Malcolm is becoming an international metaphor for idiot

This is from an article the other day by Mark Steyn which you should, of course, read in full. But these are the relevant bits about our new PM:

Let’s take Malcolm Turnbull at his word that it’s only “a very very small percentage of violent extremist individuals”. What is the actual percentage? In the aforementioned Malmö, where up to a thousand mostly young male “refugees” arrive each day, suppose the “very very small percentage” is two per cent. That’s 20 brand new “violent extremists” per day. During the Northern Irish “Troubles”, MI5 estimated that there were no more than a hundred active members of the IRA at any one time – that’s to say, people actively involved in shooting and killing. So Malmö is taking in the equivalent of the entire IRA every week.

What will be our contribution? And when you have finished reading Mark Steyn, you should go on to Andrew Bolt.

Posted in Cultural Issues, Federal Politics | 8 Comments

Universities reflect society

In 2008 the Senate had an inquiry into (left-wing) bias at Australian universities. I turned up at the inquiry and made a somewhat nuanced argument (or tried to anyway). To the extent that there is left-wing bias at Australian universities (indeed probably all universities in the English speaking world) it probably doesn’t matter all that much. The second part of the statement is more important than the first.

Without a doubt academics tend to be more left-wing than right-wing in orientation. This is mostly due to self-selection and the fact that intellectuals are likely to be left-wing. Both Friedrich von Hayek and Joseph Schumpeter have explained why this is the case. Hayek has argued that intellectuals are likely to be rationalist while Schumpeter points out that it is capitalism that generates enough of a surplus to sustain a large intellectual class. The bourgeois morality associated with prosperity also creates a tolerant climate that allows intellectuals to flourish. So it is unsurprising that universities are more left-wing in orientation than right-wing.

It is the second part of my argument – that left-wing bias doesn’t matter much – that people might find surprising.

We undertake a lot of consumer surveys within the university system. We ask our consumers, people we call “students”, what they have learned and discovered while at university. We do this every semester in a process called “final examinations”. The results of these surveys are often quite depressing – many students will recall and reproduce the corny jokes, the throw-away lines, the rude words you said when the classroom technology crashed, or the week the fire drill was held.

When alternative assessments are held, like written assignments, the first question students ask is “What are you looking for?”. They have learned that very often if they simply parrot what the lecturer wants to hear that they’ll get a better mark. The thing is that many university graduates go on to work in the for-profit sector of the economy, vote Liberal, or worse become Liberal politicians, hang out at disreputable ring-wing blogs, and generally behave in ways that their lefty education should have discouraged. Hence, my point, bias at universities doesn’t matter much. The labour market quickly sorts the wheat from the chaff.

Why am I rabbiting on about this? Our good friend Andrew Bolt has pointed to recent poor behaviour at Australian universities.

Socialist Alternative protesters have howled down a lecture at Melbourne University by former Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella and assaulted Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop at Sydney University.

In May, also at Sydney University, students, backed by two academics, burst into a lecture by retired British colonel Richard Kemp, chanting, “Richard Kemp, you can’t hide, you support genocide”. Kemp’s crime? To argue that Israel had tried very hard to avoid civilian casualties in its war with Hamas.

Appalling behaviour to be sure.

Suppressing free speech and censorship, however, isn’t unique to the university sector. Paul Sheehan explains:

Among its election undertakings was a commitment to narrow Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, which extends the law against racial vilification to language which “offends”. This is an absurdly broad term to insert in any law.

The Abbott government reneged on that undertaking, no surprise given that it then enacted a suite of national security laws which gave government sweeping power to clamp down on free speech while diminishing its obligations for transparency.

The classic liberal ideal of Voltaire – that he may be offended by your views but will defend your freedom to express them – is alien to this government.

On September 29, an American anti-abortion activist, Troy Newman, was deported after he arrived after his visa had been terminated. Newman has never been convicted of a criminal offence. He believes abortion is murder, a widely-held position in the US.

On September 28, the Turnbull government also denied a visa to American rap star Chris Brown, because he was convicted six years ago of serious domestic violence charges, for which he was placed on five years probation, which he has served.

