Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The defence of neccesity.

So George Bush has been using the NSA to spy on Americans. This is shocking but not exactly surprising, and so is his justification for it. He claims that it's his duty to do what is necessary to protect Americans from terrorism. But is it and is that what he's doing? It stands to reason that no job can impose a duty that exceeds it's authority. Nobody can be given a responsibility to do what they are forbidden to do. If they were they would be in a position where there was no legally acceptable choice and that's a mockery of law. So clearly since warrantless wiretaps are not allowed the president cannot have a duty to authorise them.

But what of the other claim, that he is doing what is neccesary to protect American's from terrorism? I submit that not only is this claim false but it can be proven so from publically available sources. Firstly if he was doing what was necessary to protect against terrorism he would obviously move against their main source of funding, the War On (Some) Drugs. It has been well known for years that Islamic terror groups finance themselves through drugs. This is true not just of al-Quaeda affiliates but also the PLO and Hezbollah. Non-islamic terrorists in South America are so involved in the drug trade it's hard to tell whether some are political terrorists financing themselves with drugs or drug dealers who use to terrorism to bolster their justification of being political groups. Clearly if the war on drugs was ended this would be a major blow to terrorism worldwide, yet it is not. Why? It's not like Americans aren't prepared to make political sacrifices to win the WO(S)T*. Sure some will bleat a bit and predict the world will come to an end if people get high with a different chemical than usual. However all GWB would have to do is say something about how 9-ll "changed everything" and how this is essential to preserving the lives of our brave men and women overseas yadda, yadda and it would fly. So why the reluctance?

The answer lies in what GWB believes is "necessary". It is not necessary to actually minimise violent deaths by terrorist action. Although this would be nice it's not a critical objective. To be fair I feel the same way, there are plenty of other problems that kill more people and cause more suffering than terrorism and it's rightfully a low priority for the government. What is "necessary" is to preserve the belief that the State is the answer to the problem of terrorism. If people were to come to the conclusion that terrorism is best dealt with via non-State action they might come to the conclusion that most other things are too. This would lead to a gradual unravelling of the entire concept that most of what the State does is beneficial.

This would pretty much end the gravy train for Georgie-boy. While most people would say that this would deprive him of an undeserved income this is not the important thing. It would deprive him of an undeserved social respect and respectability. At the moment people assume that people in government are both good and important. They may quibble with the occasional emphasis, like thinking the Bill Clinton is Satan's spawn because he only spends 20 times what America needs to defend itself instead of 100 times, but generally they are impressed with the government appartachiks, politicians and technocrats. They do not regard them as they do say, drug dealers, prostitutes and purveyors of phony baldness cures. If the actual effectiveness of government were to become known then people might think of them as much less. Imagine if for years you went to a doctor that believed in bleeding and vomiting his patients for all ills and perscibed lambs blood intravenously for violent mood swings. How would you feel about him after you found out that his treatments all did serious harm to the patients health and had no beneficial effects**? This is exactly the sort of reaction that the architects and builders of government efforts hope to avoid.

To prevent this it's not only "neccesary" to avoid the apperance that no government intervention is the answer. It's also "neccesary" to avoid the appearance that _less_ government intervention might be the answer. If people began to think the the government intervening less might help solve terrorism they would apply pressure to achieve this. Eventually this pressure would result in some limited reduction in some government interference with people's lives. This would likely be successful in reducing terrorism, at least to some extent. Once one positive of reform is found people will push for others. Eventually the whole edifice would dissolve.

Another reason to make sure that no reduced intervention solutions (RIS) are tried is that the government has presented it's increased intervention solutions (IIS) as necessary which they are not if there exist RISs. Since the IISs are very unpopular in certain circles the government cannot afford to have the made to look unneccesary. People are prepared to forgive the problems caused by IISs if there is no alternative, so no alternative must be found. This explains why "crises" always increase government power, because to reduce it would be to admit that the government has been submitting people to needless bother with the previous IISs. For instance suppose there was a wave of terror bombings in the UK that the police had no idea was going to happen. Now suppose someone were to suggest an end to preventive detention under laws designed to fight the IRA. The reasoning is that without the fear that their friends and relatives would be locked up without a fair trial people would be more likely to come forward with information against them. This leads to more good leads and police possibly catching the terrorists before they can strike. The government would not do this because then they'd have to admit that they locked people up unfairly not only without a good reason but without a good result. So instead a solution that increases intervention would be suggested and been implemented, and it has.

