Tuesday 5 December 2023

This TikTok Video Shows How the Right Is Scaring Young People Away from Capitalism

Young people aren't snowflakes for wanting a better life, argues Jess Gill in this guest post, so maybe listen up sometimes when some are breaking down.

This TikTok Video Shows How the Right Is Scaring Young People Away from Capitalism

by Jess Gill

Recently, a TikTok video of a zoomer in tears about her nine-to-five job went viral. In the video, she complains that she has to take a long commute to work since she can’t afford to live in the city. With an early rise and a late return, she explains that she doesn’t have time to do anything else.

With millions of views, the video received a mixed bag of responses. On TikTok, the video received a mostly positive reception. Some commenters said they could relate, others blamed capitalism for having their own annoying nine-to-five job. Meanwhile on Twitter, right-wing pundits took it as an opportunity to make a dig at young people being sensitive and spoiled.

It is sadly common that when any young person complains about an inconvenience, they tend to be mocked by others online, especially boomers. People in older generations are quick to bring out well-worn talking points, like “maybe if you stop buying so many Starbucks coffees, you’d be better off!” They might also try to compete by saying that in their day they had it worse. Too often, young people are seen as “lazy” or “snowflakes.”

But do young people really have it better?

In some cases, yes. Our parents didn’t have the same technology or access to entertainment that we take for granted every day. It was only a few decades ago that you would have to go to Blockbuster to rent a movie. Now, not only do we have access to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu at a relatively cheap price, we also have endless free video entertainment on YouTube.

But that’s not the full story.

The Kids Aren’t Alright

As with all generations, zoomers face disadvantages. One of the biggest challenges young people face today is finding an affordable place to live. It’s hard enough for many young people to afford rent, let alone save up for a mortgage. As the Tiktoker describes in the video, she’s unable to afford to live close to her workplace.

The housing crisis has a big role to play in this. Due to red tape and planning regulations, the supply of housing is severely limited. This is especially true in cities, where the demand greatly outweighs the supply.

It might seem as though there is an easy solution: just build more housing. But expanding housing in cities is unpopular. As Patrick Carroll has explained:
With respect to supply, there are basically two ways to expand: up and out. On the one hand, cities can build taller, higher-density residences. On the other hand, they can build on new land at the outskirts of the city.
    The problem is that both of these options are seriously unpopular. With respect to building up, many people are fiercely opposed to high-density developments in their local communities, and as a result, most municipalities have strict zoning laws that prevent or at least limit these kinds of initiatives.
    If you suggest building out, however, you quickly encounter the wrath of environmentalists who are on a mission to mitigate urban sprawl, and the environmentalists have passed many land-use regulations, too. The Greenbelt in Ontario, for instance, is a 2,000,000 acre swath of land surrounding Toronto that is permanently protected from development because of environmental considerations.
Wellington has a similar swathe around the city, a green belt that protects a lot of gorse while restricting lots of growth within.

On top of this, young people also face other financial challenges that boomers did not at their age. When it comes to saving up for rent or a mortgage, the government's policies, including inflation and taxation, are eating into our incomes more than in the past. In addition, young people have fallen into the trap of predatory student loans—a trap which has been getting worse in recent decades—which means that graduates have less money in their pocket at the end of the month.

The Zoomer to Socialist Pipeline

Young people clearly face issues. Yet boomers turn a blind eye and scoff at the luxuries of Netflix and Starbucks that zoomers and millennials take for granted.

As a result of feeling unheard and patronised by the older generations who refuse to acknowledge their problems, many young people turn towards socialism, which recognizes their issues and diagnoses them as the fault of capitalism. The majority of young people in the United Kingdom prefer socialism over capitalism, and they blame issues like the housing crisis on the free market. But this just exacerbates the problem. When they cheer for government intervention, young people are advocating for more of what is causing their issues in the first place!

If we want to stop young people from being disillusioned with capitalism, we need to honestly acknowledge the problems they're facing instead of dismissing them. The reason why the TikToker can’t afford the same standard of living that her parents probably did isn’t the fault of capitalism. It’s the fault of the government. If we address these issues with the consideration they deserve, we can stop young people from digging their own grave.

* * * * 

Jess Gill is the Communications and Social Manager for Ladies of Liberty Alliance (LOLA) and a Hazlitt Fellow with the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

Her post first appeared at the FEE blog.

Monday 4 December 2023

COP28 Climate Summit President: "'no science' that says phasing out fossil fuels is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius"

"The president of the COP28 climate summit, Sultan Al Jaber, recently claimed there is 'no science' that says phasing out fossil fuels is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, in comments that have alarmed climate scientists and advocates.
    "The future role of fossil fuels is one of the most controversial issues countries are grappling with at the COP28 climate summit. While some are pushing for a 'phase-out,' others are calling for the weaker language of a 'phase-down.' Scientific reports have shown that fossil fuels must be rapidly slashed to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees — the goal of the Paris climate agreement, and a threshold above which scientists warn it will be more difficult for humans and ecosystems to adapt.
    "Al Jaber ... was asked by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and current chair of the Elders Group, an independent group of global leaders, if he would lead on phasing out fossil fuels. In his response, Al Jaber told Robinson, “there is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5.” He said he had expected to come to the ... meeting to have a “sober and mature conversation” and was not “signing up to any discussion that is alarmist.”
    "He continued that the 1.5-degree goal was his 'north star,' and a phase-down and phase-out of fossil fuel was 'inevitable' but 'we need to be real, serious and pragmatic about it.
    "In an increasingly fractious series of responses to Robinson pushing him on the point, Al Jaber asked her 'please, help me, show me a roadmap for a phase-out of fossil fuels that will allow for sustainable socio-economic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves'.”

Cartoon by Alex Gregory, New Yorker (2013)

"Far from mitigating Beijing's brashness, all of these diplomatic overtures that we've seen over the last year have emboldened Xi further."

"Far from mitigating Beijing's brashness, all of these diplomatic overtures that we've seen over the last year have emboldened Xi further. And I really do think that appeasing this sort of aggression today really does risk miscalculation and potentially even catastrophe tomorrow.
    "I think APEC revealed that policymakers here in Washington are interested in pursuing a path towards détente. A lot of the language that we heard from Xi Jinping himself about 'the world is big enough for the two of us' is eerily reminiscent of what we even heard from Khrushchev during the Cold War about peaceful coexistence, right? Even the Biden administration's China policy is rooted in an idea of competing while coexisting. It assumes a policy of détente. And so I think, as much as I've sort of had concerns or reservations about comparisons to the Cold War with the Soviet Union, I do think it's important that we recognise that détente as a policy failed.
    "We did fool ourselves a little bit into thinking that the US and Soviet systems could co-exist. And so we pursued policies that were aimed, I think, at stability, but counterintuitively extended the Soviet system's survival [which was always headed for collapse]. And so I think today, because of all of the headwinds that Tom outlines in his paper, Xi Jinping really welcomes détente. It provides the necessary breathing room that he needs both to address the structural, not cyclical, structural problems in China's economy, problems that he has talked about since his first day atop of the Chinese Communist Party, but also to build out this alternate global architecture, one that reflects China's values and, I think, China's interests."

~ Craig Singleton, from his Hudson Institute co-presentation 'How the US Should Respond to China’s Challenge to US Geoeconomic Leadership' [transcript here]. Hat tip Bill Brown, who reminds us "The CCP, like the Soviets, is nothing without the West." 

How bad ideas gain currency

I couldn't resist putting these two quotes together. 

First, (via Gus Van Horn) an explanation of how bad ideas gain currency:

"[Immanuel] Kant originated the technique required to sell irrational notions to the men of a skeptical, cynical age who have formally rejected mysticism without grasping the rudiments of rationality. The technique is as follows: if you want to propagate an outrageously evil idea (based on traditionally accepted doctrines), your conclusion must be brazenly clear, but your proof unintelligible. Your proof must be so tangled a mess that it will paralyse a reader's critical faculty -- a mess of evasions, equivocations, obfuscations, circumlocutions, non sequiturs, endless sentences leading nowhere, irrelevant side issues, clauses, sub-clauses and sub-sub-clauses, a meticulously lengthy proving of the obvious, and big chunks of the arbitrary thrown in as self-evident, erudite references to sciences, to pseudo-sciences, to the never-to-be-sciences, to the untraceable and the unprovable -- all of it resting on a zero: the absence of definitions. I offer in evidence the 'Critique of Pure Reason'." (Ayn Rand, from her 'Untitled Letter,' in which she argues John Rawls applies a similar technique)

Second, Roger Pielke Jr.'s description of climate policy:
Climate policy focused on reducing emissions often looks like a Rube Goldberg device, with complexity built upon complexity such that policy levers may or may not impact the intended outcome — which is reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels all the way to net-zero.
I'll leave you to make the link.

Saturday 2 December 2023

"The 'Great Awokening' seems to be winding down." Slowly.

"After 2011, there was a rapid change in discourse and norms around social justice issues, particularly among knowledge economy professionals (i.e., people who work in fields like journalism, the arts, entertainment, law, tech, finance, consulting, education, and research).As I detail in my forthcoming book, this 'awokening' manifested in everything from poll and survey responses, to media outputs, to changes in political alignments, and beyond. Within academia, there was a sharp increase in student protest activity beginning in 2011, accompanied by growing tensions around 'cancel culture' and self-censorship. There were ballooning investments in (demonstrably ineffective) mandated diversity-related training and rapid expansions of campus 'sex bureaucracies.' Changes were also apparent in research outputs....
    "[A]fter 2011, there was a sharp increase in the use of prejudice-denoting terms. This held for virtually all forms of bias and discrimination (racism, sexism, transphobia, Islamophobia, ableism, ageism, fatphobia, and derivatives of the same). ...
    "[B]y several measures [however], the 'Great Awokening' seems to be winding down. Starting in late 2021, and continuing throughout 2022, there appeared to be a moderation trend across many social indicators... After 2020 [especially], there were declines across the board in published research focused on identity-based bias and discrimination. Academic scholarship seems to have passed peak 'woke.' ...

"[T]he chart above does not just illustrate a significant increase in scholarly discussion of identity-based bias and discrimination after 2011. We can also see that there has been a significant decline in scholarly discussion of these issues in recent years across the board. The timelines run a bit differently for different types of prejudice or discrimination. Work on sexism and misogyny plateaued first, in 2018. Work exploring prejudice against racial and ethnic minorities, and lesbian, gay, or bisexual people, reached its zenith in 2020. Work discussing bias and discrimination against trans folks peaked a bit later, in 2021. By the end of 2022, however, all four had retreated a bit from their high-water marks. Commensurate with trends explored in my recent essay looking at other social indicators, it seems as though the 'awokening' in academic scholarship may be winding down ... "

Friday 1 December 2023

The Perfect Martini


Pic from Spruce Eats

I JUST REALISED THAT it's been a while since I posted my recipe for a perfect martini (as opposed to a Perfect Martini, a specific drink which has two kinds of vermouth, and both bitters and a sweetener!)

First thing to say (and I'll say it again later) is that a martini does not have adjectives – except words such as “cold,” “dry, or “perfect.”

It most especially does not have adjectives like “apple” or “espresso.” If you must order that last ill-named sugary drink, I implore you to call it by its proper name, a vodka espresso, instead of the name intended to  steal the lustre of this real drink, the martini.[1]

Second thing to say then, is that we all have our own favourite, and only one of us is right. (Best tip when getting lost in the bush is to first get out your martini-making equipment and begin stirring, at which point someone will inevitably emerge from the bush to say "That's not how you make a martini!" And you can then ask then the way out.)

The main thing, however, is that the martini is not something to drink alone. The perfect martini starts therefore with ordering up the perfect friends with whom to take the bark off. Shouldn’t be too hard, since who wouldn’t want to share a perfect martini with friends. (And if they don’t, they shouldn’t be your friends.)

The martini itself is three drinks in one. Get each part right, and you have what HL Mencken once described as “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” In other words: the perfect drink.

The first third of this perfection is about that cold breathe of alcohol on your throat and nose as you take your first sip. So start your drink the day before by putting your glasses, mixing jug and your gin in the freezer.

You can use vodka for that strong alcohol hit, but the vodka martini is like an empty soul in the middle third of your drink just when you want to taste your base ingredient. (This, by the way, is why Ian Fleming chose it for his wounded hero.) So use at least a Bombay Sapphire gin for flavour, or a Sipsmiths to be extra dry, to make sure your middle third tastes right. And do make sure you freezer it, 'cos you care (if you're visiting cocktail bars that don't, then they don't), and because you want to keep the drink cool all the way through.

The vermouth and the garnish dominate your drink’s final third. So don’t stint on either. And do make sure you refrigerate both --first off so they're cold; but mostly because vermouth, a fortified wine, starts to go vinegary once it's opened.

And always (always!) use extra dry vermouth. On that much everyone agrees. And most can agree on the brands -- Dolin being good; Noilly Prat being better than good; Martini brand being barely good enough. But the proportions of gin to vermouth are as controversial as a roll of sandpaper in an Australian cricket bag. My own view however is that this is very much up to your own taste, and your own taste will change over an evening, over a year, over a lifetime.

