Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The Top 5 Misconceptions About Objectivists

 

Many folk harbour many misconsceptions about Objectivists. Despite popular belief to the contrary however we don’t eat babies for every breakfast. We don’t all hate Van Gogh. And there is vast disagreement over how many candles to use on our Ayn Rand shrine.

So here to clean up your many misconceptions is Sunny Lohman’s thoroughly researched and completely authoratitive guide to The Top 5 Misconceptions About Objectivists.

There. Done.

Although I never did like Star Trek.

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Quote of the Day: On success

 

"For I have a single definition of success: you look in the mirror every evening, and wonder if you disappoint the person you were at 18, right before the age when people start getting corrupted by life. Let him or her be the only judge; not your reputation, not your wealth, not your standing in the community, not the decorations on your lapel. If you do not feel ashamed, you are successful. All other definitions of success are modern constructions; fragile modern constructions." 
     ~ Nassim Taleb

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[Hat tip Scott Powell]

 

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Accommodation Supplement = Landlord Subsidy

 

The govt’s Accommodation Supplement has been getting air time today because of long-term mistakes in how it’s been paid, and because it received an $80 million increase in the budget.

Did you know how much this Accommodation Supplement costs taxpayers every year? $2.2billion is the answer, paid out every year to 286,000 people who qualify for it. (That’s around $8000 each per year, in case you were wondering, the total amount being far more than even most ministries are able to spend every year, paid to more than half of the 450,000 or so rental households.)

Do you know where all that dosh ultimately ends up? Of course you know: it washes straight through tenants into the bank accounts of their landlords – subsidising higher rents, leaving landlords better off and beneficiaries as far behind the 8 ball as before.

The euphemistically titled Ministry for Social Development, who hands out this largesse, itself calculates thatlandlord capture varies from 30 per cent to 78 per cent of the increase in subsidy.”

Do you think $2.2 billion of taxpayers’ money washing around is enough to shift the market? To actually increase the rents that people pay? To help make investment properties more attractive to buyers, and more expensive to rent? to capitalise higher rents into higher prices paid for rental properties? You bet your sweet life they do. The answer is: all of the above.

Which makes the Accommodation Supplement little more than a Landlord Subsidy.

Sure, the higher rents may mean landlords are able to make the general standard of rental accommodation somewhat better than it would be otherwise. But the general rental everybody pays – and the general value of rental property based on yield – are much, much higher than they would be otherwise.

How much higher? Let’s make it simple by using the classical calculation for prices, being Price = Money Demand / Total Supply, giving us $2.2 billion / 450,000 = $4,900 more every year taken from taxpayers’ pockets and deposited into landlord’s. Capitalise that general rental increase at today’s rule-of-thumb yield of five percent, and that’s nearly a $100,000 rise in price for the general rental property as a direct result of this Landlord Subsidy.

Nice.

(You may like to ponder at this point the idiocy of those arguing for a capital-gains tax, who effectivelysupport giving tenants an accommodation supplement with one hand, while taking the cash back with a tax on their landlord.)

So as long as the supply of rental housing remains constrained (and under National’s talk-loudly-and-do-nothing housing policy), then the Landlord Subsidy will represent nothing more than a five-to-six-figure gift to rental investors, bought at the expense of taxpayers, private renters, and everyone priced out of the market by this extra $2.2 billion bidding property away from them.

As Frederic Bastiat used to say, the policy represents one profit, and at least two losses.

You’d call it another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences, except that only a moron (or a welfare weeny) would think the consequence was unexpected.

There is no part of the economy more stuffed up and regulated by government than housing – at the intersection of four the most regulated parts of our economy*. So this is just one more distortion in what is already one of the most stuffed-up-by-government parts of the local economic system.

No wonder the housing market is broken – with no general recipe to fix it.


* Land supply, money supply, construction, local government.

RELATED POSTS:

  • “Readers might also like to read Malthus's 'High Price of Provisions' with the Accommodation Supplement in mind -- he explains perfectly why and how the Accommodation Supplement raises rents, and how it represents an almost direct subsidy to landlords.
        “Once again: one profit, two losses ....”
    Malthus explains the problem with #TeamKey’s first-home buyer subsidy – NOT PC
  • “The Greens' Metiria Turei calls the supplement a "landlord subsidy" and points to it as part of the general problem of housing affordability: it pushes up the price of housing.
        “In the current state of the world, she's mostly right. Given a near-vertical supply curve for housing, because land use policy in New Zealand is a complete mess, anything that subsidizes demand mostly gets capitalized into land prices. So it is a subsidy to landlords, mostly via capital gains.”
    Accommodation incidence – Eric Crampton, OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR
  • .

Monday, 30 May 2016

The police should mind their own drinking business, not ours

 

The grey ones are trying to limit Auckland’s night life.

Auckland police are calling for council to set bar closing times at 3am. Council want it to remain at 4am. Punters and bar owners? Well, most of us would like to have a drink when we would like to have a drink, really.

Eric Crampton reviews the standard arguments for forcing bars to close earlier. He has found in summary

that changes in regulated hours of operation shifted the timing of harms with no particular effect on their severity.

That’s a guarded way of saying that punters would get an hour less fun for no effect whatsoever on any of the issues that concern the police.

Eric has much more on the detailed reseach front, including the very sobering point that the so-called one-way door policy that police are also calling for in both Auckland and Wellington has all-but killed off Sydney’s famous nightlife – pedestrian traffic in King’s Cross for example being down a whopping 84% since 2012!

“Every week, another venue or restaurant closes. The soul of the city has been destroyed,” says Freelancer.com CEO Matt Barrie.

That is precisely what the police would like to do to New Zealand’s major cities, just to make their own jobs easier.

But the job of the police is not to dictate behaviour to suit them, but to what is necessary to protect the rights of Joe Passerby when you and I and engaging in whatever behaviour we choose to indulge in? That indulgence being our business, right, not theirs? – just as long as we’re not initiating force on anyone else, of course.

In other worlds, their job is to to do their job, not to mind our own business.

I think very often both the police and licensing authorities need reminding of that.

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Quote of the Day: On ‘leadership’

 

“My observation is that ‘leadership’ has become a corporate wank-word, a catch-all to describe a fuzzy mélange of personal and organisational actions and behaviours… [H]igh-profile organisations, aided and abetted by the media, take words like ‘leadership’ and use them to create complexity and opacity where none should exist.”
~ by Sam Steele from his latest article at the Footy Almanac titled ‘Does Leadership Matter?

