Monday, 5 June 2023

"Why do you care about recessions?"


"Why do we care about recessions? ...
    "I think I know why we care about recessions. Recession are generally associated with lousy labor markets. The high unemployment of the 1930s was such a severe social problem that it put macroeconomics on the map as an important field of inquiry...
    "[But] I’ll tell you who cares about recessions—dumb people who believe that words have magical powers. 'If only I could convince you that this is a recession!' Yawn.
    "It’s not that I think you are wrong; it’s that I don’t care. Japan had a bunch of recessions in the 2010s. Do I care? No, none of them showed up in the labour market....
    "It’s incredibly uninteresting to see a slow growth economy alternate between slightly positive quarters and slightly negative quarters.
    "The entire world is now becoming more like Japan, with ever slower trend GDP growth rates. In the future, there’ll be lots more of these 'recessions' with booming labour markets.
    "This is why the 'Will there be a recession?' debate is so dumb. I don’t care whether the [country] experiences a recession; I’m simply not interested. The interesting question is whether the [country] will experience the sort of recession that we experienced in the past, where the unemployment rate always rose by at least 2 percentage points.
    "Now that’s an interesting question. [And equally interesting to me is the question: why is all the world now full of slow-growth economies?]"
~ Scott Sumner, from his post 'Why Do You Care About Recessions?'

Sunday, 4 June 2023

"We can use observation and logic to arrive at the principle of individual rights..."


"For now, let’s focus on ... [Ayn] Rand’s view of rights. ... Rand based her view for the role of government on the principle of individual rights ...
    "Now, it’s certainly true that rights are not physical things that we can observe. Rights are principles, akin, in that respect, to the principles of physics or biology. Think for a minute of Newton’s first law of motion: A body remains at rest, or in motion at a constant speed in a straight line, unless acted upon by a force. This is a principle—an abstract generalisation about how the world works—derived by observation and logic. No one can look out at the world and see Newton’s first law of motion; nonetheless, everyone can see the evidence that gives rise to it.
    "Rand held that we can likewise use observation and logic to arrive at the principle of individual rights. She pointed out that, unlike other animals, man lives by using his mind. Man must act on his reasoning to create the values on which human life depends. That could be as simple as tracking prey, using dried leaves to start a fire, building a hut, or discerning edible berries from poisonous ones. Or it could be as complex as inventing antibiotics, building a gasoline engine, organizing a multinational supply chain, or providing psychological therapy. To create such values and thus live as human beings, people must be free to think and act on their rational judgment—their basic means of living. The evidence of Rand’s experience—first in Soviet Russia, then in the United States—made this vividly clear. The facts of man’s nature require that he act on his judgment to survive and thrive, and the principle of individual rights identifies this causal relation, just as principles of physics identify causal relations in that field. This is why Rand wrote in 'Atlas Shrugged':
"The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational. Any group, any gang, any nation that attempts to negate man’s rights, is wrong, which means: is evil, which means: is anti-life."
"This is just an indication of how Rand derived and demonstrated the principle of individual rights. Those interested in learning more should start by reading her essays 'The Objectivist Ethics' and 'Man’s Rights'.”

Saturday, 3 June 2023

The Problem with “Greedflation”


Chart 1: from a paper by George McCandless and Warren Weber in their paper “Some Monetary Facts.” It plots the average inflation rate and the average rate of money growth in 110 countries over a 30-year period. Such graphs are common in intermediate macroeconomic textbooks (such as Robert Barro’s Macroeconomics). This certainly seems like evidence in support of the idea that more dollars in circulation means higher dollar prices.
"The argument I was addressing in this post was this notion of so-called “greedflation”, or the belief that rising inflation is caused by higher mark-ups by firms.... [instead of] more dollars in circulation lead[ing] to higher dollar prices ...
    "This [notion] is an attempt by people to treat every bout of inflation like isolated cases that require the fresh eyes of a new detective. And yet, greedflation has no explanation for the evidence put forth above. Perhaps they could dismiss the first chart as a spurious correlation or reverse causation. However, the same cannot be said of the second. Are we supposed to believe that there was a sudden outbreak of greed that corresponded almost perfectly to the collapse of the Bretton Woods system? Have firm markups vastly exploded in our era relative to other eras?
    "Even ignoring those questions, the greedflation advocates could argue that I am correct in general, but not in this single instance. However, even this claim is dubious. As I showed in a previous post, even if the only data one had was data on inflation and the growth rate of the money supply at the end of 2020, it was perfectly predictable that we would observe persistently high inflation over the next 2 years. Once again, the simple story that I am telling here is able to predict out-of-sample.
    "In his famous study of religion, René Girard lamented that 'a panic-stricken refusal to glance, even furtively, in the only direction where meaning could still be found dominates our intellectual life.' One can’t help but see a similar refusal in recent discussions of inflation."
~ Josh Hendrickson, from his post 'Greedflation: Let's Try This Again' [emphasis mine]

Chart 2: "If the story that I told is correct, then one should expect that dollar prices were relatively stable under a commodity standard. Following the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, there is no constraint on the supply of dollars since dollars are no longer redeemable for any commodity and the dollar is no longer defined as a particular quantity of some commodity. Above is a graph of US consumer prices (1800-present) using data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
"Note that the predictions of my simple story are consistent with the graph. Stable prices are evident during the days of commodity money. There is modest inflation during the Bretton Woods era and then consumer prices rise rapidly following the collapse of Bretton Woods. The simple story seems consistent with the data again."

 


Friday, 2 June 2023

Memo to Hipkins: Taxpayers' Money is Not Free


Everyone is demeaned when governments hand out money as if it is free. As Bryce Wilkinson explains in this guest post, we are demeaned daily by Labour's endless litany of handouts...

