Freedom, Chocolate and Foxes – Down with the nanny state!

The British Labour Government has introduced a raft of bills into Parliament which ban particular activities and make others compulsory – minor activies including eating habits, smoking and recreation.

These restrictions on personal freedoms, while well meaning and with noble goals, are wrong and unjust if they impose an outcome on individuals who might not choose to or have the means to comply. In a piece by The Economist, they argue that “The question of just how much should be done reaches right down into the principles underpinning liberal democracy. According to those principles, the government is entitled to interfere with people’s behaviour only in so far as it affects other people. Otherwise, well-informed individuals should be allowed to make their own choices. If they want to harm themselves, that’s up to them.”

I believe strongly in the principles of classical liberalism; that no Government should force people into or away from any activity unless that activity harms others. The key to freedom isn’t that a Government legislates it but that people are unrestricted in the participation, creation and expression of freedoms. People know what they want better than anyone else, including Government, therefore they should have the unadulterated ability to pursue their wants (again, unless it harms others). When a Government bans, restricts or promotes an activity, no matter what the cause, it takes away the ability for a “sovereign individual” to make their own choices and fulfil their own wishes.

Welcome to the New Economy Part Two: CDs are dead

The CD is dead.

When will the record companies wake up and smell the coffee? In one of my earlier posts I spoke of how the new economy was passing the music industry by and that the obsession with distribution networks was denying the industry an ability to move with the times.

Now it seems the media on which most of us listen to music has become irrelevant. I’m talking of the announcement from U2 and Apple that the latest U2 “Best of” offering is not so much two CDs filled with their best songs, but a U2 branded iPod which has over 400 of U2’s recordings on it, including previously unreleased material.

All I Want is You

What does this mean?

Why go to a record company if you are a young unknown artist? Go to a bank, borrow money, record your album at the best studio in Australia (or if you’re brave, at home on your iMac) and release it online, using sponsorship and touring money to market and promote yourself. Distribution and the record company as “middle man” is over.

Not to say U2 are totally amazing; I’m a fan, but not their biggest fan. I saw them live at Sydney Football Stadium a few years ago for the POPMART Tour (a few months after Michael Hutchence died) and they played a great gig on a balmy night with the remainder of INXS, Kel and Rhett Hutchence and a whole load of other people who were close to INXS in attendance. It was a hot and balmy night, and just as U2 played “One”, the skies opened up, lightening arced across the sky and Michael Hutchence’s face glowed large on the two screens.

A beautiful, hopeful night; the exact opposite of the recorded music industry.

Welcome to the New Economy Part One: Halo

The sequel to one of the greatest games ever released, Halo, has been released to the public. On the evening of September 8th, hordes of gamers clamoured around retail outlets looking to be one of the first to buy Halo 2 upon its midnight release.

For the faithful, they have been rewarded. It is a game of magnificent competition, with a plethora of new weapons and some very elegant levels and gameplay. New vehicles, new stages, new plots and of course the Covenant’s arrival on Earth.

“Never tell me I don’t look good in green!” Posted by Hello

But the most interesting point about Halo 2 is that it could very well take the record for the largest ever release in worldwide entertainment. Halo 2 may very well take more money than Titanic. Bungie Software, the publisher of the game, expect Halo 2 to take up to $US100m in it’s first full day of release.

Bungie started off as a small Chicago based Mac software developer, making the Marathon series. Marathon is regarded as the original (and some say still the best) first person shootemup game. Predating Doom, Duke Nukem and all of the others, Marathon innovated in that the plot of the game was equal to the game play itself. A brilliant, groundbreaking, innovative game (especially considering its 1994 release), Marathon was eseentially “touched up” and modified to become the juggernaut that is the Halo Series. Funnily enough, even ten years after the release of Marathon, people are still playing it, talking about it and dissecting the plot. Further, there are concerted efforts to keep Marathon “alive” by modifying it for newer operating systems and game consoles.

The original Marathon game – not bad for 1994! Posted by Hello

There are numerous references to Marathon in the Halo games, not the least being the weapons, uniforms and certain “in jokes” in the levels.

For more information on Marathon, please visit or The Marathon Story.

For more info on Halo 2 – buy it!

UPDATE: The picture above is not from Marathon – it is most likely from Marathon Resurrection. Here is a screnshot from the original game:

Marathon – Pfhor Your Eyes Only Posted by Hello

15 Years of Freedom: The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Today marks the 15 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The greatest symbol of oppression and truma of the socialist years stood from 1961 to 1989, dividing a city and cleaving the social, business and functions of Berlin in two.

On one side stood West Berlin – a liberal-democracy, free, capitalist and thriving.

On the other stood the East and a system which stood for mediocrity, for individual suppression to a “greater good” and an overbearing, totally dominant Government which invaded every part of people’s lives. A system which was miserable and depressing.

It’s no wonder that the Socialists built a wall to keep people from escaping.

Having travelled to Berlin, seen the reminants of the wall and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, I saw that the fall of Communism and the destruction of socialism as a valid means of governance was more than an ideological or theoretical battle; it is about freedom of humanity and spirit. There is no viablility in the suppression of human will. People must be free – in thought, in trade, in expression, in association, in their daily goings on.

