Saturday, 3 September 2005

AFL Finals are away!

A finals 'blog' has been set up for the AFL finals series, which kicked off last night in Perth with a wonderfully enthralling arm wrestle eventually won by West Coast over the Sydney Swans.

The Age's game report here. And that's one of the Swans' best last night, Nick Davis, battling for the ball with the Eagles' Drew Banfield who gave Davis plenty of room to move.

I'm looking forward to this afternoon's Geelong v Melbourne elimination final. Can I just quietly say Go the Catters?


Labour - six of the best

In the interests of balance and fairness, Drone has been trying to come up with six Labour achievements to mark the six years of their rule. Seems like something to try.
1. One unequivocal move in the direction of freedom was the introduction of civil unions. Government has no business in people's bedrooms, and good for Tim Barnett for quietly and diligently pushing this through on the grounds of individual freedom. Support for laws such as this is a litmus test for freedom lovers: it is not for the State to judge adult relationships; it is their job simply to recognise and protect them should the partners wish that to happen (I won't mention the Property Relationships Bill -- whoops! I just did). The Civil Union Bill moves in the direction of freedom, with no new coercion. A big tick.

2. The decriminilisation of prostitution recognised that people should be free to do with their own bodies what they wish, and free to charge for the use of their bodies if they wish. You don't need to be an advocate for prostitution itself to recognise that it's not the State's business to proscribe people's choices for themselves. And once again, good for Tim Barnett for being the quiet achiever. Another big tick.

3. I confess I'm struggling now. Like Drone, I think the Chinese free trade deal looks good. So that's another tick.

4. I did enjoy Marian Hobbs' defence of genetic engineering during the pathetic 'corngate' beat-up. Not so much an achievement, I guess, but her arguments and those of the Royal Commission for the science of GE were very sound, and as a consequence the legal environment for genetic engineering hasn't been as bad as it could be. Things could have been a a lot worse with Nick Smith in the Environment chair.

5. As Drone says, "some of Phil Goff's changes with parole and sentencing have been a step in the right direction of making punishments fit the crime." To that I would only add the words 'slow', and 'only because of electoral pressure.' Susan Couch and others would undoubtedly disagree that things have yet moved far enough, and of course they'd be right.

6. The words 'slow', and 'only because of electoral pressure' could also be applied to the few weak moves to remove racial favouritism from legislation. But baby steps have been taken, which is something.
So that's it unless anyone else can think of any more?

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How on earth could this tragedy happen?

As the sky over downtown New Orleans turns pink in the chemical haze of at least three separate fires (see webcam), and reports from inside the city suggest the worst (some pics here), I offer for your consideration and mine some arguments and thoughts about the New Orleans disaster you may not hear elsewhere, but are worth the pondering. I suspect however that answers to many of the questions we want to ask are beyond the expertise of all of us doing the asking.

Anyway, let me begin with a link to a chillingly prescient National Geographic 'hypothetical' from last year explaining why "the Federal Emergency Management Agency list[ed] a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City... Yet just as the risks of a killer storm are rising, the city's natural defenses are quietly melting away." Read on here.

So, who's to blame for the city's defences melting away? Naturally, Lew Rockwell blames the State. Is he right? I don't know. The State isn't shooting at rescue helicopters or raping people inside the Super Dome, but it was the entity that built and maintained the flood defences.
Mother Nature can be cruel, but even at her worst, she is no match for government. It was the glorified public sector, the one we are always told is protecting us, that is responsible for this. And though our public servants and a sycophantic media will do their darn best to present this calamity as an act of nature, it was not and is not. Katrina came and went with far less damage than anyone expected. It was the failure of the public infrastructure and the response to it that brought down civilization.
Reading further: The city's defences are 'levee-only' says Mark Thornton in a brief summary of the levee system, their history, and some alternatives considered. It was these levees, created by the US Army Corps of Engineers that were breached.
A "levees-only" approach caused sediment to accumulate on the river bottom forcing engineers to regularly raise the level of the levees to hold the same amount of water. The mighty Mississippi River had literally been lifted above ground level in many places. It is obvious that this strategy created the potential for increasingly severe flood damage...The original 7.5 foot levee at Morganza, Louisiana, was able to maintain the Great Flood of 1850 but by the 1920s the levee required a 38-foot height to hold the same amount of water.
But is it even sane to choose to live in a city below sea level on a hurricane coast? And who would choose stay in such a city when a hurricane is heading your way? Justin Darr has some acerbic thoughts on who stayed:

The sad answer is that many of these residents remained because they where waiting for the government to aid them. Many trapped in New Orleans right now are in a state of shock. They expected the nanny state which provides them with housing, medical care, food, and education to also come forward and provide them with the means of escaping a natural disaster. When a state of emergency was declared in August 26th , they waited...The nanny state has created a class of people in America not only unable to take care of their own needs, but incapable of existing within normal society.

Harsh. Perhaps. Mark Steyn puts it with a little more veneer in a lengthy interview here. But the veneer of civilization does appear to have been ripped off, despite the efforts of some people to keep some things going. But why live in a city below sea level that is potentially under water? Might as well ask why live in a city on one of the world's most active faults; or in a city dominated by volcanoes. Or in Holland, much of which is also below sea level and protected by dikes -- earlier versions of which didn't stop the North Sea Flood of 1953.

And the Army Corps of Engineers (if you can believe them after Lew Rockwell's gibes) suggest that "draining the billions of gallons of water that have inundated New Orleans could take three to six months, substantially longer than some experts have expected," leading to speculation that the city may perhaps be abandoned. In any case, it seems certain New Orleans will never be anything like the same again -- perhaps too the questions this disaster raises may themselves prompt further change, and not just in engineering measures.

And while you're thinking about all that, do use this disaster to consider NZ Pundit's advice: Be prepared yourself.


