Category: Law

The Australian Aboriginal flag

For those who don’t know, the Australian Aboriginal flag (https://i.imgur.com/sGsnLkv.png) is actually copy-righted by an individual although it is recognized as a national flag.

It was created in 1971 by an artist named Harold Thomas and went onto to become culturally accepted as the flag of the Aboriginal people. And then as above, went onto being proclaimed a national flag by the government.

Unfortunately, since then, Harold Thomas has licensed the flag to various private agencies. One of the licenses was exclusive to a clothing label, which now means that no other Aboriginal business can print clothes with the flag on it without paying royalties. (Sitting around 20%) A lot of Aboriginals feel dismay at the current situation of the licensing.

I am rather free market orientated and do respect the artists desires.

But, the situation is rather unique, I can’t seem to find any other examples in the world of a nations/cultures flag being owned by an individual.

The creator has no intention to relinquish the copyright, so movements have already sprung up.

Here is further discussion, via Andrew Burchill.  Imagine in the United States if private individuals had copyrights over the flag (in general, not just particular images), the American bald eagle, the U.S. dollar, and so on.

The polity that is Australia

The federal government is blocking three out of four applications for Australians to leave the country while the borders are closed, amid concerns they could spread coronavirus when they return home.

MPs from across Sydney, including Liberal Dave Sharma in Wentworth in the eastern suburbs, independent Zali Steggall in Warringah, and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and fellow Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek in the inner west, have been fielding numerous requests for assistance from residents stuck here because of the travel ban.

Mr Sharma said federal government MPs were starting to raise concerns internally about the travel ban, which he described as a “pretty extraordinary restriction on people’s liberty”.

“This is an extreme measure for extreme times but it cannot be something we contemplate keeping in place for the long term,” Mr Sharma said. “There’s no other country of which I’m aware that is imposing an exit permit system, like we’ve got in Australia.”

…Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned recently that the resumption of international travel was “not foreseeable” and unlikely to occur this year.

Good or bad?  In which countries would you be more or less upset by this policy decision?  Here is the article, and here is further coverage.

Via the excellent Samir Varma.

Real estate markets in everything

From Fayette, Missouri, listed at $375,000:

1875 Howard County Sheriff’s House and Jail. Extremely unique opportunity!! Extensive renovation in 2005 (supposedly $1.5 million) captures modern high end finishes with traditional architecture and character. This home is 2465 sq ft with three levels of living area, 2 bedroom. 1.5 bath, high end finish throughout, appears to have been totally rewired, replumbed and new HVAC zoned system installed. AND THE BEST PART, connected to the home is a 2500 sq ft legitimate jail with 9 cells, booking room and 1/2 bath. The cell door lock throws appear to be operational. Full basement under the home with lighting throughout. Possibilities are amazing with this property.

Via Anecdotal.

The Mediterranean equilibrium

The Greek government has secretly expelled more than 1,000 refugees from Europe’s borders in recent months, sailing many of them to the edge of Greek territorial waters and then abandoning them in inflatable and sometimes overburdened life rafts.

Since March, at least 1,072 asylum seekers have been dropped at sea by Greek officials in at least 31 separate expulsions, according to an analysis of evidence by The New York Times from three independent watchdogs, two academic researchers and the Turkish Coast Guard. The Times interviewed survivors from five of those episodes and reviewed photographic or video evidence from all 31.

“It was very inhumane,” said Najma al-Khatib, a 50-year-old Syrian teacher, who says masked Greek officials took her and 22 others, including two babies, under cover of darkness from a detention center on the island of Rhodes on July 26 and abandoned them in a rudderless, motorless life raft before they were rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.

“I left Syria for fear of bombing — but when this happened, I wished I’d died under a bomb,” she told The Times.

Not a good equilibrium, mind you.  Nonetheless, I do not expect very stiff EU sanctions in response, nor is this likely to change:

Ylva Johansson, who oversees migration policy at the European Commission, the civil service for the European Union, said she was concerned by the accusations but had no power to investigate them.

Here is the full NYT piece.

