Saturday, December 03, 2005

Tracking down the nutbars

Do yourself a favour and discover David Horowitz's current project: to help you 'track down all the Ward Churchills on campus' and all the networks of all the US nutbar activists that are fit to print.

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

Murder by state okay?

[Cartoon by Nick Kim, courtesy of 'The Free Radical.']

The execution yesterday of twenty-five year-old Australian drug smuggler Van Nguyen by the Singaporean state has re-opened the debate on capital punishment. At the same time we have the news that an innocent young Texas man was executed in 1993 on the basis of a verdict "that seems to have been built on omissions and lies."

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?

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Free Radical #69. " Best yet."

I've been devouring my new copy of the 'Free Radical' since it arrived in my letterbox, and I have just two words to describe it. Wow. Twice. I have to say that it's the best issue yet.
  • 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!
Full list of contents here at SOLO, including information on how to subscribe. Wow!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Michelangelo's 'God'

Michelangelo's godlike God, from the restored ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, creating the Sun and the Moon. Half the figure is in the light from the sune; half in darkness, where sits the moon. The angels themselves appear stunned by his unexpected command.

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."

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SOLO Passion!'

Lindsay Perigo has a new project -- well, you might say a re-existing project. SOLOHQ has morphed into SOLO Passion, and an offshoot, 'Rebirth of Reason.'

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.

Tags done. Sidebar done.

Phew. Most of my writing here at 'Not PC' and elsewhere (about two-thirds) has now been 'tagged,' and all the tags are there on the right hand sidebar for your edification, education and exploration. :-)

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.]

A fairy tale of a leaky house or two

NZ HERALD: A multimillion-dollar claim against the former Building Industry Authority (BIA) over an Auckland apartment complex with leaky building syndrome [picture right] has been struck out by the Court of Appeal...

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

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Architect v Bureaucrats

A Seattle architect recounts his battles with his local bureaucrats when trying to deposit permit applications. Anyone who's ever made such an application will probably find themselves nodding in agreement.
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.

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.
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?

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, December 01, 2005

NZ businesses ready to shrug?

Will New Zealand businessmen 'shrug' -- or perhaps even go on strike? At least one person worries they will. "The danger is they simply put their cheque books away, they stop investing in capital, they stop hiring people and we could get to a point where we have a very good and very resilient economy that just stops." So says ANZ chief economist John McDermott, as quoted by a worried Chris Trotter. "To hear the idea of tax cuts dismissed as an "ideological burp" was almost certainly the final straw for many [local] business people," says Trotter.

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.

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.
(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.)

[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.

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Bush: "America will not abandon Iraq"

If you weren't already aware, George Bush has delivered a major speech on Iraq overnight that commentators are saying "could mark a turning point in his presidency." It will certainly be a defining one. The Washington Post reports that in reponse to calls for a pull-out from Iraq,
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

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Thrilling thrillers

A bunch of thriller writes and titles to keep you awake at night and turning the pages has been put together by Robert Bidinotto, who I've mentioned here occasionally. (You can see the Bidinotto Blog and his EcoNOT site down on the sidebar.)

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?

Legal tips for Bloggers

A few good legal tips here for Bloggers to slip under their bookmarks, put together by the Electronic Freedom Foundation. It's talking about US law of course, but much is still applicable, particularly if your server is in the States.

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

Keith Locke exposed again

Keith Locke's past has now been laid bare by Trevor Loudon in a four-part expose fueled by the contents of his encyclopaedic filing cabinets. They're all here: Keith Locke-A Wasted Life, Part1, Part2, Part 3, and Part 4 (Final for Now). Trevor's series began with the shameful story of Locke's support for Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge:
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.

