Why is there no liberal party?

At the Economist’s Democracy in America blog, Erica Grieder suspects that "the biggest untapped constituency is people who are fiscally conservative and socially moderate or liberal." Grieder links to a post by former Cato research fellow Will Wilkinson where he explains why he is not a libertarian:

Here are some not-standardly-libertarian things I believe: Non-coercion fails to capture all, maybe even most, of what it means to be free. Taxation is often necessary and legitimate. The modern nation-state has been, on the whole, good for humanity. (See Steven Pinker’s new book.) Democracy is about as good as it gets. The institutions of modern capitalism are contingent arrangements that cannot be justified by an appeal to the value of liberty construed as non-interference. The specification of the legal rights that structure real-world markets have profound distributive consequences, and those are far from irrelevant to the justification of those rights. I could go on.

Wilkinson now identifies as a liberal. He writes: "I am interested in what it means to be free, and the role of freedom in flourishing or meaningful or valuable lives."

In the US, no major political party or movement stands for this kind of liberalism. The same is true in Australia. According to Greg Barns: "The Liberal Party, in the Howard and Abbott incarnation, is a socially conservative force which also believes that the state should play a paternalist role in steering the economic direction of the nation." Oddly, the most enthusiastic supporter of "the the role of freedom in flourishing or meaningful or valuable lives" seems to be the Australian Treasury.

This entry was posted in Political theory, Politics - international, Politics - national. Bookmark the permalink.

201 Responses to Why is there no liberal party?

  1. Ken Parish says:

    I raised this idea about six months ago and was almost universally derided as utopian or worse. But maybe I didn’t make it crystal clear enough that what I had in mind was indeed a party which was “fiscally conservative and socially moderate or liberal”. I still find it difficult to believe that there isn’t a large enough group in Australian society to constitute such a party. I would certainly join it and give of my time and energy if I believed it was genuinely principled and not just a vehicle for some disgruntled politician’s thwarted ambitions. OTOH I could not as a matter of principle commit to either of the two major parties in their current form nor the Greens.

  2. Don Arthur says:

    What would you call it Ken?

  3. Ken Parish says:

    Not sure. I’d say Liberal Democrats except that name in Australia has been hijacked (grossly misleadingly) by the extreme libertarians. I think the name would emerge once interested people began seriously discussing and coalescing around the concept.

  4. Leinad says:

    Didn’t we have one until fairly recently before it sort of exploded, partly due to fissures between its classical liberal and left-liberal wings?

  5. Ken Parish says:

    Leinad

    The Australian Democrats were essentially at inception wet liberal dissidents (rump of Liberal Movement) + Australia Party (Barton, Siddons etc) + Don Chipp. AFAIK they were always socially liberal but never embraced economic neo-liberalism. They gradually lurched to the left over subsequent years, particularly after Meg Lees’ GST deal. By contrast few of the economic neo-liberals in the Liberal Party (e.g. Costello) could be said to be socially liberal in any consistent way.

    We need to be careful with terms here. At least in my observation, the neo-liberalism of the 1980s was mostly economically oriented and not much interested in the social, broad human rights aspects of classical liberalism. What I take Greider and Will Wilkinson to be talking about is a revival of classical liberalism in the full sense i.e. economically conservative (but rejecting the extreme minimal state/taxation position of libertarians, and accepting that a reasonable, carefully targetted social welfare system is part of liberal principles – as did liberals like JS Mill and even more recent figures like Hayek) and also socially liberal/progressive with emphasis on human rights.

  6. kelly liddle says:

    I seem to have a simular view to you Ken. But I would say that some things which may seem absurd at the moment are not actually absurd because like the boiling frog experiment the changes are slow. If I said it would be good to cut taxes by 33% relating to GDP you might put me into the camp of extreme minimal taxation position. So I am now 38 and in my lifetime taxes have increased by around 50% as a percentage of GDP. Was it so bad in 1973? http://www.treasury.gov.au/documents/1156/PDF/01_Brief_History.pdf On top of this there have been many efficiency gains due to technology and economies of scale, so taxes should have reduced to achieve the same outcome. The reason for some of the problems are politicians like to fix problems that do not exist such as the Federal government getting involved in hospitals. Australia’s PBS scheme is very good because it does cost benefit analasys and does not buy expensive drugs. This could be seen as socialist but if people in the US could see how it works here and believe it could be replicated in the US they might change there mind. I have a Thai friend who is a pharmacyst and they buy drugs not on our scheme which is probably in one way or another as a result of lobying and kickbacks and the same can probably said for the US. If Australia is in the top few countries in the world for life expectancy the holistic view of health says we are almost perfect in a world sense. So extra costs will be born and the more likely outcome is the hospital system getting worse because now can put a federal state blame game with nobody responsible. Do Australian’s think we should live forever? My personal view is everything must be a case by case basis and I do think that the libertarian philosophy is good so long as logic is still used. It is true that some libertarians are fundamentalist and any fundamentalistism will lead to bad outcomes no matter what group they come from. Go Ron Paul 2012.

  7. kelly liddle says:

    just to be clear about tax increase from about 20% of GDP to 30% of GDP being a 50% increase

  8. Mr Denmore says:

    I’ve been banging on for years about the untapped constituency that are economic and social liberals. We used to have a government that satisfied those needs – Bob Hawke’s first cabinet.

    Perhaps the reason we don’t have one now – with both Gillard and Abbott being social conservatives and Abbott being less economically liberal than Labor – is that the program for economic liberalism is perceived as largely complete.

    The electoral disaster that was Howard’s one final push towardna US-style dog-eat-dog labour Market with ‘Work Choices’ saw to that.

    Now economic ‘debate’ – such as it is – consists of the two major party groupings desperately trying to differentiate one from the other. But the truth is they have nothing to say. The consensus on macro-economics overlooks the fact that the real work has to done on the micro side, but neither party really wants to go there. So we have this nonsensical ‘debt-deficit’ debate and beat-ups over service delivery.

    Meanwhile on social policy,both sides seek to outbid each other on the right to appease the perceived prejudices of an imagined outer-suburban lumpen proletariat/petit bourgeoisie. Very depressing.

  9. Marks says:

    Kelly,

    I follow your argument, but health as an example is not a good one to use.

    Health costs have gone up without doubt, but so have outcomes. Your chances of surviving most cancers, heart attack, stroke etc are much better. So, maybe people might think that increased health expenditure is worthwhile without affecting the liberal political question being asked in this thread. That is, you can see the movement in relative change in health as % of GDP as being outcomes driven rathern than right/left/centre idealogically driven. Defence might similarly fall in this category – would a defence force equipped as per 1973 be able to do whatever it is we want of it today?

    However, I do see the point of the slow boiling frog. Maybe the terms should be thought of as all relative. Perhaps, ‘conservatives’, and ‘hard right’ (without trying to get into the definition of those) relative to ‘liberals’ have changed as well. So, if we can get the relativities correct, maybe we have a step in the correct direction.

  10. Tel says:

    The word “Liberal” has been used and abused to the point of becoming worn out and meaningless. All the mainstream parties in Australia are central planning parties.

    When was the last time anyone heard a candidate get asked a question: “What are you going to do about my … ?” and give the answer, “It isn’t actually my job to fix your … ?”

    Until we have candidates willing to accept that there should be limits on government power, we ratchet towards central planning with no turning back. Even John Howard increased the size and power of government. For example, Work Choices was not really a free market option since it included rules that actively prevented employers from negotiating with unions. Work Choices was very blatant union busting pretending to be free market, however in a real free market people are also free to make unions (except that these free market unions would have no political privileges, unlike our present day unions).

  11. Tel says:

    Kelly, a mere one hundred years ago we had no income tax at all. Then we had the promise “Oh it will be temporary but we absolutely need this for the war you understand.”

    Then after the war they broke the promise… hardly surprising.

    How quickly people adapt to the new normal and pretend the past never happened. A dirty broken promise of one generation becomes the unquestionable foundation of righteousness in the next generation.

  12. Sancho says:

    Where do the views of the Australian Democrats as a party, and Malcolm Turnbull as an individual, fit within the constellation of philosophies in Wilkinson’s article and the comments?

  13. Sancho says:

    Dashed that out without spotting Ken’s comment on the Aus Dems.

  14. kelly liddle says:

    Mark
    Defence is a good example of how a government can stuff it up. Why on earth are we buying the F-35 for more than double of the cost of a russian produced plane su-30mk that has a much better range suitable for Australia and we could buy 2 times as many and still save money. http://www.ausairpower.net/jsf-analysis-2002.html So our only possible enemy has a better plane for any combat that we might encounter.

    I suppose better examples of waste are the breeding bonus (baby bonus) and home vendors subsidy (first home owners grant).

    My main point about the hospital system is that it is not broken so why try to break it by federalising the function.

    The feds are trying to take over all functions of government down to the local areas how about the flood tax? So in Brisbane some areas were built where there is known flood risk and in many cases could just build a high set house so it is not a major problem, which is either the councils fault or the home owner took the risk. So Thanks for the money NSW people lol we can continue to be stupid and you will give us your money. This of course also applies to different local authorities behaving differently also.

  15. Marks says:

    Kelly,

    Waste is ubiquitous. I am not sure that there is a greater proportion of waste now or thirty years ago – for example, the F111 program went over cost by a heap. The point I was making is that it is difficult to compare inputs without correcting for different outputs. ie would our 1973 diggers, armed and trained as they were, be able to conduct the work that today’s diggers are?

    The connection with the original blog post (and yours) is that if there is a ‘cooking frog’ effect, then the meaning of liberal obviously has changed as you suggest – in terms of how much state expenditure is appropriate. If, however, we are just seeing more expensive costs for better outcomes, then I am not so sure.

    Let me put it another way with the health system example. Let’s say we quantify health outcomes like cancer survivability, and then cut our health budget to reduce healthcare so that present day outcomes are no better than they were in 1973, would we have a higher proportion of GDP spent on health than we did then? If so, then we have become more inefficient (and wasteful as your response to me says). If not, then we really are comparing two different things which we need to correct for before we can decide whether or not we are looking at a cooking frog.

  16. kelly liddle says:

    Marks
    With health it may or may not cost more to get the current outcomes but that doesn’t mean the federal government should become involved this will be wastefull with more beauraucracy, 2 levels instead of one. The willingness of the government to give handouts is also creating inefficiency. Why take money off people and then give it back? Both parties are guilty of this and it is spreading through industry and households. It must be more efficient just to not take the money off the people in the first place and let the market take care of things like agriculture. What is the point of giving money to farmers with floods and droughts. This is what farming is about and yes it is tuff if your area is susceptable. All the handouts will do is increase the cost of land making it harder for new entrants. Governments often deliberately waste money to buy votes this is an unfortunate result of democracy and seems to get worse as the wealth gets larger. So the question is how to stop governments continuously getting larger because without this there will never be sustainable government.

    Think of all the extra or expansion of federal departments which used to be state or not exist health (hospitals), education (schools), aging (nursing homes), climate change, early childhood. Outcomes may be improving but it is not a cause and effect relationship with more beauraucrats. If your arguement is that it is better for the Federal government to take care of a particular department then it should be dumped by all states not just duplication.

    So there is nowhere to find a true fiscal conservative.

