Tuesday 23 April 2024

#CountdownToAnzacDay: On “the last afterglow of the most radiant cultural atmosphere in human history”


One-hundred and ten years ago this week, the world was still at peace.

By August of that year, 1914, the world was at war. And in less than a year, New Zealanders would be fighting, and dying, on  the hills above a beach in Turkey.

That world before the war, the one the war destroyed forever, is captured in palimpsest in the video above of Berlin and Munich in 1900, and in several memories from some who were alive at the time — who were there to witness and record, as one described it, "the last afterglow of the most radiant cultural atmosphere in human history…" — and then to record what came next. 

"I myself have lived at the time of the two greatest wars known to mankind," remembered Stefan Zweig, "Before those wars I saw individual freedom at its zenith, after them I saw liberty at its lowest point in hundreds of years." * 

"Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission. He could exchange his money for any other currency without restriction or limit. He could buy goods from any country in the world on the same terms as he bought goods at home. 
    "For that matter, a foreigner could spend his life in this country without permit and without informing the police. Unlike the countries of the European continent, the state did not require its citizens to perform military service. An Englishman could enlist, if he chose, in the regular army, the navy, or the territorials. He could also ignore, if he chose, the demands of national defence. Substantial householders were occasionally called on for jury service. Otherwise, only those helped the state, who wished to do so. 
    "The Englishman paid taxes on a modest scale: nearly £200 million in 1913-14, or rather less than 8 per cent. of the national income. The state intervened to prevent the citizen from eating adulterated food or contracting certain infectious diseases. It imposed safety rules in factories, and prevented women, and adult males in some industries, from working excessive hours. The state saw to it that children received education up to the age of 13. Since 1 January 1909, it provided a meagre pension for the needy over the age of 70. Since 1911, it helped to insure certain classes of workers against sickness and unemployment. This tendency towards more state action was increasing. Expenditure on the social services had roughly doubled since the Liberals took office in 1905. Still, broadly speaking, the state acted only to help those who could not help themselves. It left the adult citizen alone.
    "All this was changed by the impact of the Great War. The mass of the people became, for the first time, active citizens. Their lives were shaped by orders from above; they were required to serve the state instead of pursuing exclusively their own affairs. Five million men entered the armed forces, many of them (though a minority) under compulsion. The Englishman's food was limited, and its quality changed, by government order. His freedom of movement was restricted; his conditions of work prescribed. Some industries were reduced or closed, others artificially fostered. The publication of news was fettered. Street lights were dimmed. The sacred freedom of drinking was tampered with: licensed hours were cut down, and the beer watered by order. The very time on the clocks was changed. From 1916 onwards, every Englishman got up an hour earlier in summer than he would otherwise have done, thanks to an act of parliament. The state established a hold over it citizens which, though relaxed in peacetime, was never to be removed and which the second World war was again to increase. The history of the English state and of the English people merged for the first time.
~ A. J. P. Taylor, on 'The Effects and Origins of the Great War,' from his 1965 book English History, 1914-1945
"What an extraordinary episode in the economic progress of man that age was which came to an end in August 1914!
    "The greater part of the population, it is true, worked hard and lived at a low standard of comfort, yet were, to all appearances, reasonably contented with this lot. But escape was possible, for any man of capacity or character at all exceeding the average, into the middle and upper classes, for whom life offered, at a low cost and with the least trouble, conveniences, comforts, and amenities beyond the compass of the richest and most powerful monarchs of other ages.
    "The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, in such quantity as he might see fit, and reasonably expect their early delivery upon his doorstep; he could at the same moment and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world, and share, without exertion or even trouble, in their prospective fruits and advantages; or he could decide to couple the security of his fortunes with the good faith of the townspeople of any substantial municipality in any continent that fancy or information might recommend. 
    "He could secure forthwith, if he wished it, cheap and comfortable means of transit to any country or climate without passport or other formality, could despatch his servant to the neighbouring office of a bank for such supply of the precious metals as might seem convenient, and could then proceed abroad to foreign quarters, without knowledge of their religion, language, or customs, bearing coined wealth upon his person, and would consider himself greatly aggrieved and much surprised at the least interference. 
    "But, most important of all, he regarded this state of affairs as normal, certain, and permanent, except in the direction of further improvement, and any deviation from it as aberrant, scandalous, and avoidable. The projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial and cultural rivalries, of monopolies, restrictions, and exclusion, which were to play the serpent to this paradise, were little more than the amusements of his daily newspaper, and appeared to exercise almost no influence at all on the ordinary course of social and economic life, the internationalisation of which was nearly complete in practice."
~ J.M Keynes, from his 1919 book The Economic Consequences of the Peace
"As a child, I saw a glimpse of the pre-World War One world, the last afterglow of the most radiant cultural atmosphere in human history … If one has glimpsed that kind of art—& wider: the possibility of that kind of culture—one is unable to be satisfied with anything less. 
    "I must emphasise that I am not speaking of concretes, nor of politics, nor of journalistic trivia, but of that period's 'sense of life.' Its art projected an overwhelming sense of intellectual freedom, of depth, i.e., concern with fundamental problems, of demanding standards, of inexhaustible originality, of unlimited possibilities &, above all, of profound respect for man. The existential atmosphere (which was then being destroyed by Europe's philosophical trends & political systems) still held a benevolence that would be incredible to the men of today, i.e., a smiling, confident good will of man to man, & of man to life. … 
    "It has been said and written by many commentators that the atmosphere of the Western world before World War I is incommunicable to those who have not lived in that period…It is [certainly] impossible for the young people of today to grasp the reality of man's higher potential & what scale of achievement it had reached in a rational (or semi-rational) culture. But I have seen it. I know that it was real, that it existed, that it is possible. It is that knowledge that I want to hold up to the sight of men—over the brief span of less than a century—before the barbarian curtain descends altogether (if it does) & the last memory of man's greatness vanishes in another Dark Ages."
~ Ayn Rand, from her introduction to her 1969 essay collection The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature

* From Stefan Zweig’s 1942 autobiography, which is also a biography of the collapse of Europe into barbarism, The World of Yesterday

What's a Corporation?

"To differentiate it from a partnership, a corporation should be defined as a legal and contractual mechanism for creating and operating a business for profit, using capital from investors that will be managed on their behalf by directors and officers. To lawyers, however, the classic definition is U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall’s 1819 remark that 'a corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law.' But Marshall’s definition is useless because it is a metaphor; it makes a corporation a judicial hallucination."
~ Robert Hessen, from his article 'Corporations' at the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics [hat tip David R. Henderson]


Monday 22 April 2024

"...the Minister for Broadcasting has been silent. She has been criticised for this approach. In my view she should be applauded."

"Throughout the recent turmoil surrounding news media difficulties the Minister for Broadcasting has been silent. She has been criticised for this approach. In my view she should be applauded. Without any State intervention a solution for the problems surrounding Newshub was found – by the industry and the market. That is as it should be. There has been far too much State interference with the media. The Public Interest Journalism fund ... provides an example."

~ A Halfling's View, from his post 'Dealing with State-Owned Media'

Israel + Gaza: What Would Thatcher Do Today? (WWTDT?)

"For a party that has failed to escape [Margaret] Thatcher’s long shadow, ... perhaps what is most remarkable is how far the current [U.K.] Conservative Party’s aspiring populist wing diverges from Thatcher’s own approach to the conflict. Following [Israel']s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, a disaster that she correctly foresaw would birth new and harder threats to both the Western order and Israel’s own security, Thatcher placed an embargo on British weapons sales to Israel, a policy that was not lifted until 1994. Her rationale, as she told ITN, was that Israeli troops had 'gone across the borders of Israel, [to] a totally independent country, which is not a party to the hostility and there are very very great hostilities, bombing, terrible things happening there. Of course one has to condemn them. It is someone else’s country. You must condemn that. After all, that is why we have gone to the Falklands, to repossess our country which has been taken by someone else.'...
    "For Thatcher — perhaps counterintuitively, viewed through the prism of today’s Conservative party — the 'plight of the landless Palestinians' was a major foreign-policy concern. ... Striving to find a workable peace, Thatcher asserted the only possible solution to the conflict was an approach which balanced 'the right of all the states in the region — including Israel — to existence and security, but also demanded justice for all peoples, which implied recognition of of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.' Writing of her visit to Israel in 1986, the first by a British prime minister, Thatcher remarked that 'The Israelis knew… that they were dealing with someone who harboured no lurking hostility towards them, who understood their anxieties, but who was not going to pursue an unqualified Zionist approach.' Instead, she 'believed that the real challenge was to strengthen moderate Palestinians, probably in association with Jordan, who would eventually push aside the… extremists. But this would never happen if Israel did not encourage it; and the miserable conditions under which Arabs on the West Bank and in Gaza were having to live only made things worse.' ...
    "To Thatcher, peace would entail not an independent Palestinian state — she thought this unviable, and most probably undesirable — but the incorporation of the West Bank and Gaza under the rule of Jordan’s Anglophile King Hussein. Yet when Thatcher signed on to an European Community declaration of support for Palestinian statehood, just days after the PLO confirmed its commitment to the destruction of Israel, and was condemned for this by the Labour leader Jim Callaghan — British attitudes on the conflict were yet to assume their present form — Thatcher responded in robust terms. “The words in the communiqué I support entirely,” she told the House. “They concern the right of the Palestinian people to determine their own future. If one wishes to call that ‘self- determination’, I shall not quarrel with it. I am interested that the Right Hon. Gentleman appears to be attempting to deny that right. I do not understand how anyone can demand a right for people on one side of a boundary and deny it to people on the other side of that boundary. That seems to deny certain rights, or to allocate them with discrimination from one person to another.”
    "Strikingly, Thatcher condemned Israel for its annexation of the Golan Heights from Syria, for its attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear power plant, and for its seizure of Palestinian land for settlements, including the housing of Soviet Jewish refugees: as she told the House in 1990, 'Soviet Jews who leave the Soviet Union – and we have urged for years that they should be allowed to leave – should not be settled in the Occupied Territories or in East Jerusalem. It undermines our position when those people are settled in land that really belongs to others.' Indeed, as she later remarked in her memoirs, 'I only wished that Israeli emphasis on the human rights of the Russian refuseniks was matched by proper appreciation of the plight of landless and stateless Palestinians.' With such sentiments, it is doubtful that today’s self-proclaimed Thatcherites would find a prominent place for Thatcher herself in their nascent faction."
~ Aris Roussinos, from his article 'What Thatcher can teach the pro-Israel Right'