In November 2014, the Abbott government cancelled the visa of an American self-styled dating coach Julien Blanc, after a campaign against him on social media. His views are objectionable but his seminars are voluntary and he has no criminal record.

When even a Liberal government is profoundly illiberal, why should we expect anyone else to be any better?

Posted in Freedom of speech, Libertarians don't live by argument alone | 55 Comments

Updating expectations

The Australian is reporting that the Turnbull government has announced 5 new appointments to the Climate Change Authority.

Dr [Wendy] Craik is one of five ­appointments to the board, which was left without a quorum last month when former chairman Bernie Fraser resigned.

Other new members include Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Kate Carnell, Howard government transport minister John Sharp and energy experts Danny Price, the head of Frontier Economics, and BidEnergy chief executive Stuart Allinson.

Looking at the names it looks like the Authority has been stacked. Good. Time will tell.

The appointment of Wendy Craik as Chair is particularly interesting. She is formerly CEO of the National Farmers Federation and and later CEO of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission. Hopefully she will bring some of her insight from that position to the CCA.

In the bad old days there used to be a very good show on channel Nine on Sunday mornings called “Sunday”. In 2006 they had a segment on salinity in the Murray-Darling Basin where Wendy Craik got reported saying some interesting things:

ROSS COULTHART: In 2000, Wendy Craik was heading the National Farmers’ Federation. At the height of the salinity hysteria she called for $65 billion to be spent on fixing Australia’s land and water crisis — with a whopping 37 billion to come from taxpayers.

WENDY CRAIK: We were basing our recommendation on the best available information at the time.

ROSS COULTHART: But that information was wrong wasn’t it?

WENDY CRAIK: Subsequently I think we would say, we wouldn’t, I wouldn’t support that particular line.

ROSS COULTHART: Imagine if those billions of dollars had been expended on what you now acknowledge are incorrect models that were talking up the threat of salinity?

WENDY CRAIK: As a taxpayer I am just as happy as you that we didn’t actually do that.

I suspect she is going to be a lot more cautious in her new role. It could turn out to be a very good appointment.

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy | 74 Comments

Must see it to believe it

His arrogance is only exceeded by his ignorance.

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy | 82 Comments

A third edition?

I met with my publisher today and we briefly discussed a third edition of my Free Market Economics. It’s now on the agenda but distantly since I have pretty well said what I want to say. I bring this up for a series of additional reasons, and let me start with this much appreciated comment on a previous post:

Hi Steve

Off topic here (apologies Cats) but I wanted to congratulate you for finding an opportunity to slip the wonderful word ‘phantasmagorical’ into your book . To find such a word embedded within an economic text was a great little ‘Easter egg‘! I am about half way through and am thoroughly enjoying it. I only studied economics in high school but have always had more than a passing interest in the subject. Jump forward 20+ years and I am bashing my way through an MBA and found your book really relevant for my elective unit on ‘Entrepreneurship’, a great refresher on some of the base principles of the subject and a refreshing perspective on the functions of supply and demand in any economy.

Cheers Nathan

And then, also just today, there was this from a student who is studying from the book as part of an online course I run. He had a question to ask about a coming test, but then wrote this:

For the book, I have to say I really enjoy it and though I really hope you don’t mind in me giving some suggestions as such. Firstly just on the premise on the book i could see it being a love hate for some students just as it continuously goes through as an argument of sorts rather than laying down the facts as they should be, if you know what I mean. Not a dig just meaning that if it were more just this is as it is then we could just focus on that.

The second one is on the explanations for say’s law and the business cycles. I have kind of found for me in learning it I keep trying to apply it to real life as we should and ended up looking through all of the recessions in the past. And actually looking at them it makes the classical views blatantly obvious and correct even in the great depression where there wasn’t a reduction in the demand but that the economy was rapidly changing to the more modern economy with the setting of the public market for stocks. Not sure if I explained that quite right, though what I am getting at is if in the explanations or even in an assignment we were looking at what has caused every recession it would really hammer in the concepts of the book and prove that they in fact are correct and that Keynes is some funded by government full of shit fraud.

