93 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. Why don’t we all admit, left, right, Catholic, Muslim, atheist, that when humans procreate 99 per cent of us would benefit from more children being produced by the intelligent, energetic, balanced, disciplined and focused than by those exhibiting little of all that? Is it not unfortunate that eugenics was turned into a taboo word by the Nazis so we can’t even talk sensibly about the dysgenic reproductive patterns which have grown up (Protestants two or three generations ahead) in the Western world since the 1870s. Until 1943 when highly placed people became conscious of Hitlers racial homicides John Maynard Keynes (a save-capitalism lefty basically) was Vice President of the Malthusian League).

    Whether we are bright or stupid, materially successful or unsuccessful, old or young, it is prima facie in our interests that more children (and not children postponed till a stupider generation has almost grown up) should be produced by those whose children are most likely – on average of course – to be inventive, entrepreneurial, law-abiding high taxpaying fellow citizens for whatever combination of genetic and environmental causes tends to bring this about?
    And doesn’t it follow that the criticisms made of Tony Abbott’s decidedly sub-optimal scheme (early version) for helping parents were the wrong criticisms? Shouldn’t we particularly want to encourage, let’s say, a couple of 30 year old newly qualified medical specialists to have lots of children and recognise that, as they have just taken on a mortgage and need to employ a nanny it is ridiculous to treat them as rich because they have incomes which would make them very comfortable at 65 with no dependents?
    Doesn’t this line of thinking – setting anything to do with eugenics aside – lead to generosity in concessions for parents of young children right up to their 20s regardless of income? If necessary let them benefit at the expensive of some of the 80 per cent of over 65s who are getting the pension, at least in part, and therefore the heavily subsidised health care and othet voncessions as well?

  2. Fascinating isn’t it that none of us usual suspects want to say ANYTHING about this! Embarrassed to agree or disagree and not able to say it is stupid and so obviously wrong that no sensible person shoul demean himself by giving the respectability of serious attention.

    I don’t think I’m breaking the rule of prudent or pious omerta if I speculate that Midrash might be a proud descendant of the Grrman rabbi who wrote “Jewish Eugenics” about a hundred years ago, or wishes that he was.

  3. Midrash’s thesis is presented in such confused language it is hard to work out precisely what he is advocating. It sounds like the old complaint that the intelligentsia and economically successful are breeding slower than the proles and so society will be swamped by proles. Rather than attempting eugenics or subsidising babies in an already over-populated world, we should make birth control and early abortion easily available for those who wish to use it. Wanted babies thrive best in every way and statistically are the more socially useful and well adapted group compared to unwanted and neglected children.

  4. I skipped over a lot of stuff in the first post on account having a short attention… Oh look, a spider! But filling in the gaps with my imagination, I am assuming he or she is arguing for more social support so no child, not matter what their parents’ social status, does not receive what they need to have the best possible chance for having a great life.

  5. @Midrash

    “Why don’t we all admit, left, right, Catholic, Muslim, atheist, that when humans procreate 99 per cent of us would benefit from more children being produced by the intelligent, energetic, balanced, disciplined and focused than by those exhibiting little of all that? ”

    Well I don’t admit it simply because it is stupid and very wrong. But then you haven’t told us whether your IQ is high enough for you to be able to pontificate on these matters.

    Before I take you seriously perhaps you could tell me what your IQ score is? I know mine and I’ll bet you that I can match your score and probably even raise you one standard deviation.

    You do seem to have some very ordinary and old-fashioned ideas about IQ so I’m thinking you are perhaps not familiar with real IQ tests and probably have never even administered any IQ test including those SAT type paper and pencil tests which are ‘not’ in any way a reliable measure of innate ‘intelligence’.

    It really looks like you have missed out on reading about all the evidence that shows how easily influenced by external and internal stimuli people are when they do these paper and pencil tests that the Mensa wanna-be’s use.

    So you’d perhaps not understand how unscientific and how dodgy the ahem -science – is that supports this standard western view of IQ as an adequate proxy for intelligence? And yet you think you can see the pragmatics of the situation. LOL. Definitely Dunning-Kruger.