  17. conrad says:

    Kelly, most of your examples are tiny things, some of which I agree are just bribes (such as the two you mentioned in #15). However, it’s worthwhile having a look at where the money is actually spent. Most of the categories there are fairly self explanatory (excluding “General Government Services”, which I assume is just a big conglomeration of assorted things — no doubt some of which could be chopped). So, basically, if you want to reduce government expediture significantly, you need to work out how to chop social security and health expenses, both of which are going to be rather difficult given an ever aging and more unhealthy population. Even if you could think of more efficient ways to run these, and say got a 1-2% one-off benefit, it would hardly make a dint in the budget, and I doubt it would even make up for the natural increase that seems inevitable in these two categories. So how do we cut these? Health seems almost impossible to me, and I doubt too many people are going to vote to have nastier means testing for pensions, which would be one way to reduce social security.

    Also, I would have thought that the reason Australia buys planes from the US is obvious, and it has very little to do with how good they are, much like the submarines we have (notice how no one actually seems to care too much about the fact that they don’t work and they don’t actually have enough crew for them?), so I doubt there’s too much point in arguing about them as if we needed them for something like fighting.

  18. Yobbo says:

    I’d say Liberal Democrats except that name in Australia has been hijacked (grossly misleadingly) by the extreme libertarians.

    The LDP has very mildly libertarian policies Ken. Very much like similar parties in the region such as ACT NZ. Perhaps the extreme libertarians are just in your head?

  19. Yobbo says:

    By the way Don, the things Will Wilkinson writes in his post are things that many libertarians believe. He is still a libertarian as most people understand the term, and his post is basically just an attempt to distance himself from the controversy surrounding Ron Paul.

  20. kelly liddle says:

    Yobbo
    When was the LDP website last updated?

  21. Dan says:

    [email protected]:

    So what core beliefs would someone have to renege upon to no longer be a libertarian?

    (I’d add the disclaimer, ‘in your view’, but I hope it’s both given and trivial that your view will be the one that you express, and that furthermore your definitions will have at least some general relevance.)

  22. Yobbo says:

    Dan as far as I am concerned if someone is fiscally conservative and socially liberal then they are a libertarian. Obviously there are varying degrees as to how far someone takes that.

    Obviously then you have to ask what makes someone fiscally conservative and makes them socially liberal? But it’s safe to say that a lot of people who consider themselves “fiscally conservative” really aren’t.

    Most libertarians for example would agree that income tax rates in developed countries are too high – some might think that the ideal rate is 0%, but then there’s many libertarians who think 25% or 30% would be fine also. The Australian LDP for example promotes a flat tax of around 30% for Australia. The NZ ACT party states on their website that they think a personal income tax rate of 25% is ideal.

    A key issue that differentiates libertarians from conservatives is their view on illicit drugs. You won’t find many people who claim to be libertarian who think that marijuana should be illegal, for example. Many of them would prefer to legalise most forms of recreational drugs.

    People like Ken tend to think that all Libertarians want to institute some kind of social darwinism with no public health insurance and no social security. That isn’t true at all. Most would be happy with an overall reduction in the size of government beauracracy and spending. I know quite a few libertarians and can’t remember meeting one who was unhappy with Australia’s health system for example. The LDP as policy recommends a negative income tax which an effective guaranteed minimum income of $10,000 per year for all Australians.

  23. Don Arthur says:

    Yobbo #20 – I think this highlights problems with ‘libertarian’ as a label.

    What do people like Will Wilkinson and Tyler Cowen have in common with someone like Hans Hermann Hoppe? It can’t be a shared passion for ‘liberty’ because they don’t share an understanding of what the word means.

  24. Yobbo says:

    “So, basically, if you want to reduce government expediture significantly, you need to work out how to chop social security and health expenses, both of which are going to be rather difficult given an ever aging and more unhealthy population.”

    Not necessarily true Conrad, because the cost of social security doesn’t just include the actual payments, but the cost of maintaining the humongous government beauracracy that deals with it. You could quite a lot of that budget by making the process simpler.

    For example, with the LDP’s 30/30 negative income tax, you would not need a department of social security at all. You would just receive payments based on your tax returns.

  25. Yobbo says:

    Well Don, I think what you are talking about is a problem with labels in general, not just the label libertarian in particular.

    What does Britney Spears have in common with John Howard? Not a lot you wouldn’t think. But they both consider themselves conservatives.

  26. Dan says:

    Well, yes, and their gift for selling cheap fantasies to the public.

  27. Dan says:

    Re: your comment at 23 – this must put you in a strange space with regard to the Australian political mainstream. The conservatives aren’t really fiscally conservative, and the parties with the most libertarian drug policies are definitely not.

  28. Yobbo says:

    You’re right Dan. I think this was the point Don was making in the original post.

    Unlike Ken though, I’m perfectly happy with Australia’s already existing, fiscally conservative, socially liberal party: The Liberal Democratic Party.

  29. Yobbo says:

    Greg Barns seems blissfully unaware of them though, despite mentioning their NZ equivalent ACT. The major problem of the LDP at the moment is that nobody really knows who they are.

  30. Dan says:

    Yes, sort of, although I don’t think Don anticipated that you would identify the degree of overlap that you do between libertarians and liberals. For instance, most self-described libertarians I know do not accept that taxes are legitimate, ever; that they are are always coercive/theft (presupposing that whatever people earn is precisely what they deserve, but that another debate).

    Isn’t there an overlap between the Shooters and the LDP? Because te former don’t seem at all socially liberal to me.

  31. wilful says:

    >Most libertarians for example would agree that income tax rates in developed countries are too high – some might think that the ideal rate is 0%, but then there’s many libertarians who think 25% or 30% would be fine also. The Australian LDP for example promotes a flat tax of around 30% for Australia. The NZ ACT party states on their website that they think a personal income tax rate of 25% is ideal.

    See where you let the cat out of the bag and lost me was when you casually inserted the word flat in relation to taxes. That’s where you go from fiscally conservative to loony glibertarian.

  32. kelly liddle says:

    Yobbo
    I will make the question more direct. Has the LDP changed there official policy with regard to immigration? If my memory is correct they have.

    With health and old age pensions it is actually easy to change the costs but in the democratic sense difficult (hand outs rule). With the compulsory super if you have around $250 000 stored up this will give you enough money on average to cover the old age pension. The problem is that it is not a requirement to spend your money wisely so you can blow it and go on the pension.

    With healthcare the same applies especialy with elective medicine. If people were told it is an automatic 3 (maybe 5) year wait on the public system but you can pay $15 000 for a hip replacement and have it done now many would elect to pay rather than wait and complain.

  33. Yobbo says:

    There are some ex-shooters party members in the LDP, but that’s as far as the overlap goes. The LDP is affiliated with the Outdoor Recreation Party in NSW.

  34. Yobbo says:

    “See where you let the cat out of the bag and lost me was when you casually inserted the word flat in relation to taxes. That’s where you go from fiscally conservative to loony glibertarian.”

    I don’t see what’s so loony about flat taxes. Many countries in the world (mostly the ex-soviet states in the EU) have flat taxes and have not degenerated into mad max-style anarchy.

    Hong Kong tax rate caps out at 16% and it is effectively a flat tax because the top margin kicks in at around $20,000 AUD per annum.

    Kelly: I am not sure if they have changed their official policy on immigration or not. I’m not involved with the LDP other than being a member.

  35. conrad says:

    Yobbo,

    just saying you could fix the bureaucracy to save money is kind of like saying you can do magic. At present the DHS (medicare, social security, childcare…) runs on bit less less than 6 billion, and presumably some of that that are silly government programs they are obliged to run (e.g., work for the dole). So even if you got a 20% saving (which I wouldn’t complain about), it’s diddleys compared to the amount of money they are paying out. So the only way you can really save lots of money is to stop the payouts.

    Also, I must admit, I fail to see why the 30/30 system is any different administratively from any other system — you still have all the same problems (paying people, fraud, calculating payments etc…).

  36. Peter Whiteford says:

    Yobbo: “For example, with the LDP’s 30/30 negative income tax, you would not need a department of social security at all. You would just receive payments based on your tax returns.”

    Not everybody is in the tax system and the increase in the tax threshold later this year will take more people out. In fact, the people least likely to be in the tax system are those in the social security system.

    It is also worth noting that out of a total welfare budget of close to $120 billion, all of Centrelink’s administrative costs add uo to around $3 billion.

    For a more detailed discussion see
    http://clubtroppo.com.au/2011/06/06/could-we-abolish-poverty-if-we-didnt-spend-so-much-on-public-servants/

    While you say at 23 that the LDP would advocae a minimum income of $10,000, 30% of $30,000 is of course $9,000, or about 3/4 of the inadequate level of Newstart and less than half the age pension.

  37. Yobbo says:

    “Also, I must admit, I fail to see why the 30/30 system is any different administratively from any other system”

    Like I said, you wouldn’t need a social security bureaucracy at all. The ATO already has the bureaucracy in place to process tax returns and send out payments as a result. They also have the investigative branch.

    What you would no longer need is an arm of government that functions as a detective agency to see if people are looking for work or not. You would no longer need separate departments to deal with the aged, the young, jobseekers, the disabled and aboriginal people. Everyone would just get a payment based on their total reported income.

  38. Dan says:

    Yobbo – have the ORP considered rebranding themselves as the Bogan Party? That’s precisely what they are from what I can see and it’s a great marketing angle.

  39. Yobbo says:

    “While you say at 23 that the LDP would advocae a minimum income of $10,000, 30% of $30,000 is of course $9,000, or about 3/4 of the inadequate level of Newstart and less than half the age pension.”

    Peter, the $30,000 figure is based on a proposal that was written nearly 10 years ago. It’s entirely possibly it could be raised, (and probably should given the increase in average wages in that time) it would still work the same way.

  40. Yobbo says:

    Dan, what does the word “Bogan” mean to you?

  41. Peter Whiteford says:

    Yobbo, even 10 years ago, the arithmetic didn’t work.

    The estimate that many studies of minimum income schemes for Australia come up with is that if you wanted to pay a Guaranteed minimum income of around the pension level you would need a basic tax rate of between 55% and 60%. The 2009 increases in pension rates will have pushed this up, although a negative income tax is cheaper than a GMI, but I would be surprised if you can come up with less than a 45% constant tax rate (but a $45,000 tax threshold would break the bank).

  42. Yobbo says:

    Peter I don’t think anyone is suggesting a guaranteed minimum income of around the Pension level. People with no other income would be marginally worse off under 30/30, but on the other hand they would be punished far less for taking on part-time work.

    I would imagine that people who started work before the days of compulsory super would have their full pensions grandfathered in.

  43. Dan says:

    [email protected]: No doubt there’s a PhD in that: Constructions of the Bogan Archetype Amongst Urban Latte Sippers, or some such.

  44. kelly liddle says:

    Everyone except Yobbo

    You are all boiling frogs. The concept that it is technically impossible to ever change from the current status quo which is a guarantee of a broke government in the future as tax and expenditures continue to increase at least based on Euorpean or US observation.

    So lets look forward to a Greece/USA situation and then what me or Yobbo might propose will happen anyway because if it doesn’t then we will be what we call third world status.

  45. desipis says:

    Yobbo, and what of the people who aren’t able to work at all and can’t survive on less than the pension? If you’re going to have a one-size-fits-all social wage then you need to ensure it’s big enough for even the most needy and disadvantaged. Paying that much to everyone, regardless of need, is simply not going to be economically feasible. The only other option is to leave a certain portion of society, the most vulnerable and needy, to rot in economic misery.