Friday, 2 September 2005

New Orleans LiveJournal Blog: Survival of New Orleans

The New Orleans webcam to which I posted a link earlier this morning has a livejournal blog (or vice versa) run by New Orleans resident and libertarian Michael Barnett, who is still running a datacenter (just) in New Orleans as he keeps his blog updated on events around him. Background here. Michael's blog here or here (depending on resources I guess). Pictures here (be patient - lots of people looking). Of his blog Michael says,
Now this journal exists to share firsthand experience of the disaster and its aftermath with anyone interested.
Its latest recounts a story from the Convention Center where an estimated 10,000 people have been waiting three days for promised buses, which have yet to show up.

Pictured right is another jazzman from the birthplace of jazz, where the Saints continue not to be coming in: a true gentleman and an ambassador of jazz, Wynton Marsalis. I needed to post it to pay tribute to what seems the death throes of the jazz's birthplace, and also to get that picture of the murderer from the top of my blog before I head out for a drink.

[UPDATE: Wired has a piece on The Interdictor/Survival of New Orleans blog explaining what where, when and why. "It may be the only blog currently both written and hosted inside New Orleans, and it's receiving nearly 3,000 visitors an hour." Hat tip SOLO.]

Al Qaeda claims responsibility

Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the July 7 London bombings in a video aired on Al-Jazeera. The Times has the story. LA Times has some more.

Pictured above and right is the terrorist identified as Mohammed Sidique Khan both as he appeared in the video, and at Hillside Primary School, Dewsbury, in 2002. Not pictured is his bomb on the Edgeware Rd train with which he killed himself and six people.

What's wrong with election promises?

The new issue of Northland Libz' Speakeasy is up at their site. A small PDF download. Hooch Helen Hughes discusses in plain language what is wrong with this government and with all the election promises.

Did global warming drown Bourbon St?

Former New Orleans resident and full-time man of sense James Glassman from TCS puts the sword to environmentalists using Hurricane Katherine as evidence either that hurricanes are intensifying, or is evidence of global warming.

Katrina has nothing to do with global warming. Nothing. It has everything to do with the immense forces of nature that have been unleashed many, many times before and the inability of humans, even the most brilliant engineers, to tame these forces. Giant hurricanes are rare, but they are not new. And they are not increasing. To the contrary. Just go to the website of the National Hurricane Center and check out a table that lists hurricanes by category and decade.

Reason magazine also "checked the barometer on hurricanes and global warming" a few weeks back to see if there any pointers to a connection. The result: no connection found.

[Hat tip: Hit and Run's Hurricane Bullshit]

Development needs entrepreneurs, not macroeconomists

"Why are some countries rich and others just suck?"

Adam Smith was among the first to attempt to sensibly answer this question in his Wealth of Nations. Joseph Schumpeter later explained how entrepreneurial innovation fuelled the wealth of nations -- PJ O'Rourke had a go too, and it's from him that I got the question -- and David Landes' recent book brings the good-sense answers somewhat up to date by relating the question of entrepreneurialism to cultural values.

But why on earth then do so many economists turn to such non-sense then when it comes to answering such questions. Why especially do the IMF and World Bank try to encourage developing economies to grow by 'top down' meddling rather than by liberating the entrepreneurialism that exists everywhere? Pete Boettke sheets home the blame to the victory of Keynesian economics:
From Smith to Schumpeter questions of economic development were asked without reference to the aggregate data of national income accounting. But after Keynes, it seemed almost impossible to ask questions of development without reference to aggregate measures of national income... Armed with Keynesian theory and the statistical tool-kit of refined measurement and control, Keynesian policies could guide government in the effort to correct the flaws of the capitalist system and manage the economic system appropriately so that stability and prosperity could be experienced.
Boettke explains briefly how flawed the Keynesian macroeconomic approach to development is, and offers pointers to some successful recent approaches in Africa for example that recognise "the eradication of poverty will not come from international aid agencies and the decisions by western leaders on how best to redistribute wealth world-wide, but through the entrepreneurial spirit of Africans themselves."

Linked article.

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Where is ACT's RMA Policy?

What exactly is ACT's policy on the RMA? Do they know themselves? The ACT website has contained the following promise for some time (it occurs here, here, here, and here):
Environmental legislation to be effects-based, which implies substantial changes the RMA [sic]. (ACT has a separate RMA Policy that details these changes).
But aside from this being both dripping wet and as bland as week-old porridge, the ACT website still has no "separate RMA Policy" as promised. It just ain't there. 

Has someone forgotten to write it?

Is there disagreement about what "substantial changes" to the RMA would look like?

Is Ken ('I-love-the-RMA') Shirley running a rearguard action to keep the thing?

Or does ACT just not give a shit about substantive policy because they're too busy making up new websites and trumpeting dodgy polls?

I think we should be told.

In the meantime, how's this for a "separate RMA Policy":

Abolish it.

Put a stake through its heart -- that should separate the men from the faint-hearted -- and reinstate the common law protections for property rights and the environment that have been buried by central planning, district planning and the RMA's meddling eco-fascism.

 Fortunately, somebody already is saying that, and has been saying it now for over ten years.

Any reason ACT couldn't adopt that as its policy?

Any reason at all other than gutlessness?


New libertarian blog

I have emormous pleasure in announcing a new NZ libertarian blog, Liberty Scott, from which I shall be expecting some stiff competition. :-)
I have created this blog to share my utterances on New Zealand politics, international affairs, social issues and anything that I get particularly passionate about... I have a need to share what I find outrageous, wonderful, amusing and challenging about the affairs of New Zealand and the world.

I am a libertarian, with a capital L ... because I unashamedly believe in the freedom of adults to interact voluntarily, without force.
Welcome to the blogosphere, Scott.

