More featuring Bert Kelly»

Bert Kelly, The Bulletin, May 15, 1984, p. 118.

Before Eccles and I go out to examine in detail some of the sadder rural industries in our land, there is one more general heading which we should have in mind.

It is, “I was in the right anyway.” It originated when a chap was being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance after an accident, saying through his muffling bandages to his nurse, “Well, I was in the right anyway!” But he was still going to the hospital.

I think of that heading every time I hear some brave defender of some rural industry proclaiming in ringing tones that surely his producers are entitled at least to get their costs of production. He then usually hammers his point by saying that many secondary industries get tariff assistance so that they can get their costs of production, so surely his people are entitled to the same treatment.

But I have to warn him that, if he and his group are guaranteed the costs of production, then it will probably be bad for them in the end.

Why is this?

First, there is the difficulty of arriving at what is the cost of producing anything. My costs will certainly be different to Fred’s and our will be different yet again to most of the others in our district and different again to farmers in other districts and different yet again to farmers in other states. The plain truth is that there is clearly no single cost of production for any crop grown in widely separate areas.

The second danger is that this way of fixing prices always distorts the market signals.

It encourages farmers to keep on producing something for which the demand is falling or vice versa. It almost always works in opposition to the law of supply and demand which always wins in the end.

Thirdly, the cost of production philosophy is frequently used as the excuse for a muddled up social welfare system. Poignant pleas are made that some producers are in real trouble and are living below the poverty line and so on. To cure this, some people say that if all farmers were guaranteed the costs of production, then everyone would at least get enough to live on.

The trouble is that, under this system, most of the money would go to farmers who did not need it. I have a very competent farmer friend who has a big English farm. We always compare our farming figures and his are always better than mine. Not only is he a better farmer but he also gets very generous treatment from his government which seems frantic to keep the small EEC farmers happy. When I asked him rather quizzically for how long he could continue to get such generous treatment from his government, he replied, “Bert, as long as there are enough poor struggling farmers around me, I shall be all right!”

If prices are raised by the cost of production formula to protect the position of the small farmer, most of the money will end up in the pockets of big farmers.

If governments feel that they should help poor farmers for welfare reasons, it would be better to pay the money to farmers in proportion to their need, not their production.

The sad truth is that you can put off the day of reckoning for years by hiding the unpleasant facts of economic life behind cost of production schemes, but the law of supply and demand always wins in the end; and the longer the end is delayed, the more painful will be the inevitable shake-out.

I said after the January Agricultural Outlook Conference that now very few producer groups advocated the cost of production method of fixing prices compared with 14 years before, when the conferences began. But it lurks there all the same. For instance, I heard a sugar grower make a stirring appeal for sugar producers to have their home consumption price fixed in this way. Then he said that, if it was good enough for manufacturers of cars to have the cost of producing their cars subsidised by the government, then it was surely good enough for sugar growers too. I was glad to notice that almost all the sugar growers present had the grace to grow red behind the ears at the thought of the mess we had made of the car industry being taken as a model for anything except disaster. After all, the sugar industry stands on its own feet nearly all the time, while the car industry stands on ours.

If only prices were fixed by what is just and fair, the cost of production system would be excellent. But prices are, in the end, fixed by the law of supply and demand and nothing can stop this law working.

