The argument against defamation law

Published on the ALS Thoughts on Freedom blog & LibertyWorks blog on 31 January 2010.

Most people accept anti-defamation laws as a legitimate restriction on free speech. For a starters, the laws have always existed so it just seems normal to keep them. If we remove them then society would be plunged into chaos as everybody accused everybody of being a paedophile, a thief, or a murderous nutcase… and if those rumours are believed then they could cause lots of damage to the victims, such as loss of work and/or loss of friends. And that’s just not fair.

Perhaps. But before we give up on fully free speech we should fully understand the arguments and implications.

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Non-government carbon price

Published in The Sydney Morning Herald on 24 December 2009 under the title “Activists should stop talking about global warming and start acting”. Written in my capacity as Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies.

If climate activists had spent the past 10 years acting instead of wasting time at talkfests such as the one at Copenhagen, we would already have a price signal on greenhouse gas emissions. It is an indication of the sorry state of community groups that when faced with a problem, they spend millions of dollars whinging and asking other people to do something. This is especially true when it comes to climate campaigners. While this group of young ideologues revel in their self-appointed moral superiority, they have so far achieved very little.

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Problems of tax/welfare churn

Published in Business Spectator on 8 October 2009 under the title “We’re wasting billions on tax churn”. Written in my capacity as Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies.

The Australian welfare system  including health, education and handouts  costs more than $250 billion per year. Some of this is redistribution from the relatively rich to the relatively poor. However, about half of the welfare is pointless ‘churn,’ where the same person both pays taxes and receives welfare benefits.

Some of this churn is ‘cash churn’ where people both pay tax and receive cash from the government. But the bigger problem is ‘services churn’ where middle- and high-income earners pay tax and receive government-subsidised health and schooling services.

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Tax/welfare churn

Humphreys, J. (2009), Ending the Churn: A Tax/Welfare Swap, CIS Policy Monograph 100, Centre for Independent Studies, Sydney.

The Australian welfare system—including health, education and handouts—costs more than $250 billion per year. Some of this is redistribution from the relatively rich to the relatively poor. However, about half of the welfare is pointless ‘churn,’ where the same person both pays taxes and receives welfare benefits.

Some of this churn is ‘cash churn’ where people both pay tax and receive cash from the government. But the bigger problem is ‘services churn’ where middle- and high-income earners pay tax and receive government-subsidised health and schooling services. By removing middle-class welfare in exchange for income tax cuts, the government could reduce tax and welfare by about $80 billion without leaving anybody worse off.

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