How to Rule: A Statist’s Guide

A guest post from Austen Erickson:

Congratulations on obtaining your new country! Whether you were elected by a majority of citizens who could be bothered to vote, appointed by the previous (and outgoing) party elite, or you have just staged a military coup, be assured that you have not only the power to rule – but the right to do so! The people – your people – have implicitly agreed to a social contract listing you as the ultimate authority, so be confident in your reign!

However, ruling a country is a difficult task; radical, anti-social, elements will always exist at the edge of society seeking to criticise or even undermine your administration. Its important not to pay any attention to what they have to say, since self-doubt is the most poisonous affliction for any sovereign. After all, if they know so much, why are you the one sitting in the driver’s seat while they clamour for attention at the back of the bus?
This guide will teach you how best to quash these dangerous dissidents, so that you can more easily realise your utopian vision for the nation – your nation. The techniques here are presented in an order that our experts think will be the simplest for a first time ruler, but feel free to improvise! Jump around a bit as circumstance demands, or just to watch those fringe elements squirm. Even someone as dedicated to advancing the greater good as you deserves to enjoy themselves every now and then.
Remember, the most important thing while you build the great society – your society – is to have fun! Continue reading

Ten Years On

Peter Neiger, from Students for Liberty:

As the tenth anniversary for the defining day of my generation comes upon us, it feels necessary for me to reflect on both the event itself and how we, as a nation, have responded to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The events of that day certainly had an effect on everyone in one way or another, but the degree of influence varies dramatically. Those who lost loved ones felt the sting of how violent and misguided humans can be in a way that I can never truly comprehend, and the pain from that day lives on in their memories and the repercussions that play out in their daily lives. While I did not feel the personal loss that many had, 9/11 was still a day that redirected my life.

After the second tower fell and the magnitude of what happened was only beginning to be realized, I walked into the U.S. Army Recruiter’s office in Gresham, Oregon. Coming from a conservative Christian background it seemed natural to rise up to defend my nation, one that I felt at the time had been attacked without cause. Vengeance was on my mind and in my heart. My family did not encourage or discourage my decision. They supported it but wanted to make sure that I did not feel pressure from them to serve or not. In retrospect, my parents handled it in the best possible way. Without their support and love, the next few years of my life would have been unbearable.

I volunteered to serve in an Airborne Infantry unit and was soon whisked off to boot camp, advanced training, and airborne school. When I got to my unit, I discovered I was going to get exactly what I wanted at the time. I was going to war. We were slotted to deploy to Afghanistan in early 2003. My unit deployed as scheduled and spent a lot of time in a variety of different areas of Afghanistan. Being an infantry unit, there were many times when we made the initial contact with tribes throughout the region, a duty that is potentially dangerous but provides an interesting perspective on war.

I was lucky enough to have a commander who would take younger soldiers like me to meetings with tribal leaders and local villagers. It was during these meetings that my thoughts on why we fight started to change. The attitudes and beliefs of the locals were the complete opposite of the generic “they hate us for our freedom” rhetoric that was being spewed on the local news. I went to Afghanistan expecting a nation of religious fanatics who wanted to kill me because of my birthplace, but I found a group of people who were simply trying to live their lives as best they could in peace. While certainly there were people in that country who would have loved to see me dead, the idea of “hate us for our freedom” didn’t make sense. Indeed, it can only make sense if you dehumanize the enemy.

Although Afghanistan certainly got me thinking about why we were doing what we were doing, I was still convinced it was justified. There was a group of people in that country that attacked the United States and justice should be pursued. My real mental awakening did not come until the sudden decision to use military force against Iraq. Continue reading

Great art without the State

A guest post by Duncan Spender.

I visited the recently opened Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) this week. It shows that great art doesn’t need government support.

Despite the fact that it mixes cavernous sandstone architecture with a synthetic tennis court, and it displays ancient coins alongside hanging carcasses, the MONA has a coherence that other museums and galleries lack. It is clear that the MONA is the creation not of a bureaucracy, but of an individual (and an interesting individual at that).

It’s the creation of David Walsh, an internet gambling millionaire. He built the stunning building near where he grew up in the working class outer suburbs of Hobart. He filled it with his eclectic personal collection (some of which would be too extreme for a State-funded gallery). He decided against having blurbs next to each artwork, so as not to interfere with the feel of the place (and because you can borrow a free ipod loaded with all the ‘artwank’ you could want). And in the middle of his gallery he installed a cool bar, which, like the rest of the place, is set to make massive losses (gallery entry is free).

