Economists, Who needs them?

Economist's dictate that the right taxation mix is the answer. Yet zero taxation with zero land price is not mentioned by them, or by officialdom, academia and for obvious reasons not the fiducial lever pullers. Odd, with recent trillions flowing to bond-holders from central banks, from governments, and before them, the taxpayer, economists present toxic real estate assets as being cyclical normality due to human behaviour labeled exuberance.

When the annual rental value of land in situ is publicly disclosed then speculation and by consequence toxicity cannot manifest. But then that is not economics. It is economic, it is not economic, and yet it is an economy, and on-with-the-show-this-is-it.

Economists are employed by the vested interests and the privileged to argue in favour of the 'dirty deeds, done dirt cheap'. Economists are anti-social anti-communal and anti-production. Speculation gravitates the production value from with their econometric if statement models. They are all taxationists, unable to concede that land is not capital therefore cannot be taxed. Land in situ remains in use, when the rate in the dollar meets the public revenue requirement of the territorial administrative budget. Unlike labour and the products of labour when the effort is taxed. Labour disappears into idleness.

Whether it be by head or by hand the product is from labour and rightfully it is the property of the producer. Else your better off producing something for yourself without going to market with the good or service. It is this corruption of economics that teaches property in land before property in wages.

Support Neo-socialist Class Warfare!

Tony Abbot described the call for a greater share of our mineral wealth as “neo-socialism”.... Christopher Pyne called it "class warfare”.... They're right!

In 2010 the Henry Review of the Australia taxation system recommended extending the existing Petroleum Resource Rent Tax levied on off-shore petroleum extraction activities. This source of public income was considered a highly efficient, effective, and fair way to ensure that all people of Australia have a better share of the commonwealth that is our mineral resources.

Although supported by mining unions, some mining companies used to receiving monopolistic profits objected to the idea to raising billions of dollars of public funds which has been specifically directed to pensions, tax cuts for small businesses and infrastructure projects. They spent $22 million dollars in advertising, forcing the government to reduce the size and scope of the rent to iron ore and coal alone.

Beyond Occupy and Towards Greater Equality

Just as 2011 will be remembered as the year of ongoing Arab spring in that part of the world, for the advanced economies the equivalent will be the Occupy movement. Inspired by the Spanish Indignados, and initiated by the Adbusters group in the Anglophone world, the movement spread to some almost one hundred cities around the world.

Whilst a multi-faceted movement it was most certainly an outgrowth of the global financial crisis of the late 2000s. More specifically however it was a condemnation of the extensive use of corporate welfare (for example in the U.S.) as a means to stablise the economy during that period with the recipients simply using this public money to improve their own financial situation, especially when matched with austerity measures to make up for the shortfall in public finance.

An understandable slogan that has resulted from this has been the comparison of the "99 percent" versus the "1 percent", along with the recognition "We are the 99 percent". There was anger at the rise of the income share of the wealthiest 1 percent of households and their political control ("Of the 1%, By the 1%, For the 1%). Whilst it is theoretically possible to increase to increase the income of a small group without upsetting the overall distribution (the Gini coefficient), this has not occurred. Overal inequality of wealth in the U.S. and China in particular has increased significantly in the past thirty years, with the UK and India also having notable recent increases.

Thus the Occupy movement was, quite sensibly, founded primarily on moral messages. Not only was there an argument of responsibility ("those who cause the problem should pay for it"), there was also a utilitarian ethic ("people should contribute according to ability"). For as much as one provides a detailed analysis of the economy with carefully grounded reasons backed by strong data, the emotional and objective reality was that people were hurting and there was a breach of a sense of fairness. It is that which inspires public action.

As participants would know the forces of the State came down hard on the Occupy movement when they could, despite a commitment of non-violence by the movement. Whilst brilliantly organised through new social media, a strength of Occupy in the public space was the use of decentralised and participatory democracy in managing local events.

In the wake of the occupations there have been, as expected, numerous articles on what the next step should be. Some have argued the need for concrete demands", others the need for the occupiers to become entrenched into the mainstream progressive organisations (and vice-versa). Whilst both these propositions are completely correct, there is also a need to look at why the Occupy movement eventually tapered. For as much as it to did generate interest and alter the political discourse for a while, the movement is essentially over for the time being. The question remains "why"?

The occupation of public space could only be maintained in the longer term if there was a genuine mass public participation orientated towards the reorganisation of society (the last chapter of Arendt's classic "On Revolution" is particularly illustrative of this need). Simply put, the political situation had not yet reached that level. Under these circumstances it was inevitable that the conservative argument of "You've had your protest, now move on" was going to gain traction. A related response was the attempt of some to turn the tactic of occupation into a principle, the "Occupy Everything" approach (there is an ironically entitled online journal of this name. In the long run, this aided critics of the movement as it increasingly detracted from the strongest message; the movement wasn't about the occupation of public spaces, it was about inequality, the mismanagement of the economy, and the robbery of public wealth.

Submission to the Independent Media Inquiry

Final Scene from Videodrome

I make this submission in relation to the recommended terms of reference if the Independent Media Inquiry (http://www.dbcde.gov.au/digital_economy/independent_media_inquiry).

There is increasing concern, based on recent experiences in overseas media, that a focus on media standards and organisations is required.

It is my considered opinion that Australia does not have effective processes to ensure that illegal or highly distorted media activities occur. The media does not always operate in the public interest, but rather presents highly partisan, politicised and often plain inaccurate coverage of events. Media regulation appears to be implemented quite selectively with minimal attention given to online publishing.

Strengthening of media regulation, primarily by an single independent media with statutory authority rather than industry-funded regulator (the Australian Press Council) and by strengthening the requirements for truth and public interest in media will greatly assist the process.

By regulation complaints submitted by members of the public on media issues should come with reduced and minimum response times. Further, when corrections are deemed necessary they should be placed quickly and with equal prominence to the original report. Such a regulation should apply to all media.

By regulation a journalists, editorials and publishers code of practise can be established with a clear commitment to media freedom within the limits of truth. This should be in addition to the current, and often ineffectual, voluntary codes of the Australian Press Council and the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance. Such a regulation should apply to all media.

I will cite the following as examples of problematic media behaviour from just the past two months.

Australia's Carbon Price Legislation: Climate Responsibility with Social Justice

Three weeks ago the minority Federal government in Australia passed a historic broad-based carbon pricing bill through the House Representatives. The bill is not yet law, but it is certain to pass the Senate in the near future and will then find its way into the statute books. Under the legislation the 500 biggest emitters of carbon dioxide, some sixty percent of emissions, will pay an initial permit price of $23 per tonne which then be determined by market value in the future. Much of the cost will, of course, be passed on to consumers (who respond with purchasing changes) and there is a comprehensive package to compensate low-income earners and pensioners etc, along with substantial tax-breaks and a very significant increase in the tax-free threshold. Four million households will be better off after compensation, six million will be about equal, eight million will receive partial compensation and seven hundred thousand households will receive no compensation for the price rises. Average households will pay an extra $9.90 per week while average assistance will be $10.10 per week.

The legislation was passed after several years of debate on the issue; prior to the 2010 election the preceding Labor government has attempted to introduce a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which was also an emissions trading scheme, but with some significant transitional subsidies, leading to criticism from climate advocacy groups and the plan eventually being shelved. After the passing of the current legislation, the opposition leader has made a "pledge in blood" to repeal it, a very improbable proposal. The following represents a review of the carbon pricing scheme, its relative effectiveness, its relationship to social justice issues and the political issues it has raised. Before that however a brief review of the science is required.

Review: Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain

Including the Civil War in Spain, Felix Morrow, Pathfinder Press 1974 ISBN 0-87348-402-9. First Published 1936 and 1938 by Pioneers Publications

Felix Morrow, a leader of the United States’ based Socialist Workers Party gives an excellent account about what was happening in Spain that was written by an eye witness who was both a participant and observer during the Spanish Civil War. He gives a detailed account about how the Stalin backed Spanish Communist Party was more interested in physically eliminating their political enemies in the Spanish Republic than fighting the Fascist menace. Morrow gives a blow by blow account about how the revolution was destroyed from the inside out. Although he has a sneaking admiration for the anarchist CNT and FAI his main sympathies lie with P.O.U.M (Workers Party), a relatively small Trotskyist Party that played a role in the Spanish revolution.

Stalin, paranoid about Trotskyism, used the Spanish Communist Party and many of the communist members of the International Brigades to destroy what he believed was the dominant threat to his rule in the Soviet Union. The Spanish Civil War was a backdrop in his international efforts to wipe out Trotsky’s supporters off the face of the planet. Once the threat from P.O.U.M was eliminated Stalin, through the Spanish Communist Party, turned his attention to the CNT and FAI. The Spanish Civil War as George Orwell pointed out in Homage to Catalonia was lost because of the Stalinists’ role in the revolution not because of the fascist counter-revolution.

