Saturday salon 29/7

1. The beginning of the end for Trump?

Trump is doing a good imitation of a third world dictator, according to John Kehoe in the AFR. Here’s David Rowe’s amazing cartoon:

Trump announced on Twitter the policy to bar transgender Americans from the armed forces. Apparently that was news to the military.

Seems he’s grumpy with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and wants to terminate both his position and that of special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

Congress Republicans are saying that if he moves on Sessions that will be the beginning of the end for his presidency.

Newly appointed Wall Street schmoozer Anthony Scaramucci, the just-named communications director, said he loves everyone, but is now openly at war with Reince Priebus, the head of trump’s office. Newly minted White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, told everyone that’s the way Trump likes to run his office – people with strong ideas, who don’t mind a stoush.

Scarramucci accused Priebus of leaking, and said “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.”

So now in another tweet Reince is gone, replaced by John Kelly, the current secretary of Homeland Security and a retired marine general. We’ll have to wait and see whether General Kelly can stabilise the chaos. Commentators have noted that the changes move the Trump administration further away from the Republican Party.

Meanwhile the legislation to kill Obamacare has just been voted down, and the US dollar has sunk to where it was before Trump was elected, as the markets realise that Trump, at best, probably won’t do anything at all to stimulate the economy. Our dollar is up as a result, making life harder for our exporters.

Meanwhile also, legislation was passed to increase sanctions on the Russians. Putin says, that’s it I’ve had enough, whether Trump signs the bill or not. He had held off responding to Obama kicking out some Russian diplomats to punish the Russians for meddling in the US election. Putin waited to see what approach Trump would take, but now he’s had enough, promising that there could be more to come.

2. How to pick a psychopath

I’ll do a longer post on this if I get time, but Richard Fidler’s conversation with David Gillespie is gold. Forget the term ’empathy’ for a moment. Psychopaths do have emotions of their own and can read other people’s emotions.. However, they completely lack sympathy and compassion. They simply are incapable of caring about others who come to harm. It is all about their own advantage and enjoyment.

Gillespie defines psychopathy in terms of brain connections, hence an objective definition, independent of how people use the term. Psychopathy is not recognised as a disorder in psychiatry, yet they tend to rise to the top in organisations and do untold harm to others.

As a society we should be thinking about how we can protect ourselves from psychopaths, which would be difficult, given the bias towards individual rights.

Trump is his favourite example, and I think Scaramucci looks like he fits the bill also.

3. Sperm count halved in Western men

It’s been all over the news, for example in The Israeli Times, at the ABC and in The Guardian.

    By screening 7,500 studies and conducting a meta-regression analysis on 185 of them between 1973 and 2011, the researchers found a 52.4% decline in sperm concentration, and a 59.3% decline in total sperm count, among men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand who were not selected based on their fertility status.

The decline is proceeding apace and is showing no signs of slowing down. To be precise, the team found that sperm concentration fell from 99 million per ml in 1973 to 47.1 million per ml in 2011. It only takes one to win the prize, but I heard on the ABC that 40 million is the threshold for fertility problems.

    While the current study did not examine causes of the observed declines, sperm count has previously been plausibly associated with environmental and lifestyle influences, including prenatal chemical exposure, adult pesticide exposure, smoking, stress, and obesity.

Not everyone is entirely convinced, so of course more research is needed.

4. UNHCR says the Turnbull Government misled it about taking asylum seekers from Manus Island and Nauru

From the ABC 7.30 Report:

    Of the 2,000 asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island, 1,600 have been found to be refugees. So even if the US fulfilled its promise and took 1,250 of them, there would be 400 would still need resettling.

The UNHCR says there was:

    A clear understanding that vulnerable refugees with close family ties in Australia would ultimately be allowed to settle there.

Leigh Sales interviewed Volker Turk, the UNHCR assistant high commissioner for protection, who was personally involved in negotiation. He said that they Australian Government had undertaken to consider “compelling cases”. For anyone serious about refugees that means you would take them. Seems the Australian Government always intended to consider the cases and then say “no”, which it has now done for 36 compelling cases identified.

In other words, the UNHCR were suckered.

5. Labor steals Di Natale’s lunch

Newspoll last Monday had Labor ahead 53-47 TPP for the fifth time in a row. However, both the LNP and Labor have moved up one to 37% and 36% respectively, while the Greens have fallen back from 10 to 9, and One Nation has slipped from, 11 to 9.

However, they’ve been doing some quarterly analysis, which finds that Labor’s support in the 18-34 aged bracket has gone from 37.5 in the March 2016 quarter to 39.5 in the 2017 June quarter. At the same time support for the Greens has slipped from 17.5 to 14. So the story was Labor steals Di Natale’s lunch.

Other than that the overall story was the Labor was doing better than the LNP at maintaining its vote, and pulling back a few that have strayed.

Essential Report has the LNP pegging back the ALP from 54-46 to 53-47. However they have had the Greens steady on 10 for a while and ON steady on 7. So for mine it’s anyone’s guess. There’s not much changing right now.

Perhaps more interesting is that voters like the new social security ministry 56 to 18, but are concerned about the minister 45 to 35.

Doesn’t sound like panic, though there will be panic if the Greek tragedy befalls Julia Banks, the member for Chisolm, if she turns out to have more than just Greek heritage.

The latest is they reckon she’s OK, and the focus moves to Labor’s Susan Lamb, member for Longman, who has a Scottish father, which automatically gives her the right to be a citizen of the UK.

171 thoughts on “Saturday salon 29/7”

  1. About Trump – I have just returned from 4 weeks in the land of Don. Mostly on the west coast (Washington state, Democrat) but also week in North Carolina and Georgia, both republican.
    What was surprising was the lack of protestation by the citizens, and the placid reporting in daily regional news. there were news articles about the latest Trumpisms, but little critical analysis. Nor was there discussion in conversation except acknowledgement that Trump was a bit weird. My wife remains in the US and reports that some media has now changed and bells of concern are starting to ring in the week since I left.
    For his part, Trump seems to thrive on the outrage, and far from stepping back seems to throw another punch. Yet there is still an apparent lack of concern on the streets as far as I could see.

    My main concern is the quiescence of the citizens. They seem anesthetised to the disintegration of America’s world status and to their conventions of governance. To dump Trump (yes there is a T-shirt) requires a solid push from the Republicans and it seems they are too intoxicated with the presence of a republican president to let him go or remove him.

    I expect an attempt will be made to impeach him if Mueller is allowed to complete his inquiry – and if Trump is compromised, he may just stonewall the outcome and his party may not have the ‘nads to remove him anyway.

  2. The ABC on General Kelly, the new Trump Chief of staff.

    Retired four-star Marine Corps General John Kelly has been appointed White House chief of staff, replacing Reince Priebus in a major shake-up of President Donald Trump’s team.

    Key points:

    General John Kelly is a retired four-star Marine Corps general
    General Kelly did not openly endorse Donald Trump at any point throughout his campaign
    In his confirmation hearing he said he believed “with high confidence” the findings of intelligence on Russian meddling
    The 67-year-old was most recently secretary for the Department of Homeland Security.

    He was hired with the goal of bringing more discipline to the White House, a senior White House official told the Washington Post.

    General Kelly is a 45-year military veteran and was in charge of Southern Command, responsible for military operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean, from 2012 until his retirement in January 2016.

    He was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1970, serving as an infantryman until his discharge as a sergeant in 1972.

    “In my neighbourhood you joined the Marines,” he said in an official Marine Corps interview last year.

    “In the America I grew up in, every male was a veteran; my dad, my uncles and all the people on the block.”

    For more on the cabinet make-up see Bit hard to comment without knowing more.

  3. I’d like a bit more attention on (expletive not deleted) Mr Scaramucci.

    Although Brian has given a glimpse of his phone call to a New Yorker reporter, it is worth reading in full at their website.

    In most nations, a staff member who spoke like that to a reporter about his colleagues, would be sacked. Instead his two enemies Mr Spicer and Mr Priebus have resigned.

    President Nixon lost some public support when his (expletive deleted) conversations were revealed. How will Mr Scaramucci: his language, his attitudes, his accusations, etc. be seen by folk who voted for The Donald. Will any of them be shocked? Will they think he sounds like a flailing gangster?

    To me, he sounds more like a Swamp Dweller, than a swamp drainer.

    Strange times indeed.

  4. Here’s more on Scaramucci from the New Yorker:

    Anthony Scaramucci Called Me to Unload About White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon

    Why Anthony Scaramucci’s Attack on Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon Matters

    Scaramucci was, in language and in manner, channelling Trump himself.

    Can’t be good. From memory around 28% of registered voters voted for Trump. I heard some research the other day saying that people in the US tell pollsters they intend to vote, but then don’t, especially people who would likely vote Democrat. Next election they probably will, if he lasts that long and runs again. Actually I can’t see the Republican Party nominating him, but then what would I know?

  5. More on Scaramucci from Vox:

    Anthony Scaramucci, explained

    He’s a “hedge fund guy” but not a guy like George Soros, who made money with smart investments. He built his fortune on what amounts to a high-end swindle, successfully marketing a high-fee, low-performance investment vehicle.

    Scaramucci set up a fund of hedge funds. Actually investing in hedge funds requires millions. He targetted well-off people who had a lazy $50K and wanted to get into hedge funds.

    I don’t know much about hedge funds, but I think it’s a zero sum game, so a fund that invests in a heap of hedge funds is going to average around nothing. Of course he charged a nice fee, so his real talent is selling himself to people who have spare money and should know better.

    Towards the end the article gets onto politics, but it was written before Priebus was dumped.

  6. The last person to attempt to drain a substantial swamp was Saddam Hussein. He proceeded, failed in his objective of removing a barrier (wall) between Iraq and iran, and only succeded in creating an ecological disaster.

    Trump will survive his time as President with his life, unlike Saddam Hussein, but will almost certainly spend time in jail after it, in my opinion.

