Letters from a liberal

In addition to writing over 100 opinion pieces for Australian newspapers, perhaps nearly a dozen articles for applied policy journals, and a dozen or so research papers for a free-market think tank, I have written about a half-dozen published letters to newspaper editors about various economic and social policy issues. Some future posts on this blog will include details of published (and perhaps unpublished) letters, however at this time I provide a transcript of all previously published letters.

 

11 September 2008

The Australian Financial Review

 

Your article on education funding in Australia (“Education falls behind”, September 10) reveals only half of the picture. The system is funded by governments and a mix of private-sector entities, such as not-for-profit schools. As the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report shows, while funding from public sources in 2005 (as a percentage of gross domestic product) was lower than the OECD average, the gap was supplemented by private funding sources. Combining both sources of funding reveals that Australia’s total education spending was about the OECD average.

 

Far from falling behind, total expenditure on education services had increased compared with 2000.

 

The funding mix of government and private providers ensures that Australians have access to well-funded, high-quality education services, without the price tag of high Nordic-style tax rates.

 

Julie Novak

Institute of Public Affairs

Melbourne Vic

 

23 September 2008

The Australian Financial Review

 

Kevin Rudd has signalled his intention to pump-prime the nation through the economic slowdown (“Rudd says he’ll build his way out of trouble”, September 20-21).

 

Rudd would do well to learn some basic economics. The notion that government infrastructure spending can boost the economy, at no cost, is simply false.

 

All government spending is ultimately financed by taxation. This impost reduces jobs and economic activity in the private sector.

 

Another problem with government spending is that bureaucratic planning is no substitute for entrepreneurial insight, and government is unlikely to spend our hard-earned tax dollars wisely.

 

Rudd tells us that his government “will be engaged directly in economic activity across the economy to provide strong leadership into the future”. Given the uninspiring record of fiscal pump-priming by previous governments, with the economic pain that it entailed, this is the kind of talk that Australia doesn’t need.

 

Julie Novak

Institute of Public Affairs

Melbourne Vic

 

24 October 2008

The Australian Financial Review

 

At the Senate estimates hearing on October 22, Treasury secretary Ken Henry expressed his preference that the government’s bank deposit guarantee scheme ought to have been developed away from the prying eyes of public scrutiny.

 

In his own words: “I really think that it would be much better if these things could be dealt with in a sober way, out of the public gaze for the time being. Allow the officials the opportunity to reflect soberly and deeply upon the implications of various options and provide appropriate advice to government.”

 

This is an extraordinary statement to make, and has all the hallmarks of a “we know best” attitude.

 

Fortunately, our liberal democratic system obliges governments to propose and implement policies to be critically scrutinised by the public. Our system is one of “government by discussion”, with the discussion applying to every aspect of policy.

 

Important checks and balances are also in place to monitor government revenue raising and expenditure, and the conduct of bureaucrats in implementing policy.

 

The estimates committee hearing was a fine example of this in action. For example, it revealed that Treasury did not undertake formal modelling of the impact of the guarantee. The hearing also revealed that the $10.4 billion spending target was essentially plucked out of thin air.

 

To have government policies out of the public gaze runs the risk that taxpayers’ money will be wasted to an even greater extent than is evidenced today.

 

Julie Novak

Research fellow

Institute for Public Affairs

 

2 July 2009

The Australian Financial Review

 

Federal Finance and Deregulation Minister Lindsay Tanner gives a spirited, but ultimately unsuccessful, defence for retaining “deregulation” in his ministerial title (“Deregulation effort still on track”, Opinion, July 1).

 

The minister cited a range of cases where the federal government intends to take over existing state regulations in areas of credit, fair trading and property securities law.

 

These activities clearly constitute a reregulation of those activities.

 

For an intelligent minister, to create such a definitional tangle is surprising.

 

Also mentioned were proposed laws about disclosure and licensing of credit rating agencies, regulation of executive remuneration, acquisitions, contracts and lending practices.

 

These plans are far removed from any common understanding of what deregulation is about, entailing less regulation of markets.

 

It is also highly likely that new and amended regulations in these areas will create additional compliance cost burdens for businesses already struggling with red tape.

 

Tanner highlights a bill to repeal redundant regulatory provisions in more than 30 acts. This action simply recognises a reality that the regulations are outdated and no constituency supports them – it is not meaningful deregulation.

 

It is intriguing that the minister would focus on the deregulation aspect of his responsibilities, without mentioning his core responsibilities in finance.

