Here’s a letter to Quinn Klinefelter, a reporter for Marketplace:
Dear Mr. Klinefelter:
On today’s Marketplace Morning Report, you told how “Teacher Robert Brown likes President Obama’s call to … create new jobs by rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure” (“Detroit hopeful for jobs action from Obama“).
If America’s infrastructure truly is crumbling, the culprit isn’t reduced, or even stagnant, government spending on infrastructure. As the New York Timesreported on November 19, 2008 about infrastructure (see here) “money isn’t the main problem.” We learn why elsewhere in the report: “Government spending on infrastructure fell after the construction of the Interstate highway system, but has risen gradually over the past 25 years.” Indeed, such spending – not only absolutely, but also as a percent of GDP – was higher in 2008 than it had been at any time since 1981.
And note also: these facts combined with the economic crash of 2008 should caution you and other business reporters against accepting so gullibly, and without ample qualification, the commonplace assertion that government spending on infrastructure is an economic stimulant.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Mr. David A. Benson
Dear Mr. Benson:
You’re the moving force behind a California ballot initiative that, as reported in the August 17 issue of Business Law Daily, would “ban lender-initiated home foreclosures” and “make home ownership a fundamental right” (“California Ballot Proposal Would Ban Home Foreclosures“).
Trusting your insight (and why not trust someone as caring and politically active as you obviously are?), I gather that you’ve figured out how to produce valuable goods merely by officially inscribing words in government documents.
As I say, waaaay cool! But now I must ask: if everyone can be guaranteed what in effect would be a debt-free home merely by amending a state constitution, why stop with homeownership? Why not put to full use the miraculous powers that you’ve obviously learned to extract from mere ink on parchment? Let’s also make automobile ownership “a fundamental right.”
Heck, even that’s thinking too small! Let’s give everyone a “fundamental right” to own both a yacht and a private jet!
A power so stupendous and costless as the one you’ve identified ought to be used to its full capacity – which, given the nature of this power, apparently knows no limits.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
Here’s a letter to the New York Times:
What does Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) have against homeowners?
By proposing “a federal law allowing homeowners to reduce their mortgage debt to no more than the current value of their property” (Letters, Sept. 5), Mr. Conyers would effectively force homeowners to purchase property-value insurance from mortgage companies. That is, by obliging mortgage lenders to compensate borrowers for certain declines in the value of borrowers’ properties – compensation paid in the form of reduced principals on outstanding mortgages – Mr. Conyers would prohibit homeowners from assuming the risk of such declines in their homes’ values.
Mortgage companies would willingly sell such insurance to homeowners; indeed, they’re free to do so now. But the fact that such insurance is very rare reveals that homeowners find the value of such insurance to be less than the price that mortgage lenders would charge for it.
Why does Mr. Conyers want to force homeowners to buy something that they show by their actions they don’t wish to buy?
Donald J. Boudreaux
I always like to tell my students not to take the job that pays the most money. Or at least don’t take it for that reason. Most people don’t take the job that pays the most money. We trade money for satisfaction, meaning, leisure, beauty, pride, and honor. Here is the story of a man who paid $72 million to have a meaningful life. It was a bargain.
… is, like yesterday’s QoD, from Krugman’s wonderful 1993 essay “What Do Undergrads Need to Know about Trade?”; the following quotation is found on page 123 of Krugman’s indispensable book Pop Internationalism:
[T]he level of employment is a macroeconomic issue, depending in the short run on aggregate demand and depending in the long run on the natural rate of unemployment, with microeconomic policies like tariffs having little net effect. Trade policy should be debated in terms of its impact on efficiency, not in terms of phony numbers about jobs created or lost.
Andrew Bolt – Thursday, September 08, 11 (12:14 pm)
Julia Gillard at last year’s election campaign launch hyped the biggest argument for her $36 billion broadband scheme:
Speaking in Queensland, Gillard said the Government would use the speed and connectivity of the NBN to facilitate online consultations between patients and doctors via videoconferencing…
According to Gillard the NBN would be essential in curbing the rates of cancer-related deaths in regional and rural Australia.
“It is unacceptable to me, it is offensive to me, that if you live in rural and regional Australia you are three times more like to die within five years if you are diagnosed with cancer, than other Australians,” she said.
