Tuesday, 10 January 2006

Get rid of Queen St's trees

A storm in a 'tree-cup' going on in Auckland's Queen St over the holidays has had all sorts of people saying all sorts of nonsense -- the politically correct at loggerheads with the politically conservative over the architecturally stupid.

The issue? A "controversial plan to cull exotic trees on Auckland's Queen Street" and to replace them with natives, announced by mayor Dick Hubbard and referred to since by those with the vapours as The Great Tree Massacre. To me, the whole thing is somewhat laughable, but one with an important point.

The bloody trees should never have been there in the first place. Years ago -- some two thousand years, in fact -- Roman poet Virgil declared "God made the country, but man made the town." Poetically accurate, it describes why Queen St should be void of trees. The precincts of the city should be the place wherein man's great works are evident, the transition from country to city being a continuum from nature's great works to man's. As architect Claude Megson argued when the bloody trees were first planted, it was evident the reason was an abject lack of imagination on the part of those planting them -- man's great works being few and far between both in the streetscape of Auckland's main street and the heads of the council's architects, another time-honoured dictum was followed: "When in doubt, plant a tree."

The problem is not whether the trees in Queen St are exotic or native; the problem is that Auckland's city fathers have all the imagination of an anaemic hamster. Take the chainsaw to the trees, I say, and apply some imagination to the streetscape -- and don't plant any more bloody trees in Queen St. Use your head instead.

Things I learned on my holidays, 4

Bonfires are back. New Years Eve on the beach at Whangaumu Bay, Tutukaka, and there were four bonfires, fireworks, lots of revels and lashings of alcohol. Great to see, as were the many bonfires on other beaches right across the horizon, all the way down to the Whangarei Heads.

Meddling busybodies were nowhere to be seen, and nor were any fire permits.

Reviewing Narnia

How do you write a film review?

Dianne Durante gives a Master Class by giving you a 'how-to' of her own The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe review.

Linked Article: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Movie Reviews and How to Write Them

Too-fast growth is bad. Right?

It's probably unfair to pick on Jordan when he's still not returned from holiday, but hey, I never said I was fair. "I'm not fair." OK? Right then, on to the post: As an aside before leaving for his holidays, Jordan mentioned that "the economy is slowing down after five years of, perhaps, too-fast growth." Now that's a pretty common view, and one heard from many voices -- at least one of them emanating from the Reserve Bank. 'Too-fast' growth in productivity causes rapidly rising prices, and has to be stamped down into mediocre growth, or even no growth at all. 'Too-fast' growth is A Bad Thing.

Better no growth at all, says this view, than 'too-fast' growth.

But can it be true? In what sense can economic growth be 'too fast'? How can increased wealth production possibly be A Bad Thing? For RBNZ Governor Alan Bollocks, growth is 'too fast' when it somehow challenges his 0-3% inflation band -- and everyone knows that high economic growth causes inflation, don't they?

Well, they'd be wrong. The 'Philips Curve' and the Keynesian analysis behind it are what supports the 'Economic Growth Causes Inflation' Myth -- and they'd both be wrong.
This curve, now viewed by some as an economic law, was constructed decades ago and asserted that there was a "trade off" between unemployment and inflation -- that high inflation provided lower unemployment and low inflation created higher unemployment. But almost as soon as the Philips Curve became economic orthodoxy, actual experience contradicted it. Inflation coincided with increasing unemployment in the 70's, while falling inflation coincided with reduced unemployment during key periods of the 80's and 90's.

Keep the following in mind: Inflation is a reduction in the purchasing power of a unit of currency. As governments control currencies, they create inflation. Inflation can be observed by tracking changes in currencies relative to precious metals and other currencies. Over time, a currency's decline manifests itself in higher prices for industrial and consumer goods. An economy reacts poorly to the uncertainty and confusion of inflation, which hurts growth, and an economy responds favorably to the stability of low inflation, encouraging economic growth. In either case, an economy reacts to inflation and government currency policy; it cannot create it.
There you go then, and not so difficult to understand. Pity then that we have a Reserve Bank Act predicated upon a Myth. The Myth is made more so by a misunderstanding of what inflation really is; to remind you from above: "Inflation is a reduction in the purchasing power of a unit of currency," brought about by an increase in the money supply. The former is a result of the latter. Prices can rise for many reasons quite apart from monetary inflation; when a price rise is due to supply and demand reasons, it's called a price signal -- stepping on price signals distorts the market. It really is A Bad Thing.

It is only when prices rise due to monetary inflation that it is a problem. To classical economists, inflation is the undue increase in the supply of money above the rates that can be supported by savings. The RBNZ's 'basket' of goods and services by which they measure price inflation is not an accurate reflection of underlying monetary inflation -- a measure of the money supply is.
As long as consumer prices (as measured by the CPI) are not rising, or are rising only modestly, it is assumed that there is no inflation, or only very little inflation. Dr. George Reisman suggests that this is "..akin to saying that so long as someone shows no visible signs of illness, he has no illness - that his illness begins only when its symptoms become unmistakable." He goes on to say that "inflation does not come into existence when prices start rising noticeably, any more than heart disease or cancer come into existence when a person finally has a heart attack or experiences the acute symptoms of cancer. On the contrary, these diseases are already well advanced before their obvious symptoms appear."
'Too-fast' growth causes an increase in wealth, not an increase in inflation. What causes inflation is printing money, and only the central banks of government can do that.

Linked Article: The "Economic Growth Causes Inflation" Myth

Things I learned on holiday, 3.

Lesson number three: bikinis are A Good Thing. A Very Good Thing. Accordingly, and with a hat tip to G-Man, I've assessed just exactly which attributes my own tastes prefer to see in one -- or even out of one. Something behind the eyes is always good too:
Curvy and Naughty
Raw score: 62% Big Breasts, 59% Big Ass, and 40% Cute!

Thanks for taking the T and A and C test! Based on your selections, the results are clear: you show an attraction to larger breasts, larger asses, and sexier composures than others who've taken the test.

Note that you like women overall curvier than average.

My third variable, "cuteness" is a mostly objective
measure of how innocent a given model looked. It's determined by a
combination of a lot of factors: lack of dark eye makeup, facial
expression, posture, etc. If you scored high on that variable, you are
either really nice OR you're into deflowering teens. If you scored low,
you are attracted to raunchier, sexier, women. In your case, your lower than average score suggests you appreciate a sexier, naughtier look. Kudos!

