… is from page 79 of James M. Buchanan’s and Richard E. Wagner’s vital 1977 book Democracy in Deficit:
Perhaps it is best simply to say that [John Maynard] Keynes was not particularly concerned about institutions, as such. His emphasis was on results and not on rules or institutions through which such results might be reached. And if institutional barriers to what he considered rational policy planning should have worried him, Keynes would have been ready to set up a “national planning board” run by a committee of the wise.
EconLog’s David Henderson points us to a fine blog-post by David Friedman on global warming. I would add to Friedman’s list of the three parts to the argument in favor of vigorous government action to correct global warming a fourth part, namely, the assumption that private efforts that enable us to better deal with the effect of global warming – e.g., the continuing improvement in air-conditioning, and the continuing improvement in weather forecasting – are either more costly than, or less effective than – and have worse third-party effects than – would any likely effort by governments to deal with global warming. (In Friedman’s essay this point is recognized; but it deserves to be listed explicitly as among the assumptions that global-warming alarmists make, often without thinking about it.)
Is Social Security a Ponzi scheme? Celebrated scholars – left and right – have called it such, or at least alleged that it bears sufficient similarity to Ponzi schemes that the appellation is justly applied to Social Security.
But to call Social Security a Ponzi scheme is, of course, to draw an analogy between Social Security and private schemes of the sort that Charles Ponzi made (in)famous. Like all analogies, it’s not perfect. What matters is the essence of the ‘thing’ (in this case, Social Security) that we’re trying to emphasize as being especially noteworthy and relevant.
At one extreme end, if the essence of a Ponzi scheme is that its chief saleman has a last name that begins in “p” and ends in “i,” then clearly Social Security isn’t a Ponzi scheme. If, at the opposite end, the essence of a Ponzi scheme is that it is a devise that people believe they can use to increase their wealth, then allinvestments are Ponzi schemes.
Clearly, the essence of a “Ponzi scheme” – as such schemes have come to be understood in common English in the modern world – lies somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.
What is that essence? I submit the essence of a Ponzi scheme is
(1) its promise that contributions today to the scheme’s manager will pay off handsomely (that is, better than alternative investments) in the future to each contributor;
(2) that current contributions to the scheme are not invested but are spent – in particular, are spent to make good on promises made in the past to previous contributors who now expect their stream of pay-offs;
(3) that the manager of the scheme maintains his ability to pay the promised streams of pay-offs only by getting other contributors into the scheme, but
(4) the manager doesn’t let on to contributors (and would-be contributors) that the funds for paying off the promises come not from any profitable, productive investment of contributed funds – nor from any actuarially justified program for reallocating risks across persons or across time – but come, instead, simply from the hope that future contributors can be corralled into the system;
(5) that if future contributors do not arrive in sufficient numbers, the scheme has too little money on hand to pay off all promises;
(6) that the manager of the scheme, in short, successfully persuades his or her targets that the scheme is financially something that it really is not.
Note that I do not list “pyramiding” – a “pyramid scheme” – as being among the essential qualities of a Ponzi scheme.
On these points, Social Security strikes me (again, as it has struck even some of its illustrious champions) of having a great deal of Ponzi-ness about it.
I dashed the above thoughts off rather quickly (as I’m occupied for much of the day with administrative work for GMU). I’m prepared to add to, subtract from, and to modify the above list.
This week’s EconTalk is a little more combative than usual. Robert Frank talksabout his new book, The Darwin Economy, and I push back. Lively and civil.
Here’s a letter to USA Today:
Arguing that Social Security isn’t a Ponzi scheme, you write: “Ponzi schemes have two salient features. First, they are criminal enterprises, which Social Security is not. Second, they work only until people get wind of what is going on, at which point they inevitably collapse. Social Security’s finances are plainly visible for all to see. (“Social Security far from a ‘Ponzi scheme’,” Sept. 12).
Your first point fails: a government declaration of legality no more renders a Ponzi scheme a legitimate mode of investment than it renders slavery a legitimate mode of employment.
