Monday, 4 July 2005

'Washington Crossing the Delaware,' by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. Posted by Picasa

Compromisers and meddlers destroy Costa Rica's libertarians

Sad news from Costa Rica about the parliamentary libertarians there, who have apparently gone native. Former activist Jorge Codina reports that the Moviemento Libertario (ML) is no longer a movement, nor any longer libertarian -- corrupted it seems by association with power and pragmatism. "The pragmatists are in control," says a tired, drained and clearly burnt out Jorge.

He puts the blame for the corruption of a fomerly principled parliamentary libertarian party firmly at the door of the 'classical liberal' Friedrich Naumann Foundation, an organisation whose lietmotif is compromise -- "you have to dump the ideology to get elected" said the unelected FNF to the already elected MLers, a message picked up by the pragmatists seduced by their proximity to power who have become politicians instead of libertarians, praising "good government" instead of freedom, and "efficiencies" over rights. Sound familiar?

As compromise replaces principle, the very reason for the existence of the Moviemento Libertario disapears, as the party is also now predicted to do. If politics has replaced principles, then how does ML fundamentally differ from any other bunch of power-lusters? Sad news indeed, and not without parallels here in NZ.

As Lord Acton once presciently pointed out, power corrupts ...

What do consent figures tell us about the property boom?

The number of Building Consent applications for new homes has plummeted (Bob Dey has figures here), prompting some speculation that the property boom is turning south. Maybe so, but I wouldn't be making those predictions based on these figures alone.

Fact is, there are a lot of other reasons for consent figures to plummet, most of them involved with out of control red tape flowing on from the leaky homes hysteria:
  • the many, many changes to the building code, which taken together have delayed the preparation of plans to be submitted for consent ;
  • the legion of associated uncertainties with these code changes, particularly as to who shoulders the risk should the prescribed methods, materials and details fail;
  • the long, long, loooong delays in getting consents processed;
  • the lengthy lead-times just to get an appointment to submit your consent application;
  • the number of builders and developers who have chosen to leave the industry because of much of this nonsense, a number which anecdotal evidence suggests is high.
Given all these impediments, it seems to me that you shouldn't take a drop in consent figures alone as evidence of an end to the boom, no matter the size of the decrease.

News from Iraq

A spoof interview here with some Iraqi insurgents. [Hat tip Silent Running.]

July 4th: Celebrating revolution

On July 4th, Mark Steyn reminds us that criticisms of the US for being 'unilateralist' are ever so slightly amusing when you realise that a position of 'unilateralism' is simply a euphemism for one of 'independence,' the concept for which the July 4 celebration is putatively held.

Why not abolish the holiday altogether, wonders Tibor Machan. A nation born in liberty now subjects itself to the very tyrannies and usurpations against which it once revolted, he says, so what is there to celebrate.
The Fourth of July ... is supposed to celebrate the Declaration of Independence and its revolutionary idea that it’s not governments, states, monarchs, kings, tsars, and the like who possess sovereignty. Rather we, individual human beings, are the sovereign ones. That idea was revolutionary then and, let me assure you, it is revolutionary now.
He calls for a recovery of the revolution in order to make the holiday meaningful. A first step might be an understanding of that revolution -- what it brought, and how it happened. What better time to learn (or re-learn) the history than today: constitutional scholar David Mayer has just the posts to help: he reminds us that the Founding Fathers brought about 'A Republic, not a Democracy'; he explains here how they went about doing it. And he reflects here on the 'Meaning of Independence Day.' Wonderful stuff.

[Hat tip to Stephen Hicks for the Mayer links.]
[UPDATE: I notice that on this July 4 No Right Turn is also celebrating the ideas that gave birth to the United States, and like Tibor he decries the present state of American liberty. Oddly enough, his reasons for thinking America needs a 'get well card' are rather different to those of Tibor.]

Property-siezing the beginning of Sovietisation?

Further commentary here from economist Richard Salsman on the Kelo et al v City of New London decision evicting people from their Connecticut homes to make way for a shopping mall. (My own earlier comment on this is here and also here.)

Salsman discusses the taking in the wider context both of planning and zoning laws, and he draws an even wider bow, arguing that Soviet-type five-year planning is the ultimate endpoint of the court's ruling.
It's worth understanding two other perverse aspects of the Court's majority opinion yesterday: 1) it justified the taking on the grounds that the municipality (the City of New London, Connecticut) had a "comprehensive plan" and 2) it held that the government not need even argue or guarantee that a taking will foster net economic benefits or greater tax-revenues. Now, what "plans" could be more "comprehensive" than, say 5-year plans for an entire nation, like those contrived by central planners in the former Soviet Union? According to the Court, the bigger, more comprehensive and more audacious the government plan, the more likely it will pass judicial muster in the future and the more it can entail unjust takings. Thus the Court only now condones unjust takings at the municipal level; it positively invites still-wider planning and takings at the state and federal levels. Worse, such central planning need not even pretend to engender net economic benefits. Take note, would-be central planners and ex-Soviet commissars: for there's now a welcome place for you -- in America.
He concludes by quoting two of the most cogent short arguments for upholding the right to property, those made by Atn Rand and by Jean-Baptiste Say, both worthy of your attention.

Nozick noodlings



My recent arguments with Richard at Philosophy et cetera (see below) might have put some of you off Robert Nozick altogether, which would be a little unfortunate. In the way of young philosophy students, Richard has taken Nozick's case for libertarianism to be the only case for libertarianism, and he's ended up criticising a caricature instead of the real thing; I spent some time pointing that out to no avail. (He subsequently decided that I'm "intellectually dishonest" because I don't fall into one of his favourite pigeon-holes, which is a pity, but at that point our discussion ended.)

Nonetheless, there is much of value in Nozick, as Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty has found:
I'm reading Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia right now, an my first impression is... "Holy Jesus this is good!"
That varies a little with the views of Sean Kimpton, who argued "while advocating a libertarian political philosophy [Nozick] is doing more harm than good." Feel free to form your own opinions. :-)
=================================================================
* If you're interested in the arguments, the following posts give my side, which each link to those of Richard's to which they are responding:
Linked Posts
: Why libertarians don't own their own bodies
The ‘problem’ of initial acquisition
Freedom, through thick and thin

Computer problems

I'm having computer problems here this morning. Normal transmission will be resumed as soon as possible.

