Friday, 17 February 2012

A doomed policy with a good intent

In today’s Ottawa Citizen, there is news that Germany, facing lowest-low fertility and a potential old-age dependency ratio of 1 to 2 by 2040, is going to tax childless citizens over the age of 25, halving the tax for single-child citizens and abolishing it for couples with over two children.

The idea is good in theory, because it is childless couples who tend to be exceptionally rich and would have enough money to pay for the welfare of old-age dependents in the long-term future.

European governments presumably know that continent-wide hyperinflation is a likely result of projected old-age dependency ratios as governments with a limited tax base cannot cut welfare payments without violent protest and have no resources to raise more tax like Australia does. Angele Merkel presumably hopes that people who are childless will effectively be forced to save money through having it “minded” by the government.

The problem is that, in reality, the costs inherent in government regulation and taxation will simply drive people either to:
  1. greater hoarding of money, as with East Asia
  2. reduced investment due to even higher taxes for businessmen who often do not raise families because of their commitments
    • this could mean even less economic growth and less money to raise children
  3. does nothing about the extremely high cost of children from extreme government regulation of housing and land
The key to a solution is to create a society where it is affordable to raise children and just as significantly, where the children do not as in the years following the Industrial Revolution, take so easily to ideologies that produce a government far beyond the capacity of Eurasia’s depleted natural resource base. The policy advocated by Merkel is unlikely to do anything to make child-raising remotely affordable in Germany: unless this can be achieved either by making it cheaper or making the population less selfish and less concerned with ephemeral goods, the demographic decline will continue remorselessly.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The terrifying threat to Europe

Although the economic problems of Greece and other “recent developers” in Europe (e.g. Ireland) are well-known, Russell Shorto in the New York Times has provided a terrifying account of what life in Greece today is really like. Titled “The Way Greeks Live Now”, it presents a horrifying picture of a country torn apart by its population's selfishness and envy and in the case of Vargas Llosa, a country with no history of efficient financial management.

The revelations of Aris Hadjigeorgiou are stunning. He says that people in Greece’s economic meltdown are now simply not even paid, and that, as Humberto Fontova argued in Fidel: Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant, people in Greece want to escape from what they view as a tightly repressive economic system to such an extent that twelve thousand - about 0.15 percent of the total population - attended a seminar on migrating to Australia. Moving companies and shop closures - common enough here in Melbourne - are widely advertised on anything possible - and people are rapidly moving most money out of bank accounts. It is popularly thought that foreign companies want to turn Greece into a Florida-like resort for the wealthy of Northern Europe because of its warm climate, and the collapse of indigenous businesses would make this much more probable.

However, it is not only in hotter parts of the Enriched World that this type of multinational takeover is a threat to both culture and potentially to their economies. Although Austrian economists argue that in a free market every country will specialise in whatever it is most efficient in, in reality the entire Enriched World with its generally short growing seasons, steep topography and poverty in lithophile minerals is forced into specialising in advanced technology or manufactured goods. Moreover, the latter is only an economic specialisation for an Enriched World nation as long as it has a large supply of cheap labour, which no Enriched World nation has maintained for more than thirty years following the start of its industrial development. One sees this process very clearly in Japan and Taiwan, where their advantage in labour costs for industrial development declined steadily from the beginnings of industrialisation. Major industries such as motor vehicles are thus “nomadic” within the Enriched World searching for the cheapest labour. Under this condition, long-term job security is almost impossible for most workers, except possibly for those in industries so specialised they depend on a tradition of work in this field, of which the best-known is watch-making.

That possibility, however, has in not one Eurasian nation proved adequate for the maintenance of traditional culture, respectable fertility rates and limited government. Problems with public debt are widespread in the Enriched World, not confined to “poorly managed” nations like Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Thus, one can expect that, regardless of what does happen in southern Europe, that  northern Europe still possess the risk of a similar collapse and drain of enterprise and emotional “heart” - people with the caring ability to nurture families for the future.

Another alternative possibility to allow the Enriched World to cope with the upheavals of industrialisation and the reversal - a precise one indeed - of resource distribution is radical political unity. The trouble is that, under the present state of big government, the costs of administration, as with Stalinist Russia, lead inevitably in territories that unlike Australia are not naturally united to a behemoth which never tends to break down, as I know very well from Front Porch Republic. Only by challenging materialism, really, is there any hope that the overextended governments of the Enriched World can potentially be broken down, but there is no prospect of the working masses ever allowing that. The consequences for governments that become more and more indebted, however, are terrifying:
  1. a collapse of much of the world’s major academia and infrastructure, and
  2. mass migration to already overpopulated Australia
  3. potential loss of great cultural treasures as government debt accelerates
Radical unity under a more limited government may work for the Enriched World, but the question is how to achieve it??