You need more than just a shot of light through the vermouth bottle, but 25:1 can be a fine drink on the right extra-extra-dry occasion, even if the hint of vermouth is barely detectable. This drink (what Hemingway called a “Montgomery” because of the general’s alleged liking for that kind of numerical superiority before mounting an attack) goes perfectly with either cocktail onions or a lemon peel garnish, with that lemon peel being expressed over the top of the drink before serving.

But unless you like what’s called an “upside-down” martini, you wouldn’t want to go over 2:1 – a drink that goes perfectly with three unpitted olives on a toothpick, with just the tiniest dash of brine in the glass before serving. This was how FDR is said to have served his martinis.

My own preference at present is around 6 to 1. But that’s for a variation called a Vesper, perhaps the most perfect martini yet invented (the creation of the aforementioned Mr Fleming) while not actually being a martini at all. So if I were tied up and held down and had a very cold very dry martini forced upon me, today’s preference would be for around 5:1, with cocktail onions. In bartender terms, since you’re ordering, this drink is called a Gibson.

So for each person, if you’re making my Gibson, start by putting into your chilled jug a handful of very coarse ice and a generous half-shot of vermouth for each drinker, swirl it to coat the ice, and let it sit to chill while you prepare your garnish, and your glasses.

Now, each decent martini is around three-and-a-half shots. Make sure your glass will hold this and no more. (Too big a glass looks like meanness when you’re pouring, and like gaucheness when you’re drinking.) When all is ready, add to the jug around three shots of your chosen gin. And then stir gently for about twenty-five seconds, when cold martini-odour begins to effuse. 

Did I say stir? I did, sir. You may shake, if you want a cloudy and more watery drink, but stirring is preferred. Yes, Ian Fleming does have James Bond order a vodka martini "shaken not stirred," but this is intended to tell us about his character, not about an ideal drink. (Contrast its icy, frozen, tasteless heart with the Vesper he drinks earlier in the first book, before his first love betrays him.) 

So shake if you must, and shake well, but not extensively. (No more than 15 seconds.) And to a waltz rhythm. The aim is to make the drink ice cold, not a drink made mostly with ice chips.

And when the stirring or shaking is done, pour and enjoy.

THE MARTINI IS ALL ABOUT the ritual, so make you get your time right (before dinner, at the Cocktail Hour), and your artefacts correct. Garnish: fresh and clean. Toothpicks: simple and unobtrusive.  The jug: crystal, not plastic. The glasses: not buckets, but just large enough to hold the drink; and simple and elegant – if they look like a good match for an umbrella, they’re not a good home for your martini. 

Ice is important – maybe more than you think. This is because ice becomes one of the drink’s four main ingredients. Chipped ice melts especially fast in a shaker, diluting the drink too much. Coarse ice is better, either stirred or shaken, and it very much must be clean, and without assailing fridge odours!

And so is music. A martini is best served with music that creates elegance and supports conversation -- something without vocals (which competes with your talking), with lots of melody (so you can keep track while you're talking) and plenty of space between the notes within which to converse. Something like the Benny Goodman Small Groups is ideal, with Benny out front on clarinet, and Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Charlie Christian supplying the endless melodic invention in support.

And finally, two words of warning. The first is this: a reminder that the only adjective that should be put in front of the martini are words like “perfect,” “cold,” “exceptional” and “damned fine.” Adjectives before it like “espresso,” “apple,” “pear” or “bikini” however do not denote a martini, but someone’s excuse to douse you in flavoured sugar. Avoid such persons.

The second word of warning about your martini is this: Respect it. Above all, treat it gently. You are drinking a glass without a mixer, while still aiming to be one yourself. The almost-great Dorothy Parker observed 
"I like a martini, 
Two at the very most, 
After three I’m under the table, 
After four I’m under my host.”
Dorothy is often a good guide.

* * * * 

[1] Yes, there are plenty of variations on the martini. John Doxat suggests around twenty. Frank Moorhouse in his Martini memoir offers nearly forty variants (from the Kangaroo, i.e., made with vodka instead of gin, to the Black Thorn Faux Martini, which “only sounds like a martini”) along with an additional  five “crazy drinks” (from the Flirtini to the Times Square Tootsie). But don’t confuse the crazier drinks for the real thing.

Shane MacGowan (1957-2023)


"Yes, the greatest songwriter of the Eighties has left us. The man who singlehandedly resuscitated traditional Irish music, and spiked it with the din of London punk, has retired to the great drinking establishment in the sky. He was 65. Younger generations will never understand how crazy it is that Shane MacGowan made it to retirement age. ...
    "Yet even as we marvel at the length of MacGowan’s life, and the almost studied debauchery of it, we must honour its achievements, too. They are legion. ...

"Originally called Pogue Mahone – Irish for ‘kiss my arse’ – the Pogues diplomatically whittled their name down in the early Eighties. They burst on to the music scene with their album Red Roses for Me in 1984. That was the year of the New Romantics and Band Aid. Of men in make-up looking earnest next to smoke machines on Top of the Pops and Bob Geldof’s sad-eyed minions wondering if the starving folk of Ethiopia even know it’s Christmas. (Sixty-five per cent of them are Christians, so I’m guessing they do, yes.) Then along comes this hybrid Irish / London band, part-trad, part-punk, as if Brendan Behan and Johnny Rotten had defied the laws of nature and had offspring, singing ‘The Auld Triangle’ and ‘Poor Paddy’ and ‘Down in the Ground Where the Dead Men Go’. No wonder Melody Maker described Red Roses for Me as brilliant but ‘strangely irrelevant’, like ‘a particularly bloody two-fingered [gesture] aimed at all things considered current and fashionable in 1984’. Yes, quite correct....

"They were the cultural outliers who inspired wild devotion among fans. MacGowan declared himself the enemy of pop worthiness, a one-man screw-you to the po-faced bent of so much Eighties pop. Asked why his punkish Irish outfit enjoyed so much success, he said‘[because] we weren’t a faggot and a guy with a synthesiser’. ... No one wanted ‘another bunch of straights playing “world music”’ either, he said. They ‘wanted the Pogues’, they wanted ‘nutters’. It’s true, we did....
    "We will see a lot of Pogues nostalgia in the coming days. MacGowan will be praised to the hilt by people who would have cancelled him in a heartbeat if he emerged today....
    "Ireland’s Taoiseach, Tánaiste and president will pay tribute to MacGowan. Even as they trounce the Ireland he represented. Even as they rush through hate-speech laws that would potentially have led to someone like MacGowan being dragged to court for his sinful utterance of a word like ‘faggot’....
    "His music will outlive these people. It will survive cancel culture. It will outlast a pop scene where binding one’s breasts and saying ‘I love Greta’ are insanely considered acts of rebellion. ‘We watched our friends grow up together / And we saw them as they fell / Some of them fell into Heaven / Some of them fell into Hell’, he sings on ‘A Rainy Night in Soho’. Let’s hope he’s falling into Heaven today. He deserves it.

