Monday, 5 December 2005
Linked Post: Song of the Day #476
Two law changes however, Propositions 74 (on teacher tenure) & 75 (paycheck protection) seek to makes some changes, in California at least. Two chances of that happening here... [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]
Meanwhile, as New Zealand kindergarten teachers strike for more pay we hear the usual blandishments about what they're paid, and how they're worth this, or how they're worth that. But of course without a real market in eduation it will never be possible to establish what teachers are actually worth -- without a market there's just no way to establish what anything is worth. As Ludwig von Mises explained years ago, "central planning by the government destroys the essential tool — competitively formed market prices — by which people in a society make rational economic decisions." If kindergarten teachers truly want to find out what they're
worth, the best thing they could do is to argue for an end to the central planning of education.
The teachers union, NZEI, are also complaining that a demand to increase contact time from 25 hours to 30 or 35 hours is " unworkable as it would not allow enough time for teachers to do essential non-contact work." Perhaps they could reflect that if much of the Ministry-mandated paperwork requirements were removed, then spending so much non-contact time on nonsense would be unnnecessary, and spending more time in the classroom with children would be possible.
Linked article: Hey, teacher unions! Leave those kids alone!
The impossibility of socialism
Sunday, 4 December 2005
A generation of MBA students have been taught Game Theory, which on its own should be enough to discredit it, but unfortunately for its enthusiasts nobody in business uses game theory. Kihn and his 'Fast Company crew' checked it out:
The result: a lot of head scratching from the 'experts,' and a big zero in the box showing the number of times Game Theory has been used by businesses. [Hat tip Mises Blog]
Adopting our usual rigorous methodology, we set the following parameters. To count, an example must:
- be an actual business situation where somebody used the insights of game theory;
- have occurred within the past five years; and
- involve real, live, actual companies -- not governments, nonprofit organizations, or Russell Crowe.
Linked post: You Got Game Theory!
Saturday, 3 December 2005
Horowitz, described as “the left’s most brilliant and articulate nemesis,” has a filing cabinet even more well-stocked than Trevor Loudon's since, unlike Trevor, Horowitz was once a nutbar himself -- and there's just more nutbars to expose in the US! -- and he's made it all available at DiscoverTheNetwork.Org
[Cartoon brought to you by Students for Academic Fredom]
Linked Site: Discover the Network
I won't talk about the young Van Nguyen's 'crime' -- I've talked anough here about the 'War on Drugs' -- but my own view on capital punishment, since you asked, is that some crimes certainly do deserve the death penalty.
As Robert Heinlein observed, "Waking a person unnecessarily does not merit capital punishment--for the first offense." Playing ABBA or Westlife at loud volumes also qualifies. Most importantly, murderers morally deserve to die. There is no question but that if you coldly and calculatingly and with pre-meditation snuff out someone else's life and their future, then there's no reason anyone should recognise your right to life -- your right to life is negated by your refusal to recognise that right in others. No question at all. Mercy to the guilty is injustice to the innocent.
The chief problem I have with the death penalty is not a moral one, it's an 'epistemological' one, and a judicial one. My epistemological objection is that error is possible: the method of judicial inquiry is good but not foolproof (even eye witness testimony is notoriously unreliable), and as it's hard to pardon an innocent person after their neck has been snapped or their head cut off, I would prefer to keep 99 evil bastards alive just to ensure that 1 innocent good guy doesn't get topped by mistake. The judicial rider to this is that law and punishment need to be consistent: punishment should fit the crime -- that means that even in cases where guilt is overwhelmingly certain, the punishment should be consistent with the punishment meted out to those whose guilt has been decided on the basis of a lesser certainty.
My conclusion then is that capital punishment for murder is wrong. And capital punishment for drug smuggling is immoral. Those perpetrating that barbarity themselves deserve to die.
[UPDATE: I'm reminded that I participated in a good discussion of capital punishment at SOLO. Here's a link.]
Linked Articles: State Killing an affront to humanity and justice
Did Texas execute an innocent man?
- Read Lindsay Perigo's interview with the world's first 'terminator of Political Correctness,' Wayne Mapp -- the former 'Politically Incorrect Show' host interviewing the National Party's new PC Eradicator -- and find out whether a PC Nat-perons can eradicate PC.
- Read the 'Confessions of a Political Editor' -- a libertarian Political Correspondent tells all about his fours years in the heart of the Parliament of Whores.
- Find out about the 'New Puritans,' those scolds who would take away our pleasures -- and we're not talking Christian Puritans here.
- Have no fear though we are talking Christian idiocy: You can read my own piece on the Intelligent Design nonsense, first published here at 'Not PC,' in a final and cleaned-up version (still a couple of typos though. Bugger.)
- Find out about the Northland farmer arrested for shooting a young thief caught stealing his equipment late on night, and what it cost him to clear his name; Julian Pistorius has the interview.
- And there's much much more, including Casey Fahy's take on the non-responses to the publication of James Valliant's just-published Branden charge-sheet, 'The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics.' 'The Silence of Ayn Rand's Critics' is online, but you can read the review of Valliant's book only in the print version, along with much, much more!
