Catallaxy Files

polymathic pontification, bleeding heart economic rationalism and liberal secularist contrarianism

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    Saturday, May 11, 2002
    Baise the OFLC: Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification (an agency which should be bulldozed come the next Libertarian Revolution along with the various industrial relations tribunals and the Department of Corporate Welfare, sorry, Department of Industry) has decided to ban Baise Moi - just before I've even had a chance to see it!

    Almost 50,000 people have seen it in the past month, but now the controversial French film Baise Moi has been banned from Australian screens.

    The film, dubbed ''a hardcore Thelma and Louise", has been screening with an R18+ rating for more than a month in Sydney and Melbourne and has taken $302,000 at the box office. But a review of its rating, ordered by the Federal Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, led to an immediate ban on it yesterday.

    In what is seen as a shift in the censorship climate, a four-member panel of the Classification Review Board unanimously decided Baise Moi should be refused classification.

    While it considered the film had significant artistic and cultural merit, the board found the strong depictions of violence, sexual violence, frequent ''actual" sex and scenes which demeaned people did not warrant an R rating. The film could not be given an X rating as it contained sexual violence.

    The absurdity of arguments for censorship are brought out in their fullest especially when a film is banned after its exposure to a wide section of the population. I went out to buy the papers this morning - as far as I can discern, Sydney hasn't quite been slouching towards Sodom and Gomorrah anymore than usual (but then some Melbournians might dispute this on the grounds that it reached the heights of Sodom and Gomorrah long ago when Baise Moi was a glimmer in a Frenchman's eye). Why, one of my colleagues went to see Boise Moi recently and far as I know, he hasn't gone around engaging in rapine in the office or violating people at gunpoint - and he is French. Bugger me silly.
    Andrew Dodge on Pim Fortuyn: UK libertarian Andrew Dodge of the excellent Dodgeblog writes in response to my comments on paleos and the distinction between Fortuyn and Le Pen:

    Besides taking my name in vain (:)P) I agree with your post about paleo-libertarians. I, for one, happen to identify 100% with Fortuyn, with the exception of the fact he is gay and a bit of a republican. However, almost all of what he said made perfect sense to me. I would be proud to call him a "fellow-traveler" in the cause of liberty. If Fortuyn was a racist or xenophone, then so I am I! I can't wait to see the left splutter when his second in command, a black man becomes a possible PM in Holland after next week's election. It infuriates me to see the bloke painted with the same brush as Le Pen or Haider. They are nothing alike, for one thing Le Pen is admitted to be a "nationalistic" socialist. I mean how can some one who calls for lower taxes and less regulation be a fascist?

    He is right, of course, to note that the glib Left will have a hard time painting themselves out of a corner if it turns out that the party they have been irresponsibly branding as 'racist' ends up winning government and making Fortuyn's successor, an immigrant from Cape Verde the first black leader of the Netherlands. Here is the profile of Fortuyn's successor and some choice extracts:

    Born in Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony off the west coast of Africa, Varela came to the Netherlands when he was six, with his seven brothers and sisters. His father found work as a guest-worker with Rotterdam's Van Nelle coffee producers.

    But when he was eight he ran away from home and went to live with foster parents. "The situation in which we lived made it very difficult for me to make any progress," he recalled recently. "I could feel that then."

    High achievement came naturally. "If you want to get anywhere in the Netherlands then you have to be prepared to practise, to try," his fourth-form teacher told him ...

    Varela - along with another candidate born in Morocco - found a role because Fortuyn was furious at being called a racist every time he demanded that new immigration be stopped. Like his openly gay mentor, Varela comes from a devout Catholic background, perhaps one reason why he was on the same side in the bitter conflict with Muslim immigrants in Rotterdam, with their bitter condemnation of homosexuality.

    Fortuyn described his number two as "a naturally gifted politician." But detractors say Varela is simply the token black and that it was the height of cynicism to say he would be minister for immigration in an LPF government.