That is why the chap was going to hospital, even though he was in the right.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Bert Kelly on his journalism
  2. Move for a body of Modest Members
  3. Modest Members Association
  4. Bert Kelly's Maiden Parliamentary Speech
  5. Government Intervention
  6. 1976 Monday Conference transcript featuring Bert Kelly
  7. Bert Kelly, Hayek and Mencken on the virtues of farmers
  8. Sound economics calls for quiet from government
  9. Petrol for Farmers
  10. Some Sacred Cows
  11. Experiences in Parliament
  12. Spending your Money
  13. Is Taxmania a politician fetish?
  14. How Bert Kelly repays a free feed
  15. Modest column #898
  16. Chicken-hearted feathered friends strange bedfellows on a feather bed?
  17. Who needs literary licence?
  18. A touch of Fred's anarchy
  19. Helping the farmers help themselves
  20. Standing on the shoulders of the downtrodden
  21. Supply and Demand
  22. Bert Kelly responds to claims he is arrogant and uncredentialed
  23. Politics: it's a very confusing business
  24. The best featherbeds run on rails
  25. Bert Kelly on Disaster Relief
  26. Bert Kelly Wants to Secede
  27. Blinded by their tears
  28. Anti-freedom pro-tobacco industry lobby harmed Australia
  29. Under Labor, is working hard foolish?
  30. An Idiot's Guide to Interventionism
  31. Is free priceless healthcare worthless?
  32. Can government kiss it better?
  33. Bert Kelly Destroys the Side Benefits Argument for Government
  34. Bert Kelly gets his head around big-headed bird-brained politics
  35. First Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
  36. Second Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
  37. Third Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
  38. Fourth Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
  39. Fifth Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
  40. Sixth Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
  41. Bert Kelly on the 2011 Budget and Australia's Pathetic Journalists and Politicians
  42. Bert Kelly, Bastard or Simple Sod?
  43. Liberal Backbencher Hits Govt. Over Import Restrictions
  44. Bert Kelly feels a dam coming on at each election
  45. Bert Kelly Enters Parliament
  46. Why take in one another's washing?
  47. Bert Kelly breaks the law, disrespects government and enjoys it
  48. Gillard's galley-powered waterskiing
  49. State Premiers are always asking for more taxing powers
  50. Can price control really work?
  51. Should we put up with socialism?
  52. We're quick to get sick of socialism
  53. Time the protection racket ended
  54. Can't pull the wool over Farmer Fred
  55. People not Politics
  56. Bert Kelly admits he should have had less faith in politicians
  57. The inspirational incentivising Dear Leader Gough Whitlam
  58. Labor: a girl who couldn't say no
  59. Why leading businessmen carry black briefcases
  60. Ludwig von Mises on page 3 of AFR
  61. Bert Kelly's empowering feminism
  62. Mavis wants the Modest Member to dedicate his book to her
  63. What if the whole country is swindled?
  64. Moss Cass: "Flood plains are for floods"
  65. A worm's eye view
  66. Eccles returns to haunt us
  67. How to grip a politician's ear
  68. It's hard to digest this economic cake
  69. Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
  70. Cold water on government-instigated irrigation schemes
  71. Hooray for Ord River Dam!
  72. Tariffs paid by exporters
  73. The problem of principles v popularity
  74. If you support State Quotas, where will your logic take you?
  75. Against guidance by government
  76. A socialist in Liberal clothing
  77. Never ask the government to help
  78. Don't listen to economists!
  79. Bert Kelly's revolutionary strategy
  80. Whitlam's July 1973 25% tariff cut
  81. Bert Kelly on Import Quotas
  82. Good directions when government backseat driving, like reversing down wrong side of road
  83. Barriers to imports are barriers to exports
  84. Bert Kelly reviews The War Diaries of Weary Dunlop
  85. Bert Kelly reviews We Were There
  86. Tariffs get the fork-tongue treatment
  87. Bert Kelly reduces government to its absurdities
  88. Politician sacrifices his ... honesty
  89. It's all a matter of principle
  90. Bert Kelly Destroys the Infant Industry Argument
