Harry Clarke On economics, politics & other things

September 19, 2013

Daft Coalition economics 3: Paid parental leave

Filed under: children,Coalition economics — hc @ 7:05 pm

The word “daft” here needs to be qualified.  It is certainly daft in the restricted sense that it is a substantial non-means-tested handout made at a time when the Coalition is spreading stories about a deficit and debt crisis.   Given that this crisis is largely a myth this type of objection probably isn’t that serious. It does however remain an expensive policy even if it is funded by a transfer from large Australian firms.  The policy isn’t unconventional in the sense that, of the 34 countries in the OECD 33 have such parental leave policies.  It is unconventional in the sense that it is exceedingly generous providing over 6 months a full $75,000 in benefits to a woman earning $150,000 per year. This is among the highest level of benefits provided in any country. The policy is daft in the sense that its non-means-tested character is inconsistent with the claimed stance of the Coalition to scale back middle-class welfare.

The main reason that I think this policy satisfies the criterion for being daft is that it creates a bias toward parents (generally mothers) simply because they have children.  This is not a transfer made on the basis of need or poverty since it is not means tested. Most benefits go to those women who earn a lot.  Having a child is not an unexpected burden for parents but a choice.  Nor is it an economically sensible way of boosting “workforce participation”.

Transfers should be directed to the poor not to those who seek to have children.

June 3, 2010

Depraved men

Filed under: children,sex — hc @ 4:50 pm

Nothing arouses anger in the community more immediately than child sex abuse.  As a parent – and simply as a concerned citizen –  I go along with such anger.  Children should never be sex objects. If people’s tastes/preferences drift in this direction they must learn to restrain them – preference alone is never a justification for totally abhorrent actions.  If actions are not restricted then those taking these actions should face severe punishment including jail. (more…)

October 5, 2008

The bigots are at it again – Henson seeking photographic subjects

Filed under: art,children — hc @ 6:03 pm

The artist Bill Henson’s visit to a school to find young children he could potentially photograph is entirely innocent and the hysteria being generated by all sides of politics about it should stop.  What is happening is a Salem-type witch-hunt cloaked by claims of ‘protecting children’. Now the unfortunate school master who apparently approved the visit is being persecuted.  There is no connection between the attractive art work produced by Henson and pornography and no link between  artistic interest in photographing children and pedophilia - the association being suggested by the bigots.  Henson is an artist who makes us aware of the ambiguous beauty of sexually immature children.  This is not something to suppress but something that, as a community, we should seek to understand.

It is unambiguously wrong to treat young children as sexual play-things but this is no argument for promoting hysteria about images of less than fully mature human forms who are of artistic interest. Moreover, to condemn an artist for openly seeking potential models – with both individual and parental approval – is unbalanced hysteria.

Liz Conor made perceptive remarks about the previous bout of Henson hysteria.

Bigots such as the anonymous Currency Lad make their usual sorts of claims. They apparently see the issue as one of ‘children’s welfare’. I think it is really their own narrow view of the world and possibly their upbringing.  What creates their fears? Tim Blair in an astonishing piece seems pleased that the principal concerned has apparently been sacked.

What children have been harmed by Henson in any way?  What harm is there in openly seeking subjects for photography?

Is it not true that children are beautiful and their bodies worthy of artistic interpretation and portrayal? Is the only response to Henson’s art that which might be suggested by a police force or a criminal prosecutor? People who see things in this way should examine their own visions and guilts. Even if their desire is to protect children they do more harm than good by suggesting that merely portraying the human form is something wicked and to be eradicated. These bigots diminish us all.

Update: Peter Craven gets it right – Zealots rule.  Julia Gillard is more stupid than usual – it sends a shudder up her spine to think that people might visit a school to look at children.

March 24, 2008

Maternity economics

Filed under: children,economics,women — hc @ 1:55 am

In advance of the Productivity Commission report being released Melbourne’s Pravda has come out strongly in support of paid maternity leave for all ‘working’ women with a front-page editorial (it could never be mistaken for a news-story) written by two concerned sensitive femmes and, luckily for them, a supportive article by Pru Goward who is miffed previous governments did not endorse her scheme, a backup story on two struggling mums and a mainstream editorial further on. Pravda takes its role of educating the ignorant masses of Victoria seriously although perhaps here with a certain amount of overkill.

The concerned femmes reject waiting for the PC report on the grounds that: ‘Disappointed women’s equity activists [they don’t specify who these are] see this as a delaying tactic’.

This is trash journalism at its worst. Indeed the story itself points out the complexity of the PC inquiry:

‘The terms of reference include exploring what employers now pay; it will also identify pay models and their interaction with social welfare systems; assess the cost and benefits to business; examine women’s workforce participation, employment and earnings; investigate post-birth health of the mother and development of children from newborns to two years; and analyse financial pressures on families’.

Pravda seems (I am unsure) to want extended leave provision funded from the public purse at some fixed percentage of salary and they don’t like the baby bonus (BB). It is a bit non-specific since when it comes to details they are, well, vague.