As for Social Security’s finances being “plainly visible,” the Social Security trust fund – for which Uncle Sam writes IOUs to himself and then assures the public that Social Security’s liabilities are fully backed by marketable assets – comes awfully close to being a fraud meant to hide the true state of Social Security’s fiscal woes.
And as for people catching on to Social Security’s unsustainability, consider the following 1996 analysis by a Nobel-laureate economist who, after noting that Social Security is designed to look like an ordinary pension plan, observes that “In practice it has turned out to be strongly redistributionist, but only because of its Ponzi game aspect, in which each generation takes more out than it put in. Well, the Ponzi game will soon be over, thanks to changing demographics, so that the typical recipient henceforth will get only about as much as he or she put in.” That is, as with all Ponzi schemes, reality is obliging people to catch on.
Oh, the Nobel economist quoted above is Paul Krugman.
Donald J. Boudreaux
And as my friend Dimitri Vassilaros points out to me by e-mail, “Social Security is worse than a Ponzi scheme, because it is not voluntary, and everyone suffers, not just Ponzi’s greedy participants.”
(HT to Alex Tabarrok for alerting the world to the above-linked Krugman essay. Alex points out that other Nobel economists who’ve described Social Security as a Ponzi scheme include Milton Friedman and Paul Samuelson.)
UPDATE: This cartoon, posted over at Division of Labour by Frank Stephenson captures a genuine difference between a run-of-the-mill Ponzi scheme and Social Security.
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, September 13, 11 (06:11 pm)
The Carbon Expo in Melbourne - about “Implementing carbon-pricing in Australian businesses for least pain & maximum gain” - will be like a meeting of old friends in the warmist industry:
Moderator – Tony Jones (c)
Keynote – Prof Ian Chubb, Chief Scientist of Australia (invited)
• An outline of the latest international climate data and what it means for countries, communities, policy-makers and business sectors
• What does this suggest GHG reduction targets should be?
• Arming society with foresight - why climate scientists must improve the way they communicate about their knowledge and what it means....
Moderator – Tony Jones (c)…
Opening address – Prime Minister Julia Gillard (invited)
(Thanks to reader Craig.)
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, September 13, 11 (06:06 pm)
Labor MP Michael Danby fights the good fight, and Julia Gillard has made the right call. From Danby’s adjournment speech to Parliament:
Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that Australia will not participate in the Durban Review Conference to be held in New York on 22 September. The Durban process is a controversial international conference that stirs up more passion than it resolves. Ironically, rather than opposing racism—its purported purpose—it seems to have become a conference for promoting racism. Durban is the nom de guerre for the United Nations World Conference against Racism. Ostensibly it is an occasion for the world to unite against racism in all of its forms.
In 2001, the original world conference against racism held in Durban South Africa, degenerated into a festa of hatred of Israel and the Jewish people. At that conference an Australian novelist, Alan Gold, was threatened, spat upon and demonised because he was a Jewish delegate from Australia.Durban singled out Israel for criticism, while other countries were ignored for their human rights violations. For the same reasons, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd cancelled Australia’s participation in the Durban II conference held in April 2009 in Geneva.
Again ignoring issues of racism and intolerance in developing countries and other places around the world, the conference focused almost exclusively on Israel and the Middle East. UN members including Australia, Canada, the US, the Netherlands and Germany decided to boycott the conference. Iranian President Ahmadinejad behaved in the most abhorrent manner, fulfilling the worst nightmares of the conference’s critics. He stated that the war in Iraq was planned by Zionists and he continued with his calls for eradication. This is highly offensive in Persian culture, where Judaism is a respected religion. The remarks caused uproar in Iran, and other Iranian delegates disassociated themselves. At the conference, delegates from the EU and other countries, including Jordan and Morocco, staged a walkout in protest at his speech.
Following the principled stand Australia took in 2009, Prime Minister Gillard outlined the reasons for Australia not participating in Durban III, and they are worth examining.