Again really enjoying the book now that I have got into it, just more on the output as I really hope it would become universal proof of the correct concept.

I will think about what I can do now that the issue has come up, but I have to say I am reluctant to mess with the text again. It’s not perfect, but it remains the only anti-Keynesian textbook available anywhere in the world and there’s much else in it besides.

Posted in Classical Economics, Economics and economy | 8 Comments

Wednesday Forum: October 7, 2015

Posted in Open Forum | 1,387 Comments

“I am a Keynesian,” Bowen declares proudly

These people don’t get it. They just don’t get it. I want to write, “such idiots they are”, but I am much too polite for that. From Paul Kelly’s column today on Keating and Swan loom large in Bowen’s thinking:

“I am a Keynesian,” Bowen declares proudly. “I would take a Keynesian approach to fiscal management. We can’t rule out the need for a government to stimulate domestic demand sometime over the next decade.” It is an unambiguous statement of belief.

Given Australia’s lower economic growth and doubts about economic recovery, Bowen as treasurer resorting to fiscal stimulus would be a live option. It reminds us that Bowen is a politician formed by the 2008-09 global financial crisis and is a champion of the huge fiscal stimulus put in place by Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan at that time. . . .

In his book The Money Men, Bowen rejects the main criticisms of the Rudd-Swan stimulus. While admitting the outcome was “imperfect”, Bowen says Swan was tested like no treasurer since Labor’s Ted Theodore during the 1930s and concludes that Swan, in relation to the GFC, “got all of the big calls right”.

The evidence of cloth between the ears never gets more evident than dealing with someone who actually sat in Parliament first through the Costello years and then through the years of economic management under Wayne Swan and thinks that Swan got it right. Those Costello years, when everything was going so well because the world economy was so placid. Like through the Asian Financial Crisis and the Dot-Com bust, you mean. They went well here because, for a change, we didn’t have a Keynesian in charge. How really out of it do you have to be to say this:

As Bowen says, Labor’s $46 billion second stimulus package of February 2009 triggered a debate that dominated “at least the next five years of Australian politics”.

It dominates us now because the deficits and debt will remain a problem for years on end. And now this clown wants to come back into government and add to the problems in the same way that they did the last time we gave them the chance. And if you really want to start to worry, try this on for size:

For Bowen, economic growth is the mission. He wants a competitiveness strategy “sector by sector”, says it is “not the job of Canberra” to determine where the new jobs come from but identifies the sectors that he sees as a priority and the skills deemed to be ­essential.

Picking last year’s winners is a tried and true strategy of failure, but back it will come if we give these people the chance to turn the Australian economy into the same kind of wreck that Obama has managed in the United States.

Posted in Economics and economy, Federal Politics | 47 Comments

We have the most sensible and sophisticated central bank in the world

Among the many blessings Australia has that keep the economy trundling along in spite of international devastation is our central bank. It runs the most accurate policy of any bank in the world, and has refused to follow the fashion into zero rates of interest found elsewhere. Here’s the latest news: Interest rates: RBA refuses to blink, keeping cash rate at 2pc despite IMF downgrade:

The Reserve Bank has defied mounting global economic gloom, keeping interest rates on hold for the fifth month in a row and expressing confidence in APRA’s efforts to keep a lid on ­investment lending in the frothy Sydney and Melbourne housing markets.

As the International Monetary Fund downgraded its economic growth forecasts yet again, including those for Australia, Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens issued almost a carbon copy of his previous month’s monetary statement, whose tweaks if anything suggested even less desire to reduce the 2 per cent cash rate. . . .

“The available information suggests that moderate expansion in the economy continues,” Mr Stevens said, dumping last month’s qualifier of ‘most of’ and once again pointing to the strength of the jobs market. In the only other major change from last month, Mr Stevens suggested APRA’s efforts to dampen the growth of investor housing lending were “helping to contain risks that may arise from the housing market”.

The bit on the housing market even makes me think that if they were about to shift, rates would be going up. Sounds good. Low interest rates will kill you, as the US economy so clearly demonstrates, or at least it would if only there was am economic theory to explain why that was.

