Pelling the Cat on Regulation

Sinc had an interesting post about regulators looking for trouble and comparing it to Victoria Police pursuing Pell. I would define the problem a little differently to Sinc based on my experience consulting to a few regulatory agencies in the past. The problem is accountability in the age of empire building. To the extent that regulators look for trouble it is not to prosecute it but to further the goal of regulatory creep in the realm of soft regulation (expansion of big government).

Once upon a time regulation was confined to what today bureaucrats call the unfashionable activity of “hard regulation”. That is inspections, assessments, investigations, and enforcement (more or less). Hard regulation is more akin to to the role of the High Court in Sinc’s analogy because it demands the application of “black letter” law and hence necessitates a higher standard of proof for a successful prosecution.

Precisely because it is hard (and prosecutions often unsuccessful) regulatory agencies have overwhelmingly shifted their focus and manpower to soft regulation. Soft regulation involves vagaries around industry codes of conduct, best practise, self-regulation, and building awareness. It is virtual signalling in the regulatory/corporate space and explains a lot why corporations are increasingly shills to government  on social issues (e.g. climate, diversity, first peoples, SSM etc).

Soft regulation is a win-win for government, large corporations and the bureaucracy. For government soft regulation dumbs down accountability standards. Success can be measured in terms of activity rather than outcomes. Large corporations prefer soft regulation because it makes it easy for industry capture and locks smaller competitors out of the market. Bureaucrats love soft regulation for the same reasons as government but better still it enables endless opportunities for mission creep, not to mention lucrative private sector opportunities through all the cosy industry engagement it fosters.

It is soft regulation that looks for trouble, which is to say that it looks for make work activity associated with grievance or victim politics and virtue signalling. Victoria Police went after Pell along these lines because it was easier to play politics than be out on the beat doing good old fashioned law enforcement. Victoria Police are just another institution captured by the Left and because they prioritise politics above law, with a “whatever it takes” mentality (i.e. Lawyer X), they are pushing Australia that ever bit closer to a police state, illustrated by all police forces around the nation overzealously enforcing (in many cases absurd) social distancing dictates akin to the Stasi.

Posted in Economics and economy, Rule of law | 19 Comments

John Comnenus: Never Again – What we must learn from COVID-19

The most important thing we need to learn from the COVID 19 experience is we need to find a better way of dealing with the next pandemic.

There is an exceptionally high probability that we will face another pandemic in the coming years. Australia cannot respond to a COVID 21 or SARS 25 in the same way we responded to COVID 19. We simply won’t be able to afford it.

We need to study the full range of international responses to COVID 19, from total lock down responses like the UK to the almost do nothing response of Sweden. We need to do so to learn how to more efficiently respond to the next pandemic. We can’t repeat a response that costs 20%-30% of GDP, causes a massive economic contraction, creates 20% unemployment and puts over 50% of the workforce on wage subsidies. We simply can’t afford to respond in this way ever again. We need to task our best and brightest to find a better way.

The only caveat to this is if we rapidly start to relax the current measures and avoid the massive costs and economic consequences the government currently plans to inflict on us. The longer the government delays the reopening of business, the greater the damage, the higher the total cost to respond to COVID 19 and the slower the recovery will be. As for paying back the debt – it won’t happen in my life time.

Posted in COVID-19, Guest Post | 41 Comments

Booth blowhard bothered by Bolt

Paws of fury: Singo’s house cat lashes out                                                                                      

RAY Hadley has refused to give Andrew Bolt a live right of reply on 2GB after maliciously accusing the Herald Sun columnist and blogger of being a serial defender of paedophiles. Like other disk-jockey bovver-boys with a track record of treating weaker human beings like garbage, Hadley likes to show off his deep concern for child welfare and his emphatic loathing for abusers. I don’t doubt his sincerity on this. Good for him. But his stance is not exactly rare. It is the default attitude of virtually the entire adult population. To paraphrase a wonderful line by flawed cop Russell Crowe’s estranged wife during a courtroom custody hearing in American Gangster: Hadley lays it on thick regarding children for one reason – to buy being an asshole on everything else. Bolt is not a professing Christian, let alone a Catholic, and wouldn’t imperil his reputation by defending a fellow non-leftist credibly in the frame for such crimes. Hadley is living proof the Peter principle is no straitjacket to the ambitious. He rose to his level of incompetence at the Dapto dogs but he didn’t stay there.


On the subject of Cardinal Pell and blowhards, I also note for the record that Malcolm Turnbull – a new chum to Catholicism whose conversion unkind observers regard as less than abyssal – has this morning outsourced a reaction to the most historic acquittal of a falsely convicted man in Australian history. “Well said, Julia.” That’s all, folks – from the celebrated silk of the Spy Catcher trial.

