Monday Message Board

Back again with another Monday Message Board.

Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link.


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38 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. I loved the question at a NSW press conference on Friday “why won’t you say the word lockdown” … “blah blah blah call it what you want to”.

    As Johnny Rotten put it “this is not a love song lock down”

  2. Well, as some people here were saying in about March/April last year:

    (1) We need to lock down to eradication.
    (2) The early lock-down strategy will be the best for the economy in the long term.
    (3) Hotel quarantine will not be good enough long term.
    (4) We need to build dedicated quarantine stations.
    (5) Letting the infection rip until herd immunity will be disastrous.
    (6) We cannot assume herd immunity anyway due to mutations.
    (7) Letting it rip will permit mutated variants to arise and we will be even worse off.
    (8) Vaccinations will not be a silver bullet due to likely mutations.

    A number of people on this blog made one or more of the above points early on or at least by June last year. Some of us made most of these points. The epidemiologists said the same except for one outlier in Sweden. The good economists like John Quiggin and others also said much the same yet our Federal politicians didn’t listen properly and still won’t listen properly. They won’t listen because they get their donations and riding instructions from big business. Big business wanted no lock-downs at all. They wanted us to look like UK or India. Only the state governments actually saved our bacon.

    We see where all this has left us. Globally, in a bigger mess than ever. Nationally, the rest of the world being in such a mess makes it much harder to keep our own nation safe even though we nearly did achieve full eradication (several times).

    Now, we face another national outbreak with the super-contagious delta variant. At the same time, less than 5% of Australians are fully vaccinated. Morrison’s vaccination program is going to drag out for ever. I have never seen such a stupid and incompetentAuatralia Federal government in my lifetime. We are certainly doomed if the Morrison government wins another election. We might have some chance if the other mob win.

  3. The demographic impact of this pandemic, on western economies, will be devastating!
    The negative impact of ZPG on population growth may be made worse by negative net immigration
    in certain countries. For Australia this has already happened. Some other countries – including Greece, Portugal, Japan, Poland and Italy – were particularly vulnerable to shrinking populations even before 2019. The top three countries for ZPG – Russia, Italy and Japan – are particularly vulnerable to demographic problems seen in aging population.
    The only trend saving countries like Canada, France, Germany, the UK and the USA is, strangely enough, the flow of illegal immigrants pouring into those countries. But for countries like the Republic of Ireland, their net migration rates are falling.
    The main economic disadvantage of an aging population shows up in the labour force statistics over the long term. There may be a short term improvement as the natural rate of unemployment is reduced. This may be due to residents taking up jobs vacated by foreign nationals leaving the workforce. In Australia, for example, this has reduced the official unemployment rate in 2021. But when the older workers finally leave the workforce they may not be replaced by new entrants. In that case, labour force participation rates may fall and total taxation may fall. As for any negative impacts
    on economic growth, these are harder to anticipate. Economic growth rates may stagnate over time. Then again the rate may fall. Really there is no way to be sure in an age of rapid technological change.
    Whatever happens to economic growth, the negative impact of an aging population, in some western democracies, will eventually place a heavy burden on working age populations in those countries.

  4. Gregory J. McKenzie,

    So mechanization and automation don’t exist and aren’t being enhanced continuously? I think the fear that we will run out of workers is entirely overblown. There is still a great deal of unemployment and underemployment to be soaked up in the Australian economy. I will come back with figures when I have more time.

  5. Some people such as Historian Yuval Noah Harari say that the real problem may end up being that because of automation and AI we wont even need workers .The need for humans as consumers may decline too. A future economy could in theory run without any humans. Then the working class (and much of the middle class) will lose what remaining bargaining power they have . Only the threat of civil unrest will motivate the capitalist class to consider peoples needs. ‘Employment ‘ may need to be redefined.

    Currently this is not really being addressed by the Right . The Washington Post said that 40 % of those charged with invading the Capitol building in America on Jan 6th were small business owners or white collar workers . 60 % were in financial difficulties but the engine powering this is cultural anxiety.

    The power of machines – – it is estimated that 100 million sharks are caught each year.
    – half the birds on Earth (by weight) are chickens.

  6. “m–c–m´” to “m–m´” to “m – Insance – m'”.

    [ “money to commodity to money” then to…
    “money begets money” to…
    “money mediated by insurance begets money”? ]

    “Our Insurance Dystopia

    Private insurance companies have long dominated the provision of social security in the United States, but resistance is growing.

    …” Neither of these accounts successfully predicted the course insurance would take in the United States over the twentieth century, …”
    “Their 1955 novel, Preferred Risk, depicts a dystopian insurance era ruled by “The Company,” a massive insurance firm that achieves total global domination, displacing state governments. The Company rises to power by distributing insurance for everything imaginable: hunger, natural disasters, reproduction, war. It rules over humanity by refining every action and consequence down to a scale of precise probabilities, represented in complex actuarial tables decipherable only by experts. Most people embrace the new era, despite being permanently segregated into risk classes that dictate what they eat, where they live, how they work, and who they meet. Others struggle simply to survive. A desperate group of outcasts—the “uninsurables”—live miserably on the outskirts of society, shunned as deviants by those lucky enough to be classified as “preferred risks.”

    “Royce imagined on the horizon a global “community of insurance” made up of all the nations of the world.

    “Under this new system, Royce predicted, every nation would contribute to a large insurance pool overseen by an independent world body. The result would not only insure the peoples of the world against future disasters, natural and manmade. It would also help bring them closer together by encouraging a spirit of interdependence and mutual aid—a “genuine community of mankind” that would contribute “to peace, to loyalty, to social unity, to active charity, as no other community of interpretation has ever done.”

    “As we think about how to imagine new insurance futures, we will have to reckon, in particular, with two broad features of insurance provision in the United States: the fraught relationship between the private insurance industry and the state, and the growing power of insurance companies in gathering and wielding data about individuals and groups. Each presents unique obstacles to the more utopian possibilities Royce envisioned.”

    “Critics of these laws and other insurance practices faced serious obstacles, including a powerful insurance lobby and a state-based regulatory system that made reform on a national level nearly impossible. The 1945 McCarran–Ferguson Act cemented this state-based system, which exempted insurance from federal regulation, including most antitrust abuses—a major reason social movements led by civil rights and feminist activists in in the 1970s and 1980s failed to achieve substantial and lasting reform on the federal level. The insurance industry has fought aggressively over the past seventy-six years to protect McCarran–Ferguson.”…
    https://bostonreview.net/class-inequality-politics/caley-horan-our-insurance-dystopia
    ****

    Perhaps we need to update this to ‘How will Insurance End Capitalism?’

    Or Will Financialization’ be overcome by ‘Insurancization’?