Recommended Celebrities: Supermodel Laetitia Casta and Actress Angelina Jolie.

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 72% on tit-size
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 71% on ass-size
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 16% on cuteness
Link: The Tits, Ass, and Cuteness Test

Monday, 9 January 2006

Happy 2006

Oh yeah, Happy New Year everyone. :-))

Anything important I've missed? Any New Year's Resolutions you should tell me about?

Bad news for NZ's economic freedom

The various Economic Freedom Indices are a pretty blunt instrument to my mind -- for some reason they still measure New Zealand, for instance, as a perfect one for property rights, despite the many well-documented abuses inflicted upon NZ's property owners by government's both central and local. However, like all such things, while the precise figures are questionable the trend across several years is important.

The trend for New Zealand's economic freedom is down.

In the latest 2006 Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom, Godzone has slipped from the top three just a few short years ago, to its latest possie only just inside the top ten. The trend is down, and we're going down quickly -- we're seeing decreasing freedom here at home, even as many other countries including many former communist-controlled basket-cases find the freedom mojo. Libz leader Bernard Darnton blames Helen and her minions:

"New Zealand has slipped from fifth to ninth on the index and this government seems determined to push us lower," says Darnton. "Helen Clark has mused aloud about what a great example Sweden is. Sweden places 19th on the index—the very bottom of the 'free' category. Presumably we can expect our decline to continue under her guidance."

"Unsurprisingly," notes Darnton, "by far New Zealand's worst performing area is 'Fiscal Burden of Government', i.e. the amount of money the government steals in taxes from its productive citizens. We rank 101st along with economic heavyweights Swaziland, Ghana, and Vietnam."

Not good news to return to, then.

Linked Articles: 2006 Index of Economic Freedom
Report Confirms Libz View - Labour Choking Economic Freedom in NZ

Taming the inflation monster

As you might recall, we ended the year wondering why the Reserve Bank of New Zealand is strangling growth in a bid to keep down the prices of property -- nailing producers and exporters and all the rest of us to a cross of 'price stability' that is itself a mirage. This, says Alan Bollocks and RBNZ supporters, is neccessary to underpin the currency and restrain the infltaion monster. "No!" say RBNZ detractors like myself: in focussing only on 'price stability' you're reversing cause and effect.

Mike Shedlock suggests the worlds various central banks should do three simple things before they do us all a favour and self-destruct. While disagreeing with some of his detailed prescription, the general thrust of his recommendations is worth considering:
Instead of trying to achieve 'price stability' which ... is something that can neither be achieved nor measured , how about shooting for "money supply stability" instead? a.. Central banks should refuse to monetize government spending and trade deficits; b.. Central banks should let the market set interest rates; c.. Central banks should embark on a campaign of tightening reserves requirements over time to rein in fractional reserve lending Life would be so much simpler if Central Banks everywhere would stop trying to micromanage both prices and economic cycles. Quite simply, they are trying to achieve nirvana when nirvana can not possibly be measured, nor can nirvana be achieved in the first place with the policies they have in place. Of course if they stop doing these things, they will cease to be Central Banks in the modern sense, so perhaps they will get the hint and just close shop.
We wish. And as for that graph up top, just see the 'success' the US Central Bank has had in their number one job. Been really useful, huh?

Linked Articles: Inflation monster captured
One graph that says it all

Things we all should have learned by now

Here's something to ponder as you gaily engage in debate: How much do you really need to know in order for your opinion to be an informed one? Not all opinions are equally valid -- uninformed opinion is less equal than most. In the 21st Century, there are some basics that an educated person really should know if they're to be considered educated enough to pound sand, let alone to survive in and comment knowledgably upon the issues that dominate our lives.

A friend has succinctly summed up on another list just what those basics are:
I believe that a well-rounded education includes a knowledge of statistics, a knowledge of the basics of differential and integral calculus, a knowledge of basic molecular biology and evolutionary biology, the basics of physics and chemistry, a reasonable grasp of the basic rules of logic, a reasonable understanding of macro and microeconomics including supply and demand, a basic knowledge of human psychology, a reasonable survey of Western Literature, a basic understanding of the history of Western Civilization, an in-depth understanding of the Constitutional heritage of the United States, a survey of Western philosophy, the ability to read sheet music and some knowledge of our musical heritage and the basics of at least one foreign language.
To that list I might add an understanding of basic ethics and the theory of rights, and a survey of the history of Western art. How does that sound to you?

Sunday, 8 January 2006

What I learned on my holidays, 2.

What else did I learn while I was away? Well, I learned that some bloggers don't even stop for Christmas or for intercontinental travel! Phew. That's dedication for you. I learned too that there is more than one perfect breakfast -- I found another.

This one is a version of fried eggs with what the Americans call Hot Biscuits (scones to you and me) and Gravy. For the biscuits, I used my usual wholemeal scone recipe and added pepper, garlic and more cayenne than normal. For the gravy, I used this recipe to make a beautiful vegetarian gravy (no animals were harmed in the making of this breakfast). Time your pots and pans right, and you have the perfect plate of early Sunday avo pick-me-up. Beeaauutiful.

Accompanied by a long glass of iced tea and Brian Eno's 'Another Green World,' it's another perfect Sunday brunch.

What I learned on my holidays, 1.

What a great holiday. I trust you've all enjoyed my absence.

Amongst my holiday reading was the new Anthony Burgess biography: mentioned is Burgess's enthusiasm for inventing what he called "life-threatening cocktails," and a recipe for one such is included -- with time available and the ingredients to hand, a number of our party felt compelled to try it out. Here, according to Burgess's biographer Andrew Biswell is how to make a pint of Hangman's Blood:
Into a pint glass, doubles of the following are poured: gin, whisky, rum, port and brandy. A small bottle of stout is added and the whole topped up with Champagne....It tastes very smooth, induces a somewhat metaphysical elation, and rarely leaves a hangover.
Rather like a Black Velvet with a depth charge then. And happily, I can report that both promises were fulfilled. The hangovers were all achieved by other means.

Claude Megson: The Norris House

Claude Megson's 1974 'Norris House' was one of his own personal favourites, and a delightful example of the 'two-zoned' house.

And it's for sale...

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Parting is such sweet sorrow...