  7. BilB, I think it was at the end of the Vox article that pointed out that Trump had populated his cabinet and senior staff mainly with people who were part of the dominant economic elites. So nothing too much is going to change.

    after wrapping up the presidency, Trump has governed as a much more conventional free market Republican than he campaigned on. The strong anti-immigrant themes are still there, as are the flirtations with ethnic nationalism. But the trade protectionism is muted, and on domestic business regulation, all thought of heterodoxy has vanished. His administration is chock full of Wall Streeters and is pursuing a dogmatically business-friendly agenda. The kinds of concerns that people like Mooch had about Trump have proven to be misguided, and Mooch was simply early in recognizing that.


    Democrats want investigation into Trump administration’s reported ‘blackmail’ over health care votes.

    Committee ranking member describes conduct as similar to what “we’d see from the Kremlin.”

    Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, plans to request a formal investigation into whether Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke threatened to pull projects from Alaska in retaliation for Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) vote on Tuesday against moving forward with a debate on health care legislation.

    Grijalva said Zinke’s willingness to reportedly threaten Alaska in response to the senator’s vote serves as “an alarming sign of how far the administration’s ethical standards have fallen and how irresponsible the Interior Department has become.”
    “Threatening to punish your rivals as political blackmail is something we’d see from the Kremlin,” Grijalva said in a statement Thursday. “Secretary Zinke’s willingness to deliver these threats speaks volumes about his ethical standards and demonstrates that Interior’s policy positions are up for political grabs, rather than based on science or the public interest.”

  8. …. and on domestic business regulation, all thought of heterodoxy has vanished.

    Good, probably the best of Trump.

    “Threatening to punish your rivals as political blackmail is something we’d see from the Kremlin,”

    Or Obama/ Clinton. And they actually went thought with it with zero consequence.

  9. Allow me to speculate a tad.
    News reports and commentary are seemingly focused on the here and now of tweets and staff changes. I think it is time to consider just why there is so much excited activity by Trump. He could have just accepted Russian influence and issued some outrageous tweets distancing himself and blaming staffers. But no, he has sustained an unrelenting attack on process and has obfuscated in many ways. At the least, his behaviour has added intrigue to the circus and doubtless given the energy to expand the probe(s). So why ?

    During Trumps time as a business person, his fortunes have fluctuated. Despite various bankruptcies though, his entrepreneurial drive seemed undiminished and he continued his high-stake activities. How? I’m speculating that for a long time now Trump has been funded (compromised?) by Russians. For Trump they offered both finances at a time when he was vulnerable. And they became customers, buying many of his real estate offerings. For the Russians, they found a way to get serious money out of Russia and into concrete western assets. They also garnered a degree of influence in the American cadre of business “leaders” and thus politicians.

    I know that is a 101 logic track, but I think it is plausible. If it does emerge that I am correct, then Trump is in serious jail-time trouble. Possible his family and associates are too. If that is the case, that would account for his desperate maneuvering to limit the Russia probe to election related facets.

  10. A sceptical note, if I may.

    Can’t Russians buy assets in US anyway, without a back door route? They certainly can in Europe.

    Nonetheless, Donald does have Russian business associates.
    He’s murky.

    Scaramucci reminds me of that nasty lawyer, Roy Cohn: a key servant of Senator McCarthy at the height of his notorious allegations in the 1950s, along with the young Bobby Kennedy.

    Roy Cohn went on to years of infamy.
    Come to think of it, wasn’t he linked to the Trump family??

    Murk, dirt, bankruptcies, sharp business practices, frauds or near-frauds. Hey, what’s not to like?

  11. Ambigulous I should have qualified that the money is ill-gotten, and sending it to the USA made secrecy possible.
    One source of funds I read of was the sale of Russian gas for nominal charge to the Ukraine where it was received by cronies and re-sold at very much higher rates, generating massive profits for the players. Somehow these super profits found their way to the US where they were effectively laundered.

    About Scaramoocci – one shot of him smiling bore an uncanny resemblance to the Joker of Batman fame, and another resemblance to the “Anonymous” hacker face. Just my jaundiced eye of course.
    Not the sort of guy you’d want your daughter to be seen with, maybe even the ex-wife too.

  12. Wow folks, perhaps these conspiracy theories should should be told to the Police !

    By now, after all the auditing and attention from the entire establishment, MSM, Security Agencies and bloggers over years and years, the dossier of crimes committed would be like a phone book.

    Or, it’s fake news.

    Gunna have to think about this. Any reliable links ?

  13. Zoot’s link is quiote long, but definitely worth reading through to the end. The author, Craig Unger, appears to have done investigative work of this kind before.

    When we walked the Milford track in 2010 we met a retired judge and his wife from Germany. He had been part of a whole wing of the German justice system, devoted to prosecuting the Russian mafia. It was serious stuff.

    When we were in Prague in 2015 the guide told us about how their PM had been corrupted by the Russians.

    All I’m saying is that Unger’s stuff is plausible.

  14. Mr Scaramucci has gone, apparently at the insistence of General Kelly. That’s a good start.

    John D, you were spot on, to highlight General Kelly’s background and experience.

    If I may indulge in some city-based stereotyping, what the Republic needs is a bit more Bostonian propriety and gravitas, and a bit less NY vicious, lawless egoism.

    Checks and balances, checks and balances, rule of law, shed light on dark places, etc.

  15. Aaron Blake, in the Washington Post online surmises that aides to the President are leaking to the press, in attempts to save him from himself, or to “send a message to the boss”.

    Many years ago, it was said that R. Reagan wouldn’t read intelligence briefings. So the relevant staff were leaking to Newsweek because they knew the President was an avid reader of that magazine.


  16. This morning’s Fran Kelly interviews on the Trump disaster reveal that people are openly calling trump deranged and mentally unstable. Only a person with such a mental state would think they could thrust themselves into public office without their private dealings being scrutinised. Trump is now seen as the worst US President ever, and the system has mobilised to defend itself from him.

  17. BilB

    Regarding your last phrase: yes, the US system has many interlocking “checks and balances”. They were installed from the outset by the very wise founding fathers. I believe they wished to guard against:
    Presidential whim
    Financial or political corruption
    Domination of smaller States by larger
    Presidential diktat

    and used Congress as one of the bulwarks standing in the way of Presidential power.

    Then there are the Courts, including the Supreme Court; and many Attorneys-General, etc.

    Democratically elected Congress, using two different voting systems; democratic State Houses; all the way out to the elected municipal dog-catcher.

    There’s a lot to admire, when it functions.

    What do we have here?
    High Court, reserve powers of the Governor-General, and pace Sir Joh, may peace be upon him, “separation of powers”.

  18. Amnbigulous to BilB,


    Regarding your last phrase: yes, the US system has many interlocking “checks and balances”.

    The First Amendment being the first needed and the Second Amendment if the First fails.

  19. The First Amendmen is about free speech and such, and the Second about the right to bear arms, being part of 10 amendments making up the Bill of Rights. I can’t see how the second safeguards the first.

    I’ve just been reading in my book by Andrew Gamble, that the US constitution was not about universal human rights, rather about protecting the rights of property owners. For universal human rights we had to wait until the French Revolution. No-one has yet worked out how to run a state embodying the rights enunciated in the French Revolution.

    Under the Bill of Rights and the constitution as drafted, slavery was still allowed. Women, of course, didn’t seem to be regarded as persons.

    One of the checks and balances was that the generals did not swear an oath of loyalty to the president, rather to the constitution. When Trump announced his policy on excluding transgender people, the generals said, no, nein, nyet, it’s not going to happen (Bruce Shapiro to Phillip Adams last night).

  20. but, I venture to suggest, more democratic than the situation in the Mother Country at that time?

  21. I can’t see how the second safeguards the first.

    It’s obvious Brian.If anyone tells you to shut up you blow them away with your tactical nuclear weapon. 🙂
    I don’t understand how that constitutes checks and balances which ensure no arm of government can have total control over the others.

  22. I didn’t say it was about universal human rights, I was admiring the very deliberate setting up of checks and balances. Enthusiasm for those was probably born of the ex-colonists’ observations of deficiencies they saw in the government structures in various European states, at that time.

    240 years ago.
    It has evolved.
    It’s imperfect.
    Their system may cope even with strange Presidents.

    Why did Australia’s Constitution choose to mimic the US Senate? It must have had some positive characteristics…..

  23. There are lots of good things about the US system of checks and balance but there are no checks and balances that help insure that what they had was a fair democracy. For example:
    1. Equal numbers of voters in each electorate.
    2. Preference voting.
    3. Compulsory voting. (Makes it harder to bully people into not voting.)
    4. Winner takes all for electoral college.
    5. Getting rid of electoral college.
    6 No hackable voting machines.
    I am sure there is lots more.
    Interesting one about the generals swearing allegiance to the constitution. In theory this makes it harder for a dictator to destroy democracy.
    Also like 8 yr limit on presidents. Menzies and Howard both stayed too long.

  24. Good points John.
    It’s not completely fair, I agree.

    But it’s fairer now than at its founding, e.g. slavery abolished, votes for women, property holding less important.

    Of the flaws you identify, I think voluntary voting is the one they pay the highest price for. Voter registration should be mandatory. And voting. Many States there seem to have a much larger list of reasons to disqualify some folks from voting, than Australia has.

  25. On a wider point, every democracy could do well to improve its electoral practices, and the participation of its citizens (I’d say press freedom seems to be the key, protected by an independent judiciary).

    John, you and many others do good work by pressing for electoral reform, and making us think about the characteristics of our practices.

  26. On women’s suffrage, I think NZ led the way* with Australia close behind, both well ahead of US and UK.

    *That was a century after the US Constitution was adopted.

  27. Ambigulous, you are doing a great job bringing up relevant points of history and raising interesting questions.

    Reading Gamble, he is full of praise for what the American constitution did, but points out its limitations. The abiding aim was to allow government to do the bare necessities, but to interfere minimally in people’s lives.

    One of the prime aims was to allow people to make money, but provide the necessary order, so that money meant something, debts were paid etc. It was really democracy for the bosses.

