A problem called democracy?

Mike Steketee has a piece at the Australian today talking about Chris Berg’s recent Policy article. All up he has given the piece some serious thought and doesn’t do an obvious hatchet job. But he does introduce the Great Slur.

SOME Liberals, and even a few on the Labor side, regard the Centre for Independent Studies as the repository of their deepest yearnings, offering prospects of uninhibited ideological pleasures, if only voters weren’t watching.

Yes, there is a problem with all this. It’s called democracy.

This is the notion that good policy is inconsistent with democracy, but more importantly that free market and libertarian think tanks are somehow inconsistent with democracy. But there is never any evidence to support such claims just silliness and innuendo. Before I look at Steketee’s analogy, let me deal with the ‘people don’t want open borders argument’.

We are told that open borders would lead to chaos. People don’t like chaos, therefore people don’t like open borders. QED. All very easy; anyone who disagrees is an idiot, or worse, an anti-Australian bigot or libertarian crazy. I understand that logic. But it seems to me that we don’t allow mob prejudice to govern other aspects of our lives and we make arguments and take action to improve and better ourselves.

How much democratic support is there for any particular government policy? For example, if a vote were to be held on the Victorian government’s strict enforcement of speeding policy – would it garner majority support? I would hope so (I actually have little sympathy on that front), but I’m not sure. How much democratic support was there for the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s? The government that introduced them won elections, to be sure, but was there majority support for each and every one of their policies? Probably not. But Paul Keating, and others, got off his bum and went out there and made an argument. To this day Paul Keating defends what he did.

Recently the federal Parliament passed a law banning the death penalty in Australian. This despite the fact that no state or territory had the death penalty on the books, nor had anyone actually been executed in over 40 years. The fear, however, was that some politician could excite the population into voting for the reintroduction of such a policy. So the federal Act is itself anti-democratic. Of course the fact that the death penalty wasn’t on the books in the first place is also anti-democratic because (until recently, at least) there was majority support for the death penalty. Now I’m not suggesting that the death penalty be reintroduced, but I am suggesting that politicians pick and choose the arguments they want to make and the policies they think they can get away with.

Australian politicians think they can get away with racism at the border. This latest development of not processing claims from Afghans and Sri Lankans is just simply appalling. One of the greatest criticisms of the mandatory detention regime has been the delay – amounting to detention without trial. If conditions back home really have improved then send them all back, not just those with slow boats. This new policy is just simply incoherent. Before anyone starts pointing fingers let me say the policy stupidity is bipartisan.

Returning to Steketee’s arguments. He has two strawmen. The first strawman is ‘open borders’. I think people have in mind the Boxing Day sales, or a US land rush, where people queue up and suddenly rush in and grab what they can. I don’t think anyone is proposing that and there is little evidence to suggest that would happen. The US had a very liberal migration program yet maintained health checks and the like, and maintained law and order.

The argument that ‘we’re going to be overrun by {insert favorite bogey group here} makes for a great scare campaign, but where is the evidence that migrants themselves are disruptive as opposed to their Australian born and Australian educated children? I include Anglo-Celts in that question. The bogey-man is going to take your job, make your house unaffordable and add to traffic congestion is an adult version of childrens’ scare tales.

The second strawman relates to ideology.

Berg’s argument also is an example where ideology can lead you. People are dazzled by the beauty of a logical argument. It is classic liberalism that gave us the phenomenon of the self-correcting market, aided by the superior knowledge of economists and mathematicians. Financial markets moved funds around the world with extraordinary speed and efficiency. All risks were offset through infallible financial instruments. Booms were no longer to be followed by busts. Best of all for classic liberals was that governments had no role to play at all, other than butting out. There is no greater thrill than when your prejudices coincide with a theory.

Oh dear. Berg has a logical argument – can’t have that, this is Australia you know. Just what is Sketetee saying? The real problem here is the lazy prejudice and lack of basic knowledge – of course, we shouldn’t be surprised, sometimes correlation is causation.

Classical liberals do not argue that economists have superior knowledge in planning the economy or allocating resources. In fact people like von Mises and Hayek etc. argued the exact opposite in the socialist calculation debate. It is because nobody has enough information to plan and control an economy that markets should be left to do so. Nobody intelligent has ever suggested that financial instruments are infallable. Sketetee just doesn’t know what he talking about. If there are good arguments against a more liberal immigration policy let’s hear them, but so far we just haven’t.

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97 Responses to A problem called democracy?

  1. The problem is more accurately representative democracy. As you say, Keating et all argued for economic reform and then implemented and defended them. Few representatives then as now will risk making such big changes however much they see it as being in the national interest.