Friday, 2 December 2005
Louis Sullivan -- Frank Lloyd Wright's mentor, and Rand's Henry Cameron -- saw Michelangelo's stunning figures as a young student. "He remained always in awe of what he called ‘man’s powers’ – a passion first given life for him when as an impressionable youngster he stared open-mouthed at the awe-inspiring figures created by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. ‘Here is Man’s Power evident in these figures!’ he wrote joyfully in his student’s journal."
Read Lindsay's 'Second Inaugural Address' for 'SOLO Passion,' or listen to it in MP3.
Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
Please let me know if you find any broken links or other oddities, or if you have any suggestions. Otherwise, enjoy!
[UPDATE: Okay, all broken links that I know about now fixed. Aargh! Just a wee problem to fix with the way 'Not PC' loads in Explorer, and she'll be right.]
The Crown, which was being sued on behalf of the BIA - now merged into the Building and Housing Department - asked the Court of Appeal to strike out the biggest claim against it for more than $20 million.
It was a test case to determine if the BIA had a legal duty to the $9 billion building industry, plagued by leaky building syndrome...
Oh, the irony.
Let me tell you a brief fairy tale. Once upon a time, several years ago, in a land awfully much like this one, a government department called the BIA, and an eager young researcher cousin BRANZ, were set up to mandate and oversee standards and practices in buildings, to authorise and dictate building systems, and to stamp the government's authority on an errant building industry -- in essence to say what the King would and would not allow in building, and to give what they had allowed the Royal seal of approval.
Many people rejoiced that this would save them the brain-ache of being allowed to decide for themselves what was safe and sound. 'Stuff with our seal of approval is safe and sound,' said the nice bureaucrats. 'Excellent!' said the people. Meanwhile, those who did wish to decide for themselves were told not to. 'Don't worry,' the BIA and BRANZ told everyone, 'as long as you all do what you're told and as you're told and when you're told, we'll make sure nothing untoward happens to you.'
And for a while, everything was good in the BIA, and many careers in government were confirmed, and many building suppliers got rich by getting their building systems and their materials approved by the BIA; and many important meetings were attended, many bureaucratic salaries paid, and many BIA determinations and approvals issued.
And the little people of this fair land did all that they were allowed to do and all that they were told to do, and many houses on many hills were erected in the fashion that BIA determinations and approvals said they were allowed to be and told to be - and everyone knew they were safe and sound and could stop thinking for themselves, because as everyone knows the job of the King is to keep everyone safe and sound, and wasn't he and his men doing their job so well! 'Approved by the BIA.' 'Tested by BRANZ.' These were Royal seals of approval and official stamps of safety and soundness that could be relied up on to keep everyone warm and dry. And lo, the people rejoiced in ther homes, and the bureaucrats rejoiced in their big, shiny offices that the people were made to pay for. And the King decided that all was good, and he went off to climb a mountain.
Until one day, the rains came. And it turned out the job had not been done so well; that some of what the BIA had determined had to happen, and had approved should happen, shouldn't have happened at all. And then it also turned out that the people at BRANZ and the BIA were not all-seeing and all-knowing, and that their job had really been one of 'all care and no responsibility.' 'Whoops,' said BRANZ. 'Whoops,' said the BIA; and they changed their name and withdrew their approvals. 'It wasn't our fault,' they said, 'and anyway, you can't sue us because we don't exist anymore.' And they pointed fingers, and vanished in a puff of bureaucracy.
And the good people of that merry, green land looked to each other and wondered why they had ever taken the government and their minions seriously. They wondered why they had worried more about 'fly-by-night' builders, when it was clearly 'fly-by-night' government departments that were the witches and warlocks. And meanwhile, good builders and good designers and home-owners who had relied upon the determinations and approvals of BRANZ and the BIA as being safe, found that the policy of 'all care and no responsibility' only applied to government, and to government departments, and to big suppliers with big legal departments. And they began fighting amongst each other. And many good people were ruined. And many other good people went to Queensland and retired. And the cost of building doubled in that green and merry land.
And everyone wondered why they had let it happen.
(And then perhaps some wondered too whether it might be better if the government set up a Car Approval Authority, to take responsibility for approving second-hand cars before they're sold... 'Well, it works for houses,' said one wag.)
Linked Article: $20m leaky home case struck out
See all related posts: Building
Perhaps you thought that being an architect was all about creativity and drawing pretty pictures? Wrong. I probably would have been better served to go to law school in order to design buildings.Idiocy like he describes is not unfortunately confined to Seattle; it is worldwide. There is no shortage of it here in Auckland -- the same people he describes sit behind the same desks here -- and all you can do as an applicant is smile and nod and grit your teeth. All of us pay the cost for the bumbling and the interfering; for the ignorance and the bossiness and all the stupid rules and guidelines, all administered by morons. Whether you're building or just living or working in a building -- and that of course makes all of us -- we all pay the cost, and we're all poorer for the nonsense he describes. Why, I wonder, do we all just sit back and let it happen?