    Checks and balances were a huge feature, making sure that no-one had too much power. The reason for the electoral college was to make sure that the people did not elect someone unsuitable, someone like Trump. One of their concerns was to prevent mob rule, or populism.

    The Brits were also into democracy for the bosses, concerned to limit arbitrary interference from the nobility and guarantee religious freedom. You can get the feel for what was going on from the Wikipedia entry on the Whig Party:

    Both parties [Whigs and Tories] were founded on rich politicians, more than on popular votes; there were elections to the House of Commons, but a small number of men controlled most of the voters.

    Gamble says that a number of freedoms had been built up in Britain through laws, common law, and convention. The Americans, lacking this tradition, had to identify the freedoms they valued and put them into their constitution mainly via the Bill of Rights. This later provided judicial protection from coercive or intrusive legislation via the Supreme Court.

    It is interesting that early ‘liberal’ thinkers in Britain were rabidly opposed to laws protecting children from being exploited in the workplace, and limiting the number of hours a worker could work in a day.

    Freedom was about protecting employer privilege. The poor and miserable were to blame for their condition, and were a necessary and salutary feature of society in order to motivate workers.

    Sound familiar?

    I think the Brits had to knock together a formal ‘bill of human rights’ so that they could tick the box on the entry form to get into the EU, but I haven’t verified that.

  28. One of the prime aims was to allow people to make money, but provide the necessary order, so that money meant something, debts were paid etc. It was really democracy for the bosses.

    That makes no sense at all.
    What’s the Worker/Boss ratio of any electorate ?
    Even one will do.

  29. The thing about quotes on the internet is that you cannot confirm their veracity
    – Abraham Lincoln

  30. I suppose that if the Electoral College were to perform that “guardianship” role, its members might need to stray from the lockstep party allocations as determined in at least one State.

    Did this happen in 2016?
    Has it ever?

    I can imagine that if it were to happen, all hell would break loose; far more urgent and inflamed than the angry street marches that greeted Mr Trump’s victory and inauguration.

  31. I’ve noted that the “neoliberal” word has not been used. I’m thinking it should be because in my view it is very relevant to the discussion. It’s not a new thing, it’s actually developed since around 1870 but has been politely re-worded many times over since then. But from the Thatcher/Reagan era it has become more public and more trenchant.

    Whilst the American Constitution/Bill of Rights was doubtless intended to bring and preserve Order, it was also framed to maintain the elite and for the latter goal at least it has been highly effective.

  32. Geoff, Gamble was published in 1981. Thatcher ruled from 1975 to 1990, Reagan from 1981 to 1989.

    I’m surprised at how topical he sounds.

    Wikipedia says neoliberalism :

    refers primarily to the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism.[2]:7 These include extensive economic liberalization policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, unrestricted free trade,[3] and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society.[11] These market-based ideas and the policies they inspired constitute a paradigm shift away from the post-war Keynesian consensus which lasted from 1945 to 1980.[12][13]

  33. Geoff, my other book on political ideologies Andrew Heywood, 1998, says liberalism as a term started to grip around 1840 on the Continent, and came to Britain a bit later (JS Mills – On Liberty, 1859), although some of the ideas are older.

    Heywood places ‘neoliberalism’ as part of the ‘New Right’, which he sees as essentially incoherent.

    I’ve heard my son Mark say that he doesn’t know what the term ‘neoliberalism’ is meant to mean these days.

  34. Brian I think Heywood’s dates are about right, but what really seems to have cemented the “liberal” era was the application of electricity to the world thanks to Edison bringing light and electric power to the world, c 1875. The fiscal benefits of the advances electricity enabled were to be to the advantage of few, not for society as a whole.

    I agree with Mark, the term neoliberal has become captive to those who sling it about in parliament. But if you want a quick insight from one academic see David Harvey A Brief History of Neoliberalism.

    That looks a bit of a weird link but if it works it should bring you to David Harvey. The first few pages of the introduction is a good start. You’ll find Harvey on YouTube as well.

    [Geoff, I’ve edited the comment to make it look a bit tidier. B]

  35. Ambigulous, I’ve done a bit of searching and this NYT article says that electoral college voters in individual states have “gone rogue” many times, but never to change the result.

    I believe the college voters are appointed by the winning party in each state, so theoretically a few states could have stopped Trump. It’s just that they wouldn’t and most in the GOP would rather die than see Hillary C get the gig.

    I believe they don’t meet deliberatively, by design, to avoid any undue influence.

    This article has the elections where the popular vote did not prevail, the deal done in 1876, and 1824, when the HoR decided, as the ultimate tie-breaker.

  36. Geoff, I edited the comment to make it look a bit tidier. I’ll try to take a look at the weekend.

    Jumpy, that was then, this is now, but the past lingers on.

    Ironically, as I’ve said before, Fred the Great in Prussia, as an absolute monarch saw himself as a servant of the state, and the state as a servant of the people. He was the one who introduced compulsory primary schooling in 1762, over a century before England.

    He also believed everyone was equal before the law (see 1779 – The Miller Arnold Lawsuit: How One Court Case Changed the World). He sacked the chief justice and put three other judges under house arrest for a year when they got it wrong. Here’s part of the protocol he issued:

    That the least peasant, yea, what is still more, that even a beggar, is, no less than his Majesty, a human being, and one to whom due justice must be meted out.

    “All men being equal before the law, if it is a prince complaining against a peasant, or vice versa, the prince is the same as the peasant before the law;

    Other people noticed. Catherine the Great circulated Fred’s proclamation to her nobles for their edification.

    The point being Fred was quite exceptional prior to the French Revolution. Which didn’t solve everything, but changed the world forever.

  37. Thank you Brian. The first few pages of Harvey’s introduction are very helpful.

  38. With regard to Fred (who I agree was exceptional) and his principle that all are equal before the law, I am reminded of Anatole France’s observation:

    In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.

  39. On another topic, I was trying to finish a post this morning on the NBN based on an article by Paul Budde in the AFR.

    The phone rang and I talked to my sister-in-law for an hour and a quarter. Just catching up.

    Have to go out now, so will get back to the buggers muddle that Malcolm has given us on the weekend.

  40. zoot, when we were in Europe in 2015 I took a photo of a ‘home’ very much on view under one end of the main bridge in Bratislava.

    I was going to include it in my post, but then had a thought about their privacy.

    In Berlin there was a beggar always posted outside the supermarket near us and they were quite noticeable around the central railway station in Frankfurt.

  41. Very pungent, Anatole France!

    Thanks for your hard work, Brian (posting at 10.35pm yesterday).

    History and its progress goes in fits and starts. While generally the “great (wo)men theory of historical change” may be old-fashioned and suspect, there certainly is a small list of very influential figures….
    Mohandas Gandhi

    and I would defend to the death your right to have a different list

  42. Brian
    I don’t quite understand your infatuation with Fred.
    The dude killed more humanity [ adjusted for World population inflation ] than a World War One .

    Got all the stats if you want to debate that.

  43. How’s the lefts latest petri dish Venezuela going ?
    What could go wrong with a socialist benevolent dictator……

  44. Jumpy, I do get sick of you continually thrusting forward Venezuela as an example of anything. It’s tiresome.

    Have a look at the carnage wrought in the Thirty Years War if you want to understand the mentality of the rulers of Prussia. Brandenburg, as it was then, lost about 50% of its population.

    Fred knew that Prussia was a second rank power, and sat between the great powers of France, Austria and Russia.

    I’ll say more later, but if you dig deeper you’ll find that there was about 40 years of peace for Prussia after the Seven Year’s War (I’ll say more about that later) and Fred’s dad, although known as the “soldier king” didn’t fight at all.

    Later in the Napoleonic wars, from memory, Prussia lost 11% of its population.

    Percentage wise the casualties of WWI don’t rate.

  45. Just for the record, I am not a fan of either Chavez or Maduro.

    But I do favour democracy over oligarchy, kleptocracy, plutocracy, Stalinism, Fascism, Maoism, etc. Which is only to say I share a few characteristics with a huge number of Australians, and just now, as little interest in Venezuelan affairs as the next sheila.

    As usual, Brian, your statement was more succinct than mine.

    Looks like the toiling workers of the Cricketers’ Union have come to an agreement with the churlish Boss Class. That should please Mr J, even if he’s awfully upset about the turmoil in far off South America.

  46. The thing is, Mr J

    Not everyone who may disagree with you on some fact or interpretation or policy or event or attitude,

    is a communist.

    But as far as I can see, folk who post here use and quote a range of sources and authors that represent samples across a very broad spectrum. Where would you place Anatole France? And having “placed” someone, why would you assume that you can thereby nominate all their opinions on unrelated topics?

    I fear you have fallen for a fallacy that goes like this:

    1. Surveys show that the majority of people who are X think P.
    2. Person A belongs to group X.
    3. Therefore person A must think P.
    4. I abhor P.
    5. Hence I will refuse to listen to anything person A says or writes.
    6. QED.
    7. I win the blue I started.

    May I suggest you consider step 3 ??.
    Persons are more various and interesting and unpredictable than step 3 would indicate. Persons are wonderful, smart, and many are eclectic.

    ! Hasta la vista, Senor J!

    Herr A

  47. As someone who is concentrating on getting Australia back on the rails I take little notice of happenings in South America. But a question does occur to me.
    As we all know, libertarianism is a sure fire way to structure a successful, fair, free polity (we have been told this by any number of experts, starting for me with Malcolm Fraser).
    Is there a Randian utopia anywhere in the world? The only one I’m familiar with is Galt’s Gulch Chile which seems to have disappeared up its own fundament.

  48. Jumpy, I do get sick of you continually thrusting forward Venezuela as an example of anything

    Sorry Brian but we have friends that fled Venezuela and whenever talk turns to violent socialist kings my mind turns to their experiences. They still have Family in Caracas poor things.

    The reason I think the left love Chavez and his template is because most of the left leaders said so, everyone from Sanders through Corbyn to Lee Riannon plus many union leaders.

  49. Zoot, that looks more like a conman pretending to be a Libertarian.
    There are plenty about in the liberal party too.
    Just like ‘ fiscal conservatives ‘ in labour.