Advice to would-be freedom activists

"Above all, do not join the wrong ideological groups or movements, in order to 'do something.' By 'ideological' (in this context), I mean groups or movements proclaiming some vaguely generalised, undefined (and, usually, contradictory) political goals. (E.g., [a] 'conservative party' that subordinates reason to faith, and substitutes theocracy for capitalism; or ... 'libertarian' hippies who subordinate reason to whims, and substitute anarchism for capitalism.) To join such groups means to reverse the philosophical hierarchy and to sell out fundamental principles for the sake of some superficial political action which is bound to fail. It means that you help the defeat of your ideas and the victory of your enemies. (For a discussion of the reasons, see 'The Anatomy of Compromise' in my book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.)"
~ Ayn Rand, from her essay 'What Can One Do?'

"The line isn't Left vs Right. It's 'the truth matters' versus 'the truth is what we need it to be'."[UPDATED]


"The line isn't Left vs Right. It's 'the truth matters' versus 'the truth is what we need it to be.' That's the epistemological line between good and evil. The Activist Left knows that's the actual line, and they've known it for a long time. ...

    "There are people who reject the dialectical approach. Then there are people broken by it. Finally, ... there are people who know exactly what they're doing and do it to deceive and conquer."
~ James Lindsay


"In universities across the world, humanities departments have, over time, come to reject the notion that there is such a thing as objective truth.
    "This nihilistic outlook was originally promoted by a small group of academics in the mid-20th century, but is now the dominant philosophy in a range of disciplines from literary criticism to gender and cultural studies. And while the doctrine has quietly swallowed the humanities, many thought it would never infiltrate the hard sciences. If one is engineering a bridge, for example, it would be reckless to reject the objective truth of gravity. If one is studying mathematics it would be foolish to deny that 2 + 2 = 4. 
    "And, rather than being a method to discover how the world works, such theorists argue Western science has been used as a tool to subjugate others. Efforts to 'decolonise' science are therefore efforts to undo this subjugation, by bringing into the fold other 'ways of knowing' that exist outside scientific methodology. These might include local knowledge about land management, religious knowledge about cosmology, or traditional ways of healing. Writing at 'The Conversation,' academic Alex Broadbent, of the University of Johannesburg, argues: 'There is African belief, and European belief, and your belief, and mine – but none of us have the right to assert that something is true, is a fact, or works, contrary to anyone else’s belief.' ... 
    "But herein lies the irony – by indulging the de-colonial activist agenda that rejects the existence of objective truths or a hierarchy of knowledge, universities undermine the very premise on which society deems them worthy of public funding. If we accept the de-colonial notion that no form of knowledge can be deemed superior to any other, then what exactly are students paying for? What specialised skills or benefits do university graduates gain that non-graduates lack? Why should the public continue to fund these multibillion-dollar organisations if the knowledge they offer is just as valid as any other 'way of knowing'?"
~ Claire Lehman, from her column 'In maths, truth & knowledge can't be mere matters of opinion'

Friday 19 April 2024

"Under a better Resource Management system [sic], there would be no need for fast-track approval processes."

"Under a better Resource Management system [sic], there would be no need for fast-track approval processes. The fast process would simply be the process."
~ Nick Clark from his op-ed 'For a better fast-track'

Paying bureaucrats is not a stimulus programme

"It would be a mistake to view public sector staffing as a stimulus programme for Wellington and cafes and bars."
~ Eric Crampton (and Liberty Scott) on Tova's tosh


"The capitalist system was termed 'capitalism' not by a friend of the system, but by Karl Marx" [updated]

"The capitalist system was termed 'capitalism' not by a friend of the system, but by an individual who considered it to be the worst of all historical systems, the greatest evil that had ever befallen mankind. That man was Karl Marx. Nevertheless, there is no reason to reject Marx’s term, because it describes clearly the source of the great social improvements brought about by capitalism. 
    "Those improvements are the result of capital accumulation; they are based on the fact that people, as a rule, do not consume everything they have produced, that they save—and invest—a part of it. 
    "There is a great deal of misunderstanding about this ... [not least that] capitalist savings benefit workers.