So while the GOMA in Brisbane shows that government support need not kill great art, the MONA shows that government support is in no way necessary.

A note on sovereign debt

This is a guest post from Dr Joseph Clark

There is now a good chance the Greek government will default on its bonds. If it does, the impact on financial markets in Europe and elsewhere will be savage. Interestingly, there is actually no need for Greece to default. It is not, nor is it ever likely to be, bankrupt. It is a sovereign country with plenty of assets (like the Mediterranean coast) that could be used to pay off bondholders. If it defaults it will simply be because it doesn’t feel like selling these assets.

If the Greek government didn’t want to pay higher yields on its debts it could secure the bonds with assets. Like the Mediterranean coast, or the Acropolis, or all those unused Olympic Stadiums. Greece and countries like it only issue unsecured debt because they want the opportunity to default or restructure when it suits them.

The natural response of the market would (should) be to demand a higher yield on Greek bonds now and in the future. But that is unlikely to happen in the long term while Greece is part of the Euro and can blackmail the Germans (and the IMF, etc) into giving them bridging loans and, ultimately, restructuring the debt. (Nice international financial system you got there. Shame if anything were to happen to it.) As long as this is likely the debt market will (rationally) not charge as high a default premium on the debt. So the Greeks get cheaper borrowing rates at the expense of the rest of the world.

It is extremely unfortunate that the mechanism that would usually purge this kind of nonsense — credit rationing and higher yields — cannot operate while the world is convinced that any sovereign or large corporate default must be prevented at all costs to forestall a descent into Hades. But such is the prevailing thinking.

The bailout to end all taxes

Guest post by Gavin R. Putland

In Australia we have the world’s most overpriced housing. Federal and State governments and the Reserve Bank live in fear that the bottom will fall out of the housing market, leaving recent buyers with negative equity, causing a financial collapse and depression after the example of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In a desperate attempt to keep the music going, governments have been pumping taxpayers’ money — your money — into the housing market.

The Federal Government brought in the First Home Owners’ Boost to inflate a fresh bubble at the bottom of the housing market, and kept it going just long enough for the bubble to spread to the top of the market — through first-time buyers leveraging their grants, then sellers leveraging their capital gains, and so on. The original $7000 Federal grant for first-time buyers is still in place. Various State governments have their own grants on top of this. Instead of bailing out the banks, Australian governments in the main are trying to bail out the housing market before the problem reaches the banks.

Continue reading

The World needs Hong Kong

… and Hong Kong needs competition.

In the Annual Index of Economic Freedom published by the Frazer Institute of Canada and the Heritage Foundation of USA  Hong Kong comes out on top year after year, followed by Singapore. 

Hong Kong’s famous Laissez Faire Capitalist system works.  It has made Hong Kong prosperous and uniquely successful.  Low taxes, predictable rule-of-law, strong property-rights, low regulation, banking privacy and a history of ‘good  behaviour’ in the financial and political areas make it attractive to capital and talent. 

Continue reading

He Hasn’t Built a Single House, But He Thinks He Can Save the Planet

Guest post by Chris Leithner

I’ve long suspected that the people who design the front page of The Australian have a wicked sense of humour, and today’s (16 November) front page confirms that suspicion. The first paragraph of “Home Scheme Falling Short” reads “Four out of five proposed renovations to houses in several central Australian communities have been scrapped because of cost blowouts in the crisis-ridden $672 million Aboriginal housing program, which is yet to build a single house.”

The lead article (“Bid to Rescue Climate Talks”), on the other hand, informs us that “Kevin Rudd and his Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderon, have been at the centre of the late bid to prevent the collapse of next month’s Copenhagen talks, amid acceptance that the conference will fail to produce binding targets for reducing global carbon emissions.” It quoted the Prime Minister: “It’s going to be as tough as all hell but, let me tell you, I believe that everyone is seeking right now to put their best foot forward.” A PM whose government has failed to erect a single dwelling for Aborigines in the Northern Territory nonetheless persists in the delusion that he can “save” the world’s climate. Who needs gifted comedians when we have the front page of The Australian to start the day with a hearty laugh?

“The larger the mob, the harder the test” wrote HL Mencken in The Baltimore Evening Sun (26 July 1920). “In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.”

Mencken continued: “the Presidency [and, it’s worth adding, Australia’s Prime Ministership!] tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House [and The Lodge] will be adorned by a downright moron.”