    I would imagine that people who started work before the days of compulsory super would have their full pensions grandfathered in.

    And so the slide from simplistic ideal to bulging bureaucracy begins…

  46. wilful says:

    “is a guarantee of a broke government in the future”

    bollocks.

  47. Dan says:

    wilful,

    Quite so.

  48. kelly liddle says:

    wilful
    So which example do you have that a country will not go broke by the current policies?

    It is possible we won’t but that is only because at some stage cuts will be made which do not seem acceptable by the majority at the moment.

  49. Dan says:

    Kelly,

    What data do you have to support the assertion that the Australian government is in danger of becoming insolvent? Please also specify a time window in which you think this will happen.

  50. kelly liddle says:

    Dan
    Time window is 10 years on current policy that we will be broke. This is based on the assumption which may be wrong or right that that commodities will soften and unemployment return to normal levels of around 7% or if 10% unemployment as in early 90s or 80s then definately the government will be broke. My point and I am guessing Yobbo’s point is, why not draw a line in the sand which is sustainable. Doing it in a time of desperation is much more difficult. Currently we are at the top of a mining boom (in my opinion), very low unemployment, AAA credit rating by all agencies (cheap money) and we can’t balance a budget, that is just crazy.

  51. wilful says:

    “So which example do you have that a country will not go broke by the current policies?”

    Oh I dunno, why don’t we start with Australia.

    You have made a very strong assertion, you haven’t backed it up with any evidence. Australia’s public finances are very robust, they’re the envy of the world, we have a massive capacity to borrow, the only reason we’re not running a surplus at the moment is because of the global recession and we’d be deflationary. We’ll be foolishly back into surplus if not next budget then the one after. The modern settlement has worked for Australia, the current tax take is clearly overall financially sustainable. Sure we could tweak it here and there but the idea that there is a crisis hiding around the corner has no basis in the evidence before us.

  52. Dan says:

    wilful, Kelly,

    In fact it’s actually a really weak claim, because it contains the weasel card ‘on current policy’.

    I happen to think that we can and will run bigger deficits over the next ten years and still won’t be anything like insolvent.

    But of course if we were in any danger of becoming insolvent, of course any government with any basic competence whatsoever would moderate their tax settings; fiscal and monetary policy would both be enacted to mitigate against such an eventuality.

    In any event, the notion that ‘policy’ (no further qualification offered) will be identical in ten years is impossibly unlikely. It could be more hawkish or dovish on debt. It won’t be the same.

    Kelly, if you made the strong claim: ‘Australia will be insolvent in ten years’, I’d offer you a bet.

  53. kelly liddle says:

    Dan
    “of course any government with any basic competence”

    That currently does not include Greece, USA and possibly others like Italy Ireland Portugal. So what you are saying is that it is better to just not care until we are desperate. So why get desparate why not fix problems before they are problems and now we have large problems with our exellent terms of trade and low unemployment but massive deficits. I am from Brisbane so I owe about $21000 as my share of public debt local, state and federal. Are you suggesting I should be happy about this situation? So a bit more than $20 per week will be just on interest assuming I am average.

  54. conrad says:

    “Are you suggesting I should be happy about this situation?”

    It’s not too bad given you have roads, public transport, police, schools, sewerage, …. etc. that you can use.

  55. Dan says:

    There’s a difference between public expenditure that represents capital investment in a country’s productive capacity and public expenditure in the form of bailing out failed banks or embarking on foreign adventures – ‘productive’ vs ‘unproductive’ capital, if you will.

  56. kelly liddle says:

    “roads, public transport, police, schools, sewerage”

    Most of the roads schools etc. were already here when debt was much lower. With the public transport and sewerage they have put the prices up faster than inflation so that is not a gain. Why is it so hard to comprehend this is a big problem if it happens during a boom. If unemployment was 10% then there might be an excuse as it could be seen as temporary. There is nothing productive about the debts that have been created recently.

    This is why it is difficult to have a fiscal conservative running the show because too many people accept a low standard and don’t care about future debts and problems.

  57. conrad says:

    “There is nothing productive about the debts that have been created recently.”

    Last time I checked, Brisbane was growing rather rapidly. Unfortunately, this means you need to either stop people moving to Brisbane, do nothing and end up like Sydney where you can sit in traffic from 5:30am in the morning, or actually fix up the infrastructure. Unfortunately this sort of stuff costs money. It’s also the case that most infrastructure has a used-by date and so you need to replace stuff. Now perhaps the price charged for something isn’t enough to recoup the costs (e.g., public transport, sewrage, roads…), but if you want everything to be paid for at an individual level, then you should have tolls on everything or at least prices that reflect this (i.e., public transport should be higher also).

  58. kelly liddle says:

    My opinion is if there is no money in the bank don’t fix the roads or more precisely don’t build new ones. If there is money in the bank then ok. It is not about paying at an individual level with utilities “roads water electricity gas” of course needs government involvement but only if they have the money. On streets that are not high speed let them get potholes within reason and not pay money for speed bumps. The main point is to balance the budget especially when income is high like now.

  59. Yobbo says:

    “Yobbo, and what of the people who aren’t able to work at all and can’t survive on less than the pension?”

    There are millions of people in Australia today surviving on less than the pension, so I doubt many such people exist. The pension is 150% of what people on Newstart get.

    “And so the slide from simplistic ideal to bulging bureaucracy begins…”

    I just see that as keeping a promise. After all, people who worked and paid tax prior to 1992 were doing so under the contract that they would receive a pension when they retired. People after that were told to save for their own retirement.

  60. Dan says:

    The first part of what you said is silly. How do you expect to sustain economic growth with decayed or inadequate infrastructure?

    The last part, ‘The main point is to balance the budget especially when income is high like now’, is actually pretty much Keynes and post-Keynes, except he (and they, and me) sensibly call for balance over the cycle, not at all points in the cycle.

  61. Dan says:

    NB: 62 is directed to [email protected]

  62. Patrick says:

    Productive and unproductive capital Dan? Can I call the Greens unproductive labour then?

    I am keen to know if any of your famous libertarian friends (this is not the first time you have invoked them iirc!) are over 25?

    For my part I am fiscally and socially liberal, and I would certainly spend more on what someone with an addled brain might call social inclusion but I would just call welfare, as well as on infrastructure. I would happily borrow to do this.

    I would

    * allow at least twice as many immigrants and spend more per head on them, possibly subject to HECS-style charges. I would also scrap the war on drugs holus bolus and spend about 10% of whatever we currently spend on it on harm minimisation strategies.

    * pass laws much closer to workchoices than what we have now but with less prescription.

    * also introduce some form of school vouchers and ‘charter’ schools, including for-profit ones.

    * raise the GST to 15% (with some compensation for the lowest quartile; possibly reflected in the increased welfare spending referred to above) and cut corporate tax to 20% and abolish foreign bank interest withholding tax.

    * expand the MRRT scheme as well and would definitely scrap the carbon tax pending some good reason to have one. As a matter of principle I would look to increase the top tax rate threshold to more like $250k and index all thresholds.

    I would then hire someone else to work out how to balance whatever that left me with ;)

    It is safe to say that neither major party is very close to my ideals!

  63. desipis says:

    …I doubt many such people exist.

    Sand, meet Yobbo’s head. Yobbo’s head, meet sand.

    I just see that as keeping a promise.

    My point wasn’t that it was an unreasonable distinction or compromise. My point was that the complex system of rules and bureaucracy we’ve created is simply what happens when you try to combine all the reasonable distinctions and compromises that exist in society of millions of people.

  64. Dan says:

    [email protected]:

    ‘Productive and unproductive capital Dan? Can I call the Greens unproductive labour then?’

    You can! And what a thigh-slapper too. Whether or not you’re right is of course a matter of opinion; even if their job turns out to be just to drag to Overton window in the direction of Northern European-style social democracy then they’re probably punching above their weight.

    And the libertarians I know are, like me, in their 20s (some under 25, some over 25) and yes, probably quite idealistic. I note however that Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard persisted with stupid ideas long after they turned 25.

  65. Ken Parish says:

    Patrick

    I think I agree with just about all of your dot point wish list, although I’m still not quite convinced that a voucher schooling system would provide reasonably equal educational opportunity, despite Andrew Norton’s able advocacy.

  66. conrad says:

    Patrick,

    I’m always surprised at how much the self-confessed libertarian crowd think that the government should be subsidizing private schools. Surely, excluding self interest, your position should be that private schools should remain out of the domain of the government altogether (note, that isn’t my position — I would simply cut back government funding to private schools after they reach the public subsidy so that the public wouldn’t be obliged to pay for already rich schools).

  67. Dan says:

    Also RAND did some work on voucher schools and their results were along the lines of: ‘it doesn’t matter if they’re there or not’.

  68. Dan says:

    *charter schools

  69. Yobbo says:

    Patrick’s dot points are pretty much in line with the policies of the LDP and ACT NZ, yet people still think there isn’t a party that represents those views.

    “I’m always surprised at how much the self-confessed libertarian crowd think that the government should be subsidizing private schools.”

    I’m sure a lot of libertarians would prefer that schools were not publically funded at all, but as a compromise prefer school vouchers to having 2 separate systems. The main reason behind this preference is that most libertarians believe that the market forces inherent in a voucher system would result in better outcomes for people who would otherwise be forced into the public system.

  70. Dan says:

    ‘…most libertarians believe that the market forces inherent in a voucher system would result in better outcomes for people who would otherwise be forced into the public system.’

    That’s what it is. Belief. Faith. The evidence, to the extent that it exists, tells a different, duller story.

  71. Patrick says:

    Ken, Dan, I don’t think RAND’s work addressed my (and possibly AN’s as well) main concern which is facilitating a broader range of education through independent/charter schools.

    Conrad, I described myself as liberal, but indeed I have a soft spot for scrapping government funding of education altogether. OTOH I am a pragmatist first ideologue second, and even on ideology I see education funding as great value-for-money (particularly early childhood) on the ‘social inclusion’ front..

    Specifically on subsidising private education, I see it, in conjunction with the charter schools bit, rather as encouraging competition which I have incredible faith in. I also see vouchers as removing what I perceive to be the penalty for people who pay taxes and send their kids to eg Catholic schools which get generally shafted by government funding but still charge way less than most other independent schools.

    Dan I have seen some of those reports on Finland. Did you know that Finland is 94% Finns and 5% Swedes? Partly for that reason I don’t really care deeply about unusual results out of Finland, I don’t see Finland as a very useful public policy comparator. That said if I was education minister or in his staff or more involved in schooling generally (ie in a few years when mine hit high school) I’d be having a harder look and think about it.

  72. conrad says:

    “The main reason behind this preference is that most libertarians believe that the market forces inherent in a voucher system would result in better outcomes for people who would otherwise be forced into the public system.”

    Then why give vouchers for *any* school? Why not just allow them to be spent on the poor ones. In this case, no-one is subsidizing rich schools and no-one is being forced into the public system either.

    Also, if you seriously believe what you said, then can we have health vouchers for private hospitals also then?

  73. conrad says:

    “I also see vouchers as removing what I perceive to be the penalty for people who pay taxes and send their kids to eg Catholic schools which get generally shafted by government funding but still charge way less than most other independent schools”

    I think you logic is wrong here from a libertarian perspective. Catholic schools are already subsidized so they are simply paying less — the only people with any claim to being shafed are those without children.

