Secession in Australia, besides that of Western Australia? It seems unlikely, but there you go. A few days ago the issue of North Queensland seeking independence from the rest of the state was on the front page of the Courier Mail.

According to Bob Katter, North Queensland must become a separate state to save the region from economic ruin.

The fight for independence has intensified, with 98 of 100 delegates voting in favour of the motion at a North Queensland Local Government Association meeting last month.

‘‘We’ve had a gutful of the blood-sucking establishment of the south,’’ Mr Katter said.

The independent Member for Kennedy reignited the century-old debate, calling for a referendum on the issue at the 2012 council elections.

‘‘We have been economically massacred in the north ... it’s the tyranny of the majority being in south-east Queensland - the winner takes all,’’ Mr Katter said.

Mr Katter said the money earned from the daily toil of north Queensland farmers and miners was funnelled to the crowded south-east corner with no reward for those in the bush.

‘‘The money goes where the votes are,’’ he said.

One must wonder though whether there is an actual concern for the individuals up north, or if this is merely an attempt by self interested politicans to grab more power for themselves. What ever the case, as Lew Rockwell points out,

... a plurality of governmental forms—a "vertical separation of powers," to use Stephan Kinsella's phrase prevents the central government from accumulating power. Lower governments are rightly jealous of their jurisdiction, and resist. This is to the good. In fact, the whole history of liberty is bound up with the glorious results of competing institutional structures, no one of which can be trusted with complete control.

 UPDATE: Katter now says he wants Northwestern Australia to break away also.

In the video below, Indian scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of the greatest problems in education: the best teachers and schools don't exist where they're needed most. The reason this problem exists is because the state has a monopoly on schooling. It has marred incentives. Why would an individual go to a 'trouble zone', or into a rural area, for the exact same pay they would receive for teaching in a ‘trouble free' environment near a city?

How much money should teachers be paid? What are the costs and benefits? One of the many problems of socialism is both the lack of incentives it produces and the inability for central planners to get the right information to make the correct decisions. They lack the pricing mechanism supplied by the market – that of profit and loss.

What is amazing is that even in some of the poorest areas, parents are willing to spend $2 a day to educate their children, even when public schools are available.

When James Tooley first discovered low-cost private schools for the poor in urban slums and rural areas in India, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and China, aid agency officials and local government administrators did not receive the news warmly.

Most flat out denied that such schools existed. Even if they do exist, said the experts, they can’t possibly be any good. School owners that run for-profit schools in shantytowns and poor villages are just exploiting poor communities. Their teachers are untrained and poorly paid. Their buildings are cramped, dark and filthy. Worst of all, kids don’t learn anything there—they come out “half-baked,” one education official told him.

But what Tooley found, in four years of site visits and a five-country study described in his book The Beautiful Tree, throws a wrench in this familiar-sounding reasoning. Between two-thirds and three-fourths of students in the impoverished areas he studied were in fact attending these allegedly nonexistent schools, even when public options were available.

The initial problem outlined, has now essentially been solved.

Over the past few months there has been much discussion in the media about the Queensland government’s plan to "privatise" and sell off the states “assets”. The public assets that are still yet to be sold are the Port of Brisbane lease, Queensland Motorways lease and the Abbot Point Coal Terminal lease. Queensland Rail National has launched its share pre-sale registration, but the share offering has not yet been made.

The largest outcry against the governments proposals comes from the special interest groups that will be directly affected.  Naturally the loudest and most vocally organised are the unions. They're mad as hell but sadly, for all the wrong reasons.

The intuitive concerns voiced by the public are often well placed. They sense something is not right about this whole process but unfortunately guided by a public debate that offers only false choices, who can really fault them for falling into the trap of blaming the market as the mechanism that will fail, as opposed to government and state intervention which already has. As pointed out in this article, the general concern from the public appears to be that “[they] are already deeply suspicious about privatisations after electricity asset sales led to higher retail prices.”

It is instructive to assess what the energy industry in Queensland actually looks like. There are currently six government owned corporations (GOCs) in the energy sector! The other sectors fare no better, with seven GOCs in Transport. What is frightening is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Unaccounted for are the various public-private partnerships that exist. It is beyond me how someone could call this open and free competition, when nearly everything in the sector is state owned, either partially or completely.

