Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Monday, 18 June 2018

QotD: Has NZ has been accepting economic coercion?


"Generally, if you find yourself over-exposed to someone else (some person, some business, some country), and especially one of questionable character, the prudent thing to do is to gradually reduce your exposure, diversify your risks, and regain your (perceived) freedom to act in accord with your values. But when it comes to the People's Repuplic of China (PRC), prevailing opinion – ministerial speeches, taxpayer-funded lobby groups, and so on – seems to be that we should double-down, increasing our exposure to a country that they know to be an international thug and bully...
    "But we’ve allowed a couple of industries ...  to flourish, and politically salient sector risks to develop, which now depend on the New Zealand government cowering in the corner and never upsetting Beijing... It should be a matter of priority ... to look to reduce those specific exposures, encouraging greater resilience in the respective industries, so that one day we could have the courage to stand for what we believe – assuming that among the political classes, belief is still about something more than the last trade dollar, and the next political donation. In time – one hopes, (in a day decades hence when freedom comes to China) – we should aim for a relationship of trust and mutual respect, not one of the battered wife cowering in the corner."

~ Michael Reddell, from his post 'Economic Coercion PRC-Style'
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Saturday, 16 June 2018

Friday, 15 June 2018

QotD: The marginal business busted by minimum wage laws


"When socialists want to hike the minimum wage, they tell you workers need more. Because that's how socialists work.When the minimum wage is hiked, it ruins the marginal business. Because that's how economics works.And when those businesses fail, socialists tell you they deserve it. Because that's how envy works."
~ Keith Weiner
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Thursday, 14 June 2018

QotD: "Free speech lets the best and brightest produce and consume truth, even if most people hold the truth in disdain."


"While free speech doesn't lead to the victory of truth, at least it allows the search for truth to continue. As long as you have a large, diverse society, you're likely to have a rational subculture - or at least a bunch of subject-specific rational subcultures. Free speech allows these truth-seekers to ask thoughtful questions and propose reasonable answers, even if the thoughtful questions are awkward and the reasonable answers are scary. While the rational are likely to remain the minority, free speech preserves their existence. And since the methods and fruits of [reason] appeal to the smart and curious, free speech allows [the most reasonable] to continuously skim off the cognitive cream of society. ...
    "Free speech lets the best and brightest produce and consume truth, even if most people hold the truth in disdain."

~ Bryan Caplan, from his post 'How to Believe in Free Speech'
NB: I've changed 'rationalist' to  'rational' because I think Bryan got his useage wrong.
Philosophically, a rationalist is one who claims "that man obtains his knowledge of the world by deducing it exclusively from concepts, which come from inside his head and are not derived from the perception of physical facts."
Whereas to be rational "means a commitment to the fullest perception of reality within one’s power and to the constant, active expansion of one’s perception, i.e., of one’s knowledge."
Different things.
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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

QotD: On free-range parenting


“Without interrupting a child in the moment of action, proper care might previously be taken to remove out of its way those things which can really hurt it, and a just degree of attention must be paid to [the child's] first experiments upon hard and heavy, and more especially upon sharp and brittle, and burning bodies; but this degree of care should not degenerate into cowardice. It is better that a child should tumble down or burn its fingers, than it should not learn the use of its limbs or its senses.”
~ novelist Maria Edgeworth, confirming that risk can be educational. From her 1787 book (yes, 1787) 'Practical Education,' as quoted in the 'New Yorker' article 'The Hidden Women of Architecture and Design.'.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

QotD: "The world has so much debt that the cracks could happen anywhere... "


"The world has so much debt that the cracks could happen anywhere... If debt were a drug, we would outlaw it. But we also know that people get hooked on illegal drugs all the time... [So we have too much] debt and (not much) deleveraging."~ John Mauldin, who says the Debt Clock is Ticking

"Any economist can paint a rosy picture by, for example, showing rising GDP. If you object that debt is rising with GDP, the economist switches to a chart of debt/GDP. He will tell you that the solution is to grow GDP with the right fiscal and regulatory policies.
    "However, we can look at how much additional GDP is added for each newly-borrowed dollar. This is called marginal productivity of debt. This [below] shows a clear picture, a secular decline over many decades... this is a long-term falling trend."