"An often unrealised fact about capitalism is this: savings mean benefits for all those who are anxious to produce or to earn wages. When a man has accrued a certain amount of money—let us say, one thousand dollars—and, instead of spending it, entrusts these dollars to a savings bank or an insurance company, the money goes into the hands of an entrepreneur, a businessman, enabling him to go out and embark on a project which could not have been embarked on yesterday, because the required capital was unavailable.
    "What will the businessman do now with the additional capital? The first thing he must do, the first use he will make of this additional capital, is to go out and hire workers and buy raw materials—in turn causing a further demand for workers and raw materials to develop, as well as a tendency toward higher wages and higher prices for raw materials. Long before the saver or the entrepreneur obtains any profit from all of this, the unemployed worker, the producer of raw materials, the farmer, and the wage- earner are all sharing in the benefits of the additional savings.
    "When the entrepreneur will get something out of the project depends on the future state of the market and on his ability to anticipate correctly the future state of the market. But the workers as well as the producers of raw materials get the benefits immediately....
    "The scornful depiction of capitalism by some people as a system designed to make the rich become richer and the poor become poorer is wrong from beginning to end. Marx’s thesis regarding the coming of socialism was based on the assumption that workers were getting poorer, that the masses were becoming more destitute, and that finally all the wealth of a country would be concentrated in a few hands or in the hands of one man only. And then the masses of impoverished workers would finally rebel and expropriate the riches of the wealthy proprietors....
    "If we look upon the history of the world, and especially upon the history of England since 1865, we realize that Marx was wrong in every respect. There is no western, capitalistic country in which the conditions of the masses have not improved in an unprecedented way. All these improvements of the last eighty or ninety years were made in spite of the prognostications of Karl Marx.
"We must realise, however, that this higher standard of living depends on the supply of capital. ... A country becomes more prosperous in proportion to the rise in the invested capital per unit of its population."
~ Ludwig Von Mises, from the collection of six of his lectures titled Economic Policy: Thoughts for Today and Tomorrow, and in Brazil under the title As Seis Lições (The Six Lessons) [hat tip Renato Moicano]

UPDATE:  Sad news just in that economic historian Robert Hessen has just died. David R. Henderson remembers him, and quotes from his contribution to the Concise Encylopaedia of Economics on Capitalism. 

"Capitalism,” a term of disparagement coined by socialists in the mid-nineteenth century, is a misnomer for “economic individualism,” which Adam Smith earlier called “the obvious and simple system of natural liberty” (Wealth of Nations).   Economic individualism’s basic premise is that the pursuit of self-interest and the right to own private property are morally defensible and legally legitimate. Its major corollary is that the state exists to protect individual rights. Subject to certain restrictions, individuals (alone or with others) are free to decide where to invest, what to produce or sell, and what prices to charge. There is no natural limit to the range of their efforts in terms of assets, sales, and profits; or the number of customers, employees, and investors; or whether they operate in local, regional, national, or international markets.
Here’s another great paragraph:
In early-nineteenth-century England the most visible face of capitalism was the textile factories that hired women and children. Critics (Richard Oastler and Robert Southey, among others) denounced the mill owners as heartless exploiters and described the working conditions—long hours, low pay, monotonous routine—as if they were unprecedented. Believing that poverty was new, not merely more visible in crowded towns and villages, critics compared contemporary times unfavourably with earlier centuries. Their claims of increasing misery, however, were based on ignorance of how squalid life actually had been earlier. Before children began earning money working in factories, they had been sent to live in parish poorhouses; apprenticed as unpaid household servants; rented out for backbreaking agricultural labor; or became beggars, vagrants, thieves, and prostitutes. The precapitalist “good old days” simply never existed (see industrial revolution and the standard of living).
Despite these constraints, which worked sporadically and unpredictably, the benefits of capitalism were widely diffused. Luxuries quickly were transformed into necessities. At first, the luxuries were cheap cotton clothes, fresh meat, and white bread; then sewing machines, bicycles, sporting goods, and musical instruments; then automobiles, washing machines, clothes dryers, and refrigerators; then telephones, radios, televisions, air conditioners, and freezers; and most recently, TiVos, digital cameras, DVD players, and cell phones. ...

That these amenities had become available to most people did not cause capitalism’s critics to recant, or even to relent. Instead, they ingeniously reversed themselves. Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse proclaimed that the real evil of capitalism is prosperity, because it seduces workers away from their historic mission—the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism—by supplying them with cars and household appliances, which he called “tools of enslavement.”Some critics reject capitalism by extolling “the simple life” and labeling prosperity mindless materialism. In the 1950s, critics such as John Kenneth Galbraith and Vance Packard attacked the legitimacy of consumer demand, asserting that if goods had to be advertised in order to sell, they could not be serving any authentic human needs. They charged that consumers are brainwashed by Madison Avenue and crave whatever the giant corporations choose to produce and advertise, and complained that the “public sector” is starved while frivolous private desires are being satisfied. And having seen that capitalism reduced poverty instead of intensifying it, critics such as Gar Alperovitz and Michael Harrington proclaimed equality the highest moral value, calling for higher taxes on incomes and inheritances to massively redistribute wealth, not only nationally but also internationally.

