… is from page xiv of Geoffrey Brennan’s elegant 1998 Foreword to Vol. 2 of TheCollected Works of James M. Buchanan – which is Jim’s 1958 classic (and truly indispensable) Public Principles of Public Debt:
To the standard new orthodox claim that we owe internal debt to ourselves, Buchanan’s response is effectively: What’s this “we” business?….
[T]here is a kind of intellectual divide between those who conceive social phenomena in a disaggregated way and those of a more holistic, organic cast of mind. Arguably, it is this intellectual divide that most distinguishes microeconomists from macroeconomist and a fortiori as a group from sociologists and many traditional political theorists.
Geoff immediately adds: “Within this divide, in Public Principles of Public Debt, Buchanan establishes himself firmly as an arch exponent of the individualist method.”
Indeed Jim does so distinguish himself (as he continues to do so 53 years later) – always brilliantly and vitally and productively.
The Palm Beach Post reports on a rhetorical move by the Obama administration:
Don’t think of it as the federal government but as your “federal family.”
In a Category 4 torrent of official communications during the approach and aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has repeatedly used the phrase “federal family” when describing the Obama administration’s response to the storm.
The Obama administration didn’t invent the phrase but has taken it to new heights.
“Under the direction of President Obama and Secretary Janet Napolitano, the entire federal family is leaning forward to support our state, tribal and territorial partners along the East Coast,” a FEMA news release declared Friday as Irene churned toward landfall.
The G-word — “government” — has been nearly banished, with FEMA instead referring to federal, state and local “partners” as well as “offices” and “personnel.”
Later on in the article, there is some empirical support for the claim that the Obama administration is using the phrase more frequently:
A Google search shows the phrase appearing 10 times on FEMA’s website during the Bush years. Since Obama took office, “federal family” has turned up 118 times on fema.gov, including 50 Irene-related references.
Among them: statements that the Obama administration “is committed to bringing all of the resources of the federal family to bear” for storm assistance and that “the entire federal family continues to lean forward to support the states in their ongoing response efforts.”
Lean forward? I guess that’s the opposite of sitting back. I guess it’s supposed to show initiative and focus. Not working for me.
As I tried to describe in The Price of Everything, families generally don’t use prices to allocate resources because they don’t need to. Families have good information about the desires and constraints facing the members of the family and the families have the incentive to use that information wisely. So when there aren’t enough cookies to go around, I don’t auction them off to the highest bidder. I might give each of the kids an equal fraction of the cookies. Or I might know that one of the kids went to a party and had some sweets. I try to get the cookies into the hands of the kids that will enjoy them the most. I have the information and the incentive to make that happen because I care about my kids. And I face the consequences if I do a bad job as a parent.
The federal “family” is not a family. It’s a faux family. A sham family. The government has neither the information nor the incentives to allocate goods wisely in the face of a shortage or a catastrophe. It should do less leaning forward and more sitting back.
I’ve run a bunch of programs for small groups of journalists where we talk about economics or data and empirical work so I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time among journalists in casual situations. One thing journalists hate is being told that they’re biased. It infuriates them. It is a semi-reasonable reaction. Journalists respond by explaining that they are professionals. Of course, they admit, they have personal views about politics and ideology. But they would never let their views contaminate their reporting. That’s what being a professional is all about.
It’s a semi-reasonable reaction because most journalists that I’ve known ARE professionals. They do their job very well and objectivity is their credo. It is a huge part of the culture of journalism.
It’s a semi-unreasonable reaction because we’re all human, and bias–as I’ve learned in recent years the more I’ve thought about it–is often a subtle phenomenon. I’ve become extremely interested in confirmation bias, I’ve sensitized myself to my own biases, and that makes it easier to see how it works in others.
Megan Mcardle (HT: Arnold Kling) really gets at the root of the problem and the subtlety of bias in this post. Most of the time, the media isn’t sitting around conspiring among themselves. But many journalists do have biases and bias works in subtle ways affecting what journalists question and won’t they don’t question. The only point she misses is the role that bias plays in placing articles. You want to make the editor happy. You don’t sit around thinking what can I do to make the editor happy. That would be unprofessional and it would bother most journalists to think they’ve slanted a piece in ways that confirm the editor’s biases. But those incentives are at work even when most people aren’t thinking about them. Read all of Megan’s piece. I’m looking forward to checking out Tim Groseclose’s book that she mentions.
Read Megan’s post. It’s superb. It reminds me that we think we know is always as problematic as what we think we don’t know.