    …” ‘Financialization’, as the process came to be known, seemed the last remaining way to restore growth and profitability to the economy of the overextended hegemon of global capitalism. Once let loose, however, the money-making industry invested a good part of its enormous resources in lobbying for a further removal of prudential regulation, not to mention in circumventing whatever rules were left. With hindsight, the enormous risks that came with the move from the old regime of m–c–m´ to a new one of m–m´ are easy to see, as is the trend toward ever-increasing inequality associated with the disproportionate growth of the banking sector.(footnote 23)
    – fn23- 

    Donald Tomaskovic-Devey and Ken-Hou Lin, ‘Income Dynamics, Economic Rents and the Financialization of the us Economy’,American Sociological Review, vol. 76, no. 4, 2011, pp. 538–59.
    HOW WILL CAPITALISM END?
    https://newleftreview.org/issues/ii87/articles/wolfgang-streeck-how-will-capitalism-end

    Wolfgang Streeck
    https://wolfgangstreeck.com/2014/06/15/has-capitalism-seen-its-day/
    ****

    Book: “Preferred Risk”
    by Frederik Pohl;
    Lester del Rey.

    “Frederik Pohl
    Frederik George Pohl Jr.  November 26, 1919 – September 2, 2013) was an American science-fiction writer, editor, and fan, with a career spanning nearly 75 years—from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna”, to the 2011 novel All the Lives He Led.[1]

    “Some of his short stories take a satirical look at consumerism and advertising in the 1950s and 1960s: “The Wizards of Pung’s Corners”, where flashy, over-complex military hardware proved useless against farmers with shotguns, and “The Tunnel under the World”, where an entire community of seeming-humans is held captive by advertising researchers. (“The Wizards of Pung’s Corners” was freely translated into Chinese and then freely translated back into English as “The Wizard-Masters of Peng-Shi Angle” in the first edition of Pohlstars (1984)).

    “In his 1969 novel, “The Age of the Pussyfoot”, Pohl speculated about a society where everyone could access knowledge and the means to communicate with others through a small handheld device similar to a smartphone.

    “Pohl’s Law is either “No one is ever ready for anything”[30] or “Nothing is so good that somebody, somewhere will not hate it”.[31]

    “In July 2020, an academic description reported on the nature and rise of the “robot prosumer”, derived from modern-day technology and related participatory culture, that, in turn, was substantially predicted earlier by science fiction writers, most notably by Pohl.[42][43][44]
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederik_Pohl

    Usually Wikipedia has a “Works” tab, whereas Pohl has a separate page due to the volume of his writing, collaborations and editing.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_works_by_Frederik_Pohl

    …” recording of
    Preferred Risk
    by Frederik Pohl;
    Lester del Rey. 

    Read in English by Nick Bulka

    “The Company insures you against everything. Everything except war, that is. But they’ve put an end to wars (or so they claim). The Company also controls everything. Including all the sources of weapons. The Company is dedicated to the happiness of mankind (or so they claim). Medical Treatment and Law Enforcement are just a few of the other services they provide to the entire world. Claims Adjuster Wills was a happy Company employee until his path crossed those of a man with no legs and a mysterious woman. All of a sudden, his world was turned upside down, and his decisions could determine the future of the planet.”

    “This collaborative work was originally published under the pseudonym Edson McCann. It was the winner of the 1955 Galaxy-Simon & Schuster novel contest. – Summary by Nick Bulka ”
    https://archive.org/details/preferred_risk_1612_librivox
    **** 

    “Trump: ‘Australians have better health care than we do’

    ” Trump’s praise for the Australian system came as he met Thursday in New York with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hours after the U.S. House narrowly passed a bill to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, the health care law enacted by former President Barack Obama.

    “Trump described the U.S. health system as failing, and added that “I shouldn’t say this to a great gentleman and my friend from Australia because you have better health care than we do.” He said the U.S. would have “great” health care very soon.

    “Sanders, the Vermont independent who sought the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, tweeted in response Friday: “Yes, Mr. Trump, the Australian health care system is a lot better than ours and infinitely better than the disastrous bill you supported.”

    “White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders cautioned Friday against reading too much into the president’s comment. She said he was complimenting a foreign leader on the “operations of their health care system” and that he “didn’t mean anything more than that.”

    “Trump seemed to contradict his spokeswoman a short time later, tweeting “Of course the Australians have better healthcare than we do – everybody does. ObamaCare is dead! But our healthcare will soon be great.”
    https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/trump-australians-better-health-care

  7. Same ir similar in Australia?

    “The Tories have always borrowed more than Labour, and always repaid less: they are the party of big deficit spending
    ….
    “So what do we learn? Two essential things, I suggest.

    “First, Labour borrows less than the Conservatives. The data shows that.

    “And second, Labour has always repaid debt more often than the Conservatives and has always repaid more debt, on average.

    “The trend does not vary however you do the data. I have tried time lagging it for example: it makes no difference.

    “Or, to put it another way, the Conservatives are the party of high UK borrowing and low debt repayment contrary to all popular belief.

    “For those interested, this is the overall summary table: the pattern in the right-hand column is really quite surprising: “.

    https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2021/06/24/the-tories-have-always-borrowed-more-than-labour-and-always-repaid-less-they-are-the-party-of-big-deficit-spending/

  8. But when the older workers finally leave the workforce they may not be replaced by new entrants. In that case, labour force participation rates may fall …

    That’s not clear. A decrease in the workforce at the same time that the total population is decreasing is consistent with an increasing, a stable, or a decreasing labour force participation rate.

  9. Nice chart from Joanna Crider at CleanTechnica (https://cleantechnica.com/2021/06/28/study-finds-limiting-renewable-energy-growth-would-result-in-higher-u-s-power-costs/) showing forecaster bias for US renewables:

    Even the two cheerleaders (NREL and BNEF) have been to conservative. The EIA is hopelessly stuck in a “what revolution?” mindset. Even the conservative but reality-based FERC has taken to running its own forecasts based on the actual plans of utilities. The IEA gets off lightly here – historically it was just as bad as the EIA, but has recently seen the light.

  10. Oddball but genuinely new idea for energy storage in deep water (min 1,000m):
    “The proposed system uses air or hydrogen as compression gases to fill the recipient, which can be shaped as a series of balloons or tanks. The buoyancy force is exerted by the gas as it has a smaller density than the water. The recipient is connected to the motor and the anchor, located on the ocean’s depths, through a cable and pulleys. “The cable is stored in a cylinder attached to the motor/generator when the buoyancy recipient is lowered,” the scientists explained. “The pulleys also contribute to increasing the speed of the cables and lowering the forces applied to the motor/generator.”

