Monday, 20 February 2017

Quote of the Day: On saving the world


"Anyone serious about saving the world today must first discard the dominant philosophy of the culture. Stand on your own as much as if you moved to a separate valley, like in Atlas Shrugged. Check your premises; define your convictions rationally. Do not take anything on faith; do not believe that your elders know what they're doing; because they don't."
~ Ayn Rand, from the Q&A at the Ford Hall Forum during the 1970s, appearing in the recent book Ayn Rand Answers

[Hat tip Anoop Verma]

Fake news v fake news [updated]


Sometimes it's had to know whether to laugh or cry.  At Donald Trump's latest rally he took aim at what he (often correctly) calls fake news, before going on to talk about approval polls showing “different facts” to those in the actual polls; a “Swedish incident” he had made up – provoking much mirth on Twitter – and using a quote from Thomas Jefferson about this very thing, fake news, that Trump appeared to pinch from the Washington Post (who he has regularly lambasted as “fake media”) and singularly failed to understand.

It’s true that when president, under scurrilous attack by the media, Thomas Jefferson did write, answering a question about “the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted,”  that “[n]othing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.” But the fuller context is that Jefferson was talking about contemporary newspapers, those of 1807, which had become blatant scandal sheets, unashamedly partisan, and a world away from those he had envisioned in arguing for the freedom of the press decades earlier.  “As for what is not true you will always find abundance in the newspapers,” he told a friend of the 1806 newspapers teeming both with valid criticism of his Administration and made-up stories of the corruption of the Jefferson White House.

It as as Mark Twain was to say much later, that not to read a newspaper is to be uninformed, but to read a newspaper at all is to be misinformed.

So how are we to proceed? As it happens, if Trump had read Jefferson’s letter entire instead of just the section of it he ripped from a Washington newspaper, he may have himself found an answer. Here is the letter entire:

'To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted, so as to be most useful, I should answer, 'by restraining it to true facts & sound principles only.' Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more compleatly deprive the nation of it's benefits, than is done by it's abandoned prostitution to falsehood.
    'Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day. I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens, who, reading newspapers, live & die in the belief, that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time; whereas the accounts they have read in newspapers are just as true a history of any other period of the world as of the present, except that the real names of the day are affixed to their fables.
    'General facts may indeed be collected from them, such as that Europe is now at war, that Bonaparte has been a successful warrior, that he has subjected a great portion of Europe to his will, &c., &c.; but no details can be relied on. I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.
    'Perhaps an editor might begin a reformation in some such way as this. Divide his paper into 4 chapters, heading the 1st, Truths. 2d, Probabilities. 3d, Possibilities. 4th, Lies. The first chapter would be very short, as it would contain little more than authentic papers, and information from such sources as the editor would be willing to risk his own reputation for their truth. The 2d would contain what, from a mature consideration of all circumstances, his judgment should conclude to be probably true. This, however, should rather contain too little than too much. The 3d & 4th should be professedly for those readers who would rather have lies for their money than the blank paper they would occupy.'

In other words, we would be better served if news organisations would follow as a simple policy the edict of the good detective: “Just the facts, ma’am.”

UPDATE: Trump has now claimed his fake news about a terror attack in Sweden – a claim that baffled the current Swedish Prime Minister and promoted a former one to ask what Trump is smoking – was based on his mis-viewing of a Fox News story. “It ... seems to be new that a US president bases commentary of foreign issues in Fox News coverage.”


Thursday, 16 February 2017

25 reasons why economic protectionism is taken seriously when it's actually a form of economic suicide


Guest poster Mark Perry takes on the idiotic movement worldwide to make people poorer by ‘protecting’ them from foreign goods.

It’s a scientifically and mathematically provable fact that all tariffs, at any time and in any country, will harm economic growth, eliminate net jobs, destroy prosperity, and lower the standard of living of the protectionist country because tariffs are guaranteed by the ironclad laws of economics to generate costs to consumers that outweigh the benefits to producers, i.e. tariffs will always impose deadweight losses on the protectionist country (see the diagram here, and “An economic analysis of protectionism clearly shows that Trump’s tariffs would make us poorer, not greater”). That is, the reality that tariffs always inflict great economic damage and leave society worse off is not a debatable outcome, rather it’s a provable fact, like the law of gravity.

Protectionism2But there’s more! There is also no shortage at all of empirical evidence showing that protectionism and tariffs always generate costs to consumers that are far in excess of the benefits to producers (i.e. deadweight costs) see my blog posts here, here and here.

The Justification

So why is protectionism being taken so seriously, and given so much credibility, when it’s actually a job-destroying, prosperity-destroying form of economic suicide and an economic death wish? Protectionism will not make America great again, or anywhere at all great.

Here are my top 25 reasons that explain why protectionism is taken so seriously, despite the fact that it’s guaranteed to impoverish people and destroy jobs. It’s very much a case of the seen and the unseen:

