Tuesday, 6 December 2022

"So what's actually wrong with private companies providing water infrastructure and services?"

"Even the Government's own report acknowledges that
it is PRIVATE water companies that perform well."
"What virtually NO-one in the media has asked ... is: why the fear of privatising water? ...
    "It is thanks to muddled-headed Marxists like [Pennie Bright and] Eugenie Sage that water remained the most unreformed infrastructure sector [in the 1990s], leaving it in the idealised world of 'local democracy' ... largely staying away from people paying for what they use, but rather taxing everyone so the biggest users of water (typically businesses) get subsidised by the smallest users (typically people living on their own). That's socialism for you.
    "Yet what does privatisation of water look like? DIA's own report ... has a handy chart [comparing] the relative performance of ten [privately-owned] English water companies, with government-owned water companies in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and New Zealand council-owned water providers.
    "All of the private water companies outperform the others.... In other words, not only are private water companies in England performing better than the New Zealand council owned examples, but they have been outperforming Scottish Water - which has been the pin-up case study for the Ardern Government....
    "So what's actually wrong with private companies providing water infrastructure and services?
    "Why wont any Opposition MPs say there are benefits ... ?"

"How did we get to this point under a Labour Government?"

"How did we get to this point under a Labour Government? Social class politics evolved from the 1970s into today’s identity politics.... 
    "Up to the 1980s Te Tiriti settlements involved reparations for historical injustices. However, especially since the 1987 Lands case, the focus has shifted to one of a supposed ‘partnership’ between Māori and the Crown. The Māori activist voice has moved from socio-economic concerns to wider identarian, political and constitutional ambitions.
    "The scope of Te Tiriti issues has widened far beyond the intent of the signatories in 1840. 'Presentism' involves interpreting Te Tiriti as a modern rather than an 1840 document. For example, in 1840 ‘taonga’ meant tangible physical property such as a spear, a fishing net or a waka. It did not remotely mean, for example, language, intellectual and cultural ‘property,’ broadcasting spectrum or water.
    "The 2019 'He Puapua' document proposed radical constitutional and other changes in New Zealand. Amongst many other initiatives it signalled a future intent for Māori to impose levies on water (as well as on other resources). He Puapua has set the scene for many Labour Government policy initiatives. The 'Māori caucus' has been a driving force in support of this. Some MPs in this caucus may have forgotten their duty to act for all New Zealanders, not just a racially-defined subset. In future, some may be asked to 'check their privilege…'"

Monday, 5 December 2022

"Governments ought to run stuff!"

"What explains the cognitive disconnection in those who say both 'Governments ought to run stuff!' and 'Oil companies are evil!' ? 
    "In the energy world, governments are by far the largest operators." *
~ Stephen Hicks, from his post 'The Biggest Oil Companies in the World'

* Note that the four largest by far are state-owned. Then, after the fourth and a drop of about $100 billion in revenue, comes Exxon Mobil corporation, the largest privately owned corporation.

Sunday, 4 December 2022

There’s No Natural ‘Carrying Capacity’ for the Human Population


You may assume that this planet has a natural "carrying capacity" beyond which the human population just cannot go. Sounds reasonable, right? There are sonly so many billions the planet can support, right? Wrong, says Don Boudreaux in this guest post: for humans left free to produce, the planet has no natural carrying capacity. The reason, he explains, is that the planet's ultimate resource is the human mind ...

There’s No Natural ‘Carrying Capacity’ for the Human Population: An Essay Inspired by the Happy News that the Human Population Has Reached Eight Billion

by Don Boudreaux

The late, great Julian Simon spent decades battling intellectually against biologists and zoologists who were convinced that human population growth, if governments did not hold it in check with draconian measures, would spell doom for multitudes of humans. (I might as well have used the present tense above, because many of the scientists with whom Simon did battle, including the most prominent, Paul Ehrlich, are still alive.) These students of animal development and behaviour insist that every species inhabits an environment with a natural “carrying capacity.” If the population of a species grows in number beyond the limits of its environment’s carrying capacity, the death rate of members of that species will rise, while its members’ birth rate fall, because species members will confront unusual difficulty gaining access to food, water, and shelter. The species’ population is thus confined to the limits of its environment’s carrying capacity by the brutality of uncaring nature.

Simon argued that humans, at least those of us who live in free societies, are a categorically different sort of species. He observed that to the extent to which we, members of the human species, inhabit a social environment characterised by free and innovative markets, our species does not inhabit a natural environment with a finite carrying capacity. Simon’s argument starts with the fact that we humans are uniquely enterprising and innovative. When this fact combines with the further reality that market prices are signals about which specific resources are becoming more scarce relative to other resources, human entrepreneurship and creativity are incited to discover ways both to make currently known stocks of scarce resources go further and, more importantly, to discover either new sources of those resources or more abundant substitutes. When we succeed in these endeavours, as we now normally do, we literally produce more resources.

