Gillard’s profligacy

April 30, 2013

Four ways of spending money
The French writer Frederique Bastiat, observed in the first half of the 19th century, “There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.”

Thus, according to the good economists and most conservative commentators, there is general consternation at the inability of the Gillard/Swan team to reign in their compulsive spending. More than that; there is incredulity and dismay. Still, when listening to the usual suspects in the media there is clearly little understanding or ability to understand the unforeseen effects. 

Many will have read the famous Four Ways of spending money as outlined by Milton Friedman, but it bares repeating as a cogent way of understanding why government spending — especially of those with Gillard’s reckless disposition — is so dangerous.

There are four ways in which you can spend money.

You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money.

Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost.

Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! 

Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get.

And that’s government.

FOUR WAYS OF SPENDING

Terrorism will slowly teach us lessons

April 29, 2013

Tolerance waning in spite of Left’s entrenched dhimitude

One can often despair at the avoidance of the M… word or I … word by our obsequiously tolerant media in Australia.

There is however some light at the end of the tunnel. According to the distinguished international expert on Islam, Daniel Pipes, there is a lesson to be learned from the recent Islamist inspired atrocity in Boston. Westerners, in spite of the pervasive dhimmitude throughout our society crippling intelligent commentary, are starting to wake up to the threat of terrorism.  

 What it will do is very important: it will prompt some Westerners to conclude that Islamism is a threat to their way of life. Indeed, every act of Muslim aggression against non-Muslims, be it violent or cultural, recruits more activists to the anti-jihad cause, more voters to insurgent parties, more demonstrators to anti-immigrant street efforts, and more donors to anti-Islamist causes.

 He says we have evidence of this happening if we look at Europe, which he says is about 20 years ahead of Australia in this regard.

One sign of change is the growth of political parties focused on these issues, including the UK Independence Party, the National Front in France, the People’s Party in Switzerland, Geert Wilder’s Party for Freedom in The Netherlands, the Progress Party in Norway, and the Swedish Democrats. In a recent by-election, UKIP came in second, increasing its share of the vote from 4 per cent to 28 per cent, thereby creating a crisis in the Conservative Party. 

Pipes quotes the changing public attitudes in France to Islam. If some in Australia are fearful of visits by the likes of Gert Wilders, we had better get used to a coming change in public attitudes and consequently in the political climate, especially those of the sycophantic Left. This change in attitude is inevitable if Muslims continue to spoil things for themselves. Having travelled extensively in North Africa myself and loved Arab people and their culture — before the Islamist radicalisation since the 1970s — I think this would be a great tragedy. Pipes quotes’ attitudes of the French in a recent survey. 

Particularly revealing for an understanding of the media’s poor approach to reporting on Islamic terrorism, but not surprising, is the attitude of the Left towards religion revealed in this survey. It noted that Islam is the only religion in France, including Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists and Jews —  that attracts a more favourable attitude from the Left than it does from the Right. Overall however, 

• 67 per cent say Islamic values are incompatible with those of French society;• 73 per cent view Islam negatively;• 74 per cent consider Islam to be intolerant;• 84 per cent are against the hijab in private spaces open to the public; and• 86 per cent favour strengthening the ban on the burka.

If this “prejudice” seems unreasonable, how do those who still believe in “moderate” Islam explain away the troubling beliefs within the so-called moderate Muslim communities in the West?

 From a Pew Research survey in 2007:

26% of younger Muslims in America believe suicide bombings are justified.
35% of young Muslims in Britain believe suicide bombings are justified.
42% of young Muslims in France believe suicide bombings are justified. (35% overall).
22% of young Muslims in Germany believe suicide bombings are justified.(13% overall).
29% of young Muslims in Spain believe suicide bombings are justified.(25% overall).

This story has some way to go but resistance to the West’s submission is growing. Hopefully this will lead to more intelligent solutions and policies.

Terrorists “co-exist” in Massachusetts

April 21, 2013

Dhimmitude in Princess Fluffy Bunny worldview

COEXIST

It started with the vile headline in Salon, “Let’s Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber Is a White American.” by the white American writer David Sirota. Obviously this is as objectionable and outrageous as if the writer had expressed the hope that the bomber had been Muslim, or Jew or Gay. But I guess they don’t see it that way. Dhimmitude reigns.

We all know that there is an extraordinary aversion to using the M… word or I… word in relation to terrorism, especially by the Fairfax press and our ABC. But this sickness is just as prevalent in the USA. Mark Steyn, in his inimitable manner, analyses Sirota’s dilemma:

Twenty-four hours later, Mr. Sirota had a second feather in his cap. The two suspects in the Boston bombing turned out to be Caucasian males — that’s to say, males from the Caucasus, specifically the North Caucasus, Chechnya by way of Dagestan. Unfortunately for his delicate sensitivities, the two Caucasians were also Muslims. 

