Archive for January, 2015

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
C. S. Lewis
English essayist & juvenile novelist (1898 – 1963)

Je suis Charlie.

Surely in the modern world, a world of science and a world with considerable history, we should have some strong leads that indicate reasons for such extraordinary behaviour.  I hear that the profile of such young men is that they are second generation from migrant parents. The parents, probably having escaped the rigors of narrow and oppressive regimes, are apparently more secular in outlook. It is said the young terrorists don’t identify with the general populace, so why not? I believe we see similar behaviours in some groups of young people in Australia, those who see themselves as being on the outside of mainstream society. If we look to why this is so maybe we can ameliorate the problems. I hear a French commentator say that “these people should learn to understand the values of democracy.” This is a simplification that is quite understandable but goes absolutely nowhere if we wish to provide practical measures to create a more inclusive social framework. France is a country with a very rigid heirachy and exercises land use controls that would be the envy of a medieval monarch. So much so that that it is reputed that some 300,000 French citizens have migrated to England. The British environment being close to home and more friendly and flexible to business, more open to change. Not that the Brits would be a model of freedom in the vexed question of private land control.

When the Italian migrant flow slowed, in the 50s or 60s, we encouraged many Turks to come to Ausralia in company with many others unfamiliar to the majority. Affordable land and simple business procedures were factors that must have helped to integrate these great waves of migrants. In Houston Texas freedom of land use, just like it used to be in Australia, has resulted in true market prices which are around one third to half of comparable prices in Melbourne or Sydney.

Today we live at the mercy of a horde of planners and bureaucrats, in contrast to those days fifty odd years ago. These days there are many people, and not just migrants, who have little hope of owning their little piece of the country. No wonder they feel like outsiders. There is nothing, nothing that can compare with owning your own bit of dirt. Nothing is more hard-wired into the animal psyche. Even spiders guard their own little territorial spaces.

In so many ways it seems to me that our civilisation in the developed world has still to make huge improvements. The very tight land use controls being a good example of policies that continue with huge expense with little or no real objection to the enormous drawbacks. But then other examples abound, VicRoads persist with the extraordinarily difficult reverse parking test for no benefit except to the system employees. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) governs with a set of impossibly complicated rules that do nothing for the safety of flight, arguably it is a reverse outcome that results, and the system has smashed what was a thriving industry. Local government has grown itself into a  gargantuan machine that swallows a disproportionate amount of the public purse.

Much of excess government power owes its existance to our quaint adherence to the archaic notion that the monarch owns all land, where us subjects are allowed to hold it “freehold” unless government determines otherwise. Reading an adverse finding by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia, no. 424 (2014), the Tribunal states “the Applicants have demonstrated a lack of respect for the civil aviation laws and those whose professional responsibly it is to enforce them.” This  is symptomatic of  an authoritarian mindset, a mindset that pompously believes that government bodies must be respected. While we should abide by the law, respect for particular laws or bureaucrats is an entirely different matter. Note the respect between our law makers and their constant disrespect for laws enacted by their opponents. I wonder if the aforementioned AAT Tribunal would castigate Members of Parliament for such sins. Respect must be earned, and in the case of CASA and General Aviation the recent government safety regulation review demonstrated that there is more distrust than respect either way. If we are to proclaim the advantages of democracy then we’d better make sure that “a fair go” for all is a reality and not just a sentimental throw back to the greater freedoms that this country enjoyed before our governments realised how much power they could stealthily accumulate. Accumulate  without too much riot in the streets.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance and part of that price is the cost of critical introspection of our personal beliefs, our laws and our government administrators.

John Lloyd looks for strong engagement by business as an antidote to over regulation. Business people are too busy keeping heads above water for there to be much hope of this. The only sure way forward is through legislation and attitude change, a new Thatcher type leadership. Richard makes a case that employment law is the major problem. Number one I would put government land use controls, that is lack of property rights due to our archaic model that has all the final land rights invested in the Crown. This then is the basis for unlimited government power and the all too pervasive attitude that officialdom displays towards us lowly subjects. This attitude well exampled recently in an AATA judgement where the Tribunal put down the applicant for failing to respect the government regulator. In this case the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, a body that has managed to destroy what should be a vibrant industry employing thousands.