Universal Basic Income for Australia

Michael Haines has spent over 50 years working at senior levels across construction, manufacturing, and logistics. In 2011, he set up a not-for-profit to work with major companies across the property, construction, and facilities management sector, along with global technology providers, to develop a governance framework for the emerging Digital Built Environment. Its purpose is to reduce complexity, while maintaining privacy and security, to deliver better outcomes more quickly, at less cost, and with less risk.

Since his retirement in 2019, he's been working with an advocacy group Basic Income Australia. The group's aim is to have a Universal Basic Income fully implemented in Australia by 2030, to eliminate systemic poverty, and to provide a new tool to help balance the labour market, as automation, virtualization, and AI change the job landscape.

Lovelock and Capra: The Evolution of Our Climate System and the Birth of Gaia

Image by Emerald May; Reading the 2000 edition of James Lovelock’s book "Gaia, the practical science of planetary medicine" (Lovelock, 2000) one find they adopt and retain many of Lovelock's perspectives. The term "Gaia" is emotively loaded, and Lovelock had received some very biased coverage on when interviewed and when he was advocating for nuclear energy. The term "Gaia" itself can inspire mistaken impressions in many - myself included initially - as they might envisage a Greek goddess from which the name comes and dismiss it as a "New Age" delusion but it is not. Lovelock's Gaia is the most utilitarian description of our dynamic living Earth from a top-down perspective, a biogeophysical self-regulating super organism, not necessarily sentient or intelligent but the same could be said for the deluded species destroying it. "Delusion" is the nicest explanations for our idiotic (Parker, 2005) ecocidal actions.

In any case, I highly recommend Lovelock's book, as he covers the human shortcomings of reductionist individuals and the institutions they form. He defines the nature of "Gaia" as he meant it to be used in a way that should satisfy any intelligent scientist or logical mind. One must also acknowledge in this context another visionary author; Fritjof Capra and his book "The web of Life" (1996). In summary, Lovelock outlines ecological interactions that possibly underlie the evolution of individual organisms, ecosystems and the emergent non anthropocentric nonsexual Gaia – an amazingly complex, resilient self-regulating emergent system of biogeophysical systems.

The Failure of Putin's Gamble

Every day in the past months it has become increasingly clear that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is being reversed. Those who are attentive will see a familiar pattern; extensive and ill-directed Russian shelling across the frontline, numerous piecemeal incursions by Russia, especially along their western front, all of which are invariably repelled, followed up with Ukraine recapturing villages and townships with occasional well-directed counter-shelling. Recent weeks have witnessed Ukrainian forces take centres like Kupiansk, Lyman, and Borova in the north along with a large number of territories and settlements near Kherson. Russia's responses - a confusing partial mobilisation, sabre-rattling on the potential use of nuclear weapons, and a stage-managed referendum with implausible results - have not changed the reality on the ground that they are losing this war.

Putting aside the amorality of initiating an invasion of another country in the first place, on paper and viewed with an entirely instrumental perspective, it did look like the invasion was a worthwhile gamble. The Ukrainian government had shown itself completely unable to even begin to recapture Crimea from Russia, let alone the Russian-supported separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, heavily populated (Donetsk first, Luhansk seventh), industrialised, and with substantial and concentrated mineral resources. Despite this, the country was progressing well in other regards; the GDP per capita reaching its highest point in history by 2021, for example (still the lowest in Europe and with widespread corruption)

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

Encouraging Water Conservation and Human Behaviour

Image from Berkeley Water FilterWater conservation consists of activities and policies that are designed to manage a necessary and natural resource in a manner that meets human needs. It is a challenge that crosses multiple disciplines, including environmental science and climatology, geography and demographics, engineering, behavioural and resource economics, and social psychology. For the purposes of this inquiry, an emphasis is placed on social learning biases and the mechanisms of cooperation to design a feasible intervention from the perspective of the Auckland Council. Other disciplines will be allocated emphasis according to their approriateness to this central task. For example, as fascinating as various engineering contributions to water conservation might be, they are largely mentioned in this context in reference to human behaviour.

The structure of this inquiry consists of three main parts. The first is a literature review with an emphasis on existing research into water conservation behaviours. The second part is a discussion of the multiplicity of social learning biases and cooperation mechanisms, their relevance, and potential application to this intervention. The third section offers feasible solutions that can be employed to promote water conservation that integrates content from both the literature review and discussion. Concluding remarks will both summarise the content, but also offer possibilities for further research on how to integrate matters of human behaviour with those more distal disciplinary solutions that have only been mentioned in passing.

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".


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