Friday, August 27, 2010

More Rules Please

Plainly, I am unable to function as a productive member of a peaceful society without rules. If I didn't have the framework of legislation within which to operate I would be a menace to the community and to myself. I don't have the ability to determine what is right and what is wrong. I don't have the skills to exercise common sense nor do I have the power to make good choices, without rules. I need to be told how to behave because I don't know. I'm a hopeless case, a basket case. But I am not the only one. You are guilty as well. Don't cry innocent. Innocence is only found in babies whose parents quickly dilute it, not because they are abusive or even negligent but because that is the way of the world. We are all guilty and hopeless and lost. Ouch!

If we are not all as I say we are, then why do we need rules? What is the purpose of the law? Why do we need laws against murder? Against theft? This is not the place for a discussion of crime and punishment, nor is there any scope for a full discussion of human nature. Gazillions of word have been written and spoken on these subjects by people who are experts, unlike me. My point is that we do need rules and regulations for all sorts of activities. I want a law that says people should not drink and drive because that behavior is dangerous and should be discouraged by all available means including heavy legislated penalties. I want a law that says my property is not to be taken by another person without my permission. I want a law that discourages an otherwise sane man from violently attacking me because I glanced at his wife for two seconds too long. Some laws are good, and generally rules are also good but...

You could feel the but coming for a while couldn't you? But do I need a law that threatens me with a $3000 fine if I don't tell the Environment Department that I disposed of my pet frogs? If the answer is yes, then I also want the following:

A law that forces people with garages to park their cars in them overnight. I'd also like a law which prohibits the leaving of dirty socks on the floor. What about one that bans opera music? How about some legislation to compel politicians to answer questions directly? I could go on forever but I want to suggest one final law that is essential, critical even; a minimum of one in every one hundred people should be forced, under threat of punishment (although deprivation is surely punishment enough), to read the Cairns Experience - and buy Devolution: the novel.

What laws would you like to see enacted for the benefit of mankind, or just yourself? Comment below.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Not About the Election

There was a 100km long traffic jam in China which lasted for days. Ever been stuck in a jam like that? When I heard the story I began to imagine everything that would not have happened because of the people on that freeway not being able to get to their destinations. Frustrating doesn't even come close to describing the feelings associated with such a monumental impediment to the execution of their business. That's like saying that apple pie and ice cream is a passable dessert.

The news report mentioned that the people involved were making the best of the situation. That's not what I do when I'm caught in traffic. I get agitated, and start fretting about how I'm going to be late, and how as a result of my tardy arrival, the world will cease spinning on its axis. How much does what I do and when I do it really matter in the overall scheme of things? None of those poor Chinese and Mongolian motorists know that I was fifteen minutes late to work nor would they give two hoots if they did. If I tried to explain to them how important it was, and how essential my arrival was, I would be laughed off the road and out of my car, and into some lonely hole in the ground where I could anxiously contemplate my bleak future in profound obscurity.

I'm a bit stupid sometimes.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Unsustainable Arguments

Of apparent interest to some in the current Federal election campaign is the issue of sustainable population. Having dumped Kevin Rudd's Big Australia policy, the government has refocused the debate on sustainable growth, and the most pertinent aspect of this is immigration. Inevitably, because they are relevant, the twin issues of over population and alleged food shortages come to the fore. We may be all right in Australia but we are part of the global community, and therefore cannot make decisions as though we were alone on this planet.

According to the FAO, (Food and Agriculture Organisation), there is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone—at least 1.5 times current demand. In fact, over the last 20 years, food production has risen steadily at over 2.0% a year, while the rate of population growth has dropped to 1.14% a year. Population is not outstripping food supply. “

To avoid picking on individuals, I suggest Fred Smith who is a multi-billionaire. Let's say Fred lives in the United States and has a net personal worth of roughly 50 billion dollars. (Forbes magazine has 1100 names on its current list of world billionaires, by the way.)Fred deposits just 10% of his wealth into a bank account where he will earn a 5% per annum return. Excluding the compound interest factor which I can't calculate, this will generate $250 million per year. Money for nothing. It sits in the bank and earns interest. It costs $572 per year to sponsor a child through World Vision. World Vision doesn't throw cash at problems, they invest in sustainable futures for poor communities. With the interest earned on Fred's investment he could sponsor 437 062 children.I'm sure you can see where this argument is leading despite my lack of mathematical prowess.

