Westworld Forum

Tomorrow is the final episode of Westworld season 1.

Please use this discussion forum to discuss various fan theories.

Posted in Libertarians don't live by argument alone | 44 Comments

Examine your assumptions

There is a very amusing piece in the AFR this weekend:

The Grattan Institute is the exemplar of a political and economic centrism that sets the Australian policy agenda. Call it the new orthodoxy.

But even the Melbourne-based think tank is now examining why this agenda generates so much hostility, or – to adopt the word used by Grattan boss John Daley when referring to the impact of globalisation – “fracturing”.

From tightening superannuation tax concessions to advocating changes in negative gearing, promoting teacher monitoring and savings in health costs to suggesting ways to lift Australia’s sagging productivity, the Grattan Institute is an economic efficiency overlord, exerting a powerful, centrist influence on the government and opposition.

However, it, too, is now looking at what’s motivating the growing ranks of the disgruntled, according to Grattan’s John Daley.

This year’s election and recent opinion polls show voters are leaving the major parties in droves for the right wing, nativist, One Nation Party which means they are rejecting the Grattan-encouraged liberal free market consensus. According to the latest Fairfax Ipsos poll the putative minor party vote – largely Greens and One Nation – has vaulted to 34 per cent, or more than a third of the electorate.

Yes – you read that correctly. The Grattan Institute encourages a “liberal free market consensus”. The Grattan Institute is “an economic efficiency overlord, exerting a powerful, centrist influence on the government”.

What music goes with statements like that? The Twilight Zone or Benny Hill?

The Grattan Institute is a left-wing, Labor government funded, research institute located within the University of Melbourne to lobby government to implement Labor party policy. I’m sure the Macquarie Dictionary could define that as being “centrist” perhaps even “independent”.

The AFR repeats this strange story:

Grattan’s start-up was based on an agreement between the Howard government and the then John Brumby-led Victorian Labor government.

But by the time the documents were drawn up, the Howard government was in caretaker mode. The Rudd Labor government, which succeeded it, re-pledged $15 million in federal money, matched by the state government.

I have twice asked senior Howard government ministers about this version of events and I have twice been told that it is not correct.

Back to the main story …

… John Daley says a new Grattan Institute inquiry will examine “what’s motivating” the fast-growing group of the socially disposed and will be “treating their concerns seriously. This is something we are thinking about. It’s an important input into policy.”

But the Grattan inquiry is laden with irony. It is, in effect, an examination by the Grattan Institute into why policies strongly pushed by the Grattan Institute, and often partially or fully adopted by the major parties, are generating so much hostility.

Should be a short inquiry – answer – people are tired of left-wing extremists stealing their money, regulating their lives, and telling them what to do.

Posted in Australian Story, Hypocrisy of progressives, Libertarians don't live by argument alone | 47 Comments

Tyler Cowen spots some hypocrisy

Since Donald Trump has picked Betsy DeVos to be education secretary, many commentators have been pulling out their anti-school choice arguments from the closet, and for the most part it isn’t a pretty sight. To insist on a single government-run school and trash school choice, while out of the other side of one’s mouth criticizing Trump for “authoritarianism,” and other times proclaiming “Black Lives Matter” is from my point of view a pretty poor mix.


Posted in Education, Hypocrisy of progressives | 25 Comments

Cross Post: Roger goes to Washington

An old joke in New York newspaper circles imagined Armageddon as reported by the city’s rival rags. The pre-Murdoch New York Post, then owned by the genteel leftist Dorothy Schiff, pitched to the interests and sympathies of its core readership: “End of World: Jews and Negroes Suffer Most”. What brings this to mind is the headline that runs across the top of this morning’s ink-and-paper Times:

Democrats, Students and Foreign Allies
Face the Reality of a Trump Presidency

Can’t you just savour the dilemma facing the Times men, women and persons who drafted those few words? So many victims set for the gibbet, so little space on one front page to list them all. What of all the other groups allegedly destined to be ground beneath the Trump jackboot? What of environmentalists and homosexuals, Muslims, Mexicans and sundry other swarthy sorts, unionists, bureaucrats, women, the elderly, universities, endangered species, entire cities, the US legal system and perhaps, as any Times editor worth his organic, non-iodised sea-salt would have put it had space permitted, the very fate of the planet itself?

