Election Time

On the eve of what will most likely be a landslide win for the LNP in Queensland one has to hope that things will get better. because even with all the nonsense about a 4 pillar economy and plans for more wasteful infrastructure spending, at least the LNP have policies in place to balance the budget and get rid of the hemorrhaging debt that Queensland owes, which alone makes them better than any of the other parties running.  It’s not going to be all sunshine and roses once Campbell’s in, but at least cuts will be made and hopefully change the window of Queensland politics towards more fiscally responsible policy. All that being said, it’s still a miserable situation and so far from the ideal that it’s hopeless comparing it. The mere fact that it is compulsory to vote should make it obvious as to how messed up the whole thing is. It’s clearly a case of the lesser of two evils here, and from all standpoints the LNP is the slightly less evil one.

Any opinions or comments on the current election are welcome.

Why classical liberals should support carbon taxes:

(A post from http://www.econstudent.org pre my involvement in ALS)

If one accepts the science of global climate change then it is clear that overall carbon emissions must be reduced. The preferred method of reducing carbon emissions or more broadly reducing pollution has been either the use of pigouvian taxes (pollution/carbon tax) or an emissions trading scheme. I have explained the basics of both these measures in my environmental economics mini-lectures http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ID6IP2-gHc&feature=youtu.be and http://youtu.be/Z6xB5b-4MRI.

In both cases the cost of the pollution is internalised and becomes part of the cost of producing the good or service in a marketplace. This moves the supply curve for the good and this results in a new market equilibrium that accounts for the social cost of the pollution. What this means is the people gaining the benefit from the carbon emitting activity have to compensate society for the impact of the carbon. This gives firms an incentive to find less carbon intensive methods of producing their goods and raises the prices of carbon inefficient activities compared to carbon efficient activities.

Unfortunately, many classical liberals have seen the introduction of carbon taxes or less directly emissions trading schemes as a further grab of economic liberty by the State thus reducing individual liberties. Based on past form this is not an unrealistic view. Since the second world war the percentage of GDP occupied by Government in all industrialised countries has increased in-spite of the fact the overall size of the their economies have grown. Much of this growth has been in the form of income redistribution with the government taxing the income from individuals work to redistribute to those group the government chooses.

However, I would argue if the tax revenues raised through pollution taxes are offset by reductions on income tax then this is moving from taxing positive externalities to taxing negative externalities. If you view labour as a good being sold in the marketplace the purchaser of that good is gaining a consumer surplus and the worker does not receive the full benefit of their work, there is infact a broader benefit to a company hiring the labour and to society as a whole. I would argue that taxing individual income is perverse when there are alternative means of raising taxation that discourage negative externalities rather than discourage positive externalities.

The argument can be made that the atmosphere belongs to society as a whole and there is a limit to how much pollution can be emitted into it before serious harm is caused. The limited amount of pollution that is sustainable is therefore a scarce resource owned by society and by it is fair to charge those who use that resource. I would argue that for society to get a compensation for the use of its property is not in contrast with classical liberal beliefs.

I believe that it is unfortunate that the environmental movement is so closely linked to groups who have economically left-wing views and those groups that would seek an expansion on the role of government. Carbon will be one of many common-resources society must develop mechanisms to achieve a socially optimal level of demand. We have the opportunity to develop a system that pays for public goods through the taxation of negative externalities, increasing personal responsibility and reducing many of the perverse disincentives of the current taxation system.

Must Watch: John Stossel’s Illegal Everything

Make the time to watch this great episode of the Stossel show on growing government restrictions in our lives, and how the average American commits three felonies a day! From police shutting down kids with lemonade stands and local governments stopping girl scouts selling cookies, to someone being threatened with imprisonment for 6 months as the planning department didn’t approve of a tree species  someones backyard, 6 years in gaol for importing some lobster tails, to a couple being fined for hosting bible studies in their homes … right down to more controversial issues of drug prohibition… this has it all and is a must watch!

So, block out 45 minutes and watch! 🙂

Libertarian of the month Award

This is an entirely new segment I thought I’d try out, my initial idea was to rank every single parliamentarian on their voting record and things they’ve said, but this way is a lot easier to adjust from month to month and politicians may one day wear it as a badge of honour.

The award is for a parliamentarian, either a Member of the House or a Senator, that has done the most to further the cause of liberty in the past month.