As announced by the Treasurer Andrew Fraser in May of this year, the Forestry Plantations license was sold for $603 million. More important than the number, however, is the process and legitimacy of this so-called “privatization”. What exactly did the state sell? [1]

A closer look at the questions that often go unasked highlights the insincerity of the government’s proposals. It provides us with a much clearer picture as to what this “privatisation” really is – it’s not about the state giving up its power or control; it is merely fleecing the public yet again, this time by other means. [2]

The first question that comes to mind is: why does the state even need to sell its assets?

“Because there is a large amount of public debt”, comes the reply and good fiscal management means a balanced budget or surplus. So in order for the “managers” to achieve that, they have three options: to raise taxes, cut spending or sell off assets. Neither the first two options are attractive for the politician, as raising taxes isn’t exactly a vote winner and nor is cutting the handouts they use to win votes. [3] Instead of letting public debt get out of control, which would eventually balloon into a political time bomb we see that the Bligh government has had to grit its teeth and take this most unpopular stance of selling “public assets”, which from the point of view of the politician is far better than the alternatives.

This is the common narrative, but the unquestioned premise here is that citizens need to shoulder an increased burden to pay off a debt they didn’t create. Is there an alternative to the above “solutions”? There is – and it is appealing to nearly everyone bar the ruling political class. What is it? Repudiate the public debt. Contrary to what most people think, public debt should not be treated in the same way as private debt. [4] Murray N. Rothbard’s “Repudiate the National Debt” [5], elaborates on the alternative solution:

I propose, then, a seemingly drastic but actually far less destructive way of paying off the public debt at a single blow: out-right debt repudiation. Consider this question: why should the poor, battered citizens of Russia or Poland or the other ex-Communist countries be bound by the debts contracted by their former Communist masters? In the Communist situation, the injustice is clear: that citizens struggling for freedom and for a free-market economy should be taxed to pay for debts contracted by the monstrous former ruling class. But this injustice only differs by degree from "normal" public debt. For, conversely, why should the Communist government of the Soviet Union have been bound by debts contracted by the Czarist government they hated and overthrew? And why should we, struggling American citizens of today, be bound by debts created by a past ruling elite who contracted these debts at our expense? One of the cogent arguments against paying blacks "reparations" for past slavery is that we, the living, were not slaveholders. Similarly, we the living did not contract for either the past or the present debts incurred by the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington… Apart from the moral, or sanctity-of-contract argument against repudiation that we have already discussed, the standard economic argument is that such repudiation is disastrous, because who, in his right mind, would lend again to a repudiating government? But the effective counterargument has rarely been considered: why should more private capital be poured down government rat holes? It is precisely the drying up of future public credit that constitutes one of the main arguments for repudiation, for it means beneficially drying up a major channel for the wasteful destruction of the savings of the public. What we want is abundant savings and investment in private enterprises, and a lean, austere, low-budget, minimal government. The people and the economy can only wax fat and prosperous when their government is starved and puny.

The problem is that previous privatisations were anything but legitimate, in fact – they are merely another form of socialism masquerading under the guise of the free market. These “privatisations” are not legitimate ways to de-socialise or de-statise, as they line the government’s pockets with proceeds from stolen goods. Libertarians recognise that the government is essentially a criminal gang writ large. What the Queensland government is doing is selling assets and illegitimately keeping the proceeds for itself to carry out further nefarious schemes.

If there was to be a legitimate process of de-socialisation or de-statisation what would it look like?

There are several possibilities which have been suggested. As outlined by Murray N. Rothbard’s, “How to and How Not to De-socialize”, briefly they are (1) egalitarian handouts, where every Queensland citizen would receive in the mail a share of ownership in various previously state-owned properties; (2) the homesteading principle where “abolishing government ownership of assets puts them immediately and implicitly into an unowned status, out of which previous homesteading can quickly convert them into private ownership. The homestead principle asserts that these assets are to devolve, not upon the general abstract public as in the handout principle, but upon those who have actually worked upon these resources: that is, their respective workers, peasants, and managers”. 

And as is largely the case with the asset sale of the Forestry Plantations license,

A third commonly suggested route to privatization deserves to be rejected out of hand: that the government sell all its assets to the public at auction, to the highest bidder… But another, even more important flaw hasn't been sufficiently stressed: why does the government deserve to own the revenue from the sale of these assets? After all, one of the main reasons for desocialization is that the government does not deserve to own the productive assets of the country. But if it does not deserve to own the assets, why in the world does it deserve to own their monetary value? And we do not even consider the question: What is the government supposed to do with the funds after they have been received?

