Viv Forbes, Stuck on Red & Other Essays (First Published by “Business Queensland” and “Common Sense” in 1991), pp. 68-70.About the Author»
Every little boy loves watching fires and floods. The excitement of action, the thrill of danger and the feeling of importance when relaying the news back home are irresistible.
Politicians are no different. Once disaster strikes they flock in with concerned faces and promising cheque books. If the disaster is big enough to attract national television, there will be sufficient politicians on hand to hold a joint federal-state cabinet meeting.
However, the long-term disasters conceived by vote seeking blow-ins are more costly than those they claim to solve.
Take drought relief. For years the elders of the farming community have said to their sons, “Don’t get into debt, build up your savings and keep the hay shed full.”
Now the government says to those who ignored this sound advice, “If you have heavy debt, no liquid assets and starving stock, do not worry. You are entitled to a handout from us. Your prudent neighbours will pay for it.”
We all sympathise with struggling farmers plagued by taxes, tariffs, inflation, blow-flies, politicians, unions, floods and drought.
However, droughts are a normal feature of the Australian landscape. Some areas have been defined as “drought stricken” for 50% of the time for over 20 years. People who choose freely to locate their businesses in these areas must plan to cope with natural climatic conditions. It is unfair that other businesses who choose safer environments should be forced by politicians to subsidise those who gamble unsuccessfully against King Drought. As Mr Warburton said in 1986, “Farmers who receive most assistance tend to be risk takers, while those who adopt strategies to minimise risk, or prepare for a disaster, are often ineligible for assistance.”
Past drought policies have perversely added to the risks faced by country businesses.
Firstly, there are no clear unchangeable guidelines. Each natural disaster produces ad hoc decisions and arbitrary rules which add political uncertainty to all the other risks facing the farmer.
Worse still, if farmers believe there will be government help, they lose the incentive to adopt drought insurance policies. This encourages overstocking (and land degradation) and makes the next drought an even bigger disaster.
Floods are a natural feature of certain country. As Moss Cass said in 1974, “Flood plains are for floods.” People who freely locate their house or business on flood plains are choosing higher risks in return for cheaper housing blocks, or more fertile farm land. It is unfair that those with different risk preferences should be forced to subsidise them.
Politicians like to grandstand and gladhand on the stage of big disasters. But disasters are individual things. The man whose house is burnt down in an isolated fire has suffered a bigger disaster than any one of the thousands of home owners whose houses are flooded but left intact. Moreover, it is difficult to determine who has suffered from a natural disaster. Drought does just as much damage to the regional machinery dealer as it does to his farmer clients, but the dealer seldom gets a political handout.
Politicians also magnify future disasters by giving handouts to those who have no insurance. This is equivalent to supply government insurance at zero cost, which is certainly more attractive than insurance from AMP or MLC. This unfair competition tends to increase the number of people with free government insurance and decreases the pool of people contributing directly to the voluntary disaster insurance pool.
The media are often equally irresponsible. They could play a valuable role with accurate advice and information, in organising and promoting voluntary relief schemes and in acting as a watchdog to expose deceptive insurance practices or fraudulent claimants. Instead they employ emotive headlines and journalistic harassment to spread the Aorta disease — “Aorta give these poor victims more money.”
Every government welfare scheme gets abused and over-used and leads to widespread corruption.
First is the legal corruption which occurs where assiduous advisers employed by big business read the rules and manipulate stock or assets to ensure they are eligible for government relief. Second is the outright fraud committed on a clumsy bureaucracy by individual liars and con-persons (yes, there were ladies among the 10% of fraudulent claims to the Logan City disaster relief scheme).
What may responsible politicians do? They could ensure that all disaster insurance is tax deductible — this should include storage of water and fodder, and insurance premiums for fire, flood, storm or earthquake. They should also ensure that there is no deception or fraud on either side regarding the disclosure of risks and no breach of any insurance contract.
They should also avoid the use of totalitarian “emergency” evacuation and seizure powers. (A study of most disasters shows that jackbooted officials are one of the biggest dangers facing any independent-minded citizen.) If someone chooses to defend his property from flood, fire or looting, or to take the risk of staying put, that is his right. The combined effect of all such individual defence efforts will always exceed the centralised and costly efforts of the authorities. Finally, politicians should abandon the business of providing “free” disaster relief, absolutely and completely, and publicise this fact. Those with a compulsion to do good deeds should find a useful job on the end of a shovel or on a fund raising committee.