Simon’s explanation is revolutionary. Contrary to what most people seem to believe, we don’t obtain resources from an existing stock created for us by nature, leaving fewer resources available for use tomorrow each time we withdraw some amount for our use today. Instead, resources are ultimately fruits of the human mind and effort. And so we produce more petroleum, more tungsten, more copper, more bauxite in the same way that, when our demand for apple pies or Apple laptops increases, we produce more apple pies and Apple laptops.

For humans in market economies, therefore, the environment has no natural ‘carrying capacity.’

As Simon tirelessly documented, his account of humans’ relationship with the natural environment is amply confirmed by history, especially by modern history. Over the past few centuries the human population has grown remarkably – earlier this month it hit eight billion. At the same time there’s also been astounding growth in humans’ standard of living. Were there a natural carrying capacity on earth for the human population, history offers no evidence of it. Quite the contrary.

Despite the economic soundness of his argument and its consistency with the data – and despite his famous victory in a 1980 wager with Ehrlich on whether or not a bundle of five natural resources would become more scarce over the course of a decade – Simon’s argument left many biologists and zoologists unconvinced. And biologists and zoologists aren’t alone. Pick at random a professor, student, news reporter, or blogger and ask him if we humans are today threatening our long-term survival by over-using resources. Chances are high that the answer you’ll get is an unhesitating yes. You’ll likely be further told that our only hope of avoiding the terrible fate of billions of us being done in by natural forces is for us, especially those of us in rich countries, to dramatically reduce our consumption.

There is, I suppose, something gratifying in counselling personal sacrifice. Sacrifice often is admirable and worthwhile, as when you sacrifice your time to help a neighbour in distress, or sacrifice your comfort today in order to undergo painful medical treatments that will better ensure that you’ll survive past tomorrow. But sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake is, at best, pointless. Costs are incurred in exchange for no benefits....

If Simon is correct, green-inspired efforts to encourage or compel those of us in market economies to reduce our consumption today yield no benefits. Such efforts conserve no resources; they simply result in our producing fewer resources, an outcome that is utterly useless. The uselessness of this outcome lies in the reality that whenever we “need” new resources, we can produce these.

Was Simon naively pollyannaish? Has history’s apparent confirmation of his thesis simply been a matter of good luck? No.

Consider a recent essay in the Wall Street Journal – an essay whose title speaks volumes: “One Man’s Trash Is Another’s Clean Fuel.” The authors, Nick Stork and Joe Malchow, report very Simonesque news:
In a lesson about how the energy transition is likely to play out, landfill operators’ ability to make use of excess gas has exploded in recent years. New facilities are being created to convert trash into renewable natural gas, molecularly identical to the gas that heats homes. The process cuts down greenhouse-gas emissions while creating a low-carbon energy source…

The potential has spurred major sanitation and energy companies to break into this new market. This year Houston’s Waste Management Corp. announced an $825 million investment to boost renewable natural-gas capture. In October the British company BP agreed to acquire Archaea Energy (which one of us founded and the other invested in), a company that designs, builds and operates RNG plants in the U.S. to convert waste emissions. Archaea produces 6,000 oil-equivalent barrels a day through 13 RNG facilities with plans to construct 88 more to serve rising demand. Our only input is trash.

Quiet, private innovation in gas processing made this possible. Archaea sells largely to voluntary buyers who wish to lock in clean gas at fair prices. RNG still comes at a premium compared with other fuel sources, but driving down the cost of producing RNG will mean more of it is available to buyers on attractive terms. We are working to lower the price of RNG by creating standardized and modular production facilities with decreased operating costs, higher processing efficiency, and uptime rates that start above 90 percent.
Energy – indeed, low-carbon energy – from trash!

If turning trash into energy that’s transmissible over long distances nevertheless sounds either fanciful or likely insignificant in its long-term impact, imagine yourself as a native American roaming 600 years ago through the woodlands of what is today western Pennsylvania. You’re thirsty and bend down to enjoy a drink of water from a brook, only to discover that the water at that spot is undrinkable because it’s polluted with a smelly, oily, noxious substance oozing out a few feet upstream. How plausible would this You of 600 years ago have found a prediction that the icky stuff that pollutes your drinking water would, in just a few centuries, be a much-sought-after ‘natural’ resource that powers much of humanity’s activities?

Julian Simon died almost twenty-five years ago, just shy of his 66th birthday. Were he still alive today, he would surely celebrate our population of eight billion and remind anyone who would listen that, far from pushing humans closer to the earth’s carrying capacity, the creative potential of those eight billion human minds will further expand our access to resources. We need only to allow this creativity to operate freely.

Donald J. Boudreaux is a senior fellow with American Institute for Economic Research and 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; and a professor of economics and former economics-department chair at George Mason University. He is the author of the books The Essential Hayek, Globalization, Hypocrites and Half-Wits, and his articles appear in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, US News & World Report as well as numerous scholarly journals. He writes a blog called Cafe Hayek and a regular column on economics for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Boudreaux earned a PhD in economics from Auburn University and a law degree from the University of Virginia.
This post originally appeared at the AIER blog.