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RELATED POSTS:

    • “There is no such thing as ‘World Leaders.’ The media's incessant use of the term, ‘world leaders,’ is getting on my nerves. These jokers are lying, conniving Leftist bastards who are ‘elected
      officials’—nothing more.”
      Quote of the Day: On our “world leaders”
    • It is, of course, simply a recipe for encouraging mediocrity and box-ticking, discouraging entrepreneurial experimentation and innovation.  For banishing competition and difference. To substitute conformity for innovation, and “conventional wisdom” for independent thought.
      “Best practice” = the best excuse for mediocrity
    • Noody likes weasel words. Well, except for politicians, academics, salesmen, admen, planners, lawyers, MBAs, members of the American military and bureaucrats everywhere . . . apart from all of them, no one likes weasel words.
      Weasel words – NOT PC
    • Want to talk like a wanker? Then here’s a list of phrases that will help define you…
      How to talk like a wanker

The "great man" theory of history

 

Trumpeters may have never heard of the "great man" theory of history, or realised the connection with the "strong man" who litters history's most destructive moments, but their latest hero is offering historians new material to document the hypothesis, says Jeffrey Tucker in this Guest Post.

The Founding Father of Fascism
Thomas Carlyle fits the bill in every respect

Have you heard of the “great man” theory of history?

The meaning is obvious from the words. The idea is that history moves in epochal shifts under the leadership of visionary, bold, often ruthless men who marshall the energy of masses of people to push events in radical new directions. Nothing is the same after them.

In their absence, nothing happens that is notable enough to qualify as history: no heroes, no god-like figures who qualify as “great.” In this view, we need such men.  If they do not exist, we create them. They give us purpose. They define the meaning of life. They drive history forward.

Great men, in this view, do not actually have to be fabulous people in their private lives. They need not exercise personal virtue. They need not even be moral. They only need to be perceived as such by the masses, and play this role in the trajectory of history.

Such a view of history shaped much of historiography as it was penned in the late 19th century and early 20th century, until the revisionists of the last several decades saw the error and turned instead to celebrate private life and the achievements of common folk instead. Today the “great man” theory history is dead as regards academic history, and rightly so.

Carlyle the Proto-Fascist

The originator of the great man theory of history is British philosopher Thomas Carlyle(1795-1881), pictured right, one of the most undeservedly revered thinkers of his day. He also coined the expression “dismal science” to describe the economics of his time – which inveighed, to his horror, against slavery. The economists of the day, against whom he constantly inveighed, were almost universally champions of the free market, free trade, and human rights.

His seminal work on “great men” is On Heroes,  Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (1840). This book was written to distill his entire worldview.

Considering Carlyle’s immense place in the history of 19th century intellectual life, this is a surprisingly nutty book. It can clearly be seen as paving the way for the monster dictators of the 20th century. Reading his description of “great men” literally, there is no sense in which Mao, Stalin, and Hitler -- or any savage dictator from any country you can name -- would not qualify.

Indeed, a good case can be made that Carlyle was the forefather of fascism. He made his appearance in the midst of the age of laissez faire, a time when the UK and the US had already demonstrated the merit of allowing society to take its own course, undirected from the top down. In these times, kings and despots were exercising ever less control and markets ever more. Slavery was on its way out. Women obtained rights equal to men. Class mobility was becoming the norm, as were long lives, universal opportunity, and material progress.

Carlyle would have none of it. He longed for a different age. His literary output was devoted to decrying the rise of equality as a norm and calling for the restoration of a ruling class that would exercise firm and uncontested power for its own sake. In his view, some were meant to rule and others to follow. Society must be organized hierarchically lest his ideal of greatness would never again be realised. He set himself up as the prophet of despotism and the opponent of everything that was then called liberal.

Right Authoritarianism of the 19th Century

Carlyle was not a socialist in an ideological sense. He cared nothing for the common ownership of the means of production. Creating an ideologically driven social ideal did not interest him at all. His writings appeared and circulated alongside those of Karl Marx and his contemporaries, but he was not drawn to them.

Rather than an early “leftist,” he was instead a consistent proponent of power and a raving opponent of classical liberalism, particularly of the legacies of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill. If you have the slightest leanings toward liberty, or affections for the impersonal forces of markets, his writings come across as ludicrous. His interest was in power as the central organising principle of society.

Here is his description of the “great men” of the past:

“They were the leaders of men, these great ones; the modellers, patterns, and in a wide sense creators, of whatsoever the general mass of men contrived to do or to attain; all things that we see standing accomplished in the world are properly the outer material result, the practical realisation and embodiment, of Thoughts that dwelt in the Great Men sent into the world: the soul of the whole world's history….
    One comfort is, that Great Men, taken up in any way, are profitable company. We cannot look, however imperfectly, upon a great man, without gaining something by him. He is the living light-fountain, which it is good and pleasant to be near. The light which enlightens, which has enlightened the darkness of the world; and this not as a kindled lamp only, but rather as a natural luminary shining by the gift of Heaven; a flowing light-fountain, as I say, of native original insight, of manhood and heroic nobleness;—in whose radiance all souls feel that it is well with them. … Could we see them well, we should get some glimpses into the very marrow of the world's history. How happy, could I but, in any measure, in such times as these, make manifest to you the meanings of Heroism; the divine relation (for I may well call it such) which in all times unites a Great Man to other men…

And so it goes on for hundreds of pages that celebrate “great” events such as the Reign of Terror in the aftermath of the French Revolution (one of the worst holocausts then experienced). Wars, revolutions, upheavals, invasions, and mass collective action, in his view, were the essence of life itself.

Carlyle1By contrast, the merchantcraft of the industrial revolution, the devolution of power, the small lives of the bourgeoisie all struck him as noneventful and essentially irrelevant. These marginal improvements in the social sphere were made by the “silent people” who don’t make headlines and therefore don’t matter much; they are essential at some level but inconsequential in the sweep of things.

To Carlyle, nothing was sillier than Adam Smith’s pin factory: all those regular people intricately organised by impersonal forces to make something practical to improve people’s lives. Why should society’s productive capacity be devoted to making pins instead of making war? Where is the romance in that?

Carlyle established himself as the arch-opponent of liberalism -- heaping an unrelenting and seething disdain on Smith and his disciples. And what should replace liberalism? What ideology? It didn’t matter, so long as it embodied Carlyle’s definition of “greatness.”

