27 thoughts on “Monday message board

  1. George Best died last weekend.

    He was a gifted footballer however he retired at 27 so could never be said to be the greatest.

    He was similar to the greatest footballer of all time ,Johan Cruyff,

    He was very skillful, was as good at creating or scoring goals and had a great work ethic.
    He didn’t have Cruyff’s electric acceleration however.

    He was a disgrace as a human being though.
    Frequently drunk, lived a hedonistic lifestyle, was known to hit his wifes/ girlfriends/lovers.

    what a shame and what a waste

  2. According to this story and many others, the visit of Condoleezza Rice to a Nato conference starting today could be a very chilly one


    Seems that many European governments are going to object strongly about the alleged US practice of clandestine “rendering” of terrorist suspects for “special handling” on European sovereign territory.

    Rice’s last line of defence is some obfuscatory blather about “co-operation” in the GWOT. I interpret this to mean, “don’t ask, we might have to tell”.

    On the face of it, this seems to be an odd response until consideration of the different ways by which the existence of “rendition” is known.

    1. Some governments, notably the recently democratised Eastern Europeans, seem to have been genuinely ignorant of clandestine flights into their territories and ignorant of the day-to-day operations of US bases on their territories.

    2. Other governments, notably the British, may well have been aware, and even complicit in, “extraordinary rendition”. For example, the article cited above mentions suspicions of torture on Diego Garcia, a US base located on British territory.

    Thus, Rice seems to be saying to the British, and any other government implicated in “extraordinary rendition”. “Don’t bring this up, or else we’ll have to tell on you.”

    Even many British Tories are growing squeamish about US practices. I doubt whether the Blair government can stop an earnest scrutiny of US practices on British soil.

    While on this topic, there has been no mention, as far as I know, of mysterious US bases on Australian territory. But the forthcoming bombing practice allowed to the US by the Howard goverment may be a convenient means by which US planes can fly unremarked into unpopulated and uncongenial parts of our Wide Brown Land. Instead of bombing it, they could land to deposit any number of inmates into a remote Aussie Gulag.

  3. I would defy anyone to give proper and full consideration to when confronted with 17 bills in one week, including the terror legislation.

    Perhaps the most time is spent in drafting legislation, but the people who draft legislation are not accountable for it. When expert submissions are ignored, they become pointless.

    So much for the Howard Administration’s commitment to democracy and democratic process. Members of parliament, from most major parties, have assumed the role of dumb decoy ducks covering both a fiction and an illusion, voting the party line, and subservient to their individual pre-selection sword of Democles.

    The real blame may therefore lie with the voters, or if not, the voting systems.

  4. Good article in the AFR today about Trade Deficits and Capital Surpluses. Puts the wind up all the Trade Deficit Chicken Little arguments.

  5. I must say, I found the AFR piece unconvincing. I may have another go at this when I get a bit of time and energy.

  6. I have been reading Hugh Stretton’s “Australia Fair”. One of the interesting questions to me — and I am sure it must have occurred to many others including JQ — is why Australia grew so strongly and with so little inflation and unemployment for 25 years after the Second World War when, in current microeconomic policy terms, we were doing everything wrong. High tariffs, big public sector, strong centralised wage system, strongly progressive taxes.

    I asked a Scandinavian cobber of mine who has lived in Australia for quite a while and and he said the same question could be asked about the relative success of current large government-high taxing countries such as Norway and Sweden. Why do they do so well these days?

    Both these questions seem to be interesting but maybe they have been answered before in other fora. People like Peter Dixon at Monash always comment on the small apparent size of the welfare triangles from reform which they suspect are too small. But maybe they ARE just small. Stretton of course (and I assume JQ) would see the prosperity as due to interventionist government that manages demand to keep the economy prosperous and which intervenes in credit markets to make sure lending is directed in useful ways.

    Of course it might be true that we will grow better now with a more liberal economic order even if in the past we did better with intervention. The War and the aftermath of the Depression may have created unique cicumstances after 1950 — my leftwing colleague John King suggests these events kept the workers in check. But the question of the high living standards in the Scandinavian countries then still remains something of a puzzle to me.