The object of the State is not in fact to do what is necessary but to make necessary thing that would otherwise not be. For instance it would not be "necessary" to conduct the WO(S)T* if the policies of various governments didn't give people reasons to try change that policy and good reason to doubt that anything but violence would do that. The State is not there to find solutions to but to avoid the solutions that would have occured without it. Without Social Security people would look after their parents, invest for their retirement or otherwise take care of the entirely predictable problem of old age. Without unemployment benefits workers would either look after each other or accept lower wages to retain employment. Without government protection people would form alliances with their neighbours to defend their persons and property. All these are what the State is designed to avoid. If such solutions take off anyone with a connection to the State will see the value of their work degraded by the comparative efficiency of these solutions. Eventually their work will be a social and even economic negative. This is what government find "necessary" to avoid.

* War On (Some) Terror
** Other calming the lamb's blood recipient by making him so sick he can't be violent.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Ways to abuse the new Australian Terror legislation, or just abuse New Australians.

Well according to Media Watch the attorney general's staff, believe that "These offences are not designed to prevent journalists from reporting in good faith.". That's great, and guns are not designed to go off accidentally and blow the users head off, but they do. So rather than consider what the new "anti-terror" laws are supposed designed to do, let's look at what they can do. Rather than consider what a government of saints would use them for let's look at what they might do in the hands of rather more human governors, to journalists who "report in good faith" or indeed to anyone else.

The following restrictions and requirements can be implemented under section 104.4, without a trial, subject only to a judge being satisfied that "on the balance of probabilities" that the restriction "is reasonably neccesary" to prevent a terrorist act, this judgement being made solely on the basis of what the police and the AG tell the court, without the person being informed beforehand of the possibility of restrictions and without his lawyer being able to challenge these restrictions until after the judgement is made:

Fingerprint the suspect, despite the fact that clearly there is not enough evidence to arrest him or get a warrant for his fingerprints (if there was why would they police need to use the new powers?). There doesn't seem to be any mechanism for the destruction of the fingerprints once they're in the system, so presumably the cops keep them. Your fingerprints "must only be used for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the order" as though you wouldn't wear gloves when you violated it after getting your prints taken. It's good to know that the cops won't use my fingerprints to, say figure out whether I touched the gun that killed somebody, even if they think I did it. It's also good to know that Santa Claus is bringing lots of presents for being a good boy, and it's about as credible. Even assuming the cops don't use your prints on the sly (and consider we're talking New South Wales cops here, amoung others) does anyone really believe that in a year's time they won't amend this so that the cops can use the prints any way they like? After all you've got the prints right there, why bother the courts with another application since we know he's someone who might contribute to a terrorist act, maybe.

Require that a person remain at "specified premises" between specified times of the day, or on specified days. In other words they can be subject to weekend (or weekday) detention without trial. Alternatively they could be required to stay in specified premises for 23 1/2 hours a day. The "premises" could be anywhere. It doesn't even say they have to be in Australia. Hello Guantanamo. "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things" like getting sent to my room without any opportunity to give a defence.

Require that a person wear a tracking device. 'Nuff said.

Prohibit or restrict a person from "accessing or using specified forms of telecommunication", that's right your phone priveleges have been revoked. I'm feeling more and more like a teenager unjustly accused of necking with the neighbour girl with each subsection. So be a good boy, give the cops what they want, sell out who they want you to sell out, tell the lies they want you to tell, and maybe they'll let you ring your dying mother. Or maybe not. Don't fuck with the fuzz, punk. And don't try competing for someone's affections with a cop. He can shut you down faster than the SEC in Martha Stewart's kitchen. You can't neccesarily call your lawyer, but you can get in touch with him by other means, just not "specified forms of telecommunication" like the internet, mail, carrier-fucking pigeon. Well that's is to say you can get in touch with _a_ lawyer. Not neccesarily your lawyer or anyone you know with a law degree. See below.