    Rudd doesn’t appear to want to have the confidence to take on any of Australia’s sacred cows, and Abbott is rather grubbily actively playing to them to gain popularity.

    I don’t think we are any worse off than previous eras in the quality of our leaders, but there is a certain smallness of mind & character in this country’s politics that has always been disheartening.

  2. Ken Nielsen

    Dunno about that AC – there was a period under Hawke/Keating/Howard where we had leaders willing to take risks on major issues. Not all the time but enough to make a difference.
    Now we are back to Fraser and the Libs before him which was a pretty sad period.

  3. daddy dave

    People confuse democracy with the need to implement only popular policies. They ain’t the same thing. Keating implemented unpopular policies (or at least un-populist), and so did Howard with the GST. It’s a simplistic and naive view of democracy that thinks that you can only implement what’s popular.

  4. Michael Sutcliffe

    I assume those people that hold democracy as the be all and end all will have no problem in supporting my call for the following referendums:

    1. The death penalty for murderers and child molesters.
    2. A reduction in the income tax rate for those earning below $140,000.
    3. A reduction in immigration to Australia and selective immigration with a discriminatory bias against muslims.
    4. A reduction in politician’s salaries except for the most senior ministers and public officials
    5. A universal curriculum promoting Christian values and the highlights of Western civilisation such as the Renaissance and Enlightenment in all Australian schools.
    6. A lifting of the speed limit on our most appropriate freeways to 130km/h, such as the Sydney-Newcastle Freeway
    7. A lifting of the error tolerance of all speeding fines to at least 9km/h except in school zones
    8. A reduction in the fuel excise

    I’ve got a feeling that our elected politicians aren’t following the will of people on these ones. Democracy says if 51% of the population want it, we should get it. Let’s put it to the people in the name of democracy.

  5. Michael Sutcliffe

    Recently the federal Parliament passed a law banning the death penalty in Australian.

    There was an obvious political motivation for this and I think it’s pretty reasonable.

  6. daddy dave

    Referendums are “direct democracy” rather than “representative democracy.” It has different problems, as exemplified by California, where referendums that mandate that X percent of the budget must be spent on this; and Y percent on that; have contributed to the financail black hole in that state.I know there are other reasons for the California crisis, but direct democracy vis a vis referendums has played a role.
    .
    On the other hand, I personally would vote in favour of most things on your list. And your hunch that they’d all get up is probably right.

  7. Matthew’s point reminds me – Sinclair I don’t get your claim that the anti-death penalty federal act is “anti-democratic”.

    Though it is a state issue, there is a strong precedent for the Federal government over-ruling states.
    Secondly the argument can be made that the effects of the death penalty can’t be confined within one state(as in morally they affect us all) therefore it is more democratic for the nation wide elected government to decide.
    Finally, any future parliament that wishes to repeal the bill could do so without hindrance. Like a legislative Human Rights Act, the only real effect would be to force a clear justification to be lodged for the repeal rather than trying to sneak through changes as part of a range of measures. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    It’s the desire for legislative issues to be put into the constitution (such as the push for defining marriage as between a man and a women in the US) that seem to verge on anti-democratic.

  8. Sinclair Davidson

    Andrew – the federal act can only be overturned by a future federal parliament not a state parliament (all of which had already taken it of the books). My point is the same as Michaels, a majority of Australians supported the death penalty, therefore we should have it (by Sketetee’s logic).

    I very seriously doubt the death penalty has interstate implications, the feds would have banned it under the foreign affairs clause (that’ not the name of the power, but I can’t recall it right now).

  9. Michael Sutcliffe

    Referendums are “direct democracy” rather than “representative democracy.”

    Sure, both with their own problems but they should equal the same thing. Nothing in any rational analysis of representative democracy suggests the elected officials should act against the will of the people – in fact, it is their duty to ascertain the will of the people and implement it. Just the different implementations of the two systems leads to different outcomes.

  10. Michael Sutcliffe

    Secondly the argument can be made that the effects of the death penalty can’t be confined within one state(as in morally they affect us all) therefore it is more democratic for the nation wide elected government to decide.

    Doesn’t wash.

  11. Sinclair Davidson

    It’s the desire for legislative issues to be put into the constitution (such as the push for defining marriage as between a man and a women in the US) that seem to verge on anti-democratic.

    I agree in principle, but the problem there is that people are trying to reign in out-of-control judges. Issues like gay marriage should be determined by the legislature and not judges.

  12. Michael Sutcliffe

    Of course, that is the role of a constitution. That is, to protect certain things from being trampled on by democracy.