As my farewell to you all for the year (now, now, don't cry), I've posted links below to some of my own favourite and more reflective posts from the past year so that you don't get 'Not PC' withdrawal over the holiday season. I've tried over the year to be pithy, thought-proving and entertaining -- I've enjoyed writing these pieces, and I'd like to thank all of you who've visited here, enjoyed them and left me feedback about what you've read.

Feel free to print off a few copies of each of these and take them with you to the beach.

Decentralisation, and those who oppose it
The city's expansion is inevitable -- equally inevitable is it's decentralisation. Technology makes it so. Fighting that is like fighting on the side of Canute, only when one fights this inevitability one fights against the will of individuals...
More on Urban_Design
Project: Holiday Home
A holiday home to delight, relax and sleep ten people (plus guests) - compact, yet deceptively spacious. Simple materials used intelligently to make nature more human, and human life more natural...
A fairy tale of a leaky house or two
...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.
Coromandel mining exposes "a clash of values"--Tanczos
So how is such a clash of values to be played out? There are only three options, as I see it. 1) Violent conflict; 2) Politicisation of the issue--the current default position involving picketing, bickering and politicking; 3) Property rights.
Crocodile fatalities expose ethical flaw in environmentalism
The Northern Territory has 'enjoyed' a three-decade ban on hunting crocodiles that has seen their numbers jump from 5,000 to 70,000, crocodiles appearing in the backyards of suburban Darwin, and a corresponding increase in savage and often fatal croc attacks -- and still the absurd ban has been continued. You might say that these people were killed by an idea; a very bad idea...
The miracle of breakfast
There's nothing miraculous about Smith's 'invisible hand,' it is simply the recognition that when each producer trades the fruits of their labour, they each win by that trade.
The "Problem" of Initial Acquisition
...Cohen argues that all the world’s resources were originally "jointly owned" and therefore, like Proudhon, he claims that all property is therefore theft. “Why was its original privatization not a theft of what rightly should (have continued to) be held in common?” he asks...
Property rights - the Northland speech
...Author Ayn Rand once observed that when the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce, then you may know that your culture is doomed. Aren’t we there now?...
Time to put a stake through the heart of the RMA! [PDF]
Four-page PDF article arguing for the Resource Management Act to be scrapped in favour of commonlaw protection of environment and property rights...
More RMA
'You Smell of Goat': A Complete Hiftory of Man According to Hif Divers Delightf
...On such nights, and over the course of those thousands of year of struggle, there was one thought, one goal, that drove these men forwards: the idea of beer...
Libertarian tools, games, quizzes and links
Chris Lewis: Tall Poppy
I'm enormously sad to learn that New Zealand Tennis have finally driven tennis ace Chris Lewis from New Zealand. Chris is a wonderful sportsman and a tremendous human being, and his departure for California leaves me angry at his treatment here...
More Heroes
Hands up who wants to play Rock, Paper, Saddam
Looks like at least one former dictator wants to give the game a go. Nothing like laughing at former dictators is there.
More Humour
Something Better than Rage, Pain, Anger & Hurt
There are parts of oursouls that no rock music will ever reach. If we are to be true to ourselves, we need to search out music that does and let it reach us. What that means is searching out music that has the scope, depth and integration that our lives...
More Music
Live 8 Losers
The bleeding hearts of Geldof anf Bono offer the lesson that if it's the thought that counts, then you should at least make sure your thought is a good one. And here's a good thought: If you want to help the victims of bad governance — which presently describes most of Africa — then don't give the bad governments money...
More Ethics
Some cultures deserved to die out
Not every culture is worth saving or preserving. There are some cultures that deserved to die out -- the Maya were just one, and on this as so much else Jared Diamond's book Collapse has it wrong again. As a tragic loss, they weren't, and Roger Sandall is...
Wananga, waste, and voucher failure
So why exactly was so much taxpayer money so poorly accounted for? I'm glad you asked. It was wasted because Wetere & Sons & Daughters were just cashing in on the latest 'free-market' fad: educational vouchers...
Unintelligent design, Part 3
Was existence itself brought into existence by a Creator? There's no evidence for that claim, and nor is there any need for it. Nor is there any evidence for the claim of there being a Creator...
No power
2005-07-27: "It's very hard to invest in coal [because of Kyoto], nuclear's a sort of four letter word...hydro is suddenly becoming too hard...what's left?...we can't do everything on windpower," says Jenkins. And if there's no power, there's no industry...
More Energy
The enigma of David Lange
...That was in the end perhaps his tragedy, that he never grew beyond his childhood demons, and his need to be liked above all else...
The day the Velvet Revolution began
Adriana at Samizdata remembers the anniversary this week of the Velvet Revolution, the day that communist rule in Czechoslovakia began to crumble...
A Sunday constitutional
...good government is like a guard dog: it's there to protect us from being done over by others. However, if that dog is badly trained and it gets off the chain, we can be badly savaged -- more so sometimes than we would have been without the dog.
Making freedom concrete
So what exactly is it, then? 'Freedom' is not freedom from reality, as is sometimes claimed; it is not freedom to have your own way regardless of the rights of others; it is not a license to ride roughshod over others or their property...
More Rights
Selling the foreshore
...Personally, I think New Zealand's foreshore should have all existing property recognised and protected (no matter what colour the rightful beneficiaries of those rights) before selling what remains to buy secure annuities for New Zealand's pensioners. That's one very easy and very effective way to instantly de-politicise both the foreshore issue and the issue of the impending superannuation blowout...
More Privatisation
Capitalism is colour-blind
...Thomas Sowell points out that the racially-segregated seating Rosa Parks won deserved fame for opposing barely existed in the American South until municipal transit systems operated by the state replaced privately-owned transit systems:
More on Racism
Drug use is not a victimless crime
"I don't like drugs." Fine. Your business. I don't like Pink Floyd. But I don't demand that anyone write a law about it, nor do I ask for the criminalisation of otherwise law-abiding Pink Floyd users...
More Victimless_Crimes
Political Correctness: A classic documentary now online
time that a classic documentary on Political Correctness was taken out and dusted off: a forty
minute radio documentary put together by Lindsay Perigo and Deborah Coddington