But that was not the end of ironies for Steyn. The two Chechen brothers stole a get-away car:

And, in their final hours of freedom, they added a cruel bit of mockery to their crimes by carjacking a getaway vehicle with a “Co-exist” bumper sticker. Oh, you must have seen them: I bet David Sirota has one. The “C” is the Islamic crescent, the “O” is the hippy peace sign; the “X” is the Star of David, the “T” is the Christian cross; I think there’s some LGBT, Taoist, and Wiccan stuff in there, too. They’re not mandatory on vehicles in Massachusetts; it just seems that way.
I wonder, when the “Co-exist” car is returned to its owner, whether he or she will keep the bumper sticker in place. One would not expect him to conclude, as the gays of Amsterdam and the Jews of Toulouse and the Christians of Egypt have bleakly done, that if it weren’t for that Islamic crescent you wouldn’t need a bumper sticker at all. But he may perhaps have learned that life is all a bit more complicated than the smiley-face banalities of the multicultists.

Vale Margaret Thatcher

April 21, 2013

A complex women with a complex score card

This is a late commentary I know, but there is value in picking over the bones from the storm of both hatred and adulation of the last two weeks.

One of Mrs Thatcher’s more defiant actions against the complacent flow of government softness and conformity to unquestioning political correctness was her decision in 1989 to refuse to send a British representative to the celebration of the bicentenary of the fall of the Bastille. As British historian Andrew Roberts observed, it was “a sublime gesture of defiance against republicanism, revolution and terror.” He imagined how they must have fumed in the Foreign Office.

A chastening article by the much admired Theodore Dalrymple certainly was a corrective to the sometimes overwhelming sycophancy of conservative commentators:

Her cultural effect on the country was, overall, disastrous … she introduced the commercial spirit not only where it was needed, but where it was harmful. Almost all the legalised corruption for which the British public administration is now so notable can be traced back to her  …

She believed in management as a science in the way that Latin American peasants believe, or used to believe, in miracle-working Virgins. As a consequence, she introduced business practices (such as high and rising emoluments and perquisites) into the public sector without the disciplines of a real marketplace.

Nor did she appear to understand one of the most important lessons of the Soviet Union, namely that in centralised bureaucratic systems the setting of targets results not in efficiency but in organised lying to pretend that they have been met.

The result has been Soviet-type corruption, moral, intellectual and financial, some of it legal and much of it compulsory. Those who work in or for the public administration – it is increasingly difficult to tell them apart – have been comprehensively corrupted by this process.

Indeed, where legalised corruption is concerned, Thatcher was John the Baptist to Tony Blair’s Christ.

These are very strong words but worth pondering in her legacy.

On a brighter note, the irony of having a strong competent women as Prime Minister does indeed make the Sisterhood squirm, as it should. Claire Berlinski, in The Spectator of 13 April sums up her importance to women:

She was and will always be supremely significant to women. Unlike other women to whom she is often compared, she compromised no essential aspect of her personality. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, consciously displaced what femininity she had to reveal a drive for power; Eva Peron forsook her rationality, if ever she had it; Sarah Palin her dignity. Thatcher sacrificed nothing, except perhaps her relationship with her children. She made use of everything.

She was also singular in that in her success in capitalising upon her femininity, she has had no equal in political history, yet she had no use for feminism as a doctrine. She achieved things no woman before her had achieved, exploiting every politically useful aspect of a female persona and disproving every conventional expectation of women. She proved herself a rebuttal to several millennia’s worth of assumptions about women, power, and women in power. For women now aspiring to power, there is history before Thatcher and history after; no woman in politics will ever escape the comparison.

The last word goes to Steve Hilton, a former director of strategy for David Cameron. Above all, she discomforted the Establishment, one of the reasons she was so disliked:

I saw her as thrillingly anti-establishment; as much of a punk, and as brilliantly British, as Vivienne Westwood, who once impersonated her on the cover of Tatler. Margaret Thatcher had the virtues most valued in today’s culture: innovation, energy, daring. She was Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Lady Gaga all rolled into one — and a thousand times more consequential than any of them.

 

 

Earth Hour vanity teaches all the wrong lessons

March 24, 2013

An exercise in futility and vanity

Earth Hour, in spite of government sponsored encouragement, seems to have been a failure.

The head of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in Victoria, no less, circulated an edict to all schools to participate in Earth Hour.

We have bureaucracies happily supporting an initiative of the World Wildlife Fund to symbolise “the collective power of individuals, businesses and governments to reduce our impact on the planet”, yet they refuse to learn the real lessons from this latest exercise in vanity and moral preening.

The results in Victoria and NSW are in. It appears, predictably, that even with those few who did turn off their lights, there has been no saving of electricity in Victoria.

