Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Bonus Quote of the Day: On The Forgotten Man


“As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine what C shall do for X or, in the better case, what A, B and C shall do for X. …
    “What I want to do is to look up C. I want to show you what manner of man he is. I call him the Forgotten Man. Perhaps the appellation is not strictly correct. He is the man who never is thought of. … He works, he votes, generally he prays — but he always pays — yes, above all, he pays. … ”

~ William Graham Sumner, from ‘The Forgotten Man’ (1893)


Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant


Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have now passed the numerical ‘barrier’ of 400 parts-per-million (i.e, 400ppm), and are still rising. Here’s the press release and accompanying gee-whiz graph:


Is this something about which to be concerned?

Well, just remember what 400 ppm actually means. That means this trace gas, the second of the four main greenhouse gases by which this planet is able to maintain a temperature sufficiently equable for us to survive on its surface, is now 1/2500th of all the gases in the atmosphere. 0.04%.

So should we be concerned about a gas whose sensitivity it turns out is relatively low, whose effect on warming decreases as it rises – and whose levels have historically increased due to warming, rather than the reverse.

Warmists are fond of reminding folk that understanding the connection between climate and carbon dioxide dates back over a hundred years, to the work of Svante Arrhenius. They are less fond of citing his observation that:

By the influence of the increasing percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere, we may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better climates.

Any era emerging from an ice age would concur.

We have known for an even longer time that carbon dioxide is plant food, so it should be no surprise to discover that, due in large part to the fertilisation provided by the increasing percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere, we have also been enjoying an abundant greening of the planet: according to satellite analysis, 14% greener over the last 30 years.


Any environmentalist should be excited! Matt Ridley is one who enthuses about this “global greening, the gradual, but large, increase in green vegetation on the planet”:

I think this is one of the most momentous discoveries of recent years and one that transforms the scientific background to climate policy, though you would never know it from the way it has been reported. And it is a story in which I have been both vilified and vindicated.
    In December 2012, the environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University drew my attention to a video online of a lecture given by Ranga Myneni of Boston University.
    In this lecture Myneni presented ingenious analysis of data from satellites proving that much of the vegetated area of the planet was getting greener, only a little bit was getting browner, and that overall in 30 years there had been a roughly 14% increase in green vegetation on planet Earth.
   In this slide he argued that this was occurring in all vegetation types – tropical rain forests, subarctic taiga, grasslands, semi-deserts, farmland, everywhere.
    What is more, Myneni argued that by various means he could calculate that about half of this greening was a direct result of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, rather than the application of agricultural fertiliser, irrigation, warmer temperatures or increased rainfall.
    Carbon dioxide, along with water, is the raw material that plants use to make carbohydrates, with the help of sunlight, so it stands to reason that raising its concentration should help plants grow.
    I was startled by Myneni’s data. I knew that there had been thousands of so-called free-air concentration (FACE) experiments, in which levels of CO2 had been increased over crops or wild ecosystems to find out if it boosted their growth (it did), and that commercial greenhouse owners now routinely maintain CO2 levels in their greenhouses at more than double ambient levels – because it makes their tomatoes grow faster.
    But the global effect of CO2 levels on the quantity of vegetation had not, as far as I could tell, been measured till now.
    Other lines of evidence also pointed to this global greening:

  • the increased rate of growth of forest trees,
  • the increased amplitude of seasonal carbon dioxide variation measured in Hawaii and elsewhere,
  • photographic surveys of vegetation,
  • the increased growth rate of phytoplankton, marine plants and some corals, and so on.

By the time Myeni’s results were published, in April of this year, “His results were now even stronger than he had concluded in his 2012 lecture. Now he said that 70% of the cause of greening was carbon dioxide – up from half.”

AAA4-1024x663 (1)As Myneni’s co-author Zaichun Zhu, of Beijing University, puts it, it’s equivalent to adding a green continent twice the size of mainland USA.
    Frankly, I think this is big news. A new continent’s worth of green vegetation in a single human generation.

This is huge news, as Ridley makes clear:

In the very same issue of the same journal was another paper from an international team about a further benefit of global greening, which concluded that CO2 fertilisation is likely to increase crop water productivity throughout the world, for example by up to 48% for rain-fed wheat in arid areas, and that “If realised in the fields, the effects of elevated [CO2] could considerably mitigate global yield losses whilst reducing agricultural consumptive water use (4–17%).”
    Their chart shows that without CO2 fertilisation, crops will become more water-stressed during the current century; with it they will become
LESS water-stressed.
    These are huge benefits for the earth and for people.

Not that most environmentalists consider people.

And since most predictions from warmists’ models’ have failed to come to pass “(think empty dams, no more snow in the UK and an ice-free arctic)” and as every year the scientists’ estimates of CO2’s climate sensitivity decreases – if (as Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore points out) When Asked To Show Evidence Of Man-Made Warming, Scientists Can’t Do It. – and if (as Arrhenius insists) a warmer earth is a more equable place to be and (as Alex Epstein points out) the warming itself is mild and manageable, then why do so many continue to demonise this important trace gas?

Why tax its production?

Why demonise the fossil fuels by which we produce the gas as a byproduct in the process of “improving our planet and creating new resources”?

So let’s do it for the people! "I don't want an earth with the smallest human impact,” says Epstein. “I want an earth with the greatest human flourishing."

To do that we must understand we begin with an planet largely inhospitable to human life and by our own energies transform it. We must understand that does have an impact.

So long as we accept nonimpact as an environmental ideal [however], we will not fight passionately against those who oppose the energy of life, because we won’t consider its essence—the transformation of nature in service of human life—as a moral ideal.
   But transformation is a moral ideal. I call that ideal industrial progress—the progressive improvement of our environment using human industry, including energy and technology, in service of human life. It’s why I named my think tank the Center for Industrial Progress. I wanted to start a positive alternative to the mainstream Green environmentalist movement, to replace the deadly ideal of nonimpact with the true ideal of industrial progress. We don’t want to “save the planet” from human beings; we want to improve the planet for human beings.

So should we all.

We can begin to get there be getting over our carbon inhibitions.

Understanding that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but a plant food – that’s a real beginning.