The sense of shock, of appalled and near-bilious dismay that such a man could have beaten Saint Hillary is everywhere as I write, a scant twenty-four hours after the votes were tallied. On yesterday’s bus to New York two of my fellow passengers were very glum girls indeed. They were students most likely, sporting backpacks, Hillary buttons and matching pairs of red and puffy eyes. As we shuffled aboard, the taller laid her head on her friend’s shoulder and heaved a few more tears, the perfect picture of heartbroken misery.

It was lovely to watch.

And it only got better as the shock and horror of democracy’s result on November 8 inflicted its dreadful torments on Generation Snowflake, whose serried brat-allions, summoned by social media, turned out to march down Fifth Avenue that night. I heard about the protest over dinner with my son, a dual-citizen who lives in New York and whose phone was running hot with Facebook messages from contacts variously de-friending him or simply heaping abuse on his tousled head.

“I’ve just been called a fascist again,” he said with a rueful smile after a message from his gender-fluid cousin interrupted the poori and chicken-liver appetiser. His crime against leftist sensibilities? He had observed via Facebook that there might well have been another Democrat destined for the White House if Team Hillary had not rigged the primary system in order to render Bernie Sanders a mere annoyance, rather than a bona fide contender. He had a point. The landscapes of the fulcrum states that went with Trump or swung to him—Michigan, Wisconsin, all of the South—are punctuated by empty factories, silent mills, grim prospects. An old-fashioned, soak-the-rich class warrior might, just might, have won those votes. As it was, those citizens’ blue-collar lot was to be worse than ignored, it was to be loudly scorned. This was the wasteland of the “deplorables”, as Mrs Clinton so ill-advisedly described them.

Take West Virginia, for example, which Mrs Clinton won easily in 2008 when contesting the primaries against Barack Obama. This year, back in May, she told a town hall meeting in Ohio, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Her hand-picked audience, balanced as any assembly Tony Jones and the Q&A crowd-stackers might summon to provide that show’s on-cue bleating, cheered lustily and the candidate basked in their adoring approval. Back in the mountains of West Virginia, where Stonewall Jackson kept the Union at bay and coal has been the lifeblood for generations, that was enough to doom her prospects. Sure, as an afterthought she went on to promise new jobs building wind turbines and the like, but she might more convincingly have argued that her husband is a moral and upright man.

Federal programs have come and gone, with billions of dollars poured into alleviating backwoods poverty, yet the communities remain poor. A working coalmine is a bird in hand. The vague promise of replacing it with “green tech jobs” very much a case of flipping the bird, as Americans call the one-finger salute, at those whose votes she needed.

My son’s phone kept beeping messages of scorn, including self-shot video footage of his cousin screaming “Sieg heil” outside the eponymous building that served as Trump’s campaign headquarters and nerve centre. This was too good to miss, so we polished off the Kingfisher lager and made haste from the Upper West Side to Fifth Avenue. Later, when I checked the Australian papers on the internet, I would be informed by aghast columnist Madonna King that the crowd was composed of vile racists and rednecks chanting—and I kid you not—“We hate Muslims, we hate Blacks, we want our great country back”. She had been gulled by a hoax picked up from a parodic website and re-broadcast without the blessing of a moment’s reflection to consider the account’s veracity. That’s the thing about roping a dope, as any conman will tell you: you can only fool those who want to believe. Ms King’s hard-wired reaction to the Trump victory was a case of confirmation bias. She believed what she wanted to believe because, well, the way she feels carries far more weight than the few grams of logical, rational, analytic capacity at her disposal.

Nor was the former Brisbane ABC radio host and vendor of subjective appraisals alone in crediting that a vast posse of Klansmen would assemble in the middle of Manhattan. Other keyboard ticklers amplified the same false story, thereby honouring their preconceptions about America and Americans. If you think that way, if you prefer to frame the US in the rhetoric of an Al Sharpton or a Black Lives Matter agitator, then a mass eruption of spontaneous racial hatred is the most natural expectation in the world. Perhaps their mothers were scared and scarred by too many viewings of In the Heat of the Night.