    Yet Varela - as media shy as Fortuyn was publicity hungry - insists that his background is vital to an understanding of why he joined this most idiosyncratic of parties.

    "I'd like to inspire immigrants, but at the same time I have expectations about them," he explained.

    "With so many opportunities here in the Netherlands they have to do something with their lives."

    Friday, May 10, 2002
    The paleo-libertarians' dodgy neo-Nazi link: You remember the paleo-libertarians? The Murray Rothbard disciples with the 'more libertarian than thou' attitude who have the nerve to claim that fine thinkers and writers like Virginia Postrel and Brink Lindsey have sold out simply because they don't belong to the 'I hate my country' brigade? The paleo-libertarian seal of approval is at times handed out by idiots like Justin Raimondo who claims that both Pim Fortuyn and Le Pen are 'market nationalists'. Yeah, pull the other one, Raimondo - Fortuyn was a classical liberal concerned about integrating migrants into mainstream liberal democratic values before it's too late, Le Pen is a nationalist and a protectionist who apparently favours much more trade barriers than what France already has. How much more autarchic can you be before you stop being 'pro market'?

    But I suppose the paleo 'libertarians' would be a bit touchy about calling a spade a spade- after all a staple writer of Lew Rockwell namely Joseph Sobran, is up to his old tricks again, if he ever got off them. You see, Sobran is a scheduled speaker at the 14th Institute for Historical Review conference.

    What's the IHR, you ask? Follow the link - it's a notorious website which propounds "Holocaust Revisionism" i.e. a whitewash and apologia for the most evil totalitarian regime in history What sort of people are associated with the IHR, you might ask? Robert Faurrison, for one, and David Irving. Recognise those names? The IHR also publishes 'research' claiming that FDR deviously tricked the US into joining World War 2. So, coincidentally, does Lew The IHR castigates FDR and Churchill as 'monsters' and 'war criminals' (I suppose Hitler and Stalin were no match for these guys in the 'monster' stakes). So does Lew Then there is Lew Rockwell's Lincoln obsession - here is the 10 000th article on Lew Rockwell that compares the great Lincoln to Adolf Hitler. A bit of chutzpah, don't you think, considering that one of Rockwell's associates, Sobran, seems to be consorting with the Real Thing?

    So will Mr Rockwell now sever all links with Sobran or would he prefer to concede that he and his ilk should have no credibility whatsoever, much least among libertarians and classical liberals?
    Intolerance among refugees: The eagle-eyed Bruce Hill notes this astonishing report on what's going on behind the wires at the Woomera detention centre:

    Christians and non-Muslim minorities have been stoned, assaulted, sexually harassed and abused by Islamic fanatics inside Woomera, detention centre employees and pastoral care workers say.

    In one incident, a Christian from Iran known as Reza was partially blinded when Afghan detainees stoned Christians leaving the dining mess.

    In another incident, it is claimed that a blind man of the Sabian Mandaean faith was grabbed by a group of men, held down and defecated on. He was allegedly left locked in a toilet where he was found by moderate Muslims who freed him. The man's wife has since been harassed.

    Why hasn't this report been given more publicity? First I've heard of it. It does open up a whole can of worms for the extremes in this debate. For the Left it would seem to highlight the Right's point that the integration of this new batch of refugees is a tad more problematic than the integration of past batches of refugees - yes, people in other parts of the world have different values and not all refugees are nice guys even if they're being appallingly treated. For the Right this is a bit problematic too isn't it? Middle eastern refugees are not one faceless homogenous mass with links to Al Qaeda - how do they feel about their fellow Christians being mistreated by Muslim fanatics in the countries they fled, coming here only to be turned away and imprisoned with their tormentors?

    Thursday, May 09, 2002
    Heinz Arndt RIP: In the same week that Peter Bauer passed away, so did another notable development economist, this time from Australia, Emeritus Professor Heinz Arndt.