    This is a paper scheme, not even a pilot. The Archimedean physics are plainly OK. You need no continental shelf – a condition met in a surprising number of locations, including Japan and our new friend Somaliland – and seriously good seabed anchors and suspension cables to stand up to the large buoyancy forces. It’s slow-release storage, so needs to be coupled to batteries for quick response. Safety? If it breaks, you have the spectacular breaching of a big steel tank, like a humpback whale, a safe distance from shore.

  11. Capitalism is based on risk taking. If risk is eliminated from the production/service provision process then capitalism ceases to exist,except as a political label. Insurance may eliminate business risks. This may bring to an end the capitalism epoch. As for mechanisation, automation and robotisation replacing most labour units in the future, if this does happen it will help in the demise of era-capitalism. Karl Marx concentrated on the concept of surplus value. He argued that by paying workers only a subsistence wage during good economic conditions, and no wage in bad economic conditions, the capitalist could extract surplus value from workers. Now if workers are replaced with machines and AI then how can a capitalist extract surplus value? Even more disastrous for the “bottom line” profit would be that machines cannot be sacked. They must be continually maintained and serviced even during long contractionary business cycles. Where then is the surplus value? Capitalism, as defined by Marx who originated the term, may cease to exist. It could be then more accurately be called Institutionalism or Globalism or whatever you want to call a system without workers. But without risk taking, without surplus value and without human capital then this future system cannot be called capitalism. Insurance of business risks may just be the final death blow to capitalism.

  12. Gregory J. McKenzie,

    Capitalism is based on a lot of things, not just risk-taking, However, I am sure I can assume you undersand this well and just wanted to highlight the issue of risk-taking. Let us look at risk-taking first. At a simplified level we can say that a capitalist risks his capital (and all that is his that depends on his capital), This seems to be the standard model of risk-taking under capitalism, But it is an incomplete model. It takes no cognizance of the fact that the worker also takes risks. The worker risks his own human capital, his physical and mental well-being (and all that is his that depends on this capital).

    I find this asymmetric model of risks morally repugnant. The capitalist typically risks only his (money and fixed) capital and if he is a big capitalist and sensible, he will be diversified and hedged, very possibly by a sophisticated “Kelly betting” method in the modern world. Such a capitalist is well protected against risks, real and financial.

    The worker on the other hand, especially in dangerous jobs, risks life and limb. To the individual possessor of a human life that life if it has quality essentially is of very high if not infinite value, at least if compared to other non-human-life values. Without that life no other amenity or utility can be enjoyed. This suggests that one human life, if we have our value-ethical system correct, is worth more than the entire financial worth of a capitalist billionaire; although if the destruction of the billionaire’s fixed assets would lead to more than one other human death then a real accounting of deaths would still be needed.

    The worker is also not in a position to diversify and hedge risks, except in a minor way as a possessor of several different part-time jobs. This latter would likely carry more costs than benefits. The full-time worker must invest all her assets, her labor, in one bet, which can be quite risky. As well as facing dangers to life and limb in dangerous work, she faces the dangers of redundancy, retrenchment and so on. Perhaps her profession, semi-profession, skilled work or unskilled work will be rendered obsolete by progress.

    For these reasons, it is actually the worker, not the capitalist, who takes more risks in the main. There will be exceptions. Entrepreneurs and company directors who give a directors guarantee can stand to lose everything financial; though usually not life or limb except by jumping from a high place in a great depression or getting a fever in the jungle while seeking El Dorado, which later is more an adventurist or conquistador undertaking than a capitalist undertaking.

    I worked in some life and limb threatening jobs in my time. I have little to no sympathy for capitalists in their office armchairs directing other people’s fates and regarding workers and the indigent as expendable. The self-employed or owner-operator of a small business is different. They often risk life, limb and/or all their capital. It;s the large company and corporate capitalists I take issue with.

    I suggest you read “Capital as Power” by Shimshon Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan as a text and theory which supersedes classical and neoclassical economics and also supersedes parts of Marx’s work. It’s a very radical and empirically supportable approach. It doesn’t really go into the issues I canvassed above. Those are my aside based on my particular animus against the capitalists who exploited my young self and risked my life and limb wholly for their profits (via inadequate health and safety issues etc.)

  13. Not a new idea, James. This thesis from 9 years ago calls it “novel”:

    DEVELOPMENT OF UTILITY SCALE BUOYANT ENERGY STORAGE TECHNOLOGY

    But if someone can make it work, then yay. But with Suncable looking more like it will go ahead each day, we might just end up with batteries and “thin” interconnectors carrying mere gigawatts between regions. (Low interest rates and expensive energy storage should equal “fat” interconnectors. Low interest rates and relatively not expensive battery storage — which we already have — should mean “thin” interconnectors.)

  14. We need to discuss ‘The Capability’. Coming soon for you too.

    Do you know what this is? Hint;

    }… hope you don’t mind JQ but that photo is a great example an false match capability ]

    Any oversight? …” 2.17 The Department of Home Affairs did not support the creation of a biometrics commissioner to oversight the security and use of biometrics in Australia.”…^1.

    Who is in charge of shaping The Capability?

    Here are 3 humans(^4.) + private sector + Home Affairs interfering… 
    ♤  Eric Abetz, 
    ♤ Kristina Keneally and 
    ♤ Tim Wilson.
    ♤ “and private sector services more accessible and convenient to citizens’,”^1.
    ****

    ^1. …” (Law Council) … and suggested the need for a specific oversight authority. Dr Marcus Smith noted that Australia has ‘no independent, specific oversight mechanisms exist to oversee or regulate the collection, retention and use of biometric information’.13

    “2.17
    The Department of Home Affairs did not support the creation of a biometrics commissioner to oversight the security and use of biometrics in Australia.”…
    ****

    Feeling safer? If you had a photo for a licence & passport 10yrs ago,  that is part of The Capability. Remember the photo Nic Gruen put up of JQ with a beard frim 10+ yrs ago at Ein2L launch?
    ****

    That is what will pass for The Capbility. And…

    ^1. “databases and other areas which may need to be restricted.(2)

    2.6
    The Biometrics Institute cites the following as different types of biometrics:
    ● DNA matching,
    ● ear shape,
    ● eyes – iris recognition,
    ● eyes – retina recognition,
    ● face recognition,
    ● fingerprint recognition,
    ● finger geometry recognition,
    ● gait,
    ● hand geometry recognition,
    ● odour,
    ● signature recognition,
    ● typing recognition,
    ● vein recognition,
    ● voice/speaker recognition,
    ● voice-speaker verification/authentication, and
    ● voice – speaker identification.3

    “Security, use and reliability concerns
    2.7
    “While the Explanatory Memorandum to the IMS Bill states that ‘using facial biometrics can make government and private sector services more accessible and convenient to citizens’, (4) a number of submitters raised concerns regarding the use of biometric technologies.