UPDATE: Another excellent step: Two years after Australia has dropped their carbon tax, and less than a year after the climate conference in Paris, France has announced plans to drop their carbon tax


[Pics from Matt Ridley, Watts Up With That, I Love CO2]


Capitalism? This just in …


Since it’s on my masthead, and since so many (including presidential candidates) confuse capitalism with the regulatory state, here – for all of you – is the news:


Regulation poisons everything, even the thing most people associate with capitalism: competition:


[Hat tips Charlotte Cushman, Jim Rose, Anti-Dismal]


Quote of the Day: On the (intellectual) success of the left


“For about half a century the intellectuals, most of whom are leftist, have been struggling to achieve a spatial situation which is geometrically impossible: a political field consisting of a middle and a left-of-middle, with no right-of-middle. They came close to succeeding. Their success was made possible by the non-philosophical attitude of most rightists, who surrendered the intellect to the leftists, accepted their basic premises, and mouthed empty slogans in answer to deadly political principles.
    “This permitted the intellectuals to play the game of ‘window dressing,’ i.e., to preach political tolerance or impartiality and to practice it, on suitable occasions, by featuring the weakest, most befuddled champion of capitalism as a representative of the right. (Which led people to the conclusion: ‘If this is the best that can be said for the right, then the leftist position must be true.’)”

~ Ayn Rand


NB: For the record, I still describe myself as neither right nor left


Q: Why do politicians lie?


How do you know when a politician is lying? Answer: Because their lips are moving.

Why do politicians lie? Well, that’s a more interesting question. Ilya Somin from The Volokh Conspiracy suggests three main reasons.

The first may be considered a ‘technical’ reason that may be forgiveable.

Political duplicity is sometimes a necessary tool for facilitating deals, negotiations, and diplomatic maneouvering… ‘Often, the only way to get something done is to have separate private and public truths.’

But the other two? Not so much. Somin calls them

  • Lying to exploit public ignorance; and
  • Lying about the nature of your policies in order to overstate benefits and conceal possible downsides.

He doesn’t consider another reason: because the lied-to have come to expect it. But he does ask if political lying is always wrong.

It is easy to see how political lying might cause harm. But sometimes politicians might actually be justified in lying to the public. Georgetown political philosopher Jason Brennan argues that such deception is defensible if it prevents an ignorant or malevolent electorate from pushing through harmful and oppressive policies.
    For example, if a bigoted electorate favours slavery or racial segregation, a candidate might be justified in pretending to support these positions himself, and then reneging on his campaign promises when he takes office.

In other professsions that might be called ‘pandering’ -- and better by far, surely, to use your platform to persuade rather than dissemble.

That said, the routine use of lying and exploitation of public ignorance probably causes more harm than good. It also likely contributes to the atmosphere of suspicion and partisan hatred that helps make public opinion even more ignorant and illogical than it otherwise would be.
    Given the structure of the political system, widespread deception may be unavoidable. Politicians who refuse to lie and exploit public ignorance are systematically disadvantaged relative to those with fewer scruples, and win fewer elections because of it. Ironically, the very same voters who hate dishonest politicians regularly reward deception by doing a terrible job of sifting lies from truth – especially when the lies reinforce their preconceptions.

In other words, politians lie because you let them. And because you let them, every new crop of political porky-tellers is rewarded for continuing the practice.

        The public ignorance that makes lying an effective political strategy is extremely difficult to overcome.

That is, it’s all your fault.

Some of the resulting lying may even be justified. Still, we might wonder whether so many of our important decisions should be made by a system where lying is just politics as usual.

Perhaps if we put most of those important decisions beyond politics, where we judge sich things much more severely, we may all be better served.

[Hat tip David Prichard]


Sunday, 23 October 2016

Question for the Day: “To terrify children with the image of hell, to consider women an inferior creation–is that good for the world?"


Question for the Day is from the late Christopher Hitchens: “To terrify children with the image of hell, to consider women an inferior creation–is that good for the world?"


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Labour Weekend Ramble


Yes, sorry to spoil your routine but this week it’s a Thursday Morning Ramble.
It’s a Thursday Morning Ramble because I had a lot of things I still wanted to present, and with a long weekend starting tomorrow for some of us, too little time to present them otherwise. So let’s go…


“The second three years of the Supercity could be called the ‘profligate’ years. Within a few days of the 2013 election Len Brown became a lame duck second term mayor after his philandering became public. With no possibility of a third term Brown decided he must leave a ‘legacy’ and so went on a spending binge. This forced up rates to an unsustainable level, created a debt mountain, and bloated the bureaucracy. As a result, Goff’s promises to spend even more on new projects are simply untenable. When coupled with a majority of his Councillors pledging fiscal responsibility for the next three years, it leaves Goff with little room to manoeuvre [If he and they are to keep their promises – Ed.]”
Auckland’s profligate years leave Goff with little room to manoeuvre – JO HOLMES BLOG

Modern journalism. Compare…
Salvation Army: ”New Zealand’s problems of persistent youth unemployment are not caused by recent migrants taking jobs.
Radio NZ: “Too many jobs going to migrants – Sallies”

Question from a posuer.
Question of etiquette – DIM POST

“An important piece of work. Inequality is important. Measured inequality in NZ has been much smaller than people think. It would not have increased if it had not been for the self inflicted wound of our house prices.
That of course is now acknowledged even by the Greens and Labour to be the consequence of the RMA and council power and incentives.
    “They removed property owners’ power to intensify spontaneously as all great cities and vibrant towns once could.” ~ Stephen Franks
The Inequality Paradox: Why inequality matters even though it has barely changed – NZ INITIATIVE

“Why is it that many hard-working factory workers, plumbers and waitresses never earn as much as some CEOs, best-selling novelists or A-list actors? Isn’t that unfair?”
J.K Rowling,billionaire author of Harry Potter, shows why inequality doesn’t matter if we’re all paid according to the value we create – Don Watkins & Yaron BRook, CITY A.M.