  91. Bert Kelly Untangles Tariff Torment
  92. Bert Kelly resorts to prayer
  93. Eccles keeps our nose hard down on the tariff grindstone
  94. "Don't you believe in protecting us against imports from cheap labour countries?"
  95. Even if lucky, we needn't be stupid
  96. Great "freedom of choice" mystery
  97. Small government's growth problem
  98. I like my kind acts to get a mention in the press
  99. A Modest Member rakes the embers
  100. Tariffs Introduced
  101. More About Tariffs
  102. Sacred cow kicker into print
  103. Bert Kelly's 1984 two-article quote-collection on Aboriginal policies
  104. Modest Member must not give up
  105. Traditional Wheat Farming is Our Birthright and Heritage and Must be Protected!
  106. Tariff-cut nonsense lives on
  107. Bert Kelly brilliantly defends "theoretical academics"
  108. The high cost of protection
  109. Generosity creates problems
  110. The Society of Modest Members
  111. John Hyde's illogical, soft, complicated, unfocussed and unsuccessful attempt to communicate why he defends markets
  112. Modesty ablaze
  113. Case for ministers staying home
  114. The unusual self-evident simplicity of the Modest Members Society
  115. Animal lib the new scourge of the bush
  116. The Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Krill
  117. modest members society
  118. Repeal economic laws, force people to buy new cars and enforce tariffs against overseas tennis players
  119. Thoughts on how to kill dinosaurs
  120. Let's try the chill winds
  121. Taking the Right's road
  122. Bert Kelly: "I did not try often or hard enough"
  123. Bert Kelly "lacked ... guts and wisdom"
  124. A look at life without tariffs
  125. The Gospel according to Bert
  126. Tiny note on Bert Kelly's column in The Bulletin in 1985
  127. Why costs can't be guaranteed
  128. Hitting out with a halo
  129. Paying farmers not to grow crops will save on subsidies, revenge tariffs, etc
  130. "The Modest Farmer joins us" | "How The Modest Farmer came to be"
  131. Bert Kelly Destroys the Freeloading Justifies Government Argument
  132. Industrial Relations Club shovellers
  133. From Shann to Stone
  134. Government Intervention
    vs
    Government Interference
  135. A sojourn in the real world
  136. The tariff wind swings
  137. Bigger Cake = Bigger Slices
  138. Bert Kelly on the Political Process
  139. A charabanc called protection
  140. Taken for a ride - to nowhere
  141. Down hill, in circles, all the way
  142. Economic facts and figures are statistics who should speak out
  143. Any cons arguing small business bad but big government good?
  144. Relationships with the Liberal Party
  145. Tariffs = High Prices + World War
  146. Bert Kelly's Family History
  147. Bert Kelly's Pre-Parliament Life
  148. What the MP could say to the Bishop
  149. Why Bert Kelly was not even more publicly outspoken
  150. WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
  151. How to stand aside when it's time to be counted
  152. How the Modest Member went back to being a Modest Farmer
  153. My pearls of wisdom were dull beyond belief
  154. Bert Kelly on Political Football
  155. Undigested morsels in Fraser spew
  156. Bert Kelly on LSD
  157. Bert Kelly reflects on the Australian car industry in 1992
  158. Bert Kelly wants reprinted Shann's Economic History of Australia
  159. If tariffs are opposed here then why not there?
  160. The emperor has no textiles, clothing and footwear sense
  161. Ross Gittins Wins Bert Kelly Award
  162. Interesting 1964 Bert Kelly speech: he says he is not a free trader and that he supports protection!
  163. This is the wall the Right built
  164. Tariff Protection in Australia (1970)
  165. Has Santa socked it to car makers?
  166. Is the Budget a cargo cult?
  167. Will we end up subsidising one another?
  168. Keeping the bucket of worms alive
  169. Can we get off the stomach-churning head-spinning tariff merry-go-round?
  170. Do we want our money to fly?
  171. Can a bear be sure of a feed?
  172. How to impress your MP -
    ambush him
  173. The time for being nice to our MPs has gone ...
  174. Don't feel sorry for him -
    hang on to his ear
  175. Trade wars can easily end up on a battlefield
  176. Tariffs Create Unemployment
  177. Bert Kelly recommends Ayn Rand