~ Brendan O'Neill, from his post 'The last Irish rebel'

Henry Hazlitt on Liberty: 21 Choice Quotes

With a new government here just beginning its work, its worth reminding ourselves that the work that truly matters in government is the protection and expansion of individual liberty. Gary Galles reminds us in this guest post that at at time when far more resources are forcibly taken from some, for whatever and whoever the government decides, the insights  on liberty of Henry Hazlitt are more important than ever.

Henry Hazlitt on Liberty: 21 Choice Quotes

by Gary Galles

November 28 marked the 1894 birth of one of American history’s most prolific public intellectuals—Henry Hazlitt (1894-1993). According to Lew Rockwell, he “was familiar with the work of every important thinker in nearly every field,” and he “wrote in every important public forum of his day.” His published work as a journalist, literary critic, philosopher, and economist ran to roughly 10 million words before his death in 1993, including perhaps the most popular economics book ever written: Economics in One Lesson.

In that vast output, perhaps Hazlitt’s most important contribution was his consistent defense of the central importance of liberty in daily life, even though it lost him more than one job. At a time when real commitment to liberty is scarce, we should all pay heed to his wisdom.

Here are twenty-one of his most essential quotes:
“True adherents of liberty ... [believe] in limited government, in the maximisation of liberty for the individual and the minimisation of the coercion to the lowest point compatible with law and order ... we believe in free trade, free markets, free enterprise, private property.”
“Liberty is the essential basis, the sine qua non, of morality. Morality can only exist in a free society, it can exist [only] to the extent freedom exists.”

“‘Freedom to’” is a guarantee that no one, including the government, will be allowed to interfere with one’s freedom.”

“The future of human liberty ... means the future of civilisation.”

“The State, of course, is absolutely indispensable to the preservation of law and order, and the promotion of peace and social cooperation. What is unnecessary and evil, what abridges the liberty and therefore the true welfare of the individual, is the State that has usurped excessive powers and grown beyond its legitimate function.”

“The superior freedom of the capitalist system, its superior justice, and its superior productivity are not three superiorities, but one. The justice follows from the freedom and the productivity follows from the freedom and the justice.”

“Government can’t give anything without depriving us of something else.”

“When your money is taken by a thief, you get nothing in return. When your money is taken through taxes to support needless bureaucrats, precisely the same situation exists.”

“Only if the modern state can be held within a strictly limited agenda...can it be prevented from regimenting, conquering, and ultimately devouring the society which gave it birth.”

“Liberty is so precious an end in itself that Lord Acton was moved to declare that it is ‘not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end.’ Yet though liberty is beyond doubt an end in itself, it is also of the highest value … as a means to most of our other ends. We can pursue not only our economic but our intellectual and spiritual goals only if we are free to do so.”

"Government planning always involves compulsion."

“Many of today’s writers who are most eloquent in their arguments for liberty in fact preach philosophies that would destroy it.”

“In a thousand fields the welfarists, statists, socialists, and inverventionists are daily driving for more restrictions on individual liberty.”

“The solution to our problems is not more paternalism, laws, decrees, or controls, but the restoration of liberty and free enterprise.”
“Capitalism will continue to eliminate mass poverty in more and more places and to an increasingly marked extent if it is merely permitted to do so.”

“The ‘private sector’ of the economy is, in fact, the voluntary sector...the ‘public sector’ is, in fact, the coercive sector.”
“Capitalism, the system of private property and free markets, is not only a system of freedom and of natural justice—which tends…to distribute rewards in accordance with production—but it is a great co-operative and creative system that has produced…affluence that our ancestors did not dare dream of.”
“The crying need today is not for more laws, but for fewer. If the friends of liberty and law could have only one slogan it should be: Stop the remedies!”

“Our intelligentsia …. misprize economic liberty because … they lack the knowledge or understanding to recognise that when economic liberties are abridged or destroyed, all other liberties are abridged or destroyed with them.”

“Liberty is a whole, and to deny economic liberty is finally to destroy all liberty.”

“When Alexander the Great visited the philosopher Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for him, Diogenes is said to have replied: ‘Yes, stand a little less between me and the sun.’ It is what every citizen is entitled to ask of his government.”
Henry Hazlitt recognised liberty as the only moral system and economic liberty, or capitalism, as the only means of organizing society that can benefit all. And he defended that position powerfully against many attacks. As Ludwig von Mises described him, “in this age of great struggle in favor of freedom and the social system in which men can live as free men, you…are the economic conscience of our country.”

During his life, Hazlitt saw America taking the opposite course, prompting him to conclude that “So far as the politicians are concerned, the lesson … does not seem to have been learned anywhere.”

Now, with far more resources forcibly taken from some for whatever and whoever the government decides, his insights are more important than ever.

* * * * 

Gary M. Galles is a Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University and a member of the Foundation for Economic Education faculty network.
In addition to his most recent book, Pathways to Policy Failures (2020), his books include Lines of Liberty (2016), Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies (2014), and Apostle of Peace (2013).

Thursday 30 November 2023

Free Palestine. From Hamas. [updated]


A wounded, elderly Palestinian man at Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital has an Al Jazeera camera thrust in his face.

"Over 15 or 20 houses were bombed," says the interviewer, inviting a response. "Is this a human act?" "No," says the elderly Palestinian, "this is a criminal act. 
As for the [Hamas] resistance -- they come and hide among the people. Why are they hiding among the people? They can go to hell and hide there." 
The reporter immediately turns his back on the man. This is not what he is there to report.

This is one of many small acts of resistance inside Gaza that are either suppressed, or just go mostly un-reported. 
For nearly a generation, media owned by Qatar and Iran have tag-teamed with Hamas to paint a false picture of ideological uniformity across Gaza. While Hamas quashed opposition to their rule, Al Jazeera and other mouthpieces platformed the terror group’s leaders and shills. ...
    Western media largely goes along with this programme. Judging from most reportage out of Gaza, two million Palestinian victims of Hamas tyranny and corruption can name only one oppressor: Israel.
    In 2019, brave Gazan youth tried to change all this by waging anti-Hamas street demonstrations under the banner “We Want to Live”—their way of showing that when Hamas dubs all Palestinians “lovers of death,” they lie. But as one protest veteran told us, “The movement was brutally suppressed.” He went on, “We found neither receptivity nor expressions of support from the outside world.”
    In Arab lands where terror militias rule, the world should be listening not just to the few who hold a megaphone but also to the many who can only whisper.
The Center for Peace Communications has been trying to change that, one piece of reportage at a time. And it's now launched a video series Voices from Gaza, to give a platform on the current war to the many Gazans who do not support Hamas.