One of my hard and fast rules when preparing documents to present to permitting authorities is this: it is impossible to underestimate the intelligence of a plan reviewer, or to overestimate their inefficiency and lack of work ethic. I drill this rule into the heads of my assistants, and keeping it in mind has served us well on many occasions. Plan reviewers, of course, are inextricably bound by the rules of bureaucracy. Their only accountability, such as it is, is to other bureaucrats. They have essentially permanent job security (it is much harder to fire an assistant land use planner than it is to impeach a President or indict a crooked Congressman). Most of them are shockingly ignorant, even of their own professed specialties, and there are strong disincentives for them to be otherwise. They also have a tendency to be extremely bigoted in a narrow range of prejudice: rabid environmentalism, extreme moral elitism, and intellectual narcissism.
There are exceptions, of course, and we are fortunate that is the case. However, the pressure on these exceptions to conform to the mediocracy is very high, and they tend not to last. Beware the land use planner who has a degree in planning, more than a decade of seniority, and no experience working in the private sector.
Every time you clamour for a new stupid rule you give these people power, you add costs, you increase delays, and the unintended consequences of your stupid rule are generally worse than what your rule was intended to solve. Why do we let you do it?
Linked Post: More Adventures in Bureaucracy
Thursday, 1 December 2005
And why wouldn't it be? As Gareth Morgan points out, the impact of 'ideological burps' has been to radically change the behaviour of taxpayers. And as I argued here at the time, cutting envy taxes makes us all rich. Keeping the shackles on the highly-productive only hampers the productive and the entrepreneurial -- who could blame them if they decided to go on strike.
Whatever the case, it's clear from a record-high NZ dollar that foreign investors aren't shrugging in their enthusiasm to invest in the New Zealand economy. High interest rates and confidence in the local economy are attracting foreign investment by the boatload, and pushing up the dollar. Gareth Morgan points out that investor's enthusiasm for the New Zealand economy is in contrast to the pessimism of REserve Bank governor Alan Bollard. Worse: Bollard's pessimism-fuelled interest rate hikes are in fact fuelling the investment/borrowing orgy that has Bollard so worried, and at the same time revealing as illusory the idea that the governor has the tools with which to control inflation.
(And if you're wondering what I mean by 'shrug,' I'm referring to Ayn Rand's novel 'Atlas Shrugged' (right) in which the people who move the world decide to go on strike, just as Trotter and McDermott are worried they will here.)
To sum up. If those supplying capital to this debtor nation do not concur that there are serious economic imbalances to worry about, the central bank is extremely limited in its ability to control inflation. This limitation is all the more severe if there are lending institutions beyond the sphere of influence of the Reserve Bank.No amount of piecemeal interventionist distraction will overcome that reality Dr Bollard – a bad workman blames his tools.
[UPDATE: Trotter link fixed to point to correct article.]
Linked Articles: Stop signs
Graphing 'idological burps'
Cutting envy taxes makes us all rich
A bad workman blames his tools.
Bush again rejected a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq, saying conditions on the ground rather than "artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington" would dictate when American forces could return home.His commitment was echoed both before and after the speech by Democrat Senator and former Al Gore running mate Joe Lieberman (picture below left), who said after his earlier meeting with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (not pictured):
We cannot let extremists and terrorists, a small number, here in Iraq deprive the 27 million Iraqis of what they want which is a better freer life, safer life for themselves and their children... The Connecticut Democrat, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the cost of success in Iraq would be high "but the cost for America of failure in Iraq would be catastrophic -- for America, for the Iraqi people and I believe for the world."After returning from Iraq, Lieberman said he was opposed to an early pull-out, and despite Democrat calls for a pull-out he pointed to polls showing opposition to doing so, and to the real progress being made on the ground in Iraq.
Progress is visible and practical. Iraq is on the frontline of our effort to protect the American people, and it is only right that we stay on the offensive. I have said many times that none of us wants to see this war fought on American soil, in Chicago or New York or Washington, D.C. or any other American city.He's right you know.
Linked Articles: Bush releases detailed strategy plan
Full transcript of Bush's Annapolis speech
Lieberman: US to finish Iraq mission
Democrat flip flops on war
Some excellent choices, although I'm not personally convinced by either Wilbur Smith or Alistair Maclean. I did however follow his Lee Child recommendation from an earlier edition of this latest list, and I'm damn glad I did.
Linked Article: Want to read some great action thrillers?
I haven't seen such a thing for NZ blogging, so feel free to let me know if such a thing exists. [Hat tip Mark]
Linked Article: Legal guide for bloggers
In April 1975 Locke wrote a lead article for 'Socialist Action' under the banner heading: "Cambodia Liberated: Victory For Humanity" The "liberators" were of course the Khmer Rouge led by the infamous Pol Pot.That victory for humanity came at the price of the death by government of 2,035,000 Cambodians. A Cambodian friend told me that at the end of the Pol Pot regime, Khmer Rouge troops were killing people with bamboo stakes -- by then, you see, they'd run out of bullets. Such was the regime that 'liberated' Cambodia.
