Monday, 16 May 2005

School of Athens, Raphael Posted by Hello

Freedom from conservatives

Tuatara Left is trying to annoy right-wingers. As I'm not a right-winger I'm not annoyed (see where libertarians actually are on the spectrum here), I'm just a little nonplussed and somewhat disturbed at the chap's poor grasp of political and economic fundamentals.

First of all he's misrepresented the nature of capitalism (see here for for some fundamental insights into the benevolence of capitalism). And he attacks conservatism when he should really be welcoming conservatives for having delivered collectivism to him on a plate.

The lietimotif of conservatism is appeasement. Appeasement and compromise. (See for example here and here if this statement surprises you.)The liberal's collectivist agenda and the willingness of conservatives to sell their own principles down the river did more in the last one-hundred years to deliver half the globe into socialism and collectivism than even Karl Marx would have thought possible.

The fightback begun in the last twenty years and the remnants of capitalism we still have left are not there because conservatives fought back or kept them alive. That we still have some lingering remnants of capitalism intact for 'third way' Ministers of Finance to loot is no thanks to the conservatives; it is tribute instead to the nascent will to freedom that resides in every human being worthy of the name. See for example here and here.

Freedom, real freedom, is the absence of physical coercion. It's worth fighting for. But conservatives wouldn't understand that; and neither would the liberals.

The Knuckle-Draggers of League

Bob Jones once suggested that if you locked half-a-dozen of the world's geniuses in a room for a day and instructed them to devise a game for morons, the game they would emerge with is rugby league. Rugby league is a game that makes no demands from the neck up, which is why knuckle-dragging cretins like this can understand it, and why Queenslanders love it.

Rugby league and Queensland were made for each other: they go together like an air-conditioned bar goes with sports on the big screen -- and the ideal game for that big screen is rugby league. It's the game you pay to watch when you don't want to pay attention. Rugby league is not a game that repays close attention.

Which is why rugby league is not just the ideal game for both Queenslanders and morons, it's also the ideal game for TV. Can you see a pattern emerging here? The league field is fortuitously TV-screen-shaped; teams line up in closely-bunched groups opposite each other, and then take turns running at each other. Simple to understand. No more than four of five people are generally involved at any one time, so the camera can focus on the 'big hits' in blood-dripping, knuckle-grinding detail. Human drama. And the game goes in five-tackle-and-a-kick bursts, so you know what's going to happen next. Nothing much.

Which is the problem, really, for anyone with pretensions to using that grey stuff above the neckline. In the eighty minutes of a league game there's seventy-odd minutes of league action, but only one or two minutes from each game are worth lighting the candle for. Which is why the ideal way to watch league is with a beer in front of a TV highlights package -- all the weekend's action brought to you in one big hit, and most of it bypassing completely the conceptual parts of the brain and going straight to the knuckle-dragging portion of the cortex.

At least with rugby league you get nearly eighty minutes of game time. League's older cousin, rugby union, faces the problem that of eighty minutes of a game no more than thirty of those minutes are spent actually paying rugby -- fewer if England is one of the teams -- but of those thirty a full five to six of those are watchable -- or less, if England is playing.

This is still a better ratio than soccer however, of which in ninety minutes of game-time none at all is worth watching unless a goal is scored, and as 0-0 draws seem to be the most common soccer result it's little wonder then that instead of watching the game most fans spend their time throttling Belgians. A typical highlights package for soccer involves five minutes of Goals of the Week, fifteen minutes of interviews, and ten minutes of terrace action. Which helps explain the lingering popularity of Eric Cantona, since he had a talent for all three.

Which brings me to AFL. AFL produces athletes of tremendous strategic ability and great physical skill who can think on their feet and run a half-marathon in a game; a100 minute game of AFL offers over ninety minutes of action, and none of it knuckle-dragging -- after all, the knuckles are needed for other things.

Pity the game is near-unwatchable on TV.

Please visit the other members of the Creamy Latte Club, for which this week I am a guest writer, for their views on Rugby: the Ultimate Knuckle-Draggers Sport. TinCanMan, Chaos Theory, Vile File and Wired JAFA.

Barbed wire for Kaikoura's whales?

Japanese whalers have plans to go whaling again(read here), and both scaremongering nonsense and legitimate concerns have been raised, both oddly enough here at the Greens' FrogBlog.

The legitimate concern is that raised by Whale Watch, as expressed by Conservation Minister Chris Carter, and in my view it's where lies the germ of an answer. Says Chris: "These are our whales too."

Going unerringly if unwittingly to the point of the problem, Minister Carter and the Frog have put their finger on the solution: for Kaikoura Whale Watch to make an ownership claim on "their whales," and thereby protect their whales, depoliticise the question and thus avoid the unedifying prospect of seeing pictures of Jeanette Fitzsimons picketing Japanese supermarkets and surimi lunch-carts.

How to do so? The solution to the imminent and watery Tragedy of the Commons represented by out of control whale-harvesting is similar to the problem solved by nineteenth century cattlemen by the imperfect means of branding, and eventually by the invention of barbed wire. It is one of recognising and legally protecting the property right in these animals..

Branding and barbed wire were inventions that allowed the cattlemen to identify "their cattle" and to ask the law for its protection for them. The solution is the same for those who wish to protect "their whales" -- a technological advance that allows them to identify to themselves and others which whales are theirs, and which therefore have the full protection of law.

Electronic branding? GPS-power 'barbed wire'? I don't know. The cattlemen embraced the new technology of barbed wire to legally protect their herds (read about it here); whale watchers might consider devising a similary moron-proof technology to allow legal protection to be afforded to their migrating 'pods.'

Perhaps Minister Carter, the World Court and the IWC could kick things off by announcing that should such technology be devised and introduced, that full legal protection will be afforded to those like Kaikoura Whale Watch who can make a claim that a common law property right in "their whales" actually exists, a right acquired over years and fully deserving of protection.

As they say, it's a start.

Democracy is . . .

Democracy is the counting of heads regardless of content.       - Bill Weddell 

Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us.
 - P.J. O'Rourke 

Democracy, too, is a religion. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses. - H.L. Mencken

Social Security is a government program with a constituency made up of the old, the near old and those who hope or fear to grow old. After 215 years of trying, we have finally discovered a special interest that includes 100 percent of the population. Now we can vote ourselves rich.             - P.J O'Rourke

Democracy is three wolves and a sheep voting for dinner. - Robert Heinlein Elections are an advance auction of stolen goods.
 - H.L Mencken 

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.
attrib. to Alexander Tytler 

As they say in exams, Discuss.

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Altruism

ALTRUISM: Not to be confused with simple kindness and benevolence, as in common usage, but defined literally as “other-ism” or “living for others,” precisely as the term’s originator, Auguste Comte the founder of sociology, conceived it. (See David Kelley’s article, 'Capitalism and Altruism' .)

The ethic of subordinating one’s own interests as a matter of principle to those of others in particular and to ‘society’ in general has been the lifeblood of tyrannies throughout history. All tyrants have invoked “the common good” and extolled (and forcibly imposed) the “virtue” of self-subordination and self-sacrifice as a means of ensuring a docile, acquiescent population.

Altruism is the ethical foundation of collectivism in politics.

Said Joseph Goebbels (approvingly),

“To be a socialist is to submit the I to the Thou; socialism is sacrificing the individual to the whole.”
One Volk, with one neck.

Libertarianism deems altruism to be incompatible with individual self-ownership, and upholds instead an ethic of rational self-interest (see Objectivism). As David Kelly argues in his book Unrugged Individualism, an ethic of rational self-interest does not exclude benevolence towards others, it simply recognises that this may only come about once the acting party has secured his own flourishing. "Is it better to give or to receive?" asks Kelley rhetorically, answering, "It is better to produce," without which neither giving nor receiving nor even basic survival are actually possible.