PC, & 'The Great Postmodern Essay Generator'
Hicks's own book, Explaining Postmodernism, might also prove useful, particularly as it points out so well the connection between postmodernism and PC...
We Are All Londoners Today
"We are all Londoners today." Doesn't that describe the way all people with a soul feel this morning? The vibrant, tolerant city of London is today's front line in the battle for those Western values that makes cities across the West the great places they are...
More War
...Politicians only understand one thing at election time: that you voted either for them or against them. If for example you hold your nose and vote Team Blue just to get out Team Red, then Team Blue will see that as a vote for them...
2005-06-04. Here's five things you could try saying that at the moment you're too scared too...
In the interests of balance and fairness, Drone has been trying to come up with six Labour achievements to mark the six years of their rule...
More Politics-Labour
Running the rule over the Nats
John Armstrong runs the rule over the Nats behind Brash, and as those of us who can remember the Nats when they were in power might testify they come up three feet short of a yard...
Rangatiratanga - at whose expense?
Tariana Turia’s Maori Party wants to end Maori dependence on welfare, she says in this week’s Listener. Great. So do I...
Greens losing their freedom mojo
...on the conviction and sentencing of Schapelle Corby, New Zealand's Greens have been studiously silent when all logic surely tells them that -- guilty or innocent -- poor Schapelle is a martyr to the War on Drugs to which their principles should tell...
How would Libz handle coalition?
The thing is, if he had principles he would be fine. How so? Let me explain by pointing out how I would see a Libertarianz caucus of six behaving in parliament. It would be unlike that of any other party, and something only a party of principle could mana

What's a libertarian for?
Reader Justin has politely but firmly asked why some libertarians bother with Libertarianz. "For all your professed admiration for rationality and goal-orientation, you seem to be sorely lacking it...
More Libz
And finally...

I haven't posted as many of these 'introductions to the terms used by libertarians' as I'd planned -- too much other writing to post, I guess -- but be reassured that the material is all there and just waiting to go. In the meantime, here's the two-dozen or so Cue Cards that have already been released to the wild...

Man, the enlightened being

Excerpts here from Frank Lloyd Wright’s poetic 1953 Christmas message on “man the enlightened being”: “The herd disappears and reappears, but the sovereignty of the individual persists.” [Note that Wright did not understand ‘Democracy’ to mean “a counting of heads regardless of content” as we do at 'Not PC'; by Democracy he simply meant Freedom – he used the two words virtually interchangeably.] The spirit and overwhelming benevolence of his words make them appropriate to post here on this Christmas Eve as this blog closes down for the festive season.

Literature tells about man. Architecture presents him. The Architecture that our man of Democracy needs and prophecies is bound to be different from that of the common or conditioned man of any other socialized system of belief. As never before, this new Free-Man’s Architecture will present him by being true to his own nature in all such expressions. This aim becomes natural to him in his Art as it once was in his Religion.

With renewed vision, the modern man will use the new tools Science lavishes upon him (even before he is ready for them) to enlarge his field of action by reducing his fetters to exterior controls, especially those of organized Authority, publicity, or political expediency.

He will use his new tools to develop his own Art and Religion as the means to keep him free, as himself. Therefore this democratic man’s environment, like his mind, will never be style-ized. When and wherever he builds he will not consent to be boxed. He will himself have his style.

The Democratic man demands conscientious liberty for himself no more nor less than he demands liberty for his neighbor. The way of life he calls Civilization will expand according to his inner vision to develop the integral beauty derived only from self-culture. This man’s own conscience will be is constant concern and aim to correct his social standards in all acts that proceed from him. This constant vigilance constitutes his only guarantee of Freedom.

The true democrat will seek and find ‘safety’ in knowledge and courageous practice of the organic, or interior, laws of Nature, suspicious of all exterior interference or preparation for the use of Force.

Whenever organic justice is denied him he will not believe he can get it by murder but must obtain it by continuing fair dealing and enlightenment at whatever cost. He will never force upon others his own beliefs nor his own ways. He will display his social methods to others as best advantage as critic or missionary only when sought by them. His neighbor will be to him (as he is to himself) free to choose his own way according to his own light, their common cause being the vision of the uncommon-man wherein every man is free to grow to the stature his freedom in America under the Constitution of these United States grants him.

Exterior compulsion absent in him, no man need be inimical to him. Conscience, thus indispensable to his own freedom, becomes normal to every man.

As this vision of Democracy thus clears, man’s powers would naturally increase. The soul of his society – Art and Religion – would gain dignity and range by constant performance until his life became that of a whole man: a wholesome one instead of the fraction the common man is: under-nourished or over-built by exterior controls, especially by those of Education.

Peace would become normal but reform of the World so far as that reform was his concern could only begin with his own reform and proceed from there. Remember the men who gave us our [American] Nation. We have ‘the Declaration’ and our Constitution because they were individualist.

Great Art is still living for us only because of Individualists like Beethoven. We have creative men on earth today only as they are free to continually arise as individuals from obscurity to demonstrate their dignity and worth above the confusion raised by the herding of the common-man by aid of the scribes and Pharisees of his time—quantity ignoring or overwhelming quality.

The herd disappears and reappears but the sovereignty of the individual persists.

Observe the buildings of the world. Uniqueness to Time, Place and Man constitutes the great universality we call the Art of Architecture. It is this appropriation to circumstance – not what buildings possess in common – that is the greatest virtue of all great Art.
RESUMÉ: Winds blow, fires burn, water falls, and the law of gravitation holds but not what all have in common interests us most. Universality is no virtue in itself. It may only be weakness or default.

To the individual we must look for that quality in life we call creative. In the depth of a man’s Faith would lie his true humility, that of the IDEAL MAN. His prayer would be humble only to ever-changing never-ending LIFE.

Friday, 23 December 2005

The meaning of Christmas

Christmas is not Jesus' birthday. Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, he was born in July, which makes him a Cancer. Like religion*.

Christmas was originally not a Christian festival at all, but the lusty pagan festival of Saturnalia, celebrating the winter solstice and the time when days once again began to lengthen. Dark Age Christians couldn't stop the revels, so they stole them instead. (Just think, the first Grinch Who Stole Christmas was really a pope!)

The best of Christmas is still pagan. The drinking; the celebrations; the gift-giving; the trees and the decorations; the eating and the singing; the whole full-blooded, rip-roaring, free-wheeling, overwhelming, benevolent materialism of the holiday -- all of it all pagan.