Sunday, 3 July 2005

What a performance!

Now that was a better contest last night. Power, precision passion, and even a few punches, treated appropriately by the match officials too. All good to see, as was Graham Henry completely unable to keep an all-encompassing smirk of victory off his face in the after-match interview. Wonderful to see and he deserved every inch of his gloating, as did Tana Umaga's quiet pleasure at his try against the team that spent a week bleating about him. Good karma.

Because really there was only one team out there playing well; despite coach Woodward calling the Lions performance "great," it wasn't. It was great only by comparision with their pathetic performance last weekend, but compared with some of the truly great performances of previous Lions teams -- and of course by last night's All Black team -- it only passes muster in the space between Clive Woodward's ears. "Best prepared Lions team ever" my arse.

Despite the enjoyment of last night however, the series has frustratingly not lived up to the expectations we had of it; it hasn't been anything like that truly competitive contest the 2001 Lions had with Australia. The Lions players aren't up to it -- not one would make a First XV picked from those on display last night -- and Clive Woodward is now exposed as not being a coach's arsehole, and ungracious with it.

So perhaps for the last test we can help the Lions out in order to make it a contest to remember. To even it up we could lend them a few players and let them play with seventeen on the park. Marty Holah and Nick Evans might like the run, and Joe Rocoko could also do with a gallop, and he does know Eden Park. Could be fun for everyone.

And lending them a real coach might help them. Getting the Lions 0ut from under Woodward's tangled web would be a bonus for everyone.

Saturday, 2 July 2005

It's going to be a good night. :-) Posted by Picasa

Being nice

I've been accosted with a meme -- the blogging equivalent of a chain letter.

Apparently antibiotics can't cure it, which is the case with all viruses, so homeopathic catharsis is the only thing for it. The 'Respectful Disagreement Meme' requires of me that I name three people with whom I frequently disagree, and say something nice about them. Hmmm.

1) First cab of the block is a Sicilian from Brooklyn. Chris Sciabarra PhD, PhD, PhD favours extensive footnotes over forceful prose and chairs over buildings, and while his musical taste is generally excecrable -- current 'Song of the Day' on his site is 'Boogie Nights' for Freud's sake!! -- he can write the hind leg off a very big donkey.

2) Second cab off the rank, which in my estimation should be moving very fast in a direction away from me, is Doctor Fred Seddon, a man whose project to reconcile David Hume, Plato, Ayn Rand and Immanuel Kant sets me off like finger nails down a blackboard, but who ... sheesh .. do I really have to say something nice about all three people here?

3) I don't think I've ever heard Tony Benn say anything with which I've agreed, although I did admire him stepping down from being Lord Tony Benn several years ago, and he does have a black belt in boring, but now that he's like a sort of more statesmanlike JimAnderton -- relatively harmless, utterly ineffectual, and almost the last representative of an extinct species -- he's like a household pet you quite like having around just to feel sorry for.

So who am I going to tag with this virus? Anyone that wants to pick up the infection and run with it, that's who. Pick up thy pens and write. Or use a keyboard if you must. :-P

[UPDATE: Chris Sciabarra has tried to say nice things about me here. Great footnotes too. Dr Fred tried to say nice things about me in an e-mail. I doubt however that I'm on Tony Benn's mailing list, and I know I'm not on Jim Anderton's.]

Liberty and Reason

New blogs being added to my blogroll this morning:
  • 'Liberty and Reason,' a blog by a German libertarian. He's talking today about Climate Change and its Consequences.
  • The Thoughtful Libertarian, by American libertarian Stephen Druckenmiller -- and I can just hear many of you laughing that Americans understand neither irony nor oxymorons. He has a surprising libertarian conclusion this morning on the issue of gay marriage.
  • The Walrus, a blog from musician and American Objectivist Tom Rowland.
Enjoy!

Friday, 1 July 2005

'Before Night Falls'

If you're reading this now and you've put down the glass for the night, I've had a hot tip that the film 'Before Night Falls' on TV3 at 11:30pm tonight is worth a peek. Miss Liberty reviews it here. [Thanks Robin.]

The Real Head of British Intelligence


It's not Alastair Campbell, that's for sure.

Best this week here at Not PC

Best of the week on Not PC. All this and great art and cartoons too!

Nothing 'great' about Tax Debate
I saw nothing great at all about last night's Great Tax Debate on TVNZ. A lot of people bickering about how they would spend someone else's money…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/nothing-great-about-tax-debate.html

Lions win the spin
London's 'Independent' newspaper questions the spin-doctoring of the Lions Tour…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/lions-win-spin.html

Hostage hunts down arseholes
News in of the Swede held hostage in Iraq for 47 days who has "hired bounty hunters to track down his former captors, promising to eliminate them one by one…"
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/hostage-hunts-down-arseholes.html

Batman Shrugged
I'm not a fan of Batman, but I do like a good camp movie review. Quoth a Boston Indymedia reviewer of the new Batman movie: "What if Ayn Rand and Mussolini got together to write a Hollywood movie?
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/batman-shrugged.html

Brian O'Driscoll: Whinging Pom
When the test match finished on Saturday night my friends and I turned to each other and said, "What could Tony Blair's spin doctor possibly do to explain away that comprehensive thrashing?"--or words to that effect…. What he apparently decided to do was to turn Brian O'Driscoll from a felled Paddy into a whinging Pom…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/brian-odriscoll-whinging-pom.html

Live-8 losers
Like Live Aid, Bob Geldof’s Live-8 is more to do with making you and Bob Geldof and Bono feel better about themselves than it is about effecting real help...
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/live-8-losers.html

Bulldozing homes--and this is not Zimbabwe
The Supreme Court's agreement that people can be thrown out of their homes so that a shopping mall and a research centre for Pfizer can be built in New London, Connecticut has opened the floodgates…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/bulldozing-homes-and-this-is-not.html

Fed Farmers win property rights battle. War still ongoing
I was just going to blog on Jim Sutton's temporary, pre-election backdown on screwing farmers' property rights over the access issue when I found that Julian Pistorius had already said what I wanted to say…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/fed-farmers-win-property-rights-battle.html