FURTHER READING: See David Kelley's article 'Two Strains of Altruism,' and for a concrete example of how altruism undermines freedom, see Lindsay Perigo's 1996 presentation discussing New Zealand's market reforms and the consequent need for an ethical revolution, 'Antipodean Altruism,' and particularly 'The Foundations of a Revolution.'

Part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians. Originally published in The Free Radical. The 'Introduction' to the series is here.

Sunday, 15 May 2005

Paris Opera

The sumptuous interior of Charles Garnier's Paris Opera House. Excitement, delight and a heightened sense of theatrical illusion are overwhelming right from the entrance. How different to Auckland's dull and lifeless Ayatollah Centre.

Good People for NZ Music Month

In honour of New Zealand Music Month I've added three New Zealand musical friends to my 'Good People' Links down there on the sidebar-- and good people they all are.

Tenor Simon O'Neill is currently conquering the world. Most recently he's been understudying Placido Domingo in the Met's production of Wagner's 'Walkure' in New York. You can see him in the Kiri and Friends DVD from last year's Ayatollah Centre concert in Auckland with live-wire Helen Medlyn and Newmarket-based Opera Factory Chorus, and I've just discovered you can hear him next year in an NZSO Parsifal! Can't wait!

Soundtrack composer Marc Chesterman has composed music for Florian Habicht's films Woodenhead and Kaikohe Demolition, as well as collaborating in the improvisational trio Audible 3. Currently preparing to tour Europe with the Mau Dance company, I can confirm that Marc can produce "insanely cheerful" music as if he was born to it.

Hello Sailor are New Zealand's under-rated rock music legends. Variously considering themselves either a South Pacific Rolling Stones or a South Pacific Velvet Underground -- the latter well before such a tag was even fashionable -- at their best Hello Sailor sounded and sound like they can beat the world and it's brother. And quite apart from being a thoroughly decent chap, Sailor's Graham Brazier has written New Zealand's only real 'rebel song', Billy Bold. Graham's latest album 'East of Eden' comes highly recommended, as does fellow Sailor Dave McCartney's latest, on which 'Drunk With the View' finally gets recorded.

I heartily commend all the above to your eager attention.

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Abortion

Abortion is frequently a matter of dispute among libertarians because of conflicting views on the status of the foetus. There is acceptance by both sides that if the foetus is a human being, then abortion is murder, a violation of the right to life, properly to be outlawed.

TFR takes the Objectivist view that the foetus is not yet a human being, but a part of a human being – the mother – who has rights over it. To be an actual, rather than merely potential, human being is, among other things, to be physically separate, which a foetus is not. As Leonard Peikoff has argued, “That which lives within the body of another can claim no prerogatives against its host.”

Thus we uphold the right to abort as part of the mother’s right to ownership of her own body. We do not, however, support state-funded abortion, since anything at all funded by compulsory-acquired money is a violation of the rights of the involuntary funders.

Of ethnics and being kiwi

As Robert Benchley once said, there are two kinds of people: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't. I'm the latter kind.

And there are two things I hate. (There's actually a lot few more than that, but that's for another day. Bear with me here.)

There are two things I hate. People who put people into categories, and those who hate those who do. I'm the latter sort.

People who put people into categories based on their 'ethnicity' are particularly vile. And people who put such questions in official Government Census forms -- forms that they then bully you in an Official Government Census Form Manner to fill in -- deserve a particularly vile rung in the hell to which all such bureaucrats are irrevocaably destined.

The Herald today however gushingly reports that census officials will still be heading to hell, but that they will be relaxing the ethnicity question next time (I paraphrase the report ever so slightly). Rungs in hell are accordingly being prepared slightly further from the flames for those census officials.

"New Zealanders better than Kiwis, say officials" is how the report is headed. Which brings me to my point (which I do have, I assure you) which is this: Is anyone else sick of being called a 'Kiwi'?

Am I the only one who feels there's something wrong with having a name known throughout the world as being associated with either 1) a tin of shoe polish; or 2) a small, blind, flightless evolutionary loser.

Surely we can do better than that, can't we?

BANANAS close street race - McShane

BANANAS are stifling progress says Owen McShane this morning on Newstalk ZB (see here), and its BANANAS who are responsible for the cancellation of the Wellington street race, he says.

People who are BANANAS -- "which stands for Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone" -- have caused a problem for the nice men and women who put the Resource Management Act (RMA) together, says Owen (you can see some of them here). It's not the fault of these nice people, says Owen. It's the fault of those nasty NIMBYs * who have 'misinterpreted' the nice RMA.

"It is not the RMA that causes the problems," he says, "but people abusing the consent process and using it to slow progress...There seem to be those who want people to go back and live in caves, and the RMA is not bulletproof against them."

But you see, here's where Owen and I part company. As I've said many times before to Owen, if the legislation is that bad that only he and his friends can interpret it 'correctly' -- that is, if judges, get it 'wrong' -- if politicians get it 'wrong' -- if planners, activists, bureaucrats, BANANAS and consultants all get it 'wrong' -- then surely the problem is inherent in the Act, if not in Owen and his friends. Maybe its them that is wrong.

Maybe, in fact, the RMA is not 'bulletproof' against them all because the RMA itself is bollocks. How's them apples, Owen?

If an Act is so open to interpretation that it is commonly interpreted in precisely the opposite way in which Owen says it was intended it should be, then who's really bananas here? If for example in all its 456 pages of excrement the RMA fails to even mention property rights (as it doesn't), then why should we be surprised that courts and district plans and council planners fail to give a flying fruitloop about them either (as they don't).

Owen and other ACT Party-supporting consultants such as he would prefer the RMA not be consigned to the ash-heap of history as many other forms of twentieth-century petty fascism thankfully already have been. Why would a 'consultant' like Owen want to see the RMA abolished when -- if it stays around and gets suitably 'rewritten' -- the gravy train that's provided a living for the last twelve years or so can keep going, and keep delivering.

Those of you who have wondered why I call Owen a 'twit' in the piece I link to below, which many of you will have read in this shortened version, will hopefully now understand why I did.
*NIMBY = Not In My Back Yard

Cue Card Libertarianism, Introduction


Many years ago in what seems now like a galaxy far, far away, Free Radical editor Lindsay Perigo put together a set of 'Cue Cards' to help newbies understand all those difficult concepts that we libertarians bang on about while non-libertarians stand around slack-jawed; I'm thinking here of such phrases and ideas as the “non-initiation of force principle,” "Galt's Speech," "altruism is evil" and "the world will be a better place when the last politician is strangled with the guts of the last bureaucrat."

Libertarians meanwhile stand around slack-jawed in wonder that others don't grasp these simple and obvious ideas as self-evident, particularly the last. How could anyone not understand the truth of that, we wonder quietly to ourselves?

So for those who need help understanding what libertarians mean when they say these things (and to paraphrase Dame Edna Everage, we do mean them lovingly) I plan to update this series over the coming months, beginning today with the entry on 'Abortion,' with 'Altruism' and 'Anarchy' to follow tomorrow and Tuesday.

Hopefully as the series progresses you will find yourself understanding -- if not necessarily agreeing with -- these simple libertarian concepts. And perhaps there will dawn the day when you too will come to realise that the auto-asphyxiation of politicians and bureaucrats may not be such a bad thing. (But as always with such things, readers are advised not to try such things at home.)

Please feel free to suggest additions as the series progresses. Let us begin:

EDITOR’S NOTE, Wanganui, 1993

Some people encountering “The Free Radical” for the first time are reporting a difficulty coming to grips with its statement of editorial policy, evidently finding it too “abstract” and not easily applicable to everyday issues. Mindful of this, I decided to embark on an A-Z of everyday, and not so everyday, issues, to show how the non-initiation of force principle applies in each case. The “non-initiation of force principle”, to repeat, is that no one should force anyone to do anything – all our dealings with each other should be voluntary. This formulation is derived from Galt’s Speech in Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’. Non-Randian libertarians commonly refer to the ‘non-aggression principle’ – which amounts to the same thing. The following is the first part of a thumbnail introduction to the libertarian perspective on matters of moment, which I hope will make clearer, implicitly or explicitly, how the non-aggression principle applies and whence it is derived. When the series is complete, we shall release it in its entirety as a small book.