    “2.26
    “The United Nations Human Rights Committee (the UNHRC) has interpreted ‘reasonableness’ in this context to mean that any interference with privacy must be proportional to the end sought and be necessary in the circumstances of any given case.(25)”

    [Reasonableness??? – see Fixated Persons Unit severe politically motivated overreach below. ^2. ]
    ****

    Never have I felt a better reason for citizen juries to manage The Capability. 

    ^4.
    Gizmodo: “The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) is undertaking an inquiry into two facial recognition bills, the Identity-matching Services (IMS) Bill 2019 and the Australian Passports Amendment (Identity-matching Services) Bill 2019. It was scheduled to hold a public hearing on October 18, but it’s since been cancelled without a reason.

    “The PJCIS is a committee comprised of parliamentary members, including Eric Abetz, Kristina Keneally and Tim Wilson. It’s responsible for reviewing existing legislation as well as bills considered to be controversial.

    “Aside from the facial recognition bills, it’s also looking into other relevant security and intelligence issues like the 2015 metadata laws.

    “Gizmodo Australia reached out to PJCIS for clarification as to why the public hearing was cancelled and whether it will be postponed. A spokesperson responded telling us the PJCIS has “considered its forward work program and has chosen to make some amendments” and that information about further public hearings would be made available on the website. It did not provide us with a date.”…
    https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2019/10/australias-facial-recognition-database-is-causing-concern/
    *****

    ^2. Overreach example:-
    “Not only were these judged to be stalking and intimidation, but Langker’s arrest was carried out by the Fixated Persons Investigations Unit, set up in the wake of the deadly Lindt cafe siege to prevent acts of violence or terrorism. 

    “As former New South Wales DPP Nicholas Cowdery told The Guardian:
    “On its face this does not seem to be a case for which the fixated persons unit was established,” …
    – The Guardian, 18 June, 2021

    “NSW Police told The Conversation the unit’s focus is supposed to be on people with “an obsessive preoccupation” who pursue others “to an excessive or irrational degree”.

    “And criminologist Keiran Hardy is concerned that using it to target friendlyjordies could:”…
    https://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/episodes/jordies/13404388
    ****

    ^3.
    “What Is The Capability Approach In Economics?

    “Normative Theory Of Amartya Sen

    “Firstly, the achievement of well-being is the fundamental freedom every person strives for. 

    Secondly, well-being must be interpreted within a person’s real capabilities and opportunities. So, the understanding of what people can actually do is imperative for Sen’s capability approach.

    “Achievements And Effective Freedom
    It is vital for people to have important options, even if they do not decide to use them. The capability approach is very assertive when it comes to differentiating the actual achievements of people and the effective freedom they achieve. Real achievements are called functionings, while effective freedom is labeled as capability.”…
    https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-is-capability-in-economics.html
    ****

    ^1.
    JOINT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY REVIEW OF IDENTITY-MATCHING SERVICES BILL 2019 AND THE AUSTRALIAN PASSPORTS AMENDMENT (IDENTITY-MATCHING SERVICES) BILL 2019 

    ADVISORY REPORT ON THE IDENTITY-MATCHING SERVICES BILL 2019 AND THE AUSTRALIAN PASSPORTS AMENDMENT (IDENTITY-MATCHING SERVICES) BILL 20192. BIOMETRIC SYSTEMS AND PRIVACY

    Committee Members
    Chair
    Senator James Paterson
    Liberal Party of Australia, VIC

    Deputy Chair
    Hon Anthony Byrne MP
    Australian Labor Party, Holt VIC

    Senator the Hon Eric Abetz
    Liberal Party of Australia, TAS

    Dr Anne Aly MP
    Australian Labor Party, Cowan WA

    Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP
    Australian Labor Party, Isaacs VIC

    Senator the Hon David Fawcett
    Liberal Party of Australia, SA

    Ms Celia Hammond MP
    Liberal Party of Australia, Curtin WA

    Senator the Hon Kristina Keneally
    Australian Labor Party, NSW

    Mr Julian Leeser MP
    Liberal Party of Australia, Berowra NSW

    Senator Jenny McAllister
    Australian Labor Party, NSW

    Mr Tim Wilson MP
    Liberal Party of Australia, Goldstein VIC

    https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Intelligence_and_Security/Identity-Matching2019/Report/section?id=committees%2freportjnt%2f024343%2f27802

  15. 3rd comment on AI, facial recog, humans & ethics.

    “How should artificial agents make risky choices on our behalf?

    …” And so, on the approach to AI Ethics we started out with, whereby ethical design should be guided by considered human judgement regarding individual choice scenarios, we get the result that at least sometimes risk aversion should be made room for in artificial agent design. The standard risk neutral approach in artificial agent design would then need revising.

    “We thus face a hard choice: Either design artificial agents to emulate considered human moral judgement about individual choice scenarios, allow for risk aversion, and accept that this implies that, as a matter of fact, we may end up with aggregate outcomes that are almost certainly worse than if risk neutrality had been implemented. Or design artificial agents in a way that implements considered human moral judgements about the aggregate consequences of the choices of a large number of artificial agents, implement risk neutrality, and accept that artificial agents may choose in ways that deviate from the way in which human agents would permissibly choose when placed in the same choice scenarios, even if they had time for a considered judgement. We can’t do both.

    “I don’t think it’s obvious what the right way to go is, and the correct answer may vary from context to context. But either way, the dilemma shows how these new technologies can raise moral challenges beyond the need for codification, and transform our moral landscape in more profound ways.”

    By Johanna Thoma

    https://www.lse.ac.uk/philosophy/blog/2021/06/08/how-should-artificial-agents-make-risky-choices-on-our-behalf/

  16. Not everybody who gets indicted gets convicted (and not everybody who gets convicted is guilty), but …

    A grand jury in Manhattan has indicted Donald J. Trump’s family business, the Trump Organization, and one of its top executives in connection with a tax investigation …

  17. … If risk is eliminated …

    Risk can never be eliminated. There’s always risk. You take a risk when you get out of bed in the morning, but if you stay in bed and never get up you’re also taking a risk.

    Karl Marx concentrated on the concept of surplus value …

    … and it was gibberish.

    He argued that by paying workers only a subsistence wage during good economic conditions, and no wage in bad economic conditions, the capitalist could extract surplus value from workers.

    By definition, reducing wages paid (if it can be done while holding everything else equal) increases profit; it makes this less clear, not clearer, to describe it as ‘extracting surplus value from workers’.

    Now if workers are replaced with machines and AI then how can a capitalist extract surplus value?

    It is not difficult to grasp that replacing workers with machines and AI does not prevent capitalists from making profits–that is, it’s not difficult to grasp if you haven’t confused yourself with the phlogiston of ‘extraction of surplus value’. Profits result from income exceeding expenditure, that’s all.