Says Leonard Peikoff in 'Why Christmas Should Be More Commercial', the festival is "an exuberant display of human ingenuity, capitalist productivity, and the enjoyment of life." I'll drink to all that, and then I'll come back for seconds. Ayn Rand sums it up:
The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.

The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: ‘Merry Christmas’—not ‘Weep and Repent.’ And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance....

The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying is good for business and good for the country’s economy; but, more importantly in this context, it stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decoration put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only ‘commercial greed’ could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and a Salacious Saturnalia!
* "A cancer. Like religion." Think that's harsh? You should try Landover Baptist's Bible Quizzes. Or Sam Harris's 'Atheist Manifesto.' Ouch! [Hat tip for both, good old Stephen Hicks]

Thursday, 22 December 2005

How to get poor, and how to get rich again

New blogger Lindsay Mitchell genuiinely wonders why we aren't broke. Good question. Just look how much we're costing ourselves! Who cares, says 'Who Cares' -- another new blogger: Let's regulate our way to prosperity. Don't stop with the minimum wage: let's go the whole hog and pass an 'End Poverty Bill.' Who could possibly object?

Linked Posts: Why aren't we broke? - Lindsay Mitchell
How to regulate your way to prosperity - Who Cares?

The Ten Least Successful Christmas TV Specials of All Time

The Ten Least Successful Christmas TV Specials of All Time have been announced.

They include Orson Welles's seminal The Assasination of St Nicholas, the much-discussed 'lost' Star Trek Christmas episode, Christmas: A most Illogical Holiday, Noam Chomsky's Deconstructing Christmas -- despite the concession of Chomsky to wear a seasonal hat for a younger demographic appeal, the least requested Christmas special ever made -- and of course, Ayn Rand's 1951 classic, A Selfish Christmas.

Check 'em all out courtesy of the 'National Lampoon' research department.

Linked Article: The Ten Least Successful Christmas Holiday Specials of All Time

Stupidest headline of the season award

The prize for the stupidest headline of the Christmas season surely has to to go to the Herald: "Police expect drunken holiday season" screams the headline.

Full marks to both the police and the Herald for the screamingly bloody obvious. They've just described my own plans for the next few weeks.

Cheers. :-)

Council comes to the party

In the spirit of Christmas, it's time to give Auckland City Council a bouquet for once, and fortunately they've made it easy:
The Auckland City Council announced yesterday that its noise control officers would not investigate any complaints for seven hours from 6pm, New Year's Eve. The move means the council will tolerate any kind of noise level before 1am, said Chris Dee, the council's environmental health and licensing manager... He said the move recognised that New Year's Eve was traditionally a time of revelry.
What a top chap. Merry Christmas to you sir.

Linked Article: Noisy New Year revellers get a break

Save those whales...

You have to laugh. Hundreds of people trying to save the whales, and the whales just don't[ want to save themselves. Rescued whales return to shore is the headline, explaining that after rescuers pushed a pod of 100 whales out to sea from the Nelson beach where they were stranded, the whales turned back round and just headed on back to shore. Intelligent beasts, whales.

Which is a nice way to segue to George Carlin, don't you think. Think of it as a thought for summer:
Everybody's gonna save something now. Save the trees. Save the bees. Save the whales. Save those snails. And the greatest arrogance of all - save the planet. What? What? Are these fucking people kidding me? Save the planet? We don't even know how to take care of ourselves yet. We haven't learned how to care for one another. We're gonna save the fucking planet? I'm gettin' tired of that shit. Tired of that shit. I'm tired of fucking Earth Day. I'm tired of these self righteous environmentalists, these white, bourgeois liberals who think the only thing wrong with this country is there aren't enough bicycle paths. People tryin' to make the world safe for their Volvos.

Besides, environmentalists don't give a shit about the planet. They don't care about the planet, not in the abstract they don't, not in the abstract they don't. You know what they're interested in? A clean place to live, their own habitat. They're worried that some day in the future they might be personally inconvenienced. Narrow, unenlightened, self interest doesn't impress me. Besides, there is nothing wrong with the planet, nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The people are fucked. Difference, difference. The planet is fine.

Compared to the people, the planet is doing great- been here 4 1/2 billion years. Did you ever think about the arithmetic? The planet has been here 4 1/2 billion years. We've been here what, a hundred thousand, maybe two hundred thousand? And we've only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over 200 years. 200 years versus 4 1/2 billion. And we have the conceit to think that somehow we're a threat? That somehow we're gonna put in jeopardy this beautiful little blue-green ball that's just a-floatin' around the Sun? The planet has been through a lot
worse than us, been through all kinds of things worse than us, been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drifts, solar flares, Sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles, hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages...

You wanna know how the planet's doing? Ask those people at Pompeii who are frozen into position, from volcanic ash, how the planet's doing. Wanna know if the planet's alright? Ask those people in Mexico City or Armenia or a hundred other places buried under thousands of tons of earthquake rubble, if they feel like a threat to the planet this week. How 'bout those people in Kilauea, Hawaii who build their homes right next to an active volcano, and then wonder why they have lava in the living room.

The planet will be here for a long, long, long time after we're gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself 'cause that's what it does. It's a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover. The Earth will be renewed, and if it's true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the Earth plus plastic. The Earth doesn't share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the Earth. The Earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. 'Could be the only reason the Earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself, didn't know how to make it, needed us.

'Could be the answer to our age old, egocentric, philosophical question: "Why are we here?" "Plastic, asshole."

'Danae' - Rembrandt

Rembrandt's 'Danae' (1636)- spatial depth, eroticism, and myth.

Wednesday, 21 December 2005

The romantic Kong

Ed Hudgins at The Obejctivist Center sees in Peter Jackson's new Kong the suggestion "that our culture is turning to what we can hope will be a new and perhaps better romanticism."

Linked Review: We Three Kongs - Ed Hudgins

No rest for the wicked. Or for the G-Man.

G-Man is promising to forego Christmas holidays to keep an eye on all the dirty laundry leaking, nay pouring out of the Beehive now that vacations and revels are nearly upon us, and the press gallery have begun renting out their brain cells to the local breweries. He's already got a pretty tidy-looking laundry list of lunacy and apologetics. See.

Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his holiday for the sheeple. If you want to keep up to date while all the rest of us are at the beach or exploring the bottom of several wine glasses (or both), looks like he's going to be your man.