  1. The false belief that trade is a zero-sum game (win-lose), when in fact it’s win-win.
  2. The costs of protectionism to consumers are mostly hidden.
  3. The benefits of protectionism to producers are easily identifiable and visible.
  4. The jobs saved by protectionism are observable and visible.
  5. The jobs lost from protectionism are not easily observable or visible.
  6. The benefits of protectionism to individual producers are very high (e.g. $300,000 annual increase in revenues per sugar farm from trade barriers for foreign sugar).
  7. The costs of protectionism to individual consumers is very low (e.g. $5-10 per year in higher sugar prices per person due to sugar tariffs), although the costs in the aggregate of protectionism are very high.
  8. The costs of protectionism to consumers are delayed over many years.
  9. The benefits of protectionism to producers are immediate.
  10. Producers seeking the benefits of protectionism are concentrated and well-organized.
  11. Consumers paying the costs of protectionism are dispersed and disorganized.
  12. There is a huge political payoff to politicians from protectionism in the form of votes, political support, and financial contributions from protected domestic firms and industries.
  13. There is a huge political cost to politicians who attempt to remove or lower trade barriers in the form of lost votes, support and financial contributions from previously protected domestic producers.
  14. The pathological, but false obsession that exports are good.
  15. The pathological, but false obsession that imports are bad.
  16. The fact that most workers work for a company producing a single product or group of similar products (e.g. cars, steel, textiles, appliances) and are therefore favourably disposed to supporting protectionist trade policies that benefit their employer and industry.
  17. The fact that consumers purchase hundreds, if not thousands of individual products, goods and services, and are therefore unlikely to be fully aware of the negative effects of protectionism or be motivated to fight protectionism.
  18. Many people think that exporting their country’s products is patriotic.
  19. Many people think that importing foreign products is unpatriotic.
  20. The false belief that trade deficits are a sign of economic weakness.
  21. The false belief that trade surpluses are a sign of economic strength.
  22. The fact that protectionism is guaranteed to create economic deadweight losses is not easily understood, nor are those losses easily observable or measurable.
  23. The general lack of economic literacy among the general public.
  24. The general lack of economic literacy among politicians, or their intentional disregard for the economics of protectionism in favour of enacting public policies that help them get re-elected.
  25. The failure to recognise that most imports are inputs purchased by local firms that allow them to be as competitive as possible when selling their outputs in global markets.

Bottom Line

Protectionism1Taken together, the 25 reasons above help us understand the popularity of protectionism, despite the fact that it’s guaranteed to inflict great economic harm. Protectionism is popular primarily not for economic reasons, but for political reasons. To paraphrase Thomas Sowell, the first lesson of international economics is that free trade makes us better off and protectionism makes us worse off.

The first lesson of politics when it comes to international trade however is to ignore the first lesson of international economics, and impose protectionist trade policies when they further the political interests of short-sighted elected officials. When politicians can count on the economic illiteracy of the general public and their blind patriotism to “Buy American,” the political payoffs from protectionism are too tempting to ignore despite the reality that it’s a form of economic suicide.

And because the benefits of tariffs to producers (and jobs created or saved) are concentrated, immediate and visible, while the costs to consumers (and jobs lost) are diffused, delayed and invisible, it’s pretty easy to understand why protectionism is popular, even though the economic costs far outweigh the economic benefits (i.e. deadweight losses result) and it’s therefore ultimately a form of self-inflicted economic poison.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Quote of the Day: Summing up Marxism



“The whole gospel of Karl Marx can be summed up in a single sentence: Hate the man who is better off than you are. Never under any circumstances admit that his success may be due to his own efforts, to the productive contribution he has made to the whole community. Always attribute his success to the exploitation, the cheating, the more or less open robbery of others. Never under any circumstances admit that your own failure may be owing to your own weakness, or that the failure of anyone else may be due to his own defects - his laziness, incompetence, improvidence, or stupidity.”

Henry Hazlitt

Don’t do it America! New Zealand has already tried it.


Don’t do it America! New Zealand has already tried it. Feisty, Protectionist Populism, that is, and as Tyler Cowen tells Bloomberg, it ended really badly.

We’re talking about a chap called Robert Muldoon, prime minister of New Zealand from 1975 to 1984 --

a  Western democratic leader who was populist, obsessed with the balance of trade, especially effective on television, feisty and combative with the press, and able to take over his country’s right-wing party and swing it in a more interventionist direction.

Cowen wants his reader to compare him to You Know Who.

Some of the similarities are striking. Muldoon often made rude or unusually frank comments about foreign leaders (including U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the Australian prime minister), and his diplomats worked hard to undo them.

Mind you, he wasn’t always wrong. He once told an assembled audience of Commonwealth leaders that Robert Mugabe should be ignored because he was only famous for running around the jungle shooting people.

His most significant initiative was called “Think Big,” and, yes, it was designed to make New Zealand great again. It was based on a lot of infrastructure and fossil fuels investment, including natural gas, and it was intended to stimulate the country’s exports and remedy the trade deficit. Because New Zealand’s parliamentary system of government has fewer checks and balances than the American system, Muldoon got more done than Trump likely will.
    Yet this bout of industrial policy worsened the already precarious fiscal position of the government, and Muldoon’s public-sector investments did not impress. Muldoon’s
biographer, Barry Gustafson, noted that the prime minister ended up being criticized for his “apparently dogmatic arrogance of executive power”; Gustafson also tells us Muldoon “was often reluctant to take expert advice.”
    Like Trump, Muldoon was at first skeptical about his country’s NAFTA deal -- yes, it was called exactly that, the
New Zealand Australia Free Trade Agreement. Muldoon did renegotiate the treaty, although his ministers persuaded him to accept a free-trade-friendly update, called CER (Closer Economic Relations). Trump may or may not follow through with the second part of that parallel.
    Australia aside, Muldoon preferred protectionism and had little patience for the academic arguments against it. He was no friend of free-market thinking, and when Milton and Rose Friedman visited New Zealand, the prime minister refused to meet with them.

He was undoubtedly scared of what he might be told.

Like Trump, Muldoon faced some controversial race issues. The all-white South African rugby team was scheduled to tour New Zealand in 1981, and even after extensive protests Muldoon refused to ban the team. Muldoon’s critics called him a racist, and charged that his intentions in the matter were not entirely benign. Muldoon also continued his predecessor’s policy of arresting and deporting Pacific Islanders who had overstayed their visas.
    It was his philosophy not to bother to appeal to his opponents. The more critics he generated, the more his supporters -- known as “Rob’s Mob” -- loved him…
    Arguably, Muldoon was not as outrageous as Trump. Still, he once punched demonstrators, and stripped naked at a cocktail party. Twitter remained beyond his grasp.

Which would have been no less entertaining.   

Anyway, if you don’t know how the story ends, you can guess. Import quotas and double-digit price inflation, licensing, regulation and taxes on everything from home boat-building to needing a doctor’s prescription for butter, bans on trucks taking goods more than 100 miles – this was an economy that functioned less like an economic system and more like a Polish shipyard under the Soviets, until finally a wage and price freeze put a bullet in the economy’s head and Muldoon was thrown out for something much better: which at the time was the left-wing Labour Party.

