Monday Message Board

It’s time for the regular Monday message board, where you are invited to post your thoughts on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please. I probably won’t have anything more to say about the Labor leadership, but I’d be interested in the thoughts of others.

41 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. The oncoming west australian state election, will most likely see the conservatives swept to power.

    This is a direct result of the collapse of one nation, orchestrated by tony abbott, and has undoubtabley been a complete success, delivering enough rednecks to the conservatives to win both the federal and upcoming state elections.

    Agree or Disagree?

  2. One common belief about the term redneck is that from about 1893 it referred to poor farmers whose necks were sunburnt from working in the fields all day. I guess it was a derogatory term then and as you use it now alpha. I am not sure who it is you wish to include, though I get the message that your concern is that dumb racsists will vote the “conservatives” in. So I disagree.

  3. Originally I thought the Libs would romp it in for the exact reason alpha says but a bit of reading and a word in my ear from a couple of westralians indicate otherwise. Apparently the State Libs over there are incompetent according to rumour, the ones I’ve spoken with expect Labor to retain with reduced majority not that I’d know.

  4. the weekend Fin has an article on the jockeying for the job of helping the government sell the remainder of Telstra. It is fascinating reading – all the major players are intimately linked in to the liberal party in one way or another. The conclusion has to be that the sale process, while it may or may not be to the benefit of the country, will definitely be to the benefit of the ruling party. The fees paid by the Australian taxpayer seem destined to enrich individual Liberal party members beyond the dreams of avarice (well maybe not beyond their dreams, knowing some of these guys, but they will become much richer). the Liberal party itself is also likely to become richer – these people are after all among its major donors.

    It seems to me we can get a bit too sophisticated when discussing something like the sale of Telstra. The benefits or otherwise of sale are commonly debated – but whether or not there was a case for sale it seems to me it would go ahead regardless just because of the interests involved.

    John, have you canvassed anywhere the issue of sale methodology (vs. sale per se, covered in Great Expectations, this blog and elsewhere?). would love to have a reference if so.

    A half govt. owned Telstra is IMHO an unworkable model, so further sale is the inevitable option(or strictly speaking another option is renationalisation I suppose, but I can’t see that happening, either under this govt. or any alternative). But if Labor has any sense they will be questioning the method of sale. How hard is it, really, to sell a parcel of shares, does it justify the fees being paid to the government’s advisors? There is much more justification for the govt. (or indeed any seller) buying thorough advice in an IPO – numerous questions of pricing, marketing, etc. to resolve – but this is not an IPO. there is already a price, set by the market, and an active market in the shares. Selling off the govt.’s remaining holding should be a lot cheaper and easier than any of the reporting in the financial press suggests it is going to be.

  5. I keep reading that the Howard Government is the ‘highest taxing government ever’, etc. Is this true? I’m no economist, but it seems to me that inflation will render each successive ‘higher taxing’ and that what really matters is how much government takes out of the broader system (ie. tax receipts as a proportion of GDP).


  6. ab (Alan Border?), the standard argument is that (1) governments provide mostly services rather than goods, and (2) our demand for services rises more than proportionately with our incomes, therefore it makes sense for government spending and tax to rise as we get richer.

    It’s always informative to look at Australia in international perspective, and the OECD league table is a good starting point. Among OECD countries, only the USA, Mexico, Japan and Korea have a lower taxto GDP ratio than ours.

  7. Ros,

    Sorry, I guess i wasn’t being politically correct enough when i used the term redneck.

    But then some people are quite happy to call me a tree hugger greenie and i find that quite offensive. I love timber, and build timber houses. But i want to protect our remaining forests. Anyway thats a story for another time.

    If i further quantify the statement to read:

    “delivering enough former One Nation voters to the conservatives to win both the federal and upcoming state elections.”

    Where do you believe the 4% of one nation votes went in the federal election then?

  8. According to what I’ve heard on highest taxing govts – it doesn’t matter who is in govt – taxes always go up.

    If that’s true by that logic – every govt was the highest taxing govt until the next one took over.

    I hope you guys don’t feel like I’m monopolising this comments section 😉

  9. The One Nation vote was something like 10% in the last WA election, so labor are going to have a tough time in this one. As Vee said though, the WA Liberal party are a mess of dribbling idiots at the moment, so Labor are not without a chance to hold government.