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, September 13, 11 (12:39 pm)
If the Gillard Government rhought it could intimidate its media critics, it is about to find it’s misjudged badly:
THE Gillard Government is expected to announce an inquiry into aspects of the media this afternoon after a vigorous debate on ownership, democracy and privacy in the ALP Caucus today.
But the inquiry is not expected to include the contentious issues of media ownership concentration, particularly of Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd, owner of The Australian.
Stephen Conroy is expected to release the terms of reference of a proposed Senate inquiry into the media after weeks of talks with Greens leader Bob Brown.
While some Labor MPs have been calling for an inquiry into News Ltd and its control of newspapers in Australia others have argued they do not wish to be seen to be running a Greens’ agenda or to antagonise the “Murdoch empire”....
Senator Conroy rejected calls within the ALP caucus for a wide-ranging media inquiry into media ownership and “threats to democracy”.
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, September 13, 11 (09:48 am)
Finally there’s a police investigation into the astonishing goings-on at the Health Services Union:
The investigation follows allegations raised in the Herald that the union’s boss, Michael Williamson, and the former general secretary Craig Thomson, now a federal MP, received secret commissions from a major supplier to their union. They have denied the allegations.
The national secretary of the union, Kathy Jackson, spent more than an hour yesterday speaking to senior members of the State Crime Command’s fraud and cyber crime squad.
Outside Parramatta police station, Ms Jackson, who recently had a shovel left outside her Melbourne home, said she owed it to her members to get to the bottom of allegations involving systemic corruption within her union. ‘’I am seeking the assistance of the NSW police to do that,’’ she said. Yesterday police said they had formed Strike Force Carnarvon to investigate the allegations.
A union official previously told the Herald complaints had been made that Mr Williamson had ‘’run amok’’ on a credit card given to him by the printing contractors John and Carron Gilleland.
Nicknamed ‘’the million-dollar man’’, Mr Williamson, 58, not only receives his union salary but is a director of an IT company, United Edge, which collects hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from the union. His directorship is not declared in the union’s financial accounts.
Bravo Kathy Jackson, a very brave woman who will not be intimidated.
But once again, where is Fair Work Australia?
AN obscure legal point about the make-up of the union at the heart of the Craig Thomson controversy was used to reject a members’ call for a full investigation of union finances in mid-2009, an investigation that did not get under way for another eight months.
In July 2009 Fair Work Australia rejected a petition for an investigation by the Victorian-based Health Services Union (HSU) No. 4 branch on the curious grounds the national union did not technically have members and was not therefore subject to a members’ petition.
Yesterday the secretary of the branch responsible for the petition hit out at Fair Work’s handling of the HSU issues, describing its response to the petition as ‘’nonsensical’’ .
‘’It seems to our branch that the process of inquiry and then investigation has been inordinately slow and protracted,’’ said secretary of the branch Dr Rosemary Kelly.
Dr Kelly, also a member of the HSU national executive, stopped short of accusing Fair Work of going slow on investigation of the HSU but said one way to view its response to the petition was that: ‘’forces within FWA were trying to avoid or postpone an investigation’’....
A Fair Work inquiry - a lower level probe with limited powers - was launched in April 2009. However despite agitation from the No. 4 branch a full investigation was not launched until early 2010. It is ongoing amid opposition suggestions that the ‘’seemingly endless investigation’’ may been been slowed to suit the political interests of the Gillard government.
This is yet another reason to doubt Julia Gillard’s assertions that the claims against the ripoffs some 15 years ago by her then boyfriend and client, AWU state president Bruce Wilson, were ”matters that have been dealt with”. In fact, those serious allegations were never properly dealt with, and, as with the Fair Work investigation seemed to have gone nowhere very slowly - until they became “old news”.
There seems to be a pattern here of toothless watchdogs when it comes to policing dubious union spending.
Nicknamed ‘’The Million Dollar Man,’’ 58-year-old Mr Williamson not only receives his union salary but is also a director of IT company United Edge, which collects hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from the union. His directorship is not declared in the union’s financial accounts.