  13. Michael Sutcliffe

    Finally, the funniest line from Steketeeee‘s article:

    People are dazzled by the beauty of a logical argument.

    .

  14. conrad

    “I don’t think we are any worse off than previous eras in the quality of our leaders”
    .
    I do, or maybe we were just lucky in the past 30 years, excluding Fraser. We’re now stuck with an idiot with no ideas apart from to increase red-tape and another idiot that complains about the ideas the first idiot didn’t have.

  15. Michael Sutcliffe

    It’s funny ’cause it’s true!

  16. Boris

    “This is the notion that good policy is inconsistent with democracy, but more importantly that free market and libertarian think tanks are somehow inconsistent with democracy.”

    No it dosn’t say this. It says that in a democracy, smart and sophisticated ideas of think tanks have little influence and that’s healthy.

  17. Sketetee’s using the word “democracy” as a synonym for “popular opinion”. Only problem the two are quite different. Even in a direct democracy, people may feel one way but vote another (ie personally use drugs but but don’t vote to legalise them).

    On the death penalty – I think there are nation-wide implications for its use. First our compliance with international treaties, second that some states won’t extradite criminals to countries which have the death penalty, and third and most importantly, we all as a society are morally affected by granting the state the power to put its citizens to the death. Given most people identify as much with their national identity (as Australians) as they do their state identity (ie as a Queenslander), the choice by one state to make australia a country that practices the death penalty, even if only in one area affects us all. (And indeed then will states that dont have the death penalty extradite people into those who do if they may face the death penalty.)

    In 1901 it may have made sense for criminal legislation to be state based. There’s no sensible justification for it now.

  18. Michael Sutcliffe

    The advantages of competitive federalism apply to criminal law as much as any other law. Yes, some things are universal and the federal government should legislate accordingly, and criminal law has a good argument in this regard. However, it would still be a mistake, and result in overall less effective law applying, should criminal legislation be removed from the responsibilites of the states.

  19. dover_beach

    The chief problem with Sketekee’s argument is that it is made by Sketekee.

  20. Peter Patton

    Sinclair

    1. The Australian federal government is much more democratic than the states.

    2. The standing of a polity as a ‘democracy’ is neither strengthened nor weakened by its immigration policies. It is irrelevant.

  21. Peter Patton

    Andrew Carr

    I agree mostly with you. I certainly think Bob Hawke is our greatest Prime Minister, and that we are fortunate to have had such a blood-thirsty Black Irish Treasurer during the 1980s, whose lack of formal education made him an easy target for neoliberal Treasury boffins.

    But then again, Australia faced grave structural challenges by the 1980s that could only be resolved by liberalization, the embrace of competition, and a dogged commitment to global competitiveness.

    The urgencies of the 1980s are not the urgencies of the 21st century.

  22. johno

    After reading Sketetee’s article, your money quote is he ‘just doesn’t know what he talking about.’ That’s why I stopped taking him seriously years ago. Why can’t the Left put up a decent arguement!!!!

  23. JC

    People are dazzled by the beauty of a logical argument.

    This a criticism of Berg’s argument? Lol

    Chris, if you’re reading this, please note that Sketetee is suggesting you’re failing because your arguments are too good. Next time please make sure that your points are laced with illogic and ‘unreason’. Lol.

  24. Nanuestalker

    Black Irish ?

    FMD

  25. Nanuestalker

    Who the fuck is that idiot Peter Patton?

  26. Nanuestalker

    For those who don’t understand the expression it’s only used by dickhead pommie wasps

  27. JC

    I just got around to reading the link to Harry Clarke “well thought” opinion.

    That unadulterated crap is coming from the guy that says he uses science to determine cow farts are an environmental health hazard. Frankly it’s shocking to see that self-absorbed pap coming from someone who presents himself as an academic.

    He suggests that having more open borders would potentially cause us to live like Indians and Chinese and that the ‘natural environment” of the big Australian cities would be damaged.

    How about if we lived like New Yorkers instead, which one of the most intellectually interesting, cosmopolitan cities in the world?

    What fucking natural environment? These Australian cities are human creations right to down the grass and trees.

    Twit.

  28. Jason Soon

    nanuestalker

    I thought Black Irish is used to refer to Irish people who are of Spanish descent. I had a friend in uni who was of Irish descent (though born in Australia) who claimed to be Black Irish and descended from Spanish aristocracy. I don’t see how it’s a term of abuse. As Peter wasn’t using it to diss Keating but compliment him your taking offence seems even more absurd.