  74. Leinad says:

    Ken @4

    The Australian Democrats were essentially at inception wet liberal dissidents (rump of Liberal Movement) + Australia Party (Barton, Siddons etc) + Don Chipp. AFAIK they were always socially liberal but never embraced economic neo-liberalism.

    Sure, but so are the UK Lib Dems – they’re the merger of the remains of the Liberal Party and the UK Social Democratic Party. Their neoliberal wing dominates senior positions but the rank and file are substantially wetter and more social democratic.

    I think this partially explains why there’s no Liberal party here (and so few big ones anywhere) – you need a few more people than professionals/academics to win seats and run a party machine, especially without a nice proportional electoral system and that means you need at least one out of charismatic leadership (a lottery at the best of times) and a broad alliance of liberalish, non-conservative, non-socialist sorts.

    This dilutes the neoliberal purity of your party, but electorally that’s largely to the good – it’s a truism as old as the Eighteenth Brumaire that classical liberalism isn’t popular with anyone but classical liberals. ACT are on life support in NZ and the FDP (2%) are getting outpolled by the Pirate Party (7%)

  75. Yobbo says:

    “Then why give vouchers for *any* school? Why not just allow them to be spent on the poor ones.”

    Because the rich schools got to be rich schools because they offered a quality product. If you excluded them it would be arbitrary and temporary in any case, because you’d just end up with the best public schools becoming as rich as them, and removing the reason for their exclusion.

    Not to mention that by excluding schools in this arbitrary manner, you take away the choice of the people you are trying to help.

  76. Dan says:

    [email protected]: so if (and only if) we were ethnically homogenous, we should be following the Finnish model?

    I don’t think that’s the point you were trying to make. But I’m not sure what point you were trying to make.

  77. Dan says:

    ‘Because the rich schools got to be rich schools because they offered a quality product.’

    No, it’s because rich people send their kids there. I am hands-down certain I got a better (and better-rounded) education at my local comprehensive than did many of the people I started uni with whose parents had forked out tens of thousands.

  78. conrad says:

    Dan, try adding HK, Singapore and Shanghai to your list, and then you will know what Patrick is getting out (the system in HK is very similar incidentally).

    “Because the rich schools got to be rich schools because they offered a quality product.”

    Can I pay less tax because I’m rich also (actually, I’m not rich, but I’m sure you get the point).

    “Not to mention that by excluding schools in this arbitrary manner”

    It’s not arbitrary at all. All I’m saying is that I don’t think the public should have to pay for rich people to get a premium service. I personally couldn’t care less about the Catholic schools, for example, although subdizing them seems no different to, for example, subsidizing private hospitals.

  79. Ken Parish says:

    I might support a voucher system if govt required private schools to reserve a certain reasonable minimum proportion of full service places at voucher price only for lower socio-economic students. Has that been tried anywhere that has a voucher system?

  80. Patrick says:

    Ken, I would support both that and phasing-out of assistance starting around the $250k pa family income mark.

    Conrad, Finland is not relevant to this (PDF), for example. Also your list of was pretty right, but on a slightly broader perspective it missed Korea and Japan (PDF)
    ;)

  81. kelly liddle says:

    Dan @ 62
    “sensibly call for balance over the cycle, not at all points in the cycle”

    What part of the cycle are we in Dan? highest terms of trade for 140 years unemployment at 5%. It could be called a Rudd Gillard special cycle where high income means debt.

  82. Sancho says:

    I’d want to see some pretty solid evidence before believing elite private schools got wealthy simply due to the quality of the education they provide.

    I’d suggest that ideologically- and religiously-motivated parents pouring money into small organisations because they want a particular type of indoctrination for their children came long before those organisations were able to afford exceptional staff and facilities.

    Additionally, what’s the record of the Catholic church’s support of its schools in Australia?

  83. Marks says:

    Hm, and the best public schools just happen to be in the leafy eastern suburbs (at least in SA where I grew up) where the doctors, dentists and lawyers just happen to live.

    Thus, well off middle class people can get to send their kids to a free public school and get a good education free (did I mention that?), while those who live in working class areas are denied such an education. A voucher system would upset this cosy little arrangement, because people in the poorer areas could elect to spend their money sending kids to better private schools. Of course, that would not find favour with those sending their kids to the good quality state schools because there would be more working class kids crowding out the better paying career entry positions. I think that is the real objection to vouchers.

  84. Dan says:

    [email protected] – while conditions in Australia are presently enviably strong, the outlook is uncertain. Globally, the business cycle is in a depressed phase which we have avoided through a combination of good luck and good policy.

    I think the government’s promise to bring Australia back into surplus was glib, though, and I’m glad they’re making noises about moving away from it.

    If the rest of the world was humming along nicely, I would be wholly of the opinion that we should be running contractionary fiscal policy.

  85. Dan says:

    [email protected] – Pff, no. Those upper middle class kids from leafy suburbs areas will do just fine (on the whole) regardless of whether schools in working class areas improve or not. Even if it were a zero-sum game. Which it’s not.

  86. kelly liddle says:

    [email protected]
    I think we are going to have to agree to disagree. Hockey’s comment that “this government has a reverse midas touch” comes to mind. There has never been wealth destruction on such a scale (during a boom) by our federal government and also my state government. Examples school halls, computers in schools, pink batts, NBN, carbon tax, solar panels and other renewables rather than energy efficiency which saves money, changing fuel use from cheap coal to expensive gas rather than changing from expensive imported oil to cheap gas for vehicles, $900 handouts to buy flat screens which now cost about $400 – $500. I have no idea which one of these things you think was good but it does sound like you are defending them.

  87. Sancho says:

    Can you think of anything going on in the global economy that might prompt that sort of expenditure? Any sort of, say, “crisis” that might indicate the economy needs some sort of stimulus to avoid recession?

  88. Dan says:

    Kelly – yeah, it’s called countercyclic economic policy and it saves countries from recessions. It’s almost always inefficient but nowhere near as much so as recession (which is a doozy of a wealth destroyer, in case you were wondering).

    In the wise words of Geoff Gallop: ‘I remain convinced that a Coalition government would have done the same thing’. Couldn’t hope to have said it better myself.

  89. JB Cairns says:

    Kelly,

    We have had 3 years of sub-trend growth. That ain’t a boom. Try and find out the facts first. The Stimulus averted a certain recession. That is wealth destruction

    Ken, vouchers only work where there is good public transport around such as Sweden.

    If not Sinclair Davidson’s deadbeats can only send the children to the closest school

  90. kelly liddle says:

    The government in the examples I gave above destroyed wealth. With energy it was an opportunity to make the country richer, our country is poorer. If we did have a recession so what? that is a normal part of the cycle and would have been much better than wasting money. If the money was not wasted and the spending was making the country more wealthy in the long run then it might have been excusable.

    The coming recession whenever that might be will be much worse because of the wealth already destroyed and the debt which has been run up.

    The above comentatators say why we can’t have this “fiscally conservative and socially moderate or liberal” The answer is people refuse to vote for fiscally conservative candidates in large enough numbers and will excuse the most stupid waste because of their fear and short term thinking.

  91. Ken Parish says:

    kelly

    Please try to stay at least vaguely on topic. This thread is about whether there should be a genuine liberal party and why there isn’t. If you just want to rehash partisan arguments about whether Labor’s GFC stimulus package was a good idea etc, there are plenty of other threads where you can post about that.

  92. kelly liddle says:

    ‘I remain convinced that a Coalition government would have done the same thing’.

    You do not see me defending the coalition policies, the only point to make about the coalition is they paid the debt off last time and I hope they do it again but they still have wasteful energy programs in their policy also and the vote buying handouts. It is unlikely they could be worse than the current government that is almost impossible.

  93. Ken Parish says:

    Obviously #95 crossed in posting. Any further radically off-topic comments will be deleted.

  94. kelly liddle says:

    Ken fair enough but I thought my comment at 93 gave the answer.

  95. JB Cairns says:

    Actualy Kelly you simply made assertions without evidence and then proceeded to make some pretty economically illiterate statements.

  96. conrad says:

    “The answer is people refuse to vote for fiscally conservative candidates in large enough numbers and will excuse the most stupid waste because of their fear and short term thinking.”

    Actually, I think it’s because fiscally conservative candidates are not able to articulate a position where people believe they would be better off based on their policies either in the short or long term at this current point of time. I think this because there are certainly historical precendents where people are willing to vote for such people. For example, Jeff Kennett was fiscally conservative, at least in his first term (and apparently is quite socially liberal, but was always outvoted in his party). The problem he had was that he did so much at the start of his candidature, there really wasn’t any need to do that much more economically, and so he basically had nothing left to do especially because he was in a party full of social conservatives and so that avenue was out also.

  97. Ken Parish says:

    Homer

    The same warning applies to you. This is a potentially really interesting topic, Thus, even though it’s Don’s post I’m going to try to keep it focused rather than allow it to degenerate into the usual partisan stoush.

    With that in mind, are we agreed that neither of the two major parties comes anywhere close to the description of “fiscally conservative and socially moderate or liberal”? If so, we can move on from there.

    Kelly’s right that the last para of his/her #93 is on-topic. That raises a question in itself. Is there any way a genuinely liberal party could present its policies and messages in a way that weans people off “short term thinking” and the belief that government can and should solve everything and deliver goodies for everyone? if so, what and how?

  98. Mr Denmore says:

    Kelly, I’m not sure what universe you live in, but in mine building school halls is not wealth destruction. As for your ideas that debt is intrinsically bad, you need to go back to school – perhaps one with a new hall. BTW, our public debt is the lowest in the OECD. And if really were a market liberal, you would have expect any concern to be reflected in market pricing. Yields on 10-year Commonwealth Government bonds recently reached record lows. Those socialists at the IMF have described the 2008-09 fiscal stimulus as well timed and well targeted.

  99. Dan says:

    [email protected]:

    ‘Is there any way a genuinely liberal party could present its policies and messages in a way that weans people off “short term thinking” and the belief that government can and should solve everything and deliver goodies for everyone? if so, what and how?’

    I would say no, insofar as classical liberalism is predicated on individualism and therefore has trouble talking convincingly about the great sweep of history, etc. The best that leading liberal thinkers (eg. Fukuyama) have been able to do is argue – patently incorrectly – that history has reached its apogee.

  100. Sancho says:

    Anyone care to take a stab at my earlier question of where Malcolm Turnbull fits into the libertarian spectrum?

  101. kelly liddle says:

    [email protected]:

    ‘Is there any way a genuinely liberal party could present its policies and messages in a way that weans people off “short term thinking” and the belief that government can and should solve everything and deliver goodies for everyone? if so, what and how?’

    I would say it can be done but appears it can’t be sustained and will usually get done by force of the budget/ability to borrow. Australia’s current AAA rating across all the ratings agencies actually scares me because it means we will be able to run up debt easier which was a common factor in all the countries experiencing problems. If we lose this rating it is likely to be when we have much more debt and interest rates will increase applying more pressure and printing money to get out of it which could happen will make us poorer due to inflation. An example of something getting done was to increase the pension age to 67. This was not all that hard to do because it is so far in the future. Despite all of my criticisms about our politicians I will recognise when something is good.

    I think a good question would be is it possible to get a vote to change the constitution to lock in sensible budget measures?

  102. Sancho says:

    I’m hardly a Fukuyama apologist, but my understanding is that his idea with The End of History is that capitalist democracy is the end-point of human endeavours to find the most workable system of governance, not that history has peaked.

