Tuesday, 27 September 2022

"Laws are like cobwebs ... "

“Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.” 
~ Jonathan Swift, from his 1707 essay 'A Critical Essay upon the Faculties of the Mind' [hat tip Meg Smaker]

Monday, 26 September 2022

The father of constitutional monarchy

Just as the United States are not a Democracy, but a Constitutional Republic, so too the United Kingdom is not a Monarchy, but a Constitutional Monarchy. The difference, the restraint, is important.

So as we have a day off today to reflect on a dead monarch, perhaps take some time to read and reflect on some of words said by the intellectual father of constitutional restraint, John Locke, when he and his colleagues instituted the great 1689 Bill of Rights against the monarch they had just placed upon the throne; placing him, very carefully, "under the restraint of Laws." Because if Constitutional Monarchy does have any value, it's in the first half of that phrase -- which only becomes valuable if the second half is rightly restrained.

Enjoy your holiday. Here's John Locke.
"As usurpation is the exercise of power, which another hath a right to; so tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which no body can have a right to.”

“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”

“Men being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent.”

“As if when men, quitting the state of Nature, entered into society, they agreed that all of them but one should be under the restraint of laws; but that he should still retain all the liberty of the state of Nature, increased with power, and made licentious by impunity.”

“But there is only one thing which gathers people into seditious commotion, and that is oppression.”

“The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings, capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom.”

“The great question which, in all ages, has disturbed mankind, and brought on them the greatest part of their mischiefs ... has been, not whether be power in the world, nor whence it came, but who should have it.”

“And because it may be too great a temptation to human frailty, apt to grasp at power, for the same persons, who have the power of making laws, to have also in their hands the power to execute them …”

“… no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent.”
"For he that thinks absolute Power purifies Mens Bloods, and corrects the baseness of Humane Nature, need read but the History of this, or any other Age to be convinced of the contrary....
    "In Absolute Monarchies indeed, as well as other Governments of the World, the Subjects have an Appeal to the Law, and Judges to decide any Controversies, and restrain any Violence that may happen betwixt the Subjects themselves, one amongst another. This every one thinks necessary, and believes he deserves to be thought a declared Enemy to Society and Mankind, who should go about to take it away. But ... if it be asked, what Security, what Fence is there in such a State, against the Violence and Oppression of this Absolute Ruler? The very Question can scarce be born.... As if when Men quitting the State of Nature entered into Society, they agreed that all of them but one, should be under the restraint of Laws, but that he should still retain all the Liberty of the State of Nature, increased with Power, and made licentious by Impunity. This is to think that Men are so foolish that they take care to avoid what Mischiefs may be done them by Pole-Cats, or Foxes, but are content, nay think it Safety, to be devoured by Lions.
And finally:
“Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.”

Think on it. 

Friday, 23 September 2022

'Which wannabe busybodies do you want on your council?'

"Academics, journalists and politicians bemoan every three years how little interest there is in the local body elections in New Zealand. The narrative being that if more people voted, then local government would be "better" and people being more "engaged" would result in bette Councillors, better decisions, better cities, towns and districts.
    "It's utter nonsense....
    "Local government has little to do with many issues, such as healthcare, education, justice, policing, but it DOES have a lot to do with areas that are in crisis, such as water ... housing ... supermarket competition.
    "Local government also attracts a particular type of person. More often than not it attracts busybodies, planners, pushy finger-wagging types who think they know what's best, over what people actually indicate according to their willingness to pay....
    "So vote if you must, but the real problem is that local government has too much power.... So pick candidates who want to get out of the way, of new housing, of new supermarkets, of enterprise and don't want to promise grand totemic projects that you have to pay for.... Maybe pick those who actually have some understanding of the limits of the ability of local government."

~ Liberty Scott, from his post 'Which wannabe busybodies do you want on your council?'


Thursday, 22 September 2022

"...the most consequential battle in Europe since World War II..."

"Russian President Vladimir Putin ... boasted that it would take only days for his powerful army to take Kyiv.
    "Over the next month, enough Ukrainians found the will and means to resist him. They formed armed groups with whatever weapons they could lay their hands on. They fed and equipped fighters and billeted them in their homes. They shimmied up trees in search of cellphone reception to report on enemy movements. The result looked like something little seen in modern warfare—a domestic insurgency fused onto a traditional army....
    "To a degree not fully appreciated, it was these citizen soldiers, teaming up with active-duty personnel, who turned the tide in the most consequential battle in Europe since World War II..."

~ James Mason, from his article 'The Ragtag Army That Won the Battle of Kyiv and Saved Ukraine'

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

"Advertising in the year 2022 is more Pavlovian than utopian."