Posted in Classical Economics, Economics and economy | 16 Comments

Greenhouse plans: more economy busting policies being cooked up

Hardly has the ink dried on Australia’s appalling commitment to source 23 per cent of electricity from renewable sources when Bill Shorten is talking of upping it to 50 per cent.   The current measure will alone impose a cost of $2.5 billion a year and on top of that we have clean energy bank, standards to force lower energy use and dollops of funding from the budget.

Not only does this mean higher electricity prices for households but it impacts on industries’ costs- including the very ones in agriculture for which the government has obtained improved access and lower tariffs through its free trade treaties.  It would be bitterly ironic if tariffs are reduced by 10 percentage points but the costs of the growers increased by as much due to government policy.

Shorten knows that in upping the ante on renewables, he is needling Turnbull-Hunt to move in a direction they want to go in any event.  And in shifting them he can claim to be the Man of Vision.

Of course, with China and India refusing anything other than lip service to the greenhouse god that the west has created and fuelled there will be no affect on global emissions.  All we will see, like the steel workers of Redcar in England, is higher local costs driving industries to countries like China who have no intention of saddling themselves with onerous and unnecessary costs

With Abbott now gone, Australian political defenders of sensible economic policy are few – not only do the majority of Liberals by definition place the nation’s interests well below their personal ambitions but many who voted for Abbott (like Hunt Broadbent and Billson) are in the warmist camp in any case.  With our current overwhelming majority of self-centred political representatives, it is hard to see us avoiding the self-destruction that Europe has embarked upon.

Although the India-China axis of climate reality will prevent any harmful formal obligations emerging from Paris in December, they too face pressures and compromises on coal may develop.

In any event, as the outcome of Kyoto shows – even before Kevin Rudd, that other Man of Vision, ratified the Treaty – Australia will start voluntarily operating in accord with the general thrust of the like-minded Obama and the EU.  We did so under Howard when Environment Minister David Kemp conspired with state governments to use planning control over agricultural land to prevent its clearance for productive use.  Turnbull as Environment Minister built on this by removing water from irrigators in the Murray Darling.  All this resulted in 100 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions being “saved” and enabled Australia to claim that our emissions had remained stable at around 550 million tonnes.

Such measures made a hefty dent in the capacity of agriculture to increase its output.  Moving beyond it, as the government already intends to do, will impose that pain generally across the economy.  And all for no concrete gain, even in the unlikely event that there is a carbon dioxide induced global warming.

Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments

The views expressed here are my own

There is a very nice article in today’s Oz by Maurice Newman with the fairly accurate title, Coup takes credibility of politicians to a new low. It’s not so much politicians in general who are being dealt with but Malcolm Turnbull in particular. So it was with great interest that we find this at the end of the article:

Maurice Newman is a company director and former chair of the Australian Stock Exchange. He is the former chairman of the prime minister’s Business Advisory Council. The views expressed here are his own.

That they are the columnist’s own views was something I had always assumed up until now, but apparently wrongly. Clearly, they are not their own views unless we are told so, which with The Oz is something I now take for granted (with the honourable exceptions, other than Maurice, of Nick Cater and Henry Ergas). But to be so blatant about it does truly eat into the credibility of the paper. We are, at least in theory, supposed to assume that these are journalists who will say what they believe, come what may. You know, all that truth to power stuff.

And you know what else, given the editorial line of the paper nowadays, you can see why the column irritated them. He explains what a disaster the change has been, but then goes on to make a much more important point:

The Liberal Party coup has wider ramifications than a simple transaction swapping one leader for another. It is one more blow to the credibility of leaders and the moral compact between the ­government and the people.

It makes voters less likely to listen to pleas from government for noble sacrifices in the common good.

It suggests, absent a significant turnaround in our terms of trade, the tough decisions and long lead times needed for economic and fiscal recovery are likely to be defeated by the electoral cycle.

They will also be defeated because our new PM doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. But he is very articulate in saying nothing much at all and taking credit for the things Tony had already put in place. As for the other things he has done, you should read the column to see why The Australian wants to wash its hands of what Maurice Newman has said.

Posted in Federal Politics, Media | 32 Comments