  29. Jason Soon

    For those who don’t understand the expression it’s only used by dickhead pommie wasps

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Irish

    Black Irish is a traditional term commonly used among Irish American communities, which ascribes to a dark brown/black hair phenotype appearing in people of Irish descent. This can be distinguished in contrast to the (lighter) brown, blond, or red hair color variant, the latter stereotypically perceived to personify the look of typical Irish folk.[1] The term itself is rather ambiguous and not frequently used in everyday conversation. As such, the description of those it depicts has been known to vary to a degree in that some have differing views on which physical characteristics (e.g., dark hair, brown eyes, medium skin tone or dark hair, blue eyes, pale skin tone) best define the appearance of the so-called Black Irish.[2] This appearance trait is also common in other purportedly Celtic regions of the British Isles, including Scotland and Wales.

    Inspired by tales which claim the darker features to be of Iberian derivation,[3] researchers have looked to science for answers, often citing genetic studies pertaining to those with Irish and/or British ancestry. This is seen as a means of determining what genotypic and environmental factors have contributed to the divergence between the more or less prevalent types found among Irish people

  30. JC

    It seems Nanu is a little testy about his skin pigmentation.

    Nanu, it’s only skin deep, dude, so stop being so sensitive.

  31. rog

    But a majority of Australians dont support the death penalty in Australia.

  32. ken n

    That is not an accurate summary of the poll, rog.
    The question referred to murder.
    I’ll bet that a strong majority would agree that the death penalty is appropriate for the very worst crimes.

  33. Sinclair Davidson

    Rog – yes, since a couple of years ago that is correct.

  34. Steve Edney

    “Nobody intelligent has ever suggested that financial instruments are infallable. ”

    Not infalible, but Greenspan claimed that:

    the development of credit derivatives has contributed to the stability of the banking system by allowing banks, especially the largest, systemically important banks

  35. Steve Edney

    oops dropped the end of the quote the whole quote;

    the development of credit derivatives has contributed to the stability of the banking system by allowing banks, especially the largest, systemically important banks, to measure and manage their credit risks more effectively.

  36. Sinclair Davidson

    Steve – in general that is true, but where is the word ‘infallable’?

  37. JC

    Steve:

    I would strongly agree with the view that derivatives have actually stabilize the system rather than cause it to buckle.

    I read an interesting suggestion recently that the most important reform that could be offered is to demand banks, hedge funds and assorted fund managers be required to post their positions each evening while relaxing further shorting rules.

    The argument is that if the market had caught wind of the positioning in sub-prime and risky loans the effect would have been much less severe as people would have begun shorting in 06.

    I think this has a lot of merit.

  38. Steve Edney

    I certainly agree they have the potential to increase stability. I know the quote because I used it positively to support introduce CDS trading at a previous employer.

    Its not though what happenned.

  39. Sinclair Davidson

    Steve – how do you know that ‘it’ has not happened? All that you do you is that ‘it’ does not happen 100% of the time.

  40. rog

    Until you can supply evidence to the contrary the Morgan poll stands – betting on outcomes is for gamblers

  41. Sinclair Davidson

    The Australian Election Survey finds very different numbers to that Roy Morgan poll. The last election was the first time that there wasn’t majority support for the death penalty for murder in Australia. The data can be accessed through the Australian Social Survey Data Archive.
    I doubt any Australian politician would brave enough to put the issue to a referendum – so much so the Feds have banned it.

  42. Ken Nielsen

    Yes, rog, I accept the Morgan poll but repeat that it shows only that those surveyed do not support capital punishment for murder. Even in the US a simple straightforward bog standard murder would not send you to death row in most states. It needs to be something more serious. We don’t know how Australians would vote on very bad cases of murder.
    Your point was that an majority of Australian don’t support the death penalty. I’m saying we don’t know that.

  43. jc

    77 days and 4 hours ago Rog would have been arguing Sinc’s point. Since the sex cbange he’s all evidence based.

  44. jc

    Your point was that an majority of Australian don’t support the death penalty. I’m saying we don’t know that.

    I disagree. I think a majority of Australians would support the death penalty in the same way Americans do for the same horror crimes… such as the cold blooded killing of kids. Europeans do.

  45. ken n

    Back to the original question: Let’s assume that a majority would support capital punishment for the very worst crimes.
    Should parliaments obey the will of the people and re-introduce it? I get really uncomfortable here. I oppose the death penalty totally, for several reasons, including the risk of mistakes.
    My only answer is that we have a representative democracy, not a direct one. I suppose I’d also argue that on something as serious as whether our society should kill people a simple majority should not be enough.
    But probably I would not accept these arguments on another issue where I took the other side.
    Hypocrite? Maybe, though complete consistency of belief is a characteristic of small minds.

