Noisy little birds. They chew through the apples on my apple trees. But their pairing and concerns for each other are endearing. They witter away to each other as if discussing today’s letters to the editor. This chap was photographed in the Melbourne autumn on Kodak Ektachrome 100 film, 100mm lens.
Bob Hawke, former Australian Prime Minister, died today. Bob was a larrikin and a stalwart of the Australian Labor Party. His partnership in government during the 1980s with Treasurer Paul Keating was a genuine advantage for this country and set in place many reforms that added to our fortunes, for the nation as a whole.
Bob was a Labor PM unlike those before and after him. A Rhodes scholar, a firebrand, a union leader, a heavy drinker and guilty of certain other alleged character flaws not for me to air, he came to the leadership of the ALP at the exact time the election was called in February 1983. The election date itself was March 5, 1983 and the ALP with Bob at the helm, won. Malcolm Fraser’s prime ministerial career was over, the Liberal/Country Party coalition government was over and, amazingly, Labor was back in power federally only 8 years after the previous disastrous Labor government under Gough Whitlam had been thumped at the ballot box and kicked out in disgrace.
Bob was cut from a different cloth than was Gough. Bob was economically literate. He served his country very well.
Spain is following exactly the same pattern that all other western countries are going through. The political divide is no longer between left and right, the continuum that was formed in the French Revolution and has lasted over 200 years. The divide is now between insiders and outsiders. Insiders include all mainstream political parties, all government civil servants, the institutions of state, education and church, and big business. Centre right parties are being decimated everywhere, and rightly so. The outsiders are labelled far-right or populists or deplorables etc by the insiders. The outsiders confuse and scare the insiders. They are actually made up of people that have, under the old left/right divide, a range of political views. This is behind Trump, Brexit, gilet jaunes, Hungary, Italy, Alternative for Deutschland and now, the so-called far right extremist party in Spain. The story in Spain is not so much the socialist win, as that was expected, it is the weakness of it in the face of the rise of the ‘far-right extremists.’
The Economist newspaper this week reported that the findings of an academic study of insects in a forest in Puerto Rico have “triggered alarm, almost panic.” The piece introduces the term “insectageddon” and ponders the chance of an “insect apocalypse.” The issue is that if the insect world is decimated, plant pollination would be too, the food chain would collapse and all animal life would disappear.
It’s always useful to have another looming global catastrophe theory, especially if 97% of scientists agree with it, in case the current looming global catastrophe theory turns out to be wrong.
It’s a funny thing, the other half of the world. Take this mob, at the IEMA, for instance. The stated objective of the group of like-minded chaps and chapesses is to transform the world to sustainability. (I take it from that objective they assume the world is currently not sustainable? Despite all it has been through in the last 4.5b years? – editor’s note)
Of the people I know, I understand that many, on getting out of bed in the morning, limit their immediate concerns to a tasty breakfast with the newspaper. Two eggs, freshly laid by contented hens, boiled perfectly and perhaps toast with marmalade accompanied by a pot of tea. They then want to enjoy the day through the course of their business, hopefully enjoy a spot of sunshine under a blue sky and pick up the delicate fragrance of a passing rose on the way home before relaxing in the evening with family and friends.
Meanwhile, it seems clear that others leap out of bed to don black shirts and heavy boots, with an eye fixed on the street below as they do so. That is when they start planning who they will transform today.
There are cultural differences between different groups of people that have worked their way into the legal structures of each society. I heard one description like this:
In England, everything is permitted unless it is expressly prohibited. In Germany, everything is prohibited unless it is expressly permitted. In France, everything is permitted, including those things that are prohibited. In Russia, everything is prohibited, even if it is permitted.
English common law was, thankfully, exported to Australia, New Zealand, US and Canada and we in these countries enjoy greater freedoms as a result. This stated objective of using the law to transform the world seems rather oppressive to me.
Recently, I was discussing Africa with a colleague on the topic of poverty. His view was that the poverty in Africa was so bad that it was incumbent upon the rich countries to provide aid. When I pointed out that the rich western countries had poured aid money into Africa for decades, particularly since the end of colonialism, and many Africans were no better off, and possibly worse off, he said he wished he knew what the answer was.
