Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Industrialisation makes most of the world "non-productive"

In an article Valencia Sailing: United Internet Team Germany has a second skipper, on writer from Minneapolis points out that most people have not been aware of the threat of rapid population decline in Europe, East Asia, Canada, New Zealand, Blue America and increasingly Latin America and the rest of Asia.

What the claims is that the "non-productive world" has its population grow whilst that of the "productive world" declines.

If this means that the productive population is declining due to low fertility whilst the non-productive population increases due to aging, the article is correct, but its wording is very poor.

On the other hand, in an industrial economy, the productive states can be defined as those possessing major mineral and usable land resources. (By "usable land" I mean land without steep topography or pedological problems like glaciation, permafrost or waterlogging that make it impossible to develop economically). As things turn out, the number of regions of the world that possess major resources of usable land totals five:

- Australia
- Africa (except for Ethiopia and the Atlas Mountains)
- the warmer parts of interior North America
- interior South America
- the warmer parts of the European Plain

Of these, Australia and parts of Africa alone possess abundant deposits of the mineral resources necessary for a region to be "productive" in an industrial or postindustrial economy. Also, the tourist dollar is much weaker there than in the scenically more attractive regions of Europe and North America, where tourism can certainly be said to tie up land for non-productive uses. Sport in particular does not produce anything for most people, and even if Frank Miniter's proposals in the best book in the PIG series may not be perfect, they might at least make land in Europe productive.

Australia and sub-Saharan Africa are precisely where conservative values promoting family life and high fertility are strongest. Thus, the claim of population decline in productive regions is actually wrong or more likely just misleading.

Monday, 22 September 2008

How to destroy a key event on the calendar

Adam Cooney's win in this year's Brownlow, by one vote from Simon Black and two from Gary Ablett Junior, was as pleasant as it was unexpected. Because of the number of Footscray aka Western Bulldogs supporters at my mother's school and the fact that that club's most famous and longest-serving player (Scott West) was a student and my former school (Penleigh and Essendon Grammar).

However, what I will remember of the televising of the Brownlow Count for this year is the ridiculous number of interludes interviewing admittedly famous AFL players (and much lesser-known people who have been extremely generous in their support of the game) between the reading out of the voting. It was so annoying to watch them do these out-of-place documentaries that I went up to the computer several times during the count because I could not stand waiting for the return of counting. when there was some sustained counting as excitement intensified as to who would win the Medal, I was very tired and did not wish to wait for the news at all.

The excessive number of documentaries in between voting, however, is not the only thing that alarms me about Channel Ten's broacast of the 2008 Brownlow Medal count.

The incredible error of counting Round 2 before Round 1 is quite incredible by the normally immaculate standards of Brownlow broadcasts as I have known them for over a decade. I tried to laugh, but it was very hard because the mistake was so hard to forgive.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

The true lunatic fringe

When I first read music criticism, I became acquianted with some anti-rock writers whose ludicrousness is so laughable I do not know how I recalled it. Either Socialist Alternative or books published by Regnery are models of calm and balance by comparison to people like David Nobel, Jacob Aranza and Jeff Godwin.

One well-known theory dating from the late 1970s is that the song "Hotel California" is about the Church of Satan. Although most music writers dismiss this claim, I have never heard it refuted. However, the fact that these critics claim an Eagles song called "Have A Good Day in Hell" exists when a check of All Music reveals no such song shows they cannot be serious.

However, the absurdity of anti-rock writers can be better seen in the story about theAlan Parsons Project album Eve. The story goes that the girls on the cover had syphilis and the lace veils used on the cover were there so that the syphilitic sores would not be visible.

There are so many problems with Aranza's idea, but I will point out the following:

1) I have never thought of buying Alan Parsons Project music - I have never liked any incarnation of Pink Floyd and the Alan Parsons Project were ranked #21 in Blender's 50 Worst Artists back in 2004.

2) I did once search for the "offending" cover and could never see anything resembling Aranza's description.