Cowen concludes with “one lesson from the comparison:

that a leader like Muldoon can be fairly popular, as he stayed in power from 1975 to 1984, winning three terms despite mistakes, antagonisms and policy failures. He was a plain-speaker who related well to many Kiwi voters, and he was masterful at defusing or rechanneling opposition within his own party.
    After Muldoon was voted out of office, he started a popular radio talk show, ‘Lilies and Other Things,’ which dealt with gardening, politics and the economy, all the while maintaining his fiery tone. He also played a vampire -- Count Robula -- on a late-night TV horror show, and he narrated ‘The Rocky Horror Show.’ Not exactly ‘The Apprentice,’ but with this we have come full circle.


Jopling House, by Claude Megson



Way back in 1965 when a young Claude Megson was still finding his architectural feet, he was commissioned by the Joplings to design a small family home in St Heliers.The NZIA’s Megson Guide takes up the story:

Standing on a sheltered back site on Achilles Point, this house won a NZIA Branch Award in 1965. The building is composed of “units” of timber-framed walls of various lengths with a return at each end. Separated from each other by full-height windows or doors, these repeated elements are deployed to create spaces with different orientations and varying qualities of enclosure and interconnection. The original landscaping included pebble gardens and fishpond which allowed the volumes of the house to “float” above the site.



With several large additions at the front (large garage and a closed-in carport) that small home is now a large home, and the oiled cedar cladding has been painted over, but the small jewel Megson created is still to be found there behind it all, and in almost original form thanks to the current owners, Ruth and Duncan Ormond, who [ as the Herald explains] have done much to bring it back from the state in which they found it.

When Ruth was in her teens, she had the chance to look through a new cedar-clad home designed by Claude Megson and built in 1965.
    This is that house. Built for the Jopling family on a sheltered back section, it was Megson's second residential commission..   
    From time to time Ruth always thought it'd be great to live in that house and some 30 years on from that first viewing, Ruth and Duncan learned the house was for sale….
    The Ormonds have [now] lived here almost half the life-time of this house and they have decided to hand its place in architectural history over to another family.

It goes to auction today – when hopefully another family will be able to enjoy what remains of Megson’s creation, which is a great deal, with many of the features already there in this house that were to become so much a part of his work.


"It's like a Lego home but you can look right through the house from one end to the other wherever you are standing," says Ruth.
    Original features include exposed timber beams, built-in furniture and shelving and the circular moulded door handles.


Those built-in modules allowing a more direct relationship with the garden; the artful yet effortless-feeling negative detailing; the shafts of space through the interlocking parts of the house – open space contrasting dramatically with sheltering -- were to become a Megson trademark, making even the smallest of homes feel large-souled.


That’s how we felt when we visited over the weekend: the house, like our visits to all Megson’s houses, with their simple ingredients so carefuly arranged to create a home for the human soul, never failing to lift our spirits.


Almost impossible to describe in a photograph, the most successful of the spaces in this early home is his double-height dining room with built-in servery and direct garden access, a space whose essence Megson says is celebration, containing in this very early example the seed germ of everything that was to come in his later work. It is a delightful space to be in.



[Cross-posted at the Claude Megson Blog. Pics from PC, Herald, and Ray White Real Estate]

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Quote of the Day: On ‘Islamophobia’


“In the book we disentangle the notion of ‘Islamophobia.’ We show that it's an illegitimate term, one that clouds thinking, because it mashes together at least two fundamentally different things. The term blends, on the one hand, serious analysis and critique of the ideas of Islamic totalitarianism, the cause animating the jihadists, which is vitally important (and the purpose of my book); and, on the other hand, racist and tribalist bigotry against people who espouse the religion of Islam. Obviously, racism and bigotry have no place in a civilised society.
    “Moreover, the book makes clear that while all jihadists are self-identified Muslims, it is blatantly false that all Muslims are jihadists… Ignorant of the book's full scope and substance, the students felt it had no place on campus.”

~ Elan Journo, writing at The Hill about the banning by UCLA of his book Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: ‘UCLA banned my book on Islam from a free speech event


More Russian fake news on the way [update 2]




Soviet-era Russia almost invented modern political propaganda. Whatever the truth today about “fake news” or of claims that Russia “hacked the US election,” it’s clear that Russia's state-owned foreign language news services are still directed by the Kremlin, and are and have been attempting to sway elections around the world, broadcasting on Sputnik and RT for example what can best be described as carefully-crafted spin promoting selected candidates.

Security officials believe there are two basic elements to the Russian strategy: leaking hacked documents, such as the Democratic National Convention emails obtained by Wikileaks during the US presidential election, and creating – or seizing on and exaggerating - false or misleading news events.

It doesn’t take much to get crap passed around.

The most notorious example of the latter came in January 2016, when Russia’s state-owned Channel One reported that “Lisa,” a 13-year old girl from a Russian-immigrant family, had been abducted and raped by “southern looking” asylum seekers in Germany. The news was not exactly fake – Lisa had indeed vanished for a night, and had initially claimed to have been raped.
    But before police established neither crime had occurred (she had stayed overnight at a friend’s house), protesters from Germany’s Russian speaking diaspora appeared outside Mrs Merkel’s office waving banners reading “our children are in danger!” and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, accused the German government of a cover-up.  The Lisa case is widely viewed the most egregious example of Kremlin propaganda to date, and nothing on the same scale has been seen before or since.
    One European official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he believed it was an experiment, a “test” to see how far such tactics could be used to inflame discontent with Angela Merkel’s policy on immigration.

London’s Telegraph newspaper cites the East StratCom Task Force (set up by the European Union set up to monitor and respond to Russian propaganda) as saying “Angela Merkel, who will seek a historic fourth term as chancellor of Germany at federal elections in September, has been singled out as a priority target in the coming year.”