  103. Dan says:

    [email protected]: Ah yes, the debt ceiling, that cornerstone of liberalism. Not.

    [email protected]: Classical liberal of the JS Mill lineage. Impressive fellow. Would vote for him if he was leading, like, a liberal party.

  104. Sancho says:

    All your prophecies of doom appear to hinge on what might happen in the future, Kelly.

    In actual reality, in January 2012, Australia represents the gold standard in economic management in the face of a global economic implosion, and has been recognised as such by even the most ardently laissez faire organisations.

  105. Sancho says:

    That’s my impression too, Dan.

    Why on earth hasn’t Turnbull started his own party? There’s got to be a good reason beyond just not getting around to it.

  106. Dan says:

    In Mark Lilla’s taxonomy, Kelly is a ‘redemptive reactionary’.

  107. Dan says:

    [email protected] – and didn’t that turn out great! So even on that more moderate interpretation it’s a shaky claim indeed.

  108. Sancho says:

    Actually, that simple rendering is a long way from being disproven, Dan.

    The current competitors are the quasi-capitalist Chinese system and good old authoritarianism, often with theocracy thrown in.

    If we read Fukuyama as saying that the crass, Darwinian system the US uses is the end of history, then the idea is a joke, but the refinements occuring in social democracies suggest that it’s at least a contender for Greatest Model of Governance Evah.

  109. Dan says:

    Yes, I guess it depends what one means by ‘capitalist democracy’ (is Norway a capitalist democracy?), and I for one think that social democracy is the best, fairest and most decent political system yet devised, but I am exceedingly leery about claims about the best of all possible worlds, especially once culture, history, etc. begin to be taken into account.

  110. Ken Parish says:

    OK. Here’s another question (hope you don’t mind, Don). Where (if anywhere) and how do we draw a dividing line between “liberal democracy” and “social democracy”, given that classical liberals from JS Mill onwards happily embrace/d at least some aspects of the welfare state (as implied by Don’s quotes about flourishing etc and today’s Amartya Sen post)? Does it just flow from the starting point of analysis e.g. primary presumption in favour of personal liberty/autonomy (liberal democracy) versus fraternity/equality (social democracy)?

  111. Yobbo says:

    Ken, there’s a pretty easy way to tell if you went too heavy on the social democracy side: Smart people keep emigrating.

    This has been a problem in Australia for decades now – their best and brightest going to the US/Singapore/Hong Kong to earn a living because there’s no reward for doing it at home.
    http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/media-releases/2008/ce08098.htm

  112. kelly liddle says:

    Yobbo

    That has a lot to do with tax policy and Australia should tax people if they work overseas as if there is a problem they will come back for the Australian benefits. The US so I understand does tax people regardless of where they work http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/01/your-money/01iht-money.2673405.html?pagewanted=all . This is one of the reasons why Australians will travel more than US citizens. Another point is why should someone paying tax in Australia pay for someone to be evacuated from a war zone when they do not pay tax such as happened in Lebanon? My personal opinion is that overseas income regardless of how it is derived should be taxed at one rate and fairly low.

  113. Dan says:

    [email protected]:

    Oh for Heaven’s sake. It clearly must be more complex than that, because otherwise it would also be a problem for Norway, Sweden, Finland, France, Germany, Denmark. Which as far as I’m aware it’s not.

    Also Ireland has a lot of smart expats, which I think has bugger-all to do with their tax system.

    [email protected]:

    It’s a difficult line to draw and I think has as much to do with a particular nation’s historical concept of the role of the state as with present policy settings.

  114. Dan says:

    [email protected]: is that not taxation without representation?

  115. Patrick says:

    Dan, you are right that it is not ‘only’ taxation, but certainly France and Germany do have a problem with tax refugees (do you recall that cd of mainly German taxpayers with mainly undeclared Liechtenstein accounts?) (OK that is just tax). And France in particular does have a LOT of smart young Parisiens in London – the real giveaway is the pride with which a ‘society’ Parisienne mum speaks of her progeny securing ‘un contrat Anglais’, ie a perceived ‘better’ job on London.

    So I’m not sure on what basis you think those countries don’t have a problem with tax flight but equally I’m not sure it’s true.

  116. kelly liddle says:

    Dan @ 118
    “is that not taxation without representation?”

    “Since the colonists had no representation in Parliament the taxes violated the guaranteed Rights of Englishmen”

    According to wiki no as Australians can vote when they are in another country and we do not have such rights as Australians anyway.

  117. Yobbo says:

    “Oh for Heaven’s sake. It clearly must be more complex than that, because otherwise it would also be a problem for Norway, Sweden, Finland, France, Germany, Denmark. Which as far as I’m aware it’s not.”

    They do have the same problem Dan.

    Kelly, there are only 2 countries in the world that tax citizens who live overseas: The USA and the Philippines.

  118. conrad says:

    Yobbo,

    According to your logic, I guess people should be rushing to move to NZ then, and there should be more smart people from Aus in HK and Singapore than vice-versa. It seems to me there are really three factors people move, excluding for things like fun: Money and opportunity. So a lot of science people I know have moved to the US, not because Australia doesn’t pay well, but simply because the US has better jobs. I also know people who have moved to the UK simply because they couldn’t get the type of job they wanted in Aus. Perhaps the most important thing is actually what language you speak. It’s no surprise that people want to move to the English speaking world more than other places, and that’s because very few people speak, for example, Dutch. The extent that minor political differences play a role I think would only matter in terms of how much money you end up with (and it’s not just tax rates — things like the cost of schooling and childcare make a difference also).

  119. Sancho says:

    The thing about an obsession is that it clouds all other judgement.

    If someone is apoplectic about Australia’s already low tax rate, they’re going to see everything economic in the context of reaction to taxation while discounting all other factors, as we see above.

  120. Patrick says:

    conrad, I know it is besides the point, but do your science friends happen to also earn more money in the US?

    Language isn’t that big a deal, people speak English basically everywhere that there are low taxes, a half-decent place to live and liberalised financial services rules, funnily enough.

  121. Marks says:

    [email protected] You missed my point totally. I was, in effect, agreeing with Ken [email protected] and giving a reason why his suggestion had merit.

  122. Marks says:

    Sancho @ 104.

    “Anyone care to take a stab at my earlier question of where Malcolm Turnbull fits into the libertarian spectrum?”

    It is difficult to read any politician imo. However, Turnbull has publicly stated that, for example, the NBN should have been subject to a cost benefit analysis. This implies that he is of the opinion that such analysis should be more important than the case where an electorate just happens to want it, is prepared to pay for it, so build it. ie in a libertarian world, one would suggest that a group of people banding together to do something (an electorate wanting a government to build a telecom system), ought to be able to do that, without being second guessed by a central committee of business analysts.

    The implication that Turnbull says to a group of people, that they cannot have something, ‘just because they want it’ (and know they are going to pay for it to the tune of the amount touted), is that he is more to the paternalistic end of the spectrum. I suggest that a true libertarian would say that if a group of people (be that an electorate building an NBN, or a bunch of neighbours bunging in for a communal barbecue) want to have something legal, know how much it is going to cost, and decide to do it in a certain manner, then cost benefit analyses are not to the point.

  123. Patrick says:

    Marks, you have got to be fucken kidding me, or is this some kind of humour?

    You cannot seriously suggest that there is any meaningful amount of people in Australia who want an ‘NBN’ (broadband at any price)!? They might well want a national broadband service delivery but I am pretty confident that Turnbull speaks for the vast majority of Australians by saying that we should make sure that the system we get is value for the money.

    Any party that hopes to be ‘liberal’ of any stripe would support cost-benefit analysis of massive boondoggles.

    So in response to Ken’s question, maybe we move away from liberal democracy when we start building NBNs.

  124. conrad says:

    “conrad, I know it is besides the point, but do your science friends happen to also earn more money in the US?”

    It’s variable, but, on average, the academic ones don’t (apart from a superstar or two), and the science/technology ones do. That being said, I don’t think the difference is generally so much that it is worth worrying about (certainly, it would be insignificant after things like housing cost differences). Indeed, some have done postdocs that pay far less than they could earn in Aus, so I think this is more important.

    “Language isn’t that big a deal, people speak English basically everywhere that there are low taxes, a half-decent place to live and liberalised financial services rules, funnily enough.”

    That’s not true. For example, I couldn’t get a job in most universities in Europe because you need to do things like teach in that language, and working in some places in Europe is far better than here (e.g., the Netherlands). I also couldn’t get a job in most private companies, which not unsurprisingly do most of their stuff in the native language. Even on a social level things are difficult. How do you get your phone connected? How do you get a lease? or (I realize you’re married and have kids!) but for people of the age where moving is still a big possibility, how do you pick in a bar?

  125. Patrick says:

    lol conrad do you also realise that I went to France without almost no French and yet, picked up in bar? haha

    But you are citing, by my lights, the effects of those countries’ lack of pull factors. If they had enough pull factors they would resemble HK or Singapore more, or even Shanghai, where there are lots of people who don’t speak more than 3 words of Chinese.

    On the academics, I get that part of it, but surely this is partly because they are unusually passionate about that particular area in the first place and partly because they expect the better quality of work to improve their career earnings/prestige prospects? Also housing is usually much cheaper than Melb/Syd, outside of NYC/LA/DC.

  126. conrad says:

    “If they had enough pull factors they would resemble HK or Singapore more, or even Shanghai”

    That might be true, but it’s still asymettrical in that everyone speaks English and not vice-versa (incidentally, almost everyone speaks English fine in Singapore and the international firms are often English speaking in HK). Thus, if two countries were matched on everything except language, it’s clearly the case that the English speaking one could pull better quality immigrants. I also tend to think it is quite a strong factor. How many people do you think would be in Shanghai if everyone spoke English there? I imagine this is why, for example, Australians often seem to go to the UK for their overseas experience, when, let’s face it, France is a far nicer place in almost every respect.

    I might also point out that, back to the initial suggestion of Yobbo, that all three examples in Asia where Australians go pretty much prove that it isn’t liberal democracies that attract people, since neither HK nor Shanghai are democracies and Singapore is only a Clayton’s one and isn’t liberal at all.

  127. Yobbo says:

    When you are as good looking as me, you can pick up in a bar without saying a single word in any language.

  128. Patrick says:

    Conrad, I’m not sure we are talking about the same thing. My point is that the pull factors pull English-speakers and create the Singapore/HK experience.

    If France was as helpful a place to trade foreign financial products as London I’m sure that there would be a lot more English in Paris (than there already is) and I’m sure that there would be a lot more English-speakers there.

    But the reality is that the pull factors, business-wise, are in London and so the French are living in London, and not vv.

    Also in fairness to your earlier point picking up was almost the easiest bit (and I’m far from an expert at that!). Even with a good level of basic French things like dealing with utilities or renting an appartment were excessively difficult.

  129. Marks says:

    Patrick @ 127.

    So the government did not have the NBN as an election promise? If it was a promise at an election, then my point follows. If not, then I back off. I am not trying to derail this thread with a debate on the merits or otherwise of an NBN, merely to say that if a government promises something at an election, and we vote for it on that basis, it is not a libertarian outlook that says ‘whoa folks, you can’t have it unless a cost benefit analysis says so’. Could apply to anything, I just used NBN as an example as I thought it had been an election promise. If I am wrong in that, I pull my head in.