  50. So Jumpy, where are the successful Libertarian Enclaves?
    They don’t have to be whole countries, just communities operating under libertarian principles (if such a thing is possible).
    Please provide an example of of how libertarianism is any more practical than communism.

  51. Well you got me there zoot, can’t show you any.
    So practically the Libertarian death count isn’t in the hundreds of millions like communism.
    Do no harm, right ?

  52. What relevance is the number of deaths?
    Are you under the delusion that I am championing communism when I explicitly described it as impractical?
    As impractical as the principles of libertarianism, which have never been successfully applied in the real world.
    Straw men seem to be your forte Mr J.

  53. Interesting zoot, what type of system do you champion , it’s not clear to me ?
    Let’s compare.
    That would be legitimate discourse.

    You did ask;

    Please provide an example of of how libertarianism is any more practical than communism.

    Answer: less dead people.
    Or is my definition of ” practical” different from yours ?

  54. Actually, CC Quote of the Year.
    “””” What relevance is the number of deaths? “””

  55. Sorry to hear your Venezuelan friends had to flee their homeland.

    But this business of comparing death tolls won’t wash.

    a) communism has been attempted/imposed in several countries, and large death rates have occurred.

    b) true libertarian principles have never been attempted/imposed, and no deaths have been caused.

    As to death tolls, a) and b) are not comparable. I might as well extol the system of governance derived from that old tract “Blinky Bill”. It has a perfect record: no executions/purges/famines/refugees.

    Are you interested to know why? It’s not because of the virtues of the system, it’s just that it’s never been tried out in practice!!! Statisticians will tell you that that fact alone makes totting up the resultant death rate almost certainly impossible……

  56. Jumpy, I followed Venezuala for a while and Chavez did some interesting things, like providing oil to poor people in the USA for heating. However, it soon became clear that there was corruption, middle-men and chancers etc. My general view is that leaders of revolutions often get an inflated opinion of themselves and turn into dictators.

    As to who Sanders etc supported, you’d have to look at the alternatives to make a judgement.

    See also George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where the pigs take over the farmhouse and carry on as a poor copy of the previous ruling class.

    I keep going back to the French Revolution values rather than Marx. I did an introduction to Marxism in the 1970s and gave him up when I realised that he did not know that it takes 30 years for a 30-year old to become who she or he is, and people don’t immediately change when you change the ownership of the means of production.

    I know that there was another narrative about consciousness raising of the oppressed, and people like Paulo Freire had some success. If you looked at their staffing ratios, however, you could easily see that the methodology wasn’t scaleable.

    The initial French revolutionaries had some success, but were blown out of the water.

  57. Brian, I like the answer (attributed to Mao, or Chou En Lai, or someone else).

    Q: What do you think of how the French Revolution turned out?
    A: It’s too early to say.

    Your comment about leaders of revolutions takes us back to “all power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely”. So why do revolutions so often, quickly, deposit huge power in the hands of a tiny group or an individual?

    Does it come about as a result of the military tenor of the putsch? Are sociopaths attracted to revolutionary causes, and then are able to stab their way to the top? Or is it sheer opportunism, where a ruthless chancer seizes the moment amidst confusion and hesitations, or under the pressures of war?

    I sincerely hope it’s not because most adults in many societies prefer to be lorded over by some nasty little dictator, “strong man” thug.

    Flacco had a special moment when he was ruminating on his leadership qualities:

    “I am river to my pipple!
    I am storm water drain to my pipple!!!

    It was Chaplinesque.

  58. To return to my original point: Ayn Rand died in 1982, 35 years ago. Within 35 years of Karl Marx’s death in 1883 there was a communist government in Russia.
    What have the Randians, those self made titans striding the intellectual landscape, achieved in the same time?
    According to our esteemed colleague Jumpy – nothing, nada, zilch. But I’ve discovered they do have a web page where they can tell each other their masturbatory fantasies.

  59. On Fred the Great and the Seven Years War, you have to understand the setting.

    This is a map of Europe, from Wikipedia, cropped so you can follow the detail. It represents the boundaries of Prussia after Fred took Silesia off the Austrians. Colour Silesia Austrian and that is what he faced.

    He’d just published a moralistic treatise Anti-Machiavel, in which he solemnly declared that “princes who wage unjust wars are more cruel than any tyrant ever was”.

    So why did he do it?

    One problem was that on the Northern European Plain there were no natural boundaries. The other was that ethnically the population blended into each other, especially the Germans and the Slavs to the east.

    Prussia had a population of 2.4 million, and Silesia about one million. I think Poland at the time ran to 11 to 12 million. The lands that he had inherited were almost indefensible.

    You have to remember, as Prussians would have, that during the Thirty Years War, armies ran all over brandenburg, as it then was called, although the eastern Prussian bit had already been added. Armies back then were not supplied, they lived off the land, and the Swedes were particularly nasty at torturing people if they didn’t get what they wanted.

    Also Magdeburg, a city of around 35,000 was under siege for about three years by Imperial Austrian forces, many mercenaries. When it fell and they found nothing there except hungry people, they started killing everyone. Killed every last one they could find. about 3-400 escaped.

    When the ruler of Saxony became heir apparent to the Polish throne Fred was worried about holding the show together. So when the Habsburgs ran out of heirs, and turned to Maria Theresa, and Silesia was only defended by 8000 men, he made a pre-emptive strike.

    Maria Theresa proved tougher than he’d expected, but he won. Initially.

    But in 1756 Maria was coming to get him with Elizabeth of Russia. So again he got in first and knocked over Saxony, using their men and resources to fight his enemies, who soon included the French, although they were usually against the Austrians.

    The English did a bit to help, because they had interests in Hannover, but it broke out all over, on five continents, including the Portuguese and Spaniards, so the English had quite a bit to think about. It is sometimes called a ‘world war’ but it wasn’t all Fred’s doing.

    He got lucky in the end when Elizabeth died, to be replaced by a Fredophile, who got knocked off by his German bride and her lover, to become Catherine the Great.

    She wasn’t interested in fighting Fred, and Maria Theresa had had enough, so they all lived happily for quite a while, although Prussia, Austria and Russia ganged up and partitioned Poland out of existence, which had fallen under poor management.

    Fred did not have a high opinion of Poles, but the Jews fared better under him than they did under most. He had his negative sides, but as an atheist he tolerated religion, even built a cathedral in Berlin for his Catholic subjects.

    After the debacle of the Thirty Years War, Fredrick William, the “Great Elector” of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia, had established an army, and I think kicked the Swedes out of Pomerania. His son crowned himself King of Prussia, as one in the eye to Poland. Fred was fourth strong Prussian leader in a row. By necessity Prussia was going to be strongly militarised if it was going to survive.

    Fred and the others were co-opted by Hitler, which gave Fred and the Prussians a bad name, although I read somewhere that Hitler’s top officers were mostly Austrian.

    After 2000 years of fighting in Europe, the Europeans are dedicated to peace. The Brits, Americans and others don’t quite understand why.

  60. Danke schoen, Herr Brian.

    I reckon “you have to understand the context” is a pretty fair guide to all our thinking about examples from history.

  61. Aw, c’mon zoot, that’s a bit unkind at 11.41pm.

    The word Randy is still widely used. Perhaps not in your circles? (It denotes enthusiasm.)

    And Randy is still a popular personal name in some countries.

    Randianism will live on.

    It rivals Blinky Billism; though we still haven’t organised our website. Of course, according to The Blessed Blinky, web sites are to be avoided because many spiders are venomous, and can harm creatures, even those protected by very thick fur and sharp claws. The Blessed Blinky spends most of his waking hours half-stoned on eucalyptus (Nectar of the Arboreal Gods) but still has time to work out some quite stunning principles of economics, politics and social organisation.

    No taxes on eucalyptus! Each Koala For Himself, the others can go to Bu****y!!

    Sorry, he gets a bit angry and abusive sometimes.

    * May the Peace of Eucalyptus Be Upon You *

  62. Ambigulous, that was Chou En Lai for sure, and I love it.

    You raise important questions, and I don’t know the answers. However, strong leaders are not always nasty little dictators, or “strong man” thugs. In Queensland it is said we have a preference for strong leaders. He had Joh Bjelke and Peter Beattie, and that didn’t always go well.

    I think there is a cultural preference in business and elsewhere to see extroverts and ‘Type A’ personalities as better leaders, and I believe that recent research is questioning that.

    I’ve noticed that Wayne Bennett sometimes chooses fairly quiet types as captains, like Alan Langer, Darren Lockyer and now Darius Boyd, who have done fairly well, contrasting with Cameron Smith, who is quite vocal, super smart, but respected as a nice bloke, and on his record one of the best captains ever. But that’s from the code you blokes don’t follow down there.

    Putin is probably the best current example of a strong popular leader.

  63. Haha, depends on the venue, I’ve been on the soup with Alfie and Locky and they were the least ” quiet types ” there.

    On zoots confusion, Communism and Socialism is forced Altruism [ often ultimately at gunpoint ], Libertarianism and Capitalism is consensual voluntary Altruism.
    That’s why there have been so many of one [ and failed every time] and not the other.

  64. Oh, but I see voluntary altruism around me every day, Senor J.

    I see people spontaneously acting in kind and helpful ways in town, yes even if it delays the altruist by a few minutes.

    When we lived in the bush, some folk routinely carried a chainsaw in their boot and would stop to clear a fallen bough or tree off the public road, beyond the minimum needed so their own vehicle could squeeze past.

    None of them had read Ms Rand, I’m sure.

    And then there’s organised voluntary altruism, Senor.
    It’s all around if you care to notice: charities, lifesavers, SES, school parents groups, youth clubs, food kitchens, opp shops, rural fire fighters. The full list is much longer. Surely you know this? Most of the hard work and donations are from volunteers.

    Some of the volunteers are Christians, many are not.
    Very few have heard of Ms Rand.
    Not motivated by ideology.
    Not motivated by hatred of socialism.
    Not in it for a quid.
    Unselfish, steady in their resolve, perennially cheerful and dedicated.