If this is Pravda’s advocated policy it is not a self-evidently good thing at all. I think we should wait before the PC inquiry reports before making up our minds. First, it seems to me that, as a matter of course, parents should save to provide a decent environment for their newly-born while one parent takes unpaid leave. The government has already taken over our task of saving for our old age by compulsory superannuation and now is being urged to take away from us any need to save for large consumption and income-depleting events such as having a child. It is the nanny-state gone bananas.

The chorus from the fruitcake left will in unison say – ‘what about the poor and ‘working families’’(to use a treasured Ruddism). Well economic theory is clear on this. Give them income if they need income but don’t meet their income needs through paid maternity leave.

Second, while the current baby bonus is regressive the scheme proposed by Pravda is even more so. With a fixed proportional payout per worker a lawyer earning $200,000 per year who gives birth would get 5 times the benefits a factory worker taking home $40,000 who does the same. Do the rich sheila’s kids provide more social externalities than the battler? I don’t see it.

Third, one can ask, why the payment? The editorial thunders:

‘First, it is not about who pays — clearly, it should not be a direct cost to employers, but accepted as a national responsibility. Taxpayers who paid for maternity leave would ultimately benefit because they would retain vital members of the workforce and allow them to produce the next generation of Australians at a time when fertility rates are low. It makes sense to subsidise women to have families, rather than to penalise them for what comes naturally. If a generation of working women sacrifice motherhood to preserve jobs and careers, it will cost us all’.

This suggests that, giving birth provides an external benefit to the community. But if that is the case then why restrict the payment to working women? Why not give a baby bonus type payment to all women including stay-at-home mums. An enhanced baby bonus, perhaps means tested and perhaps coupled with the right to unpaid leave for working mothers, seems a better suggestion than Pravda’s suggested policy. (By the way I disbelieve the proposition that enhancing the bonus would lead to significant costs of mothers delaying delivery as Joshua Gans and Andrew Leigh apparently do).

These articles and policy recommendations are, as I say, trash journalism from what is becoming Australia’s worst daily newspaper. Pravda has no hesitation in pushing any daft fashionable leftwing political causes its nitwit journalists believe in but is short on analysis of the consequences of its endorsements.

July 11, 2007

Taliban morality

Filed under: children — hc @ 12:46 am

Afghanistan. 10 schoolgirls shot at by machinegunners as they go home from school. Two die. Their crime – being female and going to school.

Don’t get angry or feel sad – its a matter of appreciating the distinctive cultural perspectives, tribal and religious values of this ancient civilisation. We’ve discussed this before.


‘With their teacher absent, 10 students were allowed to leave school early. These were the girls the gunmen saw first, 10 easy targets walking hand-in-hand through the blue metal gate and on to the winding dirt road.

The staccato of machine-gun fire pelted through the stillness. A 13-year-old named Shukria was hit in the arm and the back, and then teetered into the soft brown of an adjacent wheat field.

Zarmina, her 12-year-old sister, ran to her side, listening to the wounded girl’s precious breath and trying to help her stand.

But Shukria was too heavy to lift, and the two gunmen, sitting astride a single motorbike, sped closer.

As Zarmina scurried away, the men took a more studied aim at those they already had shot, killing Shukria with bullets to her stomach and heart. Then the attackers seemed to succumb to the frenzy they had begun, forsaking the motorbike and fleeing on foot in a panic, two bobbing heads — one tucked into a helmet, the other swaddled by a handkerchief — vanishing amid the earthen color of the wheat’.

Is this what David Hicks and his Jihadist heroes were fighting for?

July 10, 2007

Smoking addiction among kids

Filed under: children,smoking — hc @ 9:10 pm

The Age discusses a report by Joseph DiFranza et al (2007) suggesting that young kids – 12 to 13 year olds – get addicted very quickly to cigarettes.

The claim is that some get addicted within a day or so of initiating smoking and 25% within a month. Kids can get addicted to smoking – in the sense of developing a compulsion to use – even when they are consuming much less than an average of one cigarette per day. Moreover, the first smoke can be dangerous.

The work in some respects boosts earlier findings along the same line. The authors put a fair bit of effort into meaningfully characterising the idea of dependence. Thus addiction is not necessarily a slow and gradual process – especially among the young.

This is a somewhat surprising report but not completely so given the strong impact we know nicotine has on the brain chemistry of youth. We know that the earlier people smoke the harder it is to eventually quit. We also know that disruptions to brain development accompany nicotine use occur up to age 25. It is important for young kids not to smoke at all.

June 30, 2007

John Ashfield aged 6

Filed under: children — hc @ 8:57 pm

This story damaged my day. Why is someone from the Department of Community Services not in jail? Why the need to suppress information about this little boy’s death?

June 22, 2007

Banning grog & porn to cut child abuse

Filed under: aboriginals,alcohol,children — hc @ 12:19 pm

Levels of child abuse in Australian aboriginal communities are completely over the top – there is systematic abuse of young kids in many communities. Young girls and boys are routinely taken as sexual partners. Often the abuse is preceded by alcohol consumption and by the viewing of pornography. The Prime Minister’s move to ban alcohol and pornography in aboriginal communities is a dramatic move designed to deal with an extreme situation. Another part of the policy package, quarantining welfare payments from being entirely spent on booze, is a move that will cut alcohol and therefore child abuse as well as promoting health. Howard’s statement is here.