Translation: “Poverty line definitions of poverty are bad and you should feel bad.”
A 'national shame': Acoss report reveals worsening poverty in Australia – GUARDIAN

Translation: “This time it’s different.”
ANZ economists see signs of 'late cycle behaviour' emerging in the economy but believe the boom-and-bust pattern of previous cycles can be avoided this time – INTEREST.CO.NZ

“A weekend police survey in Hamilton discovered only two beggars were actually homeless and the others were bringing props and even dogs to help them appear poor.
    “The survey found only two of the 15 beggars were homeless. The remaining 13 had brought duvet covers, cardboard signs and even sickly looking pets to give the impression they were living on the streets.”
Police find only two beggars on Hamilton streets are homeless – NZ HERALD

“Government doesn’t ‘give’ us tax refunds; it simply refrains from taking more of what we created.”
There is No Such Thing as Trickle-Down Economics -  Steven Horwitz, FEE

“From the state to private corporations, many groups benefit from marijuana prohibition. And, they will fight to keep marijuana illegal.”
The Special Interests Behind Marijuana Prohibition – Mark Thornton, MISES WIRE



“Many Americans, not just conservatives, will cast essentially negative ballots. The only real argument for Hillary Clinton is that she is not Donald Trump . The only real argument for Donald Trump is that he is not Hillary Clinton. Neither argument is convincing. If someone is not fit for office, it doesn't matter that someone else may be even worse.”
How should a conservative vote? – Daniel Hannan, WASHINGTON EXAMINER

“Dear Mr. Trump: 
“It is hard—perhaps impossible—to calculate the damage that you have done to the United States and its people, and the people of the world. The situation that the United States faces today is one of great uncertainty at home and great peril abroad.”
An Open Letter to Trump – Richard Epstein, HOOVER INSTITUTION

“"Mrs Clinton has been exposed to have no core, to be someone who constantly changes her position to maximise political gain. Leaked speeches prove that she has two positions (public and private) on banks; two positions on the wealthy; two positions on borders; two positions on energy....
   “Voters might not know any of this, because while both presidential candidates have plenty to answer for, the press has focused solely on taking out Mr Trump. And the press is doing a diligent job of it."
Media is burying new details on Hillary Clinton’s record – Kimberley Strassel, THE AUSTRALIAN BUSINESS REVIEW

“Hacked e-mails released by Wikileaks reveal the Clintons are exactly what their nemeses feared.”
Forget the Election: Why Hillary Clinton May Be the Most Hated President of All Time – VANITY FAIR

“"In a series of candid email exchanges with top Clinton Foundation officials during the hours after the massive 2010 Haiti earthquake, a senior aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly gave special attention to those identified by the abbreviations 'FOB' (friends of Bill Clinton) or 'WJC VIPs' (William Jefferson Clinton VIPs)."
How Hillary's State Dept. Gave Special Attention to 'Friends of Bill' After Haiti Quake – ABC NEWS
Former Haitian Senate President Calls Clintons 'Common Thieves Who Should be in Jail' – PJ MEDIA

Bizarrely,and on policy at least, the private face of Two-Faced Hillary may be better than the public.
”According to Wikileaks, at the same time Hillary Clinton was wooing the support of radical greens, at a behind closed doors meeting with pro-energy unions, she was telling those same radical greens to ‘get a life.’”
The Two Faces of “Green” Hillary Clinton –Eric Worrall, WATTS UP WITH THAT
Here Are Hillary Clinton's Three Speeches To Goldman Sachs For Which She Was Paid $675,000 – ZERO HEDGE

“The amazing thing about America? Most people have the right emotional reaction: ‘Throw the bums out.’ But they have the wrong idea. Their idea is that government will protect and take care of them. Actually, that is the proper role of government when it comes to purse snatchers, identity stealers, computer hackers, car thieves and rapists/murderers. It’s also the proper role of the national government when it comes to criminal spies, international secret-stealers, terrorists and invading armies. But it’s NOT the role of government to feed, clothe, hospitalise, educate and provide all the creature comforts of life for us. Government cannot do these things, and should not try.
    “The fact that this no longer occurs to most Americans is why the two major candidates – whomever they are – disappoint us every single time. Americans sense that neither Trump nor Clinton have the answer. But they don’t have the willingness or ability to define the right answer. And most are unwilling to let go of their fantasy that government somehow can and should feed, clothe, educate, provide creature comforts and otherwise take care of them.”
Why Don't We Have Better Candidates? - Michael Hurd, LIVING RESOURCES CENTER




“Do you want to make the world a better place or do you want to impose socialism? You really can't have both.”
Socialism Kills More Babies than War – Chelsea Follett, FEE

“President Nicol├ís Maduro’s government has begun dismantling price controls… ‘I used to look for anything, whatever was going, even if it meant getting in line the day before,” she said. “I haven’t had to line up for two months now.”"
Venezuela Backs Away From Price Controls as Citizens Go Hungry - WALL STREET JOURNAL

“#JeSuisCharlie survivor Zineb El Rhazoui is as hard as steel!” ~ Maajid Nawaz
Zineb el Rhazoui, Charlie Hebdo survivor, discusses why the world needs to ‘Destroy Islamic Fascism’ – Zineb El Rhazoui, NY TIMES

“When you set up a system that inflicts deliberate harm as a deterrence, it's really hard to find another name for it than torture" ~ Amnesty International
'I was not prepared for what I saw': Australia intentionally torturing refugees, report claims – SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

“Sustained foreign aid, such as rice, undermines markets and drives many local producers out of business, creating more dependency on aid.”
The Curse of Charity in Haiti - Mary Anastasia O’Grady, WALL STREET JOURNAL

“If we eliminate paradoxes and contradictions like public or government “ownership,” then we will allow people to fix problems associated with those things. Let the market and economics reign supreme and let entrepreneurs solve the issues that present themselves.”
Privately Owned Roads Would End Congestion – FEE 

“A seasoned anti-piracy advocate couldn’t have said it any better.”
Content Thief Turned Content Creator Rails Against Piracy – Kevin Madigan, CENTER FOR THE PROTECTION OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

If young followers of the Mises Institute actually read what Ludwig Von Mises said about anarchy, their heads would explode.
Mises on Anarchism: Five Quotations – STEPHEN HICKS



“So what I am about to say this evening about the state of climate science is not in any sense anti-science. It is anti the distortion and betrayal of science…
    “Why do I think the risk from global warming is being exaggerated? For four principal reasons.
        1. All environmental predictions of doom always are;
        2. the models have been consistently wrong for more than 30 years;
        3. the best evidence indicates that climate sensitivity is relatively low;
        4. the climate science establishment has a vested interest in alarm.
    “I will come to those four points in a moment. But first I want to talk about global greening, the gradual, but large, increase in green vegetation on the planet…the most momentous [yet largely unreported] discoveries of recent years and one that transforms the scientific background to climate policy”
Globl Warming versus Global Greening – Matt Ridley, GWPF

