Month: January 2014

Civil asset forfeiture craziness

Civil forfeiture is a feature of the War on Drug Users Drugs in the US, where the police can seize your assets even if you haven’t been convicted of a crime. Keep that mind as you watch this video from the Institute for Justice:


Letter to the Editor: Special interest development blues

My letter to the Editor at the Busselton-Dunsborough Times:

The title of your article regarding the latest developments of the Dunsborough foreshore cafe should be a warning to us all (“Interest groups hail cafe rethink”, 31/1). It should trouble residents that small groups of people, interest groups, can sway the decisions of local government but it shouldn’t surprise us. When you leave the fate of such a valuable resource such as land on the foreshore to the people who run government (politicians and bureaucrats), you are all but guaranteeing that it will be well organized, vocal special interests will prevail, dressed in the rhetoric of‘the public good’, over the actual interests of others.

Even if government were to somehow defy the reality, well understood by students of public choice theory, that special interests will always have the inside track when it comes to decision making, how could they even know what the ‘public good’ is? Unless the council or the City were is somehow embued with wisdom beyond regular folk, it is hard to know what the best choice is when you don’t personally bear the costs of your decisions and you are subject to little accountability.

A much more sensible choice would be to entrust such valuable commodities as foreshore land to private enterprise, investing their own money and subject to the accountability of consumer demand. Consumers, not lobbying by special interests, should be the ones directing the future of the foreshore.

Lee Herridge

Kevin D Williamson on the Cult of the Imperial Presidency

I can’t really claim credit for the title: Gene Healy from the Cato Institute is the person I heard coin it. Kevin D Williamson from National Review has written a deservedly scathing article on the royal pomp and circumstance at this year’s State of the Union. A snippet:

When the moment comes and the sergeant-at-arms utters the sacred words — “Mr. Speaker! The president of the United States!” — the chamber will erupt, as though the assembled have entirely forgotten that the mysterious entity that is the object of this curious act of national worship only a decade ago was an obscure legislator in a destitute and corrupt state, a man whose most prominent legislative accomplishment was the passage of a bill requiring police to videotape confessions in potential capital cases — in a state in which there were as a practical matter no potential capital cases. (Illinois had not carried out an execution during the century in which the law was passed and was on its way toward abolishing capital punishment categorically.)

But they will listen, rapt, and the media mandarins afterward will evaluate each promise with great sobriety, ignoring entirely that the central promise made during the same charlatan’s first State of the Union address was subsequently labeled “Lie of the Year” by the great man’s own frustrated admirers. That an entire class of people should be so enthusiastic about being lied to, serially, is perplexing.

While it is easy to scorn the US for falling into this trap, I don’t think Australians can be so blasé. While we might lack the singular authoritarian authority figure like the US has, Canberra is as much a royal court – it might be a little bit more demure but the same spirit invigorates the place. Our political class, much as the US, is hermetically sealed from the real world – an exclusive zone for those who play the Game of Thrones and those who seek to benefit from it. The professionalization of politics means that if you want to get into the Game, you leave the real world and once there, you can easily avoid seeing the consequences of your legislative or regulatory good intentions.

But when Canberra and Washington are imbued with so much money and power, what else can you expect?

Shorten getting ahead of himself

Bill Shorten goes all Che Guevara:

The Labor leader Bill Shorten has used a visit to London to give his British political counterparts some free advice, urging them to make disability reform the country’s next “revolutionary moment”.

While acknowledging the British healthcare system is superior in terms of the support offered to people with disabilities, Shorten nonetheless used a speech delivered in the Clement Attlee suite at Westminster to contend that more should be done.

He suggested statistics indicated people with disabilities in Britain still suffered from a lack of access, opportunity and equity.

“So tonight I encourage you to take up the cause of giving people with disability the right to an ordinary life – to make their fight for opportunity and equity your own – to make the design of a new, fairer system for people with disability Britain’s next revolutionary moment,” Shorten said.

If Labor’s track record in Australia is anything to go by, Shorten’s declaration of a disability reform as a ‘revolutionary moment’ is a bit premature to say the least. Labor’s signature reform from their last stint in government, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, doesn’t even come into full implementation until 2018/19 (ie close to the election after next aka the day after never) and right now has a very uncertain price tag. Given that the NDIS doesn’t even cover everyone eligible for the Disability Support Pension, to call the NDIS as Australia’s ‘revolutionary moment’ requires chutzpah that only a politician could have.

Letter to the Editor: Govt mismanagement kills education

My letter to the editor to the Busslton-Dunsborough Mail:

Adele Farina MLC is right to complain about the hike in fees at SWIT (“Cost kills learning, says MLC” 29/1) but she misidentifies the solution. If Ms Farina really wanted to make the cost of training easier to reach for poorer people, ending subsidies would be her primary goal, not extending them further. While politicians love the talk of subsidies, the economic reality behind subsidies is less loved by politicians and even less talked about. Subsidies artificially increase demand (because it is cheaper), while simultaneously obscuring price signals that would otherwise attract investment and innovation. Combined with government control and central planning in the sector, you have a guaranteed formula for lower quality, stagnation and endless price increases.

Despite this obvious reality, politicians are loathe to allow the end of subsidies because are unwilling face any political fallout from the inevitable adjustment in prices. But while the end of subsidies might resort in some sharp short-term hikes in some courses, genuine competition will encourage investment and innovation in courses of high demand, driving down prices.

If people are to really receive the training they need to get ahead in life, government control and subsidies of education needs to end and we need to let markets do their work – driving down prices through innovation.

Lee Herridge

KRONIES: They’re Konnected!

Let me state for the record: John Papola is a genius. Fear The Boom and Bust is a great video but not exceptional IMHO. Fight of the Century, by comparison, is simply brilliant – first rate production values, better tune and even better lyrics, plus one of my fav economists, Mike Munger, cameos at the start. It combines an awesome premise (rap battle between two dead economists) and fuses it with simple lyrics that states what is at stake in a way that any thinking layman can understand. It is probably one of my fav YouTube videos of all time. Emergent Order’s followup Deck the Halls with Macro Follies maintains the high production values and is very clever but its a bit wonky for the regular Joe.

But then they release this:

This is so good on so many levels that I am genuinely flabbergasted. An excellent take that brilliantly drives at the corruption that lies at the heart of cronyism. 11/10 would watch again. Check out the rest of the website.