You see they can prohibit you talking to or communicating with "specified individuals" including your lawyer, even if there is no evidence that any of these individuals ever committed, planned, funded, planed to fund or in any way contributed to a terrorist act. Of course the order must "state that the person's lawyer may attend a specified place in order to obtain a copy". That specified place could theorectically be the North Pole, the dark side of the moon or perhaps we're back to Guantanamo Bay again. I don't know where a lawyer can get the order but I know where any good one will want to stick it. In between the time you recieve the order and the time your lawyer gets to where he can get his copy presumably he has to let you rot. There's no guarantee that where they send you will be any easier to get to than where the order is lying patiently for his arrival. Nor is there any requirement for the court to actually send the letter to him let alone in a timely manner.

All this might get you down, so perhaps you should bury yourself in your work. If they let you. You see they can prohibit you from "carrying out specified activities" including those you usually use to earn a living. I'm betting after a few times when you can't do your job for a week your employer will let you go. Of course that's assuming they don't just call up missing persons after you're forbidden from going to your workplace in the first place or calling the boss.

After all this you might want to talk to somebody, a consellor, phychiatrist maybe?
Well they can make a person do that, "if a person consents"? Well if it's a requirement (and that's what they call it) how can there be an opportunity to refuse consent? This one's past my above average abilities at reason. They're logic is not like our earth logic, it's more advanced (thank you Joss Whedon for that one).

I think I've shown that despite it not being "designed" for such purposes this new law can fuck up your life something chronic on no evidence that would stand up to even a mediocre lawyers challenge. They don't need enough evidence to charge you. They don't need to show that you ever did anything bad. All they need is to be satisfied on "the balance of probabilities". One day you'll look back and remember when we were a free country, and only civil matters were decided that way.

I could write on sections other than 104.4 but I can't be bothered. That chunk of obesenity allone is more than enough to justify... well I was going to say something dramatic and revolutionary, but I don't want to spend 7 years inside or whatever it says. This legislation is loaded with ways to abuse the people for the greater glory of the government, and the AG's plan is that when they do he'll swear he didn't know they were loaded. This is makes him a very bad Attorney General if he's lying, and an abominable one if he's telling the truth.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The government acts in our interest.

Well it's there in black and white, in the Herald no less (SMH 4/10/2005), "National ID system in pipeline to prevent repeat of Rau case". Thank god. All this time I feared a national ID system would be put in place to help infringe our civil liberties but now it's being proposed to prevent a repeat of the Rau case. For those of you that either aren't Australian or have been hiding under a rock for months the Rau case involved the deportation of Cornelia Rau from Australia as an illegal immigrant although she was a legal permanent resident. Throughout the affair DIMIA (the Department of Immigration, and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, because of course being here 40 minutes and being here 40,000 years* are pretty much the same thing) acted without a hint of concern for Ms. Rau's welfare. They ignored evidence that she was mentally ill, a fact obvious to everyone but government employees and/or contractors. They made no effort to establish her true identity, merely taking the word of an obviously disturbed woman. Clearly some change is needed to prevent the stress, worry and emotional damage to Ms. Rau and her family (who had no idea where she was and suspected she might be dead in a ditch somewhere). I left this blog entry for a while and in the meantime there are reports that people were held illegally by DIMIA for SEVEN YEARS. Christ even most of the Guantanamo Bay guys will have gotten out by then.

Now if DIMIA was a private organisation they would (in between court appearances for their numerous acts of bastardry) not have acted in the humane and generous way they now propose to act. Because government cares and private businesses do not. No, private businesses are cruel and heartless and would have only pasted the phone and fax number of the police missing persons bureau on the phone and fax and made damn sure that it's employees actually checked that their detainees were illegal immigrants rather than missing persons, lest they get sued off the face of the earth. They would have only done their job in the least costly way possible consistent with getting it done.

But not our DIMIA, no they want to set up a massive and intrusive database system that doubtless be extended over the years in ways that the present ministers swear it will not be used in. All this will of course cost a fortune, which will be spent because, I repeat, the government cares. They have our interests at heart. They are concerned with our welfare. Good on you John Howard for caring enough to violate my privacy and make me feel a little less of a free man, or a man at all, with every action you and your government take.

* Low esimate.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The unspeakable oath.

