Wednesday, May 31, 2006

DDT ban to be lifted

This article originally published in The Los Angeles Times captured my attention recently:
European Union officials recently warned Uganda that it would be "taking a risk" if it reintroduced DDT.

In Kenya, flower growers say Western supermarkets are wary of the chemical, putting the nation's $US400 million ($A528 million) horticulture industry at risk. Kenya is the top supplier of fresh-cut flowers to the EU.

But African officials complain of hypocrisy on the part of Westerners, who used DDT to eradicate their own malaria problems decades ago and now push Africa to rely on harder-to-implement methods such as mosquito nets.

"The human cost of the Western policies is very high," said economist James Shikwat, director of the Inter Region Economic Network in Nairobi.
I wonder what John Quiggin would say about this?

Monday, May 29, 2006

To understand socialism, visit India

Apparently the plan is for the family to make our regular visit to India during July next year. The last time I visited India was for two months between December 2003 and January 2004. First hand experience with socialism is sobering, and made me appreciate Australia even more once I got back.

Like most socialist countries, in India it's who you know, not what you know. I don't think any Indian government has been able to provide a decent road. Nor has any Indian government been able to provide security for its citizens. You can probably commit murder in India and get away with it for the right price. In these conditions it's not surprising that Indians are more successful abroad than they are in India.

In Australia despite our high living standards, there are people pushing for further reform. And these people are willing to get politically organised. As far as I know however, in India there is no liberal party. The political apathy is immense. Probably because politics is such a grimy business, decent people are not willing to get involved. If you weren't corrupt before you ran for parliament in India, you surely will be by the time you're elected. So it's understandable that there is reluctance.

But as Edmund Burke said, 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' Sometimes, getting involved in politics is the noblest thing you can do, regardless of what the cynics may think.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Thanks to Sukrit for accepting me as a partner on the site.

It remains to be seen how much I can contribute while maintaining a presence on Catallaxy (thanks to Jason, this is my "home" blog), The Real Game, Oysterium (where the original contributors have melted away), Club Troppo, Conjectures and Refutations and The Austrian Economists (where I am not a poster but maintain a regular presence in the comments).

How to add value to this site? That remains to be seen as well, however I would like to suggest that classical liberals need to pay attention to the wider "cultural agenda" in addition to philosophy and economics which have been our traditional strongholds.

It became apparent in the 1980s when the ideas of economic rationalism gained some political traction that we could win (and have won) the arguments in philosophy and economics but still lose the war due to the left-liberal dominance in the wider culture - in the media, schools, universities, the arts, the ABC. The flight from ideas on the part of Liberal Party members, young and old, has aggravated this situation.

My response to this situation has been The Revivalist series on my website.

The first of these features James McAuley, the Australian poet and actavist: Yvor Winters, a literary critic, poet and scholar; and Jacques Barzun, a prolific pioneer in cultural studies.

The second features Barry Humphries, Liam Hudson (psychologist) and R D Fitzgerald (Australian poet).

The third has profiles of Karl and Charlotte Buhler (psychologists) and Rene Wellek (literary scholar).

The fourth introduces Bill Hutt and Peter Bauer (economists), Ian D Suttie (important neo-Freudian revisionist), also a piece on the history of protectionism in Australia and another on the role of commerce and gambling in early cricket tours.

Can I quote your opinion?

If you live in Australia and are interested in being interviewed for a story I'm developing for Farrago (the student newspaper of Melbourne University) please email me or leave a comment. The piece is an analysis of emerging minor parties, in particular People Power and The Liberal Democratic Party. If you regularly vote for minor parties at federal or state elections or if you aren’t particularly happy with what the mainstream Liberals or Labor have to offer but continue to vote for them – because all the other parties are too wacky – you’d be ideal. I’ll get around to writing the article next month after my exams but I want to line up possible subjects early. Cheers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What The Age has lost

I was browsing the Institute of Public Affairs website in search of information on internships when I noticed Tony Parkinson's essay (published this month). Parkinson actually used to write for The Age as the paper's foreign editor but judging by his by-line he has now switched to being an advisor to the foreign minister. It’s unfortunate because he was one of the few really good columnists - in my opinion anyway - at the paper, apart from Gerard Henderson who was kicked off and made a fuss in Crikey. Or maybe an advisory role is the best thing in terms of influencing policy?

