More on Compulsory Voting …

Chris in a recent post over at Points of Information has a nice perspective on compulsory voting: “forcing indifferent people to turn out means that you drastically increase the amount of noise in your electoral system, reducing the quality of the results you get”.

One thing Chris might not understand about the Australian electoral system (him being a ‘foreigner’ to these shores and all) is that although there appear to be two major parties they are really just one party.

This may seem like a paradox. Once in the distant past there were two completely separate parties:

  • the Liberal party, who represented business, small government and growth
  • and the Labor party, who represented the working class in association with the labour unions

However, during the 1980’s both parties turned into one party. The Labor party embraced business, competition and globalisation. While the Liberal party adopted popularist policies to placate the masses and agrarian socialist policies to placate their National party coalition partners. Both parties met in the middle & have not moved apart since.

Since that time there has not been much difference between the two parties. I reckon you could save all that money on an election and just toss a coin to decide. In essence the Australian political system is an oligarchy. The members of elite who rule Australia went to similar schools and universities (a frightening number of them are lawyers). They are all cut from the same cookie dough with the same cookie cutter.

In both parties there is an extreme rump. For the Liberals the rump is on the right wing of politics, and for Labor the rump is on the left wing. Neither rump seems to have much luck with either policy or portfolios.

So, Chris’ comments regarding the usefulness of compulsory voting are true. The noise in elections is increased, the results don’t really matter and everyone feels like something important happened.

What is it with Baby Boomer Women?

More food for thought from Ally about women, men & feminism

As Ally notes, “What too many women do not understand is just how privileged we truly are – especially in today’s climate in the free world. We are not caged by our womb – we are given abilities and boundaries that are broader than men will ever have. We can choose to have children – or not to have them. A man has to nail down a willing female. We can choose to work, or stay at home with our children – not only is it socially abnormal for a man to stay home (that is, outside of the current norms), psychologically, it is hard for many men to accept that role due to their own instinctual male needs.”

I’ve just finished reading a book called When Work Doesn’t Work Anymore – Women, Work & Identity by Elizabeth Perle McKenna (ISBN: 0671856006). This book is a passionate diatribe outlining (as per the back cover blurb), “the unliveable bargain women have made in order to have meaningful work in a world whose rules are still designed for men”.

This book looks at what are termed ‘hidden trade-offs, submerged values and outdated premises that keep the workplace from working for women”.

Reading this book really annoyed me! And I was vociferous about my annoyance, which did disturb the televisual enjoyment of my partner.

The forces discussed in this book are actually the same for men & women if they want to make the same life choices, for example taking time out of the work force for child care. The book failed to distinguish between the results of lifestyle choices and the results of gender discrimination.

Gender discrimination does remain a fact in some places. But now inequity in the workplace tends to result from lifestyle choices. The fact remains that people who work longer hours tend to move up the food chain more readily than those who do not. And, people who run companies sacrifice very large parts of their personal lives to do so.

McKenna also talks about women being passed over for promotion, as if men are rarely passed over for promotion.

Her perspective is one that I am familiar with. It is the perspective of yet another whiney baby boomer who thought they could have it all, and who has just realised that they cannot have it all. In the end one must assign values to the alternatives that we each face in life, then make decisions based on what seems right to us at the time.

Women in the western world live a very privileged life. No one wants to kill us to preserve family honour if we go out with the wrong guy, nobody wants to perform female circumcision on us, we eat well, and we can do pretty much any work we care to. Yet there remains an ongoing stream of woman as victim stuff coming out. In the west women do not have to be victims for the most part unless they choose to do so.

Baby boomers seem to feel that they are entitled to things that are actually impossible to achieve. This has appears to have made some of them a bit grumpy in their middle age.

Strange thoughts on women & men …

According to Yvonne Roberts, society has not shaken off stereotypes of mothers, homemakers or tarts :

“It is striking how a number of recent events have revealed the enduring power of traditional stereotypes – not least the bad girl and the good mother, now defined by the Vatican as showing the traits of “listening, welcoming, humility, fruitfulness, praise and waiting”. The bad girl is, for instance, the underlying theme of the sagas around the sex lives of the famous, such as England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson. The idea is that it’s natural for men to want to have their cake and eat it, while women are invariably cast as the tarts.”
Source: “Why a man can’t see the other woman“, Sydney Morning Herald, August 4, 2004

Hmmm, of course there are no negative stereotypes associated with men. That’s why they are so happy that they are killing themselves at a higher rate than women (suicide has been a commoner cause of male death than road crashes since about 1990, see here for report).

Then later Yvonne comments :

“Women, against the odds, are attempting to balance autonomy and dependence; self-fulfilment with a desire and obligation to care for others. In the present climate, as hurdle after hurdle remain in their way, they are encouraged to blame themselves – instead of examining how and why the hurdles were constructed in the first place.”

Funny way of thinking – is the assumption here that men do not do this too?

I am annoyed by this article – again portraying women as victims. In reality, all people have problems balancing autonomy and connectedness, self-centred desire and obligation to care for others. As Freud explained so well, we all face these dilemmas. They are part of the human condition.

Stereotypes too are part of the human condition. Jung wrote of the power of archetypes in human life. The power of archetypes can be a driving force for good or evil in a society. It all comes down to what individuals do.

Deeds, or what we actually do with our lives in spite of the human dilemmas and stereoptypes are important. As George Eliot (1819 – 1880) put it

“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.”

Labor returning to IR ‘dark ages’

John Howard claims that “Labor [is] returning to IR ‘dark ages’“, The Sydney Morning Herald, August 7, 2004

“The Prime Minister, John Howard, has slammed Labor’s workplace relations plan as antiquated and irrelevant, warning of a return to the regulatory dark ages should the Opposition win government.

But the Opposition workplace relations spokesman, Craig Emerson, said Labor was proposing a federal system similar to that now operating in NSW and Queensland, two of the strongest performing states.”

Later in the same article: 

“Housing Industry Association national executive director for legal services Scott Lambert said Labor’s plan to abolish the building industry taskforce would increase the power of building unions, reduce productivity and increase costs.”

I hate to agree with such an annoying and colourless man as John Howard. BUT a return to the old style collective bargaining model is anti-productivity, anti-competition and just plain stupid.

To say that we should do this because New South Wales and Queensland both do so is an irrelevency. In fact, Queensland is about to descend into electrical power problems with it’s state owned power suppliers in the very near future, and New South Wales is about to descend into industrial anarchy resembling the 1970’s. The rail staffing problems are merely a harbinger of future union problems for NSW.

Business in NSW is performing strongly for a number of reasons, none of which is related to the industrial relations system, which consistently hamstrings business. The industrial relations system in NSW, especially with regards to the unfair dismissal legislation is particularly difficult for business large and small. It is definitely a dis-incentive to hire permanent staff, becuase if you choose the wrong person it is almost impossible to get rid of them. This only adds to the problem of casualisation of the workforce – which Labor & the Australian Council of Trades Unions have been bleating about for ages. Have they stopped to think that it is their shortsighted policies that are exacerbating this problem?

The answer to this is not more regulation. The answer is to make it easier for people to hire the right person and to be able to remove staff who have not worked out for one reason or another.

PS: My personal political viewpoint is of the ‘a plague on all of your houses’ variety

American Presidential Candidates & their Hair

It is fascinating to note the abundant and well groomed hair of all of the Presidential candidates in the US. This is very different to Australia where neither of the current contenders for Prime Minister has very good hair at all.

In fact, a recent survey by Wahl – the hair clipper manufacturer – indicated that:

“the majority of Americans overwhelmingly voted for Bush’s hair over Kerry’s (Bush – 51 percent; Kerry – 30 percent; neither-10 percent; don’t know- 9 percent.) “

It will be interesting to see if Wahl’s prediction holds.

Union Safe: News: Killer Clutter – 25 June 2004

Killer Clutter – 25 June 2004:
“Cluttered desks, poor posture and hours spent in front of a computer are damaging the health of office staff, with increasing numbers suffering Irritable Desk Syndrome.”

I just knew it. Sitting at your desk all day is bad for you!

Meetings, on the other hand, are good for you. There is the exercise you get on the way to and from the meeting, the interaction with other people, a chance to move when you get up to draw on the white board. Meetings are soooo good for you.

All jokes aside, everything is bad for you these days. It is enough to make one become agoraphobic.

Gmail – progress to date

Gmail is a fabulous idea. But I cannot wait until it gets out of beta. Current performance issues have been a little frustrating, as has the problem in receiving emails from hotmail. It feels like it is not on a production level server as there are lots of time-outs.

The recent improvements to gmail – e.g. the import contacts – are also good. If they keep on at this rate this will blitz competitors.

It is amusing that space has increased on yahoo & hotmail in recent days too!

Being an early adopter is good too – you get the name you want.