  46. Michael Sutcliffe

    We don’t know how Australians would vote on very bad cases of murder.

    Australians are quite conscious of Australian nationals being imprisoned for drug offences in foreign nations, especially those sentenced to death. They often (for better or for worse!) relate to these people and I don’t think I need to list names. They also don’t believe in the death penalty for these offences which, personally, I’d say is the logical position.

    They also know that part of this situation is a power play, and offending said nations is a bad move for those who lives are in limbo. Hence the component of the Morgan poll supporting the right of other nations to their own justice system.

    The government of the day has correctly picked up on this sentiment and is playing the game in a way I would consider completely appropriate.

    Lets say, come what may, we don’t have any ‘controversial’ Australians on a foreign death row and well represented in the media. Then we have another Anita Cobby or a terrorist attack. How do you think this poll would go in the weeks following that? I’d be surprised if the results were less than 80% pro.

  47. daddy dave

    Since the death penalty cam up, I’d just like to make one point. If you really must have the death penalty, it can only be for murder, because once it applies to any other crime, you create an incentive to murder potential witnesses. Therefore, for example, introducing the death penalty for child abuse will actually put children’s lives at risk.

  48. Michael Sutcliffe

    So correct, daddy dave. A common one is the death penalty for rape, but you have correctly identified why that is a really bad idea…..

  49. Michael Sutcliffe

    If I can take that back to the original article by Steketeeee where he says ‘People are dazzled by the beauty of a logical argument.’ However, this situation we have just discussed shows why logic must ultimately dominant part of how we make policy, and those who advocate the final say by mob rule are in fact the ones who are ‘dazzled’ in the belief they’re going to achieve an outcome simply by wishing it so.

  50. pedro

    I did not read the whole article, but Steketee’s statement in the first quote makes the common, and dumb, mistake of assuming the electorate has one mind. Good policies are much more likely torpedoed by an effective minority of opposition. Hardly any policies could ever have been clearly determined by a majority vote. Therefore the correct statement is that politics, not democracy, is the problem.

  51. “Of course, that is the role of a constitution. That is, to protect certain things from being trampled on by democracy.”
    Close, but I would say the role of a constitution is to protect from heat of the moment legislation. A constitution should be drafted and democratically entrenched in calmer times to protect us from our leaders in more calamitous times.

  52. “Finally, any future parliament that wishes to repeal the bill could do so without hindrance. Like a legislative Human Rights Act, the only real effect would be to force a clear justification to be lodged for the repeal rather than trying to sneak through changes as part of a range of measures.”
    Don’t be so sure of that Andrew.
    A-G McClelland was boasting that “the death penalty [now]cannot be reintroduced anywhere in Australia in the future.”
    Even though that is a stretch, he and his kind have arranged to sew it up so it will be quite difficult to re-introduce it. Any state legislation attempting to will come up against s.109 of the Constitution re inconsistency with a federal law ie Australia’s signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to ban the death penalty (yes, a spurious argument but it was successful in the Tasmanian Dams case). I remember my law lecturer telling me that when we sign up for these things there is often no opt out clause. According to these international bodies, we’re in and we stay in.
    What would probably have to be done, in my estimation, is that a referendum for a constitutional amendment would have to be passed authorising the states to have absolute autonomy over criminal laws.

  53. Boris

    I still don’t understand why politicians abolished the death penalty for the most serious of murders – and treason – when there was still a majority in favour.

    Usually, they quite like to do what the majority wants, because it makes them more popular.

    Of course politicians sometimes do unpopular things (like GST) but this is useful for other effects such as a small thing of economic growth, which, presumably, IS popular. But I can’t see that effect with respect to death penalty…

  54. rog

    Sinclairs piece is full of half truths, assumptions and untruths eg

    Recently the federal Parliament passed a law banning the death penalty in Australian

    The reality is that the death penalty was banned by the federal Parliament in 1973 and the 2010 law is to ban the reintroduction of the death penalty by a state or territory.

    As for the States and territories the death penalty was abolished
    QLD – 1922
    NSW – 1984
    Tas – 1968
    Vic – 1975
    WA – 1984
    NT & ACT – 1973

    So its all much ado about nothing.

  55. Sinclair Davidson

    Isn’t that what I said?

    The 1973 ‘ban’ was for its own teritories, abolition not a ban. Anyway the commonwealth never executed anyone in its territories.

  56. Sinclair Davidson

    Sorry, two individuals were executed in the NT in the 1950s. Australian history here.

  57. JC

    Sinclairs piece is full of half truths, assumptions and untruths eg

    No it’s not and he wasn’t being untruthful at all, you ignorant spam bot.