Memo to Hipkins: Taxpayers' Money is Not Free 

buy Bryce Wilkinson

When I was a lad in the 1950s, I absorbed from adults the notion that it was shameful to be reduced to applying for a state handout. Self-reliance was virtuous. It respected others.

Reading the Prime Minister’s speech to his party faithful last week was a salutary lesson in how attitudes have changed. Today, making handouts more freely available is virtuous, self-reliance is in the past.

Hipkins’ speech extolled Labour’s litany of handouts. He mentioned paid parental leave, free school lunches, increased benefits, free subscriptions, free public transport, free early childhood education and much other spending and a raft of subsidies for this and that.

I counted over a dozen such spending items. Each might make sense if taxpayers’ money is free, but it is not free and the speech ignored the question of overall value-for-money.

When it comes to government handouts, what is free to the user invites waste.

To pick up a prescription medicine is one thing, to follow the prescribed treatment is another. Expect more unused pills in households’ medicine shelves.

As the late Milton Friedman famously quipped, “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. Price is one thing and cost is another. Someone must pay for the lunch because food is scarce.

When the ancient Romans subsidised bread, some fed it to pigs because the price was so low. Some of the wheat from conquered Egypt was wasted.

Taxpayers work long and hard to earn the income that is taxed. They go without worthwhile things to pay their taxes.

All governments should hold themselves responsible for ensuring that their spending provides commensurate value for taxpayers. Taxpayers are not geese to be plucked with a minimum amount of hissing.

Taxpayers are already paying vastly more in taxes than Labour told them to expect back in 2017. Under its electioneering fiscal plan, it proclaimed that its policies would only increase Total Crown tax revenue for the five years ended June 2022 by $10.2 billion. We now know the actual increase. It is $29.3 billion.

The full cost is much greater. That is because Labour’s planned five-year spending increase of $11.7 billion was much greater at $65.3 billion. The extra borrowing represents deferred taxation.

Take a bow Mr Hipkins.

Everyone is demeaned when governments hand out money as if it is free.

* * * * 
Bryce Wilkinson is a Senior Fellow at The New Zealand Initiative, and also the Director of the Wellington-based economic consultancy firm Capital Economics. Prior to setting this up in 1997 he was a Director of, and shareholder in, First NZ Capital. Before moving into investment banking in 1985, he worked in the New Zealand Treasury, reaching the position of Director. Bryce holds a PhD in economics from the University of Canterbury and was a Harkness Fellow at Harvard University. He is a Fellow of the Law and Economics Association of New Zealand.

His post first appeared at the NZ Initiative Opinion page.

'Hate-speech' regulation is back again


"Like taxes and death, there are some dependables in life. I would suggest a government’s propensity to censorship and speech regulation is one of them....
    "On Thursday, we saw yet again that even in a liberal, democratic society with longstanding civil liberties, governments are always keen to reach for a bit more than they should.
    "The Department of Internal Affairs’ public consultation document proposes a new law establishing a 'regulator' to oversee the modern content landscape. ...
    "Things won't change too much for major media outlets, but for the first time ever, your tweets, comments on Facebook, and waxing-lyrical on LinkedIn will be subject to oversight by a government watchdog....
    "The content the new regulator is looking to oversee is not child exploitation, terrorist activity or material that encourages self-harm. That is all indisputably already illegal in New Zealand....
    "This is about 'harmful' ideas that make individuals “feel unsafe”. This is about silencing certain perspectives, views or beliefs....
    "Undoubtedly, content online can cause hate and harm. Free speech is the solution to this.... Silencing Kiwis online does not promote social cohesion or build trust [and nor is it within the proper purview of any rights-respecting government.] Kiwis will see this work as nothing more than online hate speech laws, and will resist this overreach also. [Let's hope so!]"
~ Jonathan Ayling, from his op-ed 'Media regulation plan - a censor's greatest dream'
"So a lunatic inside the DIA has decided to launch a consultation round on an insanely bureaucratic ‘Ministry of Truth’ who will impose ‘safety standards’ which just sounds like a means to complain about people saying things you don’t like.
    "If you don’t have these ‘safety standards’, then you will be fined!
    "This is an enormously large Wellington designed Bureaucratic Tank that is going to blitzkrieg everyone the Disinformation Project tells them to ‘audit’.
    "This is way in excess of changing the Hate Speech laws, this is empowering a Sheriff to call together a posse and funding them.
    "The level of over reach is remarkable, it’s Absolutely Positively Wellington!"

~ Martyn Bradbury, from his post 'What lunatic inside DIA decided to launch a ‘Ministry of Truth’ 5 months before an election?'


"For over 30 years, NZers have believed that they produce relatively high emissions of greenhouse gases; and that our farmers are responsible for nearly half of all those emissions. No longer. Science moves on."


"For over 30 years, New Zealanders have believed that they produce relatively high emissions of greenhouse gases; and that our farmers are responsible for nearly half of all those emissions.
    "No longer. Science moves on.
    "We now find that all our climate change calculations have been based on a simple but fundamental error... [The] peer-reviewed research paper (Allen et al 2018) showed that the global warming potential (GWP) of livestock methane had been over-stated by some 400%. The old opinion that methane was 28 times more potent than CO2 was based on demonstrable errors.... Oxford Professor Myles Allen – one of the world’s best known climate scientists and dubbed by the BBC as ‘the physicist behind net zero’ – had no doubt at all that the correct multiple is about 7: “That this formula is vastly more accurate than the traditional accounting rule is indisputable.”....
 Then came another peer-reviewed journal paper. Lynch & Garnet (2021), which again highlighted the 'special characteristics' and 'nuances' of livestock methane and warned against 'heavy-handed policy interventions'.... Then the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the IPCC ... squarely addressed the methane GWP issue at page 1016 of Chapter 7:
'…expressing methane emissions as CO2 equivalent of 28, overstates the effect on global surface temperature by a factor of 3-4'
"That is the final word.... the 'gold standard' of climate science has left the New Zealand authorities with nowhere to hide. If there was ever a debate, it is now over. The use of a GWP of 28 for agricultural methane is simply a dead parrot.
    "About these momentous events, the Minister has had nothing to say. Although the IPCC’s decision is clearly the news of a lifetime for all of New Zealand’s copious subsidised climate change reporters, they too have been strangely silent....
    "The GWP of methane did not matter too much to other developed countries, whose main emissions worry was CO2. But New Zealand was different. As livestock methane made up almost 40% of all the country’s projected warming, it’s true GWP was highly material to every calculation and every policy.
    "The Minister has been playing for time...."