3) Today, when I recalled reading this story and told it to him, my brother said the girls might have worn veils because they were nuns! Whilst I find the lives of nuns extremely fascinating, it was impossible to believe this story because I know religious orders do not accept girls as young as I assumed those on the cover were - and in any case it takes years of postulantship before a nun takes the veil.

4) My mother told me syphilitic sores occur around the genitals yet a veil is worn around the head!

5) When I looked at the Alan Parsons Project on All Music, I found the cover of Eve and realised it must have been the one viewed as "offending" Christianity.

6) The figures on the cover of Eve did not look any younger than fifteen.

7) The supposed "syphilitic sores" on the front cover extend beyond the faces of the girls (or women) on the cover. My brother pointed out that would mean syphilis would extend across the air between the two figures - which is impossible since syphilitic sores develops only on someone's skin.

The evidence above clearly indicate that the veils cannot have been worn to cover syphilitic sores. I wonder how many others have come to the same conclusion?

It's not only the right who take childcare seriously

In a recent article by Rod Dreher, he claims to “know people who count themselves as normal, middle-class conservatives who barely govern the TV, movies and music their kids take in - and think that parents who take pop culture and parenting seriously are neo-Amish weirdos.”

Even if my dreadful behaviour (biting, wanting to kill) when personally wounded shows me to be anything but normal, I must state that Dreher is a little skewed about this question. Elaine, who lives with my uncle, once stated that she would not allow a child in her custody to watch M, MA or R-rated movies. I imagine and - despite the influence of the radical left who undoubtedly owe much to rap - hope that she still believes this. I imagine that ordinary people who do not believe the Right on every issue do have at least some concern about their children becoming violent, though how they would handle it I probably would not understand from my own experiences with bullying and threats to be killed.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Why private ownership wouldn't prevent dry dams

An article from the free-market Mises Institute gives a quite rational look at the unwillingness of conservatives (which includes most young Melburnians) to see that only measures to uncompromisingly outlaw private registration of motorised vehicles and end coal-fired power could have saved Melbourne from the forty percent decline in rainfall and eighty percent decline in runoff that has occurred since 1997.

His point that “Libertarians are as subject to reflexive, partisan position-taking as any one else. Because they are reflexively opposed to government action, they find it easier to try to bat down AGW scientific arguments...” should be taken seriously by everybody. Knowledge by Australia’s conservative, fertile outer-suburban populace about how masculinisation, secularisation, welfare states and restrictive development policies is causing lowest-low fertility in Europe, Blue America, Canada and New Zealand makes them reflexively opposed to big government intervention to combat Melbourne’s water shortages.

Austrian economics theorises that private ownership will ensure that water is priced according to its scarcity and that if it becomes scarce enough, prices will rise enough to reduce usage.

The problem with this theory being applied to water in Australia is extreme variability of runoff.

In Australian rivers, the difference between the largest and smallest annual flow is three orders of magnitude as against one order of magnitude for rivers in Europe, Asia, New Zealand and North America. Water prices would under the complete private ownership regime of Austrian theory naturally become either very high during dry periods or extremely low in wet ones. However, because persistence of wet years in Australia under non-anthropogenic climate conditions is thought to be greater than persistence of dry years, there is grave danger that owners used to wet weather would be unprepared for drought – even a short and non-anthropogenic one.

Moreover, it is hardly likely a private owner of Melbourne’s water sources would be able to know that runaway declines in runoff would be an inevitable consequence of carbon dioxide levels above 330 parts per million. This was unknown until a few years ago – well after Melbourne’s rainfall shifted to a new regime in October 1996. A private owner of Australia’s rivers would, if he knew the threat, be obliged to totally outlaw petrol, diesel and coal-fired energy (a là the Amish) in order to maintain a carbon dioxide concentration low enough to keep rain-bearing cold fronts within Victorian latitudes.

In a pure private property society without any government, as advocated by the most stringent Austrians, it is hard for me to see how there could not be disputes with a river owner demanding these bans, unless the water supply owners owned the entire catchment area and knew scientifically why bans on cars and electricity were essential for maintaining supply.

