Rock against WorkChoices

Some of our more impatient bosses have moved fast to take advantage of the additional power given to them by WorkChoices, and it’s encouraging to see lots of signs that workers are fighting back. Along with marches and job actions, music has always been part of such protests, and the ASU is putting on a Rock for Your RIghts at Work event at the Zoo in Ann St., Brisbane on 6 April

(via Mark Bahnisch

143 thoughts on “Rock against WorkChoices

  1. Ernestine,

    I am not sure which problem you think there is an easy solution to but let me presume you mean the problem of excessive government. You seem to be implying that there is some scope to escape the reach of the state. There is not.

    If you buy a block of land (as I have) you still need to pay rates. If you trade with actual goods instead of money (eg barter) the tax office still insists on its share.

    Anybody who owns anything is forced by the government to have liabitities denominated in the government issued fiat currency. You can’t escape the system so if you don’t like the system you must fight to reform it or chose from one of the alternate systems of oppression around the world.

    What you propose in terms of allowing people to creating their own private economy to escape the clutches of government is essentially how the wild west of America got settled. People moved west to avoid the government and the government moved west to tax the people. When I visited Bryce Canyon in the USA last year I read about the original Mormon community that settled and inhabited the area. They did fine until the government turned up and destroyed the community by demanding back taxes (over more than a decade) and sending them all bankrupt. No more home grown potatoes for government loathing christians.

    What you propose sounds somewhat like Panarchy, however I doubt that you are an advocate.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panarchy

    Regards,
    Terje.

  2. EG, I cannot add much explicitly to Terje’s comments, except to point out that buying yourself out, starting from here, itself represents a barrier to exit so to speak – and you can rest assured that unless there is something in it for the powers that be, they will raise the barriers to exit. A historical case is the sort of de facto deals worked out with escaped slaves and serfs – maroons and cossacks – whereby the price of their limited, precarious and de facto freedom was to kick the ladder away after them so nobody else could follow them.

    Over and above that, many of these areas have been covered at this blog and its linked sites – there was even a post about that particular buying oneself out approach a few weeks ago.

    Oh, and the problem with the damned Dutch wouldn’t be cured by opting out; they are seeking to infiltrate people’s minds and stop us being captains of our souls, albeit only in respect of a minor issue (it’s the principle that makes me indignant).

    I suppose I should add to the earlier debate that distortions caused by unions do not increase unemployment and/or decrease wages proportionately; the effects are mixed because there are other distortions around and there is a tendency for them partly to offset each other. In general, if you have N similar sized but uncorrelated distortions around, you can reasonably expect the marginal harm from another to be proportional to 1/sqrt(N) – so it’s not proportional. And some distortions were deliberately put in to offset others, so removing only them increases harm proportionally.

  3. Terje,

    The problem to which I have provided a solution is that portrayed in the advocacy statements by you, Andrew Reynolds, John Humphreys, (Yobbo) and PML I don’t advocate your views.

    I am saying instead of you trying to persuade others to change in a way which benefits you, why don’t you just do what you claim is good for others. It is possible.

    Surely, you can solve remaining little problems such as council rates. Council rates (or land taxes) in country areas in Australia are very low. You can buy yourself out of the need for local currency by pre-paying the rates for the rest of your life and buy lollies or whatever you like with any remaining small change that is left after you have ‘realised the purchasing power of your money’. (You need to look up Friedman’s permanent income hypothesis to see why, unless you want to deduce it directly from the Arrow-Debreu model).

    I’ll make a prediction. You won’t find any need for v. Hayek. You can test some of Ricardo’s writings on ‘international trade’. Most of Adam Smith is redundant because that which you can apply in the world you advocate is in Ricardo. You can practice Mill’s philosophy, you won’t find a need for Keynes and von Mises is totally useless if you intend to bring your family along. I’ve listed all the books which Andrew Reynolds advised I should read to get a basic education in Economics and Politics. I’ve used only Arrow-Debreu to get a solution. One difference between Arrow-Debreu and the list of books recommended by Andrew Reynolds is that only Arrow-Debreu do not advocate anything to anybody. This distinguishes analytical economics for ‘crusaders and persuaders’ who, by the nature of their activity, do not ascribe ‘equal rights’ to freedom to others. Another difference is that Arrow-Debreu check whether what the model which others advocate is internally logically consistent. So it provides a wonderful tool, as one contributor said, to take the Mickey out of ideologues.