More anarchist militants died as a direct result of Communist treachery than they did as a result of the Phalangists actions during the Civil War. The disappointing aspect about Morrow’s account is that although he gets his facts right about what happened, his solution highlight the limitations of a Marxist analysis based on creating a dictatorship of the proletariat through the actions of a vanguard party. In Morrow’s opinion the creation of a vanguard party was all that stood between defeat and victory in the Spanish Civil War. I find it hard to believe a man with so much insight into what was actually happening was so blinkered by ideology he was promoting the same ideas as a solution to the problems encountered during the Civil War as Stalin’s supporters in Spain were promoting.

The abolition of the state not the capture of the state by a vanguard party is the aim of all anarchists. Vanguard parties irrespective of whether they call themselves socialist or communist always put the interests of the party before the interests of the people they lead.

Felix Morrow’s pamphlets are a valuable source of primary information about what was happening in Spain during the Civil War. His analysis should be consigned to the dustbin of history. He broke with the Socialist Party of America during World War Two. I can't help wondering what happened to him and whether he changed his analysis as a result of his break with the SWP.

Try a radical bookshop or your library if you want to get hold of this firsthand account of the political machinations which led to the demise of the Spanish Popular Front government in Spain during the Civil War. Thanks to James from Frankston for lending me his copy of Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain to read and review.

Also published in the Anarchist Age Weekly Review No.951. http://anarchistmedia.org/weekly.html


A complete copy of the book is available on the web

It must also be mentioned that Eric Blair, aka George Orwell, fought with the POUM as part of a contingent organised by the British Independent Labour Party (there's a recent article on their website) - the very organisation which was described promoting an Isocracy in its founding essays.

A copy of Homage to Catalonia is available at the George Orwell archive.

Negras tormentas agitan los aires / nubes oscuras nos impiden ver / Aunque nos espere el dolor y la muerte / contra el enemigo nos llama el deber.

El bien más preciado / es la libertad / hay que defenderla / con fe y valor.

Alza la bandera revolucionaria / que llevará al pueblo a la emancipación / Alza la bandera revolucionaria / que llevará al pueblo a la emancipación / En pie el pueblo obrero a la batalla / hay que derrocar a la reacción

¡A las Barricadas! ¡A las Barricadas! / por el triunfo de la Confederación./ ¡A las Barricadas! ¡A las Barricadas! / por el triunfo de la Confederación.

Obituary: Jack Layton

John Gilbert "Jack" Layton was one of the most highly regarded progressive politicians in Canadian history. When he died on August 22, what followed was a massive outpouring of respect from different categories of citizens. Torontonians remembered his time on the city council, where he led New Democrats and independents to a controlling presence in the 1988 elections. Canadians definitely remember him from this past 2011 federal election; he led the New Democrat Party to 103 seats, more than double its previous high, and the NDP toppled the Liberal Party to become the official opposition.

What truly captures the wideness of respect for the man is the behaviour of opponents upon his death. Layton was given a state funeral, something never before afforded to any opposition leader who had not been a former Prime Minister. Rob Ford, long-time city council antithesis who is currently Toronto's Mayor, made what might be his first speech that didn't manage to grievously offend progressive Torontonians. This statement from a friend's Facebook feed sums up a more grassroots-level opinion on the matter: "RIP Jack Layton ... As a thorn in the side of my conservatives ... I would rather have won the battle at the polls rather than have mother nature intervene ... He was one election away from toppling the conservatives".

It might be hyperbole to say that he would have toppled the federal Conservatives in four years' time. However, Layton was a charismatic and resourceful political leader. His last big victory indicates such: the biggest gains were made in Quebec, where the NDP traditionally sees little success. This leap was a continuation of a previous election where he brought the seat numbers within six of Ed Broadbent's previous record. One might ask how a politician can become so effective, and the answer is found in his history and life.

Andrew Bolt on Climate Predictions

Three years ago Andrew Bolt, a political columnist for the Herald-Sun, ran a 'blog article entitled "The Worst Ten Warming Predictions". It is opportune to take stock of the predictions and to illustrate how the debate can be unreasonably skewed by those who are unfamiliar with the scientific method or are politically partisan.