If a private owner of water sources in southern Australia did not know the maximum carbon dioxide level at which rain-bearing cold fronts regularly form, he would be forced when the climate dries with global warming from road transport and coal-fired electricity to ask exceedingly high prices for water.

At such a high price, desalination, which is itself extremely greenhouse-intensive and thus makes global warming worse (people will need to drink more in hotter weather even if savings are possible elsewhere), will become economic. One can hardly expect that private developers completely unrestrained by government would fail to build a desalination plant just as the government – unwilling to abolish private vehicle registration and coal-fired power – has been forced to do by the most radical climate changes in southern Australia since the ice age ended.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

There should be no controversy about ending irrigation and revegetating

News I received yesterday on an Age poster in Swanston Street of talk that there would be protests over a north/south water pipeline from the Goulburn to Melbourne frustrates me still further.

If we think on these logical lines:

— if current increases in carbon dioxide have cut runoff into Melbourne’s dams by 75 percent, there is virtual certainty that projected greenhouse gas increases will cut them to zero soon

— that desalination is extremely greenhouse-intensive and will make the problem worse besides creating demand for water due to higher temperatures

— then we logically come to the conclusion that all non-essential water usage in southern Australia must be phased out as rapidly as possible.

The major non-essential water usage in Australia, though people do not realise its non-essential nature, is of course irrigation Australia is known among economists for having very low farm subsidies, but among ecologists for its extremely low yields due to extremely ancient soils even with irrigation. Irrigation uses over two-thirds of Australia’s water, so that if it were completely phased out, Australia’s urban population could theoretically get by with a third as much runoff (this of course is an overestimate because most irrigation water cannot be diverted to a major city and there would be ecological costs doing so).

However, what water could be diverted to cities might be very valuable to cope with the declining supply global warming will inevitably produce in southern Australia.

The ecological and, globally, social benefits of a really serious plan to covert all irrigation land in the Murray-Darling Basin back to native flora would also be immense. Not only would Australia’s land benefit from having plants truly adapted to its unique soil conditions, but nations in Europe and East Asia whose sole natural resource is fertile soils would not have that resource rendered worthless by Australia’s ecologically destructive agriculture. Rather we would have farming on pedologically suitable land on what Kirkpatrick Sale calls a “human scale”.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

PIG surprise

Today, browsing amazon.com to redo my account and add tags to the chess books I have review in the past, I decided to check the Politically Incorrect Guide series for signs of a new title - which seem to have become less frequent ever since the Guide to the Middle East appeared.

To my surprise, the next guide after the forthcoming Guide to the Civil War will be due out in April 2009 and will be called The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War. I would have expected myself something like The Politically Incorrect Guide to Foreign Aid or The Politically Incorrect Guide to Crime as a guess for the next new title. (As with the Rock hall, guessing the next new PIG title is something of a hobby for me).

Although Vietnam is often seen as a victory for the Left, I have never thought of the Politically Incorrect Guide-reading community as in favour of troop deployment in Vietnam. Thomas Woods has pointed out that the Right were often more historically anti- war than the Left, and many books I have read lately have given me the impression that the Right in the US and Australia did not react strongly against the "Sixties" until the "punk revolution". It has indeed become clear to me that the real legacy of punk in the US and Australia was in turning the Right firmly against the culture of the "Sixties".

I tried to e-mail the author without success, but perhaps there is more to the PIGs than I thought after seeing their previous forthcoming title.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

An old hobby on a new topic

Although I have moved my tastes and interest in music far away from those artists likely to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I still love trying to predict who is going to be elected and have a great enjoyment for reading other people's opinions about the question. When I was a teenager I used to predict footy results for the coming season and kept my predictions even after I realised they were horribly wrong.

With the 2008/2009 Rock Hall ballot due any time, I have lately been reading about the viewpoints of writers upon who is likely to be among the nine cadidates eligible for induction. Unlike the 2007/2008 ballot where the candidates were known by this time of year, there is still apparently no clues from anyone who watches the Rock Hall as to whom the candidates will be. I did make predictions when the 2007/2008 inductees were announced, but my past experiences tell me that I cannot count on any of my choices even being on the ballot.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Not the only ones to make that mistake!

