Greens taking credit for things

I saw this hilarious satirical page being shared on social media that fellow free market fans will enjoy: Greens taking credit for things. Sample image here:

11137124_395070460665716_3968498916520711323_n

I was reflecting on why this is funny, and to me it’s that The Australian Greens are trying to create a culture of shared victory with their fans – and this page satirically takes that down. I think of the Greens as similar to how Christians have their persecution complex. In reading the RationalWiki page, I particularly enjoyed this quotation:

“…one of the great secrets of human nature is that the one thing people want more than love, security, sex, chocolate or big-screen TV’s is to feel hard done by. Why? Because being hard done by is the shit. Feeling hard done by is the sweetest of drugs. If you’re being persecuted — it must mean you’re doing the right thing, right? You get the mellow buzz of the moral high ground, but without arrogantly claiming it as your own. You get an instant, supportive community in a big dark scary world of such scope it may well literally be beyond rational human processing. When you are hard done by, you get purpose in a life where otherwise, you’d have to find your own. And when you ride that high, then no amount of logic, no pointing out that in actuality you and your beliefs are at a high point of popularity and influence for the last hundred years — is going to pry that sweet crack-pipe of moral indignation from your hands.”

So the Greens want to try and galvanise the troops, make them band together as part of the tribe. It’s just… some tribes are destructive to humanity and have very harmful ideas like imposing socialist-inclined ideas on the masses.

Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government

I recently read through Dr Robert Higgs’ outstanding book, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, 25th Anniversary Edition (Independent Studies in Political Economy). See the Independent Institute book summary here or purchase it here. The book explains the way that government grows following crisis.

crisis_25_1800x2700The explanation for this ‘ratchet effect’ is nuanced and involves multiple facets. Crises can occur, which ‘necessitate’ expansion of the government. This expansion often ends up changing the ideology and way of thinking of the public. Then, the retrenchment of the state after the crisis does not fully occur.

Dr Higgs goes through American 20th century history, outlining the way Americans used to think prior to the World Wars, and how it changed afterwards. Government control is deceptive in that it hides the cost of the command economy:

Despite the variety of “lessons” people took away from their wartime experience, one thing seems clear: While many viewed the mobilization of the economy as having established both the possibility and the desirability of extended governmental control of economic life, hardly anyone came away from the crisis with an enhanced understanding or appreciation of the market system or greater insight into the inherent cost-imposing, cost-concealing character of a command economy. – Page 156

The change in ideology eroded respect for individual rights and free markets:

Whatever the social or economic problem, the cause seemed always to be the same: unfettered capitalism. Hence the universal cure: some form of collectivism… Right-wingers in those days were widely presumed to be unregenerate apologists for wealth vested interests and grasping wicked reactionaries. “Conservative” intellectuals, who ironically now included the defenders of classical liberalism, soon became almost an endangered species. – page 192

Big Government tends to entrench itself:

Once undertaken, governmental programs are hard to terminate. Interests become vested, bureaucracies entrenched, constituencies solidified. More fundamentally, each time the government expands its effective authority over economic decision-making, it sets in motion a variety of economy, institutional and ideological adjustments whose common denominator is a diminished resistance to Bigger Government. – page 261

It’s a great book and I can see why it is held in such high regard.

Costello on the lack of tax cuts

See Taxation: Death by a thousand (non) cuts by Peter Costello in The Daily Telegraph. I thought this was a decent article, and it makes some great points on taxation.

Peter spells out the problem:

The government does have a tax problem. It is that there has been no adjustment to the tax thresholds for five years. Inflation is taking every ­Australian into higher average tax rates.

See it is inflation doing this, but it is really also the government that is causing inflation when it has this monetary/banking system in place. That aside though, the way the system is now, it results in the government taking more and more without even having to do anything.

This section was particularly strong:

Another thing curiously absent from this “conversation” is any assessment of how these new taxes will affect economic growth and job creation. Taxes reduce economic activity. Tax reform should therefore involve switching from those taxes which cost economic growth the most to those which cost it the least.

Today’s politicians have forgotten this point. Or to take a more cynical view, they probably know this point, but simply find it more politically expedient to not actually follow through with the idea.

I think most Australians would like lower taxes (at least for themselves, some weirdos like the idea of taking more from other people). But most Australians are also in love with the idea of the government doing services. You can’t have both! We should instead pursue the idea of government doing less, and this will enable more tax cuts.

It’s not a ‘revenue’ problem the government has, it is a spending problem.

