Trading Places: Australia-China Relations

It is certainly a special combination of insensitivity and expediency that led Peter Dutton, Australia's Minister of Defence, to suggest that a military conflict with China over Taiwan should not be discounted. The comments were coupled with Home Affairs Department Secretary Mike Pezzullo remarked that we could hear the beating drums of war in the region. This all comes on the back with a continuing trade war between Australia and China.

The comments are insensitive, not only because they contradict to the long-standing policy of Australia to China, which recognises that Taiwan is part of China. For what it's worth, this is also in the constitution of Taiwan; both the governments of Beijing and Taipei consider themselves the legitimate government of China, and that the other side is rebellious. But the insensitivity is not just in the field of international relations, but also the fact that the comments were made during the ANZAC Day holiday, held in commemoration of Australians (and New Zealanders) who served and died in war.

Libertarian Distributism?

The Overlapping Consensus

Socialists and libertarians both integrated key Burkean conservative insights into their philosophies around the turn of the 19th Century. The revolutionary idea of tearing the system down to build something completely new from scratch fell into disfavor. Libertarians started to shy away from anarchism and socialists started to shy away from revolutionary ideologies. The new libertarianism was “neo-liberal” — embracing the ideas of liberal democracy and seeking to move in a more “liberal” direction within the context of republican systems of government while rejecting market fundamentalism. Socialists embraced the idea of democratic socialism (or social democracy) and the notion that gradual reform through the democratic system was the best route to a better society. Both the libertarians and the socialists ended up becoming staunch proponents of the philosophy of republicanism.

Furthermore, the “neo-liberalism” of libertarians like F. A. Hayek and Milton Friedman entailed a recognition that markets are not perfect and that sometimes you do need the government to step in for the purpose of welfare provision. The social democrats too started to move away from the idea of nationalizing industry and centrally planning the economy and towards the idea of promoting a universalist welfare system within the context of a mixed economy. In fact, the liberal-socialist economist James Meade and the libertarian economist Milton Friedman both supported the same minimum income guarantee proposal — the Negative Income Tax scheme of Juliet Rhys-Williams. Eduard Bernstein, Anthony Crosland, and James Meade started popularizing the idea that a widespread distribution of private ownership might be an acceptable alternative to nationalization, at least in many cases. This idea of widespread distribution of private ownership (distributism or property-owning democracy) had actually originated on the right in the early 20th Century and was later adopted by center-left political liberals and social democrats like John Rawls and James Meade. The “neo-liberal” libertarians and the social democrats agreed in rejecting the doctrine of laissez-faire and recognizing that the government needs to take action in order to make markets work beneficially.

The Political Economy of Growth and Technology

Economic growth is typically understood as the percentage rate in the output of goods and services in an economy. The importance of economic growth is that it represents an improvement in our standard of living. However, this is not without some interesting challenges which are initially explored here, along with some basic algebra and measurement issues, which help us also determine what it doesn't represent. Following this, there is an exploration of the basic sources of growth especially in reference to the factors of production, and then an assessment of the "Solow residue", which recognises the importance of technology and education in growth. Finally, this review looks at the political economy of growth, and how particular distributions of ownership affect growth rates and aggregate economic welfare.

Growth in general

The basic claim of economic growth is that it represents improvements in goods and services. Whilst some growth is necessary as a replacement of the effects of depreciation, and measured with inflation, gross in excess of this replacement value represents a real improvement. As an economy grows there is increased demand for labour-inputs, and as a result economic growth is usually correlated with improvements in the rate of employment. This in turn also reduces the requirement for government welfare-expenditure, borrowing, and allows for higher tax revenues. Redistribution policies are also politically more palatable as aggregate incomes rise; it is perceived as churlish and immature to argue against transfers when one has a high absolute level of wealth and income.