Copies of that fateful April 1975 edition now change hands at enormous prices. You can however find a copy in the Parliamentary Library now that is has been tabled in the House. [Hansard here; scroll down a few dozen lines. See Frog Blog's answer to the charge here. RJ Rummel has a 'Docudrama' from that fateful liberation here.] Loudon concludes the four-parter with the observation that,
Keith Locke was born into a communist family and has fought for the cause ever since. He has wasted his life supporting some of the most murderous regimes and movements on the planet.Too true. Trevor has missed another revealing incident dating from 2001. Soon after the act of war that was September 11, Keith Locke spoke at a meeting in Rotorua on a platform with Annette Sykes, at a meeting called to protest the liberation of Afghanistan. As Keith sat there smiling and nodding his head in agreement, Sykes told the audience (as transcribed by a member of that audience):
When I first saw the planes fly into the towers I jumped for joy, I was so happy that at long last capitalism was under attack. Until, it suddenly dawned on me, what about all those poor pizza delivery boys, those poor firemen, those poor policemen, those poor lift-operators, all those poor cleaners, all those other poor workers who are forced to work for and were trying to save those greedy and horrible capitalists!? My heart and head was so confused - happy that some capitalists had been killed and very, very sad for all those who had died while working for them.
Keith neither challenged nor questioned Sykes’s rant; instead he sat there and smiled and nodded and then led the applause when she finished. Nice chap. Good company he keeps. I raised this matter on the Frog Blog back in May, at which time some discussion ensued.
Anyway, while you're at Trevor's blog, have a look at his examination of another complete wanker, Robert Constant-whine, a man who has ridden more gravy trains than a slop cart driver.
Keep 'em coming, Trevor.
Frederick Clifford Gibson's 'Temple of the Human Spirit,' designed in 1994 for an International Design Competition for Yerba Buena Island, San Francisco, with original bronze sculpture by Michael Wilkinson.
Gibson's website, in which you can read about the project and the ideas behind it are here. The poster is the product of Alexandra York's ART, American Renaissance for the Twenty-First Century.
Linked Article: Temple of the Human Spirit
Wednesday, 30 November 2005
- A very brief history of modern environmental doomsday-ism.
- The authoritarian Greens and their 'Peak Oil' fantasy -- "'Peak Oil' is another imminent doomsday scenario of an oil-starved post-industrial world of war, famine, and international chaos... 'Peak Oil' is demonstrably not a fact... At the hands of the Greens the Hubbert bell curve hypothesis has become first a geological fact and then a piece of propaganda to push for the political 'transformation of our civilisation.' Besides, the best response to resource shortage is the free market, not a planned economy as the Greens promote."
- The RMA -- "the Resource Management Act pinches private property rights, overturns the market and ignores prices in favour of a political process that grants temporary government consents to use resources. The Act was developed by Labour and implemented by National. It stands as last century's biggest land grab."
- The basket case of the fomer Eastern Bloc -- "we care for our environment like the former Eastern Bloc countries cared for their economies."
- Property rights and tradeable water rights -- which as he says "allows water to be priced and valued. That encourages water to be put to its most valued use and encourages conservation because it gives water a value."
- How production, good science and good law are essential for humans and the environment.
Quite right too. Well said, Rodney.
The command-and-control approach to managing resources crumbled in the Eastern Bloc countries. We should learn the lesson for environmental policy.
To provide for our environment we need to uphold property rights and extend them.That's the way for a more prosperous country. And a cleaner, greener New Zealand
Linked Speech: Making New Zealand Prosperous, Clean and Green
Perhaps the biggest difference across the political spectrum is the suggested remedy for the idiocy. Keith Locke's heading for the Human Wrongs Commissariat to fix things. Libertarians take a different approach:
If you want to change this, then it is up to men and women who aren't suspicious of men to reject it - as consumers. The airlines are reacting to consumers, simple as that.Linked post: Men, kids, planes, fear
So now if you click on 'My Categories' above you can find almost everything written here at Not PC in a whole bunch of different subject headings, and also some of my writing from elsewhere. Have a go. See what you can find. Find that beer I wrote about or the artwork I posted back in April and you've been looking for ever since. Find everything I've written here on economics or libertarianism (a lot!) or on the Greens, or ACT, or Libertarianz. Or the Nats. Or when I've written about books or music or films, or I've tried to be humorous. (Yeah, I know.)
In the meantime I'll keep cataloguing the remaining posts, so do check back as you can expect to see all the categories filling up fast. And when I've finished that job I'll remove all those 'Classics' from the sidebar, and replace them with all the categories. Enjoy. :-)
Link: My Categories.
Prime Minister Helen Clark has again been forced to explain Winston Peters' ministerial role – this time to the European Parliament. Miss Clark was in Brussels to give the European Union a ticking-off about trade, but found herself being quizzed over her new foreign affairs minister by confounded members of the European Parliament (MEPs). At a foreign affairs committee meeting yesterday, German Green Party MEP Michael Cramer said he could not understand why Mr Peters had been appointed to the post.