Obsession with taxing big businesses

The Australian Greens and other individuals from ‘the left’ in Australian politics seem very obsessed with this idea of taxing big businesses, and particularly ones who attempt to legally reduce their tax payable. I for one am glad that they try to minimise their tax, as their wealth is better kept in private hands than in government hands.

Just as I read through Robert Higg’s Crisis and Leviathan, I found this very relevant passage on page 108:

Why was the public obsessed with big business? What indicated the necessity or desirability of doing anything about it? And why should the government, the federal government in particular, take the action? Inevitably some firms would be bigger than others. Could the public not see that firms producing on a large scale achieved lower costs per unit as a result of high-volume production and superior organizational structures – economies unattainable by smaller businesses? Was this, in short, a problem more of public misunderstanding than of substance?

Now this section is related to the early 1900’s (around 1910). Great example of how some things stay the same…

Round up

First up, see this hilarious and awesome collection of Venn Diagrams by Mark Perry at AEI: Venn Diagram Sunday. Here’s a really cool one:

VennKidneys

Paul Sheehan muses on How the police waste our time on a massive scale. This one makes some interesting public choice economics points too:

As another way of increasing revenue, the state government has contracted a private company, Redflex, to operate a growing number of mobile speed traps, for profit. Not surprisingly, the number of people trapped and fined as a result of speed cameras is up by 50 per cent in the past year, according to the NRMA.

All these intrusions and this bureaucratic make-work is always justified in the name of “public safety” but the downward trend in fatalities over the past decade has come more from the introduction of air bags than from the four to five million random stops by police each year.

I particularly like the point about how air bags (invented by entrepreneurs) have done a better job at saving lives than the state (police random stops).

Here is a thought provoking Cato essay series: The End of Asymmetric Information? with lead essay by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok.

Is UberX actually “Unregulated”?

It’s as if people can’t see the forest for the trees. They seem to think that the only way something could be made safer is by top-down government edict, and if there is no top-down edict, it is obviously unregulated, unsafe and you will die immediately.

See UberX: companies ‘face penalties’ for use of ride-share service at SMH

"Now, workplace lawyers are voicing major concerns about employers that permit staff use of the controversial service because it could breach their duty of care.
Law firm Holding Redlich said UberX’s popularity was booming in Australia but it should be banned by employers because the service was unlicensed and unregulated and there were no in-car surveillance cameras, used in taxis, to deter assaults."

UberX might not be government regulated, but it is regulated – by the consumers. In the free and open marketplace, the consumer is king. UberX drivers live and die by consumer ratings, and if they receive poor ratings they are kicked off the platform.

Just because there aren’t in-car surveillance cameras, doesn’t mean it isn’t safe. In fact, I can think of times where there have been cameras and they didn’t stop people from doing bad things e.g. police violence, or taxi driver violence.

Far better would be to consider the overall system in play, where an UberX driver would have to be foolish to harm their passenger – all the rides are traceable and an email receipt goes to the customer.

Mr Zyngier said that while UberX may be a safe travel option, an employer’s duty of care required it to ensure staff used the safest option available, "so far as is reasonably practical". Failure to do so could expose employers to penalties and prosecution under workplace health and safety laws.

Actually, UberX is cheaper and safer than normal taxis. If anything, the employer’s duty of care should cause them to prefer their employees to use UberX instead of taxis. I’ve had work colleagues tell me they’ve been in taxis where the driver fell into microsleep (we’re talking head nodding back into the seat here) while driving 80kmh. I’ve personally experienced much less safe driving while in taxis than I have riding UberX.

The statist campaign against free market provision of services continues, and anyone who is honest must speak out against government taxi licence racketeering. UberX might be unregulated by government, but it is regulated by consumer choice.

Skeptical of private education for the poor?

If you’re skeptical of the idea that private (for profit, and not-for-profit) schooling might work better for the poor, you should definitely check out this interview with James Tooley on Econ Talk with Russ Roberts.

Some of the useful points I remember:

  • It’s not that private schools are worse performing, in many cases they’re actually better performing than government ones. This is even after controlling for other factors such as wealth of the family, intelligence of the child etc.
  • The incentives within private schooling are better because the owners want to profit. It means they will pay attention to new developments in teaching and attempt to incorporate those ideas into their own schooling.
  • It’s not that each parent needs to be an expert in education to evaluate whether the school is good/bad. They can make use of community knowledge, such as asking around in their family to find out which schools are reputable and which are not.
  • It’s really not the case that parents don’t want their kids to go to school, they overwhelmingly did want their children to thrive.
  • These private schools are not some minuscule minority of the overall population of school age children, in some cases it was even the majority of children going to these private schools.

I definitely want to read James’ book, The Beautiful Tree at some point.