Evicting the Justices opposed to property rights
News that one US libertarian is seeking to use the Supreme Court's new anti-property-rights ruling-- which allows the eviction of people from their own houses so that other people can build shopping malls and marinas over them -- to evict one of the Supreme Court justices that handed down the decision in order to build a hotel…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/evicting-justices-opposed-to-property.html

African debt relief on bFM, and elsewhere
Just got back from bFM and a very enjoyable interview with Simon Pound covering the counter-intuitiveness of African debt relief and Bob Geldof's Live Aid and Live-8 phenomena. Where did the "fooking money" go from the first Bob-Fest, and how is the latest feel-good frolic any different?
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/debt-relief-on-bfm-and-elsewhere.html

School sucks
Tibor Machan wonders why so many kids at so many schools seem so sick:
“The varieties of Attention Deficit Disorders in records boggle the mind, even as many of us have managed to pass through the system reasonably unscathed. Or have we? There are those who do not buy into this medical approach to assessing the problems with contemporary education. I am one of them…”
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/school-sucks.html

Education: £1 billion. "No impact."
Does just throwing money at education buy success? Um, no it doesn't…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/education-1-billion-no-impact.html

Govt bullying another school
The Ministry of Education has a new victim…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/govt-bullying-another-school.html

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Population
Rises most rapidly in areas least able to sustain it –- unfree, pre-industrial, semi-feudal, collectivist societies hostile to capital formulation and investment, where children are treated as a substitute for it…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/cue-card-libertarianism-population.html

Top ten searches to July 1st

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mile High Tower featuring large in this week’s top searches. Bishop Brian’s supporters still visiting to find out there heroes favourite tunes. And I do love getting tenth on Yahoo for calling Irishman Brian O’Driscoll a whinging pom. :-)

  1. frank lloyd wright mile high tower sketch (8th)
  2. brandens valliant (not on front page)
  3. mile high tower wright (1st on Yahoo)
  4. from libertarianism to welfarism (1st on Yahoo)
  5. tim wikiriwhi (7th)
  6. violent overthrow” penn & teller (4th)
  7. big mac index 2005 (2nd on Yahoo)
  8. bishop brian tamaki (10th)
  9. lord denning elephant definition (not on front page)
  10. brian o'driscoll (10th on Yahoo)

Other searches of note include "rush limbaugh owen mcshane kyoto," "fascism freedom tower," "what is the implication in the cognition of individual who does not have nursery room?" and "druglord2."

Nothing 'great' about Tax Debate

I saw nothing great at all about last night's Great Tax Debate on TVNZ. A lot of people bickering about how they would spend someone else's money, and demands from some morons that their money be taken from them by someone else because they themselves don't have the brains they were born with.

The only one who made any sense was the young chap subtitled bizarrely as 'Wrote a Letter to the Editor' who made a similar point to mine above, though much more politely and with a quote from Alan Greenspan*, only to see his well-made point totally ignored by the studio bickerers more interested in picking over the bones of other people's money.

And I noticed Roger Kerr might have 'gone Austrian,' saying inflation is a monetary phenomenon caused by the reserve bank. Quite right too.

[UPDATE 1: If you want to see the bickering again, or you missed it the first time around and want to look into the eyes of those who think your money is their's to dispose of, TVNZ has the whole sad, sorry show on their site, here.]
*[UPDATE 2: The young chap's name is Fraser Hungerford -- a 'christian surfer' apparently! -- and Greenspan's quote is this: "Stripped of its academic jargon, the welfare state is nothing more than a mechanism by which governments confiscate the wealth of the productive members of a society to support a wide variety of welfare schemes." It comes from his essay 'Gold and Economic Freedom.'

Thursday, 30 June 2005

Debt relief on bFM and elsewhere

Just got back from bFM and a very enjoyable interview with Simon Pound covering the counter-intuitiveness of African debt relief and Bob Geldof's Live Aid and Live-8 phenomena. Where did the "fooking money" go from the first Bob-Fest, and how is the latest feel-good frolic any different?

Julian Pistorius has very kindly put up an MP3 of the interview (thanks Julian). And the BBC's Radio 3 had a similar (but much, much more intellectual) debate this morning on the subject of altruism in general and the Make Poverty History campaign in particular. Contributors include evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and Ayn Rand Institute fellow Onkhar Gate. Listen here, and read details here.

Some useful links to this and related subjects:
Live-8 losers, Not PC
Altruism: It's about us, not them, Not PC
Think before you bomb, Daniel Wolf, Spectator
How Band Aid came unstuck on reality of relief, Daniel Wolf, Scotsman
Cruel to be Kind, Daniel Rieff, Guardian
Debt Sentencing, Cox and Forkum
Capitalism is the cure for Africa's problems, Andrew Bernstein
They know it's Christmas but are they actually helping?, Samizdata
Africa must learn the boring stuff, Mark Steyn
The private sector, political elites and underdevelopment in Sub-Saharan Africa, Moeletsi Mbeki
Reuters Live-8 site
Bono's DATA site
Geldof's Live 8 site
Make Poverty History site
World Bank Debt site

Batman Shrugged

I'm not a fan of Batman, but I do like a good camp movie review. Quoth a Boston Indymedia reviewer of the new Batman movie: "What if Ayn Rand and Mussolini got together to write a Hollywood movie? The result would look something very like Batman Begins--the new blockbuster prequel to the Batman screen franchise." Ooh er!

I think that means he doesn't like it. No bother. Robert Bidinotto did, and he loves even more the sniffy, wowserish review from the Boston Indymedia, self-proclaimed "Media Outlet for Radical, Accurate and Passionate Tellings of Truth":
You're absolutely right about one thing, fella — this Batman is the antithesis of your entire sick, parasitical, eat-the-rich, blame-the-victim-not-the-criminal, sacrifice-the-individual-to-the-collective-gang view of human nature and society. In the form of a mythic pop hero, Batman Begins presents a heroic, self-assertive and unapologetic view of human potential, individual self-responsibility and larger-than-life entrepreneurship. Batman is a fantasy archetype of heroic American individualism. So stick it in your ear, pal.
So there. Sounds like just the sort of movie the Libertarianz should be supporting. And it turns out we are. :-)

Hostage hunts down arseholes

Noodle Food has the story of
  • the Swede held hostage in Iraq for 47 days whao has "hired bounty hunters to track down his former captors, promising to eliminate them one by one". Ulf Hjertstrom told reporters, "I have now put some people to work to find these bastards,...I invested about $50,000 so far and we will get them one by one."
  • Australian Douglas Wood, who had the temerity to call his Iraqi captors "arseholes" after they let him go. Editor of 'The Age' Andrew Jaspan simpered "The issue really is largely, speaking as I understand it, he was treated well there. He says he was fed every day, and as such to turn around and use that kind of language I think is just insensitive." Clearly Jaspan wanted to be noticed too, so I'll do that now: "Arsehole!"

