Workchoices in one sentence

In comments on a Fred Argy post about Workchoices and measures of economic freedom, Sinclair Davidson compares “the social democrat notion where workers have a right to work and employers the duty to employ” with “the more sensible notion of workers have the duty to work and employers the right to employ”. This is about as neat a summary of the contrast between social democratic and neoliberal views of the employment relationship as I’ve seen.

Gun laws save lives

It’s not a surprising conclusion, but given the controversy on this topic, it’s important to get the stats right. Andrew Leigh and Christine Neill have done a study concluding that, while the data set is too short for a conclusive resolution, the best estimate is the gun buyback undertaken by the Howard government after the Port Arthur massacre has saved between 1000 and 2500 lives. The work of Leigh and Neill is a response to a very dubious study claiming no effect that came out last year.


The New York Times magazine has a great piece on OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) who take jobs overseas to send money (remittances in the econ jargon) back home to their families. My UQ colleague Richard Brown has been working on the topic of remittances for years, but its only very recently that the topic has attracted any attention. An obvious implication of Richard’s work on the role of remittances in Pacific Island economies is that Australia should consider opening its labour market to workers from the region, a topic we’ve discussed previously.

Surprisingly, the strongest opposition to this idea has come, not from unions, but from the Centre for Independent Studies. While there are some plausible arguments here, I don’t think they would convince anyone starting from the presumption that unless there are good reasons to stop them, people should be free to move where they want. The CIS view seems to start from the presumption “we will decide who comes here and under what circumstances” (with the implicit assertion that we should feel free to make such decisions for any reason, good or bad, or for no reason at all) a popular view but scarcely one consistent with classical liberalism

Really back this time

I’ve found and fixed the problem on the site which was being bogged down by the Akismet plugin. I’m still getting heaps of spam in the moderation queue, so I’ll be looking for suggestions to fix this, along with other improvements to the site. But posting should be back to normal from now on, and commenting should be reasonably easy.

UpdateOf course, the moment I post this, the site bogged down again, but it seems to have been just a glitch.

Weekend reflections

I’m finally making some progress on the problems that have plagued the site for the last couple of months. Unfortunately, I won’t have time to do much more for a little while, but with luck, discussion will be able to proceed.

So, weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

End of the phoney war ?

The period since Kevin Rudd became Labor leader reminds me somewhat of the phoney war in the early stages of World War II. The government has relied mostly on attacks over trivia (the dispute over the exact circumstances in which Rudd’s family was evicted from their home, the dinner with Brian Burke, the Anzac day predawn dawn service and so on) most of which have had little impact, and some of which have backfired.

There have been some substantive issues of disagreement, including the broadband plan, the Iraq war and Kyoto, but the government’s position on all these issues is one of disarray. They have no idea how we’ll get a proper broadband rollout, how to extricate us from Iraq or how to do anything substantive about climate change while still refusing to sign Kyoto. Particularly on the second and third of these issues, they’re happened by the fact that much of their activist base, which is by now taking its views directly from US Republicans, still clings to delusional beliefs that victory in Iraq/demolition of the global warming conspiracy is just around the corner.

With the release of Labor’s IR policy we’ll presumably see some real action. This is an issue Labor has to get right and one where the government strongly believes in the rightness of its own position. They’ve got some impressive employment numbers to back them up, but they haven’t managed to get over the fact that their policies are centrally based on “managements’ right to manage” which, from the perspective of the average employee looks more like “bosses’ right to be bossy”. Nor have they given any explanation as to how we are going to avoid the situation that has emerged in the US, where incomes at the top have soared while wages for many workers have been stagnant for decades.

Obviously, the government will be hoping for conflict between Labor and the unions over the concessions to business in Rudd’s policy, most obviously the requirement for secret ballots for strikes. I doubt that we’ll see much of this. It must be obvious to all that another couple of terms of Howard or Costello government could break the union movement once and for all. Now that Rudd’s policy is out there, the unions have no real alternative but to support it.

Discussion policy

It seems as if I was in tune with the Zeitgeist when I took a few weeks off to think about how to deal with trolls, sockpuppets and other pests. During my downtime, there was the Kathy Sierra harassment case followed by dispute about a proposed code of conduct. It even made Deirdre Macken’s column in the Fin at the weekend.

Different people will have different views about what’s needed, but I no longer have the time or energy to deal with the trouble created by trolls so I want to stop them before they start. That’s why I’ve written my own discussion policy, as follows.

1. This is a forum for discussion. I publish it at my own expense and in my own time. It is not a public place. There is no automatic right to comment here.

2. The purpose of the comments section is to allow constructive discussion of points made in the main post. Comments which include personal attacks on me as author of the post or on other commenters (flames) will be deleted, or edited to remove such points. Commenters with a repeated history of provocation (trolls) will be banned. Comments that seek to score debating points at the expense of others (snarks) are discouraged; this is inevitably subjective, but please try to focus on substantial arguments rather than cheap shots.

4. Coarse language is prohibited, as are racist and sexist comments.

5. Pseudonymous commenting is allowed, but commenters must supply an email address on which they can be contacted. Except in the event of disruptive behaviour (as described under 6 and 7) this information will be kept confidential. Pseudonymous commenters should take particular care to avoid remarks that may be offensive to other participants in the discussion.

6. Commenting under multiple names (sock puppets) is strictly prohibited and will lead to an immediate and permanent ban. Details of persons using sock puppets may be disclosed to others including the operators of other blogs.

7. In the event of a ban, do not attempt unauthorised posting of comments, or harassment through email, phone contact or other methods. Be aware that any such action exposes you to a range of civil and criminal sanctions.

8. Comments are welcome from anyone willing to abide by these rules. Those who don’t like these rules are free to comment elsewhere or to publish their own blogs.

Discussion of this policy is welcome, and the policy may be changed, but the policy is in force with immediate effect, and will apply to any comments made from now on.

Back on air (sort of)

I’ve enjoyed taking a break, and now I’m ready to resume blogging. Unfortunately, I still haven’t resolved the performance problems that have been plaguing the site. I’m hassling my hosting service and trying to implement some measures of my own. Hopefully, there will be some good news on this front soon. In the meantime, I’m going to ignore the problems and resume reasonably regular posting.