  130. Patrick says:

    Marks, unless I am mistaken that is a majoritarian and not a libertarian view.

    The whole point of libertarianism is surely to prevent NBNs from being financed by the extortion of my taxes merely because a majority (or a plurality, or a significant minority, or whatever) want to.

    Of course a libertarian would not object to those citizens funding their own NBN, why not? Of course, too, they would then want a cost-benefit analysis, which kind of brings us back to why libertarians are against massive government programs.

  131. Dan says:

    [email protected] – my apologies. I interpreted what you wrote as what you meant.

    [email protected] – I’m not making an obscure constitutional point, merely pointing out that having to pay tax for a set of social services you are in little position to benefit from seems a bit rough (yes, yes, yes, ‘but the rich don’t use Medicare or public transport’. But they enjoy the benefits of living in a healthy, mobile society).

    Yobbo – as Sancho points out, Australian taxes are already low, certainly from the perspective of countries with comparable social systems.

    But even if you were in a general sense right, you’d be using the wrong metric. Assuming the purchasing power of a dollar to be even for now, better to live in a country where you earn $100k and be taxed $25k than to live in a country where you earn $50k and are taxed nix.

    Basically objections to tax fall into two streams:

    1) the pragmatic – ‘if we are taxed less, we will have more purchasing power’ – well, given that prices move to meet demand, possibly less so than you think.
    2) the principled – ‘tax is theft/coercion’ – well, good luck finding a country that meets this lofty creterion for moral soundness.

    As for people leaving Aust, here’s what I hear:

    1) ‘Such-and-such a place is the centre of the universe and I simply must be there’ (Berlin, London and New York are frequently mentioned in this context)
    2) ‘There are next to no postdocs in Aust, whereas there are heaps in the US’
    3) ‘My field of employment is x and x is going great guns in y’
    4) ‘I met someone while I was travelling and I want to be with them’

    Never heard the tax one.

  132. Sancho says:

    If you watch “making of” features about US movies and documentaries, the production crews always seem to be full of Australians.

    Do you think that’s because they were drawn by the US taxation system, or because that’s where the largest production industry is and therefore the place they’re most likely to get a job they love?

  133. Yobbo says:

    Taxes in Australia are only low compared to Western Europe. Our tax take as a measure of GDP is more than double that of Singapore and Hong Kong, and higher than the US and New Zealand.

    “But even if you were in a general sense right, you’d be using the wrong metric. Assuming the purchasing power of a dollar to be even for now, better to live in a country where you earn $100k and be taxed $25k than to live in a country where you earn $50k and are taxed nix.”

    That’s only true if the cost of living is comparable. The US for example has a much lower cost of living than Australia.

  134. Dan says:

    Yes, hence: ‘Assuming the purchasing power of a dollar to be even…’

    What’s stopped you moving to NZ or the US?

    And can you introduce me to one of these mythical Australian tax refugees?

  135. Sancho says:

    On the contrary, Yobbo. Many, many countries tax individuals more highly than Australia, and those that tax less include Cambodia, the Central African Republic, Poland and Costa Rica.

    Is there some brain drain to those low-tax havens we should know about?

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

  136. Patrick says:

    OK, some of you need to calm down. Sancho, that’s a great example. You also often see French crews involved in films that do not on the surface have a significant connection to France – this is a lot to do with the French film tax credit system.

    Dan, I for one am looking forward to paying less tax in the US, and enormously forward to a lower cost of living, hopefully later this year (seriously). So in a manner of speaking you have now met such a person (hopefully, assuming I can actually get there).

  137. Dan says:

    [email protected]:

    I like the US too (for all its faults) and can easily imagine living there. However, that would be in order to undertake study and see a lot of bands that don’t tour here.

    My take is that if my taxes went down here, other goods (particularly housing) would increase in price correspondingly, and think that the US cost of living has to do with geography and economies of scale far more than it does lower tax rates.

  138. Sancho says:

    There’s some massive question-begging in your comparison, Patrick.

    I’ve suggested that Australian media professionals move to the US because there’s no employment for them in Australia, and you’ve countered with the implication that French media professionals could find work in France’s relatively small industry, but leave because of taxation issues.

    Despite the fact that we’re both using anecdotal accounts, which sounds more likely to be true?

  139. Sancho says:

    To clarify, Patrick, are you moving to America solely because you’ll have a little more disposable income there?

  140. Patrick says:

    [email protected], no I mean that tax drives the involvement of French people in foreign films.

    [email protected], no, not solely. Geography and professional opportunities are also very important. But the extra disposable income is extremely attractive and a differentiator to eg France.

    [email protected], and see bands for cheaper when you do? I largely agree on the cost of living though, although minimum wages and rents probably have at least as much to do with it as well!

  141. Patrick says:

    Sorry Ken we could now be hardly more off topic.

  142. Dan says:

    [email protected]: Yes! Happily. Which again has nothing to do with tax.

    Ken, apologies for OT. I tried, I really did.

  143. Yobbo says:

    “My take is that if my taxes went down here, other goods (particularly housing) would increase in price correspondingly, and think that the US cost of living has to do with geography and economies of scale far more than it does lower tax rates.”

    The high cost of housing in Australia is 90% because of the restrictions on high density housing in every single Australian city. It’s an artificial shortage created purely and simply by government regulation.

  144. Dan says:

    Yep, fair point, I for one am very much in favour of much more high-density being built within 10 minutes walk of train stations in pretty much any part of suburban Sydney I can think of. The Great Australian Dream of the Quarter Acre Block works just fine when your cities have about a dozen people living in them, and we’ve got to move away from it.

  145. conrad says:

    “Where (if anywhere) and how do we draw a dividing line between “liberal democracy” and “social democracy” ”

    Back to the original thread, my answer to this is thats it’s basically a quantitative difference that encompasses a number of difference things and the extent that the government does them. People then make some judgement based on those factors (not nececssarily additive).

    For example, ignoring “democracy” for a second, most people consider places like Hong Kong fairly liberal. This is because tax rates are low (partially because it’s a little place with no military) and because you don’t get very many direct benefits and those that you do get a pitiful. However, the education and health systems are similar to Australia and slightly less than half the population lives in public housing, which is a lot more than Australia. So the government does in fact do a fair bit of socialized stuff for the people, but obviously the lack of direct benefits trumps the word “social” in this case.

    One might question how much this sort of distinction is in people’s imaginations and how much is real. You can look at interactions for this:

    Is it just tax rate? Let’s say they had to bump their tax rate up to 25% (say, because they wanted a ridiculously expensive military, like the US). Would people still consider it “liberal”. I think so, but probably not as much. If I’m correct, then tax rate is important, bu it isn’t just tax rate.

    Now let’s say they had to start paying more out in direct public benefits using this extra tax. Would it still be liberal? Probably not.

    There’s actually a third possibility here. Let’s say they kept the low tax rate and started paying more direct benefits. I imagine places like Norway could probably actually do this. So, let’s say Norway had low tax rates and high direct benefits. Would it be liberal? I suspect the answer here is no. If I’m right, then reasonable sized direct benefits are probably high up the list of things people want in a social democracy.

    Despite this, I don’t think direct benefits are be-all-and-end-all — just a big factor. For example, Australia has better direct benefits than HK. However, we probably sit somewhere in the middle of the “liberal” and “social” spectrum. If we got rid of public heath and public education, I guess we would be described as “generally very liberal”, so it’s clear that other things apart from direct benefits play some role, just not such a big one.

    I’ll stop waffling here, but I think if you were interested in working out what the important factors are and how they interact, you would need a lot of data on people’s attitudes (presumably from different countries), and if you had this data, you could probably get a nice little model of it.

  146. On your Marx says:

    The reason why there is no liberal party is because there is no demand for it.

    Yes defining liberal and social democracy is quite hard.

    If for example tax as a % of GDP is one definition then the present government is much more liberal democrat than the government it replaced.

    If you believe that increased welfare spending is part of a social democrat Government then Howard was top of the pops.

  147. kelly liddle says:

    “Singapore and Hong Kong”
    Following on from Conrad’s point they are both dictatorships (singapore is democracy in name only) with censorship and low and medium skilled foreign workers who are often (not always) treated like dirt getting $1 per hour so the Aus executive can get his big money and his cheap maid. Is this really something we want to consider here moving to a dictatorship and using foreign workers do do all the basic jobs? To give credit they are successful dictatorships and it shows how money can trump political freedoms at least to some degree.

  148. Yobbo says:

    I’m not sure about dictatorships kelly, but using foreign workers for cheap labour is definitely on the agenda in WA, and is already in place to a smaller extent in Australia thanks to the working holiday visa program, which forces young travellers to work for minimum wage in regional areas as a condition of getting an extra year on their visa.

  149. kelly liddle says:

    “Where (if anywhere) and how do we draw a dividing line between “liberal democracy” and “social democracy”

    I would suggest there is no difference as limiting some economic freedoms like compulsory super and I would suggest to go one step further and not allow a pay out that will reduce ongoing income to less than the regular pension a bit draconian yes. But this has enhanced the freedom of others because in theory those of working age will now have less people to bail out using the old age pension.

    [email protected]
    “merely pointing out that having to pay tax for a set of social services you are in little position to benefit from seems a bit rough”

    As I said before that is not the case if an Australian gets in trouble overseas Australian tax payers will bail you out so why shouldn’t you pay something. I will give a theoretical example. Joe goes to uni getting a masters degree putting $100 000 on HECS he then goes straight overseas to a high paying job in Hong Kong he spends every cent he earns on women and drinking. One day Joe gets into a street brawl while he is drunk leaving him with permanent brain damage and no longer able to work. He then comes back to Australia and spends the rest of his life on the disability pension with daily care costing taxpayers $2 000 000 so he cost Australian taxpayers over $2 million and never paid a cent in Australian tax how can you see that as fair?

  150. Marks says:

    Dan @ 135

    [email protected] – my apologies. I interpreted what you wrote as what you meant.”

    No apology required, I did the same with yours. :)

  151. Dan says:

    Would Joe have paid $2m in tax by that point in his life anyhow? No? Then I think we are just talking about social insurance and his migrant status is irrelevant.

  152. Julie Thomas says:

    Yobbo, It’s not just young travellers being ‘forced’ – c’mon! – to work for minimum wages out here in regional Aus; we all work for minimal wages in the bush. The young travellers work alongside the overseas students and the Aussies also needing part time work.

    But the wages aren’t that low, for unskilled work; it’s the conditions that suck. Like, workers often don’t know how long they will have to work each day. One gets to work and then you stay until the lettuce are all packed. Happens that one can turn up for work expecting to stay for the usual 4 hours and so not take lunch, and then be asked (or expected to) stay on for another possible 4 hours – no snack bars on the farm.

    Farms are like that though and it suits the people who work there; the Overseas and Austalian students, and even some retired people who apparently are bored with staying home and doing nothing. Can’t believe that myself, for me the ideal life is staying home and doing whatever I bloody want, but that’s just me.

    But having those low paid foreign workers out here, I think, has been a useful social engineering project. For example, some of the farm owners/managers have actually come to understand that people from other places are not necessarily stupid because they can’t speak English. So they don’t just yell louder and swear when someone doesn’t understand instructions.

    Sorry to go OT, but to get back to the topic of government at least, so this isn’t just an excuse for me to waffle on, I have a story from one of the Overseas students that I met recently.

