Sunday, June 01, 2008

Around the blogs

I have been too busy to actively blog the past few days but a few issues caught my attention.

1. Bill Hensen. I enjoyed this post by Liz Conor on the Hensen controversy (Is it Hensen or Henson – both spellings are widely used). Conor's post makes some comparisons with Nabokov’s Lolita – and tries to understand the ‘peculiar’ beauty of art involving young beautiful people while feeling caution and fear over their vulnerability. As a parent of two daughters (& one son) I can relate exactly to what she says. Of course Nakokov is discussing the views of a young woman from the perspective of a pedophile while Hansen is definitely not taking such a perspective.

There is no debate on this issue on the right side of politics . Hensen’s work is pornography pure and simple to these sober minded defenders of the faith. But there is plenty of misogynistic porn on the web – comparing its to Hensen’s work shows there is no overlap at all. The religious right have predictably voiced their support for the interpretative role of storm-troopers in our art galleries. Predictably Kevin Rudd has felt it necessary to inject his ‘absolutely revolting’ critique something which really appeals to these fanatics. Rudd should butt out of these moral debates or use more measured language.

2. FuelWatch. The FuelWatch scheme is likely to make very little difference to the cost of petrol for motorists. Apart from imposing hefty compliance costs on motorists it seems likely to encourage coordination among retailers and hence increased collusion – if anything this might push prices up a smidgeon. Rudd’s abuse of the public servants for leaking their opposition to the scheme is understandable – nobody likes being shown to appear an idiot – but his bully-like threat to increase their workloads seems to be the response of a peanut. More of this idiocy to come I am sure. Rudd choose what he thought were an indefensible group of ‘fat cats’ to use earlier Labor language but is revealed to be a total hypocrite in terms of his pre-election comments on the needs of ‘working families’ to enjoy their leisure.

3. Medicare Tax Levy Threshold. The move to raise the income tax threshold for avoiding the Medicare tax levy – from $100,000 to $150,000 for families – is the most foolish policy move of the Rudd Government so far. Forcing those who can afford it to pay the cost of their private health cover helps release resources for public health. This measure hurts those constituents Labor would claim to be supporting. Labor Health Minister Roxon should learn some basic economics. It makes perfect sense to encourage private participation in health insurance by providing tax relief given that Australia has a national health scheme that provides a measure of health cover at zero explicit cost.

4. Climate Change & the Right. I generally enjoy the wit of Tim Blair and the hard edge that Andrew Bolt applies to current events but I still wonder about the propensity – which they share with members of much of the conservative right - to continually (on a weekly basis) provide posts which deny or ridicule the theory of anthropogenic climate change. It is a interesting question. It is reflected in the fact that over at Troppo’s blogroll I am described as an economist with mostly conservative views who unusually takes a strong stand on climate change issues.

The science on climate change is overwhelmingly accepted. Why are the right so vehemently opposed to this science? One reason seems to be simple anti-intellectualism and to desire to appear to be against 'mainstream thinking'. Another reason is the implication that global action needs to be taken to deal with global warming – this hardly advances the cause of laissez faire.

But this latter reason is illogical. Belief in laissez faire needs to be based on the facts not on blind religious faith and public good/externality reasons for intervening in market economies have been accepted for over 200 years. The climate change issue is an extension of these arguments.

Moreover, accepting these arguments and moving to adopt carbon taxes or transferable carbon quotas does not make you ‘anti-market’ – accounting for climate change costs can be understood as attempting to get markets to work more effectively.


conrad said...

I'm not sure why you care about Rudd and making public servants work harder -- I don't see why they are special (especially the high level ones) -- how many hours do you think you averaged per week? My guess is 45+, and when you were HOD, probably 55+. You probably still have to work nights, turn up on weekends for crap like open day etc. If they have to work hard, well, they have to work hard. The public service renumeration is fine (not dissimilar to academics -- I'm sure you would get paid just as well in the public service, for example). If it means the lazy ones leave and they are replaceable by non-lazy ones, that's good. The question is whether they are unreplaceable, and I'll assume the answer is "no" for most of them.

Joshua Gans said...

Harry, you are in favour of taxing the rich to give to the poor? (re medicare) Who would have thought it?

hc said...

Not clear on your implication Joshua. I am in favour of distribution from rich to poor via the tax-transfer system.

I am also in favour of the government subsidising private schools a little and the health costs of the rich a little if that takes pressure off the public schools/public health schemes respectively.

Conrad, I think the civil servants are working hard and that the popular image of them being lazy is a misrepresentation.

conrad said...


I've got friends in various parts of the public service, and they certainly don't work as hard as me (and I assume you also). The main difference it appears is that I can get a much better paying job overseas whenever I want, and my job is far more varied (although sometimes for the worse) -- people seem to have far less diverse roles in the public service. They are also not expected to work when they are sick (cf. when was the last time you missed a lecture?).

Steve said...

Re: the right and global warming/CO2. Over at my blog, I have been arguing for a year or two now that ocean acidification and the expected (though still not entirely clear) large changes to the ocean's environment and food chain are actually stronger grounds on which to base action for large cuts in CO2 emission than worrying about who is right or wrong about whether the earth is getting warmer.

No one pays much attention to me, though.

Of course, the other irritating thing about all of this is that, even though Bolt and Blair don't believe in global warming, it's probably fair to say they would have no objection at all to nuclear power as a substantial answer to the level of emissions both here and overseas.

On the other hand, a huge slab of those who do worry about CO2 still won't endorse nuclear power.

It's a very annoying mismatch.