"I’m not surprised that some of the more powerful brands of the last 30 years (Starbucks, Amazon, etc.) managed to rise to dominance while spending almost nothing on TV commercials.
    "I would urge you to consider the especially revealing case of the company that sells the most ads (Google). This marketing behemoth waited more than a decade before launching even a single TV ad campaign for its own services.
    "The bosses at Google are no fools—they understand the value of advertising better than anyone. That’s why they prefer to sell it than buy it.
    "And then ask yourself: When was the last time you saw an ad agency buy a TV ad for its own business? They have the money to do it, but won’t. Maybe they know something we don’t....
    "A dvertising in the year 2022 doesn’t hypnotise us. It doesn’t stir up our desires. What it actually does is. . . . bore us
    "Endlessly. Shamelessly. It annoys us. It irritates us. We would skip it if we could.... 
    "The bottom line: Advertising in the year 2022 is more Pavlovian than utopian. More a punishment for the masses than a guide to the elites. More an annoyance than a compass for our desires."
~ Ted Gioia, from his post 'YouTube May Force You to Watch 10 (or More) Unskippable Ads in a Row'

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Is anybody learning a lesson here?

"Over in Europe, and particularly in those countries in the vanguard of the green energy transition, the enormous costs of this folly have begun to hit home. In the UK [for example], average annual consumer energy bills were scheduled to rise as of October 1 to £3549/year, from only £1138/year just a year ago....
    "Anyone with a pair of eyes can see what has happened. They thought they could get rid of fossil fuels just by building lots of wind turbines and solar panels, which don’t work most of the time. Then they suppressed fossil fuel production, because that is the virtuous thing to do. Somehow they lost track of the fact that they needed full backup for the wind and sun, and have no alternative to the suppressed fossil fuels. With supply of fossil fuels intentionally and artificially constrained, prices spiked.
    "And they have not even yet gotten to 50% of electricity, or 15% of final energy consumption, from wind/sun on an annualised basis.
    "Is anybody learning a lesson here?"

Monday, 19 September 2022

"In fact, the primary problem in the Soviet Union was socialism."

"One of the common denominators between Leninists and government interventionists in the West is the belief that the problems of monopoly are the problems of ownership: only private monopolies acting out of greed are harmful. These institutions are suppressing scientific and technical progress, polluting the environment, and engaging in other conspiracies against public well-being.
    "Government monopolies, however, were believed to be ethical and upright; they substituted the 'greed' of the profit motive with a 'societal interest.' Yet group bureaucrats who manage and operate the public sector are no less self-interested than those who manage and operate private business. One important difference exists, though: unlike private entrepreneurs, they are not financially responsible for their actions and they operate without institutional constraints of cost control that private property and competition induces. The enlightened minds of planners and technocrats cannot overcome the problem of economic calculation without market signals.
    "'The failure of socialism in Russia, and the enormous suffering and hardship of people in all socialist countries, is a powerful warning against socialism, statism, and interventionism in the West. 'We should all be thankful to the Soviets,' says Paul Craig Roberts, 'because they have proved conclusively that socialism doesn't work. No one can say they didn't have enough power or enough bureaucracy or enough planners or they didn't go far enough.'...
    "A common mistake Western observers made was to think the Soviet Union's fundamental problem was a lack of democracy. They completely overlooked that the institutional structure of the political system cannot overcome the problem inherent in an economic system with no means of rational calculation. The Soviet Union had a number of leaders who promised political reform, but none was able to put bread on the table. In fact, the primary problem in the Soviet Union was socialism."

~ Yuri N. Maltsev from his article 'The Decline and Fall of Gorbachev and the Soviet State.' Maltsev is a senior fellow of the Mises Institute, who worked as an economist on Mikhail Gorbachev's economic reform team before emigrating to the United States in 1989. The article is based on his introduction to the 1992 book Requiem for Marx

Saturday, 17 September 2022

"...Gorbachev’s legacy falls far short of the praise heaped on it."

"Although he foresaw and avoided the deadly consequences of both armed conflict in Soviet republics and the continuation of Cold War hostilities, Gorbachev’s legacy falls far short of the praise heaped on it. Instead, the final Soviet leader’s legacy should serve to illuminate the evils of communism and collectivism more broadly. As Ayn Rand said, 'Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.' Gorbachev’s reign demonstrated the terror and destruction that follow from subordinating individual rights to the state, a lesson that the Western leaders who praised him would do well to learn."
~ Nicholas Baum, from his obituary 'Does Gorbachev Deserve All the Praise'

Friday, 16 September 2022

"Society could not have come into existence or been preserved without a harmony of the rightly understood interests of all its members."

"[T]he gain of one man is [said to be] the damage of another; no man profits but by the loss of others... [Yet] society could not have come into existence or been preserved without a harmony of the rightly understood interests of all its members....
    "Human effort exerted under the principle of the division of labour in social cooperation achieves, other things remaining equal, a greater output per unit of input than the isolated efforts of solitary individuals. Man's reason is capable of recognising this fact and of adapting his conduct accordingly. Thus social cooperation becomes for almost every man the great means for the attainment of all ends. An eminently human common interest, the preservation and intensification of social bonds, is substituted for pitiless biological competition, the significant mark of animal and plant life. Man becomes a social being. He is no longer forced by the inevitable laws of nature to look upon all other specimens of his animal species as deadly foes. Other people become his fellows. For animals the generation of every new member of the species means the appearance of a new rival in the struggle for life. For man, until the optimum size of population is reached, it means rather an improvement than a deterioration in his quest for material well-being."