More things I don't care about

  • What Helen Clark said to the airline pilot
  • What Roger Kerr said to Don Brash
  • What the Insurance Council said to Don Brash
  • What Helen Clark does with her microwave
  • Whose hand Rodney Hide is shaking this week
  • How many many married men Cathy had sex with this week
  • Who Russell Crowe hit this week
  • How fast Helen was going
  • Conspiracy theories about oil prices
  • The Da Vinci Code
  • Sin City
  • The Simpsons
  • The new Dr Who
  • The old Dr Who
  • The new James Bond
  • Sam Neill
  • Nicole Kidman's new movie
  • Jonny Depp's new movie
  • New movies
  • The MTV Music Awards
  • NZ Idol
  • Idiots that can't write a song of their own
  • Idiots that don't have a brain of their own
  • Bloggers who can't generate an original thought of their own
  • Bloggers that are just party stooges (Hello Jordan)
  • The Hectors Dolphin
  • People who can't tell the difference between racism and removing racial privilege
  • People who can't tell the difference between getting welfare and getting your taxes back
  • People who want something for nothing
  • People who think they can vote themselves rich
  • People who think that being a consultant with a government contract means they're self-employed
  • People who think that being a resource consultant means you're supporting yourself
  • People who wont say what they really think
  • Politicians who are bold with other people's money
  • Steve Maharey's blameless life
  • Steve Maharey
  • The new haka
  • The old haka
  • Hakas
  • Who the Maori Party are going into coalition with
  • Who the Maori Party won't go into coalition with (National? What a surprise.)
  • Who Winston thinks he's kidding (is he kidding anyone, apart from the National Front?)
  • The softcock centre-right
  • The dripping wet centre-left
  • People who don't question details before believing every poll that is put in front of them
  • The ramblings of undergrad philosophy students
  • The ramblings of bloggers who really should know better
  • Who J-Lo is married to this week
  • Who Britney Spears is not married to this week
  • Why Jennifer Aniston is not married this week, and how she feels about it
  • Who are these people anyway?
And have you noticed:
  • how the results of a dodgy ACT poll whose methodology has still not been revealed has all of a sudden appeared everywhere like some sort of Prague Spring?
  • how every party blogger of every stripe hits their marks so efficiently, and in such a coordinated fashion
  • how National haven't mentioned it was they who introduced both the NCEA and the RMA
  • how Labour haven't mentioned that it was National who introduced both the NCEA and the RMA
  • how ACT's Ken Shirley hasn't mentioned he helped write the RMA
  • how the Labour hacks are becoming increasingly shrill
  • how Destiny billboards just don't stay up very well
  • how Nick Smith and the worm have both thankfully become invisible
  • how Paul Holmes sadly hasn't
  • how Susan Wood is ^%$(&&) ... sorry ... I nodded off there for a moment and fell face down on my keyboard
  • how if Don Brash read out the phone book then headlines, podcasts, video interviews, and Scoop scoops would quickly appear about how it means he's planning to send our boys to Iraq on a nuclear warship paid for by enslaving all Maori and by selling off all the schools and hospitals to American mates of the Roundtable. Or something.
  • how manly Peter Davis looks in his Peruvian sweater

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Woodenhead Waiheke

A freak of modern New Zealand cinema is about to land in Waiheke tonight.

Woodenhead screens "Friday night late" at the Waiheke Community Cinema 9.30pm on September 2, 2005. 2 Korora St, Artworks, Oneroa

Catch the Waiheke ferry leaving from Auckland & then jump on the bus from the ferry to the top of the hill where the Artworks complex is - the Cinema is in the Artworks complex, next to Indian restaurant Ajadz.
The 8.45 ferry will just make it by 9.30pm. There is a return ferry at 12.30am. Phone 372 4240 to book.

Thursday, 1 September 2005

Bless New Orleans

Hot Five era Louis Armstrong. Certified genius, untamed spirit and New Orleans favourite son.
May your God and the spirit of St Louis bless New Orleans at this time. (And here, by the way, is a webcam showing an empty downtown New Orleans. Hat tip Mises Blog)

"Keep taxing petrol" - Mallard

"Cutting excise tax on petrol would mean less money for [xxxx], Energy Minister Trevor Mallard says" on the Herald site.

Insert any words you like where I've put xxxx -- after all, Trevor does. And remember when you fill up your car that 47% of the cost, plus GST, goes straight to Michael, Trevor and Helen to piss up against an electoral wall. Steve Forbes has an idea where some of the rest of the cost increase comes from.

[UPATE 1: Links fixed.]
[UPDATE 2: Bush's agreement last night to release some of the US petroleum reserve fulfils one part of Forbes ' recommendation.]


Composers Rich List

Not to be outdone by the Rich Lists of the financial papers, The Grauniad has a Composers Rich List with some surprises...

[Hat tip Marginal Revolution.]

Can destruction really be good for the economy?

Whenever destruction happens on a large scale, such as is happening now in New Orleans and the American Gulf coast, the economically illiterate exercise their natural wish to find something good out of tragedy by talking nonsense. In the case of destruction on such a massive scale, the nonsense usually takes the form of arguing that such destruction is 'good for the economy.' "Look at how much work has been created," say the illiterate, ignoring how many lives have been lost and how much wealth has been destroyed.

The Mises blog has spotted the first occurrence of this fallacy in the popular press, from the New York Times/International Herald Tribune (dated Sept 1):
But economists point out that although Katrina has destroyed a lot of accumulated wealth, it ultimately will probably have a positive effect on growth data over the next few months as resources are channeled into rebuilding. "Longer term, in the wake of a number of hurricanes there is actually an increase in measured output that even shows up at the national level, because there is a whole bunch of rebuilding activity," said Stephen P.A. Brown, director of energy economics at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
As the Mises blog comments in rebuttal:
But why wait for Mother Nature's random acts of destruction to help get the economy going? Why waste the expertise that the U.S. government has in the area of destruction? So, to help kickstart the economy we should evacuate all major urban areas and then unleash a massive dose of B-1 bombers, F-16 fighters and Cruise missiles and reduce all cities to rubble. Just think of the unprecedented construction boom this would help create!
Stephen A. Brown and others of his ilk have clearly never read the classical debunking of this idiocy, Frederic Bastiat's short piece What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen, a wonderful piece of writing that I heartily commend to your attention. Destruction is never good. On a scale such as this there is no good news in it, whatever the economically illiterate might try and tell you.

Petrol rationing?

With the recent hikes in petrol prices, dumb-arse politicians are beginning to murmur about petrol rationing and price caps. Fortunately, those dumb-arse politicians are American. Unfortunately those politicians are American, in what was once the land of the free, prosperous and economically literate.