The U.S. selects better for Asian immigrants than does Australia

Whereas Australia has pursued a skills-based migration policy, the United States has privileged family-based migration. The key contrast between these migration regimes provides a rare test of how national immigration policy shapes immigrant selection and integration. Does a skills-based immigration regime result in a more select group of Asian immigrants in Australia compared to their counterparts in the United States? Are Asian immigrants more integrated into their host society in Australia compared to the United States? Focusing on four groups of Asian immigrants in both countries (Chinese, Indians, Filipinos, and Vietnamese), this article addresses these questions using a transpacific comparison. Despite Australia’s skills-based immigration policy, we find that Asian immigrants in Australia are less hyper-selected than their counterparts in the United States. Asian immigrants in Australia also report worse labor market outcomes than those in the United States, with the exception of Vietnamese—a refugee group. Altogether, these findings challenge the conventional wisdom that skills-based immigration policy not only results in more selected immigrants, but also positively influences their integration into the host society.

That is from a new piece by Van C. Tran, Fei Guo, and Tiffany J. Huang, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.  The mix of offering a large potential market, and not so much welfare, is a significant part of the U.S. immigrant selection mechanism.

No brain drain for Filipino nurses

We exploit changes in U.S. visa policies for nurses to measure brain drain versus gain. Combining data on all migrant departures and postsecondary institutions in the Philippines, we show that nursing enrollment and graduation increased substantially in response to greater U.S. demand for nurses. The supply of nursing programs expanded to accommodate this increase. Nurse quality, measured by licensure exam pass rates, declined. Despite this, for each nurse migrant, 10 additional nurses were licensed. New nurses switched from other degree types, but graduated at higher rates than they would have otherwise, thus increasing the human capital stock in the Philippines.

That is from a new paper by Paolo Abarcar and Caroline Theoharides, via Chris Blattman.

The YIMBYs win one, in the UK

The government is determined all the same, in keeping with the prime minister’s desire to “build, build, build”, to loosen our restrictive planning system. His proposed reforms will curb the ability of local politicians to slow down plans that have received initial approval. The requirements for developers to include cheaper housing on their sites will be relaxed. Land will be split into the three categories of growth, renewal, and preservation. Any school, shop or office which meets local design standards will be given an assumed permission to develop in the first two of these three categories. The aim will be for each area to agree a local plan in 30 months rather than the current average of seven years.

Here is more from Phillip Collins at the London Times (gated).  Do any of you know of a good ungated link on this?  Here is The Guardian, in unsurprising fashion, siding with NIMBY.  So far the BBC just doesn’t seem that interested.  Anywhere else to look?

Addendum: From Conor, here are some links:

–          Via CapX, which is a great aggregator plus original commentary: https://capx.co/these-profound-reforms-offer-a-chance-to-build-more-and-build-more-beautifully/

–          Via Conservative Home, here is the housing lead at Policy Exchange: https://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2020/08/ben-southwood-yes-the-current-planning-system-really-is-at-the-root-of-britains-housing-crisis.html

–          Twitter thread from Adam Smith Institute’s Matthew Lesh: https://twitter.com/matthewlesh/status/1291368548590379008

–          A summary and link to the full report itself: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/launch-of-planning-for-the-future-consultation-to-reform-the-planning-system

And longer reads, here are a couple of policy papers from the past that helped inform this report:

–          Policy Exchange paper: https://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Rethinking-the-Planning-System-for-the-21st-Century.pdf

–          The Roger Scruton chaired Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/861832/Living_with_beauty_BBBBC_report.pdf

*Missing: The Need for Closure after the Great War*

That is the new and excellent book by Richard Van Emden, and it covers how the British bureaucracy handled the reporting and identification of soldier corpses during and after the First World War.  Here is the author’s summary:

Here is the story of the army’s hunt for legions of missing men.  How were they sought?  How many were found and identified and what were the implications for families when that search was wound down?  tens of thousands of British people felt compelled to visit France and Belgium to see where their loved ones died; here we will explore what happened to the battlefields of Northern France and Belgium in the immediate post-war years…In telling the story of Britain’s military cemeteries on the western Front, this book will look at their design and horticulture, and examine the extraordinary lengths to which the gardeners of the Imperial War Graves Commission went to create an Eden for their dead comrades.

It turns out the British Army searched for remains for about three years, and after that the efforts pretty much dwindled to zero.  I also enjoyed reading about how these efforts, and the building of on-the-site graveyards, intersected with French and Belgium law and property rights.  And this:

An important question had been posed: to whom did the dead belong?  Did families own them?  Or did the bodies of servicemen and women remain in passive, eternal servitude to the army and, by extension, the government?  They were, after all, in military service and under military law when they died.  Did death release a body from continued service only to be automatically re-enlisted into the ritual of state-organised and state-controlled remembrance?