“Should Chris Wallace ask our presidential candidates about climate change? Absolutely, but only as part of a broader discussion of the role of fossil fuels in America’s energy future.
    “’Climate change’ — more precisely, man-made warming — is a side effect of using fossil fuels for cheap, plentiful, reliable energy. To ask candidates to address climate change without addressing the unique benefits of fossil fuels is like asking the candidates to address vaccine side effects without addressing the unique benefits of vaccines.”
Warming is mild and manageable: Opposing view – Alex Epstein, USA TODAY

“Elinor C. Ostrom, the first female Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences, believed that people are perfectly capable of taking control of decisions that affect their lives, without external authorities imposing rules. Her extensive fieldwork focused on how people interact with ecosystems, such as forests, fisheries and irrigation systems, while maintaining the long-term sustainability of these resources.”
Are ordinary people able to self-organise? – Nobel Perspectives, UBS

“All the highest concentrations are downwind of warm water… There is little or no significant excess CO2 above or downwind of major population centres such as Western Europe or the North Eastern USA.”
Evidence that Oceans not Man control CO2 emissions – Stephen Wilde, NEW CLIMATE MODEL

“’How race complicates the way we view Haiti and the environment.’ … He had discovered a rarity in today’s world: a good-news environmental story in one of the planet’s poorest countries [Haiti]. But then he had a troubling thought: 'People won’t like this.'”
One of the most repeated facts about Haiti is a lie – NEWS.VICE.COM


"[W]e have to reject the false alternative of 'climate
change believer' or 'climate change denier' and
become 'climate thinkers'—people who think
carefully about the magnitude of man-made warming and
compare it with the unique benefits of fossil fuels.
"Candidates who are climate thinkers will conclude
that man-made warming is mild and manageable,
not runaway and catastrophic. And thus they will
conclude that fossil fuels should be liberated, not restricted."

~ Alex Epstein, ‘Warming is mild and manageable: Opposing view;


“Years ago, experts in the hardware industry would have had more sympathy for Sherman. Now, no one does—not even Sherman himself. While discussions of intellectual property in China’s manufacturing centers once focused on how brands and investors could protect their designs from China’s rapacious copycats, things have changed. Startups and foreign manufacturers are embracing a new reality—someone in China is going to make a knockoff of your unique invention, almost immediately. All any company or entrepreneur can do is prepare for it.”
Your brilliant Kickstarter idea could be on sale in China before you’ve even finished funding it – QZ.COM

“Think about how little you know about the politics, race, gender, or even nationality of the person who makes the bread you buy. You don't know because you don't care. What you care about is getting the best deal on bread.”
The Free Market Wins against Discrimination – David R. Henderson, FEE

“Everybody relies on those four letters far more than they should.”
The Myers-Briggs Personality Test Is Pretty Much Meaningless – Rose Eveleth, SMART NEWS

A scientist examines the science.
Science-Based Alternative Cancer Treatments

“With congestion getting worse, proponents advise techniques, such as preventing bottlenecks, letting others cut in; the problem with tailgaters”
One Driver Can Prevent a Traffic Jam – WALL STREET JOURNAL


“In countless fields and by innumerable devices we
see the deliberate contrivance of scarcities, the
abolition of which would surely enable the dissolution
of what we to-day regard as physical poverty.”
~ William Hutt, from his book Economists and the Public, quoted by Don Boundreaux at Cafe Hayek


"We allowed economics to be lost when we decided it was too complicated and too technical for intelligent laypeople to understand."
How We Lost Economics – Jeff Desit, MISES WIRE

“Falling prices are so obviously beneficial that only academic economists don't get it.”
VIDEO: "Why Falling Prices Are Good for Business" – Joseph Salerno, MISES WIRE

“Keynesian economics is a perpetual-motion machine for statists.”
More Evidence against Big-Spending Keynesian Economics – Daniel Mitchell, INTERNATIONAL LIBERTY

“Central banks appear more powerful than at any time in their history – has something changed? Not really – because of their role in government debt management and fractional reserve banking, central banks have always possessed this power.”
A History of Fractional-Reserve Banking - or, Why Interest Rates are the Most Important Influence on Stock Market Valuations? Part 1 – Colin Lloyd, COBDEN CENTRE

“The Federal Reserve is, at last, acknowledging at top levels that its economists are completely baffled, its recovery is failing, that the Fed cannot raise interest and may even have to heat up its stimulants … or we may end up with a permanently scarred and stagnant economy.”
Federal Reserve Admits it Never Knew What it was Doing – THE GREAT RECESSION BLOG

“The positive economic case for free trade is straightforward.  Here I distill it into ten – well, as you’ll see, really eleven – elemental points.”
The Elemental Case for Free Trade – CAFE HAYEK

“Yes. [The UK] should go for total free trade. Unilaterally if necessary. [Britain] will still be better off.”
The EU’s maddening, opaque, and illogical import tariffs must be scrapped – CITY A.M.

Who would've guessed that the Fed's assessment of human behaviour might be flawed … ?




"Strip away the titles of 'capitalism' and 'socialism', and the responses become drastically different. A 2015 Reason-Rupe poll found that college-aged respondents are far more supportive of a 'free-market system' (72%) than they are of a 'government-managed economy' (49%). In reality, millennials—regardless of party or ideology—have arrived at a surprising consensus: We support free markets, are very much unhappy with the current state of affairs, and are still looking for change."
Millennials vs. Mutant Capitalism – Christopher Koopman, WALL STREET JOURNAL

“I will argue that the anti-liberalism is much deeper in Kant’s philosophy than the liberalism. That means saying something about the ringlingly liberal-sounding principles that are indeed integral to Kant’s philosophy. That something is this: One must always interpret a comprehensive philosopher’s remarks on applied matters in the context of his philosophical system.”
Does Kant Have a Place in Classical Liberalism? – Stephen Hicks, CATO

““In Aristotle’s eyes, ethics does not begin with thinking of others; it begins with oneself. The reason is that every human being faces the task of learning how to live, how to be a human being, just as he has to learn how to walk or to talk. No one can be truly human, can live and act as a rational man, without first going through the difficult and often painful business of acquiring the intellectual and moral virtues, and then, having acquired them, actually exercising them in the concrete, but tricky, business of living.” ~ Henry B. Veatch in Rational Man: A Modern Interpretation of Aristotelian Ethics, quoted in …
The Perfectionist Turn, by Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen – AMAZON

“People inquire about socialisation, but what they should be asking about is civilisation. Lots of animals live in social groups, but civilisation is unique to humankind.”
Homeschoolers Invent The Most Daring Ways To Educate Kids – Jenni White, THE FEDERALIST

14729395_10155447122244782_6206104311649497136_n“Today's schools teach students to be comfortable bandying about abstractions they don't understand and opinions they can't validate… Inversions of hierarchy turn kids into passive parrots able to recite - and unable to think.
    “To say that knowledge is hierarchical means that there is a necessary order to its acquisition. Before you can learn calculus, you must learn algebra; before you can learn algebra, you must know arithmetic. This fact, that knowledge—to be real, meaningful knowledge—must be gained in a specific order is generally understood in the subject of math, but is woefully neglected in many other areas. The most abstract principles of science are taught as bolts from the blue to be memorized, with no presentation of the observations and intermediate principles that led to their discovery and that render them meaningful. Controversial political events are discussed and analyzed when students do not have the knowledge of history that would make an informed, intelligent judgment possible. These rampant inversions of the hierarchy of knowledge are turning children into passive parrots able to recite abstract formulas—and unable to think. If we want our children to be truly educated, to have a vast store of crucial knowledge that they grasp deeply and independently, then education must be radically reconceived with respect for the hierarchy of knowledge.”
Shop – Lisa Van Damme, VAN DAMME ACADEMY

[UPDATE: Lecture temporarily withdrawn from shop for some updating and revision.]


If you’re looking for a fun-filled concert experience, then get ye to one of Operatunity’s touring Mario Lanza afternoons. Still half of the country left to entertain … !
The Great Mario Lanza – OPERATUNITY

Hey, great news!
Pop-Up Globe returns for summerNZ HERALD

“I don’t explicitly say so, but a lot of this analysis turns on knowing how writers on deadline work. By the time of the motorcycle accident, Dylan was so overcommitted that almost everything he did was phoning it in. The word salad would have started as a Loki joke, just to see if he could get away with it…”
Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize cheapens true greatness even as it insults his actual achievements – Greg Swann,SELF ADORATION.COM

“In their own terms, film and architecture are mutually inspirational, and filmmakers often look towards architecture for what it offers.”
Why Film Villains Love Modern Architecture – Linda Bennett, ARCHITIZER

“And the problem? These designs are created by brain dead extroverted managers who want to inflict their demented views of cognition onto those who actually need to focus and think.”
Programmers really hate open floor plans – QZ.COM

This is great! “Mapping Gothic France: database of images, texts, charts & historical maps…”
Mapping Gothic France


Hey Joe!


Hey Hoagie!


Hey Edmund!


[Hat tips etc. Felix Mueller, Anoop Verma, Marsha Enright, Phil Oliver, Jim Matzger, Monica Beth, Louise Lamontagne, Stuart Hayashi, Bastiat Institute, Taliesin Fellows, Jerome Huyler, Jim Rose, Marius Comper, Michael Strong, Michael John Cyril Fasher, Karen Bridgman, Andie Moore, Bernie Greene, The Questionist, The Friedrich Hayek Society, The Objective Standard, Climate Realists, Tom Bowden, Jeff Deist, Damien Grant, Emma Espiner, Salvation Army NZFT, Daniel Hannan, Learn Liberty, ATHE1STP0WER/Kriz, The Rational Walk, Trisha Jha, Alexi Baker, Phil Quin]

Thanks for reading!
And have a great (long) weekend.


We need to talk about Bob


We need to talk about Bob Dylan.

Not so much about his Nobel Prize for literature itself because, as a few folk have said, the truths of the poet have been considered literature for millennia. Yet while Bob is not Ovid, admittedly, he does “borrow” from him unadmittedly – as Nelson poet Cliff Fell discovered a few years ago while listening to the Dylan album Modern Times while reading Ovid’s 2000-year-old book of poetry, Tristia.. "It was like I was suddenly reading with my ears," Fell wrote, citing almost identical lines heard in Dylan's "Workingman's Blues No. 2.”

For example, Fell compared Dylan's line "no one can ever claim that I took up arms against you" from ‘Workingman's Blues’ with Ovid's "My cause is better: no one can claim that I ever took up arms against you."
    But to Fell, it didn't seem to matter. "This is homage, not plagiarism," he wrote…

Fell found four other “borrowings” from the same book, which takes the “homage” from possibly accidental to wholly intentional – and entirely unacknowledged. Others have found many more borrowings from the same book, which in my mind begins to look less like homage and more like that other word that Fell used.

Because when Bob borrows – and, as “they” say (erroneously), all good artists do – he never gives credit. This first bothered me when I heard him play on his Time Out of Mind album a note-for-note version of Muddy Waters’s Rollin’ & Tumblin’ – a blues classic for decades that, when recorded (by Cream or by Clapton, by Jeff Beck or by Canned Heat) always appeared with a writing credit to McKinley Morganfield (Waters’s real name).* Not so with Bob, despite the obvious larceny.



For his part, Waters himself (from whom the Rolling Stones got their name and Dylan another song title) always fully acknowledged that the song and its distinctive riff were inspired by a traditional blues first recorded (it seems) by a fellow with the name of Hambone Willie Newbern. Not so Dylan. Not then and not ever. The album on which this and those other borrowings above appeared both featured the telling words: Words and Music by Bob Dylan. All of them. When challenged, Dylan evaded. And enforced “his” copyrights in court.

And this isn’t even the only song by Muddy Waters that’s reconstituted as something with ‘Words and Music by Bob Dylan’ on the package. ‘Trouble No More’ becomes ‘Someday Baby.’ And ‘Mannish Boy,’ (itself a redo of Bo Diddley’s ‘I’m a Man) donates the riff to ‘Early Roman Kings.’ Without attribution yet again. 