Rationing and price caps are both tools of the economically illiterate, which is of course why politicians are beginning to talk about it. The Mises blog, CapMag and David M. Brown have the antidotes to such talk:
And Stephen Hicks has the goods on what to do about NO GAS DAY!, an internet campaign to "STICK IT UP" the "price-gouging oil companies."


Tragedy everywhere

News from New Orleans and the American Gulf coast continues to get worse, as it does in Baghdad where 1,000 people are expected to die after a stampede on a bridge after someone apparently yelled "suicide bomber."

Utterly tragic.

And what sort of sick fuck would cut a cat in half? Someone in Huntly apparently. It's hard to find anything eloquent to say on mornings like this.

A new NZB3 podcast

Julian Pistorius has a new podcast up, which discusses Marx (Karl, not Groucho)and Locke (John, not Keith) taking tea; open markets for apples; some 'high calibre' property rights; and much more.


[What's a 'podcast'? It's an audio-link that plays when you click it. No huhu.]

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Cue Card Libertarianism -- Ethnicity

ETHNICITY: The elevating of one’s racial identity and associated cultural traditions to a position of supreme importance – a racist version of collectivism, under-pinned by post-modernism in philosophy, and still very fashionable in academia.

A UCLA General Catalogue eloquently presents this viewpoint, saying:
“This university has no higher priority than to advance the ethnic diversity of its students, faculty, staff and administrators.” No higher priority?! Similar priorities are evident in New Zealand academia, with this 'new racism' too often given predominance over real learning. (Wananga and sing-along-Maori anyone?) Auckland University for example until recently boasted "The University has special responsibilities and obligations to Maori flowing from the Treaty of Waitangi which must be taken into account in setting strategic goals. ...The bi-cultural basis of New Zealand society and Maori engagement in academic life confer much of the distinctive and special character of this University."

American universities typically offer courses with such titles as “Black Hair as Culture and History,” with associated tests such as “400 Years Without a Comb.” Similar nonsense, under the general umbrella of Political Correctness, has been widespread in New Zealand for some years -- the phenonomena of racial pride and identification with one's tribe has been widespread, and employees requiring courses in 'cultural safety' and the non-existent principles of Te Tiriti has become de rigeur. The idea of Aryan ethnicity once swept Hitler to power; ethnicity drove the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda; it still drives conflict in Sudan, Gaza, Israel, and elsewhere in the Middle East and around the world. It is cultural and spiritual poison.

Defining oneself by one’s race and tradition -- things about which one has no control over -- is utterly incompatible with defining oneself by one’s conscious choices, and deriving pride in one's own achievements rather than just those of one's ancestors -- which is the essence of individualism.

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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Girl with a Pearl Earring

Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, begun all the way back in 1665, and completed a year later, just two years before England's Glorious Revolution and Bill of Rights of 1688. This is the art of the Enlightenment.

Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Dodgy polling in Epsom?

The Act on Campus boys have breathless announced a poll in Epsom that doesn't make any sense, but apparently announces 'they're back.' (Back from where, I wonder?)

The poll was "conducted last night of [just] 360 Epsom residents," they say excitedly, and naturally the poll shows Rodney in the lead, which is precisely why the boys are so excited -- "WE"RE BACK!!!!" they cheer. In the lead, that is, by 3 people out of the 36o polled -- or 2.952 people if you believe the figures, since the boys have announced them to plenty of significant figures more than is justified, and the arithmetic still doesn't work out.

For example, if 30.79% of 360 respondents prefer Hide, that's 110.84 people (either 110 or 111). So that's odd. (If you're rounding either 110 or 111 to two significant figures you would get 30.55% or 30.83% respectively, not the figure quoted.) You'll find the same oddity with all the figures, so presumably then the results have been 'shifted' "to match the voting demographics of Epsom." Naturally, when it is the boys themselves that have done the shifting I'm going to be suspicious, especially when the boys claim of the result "they fully expect with this news ACT's polling to lift as well."

So this is not exactly a neutral poll, is it? Every party does tracking polls and the like, but not all of them trumpet the results in this fashion.

I'm suspicious of it also because I myself received a call myself last night from "a group of volunteers in Epsom committed to freedom" which began by asking me (erroneously) if I knew that voting for Rodney Hide would ensure a centre-right government, and ended by confirming (when I asked) that it was a call from the ACT Party. If it is those same "volunteers" that were the ones collecting and collating this poll data, then I'm not sure they're worth the electrons they're being posted with.

If you're trumpeting stuff like this, then your back is very clearly at the wall.

Drop in crime? No.

Labour repeatedly tells us we have the lowest unemployment figures since unemployment was invented, but this is at the same time as we have 300,000 New Zealanders on a benefit. They also trumpet the 'drop' in crime statistics across the country, but now frontline police themselves report these figures as meaningless since many, if not most, people don't report many crimes.

Who would you believe?


Holmes: Why do they do it?

Not a big day on the campaign trail yesterday. NZ First attacked National's tax cuts as "total nuts", the Maori Party attacked National as racist, the ACT Party put its principles up for sale, Labour and the Greens continued their love-in (Jeanette in the Transport portfolio!) and Don Brash "told a Tauranga audience if a Labour-Green government came to power, it would lead the country further down the path of racial separatism."

Some of these things are actually true.

But the big campaign moment yesteday was surely the skin-crawling interviews on 'Holmes' with Clark and Brash and their respective partners. Why does anyone agree to sit on a couch in front of several TV cameras and high-power lights so that Paul Holmes can ask you about your love life? And why did these four? Are there really any votes in telling people how you warm up your cup of tea, or how you left your wife? Galt spare us.

Kneel, Sam

So why is Sam Neill so all-fired qualified to talk about who New Zealanders should vote for? A fair question. St Molesworth has the top ten reasons. First one:

1. No one understands the needs of blue-collar South Auckland workers like an Irish-born actor tax exile now living in Sydney and California. (Read on.)