~ Ludwig von Mises, compilation quote from his 1949 book Human Action, and his 1957 book Theory and History [hat tip Daniel Sanchez's article 'The Profound Significance of Social Harmony']

Thursday, 15 September 2022

"The idea that the Europeans stole some land which had belonged in perpetuity to any one tribe is ludicrous."

"The idea that the Europeans stole some land which had belonged in perpetuity to any one tribe is therefore ludicrous. The situation in most of North America was similar to northern Europe on the eve of the Germanic migrations, or western Europe as the Celts were moving across the landscape. Precisely to whom the land belonged in any given century at these periods in history was anyone’s guess. The very notion of property is a Graeco-Roman invention which most cultures found foreign until quite recently. But Europeans of the time had little chance of grasping this difference. What the Europeans did in the New World was insert themselves into a fluid power struggle which had been ongoing for millennia. Many Native American chiefs were ready to pledge allegiance to the Great ‘Chief of the English’, as a political expedient, just as various English colonies sided with this or that Native American ‘Great Chief’. Despite a few sensational cases of duplicity, most of the time, Europeans tried to buy land from Indians, just like they would buy an acre of land in England. If the local chief assented to this and liked the price, where then was the crime? Many individual Europeans believed that according to the norms of both parties, they had legal usufruct to the land they were working. To judge this as theft is therefore anachronistic...
    "During the Cold War and the Gulf Wars, liberal historians called out excessive nationalism and jingoism, based on the legitimate fear that military types might start a war for no good reason... So there is always a place for liberal critique within history. But on this issue, it’s more difficult to see the value of Pilgrim-bashing to today’s Native Americans, apart from making them bitter and resentful, and everyone else feel guilty and ashamed.
    "​The real reason to perpetuate such a disastrously one-sided view, it seems, is if one is in a tiny minority of activists who has ‘drunk the kool-aid’ of Cultural Marxism — an ideology bent on bringing maximum embarrassment to Capitalism, Democracy, Western Civilisation and Europeans in general, in the vain hope that this will somehow bring about a sort of… what? Revolution? Really? Let’s not be naive. The only reason to be this consistently, this unreasonably angry about things which happened centuries ago, is if one sees the entirety of experience through the lens of perpetual racism and victimisation, and crucially, if one does not believe in the power of democracy to correct these wrongs....
    "It is high time that historians spoke out against the dangerous misuse of history which supports the zealotry and iconoclasm currently emanating from our educational systems. This has become far too culturally dominant, far too damaging to global society, for us to ignore it any further. In the name of science, fairness, level-headedness, humanity, and democracy itself."
~ Historian Jeff Fynn-Paul, from his article  'The myth of the ‘stolen country’ '

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Auckland's "Character Protection Racket"