They include:
  • a resident of Khan Younis describing how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread
  • a day after scores of civilians died in an Israeli air strike on a market in Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp, an eyewitness to the tragedy explained that hile Hamas and its allies persist in charging that Israel targets innocents, Gazans pin their own survival strategy on the understanding that innocents serve Hamas as human shields -- and their best methid of survival is to block their streets fom Hamas
  • a Gazan woman who fears that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule
  • another patient at al-Shifa hospital who explains “Every Palestinian knows Shifa hospital is full of [Hamas fighters], but nobody can talk: death by the Jews is better than death by ISIS”
  • a resident of Gaza City who explains that when Hamas distributes the aid that does get in, "only Hamas members get the aid.” The same applies to Gaza’s healthcare system, where “Hamas families get preferential treatment” and even the most urgent needs of others “could be delayed for a long time so that Hamas loyalists are treated first.”
The stories are heart-breaking, and never-ending. And they give the lie to idea that Hamas speaks for these poor folk.

Free Palestine. From Hamas.

UPDATE: Following on from Liberty Scott's comment below, Robert Tracinski posts this morning on how their support for Hamas's war "exposes the 'woke' movement's reactionary progressives."
There has been a lot of speculation that the “woke” fad may already be fading, that it has reached its peak and even its own supporters or fellow travelers on the centre-left are getting sick of it. There is some evidence that this is true in academia. But if we’re looking for a moment that could mark a definitive turn away from wokeness in the culture at large, the Hamas war just might be it....
    The left’s reaction—its defence and even outright celebration of a terrorist group’s campaign of mass murder—puts a giant asterisk in front of everything they ever said about “marginalised” people, about how “silence is violence,” and any rhetoric they have ever used about “liberation” or “justice.” That asterisk stands for the proviso: “Except for the Jews.”
    This is not mere hypocrisy but reflects and reveals the tribalist ideology behind the contemporary “woke” left.

New Zealand's About‐​Face on Tobacco Prohibition - The View from Washington


Jeffrey Singer reports from Washington DC, in this guest post, that the Luxon Government's reversal of the forthcoming tobacco prohibition may have international repercussions. Positive ones ...

New Zealand's About‐​Face on Tobacco Prohibition

by Jeffrey A. Singer

New Zealand’s newly‐​elected centre‐​right government announced yesterday that it intends to scrap a planned phase‐​in of tobacco prohibition that would have banned sales of tobacco products to people born after 2009. The plan would have also cut the number of retailers permitted to legally sell tobacco by 90 percent, and ordered tobacco makers to reduce the nicotine content of cigarettes they may sell. Anyone versed in the economics of prohibition would have predicted that each of those three measures would help fuel a vibrant black market with its corresponding violent crime and corruption.

This is good news for New Zealanders, where fewer than 14 percent of persons over age 15 smoked tobacco in 2020. They will avoid yet another state encroachment on their personal liberty along with tax increases to fund government spending on enforcing tobacco prohibition and fighting tobacco smugglers.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak should take notice. Last month, his government announced plans to clone New Zealand’s tobacco prohibition plan. Announcing his plan at Britain’s Conservative Party Conference, Sunak said, “A 14‐​year‐​old today will never legally be sold a cigarette.”

Sunak’s announcement came as both a surprise and a disappointment to tobacco harm reduction advocates, given the UK’s heretofore reasonable approach to reducing tobacco smoking. While nicotine is the addictive component of tobacco smoke, it is a relatively harmless stimulant, not very different from caffeine, as Scotland’s NHS Informs has stated. It is the other components of tobacco smoke that produce harm to health.

The UK’s Royal Society of Public Health says nicotine is “no more harmful to health than caffeine.” Public Health England has said that “vaping” with nicotine e‑cigarettes is “95 percent less harmful than tobacco smoking.” The Royal College of Physicians has issued the following statement:
  • [T]he available evidence to date indicates that e‑cigarettes are being used almost exclusively as safer alternatives to smoked tobacco, by confirmed smokers who are trying to reduce harm to themselves or others from smoking, or to quit smoking completely.
  • There is a need for regulation to reduce direct and indirect adverse effects of e‑cigarette use, but this regulation should not be allowed significantly to inhibit the development and use of harm‐​reduction products by smokers.
  • However, in the interests of public health it is important to promote the use of e‑cigarettes, NRT [nicotine replacement therapy] and other non‐​tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking in the UK.
So far, Brookline, Massachusetts is the only jurisdiction in the United States to have enacted a tobacco ban. Brookline bans the sale of tobacco to anyone born after the year 2000. It doesn’t take an entrepreneurial genius to figure out ways to make money legally selling cigarettes to adults from the other side of the Brookline town line.

Earlier this year, California lawmakers considered making the Golden State the first in the nation to enact New Zealand’s tobacco prohibition model into law. A bill to that effect failed to advance during this year’s legislative session. Interestingly, California’s major anti‐​smoking and anti‐​vaping groups chose not to lobby for the bill. A Cal Matters report quoted Autumn Ogden‐​Smith, director of California state legislation for the American Cancer Society Action Network, saying, “This is not the time to tackle this. We’re trying to do the clean‐​up on the flavored tobacco ban. We’re having enforcement issues.”

As I wrote here, banning menthol tobacco creates its own set of harmful unintended consequences.

New Zealand’s recent about‐​face on tobacco prohibition will hopefully put to rest similar efforts in California and other states. Let’s hope it will also cause Sunak and his Conservative Party to reconsider their plans. The UK had the right approach to reducing tobacco smoking until now: opting for evidence‐​based tobacco harm reduction instead of prohibition.

* * * * 

Jeffrey A. Singer is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and works in the Department of Health Policy Studies. He is President Emeritus and founder of Valley Surgical Clinics Ltd., the largest and oldest group private surgical practice in Arizona, and has been in private practice as a general surgeon for more than 35 years.
His post first appeared at the Cato at Liberty blog.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

She's the Patron Saint of Geeks

Dr. Maria Montessori, pedagogical pioneer and "patron saint of geeks"

"The patron saint of geeks is probably Maria Montessori, who about 100 years ago got obsessed with the problem of how you educate young children best, and came up with the Montessori educational method, which is this radical departure from the industrial scale model of schools that was dominant then, and sadly still dominant now. Think about Maria Montessori when you think about a geek."
~ MIT Sloan School of Management principal research scientist Andrew McAfee, author of the book The Geek Way: The Radical Mindset that Drives Extraordinary Results. He defines geeks as “obsessive mavericks,” people who become obsessed with hard problems and are willing to pursue unconventional solutions – to avoid the dysfunctions that have traditionally plagued companies as they expand. In his interview with the Harvard Business Review, from which the quote above comes, he sets Maria Montessori alongside many technology disruptors and management icons in this regard.
Hat tip to Lynn Lawrence, who cites in support Angeline Lillard's recent and brilliantly argued conclusion that "It is time for a paradigm shift in education, on a par with the Copernican revolution."