Anyone with even a passing grasp of New York City’s political ecology would have known the purported redneck rally had to be a furphy. On election day, Manhattan voters favoured Mrs Clinton by a margin of better than 90 per cent, with the city’s four other boroughs not far behind. You might have found someone dressed as a Klansman a few days earlier at Manhattan’s famous Halloween parade through Greenwich Village; then again, it would likely have been nothing more sinister than a reveller draped in a bed-sheet and pretending to be a ghost. In New York, whose current mayor is an avowed leftist and former activist on behalf of Nicaragua’s unlamented Sandinista regime, public fun comes only in strains of the politically correct.

Yet somehow those Australians who are paid to report or interpret events on the other side of the Pacific appeared to know little of the United States and understand less. Fairfax Media’s Paul McGeough, for example, chronicled the primaries with frequent references to Donald Trump’s imminent demise. The day before the election he even succumbed to a Dewey-beats-Truman moment in assuring Sydney Morning Herald and Age readers that “America’s nightmare” was about to end, as Trump was set and certain for a thumping. Not to boast, but at Quadrant Online, which I edit, I had that same day urged readers to put their money on Trump at the handsome odds then available. It’s not that I’m clairvoyant, just that, and here modesty must be set aside, I had actually done the reporting, gone out and taken a close look at the country where I spent twenty-six years of my working life.

Eight days earlier I had touched down in Florida, picked up a rental car and begun a serpentine journey north towards Washington, stopping off along the way at the homes of old friends and pre-divorce in-laws. Over in Tampa, my one-time brother-in-law, a cable-television installer who runs his own small business, was all for Trump. Racism had nothing to do with his preference. “It’s the goddamn IRS,” he said, “they’re auditing me again. Someone needs to get the tax man off our backs.”

Further north, on the Florida–Georgia border, the proprietor of a hole-in-the-wall Hispanic lunch counter and provender of delicious Cuban sandwiches (ham, pork, cheese and crunchy dill pickles on a press-toasted roll) was coaxed to candour by my foreign accent. Hillary was chueco—bent and crooked—and he wouldn’t be voting for her, despite what the media said would be a near-unanimous manifestation of Spanish-speaking support for the Democrat in the Sunshine State.

That was near Jacksonville, where one of McGeough’s no-more-astute colleagues reported that a heckler had been ejected from a Hillary rally for screaming “Bill’s a racist!” Australian reporters in the US must be deaf as well as biased, apparently; the actual cry was “Bill’s a rapist!” and it was heard often. If you wonder why Trump’s vulgarian boast of grabbing female crotches and getting away with it failed to tip the scales against him, the fact that his opponent has been an apologist for a lifelong sexual predator might just have something to do with it.

The thing, though, that most of all telegraphed the possibility of an election-night upset was the signs. It is the American custom in the political season to plant front-lawn placards proclaiming the resident’s support for one candidate or another. On the run from Fort Lauderdale across to Tampa—the celebrated Alligator Alley, which the pundits said was vital to Mrs Clinton’s prospects and which they believed would heavily favour her—there was but one Hillary sign to be seen, just one, while scores proclaimed allegiance to Trump. It was also on that leg of the trip that another manifestation of support for Trump became obvious. Finger-scrawled in the dust on the rear doors of many big trucks, one word: TRUMP. Whoever the pollsters were quizzing, they weren’t to be found in the nation’s truck stops.

How could the press corps have missed such an obvious imbalance in signage, such a disparity? Well here’s a clue, drawn from something I witnessed first-hand during Mrs Clinton’s run for the Senate in 2000. At the time I owned a weekend cabin in upstate New York, and when the local radio station announced that Mrs Clinton would be making a campaign stop nearby, I drove across, not as a member of the working press but as a curious rubbernecker. I was early and thereby privileged to watch her advance party set up a trestle table, load it with jugs of “homemade” lemonade and then station two photogenic moppets behind a sign proclaiming “Cool drinks 50 cents”. Not long after, the candidate’s motorcade rolled down the road and stopped at the table, where the candidate sampled the kiddies’ wares and posed for photographs. The trestle and its children were packed away almost before the sound of the accompanying press bus had faded to the inaudible. Those reporters were being taken for a ride, literally and figuratively. What was worse, they seemed to enjoy the charade.

