Saturday, 6 December 2014

A Thought About Taxation

Hello Reader,

Over the past couple of weeks I've been giving a lot of thought to taxation in Australia, particularly given the passing of Gough Whitlam and the great impact he had on the operation of Australia.

For some time now I've been a supporter of tax equality. For those of you who are less familiar with taxation systems the concept of tax equality is that everyone should be taxed the same regardless of their financial status or any other factors that might cause a person to be taxed more or less than another person. Not to get too far from my intended topic but tax equality is great not only for promoting equality but it also means people are not being punished for their success or rewarded for their underachievement (not to say everyone in lower income groups are underachievers).

But my thoughts of late have been more pragmatic and focused on the application of taxation to the nation and the efficiency of the various forms of taxation.

At the moment we have three main internal forms of taxation which take the form of the income tax, corporate or business tax and sales tax. There are a whole slew of other lesser taxes such as capital gains, fringe benefits, etc. but the main points at which the government takes it's cut of all money in Australia is when it's paid to an employee, when someone buys a product and when it's received by a business.

Is having these three tax points in the life cycle of the dollar the most efficient way of obtaining government revenue? I'm not so sure. Now these three taxes all have long-standing traditions and all have their merits but to take a purely efficiency-minded axe to them we need to consider what they achieve and what is needed for them to achieve such goals. The goal of taxation is of course to keep government funded so that the public services of the nation can continue to function. The government needs a certain level of income each year to be able to function. To do this it has set up the several forms of taxation to extract money from the economy which it can then put back in as government spending. The idea is that government will allow for focused efforts on necessary services that aren't necessarily profitable and would be neglected or mismanaged by the private sector.

So the first question we need to ask is if the government needs X amount of dollars to fulfill it's commitments why does it need so many different kinds of tax? One reason is that to only have one tax might seem overly onerous on the applicable sector however we all know that any increases in taxation get passed on to me and you as a consumer. If the government adds a dollar per packet of excise tax to cigarettes the company doesn't pay that dollar for you, the smoker pays that dollar. This applies to both sales tax and business tax. Income tax is also clearly applied to the individual so when it comes down to it we can see that all taxation is carried by the individual people who make up a nation one way or another.

Which leads me to ask why tax it at different points in the cycle of money? Certainly I can see why some people or groups would want it that way but it's not efficient and it's not practical. The most practical method of extracting tax would be to do it in as few transactions as possible and with as little additional administration as possible. The answer is businesses. The vast majority of businesses already track all their incoming and outgoing expenditure in detail, that information is valuable and useful and enhances their ability to conduct business. So they have already done most of the work. If all tax were paid by businesses for us there would be no need for individual tax returns or sales tax, just a single tax payable by all businesses on money they are tracking anyway. Minimal administration, no need to have the bumbling masses struggle their way through a complicated tax return. The government wouldn't need to employ hundreds and thousands of people, publish detailed guides and have websites built to assist the entire population with understanding and filing tax returns and then auditing those people and punishing them for messing up the whole complicated system.

Could save us all a lot of effort and money.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Calendars. Why So Stupid?

Hello Reader,

It's been a while since my last post as I have my exams this week and next but I have been thinking about the Gregorian Calendar we all use and wondering why it wasn't touched up along with most other measurements when the metric system came in.

Sure many of us find it perfectly easy to effortlessly recall the 12 months, how many days each consists of and all the other nuances that come with it. Others manage using memory techniques such as the old rhyme (30 days has September, etc) or the knuckle counting thing I never learned or thanks to technology just use their phone (a very practical solution). But do we really need a series of techniques to help us with something as simple as the days of the year? Isn't there an easier way?!

I think that there is. The problem though is that with 365 days in the year it doesn't fit simply into any nice round numbers for a month to be hence a system with four 30 day months, seven 31 day months and one odd 28 day month or to complicate it further one 29 day month once every four years. But 30 is a pretty round number that people already associate with the duration of a month and we can use that. If you divided the year into 30 day months though you end up with 5 or 6 days in change somewhere.