Thursday 18 April 2024

A question for you all on those sackings [updated]


At times like this you might ask yourself:
"What would Sir Humphrey do?"

Imagine you're Sir Humphrey. Head of a government department.

Now, imagine you minister has issued instructions to sack a given number of pen-pushers in your department. Simply to sack a given number, without real guidance as to whom. Leaving it to you to decide on whom the axe will fall.

So, here's the question: do you sack the folk who are most effective and most needed?

Or are those to whom you give the DCM the least useful, most surplus-to-requirements?

I'll give you a moment to think about it ...

What to say post-fight


I don't recommend you tune into cage-fighting TV. Not unless you just skip straight to the post-fight interviews — though I doubt they're all as admirable as this one ...

"If you care about your fucking country," said rising Brazilion champion Renato Moicano, "read Ludwig Von Mises and 'The Six Lessons' of the Austrian economics school, motherfuckers."

He's right you know. You should. Motherfuckers. 

But a strange thing to have in your head, right, after several minutes of beating in someone else's. He explained later that "as his platform continues to enlarge, [he] wants to use his spotlight to help change the world, particularly the United States."

“A lot of people talk to me about money. But, the problem is, it’s not about how much money you get, it’s about how much money you can keep. With the inflation how it is…and this book, he explained what the government does with your money ,with taxes, and the way they [finance] debt… 

“[I]n Brazil, people are going crazy with [my interview], a lot of people have gotten interested in it and how people are getting taxed with inflation. My message is so important…it’s crystal clear. If you don’t control the debt, that’s going to ruin this country. We need a free market of ideas.”

He's right. We do. 

[Click here for the free e-book or PDF; and on the Ludwig Von Mises tag below to see what I've written over the years about the great man.] 

Tuesday 16 April 2024

UN 'integrity'

"Twenty years of soft power, lobbies and corruption and we have a UN where Russia occupies the chair of Security Council, Iran chair of Disarmament, Saudi Arabia as chair of Gender Equality and Women's Rights."
~ Arthur Rehi

Monday 15 April 2024

"The RMA’s starting position is that you need permission. It is going to be dumped." But ...

"Did you know it costs 50% more to build a house here than it does in Australia? ...
    "We [sic] have successfully regulated our housing market so tightly that only the children of existing homeowners can obtain the financing to purchase property. We [sic] have created a landed gentry. ...
    "There are two reasons for this; land use restrictions and building regulations.
    "Let’s start with land use. The Resource Management Act, or RMA, began life in 1991 as a blueprint for preventing Kiwis doing anything with their land unless it complied with a national environmental plan and had the consent of the local council. ...
     Again. ...
    "Simon Court, the Act MP and Undersecretary with the responsibility for drafting the replacement, has a different outlook. You can do whatever you want with your land, so long as it does not interfere with someone else’s property or rights.
[Not true. See below.* - Ed.]
    "[But] this reform is 18 months away and will be in place for less than a year before the next election. ... National and Act have had six years to draft their RMA replacement. [And they haven't. - Ed.]
    "There are plenty of interested parties who would have contributed to this effort and a bill should have been ready to present to a select committee in the first hundred days. [Yes, it damn well should have been. - Ed.]
    "The longer any RMA replacement has to gain acceptance the more durability it will enjoy upon a return to a Labour-led government, and Labour have their RMA bill already drafted and ready to go; that being the one Court and his mates deleted on Christmas Eve. [Not to mention the not-insignificant regime uncertainty in the market until the replacement Act filters down to council's 'planners.' - Ed.]
~ Damien Grant, from his over-optimistic column 'Housing market so tightly regulated we’ve created landed gentry'
* Court's most-developed explanation of his proposed 'Urban Development Act' begins this way:
"Under ACT’s Urban Development Act, limits for urban development would continue to be based on locally-decided [council] plans."
So rather than a plethora of sackings of the unproductive, Court — a 'planner' himself by profession — proposes instead to keep his colleagues planners hard at work.
"These plans [his 'reform' plan continues] have democratic mandates [sic] and protect the legitimate expectations of property owners, while allowing councils to plan for infrastructure delivery."
Translation: Our party's two leading MPs represent home-owners in the country's leafiest suburbs, pledged to protect the unreasonable expectations of those suburbs' home-owners about what can be built next door.
"Councils [says Court] will not be permitted to restrict housing density more than the Auckland Mixed Housing Suburban zone."
Auckland's MHS "zone," by the way, essentially mandates for more of the same tightly restricted suburbia. And this confirms that zoning will still be with us, as well as planners. (How this reflects, as Grant says, 'doing what you want on your land as long as it doesn't affect someone else's property right,' Court alone knows. I suggest they both read Bernard Siegan.) 
"These zoning rules [Court says] have already been validated [sic] through extensive litigation in the Environmental Court ..."
One would have expected to see the back of that meddling court damned soon. Sadly, it seems however, we have a Court who refuses to meddle enough in his 'reforms,' and is doing it so damn slowly we will have years of uncertainty in what folk can plan to build on their own land.