 And the Telegraph reports that at least two other European security arms expect Russia to meddle in their elections, promoting candidates keen to “drop sanctions imposed on Russia over its annexation of Crimea and war in eastern Ukraine, and strongly sceptical of NATO – Europe’s remaining bulwark against any further Russian aggression.

The DGSE, France’s equivalent of MI6, said this week it expects Russia to intervene in the presidential election in April and May on the side of Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front. The agency’s director general believes Russia will use internet bots to spread fake news favourable to Ms Le Pen on social media and may leak embarrassing emails stolen from her opponents by hackers, Le Canard Enchaîné , a French weekly, reported on Wednesday.
    In just the past two weeks, Denmark has publically identified Russia as a key cyber espionage threat, Norway said its Labour Party and email accounts belonging to several civil servants had been targeted by Russian hacking group, and Italy said it suspected Russia was behind a four-month malware attack against its foreign ministry last year…
    March’s vote in the Netherlands, the French presidential elections in April and May, and polls in Norway, the Czech Republic, and Serbia, may also be targeted…
    “We have to realise this is not a media strategy run by public relations executives,” said Dr Stefan Meister, who studies Russian propaganda in Germany. “This is a security strategy, run by security agencies," he said, "it is part of the security doctrine of the Russian Federation”

This is not a reason to hyperventilate. But it is a reason to remember what Robert Bidinotto reminded us of last week – that “Putin is a killer. He rose to power via the Moscow apartment bombings atrocity… He has had his political rivals murdered by poison and other nasty means. He runs an brutal oligarchy with an iron fist, and permits no opposition” – and to subject the sniff test anything emanating from Russian news services.

As we always should have.

READ: How Vladimir Putin and Russia are using cyber attacks and fake news to try to rig three major
           European elections this year

[Picture by NRO]

UPDATE 1: Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, The (UK) Observer reports the American intelligence community is “pushing back” against a White House “it considers leaky, untruthful and penetrated by the Kremlin”:

A senior National Security Agency official explained that NSA was systematically holding back some of the “good stuff” from the White House, in an unprecedented move. For decades, NSA has prepared special reports for the president’s eyes only, containing enormously sensitive intelligence. In the last three weeks, however, NSA has ceased doing this, fearing Trump and his staff cannot keep their best SIGINT secrets.
    Since NSA provides
something like 80 percent of the actionable intelligence in our government, what’s being kept from the White House may be very significant indeed. However, such concerns are widely shared across the IC, and NSA doesn’t appear to be the only agency withholding intelligence from the administration out of security fears.
    What’s going on was explained lucidly by a senior Pentagon intelligence official, who stated that “since January 20, we’ve assumed that the Kremlin has ears inside the SITROOM,” meaning the White House Situation Room, the 5,500 square-foot conference room in the West Wing where the president and his top staffers get intelligence briefings. “There’s not much the Russians don’t know at this point,” the official added in wry frustration.
    None of this has happened in Washington before. A White House with unsettling links to Moscow wasn’t something anybody in the Pentagon or the Intelligence Community even considered a possibility until a few months ago. Until Team Trump clarifies its strange relationship with the Kremlin, and starts working on its professional honesty, the IC will approach the administration with caution and concern.

UPDATE 2: Note that these stories are both written in Britain.

Yet at this writing [in America itself], the Russia story still hasn’t caught fire.
    As [David Corn of Mother Jones] explains [to Politico], the press corps already has its hands full with Trump stories…

And tweets. You have a media obsessed with tweets, with the short-term, with the easy hits, and ignoring anything further.

    “This quietude is good news for Putin—and reason for him to think he could get away with such an operation again,” Corn concludes.



Monday, 13 February 2017

The Utter Irrelevance of the "Balance of Trade"


No concept in international economics – indeed, perhaps no concept in all of economics – is as prodigious a source of confusion and plunderous policy as is that of the so-called “trade deficit,” observes Don Boudreaux in this guest post. Or as irrelevant…

In Chapter 6 of Frédéric Bastiat‘s indispensable collection entitled Economic Sophisms, Bastiat takes on the fascination with the balance of trade – and the lunacy of the person or politician who believes “if France gives ten in order to receive fifteen, it loses five; and it is quite plain that [the politician] would draft laws accordingly.”

The truth is that we should reverse the principle of the balance of trade and calculate the national profit from foreign trade in terms of the excess of imports over exports.  This excess, minus expenses, constitutes the real profit.  But this theory, which is the correct one, leads directly to the principle of free trade.  I present this theory to you, gentlemen, just as I do all the others that have been the subjects of the preceding chapters.  Exaggerate it as much as you wish; it has nothing to fear from that test.  Assume, if it amuses you, that foreigners flood our shores with all kinds of useful goods, without asking anything from us; even if our imports are infinite and our exports nothing, I defy you to prove to me that we should be the poorer for it.

No concept in international economics – indeed, perhaps no concept in all of economics – is as prodigious a source of confusion and plunderous policy as is that of the so-called “trade deficit.”  As regular and careful readers of this blog know, this concept is encrusted with countless myths and half-truths.  I’m convinced that humankind would be far better off had no one ever thought to carry over to modern times the absurd mercantilist notion of the “balance of trade.”