 

With the federal budget expected to hit a deficit of $58 billion this financial year, recipients of the minister’s business cards might be forgiven for crossing out the word “Finance” as well as the letters “De” in deregulation.

 

Julie Novak

Research fellow

Institute of Public Affairs

Melbourne Vic

 

3 September 2011

The Canberra Times

 

Measuring the true size of government is an active area of economic research, although Jeff Lawrence of the ACTU does not seem to recognise this (”We need a tax system that reduces inequalities”, September 2, p17).

 

Lawrence accuses me of revising up Australia’s tax-to-GDP ratio on ”flimsy” grounds. However, my revisions are based on a 2007 Australian Tax Research Foundation paper written by Greg Smith, himself a member of the Henry tax review panel. In that paper it is noted that Australia ”uses tax laws to enforce compulsory superannuation contributions”.

 

This, and other off-budget fiddles, makes our tax system appear smaller than it actually is. The Smith paper also points to the need to account for the intertemporal shifting of tax burdens when calculating Australia’s tax burden. The OECD tax statistics might give an impression that Australia is a low- taxing nation, but such an impression is a misleading one.

 

Julie Novak, Research Fellow Institute of Public Affairs, Melbourne, Vic

 

3 September 2013

The Sydney Morning Herald

 

Joseph Stiglitz invites readers to indulge in the economic fantasy that the Rudd stimulus somehow saved the economic structure of Australia (“Cheer up, Australia, you’ve got it good”, September 2). Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

The fiscal stimulus package, totalling some $80 billion from October 2008 to May 2009, was mainly comprised of low-value spending.

 

The Building the Education Revolution program entailed numerous cases of functional school builds knocked down, only to be rebuilt with construction and materials costs set above the going market rate.

 

Studies show that little of the $900 “cash splash” was spent, with households that feared higher future taxes putting away the cash as savings for a rainy day.

 

The home insulation program entailed the most tragic of consequences for young electricians who died on the job, an indictment of the “go hard, go early and go household” approach to spending.

 

Australians are paying a heavy price for the Rudd stimulus, through burgeoning public debts to be repaid by future generations, and rising costs contributing to fragile private sector activity.

 

Dr Julie Novak senior fellow, Institute of Public Affairs, Melbourne (Vic)

 

20 March 2014

The Australian Financial Review

 

Jennifer Westacott and Elizabeth Broderick (“Gender reporting not a yes or no issue”, AFR, March 19) present gender reporting regulations as something of a fait accompli within the overgrown Australian regulatory structure. They invite the public to dismiss questions about whether gender reporting regulations are needed altogether, but instead entertain proposals to tinker with the existing reporting regime.

 

Businesses should be free to hire on any basis they wish, and publicly disclose as much, or as little, as they like about their staffing diversity.

 

For commercial reasons, some firms might wish to publicise their hiring record, others might not.

 

There is no role for regulatory compulsion by government in this field, and that there is needlessly adds to the compliance burdens keenly felt by businesses with 100 or more employees.

 

Julie Novak

Institute of Public Affairs

Melbourne, Vic

 

26 March 2014

The Australian Financial Review

 

It is surprising that economist Richard Denniss would liken federal government revenues to Qantas fares (“How to fix the deficit very quickly”, AFR, March 25).

 

Qantas could increase its fares to try to bring its budget into the black, but that strategy risks reducing market share as travellers consider switching to alternative, cheaper airlines.

 

Unfortunately taxpayers do not enjoy the same luxury, since governments impose tax and other revenue increases by force.

 

The general public would simply be stuck with the revenue increase. No country has ever taxed itself into prosperity, and this should be borne in mind when considering ways to address Australia’s budget emergency.

 

Julie Novak

Institute of Public Affairs

Melbourne, Vic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The regulatory state: From definition to reform

The Australian Taxpayers Alliance and Western Sydney Young Liberal movement recently convened a discussion series about key contemporary policy problems, and the political strategies required to achieve successful economic and social policy reforms.

I provided a presentation about the dimensions of the Australian regulatory state, and the kinds of regulatory reform necessary to embed a deregulatory stance within the prevailing political culture.

A copy of the presentation can be found here: ATA-YOUNG LIBERALS – Regulatory State

Reforming the welfare state leviathan

(The following is an extract from an unpublished paper, written a few months ago, on Australian public sector reform.)