In the meantime, keep an eye here and on the sidebar where these Cue Cards will gradually be added to...
TAGS: Cue Card Libertarianism

Saturday, 14 May 2005

Most annoying (NZ) blogger?

About Town have a poll to pick the most annoying NZ blogger. I feel chastened to have made the list. Spellings of names have apparently been changed to protect the innocent. :-P

Message to New Zealand: Dump the RMA

Helengrad Mayor Kerry Prendergast learnt something yesterday about the Resource Management Act (RMA).

Reports the Dom this morning: Plans to host a V8 supercar street race in Wellington will be dumped. The city council – which has already spent $175,000 trying to bring the race to Wellington – blames difficulties caused by the Resource Management Act.

Well there you go. Add that to the litany of projects variously scrapped, canned, delayed, stillborn, unborn and never-to-be born because of difficulties caused by the RMA. Wake up Kerry. Wake up New Zealand. You've been had -- and you'll keep being had as long as you keep voting for the RMA to stay.

We are gutted, Mayor Kerry Prendergast said yesterday. I don't want New Zealand to be a `can't do' country for events.

Message to Kerry: It is. These here are the people who made it that way.

Former Helengrad Mayor now National's Helengrad Central candidate Mark Blumsky is also gutted. Tens of thousands of not only Wellingtonians but New Zealanders will be gutted that a very small minority group has used the RMA as a weapon to stop really good things happening in Wellington.

Message to Mark: Your National Party introduced the RMA.

So my message to New Zealand this morning: You've been had. Time to put a stake through the heart of the Resource Management Act. As an act of mercy to us all it's long overdue.

Time too for Wellingtonian voters to tell Helengrad Central MP and Minister of the RMA Marian Hobbs what they think about the RMA. Just don't expect National to put it right either. Or ACT. After all, their people introduced it.

[UPDATE: I'm adding a link here to Libz 2002 Environment Policy so you can see what an alternative looks like to the authoritarian RMA regime have at present. I commend it to your attention.]

111 can be comic

Enjoyed Te Radar's Herald column yesterday on the Foot and Mouth scare, cunningly segueing into a column on the 111 system. "It was interesting to note," he noted
that the letter that contained the threat was thoughtfully fast-posted. Clearly the perpetrator thought that the threat would be received sooner if it was posted than if it was simply phoned into the police.

It seems that what people don't realise about our 111 system is that the delays experienced by callers are in fact a deviously devised anti-terror scheme.

The theory is that anyone who rings to make a threat invariably gets sick of waiting, hangs up and goes off to do whatever it is that terrorists do when they aren't being mean-spirited.
Te Radar's column is here. His website is here.

There are people who probably think you shouldn't joke about these things. Comedian George Carlin always maintained you can joke about anything. Anything. It all depends on the exaggeration: "People say rape can't be funny. I say rape can be funny. Picture Elmer Fudd raping Porky Pig. That's funny!" Here's George joking about environmentalism (or at least, a transcript of a portion of George joking about environmentalism -- breaking copyright isn't funny -- if you want the full thing you'll have to buy his album 'Jamming in New York.' Or ask to borrow mine).

You wanna know how the planet's doing? Ask George. ... There is nothing wrong with the planet. Nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The PEOPLE are fucked. Difference. Difference. The planet is fine. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great.

Message to Kerry Prendergast:

Friday, 13 May 2005

Friday's drink has not far to go

It's that time again. The time when thoughts drift to more liquid things. Having enjoyed one of these hoppy Mac's Sassy Reds over lunch at The Mount in Mt Eden Village, I'm looking forward to a few more tonight.

Join me. :^) And read about the Sassy Red here.

Cresswell for Epsom?

After asking readers to help me decide whether or not to stand in Epsom for Libertarianz (see here), I now find that the poll I started on the subject is as ambivalent as I am.

At the time of writing 228 votes have been cast, 43% saying "Yes, Run for Your Life!" and 50% telling me" No! Don't Do It!" Not very useful, but more useful than the 7% wondering where Epsom is -- at least that's more than are wondering where ACT is in the polls. But I digress.

To paraphrase the prime arguments for each position, I have on the one hand been accused of seeking to destroy the ACT Party*! Well, shucks. If little old me is all it takes to destroy ACT then it's probably time they were made to walk the plank. As Ayn Rand once observed, when you hear cries of "Don't rock the boat!" it generally mean that there's a boat that need rocking good and hard.

The other camp have been arguing that I should save my time, energy and remaining funds and keep tapping away at this here keyboard, and keeping my blog full of good readable content.

So what to do? Well, here's my idea and it has two parts.

First, I have readers who constantly tell me that ACT is really a libertarian party. If that's true then I will surely expect to see fewer irrelevant personal attacks in Parliament, and policies from them this election that clearly call for an increase in both personal freedom and economic freedom. One of each would be 1) a call for an end to the disgraceful and disgraced War on Drugs, or at least for cannabis to be legalised (see Libz arguments here); and 2) a call for the abolition of the Resource Management Act and the reinstitution of common law protection of property rights. (See my arguments here.)

Second, if that doesn't happen -- is the Pope Protestant? -- is Act a 'liberal' party? -- I will undertake to do whatever the poll says when the first answer reaches 250 votes. That is, if the first to get to 250 votes is 'Yes! Run!' then that is what I will do; if it's 'No! Don't' then I won't.

You choose. Vote down there on the sidebar. Or in the Tip Jar. ;^)
*The argument here is apparently that ACT's poor general polling (eg., 0.8% in the Herald's last 'snap' poll) means that it needs to win a constituency seat in order to get back into Parliament. With ACT's rejection of John Banks's reverse takeover bid, that means they have to win Epsom -- every Epsom vote is therefore important. To ACT.

Compelling breast to be best

Advocates of Liz Weatherly's petition, which seeks to protect women who breastfeed on other people's property from being asked not to, often point to the World Health Organisation as the source of their claim that weaning is not recommended before toddler-hood, and that breast is not just best "it is normal."

The WHO politicisation of breastfeeding and their willingness to use compulsion to push their view are examined here at Tech Central Station. And my earlier comments on Weatherly's petition can be found here.

NZ's Political Spectrum

Since I started blogging I've been promising to post my 'map' of the New Zealand political spectrum, compiled largely from answers to the Advocates' World's Smallest Political Quiz' given by MPs and party supporters over the last ten years, supplemented by an examination of party policies. (Idiot/Savant has compiled NZ bloggers' positions on a related, though less intuitive spectrum here.)

The questions are different to the somewhat strange ones in the Times quiz, and are designed to test specific positions on the two issues that define one's position in the spectrum, ie., the level of support for personal freedom on the one axis, and economic freedom on the other. I'm happy if anyone wants to suggest NZ-based questions that have a similar rigour to those of the Advocates' quiz. [Email me at organon-at-ihug-dot-co-nz, or suggest them here.]

The collected results over those years do make very interesting reading.

One thing that has been clear right from the early days of running the quiz is that there is a distinct 'phase shift' between party supporters and that party's MPs; ie., a party's MPs are almost always closer to the Authoritarian end of the diamond than are their supporters. Accordingly, you can probably assume the mode of party supporters would be clustered 10-30 points north of their more authoritarian MPs.

I've found consistently this 'phase shift' is most distinct with the Green Party, many of whose supporters score well up in the left-libertarian position of the diamond, but none of whose MPs even come close. (A similar but 'mirrored' result is found with the ACT Party, though a little less distinctly, although many ACT supporters do claim a spot for themselves in the right-libertarian position.)

With most of these Green supporters and their MPs their problem comes in not scoring too highly on issues of economic freedom - and the most consistent reason for not doing so seems to be a poor understanding of economics. People generally do not move towards being more authoritarian rather than less; so it is with Green supporters who, with greater economic understanding, tend to move along the line of greater economic freedom.