"In response to last year’s legislation supporting increased density near urban centres and public transport hubs, Auckland Council has excluded central city suburbs from the plan under the guise of ‘special character’ ... protecting affluent inner-city neighbourhoods and forcing much-needed development further out... flailing desperately to ensure that the kinds of walkable, accessible lives it trumpeted in 2016 are mostly reserved for the city’s most affluent citizens....
    "[Council-imposed] character protections cover 41% of the residential land within five kilometres of the city centre. That percentage rises in city-adjacent suburbs, reaching 94% in Grey Lynn Central and 91% in Ponsonby East. The restrictions have choked growth near rapid transit, including along the future route of the City Rail Link. Around 80% of properties are subject to restrictions in central Mt Eden and near Eden Park. Nearly 70% are cut off from dense development in Kingsland, which is also expected to be a key link in the government’s planned light rail line. In the city’s best-located suburbs, the gates are locked tight...
    "Scott Caldwell, a spokesperson for the pro-density Coalition for More Homes, says he wouldn’t have minded if the council had tried to protect a few high-quality, architecturally or historically significant streets. But the sheer extent of the council’s proposed protections makes the proposal unfair and likely illegal, he says. 'It’s 3% of the overall city but 90% of the most desirable places to live if you want a compact city. The harm is that no one gets to live there apart from the people who already do, and anyone who’s lucky enough to inherit one of their houses'....
    "[I]n planning terms ‘character’ is a council invention, and its parameters are vague. Even council planning committee chair Chris Darby struggles to deliver a concise explanation. 'It’s groups of buildings, architecture that reflects periods of history,' he says. 'It’s representative of areas. It’s architectural style that tells a story of the past.' Albany councillor Wayne Walker offers an even more wide-ranging interpretation: “It’s a whole lot of things and it’s going to vary somewhat from place to place'....
    "Instead of genuine heritage, many housing advocates see character areas as a historical homage, similar to the former colonial streetscape exhibit at Auckland War Memorial Museum. Oscar Sims of the Coalition for More Homes calls them 'the worst of both worlds' — cutting off intensification while failing to preserve either historic integrity or original built forms. [West Auckland Councilllor] Shane Henderson says they amount to 'fake historical areas.' Wellington councillor Tamatha Paul (Ngāti Awa, Tainui) has proposed renaming them 'colonial streetscape precincts.
    "The rules governing [these living museum pieces] often restrict new development to lower densities than what already exists. Many of Auckland’s villas and bungalows were built before council planning rules — they’re close together, they shade each other, they’re on small sections. You literally couldn’t rebuild many of them under the rules designed to protect them, which enforce, among other things, height-to-boundary ratios, side set- backs and a 600m2 minimum plot size ... proof that character areas are aimed at warding off new buildings rather than protecting old ones. [Architectural designer Jade] Kake says the people defending those rules generally benefit from an inequitable status quo. 'If they were living in insecure housing, or in really poor-quality housing, or if they were experiencing fuel poverty, and they’re trying to get across the city, or their kids were sick because they’re living in shitty homes, I think they might advocate a different position'.
    "Peter Nunns, director of economics at Te Waihanga New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, says character areas are part of a 50-year history of council development restrictions that have put homes out of reach for many Aucklanders. 'They’re essentially a continuation of 1970s district schemes which cut capacity for growth,' he says. 'So the predecessor to the special character area policy has really been at the heart of our housing affordability crisis.' Character advocates say even if you built apartments in places like Grey Lynn, they’d likely be expensive. Nunns says a large body of international research shows all new housing supply helps affordability, including at the more luxury end of the market, and high land values in character areas indicate a huge amount of constrained development potential.
    "He has local stats to back that up. His research demonstrates house prices nationwide would be 69% lower if it weren’t for council-enforced density limits, along with the resulting inefficient, car-centric layout of our cities. When it comes to Auckland, though, Nunns’ interest is personal. His great-grandfather built some of the villas in Ponsonby and Devonport. 'So, from a family taonga perspective, I can see the appeal of this connection with the past.' Nunns doesn’t let that define his views on developing those areas, however, because he knows his great-granddad wasn’t trying to build wooden monuments for generations to come; he was trying to meet his family’s needs. People who want to set down roots today deserve the same opportunity, he says. 'If I told my ancestors we can’t meet our current housing needs because we’re protecting what they built 100 years ago, I suspect that their answer might be that we’re missing the point'."

          ~ Hayden Donnell, from his article 'The Character Protection Racket'

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

"Fundamentally, inflation is fraud."

"Fundamentally, inflation is fraud. The central government or bank printing more money lessens the value of the money already in circulation... An increased supply of money means ultimately that prices denominated in that money will go up. Unless you are the one to receive that new money at its point of entry, and thus keep pace with the inflation, the real value of your money holdings will go down....
    "If inflation is a fraud on the general populace, in that its false promise of improved growth rings hollow time after time, it is more specifically a fraud on [savers and] ordinary working people. When new money is created it enters the economy through the government, financial, and corporate sectors. The distributors and initial recipients of this new money obtain it before prices go up, in fact prices are then driven up by their spending of the new money. Those responsible for the inflation are thus ahead of it....
    "[I]nflation can only ever benefit the elite at the expense of ordinary people. Which is hardly surprising given the revolving door between the federal reserve and the financial sector. The same people who control the power of inflation are the ones who can directly benefit from it.
    "However, inflation is completely unnecessary for a growing and prosperous economy.... A declining general price level takes place as a consequence of true economic growth and wealth generation.... In the late nineteenth century both the UK and America had strict gold standards and declining price levels. This was also the period of greatest relative advancement in economic history, when both countries asserted themselves as truly industrialised economies, and the most powerful nations in the world.
    "Inflation is not necessary for real wealth and real growth.
 [See here, for example. Or, for a lengthier (yet still pleasantly concise) discussion of this subject, see George A. Selgin, Less than Zero: The Case for a Falling Price Level in a Growing Economy]"

~ J.R. McLeod, from his article 'Inflation, the Price Level, and Economic Growth: Everything the Elites Tell You about It Is Wrong'

Monday, 12 September 2022

"Today is one of the greatest days in modern history" [updated]


Russia's invasion of Ukraine has unravelled. Due to Ukrainian ingenuity and resolve. Due to Russia's now-widely revealed incompetence and cowardice. 

Russia's Kharkiv front has completely collapsed. In just 72 hours, Ukrainian armed forces has retaken over 2,500 sq km of Russian-occupied Ukraine, cut Russian communication and supply routes to occupied-eastern Ukraine, and routed and destroyed the equivalent of three combat divisions of the Russian occupiers. Russian military and occupiers on the Kharkiv front are fleeing, many in civilian clothes, leaving behind weapons and equipment that will come back to them with interest. There is unconfirmed chatter on Telegraph channels that the Kherson front is also beginning to fray; that Russian units there are talking surrender -- and that fighting is breaking out between Russian and Chechen units there. And now even pro-Russian commentators and Kremlin propagandists are beginning to talk openly about the Russian military collapse, and what happens next. Not next for Ukraine, but next for Russia.