I recently praised Ms Gillard for not becoming in prime ministerial retirement like Messrs Turnbull, Rudd and Keating whose ego-fuelled interventions and bitter commentaries blight the nation’s discourse. Here, though, she uses the cynical, half-smart Daniel Andrews tactic of not discussing Pell v The Queen at all but playacting unctuous concern for victims of sexual abuse. But the one has nothing to do with the other. So let me script for these sore losers a proper, dignified response: ‘Today is not the day to talk about child sexual abuse, important though it is. Today we acknowledge that false accusations – not least when promoted by police, politicians and journalists to further an ideological cause – are a serious threat to human rights and the rule of law. We rejoice that Cardinal George Pell was spared any further agony and re-dedicate ourselves to safeguarding the impartial administration of justice. To Cardinal Pell: we are sorry.’

Posted in Australian Story, Politics of the Left | 74 Comments

Are High Court Judges not experts?

Daniel Andrews and other members of the political elite are always crapping on about trusting the experts and taking expert advice and so on. Well here is Mr I-take-expert-advice himself:

There’s been a decision and I don’t want to find myself in contempt of the High Court, so I won’t make any comments about that …

Now I’d have a bit more sympathy for Andrews if he had come out saying that he is the premier of a government whose police force and criminal justice system had just been completely humiliated and his government, not to mention taxpayers, were now on the hook for millions of dollars in compensation and he didn’t want to inflame the situation.

I’m surprised by this statement:

… we need to face up to the fact that there are people – some are in jail, some are free men – who moved predators around working class parishes for decades, and others who knew that it was going on, actually facilitated it, and whether they’re in jail or not, they’ll have to go to their maker knowing that they did those sorts of things.

So if he knows there are law-breakers who are currently “free men” why haven’t they been arrested and prosecuted? Andrews could get the police to take valuable time from harassing teenage girls to go arrest these people. We know they’re going to be at home.

Posted in Hypocrisy of progressives | 41 Comments

So how will things now change?

Obviously not guilty from the start. And as sinister as the entire episode has been, possibly the most sinister part is that one’s political beliefs are an almost perfect dye marker for how one receives the decision. For the left, it is symbolism alone that matters. On the right, it is that justice has finally been done. The left will attack you for your class membership in whatever way they wish to define you. There are no individual rights nor individual responsibility. This is the way of the left who are totalitarian through and through.

The left are a gang of ideological thugs who roam in packs. To the left, paedophilia is wrong, George Pell was accused of paedophilia, George Pell is a Catholic archbishop, therefore George Pell was guilty, irrespective of the virtual impossibility of his being actually guilty of the crime. It is the justice of the accusation, the Lubyanka, the show trial and bullet to the head. Not quite there yet, but they have effectively ruined Pell’s career, and have provided an exemplary lesson for anyone who falls outside the permitted norms as laid down by the left.

If this has been a learning experience, it is a learning experience for us. This is the Press Release from Daniel Andrews. Try finding an ounce of remorse in this meaningless statement:

I make no comment about today’s High Court decision. But I have a message for every single victim and survivor of child sex abuse: I see you. I hear you. I believe you.

And this is the only comment I can find from the Prime Minister, and there was no press release I could turn up.

The decision of the ‘highest court in the land must be respected’.

This was a handy dandy comment that could have been written a week ago. Works whichever way the decsion might have gone. As vacuous a form of words as could possibly have been constructed.

What should change? The ABC should have its charter revised so that it can only present cultural forms of entertainment. It should be forbidden to present news and political commentary.

And what will be changed? Nothing.

Morrison seems to take his lead in almost everything from Daniel Andrews, whether this decision in the High Court or in how to deal with the Corona Virus. What Morrison personally believes about anything political I really could not say.

Posted in Australian Story | 42 Comments

Victoria Police are not alone …

… this is how the regulatory state operates.

First – let Greg Craven describe how the Pell case went down:

The inescapable conclusion is that Pell was prosecuted on an unwinnable charge for two reasons: first, that there were those within the justice system, particularly the police, who were determined to destroy him; second, that there was a large segment of the media, fuelled by the police and “victims’ lawyers”, that so clamoured for Pell’s conviction that the weaknesses of the case against him were drowned out by howls of accusation.

But with Pell, the police pursued him relentlessly, improperly and publicly. Repeatedly, the ­Office of Public Prosecutions ­refused to put the police charges. Finally, the police themselves forced its hand.

The same police force that stalked Pell, giving regular press conferences along the way referring to his “victims”, and briefing selected journalists, is now the subject of a royal commission, ­effectively into their use of a defence lawyer as an informant.

This is less a culture than a drain.

Now just to be clear on what happened – here is their ABC:

Detectives have been accused of “single-mindedly” pursuing charges against Cardinal George Pell as a Melbourne court heard Victoria Police set up a taskforce to investigate Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric before receiving a complaint against him.

Details about the police probe, Operation Tethering, were revealed in court for the first time on Wednesday as one of the detectives who flew to Rome to question the Cardinal gave evidence.

Detective Superintendent Paul Sheridan told the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court that the investigation into Cardinal Pell began in March 2013 to ascertain whether he had committed crimes which had gone unreported.