School sucks

Tibor Machan wonders why so many kids at so many schools seem so sick:
The varieties of Attention Deficit Disorders in records boggle the mind, even as many of us have managed to pass through the system reasonably unscathed. Or have we? There are those who do not buy into this medical approach to assessing the problems with contemporary education. I am one of them.
He sure is. Tibor doesn't think the problem is medical, so much as political. What do you expect, he asks, when you force the incredible diverse student population of today into a one-size-fits-all coercive model of education? Here's one example just yesterday. You try and force these young, impressionable, diversely shaped pegs into one-size-fits-everything holes, and then wonder why you need to start feeding them Ritalin. Who exactly are the idiots here?
So, upon doing so such students are declared sick, suffering from ADD of whatever, then plugged full of some drugs or sent for counseling or therapy, instead of the much-more-reasonable conclusion that they are being totally miseducated, mismatched to the system in place. It’s like beating someone to a pulp and then complaining that he is sick—what else do you expect? Whose fault is this? Is their malady natural or artificially induced?
What do you think?

Wednesday, 29 June 2005

The Future in Our Hands


Photo by Brett Holverstott of Stuart Mark Feldman's sculpture group, The Future In Our Hands. Review of the landmark sculpture by Michael Newberry here. "It is a brilliant achievement," says Newberry, "not only in the sense that it is a realization of the artist's ecstatic vision, but it also holds the exalted place of being an innovative work in the history of art."
[Hat tip once again to Stephen Hicks.]

Updating my comments system

As one commenter said here recently, if it ain't broke don't fix it. So I have. That is, I haven't. :-)

That is, I've found a way to have trackback and the previously not-broke comments system. I'll find out one day I'm sure why trackback is so essential, and meanwhile I'll persist with Blogger comments and Haloscan trackback. If you're interested, here's where I found the hacks to do what I had no idea how to do myself.

I do have an archive somewhere of the comments submitted over the last day, and I'll try and repost them on the new system shortly so they're not lost. I do value your comments, you know, even when I disagree with them. :-)

[UPDATE: Comments transferred from Haloscan to Blogger.]

PC on bFM Wire tomorrow

I'll be appearing on tomorrow's Wire on bFM to discuss the 'Live-8' phenomenon' that I discussed here yesterday. Listen up either on 95FM in Auckland, or use this live stream here at about 12:50pm.

Lions win the spin

London's 'Independent' newspaper questions the spin-doctoring of the Lions Tour and Graham Henry's reaction to it, and discusses some of the 'rules of engagement' set by chief spin doctor Alastair Campbell.

Fed Farmers win property rights battle. War still ongoing

I was just going to blog on Jim Sutton's temporary, pre-election backdown on screwing farmers' property rights over the access issue when I found that Julian Pistorius had already said what I wanted to say. There's the division of labour for you. :-)

Govt bullying another school

The Ministry of Education has a new victim: Al Madinah school in Mangere, convicted of "prioritising religion at the expense of the curriculum and segregating staff and students according to gender." Herald story here.

Now these values are not mine -- although they are it seems those of Bill English -- but they are the values of those parents who have chosen this school for their children. Some parents have certainly
decided it's not for them and they've withdrawn their children, but those who have stayed are apparently pleased with their own decision. Whose business is it to make that choice for them?

The busybodies have decided it's their's. Al Madinah is penalised for not fitting the state's model. The ministry has its own propaganda for schools to peddle, and has no time for that of another culture.

The problem is that the factory school system has as its chief criteria for success pleasing a bureaucrat, rather than pleasing the parents whose children attend the factory schools. When the values of the parents are significantly different to those of the bureaucrat -- or of the ministry, or of the minister -- then the bureucrat will always win, and diversity and choice is the loser.

Is this really what we want?

Evicting the Justices opposed to property rights

News that one US libertarian is seeking to use the Supreme Court's new anti-property-rights ruling-- which allows the eviction of people from their own houses so that other people can build shopping malls and marinas over them -- to evict one of the Supreme Court justices that handed down the decision in order to build a hotel. News here.
The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."

[The project's proposer] indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.
Hat tip Berend.]

Stake and CHiPs


Cartoon by Nick Kim, courtesy of The Free Radical.

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Population

Rises most rapidly in areas least able to sustain it –- unfree, pre-industrial, semi-feudal, collectivist societies hostile to capital formulation and investment, where children are treated as a substitute for it.

When awakening to the problem, regimes in such areas tend to deal with it in the manner most familiar to them: by coercion –- making sterilisation and abortion compulsory; limiting the permissible number of children couples may have; and in some extreme cases the encouragement of famine. Such methods are both wrong in principle and ineffectual –- and ultimately unnecessary –- in practice. For where technology is not permitted to support and sanitise life, nature is a far more potent destroyer of it than man-made prohibitions: the Malthusian spectre of plagues and famine becomes reality.

The real solution as always, is freedom and the rule of law – limited government; the protection of property rights; the freedom and enforcement of contracts; stability of and equality before the law -- which, by giving free rein to entrepeneurs, industrialists and inventors vastly increases the power of the earth to sustain life in increasing numbers. It also incidentally allows women to choose careers other than child-rearing, and entails the right to contracept by any means of one’s choice.

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.

Tuesday, 28 June 2005

Haloscan added

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog. Which adds trackback (a good thing apparently) but unfortunately seems to mean that all past comments have been deleted.

Bugger. :-/

Feel free to add all your past insults, insights and comments in the appropriate places. And don't cheat -- they are archived somewhere.

Award for authentic New Urbanism

An Alabama town has just pipped Stepford, Connecticut for a prestigious award as the 'Most Authentic' community in America. Report here.

A triumph of the 'new urbanism' town planning philosophy, the town of Mt Laurel, Alabama "hearkens to an earlier, simpler era that exists purely in the minds of its residents ... [and] takes pride in being one of only three towns in Alabama designed by someone who slept with Hitler."