  18. NVidia’a takeover of ARM – designer of processor CPUs to the world – does not seem to be going well. To go ahead, it needs clearance from regulators n the USA, the EU, the UK, and China. They don’t have identical concerns: the UK for instance, and possibly China, are more worried about national security than competition, whether the Biden Administation and the EU Commission just hate big tech monopoiies. Several of the existing tech monopolists are against he takeover too: Google and Microsoft have both “raised concerns”, and they are not outweighed by Broadcom. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/28/nvidias-takeover-of-arm-gets-support-from-broadcom-mediatek-marvell.html

    It only takes one of the four regulators to kill the deal, so this must now be odds-on. Good. The current arrangement is a historical fluke, but it works well. Cambridge city and county councils in England are strongly opposed (yes) to nasty factories, so ARM is a pure IP creator without any. While it was still a minnow, it adopted the strategy of low-fee open licensing, which in turn suits China’s host of tech manufacturers. The deadweight burden from ARM’s monopoly is low and the benefits in standardisation, continuous innovation, and downstream competition large.

    British lighthouses are run by Trinity House, a corporation established by Henry VII in 1514 with a home church, Elder and Younger Brethren, and silly hats. It works fine. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  19. No Sandpit this week so this goes here.

    I read Xi Jinping’s speech to commemorate the centenary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Pay, so you don’t have to. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/special/2021-07/01/c_1310038244.htm

    As oratory, it is of course terrible, so bad it makes Joe Biden sound like Demosthenes. It’s 5,150 words of wooden partyspeak, except for the rodomontade promising China would never be bullied again:
    “Anyone who would attempt to do so will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.”

    Of course, a political speech is not normally* intended to persuade sceptics but to encourage supporters, in this case the 95 million members of rhe CCP. It’s hard to see what they could have got out of it apart from a handy crib for the current Party line. At least Xi did not use the opportunity for self-aggrandizement, only mentioning himself once, and indirectly:
    “ We must uphold the core position of the General Secretary on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole “.

    What did Xi have to say about the real challenges facing China? These include growing international isolation from its domestic repression, hegemonic regional ambitions, and failure to contain covid; and the clash between its material growth model and environmental limits. The environment only got a pro forma laundry-list mention at the end, and foreign political criticism was just declared illegitimate.

    In contrast, there were page after page on the heroic and curiously bloodless achievements of the Party, inspired by Marxism. In a way, I wish it were. Marxism suggests interesting ways of thinking about China today, for instance the rise of a new bourgeoisie formed of Party leaders and tame capitalists, and its bread-and-Internet strategies to contain potential challenges from the urban working and middle class. But Xi is not interested in Marx except as a shibboleth.

    Some of the language of Marxism is heavily used:
    Marxism 8 mentions (including Marxism-Leninism 2); socialism, socialist 25 (including ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ 8); revolution, revolutionary 15.

    But key terms in the Marxist lexicon get short shrift:
    workers 2; farmers 1 (peasants 0); intellectuals 1.
    The famous triad head up a laundry list of worthy groups including ”the fire and rescue services”.
    Even more striking, the following are not mentioned at all:
    Marx, class, class struggle, dialectical materialism, bourgeoisie, landlord.

    Remember that the CCP really did carry out a class war against landlords as soon as it came to power, and killed a million of them. This was a huge win for Chinese peasants, until Mao reimposed bondage through collectivisation. They got the land back under Deng. But all that would be real history, bloody conflicts between Chinese, incompatible with Xi’s sanitised linear progress, in which both Mao and Deng are waxwork heroes.

    The speech suggests that the CCP will not survive another century. Its ideological tank is empty. It offers flag-waving national pride, but where is the enemy? It offers more-of-the-same prosperity – and an unanswered climate crisis. Contrast the young protesters in Hong Kong, who have a coherent alternative: democracy.

    * My benchmark for a really effective orator is the Emperor Claudius’ Greek freedman Narcissus. Wikipedia: “In 43 [AD], during the preparations for the Roman conquest of Britain, he headed off a mutiny by addressing the troops. Seeing a former slave in their commander’s position, they cried “Io Saturnalia!” (Saturnalia was a Roman festival when slaves and masters switched places for the day) and the mutiny ended. “
    Think of it. Narcissus was a foreigner, a former slave, alone and unarmed. He faced 5,000 heavily armed, frightened, and angry Roman soldiers in their own camp – and talked them out of mutiny. I suspect he staged the joke.

  20. James Wimberley,

    Thanks for that analysis. I certainly don’t need to read the speech now, thanks. The global situation is dire in every sense. We have climate change plus all the other environmental problems with human action that is too little, too late. We have nations, superpowers in particular, who insist on negative sum completion due to the seemingly unavoidable default setting of “Offensive Realism”. We have the USA and China falling into “Thucydides Trap”. I will crib considerably from Wikipedia for definitions without bothering with quotes.

    Offensive Realism.

    In international relations, offensive realism is an essentially descriptive structural theory belonging to the neorealist school of thought put forward by political scholar John Mearsheime

    The theory is grounded on five central assumptions. These are:

    1. Great powers are the main actors in world politics and the international system is anarchical.
    2. All states possess some offensive military capability.
    3. States can never be certain of the intentions of other states.
    4. States have survival as their primary goal
    5. States are rational actors, capable of coming up with sound strategies that maximize their prospects for survival.

    In international relations theory, anarchy is the idea that the world lacks any supreme authority or sovereign. In a global anarchic order, there is no hierarchically superior, coercive power that can resolve disputes, enforce law, or order the system of international politics. In international relations, anarchy is widely accepted as the starting point for international relations theory.

    My analysis:- With a sole superpower (USA and thus Pax Americana) there perhaps was something better than a global anarchic state. The same thing could be said for coalitions and global institutions like the UN which might guarantee some degree of global world order. However, it can be validly argued that a sole superpower hegemon (as the USA was for a while with NATO and others, after the fall of the Berlin Wall) controls the world order quite considerably for its own benefit.

    Thucydides’ Trap

    Thucydides’ Trap, is a term popularized by American political scientist Graham T. Allison to describe an apparent tendency towards war when an emerging power threatens to displace an existing great power as a regional or international hegemon. It was coined and is primarily used to describe a potential conflict between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.

    My analysis:- If we combine Offensive Realism and Thucydides Trap, and if we accept these theories as probably correct in diagnosing the tendencies, then we can see we are in for a world of trouble, unfortunately. The USA did not rise peacefully having revolutions and wars with Britain, Spain, Canada, itself, Mexico, the Philippines and others just during its rise. At its extended plateau there was WW1. WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (twice) and Afghanistan.