Iran shows impeccable taste

In the interests of balance and fairness, let me say something good about Iran. Maybe it's not as unenlightened and regressive as you might think. Perhaps instead it's far-sighted and forward-thinking, and at the very least, its leaders show impeccable taste. I say this because they've just banned Kenny G and The Eagles. Repressive stone-age barbarian Ahmadinejad might be, but I'm thinking that for once we can all learn something from Iran. :-)
[Hat tip LibertyScott]

Investing in rail failure

The Government has come up with a way to invest $540-600 million dollars in something with a current book value of $81 million, after which the book value of the investment will be worth... $81 million. That's $1800 spent for every household in Auckland, with a net return on investment of just zero. Brilliant.

If the decision to 'invest' in Auckland's moribund rail non-system doesn't show how governments wipe out the value of taxpayers' hard-earned money, then you're just not ready to learn the lessson. LibertyScott has answers to all the counter-arguments you're trying to dream up. Go and argue with him about all the social and environmental benefits. "They are just too infinitesimal to measure," he says.

[UPDATE: Not just $1800 per household, but as DPF has worked out, with "just under 9,000 passengers a day which is 0.6% of Aucklanders, if they spend $600 million that will be a spend of $67,000 per passenger. Hmmmmm." Why don't they just give that money to train-travellers so they can buy themselves a car?]

Linked Article: Auckland rail money gone - like that!

Judge gives 'Intelligent Design' the heave-ho

ASSOCIATED PRESS: A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled today that "intelligent design" is not a science, and therefore cannot be a mandated part of the state's high school curriculum...

Thank goodness. Reports the BBC:
Judge John Jones ruled the school board had violated the constitutional ban on teaching religion in public schools. The 11 parents who brought the case argued that teaching intelligent design (ID) was effectively teaching creationism, which is banned.

They complained the theory - which argues life must have been helped to develop by an unseen power - is tantamount to religious education. The separation of church and state is enshrined in the US constitution.

"We find that the secular purposes claimed by the board amount to a pretext for the board's real purpose, which was to promote religion," said Judge John Jones... ID was not science, he said, and "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."
Good news. Now to get the state out of education altogether. :-)

Linked News: Intelligent Design Teaching Ban - BBC
Court rejects 'intelligent design' in science class

Related Articles:
Unintelligent Design Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Closing of 'Intelligent Design' trial

Finance applets for fun and study

A friend has been putting together some finance applets for fun and study on his website, and you're invited to have a look at them, and have a play.

Much like Carl Weiman's fun and functional applets to help discover and understand the basic concepts of physics (which I mentioned here), the finance applets are intended to help make complicated financial concepts easier to calculate, and a way for my friend "to learn and understand mathematical modelling in financial economics."

Enjoy, and please do leave feedback -- it will help to refine both the applets and the site.

Linked Sites: Mathematical Financial Economics - Sione Palu
Interactive Physics Simulations - Carl Weiman

Related: Economics, Science, Geek_stuff

'Eternal Spring' - Rodin

Rodin, Eternal Spring - maquette, 1881

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

Think. Life's worth it.

"People who lead more intellectually stimulating lives are somehow protected from mental decline." That is the unsurprising result of some recent research, which shows "that people who stay mentally engaged throughout their lives may have a greater 'cognitive reserve' that allows them to withstand more of the brain damage seen in Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms begin."

"The physical-fitness principle of 'use it or lose it' may apply, in a fashion, to the brain as well," said the study’s lead author, Dr. Ross Andel of the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida.

Ironically however, this also means that the higher your 'cognitive reserve,' the quicker the onset of degenerative diseases like Alzheimers once symptoms do occur. Explains Michael Rutter, from the Institute of Psychiatry in London: "People with a good education and who have Alzheimer's disease are able to combat the symptoms more effectively, so that by the time the problems appear, they are at a relatively late stage of the disease."

The message then: intellectual pursuits that challenge and extend us are good, not just in the moment (as I talked about with the idea of 'flow'), not just because intellectual activity helps us to better understand and change the world around us, and not just because they provide their own reward -- but because they also extend our mental life. Talking of the 'cognitive reserve' built up by intellectual stimulation, Yaakov Stern, of Columbia University in the US, said: "This is as powerful as any drug we will ever have to stop Alzheimer's progression."

Start challenging yourself.

Linked Articles: 'Complex' work may help fight Alzheimer’s
High IQ can help fight off mental decline, say scientists
Cognitive reserve and lifestyle

Cue Card Libertarianism - Fascism

The defining characteristics of Fascism do not include jackboots, smart uniforms and violent racism. Fascism is simply Socialism/Communism with a cosmetic difference: whereas Socialism/ Communism nationalises and abolishes private property and the 'commanding heights' of the economy, fascism permits the façade of private ownership of property to remain, while nationalising the people who own them.

Under fascism, the illusion of ownership remains but the government assumes power of use and disposal over the property – i.e. whereas under Socialism/Communism the state becomes the de jure owner, under Fascism the state becomes the de facto owner. “Let them own land or factories as much as they please,' declared Adolph Hitler: "The decisive factor is that the State, through the party, is supreme over them, regardless of whether they are owners or workers. All that, you see, is unessential. Our Socialism goes far deeper… Why need we trouble to socialise banks and factories? We socialise human beings.”

Hitler’s published utterances are an instructive testimony to the essential unity of Socialism and Fascism. His National Socialist Party’s political programme reads in part like a Green Party wish-list, which, when implemented, won plaudits from many collectivist politicians in freer countries. Unemployment was artificially eliminated, grandiose welfare programmes were enacted, onerous taxes, regulations and controls imposed.

For too long, people have allowed themselves to be diverted by a phoney dichotomy between Communism and Fascism, whereas careful analysis shows that both are forms of collectivism, treating the individual as a means to an end: the “common good.” Neither in theory nor in practice is there any essential difference between Marx's “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” and Hitler's “Each activity and each need of the individual will be regulated by the party as the representative of the general good.” The real dichotomy is not between Communism and Fascism, but between freedom and dictatorship. The 'dichotomy' between Fascism and Communism is merely between two competing forms of dictatorship.

* * * * *
You have two cows. Under Communism: the government takes both, and gives you a chit for vodka. Under Socialism: the government takes both, and gives them to your neighbour. Under Fascism: the government takes your milk. Under capitalism: you have two cows. You sell one, and buy a bull.