    I meet these young overseas student though my son who meets them through his – I was going to say interest in, but it’s more accurate to say his – obsession with ‘metal’ music. Do you believe that young fellows all over Asia and Europe are obsessed with this awful type of music, even muslims do it! What’s wrong with Jazz and Blues for goodness sake?

    Anyway, this Nepalese fellow is doing a post grad IT degree and says that he went to sleep after a ‘big night out’ – apparently they drink alcohol and smoke dope in Neapal! – and he woke up 36 hours later with a new Government in place. He’s not interested in politics and so didn’t have any idea what the difference was between the old and the new government but he was sure that the new one had been installed with the help of mercenaries that the wealthy Nepalese had hired.

  153. kelly liddle says:

    It is relevant so far as Joe still recieves the social and medical benefits of being Australian if he choses to or is forced to but not paying tax which is very inequitable.

  154. Julie Thomas says:

    Kelly Why isn’t it fair? why wouldn’t you want to look after Joe? Would it be different if he was your stupid younger brother and you knew that he had ‘issues’ that meant he was a risktaker?

    I think that the benefits for us all, from the act of looking after ‘our’ citizens, are not readily quanitifiable but they are there.

    The ‘vibe’ is important; we ‘feel’ better if we know we are being looked after, we ‘feel’ valuable and grateful and even if Joe isn’t capable of feeling this, his friends and relatives will and they are part of our society and if they reciprocate the ‘care’ that their government has given them, by ‘caring’ for their country, we will all be better off.

  155. Dan says:

    [email protected] – I’m a huge metal fan!

    Please could you pass on the following links to your son:

    http://theveilband.com/ (the main band I play in)
    http://www.facebook.com/Bleakwood (my solo project)
    http://www.facebook.com/greedrapacity (one of the numerous side projects I am involved in)

  156. kelly liddle says:

    Julie
    “why wouldn’t you want to look after Joe?” I do want to look after him but the government is not compelling him to reciprocate which is not fair. Or if Joe believes he shouldn’t pay any Australian tax then I wouldn’t want to look after him I would reciprocate his lack of concern for other Australians.

  157. Patrick says:

    Further to the current discussion, the Economist’s recent piece on citizenship suggests using tax residence as a basis for determining eligibility for benefits:

    Live and pay your taxes in a country—and you should then be treated in the same way as any other resident, and better than a citizen who has lived overseas and not paid up.

    I do think that this has a lot to say for it although citizens would typically expect a certain amount of assistance as well.

  158. kelly liddle says:

    Another point it applies to is people with permanent residence who effectively have almost all of the same benefits of the social welfare system within Australia. Most countries do not do this.

  159. conrad says:

    Kelly,

    one of the problems of having extremely punitive laws for people working overseas is that you don’t want to discourage people from working overseas, because the circulation of people and the experience they gain is good, especially given the ignorance of many Australians is astounding. I would imagine these are the vast majority of people that work overseas — i.e., people that work overseas and then come back as highly paid professionals who pay more tax than average — it’s not like it’s the idiots leaving (no country would take them except New Zealand). A second problem is that you don’t want to encourage well paid professionals to leave forever. This a problem which the US has due to their tax-you-overseas-laws.

    So I think your examples are just the extreme end of the distribution, not what’s happening with most people for whom the laws are targetted at. If you can work out a way to pick up the extreme end without messing things up for the majority, then good luck. It’s also the case that even with the extreme end, you won’t recoup most of the costs from them anyway.

  160. kelly liddle says:

    Conrad
    I would suggest something like all overseas net income was taxed at 10% something like that, not highly oppressive. I do disclose I have investments overseas so I would be a beneficiary as there are no discounts given to me. The way taxes work on Australian companies is also messed up with companies if they have overseas investments paying from 30% up to 65% total tax or 0% to 30% Australian tax and at the same time Australia attracts foreign investments where the foreigner can walk away paying no tax with regard to capital gains. Then you have trusts which defer tax for years. Often our tax office loses against companies in court which says our tax system is effectively unworkable if the tax office can’t understand the rules. Tax collection is just as important as the redistribution of welfare and both are messed up largely through ever increasing and complicated legislation. Here is quote about our income tax
    “In 1936,
    the Income Tax Act was 126 pages long; by
    1996 the tax act was 3,500 pages long. Since
    1996, the tax-code more than doubled in size.
    Gary Banks has estimated, at that rate on
    growth, “by the end of this century the paper
    version of the Tax Act would amount to 830
    million pages.” http://www.ausnz.accaglobal.com/pdfs/international/australia/flattax_mar06.pdf

  161. conrad says:

    Kelly,

    the idea of having a simple tax system and taxing overseas earnings are essentially orthogonal. You can complain about one and not the other and vice versa, so it’s worthwhile keeping them separate.

    The obvious problem with taxing assets and money people and companies make overseas is that, especially for the latter, I assume it’s exceptionally easy to simply set up a second company overseas that isn’t technically an Australian one so you don’t need to pay tax (even I know how to do this in HK). As for the individual level, I assume possibly incorrectly that the main group you want to pay because they are a cost to the Australian taxpayer are also the group most likely to leave permanently and get citizenship of the country they move to (i.e., the ones that leave forever). Those on simple work visa gaining skills etc. usually come back since work visa run out. So, apart from the fact that it seems punitive (especially if you’re already paying 50% tax) on people that don’t deserve it (i.e., those that will come back) and encourages people to leave for good (something that would cost Australia), you also need a massive system of compliance across countries which isn’t at all simple to set up, and presumably very expensive to run. Morals/philosophy aside, it would be worthwhile knowing what the actual real break-even point for this is. I know in some countries some things like death taxes are supposed to actually reduce revenue for the government, since people simply shift assets around or move countries. Perhaps this is one reason why only two countries on Earth do it.

  162. kelly liddle says:

    Conrad
    Your arguement is reasonable and I have considered leaving also (but only in a theoretical sense as I think I like staying in Aus too much) as an investor remembering that it is only residential status that determines tax. So assuming your arguement is correct you are actually arguing that I should pay less tax rather than others should pay tax because my reasons to leave the country are no different to the worker. I don’t know the rules that well but I think if you are still Australian resident and the company is an investment holding company then will still have to pay tax here. As far as tax evasion or compliance goes it is no different with foreign investments I think and it is a big problem with some rich people evading tax by hiding assets overseas. Target group is any that don’t pay Australian tax individual or company not only for revenue reasons as it would reduce tax on many also, but so investors and workers can decide based on real cost and opportunities not what works out more favourably in a tax sense.

  163. Patrick says:

    Actually Conrad under present Australian law it is very hard to incorporate a foreign company in a way that avoids any material amount of tax if any at al except as part of quite complicated ‘hybrid’ structures. In this regard Kelly is right.

    In practice we basically tax residents on their worldwide income almost more than America (but we don’t tax citizens as they do). Many Euro countries do not.

    That nitpick aside your points about migration and tax appear sensible.

  164. Peter Patton says:

    Where (if anywhere) and how do we draw a dividing line between “liberal democracy” and “social democracy”

    That one’s easy. “Liberal democracy” means capitalism while “social democracy” means socialism

  165. kelly liddle says:

    Peter
    Going by your definition a Liberal democracy is unlikely to ever exist and it is utopian because there is no example of such a system in the world that does not have any socialism or redistribution of wealth.

  166. Peter Patton says:

    kelly

    Actually, my point is more that people who describe themselves as “Social Democrats” are time and time again revealed as garden-variety Socialists, ESPECIALLY among academics. It is actually a pretty empty term, which has historical meaning in continental Europe, but is a silly phrase to use in relation to Australia.

  167. jtfsoon says:

    Don
    Will Wilkinson appears to be vacating libertarianism to the ‘natural rights’ purists. Which to some extent is understandable at least in the US where they dominate libertarianism. However there is nothing in what Will says that I disagree with myself.

    For some amusing ‘holier than thou’ libertarianism in Australia from someone who thinks Catallaxy and the CIS are a bunch of commies go here

    http://catallaxyfiles.info/

    http://economics.org.au/red-alert/cis-ipa-watch/

  168. Dan says:

    [email protected]:

    Have you read this Tony Judt lecture on social democracy?

    I think we are all democrats now (other than maybe the natural rights libertarians).

  169. Julie Thomas says:

    Kelly, the whole concept of ‘fairness’ needs clarification don’t you think? How fair is it that some of us are born so much smarter and better looking than others?

    Does this mean that we smart good-looking people are ‘the fittest’ and deserve more, or just the fittest in this particular manifestation of a human society? Perhaps society ‘should’ – but shoulds are always suspect – be attempting to find what it is that the less good looking and less smart can do and try to organise things so that we get the best from all the varieties of human beings.

    Did you see that doco on SBS last night – “The First Nine Months”? It gets even worse with the fairness thing. How fair is that if my mother ate poorly during her pregnancy, I’m going to have health problems all my life? So it’s not only genes but epigenetic factors that determine how we turn out.

    And Dan thanks so much for the links lol, as if Lachlan doesn’t find enough metal for himself. But interestingly I went to the sites and as usual Lach’s left himself logged on to fb and whatdyknow? it seems he has 6 friends in common with Nicholas Dawson! He’s one of your side projects and he’s in Twba!

    I listened to The Veil clips and I quite liked your sound – really! The vocalist is good – great range and depth in his voice and of course the drummer is fckn awesome!

  170. Patrick says:

    Thread of doom??

  171. Dan says:

    Hey Julie,

    Thanks!

    Heh, I haven’t actually played on any Veil recordings yet, but I certainly concur that their previous drummer Ryan has left me some big shoes to fill. And Che has a great voice and is also a cracker rhythm guitarist – so much finesse but never indulgent. The music does have a broader appeal than just metal fans too, big dashes of 80s post-punk and 70s rock in there for sure.

    I must confess though that I’m not sure who Nicholas Dawson is nd what TWBA is…?

    Are we still on topic?

  172. Julie Thomas says:

    Dan hmmm I clicked that last link

    http://www.facebook.com/greedrapacity

    and it took me to a facebook page for Nicholas Dawson?

  173. Dan says:

    Uhm… it shouldn’t have…?

  174. Julie Thomas says:

    Dan, I tried the link again and it went to the right page this time.

    No idea what happened the first time. It’s probably just because I am old; you know, old people and technology. The young person will sort it out when he gets homel; they do come in handy you know. My childless friends are very envious of my techo savvy offspring.

    I guess Nicholas Dawson is just another metal fan from Toowoomba (Twba); the closest city to where I live. Toowoomba has quite a large population of overseas students who make the town a bit more interesting and liveable for those of us who don’t go to church on Sundays; particularly the metal music fans from Nepal and Malaysia with dreadies or long hair down to their bums. Love em!

  175. Ken Parish says:

    “Thread of doom??”

    No it seems relatively civilised at least. However I’ve given up trying to keep people even vaguely on-topic. Maybe this is why classical liberalism is doomed. People who self-identify as liberals take an especially liberal approach to authoritarian concepts like relevance.

  176. Sancho says:

    #170

    Catallaxy isn’t so much libertarian as pop-conservative. The authors and commenters cling to Liberal Party orthodoxy, but “libertarian” sounds so much more hip than “right-wing”.

  177. Yobbo says:

    Has Sancho ever posted anything that wasn’t an outright troll? Serious question.

  178. JB Cairns says:

    Conrad a few comments on your preferences though very late and Ken I am sorry for being on topic!!