The 'Magic' of the Market

Opposition to freer and unhampered markets takes many forms. But one thing common to most is the criticism that market-based thinking is "magical" thinking -- that free-market adherents are guilty of assuming markets will simply "magic away" all problems. How? Somehow? Frankly, as Patrick Carrroll outlines in this guest post, this says less about the "magic" of markets than it does about critics' complete ignorance of (and disinterest in) the market process. (A great introduction to the market process -- and a powerful antidote to this Myth of Magic Markets -- is Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, available free here).

The Magic of the Market

by Patrick Carroll

In a recent book, The Big Myth, its academic authors set out to expose what they call “market fundamentalism,” the idea that markets are almost magical and work better than governments for just about everything, an idea the authors portray as almost superstitious.
Market fundamentalists [they say] treat “The Market” as a proper noun: something unique and unto itself, that has agency and even wisdom, that functions best when left unfettered and unregulated, undisturbed and unperturbed…
    Americans in the early 20th century were largely suspicious of “Big Business” and saw the government as their ally. By the later decades of the century, this had flipped: many Americans now admired business leaders as “entrepreneurs” and “job creators” and believed it made more sense to count on the “magic of the marketplace” to solve problems than to engage government.
First, in case it needs to be said, no free-market proponent thinks “The Market” is literally magical, nor do we believe it is some mystical deity that has agency or wisdom. As Dan Sanchez has pointed out, no religious presuppositions are required for free-market proponents.

To the contrary, the “magic” of the market is figurative. Markets seem magical because they produce amazing results that are far too intricate for any individual to orchestrate, as Leonard Read famously pointed out in I, Pencil. The market is mysterious and seems to have agency because it is a complex adaptive system.

The “fundamentalist” pejorative is likewise misplaced. Our confidence in markets is not based on blind adherence to a religious dogma, but on careful reasoning—the very opposite of fundamentalism. The reason we are so insistent that the market be left alone is that we have learned—through rigorous analysis—how the system works, and we’ve realised that interference pretty much always breaks something.

But while the vast majority of free marketers have arrived at their position after critically examining all sides, the same cannot be said for those who believe in government. For many, the virtues of big government are articles of faith—a dogma that was taught to them in public school, university, and the media, and which they have accepted with minimal questioning.

This state fundamentalism—also known simply as statism—is truly ideological. The idea that the government just needs to preside over society to “fix” it and “manage” it is ingrained into the vast majority of New Zealanders, who still believe that it is "the government" who "runs" the country, but when pressed to explain why such interference is so desperately needed, their responses reveal a stunning dearth of critical self-examination on the topic.

If that’s not fundamentalism, I don’t know what is.

Critically, it is this statist ideology that needs to be exposed and refuted. Unlike market fundamentalism, the ideology of statism actually does dominate our institutions. It is this ideology that blossomed in the 20th century—largely thanks to government rigging the marketplace of ideas—and it is this ideology that is responsible for most of the problems we face today.

So if we want to talk about a “Big Myth” that has wooed the public for decades to our detriment, let’s talk about the myth this book conspicuously promotes: the myth that markets can be improved by the state.

* * * * 

Patrick Carroll is the Managing Editor at
the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).
This post is an excerpt from the original, which 
first appeared at the FEE blog.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

The New Govt: Long on undoing the last government’s agenda; short on making for a much better future

"[T]HIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE the government of busting public sector bloat, not simply matching previous excess...
    "First, the ministerial list with its 28 ministers and 2 under secretaries ... And then there all the portfolios: 76 of them by my count (up by five, I think, from the previous government, and 68 in the first Ardern ministry). ... It seems to have become a cheap form of pandering (pure portfolio labels themselves don’t cost much, but over time portfolio labels probably tend to beget activities and expenditure) to almost every conceivable sector and population group.
    "It is almost as if your existence isn’t validated until the government has created a ministerial portfolio that covers you.... None of it speaks of a government that is serious about shrinking the public sector and back-office bloat. The amounts involved of course aren’t individually large, but the pennies add up, and people look to actions at least as much as words....

"THE BIGGER QUESTION ACROSS all these documents ... is to what extent the new government’s programme mostly unwinds some of the bad stuff the previous government did and to what extent it genuinely sets a pathway to a much better future. Whatever you think of the state of things when National left office in 2017 – and at least there wasn’t a fiscal deficit – our average productivity performance was then as poor as ever, business investment lagged that in most OECD countries, and no real progress was being made towards abundant and easily affordable housing. And, for example, the Wellington City Council still wasn’t well-run and was still prioritising ideological vanity projects over basics (water, most notably).
     "There is a long list of stuff in the documents outlining the new government’s programme that I like. ... it is long on things (small and large) undoing the last government’s agenda, most of which I put big ticks next to.
    "But it seems .. short on making for a much better future [even] relative to 2017....
    "Time will tell. ... There is a reasonably encouraging list of things to unwind (although many more things could have been added), but having done the unwinds little in the agreements suggests any sort of full-throated seriousness about actually reversing decades of economic failure or the scandal that is house prices in land-abundant New Zealand. I doubt we will even hear again that stuff about once again being a world economic leader: with such an unambitious forward agenda, and weak policy capability, the gap between rhetoric and reality would quickly just be too sad ... "
~ Michael Reddell from his post 'Reading the documents'

RE-POST: Yes, Jenna, it is bribery

Broadcaster Jenna Lynch is aghast that anyone could consider being paid to broadcast government lines could in any way be considered "bribery." Oh, her outrage on behalf of the Team of 55 Million.

She appears innocently unaware there is more than one way to curtail free speech. Government organisations who censor speech or expression are one way. Government organisations who pay to promote it, like NZ on Air or the Public Interest Journalism Fund, are another.

To make this point, I’m going to repost a piece from 2006 [with just a few ever-so-slight additions]…
This is a post about free speech.

It is not a piece about outrageous assaults on free speech committed in Paris last month, or by government censorship offices, or by successive NZ governments keen to curtail criticism during election periods.

No, this is a post about a different kind of attack on free speech. One more subtle, and no less chilling. One in which [newspapers, journalists, broadcasters], artists, musicians, scriptwriters, screenwriters, television producers and television production companies are kept afloat by government cash and government grants from [a Public Interest journalism Fund] or Creative New Zealand or Te Mangai Paho or New Zealand on Air or their proxies, or in which many scientists are kept afloat by government grants or by employment in government research projects.