    Try listening to the stupidity of the IQ fundamentalist who is interviewed on this BBC program – you probably agree with him but listen carefully and you will see he is really stupid and Melvyn Bragg and the other guest scientist are quite kind to his stupidity overall.


  6. @Ikonoclast

    That’s how I read it. Were I a rightwinger I’d cry social engineering but since I’m not I’m just going to call this offensive cant.

  7. @Fran Barlow

    Just ignorance I think. I did post a comment with a link to an awesome BBC interview with Melvyn Bragg about IQ and intelligence, but it has been in moderation for a while now. I don’t know what I said wrong. 😦

    The interview quite clearly makes the argument – to the frustration of the IQ fundamentalist who was one of the interviewees – that these simplistic ideas about IQ being intelligence and that this, and the other particular human abilities or attributes that this society values are a useful way of ranking people is quite unintelligent.

    The idea that Midrash has seems to be that intelligence is a fixed attribute, sort of like ‘property” that the individual owns and should use to trade their way up the ladder of success.

  8. I see Joe Hockey has rushed to assure miners that they will keep their diesel fuel rebate. So Joe Hockey;

    (1) Hates emissions-free wind power;
    (2) Loves giving the fossil fuel rebate to the richest mining corporations; and
    (3) Wants to cut assistance to the poorest people in the community.

    Gee, ain’t he a wonderful treasurer? <- Sarcasm.

    It is so so obvious that Abbott and Hockey are governing only for the rich. If only the populace actually voted in their own self interest. The LNP would get about 10% of the vote in that case.

  9. @Ikonoclast
    I’ll let Midrash speak for himself in answer to those who claim to know lots about IQ and its significance and suggest, contrary to the internal evidence and the reasonable inference that he has probably read rather widely (did you know about Keynes and Malthusianism?). But whether he is right or wrong, relevantly learned or old (?young) fogey he could hardly be described as confusing or unclear.
    Yet again Sir Ikon you speak and think from the heart, from where your heart has been located immovably for a very long time, and you are just unhappy that anyone could believe what most sensible people have always believed (not that it is a criterion for being judged sensible – just a fact about people’s opinions), namely that bright successful people are more likely to have bright successful children (from the non-family fellow citizens point of view meaning children who are net contributors to the public revenue, invent things, start and run successful businesses, win Mabo cases for indigent clients, etc.) than the children of the unemployed and more generally those below average on any formal or informal test you like to think of involving cognitive ability. (And yes, I would support this view and that smaller but similar differences would be found on average between those who can be differentiated by say the difference between what it takes to get a secon class honours degree and those who scrape a pass degree in social work or political science). I presume that you are smart enough to follow Midrash’s reasoning based on undeniable statistical facts (and largely independent of genetics though I would submit that heredity is also important) so it must be that you share God’s love of the poor inferred from his making so many of them… Damn, got that one wrong: I was thinking of Haldane (the lefty not the Lord Chancellor) on God’s love of beatles.

  10. @Nevil Kingston-Brown
    I can’t imagine Midrash needs to do any such elementary thing but, since you pose as some kind of expert by your supercilious intervention, I would be interested to know what the expected (I.e average) regression to the mean would be where both parents had IQs of 145 (3 sds on most tests). And please explain the significance of the population that you class them with/in and what population mean you choose for the regression in question.

  11. If Midrash knows of some quick, simple, cheap, and easy method for dividing the population into those who are ‘intelligent, energetic, balanced, disciplined and focused’ and those who are not, then I would like to hear about it. I don’t believe there is any such method. Indeed, if Midrash knows of some method for dividing the population into those who are ‘intelligent, energetic, balanced, disciplined and focused’ and those who are not, being a method that is slow, complicated, expensive, and difficult, so long as it is reliable, I would still like to hear about it.

    There’s no effective method for encouraging members of one of those groups to have more children if we have no reliable way of distinguishing them from members of the other in the first place.

  12. @yuri
    If somebody puts forward an argument and nobody responds to it, one possible explanation is that they have no effective response; but another possible explanation is that they find the argument, or the person advancing it, too boring.