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Why a complete rethink of drug policy is needed

For a long time I had few opinions on the issue of illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin (which I thought was spelled “herrawin”) and marijuana (which I thought was spelled “marawana”). My relatives have always been and remain appalled at people who use them, and I for financial and other reasons have never dared to try them.

However, in part because of reading Socialist Alternative (who want a regulated supply of all drugs) and latterly such organisations as the Mises Institude (who prefer an unregulated drug supply), I have come to think that the so-called "War on Drugs" which has its roots in the Progressive Era but which was intensified during the Reagan and Bush Senior Eras, is the worst of both worlds. It does nothing to address the myriad reasons for the use of illicit drugs, and because many people become rich and influence government by means of dealing in these artificially expensive substances, it is very hard for the government to keep a clean sheet of involvement with drug smugglers.

Today, however, Britain's The Guardian has provided the most damning evidence about the failures of the "war on drugs", by showing how the potential therapeutic value of psilocybin as a treatment for extreme pessimism by keeping “unwanted guests” away from the brain. I can relate to that perfectly because even in my most normal moods I tend to be thinking about far, far too many things at once and cannot focus on what I want to because I remember titillating or dramatic details too well - generally so well as to scare me away from ever reading them again. In general, relaxing is especially difficult for me and I often disturb others in public places by being noisy when I am thinking of how to react. Although those near me would be crazy if I were to take psilocybin for this purpose and I would only do so if it were recommended by someone with serious knowledge of the drug and the problems I have, that does not mean that the benefits of taking the drug for other people may not be extremely valuable.

Nonetheless, a plan to phase out the “war on drugs” towards legalisation is a step away frm financially destructive policies that could also prove very beneficial in a medical sense.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Why Planned Parenthood funding is wrong

Although I have been heavily criticised on these grounds, over 2011 I have argued that the controversial policy of de-funding Planned Parenthood was the correct one. The two sides of the political debate over Planned Parenthood have quite simply no means of understanding each other because they operate on utterly incompatible philosophical perspectives.

Whilst in other posts on this blog I have outlined the environmental factors that dictate which side ("Christian" or "Epicurean") will win out over a long enough period, I should emphasise that in general efforts by either side to dictate have largely failed. It is for this reason that I completely agree with this new article in The Atlantic Wire that both sides win if government ceases Planned Parenthood finding.

Susan Komen's recent decision to end funding to Planned Parenthood has attracted a lot of attention, since Rod Dreher and Ross Douthat have shown that, in contrast to the vigorous debate amongst ordinary Americans about abortion, the media is totally pro-choice and wants to effectively silence any organisation with different views. If the government of the United States was to cease funding Planned Parenthood, it would:
  1. make those who do defend it (and whom I do not wish to offend) more generous in their funding of it and perhaps more willing to debate other viewpoints even though this is worse than tough
  2. allow the public's viewpoint on Planned Parenthood to be more influential in North America than it is today, making for decisions that better reflect what the public wants
  3. make the philosophical battle about birth control - and eventually even the environmental and resource forces that control it - better understood by the next generation

Friday, 3 February 2012

First hint of punishment for rhino poachers - what will come?

After a 2011 that saw rhino poaching in South Africa, which has the vast majority of the remaining rhinos in the world, 2012 began quietly but the new month has seen a revelation I did not expect or have any clues about: that the South African government has sentenced three Mozambicans to twenty-five years jail for their involvement in the slaughter of about three percent of the country's rhinos during 2011 and two and a half percent in 2010. The three men's names are:
  • Aselmo Baloyi
  • Jawaki Nkuna
  • Ismael Baloyi
and they have also been sentenced for the possession of illegal firearms (assault rifle, hunting rifle and axe) according to Daly News Reporter.

Owners of private game reserves are very happy with the stiff sentence handed out to the Baloyis and Nkuna, having indeed lobbied the South African government to do this for some time.

Governments in Africa have often had problems with their involvement with rhino poachers, and their incentive to support them under such circumstances is almost certainly a recipe for disaster. If South Africa's government realises that in the long term there is immense value in retaining the country's amazing ancient biodiversity (which, unlike that of Australia does gain some protection under the free market solely because of such "prize" animals as the rhino) it would redirect some of its earnings to more efficient punishment of poachers. Poachers often have friends in high places abroad, and the ultimate goal would be to ostracise those countries whose governments are infested with people trading in endangered species especially in an environment like South Africa's.