The slightly different approach for Queensland National Rail is that of a public share offering, which Rothbard comments:

It should go without saying that these ownership shares, to be truly private property, must be transferable and exchangeable at will by their holders. Many current plans in the socialist countries envision "shares" which must be held by the worker or peasant and, for a term of years, could only be sold back to the government. This clearly violates the very point of desocialization.

Although I assume the individual will be able to transfer and exchange the shares,

The Qld government will retain a stake in QR National of between 25 and 40 per cent. Until it decides upon the exact level of interest it will keep, the amount of shares being made available to the public is uncertain.

 Other than the Qld government, no individual investor will be allowed to hold more than 15 per cent of the 145-year-old company.

…which merely goes further to destroy any claim made by others that the state is actually interested in legitimately privatising the sectors and assets it once and still does control. How the future problems that arise out of this so-called privatisation can then be seriously blamed on the usual scapegoat of the free market is beyond me. Lastly, but most importantly:

A fourth principle of privatization should not be neglected; indeed, it should take priority. Unfortunately, by the nature of the case this fourth route cannot be made into a general principle. That would be for the government to return all stolen, confiscated property to its original owners, or to their heirs. While this can be done for many parcels of land, which are fixed in land area, or for particular jewels, in most cases, especially capital goods, there are no identifiable original owners to whom to restore property... The reason why this principle should take priority wherever it applies is because property rights imply above all restoring stolen property to original owners. Or to put it another way: an asset becomes philosophically unowned, and therefore available to be homesteaded, only where an original owner, if one had existed, cannot be found.

Given that Murray Rothbard was writing about the break up Communist of the Soviet Union and its satellites, property and land titles here in Queensland may have been better maintained due to the minimal respect for property rights in comparison, so the likihood that stolen property could be returned to its rightful owners is probably higher.

Thus, a true libertarian privatisation would not allow proceeds from a public asset sale to further enrich the state. It would not place limitations on the amount and nature of shares able to be purchased by citizens. Rather, it would return property and income to its rightful owners, if they can be identified. By failing to understand the principles involved, would be defenders of the free market err and make the tragic mistake of instead defending corporatism.

 

Footnotes

[1] It essentially sold the rights to a “99 year licence for Forestry Plantations Queensland (FPQ).”

Mr Fraser said Hancock Queensland Plantations, a company managed by Hancock Timber Resource Group on behalf of institutional investors had won the right to grow and harvest the trees. The Crown plantation land on which the majority of the business sits will remain in Government-ownership.”

[2] As elucidated by Walter Block in his article “Public-Private Parternships: The Worst of Both Worlds” we see that these organisations don’t even come close to representing a legitimate company as would be the case on the free market.

“Public – private partnerships (PPP) are thus part and parcel of both fascism and socialism; they constitute a partial state ownership of the means of production. As well, they are emblematic of fascism, and government is the senior partner, and its regulations still determine the actions of these public – private partnerships.

PPPs are thus a hybrid between socialism and fascism. How do they stack up against their more economically “pure” brethren? Not too well. They have the flaws of both. The problem with both socialism and fascism, as compared to free enterprise and private property rights, is both moral and economic. As far as ethics is concerned, PPPs, socialism and fascism, are all based on coercion. They are not based on the voluntary choices of property owners, none of the three. And, as economic efficiency is concerned, these three variants of totalitarianism do not pass muster either. Mises, in his classic critique of socialism, has demonstrated its difficulties, and the flaws in the regulatory (fascist) state are too legion, and too well known, to even deserve citation.”

[3] Fortunately for the tax paying citizens the Queensland government doesn’t have its very own printing press, so the hidden path of taxation via inflation is not an option.

[4] From the article, Repudiate the National Debt:

The reason is that the two forms of debt-transaction are totally different. If I borrow money from a mortgage bank, I have made a contract to transfer my money to a creditor at a future date; in a deep sense, he is the true owner of the money at that point, and if I don't pay I am robbing him of his just property. But when government borrows money, it does not pledge its own money; its own resources are not liable. Government commits not its own life, fortune, and sacred honor to repay the debt, but ours. This is a horse, and a transaction, of a very different color. For unlike the rest of us, government sells no productive good or service and therefore earns nothing. It can only get money by looting our resources through taxes, or through the hidden tax of legalized counterfeiting known as "inflation."… The public debt transaction, then, is very different from private debt… The government gets the money by tax-coercion; and the public creditors, far from being innocents, know full well that their proceeds will come out of that selfsame coercion. In short, public creditors are willing to hand over money to the government now in order to receive a share of tax loot in the future. This is the opposite of a free market, or a genuinely voluntary transaction. Both parties are immorally contracting to participate in the violation of the property rights of citizens in the future. Both parties, therefore, are making agreements about other people's property, and both deserve the back of our hand. The public credit transaction is not a genuine contract that need be considered sacrosanct, any more than robbers parceling out their shares of loot in advance should be treated as some sort of sanctified contract.