And so my journey north continued, weaving in and around the I-95 main highway up the east coast. Here, too, the traffic gave a clue to the “unexpected” result of November 8: plenty of Trump bumper stickers and, again, but a single mobile endorsement of his rival—that one was plastered on a Prius also emblazoned with a “No Nukes” label and an adhesive plea to keep the US safe from fracking. When I pulled alongside the male driver, grey and old enough to know better, he had a ponytail.

That night, checking in late at a North Carolina motel, I asked the desk clerk who would win the White House. She was white, thirty-ish, a single mum and, according to the mainstream media narrative, an almost-certain Hillary supporter. She paused for a moment—America is a respectful society, a place where people generally go out of their way to avoid giving offence—then said, “Well, it won’t be her.” I asked why and the reply was twofold—Hillary had told too many lies; and “that husband of hers”. Had one of Mrs Clinton’s pollsters been within earshot, the campaign’s panicked efforts to make sure Trump did not take the state would have been even more frantic. The polls said it would be a close-run thing. It wasn’t, as events turned out. Trump triumphed there as well.

And so to Washington, with some 2000 miles on the rental car’s odometer, much of it on minor state highways and back roads. A friend with whom I had worked on a US news magazine told me I was crazy to think Trump had a chance. That night, watching CNN and the other cable news stations, the accepted wisdom was amplified, not to mention enhanced, by a rather selective use of fact, quote and sound bite. Trump, CNN reported, had been endorsed by the “leading Ku Klux Klan newspaper”. Leading indeed! The Klan is a spent force in America, bankrupted by lawsuits and left behind by a population that long ago moved on. In Louisiana, where lynched blacks were the “strange fruit” of Billie Holiday’s famous song, there is a dark-skinned governor of Indian descent, Bobby Jindal, who would not have been allowed to sit at a Woolworth lunch counter in the bad old days.

On election night I strode with thirsty purpose from my room to Harry’s Bar, off the lobby. It was packed and all the television screens were covering the results as they were tallied and states were declared blue or red. At first, early in the evening, the young woman on the stool beside me was the picture of effervescent confidence. The early voting numbers from Florida—tallied previously in camera and posted the moment the polls closed—put Mrs Clinton ahead, then further so. But then my neighbour’s smile faded. Those early returns had come from the southern tip of Florida, a Democrat stronghold where early voting had been particularly strong, but they were being gradually overtaken as more northern precincts reported their numbers. “Trump has Florida,” I opined, noting that the Panhandle—the narrow strip that runs along the northern edge of the Gulf of Mexico—would be a Trump stronghold. It is known as the Redneck Riviera, so no surprise there.

Towards the end of the evening, as the map was being painted mostly red, my stoolmate was so upset she screamed, “Don’t talk to me any more!” Perhaps suspecting that I had made like a recent president and let an ambling hand come to rest on her knee, the barman suggested it would be best if I left the premises. I did. An armed society is a polite society, and I had no wish to test the forbearance of fellow patrons equipped with misplaced chivalry and something more dangerous than a high-decibel shriek. As my smile at Hillary’s looming defeat was wider than Trump’s growing lead, the barman probably did me a favour by banishing me from such glum and angry company.

In the wee hours of the next morning, the woman confidently predicted by multitudes as the breaker of the ultimate glass ceiling found herself so thoroughly defeated, not to mention distraught, she could not bring herself to front the cameras and deliver the formal and traditional acknowledgment that her hopes had gone down for the count—a count of 228 Electoral College votes to 290, to be precise. Television’s talking heads were gasping, the pollsters blabbering.

The quest for an explanation other than the most obvious—Mrs Clinton is both tainted goods and a dreadful campaigner—took off in all the predictable directions. She had been rejected because she was a woman or—the narrative that emerged more dominant—she had been laid low by the votes of racist rednecks. This was a further manifestation of what might be called Madonna King Syndrome. Something happens, something unpleasant and unexpected, something that is beyond the ken of those who are so very certain of the way things should be, and their only explanation is that virtue, the sort of virtue Ms King no doubt believes herself to represent, must have been defeated by the base instincts and dumb bigotry of the lesser and loathsome. If you want to talk about blind prejudice at its most myopic, look to the likes of Ms King.