A reasonably consistent feature of public sector growth throughout the Western world, including in Australia, over the past century has been the growing importance of redistributive activities within the overall governmental spending mix.

From modest beginnings in the late 1900s and early 1910s, with the inception of a federal age pension and maternity allowance, the commonwealth government welfare state has grown dramatically over the past century, accounting for almost 15 per cent of national economic output today.

One of the more concerning features of the welfare state’s fiscal trajectory is that expenditures continue to grow, albeit more modestly compared to previous decades, during the many years of uninterrupted Australian economic growth from the early 1990s to 2007.

Although Australia’s welfare state has been widely lauded as a relatively parsimonious system, at least compared against the fiscally exorbitant continental European welfarist regimes, a combination of population ageing and political acquiescence to demand for more generous benefits is widely expected to lead to a welfare state posing substantially greater burdens upon future generations.

If anything, the 2010 Intergenerational Report, which warned of this daunting fiscal prospect, underestimates the likely long term burdens of the welfare state, since it does not take into account subsequent policy decisions, or announcements, which have extended the scope of income support and other subsidies. These include the proposal for a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), paid parental leave, and increasing government funding for schools.

Accordingly, no government elected on a platform to restrain the size and scope of the commonwealth government can ignore the need for long term, systemic reforms to the welfare state.

To set the policy tone for significant structural reform, it is suggested that the commonwealth consider a range of interim measures to restrain the projected increases in welfare expenditure in the short to medium term:

  • Adjusting the indexation of age pension, disability support pension, and all other relevant pensions and allowances to the consumer price index.
  • Progressively and quickly raising the eligibility age for the age pension.
  • Introduction of strict time limits, say one year, for the duration of receipt of newstart allowance.
  • Means testing arrangements should be extended in several ways, such as: inclusion of the family home in age pension assets tests; means testing of child care rebate and medicare; and enabling individual government schools and hospitals the flexibility of directly charging fees for wealthy students and patients, respectively.
  • Tighten work tests for disability support pension recipients with a capacity to work, including people disengaged from workforce activities with musculo-skeletal complaints.
  • Introducing or increasing co-payments for various medical services, for example those provided under the medical benefits schedule and pharmaceutical benefits scheme, and other services.
  • Winding back family payments, including the short term abolition of family tax benefit part B, and the cessation of paid parental leave subsidies enabling businesses to compete for labour with their own paid leave arrangements.
  • Reduce the extent to which income support recipients can simultaneously access multiple forms of payments.

The prospective introduction of the NDIS is likely to pose as another significant threat to future budget sustainability, given the increasing incidence of people with disabilities within the Australian population.

To head off the looming fiscal burdens of the NDIS, the commonwealth should ideally not proceed with the proposal, encouraging the states, with traditional constitutional responsibilities in this field, to maintain, and in some instances introduce, personalised care provision models specifically directed to the needs of the disabled person.

However, with exceedingly high expectations now firmly entrenched for this federal intervention, there seems little practical prospect of the commonwealth aborting the NDIS. An imposing challenge is therefore presented for future governments to reconcile likely strong demands for services, with the need to retain economy in the budgeting of the scheme.

Ultimately, in the longer term, the key to restraining the welfare state will be for the government to withdraw from the financing and provision of redistributive subsidies, and privatising a range of merit goods such as schools, hospitals, and government housing stock. Some necessary ingredients for this state of affairs to materialise will need to incorporate the following elements:

  • cultural and political dedication to strong, robust economic growth, primarily directed by the market sector
  • development of a vigorous private savings culture as a key means for individuals and families to achieve dignity through self reliance, assisted by tax systems unbiased toward savings, and widespread financial and economic deregulation (including abolition of minimum wages and occupational licensing requirements)
  • encouragement of the development of vibrant private insurance markets providing various products enabling people to hedge against income fluctuations or unfortunate circumstances
  • widespread deregulation of markets enabling new providers of education, health and housing services to offer new products at progressively lower costs
  • an economic and social environment conducive to the development of mutual aid or friendly societies, assisting people during difficult personal and financial circumstances, and diversified local charitable organisations
  • encouragement of acts of philanthropy by businesses and high-wealth individuals.

The implied substantial reduction in public sector expenditures implied by these proposals would enable governments to significantly reduce the overall taxation burden, which in turn would induce additional growth and productivity enabling low income earners to grasp abundant new economic opportunities.

The artistry of the market process

‘Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.’ (The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again)

Human beings marvel at outstanding expressions by creative and enterprising people, in the form of dance, film, music, painting, sculpting, theatre, writing, and other artistic pursuits.