The world is suffering a food shortage, because of the cost of food. It is a problem of distribution. I repeat what the FAO said above, 'Population is not outstripping food supply.' Two billion people live on an income of less than $2 per day and they spend around 70% - 80% of that income on food. When the price of food goes up in wealthy nations like Australia, we simply eat out less or switch to cheaper alternatives. (Generic bread instead of Helgas, for example). When the price of food goes up in the two thirds world, they don't eat. We’re seeing more people hungry and at greater numbers than before,” says World Hunger Program’s executive director Josette Sheeran, “There is food on the shelves but people are priced out of the market.”There are many reasons for rises in food prices but one of the most immoral is speculation in food community prices on the short term money markets.

The world is not overpopulated nor is it short of food resources. The problem is distribution. The higher the population density the greater the demand placed on resources. Is the answer to stop having babies and ban migration to ensure allegedly sustainable population numbers? Or should we just be smarter and more just with how we use the resources we have? Does the maintenance of high living standards for the few of us who live in affluent nations have to damn the rest of the word to the ongoing hell of extreme poverty? No, it doesn't. So what are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wolf of the PlainsWolf of the Plains by Conn Iggulden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gripping, fascinating and engaging. Easily the best historical novel I have ever read. The writing was simple and strong and the characters so well defined that I felt I knew them. I almost wanted Temugin to be my king and to protect me. The narrative was compelling. Highly recommended if you like historical novels or even if you don't. This is a very good read.

View all my reviews >>

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Being serious about the exercise of my democratic right to vote in the upcoming federal election has caused me to think more carefully than ever before about the options. More than that I have had to consider whether I really do have choices.

The Labour Party and the Coalition are the two main parties and one or the other has ruled Australia for my whole life. No other party is large enough to even win an election let alone form a government. Our system requires the winning of a majority of seats (electorates) in a majority of states. The minor parties, and independent candidates may win seats but they can't form governments. The value of independents in the parliament is a debate for another time but from the point of view of the voter, you have to determine whether the person you elect to represent you in parliament is actually going to be able to achieve anything if they are not part of the government or at least a major party.

Running my eye over the options I am left without a party I can call my own. One that truly and totally represents my point of view and one which can achieve things for me locally and nationally. When nobody completely measures up, I am forced into a choice between lesser evils. I am stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.

A vote for the Coalition gives me a government led by a man who I feel is 'not right' for the job of Prime Minister, and which doesn't like spending money until election time. Their obsession with surpluses is annoying, to put it mildly. A vote for the Greens will give me a carbon tax amongst a host of other extreme environmental policies, soft immigration policies and same sex marriages. I tried Family First, although the name is strange given that the importance of the family unit to a functional society is universally held and self evident, but they don't have policies. They have general statements of principle which I happen to agree with but they don't have any policies. Respecting Rev. Fred Nile as I do, I checked out the Christian Democrats and again courtesy of fundamental shared faith in Jesus Christ, I found plenty with which I could agree. However, their policies on drugs are too hard in my view, almost graceless and some of the CDP's rhetoric on immigration issues borders on racist. And what economic credentials do any of the minor parties have? Finally I return to what has been my default position since I began voting twenty four years ago:The Australian Labour Party.

With the ALP I have a poll driven wishy washy government which has fallen into the sustainable population trap. A government led by someone who modified her public persona and bored us all as soon as she wiped the blood off the knife. This government conducts endless reviews and commissions of enquiry but doesn't act. Their response to the Henry tax review was disappointingly underwhelming.

I need a party with the clout to succeed. The strength and courage to rip the big changes which are necessary to keep Australia the ridiculously prosperous nation that it is. I want people to be put first. I want compassion and grace. I want Christian values because those who love God and people, have positively and immeasurably transformed the world. Governments should pour resources into education, health and public infrastructure. I want a passionate and brave leader who inspires me and makes me proud to be an Australian, and who leads a government which is strong, clever, competent and compassionate.

Daryl Kerrigan might tell me that I'm dreaming but I am happy to admit to being an idealist. Is the Labour Party led by Julia Gillard whom I have always admired as a leader, what I am looking for or will I simply have to settle for second best?

Yours Truly,