How A Chance Visit To A Grocery Store Changed The World

by on 10 November, 2014

It was September 1989 and Russian President Boris Yeltsin was in the United States to visit the Johnson Space Centre, and chose to make  a chance visit to a local grocery store.

The Houston Chronicle reports:

Yeltsin, then 58, “roamed the aisles of Randall’s nodding his head in amazement,” wrote Asin. He told his fellow Russians in his entourage that if their people, who often must wait in line for most goods, saw the conditions of U.S. supermarkets, “there would be a revolution.”…

In Yeltsin’s own autobiography, he wrote about the experience at Randall’s, which shattered his view of communism, according to pundits. Two years later, he left the Communist Party and began making reforms to turn the economic tide in Russia. You can blame those frozen Jell-O Pudding pops.

“When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people,” Yeltsin wrote. “That such a potentially super-rich country as ours has been brought to a state of such poverty! It is terrible to think of it.”

Click HERE to read the rest and to see recently discovered photos of the visit.

Posted by Tim Andrews

Napthine’s effective allocation of resources (for the procurement of votes)

by on 10 November, 2014

display pic Lee Kavanagh on the unprincipled vote buying of the major parties. 

In the lead up to the Victorian election, the major parties resemble nothing so much as bidders at an auction. They’re stepping over each others toes trying to find creative ways to promise the electorate its own money back. The voter, increasingly jaded and entitled, strikes a casual pose: “Alright, what do you got?”

Napthine drives a hard bargain. A $75 million dollar youth unemployment strategy, a $3.9 billion dollar public transport boost, a $100 million dollar infrastructure fund. Nice. Subtle. All public goods, right? Who could accuse him of buying votes. We should all care about youth unemployment, public transport, and regional infrastructure. Only it’s perhaps a little too subtle. So he has added a rather more tangible inducement to the pot: if your kid’s in 4-year-old kindergarten he’ll give you $100. Yes, you specifically. No strings. Just vote for Denis Napthine. Dubious as their classical liberal credentials may be, one has to concede they have a shrewd grasp of rational self-interest.

But Labor is not to be trifled with. They have some well directed inducements of their own. For instance, did you know that only an Andrews Labor government will fix Epsom Primary School? Just for kicks, guess which parties electorate that’s in. They’re not relying solely on the eminently buyable mother demographic, of course, cricket fans, firefighters and the civic-minded, and many other demographics will also have funds and developments lavishly heaped upon them, should Labor win.

And who can blame the voter for responding to incentive? It’s a clever trap they’ve been caught in, really. If the results of the election determine whether or not ones childs school falls into disrepair, who can really permit themselves the luxury of principles? Do you want Billy to learn in a state of the art classroom or not? Yeah, well it’s going to cost your civil liberties, your peace of mind for the next nineteen days, and a fair chunk of your income.

At this juncture, the Liberal Party has a choice to make. Which farce are they going to lay on an electorate which wants to be taxed less and lavished more and doesn’t understand the connection? Are the Labor party taking too much of our money? Or are they not spending enough of it? Is it possible to run with both? Actually, yes, yes it is. I don’t think the average Australian has fully grasped that it’s his own money being thrown at him, which suggests a tantalizingly simple campaign slogan. Never mind that it’s impossible: less taxes, more spending! Only a Liberal government will take less and give more!

I’m sure the problem with this kind of campaign is obvious to classical liberals. Both parties are content to make this election about a budget. If they can make this about divvying up the public coffers they can keep from talking about policy or principles, which is something two parties with horrendous policies and no principles must avoid at any cost. With these obscured by the vocal bidding war, the major parties can devote themselves fully to the effective allocation of resources…to where they will procure the most votes.

Lee Kavanagh is a student of political theory and frequent commentator on current events.

NSW Minerals Council Wins Media Release Of The Year

by on 7 November, 2014

The Australia Institute jumps the shark again

November 07, 2014

In their latest attack on mining, the Australia Institute have ‘jumped the shark’ yet again.
Only this time they have ‘jumped the shark’ while skiing on the back of a shark and wearing a sharkskin suit.
“Today they are seriously claiming that some of the world’s largest energy companies don’t actually supply any energy to anyone,” NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee said.
“Their parallel universe must also be virtual reality.”
With almost three billion people globally without access to electricity, it’s no surprise that our major trading partners place a priority on providing cheap and reliable electricity to their populations.
It’s why global demand for NSW thermal coal continues to grow, with increased volumes exported into all our major trading destinations, including the developing economies of China and India.
And it’s why, according to a recent research paper completed by Robert Bryce, Senior Fellow, Centre for Energy Policy and the Environment at the Manhattan Institute:
“Growth in coal consumption has been critical in providing electricity access in developing countries. Based on the results of three different estimates…between 1990 and 2010, about 830 million people—the vast majority in developing countries—gained access to electricity due to coal-fired generation.”