  178. Bert Kelly on Alf Rattigan's Industry Assistance: The Inside Story
  179. Bert Kelly's Satirical Prophecy: Minister for Meteorology (tick) and High Protectionist Policies to Result in War Yet Again (?)
  180. Bert Kelly in 1972 on Foreign Ownership of Australian Farmland and Warren Truss, Barnaby Joyce and Bill Heffernan in 2012
  181. Bert Kelly baits Welfare State Tiger
  182. Why does Govt wear two faces?
  183. Parliament a place for pragmatists
  184. Of Sugar Wells and Think-Tanks
  185. Bert Kelly: "I must take some of the blame"
  186. Bert Kelly on dumping duties
  187. The Govt's helping hand often hurts
  188. Unbuckling the hobbles on the motor industry
  189. A Modest Farmer looks at the Problems of Structural Change
  190. Government Fails Spectacularly
  191. Know your proper place if you want the quiet life
  192. Bert Kelly on political speech writers
  193. Having your cake and eating it
  194. Perish the thawed!
  195. Hooray for Northern Development!
  196. Politicians can resist everything except pressure
  197. The silly image of our MPs
  198. Bert Kelly Question Time highlights
  199. Modest Farmer sees his ideas take hold
  200. Should facts stand in the way of a good story?
  201. Fondling one another's glass haloes
  202. What is the sense in making the effort to look after yourself?
  203. Fred's Feeling: Counterpatriotic country contrarian
  204. Handouts for big boys only
  205. Mavis trying to buy a hand loom
  206. Bad news for bearers of bad news
  207. Is it time to get aboard the tariff band-waggon?
  208. Why farmers resent tariff protection for motor makers
  209. A sordid use of scare tactics
  210. Goods vs services
  211. Tariffs are hilariously counterproductive
  212. Bert Kelly on decentralisation
  213. Inflation breeds moral decay
  214. Who envies equality?
  215. Growth – malignant or benign?
  216. Government wiser than Magna Carta
  217. Bert Kelly on looking to politicians for moral leadership
  218. Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
  219. Whitlam & co on the Dismissal
  220. 25% Tariff Cut
  221. Bert Kelly on pensions
  222. The backseat drivers of the Pilbara
  223. Mr Clunies-Ross of the Cocos Islands should rule Australia
  224. They get the wind up when it changes
  225. Why the Big Green Lie survives
  226. Ross McLean in 1982: "Malcolm! Why don't we try good government? It might be popular."
  227. Bert Kelly on the importance of exchange rate movements
  228. Bert Kelly shows how to attack
  229. Bert Kelly vs Bert Kelly vs Bert Kelly
  230. Industrial relations dinosaur, Bruce, chews his cud
  231. Hooray for "firmly entrenched"!
  232. Respect your dinosaurs
  233. What if something is "deeply ingrained" yet harmful?
  234. A case for ministerial inertia
  235. Why politicians don't like the truth
  236. Our great open spaces
  237. Ominous dark clouds are gathering
  238. Better to be popular than right
  239. Crying in the wilderness
  240. Ivory tower needs thumping
  241. Bert Kelly asks, "How can you believe in free enterprise and government intervention at the same time?"
  242. Politicians get undeserved praise, why not undeserved blame too?
  243. Feet in a bucket of champagne
  244. Rural Problems
  245. Health cover needs a $30 excess clause
  246. Unholy state of taxation
  247. Boring economics worth a smile
  248. The Libido for the Miserable
  249. Agricultural Development and Tariffs
  250. Fred's too poor to have principles
  251. Eccles Law of the constant wage share
  252. "He whom the gods would destroy ..."
  253. Tariffs: when to wean infant BHP?
  254. Keep any government as far as possible from farming
  255. The Playford charade is out of date
  256. Bert Kelly: the odd man out who's now in
  257. Dries must resist giving up struggle as going gets tough
  258. How a well meaning Government can be so stupid
  259. The icing on the economic cake
  260. Sir Roderick Carnegie's foreword to Bert Kelly's Economics Made Easy
  261. The Vale of Popularity and the Protection Procession
  262. Politics 101: Pay Lip Service to Capitalism and Shoot the Messenger
  263. Bert Kelly makes politicians eat their own words on tariffs, then says, "We cannot be blamed for treating the statements of our statesmen with cynical contempt"
  264. Bert Kelly on Free Enterprise