    They’re not saints, just regular sheilas, Senor J.
    And the bit I most admire is that they haven’t gone off into the exile of an enclave, but are doing their bit within the capitalist/ social democratic society they are voters in…..

    Welcome to the real world, Senor: there’s a lot to like.

    You have nothing to lose but your chains
    And a world to win!

  65. Thanks Brian at 9.44am.

    Good points. BTW I didn’t mean to equate “strong man” with “dictator”.

    Plenty of strong men and strong women have been successful without being dictators. I would class W. Churchill and J. Curtin there. And E. Roosevelt, M. Thatcher, I. Gandhi too.

    Mr Bjelke-Petersen was extraordinary, strong but no dictator.

    Why, he had trouble understanding “the separation of powers”, so how could anyone think he harboured dreams of taking over the whole country using unconstitutional methods, eh? Not for him the quaint concept of becoming Prime Minister without being an MHR. No sir, don’t you worry about that.

    Finally, yes: I don’t understand Rugby League.
    Played Rugby Union for a season as a schoolchild, found that obscure also.

  66. Ambi, people who play rugby union are confused by it. Apparently when they have a ruck or a maul there are 27 reasons, literally, why the referee could blow the whistle. When it is blown many times no-one knows why he did it – not the players, nor the commentators.

    And you can’t tell me a referee can tell who really brings down a scrum.

    Jumpy, Langer and Lockyer were pretty quiet on the field.

  67. Jumpy, Langer and Lockyer were pretty quiet on the field.

    Langer was, but a quiet fullback is useless at organising defence.
    Next time you watch the Mighty Broncos live focus on Boyde, he never shuts up.
    [ ps, if you put a mic on Alfie now as a runner you’d be amazed how vocal he is ]

  68. Mr A
    So the vast majority of folks are generous , why do we need Government to force us to be ?
    Everyone has a Libertarian goodness in them, even you.

  69. Everyone has a Libertarian goodness in them, even you.

    So why aren’t we living in a libertarian paradise?

  70. We are sort of.
    Just remember, every time you be charitable without Government forcing you to, that’s the Libertarian coming out.
    If you had more to take home I’m sure your generosity would increase.

  71. Before I hit the sack I’ll ask a question of you zoot.
    And given your track record of not answering my questions straight, could you please on this occasion ?

    If you were gifted a lotto ticket and it won one million dollars. You decide you are comfortable enough and don’t want it. What do you do ?
    a] Burn it all.
    b] Give it away to wherever you see most need.
    c] Give it to Government general revenue to divy up as they see fit.

  72. Simple, direct answer:
    d) None of the above.
    Now, given your track record of not answering my questions I’m probably wasting my time, but what is another option?

  73. On second thoughts why don’t you just answer my first question?
    If every one of us is brimming with Libertarian goodness why, in the entire history of humanity, has there never been a practical, functioning Libertarian state?

  74. Like your comment @ 5.04pm Ambi. What this says about human nature is positive but finally moot. I think we can’t see the train when we are inside looking out.

    More generally in response to everything above, I’ll just summarise what Heywood says about human nature. He has a box about how the various philosophies see same.

    Conservatives see humans as essentially limited and security-seeking, drawn to the familiar. Their rationality is unreliable and morally corrupt, unless kept in check. The new right (he includes libertarians here) embrace a form of self-seeking individualism.)

    Liberals emphasise individualism and place no emphasis on the social or historical. Each has innate characteristics that we are born with. Individuals are self-seeking and largely self-reliant creatures, governed by reason and capable of development, especially through education.

    Socialists see humans as essentially social creatures, shaped more by nurture than nature, particularly through creative labour. Their propensity for co-operation, sociability and rationality means that the prospects for human development and personal development growth are considerable.

    That’s Heywood, minus what he says about anarchists, fascists, feminists and ecologists.

    The way I see it in relation to freedom, liberals say this comes from the individual. They want an absence of constraint. However, the state provides the means to punish us if we seriously harm other people or constrain their freedoms. So individuals can flourish and develop individually or severally as they choose.

    Socialists deny none of that, but see our freedom developing and being supported in a social frame. It is fundamentally active in helping and supporting each individual to develop their own capacities.

    Jumpy, you continually lump socialism and communism together, and I think this muddies the waters. Most on the left would see democracy as an essential part of socialism, and most prefer to be called ‘social democrats’ rather the ‘democratic socialists’.

    The reliance on reason is a major error of liberals, because they carry it over into how they see humans as operating rationally within markets.

  75. Yes, Jumpy, please answer Zoot’s question. Libertarianism seems a minority flavour in any given society.

  76. Some of the volunteers would do their kind deeds in the name of Jesus and expect no reward or thanks.

    Others are agnostics and have a fellow feeling for other humans, or indeed for animals.

    Some volunteer for companionship or are widowed and lonely. In my opinion the motivation is less important than the work that they accomplish.

    Very few would think they were acting out a “libertarian” impulse. But certainly they value their freedom to act as they wish within the law. And some are retired from work so are released from financial need to earn a wage.

    Sorry to nit pick Mr J. It’s not the vast majority who volunteer. But it’s a sizeable number.

  77. Just remember, every time you be charitable without Government forcing you to, that’s the Libertarian coming out.

    It could just as easily be the Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Socialist or Mentally Ill coming out, take your pick – but libertarians aren’t famed for their impulse to assist others (probably the reason “libertarian community” is an oxymoron).

  78. Brian.

    Yes, Jumpy, please answer Zoot’s question

    I did.

    AUGUST 5, 2017 AT 7:21 PM
    Well you got me there zoot, can’t show you any.

    Further Brian

    Libertarianism seems a minority flavour in any given society.

    Not at all, Libertarian principals [ slowly being eroded ] are the bedrock of todays Western Countries.
    The main reason I believe we won’t see Libertarian Countries is because collectivist bullying and Nationalism are more Socialist/Communist tools.

    Oh, and the reason I lump Socialism and Communism together is because their economic models are indistinguishable from each other.

  79. Now zoot, about my questions,
    What would you do with a million dollar windfall if you didn’t need it ?
    And, what title do you give the political/social/economic model that you yourself believe is the best ?

  80. “their economic models are indistinguishable from each other”
    quoth Senor J, keen student of Venezuela.

    I disagree, but it will take approx ten posts to lay out the reasons.

    !Hasta la vista, Senor J!

    (?does proud Venezuelan blood flow freely in your libertacious veins, Senor? Should we converse in Espanol?)

  81. Jumpy @ 5:50 pm August 7

    I did.

    You didn’t.
    @ 9:00 pm August 6, I asked

    If every one of us is brimming with Libertarian goodness why, in the entire history of humanity, has there never been a practical, functioning Libertarian state?

    Emphasis added for clarity.

  82. Coz Libertarians are not Statists, got it, for the forth time.
    Now quit dodging my questions with feinted ignorance.

    On a non-political issue, I heard today that Betty Cuthberts Tokyo time would have qualified her for the recent World Championship relay team.
    That blows my mind.
    Rest in Peace Betty.

  83. Mr A.
    They’re currently living in Brisbane.
    Ask yourself one question, is the flow of immigration to or from socialist/communist Countries now and in the past ?
    They’re voting with their feet.
    If anyone wants to argue they were better off where they came from, take it up with them.

  84. Coz Libertarians are not Statists

    So how are we ever going to get the benefit of states run on libertarian principles?
    Or is that the wrong question.
    Maybe I should ask what organisational structures libertarians believe should take the place of states?

    BTW, if I were so financially secure that a million dollars made no difference it would mean that I was already disbursing my wealth in a manner that needn’t change. I would add the million to my capital, pay tax on any earnings it made and continue to donate to the worthy causes of my choice.

  85. So how are we ever going to get the benefit of states run on libertarian principles?

    Educating socialists on how socialism implodes every time 🙂
    And we have to start with the youth but that’s not going to be easy with the present socialist bent of our educators . Fortunately there are green shoots of the next counter culture that are rebelling against the suffocating left right now.
    Good to see.

    BTW, if I were so financially secure that a million dollars made no difference it would mean that I was already disbursing my wealth in a manner that needn’t change. I would add the million to my capital, pay tax on any earnings it made and continue to donate to the worthy causes of my choice.

    Ah, so that begs the question of how much accumulated capital would see you as ‘ secure ‘ ?
    Also, are you totally satisfied as to how Government distributes taxes now ?

  86. Oh, and thanks for answering that, helps further our understanding of each other. Positive and productive.
    Yet this still hangs in the air;

    And, what title do you give the political/social/economic model that you yourself believe is the best ?

  87. Ah, so that begs the question of how much accumulated capital would see you as ‘ secure ‘ ?

    I have no idea. But if you start sending me money I promise to let you know when I have enough.

    And, what title do you give the political/social/economic model that you yourself believe is the best ?

    I have no idea. In fact, I’m not sure I believe any particular system is the “best”.

  88. Jumpy, I think the best we’ve done is under the ‘welfare state’ for a couple of decades after the war. It was a decent society to be growing up in, especially after Gough Whitlam had a go. But it has been mostly downhill from there.

    The original liberanism, leaving aside libertarianism, based on self-interest operating in free markets, maximising privatisation and competition has been very corrosive.

    Alarm bells are ringing on Four Corners. See Trashed: The dirty truth about your rubbish and Pumped: Who is benefitting from the billions spent on the Murray-Darling?

    TRhe go to background Briefing and take a look at Nowhere to go: Disability housing sell-off sparks fears for vulnerable.

    Be very afraid. There have been other horror stories about privatised nursing home care, and the privatised electricity system is not doing all that well.

    Immanuel Wallerstein says that the aims of the French revolution – in simple terms, liberty, equality and fraternity – have never been implemented in any state system. So I’m afraid your ‘voting with their feet’ thing is irrelevant, ie crap.

    I did a post once on Another world is possible at Webdiary. It might be still there, but was over 5000 words. Now I’m not sure, I’m beginning to think homo sapiens might just be too selfish and stupid.