~ Keith Weiner on the Falling Productivity of Debt


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Monday, 11 June 2018

QotD: A word from Maynard Keynes on tariff wars


“The community as a whole cannot hope to gain by making artificially scarce [through tariff protection] what the country wants.”
~ John Maynard Keynes, 1910, in a speech to the Cambridge Union
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Saturday, 9 June 2018

"The best trade deals are the millions of such that occur when trade is free"


Economist Don Boudreaux agrees with a correspondent that, no, he doesn't trust Trump to "work out better trade deals" for Americans -- and then delivers him (and us) a free lesson in free trade.
Dear Mr. O’Brien: 
Thanks for your e-mail in which you upbraid me for, as you put it, “not trusting our President to work out better trade deals for us.”
You’re correct that I don’t trust Trump to work out better trade deals for us. You are incorrect to upbraid me for this distrust.
The fact is, I trust no one to “work out” better trade deals for us. Each and every trade to which an American voluntarily agrees is a trade – a “deal” – that that American believes makes him or her better off. Therefore, because each and every trade restraint blocks some of these trades, each and every trade restraint makes some Americans worse off.
Put differently, I trust each and every American to work out for himself and herself the trades that are best for him and her. And I trust only each and every American with this authority, and only over himself and herself. The very fact that Trump must use threats of force to obstruct countless voluntary trades – countless voluntary deals – that would otherwise occur is virtual proof that his trade obstructions harm Americans.
Far from ‘working out’ for each of us trade deals that are better, tariffs – regardless of who negotiates them – work out for us trade deals that are worse.
 
    Sincerely,
    Donald J. Boudreaux
    Professor of Economics
    and
    Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
    George Mason University
    Fairfax, VA 22030
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Friday, 8 June 2018

Bonus Quote of the Day: "Free trade is not that fragile. But ... "


"The old line is that a reputation takes decades to build and can be destroyed in an hour. Free trade is not that fragile. But [the present political support for free trade] may be more fragile than many of Donald Trump's supporters believe. I hope they are right, but I fear and, more important, I believe they are wrong."
~ David Henderson, from his EconLog post 'Trump's Dangerous Game'
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QotD: Responsibility?



"Have we reached the ultimate stage of absurdity where people are held responsible for things that happened before they were born, while other people are not held responsible for what they themselves are doing today?"~ Thomas Sowell
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Thursday, 7 June 2018

Q: Do you have the right to refuse service to anyone?


A: Yes. Yes you do. And for any reasons you choose.


Because as the man says, we have a right to be wrong: doing what is right is a personal responsibility, not a legislative one.

Law gives you the moral space in which you can do right. Or wrong.

And it affords us the moral space to judge you for it.
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Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Bonus QotD: Climategate, the hack that failed


"Climategate is a name that will stick ... [But] Climategate is only like Watergate because previously unknown information was released. Beyond that, the events diverge profoundly because of the cover-ups....    "Watergate involved political actions for a political agenda ... [yet] the biggest sin and the reason it became exposed was that the cover-up failed. Climategate was a perversion of science for a political agenda. It was exposed, but unlike Watergate, the cover-up was deliberate, and coordinated, [and] was very successful because most of the public have no idea about the science, are unaware of the release of the emails, or [mis]understand their significance.
    "The deception, with its enormous cost and damage to the credibility of science, still continues."~ Dr Tim Ball, from his article 'Climategate is not like Watergate – Time for the Leaker to Try Again?'
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QotD: "The determination and attribution of sea-level change lies at the very edge of knowledge and technology."


“At best, the determination and attribution of global-mean sea-level change lies at the very edge of knowledge and technology. Both systematic and random errors are of concern, the former particularly, because of the changes in technology and sampling methods over the many decades, the latter from the very great spatial and temporal variability. It remains possible that the database is insufficient to compute mean sea-level trends with the accuracy necessary to discuss the impact of global warming, as disappointing as this conclusion may be.”~ oceanographer Carl Wunsch, quoted in Judith Curry's continuing series of posts on sea level rise

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Sunday, 3 June 2018

Q: "What is a classic book?"


Writer Italo Calvino had fourteen answers to what makes a book a classic. These are my favourites:

  • The classics are books that exercise a particular influence, both when they imprint themselves on our imagination as unforgettable, and when they hide in the layers of memory disguised as the individual's ... unconscious.
  • A classic is a book which with each rereading offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading.
  • Classics are books which, the more we think we know them through hearsay, the more original, unexpected, and innovative we find them when we actually read them.
  • A classic is the term given to any book which comes to represent the whole universe...
  • 'Your' classic is a book to which you cannot remain indifferent, and which helps you define yourself in relation or even in opposition to it.
What are some of your classics? (Regular readers will already know many of mine!]

