Laws generally fall into 3 categories: (a) protecting the rights of individuals or minorities (b) regulating conduct (c) operating the state.

Type (a) laws only limit freedom to the extent that rights are in conflict: the protection of the rights of the victim restricts the rights of the perpetrator. Most laws in this category are a net positive for personal freedoms, and laws such as those in a Bill of Rights are entirely about freedoms.

Type (c) laws are relatively neutral on freedoms. The laws that set up the parliament, the police force, courts, ATO, banks, industry, contracts, public transport, infrastructure, corporations, etc have little impact on personal freedom. The agencies they create may have an impact, but not the laws themselves.

Type (b) laws are the ones we should worry about. They include laws on topics like public drunkenness, affray, most traffic laws, public nuisance, censorship, etc, etc. These are the “do-good” laws that sound great in theory but add up to the nanny state.

So what about banning the burqa?

I don’t favour a ban, because I see it as type (b), regulating conduct with no great contribution to the protection of rights. However, there are some undesirable aspects and it would be relatively easy to introduce 2 specific laws, to make it:

  1. A criminal offence for a person to engage or attempt to engage in any commercial, contractual or regulated transaction or activity, or the creation, signing, production of any document related to personal identity, without exposing one’s full face, except with the prior express and written permission of the other part(ies) or the relevant regulating organisation as the case may be;
  2. A criminal offence for a person to impose or attempt to impose any obligation or demand or exemption on any other person or organisation on the grounds of any religious belief, principle or claim.

The rationale is that you are personally free to do what you like but transactions with other people give them the right to know who they are dealing with, and you can hold what beliefs you like but not impose them on others.

So, you can wear your burqa, but you cannot buy or use a ticket for a train, tram or bus; cannot drive a car; cannot go shopping; cannot buy food etc unless you are willing to remove it whenever you interact with anyone; and you cannot use “freedom of religion” as an excuse to force your requirements onto others.

These are type (a) laws that protect the freedoms and rights of the people and organisations you interact with against unwelcome religion-based demands and obligations. I would like them to extend to a number of other religious groups, but we won’t go into that now.

Take a country that has become rich through a combination of natural resources, manufacturing and trade. Let it discover that goods can be imported at lower prices from countries with lower labour costs.

Consider the finance sector, where instant profits today can be made by capturing cash flows from the future. Watch the finance sector suck in all the talent that used to engage in inventing new technologies and making new products by the promise of instant riches.

Now the investors who made those instant profits are committed to making sure those cash flows do eventuate in the “real” economy, so they impose rules and discipline where the only thing that matters is the bottom line, profits are more important than people, economics trumps all.

Politicians are the first to catch on. They pay off their deficits, trumpet their budget surpluses and boast about their “economic management” and of course make sure to protect the finance sector from too much scrutiny or regulation. The taxes roll in and they re-elected because times are good.

Labour is a cost, so everyone must work longer hours and still workers’
salaries must fall but the investors have an answer for that too. They offer loans to make up the difference and because loans must be secured, they inflate the price of the houses and land the workers live in. Everyone wins!

Great news! There are other countries willing to sell cheap products and instead of keeping the proceeds, lend the money back again to keep the cycle moving.

Even greater news! We have finally discovered perpetual motion, the eternal free lunch.

This is what is called the Anglo disease and you can read more about it
here: http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2008/2/3/10253/66655. It was invented in England, although it has been greatly refined in other countries such as the USA.

As it happens the first good example of where it leads is Greece. It will not be the last.

The events in Copenhagen have made me do some thinking about what individuals are going to have to do to have an impact on climate change. I can identify roughly 4 broad categories.

Allow me to make some mildly provocative statements — all of which I can justify.

  1. All climate models are wrong, and not one has yet made a correct prediction of substance (other than by pure chance).
  2. Peak oil and energy shortages will be a threat to our survival long before climate change.
  3. Shortages of food, water and arable land will be a threat to our survival long before climate change.
  4. Worldwide, the only things that can reduce CO2 are coal (don’t use it) and deforestation (don’t do it).
  5. For Australia, the only thing that can reduce CO2 is to close all the coal mines.
  6. The main purpose of a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme is to double/treble the price of electricity and petrol.
  7. The other purpose is give governments more power and/or make rich people/criminals/bankers richer.

I am not particularly sceptical about climate change itself, so much as the excessive claims made especially by non-scientists. Rising CO2 levels and associated climate change are certainly major problems, but that does not mean any of the specific predictions are correct. We need to buy insurance, not guard against a specific outcome. Mainly, we have to treat energy, forests, water and other resources as finite and aim for reduced consumption and genuine sustainability. That is simply not happening.

By the way, these are not the messages that the militant eco-freaks want you to hear.

“Agnotology, formerly agnatology, is a neologism for the study of culturally-induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data. The term was coined by Robert N. Proctor,[1][2] a Stanford University professor specializing in the history of science and technology.[3] Its name derives from the Greek word ἀγνῶσις, agnōsis, “not knowing”; and -λογία, -logia.[4] More generally, the term also highlights the increasingly common condition where more knowledge of a subject leaves one more uncertain than before.

A prime example of the deliberate production of ignorance cited by Proctor is the tobacco industry’s conspiracy to manufacture doubt about the cancer risks of tobacco use. Under the banner of science, the industry produced research about everything except tobacco hazards to exploit public uncertainty.[4][5] Some of the root causes for culturally-induced ignorance are media neglect, corporate or governmental secrecy and suppression, document destruction, and myriad forms of inherent or avoidable culturopolitical selectivity, inattention, and forgetfulness.[6]”


Sounds like a word that could really catch on!

Just to emphasise the point that much of the world is undernourished, I ran
across this article.


There are lots of factors, but capitalism, unsustainable agriculture, droughts,
energy shortages and ethanol production are all contributors. Global warming
is probably not an important factor so far.

This is one of the reasons I worry less about climate change in 50 years, when
half the world could be starving in less than 20.

Nice article here about the USA quietly moving away from coal: