Capitalism and democracy: can a difficult marriage be patched up?

Here’s a great lecture by Martin Wolf who’s writing a book on capitalism and democracy. It’s well worth watching I think.

And, as is my custom, and despite Paul’s thinking that the result is so buggy it may not be worth it, below the fold I append the transcript as produced by Google Recorder (which is at least better than the Google YouTube transcript – which you can also get from YouTube – in arranging the transcript into paragraphs. On the other hand you can scroll through the YouTube transcript and click on words it got wrong to see what they are.).

NB: I just found this bit of classic transcription, which I’m leaving in. “Martin there’s a stack of additional quidditches” There is indeed.

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Posted in Democracy, Economics and public policy | 7 Comments

The legal battles of the Covistance. Have there been crimes against humanity?

Ramesh Thakur is one of many commentators inside the Covistance who think government public health advisers have committed crimes against humanity. His anger was raised by reports of desperate parents in India selling their children into virtual slavery, including sexual exploitation, which is what you get with extreme impoverishment and hence the completely predictable result of lockdowns. He has been shocked by the degree of indifference shown by public health advisers in India and in the West to such consequences, wanting them punished.

Charles Addams Illustrates Mother Goose, 1967 | Charles addams, Addams family cartoon, Creepy kidsThe same opinion is implicit in the Spectator interview of October 14th given by Dr Matt Strauss who says: ‘mandatory government lockdowns amount to a medical recommendation of no proven benefit, of extraordinary potential harm, that do not take personal values and individual consent into account’. That’s medical malpractice. This is also the basic message of Martin Kulldorff who similarly describes the lockdowns as a terrible experiment. I do not see how one can realistically deny the truth of Strauss’s and Kulldorff’s assessment: mandatory lockdowns were indeed experiments with no proven benefit, imposed without consent, and with harm predicted in many previous WHO reports and scientific papers.

In the UK, there has been a crowd-funded legal challenge going through the courts running for months now. There have been many ups and downs in that case but it is now set for the High Court, with the Speaker of the House of Commons calling it of great constitutional importance. The basic allegation made against government policies is that “By forcing people to stay at home, and forcing businesses to close, they are, we believe, in contravention of basic Human Rights offered under English Law”.

A worse court-case for the government is brewing because of the allegations made yesterday in a 3-month running investigation by the Sunday Times. Continue reading

Posted in Coronavirus crisis, Economics and public policy, Health, Law, Libertarian Musings, Politics - international, Politics - national, Science, Social, Society | 73 Comments

Canadian doctor Joffe MD on the negative effects of covid-19 responses

Dr. Joffe just posted a new article on the many negative effects of lockdowns in Canada and in the world as a whole. He really has put in a fantastic effort to source the evidence on the negative effects of the covid-related policies, digging up and critically evaluating nearly 200 international studies. Here is his Table 2 (out of 8).

Highly recommended as a summary document of the masses of evidence now rolling in on the unnecessary self-inflicted disaster that is befalling humanity. The link is

Posted in Coronavirus crisis, Death and taxes, Economics and public policy, Education, Health, Life, Medical, Politics - international, Politics - national, Social Policy, Society | Leave a comment

Is Sweden the promised land for sensible covid-policies? Reluctantly. 

Sweden is a rich, spacious country famous for IKEA, ABBA, dark cold winters, and its unique covid-policies. We escaped London for a few days to see for ourselves what the deal was with this Scandinavian country of 10 million. It is as rich and well-run as the statistics say it is: Stockholm is full of sporty Swedes, spacious parks, shiny public transport, cyclists, and prams. Getting to talk to Swedes requires alcohol and patience, but once they do talk, you find their English is excellent.

In terms of the statistics, Sweden has had a relatively good covid-experience. The number of covid-attributed deaths is 0.06% of the population, average for the EU, without the huge anxiety and mental health disaster befalling other countries. Also, their economy is now estimated to shrink by only 3% in 2020, with the government running a surplus in September. It did not give up civil liberties and had a well-publicised large glut of infections in April-July that got them close to herd immunity. Whilst measured infection rates are rising again in the autumn, there are very few new deaths, suggesting the vulnerable population is either already immune or by now well-protected in a voluntary manner. Did this relative ‘success’ reflect some unique Swedish attribute or was it just luck?

On the one hand, Stockholm is everything a Covista wants to see. You see virtually no masks, the full pubs have minimal distancing, the generations walk together outside, the theaters are open and sold out, children play in packs, and there is a relaxed vibe in the air with people reacting in horror when you tell them of the descent into authoritarianism elsewhere. The place also has quite a few covid-refugees from the rest of Europe who deliberately came to Stockholm to breathe in a bit of sanity and fun. But…. Continue reading

Posted in Coronavirus crisis, Dance, Death and taxes, Democracy, Employment, Health, Politics - international, Science, Social Policy | 77 Comments

Fundraising for a scholarship: Please give!

Yuan Yuan (YY) Liu.  Doing her bit for a better world

This June I was approached by Yuan Yuan Liu who wanted to discuss funding of scholarships for disadvantaged people with me “as you are the best economist in the country”. This is precisely the kind of shocking lapse of judgement that I’ve been trying to encourage for years – however unsuccessfully. So naturally enough I picked up the phone.