Despite the noise and nonsense generated about Winston's new role as Foreign Minister -- and Winston is nothing if not a lightning rod for nonsense -- I have to say that I don't really care.
Self-important European MPs such as German Green Michael Cramer say they don't understnd how New Zealanders can accept Winston as "our representative in the world," and I really don't care.
I don't care for one simple reason. I don't care because Winston is not my representative in the world, and nor is he New Zealand's representative. Sure, he meets up with other politicians overseas, but as politicians are mostly a waste of space anyway I don't care what they think of New Zealand. European politicians may or may not remove their stupid European subsidies and open up trade, but I doubt whether any NZ politician is going to persuade them about that anyway.
And when it comes to being New Zealand's representative to the part of the world that really mattters, that is , the part of the world that isn't politicians -- the part of the world that actually runs the world -- 'our' representatives are just fine. They represent us very well, thank you very much.
Peter Jackson, Graham Hart, Tana Umaga, Graham Henry, Karen Walker, Neil Finn, Ralph Norris . . . these people and others like them are New Zealand's representatives to the world, not Winston.
The idea that politicians represent us in the world is as silly as the idea that politicians run the country. They don't. They just get in the way of the rest of us who do.
Tuesday, 29 November 2005
Sue Kedgley's vituperative response to the government NOT forcing food producers to including country of origin labelling shows the Green Party's belief in using state violence against producers. This is my example number 1 of the Green Party belief in state violence.As Scott points out, if consumers want labelling that gives them some particular information -- that is, if there is consumer demand for such a thing -- then you would naturally expect suppliers to fulfil that demand; those suppliers that do so would then find their market-share increasing, something suppliers like very much. That this isn't happening, and instead that Sue has to ask for the government to get the gun out in order to make it happen suggests that there is no demandfor such a thing -- or at least none worth a damn.
She is full of angry nonsense in saying that by not forcing such labelling on food, the government is denying information for consumers. The opposite of compulsion isn't a ban Sue, even though those are the only two policies you ever seem to call for!
Get a life, Sue, and let people make their own choices. And put the gun away.
The Scotsman has a summary: 'Being 'fat' may not be a health risk':
...experts warned that anyone deciding to lose weight after being told they were too heavy because of their [Body Mass Index] could actually damage their health. Reducing the amount of food consumed lowers weight, but also lowers the amount of lean tissue, which has been linked to an increased chance of premature death.I'm heading out to get a burger and chips. Care to join me?
Katherine Flegal, an epidemiologist from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who led the team behind the controversial study, said: "Although people think there's all this evidence out there showing a high mortality risk associated with being overweight, in fact the literature doesn't show it."
A previous CDC study said overweight and obesity caused 325,000 premature deaths a year in the US, but Ms Flegal's study found that while obesity was the cause of 112,000 early deaths, there were 86,000 fewer deaths a year among those who were overweight compared with those who were "normal" weight...
... Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at California University whose BMI makes him nearly obese, said: "If correct, all these worries about a huge fraction of the population being overweight just go out the window. It's not a trivial problem, but the focus should now be on the severely overweight. The current definition of overweight is not like the speed of light or pi. What was considered as the normal, desirable weight is too low.
- A very short graphic introduction to the traditional one-dimensional Left-Right political spectrum, and a simple explanation of where it falls down.
- Another short political quiz to see where you are on the two-dimensional political spectrum -- and see where NZ's political parties site on that spectrum here.
- Here's a trading game to help you understand the benefits of trade and cooperation, and the somewhat non-intuitive concept of comparative advantage.
- How about The Seen and the Unseen Game, to help you understand Frederic Bastiat's 'Broken Window Fallacy.'
- Want to know what Bootleggers and Baptists have in common, and why they're often in league calling for bigger government? Then the Butcher of Philadelphia will be your bag.
- And last but not least, Head Rush offers an interactive story in which you choose the direction the story takes, revealing your view of government.
- A World Connected, a website celebrating and explaining globalisation, prosperity and human freedom.
- aBetterEarth.org, an 'alternative environmental' site in which common sense is highly prized.
- A great series of audio introductions to libertarianism and economics by Robert Heinlein's ebullient friend Robert le Fevre.
- More of the same from the Mises Institute: Mises Radio! Literally hours of world-class audio lectures on economics and liberty, online and totally free!
“The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer term effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.” – Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson.
Economics and those who practice it have a deservedly poor reputation. It has been called 'the dismal science'; it is also often said that if you laid all the world's economists end to end they would still never reach a conclusion; economists, it is also said, are number crunchers who, if they had any charisma would have become accountants. All this is, of course, true.
Economics itself has been defined variously as the "social science that studies the allocation of scarce resources to satisfy unlimited wants," or as the "science of value." Neither are strictly accurate. Economics, as George Reisman defines it,
is the science that studies the production of wealth under a system of division of labor, that is, under a system in which the individual lives by producing, or helping to produce, just one thing or at most a very few things, and is supplied by the labor of others for the far greater part of his needs... The importance of economics derives from the specific importance of wealth—of material goods—to human life and well-being.