If none of this makes you uneasy, it does me. "Steal a little and they throw you in jail,” said Bob (or someone) in "Sweatheart Like You”. “Steal a lot and they make you king." And so it seems. Even before the Nobel, Dylan won a Grammy for Modern Times. Because as several writers have been examining,

A close examination of some of Dylan's studio output in recent years and some of his most famous older tunes makes it hard to deny that he borrows heavily from others work and does not credit them. The topic has been covered extensively in the press over the last decade with publications ranging from the ‘New York Times’ to the ‘Wall Street Journal’ debating Dylan's legacy. Apparently, it's a thin line between being dismissed as a culture vulture and hailed as a master synthesiser in the tradition of folk and blues greats and being Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

So to be blunt, as Jeoff Davis is in a recent article at Creative Loafing, the question must surely be asked: “could the 2016 Nobel Prize winner in Literature actually be a rip-off artist?”

Davis and others cite several songs which appear to be borrowed heavily from the classics Dylan himself loves and admires – not just recent songs, but classics like ‘Blowin; in the Wind,’ ‘Hard Rain,’ ‘Masters of War,’ ‘One More Cup of Coffee,’ ‘It Ain’t Me, Babe’ …

It seems as if Dylan has been borrowing other people's work since he started writing. In fact, In 2009, fine art auction house Christie's admitted that a handwritten poem credited to a teenaged Robert Zimmerman that was intended for auction was actually the song lyrics to "Little Buddy" by country singer Hank Snow. After a reader notified Reuters news of the similarities between the piece and the Snow song, Reuters informed the auction house. According to the article, a 16-year-old Zimmerman originally submitted the "poem" to his summer camp's newspaper with his name signed at the bottom minus any mention of Snow.
    And it's not just Dylan's lyrics that have been called into question, his memoir ‘Chronicles: Volume 1’ which was a finalist for the 2004 National Book Critics Award has been cited by Dylanologists as being heavily plagiarised, including seemingly authentic moments from Dylan's life, were lifted from
a wide variety of sources ranging from classic literature, to random issues of ‘Time’ magazine, to self help books. And The New York Times chronicled similarities between Dylan's paintings which were shown in an exhibit called "The Asia Series," which supposedly documented his travels but as the Times article shows in image comparisons, his paintings are strikingly similar to other people's photographs. "I paint mostly from real life," Dylan is quoted as saying by ‘The Times’ from the catalogue from the exhibit.
    Yeah, that and other people's photographs.
    And what does Mr. Dylan, the spokesman for a generation, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature have to say about all this.
    "Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff…. These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me."

Nice redirection there Mr Dylan. But it doesn’t answer the question, does it.

Sure, he now has a cracking band to play these re-composed tunes, so they do sound tremendous (especially when they successfully bury Bob’s own mixed musicianship in the mix) but that doesn’t make all the recomposition right. Not without credit.

Why does Bob Dylan steal?", asks David Galenson at Huffington Post? Answer: Who knows. Famous magpie Jen Luc Godard “dismissed the problem: ‘we have the right to quote as we please.’ But why do they please to quote so much? And why do they quote so many obscure sources?”

Nice rhetorical question there, Mr Galenson.

[Some] people [do] object to this [thank goodness]. Scott Warmuth called him “Bob Charlatan.” Joni Mitchell called him a plagiarist: “Everything about Bob is a deception.” Michael Gray found Dylan’s paintings unimaginative: “It may not be plagiarism but it’s surely copying rather a lot.”
    Others don’t mind Dylan’s appropriations. Suzanne Vega explained that “it’s modern to use history as a kind of closet in which we can rummage around, pull influences from other eras.”

More accurate to say post-modern. And that’s not intended to be complimentary. And while some may excuse it by observing “that we’ve just come through some two and a half decades of hip-hop sampling,” as Galenson responds, “my dictionary’s definition of ‘borrow’ includes repayment. How exactly is Dylan repaying his debts?” Especially if attribution is denied.

So, Love or Theft?

For anyone interested, I put together a Spotify playlist of the most obvious borrowings folk have mentioned so you can hear just what he’s done to all those songs, Ma. (The borrowing generally follows the borrowed from).


I’d be curious to know what you think.

PS: Just discovered another Spotify list of Bob’s “Borrowings & Appropriations,” with scarcely an overlap with mine: 


* It’s not just good manners. I was introduced to dozens of great musos I came to love simply by reading the song credits on the likes of George Thorogood or Dr Feelgood records, just as another generation did the same by reading them off Cream albums or the first by the Rolling Stones.  I”d be .


The Sacred Spaces of Frank Lloyd Wright


You don’t have to be religious to appreciate that the architecture of churches prestents opportunities few other typologies do to show fundamentals in stone.

The ideas embodied may be stone-age, but they are a search for  what can be done with stone to express them can be glorious. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that the best spaces to be in – like  the best architectural space in New Zealand  -- can be a church or chapel.

And when these sacred spaces are designed by a genius whose religion puts “man in possession of this earth,” who says “I put a capital ‘n’ on Nature and call it my church,” then you’re truly up for something special.

So I’m looking forward to seeing how the film shapes up for which this is the trailer, rentable online for just a few dollars …


Sacred Spaces - The Houses of Worship Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright from Michael Miner on Vimeo.



Wednesday, 19 October 2016

No. Inflation does not stimulate the economy.


Every central banker and central bank cheerleader in the world argues “we need more inflation.” They assume that rising prices are a mark of prosperity. They assume this because, in their Keynesian world-view, all growth comes of out credit that’s been borrowed into existence -- and because this counterfeit capital tends to be inflationary which, they further assume, will encourage people to spend which is (in their fevered imaginations) from whence all prosperity springs.

Indeed, just this week, the world’s central banker Janet Yellen was breathlessly relating the fever dream of letting inflation exceed the central bank’s 2% target so as to seek out the stimulus that (to a central banker) only a “modest” inflation can bring.

So does price inflation actually stimulate the economy? No, says Nobel laureate Robert Lucas. This is bullshit.



[Hat tip Jim Rose]


Sugary drinks & minimum wages



The drums are beating to tax sugary drinks to lower their consumption, just as they continue to beat to strangle smokers by the wallet using the same approach.

But I wonder if the many advocates of this approach – who also advocate taxes on carbon to lessen its use – ever wake up in the morning and wonder why, if raising costs with new taxes stifle these things, as they argue, then why wouldn’t it do the same to other things as well?

