A quote for current times

From here:

… the enemy of populism isn’t the right wing or the left wing — the enemy of populism is liberalism, understood here not in the demented sense we use it in U.S. politics (where liberals are the people opposed to liberalism) but in its proper sense, meaning the classical liberal regime of property rights, free enterprise, free trade, individual rights, and a worldview based on well-ordered liberty emphasizing cooperation within and between nations.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Hello World. Goodbye Sanity.

Spoiler alert.

In the most recent, 3rd version, of the A Star Is Born movie, there is a scene where the Bradley Cooper character gets up on stage at an awards night, before millions of viewers, and voids his bladder.  Wets himself, pees in his pants, let’s it go.

This scene came to TAFKAS’ mind when reading about Labor’s reaction to the Singapore trip of Matthias Cormann and the alleged “Hockey affair”.  The “Hockey affair” relates to the alleged conduct of Mr Joe Hockey engaged in his capacity as Australian Ambassador to the USA.  And please remember, this is the same Joe Hockey whose list of achievements as Treasurer include …..????? (anyone who can provide a list of achievements qualifies for a free 12 month subscription to Catallaxy Files).

But talk about forest for the trees.  The reason that Hello World is top of mind is because, according to the AFR, Hello World has

a $1 billion government contract for public service travel

A $1 billion contract for public service travel.  That implies that it does not even include Ministerial and Ministerial staff travel.  A $1 billion government contract for public service travel.  FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!

Can you imagine what would happen to Australia’s carbon emissions if this $1 billion was zeroed out.

But here are some other ways to express $1 billion of public service travel:

  • 5 million return trips between Sydney or Melbourne and Canberra per annum or 13,700 return trips per day.
  • 100,000 first class return trips to London per annum or 275 per day.
  • 20% of the cost of a new over priced Sydney Airport.
  • 1.5 new overpriced Sydney Football Stadium.

Can these morons talk about the real stuff.

Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments


The sham that is our modern political systems never ceases to amaze or know any bound.

Recently the Centre for Independent Studies hosted a panel on Women in Politics.  It was a discussion with four very bright, very capable and very talented women.  As the title suggested, the discussion was about how to get more women into politics and parliaments.  Not surprisingly the discussion veered into the differences between the major parties in their approach.

Although the conversation slightly touched on it near the end, there was no real or substantive discussion of WHY there is a movement to get additional women into parliaments.  98% of the discussion was on HOW to get women in parliament, but not WHY.

You’d think this was an important consideration, but it’s not as if HOW takes precedence over WHY in many aspects of political life.  Some of TAFKAS’ favourites include how (not why) to nationalise Australia’s fixed telecommunication network and how (not why) to spend an additional $12 billion of Gonski education money.  Oh and how to build over priced submarines in South Australia.

But back to women in politics and parliament.  There may be many reasons why Australian might benefit from more women in parliament.  Might benefit.  Although they are never articulated, there are 2 reasons that come to TAFKAS’ mind – optics and cognitive diversity.

Whilst TAFKAS thinks optics is a poor reason, it can be argued that humans are more likely to trust people who look like them and have similar life experiences to them.  On the other hand, cognitive diversity; diversity of experience, perspective and understanding, can lead to better problem solving and decision making.

At a time when our political system is suffering from a significant trust deficit and an inability to solve problems and make decisions, one might think that both these things would be good.  Unfortunately though, the way our political parties seek to achieve diversity actually further erodes trust and further reduces cognitive diversity.

Citizens don’t trust a system where preference is given to people because of their chromosomal combinations.  Similarly cognitive diversity is not determined by chromosomal combinations.  A law graduate with no professional experience outside a ministerial or electorate office will not offer any particularly different perspective if they have an XY chromosome combination or XX.

If the political class really wants, real diversity and not just a slightly different means to select from the same ex-staffer pool, then there is solution that would be much more effective than quotas and the other nonsense programs proposed.  It is called sortition.

Populating parliaments with a random selection of citizens from across Australia would deliver better trust in our representatives and greater cognitive diversity.

The only problem with implementing sortition, for the political elite at least, is that there would be fewer professional political, ex-staffer, lawyer, hack, insiders in Parliament.  Male or female.

But sortation is also unlikely to be implemented because the power to implement it rests with those who would be the biggest losers.

Let’s get real.  The current debate about women in politics is not about diversity.  It’s about power and branding for the insider class.  It’s about winning and not losing.  It’s about the insiders and not the outsiders.

Posted in Uncategorized | 41 Comments

Look! Australia is now setting the international standard for green idiocy

From Instapundit.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Australia’s Obsession With Hopelessly Intermittent Wind & Solar Wrecking Entire Power Grid.

