Self-managing, anti-bureaucratic, minimal government: Cycling fits well with the liberal philosophy


IPA member Nigel Withers had this interesting response to Karalee Katsambanis’ (another IPA member) piece about cyclists in WA Today a couple of weeks ago, featured here in Hey… What did I miss?:

Cyclists on the whole don’t ask for much – apart from a bit of bike infrastructure in places where they’re likely to be killed or injured if they ride on the road. As a transport option, cycling is the spiritual home of liberty, low taxation, minimal regulation and small government. It is a sanctuary from the intrusions of the Nanny State.

We don’t need a multitude of bureaucrats to create and update bus, train and ferry timetables – we ride where and when we like. We don’t cause grief when timetable updates are published or when underused, uneconomic services are abolished.

We don’t need an army of well-paid, unionised workers to cart us around on trains, buses and ferries – we move ourselves at our own expense.

It doesn’t cost the taxpayer $9.45 every time we hop on a train (that’s from the NSW State Infrastructure Strategy). Instead, we spend thousands of dollars of our own money on supplying ourselves with a private transport option.

We don’t threaten to strike every time we don’t get what we want.

We don’t have government departments creating standards and regulations governing bicycle design (such as vehicle regulations which govern how high above the road headlights must be positioned).

Hordes of Police are not required to ensure we are abiding by an ever increasing set of laws. Traffic control centres aren’t required to manage our movement. CCTV cameras are not installed all over the place to watch over us as ride from A to B.

Apart from mandatory helmet laws, the Nanny State has largely ignored cycling – and even then, the laws are applied in an infrequent and unenthusiastic manner by the Police. Riding a bicycle is so simple, we don’t need a government agency to ensure we do 120 hours of mandatory training and pass numerous tests before we can go for a ride. I can sell my bike without paying stamp duty on the transaction, and informing a government body that I am no longer the owner.

I can ride to work all year without the taxman putting his hand in my wallet to extract fuel excises that are then wasted on useless pet projects. My bike is not subject to government mandated annual safety inspections.

We spontaneously come together in groups when we want to ride – we can manage ourselves without the government requiring a grant to create a “community group” that is of no use to anyone.

Liberty. Individualism. Self-managing. Anti-bureaucratic. Minimal government. Low taxation. Antipathy to the Nanny State. Cycling is actually a much better fit with a Liberal philosophy than a Green one.


One child policy discarded as population bomb fears unfounded


Last week the Chinese Communist Party issued a statement indicating that couples would now be able to have two children, signalling the end of the infamous one child policy. Whilst this is still an almost unimaginable transgression on the freedom of the Chinese people, it is nonetheless a step in the right direction.

China’s one child policy was introduced by Deng Xiaoping in 1979 and is thought to have prevented some 400 million births. The government incorrectly believed that a growing population, at the time approaching one billion, would have a negative impact on China’s economic ambitions.

Those who complied with the policy were sometimes encouraged with employment and financial incentives, while those who did not were fined. At times, forced abortions and mass sterilisation measures were also practiced. Traditional Chinese cultural preference for male children meant that a large number of female babies were abandoned or placed in orphanages. Notoriously, sex-selective abortions and female infanticide took place.

Unfortunately, the Chinese government has amended its one child policy for practical, rather than philosophical reasons. By 2050, more than a quarter of the population will be over 65. By 2020 China will have 30 million single men who will remain that way for the rest of their life.

Now is an appropriate time to re-state the basic truth that the best form of population control is economic growth. As people become richer, they simply have fewer children. In an excellent piece in the Daily Telegraph on Monday, Dr Patrick Carvalho from the CIS pointed out that China’s spiralling fertility rate over the timespan of the one child policy roughly matches that of other nations who enjoyed similar per capita income growth.

He goes on to say that ‘population bomb’ fears generally are unfounded. Most demographers think the world’s population will stabilise at 10 billion in 2050 as more economic growth takes place. In 1960 a woman had on average 5.02 children. Today, that figure is 2.51.

In other words, population fears are another doomsday scenario that human innovation has averted.


Should athletes be jailed for doping?

David Howman, director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency

David Howman, director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency

Someone needs to tell World Anti-Doping Agency boss, David Howman, that it’s only a game.

Speaking at a sports law conference in Melbourne this week, Howman proposed that athletes caught using performance enhancing drugs should be jailed:

We think…that the real deterrent that cheating athletes fear is the fear of going to prison. Not the fear of being stood down from their sport for a year, two years, four years but a fear of going to prison.

Howman also suggested that sport needed a new international body that would police all integrity issues, in light of the recent FIFA fiasco (which I have previously written about on FreedomWatch here).