I wonder how many students were directed to the excellent article by Bjorn Lomborg about the futility of Earth Hour. He explains that not only does Earth Hour teach the wrong lessons, it actually increases CO2 emmissions, as the Australian experience confirms.

Just for starters;

the cozy candles that many participants will light, which seem so natural and environmentally friendly, are still fossil fuels—and almost 100 times less efficient than incandescent light bulbs.

Lomborg points out the obvious; that we have all been urged to turn off our lights, whilst the important, inconvenient things like the frig, air con, heating or computers are not mentioned. In the meantime, over 1.3 billion humans experience darkness and poverty every night.

 

 

ABC balance on Insiders — Shock, horror !!

March 23, 2013

Hard to believe, but an interesting change …

What a surprise this morning. On Insiders we had both Gerard Henderson and Niki Savva along with Laura Tingle and Barry Cassidy.

Could it possibly be that Barry has heard the suggestion going around that the only way to restore balance on the ABC is to have one conservative for every pro ALP commentator, each and every time. Nah! He wouldn’t understand.

Or is it maybe a ruse he has devised to lure back viewers who have abandoned him for the Bolt Report. Nup! He probably doesn’t care.

Or perhaps he realises that Gillard and her party are so on the nose that he should start adjusting to a post election reality and, like Caucus, is worrying about his job. Nah !  He probably feels the election is still too far away to worry about.

In any case, he clearly believes that, if he keeps rooting for the Red Head the way he has been doing with his comrades on Insiders for the past three years, she must surely win anyway.

Let’s see what he does next week. I for one won’t be holding my breath.

Media bias and the ALP

March 20, 2013

Without the Murdoch press, Australia would enter the world of Chavez

For those of you who may have missed it, I wrote a piece just before Christmas on bias in the ABC for The Australian and setting out how this bias is dangerous for an informed democracy.

We know that Conroy’s desire to control the press is simply to suppress critics of the ALP, but the real danger of bias in many ways is that it is almost invisible.

It also would explain why so many educated, generally mildly apolitical, well thinking middle class people with a regular diet of the ABC and Fairfax, simply are not aware that, for instance, the world has stopped warming for the past 16 years, that hurricanes and extreme weather events have declined and are not related to global warming, that Doha was a dismal failure, that the NBN has never had a cost benefit analysis, that Green jobs cost money … and jobs, that growing the economic pie is not the same as redistributing tax revenue.

When counting both the national broadcaster and the Fairfax press, it leads many people to simply sigh and thank God for The Australian, without which we would already be entering a Chavez style nightmare with virtually no holding of the present government to account. As Brendan O’Neill has pointed out:

What they don’t get is that attacks on press freedom are not only, or even primarily, attacks on those who write and publish. They’re attacks on those who read – on the public, the masses, consumers of the written word.

 

France still charming

August 18, 2012

The post-revolutionary Socialist Republic of France


I have just returned from yet another charmed holiday in the post-revolutionary Socialist Republic of France, to see old friends and family. Whatever economic indicators we Anglo-Saxons pour over with glee to prove the imminent demise of of this cocky exception francaise, France remains obstinately seductive, beautiful and elegant.

Before my trip, I had been reading the correspondence of early 19th century French economist and journalist Frederique Bastiat. Even in 1846 he was able to bitterly observe that there was not one French politician in either of their houses of Parliament that believed in, or advocated, free trade. He explained that the French suspicion of la perfide Albion was such that a rumour going around was that if two and two made four in England, it would probably only make three in France. Unsurprisingly, the Economist recently noted, “Nowhere is contempt for free enterprise, and its linked evils of wealth and profits, more intense than in France”.

My socialist friends in France tell me that President Hollande should not be feared for his platform to end austerity and spend. They assure me he is cutting as fast as he can but without saying so. This, of course, is a big ask. France has consistently been running deficits for the last thirty years. Nevertheless, there is some economic self-awareness in Paris. Whilst I was there, Christopher Barbier in L’Express was able to write, “The paradox of socialism is to pretend to redistribute the wealth to create the growth, so that wealth will appear, to then better seize it to redistribute it”.

At least the elites are able to joke about it. At one dinner in Paris, I provoked those present with a slogan from a recent student demo: “We don’t want to have to work just to earn a living”. Immediately, the host got up and played a well know French song, “Je ne veux pas travailler”. This was followed by self mocking citations from the ’68 student revolt: “Under the cobblestones is the beach”. The favourite, given Europe’s immediate dire circumstances, “We are not in love with a growth rate of 6 percent.”