Or as Donald Boudreaux puts it, if the Law of Demand applies to sugary drinks, then why not to wages?

The World Health Organization recently endorsed a global hike in the tax on sugary drinks. The stated goal, of course, is to improve people’s health by raising their costs of consuming high-calorie drinks. 
    Let's ignore here the officiousness of bureaucrats who arrogantly fancy themselves to be entitled to recommend the forcible extraction of money from people who act in ways that those bureaucrats have divined are ‘bad’ for those people. 
    (I’m not one to propose taxes, but if – as is often asserted – we ‘must’ have taxes, I propose that stiff taxes be levied on all proposals to butt into the private affairs of others, and that stiff X 10 taxes be levied on all actual acts of butting into the private affairs of others.)
    Let's instead credit the WHO staff at least for correctly understanding basic economics: artificially raising the cost to buyers of acquiring drinks of kind X and Y will reduce (at least in above-ground markets) the number of drinks of kind X and Y that are purchased.
    Yet I wonder how many pundits, professors, politicians, and preachers who will favourably and self-righteously wave the WHO’s recent proposal as they support hiking taxes on sugary drinks because they predict that such taxes will reduce the quantity of such drinks demanded, and who also self-righteously support hiking minimum wages because they predict that such minimum-wage hikes will not reduce the quantity of low-skilled labour demanded.
    I’ll bet that the number of such inconsistent people is large.

I trust you, gentle reader, are not among their number.



When they refrain in Spain, prosperity remains


In the wake of New Zealand’s first MMP election we were without a central government for several weeks. When it became clear the sky was not falling in without a government to hold it up, the then-leading business daily published a headline: “The Libertarianz were right all along.”

With an even longer experiment, Spaniards are discovering something similar: that Spain’s economy is expanding robustly without a government:

Spain has been without a full-fledged government since December. Doubts about who will form the next one have persisted since the divided parliament elected that month failed to install a prime minister and was dissolved. A newparliament, elected in June, is also deadlocked among four major parties, none close to a majority.
    Mariano Rajoy, the conservative leader who was elected during the recession in 2011 and has overseen three years of recovery, remains in office as acting prime minister but with no power to propose legislation or spend on new projects. Parliament next week is expected to reject his bid for a second term, as head of a minority government, creating the possibility of yet another general election.

Meanwhile, out in the real world away from the Spanish ‘beltway’ and unencumbered by the otherwise regular torrent of new legislation or spending on political projects,

The eurozone’s fourth-largest economy is on track to expand around 3% this year, outpacing the International Monetary Fund’s projections for France, Germany and the U.S.

So now matter how bad a country’s rules and regulations are, seems that simply removing the uncertainty of changes in all those rules and regulations is enough on its own to give an economic system a boost.

Nice lesson.

It’s the flip side of regime uncertainty.


Want tax cuts? End the War on Drugs.



So, strangely, just as a $1.8 billion government “surplus” is announced* a billion-dollar need for more prison beds is discovered (or will it really be a $2.5 billion bill?) to bed down 1800 more prisoners in our already swollen prison population.

With a prison population of just under ten-thousand, New Zealand’s incarceration rate is not yet among the world’s highest – America’s 693 per 100,000 makes our 202 look positively like a land of the free – but it’s still a lot more than otherwise comparable countries like the UK (143), Australia (152) and Canada (115), and fewer than two-thirds are there for sexual or violent crimes.

But here’s the thing. The War on Drugs is not just a failure, not just a formula for easy profits for gangs, not just a violent crackdown on a victimless crime, it’s also one way the prison popuation is much greater than it would be otherwise.

End Prohibition and you don’t just take away profits from gangs and reduce the violence around drugs, you also get to reduce the prison population by around fifteen percent.

Which is frighteningly close to that figure of 1800 beds the government reckons it needs to lock up the victims of victimless crimes.

So end the War on Drugs and (if the surplus is genuine*) then you have a legitimate argument for tax cuts without commensurate spending cuts. Don’t, and you won’t.


* Or is it really even a real surplus when net Crown debt increased by $1.3 billion? You tell me.


‘The Thinker,’ by Hiromu Kira


The Thinker, by Hiromu Kira (1898-1991), c. 1930
Toned bromide print, mounted to black paper.
10 1/4 x 13 3/16in


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Has NZ inequality risen?


The facts are clear, there is one way and one way only in which inequality has surged in NZ:

Sources: Newspaper Reporting on Inequality: Bryce Edwards, 2014.;
Inequality: Christopher Ball and John Creedy, 2015.

From a standing start in 2001, articles about inequality have been going through the roof, while actual inequality has … well, not changed very much at all.

The actual fact of an almost static figure for inequality over the last three decades hasn’t stopped commentators talking about it like a house on fire – which, as today’s report on inequality by the NZ Initiative makes clear (from which the above graph comes), may be the appropriate expression. Because, say the report’s authors, while

it is difficult to make sense of the increasing public concern with inequality if we look only to income or wealth statistics, there is a massive inequality concern that is rightly troubling many New Zealanders: housing.
    In short, New Zealand’s ‘inequality crisis’ is really a housing crisis.
    Inequality after housing costs is significantly higher than before housing costs. While incomes have risen for high and low earners, the rising cost of housing especially hits the poor.

Whereas the gains in rising housing prices are captured by those who aren’t. Primarily, by those who bought early and have borrowed the most.

The graph below shows the differential effect of rising housing outgoing-to-income ratios (OTIs) across income quintiles (where quintile 1 is poorest and 5 is richest). The proportion of households with OTIs greater than 30% rose markedly between 1998 and 2015 for each of the bottom three quintiles. In contrast, it was the same in 2015 as in 1998 for the top quintile.

Inequality_2page_graph2_final (1)
Source: Bryan Perry, "Household Incomes In New Zealand: Trends In Indicators of Inequality and Hardship 1982 to 2015," (Wellington: Ministry of Social Development, 2016), Table C.3, 55: Proportion of Households with Housing Cost OTIs greater than 30%, By Income Quintile.

In the book Equal Is Unfair, Yaron Brook and Don Watkins argue that

one of the problems with the concept of “economic inequality” is that it lumps together two fundamentally different things: inequality that reflects differences in productive achievement and inequality that reflects some people’s ability to gain unearned wealth. Package-deals like this lay the groundwork for injustice.