Although it was almost a year ago that my brother told me my amazon.com name was really a wrong Chinese translation of "Freeman" (referring to Alfred Percy Freeman, the record-breaking Kent leg-spinner), this article I found seaching the web really does surprise me. It points out that errors trying to tattoo people in Chinese are very common and one woman who had a tattoos meaing "free" done cried when she realised the tattoo said "free of charge" - which of course is a very different message from being free as opposed to being a bonded slave.

Nonetheless, my past history, when I recall it, shows that I have often made the same mistake.

For instance, when I first heard of "free elections" after the fall of Stalinism in Eastern Europe (it said "Hungary is having its first free elections in 40 years") I assumed it meant "free" as in the Chinese mianfei and that elections that were not free were ones where voters were obliged to pay to vote. Even with Alfred Percy Freeman himself, I often jokingly imagined him called "Paidman" (as the opposite of "Freeman") because he was actually a professional cricketer who gained considerable wealth (including two benefits) from playing for Kent.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Is the whole idea misleading?

Although I can understand the recent list of 50 greatest Australian albums of all time, I have in recent years as a student felt the idea to be misleading.

This is because, though most Australians would wish to dispute this, distinctively Australian music is very difficult to produce. Not only is Australia's culture, as Jared Diamond points out elegantly, entirely alien and un-adapted to its environment, Australia's monopoly on the essential resources of industrial economies provides such abundance as to create a culture where it is easy to become adequately wealthy without either saving money or receiving welfare.

Such a comfortable culture simply cannot produce memorable works of art: Australia's few internationally famous works of art relate to life in the harsh outback as graziers - which is irrelevant to a postindustrial age and fails to reflect the prosperity brought about by the extraordinary efficiency of Australian farming due to the huge size of its farms on flat terrain.

Australian musicians wishing to produce something unmade for commercial radio have generally had to relocate abroad (back to their own homeland?!). Outside inner city areas there has never been demand for non-middle-of-the-road music, since the romantic, upbeat messages provided thereby fit the relaxed and fortunate lifestyle enjoyed by people with an abundance of wealth and land not seen in any other era or place.

This makes me feel that Australian albums - unless of indigenous music - cannot sincerely be thus called. Most of the major musicians who produce them - as with all of AC/DC bar Phil Rudd - were foreigners by birth anyway.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

New book of note

In my email today, I found information about a new book titled Climate Wars.

I have never heard of Gwynne Dwyer, its author, but am really curious as to whether this will shed further light on the virtual non-response of Australia’s politicians to the problem of climate change or reveal what I already know to be likely to happen in the near future to Australia’s climate – like a Melbourne with less rain than historically received around Lake Eyre.

Monday, 1 September 2008

A sensible idea known to too few

On page 3 of today’s Business Age, I discovered a letter that called for the transfer of the labour of Australia’s car factories to the building of forty new railway vehicles that would help reduce greenhouse emissions and provide transport to outer suburbs like South Morang and Rowville.

It is frustrating to see ideas take decades to get into mainstream papers after they were advocated in such books as ‘Environment, Capitalism and Socialism’ twenty years ago. When you see Melbourne’s dams at an abysmal 33 percent full when they should be 100 percent and the government allowing car sales that should have been targetted to fall to a rigid zero by 1990, temper tantrums are hardly surprising in a person as prone to violence as I am.

However, one thing I have learned is that even if Australia’s emissions policy is “a joke” according to The Age, the country whose greenhouse emissions should be no more than one-hundredth to one-thousandth the world per capita average lags further and further behind. One thing I hope to soon write about is why Australian culture, at least in the outer suburbs where most of its working population lives, resembles that of the Europe before the end of the monarchical era and not, in Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s terms the post-World War I “democratic” Europe. This can be seen in the extreme passivity of Melburnians to a 70 percent decline in the city’s water supply in the past dozen years. Most modern cultures would no doubt demand without compromise radical measures like completely banning private cars and investing in a rail system with services superior to any in the world today. As it is, we see increasing support for the freeways that cause the problem! This is because Australian culture, like the “monarchical” Europe before World War I, accepts the right of corporations to the social power they enjoy and believes that the class structure of society is a natural good. Under this view, there can be no justification for the struggle necessary to move Australia towards sustainability.