Too few economists however have digested the lesson given by Hazlitt, or the definition offered by Reisman. Many economists since Keynes still see their job as being hand-maidens of the State, deciding how precisely state intervention should proceed, to what end, and who should be the beneficiary. Many still think short-range and bog themselves down in minutiae. They are supportive of policies that have short-term appeal for certain groups, e.g. inflation, borrowing, taxing, subsidising and (government) spending, but which are disastrous for everybody in the long term. By peddling minutiae too tortuous for the lay person to bother with, they create the illusion of wisdom, and bamboozle people into acquiescence; but theirs is the prescriptive wisdom of witch-doctors.
We are all the losers. It is often ignorance of basic economics that stops many people supporting the free society, and it is true that many of the key concepts of economics are not immediately apparent. Supply and demand is a fairly easy concept that, while beyond most politicians, is still something that even a six-year-old can grasp. However, beyond that lie dragons for some. The broken window fallacy and the laws of marginal utility and of comparative advantage for example are not so obviously intuitive, although they are wonderfully powerful tools once understood, as they should be in a free society (a game to help understand the latter is online here). The ideas of spontaneous order, or that there are "phenomena that are the product of human action but not of human design," or of the miracle of breakfast -- these ideas and concepts help to integrate economic thought and help make it understandable.
Indeed, in a free society with a free market place, economics would necessarily be demystified. It would be the servant of the entrepreneur instead of the bureaucrat, and be primarily descriptive of a process that citizens had already decided was morally proper, i.e. the voluntary exchange of goods and services in a society in which contracts and the rule of law are protected. Or, as Robert Nozick described the process, capitalist acts amongst consenting adults.
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. The series may be found on the right-hand sidebar of 'Not PC.'
Monday, 28 November 2005
The artist says: "A future shuttle, the Aristotle, is docked at an orbiting space station, in which a young American astronaut pauses from her work. With an affectionate gesture towards her home, she reflects on our civilization's progress."
The original artwork and prints therefrom are available at the Quent Cordair Gallery.
Mr McKinnon suggested that trade was more important than democracy... Miss Clark told 3 News that she disagreed with Mr McKinnon's comments.
McKinnon suggested that trade is tool of liberation, "not just an engine for economic growth, but ... the most potent weapon to combat poverty." Clark demurred, saying democracy was more important.
As it happens, on this argument I say they're both right. Trade is indeed the essential engine for economic growth, but free trade is only possible with a political system that allows that freedom, and supports it with a legal system that protects it. And as long democracy is understood as freedom and human rights, then freedom to trade is a concomitant of such a system.
It's unclear really what they're disagreeing about, but to make it somewhat clearer, RJ Rummel points out about such arguments that if you replace the word democracy with the phrase "freedom of speech, religion, and organization (such as creating a political party), and from fear," then you make clear the ridiculousness of such a debate.
- Trade is more important than freedom of speech, religion, and organization, and from fear.
- Many people are beginning to ask whether building asystem that protects freedom of speech, religion, and organization, and from fear is really the road to prosperity.
- Does freedom of speech, religion, and organization, and from fear put food on our tables, clothe our children, put roofs over our head or give us a future?
Vist Rummel's Blog Archive for more.
[UPDATE 1: Former NZ PM and former WTO head Mike Moore stands up for democracy and property rights and against McKinnon's reported view in an interview with Leighton Smith that you can listen to here (for one week anyway) -- much of his argument is directly in line with Rummel, and very good. Interview starts a few minutes in. Part 2 can be found here. Look out for the book on the subject on which he says he's currently working.]
[UPDATE 2: McKinnon says he's been misquoted and misunderstood by both the media and the PM: "I have always stressed that democracy and development are two sides of one coin," clarifies McKinnon. "People cannot eat democracy, but development cannot occur without freedom." He's right you know, at least as long as democracy as as Rummel described it above, and it isn't just unlimited majority rule."]
BK Marcus is one who reckons Minear gets it; he also has the story onwho exactly Heinlein's character Professor Bernardo de la Paz was based. [Hat tip Wally Conger]
Sunday, 27 November 2005
All I have to do now is work out how to show tags at the bottom of each post. In the meantime, feel free to visit my tags home page and start burrowing. It will be filling up fast as I do the job of 'archiving.'
[UPDATE: I note that there is an RSS feed for each Tag, so if for example you want to be notified every time I write something that's funny -- or maybe every time I post a piece of Art or Architecture -- but you don't want any bloody politics or any of that libertarian crap, then you can just select the RSS feed that you want. Neat huh.]
So I must be thirty percent geek. How 'bout you?