How big a disaster do you need to start reflecting on the issue of governance?…Don’t we need an independent body to oversee the governance of sport?

Howman is certainly on the money when he says international sporting bodies are corrupt and lack integrity. But I don’t think a big, unaccountable, international organisation is the best way to deal with other big, unaccountable, international organisations.

And, as much as anyone who watched the 2000 Grand Final might think Essendon players belong in jail, it is clearly ridiculously over the top for people who cheat in a sport to spend time in prison. Not to mention being a huge waste of taxpayers’ money.

Sport must get its own house in order – not turn to the big coercive stick of the state.


Big Government in bed with Big Soccer


Earlier this month I wrote on FreedomWatch about the absurdity of State and Territory governments subsidising AFL matches. Equally absurd is the government funding of friendly soccer matches involving the big European clubs currently touring Australia.

Real Madrid, AS Roma and Manchester City are currently playing in a pre-season tournament in Melbourne. Liverpool played Australian team Brisbane Roar on Friday night and Adelaide United last night. Manchester City played Melbourne City on Saturday night on the Gold Coast whilst Sydney FC played Chelsea in June and Tottenham in May.

According to the Australian Financial Review the Queensland and South Australian governments are understood to be paying Liverpool $10 million in appearance fees. Whilst the organisers of the tournament in Melbourne have received upwards of $8 million from the Victorian government.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews demonstrated the real reason why politicians are prepared to spend public cash on elite sport when he was front and centre at Real Madrid training on Friday. It is because elite sport is popular with voters.

As I wrote in The Spectator last year, governments pretty much always overstate the economic benefits of major sporting events when justifying spending their taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Indeed, Victorian Minister for Sport John Eren made the audacious claim that the series would generate between $50 million $80 million for the Victorian economy.

The reason these clubs are in Australia for glorified pre-season training (apart from picking up some free money from our governments) is to build their already enormous global fan bases. Liverpool claims to have almost 600 million fans worldwide. 10,000 people paid $15 each to watch Real Madrid train at the MCG last week.

Clearly, the organisers of these games don’t need government money to make them profitable, it’s just that it makes the undertaking a little bit more profitable, and a little less work. They have identified an opportunity to play state governments off against each other, and state governments have shamefully played ball.

If governments really think they can attract and hold major sporting events more efficiently than the private sector, they should introduce a voluntary major events tax whereby citizens can decide whether they want to contribute to what is essentially a luxury.


Why should state governments subsidise AFL matches?


Tonight in the AFL, Melbourne will play their home game against West Coast at TIO Stadium in Darwin (pictured above). Why would Melbourne choose to play a home game over three thousand kilometres from their own ground and fans? Why, to get on the end of some easy money from the Northern Territory government of course.

Over the last two decades the monstrously-rich AFL has encouraged struggling Victorian clubs to play home matches in far flung locations in return for money from state and territory governments. It’s a win-win for the AFL. It helps grow the game in untapped markets and allows problem clubs to pick up much needed funds.

Hawthorn’s agreement with the Tasmanian government is often held up as an example for other clubs to follow. In return for playing home games in Launceston the Tasmanian government divides up $4.5 million between Hawthorn and North Melbourne (who play home matches in Hobart). In return for playing home games in Alice Springs and Darwin, NT Tourism became a ‘Platinum Plus’ sponsor of Melbourne. Other clubs have played matches in Cairns, Canberra and even Wellington.

Of course, as I wrote in The Spectator last year, governments always justify spending money on elite sport on the basis of the supposed economic gains the event brings. But this rarely stacks up. The soccer World Cup in Brazil cost Brazilian taxpayers a gargantuan $US 15 to 20 billion. Time estimated it brought in only $500 million in tourist spending. Organisers of the Asian Cup soccer tournament held in Australia earlier this year claimed it added ‘a million dollars a day’ to the Australian economy. It’s a pity it only went for 23 days because it cost taxpayers over $60 million.

It is immoral for the government to spend money on elite sport. This is especially the case in the Northern Territory where so many Territorians live in acute deprivation. The real reason governments become involved in elite sport is because it is popular with voters and politicians wish to cash in on some of the reflected glory.

The AFL is the fourth best attended sporting league in the world and it is predicted that its next television rights deal – up for renewal in 2017 – could be worth as much as $2 billion. If they wish to hold games in non-traditional locations such as Darwin, Alice Springs, Launceston or Timbuktu they should pay for it themselves.


