Saturday, 23 September 2023

The Discomforting Solution to Homelessness

"PEOPLE ARE UPSET OVER THE homelessness problem in American cities," writes Jacob Hornberger. NZers are just as disturbed about our homelessness problem here. Visit any of our major towns and cities and you'll see the streets playing host to many poor souls unable to put a roof over their heads.
Most people pass them by, perhaps with a sinking sense of guilt. Or perhaps not. But the problem seems so intractable, so most do very little. 

If there's nothing to be done, why do anything at all? 

But there is something to be done, says Hornberger, and should be done by anybody who cares. Two things in particular, which you'll find at the bottom of the post. And could be done bloody quickly - iff there were a will.

But first, just think for a minute and compare two sorts of places. You see homeless folk on the streets when you walk the main streets of our major towns and cities. But think for a minute: do you see them so often, or at all, in any of the smaller towns or cities?? Even the poorer of our small towns and cities???

Hornberger grew up in what was officially the poorest city in the U.S. Located right on the U.S.-Mexican border, Laredo, Texas, his hometown, was also home to many new immigrants, both legal and illegal. And yet, as he says, for all the very visible poverty, "There was no homelessness. That is, there was no one living on the streets or in their cars, as we see in many American [or New Zealand] cities today."
Now, think about that for a moment. People say that poverty is the cause of homelessness. But if that’s the case, why wasn’t there any homelessness in Laredo?
    The answer is: At that time, there was was no zoning in Laredo. Anyone could establish low-income housing anywhere he wanted, including such things as trailer parks, low-priced rental units, and multiple-family housing.
    Thus, everyone was able to find housing at some price.

It's breathtakingly simple when you think about it -- and it's not because of any "wrap-around care" or any of the welfare buzzwords you hear that have been so unsuccessful at helping our own homeless folk.  And the simple fact is this: If governments restrict where and how many roofs can be put up (which is what zoning is designed to do: for the town planner it's a feature, not a bug), then there will be fewer roofs available for people to put over their heads. And those few will be at higher prices than they otherwise would.

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I should point out that Laredo also had public-housing units (which, ironically, had been started by my grandfather). But even if the government had not entered into the housing market, there still wouldn’t have been a homelessness problem in Laredo.
    When I returned to Laredo after graduating from law school, one of our legal clients was a man who specialised in building and providing low-cost housing for the poor — for a profit. He would buy his building supplies in Mexico, where he could get them at a much lower price, bring them back to Laredo, and use them to build low-cost motels. His motel rooms were oriented toward the very poor. They were clean and simple. People could rent the rooms on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.     He always had a very high occupancy rate.
    He was free to situate his rental units anywhere in town. That same freedom applied to mobile-home parks. That’s because there were no zoning laws.

Take a short break and think about that again:  no homeless people because homes of all kinds (trailer parks, low-priced rental units, multiple-family housing, clean and simple motel units, mobile-home parks) could be situated anywhere in town. And they could be situated could be situated anywhere in town because there were no zoning laws.

Forgive me for writing this as if you, dear reader, were a six-year old. And for underlining those conclusions. But it seems as if those who refuse to understand this have less understanding of the world and how it works than even the most stunted young child. Allow builders the freedom to build where there is demand for it, and of the type that's demanded, and you will have more buildings at better prices that are warm, and dry, and occupied by those who were formerly homeless. That's the experience of places like Laredo. (Do you understand, Chloe Swarbrick, who walks past the homeless every day on K Rd, who says new homes should be built only in places town planners dictate. Do you even give a shit, Chris Bishop, averting his gaze, who says new homes should only be built where, and how, he dictates. Are you listening David Seymour, ignoring the waifs and strays around the less-leafy edges of his electorate, who says we must "fix infrastructure first"?)

That same freedom [says Hornberger] does not apply in cities where there is a homelessness problem today. I guarantee you: Show me a city that has a big homelessness problem and I will show you a city that has zoning.
    To protect citizens’ property values from such things as mobile-home parks and low-price housing, local officials enacted zoning laws. They figured that they could abolish “blight” by simply using the force of zoning laws to make low-cost housing illegal. What they ended up doing is producing a massive homelessness problem.
    Today, much of the anger that arises from the homelessness problem is directed toward the homeless. But what are they supposed to do — commit suicide? They can’t afford to rent a place in which to live because zoning laws have knocked out low-priced housing within the city.


Zoning only came to New Zealand in 1928 with the Town Planning Act (brought in by a conservative government, wouldn't you know). Back then, it was a relatively new phenomenon. But if you observe things today, you will notice that town planners and the like today much prefer to live in those places like Devonport, Ponsonby Parnell and the like that were built before town planners infested the country -- and the places that are built today based on town planners' rules are those like Albany and Manukau and (gulp) Hobsonville.

Unattractive. And (still) unaffordable by most measures. Especially to those sleeping on the streets.

Think about it.

AND THINK ABOUT THIS too, especially if you castigate homeless folk because "they should just get a job." Have you ever considered that government-mandated minimum-wage laws prevent them from getting a job at a wage that is lower than that government-mandated minimum? 

It's all very well for "Chippy" to crow about "raising the minimum wage," as if that has magically "lifted all boats" to that government-mandated level. But what he ignores, or hopes that you do, is that the real minimum wage is zero. Which is what most of those homeless are currently "earning." 

And most of those are only earning that because Chippy's much-touted raise in the government-mandated wages level simply places a large gulf between what they're earning, what they could earn, and what employers are allowed to pay them.

It's as if the Prime Minister were gloating about taking several rungs out of the ladder they might have climbed themselves, if he hadn't taken them away.

It would be one thing if they were free to get a job at less than the governmentally set minimum wage. In that case, one could legitimately say, “Get a job, you bum.” But when their labour in the marketplace is valued by employers at less than the artificially-set minimum wage, the state has locked them out of the labor market with its minimum-wage law. Thus, telling them to “Get a job, you bum” is nothing less than cruel and abusive. And if they can’t get a job, then how are they supposed to be able to pay rent for housing, especially when rents are exorbitantly high because of zoning laws?
It's a tragedy. But it's not intractable. It is fixable. It's fixable iff there were a political will to to do it.

Want to do something about the homeless? Tell your politicians to fix it. And make sure you tell them how:

(1) repeal zoning laws, and
(2) repeal minimum-wage laws.

Friday, 22 September 2023


"Typically, political debate in modern democracies is akin to male walruses fighting over a patch of beach. Abetted by the media, politics is more of a blood sport than a forum for well-reasoned debate."
~ Michael Johnston, from his post 'Palaeolithic walruses in the age of reason'

"We cannot demand justice from the cosmos"

“'Whatever the condition of human beings at the beginning of the species,' writes Thomas Sowell in his new book Social Justice Fallacies, 'scores of millennia had already come and gone before anyone coined the phrase social justice.' And during those vast expanses of time, 'different peoples evolved differently in very different settings around the world, developing different talents that created reciprocal inequalities of achievements in different endeavours.' They did so 'without necessarily creating equality, or even comparability, in any of those endeavours.'
    "The social-justice movement has changed all that, turning the quest for equity into a salient feature of Western culture and politics. The past century has seen this pursuit shift from the fringes of political discourse to the heart of the mainstream, and its narrative now exerts a profound influence on the arts, education, and even religious institutions. In large parts of society, it has instilled the notion that human disparities are entirely the result of oppression, exploitation, and discrimination, and that a remedial equality of outcome must therefore be pursued at all costs. But the attractive vision of an equitable future can only be constructed by ignoring evidence and repeating a litany of fallacies.
    "The gist of Thomas Sowell’s new work is that the flawed assumptions of social-justice activists are endangering Western societies....
    "The singleminded pursuit of [social] justice at all costs is not justice at all, Sowell argues, and will often result in injustice. The results sought by social-justice activists are what Hayek used to call 'cosmic justice,' and they are not attainable 'when there are differences in human fates for which clearly no human agency is responsible.' ...
    "'[W]e cannot demand justice from the cosmos'..."

~ Hannah Gal reviewing Thomas Sowell's latest book 'Social Justice Fallacies'

Thursday, 21 September 2023

"Jacinda Ardern ... is now one of the leading anti-free speech figures in the world"

is "a weapon of war," "censorship is necessary" to protect free speech .. and that 
war is peace and freedom is slavery. (Pick any two.)

"Jacinda Ardern may no longer be Prime Minister of New Zealand, but she was back at the United Nations continuing her call for international censorship. Ardern is now one of the leading anti-free speech figures in the world and continues to draw support from political and academic establishments. In her latest attack on free speech, Ardern declared free speech as a virtual weapon of war. She is demanding that the world join her in battling free speech as part of its own war against “misinformation” and “disinformation.” ...
    "In her speech, she notes that we cannot allow free speech to get in the way of fighting things like climate change. She notes that they cannot win the war on climate change if people do not believe them about the underlying problem. The solution is to silence those with opposing views. It is that simple. ...
    "[It is] chilling ... to hear Ardern express her fealty to free speech as she calls on the nations of the world to severely curtail it to prevent people from undermining their policies and priorities. She remains the 'empathetic' face of raw censorship and intolerance. She is now the virtual ambassador-at-large for global speech regulation and criminalisation."


"The organised Left—once a bastion for free speech, equality, and social justice—has become drunk on the heady wine of identitarianism, losing its way in the maze of its own making. The politics of identity have eclipsed the quest for universal values, and in doing so, mutated into a grotesque facsimile of the very far-right extremism it purports to fight. The great irony lies here: In their incessant mission to highlight the pervasive evils they claim to battle, they have themselves become the embodiment of these forces." 
~ Dane Giraud, from his post 'The real devils among us' [emphasis in the original]

"A society that puts equality ahead of freedom will end up with neither ..."

“A society that puts equality—in the sense of equality of outcome—ahead of freedom, will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.”
~ Milton Friedman, from his essay 'What Does 'Created Equal' Mean?'

Wednesday, 20 September 2023

How to fix the west's 'baby bust': make life affordable again

"Italy’s birth rate has declined every year since 2008, but the pandemic pushed it into a precipitous nose dive.... [Just like a range of European politicians] Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni blamed her nation’s baby bust on a lack of traditional family values. Sharing a stage with Pope Francis himself, Meloni revealed where she believes the solution lies, calling for a 'return to a country in which being fathers and mothers is a socially recognised value and not a private matter.'...
    [T]he European Values Study [however]... provides a wealth of data on Europeans’ attitudes to a wide range of ideas and values.... [It reveals that n]ot only is there no positive correlation between levels of traditional family values and a nation’s birth rate, there is actually a weak negative correlation between the two....

"Correlational data like this should not be used to draw definitive conclusions ... But this data should warn against a myopic focus on traditional family values for those politicians who see them as a solution to or shield against falling fertility rates.
    "Indeed, seated next to her on the conference stage in May, Pope Francis had a different message to share than Meloni. Asked to consider why Italy is becoming a nation of fewer and fewer children ... he did not blame a lack of traditional family values for Italy’s vanishing schools. Instead, Pope Francis pointed to 'prohibitively expensive houses,' 'sky-high rents,' and other high costs of parenthood.
    "European policymakers should pay attention to Pope Francis’ words. As we have recently argued in 'Works in Progress' magazine, the last great demographic wave to sweep the West – the Baby Boom – was delivered by progress in medicine, household technology, and access to housing that made becoming a parent easier, safer, and cheaper. What these developments represent are positive, material improvements to the way people live their lives, not shifts in their deeply held values."

~ Phoebe Arslanagic-Wakefield and Anvar Sarygulov, from their article 'The value of family: Traditional values don't deliver babies'

Tuesday, 19 September 2023

"Our teachers are not taught how to teach but what to teach" [updated]

"Teaching in New Zealand is a highly regulated profession. You need a four-year degree ... at least two years on the job with a mentor ... and demonstrate that [you] adhere to six standards. You will not be surprised to learn that the first standard is to 'Demonstrate commitment to tangata whenuatanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi partnership in Aotearoa New Zealand.' ...
    "Why, you may wonder, is it necessary for someone who wishes to teach maths to teenagers to hold a politically correct interpretation of a document signed in 1840? The ideological capture of the profession is not limited to this most important of the six principles. ...
    "[A]nalysis shows a heavy focus [at teachers college] on social justice and related fields, and only a small emphasis on the science of teaching, and on science itself. ... The analysis makes it clear: our teachers are not taught how to teach but what to teach. The only consolation is that, thanks to the lack of focus on the science of education, they are not very good at it."

~ Damien Grant, from his column 'The failure of New Zealand's teachers'
Adding a data point for you (NB: Stephen Hicks's academic field is philosophy):

"If you’re serious about an education ... the cumulative impact of this is life-changing"

Barockhaus (Library) Görlitz, Germany

"What you learn in classrooms is irrelevant, and sometimes even worthless -- you must take responsibility for your own education. ...
    "[M]ore than 90% of my education came on my own. ... That’s a useful skill—teaching yourself. Maybe the most useful ...
    "[B]ack when I was a teenager I decided I wanted to possess genuine wisdom. You can laugh at that if you want. The very word wisdom seems tainted nowadays. ... And along with it, I wanted to develop a meaningful philosophy of life. That seemed urgently important to me as a teenager. It still does today. ...
    "I spent a lot of time reading -- I mean Orca-sized time blocks.... I read for mind-expansion, not entertainment, and seek out challenging books... This has always been my pattern. If books were my drug, I always was taking the big intense dose that offered the greatest out-of-body experience. ...
    "If you’re serious about an education, you should read at least one or two long, challenging books each year. When other people pick up light beach reading for the summer, you ought to grab Thucydides or Gibbon or Musil or Woolf or Schopenhauer.
    "When I was 18, I tackled War and Peace. When I was 19, I did Don Quixote. The next year, I read The Brothers Karamazov, and after that it was Moby Dick and The Tale of Genji and The Magic Mountain. And I’ve kept doing this for decades.
    "The cumulative impact of this is life-changing...."
~ Ted Gioia, from his post 'My Lifetime Reading Plan'

Monday, 18 September 2023

Why does National's modelling matter? [updated]

"I have no idea why Luxon and Willis will not release their working [to detail their foreign-buyers tax plan], or a detailed carefully written up description of them, or why they won’t release Castalia to describe in detail what they did on this item.
    "But it isn’t reassuring. Not, as I’ve said repeatedly, that it matters much at all macreconomically, but because it seems to say quite a lot about their likely approach to governing. Trust matters in politics and government, but trust is earned, and is reinforced by verification. It isn’t won, in functional polities, with a smile and some bluster and a refusal to provide any supporting detail, all while in interview after interview actively misrepresenting what they have done."
~ Michael Reddell, from his post 'Marketing Brochure?'

UPDATE: on Twitter John Elliot makes a fair point, albeit well soused in whattaboutism:

I must confess I was surprised at the time, since Kiwibuild's numbers at the time were so clearly laughable.

As was Ardern's pledge to "fix"child poverty by throwing money at people. Sadly, she never learned PJ O'Rourke's should-be-famous welfare dictum:

"You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money."

This is not to say that the political press gallery here is party political. No. It's to say that they're as f'ing useless as the politicians on whom they purport to report.

Saturday, 16 September 2023

Chris Trotter: 'honest but deluded'

Political commentator Chris Trotter has always been at the 'honest but deluded' end of the socialist spectrum. That is, he honestly wants material wealth, human progress, free speech, and social freedoms, but he is yet to understand that socialism doesn't deliver any of that -- that the essential nature of socialism is not the "equality" it allegedly strives for, but the need for armed robbery to establish and maintain it. The impossibility of socialism's goals inspires the coercion needed to achieve them.

And he's slowly discovering that even many of his erstwhile allies have grown to like the coercion more than those goals.

The revelation makes good reading.

Writing yesterday on the blog of Martin Bradbury -- who for a while now has had his own eyes slowly opened about the increasingly "woke" joylessness of the controlling left -- Trotter explains that he's finally worked out "why writing about today’s version of 'progressive' politics leaves me feeling so depressed." 

It's not just about the duplicitous party politics of this particular election cycle. He rejects the Greens's "dominant ultra-progressive faction" who "favour sending those found guilty of uttering or publishing 'Hate Speech' to prison for three years"  as much as he spurns Labour's conscious deception over He Puapua -- insisting "that the report in no way represented a blueprint for New Zealand’s transformation into a bicultural state, when a steady stream of official policy decisions confirmed that’s exactly what it was?" ("It is precisely this sort of conscious deception, this deliberate 'fooling' of the voters, that has transformed progressive politics from what used to be a joyful affirmation of idealism into a joyless exercise in dishonesty").

If, by some miracle, Labour-Green wins the election [he writes], then none of the initiatives which both parties signed-up to over the past six years: radical ethnic nationalism, censorship, transgenderism; are going to be abandoned. What looms ahead of New Zealand if Labour-Green wins is grinding economic austerity and relentless cultural warfare. Thinner bread and bloody roses.
He has yet to recognise that it is precisely the lack of traction for Marx's call for conflict between collectives based on class warfare that inevitably saw it morph into conflict between collectives based first on race (easier for the braindead to identify) and now on (trans)gender. But for a collectivist, like him, who still genuinely wishes for progress, the results he sees are depressing: the politics, he say, "are joyless; because the logical end-point of the ideology they espouse is one of universal dissatisfaction and unending conflict. In other words, their direction-of-travel is dystopic."
Progressive politics [he writes] has moved beyond the idea of uplifting and overcoming; of building a society in which there are no masters, no servants; no rich, no poor. Envisaged now is what can only be described as a perpetual theatre of cruelty, in which those to whom evil has been done, are encouraged to do evil in return. Far from serving as the emancipating “vanguard” of the Proletariat, as Karl Marx hoped, the intelligentsia of the Twenty-First Century are claiming for themselves the role of Grand Inquisitor. They have made themselves the pitiless torturers of all those whose privileges cannot be overcome or abandoned, only confessed to and punished.
Marxist "class warfare," in other words, has bled inevitably into so-called "cultural Marxism," and the grim authoritarianism of a Maoist Cultural Revolution. 
Over the top? Barking mad? Grossly defamatory of activists who only want people to be free and equal? How I wish it were true! But one only has to visit the febrile world of social media to grasp the perverse enjoyment contemporary progressives derive from “flaming”, “de-platforming”, and “cancelling” – oh, what an ominous word that is – those who refuse to step forward and confess....
Those who were in Albert Park on 25 March 2023, and those who watched the many video recordings made at the scene, could not help but note the delirious hatred of the mob, and the brutal behaviour it spawned. Such is the praxis of the post-modern progressive: telling the news media that theirs was a gathering of peace and love – while punching a 70-year-old woman in the face.... Have a care when fighting monsters,” warned the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, “lest ye become a monster yourself.” ...

That which Twentieth-Century progressives most feared, Twenty-First Century progressivism has become.
He's come a long way, Mr Trotter. 

When he realises one day that the only equality we need for human progress is equality before the law -- and that "the wealth of the rich is not the cause of the poverty of the poor, but rather of making the poor less poor, indeed, rich" -- then perhaps he will be ready to embrace the cause of true freedom. Without coercion.

Friday, 15 September 2023

"So why did the current Labour government go so wildly off the rails?"

"People want stability, which is all the Nats ever offer. That’s why since the war every National government has received 9 year terms, except the Holyoake one which lasted 12 years. Helen got 9 years by behaving like a National government and not rocking the boat but every other post-war Labour government has lasted respectively, one term (twice) or been bumrushed out after two terms before they go power crazy.
    "I last voted National over 40 years ago when I woke to their reality as a Party of not rocking the boat, uninspiring, minding-the-shop-style dullards. I certainly wouldn’t give them sixpence, nor do they need it ...
    "But periodically radical changes are required and these are only ever delivered by Labour which is a Party of malcontents.
    "So why did the current Labour government go so wildly off the rails?
    "Blame the public for that, specifically a phenomenon that saw the nation lose its head; the only time I was embarrassed to be a New Zealander. I refer to the ludicrous Jacindamania phenomenon which induced in Labour a thousand-year Reich, faith in their longevity, and a corresponding dictatorial mentality resulting in sheer totalitarian insanity in so many ways....
    "The next Labour PM is not in the House yet but will probably emerge after the 2026 election...."
~ Bob Jones, from his post 'Political Donations'

Thursday, 14 September 2023

National's Tax Cuts [updated]


UPDATE: Eric Crampton:

"Paring government spending back to what Labour had promised, pre-Covid, would ... free up over twelve billion dollars, or about seven thousand dollars per household.
    "Instead, they're embroiled in disputes about the amount of money that would be raised by a tax that never made much sense in the first place....
    "The only real tax cut is a spending cut. ... Is it crazy to expect a National-led government to not want to outspend Ardern 2019?"
Punters are questioning National's promised tax cuts at this election. But National promises tax cuts at every election. 

Do they deliver?

Do their figures add up

Do they even care? 

Because when we look at promising tax cuts before an election, and breaking that promise thereafter ... well, on this very thing National has form. Just think back to the election in which John Key came to power ...

Out of power for 9 years before that 2008 election, and desperate to get back in, National in opposition had been promoting tax cuts for six of those years. "Significant" tax cuts. In May of that election year, after the delivery of Michael Cullen’s budget, John Key reaffirmed that “We believe in tax cuts. We believe in the power of tax cuts. And we will deliver them.” Asked to quantify it, Bill English promised “significant personal tax cuts” of “about $50 a week to workers on the average wage."

And as they watched their poll numbers go up on the back of that pledge, they kept right on promising.

But 2008 was also the year the Global Financial Crisis began, remember?

Didn't bother them in the slightest. They kept right on promising those tax cuts even as the housing collapse hit the US economy and the Dow Jones began its year-long slide. They kept up with the promises as NZ was declared officially in recession and our own housing markets began to slide.

And as John Key's former employer Merrill Lynch collapsed, and the US Federal Reserve started bailing out banks and bond buyers with billion-dollar loans, Bill English promised voters “a credible economic package to take account of the changing economic climate.” “Our tax cut programme will not require any additional borrowing,” he lied, comparing Michael Cullen’s record with his own promise to deliver “an ongoing programme of personal tax cuts.”

The promised programme never arrived. The borrowing did.

Even in October of that election year, after “the books” had been opened and several more dead rats fell out, Key and English both said “the pledge to deliver about $50 a week to workers on the average wage remained on track." And then 18 days before the election, they doubled down: "National is not going to be raising GST," John Key told journalists. "National wants to cut taxes, not raise taxes."

Readers, he lied. After the election, he broke that promise without even blinking.

GST was raised.

No taxes were cut.

And instead of those tax cuts of about $50 a week, with "no new borrowing," they delivered lots of the latter,* very little of the former, and a whole raft of tax increases and new taxes,:from rises in GST to increases on ACC levies and excise taxes, topped off with Nick Smith’s "ETS taxes" on fuel and power to counter climate change, and Steven Joyce's fuel tax hike to pay for more roads.

They flat-out-lied to voters. Baldly. (And no fear saying they couldn’t know about the economic crisis when they made their promises.)

Here's what I said back in April 2009, 
Significant tax cuts were a key election-winning promise for National, remember?
    And now they want to recant on that promise, just as I told you they would back in October. “Economic conditions” and a projected "decade of deficits” make it impossible, say Prime Minister John Key and his Finance Minister Bill English, to deliver the latter two of the three rounds of tax cuts they promised so loudly back in November.
    Excuse me boys, but isn’t it the case that these tax cuts, promised less than five months ago, were a key reason that the public gave you the jobs you have now? Shouldn’t you be doing now what’s necessary to do what you promised then?
    Isn’t it just a bit rich to say that “economic conditions” now make it impossible to deliver what you promised back before the election, because it was obvious back then to anyone with eyes to see that economic conditions were going to make it necessary to cut the government’s coat according to the cloth it could afford.
    To say that it wasn’t obvious to you back then is not an excuse not to deliver now, it’s a reason for your supporters to realise that you're either not competent enough to do your jobs -- since the whole world and his grandson could see back in October what was coming -- or else you’re a pair of liars.
    No other alternative explanation is possible.

So: can you believe this Party this year when they promise significant tax cuts? That you'll ever see their promised "Back Pocket Boost"? Says Michael Reddell, who has been examining one part of it:

When the fiscal deficit as it as large as it is, a major political party promising tax cuts really should be able to convincingly suggest to the public that the cost will be fully covered and that if their programme was adopted it would not worsen the already-large deficit. National’s package does not pass that test at present.

Fool me once ...

* Taking the debt from ten billion to sixty-six billion dollars...

"In Tokyo, good things [like affordable housing] have been created through private initiative.”

EMERGENT TOKYO: “This book demystifies Tokyo’s emergent urbanism for an international audience,
explaining its origins, its place in today’s Tokyo, and its role in the Tokyo of tomorrow”

"'As the Japanese government attempted to rebuild their devastated capital city [after the War], they initially drafted a comprehensive plan, but soon concluded that they lacked the budget to carry it out. And so, in areas where neither the government nor the country’s real-estate and transportation mega-corporations could properly fund reconstruction efforts, whole neighbourhoods instead rapidly rebuilt themselves. Working on a small scale, residents rebuilt homes and shops using scraped-together funds while relying on little more than their collective grit and inventiveness, and black markets full of micro-entrepreneurs sprung up around the city’s major train stations. These neighbourhoods were not initially planned, per se—they emerged, and their ramshackle, spontaneous spirit can still be felt today when walking Tokyo’s backstreets.
    "'This approach was adopted out of harsh necessity, but the resulting neighbourhoods have a striking charm: intimate townscapes with exceptional vitality and liveability, featuring a fine-grained urban fabric comprised of numerous small buildings.' ...
    "Because of Japan’s light touch, zoning it is relatively easy to build housing in Tokyo, and thus the city is not as 'unaffordable' as you might expect.*  Tokyo has also avoided the bland uniformity of the major cities in China....
    "Two full-time workers earning Tokyo’s minimum wage can comfortably afford the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in six of the city’s 23 wards. By contrast, two people working minimum-wage jobs cannot afford the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in any of the 23 counties in the New York metropolitan area. . . .
    "Some cities, like Singapore and Vienna, have bucked the trend by using public money to build affordable housing. Almost 80 percent of Singapore residents live in public housing.*
    "In Tokyo, by contrast, there is little public or subsidised housing. Instead, the government has focused on making it easy for developers to build. A national zoning law, for example, sharply limits the ability of local governments to impede development. . . .
    “'In progressive cities we are maybe too critical of private initiative,” said Christian Dimmer, an urban studies professor at Waseda University and a longtime Tokyo resident. “I don’t want to advocate a neoliberal perspective [sic], but in Tokyo, good things have been created through private initiative.”
~ Jorge Almazan, from his book Emergent Tokyo, NY Times from their article on 'How Tokyo Achieves Affordable Housing 'and Scott Sumner, from his post discussing both: 'Emergent Tokyo'


Fix spec building to make Auckland affordable again - NOT PC, 2013
"The key to making Auckland liveable is to make it affordable—a fairly complicated and heavily politicised subject, so let’s try to make it simple: we won’t have an affordable Auckland until the model for “spec” building is viable once again.
""Spec building being 'speculative' building—a builder buying land, building a house and “speculating” he can sell it to a buyer for a reasonable profit. This is how the vast majority of NZ’s cities have been built, by small builders hoping to make a modest profit.
""But in recent years this model has broken. A simple back-of-the-envelope analysis demonstrates why...."


Wednesday, 13 September 2023

"The real problem with democracy ... "

"The real problem with democracy is not that special interests frustrate the will of the people. It is, rather, that people are smart as consumers but stupid as voters.... The problem with government policy is not that the majority is right and ignored, but that it is wrong and heeded."
~ Bryan Caplan, from his post 'Intellectual Autobiography of Bryan Caplan: Part 1: 1988-2003'

"Far from being a project of US imperialism, NATO expansion has been a process driven by the small and vulnerable countries, which are also the most fundamentally anti-imperialist ones"

"In order to accept the premise that Russia could have vetoed former Soviet or Eastern bloc states from ever choosing to enter into certain international alliances, it is first necessary to deny those states full sovereignty.... It is not often acknowledged that entertaining this Russian talking point capitulates to the sphere-of-influence politics of the Cold War...
    "The expansion of NATO since the end of the Cold War is often discussed solely as a US policy decision. But this ignores the goals and interests of the small countries, whose politicians made the case for NATO membership much more forcefully than anyone in Washington, and often in the teeth of American doubts and objections....
    "It had often been the fate of the small nations of Europe to be dominated by the larger ones.... An important lesson of the 20th century was that, while appeasement encouraged aggressors, strength deterred them. And it had been the strength of the United States which had changed the course of European history.... Still, Europeans have often struggled to convince Americans that it is in their interests to support freedom on the European continent. ...
    "Far from being a project of US imperialism, NATO expansion has been a process driven by the small and vulnerable countries, which are also the most fundamentally anti-imperialist ones, since their continued existence is predicated upon their ability to deter imperialist neighbours. While many of the threatening imperialisms of the European past have happily vanished, the Russian one maintains its claims.... It is for this reason that a Ukrainian victory—in teaching the Russians where their borders lie—could end the Russian imperial story for good, and hasten the day when a civilisation at ease with itself can live in harmony beside Europe."

~ Oscar Clarke, from his post 'When Havel Met Biden'

Tuesday, 12 September 2023

Hey, big spenders!

"And so we go into the PREFU this afternoon, and [to] whatever spin the two parties’ spokespeople are going to put on fiscal prospects,with (a) a governing party that has already run up really big deficits, adding more fiscal expansion in their election year budget, with no specifics on how they might close those deficits (including in the face of ongoing cost pressures), and b) a main Opposition party which was seemed content to go along with Labour’s expansionary stance (just rearranging some of the tax and spending pieces), but in fact seems to have ended up with an even more expansionary stance themselves....
    "We have had 20 years in which New Zealand governments ran net debt as a share of GDP materially lower than the median OECD country. [But now with] the big Covid spending well behind us, both parties seem okay with debt still rising rapidly (they may say otherwise, but judge them not by the handwaving medium-term rhetoric but by their specific and immediate actions and commitments)."

~ Michael Reddell, from his post 'Previewing PREFU'

"Hydrogen is no more the wonder gas than CO2 is the opposite."

"Hydrogen is no more the wonder gas than CO2 is the opposite. Apart from being very expensive to produce using so-called ‘green’ methods, it’s running into various obstacles elsewhere, such as absence of infrastructure....
    "Europe’s time spent sleepwalking to the tune of hydrogen lobbyists – draining funds and political capital for far too long – appears to be coming to an end as leaders come face-to-face with physical realities....
    " The European Commission estimates that to produce, transport and consume 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen domestically, investment worth up to €471 billion will be necessary.
    "For the odourless gas to be climate-friendly, it must be produced through electrolysis using renewable electricity. To avoid electrolysers taking up all the green power in the grid and boosting demand for coal power, two-thirds of the €471 billion will have to be invested into additional renewables.
    "To meet the second half of the EU’s hydrogen targets – 10 million tonnes of imports – will require another estimated €500 billion.
    "That amounts to a €1 trillion dream to get the hydrogen economy from non-existent to infancy into 2030, and the spending certainly wouldn’t end there....

    "Finally, what will all that hydrogen be used for?
    "Once, lobbyists painted a rosy picture of an entire economy running on hydrogen. But hydrogen cars proved a non-starter while heating with hydrogen has thankfully been banished from people’s minds.... Politicians find the idea of hydrogen as a form of long-term energy storage tempting.... [Yet] Industry demand is projected to be far below the EU’s lofty targets....
    "After years of hydrogen hype, Brussels may just focus on electricity – the true fuel of the future."

~ Nikolaus J. Kurmayer, from his article 'Waking up from hydrogen daydreams' [hat tip Jim Rose and TallBloke's Talkshop]

Monday, 11 September 2023

"At some point the kind folks who are funding our lifestyle will discover that we are insolvent."

"The key data point here is that since the GFC, Wellington has been piling on debt like there is no tomorrow; because when you are running on a three-year electoral cycle, there really isn’t....
    "Because we can no longer afford to pay our own way we borrow heavily. Not just the government; all of us. Our trade deficit is 8% of our GDP and the crown accounts are a mess. At some point the kind folks who are funding our lifestyle will discover that we are insolvent."

~ Damien Grant, from his column 'Skycity had a nasty tumble, and Prefu could bring the same for NZ economy'

"Our culture [has] shifted into a darker, more pessimistic phase

Source: Chris Dalla Riva
"Songs are a cultural indicator... Sadness is so widespread among youngsters (especially teen girls) that the Centers for Disease Control is now tracking it. So we shouldn’t be surprised that music and cultural indicators reflect the same reality.
    "Even the candidates for song of the [northern hemisphere] summer are filled with quiet despair—so much so that Spotify declared it the 'bummer summer.' ...
    "So what songs do sad teens want to hear during a bummer summer?
    "'The most obvious feature of a sad song is the tempo,' explains music psychologist Michael Bonshor. 'It tends to be fairly slow ... ' ...
    "So we have an odd situation. The slow tune is no longer dreamy music for couples, but sad, lonely music for the isolated and depressed. ...
    "Another telltale sign of sad songs is the minor key. This rise in minor key songs has been dramatic. Around 85% of songs were in a major key back in the 1960s, but in more recent years this has fallen in half....
    "This is an enormous change—and supports my view that our culture shifted into a darker, more pessimistic phase during the late 1990s and early 2000s."

~ Ted Gioia, from his post 'Why Is Music Getting Sadder?'

Friday, 8 September 2023

"This is life under Net Zero"

"Greens have been dreaming about jailing ‘climate criminals’ for a very long time. Climate-change deniers in particular will ‘one day have to answer for their crimes’, said eco-author Mark Lynas a few years back. Well, Gaia’s authoritarian army might finally be getting its way....
    "'The Telegraph' is reporting that [UK] property owners who fail to adhere to ‘energy-performance regulations’ could ‘face prison’ under the government’s crazy plans. There is concern that homeowners, landlords and business bosses could be whacked with fines of up to £15,000 or a year behind bars if they fall foul of regulations on energy consumption....
    "We can now see the iron fist in the green glove. There’s been a creeping criminalisation of eco-disobedient behaviour for some time now. In the UK, we’ve had ‘rubbish police’ looking through people’s bags of trash and slapping them with a £100 fine if they are not properly recycling plastic and paper. Under Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes, officious local councils erect eyesore bollards to stop people from driving on certain roads, and fine them if they fail to comply....
    "These fines on the eco-wayward are a kind of green penance; economic punishment for one’s failure to adhere to the ideology of Net Zero. Things that were once seen as a normal, essential part of everyday life – throwing out the trash, dropping the kids at school – have become punishable activities thanks to Net Zero’s redefinition of human activity as ‘dirty’, polluting, bad. It is entirely logical that other everyday activities – heating your home, say, or keeping the lights on – might also become fineable offences in the future.... This is life under Net Zero, then.
    "Net Zero is an authoritarian assault on our liberty and our living standards. At root, [it] is an act of wilful self-impoverishment by a West that has lost faith in modernity. It is the formalisation of our elites’ slow but sure turn against the ideals of industry, growth and just comfort."
~ Brendan O'Neill, from his column 'The iron fist in the green glove'

Thursday, 7 September 2023

Hipkin's five economic priorities: "Run for the hills"

"The odd thing is that there's nothing in [Hipkin's five stated economic] priorities for ordinary men or women. The PM may like to pretend he's on the side of bread-and-butter working-class folk concerned about things being affordable, however, at least in the US, such folks would read his five economic priorities as something concocted by Hollywood producers, Silicon valley weirdos & Prince Harry types, with help from Hilary Clinton. And run for the hills."
~ Robert MacCulloch, from his post 'There's not one thing in PM Chippy's "Five Economic Priorities" for Chippies in the Hutt'

"Get [published in] a top climate publication - but only if you scare people"

"Last week, I described our paper on climate change and wildfires. I am very proud of this research overall. But I want to talk about how moulding research presentations for high-profile journals can reduce its usefulness & actually mislead the public....
    "I mentioned that this research looked at the effect of warming in isolation but that warming is just one of many important influences on wildfires with others being changes in human ignition patterns and changes in vegetation/fuels.
    "So why didn’t I include these obviously relevant factors in my research from the outset? Why did I focus exclusively on the impact of climate change? Put simply, I've found that there is a formula for success for publishing climate change research in the most prestigious and widely-read scientific journals and unfortunately this formula also makes the research less useful.
    "1) The first thing to know is that simply *showing* that climate change impacts something of value is usually sufficient, and it is not typically necessary to show that the impact is large compared to other relevant influences....
    "This type of framing, where the influence of climate change is unrealistically considered in isolation, is the norm for high-profile research papers. For example, in another recent influential 'Nature' paper, they calculated that the two largest climate change impacts on society are deaths related to extreme heat and damage to agriculture.
    "However, that paper does not mention that climate change is not the dominant driver for either one of these impacts: temperature-related deaths have been declining, and agricultural yields have been increasing for decades despite climate change....
    "3) A third element of a high-profile climate change research paper is to focus on metrics that are not necessarily the most illuminating or relevant but serve more to generate impressive numbers.... The sacrifice of clarity for the sake of more impressive numbers was probably necessary for it to get into 'Nature' [magazine]....
    "So why did I follow this formula for producing a high-profile scientific research paper if I don’t believe it creates the most useful knowledge for society? I did it because I began this research as a new assistant professor facing pressure to establish myself in a new field and to maximize my prospects of securing respect from my peers, future funding, tenure, and ultimately a successful career. To put it bluntly, I sacrificed value added for society in order to mold the presentation of the research to be compatible with the preferred narratives of the editors and reviewers of high-profile journals.
    "I am bringing these issue to light because I hope that highlighting them will push for reforms that will better align the incentives of researchers with the production of the most useful knowledge for society."

~ climate scientist Patrick T. Brown explaining his modus on this Twitter thread. He writes more about it here: 'I Left Out the Full Truth to Get My Climate Change Paper Published,' and offers more thoughts on his blog: 'The Not-so-Secret Formula for Publishing a High-Profile Climate Change Research Paper.'
"I’m a tenured professor. In normal English, that means I have a dream job for life. Which is even more fantastic than it sounds. 'Fantastic,' that is, for we tenured professors. From the viewpoint of the taxpayers and donors who subsidize us, however, this system is a total scam. An outrage. A travesty.
    "Dear reader, I propose to give you a guided tour of the tenure system: How you get tenure, what tenure means in practice, and the laughable efforts of the professoriat to defend this affront to the word 'job' ...."

Wednesday, 6 September 2023

Yay! NZ is leading the world in ...


... can you guess? *

Discussion here.

(And note that: the price-to-rent percentage represents 0% change in 2000 from 2000 prices, and (for NZ) a whopping 280% change in ratio from 2000 prices. Note that over the long run (centuries) the real cost (inflation adjusted) of housing should remain relatively unchanged, as should this ratio. So these price increases are unsustainable.)

But ... but (I hear some of you say), this doesn't measure housing affordability per se. Just the rent-to-price ratio. True. But we also "lead" in the all-important price-to-income ratio (which historically has been around three, and here in NZ is now over 10!) and in our Housing Bubble ranking (see below). 

And it does demonstrate the disastrous trend in unaffordability over the last two decades -- two decades of excessive monetary pumping and ever increasing restrictions on building and developing. A trend that is so much worse in this place. A trend that has (in David Stockman's words) "capriciously conferred financialised prosperity on selective pockets of ... society." An ever-accelerating trend that every government here has only made even worse -- and no government has bothered to arrest. 

And with all this in mind, and since it's election time, let me remind you that the goddamned Blue Team (Luxon, Seymour, and Bishop) have disgracefully squelched, on a whim, the only thing in living memory, however imperfect, that would do anything at all to improve it.


* Have you guessed yet? Next question: whom (and what) do you blame?

Tuesday, 5 September 2023

“Productive work..."

“Productive work is the road of man’s unlimited achievement and calls upon the highest attributes of his character: his creative ability, his ambitiousness, his self-assertiveness, his refusal to bear uncontested disasters, his dedication to the goal of reshaping the earth in the image of his values." 
~ Ayn Rand, from her essay 'The Objectivist Ethics'