For more than a year union members were paying twice for software systems. A Victorian-based IT company, which had the contract to maintain a membership management system, was being paid $15,000 a month to supply the Victorian branch of the HSU. But United Edge was also submitting bills for the same service.
Mr Williamson’s daughter, Alexandra, is a media officer for Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
The HSU employs many of his family and friends. His brother, Darren, is recruitment and marketing manager, son Chris is employed in the media unit, and sister-in-law Monique Irvine is lead organiser. Close personal friend Cheryl McMillan is the procurement manager, while her daughter and niece also work at the union.
Mr Williamson and his wife, Julie, enjoy an affluent lifestyle.
They have a black Mercedes convertible and a four-wheel-drive and their five children have been educated at private schools.
Over the past few years, they have spent $972,000 consolidating two blocks of land at Brightwaters, on the shores of Lake Macquarie.
They recently spent a further $700,000 building a beach house on the combined block and last year submitted a development application for an $80,000 pool.
Mah-Chut Architects, who several years ago transformed the union’s headquarters in Sydney to a modern workplace, were also employed by the Williamsons on their beach house, as well as the 2001 renovation of their home in Maroubra.
I do recall another union official who had people working on both his own beachhouse and ... well, I’ll go no further. Nor will you. Comments are now closed.
(Thanks to reader Andrew and others.)
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, September 13, 11 (06:51 am)
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, September 13, 11 (06:44 am)
This doesn’t inspire confidence:
A SENIOR member of the Baillieu government leaked confidential information that severely damaged the reputation of former deputy police commissioner Sir Ken Jones, an Age investigation has revealed.
Parliamentary secretary for police Bill Tilley leaked to the media - without Sir Ken’s approval - excerpts of a private email sent by the policeman to his wife. In the email, Sir Ken outlined bungled circumstances that led to a February meeting with the Premier’s chief-of-staff, Michael Kapel, and his concerns that the government had misinterpreted his actions.
The revelation, five months after the Office of Police Integrity began an inquiry into claims Sir Ken leaked information to the media, suggests it was figures in the government, not Sir Ken, behind the leaks. Sir Ken could not be contacted yesterday. Mr Tilley has apologised to him for making public the email.
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, September 13, 11 (05:45 am)
Julie Bishop is right:
Following the Herald/Nielsen poll yesterday that showed Mr Rudd at the helm would restore Labor to an election-winning lead, the Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, told a meeting of the shadow ministry that the Coalition must be ready for such a move.
As senior Labor figures stressed Ms Gillard should be given at least until February or March to try to reverse Labor’s fortunes, there was a consensus in the shadow ministry that Ms Gillard could not recover and would be replaced.
Ms Bishop, who forecast Mr Rudd’s dumping before others in the Coalition, and Ms Gillard’s own decline, told colleagues she did not believe the poll boost that Labor would receive from changing to Mr Rudd would be sustainable and Labor would rush to an election to capitalise on it.
The Herald poll showed Labor trailing the Coalition by 27 per cent to 48 per cent on the primary vote and by 42 per cent to 58 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis.
I agree that Rudd promised looks better than Rudd delivered, and he’s already made his first mistake as a returning leader - back in April:
“On balance it was the wrong call. We should have simply tried to sail straight ahead.”
In fact, shelving an emissions trading scheme, or a carbon dioxide tax, was not an error. The real error was to propose it - and now to revive it.
TONY Abbott’s worst nightmare has to be caucus ditching the carbon tax and Julia Gillard, in one hit, helter-skelter, before the vote in parliament next month. His two best assets gone, kaput.
If they could, Coalition MPs would deliver Gillard a landslide victory in a leadership ballot, obviously because they think she’s terrific for them, plus they are convinced that if Labor MPs stick with her, they are stuck with the carbon tax, which means the government is finished and a Coalition victory is assured.
Savva has advice in the meantime:
If something big did happen, the Bad Tony would feel compelled to assume control again - just as the Good Tony, sounding ever so reasonable and helpful and a tiny bit prime ministerial, was beginning to emerge. It is already a struggle keeping the Bad Tony submerged. Look at what happened last week. As he offered Gillard a helping hand, he threatened to deny Craig Thomson a pair to attend the birth of his second child…
No matter how sleazy the issues surrounding Thomson, it was pretty shabby to consider punishing his wife and baby....