King John would have supported net neutrality


Chris Berg and John Roskam wrote Magna Carta: The Tax Revolt that Gave us Liberty in part to explain the Magna Carta’s significance and why it still matters. Obviously the ABC are yet to receive their copy. Yesterday it nominated ‘net neutrality’ as one of the eight ways the Magna Carta still affects life in 2015:

Much as the original charter limited the power of the king, a charter for the internet age would put limits on the power of governments and businesses to control access to the internet via censorship, surveillance and excessive costs.


As I wrote in the latest edition of the IPA Review net neutrality advocates fear a ‘fast lane-slow lane’ internet. In this scenario Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer their wealthy clients – such as major media companies – the opportunity to pay for priority service meaning their websites receive quicker download speeds than everyone else. At the extreme, companies could even pay ISPs to block the websites of their rivals all together.

Net neutrality proponents believe consumers will eschew smaller websites for those that have quicker download speeds betraying the net’s egalitarian spirit and putting it in the thrall of big corporations.

This is like saying major supermarkets shouldn’t be able to undercut the local butcher. Or that airlines shouldn’t sell first class tickets.

In reality, unscrupulous corporations undertaking this behaviour will be sorted out by consumer choice (most people would take a pretty dim view to ISPs dictating what sites they can view) and, to a lesser extent, a vibrant and dynamic internet-focused civil society monitoring the situation and alerting consumers if and when it occurs.

The irony of the call for an internet Magna Carta is that in encouraging governments to unduly interfere in the business affairs of the citizens, net neutrality supporters resemble King John more than the barons.

(N.B. The ABC is right in saying we need a Magna Carta to stop governments from censoring the internet. But we’ve already got one. It’s called the Magna Carta.)


Why a taxpayer funded World Cup bid was always a waste


Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA

There are many reasons why it’s wrong to spend public funds on elite sport, but last week’s FIFA debacle is a particularly salient one.

In a not so surprising ‘revelation’, it emerged that football’s governing body, FIFA, is rife with corruption. Indeed, the only surprise for soccer fans and casual observers is that it appears something is finally being done about it.

The beautiful game has been riddled with corruption for decades. Having been a virtual amateur body since its inception, Brazilian João Havelange recognised the colossal economic potential of football and wrested control of FIFA in 1974. As Havelange duly turned global soccer into the financial behemoth it is today during his 24-year reign, he also pioneered the sleaze and corruption that FIFA is now famous for.

Continue Reading →


Lawlessness on the streets of Melbourne


Had you ventured down Glenferrie Rd in Hawthorn, Victoria on Sunday, you would have encountered a scene of wild, out of control, unbridled, lawlessness. The annual Glenferrie Festival was on meaning that the City of Boroondara had dangerously relaxed many of the regulations pertaining to the street. As a result, citizens and businesses in one of Melbourne’s leafy inner eastern suburbs engaged in the following acts of moral decay:

  • Setting up stalls selling food, homewares, clothes and other items on the street which are thought to have generated income for local businesses, community groups and kindergartens;
  • Playing music from speakers generating feelings of relaxation, fun and happiness in passers-by;
  • Sale of alcoholic beverages such as beer and cider in the street meaning that some attendees had a drink;
  • Holding street concerts giving young local musicians the chance to perform in front of an audience;
  • Allowing street performers to walk up and down the road entertaining crowds of people that had spontaneously materialised; and
  • Allowing attendees to take part in group activities such as impromptu salsa classes and table tennis competitions.

Undoubtedly, the City of Boroondara will consider what may occur should regulations be relaxed or removed on a permanent basis. Local residents and businesses may well face a situation where a Glenferrie Festival type event takes place every week or indeed every day. There are fears this may make life more fun for local residents and make local businesses more profitable. Worst of all, some suggest it may contribute to a richer and more vibrant community life for the surrounding area.

Fortunately, the City of Boroondara’s restrictive regulatory regime was back in place by 4pm Sunday afternoon in line with municipalities across the nation.


One Direction help spread important message


Who would’ve thought that twentysomething popstars might not be the ideal vessels for an anti-binge drinking message?

The Australian National Preventive Health Agency spent $132,000 on running videos about the dangers of binge drinking at One Direction concerts in Australia in September and October. After the band’s Melbourne’s show, in somewhat of a contrast to the message the Continue Reading →


Man arrested over football chant

Spurs fans

English football’s freedom of speech debacle took a turn for the worse last week when a Tottenham Hotspur fan was arrested for using the word ‘Yid’ at a match against West Ham.

A large percentage of Spurs fans are Jewish and supporters of the club co-opted the word ‘Yid’ as a result of decades of anti-semitism, proudly calling themselves the ‘Yid Army’.

Calls from police and the Football Association were ignored by supporters of the club on Sunday who defiantly chanted “We’ll sing what we want” and “Yid Army” throughout the match.

The arrested supporter was held on suspicion of Continue Reading →


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