Saturday, 3 December 2022

Turning tragedy into comedy


"Susan Sontag ... writes somewhere that all tragedy turns into comedy, if you speed it up enough. ["If tragedy is an experience of hyperinvolvement, comedy is an experience of underinvolvement, of detachment."] We may weep at the tale of Oedipus, but if Sophocles compressed his story into twenty seconds, the audience would be rolling in the Athenian aisles."
~ Ted Gioia from his post 'Why TikTok Users Love Sped-Up Songs,' and Susan Sontag from her essay 'Notes on Camp'


Friday, 2 December 2022

They think labour is homogeneous

"The so-called 'Fair-Pay'Act took effect yesterday and hospitality workers are expected to be the first to seek a so-called 'Fair-Pay' Agreement:
"How on earth can it be 'fair' to impose pay and conditions of thousands of different workplaces in different places with different staffing requirements ?
"How can it be 'fair' to treat staff in fine dining restaurants the same as those serving fast-food takeaways?
"How can it be 'fair' to treat businesses in big cities or tourists hotspots, where costs including land and buildings are higher, the same as businesses in small towns where costs are lower?"

          ~ Ele Ludemann, from her post 'How is this fair?


"The economic damage is done during the boom...."

"An under-appreciated idea of the Austrian School of economics: 
    "The economic damage is done during the boom. The bust does not destroy wealth, it's just the accounting catching up to the reality."
~ Keith Weiner, an economist of the New Austrian School

Thursday, 1 December 2022

"It’s a miracle": Cash to UN 'heals' healthy Great Barrier Reef

"It’s a miracle. It’s only six months since they were elected but the Australian Labor Party says the Great Barrier Reef is OK now....
    "Apparently the UN uses the 'in danger' listing a form of coercion to squeeze more money for their favourite causes. It’s nothing about the actual reef. Nothing about what Australians want. And it was never about 'The Science.' ... UN labels are just a form of foreign interference to drum up money for friends which benefit from 'climate money'– like the Bankers who invest in renewables, or the Chinese Communist Party that sells us the windmills and solar panels."

~ Jo Nova, from her post 'UN shakedown: Threats to list healthy reef as in danger just a way to extort “climate” money'

Soccer? Rugger? Football? Footy?

"Archery was essential for defence of the realm; football wasn't....
    "Small wonder that the game was royally disliked. Its origins were as common as gum under a tavern table. At first it didn't even have a name with any distinction. All the royal edicts called it 'ball play or 'playing at ball.' The term 'football' first appeared in a 1486 document, but it didn't mean a game in which a foot came into contact with a ball. Instead, it meant a game played 'on foot' rather than on horse, as was royally-approved jousting. The name also showed that football belonged to the commoners; only the nobility could afford to use horses for games!"

~ PFRA Research, from their article 'A Friendly Kinde of Fight: The Origins of Football to 1633'
"The earliest written reference to a game called 'football' dates from the 15th century, although the game itself has been around a lot longer.
   "In its oldest versions, any part of the body could be used to control the ball or tackle opponents. The name it acquired refers not to the fact that only the feet could be used to propel the ball, but that the game was played on foot. This marked it out as a game played by ordinary people, as distinct from the team games of the nobility which were played on horseback....
   "This early knockabout version of football probably derived from a game called 'harpastum,' which was played by Roman soldiers. This would have looked a little like our modern-day rugby and was used as a training exercise. It involved plenty of body-tackling and general commotion. The locals then perhaps created their own rough-and-ready version."

~ from 'History of Football,' from ICONS Online (commissioned by UK's Department for Culture, Media and Sport)
"Football, by the way, originally just meant any game played on foot, as apart from a game played on horseback. So it’s been a game of the streets, indeed much of the early history of football is told from the ways in which it was banned by successive monarchs, who felt that playing football would take people away from archery; equestrian sports were more obviously of military value.
    "With the growth of industrialisation in England from the middle of the 18th century, with urbanisation and the move from the fields to the cities, then the nature of the game might change. The sort of football played on paved streets is different from a game played in the fields....
    "INTERVIEWER: Where does the name ‘soccer’ come from?
    "A: There’s nothing definite in that. But essentially by the turn of the century, one of the stories is someone asked one of the chaps at school, ‘Want to come together at Rugger, old chap’ and he said, ‘No, I think I’ll stay and have a game of soccer’, and it’s the Association Football, shortened to soccer. As ‘rugger’ and ‘Assoc’ becomes ‘soccer’....
    "In 1863 after a series of discussions in the paper, in the field, that a group of old boys from the various Public Schools got together in London in the Freemasons’ Tavern in October of 1863, and founded the Football Association. That is the defining moment in the founding of soccer. It also the defining moment in the first football code, Rugby, which had been played at Rugby School for decades before that ... the essential difference then between the two major forms of football, one is the game in which you run with the ball, carrying it, and the other is the dribbling game. Much of that would depend on the school you went to. Rugby, wide open spaces, green grass, you could run, you could tackle, you could play the rough game. If you were playing at Winchester or the Cloisters on hard grounds, then you had bans because of space, of the surface, on handling and running and tackling."

