes do have the option of not to buy a property, but do we really want to scare them away from buying a property? To a low income household with a mortgage, both interest payments and essential living expenses are pretty much unavoidable.
    Relying only on interest rates as a mechanism is essentially taking income away from mortgage payers (and renters possibly) and giving it to those with nice savings accounts in times of fiscal belt tightening. Essentially taking from the poor and giving to the rich in such times of forced constraint. Just seems a bit unfair to me. I don’t have a mortgage and I’m not on a low income, but to me, that seems a touch unfair. I appreciate these times also assist self funded retirees with savings investments although there’s plenty of ways to invest.

  88. Troy Prideaux
    April 18th, 2012 at 12:05 | #88

    Freelander :
    Another problem with variable GST is that it is totally impractical. Smart accountants would be very busy rewriting the dates of transactions to arbitrage the rate variations.

    Yeah, fair point.

  89. Freelander
    April 19th, 2012 at 21:45 | #89

    Oh, no. ANZAC day is approaching, and we already have all the associated nonsense. Not that I don’t appreciate their sacrifice to give us an annual holiday.

    Although I think the price paid was a bit steep. I just don’t think the traffic disrupting parade and associated tripe are still required. Why not rename it poppy day and let future generations think it is something about some girl named Poppy!

    Least we remember!

  90. Freelander
    April 20th, 2012 at 09:13 | #90

    I see the Libs most substantial man, honest Joe Hockey, is now promising to the end of the Australian safety net.

    I don’t really believe it. They will probably still provide benefits to the genuinely sick and disabled, and those genuinely unable to work, especially given that it is now quite fashionable among the latte-sipping set to consider starvation a fate that ought to be obviated.

    Now, if they were really serious, they would at least make those recipients spend at least part of their week in stocks, so the better-off could throw produce at them. That way, the enjoyment might partially off-set the pain of the onerous taxes we all have to pay to carry this thankless burden.

  91. Fran Barlow
    April 20th, 2012 at 09:49 | #91

    @Freelander

    As Matt Cowgill points out, even totally cutting out new start and other benefits without cutting out health and aged care would not meet Hockey’s ambition to get Australia down to the level of South Korea. Given that the LNP is backing the NDIS, abot 50% of which is new money, this looks even more fanciful.

    Means testing more rigorously won’t do any substantial part of the job because not nearly enough benefit is non-means tested. Moreover, the changing demographics of Australia mean that in structural terms, cutting benefits to the aged is the only way one could make a significant impact on welfare/GDP ratios. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Abbott won’t be going to an election on anything that smells like that.

    One could of course, opt for much larger immigration and a more relaxed attitude to humanitarian resettlement. That would move the demographics back the other way, but again, it’s hard to see the LNP being able to pull that one off.

    If there is a shred of desire by the ALP to protect itself it will run hard on this one. Abbott really has no defence to the claim that if the Hockey plan is to have a show, benefits to the aged, the disabled and the sick must be slashed ans that they are all malice and clueless on economics. They really ought to run it now, before the budget comes out, so as to frame Abbott’s response in that light.

  92. Chris Warren
    April 20th, 2012 at 10:18 | #92

    Hockey has no choice. He has to reduce the Australian safety net to improve the environment for capitalism.

    He is just copying the trends in most other capitalist economies – austerity and welfare cuts.

    In America, where the contradictions of capitalism have resulted in 15% of the population subsisting on Food Stamps, rich parliamentarians representing business now plan to cut Food Stamp and pension programs see:

    http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-04/D9U7DFI02.htm

    Hockey is a well-fed Thatcherite – capitalism personified. They are all getting worried about their future and are looking to find more savings to protect their so-called ‘bottom lines’.

    It is entirely normal for most of then worlds population to be reduced to food stamps, rags slums and early deaths. Hockey is just a typical instrument.

  93. Tom
    April 20th, 2012 at 10:22 | #93

    @Troy Prideaux

    Mortgage is optional, however a person or a family have to have either mortgage or rent expense unless they are either living on the streets or in free public housing. To some extent, an own home relief the elderlys from rent expense (which is quite expensive and most of the time account for more than 50% of their income for the retired or the middle age unemployed). The environments in public housing is terrible, not only in the quality of living, but a lot of residents in that environment have drinking habits, drug abuses or violence that affects other residents. In moral grounds, no matter how intelligent or how much they have helped others in the society; I really feel sympathic to those that have worked hard for more than 20-30 years and ends up in public housing or homeless in their later life. While so many people in the society is driven into thinking increases in house prices is not too much of a problem because of return of investment but drops in house prices is a problem somehow; and worse, the same thoughts applies to governments thesedays and they somehow treat housing affordability and “improvements of house prices” differently.

  94. Freelander
    April 20th, 2012 at 10:58 | #94

    @Tom

    How can you have sympathy for them when they have wilfully chosen to not be rich, and thereby become a drain on the public purse?

    Next you will be suggesting we can’t all be billionaires. It’s the politics of envy!

  95. Troy Prideaux
    April 20th, 2012 at 11:04 | #95

    Yeah, I watched that interview. I couldn’t help but think it was a partially ad hoc appeal to the conservative right resulting from 1 or 5 too many lunches with the types of Boris Johnson et al over in London. However, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow or even as sure as the Federal Treasurer of the day will huff & puff the day a bank raises their interest rates higher than a cash rate rise, come federal budget reply speech time, Hockey’s rhetoric will have taken a 180deg turn. He’ll get up there and pronounce the importance of our senior citizens and retirees and the importance of adequate support for that sector of the constituency. Of course, that’s not to suggest the policy agenda will support the rhetoric.

  96. Sancho
  97. Tom
    April 20th, 2012 at 12:23 | #97

    @Freelander

    That’s a bit extreme; I don’t really think people would actually want to be poor. In some stages, I think most if not everyone once dreamed to become a “billionaire” (maybe when they are a child?); however, when they realise the factors involved to become one (whether if it’s the work load required, the education, the money they need beforehand etc.), a lot of them might rather live a middle class life. Middle class life is hard to define, whether that would be just a own home and without financial constraints on basic living expense or something more or less depends on what people considers middle class should be. However, I can hardly imagine people would actually want to be so poor to the extent they have to live on the street or in free public housing. More so as a lot of the middle aged unemployed really do want to work.

    To some extent, the reason why they’ve become poor varies widely and sometimes it’s not something they can control. A lot of cases however, can be that they do not hold the skills or knowledge to become a middle class in a certain society, whether that would be working skills, personal financial management skills, or planning skills etc.

    Yes, in some sense you are correct, they have chosen what they have become and it is true that they might be able to obtain those skills if they actually try. The unfortunate reality is that ignorance is a crime against own-self and to others (e.g. ignorance on climate change, economics, or politics etc). However, one of the main reason why leftists are leftists is because that we care about others misfortunes, even if they are of their own cause. It is the right that believes people’s misfortune their own fault, therefore we shouldn’t care about them.

  98. Freelander
    April 20th, 2012 at 12:41 | #98

    Heard of irony? That everyone could be a billionaire is absurd.

  99. Tom
    April 20th, 2012 at 13:10 | #99

    @Freelander

    Nobody said everybody could be a billionaire.

  100. Troy Prideaux
    April 20th, 2012 at 13:32 | #100

    @Tom
    I got the impression his reply was in general agreement with you Tom, but via cynical sarcasm of what’s actually happening out there.

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