Andrew Bolt – Friday, September 02, 11 (09:47 am)
What the video should add is that Thomson denies using his union credit card to pay for prostitutes. He denies making unauthorised withdrawals.
(Thanks to many readers, including Alan RM Jones.)
Andrew Bolt – Friday, September 02, 11 (09:31 am)
It’s that serious:
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has dismissed reports of disquiet in the Labor Party about her leadership, saying she is the best person for the job.
”I’m not going anywhere,” she told ABC Radio this morning.
It must be excruciating for her:
The Gold Coast Bulletin quoted unnamed Labor insiders, who said Mr Beattie has been approached to run for the seat of Brisbane at the next federal election and had designs on the nation’s top job.
“I’ve got a lot of important things to do and I don’t much worry about newspaper idle gossip and speculation,” Ms Gillard told reporters in Brisbane ahead of a community cabinet meeting.
FORMER Queensland premier Peter Beattie has ruled out running for Federal Parliament.
He also said Prime Minister Julia Gillard was the best person to lead the party, urging Labor colleagues to “hold your nerve"…
On the other hand:
ETU Secretary Dean Mighell this morning claimed union leaders, particularly those in blue-collar industries, were also talking up change.
“The tom-tom drums are beating, without naming names or being too specific,” he told radio station 3AW.
“I think she’ll go. I think she has to in order to give Labor some chance of not being decimated at the next election.”
Mr Mighell said his preferred leader was Simon Crean.
“I think he’s a good Labor man, a good leader, a very highly respected politician and probably Labor’s best chance if they went to an election tomorrow,” he said.
Andrew Bolt – Friday, September 02, 11 (07:14 am)
I think Ferguson has had enough of working with amateurs:
ENERGY Minister Martin Ferguson has slapped down fellow Victorian junior frontbencher Mark Dreyfus for being antagonistic towards the Baillieu government over future assistance for communities in the Latrobe Valley.
Mr Dreyfus, the parliamentary secretary for climate change, has been critical of the Victorian government’s decision to follow Tony Abbott’s strident anti-carbon tax rhetoric, suggesting it could lock the state out of opportunities under the carbon tax package.
But Mr Ferguson told The Age Canberra was intent on working constructively with Victoria, and Ted Baillieu’s attitude on the carbon price was a matter for him.
‘’The Victorian government has been involved from day one in discussions at both a ministerial and official level on these implementation arrangements,’’ Mr Ferguson said.
‘’[State] Minister [Michael] O’Brien and I are both prioritising the interests and needs of workers in the Latrobe Valley … working together to deliver the assistance being offered in seeking to ensure the Latrobe Valley has a vibrant economic future.’’
Andrew Bolt – Friday, September 02, 11 (07:04 am)
A ministerial reshuffle is a ludicrous half-measure - the advertising of a problem, rather than the solving of it:
LABOR powerbrokers are pressing for a ministerial reshuffle and a shake-up of Julia Gillard’s office in an effort to lift her government’s performance and shore up her leadership.
While factional leaders have acknowledged that the High Court’s repudiation of the Prime Minister’s Malaysia Solution has hammered the government’s credibility, they are not contemplating a leadership change.
Other Labor sources are less optimistic, warning that the party’s Right faction is promoting Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten as possible replacements.
How often do you hear people say, “If it wasn’t for that damn Evans, I’d vote Labor”?:
There was heavy debate about the future of Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, with senior Right sources praising his performance and saying they would not allow him to become “the fall guy”....
Several senior Labor figures said Ms Gillard had too many poor performers in her cabinet.,,,
Industrial Relations Minister and Labor Senate leader Chris Evans, who previously held the role of immigration minister, was the focus of the anger.
“Everything he touches turns to shit,” one senior source said. “He left us with this problem on border security and he’s not much better in IR.”
Actually, the two names mentioned here both inherited and implemented dud boat people policies either drawn up or authorised by Julia Gillard herself, as she revealed to Laurie Oakes last year:
LO: It’s fair to say as Shadow Minister after the 2001 Tampa election, the shadow Immigration Minister, you actually were the substantive author of the policies which Kevin Rudd’s government adopted. Is that fair?
JG: I was the substantive author of a policy paper which became Labour’s policy, it was called “Protecting Australia, Protecting the Australian Way”.
LO: And it was adopted in government.
JG: It was adopted by the then Labour Opposition, obviously my successors in the portfolio put some of their own stamps on this and we brought that policy into government.
