We know what is best for you

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 possibly 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.

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Trust

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?

Slow and Steady

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.

Back to analogue

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

Actual vs expected

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

Peak oil?

I have always been interested in cars. Ever since I was a youngster, I was climbing into, out of, on and around my parents’ cars. Going for a drive out into the country roads was a treat, and roads that wound their way through the glens of Antrim, between narrow hedgerows, or up to a high spot to look over the sea to Scotland were a favourite. I tinkered in the garage, held spanners and fetched things for the men. I was driving before I could see properly over the dashboard and before I could reach the pedals to fully depress the clutch without sliding down in the seat to reach it. I drove on backroads at night, when other car lights could be seen at some distance, giving enough time to quickly swap seats with an indulgent parent in case the passing car may contain a police officer. Police officers are not known for their humour or indulgence when having stopped a vehicle they peer in through the driver’s window to find a 10 year old.

Continue reading

SS America

She was launched in 1940 as the SS America. At the time, she was the world’s fastest ocean liner.

NY

But the second world war had broken out. By December 1941, the US joined the war effort explicitly as a result of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. The SS America was converted to a troop carrier.

After the war, she returned to the Atlantic route, with  speed; and society; and glamour.

atlantic

In 1964, she was sold to a Greek shipping company and spent the next 15 years circling the world: England to Australia and back to England. This was an emigrant’s route, not a cruise route. If the Suez Canal was open the route was Southampton, Crete, Port Said, Djibouti, Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney on the way out.  Then Auckland, Panama, Florida Keys, Southampton on the return. Under the ownership of the Greek shipper Chandris Lines, the ship was renamed the SS Australis.

Here she is at Crete, February 1976. I was on that southern outbound trip. Crete was the first stop out of Southampton.

crete

Eventually, she would arrive at Station Pier, Melbourne.

sp

Before the final outward bound stopover in Sydney.

syd

The emigration route came to a natural end in the late 1970s. By this time, the ship was 40 years old. She deteriorated under various subsequent owners. Plans amounted to nothing. She had spent years at dock in Italy before being sold again to a venture that was to turn her into a floating hotel in Thailand. She never made it.

SS America was to be towed from Italy to Thailand, via the Atlantic in 1993. A storm off the Canary Islands intervened.

nearing the end

And there she remained.

final

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