    You said you are not an economist, so I don’t believe I am offending you by spelling things out the way I did.

  4. EG – you can’t prepay your way out of governments welching on any deal later, even supposing they were willing to make one in the first place. That’s sovereign risk for you. As for your other points:-

    – working within the system doesn’t work (I’ve tried in my small way, and look what happened to the Democrats when they tried – capture); and

    – I haven’t wanted to impose my views on others (incidentally, one can always make an apparently inconsistent value system consistent by embedding it within a larger framework that provides the necessary fudge factors).

    BTW, It’s not clear which of your points apply to whom on your list.

  5. PML,

    I wasn’t aware of your first post when I posted to Terje. Apologies.

    The transition problem, which you, IMO, rightly keep on stressing, is sadly often ignored in ‘management’, be it private or public.

    The point you make about ‘error cancellation’ is related to one encountered in the incomplete market literature. Adding one market may make ‘everybody worse off’, except if the result is to ‘completely span the choice space’.

    The risk, which you call sovereign risk, is no different from the risk of ‘loss of property’ due to an act of nature or private expropriation (breach of contract). It is no different from HIH defaulting.

    Prepayments involve a giro account, an estimate of future payments and instructions to the council to send bills to the bank and an instruction to the bank to pay it. Similarly, an accountant can be prepaid to lodge an income tax return on your behalf, every year, showing total income equal to zero, which corresponds to the outcome of the solution I described. Both, the bank and the accounting firm are private organisations. To the best of my knowledge, the main difficulties with banks and accounting firms during the past 20 years arose from governments having been talked into the idea that banking and accounting can be ‘deregulated’ to ‘remove market distortions’.

    You may say that this cannot be done due to remaining uncertainties. You may be right. But, if you are right then advocates, who base their recommendation for student loans on Friedman’s permanent income hypothesis, are wrong.

    No, you are not imposing your views on others and I did not say you do.

    “one can always make an apparently inconsistent value system consistent by embedding it within a larger framework that provides the necessary fudge factors”

    Not sure what you have in mind.

  6. EG – oops, I read the wrong numbers off my models for harm done by market imperfections. When they are uncorrelated, N similarly sized ones move 1/sqrt(N) away from the optimum in the state space, but the harm actually is of order N. What happens in fixing them, though, is where something counter-intuitive comes up. There is rent seeking in prioritising which imperfections to remove (or even notice). Going from 10 imperfections with 10 units of sub-optimality to 5 will generally lead to greater correlation and as much as 25 units of sub-optimality – a deterioration of 15. This is because highly correlated imperfections have order N squared units of harm.

    The risk I have described as sovereign risk – of the rules being changed on you – is fundamentally different from risks of firms failing or of natural disaster, since the latter are fixed. However governments react. If everyone tried to opt out, they would represent a significant diminution of the tax base and the government would act to claw it back.

    There is also the issue that you can’t net off debts you owe against debts owed to you. The mechanics of the process you describe would not release you from the government’s reach, they would just diversify your portfolio. It’s a power issue, not an economic issue.

    As for widening a system to put in fudge factors, consider a “free” system which nevertheless contains both haves and have nots. There is a disparity from the starting state/boundary conditions, not from the internal mechanics of the system which are symmetrical. Then the law in its impartial majesty forbids rich and poor alike to steal bread or sleep under bridges.

  7. PML,

    “If everyone tried to opt out, they would represent a significant diminution of the tax base and the government would act to claw it back.”

    My proposed solution was not meant for everybody (ie not as an alternative social arrangement) but merely for the very very small minority who seems to share your beliefs.

  8. Ah, EG, that’s predicated on the assumption that such an experiment would fail. If so, of course no problem – but if it succeeded, then it would grow until it faced the constraints I described, aborting it. The point is that in the presence of these outside constraints any such approach could not possibly succeed; you were coming at it as a means of humouring the experimenters, not of conducting the experiment properly.

  9. And who wants to invest any effort in the experiment if success means that the experiment gets aborted. You would suffer all the agony and get none of the benefits.

  10. No, Terje, success would mean that you would experience what you preach is good for others. So you would get the benefits for your suffering and agony.

  11. Ernestine,

    Anybody that forms a break away society is going to suffer hardship. This is probably as it should be. However if that alternate society is allowed to function in peace and its core principles allows it to prosper then the hardship may be “worth it”. Of course why would anybody endure the hardship if they knew in advance that at the first sign of prosperity emerging in their new society then the original society would reimpose itself.

