Friday, 21 September 2012

Loving in Japan

Greetings from Tokyo. 

One of the interesting things about being in a different place is that different social norms and customs generate a commercial requirement for different types of services. 

Many single people in Tokyo live in small studio apartments, not much bigger than a student dorm room. They choose to do this to have personal privacy rather than to live in shared accommodation like many inner city dwellers in Australian cities. 

You can hear your neighbors! You need a love hotel. 

So you are single in your 20s. You pick up at a bar. You live in a dog box with clothes hanging from the ceiling and not enough room to swing a cat. 

You aren't going to impress your new friend at home, and with some enthusiastic intimacy, you will break a whole bunch of rules with your neighbors. 

What do you do? Go get a room. And thankfully, a whole industry called love hotels will rent you a really nice room for a perfectly decent price for either 3 hours ($40-50) or overnight.

Where are these love hotels? Right around the corner from the nightlife districts. It's a great example of the market delivering supply to satisfy a need. 

Let the market do its job - there is so much we can learn from other countries

Monday, 10 September 2012

The worst abuse of statistics by Rev Peter Jensen

Tonight on Q and A, we witnessed one of the worst abuses of statistics - and it causes real harm.

A correlation is not causation

Peter Jensen - you sinned by misusing statistics
Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen asked for a sensible debate about the health issues of being gay, on the basis that gays have shorter lifespans on average than non gay people.

This is the most heinous misuse of statistics.  A correlation (when two things coexist at the same time) does not mean that one thing causes the other.

Observe the following facts:
- People who live in Africa have a shorter lifespan than people who live in Australia
- People who are overweight have a shorter lifespan than average
- Men have a shorter lifespan than women
- People who are gay have a shorter lifespan than average
- Indigenous people have a shorter lifespan than average
- Smokers have a shorter lifespan than average

Does this mean...
- Africans are genetically weaker?
- If you are overweight, you should lose weight to live longer?
- If you are a man, you should become a woman to live longer?
- If you are gay, you should become straight to live longer?
- Indigenous Australians are at fault for their shorter life spans?
- To live longer you should stop smoking

Clearly, some of those statements are nonsensical, some are provocative, but they are all equally plausible (or implausible) from the data.  None of them should be stated without more facts.

What is really going on?
  • Africans and indigenous Australians have a poorer standard of nutrition, water and healthcare among other things.  It is these things that cause shorter life spans.  The reasons that these groups and others around the world have these conditions is complex and varies from location to location.  However, this does not means that Africans or indigenous Australians are at fault for their shorter life spans.
  • People who are overweight, and men have a higher risk of certain conditions which end your life.  Diabetes and heart failure are two of these.  Would losing weight reduce your risks? Yes, controlled studies have shown this.  Would becoming a woman reduce a man's risk? Who knows - there have been insufficient studies of transsexuals to evaluate?
  • Gay men live on average shorter lifespans than average.  Why? There are a myriad of possible factors including higher rates of mental illness, which does shorten life spans.  Why do gays have higher rates of mental illness? There are many contributing factors, but the suggested solution that gays should try to not be gay is more likely to increase mental illness than decrease it.

  • Smokers have shorter lifespans, because smoking increases the risk of lung cancer.  Lung cancer will end your life.  Therefore: smoking - causes - lung cancer - which causes death.  This is the only one of these statements that is a proven causation.

Misuse of statistics is not an accident

Peter Jensen, you are a learned man.  You studied the rigorous discipline of law, you have multiple degrees.  You know the difference between a correlation and causation.  You know that you are being deliberately mischievous when you were asked to comment on Jim Wallace's quote that included...
"The life of smokers is reduced by something like seven to 10 years and yet we tell all our kids at school they shouldn't smoke...But what I'm saying is we need to be aware that the homosexual lifestyle carries these problems..."

He is trying to argue that there is a causal relationship between both smoking and death and a gay lifestyle and death.  There is a relationship for smoking.  There is no relationship for a gay lifestyle.

You know the difference Peter Jensen.  You know.

Peter Jensen, your knew your comments would get traction. You misused statistics deliberately.  That is sinful. Christ would not have done that.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A solution to the foreign sale of Australian farms

The emotional and political debate about the sale of Australian agricultural assets, particularly to Chinese interests,   needs a more objective perspective. 

Two types of assets

Cubbie Station - a political football
What is an asset like Cubbie Station?  It's actually two assets. One is the land and resources under the land. The second is the right to produce food or crops from farming. 

This isn't just a technical point, it's critical to the security of Australia and to the debate. 

Separate the assets

A lot of the debate quite rightly surrounds the ownership of large tracts of Australia by foreign owners, especially foreign governments.

There is also acknowledgment that Australia lacks the capital and commitment to farm our arable resources to their full capacity. So, we need to work with foreigners to make productive use of the land.

So, we can lease the asset, rather than sell it. 

The UK model

For centuries, the UK property model has sold long term leaseholds over residential property.  If you "buy" a flat you are most likely buying a 90 year lease, not the freehold. 

We should adopt this model for significant Australian agricultural landholdings. Sell a 100 year lease. It provides food security for the Chinese buyer, but does not relinquish the ultimate ownership of the Australian land. 

Selling long term leases of Australian agricultural properties is a win-win for all. 

Let me know what you think. 

Mark S