Land value tax and Indigenous Australian Lands

Many economic reformers have proposed replacing many taxes by broad-based taxes on land ownership, specifically the 'unimproved' value of land (commonly called a Land Value Tax or LVT). Advocacy for an LVT goes back to 18th century economist David Ricardo1 and 19th century populist reformer Henry George.2 While usually considered a 'progressive' proposal, it has adherents on both the left and right of politics.3 In Australia, the case for an LVT was most recently made in the 2010 Australia's Future Tax System Review ('the Henry review').4

The Henry review proposed excluding low market-value land, and the partial LVTs leveled by many state governments currently contain a large number of exceptions, including for primary production (agricultural) land. As the Henry review's proposals were mostly un-enacted, most land claimed as native title is agricultural or low-value, and native-title related payments are currently tax-exempt, whether an LVT or other taxes can or should be levied on native title (or other Indigenous) land is currently a largely theoretical question.5 As the ABS's recently released National Land Account figures show, the majority of Australia's land value is in urban residential land:6

Abortion in the United States

Many are saddened and angry at the decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization
case. As can be expected most of the anger has justifiably been directed on a principle of natural justice - the idea that a woman actually has control of her own body. Whilst this direction has broad appeal, because there is an intuitive sense that adults of adult reasoning do have an ontological command of themselves, it also does illustrate strength of Bentham's famous attack on assertions of "natural rights" as "Nonsense on Stilts"; it is ultimately the government that does determine what rights individuals have, positive and negative because "rights" exist as permissible social conduct. One may very well ask Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and John Roberts, whether they would agree to a "post-natal" abortion against their own body if it were legal to do so. Of course, if they would find such an arbitrary law a threat to their life, perhaps they would gain an inkling of how many women in the United States feel today.

Is Lasting Peace Possible?

The wise men of the establishment are again telling us that hopes for lasting peace are a delusion. They declare that human nature makes it impossible, that war is built into our genes. They point to research by evolutionary biologists that indicates our closest genetic relatives, the chimpanzees, make war. Therefore war must be part of our heredity.

"We've always had wars," they claim. "Humans are a warring species. Without a military to defend us, someone will always try to conquer us." These assumptions have become axioms of our culture. They generate despair but also a certain comfort because they relieve us of the responsibility to change.

It's true that in certain situations chimpanzees do raid neighboring colonies and kill other chimps. Those studies on killer apes got enormous publicity because they implied that war is hardwired into human nature. Most scientists didn't draw those conclusions from the evidence, but the establishment media kept reinforcing that message.

Further research, however, led to a key discovery: The chimps who invaded their neighbors were suffering from shrinking territory and food sources. They were struggling for survival. Groups with adequate resources didn't raid other colonies. The aggression wasn't a behavioral constant but was caused by the stress they were under. Their genes gave them the capacity for violence, but the stress factor had to be there to trigger it into combat.

Minimum Wage Increases, Unemployment and Inflation

It is almost extraordinary to think that, in the context of the Australian election where cost-of-living pressures are causing such pain towards so many, that there's now a debate over the minimum wage. To give a brief summary, the Fair Work Commission is engaging in an annual review of the national minimum wage. On one side, employers represented by the Australian Industry Group is proposing an increase of 41c per hour (to $20.74) and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry suggests slightly more, whereas the Australian Council of Trade Unions is arguing that the minimum wage should be raised by an additional 61c per hour (to $21.35). The Labor Party leader, Anthony Albanese, has said that the increase should be at least the rate of inflation, that is 5.1%. The ACTU is pointing out that wage workers have received pay increases under the rate of inflation for successive years, an effective wage cut.

For his own part the LNP Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, attempted to claim that Albanese's claim was an "unprecedented" intervention (which simply is not true) and responded on whether workers should be paid in the minimum wage in very couched terms ("it depends", he responded, referring to those workers in the unprotected casual "gig economy"). For what it's worth, the Prime Minister is one of the highest-earning politicians in the world, at $549,229.

Refugees Welcome in Germany - Sometimes

Posted on streetlamps all over Germany are stickers showing fleeing silhouettes with the caption, "Refugees welcome - bring your families". Some have been blacked out with felt markers or ripped partially away. The Germans have mixed feelings about refugees, as demonstrated in the earlier waves from the Mideast and the current one from Ukraine. Germany took in over two million refugees from the Mideast wars, far more than any other country. The equivalent for the US population would be eight million.

This has created an enormous financial and cultural strain in a country that historically has had little immigration. It comes at a time when poverty is increasing and social services are being reduced. The once-generous welfare state is gradually being dismantled. This financial squeeze is worsening now because of expenses for the refugees. The two million newcomers receive enough money to live on plus free healthcare, education, and access to special programs. Some cheat on this, registering in several places under different names and getting multiple benefits. Many Germans resent paying for all this with high taxes while their own standard of living is declining. The trauma of war and displacement has caused a few refugees to lose their moral compass. They do things here they wouldn't do at home.