No Greatness Like the State

Of course there is no greatness to compare with that of the head of state.  

The Commander over Men; he to whose will our wills are to be subordinated, and loyally surrender themselves, and find their welfare in doing so, may be reckoned the most important of Great Men. He is practically the summary for us of all the various figures of Heroism; Priest, Teacher, whatsoever of earthly or of spiritual dignity we can fancy to reside in a man, embodies itself here, to command over us, to furnish us with constant practical teaching, to tell us for the day and hour what we are to do. [The lethal combination of the Commander and the Priest, seen throughout history, Ayn Rand was to characterise as the union of Attila and the WitchDoctor.]

Why the state? Because within the state, all that is otherwise considered immoral, illegal, unseemly, and ghastly, can become, as blessed by the law, part of policy, civic virtue, and the forward motion of history. The state baptises rampant immorality with the holy water of consensus. And thus does Napoleon come in for high praise from Carlyle, in addition to the tribal chieftains of Nordic mythology. The point is not what the “great man” does with his power so much as that he exercises it decisively, authoritatively, ruthlessly.

The exercise of such power necessarily requires the primacy of the nation state, and hence the protectionist and nativist impulses of the fascist mindset.

Consider the times in which Carlyle wrote. Power was on the wane, and humankind was in the process of discovering something absolutely remarkable: namely, the less society is controlled from the top, the more the people thrive in their private endeavours. Society needs no management but rather contains within itself the capacity for self organisation, not through the exercise of the human will as such, but by having the right institutions in place. Such was the idea of classical liberalism.

Classical liberalism was always counterintuitive, especially to the unthinking and unseeing. The less society is ordered, the more order emerges spontaneously, from the ground up. The freer people are permitted to be, the happier the people become and the more meaning they find in the course of life itself. The less power that is given to the ruling class, the more wealth is created and dispersed among everyone. The less a nation is directed by conscious design, the more it can provide a model of genuine greatness.

Such teachings emerged from the liberal revolution of the previous two centuries. But some people (mostly academics and would-be rulers) weren’t having it. They preferred their order to be compelled, from the top down. On the one hand, the socialists would not tolerate what they perceived to be the seeming inequality of the emergent commercial society. On the other hand, the advocates of old-fashioned ruling-class control, such as Carlyle and his proto-fascist contemporaries, longed for a restoration of pre-modern despotism, and devoted their writings to extolling a time before the ideal of universal freedom appeared in the world.

They wanted their order to be ordered; and they wanted to be the ones to issue them.

The Dismal Science

One of the noblest achievements of the liberal revolution of the late 18th and 19th centuries – in addition to the idea of free trade – was the movement against slavery and its eventual abolition. It should not surprise anyone that Carlyle was both a leading opponent of the abolitionist movement and a thoroughgoing racist. He extolled the rule of one race over another, and especially resented the economists for being champions of universal rights and therefore opponents of slavery.

Carlyle2As David Levy has conclusively demonstrated, the claim that economics was a “dismal science” was first stated in an essay by Carlyle in 1848, an essay in which non-whites were claimed to be non-human and worthy of killing. Blacks were, to his mind, “two-legged cattle,” worthy of servitude for all times.

Carlyle’s objection to economics as a science was very simple: it opposed slavery. Economics imagined that society could consist of people of equal freedoms, a society without masters and slaves. Supply and demand, not dictators, would rule. To him, this was a dismal prospect, a world without “greatness.”

The economists were the leading champions of human liberation from such “greatness.” They understood, through the study of market forces and the close examination of the on-the-ground reality of factories and production structures, that wealth was made by the small actions of men and women acting in their own self interest. Therefore, concluded the economists, people should be free of despotism. They should be free to accumulate wealth. They should pursue their own interests in their own way. They should be let alone.

Carlyle found the whole capitalist worldview disgusting. His loathing foreshadowed the fascism of the 20th century: particularly its opposition to liberal capitalism, universal rights, and progress.

Fascism’s Prophet

Once you get a sense of what capitalism meant and means to humanity -- universal liberation and the turning of social resources toward the service of the common person [leading today to the breathtaking liberation of billions from real poverty]—it is not at all surprising to find reactionary intellectuals opposing it tooth and nail. There were generally two schools of thought that stood in opposition to what it meant to the world: the socialists and the champions of raw power that later came to be known as fascists. In today’s parlance, here is the left and the right, both standing in opposition to simple freedom.

Carlyle3Carlyle came along at just the right time to represent that reactionary brand of power for its own sake. His opposition to emancipation and writings on race would emerge only a few decades later into a complete ideology of eugenics that would later come to heavily inform 20th century fascist experiments. There is a direct line, traversing only a few decades, between Carlyle’s vehement anti-capitalism and the ghettos and gas chambers of the German total state.

Do today’s neo-fascists understand and appreciate their 19th century progenitor? Not likely. The continuum from Carlyle to Mussolini to Franco to Donald Trump is lost on people who do not see beyond the latest political crisis. Not one in ten thousand activists among the European and American “alt-right” who are rallying around would-be strong men who seek power today have a clue about their intellectual heritage.

And it should not be necessary that they do. After all, we have a more recent history of the rise of fascism in the 20th century from which to learn (and it is to their everlasting disgrace that they have refused to learn).

But no one should underestimate the persistence of an idea and its capacity to travel time, leading to results that no one intended directly but are still baked into the fabric of the ideological structure. If you celebrate power for its own sake, herald immorality as a civic ideal, and believe that history rightly consists of nothing more than the brutality of great men with power, you end up with unconscionable results that may not have been consciously intended but which were nonetheless given license by the absence of conscious opposition. 

Carlyle4As time went on, left and right mutated, merge, diverged, and established a revolving door between the camps, disagreeing on the ends they sought but agreeing on the essentials.They would have opposed 19th-century liberalism and its conviction that society should be left alone. Whether they were called socialist or fascists, the theme was the same. Society must be planned from the top down. A great man -- brilliant, powerful, with massive resources at his disposal -- must lead. At some point in the middle of the 20th century, it became difficult to tell the difference but for their cultural style and owned constituencies. Even so, left and right maintained distinctive forms. If Marx was the founding father of the socialist left, Carlyle was his foil on the fascist right. 