Linked Posts:
Keith Locke: A Wasted Life, Part1, Part2, Part 3, and Part 4 (Final for Now).
Twentieth-Century Democide
Now Dearest, you are here
Con-sedine

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Frederick Clifford Gibson's 'Temple of the Human Spirit'


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, November 30, 2005

A cleaner, greener Rodney Hide

I"ve just finished reading an excellent speech on environmentalism from Rodney Hide, in which he also talks a little about his own background in the area, about which I bet many are unaware. Subjects covered include:
  • 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.
He concludes:

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
Quite right too. Well said, Rodney.

Linked Speech: Making New Zealand Prosperous, Clean and Green

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Political spectrum united against idiocy

DPF observes that by banning men being seated next to children on flights, QANTAS and Air New Zealand "have managed the near impossible - uniting the politicial spectrum to declare they are a bunch of idiots." Almost true. From the libertarian part of the spectrum -- that would be 'North' to the traditional Left-Right - comes LibertyScott's nuanced view: Yes, they're idiots driven by a politically-correct and irrational fear of men, but in the end it's their business really, isn't it.

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

Finding everything I've ever written...

I have great pleasure in letting you lot know that I'm now much of the way through making all of 'Not PC' easily accessible by category, as explained the other day.

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.

Things I don't care about: Winston Peters

DOMINION, Brussels: Europe grills PM on Peters

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.

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'Woman in Blue' - Michael Newberry

Newberry, 1981.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Greens get gun out for labelling

'Whatever isn't illegal should be made compulsory.' LibertyScott says that this seems to be the catchcry of Sue Kedgley and the Greens:
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.

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!
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.

Get a life, Sue, and let people make their own choices. And put the gun away.

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Eat up. Fat is good!

'Will a Pastry a Day Keep the Doctor Away?' That's the headline in the latest New Scientist, (unfortunately subscription only) which investigates a series of studies that seem to show "that being a little overweight may actually be the healthier option."

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.

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.

I'm heading out to get a burger and chips. Care to join me?

Libertarian tools, games, quizzes and links

Here's a whole bunch of useful games, tools and quizzes for you:
They're all linked from the Liberty Arcade, and brought to you by the friendly folk at IHS. And while we're about it, I've just added four new links, below, that complement many existing links.
  • 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!
Enjoy!

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Economics

“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.'

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Brian Larsen - 'How Far We've Come'


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.

McKinnon v Clark. Trade v Democracy

HERALD: Clark backs democracy over trade
A controversial speech by Commonwealth secretary-general Don McKinnon at the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta has been given a swift "thumbs down" by Prime Minister Helen Clark.

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.

For instance:
  • 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?
Well, does it? As Rummel concludes, "fostering democracy is not exporting it as though automobiles or computers, but unchaining a people’s human rights. Period."

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."]

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'Moon is a Harsh Mistress' on film soon?

I've now seen Serenity, about which I'm maintaining a discrete silence in the interests of blogetic harmony, but those who rate Serenity and its companions Angel, and Firefly will be excited to hear that Tim Minear, executive producer for the latter two series, is writing a screenplay for Robert Heinlein's story of libertarian revolution, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and according to some in the know, he 'gets it.'

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, November 27, 2005

Categories and tags

In the absence of a category tool from Blogger, I think I've finally worked out how to get mine working, and I'm slowly 'tagging' most of my archived posts so all my former stupidity can be found easily and then held against me. Richard at 'Philosophy et cetera' set me on the right road with this post, proving that philosophers are good for something. ;^)

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.]

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Geek books

The Guardian's Technology blog has hosted a wee vote on the top twenty 'geek novels.' I confess to having read nine of the twenty, six of which would be among my all-time favourites.

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)

Hangovers

My own Sunday hangover cure has been pooh-poohed. Protein, Vitamin B, Vitamin C and the Cowboy Junkies between them apparently are not enough. Sad but true. New Scientist magazine, courtesy of Beer Times, has a different answer, which I confess that sugar aside has been one that I've often successfully followed. [Hat tip Real Beer]

But I should tell you that if you're just reading this now, you're a few hours too late. :-)