  13. @Julie Thomas
    I’m sorry if I sometimes betray my enjoyment of a savage tradition of argument but you really do remind me of a couple of once prodigious sisters I knew whose very sharp brother finally let off “they are the living proof that very high IQ is compatible with great foolishness”. I doubt your “very high IQ” but, anyway, I’ll let you down lightly with “naiveté”. Not a random insult by the way (and don”t you like my Tony Blair/Ed Miliband verbless sentence? Can be tactically useful.). No your naiveté is demonstrated in your own invitation for me to believe whatever you might say about your IQ and the truly ludicrous idea you put forward that I might proffer my latest or maybe highest IQ score (not cribbing by quoting a Cattell score of course) honestly. (Actually some of my friends might notice and say “what are you doing playing round – in a sandpit, how appropriate – with those #@$/&^).

    Did I see you at the last ISIR conference at Swinburne in Melbourne? Not invited? Not invited again this year to the one in Austria? If you’ve got a promising PhD thesis on the go and are not too long in the tooth an airfare might be found for you.
    A moment of modesty to match your immodesty. Of my correspondents in North America I am sure three or four are to use the terminology of the youngest and brashest “Six Sigmas” and it flatters me tha they give me the time of day both in correspondence and in person though I was too slow to point out to the brash one when he described one of the others as dealing with yesterday’s issues that the other was quite famous for being recorded as what might be called a “Seven and a half Sigma” – and very effective in intellectual and political combat to boot.

    I started to open your link, but, really! A half hour with Melvyn Bragg in 1999! Is that where you are up to? I half expected you to quote the egregious (though readable despite being dishonest in the Marxist-Leninist tradition) Stephen Jay Gould or maybe from further back Leon Kamin.
    If you want to be left and honest and well unformed you need to show acquaintance at least with James R.Flynn and at least his “What is Intelligence: Beyond the Flynn Effect” and with recent cogent criticisms – in The American Conservative of all places – of the work of Lynn and Vanhenen, especially “IQ and the wealth of nations”.

    And that’s only the less heavily technical stuff.

    You rashly use the word “stupid” but I’ll let that pass except to say that is your post which seems to exhibit a difficulty in handling complexity and functions with multiple variables and values over a considerable range which require one to be very careful not to be too absolute or black and white, even one has firmly grasped that averages are what one has to talk about, or, with a little more precision probabilities. (And I’m not denying a place for discontinuities; e.g. where Fragile X Syndrome could destroy a great intellectual heritage).

    Where I wonder did you get the idea that I might regard intelligence as some fixed property to be owned and exploited. That, with respect, is something that I might expect to find in someone as apparently isolated from conversation with seriously and energetically intelligent people as I infer you to be. As I have made clear I regard the attributes of brain and mind which correlate strongly with scores on well designed IQ tests as quite highly predictive (as consequently IQ scores are) of what most people regard as success in life in the sense that it is unlikely – very unlikely – that a random sample of 100 people with IQ score 120 (or the equivalent in some other measure of cognitive ability or proxy test of intelligence in a given society will do as well (including pay as much tax) as a similarly chosen group with IQs of 130. Of course life experience and specialist knowledge will count more and more as people age but it is also true, that, from infancy to old age, success tends to build on success. (It is sometimes overlooked that the intelligence of a very young child can have a major effect on its environment, e.g. in being taught all softs of things early because it is so rewarding to (some/most) parents).
    Sorry, got to get the anti-boredom shot or just sleep. Why waste my time with people whose emotions and ideology make them think they know it all when, quite apart from not switching on their powers of observation and cerebration they appear to be innocent of any substantial knowledge of the literature or research. Yes, I mean you: there’s lots of reading and thinking to do for those who are capable.

  14. Who left the gate open?

    This knob-head can’t decide when to use commas. He has no idea when he’s opened brackets and might later close them.

    This is what we would get more of if we allowed people who think they have enormous “I.Q.” to decide who should breed. Apparently they inter-breed as a preference.

  15. Maybe it’s one of those badly developed word-bots doing A.I.?

    Its “intelligence” is obviously “artificial”.

  16. @Midrash
    You say you’re sorry if you sometimes betray enjoyment of a savage tradition of argument.

    But that’s not true. You’re not sorry at all.