[Hat tip Alberto Mingardi writing about one of his (and my) classics, Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress]
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Friday, 1 June 2018

QotD: “We do not learn for school but for life.”


Non scholae sed vitae discimus (“We do not learn for school but for life.”)~ saying by Seneca, quoted by Oliver Hartwich in his latest op-ed 'Education Is More Than Useful Knowledge'
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Thursday, 31 May 2018

QotD: Too many sadly undereducated and ill-read former libertarians


" 'I used to believe in human liberty. But now I realise IQ is the one true faith.' ~ said by so many sadly undereducated and ill-read former libertarians."
~ Jeffrey Tucker.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

QotD: "...it is a great human tragedy that people think dishonesty can work for a good motive.


"Lying and dishonesty never work -- and it is a great human tragedy that people think dishonesty can work for a good motive."
~ Ayn Rand
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Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The Welfare Expert Advisory Group has been asked to focus on "the overall purpose of the system." So what *is* the overall purpose?



The Government has just announced their 101st Working Group, what will undoubtedly prove to be the most expensive in this small country's history: its Working Group on Welfare.

Including in its make-up every variant of wretchedly grasping progressive, and headed up by proven liar Cindy Kiro,
the Welfare Expert Advisory Group has been asked to undertake a broad-ranging review of the welfare system [says Labour's Minister for Enforced Charity Carmel Sepuloni]...
Areas that the Welfare Expert Advisory Group has been asked to focus on range from considering the overall purpose of the system, through to specific recommendations on the current obligations and sanctions regime.
My own recommendation for "the overall purpose of the system" would make "the current obligations and sanctions regime" moot. Because my recommendation for the system is simple: Termination.

And the reason for that recommendation is very simple: Because the Moral Cannibalism of Enforce Welfare Must End.

Here's how the argument might go were I to head up the Group instead of Cindy ...
The question is asked: "Is it more moral, to give or to receive?" I suggest it is far more moral to produce, for without the producer there is nothing for either party.