~ Barry Brill, from his article 'What Will We Do About .... the Mammoth Methane Mistake'

Thursday, 1 June 2023

The Big Problem With the Traditional 'Political Spectrum' Children Are Taught in Schools


Instead of deploying the flawed and simplistic "left-right" political spectrum -- two ends of a spectrum that depict similars instead of opposites -- Lawrence Reed argues in this guest post that we should judge political and economic systems by whom they empower: the State, or the individual.

The Big Problem With the Traditional 'Political Spectrum' Children Are Taught in Schools

guest post by Lawrence Reed

In classes on Government and Political Science, with few exceptions, students in both high school and university are taught that the so-called “political spectrum” (or “political/economic” spectrum) looks like this: Communism and Socialism reside on the Left, Capitalism and Fascism dwell on the Right. Various mixtures of those things lie somewhere in between:


This is not only false and misleading, it is also idiocy. Toss it into the trash bin and demand a refund from the teacher who presented it as fact, or as any kind of insightful educational tool.

At the very least, a spectrum that looks like that should raise some tough questions. Why should socialists and fascists be depicted as virtual opposites when they share so much in common—from their fundamental, intellectual principles to their methods of implementation? If a political spectrum is supposed to illustrate a range of relationships between the individual and the State, or the very size and scope of the State, then why are systems of Big State/Small Individuals present at both ends of it?

On any other topic, the two ends of a spectrum would depict opposites. Let’s say you wanted to illustrate a range for stupidity. It would look like this:



How much sense would it make for “Extremely Stupid” to appear at both the far Left and the far Right ends of the range?

For the same reason, you would create only confusion with a spectrum that looks like this:

If you wanted to depict a range of options regarding the size of government, a more meaningful range would be this one:



Let us get back to that first sketch above, the spectrum that is most often presented to students as gospel. It is a big reason why so many people think that the communism of Lenin and Stalin was diametrically opposed to the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini (even if people who lived under those systems could not tell much difference).

I must say that in the first place, I am not a fan of one-dimensional spectra as a device for understanding politics, especially when those who construct them insert terms along the range that are not all compatible with what the range is supposed to depict. (Capitalism, for example, is not a political system; it is an economic one. It is entirely possible (though uncommon and ultimately unstable) for a one-party political monopoly to allow a considerable degree of economic freedom. And the spectra shown here are literally one-dimensional, when it would take at least two dimensions, if not three, to truly show the complexity of political positioning.) But my purpose here is not to go that broad, but to deal only with the defective one-dimensional political/economic spectrum that most students learn.

My contention is that if Communism, Socialism, Fascism and Capitalism all appear on the same range line it is terribly misleading and utterly useless, to place the first two on the left and the second two on the right. 

If we were to place opposites at each end, then, the placement that makes the most sense is probably this one:




I can already hear the spluttering from the cheap (communist-leaning seasts!) The perspective represented in that last sketch, just above, immediately arouses dispute because its implications are quite different from what students are typically taught. The inevitable objections include these three:

1. Communism and fascism cannot be close together because communists and fascists fought each other bitterly. Hitler attacked Stalin, for example!

This objection is equivalent to claiming, “Al Capone and Bugs Moran hated and fought each other so they can’t both be considered gangsters.” Or, “Since Argentina and Brazil compete so fiercely in football, both teams cannot be composed of footballers.”

Both communism and fascism demonstrate in actual practice an extremely low regard for the lives and rights of their subject peoples. Why should anyone expect their practitioners to be nice to each other, especially when they are rivals for territory and influence on the world stage?

We should remember that Hitler and Stalin were allies before they were enemies. They secretly agreed to carve up Poland in August 1939, leading directly to World War II. The fact that Hitler turned on Stalin two years later is nothing more than proof of the proverb, “There’s no honour among thieves.” Thieves are still thieves even if they steal from each other.

2. Under communism as Karl Marx defined it, government “withers away.” So it cannot be aligned closely with socialism because socialism involves lots of government.

Marx’s conception of communism is worse than purely hypothetical. It is sheer lunacy. The idea that the absolutist despots of the all-powerful “proletarian dictatorship” would one day simply walk away from power has no precedent to point to and no logic behind it. Even as a prophecy, it strains credulity to the breaking point.

Communism is my Sketch 5 appears where it does because in actual practice, it is just a little more radical than the worst socialism. It is the difference between the murderous, totalitarian Khmer Rouge of Cambodia and, say, the socialism of Castro’s Cuba.

3. Communism and Fascism are radically different because in focus, one is internationalist and the other is nationalist (as in Hitler’s “national socialism”).

Big deal. Again, chocolate and vanilla are two different flavors of ice cream, but they’re both ice cream. Was it any consolation to the French or the Norwegians or the Poles that Hitler was a national socialist instead of an international socialist? Did it make any difference to the Ethiopians that Mussolini was an Italian nationalist instead of a Soviet internationalist?