Two Cheers for Modern Monetary Theory

Macroeconomics is both a study in exploration and of action of the economy as a whole. It is exploratory, insofar as different explanations are provided for macroeconomic effects, such as economic growth, unemployment, inflation, money supply, changes in investment and consumption, and the economic behaviour between different economies. With this information, macroeconomists can make recommendations to government concerning how to best use the economic tools to utilise to ensure growth with stability, and issue predictions on what effects alternative policies will generate. Whilst the following provides a critical summary of mainstream macroeconomic thought, it is also motivated towards those policies which promote sustainable growth, provide full employment, and control inflation. In doing so it reviews short and long-run macroeconomics, especially accounting for technology, the effects of an open economy, investment and consumption, and the use of monetary and fiscal policies.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is an unorthodox macroeconomic theory. The fact that it is a macroeconomic theory at all is beneficial, as there is still far too much attention paid to treating an economy as a large-scale version of microeconomic endeavours. Of course, there is an intuition in thinking of economics this way because it individual perception operates at this scale. It is, however, quite incorrect. Even taking mainstream macroeconomic theory into consideration, however, MMT raises a couple of interesting challenges.

Three Visions of a Realist Utopia

I define realist utopias as models for the Great Society that are far greater than any system ever implemented before yet still realistically within our grasp. These are models that create a just constitutional basic structure for a society/polity that meets the necessary criterion for justice, as defined by neo-republican theory and Rawlsian political liberalism, while remaining entirely realistic in terms of feasibility or real-world applicability.

I want to talk about three viable realist utopian models. However, I should start by noting the essential characteristics of a just basic structure. Any realist utopian model will share these same essential characteristics, though the actual ways that these things are manifested and the mechanisms that guarantee them may be radically different. The basic structure will: (1) entail liberal democracy or a republican form of government, in which people have a say in the matters that affect their lives, (2) guard against the extremes of inequality so that concentrations of wealth cannot be used to exploit the less wealthy or to buy politicians, and (3) ensure that everyone has access to the necessities of life such as food, shelter, healthcare, etc.

Coronavirus Vaccine Policy in Australia

The desperate decision of the Morrison government in Australia to panic and secure an additional 10 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is not just a case of "too little, too late", but also one of policy failure through continuing indifference. To give a summary of the current state of play, Australia is the only continent (apart from Antarctica) that has not implemented SARS-COV-2 vaccinations, leaving it far behind most advanced economies in distribution. It has, however, secured agreements for the production and supply of four different vaccines. Border workers, quarantine workers, some healthcare workers, and those who live and work in residential and aged care will receive priority Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. The majority of Australians will receive the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine instead.

The difference between the two is in their relative efficacy, their ability to reach a Herd Immunity Threshold (HIT), and price. To put simply, Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines is the most effective (c95%) but also the most expensive, with US prices at $20 per dose. Oxford/AstraZeneca is estimated at 70% effectiveness, with US prices at $4 per dose. A significant cost issue of the former is a requirement that it is stored at temperatures between -80 and -60 °C until five days before vaccination when it can be stored at 2 to 8 °C. The University of Oxford/AstraZeneca has normal cold storage requirements. Part of the cost is that AstraZeneca's has a commitment to COVAX, a global initiative that aims to distribute low-cost vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.

A Political Economy for Libertarian Socialism

"Libertarian socialism" is a political position that seeks to provide increasingly optimal levels of equality and freedom. In the Nolan chart (a predecessor appeared in The Floodgates of Anarchy) it fits the left-liberal or left side of the diamond. In the Political Compasss it fits in the bottom-left quadrant. In the Dixon chart (forthcoming) it is in the upper-right of the radius of possibility. No matter which chart is used, however, the position and relationship remain the same; inclusive, at the borders, with social democrats, democratic socialists, liberals, distributivists, syndicalists, anarcho-socialists, and anarcho-communists. It is diametrically opposed to the authoritarian right, the political perspective that concentrates power and wealth in the hands of the few instead of the many and enforces traditional aesthetic standards under the guise of "morality". It finds itself in favour of socialist and Marxist approaches that seek greater positive freedoms and equality but is equally opposed to the authoritarianism and loss of individual and civil liberties prevalent among such ideologies. Likewise, it supports the commitment to the negative freedoms espoused by libertarian-capitalists but abhors their excuses for corporatism and inequality.

