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Amusements and frustrations

Came across this funny and touching short memoir of the time the LA Count Dracula Society screened the gay porn film Gayracula (nws), and the poster ended up interviewing, and becoming friends with, the star, Tim Kramer.

Was at a delightful girls grammar school on Thursday--the girls were charming, and some very bright. (Also, the expression "hits like a girl" is getting very dated.) But they have "energy saving" lights, which took a bit of getting used to (you had to just touch the buttons to make them go off, but hold them down for a length of time for them to come on--which was fine, if you knew that). We have an "energy saving" hot water system, which wastes lots of water as you have to run it for quite a while before you get actual hot water. I used to amuse myself when I worked in the public service by considering how much expensive labour was wasted waiting for the photocopier to power back up to save cheap energy.

I had come to be strongly against approval systems (rather than just having explicit rules) before I moved out West, but living in the suburban wilds of the Hopper's Crossing area (where nothing is in walking distance), I am now viscerally against them. They patently fail to result in sensible outcomes, they discourage innovation, are an open invitation to corruption of various levels (even if it just making developers, etc major donors to political parties as they so need access to officials just as a matter of doing business) and they ensure that you only get big developers (since small operators cannot afford the uncertainties of delays in the approval process) who then game the system. So we can't get full speed internet in our less than 3 years old suburb, because the developer put in "pair gain" lines. But I am sure it passed "approval".

Meanwhile, the suburbs have only a few access roads each, feeding into a few single carriageway roads that begin to clog up about 7am. All "approved". But the land rationing the approval system supports drives up the value of "land approved for housing" and means government revenues are only very weakly connected to provision of infrastructure, which is also made much more expensive, leading to said infrastructure being systematically under-provided. Much of the point of having the government provide infrastructure is that it can capture via taxes the increased property values and commercial activity that a private provider can't. Now, not so much.

Then there is the whole "infrastructure is evil" thing: dams are evil, power stations are evil, freeways and tollways are evil, railways are evil (the Doncaster line did not get built because the Hamer Government folded when faced with resident complaints--I wonder if some of the same local activists are now agitating for a Doncaster line?), and so on. But suggesting we lower immigration--that's evil too. Oh, and suburban sprawl is evil, infill is evil. As a set of policy positions, it makes no sense. But if the point is to increase the value of existing inner city property values and to show one's moral "soundness" by accepting the entire, utterly incoherent, package, I suppose it works just fine.


( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 13th, 2014 01:22 am (UTC)
The railing about the "Approval" process might make more sense if you took into account that the council level approval boards want more connecting roads, more local trunks, more heterogenous zoning (with local shopping strips, regional light industrial, that sort of thing), but that this cuts into developer profits, who appeal to VCAT and the minister, and the way the laws on the matter have been written (which may as well have been by the developers' lobbyists), they almost never lose.

Adding feeder roads into a development is expensive. Adding better infrastructure (and paying for the surrounding infrastructure to be improved to be able to take the load) is expensive. Actually planning a working community -- rather than slapping "residential" on the whole block and infilling with ticky-tacky and roads which are almost wide enough for one car at a time, if nobody parks on the side of the road, and everyone likes sunshine, so we'll just go ahead and clearfell the whole suburb no need to thank us -- is expensive. Which is why it doesn't happen. If the boards responsible for approval were allowed to actually disapprove once in a while, you might not get so many Caroline Springs, or Upper Beaconsfields, or Point Cooks. But they in practice aren't allowed to disapprove when it matters most.

I also note that you complain about approvals, when your description on the nixing of the Doncaster line revolves around NIMBY and politics (and the City Loop, and finance, and apathy), and had nothing to do with "approvals" in the slightest.
Jun. 13th, 2014 01:38 am (UTC)
Sorry, no. I have worked for years in land development engineering, and I can tell you that the process as you're describing does not favor developers. The strongest incentives for developers is to build high density, gridded developments (highest units/acre, highest value per acre, least infrastructure investment per dollar of final value). Instead, developers are forced by NIMBY to build "neo-traditional" style developments, which involve single point of entry cul-de-sac neighborhoods with vast open space requirements, complicated and labyrinthine access systems, and dump all the cars on main thoroughfares that are not able to keep pace.

This one goes back to the people/government, not to those greedy capitalists. The "greedy developers" would optimize things for resource conservation... As is always the case.
Jun. 13th, 2014 01:43 am (UTC)
"As is always the case."

[Citation needed]
Jun. 13th, 2014 01:47 am (UTC)
Not really. capitalism has produced an incredibly streamlined and optimized product delivery in virtually every field where it has been permitted to do so. By contrast, regulation has produced fraud, waste and abuse, while delivering suboptimal services, incredible environmental destruction, and a truly horrific death toll whenever it has been ceded control.
Jun. 13th, 2014 01:49 am (UTC)
So... capital trumps democracy, right?

Who is John Galt?
Jun. 13th, 2014 01:55 am (UTC)
Trumps, no. But often, democracy is subject to a dramatically maleducated populace, in which case, that society tends to commit slow suicide. Often by abandoning individual rights in favor of collectivist ignorance and the politics of envy.

Capitalism is *smarter* than democracy. But it's an economic system, not a governmental one. When democracy starts interfering with capitalism, things start getting worse for everyone.
Jun. 13th, 2014 02:00 am (UTC)
Ford_Prefect42 is John Galt.

Or, in other words: yes. In any place where there is a conflict between democracy and capital, you think that Capital should win.