[5] “Any melding of public debt into a private transaction must rest on the common but absurd notion that taxation is really "voluntary," and that whenever the government does anything, "we" are willingly doing it.” See also Rothbard’s 'Anatomy of the State':

If "we are the government," then anything a government does to an individual is not only just and untyrannical but also "voluntary" on the part of the individual concerned. If the government has incurred a huge public debt which must be paid by taxing one group for the benefit of another, this reality of burden is obscured by saying that "we owe it to ourselves"; if the government conscripts a man, or throws him into jail for dissident opinion, then he is "doing it to himself" and, therefore, nothing untoward has occurred. Under this reasoning, any Jews murdered by the Nazi government were not murdered; instead, they must have "committed suicide," since they were the government (which was democratically chosen), and, therefore, anything the government did to them was voluntary on their part. One would not think it necessary to belabor this point, and yet the overwhelming bulk of the people hold this fallacy to a greater or lesser degree.

And by "won" I mean you and other Australians have forked out an unnecessary $13 billion extra to the car industry over the years. Some prize right? Well...

The government now has its hand in your pockets in more subtle ways, but you still fork out more than $2400 a car more than needed. This year we are paying $300,000 for each job in the business. When Mitsubishi got its last lifeline, it would have been cheaper to pay the workers for life than to keep the plant open.

... Worse, keeping assembly workers in subsidised jobs is keeping them from better jobs in areas where Australia is competitive: technology, advanced engineering and some components. Favouring domestic assembly disadvantages Australia's efficient exporters, such as mining, agriculture and services.

But what about getting around the governments measures by importing cheaper cars? Well the politicians have plugged that hole.

To make life this difficult the bureaucrats, assisted by auto lobbyists, have used that old chestnut - safety - as an excuse. Even though the government was told by its own inquiry back in 1995 that Australia should accept international safety standards.

The chief concern among auto-lobbyists and their respective clients is that of safeguarding their bottom lines against competition. The politicians are only too happy to lend a forceful hand - given the number of votes they hope to "purchase"!

The only safety issues worth paying attention to are those announced by the ancaps.

Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham (Britain's only independent university), Terence Kealey is a vocal critic of government funding of science. His first book, 'The Economic Laws of Scientific Research,' argues that state funding of science is neither necessary nor beneficial, a thesis that he developed in his recently published analysis of the causes scientific progress, 'Sex, Science and Profits.' In it, he makes the stronger claim that not only is government funding not beneficial, but in fact measurably obstructs scientific progress, whilst presenting an alternative, methodologically-individualist understanding of 'invisible colleges' within which science resembles a private, not a public, good.


Recorded at Christ Church, University of Oxford.

Terence Kealey - 'The Myth of Science as a Public Good' from Oxford Hayek Society on Vimeo.

A net "pirate" ruling may force ISPs to cut off "cheats":

"As of [the day before the judgment] the law was that the ISP really had no obligation to take any steps to interfere in the activities of its users if it was acting merely as an ISP and if it had no other relationship with that consumer other than it was a user of those ISP services," said Clayton Utz's John Fairburn.

"So what this decision does is it unwinds that to some extent and says 'Well no, you've got to look at the individual facts and in this case ISPs do have the power to prevent the infringements by terminating accounts or by sending warning notices'. It all depends on the degree of knowledge that [the ISPs] have and even though we have three judgments there is consensus on that point," he said.

..."I think that’s what they are looking for; they’re looking for either suspension or termination ultimately for repeat infringers," Mr Gurnett said.

The un-questioned premise here is whether copying is actually theft? Is there anything wrong with an individual copying something? What is stolen? Who is the victim?

The obvious and standard "answer" that comes to mind is - the content producer... they have had "value" stolen from them. They have "lost" a sale. But you do not have a right to a sale or value. The real pirates here are those using a state granted monopoly privilege.

I don't think it is necessary to go into the rationale here, but feel free to browse and watch these videos that make the legitimate case against Intellectual Property "Rights". Or search our site here.

 

Well, just about everything! Following on from my previous post about intellectual property called "Pirates Under Pressure", the below video is a great illustration of how even on its own terms - Hollywood and the big business entertainment industry fail to live up to their own standards. I present:

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

The above clip focuses on the movie industry where the point made is that:

"George Lucas collected materials, he combined them, he transformed them. Without the films that proceeded it, there could be no Star Wars. Creation requires influence, everything we make is a remix of existing creations, our lives and the lives of others."