~ sports historian Bill Murray, from an interview on the ABC's Sports Factor
"The English roll their eyes when Americans talk about 'soccer.' But actually, it's what the game should be called. And it's a British word....
    "The word comes from 19th-century British slang for Association Rules football, a kicking and dribbling game that was distinct from Rugby rules football back when both versions were played by British schoolboys. The lads who preferred the rougher game popular in schools like Rugby and Eton seceded from Britain's fledgling Football Association in 1871 to write their own rules, and soon players were calling the two sorts of football rugger and soccer.

Der Speigel, from its article 'It's Called Soccer'

Meanwhile, in a land down under ...

"Since its creation in Melbourne in the 1850s ... it [Australian Football] has evolved to a higher form, leaving behind other codes, which the writer Oriel Gray termed 'necessary steps in the ascent of man'."
~ Stephen Alomes, from his chapter 'Tales of a Dreamtime: Australian Football as a Secular Religion,' p.48

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Annus mirabilis?

"Is it possible that we’ll see the defeat of the Russian Army and the collapse of the Chinese Communist Party in the same year? Authoritarians can only squeeze their people so far, and liberal democracy, for all its greedy bankers and silly pronouns, still has the moral upper hand."
~ Tim Stanley, from his column 'Olena Zelenska proves we do not need to feel impotent in the face of evil'
"The current situation in both Russia, the remnant of the USSR, and in China illustrates how fragile are authoritarian states.... If we exclude possible wars, there is only one reason why residents of a free, or more or less free, country should feel economically threatened by a foreign authoritarian state. It is that the subjects of the latter will have limited opportunities to trade, both among themselves and internationally, and will thus be poorer. And it is more beneficial to have trading partners, either as suppliers or customers, who are richer than poorer."
~ Pierre Lemieux, from his post 'Fearing Leviathans With Feet of Clay'

'Ban this sick filth' ?

"One thing that comes with the territory of being a libertarian is a lifetime of explaining that one can very much not wish to say 'Ban this sick filth,' while still thinking the thing concerned is sick filth."

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

"A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defence

"The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights....
    "A 'right'… means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.... A crime is a violation of the right(s) of other men by force (or fraud)... This provide[s] the only valid justification of a government and define[s] its only proper purpose: to protect man’s rights by protecting him from physical violence....
    "The necessary consequence of man's right to life is his right to self-defence. In a civilised society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initi­ate its use. All the reasons which make the initiation of physical force an evil, make the retaliatory use of physi­cal force a moral imperative.The nature of the laws proper to a free society and the source of its government's authority are both to be de­rived from the nature and purpose of a proper govern­ment.
    "A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defence....
    "Observe the basic principle governing justice ... : it is the principle that no man may obtain any values from others without the owners' consent­ and, as a corollary, that a man's rights may not be left at the mercy of the unilateral decision, the arbitrary choice, the irrationality, the whim of another man....
    "Such, in essence, is the proper purpose of a govern­ment: to make social existence possible to men, by pro­tecting the benefits and combating the evils which men can cause to one another...
    "The proper functions of a government fall into three broad categories, all of them involving the issues of physi­cal force and the protection of men's rights: the police, to protect men from criminals - the armed services, to protect men from foreign invaders - the law courts, to settle disputes among men according to objective laws. ... [W]hat is essential here is the principle to be implemented: the principle that the purpose of law and of government is the protec­tion of individual rights.
    "Today, this principle is forgotten, ignored and evaded. The result is the present state of the world, with man­kind's retrogression to the lawlessness of absolutist tyran­ny, to the primitive savagery of rule by brute force."

~ Ayn Rand, composite quote from her essays 'The Nature of Government,' 'Man's Rights,' 'Galt's Speech,' and ''Political' Crimes'

Monday, 28 November 2022

Six Waters


It began as ‘Three Waters’, the government‘s plan to centralise the processing of the ‘three waters’ of stormwater, drinking water and sewerage.

And then it became Five Waters, with the late and stealthy/shambolic addition to the legislation of coastal and geothermal waters.

And now, late last week, long after submissions and discussion on the legislation was all but over, and the Bill was being rushed through Parliament, another addition was made — a plan to entrench the new setup in law by requiring the decision of a parliamentary super-majority to ever overturn it. An abuse of power about which even constitutional lawyers are horrified.

So it was Three Waters. Then it was Five Waters. And now, with this it’s become Six Waters. Why six? Because they’re now taking the piss.

Saturday, 26 November 2022

"Republicans today stand for nothing, and on the rare occasions that they do stand for something, that something is woeful."