    The point of the thread was to show Steketee’s column to be a piece of junk and he does a good job of that. The argument about the death penalty offers a useful example.

    What’s with directing your comment to a third person, you illiterate nimrod?

    No kidding, but you’re too freaking stupid to be on this site and your appearance here doing nothing more than to annoy.

  58. rog

    “The point of the thread ..”

    What was the point?

    was it that good policy can be consistent with democracy?

    The majority of Australians are against the death penalty and this is reflected in the legislation.

  59. Steve Edney

    Steve – how do you know that ‘it’ has not happened? All that you do you is that ‘it’ does not happen 100% of the time.

    Obviously “infallible” in the article you quote is hyperbole, but the truth in it was that people like Greenspan were arguing that the market was become more stable because of the ability to lay off credit risks.
    Greenspan says credit derivatives let the “largest and most systematicly important banks” manage their credit risks yet the majority of these had problems. They could have been doing this, and in some cases were (GS were able to do this better than most). However events demostrate that mostly it didn’t occur. Banks were able to fool themselves and others that they had were adequetely protected by mistaking the sophistication of the modelling for the accuracy.

  60. Sinclair Davidson

    Steve – people made incorrect investment decisions and lost their money. That’s how markets are supposed to work.

  61. Steve Edney

    They made bad investment decisions and lost their money no problem. To the extent that the loss was so large the taxpayer has to bail them out is a problem and not how markets are supposed to work.

    Its a particularly bad look when Greenspan has been assuring us that this sort of thing shouldn’t be happenning.

  62. Steve Edney

    I would strongly agree with the view that derivatives have actually stabilize the system rather than cause it to buckle.

    I think to some extent that is true, standard CDS for example I believe work fairly well the risks are generally pretty transparent. In the Lehman’s default people were going on about 400 billion in CDS written on them causing more collapses, but of course ulitmately only about 6 Billion was net value and the whole thing was non event.

    I read an interesting suggestion recently that the most important reform that could be offered is to demand banks, hedge funds and assorted fund managers be required to post their positions each evening while relaxing further shorting rules.

    It would certainly help. It would at the very least make attempts to disguise positions more clearly fraud. I guess it depends on what level of transparency we are given, Lehamn’s was able to write 50 bn in repo’s down as sales rather than financing.

  63. JC

    Steve:

    The actual bailout questionable in itself. I don’t understand why there was one needed at all despite at first believing there needed to be.

    All that had to happen was for the bond holders to move down to the equity level and wipe out the existing shareholders.

    The Fed could have kept the liquidity window open for the 2 weeks while the courts figured it all out.

  64. JC

    Rog says:

    What was the point?

    If you’re asking that question, why the fuck are you posting crap in this thread, you oppositional moron.

    Or to take your queue and ask a question in the third person… Why don’t you fuck off, Rog?

  65. Steve Edney

    JC,

    I agree that would seem to have been greatly preferable. Obvioulsy others (who should be better informed than either of us) felt this would cause greater problems I’m not entirely sure why.

  66. JC

    Steve:

    I think the problem was that they were so frightened of what was going on they took the first life line available.

    They didn’t appear to be proactive.. they were just reacting to events.

  67. ken n

    “The majority of Australians are against the death penalty and this is reflected in the legislation.”

    Once again rog, you are making a statement not supported by the evidence.
    I agree with the legislation because I fear that in a situation of hysteria – becoming more common – a state might react to public opinion and reintroduce the death penalty.
    In this case I am prepated to ignore public opinion.

  68. rog

    You are a right charmer JC, obviously your holiday was too short

  69. dover_beach

    The majority of Australians are against the death penalty and this is reflected in the legislation.

    But according to evidence you adduced, rog, the majority of Australians were opposed to the abolition of the death penalty until only very recently. Certainly, public opinion was contrary to its abolition between 1922 and 1984 when it was abolished by State and Federal parliaments.

  70. “I still don’t understand why politicians abolished the death penalty for the most serious of murders – and treason – when there was still a majority in favour. Usually, they quite like to do what the majority wants, because it makes them more popular.”