Live-8 losers

Reports are emerging that at least some of Bob Geldof's Live-8 concerts are struggling for financial support. Reason magazine notes,
Live8's German organizer, Marek Lieberberg, admitted to 'The Independent on Saturday' that the July 2 concert "has failed to attract the support of politicians or business sponsors" in Germany. According to the British paper, "the lack of support meant the rock bands appearing at the event risked having to pay" for the million-euro show themselves.
What a pity (this by the way is irony). As I've noted here before, Geldof's previous excursion into global feel-good-ism probably did more harm than good, feeding the oppressors who manufactured famine rather than those he sought to help. David Rieff now makes a similar point; writing in Prospect Magazine he argues,
The millions donated to Ethiopia in 1985 thanks to Live Aid were supposed to go towards relieving a natural disaster. In reality, donors became participants in a civil war. Many lives were saved, but even more may have been lost in Live Aid's unwitting support of a Stalinist-style resettlement project ... The standard argument is that to do nothing is to acquiesce in whatever horror is unfolding, from Saddam Hussein's Iraq to the mass killings in present-day Darfur.... Yet an alternative case can be made: in the global altruism business it is, indeed, sometimes better not to do anything at all.
Geldof's bleeding heart offers the lesson that if it's the thought that counts, then you should at least make sure your thought is a good one. And here's a good thought: If you want to help the victims of bad governance -- which presently describes most of Africa -- then don't give the bad governments money, think first about what better government looks like. (And here's a clue: if it looks anything like Mengistu, Mugabe or Jospeh Stalin it' s not good at all.) But thinking thoughts like this is much too much skull sweat to demand of an aging pop star in need of a career transfusion; a much harder job by far than strumming a guitar and mouthing off like a sanctimonious cretin.

And being a sanctimonious cretin never harmed anyone's musical or political career, as the careers of Grateful Dead, Bono and Kofi Annan all attest. In fact, as PJ O'Rourke observes,
The principle feature of contemporary American liberalism is sanctimoniousness. By loudly denouncing all bad things -- war and hunger and date rape -- liberals testify to their own terrific goodness. More important, they promote themselves to membership in a self-selecting elite of those who care deeply about such things. People who care a lot are naturally superior to we who don't care any more than we have to. By virtue of this superiority the caring have a moral right to lead the nation. It's a kind of natural aristocracy, and the wonderful thing about this aristocracy is that you don't have to be brave, smart, strong or even lucky to join it, you just have to be liberal.
Like Live Aid, Live-8 is more to do with making you and Bob Geldof and Bono feel better about themselves than it is about effecting real help. Think about it.

Monday, 27 June 2005

'El Canal' by Capuletti Posted by Hello

Property Wrongs

From Cox and Forkum. Click through for commentary.

Bulldozing homes--and this is not Zimbabwe

The Supreme Court's agreement that people can be thrown out of their homes so that a shopping mall and a research centre for Pfizer can be built in New London, Connecticut has opened the floodgates. The white-shoed big-noters of Freeport, Texas have just declared this is the "last little piece of the puzzle" allowing them to throw people out of their homes so they can build a marina.

Sit back and watch the announcements tumble in, and realise that bulldozing people's homes for 'the public good' is not just something done in Zimbabwe.

Here's a further round-up of news and commentary on the original decision from Yahoo News, from David M. Brown, Edward Hudgins, George Will, Don Boudreaux, Tyler Cowen, and my own post on the matter, and a number of posts by Todd Zywicki and others at The Volokh Conspiracy.

And if you'd prefer not to sit back but to fight back, check out the The Castle Coalition, a project of The Institute for Justice.

[Hat tip SOLO and Stephen Hicks.]

Education: £1 billion. "No impact."

Does just throwing money at education buy success? Um, no it doesn't. The British have just found that "the government’s £1 billion campaign to raise literacy and numeracy standards in primary schools has failed to have any impact on GCSE results."

There's a lesson there if anyone cares to take it.


'Sheesh' to single-sex schools

If you've forgotten why no-one voted for Billy-Boy English last election, let National Party hack David Farrar remind you this morning. David has looked over the weekend's weekend's exciting National Party conference for you and pulled down the highlights, which this morning is this: Billy-Boy has looked at the wreck that is the state's education system (much of it the work of his own colleagues) and decided the solution is ... the establishment of "more single-sex schools."

Bill English: going straight to the heart of irrelevance. 'And he had graphs and everything,' splutters an impressed DPF. Sheesh.

Brian O'Driscoll: Whinging Pom

When the test match finished on Saturday night my friends and I turned to each other and said, "What could Tony Blair's spin doctor possibly do to explain away that comprehensive thrashing?"--or words to that effect.

What he apparently decided to do to take the heat off the worst Lions coach since Barnum and Bailey's lion-tamer was eaten was to turn Brian O'Driscoll from a felled Paddy into a whinging Pom. 'They hurt me,' whinged Brian, who then mentioned Tana Umaga, crying and his mother in the same sentence.

This year Brian could have won the Grand Slam for Ireland, and then captained the Lions to a series win against the All Blacks. He would have gone down in history as a hero. Instead, the Irish choked, his Lions side was completely outclassed, and he'll be remembered now only for mewling and pewking about a tackle that only he and Clive ever saw.

As Tana said a year or so ago, "We're not playing tiddlywinks here."
[UPDATE: A link here to a video of the ruck in which O'Driscoll was injured.]

Saturday, 25 June 2005

Liberty goes to the movies

If you're out at the movies anytime over the next few weeks, keep an eye out for 'An Introduction to Liberty,' a two-minute trailer put together by the Libertarianz.

Story here. Details here. Download here: (2 minute, 12MB version) (10 minute, but fewer MB version)

The face of Hate Speech Laws


Here's what Hate Speech Laws look like in practice:

Oriana Fallaci ...one of the most renowned journalists of the modern era has been indicted by a judge in her native Italy under provisions of the Italian Penal Code which proscribe the "vilipendio," or "vilification," of "any religion admitted by the state."

In her case, the religion deemed vilified is Islam, and the vilification was perpetrated, apparently, in a book she wrote last year--and which has sold many more than a million copies all over Europe--called "The Force of Reason."

Story here from the 'Wall Street Journal'.