"The Republican Party has a problem that runs deeper than Trump (though it may have gotten much worse under Trump). It's this: Republicans today stand for nothing, and on the rare occasions that they do stand for something, that something is woeful. From protectionism to vile anti-immigration rhetoric, from government-engineered paid leave to the extended child tax credit, and from threatening to punish big tech and to impose industrial policy, with a contingent shouting 'free-markets are actually bad,' the party is in disarray intellectually -- a fact that plausibly contributes to its current disarray politically."
~ Veronique de Rugy, from her post 'Who Will Carry the Classical Liberals'

Friday, 25 November 2022

The alleged 'social cost' of carbon

"[A] recent article in 'Nature' magazine ... claims to calculate how much worse off humans will be for each additional ton of CO2 released. The costs are summed over a period of almost three hundred years, from now to 2300.... [A]bout two thirds of their social cost of carbon is incurred after 2100.
    "This raises serious problems. To begin with, CO2 output as a function of GNP depends on the technology for producing power. An order of magnitude reduction in the cost of either nuclear power or storage would almost entirely eliminate the use of fossil fuels, as would the development of cheap fusion power, either of which could happen in the next fifty years. That makes any estimate of CO2 output over the next three centuries a guess about unknowable technological change.
    "Almost all of the article’s estimated cost of carbon is from either increased mortality or reduced agricultural output. Mortality from increased temperature depends on medical technology, home insulation and cooling technology, and probably other technologies. Agricultural yields depend on agricultural technologies. We have no way of predicting those effects. 
    "How does the article deal with technological change? As best I could tell, it ignores it...."
~ David Friedman, from his article 'Inflating the Cost of Carbon' [hat tip David P. Henderson]

Thursday, 24 November 2022

"The idea that the least developed countries in the world have received only the cost of industrialisation and not the many benefits is ahistorical."

"In his brilliant dissection of the climate extremists’ case in his book, 'Unsettled,' Steven Koonin, who served as undersecretary for science in President Obama’s Energy Department, notes that climate-related deaths have plummeted in the era of global warming. Citing data from the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, he notes that 'weather-related death rates fell dramatically during the past one-hundred years' and are 'about 80 times less frequent today than they were a century ago.'
    "Why? Almost entirely thanks to improvements in infrastructure and mitigation enabled by rapid industrialisation.
    "[T]he idea that the least developed countries in the world have received only the cost of industrialisation and not the many benefits is ahistorical. The sophists at the United Nations insist that the new fund is a model of 'climate justice,' but it sounds an awful lot like a vehicle for the 'reparations' climate extremists have long demanded from the countries that were first to industrialise for supposedly having inflicted their environmental costs on the world.
    "If we in the West are to pay damages for the Industrial Revolution, shouldn’t we also consider the extraordinary wealth that process has helped spread around the world?"

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

#MakeIt16 is not about political principle; it's about political self-interest

"There is a curious cultural disjunction between those who want younger teenagers to vote, and demand they be given 'a voice' for their often ill-informed, inconsistent views (and they have no monopoly on that), but also think they need 'protection' from the consequences of their actions....
    "So let's not pretend this is about young people having a 'stake in their future' because the politicians eager for their votes don't think young people can make competent decisions ... [I]t's just a call for 'more votes for my side'..."

          ~ Liberty Scott, from his post 'Voting age is about power'

Clement Attlee on referenda

"I could not consent to the introduction into our national life of a device so alien to all our traditions as the referendum, which as only too often been the instrument of Nazi-ism and fascism."
~ British Prime Minister Clement Attlee in 1945 (then leader of the Labour Opposition), rebuffing the notion of a referendum to extend the already decade-long wartime coalition government

Monday, 21 November 2022

Reading communicates

"There is a connection between the written language and the spoken language. The written language puts the child into communication with the thoughts expressed by other people without any sound - a communication from soul to soul, secrets told without even a whisper, a personal communication of thoughts which nobody else can hear. In this respect reading has a high spiritual value."
~ Maria Montessori, from her 'new' book Creative Development in the Child: The Montessori Approach

Sunday, 20 November 2022

RMA: No wonder the lawyers like it.


Since Resource-Management Act "reform"/renaming is once again on the table -- about which even the unexciting Peter Dunne is feeling an unexcited sense of déjà vu -- it seemed a good time to remind you why even the unexcitable and unelectable feel that something should be done. One main reason perhaps is that nearly every voter has now experienced something like this, that I described back in 2004:

What's the real problem with the Act?

No wonder the lawyers like it.

So why not get excited about yesterday's announcement? 'Cos even in 2004 we'd already seen it all before:

Instead of that, we're getting another rewrite, with another layer of bureaucracy, and still with the same life-negating principles at its heart that I identified back in 2004...

