The long race to the white house

April 26, 2015 Comments off

We are nearly two years away from the US having a new President, but the race for the white house is already heating up with several announced candidates and plenty of people positioning themselves for a run. The Democratic nomination doesn’t look very interesting at the moment with Hillary Clinton having a large lead, but even if the Democratic race heats up my main interest is the Republican Party and specifically the campaign of semi-libertarian Rand Paul.

The list of candidates for the Grand Old Party (GOP) is absurdly long… even after several people withdrawing from the race (including Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Rob Portman, John Thune, Mitch Daniels) and ignoring some of the no-hopers, it is still fairly easy to come up with a list of over 20 serious candidates. Damn. Here is my list of 20 players (+1), split into different categories, with the brackets indicating where I put them in the race to the nomination.

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Political anarchy & moral anarchy

February 28, 2015 1 comment

There is an important difference between political philosophy and moral philosophy. The former field of study looks at the question of “what is the role of government” while the latter field looks at the question “what is the best way to live”.

These questions are often muddled together, especially by conservatives and socialists who conclude that if something is good (moral philosophy) then it should be mandated by the government (political philosophy). For libertarians and anarchists the distinction between political philosophy and moral philosophy is sharp. The most famous example of the distinction comes from the pity quote often attributed to Voltaire that “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”. The “agreeing” part is about moral philosophy while the “defend … your right” is about political philosophy. Both issues are important, but before you can answer either question it is helpful to at least recognise that they are different questions.  Read more…

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Guide to saving the Liberal Party

February 28, 2015 1 comment

As a prelude, it’s worth saying that I don’t really care whether the Liberal Party is saved or not. From an outside perspective it may be better (or more interesting) for the party to implode. But the rest of this post assumes that the goal is to help the Liberal Party succeed. This was first published on my facebook page.

  • First, Tony Abbott approaches Malcolm Turnbull and arranges an agreement between the two of them that ensures the party leader (whoever it is) has party unity and a fighting chance of winning the next election.
  • This should involve bringing Turnbull into the inner circle of decision making: higher profile; more events with Abbot, Bishop and Turnbull together; more public support from conservative parliamentarians; and maybe a nominal increase in Turnbull’s ministerial responsibilities if possible.
  • Turnbull should beg and plead with his supporters to stop their leaks and backbench sniping for the rest of this year. He should also agree to never again support an ETS or carbon tax.
  • Abbott should make a private promise to Turnbull that if he has not recovered in the polls and pointed the party in the right direction by the end of the year (as measured by clear and pre-agreed criteria), then he will step down and support Turnbull as the new leader.

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The politics of fear

February 26, 2015 2 comments

The politics of fear is in overdrive. It is easy to show that people’s fear of events is often drastically out of proportion to the actual risk of those events, and one of the best examples is the absurdly exaggerated fear of terrorism.

Over the last few decades there has been an average of about four Australian terror victims per year (including Australians overseas). To put that into perspective, in an average year about 20 people die from falling off chairs, 23 die from falling off ladders, 42 die from falling out of bed, and 53 die from falling down stairs. We need a “war on falling” instead of a “war on terror”.
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Should we use price signals for GP visits?

October 4, 2014 2 comments

My suggested health reform compromise started with the assumption that price signals are useful in helping to ensure efficient and effective decisions. The question I was trying to solve was how to introduce a price signal in a way that did not disadvantage the poorest people in our society, and in that context I think my suggestion is better than the government’s current policy.

However, some people claim that we should not use price signals for GP visits… so it is worth addressing that claim. The argument against GP price signals is that they might discourage people from getting a check up, and those check ups could prevent future health costs that may well be higher.

Early detection of health problems is certainly a good thing. But that’s only half of the story.

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A compromise policy on health care reform

October 4, 2014 1 comment

In the budget earlier this year the government proposed reducing their subsidy to doctors by $5/visit, which would mean that doctors would then charge their customers a co-payment. The suggested amount for the co-payment was $7/visit, with a maximum payment of $70/year for concession card holders and children.

This policy has been widely opposed, with Labor, Greens, and Palmer all condemning the spending cuts, a large outcry from the medical industry and the left-wing chatterati, and a negative reaction from a majority of the public. If nothing changes, then it looks likely that the reform will fail in the Senate and nothing will change.

Here is an alternative (more moderate) reform proposal that achieves many of the same goals but might be more popular…

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Queensland’s boring budget

June 3, 2014 Comments off

NOTE: This article was writing at the request of The Conversation, where it was first published.

With the release of their plan to sell and lease some assets after the next election, the state government has shifted attention away from their budget. Though in truth, it would have been quite easy to distract people from this budget, because there is nothing new.

This is a boring budget.

We already knew that the ever-elusive budget surplus had disappeared. Two years ago I commented in The Conversation that: “The forecast for a fiscal surplus in 2014/15 is nice, but it is hard to take long-term budget predictions too seriously” and also that “it is easy to predict future austerity and surpluses, but it is harder to actually make it happen”. Time has justified that skepticism. The government’s original estimate for 2014/15 was a $0.7 billion surplus, but they are now expecting a $2.3 billion deficit.

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