Best of Not PC for this week (to 24 June)

Here’s just some of what you might have missed if you haven’t been visiting Not PC every day this week (shame on you!). All this, and great art too! Please feel free to visit and read the posts, to leave comments and insults, to forward suggestions for future posts to me-- and of course to forward blog-posts you like to everyone you’ve ever met. :^)

Confiscation beyond any reasonable doubt
No Right Turn is rightly concerned at the outrageous asset forfeiture laws being introduced by this Government which, if introduced, would allow assets to be seized on a civil ("balance of probabilities") standard of proof. As Idiot/Savant says, "if the bill becomes law, we won't just be seizing the property of those who are probably criminals, but that of those who might be
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/confiscation-beyond-any-reasonable.html

A black day for property rights everywhere
Property rights are under attack everywhere. New Zealand home-owners and farmers are given the finger by planners, mayors and Jim Sutton; Zimbabwe shop- and shanty-owners are given their marching orders by the urban planning bulldozers of Robert Mugabe; and now American home-owners have just been told to bugger off by no less an authority than the US Supreme Court…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/black-day-for-property-rights.html

Teaching honesty
I don't like government employees teaching children about things like honesty and other virtues they would know nothing about, which is why libertarians oppose this 'values-based' teaching programme, and are and in favour instead of a separation of school and state.
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/teaching-honesty.html

Morally-blind cricketers head to Zimbabwe
If it's true as Martin Snedden says that New Zealand cricketers "unanimously agreed" to tour Zimbabwe then, sadly, that says little for New Zealand's leading cricketers.
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/morally-blind-cricketers-head-to.html

Sprawl is good
People are at war with town planners everywhere. The high priests opposed to sprawl and the apostles of high-density have joined hands with the bossy busybodies of politics to force people to live in ways they don't want to, all in the name of 'sustainability' and knowing what's best for you -- and because voters let them.
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/sprawl-is-good.html

The Mozart effect
A new report now says that the Mozart effect is a fraud. Playing Mozart for your designer baby will not improve his IQ or help him get into Montessori school.
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/mozart-effect.html

Posturing poseur alert
I do love it when posturing poseurs are skewered. One leading practitioner of what I call neutron-bomb architecture (ie, architecture to kill the spirit of human beings) has been exposed by a client as a pretentious fraud. Speaking to a gathering to celebrate the completion of $15.8 million of repairs to Peter Eisenman's decade-old Wexner Art Centre, director Sherri Geldin took the opportunity to list, to the obvious chagrin of an increasingly crimson Peter, exactly why the building sucks:
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/mozart-effect.html

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Government
Ideally, the agency that protects our freedom; in practice, the agency that most routinely violates it. If freedom is the absence of compulsion, then a free society must have laws defining and banning compulsion…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/cue-card-libertarianism-government.html

Whaling
The vote on Japan's bid to overturn the International Whaling Commission moratorium on whaling may be over, but there is still lots of talk to come. Whatever happens at these meetings there's always lots of talk, particularly about "our whales" as Chris Carter keeps calling them.
I proposed a solution to the 'unowned resource' of whales a few weeks ago…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/whaling.html

Tax cuts writ large
TVNZ report: Labour says tax cuts are not affordable. Prime Minister Helen Clark says she couldn't look the electorate in the eye and say significant across the board tax cuts can be afforded, while maintaining spending in critical areas.
Perhaps we can give her some help…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/tax-cuts-writ-large.html

RMA reforms a lane-change, not a U-turn
The Government's proposed changes to the Resource Management Act are not so much a U-turn as a 'lane-change,' as even with the changes the RMA still proceeds in a direction that destroys property rights. This is minor tinkering, not major reform….
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/rma-reforms-lane-change-not-u-turn.html

Reforming superannuation the Reisman way
The problem of superannuation -- what Americans call Social Security -- is what predicated the 'Cullen Fund.' As baby boomers get older and there are fewer and fewer people in the workforce to pay for their pensions, the system begins to get into difficulty.
Invested wisely (as governments will always do) the 'Cullen Fund' is supposed to start picking up the tab at this point, just as President Bush's 'privatised' Social Security is intended to do in the US.
But as George Reisman says of the
US system, the "problem is that implementing the President's proposal would almost certainly mean a major increase in the government's power over business...
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/reforming-superannuation-reisman-way.html

Jared Diamond collapsed again, and again
Jared Diamond's influential theory of societal collapse 'attributes the demise of societies such as Easter Island principally to environmental degradation and destruction.'
I pointed to one critique of Diamond's thesis here some weeks ago, saying that his analysis ignores the historical importance of culture and of property rights in protecting against such 'degradation and destruction.' Here's another…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/jared-diamond-collapsed-again-and.html

Big Brother is bullshit
Fans of Penn and Teller's 'Bullshit'* will probably appreciate their 17min. debunking of America's PATRIOT Act, ostensibly introduced to fight terrorism in the US
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/big-brother-is-bullshit.html

Immigration -- agreeing with Jeanette
It's not too often that I agree with Jeanette Fitzsimons, but aside from the usual feel-good buzzwords there's not much to complain about here…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/immigration-agreeing-with-jeanette.html

Freedom, through thick and thin
As some of my blog readers will be aware, I have been engaged in a debate with Richard Chapple from the Philosophy et cetera blog who’s been enjoying bashing what he thinks to be libertarianism… I posted a reply to the so-called 'problem of initial acquisition' below, and here is a link to my second lengthy sally, 'Freedom, through thick and thin'…
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/freedom-through-thick-and-thin.html

The ‘problem’ of initial acquisition
Philosopher and academic Gerald Cohen has a problem with how values come into the world; how they came to exist. He calls this ‘the problem of initial acquisition.’ I call it trivial idiocy, but he and his supporters set great store by it.
Cohen argues that all the world’s resources were originally ‘jointly owned’ and therefore like Proudhon he claims that all property is therefore theft…
.
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/problem-of-initial-acquisition.html

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Force
The precondition of a civilised society is the barring of physical force from social relationships
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/cue-card-libertarianism-force.html

Coalition options
The Fairfax poll released this morning suggests 68% of people polled say they want coalition preferences known before the election.
As I've said before here, in my opinion the presumption of coalition is not necessarily a good one for a minor party.
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/06/coalition-options.html

Some thoughts on property rights

Given the growing concern over the diminution of property rights, and the recent and ongoing arguments here on that question, it seems timely to post Tom Bethell's chapter on The Blessings of Property (taken from his book The Noblest Triumph), and Tibor Machans's authoritative piece on the Right to Private Property: "The institution of the right to private property," says Tibor, "is perhaps the single most important condition for a society in which freedom, including free trade, is to flourish."