Abbott has to temper his approach. Publicly he needs to be a bit cuddlier. A lot cuddlier, and at least show a few human qualities, something those who know him swear he possesses yet he seldom reveals…
He needs to lead and encourage policy debates - at least that implies there is some thinking going on - while still stomping on provocative statements that stir community tensions....
Abbott also has to take ownership of the economic debate. Rather than release detailed policies, he can talk about themes and propositions. What is his story about where the country should go? Which threads will he use to bind and distinguish his administration?…
He keeps pushing for an election now, but if one were called tomorrow, has he done enough to convince people and business he is ready to be prime minister? The answer is no.
It is true that Abbott has not yet delivered the optimistic alternative vision to Labor’s despairing shemozzle, but I’m not sure the timing has allowed it just yet. The polls for now justify the approach taken, which is first to delegitimise the Government.
It would be curious to deny that so far Abbott has done this brilliantly.
It has long been a truism of politics that to release your agenda too soon in the cycle is to give your opponents time to tear you down. In this case, the timing is complicated by the reality that the Liberals do not yet know who their ultimate opponent will be as Prime Minister, and therefore what approach will work best.
Second, I’m not convinced Abbott must appear much “cuddlier”. Some warmth is essential, but his key challenged has been to appear less boyish and more seriously determined, able to make the tough decisions.
That said, I agree he cannot simply appear too harsh.
But all that said, the Liberals do need to soon accentuate their positives. The election could be much closer than many think.
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, September 13, 11 (05:36 am)
Keeping the pressure on Labor with some suspense before the vote:
TONY Abbott is withholding support for Julia Gillard’s plan to create a law to legitimise her Malaysia Solution asylum-seeker policy, throwing the nation’s immigration regime into doubt for at least another week…
Yesterday, Ms Gillard won cabinet and caucus backing to amend the Migration Act to re-store offshore processing and give the Minister for Immigration discretion over the treatment of unaccompanied minors. The changes, to be introduced to parliament next week, would allow the government of the day to nominate the location of processing centres.
With the Greens certain to reject any amendment in the Senate, Ms Gillard needs Coalition support to secure the changes and is hoping the creation of ministerial discretion on the location of offshore processing will overcome Mr Abbott’s rejection of the Malaysia Solution.
Noting that a Coalition government could use the changes to put in place its preference to reopen a processing centre in Nauru, Ms Gillard urged the Opposition Leader to embrace the move in his own interests…
“I am not asking Tony Abbott to give me any more power as prime minister than he would seek for himself if he were ever prime minister,” she said.
Mr Abbott said he would make no decisions until he saw the legislation, savaging the Malaysia proposal as “offshore dumping”.
Is this a first - to have a Government recommend an Opposition Leader adopt a bill opn the grounds he’d find it useful when he took over?
JULIA Gillard has got it dead right. The rock upon which she stands is that the Australian parliament should authorise the Australian government to negotiate what offshore processing it sees fit in third countries.
This is the only responsible and democratic course in the national interest after the High Court decision on the Malaysia Solution.
It is incredible that the Liberal Party is so fixated on playing politics that it threatens to kill offshore processing outside the phoney solution of Nauru.
Tony Abbott has had every possible warning of this folly. Unless the Opposition Leader changes his mind in subsequent negotiations he will undermine Australia’s border protection and create untold problems for himself in office.
This analysis relies on several arguable assumptions. First, it’s not clear at all that the High Court has denied the Australian Government the right to negotiate whatever offshore processing it sees fit. More accurately, the High Court has pointed out that Parliament has already passed laws against a deal like the Malaysian people swap - but not necessariy at all against the Nauru solution. This is not about democracy but consistency.
