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Inflation, the Secret Tax

March 1st, 2013 by admin

“Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the Capitalist System was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some… Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1920

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Poisoning the Waterholes

March 1st, 2013 by admin

Viv Forbes
Written 11 April 1990

The threat by the Goss Government to legislate against voluntary employment agreements is a blot on an otherwise promising first semester report.

The ALP were rightly critical of cronyism in previous administrations. They cited cronyism in awarding tenders, provision of cheap finance, drought relief and rezoning of land. Naturally, all charges were vigorously denied.

Cronyism occurs when a trustee provides favours for friends at the expense of those he supposedly represents. Where payment is made for the favour, cronyism becomes bribery.

The threatened attack on VEA’s looks more like favours for friends than actions in the public interest. The essence of a VEA is a voluntary agreement negotiated in complete harmony by employer and employees. This allows both parties to choose that unique package of wages, working hours, overtime, and other conditions which maximises their satisfaction. It allows both employers and employees to regain some control over their lives instead of being subject to the dictates of distant arbitrary strangers.
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Hanged Without Trial

January 1st, 2013 by admin

Viv Forbes
Written July 1998

To be rational is suddenly unfashionable, so it is with some trepidation that I rise to its defence.

I think I was the first of the breed to promote these ideas locally in modern times. Judy and I called a meeting in our home in Taringa on 14 April 1975 to discuss a new concept “Morality in Politics”.

What we promoted was Classical Liberalism, a principled defence of free enterprise, free trade, individual freedom and responsibility, and limited constitutional government. Judging from the small crowd that attended, and later joined, our “Workers Party” and “Progress Party” it was not a popular concept. We were the kill-joys of politics – once these principles were accepted, anyone with half a brain could determine rational policies, which usually led to attacking bloated government and all their hangers on.
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Dear Government

December 20th, 2012 by admin

Viv Forbes
Written April 1998.

It was Gough Whitlam, I think, who said:

“It must be election time – I can feel a dam coming on”.

It was also probably Gough’s political adviser, who, at the start of a vote buying tour of regional Australia, advised his chief:

“If they’ve got a river, promise them a dam. If not, promise them a college of advanced education.”

Working on the observation that the only time the butterflies in Parliament even pretend to listen to us toads who employ them, is during election time, it is probably a good time to offer them all some advice. This open letter is thus directed to all candidates from all parties in both Queensland and Federal electorates, and their staff, advisers lobbyists and wordsmiths. (That probably gives a potential audience of several million.)

Dear Government,

Please stop doing things to us – you have done too much already.
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Playing Favourites

December 20th, 2012 by admin

Viv Forbes
Written December 1997.

Justice should not be influenced by the status, size, wealth, nationality, age, religion, political belief or gender of those who seek it. This is why the universal symbol of justice comprises the scales, for impartially weighing the evidence, the sword, for swift punishment of the guilty, and the blindfold, to eliminate bias, favouritism or nepotism in the judge.

Democracy, however, causes vote-seeking politicians to play favourites for electoral support. Every party identifies a constituency and sets about buying their votes with a combination of bribes for the favourites and bashings for their enemies.

Thus the Nationals like to be seen bribing family farmers, while bashing the banks. Liberals bribe business while bashing unions. Labor tries to woo the workers, particularly public servants and unionists, while being seen to bash bosses, particularly if they are big, rich, or foreign corporations.

Apart from these permanent political perversions of justice, any other noisy minority that emerges (such as the environment or the aboriginal industry) will be bribed by all politicians, and their unloved enemies and victims (such as pastoral and mining companies) can be bashed with impunity.

In the process, some untouchables arise such as “the battlers”, small business, and the health and education industries. No politician dares to be seen to harm these sacred cows, no matter how outrageous their demands for discriminatory legislation or government handouts.

Government, however, is a zero sum game. Bribes and favours can only be delivered at the expense of other groups in the community. Every bribe requires a tax to fund it; every favourable regulation generates its own red tape victim.
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Sideshows and Secret Agendas

December 20th, 2012 by admin

Viv Forbes
Written October 1997.

Australia has real problems – over-taxation, stifling centralisation, monetary mismanagement, depopulation of the bush, and the burning question of whether we are to be one nation or two.

None of these real problems stem from our historic ties to the British Monarchy, but politicians and the media are about to offer us a distraction – “The Great Republic Sideshow”. Even more disturbing, the sideshow is likely to be a stalking horse for those with a secret agenda. Many republican zealots see this as an opportunity for a dramatic increase in the power of politicians, especially federal politicians. I see little upside and much downside from the whole sideshow.

As Dame Leonie Kramer has put it, the Queen is a symbol of our constitutional arrangements, while the Governor General is actually our head of state. It is striking to recall that the only attempt to involve our current Queen in Australia’s government was when Gough tried to over-rule an Australian Governor General in 1975. The Queen replied politely that the Australian constitution placed all constitutional matters in the hands of the Governor General. As Sir David Smith puts it “That, surely, put an end to all nonsense about Australia’s sovereignty, independence and national identity being centred on London.”