Australians once enjoyed affordable power, reliably delivered: the chaotic delivery of wind and solar changed all that. Australian power prices have rocketed out-of-control: its wind and solar power capital, South Australia pays the highest electricity prices, in the world.

Mass power cuts (aka load shedding and demand management) and mass blackouts are the new normal. And yet, the lunatics responsible are hell-bent on doubling down to deliver the final and fatal blow to Australia’s Eastern Grid (geographically, the largest interconnected power grid on the planet).

As Jo Nova explains, electricity generation and delivery is a finely balanced thing; and the sudden massive surges and collapses that are part and parcel of wind and solar generation are taking their toll, with much worse to come.

Ayn Rand didn’t write The Return of The Primitive as a how-to guide.


Plus this from the comments thread among many that discuss Australia including an almost hour long video of Jo Nova herself.

Here’s a map of Australia’s shale gas formations, which are comparable in size to U.S. shale reserves. It’s not a matter of there not being an alternative answer, it’s just a matter of the politicians there to stop buying into the idea that freezing is better than fracking….



Along with this, via Powerline.

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy | 16 Comments

Doubling down on incompetence

What else is he going to say, I suppose, but say it he did: Labor’s record spending while in power has been used as an attack for years. Wayne Swan, responsible for the debt, says he’s proud of it. That is exactly what he said in his Swan Song, his final speech to Parliament.

The man responsible for the billions lost on school halls and pink batts, and up to his ears in the NBN disaster is proud of his legacy of debt and the subsequent years of slow growth. The fall in real incomes across the labour force even today is his legacy. There are unfortunately Keynesians everywhere. But if he thinks he has left behind a how-to manual on dealing with a downturn then that is the greatest worry of all.

Posted in Economics on the left, Federal Politics | 23 Comments

Wednesday Forum: February 20, 2019

Posted in Open Forum | 1,823 Comments

“Illegal and treasonous”

This is no messing around nor are they vague accusations. Why is this not Front Page News day after day? Is it because the media and a large proportion of the Congress are co-conspirators. Here is more of the story but in an out of the way website: Trump accuses Sessions, Rosenstein, and McCabe of ‘illegal and treasonous’ plot to overthrow him.

But the tweets are genuine and the President could not be more clear or direct. You really do need to wonder why this is not the first item in every newscast. If this were in any way a sign that PDT had gone off the deep end it would be. Since the evidence is now so overwhelming that this is actually what took place, why does everyone just seem to do their best to hide this attempted coup in the midst of the American democratic system from view. Does no one really care?

If this was illegal and treasonous, why aren’t these people being arrested? The icy calm in the midst of it, where this is said by the President but no one says or does anything, not even responding to what he said, is bizarre. And there’s nothing I can see at Drudge, Instapundit or Breitbart. It’s a mystery, a complete mystery.

Posted in American politics, Media, Politics of the Left | 34 Comments

Guest Post: Justinian the Great: What About Quality Regulation? The Hard Truth.

Being Justinian the Great I have somewhat of an interest in law and regulation.

An earlier post by TAFKAS (really? Can’t we just go back to calling you Spartacus? Can’t you just admit retirement wasn’t your thing?) caught my attention.

I have no real quarrel with anything Spartacus (am calling a spade a spade here) said per se but I think he misses the point.

To my mind the issue is not about regulation versus deregulation, or “over regulation” versus “under regulation”.

Such an approach reduces the issue of regulation (which is often necessary) to a false zero-sum game and/ or binary choice, i.e. deregulation is good, regulation is bad.

Surely the real issue is about quality of regulation. That means looking at regulation in terms of both political / economic / social principles, cost-benefit, and regulatory approach.

All of the above is sadly lacking in Australia. The most pernicious of the above is approach, by which I mean the shift away from hard regulation towards soft regulation.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Australia is massively over regulated (on soft regulation) and hence like Spartacus I find it incredible that Gitten’s could possibly think the opposite.

That said, the substance (being generous) of Gitten’s article (possibly by accident) seems to be about lack of enforcement by regulators. On this he has a point.

This moves the entire debate to another direction that is not about “over” or “under” regulation but the absence of any consequences for failing to comply with regulations in the first place.

Let’s be honest, it doesn’t mean a brass razoo if we are over regulated in a legal / technical sense if nothing is enforced on the ground.

That is why Josh Frydenberg’s stint as Junior Minister / Parliamentary Secretary for Deregulation was always a joke and his boast of eliminating thousands of regulations totally bogus.

Like “Small Government Agenda” we no longer here about the “Deregulation Agenda” from the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government!

Sure Frydenberg reduced regulation. But only eliminating from the statute books thousands of regulations that were already obsolete, redundant, and hence not enforced in any event.

His deregulatory efforts saved the Commonwealth a very modest sum in terms of printing costs but that is about it. Certainly not the billions in productivity gains as promised.

