Sharp, Pointy ThingsSteven Lieberman
Denial in OZ
So, as many of you know, for the last week and half, Sandy, Chaney and I have been visiting our older daughter, Carolyn, in Sydney, Australia. (She lives here and works as an architect.) She loves it here and, in fairness, on the surface there is a lot to love. The place is clean, modern, and definitely cosmopolitan. (When I was her age, I liked that type of thing too… now I would prefer a ranch in Wyoming).
It is also, in my opinion, about to collapse.
Many of you know Australia is seen by the gun-control crowd as their poster child for how gun confiscation can work. For all practical purposes, the Aussies confiscated handguns and black scary rifles. (Bolt action rifles and shotguns for hunting are still available, but certainly not in Sydney).
They also have adopted the British model of knife control.
For the last two weeks I have been completely neutered. Even the table wear at the restaurants have rounded-edge steak knives. (After all… who needs pointy, sharp things?!?)
So there is no crime?
Not in the least.. the city still bleeds. The local news is similar to ours at home. Still, the Australians we met are nervous about coming to America to visit. After all, don’t we have a tremendous crime problem?
Ummmm… pretty much mirrors yours… but we are allowed to fight back.
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)
The Aussies like to brag about the fact that weapons are illegal here. Crime is in check because the weapons of war have been removed from the hands of criminals.
I point out that the criminals still seem to have access to those “weapons of war” and, in fact, are pretty ingenious about making new ones.
(We just finished watching a news report about a goblin who went on a stabbing rampage with a homemade shiv.)
I also suspect that at least Sydney, if not all of Australia, is about to suffer a severe economic downturn.
One of the reasons Carolyn is here, is that Sydney has been going through both a building boom as well as a “restoration” boom. Her boyfriend, Allen, is an engineer who develops large-scale commercial air-conditioning systems (think casino air-conditioning). For both of them, there has been more work here than they can handle. Every block has a skyscraper being built or refurbished.
I feel this is all about to come to an end.
Interests rates are very low and the Chinese have largely financed the Sydney building explosion. This has sparked concern amongst some of the nationalist politicians in Canberra. Restrictions of Chinese purchases have started to happen and, as a result, the Chinese have retaliated by reducing their buying spree of real estate.
In 2007 we saw a lot of builders creating whole communities in America that were being bought up by “real estate” investors. They were purchasing (on margin) homes for the purposes of renting them out. Then the cost of oil went up and their tenants could no longer live in those homes and commute to work. Soon, the bottom would fall out.
Carolyn and Allen told us most of the work being done in Sydney is at the behest of Chinese customers, and the units are being purchased by existing residents to be used as “investment properties”… worse, they are buying on margin.
Unemployment is starting to tick up as well. Soon, I suspect there will be an event that rivals what we experienced in 2008. (Hopefully it does not become a global contagion).
Homelessness is starting to become prevalent here as well, with women over 50 being the largest growing segment of the homeless population.
The Aussie reliance on the government is spectacularly scary. They really do believe that “betters know more than they do.” I have absolutely no clue where this mindset comes from, other than European statist indoctrination.
There is a potential cautionary tale, though, that tests one of my existing assumptions. I have argued that college and advanced education creates a pliant statist society and a collectivist nation with no marketable skills.
Well… there may be a flip side.
Here the minimum wage is staggeringly high. One can become a waiter, typically an entry-level position, and stay there permanently and have a pretty nice standard of living. There is no need for higher education for many of these positions. One interesting effect of this is the elimination of “tipping”. Since workers make so much, there is little need nor expectation of tipping for superior service.
There are still those who seek higher education and become involved in the development of public policy. With no interest in politics itself, the “public” has become completely reliant on its “betters”… parroting the talking points heard from the talking heads.
(Ok… well… that is similar to us.)
Abdication of civic participation to a class of Mandarins does not have history on its side as being a particularly good idea. I have a feeling our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are about to get a history lesson.