The difference between uni and high school

Top twenty-five differences here between high school and university (or college as the Seppos call it). My favourites:

22. In college, the professors can tell you the answer without looking at the teacher's guide.
13. In high school, when the teacher said, "Good morning," you mumbled back. In college, when the professor says, "Good morning," you write it down.
11. In college, weekends start on Thursday.
4. College women are legal.

[Hat tip Stephen Hicks.]

Why Ayn Rand was so smart

Regular readers of this blog will occasionally come across references to a woman called Ayn Rand -- confess, you've noticed haven't you. I know Bob Jones has -- and have maybe wondered why I have such a high opinion of her and her philosophical acumen.

Tibor Machan answers the question this morning:
[S]he is a very popular novelist and has in time inspired a good many scholars to explore her ideas in the various branches of philosophy and political economy. And she also made some novel and radical contributions to the discipline of philosophy, even as its practitioners mostly showed her disdain. One contribution in particular is extremely vital. This is Rand’s novel understanding of the nature of human knowledge.
Tibor briefly sketches the key to her theory of knowledge (very briefly) and also outlines the reasons for the disdain. The key is ... ah, read it yourself. :-)

Giving good tongue

In a praiseworthy work of public service, TinCanman has unearthed a wonderful How-to-kiss video that will do wonderful things for your extremities.

He also has a warning of what happens when you park your plane in South Auckland (below).

Good work that man.

An apologist for paedophiles speaks up

A 22 year old Nebraska loading-dock worker has been prosecuted for having sex with a thirteen year-old girl -- a girl for whom her mother took out a protection order against the 22 year-old. Too late. She is now fourteen, a high school student, married (for which the couple drove to Kansas), and a mother. Stories here, here, and here.

"Our position is we will prosecute cases where adult men are having sex with children," says the prosecutor, quite properly. Oddly enough, the paedophile has his apologists. Jim Peron saw fit to publish his apologia on his blog that
claims to be 'Looking in NZ'. I wonder what he thinks the relevance is to NZ? Perhaps you should ask him.

Tuesday, 30 August 2005

ACT Party sell their principles

It's true. And you can start the bidding at just $1. See.

The advantage of speaking for the speechless

Too many people spend too much of their time speaking either on someone else's behalf or as a spokesman for people or things who can't speak for themselves, and they spend too much of our time telling us what we should be doing on behalf of those they claim to speak for. And in the name of those "without a voice" they often seek to silence those who do.

There is a special status in law and in our culture given to advocates who claim to speak for the voiceless. They get extra kudos, legal aid, sympathy, headlines, moral stature ... and just sometimes (and just coincidentally) they also get themselves a job for life.

Look for example at politicians who like to claim they speak for the disadvantaged, even as they disadvantage all of us by putting their hands in our pockets -- naturally too ensuring they advantage themselves by doing so. Or politicians who say they 'speak for their people,' even as their actions serve to further impoverish the people they claim to speak for. Why don't these claims and the consequent theft and impoverishment caused receive any decent scrutiny?

Or look at high-profile activists, like for example Cindy Sheehan, who claims (or allows others to claim on her behalf) to speak for "an invigorated anti-war movement." As Rick Moran asks, where exactly are all the protesters she is supposed to have inspired? [Hat tip SH] Why do claims like this get traction, unless it is that the views of activists like Mother Sheehan reflect those who so breathlessly report their activities and opinions?

And what about those busybodies who claim to speak for "future generations," as if they somehow have a direct line to what future human beings are going to want at some unspecified time in the future. Why do they get taken so gosh-darned seriously? Who's to say that 'future generations' won't think they're all bloody idiots with an anti-human agenda who should have been silenced with a gag and a bucket of paraquat?

And how about those that claim to speak for other species, or for wild and beautiful landscapes, or for the heritage values, spiritual values, cultural values, or moral values of the community. Why do these people get headlines and hegemony when the communities, species, trees, rocks and mud puddles they claim to speak for haven't ever given them any mandate to speak on their behalf?

How do they all get away with it, and why do we let them?

When you are speaking for the speechless, the best thing about it is that the speechless can't speak up for themselves to tell you when you're talking nonsense -- which is precisely why so many idiots are attracted to this kind of advocacy. Your idiocy is trumped by the fact that a) you have a mandate (or claim to), and b) you care (or claim to). When the things and people you claim to be speaking for can't contradict you, you can in short have it any way you want since what you say goes. It's your opinion that matters, and your opinion has all the moral force of those you claim to be speaking for, but without the need to convince them that you're making any sense.

So if you're speaking for the speechless, speaking for the unspeakable, speaking for those who wouldn't let you if they knew, or speaking for those who know you're an idiot but just don't give a shit, then don't pretend you're speaking for anybody who has specifically endorsed you. Tell people instead who you are really speaking for. Yourself.


Vote Eco-Fascism!

A new website has been created that asks you to Vote for the Environment! Actually, it says it asks you to "vote for the environment" but what it actually asks you to vote for are authoritarians and troglodytes claiming to speak on behalf of 'the environment,' since there is nothing anywhere to indicate that the website's creators realise that the best protection for environmental values is not authoritarianism and command-and-control but instead the recognition and protection of private property rights.

The websites creators ask you to endorse political parties that promise to (among other things):
  • give lots more money to DoC and other selected government agencies and other quangoes;
  • increase the carbon tax, and to prevent the construction of coal-fired and nuclear power stations;
  • increase the indoctrination of impressionable school-children with the religiosity of 'sustainability';
  • ban the introduction of GE;
  • endorse the theft of private land by allowing public access over it;
  • make the Resource Management Act more onerous.
The underlying assumption is an antediluvian one that government action always works, that private property rights don't, that the 'tragedy of the commons' never happens, and that the more action government takes the better. Naturally, the FrogBlog is excited by it all.

There used to be a joke told by DoC workers, that the best way to eradicate possums would be to give possums to the Department of Conservation to protect. True too. Perhaps in this spirit DoC could instead take on the job of advocating for this form of antediluvian authoritarianism, while some of us at least get on with advocating for private property rights.