  7. Harry,
    What is overlooked by the free marketers is that people often do not behave in ways they predict. They start with the assumption that if they behave in a particular way then so will others. What follows is a series of market failures which are discussed as if they are somehow an aberration. However the market is not interested in notions of the common good, societal norms or improving society. Thus as the government contracts out more to the private sector the add on services which people provided as part of a commitment to the wider society is lost. It is not valued, they are pressured to “perform” and so the benefits which were never recognised are lost.

    The changes in shifting from the notion of the Commonwealth of Australia to the Australian Government shows the direction we are heading. Once we thought about the common good but now we are just there to be governed for the benefit of the market. It is this kind of thinking which has brought us to SerfChoices bolstered by a regime which thinks it alright to have citizens disappear for lengthy periods without the right to discuss anything about their disappearance.

    A divisive regime will never achieve as much as a government which makes people feel good about their country and its values. The triumphalism of the Liberal coalition with its toadies and sycophants will lead us to a situation where the dispossessed and disconnected will make even those who are triumphant feel nervous.

  8. Jill, you made some good points there!

    Reminds me of the old “NSW Police Service”. Costa, in his very first act after becoming the relevant minister, changed the name to “NSW Police Force”.

    These guys are nothing more than incompetent bullies, with a chip on their shoulder telling us all to shut up and just keep on working, eating and consuming.

  9. Jill Rush,
    That is not over-looked, in fact it is one of the strengths of the belief in individual liberty. Those who believe that the freedom of the individual should be over-ridden in the pursuit of some imagined greater objective are the ones trying to force everyone to behave the same. You are correct that the market does not pursue these objectives, simply because the market does not pursue any objectives – it is simply the sum of all the actions of the individuals within it – and that includes you and me. If you want to pursue those objectives, as do I, I suggest you stop complaining and get out there and do something.

  10. Harry,

    After WWII Australia had:-

    1. A tax burden signifiantly lower than we have today.
    2. A gold standard. (ie money more stable than today).
    3. Minimal welfare to distort behaviour.

    In international terms we had mostly fixed exchange rates meaing that there was no exchange rate barrier to trade.

    Nations like Germany and Japan had low tax regimes imposed on them by external authorities and as such they grew strongly (both becoming dominant economic powers in their regions). As such Australia was situated in a world economy that was doing well.

    Then Nixon and the Keynesians messed it all up.

    If we can have the post war conditions outlined above back again I for one will be willing to allow a return to hight tariffs.

    Norways prosperity is built on the back of north sea oil.


  11. And also Harry it is wrong to assume that inflation naturally tends to follow economic growth and that the post war years were somehow an exception to such a rule. The Britian economy grew massively in the 1800s and yet the price level halved over that century. The China economy grew strongly in the 1990s and yet it recorded falling consumer prices.

    Inflation is a result of monetary policy not economic growth. Given a static supply of currency economic expansion is actually deflationary. As the transaction domain expands the demand for currency grows and its value increases. It does not decline as the Keynesians seem to surmise with their aggregate demand arguments.

    Inflation is actually most commonly observed in a climate of economic contraction. Just look at Zimbarbwe at present. Or Iraq following the sanctions after the first gulf war. Or Germany following WWI when reperations (ie high taxes) were imposed. As the transaction domain shrinks the need for (ie demand for) currency declines and if the quantity is static then the value will fall.

  12. Terje – “Norways prosperity is built on the back of north sea oil.” – And Finland’s and Sweden’s as well???

    I am amazed by these extreme views. We live in a county that has a blend of socialist policies and free market ideas. Healthcare is both affordable and accessible and of extremely high quality. If you happen to fall through the gaps of consumer society there is a safety net of welfare. We do not have the same extremes of poverty and plenty that the USA has and was so cruelly exposed in New Orleans. We also do not have the hideous extremes of ‘socialist’ China.

