Sunday, February 26, 2006

Are choices always good?

Choice isn't always wonderful. What about Sophie's Choice? If you were sitting in a room with a bunch of friends, a guy with a gun is going to shoot one of them. In one scenario, he forces you to choose one. In another, it's decided randomly. While technically, the first is the best choice because you can choose the "worst friend", it creates far more guilt.

There are many scenarios where compulsion may be the best for everyone. Unfortunately it doesn't really work so well if people are democratically electing against it - if people won't do something, chances are they won't vote for the Government to force them to do it either. But compulsion can have a number of effects that even assuming rationality, may be of benefit. For instance, if school was not compulsory, or the leaving age was far lower, peer pressure may encourage students to drop out, or be distracted by the possibility. If everyone is (even grudgingly) held in, this effect is far less significant. Going to school may be "uncool" and may be of tremendous influence to someone who really is leaning towards staying, but if there's no choice, the others will be still be sticking around and not mentioning it either.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Solving MMP somewhat

The great fallacy of proportional representation is that seats=power. Most of the time, this is not true. It would be if our system was different, but Parliament and democracy in general is majoritarian. A majority of seats is needed, so inherently power has to do with how you fit in there. This also forces a "left-right" divide, regardless of that's actually the way the population is divided. Governments being formed are the only way anything comes through, so if there were four parties, the "Right-Auth", the "Left-Auth", the "Right-Lib" and the "Left-Lib", some form of coalition is going to have to take place, so you must taken sides. It's far worse when someone like Dunne or Peters sits on the crossbenches, because then you have horrible balance of power issues that have nothing to do with how the electorate voted.

Therefore, I propose that parties contest the election under two broad coalitions, "Left" and "Right". They are still all individual parties, but they sit together. Inevitably this will need to happen after the election anyway, so it's best to do it beforehand. In some respects, the system will be very similar to FPP in the sense that the "coalitions are decided beforehand". However, you get to gauge what degree of support comes from what faction. If Labour elected 40 MPs under FPP say, you have no idea what degree comes from the "hard left" section, the "Green left" section, the "moderate" section. They're all bundled up into one coalition, just like they used to be, but now the voters can influence somewhat more how it turns out.

However, we've still got the Party List problem. Perhaps STV could assist here. Every multi-member constituency could have several different "strands" of the "Right Coalitian" to vote for. The electors also have somewhat more ability to vote someone out.

Monday, February 20, 2006

New Zealand will have Sharia law within 20 years

And no, not because of large Muslim immigration (though that still may be the case).

It's because we'll appease to radical Islam. No guts. It'll be a slippery slope almost certainly, but it seems quite likely. It's more likely to be Islam because of the tendancy for them to freak people out with death threats more than other groups, but it's possible that another violent group could have the same effect. Take for instance the Bloody Mary episode: if Catholics issued serious death threats against C4 and carried some out even, everyone would so shit scared from then on they wouldn't dare do anything that could offend them. This gives them a *huge* amount of power over what we can, regardless of actual legislation. We must stop it.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Blogging: The last hope

Is Blogging our only hope left for "proper" freedom of speech? As long as we still have the ability to stay anonymous/irrelevant, we can avoid freedom of speech being destroyed by Governments or nutters. If I controlled some crazy group that killed anyone who said a certain thing, the whole mainstream media would wimp out in fear of it all, and allow censorship-by-threats. But as long as blogs are still around, they can't wipe it out.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Political Correctness in NCEA

Two new things, experienced firsthand:

NCEA English: a requirement to read 9 texts. These texts must include a gender balance and different cultural perspectives. So, apparently, there's now a gender (oooh, "sex" is a naughty word now) quota in place in at least one New Zealand institution. Soon we're going to need 50% females everywhere?

I also stumbled upon a page of NCEA results divided by race. Apparently schools are obliged to report the results of students in this way. No doubt for statistic reasons, so they can say "Maori students are worse than others, therefore they need extra funding". Let's hope they'll be onto eye colour too.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Winston quote of the week

"I know the feeling, I was there once in the National Party. Of course, I never had the ego or the arrogance."