    Wallerstein says the political economy is remaking itself, and he says there is no guarantees the goodies are going to win. If we swallow libertarianism they won’t.

  89. I’m beginning to think homo sapiens might just be too selfish and stupid.

    The campaign opposing action to alleviate climate change has convinced me that as a species we are too selfish and stupid to survive.

  90. Mr J

    I’m not sure why you think I’m barracking for Communist dictatorships…. I too have met refugees from such nations. A rough list for me, includes Hungary 1957, Laos 1970s, Kampuchea late 1970s, China after the Tienanmen so-called “incident”……

    I too believe that when people abandon their families, homes and beloved places, it is a huge decision, much weightier than marking a ballot paper in an Aussie election.

    “Voting with their feet” is a euphemism, si?

    I hope your Venezuelans make a go of it here.
    I wish Australia was helping more refugees now than it is.

    By the way, in considering your recent posts, it occurs to me that every person’s individual liberty so often depends on
    I) rule of law
    II) encoding of liberal principles in national law
    III) free speech and freedom of the press
    IV) welfare measures, to ensure freedom from starvation, untreated disease, slavery, abuse….
    V) universal education

    and the only examples I can think of, either in history or the actually existing world, have needed (to attempt to maintain that list I to V) a strong State.

    To so argue is not “Statist” in the sense of relying on the State for everything. It is not to argue against private property or private business, nor against entrepreneurs or inventors or indeed salt-of-the-earth individual contractors.

    It is merely to argue for all the benefits of present-day civilisation which we may enjoy, while striving to improve aspects or policies we find are hampering personkind, harming the planet, or messing with our friends and family.

    People all over the planet are hoping for similar benefits.

  91. Mr J
    To balance my reminiscences about migrants to Aust, also some folk I know were not political migrants.

    From NZ, USA, England, Wales, Scotland, Canada, Isle of Man, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Chile, Indonesia, Egypt, Syria, Malta, India, …..

    Voted with their feet, every family.
    Fleeing capitalist oppression? Unlikely.
    Fleeing social democracy? Unlikely.


  92. Brian,

    I thank you for your diligence, knowledge, good humour and resilience. I hope you get all the part time work you want, this Spring.

    Best wishes,

  93. Mr J

    I’m not sure why you think I’m barracking for Communist dictatorships…

    I don’t, but they all call themselves socialist/communist don’t they ?
    Loved your reminiscing even though it had little to do with what I am saying. I also agree with your V individual liberties, even IV.
    Being in construction for many years, as you can imagine, I’ve met and befriended folk from every place from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Being a person with no inclination to travel overseas maybe my opinion is skewed a little by those that have left other Countries to come here rather than those still living in the Countries they left. If that makes any sense.

  94. That last does make sense.

    Yes, Communist regimes often call themselves ‘socialist’, but we need to look beyond the self-description and try to figure out the reality, Si?

    I recall someone writing that the Soviet Constitution of 1930s sounded quite good on paper; meanwhile Stalin’s Bolshevik tyranny was starving people, shooting folk on an epic scale, condemning huge numbers to exile in camps far worse than the Siberian exile he himself had experienced as a young man (young armed bank robber, funding Lenin’s organisation).

    The Constitution might have said ‘socialist’; the reality was the pits.

    Similarly Mao’s China, Enver Hoxha’s Albania, Pol Pot’s Kampuchea, and the Soviet Union for many harsh decades. You know all this.

    Well, Western social democrats or democratic socialists long ago, generally, had any illusions of “Communist Paradise” shattered. Bertrand Russell around 1920; George Orwell in the Spanish Civil War; Stalin’s Show Trials in 1930s; Solzhenitsyn’s massive novels; Sakharov; Krushchev’s “secret speech”; uprising in East Germany 1953; invasion of Hungary 1956; “Prague Spring” 1968 and its bloody crushing; Solidarity Union in Poland 1979; martial law in Poland; Gorbachev’s reform attempts; military coup in Moscow……..

    There were clues all along the sad history.
    Robert Conquest wrote exposees.

    So horrific, so nasty, so bloody.

    Cheerio, Mr J.

  95. Yep there is no paradise.
    The socialists /communists had plenty of goes at it, all failed.
    The latest star child was Chavez but after the ten year beer buzz of Government stealing private property the hangover could last fifty years. All in one of the most naturally gifted Countries on Earth.
    The questions to us is do we want Government more or less powerful over us and how can they know whats better for us than we do.
    I don’t think homo sapiens might just be too selfish and stupid to survive, that’s the road to capitulation and servitude.

  96. I don’t think homo sapiens might just be too selfish and stupid to survive, that’s the road to capitulation and servitude.

    Really? Having an opinion that homo sapiens sapiens is not bright enough to ensure its survival is the road to serfdom?
    To quote a great Australian whine – “Please explain.”

  97. Jumpy, on the last, I’m calling it as it is, as I see it, not as I would like it to be.

    As Ambi indicated, you can’t go by names. A country that has “democratic” in its name usually isn’t.

    But rather than concentrate on the famous examples that went wrong, have a look at the political parties that have joined the Socialist International or the Party of European Socialists.

    Study what they have done and how they are going and report back in a year.

    I’m reading Gamble’s book in bits, and am started on the chapter on socialism.

    He attributes its real beginning to the French Revolution, says the socialists and what he calls the constitutional liberals share much. He says that as a doctrine socialism is not so much a call to reject the principles of liberalism as a claim that it alone cannot fulfil them – certainly not for everyone.

    Both originated as responses to the bourgeois revolution – the rise of the modern state, the expansion of civil society, and the development of scintific rationalism.

    Both endorsed aspects of the new industrial society wholeheartedly, as it took shape.

    He said the main concern of the liberal constitutionalists was to safeguard property and order. It was their idea of liberty.

    Socialists said there was no possibility of realising the values of liberalism for all within the society they envisioned.

    Jack Roux, for example, described freedom as an empty pretence when one class of men could starve another with impunity.

    He then goes on to quote the bit from Anatole France Zoot quoted above

    “the majestic quality of the law that forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under the bridges, to beg on the streets, and to steal bread.”

    That aside, the socialists could not see equality of opportunity, which the liberals did not believe in (and to judge by their actions, still don’t) if you allowed private ownership of property, which gave you ownership of the means of production.

    Under these circumstances labour becomes a commodity, and interpersonal relations became commercialised.

    Wealth and influence accumulated.

    Don’t know where he goes from there, but I’ve always thought you can’t have one of ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ (including the sisters) without all three.

    We are not going to have a revolution any time soon, but I think there have to be interventions by the state to provide decent opportunities for all, and to prevent exploitation and harm to individuals and disadvantaged groups.

    I’ve been toying with the idea of ‘industrial democracy’ and a ‘stakeholder society’.

    In the case of the former, with businesses of a certain size (not too big) I’d suggest by law workers should have a share of the company, and a say in supervising the running of the company.

    George Monbiot has some interesting suggestions about stakeholder approaches to large business and world government in his the Age of Consent.

    One way or another we have to civilise capitalism. The German revolutionary, Rosa Luxemburg’ citing Engels, said:

    “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to Socialism or regression into Barbarism.”

    Capitalism will not go away, so it has to be socialism with capitalism. Somehow. And industrial relations in the heart of the corporation is a central issue.

  98. This seems pertinent:

    Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

    Abraham Lincoln (a Republican, no less).

  99. And the rest of that paragraph ?

    Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and with their capital hire or buy another few to labor for them. A large majority belong to neither class–neither work for others nor have others working for them. In most of the Southern States a majority of the whole people of all colors are neither slaves nor masters, while in the Northern a large majority are neither hirers nor hired. Men, with their families–wives, sons, and daughters–work for themselves on their farms, in their houses, and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand nor of hired laborers or slaves on the other. It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persons mingle their own labor with capital; that is, they labor with their own hands and also buy or hire others to labor for them; but this is only a mixed and not a distinct class. No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of this mixed class.

    Hey Democrats, black people can’t be your capital any more.

  100. Hey Democrats Americans, black people can’t be your capital any more.

    Fixed it for you. And I don’t think you’ve actually understood what he was saying.

  101. Here’s the time line, cross check it with your linked speech.
    Context zoot.
    The Republican North abolished slavery, costing thousands of lives, against a stubborn Democrat South that wanted to ” keep their niggers in chains ”

    And the answer to your asinine question is by taking that stance you capitulate and abrogate your life to a Dear Leader.
    If you can’t comprehend that I can’t help you.

  102. Brian

    We are not going to have a revolution any time soon, but I think there have to be interventions by the state to provide decent opportunities for all, and to prevent exploitation and harm to individuals and disadvantaged groups.

    Exactly what they said about Venezuela a decade ago when the champions of the left circulated a partition for Chavez to come to Australia to teach our Country a thing or two.
    [ check it’s veracity, it’s real ]

  103. One thing Venezuela has in the last decade is plummeting income inequality, everyone is poorer.
    Even the middle class have the same ability as the poor to get soap or toilet paper.

  104. Logic 101:
    By taking that stance (that the species is too selfish and stupid to survive) you capitulate and abrogate your life to a Dear Leader.
    Pay attention class. This is a prime example of a “non sequitur”.

  105. To explain further.
    Acting on the premise that the species is stupid and selfish forces the individual to rely on her/his own resources, since his/her fellow animals will not have sufficient intelligence or empathy to assist her/him.

  106. against a stubborn Democrat South

    There he goes again with the simplistic binary thinking.
    Does Jumpy really believe there were no Republican voters within the slave owning class?
    The speech I linked to was an address to the nation, not a partisan attack on Lincoln’s political foes.

  107. Thanks for Exhibit A, zoot.

    Daniel Borstin’s book from 1961 was way ahead of its time, it seems. I recall reading it in 1967 or so. Powerful and acute.

    Thanks for Fred’s Anti-Machiavel too, Brian. The quotes available through Google make interesting reading.

  108. That’s some article, zoot. So many quotable quotes, like:

    Belief in gigantic conspiracies has moved from the crackpot periphery to the mainstream. Fewer than half of all Americans inhabit fact-based reality.