    China is not rising peacefully. It annexed Tibet (1950-1951), It still has designs (arguably) on the Five Fingers of Tibet (Ladakh (India), Nepal, Sikkim (India), Bhutan, and Arunachal Pradesh) and contests the so-called Line of Actual Control with India to the present day. It has initiated territorial disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea and with the nine-dash line asserts the right to sovereignty over the whole of the South China Sea, expanding and militarizing numerous atolls and reefs. It has taken full control of Hong Kong and repressed freedoms to do it. It asserts the right to re-take Taiwan (which does not want CCP rule) by military force if necessary. The Belt and Road initiative uses Debt Trap Diplomacy and other stratagems.

    The West or the Triad and Quad are not blameless in all this. They maintain a containment line around much of China which could be militarized to contain China and starve China of resources by strategic maritime and air interdiction. But in the theory of Offensive Realism, both sides or blocs are being rational. China doesn’t trust us with good reason (Boxer Rebellion, Hundred Year Humiliation etc.) We do not trust China with good reason. Theirs is now a typical superpower playbook. The USA knows how a superpower thinks and plays because it is one. Few of a superpower’s thoughts and actions regarding other nations are benign except for those paternalisms reserved for middle and minor nations who properly play the ally, client state, vassal state or satrapy role and kowtow as required.

    We see in this nationalism, civilizationalism and racialism trumping ideologies other than nationalism, civilizationalism and racialism. Modern oligarchic-corporate capitalism and “Marxist” state capitalism, (calling itself communism but bringing the same style of oligarchic-corporate-crony capitalism into being) are substantially variants of the same generic system, namely capitalism. Here we see the triumph of capitalsm as Marx predicted, IIRC. He predicted that capitalism would have to extend as far as possible and take over the whole globe before socialism could arise. He has been correct, I think, in predicting the total victory of capitalism.

    However, he or his acolytes might be wrong in putting forward a socialist revolution as possible. The formula later became “socialism or barbarism”. The human world’s real progress now suggests rather capitalism triumphant everywhere and then war, climate change, environmental collapse, civilization collapse and barbarism or extinction. I think this latter possibility is about 99% likely.

    It seems that nationalism, civilizationalism (as clash of civilizations) and racialism will reign supreme. Even when superpower nations have the same economic system (variants of capitalism) they cannot escape the superpower competition inherent in a world inescapably tied to offensive realism by the objective and historically embedded realities of competition itself.

    The best the West, NATO, the Quad and others can do is contain China. We tried free trade and interaction. China just used it to become expansionist and aggressive albeit our suspicions and strictures played a role in inducing that. There’s no way out. Contain, contain, contain. Fight strategic retreats when necessary. China probably can retake Taiwan conventionally. The rest of the world must make that a Pyrrhic victory for China, inflicting heavy conventional damage on the invasion force but not starting a nuclear war over the issue. If China retakes Taiwan by military force and many casualties then it completely unmasks itself. After that, the world must progressively disengage from China and interdict resources but below a level that would initiate global war.

    Instead, unavoidably we will have 100 years of trade war, finance war, grey war, blockades, proxy war, regional war, drone war, cyber war etc. etc. And all the time, the biosphere will be collapsing. Only a truce, superseding the logic of offensive realism, could save us. Humans may, in extremis, make that truce, It’s our only hope, no matter how slim.

  21. A horses mouth;

    “The Last—And Only—Foreign Scientist in the Wuhan Lab Speaks Out

    “Virologist Danielle Anderson paints a very different picture of the Wuhan Institute.

    “It’s a stark contrast to the place Anderson described in an interview with Bloomberg News, the first in which she’s shared details about working at the lab.

    “Half-truths and distorted information have obscured an accurate accounting of the lab’s functions and activities, which were more routine than how they’ve been portrayed in the media, she said.

    ““It’s not that it was boring, but it was a regular lab that worked in the same way as any other high-containment lab,” Anderson said. “What people are saying is just not how it is.”

    “Now at Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, Anderson began collaborating with Wuhan researchers in 2016 ….”…

    ” Anderson’s lab in Singapore was one of the first to isolate SARS-CoV-2 from a Covid patient outside China and then to grow the virus. It was complicated and challenging, even for a team used to working with coronaviruses that knew its biological characteristics, including which protein receptor it targets. These key facets wouldn’t be known by anyone trying to craft a new virus, she said. Even then, the material that researchers study—the virus’s basic building blocks and genetic fingerprint—aren’t initially infectious, so they would need to culture significant amounts to infect people.

    “Anderson is convinced no virus was made intentionally to infect people and deliberately released—one of the more disturbing theories to have emerged.

    “Despite this, Anderson does think an investigation is needed to nail down the virus’s origin once and for all. She’s dumbfounded by the portrayal of the lab by some media outside China, and the toxic attacks on scientists that have ensued.”…

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-06-27/did-covid-come-from-a-lab-scientist-at-wuhan-institute-speaks-out

  22. One of the problems with our kind of Capitalism is that, while both employers and employees take risks, the employers are often able to blunt the impact of their poor or purely unlucky choices; on the other hand, the employee can be sacked, or put on zero contracts, or forced to set up as fake companies of one stakeholder, etc. If the most a person can gain from capitalism isn’t a lot different to the median wage earner, then when there is a crash, it hits *everyone* with a lot of force. On the other hand, when the top of the heap are earning 100–1000 times the median wage, and are able to manufacture massive tax breaks on top of that, run expensive accountants and tax law experts, etc., then they are insulated from the cruel impacts upon the median wage earner of a financial crunch. That’s the issue now, it was the issue back in the late 1920’s. It took the Great Depression to shake up governments, at least for a few decades. Restoration after the WWII was also a factor, but the idea was that the government had your back, no matter if you were poor. We all got fooled into thinking that this model was unsustainable, and yet the gov of the so-called surplus blew the biggest hole in our debt of any government I’ve experienced. They couldn’t find a few billion for the uni staff, though (the reading of that is presumably they were public servants, so stuff you). They couldn’t find a few billion to create a fit-for-purpose regional quarantine system for international travellers. Or half a billion to ensure that would-be travellers to Australia could get the J&J jab at the local Aus Embassy or appointed GP clinic, before travelling to Aus.

    Most of the current failures in the Covid-19 response were laid down about a year ago. It’s been weird, watching a government that initially managed to deal with the original version of the virus, despite their several failures of border control under Peter Dutton, slowly but almost inevitably let the whole thing unravel, until here we are, coasting to an unknown destination.

    It didn’t had to be like that. The signs were there, and by September 2020, we had more than enough information to know that there would be several good enough vaccines, and that there were more dangerous, more virulent, more transmissible, variants of the Coronavirus. The data were clear by then.