“That is because it is harder for people in regional and rural Australia to get access to the services, to the healthcare professionals they need. I want to transform that relying on the National Broadband Network.”
But today we learn that the biggest selling point of the NBN isn’t available to the poor:
LOW-INCOME households will miss out on the full healthcare benefits of the National Broadband Network, with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy admitting the basic service would exclude high-definition video consultations with doctors. Senator Conroy has long promised the NBN would solve the technological barriers to delivering healthcare services remotely.
But he and NBN Co chief Mike Quigley admitted yesterday the service was “impossible” on the NBN’s cheapest plan.
Senator Conroy and Mr Quigley also struggled to explain the level of service to be expected from intermediate packages, underscoring Labor’s difficulty convincing voters its $36 billion investment is value for money.
Andrew Bolt – Thursday, September 08, 11 (11:56 am)
Bad news for us, bad news for the Gillard Government:
AUSTRALIA’S unemployment rate rose to a 10-month high of 5.3 per cent in August as full-time employment slumped, official figures show.
The July figure was an unrevised 5.1 per cent.
Andrew Bolt – Thursday, September 08, 11 (09:30 am)
What’s the panic?
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has made a last-minute change and is leaving New Zealand early.
(Thanks to reader Bruce.)
Andrew Bolt – Thursday, September 08, 11 (07:08 am)
The Government is in stubborn denial, on the one hand insisting that “push factors” were magically to blame for 12,000 asylum seekers setting sail for Australia in the three years since Kevin Rudd decided to dismantle the Howard government’s hard-won, carefully constructed and demonstrably effective border protection policies....
And on the other hand the Government rushed to do a deal, first with Timor, and then Malaysia for offshore processing in order to “break the people smugglers’ model”, thereby admitting it was “pull factors” created by Rudd’s moral posturing that had re-activated the problem.
Labor MPs have been echoing the Labor talking points memo ever since the High Court decision smeared them with egg: “Boat flows have been a problem for many, many years,” said Joel Fitzgibbon last week. “John Howard managed somehow to create the impression that he was winning the war against boat people. Of course he wasn’t.”
Oh yes, he was. By the time the Howard government left office there were four boat people in detention. Four.
Bowen was pinged on the issue by ABC-TV’s Chris Uhlmann on Tuesday night in one of the most excruciating moments in political interviewing.
“In the five years before you came to government, 288 people arrived by boat. Since 2008, 11,605 have arrived. So you changed something. The boats had effectively stopped,” said Uhlmann.
“That’s a very simplistic analysis, Chris,” was the reply.
No, it’s simply the truth.
Andrew Bolt – Thursday, September 08, 11 (06:41 am)
A TRIBUNAL has ruled a Macedonian newspaper that published an article denigrating Greeks and referring to them as “freaks of nature” and “deranged bastardly monsters” did not incite racial hatred.
The Australian Macedonian Advisory Council brought the action against the Australian Macedonian Weekly in the human rights division of VCAT....Senior member Noreen Megay found the article did not incite hatred because it was published in a newspaper aimed at the Macedonian community.
Why are Macedonians given this licence, and others not?
If I read Megay right, the average Macedonian is already so riddled with racism anyway that this is just par for the course:
For the average Macedonian reader, this article is probably just “preaching to the converted” and is not likely to stir up such raw emotion as to breach the Act. I suspect that the average non- Macedonian reader who might stumble across the article on the website or who might flick through it at the local shop would just wonder what it was all about without being incited to any extreme emotion about Greeks.
If most Macedonians are already converted to the kind of sentiments in this article, then heaven help the Greeks:
“a thieving nation”
“these Greek deranged bastardly monsters”
“stinking Greek teacher and a spy-for-a-priest”
“freaks of nature”
“evil alien abstraction”
“what evil spirits possessed your moronic conscience
“predisposed to such ghastly monstrosity”
Still, I take heart from Megay’s commitment to free speech:
A commitment to free speech is an essential concept of all liberal democracies of which Australia is one. In this country we do not have a version of the USA’s first amendment which protects the most rabid ideology in the name of free speech but the legislation under review here (and its federal and other state counterparts) serves to place some restriction on racist and other extreme expressions. That said I am firmly of the view that restrictions should only be placed on discourse in the most egregious of cases.
This sentiment gives me hope that my own right to speak in far more moderate and less abusive terms will survive a certain legal action I cannot discuss.