Participants within the market process share many of the behavioural traits often attributed to artists, such as exercising creative flair and committing to bold, if not daring, acts of expression.

For several reasons, however, entrepreneurial activity, production and consumption activities are not typically conceived as being akin to artistic activity, or at least not as dignified as works of art.

The structure of production gives form to entrepreneurial inspiration

The ‘wealth of nations’ is founded upon the production and exchange of valued goods and services within markets, and a necessary condition for the state of economic prosperity we enjoy are the economically creative acts of the entrepreneur.

The entrepreneur is responsible for making decisions about what, why, how, when and where to produce commodities, at given prices, in the hope of securing sufficient sales to customers that more than cover the costs of production.

Like a painter applying brush strokes to a canvas in the hope of producing a masterpiece, economic entrepreneurship involves marshalling and applying a range of resources in the quest to bring to life, as it were, a new form of output into existence.

Entrepreneurs must apply their visionary perceptions, establishing how heterogeneous capital, labour, land, raw materials and finances coalesce in bringing about a harmonious whole, in the form of a final good or service intended to benefit customers.

Contrasting many forms of conventional art work, involving one person or a few people at a time, the creative market process practically involves many people individually applying small, but uniquely creative, entrepreneurial imprints onto the supply chain.

From minute alterations of existing products, to the sweeping reconfiguration of outputs and production techniques implied by Schumpeterian ‘creative destruction,’ the market process allows entrepreneurs to express original economic ideas, and coordinate their creative energies, giving coherence to new forms of production that is reminiscent of artistic works.

Profits as customer applause for entrepreneurial creativity, losses as customer disapproval

Perceptions of the aesthetic values inherent in art works are powerfully influenced by the evaluations rendered by art critics, through their reviews as presented in newspapers, magazines and, more recently, web sites.

A similar process takes place in markets, as explained by Ludwig von Mises:

‘In the capitalist system of society’s economic organisation the entrepreneurs determine the course of production. In the performance of this function they are unconditionally and totally subject to the sovereignty of the buying public, the consumers. If they fail to produce in the cheapest and best possible way those commodities which the consumers are asking for most urgently, they suffer losses and are finally eliminated from their entrepreneurial position. Other men who know better how to serve the consumers replace them.’

In other words, the customer, who either chooses to purchase a given product or abstains from purchasing it, is the economic equivalent of the art critic.

The attainment of profits serves as an economic signal to the entrepreneur that their creative productive exploits are a valuable addition to the stock of prevailing economic knowledge, and that production ought to continue in a similar fashion in order to satisfy the needs and desires of customers.

Resembling the applause volunteered by patrons at an art exhibition, profits represent the echoes of economic applause resonating throughout the entire market system, encouraging new entrants to deepen the market with a view to achieve additional sales to new customers.

However, not all goods and services offered for sale, at given prices, can earn the economic approval epitomised by strong profitability, with some businesses not providing a useful product or decent service in the subjective assessments of consumers.

In this scenario the producers is at risk of incurring financial losses, signalling to the wider market that, unless additional creative energies are expended to improve the final good or service, scarce resources should be redirected to other uses instead.

Government should let the artistic expression of the market flow

If the market process does resemble the visionary, creative, risk‑taking and free expression usually attributed to the efforts of artisans, it follows that government intervention not is only hampering gains in material living standards but is stifling an important form of human expression.

Just as we guard against censorship and impositions against free speech, we should recognise that government involvement in the economy is doing nothing less than preventing people from economically engaging in the productive arts of buying and selling.

Debating labour market reform

The text below is of a speech I presented at a Melbourne University debate about the merits of labour market liberalisation:

The question put before us this evening is: which way should the industrial relations pendulum swing?

Over the last century, at least, Australia has endured countless styles of regulation, and re‑regulation.

What I mean by that is that the letter, and underlying objectives, of the IR system has tended to swing between more, or less, government regulation.

The pendulum has most assuredly not swung between government regulation of labour markets, on the one hand, and the self‑regulated system of an unhampered, or free, labour market, on the other.

The labour market has always been hampered by commonwealth and state governments, to some degree.

The extent of oscillation by the pendulum has been between of a more, or less, hampering effect upon the freedom to sell, and buy, labour services.

During the so‑called neo‑liberal era, typically classified as the period from 1983 to 2007, Australia has maintained very highly regulated arrangements.