This isn't a problem though as people love holidays. Many of the world's cultures and religions already set aside one (or many) times of the year for celebration, relaxation, prayer or whatever else takes their fancy. It's a point of contention for many people ensuring that society respects their particular beliefs or culture and protects their rights to participate in their own holidays.

So what we would end up with is twelve 30 day months similar to what we have now plus a holiday period of 5 days around new years end/beginning which would be religiously and culturally neutral. No rhymes, no counting your knuckles and no technological assistance required.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Long Term Plans - Science Fiction?

Good Afternoon Reader,

This is a concept I've been forming in my mind for a while now but I suppose it's as good a time as any to put it out in the open.

Many of you will be familiar with the concept of a Dyson Sphere already but for those of you who aren't it's a theoretical device that a very advanced species would construct around a star to harvest as much energy from it as possible.
You can read more about it at either of these links:

Today though I will be discussing another concept which is similar in scope but much more achievable with today's technology and resources. There is no common name for what I have been thinking of that I am aware of but I think there should be as it seems an important step in our development as an advanced species. So let's get into it.

While a Dyson Sphere encompasses a star my concept is for a mega-construction that would encompass the Earth. Mankind has three basic building blocks of our society today which are water, power and data. With enough of these three things there is very little we are unable to achieve but getting these everywhere we might want or need them can be problematic and human populations tend to become centralised where these things are readily available. So to ensure a backbone infrastructure supplying these things on a global scale would require a global project. I envision it as a series of rings around the Equator, the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn with tremendous capacity for the flow of power, data and water. The rings would then be joined from North to South in key points; on Earth most likely from North to South America, Europe to Africa and Asia to Australia. This grid of power, water and data could then be linked up to major sources of each and additional links could be provided off the backbone grid to reach most areas of the world.

This is of course not the kind of thing that could be done today or quickly. It would be a monumental undertaking over decades and certain sections will clearly offer more value than others, joining the Northern hemisphere through the Tropic of Cancer for example will be lower cost and higher yield than joining the Southern hemisphere through the Tropic of Capricorn. The economics of it's construction would be something for a future generation to determine. 

Friday, 31 October 2014

Equality; musings from a different angle.

Greetings Reader!

Today I've been giving some thoughts about equality, not what we should have but how it would work for you if you actually weren't equal. This isn't one of those spiels about putting yourself in the shoes of the less fortunate because I know none of us need to hear more about that than we already have. I mean if one more person approaches me on the street asking me to consider how tigers feel when being poached I might just become a tiger poacher myself.

What I have been considering today is how it feels to be considered above other people. Now our first thoughts probably go straight to people like Oprah, Beyonce, The Queen of England or maybe if you are a little more scientifically minded someone like Steven Hawking (debilitating illnesses aside). The life of someone "better" than others can certainly be glamorous and include delights such as fantastic wealth, the attention and admiration of the masses or if it's your thing the limitless access to sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. But for now let's take a step back and consider the position of a regular person like you or I who might suddenly find themselves elevated above their station. Let's say you won the lottery and you just realised you don't have to eat cat food anymore because you can go out to a fancy restaurant or hell you could pay a chef to come to your house. But after that great meal and perhaps a couple bottles of Don Perignon what's next? How will your friends and family react? Will they treat you any differently?

I'm quite certain for most of us there will be drastic changes in our relationships with friends and family. For starters most people will want to enjoy their new wealth and it's natural to want to do so with those closest to you but those regular plebs can't afford the lavish holidays or affluent lifestyle you will quickly come to love. Your option? Forget them or pay for them. You now have expectations on you that you never had before. You must assist those closest to you financially if you would like to include them in your trips to the private golf club or on a quick jaunt to your private island. But that isn't the only expectation you will find shackling your wings of money. Those around you will probably start to consider you a fallback in case anything bad happens to them: medical bills and other dire financial events. You have suddenly taken on responsibility for them. Some might welcome this responsibility but whether you want it or not it is still there without any acceptance.

This doesn't just apply to financial aspects of life either. If you are born with an abundance of brains you will find constant pressure to perform and excel in certain ways, if you are born fast or strong people will expect you to perform in sports and athletics, if you are born a woman you may find many people expect you to have children or if you are born a man people will expect you to keep your emotions locked inside. Does this seem right to you?

