Markets in everything (not) [Part 2 of a CT debate]

In an illustration of the BlogGeist at work, the issue of using lotteries to allocate scarce tickets to public events has come up in the Monday Message Board here and also at Crooked Timber. At first sight, the dispute over Bob Geldof’s attempts to prevent resale of tickets to Live Aid 8, discussed by Henry Farrell at CT, looks like a classic dispute between hardheaded economists and soft social scientists. In reality it’s nothing of the kind. The critics have not only ignored the issues raised by sociology and other disciplines, they have got their economics wrong.
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Monday message board

As usual on Monday, you are invited to post your thoughts on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

Sticking with a seasonal theme, I’ll start by asking for thoughts on the occasion of the winter solstice tomorrow (or maybe Wednesday, I’m never sure on this). Also, tomorrow is a significant date in another way, and the first to pick it will get a valuable free acknowledgement in the relevant post.

Crossing the floor

The Howard government’s partial backdown on mandatory detention laws points up a striking feature of the Australian political system, the iron discipline that makes a threat by four backbenchers to cross the floor and vote against the government a major news event in itself. The government was in no danger of being defeated on a vote, with a majority of 27, and in many other countries an event like this would not be news. But in Australia it happens perhaps once in a decade.

Until recently, the US was at the other extreme. I recall a news story saying that Jimmy Carter had copped some flak for refusing to campaign for any Democrat who hadn’t voted for at least half the legislation he proposed. I doubt that either alternative is healthy.
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Fact-checking in the blogosphere

One of the benefits that ought to arise from the existence of the blogosphere is that of fact-checking. False claims can be refuted quickly, and, we might hope, not repeated thereafter. Sadly it doesn’t seem to work out that way, as the following examples show.

Tim Blair points to yet another repetition of the “plastic turkey” story, this time in Pravda. Not surprisingly he’s frustrated by this.

Meanwhile, the claim that bans on the use of DDT in anti-malaria campaigns have cost millions of lives, has been repeated yet again, by Miranda Devine in the SMH, and Rafe Champion at Catallaxy.

So in the interests of accuracy and bipartisanship, let’s get the facts straight

* In his visit to Iraq in November 2003, Bush did not pose with a plastic turkey, as has been often claimed, but with a decorative, real “show turkey” not intended for eating. The “show turkeyâ€? is a routine part of the presentation for the soldiers eating in the mess hall, so there’s nothing surprising about the fact that Bush posed with one.

* DDT has never been banned in antimalarial use. The main reason for declining use of DDT as an antimalarial has been the development of resistance. Antimalarial uses have received specific exemptions from proposals to phase out DDT, until alternatives are developed. Bans on the use of DDT as an agricultural insecticide, promoted by Rachel Carson and others, have helped to slow the development of resistance, and therefore increased the effectiveness of DDT in antimalarial use ( links on this here

If Tim is willing to make the same points, maybe we’ll get somewhere on this (begins holding breath).
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Aka! Aka! Aka!

I missed out on tickets to the Lions game against Geelong today. Halfway through the second quarter, watching at home on TV, with the rain falling and what looked likely to be a low-scoring mudfest in prospect, I was thinking maybe I hadn’t done too badly. How wrong I was

Backing away from mandatory detention (crossposted at Crooked Timber)

Having had part of the weekend to think about the changes to mandatory detention laws, I realise that it will take quite a few posts to get through all the questions I want to think about. The first is to assess how significant these changes are.

As Andrew Bartlett points out, these changes are an inadequate compromise, which won’t for example end the detention of children or prohibit indefinite detention (see also this analysis from Chilout (group campaigning for the release of children from detention (Word doc)). They greatly increase the discretion given to the minister (Vanstone) and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, both utterly discredited by their previous handling of these issues.

But what’s significant here is the turn of the political tide. For the first time, mandatory detention has clearly become a losing issue for the government. Howard may be overstating the extent of the reforms, but that fact is significant in itself. It’s an indication of the pressure he faces to do more.
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Labor landslide in NT

At least, that’s the headline on the ABC website. The story quotes a puzzled senator

CLP senator Nigel Scullion at a loss to explain the huge swing towards the Labor Party.
“This is a political tsunami,” he said.
“I mean…the obvious question is why? You’d have to grope for answers.”

I would have thought it was obvious that just about everyone in the Top End reads the Financial Review closely, and that it was this column that sank Opposition leader Denis Burke’s chances. Well, maybe not, but Burke’s absurd proposal for a 3000km powerline clearly hasn’t helped him.