From the Accord to Keating enterprise agreements, from WorkChoices to Fair Work Australia; none of these are consistent with labour market freedom, as I would conceive of it.

Following Lord Actonʼs dictum, more vigorously than most, that true, classical liberals subscribe to policy changes edging society closer to the ʻpolar star of liberty,ʼ I support the pendulum taking an all‑mighty swing, toward genuinely unhampered labour markets.

Let me be clear, on the record.

I mean, here, that coercive government should retract from its proclivity to regulate wages, and the terms and conditions of employment.

Governments do not have the knowledge to regulate labour market circumstances, paying due regard to the complex and idiosyncratic economic, and other, circumstances faced by many thousands of employers and employees.

Governments do not have the incentive to regulate labour market circumstances, in the terms I have described, in any effectual way, either.

Now, I am all in favour of liberalisation, and in an extensive way, but I am equally wise to the fact that Australia has travelled very far away from the liberal vision, of the unhampered labour market.

And the trade union movement, itself, has played an instrumental role in fashioning the highly illiberal Australian labour market, in existence today.

Unions have unquestionably played their role in erecting a very elaborate IR regulatory scaffolding, including a centralised arbitral body influencing wages and conditions everywhere, from Kununurra to Kettering.

Contrasting the spirit of their voluntaristic foundation, Australian trade unions, since the late nineteenth‑century shearerʼs strikes, have deliberately subverted the rule of law, and democratic processes, to hamper labour markets.

Through the willing aid of their subsidiary Australian Labor Party, the unions stack IR tribunals with their supporters, and resist reforms which would otherwise enhance economic competitiveness, and economic freedom.

The tooth‑and‑nail resistance of the AEU to meaningful school choice reforms, is just one clear example of that.

Now, the effects of a hampered labour market have been, in my view, truly devastating for many Australians, and in numerous cases have, in fact, been detrimental to the interests of the union movement itself.

The union czars would see, as one of their historical achievements, for example, as being the retention of a minimum wage system.

Minimum wages are supposedly the best friend of the worker, a gift of the union movement, and maintained by government, to underwrite decent living standards for all.

But, in reality, they are nothing but the best friend to unemployment.

The notion that increasing minimum wages exacerbate unemployment is not challenged conceptually, and it stands as an empirically dominant fact.

Given reasonable assumptions about labour demand elasticities, the 2.6 per cent national minimum wage increase, announced in June this year, would reduce employment by just over 87,000 people, alone.

People desperately needing further workplace experience, yet providing less than $16.37 per hour in effective economic value, are at risk of being thrown on the dole scrapheap.

Pricing the low‑skilled out of employment comes at great cost to:

·         economic development, through the loss of human capital investment opportunities;

·         the taxpayer, forced to prop up a mass governmental welfare state administered by public sector unions; and

·         the union movement itself, in terms of potential losses in membership.

The complicity of unions in supporting job‑destroying regulations, and of governments in maintaining them, leads me to subscribe to the only economically sound, and socially just, position to be enunciated this evening:

swing the pendulum to reduce governmental involvement in labour markets

If employers and employees are to collaborate in economically harmonious and productive ways, there is no alternative but to progressively seek liberalisation of IR regulations, thus promoting social cooperation under the division of labour.

So, by all means, let the pendulum swing!

Ideal tax reform

Earlier this year, Australian economic journalist Adam Creighton argued in favour of reintroducing wealth taxation, specifically as a financing vehicle to reduce direct taxes on income. Creighton argued the case for a new Australian tax on wealth in the following terms:

To the extent capacity to pay matters, why do we target income? The marginal income tax rates – now crushingly higher than anything Mill or Keynes would have thought economically feasible for any country – punish workers in the best years of their life when they are trying to provide for children, buy a home, or thinking about starting a business.

Personal income tax is also a gigantic noose of suffocating red tape around the economy because of the costly lengths people go to hide their income and the taxman’s relentless quest to find it. Individuals can far more easily funnel income to their children or deal in cash than they can hide their house or car.

Even shareholdings and superannuation accounts are more easily tracked than personal income. Sir Humphrey would call it a ‘courageous’ reform, but introducing a wealth tax and using the proceeds wholly to reduce income tax would provide a massive boost to economic growth and make the country a beacon for skilled workers.

There is no question this proposal was a most ‘courageous’ one, indeed, and one expressed by Australia’s best journalist of classical liberal persuasion no less. I made some critical comments about the proposal at the Catallaxy Files blogsite.

