But, but, but … peer review.

Dick Puddlecote draws our attention to a very amusing editorial in Tobacco Control.

Despite careful review and selection procedures, no journal can guarantee that everything published is accurate, or that all readers will agree with the authors’ interpretation of findings.

Really? So the peer review process at Tobacco Control does what exactly?

While the editors make decisions about what is and is not published in this forum, these decisions are made with expert advice and balancing many factors-–—including research quality, contributions to the field, innovation, international impact and policy relevance.

Let me interpret that:

While the editors make decisions about what is and is not published in this forum, these decisions are made with expert advice and balancing many factors-–—including research quality, contributions to the field, innovation, international impact and policy relevance conforming with our pre-conceived biases.

Moving along.

Recent comments posted on some personal blogs impugn the objectivity of Tobacco Control and its reviewers, questioning our motives and the veracity of peer review.

No! Shocking. Do these people have no shame? Oh, wait. Not just on blogs, but whole working papers too.

The whole editorial is the most amazing read – turns out it’s not the editors fault that the journal has poor and sloppy research articles; its the authors’ and the reviewers’ fault. Small wonder they can’t get reviewers.

Posted in Plain Packaging, Shut it down. Fire them all., Take Nanny down | 11 Comments

Kenneth Arrow 1921 – 2017

The famous post-war neo-classical economist Ken Arrow has passed away at the age of 95.

Update: Harry Clarke has a nice post dealing with Arrow’s contribution.

Posted in Economics and economy | 5 Comments

Wednesday Forum: January 22, 2017

Posted in Open Forum | 2,217 Comments

How much?

Another day and anther bunch of do-gooder tax-seeking statists arguing that a tax will make the world a wonderful and safe place. This time it is an obesity tax.

 WHEN two out of three Australian adults and one in four children are overweight or obese, it’s clear we have a problem.

Note the lack of a clear definition – actually any definition – of what constitutes “obesity”. Just that about 66 per cent of the population have it.

Luckily there is a cure. No. Not more exercise and less eating – but a tax.

We modelled the effects of adding a tax to foods based on saturated fat, salt and sugar content, adding a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and subsidising fruits and vegetables.

Of course you did.  It’s not that I’m opposed to modelling, but I do so prefer actual empirical analysis of real world situations. Like the introduction of the GST, for example.  Anyway – moving along – what did the modelling find?

We found that a carefully designed package of taxes and subsidies could have a clear health benefit for Australians — an extra 2.1 healthy years of life for every 100 Australians. The impact on household food expenditure would be less than 1 per cent.

It would also free as much as $3.4 billion in healthcare expenditure over the remaining life of all Australians alive in 2010.

Alright people – contain your excitement.

Note the unusual turn of phrase: “an extra 2.1 healthy years of life for every 100 Australians” and ” as much as $3.4 billion in healthcare expenditure over the remaining life of all Australians alive in 2010“.

So how many years of extra life is that? Hard to actually work out – is it 2.1 years per 100 Australians, like we have to share it? I’m happy to be corrected in the thread, but I reckon that is about one week each. Perhaps it is 23 million Australians divided by 100 and then multiplied by 2.1. If that is the calculation then the population will live in total (and in their model) for 483,000 years longer than before the tax. On average that still turns out to be a week each.

How much money are we saving? Now note – our do-gooder friends never ever say, “We could reduce the health budget by 3.4 billion per annum and cut taxes for those healthy eat less and exercise more types who are doing the right thing by the government.” Oh no. How I understand this statement is that they have used 2010 as their base year. There are a number of Australians alive in that year (say 23 million) and they all have a finite of years to live. So the model defines a total number of living years (maybe they call it years of life). So lets guesstimate that number: 23 million people by (say) 45 years. So that works out to 1,035,000,000 years of life in the model. The tax saves $3.4 billion over 1.035 billion years of life.  (If you don’t like the 45 year expected life span substitute another number).

In English – you are being asked to pay a tax that will, on average, save the health budget $3.29 over the remainder of your expected life. Not $3.29 per year, but over the remainder of your life.

Hardly seems worth it.

Update: Threadster Mundi reckons I have miscalculated – (s)he reckons it is $3.29 per year of life, so you would save the health budget $148.05 over your expected life time.  Still too hard to get excited.

Posted in Take Nanny down, Taxation | 128 Comments

Renewable Energy – Good for jobs, Good for Business

This morning Coca Cola announced the closure of its manufacturing plant in South Australia resulting in the loss of 200 jobs in the state with the highest rate of unemployment.