    I’ve often thought about that Boris, and it would take a lot, quite a lot, to make me believe that the pollies actually acted from principle even at the expense of votes.
    Possibilities I’ve thought of are:
    A: To my knowledge no major party has ever gone into an election advocating abolition unless it has checked before hand that the opposition is similarly inclined.
    B: If it came to light that someone convicted and duly executed was subsequently found to be innocent, then a lot of heat would come down on the pollies who advocated the death penalty. On the other side of the coin however, if some cold blooded murderer got life, was released after twenty years and then killed again, (which has happened twice in contemporary Australian history) then the abolitionist pollies who didn’t want to originally send the culprit to the gallows way back then aren’t generally around anymore to be blamed.
    C: It also might have something to do with looking into the eyes of the victim. Who’s going to have veal cutlets for dinner if they have to personally lead the lamb around to the shed and then cut its throat.
    When you advocate the rope you actually know before hand who you will have an indirect hand in killing. For the months prior to execution you are aware, or are made aware, that some specific person with a name and loved ones will die even though you could do something to stop it. On the other hand if your ‘soft on crime’ position causes further victims by someone who should already be six feet under, then you only find out after the fact and thus the connection is a lot more tenuous.
    Politicians may lack integrity, but they are not stupid.

  71. dover_beach

    Who’s going to have veal cutlets for dinner if they have to personally lead the lamb around to the shed and then cut its throat.

    Just employee farmers as executioners. Job done.

  72. Excellent post Sinclair. Very eloquent. I enjoyed reading this quite a bit.

  73. I still don’t understand why politicians abolished the death penalty for the most serious of murders – and treason – when there was still a majority in favour.
    .
    Pehaps because perceived as barbaric? I agree with them.

  74. JC1

    What exactly is barbaric about snuffing out say a child killer, Adrien?

  75. dover_beach

    I think capital punishment is far less barbaric than indefinite detention,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indefinite_imprisonment#Australia

    but that’s just me.

  76. Michael Sutcliffe

    What about Ted Bundy? I’m sure we all agree that there were only two options: indefinite detention or execution.

    What should society do? I’d say the answer is quite simple – whatever benefits society the most. Can someone tell me why his indefinite detention assists us to be more humane and have a better society, offering a greater good, than the closure, sense of justice and absolute knowledge he’s no longer around offered by execution?

  77. Sinclair Davidson

    Actually the anti-death penalty movement started with the notion that ‘death was too good for them’.

  78. Michael Sutcliffe

    I tend to agree with that. For example, keeping the guy in sordid conditions and dehumanising him for the rest of his life under the full knowledge that there will never be any hope for a better existence would probably be more ‘retribution’ than death. But it wouldn’t serve the ultimate purpose of assisting society to heal, pick up the pieces and move on.

  79. What exactly is barbaric about snuffing out say a child killer, Adrien?
    .
    It is not a matter of justice. It’s just that the taker of life should pay with his own. But it is the mark of the civilized to kill only when absolutely necessary. It is not necessary for us. We are rich enough to keep these people alive and smart enough to learn much from studying them.
    .
    I do not regard pro-death penalty people as ‘uncivilized’, btw. It’s quite possible that you are finally right about this. But I don’t feel that way.
    .
    I’d have no problem with taking lethal vengeance if a situation actually necessitated it. But I’d rather not live in a country with the technocratic facilities to kill. I’m proud that we’ve put that behind us. An ex-penal colony.
    .
    Life has value, not killing even the most worthless shows that we mean that.

  80. We are told that open borders would lead to chaos.
    .
    It would however. This is the pacifist problem. Disarming one country merely makes that country vulnerable to invasion. Opening our borders would ruin us.
    .
    Isn’t the achievement of a truly open and global economy something that can be done only in terms of a century? One we’re about half-way thru?

  81. “Actually the anti-death penalty movement started with the notion that ‘death was too good for them’.”

    Can you cite that Sinclair? I know it is an argument against C.P. but I have never heard it was the instigating force.
    You’re implying that the anti-death penalty movement was begun not by bleeding hearts but by rednecks (for lack of better descriptions).

  82. Nanuestalker

    Jason –

    Black Irish refers to the gipsy eastern Europeans … (noted for their lack of formal education)…found often in the UK & Ireland.

  83. Nanuestalker

    You probably googled your understanding Jas?!!!

  84. Sinclair Davidson

    Philip – I probably read it in Banner, S. (2002). The death penalty: An American history. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Nanu – I’ve seen the ‘black Irish’ term before, my understanding of it is the same as Jason’s.