  10. One Nation voters don’t necessarily go to the Lib/Nats.
    Quite a few to go to the Greens or any other alternative minor party.

    These are the protest vote, who just vote against the major parties.
    I think there are more of them than people realise.

    Although supposedly enemies, there are some similarities between Greens and One Nation (eg. anti globalisation, anti corporations, etc.) that makes some of their voting constituency quite interchangable.

  11. The majority of people that vote for both the greens and one nation vote on Ideological values, you may call this a Protest vote, as its certainly not a Pragmataic vote. But i’m doubtful any significant majority of One Nation voters flocked to the Greens. I would think One Nation to Labor and some Labor to Liberals is a more likely path.

    Another thing – has anyone got time to demolish this fanciful list of “statements of truth” about global warming – inspired by that partisan fantasy writer responsible for Jurassic Park 🙂

  12. ab — when people refer to “highest taxing, highest spending”… they already mean as a percentage of GDP. Tax has gone up in nominal terms. Gone up in real (adjusted for inflation) terms. And gone up as a percentage of GDP.

    James gives one reason why some people think this is a good thing… though this remains in debate. I think it is a bad thing. I don’t believe the government ever signed up to provide all services. I believe the intent was to provide a “safety net”. If this is true… then the size of government (as a percentage of GDP) should fall over time, cet par (all other things being equal).

    Also, when comparing with other countries there are several issues to remember. First, different countries report tax differently. Second, our neighbours are mostly not OECD countries, so that is not necessarily the best comparator. Third, the trend in all OECD countries has been for tax to rise. Finally, there is the old “if they jumped off a cliff — would you?”.

    The interesting question is then why do we hear so much about spending cuts if there are not real? And what happened to all of that evil radical neo-liberal reform that we want to unwind? If they never happened… then what do we unwind? If we go back to the days of Whitlam… we will have huge tax cuts!

  13. I gather the WA Liberals are opposed to Sunday trading. Can that be true? I know WA is a long way out of town, but if it is true, what side are they on?

  14. alpha, I would have to say that my understanding is that they are as WPC suggests protest voters, and I think, are not necessarily conservative voters despite the fact that the term “one nation” comes from Burke. Excuse me if I am being pompous, but Burke was an Irish political writer (1729-97) and English MP who is believed to be an important source of conservatism. Quoting the Oxford Companion to Philosophy
    “In practice the difference over redistribution between “one nation” conservatives and welfarist socialists will tend to be one of degree. The conservative though, will be more resistant to centralised controls and blueprints than his opponents on the left…. Far from being opposed to reform, a principle of reform is central to conservatism…there is no conflict between conservatism and the free market” My point, while there are elements of One Nation that are conservative, I would argue that their voters for example were in fact very opposed to free markets., as with the Greens That is with my limited understanding of the reasons why voters chose to vote One Nation conservatism was not necessarily the reason. So to assume that they would therefore change their vote to a “conservative ” party does not obviously follow. And the evaluation of the motivations and aims of One Nation voter’s is so poor and so emotion based that it is very hard to predict what their choices would be without One Nation. Again agreeing with WPC’s assessment of the One Nation voter it would seem that as One Nation was of the view that capitalism had some serious flaws, a socialist position, they could just as easily fall that way.
    In other words I don’t know.
    Next I am going to look at your fanciful list? I note with interest the ad hominen as the launching salvo.

  15. “Second, our neighbours are mostly not OECD countries, so that is not necessarily the best comparator.”

    I’ve always wanted to aspire to the Papua New Guinea standard of living. Also the Solomon Islands. I’m glad to see John Humphreys does too.