"We pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
No you don't. You're a child without the right or ability to pledge allegiance. Allegiance to a flag is a promise to enter into military conflict on it's behalf should that be neccesary. It is not as Barbara Dietrich pretends in http://www.jaredstory.com/pledge.html a promise "to be a good friend.". This might be it's meaning in a social context. We are however talking about a political context because the pledge is to a flag. In a political context allegiance means exactly that. It means that if the entity you pledged allegiance to is in a fight then you have to join in. No ifs, ands or buts. That's what it means, a promise to murder the State's enermies, regardless of wether said enemies are acting against you or even in a way you admire and/or benefit from. To require children to do this is both impractical and horrifyingly immoral. Does anyone believe that any of the 12 years olds that are forced to recite this pledge would make effective killers? Does anyone doubt they'd be dosed to the eyeballs with Ritalin if they showed any sign they would be?*
In addition to being stupid it's also rubbish as an oath. No judge would hold a child liable for a contract to buy a car, rent a house or procure the services of a prostitute, but the State wants them to swear to kill somebody. Why would anyone wish someone to swear an oath they did not expect to keep? At least not until they become adults.
When they mature this puts the swearer in a strange situation. If they've sworn as a child do they publically renounce their oath? If they do they face official suspicion and the condemnation of their neighbours. If they do not they are faced with the official and public presumption that they intend to keep the oath. But the oath was non-binding and obliges them to do things that may be against their conscience. On the other hand it is also (hopefully) against their conscience to go against their sworn oath. Either way they are forced to do something that they feel morally uncomfortable with.
Nor is this solely a problem with people who reject military service in general or a specific conflict in particular. By extracting the oath before their majority the State has removed from people the ability to make the committment when they are morally capable of doing so. Like someone forced to pay $100 to relieve the victims of Hurricane Katrina they no longer have the option to do so by their own free will.
Many people praise the oath on the grounds that it is a promise to do something that is noble and good. If that were so why extract such a promise before it can be legitimately made? If the cause is worth defending why not rely on the free will of the nation's citizens to defend it? If a cause does not to attract enough volunteers to defend it then might it be a bad cause to begin with? If it is a good cause and it does not attract enough volunteers to defend it is that not a sign the nation is doomed anyway? Either way a good cause doesn't need or cannot use the forced extraction of oaths, forced by violence or by preying on the vulnerability of children.
Even if the cause in which children swore was good it would still not be good to make them swear to do so. A child by definition doesn't have the capacity to swear binding oaths. They are not mature enough to realise the consequences of their actions. If someone told you that a six year old sold one of their kidneys for a years supply of ice-cream and chocolate you'd be horrified. You would think (rightly) that an adult took advantage of a child's ignorance and shortsightedness in an immoral fashion. So much more so for a child that sells his whole life potentially in this oath of "allegiance", for nothing more than a teacher's approval. Moral adults (by which I mean those whose morals have achieved maturity and also adults who are moral) don't trick children into making promises.
Now on to the practical aspects of taking the oath. A child of Ayn Rand (spiritiually of course) might ask "What's in it for me?". Only a fool gives their alliegance without something in return. But the State gives nothing to these children. Not even a promise they don't intend to keep. A medieval lord, arrogant in his power and ruthless in it's exercise, would not dare to make someone swear allegiance without offering protection in return. A vassal's oath was always accompanied by a lord's. Each promised to protect the other. But the State promises nothing. It's not "selfish" to insist on something from the State in response to the State getting you to swear to commit the most foul murders and take the greatest risks. It's entirely reasonable and neccesary if you are to look to your families interest. Most people regard looking to such interest as not only morally allowable but morally imperative. If you die in a foreign field that will be forever (fill in nation) without getting some benefit for your family to compensate for the risk and/or loss then you've let done your kin and should be ashamed.
Then there's the obscene assertion "one nation, indivisible". It is self-evident crap. A nation is made up of people associated, and what is formed by agreement can be disolved by agreement. This is obvious legally and morally because each member has the right of self-ownership. This right includes the right to leave associations subject only to the insistance of others that you keep contracts. If each self-owner withdraws his insistance the association has nothing left in it that can legally or morally compel you to stay. Of course the United States was not actually formed by agreement. So much the better for my argument, for to argue that those forced into an association can't leave it but those who chose it can is rediculous. Those forced into an association have all the rights to leave of willing participants, and more. If the "form of government" becomes a hinderance rather than a help to exercising your rights you have every right to abolish it. If you do not then the United States of America ought not to exist and pledging to it is both wrong and futile. If the "form" of the government is that it stretches over a large geographical area and that makes it harder to exercise your rights you are just as right to break it up into a number of smaller governments as you are to change anything else about it.
The pledge of alligance is not a morally uplifting and harmless exercise. It is a deceptively gained promise to defend regardless of the worth of that being defended. A promise to violate the rights of one's fellow citizens to seccession. A promise to do so in causes you have no idea you might have to support and which would horrify you if you did. It's wrong to do this to your children.