Endless confusion persists in political analysis because of the false dichotomy the conventional spectrum (Sketch 1) suggests. People are taught to think that fascists Mussolini and Hitler were polar opposites of communists Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. In fact, however, they were all peas in the same collectivist pod. They all claimed to be socialists. They all sought to concentrate power in the State and to glorify the State. They all stomped on individuals who wanted nothing more than to pursue their own ambitions in peaceful commerce. They all denigrated private property, either by outright seizure or regulating it to serve the purposes of the State.

Don’t take my word for it. Consider these remarks of the two principal Fascist kingpins, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Ask yourself, “Are these remarks materially different from what Lenin, Stalin and Mao—or even Marx—believed and said?”

In a February 24, 1920 speech outlining the Nazi 25-Point Program, Hitler proclaimed, “The common good before the individual good!”

In a speech to Italy’s Chamber of Deputies on December 9, 1928, Mussolini declared, “All within the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State!”

“To put it quite clearly,” said Hitler in a 1931 interview with journalist Richard Breitling, a core program of his Party was “the nationalisation of all public companies, in other words socialisation, or what is known here as socialism…the principle of authority. The good of the community takes priority over that of the individual. But the State should retain control; every owner should feel himself to be an agent of the State; it is his duty not to misuse his possessions to the detriment of the State or the interests of his fellow countrymen. That is the overriding point. The Third Reich will always retain the right to control property owners.”

“This is what we propose now to the Treasury,” announced Mussolini on June 19, 1919. “Either the property owners expropriate themselves, or we summon the masses of war veterans to march against these obstacles and overthrow them.”

Less than two weeks before (on June 6, 1919), the future Il Duce virtually plagiarised The Communist Manifesto when he said, “We want an extraordinary heavy taxation, with a progressive character, on capital, that will represent an authentic partial expropriation of all wealth; seizures of all assets of religious congregations and suppression of all the ecclesiastic Episcopal revenues.”

This line from Hitler’s May Day speech at Templehof Air Field in 1934 could have come straight from Lenin: “The hammer will once more become the symbol of the German worker and the sickle the sign of the German peasant.”

That’s the same socialist fanatic who declared in an October 5, 1937 speech, “There is a difference between the theoretical knowledge of socialism and the practical life of socialism. People are not born socialists but must first be taught how to become them.” (Please note: communists and fascists share a common hostility to private and home schooling.)

Mussolini asserted that “there are plenty of intellectual affinities between us” (socialists of the communist variety and socialists of the fascist flavour). In the same interview in 1921, he said, “Tomorrow, Fascists and Communists, both persecuted by the police, may arrive at an agreement, sinking their differences until the time comes to share the spoils…Like them, we believe in the necessity for a centralized and unitary state, imposing an iron discipline on everyone, but with the difference that they reach this conclusion through the idea of class, we through the idea of the nation.”

Hitler once declared, “National Socialism is the determination to create a new man. There will no longer exist any individual arbitrary will, nor realms in which the individual belongs to himself. The time of happiness as a private matter is over.” In 1932 his fascist soul mate Mussolini echoed the most doctrinaire Bolshevik when he stated, “It was inevitable that I should become a Socialist ultra, a Blanquist, indeed a communist. I carried about a medallion with Marx’s head on it in my pocket. I think I regarded it as a sort of talisman… [Marx] had a profound critical intelligence and was in some sense even a prophet.”

The same Mussolini advised the American businessman and politician Grover Whalen in 1939, “You want to know what fascism is like? It is like your New Deal!” He was referring to the central planning, anti-capitalist mandates and sky-high taxes of Franklin Roosevelt.

On and on it goes. Based on what they said and what they did, it is ludicrous to separate Fascism from the Left and make it out to be just a purified form of classical liberal Capitalism. If you insist on using the conventional spectrum as depicted in Sketch 1, you are deceiving yourself as to the differences between Communism and Fascism. They both belong firmly on the socialist Left. Actual differences amounted to minimalist window-dressing. Even their primary implementers said so.

Instead of deploying flawed and simplistic spectrum charts, let us judge political and economic systems by whom they empower—the State or the individual. That makes things a lot clearer.

* * * * * 


Lawrence Read is the President Emeritus io the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). This article was adapted from an issue of the FEE Daily email newsletter, and then appeared at the FEE blog


Wednesday, 31 May 2023

NIMBYs are economically illiterate


cartoon from Bryan Caplan's forthcoming
housing-economics comic book 'Build Baby Build'

"What ideology urges us to make housing as expensive as possible?! ...
    "My top explanation is sheer economic illiteracy. Much of the public flatly denies that housing deregulation would make housing more affordable. For them, supply-and-demand is the 'ideology' - and popular complaints about the downsides of new construction are 'common sense.' 
    "I have ... evidence that economic illiteracy is the foundation of draconian housing regulation.... When Clayton Nall, Chris Elmendorf, and Stan Oklondzija test[ed] for economic illiteracy in other markets, they detect[ed] it. But the economic illiteracy is especially egregious for housing...
    "[I]t’s good news ... If the problem is economic illiteracy, however, at least we don’t have to change human nature to dramatically change policy. Perhaps we can just repeatedly hit the public over the head with a friendly sledgehammer of economic education.
    "A friendly sledgehammer like… a non-fiction graphic novel on housing regulation."
~ Bryan Caplan, from his post 'NIMBY is economic illiteracy'

Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Another highly-paid beneficiary


