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Jul 24, 2011

The Model government ministry.

For a long time this site has published the writings of Viv Forbes who is a particularly articulate skeptic on the global warming, climate change, what ever the current truth demands it be called, issue. Viv has been a great advocate of limited government for many years. has recently started providing a very valuable service to those of us who believe in liberty, free markets and other libertarian perspectives, in republishing some of the forgotten works of our former luminaries. Singo is one of them and Viv is another guy who’s contribution is valuable enough to make the grade. In this one, written when Howard became PM, he outlines his views on the ideal cabinet:

The people of Australia, in a huge roar of disapproval, have sent a warning to Canberra: “Get out of our lives and out of our pockets.”

But the first act of the new government, an act of ominous pusillanimity, was to announce a huge federal ministry of 28. John Howard needs a small, tough, machete-wielding Cabinet to carry out the multiple amputations needed to downsize the octopus in the ACT. …
The Model Federal Ministry
• The Prime Minister
• The Defence Minister
• The Controller of Spending
• The Federal Liquidator
• The Minister for Sound Currency
• The Minister for Legislative Repeal
• The Minister for Tax Reduction
• The Minister for Decentralisation
• The Trade Facilitator
• The Office of the Bureaucratic Predator
While the first nine are pretty self explanatory, the Office of the Bureaucratic Predator may cause some confusion among those of you who have not been around libertarian politics for very long. Viv explains it here:
The Bureaucratic Predator should be one who looks on bureaucracies as Rome looked on Carthage. The enemy must not merely be defeated, it must be destroyed utterly — sacked, razed, burnt, pulled down brick by brick, and the ground ploughed and sown with salt.
This job should be let out to tender for a period of three years, the successful tenderer getting the right to 10% of the total budget for all eliminated bureaucracies for 5 years.
Sounds fair to me. Full article here.


  1. I'd call it a good start, perhaps a stepping stone to my ideal federal government. There'd be one head of the armed forces with the responsibility of shooting back at anyone who starts shooting at us, and one foreign minister with the responsibility of hosting diplomatic functions and blowing smoke up arses, both answering to one designated head of state who is a combo PM/Treasurer and both directs and funds the other two. All three may have staff but the entire federal government income would be a capped GST type tax levied only on non-essentials, which at current rates should be enough to fund a decently equipped and trained ADF and leave enough left over for the foreign minister and PM to have a small staff each and provide food and drinks at diplomatic events. Federal debt would be permitted so that if the ADF needs a big ticket item the foreign minister doesn't have to downgrade the embassy parties from crates of Krug and five courses to a few slabs and a sausage sizzle, but running a deficit over more than, say, two consecutive fiscal years would be forbidden.

    Of course it's hard to see what we'd need to have Canberra for, so unless it could find a purpose beyond telling everyone else what to do all the time it would probably become a ghost town, the entire federal government - all three of them plus staff - probably having been relocated to Jervis bay and the rest of the ACT given back to NSW. What the states would then do would be entirely up to themselves and the people living in them, but obviously I'd be up for moving to the most libertarian one.

    Yeah, okay, I know, but a guy can dream, can't he?

  2. A lot of good ideas there Angry, I'll pass them on to Viv.

  3. Really? Everyone I've ever suggested that to has looked at me like I've been licking a toad. I guess either we're both mad or we're both sane. :-) But it does puzzle me that so many people here are down on the states when it could so easily be the best thing about the place if they could truly compete for citizens and didn't have to kowtow to Canberra all the time.

  4. Maybe we are, but back in the 70s we felt that with the use of fax machines (before the net), diplomacy could be handled by businessman from here with access to fax. You could sling them a few bucks for the effort and save a shitload.

  5. Been thinking about it over night and part of the anti-states thing seems to be convenience, knowing that the rules here are the same as they are over there. That makes a certain amount of sense at a local level but I'm not so sure it's necessary at state level and certainly not nationwide when the nation is one as vast as Australia. Why should Cairns do things the same as Albany, why does Broome need to have exactly the same rules as Mallacoota, does Alice have to be the same as any of them? I'd go even further and say that even within one state there's no need for it, and people would probably expect that while there are plenty of laws common to all three Warrnambool, Melbourne and Mallacoota will all have their own bylaws because different towns have different needs, especially when bordering different states, and a large city slap bang between them will have needs different from either of them. I think there's also a view that the state governments are as much use as tits on fish, but that's probably a consequence of so much of their power having transferred to the Commonwealth as well as the tendency of electorates themselves to vote in a bunch of idiots so often - kind of a 'Meh, why's it matter who the Premier is when Canberra runs things?' attitude. Mind you, that doesn't explain why Canberra seems to have so many as well. Anyhoo, you'd hope that if the state governments were more relevant the electorate would become more choosy over who gets to be in them, though as I've blogged once or twice when the agenda is so often set not by the pollies but by unelected career public servants who treat a change of government as having to train a new set of mouthpieces it's harder for the pollies to become relevant.

  6. Here in Queensland local authorities are being increasingly dictated to by the state government.

    Ideally these organisations should be free to act in accordance with the requirements of ratepayers rather than the state. It would be a great idea to have them free to decide for themselves what level of service they will provide and price it accordingly.

    It recently took 2 years for a shopping centre approval to get through council up here.

  7. Yes, the flow of power is the wrong way round, isn't it? The Commonwealth dictate to the states, who dictate to the city and shire councils, who dictate to individual citizens, who... er, well if they have kids or a dog they have someone they can give orders to, but otherwise they're at the bottom of the food chain. A libertarian solution, at least for minarchist types like me, would have it going the other way, so just as my ideal federal government would be very small and limited, probably constitutionally, to a very narrow range of functions and limited in its ability to raise revenue, so would the states to a lesser extent. How much lesser would be up to the people living in them, and conceivably life in one might be no different to how it is now while in another you might see the formation of what are almost city-states with distinct legal and tax systems.

    The appealing part about this for me is that us libertarians are in the minority and will remain so for the foreseeable future, and even if we could force everybody else to be libertarians it doesn't strike me as being terribly libertarian if it's against their will. I don't object to them being socialists, conservatives or whatever flavour of statist, I just object to their demand that I be one too. So a nation which is almost an alliance of otherwise competing states and quasi-city-states opens up the possibility for the libertarians to move one place (rather like the Free State Project) and create their little pocket of freedom there, leaving the rest of the to be socialist, conservative, borderline theocratic, or whatever seems best for them.

    That's all very nice in theory but the trouble is it's not easy to get there from here. It's been said that to achieve change of that magnitude you need to either an election or a revolution, and the former seems unlikely while the thought of the latter appalls. I've gradually become convinced that the only bloodless option is to wait for it all to go tits up and to be ready to pick up the pieces and start again, and since that would still be messy and painful in the meantime seek to change as many minds as possible in the vague hope of electoral success.