  265. Cartoons of protected industry, the welfare teat and the nanny state
  266. Bert Kelly on the theory of constant shares and the Fabian Society
  267. Bert Kelly vs Doug Anthony
  268. You're lucky if you escape being helped by government
  269. Bert Kelly on Small Farmers
  270. Bert Kelly on Apathy
  271. Bert Kelly in 1967 on "problems of government and things like that"
  272. The last "Dave's Diary"
  273. Bert Kelly vs The Australian on tariffs in 1977
  274. Bounties or Tariffs, Someone Pays
  275. Geriatric companies without a minder
  276. A free marketeer wary of free trade
  277. Nixon's puzzling profession of faith
  278. "Ford ... seems to spend more time bending its knees than its back"
  279. Clyde Cameron's weak ways with wise words
  280. Why flaunt what others flout?
  281. Bert Kelly yearns for Tim Flannery's powers of prediction
  282. Looking after yourself is silly
  283. Bert Kelly masterpiece on drought, fire, flood and other natural disaster relief schemes
  284. Government can take credit for our car industry mess
  285. Car makers want the 4wd driven deeper into tariff bog
  286. Why our MP is no longer prone to a good sob story
  287. Auto industry is in a straitjacket
  288. Bert Kelly on market predictions
  289. Why should dryland farmers subsidise irrigation farmers?
  290. How much should government decrease incentive for independence from government?
  291. Clarkson crowned Deputy Government Whip
  292. Bert Kelly to blame for soaring government healthcare costs
  293. 1959 return of Dave's Diary
  294. Bert Kelly in 1966 on developing northern Australia
  295. Successful government intervention can [sic] occur
  296. Vernon Report upholds Clarkson
  297. Quiet Man Makes An Impact
  298. Should it be compulsory to buy footwear and clothing?
  299. To save Australian clothing industry women must all wear same uniform
  300. Don't confuse plucking heart strings with plucking harp strings
  301. Speech only for public
  302. Catchy Tariff Circus Extravaganza
  303. Bert Kelly in 1985 on cars yet again
  304. Hurrah for the Gang of Five
  305. Thoughts on a verse about Balfour
  306. Bert Kelly pep talk to politicians
  307. Government intervention = Agony postponed but death brought nearer
  308. Recipe for disaster: Freeze!
  309. Recipe for government intervention: Gather winners and scatter losers
  310. Recipe for industry destruction: Blanket market signals
  311. Mavis writes!
  312. Bert Kelly's empiricism is not kneejerk reaction kind
  313. The $2,000 song of the shirt worker
  314. Subsiding only small farmers means subsiding the big banks
  315. Difficult to be fast on your feet when you've got your ear to the ground
  316. It would surprise people to see how sensible MPs behave if they think they are not being watched
  317. Bert Kelly on "this land of limitless resources" and "great open spaces"
  318. Growing bananas at the South Pole
  319. Car components tariff protection under fire
  320. Why carry a $300m car subsidy?
  321. Tariff feather beds for the foreign giants
  322. Bert Kelly says end compulsory voting to stop donkey vote
  323. Perhaps being smart and insured isn't all luck
  324. You gets your tariff, you pays a price
  325. More funds to train Olympians?
  326. Fire in their guts and wind in ours
  327. Should free universal healthcare include pets?
  328. Sound advice from a modest farmer
  329. A tottering monument to intervention
  330. Cunning meets wisdom
  331. Competition, Aussie-style: Who's the bigger parasite?
  332. Australians are proud patriotic parasites, says Bert Kelly
  333. Taxpayer-funded sport is cheating
  334. Being loved by all is not always a good thing
  335. Welfare State Destroys Society
  336. 1980 Bert Kelly feather bed series
  337. The White Mice Marketing Board
  338. Government intervention and advice can be harmful, even when right, even for those it tries to help
  339. One small step on the compulsory voting landmine
  340. The free & compulsory education sacred cows have no clothes
  341. Holding a loaded wallet to an economist's head
  342. Political No Man's Land
  343. Only blind greed demands both equality and prosperity
  344. A cow that sucks itself — that's us!
  345. Nip the bud of incentive; mock community spirit into submission
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