Click HERE to read the rest

Liberal Use of Public Funds

by on 6 November, 2014

display picLee Kavanagh takes a look at the classical liberal credentials of the Liberal Party in advance of the Victorian election.

The attitude of the Victorian Liberal Party towards fiscal sanity is revealed in their press releases, a stupendous amount of which are announcements of spending projects from whose tone one might infer that the value of such projects is measurable in dollars; each dollar spent as valuable as the rest. Why else do they invariably trumpet the dollar figure in the title of every such release? Why is it “$4.3 million pedestrian overpasses” they’re so pleased to announce and not simply pedestrian overpasses?

Take a gander at the news releases of Denis Napthine, leader of the party: funding, funding, seminar, fluff, funding, funding, funding, funding, funding, funding, funding, etc. Among the more egregious (in principle, not in dollar value) of these numerous announcements of spending is $300,000 to subsidize a private sporting event through the “Coalition Government’s Raceday Attraction Program.” It would appear that the Coalition government has fallen prey to the political disease of our times: an inability to demonstrate care for one’s constituency except by spending money. If one values education, naturally one spends money on education. If one values literacy, naturally one gives generous grants to restock libraries. If one values the contribution of horse racing to our culture or economy, one creates a “Raceday Attraction Program” through which to spend money. Down in the polls, the Libs are no doubt desperate to demonstrate they care about their constituency. Hands will be shook, gymnasiums opened, but above all, dollars will be promised and dollars will be spent.

Of their five-point plan for the economy, two of the five are spending; one of the three which is not (the maintenance of a budget surplus) is touted as allowing for more spending on infrastructure. Of their plan for transport, naturally nine of nine points are spending. Their plan for community safety is threefold: spend, reduce civil liberties, and increase police powers. Hospitals, again (naturally) mostly spending, including “a record $15 billion for hospitals and health services.” See: the Liberal party cares so much about it’s constituents that it’s breaking records in spending. Finally, jobs will be created by spending in excess of $30 billion dollars.

In the lead up to the election, the Liberals have been quite busy demonstrating they care: about Krishnas, about the youth, about rugby, about Fairhills High School in particular, and on and on. Is this really the way of a liberal party?

Classical liberalism posits that the role of government is the maintenance of law and order and national defence. Daily, the Liberal Party affirms the competing concept of government, that of the big government left: that the role of government is the maintenance of schools and hospitals, the refurbishment of private kitchens, the vocational training of the masses, even the lighting of sporting ovals. The Liberal Party affirms: we cannot even play rugby past 7 unless the government says, “Let there be light.”

If there is a role for a classical liberal party in Australian politics, it is surely posing as a counterpoint to this mindset. The role for a classical liberal party is in demonstrating that spending money (while obvious and easily exploited) does not automatically translate to gains for society, and that those who spend the most money are rarely those who actually care the most. It is incumbent on such a party to find a way to say: we care about your communities, and your schools, and your hospitals, but we can best help not through grants and funds and “Programs,” but by getting out of the way. It is incumbent on such a party to effectively deliver the message of classical liberalism: that society grows not through grants or subsidies or government funds but through a robust civil society unhampered by big government.

Such a party the Liberals are not. It is increasingly evident to even the simplest observer that the only thing liberal about the way this party operates is its liberal use of public funds to curry favour.

Lee Kavanagh is a student of political theory and frequent commentator on current events.

Indigenous Australians: The right to succeed and to fail

by on 14 October, 2014

Jack Wilkie-Jans (4)Jack Wilkie-Jans argues that local communities and councils, not Canberra, should direct and implement policies in their own areas to provide the best outcomes for indigenous Australians:

It’s an unpopular belief among the staunch left but Aboriginal people have the right to both fail as well as to succeed, the same as any other person living in Australia. The welfare/payment/spending monitoring cards as encouraged by Andrew Forrest’s recent report into Indigenous Australians are, in my view, a step towards paternalism, a step away from individual liberty and hence it ignores Aboriginal peoples’, such as myself, the right to fail, which ignores our right to grow and therefor inhibits our right to succeed.
Paternalism has crippled rural and remote places (places with a higher Indigenous population) such as Cape York Peninsula. It is the easy way out in the guise of doing something while being “caring”. It’s easy to say we’ll wean people off of welfare but a lot harder to ensure there’s something sustainable and rewarding for them to move on to i.e. real jobs and training opportunities in their home regions. The latter of which requires some serious investment and expenditure of energy in rural Australia- something I hope the Federal Government’s Green and White papers on Northern Australia and development can result in.
Outback Australia still has a lot to give, the economy in the city centres like Cairns in Far North Queensland revolves a lot around retail whereas the bush has the opportunity to provide for food & farming and tourism (eco, cultural etc.) not just resources. These are industries, old (like cattle) and some which would be new (such as expansive agriculture), which could benefit all Australians. By looking at the unemployment rates in such places there is clearly an ample work force at the ready in spite of a lack of rural based training providers, there just aren’t the jobs. Wouldn’t this be a more ideal direction to move towards than a here-and-now approach of welfare payment micro-managing?
 

Menzies, Capitalism and Instant Gratification

by on 9 October, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASean Jacobs reviews the relevance of Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister’s thoughts on capitalism in today’s climate.  

Ask a 20-year old how to get rich, says Keith Campbell, and they will likely give you three answers: “I can either be famous on reality TV, or I can go start a dot-com company and sell it to Google in about a week, or I can go work for Goldman Sachs and just steal money from old people.”

Today the idea of instant gratification rightly faces a tough audience. Reward without effort closely resembles the entitlement culture of expectation minus responsibility found not just with young people.

In criticising instant gratification, however, it becomes easy to blame two key pillars of Western success – technology and capitalism. Paul Roberts, for example, in his recent book Instant Gratification records the downsides of coping “with a consumer culture almost too good at giving us what we want” – self-centeredness, short-termism, hyper-customisation and violating social norms like “taking calls in theaters or posting videos of others’ misfortunes.”

Roberts traces these setbacks to the rise in modern corporate capitalism. This, he says, emerged as companies recovered from the stagnancy of the 1970s through “cutting taxes and regulations, and thereby allowing the efficiencies of the marketplace to find the most direct route back to wealth.”

Rejuvenated commitments to efficiency and profit entered the 1980s and joined ranks with the microprocessor, speeding up the march to consumer satisfaction. Bringing a vehicle from conception to the showroom floor, for example, now took 18 months instead of four years. Doubling computer speeds and halving costs – otherwise known as Moore’s Law – have clearly made instant upgrades, iPhones and widgets much easier but so many other things cheaper.

Instant gratification, Roberts concludes, is thus a “consequence not of our failures but of our extraordinary successes.” So how does one make sense of this all? In one direction it appears the charges of mass consumption and short-termism are true but, at the same time, our progress seems tied to it.

Interestingly Robert Menzies – Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister – made similar observations to Roberts prior to the fusion of microprocessors and corporate capitalism. Reflecting in his 1967 memoir Afternoon Light Menzies wrote that, “The scramble for individual wealth and prosperity will go on with all its accompaniments of selfishness. The short view, the demand for immediate and increasing personal benefits, will place great obstacles in the way of statesmanship and the steady march of civilization.”

Menzies seemingly understood that instant gratification is peripheral to the host of other values that liberty and private enterprise inspires. “We have learned that true rising standards of living,” he wrote in the same memoir, “are the product of progressive enterprise, the acceptance of risks, the encouragement of adventure, the prospect of rewards.” Not only does our “social progress” depend on these social traits, Menzies observed, but on economic values like “thrift and saving, investment and reward.”

Menzies, like many others before him, understood that a great deal of capitalism is ‘give’ rather than ‘take’. In 1704 Samuel Ricard, for example, observed that honesty, manners, prudence, reservation and exhibiting decency and seriousness were key elements to be considered a serious player in the world of commerce. In more recent times John Bogle, founder of Vanguard, speaks of integrity, virtue, trust, reciprocity, prudence, responsibility as the true values of capitalism over the short run considerations of wealth, fame and power. It is hard to see Menzies disagreeing.

Even in technology – an area that many see as a runaway train – we also see room for personal responsibility. Not all instant upgrades, for example, need to be accepted. Nor is one constantly obliged to email in meetings. As the late Neil Postman, one who had to constantly fend off the term ‘luddite’, observed “We need technology to live, as we need food to live. But, of course, if we eat too much food, or eat food that has no nutritional value, or eat food that is infected with disease, we turn a means of survival into its opposite.”