    To me the concept of the free market died with Standard Oil (http://www.bilderberg.org/whatafel.htm) when free marketeers were co-erced, often by violence, to Rockefellers quest for power and money. The corporations hold on power in the USA is almost absolute and the idea that the market is free is laughable. Similarly the ‘workers paradise’ of the Soviet Union collapsed under its own inefficiencies as people genuinely wanted some of the freedoms denied to them. Most socialist paradises descend very rapidly into dictatorships.

    The point is that extreme systems rarely work. Either the individualistitic free market or planned economy is very unlikely to give maximum good to it population. Also the idea that one size fits all is also in my view wrong. In a system as complex as a human society there are many solutions to the same problem, not one. Societies can be very successful with any range of socialism or free market ideas and to think that there is only one way to solve the problem of human governance is to me a narrow and incorrect view. Humans are complex creatures and are shaped by history, culture and location. Failure to recognise this leads to disasters like Vietnam, Chechnya and Iraq.

    In Australia as I said before we have a blend. In my opinion hybrid systems are the ones that are most likely to work well. These take into account the culteral and historical differences and can evolve naturally in a democratic way if that is what the people want. Here, I am sure that you could try, however a political plaform built on lowering welfare and dismaltling Medicare would have very little chance of success as most ordinary Australians like the system they have. I myself do not mind paying taxes to help less fortunate people. I would not like the USA system as I have enough wealth, as do most middle class Australians. The insane pursuit of more and more consumer items may be the death of our system. Equally I would not like the old Soviet or Chinese system.

    I think that there is room for more that one system. The idea that that a free market will fix everything and benefit everyone to me is as extreme a notion as the worst excesses of communism and planned economies. As always my opionion is the true solution lies somewhere in the middle.

  13. The USA has a similar set of problems.

    1. A high tax burden (relative to the 1950s and 1960s).
    2. An unstable monetary system (relative to the 1950s and 1960s).
    3. A very high rate of spending on military infrastructure.

    Nowhere did I say:-

    a) That the USA represents some type of superior free trade economy.
    b) That Finland and Sweden profit from oil.

    You may prefer the Australian mix of policies that exists in the year 2005 rather than the mix that existed in 1960, however if we want the type of economy that Harry harks back to then lets be realistic about what policies it entailed.

  14. Terge – I am sorry – I should have only directed the first part of my rant to you. The rest was more general.

    BTW what is the problem with Australia’s economy now?

  15. The economic problems in Australia today are mostly social problems:-

    1. Too many people are unemployed or underemployed. This is not just an economic problem it is a social problem. Work is a primary means of accessing functional social networks, cultivating a sence of self respect and avoiding destructive behaviours and influences. My mother worked as an OT in mental health and I take the view that a lot of mental health problems are activated by a lack of occupation.

    2. We have too little community. In many areas the state has displaced our material need for community. We don’t look after our neighbours and friends because that has become “the governments job”. All the time I read letters to the editor in newspapers saying how shameful that problem XYZ was solved by the community when it is the “governments responsibility”.

    3. Our high level of inter-household trade barriers/tariffs mean that we live our lives inefficiently and individually we achieve a lot less than our best. Excellance is seen as a pursuit exclusive to sports stars not the average person.

    4. Our monetary system benefits creditors at the expense of debtors. From Jan 1959 to March 1970 the the benchmark standard variable bank home lending rate was never above 5.88% whilst after that date it has been as high as 17% and has never been below 6.05%.


  16. Terge – I am not sure that any of these problems can be solved by free markets – is that what you are proposing?

    Some of the work issues are a result of globalization and the offshoring of laboring jobs to countries with lower wages. Work can access functional social networks however overwork can lead to the exact opposite an cause greater harm. A lot of social problems in working families is in part due to the consumerism that has isolated us in our mansions surrounded by every digital entertainment known to man so we do not get out into a community setting at all. It is very difficult to blame that on the government.

    I am not sure what you mean about leading life inefficiently. The striving for excellence and not making it can create stress. Different people have different measures for success. I personally do not measure my material wealth as to me happy and stable family life is far more important.