Hitler and Carlyle

In his waning days, defeated and surrounded only by loyalists in his bunker, Hitler sought consolation from the literature he admired the most. According to many biographers, the following scene took place. Hitler turned to Goebbels, his trusted assistant, and asked for a final reading. The words he chose to hear before his death were from Thomas Carlyle’s biography of Frederick the Great. Thus did Carlyle himself provide a fitting epitaph to one of the “great” men he so celebrated during his life: alone, disgraced, and dead.


tucker3Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE and CLO of the startup Liberty.me. Author of five books, and many thousands of articles, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the WorldFollow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.
A version of this post appeared at the FEE website.

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Child poverty: the real cause

 

The latest NZ study on child poverty has formed a strong conclusion based upon a strong correlation between child poverty and …. well, guess for yourself what is the most strongly correlated with child poverty (as measured in a relative sense). Is it:

1. Unemployment; or
2. Uncaring governments spending too litle on benefits; or
3. Parents spending too much on drink and smokes; or
4. Single-parent families.

If you picked number 4, then give yourself a big tick. The strongest correlation the survey found was between children in relative poverty and the lack of two parents to care for them. To put that in a positive way, the most likely indicator of children not being in poverty is marriage, or at least a stable parental relationship.

Lindsay Mitchell has all the details, just as you’d expect.

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A housing crisis, four decades on

 

Housing crises? They’ve been with us for decades – and the answers to them are no secret. It’s not that the solutions that are in short supply, it’s the political will.

I have in front of me a book that’s been on my shelf for more than thirty years…

HCrisis

Every answer to this present housing crisis in there, and has been known for decades. You can see just from the chapter headings that that because the causes of virtually every housing crisis are political, the solutions to every housing crisis are the same:

  • Part I: The Underlying Contributing Factors

o Chapter 1: The Exclusionary Effect of Growth Controls – Bernard Frieden

o Chapter 2: Zoning & Other Land-Use Controls – Norman Karlin

o Chapter 3: The Economics of Building Codes & Standards – Peter Colwell & James Kau

o Chapter 4: Private Housing Starts & the Growth of the Money Supply – Robert Weintraub

o Chapter 5: Residential Development & the Cost of Local Public Services – Jon Sonstelle & Alan Gin

  • Part II: Land-Use Policy Responses

o Chapter 6: The Irony of ‘Inclusionary’ Zoning – Robert Ellickson

o Chapter 7: An Estimate of Residential Growth Controls’ Impact on House Prices – Lloyd Mercer & Douglas Morgan

o Chapter 8: An Economic Analysis of Zoning Laws – Carl Dahlman

o Chapter 9: The California Coastal Commissions – Economic Impacts – H. E. Frech

  • · Part III: Housing & Construction Policy Responses

o Chapter 10: Rent Controls & the Housing Crisis – Thomas Hazlett

o Chapter 11: Rent Control Voting Patterns, Popular Views, and Group Interests – Stephen DeCanio

o Chapter 12: Condominium Conversions & the ‘Housing Crisis’ – Richard Muth

o Chapter 13: Information and Residential Segregation – Perry Shapiro & Judith Roberts

  • · Part IV: The Crisis & the Legal Status of Property Rights

o Chapter 14: Property, Economic Liberties, and the Constitution of the United States – Bernard Siegan

o Chapter 15: Property Rights & a Free Society – Roger Pilon

As you can see just from the chapter headings, all the usual suspects are there: excusionary zoning driving up land costs and restricting the types and locations of new housing; gold-plated building codes protecting monopolistic suppliers;  green belts and ‘conservation estates’ that unreasonably privilige the interests of existing home-owners over would-be home-buyers; the way new money is borrowed into existence for new mortage lending; the way infrastructure planning and development has been made (by law) the province of the incompetent; the dearth of real property rights strangling any real market response to the crisis …. 

You see, all the causes of this houding crisis and virtually every other have been known about and talked about written about in detail – both the problems they cause and how to unravel them – quite literally for decades. Perhaps the only lessons that have been learned in all that time are the dire effects of racial segregation and rent controls.

The only two causes either not mentioned or not fully developed in this book are

  1. the risk-free windfall profits delivered to rental investors by the likes of the Accommodation Supplement; and
  2. the way the way new money is borrowed into existence for mortage lending – around two-thirds of all new money created in this country every year: out of thin air, and straight into second-hand housing. (But there are other books and writing that cover that.)

For what it’s worth, it looks like you can get hold of the book yourself on Amazon, or read bits of it on Google books.

And you can read what I’ve been writing on the crisis for the last twelve years at my various archives on housing, especially here, here and here – and for the last twenty years at places like this and this and this.

The solutions are neither new nor particularly complicated. They include things like replacing zoning with voluntary covenants; replacing council-controlled infrastructure with private supply and development bonds; exchanging gold-plated and nonsensical govt rules and standards and council-run inspections that place ratepayers on the hook with those agreed to and run by the insurance companies who actually take the risks; limiting (or even prohibiting altogether) the amount of new money that banks can simply borrow into existence; and of course the full and complete legal protection of all real property rights. Taken together they would make it possible once again for every builder to build affordable homes at a profit – which is the only way this crisis will eventually be resolved.

These solutions are not new. What’s needed all up is gumption – something in short supply around Molesworth St and the country’s town planning faculties. As short supply as the houses that are so desperately needed, and that their policies and rules have made all-but impossible to inexpensively provide.

A kick up the arse is the least those pricks deserve; all of them who have caused, dithered and exacerbated the situation where a whole swathe of this country is now being crucified on a cross of brick, tile, weatherboard and exclusionary zoning.

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Friday, 27 May 2016

#NeverTrump: voting advice from Ayn Rand

 

Trump has now officially secured the delegates necessary for nomination, and even deluded New Zealanders are excited they can now vote for their favourite strongman. (They can’t. Somebody should tell them.) Ayn Rand has some advice for those however who can and would contemplate voting for someone without a priniciple in sight, and for whom they would have no practical idea of what they would even be voting for.

First,

If a candidate evades, equivocates and hides his stand under a junk-heap of random concretes, we must add up those concretes and judge him accordingly. If his stand is mixed, we must evaluate it by asking: Will he protect freedom or destroy the last of it? Will he accelerate, delay or stop the march toward statism?

Because…

It is the basic -- and, today, the only -- issue by which a candidate must be judged: freedom v. statism.

Simple, really.

She also offers this advice for those who see through him:

There are many forms of protest open to us, if [Trump] gets the Republican nomination: we can vote for a write-in candidate of our own choice -- or vote a straight Republican ticket, leaving the presidential and vice-presidential spaces blank -- or vote a mixed ticket -- or vote for and Democrat who is not fully committed to statism [none] -- or not vote at all. But we cannot vote for the proposition that we, as advocates of capitalism, are lunatics -- or for the candidate who so regards us.

[Hat tip Francesca Ford & Keenan I. Nichols]

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Budget [updated]

 

budget

Everybody with a sober talkspace wants to yak about yesterday's Budget. 

But what is there to talk about in any depth?

Bill English is going to take even more of your money in the coming year – and if you’re a smoker the smarmy prick is going to tax the hell out of you.

And he wants to spend even more of it than he did last year.

He doesn't want to give you any more of your money back until election year.

And he sort of wants to pay back some of the ginormous $118 billion government debt he's built up over his tenure, but (like St Augustine) not really. Not yet.

And that's about it.

What more is there really to say? It’s more of the fucking same from a party doing nothing any differently than a Labour Government would have.

UPDATE:

    • “A Budget from a government that seems to have no real sense of how strong sustained growth in productivity and living standards arises was perhaps never likely to produce anything of great interest.  The cheerleading for the, demonstrably failing, “ever bigger New Zealand” approach –  failing, that is, to generate any sign of better productivity growth, perhaps especially in Auckland –  and the questionable rhetoric about a more diversified New Zealand economy, was accompanied by yet more claims that somehow New Zealand’s economic performance is better than those of almost all our advanced country peers.  Meanwhile, oppressive taxes are raised on some of the poorest people in the country, to fund pouring more money into things like KiwiRail, regional research institutes, apprenticeships, and high-performance sport…
          ”[I]n many ways it was the Treasury economic forecasts that accompanied, and underpinned, the fiscal numbers that got me most interested.  Several other economists have noted that they seem to err on the optimistic side.  That is my fear too…
          “Treasury expects real GDP growth rates to average 2.9 per cent over the next four years.  But it isn’t really clear how or why…
          “[G]iven our starting point, [and that NZ is] so much poorer than most of these [OECD] countries, a successful economic strategy would have involved rather faster growth rates.
          “Slovakia, for example, might be an achievement to aspire to.  On these IMF numbers, between 2007 and 2021 Slovakia will have recorded almost 43 per cent growth in real per capita GDP, while we’ll have managed 15 per cent.   After decades of Communist rule, Slovakia started a long way behind New Zealand.  It has already matched our real GDP per hour worked, and looks likely to be moving past us.
          “We don’t have very much positive to write home about.”
      Scattered thoughts on the Budget documents – Michael Reddell, CROAKING CASSANDRA

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Thursday, 26 May 2016

Some quotable quotes for Budget Day

 

Another Budget Day, another advance auction of stolen goods, another opportunity to post some classic thoughts and quotes on the nature of taxation:

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

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

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

"Taxation without representation is tyranny."
~ James Otis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally, a warning …

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

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2/64 Hapua St, by Claude Megson

 

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I’ve posted some of its beautiful Megson neighbours before (3/64, 54), and now that it’s on the market you can explore the inside of this smaller one-bedroom Megson townhouse/apartment that can still boast a mostly-original interior.

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This is one of those very small places that genius makes appear large (even though the furniture arrangement shown has confused lounge and dining spaces): simple things like viewshafts front to back, borrowed scenery, full-height French doors, exposed rafters, subtle changes in level and height, cunningly-placed storage, all-day sun through the lantern over the central dining space, overlapping and nested spaces etc. All very thoughtfuly done, and very efffective indeed at turning a small jewel into what feels like a large-souled space.

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Megson used to talk about a house being something you would sometimes want to wrap around yourself like a cloak, and other times just disappear. This small place fits the bill.

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NB: If you’re keen to experience it properly, in the flesh,, there are Open Homes this Saturday and Sunday avo.

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[Pics by Ray White Real Estate. Cross-posted at the Claude Megson Blog]

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Describing economic collapse

 

Some folk recently on a local Facebook group called ‘Anarkiwi’ were discussing socialism and how (and here I paraphrase a little just to make the point clear), libertarians have been very poor in describing the process of collapse of a socialist country (here, for example), and further: that the world’s more socialist countries are not even collapsing as we libertarians say they will.

I mean, NZ's a socialist country, right? And I'm not scavenging for food, in fact I just purchased and enjoyed a Moa Five Hop English ale at the local supermarket.

And who wouldn’t enjoy that?

Still, as I pointed out to the fellow who wrote that, NZ is hardly a socialist country by any real definition.

Best description is: it's a hampered market. Or maybe a mixed economy.

So let’s be careful in our labels.

And you know what? The fellow who perhaps most briefly decribed the process of collapse, Friedrich Hayek, was himself aware that (the likes of Venezuela aside) socialism as practiced and espoused “today” is different from that he warned against just after the War. And that’s partly because he warned about it.

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And that’s why today’s socialists talk more today about “inequality” and “poverty” and “progressive taxation” than they do about worker’s revolution – and why no Labour Party manifesto today, with the possible exception of Jeremy Corbyn’s is going to call for nationalising everything that moves.

But it’s still untrue to say that we’ve been bad at explaining the process of socialist collapse. Following the lead of Ludwig Von Mises’s Socialism which expained how socialism could never work, Hayek’s own Road to Serfdom was perhaps the first and briefest to explain how the transition to and the collapse of a fully-blown socialist chaos would happen.

Building upon both of those and fleshing out the economic process of collapse was George Reisman’s Government Against the Economy, which first explains how a market works, then the process by which (absent any political pressure to the contrary) a market can become increasingly hampered; how a hampered market can lead inexorably to controls, to more controls and increasing economic chaos; to rationing and police action and confiscations; and then inevitably to tyranny as shortages and revolt against the leaderhip becomes necessary just for human survival.

I commend them all to everyone’s attention.

Especially the folk at Anarkiwi.

[Hat tip Jim Rose]

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Some more lessons for Budget Week

 

Another Budget Day, another advance auction of stolen goods, another opportunity to post some classic thoughts and quotes on the nature of taxation:

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

"I think coercive taxation is theft, and government has a moral duty to keep it to a minimum."
~ former Massachusetts Governor (and 2016 Libertarian Party VP candidate) William Weld

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

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

"The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."
~ Alexis De Tocqueville, describing America’s future

'We shall tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect.' ~
'New Deal' luminary Harry Hopkins, describing every government programme since

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Crone proposes more blancmange for Auckland

 

Oh alright, mayoral candidate Crone’s chosen headline states “Crone proposes more transparency for Auckland.”