In any event, YY is doing a wonderful thing which is raising money to help people get a university education who might not otherwise. I said I couldn’t help her with any policy ideas – and even if I could there would be the matter of getting someone to respond to them. But I’d be happy to help her with her fundraising.

She’s fund raising now so I said I’d help out by publicising her efforts here and on Twitter. She’s running a raffle, but I suggested that I also help out by proposing that people make direct donations to her initiative which, being run in collaboration with ANU is tax deductible. I’m also matching any donations you make to her cause (at least until I get to forking out $2,500 which should get her to her target). The offer is open for the duration of this week. Here’s what she’s asking in her own words.

My name is YY Liu. I am an ANU alumna. I am raising money to help disadvantaged students to receive education at ANU. Disadvantaged students are under-represented on Australian campuses. They need us to believe in them and assist with their future development. The money raised forms the Poppy Undergraduate Scholarship to help students stay financially stable and have food on the table. Your support is important to these young people who face social, financial and personal obstacles and have the dream to complete their study. You can purchase a ticket in our raffle (Note if you live in VIC or WA and disclose this, to comply with state regulation the site will not accept your purchase.) To make a tax-deductible donation which will be matched by Nicholas Gruen and to read more about the scholarship, please visit this site.

Posted in Blegs, Education | Leave a comment

From Trump to eternity: The fate of the political arts in the modern world

Published in and edited form in The Conversation.

Martin Wolf has a crisp face-to-camera opinion piece in which he points out that populism in government hasn’t lined up neatly against relative success in keeping populations safe from COVID. Thus in the Anglosphere, Donald’s and Boris’s Governments – have been much more chaotic in tackling COVID than others – such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia (at least till now). Meanwhile populist governments such as those of Hungary have also done relatively well. 

“So, the really interesting question” Wolf suggests “turns out to be ‘is a government actually interested in governing?’. As he points out Trump and Bolsonaro in particular are “basically interested in politics as performance”. 

They don’t care about government but they don’t really understand what Government is for and they’re indifferent to it. In some ways and in some cases, they’re actually trying to dismantle the state. It’s pretty obvious if that’s what you want to do, you really can’t manage a disease very well. But there are other autocratic and indeed populist politicians who understand that ultimately their claim on power depends on being reasonably effective in dealing with a very serious disease of this kind. … It’s become more likely that the sort of populists who just don’t care about government are going to be disposed of. But, what will replace them is not necessarily a more effective democratic government, it could be just a much more effective dictator actually wants to deliver government that people care about. And that’s what Hungary has shown and, in a very different way, Poland has shown.

I think we can apply Alasdair MacIntyre’s concepts of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ goods to place Wolf’s distinction in a wider context. He explains them with an example in which a child is taught to play chess and rewarded with candy if she wins. The skills required for excellence in chess are ‘internal goods’. They include spatial vision, computational accuracy and competitive intensity. Those goods are ‘internal’ because they emerge organically from the activity. One’s engagement with them creates the circumstances in which the virtues are discovered and pursued. To obtain the internal goods one must accept the reality of the world beyond one’s subjective desires, and the need to submit oneself both to this reality and to the greater mastery of others within the tradition of the practice.

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Posted in Democracy, Political theory, Politics - international, Politics - national, Sortition and citizens’ juries | 11 Comments

The gathering Covistance, its promise and its main enemies

Those who already in March foretold the folly of lockdowns and social distancing did not dream we’d still be in the same place after 7 months. Only slowly has it dawned that the panic would become an enduring business model. For a long time, we believed sanity would soon prevail and all we had to do was argue the case and let the prophesised damage speak for itself.

Yet there now is an emerging Covistance: a resistance to the covid-mania and its business model. It’s main message is that the vast majority of the population should immediately return to normal life and enjoy themselves. Throughout the world you see critical civic society groups emerging that share this message, involving medics, lawyers, economists, journalists, businesses, and the general public. In Australia, that Covistance is relatively high-profile with particular television networks, former PMs, and newspapers openly resisting the covid-mania. Brave insiders like Sanjeev Sabhlok have shown zivilcourage. The same is true in the UK, the US, Germany, France, Spain, and many other places. But not everywhere. In consensus countries like the Netherlands and New Zealand, for instance, the Covistance is low-profile with only a few doctors, lawyers, and the odd economist popping their heads above the parapet.

In an intellectual sense, forgive me for saying so, the Covistance won the argument a long time ago. I don’t say this because some 500,000 people and 20,000 scientists signed the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), or because the experience of Sweden really does show that you dont get Armageddon if the population behaves normally. I also don’t say this because the WHO’s special envoy on Covid implicitly agreed lockdowns were a bad mistake and that the WHO’s own modellers think the virus is no more harmful than a nasty seasonal flu after all, which it admitted when it let slip it thought 10% of the world was infected already (implying an IFR of 0.13%). Nor do I say this because the covid-mania policy objectives keeps changing radically from “delay infections” to “eradicate the virus” to “the miracle vaccine is coming”. I don’t even say this because the Covistance is basically advocating a return to the scientific consensus of before the covid-mania of march 2020 and thus has scientific gravity on its side.

I say the intellectual fight is long-won by the Covistance because the actions of both governments and populations reveal them to secretly agree. Continue reading

Posted in Coronavirus crisis, Cultural Critique, Dance, Death and taxes, Democracy, Geeky Musings, Health, History, Humour, Politics - national, Science | 33 Comments