Second, Kelly insists Abbott is “flouting the best advice from the Immigration Department”? Since when did the Immigration Department suddenly become the oracle to which all must defer? What was the Department’s advice when Kevin Rudd so recklessly destroyed the Pacific Solution, and put the people smugglers back into business? What was the Department’s advice when Julia Gillard so foolishly announced an East Timor Detention Centre without asking for East Timor’s permission?
Abbott may yet wave through this legislation. He may even need it as the final security for his own plans. But it is false to claim Gillard’s changes are needed by the Opposition as much as by the Government, or that it would restore democracy or put the High Court back in its box.
I should also add that there is zero moral case for arguing an Opposition should approve legislation that would allow a Government to dump asylum seekers just anywhere - even Afghanistan. There is also a perfectly respectable argument against sending asylum seekers to a country that has not ratified the UN Convention on Refugees. Indeed, Labor mounted that argument until just the other day.
And now the Opposition signals that it does not accept that it needs the Government’s legislation to legal-proof its own Nauru option at all:
THE Coalition insists an Abbott government could sends asylum seekers to Nauru without amending the Migration Act in a sign it will take a hardline approach to Labor’s demands for legislative change.
As Opposition Leader Tony Abbott refused to say whether the Coalition would back Labor’s amendments to the Migration Act, Ms Bishop rejected Immigration Department advice given to the Coalition that Nauru could now be on shaky legal ground.
“I don’t believe that we need amendments to the Migration Act for us to reopen the detention centre on Nauru and for it continue to work as it has in the past,” she said.
“We believe that the fact that Nauru is now a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees is an important factor.”
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, September 13, 11 (12:08 am)
Menzies House thought it sounded odd, that Kevin Rudd had twice as many Twitter followers as even Shane Warne. So it checked…
The Australian media erupted earlier today with the news that former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had amassed a staggering million ‘followers’ on the popular social network Twitter.
If true, this is astounding!
This result would easily make Mr. Rudd Australia’s most popular twitterer, with Shane Warne (536, 138 followers) a very, very distant second. In fact, it would make Mr. Rudd ten times more popular than Prime Minister Gillard (126, 726 followers)! No wonder his supporters are using this to boost his Leadership bid!
Yet… is all really what it seems? ...
There are numerous websites that allow you to “buy” twitter followers to boost your numbers. For $17 you can get a thousand, and $450 will get you 50,000 followers!…
To investigate, Menzies House undertook an in-depth analysis of Kevin Rudd’s Twitter followers to search for evidence of the ‘one use only’ accounts employed by paid-follower-companies…
We selected a random sample of 110 followers of both (scrolling down to exclude additions from today’s media stories), and placed all into the categories of “Real/spammer/fake/protected/unsure”. Removing the latter two categories (as we really can’t tell with protected tweets, and with undecided’s there were new users who we couldn’t tell if were genuine or not), we then tallied up the results.
While Julia Gillard had 81% of her followers marked as “active”, Kevin Rudd had half that, at only 48%.
That is correct. Even by the – very broad – definition of genuine we used, Kevin Rudd’s follower count was dominated by fakes. At a rate of double that of Julia Gillard’s.
The Australian’s Christian Kerr did wonder about this a couple of years ago:
The town is Mablethorpe. The Times calls the place “one of Britain’s more modest seaside resorts”.
When the quiet town on the Lincolnshire coast set up its own Twitter feed recently, one of the first followers to sign up was our very own Prime Minister.
Why? According to his office, it was only common courtesy. Mablethorpe was following him on Twitter. “The PM enjoys communicating with over half a million people from a variety of backgrounds and places via Twitter,” his spokesman told The Australian yesterday.
“Twitter allows for people to automatically follow other people who chose to follow them.”
The Prime Minister’s office believes Mablethorpe was following Mr Rudd; Mablethorpe insists it was the other way around.
(Thanks to reader Chris.)
Last year there were similar accusations:
As the number of followers edges closer to 1 million, analysis shows three-quarters are from overseas. They include 36,000 from Chile, 27,000 from Ecuador and 18,000 from the former Soviet Union nation of Belarus.