    1) I have always wondered why both parties are so stridently anti-immigration (although pro-immigration in practice.) Pro-Immigration is supportive for stronger GDP growth

    2) Any venturing towards workchoices would be anti-liberal as it was strongly proscriptive and introduced re-regulation of the labour market. A better example would be the 96 pages legislation introduced by the NZ National Government.

    3) As I said previously school vouchers only work where there is decent public transport. ( remember who the target is). If you are a family living at Richmond there is little way you can get your son/daughter to a school at Manly or Cronulla.

    4) By all means raise the GST and get rid of the exemptions but the States could do this by simply raising their payroll tax and get rid of all exemptions.

    5) No disagreement on MRRT but either you believe in AGW or not. Hence the need for an ETS.

    Ah yes no-one likes the present parties but in the end you have to vote for one of them

  179. desipis says:

    Maybe this is why classical liberalism is doomed. People who self-identify as liberals take an especially liberal approach to authoritarian concepts like relevance.

    Perhaps it’s because people don’t typically identify ideologically as liberal and then derive political/policy opinions from their liberalism. Rather they have a collection of political/policy opinions and see liberalism as the most appealing/applicable ideology. However these opinions could be quite diverse within the liberalist population leading to no common ground other than an aspiration towards a vague idea such as ‘freedom’.

  180. Ken Parish says:

    desipis

    Yes it could be that. Certainly topics such as heavy metal music, taxing overseas earnings, and the virtues or otherwise of Hong Kong and Singapore can reasonably be described as “quite diverse”.

  181. conrad says:

    I thought bringing HK was a good idea :), because most people agree that it is a liberal place (economically at least), which shows that even if you can’t identify or agree on all of the factors as to what makes a place liberal or not, you can get general agreement across people given an example. This means that the way people evaluate your question must be at least somewhat consistent (which hopefully isn’t just based on heresay), and thus it is worthwhile question to ask in this respect. As it happens, you can also probably get reasonable agreement across singular aspects of things (such as some of the arguments here), so it’s really only a matter of working out the cluster of things that are important and go into people’s judgements and then working out the weightings.

  182. Sancho says:

    #180

    You’ve read and responded to quite a few of my comments here and elsewhere, Yobbo. Use your judgement. If nothing else, your interpretation of the term “troll” is very liberal indeed.

  183. Peter Patton says:

    JB Cairns

    1) I have always wondered why both parties are so stridently anti-immigration (although pro-immigration in practice.) Pro-Immigration is supportive for stronger GDP growth

    While this was traditional Labor thinking and policy, it has not been the case for the Libs, especially while Howard was PM. In fact Howard was probably the most pro-immigration leader we have ever had. And even the ALP started to improve slowly from the 1980s onward. But old habits die hard. Labor’s increasing comfort with immigration only followed its realisation that immigration policy could help Labor politically by slanting immigration intake towards ethnic groups,who could be used for branch stacking.

    Labor’s traditional rusted-on voters and the organisational/financial muscle of the union movement had melted away by the 1990s. It was easy to substitute race for class. So, ALP immigration policy was molded to favour those groups it was confident of being able to control (family reunion policy of settling relatives of Sunni Lebanese) and away from perceived threats (Chinese and particularly Vietnamese ‘Balts’).

    Among the minors, The Greens are prenaturally anti-immigration

  184. Yobbo says:

    “No disagreement on MRRT but either you believe in AGW or not. Hence the need for an ETS.”

    You can believe in AGW and stil think an ETS is a stupid idea, especially when your country contributes fuck all towards AGW.

  185. Julie Thomas says:

    “topics such as heavy metal music, taxing overseas earnings, and the virtues or otherwise of Hong Kong and Singapore can reasonably be described as “quite diverse”.”

    The metal music discussion was totally off topic and I am sorry. I was always in trouble for talking in class. (But it’s not ‘heavy’ metal Ken; that’s just one of the older types of metal music; there are a large variety of genre’s; death metal is the best I hear, but you don’t get many gigs if you just play that).

    One can never have too much information about culture, you know.

    It seems to me that one of the positive and really useful things about internet interactions, and this site in particular, is the diversity of the ‘personalities’ who participate; it does seem to make the words more meaningful if one understands something about the writer as a human being.

    The other OT topics, I thought, were relevant in an indirect way because, if there was a new political party, it would need to take a position on these issues and so these side discussion indicate the things that people are concerned about and would want a new party to be concerned about.

    I would like a new political party that was “fiscally conservative and socially moderate or liberal” but it seems to me that another political party is just more of the same. I dont’ really know what it means when people say ‘we get the politicians we deserve’? Is it true? Is there any way that we as individuals can change the parties that already exist, so that they are more responsive and representative?

  186. Dan says:

    I’m not sure whether it’s meaningful to talk about ‘best’ types of music, but certainly death metal attracts some of the best metal musicians – it’s kind of like athletics for young, angry, slightly OCD, (mostly) guys.

  187. Julie Thomas says:

    Oh sure Dan, bring that up. Theoretically there is no ‘best’ art, but we all think that what we prefer is the best, and we find lots of evidence to back up our preferences, lol.

    I can enjoy most types of music without being judgemental, because I don’t make music; but I sometimes realise, when it is pointed out to me, in a way I understand, that because I a visual artist – I paint with oils, that I am as elitest about what ‘good’ painting as any of those less evolved metal musos are about what is the ‘best’ type of metal.

    So since we are well off topic. Can I ask, how do you reconcile the awful lyrics with the real spirit or meaning of the music?

  188. Dan says:

    Well, your question presupposes that the lyrics are awful – here’s some from Deathspell Omega’s 2005 release Kénôse; harrowing, sure, but in my view far from awful:

    ‘Man, lost somewhere between the restrictive force
    Of Cain and the expansive force of Abel,
    Falls from his median position between Angel and Beast
    Each time he ceases to desire a being superior to himself
    Adam’s descent into materiality,
    May it be questioned…
    The separating line between the Saved and the Damned,
    May it be questioned…’

    (And bear in mind that English is not even their native language!)

    Maybe you will view this as an exception that proves the rule; I think it is much more ‘shocking’ (and therefore satisfying) to read thought-provoking, imaginative lyrics that deal with dark and exisential themes than to read bog-standard slasher-flick fare.

    But as a general point – I would say that lyrics that suggest the defilement or obliteration of the mind or body make perfect sense in the context of a musical form that emphasises chaos and entropy. I forget whether it was Keith Kahn-Harris or Natalie Purcell who argued in one of their academic works on the genre that if music is socially organised noise, extreme metal is music that suggests a society on the verge of implosion; which may not be objectively true, but certainly chimes with the alienation and frustration that a lot of young people (particularly men) feel.

  189. Dan says:

    And then there’s the Nietzschean/Faustian theme – an adaptive response to that sense of disempowerment, I think (though I’d rather not ruin the magic by overanalysing the sociological factors behind this music) – from Austrian black metal band Abigor:

    ‘Thrones and dominions mean nothing to me
    As long as I seek the truth
    Thus I break man and ice
    On my journey towards beyond’

  190. Sancho says:

    Sometimes you just have to sigh and accept that good bands can write terrible lyrics.

    I was listening to “Vicarious” by Tool this morning, and winced at the Twilight-ish profundity of the line “like blood to a vampire”, but I won’t hold it against them.

  191. Dan says:

    Whereas the lyrics through all of Lateralus ruled. I think Maynard deliberately decided to slum it on 10,000 Days.

  192. Pedro says:

    “Perhaps it’s because people don’t typically identify ideologically as liberal and then derive political/policy opinions from their liberalism.”

    Maybe they kind of do do that. I think political affilliations tend to run in families.

  193. Sancho says:

    Yeah, 10,000 Days was a phone-in. Such is the release schedule of record labels.

    I think Don dies on the inside a little when this is what his thread on libertarianism gets used for.

  194. Mel says:

    The lyrics on SOAD’s Chop Suey are bloody awful but the song still kicks ass.

    The lyrics Dan cites at #192 are suggestive of a self-absorbed crystal meth addict on a bad trip. “Journey to beyond”, “ice”- at least that’s how I read it ;)

    Back on topic- I think outside the chattering classes broadly (and not pejoratively) defined – there really isn’t much of a market for a socially liberal, economically conservative party. I don’t see it happening. What is far more likely is another reactionary party to tap into the sentiments Pauline Hanson unleashed onto the political landscape.

    We shouldn’t fall into the trap of overrating a largely disengaged, cynical and apathetic electorate.

  195. Yobbo says:

    “Is it true? Is there any way that we as individuals can change the parties that already exist, so that they are more responsive and representative?”

    You can vote for the LDP in the senate, they came with 200 votes of electing a senator in the last election. Members in the senate forces the major parties to play ball – just ask the greens.

  196. Corin says:

    This is what I wrote on Andrew Norton’s blog:

    On topic, we’ve had this discussion before and I think Keating is very much a liberal in a way that we know the modern use of that term. I note that classical liberalism, may have a narrower interpretation, for example, they would deplore his superannuation views and his focus on enterprise bargaining as opposed to individualism, but more broadly Keating is a liberal in the wider view. I think, even Howard’s conservatism had real limits to it in that he didn’t encourage debates about censorship etc etc. For example, he would be more circumspect that Abbott here I think.

    It also seems to me that arguments about the size of government are too narrow, it is the effect of governments. For example, I think the effect of government is good in Australia (as it stands now – as opposed to say 1977 even though a tax to GDP ratio won’t have altered much over that whole period), we have lower rate of inequality relative to most others and also low rates of taxation. Therefore, within that framework, even a classical liberal would be brave to ‘slash and burn’ program spending without regard to effect. I have also raised repeatedly how it is the Liberal party that have extended welfare scope far more than Labor over the years, note our debate on the 2004 tax and welfare changes and the Latham approach which was much more akin to the economic orthodoxy for which you are known. It is almost as though, Labor (without overt control from unions) could be largely a liberal force within that wider definition (as opposed to the classical liberal).

    Dawkins for example, did a massive amount to begin liberal reform on a whole range of fronts. I suppose the economic crisis of 80s and the need to ‘pay our way’ in the world dove a government toward actions which were revolutionary in thinking but limited in scope. But here is the other point, Australians are a pragmatic people first, we do reform well in my view because it happens over many years, not just in fits and starts like New Zealand, or the UK. The US has no reformist zeal as it is too disparate to generate that cohesion outside of foreign policy.

    There is a reason that Hewson lost and it wasn’t because he was too liberal, he just couldn’t generate a pragmatic version for people to start with and get comfortable with. I note they never would have gone for all of Fightback!, but it is realistic to think he could have dione a lot with a large majority if he’d been more willing to take narrower ‘liberal’ change that better protected the vulnerable.

    I’d also suggest that the liberal wings of both Labor (say Dawkins/Tanner types) and Liberal (Turnbull) could form a reasonably cohesive group if they could. In which case it is hard to say how many votes such a powerful coalition of figures could generate. Perhaps not government but certainly a lot of inner city votes for senate and perhaps HoR. The main reason for no such realignments occurring are the lures of office and campaign finance. It then for liberals becomes about which party has the liberal inclination of choice on which you can divide. Those inclined to ‘fairness’ as well or with cultural history in the labor movement/background on their market thinking go Labor. Those who are more inclined to ‘individualism’ or with other cultural history such as a petrol station owners son with hostility to unions go Liberal.

  197. Dan says:

    Good post.

    I propose the new party be called the Liberal Liberal Party.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.