The direct result of this is what Ayn Rand once called ‘The Establishing of an Establishment’*: not just the sponsorship of creative souls [and journalists] to toe a government line, which is bad enough, but an even more insidious kind of greyness inciting would-be creatives to to a cultural line embodied by those doling out and reviewing these government grants.

What's the problem, you might ask? 
Well, think about this. There is more than one kind of censorship. In fact, I'd suggest to you that there are two. The first and most straightforward method of censorship is for a government to ban speech that they don't like -- that's just what National and Labour and the Greens and Gareth Morgan want to do at elections. The second form of censorship is one that Ayn Rand called "the establishing of an establishment," and it is even more insidious and no less chilling:
Governmental repression is [not] the only way a government can destroy the intellectual life of a country... There is another way: governmental encouragement.
Rather than simply banning opponents or banning expression, this form of censorship is much more subtle: it encourages expression (or scientific research) that is deemed acceptable, and by implication discourages anyone interested in career advancement from engaging in possibly unacceptable expression or research, .
Governmental encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true: it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood.
It makes them sensitive instead to what is deemed acceptable, and thereby lucrative -- it encourages and makes lucrative that very form of sensitivity – and it invites all those lucred up by the process to band together against whoever they perceive as their ‘other’ [especially so if they can be deemed "racist" or a "boomer" who is desperately behind the times].

This is what Rand referred to as "the welfare state of the intellect," and the result is as destructive as that other, more visible and stultifying welfare state: the setting up of politicians, bureaucrats and their minions (the establishment) as arbiters of thinking and taste and ideology; the freezing of the status quo; a staleness and conformity, and an unwillingness to speak out – what Frank Lloyd Wright once called “an average upon an average by averages on behalf of the average” such that in interrogating any one modern artist you would get essentially the same answers as from any other -- in short "the establishing of an establishment" to which new entrants in a field realise very quickly they are required to either conform or go under.
If you talk to a typical business executive or college dean or magazine editor [or spin doctor or opposition leader], you can observe his special, modern quality: a kind of flowing or skipping evasiveness that drips or bounces automatically off any fundamental issue, a gently non-committal blandness, an ingrained cautiousness toward everything, as if an inner tape recorder were whispering: "Play it safe, don't antagonise--whom?--anybody."
If you've ever wondered where this "special, modern quality" comes from, this is perhaps one answer -- through the intellectual mediocrity advanced by this less well-known form of censorship -- a censorship of encouragement. It's a much less obvious and much more insidious method of censorship, and no less chilling for that.
The [US] Constitution forbids a governmental establishment of religion, properly regarding it as a violation of individual rights. Since a man's beliefs are protected from the intrusion of force, the same principle should protect his reasoned convictions and forbid governmental establishments in the field of thought.
Think about it.
* * * * 

* From "The Establishing of an Establishment," republished in Rand's book Philosophy: Who Needs It?, from which the otherwise unreferenced quotes above derive. Highly recommended if you want to get to grips with this subtle form of censorship.
Send a copy to the Free Speech Union.

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Capitalist Manifesto: Why the Global Free Market Will Save the World,' by Johan Norberg

The IEA's Kristian Niemitz reviews Johan Norberg's important new book.

I first came across Johan Norberg almost exactly 20 years ago, when the German translation of his book In Defence of Global Capitalism came out. The book argued that globalisation was a success story. In large parts of the developing world, poverty, infant mortality and illiteracy were falling, life expectancy was rising, nutrition was improving, and democracy was spreading. These positive trends were, according to the younger Norberg, likely to continue, and they were not a product of chance. They were a result of the spread of capitalism.

At the time, this was considered an outrageous thing to say.... The almost universally accepted conventional wisdom of the day was that “globalisation” meant the exploitation of poor countries by multinational corporations, and that the world was going from bad to worse. ...

With his most recent book The Capitalist Manifesto: Why the Global Free Market Will Save the World, Norberg goes back to the beginning.... The era of “globalisation” is generally said to have started around 1990, so when In Defence of Global Capitalism came out, it was still in its relatively early stages. We now have three decades to go by. What happened in those three decades?

Quite a lot. 
  • Extreme poverty fell from 38% of the world’s population to less than 10%, 
  • child and infant mortality fell from 9.3% to 3.7%, 
  • global life expectancy increased from 64 years to over 70 years, 
  • illiteracy dropped from 25.7% to 13.5%, 
  • child labour decreased from 16% to 10%, and so on, and so forth. 
The countries and regions which performed best are the ones which did precisely the opposite of what the anti-globalisation movement wanted them to do, while the most spectacular counterexample is the movement’s erstwhile poster child of Venezuela. ...

There are genuine problems, though. In some Western countries, NIMBYism is driving up the cost of housing. This makes it harder for people to move to where the best job opportunities are, and it gives younger generations a worse deal. In addition, the extension of occupational licensing is erecting market entry barriers. None of this has anything to do with “neoliberalism” or “hyperglobalisation”, though – quite the opposite....

But have classical liberals benefited from this, in any way? Has being right made us more successful in winning over hearts and minds? Are there more people now who embrace free-market capitalism, or who at least accept that, even if they don’t like it, it is the most powerful motor of economic and social progress known to man?

Very far from it ... in addition to the anti-capitalist Left, we have also seen the rise of an anti-liberal Right. ... Where In Defence of Global Capitalism was able to concentrate on one enemy, The Capitalist Manifesto has to fight a two-front war. Some chapters are primarily aimed at the anti-capitalist Left, others are primarily aimed at the anti-liberal Right, and some could apply to both in roughly equal measure. ...
  • Chapter 3 concentrates on the ... misplaced nostalgia for the economic structure of the postwar decades ... Norberg shows that automation and productivity improvements have contributed far more to job losses in the manufacturing industries than free trade, and that ... the same processes that make some jobs redundant also lower consumer prices and thereby make us richer, [creating] demand for new jobs in other sectors ...
  • Chapter 4 addresses the old Marxist idea that wealth must be built on exploitation, but also some of the more recent literature on inequality, such as Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century and The Spirit Level by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson. In market economies, people do not get rich by exploiting others. They get rich because they offer something that lots of people are prepared to pay for. Left-wing celebrity authors like Michael Moore and Bernie Sanders understand that perfectly well when it comes to their own book sales, but they are not capable of extending that logic to entrepreneurial activities. ...
  • Chapter 5 picks up another perennial Marxist theme: the idea that capitalism supposedly leads to greater and greater industry concentration over time. ... The best antidote to worrying too much about market concentration, though, is to read an article from 20 or 30 years ago that was worrying about the same thing. This is because a lot of the behemoths of yesteryear have since faded into obscurity. ...
  • If there is one thing those of us on the pro-globalisation side were wrong about 20 years ago (and in Chapter 7, Norberg is very open about that), it was our belief that freer trade and freer markets would lead to the spread of Western liberal values, and Western-style liberal democracies. In China, this has clearly not happened. Under Xi Jinping, China has gone into reverse, both in terms of economic and political liberty. However, none of this means that economic nationalists, who seek to decouple Western economies from China, are right.... 
  • One of the weirder phenomena of the past five years or so was the rise of a new wave of militant, anti-capitalist eco-movements: the Greta Thunberg movement, Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, and their various offshoots and counterparts in other countries. It is weird because it happened after the environmentalist side had already won the debate on climate change. ... On green issues, anti-capitalists are as wrong as they are about everything else. As Norberg shows in Chapter 8, market economies can and do address environmental problems very effectively.
All in all, the slightly older Norberg skewers the bad of ideas of the 2020s as effectively as the young Norberg skewered the bad idea of the early 2000s.