"Whenever there is a proposal for a tax cut ... "

"Whenever there is a proposal for a tax cut, media pundits demand to know how you are going to pay for it. But when there are proposals for more spending on social programmes, those same pundits are strangely silent."
~ Thomas Sowell, from his 1999 book, Barbarians Inside the Gates [hat tip Cafe Hayek]


Friday 12 April 2024

"...by definition, good people don't want to control other people's lives.”

“Some leftists believe that the communist world would work if 'good people' were in control. But they don't realise that, by definition, good people don't want to control other people's lives.”
~ attrib. Ludwig von Mises [hat tip Stephen Hicks]

Thursday 11 April 2024

The Governor who printed $50 billion of inflation ...

"Yesterday the Reserve Bank ... released a statement saying, 'The NZ economy continues to evolve as anticipated by the Monetary Policy Committee.' What a line coming from a Governor who told 'Bloomberg News' in the US in 2021, whilst he was busy printing $50 billion in cash, which is the primary cause of our current high inflation, that "The fear of the 70s, the 80s, stagflation, it is such a different world [now]." How amusing, given that stagnation, recession & inflation is exactly what we are now experiencing. How amusing that the RBNZ says our economy continues to evolve as anticipated when its forecasts could not have been proved more wrong.
    "It gets worse. ..."

"By any measure, the 'School Strike for Climate' was a disaster" [update]

"On Friday, March 15 2019, an estimated 170,000 New Zealand secondary school students took to the nation’s streets. RNZ still ranks that turnout as the 'second-largest' protest in New Zealand history. ... [Last] Friday morning (5 April 2024) RNZ was carrying the School Strike for Climate protest organisers’ predictions of a turnout in excess of 100,000. Protest rallies were scheduled from Whangarei to Invercargill. ...
    "By the end of the day, however, it was clear that something very serious had gone wrong with the plan to unite the Left’s fragmented movements by, in effect, piggy-backing on the huge numbers formerly responsive to the SS4C’s summonses. Rather than a turnout in the range of 100,000: across the whole country, and by the most generous estimate, the organisers of the 'Strike' turned out a derisory 5,000 people.
    "By any measure, the 'Strike' was a disaster ...
    "Certainly, the dismal turnout must have given Green co-leader, Chloe Swarbrick, considerable pause. After all, she has staked a great deal of her political credibility on the proposition that she and her party can mobilise, electorally, the young, the alienated, and the disenfranchised. After Friday, however, transforming the 2026 general election into a people’s crusade would appear to be a much taller order.
    "Contrariwise, the failure of the 'Strike' offers Messers Luxon, Seymour and Peters considerable cause for celebration. Their coalition is described on the SS4C website as: 'the most conservative government in our history' – a claim that would doubtless bring a wry smile to the lips of Bill Massey, Sid Holland, and Rob Muldoon. Still, if Friday’s flop is the best the New Zealand Left can set against the Great Strike of 1913, the 1951 Waterfront Lockout, and the 1981 Springbok Tour protests, then our Coalition Government can breathe a huge sigh of relief."
UPDATE: This chimes with news from the States "that just 3% of 18-to-34-year-old voters named climate change as their top issue, with most citing the economy, inflation or immigration." (Not that the latter is anything about which to be concerned either.)
"Let’s not forget, [notes Jo Nova] all these surveys are done on people who never see a skeptical expert on TV or a real documentary ... They don’t hear that carbon dioxide was higher for most of the last half billion years, or that 'climate change' causes record grain yields, and saves 166,000 lives a year. Most of the 18 to 35 year olds have been fed the climate diatribe from school — but even they don’t believe it. ...
"So the good news that the young can see through this, despite the wall of propaganda.."

Wednesday 10 April 2024

It all started going wrong when they started calling themselves 'journalists' instead of reporters.

It's not like it's my job to fix the failing media's many problems, but here's where I reckon the problems started — and they were always about more than just disruptive technology ...

Here's my more detailed advice, which I first offered way back in 2009 (back when blogging was the latest next-big-thing):

Deborah Hill-Cone suggests in today's Business Herald that "bitter bloggers" who lambast the mainstream media for its manifest failings are duty bound to solve old media's problems for them, i.e., to shed some light on "how the [mainstream] media might turn a buck so we [the royal "we"?] can fund quality journalism." Ironically, her column is not online, so her audience have to rely on bloggers to retype it all for her, but here's her main beef, that 

"all this old versus new media aggro is just a distraction from the fact that neither [bloggers nor] Rupert Murdoch . . . have an answer for the future of journalism." 

Well, it's not like I'm duty bound to solve all the problems for the profession of journalism (there's more than enough problems in my own profession of architecture, thanks very much), but here's a simple enough solution for the old media to adopt -- so simple that even a journalist might understand.  Here it is:: 

            Recognise the division of labour, boys and girls, and just report the news!