LO: But it’s basically what you advised isn’t it?
JG: Look, I think the underpinnings were in that document, protecting Australia, protecting the Australian way.
And was Evans responsible for Cash for Clunkers? The school halls blowout? The premature promise by Gillard of an East Timor Detention Centre? The broken promise on the carbon dioxide tax?
Other Labor figures want to remove the real problem:
In an extraordinary turn of events, Labor figures who supported Ms Gillard when she replaced Kevin Rudd as prime minister just 14 months ago are now floating a remarkable plan that could see Mr Rudd return to the leadership with Stephen Smith as his deputy and treasurer.
“This is about authority and whether she can assert her authority because she hasn’t got it now,” one senior figure told The Courier-Mail last night.
Others in the party say Mr Smith, the Defence Minister, would have the numbers in any ballot and Climate Change Minister Greg Combet could emerge as deputy.
All those talking about leadership options insist they do not want another coup against a leader. They say Ms Gillard would have to voluntarily decide to give up the leadership.
From which you can conclude that one thing paralysing Labor is the last of a natural successor. There is no Paul Keating to her Bob Hawke, and no agreement on who comes next.
THE federal government is split and Julia Gillard faces fresh doubts about her leadership as she grapples with the problem of where to send asylum seekers after the High Court torpedoed the Malaysia plan and potentially ruled Manus Island and Nauru off limits as well.
The party was alive with chatter last night about possible replacements for Ms Gillard, including Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith, although no moves were imminent.
Andrew Bolt – Friday, September 02, 11 (07:01 am)
Here we go again:
There were 496,500 working hours lost due to strikes in the three months, Australian Bureau of Statistics show.That was equal to 66,200 days, compared with 19,700 days in the first three months of the year.
Like boat people policy, Labor fixed something to make it worse.
(Thanks to reader CA.)
Andrew Bolt – Friday, September 02, 11 (06:58 am)
Why not simply pre-select candidates who are already ethical?
AFTER an underpants dance scandal, a minister being done for pornography and with a federal MP on the ropes over prostitute allegations, NSW Labor MPs will learn ethics.
Labor leader John Robertson and the party’s state headquarters are joining forces on Monday at parliament to give an all-day ethics seminar to state Labor MPs.
(Thanks to reader CA.)
Andrew Bolt – Friday, September 02, 11 (06:24 am)
Robert Manne reveals his inner Leninist: the people are stupid and their choice must be denied.
Take the start of his remarkable anti-Murdoch rant today in The Age:
NEWS Ltd owns 70 per cent of the circulation of major newspapers in Australia.
A more accurate way of putting it is that 70 per cent of Australians who buy a newspaper prefer to buy one published by News Ltd, rather than its competitors.
If Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, were an apolitical or a distant figure, this might not matter, but he has a powerful set of ideological beliefs and is determined to maintain tight control over the political line of all his papers on issues that interest him.
Yet, curiously, the papers of this dictator employ journalists or regular columnists as divided on those issues as me and Jill Singer, Piers Akerman and Phillip Adams, Janet Albrechtsen and Susie O’Brien, Dennis Atkins and Tim Blair; Paul Howes and Henry Ergas… At the last election, his papers were split, 50-50, on which side to support. If this is “tight control over the political line”, then the ABC and Age must be positively Stalinist, especially given that the Agedoes not employ a single on-staff conservative columnist.
Politically engaged citizens have a plethora of accessible sources of information on the internet, but News Ltd’s capacity to influence the opinions of the vast majority of less engaged citizens - whose political understanding is shaped directly by the popular newspapers and indirectly through the commercial radio and television programs that rely on newspapers for content and, more deeply, for the way they interpret the world - is unjustifiable.
How self-pleasuring. Manne’s thesis is that the readers of The Australian, Courier-Mail, Herald Sun and other titles are actually much dumber than those of, presumably, The Age, and so we need .... what, government regulation? An inquiry? Forced divestment by Murdoch of some of his papers for the proletariat?
Thankfully, in this extract of his essay, Manne does not recommend such things. Instead:
There seems to be only one possible solution to the threat to democracy posed by The Australian: courageous external and internal criticism. The strange passivity of its two mainstream rivals, the Fairfax press and the ABC - even in the face of a constant barrage of criticism and lampooning - has left victims of the paper’s attacks vulnerable and friendless. There is an old joke that suggests that no individual ought to engage in battle with those who buy their ink by the barrel. But Fairfax and the ABC have the same arsenal of weapons at their disposal.