  16. I am aware of your views JQ though cannot claim to be well versed in them. I read your review of Bjorn Lomborg’s latest but have not read it myself. A theme of Michael Crichton’s book that does particularly interest me, both in relation to your views John and alpha is that it seriously challenges the acceptance by many of the “fear” information that they are subject to, well it is called State of Fear. As an aside I and a number of friends are crime and thriller readers and were into this book before we had heard of it’s controversial standing, i.e. he spins a good yarn. We have been very surprised. I thought that the argument that he presents re governments and fear might have appealed to both right and left, but clearly not.
    Without attempting to justify his claims, he does a reasonable job of that himself; I have never come across such a large Bibliography in a novel before. I would suggest that alpha it is up to you to disprove what he argues rather than hope that your beliefs (or fears ) can be kept intact by further claims of doom and destruction from the supporters of the orthodoxy. That is what the story is about, unthinking acceptance of information/disinformation presented for political reasons and accepted as gospel.
    Apart from thrills and spills, complexity (complex systems) underpins the way of looking at the world put to the reader, and irritation that as it has been a known theory for going on twenty years, but not to the environmental movement, is one of the major criticisms of the ecowarriors.
    The bibliography contains an amusing reference to a Showtime series Bullshit. I do not know it. However the episode referred to tells of a young woman who signs up environmentalists to ban “dihydrogen monoxide” She explains how it is found in lakes and rivers, it remains on fruits and vegetables after they are washed, it makes you sweat. And the people sign up. (water)
    Give it a read Alpha

  17. Ros,

    You may be suprised, but, my position, as always, is:

    Anyone that says its [Global Warming] definately not occuring is just as ridiculous as the person that says it definately is occuring. However, we must resign ourselves to the possibility.

    While I haven’t read Crichton’s book, i do truely believe that Crichton suffers from the same delusions that the Greens suffer from. That is a desire to prove something that is as of yet unproveable. By quoting a bunch of statistics, while simultaneously laughing at statistics produced by environmentalists – he displays that he is just as subject to the “group think” phenomen as his counterparts.

    It is just as difficult to prove that it is not happening as it is to prove it is happening.

    And in that conundrum most right and left wing idealogues lose their path. Blinded by hatred and passion. Angry with bitterness from perceived persecution 🙂

  18. Taking up the debate between alphacoward and Ros regarding the spill of One nation votes, the economic policy platform of One Nation was quite consistent with the Democrats, the Greens and the left of the ALP, but on social issues they would tend to line up with the Coalition. Hence they could spill anywhwere, depending on the local circumstances.
    Just to be pedantic, Burke’s conservatism, which Ros pointed out is not opposed to reform, is an antecedent of classical or non-socialist liberalism and it is very different from the kind of conservatism that Hayek defined when he wrote his classic essay “Why I am not a conservative”.

  19. from my perspective in queensland, the vast majority of one nation supporters shared on common trait – the shared fear of dillution of white anglosaxan culture.

    While i submit that obviously some votes would have gone to the greens (small grocer vs woolworths believers) the vast majority (70%+) went to the conservatives based on Christian values.

  20. Tim, while the host of that site was very critical of Crichton’s science, you could not have been so encouraged by the ensuing discussion. My major concern with the tenor of his argument is the lip service paid to “unknowable”. The use of language is despite the science cloak of objectitvity still political in its aims. “much” of the future is unknowable, implication, but we do know that it’s going to be bad if we don’t accept man made climate change is a reality. And this issue isn’t part of the much. Can’t make “exact predictions”. So its all right then, the world is predictable, just that this scenario is not correct in every detail. That while the future of climate is unknown, we do do know what elements/causal factors will determine the future. I beg to differ. Just been listening to Clive Hamilton confidently informing us that the precipitation levels in Australia will result in a 30% reduction in the Murray by mid century, and this is not now a possibilty, it is likely,and it is likely that it will be worse. If Clive isn’t a player in the game with a very much broader agenda then I don’t know who is. I am not suggesting that this makes him a liar, just that it is a part of how he makes decisions.
    And prompted by Rafe re Hayek, I will gratuitously throw in one of his beliefs, that any prediciting agency will itself become a player in the game.
    the climate argument is typical of us happy little lot of humanity. The notion that epistemological Human knowledge is limited and reason constrained in many ways is not how we like to operate. The earth is heating up, it is our fault, but at least it is mainly the USA’s fault, as is Islamic terrorism, world poverty, silly voters in Australia. Give up our evil materialistic ways, sort out the USA and all will be well. And there are models to prove it.
    And I had never made the connection between “one nation” and Burke even if the rest of Australia had. No offence Pauline but I find it hard to believe it was your idea. Even the name wasn’t controlled by you.