Victoria Police opened an investigation into an Australian citizen to determine whether “he had committed crimes which had gone unreported One would have thought that there is good reason why we might have social conventions against such behaviour – even laws against the fabrication of evidence,  but it turns out that proponents of the regulatory state view this sort of thing as a feature and not a bug.

Harvard economist Andrei Shleifer (with various co-authors) has written a lot on regulation and the regulatory state (he has written a lot about a lot of other stuff too). In a 2001 paper (with Ed Glaeser and Simon Johnson) he sets out a model of enforcement that trades-off incentives between judge-enforced regulation and bureaucracy-enforced regulation.

In our view, the crucial distinction between judges and regulators is that the latter can be more easily provided with incentives to punish violations of particular statutes. Judges, in contrast, are by design more independent and therefore harder to motivate. The stronger incentives of the regulators have the benefit of bringing about more aggressive enforcement than can be achieved through courts.

Yet these incentives also have the potential cost of excessively aggressive enforcement when regulators motivated to find violations penalize innocent suspects. There is thus a trade-off between enforcement by judges facing relatively weak but unbiased incentives and enforcement by regulators facing stronger but possibly biased incentives.

That is the problem – regulators (and the police are particular regulators) are “motivated to find violations”. They go out and look for trouble even when there might be none. Thinks about the police fining 17 year old learner drivers and the like. They then penalise “innocent suspects”.

Regulatory agencies don’t wait for trouble to manifest itself – they go looking for trouble. Given how bureaucracies are funded it is unsurprising then that they find trouble.

So anyone who is appalled by Pell’s treatment at the hands of the police should know that every other regulatory agency in Australia behaves in the same way.

That, of course, does not absolve the rest of the Victorian criminal justice for its catastrophic failure in the Pell case.

Posted in Economics and economy, Rule of law | 14 Comments

Protecting The Shutdown

The problem of states now having a huge vested interest in managing c-v death statistics had occurred to me:

Guidelines recently released by the Centers for Disease Control bolster concerns that the death toll is being rigged to show a higher fatality rate. “In cases where a definite diagnosis of COVID-19 cannot be made, but it is suspected or likely (e.g., the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), it is acceptable to report COVID-19 on a death certificate as ‘probable’ or ‘presumed’,” the agency advises. “In these instances, certifiers should use their best clinical judgment in determining if a COVID-19 infection was likely.”

That clinical judgment, alarmingly, does not require administering a test to confirm the presence of the virus.

“Ideally, testing for COVID-19 should be conducted, but it is acceptable to report COVID-19 on a death certificate without this confirmation if the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty,” the guidelines state…

Note that I said a vested interest in managing the statistics. I didn’t say boosting them. The political balancing act requires governments to frighten the public enough to justify destroying the economic lives of their citizens while also assuring the public that, sans shut-downs, the fatalities would definitely have been Even Worse. Both narratives will get an airing for months to come depending on the circumstances.

Posted in COVID-19 | 15 Comments

Predictable: legal team opts for boilerplate ‘high bar’ lament

Found out in the end, Cardinal George Pell’s accuser – no doubt briefed by his lawyer on PR tonality – pretends the system is to blame for not sustaining a bullshit story like his:

It is difficult in child sex abuse matters to satisfy a criminal court that the offending has occurred beyond the shadow of a doubt. It is a very high standard to meet – a very heavy burden. There are a lot of checks and balances in the criminal justice system and the appeal process is one of them. I respect that.”

Also predictably, “J” urges sexual abuse victims – presumably, he means real ones – not to be discouraged from coming forward to report their experiences to authorities. Thanks largely to the orchestrated travesty he was at the centre of, however, the lives and well-being of such people are now at far graver risk than before. It is by no means extravagant to argue the sinister Get Pell campaign will destroy, even kill, many people deserving justice. Instead of “I’m OK” neurotic waffle, “J” should have said sorry, explained why he did it, perhaps even shed light on the extent to which he was manipulated and by whom. That would be a real service to the truly vulnerable. It would reassure them that the fate of false claims needn’t be the fate of their genuine ones.

Posted in Australian Story, Ethics and morality | 38 Comments

Wednesday Forum: April 8, 2020

Posted in Open Forum | 1,521 Comments

Life goes on in the country. Meet Ted Trainer

Ted Trainer came under attack  from a major academic promoter of zero emissions. Years ago Ted wrote a paper that pointed to problem with getting to 100% RE, including the choke point factor. Chasing up the Trainer reference I realised that this was the man who achieved a public profile in the early days of environmentalism and then disappeared.

He is living the sustainable dream at Pigface Point, near East Hills on the bank of  Georges River 20 km from the centre of Sydney. He has a series of pictures to explain how it all works, well worth a look unlike the video link below.  You have to love the accommodation for the chooks!

This is a slow-moving and rather boring tour of the site with Ted’s detailed account of  the rationale for his experiment. Not recommended for busy Cats unless they have run out of jigsaw puzzles and lego to pass the time in lockdown, Shock horror, we are running out of oil and other resources.

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy, Rafe | 9 Comments