Posts by Daniel Carr

  • Hard News: Is the Ministry of Health…,

    A year 12 chemistry student could tell you that CBD is not an isomer of THC. That's not something you need affidavits for.

    They may as well claim that the Earth is flat.

    Melbourne • Since Jun 2015 • 10 posts Report

  • Polity: Home-spun non-truths, in reply to Brent Jackson,

    Good point re: corporate tax. I hadn't thought of that.

    I get a shortfall of $2.7b by reducing the above $70000 rates to 46%. Way less than my lefty prejudices would have me think. If you bumped the corporate rate back up to 33% (and, you know, actually collected it) that might make up for it?

    Melbourne • Since Jun 2015 • 10 posts Report

  • Polity: Home-spun non-truths, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    Treasury has a page that describes a simple method for modelling raising revenue through income tax. It takes into account reduced GST revenue and wages from changes to the income tax rate. Obviously there’s more to a UBI then that, but it’s a good start if you’re thinking about how feasable it would be.

    I’ve made a spreadsheet that implements it. Feel free to see what you can come up with.

    It’s set for a $11,000 Adult UBI and $4000 child UBI that completely replaces jobseekers, dbp, student allowance, invalids benefits and offsets student loans by 50% (i.e. living expenses), but leaves pensioners no worse off. I get a net cost of $26,763 billion.

    It can be done with the following tax rates on the current brackets plus a new ‘above $150000’ bracket. It results in net income increase for people on and below the median income from wages and salaries. Negative transfers kick in just above that:

    up to $14000: 35%
    up to $48000: 38%
    up to $70000: 46%
    up to $150000: 56%
    above $150000: 66%

    Melbourne • Since Jun 2015 • 10 posts Report

  • Hard News: The Hep C Buyers Club,

    More excellent journalism, this time from a major tv channel. This is really something!

    I would have liked to see more discussion about the intellectual property system. There is a tendency here to blame the company for essentially acting as they're required to by the system. It's not good enough to just say it cost $500m to research that drug. Drug research is a high risk endeavour. They certainly spent lots of money on other drugs that never went to market, so they are recouping all their development costs, not just for that drug. If you want to accuse them of greed, look at their total r&d expenditure vs. total profit. I'm sure their profits are still massive, but it's important to understand why.

    Intellectual property can only work by denying access to some people who want the product. Creating artificial scarcity is the whole point. You can model this simply in your head. Imagine there are 10 people who need something, but each earns $10 more disposable income than the person below them. {$100, $90, $80, $70 ... $10}. If you have a monopoly, how do you price the product to maximize your return?

    - You could get the most customers by charging $10, you get 10 customers but you only get $100 (10 x $100).
    - You could get $100 by charging $100 and only having one customer (1 x $100).
    - You make the most money by charging $50 and having five customers (5 x $50 = $250).

    So you're better off denying access to the rest by pricing the product above their means. Note that in this model, it doesn't matter how much it cost to develop the product. Profit is irrelevant.

    So instead of accusing the company of being immoral, we should instead blame ourselves for consenting the the perpetuation of a system that requires the underutilization of information goods. We have a system that requires people to die from a preventable disease in order to incentivise the development of the prevention.

    Props to Paul Mason's "Postcapitalism".

    Melbourne • Since Jun 2015 • 10 posts Report

  • Hard News: Media Take 2016: the new…,

    Wow. That was amazing. I've never watched the show before, and it's like the best current affairs thing I've ever seen on NZ television.

    You had 2 people with what at the outset sounded like opposing views having a sensible, mature conversation.

    Seriously, why isn't tv3 running this against seven sharp?

    Melbourne • Since Jun 2015 • 10 posts Report

  • Hard News: The unstable Supercity,

    I work in IT, but in a small group doing in-house stuff. I really don't know how this can happen. How do you spend that much money on a computer system? This isn't a question just for the council, it seems endemic for these sort of projects.

    Think about it. With a very generous annual employment cost of $200,000 (salary, workspace, expenses, etc) $1.2 billion a year is 6,000 people! Hardware costs are (or at least should be) minor compared to personnel in any IT project. Anything a council wants to do can be done with open source software, so if you are paying vendors big fees, you have to justify this against saved labour. I cannot see vendor fees being that high here. Lets say $200 million for vendor fees and hardware. That sill leaves 5000 very good salaries.

