Author Archive for davidmc

IPA Pussy Footing on School Vouchers

The Instuture of Public Affairs has just brought out a paper heroically entitled “A Real Education Revolution: Options for voucher funding reform“. However, I am not sure that they are serious.

They appear to be put off by the cost of a universal scheme that would cost more than present funding if it were to be sufficient to ensure more or less free education and provide those currently funding their kids with the same entitlement.

There is no discussion of the whole issue of how you would create alternatives to choose from. This would involve more private schools and/or greater autonomy for government schools.

Instead they are focusing on groups with special needs – aborigines, the disabled and the poor. Indigenous students would be able to get out of isolated and toxic communities. The voucher would cover board as well as any school fees. With the disabled it would allow private schools to compete better with the public ones.

I am not sure how a voucher for poor students would work. You would need to determine eligibility to start with. As far as I can see the benefits from the scheme would have to come from a marginal shift in students forcing schools to smarten up their act. I don’t know how realistic that is.

There is some discussion of the paper at a number of libertarian blogs. These include , Catallaxy, Andrew Norton and the paper’s author, Julie Novak.

The Arab world waking from its sleep

The current (July 26) edition of the Economist has a special report called “Waking from its sleep, a report on the Arab world”.

Also check out the leader article.

I have only had a glance but it looks rather informative and seems to get some things right.

Oh Give me Land, Lots of Land …..


Bigger version of map here

I was struck by an announcement from the World Bank about a book called Awakening Africa’s Sleeping Giant: Prospects for Commercial Agriculture in the Guinea Savannah Zone and Beyond that they have co-authored with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization

They are basically saying that if Sub-Saharan Africa can do in the vast Guinea Savannah zone what Brazil has done in the Cerrado and Thailand in its Northeast Region, it can vastly increase agricultural production.

Shown in yellow on the map, it is comparable in size to the EU, or half of Australia, Canada or the 48  States. Currently only about 10 per cent is used to grow crops. (source)

Agriculture has to expand dramatically if they are to become a net exporter of agricultural products while managing with a population  that is expected to increase from 800 million to 1.5 billion before stabilizing later this century.

To me that looks like the need for a fivefold increase in output.  There would have to be at least a two-fold increase in per capita food consumption if the people of the region are to chow down much like everyone else.  Then they have to reverse their current position as a net importer.

Political and economic conditions will dictate the pace of this and other development in the continent. We can expect the greens and “NGOs” to run interference.

There is no free pdf version of the book. This is typical of the World Bank and UN agencies.

Aboriginal disadvantage is either getting worse or worse than we thought, or both

The Productivity Commission Report is worth a gander. It is called Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2009

As Paul Kelly in The Australian points out this two yearly report will start to make government accountable by showing whether its policies are doing any good.

Noel Pearson has an interesting piece in the same publication. He says that government bureaucrats cannot be trusted to come up with decent policies. Watching them in action is a bit like watching Ground Hog Day. The leadership has to come from the indigenous community.

Another piece from The Australian has a revealing quote:

“Mr Rudd admitted the unavailability of reliable data meant he was unable to say whether his $4.6 billion Closing the Gap policy package was having any effect in lifting indigenous living standards in crucial areas such as health and education.”

Wong responds in writing to Fielding’s three questions

Senator Wong has provided a written answer to Senator Fielding’s three questions. It will be interesting to see what debate ensues. For climate skeptics, it should be a good test of their metal one way or the other.

A rejoinder from the scientists who accompanied Fielding to the recent meeting with Wong can be found here. A somewhat acrimonious exchange can be found at JoNova.

The Australian Climate Science Coalition will no doubt keep us up to date on developments.

Economics of the alternative

Marxists are often accused of doing a lousy job of explaining how socialism would do consciously what the capitalist market system can do without anyone being all that aware of what is going on.

But that’s OK, because the efforts of bourgeois economists more than make up for this. Their mission has been to show how capitalism is good at allocating resources efficiently (if sometimes with a bit of restrained government tweaking). But in the process they have had to explain what this means and the role of a price system in achieving  it. Thank you chaps. The revolution will be forever grateful.

We just need to drive home how a system of social ownership will be able to avail itself of this unintentionally provided wisdom. Making the case is fairly easy. Debunking the “calculation debate” is particularly easy. (More on that in a few months but in the meantime see here.)

The hard job for people like me will be (1) convincing ourselves and others that we really can transcend the profit motive and rely instead mainly on intrinsic motivation and (2) developing a transitional program given that it will take time for people to take on the abilities, habits and inclinations needed to make social ownership viable.

By the way, I now find it easier to tell people what I am working on without being put on the defensive. I usually say something to the effect that it’s been a bit unfashionable for quite a long time but now that capitalism is collapsing all around us I am expecting a bit more interest. This is generally greeted with a nod.

I’ve just revised the sections on investment, money and public goods in the main article at my Economics of Social Ownership website. I have cleared out all mention of quasi-public goods and removed all the murky speculation from the money section. The old versions of these sections are stored here purely for reference.

Greens taking a few hits

The green ascendancy can be a depressing thing but there have been a number of recent developments that have cheered me up.


First, of course, is the growing recognition that the greens are a fire hazard. This is an issue that we have already discussed extensively .