Yet the overall purpose of State Welfare is to loot producers in favour of non-producers. It should be abolished. 
The concept of a state-enforced welfare system rests on the premise that if a person can demonstrate a need, then "society" -- i.e., her neighbours -- must be plundered to fulfil that need. This Group rejects the ideology of the welfare state in its totality. 
Enforced state welfare helps no one long term -- neither the person who has been plundered, nor the recipient of the plunder, nor even the community who demands such plunder. The community itself is plundered in the name of the afflicted and, anyone who has ever been so afflicted as to need to come face to face with the stage agencies doling out the largesse would understand the full meaning of the phrase "as cold as charity."
The idea of state-enforced welfare has been instituted around the world a relatively short time even in the modern human time-scale, but even in those few decades virtually every mature welfare state has come to virtually overwhelm itself with debt to pay its ever-increasing bills. 
And as voters see the ability to vote themselves rich and politicians to exploit the "needy," we have seen both the variety of needs to be met by the state and the numbers of people who find it possible to demonstrate those needs to have mushroomed. So much so that we now see great numbers of once able-minded and frequently able-bodied people in a miserably dependent state while they go through their days sucking their lifeblood from their fellow countrymen.  
And we see communities of people whose natural benevolence is being slowly destroyed by finding the state's hand constantly in their pocket to pay for these people being so wretchedly exploited by politicians' promises. 
As W.H. Auden was supposed to have remarked, "If we are all here on earth to help others, I often wonder what the others are here for."   
Such is the effect of an all-pervasive and bankrupt morality, where demonstrating a need can be more easily rewarded than demonstrating an ability, and so eventually any person's need becomes more important than every person's ability. 
It is not just absurd. Many years ago humanity rejected cannibalism as inhuman. It is time that enforced state welfare be recognised as moral cannibalism, and be reviled as such. 
This Group rejects absolutely this moral cannibalism on which state-enforced social welfare feeds.  
Only such a fundamental rethink by New Zealanders will make significant inroads into unnecessary dependency.  
MOST OF US REALISE that if we fall on hard times, our family, friends and colleagues can choose whether and in what way they would like to help (and such help would be so much the easier for having one's pockets unpicked). It has become the task of this Group to remind New Zealanders that what is clearly right within individual personal relationships is even truer on a wider scale. 
So how do we get from here to there? This Group's answer would be to concentrate initially on getting all state, state-assisted and mandated social-welfare agencies either abolished, deregulated, or transformed to a stand-alone, privately-funded basis. 
Substantially less funding will be forthcoming from government, but some will be able to compete as charitable institutions or offer insurance cover on an equal basis with existing and new private organisations.
  • WINZ for example could continue to provide assistance into work training schemes with voluntary philanthropic funding - no doubt the politicians who support these ideas and their party members will be the first to put their hands in their own pockets.
  • WINZ could also be able to continue to offer loss-of-income insurance schemes with competitive premiums. "Actually, I personally, says the Group's head, "would like to see WINZ's income support functions handed over to Metiria Turei, Susan St John & Sue Bradford to run as they see fit. Let's see, when they can fund their socialist ideas voluntarily, if their supporters will actually put their money where their own mouths are, instead of at the enforced expense of the rest of us."
This Group regards it as urgent that force be removed from human affairs, and that as soon as possible this state-enforced form of misguided and misdirected charity end. 
POLICY PRIORITIES
A peaceful transition to a more moral state is important. In an age in which today's routine moral cannibalism is so widely accepted such proposals may seem radical, but with the coming of enlightenment the following recommendations for social-welfare deregulation will be seen to almost write themselves:
  • Our senior citizens who are in and approaching retirement have, on the whole, paid the most taxes for the longest time and would have the greatest difficulty adjusting. We recommend that the age at which superannuation be received be immediately raised to 67, per the Labour Party's own recommendations at the previous election. Thereafter we recommend raising the age requirement by one year every two, effectively ending state superannuation over two decades while ensuring security for current recipients who can no longer make other plans. Priority should be given to ensuring income for current and genuinely impecunious senior citizens - and those currently fifty five and over - by providing annuities with funds boosted from the sale of state assets. Following this, and even during this transition, New Zealanders will come to have complete free personal choice over the plans they wish to make for their own retirement.
  • Priority over this transitional period should be given to providing for existing seriously disabled people by similar means, and for.
  • We urgently recommend that all low-income working people who are currently receiving income support and supplements will immediately have that support replaced by the substantial tax cuts that all New Zealanders deserve, and that this Goverment could now afford: GST being immediately dropped to just 10% (as at the time of its introduction), and the first $25,000 of every NZer's income being made totally tax free.
  • We further recommend that the many impediments to entering the workforce be urgently removed (such as those impeding many unemployed from temporary employment as produce pickers, and those impeding youngsters from beginning their first job) meaning that all non-working but able beneficiaries may immediately benefit from the growth in opportunities to work that would be expected with reduced taxation and this deregulated business and labour environment. The unemployment benefit can then very quickly be axed.
  • The Domestic Purposes Benefit began as almost a small ad-hoc grant, and has now grown from a benefit to an incentive. We recommend that existing solo parents will -- over a suitable transition period -- continue to receive annuities to support them until their final child's third birthday. (Child-maintenance payments from an absent parent will be pursued, but only where it can be justified under a legal burden of proof.) After this three-year period, state-funded DPB may be axed. Over this period, the growth of private adoption and fostering agencies will be encouraged, and people who want to adopt children may be able to arrange this with the birth parents. This would have the effect of paying people who either can't cope or don't really care for their children to give them up rather than be paid them to keep them and have more, as the current system does.
  • The child safety, severe neglect and youth crime management functions of the Children, Young Persons and their Families Agency (regularly re-named in an attempt to remove the regular embarrassment their blunderings cause) should be transferred to proper management under the justice and police system. All other functions can be transferred to private agencies.
Virtually everyone admits they want to help people who are going through undeservedly distressed times. These recommendations -- above all leaving people's money in their own pockets -- means they may do so, for whatever circumstances and by whatever means they prefer.  
In the wake of these recommendations implementations, therefore, we should expect that existing private welfare organisations such as Women's Refuge, Presbyterian Support Services and The Salvation Army will mushroom -- both with volunteers and new money -- and new agencies will evolve, much as they did in the days before the state abrogated the role of the community in caring for the afflicted.  
Neighbours would help neighbours -- not because they are forced to, but because (as they always tell us) they want to.
Ending moral cannibalism would therefore allow the growth of stronger communities and greater personal benevolence. What could be a greater achievement of any Labour-led Government?


QotD: "People are unjust to anger—it can be enlivening and a lot of fun."