* Not that that would neccesarily hinder them in becoming such.

Security and why to reject it.

We are often told that various government actions, laws, policies etc. are neccesary for security. Whenever this justification is heard it's a signal that the proposed action is morally wrong and probably counterproductive. This essay explains why.
When a policy is justified on the grounds that it will deliver a tangible benefit, e.g. better phone service for the bush, greater economic egalitarianism, better education, reduced budget deficiets, the outcome can be judged. It's not always easy to do so but it's always potentially possible. "Security" however consists of things not happening that might not happen anyway. The difference between an excellent security system that is never challenged and a horrible one that is never challenged is almost impossible to detect. A consequence of this is that changes that increase security and decrease it are almost indistinguishable. Therefore each change in policy for "security" must simulate visible significantly increased security. This means that the changes must be dramatic and even radical even when the actual solution is inconspicuous and incremental. In addition because of the difficulty of identifying changes that increase security a lot of changes bad for security have been passed. To avoid these changes being seen as bad for security any further changes must be in the same direction, even if that is the wrong direction.
But security laws always seem to decrease freeedom. This is not explained by the above rationales. If new laws to increase security have to be dramatic and highly visible, why can't they be dramatically and visibly pro-freedom? The reason is simple, every security law needs not just a justification of it's existance but a justification of it's timing. Why wasn't the law passed before the horrible thing that made it apparently neccesary? Due to the fundamental nature of security in justifying the State the usual excuses (cost, difficulty of implementation, the previous government etc.) won't wash. Security is supposedly the primary reason why we have a State. It's not like prosperity or "freedom" an alleged side benefit, it's the main game. So to justify not previously bringing in these neccesary changes the government must find an artificial barrier, something that stopped them before but that they are gamely now trying to overcome. The most obvious scapegoats are "civil libertarians" by which they mean everyone who thinks that something less than absolute slavery is desireable. By opposing previous and proposed increases in government power they allow the government to point to them and say "We wanted to do the neccesary thing but were constrained by these namby-pamby weak on terrorist types.". They may even make the conflict seem internal; "I would have pushed through these neccesary laws but was contrained by civil liberty concerns", concerns that they now abandon when convenient.
Since every "security" law must be justified by a process like this every security" law is a blow against liberty. And a blow against liberty is in the end a
blow against security. Because only the free can have the information, the arms and the adaptability of action to ensure their own security. Only they will have the strength of character to protect themselves.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The compulsorary community.

This entry is a response to the Ross Gittins article "Let's not turn unis into shopping centres"

"Well we could start with the question of whether a university constitutes a 'community' with obligations to correct disadvantage for particular members - we could but we're not going to appearantly. In your entire article you don't provide a single iota of evidence that universities in general or in a particular case are, were or ought to be communities with such obligations. Since the implication they should is a large part of your article this ommission is either stupid or dishonest and you're not stupid. In fact there are several reasons why they shouldn't be.