  85. Peter Patton

    Nanu

    I am sorry if my use of ‘Black Irish’ offended you. I thought the term was more widely understood, and the irony in my use of it. I used the term very specifically in relation to Keating for three reasons:

    1. Keating’s physiognomy and coloring are typical of the so-called “Black Irish.” He is not “Celtic” looking.

    2. Given the ‘Black’ part comes from an alleged genetic link with the Spaniards, ‘Black’ implies the stereotype of Latins being ‘passionate, fiery, hot-headed.’ That is why I preceded it with ‘blood-thirsty.’ So, on this point, as Jason said, it was a compliment. As only the most dogged and committed politician could have achieved the liberalizing reforms that Keating managed. So, so far, yes I am guilty of the terrible racist slur that Latins are fiesty. 😉

    3. I used the term ‘Irish’ part of the term, because throughout Keating’s entire prime ministership he was dog-whistling his tribal identity as an Irish Catholic, a true hater of the English. He said “i will never go to Gallipoli.” He was apoplectic when the pommy media when beserk for his touching up the Queen. He wanted Australia’s national day to change to commemorate Kokoda, the Republic, “part of Asia, not Britain” and so on. All this despite the fact the Keatings of Bankstown and Elizabeth Bay have been in Australia for five generations. 😉

    So, I was complimenting him with the ‘Black’ part, but with a backhand in the ‘Irish’ part.

    Is that better? 😉

  86. Peter Patton

    Adrien

    While I am also wildly opposed to the death penalty, do you really think describing it as “barbaric” is any argument against it? I know low-fat milk is barbaric.

  87. Peter Patton

    Nanu

    No ‘Black Irish” does not stand for “gypsy eastern Europeans.” It refers to those Irish who are more swarthily hued than their blood nut kin.

  88. Peter Patton

    Until very recently at least, the leading explanation for this geogenetic throwback was until recently they were the descendants of the defeated Spanish armada washed up on to Irish shores in the days of yore.

  89. Peter Patton

    Nanu

    And finally, the term is used primarily not by pommies -wasp or otherwise – but by the Irish themselves, and mostly in the US, which is where I picked it up.

  90. Michael Sutcliffe

    Low fat milk is certainly barabaric, not quite the atrocity of de-caf instant coffee, but still uncivilised enough to be completely condemnable.

    The best arguments against the death penalty are 1. there’s no room for mistakes (which is not as strong as it first appears, with a full appeals process people get off death row, and letting someone go as an old person after 30 years in jail over the prime of their lives isn’t that much better) and 2. the state should not have that level of power because one day it will definitely abuse it.

    The argument that the death penalty is barbaric is just an emotional call that doesn’t rationally hold up. I’ve personally never been able to get the argument that it devalues life and all life is precious to rationally follow through.

  91. Things I don’t like about the death penalty:
    A. In Asia it is handed out to drug runners; those who do not initiate violence, fraud, or any other harm to an unwilling participant.
    B. Authorities seem to go to too much trouble to care for the sensitivities of the receiver in their final moments. Why was it such an issue that Saddam Hussein’s execution room guard made a disparaging comment to him just before he hanged? Why allocate resources to find a special procedure such as expensive drugs to ensure he/she doesn’t suffer in the last three minutes of their lives? Considering we are putting them to death as a punishment anyway, does it really matter that abuse, the rope or electric chair might cause a little extra suffering right at the end?
    C. After guilt for the capital crime has been decided and where the jury also decide upon sentence, why must death be a unanimous decision? It is better that a guilty man be free than an innocent man be convicted but once we know he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt then shouldn’t balance of probabilities, as manifested by a majority decision, be enough to decide punishment.
    D. Some of the spectator’s viewing chamber at the gallows is filled up with the felon’s invited guests. What does society owe them? Shouldn’t all available room be allocated to those who were upset about the crime and wish to experience the therapeutic value of personally witnessing justice done?

  92. dover_beach

    Phillip, re:

    A- the same sort of criticisms could be made about fines, or terms of imprisonment, viz. this or that crime;

    B- it has to do with respect; not merely for the victim or for those witnessing or participating in the execution, and because of what you are actually doing, which is putting someone to death.

    C- see A.

    D- no, it isn’t simply about society.

  93. Peter Patton

    All decaf coffee should be laced with rat poison.

  94. Nanuestalker

    Peter P. –

    I don’t hit this blog as much as I have so I’ll excuse your defence of my non-offence….I hate PC for the record. I couldn’t give a flying f**k about the correctness of “Black Irish” but I can’t stand when expressions are used without knouwledge of their ‘true meaning’.

    Black Irish has absolutely nothing to do with the Spanish Armada and probably one you might wisely decide to drop from your vocab. Hint: chimney sweep gypsy

  95. Nanuestalker

    “without knouwledge” …hmmm…where’s spell check when you need it?

  96. Sinclair Davidson

    Shouldn’t all available room be allocated to those who were upset about the crime and wish to experience the therapeutic value of personally witnessing justice done?

    That used to be the case, but executions were moved from being public to private because the crowds used to enjoy themselves too much. get hold of the Banner book it is a very informative read.

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