With the ACT Party supporters I've found a related problem is often a low commitment to personal freedom - not so much a poor understanding of what personal freedom means, as a blank refusal to countenance that some things are just not the government's business, or that other people should be allowed to do things that they themselves wouldn't want to. Another problem is an insistence on 'compromise,' meaning a disproportionate number of 'maybe' answers.

So as I say, these results have made interesting reading over the years. It's very refreshing to see The Times recognise that the diamond spectrum is of much more use in explaining political allegiance than is the one-dimensional left-right spectrum, and it's clear that this spectrum says much more about relative political positions, and unravels conundrums such as 'are the National Front left or right'? Simply, they're authoritarian.

You can perhaps 'collapse' the diamond to see the traditional one-dimensional spectrum (and then see why ACT and Winston don't get along) but that makes for example both Libz and National Front centrists, right there by National and Labour, and not at opposite polls to each other as they obviously are.

Amongst other virtues, the diamond spectrum -- or 'Nolan Chart' as it is known -- explains quite simply why Libertarianz will often agree with ACT on issues of economic freedom, and with the Greens on issues of personal freedom ... and that many supporters of both Greens and ACT are not really either left or right, they are really libertarian-leaning in either personal freedom (80-odd percent for Green supporters) or economic freedom (80-od percent for ACT supporters). It shows too that both sets of supporters have much to learn from each other -- such a shame about their respective MPs! -- and why neither can be members of their closest centrist party.

It also demonstrates that Labour and National barely differ at all on issues of substance. If they put aside their decades-long personal antipathy to each other, we'd be seeing one-party rule for some years to come.

Grand coalition anyone? I don't think so; somehow it seems as likely as an ACT-Libz-Greens coalition.

[Supporters and MPs: Please feel free to send me your results to the quiz, telling me your score and your party support. As they come in I'll start adding them to the spectrum as an 'airbrush'. Email me at organon-at-ihug-dot-co-nz (confidentiality is assured), or post them here.]

[UPDATE: To give you the substantive scores for all parties and to indicate how the Advocates' present online quiz differs to its previous printed quiz forms, here are the respective quiz forms for each of the parties, compiled as described above : Greens, Labour, National, Winston First and ACT. And as I've indicated, I'm happy to amend scores and positions if a substantive position can be made based on either MPs who send me their quiz answers, party policy positions being pointed out to me which contradict the way they've been scored, or a combination of these.]

Rodney: "Oops!"

As no doubt you've already heard, yesterday under Parliamentary privilege Rodney Hide and Judith Collins attacked David Benson-Dope, not for being a blandly authoritarian tosser with nary a clue (which he is) but for being a thug and a bully years when he was a schoolteacher (which Rodney has now said he wasn't).

"I didn't put these as allegations I put these as questions," he told National Radio today. Disgraceful.

"Is it true you've stopped beating your wife, Rodney?" That is a question, by the way, not an allegation. "Are ACT and National a complete waste of parliamentary time?" That is both an allegation, and a rhetorical question.

As I've asked before, where the hell is the real opposition?

[UPDATE 1, 12:05pm: Berend has an MP3 of Linda Clark's interview with a former student of Benson-Dope's. Decide for yourself whether it supports the specific claims made yesterday, and whether it is up to Linda Clark et al to dig for the evidence RH and Judith Collins haven't bothered to provide, ie., "Rodney Hide: Will he resign as Minister if it transpires that, indeed, he did throw tennis balls at his students in the classroom, and tie their hands up and stuff tennis balls in their mouths, as punishment for talking?"]

[UPDATE 2, 12:35pm: Russell Brown suggests in Hard News here that "I wouldn't put too much stock in Rodney Hide's apparent speedy withdrawal of his claims of historical classroom bullyingagainst associate education minister David Benson Pope. I'd say the whole idea was to extract denials on multiple allegations in the House from the minister - so that if one of the alleged victims does come forward to claim anything in public, the Opposition can merrily kick around the idea that Benson Pope has misled Parliament." As yet, neither Collins nor Hide have fronted with anything remotely approaching evidence.

Says Russell, "Good grief. Is this the sort of election campaign we're going to have?" It is if this is all the opposition we've got.]

That 'F' in climate change science

How are all these climate change models calculated? Exactly how important is 'consensus'to the science and how exactly does this consensus relate to the calculation of the figures? And what's feedback got to do with it all?

All these questions answered and a discussion about what has happened to the scientific method here , at Tech Central Station, from the retired Director of the Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies University of Tasmania, and former Chief Research Scientist of the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research, Emeritus Professor Garth Paltridge.

Thursday, 12 May 2005

Hokusai Katsushika, Woodblock Print

Hokusai Katsushika, Woodblock Print

Things I don't care about

Here's a list of things about which I just don't give a shit. Not that I hate them, you understand -- that's a different list -- it's really that I'm totally, completely, profoundly indifferent to them all.
  • The Shroud of Turin - is it genuine? -- I couldn't care less.
  • Who shot JFK -- who cares?
  • Who Jennifer Aniston is sleeping with
  • Who' s winning the 7pm TV battle?
  • Security cameras in shopping malls
  • Reality TV cameras in people's bedrooms
  • Reality TV
  • What Helen Clark said about Peter Doone --
  • Peter Doone
  • Britney Spears
  • The new Pope
  • Shortland Street
  • British soccer
  • Soccer
  • Stephen Spielberg's latest movie
  • Star Wars sequels
  • Star Wars
  • Golf
  • David Benson-Pope
  • New Zealand Idol
  • Australian Idol
  • Every other shagging Idol
  • Rants against Microsoft
  • Rants about Roswell/Tesla Devices /the Protocols of Zion/the ECHELON network
  • Nickey Hager
  • Westlife
  • Newsreaders' salaries
  • Newsreaders' confessions
  • Newsreaders
  • John Tamihere
  • The Queen's Christmas Speech
  • The Queen
  • All her family
  • Your baby photos
There, I'm glad I've got that off my chest. Next week: What's your favourite conspiracy theory?

Why Freedom?

"Why Freedom?" is the question answered today on the blog of democide researcher Prof RJ Rummell. Why for instance do we so rarely hear the 'f' word in popular political use?

His answer is here, contrasted with power -- a concept all-too encompassing in popular political use:
We have identified power with greatness, thugs with statesmen, and propaganda with results; we have let moral and cultural relativism silence our outrage, while conceding the moral high ground to the utopian dreamers; we have refused to recognize evil as evil; and we have ignored the catastrophic human cost of such confusions, and the natural and moral right to freedom.
By contrast, he says:
we have wondrous human freedom as a moral force for the good. Freedom produces social justice, creates wealth and prosperity, minimizes violence, saves human lives, and is a solution to war. In two words, it creates human security. Moreover, and most important: People should not be free only because it is good for them. They should be free because it is their right as human beings.

Top ten searches this week

Here's the most popular searches this week here at Not PC, and as I'm a helpful chap they're linked to the pages I suspect the searchers came here looking for (all Googled unless stated otherwise) Sadly, nothing particularly bizare this week, so I've included a wee 'trick' to add some spice :

1. pc epsom blog (1st - You'd hope so, really, wouldn't you?)
2. wingspread mansion wright (not on front page - FLW's a popular guy)
3. rodney hide blog (not on front page)
4. libertynz (2nd)
5. moodie's credit rating service (5th on Yahoo Search)
6. sludgegate (3rd)
7. rob moodie (5th)
8. the comprachicos on education (9th on Yahoo Search)
9. kaikohe demolition (not on front page)
10. free porn (4th)

Why we don't have more sex

As I've already posted this morning on economics and on sex (well, sex-changes) it seems appropriate to post here the economist's answer to that age-old question "Why don't we have more sex?"

Yeah, I know, as Tonto told the Lone Ranger, "What's with the we, white man?"