While you're thinking about all that, have a look at a whole bunch of quotes about property rights and freedom, my own recent speech on the subject, and an organisation that realises that when it comes to environmental matters, property rights do matter.

Perhaps you could cast a vote for that.

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God gadgetry

Some great Gadgets for God available here. What a great service! Make sure you send Bishop Brian a mailing list.

My personal favourites are the Talking Jesus Action Figure and the inspirational Mother Theresa Singing Doll, the practical yet spiritual Glow Grave, and the eminentlypractical 'Jesus Saves' Air Freshener -- which should really have a 'Jesus Saves' bog roll to go with it, shouldn't it.

Order now for Father's Day, or buy these if you have a teenage child's birthday coming up.

Funding racism, or not

Bloggers and politicians have been in apocalyptic mood over Brash's frankly rather timid proposal to end some race-based funding, to review some race-based government departments, and to speed up the Waitangi gravy train.

The welfarism and government favour won't exactly end under National, it will just be ... diverted. That hasn't stopped an outpouring of vitriol accusing Brash of everything from what Hitler did to the Jews (Harawira), to sending Maori back to Hawaiiki (Tze Ming), to "stripping Maori of their rights" (Idiot/Savant), to "teaching illusion" (John Johansen via the Frog), to delivering "a new jar of snake oil" (David Slack), to "Maori bashing" (Tariana) to taking the very bread out of the mouths of poor brown people everywhere who just can't survive without special favours and truckloads of money from the government (that one I just made up).

This is a view that all good things including wealth, favour and our only chance at piles of money come from government, that all wealth is doled out from on high -- arriving in our laps like manna from government-heaven -- that our belonging to a group is our way of receiving these boons, and government turning off the tap for these boons is turning off our only access to wealth; indeed, turning off our access to what we need for our very survival. It is the view that Other People's Money is the only recognised route for wealth and riches -- which was the view tested in court by Donna Awatere on a smaller scale, and found to be something called theft.

It is a view that denies the reality of where wealth comes from, and what makes freedom possible: the spirit of enterprise, and the philosophy of individualism. Such a spirit and such a philosophy is the antidote to the predictable collectivist poison spewed forth over the last eighteen hours.


Top ten reasons for the war in Iraq

Christopher Hitchens argues in 'The Weekly Standard' that the war in Iraq is not just A War to Be Proud Of, but that the case for overthrowing Saddam was unimpeachable. Powerline summarises the top ten reasons for his positive assessment here. Surpisingly, Hitchens credits Tony Blair as the only statesman from the nineties to emerge from the decade with any credit on this front...


Monday, 29 August 2005

Brash talks "review" not abolition

This news item could have been written this morning:

Brash calls for "review" (a "look at", not abolition) of the five Maori Government agencies. In response, Jeanette Fitzsimons has called him a Maori-basher, and Hone Harawira has called him a racist and his policies similar to those of Hitler and Australia's Pauline Hanson.

By contrast, the Libertarianz have called him (or should have by now) too damn soft. And he is. Don't "look at," don't "review": Abolish. If he's serious that there should be one law for all, then they really have to go. If he's not, then why has he brought it up at all.


When Joneses get wet

It's hard being both wet and a contrarian. It's even harder juggling being a pillar of the establishment, a 'gadfly,' and a fiction writer who relies on vanity publishers for being published and his remaining friends and his agent's wife for endorsements.

Poor old Bob Jones -- poor in the sense of being a sad bar steward -- old in the sense of being irrelevant, senile and losing his hair -- sounds increasingly desperate these days when he tries to find things about which to be contrary. Fat girls in Albany and Social Creditors were two recent if irrelevant targets. The Auckland and Massey University Philosophy Departments were unlikely recent recipients of his largesse.

From time to time he's also taken a pop at local libertarians for being variously cheap, Jehovah's Witnesses and (poor dear) rude to him. He's always been unhappy that Libertarianz have 'pinched' his libertarianism, and now he's having a pop at the "scruffs" Libertarianz have fronting for us in our TV ad. I'll let Bob himself make his current case, ranting in the Herald about how he "watched in amazement, the one-hour free television time party broadcasts as the last 20 minutes were given over to the nutter parties, all allocated a minute each."
Next up, a couple of scruffs took turns chanting how they would wipe out the bureaucracy, taxes et al - these being the Libertarians. No lads, you won't do that, or indeed anything with your lives, unless you toss away your Ayn Rand bibles and get on with actually living.
Poor Bob. He's had a bee in his bonnet for years about liberty, Libertarianz, Ayn Rand and the The Free Radical -- he used to bitch for example and tell FreeRad editor Lindsay Perigo to "stop putting all that Ayn Rand stuff" at the front of each Free Radical -- and bitter because we Libz have taken the freedom part of the New Zealand Party's 'Freedom and Prosperity' line and run with it after he'd forgotten it himself. Not that he was ever over-excited about freedom himself, really.

Sir Robert, as this pillar of the establishment is called these days, was variously an enthusiast for Muldoon's inflationism, and for a State Art Bank to "encourage local painters, sculptors etc." Sir Robert was also of course one of the founding, if not the only, members of the New Zealand-Soviet Union Friendship Society, that bastion of freedom, rectitude, Ladas and good taste. No 'scruffs' allowed in there! Nor sane persons either.

It's a shame Bob's humour & fun desert him when he confronts principle, and that good sense deserts him when he confronts the blandishments of university philosophy departments; it's a shame too that he now gets so anal and conventional over something as wet as wearing a suit. It probably comes with age, irrelevance, and all that hair-dye he used to use when he still had something on which to use it.

A 'new' haka. Yawn.

What does it mean when two teams line up to begin a game that at its highest level demands intelligence, skill and athleticism, and one of those teams then starts dancing about in a celebration of tribal savagery while the other looks on in quiet amusement. Tribal primitivism on one side; brains on the other. And on the sidelines, lots of idiots excited at a new display of thuggish aggression.