Because the military collapse has exposed post-Soviet Russia to be as much a fraudulent paper tiger as the pathetic totalitarian bully it replaced. Russian power comes -- and always came -- from the perception of its power. Courtesy of Ukrainian resistance and inspiring leadership, Putin's "special military operation" has destroyed that perception. Utterly. Not ten feet tall at all -- truthfully, it's barely six inches. Destroyed with it too the idea that authoritarian regimes have some special advantage when it comes to waging war. Turns out it makes them ineffective even at foreign aggression -- and now, we hope, at domestic repression as well. All that Russia has in its arsenal now, it seems, is its energy stranglehold over a Europe that has voluntarily thrown away its ability to generate power without Russian gas. But that Russian gas is already cut -- and with mothballed plants being re-opened and newly-arriving LNG supplies coming online, even that leverage is all-but spent.

It's time for the world to celebrate a historic day: of the end of the Post-Cold-War Cold War, and all that that implies for world peace and security. And for Putin to take care walking past windows.


Map from Institute for the Study of War here. Interactive map (updated daily) here.

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Lost in the identity thickets

"Ten years ago, the Tea Party of the right and Occupy Wall Street of the left were both aiming at the power structure. 
    "Since then, the power structure has used identity politics to redirect their aim at each other."
          ~ Eric Brakey

Friday, 2 September 2022

Are you now, or have you ever been, an Extremist?

"Observe, in politics, that the term extremism has become a synonym of 'evil,' regardless of the content of the issue (the evil is not what you are extreme about, but that you are 'extreme'—i. e., consistent)....
    "Of all the 'anti-concepts' polluting our cultural atmosphere, 'extremism' is the most ambitious in scale and implications; it goes much beyond politics. Let us now examine it in detail.
    "To begin with, 'extremism' is a term which, standing by itself, has no meaning. The concept of 'extreme' denotes a relation, a measurement, a degree. The dictionary gives the following definitions: 'Extreme, adj. — 1. of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average. 2. utmost or exceedingly great in degree.'
    "It is obvious that the first question one has to ask, before using that term, is: a degree — of what?
    "To answer: 'Of anything!' and to proclaim that any extreme is evil because it is an extreme — to hold the degree of a characteristic, regardless of its nature, as evil — is an absurdity ... Measurements, as such, have no value-significance — and acquire it only from the nature of that which is being measured.
    "Are an extreme of health and an extreme of disease equally undesirable? Are extreme intelligence and extreme stupidity ... equally unworthy? Are extreme honesty and extreme dishonesty equally immoral? Are a man of extreme virtue and a man of extreme depravity equally evil?
    "The examples of such absurdities can be multiplied indefinitely — particularly in the field of morality where only an extreme (i.e., unbreached, uncompromised) degree of virtue can be properly called a virtue. (What is the moral status of a man of “moderate” integrity?)
    "But 'don’t bother to examine a folly — ask yourself only what it accomplishes'....
    "This brings us to the deeper implications of the term 'extremism.' It is obvious that an uncompromising stand (on anything) is the actual characteristic which that 'anti-concept is designed to damn. It is also obvious that compromise is incompatible with morality. In the field of morality, compromise is surrender to evil.
    "There can be no compromise on basic principles. There can be no compromise on moral issues. There can be no compromise on matters of knowledge, of truth, of rational conviction.
    "If an uncompromising stand is to be smeared as 'extremism,' then that smear is directed at any devotion to values, any loyalty to principles, any profound conviction, any consistency, any steadfastness, any passion, any dedication to an unbreached, inviolate truth — any man of integrity.
    "And it is against all these that that 'anti-concept' has been and is being used."
~ Ayn Rand, combined quote from her essays 'The Cult of Moral Grayness' and 'Extremism: The Art of Smearing'

Thursday, 1 September 2022


"Sadness has a bad reputation. We can't live if we are completely impervious to sadness."
          ~ attrib. Nick Cave