But what does this alleged transparency amount to? Ephemera like “opening the books,” (something that is done anyway after every election), monthly report cards, something she calls an Independent Budgetary Office (who will apparently cook up cost-benefits analyses for the mayor).

She says these things are “much needed” because there is “serious concern” around “the strength of advice” behind council’s large-scale multi-million dollar investments.

There sure are plenty of serious concern. But it’s hard to see how they might be allayed by ill-qualified council bureaucrats in suits being shuffled into different departments to affer the same old advice.

This is the sort of window-dressing promoted by a candidate without any serious programme to address ratepayers real concerns about the exposion in both the debt and their rates bill

The main thing most ratepayers want to see is not more reports and more bilge about “transparency” and “digestible analysis” but cuts, and lots of them!

My advice would be to get her head around a genuine programme of long-overdue reform – not blancmange, but blood on the floor.

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Duh! Health-cost inflation a reflection of rising health spending.

 

In trying to demonstrate his credentials for a portfolo for whiche is wholly unqualified, Labour’s Grant Robertson argues that because health-cost inflation rises faster than all others measure of inflation, the Government should radically raise the health budget this year.

This is simply absurd.

Has this financial genius ever wondered about the main reason for health costs rising so rapidly?

Has he considered for example that government is virtually a monopsony buyer in health – that is, virtually all the multi-billion-dollar spending in healthcare in New Zealand is undertaken by government. (Spending on this Ministry being the second-biggest line item in the Budget; spending by private agencies being trivial by comparison.)

And every year in recent years, government health spending has been increased.

Last year for example it was raised by an extra $1.7 billon to a record $15.9 billion.

Yet for all the extra spending, little more has been bought. The reason for this is … the largely unsurprising fact that as the spending increases, supply in this very limited and almost completely hampered market does not. (Indeed, in many cases can not.)

So as even a child might explain to you, one is confronted with the realisation increasing spending does not necessarily increase supply—indeed, it simply increases the amount suppliers earn for their suppliers. Indeed, it is more precisely true that the more is spent by the government on health, the higher health-cost inflation will rise.

So, once understood, do you want to offer any obvious suggestions as to how health-cost inflation might be best brought down?

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More Montessori, more child progress

 

New research confrirms that parents who send their children to a ‘Montessori school’ that attempts to have “some” of the Montessori system which they combine, somehow, with “the best” elements of other pedagogies are tryin to have their cake and eat it too – with their children being the ones to miss out.

Not only do children not experiencing the full Montessori programme miss out on the opportunity for the ”big work” that integrates in their final year all the work they would have done in a fully-integrated Montessori programme (but haven’t been able to), but because the Montessori work they are doing is increasingly out of step with their sensitive periods for learning, children at these Monte-something schools enjoy significantly less progress in their development.

This observation made repeatedly by Montessori directresses is reinforced by a recent study.

Angeline Lillard, author of Montessori - The Science Behind the Genius has published a new study in the Journal of Montessori Research.
    The study found that children advance significantly more in early reading and executive function and to some degree more in early maths, when supplementary non-Montessori materials are removed from their Montessori classrooms.
    To read the full study, please visit this link:https://journals.ku.edu/index.php/jmr/article/view/5678A

[Hat tip Maria Montessori Education Foundation]

Some lessons to remember on Budget Week, so listen up

 

Why do democracies fail?

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always vote for the candidate promising the most benefits from the treasury…”
~ Attributed to Alexander Tytler (unverified)

You’ll hear all the ‘good’ reasons on Budget Week for looting…

"There is always good and sufficient reason for more and more taxes.
    Solomon's temple, the roads of Rome, the rearing of 'infant industries,' military preparedness, the regulation of morals, the improvement of the 'general welfare'--all call for drafts on the marketplace, and the end-product of each draft is an increase in the power of the State. Some of the appropriations seep through to some members of Society, thus satisfying the something-for-nothing urge, at least temporarily, and so stimulate a disposition to tolerate the institution and to obliterate understanding of its predatory character. Until the State reaches its ultimate objective, absolutism, its answer to tax-grumbling is that the 'other fellow' pays all the levies and that seems to satisfy."

~ Frank Chodorov, from his book The Rise and Fall of Society

Clearly, John Stuart Mill was far too hasty in saying …

“The utility of a large government expenditure, for the purpose of encouraging industry, is no longer maintained. Taxes are not now esteemed to be ‘like the dews of heaven, which return in prolific showers.’ It is no longer supposed that you benefit the producer by taking his money, provided that you give it to him again in exchange for his goods. There is nothing which impresses a person of reflection with a stronger sense of the shallowness of the political reasoning of the last two centuries, than the general reception so long given to a doctrine which, if it proves anything, proves that the more you take from the pockets of the people to spend on your own pleasures, the richer they grow; that the man who steals money out of a shop, provided that he expends it all again at the same shop, is a public benefactor to the tradesman whom he robs, and that the same operation, repeated sufficiently often, would make the tradesman a fortune.”
~ John Stuart Mill, writing in 1848

But all these taxes don’t make anyone rich. Not even govt.

“Taxes which are levied on a country … for for the ordinary expenses of the State, and which are chiefly devoted to the support of unproductive labourers, are taken from the productive industry of the country; and every saving which can be made from such expenses will be generally added to the income, if not to the capital of the contributors. When … twenty millions are raised by means of a loan, it is the twenty millions which are withdrawn from the productive capital of the nation…
   “It is by the profuse expenditure of Government, and of individuals, and by loans, that the country is impoverished; every measure, therefore, which is calculated to promote public and private economy, will relieve the public distress; …”

~ David Ricardo, from chapter 17, On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation

And so does all that govt debt, which could have otherwise been spent productively…

“[It is said] that the debts of a nation are debts due from the right hand to the left, by which the body is not weakened. It is true that the general wealth is not diminished by the payment of the interest on arrears of the debt … but the principal of the debt—what has become of that? It exists no more. The consumption which has followed the loan has annihilated a capital which will never yield any further revenue. The society is deprived not of the amount of interest, since that passes from one hand to the other, but of the revenue from a destroyed capital. This capital, if it had been employed productively by him who lent it to the State, would equally have yielded him an income, but that income would have been derived from a real production, and would not have been furnished from the pocket of a fellow citizen.”
~
Jean Baptiste Say, from Book III, chapter 9, of his Treatise on Political Economy

But don’t deficits mean govt can spend without raising taxes?