The other occasionally good one is Hugh White. And Andrew Bolt at The Herald Sun is fabulous if you ever need to cite someone taking an unorthodox view on a particular issue. But my all time favourite writers are at The Australian – people like Paul Kelly and Alan Wood. Overseas, I like Thomas Friedman, Gurcharan Das and Swaminathan Aiyar. What all these thinkers seem to have in common is strong opinions developed over time and the ability to express these in bite size and easily digestible opinion pieces. Aiyar’s website in particular is a very good resource and I’ve found him to have a quite clear understanding of what a developing nation like India needs to get off the ground.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Afghanistan's interesting laws

An opinion piece titled 'The sad silence over Abdul Rahman' from The Times of India. Extracts:
If the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh proposed that any Hindu who converted to Islam or Christianity should be hanged, there would be a hue and cry. Political parties ranging from the Congress to the Samajwadi Party to the Left Front would condemn the shameful bigotry of the RSS, and rightly so.

...So, I am aghast at the virtual silence in India over the proposed execution of Abdul Rahman of Afghanistan for what his country's legal system regards as the capital offence of having converted to Christianity.

...They would rather bury their heads in the sand and emerge only when Hindu communalism is the issue. I always knew that Afghanistan's new Constitution made it an Islamic state.

...But I had no idea that its laws called for the execution of any Muslim who converts to another religion. Needless to say, the law happily permits Christians or Hindus to convert to Islam.
More evidence of the tension between Islamic law and secularism?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Economically Speaking: Why do Economists Disagree?

Why do economists continually disagree when economics is an empirical science where disputes should be easily resolvable through careful analysis? The possible reasons are discussed by Nobel laureate Milton Friedman and Professor Walter Heller in this video available for sale from Idea Channel (an excellent site for those looking to delve deeper into liberal thought)1.

Briefly covering the semantics of inflation, unemployment and other measures, this discussion between two economists of broadly Keynesian and Monetarist schools of thought provides insight into the laissez faire approach versus the more “activist” approach. Like others who follow the scientific method, economists do not have all the answers. Friedman explains how differences can arise in the time frame in which economists view economic issues and also in the emphasis that they place on certain indicators.

In other words, the philosophical value judgements of individual economists direct their priorities. Friedman argues that while results can be interpreted in different ways, the questions are essentially scientific and should be treated as such. Areas of agreement are also explored. As an example, minimum wage laws are discussed. Both agree that arbitrarily increasing minimum wages through government regulations act to crowd out unskilled workers from the job market by pricing them above the market clearing level.

The overwhelming conclusion from both economists is that economists are limited in their ability to solve “real world” problems. Their theories may be wrong, admits Friedman, and there is no “utopia” world without cyclical fluctuations. But it is argued that economists analyse problems in a way that clearly sets out the options.

1 This post is my abstract first published at

Sunday, May 21, 2006

This is why Holi can be scary

Holi is an Indian festival celebrated by Indian communities (or people of Indian origin) all over the world. Why can Holi be scary?

It's because you end up looking like this.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Welcome message

This is just a short post to welcome everyone! I won't be posting on my previous blog at Vibewire because it just wasn't working out for me (formatting issues, lack of features) and I wanted to eventually make a group blog so it's not just me ranting. If you're interested in contributing please post a comment below or email me. I will, of course, change the URL for this site to something more appropriate (how about once that happens.

About me: I spent my formative years in India and am philosophically liberal (in the classical sense of the word). I support no particular political party without first weighing up its policies. I'm currently a first year university student doing a double degree course (BA/LLB), and plan to major in political science. So make what you will of the particular perspective I will bring to issues.

And yes, this blog does have an RSS feed.