The Cantillon Effect decribes the process by which “an expansionary monetary policy constitutes a transfer of purchasing power away from those who hold old money to whoever gets new money.”

But who are the first receivers of the new money in our fiat money system? Those who want to benefit from the new money must receive it where it is produced, namely in the banking system in form of a loan. And in order to get a loan from a bank it is helpful to be rich. Rich people owning large amounts of assets such as stocks or real estate may pledge their stocks or real estate as a guarantee for new loans. They may then use these loans to acquire even more stocks and real estate that, in consequence, keep rising in value.

So in other words,

  • where we have an inequality crisis at all, it is actually just another symptom of the housing crisis; and
  • the prime beneficiaries of the housing crisis are the already-housed who are ready borrowers; and
  • housing aside, the only place in which ‘inequality’ has exploded is in the times the commentariat has commented upon it.


Is modern science polluted? [updated]


We are not suddenly becoming more intelligent and getting everything right, says Patrick Michaels in this guest post. What’s happening is that scientists are responding to incentives.
Incentives matter.

For years, scientists and non-scientists alike have complained that something is fundamentally wrong with the way we do this business. Something has corrupted the integrity of our science.

This is a serious charge because it means that more and more government policy — from limiting carcinogens to regulations on carbon emissions — is based upon an increasingly polluted canon of knowledge. If that were somehow corrected for, we would live under a far less intrusive government.

Last week, this view received strong support when two researchers, Paul Smaldino and Richard McElreath, published a bombshell article in a journal of Britain’s Royal Society called “The Natural Selection of Bad Science.” Put simply, it is a closely argued, mathematically rigorous demonstration that the way we now reward scientists is actually making science worse.

The things that scientists crave — like tenure and research funding — incentivise frequent publishing of massive numbers of academic papers. To publish that much, you need a tremendous amount of financial support. And when it comes to scientific work that could have regulatory implications, almost all of the money comes from government.

As Smaldino and McElreath explain in their study, this rush for the printing presses leads to sloppy science and declining standards of rigour. So, by extension, the more money the government throws at some field with an initially limited number of practitioners (think global warming) the worse the science will become.

What constitutes “bad science”? It’s the epidemic of positive results, in which a researcher reports that the data support his or her prior hypothesis. Stanford’s Daniele Fanelli has shown a distressing increase of positive results in recent decades, something that can’t be true in the real world. Think about it — we are not suddenly becoming more intelligent and getting everything right. What’s happening is that scientists are responding to incentives.

Usually, hypotheses are put forward in some grant proposal. Financial backers don’t like negative findings, because negative findings don’t support the work that they’ve funded. Supervisors lose face and researchers can lose their funding.

There’s an additional wrinkle on this that neither the authors nor anyone else has discussed. What happens when the government massively funds something that really isn’t science?

By “science” I mean “hypotheses that can be subjected to stringent tests.” Science that can’t be tested is really just “pseudoscience.” These days however philosophies claiming the scientific mantle are being used to explain pretty much everything.

Back in Karl Popper’s day, his favourite pseudosciences were psychoanalysis and Marxism. If he were alive today he would see parallels when prominent climatologists explain pretty much every and any weather anomaly — a big rainstorm, a big drought, lack of snow, or a big blizzard — as “consistent with” the effects of global warming. It’s a good bet that climate science, which is primarily the generation of unverifiable prospective models (after all, the future isn’t here yet) would have made Popper’s list.

So, instead of being rewarded for research that supports a prior hypothesis, no matter how sloppy it is, those involved in climate studies get published a lot not by testing (which can’t be done in the prospective sense) but by producing dire, horrific results. Because these often appear in prominent journals — which love to feature articles that generate big news stories — the greater the horror, the more likely is promotion, citation and more money.

In a vicious cycle, this then generates more and more of these perverse incentives.

All of this is well and good and could be dismissed as just another example of how incentives drive supposedly dispassionate scientists. But in several fields, like climate, the accumulation of horrific literature is often summarised by governments, usually to support some policy. Bad science then justifies bad policy.

It is quite significant that Smaldino and McElreath’s paper was published by the Royal Society. Surely they know the result will be more distrust of the modern scientific enterprise, and, by extension, in the policies supported by it. The fact of its publication is evidence that we have reached a turning point, where the pollution of modern science is now an accepted truth.

pmichaels (1)Patrick J. Michaels a Cato Institute scholar, is the author of Lukewarming: The New Climate Science that Changes Everything.
This post first appeared at the Cato at Liberty blog.



UPDATE:  Down this path Lysenko lies:

Climate science 7. Gordon Tullock on induced curiosity and the decline of scientific integrity
Gordon Tullock in The Organization of Inquiry (1966) sketched a scenario for the decline of a scientific discipline, given a particular combination of motivational factors and institutional incentives.
    As a student of legal, social and economic systems he identified three kinds of curiosity
        1. Pure curiosity and compulsion to find how the world works.
        2. The passionate desire to solve practical problems.
        3. “Induced curiosity” directed to either pure or applied problems.
    Who are the researchers with induced curiosity? Those who do not have a consuming passion for research but do it because it is a job. The most obvious examples are academic staff who have to “publish or perish” to obtain tenure and promotion, and the scientists who work “nine to five” in public and private research laboratories. Of course outstanding work can be produced by academics seeking promotion and even by nine to five scientists but Tullock’s analysis addressed some tendencies which could emerge in a system where more and more of the workers have “induced” curiosity and less and less (in proportion) harbour a burning commitment to the quest…
    He suggested that a self-perpetuating process could occur in a journal or a field of research dominated by investigators with induced curiosity (or “normal” or “uncritical scientists”) so the work could “gradually slip away from reality in the direction of superficially impressive but actually easy research projects”…
    Towards the end of that slippery slope is the situation where there is a widespread belief in the field that the function of the researcher is to take a side on some issue. Simply presenting a rationalisation for some position chosen on other grounds may be acceptable as an objective of research, and the principal criterion in judging journals may become their points of view.
    “The concern with reality that unites the sciences, then, may be absent in this area, and the whole thing may be reduced to a pseudo-science like genetics in Lysenko’s Russia…”