The real issue / problem is that regulators prefer to build empires out of soft regulation. It is easy, opaque, unaccountable, intrusive, virtue signalling, safe, empowering and profitable.

It is also prone to industry capture, corruption, and rent seeking all of which is more profitable than providing value added products and services customers actually want at a price they are willing to pay.

Soft regulation is all about industry-wide, voluntary codes of conduct (i.e. meaningless and subjective) that typically reward insiders and act as barriers of entry for would be competitors.

Soft regulation activity is focused on “culture” (whatever that means), “education” (i.e. virtual signalling globalism), self-regulation (i.e. hear no evil, see no evil, promises, promises) and so forth.

In other words intangible, unenforceable, unaccountable, make work bullshit.

Even better is the fact that soft regulation costs are passed onto business (and ultimately to consumers) creating perverse, self-funding incentives to further expand empire building indefinitely.

It is great for regulators. Devoid of accountability and outcomes soft regulation pays high salaries and fills out a travel calendar of luxury international conferences, seminars and other self-promoting activities.

Better still it enables regulators a wide degree of latitude in which to embed themselves into any given company’s internal operations.

This enables lucrative networking opportunities and post-regulatory job opportunities. That is, so long as though regulators don’t rock the boat or dare one say bite the hand that feeds them.

Companies know this of course and naturally seduce regulators into the private sector.

Regulators know this too. Soft regulation enables regulators and companies to fraternise for mutual gain in a soft regulatory game played out in the shadows of corporate boardrooms.

Today, most regulators work for the benefit of the regulated, and in doing so improve their own careers and material prospects.

This is how the term “industry capture” came into existence. It is a function of the lucrative transfer of personnel between the regulated and regulators. It is conflict bordering on corruption.

The softer the regulation the better the environment is. Soft regulation is cooperative, opaque, unaccountable and mutually beneficial.

Hard regulation on the other hand (i.e. investigation, enforcement, prosecution) is adversarial and the very opposite of soft regulation.

It is about investigating corporate malfeasance, it does involve sensitive investigations, does lead to enforcement orders and / or the prospect of criminal prosecutions.

Hard regulation involves being unpopular, in highly transparent / public circumstances, and directly accountability for ones actions and outcomes.

It doesn’t involve mission creep. It avoids conflicts of interest involving corporate-regulatory fraternisation and worse still a blurring of roles and responsibilities as soft regulation entails.

In short hard regulation is about being the tough cop on the beat and not a social worker. It is unpopular work and doesn’t pay. It is not a job one builds a fiefdom or network out of.

Any wonder why our regulators prefer to go soft.

The number one glaring omission for the Hayne Royal Commission was anything of substance about the role played by our fat corporate regulators (something Spartacus remains almost alone in covering).

Better regulation, in Justinian the Greats view would be a sharp focus on hard regulation, informed by economic / social / political principles, understood by all, rigorously enforced.

Rigorously enforced that is by lean, competent and fully accountable regulators.

Regulators restricted from entering the private sector in their area of expertise for a period of say 3 years from resigning and vice versa.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Cat of the Day

There must be something in the air today.

On the same day that Dr Steve posted his What is capitalism piece and TAFKAS posted on the regulatory and public policy wisdom of Ross Gittens, TAFKAS will offer a link to another great article by Kevin Williamson from National Review – Capitalism’s Cold War.

But here is Williamson quoting Mercatus scholar Matthew D. Mitchell:

There have now been over 100 peer-reviewed academic studies of targeted subsidies. The overwhelming majority of these fail to find any evidence that subsidies benefit the broader communities that offer them. What does matter is the overall environment. Policymakers who stick to the provision of public goods, keep their taxes low and their regulations reasonable can see their states and cities grow. Those who offer targeted subsidies to high-profile firms like Foxconn and Amazon do nothing to improve the lot of their constituents.

Holden.  Ford.  Toyota.  Lots of people to blame.  Any lessons learned?

Perhaps the relevant State Departments of Other Peoples Money Showering might read some of these peer-reviewed academic studies of targeted subsidies before throwing money at another business.

Yet again Williamson hits it out of the park in yet another compulsory read.  There is much more in this one that this quote, so read for yourself.

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Can we have some evidence

This is from Ross Gittins writing for the NinFax:

But having gone for several decades under-regulating many industries and employers, there’s a high risk we’ll now swing to the opposite extreme of over-regulation.

Really?  “Under-regulating”.

Can someone please point TAFKAS to where under there is under regulation going on.  Is it in financial services, banking, energy, mining, retail, property, transport, airlines, petrol, groceries?  Where is this under regulation?

Unless Gittins defines “under regulation” as the difference between what the level of regulation is and what level of regulation is necessary to put all the businesses in the sector out of business, TAFKAS can’t see it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments