Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A grab-bag

Firstly from The Conversation one for the maths nerds. A simple description of the P vs NP problem which hinges on the question of difficulty...and is worth a read if you want to understand something of the limits of mathematics.

I could add at this point the fact that this problem is one that could be used by heterodox economists against mathematics - that once you make the economic model sufficiently detailed to be useful it becomes a "difficult" problem and it is easier to simply check the answers provided through verbal reasoning.

Alan Knight writing for the National Times echoes my conclusion that Sky News can't be allowed anywhere near the Australian Network.

Hawker Brittan's Justin di Lollo raises an important question about the regulation of lobbyists. Lobbyists are defined in regulation to exclude in-house lobbyists, other professions that might meet with government officials and representatives of industry associations.

The problem is that it is really hard to define who in a firm is actually a lobbyist, since we will send all kinds of managers into meetings with government.

Personally I think the law change in NSW proposed by Barry O'Farrell to exclude lobbyists as a class from appointment to Boards etc is the error. But on the more general question of transparency of lobbying activity the simplest thing would be to simply make the appointment schedules of Ministers, their staff and senior officials public. This could be limited to appointments and calls initiated by the external party so as not to hinder Government's ability to be informed.

The perhaps wackiest of the lot today is Tony Abbott's claim that the carbon tax won't pass the Parliament as ALP members will rat.

Ratting like that is permanent - not one off. These would be people casting their lot to bring down an ALP Government in the hope of retaining their seat. History has shown the electorate can be very unforgiving of the rat. So far the ALP has been solid in denying the story.

But as a problem the issue facing all MPs right now has a touch of the "P vs NP" problem. How difficult is it to respond to climate change in a way that is effective and can bring the public along? Gillard and co have taken the neo-classical approach of using the price mechanism, Abbott wants direct action...the centralist/statist approach.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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