1) Very few people in universities are related by blood, adoption or even marriage so one powerful aid to strong communities is missing.
2) Secondly universities have high turnover rates and thus few people with the ability to form long term relationships and trust neccessary for communities to function. It's true that relationships formed in university can last for decades and help form a community, but it's one that forms _outside_ the university.
3) Thirdly university students don't live in the same place thus making it harder to organise community events.
4) Universities have far more people in them than an individual could know. Even with an excellent memory and social skills one could have a moderately close relationship with only small percentage of the university staff and students.
5) Students already have large demands on their time and resources because they are heavily investing in human capital and thus have little left either to form a community or to provide for the "disadvantaged". Universities are supposed to encourage diversity because differing viewpoints are vital to developing new ideas and differing backgrounds help provide this. This diversity makes it harder to form relationships and agreements or get people to help each other since people are both more willing to and better at helping people like themselves. For agreements where diversity is sought the additional difficulty is a worthwhile expense. But I don't see any evidence that childcare is one of those, nor counselling. For I could not advise a Catholic who was having a crisis of faith, because I have no idea what a crisis of religious faith implies. I could learn but why should I when there are plenty of catholics who already know and are both willing and able to help? It's a bad use of resources even though the goal is worthwhile.
6) Universities are engaged in a complex task requiring specialist skills. Such tasks are usually best handled by organisations dedicated to those tasks alone to allow division of labour. This is not always the case but often. Pediatric Cardic units don't generally also perform earthquake relief.
7) The biggest argument against regarding universtities as being "communities" in your sense is the simpliest one, if they had to pay for it, people wouldn't do it. I;m not arguing that people won't provide counselling or child-care to the "disadvantaged" if given the choice, I'm arguing that they wouldn't do it through their universtity. Free market economics applies just as much to the production of communities as it does to the production of cheese, Nintendo machines, economics articles in the Sydney Morning Herald. If people want a community they are more than capable of constructing one without government coercion. Why it should suddenly be neccesary to give them free tertiary education to get them to do something they did for free for 5,000 years is beyond me. As is why a free counselling service availible only to students would have a comparative advantage over other free counselling services. Why discriminate on the basis of university entrance? From the point of view of "helping the disadvantaged" this doesn't make a lot of sense. The most in need of counselling are farmers and other people in professions with a high risk of suicide. It should be noted they are mostly male and university students mostly female. I don't say this is evidence of sexism in the provision of counselling services, but reading "The myth of male power" got me thinking in that direction.

You stated that "We happily define countries, states and council areas as communities and give them the power to tax.". Everything in that sentence is untrue. First of all I hate to speak for a minority I'm not a member of but "Who's we white man?". Before Australia was "defined as a community" there were plenty of people quite happily living in the communities they defined. They were far from happy with being included in the new institution without their foreknowledge or consent. By the way the institution is a nation-state not a community. There's an easy test, if a group is formed and maintained by violence then it's a State (capital s) if it's formed and maintained by consent it's a community. I would not be at all happy to define something as a State even if I had the opportunity (which neither I nor anyone I know ever will). Drawing a line on one side of which one group of thugs rules and on the other another is not work for which I have the talent or taste. Of course since the State was defined decades prior to my birth the point is moot. Then there's the phrase "give them the power to tax". It was given? That's strange I thought William the Bastard and his heirs and successors just took the damn thing. My memory of history is vague but I'm pretty sure it wasn't the Consultation of Hastings in 1066.

You ask if what universities do is "all that different" from what employers do. It is. Employers don't do it with my money but with their own. Employers bear the economic consequences of their economic decisions. Universities bear the economy consequences of the governments political decisions. Students don't choose universities on the basis of the student union but on how good the taxpayer funded education is. In effect taxpayers who never set foot in the universtity subsidise student union activities over which they have zero democratic control. Students not taxpayers in general decide how much is spent on maintaining "campus life" but taxpayers fund the benefit sold below cost to provide it. If government wants to fund some bizare, amoral, wasteful, homicidal and/or counterproductive enterprise* I can vote against them next election (and that's the plan). I cannot do the same for student unions.

You argue for "Ramsey pricing" but that's not what universities are doing.
The claim that voluntary student unionism will push up costs assumes that, by some economic miracle unknown in the history of the science government policy hit on exactly the right economics of scale. We don't and can't know what the results of free choice are. If we could we'd have exploited it and be millionaires, until we tried to do it again and stuffed up. As for reducing the choices availible that's what all taxes do. The difference between what is seen and unseen is that while the decrease in choice due to tax is invisible in this context the choices provided by the tax are not. To assert that there is a net loss of positive externalities is simply to assume away theose that would arise from students persuing the same goals different ways. Why is it that only goals persued with other people's money are said to have positive externalities? The arguement "the market will always undersupply positive externailities" is irrevelent unless someone else will do a better job of supplying them. It's also hardly a proven point. Markets have plenty of ways of supplying positive externalities, for instance mutual societies, charities, social pressure, business sponsorship of sporting teams etc. To argue that the market "always" undersupplies them is brave. Want to bet I can find a case where they don't? It is the statists who have a primitive, reductionist economic theory that ignores how positive externalities operate. In any case if university administrators believed that funding such activities would provide more benefits to their students or attract more full fee payers they can continue to fund them out of general revenue. This opposed by students because they have little faith that the benefits really justify the cost.