John Tamihere shares a joke at taxpayers' expense

"The welfare state is not really about the welfare of the masses. It is about the egos of the elites." 
~ Thomas Sowell, from his column 'Human Livestock'
"[John Tamihere's] Waipareira Trust has grown significantly and become a key service provider for Whānau Ora.
    "Whānau Ora was created in 2010 under the oversight of Dame Tariana Turia ... In essence, Whānau Ora is described as a Māori approach to delivering social and health services to whānau ... commissioning agencies that would invest [sic] directly in their communities....
    "There are only three Whānau Ora commissioning agencies in the country.... For the North Island, the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency is actually the trading name of a company called Te Pou Matakana Limited. The Patrons of that entity include Dame Tariana Turia, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait and John Tamihere’s father-in-law, Sir Mason Durie. The chief executive is John Tamihere and the chief operating officer is his wife, Awerangi Tamihere....
    "The Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency, NUMA [John Tamihere's so-called National Urban Māori Authority] and the Waipareira Trust are all located at the same Henderson commercial address and share administrative and back office support....
    "[U]nder the current Labour government, the Waipareira Trust has had a golden run.... In its most recent accounts for the year ended 30 June 2022, the trust had revenue from services [i.e., money doled out from government] of $69,544,616, and had cash or term deposits of $50,379,806.... Over [the last] six year period ... remuneration and benefits for senior management have increased from $2,013,194 to $4,390,413 ... [and] annual management fees [to] $6,000,000...
    "The management fee alone is an eye-watering amount and seems difficult to justify ...
    "[M]any Māori believe that not enough funding from Whānau Ora is making its way to those in need. Their concerns seem to be justified."

~ Thomas Cranmer, from his post 'John Tamihere and the Waipareira Trust'
NB: WHAT WE SAID IN 2010:
"If stimulus and bailouts are welfare for bankers-who’ve-failed, and Kiwisaver is welfare for suits-with-nothing-in-them, then surely the new politically-correct Whānau Ora scheme is just welfare for 'welfare providers,' isn’t it? Welfare that is primarily to keep the likes of John Tamihere and Rongo Wetere in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed. Welfare for a Browntable of well-heeled ambulance chasers. Welfare that will end up costing us all more in the long run than the current welfare bill."
'Welfare for Everyone' - NOT PC, April, 2010

AND WHAT WE SAID IN 2015:

"[W]hat Whanau Ora is, as I said when it was announced, is simply welfare for separatist welfare providers.
    "In short, a scam.
    "That much is fairly clear even from the Auditor General’s findings on funding, to whit: 'During the first four years, total spending on Whānau Ora was $137.6 million…. Nearly a third of the total spending was on administration…' 
    "You see? A very well-paying scamif you’re inside that tent clipping the ticket.
    "What Whanau Ora is primarily, is welfare for separatist welfare providers....
    "So what has the scam achieved?
    "It has achieved a great deal indeed … for all those inside the tent.
    "What it achieved for the Maori Party was to buy them the backing of welfare providers – and as you can see I mean 'buy' in the very literal sense. Sure, it’s been hard to keep the backers inside the tent as bigger game seemed to appear elsewhere, but for a while at least it bought support for the new party.
    "And what it achieved for the Key Government was to buy the backing of the Maori Party – 'buy' here being used in the very political sense of buying the Maori Party’s votes, with which it was able to stay in power.
    "So quite a great deal indeed was achieved, if you’re one of the ones in power."

'The Whānau Ora Scam' - NOT PC, May 2015

 

Monday, 29 May 2023

National promises more housing uncertainty [updated]

 

DESPITE RISING INTEREST RATES and falling housing demand, New Zealand remains in the grip of its decades-long housing affordability crisis. 

“New Zealand is not short of land," said National's Chris Bishop yesterday, "but restrictive planning rules and a broken funding system have driven up the price of land and housing, creating a social and economic disaster."

He said this while announcing National would backtrack on its own bi-partisan policy to free up restrictive planning rules just a little bit in New Zealand's most unaffordable cities -- a policy that has already been successfully introduced, in association with the Labour govt, and operating for nearly a year. Those new "3-storey" density standards (called MRDS) are a blunt instrument, sure, but they allow city property owners to build taller housing in greater densities in larger numbers than ever before. They have been the only relaxation of restrictive planning rules since ... anyone can remember. And Bishop wants to overturn that.

What a fuckwit.

The MRDS standards were finally introduced only last year -- and more houses and apartments are already being planned and built and lived in under those new standards -- building up instead of out -- buyers seeing large falls in prices for entry-level dwellings, consistent with increased supply enabled by the MDRS and related changes. 

In the way of these things however, with the uncertainty this policy announcement will now make, almost all that planning will now stop while everyone waits to see what happens now -- with all the further implications for housing unaffordability.

What a complete fuckwit.

Christopher Bishop is backed up in this fuckwittery by both his leader, Christopher Luxon, who signalled the backtrack last week ("I think we've got the MRDS wrong," said the fuckwit), and by the leader of the opposition David Seymour, who on this issue abandons his pseudo-liberalism and becomes instead the "Minister for More Rules and Restrictions" -- and by Seymour's thoroughly confused deputy Brooke van Velden who says "The right answer is to leave planning to councils."

What a pack of total fuckwits. NIMBYs to a man and woman.

No news yet on how National's deputy thinks about all this, who's just been thoroughly undermined, i..e., Nicola Willis, who co-sponsored these relaxed density standards with Labour's Megan Woods -- a rare dose of bipartisanship and possibly the only good move on housing any politician has made in at least half a century. So good that all politicians bar those from ACT's illiberal wing could support it.



Oh yes, Bishop couched his announcement of backtracking on relaxing restrictions within cities with a policy to have planners "release" some land on green fields outside them*. Building more out instead of up. Eventually. (And probably easily averted by the planners' art.) But he's hanging his hat on the headline writer's spin that something is being done.**

National has form on this. Before he was elected as Prime Minister, National's John Key announced he would "improve housing affordability by ... changing the building regulatory regime ... and [fix] the Resource Management Act." And voters believed him. Of course, once appointed, that fuckwit did no such thing, watching instead as house prices soared, and planning and building restrictions mounted -- and he was heard to declare that the house price inflation he had helped create would "fix" the leaky homes crisis by inflating it all away.