  17. Slightly tangential but it’s the sandpit. IQ is increasing.

    Flynn effect
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Flynn effect is the substantial and long-sustained increase in both fluid and crystallized intelligence test scores measured in many parts of the world from roughly 1930 to the present day. When intelligence quotient (IQ) tests are initially standardized using a sample of test-takers, by convention the average of the test results is set to 100 and their standard deviation is set to 15 or 16 IQ points. When IQ tests are revised, they are again standardized using a new sample of test-takers, usually born more recently than the first. Again, the average result is set to 100. However, when the new test subjects take the older tests, in almost every case their average scores are significantly above 100.

    Test score increases have been continuous and approximately linear from the earliest years of testing to the present. For the Raven’s Progressive Matrices test, subjects born over a 100-year period were compared in Des Moines, Iowa, and separately in Dumfries, Scotland. Improvements were remarkably consistent across the whole period, in both countries.[1] This effect of an apparent increase in IQ has also been observed in various other parts of the world, though the rates of increase vary.[2]

  18. @Midrash
    According to the Wikipedia article on the Malthusian League, it was dissolved in 1927, so Keynes cannot have been its Vice-President until 1943. Perhaps you have access to more reliable information (or perhaps, let’s face it, you don’t). But in any case it’s irrelevant. Neither the merit of any good arguments offered by the Malthusian League nor the demerit of any bad arguments they offered would be affected, one way or the other, by the status of Keynes (or anybody else) as an adherent. It is said that Newton was an alchemist and astrologer: if true, this would add no credibility to alchemy or astrology, nor would it affect, one way or the other, the merits of Newton’s work as a physicist.

  19. for the record, the director of the former human genome project is a home schooled fundamentalist.

    also, richard wagner co-procreated with franz liszt’s daughter, cosima. their son, siegfried, was a mediocre composer.

    also, mozart’s father wan’t much of a composer, but his son was a genius; as a young boy wolfgang wrote to his mother he had six completed works in his head and only the time on coach trips to write them out. his son, though, was a mediocre composer.

    also, beethoven’s father was a mediocre bass player and a drunk who beat his wife in front of his children and beat his children. mahler’s dad wasn’t very nice either.

    and, johann strauss the second’s father, the famous johann strauss the first, disowned him when he began to compose.

    does this stuff – i.q. primarily via genetic endowment – skip a generation?

    on the other hand, the reasonably talented film composer john corrigliano’s dad was concert master of the new york philharmonic under toscanini and bernstein.

    so maybe its family too. -a.v.

  20. And also worth mentioning, maybe, is that Ayn Rand (born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum) died penniless in New York in 1982 a drug addict living on social security and using medicare.

    The one perennial aspect of human society is that fascists, sociopaths & psychopaths will always try to ascend and will always, eventually, be driven back to pariah status.

    It’s happening now, thankfully.

  21. Megan – My understanding is that social security was collected for Ayn Rand by those who had power of attorney. And during her life Ayn Rand wrote that it is reasonable for people to collect state entitlements even thought the system of state entitlements isn’t. I don’t know if she died a drug addict but she is said to have been a user of amphetamines (ie speed) for much of her life so it wouldn’t be too big a surprise if she used drugs towards the end of her life. She was also big on nicotine. But using drugs isn’t something that should necessarily be stigmatized. Lots of people use drugs of one form or another for a variety of reasons. Nor is it hypocrisy because she opposed drug prohibition.

    Your implied message that she was a fascist, sociopath or psychopath is rubbish. Fascism is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism which is pretty much the complete opposite of what she stood for. But words like “racist” and “fascist” often don’t seem to mean anything anymore having become little more than cursing words used by irate left wingers on blogs to disparage people they don’t agree with. You misogynist you.

  22. @Terje

    As scholarship, Rand’s written works are not taken seriously among English, Economics, Philosophy, or Political Science Departments in Universities, according to Alan Wolfe’s article in The Chronicle of Higher Education (August 19, 2012).

    When younger, I tried reading her novels. I quit “The Fountainhead,” nauseated, after about 50 pages.

    Let me quote from Wolfe, because I couldn’t say it any better: “Rand’s “thought,” such as it is, boils down to two propositions. One is that selfishness is the highest of moral virtues. The other is that the masses, above all resentful of success, are parasites living off the hard work of capitalists far superior to them in every way.”