    As I keep harping on, safer quarantine facilities repay in cutting the size and nature of lock downs, and their frequency (hopefully to zero or close to it), while we fix up the f**k up of the incredibly slow vaccination rate.

    I don’t believe that my observations are a matter of hindsight; the data were there, the public health experts had done most of the necessary risk analysis. I would feel a bit peeved if it turned out that a public health expert had told a premier or prime minister that it was a great idea to have quarantine facilities in the CBDs of several of Australia’s capital cities; I can accept perhaps as an extremely temporary measure, in the face of total ignorance of the nature of the virus (no, I can’t really accept that). Like, how could that analysis not find that a highly transmissible, once in a century, virus, was a major risk in the most built-up areas of our country? How?

  23. As I keep harping on, safer quarantine facilities repay in cutting the size and nature of lock downs, and their frequency (hopefully to zero or close to it), while we fix up the f**k up of the incredibly slow vaccination rate.

    I don’t believe that my observations are a matter of hindsight …

    I know that Norman Swan on the ABC’s Coronacast has mentioned the inadequacy of hotel quarantine several times.

  24. Okay, I will allow a few concerts if everyone is vaccinated, masked up, sitting on every second seat and the band sounds like this.

  25. Thanks, JD>

    Norman Swan apparently copped some abuse from the (only loosely affiliated) right wing fake news…yet all he was stating was that the risk exposure was too high, if we kept using capital city hotel quarantine. Maybe short-term, we could risk it, but not long-term…

    Hard to accept that, as a first-world country, we couldn’t rustle up an adequate bunch of out-of-town Covid-19 quarantine facilities. I would have thought that being able to go for a walk, exercise, talk with the neighbours, etc., would have made any kind of outdoor facilities far superior to an enclosed room attached to a *COMMON CORRIDOR*, for goodness sake. Old roadside hotel/motels used to be single storey with only a carpark as the common ground, usually overlooking a bit of a park or something. What’s wrong with such facilities?

    As a final comment on this, I have slept in a tent in minus three degrees. That’s a two person tent,, just me, late winter, outback. It isn’t you beaut, but it’s quite bearable. The difference between that and single hotel room quarantine is that I could get up and walk a few km, and I wasn’t going to bump into any one. I could exercise. Stuck in a room for fourteen days, I *personally* could handle—if provided with books/e-books/Netflix. An entire family with young kids? How would that work out? Kids feel time in an entirely different way to adults, and even adults suffer from a two week confinement, however soft the blow.

    Actually, this is in some ways an argument over the nature of solitary confinement, or nearly solitary confinement. If two weeks is enough to do the heads in of generally normal adults, what does it say about us, that we would commit people to years of that hell, in even smaller confined spaces than a nice motel room?

  26. I can’t leave this alone, sigh. My faltering in old age, I guess.

    Adam Kamradt-Scott says that we have squandered our opportunity, during the past year and a bit. Sounds about right. So, the experts, at least some of them, feel a similar frustration at our lack of preparedness for the next step, once we got the virus under control through iron borders. Now, with the desire to enable a much higher international traffic into Australia, it seems we have been caught with our pants at half-mast…and, there was no reason for it.

    The only silver lining is that it might persuade the federal gov to promote much faster vaccination rates, such as by doing Mass Vaccination sites, like they did in the 1960’s and early 1970’s to eliminate Polio, and to control other nasty, often childhood, diseases (Mumps, Chickenpox, Measles, Tetanus). I remember going to the Town Hall to get the spoonful of whatever the hell that vaccine was. And the injection(s). Queue went in a snaking line to the nurses doing the administration. Obviously our parents were there with us. Anyway, point is that mass vaccination is a matter of motivation by the government, rather than a matter of capacity , or capability. We have oodles of both; it’s money and motivation that’s lacking.

    Come on, can’t we get a Covid-19 vaccination program running at pace, fit for the circumstances? Are we first world, or third world? (To use the old, British offensive terms for different non-British countries.) Besides that, can’t we help the Pacific Islanders, and other neigbhours who have been hit hard by the Covid-19 disease? Seems we have not even bothered to look after our own citizens, let alone those of other, less asset-gifted, countries, islands, territories, etc. Come on man, where is our humanity?

    PS: Guess I am in a bit of a mood on this matter.

  27. Don,

    I agree with you on all points. I was one of the persons on this blog sounding the early alarms from about March to May last year. I was not the only one and John Quiggin himself was also one. One only had to be a basically science-literate person and able to listen to and read the epidemiologists, doctors, virologists and geneticists at a popular science level, not even at.a deep specialist level.

    The gist of those early warnings and early indicators was clear to anyone with basic scientific literary basic economic literacy unclouded by neoliberal ideology and a bit of basic humanity. I guess that left out just about all of our Federal politicians and the business lobby.

    The signs and warnings that should been listened to and acted upon were;

    (a) The early spread of the virus in Wuhan in January 2020 where people were quite literally collapsing in the street and in the corridors of Wuhan hospital. These reports were available mainly on Youtube but also made their way into the mainstream press. It was clearly either a new virulent strain of influenza or a novel pathogen of likely zoonotic origin. Either of these two possibilities should have sounded loud alarms around the world.

    (b) The pathogen was then identified, still early on, as SARSCoV2. The name makes it quite clear it is a coronavirus and a first cousin essentially of SARS and a first or second cousin of MERS. That should have immediately turned up the alarms by a factor of 10. At that very point, all flights to and from China should have been cancelled. Of course, it wasn’t certain how infectious or how lethal the virus would prove to be although the early signs of large numbers of patients and collapsing people along with panic in Wuhan hospital plus that knowledge that it was a new SARS virus ought to pushed all the red buttons that needed to be pushed.

    The first failure was the failure to shut down global air traffic and sea cruises at that point. The WHO has received a lot of criticism for not declaring a global pandemic much earlier. I agree with this criticism but the WHO responds to political, ideological and economic pressures and not just from China. The major Western economies had been instrumental in hamstringing the WHO and its willingness to call pandemics early. The world economy was to take first precedence over pandemic control: that in effect was the crux of the orders to the WHO even if that phrasing was not used exactly.

    John Quiggin called it early that a single hard lock-down to effective elimination of the virus (globally or within any given country) would in the long term result in far less economic damage than a full outbreak with successive waves and yo-yoing lock-downs. Events have proven him correct. For those who understood the basic theory, it was always clear that John Quiggin was highly likely to be correct in his predictions. Again, our politicians and business lobbies were incapable of understanding the relatively basic science, logic and ethics of care involved. Whether their minds are clouded by greed and callousness or they are just plain stupid is a matter for speculation. I think it is large doses of both.