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

INFLATION: Critique of the 'Wage-Price-Spiral' Explanation

"Closely related to the doctrine of cost-push inflation [in which rising costs to business are mistakenly said to be the cause of inflation in general] is the doctrine of the 'wage-price spiral.' According to this doctrine, prices rise because wages rise, and wages rise because prices rise. Wages and prices, it is believed, simply chase each other upward in a spiral, and that is why prices go on rising. (If a proponent of this doctrine is sympathetic to labour unions, he asserts that the process begins with an arbitrary rise in prices due to the profit-push of employers. If he is unsympathetic to labor unions, he asserts that it begins with an arbitrary rise in wages due to the wage-push of the unions.) ...
    'Little can be said in criticism of the wage-price spiral doctrine that has not already been said in criticism of the other variants of the cost-push doctrine. [See 'Profit-Push...'; and 'Crisis-Push...']
    "In the absence of an increase in the quantity of money and a consequent rising aggregate monetary demand, any 'wage-price spiral' that somehow came into existence would quickly burn itself out of existence in mounting unemployment and unsold stocks of goods.
"Even in cases in which labour unions, for example, hold the contractual right to receive wage increases on the basis of cost-of-living increases, they abandon this right when insistence upon it would add still more of their members to the ranks of an already large number of unemployed members. The experience of the early 1980s provides dramatic confirmation of the truth of these propositions."
~ George Reisman, from page 915 of his book Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics. Read it online here, or buy it here (currently at half-price!)

"Medicalising mental health was a tragic error."

"Medicalising mental health was a tragic error.
    "It falsely taught people that emotions are solely the result of physical factors — i.e., brain chemistry.
    "With regard to your psyche, your character and your soul, the psychiatric industry turns you into a ward of the pharmaceutical industry — or a ward of the State....
    "In reality, emotions are the result of a long accumulation of choices, ideas, assumptions, hidden premises, values and so many other things.
    "Yes, we are brain chemistry. But we are so much more. And to date, science has refused to investigate how our choices and ideas determine our brain chemistry. Instead, 'science' assumes that brain chemistry determines all thoughts, choices and behaviour. This premise is never questioned, never explored, never investigated. In psychiatry, 'follow the science' means 'follow the drug companies.' And also follow the government, who funds most of the research ... and therefore now controls most of the doctors who administer it.
    "If you’re looking for a reason not to have to work for your mental health, then the psychiatric industry is there, waiting for you."
          ~ Dr Michael Hurd, from his post 'Medicalizing the Soul'

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

Climate vagaries [UPDATED]

1,000 are dead from flooding in Pakistan after monsoon rains, said to be "the heaviest Pakistan has seen in three decades." Here's the drumbeat:
WASHINGTON POST: "'Pakistan was already facing the disastrous effects of climate change,' Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's minister of climate change, said...

NPR: "A climate catastrophe has killed more than 1,000

BBC: "...climate catastrophe..."

REUTERS: "...a victim of climate change..."

NZ HERALD: "...climate change..."

RNZ: "...climate change..."
“We are at the moment at the ground zero of the front line of extreme weather events," says Pakistan's much-retweeted climate minister. A politician. Could it be instead that we are near ground zero in hyperbolic context-free climate scare-mongering? With politicians eager to leverage "extreme weather events" in their favour?

Here is some climate geography:

Pakistan's climate is a continental type of climate, characterized by extreme variations in temperature ... The monsoon and the Western Disturbance are the two main factors that alter the weather over Pakistan.... [The] Southwest Monsoon occurs in summer from the month of June till September in almost whole Pakistan ...

What is this "Southwest Monsoon"?

The Southwest or the Asian Summer Monsoon is essentially a colossal sea breeze that brings South Asia 70-80 percent of its annual rainfall between June and September every year.
    It occurs when summer heat warms the landmass of the subcontinent, causing the air to rise and sucking in cooler Indian Ocean winds which then produce enormous volumes of rain.     Why it is important?
    The monsoon is vital for agriculture and therefore for the livelihoods of millions of farmers and for food security in the poor region of around two billion 
    But it brings destruction every year in landslides and floods. Melting glaciers add to the volume of water while unregulated construction in flood-prone areas exacerbates the damage.
    Is it the same every year?
    Despite being heavily studied, the monsoon is relatively poorly understood. Exactly where and when the rain will fall is hard to forecast and varies considerably...

So in short... 

    Monsoon rains bring much awaited relief from the scorching summer heat. These monsoon rains are quite heavy by nature and can cause significant flooding, even severe flooding if they interact with westerly waves in the upper parts of the country.

How significant?

Pakistan has seen many floods, ... including the flood of 1950, which killed 2910 people; on 1 July 1977 heavy rains and flooding in Karachi, killed 248 people, according to Pakistan meteorological department 207 millimetres (8.1 in) of rain fell in 24 hours.[6] In 1992 flooding during Monsoon season killed 1,834 people across the country, in 1993 flooding during Monsoon rains killed 3,084 people.... 2010 July floods swept 20% of Pakistan's land, the flood is the result of unprecedented Monsoon rains which lasted from 28 July to 31 July 2010.... [causing] 1,781 deaths, 2,966 people with injuries, and more than 1.89 million homes destroyed.[8] The flood affected more than 20 million people.
Pakistan, of course, has only been in existence since 1947, emerging after India's partition. And it has been experiencing "large changes" in climate over all that time. It is historically less subject to monsoon rains than are India and Bangladesh, the other two results of partition. But monsoon flooding in South Asia and the Indian sub-continent , with great loss of life, goes back ... centuries, not just decades. It is unpredictable.
One of the most commonly used words to describe the erratic nature of the monsoon is [or used to be]"vagaries", used in newspapers,[17] magazines,[18] books,[19] web portals[20] to insurance plans,[21] and India's budget discussions.[22] In some years, it rains too much, causing floods in parts of India; in others, it rains too little or not at all, causing droughts. In some years, the rain quantity is sufficient but its timing arbitrary. Sometimes, despite average annual rainfall, the daily distribution or geographic distribution of the rain is substantially skewed.
Erratic. Unpredictable. Essential to agriculture. And always potentially tragic. But people are not helpless: "If a drought strikes them, animals perish—man builds irrigation canals; if a flood strikes them, animals perish—man builds dams..." And so they have --- as wealth has increased, energy use and technology improved, and flood-control measures able to be implemented, the phenomenon has become less tragic and more controlled. 