    Jumpy, you too can believe anything you want, except:

    “You are entitled to your own opinion,
    but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

    — Daniel Patrick Moynihan

    I’m not going to respond to anything about Venezuela as it says nothing about socialism.

    Gamble says that public ownership of property and the means of production is central to ‘socialism’. Not sure anyone much believes in that anymore, not the Chinese and not the Russians. So it’s pretty much a straw man you are puting up.

  109. Thanks Ambi, here a bit of Fred’s Anti-Machiavel:

    A Sovereign, he should have said, was originally designed for the Good of the People; this is therefore what a Prince ought to prefer to every other Consideration; and Justice alone ought to be the Guide of all his Actions. What becomes then of all those Notions of Self-Interest, Grandeur, Ambition and Despotism; when it appears that the Sovereign, far from being the absolute Master of his People, is nothing more than their chief Servant?

    I’d have to say it was better than the page and a half that Julia Gillard wrote about the aims of her PMship.

  110. Ambigulous, Brian – I must give credit to Dorothy Parker at Loon Pond, which is where I found the link.
    I have since revisited the article and this time I read a few of the 2000 or so comments.
    We’re doomed!

  111. we’ll all be rooned, said Hanrahan

    I must offer a personal apology for raising the little matter of fallout shelters many months ago, for which I was quite rightly chided by John D.

    couldn’t happen.


  112. Jumpy, you too can believe anything you want, except:

    “You are entitled to your own opinion,
    but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

    — Daniel Patrick Moynihan

    And straight after….

    I’m not going to respond to anything about Venezuela as it says nothing about socialism.

    Venezuela says everything about socialism, are you kidding ?
    Look, I can understand it’s an embarrassing example, but to say it says nothing is impossible to back up.

  113. In breaking news, Mr Tony Blair has told a Radio 4 interviewer that he “toyed with Marxism” as a young man, and considered himself a Trotskyite for about a year.

    He had read the first volume of Isaac Deutscher’s three volume biography of Leon Trotsky, and “it was like a light going off”. However, Cherie, his future wife, had an abiding contempt for the far left, and was a solid Labour supporter.

    Guardian UK news, online

  114. If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain.
    – Winston Churchill

  115. If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain.
    – Winston Churchill

    And by what age should he become a libertarian?

  116. Should ?
    That’s too dictatorial for a Libertarian, more a Socialist word.
    There is no should in the above quote.
    Telling indeed…

  117. If one were to ask ” what age is best to become a Libertarian ? “, i would argue as early as possible.

  118. “Everyday I become more convinced, there is no doubt in my mind, and as many intellectuals have said, that it is necessary to transcend capitalism. But capitalism can’t be transcended from with capitalism itself, but through socialism, true socialism, with equality and justice. But I’m also convinced that it is possible to do it under democracy, but not in the type of democracy being imposed from Washington,”.

    Bernie Sanders ?
    Jeremy Corbyn ?
    Someone else we know ?

    [ Im off line till Monday pm, I’ll reveal the source then if needed ]

  119. Is it possible, then, Oh Master……
    to skip the earlier ‘socialist’ and ‘conservative’
    stages of personal development, and emerge as a fully-formed and beautiful Libertarian,
    or must one remain a grub for a very long time?

    expressing grub opinions and bemoaning those others who have not yet seen the grub light?
    until one day,
    eschewing the tendentious outpourings
    of Isaac Deutscher….
    an almost Damascene conversion occurs??

    Truth seekers everywhere await
    your pronouncement.

  120. Jumpy the quote has a typo in it. Should be “within capitalism”.

    It’s not hard to copy the whole quote and paste into the Google search thingie, so I came up with this appreciation by Alan Woods of a speech by Hugo Chavez at the World Social Forum in 2005.

    They started with high hopes, but note that Chavez said that if the revolution was restricted to one country it would fail.

    In a globalised world capitalism is deeply entrenched, and my estimation is that it can’t be removed, so as I said the only option is to civilise capitalism.

    The best examples to date are probably Scandinavia, possibly Switzerland, possibly Canada under Trudeau, I don’t really know. But Obama showed no real interest in coming to terms with what had to be done.

  121. OK Jumpy I’ll rephrase the question. (Which, given your usual form, you will ignore)
    If a man is not a libertarian by the age of (insert age here) he has no (insert human body part here).
    What would you say is the appropriate age and body part?

    (I would change the statement to, “If by the age of 20 a man hasn’t realised the logical inconsistencies inherent in libertarianism he has no aptitude for intelligent thought.” But that’s just me.)

  122. It’s the selfishness that gets me down, zoot.
    Amongst many other things.

    “No man is an island unto himself….” wrote a poet centuries ago. That thought has been lurking around, for English speaking people , ever since.

    Fred’s words are stern rebukes to Machiavelli, the typical advocate of deceit, cunning, power hunger, manipulation…. He makes “spin” look like kindergarten games.

    Fred has a concept of the common good, justice, individual and group welfare, prosperity, and liberty. Even within the social and political context of his day, which we can scarcely recognise.

    Libertarianism as advocated by our colleague here seems to owe much to that Ancient Greek Narcissus.

    My advice is to beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

    [souvlaki excepted]

  123. Ambi, I’ll come back to this, but liberterianism foregrounds individualism, and it is a huge problem IMHO.

    I’ve gt to go out to work now. I help and old bloke who is a sprightly 88 years young. He’s never been able to do the work in the yard, however. I’ve been going there since 1996, and it’s fair to say they couldn’t have enjoyed their life on 10 acres in Upper Brookfield without my help.

    Any way, I’ve got another hour’s work to do on this week’s Salon, which won’t happen until tonight.

    Not many have read my post on the Commonwealth Bank. I’ve got some further information which made my hair stand on end, so I’ll do another post on it. The existing post, however, remains good background. To advance from there I’d recommend ABC RN interviews by Phillip Adams, and this morning with Geraldine Doogue.

    However, it was a couple of articles in the AFR that shocked me. More later.

  124. Ambi, I guess that there are books to be written about selfishness. The Tibetan Buddhists reckon that we are on the planet to help each other, and that when we seek happiness directly we are bound to fail. It’s a fundamental comment on the American foundational values of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.

    The early liberals were fundamentally preserving the right of the privileged to pursue self interest built on the misery, or at least exploitation of others.

    Gamble says that there has been an exchange and convergence of values between ‘liberalism’ and ‘socialism’, but some things don’t change. There was a news item on TV saying that slavery is larger than ever. The particular focus was on people trafficking, where they said women were being used in slave conditions for prostitution in 100 British cities.

    A very different example, but does Malcolm Turnbull think by regaling electricity retailers that they will now still not cut people off who can’t pay their bills, and seriously diverge from the aim of maximising profits?

    I’m with the Tibetan Buddhists, but it’s hard to carry the principle through to every aspect of everyday life.

  125. Good points Brian

    Just one doubt… I don’t think “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” precludes cooperative, communal pursuits of happiness….

    I think the early Pilgrims and other settlers, fleeing persecution and trying to set up in an unfamiliar environment, would have had cooperation and mutual aid thrust upon them.

    For survival.
    For later prosperity.

    But each generation and each class or group will have their own view of the founding principles.


  126. Fair point, Ambi. But each group so far has formed its identity in large part by ‘othering’ groups they are not.

    We can’t afford to keep doing that and expect to survive, IMHO.

  127. “I think the early Pilgrims and other settlers, fleeing persecution and trying to set up in an unfamiliar environment, would have had cooperation and mutual aid thrust upon them.”

    As I understood it, the Pilgrims would have perished but for the assistance from the Wampanoag Indians. They had a feast with the Indians to celebrate a harvest – the first Thanksgiving circa 1621.
    Nice huh? My American wife told me that – she learnt it at school and from her parents.

    Huffington has another version. See:


    My apologies if I am off topic a bit – I lost the thread so to speak some time back.

  128. Geoff, there’s no such thing as off topic on a salon thread.

    I’m really pleased that Americans are learning about their own history at school. I read a couple of books about it a few years ago, and the central USA and northeast tribes seemed remarkably advanced in their social organisation. I understand the USA constitution is to a significant extent based on a system of governance used by native Americans.

    Bad stuff happened, however, including one military commander who prayed to God and then, from memory, slaughtered around 600 ‘for their own good’. In turn the Comancheria could be brutal.

  129. Brian
    Buddhism is a religion but I get your point about helping others.
    Yet the main concept is individual enlightenment, the end game is personal Nirvana not social Nirvana.
    So to all other religion is Heaven or Valhalla for themselves, they attempt to ” save the souls of others ” as a necessary activity to achieve salvation for themselves.
    Selfish bastards ?

    On the political/social ideology thing, Libertarianism has individual rights as the foundation with which the rest of society builds on. The ultimate grass roots bottom up philosophy.
    It’s imposible for a Libertarian to be racist for example because every human has exactly the same inherent rights and responsibilities. Even if the mob mentality of the day want to remove them, Libertarians will oppose the mob and support the individual. And why would they do that ? For personal benefit of course, the benefit to others is a wonderful by-product.

    Some reading on t he key concepts is definitely required.

  130. Jumpy it is not cut and dried that Buddhism is a religion There is lively debate about that. Nirvana you say is personal, and so it is – but the so enlightened person has a beneficial influence on the world. This is a different selfishness if you have to call it so.

    Jumpy you say “It’s impossible for a Libertarian to be racist for example because every human has exactly the same inherent rights and responsibilities.” That is crap because we are not born equal or the same. Some are gifted, others more so. Some come from privileged backgrounds others not. That being so, how can you assume that we all should carry the same burden of rights and responsibilities.

    An assumption in the Libertarian view is that everyone will play fair. That does not happen. Diminishing the role of the State leaves diminished protection for those who need help. I’ll agree that too much “help” is dangerous. Remember too, the libertarians want the State to make the playing field just right for them to do their business.

    “… the benefit to others is a wonderful by-product.” That is a common view perhaps but don’t you think a littler dated? Isn’t there room for a more compassionate altruistic sharing of wealth? Or do you think the on-going concentration of wealth is OK as long as some trickles down the the great un-washed? Do you really think that paradigm is endless? What’s that you say? “let them eat cake!”