Don Boudreaux is a senior fellow with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a Mercatus Center Board Member, a professor of economics and former economics-department chair at George Mason University.
This post appeared previously at Cafe Hayek and FEE.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Friday Morning Ramble: Week 3



Week three …

Mavens are talking up Bill English’s Waitangi speeches 2017. Compare with the same man’s Waitangi speech 2002 – also widely ignored, also remarkable. (So, that would be three Waitangi speeches then …)
PM Bill English gave two speeches on Waitangi Day. Both were remarkable. Both were almost entirely ignoredSimon Wilson (2017), SPINOFF
The Treaty of Waitangi and New Zealand citizenship – Bill English (2002), NZ HERALD

Paul Litterick: “La cage aux pollies.”
Protests at opening of $1.5m state house artwork in downtown Auckland – NZ HERALD

“'Oh I wouldn't want to live in it. It's like a prison.' Seriously? People need to mind their own business. This development will only be successful if sufficient people choose to purchase an apartment in it. If people are happy to live there why should it be anyone else's concern?”
Comment on ''The decision must be appealed': Residents oppose huge Auckland retirement village' – Stephen Berry, FACEBOOK

Vapid populism from petrol’s biggest profiteer: government.
Energy Minister Judith Collins announces probe into petrol prices – STUFF
Petrol Porkies – NOT PC

“There is no evidence to suggest crime is actually on the rise, the Salvation Army says.”
No logic to more police, prison beds - Salvation Army – RADIO NZ
2017 State of the Nation Report – SALVATION ARMY

Long overdue. (Why so long, I wonder?)
Govt moves to wipe historical homosexual convictions – RADIO NZ

“'The world needs globalisation, it needs trade,” says China’s richest man. Speaking at the launch of Alibaba's Australia and New Zealand headquarters, he said: "Everybody is concerned about trade wars. If trade stops, war starts."
'If trade stops, war starts' Alibaba founder who visited Donald Trump warns – INDEPENDENT (UK)

“We need medicinal cannabis to be treated the same as any other prescription medicine.”
Medicinal cannabis prescribing set to change – RADIO NZ

Penelope Meowser: “’Withdrawing’ doesn't seem to be the appropriate word. I think ‘forfeiting’ would be more accurate.”
Yaron Brook & Lindsay Perigo Debate on Trump, Immigration and More – Amy Peikoff, FACEBOOK
Will Trumpcare Cover the Effects of Trumpbrain? – Amy Peikoff, BLOG TALK RADIO


“BTW, all, did you see that Gareth Morgan wants a written constitution
which gives rights to plants? We live at a very special time in history.”

~ Jamie Whyte


Judith Curry: “Are climate alarmists afraid of climate change, or fossil fuels?”
Is Anything Wrong With Natural, Non-Man-Made Climate Change? – Mario Loyola, FORBES

Alex Epstein: “Green economics: Wind and solar use the largest share of workforce to produce the least amount of electricity (6%).”
US solar power employs more people than oil, coal and gas combined, report shows – INDEPENDENT (UK)

spot-the-differenceBlacked out again as South Australians swelter, their state is rapidly becoming the world’s crash-test dummy for so-called ‘renewable energy.’
South Australia Heatwave Wind Power Collapse, Rolling Blackouts – Eric Worrall, WATTS UP WITH THAT
The true meaning of populism – Steven Kates, LAW OF MARKETS

“It’s been a rough ten years as a so-called ‘climate denier.’ Every year the climate data would show a complete refusal to follow the accepted and official line, and every year the faith of the climate change faithful only seemed to get stronger and stronger. And their abuse of heretics like myself only got stronger and stronger. I have lost friendships over my stance on this issue. I have been attacked publicly by those around me on numerous occasions. And I have endured the casual mockery at social gatherings where the accepted response has been to pat me on the head in a condescending manner – here he is; our own climate denier. Isn’t he precious?
“… But money talks and bulls— walks, and the money is beginning to drop out of this con to end all cons.”
Dear Climate Alarmists – We Will Never Forget nor Forgive – Adam Piggott, XYZ

“Alternative facts have no place in climate-change research. Greater integrity is essential if the scandals are to stop.”
Politics And Science Are A Toxic Combination – Matt Ridley, GWPF




Meanwhile, in the absence of political pull…
Hedge Fund Of Hillary Clinton's Son-In-Law Has Shut Down – ZERO HEDGE

“I didn’t think I’d ever see the day when a Republican president equated America with Russia — and did so in a way that echoed the worst of fever-swamp radical leftism
Trump’s Comment On American ‘Killers’ Isn’t as Bad as You Think; It’s Worse – David French, NRO
Retired general: Trump's Putin remarks may be 'most anti-American statement' ever by president – THE HILL

“This ‘moral equivalence’ by Donald Trump, equating the United States with the Russian thugocracy, is outrageous and disgraceful. There is no excusing it. Putin is a killer. He rose to power via the Moscow apartment bombings atrocity (go Google it). He has had his political rivals murdered by poison and other nasty means. He runs an brutal oligarchy with an iron fist, and permits no opposition. To whitewash this record is unconscionable. To draw even the most remote comparisons to the United States is disgusting. For a U.S. PRESIDENT to do it, is beyond the pale.”
Donald Trump equating the United States with the Russian thugocracy, is outrageous and disgraceful – Robert Bidonotto, FACEBOOK

James Fallows: “How to tell Nixon from Trump: This is kind of thing Nixon said on the secret White House tapes.”
Trump: "Do you want to give his name? We'll destroy his career." – STEVE KOPACK
Statement Responding to President Trump’s Remarks Today on Civil Forfeiture ReformINSTITUTE FOR JUSTICE

Steve Simpson: ”Once you celebrate eminent domain, admire Putin, and blame courts for terrorism, supporting civil forfeiture doesn't seem like a big deal.”
Trump says there is 'no reason' to curb asset seizures by police – REUTERS

“After President Barack Obama’s numerous empty threats, the United States has scant credibility to enforce them.”
Opinion: Will President Trump stand behind his red line with Iran?  - Andrew Malcom, MCCLATCHY

“[Senior presidential advisor] Bannon admits he opposes legal immigration more than he does ‘illegal’."
Transcript of Steve Bannon's Tirade Against Legal Immigration, Asians, and Silicon Valley, and His Belief in the 'Race to the Bottom' – STU-TOPIA
Steve Bannon in 2016: legal immigration is the real “problem" – VOX

Immigrants Do Not Increase Crime, Research Shows – SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN

Amy Peikoff: ” “More evidence that an immigration ban, alone, would be ineffective in eliminating the risk of Islamic terrorism. ISIS must be neutralised.”
Not ‘Lone Wolves’ After All: How ISIS Guides Plots by Remote Control – NEW YORK TIMES