Let's not be at "ground zero" in using tragedy to push politicised science.

UPDATE: Pakistan 'Planning' Minister makes it explicit: "Richer countries have a 'responsibility' to help Pakistan deal with flooding and prevent future disasters because they've caused climate change."

Monday, 29 August 2022

"For the govt's managerial class, the primary purpose of the state is to create high income jobs and lucrative contracts for the cognitive elite..."

"Our fire trucks are breaking down, the road toll is up and we’re desperately in need of more nurses. But rather than tackle these urgent issues, the government drops billions on consultants, comms staff and various other removed, abstract thinkers...
    "It’s almost as if the primary role of the administrative state is shifting from serving the people to the redistribution of wealth to the staffers, lawyers, PR companies, managers and consultancy firms that work in them, or for them. A billion dollars a year in public sector consultancy is an awful lot of money when you’re running out of teachers and nurses because you don’t pay them enough, and the fire trucks are breaking down...
    "For [the government's] managerial class the primary purpose of the transport agency and the rest of the state is to create high income jobs and lucrative contracts for the cognitive elite – they are the true value creators, after all – and to deliver media campaigns celebrating the bravery of their visions, the nobility of their aspirations; to affirm that they are the good and smart people. The actual safety conditions of provincial roads are largely irrelevant.... the decision not to fast-track nurses into the country [is similar]. Nursing is a credentialed, moderately well paid profession. But nurses are not knowledge workers the way medical doctors and some other health professionals are. Nurses work almost entirely in the real not the abstract, therefore [with this view] they can’t be adding 'real' value to the health system, any more than safety barriers installed by uneducated manual labourers can reduce traffic fatalities, or fire trucks can put out fires....
    "I’m not arguing that [this] perspective explains everything (or that I agree with [it]). But I’ve come to the end of this essay in early August, and the health minister Andrew Little has just announced a suite of measures to address staff shortages in the health sector. No, he’s not changing the immigration rules for nurses – but the government is launching a media campaign, teaming up with Shortland Street to promote nursing as a career. The cost of the campaign will not be made public."

           ~ Danyl Mclauchlan, from his op-ed 'An Administrative Revolution'

Saturday, 27 August 2022

"Sittervising." Don't get up.

Pic from Let Grow

"Its latest find is 'Sittervising.' The not-exactly-groundbreaking idea is for a parent to SIT while their kid plays, rather than feeling obligated to jump in and toss the ball, be the snowman, or praise every single scribble the child creates.
          "Yes, it’s too bad that there needs to be a word legitimising this already totally legit behaviour, but golly — we’re glad there is! Just as “Free-Range Parenting” became the name for a whole bunch of practices encouraging independence, 'sittervising' gives tired, trusting parents a way of explaining their decision to intervene a little less. It’s not laziness. It’s not neglect. It’s a belief that kids can and should spend some time figuring out how to have fun without dragooning an adult."

          ~ Lenore Skenazy, from her post 'Lets Hear it for Sittervising'

Friday, 26 August 2022

Marx on Politics

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies."
          ~ attrib. Groucho Marx

Thursday, 25 August 2022

'Owning the Libs' by shooting yourself in both feet

"I like the term 'spite' here: It is a near-perfect characterisation of the naive emotionalism/blind rebellion against the Democrats that seems to have swallowed the [U.S. Republican Party] since Trump arrived on the scene to 'own the libs' (but not defeat them).
    "Will the [Republican Party] merely be content to 'own the libs' (by nominating Trump) -- or will it get past the childish, second-handed desire to get a reaction from the left. Will the GOP wake up in time to find someone who cares enough to understand what America is actually about, and methodically approach the problem of bringing back liberty and prosperity? Ron DeSantis may or may not be that man, but Donald Trump clearly isn't."

          ~ Gus Van Horn, from his post 'Will Spite Cost GOP in 2024'

"That's on you."