More reading: Nazism = socialism = totalitarianism - George Reisman
'The Fascist New Frontier' - Ayn Rand; published in The Ayn Rand Column
Ominous Parallels - Leonard Peikoff
* * * * *

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 list so far can be found on the sidebar.

Cue_Card_Libertarianism, >Politics,

Wiping Israel off the map - politely

How concerned would this make you if you lived in Israel, or had family there:
  • the president of your near neighbour is a holocaust-denier;
  • To loud public cheers he declares your country should be wiped off the map;
  • his country's scientists and industry are working rapidly towards making that country the next nuclear state;
  • worldwide reaction to all this would embarrass Neville Chamberlain: The US State Department for example wonders whether this country "is prepared to engage as a responsible member of that community." The UN's chief hand-wringer Koffi Annan expresses "dismay." Ouch. That'll worry them in Tehran, eh?
Cox & Forkum (cartoon above), Mark Steyn and Daniel Pipes between them describe the outrage that is the nearly-nuclear state of Iran and Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the limpdick reaction to Ahmadinejad's threats.

Linked Articles: Naked aggression - Cox & Forkum
But seriously folks, this clown is dangerous - Mark Steyn
Kofi Annan and eliminating Israel -- politely - Daniel Pipes

Residência em Riva San Vitale, Ticino - Mario Botta

Residência em Riva San Vitale, Ticino - Mario Botta

Monday, 19 December 2005

Denying prosperity by misunderstanding inflation

Goodness me, Deborah Coddington's quite reasonable article pointing out the absurdity and destructiveness of the Reserve Bank's myopic control of interest rates has caused the mild-mannered DPF to reach for his smelling salts.

Perhaps he just doesn't understand basic economics, huh? Tell me again how it's a good thing to strangle producers and exporters in a bid to keep down the prices of property? As I asked last time Bollard flopped out his blunt instrument:
  • Does anyone else wonder at the sanity of strangling the backbone of our economy -- producers and exporters -- in order to deal to "the profligate household sector"? Is that sane? And, given that many household borrowers are fairly well insulated from Reserve Bank interest rate hikes, will another Reserve Bank interest rate hike deal to them anyway?
  • And why should they be 'dealt to' anyway? Why is the 'price stability' of Bollard's 'basket of goods' such an important thing, and should New Zealand producers and exporters be sacrificed on the 'cross of stability' of this basket? Don't prices in a free market rise and fall naturally as a way of clearing markets? Is that such a bad thing? Don't free markets, when they're left free, exhibit over time a gentle 'deflation'? Why is that a problem?
  • How "profligate" is the household sector? Why is it "profligate" to pay what you can afford? And just whose money is it anyway?
There is an enormous misconception about inflation that helps fuel the Reserve Bank's meddling, and that sees otherwise intelligent free-marketeers supporting the meddling. What is usually thought of as inflation, ie., a galloping increase in prices and a consequent fall in the purchasing power of a dollar, is in fact the consequence of real inflation, ie., the money supply being inflated. 'Price inflation,' has become become conflated and confused with real inflation. There is no way to determine the difference between price increases due to the increase in the money supply -- ie., 'price inflation,' prices increasing for real and genuine market-induced reasons, just as there is no way for the interest rates to to stop 'price inflation' without also stifling producers and exporters.

The biggest effect of the Reserve Bank's inflation fighting has been to strangle producers and exporters and to deny New Zealand's future prosperity, just as much and in a similar way as Muldoon's wages and prices freeze of 1973 did the same job. The truth is that as long as the money supply itself is not inflated (which is what 'inflation' actually means) there is little need and every reason not to try and achieve price stability. Let prices be what they should be: signals to the market, not a call for strangulation and the use of Alan Bollard's blunt instrument.

[UPDATE: A couple of years ago, Don Brash defended the Reserve Bank at an Auckland SOLO conference -- an audience of committed libertarians. His presentation, 'Do We Need a Central Bank?' is linked here in MP3 (64MB though, so you'll need broadband). As you'd expect, the question period was very, emm, interesting.]

Linked Article: High price of doctor's medicine - Deborah Coddington
Recent Related Articles at 'Not PC':
Questions, rhetorical & otherwise, about Reserve Bank meddling
NZ businesses ready to shrug?
Related topics: Economics, Politics-NZ

Oil at a record high?

One of the dumb stories of the year, one heard in constant refrain, has been the "oil prices are at a record high" story. But it's just not true. Who would have thought: journalists looking for an easy story and politicians looking for a scare, and neither of them interested in the facts.

The graph above from July 2005 shows the story: oil prices since 1970 (shown in constant July 2005 dollars). Have prices in 2005 been high? Yes. Have there been good economic and geo-political reasons for the price rises? Why, yes there has been: refinery problems and a war in Iraq reducing supply; and a rising standard of living in Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) increasing demand. (Excessive taxes on production and exploration might not be considered 'good' reasons, but they do play a significant role in keeping prices high.) But the total supply of oil has still increased in recent years, even as scaremongers and Jeanette Fitzsimons tell you otherwise.

As the article from which the above graph comes explains,
Supply increases because of human ingenuity. Proved world reserves of oil, which were 762 billion barrels in 1984, are now estimated at 1,189 billion barrels. As for the growth of demand, which normally follows population and revenue growth, [economist Julian] Simon argued that it would be dampened by new technologies that reduce the use of oil (like lighter cars), and eventually by new materials. The value of petroleum as a proportion of finished products will continue to decrease. And contrary to Malthusian fears, population growth will spur the potential for inventions.
As long as politicians and other meddlers keep out of the way of the entrepreneurs and innovators, higher prices when they exist will be a spur to increased production and the introduction of new and alternative technologies. Political meddling will only hinder any transformation that needs to happen.

Linked Article: The Oil Price Mirage
Related Articles from 'Not PC': Windfall profits are good
Taxing profits stifles oil production
Why is oil so gosh-darned expensive?
Related Topics: Economics, Politics-World

'Goldfish' - Klimt


By Gustav Klimt.

A cheeky one from turn-of-the-century Vienna.


Sunday, 18 December 2005

Clapton on Robert Johnson: Going with the flow

What an odd mix is Eric Clapton. A reserved, almost donnish Englishman, and still one of the world's great guitar heroes. Born and raised far from Mississippi or Chicago, yet he wields unquestionably one of the finest blues guitars the world has heard.