Still, she and so many others had an excuse for believing in the inevitability of Hillary’s triumph, as the vast bulk the mainstream media had been in the tank for the Democratic contender throughout the campaign. CNN fired Donna Brazile, Al Gore’s one-time campaign manager, for leaking questions that were to be asked at town hall meetings. Why supposedly impromptu, meet-the-folks gatherings were only presenting questions written in advance and approved by organisers is a story well worth pursuing, but so far nobody has bothered. Likewise, according to Wikileaks, other reporters had been e-mailing their stories to Team Hillary for vetting and amendment before sending them on to press or computer screen.

In another example of the craven, bended-knee attitude of the US Fourth Estate, reporters solicited questions from Team Hillary that might embarrass Trump and his surrogates. Not that this is solely an American vice, as anyone would be aware who saw the Seven network’s Mark Riley ask Julia Gillard at the National Press Club how the media might be of greater assistance. It seems that to be the very model of a mainstream media journalist one needs a certain narrow, fixed and port-canted worldview. Blame it on groupthink or the blinkered education doled out in university journalism schools. Or just blame it on sheer laziness. It requires some effort to leave the office or climb off the campaign bus and put “dirt on your shoes”, as the editors of old used to say. Whatever the factors, as newspapers die, this campaign and its coverage are a good reason not to shed too many tears for a business that has thrown away that single asset even more valuable than advertising revenue: its credibility.

The walk from West 72nd Street to the anti-Trump protest took about thirty minutes, but there was no need to hurry, as the marching throng had only just begun to tap the deep wells of its bitter fury. The first thing, the most striking, was the cookie-cutter sameness of those who had turned out to denounce the result of an entirely democratic election. With few exceptions, the oldest faces—other than my own—would not have been much more than thirty, with most demonstrators of college age. The overwhelming skin pigment was whiter than any Westchester country club.

The truculence being paraded down Fifth Avenue seemed the product of political disappointment and a consequence of errant parenting. This was Generation Brat in full voice and the self-absorption was deafening. The anticipated pleasure of victory on election night had been denied them, so the response was a tantrum. The election was invalid, yelled a bearded young fellow from beneath his fashionable man-bun, never bothering to exclaim why the orderly and honest exercise of a nation’s franchise needed to be overturned. At another corner, an obese young woman was being hugged in her tearful misery by a coterie of friends, all equally upset. There was the chanting of predictable couplets—“Hey, ho, / Trump’s gotta go” and “Dump Trump / Dump Trump”—and vows and pledges to oppose and frustrate “the racist Trump agenda” at every turn. Had these children never before been denied that for which they wished? Evidently not, and now they were throwing a tantrum worthy of toddlers. And not just in New York: across America similar rallies were congealing. Need it be said that the petulance was reported with great sympathy in the Australian media?

This is where the next few years will be very interesting indeed. When George W. Bush was elected in that 2000 squeaker, ultimately decided by the US Supreme Court, the opposition was rude, loud, obscene, very personal and constant. He was made a figure of ridicule and fun, as prescribed by Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, the handbook of the agitated Left. Much the same treatment was meted out to Tony Abbott, who could not even wink at the idea of taking a talkback call from a dirty-talking phone-sex granny without being immediately vilified as a misogynist. Bush and Abbott suffered such treatment in stoic silence as their poll numbers declined. Donald Trump, a man cut from very different cloth, would seem unlikely to do likewise.

Roger Franklin is the Editor of Quadrant Online. This article was published in the December issue of Quadrant. Subscribe here.

Posted in American politics, Cross Post | 55 Comments

Divided Italy’s constitutional crisis of confidence

Today in The Australian:

You can, so to speak, count on the Italians. As opinion polls may not be published in the two weeks leading up to a vote but can still be taken, blog sites have sprung up that report the results in terms of entirely imaginary wagering opportunities, with names that allow readers to readily identify the yes and no sides in tomorrow’s constitutional referendum.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Trump has changed the world; can Australia adapt?

Grace Collier’s great piece today shows just how the US will dictate policy throughout the world.  Trump will make the US a magnet for capital and initiative – not by mouthing bromides about what politicians will do but by action in removing impediments to people wanting to earn income.

