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New Year’s Eve

It was rather depressing to read the summary of the main events of 2006 in The Age today. Quite a bit of the coverage related to show business, the antics of talentless actors and TV personalities as well as the usual tedious politics and sports hero-worship.As much as I love Shane Warne I am tiring […]

The gains disappoint

Over at my misleadingly-labelled, much neglected and generally ignored Moneybags blog I summarise my investment performance on a notional portfolio over the previous 9 months.The overall gross return was 8.7% – an annual return of about 10.9% – which wasn’t that wonderful given the 19% growth in the ASX over the full year 2006. I […]

Saddam hanged

Saddam Hussein was hanged last night. Why am I not cheering? A thuggish strongman who caused so much misery but who could have done so much good. I wonder if his killing will improve things in Iraq. Somehow I doubt that the justice of the victors will prove much – I hope it does.

Update: […]

Hamilton on immigration

Clive Hamilton has a piece on congestion in Sydney and its implications for immigration policy. Responses came from Jason Soon at Catallaxy and Phil at LP.I agree with Hamilton that Australia should be seeking quality immigrants with good moral character and not riff-raff who don’t share our values. I also agree that congestion is a […]

Labor rudderless in the uranium debate

I agree with The Weekend Australian’s Steve Lewis – the Labor Party’s Kevin Rudd has enjoyed an early electoral honeymoon but is gradually showing himself to be a lazy populist. My guess is that the Australian electorate will sense that he lacks ticker and that Rudd will not be our next Prime Minister.Rudd has reaffirmed […]

Memories are made of this da-da da-da-da-da

The Xmas edition of The Economist has a survey of neuroscience. It is a useful overview which gets you to the frontiers of the area quickly. I was particularly taken by the discussion of memory. Like many (of my vintage) I worry about the strength of my own memory.The part of the brain that is […]


I am interested in the idea of placebos and of specific social beliefs – such as religion – which operate as placebos. But the most interesting modern placebos are associated with medicine. Despite the obvious huge advances of modern medicine, like most people, I am skeptical of its claimed powers. So too is psychiatrist Patrick […]

Winning the war on illicit drugs

The United Nations, 2006 World Drug Report is the most comprehensive qualitative and quantitative analysis of the global illicit drug situation. It is a 2-volume report with the first volume analyzing problems and the second providing an impressive global data base.The general message is optimistic. Over recent years humanity has reversed a quarter-century-long rise in […]

Killing Angel Nieves

The ghastly practice of killing human beings for claimed crimes is something I have always opposed. Apart from the probability that innocent people (however innocence is defined) may be put to death, killing people for serious crimes, such as murder, simply repeats the crime. Capital punishment damages societies that carry it out by cheapening the […]

Penalising drunks who kill

More interesting analysis from the law and economics, Becker-Posner blog. This time B-P address drink driving penalties. I like this blog so much because it addresses significant issues of social importance using the sort of economics any well educated person can understand.Gary Becker estimates that the cost per drunk driver arrested of drunk driving in […]

Making money on Xmas day

As Santa departs this evening for the North Pole this evening my thoughts turn to repaying the credit card debt that was necessarily incurred to keep those near and far relatives of mine in good cheer over Xmas. So money raises its ugly head here on Xmas morn – though I have been collecting information […]

Trans fats

Over at the Becker-Posner blog, Richard Posner posts on the New York City ban on trans fats (TFs). This is a possible policy for Australia (the prohibition has been introduced in some Scandinavian countries) and is of interest.Posner generally supports the ban while Gary Becker, in a separate post, opposes it. This divergence in views […]

Equity premia and the debt-junkies from Macquarie

Are the private equity moves so much discussed in the press of late – the proposed $11 billion takeover of Qantas is an instance – a consequence of equity premium issues?In short, if equity is relatively expensive way of financing firms – that relies on excessively risk-averse investors – does this mean there is a […]

Summer sloth grabs me by the throat

William S. Burroughs, the author, once formulated a ‘don’t have to do exercise’ aimed at breaking down old associations and habits of thought – he saw it as a ‘path to liberation’. I am very much in favour of breaking out of disciplined work habits. On holidays it normally takes me a week or so […]

Recruiting labour for the ADF

PM Howard has just announced a series of financial moves to boost recruitment into the Australian military from a total of 51,000 to 57,000.These include retention bonuses, possible recruitment bonuses, allowing introductory ‘gap year’ programs of 1 year service in the ADF, reducing service entry requirements and reducing the time taken to achieve entry. As […]

Qantas, Macquarie Bank & open skies

Qantas looks likely to pass into the hands of Macquarie Bank and its backers for about $11 billion or about 25 times current earnings. On the face of it the price looks very good and I am curious about the source of value – which I am fairly sure will be there – for the […]

Don’t forget Europe

The strong decline of the US dollar against the euro – it has fallen to a 20 month low – has put renewed focus on problems facing the US economy.The unsustainability of US consumptions funded by enormous current account deficits, the slowing of housing demands, continued low savings and hence the likelihood of future US […]

Citizenship test & affirmation of values

Prime Minister Howard’s citizenship test requiring those seeking citizenship to demonstrate an understanding of English and to pass a test on Australian history, culture and values is a sensible way of promoting integration and of signaling to those electing to become Australians that our society is not an empty slate – a cultural void without […]

Fires, climate change & biodiversity conservation

I have been following, with concern, the devastating fires over a huge area of central Victorian state forest. About 220,000 hectares of bush-land have been burnt out so far. Fortunately there have so far been no losses of human life and only limited private property damage – two homes have been destroyed. Last Thursday as […]

Coastal development?

The coastal town I am staying in – Ulladulla NSW – is facing conservation dilemmas. My guess is that these dilemmas arise in every coastal town on the eastern seaboard – and perhaps every area of scenic beauty in Australia (and perhaps the developed world!). Rising standards of affluence and increasing numbers of retirees mean […]