    Like Bauer, Arndt was born in 1915. Like Bauer, Arndt was a Jewish refugee from Hitler. Unlike Bauer, he started off as a social democratic Keynesian. He ended up in Australia. His work on international capital flows, and on the Gandhian socialism that was hobbling India's development eventually led him towards an exploration of more market-oriented ideas and his own 'road to Damascus' towards market liberalism.

    As an economist he pioneered the study of Asian economies in Australia, turning the Australian National University into a preeminent centre for research and teaching on the East Asian economies. Helen Hughes (herself the daughter of Czech Jewish refugees and also a noted Australian development economist and classical liberal) has an excellent tribute to both men in the Review liftout section of the Australian Financial Review - unfortunately it's not available online but I'll close with the last sentence in her article:

    After 50 years of debate, the views of the two economists, by then in their 70s, had come together. If the Pacific Islands had taken note, a decade of stagnation and corruption in the region might have been avoided.

    Wednesday, May 08, 2002
    Anti-terror bill savaged.

    Since the S11 terrorist attacks, governments around the world have had a pretty clear run when it comes to passing laws to combat terrorism - even where they have significantly encroached on individual freedom.

    So it is interesting to note that today a Senate committee handed down a unanimous report criticising the Commonwealth government's proposed anti-terrorism legislation. The committee identified a number of areas of concern.

    " The committee, chaired by NSW Liberal Senator Marise Payne, said the most controversial provision gave the Attorney-General of the day the power to ban organisations, raising fears that aid organisations and pro-independence groups would be threatened. ..

    …The report also found serious flaws with the bill's definition of ''a terrorist act", saying it was too wide, went further than any laws in the UK the USA or Canada, lacked clarity, and should be amended to include a reference to an intention to influence the government or public by intimidation or undue coercion..

    … Finally the committee found that because the package imposed life sentences for people found guilty of terrorism, the unprecedented ''absolute liability" provisions - meaning the prosecution need not prove the accused had any intention and removing any defence of honest and reasonable mistake - be removed."

    Just whether the Commonwealth Attorney-General takes notice of the report and makes the suggested amendments will be interesting. Certainly Labour and the minor parties will be voting against the legislation in its current form. The Senate committees criticism was unanimous and hence included criticism from within the government's own ranks. So if the legislation is put to the parliament unamended there is the interesting possibility of government members crossing the floor.

    Hopefully common sense will prevail and the legislation will either be dropped completely, or at the very least amnded to remove the most draconian elements.

    Sniff your bag sir?

    The war on drugs has taken another bite out of individual freedom, with the New South Wales government passing legislation authorising random sniffer dog searches of bus and train commuters. According to this report in the Sydney Morning Herald

    "The new regulations will allow police with sniffer dogs to carry out random drug searches on suspects using trains or buses on selected public transport routes. Searches also will be carried out at stations, on platforms or any other stopping places under the plan."

    As a libertarian and train commuter, I personally couldn’t care if people are carrying drugs on their person, so long as they aren't causing a nuisance to other train passengers. A police officer with sniffer dog is probably going to annoy me more than the thought that the scruffy looking university student across from me has some pot in his backpack..

    The other problem with the law is that rather than being truly random network wide searches, some train lines have been excluded - notably the 'North Shore' line (for non-Sydney readers - this is the train line through the wealthier suburbs.)

    Now according to the SMH article, this decision was made on the basis of 'police intelligence'. But in the interests of fairness, surely rich people should be subject to the same police bothering as the less wealthy.

    OK, so I've been had: Perry of Libertarian Samizdata points out that Tony Millard was indeed joking about his modest proposals - darned! I don't get to say that I'm more purist than Libertarian Samizdata after all. And apologies for my archive links not working. They were working before that, and before that they were not. Blogger is also like a box of chocolates (use a metaphor from a daft bloke and end up saying daft things).
    Inaugural Jack Thompson award: I hereby announce the launch of the inaugural Jack Thompson Award for Most Idiotic Hyperbole by an Individual Outside His or Her Area of Professional Competence (if any), which goes to none other than ....