"Please don’t whine about the poor quality of your political representatives and then continue to vote for them. 
    "That’s on you."
          ~ Alice Smith

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

INFLATION: A Critique of the 'Inflation-Psychology' Doctrine

"As used by its supporters, the term 'inflation psychology' is supposed to refer to an uncaused primary. That is, people allegedly have an inflation psychology ... they simply have it, and because they have it, they spend more rapidly. Of course, there is such a thing as inflation psychology, but it is not a primary. It is based on the fact of inflation. It comes into existence only after many years of inflation.
    "Properly understood, what the term 'inflation psychology' really refers to is the various ways in which a rapidly expanding quantity of money reduces the desire of people to hold money... [having] an effect on prices only by way of raising aggregate monetary demand.* 
    "Inflation psychology also has an influence on prices from the side of supply, because it influences the expectations of sellers. ... These [expectations] cause a rise in prices beyond the levels appropriate to the current size of monetary demand—they make the rise in prices outrun the rise in demand by gearing this year’s prices, in effect, to the expected demand of next year and beyond. These price increases operate as a kind of 'cost push,' but, of course, one that is entirely induced by the expansion in the quantity of money and consequent rise in aggregate monetary demand...
    "Now sometimes, when the government makes an effort to cut back on inflation, and really does reduce the rate at which it expands the money supply for a while, some observers, who are familiar with the quantity theory of money, are surprised to see that prices continue to rise at a substantial rate.... In order [however] to convince people that it is serious in its determination to end inflation, the government must restrict its increase in the quantity of money for a protracted period. In the meanwhile, however, because people have had no reason to believe that the government will continue to limit itself, they will probably have placed themselves in even more overextended positions.... In this context, stopping the inflation or significantly restricting it must precipitate a crisis. And then the government must either allow the crisis to occur or, to avoid it, give in and fulfil people’s expectation that inflation will resume....
    "This type of situation illustrates an inherent flaw of paper money. The fact that paper money can be inflated, and over time is inflated, causes expectations about future inflation. The existence of these expectations then makes it impossible to stop inflating without a crisis, while the threat of the crisis induces the government to resume and accelerate the inflation. Inflation psychology is an inevitable consequence of paper money and is a critical step in its ultimate downfall."
~ George Reisman, from pages 916-17 of his book Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics. Read it online here, or buy it here (currently at half-price!)

* The essential explanation for general and persistent across-the-board rising prices is an expanding quantity of money allowing these prices to be paid. See formula here from pages 505 and 897 of Reisman's book:

Monday, 22 August 2022

*Who* deserves better of mankind, and does more essential service to his country, than do the whole race of politicians?

"Whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground, where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than do the whole race of politicians."
          ~ Jonathan Swift, from his Gulliver's Travels
Hat tip Johan Norberg, who points out, in his new(ish) book Progress, Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future, that "a hundred and fifty years ago it took twenty-five men all day to harvest and thresh a ton of grain. With a modern combine harvester, a single person can do it in six minutes." I wonder how many of you ever pause to give thanks to Hiram Moore, Alfredo Rotania, Hugh Victor Mackay, George Stockton Berry, and the Baldwin Brothers.

Friday, 19 August 2022

"There’s two kinds of ignorance...."

"There are two kinds of mistakes. There’s two kinds of ignorance. There’s the things we don’t know, and then there are the things we think we know, that aren’t true. The things we know that we don’t know -- that we wish we understood, we wish we had access to the truth. There are things we think we’ve discovered as true that, in fact, are not. And that was the focus of that piece."
~ Russ Roberts summarising Hayek's Nobel-Prize acceptance speech 'Pretence of Knowledge,' i.e., "that piece"


Thursday, 18 August 2022

"Think locally, act globally"

As economist David P. Henderson explains, this post's title (shared with his own) is not a misprint. "I know," he says, "that the actual bumper sticker, which I used to see around California regularly, is 'Think Globally, Act Locally'.

(And there's an even better one that says Think Globally, Drink Locally. But that's for another day.)

Anyway, Henderson continues, his point is that too many folk -- especially in a hot summer where reporters and politicians live -- are confusing climate and weather. Even alleged scientists. Hear him out:

I watched CBS Sunday Morning’s August 7, 2022 segment on climate change, one of the people interviewed seemed to have [this confusion]. His name is Peter Kalmus and he’s a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In the interview with Tracy Smith, he pointed to the hot summer in big parts of the United States and said:
'Twenty years from now, we will look back on the summer of 2022 and we will wish that he had it this good. We will wish that it was this cool. And that’s not an exaggeration whatsoever.'
    But wait. He’s looking at temperatures in the United States. I just got back from my cottage in Canada, where the spring and early summer were unusually cool. And my cottage is only about 60 miles north of the U.S. border. So he seems to be 'thinking locally,' that is, generalising from weather in the United States, and acting globally, that is, advocating solutions for the world.
    Moreover, he seems to be confusing climate and weather... So actually, Peter Kalmus is exaggerating.

A "climate scientist" exaggerating. Would surely hardly ever happen.

Yes, this is an overseas sample. But I'm sure you can find your own local examples...