This policy packages provide a partial prohibition scheme on alcohol that is designed to eliminate its availability on aboriginal land – some of these lands are ‘dry’ already. The policy is a worthwhile move even if some aboriginals do leave their lands to drink. Most won’t because aboriginals as a whole have high levels of alcohol abstinence – it is the few drinkers who consume at vast levels who are doing the extreme damage that is occurring. Quarantining welfare payments is close to being a rationing scheme –it effectively prescribes the consumption bundle chosen by a welfare recepient. This is draconian but will only be a coercive measure for those currently abusing their government welfare check. The check isn’t that large and most should be spent on food and essentials anyway.

Economists generally don’t like either prohibitions or rationing schemes but there are exceptional emergency circumstances here that drive the need for a policy shock. Moreover as John Howard acknowledged last night – past policies have failed.

The Guardian has a useful review including the predictable reactions from those who would put anti-discrimination above the problems being faced. There is a potent quote:

Alcohol kills an Aborigine every 38 hours and accounts for a quarter of deaths in the Northern Territory.

I am pleased to see that Kevin Rudd states he will support the PM’s move. Even the Northern Territory Government seems to welcome the move. This issue should be above politics and the move should be given a chance. No points scoring should be attempted from any side. It is an extremely difficult policy to make workable. As a community we need to try to make it work and to improve the policy so it does.

Kim at the lavatory blog sees the issue purely as a political move. She would. She has previously declared that women who had their genitals cut out might have prejudiced views on Islam. People who say they dislike seeing young children raped are presumably also acting in a biased self-interested way that has nothing to do with stopping the abuse – they just seek a ‘wedge’ issue that will increase their electoral appeal. I find Kim’s attitude more hideous than usual. Mark Bahnisch supports her – he searches for grounds to attack the policy and refuses to confront the real problem. For them both it is just another opportunity to attack John Howard. Its an indictment of LP’s sick approach to politics.

The Little Children are Sacred report had this to say:

‘Alcohol remains the gravest and fastest growing threat to the safety of Aboriginal children. There is a strong association between alcohol abuse, violence and the sexual abuse of children. Alcohol is destroying communities. The Inquiry recommended urgent action be taken to reduce alcohol consumption in Aboriginal communities’.

The report also specifically mentioned the role of pornography. The claims John Howard is making are not fiction. So Howard is just concerned with politics Kim, Mark? He isn’t but you both are.

Words cannot express my anger towards these leftist phonies. Do either of them have children? Can either of them not see any social issue – not matter how painful – other than in their nasty, partisan political terms?

The comments by Ken Parish are less prejudiced but still over the top. For sections of the ‘left’ the welfare of sexually-abused aboriginal kids can be sacrificed if there is the chance for a political attack on John Howard. The comments of Tim Dunlop I agree with almost entirelythe impact of the policies should be carefully thought through and we should try for a bipartisan approach.

February 5, 2007

DJ’s vs.TAI on ‘sexualising children’

Filed under: business,children — hc @ 10:33 pm

David Jones Ltd is suing the The Australia Institute for saying that DJ’s advertising eroticized and sexually exploited children. DJ’s was furious with the TAI claims which it denied. It demanded the TAI remove references to DJ’s on its website. The TAI in turn describes the DJ’s response as ‘corporate bullying’ and refused DJ’s demand – though looking at its website today I found no reference to DJ’s in the published part of the article on sexualizing children. I found the argument by Andrew Bartlett to be as sensible a response as I encountered on the original controversy – sexualizing kids is a dangerous activity and deserves public discussion. Little girls, and boys, should not be eye candy.

But I was surprised that DJ’s sued – the Myer stores who were also mentioned in the TAI report have not. DJ’s claim they have suffered lost sales but I think, regardless of the truth of the claims, almost no-one pays attention to the views of a minority group like TAI. Perhaps it was middle class mums, who dress their kids up as fashion accessories, the main customers, who DJs think might be sensitive to the claims of parental abuse. Or maybe DJ’s are just offended by the accusation that they are sexually exploiting a vulnerable group – it’s a claim many of us, as parents, would experience acute discomfit with.

On the other hand the beauty of children is something undeniable – the Konrad Lorenz theory of beauty holds that beauty in an adult’s face stems from the way it mimics the features of a child. Pedophilia is believed to influence the sexual preferences of up to one quarter of men and this creates potential hazards for children, particularly young girls.

More important that adult Lolita fantasies are the damages being done to young children who are encouraged to grow up early rather than being allowed to just be children. It is pathetic to see barely-pubescent young girls actively seeking attention with exaggerated dress styles.

So this issue does deserve public discussion although it would be better done in a broader setting than the present legal action. But there are substantial taboos against discussing the issues of sexualizing children so don’t hold out your hopes for a non-sensationalist discussion. Current discussions of this legal action are at Larvatus Prodeo and Catallaxy.

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