“"In fact, liberalised marijuana laws in some states are already having an effect. The Washington Post reported in March that 'marijuana seizures along the southwest border tumbled to their lowest level in at least a decade.'”
Legalising Marijuana Would Hurt Mexican Drug Cartels More Than Trump's Border Wall – REASON

Radical Capitalist Episode 84: Economic Nationalism vs. America



“’The institution of apartheid was not racism …’”
Stefan Molyneux: A nut still mistaken for a free enterpriser – STU-TOPIA

“’The one thing that people overlook is that the sort of dependence that results from exchange, i.e., from commercial transactions, is a reciprocal dependence.  We cannot be dependent upon a foreigner without his being dependent upon us.  Now, this is what constitutes the very essence of society. To sever natural interrelations is not to make oneself independent, but to isolate oneself completely.’”
4 Quotes on Free Trade from Classical Economists – Don Boudreaux, FEE

“Five books on war and foreign policy [suggesting] neoconservative veneration of nationalism leads to a foreign policy of perpetual war overseas.”
John David Lewis recommends the best books on War and Foreign Policy – FIVE BOOKS.COM

“A week-long war—one barely covered in university history courses—explains the subsequent sixty years of American foreign policy in the Middle East.”
We Are Still Living With Eisenhower’s Biggest Mistake – Michael Totten, THE TOWER

“The National Employment Law Project (NELP) released a study claiming to have directly disproved any link between minimum wage and job loss. But they asked the wrong question and proved no such thing.”
Debunking a Misleading Minimum Wage Study – Dave Thompson, FEE

“It's not a good outcome for civil libertarians, but his nomination was never really that surprising, given Trump's ‘law and order-focused campaign.”
Jeff Sessions, Fan of the Drug War and Asset Forfeiture, Confirmed as US Attorney General – Scott Shackford, HIT & RUN


"We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the
stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases,
while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of
the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force"
~ Ayn Rand


“It is widely believed today that our moral, cultural, and political alternatives are limited either to the ideas of the secular, relativistic left—or to those of the religious, absolutist right—or to some compromised mixture of the two. In other words, one’s ideas are supposedly either extremely 'liberal' or extremely 'conservative' or somewhere in between. Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, rejects this false alternative and offers an entirely different view of the world.”
What Is Objectivism? – Craig Biddle, OBJECTIVE STANDARD

Too good to miss.
Ayn, What if Atlas Snapped? – Kirk Barbera, FEE

“Your soul has a single basic function-- the act of valuing." ~ Ayn Rand
"'You own that structure you've stopped before and heard yourself answering.' 'In what sense?'" – Excerpt, THE FOUNTAINHEAD

Greg Salmieri: “Since any sense faculty will be limited in its acuity, regarding these limits as obscuring the world from us amounts to taking as one’s standard of awareness the sort of omniscience that Moore, Bertrand Russell, and others thought that we had of sense-data. But it is impossible to live up to this (supernatural) standard, and so it will push us toward the conclusion that our acquaintance with external object is always partially obscured or else superimposed with a hallucinatory material. Any view that includes this (supernatural) standard of direct awareness will, if developed consistently, lead us to regard ourselves as trapped behind a veil of perception (even if some versions will permit us to regard the veil as less than fully opaque).”
Awareness is not omniscience; it’s awareness of something in some form – FOR THE NEW INTELLECTUAL

“…including the Human Flourishing Framework–a tool that will supercharge your ability to acquire, organize, and apply life-enhancing knowledge in every area of life.”
Discover how to flourish in every area of life – Alex Epstein & Dan Sullivan, THE HUMAN FLOURISHING PROJECT




Public education has been failing to educate ever since it began. “They grant diplomas, which can be important for finding a job. But do they teach you how to gain the knowledge and skills to take control over the rest of your life and live as a free person?” People like Marsha Enright are filling that gap.
Empowered Reasoning, Active Minds, Autonomous Individuals – Marsha Enright, GREAT CONNECTIONS SEMINARS

“One of the most formative courses in my educational history was David Harriman’s “Fundamentals of Physical Science” – formative of my knowledge of science, formative of my views on education, formative of my very ability to think. It taught me what it really means to learn science, and by extension, what it really means to learn.”
David Harriman's Fundamentals of Physical Science: A Historical Inductive Approach – Lisa Van Damme, OBJECTIVE SCIENCE

I wonder what the proportions are for bloggers?
92% of left-wing activists live with their parents and one in three is unemployed, study of Berlin protesters finds – MAIL ONLINE

male1Charlotte Cushman: “This is where egalitarianism eventually leads. This is why ideas matter. There ARE differences between men and women and they are good. Destroying men's masculinity is evil.”
    “Holly Christopher said, ‘If this is the next big thing in men's fashion, we won't have to worry about overpopulation anymore, the human race will die out.’"
Latest Men’s Fashion at New York Fashion Week – SAD & USELESS.COM

“’I give it a few seconds — not even minutes — and then I’m moving again,’ says Handscombe, a 35-year-old graduate student in creative writing at American University.
    “But it’s not just online anymore. She finds herself behaving the same way with a novel.”
Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say – WASHINGTON POST

Taliesin Fellows: “I just found this Architectural critique Blog. Sometimes funny, sometimes spot on and ..... but I'll let you be the judge. What do you think? Is this an accurate reflection of modern suburbia?”
McMansion Hell

“Wright dedicated the design ‘to Nature’ and called it the ‘Sectless Chapel.’ His sketch shows a space-rocket-like structure with a base of ramps, underneath which is space for parking.”
Unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright chapel comes to life in new visualisations – David Romero, via CURBED
Frank Lloyd Wright's unbuilt Trinity Chapel is realised in images by David Romero – DEZEEN


I remember visiting the Martin House complex just before the restoration began. It was beautiful even then …