Noel Pearson’s response to the Queensland government’s plans to “protect” aboriginal land in Cape York will help to discredit green politics and hopefully give them a bloody nose. (See here.)

The challenge by “Lawyers for Forests” to the government approval of Gunn’s Bell Bay Pulp Mill project failed in the courts.

Australia’s first GM canola crop has been a roaring success and the farmers love it.

I’m not following climate stuff much now but I suspect that Plimer’s new book will make a splash. It will certainly make it easier for politicians and others to raise their doubts. There was also a great story in The Australian about how the Antarctic is definitely NOT warming.

Jennifer Marohasy made an interesting point about how there are now whole scientific disciplines that have developed around the belief that Nature is a “fragile life-support system”. So it is not just a matter of few greeniess with PhDs. It is worse than that. Oh dear. I’m not feeling quite so cheered up now.

Good grief, a demonstration in favour of something!

While the carbon cult killjoys demonstrated on Friday outside Downing Street against the third runway for Heathrow,  a counter-demonstration organized by Modern Movement was held nearby calling for more air travel. They are a group campaigning for ‘faster, cheaper, better transport for all’.

To quote from “Our right to travel” :

“Mobility is at the centre of everyone’s lives and the expansion of cheap flights in recent decades is one of the few tangible increases in the standard of living of most people. Whereas our housing stock has not improved much in either quality or quantity, and our railways and roads are undeveloped and congested, flying has plummeted in cost and has put weekend breaks within the reach of all. Now not only the rich can enjoy the freedom of flying, but we all can.”

So the anti-flying campaign is just one more example of how green politics is hurting people.

More here and here . (Yes, it’s the Spiked and Institute of Ideas crowd.)

Australia’s Bushfires – both trees and people suffer from green policies

It will be interesting to see how much blame the bushfire Royal Commission places on green policies that lead to insufficient ground fuel burn off and prevented people from clearing trees from around their houses.

Hopefully, this tragic event will spark some recognition among the populace at large that greeny ideas are nutty and downright toxic.

Of course, the death toll was not just a matter of failing to prevent fires; it was also a matter of failing to avoid their wrath.  There should have been better warning systems and better protection including proper public and private shelters.

Saying No to Hugo Chávez’s Baloney Revolution

Getting out there and defending social ownership has numerous challenges. One of them is the need to disown various past and present regimes in Third World backwaters that give the idea a bad name. There hadn’t been any new ones for a while, and then along came Hugo Chávez in Venezuela with his “Bolivarian Revolution” and “21st Century Socialism”.

This “process” has two main features – limiting democracy and freedom both for opponents and adherents, and using oil revenue to buy support. There are also various bits of window dressing but these are of secondary importance. Continue reading ‘Saying No to Hugo Chávez’s Baloney Revolution’

Santa KRudd

The KRuddster is playing Santa Claus this year with big handouts to pensioners and low income families before Xmas. Pensioners will get $1400 for singles and $2100 for couples while lower income families will get $1000 per kid.

Continue reading ‘Santa KRudd’

Using vouchers to achieve a family driven education system

We need an education system with an inbuilt tendency for better teaching to emerge and  thrive while inferior teaching fades away. We also need a system which is far more effective at catering to the specific needs and “learning styles” of individual children.

This is best achieved by a deregulated system where families are the customers and schools are free to compete for students by making their own decisions about the services they provide.

Continue reading ‘Using vouchers to achieve a family driven education system’

Radio National Talk on Socialism

I have just presented a short talk on Australian ABC Radio National entitled “Should the financial crisis prompt another look at social ownership?”. Here is the podcast and transcript.

The ownership I am referring to relates to the means of production, the physical assets of  businesses. A system where such a form of ownership dominates ought I think be called socialism, although this does require wresting the word back from the right and pseudo left for whom it means government meddling with capitalism. There are two main take home messages from the talk.

The first is that the conditions of advanced capitalism in places like Australia, USA and western Europe are vastly more conducive to the success of socialism than the backward conditions that prevailed in places where it had previously been attempted and failed. Transforming Czarist Russia, Manchu China and agrarian fascist eastern Europe into socialist societies was a big ask.

Continue reading ‘Radio National Talk on Socialism’

Allying with the Right

You cannot avoid being allied with right wingers. It is just a matter of who and when. The people we describe as pseudo-left are in alliance with Pat Buchanan, The Cato Institute and The Independent Institute in opposing the US liberation of Iraq. On that matter we side with Bush and the neo-cons. We have written a lot on the question both here and at our parent site. We see it as a switch in US foreign policy from supporting “stability” in the region to supporting democracy and “draining the swamp” in which all sorts of creepy things fester.

Many pseudos in the US would side with Pat Buchanan and Ann Coulter on trade protection. We would ally with Cato and support free trade. Both we and the pseudos would side with The Cato and The Independent Institutes on a range of civil liberties issues and on ending the embargo on Cuba.

But we must ‘fess up. We are doing more than our share of fraternizing and endorsing.

Continue reading ‘Allying with the Right’

Postage stamps as green propaganda

Is there no end to corporate greenwash? In Australia we now have postage stamps nagging us to “save energy”, “travel smart”, “reduce waste” and “save water”. What about a stamp telling us to save on human effort? That is the only genuinely scarce resource.

Complain here.