16th August 2005


Arnold Toynbee was a controversial historian in his day.  I recently found a copy of his summary volume, "A Study of History" published in 1976 by Oxfod U.Press, and have been working through it.

Toynbee attempted to do for History what Newton did in Physics, what Darwin did for evolution, and what J.G.Frazer attempted to do for religion & mysticism.  He compared civilizations, looking for points of commonality, attempted to isolate recurring elements.  Of necessity, he notes the interaction of religion with culture.

I am oversimplifying, but one of  Toynbee's findings that, for the major civilizations, a small group of nation states would evolve culturally amid an ocean of surrounding barbarism.(China, Greek, Egyptian.  The Indic, Sumerian and South American civilizations may have followed that progression, but there is insufficient surviving evidence).  These small nation states, while often fighting among themselves, would eventually, usually at a high point of creativity, unite.  Toynbee saw this unification as the beginning of decline.  Eventually the centralism of the new nation would dissipate, usually under the weight of government (taxes and corruption.) according to Toynbee.

This dissipated situation (e.g. Rome around the time of Aurelius), would eventually resolve, either when an external threat appeared, or after some idealogue unification movement caused reunification under a new, less corrupted government.  In some cases the external threat overwhelmed the civilization (or a portion of the civilization, e.g. the Eastern orthodox Roman Empire was absorbed by the Muslim civilization, as was the Nestorian Christian civilization.) in other cases the barbarian invaders adopt the conquered civilization, reviving it. (Western Roman Empire, China).

Religions are an integral part of the great civilizations.  The Christian church evolved somewhat after the beginning of the Greek civilization.   Many authorities consider that much of Catholic doctrine was drawn from the earlier Greek-Roman mysticism, as for instance the Holy Trinity.  The Christian religion has evolved along with Western Civilization.  Originally, the Bible was written in Latin, and (by doctrine) could only be read in that language.  Only a properly sanctified religious teacher could interpret the bible.  Then the German Protestant movement arose, and the Bible was written in the languages of the worshippers, and each man was guided by his own conscience.  More recently there is the "Revivalist" movement, where individual prechers may start their own church, and persuade converts to their own moral interpretation of God's word.  Each evolution in religion has influenced the earlier churches, for instance the Catholic church now accepts multi-language bibles, and penances are no longer for sale.

The Muslim religion is some three or four centuries younger, and (I have read) religious scholars must read it in the original language.


NSW premier Bob Carr resigned recently.  He did not give a reason.

New premier Iemma has announced that the real estate "investors" tax is to be removed as of "today".

The real estate tax, where investors paid around 2.5% tax on the sale price of a property, was blamed for causing a collapse in the NSW real estate market by Real estate agents, and was credited by economists with halting the dangerous real estate bubble in NSW.

Bob Carr introduced the tax.  It is my suspicion, based on juxtaposition of events, that Bob Carr was told by his party to remove the tax.  I credit him with the integrity to resign rather than remove the tax.   The (now defunct) tax is now being credited as a clever response to the CGT (in that, after the tax was paid, there was a 25% reduction in the CGT burden)

If I was a betting man, I would bet on labour being removed from power at the next election.


In the last days of July the Federal government and the Reserve bank have been reassuring the Australian people that interest rates in the near term will not rise, but might in fact fall.  Oil is rising fast towards US$70/bbl, and gas prices in the US are up around $3/gal (~ $1 AU/liter).

As for that noted economist writing under the nom de plume "Henry Thornton", I noted that a few weeks ago you were predicting that by not raising interest rates when you suggested, Australians were about to "pay the price" by having a larger increase in rates in the near term. 

With your track record, Henry, I can only conclude that your employer uses you for advising what the economy is not about to do.  Although I cannot understand why our respected daily newspapers print your stuff without that caveat.

I note with interest that Doonsbury is striving to come to terms with the coming era, where copyright does not apply.  He does not seem to believe that there will be any "great artistes" in our future.  Well I know that Beethoven wasn't a patch on Gershwin, but neither was he well off.  Great artists are driven, it isn't the money.


New Telstra CEO Trujillo has quickly identified that Ziggy managed to show a "profit" by not modernizing the copper network.

I would like to lodge a complaint at this point.  Back in the 70s, when I connected to Telstra, I was charged the sum of $150 as a "connection fee" when moving into premises that already had a connected telephone.  (I once worked for Telstra as an ETA, and know that there was nowhere near a weeks work switching a connection.  It took about ten minutes actually rewiring a circuit, expand that to two hours at then rate of about $20/hr if clerical time were included.)  Telstra actually financed it's expansion in those days by charging "connection fees".

So Mr. Howard.  Fair go.  The people of Australia have already paid for the "local loop" and it should be handed back to them. You should give it to the local councils for management.  It is not the Government's to sell.  It belongs to us already.

Let Sol Trujillo manage the rest of Telstra for the paid up shareholders. (whose shares are currently ~ $4.80).

.Me, I am glad I sold out around $7 when I realized what a f***wit Ziggy was.  I am not about to buy at the present time or unless it sinks to about $2 per share or thereabouts.

I do tend to trust Trujillo.  I recon our best bet (we are in a region that is classified as "remote") is satellite, or some sort of radio repeater system, perhaps using the CDMA band.  It also seems crazy to have separate copper for power and for communications.  In our region, telstra must maintain about 150km of line to service about 30 customers.  The local power network has the same line/customer ratio.  At the very least, they should use the same lines.

I can understand Trujillo wanting several $billion and cancellation of competition rules in return for building a country broadband.  In the near future some tech wizz could well find a technology that renders his investment useless.  On the other hand, any waiver of the competition rules should be for a limited period, sufficient for Telstra to recover it's investment and reasonable profit.