Life is full of disasters — flood, fire, earthquake, cyclone, drought, accident, volcano, war, burglary, disease, locusts, rabbits, unwanted pregnancy, toxic waste dumps, tax audits, political promises and the Australian Wool Corporation.
Only foolish people do not recognise these risks. Each person must decide which risks to insure against and which to bear. Inevitably, some will choose to take foolish risks, but politicians should not coerce other taxpayers to reward the foolish.
The ultimate result of protecting people from their own foolishness is to fill the world with fools.
This is no service to any country.
- Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
- Put Windmills in National Parks
- Magnifying National Disasters
- Please Don't Feed the Animals
- Buy Birdsville Made?
- The Economics of Flood Risk
- Touring Bureaucrats
- Our slip-shod laws to blame
- Why Wind Won't Work
- A Profusion of "Prices"
- R.I.P. Ron Kitching - pioneer, explorer, author, family man, entrepreneur, scholar
- The Carbon Pollution Lie
- Closing Down Australia
- The Anti-Industry
- The Pyramid Builders
- Carbon Tax Bribery
- Crown Monopolies
- Carbon Tax Job Losses
- What Next, a Tax on Water?
- Carbon Health Warnings Coming Soon
- Growth Mythology
- The Tax Collection Industry
- Propaganda Puts Paid to Proof
- The Milk of the Welfare Teat is Watered Down
- "Crops for Cars" as Bad as Everlasting Drought
- Poll speech sets record
- The Emissions Trading Casino
- The Contract Society
- A Model Ministry
- The Five Point Plan to kill the economy with High Cost Electricity
- Put a Sunset Clause in the Carbon Tax
- Stuck on Red
- Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
- Carbon Tax Lies and Bribes
- The Middle of the Road
- United against taxes
- Call for Govt administrator
- Property & Prosperity
- "The Science is Settled" BUT Durban Climate Summit Not Cancelled
- No End to Fuelish Policies?
- The Right to Discriminate
- Sell the CES
- Free Water Costs Too Dam Much
- Creating Unemployment
- Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
- 1985 news item on Tax Payers United, Centre 2000 and the Australian Adam Smith Club
- Having the numbers is not the same as having the truth
- Who's Who in the Workers Party
- David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
- Caught in a welfare whirlpool
- Global Warming Season
- Mining in Queensland, Past, Present and Future
- WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
- Political branch formed
- Ron Manners on the Workers Party
- Viv Forbes on Libertarian Strategy and the Constant Resources Myth
- The New Brisbane Line?
- Carbon Lies
- We Mine to Live
- Save the taxpayer
- Solving Three Canberra Problems
- Vested Interests in the Climate Debate
- Carbon Tax Retrospective?
- Carbon Price Propaganda Taxes the Truth
- Don't Burn Food for Motor Spirit - Feed People not Cars
- Two Big Climate Taxes
- Greens Rediscover Hydrogen Car
- Atlas of Australia
- Shutting Out The Sun
- Safety Mania
- Coal - Sinking in the Swamps
- Hobbling the Competition
- Cubic Currency Coming
- "Dear Government"
- Viv Forbes mocks Flannery in 1988
- What we have is not a drug problem but a drug law problem
- Smoking, Health and Freedom
- Privatise Now! while they are still worth something
- The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
- The New Federalism
- Sunset for Solar Subsidies
- The mouse will roar
- The Road to Homelessness
- Planning & Prosperity
- Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
- Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
- Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
- Our homeless regulation refugees
- Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
- Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
- Magnifying National Disasters
- Helping the farmers help themselves
- The Flood of Claims
- Bert Kelly on Disaster Relief
- Moss Cass: "Flood plains are for floods"
- Australian legend, Hans Tholstrup, is going to the Mises Seminar
- Generosity creates problems
- WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
- "He whom the gods would destroy ..."
- Bert Kelly on Apathy
- Bert Kelly yearns for Tim Flannery's powers of prediction
- Looking after yourself is silly
- Bert Kelly masterpiece on drought, fire, flood and other natural disaster relief schemes
- How much should government decrease incentive for independence from government?
- Perhaps being smart and insured isn't all luck