“Deficits mean future tax increases, pure and simple. Deficit spending should be viewed as a tax on future generations, and politicians who create deficits should be exposed as tax hikers.”
~ Ron Paul

But, but …what if we just tax the hell out of the rich? As even Warren Buffett reckons should be done?

Cypress Semiconductor’s T.J. Rodgers points out this attitude stinks for everybody, every way up you look at it.  It is bad, it’s wrong, and it’s immoral.

Like it or not, the 1% actually provides the standard of living for the 99%.

The overwhelming majority of our contemporaries, ranging from the illiterate to the highly educated, are utterly ignorant of the role of privately owned means of production—capital—in the economic system. As they see matters, wealth in the form of means of production and wealth in the form of consumers’ goods are essentially indistinguishable. For all practical purposes, they have no awareness of the existence of capital and of its importance.
    Thus, capitalists are generally depicted as fat men, whose girth allegedly signifies an excessive consumption of food and of wealth in general, while their alleged victims, the wage earners, are typically depicted as substantially underweight, allegedly signifying their inability to consume, thanks to the allegedly starvation wages paid by the capitalists.
   
imageThe truth is that in a capitalist economic system, the wealth of the capitalists is not only overwhelmingly in the form of means of production, such as factory buildings, machinery, farms, mines, stores, warehouses, and means of transportation and communication, but all of this wealth is employed in producing for the market, where its benefit is made available to everyone in the economic system who is able to afford to buy its products.
    Consider. Whoever can afford to buy an automobile benefits from the existence of the automobile factory and its equipment where that car was made. He also benefits from the existence of all the other automobile factories, whose existence and competition served to reduce the price he had to pay for his automobile. He benefits from the existence of the steel mill that provided the steel for his car, and from the iron mine that provided the iron ore needed for the production of that steel, and, of course, from the existence of all the other steel mills and iron mines whose existence and competition served to hold down the prices of the steel and iron ore that contributed to the production of his car….
    For the capital of the capitalists is the foundation both of the supply of products that everyone buys and of the demand for the labour that all wage earners sell. More capital—a greater amount of wealth in the possession of the capitalists—means a both a larger and better supply of products for wage earners to buy and a greater demand for the labour that wage earners sell.
~
George Reisman, ‘How the 1% Provides the Standard of Living of the 99%

Because in the end, whatever the politicians tell you when speaking out of both sides of their mouth, the truth is:

A good lesson to remember on Budget Week.

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Quote of the Day: “Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open up himself to life.”

 

“We cannot know the consequences of suppressing a child's spontaneity when he is just beginning to be active. We may even suffocate life itself. That humanity which is revealed in all its intellectual splendour during the sweet and tender age of childhood should be respected with a kind of religious veneration. It is like the sun which appears at dawn or a flower just beginning to bloom. Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open up himself to life.”
        ~ Maria Montessori

 

[Hat tip Marsha Enright]

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‘The Tempest,’ by Aleah Chapin

 

Aleah-Chapin_The-Tempest_2013

In the tradition of and with a similar spirit to Auguste Rodin’s ‘She Who Was Once the Helmet-Maker’s Beautiful Wife,’Aleah Chapin paints strong older women. And she does it with a stunning technique.

These intimate, arrestingly realistic oil-on-canvas nudes focus on the shapes and patterns the women's bodies create as they interact and the emotions their movements convey. As a result, each gives voice to the personal histories its subjects share, from past pains and scars to moments of childlike happiness. The feelings that words so often fail to describe—better expressed by a beatific smile, a cackle, a scream, or something in between—are precisely what Chapin captures.

[Hat tip Jasmine Kamante and Jesper Sundwall]

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Monday, 23 May 2016

“Get them early, said the Jesuits…”

 

Get them early, said the Jesuits, and you can indoctrinate them for life. The modern-day mediocricy-mongers have learned that lesson well.

A friend from North Melbourne sent me through this idiocy from their latest primary school newsletter:

You may have seen some important signs popping up around the school and playground as well as a concentrated amount in the Prep corridor. This is due to our busy sign makers who are concluding their Deeper Learning experience which focused on 'how signs and symbols communicate a message and keep us safe in our community.' We have had a busy term and a half focusing on Citizenship which included visits from Kathy, the Police, Fire Brigade and the RACV.
We have also scoped the perimeter of our school and can report that there are "tonnes" of signs keeping our school safe. So beware of passionate little Foundation members promoting their new messages such as "no climbing up the slide", "This way to sick bay/first aid" and the very important "no throwing rocks!"

I should point out that the newsletter s not written by someone for whom English is their second language, but the school’s principal. Anway, here’s just some of what these five-year-olds were encouraged to post around the school as part of their “Deeper Learning Experience” (spot the odd one out):

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It all reminded me of this cartoon by Nick Kim:

Bureaucrat

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Do immigrants steal jobs?

 

Since everyone wants to comment on American immigration, now matter how little they know about it, let’s destroy three popular myths …

  1. that immigrants are a drag on economic actvity;
  2. that imigrants steal wages;
  3. that immigrants suppress wages:

[Hat tip Jim Rose]

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Voting for "the lesser of two evils" is a total waste of your vote

 

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For some reason, many New Zealanders are desperately interested in who votes what in America this year even though NZers themselves won’t vote.

Anway, Jeffrey Singer is an American who generally votes Republican. But not this year.

He reckons that voting for "the lesser of two evils," as so many Trumpeters propose, is a total waste of your vote –the principal practical argument being that the choice of HillaRump no real choice at all  -- and the principal moral argument being that to vote against what you actually believe is the biggest waste of a vote that could be imagined.

He offers his line of reasoning as “a guide to others who might be agonising over their decision this year.”

