Saturday, June 25, 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

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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

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Friday, June 24, 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."

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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.

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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.

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Thursday, June 23, 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.

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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.]

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New blogs added

Just added a few blogs to my blogroll, some new, some just new to me.

Slow Train Coming chronicles one man's battle trying to catch a train in New Zealand's biggest city. Holden Republic has been added because of intelligent comments such as these, and The Charlotte Capitalist has been added because I like his work.

Feel-good G8 posturing


Cartoon Courtesy Cox & Forkum.

It's the thought that counts really, isn't it?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Iran election: a victory for stay-at-homes

Cox and Forkum have cartoon and commentary on the bogus Iranian election. Best line: "They couldn’t even stage a phony election without appearing inept and thuggish, which is certainly not the image they wanted to send to the world."

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How not to manage a team

Here's how not to manage a team: One week before a big test match, tell your squad of 48 that the twenty-five names you're about to read out a) will be playing in Invercargill on a cold Tuesday night, b) have absolutely no show of being in the test. A kick in the guts for the players? Sure looked like that from the way they played last night down there in 'Chernobyl.'

I sure hope Clive's got something going on behind those big red fences around his training grounds and his number one team does make a competitive showing on Saturday, because at present they're making heavy weather of beating NPC teams who've had barely a full game under their belts. It's great if the All Blacks spank them, but a competitive series is what we're after, right?

Spin from a Labour hack

Labour hack Jordan Carter spins like Helen Clark over the latest bad-poll-news for Labour, but he's more transparent becasause he's not as good at it.

The reason for the poor result for Labour is, according to Jordan:
  • National's billboards
  • 'we haven't started yet'
  • "the string of mistakes, manufactured or real"
  • the budget [is that one of the real mistakes, I wonder, or a manufactured one?]
Worry ye not, however, about Labour's doom says Jordan: Labour "is still polling where it got in the 1999 and 2002 elections," says Jordan. So forget the accelerating downward trend; ignore the drop between polls and polling days in Labour's 1999 and 2002 numbers; and hold on to the notion that National's "vast swathes of support... is by definition soft."

You cling to that Jordan. As you say, "it's going to be a damn interesting campaign!" Wonder when it will start.
[UPDATE: David Farrar has fisked Jordans's poll-spinning since November last year. 'Hack' might be too kind a description of his amusing ineptitude. 'Satirist' might be a better word.]

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: lost patrons, damaging sunlight, useless spaces, etc. "It would have been easier to start from scratch," she said, and not in a nice way. Eisenman fled mid-speech. [Report by The Gutter. Hat tip to Ruth]
I look forward to clients of Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid expressing themselves in similarly articulate fashion.

Good architecture is not about building pretentious manifestoes in the sky, or ideological prisons for the soul. It is about enhancing human life, and as Frank Lloyd Wright used to say, "putting man in possession of his earth." I explain what this means and explode a few myths abut architecture in an article I wrote a few years ago, What is Architecture?

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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, which are in effect an extension of each individual’s right of self-defence. To formulate such laws and oversee their administration – that, in a free society, is the proper role of government. Government should be confined to this role by a constitution. It should be chosen and financed by the citizens whose freedom it is to defend, and their vote should be restricted to conferring a mandate to uphold freedom, not extended to a mandate to deny it. All citizens should then be equally beholden to the laws that are promulgated.

To put this another way:
All men are created equal [before the law]; they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; among these rights are the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” (US Declaration of Independence

All I would take issue with is the claimed role of the creator, under Rights.) 

Or: “Every individual has the right to use force for lawful self-defence. It is for this reason that the collective force – which is only the organised combination of the individual forces – may lawfully be used for the same purpose; and it cannot be used legitimately for any other purpose.” (Frederic Bastiat) 

Or: “If physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution charged with the task of protecting their rights under an objective code of rules. This is the task of government–of a proper government—it’s basic task, its only moral justification and the reason why mean do need a government. A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control—ie., under objectively defined laws.” [Ayn Rand]

That is the moral justification for government. In practice however, government does not so much protect its citizens from coercion as impose it upon them. It sends them to war (conscription), confiscates and debases their earnings (taxation and inflation), imposes distorting constraints on their trade (tariffs, subsidies, needless regulations) places conditions on their freedom of movement (immigration and customs controls) restricts their access to ideas and information, their freedom of thought and speech (censorship) tries to dictate their values (anti-discrimination legislation) and destroys their property rights [environmental and planning legislation].

Historically, Government is the Mafia made legal. “It forbids private murder, but itself organises murder on a colossal scale. It punishes private theft, but itself lays unscrupulous hands on anything it wants.” (Albert Jay Nock.)

New Zealand governments have departed little from this general picture.
The violent overthrow of governments that initiate force against their citizens is always morally justifiable, even if not practically feasible.

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.

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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. See what you think. It works for cows, and are whales fundamentally different?
Woodblock print by Hiroshige Posted by Hello

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Go the Catters

An Australian friend just rang from Melbourne for a chat. After sharing uplifting stories about the cricketing abilities of Bangladesh he told me that ‘The Age’ has an article on our old footy club in London, the West London Wildcats. (You might need to register for Fairfax's 'Real Footy' site.)