Here too are some further thoughts on property and freedom:

They who have no property can have no freedom. --Stephen Hopkins

The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property. --Karl Marx

The right to life is the source of all rights--and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave. --Ayn Rand

If history could teach us anything, it would be that private property is inextricably linked with civilization. --Ludwig von Mises

Where there is no private ownership, individuals can be bent to the will of the state, under threat of starvation. --attrib. to Leon Trotsky

Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place. --Frederic Bastiat

The moment that idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the Laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must be sacred or liberty cannot exist. --John Adams

Nothing is ours, which another may deprive us of. -- Thomas Jefferson

No other rights are safe where property is not safe. --Daniel Webster

The right of distribution over private property is the essence of freedom. --Merrill Jenkin

Only a ghost can exist without material property; only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort. The doctrine that human rights are superior to property rights simply means that some human beings have the right to make property out of others; since the competent have nothing to gain from the incompetent, it means the right of the incompetent to own their betters and to use them as productive cattle. Whoever regards this as human and right, has no right to the title of human. --Ayn Rand

If we would have civilization and the exertion indispensable to its success, we must have property; if we have property, we must have its rights; if we have the rights of property, we must take those consequences of the rights of property which are inseparable from the rights themselves. --James Fennimore Cooper

Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can. --Samuel Adams

A man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions. --James Madison

The American moron . . . wants to keep his Ford, even at the cost of losing the Bill of Rights. --H. L. Mencken

Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty. --John Adams

Government is instituted to protect property of every sort. . . This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own. --James Madison

Liberty and property is the great national cry of the English. . . It is the cry of nature. --Voltaire

The great chief end therefore, of Mens uniting into Commonweaths, and putting themselves under Government, is the Preservation of their Property. --John Locke

The tragedy of the commons as a food basket is averted by private property, or something formally like it. --Garret Hardin

It is precisely those things which belong to "the people" which have historically been despoiled- wild creatures, the air, and waterways being notable examples. This goes to the heart of why property rights are socially important in the first place. Property rights mean self-interested monitors. No owned creatures are in danger of extinction. No owned forests are in danger of being leveled. No one kills the goose that lays the golden egg when it is his goose. --Thomas Sowell

The dichotomy between personal liberties and property rights is a false one. Property does not have rights. People have rights. --Potter Stewart

Just as man can't exist without his body, so no rights can exist without the right to translate one's rights into reality, to think, to work and keep the results, which means: the right of property. --Ayn Rand

No power on earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent. --John Jay

A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad. --Theodore Roosevelt

The principles laid down in this opinion affect the very essence of constitutional liberty and security. They reach further than the concrete form of the case then before the court, with its adventitious circumstances; they apply to all invasions on the part of the government and its employes of the sanctity of a man's home and the privacies of life. It is not the breaking of his doors, and the rummaging of his drawers, that constitutes the essence of the offense; but it is the invasion of his indefeasible right of personal security, personal liberty, and private property, where that right has never been forfeited by his conviction of some public offense. . . -- Decision in Boyd v. US, 116 U.S. 616 (1886)

Of all tyrannies a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. ---C.S. Lewis

Whenever the legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further obedience. . . -- John Locke

Friday, 24 June 2005

Hah! Who doesn't like demolition? Posted by Hello

Confiscation beyond any reasonable doubt

No Right Turn is rightly concerned at the outrageous asset forfeiture laws being introduced by this Government which, if introduced, would allow assets to be seized on a civil ("balance of probabilities") standard of proof. As Idiot/Savant says, "if the bill becomes law, we won't just be seizing the property of those who are probably criminals, but that of those who might be. This is a ridiculously low standard of proof, and one that is a blatant end-run around the checks and safeguards of the justice system."

And one that National's Vile Ryall and Richard Worthless have complained is only a "watered down version of National's own policy" to steal from people without even 'proof beyond reasonable doubt' of their guilt. Ryall is on the record as wanting to end the presumption of innocence altogether for those accused of 'drug crimes.' It seems both big parties are happy to trade away our fundamental legal protections--protections we have (or had) for very good reasons.

Bear in mind there are already have laws in place to confiscate assets, with $280,000 of New Zealanders' assets being confiscated every month because courts decided 'on the balance of probabilities' these assets were "tainted." These laws are deemed insufficently jack-booted however, since a conviction is needed before a person's home or farm is siezed; so that is to be changed to take, not just assets that are "tainted,' but everything a person owns. Everything. Phil Goff says he is hoping for an enormous increase in amounts confiscated.

Here's how similar laws work in Britain: a brothel owner being 'stripped of her millions' on a 'balance of probabilities' because she offered services there that are now rightly legal here. NRT again: "We would not tolerate a court fining suspected criminals on such low standards; this is no different."

Wright house a snip

Just on the market, a 3000 sq. ft. house overlooking Crystal Lake, Virginia. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Yours for US$2.5 million. Details here.

I can see my house from here!

Wow. I can see my house from here--or at least I can if I fiddle about with it a bit. Amazing!
[Courtesy Google maps, and hat tip Hard News]

A black day for property rights everywhere

Property rights are under attack everywhere. New Zealand home-owners and farmers are given the finger by planners, mayors and Jim Sutton; Zimbabwe shop- and shanty-owners are given their marching orders by the urban planning bulldozers of Robert Mugabe; and now American home-owners have just been told to bugger off by no less an authority than the US Supreme Court. STORY HERE. Background here.

That' s right, the Supreme Court has declared that the US Constitution gives state and local authorities the power to throw people off their land and out of their houses in order to build shopping malls, car parks, auto plants, 'new urbanism' housing projects--anything they like in fact. Homeowners should just shut up and take their medicine, says the Supreme Court in the former Land of the Free.

The 'eminent domain' clause in the constitution is the problem--the nonsense notion that 'compensation for takings' is all that property rights is; that is, if the local authority or Transpower decide to take your house or put their power lines over your property then you have no right to object. Just shut up and take your medicine. As I explain here, the NZ political party noisily espousing this overbearing authoritarian nostrum is the ACT Party.