By contrast, the agenda issues in Australia remain dominated by vanity politics.  Here are just a few

  • We hear much about “safe schools” when the data is in and our education system is inferior to that of the Borat countries we joke about.
  • The children of the privileged invade Parliament to seek open borders and complain about conditions of self-defined refugees, when accommodating them costs $100,000 per person.
  • We worry about being labelled racist rather than reject immigrants from barbaric African and Islamic cultures that engage in violent theft and terrorism
  • We struggle to curb the monopoly of a vicious union that jacks up investment costs by 20 per cent plus
  • We fiddle with increasing energy costs with state governments seeking a 50 per cent share of expensive and unreliable renewables and ban fracking gas, bringing a third world electricity supply causing our most productive industries to leave; the response:- an electricity inquiry whose members have no expertise in the wholesale market
  • Rather than rewarding savings we dream up more inventive ways of confiscating them by raiding superannuation
  • We seek new ways of hobbling farming through restrictions on clearing and allocation of water to phoney environmental causes
  • We seek ways to squeeze more out of the miners now the investment boom is over.

Our problems are illustrated by the complacency, masquerading as advice, that the BCA chief Jennifer Westacott dished out in another piece in The Australian today developments.  She blames the Trump victory on the Civil War, ‘ingrained discrimination’ and the US disparity of incomes.  Though she slips in stuff about labour market flexibility there is nothing about excessive spending and over-regulation; her focus is boilerplate anodynes

We should embrace digital technologies with the aim of producing goods and services in new and different ways.

Better leadership must be grounded in a deep understanding of global trends and how people feel about it. Leaders must show how technological change leads to progress, give a sense of vision and purpose, and step through how we are going to respond. This hinges on a commitment to the Australian values of fairness, honesty, compassion, respect, responsibility and courage. Leaders also need intellect, empathy and aspiration.

The US election has changed the world.  Though many of Australia’s political elite understand this they are too horror struck to accommodate it.  Not so the politicians in France, where the March Presidential race is now between two small government leaders, or Italy, Austria and the Netherlands which are shifting in the same direction.

As well as threatening Australia by reinvigorating the US competitiveness, Trump brings opportunities for real leadership.  Australian growth could take off if Trump is used as the catalyst for genuine reform.  As well as addressing the barriers peculiar to Australia by freeing up the labour market and abolishing its union monopolies, and freeing up land for housing, we should adopt policies that Trump has outlined including

  1. Company tax at 15 per cent
  2. Hiring freeze on federal employees (or better still a 20 per cent reduction of non-front liners)
  3. Eliminate two regulations for every new one
  4. Judges appointed for their knowledge of the law rather than progressiveness and empathy with criminals
  5. Suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where incoming people can’t be properly vetted
  6. Lift restrictions on energy, abolish all subsidies and abrogate the Paris Climate Change Agreement that would cripple the energy supply business
  7. Pare the environmental restrictions on agriculture
  8. Crack down on violent crime
  9. Allow parents to use the government money to choose any public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school; and expands vocational and technical education

Do we have anyone who can run such agendas or will the economy with the world’s highest natural wealth per capita continue to underperform?


Posted in Uncategorized | 84 Comments

Roundup 3 Dec

Gerard Henderson’s media watchdog. IPA Hey, what did I miss? This weeks timewaster, Google earth view on how your place changed since 1985. Dan Mitchell’s trepidation about Trump, will he really drain the swamp?.

Weather. Judy Curry’s week. A nice site for energy news h/t Marlo Lewis at CEI. The cost of green power in China. Carbon is not the enemy. Over 100 articles this year point to the sun as a key factor in global temperature (surprise, surprise?).

Statism and freedom. Origins and objectives of US public education. For the other way see the E G West Centre. Freedom around the world. Australia equal 6th. US 23rd.

Hong Kong earns its high score thank to it’s number-one status for economic freedom, combined with a top-20 score for personal freedom.
For what it’s worth, European nations dominate the rankings. Other than top-rated Hong Kong, New Zealand (#3), Canada (tied for #6), and Australia (tied for #6), every single nation in the top 20 is from the other side of the Atlantic.
So kudos to our friends from across the ocean. Most of them have big welfare states, but at least they compensate with free market policy in other areas, along with lots of personal freedom.

Books. Outstanding books of the 1970s.