Great to see them doing so well. I was there in what ‘The Age’ calls the “rough and ready” era. I doubt whether I’d even be allowed to carry water there now.

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. How about pruning, selling, closing, abolishing or otherwise divesting yourself of the large majority of this list of government departments, bureaus, boards, committees, quangoes and consultative bodies. As Libertarianz says, most could be "gone by lunchtime," and many by morning tea.

That would buy us a lot of chewing gum.

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.

The proposed change allows the government to 'call in' projects of national significance and send them directly to the Environment Court, bypassing lower level hearings. This may help speed up a few large 'headline' infrastructure projects -- but God help Waikato farmers fighting Transpower's pylons' project, and as Federated Farmers has said before, "it's little, not large" [that] suffers most RMA pain." 'Little' projects, which constitute the bulk of outstanding RMA consent applications, will continue to suffer pain as the property rights of applicants are ignored.

A 'test' of these proposed reforms is perhaps to note that they do nothing to help the Western Springs speedway, organisers of which are in the High Court today arguing that they have existing use rights under the RMA. I wish them well but I'm not optimistic, since we've seen before that the RMA does nothing to protect the property rights of those facing complaints by those who 'came to the nuisance.'

The test for real RMA reform will be whether property rights can be introduced to the heart of the Act. I still say they can't -- the RMA still needs a stake through its heart.

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World's shortest Wagner quiz

You've probably seen the World's Smallest Political Quiz by now, for which I've been compiling the results from NZ quiz-takers over the years . A Wagner group I'm on has now come up with the world's smallest Wagner quiz to determine whether you're really a Wagnerphile. And here it is:

Early one morning, just prior to whatever time the alarm is set to, you and your life partner (or your partner du jour, if you're that sort of person ;-) are in the middle of a passionate, amorous moment, when the clock radio switches on, and the station it's tuned to happens to be broadcasting somethingby Wagner. Do you...

(A) Immediately switch it off and get back to the business at hand?

(B) Leave it on, using the music to enhance your experience?

(C) Abandon your lovemaking so that you can better focus on the music?

(D) It would depend on what Wagner excerpt they were playing.

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... The consequences of the government's necessary control over such stock-market investments would be extremely grave. [To the extent such investments are successful] it would mean that the government would come to control a substantial portion of the stock of most major corporations in the United States."

As a famous National Party ad once said: when the government ends up owning the whole country -- you know what that's called!

And of course, should such investments be unsuccessful, we're all out of luck anyway -- and out of money. George Reisman doesn't just point out problems however. He also has a solution: "The only really proper reform of Social Security," he says, "is the gradual abolition of the whole system." Here in brief is how he proposes to go about it.

N.B. I'll just add these two 'backgrounders' to Reisman's proposal, the first -- from Director of Regulatory Studies from the Cato Institute Ed Hudgins -- stressing the moral themes of autonomy and independence with respect to arguments over superannuation; the second from David Kelley on the history, economics, and philosophy of social security. [Hat tip, Stephen Hicks.]

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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 by Gene Callahan making that same point. And a more lengthy critique by John Bratland says it again, arguing Diamond fails because he ignores the value of individual entrepreneurship:
For Diamond, societies are entities that act independent of the actions of individuals. He sees societal ascent or collapse as being contingent upon the extent to which societies embrace a centralized structure and management. But in so doing, he ignores institutions critical to peaceful, prosperous social interaction and the formation of society: (1) private property rights and (2) human action leading to division of labor and emergence of cooperative monetary exchange. With these institutions, individuals are able to avoid conflict and rationally reckon both scarcity and capital. Without these institutions, societies such as the Soviet Union and Easter Island are seen to have a common fate in that scarcity implies conflict, chaos, ‘waste’ and eventual collapse.

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Cell-phone addiction - get over it

'People are addicted to mobile phones,' carp people addicted to decrying what other people like to do.

Jeffery Tucker at the Mises Institute has a go at those who decry what others like to do:
The pundit class has a penchant for judging the culture of freedom harshly. If ten years ago, these same critics had walked up and down the block peering into people’s windows, they might have spied people on the phone in every home. They might have decried this as a phone addiction but nobody would have taken them seriously. In fact, the response would have been readily at hand: mind your own business, bud, and get a life.
'Addiction,' says Tucker, is just a word attached to any habitual behaviors of others that the 'pundit class' do not like.

A celluloid meme

I've decided to pick up a meme for the first time. It's all down-blogging-hill from here for sure. So, the film meme, (from NZ Pundit):

1. Total number of films I own on DVD and video: About 40

2. Last film I bought: aaah ... does the DVD of Wagner's 'Tannhauser' count? :-)

3. Last film I watched: A Very Long Engagement. Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a genius, the ensemble cast is brilliant ... and Audrey Tautou isn't bad either. A wonderful, wonderful film.

4. Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order):

Amadeus
The Castle
The Fountainhead
Breaker Morant
Life of Brian

5. If you could be any character portrayed in a movie, who would it be?
Frank Loyd Wright, from Frank Lloyd Wright. ;^)

Monday, June 20, 2005

Winslow Homer, 'The Fog Warning' Posted by Hello

Kiwi Carnival

The inaugural edition of the blogosphere's Kiwi Carnival has just made its appearance with posts by most of the usual kiwi blogging suspects, including a humble contribution from moi.

(I explain here what the Kiwi Carnival is about.) Enjoy. And if you're a kiwi blogger make sure you send your contribution along next week.

Harm offensive

Watch out, there are Labour MPs about. The Herald reports this morning that they're being sent out on a 'charm offensive' to recover their poll ratings. Given the complete charm-free zones of most of them, personally I'd be more charmed if they just stayed out of my face for a few months.

But maybe that's just me.

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. Beware of hyperbolic paranoia though: there's still enough freedom under the PATRIOT Act to criticise it; P&T argue however this is absolutism limited only by idiocy.

Best line then is about politicians and bureaucrats: "All that protects us from their evil is their incompetence."
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* And remember I told you how to get hold of 'Bullshit'?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Icarus Landing


'Icarus Landing,' Michael Newberry

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:

Winston [Peters] and I seem to look at the same reality but see quite different things. When Winston Peters walks down Queen Street and sees Asian faces, he wonders whether he is still in New Zealand. When I walk down Queen Street and see Asian faces, I see the essence of New Zealand: the coming together of many peoples, under a shared vision of a fair, compassionate, sustainable society.

When Winston Peters realises that we are taking in refugees from the world’s wartorn places, he cries blue murder, and shouts ‘bludger!’ A Cambodian taxi driver recently told me his story of how, alone among his family, he barely escaped mass murder in his native country – a story that had me in tears as I reached my Parliamentary office. I was overwhelmed at how fortunate this country is, and relieved and thankful and yes, a little proud, that he had found safety and a job in New Zealand.

It's a fair reminder of what being a refuge is about. As Emma Lazarus' great peom says:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

A pity the Greens have to ruin it with proposals for Ministries, migrant welfare, and issuing immigrants with copies of Te Tiriti. I'd prefer to see them getting private sponsorship, as I suggest here.

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Freedom, through thick and thin

The superior freedom of the capitalist system, its superior justice, and its superior productivity are not three superiorities, but one. The justice follows from the freedom, and the productivity follows from the freedom and the justice.
- Henry Hazlitt, 1962

The concept of freedom, in its socially relevant sense, means the condition of individuals being free from aggression by others… It rests on the recognition of every individual’s equal moral nature as a self-determined and self-responsible agent, regardless of admittedly enormous circumstantial difference.
- Tibor Machan, 1998

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. In his view, libertarians advocate ‘thin freedom’ because we advocate only that human beings should be free from the initiation of force; he maintains that we should instead advocate a ‘thicker’ form of ‘freedom’ – namely the forcible appropriation of wealth and the enslavement of other human beings for our own ends. He calls this ‘substantive freedom,’ but perhaps ‘thick’ might be the correct term.

"If you tie me up," says Richard, "that's bad because it stops me from doing the things I want. If untying me wouldn't change any of that, then it wouldn't do me any good. And if I could continue to do all the things I wanted despite being tied up, then it wouldn't really be much of a harm. What matters, in either case, is what opportunities are open to me. Whether I've been "interfered" with is of secondary (and derivative) importance." Not only should we untie Richard, he claims, but we should clothe and feed him as well ... or at least provide him with an income to do so.

Naturally, I view this as sophistic nonsense (ie., bullshit) and said as much in the comments thread.

I’ve already argued against his substantive views here, and then replied at some length here in a piece entitled ‘Why libertarians don’t own their bodies.’ Richard has not however been persuaded.

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.' The lietmotif is from Ayn Rand's 'Anthem':

I do not surrender my treasures, nor do I share them. The fortune of my spirit is not to be blown into coins of brass and flung to the winds as alms for the poor of the spirit. I guard my treasures: my thought, my will, my freedom. And the greatest of these is freedom.

Read on here.

The Site of Brian

DPF has the link to the website of the newly crowned and extraordinarily humble Bishop Brian Tamaki of the Destiny Church. It's hard to know which site is funnier, the offical Brian site or the unofficial 'happy clapping for Jesus' Brian site hosted by the Density Church. Some of the comments on the DPF thread are hilarious:

"Look on the bright side - no doubt Tamaki's political start-up will corner the stupid bigot market..."

"I liked his use of grammar in this quote, 'The Christian religion must prevail over all other false religions.'"

"The man has all the potential to be the leader of the Maori Taliban."

The site itself is even funnier: "The Media: a modern day witchcraft," declares Brian. He's not really serious, is he? Sadly, he is.

So too is his political party: leader and former policeman Richard Lewis was interviewed yesterday on 'Agenda.' He didn't mention stoning sinners, but he did look like he was about to start taking names ...

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