This positional description is easily understood and well-known, but it requires further elaboration especially on where various trajectories meet and are potentially in conflict. What is the libertarian left's position on the state and government? What is the preferred decision-making process? Where does the freedom of one individual end and another's begin? What about externalities? How does one enhance positive freedoms without harming negative freedoms? Is the ethical system based on rigid principles or an evaluation of consequences? What are individual rights, anyway? Do they include destructive rights? Are there criteria for responsibility? What about non-sapient beings? How are rights and responsibilities enforced by threats both internal and external? What are the limits of free speech? What about defamation and libel? It is these sorts of questions that this essay applies some tentative grounding, based around the principles of our ten-point plan. One essential component that is unfortunately unusual in the Isocracy Network is our dedication to approaches that are positive and normative. If an approach doesn't work, we discard it, if it is unjust we seek alternatives. The world would be a better place if others did not cling so tight to ideological commitments that simply did not work, or applied social systems without consideration of just outcomes.

The Thai is Falling!

by Thai Tanic

Can there be any doubt that Vajiralongkorn, Phrabat Somdet Phra Vajira Klao Chao Yu Hua, King of Thailand, is the best ruler in the world? Despite this, sadly, many people in Thailand are arguing for reform of the monarchy. Some, infected by Western propaganda, have even argued for more democracy, civil and human rights, and even a republic. These arguments are anti-monarchy and therefore anti-Thai. Surely it cannot be denied that the rights and freedoms of every Thai citizen are granted by the sacred benevolence of the King?

Submission to the Threatened Species Strategy Consultation

Opening Statement
The Campaign for a National Memorial and Museum to Extinct and Endangered Australian Species was set up in the wake of the pronouncement on the 18th of February 2019 that the Bramble Cays melomys had been driven to extinction. This was the 100th species to be driven to extinction since European colonisation of Australia and the first Australian species to go extinct as a direct result of climate change, as its habitat, the Bramble Cays islands of the Torres Strait, had been overwhelmed by rising sea levels caused by global warming.

We have previously petitioned Parliament for a National Memorial and Museum to Extinct and Endangered Australian Species to be established in Canberra, where it would complement places such as the National Museum of Australia, the Australian War Memorial and Reconciliation Place, in enabling us to remember the losses of the past, reflect on the present crisis, and resolve to grow a better future in which no more of our endangered species become extinct. In order to ensure the ongoing commitment of the Australian government to the cause of preventing further extinctions, we have also petitioned that the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (The EPBC Act) be amended so that whenever a new species is declared critically endangered or extinct, the Minister responsible for administering the Act is required to commission, fund and personally open a new exhibit in the Memorial.

Post-Truth Politics and Conspiracy Prejudices

A number of commentators have argued that we are in a "post-truth" world [1], where there is a "circuitous slippage between facts or alt-facts, knowledge, opinion, belief, and truth" [2], that has led to a politicisation of the validity of scientific knowledge. Of course, science and politics have never been entirely separate, as science is often organised, funded, and institutionalised through public policy. Whilst political culture has historically been dominated by normative matters of civil rights and law, political economy, and economic policy, there is an increasing component of "post-truth politics". This sort of politics engages in appeal to emotion, talking-points, short news cycles etc., the strength of which is sufficiently relevant that the Oxford dictionary chose "post-truth" as "word of the year" in 2016 [3], which also occurred in Germany with the word "Postfaktisch" by the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (GfdS) [4]. A post-truth environment has a profound importance for the survival of democratic governance, public representation, policies, and consequences.


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