Among its other virtues, this book is also an interesting look at some of the efficiency properties of the earlier 20th bureaucracies.  The fact that they didn’t have the ability to make things too complicated often was a great virtue.

Recommended, you can order the book here.

How not to fight modern-day slavery

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

The Slave-Free Business Certification Act of 2020, introduced last week by Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, sounds unobjectionable, maybe even worthy. As the U.S. engages in a worthwhile and necessary reassessment of the role of slavery in its history, the bill would force large companies to investigate and report on forced labor in their supply chains.

In fact, the net effect of the bill — contrary to its stated intent — might be to increase slavery worldwide.

As a general principle, companies should cut off commercial relations with any known sources of slavery. Yet this law calls for mandatory corporate investigation and auditing, backed by CEO certification and with significant penalties for non-compliance. The investigatory process is supposed to include interviews of both workers and management in the supply chain.

Such a get-tough approach has a superficial appeal. Yet placing an investigative burden on companies may not lead to better outcomes.

Consider the hypothetical case of a U.S. retailer buying a shipment of seafood routed through Vietnam. It fears that some of the seafood may have come from Thailand, where there are credible reports of (temporary) slavery in the supply chain. How does it find out if those reports are true? Asking its Vietnamese business partner, who may not even know the truth and might be reluctant to say if it did, is unlikely to resolve matters.

It is unlikely that businesses, even larger and profitable ones, will be in a position to hire teams of investigative journalists for their international inputs. Either they will ignore the law, or they will stop dealing with poorer and less transparent countries. So rather than buying shrimp from Southeast Asia, that retailer might place an order for more salmon from Norway, where it is quite sure there is no slavery going on.

…for every instance of slavery today there are many more opaque supply chains that will be damaged and disrupted if the burden is on large companies to root out labor abuses.

Here are a few points of relevance:

1. The law penalizes opaque supply chains rather than slavery per se.  That is unlikely to be an efficient target.

2. Judgments about slavery are put in the hands of businesses rather than the government.  Why not just have the U.S. government issue sanctions against slavery-supporting countries when sanctions are appropriate and likely to be effective?  What is the extra gain from taxing businesses in this way?

3. There are many forms of coerced and exploited labor, and it is not clear this legislation will target slavery as opposed to simply low wages and poor working conditions as might result from extreme poverty.  You also don’t want the law to tax poor working conditions per se, since FDI, or purchasing flows from a supply chain, can help improve those working conditions.  You might however wish to target employment instances where, due to the nature of the law, additional financial flows toward the product will never rebound to the benefit of foreign labor.  This law (which I have read all of) does not seem to grasp that important distinction.

Two Washington Post headlines about “Big Tech”

Congress agrees big tech creepy, can’t agree how

The second is:

Big Tech is worth even more the day after congressional grilling

Furthermore, the tech companies have been rising in popularity.  I am going to “call” that the “war against Big Tech” essentially is over, and that the critics have failed.  The new debate will be about ensuring universal access to various internet services (which will involve further regulation of some kind), not splitting up the major companies or eliminating their basic functions.  You might also try this National Journal headline:

Hopes for antitrust reform fade after blockbuster tech hearing

It is striking just how much that “blockbuster tech hearing” has not become an enduring story for people to talk about.

A modest case for school reopening at the margin

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column.  Here is one excerpt:

First and most important, there is a distinction between children spreading the virus and children spreading the virus through school activities. The case against a physical reopening rests on the public health dangers, but the relevant question is relative.

Even if the schools do not physically reopen, children will still hang out together. This is especially true for teenagers, and they are also a group that, in a South Korean study, can readily spread the virus to others. Not many parents are going to quarantine their 15-year-olds at home for many months, much less their 17-year-olds. Recall that Romeo and Juliet were teenagers and came together as lovers against extreme parental opposition and during a time of plague.

It is possible that these children will spread the virus less if they were at school than if they were spending time together on their own. At least at school there would be teachers and other staff to enforce some measure of social distancing and proper hygiene practices, such as regular hand-washing…

To be sure, it’s by no means certain that schools will be safer places for children; whether they are will depend on the region. Still, the mere citation of public health dangers isn’t quite as decisive an argument against physical reopening as it may seem.