He wishes the ABC to become an even more partisan political player than it already is. He wants the Fairfax papers to be even more stridently of the Left.
So the taxpayer-funded ABC must breach even more flagrantly its charter obligations to be balanced, and Fairfax must become even more dangerously marginalised and irrelevant.
What Manne cannot accept is that there is now an argument on issues where he wishes there was none. His mindset is the true threat to debate - and democracy.
In the media, the public already has a choice before it. One of those choices is The Age in which Manne’s article appears, and another is The Monthly, in which Manne’s full essay appears.
If the public isn’t buying Manne’s line, well, they’re just not buying it, Robert, and blaming evil Murdoch is just a cop-out.
Incidentally, Manne was until very recently the chairman of The Monthly’s editorial board, Before he preaches about fairness and ethics in journalism, perhaps he should reveal what instructions were issued by The Monthly’s board and editor for the writing of a profile of me. Or shall I? It’s the kind of editorial interference that would horrify Manne if done by Murdoch.
I think Manne’s readers are entitled to know.
Andrew Bolt – Friday, September 02, 11 (06:19 am)
It’s remarkable how a twitch of the weather could persuade serious people of a man-made Armageddon:
Commentator Robert Manne in The Monthly, February 2006:SINCE the mid-1990s ferocious hurricanes, whose intensity is directly linked with the temperature of the sea, have occurred with unaccustomed regularity in the Gulf of Mexico. You may regard all this as coincidence. Despite my naturally sceptical temperament, I do not.
Ryan N. Maue, Centre for Ocean and Atmosphere Studies, Florida State University, in Geophysical Research Letters, July 20:
IN the pentad since 2006, northern hemisphere and global tropical cyclone accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) has decreased dramatically to the lowest levels since the late 1970s. Additionally, the global frequency of tropical cyclones has reached a historical low.
It’s the predisposition to believe that once again is so telling.
Andrew Bolt – Friday, September 02, 11 (06:13 am)
Will Labor have to give Craig Thomson another gift of its members’ money?:
A TAX bill of about $250,000 could await whoever was responsible for the use of embattled Labor MP Craig Thomson’s Health Services Union credit card.
An investigation for The Daily Telegraph by former Australian Taxation Office senior auditor Chris Seage has estimated that whoever used his card from 2002 to 2007 owes $239,818 to the ATO.
The total bill is made up of $132,520 in tax payable on omitted income, $34,270 in penalties and $73,028 in interest charges dating back to 2002. The figures have been verified by accounting firm Charge Thoo & Co.
The new assessment presents a potential fresh element to the affair. The ALP made a payment of $150,000 to Mr Thomson in March to prevent him from going bankrupt.
Mr Thomson’s financial solvency is critical to the future of the Gillard government and its wafer-thin majority, because serving MPs cannot be bankrupt.
(Thanks to reader the Great Waisuli.)
Andrew Bolt – Friday, September 02, 11 (05:39 am)
Paul Kelly blames an activist court for Labor’s humiliation:
JULIA Gillard’s attack on the High Court may be poor politics, but her argument is convincing.
This majority decision is unwise, a major reinterpretation of the Migration Act and an unjustified intrusion into the realm of asylum-seeker policy.
The evidence for such claims is the minority judgment of Dyson Heydon.
It is the most persuasive. It argues that Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has sufficient discretion to make his declaration, that he acted consistent with parliament’s original intention and this judicial intrusion into external relations is a “potentially dangerous course”.
How ironic that a Labor Government should be so punished for the trend to judicial activism which it so recklessly encouraged. That said, most of the judges don’t leap out from their profiles as radicals.
But even if Kelly is right, he overlooks the political stupidity of reinventing the wheel. Nauru worked and could probably have survived the High Court’s ruling.
And while Gillard is perfectly entitled to question judicial overreach, her singling out of the Chief Justice himself for his alleged inconsistency is playing the man, French was only one of the six-to-one majority which struck down her Malaysian deal.
Reader Victoria 3220:
Humiliated Gillard accuses French CJ of saying one thing before his appointment, and doing the opposite after his appointment. Now that’s karma.
Professor Sinclair Davidson doubts there was any judicial activism here, just a deal that did not comply with our laws. Professor Greg Craven on MTR 1377 this morning also told me he detected no judicial activism or overreach - and he’s a famous critic of such things. He considers the decision straightforward. (Link will appear on my MTR post above when it becomes available.)