An academic I spoke to from the modern and progressive international business school, ESSEC, just outside of Paris in Cergy, explained that this attitude has been part and parcel of the French social landscape for more than two centuries, going back to when Louis XVI dismissed his free-market finance minister. Indicative of a lack of public discussion on this issue, he gave me the impression that in today’s France there are few, if any, notable or politically influential free-market think tanks as we have in the English speaking world. One central problem is that modern economics as taught in French schools and universities has barely changed these viewpoints. This antagonism to free market ideas is illustrated by Theodore Dalrymple’s observation that France’s labour-market rigidities are a conscious opposition to the supposed savagery of the Anglo-Saxon neo-liberal model. As he dryly points out, “if sexual hypocrisy is the vice of the Anglo-Saxons, economic hypocrisy is the vice of the French.”

I caught up again with a dear friend at his magnificent chateau in the Rhone Valley, with its formal French gardens and unpretentious Beaujolais grown on the estate. With hard work and much risk taking, he has built up the property into a viable chamber d’hote. However, he is a reminder of the tension between the productive hard working private sector, and those on the public teat. Two of his children, as so many others, have fled France for work. Little known is that equal numbers of young French leave France for England to work as do English to France. The only difference is the English are old, and come to retire.

Whilst in the Beaujolais, I called in to see another friend, an antique dealer in his exquisite 16th century house in the centre of Cluny, stuffed to the rafters with equally old furnishings, paintings and objects d’art. He gives another meaning to shabby chic. Very shabby, very chic. Out to lunch with him, we were joined by a French/Australian wine maker, on holiday in France. He happens to work in central Victoria. On an otherwise enjoyable holiday in France, I find myself sparring over Gillard’s politics in far away Australia. Inevitably, I am vigorously defending my colleague Andrew Bolt. This “French bo-bo leftie” immigrant is going to report me to his friend Justice Mordy Bromberg on his return. Is this what globalisation has come to? To diffuse the jocular tension, he shares with me the fact that the dish I am eating, an excellent Tete de Veau Sauce Gribiche, was a favourite with President Chirac. It immediately tastes sweeter.

As on arriving, as on leaving, Charles de Gaulle airport, always manages to look like something out of a third world country. Chaotic, crowded and bordelique, the baggage-handler strikes, the crowds, the inconsistent and inadequate signage and ad hoc management of check-in counters and queues all seem a symbol of France’s economic mismanagement, or perhaps is it simply a gross example of the notorious French indifference to providing efficient and friendly service to members of the public.

Whatever. Between the ubiquitous, government price-pegged but very tasty baguette, and the warm engaging people, France is as delightful as ever. As for the financial crisis, it is not yet visible.

 

Manne, the blind professor

August 4, 2012

Ouch. He does it again ….

Robert Manne, in a new essay in The Monthly, clearly cannot help himself, indulging in yet another tanty against climate sceptics, presumably to save the world yet again. As Jo Nova so beautifully explains, “Manne’s argument appears to rest entirely on his mistaken belief that “science” is What The Gods Declare it To Be.”

I had learned many years ago — indeed I was taught — that a mark of an academic is to be able to argue both sides of an argument. Professor Manne has too often demonstrated publicly that he has not even a scintilla of this academic pre-requisitite.

Nova sums up Manne’s problem:

The sad thing about the “intellectual left” is that not only does Manne not understand how to do the maths, the sums, and the physics of the climate, but he’s not much good at the human insights into the process of climate research either. Indeed the irony, given the Church’s history of friction with science, is that Archbishop George Pell has a much better grip on both.

What could possibly go wrong?

As always, with “intellectuals” when they analyze their failure, it’s impossible for them to have been defeated by better arguments and stronger evidence. Manne’s synopsis:

“A Dark Victory: How vested interests defeated climate science”

So even though evidence shows the vested interests are 3500 times larger on the believer side, and a $176 billion dollar market hangs for it’s very life on the truth (or not) of the great climate scare, Manne thinks he was beaten by big money. And that kind of thinking is why the intellectuals keep coming up with potty ideas.

ALP strong endorsement for THE GREENS book

July 17, 2012

A prophet in his own land …

These people aren’t our friends. They don’t share our ideology. They don’t share our values. They don’t share our history.”  NSW Labor state secretary Sam Dastyari

“the most dangerous of the fringe parties”,Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes

“economically destructive”. Chief government Whip Joel Fitzgibbon

The ALP has at last given unwitting strong endorsement for the book, The Greens: Policies, Reality and Consequences.

What a contrast to the launch just one year ago when the ABC and Fairfax scrupulously avoided mentioning it. Funny that. At the time, we had invited many ALP people and others from the Left to contribute to the book. How things change.

The book still remains the most valuable reference to the Greens’ policies and how irresponsible and badly thought out they are.

It is a pity that Gillard and those in the ALP and the left media hadn’t thought through the consequences of their alliance with Bob Brown a little more carefully at the time and understood the consequences of their destructive policies.


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