Anyway, the question is posed thus:
...all forms of consequentialism have a great deal of difficulty interpreting sexual behavior. To put things short, there is an inexplicable shortage of sex. Given that studies show that women and men enjoy it more than most other activities (on average, not on the margin I'll grant), and given its intrinsically low cost, it appears that even a crude approximation of a utility maximizing person would probably spend much more time having sex than most do. Do you know of any economic discussion of this?
So here you go, the top twelve reasons given by economists for why we don't spend more time having sex, starting here.

Probably not the right time to point out that it's a rare example of an economist coming to a conclusion. Pun intended.

The importance of being Ernest. Or Annabell.

Former cowboy and now a Christchurch pensioner, Ernest Quor wants to be Annabell. That's right, he wants to become a she.

Fine. His/her business. Story here.

But Ernest aka Annabell wants us to pay for it. It's her right, we're told. And isn't it? If as many people claim we all have a 'right to free health care' then surely this is health care that Annabell has a right to, doesn't she? Then pony up!

In fact, you already have. As a Press story of April 2 reports just one day too late, "A new Government policy to fund about $170,000 worth of sex-change operations, has been welcomed by transgender advocate Christina Loughton. 'There is not going to be enough to pay for everyone,' said Loughton, 66, who runs transgender support group Agender New Zealand's Christchurch branch."

So is health care a right? Well, no it isn't. These people have clearly faced enormous difficulties in their lives, and I can certainly sympathise with their desire for such an operation, but I don't want to pay for it. If they want help they should ask for it, not claim it as their right.

Students a beacon of liberty

Instead of sending (hopefully) bogus foot and mouth threats and calling for taxpayers to give them more money, students in Eastern Europe have been fomenting democratic revolution - as George Bush's recent visit to Eastern Europe has highlighted:

Around Eastern Europe in the last five years, writes Jack Wheeler,
an unknown, anonymous student alliance ... has successfully overthrown autocrats in four ex-Soviet states, and now has Belarus and Russia itself in its gunsights. While its constituent student groups have names, the alliance itself has no name and no leader. Jack Wheeler talks about the group's history and constituents here. In Serbia, Otpor! - Resistance! - was formed in 1998 "and advocated relentless, well-organized, yet nonviolent street demonstrations and protests. Such a method – known as “Triple U” for Uncontrollable Urban Unrest – had been used to overthrow the Soviet colonial regimes of Eastern Europe in 1989.
It worked in Serbia as well: by October 1999, after "Otpor staged a series of mass rallies in Belgrade chanting the slogan gotov je – “He’s finished - " Milosevic was gone.

Similar successes were had by Kmara! - Enough! - in Georgia who, guided by Otpor leaders, fomented the 'Rose Revolution' that toppled Eduard Shevardnadze; by Pora! - It's Time! - in Ukraine's 'Orange Revolution,' guided this time by Kmara and Otpo activists; and by KelKel! (Revival!) in Kyrgyzstan.

As Jack Wheeler summarises,
That’s four successful democratic revolutions inside the former Soviet Empire in 4 ½ years, three in the last 18 months. With each time, these guys learn how to do it better. One technique they’ve mastered is the use of Democracy Babes. When they bat their baby blues or browns at the police and hand them a rose or orange scarf, it’s hard for the police to obey orders to beat them up or shoot them.And it doesn' t stop there. Europe's 'Last Dictatorship' of Belarus is next, targetted by Zubr.
And then there's Russia itself.
Sure enough, there’s already a student organization at Moscow University called Porá (same word in both Ukrainian and Russian, with emphasis on the first syllable in the former, the second in the latter). They’re calling for Putin’s impeachment and the creation of a true free market democracy in Russia.
No wonder Putin and Kremlin oligarchs were nervous over Bush's recent meetings in Riga, Latvia and Tbilisi, Georgia.

When George W Bush stood in Tbilisi's Freedom Square and told the the world Georgia is "a beacon of liberty" it was these people he was talkiing about. And in recent meetings he's been talking not just to the new political leaders of these new democracies, but also to their advisors from Kmara and Pora. "Freedom cannot stop at Ukraine's borders" bush told Ukraine's Pora.

"Time is closing in on the autocrats of Minsk and Moscow," concludes Wheeler.

What an inspiration. And how different to our whining, grasping student moochers here in NZ, who want everyone else to pay for them.

[Note: Jack Wheeler's article requires subscription, BUT you can e-mail yourself a trial article from the site.]

Blog rescue

My blog was down this morning. No idea why. Completely blank front page. Hacked? Rescued now anyway.

Does anyone have any idea what time they might have seen the front page go blank?

Carnival of the Capitalists

The Carnival of the Capitalists (COTC) can now be found here. COTC is a weekly moveable feast celebrating the best of the capitalist blog each week.

While talking Capitalism, two new books this week from the Mises Institute that students wanting to foment intelligent revolution need to have (see below), and a celebration here of the "250th anniversary of the discovery of economics" - and you thought Adam Smith was the man, didn't you?

And just so you know, books by economist Ludwig von Mises are online here, and George Reisman's magnum opus Capitalism is online here.

The two new books are The Concise Guide to Economics by Jim Cox, substantial portions of which are online, and The Rationale of Central Banking and the Free Banking Alternative by Vera Smith, described as "a very important work on the rise of central banking, one that proves that it was driven by politics and the supposed needs of the state...
A central bank, she shows, is founded with the aid, either direct or indirect, of government, and is able to fall back on the government for protection from the consequences of its acts. Its profits are privatized and its losses socialized.
Lots of good stuff there. Perhaps you could buy copies for Michael Cullen and Alan Bollard. They could clearly do with some economic clues.

Wednesday, 11 May 2005

Christina's World, by Andrew Wyeth.

Christina's World, by Andrew Wyeth.

Yoof as it is spoke

Ever wondered what the Ministry of Youth Development do with their day? Or why we have such a Ministry at all? (Here's a few others I bet you didn't know about. How many would you like gone by lunchtime?)

Here's one day's work at said Ministry: a guide to Yoof-Speak. Sheesh. At least Dog Biting Men see something to be happy about.

When capping stunts were funny

It's becoming clear that the Foot and Mouth scare on Waiheke Island is a hoax, and possibly part of a pretty poor capping stunt. TVNZ story here, and a Chinese report here. Phew.

What idiot thought up a stunt that could have cost the country billions? Perhaps no coincidence that the Vet School is in Palmerston North from where the letter was reportedly posted? Massey University Students' Association president Iain Galloway said it is possible the foot and mouth threat could be a capping stunt but "it's pretty out there". It's not 'out there,' it's just dumb.

But can you remember a time when capping stunts were actually funny? Most of those I remember were enacted by Auckland's Engineering School: The dumping of 'toxic drums' in Queen St that had been marked up with toxic warnings and set to leak dry ice; the placing of a 'guided missile' in the QEII Square fountain to greet morning traffic; the infamous Engineer's haka ... (well, I laughed).

My favourite was the stunt in which passersby were asked by white-coated students wielding clipboards and an earnest look to help them fill a sperm bank whose levels were, as such things can be, dangerously low and in need of new 'deposits' to help fulfil struggling couples in need of this magic bullet. The response to this altruistic call was as amusing as it was enthusiastic.

Pity none of the deposits were needed.

What's a libertarian for?

Reader Justin has politely but firmly asked why some libertarians bother with Libertarianz.
[F]or all your professed admiration for rationality and goal-orientation, you seem to be sorely lacking it. For a (small “l”) libertarian living in New Zealand, it’s difficult to determine the point of the Libz existence.

Is your goal to achieve parliamentary representation and change? If so, do you really think this is realistic?
A fair question which deserves an answer, one which I offer at some length here. I expect disagreement. A few people to whom I've spoken recently may realise I'm also answering their questions.

Linked Article: What's a libertarian for?

A Blog that beers a visit (groan)

Given my views on what motivated the birth of civilisation, I really should have picked up on New Zealand’s first Blog on Real Beer before now. Thanks to DPF for pointing it out. It’s given me a fierce thirst which I'll soon need to allay...