It was a decade of contradictions and nowhere was that more evident than in the world of books. From The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison’s profound 1970 debut, right through to the New Journalism of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff in 1979, the’70s produced some of the 20th century’s most compelling literature.
It was also the decade of the blockbuster bestseller. Peter Benchley’s Jaws emptied beaches and The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty inspired a global insomnia epidemic, while the more faint of heart became engrossed in sudsy sagas like The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullogh and Judith Krantz’s Scruples.
Several authors who would go on to become household names made their debuts in the ’70s, including Don DeLillo (1971), Stephen King (1974), and Anne Rice (1976).

Around the traps, what the usual suspects are up to. Mark Steyn . Spiked? . The Spectator, the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, The Institute for Public Affairs IPA. The Centre for Independent Studies. The Sydney Institute. And Jo Nova on another South Australian blackout and other things.

History. A tribute to Keith Hancock (the other one), possibly our greatest historian. Author of a great book on Australia in 1930. The chapter on protectionism. Note the anticipation of public choice theory. A collection of Rafe’s Roundups from the ’90s.

Gratuitous advertising. Stocking stuffers for xmas.

Posted in Rafe, Rafe's Roundups | 6 Comments

Open Forum: December 3, 2016

Posted in Open Forum | 1,443 Comments

If you need storage, consider…

If this government stood for anything, it would have abolished or defunded the pointless busy body, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (Orwell, eat your heart out).

A creation of the Gillard government, it has achieved absolutely nothing apart from giving gender equality a bad name, bleating on about the gender pay gap (while ignoring the literature which tells us that the gender pay gap can be explained by the known characteristics) and imposing considerable costs on companies asking unanswerable questions.

Of course, the HR twinks in many of these companies think all these inquiries are great because it gives them something to do.  But there are plenty of companies that take a very dim view of this sort of intrusion and simply cut and paste the answers from the previous year and/or make up the answers.  The data are hopeless inaccurate, something the WGEA completely ignores.

I should also point out that there are much better sources of data courtesy of the ABS on all the topics covered by the WGEA.

And then there is the Hall of Shame (or should that be Fame) of companies that refuse to hand over this private information to the overwhelmingly female staff of the WGEA (where’s the diversity????).

But like all authoritarian busy bodies whose powers are not quite as coercive as the bosses wish, there are ways:

“Non-compliant organisations may not be eligible to tender for contracts under Commonwealth and some state procurement frameworks, and may not be eligible for some Commonwealth grants or other financial assistance,” the report warns.

All together now:



Storage king hits out at gender cop

Kennards Self Storage MD Sam Kennard

SELF-STORAGE mogul Sam Kennard has lashed out at the government’s gender equality watchdog after his business was “named and shamed” for not filling a complicated annual questionnaire.

In its latest annual report, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency has published the names of businesses which fell foul of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.

Under the law, companies with more than 100 employees are required to lodge a report with the WGEA every year detailing “gender equality indicators” such as male-to-female ratios and salaries. The WGEA itself, which costs taxpayers $5 million a year to run, employs five male and 25 female staff.

Among the 74 businesses deemed “non-compliant” by the WGEA this year include household names like Kennards Self Storage, Bing Lee, Vittoria Coffee, Palace Cinemas and Sportsmans Warehouse. Also named were the likes of Williams-Sonoma, EB Games, and a number of plumbing, cleaning, freight and transport companies.

“Non-compliant organisations may not be eligible to tender for contracts under Commonwealth and some state procurement frameworks, and may not be eligible for some Commonwealth grants or other financial assistance,” the report warns.

Mr Kennard, who contested Joe Hockey’s North Sydney seat in the December 2015 by-election for the Liberal Democrats, said the WGEA was an organisation “dripping with hypocrisy” that “should be abolished”.

“My company does not discriminate for race, age, sex or religion,” he said.

“If someone has a good attitude, not afraid of work and willing to learn they’re a starter in our view. This is not a particularly profound or enlightened perspective — it is just common sense. It is good for business.

“I can confirm that we do discriminate against time-wasting bureaucracies. The WGEA is a prime example of unnecessary government intrusion into the activities of businesses. My business has much more productive endeavours to pursue than filling out paperwork for government agencies like WGEA.