List below. [Hat tip Pukeko]
1. The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—Douglas Adams 85% (102)
2. Nineteen Eighty-Four—George Orwell 79% (92)
3. Brave New World—Aldous Huxley 69% (77)
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?—Philip Dick 64% (67)
5. Neuromancer—William Gibson 59% (66)
6. Dune—Frank Herbert 53% (54)
7. I, Robot—Isaac Asimov 52% (54)
8. Foundation—Isaac Asimov 47% (47)
9. The Colour of Magic—Terry Pratchett 46% (46)
10. Microserfs—Douglas Coupland 43% (44)
11. Snow Crash—Neal Stephenson 37% (37)
12. Watchmen—Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons 38% (37)
13. Cryptonomicon—Neal Stephenson 36% (36)
14. Consider Phlebas—Iain M Banks 34% (35)
15. Stranger in a Strange Land—Robert Heinlein 33% (33)
16. The Man in the High Castle—Philip K Dick 34% (32)
17. American Gods—Neil Gaiman 31% (29)
18. The Diamond Age—Neal Stephenson 27% (27)
19. The Illuminatus! Trilogy—Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson 23% (21)
20. Trouble with Lichen – John Wyndham 21% (19)
But I should tell you that if you're just reading this now, you're a few hours too late. :-)
Saturday, 26 November 2005
Farewell, George. As Tom Waits once said, it's better to be a good liver than to have one.
[UPDATE: I notice The Times has a different version of the 'fall from grace' story. I'm sticking to the one I heard. Legend and myth-making seemed to follow Best around, just as beauty queens did.]
The Hope, by Herman Wouk. Called "magnificent" by Anthony Burgess, that was enough to lure me into its pages. An epic novel describing the birth of modern Israel, told through the lives and fortunes of its leading characters. (You may remember Wouk's Winds of War which told a story of WWII in a similar fashion, and which was turned into a TV mini-series?) The Hope is well crafted and enjoyable.
The Kingdom of the Wicked, by Burgess himself, is set in the same geographical area as Wouk's novel but two thousand or so years earlier. Another historical novel, this follows on from Burgess's Man of Nazareth (from which another mini-series came) and purports to recount the story of Paul and the Apostles in setting out to take over the world with their stories of Messiahs, miracles and other madness. Not Burgess's best, but it still shits all over lesser accounts of the same events, such as those by the Apostles themselves . . .
Moving on now to something completely different: Gordon Corrigan's Mud, Blood and Poppycock is an extended argument that all you know about the horrors of First World War trench warfare -- the stories of "lions led by donkies" -- the senseless slaughter, all so that as Blackadder observed, "General Haig can move his drinks cabinet a hundred yards closer to Berlin -- the talk of a 'lost generation' -- all this Corrigan argues is the stuff of myth and nonsense. At least, that is, for trench warfare on the Western Front, for the British, for most of the war. In that severely delimited fashion I think he does succeed, pointing out for example that the Generals and the military tactics adopted were highly successful -- for example, troops advancing under the cover of rolling artillery barrages would often succeed where later even tanks could not; pointing out too that the slaughter on first day of the Somme offensive, with 20,000 British dead, was both necessary, given the available materiel and the events at Verdun, and tragic -- but comparable in loss of life to, for example, the first day of the D-Day offensive in the Second World War, when 9,500 Allied soldiers died in the battle to begin the liberation of Europe from the Nazis.
A book worth reflecting upon if you think you know WWI.
Last but not least, Umberto Eco's Kant and the Platypus, an entertaining meditation as Eco desribes it on "the reasons we can tell an elephant from an armadillo (as well as why we don't normally mistake our wife for a hat) . . [a problem] even Kant (as we shall see) not only failed to solve but didn't even manage to express in satisfactory terms." For his part, Eco himself offers much indecision, gleefully taking as his motto "a quotation from Boscoe Pertwee, an eighteenth century author (unknown to me) which I found in Gregory (1981:558): 'I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.'"
Both the motto and his manner of describing it give a clue to the book: it's playful, learned and offering more questions than answers but with much insight and a friendly wink at his own footnoting. Less enjoyable than Eco's fiction, but still delightful for all that. [And if you really care what I think about Kant, you might be interested in several articles on the 'catastrophic spider' written in response to a Kantian philosopher, Kant Can't, Kant Couldn't, Kant Didn't, and Kant Really Wasn't -- the first by Lindsay Perigo, and the last three by yours truly.]
Friday, 25 November 2005
is an ill-conceived attempt to make people in wealthier countries feel guilty about their consumption, based largely on the theory that everything that exists on earth is part of a zero-sum game.Don't buy into it. Read Scott instead.
An article by David Kirkpatrick of the US Freedom Foundation points out that:
The problems of secondary education are hardly a new revelation. In "Secondary Education Reform," written in 1976 by A. Harry Passow, high school was described as "the most absurd part of an educational system pervaded by absurdity."
About the same time, a Carnegie Commission on Higher Education report concluded there is so much duplication between the last two years of high school and the first two years of college, that one or two could be eliminated.
Why not? As Kirkpatrick concludes, "As educators who claim to teach critical thinking and problem solving, why can't we think critically and solve some of the problems of conventional schooling?"