Still, I’d feel a lot safer if I were Macedonian.
(Thanks to reader Dokter Exagerato.)
Andrew Bolt – Thursday, September 08, 11 (06:20 am)
So far, so untouchable:
NEW SOUTH WALES police have dropped their investigation into embattled Labor MP Craig Thomson over allegations he illegally used a union credit card to pay for prostitutes.
The Herald Sun can reveal detectives have ended their internal assessment of claims against Mr Thomson and have found no evidence of illegality....
The main focus of the NSW investigation has centred on the crime of “deception” and whether Mr Thomson deceived any brothels in NSW when he paid for services using his Health Services Union credit card.
Police said the credit card has his name on it and, as such, there was no deception and, therefore, no criminality.
“There may be a crime committed if there are restrictions upon use of the card, but in the absence of that there is no crime,” the source said.
The matter of whether Mr Thomson deceived HSU members and misused their funds will be left to Victorian police, who will have access to vital accounting documents in their state.
So, as Professor Sinclair Davidson observes, the police seem to be suggesting that Thomson indeed used his credit card to pay for prostitutes, which is what he’s actually denied. Now Victorian police are being asked to check if this was against union rules.
Julia Gillard has said she has “full confidence” in Thomson. She has also insisted that reports on her past personal and professional relationship to an Australian Workers Union state president who ripped off his members and bosses is old news that’s been dealt with already. And now this, about AWU national president Bill Ludwig, whose union was so influential in making Gillard Prime Minister:
JULIA GILLARD, PRIME MINISTER (Feb. 14): I’m proud to be here and to call myself a friend of Bill Ludwig.
PHILIPPA MCDONALD: It’s now been claimed that Bill Ludwig received $45,000 in union funds to pay his personal legal costs. The now-discontinued action was launched against former Queensland Supreme Court Judge Bill Carter, which Mr Ludwig brought in his capacity as a director of Racing Queensland.
Andrew Bolt – Thursday, September 08, 11 (06:08 am)
Was that a hint from Treasurer Wayne Swan, or a fob-off?
WAYNE Swan has given Labor’s strongest indication that it is prepared to amend its industrial relations laws in response to business claims they are inhibiting growth in productivity…
Mr Swan’s comments came yesterday as the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Competitiveness Index of 142 countries found Australia had dropped from 16th place to 20th, partly because it lagged behind top performers in labour market efficiency and innovation....
Mr Swan and the Prime Minister have frequently played down the concerns and Ms Gillard told a business lunch in May she would keep the system in place.
Yesterday, while forcefully rejecting a return to Work Choices, Mr Swan softened the rhetoric.
“I’ve had conversations with people I respect in the business community and they express concerns from time to time about aspects of industrial relations and some of the frameworks,” he said…
“We’ll sit down and talk with the business community and with workers and with unions about these questions. We’re up for a productivity agenda. We understand its importance."…
Asked if he was leaving the door open to productivity-enhancing changes to the Fair Work Act, he said: “I’m happy to have that discussion with people.”
John Lloyd, the former Australian Building and Construction Commissioner, says Labor’s changes to workplace laws have made unions dangerously strong and employers too weak:
There are signs of an insidious reluctance to embrace change in work practices. The cause is the Fair Work system which was portrayed as a moderate response to Work Choices. In fact it constituted a significant national economic change. It changed the structure of agreements, introduced onerous bargaining obligations, expanded unfair dismissal protections, increased access to arbitration, amplified the role of the tribunal, expanded employee anti-discrimination rights, enlarged national safety standards and removed right-of-entry restrictions on union officials. Access to an individual employment agreement stream was removed and collective agreement making entrenched.
An emboldened union leadership has asserted its power ruthlessly. Claims are divorced from economic reality. Massive job losses are occurring in manufacturing. But the AMWU called Toyota workers out on strike last week. Toyota’s offer of 7 per cent over two years has been rejected.
In June this year building unions in Victoria reached a four-year agreement with the Master Builders Association which provides for wage increases of 27.5 per cent. Not a single productivity improvement was negotiated…
Change is needed and soon. The possible reforms are numerous and are not a return to Work Choices. They include access to individual agreements supported by a no disadvantage test. The regulation of independent contracting by commercial rather than industrial law. Simplified bargaining rules that facilitate wage adjustments related to productivity improvement. Lawful strike action available only after genuine bargaining has occurred.