Several thousand followers of KevinRuddPM have dormant accounts or are advertising online services where you buy followers to bolster your “online street cred”.
Others spruik porn services.
“It can be a telltale sign someone has artificially increased their follower ranks when they’re filled with advertisements for those types of services,” said Leon Hill, a Twitter entrepreneur…
A spokeswoman for Mr Rudd denied there was a campaign to boost the PM’s Twitter account.
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, September 13, 11 (12:07 am)
I should be flattered, to be singled out as deserving of a parliamentary inquiry and possible new laws to stop me:
KEY independent Tony Windsor says an Australian media inquiry should focus on “shock-jocks” and newspaper bloggers.
Mr Windsor, who blamed talk radio hosts for encouraging death threats against him, signalled he would back Greens proposals for a media probe.
“I think there are a number of things that should be looked at, not least of which shock jocks and some of the language that these people use,” Mr Windsor said.
”In some of the news print too, some of the blogs need to be identified and looked at.”
Now, who else but me would Windsor be referrring to?
But doesn’t he understand what an extraordinary abuse of power this would represent? What a sinister attempt to muzzle the press and stifle free speech?
The only greater worry is that the Tamworth Totalitarian isn’t condemned by all those campaigners for “free speech” who were so noisy when John Howard was in power.
Free speech has never been so under attack as it is today, yet where are those who once claimed to be its defenders?
(Thanks to readers Steve and Peter.)
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young is a goose, unable to get the most basic facts right to justify a jihad against newspapers employing columnists who oppose the Greens:
In Australia, similar questions must also be asked. News Limited controls 70 per cent of our nation’s media, representing the greatest concentration of media ownership in the democratic world.
Memo to Hanson-Young: News Ltd does not control a single TV or radio station or even 70 per cent of newspaper titles.
(UPDATE: Hanson-Young’s article has since been corrected to read “70 per cent of our nation’s print media”. Even that is not correct. News Ltd owns only a third of newspaper titles, and it’s the public which decides to buy those newspapers, rather than the alternatives. As News Ltd’s Heather White says:
“News Limited had: 48 per cent of print revenue, 60 per cent of newspapers sold in Australia, 32 per cent (owned fully or partly) of newspaper titles (printed at least weekly) and 61 per cent of the population aged 14 or older read a News Limited paper each week.”
Then there are the many magazines that News Ltd does not own...)
Nor is this remotely true:
Of course it would prefer that no one was talking about it or questioning whether the shrinkage of media diversity is delivering the news and information our communities deserve and need.
Shrinking media diversity?
A couple of decades ago, I would not have been able to get what I get now: instant access over the Internet to an infinite number of news sites and blogs, and half a dozen foreign news services on cable TV. The news space is fragmented like never before. Has it truly escaped the Senator’s notice that every newspaper in this country is struggling to preserve its readership against this onslaught of alternatives?
Exactly how ill-informed is this Green McCarthyist?
And be very clear. This is an attempt to censor or intimidate conservative journalists, and leave untouched those of the Left. Note the telling use of the word “but”:
Rather than some road to Damascus conversion of Murdoch’s empire to freedom and transparency, the argument against such an inquiry is a strategy of the right designed to keep the public nose and interest out of their business model.
No one is suggesting that journalists’ work be vetted or censored, but we need to consider how ownership affects the news we all consume and how the public can raise issues of complaint when they believe they have been misled or misrepresented…
Rather than being about censoring journalists, a debate about media ownership is essential to protecting our democracy. With greater diversity of media ownership, comes the potential for greater diversity of views.
There is no shortage of a diversity of views in this country. You can read everyone from Chomsky, Hanson-Young, Jill Singer, Phillip Adams, Jeff Sparrow, Guy Rundle, Malcolm Fraser and the like on the Left, to Piers Akerman, Janet Albrechtsen and others on the non-Left.
What makes Hanson-Young cross is that more Australians prefer to buy publications which include conservative voices. This freedom upsets her. And so the instinct to censor, control, purge and harrass kicks in.