Monday 27 November 2023

"What a free society offers to the individual ... "

"What a free society offers to the individual is much more than what he would be able to do if only he were free."
~ Friedrich Hayek, from his 1960 book The Constitution of Liberty


It’s those fantastical ‘Treaty of Waitangi Principles’ again


Since it's topical again (and will continue to be for some time), here's a re-post from wayback in 2012, changed only slightly to correct some typos and poor formulations...

Here we are again, having the same tired, washed-out old arguments:

YET AGAIN WE SEE all the political classes jumping into the trough for a mud wrestle over the so-called “Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi,” with the National Party wanting to diminish their impact in the partial sale of SOEs, the Maori Party wanting to use the bout to boost themselves, and Browntable iwi leaders hoping to further feather their nests.

The impossible-to-define "principles of the Treaty" were a late and pragmatic addition to law some twenty-five years ago [now thirty-five!]—and a leading lesson in the dangers of pragmatism in politics. As you might not know, the “the principles of the Treaty” are not part of the Treaty at all, just a recent accretion adding great confusion and a huge amount of expensive litigious activity. Not least because to this day they have still not been adequately defined.

FOR THOSE UNAWARE OF the history of these “Principles,”* you might be surprised to hear that were never there at the Treaty’s signing; they only emerged in recent times, and only because of the appalling political judgement of a former ACT Party luminary. A rushed addition to legislation that for the first time put the destructive ideas of “biculturalism” and race-based political “partnership” on the table, into the courts, and into the bank accounts of folk who saw the “Principles” as their main chance at piles of money.

So take a bow Richard Prebble while we tell the story of the birth of these “Principles” that have poisoned politics ever since.

Like Rodney Hide when he first got his feet under a ministerial table, Richard Prebble was so excited to “get things done” he didn’t care how he did them. So when, as Minister of State-Owned Enterprises in the Fourth Labour Government, he wanted to sell state-owned enterprises (a good thing, to help the country pay. its way), in order to quieten down the race-based dissent that started to affect Labour’s relations with its Maori voting base, he asked his colleague Geoffrey Palmer to insert a section in the new State-Owned Enterprises Act the phrase “principles of Treaty of Waitangi,” insisting that “decision-makers” must have regard to these "Principles." (A bad thing, and intended as no more than a sop.) 

This is all their now infamous Section 9 said:
Nothing in this Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
What were these "Principles"? No one knew.

Had they ever been defined? No, they hadn’t.

Did these two clowns have any idea what they might have started? Not a bit of it.

So in order to get the sales under way, these two simply brought these "Principles" into being without ever defining what these "Principles" are.

RICHARD PREBBLE DIDN’T CARE. He just wanted to sell things. Geoffrey Palmer did care, because his life’s work was based around writing legislation so vague, so ambiguous, that it allowed the courts to define things any way they wanted to. This, said the Idiot Palmer, is how you make law “flexible”: by giving the courts bullets which they could elect to fire in any direction they wished.

So much for the legal acumen of Geoffrey Palmer and the political nous of Richard Prebble. Because in the time it takes to say Motunui, a huge number of claims based on these newly-fangled "Principles" were rapidly being manufactured and presented, and the courts were beginning to dream up all sorts of stuff to fill up Palmer’s empty vessel.

This is where the fictions of “biculturalism” and race-based political “partnership” were born. And this was the beginning of the deluge of claims based on these twin fictions—a deluge unseen by the twin geniuses who gave birth to the legislation (“In the course of a relatively few years,” said the woeful Palmer for example, “most of the outstanding issues in this area will be settled. Most of the claims now are known…” )

The result is that to this day no-one knows with any kind of clarity what these “principles” are supposed to be. They were a legal fiction waiting for courts to define and redefine, and for litigants to quarry in an attempt to make their fortune—which they did, in their droves.

And because, over time, they were inserted in all their vagueness in virtually every piece of quasi-constitutional legislation written since, they became a poison that soon infected every piece of legislation they touched.

What that poison did—as subsequent court cases quietly morphed these “principles” into something ever more lucrative for the lawyers who lived off them—was to transfer the Treaty’s clear and straightforward promise of legal protection [Clause 2] and the recognition of rights [Clause 3] into the sort of vague, indefinable mush that helps lawyers afford large launches.

THE NET RESULT OF evoking "principles" that didn’t exist was to to create a Treaty that had never existed at all, except in the wet dreams o lawyers and activists. And thus was a whole Gravy Train created to feed off this New Thing.

It’s been a hard Train to stop now it’s got rolling.

It allowed the then Minister of Injustice and for Treaty Negotiations Doug Graham to mellifluously opine a few years later that “The sooner we realise there are laws for one and laws for another, the better.”

And with that invitation it has set the platform for a whole generation of youngsters to join the Grievance Industry and become, as virtually their sole occupation, professional Maoris. Three of this ilk, ironically, are now propping up John Key’s National government and throwing a tantrum over this very issue. Many others simply see the tantrum as yet another opportunity for a lucrative dip into this trough.

That this piece of human excrement, Douglas Montrose Graham, is on this very day before the law courts for fraud—for which his defence has been to limit his dishonesty by talking up instead his incompetence—is perhaps an appropriate contemporary comment on the fraudulent “Principles” themselves.

* * * * 

* "Principles" used in inverted commas here refers specifically to those "principles" invented by the courts in response to Palmer's invitation, especially those invented out of whole cloth such as "partnership" and "biculturalism." This is in contradistionctiin to the use of the word without inverted commas, wherein it refers simply to the word as defined in the dictionary.  Every law develops principles around it (without inverted commas), and good objective law will be written around those principles, allowing courts to use those principles o flesh out how the law is to be applied in particular cases. In the Palmer/Prebble formulation however, it is the courts who have been asked to invent the "Principles": i..e, to say what the law is, which is (or should be) the job of the lawmakers themselves.