What was worse – Soviet Era Labour Camps or Soviet Era design?

In the words of John Adams:

“There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.”

Or alternatively from John Stuart Mill:

“The only part of the conduct of anyone for which he is amenable to society is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

That is where Socialism fails. Where people believe they are achieving a greater good and imposing their will upon others, no matter how worthy their cause, individual liberty is compromised. That is why the wall fell. That is why FatHam lost. That is why, despite the “Ostalgia” which has had a brief revival in East Germany and other former Socialist countries, it will fail.

The “good old days of Socialism” are an oxymoron and a load of rubbish. Listen to the youth, the sovereign individuals who embrace freedom and look forward to participating in something John Lennon called, “the brotherhood of man”.

A Right To Life, a Right To Freedom

The Federal Health Minister, Tony Abbott, has recently weighed into the abortion issue, claiming that the rate and ease of abortions in Australia (including the full Medicare funding of abortions) be re-examined.

Further, some members of Parliament (such as Peter Garrett, who Votes FOR trees and AGAINST women’s rights to freedom) have called for a ban on abortions over 21 weeks, forcing the pregnant woman to have an ultrasound prior to the abortion (to understand what she would be terminating) and the removal of Medicare funding of abortions.

Unfortunately, the Governor-General has also decided to break with convention and participate in the debate, which is wrong for two reasons: firstly, the Governor-General should never participate in political or at least topical debate, even if he prefixes the discussion with the non-partisan, non-committal “it should be looked at”. Secondly, it is wrong because while the notion of abortion may be acceptable or not acceptable depending on a moral, ethical or religious standpoint, Government should not play a role in deciding to remove the rights of women, who for whatever reason, may decide to handle their pregnancy in any particular way.

To put it bluntly, the hand of Government should not be in a woman’s womb.

Thankfully, some high profile members of the medical community have spoken up against this new political debate. Let’s hope that the rights of women are maintained and that there are no changes to abortion law.

Straight Talking on Gay Marriage

One of the stories which has received little coverage in the aftermath of George Bush’s re-election has been the vote in seven US states to ban same sex marriage. There was some conjecture or doubt over whether many American states could possible allow same sex marriage in the event of legal loophole or challenge; sadly, these votes stamped out that right.

The same sex marriage issues has been discussed the world over for many, many years. The rights of same sex couples to share a bed, assets and entitlements as couples has been frought with emotion and homophobia by it’s opponents. As a strong classical liberal, I believe passionately in the rights of people to pursue individual freedoms and pursuits without government interference (as long as it does not harm anyone else). Obviously gay marriage is one of those rights I believe in.

If gays care to get married, it should be reflected in a simple change to relevant marriage acts. In the shorter term – a possibly less controversial path – there may be some allowance for legislative change (with or without reform on the gay marriage issue) in superannuation reform, changes in defacto and family law and also the rights for the defacto partners of the deceased to have the same rights to the estate of the deceased as any male-female partnership would entail.

Given the number of priorities in Australia covering issues from industrial relations to tax reform, it’s difficult to see this issue gaining any traction for a very long time. If it does, hopefully it moves in the right direction, rather than mimicking the recent US votes.

I bet you any money George Bush wins…

Check out this price/volume graph from online betting firm Betfair. I just bet $8 at $2.50 return and caught the edge of the Republican rocket, going up, up, up…

republican betting.jpg
Volatile Americans

As you can see, the best indicator of electoral success comes in the lead up to the election, somewhere between three and four weeks out. That is when things are settled, there is a “time factor” included in the pricing and more than anything, people are honest about their intention yet open minded enough to actually put their money where their mouth is.

Crazy people got on Kerry in the last few days until he was favourite. Only in the last few minutes have people actually realised Bush is going to win and he shot to favouritism.

Not that I am an avid gambler, but I am more interested in studying the proposition that the flow of money in risk managment is often a far better predictor of outcomes than an opinion poll or other such measurement which is open to bias, manipulation and media spin. One of the most recent academic papers has predicted a Bush victory (albeit narrowly) based purely on the flow of money in betting markets.

The Call: Bye Bye John Kerry

Voting is still well underway in the US election, but then again so are some of the early results.

George Bush leads in Florida, Michigan and Ohio, some of the key states the Democrats had to win to clinch the White House.

I can’t see how John Kerry will make up the difference. California? Nope – he already had it in his pocket. New Mexico? A state who holds bugger all electoral college votes? Colorado?

And where Kerry is ahead, in his traditional strongholds of New York and Illinois, the voting college representation has dropped – hence an eroding support base for the Democrats – therefore making it even more important that Kerry win other states.

Nope – he can’t do it. Kerry is GAWN!

Bush has it won. It’s not where you will win, it’s where you will beat your opposition, take states off them. Kerry looks as though he won’t be able to do it.

George – four more years! What I don’t get is that the odds of Bush winning the Election on Betfair are still $2.53???? What? I don’t get it. I’m going to put the $8 of winnings from the Australian election and get onto Bush.