Thing is, we've seen this system. It led directly to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. To children working assembly lines. To the Ludlow Massacre. To the Highland Clearances and the Potato Famine.
Jun. 13th, 2014 02:09 am (UTC)
A fine example of ignorance on display. No, we haven't seen this system. What we have seen is the transition from agrarian to industrial society, and the incredible, amazing improvement in the lives of the poorest people that took place during that time. At the same time, there were some cause celebres for those that sought personal power, such as the triangle shirtwaist fire (a terrible incident, but in no way representative of anything in particular).

Yes, if it comes to a choice between individual liberty and democracy, individual liberty should win. Every single time. Or do you think that segregation should still be in force? Or that miscegenation should still be illegal? Or that slavery should still be legal in the south?

Here's my response to the "children on assembly lines"


The "Ludlow massacre" was a proportionate response to mob violence, vandalism, and destruction of property, as were virtually all of the massacres perpetrated by union thugs in that era.

The potato famine was the product of government, not capitalism, the landed aristocracy owed their power to government force of arms, not free trade. Same for the "Highland Clearances". Thou mayst not blame capitalism for the actions of government... Or, at least, you sound like a fool when you do so.
Jun. 13th, 2014 02:25 am (UTC)
"A fine example of ignorance on display."

A fine example of projection on display.

The health and safety regulations which would have prevented the Triangle Fire were fought tooth and nail by businesses. By Capitalism. It was public outrage and government imposition upon the rights of factory owners to lock their employees in the factory which stopped that sort of thing, not Capitalism. And if you doubt that, look to places like Bangladesh, where there is a distinct lack of effective regulation of trivialities like health and safety, and this sort of thing still happens with alarming regularity. And Capitalism's first response was not to fix their subcontracting on the subcontinent, it was to try and make sure no-one thought it had anything to do with them, because profits are more important than lives, every time.

The Ludlow Massacre was a private corporation taking advantage of its "rights" to treat its employees abysmally, and then co-opt government and use government troops to kill people whose crime was to claim that they had "rights" of their own.

The Highland Clearances were Landed Aristocracy acting to make the most "efficient" use of their "capital", and they did this by selling the people into slavery (no, really and literally: Highlanders were sent to the Caribbean as chattel) and using the land for sheep. It was because the aristocracy had ceased even pretending to be acting as a government.

Similar for the potato famine. The Aristocracy were acting in defence of their capital, at the expense of the people, and had co-opted government in order to do so.

I could add the Enclosure Acts, where the Georgian Nobility, already owning government, used parliament to deprive whole villages at a stroke. Or are you suggesting that the problem with Georgian England was that there was too much democracy?

I don't think you understand any of the historical processes involved, or, indeed, many of the words you keep using, as well as you think you do.

Edited at 2014-06-13 02:25 am (UTC)
(no subject) - ford_prefect42 - Jun. 13th, 2014 02:54 am (UTC) - Expand
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Jun. 13th, 2014 01:57 am (UTC)
Also, to quote "being liberal",

"Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual)."

Which argument is every bit as applicable to gay marriage and economic freedom.
Oct. 2nd, 2014 07:20 pm (UTC)
Free enterprise builds things more efficiently than even democratic governments. And non-democratic governments build things less efficiently than even democratic governments. When we get all the way down to your vaunted socialisms, we get things like Chernobyl or that vast and totally-useless skyscraper-hotel in Pyongyang.
Jun. 20th, 2014 01:01 pm (UTC)
I also note that you complain about approvals, when your description ...
Which is possibly why the paragraph begins with "Then there is ...", as in "now, new subject".

Also, what part of "big developers, who then game the system" did you not understand as developers gaming the system? Really, we should go for the German system, where approval structures are unconstitutional, so you have to make explicit laws where everyone can see what's going on.

Yes, infrastructure is expensive. Especially if you engage in land rationing, so the opportunity cost of using land for infrastructure goes up a lot.
Jun. 13th, 2014 01:33 am (UTC)
Actually, it's completely coherent. The entire ball of wax is specifically engineered to bring about the failure of western civilization, the collapse of industrial civilization, and the return to a more "harmonious" lifestyle. Which, of course, will involve killing a few billion people, but, omelettes, eggs, and all that.
Jun. 29th, 2014 06:30 am (UTC)
Melbourne needs to redefine itself
As a resident of Sydney, I would like to say that people living in Melbourne have no idea what traffic congestion really is. However the real point is that all of your transport infrastructure issues (as you seem them) are entirely self-inflicted.

You all what your own houses and your wide open spaces and then complain that you do not have decent public transport (as you define it). Well here is a tip. If you want to have an effective public transport system and to have small travel times to get from A to B, don't live so far apart from each other. You need high population density to be able to have an effective public transport system. All of the cities with world class public transport have high population densities. Cities that have low density that Melbourne have struggle to provide an effective public transport system.

You need to have (an allow) tall unit blocks with lots of people in a small area to get this to work. The problem is you have so much space and no effective geographical limits to your city growth, you are going to continue to perpetuate the same problem.
Oct. 2nd, 2014 07:18 pm (UTC)
But if the point is to increase the value of existing inner city property values and to show one's moral "soundness" by accepting the entire, utterly incoherent, package, I suppose it works just fine.

And of course the people who can meaningfully-speculate in inner-city properties are the very rich, not the moderately rich, let alone the upper middle classes. It is in short a highly-elitist set of policies, at least in its effects.
( 34 comments — Leave a comment )



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