My original choice and now runner up is The Hon. Member for Griffith Kevin Rudd who has done more to convince people of the stupidity and futility of government than any parliamentarian who calls themselves a liberal or libertarian ever has. One has to wonder whether he isn’t secretly a libertarian, trying to discredit all the statists.

But in the past few hours more events have transpired and someone else has surpassed him in furthering the cause of liberty, and this time it seems as though it was more intentional.

So the inaugural recipient of ALS Libertarian of the month award for February is:

The Hon. Member for Wentworth and Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband Malcom Turnbull MP, for calling for a vote of no confidence against a government that has destroyed a budget surplus, increased the already mind boggling regulations on businesses, continued to roll out middle class welfare and introduced arguably the stupidest merger of environmental and economic policy ever.

A no confidence vote will mean an election, which is a great opportunity for libertarians to campaign and vote for the most libertarian candidates they can find. While the tide of public opinion is opposed to the current government the public going to be voting against the new regulations and back towards freedom. So if there is an election, we may only go from socialism, to slightly less socialism, but at the moment we should be grasping at any freedom we can get and with the entire libertarian community’s support we may even see some candidates with actual libertarian ideals get elected.

While Turnbull may not be as pure of a libertarian as most of this blog’s readers, he does know that policy has to have more than just good intentions to work, and that if a government’s policies are failing, no matter how well intentioned they are, then it is time to get rid of that government. That is a big thing for an Australian politician and that spark of common sense is why he is my pick for this week.

Feel free to use the comment section to let me know who would be the best pick for next week’s award.

Will Australia ever have a Ron Paul?

This question is one that brings a mix of emotions to Australian libertarians. For me it draws emotions of optimism for Australia’s political future, but on the other hand I feel overwhelmed by the prospect of how far we may have to go before we can boast a strong libertarian presence in Australian politics. When I ask the question whether Australia will ever have a Ron Paul, I am referring to whether Australia will ever have such a prominent representative of libertarianism in mainstream political debate. I think a better question to ask though is ‘How will Australia get a Ron Paul’.

Ron Paul stands out internationally as being on the forefront of bringing the libertarian movement into mainstream politics, but we are not fortunate enough as of yet to have such a prominent figure in Australian politics.  Perhaps Ron Paul’s greatest contribution to the Libertarian cause is the fact that he has been able to be part of the debates, giving people the world over access to the ideas of free market economics and personal liberty. Ron Paul’s success comes not from his ability to communicate his policy perhaps, but from the mere fact that he has been able to communicate his policy. I know many of you will argue that he has not received equitable coverage in his campaign, but it cannot be denied that his bid for presidency has had far reaching effects on libertarian thinkers all over the world, and if even he doesn’t receive the Republican nomination, he will have done that, which is no small accomplishment.

What has given Paul strength is that he was able to make his case in the mainstream media and political scene, which would have been exponentially harder without the backing of a mainstream party. In Australia it is almost unthinkable that a libertarian candidate could arise from the Liberal Party, arguably the closet Australia has to an economically conservative mainstream political party.

As mainstream political party members in Australia, we do not get the privilege to be so involved in process of choosing party leadership as our American counterparts. As members of a party we are expected to support whoever gets appointed behind the closed doors of caucus. The system of choosing party leaders in Australia will always favour the more populist of politicians, without even giving a platform for the rare ideological candidates to be heard. The American system is by no means perfect, but it certainly makes it possible for more ideological candidates to be heard.

There is no doubt that there is a wealth of libertarian thinkers in Australia, but there is a mixed consensus on how to advance the libertarian movement in mainstream politics and what needs to be done to get us there. If we are to have an Australian Ron Paul, it is going to come about in either from one of the smaller parties, or after a radical change has occurred within the mainstream political parties. It can be argued that if a prominent figure representing libertarianism is going to arise anytime soon, they are probably already involved in politics, and if they are anything like Ron Paul, they are earning a tenure representing a mainstream political party. Although neither of the mainstream parties are very libertarian in their policies, they do provide a framework for success, success that can give opportunities to ambitious, ideological up and comers. Working within the framework of the mainstream parties holds certain advantages that currently are not available within any of the minor parties, but the advantages aren’t as great as they are in the U.S. One thing is clear though, that for there to be a libertarian presence in Australian politics, libertarians need to make an effort to be present in Australian politics. You can argue all day about economic theory, but at the end of the day it doesn’t make us any closer to having a Ron Paul if you aren’t championing the rationality of libertarian philosophy. Ron Paul has done us a huge favour by representing the cause, but he wouldn’t be able to do so if he didn’t fight to make himself heard.