“Though Romanticism, notable for its dramatically driven themes of human character, is important in Rand's thought, she has high regard for the importance of light in painting…. Olaku's sensitivity to light manifests in how deeply his landscapes recede — not only are the lights themselves different, they are placed in depth. Though light is the outstanding feature in Olaku's paintings, he is also a master of perspective and the reflective nature of water.”
Energizing the Eye: Atlas Contest Winner, Abiodun Olaku – Michael Newberry, ATLAS ART CONTEST

“What makes this entire epistolary record so moving is that, in spite of being unscrupulous at times, Hemingway was also a creature frequently in raw pain, and the reader of these letters is able to witness him in the act of processing his pain and his guilt, with defences that were never quite up to the task.”
Little bit of poison for everyone – TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

“The independence of cats is one of the features most admired by those of us who love them.”
What cats can teach us about how to live – John Gray, NEW STATESMAN

And finally, the important news …
Hottest 100 Kiwi Craft Beers of 2016 – The Results – THE CRAFTY PINT
Hottest 100 Kiwi Craft Beers of 2016 – Analysis – THE CRAFTY PINT
Hottest 100 Kiwi Craft Beers of 2016 – The Top 3 – THE CRAFTY PINT

[Hat tips to and quips and snark pinched from Duncan B., Mark, Barry Woods, Michael Yon, Paul Litterick, Rani ShriVidya, Alice Smith, 7Kiwi, Ari Armstrong, Motive Power, Schooley, UBC Objectivism, hockey schtick, Robert Alonzo Harris Mathenge, Open Group on Objectivism, Myles Salmon, For The New Intellectuals, Stephen Berry, Arts & Letters Daily, Rick Wilmes, GABS Festival, Michael Yon, Anoop Verma]


Thursday, 9 February 2017

Jackson and Labour deserve other [updated]


I sometimes quip that the National Party is just Labour without the identity politics – and now that National has taken Labour’s soul and turned it into a three-term Government and the Greens have been outflanking it over on the hard left, it now looks like it is embracing this misbegotten mire of identity politics simply because it is all the political territory it has left.

Leader Andrew Little has begun his election year, the most important year of his political life, by courting open revolt in his party. Not to rush through important policy; nor to take a controversial stand against the government; but to select a man for a high list place in his party.

A man who has no qualifications for the role except for his lifetime role as a professional Maori.

A man who’s made a career out of his race.

Selected, because his selection plants another flag in the mire.

This is bad enough. Yet the revolt from the grassroots against Willy Jackson’s ascension is if anything worse. Those revolting are not dismayed about Willy Jackson being a no-talent blowhard nor at his lifetime of identity politics – nor even that his selection would leave no place on the list for the great talent that the party has been incubating. No, they are upset because his selection offends the teachers unions and the party’s other identitarian wings:

Four main concerns are raised [by Jackson’s opponent: His ‘abhorrent’ Roast Busters interview [three years ago], a lack of ‘courage to fight homophobia’, his advocacy for charter schools and a lack of gender balance in Labour's caucus should Mr Jackson obtain a high position on the list.

Their mire grows ever deeper.

UPDATE: Former Labour MP MAryan Street confirms it’s identity politics all the way down.


Quote of the Day: On overusing acronyms


“Acronyms and abbreviations are powerful medicine, and should be used in limited doses--always remembering what you are using. It doesn't kill many more pixels to spell out terms.”
~ Timothy Taylor, ‘When Authors Forget What their Own Abbreviations Stand For



Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Bonus Quote of the Day: The blather about ‘white privilege’


“The blather about ‘white privilege’ is an attempt to destroy individual rights, by claiming that they are mere revocable ‘privileges.’ The historical violation of the rights of blacks does not degrade the rights of whites into privileges. Individual rights are not privileges. They are held by virtue of being a human being. They can neither be given nor taken away.”
~ George Reisman


‘Essentials of Economics’


2282233Want to learn the essentials of economics in just 99 pages? Then Art Carden has the best recommendation for you in this guest post. It’s terrific.

Imagine you have a friend who is completely unfamiliar with economics. Imagine further that he says he is going to read exactly 99 pages of economics and no more. What would you suggest that he read? I submit that Faustino Ballvé’s Essentials of Economics: A Brief Survey of Principles and Policies would be an excellent candidate.

The book offers an admirable combination of breadth and brevity, and it delivers on everything promised in the title. The reader will come away with a brief survey of the essential principles of our beloved dismal science, a bit of familiarity with the intellectual genealogy of some of the ideas, and a handful of applications.

At 99 pages of text, Essentials of Economics is a masterpiece of efficient communication of economic ideas. It is an ideal introduction to economic thinking for people who haven’t the time or the inclination to conquer such massive tomes as Human Action, Wealth of Nations, or George Reisman’s Capitalism—though I suspect that the uninitiated reader with Essentials of Economics on his nightstand or e-reader for a few days will be much more likely to read further. [As Ayn Rand hoped when she recommended it as an introduction in her own book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal – Ed.]

By the end of the book, the reader should be convinced that, in the words of Gustavo R. Velasco’s preface to the Spanish edition, “it is not possible to escape from economics.” Ballvé’s method follows in the tradition of the economists working then (and now) in the tradition of Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises. He begins from a set of very simple postulates—relative scarcity and action—and deduces from these a body of propositions that help us make sense of the world around us. Ballvé writes with a passion and verve that makes sometimes-dry concepts come to life. In the course of ten short chapters, he explains to the reader what economics studies, how markets work, what entrepreneurs do, how income flows to factors of production, the origins of money and credit, the origins of business cycles, and the fallacies of protectionism, nationalism, socialism, and interventionism.

Ballve1While reading, I was continually impressed with the problems we face as teachers, scholars, economic communicators, and citizens. Research on public opinion and public policy—like Bryan Caplan’s 2007 The Myth of the Rational Voter, for example—suggests that the fundamental problem with economic knowledge is not that many voters don’t understand the fine points, nuances, and subtleties of sophisticated macroeconomic models. Rather, from all appearances, it looks like voters take issues with the most basic ideas in economics: people respond to incentives, relatively scarce compared to people’s wants, and trade creates wealth. Without getting bombastic or unnecessarily strident, Ballvé reminds us how important these principles are in a translation that absolutely sparkles.