"Wasn’t everyone happier enraged? They [are] certainly more interesting. People are unjust to anger—it can be enlivening and a lot of fun."
~ Philip Roth, from his novel The Counterlife
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Monday, 28 May 2018

Bonus Quote of the Day: "I think we are standing in the quicksands of NZ education right now"




 
"I think we are standing in the quicksands of NZ education right now... We are going to be going into a deep, dark place in what I see as a lack of responsibility by the adults for the children in this conversation.
    "I frankly believe that the removal of NCEA Level 1 in the manner that they are describing it - literacy and numeracy and even having a conversation about does financial and civic literacy fit into that definition of literacy - is a very, very dangerous start."
~ Auckland Grammar principal Tim O'Connor, commenting on the Government's "radical changes to senior school exams [that he slams] as "dangerous" and "irresponsible."
[Cartoon by Nick Kim]
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QotD: The law of markets ...


"Supply facilitates demand, and demand is constituted by supply. If you understand this and the implications, you understand the market economy. And can figure out economic policy."~ Per Bylund.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Question of the Day: 'If Solar Panels Are So Clean, Why Do They Produce So Much Toxic Waste?'


Forbes magazine asks the question more should be asking: "If Solar Panels Are So Clean, Why Do They Produce So Much Toxic Waste?"
The last few years have seen growing concern over what happens to solar panels at the end of their life. Consider the following statements:
  • The problem of solar panel disposal “will explode with full force in two or three decades and wreck the environment” because it “is a huge amount of waste and they are not easy to recycle.”
  • “The reality is that there is a problem now, and it’s only going to get larger, expanding as rapidly as the PV industry expanded 10 years ago.”
  • “Contrary to previous assumptions, pollutants such as lead or carcinogenic cadmium can be almost completely washed out of the fragments of solar modules over a period of several months, for example by rainwater.”
Were these statements made by the right-wing Heritage Foundation? Koch-funded global warming deniers? The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal?
None of the above. Rather, the quotes come from a senior Chinese solar official, a 40-year veteran of the U.S. solar industry, and research scientists with the German Stuttgart Institute for Photovoltaics.
With few environmental journalists willing to report on much of anything other than the good news about renewables, it’s been left to environmental scientists and solar industry leaders to raise the alarm.
“I’ve been working in solar since 1976 and that’s part of my guilt,” the veteran solar developer told Solar Power World last year. “I’ve been involved with millions of solar panels going into the field, and now they’re getting old.” ...
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Thursday, 24 May 2018

QotD: Another of "the painful signs of years of dumbed-down education"


"One of the painful signs of years of dumbed-down education is how many people are unable to make a coherent argument. They can vent their emotions, question other people's motives, make bold assertions, repeat slogans-- anything except reason."
~ Thomas Sowell
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A last word from Philip Roth (1933-2018)


“The road to Hell is paved with works-in-progress.”
~ Philip Roth
   [See: 'Philip Roth, the Incomparable American Novelist, Has Died, Aged Eighty-Five']
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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

QotD: The importance of "I don't know"


We need to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed. It's OK to say, 'I don't know.'"
~ Richard Feynman
[Hat tip Lisa Van Damme]
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Monday, 21 May 2018

Qotd: The motive of egalitarianism


"The motive [of egalitarianism]... is not the desire to help the poor, but to destroy the competent."
~ Ayn Rand
. [Hat tip Ayn Rand Bot]

Friday, 18 May 2018

QotD: "I think the blind passion of political discussions makes it very clear how desperately uninformed and uneducated most of us are today


"But also, one of my phrases to capture the problem in education today is that children are being taught to look around them and think, 'This is all here, and now our job is just to form opinions about it,' rather than, 'This is all here -- and here is how we got here, and here is where it comes from, and here is what it depends on.' Even just understanding that this world that they know hasn't existed forever is important...    "I think the [blind passion of political discussions] makes it very clear how desperately uninformed and uneducated most of us are today, because we should be bringing to bear on our opinions of politics a vast knowledge of everything that has been tried in the past and whether it succeeded or failed. And most children today are coming into such discussions blind, but also having been told that it's very important to have strong opinions. So they've maybe memorised some floating, disconnected facts and they've been taught to have impassioned convictions about things -- which means their impassioned convictions are based on nothing, ultimately on substance. So, we are trying to give them meaningful, systematic, real knowledge on which to ground judgements in every realm of their life."~ Lisa Van Damme, founder/director of VanDamme Academy
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Thursday, 17 May 2018

Bonus Quote of the Day: "...the most important weapon in Hamas's arsenal."


"Hamas understood early that the civilian death toll was driving international outrage not at Hamas but at Israel, and that this, not I.E.D.s or ambushes, was the most important weapon in its arsenal."
~ Matti Friedman, from his New York Times op-ed 'Falling for Hamas's Split-Screen Fallacy'
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