We, the bloggers, can get on with commenting on the news, since that's what we do best; and you get on with finding and reporting the news, since that's what you're supposed to do best. In other words: 

  • don't editorialise; 
  • don't pontificate; 
  • don't ask how people feel, ask instead what they saw
  • don't report events as if people are outraged, just report the events themselves;
  • don't report what everyone knows is transparent science fiction; report real science fact instead;
  • don't report what "celebrities" do as if it matters a damn;
  • don't report puff pieces about actors/musicians/writers as if they're not just puff-pieces for their new film/album/book; 
  • don't report what everyone knows is just spin -- report instead what's being spun, and the news that someone is spinning, and who; 
  • don't assume the whole world has the same values as your friends; 
  • don't just rewrite press releases as if they were news; 
  • and don't create the news yourself.
  • In short, just report the news. All of it. Report it as if the truth actually mattered. 

Your role model in this new endeavour should not be Woman's Day, which your front pages and the Six O'Clock News more and more resemble, but the classic private detective whose motto should be hung over your desk in copperplate lettering: "Just the facts, ma'am." 

This week offers the perfect example of why people are switching off the mainstream. With 400,000 Americans taking up pro-freedom signs against their government, the mainstream media has either pretended they don't exist -- preferring instead to focus on the tough issues like the new White House dog -- or tried to suggest that all the protesters are insane. Meanwhile, the issue of the week in New Zealand, according to every news report every time I switch on the local media, is the latest in the Tony Veitch saga -— giving numb-nut so-called journalists the opportunity to interview each other over how well they did (or didn't) handle the story, and Mark Sainsbury and John Campbell the chance to wring their hands over the courage/bravery/pluckiness [delete one] of the two protagonists. 

No wonder no one can take mainstream "journalism" seriously any more. Instead of Philip Marlowe, we have to endure endless re-runs of Barbara Cartland. 


Tax cuts without spending cuts are not tax cuts

“Keep your eye on one thing and one thing only: how much government is spending, because that’s the true tax … If you’re not paying for it in the form of explicit taxes, you’re paying for it indirectly in the form of inflation or in the form of borrowing. The thing you should keep your eye on is what government spends, and the real problem is to hold down government spending as a fraction of our income, and if you do that, you can stop worrying about the debt.”
~ Milton Friedman, from his 'Q+A on Money and Inflation' [hat tip Patrick Phelps]

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Nailing those targets

A target

It's nice to have a target. If you don't aim, you won't hit. 

Or that's the argument coming from the Blue Team about their just-announced targets.

But when their aims are all calibrated towards a date of 2030 — just far enough away not to be politically challenging — can we really take them seriously?

And even if you do aim, doesn't it matter what you aim at?  The Soviets knew all about setting (and meeting) production targets, didn't they. Set a target for a large number of nails, for example, and you'd get many, many very small useless nails. Set the target by weight, by contrast, and you get many fewer much heavier nails. Or one very, very big one.

Manager of a Soviet nail factory being awarded
the Order of Lenin for exceeding his tonnage
There's something that Christopher Luxon could learn there about his own targets: that their very specific focus look to be just as easy to get around.
  • "95 per cent of patients to be admitted, discharged, or transferred from an emergency department within six hours," says the target. How easy would it be to "triage" patients before they officially arrive at ED to reduce the number appearing there.
  • "95 per cent of people wait less than four months for elective treatment," says Luxon's target. Again, easy to reduce the number permitted elective treatment.
  • "15 per cent reduction in the total number of children and young people with serious and persistent offending behaviour," says the naive target. Yet how easy it will be to simply redefine what "serious" and "persistent" look like.
  • "20,000 fewer people who are victims of an assault, robbery, or sexual assault," says the wish list — and you'd damn well hope it were achieved. But aren't we already seeing the word "victim" politically redefined?
  • "50,000 fewer people on Jobseeker Support Benefit," says the hopeful headline. Hard to "create jobs." Easy to simply create a new benefit for which those 50,000 might be "entitled."
I'll leave the remaining four for you to do as an exercise. You already get the point. Despite Luxon's comical business-speak about "chunking down" and "laddering up," even in their relative modesty these are pious hopes, not real targets. (Since he's so focused on business-speak perhaps he could read about Goodhart's Law while he's chunking up, often stated as: "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure".) And in their specificity they (like Building Minister Chris Penk's naive hope for quicker Building Consents simply because he's set a new target) could even make their targeted problems worse.

So perhaps it's a good thing that we have to wait until 2030 before any rubber really hits the road.