Here's Graham Parker:

Saturday, 19 November 2022

"If the rulers really wanted to communicate with their subjects, they did not use the grotesque doctrine of 'Marxism-Leninism'; they appealed, rather, to nationalist sentiments"


"Marxism was a philosophical or semi-philosophical doctrine and a political ideology which was used by the communist state as the main source of legitimacy and the obligatory faith. This ideology was indispensable, regardless of whether people believed in it. In the last period of communist rule it hardly existed as a living faith; the distance between it and reality was so great, and hopes for the joyful future of the communist paradise were fading so rapidly, that both the ruling class (i.e., the party apparatus ) and the ruled were aware of the its emptiness. But it remained officially binding, precisely because it was the main instrument of the the legitimacy of the system of power. If the rulers really wanted to communicate with their subjects, they did not use the grotesque doctrine of 'Marxism-Leninism'; they appealed, rather, to nationalist sentiments or, in the case of the Soviet Union, to imperial glory Eventually the ideology fell apart, together with the empire; its collapse was one of the reasons that the communist system of power died out in Europe."
~ Leszek Kolakowski, from the 2004 Preface to his 1976/8 book Main Currents of Marxism


Friday, 18 November 2022


"The next time you see someone enjoying something that isn't hurting anyone, that's not your cup of tea, instead of saying something negative, train yourself to think to yourself, 'I'm glad they are happy' and carry on with your life."
          ~ Mark MacKillop [hat tip Duncan B., Alex + TinyBuddha]

Thursday, 17 November 2022

"Many so-called climate change activists are not really concerned about the climate and the environment. No, for them, these are merely instruments in the fight against capitalism."

"The thesis that many climate activists and supporters of a Green New Deal are less concerned with the environment than with exploiting this issue to abolish capitalism and introduce a planned economy is by no means a malicious insinuation. Rather, the climate activists themselves admit it. You just have to read what they write and listen to what 'activists' like Greta Thunberg are saying....
    "For the last three years, Greta Thunberg has said that her life’s purpose was to save the world from climate change. Now she told an audience in London that climate activists must overthrow 'the whole capitalist system,' which she says is responsible for 'imperialism, oppression, genocide… racist, oppressive extractionism.' The 'activists' of the doomsday cult 'Last Generation' also say quite openly that their goal is the abolition of capitalism.
    "Examine the standard work of anti-capitalist climate change activists, and you will quickly see what I mean.... To anti-capitalists, climate change activism is just a pretext for an authoritarian 'planned' economy."

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

'Politicians are not agents of positive change, but thermometers that measure the temperature of public opinion.'

"Libertarians should treat politicians, not as agents of positive change, but as thermometers that measure the temperature of public opinion.
    'Change the temperature,' wrote Leonard Read, 'and there will be a change in what’s out front—naturally and spontaneously. The only purpose in keeping an eye on the thermometer is to know what the temperature is. If the underlying influential opinion—the temperature—is interventionist, we’ll have interventionists in public office regardless of the party labels they may choose for their adornment and public appeal.”
    'If,' on the other hand, as Read continued, 'the underlying influential opinion—the temperature—is libertarian, we’ll have spokesmen for libertarianism in public office. Nor will all the king’s horses and all the king’s men be able to alter the reading of the political thermometer one whit'.”
~ Jess Gill quoting Leonard Read, from her article 'Why Liz Truss Failed While Margaret Thatcher (Partly) Succeeded'

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

But the principles that made the RMA suck will all still stay the same ...

In 1995 when I returned to NZ I called for the RMA to be abolished -- saying it represented the worst abuse of property rights since the war.

In 2004 I argued it needed a stake through its heart -- calling it an act of cruelty to property owners.

And on its 25th year anniversary of fucking up this place I said it should be euthanased -- paraphrasing a great writer to observe that, after a quarter-century of the productive being forced to seek permission from the unproductive in order to produce, with barely a word raised in opposition to that iniquity, then we might reflect that our culture may be doomed.

And today ... it's announced that legislation to "replace and repeal" it will be "introduced and passed" by Christmas. By Christmas! This Christmas!!

So I should be happy, right? RIP to the RMA, right?

Except ... please note: This is not actually abolition. It's certainly not a stake through the heart. On closer examination, it looks to be (in the words of one tweeter), "taking out the worst parts of the RMA & putting it into a new bill & calling it a success." 

In other words, yet another politicians' chocolate-coated turd -- as I described National's proposed RMA reforms six years ago.

According to environment minister David Parker there will be "stronger recognition of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and te ao Māori were important considerations in the new act[s]." And if we listen to deputy PM Grant Robertson we're promised that the three "replacement" pieces of legislation will constitute (he says) “a faster, cheaper, better” version of the RMA. An RMA with racing stripes, if you like -- with more politicisation, more centralisation, more say over iwi leaders over land that isn't theirs; along with all the same difficulties you've already come to know and despise, and all of it backed with the mana, authority and credibility earned by the Jacinda Ardern govt in its two terms of office.

In short: a change of name; and three Acts instead of one. But the principles that made that Act suck will all still stay the same ...

And still no place for property rights.

Morgan Godfery is an idiot

Morgan Godfery: idiot, hack, or wanker? You decide.
[Pic borrowed from here]

Morgan Godfery, who is a 'senior lecturer' at the Otago Business School, has been publishing screeds against the "obscene" profits companies have been making in these inflationary times:

In a country where inflation is running at 7.2%, [he says] and the cost of living continues to increase, multibillion-dollar profit-making is obscene.
So says Mr Godfery.

In fact, it would be bizarre if companies in these inflationary times were not making inflated profits. That is, after all, one of the effects of inflation on businesses -- that their profits are generally overstated by that very inflation that everyone faces. 

It's not that complicated to understand why: For most businesses, this is because their costs are generally incurred before their revenue -- which means they have bought inventory and supplies in a cheaper market, and are selling into what (to them) looks like a more lucrative one. 

So revenue is higher. Except it's actually not, it only looks that way. Because they also have to buy new supplies in this more highly-priced market. Which means their cost structures are way higher than they look (that is, if all you know about accounting is the sort of simple stuff that people like Mr Godfery do only to balance their expense accounts.) 

Which is why those mega-profits Mr Godfery denounces are actually illusory -- false profits, if you lkie -- and why even without the sort of Windfall Profits Tax Mr Godfery et al are calling for, companies are already paying higher taxes than they would be otherwise, already making doing business for them much harder.

Yes, it's true that in our present-day monetary setup banks (of whom Mr Godfery exercises much of his spleen) have a virtual licence to print money -- which does help underpin all their profits, let alone these record ones. But that's an inevitable function of the present-day monetary setup of fiat money, in which banks are essentially borrowing new money into existence -- a system of which Mr Godfery and his ilk are loudly in favour. (But let me know if they start talking about returning to commodity money.)

Of course, it's possible that Mr Godfery is not an idiot, and is already well aware of these basic economic facts -- especially since he is a highly-paid lecturer at a prestigious Business School. As such a highly-paid and learned fellow, it's even possible that he knows that Adam Smith was on to this very thing nearly 250 years ago, when he observed that record profits such as those Mr Godfery bewails are not at all the sign of a resilient economy that can be squeezed dry at the behest of a prestigious Business School lecturer and a gaggle of Green MPs, but instead are an inflationary effect of reckless money creation caused by government -- such high profits not being a sign of prosperity, warned Smith, but a sign of an economy "going fast to ruin."

Being a learned fellow, of course, it is just possible that Mr Godfery does knows all this and is just pretending to be an ignoramus; that he knows exactly what happens to business profits in inflationary times, and is simply pretending not to know; and that, when he does say stuff this ignorant, that he's just joining the Crowd Risible to talk up plans to eat the rich for a confiscatory Windfall Profits Tax on anyone who makes money in these imminently ruinous economic times.

In which case, it's possible that he's not an idiot at all. But just a hack.

Monday, 14 November 2022

Self-determination: 'The atomisation of human society'

"Self-determination, which has nothing to do with self-government but has become confused with it, is barbarous and reactionary: by sanctioning secession, it invites majorities and minorities to be intransigent and irreconcilable. It is stipulated in the principle of self-determination that they need not be compatriots because they will soon be aliens. There is no end to this atomisation of human society. Within the minorities who have seceded there will tend to appear other minorities who in their turn will wish to secede."
~ Walter Lippmann -- who, a world-war before, had helped draft Woodrow Wilson's 'Fourteen Points'; from his 1944 critique of US War Aims


Sunday, 13 November 2022

Otto von Bismarck: The Man Behind the Modern Welfare State

The modern Welfare State wasn't created by Michael Joseph Savage, as his fan-boys and -girls seem to believe, but by the warmongering big-state general who created the united Germany that set the world on the path to war -- yet putting his countrymen on the dole was perhaps the most unforgivable legacy of Otto von Bismarck, says Lawrence Reed in this guest post, and it’s high time we learn from it.

Otto von Bismarck: The Man Behind the Modern Welfare State

by Lawrence Reed

The late political humorist Tom Anderson once said that the Welfare State was so named because the politicians get well and the rest of us pay the fare. Economist Walter Williams claimed it was like “feeding the sparrows through the horses.” Someone else defined it as “a lot of people standing in a circle and each one has his hands in the next guy’s pocket.” Personally, I think it’s a scenario in which politicians offer security but ultimately deliver bankruptcy—financial and moral.

Perhaps the most eloquent critiques of the welfare state come from economist Thomas Sowell. In various places, he has described it thusly:
The welfare state is the oldest con game in the world. First you take people’s money away quietly, and then you give some of it back to them flamboyantly... It has always been judged by its good intentions, rather than its bad results... It shields people from the consequences of their own mistakes, allowing irresponsibility to continue and to flourish among ever wider circles of people... It is not really about the welfare of the masses. It is about the egos of the elites.
That’s a lot of wisdom packed into a few pithy sentences, but the Welfare State’s track record has always been a far cry from its promises. It begins modestly, then the bills pile up. To pay for it, deficits, taxes, debt and inflation rise. Robbing Peter to pay Paul, demagogues wage class warfare and buy votes with it. The long-term fiscal health of a country is sacrificed for short-term gratification. Incentives get skewed away from self-reliance and personal initiative and toward dependence on concentrated power. People become less charitable, figuring the State will take care of things they used to handle themselves at half the cost. Sooner or later, if the Welfare State isn’t reversed, the takers outnumber the makers.

And why should we expect anything but bad outcomes from a fundamentally immoral practice rooted in legalised plunder? Not even the animal world is dumb enough to embrace it, as I wrote in this article about lessons that animals can teach us.

