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The Gun and the Sandwich

March 11th, 2013 by Viv

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Government by Enquiry

March 1st, 2013 by Viv

Viv Forbes
Written 1991

Gough Whitlam once boasted that he had a hundred expert committees hard at work on Australia’s problems.

This probably represented the high water mark of Government by Enquiry.

However the Goss government looks set to challenge Gough’s record.

Expert committees are already at work on the QIDC, Fraser Island, the Queensland Tourist and Travel Corporation, the ports, the financial institutions, land tenure, daylight saving, road safety, economic development and over-regulation.

Getting named to head a royal commission is a sure way to fame and wealth in Australia. Names such as Jackson, Crawford, Campbell, Vernon, Matthews, Costigan, Coombs, Henderson, Rae, Muirhead, Fox, Woodward, Williams, Sackville and Wilenski are remembered more for their enquiries than for anything else.
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Inflation, the Secret Tax

March 1st, 2013 by Viv

“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 Viv

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 Viv

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 Viv

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 Viv

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 Viv

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 Viv

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 Viv

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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