I believe I was first prompted to consider this argument by some tweets by Amihai Glazer.

Mark Lutter on Hong Kong in Ireland

This is from my email, I shall not impose any further indentation:

“Thanks for sharing the article about the Victoria Harbor Group. We, me being Chief Strategy Officer, are in discussions with Ireland. However, it is important to note that the information mentioned is dated. As any early stage company, our ideas have rapidly evolved. While the term we are using is ‘International Charter City’, we are not pursuing full scale autonomy. Our priority is to acquire land and build political support in the host country to build a city for the Hong Kong people with the target population being 50% HKers and 50% citizens of the host country. Of course, we wouldn’t say no to tax and regulatory relief, but that is not our focus.

Our key assumptions are as follows

1. The next 10-15 years will see 1m to 2m Hong Kongers migrate, the first mass migration of high skilled labor in the last 40 or so years.
2. There is value from coordinating this migration, keeping network effects, ensuring housing supply, etc
3. We see this as an opportunity to build the city of the future, cutting edge urban design, welcoming of new technology, self-driving cars, drone delivery, etc.
4. We are in discussions with several countries, not just Ireland, which we will make public when possible. We prefer English speaking countries with common law traditions, but are open to considering others.
5. Our goal is to acquire 50,000+ acres within 2 hours of an airport to build a new city for several hundred thousand residents. Obviously this depends on the political support in the host country. Smaller countries like Ireland would have smaller developments.
6. Political support from the host country is crucial. We are not asking for independence or autonomy. Of course, we wouldn’t say no to tax and regulatory relief, but that is less important than land availability and domestic buy in.
7. The city will fit in the national plans of the host country. The Hong Kongers excel in finance and manufacturing, as well as education and healthcare. While little manufacturing is done in Hong Kong, Hong Kongers own many factories in the Guangdong province. Any country looking to revive their manufacturing base could do so by attracting a bunch of talented HKers. Additionally, a good location could become a top 10 global financial center in 10 years by attracting HK financial talent.
8. We believe this is a great opportunity for any country which wants to attract a talented, hardworking, entrepreneurial population.
9. I have seen a lot of charter city projects and this is the first one I wanted to become part of the leadership team of.

For more information please see my podcast with Ivan Ko, the CEO. Our website will be launching soon.”

A Hong Kong enclave in Ireland?

Six locations in Ireland were discussed by government officials as possible sites for a new autonomous city named Nextpolis proposed by a wealthy Hong Kong businessman, The Times can reveal.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has been in contact with the Victoria Harbour Group (VHG), an international charter city investment company, since December about a plan to create a city from scratch that would be home to tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents…

The proposed city was referred to as Sim City in its early stages, after the computer game in which players create their own city. Over time its name changed to Nextpolis.

Here is the full story (Times of London, gated).  This article (same source) suggests the Irish citizenry is unlikely to favor the plan.

Mood affiliation, the police, and rising crime rates

Had a thought on the discussion of rising crime over the last few months inspired by your MR posts on mood affiliation that I wanted to pass along:

There’s been a bit of discussion lately about increased shootings in major cities in the wake of the George Floyd protests, and the two main narratives trying to explain them have been “protests fueling higher tensions” and “cops backing off and not patrolling as much or doing their jobs”. Interestingly, the latter seems to be based on a model where fewer cops and patrols results in more crime, so you might naively expect people who hold that belief would be more likely to believe that simple defunding and reduction of police presence would lead to more crime generally.

But if you believe that mood affiliation predicts opinions better than factual consistency, then it matters more that the former position sounds like “cops to blame, cops bad”, while the second sounds more like “cops are important, cops good”. And most commentators care more about the correct affect towards the police, rather than consistent models of reality, so you largely have commentators that are pro-defund police, but blame their lack of presence for crime increases, or commentators that are pro-police, think defunding would lead to increases in crime, but are less willing to entertain the idea that recent increases in crime are caused by the choices of officers.

That is from an email by Benjamin Hawley.

New York City facts of the day

In June alone some 270 people were shot in the city, a 154 per cent increase from a year earlier. July is not looking any better. Over the recent July 4 holiday weekend, 64 people were shot. Seventeen more were shot this Monday, a day after Gardner’s death. Those shootings have contributed to a 23 per cent increase in homicides so far this year. Burglary is also soaring.

Here is more from Chaffin and Zhang at the FT.