  21. Compare and contrast the term “redneck” and its Afrikaans analogue “rooinek” (or “verdommte rooinek”, or “salspils”, or whatever).

    If you think “redneck” is offensive, you’ve seen nothing yet.

    (Oh, and the older term “redlegs” is traceable back to before they were barbadoed by Cromwell – it has nothing to do with exposure to tropical or subtropical climates.)

  22. Getting back to the Telstra sale, it is in the interests of taxpayers to sell, as with the advent of WiMax, the 50 mile range version of WiFi, copper cable networks in the world will be worth diddly squat in a few years. Imagine, much faster than broadband + VOIP telephone + revenge for the line rental ripoff = goodby to ANY Telstra bills.

  23. Votes have to sum to 100%, so in a three-way race if one party loses votes the others have to gain, you might as well say Liberal gains caused a collapse in the One Nation vote. Many more voters move back and forth between parties than are apparent from aggregate statistics. One Nation candidates in 2001 were between Labor and the Coalition on issues of personal liberty, to the right of the Coalition on cultural diversity, and between Labor and the Coalition on economic policy. However One Nation candidates although sympathetic to wealth redistribution were very hostile to government and taxation, unlike Labor and Green candidates. I know that the argument that the Greens and One Nation are close on economic policy is popular among Liberals (who after all wanted a coalition government with One Nation at one stage) but it is a myth, One Nation’s platform did not support stronger trade unions and redistributive taxation. One Nation was closest to the Coalition and hence we would expect that the Coalition would attract its voters. Green voters are clearly on the left of the political spectrum. Some fact-based commentary would be a nice thing.

  24. Geoff, I suppose then you would expect that the collapsing Democrat vote should almost go entirely to the Greens, but that didn’t happen.

    Policy details aren’t necessarily why people vote for a party. How many people really know all the policies of who they vote for?

  25. David Ricardo — either you know my point (compared to OECD countries & “tiger” economies of our region, our tax is high) and are just being annoying, or are not capable of ever understanding it. Either way, debating you would be a waste of time. Just chant: “government is good” a few times and go back to sleep.

  26. On global warming: You can sit in water and notice a whole lot of bubbles coming up, and worry about the fact that there could be many different factors and the position of each bubble is never predictable and everything is much too chaotic to make sense.

    Or you can realise you are a frog, and the pot is being heated.

    This is not just a trash analogy. At a certain scale in the system, very complex phenomena become simple (of course). While it is hard to predict the effects, we live on a large ball surrounded by gas with a source of heat. As we change the composition of the gas, so the temperature of the system will rise.

    If we do nothing about, we will eventually put all the carbon from all the fossil fuel into the atmosphere. If we are not making a difference now, we will keep going until we do. What is more, we know that if we start to act now, it will still take a bloody long time to really stop the increase.

    The climate “sceptics” keep claiming there is some sort of biased global conspiracy of establishment scientists to promote the idea of global warming. In fact, the scientists are doing exactly the worst thing for an establishment – they are setting themselves up to induce large scale economic change, in the teeth of the planet’s most powerful players on whom they depend for resources.

    Don’t you think they would rather be happily plotting the ocean-atmosphere system to improve weather forecasts, enhance farming and monitor the recovery of fish stocks?

  27. David, excuse me if I am wrong but I think you are confusing complex systems with complicated things. Eg., a complicated piece of software that is made up of simple commands.
    It is as if that you are arguing that a human system while a complex system becomes at the individual agent level, simple. That is human beings are simple systems rather than a complex system in a hierarchy of complex systems. And a human being is made up of complex systems, eg immune system, and so on.
    I have heard Paul Davies say that the Universe in which we exist turned complex about a third of the way into it’s existence. I have never heard of the argument that complex systems turn into simple ones.
    The issue that complex systems asserts, I thought, is not that it is hard to predict, rather that we can’t predict in a system that is on the edge of chaos. That is that trying harder will not do it. And climate is accepted as a complex system. the last 10,000 years may have been a relatively stable period within the history of the climate on earth, But even so surely it is one that should be considered as both locally and globally, even during this period, as a dynamic, constantly verging on the chaotic and with very short periods of equilibrium system rather than a stable unchanging system.
    The argument that I hear from the climate change proponents is that somehow we can set some rules and make the complex system of climate stable and unchanging rather than dynamic and evolving. this belief in the ability to control becuase we know what is happening so often suggests religion to me. I note that the UN includes it as a matter to be examined, regulated and controlled along with Aids and poverty. Climatologists don’t understand el nino for example but many claim to have got global climate cracked.
    The consideration of the complex system of climate is complicated surely by the fact that the humanity arguing about it is a complex system, that cannot be simply described as the “good guys” asking for economic change for the common good and “bad guys” determined to rape the earth for their good alone.