    Jack Thompson

    ''When you clear-fell old-growth forests and you then burn to get rid of the rubbish and you then poison to make sure that the native marsupials don't eat all the trees that are planted to regenerate, you are looking at devastation," he said.

    ''Perhaps we are not supposed to notice it, perhaps we are not supposed to talk about it, perhaps in the face of the enormity of the twin towers and an international war against terrorism, we are supposed to turn a blind eye or not notice that our heritage is being ripped off under our very noses by a terrorism of equal proportions, I assure you, on a world scale."

    Mr Thompson said if the impact of old-growth forest was ''projected" into future generations, the consequences would be ''far greater" than those of the September 11 attacks.
    Un-libertarian samizdata: I am by no means a purist libertarian and this you can tell from my past postings. For instance I do not believe in the ideal of 'zero taxes'. I am a firmly Hayekian classical liberal or perhaps an ordo-liberal of some sort who believes in a limited government and I am prepared to pay taxes for roads, police and such like and even, yes even some antitrust enforcement. Thus it shocks me to be chiding Libertarian Samizdata of all blogs for not being purist enough but life is like a box of chocolates. Who is this bloke by the name of Tony Millard and why is he using Libertarian Samizdata to advocate subsidising declining rural industries and people unable or unwilling to adapt to changes? It seems to me the litmus test of libertarianism isn't some metaphysical belief in 'natural rights' but a recognition of the value of spontaneous order within a sustaining framework of rules and infrastructure - and spontaneous order means some degree of natural selection plus variation. If a lifestyle is no longer sustainable it should go the way of the dodo bird.

    Tuesday, May 07, 2002
    Why Australia has proportionately less extremist nuts than other countries: The ever wise Gerard Henderson explains that it's all about, essentially, typical Anglo-Saxon empiricism vs Gallic logic:

    If you are looking for ideology in a democratic society, give Australia a miss. This would have been good advice for anyone contemplating settling down under in the 20th century. And this looks like remaining the case for the foreseeable future, at least.

    Certainly Australia is not without serious debate on matters political, economic and social. It's just that the level of intensity seems less than in comparable nations in Western Europe and North America. In short, ideology has made little impact in Australia. This is, above all, an empirical and practical country.
    Peter Bauer RIP: It is tragic that Peter Bauer passed away just before the ceremony where he was to get his Friedman Prize from Cato. Nonetheless, at least he lived long enough to see the value of his work recognised. Read some tributes here and here. Let me leave you with a link to a lecture Lord Bauer delivered in Melbourne, organised by the Centre for Independent Studies.
    Pim Fortuyn RIP: Yes, the news is abuzz with the horrible assassination of Pim Fortuyn. And what pisses me off the most is that the ignorant media, not known for their subtlety, keep lumping Fortuyn with Le Pen and other 'right wing extremists' and 'racists'. For God's sake, Le Pen advocated *expelling* foreigners and regarded the Holocaust as a 'minor detail'. Fortuyn doesn't want anymore Muslim immigrants but wants the ones in Holland to assimilate better. Early in his campaign he contrasted other non-European immigrants like blacks and Asians favourably with unassimilated Muslims from North Africa - if he were a racist this would make no sense as Arabs are to all intents and purposes 'racially closer' to Europeans than blacks and Asians. Yes, he advocated a culturally discriminatory immigration policy, not a racially discriminatory one. I personally would have problems with a culturally discriminatory immigration policy even though I think it is much less illiberal and certainly much less worthy of moral condemnation than one based on concepts of racial difference - culture is after all something people can choose.