    Unless there are more than 5000 people working on this, then someone is making an absolute killing. And if there are 5000 people working, what are they doing? To put this in perspective, Facebook had 6337 full time employees in 2013, and they had money to burn.

    Melbourne • Since Jun 2015 • 10 posts Report

  • Hard News: UNGASS and the "Drug Free…,

    Given the complete lack of consensus on the UNGASS principles, what are the chances that more countries will withdraw from the convention altogether? Were there any consequences for Bolivia when it did? If no one believes that it actually works, is there a will to punish small and medium powers that withdraw? Is there some sort of benefit to being part of an international framework, even if it fundamentally flawed and is causing a huge amount of harm?

    There seems to be a growing chorus of people pushing a softly softly, low hanging fruit sort of agenda. Their demands are to legalize weed, allow pill testing and stop criminalizing users of other drugs. Why not just call bullshit on the whole thing and end prohibition?

    Could a small power like New Zealand, or a middle power like Australia, just withdraw from the convention and get away with it? I would imagine they would unilaterally declare that they will not import any drugs, produce them all within their borders, and viciously prosecute anyone who attempts to export them.

    What do people think? To me it seems that the moderate road lacks coherence. The best it can aim for is that it is less destructive than the status quo. We know the system is fundamentally flawed, could we actually solve the problem instead of just mitigate some of it's negative effects?

    Melbourne • Since Jun 2015 • 10 posts Report

  • Hard News: Potency and purity,

    B, It’s a long story, and it’s a historical story. (See below for a book and video dealing with the history)

    I think you’re right, most of the people involved mean well. I also think many see the situation as hopeless and go along with the status quo because to not do so would threaten their positions of power. (There are a lot of former heads of state, former police officers, and former government misters calling for an end to prohibition)

    But that doesn’t mean that prohibition is moral. It doesn’t mean that drug users are not suffering repression. In the 1960’s in Australia, well meaning people believed that the best thing to do with Aboriginal children was to forcibly adopt them. They were well meaning, but they had a false (in this case, racist) view of the world. They did immeasurable harm and committed shameful acts as a result. It is this sort of situation (though far less horrible) that I think we’re dealing with. History has framed of the debate, and the history is one of racism, political repression and moral panic.

    Prohibition does great harm. This harm could be justified only if it were extremely successful or if the alternative were truly dire. We deprive people of their freedom for an act that only directly affects them. We create a situation where people overdose, take drugs they wouldn’t otherwise, and are subject to personal violence. This is an extreme thing. It does not fit within any concept of a democratic, liberal society.

    A great general book that covers how the current debate has nothing to do with public health is “Drugs without the hot air” by David Nutt. He is doesn’t take the same position as I do (he’s firmly in the public health camp) but he goes through the history very well and presents it far better than I could. (He’s famous for getting fired from a British government post for arguing that MDMA is safer than horse-riding.) The organisation he works for has a website here:

    This video is pretty good too:

    Melbourne • Since Jun 2015 • 10 posts Report

  • Hard News: Potency and purity, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Sure, testing drugs is a good move. There are many things we can do to make the current situation less bad.

    However, I think that it’s got to the point where we need to accept that prohibition is not just a bad idea, but morally wrong in a fundamental way. We shouldn’t be dignifying the persecution of drug users by suggesting that it is a failed public health measure. It is and always has been a politically motivated act of repression.

    It is not a policy question akin to seatbelt laws, or how we go about funding hospitals, or what sort of anti-natal care we should provide. Drug prohibition is justified with similar logic, and is motivated by similar political forces as racial segregation or the prohibition of sodomy.

    Melbourne • Since Jun 2015 • 10 posts Report

  • Hard News: Potency and purity, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The reasons Quigley might favour such a course are outlined in my what’s-in-the-pills story for the New Zealand Drug Foundation’s Matters of Substance magazine, which sparked the current media interest in the topic.

    The other problem with all of these studies is that it's not really a question of MDMA's long term effects, but of the long term effects of whatever was in the pills that were in circulation at the time. This assumption that ecstacy === MDMA is really problematic and needs to stop.

    It's not like there's this big pool of people who have only taken MDMA and maybe alcohol for 20 years. As the title suggests, MDMA users are polydrug users (whether they chose to be or not). And guess what, doing lots of random drugs is bad for you.

    Melbourne • Since Jun 2015 • 10 posts Report