The arguement that universtities ought to be centres of "informal" learning is perhaps the weakest argument for CSU. Everywhere ought to be a centre for infromal learning, that doesn''t mean that taking money from another accomplishes that goal. In fact the net effect of subsiding such activiteis is to take away time (from people who have to workharder to pay taxes ) and people who are interested in these activities from the non-university sector. These are the two things most needed for informal learning. You haven't shown any increase in "informal learning" merely a transfer of such learning from most people to university students.

This explains why so many are fighting so that government by the uni students, of the uni students, for the uni students shall not perish from this land. It's an elitist fantasy that what is good for the chosen few benefit all. It's another that only people with degrees have something to contribute. Centreing the informal learning in university student societies feeds both myths and they feed it and all feed an elitist and centralist agenda. It is no coincidence that student societies are generally pro-centralisation. Even the so called "free market" advocates are the sort that suggest a freer market can best achieve government goals. Ironically however if I were to believe your contentions that a) university students gain most from extraciricula activities and b) most won't fund them I would have to believe they were kinda thick. Which demolishes the idea that it's a good thing to spend money teaching them anything. I do not believe that this is true (in general).

Of course the idea that we should thank CSU for all the poiticians, activists and sports stars depends on their services being worth of thanks. In the case of sports stars (you thought I was going for politicians didn't you?) I say it sin't. National sporting success creates national unity and identity, very bad and dangerous things. A collection of honest rational people is neither identical nor unified. Such qualities are only useful to tie us all to the same yoke. If you truly love your country you must prey for the defeat of it's athletes not just it's soldiers. If however you just like your sport then arranging sponsorship is (as I said previously) not hard.

The results of newspapermen being disproportionately from universities might be even more dangerous. Diversity of opinon is vital to democracy, so how many of these student editors or journos will come out for VSU? Or anything that tends to undermine the power of universities? Please don't misunderstand me, I suggest no conspiracy. I just think they (you) will act to secure that which helped them (you) , thinking that since it helped them it is generally helpful. It is impossible to know if it is without knowing what use would have been made of resources if they didn't go to universities. That which is seen and unseen agains comes into view.
The same thing that I've said about journos goes for actiivists and politicians too. Having them disproportionately come from taxpayer funded institutions distorts the debate on those institutions and probably all other taxpayer funded institutions as well.

There is a myth invented by arrogant thugs to perpetuate their rule that communities needs government help. In fact it's not even clear they need a government to exist. The ide athat the individualist philosophy is a threat to community ignores the fact that individuals created the communities in the first place for individualistic purposes. What these purposes is hazy, varied and diverse, but they had goals best satsified by the creation of a community so they made one. Groups formed by government don't tend to become communities to any great extent. Walk through a housing estate if you doubt me. To limit individual freedom for the sake of the community is self-defeating because the community interest is only a collection of private itnerests so limiting the freedom of members arbitrarily cannot serve it. It is of course possible for a net benefit to arise out of some limitations (e.g. prohibitions on alcohol in muslim communities or "dry camps", prohibitions on having girlfriends in a monastry). There is no reason to expect that government or other outside planners are better at spotting such opportunites than the community members themselves. They certainly has less motive to do so. The free market is better at creating communities just like it's better at creating for-profit firms, and for the same reason. We are better at judging our own interests than government.

* I am not refering here to the war in Iraq. Why would you think I was?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

On sympathy for the bombing victims.

My sympathy for the Londoners in the wake of the bombings was deep, it was heartfelt, it was genuine and it was sorrowful. It was that, but now it's over. It's gone, never to arise again. Why am I no longer mourning for their pain? Because you can't mourn for your own bombing dead one week and celebrate somebody else's the next and that's exactly what London did. Four days after their own were viciously and immorally attacked they commemerated their victory in WWII. Nothing wrong with that I'm glad they won too. But one of the planes flying over the crowd and dropping poppy's (given the current Bush/Blair attitude to Afghan druglords it's appropriate that RAF planes deliver such flowers) was a Lancaster. The plane that did most of the genocidal bombing of German cities that killed over 600,000 people overwhelmingly civilians. So London if you want my tears now or the next time Osama or the IRA use fertliser for non-agricultural purposes, stop glorifying your own terror campaigns.