Who cared what that did for first-home buyers. Certainly not the Prime Minister.

SO WITH HOUSING ONCE again a political football, we await an election to sort out which fuckwits where get to tell us where and how we're allowed to build, planning rules in and around our city are once again completely up in the air -- as they were while we awaited certainty around the MRDS. And without that certainty, it's impossible for developers and builders to make real plans, uncertain as they are as to how council's planners might be allowed to curtail them.

Sure, freeing up any land or planning restrictions anywhere will help housing affordability eventually. But it's not clear that the Christophers' city-edge botch-up is the solution, even if it were to free up anything at all.

Up or out? Why not both.

And why give those planners any bloody power at all?

* * * * 

* Bishop's policy is to require planners "to zone land for 30 years’ worth of housing demand." Those measuring whether this is achieved will be the same planners who wrote the rezoning rules - making it easy for planners to avoid. And he ignores that simply "releasing" land on its own does not necessarily make land cheaper.

The RMA's requirement for planners to undertake a cost-benefit analysis before writing new rules, easily fudged, and Auckland Council's continued fudging over the MRDS requirements demonstrates on their own how easy it is for planners to wriggle around these kind of requirements, and how willing councils will be to back them up.

UPDATE

** And Auckland Councillors are already "confirming" that no new land will be rezoned as a result of this -- the Auckland Unitary Plan, they say, already has all that Bishop asks for.



Saturday, 27 May 2023

"If you need to know the colour of the speaker before you know if you are offended, then the hate is coming from you"


"My view has always been ... that if you need to know the colour (or demographic trait in general) of the speaker before you know if you are offended or not, then the hate is coming from you – not from the speaker. What you hate is not what was said but the person saying it."
~ commenter 'Ferox' on the blog post 'People use the weapons they are given'

 

Friday, 26 May 2023

"For the first time men could conceive a social order in which the ancient moral aspiration for liberty, equality, and fraternity was consistent with the abolition of poverty and the increase of wealth."

 

"[T]he development of [classical] liberal ideas ... augmented by the division of labour in widening markets ... changed the condition in which men lived....
    "It was no accident that the century which followed the intensified application of the principle of the division of labour was the great century of human emancipation. In that period chattel slavery and serfdom, the subjection of women, the patriarchal domination of children, caste and legalised class privileges, the exploitation of backward peoples, autocracy in government, the disfranchisement of the masses and their compulsory illiteracy, official intolerance and legalised bigotry, were outlawed in the human conscience, and in a very substantial degree they were abolished in fact.
    "During this same period petty principalities coalesced voluntarily into larger national unions, at peace within their borders; in this period, too, the interdependence of the peoples became so evident a fact that the older empires went through a spectacular transformation into federations of self-governing states, and among all civilised nations peace became the avowed aim, even if it was not always the real aim, of foreign policy.
    "All of this did not happen by some sort of spontaneous enlightenment and upsurge of good will. The characters of men were not suddenly altered. We can be certain of that, now that we live in an epoch of reaction where ... there is so much bad will in all the nations. What did change in the nineteenth century was the condition in which men lived, and the liberal enlightenment reflected it. The new mode of production, since it was based on the profitable exchange of specialised labor, envisaged a social order based on the harmony of interest among widely separated but collaborating men and communities.
    "We have become insensitive and forgetful about the revolutionary change in human life. But to our great-grandfathers it was an intoxicating promise that had suddenly been revealed to mankind, and only by recapturing the original insight of the pioneer [classical] liberals can we fully appreciate the evangelical fervour with which they preached that the freedom of trade was a new dispensation for all mankind.
    "For the first time in human history men had come upon a way of producing wealth in which the good fortune of others multiplied their own. It was a great moment, for example, in the long history of conquest, rapine, and oppression when David Hume could say (1742) at the conclusion of his essay, "Of the Jealousy of Trade":
'I shall therefore venture to acknowledge, that, not only as a man, but as a British subject, I pray for the flourishing commerce of Germany, Spain, Italy, and even France itself. I am at least certain that Great Britain, and all those nations, would flourish more, did their sovereigns and ministers adopt such enlarged and benevolent sympathies toward each other.'
"It had not occurred to many men before that the Golden Rule was economically sound. Thus the enlarged and benevolent sympathies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had a material foundation in the self-interest of men who were growing richer by exchanging the products of specialised labor in wide markets.
    "They [understood] it to be true that an enlightened self-interest promoted the common good. For the first time men could conceive a social order in which the ancient moral aspiration for liberty, equality, and fraternity was consistent with the abolition of poverty and the increase of wealth."

Walter Lippmann, from his 1938 book The Good Society [p. 192-3]

 

Thursday, 25 May 2023

“The consequences for human welfare involved in questions [of economic growth] are simply staggering" - Vale Robert Lucas



“The consequences for human welfare involved in questions [of economic growth] are simply staggering: Once one starts to think about them, it is hard to think about anything else.”
~ the most-quoted line from the just-deceased Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Lucas [hat tip Roots of Progress]

"It is commerce which is rapidly rendering war obsolete..."


