Monthly Archives: December 2004

Posner Blogs

Richard Posner is the guest blogger on Leiter Reports, and so far he’s been defending pragmatic reasoning, dissing morality, and pondering on his atheism. Posner’s always provocative, and well worth a read, even if only to force oneself to mentally … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized


Gweneth and I have just given a donation to Oxfam Community Aid Abroad. It’s a lean, efficient aid organisation that I can strongly vouch for (I used to be on its NSW board). I’d encourage others to consider giving to … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Democracy Building

George Packer has a beautifully pitched leader in this week’s New Yorker. It begins: President Bush has put the idea of spreading democracy around the world at the rhetorical heart of American foreign policy. No one should doubt that he … Continue reading

Posted in Global issues | 1 Comment

Who Are the Most Right-Wing and Left-Wing MPs?

A Christmas survey: who do you think are the most right-wing and the most left-wing members currently serving in the Australian federal parliament?

Posted in Australian issues | 9 Comments

Conversations about Conversations

I’m currently halfway through Greg Craven’s book, Conversations with the Constitution: Not Just a Piece of Paper. Apart from a quibble with the subtitle*, I’m loving it. Kinda unexpected, since – as a former associate to Kirby J – Craven’s … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments


David Madden, a former contributor to this blog, is off to Indonesia just after Christmas, wilfully defying his Attorney-General. I’m guessing, however, that he’ll be avoiding the Hilton….

Posted in Religion

The Economics of Panhandling

A side-discussion over at Catallaxy about the book "Conspicuous Compassion" made me think harder about the economics of what the Americans call "panhandling". (Australians would call it begging, but somehow I prefer the US word. If you prefer, just substitute … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Blunketty Blunk

So David Blunkett, Blair’s favourite cabinet minister, has gone. Why? As Home Secretary, his lover showed him a letter indicating that it would take a year to get a visa for her nanny. Frustrated at realising the long delays in … Continue reading

Posted in Global issues

Seeking pre-1996 gun data

Does anyone know of Australian surveys conducted prior to 1996-97 (when we conducted the post-Port Arthur gun buyback) which asked about firearm ownership? Or whether any state or federal governments kept good data on how many guns each police station … Continue reading

Posted in Australian issues | 21 Comments

Young Driver Education Programs Don't Work

The Carr and Howard Governments have just announced a trial* driver education program for all P-platers, despite evidence from a series of randomised trials that these programs don’t have any statistically significant impact on the road toll. Indeed, some school-based … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

Work Incentives

I generally love the Economist, for its hard-headed analysis of tough issues, economically liberal philosophy, and crisp writing style. But every now and then, even it says something silly. A recent leader on child care subsidies contained the sentence: The … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Called to Account

"For truth is truth, to the end of the reckoning." (Measure for Measure, V:1) Gerard Henderson has a brutal piece in today’s SMH, contrasting the pre-election prognostications of various journalists with their post-election ones. It makes entertaining reading, but did … Continue reading

Posted in Australian issues | 2 Comments

First Speeches

The first speeches (known as "maiden speeches" in less politically correct days) for the 21* new federal MPs are now up on the web, and well worth a glance. While Garrett, Robb and Turnbull have attracted most of the media … Continue reading

Posted in Australian issues


John Holbo at Crooked Timber has a fascinating (albeit long) post on academia. Here’s a snippet. In short, academia is aristocratic. This sounds elitist, since it is, but it’s also trivially true. If you don’t think some beliefs are better … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

Causation, Correlation and "Explaining" Elections

A piece by Louis Menand in the December 6 New Yorker (not online, sorry) tries to unpack why Bush won the 2004 election. It’s a better analysis than most, but still falls in a heap at the finish line, since … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Labor woes in perspective

Has Latham really gone backwards since October 9? One indicator is the betting markets – where Labor’s odds of winning the 2007 election are unchanged since October 11 (Coalition pays $1.33, ALP pays $3.00, suggesting that the bookies think Labor … Continue reading

Posted in Australian issues | 2 Comments

Chicago Chennanigans

So the Becker/Posner blog is up and running. Looks like one to follow. Kieran argues that it’s a parody, though I think he’s being ironic (Or is he? I lived in the US for four years, so my ability to … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

Eureka here and abroad

A friend of ours, Peter Fyfe, took these photos of the Eureka flag flying over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Eureka Day. Meanwhile, our Eureka ideas in Imagining Australia seem to be getting more play abroad than at home, with … Continue reading

Posted in Australian issues

Lavatory Journalism

Paul Sheehan has been my top pick for Australia’s worst columnist ever since he wrote about the life-saving properties of bottled water. But Sheehan really takes it to new lows today with his column on Stephen Conroy.* When Australian political … Continue reading

Posted in Current Affairs

Small samples?

The ABC’s top 100 book list has four ties (and they don’t skip the next number, so there are 104 books in the top 100). The bigger the sample, the less likely there will be ties. The ABC says that … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Chasing pre-1980 social capital surveys

Nerdy data question. I’m thinking about writing a short book or long paper over January on trends in social capital in Australia. It’s a topic I’ve been researching for the last 2-3 years, but I’m painfully short of data in … Continue reading

Posted in Australian issues | 2 Comments

Race, voting and welfare

I had a review essay in the Australian Financial Review yesterday, looking at a book by Alberto Alesina and Ed Glaeser – Fighting Poverty in the US and Europe: A World of Difference. The book sets out to discover why … Continue reading

Posted in Books | 2 Comments

Happy 150th Eureka Anniversary

Today is the 150th anniversary of the Eureka uprising. There’s a little in the press about it, including a fence-sitting editorial by the SMH, a piece on the Eureka flag and Eureka art by John Huxley, and opinion pieces by … Continue reading

Posted in Australian issues

Too Much Tax?

The Centre for Independent Studies have produced another paper on taxation (PDF file). You’ll never believe it, but this one concludes that Australians are taxed too highly – a finding nearly as unexpected as if the Institute of Public Affairs … Continue reading

Posted in Australian issues | 8 Comments

Imagining Australia interviews

The youth e-zine Vibewire has a review of Imagining Australia (and an interview with yours truly), by journalist Tim Martyn. And with Friday the 150th anniversary of the Eureka stockade, I’ll be going on ABC TV at noon to talk … Continue reading

Posted in Australian issues

World AIDS Day

Today – 1 Dec – is World AIDS Day. In earlier posts I’ve described the global AIDS epidemic as the most urgent humanitarian crisis facing the world today. Just how bad is the AIDS crisis?  Well, imagine if every single … Continue reading

Posted in Global issues

More axes to grind than a blacksmith

The SMH today reprints a piece from the Guardian, written by John Laughland, who argues that the Ukranian elections were really pretty fair. Now I don’t know much about Ukraine, but it did strike me as odd that his arguments … Continue reading

Posted in Global issues | 3 Comments