Tuesday, 7 June 2005

Painkillers

Posted by Hello

Making freedom concrete

Many people misunderstand the nature of freedom. Many, many people. Most people however can easily identify what freedom is not, and when to run from places that it isn't.

So what exactly is it, then? 'Freedom' is not freedom from reality, as is sometimes claimed; it is not freedom to have your own way regardless of the rights of others; it is not a license to ride roughshod over others or their property. As Ayn Rand identified, 'freedom' means being being free to act upon one's own judgement, while recognising that same freedom in others: "Freedom, in a political context, has only one meaning: the absence of physical coercion."

Freedom is ... not freedom from the landlord, or freedom from the employer, or freedom from the laws of nature which do not provide man with an automatic prosperity. It means freedom from the coercive power of the state. [Rand]

There is sometimes confusion as to the 'limits' to freedom, as if for example rules against murder are a restraint against some sort of 'absolute freedom,' therefore we should drop the 'delusion' of freedom and agree that freedom is whatever society decides it is. This is of course errant nonsense:

It is not society nor any social right, that forbids you to kill -- but the inalienable individual right of another man to live. This is not a 'compromise' between two rights -- but a line of division that preserves both rights untouched. The division is not [ultimately] derived from an edict of society -- but from your own inalienable individual right. The definition of this limit is not set arbitrarily by society -- but is implicit in the definition of your own right.
Within the sphere of your own rights, your freedom is absolute. [Rand]
So how do you know you are free? Well, as it happens, David McGregor at SovereignLife asks and answers that very question this week on his weekly website update:

Let's get personal. How do YOU rate your own freedom? And what is it that defines the freedom you think you have? How would you answer the following?

  • Are you able to start a business without bureaucratic overload?
  • Are you able to cut down a tree in your own back yard?
  • Are you able to keep the money you earn?
  • Are you able to smoke marijuana?
  • Are you able to read any book, or see any movie?
  • Are you able to express your opinion without fear?
  • Are you able to gamble at offshore online casinos?
  • Are you able to travel without undue harassment?
  • Are you able to buy, sell or trade whatever you like?
  • Are you able to keep your personal information private? The list could go on, but you get the drift.
Freedom, when it comes down to the wire, is the ability to make choices about your own life and property. Freedom is NOT about negating the same choices for other people. So, I cannot claim the freedom to steal another's property. Freedom can only be related to actions which do not impinge on someone else's freedom...
I think that freedom is best evaluated and defined by comparison to its complete opposite - slavery... This brings me to the conclusion that freedom is best measured by reference to how much of one's life remains in one's control.
How much of your life remains under your control?

Tiananmen remembered

Seventeen years ago thousands of pro-democracy Chinese students occupied Tiananmen Square for several weeks while the Beijing public held off the military by blocking convoys unwilling to shoot those in their way. For those of us watching at the time, we thought we'd seen it all before: the fall of the former Soviet regimes of Central Asia and Eastern Europe and the liberation of millions of human beings from their Communiust masters had begun in just such a way, and liberation had been effected in the main peacefully, and without bloodshed.

Not in China.

On May 30, protestors in Tiananmen Square erected a papier-mâché ‘Goddess of Democracy’ which for a time faced down the iconic portrait of Chairman Mao hanging from the gates of The Forbidden City. It lasted just five days before the killing began.

There has been no public commemoration in mainland China of the 17th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, but there has been elswhere:
  • In London local Chinese and officials gathered in Trafalgar Square last weekend to remember the victims of the massacre. "There are tears that flow in China for the children that are gone," said the lyrics of a song played on a stereo. "Oh children, blood is on the square. Oh children, blood is on the square."
  • In Hong Kong, thousands of protestors staged a candlelit rally to mark the pro-democracy rally that ended in the slaughter of 3,000 civilians.
  • In the US, the State Department called for China to provide a full accounting of those who were killed, were detained, or went missing during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations 17 years ago, and of "the government's role in the massacre."
Meanwhile, Human Rights in China (HRIC) have "launched a podcast series of interviews with participants of the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement." And the BBC have have archive reports including Kate Adie's on-the-spot reporting from the China of 1989.

LINKS: 17th Tiananmen aniversary passes in China - San Jose Mercury/AP
'Oh children, blood is on the Square' - Epoch Times
Thousands mark Tiananmen Square anniversary in Hong Kong - Fox News

US calls for accounting of Tiananmen Square deaths, detentions - US Department of State
HRIC launches podcast interviews for June 4th anniversary - UN Observer
1989: Massacre in Tiananmen Square - BBC News: On this day

TAGS: History-Twentieth_Century, Socialism,
Politics-World

One fewer meddling arsehole for Shania

Well, at least there's one fewer meddling arsehole blocking Shania Twain's house plans in the Upper Clutha after planner Andrew Henderson resiled on his evidence. Recent story here. Although Henderson's erstwhile colleague would still not be happy even with a camouflage net, it just shows that public exposure of these bureaucrats can achieve something.

Site Poll: Party vote progress

It's hardly a scientific poll, but it's amusing to me that at present my new 'party vote poll' on the sidebar has Labour equal with 'None of the Above' at five votes each, and the Greens one ahead of National at fourteen -- and Libertarianz out there at forty-five.

As I say, it's early days and hardly scientific, but it is amusing. To me at least. And helpful. Vote early and (if you must) vote often.

Prohibition works. Yeah right.

There's a handy list of the harms of prohibition up at Helen Hughes's' 'Speakeasy' newsletter site. If the Greens hadn't lost their freedom mojo (did they ever really have it?) they might themselves have spent some time at their weekend conference pointing out some of these iniquities, or trumpeting the new US report which calculates the cost of prohibition -- it's not cheap.

Sadly, their conference has ended instead with little of substance beyond name-calling (Peters as Hitler and a "snake oil merchant" -- one of which is at least correct -- Brash as sexist and racist), context-free scare-mongering (somebody has stolen all the clean water and it's all your fault), and a call for more theft in order to buy the votes of students.

So, nothing really new then, apart from the name-calling from Rod and Jeanette.

Monday, 6 June 2005

Inner courtyard of Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Taliesin East.' Of the hill, not on the hill. Posted by Hello

In dreams begins responsibility

Why don't people get excited about freedom? I'm not talking about the people who used to risk everything going over the Berlin Wall to freedom, or those Cubans who in a bid for freedom brave shark-infested seas on inner tubes ... I'm talking about most people in most modern democracies who have happily traded their liberty for a little temporary security, and in most cases have ended up with neither.

Why, as Bob Jones once asked when fronting a party promoting 'Freedom and Prosperity!' is it so easy to promote prosperity, and so damned difficult to get people excited about freedom? The answer, dear reader, is that to be free means to be free to fail, and as HL Mencken observed, "most people want security in this world, not liberty." To be free means to take responsibility for one's actions. Too frightening. Much easier, many people think, to hide behind Nanny's skirts instead.

As libertarians often point out, the flip side of freedom is responsibility. If you are free to live your life as you choose, you must also assume responsibility for your choices. You cannot saddle someone else with that responsibility; in particular you cannot make him pick up the tab forchoices that have adverse consequences. Like teenagers still living at home, it's amazing how far some people will go to escape that fact, or to evade it.
  • In a bid to get all heads into one noose, liberal intellectuals try to prove that responsibility is an impossibility by preaching the doctrine of determinism – i.e. none of us can help what we do, all of us are helpless playthings of our genes and our environment, and the successful businessman is no more responsible for his success than the criminal is for his dishonesty, or the politician for her power-lust.
  • In a bid to tie us all to the state, politicians offer womb-to-tomb security, while relying on an all-care-no-responsibility get-out clause for their own innumerable failures.
  • In a bid to smoke their pot and eat their cake too (and to mercifully overlook munchies metaphors like that last one) many advocates of marijuana reform like to ignore the health problems associated with the drug's use, and demand that others pay for their lifestyle choice.
Says Tibor Machan, "There simply are too many people who want to take shortcuts, refuse to take responsibility for their own conduct and believe they can get away with this—and sadly often do—by calling upon the government to force others to shoulder burdens they ought to assume." But without responsibility there can be no freedom, and nor can their be any maturity. Like teenagers still living at home we must all, if we want to be fully human, someday spread our wings and feel the warm winds of freedom beneath us.

Taking responsibility for ourselves is not just the first step towards freedom, it is also the first step towards making those successes possible, and rewarding ourselves for them. In the modern parlance, it is 'taking ownership' of our lives. 'In dreams begins responsibility' said Yeats -- to truly live our dreams, we must begin to take responsibility for them.

He's right, you know.

Libertarian-bashing for fun (and Nozick)

There's some instructive libertarian-bashing going on over at Richard Chappell's 'Philosophy, et cetera' blog, based largely it seems on the poor chap having to wade through the late Robert Nozick at school -- for which he has my sympathy. Read here and here and here (and half a dozen posts either side, to boot).

It's instructive for two reasons, the first because of his wonderful use of the Straw Man argument, at which poor Richard is a master; the second because it underscores once again just how bad are Robert Nozick's arguments for liberty -- as Sean Kimpton pointed out in 'The Free Radical' a few years back. When it comes to defending liberty, as Sean concludes, Robert Nozick, like many anotther supposed advocate for freedom "while advocating a libertarian political philosophy is doing more harm than good..."

[Nozick] is considered by academics to be the leading advocate for libertarianism and freedom amongst modern political philosophers, but his weak arguments are too easily trumped by self-serving intellectuals who only feel obliged to answer Nozick, rather than more substantial political thinkers like Rand....

But perhaps it is the very weakness of his arguments that add to his attraction, he is the ideal libertarian straw man - easy to knock down, and to burn while he's down.

But Nozick does have value. He shows us that if your arguments lack foundations you will undo your conclusions, no matter how true they might be.


[UPDATE: My detailed response to Richard's arguments are here. My more 'spirited' response is here.]

Junk science - junk philosophy

Enough of junk science supporting authoritarian environmental agendas and political power-trips, says Tibor Machan, we need to be equally alert to "junk philosophy put in the service of political utopia."

Tibor points out a recent unwelcome (and incorrect) trend in which "the ordinary, simple idea of a single person will come to seem quaint some day." We should, say the advocates of this stupidity, come to see ourselves not as individuals but as "nations" or "teams." Tibor says they've kicked an own goal. Read more here.

Saturday, 4 June 2005

To Fly


'To Fly' by David Knowles. Liberating!

Greens losing their freedom mojo

Many, many New Zealand Green supporters are enthusiasts for personal freedom. It's true. They want government busybodies out of their bedrooms, government hands away from their films, magazines and books, and government agents out of their pot plant patch.

Every time we run a 'World's Smallest Political Quiz' booth, Greens supporters consistently score in the 40s to the high 90s for personal freedom, yet the only place this is reflected in Greens policy is their cannabis policy -- and their only MP advocating relaxation of cannabis laws has been demoted in their list in part for doing so.

And one thing more: on the conviction and sentencing of Schapelle Corby, New Zealand's Greens have been studiously silent when all logic surely tells them that -- guilty or innocent -- poor Schapelle is a martyr to the War on Drugs to which their principles shoudl tell them they should surely be opposed. What better 'poster-person' for legalisation do they want, and just in time for an election in which they're struggling to find the king-hit issue they found in 2002?

The Australian Greens have been more vocal, but even they have refrained from pointing out how the War on Drugs has martyred Schapelle. Speaking on TVNZ's 'Agenda' programme Australian Green Senator Kerry Nettle (here to speak to the Greens conference) defended the unproven assertion of Australian Greens' leader Bob Brown that Schapelle Corby "would never have been convicted in Australia," but failed to even mention the iniquity of the drug laws that convicted her. It's okay for Greens to criticise the Indonesian justice system it seems, but not the injustice of their own country's laws.

The Greens have lost their freedom mojo, if indeed it was ever really there.

Question for Act's libertarians

If you're going down anyway, then why not use the public platform you've got, eschew compromise and scandal-mongering, and start saying what you really believe?

Or say what you say you really believe?

 What have you got to lose that the polls are saying you haven't already? If not now, when?

 Here's five things you could try saying that at the moment you're too scared too:

  1. Abolish the RMA. No, don't say "review," "reform" or refine." Use the 'A' word! Tell people you want to liberate property owners and put a stake through planner's hearts. 
  2. End the War on Drugs. You tell people you're the party of freedom -- and show that you mean it. This would really put the acid on the Green Party authoritarians, and you might even pick up a few of those Green voters sick of their party's ban-everything wowserism. Even just joining with Milton Friedman in saying 'Legalise marijuana' might help you feel better about your libertarian credentials and help you sleep at night.
  3. Privatise, privatise, privatise. Don't fiddle, tinker or bugger about with Government departments and state assets and "PPPs": sell, give away or otherwise dispose of them all. Give back the schools and hospitals to those using and running them, recognise the property rights that already inhere in beaches and foreshore, and let the government lease the Beehive to hold cabinet meetings. 
  4. Abolish the Treaty of Waitangi and rescind the 'Treaty Principles.' Replace the Treaty with a constitution protecting individual rights, regardless of colour. 
  5. End the DPB. Put a nine-month time limit for the final date, announce that there will be no new beneficiaries accepted to the unaffordable scheme after that date, and start taking those currently on it off it when their kids get to three years of age. You've got a candidate advocating it, so why not start shouting it from the rooftops!  
 Get all that off your chest (and get rid of all those bloody suits) and then people will at least be able to tell you apart from the Nats, and if you are going down you can at least do so with the dignity of having spoken your mind.

It's better to die on your feet than live on your knees, isn't it? And if you are still alive after all the dust has settled, well then, you really would be a party of freedom, wouldn't you.

 [ADDENDUM: My poor arithmetic corrected (Thanks Berend.)]

Tosca


A wonderfully dramatic 1899 playbill for Puccini's 'shabby little shocker.'

Friday, 3 June 2005

Milton Friedman endorses landmark marijuana report

The influential Forbes magazine has the news today that "A founding father of the Reagan Revolution has put his John Hancock on a pro-pot report. "

Says Forbes, "Milton Friedman leads a list of more than 500 economists from around the U.S. who today will publicly endorse a Harvard University economist's report on the costs of marijuana prohibition.... Ending prohibition enforcement [in the US] would save $7.7 billion in combined state and federal spending, the report says..."

The report can be found here, and a Forbes magazine special on 'the new cash crop' here.

Friedman's support legalisation is not just about simple economics. "
"I've long been in favor of legalizing all drugs," he says, but not because of the standard libertarian arguments for unrestricted personal freedom. "Look at the factual consequences: The harm done and the corruption created by these laws...the costs are one of the lesser evils."

"There is no logical basis for the prohibition of marijuana," the economist says, "$7.7 billion is a lot of money, but that is one of the lesser evils. Our failure to successfully enforce these laws is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in Colombia. I haven't even included the harm to young people. It's absolutely disgraceful to think of picking up a 22-year-old for smoking pot. More disgraceful is the denial of marijuana for medical purposes."

I look forward to intelligent discussion and dissemination of the report here in New Zealand, where the costs and effects of prohibition and the dangers of the therapeutic state are sadly still too little recognised, despite the best efforts of NORML and Christchurch's Mild Greens.

[Hat tip Keith Halderman.]

Supply and demand different for illegal markets

Black market goods such as illegal drugs don't follow the usual rules of supply and demand, argues Mark Kleiman here.

If Californians were allowed to grow, sell, and use intrastate marijuana for medical purposes, Kleiman argues that the resulting reduction in demand for illicit marijuana would actually raise prices on the national marijuana market, rather than lower them as the textbooks would say. It's all to do with the dominant costs of your product, he argues, and when "the dominant cost facing any producer is the cost imposed by law enforcement" then the cost mechanisms are just a little different than normal.

European dis-union

The European Constitution had to fail says Robert Tracinscki here, pointing out the irony that Dutch and French voters had opposite motives but the same effect. The Dutch in the main opposed the growth of bureaucracy; some French 'Non' voters were opposed to what they thought was a free-market Europe. Barring resurrection (never something you would put past the Eurocrats) the result is a dead constitution. Good. It was a mess, "a jumble of pieties, giving canonical status to sentiments such as [that] 'the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen' should be protected."

The problem with the European constitution is certainly not that it goes too far toward implementing free-market capitalism. Quite the opposite: it consists of the establishment of a giant, all-powerful, unaccountable bureaucracy.

"Part of the problem," concludes Tracinski, "is that Europe cannot unify because it does not know whether it wants to be capitalist or socialist." That's been the problem with the European project from day one, hasn't it. "The Europeans will not discover a way to unite Europe until they discover and embrace the benefits of capitalism. And that is why the European constitution had to fail." Read the entire piece here.

Epsom Poll result

Just finished a phone interview with Dunedin’s Radio One discussing Shania Twain’s house, foreign ownership of land, Hubbard’s new Beauty Board and the ARC’s ‘Plan Change 6.’ News of Auckland’s idiocies travels fast it seems.

I’ll post shortly the actual outcome of the Poll deciding whether or not I stand in Epsom. The race was the first to get to 250: with 526 votes cast and a serious last-minute flurry of votes, 253 voted Yes, 254 voted No, and 19 still don’t have a clue where Epsom is.

That’s about as close as an Arabian afternoon, so I just need to confirm my recollection of which got to 250 first, and see if a screen shot of the result at that time is possible. In the meantime, here’s the screenshot when the poll was shut down. Talk to you soon.

[UPDATE: I can confirm that the first to 250 was the 'No! Dont Stand!' vote, but there were only three votes in it at 8:30pm last night when the target was reached. Very close.

So that's it. I'm going to spend my time out around the country helping the campaigns of other Libz candidates, and right here at this computer keeping this blog fresh -- which suits my own inclinations to a tee, particularly as I don't think Epsom is going to be the battleground some think it might be.

As Graeme Hunt suggested on Breakfast TV this morning, ACT are a dead party walking with "no chance of winning a constituency seat." Epsom is not going to save ACT.]

Quiz: What kind of mind do you have?

Here's a quiz for a Friday: Find out the way you think, and what kind of mind you have in a BBC quiz here. Say the BBC, the "quiz is intended to be a fun way to learn about different thinking styles. It can provide you with some interesting information about your preferred ways of creative thinking and problem solving."

Apparently I'm a 'spatial thinker' in the company of Michelangelo and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, so clearly an accurate quiz then :-) Mike, Izzy and myself:
  • Tend to think in pictures, and can develop good mental models of the physical world.
  • Think well in three dimensions
  • Have a flair for working with objects
The quiz also concludes that I'd make a good architect -- fortunate really. Or a mechanic. My car wouldn't agree.

Those old WMD blues again

For those still opening their mouths about Weapons of Mass Destructionn and letting the wind blow their tongues around, specifically over the supposed absence of said WMD, then repair ye to Irfan Khawaja's blog where he examines soundly both the claims and the Weapons Inspectors' reports.

Some of the participants on this thread could sure use the insight.

Says Irfan,
Every schoolchild knows by now that Iraq had “no WMD,” and that we could easily have avoided war if only we had “let the inspectors do their work,” because “the inspections were working.”

Unfortunately, every schoolchild is dead wrong on both counts. One of my long-term projects on this blog is to drag those of you willing to face the evidence kicking and screaming through every last bit of it to explain why. It’s going to be an excruciatingly tedious task, but when the stakes are as high as they are, I find tedium preferable to falsehood. My hope is that some of you do, too. Read on here.

Site poll: Your party vote

I can declare that with over 520 votes cast that the Poll to decide whether or not I stand in Epsom for Libertarianz has now closed. The result is as close as tonight's poll announcement of a 1% gap between Labour and the Nats.

So after appropriate scrutiny and the necessary libations, I'll announce the result in the morning. [For background and earlier comments on this poll see here and here.]

So now a new poll, entirely unscientific -- although you're welcome to boasting rights if you earn it -- that will help me work out who's reading this blog. As always, vote early and vote often. :^)

Thursday, 2 June 2005

New NPC

As a Counties rugby fan this news just seems too good to be true, so I' ve been waiting to find the catch. According to the announcement today by the NZRU of the new NPC, Counties will be playing their rugby in the new 14-team Premier Division next year!!

There's a catch in it, there has to be ... should I wait before I celebrate properly?

Greene and Greene

The original California Bungalow: Greene and Greene's 'Gamble House' in Pasadena, California.

Ironically, this beautiful home would be considered 'unsustainable' under Auckland Regional Council's 'East-German' 'Plan Change 6,' because it "undermines public transport" but almost compulsory in some of Auckland City Council's Heritage Zones -- but then only in seriously watered down form, designed and drawn up on vellum, by an approved Heritage Architect (using Jeremy Salmond would get you to the top of the council's list), and only with a Resource Consent .

Be nice to have a choice about the houses we build on our own property, now wouldn't it? Good luck with that.

East Germany in East Auckland

Back in the twenties when the villas and bungalows that many Aucklanders love so much were being flung up across Auckland, and town planning and zoning regulations were still just a twinkle in a busybody's eye, about that time a young Swiss poseur called Le Corbusier began promoting something he called the Radiant City. Here it is below.

If you find 'radiant' the thought of row upon row of grey, unappealing concrete boxes full of bourgeois-proofed worker housing hovering above a barren and hostile landscape, then you'll find Corbusier's city is just the thing -- and perhaps you should move to the former Soviet bloc where whole radiant bourgeois-proofed cities of this kind of wall-to-wall worker housing were thrown together, and into which people from Leipzig to Vladivostok were thrown. East Germany’s Halle-Neustadt shown below is an example of this appallingly inhospitable place -- ‘Hanoi’ as its residents
so
on came to call it.

Corbusier's 'radiant city' was also very popular with western planners after the war when zoning regulations and town planning took hold with a vengeance. The plans were never popular with the people who had to live in them however. The Pruitt Igoe housing complex in St Louis (below) was eventually blown up when it became apparent that like many 'brave-new-world' housing projects blowing up was actually the only solution for it.

As the schemes for worker housing became increasingly uninhabitable, the plans for radiant cities drawn up by planners quietly began to be shelved, but the town planners themselves were harder to get rid of, and they began to look around for other pastures to pollute.

Jane Jacobs pointed out in ‘The Death and Life of American Cities’ that some of the places so hated by Corbu and the planning fraternity actually worked very well. The ‘mixed use’ of streets of terraced housing and brownstones in places like Manhattan she pointed out are very good places to live, with private houses often cheek by jowl with shops, cafes, and the like all an easy walk away. People choose to live in such places because they like them.

So too with the explosion of the suburbs – people everywhere including NZ like living in their own house in the suburbs. But planners hate suburbs. Too bourgeois! And they never really understood Jane Jacobs. They drew up plans that zoned the hell out of everything, ensuring that ‘mixed-use’ became a dirty word, and restricted the density of suburban subdivisions, thus ensuring more of the sprawl they are so against.

Planners hated suburbs all the more for the sprawl they themselves created. American suburbs are “a chaotic and depressing agglomeration of building covering enormous stretches of land,’ said, not a planner, but a book titled ‘The New Communist City’ produced by Moscow State University, whose graduates has designed Halle-Neustadt. Western planners agreed with those graduates, and bought into their “search for a future kind of residential building leading logically to high-density, mixed-use housing.”

Thus was born a new movement called ‘Smart Growth’ that eager young planners have subscribed to in droves. Portland, Oregon is the home of this drivel, and as an eager young Portland planner told a reporter in the late sixties, "We got tired of protesting the Vietnam War, read Jane Jacobs, and decided to take over Portland." They did, and the city is only now beginning to recover.

With the zeal of those for which there is only ‘one true way,’ smart-growth advocates gloss over Jacobs’s’ key point that choice is the key to what makes some places work and other places just suck, and they declared that everyone must live in the one true way prescribed by the planning profession. In Auckland we now have a document to ensure that everyone will.

Plan Change 6’ from the Auckland Regional Council sounds like it could have been written by that same team of Moscow State University graduates who built Halle-Neustadt, and it reads the same way. The document has been written with one eye on the Radiant City and the other on the public transport network that exists only in the heads of city planners.

Under ‘Plan Change 6’ no growth or activities will be allowed outside the Metropolitan Urban Limits, or outside existing town centres without the express permission of ARC planners. None. Countryside living according to this document is “unsustainable” and “undermines public transport.” How they must hate people making choices for themselves! This provision is in essence a plan to end countryside living and to make rural New Zealand a National Park.

Meanwhile, inside the Metropolitan Urban Limits plans are taking shape to force developers to build the slums of tomorrow. All development must take cognisance of the ARC’s plans for the public transport that doesn’t really exist and that few care to use. Minimum densities and minimum heights are prescribed for developments near transport ‘hubs.’ ‘Sprawl’ and private cars are the enemy, and gross intensification is the answer prescribed by the ARC planners.

If you felt yourself wanting to Sieg Heil as you read all this then go right ahead – you’re on the right track with where it’s all heading.

Under ‘Plan Change 6’ from the ARC, as the old joke goes, whatever is not illegal has become compulsory. Countryside living is to become banned; new suburbs discouraged; high density intensification the wave of the future. And the very villas and bungalows that are loved so much and were thrown up back before planning was born are now to be protected in heritage zones, even as council plans strive to ensure that such swathes of ‘unsustainable’ suburbia are never built again.

And the choice of people to live where they want in the manner of their own choosing will once again be taken from them by the zealots of central planning.

O brave new world! O worker housing! "Oh," as many Aucklanders might now be thinking, "My God!"

IRD approval for your spouse

When income tax was first introduced in the US in 1913 -- a constitutional amendment was required for its introduction -- one Senatorial opponent declared "A hand from Washington will be stretched out and placed upon every man’s business; the eye of the Federal inspector will be in every man’s counting house . . ." And so it has been there, and so it is here in New Zealand.

That prying eye and government hand is now taken for granted in our businesses, so much so that when the NZ IRD send this out in their latest 'Payroll News' they presumably expect barely an eye will be raised in response:
If you employ your spouse or civil union partner in your business (unless your business is a company) you will need approval from us to pay them wages.
Happy with that?

Top ten hits this week

Some interesting, not to say odd, hits here this week. I'm quickly coming to think that when it comes to Googling, 'odd' is normal.

1. rob moodie contempt (5th)
2. midgets fighting lion/midgets and lion
3. kyoto sceptic” (1st on Google)
4. live aid geldof war ethiopia “wheat militias” (1st, Yahoo)
5. vietnam tax department (3rd)
6. classic sex/classical sex (8th)
7. sex pc (4th)
8. what happened to the fucking money” geldof (3rd & 4th, Yahoo)
9. lion midgets (2nd)
10. geldof wolf wheat militias (1st, Yahoo)
11. schapelle corby sentence compared to other sentences (1st, Yahoo)

For all but one, I've helpfully added links to where I think the searcher intends to go. Except for one -- for 'sex pc' I've added my phone number. ;^)

'Democracy in Iraq' is back

Good to see that blogger Democracy in Iraq is back online after a difficult two months. He says, "I lost internet connection due to funds, I was arrested for a few weeks, and then Baghdad was attacked by insurgent attacks. I am however, by the grace of God, alive, I can say that and many others cannot."

Despite his difficulties he remains as positive as ever. "Although I have to be frank and say it has been a bad last few months, I hope that this summer will be good. The Iraqi army, yes the Iraqi army, not the American army, has begun operations to clean up Baghdad. Let us hope that they spread from there across Iraq." Indeed.

Billboards

National's new election billboards are on display over at David Farrar's blog, and apparently going up around the country. You have to admit, they look good. Made me think of a few more:

HIGH TAXES:
LABOUR - Have a packet of PK in 2008.
NATIONAL - Gone (sort of) by Xmas 2006. We think.
LIBERTARIANZ - Gone by lunchtime.

THE R.M.A.:
NATS/ACT - Tinkering and reviews.
LIBZ - Gone by lunchtime.

THE WELFARE STATE
LABOUR - Drift net.
NATS - Safety net.
ACT - A hand up.
LIBZ - Gone by lunchtime.

TREATY OF WAITANGI:
NATS/ACT/LABOUR - Our Founding Document!
LIBZ - Gone by lunchtime.

THE WAR ON DRUGS:
NATS/ACT/LABOUR - Step it up!
GREENS - Slow it down!
LIBZ - Gone by lunchtime.

MINISTRY OF WOMENS AFFAIRS:
NATS/LABOUR - Um, ah.
LIBZ - Gone by morning tea.

Hmmm, I can see a theme developing here. ;^)

ACT protecting property rights

ACT's Rodney Hide gave a speech yesterday in which he resurrected the New Zealand Party slogan from 1984, 'Freedom and Prosperity.'

Nothing wrong with that, it's a great slogan, and if a party's policy being enacted is a measure of election victory, then Bob Jones's New Zealand Party won that election by a mile. Bob Jones always maintained that selling the 'prosperity' part of the package was easy, it was selling people on the 'f-word' that was a little more problematic.

So it is with Rodney's speech.

Rodney declared that in order to be free and prosperous, we need four things: Tax cuts, Tighter control of government spending, Sanctity of private property rights, and Freedom to contract. A few things missing there, but let's agree that all these are necessary, if not sufficient.

I'm particularly happy that Rodney is in favour of protecting property rights, so I leapt straight to that section of the speech to see how he proposed to protect them. Property rights, you see, are a bulwark of freedom and the key to both prosperity and environmental success -- and to freedom -- and they've been under vigorous attack from the Local Government Act, the Public Works Act and the Resource Management Act for some years now, as I'm sure Rodney knows.

They're under attack now in Auckland City from Hubbard's new board of aesthetic advisors; they're under attack in the Upper Clyde with the decision to disallow Shania Twain the right to build her house on her own land; they're under attack in the Waikato with a bullying SOE trying to force pylons and power lines across the property of unwilling farmers; they're under attack in Greater Auckland with the Auckland Regional Council's 'Plan Change 6' -- hell, property rights are under attack everywhere!

So what is Rodney proposing for the protection of property rights? After rightly bemoaning the present state of affairs, he declares ACT "will ensure that property rights are never taken without compensation." Huh?! That's what ACT call protecting the sanctity of property rights? Subsidising theft? Sheesh!

Tell the Waikato farmers that's what their property rights are worth. Tell that to Shania Twain, and to Andrew Borrett, jailed for five months for clearing bush on his own land. Tell that to the ratepayers of every council in the country who will be up to their eyeballs in debt to pay compensation to people who don't want it, but who just want their property rights protected.

Unfortunately, this disgraceful apology for property rights -- the idea that property rights = compensation for 'takings' -- has also gained traction in the US, where it is known as 'eminent domain.'
This is not the sanctity of private property rights, this is legal plunder. Time for a rethink, Rodney.

Earthlights

Have a good look at where the wealth is. Take a good look at the black hole of Northern Korea, and Central Africa. And contemplate that what the have-nots have not, is freedom.

Wednesday, 1 June 2005

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Envy

Envy is the leitmotif of much of what passes for public discourse in New Zealand, as evident on talk-back shows and in Letters to the Editor; in the clamour for knocking down tall poppies and looking for feet of clay in the greatest of heroes; in the glee with which people greet the downfall of achievers in any field of endeavour; and in the permanent sneers on the very faces of the standard bearers for the envious.


Envy is resentment of the achievements, strengths and virtues of others, dressed up in the bromides of moral indignation: “Who does he think he is?!” “You can’t be that successful without being a crook.” “Why should he get any credit for what he was born with?” “Just because he had a few lucky breaks…” etc. Students of envy have noted its close links with egalitarian doctrines such as socialism, and agree on one fascinating conclusion: the desire of the envious is not so much to have themselves raised up to the level of those whom they resent, but to bring the achievers down to their own level.

“The envious are more likely to be mollified by seeing others deprived of some advantage than by gaining it for themselves.” – Henry Hazlitt. “They do not want to own your fortune, they want you to lose it; they do not want to succeed, they want you to fail; they do not want to live, they want you to die…” – Ayn Rand. “The apparently innocuous demand for equality… in fact conceals only the desire for the demotion of those having more assets, and those who are in some way higher up, to the level of those lower down.” – Max Scheler.

Among the many sops to envy in New Zealand politics is the ongoing commitment to a ‘progressive’ soak-the-rich income tax system. Consistent with the above quotations, the system gains support precisely as the opportunities for individuals to prosper personally are increasing.

The ongoing dominance enjoyed by this emotional sickness is one of the main threats to New Zealand’s economic future.

“The time has surely come when we should stop behaving as though the envious man were the main criterion for economic and social policy.” – Helmut Schoek, Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. Tomorrow, 'Bill of Rights.'

Quiz: Are you an Austrian?

Here's a quiz for econo-geeks: Are you an Austrian?

No, it won't tell you whether you like neat pastries, Klimpt and operetta, ubt it will tell you if you're an Austrian economist, or likely to give houseroom to those who are. So are you an Austrian? Or are you perhaps a Keynesian, a Chicago-type, or a socialist? Go on, find out and 'fess up here.

I score 92% Austrian. Apparently I'm a little too Chicagoan. ;^>

Chinese free trade makes strange bedfellows

No Right Turn is more eloquent than Rod Donald when it comes to arguing against Helen Clark's free trade deal with China:
As for the wider issue of whether we should be pursuing free trade with a totalitarian shithole like China, the rest of Clark's statement - that if were only to trade with countries with similar values, it would be a very short list - has some merit, but only some. Because what's at issue is not the full western liberal democratic package, but the bare minimum we should expect from any country - things like not torturing people, not detaining them arbitrarily, and not driving tanks over them whenever they criticise the government, all of which China wantonly violates. And while it does show some welcome signs of moving in the right direction, it is still far from meeting even those minimum standards.
Fair points, all of them. Despite many enormously hopeful signs, China is still by no means a paragon of freedom. All the signs are however that it in moving in that direction. Where Russia went for political freedom while ignoring economic freedom, China is focussing first on economic liberation. As Mises Institute's Lew Rockwell said back in 1997,
This has resulted in a historic economic boom of double-digit annual growth, unprecedented freedom and prosperity for huge elements of the population, and a dramatic decline in government power. Within the lifetimes of every middle-aged person, the country has moved from mass starvation and terror to accommodating huge commercial centers that rival Houston and Montreal. The Chinese authorities can call it communism if they want to, but the system rising there is more Mises than Marx.
As Rockwell argues here, (yes, he can sometimes talk sense), trade with other countries is a tool of liberation. Can anyone doubt that if America had lifted its trade embargo to Cuba twenty years ago old busy whiskers Fidel would by now have joined Ferdinand Marcos in the graveyard of gone-and-almost-forgotten former leaders of totalitarian shitholes.

Trade with China is good for us, and it can be good for the Chinese. As Rockwell says "The anti-China crowd is proposing to punish the Chinese people for the infractions of the Chinese government." If NRT really wants to encourage more of those "welcome signs of moving in the right direction" that he and I both see, he should join me in welcoming this deal.

In the meantime and for once, I'm on the side of Helen Clark and NoRightTurn is on the other. Freedom sometimes makes for strange bedfellows.

Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries

This isn't my list of Books Most Harmful, I hasten to add, it's a list compiled by "a panel of 15 conservative scholars and public policy leaders." Plenty of the usual suspects here (and that's just on the panel) -- the authors include the likes of Hitler, Marx, August Comte and John Maynard Keynes.

If I was to remove two from the list they would be Betty Friedan's Feminist Mystique, and Charles Darwin's Origins of the Species. Having these in a list of harmful books is just nuts, as American conservatives of the kinder-kuche-kirke persuasion so often are.

What would I add? I'm pleased to see both Paul Erlich's Population Bomb and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring receiving much-deserved derision, but I would add Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac to the list, that bible of the deep-ecologists who maintain humankind is "the cancer of the planet." And I would also add to the list John Rawls' hymn to irresponsibility, A Theory of Justice, the justification for the modern school of 'it-wasn't-my-fault' whining.

What would be your two-and-two to add and remove?

Radley Balko has pointed out that the conservatives make money off these harmful books every time someone clicks through from the list to Amazon and buys one. He objects to that.

Steyn pots the Euroweenies

Mark Steyn is having some fun here this morning at the expense of the Euroweenies and Eurofetishists, who have yet to realise Europe has mired itself in a bureaucratically centralised pseudo-state. Yesterday's 'Non!' vote was an expression of voters' "reluctance to be bossed around by a regulatory regime that insists a one-size-fits-all rulebook can be applied from Ballymena to the Baltics."

Says Steyn:
The American constitution begins with the words "We the people". The starting point for the EU constitution is: "We know better than the people." After that, the rest doesn't matter: you can't do trickle-down nation-building.

Tuesday, 31 May 2005

Rod Donald's Chinese trade deficits

Rod Donald is bitching about a free trade deal with China, and sadly he is demonstrating he knows nothing about the free trade of which he complains.

Writing in today's 'Press' Donald argues, "I believe we will be better off if we don't lock ourselves into a free-trade deal with China."

Why? "We are already too dependent on China as a source of imported goods," he says. "In less than 12 months [China] is set to eclipse the US and Japan to become our second-largest supplier, behind Australia, but China remains well behind Japan, the US and Australia on the export side of our ledger."

'So,' you might well ask? What's the problem with that? The problem, says Rod, is [cue scary music] those nasty trade deficits! "While New Zealand's exports to China have grown more than 350 per cent since 1992," notes Rod, "we have had a trade deficit ever since then... For the year to March our $1851 million trade deficit with China was more than the value of our exports. In other words, we imported twice what we exported, and have now done so for seven years in a row."

And the problem with this is is what exactly? Are 'trade deficits' actually a problem? Only to a politician. Or a child.

Rod Donald has a child's view of how trade works. As economist Walter Williams explains:
I buy more from my grocer than he buys from me, and I bet it's the same with you and your grocer. That means we have a trade deficit with our grocers. Does our perpetual grocer trade deficit portend doom? If we heeded some pundits and politicians who are talking about our national trade deficit, we might think so. But do we have a trade deficit in the first place? Let's look at it. ...
You can look at it, right here. Send a copy on to Rod when you're done.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim

Can you see Hubbard and Hucker's Planning Advisory Taskforce approving this?

Consider the trees


Cartoon by Nick Kim, courtesy of The Free Radical.

The Greens who cried wolf

"A different sort of green literature has developed in the past few years - and it is not the sort the Green Party will happily hand out at its conference this weekend," says Colin James in today's Herald. [Hat tip DPF.]

Essentially, as Robert Bidinotto summarises the position, "A self-admitted former 'environmental groupie' within the mainstream media now contends that the environmentalist movement has lost credibility because of its scaremongering," and much debate has ensued. Essentially, there is a split between the traditional greens and those environmentalists that, as James describes it, are "not sceptical about pollution, biodiversity, climate change and so on but [are sceptical] about alarmist proclamations and using regulation to change behaviour."

I talked about this phenomenon here last month.

Now, we all know the Greens like scaremongering. We all know they dislike the idea of property rights and are in favour of central planning. We all know too that they like the word 'ban' -- 606 uses of the word on the Greens' site, and counting. Despite what we do know, however, the
Green's Frog Blog has weighed in, denying they're "instinctively in favour of regulation and against market mechanisms," but agreeing they are having this debate. Says the Frog:
One of the most lively debates on the Green Party members’ forums in recent months has centered around two pieces of environmental movement navel-gazing emanating from the United States: the first called “The Death of Environmentalism” and the second called “The Soul of Environmentalism”.
Bidinotto maintains in any case that the recent navel-gazing undertaken by environmentalists is misguided : "The underlying problem for environmentalists is not that they typically engage in factual distortions and scaremongering for a good cause. The problem is that their cause isn't good."

I commented on this debate briefly a few weeks ago here, mentioning "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, Econot.com."

Enjoying life is good for you

As a TV piece* last night argued, being fat, French and forty is mostly an oxymoron despite the fats, cream, oil and drinking so prevalent in their diet.

So why dont' they get fat, and why are their hearts so healthy? As the healthy hearts of Frenchmen and a recent book 'French Women Don't Get Fat' both suggest, a lifestyle that sucks the marrow out of life is good for you.

France might be one of the most heavily-regulated countries in the world -- on paper -- but, far from taking seriously all the anti-fun killjoys as we do down here in the South Pacific, when it comes to personal freedoms Frenchmen and women ignore the wowsers and get on with enjoying their pleasures, and they do it with gusto.

And it turns out it's good for them. Here's a case where 50 million Frenchmen actually can't be wrong.
=================================================================
* I think the piece was on TV3's 'Sixty Minutes,' but I can't remember for sure.

Mediocrity and meddling announced by Hubbard and Co.

Authoritianism and mediocrity go hand in hand. So how to judge Dick Hubbard's announcement of a 'scorecard to halt ugly buildings' and an 'urban design taskforce' to vet new buildings except as a whole-hearted embracing of both. Herald story here.

Giving council's pimply planners and the designers of the beyond-bland Aotea Centre carte blanche to decide what they think is attractive and to reject the rest is like giving Dick Hubbard aesthetic control over Peter Jackson's films, or allowing Bruce Hucker to vet Karen Walker's spring collection. It's a recipe for blandness and mediocrity, and for the establishing in the Queen City of a closed-shop 'design establishment' to which everyone must pay obeisance no matter the merits of the members.

Frank Lloyd Wright had to fight for sixteen years and through eight different designs in order to get his final design for New York's Guggenheim Museum past New York's planning establishment, even as the planners enthusiastically embraced the concrete-box public-housing disasters that within a decade became the slums of the sixties. Frank wasn't part of the 'establishment.' His innovations weren't welcome, and would be unlikely to score highly on Hubbard's scorecard either.

"A member of the taskforce who did not want to be named, told the Herald last week that most developers would welcome the stricter rules 'but some of the development community is going to be upset'." What the Herald doesn't say is that, due to recent regulatory and statutory impositions from government both central and local many members of the 'development community' are already former members of that 'community'.

Expect to see more designers and developers retiring from the business as the stranglehold of mediocrity and meddling takes over in Auckland City.

Carlos showing the form Lions haven't

Good to see that Carlos Spencer has travelled well to England, and along with Bruce Reihana and Mark Robinson has starred in the Barbarians thrashing of England's 'third' team. Obviously still short of running rugby in the Northern Hemisphere, The 'Times' liked what they saw -- report here.

The 'Times' also enjoys the predictions of former All Black coaches Mitch and Mains, as did I. These are “the worst Lions . . . that I can remember,” says Lozzer. Read more here.

Don't you love all this psyching out before big games. All the talk; the screens around grounds to suggest you've got something to hide? The psyching-out didn't work for Waratah's coach Ewen McKenzie did it? Who's the choker now, Ewen?

Rodney Wriggles for Epsom

I sense desperation. Rodney Hide is boasting on his blog that:

a) Willie Jackson has endorsed him for Epsom.

That should help.

b) The National Business review "on their blog" have "predicted" he will win Epsom.

Well, no it didn't (see for yourself here), and NBR's blog is not NBR. And as one commenter said there, the blog's assumption is incorrect anyway.

c) "my rival Dr Richard Worth [has] endorsed me.

Well, no he hasn't.

This is all pretty poor stuff even by Rodney's latest standards, as the bickering from ACT supporters in the comments section below his boasts seems to sense. 'Extreme right'? 'Liberal'? 'Neo-conservative'? 'Dry'? 'Wet'? Whatever sort of principles or values ACT represent, it's clear that ten years of parliamentary representation hasn' t expanded the market for them, and even their supporters seem unclear on what they are. There you go.

And in other Epsom news ... the poll to decide whether I'll stand in Epsom for Libertarianz is nearing a decision, with the 'Yes! Stand!' vote having just pulled ahead of the 'No! Don't' total for the first time. First to 250 wins the race, as I explain here. Vote early and vote often, right over there on the right sidebar.

Beauty pageant


Cartoon by Nick Kim, courtesy of The Free Radical.

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Constitution

As James Madison said, “If men were angels no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. This in a nutshell is the essential argument against anarchy, and for a constitutional republic. Men are not angels, and government needs to be controlled

Government in essence is like a guard dog: it is there to protect us from being done over by others. However, if that dog is badly trained and it gets off the chain, we can be badly savaged -- more than we would have been without the dog.

A constitution is our means of chaining up the government and training it to act only in our protection.

As I’ve said already, the task of government is to protect us against physical coercion and its derivative, fraud. Good government is the means by which retaliatory force is brought under objective control. A good constitution, properly written, brings the government itself under objective control.

Such a constitution was the intent of America’s Founding Fathers, but after nearly two-hundred years the success has been only partial. Building on the success of the US Constitution and seeking to close the loopholes exploited since its introduction, New Zealand libertarians have written a Constitution for New Freeland which sums up what TFR thinks a constitution should look like, and why:

· The job of government is to protect our rights – a ‘Bill of Rights’ clearly outlines the rights to be protected.

· The job of government is not to infringe the liberties of its own citizens without due process of law – a ‘Bill of Due Process’ clearly outlines under what circumstances and in what manner those liberties may be breached, and for what purpose.

· The US Constitution has suffered from interpretations that have often been at odds with the declared intentions of the Constitution’s authors – the Constitution for New Freeland puts the intentions of its authors on the record in the ‘Notes on the Bills of Rights and Due Process.’

Every good constitution relies on two further important restraints on the growth of Omnipotent Government:

1) significant public understanding and support for the constitution and its protections, without which politicians and advocates of a ‘living constitution’ can pervert the constitutional protections as easily as the simple agreements given in the Treaty of Waitangi have been perverted;

2) government’s powers are separated, so that each of government’s three branches – legislature, judiciary and executive -- has some specified veto power over the others. The imperfect separation of powers in our present NZ constitutional arrangements shows the dangers of being without these essential checks and balances on political power.

The task of constitutional law is to delineate the legal structure of a country’s law; it must therefore be superior to all other laws, and law stepping outside the bounds of what is declared unconstitutional must be able to be struck down – an accessible Constitutional Court makes this possible.

The superiority of a constitution to all other law is both a good thing and a bad thing. What’s good is that once a watertight constitution properly protecting individual rights is in place, it acts to chain up the guard dog and to keep it on its leash for good. What’s bad is that once in place, a poor or anti-freedom constitution is very difficult to get rid of.

As history demonstrates -- and the constitutional conference of 2000 and the current Select Committee review of NZ’s constitutional arrangements foreshadow – a bad constitution poorly written can give the erstwhile guard dog control of the back yard and the house, and rather than protecting us it then has no impediment to doing us over.
Liberty, as Thomas Jefferson suggested, requires eternal vigilance.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. Tomorrow, 'Bill of Rights.'