    Probably the best way to solve some of these problems is to return to a local production base and reduce globalisation. Also if we are not so focussed on material wealth we will have more time to devote to our children and maybe avoid some of the destructive behaviours and influences.

  17. Ender,

    I am more interested in freeing up trade within our communities and nations than defending free trade with other nations. High taxes mitigate against this goal.

    The problems I have outlined would be addressed to a significant extent in my view if we rolled back the stated policies to what they were in the 1950s and 1960s. You might call that an increase in market freedom or you might call it a strategic retreat by the state. Either way it is what I think needs to be done.


  18. Carlos says: Reminds me of the old “NSW Police Service�. Costa, in his very first act after becoming the relevant minister, changed the name to “NSW Police Force�.

    This simply isn’t true. The Police Service Act 1990 changed the name from the “NSW Police Force” to the “NSW Police Service”. The Police Service Amendment (NSW Police) Act 2002 changed the name to the “NSW Police”.

    From the second reading:


    The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA (Minister for Police) [8.07 p.m.]: I move:

    That this bill be now read a second time.

    I am pleased to introduce the Police Service Amendment (NSW Police) Bill, which has been developed in consultation with NSW Police, the Police Association and other relevant interests. The bill gives legal recognition to the Police Service of New South Wales being renamed NSW Police. These changes are made by items [1] to [5] of schedule 1 and by schedules 2.3 to 2.13 to the bill. Front-line police have repeatedly expressed their dissatisfaction with the name “Police Service” and its bureaucratic connotations. That name was introduced in 1990 when the Greiner Government passed the Police Service Act 1990 to integrate the police officers of the Police Force with the civilian administration of the Police Department. It is typical of the Coalition that it made no attempt to see how the police officers of New South Wales felt about that name change, a point made by Peter Anderson, MP, when the legislation was debated.

  19. Terje: 2. We have too little community. In many areas the state has displaced our material need for community. We don’t look after our neighbours and friends because that has become “the governments job�. All the time I read letters to the editor in newspapers saying how shameful that problem XYZ was solved by the community when it is the “governments responsibility�.

    From Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (Norman Dennt trans.)

    “She could not earn enough and her debts grew. The thernardiers …wrote to say that Cosette was obliged to go nearly naked in the cold and that at least ten francs were needed to buy her a wooollen dress….in the evening [Fantine] went to the barber at the corner of the street and withdrew her comb, letting her hair fall down to her waist.

    “What will you give me for it?” she asked.

    “Ten francs.”

    “Then cut it off.”

    …”My daughter’s not cold anymore,” thought Fantine. “I have dressed her in my hair.” She wore small mob-caps to hide her shorn head and still looked pretty.

    The following letter came from the Thenardiers: “Cosette has caught the disease that is sweeping throguh the region…The medicine is very expensive. It is ruining us and we can no longer pay. If you do not send us forty francs within a week the child will die.”

    Crossing the market-square she saw…an itinerant dentist selling sets of false teeth…

    …seeing her laugh, the dentist cried: “You’ve got a lovely set of teeth my lass. If you’d care to sell me your two incisors I’ll pay you a gold napoleon for each.”

    “Lord preserve us!” cried Margerite, “What’s the matter with you.”

    “Nothing is the matter with me,” said Fatine, “I’m happy. My baby isn’t going to die of that dreadful disease for lack of medicine.”

    She pointed to two napoleons that lay gleaming on the table.”

  20. Here, the term “community” is used in one sense. Many others use it in another sense, or even as some idealised abstraction which they seek to use as a justification for this or that agenda bearing little relation to it anyway, even if it were a valid justification.

    I’ve mentioned before that the nearest I’ve seen to a proper insight into these matters is the sort of mutualism you can find here. I don’t think it’s got all the way there, because there are some thought experiments that reveal cases it can’t handle – things outside its philosophy rather than things it fails at. But I’m not suggesting that I can offer a better insight.

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