And he understands the psychology of creativity too, about which more below.

Clapton however has always been constrained by genre. Listening to much of his music over the years, his blues solos are the moments which are clearly and majestically him, the moments when he really stretches out, and his guitar gently aches and weeps -- at these moments he seems to be playing from and expressing his soul. But over the course of many years the number of solos has been too few, and the song structure within which those solos are contained has too often been too constraining, and to my ear often just too insipid to allow his soul to sing. Most of his albums -- including his latest dreary offering 'Back Down' -- have not unfortunately been crammed full of emotionally and technically challenging blues music, but too often have been mostly featureless terrains of musically- and emotionally-shallow mush-- stretching neither him nor his audience. They have however paid for an awful lot of fine living.

But just occasionally it's possible to hear the real Clapton -- and boy can he play when he wants to! A recent DVD/CD set in which Clapton plays songs from blues legend Robert Johnson (pictured right) is one recent and brilliant example: this captures the real Clapton, playing beautifully, expressively, and from the heart. The blues, it's sometimes said, ain't nothin' but the sound of a good man feelin' bad -- Johnson's songs are the real thing: they ache with emotion; Clapton clearly feels it, and when he does feel it you can hear it in his guitar.

He points out however in an interview on the DVD that playing these songs is by no means easy -- Johnson's seemingly simple songs are a mare's nest of difficulties and complexity. Clapton the guitar hero confesses he's not entirely able to play what Johnson played and recorded seventy years ago. Like pianist Art Tatum, listening to Johnson's recordings makes you convinced there's two people playing.
When I first heard him, [says Clapton], I think Keith Richards said this too, that we all thought there was, he was being accompanied by someone, it sounded like it. And it wasn't unusual in those days, I mean, you often had a piano player and a guitar player, or two guitar players. And it wasn't until later that I realized you could do it, what he does. But you have to really, I mean, I've had to, I've had to work really hard in the last few days, to try and do some of the things that I needed to do to play along.
And I, and, and, and my, my take on Robert Johnson so far is that it needs two people, to play what he plays and sing at the same time.
Clapton describes his struggle trying to get just one song right, and concludes that getting it exactly right, "I think to do that would be a life's work. I mean, it seriously would be a life's work for any musician." He has problems with one song in particular, Stones in My Passway, and despite never really mastering it, he's clearly relishing the artistic and technical challenge.
Until I and I still can't, I can't do it completely right, I can kind of get an approximation. But, I mean, it's almost one of those things where you listen to it, it just sounds so relaxed. And yet when you come to try it and do it, you find out how almost virtually impossible it is. And I've had to work on this every morning and every night for the last week, to try and just do one song like that. So that's pretty difficult.
"Pretty difficult" for Eric Clapton means well-nigh impossible for ordinary mortals --- this simple-sounding music is in fact fiendishly difficult to play, which is part of what offers Clapton his reward for playing it. In an interview for the DVD, Clapton describes what he feels when he's playing this difficult music; his description makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in the psychology of creativity, and of what makes people truly happy, satisfied and fulfilled:
Well, it's the closest thing to being truly in the moment I can experience really, I think. If I'm, if I'm just in a social situation, and we're, I mean, me alone, part of me is there, a good deal of it. You know, maybe 75% part of my brain is off somewhere, thinking about what I'm gonna do tomorrow, will, have I got everything I need to make the journey I'm gonna make, etcetera, etcetera. Did I do, did I forget something about what we were supposed to do yesterday.

I mean, but doing that kind of work, especially the stuff that we're doing, with just me and the acoustic, requires such concentration that I am, I think this is close as I get to being really in the moment. And then everything, time just sort of stands still, and at the same time seems to go by very quickly. It's all, it's all like, a kind of roller, it's like being in a, in an accident. It's just a blur. But I love it, you know, I love, I love that kind of, when it feels like it's really going well, and, and, and I'm just in tune and in harmony with time. It's a great, it's a great feeling.

Anyone who's ever been fully absorbed in that creative moment will know exactly what he's talking about -- and we don't have to be a world class guitar hero to feel it. Hungarian-US psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes that state as one of "optimal experice, or flow," a state in which you are:
being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost.
Csikszentmihalyi has studied creative and high-achieving individuals, and he describes the phenomenon of their 'being in the flow' in their work as both their defining attribute, and their reward. 'Flow' itself is a function of a person's skills and the challenge before them. "Optimal experience, or flow, occurs when both variables are high," says Csikszentmihalyi. Too simple a challenge for our skills and we feel bored; too much of a challenge and we feel anxiety. But like Red Riding Hood eating Baby Bear's porridge, if things are 'just right' and our skills are being challenged to the right degree, then we too find ourselves in 'flow' in just the way Clapton describes.

Ayn Rand described "productive work [as] the central purpose of a rational man's life, the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values. Reason is the source, the precondition of his productive work – pride is the result." If our work is what integrates us, then being in 'flow' through our work is our psychological reward for doing it well.

There are a number of implications of Csikszentmihalyi's research, including important implications for career choice, for artistic creativity, for education, and even for how we choose to relax (see image at right). Productive and creative work can be seen not just as important existentially, but also psychologically, and selfishly.

Once we understand what 'flow' is and its importance to us, we can seek to maximise our time 'in the flow' rather than simply existing in a drone-lie manner, or engaging in mindless pleasure-seeking. Csikszentmihalyi for example contrasts enjoyment and pleasure, explaining "that the difference was that pleasure lacked a sense of achievement or active contribution to the result." Work or pleasure done 'in flow' need not be tiring; if done properly, it might instead be galvanising!

The North American Montessori Teachers Association have been working with Csikszentmihalyi to apply his model for education with children -- Montessorian David Kahn (who introduced me to the concept of flow in a lecture here in Auckland a few years back) lists eight conditions of "the flow experience," all of which he maintains are found in the Montessori classroom. His introduction to Montessori and Optimal Experience Research (PDF download) is a good place to start understanding the concept of flow, and one example of its concrete application. The 'Brain Channels Thinker of the Year Award - 2000' site also has some great links to find out more.

Linked Articles:
Brain Channels Thinker of the Year Award - 2000: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, "Flow Theory"
Montessori and Optimal Experience Research (PDF download) - David Kahn
Eric Clapton interview about the CD/DVD "Sessions for Robert J"

Related: Music, Ethics, Objectivism, Science, Education