Would workers be predisposed to honor culture without big government?

The book Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South gives an interesting perspective on what caused the high crime rates in the American South. They attribute the high murder rate to a "honor culture" that believes retaliation for offence is acceptable and was descended from the pastoralists of the Scottish Highlands.

Culture of Honor says that "honor cultures" are not likely to develop in hunter/gatherer or settled farming societies - in the first case because it is inefficient to fight over limited resources, in the second because peaceful coexistence with neighbours is so important to maintaining social stability.

When I considered what was said in Power in Eden for a second time a few days ago, I came to the conclusion that honor cultures could develop among industrial workers, though the suggestion is never made by Lerro.

My reasoning is that, once you understand that the real resources of an industrial or postindustrial economy can be interpreted as either money or metal ores. Both these resources are highly portable, which provides one criterion for radical machismo to develop. In all regions except Australia and perhaps Southern Africa or oil-rich states, mineral resources are very scarce, and for the young worker in the absence of welfare so is money. If we assume the kind of small government advocated by the Right, we have in industrial society all the criteria for men to become extremely macho except low population density. Even this may be reduced if development of urban areas were free and farm subsidies absent.

On another level, I have a great many recollections from biographies of famous people that do suggest tyrannical and/or abusive fathers were more frequent during the Industrial Revolution and up to the time "Big Government" developed after World War I than at any other stage in Western history. Childhoods like those of Margaret Sanger, Stalin and Alfred Kinsey were characterised by fathers who were always violent or extremely authoritarian in a way seldom seen amongst people at other times. Both Stalin and Sanger had fathers who had low-paid laboring jobs and were extremely violent to their children and devoutly feminine and pious wives. The fact that they had no access to public monies and were faced with extreme competition from other workers made it practically impossible for them to save up money to achieve a more secure lifestyle. This is what suggests industrial workers in most parts of the world will be naturally predisposed to violence in the absence of "big government".

Another reason a working-class industrial society might develop an "honor culture" where a settled agricultural one would not is that workers in free-market industrial society face more potential competition than in an agricultural society. Though groups of workers will need to co-operate, competition between different factories lessens this needs overall when compared with smaller-scale farming societies, so that workers have fewer potential restraints against violence as a response to poverty.

Competition also works among bosses who are forced to increase the productivity of labour. Whereas peasants starve if the strike, workers can easily strike to demand better conditions by force. Violent strikebreaking as a response by bosses as occurred very frequently in the US before the New Deal expanded government power against it, serves as further evidence (post)industrial society could develop violent honor cultures in the absence of very strong government to regulate working conditions and wages.

Myth of feminisation of men

Conservatives often argue that social problems reflect breakdown in traditional gender roles, which they quite naturally term "feminisation of men" and "masculinisation of women".

The argument that masculinisation of women has occurred is one that has appealed to me for a long time, probably because of my experience reading about the increasing level of violence in music and films. I have always felt, however, that it reflects masculinisation of culture as a whole not complete confusion in gender roles.

My own life experience and readings about culture has never suggested men have been feminised as a result of the women's movement. Rather, it suggests that a very violent popular culture that denigrates femininity and glorifies extreme selfishness has (perhaps) forced women to become tougher and less empathetic.

In this context, a 2005 blog and study of parenting trends in the European Union is refreshing. According to the study

- the proportion of men in the EU who help with childcare has fallen in the past decade by around one sixth
- the proportion of men in working class families who involve themselves in childcare is fifty percent higher than the same proportion for middle class families

Both these results suggest that in the developed nations outside Australia and Red America, as I mentioned in a previous post, masculinisation of culture has really proceeded to an extraordinary level and that caring (traditionally feminine) values are not only ignored, but hated as people think only about themselves.