    (c) The pathogen soon showed a high R-nought factor indicating it was going to spread rapidly without containment efforts. It also showed a very concerning lethality of up to ten times that of the worst flu and propensity to hit the old much harder. This last fact was already well-known about SARS type diseases. Heck, the name SARS means Sudden Adult Respiratory Syndrome (first naming iteration) or Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (second naming iteration). These facts, as they emerged empirically about the SARSCoV2 pathogen, were again ignored and the political right doubled-down on its ignorance and denialism.

    (d) Once the strong scientific suspicions (hypotheses) about how SARSCoV2 would behave were confirmed, there were also early calls from June or July 2020 IIRC for dedicated quarantine facilities to be built in Australia. These calls were strengthened by all the evidence that hotel quarantining was resulting in far too many breaches which then required snap lock-downs and large test and trace exercises. Despite these calls, and the calls for returns to Australia to be reduced until the quarantining was better, the Federal Govt took the opposite tack. It doubled down on hotel quarantine and opened the floodgates (in relative terms) for returns not only of Australian citizens and residents but also the return of some temporary visa holders and the international shuttling behavior of the entitled business class who could not hold Zoom meetings but had to go to COVID-19 hotspot countries multiple times to hold “business meetings”. This all lengthened the queue for genuine Australian citizens and long-term residents seeking to return to Australia.

    (e) The failed vaccine rollout occurred mainly because of the Federa Govt’s. failure to commit enough funds and sufficiently hedge bets on all or most major vaccine development projects globally.
    In summary. This is a government (with its forerunners) that has had no problem in wasting many billions of dollars on pointless and inhumane wars in the Middle East and on submarines that will never be delivered, at least not before they are completely obsolete.

    In summary.

    Everything the Morrison Federal Govt, has done has been antithetical to managing and eliminating, in Australia, the SASCoV2 virus which causes COVID-19. Now, like the rest of the world we are committed to live with a relatively highly mutating virus which has already shown the ability to become more infectious (proven), more lethal (quite probable) and able to effect immune escape and vaccine escape at a relatively rapid rate (proven). Permitting the virus to become endemic has been a major globalk health failure and disaster. The high virus population permits and facilitates rapid mutation and evolution. The virus is already proven to infect vaccinated people (up to 40% of vaccinated people in some field studies). They are much less likely to get seriously ill or die. We don’t know if they are less likely to spread it. It is a strong bet (unfortunately) that this infection of vaccinated people will facilitate vaccina escape and require (likely) annual booster shots. Everyone alive today will be living with this virus for the rest of their lives. We will all catch it at some point because it has been permitted to become endemic globally and it is now cannot be eliminated in most countiries. Let us hope the vaccination(s) protect us. There are sadly very real chances that the virus will win the immunity and vaccine biological escalation war, not humanity and science. This will mean only human evolution will produce, in the future after several generations at least, humans who are not too vulnerable to SARSCoV2.. This virus is the latest piece of the dystopian tapestry we are weaving for ourselves. Our Federal Govt. could have kept us a safe island-continent: safe from at least this danger. They failed and dragged us all into a viral dystopian hell.

  28. I recycle my comment from the discussion of ‘The Great Melbourne lockdown in retrospect’:

    State Governments administer hospital systems. The Commonwealth Government doesn’t. The State Governments are better geared to deliver comprehensive vaccination programs. The Commonwealth should have entrusted responsibility for the delivery of vaccination to the States, and taken responsibility itself for quarantine. Instead, the Commonwealth took responsibility for vaccination programs and left the States with the responsibility for quarantine.

    Federation: what a good idea!

  29. J-D,

    That statement is very until the uninformed dig at being a Constitutional Federation. It works well. Perhaps you would have preferred being in the UK position where having a PM as stupid as Boris Johnson, namely Scott Morrison, would have made us a COVID-19 disaster like the UK… unless it was the luck of being an island continent which saved us.

    State governments give us a plurality of power which is better than over-contracted national power alone. We are probably in a “Federation sweet spot”. A six state government federation is better than only a national government and better than 50 state governments plus a national govt. like the USA. Canada is probably also in he kind of sweet spot we are in. Canada has 10 provinces. This is just my opinion of course and I would vote NO to any proposal to abolish states in Australia. Yet, I would vote YES for a way to make our Senate more representative. It’s absurd that Tasmania and NSW get the same number of senators. Problem, that anachronism is its point of difference from Reps. Perhaps, our Senate could be given fully proportional representation as in the Hare-Clarke electoral system with candidates selected by public sortition not by party pre-selection.

  30. I recycle my comment from the discussion of ‘The Great Melbourne lockdown in retrospect’:

    It is 1899 or 1900. You are planning on voting ‘YES’ in the referendum on Federation (over 400,000 people voted YES). I am thinking of voting ‘NO’ (over 150,000 people voted NO). Give me a reason why I should change my mind.

  31. J-D,

    That is a hypothetical which requires us to travel back in time, which is impossible, so there is no point unless one wants to write fiction. All that matters is the now and future probabilities. The now indicates, for the most part and especially for Australia, that true national federations are best.The best balance of democracy, cooperation and individual freedoms seems to be achieved under such systems, although this is not always the case. The best “now” is the best predictor we have for the best future. I would note here that the EU is not a true national federation and hence not as good (in general) as true federations. China is closer to de facto federalism in some senses than the EU but possesses an authoritarian system throughout the federal and provincial level via their one party / one leader dictatorship system . US states tend to be small (and too numerous) for fully effective federalism, in my opinion.

    In the end, we can only have opinions guided by our heuristics, our ideology or some mixture of both. I attempt to use relatively. objective heuristics. For that and other reasons, no doubt including vanity and egoism, I prefer my opinions on this matter to yours and I cannot see you advancing any compelling reasons to change my opinion on this matter.

  32. Historians can and do discuss what reasons may have influenced people to vote the way they did in the Federation referenda; it is fatuous to suggest that time travel is a prerequisite for historical discussion and it would also be fatuous to suggest that those reasons can be discussed but not evaluated.

    A comprehensive tabulation of countries which currently operate under federal systems and countries which currently do not would not support the conclusion that federal systems work better.

  33. No, J-D, reasons then are not equal to reasons now, though some may be common. In the context of federations now, I didn’t find it interesting or useful to entertain your hypothetical. That’s all and it does not amount to dismissing historical inquiry in total.

    Where is this comprehensive tabulation? .

  34. No, J-D, reasons then are not equal to reasons now …

    I didn’t say they were. It would not be a good idea now to devote effort to trying to reverse Federation: we can’t unscramble that omelette, we’re stuck with it. That doesn’t change the fact that when the decision was made it was a bad decision.

    Where is this comprehensive tabulation?

    I don’t know of one, but it wouldn’t be hard to construct one. There might even be a list of federations in Wikipedia: I haven’t checked.

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