  23. @TerjeP

    If IQ’s are increasing, on average globally, then maybe it is due to;

    (a) better nutrition;
    (b) less disease; and
    (c) maybe an effect of more cross-cultural education and multi-langualisim.

    Point (c) would make relatively smaller the pool of people whose intellectual skills were good but not suited to IQ tests.

  24. Oops typo! I meant “multi-lingualism”.

    Under the heading of “cognitive ability” in Wikipedia.

    “Bilinguals who are highly proficient in two or more languages are reported to have enhanced executive function and are better at some aspects of language learning compared to monolinguals. Research indicates that a multilingual brain is nimbler, quicker, better able to deal with ambiguities, resolve conflicts, and resist Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia longer.”

  25. On my own idee fix, in parts of the world it is still the day that Israelis call Independence Day and Palestinians call Nakba Day. A post on a friend’s Facebook wall has brought home to me that one of the difficulties of achieving a resolution of the conflict is that important stakeholders and actors come to it on the basis of completely different and incommensurable metaphysical paradigms.

    From my perspective, the conflict arises from human actions and will be resolved by human actions and human reason, including a recognition that there are two peoples involved, both of whom meet the necessary criteria to be considered nations and therefore both of whom have the right to self-determination in two independent sovereign states. What the borders of those two states are and how they are constituted, among other matters to be resolved, are legitimate subjects for democratic political deliberation, negotiation and, almost certainly if the conflict is to be resolved, compromise.

    However, Mitt Romney (who did not fall far short of becoming the current POTUS), is on record as describing the West Bank as “the lands given to Abraham”. The problem with this sort of thinking, which is obviously not limited to Romney and not limited to any one side of the conflict, is that competing faith-based claims that all of the land in dispute was given by the Deity to one people or another are not amenable to democratic deliberation, negotiation or compromise. Also, these beliefs lend themselves on both sides to what Max Weber described as an “ethic of ultimate ends” and militate against a Weberian “ethic of political responsibility” which is badly needed yet has too often been in short supply on both sides.

  26. @Paul Norton
    Some people analyse the issue within still a different paradigm, one which is not overtly religious but which treats the issue not as one for resolution by politics or negotiation but as a criminal matter for investigation and prosecution to determine which party is guilty of what crimes and has justly incurred which penalties.

  27. Ikonoclast – I suspect you are right in terms of a) and b). Not convinced about c). But I think the biggest factor is that IQ tends to measure abstract reasoning and our culture now reinforces this ability more so than it used to. Our ancestors were intelligent but less so in ways reflected in IQ scores and more in ways that were practical in their times.

  28. “Stanford to divest from coal companies”

    Acting on a recommendation of Stanford’s Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing, the Board of Trustees announced that Stanford will not make direct investments in coal mining companies. The move reflects the availability of alternate energy sources with lower greenhouse gas emissions than coal.

    The total value of the endowment was $18.7 billion as of Aug. 31, 2013, the close of the 2012-13 fiscal year.

    Nice work, kudos, good for Stanford etc., etc., but…. they have $18.7 billion dollars? Harks back to that recent post about Oz unis trying to pretend to be like these US giants.

  29. @Megan

    I think that only Harvard and Yale have higher endowments than Stanford. Several dozen private and public universities in the U.S. have endowments of a billion or more. In the U.K. the Oxbridge pair have endowments of around 5 billion Euros. I was surprised to learn that 4 Australian universities have billion dollar endowments.

    Fund raising for capital campaigns or endowment from corporations, rich alumni, and philanthropies is a major activity at American colleges and universities. Income derived from invested endowment is a good way to maintain or increase institutional “excellence.” I wonder how Australian universities spend their endowment income?

  30. Unhappily, when I turned on ABC News last night, I caught part of a story on the shark cull in WA. Speaking as someone who cares for and about animals, I found the footage of sharks on drum lines seriously confronting, and began to experience the physiological responses associated (for me) with outrage and profound sadness. The consequences of the ignorant, bloody minded, self-serving cruelty of it all was in plain view. It was also clear that the program was an utter failure. Not one Great White had been trapped (given it’s a protected species, I am glad of that), and since control of the numbers of this species were the official warrant for this program, by definition, the programs has failed. People are at just as much of a tiny risk of being attacked by a Great White. Barnett is clearly lying in saying the program was a success.