    The difference between Le Pen and Fortuyn - I don't think Fortuyn would have a problem with educated middle class Arab agnostic or atheist immigrants, Le Pen would. So Fortuyn was a cultural nationalist but there is a world of difference between that and a racist. And he had the right idea about the value of the culture he wanted to preserve - a distinctive libertarian individualist and enlightened Dutch culture - and he was a libertarian in almost all other respects as this article points out:

    Fortuyn and his allies developed a critique of the establishment notably different from those pioneered by the politicians with whom he has been compared, Jörg Haider and Jean-Marie Le Pen. Fortuyn was uncompromisingly neo-liberal. An advocate of laxer rules on euthanasia, greater drugs liberalisation, more use of the private sector in healthcare and tax cuts, he was very far from Le Pen’s hearthland politics of Vichyiste nostalgia. He may have been a “cultural protectionist” like Le Pen. But the culture he wished to protect was the Dutch libertarianism so familiar to many Britons from their weekends in Amsterdam, so congenial to him as a gay man, and so threatened, he claimed, by the incursions of Islam.

    Fortuyn’s focus on the difficulties he alleged Muslims had integrating into Western life was deliberate. He wanted to emphasise that he had no problem with multiracialism per se, boasting of his sexual adventurism with lovers of all races, and promoting a non-white woman from the Cape Verde isles as his deputy. His quarrel was not with different races, but a belief system he considered incompatible with Western freedoms.

    His approach may have been flawed and ultimately too pessimistic. Nonetheless, his name should be besmirched no more.

    Why 'asset-based welfare' is not a miracle cure: Today's Australian newspaper has a short piece by me offering some gentle criticism of Mark Latham's policy paper on 'asset-based welfare'. I would add that I think there are some worthy recommendations in his paper, most notably the Lifelong Learning Accounts but didn't really have sufficient space to say much more than what I say in that article.

    Monday, May 06, 2002
    The economics of costly information gathering: Below, Heath has linked to and discussed an article which demonstrated how *not* to explain economics, namely that flawed piece by Jacob Halbrook. I agree strongly with his judgement - some libertarians simply get carried away and let their ideology get in the way of good economics. Repeat after me, fellow libertarians - 'Just because you are a libertarian does not mean that the concept of externality is meaningless and that anyone who accepts externalities exist is a statist. Why? Because first rate economists like Ronald Coase teach us that what really matters from a policy perspective is what are the costs associated with different institutional design'. Not very catchy, I suppose but far sounder than simplistic soundbites.

    Another important concept in economics is that information can be a costly thing to acquire. The last Nobel prize winning economists got their Nobels for that insight and here is an example of *how* to explain economics well.
    The anti-Enlightenment alliance: This month's issue of the Review of the Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council has a fascinating piece on the truly evil and horrifying alliance between the two greatest reactionary and anti-Enlightenment forces of all time - the neo Nazis and the Islamic fundamentalists. As Martin Lee notes, the alliance is not all that surprising and has historical roots. After all the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (a relation of Yasser Arafat) sought an alliance with Nazi Germany during World War Two:

    The peculiar bond between white nationalist groups and certain Muslim extremists derives in part from a shared set of enemies: Jews, the United States, race-mixing, ethnic diversity. It is also very much a function of the shared belief that they must shield their own peoples from the corrupting influence of foreign cultures. Both sets of groups also have a penchant for far-flung conspiracy theories that caricature Jewish power.

    But there is more. Even before World War II, Western fascists began to forge ideological and operational ties to Islamic extremists. Over the years, these contacts between Nazis and Muslim nationalists developed into dangerous networks that have been implicated in a number of bloody terrorist attacks in Europe and the Middle East. Wealthy Arab regimes have financed extremists in Europe and the United States, just as Western neo-Nazis have helped to build Holocaust denial machinery in the Arab world. Just last year, a meeting sponsored by a US Holocaust denial group brought together Arab and Western extremists in Jordan. And after the Sept. 11 attacks, a spate of articles by American neo-Nazis and white supremacists appeared in Islamic publications and Web sites.




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