-On leadership speculation

The National Party must have/have had MPs with extraordinary egos and arrogance, if Winston didn't compare...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

FPP Stuff

I think First Past the Post is a pretty good system. It provides sufficient stability and mandates and is simple, and spirals out of control no more than other systems. However, the main thing I'm annoyed about is safe seats. Is there some way to avoid this without creating massive landslides on a swing of a point, without creating a bunch of problems?

Hmm. An anti-MMP Party would be quite funny (and somewhat humorous given only MMP would allow it to win seats). A goal of it could be to always vote against the Government, just to destabilize :)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Stop the terrorism!

The Muhammad cartoons were backed with an article on self-censorship. The reaction has proved the authors right. There cannot be freedom of speech if it is merely allowed by legitimate Government, but vigilante forces do not. As long as you've got a supply of loyal followers who will sacrifice their freedoms and lives for your cause, and something easily targeted, they can stop anything.

Self-censorship shrinks the number of targets, making it far easier to target any one person, thus causing a vicious cycle. It is why we must not give in with anything, no matter how small. Even if we think they certainly can't kill every woman in the world who doesn't cover her face - they may be able to if much of the world falls prey to their demands.

Imagine if Governments encouraged women to cover their faces in public, to avoid offending Muslims. It may not be done much at first, but a little encouragement and social proof could extend the numbers. As the numbers grow larger more would be conceded to the Muslims, which despite being unfathomable a few years back could be acceptable by then. After a few decades, the number of women in the streets with their face uncovered could shrink to a fairly small minority, which would then be more targetible by extremists. A publicized murder for these reason could scare most of the other women to conform, and the transformation would be complete. Once they're all covering their faces, it'll stay like that - and it wouldn't be long before the rest of Sharia law comes into effect.

Thanks to some minor discretions on the platform of "tolerance", the threat of terrorism (which "tolerance" really seems to be about) controls us.

However, do note that this sort of thing occurs in other ways, all the time. Social stigma can cause a great deal of self-censorship, unfortunately. However, at least it is being done by a majority. It's worse for 99% to be stopped from doing something due to the actions of an extreme 1%, than for 1% prevented from doing something due to a prejudiced 99%.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Paradox of Tax Cuts

The flatter a tax system, the easier it is to cut taxes. Why? Because if the rich are paying less in tax, an across the board tax cut no longer benefits the rich as much.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true. The more progressive a tax system is, the harder it is to cut taxes, because it's very likely it'll "only benefit the rich". Nevermind the fact the rich were paying most of the taxes in those scenarios anyway. What this means is that any tax cut or rebate, to be "fair", cannot merely keep the same level of progressivity (which would end up "helping the rich" too much) by being equally sized. Any "fair" tax cut must cause progressivity to *increase* by this logic. In order for the top 10% to only get 10% of the tax cut when they're paying 30% of the taxes for example, it's the only way to do it.

This can cause somewhat of a vicious cycle. When a tax system has the rich paying substantially more in taxes, any tax cuts that preserve this progressivity will inevitably help the rich more, so you must increase progressivity by cutting taxes on the bottom far more, which means the rich pay even more in taxes, which makes it even harder to cut taxes, and so on.

However, it can thankfully apply the way I first mentioned. If taxes are already low and proportional, cutting them more would give the rich less in both a dollar value and percentagewise, making them easier to sell to the public. Once people have gotten over sulking about the tax cuts, they'll then adjust to the new value and defend it how it is, not how it used to be. So, if we can flatten the tax/benefit system initially, it becomes easier down the road.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Working for Texting

Ah, the new Working for Families ad. Parents call their daughter, immersed in texting, to tell her that dinner's ready. She doesn't respond. They then text her this information, to which she responds. Over all of this, we hear the wonders of this income supplement.

Apparently, the message is "this money will be used to help families afford their text bills". True need.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Blue cars insult my religion

I call for a worldwide boycott of all countries that contain blue cars. These are incredibly insulting to my religion, in which the colour blue is sacred and using it in on a transportation device is the worst form of blasphemy. If Governments around the world do not recall all blue cars within two weeks, I will be forced to declare a holy war on them.

This is not a matter of freedom of expression. This is a matter of inciting hatred here.