My thoughts are we should not be entirely alarmed about instant gratification. For each act of selfishness or short-termism there are a whole series of capitalist or economic values that do not catapult into public perception but are there working beneath the surface. This is not to excuse such acts but recognise that capitalism and technology will not always produce the idealistic picture many are after.

Sean Jacobs is the co-founder of New Guinea Commerce – a website committed to governance, growth and next generation leadership in the Indo-Pacific.

Let the Free Market fight Extremism

by on 1 October, 2014

Corporate PhotoJared Bainbridge explores the causal link between the welfare state and extremism. And how the free market is the greatest weapon we have to prevent ‘home grown’ terrorists.

What drives someone to extremism? And more importantly, how can we prevent it from happening? The Western world is in shock. Australia has approximately 60 of its own citizens which have joined ISIS in the Middle East. The UK has 400 Britons, and the French have a staggering 700. Surprisingly though, only 100 from the United States have joined ISIS. Considering that America is the number one target for ISIS and other terror organisations, and has a significantly higher total population than Australia, the UK and France combined, and is also engaged almost continuously on a global scale against these terror organisations, it is interesting that so few American citizens have joined ISIS. So let examine ‘why’ the US has been so successful at deterring people from straying down the path of extremism.

Let’s begin by apportioning out the relevant data to find a common denominator. ‘ISIS fighters per million’:

Country:

Population (approx.):

ISIS Fighters:

ISIS Fighters per million:

United States

318,800,000

100

0.3

Australia

23,650,000

60

2.5

United Kingdom

58,800,000

400

6.8

France

65,990,000

700

10.6

The results are rather staggering. The US only just turns up on the radar at 0.3 ISIS fighters per million. The US who conducted the ‘War of Terror’, who invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, who waged a drone campaign across the globe targeting extremists in the Middle East and Somalia, who is the ultimate symbol of Western democracy and thought, barely gets a mention. Yet France, with its leftwing tolerance and low participation in foreign campaigns against extremism sits at a hefty 10.6 ISIS fighters per million.

One could reasonably argue that extremist ideology is pervasive in the Western world and due the experiences of the US they have been far more proactive and pre-emptive at fighting the ‘home grown’ terrorist threat. And whilst the vigilant actions of US security agencies would no doubt act to thwart would be terrorists. The actions of these agencies also act as a recruiting tool for terrorist organisations to further push their ‘victimisation-turned-insurgent’ propaganda. Hence, there is an action undertaken by the US, which is not being followed to the same degree by Australia, the UK, and France, that is offsetting the appeal of Jihad to would-be extremist’s.

I believe that this is a welfare state issue. Below is a table showing comparative size of each countries ‘Social Expenditure as a Percentage of GDP’ against ‘ISIS fighters per million’:

Country:

Social Expenditure (% of GDP):

ISIS Fighters per million:

United States

16.0%

0.3

Australia

19.5%

2.5

United Kingdom

23.8%

6.8

France

33.0%

10.6

The causal link is the welfare state. In France, new migrants basically have their lives provided for them by the government. Healthcare, transport, rent control, a half-decent wages, all provided at taxpayers’ expense. As these people are not required to work for a living, there is actually a disincentive to work at all due to the high rates of taxation in France, and are usually housed in high-density government accommodation, the results are small enclosed communities of immigrants. These enclosed communities do not readily blend into the traditional French way of life as they are not exposed to it and end up feeling disassociated from the mainstream population. This is at every level, in language, politics, and culture. This disassociation is exacerbated through a sense of ‘purposelessness’ as each individual is not gainfully active in the betterment of their life. It is within these enclosed, dislocated communities filled with people suffering purposelessness where extremism breeds. Consequently the irony of the social expenditure designed to benefit the citizens of France actually facilitates the environment necessary to produce extremists who wish to do France’s citizens harm.

Whereas in the US, a new migrant cannot be a ward of the state for the first 5 years. Meaning they receive little to no benefits and have no safety net from the government during this time. So in order to fend for themselves they must work.  Effectively forcing new migrants to work has several positive effects. Fiscally it removes the burden of the migrant’s existence from taxpayers. It also encourages cultural understanding and tolerance. For example, let’s say someone from Syria who has distaste for other cultures moves to the US as they are fleeing persecution. Since they have to work, they will probably do so with a fairly ethnically and religiously diverse group of people. Hence their continued employment is dependent on how quickly they learn to tolerate and adapt to their surroundings. Furthermore, working will help develop language skills much quicker than had they only continued to interact with others from Syria, and will immerse them in American culture thereby making them feel ‘at home’ and not dislocated. Working also provides these individuals with a sense of purpose and achievement that is absent from France’s approach. Therefore, through the US exercising its relatively lower amount on social expenditure, it is inadvertently fighting home grown terrorism by denying the conditions necessary for its inception.