“Finally, commerce first taught nations to see with good will the wealth and prosperity of one another. Before, the patriot, unless sufficiently advanced in culture to feel the world his country, wished all countries weak, poor, and ill-governed, but his own: he now sees in their wealth and progress a direct source of wealth and progress to his own country. It is commerce which is rapidly rendering war obsolete, by strengthening and multiplying the personal interests which are in natural opposition to it. And it may be said without exaggeration that the great extent and rapid increase of international trade, in being the principal guarantee of the peace of the world, is the great permanent security for the uninterrupted progress of the ideas, the institutions, and the character of the human race.”
~ John Stuart Mill, from his Principles of Political Economy (Book III, Chapter XVII, Section 14).
  • Hat tip Stephen Hicks, who contrasts the pre-war German intellectual Werner Sombart, who believed "the German way of war will cleanse humanity and raise it to a sacred height."
  • And 'shout out' to Richard Fulmer, who contrasts the sentiment with the "thinking" of some contemporary maggots:


Wednesday, 24 May 2023

"Relying on weather-dependent energy sources for an energy transition, ostensibly needed to fix the weather…"


"1. In a world that is apparently getting both warmer and colder because of global warming, how is it that we can increasingly rely on non-dispatchable (i.e., intermittent, usually unavailable), weather-dependent electricity from wind and solar plants to displace, not just supplement, dspatchable (i.e., baseload, almost always available) coal, gas, and nuclear power? In other words, if our weather is becoming less predictable, how is it that a consuming economy like ours can, or should even try, predictably rely on weather-dependent resources?

[…]

"2. Climate change is a global issue, so how is it that we can claim [local] climate benefits for unilateral climate policy. For example, [James Shaw claims that his gift of taxpayers' money to the owners of NZ steel will save one percent of NZ's total emission, which constitute just 0.17% of global CO2 emissions'] and that this will somehow impact climate change? But this dose of real science doesn’t stop [politicians like him] from telling us that this will stop the global emissions [that caused our local storms].

[…]

"3. Back to electric vehicles. Green-tinted but surely practical Bloomberg admits that more than 85% of Americans can’t afford an electric car, since they are well more than double the price of oil-based cars. [So just ask yourself how many NZers can?]

[…]

"4. How on Earth could anybody expect those in Africa and the other horrifically poor nations to 'get off fossil fuels' when the rich countries haven’t come close to doing it."
~ energy researcher Jude Clemente, from his article 'Five Things I Don 't Understand About the 'Energy Transition''

 

Life Expectancy: Our World in Data
Energy Consumption: Bjorn Lomborg, LinkedIn

"There has never been an energy transition.
    "Nor will there ever be an energy 'transition' before we harness nuclear fusion power… And that’s a good thing.
    "On a per-capita basis, we consume as much 'traditional biomass' for energy as we did when we started burning coal. We have just piled new forms of energy on top of older ones. Now, we have changed the way we consume energy sources. In the 1800’s the biomass came from whale oil and clear-cutting forests. Today’s biomass is less harmful to whales and forests.
    "From 1800 to 1900, per-capita energy consumption, primarily from biomass, remained relatively flat; as did the average life expectancy. From 1900 to 1978, per-capita energy consumption roughly tripled with the rapid growth in fossil fuel production (coal, oil & gas). This was accompanied by a doubling of average life expectancy. While I can’t say that fossil fuels caused the increase in life expectancy, I can unequivocally state that everything that enabled the increase in life expectancy wouldn’t have existed or happened without fossil fuels, particularly petroleum."
~ David Middleton from his reposting of Jude Clemente's article [emphasis in the original]

 

What's on "the news," Virginia?


"[T]he way news is conveyed to you is rapidly changing, but the fundamental principles of what it should be are timeless. We no longer live in a world where the six o’clock news and the morning paper provide certainty and universal truth, but through the wonders of the digital age and by using our own common sense, we can discern a true picture of the world we live in and make up our own minds of how we react to and exist in it."
~ Sean Plunket, from his post 'How to fix a broken media'


Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Taxpayers Union: "Fatuous as a fart"



Cartoon by Nick Kim, from The Free Radical

The so-called Taxpayers Union/Free Speech Union folk should be doing good work. They oppose the theft of taxpayers (they say) and support free speech (they claim). But they repeatedly demonstrate that they ain't got an f'ing clue about the very thing(s) which they are allegedly set up to oppose or support.

Take for example their latest campaign: "[to] highlight the concerns of ratepayers and councils threatened by the Government’s proposed replacement to the Resource Management Act."
New Zealanders are rightly frustrated with the cumbersome Resource Management Act [they say], which restricts how we use our land and has fuelled a serious infrastructure and housing shortage [and so it has], but this proposed replacement will make the situation much worse [and so it will].
Sounds good, right? Because -- hard as it it to believe it -- the government's proposed replacement to the RMA really is even worse than the original! And that ain't easy to do.

So, good on them for their organised opposition.

But -- and here's the problem -- they have absolutely no idea what's wrong with the proposed replacement.

Are they against the replacement because it makes property law even more amorphous and misunderstandable than it is now? Not a bit of it.

Are they opposed because it puts racism right at the centre of environmental and property law? No, no mention of that.

Are they raising their banners against it because if further immiserates property rights -- stripping away from you even more control over your own land, and giving that power to clipboard-wielding planners? No, not at all. 

Instead, it appears they're just outraged that those planners will no longer be employed by your local council, but instead by regional councils. And that's the extent of their stated opposition. See what I mean:
Not content with seizing water assets from local communities [they say], the Government is now proposing to grab planning powers from local councils and transfer them to fifteen unaccountable, undemocratic, so-called Regional Planning Committees. At this rate there won’t be much left for your council to do.
As if that would be a bad thing.

The Taxpayers Union/Free Speech Union folk need a lesson in the things they claim to be about. Because at the moment, their opposition is about as confused and as fatuous as a fart.

"What MMP does is to transfer the power to the Party elites"


"MMP was sold to the electorate on the promise that both votes, the electorate vote for the candidate and the Party vote would be of equal value.
    "That, of course, was never the case. In reality there is only one vote the matters and that is the Party vote....
    "What MMP does is to transfer the power away from the electorates (the people) to the Party elite who effectively control the Party List rankings.
    "To my mind this is highly undemocratic."