This response will go test Mr. Bolt's claims point-by-point.

1. OUR CITIES WILL DIE OF THIRST

Mr. Bolt selects a number of comments by Professor Tim Flannery concerning the status of water supply in dams. For example in March 2008: "The water problem is so severe for Adelaide that it may run out of water by early 2009". Flannery made this comment in a very brief interview in the March 2008 of Jetstar magazine. In response, Bolt points out that Adelaide's reservoirs were 75 per cent full at the time of writing.

Bolt also criticised Flannery for saying "water supplies are so low they need desalinated water urgently, possibly in as little as 18 months". This is actually a truncated quote from his editorial in New Scientist. The remark was actually for Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane. As evidence against Prof. Flannery's proposition, Mr. Bolt points out "its [Brisbane's] dams are 46 per cent full after Brisbane’s wettest spring in 27 years." etc.

Bolt he hasn't given sufficient (indeed any) consideration to the fact that Flannery's remarks are guarded propositions; "may run out", "possible in as little" etc. Scientific statements should always be expressed in this form as it deals with trends and other variables may be introduced (such as the introduction of a desalination plant). Knowledge, at least to those who know that they don't know everything, is tenuous.

Further, in seeking to counter Flannery's claims, Bolt cherry-picks particular examples, rather than using trends, a tactic typical in political rhetoric. He points out that Sydney's dams at the time were 63% full after a particularly wet June. He does the same with Brisbane which had the "wettest spring" in 27 years and that Perth had its wettest November in 17 years. Such instances are meaningless in themselves (as is pointing out individual particular hot or dry months); trends are what is is important from a scientific perspective.

Left Wing Fascism: A Senile Disorder

Last weekend, 13-14 August 2011, witnessed the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Berlin Wall. It barely needs reminding that this was not a defensive or protective wall, designed to keep potential enemies out, but rather it was a prison wall, designed to keep a population incarcerated, to limit their freedom of movement. Like most walls, it wasn't particularly effective for the truly determined; during its short existence there were thousands of successful escapes, although there were also several scores of people being killed by DDR border guards in these attempts. What it did do however is create an environment where fear dominated. Prior to its implementation, fully twenty percent of the entire East German population had moved west [1]; the State had determined that this had been stopped. Does it need to mentioned that when the Wall came down people fled from the socialist (but dictatorial) East Berlin to the capitalist (but democratic) West Berlin and not the other way around?

Fascism is any political ideology that requires the suppression of individual or co-operative rights to collective ideals. This is evident in the symbolism of the "fasces" from which the name is derived; a bundle of individual sticks tied together, indicating authoritarianism and summary power. This contrasts with other social ethics, such as utilitarianism which, whilst based on a moral principle of individual liberty (as Benthem and Mill pointed out [2]), distributes felicity according to 'the greatest good for the greatest number' for specific situations.The example of utilitarianism is raised here because said ethical system is sometimes misrepresented by those ignorant of its basic precepts to justify the fascist reasoning of 'the suppression of the individual for the good of society'.

Instead of seeking to provide for the greatest number, fascism seeks to provide for the abstract ideal, the abstract 'bundle' against the real individual 'sticks' or their real collection. Sometimes that abstract ideal can be a race, or a nationality, or a class, or a particular State, or ideology, or Party, or Church, or religion. In the future we may even see particular corporations raised as the abstract ideal. It is against real individuals, and real co-operation between individuals (from which societies are truly born), and it is against liberty and democracy. Ultimately it is a fallacy of reificiation (or, as Alfred North Whitehead called it "misplaced concreteness"); it assigns a real status to abstract concepts and in doing so, suppresses those which are real. Who better to define it than Benito Mussolini himself?

"The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State - a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values - interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people." ("La dottrina del fascismo", 1932) [3]

The Crisis In Social Democracy: A Sick Rose


O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
(William Blake, 1794)

Social democracy is in crisis. Its officialdom, represented by Socialist International, won't publically state this of course. The leadership of the constituent members will put on a brave face when confronted with the proposition, alternating between flippant rejection or trivial claims of an electoral cycle. But more privately, or at the very best among its small class of theorists and intellectuals, they surely know the problem. All over the world social democratic parties are losing elections, and often dramatically. Even with the support of other, smaller left or environmental parties, there is a strong trajectory towards conservative or neoliberal parties, far greater than what has been seen for decades.

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