Much of what Ballvé wrote will seem obvious today, and some readers might find his criticism of econometrics somewhat dated. It is important to remember the context in which Ballvé was writing. The book first appeared in Mexico in the 1950s and in English in the early 1960s. The consensus at the time, even among professional economists, was that Mises and Hayek had lost the socialist calculation debate, and Keynesian macroeconomics ruled the roost. Ballvé stepped into this environment and produced a very short, power-packed volume that offers an unapologetic defence of markets and liberty that relies not on a stubborn refusal to remove ideological blinders but on a nuanced understanding of the sciences of human action.

Speaking of which, readers familiar with Mises’s Human Action and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations will find much in this book that they recognise; indeed, there were times when I felt like I was actually reading Mises or Smith. For the uninitiated reader, it is a fantastic introduction. For the expert, it is a valuable refresher. For everyone, it is a valuable addition to any reading list. I expect to return to my notes on it quite frequently.

Ballve2In short, Essentials of Economics is a book that any economist would be proud to have written. It offers a valuable corrective to the errors that inform too many policies. If we take Ballvé's lessons to heart, we can perhaps fix some of the damage done by policies made by those who either do not understand economics or reject it outright. At the very least, we can avoid making bad situations worse.

That Essentials of Economics has not received more attention than it has is curious, if not scandalous. I hope that this book can gain a wider appreciation. The world will certainly be better for it.



Art Carden is an Associate Professor of Economics at Samford University’s Brock School of Business. Visit his website.
A version of his post first appeared at FEE.


Quote of the Day: Open immigration does not mean open borders


“Open immigration does not mean that anyone may enter the country at any location or in any manner he chooses; it is not unchecked or unmonitored immigration. Nor does it mean that anyone who immigrates … should be eligible for … citizenship—the proper requirements of which are a separate matter. Open immigration means that anyone is free to enter and reside in [a country]—providing that he enters at a designated checkpoint and passes an objective screening process, the purpose of which is to keep out criminals, enemies [of that country], and people with certain kinds of contagious diseases."
~ Craig Biddle, from his article ‘Immigration and Individual Rights’


A constitutional for a so-called president [updated]


“So Called President upset by So Called
Judge adhering to So Called Constitution.”

~ Timothy Sandefur

The new US president remains outraged that what he called a “so called judge” in far-offSeattle who had the temerity to block the president’s Executive Order banning travel from seven countries.

That outrage today takes him – or at least his White House lawyers – into court to argue for the Order’s constitutionality. The very idea a president has to actually argue for his decree baffles and enrages him. “When a [president] is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security - big trouble!” That was Trump’s barely coherent Twitter response. His lawyers’ more considered response, at the president’s behest, claims “that the federal courts have no business taking ‘the extraordinary step of second-guessing a formal national-security judgment made by the President himself pursuant to broad grants of statutory authority.’"

“No business.” “Second-guessing.” “Broad grants of statutory authority.” It’s clear the so called president sees his authority as something unlimited by that so called constitution.

But as we say about the various checks and balances like this that inhabit a decent constitutional system, they’re a feature not a bug. Those “broad grants of statutory authority” come with important limits – like veto powers exercised by properly constituted courts.

You see, there’s a difference between an autocracy and a constitutional republic that the new president (and many of his followers) has never ever grasped.

Autocratic rulers rule by decree, and their underlings act as a rubber stamp. In a constitutional republic however, in a decent one, presidents, judges, politicians are all shackled. They’re chained up by the constitution – that little thing to which they swear allegiance at the beginning of their term – chained up to preserve and protect the purposes set out by the constitution which, in the American system, are The People’s individual rights.

Trump’s reaction to his decree being questioned by a judge bearing the constitutional authority to do just that suggests that perhaps the first time the “short-fingered vulgarian” had seen the constitution was when he laid his small hands upon it at that swearing in.

So thank goodness he’s now being given a lesson in how it works. If he had a mind capable of learning.


    Trump’s argument is that the judiciary gives insufficient deference to the president in the area of national
    security, he has jumped the gun. While the Supreme Court has ruled against the Bush administration’s
    counterterrorism policies in a few cases, the practical effect of those rulings was limited; the judiciary as a
    whole largely acquiesced. Judicial doctrines that touch on national security [already] give significant leeway
    to the president.”

This is just the sort of nuanced question and answer on which a Chicago law professor would love to cogitate. I think however that the correct answer is very simple: “there is no Trumpian View,” except to say Cheeto Jesus has been surprised to discover that there are something called “constitutional limits” on what he erroneously thought was the absolute power of the presidency.

  • .Philosopher Greg Salmieri weighs in:

    “’Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system.’
        “The man who said that has taken a lot of heat for attacking the judge in question, and the attack is unjust (even if it turns out that the man is right either about the relevant points of law or about our national security needs), but what ought to horrify anyone who cares about America is the last three words. What this man is attacking here is the separation of powers as such. What he is saying is that what we need to keep us out of peril is a system where the courts cannot check presidential power.
        “Whatever his other rhetoric, no one who says that, and no one who supports him, really loves America.
        “At his core [the American] president is opposed to the very essence of this nation. And that is a fact that we all have to acknowledge and deal with.
        “Whichever of the awful options in this last election you decided was the least bad, and even if you think the alternative would have been even worse, the fact remains that this president is anti-American, and you need to decide which as side you're on. Do you want a country in which whoever the public whim of the moment sweeps into the oval office can do whatever he pleases, or do you want a constitutional republic with checks and balances? Do you want Trump or do you want America?
        “No need to answer me in public. But it's something each American will need to answer for himself in the privacy of his own mind.”

And also every non-American loudly waving a Trump flag who claims to value that country’s founding ideals.