Athough my personal political philosophy is libertarian, like most people, over the years I have surrendered to the binary choice our two-party system gives us when casting my vote in presidential elections. I almost always find myself settling for a “lesser of two evils,” but the “evil” is not so great as to prevent me from rationalising what amounts to, by my vote, an endorsement or affirmation of the candidate.
    Because at least rhetorically, the Republican party candidate promises a greater commitment to limited, constitutional government, entitlement reform, tackling the national debt, and a belief in the benefits of free trade, I have voted for the Republican candidate for president ever since Ronald Reagan. The Republicans repeatedly disappoint on matters of foreign policy, seeing the US as world policeman. But the Democrats fare little better on foreign policy—sometimes even worse. So foreign policy as a vote-determining factor between the two major parties tended to be a wash for me. I often profoundly disagree with the Republicans on many of the “culture war” and so-called social issues, but I have had confidence that our Constitution and judiciary will defend against any overreach by Republicans in that area.
    So as a matter of practicality, I have tended to base my vote on the differences between the two major party candidates on matters of economic liberty and commitment to the principles of federalism and limited government. I recognise the politicians in both political parties have differing promises but similar results: bigger government, greater debt, less individual liberty. But I use the party platforms and the candidates’ rhetoric to help in my rationalization (some would say self-delusion) that I am voting for someone who will, at best, move things in a better direction or, at worst, be a lesser of two evils that I can live with.
    Not so this year.

No, not this year. This year may be the worst choice of big-two candidates at any time in American history. But some Americans, like Mr Singer, still like to vote.

Not voting certainly provides the satisfaction of knowing that I did not sanction or legitimise the offerings of the two major parties. But that satisfaction is only personal and private. I want to more actively make my views known. Using the following chain of logic, I have found a positive way to express myself through, what I believe, is the most effective allocation of my vote in November:

1) According to Professor Ilya Somin in Democracy and Political Ignorance, my vote has, on average, a roughly 1 in 60 million chance of being the decisive vote in the Presidential election. (It might be a great as 1 in 10 million in my relatively small state of Arizona. It would have a roughly 1 in a billion chance of being decisive if I lived in California.)
2) If I vote for the lesser of evils and hold my nose, my vote is blended in with millions of others—there is no way to register my dissatisfaction with the choices the two major parties have given me. There is no way to separate those who voted for a lesser of two evils from those who voted because they actually LIKED the candidate.
3) If I vote for the Libertarian party candidate, I am directly affecting the vote total of that candidate. Because that candidate will get fewer total votes than the major party candidates, when all votes are totalled up, I will have had a greater effect on raising the total percentage of votes for the Libertarian candidate. If the Libertarian candidate garners say, 5 percent of the vote as opposed to 1 percent, then my vote made a greater impact in making a statement than it would have if it was folded in with the 40 or 50 million voters who voted for a major party candidate.
4) If the Libertarian candidate gets say, 5 percent of the vote, then that clearly means that 5 percent of the voters chose a candidate that they KNEW had absolutely no chance of winning, rather than choosing the lesser of two evils. What’s more, they chose the candidate with the most pro-freedom, pro-Constitution, pro-Bill of Rights program. That sends a clear message.

Therefore:

5) By casting my vote for the Libertarian presidential candidate, my vote is actually more meaningful and makes more of a statement.

My conclusion: Voting for the lesser of two evils is statistically and strategically wasting my vote. I will vote Libertarian for president this year. This rationale does not necessarily apply to how I will vote in the down ballot races, where my vote has a greater numerical impact, I have a greater ability to directly communicate my views, and I might have less marked dissatisfaction with many of the candidates.
   
I offer my line of reasoning as a guide to others who might be agonising over their decision this year.

And with the likely Libertarian Party candidate polling already in respectable numbers, and the likely Libertarian Party presidential ticket this election boasting more high-level political experience than the two big-party nominees combined – and that ticket being led by a Governor of a border-state with more first-hand knowledge of border issues than the noisy blowhard from New York -- the argument just grows more compelling.

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A stolen boxing broadcast

 

A fellow unhappy with the cost and quality of the $49 pay-per-view Parker fight paid the promoters for the broadcast on his televion at home, then live-streamed the view of his television to what ended up being about 20,000 online viewers.

Not unnaturally the fight’s promoter, Dean Lonergan, is unhappy to be losing out on that $1 million.

Now, it’s true that not all of those 20,000 or so would have stumped up the $49 otherwise (they may have watched it instead at the pub, or not bothered to watch the fight at all) so Lonergan was never going to get that whole million.

And it’s true that with easy video apps on mobile phones --  and the rise of the likes of easy-streaming apps like Periscope, and other websites regularly re-streaming other broadcaster’s property – that streaming and rebroadcasting other live events, either truly live or by videoing your television or computer – of just by pinching someone else’s stream -- is just going to keep getting easier and easier.

And it’s also true that the host broadcaster, Sky, has adopted several very effective methods by which to really piss off its customers and destroy whatever loyalty they might otherwise feel to the broadcaster.

But … none of this makes the theft any more justifiable, does it? Indeed, with the inexorable rise of all this exciting new technology, it makes it even more important to get the morality of it right.

It’s not a new argument; it’s the same old argument about intellectual property we’ve had any times before, with some folf thinking that because theft of someone else’s property is becoming easier, that this somehow makes it justifiable. As if a new fashionable style of clothing were to justify pickpocketing simply because it made the pockets more vulnerable.

Not so.

Ease does not justify theft.

In all senses that you care to examine, the fight, the broadcast and the production of the broadcast are the property of the broadcaster and promoter. It’s their fight, their broadcast, their product – and they have to pay all the bills to make it happen, and earn enough to make it happen again. They are entitled to sell it on whatever terms they care to, including prohibitions against rebroadcast. (Terms to which anyone paying their fee has agreed.)

The dickhead who violated this agreement sees himself as a “Robin Hood,” robbing from the rich broadcaster to distribute their product to the sporting poor who otherwise couldn’t afford to watch.

It may have been expensive and overpriced. But it’s their fight, their broadcast, their product. So it’s their call how they choose to price it. (“Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana,” says Bill Gates, that of sporting events in particular. And with only a small local audience on which to draw, the promoter needs to be able to earn enough from those few punters to pay for the purse and everything needed to make the whole product happen)

It may be that Sky sucks. (In fact, it’s true that they do.) But it’s their fight, their broadcast, their product. Don’t like it? Then don’t do business with them.

It may be too that many of those who did watch the re-streamed broadcast couldn’t have afforded to watch it otherwise. That may be true, though I doubt it. But so what? It’s neither their fight, their broadcast, nor their product. It’s not up to them to set any terms whatsoever, because it’s just not theirs. It’s the property of broadcaster and promoter.

And taking away or reducing their profit reduces the likelihood of future broadcasts and promotions. (As Ludwig Von Mises observed: “Without copyright protection, musicians, authors, and composers are in the position of having to bear all the costs of production while the benefits go to others.”)

As technology changes we do need to resurrect the public morality that publicly rejects theft. Today’s one of those days in that battle.

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