And I do apologise for the appalling pun. Honest I do.

Mallard's S&L scheme

Trevor Mallard's proposed student Savings and Loan (S&L) scheme has both good and bad. Story here. And let me make clear that my use of the term savings and loan scheme, ie., S&L, is purely for convenience, and is no reference at all to the S&L disaster in the US some years ago. Honestly it's not.

Anyway, the good news is that Labour has signalled, at least in part, that it recognises that education and paying for it is the responsibility of parents. And it's recognised that government itself has no ability to administer Mallard's S&L scheme. Great. That's as far as the good news goes.

The bad news is that taxpayers will be milked once again to pay for Mallard's S&L scheme, or at least to kick off each student's account. As with Labour's 'Welfare for Families' programme, they would rather make beneficiaries of New Zealanders than allow them their own money back by lowering taxes.

And the usual student politician suspects - fresh from arguing that students should be compelled by government force to join their student unions - have been bleating that taxpayers should be compelled to pay for the chosen lifestyles of these student politicians. Look for these bludgers to be sucking on the state tit for a lifetime.

What's my solution to help out students then? Charge 'em less and help 'em save. You can do both by cutting taxes to the bone - in fact as a libertarian I'd advocate cutting the bone as well. But the more cuts the better. Giving back the $9 billion surplus to those who paid for it would be a start. If Australia can slash taxes after an election, surely we can do so before? The May 19 budget could be a good time. (No, I'm not holding my breath either.)

But it would work: lower taxes means people have their own money back to help them save with, without then needing a welfare top-up from the government; lower taxes mean educational institutes themselves will have lower costs, so lower fees; lower taxes means low-income working families in Porirua and Mangere aren't being stolen from to pay for kids from Remuera and Khandallah to go to university.

So why not slash taxes to help parents fund their own savings scheme? This Government would rather make beneficiaries of those people not already made beneficiaries by 'Welfare for Families.' They'd rather we all mooched off the state.

Sluggardly foot and mouth reactions

Okay, I can buy that the Foot and Mouth scare on Waiheke Island is probably a hoax, but given the enormous economic impact if this sort of bio-terrorism were genuine, am I the only one slightly nonplussed at the urgency, or lack thereof, in containing any possible outbreak?

Reports suggest that the letter claiming a release was received yesterdy afternoon, and as of this moment (and as police investigations into the possoble perpetrator continue) only half of Waiheke's farm-owners have heard from MAF inspectors, quarantines have only just been point in place to contain any possibly infected farms, and Assistant Police Commissioner Peter Marshall is complaining that resources are being wasted in even these measures.

Waiheke ferries continue to come and go without being disturbed even by disinfection, but a policeman has been stationed at the ferry terminal. Perhaps he's going to arrest any suspicious virii he comes across?

I can understand trying to maintain calm, especially if it is indeed a hoax, but this virus spreads quicker than STDs at a navy port, and our trading partners will be looking to the way this alert is handled for guidance as to how a real alert will be handled, and even twelve hours after the warning letter was received very little had been done in the way of containment. Surely planning was in place for rapid reaction to a situation such as this?

Radio New Zealand reports that nine vets will be making their way to the island this morning, and given the incubation period of the virus were it genuine, no indications are likely for a few days, if not weeks.

At least our trading partners were given a swift heads-up, with - at this stage - only Mexico expressing anything other than the intention of keeping a watching brief. A cattle shipment presently en-route to Japan will reportedly give the first indication of how the warning is received on the ground.

Estimates of the economic impact of a real outbreak vary from $3.5 billion offered by Radio New Zealand's Don Carson this morning to the Reserve Bank's figure of $10 billion. See reports here and here. But even news of a hoax outbreak is likely to frighten some of our markets, as you'd expect it to, and the way this (hopefully) hoax is handled is a good measure of how a real outbreak would be handled.

Personally I would have expected more, and earlier.

[UPDATE (9:25am): Reports just in on RNZ that senior MAF vets were in fact on the island by 6pm last night to begin investigations and set up a base. Maybe there has been more action than there at first appeared to be? If so, good.]
[UPDATE (12:30pm): Suggestions from the police that the letter may be part of a capping stunt. I can remember when capping stunts used to be funny.]

Appeasing environmentalism: You lose

The Rain Forest Action Network from the US exemplifies many radical environmental organisations: irrational, in-your-face, anti-capitalist, and tax-exempt. Much like our local branch of Greenpeace.

In an eight-page investigation, David Hocberg asks why these destroyers of private property rights are given tax breaks when the rest of us aren't, why corporations routinely appease them rather than exposing them for what they are ... and he also exposes them for exactly what they are: destructive arseholes with finely tuned PR skills.

"Some corporations have Chief Executive Officers who double as the corporation's chief appeasement officers," says economist Walter Williams. In his view and the view of Hogberg, the victories achieved by organisations such as the RFAN are entirely due to appeasement, not to any merit in their frequently fact- and reason-free arguments.

Hogberg's article can be found here in PDF format. (Note that you will need to have an Acrobat Reader on your computer.)

Hat-tip here to Robert Bidinotto, who argues that Environmentalism as a movement is dying under the weight of its irrationalism, and its constant crying 'wolf'. Read the Death of Environmentalism here, and its companion piece Death by Environmentalism here. Both are linked from his website,

Tuesday, 10 May 2005

Entrance to Drafting Room and Shaded Walk, Taliesin West, Arizona, Frank Lloyd Wright Posted by Hello

Good news from Iraq

If you're wondering what's been happening in Iraq recently, then you're in luck. Aussie blogger Arthur Chrenkoff has used a 'Thank You' letter from Iraq's new president, Jalal Talabani, to Tony Blair in order to sum up the good news from Iraq emerging over the last two weeks, most of which you won't have heard about from your favourite MSM sources or anti-war sites.

Read the litany of successes here.
[Hat-tip Robert Bidinotto]

All the best, Carlos

It seems churlish to let Carlos Spencer leave New Zealand without at least thanking him for the enormous enjoyment he's given me and I'm sure many others over the years. Say what you like about him - and most people have, especially those in a certain city some miles south of here - when Carlos was on the field life was never dull.

I can't say the same for Northampton I'm afraid - the only British county to be deservedly excluded from most tourist guidebooks - but I feel sure he'll soon be lighting up Franklin Gardens, and infuriating and inspiring English fans just as he has done New Zealand fans. Most of them.

Trust him not to leave quietly either. Asked by the Herald what he would miss most after 14 first-class rugby seasons in New Zealand, he said, "Going down there and pissing off those Canterbury crowds."

Peron rag is objectionable

Jim Peron's foul little rag 'Unbound' which he published out of his San Francisco shop in the late Eighties has been declared by the Chief Censor as "“objectionable” because it promotes the exploitation of children and young people for sexual purposes."

I agree. It is, and it does.

Winston Peters says "that the “objectionable” classification showed that the publication would be illegal in New Zealand and that the publisher(s) would be prosecuted were it published here." He's probably right, and I agree with him that they should be if it were.

And I now fully expect to see cries once again that 1) Peron didn't publish the rag, but some Eastern European did whose name he can't remember; 2) libertarians are opposed to censorship so what's up with supporting prosecution of peddlers of child porn? 3) Peron is being demonised / entirely innocent / set up / irrelevant. In short, how dare I!

Well, let me answer those objections one-by-one.

1) Oh, come on.
2) Libertarians are opposed to the "Recording and distribution of recordings of crimes being committed against victims (e.g. genuine snuff, rape, child molestation films)." For a full discussion see here and here. And here.
3) Peron has done this to himself. He produced the stuff some fifteen years ago; he denied producing the stuff; he's responsible for his actions, no-one else. He's firmly exposed as a child pornographer, and as a liar. And unfortunately he isn't irrelevant, but he soon will be.