  131. Ok, I respond to each paragraph.
    There is only one type of selfishness dude.

    Inherent rights and responsibilities is the great equaliser, it allows the social and wealth mobility we in much greater numbers in more libertarian leaning cultures. You totally missed the point that discrimination starts and ends in the culture of grouping not individualism.

    Everyone with equality of opportunity based on egalitarian fairness, equality of outcomes will never be possible.

    If the state crowds out ” compassionate altruistic sharing of wealth ” by usurping funds from individuals to distribute to pork barrel votes , to create State dependency to the most generous political party, the ability of philanthropy at the local level gets diminished big time.

    Ask yourself if it’s more generous to take and redistribute OPM [ other peoples money ] as the State does { for votes } or the wealthy voluntarily direct the same funds for no benefit other than it makes them feel good ?

  132. Or do you think the on-going concentration of wealth is OK as long as some trickles down the the great un-washed? Do you really think that paradigm is endless? What’s that you say? “let them eat cake!”

    That’s actually worth going a bit further.
    Unless the wealth is stuck in a mattress , most wealth is invested to grow the economic pie as Brians does.

    This is why envy politics is so corrosive, distain is dealt out to productive people where there should be thankfulness.

  133. Geoff and Brian

    That’s a great story about the locals’ generosity.

    Of course, any intelligent newcomers would hope for advice and assistance from those who knew the land well.

    (And leave off from massacring, for a few decades at least.)


  134. I’ll read yours if yo read mine, deal ?

    The comment was not directed to you.
    I don’t care if you read the link or not.

  135. Ok, i read Quiggles, lol.
    If Quiggles rejects propertarianism then he should never sign a contract nor consider a warranty valid.
    What a mixed up dude he is…..

  136. I don’t care if you read the link or not.

    Hmm, selective empathy then, fair enough.
    As is our nature..

  137. Jumpy it serves me right and I apologise to for trying to engage you at any intellectual level. I was hoping for better. The fault is mine.

  138. How did I fail your expectations Geoff ?
    How could I have responded that was acceptable to you ?
    I’m fair dinkum on that if your not just point scoring with the mob.

  139. On the plus side we had zero comments from zoot while I was away and in three hours of my return he’s as chirpy as a canary.

    It’s the little things in life….

  140. Jumpy you are habitually obtuse. Your responses are in general offset from logic. I appreciate the creative approach you seem to enjoy but damn!
    As I said, the fault is mine.

    Sometimes it is helpful to be serious and even try to engage the moment. Sometimes the less said the better. E.g. you comment on Quiggins: “What a mixed up dude he is…..” is just silly. Quiggins, even if you disagree with him, has a pretty capable mind. It diminishes you, Jumpy, to wave him off as mixed up. Using “Quiggles” is not helpful either.

  141. Jumpy, I’m asking you not to be disrespectful and rude to John Quiggin.

    Frankly, how can I recommend anyone read my blog without warning them not to read the comments when that sort of thing is happening? It’s a genuine problem I’ve pondered for some time.

    I’ll get back to you on nirvana, but you are heading approximately in the opposite direction of the truth.

  142. Jumpy, to respond to your comment about ‘nirvana’, clearly you are wandering around in territory you don’t understand with hob-nailed boots.

    Earlier this year I read The Tibetan Book of living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. I’m not sure that I understand it either. Carl Jung warned about Westerners blundering into Eastern thought/belief/feelings etc usually ending up in a mess – that is, a personal mess. So approach with respect and care.

    The index does not mention ‘nirvana’ but it does talk about ‘Rigpa’ as the inner essence of mind. The exercise is for the individual to reunite with the universal mind as the ground of our being. If you do this for selfish reasons you accumulate bad karma, which might take a lifetime or two to escape. ‘Enlightenment’, if that’s the word, is achieved through escaping the bounds (bonds) of ego and self. You do it not by desire, but by leaving desire behind.

    In case you think the whole thing is based on a duality of body and mind, the Tibetan Buddhists reckon they got to where the quantum physicists are before they were invented. In the end, they say, if properly understood matter dissolves into no thing, which is not to describe it but to point to what it is through what it is not.

    Matter and mind are ultimately one.

    That’s just my puny effort, but probably entirely inadequate. In the end words either nail butterflies to the wall, or point to them flying. But the ultimate reality those people (some of them are women) are talking about is beyond words, but is bright and beautiful beyond compare.

    Oddly perhaps to our image of meditating mystics, Tibetan Buddhists meditate with their eyes open. seems if you want to merge with the oceanic reality from which the phenomenal world emerged, you don’t shut it out.

    Compassion, and prioritising the needs of others, is part of what they do. They also spend a lot of time in meditation and say you can’t get far without a master or three to guide you.

    That drops me off, but also their precise description in what happens in the ‘bardo’, the passage between death and rebirth, which is only escaped finally by merging with the eternal whole. I’m agnostic about all of that.

    They say that all of that is not a belief, we’ve been told by very rare people who before the final enlightenment remember what they experienced in the bardo. Like Buddha himself.

    Geoff, I think arguments about whether we are dealing with a religion or a philosophy might occupy Western minds, but are, again, like pinning butterflies to the wall.

    That’s about the best I can make of it today with my Western mind.

  143. Jumpy, your primer on libertarianism comes up short. It says nothing about equality, and how it is to be truly overcome if you have private property, and privilege through the accident of birth.

    I’m gradually chewing my way through Gamble’s book – wish I’d read it back in 1981 when it was published.

    Into Marx now, who was clearly an intellectual giant and probably the most influential in the last 200 years along with darwin and Freud.

    Karl reckons in the long run you are looking in the wrong place. The important thing is how labour is socially constituted. While you have one person hiring and another selling labour, you are never going to have equality.

  144. Jumpy, there is a difference between ideals and what is realistically achievable, but a Gini coefficient somewhere near that of Norway, Sweden and Finland would be a start.

    In other words, the ‘Scandinavian model’ or thereabouts, not in every particular, would be a good start.

  145. So equality of household income [ buying power ] is a priority?
    Have I got that correct, I don’t want to be accused of putting words in your mouth, it’s not how much buying power the poor have but the gap between the poor and the wealthy ?
    Please, I ask in good faith and just would like to understand this idea that seems strange to me.

  146. If you go and look up the Gini coefficient, that will assist in understanding Brian at 5.24pm. Just a polite, civil suggestion.

    GINI is mathematical, and gives a one-number characteristic of a distribution (usually income, but could be wealth I suppose).

    Of course it omits detail, just like: a mean, a median, a standard deviation, a maximum, a minimum, also omit detail.

    Gini is worth understanding, because many folk use it to compare national outcomes (as Brian did, above).

  147. Well I did look it up Mr A and I’m sure Brian can answer himself.
    If I may be so bold, it only measures wealth disparity rather than National economic health of a Countries Citizens overall.
    In saying that I don’t care how rich the top end are so long as the bottom end are getting better.
    And that is the case Globally I believe.

  148. Jumpy, I’m not an expert on Gini, but yes, a dignified life for all is part of the ‘Scandinavian model’. Beyond that, income disparities within a society do matter.

    There are various versions, but I suspect this one might be more reliable than the CIA one as such. It’s alphabetical.

    I understand that when Gini reaches 0.33 or 33 out of a 100, bad shit is likely to happen within a society. My understanding is that we are at 33 and rising.

    I think a cleavage is developing along the lines of residential property, where if current trends continue, the top 10% by income will own almost everything and the bottom 80% almost nothing, and will be bled dry by high rentals.

    It’s not the sort of society I want to leave for posterity.

    It’s a theme I would like to explore more when I get time.

    But there are all sorts of other ways that inequality becomes problematic. I don’t have time to write a book.

    BTW it’s well established that health effects are based on relative income rather than absolute income.

  149. Getting back to inequality, Gini is like taking the temperature of the country. The US has always been on the high side.

    In the last few days, three stories have passed by me.

    Firstly, I heard that one in seven of the US population depends on food stamps.

    Secondly I heard how Walmart was impoverishing many of the localities it set up in.

    Small retailers were sent broke. Walmart does not pay its staff a living wage. net result – Walmart was running out of customers in many places.

    Third, an article by John Kehoe in the AFR, which said that large companies out of control and were hurting the economy. The US, once known for the dynamism of it’s economy, is now seeing a fall-off in start-ups and entrepreneurship.

    The economic dynamism index, whatever that means, had fallen from 57.3 in 1992 to 34.2 .

    He said that ingenuity is devoted to effectively stealing things rather than making things.

  150. Yes, Mr J

    Gini measures wealth disparity.

    I agree that the level of income (or some wider measure, as many good things for individuals and groups do not have a $ measure…) is also important.

    Measuring “poverty” is very difficult, though Ronald Henderson and colleagues gave it a red hot go in Australia back in the 60s, 70s.

    In the past, Mr J you have criticised the use of national GDP as a useful intranational comparison measure.

    Is there a better one?

  151. Mr A, the first thing to realise is the for most of humanity the natural state is abject poverty. Systems that raise the most humans out of that is a good system. Capitalism + Democracy has done that better than any other system for the common man.
    If you know of a better system then i well convert.

    GDP = C + I + G + (Ex – Im)

    C = total spending by consumers
    I = total investment (spending on goods and services) by businesses
    G = total spending by government (federal, state, and local)
    (Ex – Im) = net exports (exports – imports)

    Increase G hurts C because taxes are what Governments spends rather than the taxpayer, hurts I for the same reason and Ex-Im suffer as a result.
    To say G has the same weight as I is ludicrous, if that were the case Brian would liquidate his portfolio and donate it to the ATO.

  152. Ambigulous, Gini coefficient, it seems, can be used to generate all kinds of indices. The first one I linked to (CIA) was family income, the Wikipedia one just said “income”.

    Which doesn’t include the black or informal economy.

    I usually think in the first instance about individual income when thinking about inequality, because there can be significant differences within families or households.

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