It's not my idea of good sporting entertainment, and as I usually go to the bar when my team starts dancing around like that I missed the 'new haka,' which was no doubt just as primitively tribal as the previous haka, which celebrated as I recall a bloke hiding under his wife's skirts. You can see the new haka if you must here at the NZRU site, and read the 'lyrics' here.

Remember when David Campese once kicked a ball around behind the goal posts while the All Blacks grunted and groaned down the other end of the field? Remember how upset everyone got about his 'disrespect.' I look forward to the Wallabies doing something similar this weekend while their opposition waste their time threatening violence upon themselves. It might be one victory that would be possible for a Wallabies team otherwise unlikely to be challenged by needing to deliver too many after-match victory speeches.


When abolishing racism is racism

Can someone tell me how exactly "abolishing the [Maori] seats would... hurt social cohesion in New Zealand," or is the Greens Frog Blog (sorry, frog blog) talking:
a) "the politics of racial divisiveness"
b) racist nonsense
c) gibberish
d) spin.

Peters on the slide

I enjoyed watching Winston Peters nearly lose Tauranga on Election Night 1999, and as scuttlebutt has had his present support in Tauranga being slightly fragile I've been quietly looking forward to seeing him wriggle again on the evening of September 17 . The Herald this morning shows just how fragile his support really is, and how much he might be wriggling. Answer: A lot.

This is not the kind of change his billboards have been talking about, is it?

Density in the Hutt Valley

Someone at Business Hutt Valley either has a sense of humour, or they're happy clappers for Jesus. Have a look at this scan of their Election Forum brochure, and see if you can spot anything even slightly odd.

(Sadly, the Density Church site to which I was going to link seems to have disappeared. Bishop Brian's lawyers clearly have a lesser sense of humour than Brian's alter ego Brian Tamariki.)

A nail-biting weekend of sport

The best thing about watching England play Australia is that you want them both to lose, and one of them usually will. With the competitive way they're both presently playing cricket the Ashes series has now presented three results, out of four games, that have gone right down to the wire, and given results each time about which a NZer can feel very happy.

The weekend's Ashes contest delivered another nail-biter, as much of one as Saturday night's Tri-Nations victory over the Jaapies. But am I the only one who enjoyed the rugby more than the new haka? Sheesh, what a lot of talk about a new celebration of savagery.


Libertarian basics

One thing I reflected on over the weekend was that every libertarian has their own way of presenting the libertarian argument. There are as many styles of presentation as their are libertarians.

For example, Arnold Kling at TechCentralStation has a much gentler style than I do. You'd never find him arguing that the world would be a better place when the last politician has been strangled with the guts of the last bureaucrat. Instead, he will say things such as:
I believe that you will find that when government power is held in check, people solve problems by creating institutions that are less coercive and more effective. That is not a utopian vision. It is not an irrefutable proof. But for me, it is a sound basis for libertarianism.
Read Arnold's Libertarian Basics if you prefer the gentler method of argumentation.

Building Act brings building delays

More red tape from the Building Act 2004 is starting to catch up with builders, as I said back in May it already was. Today's story comes from Ashburton, with builders explaining that the
"grindingly slow consents process" is leading to huge delays. ... “What we are setting up is a culture that won’t go anywhere without a piece of paper.” And that hefty paperwork requirement, while aimed at improving quality, would ultimately serve to slow the system down...
As I've also said before, don't take consent figures into account when you're claiming that the economy is heading south.

Sunday, 28 August 2005

Idiocy and more

Deborah Coddington's Herald on Sunday piece today shows that she's getting back her writing mojo -- it's almost good enough to have been in The Free Radical, where all her best pieces have been. Sadly though, you won't find it online. You'll have to rush down to the dairy and buy one.

Her comments on the stupidity of the Building Act amendments are as good as Hone Harawira's published comments on Donna Awatere's fraud conviction were idiotic. Her conviction was racist, said Hone. "There are too many Maori in jail and they can't all be criminals," said Hone. Perhaps some are just visiting?

Harawira will probably be in Parliament after this election. No doubt he will rival Keith Locke and Mike Ward for the number of quotable idiocies offered per week.

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Northland campaigning: Property rights

I've been speaking in Whangarei and Kerekeri over the last couple of evenings on the subject of property rights, with Helen Hughes (Hooch) and Julian Pistorius as my fellow campaigners.

Here's the text of my basic speech. Enjoy. :-)

[Ad-lib introduction]

Protection of property rights is amongst the chief reasons for which governments are constituted, yet successive NZ governments over recent years have not only ignored your property rights, but have actively sought to remove them.

New Zealanders who once themselves understood the crucial importance of property rights now seem bemused by their lack, until perhaps they themselves find they can’t build on their own property, can’t cut down their own trees, can’t use their property in ways they always have, or find that control of their property has been passed to someone else … and that someone carries a clip-board and must be called ‘Sir’ … and we must pay that person for the privilege of asking them permission to do what we want to on our own land.

It’s not right.

Author Ayn Rand once observed that when the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce, then you may know that your culture is doomed. Aren’t we there now?

The productive have been asking permission from the unproductive in order to produce … and you haven’t been getting it, have you. Not without a fight. Not without iwi consents. Not without a large legal bill, and several weeks spent with a consultant.

There is a litany of projects across the country – projects both large and small --that have never and will never get of the ground – permission having been sought at great time, energy and expense, and permission never having been granted. The number of large infrastructure projects completed in the last ten years can be counted on the fingers of one foot.

There is a litany of projects both large and small that are just stillborn; never to be attempted, as people realise that there’s no point in planning projects and paying for consultants and for permission that will never be granted.

And there are people who have now realised that their land is no longer their’s, since ownership means nothing when you must ask someone else’s permission in order to use that which you own.

It’s not right.

We’ve lost our property rights, and we’ve lost the understanding of why property rights are important. What we’re losing is part of our heritage: part of what made the West rich, and part of what protected our freedom, our liberty, and our lives.

From as far back as the Magna Carta, there has been an understanding that private property deserves and requires protection. Such protection became part of the common law tradition brought to New Zealand in 1840. The rights and privileges granted by the Treaty assumed the context of contemporary common law protections, which have now largely been lost.