Time to ask Rodney and Stephen Franks for a 'please explain' letter.

Thursday, 23 June 2005

Spoken like a planner

Teaching honesty

I don't like government employees teaching children about things like honesty and other virtues they would know nothing about, which is why libertarians oppose this 'values-based' teaching programme, and are and in favour instead of a separation of school and state.

Do you think for example the progamme-makers would value this young girl's honesty:
Seems there was this insurance salesman that was being annoyingly aggressive in his approach. My friend had mentioned several times within earshot of his daughter that he didn't particularly like this guy. One day, the guy shows up, rings the bell, and the daughter answers the door. Recognizing the salesman, she says, "Go away, my daddy doesn't like you." Upon which the salesman says, "Oh, really, little girl, you don't mean that." And my friend, who had since come up behind his daughter, said, "Oh yes she does. She heard it from me.
They'd probably complain about her hurting the salesman's feelings.

Cullen's road to the election

Do you think this announcement from Michael Cullen has anything to do with this billboard?

It is election year after all.

As HL Mencken used to say, "An election is an advance auction of stolen goods." As more of these fortuitous "tax boons" appear down the election road, just remember whose money it is you're being bribed with.

Morally-blind cricketers head to Zimbabwe

If it's true as Martin Snedden says that New Zealand cricketers "unanimously agreed" to tour Zimbabwe then, sadly, that says little for New Zealand's leading cricketers.

It's true as Snedden says that many of the countries on the cricket circuit are "volatile," but that doesn't even begin to describe the Zimbabwean situation. It was clear enough when this tour was only a twinkle in the ICC's eye that Robert Mugabe's insane politically-driven thuggery was a totalitarian step ahead of anything going on elsewhere at the time.

Destroying the country's free press; arresting opposition leaders; eviscerating property rights; murdering white farmers ... even the otherwise morally-blind cricketers must have wondered what was going on when Zimbabwe fast bowler Henry Olonga fled to England in fear for his life after speaking out about "the death of democracy in his beloved Zimbabwe," or when he subsequently called for test cricket with Zimbabwe to be discontinued.

As I said myself back in 2001 when on behalf of the Libertarianz I called for "Zimbabwe's expulsion from the Commonwealth and other world bodies... 'No regime...that engages in such abhorrent acts should be welcomed in respectable world circles. Mugabe is probably clinically insane. But he certainly is a monster who should be shunned.'" The insanity was even clearer by 2002 when I called for New Zealand to "fast-track visa applications for refugees from Mugabe's atrocities."

So even though the NZ Government was itself morally-blind for a time, if NZ Cricket had kept their own eyes open they could have refused the tour in the planning stages. To complain now that their hands are tied and they have no choice is a disgrace.

But there is no case for the New Zealand government to stop the tour. For once I agree with Helen Clark: how would the government physically stop the tour? By stopping New Zealand cricketers at the airport and putting them under house arrest? You don't help freedom elsewhere by infringing it at home.

And neither do you disabuse yourself of reponsibility for your actions by laying the blame for your actions at the door of others, or blinding yourself to their immorality as Snedden and the NZ cricketers are doing. Shame on them.

Morality is not something just for sermons on Sunday, it's part of day-to-life. Time some sportsmen and their administrators took some responsibility for their actions.

Sprawl is good

People are at war with town planners everywhere. The high priests opposed to sprawl and the apostles of high-density have joined hands with the bossy busybodies of politics to force people to live in ways they don't want to, all in the name of 'sustainability' and knowing what's best for you -- and because voters let them.

The same battle that's been engaged in Auckland (that I talk about here) is also going on across America. Here's a link to Andy Clarkson responding to his city being ranked 'worst' in a study comparing sprawling cities.
In response to "Charlotte ranked worst in sprawl" (Nov. 10):

Actually Charlotte's ranking is "a compliment."

It's a compliment that the prosperity we have created enables us to afford larger homes and lots than those who live in other cities. It's a compliment that Charlotte isn't a hovel-packed inner city. It's a compliment that people can be proud of their yards and homes. It's a compliment that people can afford privacy, the most important aspect of sprawl.

Ayn Rand said of privacy: "Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men."

The sprawl study idealizes compactness so we can preserve pristine rural dirt -- at the expense of privacy and thus civilization.

Read Andy's single version here, or the extended dance mix here.

The Mozart effect

A new report now says that the Mozart effect is a fraud. Playing Mozart for your designer baby will not improve his IQ or help him get into Montessori school.

But if the myth were true that playing Mozart's ingenious sonatas and concertii boosted your baby's intelligence, just what would happen if other composers were played in their cribs?

LISZT EFFECT: Child speaks rapidly and extravagantly, but never really says anything important.

BRUCKNER EFFECT: Child speaks very slowly and repeats himself frequently. Gains reputation for profundity.

WAGNER EFFECT: Child becomes a megalomaniac. May eventually marry his sister.

MAHLER EFFECT: Child continually screams - at great length and volume that he's dying.

SCHOENBERG EFFECT: Child never repeats a word until he's used all the other words in his vocabulary. Sometimes talks backwards. Eventually, people stop listening to him. Child blames them for their inability to understand him.

BABBITT EFFECT: Child gibbers nonsense all the time. Eventually, people stop listening to him. Child doesn't care because all his playmates think he's cool.

IVES EFFECT: the child develops a remarkable ability to carry on several separate conversations at once.

GLASS EFFECT: the child tends to repeat himself over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

STRAVINSKY EFFECT: the child is prone to savage, guttural and profane outbursts that often lead to fighting and pandemonium in the preschool.

BRAHMS EFFECT: the child is able to speak beautifully as long as his sentences contain a multiple of three words (3, 6, 9, 12, etc). However, his sentences containing 4 or 8 words are strangely uninspired.

Last but not least, the CAGE EFFECT: Child says absolutely nothing for 4 minutes, 33 seconds. (Preferred by 9 out of 10 classroom teachers), and the EMINEM EFFECT: Child hates his parents; rants and raves; kills the family pet.

Readers are invited to suggest appropriate outcomes for the MICHAEL JACKSON effect...

[Hat tip Robert Tracy at 'Illustrated Ideas', but I'm afraid I can't find who originated this.]