    What is even more galling was that the WA government has tried to prevent activists releasing injured sharks, and likewise demanded that they surrender video footage on pain of being charged with criminal obstruction. Clearly, the Barnett regime, despite its boasting of success, wants, like Morrison on asylum seekers, to hide from the public the pointless cruelty he is inflicting, and to prevent them knowing the depth of commitment and courage some people bear towards the integrity of the marine environment. Those pictures are harming them and apparently, in their view, free speech must yield to regime service.

    Truly, there is no profanity which lies beyond the whim of contemporary governance.

  31. In the topic A Rose by any other name a short while back, PrQ opined that we Greens ought to back the Abbott levy on the basis that it comported with our support for a more progressive tax system. I objected on a number of grounds, the most important of which was the question of good process. Absent good process, there simply was no reason for thinking this was a reasonable first step towards a more equitable settling of the burdens and benefits of the tax and transfer system. And of course, the ‘process’ attending this leaked proposal was about as bad as it could conceivably be.

    In the time since this post I’ve had some time to mull over these issues with fellow Greens and supporters and it does seem that my views on this are broadly reflective of what I’d call a straw poll. Reportedly — and I don’t know if this is true — Christine Milne called the ‘deficit levy’ Abbott’s ‘Juliar moment’. I’ve also since heard it speculated that a new threshold of $150k is being mooted for the levy, which, if true would make the levy worth a lot less than the $2.5bn being talked about initially. I haven’t done the modelling, but it seems likely that the MRRT might raise as much in a mediocre year for commodities. What this also means is that the levy would fall almost exclusively on wealthy Liberal voters, probably living in blue ribbon coalition seats.

    This sudden shift underlines what I said about good process, and why there really was nothing in practice to support. Had we backed the first kite, we would have looked mighty silly right now. I doubt we will back this one either. That said, it might be fun if the opposition agreed to pass it subject to a change in the name of the bill to: The Abbott Surprises, Excuses and Total Lies Tax Bill.

    They could argue that they don’t want to stop the government raising money if it feels this is urgent to address a problem they have, but that it should only be passed with a name that properly acknowledges the duplicity the government has brought to the process. That might well be the kind of compromise we Greens might think worth the trade.

  32. Wondering why suddenly the Thai “justice” system has decided to act against ‘Yingluck’?

    You win a stuffed teddy-bear if you correctly guessed: “Um, it couldn’t have been the corruption or greed, did she piss off the U.S.?”

    Rice subsidies[edit]

    Rice production in Thailand employs approximately two-thirds of the population, causing friction over US rice subsidies
    Since the 1980s, US farm subsidies for rice, along with copyright and patent issues, have constituted the “major problems in U.S.-Thai trade ties”.[24] The rice subsidy was one of the primary obstacles to the negotiation of a bilateral FTA.[25] Approximately two-thirds of Thailand’s population are rice farmers, and the U.S. subsidy “severely strains U.S.-Thai relations as Bangkok finds itself unable to explain the income lost to its 35 million rice farmers”.[24] USDA-funded research to produce variants of Jasmine rice capable of growing in the US are viewed as biopiracy by many Thai rice farmers.[26] In 2005, Thai rice farmers gathered outside the US embassy to chant a “traditional ritual to bring misfortune to enemies”.[26] Farmer protests also occurred outside the US embassy during the 2001 WTO ministerial meeting in Doha.[27]

    Thai officials “sharply criticized” the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, and retaliated by joining two WTO dispute resolution cases against the US: one against anti-dumping subsidy offsets, and the Shrimp-Turtle Case.[28] According to Oxfam, the US spends $1.3 billion on rice subsidies annually for a crop that costs $1.8 billion to grow, allowing the US to become the second largest global rice exporter (after Thailand) and dump rice at 34% below the cost of production.[26] Following the election of Obama and the 2008 global financial crisis, there are Thai fears of renewed US protectionism.[22]

    Thanks Wikipedia.

