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June 13th, 2014

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.

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