At about the same period in time, the prominent American economist Tyler Cowen predicted that a major strand of policy debate into the future would concern the grafting of positions favouring, or opposing, increases in wealth taxation.

There seems little doubt in my mind, given the growing emphasis by numerous adherents of large government upon changes in relative income inequalities, that Cowen is correct to surmise that wealth taxation could well represent the flashpoint for future debates over taxation structure.

That said, I do think it is timely for economists to use the wealth tax debate as an avenue to generally reappraise their positions about the relative merits and demerits of direct and indirect forms of taxation altogether.

Indeed, they should consider intellectually transcending the ultimately irreconcilable, and thus unsatisfying, ‘direct versus indirect’ debate, in favour of an alternative position more compatible with the object of securing a semblance of rationality, when it comes to financing the strictly limited array of governmental outputs.

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The kids aren’t alright, but with greater freedom they will be

At the risk of committing a gross generalisation, it seems to me that most young Australians are largely practising libertarians but mostly rhetorical socialists.

Eager to attain a degree of economic autonomy from their parents, thereby crafting an economic self‑identity, young people engage rather extensively with the broader labour market.

The participation rate of people aged 15 to 24, and attending full time education, has gradually increased from 32 per cent in 1986 to 47 per cent in 2013.

Growing numbers of young people are working, or seeking work, in a part time or casual capacity, as they balance income attainment today with schooling, vocational education or university, in turn entailing a promise of greater income attainment tomorrow.

By international standards the Australian total youth labour market participation rate (covering those attending and not attending education) is high, second in the OECD cohort (at 68 per cent in 2012) behind Iceland (76 per cent).

While most young people opt for human capital investment through schooling and skills training, or prefer the relative economic securities provided by working for a business, young entrepreneurs also exist who have chosen to take on risks by selling their own products to discerning consumers.

Some examples include Ruslan Kogan, who started his own consumer technology company from his parentʼs garage, Jane Lu who commenced the Show Pony fashion retail chain, and Nick D’Aloisio who created the Summly phone app and received venture capital funding as a 15 year‑old.

The average gross weekly disposable income of a person aged between 15 and 24 was $821 per week in 2011‑12, enabling them to save at least nominal amounts or to purchase a variety of necessities and luxury items from product markets.

While disposable incomes for young people are typically lower than those earned during their peak middle‑aged earnings years, it is well known that the influence of young people on fashions and other popular trends provide an important contribution to the overall sense of economic propulsion brought about by market changes.

The pervasive uptake of information and communication technologies, including online social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, by young people may be seen as a prominent contemporary case in point.

Another important aspect of the practical libertarianism demonstrated by large numbers of young people are their positions on key social issues, suggestive of a desire to reduce government interference in personal affairs.

In general terms, surveys have consistently shown that young people tend to express more relaxed attitudes on questions of personal and civil liberties, such as illicit drug use, gay marriage, internet filtering and censorship, and open borders.

However these manifestations of libertarianism, adhered to through habit, necessity or even outright support, appear, in many respects, to be generally offset by the expression of general attitudes which convey a socialistic mindset.

Although surveys have shown relatively less interest in political issues by young people, political polling also typically shows younger people disproportionately providing voting support to socialist parties such as Labor and the Greens.

As demonstrated during the ʻOccupy Movementʼ protests in Australia 2011, hundreds of young people across the country demonstrated a ready inclination to publicly agitate over a desire to reduce income inequalities, and alleging economic victimisation as a result of the operation of (non‑existent) unhampered markets. These replicate the well‑worn socialist crusades waged only many decades, if not centuries.

While hundreds of rioters and campers is not a representative sample of general inclinations, I would gather that many more young people would have harboured some sympathies toward the general themes expressed by those who did express their right of protest (albeit at inconvenience to others).

Admittedly, there are numerous examples of young people who maintain a consistent line on economic and social liberties ‑ such as my twenty‑something colleagues at the IPA, or the impressive cohorts of young people around the world gathering under the Students for Liberty umbrella ‑ but the total numbers of consistent young libertarians or classical liberals seem to be few and far between.

Subscription to a rhetorical socialism, even if it conflicts with everyday libertarian practices, is most problematic, since it inspires politicians to maintain and implement policies that increase the extent of government involvement in the lives of everyone, to the detriment of practising libertarians both young and old.

Consider how a raft of government policies harm the economic and social interests of all people, but especially the young.

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