  28. I dont’t think this kind of appeal to complex systems theory works. The economy is a complex system, but that doesn’t mean that we should just adopt whatever economic policy feels good at the time. Pumping unlimited CO2 into the atmosphere is like giving everybody a handout of a million dollars. We may not be able to predict exactly what will happen, but we can predict enough to know its a bad idea.

  29. There are quite a few announcements going around that we may be approaching a point of no return on climate (which is not the same thing as approaching a point of obvious harm – that can come later). Me, I suspect that in our lack of knowledge we may already have gone beyond it.

    So the prudential principle suggests we reverse this. On the other hand, we may have unintentionally become part of the feedback loops already, and if so remedial action may trigger PIO (Pilot Induced Oscillation), something that afflicted Keynesians in practice in the ’60s. So the prudential principle probably only suggests we stop what we are doing without attempting any fixes, and hope that the system is still within its basin of stability.

    But if we do need drastic action, here is a modest proposal – but based on sound science – that the Greenies will hate. Just bulldoze lots of bush into piles, bulldoze earth against it so it can be burned to charcoal, then bulldoze the charcoal into creeks to to be swept into the sea to sink and be sequestered. Repeat to taste.

    This is the only rapid scale way I know of to reclaim carbon from the biosphere. It works on the basis that carbon is only slowly degraded by weathering (basically sun bleaching in the presence of water and UV), and since it is denser than water dropping it into the abyss will hand it over to the geological cycle.

  30. “Carbon sequestration” of course is the buzz word P.M. There’s an elderly but apparently still gardened link here to CSIRO on the matter. Pumping it back into oil wells, down mines, and onto the bottom of the deep oceans to join the methane pools are all mentioned.

    It is probably worth mentioning that both the Australian and the US government are significantly involved in efforts to provide a technological solution to the CO2 problem – so at the coal face (ho ho) they actually accept the consensus.

    The Australian science effort is about doing the work but adhering to the basic rule: Don’t Mention Kyoto.

  31. Wasn’t it magnificent to see Mark Liebler awarded an AC for his services to Australian tax law?

    A touch Kafkaesque, perhaps, but magnificent nonetheless.

  32. John Humphreys says:

    ‘First, different countries report tax differently.’

    True, of course. But, unless you can specifically establish that the Europeans have stricter reporting than us, so what?

    ‘Second, our neighbours are mostly not OECD countries, so that is not necessarily the best comparator.’

    Perhaps, like Dave, I’m just not capable of understanding. Doesn’t it make sense to compare Australia with all the countries at a similar level of development? We could exclude the European countries because they’re further away gepographically, and the Asian ones because they’re further away culturally, but that would just leave New Zealand.

    ‘Third, the trend in all OECD countries has been for tax to rise.’

    My point exactly. But it my case I was just explaining the pheneomenon, (which is what ab seemed to be requesting), not making a judgement about it, let alone using it as an excuse to sing my credo.

  33. John Humphreys, if you want to pay Singapore tax rates, there’s nothing to stop you joining the brain drain and going to live in Singapore.

    If you don’t do it, I can only conclude that, all things considered, including the tax you pay, you’d rather live here.

    I believe that economists call this “revealed preference”.