What kind of world would it be if the above was not possible, because an individual can own ideas? Is this not what copyright and intellectual property supporters must defend? A world without Star Wars and so much more? (Edit: Oh wait, it appears George Lucas has turned to the dark side. I guess the possibility of a state granted monopoly privilege can do that to you).

The part one remix can be seen here, it is about music. There is also a better look at Kill Bill and the numerous influences Quentin Tarantino draws upon to make one of the top rating movies of all time.

It's April Fools Day but sadly the new proposal for election staff to complete incomplete ballots is not a joke.

"The move could have a major impact on Queensland contests, due to the state's high informal vote rate.

The chairman of the parliamentary committee examining last year's high number of informal votes, federal Labor MP Daryl Melham, wants to introduce a "safety net" to halve the number of votes deemed informal in federal elections.
"

The unquestioned premise here is - why is a high number of informal votes a bad thing? Unfortunately there is no way to officially determine the number of protest votes versus those who simply cannot fill out a ballot form properly.

The 'solution' to this new problem is a result of the states previous desire to make voting compulsory for the apparent reason that voting numbers were getting too low. [1]

Generally the only people who should consider this as a direct problem are the politicians themselves. The reason being their legitimacy is so strongly questioned when hardly any of the populace vote for them, even more so when the populace seems to reject the whole circus act and refuses to endorse any candidates.

Working within the quagmire that is modern democracy, a better solution - for the citizenry at least - may be a "none of the above" option on the ballot. This would seperate the protest votes from those who are unable to fill out the ballot form. The publication and formal counting of the 'none of the above' votes would also be fairly instructive as a guage for the percentage of the population who have an inclination towards freedom.

Curiously the fact which strikes at the core of those who support democracy is often unaddressed - what kind of calibre and level of decision making are you going to get from an individual who cannot fill out a ballot form properly, but is then expected to then rationally decide who would be the next best "leader" (aka ruler)?

***
[1] Evans, T. (2006). Compulsory Voting in Australia. Elections Systems & Policy, Australian Electoral Commission, pg 5. Retrieved from http://www.aec.gov.au/About_AEC/Publications/voting/files/compulsory-voting.pdf

The significant impetus for compulsory voting at federal elections appears to have been a decline in turnout from more than 71% at the 1919 election to less than 60% at the 1922 election. The Bruce-Page government (a conservative coalition of the Nationalist and Country parties) was reluctant to be too closely identified to such a proposal.

"Armed with this knowledge, let him proceed in the spirit of radical long-run optimism that one of the great figures in the history of libertarian thought, Randolph Bourne, correctly identified as the spirit of youth. Let Bourne’s stirring words serve also as the guidepost for the spirit of liberty:

[Y]outh is the incarnation of reason pitted against the rigidity of tradition; youth puts the remorseless questions to everything that is old and established – Why? What is this thing good for? And when it gets the mumbled, evasive answers of the defenders it applies its own fresh, clean spirit of reason to institutions, customs and ideas and finding them stupid, inane or poisonous, turns instinctively to overthrow them and build in their place the things with which its visions teem. 

Youth is the leaven that keeps all these questioning, testing attitudes fermenting in the world. If it were not for this troublesome activity of youth, with its hatred of sophisms and glosses, its insistence on things as they are, society would die from sheer decay. It is the policy of the older generation as it gets adjusted to the world to hide away the unpleasant things where it can, or preserve a conspiracy of silence and an elaborate pretense that they do not exist. But meanwhile the sores go on festering just the same. Youth is the drastic antiseptic. It drags skeletons from closets and insists that they be explained. No wonder the older generation fears and distrusts the younger. Youth is the avenging Nemesis on its trail.

Our elders are always optimistic in their views of the present, pessimistic in their views of the future; youth is pessimistic toward the present and gloriously hopeful for the future. And it is this hope which is the lever of progress – one might say, the only lever of progress.

The secret of life is then that this fine youthful spirit shall never be lost. Out of the turbulence of youth should come this fine precipitate – a sane, strong, aggressive spirit of daring and doing. It must be a flexible, growing spirit, with a hospitality to new ideas and a keen insight into experience. To keep one’s reactions warm and true is to have found the secret of perpetual youth, and perpetual youth is salvation."

 

Excerpted from Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty by Murray N. Rothbard.