Always on the ball, South Australian Premier Weatherill recommitted the state to a 50 per cent renewable energy target the day prior.

Posted in Uncategorized | 65 Comments

Can you repeat the following with a straight face

Writing for the Inner Sydney Morning Herald, Mark Kenny “opines” on the Labor left proposal for a “Buffett Rule”.

What is Kenny drinking or smoking when he writes :

Should Labor embrace the idea (of a Buffett rule), it will win plaudits but put at risk its hard-won reputation as pro-aspirational, pro-wealth accumulation, pro-business.

If Labor ever had such a “hard-won reputation”, Labor surrendered it in 1991.  To claim that the party of carbon tax, mining tax, pink batts, school halls, BER, $900 cheques dropped from the sky, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan, Kim Carr is pro-aspirational, pro-wealth accumulation, pro-business is just delusional.  Pro-business.  Are you kidding me?

With regard to a “Buffett Rule”, perhaps it should be explained better.  IT is a super tax on those poor sops who can’t structure their affairs to reflect their earnings as capital rather than income, should be tax at a higher rate.  Because this is what the avuncular Buffett does.

What seems long forgotten in the Hawke-Keating-Labor legacy that was fiscally responsible was the work done on structural reform and spending reform.  The work to get government spending well under the current 26% of GDP and much closer to 22.  The only reforms proposed by the LAG coalition (Labor and Green), and honestly the LNP coalition, is tax more and spend more.  That’s not reform.

Clearly Kenny’s definition of the word “reputation” must be misunderstood because if Labor has a reputation of being  pro-aspirational, pro-wealth accumulation, pro-business then Kenny has a reputation of being a balanced and brilliant commentator.  Not!

Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments

It is the end of times (or something)

Two op-eds have caught my eye today.

The first by Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times and reproduced in the AFR:

The idea that the middle-class and the young will always be the most stalwart supporters of democracy is also looking increasingly rocky. 

The erosion of democratic values in the west was outlined last year in a much-discussed article by the academics Roberto Foa and Yascha Mounk, writing before the election of Donald Trump. The article highlighted the rise of anti-democratic sentiments in both the US and Europe.

Rachman describes democracy in broad terms – so not just regular election, but including the norms of western civilisation like the rule of law and so on.

Joseph Schumpeter argued:

Lawless violence the bourgeois stratum may accept or even applaud when thoroughly roused or frightened, but only temporarily.

Western values are being eroded because we have failed to practice those values. For a generation (or more) we have become accustomed to being frightened. Our governments have made full use of “the crisis” to introduce draconian legislation, to give itself greater powers to “protect” us from danger. The routine reversal of the onus of proof, the removal of the right to silence, the expansion of the administrative state, etc. etc. are all mechanisms whereby our own democratic institutions have undermined their own legitimacy.  If our own institutions do not practice and uphold our own values why are we surprised to see them eroding.

That brings me to the second op-ed; Bret Stephens writing in the WSJ:

There was a time when the West knew what it was about. It did so because it thought about itself—often in freshman Western Civ classes. It understood that its moral foundations had been laid in Jerusalem; its philosophical ones in Athens; its legal ones in Rome. It treated with reverence concepts of reason and revelation, freedom and responsibility, whose contradictions it learned to harmonize and harness over time. It believed in the excellence of its music and literature, and in the superiority of its political ideals. It was not ashamed of its prosperity. If it was arrogant and sinful, as all civilizations are, it also had a tradition of remorse and doubt to temper its edges and broaden its horizons. It cultivated the virtue of skepticism while avoiding the temptation of cynicism.

And it believed all of this was worth defending—in classrooms and newspapers and statehouses and battlefields.

We’ve since raised generations to believe none of this, only to be shocked by the rise of anti-Western politics. If you want children to learn the values of a civilization that can immunize them from a Trump, a Le Pen or a Lavrov, you can start by teaching it.

I realise that it is becoming incresingly popular to blame our civilisational and cultural malaise on immigration and “peaceful invasion” and the like, but both of these arguments suggest that we should look to ourselves.  These two authors are speaking in terms of Donald Trump’s election. One of them, at least – I think, sees his election as a cause of collapse, many around here see his election as the solution to collapse, while I think is is merely a symptom.