Jim Peron is a world-class manipulator who came to this country seeking to be a large(ish) intellectual fish in a small rather arid pond, and he proceeded to variously use and discard people who he thought could help him get there. Some are still being used by him, and will no doubt still refuse to acknowledge that they've been taken in by his blandishments.

If I were they, I would be damned angry at being taken for a fool. And I am. That's how I dare.

The full decision is given above.

[UPDATE: Scoop have a story on the latest developments here.]
[ADDENDUM: Decade changed.]

The Gettysburg Powerpoint Address

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So what's a Powerpoint presentation worth?

Well, here's a case in which 267 words have resonated through history, whereas the Powerpoint presentation may not have lasted until afternoon tea. See here what Abraham Lincoln's historic Gettysburg Address would have been like if Old Abe had been using today's technology.

And do make sure you read those 267 words if you haven't before. They are amongst the most moving few words in human history. Here's some context for it.
[Hat-tip, Stephen Hicks.]

New candidates' website; new libertarian blogger

A new libertarian blogger for you this morning, young Matthew Humphries from England who's called his blog imaginatively MH. Lucky his surname isn't 'Faber', eh?

And I've got a piece of paper around here about another new libertarian blogger, but as I can't put my finger on it at the moment I'll have to promise to tell you about it later on. I can tell you about a website just up and running that aims to have bios and details about every candidate in the forthcoming election, and whose webmaster Richard Goode will be working with No Right Turn to collate Idiot/Savant's candidate surveys and get them online. Read news about that project here, and see where I got this news from.

Council 'asks' nicely for more money. Yeah right.

As if developers and those who buy their houses don't have enough costs and difficulties on their plate what with RMA problems, increasingly prohibitive District Plans, interest rate increases, a shortage of skilled builders and Building Act uncertainties ... now Auckland City Council will be whacking developers in their fiefdom with a new compulsory 'Development Contribution' on top of the rates, Consent fees and compulsory 'Reserves Contributions' already levied.

This is simply another grab for money by another council hungry for it, and empowered by the Local Government Act and the RMA to grab it. Read the council's spin here.

Councillor Vern Walsh, chairman of the council's get-our-hand-in-their-pockets commissariat, says "under the current financial contributions system, developers [already] contribute about $17m a year towards open space. He says the proposed development contributions policy would increase this by about $5m per year, as developers will also be asked to contribute to growth costs for the city’s stormwater network and community facilities." [Italics mine.]

There's no 'asking' involved here, despite what Commissar Walsh wants to call it, and the way some compliant media have reported it.

Monday, 9 May 2005

Mediocrity Awards

Cartoon by Nick Kim.
Courtesy The Free Radical magazine

Neo-Nazi defeat in Berlin

Berlin Bear reports today that on the Sixtieth Anniversary of the end of WWII a counter-protest that led to the cancellation of a neo-Nazi show of force on the streets of Berlin demonstrates we may be able to lay to rest any fears we might still harbour about a neo-Nazi revival in Germany. Says BB:
As I see it, this is an important defeat for the neo-Nazis. It shows to the world that, although there is a tiny minority of fascist numbskulls who have learned nothing from the horrors of the Second World War and the Nazi regime and continue to spread their xenophobic hate-filled lies, they are vastly outnumbered by rational, right-thinking German citizens who are prepared to stand up to them and to say loud and clear, "Never again. Not here, not anywhere."

Or, in the words of the German Minister for the Environment, Jürgen Trittin:

'With peaceful means, the public showed these Nazis who were trying to glorify the greatest genocide in history will never again have any role in Germany.'
Let us hope so.

Why do we do it?

Why do people write blogs, or columns?

Writer and columnist Tibor Machan - one of my own genuine mentors - describes here his own motives in writing columns. And he writes a lot of them!

His motives are also mine, including his thoughts on both the hazards and the benefits of comments. Begins Tibor,
What motivates people to write columns? There is no one answer that fits all columnists—that’s a start of an answer. In my own case there is no one motive—depends on the day, time, circumstances, my own state of mind, and probably much I don’t even bother to learn of.

A few things I do know, about why I write columns, involve certain goals. Among these, foremost is the achievement of a world in which freedom is in greater rather than lesser abundance, the freedom of the individual from coercive intervention in his or her life. But why bother about this, one might ask?
Read on here to find out why he does bother. And why I do.

Let me say too that Tibor doesn't just explain why I enjoy writing my blog pieces and the like, he's also provided inspiration for their production. I always remember Tibor on a visit to Auckland excusing himself from a discussion to duck away and tap out a new column on a borrowed computer in order to record an insight he had just come to, only to emerge smiling with the explanation he "just had to get that out." Such fecundity of production explains how Tibor is as prolific as he has been over an extraordinarily productive career.

The man's an inspiration. Check out his most recent books here and here.

Successful campaigning techniques, Part 1

Libertarianz Tim Wikiriwhi tries out two different campaigning techniques at the Tauranga Home Show this weekend.
Robin Thomsen and Russell Watkins try another. Which do you think will prove more successful? Please feel free to suggest (polite) captions. :^)

New libertarian blogs launched

A new libertarian sort-of-blog called 'Speakeasy' has been launched by Julian Pistorius and Helen Hughes (aka Hooch Helen), Libz candidates respectively for Northland and Whangarei. They describe it as a web newsletter, hard copies of which are distributed around their electorates. A blog 'engine' for the site is promised soon. I suspect most readers of this blog will understand the connection between Speakeasies and Prohibition.

Their first issue checks out the connection between Anzaz Day and the attempted closing of Orauta School.

And Richard Goode from beNZylpiperazine is now blogging at LibertyNZ, where others including Philip and Luke Howison are soon to join him.

Perhaps they've been reading about political blogging here, even if NBR did get it wrong "that Act and the Greens are the first two parties to have a sophisticated online presence." Is 'Not PC' - which predated the Frog - just too unsophisticated for NBR? Croak!

Wananga's failure shows voucher failure

News here that Trevor Mallard is proffering Rongo Wetere's Wananga o Aotearoa a $20 million "short-term loan" (with more to come) and (possibly) appointing a commissioner to oversee the Wananga and (maybe) an advisory group to work alongside the putative commissioner and the existing Mallard-appointed Crown Manager is greeted as expected by Rodney Hide and others with the joy of being vindicated in their attacks on the Wananga and its management.

Well, perhaps that joy is somewhat undeserved.

In the first place, if the Wananga is so badly run, then why should more taxpayers' money be spent where it has already been so flagrantly wasted? Does anyone really expect this "short-term loan" to be repaid?

And would there really be a problem with the Wananga declaring bankruptcy and its assets then used for a decent school? After all, the assets don't go away when bankruptcy is declared, and as it is now the government has just taken control of a private school, not something a libertarian should enjoy.

And why have Bill English, Rodney Hide, Ken Shirley and Deborah Coddington been attacking the Wananga anyway? This Government is spending roughly a billion dollars a year in tertiary education, mostly in what's known as 'low-level' courses such as the degrees in air-hosting and diplomas in dog-washing and the like that have been exposed in various news stories. That billion dollars a year is being spent in a system set up by the previous National Government that 'follows the student'; in other words, if a student decides to enrol for a course, then the government will pay for it.

The other name for such a system is ... a Voucher System. Such a system is exactly what ACT party luminaries such as Rodney Hide, Ken Shirley and Deborah Coddington have been advocating for years, and what English's colleagues put in place at tertiary level. Now they've got it, they don't like what they see. Have they perhaps changed their mind? Or ist just that they don't recognise it for what it is?

Rodney Hide blames Mallard for "pouring in money without control." Does he really not realise that's what a voucher system does?

Let me remind readers of the four basic ways of spending money, with some examples to show what I mean (hat-tip here to Milton Friedman and PJ O'Rourke). See of you can work out which situation describes how Rongo Wetere's chequebook was funded:

1/. You spend your own money on yourself -
e.g, you buy your own toys, and you've probably saved for them. You look after them.

2/. You spend someone else's money on yourself -
e.g., a kid gets hold of Dad's wallet in the toy store. Lots of toys, most quickly broken or ignored.