  34. John your comments lead me to suspect that you think complex systems were invented rather than discovered. For me you are saying that for the Church to threaten Copernicus because they believed that he invented his theory about the solar system rather than invented it was an appropriate response. Certainly that argument is advanced. However time has made fools of them.
    When you decide to run with the orthodoxy that climate change is man made, bad, both known and understood, and that climate may be held in equilibrium you are both wrong and require a very high price of your fellow human beings.
    Rodney Brooks responded to the question are we capable of free will, with, I think that we should behave as if we are. However to say that we do understand climate or that we know what factors are causally linked to particular outcomes and that the outcomes of changes in those factors is known, when in fact we don’t, is wrong. We have no idea as to causes or what will emerge. we are ignorant but nevertheless the climate change ideologues argue that we must behave as if we know. Not acceptable.
    Property 1: non-determinism and non-tractability. A complex system is fundamentally non-deterministic. It is impossible to anticipate precisely the behaviour of such systems even if we completely know the function of its constituents.

    Property 2: limited functional decomposability. A complex system has a dynamic structure. It is therefore difficult, if not impossible, to study its properties by decomposing it into functionally stable parts. Its permanent interaction with its environment and its properties of self-organisation allow it to functionally restructure itself.

    Property 3: distributed nature of information and representation. A complex system possesses properties comparable to distributed systems (in the connectionist sense), i.e. some of its functions cannot be precisely localised. In addition, the relationships that exist within the elements of a complex system are short-range, non-linear and contain feedback loops (both positive and negative).

    Property 4: emergence and self-organisation. A complex system comprises emergent properties which are not directly accessible (identifiable or anticipatory) from an understanding of its components.

    I include this definition of complexity because I have a problem with your complexity is the thing but nevertheless I reject what ever it has to say.
    Also your whatever feels good seems to be an explanation of how you reach conclusions, by feelings. Not of those who argue that complexity means that predictions ( though Castle as I am sure you would know argues that the climate change scenarios are projections not predictions) and rules should not be made without knowledge.
    This is the most ignorant of fear campaigns in my life and I have had to live through nuclear winters, mass starvation world wide and man made ice ages.
    If your position is like Greenpeace’s that unless you can prove there is zero probability of risk in any scientific or technological advance then it may not occur, and we Greenpeace will nominate, not discover, those risks, then there is nothing more to say.
    PM what is a point of no return on climate, is it about to become extinct. It has never gone back and it has never stayed still . Think of Heraclitus and panta rhei

  35. Ros,

    Quantum waves and other sub atomic systems match each of the above criteria – yet in general deliever stable and predictable behaviour in reactions at the macro level.

    The fact that most matter is stable, even though it is comprised of unpredectable components, is a common thread through most systems.

  36. As wellout of my depth in quantum physics I will resort to quoting a lecturer in biophysics Ewen Mc Laughlin
    “So on one hand we have situations where a single subatomic event
    makes all the difference, and on the other hand we have the sum of many subatomic processes. The former processes are wildly unpredictable. The latter processes are very predictable indeed, unless the system is inherently complicated and chaotic, in which case the system may be unpredictable, but this is not due to subatomic uncertainties.�
    I would say that climate is inherently complicated and chaotic and thus unpredictable. You are arguing that most systems are simple even thought their components are not. Hence can know what is happening and will happen in climate.
    Remember it is the proponents of man made climates change that claim that man has driven climate to the edge of chaos. That man is the factor causing the catastrophe . Your position requires you therefore to declare that it is known what all the factors of climate are in order to declare man’s industrial activities the cause, of a change in pattern. In considering that I will again quote, this time from Brian Arthur (Sante Fe Institute). �If you have a truly complex system, then the exact patterns are not repeatable. And yet there are themes that are recognisable…..So we assign metaphors.� So it would seem that the catastrophe claimants have recognised a pattern, but it cannot be the industrial revolution because that is the event about which we are currently arguing to be the cause of this catastrophe. So what theme do they recognise. The misbehaviour of man, greedy selfish man.
    I would propose a different metaphor to explain the cries of man or development/capitalism/USA did this and the result is catastrophe. It is the Grandest Conspiracy Theory of them all. Proposed by the opponents of development and fed by man’s inability to accept an indifferent universe in which we are merely random inconsequents. It is not fear of “climate change� that bothers us, that would be a nonsense piece of reasoning, it is the fear of not being able to control it that bothers us. So we launch the silliest of programs the rejigging of the physics of this Universe.

  37. Just thought I’d leave a quick comment to congratulate Nick on the latest version of his template for this blog. It’s really starting to come together. Nice.

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