Over 100 years ago, that famous English novelist Anthony Trollope said “No form of government has given so large a measure of individual freedom to all who live under it as a constitutional monarchy in which the crown is divested of direct political power”.
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The Forecasting Business

November 13th, 2012 by admin

Viv Forbes
Written 1998.

Recently, our farmers and miners (at least the rich or naive ones) gathered at the altar in Canberra to hear the ABARE forecasts for our great primary industries.

They should have stayed at home. They obviously had not heard of a similar conference held by the German Furniture Manufacturers’ Guild in Munich in 1928. To help them plan their future the Germans invited the greatest political prophet in Europe to forecast the conditions they could expect in 5, 15, 20, 40 and 60 years’ time. He gave the five year forecast first.

“In 1933,” said the prophet “Germany will have 5 million unemployed and will be ruled by an unstable dictator using emergency powers and an army of secret police”.

This disturbed the burghers, but they were reassured by his 15 year forecast.

“By 1943, I predict that Munich will be part of a Greater Germany which stretches from the Volga to the Atlantic and from the Arctic to the Sahara.”

While the burghers were still dreaming of the market possibilities of Greater Germany, the prophet went on.
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A Tale of Two Chinas

October 22nd, 2012 by admin

Viv Forbes
Written 27 April 1997

I was saddened to read, last week, that the first Red Army soldiers had slipped into Hong Kong, like Jackals in the Night.

This marks the end of a huge social experiment lasting for decades and involving millions of people – a contest between the command society and the contract society, between socialism and free enterprise, between the closed economy and free trade.

Judy and I first saw the two faces of China about 25 years ago, and the stark contrast will remain in my mind forever.

The plane came into Hong Kong at night, below the tops of the glittering towers lining the sides of the runway. Next day we went shopping. We wandered freely through the little shops full of porcelain and china, silk and ivory, turquoise and jade, silver and gold and an abundance of electronic and other gadgetry at unbelievable prices. It was a magic city full of friendly industrious people.

Then we went across the bridge into the other China for a visit to Canton.
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Safety Mania

October 1st, 2012 by admin

Viv Forbes
Written 6 April 1992

“A new source of power… called gasoline has been produced by a Boston engineer. Instead of burning the fuel under a boiler, it is exploded inside the cylinder of an engine… “The dangers are obvious. Stores of gasoline in the hands of people interested primarily in profit would constitute a fire and explosive hazard of the first rank. Horseless carriages propelled by gasoline might attain speeds of 14 or even 20 miles per hour. The menace to our people of vehicles of this type hurtling through our streets… would call for prompt legislative action even if the military and economic implications were not so overwhelming… In addition, the development of this new power may displace the use of horses, which would wreck our agriculture…”

The above was reported in the US Congressional record in 1875. Luckily, no one took any notice and no harm was done.

But the coercive do-gooders are still with us. In 1979, Mr Einfield, the champion of consumer safety in NSW, threatened to legislate against self-service petrol stations because they were “too dangerous and too heavy to use, especially for women drivers”.

To some extent, Mr Einfield was cynically using the smokescreen of “safety” to featherbed his union mates. But he was also reflecting a modern mania for safety at all costs.

Examples abound.

A great debate now ranges about compulsory pool fences. There is undoubtedly a problem with toddlers drowning but this is caused by unsupervised children who can’t swim.

The proposed legislation will not help to solve either problem. In fact, it will aggravate them. Fences will give parents a false sense of security. With less supervision there will be more accidents of all kinds – not just drownings, but road accidents, getting kidnapped, getting lost etc. Secondly, fences will not teach kids to swim. Again the tendency will be to assure parents that early swimming lessons are unnecessary because all pools are fenced.

Safety, like environmentalism, has become a tool of the anti-capitalist crusade. As Paul Johnson said “Uniting as it does a wide range of health and consumer pressure groups, animated as it is by a quasi-mystical vision of total purity, safety provides as unrivalled emotional outlet for educated, middle-class opinion. It has become the leading, progressive good cause of our day, combining fear of technology, hatred of capitalism, the itch to interfere and the eternal nanny principle.”

The anti-growth, anti-multinational, pro-union, pro-bureaucracy theme of this group is quite distinctive, and reveals more concern for ideology than for safety.

The high priests of this new religion have brought us child proof lids (which fumble fingered parents can’t open), compulsory health and accident insurance, costly job licensing, harassment of alternative medicine, prescriptions for analgesics, censorship, gun controls, rigid and costly air traffic regulations, fluoride in our water and complex and compulsory product standard laws.