Linked article: Is Traditional High School Obsolete?
wet soldiers (not on front page)
opposes to mozart effect (1st at Yahoo)
water bottled at putaruru (not on front page)
americans identifying nz on a map (not on front page)
summary of the seven-lesson school teacher (2nd on Yahoo)
getting rights right (5th)
lord denning approach to precedent (4th)
avian flue exaggerated (not on front page)
classical sex (1st on MSN)
time preference theory of interest (42nd)
newsweek baby boomer quiz (3rd on Yahoo)
nuclear power blair blog (not on front page)
jorn utzon (5th at MSN)
reasons for the war in iraq (not on front page)
bush was right (10th at Yahoo)
urban design (not on front page)
pictures of female soldiers iraq (not on frontpage)
iglesia de la medalla de la virgen milagrosa (1st at Yahoo)
virgen milagrosa (2nd at Blog Search)
Amongst other oddities we also had the clearly delusional "pc hot for 2006," the mysterious "i want watch the pakistani stage dramas," and the frankly bizarre "bloody virgen blogs" and "i want to fuck brian larsen." Quite where I would send these searchers, I really don't know. Any ideas?
Despite being arguably the most responsible for many of the excesses of twentieth-century town planning, and depite producing a clutch of buildings with no heart, no soul and (mostly) no colour other than white -- and most of them just variants on a simple theme: a box -- Le Corbusier (AKA Corbu) did produce one building worthy of worship.
The Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp is that building. Visit it any day, and you will find a carpark overrun with Citroens, and a building swarming with earnest young men sporting bow-ties. Briefly out of fashion with the over-earnest for being 'sexist' -- it's all to do with that entrance, I'm told -- this is one building that does deserve all its accolades.
Thursday, 24 November 2005
Well, he would say that, wouldn't he. The photo at right would have been chosen by the Institute to showcase the awards, and also presumably to highlight this bold new direction -- it's a bach, by the way. Now, photos aren't always a good way to judge a building, but the selected photo causes a few words to spring to mind, and 'more personal' and 'relaxed' aren't three of them. What words would you use?
Economics genius Michael Cullen says he will be talking to Inland Revenue about 'closing the student loan loophole' exposed by one Thomas Banfield, who reclaimed his voluntary student loan repayments and whacked it in the bank to earn interest -- a smart thing to do when your loan is interest-free and the bank is giving you back eight per cent on your deposit.
'Closing the loophole,' Cullen calls it. But Cullen's 'loophole' is not the ability to reclaim voluntary repayments; the 'loophole' is the whole no-interest, money-for-nothing, student-loan election-bribe fiasco. Labour said during the election that 'there was unlikely to be a big rise in the number of students taking out loans, even if they were interest-free.' As anyone with a brain knew at the time, they were wrong. It's looking like another $1 billion error.
(Supplementary question: If you publicly predict an outcome that you know by your own judgement is the opposite of what will occur, is this a lie? Or just an election promise.)
Literate workers are the necessary foot soldiers of a knowledge economy. When literacy dives at home, as it has -- more feel-good crap and less real learning seems to be the motto of the state's factory schools both here and the US -- then it becomes easier to hire literate workers 'outsourced' from offshore.
Even as our own literacy levels plummet, this drive for literate workers outsourced from offshore offers an enormous incentive for those countries to improve their education systems.,
The good news is that all this competition is encouraging many countries, regions and cities to take a hard look at their education systems, infrastructure and other fundamental drivers of competitiveness. That ultimately raises productivity and prosperity in all locations. And for companies, it means they are all the more likely to find the ideal solution for each one of their functional needs, somewhere in the world,' [says Simon Bell, director of AT Kearney`s Global Business Policy Council].So at least literacy is valued somewhere, if not yet in the classrooms of New Zealand and the United States.
In short, they're wrong, and Bush was right. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's reported death is just one more very large mark for the positive side of the ledger. While reflecting on Hanson's arguments, you might want to remind yourself of Christopher Hitchens' Top ten reasons for the war in Iraq from August. "The case for overthrowing Saddam was unimpeachable," said Hitchens.
While the U.S. military conducts a brilliant campaign to implement democratic reform that is on the eve of ending with an Iraqi parliament, while there has been no repeat of promised 9/11 attacks here at home, and while the entire dictatorial Middle East from Lebanon and Syria to Egypt and Libya is in crisis — baffled, furious, or impressed by a now idealistic United States pushing for something different and far better — our intellectual and political elite harp on "WMD, WMD, WMD..."
Sadder still, they stay transfixed to this refrain either because polls show that it is good politics or it allows them a viable exit from an apparently now unpopular war.
But no, not so fast.
History has other lessons as well — as we know from the similar public depression during successful wars after Washington's sad winter at Valley Forge, Lincoln's summer of 1864, or the 1942 gloom that followed Pearl Harbor and the fall of the Philippines, Singapore, and Wake Island. When this is all over, and there is a legitimate government in the Middle East that represents the aspirations of a free people, the stunning achievement of our soldiers will be at last recognized, the idealism of the United States will be appreciated, our critics here and abroad will go mute — and one of the 23 writs for a necessary war of liberation will largely be forgotten.
Linked article: War & Reconstruction -- For Bush’s critics, even hindsight is cloudy.