Benny

Benny is an economist with an interest in Queensland politics. He's also the nation's foremost expert on stupid laws thanks to a university assignment that went viral.

Benny on the mining super tax

Speaking of economics… my almost resident economically minded friend Ben has kindly produced a three part series on the Mining Super Tax that everybody keeps banging on about in the news. If you’ve been wondering about the economics of the issue, then wonder no longer… all will become clear.

The Resource Super Profit Tax (RSPT) falls into the deepest pit of my taxation system interest. Much has been written about it by the mainstream papers, much of it oddly conflicting. The source documents of note can be found in here (pdf) and here.

At present, mining companies have to pay royalties, which are payments made to the states for taking their resources. Comparatively, the RSPT will tax profits, or more descriptively, will tax the value of the resource at the taxing point (which seems to be a derived value at the mine gate) less all allowable costs in getting the resource to the taxing point, such as exploration costs, mine/well development costs, processing and haulage costs. The stated intention of the RSPT is to collect an appropriate return for the community from private firms exploiting non-renewable resources, via implementing a taxation system that responds to changes in profits. Fair enough.

The mining companies have complained the tax is too high, and that it will stunt business investment, and thus impact on economic output (and therefore employment). The Government was of the opinion the RSPT will “remove impediments to mining investment and production…[and] encourage greater investment and employment in the resource sector”. At face value, the logic would be that higher taxation or decreased profits would reduce investment, however it is the intricacies of the tax that suggest this might not be the case.

The real intrigue about this tax is its application to company’s losses. Articles have thrown around the idea that it is a brown tax, which isn’t the case, though it is understandable why the comparison is being made. Similar to a person’s income tax, a company will be able to use any of its costs of the project as a type of tax deduction. Importantly, as most mining companies are likely to spend the bulk of a project’s costs during the initial phases when setting up a mining process, which will likely also be a period where they make little revenue or profits to offset their costs against, they will be able to carry their costs forward to be deducted as a loss against future income (or deduct them against profits made elsewhere if available). Due to the delay between accruing costs and receiving the credit, the cost offset will grow at the long term government bond rate. This is all fair enough.

However, controversy has stemmed from the initial announcement which suggests that the RSPT system provides that if the company never makes a profit to offset these costs against, they can simply get this amount payed out when they wind-up the project.

This effectively means that the Government will be funding project start-ups, and effectively taking on some of the risk of the project. For example, a new project might be to develop a coal mine at the cost of $1 billion. Ten years later, the coal mine may not have ever made any profits, so the Government may not have received any revenue from it, but will have to pay the company 40% of the $1 billion (grown at the long term government bond rate, so the $1 billion may have grown to $1.1 billion over the ten years). However, this potential cost to the government will be offset by potentially higher revenues from decent mining projects (which, in Queensland’s case, given the absolutely booming situation surrounding global coal demand and prices, will be a lot).

Benny on “Experts”

Another thing I would like to touch on is quoting experts in arguments. I don’t like it when people argue that, as their stance is backed up by the word of an expert, they must be right. Most knowledge is quite readily and easily obtainable. Most people who do research have a tendency to promote their findings (I know, it’s crazy). So, if anyone is willing to really find out about a topic, if they are willing to spend the time to trudge through the literature, there wouldn’t be too many points of view, arguments and supporting evidence they wouldn’t have stumbled across. Researchers may add to the pool of knowledge, but I think most people will be able to understand the current pool of knowledge, and make their own inferences once properly informed.

Benny on the environment

During the campaign of the last federal election, the top issue of the day was the environment, specifically climate change. My friends and I used to bicker about the usefulness of having so much campaign time dedicated to the issue of the environment. They were of the belief that finally politicians were focused on something that mattered. I was of the opinion that the hysteria building around the campaign about the environment was leading to mostly empty, reactive bantering, and no matter how much focus was put on the topic, the additional impact on Australia’s environmental policy was going to be minimal.

I don’t think it has been the governing domain where any perceived failures in environmental activism have occured. I think, prior to becoming a media staple, the environment received adequate consideration by government. I would even go as far to say that the government was the platform where much environmental awareness was raised, discussed and launched.

Then came along the GFC, which took some of the momentum out of the environment’s pillar of current issue drive.

A lot of people have been quick to say that climate change is such an important issue, other issues should be given very low consideration in saving the environment.

One idea raised was that Australia should stop exporting coal.

During the GFC and its aftermath, job retention became a key issue. I still believe that Anna Bligh won an election by stirring peoples fears of lowering job security. In 2008-09, coal represented well over half of Queensland international merchandise exports (PDF).

I still think a lot of people need a reality check when it comes to the impacts of some of the policies being flouted. Proposed energy trading schemes, taxes, quotas, etc etc is going to have a real impact on the costs of basic provisions. Queensland is already suffering from heightened costs associated with basic infrastructure (transport, water). Queensland’s future is looking increasingly precarious. It’s strong population growth, inadequate and increasingly expensive infrastructure will need to be repaired over the coming decades, and Queensland needs to ensure that it can cope with a changing landscape of the resource sector.

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Benny on Hitler and the question of evil

Nathan often uses Hitler in religious discussions.

From what I know Europe at the time was a generally disjointed, unhappy place, and everyone knew that war would eventually outbreak, it was just a matter of when. So I wasn’t exactly sure what he was getting at between Hitler’s religion and religion’s involvement in war.

So I got Nathan to explain his point:

“It’s not that wars are based on atheism – it’s that atheism doesn’t rule out wars.
Atheism is not a cause of war any more than Christianity is.
The fact that people are sinful – greedy, power hungry, angry, evil – is what causes wars.”

I would like to make some points:
1. I don’t think evil exists as a being, thing or intangible presence. Evil is a description of behaviour.
2. Hitler didn’t do the things he did because he was evil. Some of the things he did were abhorrent, terrible, disgusting and/or evil.
3. When people do bad things, its not because they are inherrently evil, or were overtaken by momentary evilness. They did it because they were human, and humans make bad decisions for whatever reasons, are prone to being inconsiderate, to certain extent, and have different utility functions, such that some believe risking other people being injured is outweighed by the benefit of robbing the bank.
4. Morals don’t need to come from an external source. People are perfectly good at developing them themselves.

From my understanding, the French/English civil revolutions weren’t uprisings against God, they were class wars, where the poor and oppressed wanted better. I think this could be said to an extent about communism and the disputes in the first half of the 20th century.

Most recently, the war on terrorism has been labeled as a war against evil. I don’t like terrorism, but I also don’t like the way it has been discussed at times. I have always wondered, without being particularly knowledgeable of the situation overseas, if by labeling terrorism as acts of pure evil results in more harm than good, as it fails to address the root causes of offshore grievances.

Further military action in the region is not going to help in the healing of decades-old wounds, which stem from military action of the West into these regions for the past century plus. Dare I say, I think many people within these regions would hold grievances against the West. Further, relying on non-western media, these nations would also have different perceptions of why the West was involved in these regions (I am not necessarily talking about purposeful distortions of history here either, historical accounts and perceptions would likely be different between those who lived through it and those who lived back in the invading country). We can’t expect to be able to interfere with any of these regions, and not step on a few toes.

The remnants of America’s war techniques in Korea and Vietnam still remain to impact the general populace. Many of these people no doubt hold some anger towards the techniques that were used during these disputes that have a continuing legacy.

So, in summary, it may not be best labelling terrorism as acts of evil, which seems a simplistic excuse. It may be that more effort should be made to recognise that the seeds for these peoples anger were sown a long time ago, and that the West played a larger role in creating this anger than we are willing to acknowledge. What we perceive as terrorism could be the remnants of a group of people fighting a decade-old war the only way they have available. They may be cowardly tactics, attacking easy targets of civilians. But they didn’t agree to any war conventions, nor have any large military budgets or technology.

Going forward, hopefully leaders will acknowledge these lessons, and realise that you can’t interfere with a country and expect it not to have repercussions in the future. The conflict doesn’t end with the end of the fighting. More needs to be done to rebuild international relations.

Benny on parenting

The last post I did touched on the issue of non-hetero couples having the right to have children.

Nathan suggested that having children has become a right.

Then he asked if parents have the right to raise children as they want.

Addressing the third issue first, current international law and domestic legislation favours the wellbeing of the child over the rights of the parents.

Section 61DA of the Family Law Act (Cth) requires the Court to apply a rebuttable presumption that it is in the best interests of the child for the child’s parents to have equal shared parental responsibility for the child (also see s 65DAA). Section 60CA cements the position that the Child’s best interests are paramount when making a parenting order. A child also gets their own representation separate from all other party’s whose primary task is to ensure the child’s best interested are represented.

In my opinion the current ideals are a little weak in recognising a parent’s right to raise their own child. for example, if a child is removed from their parents custody at a young age, say they are given to their father’s parents, and a few years later a mother, now single with the father gone, wants to retrieve custody of the child from the grandparents, the grandparents will have a very strong case to retain custody, on the grounds it is in the best interests of the child (s 65C Family Law Act). This concerns me as I think it may not necessarily lead to a presumption that the best interests of the child would be a longer-term plan focused on returning the child to the parent’s custody, despite the parent’s efforts.

However, back to Nathan’s issues, the legislation doesn’t recognise a parent’s right to do whatever they want with their child. I think to a certain degree the State should put limitations on parenting. Like with most topics, I think a certain level of regulation of parenting is beneficial. I think in this sense, acting in the best interests of the child is the correct approach. However, it should take into consideration where possible the wants of the parents.

So, now onto the bit I think Nathan really wants me to address, evil homosexuals deserve the right to have children?

My basic though process, which I admit I think needs further refinement, is that the State (and international bodies such as the UN, see the Wiki article on rights of a child,  has defined the requirements of parentage, and can further add and vary these requirements. There is nothing in my mind that suggests that homosexual parents would not be in the best interests of the child. Aside from issues that derive from social stigmas, a child with same-sex parents should have as quality an upbringing as any other. So really, the only reason a child with same-sex parents should be at a disadvantage is because of the segment of society who doesn’t believe in this lifestyle and chooses to create difficulties.

Same-sex parents aren’t the enemy to children, or adults. The bad things in this world are violent people, inconsiderate people, people that willingly cause harm or distress to others. Homosexuality does not mean that a person carries these traits. They are not mutually exclusive, but they are also definitely not psychologically attached.

Provided parents provide adequately for their children, that’s where the judgement should end. We should put our efforts into making society more accommodating, rather than reinforcing its limitations.

So I think the problem is not should “non-traditional” couples be allowed to have children, but rather how it should be implemented, as even traditional couples who can’t have children have not found the path to having a family easy. And I guess this leads to Nathan’s last question, is having children a right. I would like to say everyone who deserves children should be able to have them, however I don’t think this is possible, due to if nothing else supply constraints. I think many people think of children as a right to the point that they believe they should be supported in their right to have children, to the point society should subsidise and provide for their right. I do not agree with this. I think, like anything in life, children are something parents should have to work for, and provide for themselves. I do think there are instances where the State can assist, but not to the extent I think many people believe they are entitled to. One area that I think State can assist in is equality in opportunity, and for this reason I find no difficulty supporting consideration of extending the surrogacy laws.

Benny on Bligh

This week is turning out to be very interesting.

First up, the Traveston Crossing Dam is no more. A rather belated move by Peter Garrett destroys his Labor counterparts plans. The Courier mail contains good coverage of the issue today, and highlights some very interesting points.

I don’t like Anna Bligh much. I didn’t like her much prior to her becoming Premier, but I decided to give her a chance and a clean slate. She has failed miserably in pretty much all respects.

However, she did have a tremendous task in front of her. She inherited a government that had spent up in the good times and left little for the bad, a SEQ grappling with water issues, a tarnished health sector, oncoming infrastructure problems (that many foresaw were approaching, but the past Labor government did little to avoid), and, it has to be said, a not overly sparkling bunch of MPs around her. So, it could be said, the previous Premier Peter Beattie bowed out just before his legacy took its crippling hold on the State.

It was nice though of Garrett to wait so long to enter the fold here. Good decisiveness by the Federal Government, who took the best part of two years to make a real stand against a project that has impacted so many people. Still, the move will probably win them further accolades as the saviours of the area. Maybe they were holding off so they didn’t impact Bligh’s chances, but then when they realised Bligh was too far gone, and there was no point trying to save a fellow party member if they are going to lose anyway, they may as well do something. It would be interesting to find out what happened behind the scenes there.

Still, Bligh has yet to display any real propensity for the job. She managed to introduce flouride, which was generally well received though controversial, and begin some water projects (all of which have so far had far more failings than successes). Many attacked her media profile, but I think this is a bit of a meh point. In today’s world of governance, public exposure is important. She used her leave for Master Chef, so while it was arguably a dumb move, it wasn’t exactly a decision deserving of major criticism.

Further into today’s Courier, the new Family (Surrogacy) Bill has gotten some coverage. Not content with the (very poorly written) article, I went and found the Bill. Indeed, section 9 (2) of the Bill provides eligible couples to only include married couples or mixed gender de factos. Springborg apparently has said the Bill is designed for hetrosexual couples only. So it might be a bit hopeful to suggest the language of the Bill almost sounds like it would be open in the future to providing surrogacy to all types of married couples (depending on who was defined as ‘married’). So, depending how you feel about surrogacy, this is at least a step forward. But, while making the step, there is also a bit of throwing the leg out and tripping some people over. It seems the LNP is adhering to its more conservative members on this one.

Which leads on to the next interesting happening. Senator Sarah Hanson-Young of the Greens has introduced a Bill to allow same-gender marriage. High fives all round Sarah Hanson-Young. So it seems there is one awesome Green. But then she goes on and says this:

“I’m calling for the prime minister to … grant his members a conscience vote so we can get a true reflection of how the Australian community is feeling.”

Pfft. A conscience vote has no chance of reflecting how the Australian community is feeling.

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Benny on electoral reform

The latest Electoral Reform Green Paper, Strengthening Australia’s Democracy (available from http://www.pmc.gov.au/consultation/elect_reform/strengthening_democracy/index.cfm ), was recently released. While it covers an issue that has been jumped all over recently by mainstream media, that of lowering the voting age, which while somewhat interesting, it also covers issues which I think are far more discussion worthy.*

I love talking about electoral reform. It is one of my favourite topics. I could talk about this paper a lot.

For today, sections 5.42 to 5.62 discuss the voting system used in the house of representatives. Currently, the house of representatives uses a preferential voting system. In effect, this means you can choose to give each candidate a number, and if for some unknown reason you give your first preference to a Family First candidate, throwing your vote away, you get an automatic reprieve and your vote is reallocated to your second preference. This process of preference skipping is repeated until a preference for a sensible party (or occasionally the greens) is reached.

In all seriousness though, the preferential system is a mostly sound system. The main problem from most perspectives is preferential systems always favour majority groups. A candidate needs to be the first to reach 50% of votes, via an initial majority or through preferences. For example, in Queensland, in each electorate, the candidate who gets to 50% first will win. Thus, as one of the main parties will generally get to 50% on preferences first in each electorate, minority parties will generally fail. Thus, even if 10% of Queenslanders support the anti-environment party and everyone else puts them as last preference, if those who support are roughly distributed evenly across all electorates, they won’t win a thing. Thus, sizeable minorities that otherwise do not form the majority views in any electorate will have no representation in the lower house.

Alternatively, the Senate has a proportional system. A fantastic article on how our proportional voting system for the Senate works can be found here : http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2004/guide/senatevotingsystem.htm . Or if you are dull like me, go read (the incredibly wordy and complex) section 273 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. The way our proportional quota vote counting system works is very interesting, and I don’t think too many people in Australia have much idea how the Senate is actually elected.

So, back to the new green paper. One of the opportunities it outlines is for the House of Representatives to shift to a form of proportional representation, with divisions at the state or sub-state level. The green paper even discusses many of the arguments for and against the idea (it is quite the paper). This change has the potential to change the political landscape. It also raises some interesting issues for how the ballots will be developed (i.e. will the option remain of voting “above the line” for a single political party, thus accepting the party’s preference order for candidates).

I am still making my way through this paper (at 260 pages it is quite a study). And there have already been a few parts of it I have been disappointed with (the discussion of current proportional vote counting in the paper is poor). But this thing provides topic fodder for months.

*Utilising Nathan’s asterix technique, and noting my prior post, lowering the voting age is pulp news. Further, a 16 year old who wants to sail around the world is not news, and everytime the State Premier/Deputy Premier etc has a press interview, they should not be asked their opinion on said teenager sailing around the world, and their comment is not news.

Benny on journalism

I thought long and hard about what my next article was going to be. I have been working somewhat on a series of articles related to children, including should children be subsidised and are current custody laws in the Family Law Act adequate. However, these article take a fair amount of time to do.

However, for me, there were two events last week that really stood out. The first was the release of the latest Sensis Business Index.

On Wednesday the Sensis business index came out, and included one of the findings that, after 21 consecutive quarters of this prestige title, New South Wales was overtaken by Queensland as the least popular Government amongst Small and Medium Enterprises (in terms of their opinions of government policies impacting small business).

Anna Bligh is already struggling in the poles, and you think that this would be a fine source to use to ridicule her. Instead, the Queensland opposition seemed unblissfully unaware of this. Instead, from my limited media exposure, the main topic for journalistic reporting for the day was the Treasurer beating up the opposition over teddy-bears. Further, few media outlets even realised the Sensis report. Queensland Business Review picked it up rather early, but otherwise it mostly went missing.

This compares to earlier in the week, when the most recent Tourism data was released. The big story was Victoria overtook Queensland in Domestic Tourist Visitors. It led to quotes like this:

“The offer of big events, cultural events, retail, food and wine is considered more attractive than stuff like theme parks, Big Pineapples and gee-whizzy type of stuff,” Victorian Tourism Industry Council chief Anthony McIntosh said.

Apparently culture includes the absence of severe storms, floods, an oil spill and all the bad PR stemming from these. But this is beside the point.

Last week highlighted two things, the severe disadvantage the opposition is at due to its lack of human resources, and the absolutely woeful state of Queensland journalism.

I have always hated Today/Tonight. I think it more miseducates the public rather than provides a good consumer watchdog type service. While I think the media has become to an extent the method of exposing and crushing certain elements of society that seemingly fall through other safety nets (e.g. exposing dodgy dealings, etc), I am not sure Today/Tonight deserves much kudos in this regard. I tend to think Today/Tonight more highlights rather unimportant issues, directing attention away from issues that deserve focus and onto things that benefit less from continual oversight. It gives many issues that really don’t deserve much more than a passing comment a place in the limelight, determining the content of talkback radio switchboards the following day. And the ABC isn’t much better. I watched some Tony Jones interviews a while back that were absolutely terrible. He got various politicians on to discuss policy, and Tony Jones’ interviewing technique was all about aggressiveness and trying to get the interviewee to trip up. If a certain issue wasn’t working, he moved on to the next one. Providing an interview that provided information to the public and discussing the actual policy was non-existent. It was all about the spectable.

In a perfect world, the media would be on-top of issues, and be able to disseminate and present it to the public in understandable chunks. While it seems many journalists aspire to report the facts and avoid opinion, it seems that disection, inference and explanation also have disappeared. Instead, they go for the candy issues, the stuff that BTN would present to schoolchildren if all BTN’s employees were dead.

Analysis should be an integral part of journalism. Journalism has become a spoon-fed role. Journalists get given a prepared statement, and they put it through the journalism machine and out pops an article. I think the machine applies quotation marks and a snappy headline. Still, the commercial goals of the media are not in alignment with Australia’s democratic processed. With the media more concerned with the easy stories and the politician cheap-shots or trips-ups, politicians will be more focused on media and perception management rather than governance and providing policy related information.

Without the resources and personnel the government has available, opposition attacks seem to be limited to what they can derive from mainstream media. These days, Australian opposition parties are very limited in the extent of their government oversight roles, and winning an election is more a case of the government losing the support of the populace rather than the opposition winning it.

We have to begin to wonder, given the importance of the media in our political structure, does something need to be done?

Benny on equality

There have been many articles popping up the last few weeks on gender pay inequality, and I have noticed many contain the following analysis:

Women:

1. Get paid less.
2. Work fewer hours around the work office as they undertake more family related duties.
3. Generally have less work-related experience compared with a man of the equivalent age, due to having a more disrupted career (due to family commitments).
4. Have less super at retirement, due to working/earning less.
5. Have difficulty getting into higher work positions, sometimes linked to the impact of family duties on work commitments or a disrupted career path.
6. Are worse off financially, and do not have the same career progress as men.

Further, this can lead to second-degree problems, such as women being financially disadvantaged when involved in a relationship breakdown, due to losing the financial security built into the family unit and having lower savings/lower future earning capacity/less superannuation than the male counterpart.

This is all fair enough. However, I think it is important to recognise that the characteristics above are not necessarily evidence of different earning realisations due to pure gender-related pay discrimination. It seems that most of the arguments that stem from these points is misdirected, often mistaking inequality of opportunity or pure wage discrimination based on gender with different earning capacities due to circumstance leading to inequality of outcomes. A true example of discriminatory pay rates would be if, for the same inputs, there were differing outputs, as in for the same factors (including hours worked, qualifications, experience), there was differing pay. and at present, with the recognition of the above factors, I think the evidence being spread doesn’t align with the suggested problems, or required solutions, being touted.

However, the main point I want to make is that currently it seems that the pro-equality groups direct their anger at the businesses/employers for failing to ignite gender equality. Why is it the employer’s role to do this? Businesses should not be required to fulfil social welfare redistributive role. Employers should be required to pay an employee what their work-related characteristics require. Employers shouldn’t have to act on the idea that 10 years of life experience is equivalent to 10 years of on-the-job experience. If, as a society, we want to undertake wealth redistribution on whatever grounds, there are better institutions and better ways of doing this.

It is unclear exactly what the ultimate goal/solution of recognition of gender wage inequality will be. However, I think it is important to recognise the above distinctions, and most importantly, be careful what solutions are implemented, and not use business enterprises as a blunt weapon for attempting to right the perceived wrongs in society.

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Benny on religion

In these initial posts I thought I would continue the Christian themes that are abundant on this blog, so I thought I would comment not on why/why not I believe certain Christian beliefs, but rather my opinion of religions as a whole.

A little background, I think it would be awesome if there is a God, and it would be almost as awesome if people were born believing in God and this never changed. This would be good as everyone could just live out this life, and then move onto the next one. It would be one big spring break. I also think that this would probably make the world a much less stressful place, and everyone would treat each other better. There would be no need for selfishness, no reason to feel sad if anyone was lost, this world would be only temporary.

However, moving away from the crazy perfect dream, in the actual world it is difficult to tell if religion has more beneficial points than bad points.

Nathan and I have had the discussion of the origin of morals before, which I firmly established my belief that morals aren’t a derivative of the Christian faith. Still, I accept the role of religion in developing many people values, morals and ethics, and I think for the most part Christianity does instil people with a certain standard of goodness. From this perspective, if the Christian faith was more dominant, maybe we would have a better moral grounding, however it is hard to tell. It is possible that morals developed to an extent through general life experience. Maybe religion helps people developed these attributes at a greater rate. This seems likely.

However, what I think is more beneficial to the development of good societal morals and ethics is the community group that religion often fosters. Church groups bring people together, teach the group the expected standards of behaviour, and the younger generations learn how to behave form the older. This almost tribal oversight on the development of younger people I would think would result in them developing better behaviour principles. I would think that belonging to a community group would benefit the morals of people almost as much as being within an organised educational institution and even a strong family unit.

Where clashes occur is across religious boundaries. It seems religions aren’t good at being friends. And some religions aren’t even good at liking their own members if they aren’t religious enough. This is a major mark against religions, and causes divides within the larger community. This concept is one of the prime reasons I do not like any religious divisions in schools. There are enough artificial lines drawn in other areas of society along religious boundaries. I strongly believe that if anything we should be trying to get schools as culturally diverse and free from any types of potentially dividing lines as possible. This means removing all religious-focused educational institutions, and trying to ensure that we preserve this one institution where developing children interact with children from other cultures and religious backgrounds. I understand that many will feel this somewhat impacts on their religious choice and ability to make decisions for their children, however from a whole-of-society standpoint, I think this aids in developing a more inclusive, open society.

Further, religions, relevantly the Christian religions, are not tolerant. Some say they are, but they are not. To some extent I think Nathan has both become less tolerant and more acknowledging of the fact the Christian religion is not tolerant. I think it is important not to get confused between the recognition that different views exist, the tolerance of different views such that there is a willingness to allow those different views to be incorporated into society alongside your own.

This is not the case with many religions, well at least western religions anyway (but I’m not overly familiar with the religions of the world, so I am likely unfairly stereotyping far too many religions into this broad religion umbrella). In the grand scheme of things, it has to be said that rarely do religious ideals greatly impact on non-religious day-to-day choices or lifestyles for the most part.

However, the laws that religion has spurned, as well as the societal stigma’s and opinions in created still remain, and often it is certain minority or misfortunate groups that they have the most impact on. I find it absolutely infuriating at the thought of gay people being beaten or discriminated against on religious basis. Nathan seems to have an issue with same sex marriage due to the potential impacts it could have on family units. There are arguments on either side of this, many difficult to truly validate (such as studies that tells me that traditional families are better/worse than a different family type), but at least if they are approached logically and rationally, I am willing to think through them, and come to a conclusion. I like rational arguments and evidence. What I find more difficult is arguments based on religious grounds. I accept that religious people developed personal values around their religious beliefs and values. However, I find it unfair and unjust to regulate the lives of others based on such groundings.

I am also becoming concerned that Christians have a certain superiority complex that extends further than their belief they have the correct theological choice. As already mentioned, it includes Christian’s belief in their superior moral compass, but I think it also may extend to thoughts that Christians may be just generally more enlightened in all contexts. However, Christians probably make this argument against non-Christians.

There is also a tear within myself to an extent. While I want to preserve everyone’s right to choose and practice their own religion, I also realise that the way in which religions impede upon each other, it is not realistic to believe all these different views could live contently side by side. I think this source of conflict has a negative impact on society.

Finally, I don’t mind being preached to. while I think a lot of non-Christians are bothered by this, I think most of my religious friends understand certain boundaries, and for the most part in Australia it is quite easy for Christian and non-Christian groupings to get along quite easily. In fact, the way smiley puts it, if my Christian friends didn’t try to drag me in once in a while, they are probably not being a good Christian in trying to save their friends. That said, the extent some people have gone to spread the word I think has been somewhat unacceptable. Organisations that organised for missionaries to enter countries where Christianity was not welcome is a grey area I find somewhat difficult to vindicate. They may be heroes of the religion, but again it shows an element of elitism that exists within a group that is willing to do this. It may have been done with the best of intentions, but in the big picture, being so direct may have done more instances of harm than good. And it unlikely caused further tension between already strained international ties.

So to be a true Christian, you seemingly have to take the good attributes with the bad. And, from the requirements of Christianity of spreading the word and living by the bibles teachings, it seems that there is no solution for the incompatibility between the Christian v non-Christian world.

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Benny’s perspective on ministry

I thought about what my first post should be. I thought and I thought. I was going to do one about tax policy, talking about the benefits of income taxation and its wealth redistribution properties.

I’ve decided to save that and instead make a post that will probably be somewhat controversial on this site but more in-line with the less-Christian alternative that goes unrepresented around here. a post inspired by Nathan’s impending career change. I guess what will be the first of many very alternative perspectives to what is usually on here.

When Nathan first told me that he was going to be a crusader, I probably didn’t give the most positive reaction. In fact I think I outright offended him. That was some fun days there. But I have decided to revisit the topic because it has some interesting points.

So, in the scheme of things, is it in society’s best interests for those with higher abilities to dedicate themselves to a life of religious promotion and services to the church community. Is it in Christianity’s best interests for those with higher abilities to be working in a church, or doing something else?

Is someone with high ability better serving the church in a church position, or better aspiring to a different position more in a non-religious field?

For example, let’s say a capable Christian became a commercial lawyer. They would earn a lot of money, and could then put his money towards training and then employing two ministers for various local churches. so, instead of one minister (who would require a source funding for their employment, and two unemployed guys that could be ministers if given the chance), you could have two slightly inferior church ministers (funded by the lawyer and who still provide adequate services), a competent Christian lawyer fighting the good fight, and the lawyer would probably still come out ahead financially. Further, the lawyer could fight the fight on other fronts.

Are the best and brightest required for positions in the ministry, or would the Christian community be equally served by adapting the roles to be filled more by the mediocre, with fewer high-ability personnel involved. It almost laps onto another topic Nathan has been talking about, in the use of technology in church, sermon recording, and possibly church planting (I am not sure what this is, I tune out generally to this one, I just thought I would throw it in). By more efficiently assigning human capital, and incorporating productivity improvements, the net benefit to Christianity could be huge.
Alternatively, there is the public representative path. The best and brightest Christians becoming parliamentarians isn’t a great outcome from my perspective. I am not Tony Abbott’s biggest fan. Another of Nathan and my pet arguments has been the role of public representatives in office, and their decision making processes. I am not a fan of super-Christian-values people rocking up to parliament and bringing Christian values to national legislation. The separation of church and state in Australia is rather unsubstantial in word but somewhat recognised in practice.

Further, I am of the strong opinion a distinction can be drawn between personal ideals and public policy. if a candidate was dripping in Christian ideals and champing to bring them to the world, I wouldn’t vote for them. However this topic deserves more than a sidenote, so it will be left for another day. Still, people who are part of church communities often have a good launching pad into more prominent positions. As a facilitator of networking and garnering community support, you probably can’t surpass a good church on a bright Sunday morning. For a person with notable abilities and a strong church community behind them, they could go far.

So, it all comes down to how the Christian community is best served by its best and brightest. Are the best and brightest compelled by their own kind to serve in theological positions? Is this situation resulting in Christians influence on societal policy being at a disadvantage?

However, turning for to the rest of the world’s views, how is this ideology affecting everyone else? The more theological pursuits are undertaken, the more negative impacts on other areas of human development, such through its impacts through the labour force. If the best and brightest are all urged to undertake theological pursuits, it will relegate more earthly positions, such as doctors, dentists, agricultural scientists etc to distant seconds. It will hamper technological and scientific advancement. So, is the Christian community doing enough to promote alternative pursuits outside of theological undertakings, which benefit the current world even if they do not focus on everyone’s salvation to the same extent? Or has the pursuit of theological pursuits taken preference to improving other areas of the world. In this way, is the Christian mindset having a negative impact on world advancement?

This further branches out into the issue, from the viewpoints of the less-Christian people, that all this time and effort expelled on a potential fairy tail being somewhat of a concern, and potentially these resources could be used better. With people suffering, not only is there a lack of aid in many situations, but actual opposing forces from religiously aligned organisations. As it was easier to jump up and down about environmental policy when the economy was going smoothly, it’s probably also much easier to jump up and down about salvation and living without sin when you are either privileged or in comfort with your situation. for the people suffering that don’t share the same religious philosophy, what is preached could almost seem to be pure selfishness.