Andrew Bolt – Thursday, September 08, 11 (05:58 am)
Arthur Sinodinos will be replacing Helen Coonan in the Senate, which gives his public advice to Tony Abbott more sting:
The hardheads will be saying “Tony, don’t rock the boat; victory is just around the corner.”
It is true that the Coalition does not need a Hewsonesque Fightback! manifesto to convince the public of its policy credentials. But now more than ever, the public see through the spin and crave authenticity in leaders. Abbott is certainly authentic but not as well known as Howard when he won in 1996.
As the preferred prime minister, Abbott is coming under increasing scrutiny to reveal more of his plans. This is not only important and informative for the public; it provides him with an opportunity to put some political capital in the bank for later. The public give you marks for keeping your promises, so your promises should encompass potentially hard decisions. The public will quickly turn off leaders who abruptly change course in government; the watch phrase is no surprises…
Abbott has developed a philosophy of personal responsibility which can encompass a variety of market-oriented and productivity-inducing policies. He should not be worried about setting out a plan. Labor is being caned for not sticking to its plan.
Industrial relations fits well within a framework of personal responsibility. Individual agreements make employees directly accountable for outcomes and can better tailor incentives to performance. In the run-up to the election, the Coalition should set out some markers in this area.
I suspect that Abbott actually has something like this in mind. So is Sinodinos geeing him up, or - as a press gallery favorite - simply preparing the ground?
Andrew Bolt – Thursday, September 08, 11 (05:42 am)
First, there’s the pitch:
AS JULIA GILLARD flounders in the mire of domestic politics, her predecessor Kevin Rudd is on the mend and planning his next global platform - a top-level world talkfest on China.
The Foreign Affairs Minister’s invitation list for the event on the Gold Coast in February includes leaders of foreign-minister level or higher and scholars and business leaders from Asia, North America and beyond.
And then there’s the market research:
Sources said yesterday that Rudd supporters were ringing around to sound out views.
Former NSW Labor Treasurer Michael Costa (who will be on The Bolt Report on Sunday) is right:
It is undeniable that Gillard has been the prime contributor to her demise. But Rudd’s failure as prime minister and Labor leader has had a greater bearing than has Gillard’s on the disastrous position of Labor....
It was Rudd who undermined Labor’s economic credentials with his overblown anti-capitalist rhetoric and overcooked policy response to the global financial crisis. So desperate was he to avoid a small technical recession that he unleashed an undisciplined spending spree that, despite its Orwellian marketing, provided little in quality economic infrastructure. Rudd was able to manipulate the short-term quarterly aggregate economic data sufficiently to avoid a technical recession, but this manipulation has left Labor with the political legacy of programs such as Building the Education Revolution, the pink batts installation and the cash for clunkers scheme, which have become synonymous (rightly or wrongly) in the public mind with government incompetence and mismanagement.
Massive spending programs, such as the National Broadband Network, have added to the perception of a clueless administration spending recklessly on frivolous luxuries that are high risk and of no immediate consequence to the real day-to-day concerns of people struggling with cost-of-living pressures and urban congestion....
The greatest long-term damage Rudd did to Labor was to overturn the successful Hawke-Keating governments’ approach to economic management.
Costa is right again in saying Labor must ditch the Greens.
Andrew Bolt – Thursday, September 08, 11 (12:11 am)
SportsBet’s punters don’t put much money on Julia Gillard surviving.
(Thanks to reader Tim.)
Andrew Bolt – Thursday, September 08, 11 (12:04 am)
Mark Steyn lists some extraordinary examples of the thought police at work, and I wish I wasn’t one of them:
In this anniversary week, it’s sobering to reflect that one of the more perverse consequences of 9/11 has been a remorseless assault on free speech throughout the west. I regret to say that, in my new book, I predect this trend will only accelerate in the years ahead.
The fun, such as it is, is in the examples, so read on. But the sting is in the conclusion:
As John Milton wrote in his Areopagitica of 1644, “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”
Or as an ordinary Canadian citizen said to me, after I testified in defense of free speech to the Ontario parliament at Queen’s Park, “Give me the right to free speech, and I will use it to claim all my other rights.”
Conversely, if you let them take your right to free speech, how are you going to stop them from taking all the others?