~ Graham Reeves from his post 'Calling Time on a Failed Experiment'


Monday, 22 May 2023

"We are at the dawn of a new age..." [updated


"'The project is forecast to have an abatement cost of $16.20 per tonne.'
"Well that's it then. Everyone should stop investing in abatement projects that are massively cost effective. Instead, beg government for a subsidy to do it. Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry Fund [GIDI] will pay for it."
~ Eric Crampton









 UPDATE:

"Every time I read or hear anything about carbon offsetting or emissions trading I smell tulips.
    "Why? Because it reminds me of the tulip mania in the Netherlands in the 17th century.
    "We can’t see emissions, we can’t smell them and in spite of the exhortations to follow the science, a lot of the business offsetting them appears to be anything but scientific....
    "The smell of tulips gets stronger when a large multinational company which made billions of dollars in profit last year gets money from the government to reduce its emissions ..."
~ Ele Ludemann, from her post 'Does anyone see smell tulips?'


'Conquering' the rubble

 

Cartoon by Peter B. Brookes



Friday, 19 May 2023

We are seeing the effects of industrialisation...

 

More climate scaremongering this morning on news channels, suggesting temperatures in the next five years could reach 1.5 degrees Celsius more than they were in pre-industrial levels. 

Let's say they're right. Let's say we are seeing the effects of industrialised climate change. If so, these are some of the impacts since the industrial era ...







Looks disastrous, doesn't it.

[Hat tip Patrick Moore & Mindsmith]


Thursday, 18 May 2023

The govt debt blowout

 

"Sobering to realise net govt debt was $5.4bn in Jun 2019 & is set to be $95bn by Jun 2025."

The true nature of taxation - some quotable quotes for Budget Day

 

Another Budget Day, another advance auction of stolen goods. Here, specially for Budget Day, some thoughts and quotes on the nature of taxation:

"To steal from one person is theft. To steal from many is taxation." - Jeff Daiell

"See, when the Government spends money, it creates jobs; whereas when the money is left in the hands of Taxpayers, God only knows what they do with it. Bake it into pies, probably. Anything to avoid creating jobs." - Dave Barry

“The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.” - Jean Baptiste Colbert

"The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." – Alexis De Tocqueville

"A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves. - Bertrand de Jouvenel

'We shall tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect.' - 'New Deal' luminary Harry Hopkins

"Most of the presidential candidates' economic packages involve 'tax breaks,' which is when the government, amid great fanfare, generously decides not to take quite so much of your income. In other words, these candidates are trying to buy your votes with your own money." - Dave Barry

“Taxation is just a sophisticated way of demanding money with menaces.” - Terry Pratchett

“For every benefit you receive a tax is levied.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"It's sad to realise that most citizens do not even notice the irony of being bribed with their own money." - Anon.

"[There are dangers in] the disposition to hunt down rich men as if they were noxious beasts." - Winston Churchill

"When Barbary Pirates demand a fee for allowing you to do business, it's called 'tribute money.' When the Mafia demands a fee for allowing you to do business, it's called 'the protection racket.' When the state demands a fee for allowing you to do business, it's called "sales tax." - Jeff Daiell

"Taxation is far greater an evil than theft. It is a form of slavery. If you cannot choose the disposition of your property, you are a slave. If you must ask permission to work, and/or pay involuntary tribute to anyone from your wages, you are a slave. If you are not allowed to dispose of your life (another way of defining money, since it represents portions of your time and effort, which is what your life is composed of) in the time, manner and amount of your choosing, you are a slave." - Libertarian writer Rick Tompkins

"The man who produces while others dispose of his product is a slave." - Ayn Rand

“We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle” - Winston Churchill

"Taxation without representation is tyranny." - James Otis

"Taxation WITH representation ain't so hot either." - Gerald Barzan

"Our forefathers made one mistake. What they should have fought for was representation without taxation." - Fletcher Knebel

"When a new source of taxation is found it never means, in practice, that the old source is abandoned. It merely means that the politicians have two ways of milking the taxpayer where they had one before." - HL Mencken

"What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin." - Mark Twain

"Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidise it." - Ronald Reagan

"Death and taxes are inevitable; at least death doesn't get worse every year." - Unknown

"When more of the people's sustenance is exacted through the form of taxation than is necessary to meet the just obligations of government and expenses of its economical administration, such exaction becomes ruthless extortion and a violation of the fundamental principles of free government." - former US President Grover Cleveland

"Rulers do not reduce taxes to be kind. Expediency and greed create high taxation, and normally it takes an impending catastrophe to bring it down." - Charles Adams

"The mounting burden of taxation not only undermines individual incentives to increased work and earnings, but in a score of ways discourages capital accumulation and distorts, unbalances, and shrinks production. Total real wealth and income is made smaller than it would otherwise be. On net balance there is more poverty rather than less." - Henry Hazlitt

"The poor of the world cannot be made rich by redistribution of wealth. Poverty can't be eliminated by punishing people who've escaped poverty, taking their money and giving it as a reward to people who have failed to escape." - PJ O'Rourke

"A government with the policy to rob Peter to pay Paul can be assured of the support of Paul." -  George Bernard Shaw

"Freedom is the quality of being free from the control of regulators and tax collectors. If I want to be free their control, I must not impose controls on others." - Hans F. Sennholz

"There's only one way to kill capitalism--by taxes, taxes, and more taxes." - Karl Marx

"The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation." - Vladimir Lenin

"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." - PJ O'Rourke

"A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves." - Bertrand de Jouvenel

"The power to tax involves the power to destroy." - former US Supreme Court Justice John Marshall

"Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed." - Robert Heinlein

"Taxes are the sinews of the state." - Cicero

"Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors, and miss." - Robert Heinlein