The answer certainly will not be found in any aid budget. Most African countries do not have the pre-conditions to allow wealth generation which is why they remain desperately poor. Rich western countries became rich only because those pre-conditions existed. They are: free markets, the rule of law, private property rights, small Government and trust. In the absence of these fundamental conditions, there is no point in pouring aid money into African countries – it simply ends up in the hands of tyrants, dictators, and the operatives of bodies such as the UN and aid organisations, happy to siphon their cut in perpetuity. Many such organisations are contemptible as a consequence of their participation in this scam.
Meanwhile, back in the west, it is worth remembering that civilisations do not die by murder, they die by suicide. Made wealthy through the efforts of generations of our forebears under the necessary conditions above, the populace becomes complacent and forgets, or never learns, what is necessary for a high standard of living. Many have no understanding of what made their country wealthy. They begin to assume wealth is the natural state of affairs. It’s not.
Small government? Forget that: all western governments have been growing as a percentage of GDP since 1960. Free markets? The constraints, red tape, green tape, pricing controls, occupational licensing, interference in business have continued to grow rapidly. Rule of law? Too big to fail government regulation of some but not others, cronyism, activist judges, elitist institutions that scorn democracy, union bastardry all contribute to schisms in society. Elsewhere, this has been referred to as generating the difference between the somewheres and the anywheres. Private property rights? Look at the taxation system – capital gains tax, open consideration of death duties, retrospective taxes on retirement savings, penalty taxes if an individual does not buy private health insurance. Trust? Who trusts their bank manager? (Who knows their bank manager?) Do you trust insurance companies, superannuation funds and the legal system? Do you trust the police force to uphold the law? Do you trust schools to educate your children?
Trust is under threat. Rich countries are rich partly because of the trust in institutions and the other people we meet and interact with. Trust is absent in tyrannies and hell-holes. It is replaced by mistrust and fear. The decline into identity politics, groups within society fighting each other rather than accepting all individuals is a notable point along the way. Trust is local: it requires the nation state. Trust cannot exist under the globalist one-world Government objective held by many left-over Trotskyites, most of the Greens, the UN and some naive university students particularly in the departments of humanities. We know this because it has been attempted before on a smaller scale and, fortunately, never got as far as the whole world. The usurpation of power by unelected bureaucrats in institutions, the media, schools and universities have been chipping away at the necessary foundations of a wealthy society since the 1960s.
Where to from here?
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Melbourne launch of John De Ravin’s new book called “Slow and Steady”.
The book is a collection of 100 strategies for building wealth. Strategies are there for all stages of life. Each one is presented succinctly and with clear explanation as to whom it applies and why it works.
The practicality and readability of this book is perhaps best exemplified by noting that my children are interested in it and I see them reading about the topics that are directly relevant to them. They are interested in John’s strategies on car expenses, education debts and property investment. John’s work will be very helpful for many people. It’s available at this link.
Is it just me? Or have others noticed it? Is analogue making a comeback?
Some time ago, going digital was hip. It first came to my attention in the early 1980s when CDs emerged. The vinyl record, already suffering quite a deal from the convenience of the cassette tape, appeared doomed. I was all for it. Then came email in the early 1990s. The internet. Digital photography. The MP3 and ipod followed. Brilliant! Somewhere in there was the e-book reader, the kindle and its brethren. Skype phone calls. The iPhone, iOS, Android. All of these developments were fantastic, at the time. Onward and upward.
Or so it seemed to me. Continue reading
William S.Smith points out, with clarity, the cluelessness of the western political elite (so-called).
One of the actuarial profession’s valuable contributions to the management of long term financial risks in the field of life insurance has been the development of credible models of human mortality. The humble life table. Over the years (going back several hundred), the techniques have resulted in this fundamental component of fair and equitable pricing and reserving for mortality risk. The table’s contribution to the welfare and advancement of people has been important. But have these techniques been forgotten or ignored by climate change zealots?
The actuary is pragmatic. Theoretical mathematical models of mortality have been developed but they have only ever been able of giving a guiding picture. Human mortality patterns do not slavishly follow a mathematical model. The established method of updating life tables has been to periodically collect data about deaths and recalculate the rates of mortality then re-graduate the raw results into a credible and smooth table. Continue reading