It seems to me before we can reach true equality we need to learn how to stop expecting things from each other.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Some Thoughts About Legislation of Clothing

Hello Reader,

Sorry it's been so long since my last thoughts.

Over the last few days I've been reading many articles and opinions about a certain senator's proposal for control of the burqa in Australia and possible penalties for wearing the burqa in certain places or for parents forcing their children to wear the burqa against their will.

I'm sure we have all heard of the Separation of Church and State but for those of us who need a refresher it's pretty self explanatory. People weren't happy with the idea of certain churches pulling the strings of government when their objectives don't necessarily match the objectives of the nation and it causes unequal representation of members of that church while members of other churches (or no church at all) are left out in the cold.

Now separating government from religion has been a mostly positive thing and greatly encourages religious equality. This principal can be extended to cultural identities as well as religious such as in the case of the burqa. Indeed Australia has long boasted of it's  multi-cultural population and it's acceptance of all people but now it seems we were just fibbing and it was more a case of "we welcome all cultures as long as we like them and are allowed to tweak them to suit us".

It seems to me a lot of people have forgotten that separating the state from your religion or culture is a two-way street. If you don't want religion having a hand in your politics you can't want your politics having its hand in religion. If government introduces legislation dictating what people can and cant wear or how parents may dress their children a dangerous precedent is set.

Even if we consider it in an economic sense it seems a terrible idea. Legislation costs money in having teams of people drafting and amending the bill before it is passed, paying all our hard-working federal representatives to review it and vote on it then the cost of trying to have our police officers enforce this ridiculous premise of determining whether a parent is forcing their child to wear something or not. I certainly don't want to pay for all of that even if there were value in disallowing people from wearing certain things.

Maybe we will find our way back to a true path of multiculturalism and forget about trying to change people to suit us.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Some thoughts About Male Gatherings

Hello Reader,

Lately I've been thinking about male social groups. We all have the guys we get together with for a round at the pub, a round of golf, a few games of laser tag or whatever else your pleasure might happen to be. Some of us also have groups of a more serious nature like alcoholic's anonymous (and all the other anonymous groups), church groups, Men's Shed groups and so on and so forth. Most of the latter tend to have a specific undertone to them like encouraging a particular religion or being court ordered, etc.

I must say though everything I've read and seen about Men's Sheds is very encouraging and I really like what they are doing. However many men aren't the sort to enjoy going to a shed and the associated activities. I know Men's Sheds do more than just building bird-houses and spice racks but at the conceptual level many younger men aren't like those of 40 years ago when more men were expected to work with their hands and know how to build things. These days many of us men, especial in metropolitan areas, prefer more cerebral pursuits.

So what form could a constructive group take to help men come together, have a good time and work through some of the many issues surrounding man's lives these days. I imagine a group, let's tentatively call it "The Gentry", where men can gather and discuss things that have been going on in their lives or that are coming up and how they can best handle them in a classy and rational way. Despite the title it would be informal but the purpose would be to help men be the best men that they can be. We all make mistakes and I can't speak for all men but I know I have carried (and still carry) many of the things I've done wrong for years, even decades. It's hard to let them go and for the most part I've carried them alone. Therapy or psychiatric help can resolve some of them but in my experience these things don't often give you any closure on an issue. A group like this would have been of great help to me and I suspect would be of help to many others.

L James.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Online Piracy Statistics, Is Money Really Being Lost?

I read a lot of articles about piracy of film, television and music.

Most of these articles seem to fall into one of two categories: Either they are presenting the argument of the victimised producers and distributors of material and how much money they are losing or they are focusing on why we, the consumers, shouldn't be pirating.

Good articles of course quote statistics and surveys that have been conducted to show how many people are pirating and how much lost revenue that equates to but this seems an incomplete statistic to me. Yes many people might be pirating but does every single pirate of a film equal one lost ticket or DVD sale? I would like to see some information about how many of those pirates would have purchased the film, album or TV series if there were no other option except to pirate it.