Based on the above, there is a causal link between the size of the welfare state and the number of home grown terrorists and extremists. Therefore, in order to truly fight this movement on all fronts we must move beyond thinking in terms of increased security and waging foreign wars. That’s not to say both aren’t necessary given the current global situation. But countries with traditionally higher social expenditure spend as a percentage of GDP must adopt a more American style model when dealing with new migrants to foster integration into the community. All the political-psycho-babble can prove and disprove any position taken on this topic in theory. But the time for talking is over and based on the evidence the American ‘free market’ model is the one actually doing its job. Long story short, governments need to get out of the way of people wanting to make a better life for themselves.

Jared works in Assurance and Advisory with a BIG4 professional services firm servicing large ASX listed companies, in particular those within infrastructure, construction and mining. He’s currently completing his Graduate Diploma in Chartered Accounting with the ICAA, and graduated from Newcastle University with a Bachelor of Commerce and a double major in accounting and finance. This background provides him with a unique view on the way government policy affects the engines of Australia’s economy.

Green Activists Put Lives In Danger

by on 18 September, 2014

The Minerals Council of NSW report that police are investigating a dangerous act of sabatage by the far-left green radicals at Whitehaven mine at Maules Creek,where activists entered the site in the middle of the night cutting  187 down-lines attached to extremely powerful explosives, prepared as part of the mine operations putting at risk the lives of Whitehaven personnel:

This reckless and dangerous act of industrial sabotage is a wake up call for the NSW government.  Those responsible have directly threatened lives, including their own, by tampering with powerful industrial explosive charges used in mine operations,” NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee said today.

“Violent and dangerous activities have escalated in recent months. As well as deliberate trespassing and interference with heavy equipment by protesters, a security vehicle has been rammed, gates have been blockaded or destroyed, and now we have had industrial explosives being sabotaged,” he said.

“We have raised safety concerns about the trespassing of protesters with the NSW Government on a number of occasions. I hope we will now see action,” Mr Galilee said.

“Without action from the Government to deter this type of illegal access activity it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt, despite the best efforts of police and emergency services personnel and site workers to ensure safety.”

“People have a right to protest, but it must be within the law. No-one has the right to put others at risk. And when people choose to ignore the law they should be held accountable for their actions.”

Home educators are true heroes

by on 16 September, 2014

In the context of a NSW Government Inquiry into homeschooling, Mike Sackville argues we should all give our gratitude to ‘hero’ home-educators:

Home educators are true heros who deserve our gratitude and respect.

Our gratitude because they save taxpayers around $12,000 per student per year, by taking their parental responsibilities fully on their own shoulders, without sending the bill to the government.

Our respect because they refuse to accept second best for their children. They see the educational, emotional, social, spiritual and physiological needs of their children as integrated and unique to each child, and they seek to provide an individually tailored response. Learning time is not compartmentalised and treated as something separate from real life. Social interaction is not limited to peers from a narrow age range.

As John Holt said,

I want to make it clear that I don’t see homeschooling as some kind of answer to badness of schools. I think that the home is the proper base for the exploration of the world which we call learning or education. Home would be the best base no matter how good the schools were [and] It’s a nutty notion that we can have a place where nothing but learning happens, cut off from the rest of life

Traditional Morality in the Modern West: A Relic of a Bygone Era

by on 10 September, 2014

Christopher Dowson

Christopher Dowson provides a provocative assessment of the social realities of modern Western culture and discusses the benefits of a renaissance of traditional morality.

A March 2012 article in The Economist magazine published in the context of the US Republican Primaries alleged that whenever Conservative politicians talked about ‘declining morals’ the result was inevitably relative. The article asserted that everything to do with ‘morality’ is relative to which side of the political compass you happen to fall on.

The author uses an example: So in the case of out-of-wedlock births, Republicans would probably see the increase as a moral problem regardless of the outcome. Whereas Democrats might feel more comfortable with, say, promoting a corresponding increase in stable familial relationships outside of marriage.

The author further asserted that abortions, infidelity, divorce, and teenage pregnancies were on the ‘decrease’ based on a few selective sources and therefore all this talk of ‘declining morals’ was a bit of a storm in a teacup. Now, The Economist is well-known for its libertarian, free-market utopianism (despite supporting Barack Obama in 2012) yet when it comes to social issues the magazine might as well be printed on toilet paper.