  33. another great year for SOEs in NZ

    $20 billion in state owned enterprises equity
    $20 million in net returns to the taxpayer.

    a net rate of return of 0.2%

  34. @Fran Barlow

    Taxing the rich, over a threshold, should be supported by every fair-minded individual.

    Nit-picking ‘the process’ misses the point.

  35. @Ivor is not taxing the rich, over a threshold, not contrary to rawls’ conception of distributive justice?

    Rawls lent qualified support to the idea of a flat-rate consumption tax (see A Theory of Justice, pp. 278-79). He said that:

    A proportional expenditure tax may be part of the best scheme [and that adding such tax] can contain all the usual exemptions.

    The reason why Rawls lent qualified support to the idea of a flat-rate consumption tax was because these taxes:

    impose a levy according to how much a person takes out of the common store of goods and not according to how much he contributes.

    A simple way to have a progressive consumption tax is to exempt all savings from taxation. Taxable consumption is income minus savings minus a large standard deduction.

  36. Fuel excise vs carbon tax. The latter stands at $24.15 per tonne of CO2 unless exempted. The excise on road use petrol and diesel is 38.1 c per litre. That litre of petrol burns to produce 2.5kg of CO2 along with water vapour and other combustion products. Thus we’d need 400 L of petrol to get a tonne of CO2 for which the excise would be 400 X $0.381 = $152.40. That’s carbon tax on steroids.

    The excise on jet fuel is 9.8c per litre which we recall was blamed for the woes of Qantas. My understanding is that farmers and miners got a 50% excise rebate (ie 19c) for some years as they claimed they were not using public roads. That rebate went to 100% under the Gillard government.

    Google ATO Legal Database Excise Tariff for more info. During the heyday of the now defunct Oil Drum website (30,000 hits per day) some claimed retail petrol prices would hit an affordability ceiling probably under $3/L. That is we wouldn’t pay more we just wouldn’t drive. That day nudges ever closer.

  37. @Jim Rose

    Distributive justice demands being contrary to Rawl’s conception of a flat consumption tax in a society where:

    1) there is a prior maldistribution of goods or opportunities, or where

    2) much consumption is supplied by private entities or under exclusive contracts.

    Progressive taxation is “to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society”. This is more consistent with Rawls.

  38. If there’s a Weekend thread I’ll flesh this out more there, otherwise I’ll come back here.

    There are alleged to be some girls kidnapped in Nigeria. Anyone on Twitter would probably have seen #BringOurGirlsBack by now.

    In a nutshell: This Is BS!

    It is a US psy-ops under AFRICOM to excuse ‘Regime Change’ in Nigeria (for some weird reason apparently Mr Jonathon is not to their liking, or maybe they just need to bomb hell out of his country – not sure which).

    This is #KONY all over again. I’m still surprised people fall for it.

    Good old Gareth Evans is one of the world leaders of the fascist/US-imperialist ‘Responsibility 2 Protect’ (R2P) doctrine that results in destroying villages to save them.

    If this was really genuine it wouldn’t require so much obvious PR and deliberate dishonesty.

    For example: the three most re-tweeted images of “kidnapped” girls were actually filmed in Guinea in 2000 (about 1000 miles from Nigeria) and they are still happily living in Guinea. The pix were used without attribution because they obviously looked good. There is a piece on NYT about it along with an interview with the, very displeased, photographer.

    Just now on ABC online I see a story about a nice young girl who has started a “Change.Org” petition. There is a picture of her and her mother, lots of syrupy stuff about “caring” and so on. Unless I’m mistaken, her mother works for the AMWU. That could be an inconsequential detail not worthy of mention, or it could be integral to the real story.

    If the “West” is going to bomb hell out of yet another country under the false pretext of protecting people, I want ALL the dirty details up front rather than after the event.

  39. @Ivor

    I’m nitpicking you say? Process doesn’t matter. The way humans interact with each other is a mere ‘nit’ to be picked. Empowerment should be zero-rated, culturally. The base upon which progress stands is immaterial.

    So much is implied in so few words. I’d congratulate you for your brevity, but your phrase is utterly trite, and a substitute for thought. It marks you as an indolent friend of the status quo.