I'm would also predict that certain films are more prone to piracy than others. For example a trashy action film might not be worth the $12-40 you might spend seeing it in the cinema or buying the bluray but may still want to see it. Are these people lost revenue if they never would have paid for it anyway?

The film, TV and music industry all feature groups kicking and screaming about lost money but perhaps they just need to recognise that if people aren't willing to pay for the products you are selling that doesn't make your customers criminals, it's an opportunity to do something better.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

3D Printing In Australia

It seems every day I look in the news and see bleak outlooks on the Australian market. Coal is down, Iron is down, the financial sector is down and even the IMF (International Monetary Fund for those of you who don't follow economics) has announced some rather dire warnings about the future of the Australian economy.

I've read many comments by journalists and the general public about how the Australian manufacturing industry has been left to wither and die due to a lack of support in the wake of the brilliant mining boom that has pushed our economy to dizzying heights. There is some hope though as it seems apparent our reliance on two of our major exports, iron and coal, will be unable to sustain our newly heightened wealth means we must start looking at other ways of paying our bills and keeping our swimming pools filled with gold-plated water. Manufacturing, the transformation of commodities into simple transformed manufactures or (dare Australia dream) of extreme transformed manufactures. Value adding to the things we already have in abundance before we sell them off.

Perhaps fortunately at this time there is a budding interest in a somewhat unknown process called 3D printing. It's advocates (me included) consider it a potential golden age for manufacturing, allowing construction of any object you might want from a plastic fork to a new house. This marvel of engineering and technology has the potential to do for manufacturing today what the moving assembly line did for it in the early 1900s. In fact given that 3D printers remove the labor component of manufacturing almost entirely (aside from a few technicians required to maintain the machines) it may be something Australia wants to consider more closely.

Manufacturing has very noticeably shifted from Australia and other western nations to places like China and India. This isn't because Australian's have anything against manufacturing but because employing a few thousand people to assemble sneakers is a whole lot cheaper in India than it is in Australia because labor is so much cheaper. Many businesses who have attempted to keep their workforces in Australia or the USA have found themselves uncompetitive and have been forced to outsource or fall behind and die.

So for lower populations like Australia what does 3D printing mean for us? It's an opportunity to take advantage of our advanced infrastructure and resources without being hampered by our extremely low population. In most other industries our low population and very high wage costs are a huge challenge for would-be businesses to overcome before they can start seeing black at the end of the day. 3D printing is a convenient and seemingly perfect solution for Australia.

But how can we take advantage of this? The same way any country does when they want to encourage an industry; tax relief to assist new companies with starting up and strengthening so that when it is time for them to give back they are in a position to do so in a meaningful way. It would not cost anyone anything to allow them a few years grace (personally I'd like to see a 5 year tax exemption then a gradual increase in the tax they pay over the following 5 years until they pay full taxes only after the 10th year) to really start a strong 3D printing industry in Australia. The chances of this however are so slim that I don't really believe anything like this will happen. Perhaps someday we will be more open to long term industry planning like this.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Thoughts about Marriage

Hello Reader.

For anyone who is interested I have completed a draft of a paper about marriage and relationships. This is a less formal work than my thoughts about voting and is still in a draft stage so feel free to provide any feedback, questions, comments or concerns you might have.


L J.

A Few More Thoughts


It's been a little while since my last post but I've been working on a couple new papers. These are specifically about the patent system and marriage. I will post them as they become available.


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Reform To Voting

 Welcome any readers to the inaugural post of Thoughts by Luke.

I am of course Luke and I have created this blog to share some of the things I have pondered about a variety of subjects. I do not wish to tell anyone what to think and have no desire to convert people to any specific ways of thinking or alignments be it philosophical, political, religious or other.

At this point I think I will mostly be covering political or politically related topics but who knows where it will lead. To start things off here is a link to a two part paper I have written on reform to the voting system in Australia. In-Principal is meant to be read before In-Practice however feel free to read in any order you like. Each paper is only two pages so nothing too onerous. I hope you enjoy.

Lukanis T James

Reform To Voting - In Principal

Reform To Voting - In Practice