3/. You spend your own money on someone else -
e.g., you buy a toy for a friend. It's cheap.

4/. You spend someone else's money on someone else. Neither price nor quality are important -
e.g., your parents buy a toy for your friend. Its cheap. And he doesn't want it.

Until 1984, government spending in New Zealand fell exclusively into Category Four above. Following the transformation wrought by Prebble, Douglas and Richardson, government spending was mostly still Category Four, except when it wasn't and was instead Case Two: Case Two describes the whole input-output, 'purchasing of outcomes' waffle that Douglas, Prebble and Richardson applied to government spending, and that Christine Rankin's Welfare empire, John Tamihere's Waipareira Trust and Donna Awatere's Pipi Foundation went on to spend. These last three were all buying toys for others with other people's money (and Donna as you may remember was also caught spending it on herself.)

Case Two also describes Rongo's spend-up at the Wananga. It describes the voucher system too

Blair's post-election blues

Showing the gratititude and honesty typical of Labour MPs everywhere, British Labour MPs now want to stick the knife into the man they asked a country to vote for last week, on the pretext that not enough people did so. "The [Labour] backbenchers, many speaking publicly for the first time, have been moved to hasten Blair’s departure after his majority was slashed by 94 in Thursday’s general election." Read here. And that's just the backbenchers; his cabinet are little better, bickering about the cabinet posts offered them. Apparently the words 'hypocrite' and 'ungrateful' are both spelt L-A-B-O-U-R.

Hypocritical blathering is not solely restricted to British Labourites however. In the wake of Michael Howard's resignation comes navel-gazing from British Conservatives too, wondering where it all went wrong for them. I can tell them quite simply: they can trace it to the day they so cowardly abandoned the Thatcher Revolution that had once made them both popular and principled.

But the latest navel-gazing demonstrates they still have no idea where they went wrong. "The compassionate part of our Conservatism goes back deep into our history and must be renewed," says one tired old Tory sifting through his navel fluff here, offering a paucity of ideas as flaccid as any given by the 'Heseltinis' who once knifed Thatcher. "We sometimes talk as if all that matters is the individual and his or her freedoms but Conservatives have always valued the ties that bind us," he blathers to himself. "That's why we've never settled for the conventional bureaucratic welfare state. It's why we understand the ties of family, neighbourhood and nation." It's why they've been deservedly ignored by the country since at least 1993.

Blair stole what once made the Tories worth anything at all, and it's clear they still don't want it back.

Sunday, 8 May 2005

Who is your mentor?

The American Academy of Achievement celebrates, what else, achievement; specifically Aemrican achievers, It seeks to "bring students face-to-face with the extraordinary leaders, thinkers and pioneers who have shaped our world."

A page on the site here offers you the chance to find your own 'mentors' with a few simple mouse-clicks. The site tells me my own mentors include Sir Edmund Hillary, Chuck Yeager and BB King, which as you can imagine left me feeling pretty happy - at least I was until I discovered Philip Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Ralph Nader were also on my list, and that Frank Lloyd Wright and Duke Ellington weren't even included in the academy. I guess Frank and Duke did pass on some years ago, but the egregious Philip Johnson died not long ago, and he hardly deserves the acclaim anyway.

See who is on your own list and see if you agree with it here.

[Hat-tip to Stephen Hicks.}

NCEA resignations: Et tu Billy?

I have to assume from Bill English's frequently repeated calls for the resignation of those responsible for the disastrous NCEA qualification - here's the latest - that he is either stupid or else refreshingly irony-free.

On his past performances either of course is possible, but I do look forward to Bill calling for the head of his National colleague Lockwood Smith, who some people still remember as the Minister responsible for implementing the whole sorry NZQA/NCEA/Unit Standard bollocks in the first place, and of fellow Nat-Brat Nick Smith who presided over the resulting and inevitable decline in educational standards (Unit Standards in being able to use a fax, anyone?).

And, as many of you will no doubt recall, the whole NCEA/NZQA implementation process was accompanied by the loud and sustained applause of both Smith-Person's Cabinet colleagues at the time - of which Bill himself was a thrusting young member - so maybe Billy-Boy will fall on his sword as well, just to show Karen van Rooyen how such things are done?

To point out the culpability of these National Party luminaries in the present disaster is not to remove any responsility for it from this Government or from Trevor Mallard - who are as much to blame as the National Party for the whole sorry shambles - it is to make the point that it doesn't matter which party is in Government as long as they allow the Ministry of Education complete control over this country's factory school system.

From the libertarian point of view, they're all culpable. It's time to take back the schools from all the above.

New! Tax calculator

As we get closer and closer to Budget Day, as new taxes are added by the day, and as this thieving Government boasts anew of having stolen $8 billion too much this year, you might like to visit this simple 'Pillage' calculator to see how much of you hard-earned wedge is stolen each year in Income Tax alone just to keep Helen Clark's election bribes afloat.

Just remember once you see the total pillaged that the calculator calculates your Income Tax only; depending on your investments and chosen lifestyle, your other taxes both central and local- excise taxes and Development Levies and rates and Government Slavery Tax and the like - will approximately double that figure.

Once you've done your final calc you might just about need a drink, at $38.4 per litre for a whiskey, plus Slavery Tax. Or a smoke, at 24c per cig, plus Grab Snatch and Take. If, that is, you can afford to pay the excise.

Loving wealth

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, don't they. And those rich bastards are busy getting rich off the backs off the poor, aren't they.

Well, no they don't, and no they're not. In fact, as Walter Williams says in a recent column, most of today's rich are yesterday's poor. For the most part, 'the poor' don't want to stay that way, and they haven't - it's them that's mostly busy getting richer, with about 80% of American millionaires being first-generation wealthy.

Furthermore, 'the former poor' are making themselves rich, and in that sense only can you say they're getting rich off the backs of the poor - it's their own back. Thomas Sowell argues:
Are there genuinely poor people who stay poor? Yes. However grossly exaggerated the numbers, there are such people. But studies that follow the same individuals over time find that most of those in the bottom 20 percent of income earners are also in the top 20 percent at some other time in their careers....

There was a time when you could legitimately contrast the idle rich and the working poor. But that time is long gone. Nevertheless, the image is still politically useful, so you are likely to see that image invoked again and again by candidates practicing divide and conquer politics, sometimes known as class warfare or by its more fashionable name, 'social justice.'
And 'social justice' mostly harms not helps the poor because it calcifies the social structure and the economy into present patterns. Sowell's new book 'Black Rednecks and White Liberals' argues that for example American "ghettos are still filled with 'black rednecks' who have never escaped [their] self-destructive patterns. Why not? Their attempt to escape, Sowell says, has been consistently and repeatedly hampered by white liberals!" The 'black redneck's' have still got what Malcolm X called 'their slave minds'; the 'white liberals' want them to keep it because there's votes and kudos in being patronising.

See for example the Labour Party manifesto.

As Reverend Ike always says, "The best thing you can do for the poor is not to become one." Right on, Reverend. If Bishop Tamaki talked like that I could be a fan. Pity he's just another fascist arsehole with a power complex.

And forget about the so-called 'gap' between rich and poor. The richer the rich are, the bigger the gap. And the richer the we're all allowed to get, the easier for the poor to become rich and to stay that way. PJ O'Rourke sums it up in his classic book 'Eat the Rich',
If we want the whole world to be rich, we need to start loving wealth. In the difference between poverty and plenty, the problem is the poverty and not the difference. Wealth is good. ... wealth is not a world-wide round-robin of purse snatching... [T]he thing that makes you rich doesn't make me poor. ... Without Productivity, there wouldn't be any economics, or any economic thinking, good or bad, or any pizza, or anything else. We would sit around and stare at rocks, and maybe later have some for dinner. ... Wealth is based on productivity, and productivity is expandable. In fact, productivity is fabulously expandable.
Productivity is good. So is getting rich - if only governments and those white liberals would let us.