  40. It was May 8 the other day. This was the 69th anniversary of the collapse of the Nazi regime. I tweeted as follows:

    It’s now 69 years since the Nazi regime collapsed. Let’s recall the blood lust of unfettered capitalism & the courage of those who fought it.

    Admittedly, the language is florid and a tweet such as that is unlikely to issue from anyone who isn’t an avowing lefty, but really, it wasn’t, to my mind, at least, controversial. There’s little controversy amongst serious folk that the Nazi regime was capitalist, at least in the sense that the German capitalist class of the time supported it in preference to the other options at the time, or that they profited mightily from its policy, at least until they were ruined by the losing war. Companies like Daimler Benz used slave labour. The phrase ‘unfettered capitalism’ seems apt.

    As it goes, a fellow known to this blog ad Sinclair Davidson retweeted it, releasing whole hordes of figurative flying monkeys, who were not slow in venting their angst. People self-describing as “conservative” “libertarian” “patriot” “vet” “Texan” “republican” sporting images of themselves in front of US flags holding guns variously assailed me for what they took to be my poisonous impact on children, my ignorance of History, my unfitness to teach and so on.

    The most commonly advanced objection was that the Nazis were really soc!alists, and hadn’t I noticed that the word was in the name of the party? Many of them must have thought they were the first to think of this stunning objection. It may even be so that some imagined I hadn’t been aware of this and had never wondered how this might be so. It was amusing, initially, though ultimately, more than a little sad.

    Others objected that capitalists had fought the Nazis, having failed to think through the implication of Bolsheviks splitting with Mensheviks over the question of taking a side in imperialist wars. Again, coming from folk who accused me of not knowing my History, it was breathtaking.

    Still others complained that capitalists were fettered in Germany because they couldn’t do free trade, or cited H!tler condemning proletarian emancipation as the most brutal form of capitalism, again without seeing that this really didn’t help their case for Nazis as soc!alists at all. Some cited him saying capitalism knew no national boundaries forgetting that every capitalist country asserts them under the rubric of sovereignty. Again, this was breathtaking.

    One self-described libertarian asserted that teachers like me were a compelling argument for privatising education — presumably on the basis that this measure would offer a more robust Cordon sanitaire for children Against intellectual or cultural deviance. Again, the irony was lost on him.

    You never know what you will find on Twitter. Many of the objectors had fewer than 20 tweets, indicating perhaps that they had set these accounts up merely to troll me, and impress me with how many folk were violently offended by my apparent assertion that bloodlust was part and parcel with capitalism.

    I resist the inference that US capitalism has disproportionately damaged the minds of Americans, relative to capitalism in other jurisdictions, but episodes like this do incline me to this view. The outpouring of bile, ignorance and angst that this fairly uncontroversial claim provoked from people overwhelmingly identifying with the most barbaric of human impulses is hard to ignore.

  41. Clarification on excise and jet fuel; the excise was increased by 5.6c per litre which is equivalent to a carbon tax on jet exhaust. However a Qantas publicity campaign said carbon tax specifically was costing them $106m a year which they were unable to fully pass on. Their website urges flyers to buy offsets to enjoy a clear conscience. Somehow saving the bilby reduces CO2 in the atmosphere. Flying in a fully occupied Boeing 737 is said to be as CO2 intensive per kilometre as driving a 4WD as the sole occupant.

    Therefore a component of jet fuel excise is now earmarked for the role of carbon tax but this is not the case for petrol used in cars.

  42. @Fran Barlow
    Ok I will nit-pick.

    There is a difference between:

    Nit-picking ‘the process’ misses the point.



    Process doesn’t matter.


    Are you a Trotskyite?

  43. Ernest Mandel (author of the acclaimed Late Capitalism) outlines his view that the war was in fact a combination of several distinct struggles and a battle between rival imperialisms for world hegemony

    i read mandel’s book “the meaning of ww2” when i was a student & was impressed. i read it again this year & i’m still impressed. its the best book i’ve read on ww2. if someone asked me to recommend a good book about ww2, i urge them to read mandel’s first. -a.v.

  44. @Ivor

    If you have a formal objection, you will need to make it more explicit than that. For the record, I haven’t been self describing as a Trotskyist for nearly a decade. I would now regard myself as a left social democrat.

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