As time passes, it has become more evident that private property rights are among the most fundamental and most valuable rights. Indeed, as author-philosopher Ayn Rand argued, property rights are not just among the most fundamental right, without them no other rights are possible:
The right to life (said Ayn Rand) 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...
Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the other rights: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he does earn it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.

And it is the material values we each produce that keep us alive, and allow us to flourish.
Unlike other animals human beings cannot survive as we come into the world; in order to stay alive and to flourish we each need to produce and to keep the fruits of our production. If our minds are our means of survival – as Julian Simon used to say, our Ultimate Resource – then property is the result of applying the creative potential of our minds to reality in order to enhance our lives. The property we produce in this manner needs legal protection in order to secure our survival. Without legal protection, we must battle today to protect that which we struggled to produce yesterday.

The need for a legal framework protecting property has been long ignored or taken for granted by economists and legal theorists of all stripes, but its importance is slowly being re-understood by contemporary thinkers. Tom Bethell’s landmark book The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages traces successes and disasters of history consequent upon the respective recognition or denial of property through the ages: Ireland’s potato famine, the desertification of the Sahara, and the near-disastrous US colonies at Jamestown and Plymouth can all be traced to lack of respect for property argues Bethell.

In his book, he identifies four crucial blessings of property
that [he says cannot easily be recognised in a society that lacks the secure, decentralised, private ownership of goods. These are: liberty, justice, peace and prosperity. The argument of [his] book is that private property is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for these highly desirable social outcomes.
Property rights then give us a Turangawaewae , a firm place to stand deserving of legal protection. Their full legal and constitutional protection is crucial, in order to ensure that their protection is not taken away by arbitrary legislative fiat, as has happened over recent years.

Private property rights do not just protect us; they provide the strongest possible protection for the environment, since owners with clearly defined and secure property rights have a strong incentive to care for their land. Our property rights act like ‘mirrors,’ reflecting back on ourselves the consequences of our own actions. They also give us the power to act as guardians against abuse by others – specific legal power to act against those who would damage the environmental values of our property. However, as property rights are eroded people become less willing to invest in good stewardship because they are uncertain as to where the benefits of their labours will finally accrue. Most damage to the environment is the result of ‘the tragedy of the commons’ whereby people are encouraged to ‘take the last fish’ or ‘cut down the last tree’ because if they don’t, then someone else will. Property rights solves the ‘tragedy of the commons’ by defining ‘whose tree’ it is, and by giving secure legal protection to those planning longer range by planting trees.

As Hernando de Soto argues, property rights extend people’s time horizons by allowing them to plan longer-range rather than shorter. In jurisdictions in which property rights are not secure, he writes, it will be observed that people will build their furniture before they build their walls or their roof. The reason for this is that without the protection of property rights, such short-term action is rational: property in such a jurisdiction needs to be kept mobile as property cannot be kept secure. As property rights become more secure time horizons become longer, and planning can become longer range.

Contemporary Abuse of Property Rights by Legislative Fiat

The most glaring example in recent years of the destruction of property rights by legislative fiat is that of the Resource Management Act (RMA). In all the nearly five-hundred pages of the RMA there is not one reference to property rights – not one! -- yet it is people’s property and their use of it with which the RMA deals directly.

This absence might not be of such import, and not encourage so many abuses, if there was universal understanding of the importance of property rights – but there isn’t -- or if there were constitutional protection for property rights. But there isn’t. If there had been, we would never have got the RMA. Unfortunately, the importance of property rights is understood today only by freedom’s adversaries – and valued only by their absence.

Karl Marx understood the importance of property rights, which is why he made the first point in the Communist manifesto – point number one – the abolition of private property. As Leon Trotsky long ago pointed out with some glee, where there is no private ownership individuals can be easily bent to the will of the state under threat of starvation or worse. Only ghosts can survive without property, human beings cannot. The enemies of freedom understand this point. It’s time the rest of us understood it too, and its high time we shouted out our demand to the rooftops that we have our freedom and our property rights back. High time! Who’s with me?

Now I have to tell you, you won’t get back your freedom and your property rights without a struggle. And you won’t get them back at this election.

Every election is an advance auction of stolen goods, perhaps this one more so than any other in recent years. Not one party is offering you your freedom and property rights … except Libertarianz. Not one party is promising to abolish the RMA … except Libertarianz.

All the other parties have at least recognised that the RMA is a problem, but none understand that the problem is that the RMA doesn’t protect your property rights … it does them over. As I said, in all its five-hundred odd pages, the RMA doesn’t even mention property rights. Not once. Little wonder that there is a problem. The common law has seven hundred years of sophistication and success in protecting both property rights and the environment; the RMA has a record of just ten of doing them over.

So how do the other parties propose to fix the problem of the RMA? Let me summarise: The Greens want to ensure the RMA gives greater rights to trees, rocks and mud puddles, and even greater rights to those who claim to speak for them. The Labour Party want the Greens in coalition and promise window-dressing as a minimum, the Greens’ agenda if they have to. The National Party… in the words of National’s Nick Smith, a man with a fork in his tongue big enough to hug a tree with, a man who calls the RMA “far-sighted environmental legislation” the National Party is offering you (in his own words) more window-dressing and more bureaucrats. And the ACT Party? ACT aren’t really sure what they’re offering, but they do know it will involve more consultants.

They’re all offering you more of the same, only more so. But not the Libertarianz. With Libertarianz the RMA would be gone by lunchtime. (Maybe even morning tea.) We promise a stake through the heart of the RMA. We promise the reinstatement of common law protection of your property rights. We promise you your freedom.

At this election and every election, you have just two fundamental choices: Nanny State in several difent guises, or personal freedom, and the Libertarianz.

There is no other choice. Any other vote is a vote for more of the same. Any other vote, especially a vote for something your don’t even believe, IS a wasted vote.

Only Libertarianz promise to get govment out of your pocket, out of your face, and out of your life. Permanently. And only Libertarianz understand that it is a cultural change that is needed in order to make that happen. Your vote, and your support, will help us make it happen.

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