Two-thirds of the refugees are young men, some of them convinced Allah has ordained males to dominate females. In their view, women who aren't submissive need to be punished. Since being male is the only power many of them have, they feel threatened by women in positions of power, and they sometimes react with hostility. Over a thousand women have been physically attacked - some murdered and raped and many aggressively grabbed on the breasts as a way of showing dominance. Many more have been abused - insulted, harassed, spat upon.

Peace with Justice in Ukraine

Three weeks ago, as of writing, there was a massive Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is a major event in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War that began in February 2014 when Russia annexed of the Crimea oblasts, and the eastern Donbas and Luhansk oblasts were taken over by pro-Russian forces. That annexation itself comes on the back of the Euromaidan protests following the decision of then-president Yanukovych's decision not to sign a political and free trade agreement with the European Union, instead choosing closer ties to Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union, contrary to the wishes of the Ukrainian parliament. Those protests led to the President Yanukovych being overthrown, but since then the ongoing conflict has led to at least 13,000 deaths prior to the recent invasion.

Indeed, since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Ukraine's political map has consistently shown a divide between the eastern and western sides of the country. There can be no doubt, for example, that there is a genuine desire among many if not most inhabitants of the Crimea, Donbas, and Luhansk oblasts that they would prefer to be part of Russia. This was certainly evident in Crimea where opinion polls consistently showed an overwhelming majority supported becoming part of Russia. However, neither NATO, the CSTO, nor Ukraine were particularly keen on a properly-conducted referendum on such matters (e.g., UN-conducted, international observers and peacekeepers, etc), and as a result differences of opinion were determined in a battlefield by force of arms instead. All of this was discussed in some detail in 2014 by your author; "The Ukrainian Crisis: Electoral History, Great Powers, and Self-Determination".

China: International Relations and Responsibilities

Introduction

I begin my remarks by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we are holding this meeting, the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation and I pay my respects to their Elders, past, present, and emerging. I also acknowledge we are occupying land stolen from them and that their sovereignty was never and will never be ceded.

Before diving in, a little about me.

My name is Anthony Leong. My family has had a long history with China, the Republic and then the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and fighting Japanese aggression. My family has had generational links with one of the oldest Chinese organisations in Australia, the See Yup (4 Districts) Society, as well as being inaugural members of the Australia-China Friendship Society (ACFS) some 70 years ago. As President of the ACFS Victorian Branch, I see our role as non-political and certainly not as a mouthpiece for the Chinese government.

I also have a further role as Secretary-General for the Pacific-China Friendship Association (PCFA), with membership being countries rather than individuals. In that position, I have also edited a facts and figures manual on China written by PCFA President Dr Hiria (Peter) Ottino.

The Labour Theory of Value is Commonly Misunderstood

Most right-wingers either haven’t studied the LTV, don’t understand it, or choose to deliberately misconstrue it. The typical right-wing misrepresentation of the LTV goes something like:

“Marx said that the value of a good is determined by how much labour was invested in producing it.”

In reality this is how the cost of production is determined.

The LTV is actually an amalgamation of the work of John Locke, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx, all building upon the same line of thought. This becomes apparent when laid out in an order that’s arranged to make it more comprehensible rather than being strictly chronological.

Privatizing Nature

The financial wizards of Wall Street have devised a new way to profit from Mother Nature. They’ve created a class of stocks called Natural Asset Companies that will "capture the intrinsic and productive value of nature and provide a store of value based on the vital assets that underpin our entire economy and make life on earth possible". The project was developed by the Intrinsic Exchange Group in partnership with the New York Stock Exchange, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the investment firm Aberdare Ventures.

According to the Intrinsic Exchange Group’ website, the purpose of these companies is the “conversion of natural assets into financial capital. … These assets make life on Earth possible and enjoyable. … They include biological systems that provide clean air, water, foods, medicines, a stable climate, human health and societal potential. … The potential of this asset class is immense. Nature’s economy is larger than our current industrial economy and we can tap this store of wealth and productivity.” They estimate the value of the “global ecosystem services market” at $125 trillion annually. Whilst presented as an ecological initiative (partners include the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International etc), to protect the natural environment from externalities, their objective is take away public control of the environment into private control: "The primary purpose of these companies is to maximize Ecological Performance, the production of ecosystem services, to which they have rights and authority to manage."

Education Is An Imperfect Vaccine

It can be expected that many in the anti-vaccination corner not to be particularly well-informed in matters of virology, genomics, molecular modelling, epidemiology, and associated disciplines. To be fair, most of us who are not engaged in these disciplines on a professional basis are not particularly well-informed, but at least we have the sense to understand that we are not experts. Alas, if one communicates mainstream scientific opinion one often gets the response "do your research" from people who wouldn't be able to tell you which antibody chain is first to respond to an antigen [1], let alone an ability to determine what constitutes quality peer-reviewed research compared to those that can be generously described as "dubious".

Nevertheless, one is surprised when one's interlocutor on such matters claims to be a professor at a university. Subsequent information reveals that they're actually an associate professor of psychology at a polytechnic. Polytechnics of course perform an extremely valuable role in the training and teaching of practical skills, but let's not pretend that they're research institutions. I shall be kind enough not to mention their name or the institution that they belong to, but I will raise some of the matters of interest which concur with the sort of things that one comes to expect from those opposed to vaccinations.

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