In Norway, the nutritional totalitarians have “an integrated policy on nutrition, food and agriculture” whose aim is to forcibly change the diet of the people in the hope of reducing coronary disease. In the USA, it is illegal to sell even a ladder or a sledge hammer unless it bears a label which warns of the danger of misuse. In Australia, politicians discuss whether prescriptions for vitamins, governors for motor cars and licences for baby sitters should be made compulsory. World wide, governments have decided to eliminate smokers at any cost.

Everyone is in favour of better health, safer work places and risk free drugs. But there is no free lunch. It is a dangerous delusion to believe that improvements in safety can be achieved at zero cost.

It is also a delusion to believe that a bungle of bureaucrats can discover the correct balance of safety and cost for every human activity. Safety is a relative thing which every individual may value differently. For example, to a refugee in the South China Sea, the absence of mandatory safety flares in his escape vessel is of zero consequence. He would trade all such luxuries for an extra can of drinking water or a pistol to protect his family from pirates. On the other hand, the millionaire yachtsman on Sydney Harbour will spare no expense to ensure his Sunday safety.

Similarly, the worker with six kids and no house is chiefly concerned to find any roof he can afford. He is not overly concerned whether or not his shack is built to conform with government building regulations. But the comfortable executive is happy to pay for secondary needs such as safety and aesthetics.

In both of these examples, enforcement of uniform standards of safety would deprive the poor man of something he values more than added safety and would not satisfy the rich man. Who then sets the standard and how is it set?

The morbid preoccupation of governments with safety at any cost has another perverse consequence. History shows that improvements in health and safety are closely correlated with economic progress. Prosperity, not legislation, produces safety.

The pioneering which precedes progress is always more dangerous than doing things in the old ways. Is pioneering to be outlawed because of its risk? Where would we be if the Seamen’s Union had prevented Captain Cook from leaving England without a decent map and accurate navigation equipment? Would Reg Ansett’s first plane have been cleared for takeoff by DCA? What if Leichhardt, Kennedy, Forrest and the squatters had sat in Botany Bay waiting for government surveyors and road builders? Will the pioneers of today be free to explore the mysteries of genetics? Where is our future if compulsory safety and regulated security smothers the urge to innovate and explore?

We are becoming a bunch of sissies. Maybe it is better for the future evolution of the race if persistent glue sniffers and metho drinkers are allowed to learn from experience. If we try to outlaw foolishness, we merely breed complacency, negligence, boredom and folly. All attempts to use legislation to solve non-criminal problems will achieve perverse results. (It is of course correct to ban the unauthorised supply of dangerous items to children or simpletons.)

All attempts at compulsory safety rest on the assumption that individuals are not competent to run their own lives and should not be allowed to choose risky options. To some government nannies, we are all government property. For example, in 1990, Paul Greene, a mechanical engineer, was prevented by the Victorian Marine Board from attempting to drive his amphibious Volkswagen across Bass Straight. (Foolish fellow thought it was his life and his car.)

Safety is an important consideration, but it is not the only consideration. And there is no single collective solution to the right amount of safety. Safety will be improved by organisations who value their brand names or their reputations as good suppliers or good employers. It will be published by voluntary co-operatives like the National Safety Council, The Master Builders Association, the insurance companies, the unions and the consumer and media watchdogs. Its value will be weighed and assessed every day by thousands of individuals with many desires and few resources. Government compulsion has no place in the area of safety except to combat contagious diseases, to ensure there is disclosure of abnormal risk, and to curb breach of contract, fraudulent claims or deceptive practices.

Life is an uncertain experience, but this is the essence of adventure and discovery. The only way to eliminate all risk, is to shoot yourself. Colin Fletcher in “The Complete Walker” puts it beautifully. He says –

… if you judge safety to be the paramount consideration in life you should never, under any circumstances, go on long hikes alone. Don’t take short hikes alone either – or, for that matter, don’t go anywhere alone. And avoid at all costs such foolhardy activities as driving, falling in love, or inhaling air that is almost certainly riddled with deadly germs. Wear wool next to the skin. Insure every good and chattel you possess against every conceivable contingency the future might bring, even if the premiums half cripple the present. Never cross an intersection against a red light, even when you can see that all the roads are clear for miles. And never, of course, explore the guts of an idea that seems as if it might threaten one of your more cherished beliefs. In your wisdom you will probably live to a ripe old age. But you may discover, just before you die, that you have been dead for a long, long time.

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Atlas of Australia

September 24th, 2012 by admin

From http://economics.org.au/2012/08/atlas-of-australia/

Viv Forbes, 23 August 2005

Viv and Judy Forbes breed cattle and sheep on a grazing property at Rosevale in SE Queensland. Viv recently formed “The Grassland Protection Group” to protect and promote Australia’s productive grasslands.

The Constant Battle for Land & Water
Australia has supported humans for thousands of years. Over the millennia, one feature has been constant — grazing animals have been the key to their survival. The grazier is the “Atlas of Australia”.

The essential assets for graziers are grasslands and water. Every previous generation has valued, maintained and conserved these, our most precious assets.

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