Posted in Cultural Issues, History, Libertarians don't live by argument alone, Oppressive government | 92 Comments

The Swedish model

One day the media will actually hit on a genuine scandal and we will never hear the end of it. They are trying as best they can and have gone through Russia hacked the election, then Mike Flynn, and now yesterday’s non-terrorist non-horror in Sweden. So far, not only have they come up with nothing they have tended to harden the Trump side of the political divide. The Swedish example is an interesting one since it is impossible not to know the problems its immigration problems have caused. But a loose word and the jackals of the press are there in pack numbers.

There is then this, going back to Mike Flynn which has led to this article, President Trump Has Been Far Too Nice To The Mainstream Media, in this instance in relation to the electronic eavesdropping on Trump’s National Security Advisor prior to his appointment.

Here’s the real story – the intelligence community under the Obama administration was obviously eavesdropping on Trump’s campaign in violation of practically every law ever written. Whether it was direct tapping of phones and emails, or illegally accessing the communications swooped up by the NSA in its nets, it’s clear that Obama’s people were spying on Obama’s political opponents. The transcript excerpts of Flynn’s phone call with the Russian diplomat leaked because it could be played off as targeting the Russian, though this was still an outrageous disclosure of American spying capabilities. What these criminals can’t do is release the communications between Americans that they possess because doing that confirms what we all know – that Obama’s people spied on his political opponents like his IRS persecuted them. The only question really is what did Obama know, and when did he know it – interestingly, on his way out the door, Obama made it easy to hide the source of the leaks by opening up access to the information across a bunch of agencies. There’s your story, a scandal that makes Watergate seem microscopic, and the mainstream media will not touch it because it would destroy the media’s political allies.

That is true, and everyone understands it perfectly well, but where are the media hounds when we have a story bigger than Watergate?

The true measure of each story’s significance is that the media – meaning the left – still get to decide what is and what is not news, what is and what is not a scandal, and it is still able to enforce what it decides on our daily conversations. And while the left never relents and never appears to learn, the right has its traitors who would do anything for a favourable mention on the news tonight.

Posted in American politics, Media | 17 Comments

Guest Post: Nathan Dyson Freedoms and Fines: NSW growing fine revenue

As Australians we often take for granted the extensive public services that we receive for a subsidised or free price. What we sometimes forget is how these services are being paid for and by whom. Like every state and territory in Australia, a significant proportion of the annual budget is paid for by revenue received through fines. The regulations and laws from which these fines derive limit our freedom and restrict the kinds of choices we can make in life. In New South Wales the extent of this restriction reached $463 million in the 2015/16 financial year. This leads one to question the efficacy and motivations behind the existence of these fines.

The table and graph below display the amount of revenue from fines during the financial years 2011/12 to 2016/17. The obvious trend is that each year fine revenue increases by a significant percentage. Within the five years from 2011/12 to 2015/16 there was a 32% increase in fine revenue.

*The 2016/17 financial year only includes months July to November of 2016


To try and identify a cause for such a high increase in fine revenue, the NSW population growth rate and inflation rate were collected and listed in the table below. It was found that only a relatively small population and inflation growth rate existed between these years. The reason behind this high increase in fine revenue is therefore dubious. It leads one to question whether this derives from people in NSW performing finable actions more often or due to increasing revenue raising efforts.

It is often debated that these regulations and laws are intended for the safety of the public. However, the cost of this intention is that our choices and freedoms are severely limited. When we see $463 million (approximately $200 from each household) of the state’s revenue coming from fines alone, it signifies the extent of restriction on our freedoms. Below is a list of only a few of these prior freedoms that are deemed ‘illegal’.

It may also be the case that the revenue raised through these fines are merely a substitution for increasing taxes. Tax hikes are unpopular and by implementing more regulation and laws that subject the individual to fines, the government can avoid such unpopularity. In 2015/16, an average $200 is furtively extracted from each household. At times, there are government actions that lead to increased electricity, grocery and transport prices – which often leads to public outrage. However, there is almost no discussion surrounding the increase of fines and the financial burden this puts on Australians.

It is clear that over-regulation and prohibition of our personal freedoms have gone overboard. Making choices for ourselves are prohibited even when there is clearly no risk of harm to another person. We should therefore ask ourselves whether these fines are in our best interest. For if we remain content with this way of thinking, we will continue on this slippery slope of overregulation.

Nathan Dyson is an intern at The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance


*All information relating to population and CPI rates was collected from the Australian Bureau of Statistics

* All information relating to fines revenue was collected from the NSW Office of State Revenue


Posted in Guest Post, Take Nanny down | 81 Comments

Q&A Forum: February 20, 2017

Posted in Open Forum | 224 Comments