Mr Kennard said his company was challenged enough to “make our business better, to give customers a better experience and to operate efficiently without distractions like this”. “The WGEA impost is 100 per cent pure overhead,” he said.

“While politicians and economists lament the declining productivity in our economy, it is exactly this red-tape and the imposts of these bureaucracies that tax the efforts of enterprise. If the government was serious about tackling productivity it would get out of our way — it would abolish the WGEA and the abundance of other regulations they lay on.

“I am personally driven to the see the best outcomes for my business and believe strongly that good performance should be encouraged and rewarded irrespective of sex. We are conscious of HR shortcomings, appreciate the challenges and work to overcome them.”

Mr Kennard added that it was “pleasing that there are plenty of non-taxpayer funded advocates for the success of women, which further emphasises that this is an area the government does not need to participate in”.

Meanwhile, Mia Johannsen, head of people and culture at Palace Cinemas, said the company was deemed non-compliant because it wasn’t willing to share “private individual salary information” with the WGEA.

“Initially we did send through some information regarding gender split and the different roles, but we didn’t want to comment with anything confidential such as the private salaries of our employees,” she said.

“We employ more females than males, 53 per cent to 47 per cent, so obviously we are completely for gender equality. We have many women in senior management, including myself.”

Ms Johannsen said Palace Cinemas “regret being labelled as non-compliant”. “It would be a lot easier if the process was simpler,” she said.

“The process to be able to lodge all of this information was very long and extensive and it took days for my predecessor to even locate that information, so I think that was the issue [in previous years].”

Posted in Uncategorized | 43 Comments

Guest Post: Arky on the road

It is now one year since the Victorian government introduced a law on “lane filtering”:

Under the new regulations, riders can filter in Victoria where safe to do so and at no more than 30km/h.

While not explicitly banned, riders who previously filtered were at risk of committing an offence under a number of Victorian Road Safety Road Rules, causing frustration between road users.

The Government introduced the filtering regulations to improve safety for everyone on Victorian roads and encourages all road users to be aware of the new laws.

The Government has consulted with the community on the changes, with a community meeting in June and over 1,000 online survey responses.

Lane splitting – which is weaving between traffic at speeds greater than 30km/h – will remain illegal because of the danger it poses to all road users.
During this past year I personally have watched three motorcyclists crash, including one fatality.

In 2015 28 motorcyclists died on Victorian roads.

So far in 2016, with peak motorcycle season still to commence, 48 motorcyclists have died on the roads.

It would be reasonable to project by years end, this will be roughly a doubling of motorcycle fatalities.

Change in motorcyclist’s behaviour has been abrupt and marked. I drive over 1000 Km per week. Motorcyclists now routinely weave in and out of fast moving traffic on freeways, whereas in the past they kept mainly to the right of the lane they travelled in and used their superior acceleration to get ahead of and out of traffic from the lights.

(It was always a delight to watch a skilled motorcyclist wheelie away at the turn of the green.)

This a good example of how introducing a law has the opposite of the desired effect.
The government and experts probably thought that regulating lane splitting at a safe limit would reduce fatalities.

This is because they view citizens as automatons, and the law as the software to run those automatons.

Whereas citizens are actually humans who make decisions based on a wide range of reasons.

And some of the humans who ride motorcycles do so because they enjoy the perception of increased risk.

(It is unlikely they enjoy the real consequences of actual risk: laying dead on the side of the road.)

They do not view the law as a blueprint for their actions. But they are swayed by the existence of a law. You see, when government, with the backing of academics makes itself out to be expert on a topic, the citizen takes that into account in his decision making.

Motorcyclists now believe that experts have declared lane splitting to be “safe” at up to 30kph.

Motorcyclists, being natural risk takers, make the decision that if lane splitting is “safe” at 30kph, then weaving in and out of traffic at 120kph is roughly in line with their desired risk level.

There is good reason to think that governments are better off not making laws, rather than making laws to regulate behaviour citizens have already figured out fairly well for themselves.

Citizens understand that there is a blurred line of right and wrong, risk and reward. When the government by law draws a line, the citizen, not being autistic, believes they can usually push slightly over that line.

20 people in Victoria this year have found this is not the case, and rather than changing behaviour in response to law, and pushing slightly over the line drawn by government, better to figure things out for themselves.

Posted in Guest Post | 34 Comments