BREAKING: Pacific islands not disappearing

"An amount of land equivalent to the Isle of Wight has been added to the shorelines of 13,000 islands around the world in just the last 20 years. ... a net increase of 157.21 km2.
    "[T]he finding blows holes in the poster scare run by alarmists suggesting that rising sea levels caused by humans using hydrocarbons will condemn many islands to disappear shortly beneath rising sea levels. ...
    "The scientists observed that despite rising sea levels, many shorelines in Tuvalu and neighbouring Pacific atolls have maintained relative stability, “without significant alteration”. [The 101 islands of clilmate poster-child Tuvalu had grown in land mass by 2.9%, they said.] A comprehensive re-examination of data on 30 Pacific and Indian Ocean atolls with 709 islands found that none of them had lost any land. Furthermore, the scientists added, there are data that indicate 47 reef islands expanded in size or remained stable over the last 50 years, “despite experiencing a rate of sea-level rise that exceeds the global average” ....
    "Of the 13,000 islands examined, the researchers found that only around 12% had experienced a significant shoreline shift, with almost equal numbers experiencing either landward (loss) or seaward (gain) movement. ...
    "The ... findings are important in helping destroy the claim that many low-lying islands will simply disappear beneath the waves in the near future due to human-induced climate change. They show how shoreline changes are a persistent and ongoing process that is subject to many natural and human influences. Most of the poster islands used for climate scares such as Tuvalu and the Maldives have increased in size of late, and are hardly suitable to whip up fear of a claimed climate ‘emergency’. Sea level rise is not a 'predominant' cause of the changing coasts, the scientists note."

~ Chris Morrison, from his article 'Islands That Climate Alarmists Said Would Soon “Disappear” Due to Rising Sea Found to Have Grown in Size'

Monday 8 April 2024

"What stupendously depressing words, declaring the only way a human can be fulfilled is dependence on politicians."

"Although Ardern tried hard to divide Kiwis along every imaginable line for her own political benefit, an inescapable fact is that a profound cultural factor, way bigger than her, unites us all together. We have our roots in making our way through our own industry. 
    "When people started to migrate to NZ, whether indigenous or not, they had to depend on themselves, friends and family for survival. There was no welfare state back then. Out of this history, an important part of our culture became the 'can-do' attitude — Kiwi ingenuity, the number 8 fencing-wire, practicality —the taking calculated risks that many in the Old World had lost. Cut to modern times however, and this is the current philosophy of the NZ Labour Party, as espoused by its current and former leaders:
Ardern: 'People ... look for light, hope, a fulfilment of their own ambition and they will either find that in political leadership or they will seek out reasons why they have been failed.'

Hipkins: 'Governing is about choices — choosing subsidies ... '
"What stupendously depressing words, declaring the only way a human can be fulfilled - can achieve their dreams & ambitions - is dependence on politicians..."

~ Robert MacCulloch, from his post 'A brighter Future for NZ'ers involves the outright rejection of Labour's Make-the-People-Dependent Doctrine

Friday 5 April 2024

More news from the War on Drugs™

"When President Nixon declared drug addiction Public Enemy Number One in 1971, it was with his 1969 declaration to Congress that the full forces of government must be marshalled “to cope with this growing menace to the general welfare of the United States.” Again, the nation was told, we would reduce crime and poverty, lower the scope and costs of incarceration, and stamp out a danger to the American family.
    "It is a vast understatement to say that these assurances were wrong ...
    "As of 2015, the rate of prisoners as a function of the population has grown from 100 per 100,000 in the period before Nixonian drug policy to over 500 per 100,000. As a result, the United States has become the world’s largest jailer, both in absolute terms and in rate. ...
    "Between 1973 and 2013, over $1 trillion was spent on drug enforcement in the U.S. alone. Yet, in 2016, Americans spent $150 billion on heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine, and marijuana, which doesn’t even factor in other classes of illicit drugs. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of these sunk opportunity costs is that despite a regime of increasing funding for supply-side enforcement, drug prices have continued to decline over the last four decades. This isn’t to say that they exist in cost parity with legal substances; their prices are still higher. What it does say is that current policy does little to abate demand.
    "Moreover, instead of reducing crime, prohibition simply creates more criminals. Everyone involved in the drug market, from supplier to distributor to consumer, is automatically a criminal. Absent the property rights protections and dispute resolution apparatus available via normal legal channels, interested parties must resolve their own conflicts, often leading to violent means. ...
    "Just as it was with alcohol during Prohibition, quality control is an issue with illegal drugs. As we discussed earlier, prohibitory laws create incentives to minimise the costs of production and transport while maximising profit, which in turn trends towards potency as the major concern. Because the product is manufactured by local entrepreneurs, however organised, there are no industry-wide safety standards. Hence, the current issue of heroin laced with fentanyl, for example. This leads to an increase in drug-related overdoses, and other related problems.
    "These are just a few of the more obvious social costs related to the War on Drugs™."

Thursday 4 April 2024

"The politician is ... the pestilence of modern times."

“The men whom the people ought to choose to represent them are too busy to take the jobs. But the politician is waiting for it. He’s the pestilence of modern times. What we should try to do is make politics as local as possible. Keep the politicians near enough to kick them. The villagers who met under the village tree could also hang their politicians to the tree. It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged.”
~ G.K. Chesterton, from a 1921 interview given to the Cleveland Press