    For instance lets say you live in Ghana and think that life would be better in Norway. You know that it will be difficult for the first 5-10 years because you don’t speak the language and you look different. However you decide that changing societies will be better for your life in the long term. You may decide to immigrate. However what if you knew (or reasonably suspected) that if you started to build a successful life for yourself in Norway then you could be extradited back to Ghana for deserting your nation and doing well out of it. You might then decide not to bother. I think this is not so different to how libertarians view your contrived experiment.

    I am reminded of the story I heard about the Mormons in America in the wild west days who moved west to build a new community based on Christian values and to avoid the impositions of government. The specific example I am thinking about relates to Mormons that settled near Bryce Canon. They abandoned the benefits of society and moved into the wilderness to build a new society. They knew there would be hardships but figured that the burden was worth it. However several years later the government also moved west. It turned up and demanded back taxes from the settlers and sent most of them broke.

    Essentially you are arguing that we live under some system that effectively allows for panarchy, when clearly we do not.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panarchy

    Regards,
    Terje.

  12. Terje,

    I don’t argue for panarchy or any other ..archy. Please see earlier posts on this thread.

  13. Terje, that’s a slight misreading of what happened in Utah with the Mormons. They actually moved west because they began to be persecuted for their religious beliefs, primarily polygamy. Numerous petitions for statehood by the Utah territory, including the Mormons, who were the majority population, were turned down by the federal government because of the polygamy issue.

    http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/U/Utah.asp

  14. Mormons are still quite alive and well in Utah. Many more of them today then there were back in 1857. I wouldn’t think they could be described as having been snuffed in any true sense of the word.

  15. Avaroo, you left out some very serious parts of Mormon history. For a start, being persecuted “for” their beliefs wasn’t the whole story; they were also persecuted for their assets, and of course if they had been on course to falling over on their own they wouldn’t have been persecuted.

    Even when the Mormons tried to play it straight and work within the system, like the members of James Strang‘s splinter group on Beaver Island in Michigan, all that happened was that ordinary Americans threw aside their pretence of legitimacy and resorted to violence and exile (as they had with the Loyalists before them).

    On top of that, there was an intention to destroy them utterly; it was feared that they would become militarily strong enough to resist or even fight back effectively, so the Governor of Missouri actually signed an “Extermination Order” against them.

    As well, that description of Mormons seeking statehood leaves out the part where they resisted the arrival of US forces. They actually preferred independence to being part of the USA, and only preferred statehood status over being a subject territory.

    To this day, some splinter Mormons practise variants of their old ways in a set apart way, conducting their lives on a small scale in such a manner as to draw on US social security resources rather than contribute to the USA.

    It seems pretty clear that the US pretence that government rests on the consent of the governed has always rested on manufactured consent, manufactured by either intimidation, exile of dissidents, or internal exclusion until they get on message. But this is a general criticism, not peculiar to the USA – and it describes where we came in, considering opportunities of opting out to be meaningless from being overly hedged about.

    Although, EG, I don’t see why trying to set an example of an alternative lifestyle would be described as trying to impose a lifestyle on others.

  16. PML,

    You write, “Although, EG, I don’t see why trying to set an example of an alternative lifestyle would be described as trying to impose a lifestyle on others.”

    I have nothing to do with your conversation with Terje and Avaroo and I am not interested in the topic either.

  17. “As well, that description of Mormons seeking statehood leaves out the part where they resisted the arrival of US forces. They actually preferred independence to being part of the USA, and only preferred statehood status over being a subject territory.”

    If they preferred independence, they wouldn’t have repeatedly petitioned or statehood.

    “To this day, some splinter Mormons practise variants of their old ways in a set apart way, conducting their lives on a small scale in such a manner as to draw on US social security resources rather than contribute to the USA.”

    Certainly mormons have no copyright on this idea. Plenty of non-mormons do exactly the same thing, draw on US resources rather than contribute to them.

    “On top of that, there was an intention to destroy them utterly”

    I that were true, they would have been utterly destroyed as they were never in a military position to do anything other than be destroyed.

    “it was feared that they would become militarily strong enough to resist or even fight back effectively, so the Governor of Missouri actually signed an “Extermination Orderâ€? against them.”

    for their religious beliefs, not their military might.

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