So where did the idea come from that the State should be the national nanny, that dependence upon politicians should displace personal responsibility and private institutions?

Welfare States are not new to history. The ancient Roman Republic degenerated into one before it lost, not by coincidence, both its liberties and its life.

One man is known as the Father of the modern versions. That would be Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), chancellor of Germany for nearly 20 years.

Through no fault of his own, Bismarck was born on April Fools’ Day. For pranking an entire country into a Welfare State, however, he is culpable. Did he do it because he loved people and just wanted to help them out? That’s the naïve and non-historical perspective. The truth is that he was far more cynical and self-serving than that, delivering to his new country "statism in the guise of reform."*

The Iron Chancellor, as he was known in his day, united 25 separate principalities, kingdoms and city-states into a federated German Empire in 1871, mostly by war against Prussia's neighbours and Germany's many small principalities. Reasoning that "a Franco-German war must take place before the construction of a united Germany could be realised," he engineered the conflict that nearly destroyed Paris, broke France for a generation, and killed a quarter-million souls. 

With Wilhelm I in place as the new Empire’s sovereign, Bismarck moved in subsequent years to consolidate his own power over German politics and society. Within a decade, he saw the socialists as a major and growing threat. Like many conservatives before and since, he decided the best way to stymie them was to bribe the electorate before the socialists did. 

Ismael Hernandez of the Freedom & Virtue Institute notes that Bismarck’s welfarism was sold as an antidote to insecurity:
The insecurity that drives individuals into action was seen as a hindrance and a threat to human dignity. Insecurity creates a sense of helplessness and entitlement was proposed as the solution… Bismarck affirmed that the state should offer the poor “a helping hand in distress…. Not as alms, but as a right.” He called his system Staatssozialismus, or “state socialism.”
It wasn't just political calculation. "Whoever has pensions for his old age," he boasted, "is far more easier to handle than one who has no such prospect. Look at the difference between a private servant in the chancellery or at court; the latter will put up with much more, because he has a pension to look forward to."

Thus was 'insecurity' exchanged for heel-clicking obedience, and 'compassion' for state dependence.

He was methodical. In 1883, after a programme of increasing protectionism, nationalism and anti-Catholicism, Bismarck secured passage of national health insurance. He followed up a year later with accident insurance, then a few years later with disability insurance. 

In social terms, he aimed to preserve the social order and the Hohenzollern State. In political terms, he was a practitioner of the school of long-term thinking called “feed the alligator so he’ll eat you last.”  The socialists came to power anyway, not long after Bismarck died in 1898 at the age of 83, and the national socialists only a few decades later. 

It was a relatively modest start for a welfare state but, to use another animal analogy, the camel’s nose was now under the tent. Bismarck’s initiatives imparted a confidence to 20th Century Welfare Statists that they too could do so much more (and wreak so much more havoc in the process).

Bismarck had earned his nickname, the Iron Chancellor, for good reason. He demanded that others bend to his will. “He raged and hated until he nearly killed himself” and “lost his temper at the slightest provocation,” writes Steinberg. To Bismarck, lying was a compulsive obsession. Exercising power was his raison d’etre. If Emperor Wilhelm II hadn’t insisted on his resignation in 1890, Bismarck would have bullied the German people until his dying day.

In his masterful biography, Bismarck: A Life, historian Jonathan Steinberg offers this assessment of the Iron Chancellor’s legacy:
When Bismarck left office, the servility of the German people had been cemented, an obedience from which they never recovered.
What a terrible endowment for future generations!

How refreshing and noble it would be for a man in office to leave his people freer and more independent than they were when he first took the job! Bismarck did not do that. And not even the “free stuff” his welfare state provided was ever truly free. It was, in the end, very expensive. 

Insecurity proved ultimately to be the least of the German people’s worries.

Putting his countrymen on the dole was an unforgivable legacy of Otto von Bismarck, and it’s high time we learn from it.

* The description comes from Arthur Ekirch's excellent 1955 book The Decline of American Liberalism.

For Additional Information, See:

Lawrence W. Reed is the President Emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), Humphreys Family Senior Fellow, and Ron Manners Global Ambassador for Liberty, having served for nearly 11 years as FEE’s president (2008-2019). He is author of the 2020 book, Was Jesus a Socialist? as well as Real Heroes: Incredible True Stories of Courage, Character, and Conviction and Excuse Me, Professor: Challenging the Myths of Progressivism. Follow him on LinkedIn and Like his public figure page on Facebook. His website is www.lawrencewreed.com.
An earlier version of this essay appeared at El American.org, and at FEE.


"Failure is not un-Russian."


"Who doesn’t hate failure’? Should one love it? Is there a nation on earth that doesn’t hate it? Surely, one would have to say that failure is un-British or un-French or un-Chinese. I can think of only one nation to whom this would not apply: failure is not un-Russian (in a sense which is deeper than politics)."
          ~ Ayn Rand, on her country of birth, from her essay 'Apollo & Dionysus'