Friday, March 03, 2006

Weekend

I'm away to sip martinis up at Tutukaka, and to devour the latest 'Free Radical' magazine. Try and enjoy the weekend without me -- and maybe if you do get withdrawal you can rummage through the archives.

Have a good weekend. I'll see you back here on Monday.

Labels:

Do the rich really make us all poorer?

'The rich keep getting richer!' screams economist Paul Krugman. 'So what,' says George Reisman in his latest blog.

Actually, they both say it far more learnedly than I just summarised, but what you got was the gist of it. Blaming something he calls "power relations," Krugman claims there is a "rising oligarchy" in the U.S. whose incomes are increasing while the incomes of the country's grunts have essentially stagnated or declined. "The essential thing to understand here about Krugman is that he is a Keynesian," responds Reisman.
And as Mises observed, “The essence of Keynesianism is its complete failure to conceive the role that saving and capital accumulation play in the improvement of economic conditions.” This failure is present in Krugman’s hostility to economic inequality.
So Reisman concedes Krugman's point then? Well, not exactly. Krugman's failure, which he shares with many others of many different stripes, is that he thinks of income purely in terms of something to consume -- something with which to purchase consumer goods. But for the most part, the rich don't spend their income loading up their plates with ever more food and gravy; they invest it.
The truth, which real economists, from Adam Smith to Mises, have elaborated, is that in a market economy, the wealth of the rich—of the capitalists—is overwhelmingly invested in means of production, that is, in factories, machinery and equipment, farms, mines, stores, and the like. This wealth, this capital, produces the goods which the average person buys, and as more of it is accumulated and raises the productivity of labor higher and higher, brings about a progressively larger and ever more improved supply of goods for the average person to buy.
And not just goods: "The capital of business firms is also the foundation of the demand for labor. The wealthier and more numerous are business firms, the greater is the demand for labor and the higher are wage rates." Thus, as Reisman says there are two great benefits to all of the capital owned by some:
The capital of others is the source of the supply of the goods they buy and the source of the demand for the labor they sell. And the greater is that capital, the greater is this two-sided benefit to everyone. To the extent that the supply of goods produced is greater, prices are lower. And to the extent that the demand for labor is greater, wages are higher. Lower prices and higher wages: that is the effect capital accumulation.
But what about the manifest inequality complained about by Krugman right at the start? Incomes have declined or stagnated, haven't they? Here Reisman agrees, and here he too blames "power relations," specifically the forcible government intervention in the economic system.
...the more extensive the government’s intervention becomes, the greater becomes the gap between the life that people must live and the better life they could have lived had the government not stood in their way. At some point government intervention becomes sufficient to cause people to live not only worse than they might have lived, but worse than they actually did live in the past.

This last is what has been happening to the American people since the era of the “New Frontier” and the “Great Society.” Since that time, the weight of government intervention has become sufficient to stop or nearly stop economic progress for large numbers of Americans and to cause actual economic decline for many.
Read on here to see Reisman spell out just how government meddling makes you poorer. The rich are getting richer, perhaps, But the rich could also be getting us richer, if only government would get the hell out of the way.

LINKS: Graduates versus oligarchs - Paul Krugman
Answer to Krugman on economic inequality - George Reisman's blog

TAGS: Economics, Politics, Politics-US

Labels:

Music to fill the hours with - and the home!

I've been filing again, or at least thinking about it. Filing my music collection to be precise. Have you ever noticed how when you're filing your records or CDs that those big lumps in your collection made up of people you really like tend to ruin your nicely-thought-out filing system? Or is it just me and mine.

Anyway, I've got an apartment full of music. Records, tapes, CDs - the place is swimming in 'em. Stuff of all types. I thought you might like to know what looms largest in the collection, so here they are in order of most to least, from all from all formats (incl. bootlegs and the like):
Lou Reed/Velvet Underground/John Cale (91), Richard Wagner (63), Bob Dylan (61), Duke Ellington (48), Ludwig van Beethoven (46), Mario Lanza (40), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (34), Guiseppe Verdi (31), Tom Waits (29), Giacomo Puccini (22), Beatles/Lennon/Harrison (21), Hello Sailor/Brazier/McCartney/Lyon (20), Sergei Rachmaninov - Nick Cave - Manic Street Preachers (all 18), Graham Parker - Christy Moore (16), Iggy Pop - Stranglers - Louis Armstrong - (15), Luciano Pavarotti (14), King Crimson/Robert Fripp (13), Rush - Toy Love/Tall Dwarves/Chris Knox (12), Anna Moffo - Miles Davis - Patti Smith (11), Nirvana - Eric Clapton - Leonard Cohen (10).
Hmmm. Perhaps it's time to get some saddled up and out the door.

TAGS: Music

Labels:

Less DBP please

Three more questions to consider:
  • Would you rather have a minor minister resign over some pretty risible accusations about something that may or may not have occured some time in the past, or a government be hung out to dry over the sort of stuff that's happening right now right in front of your eyes: the ongoing theft of NZers' property rights; the proposed nationalisation and breakup of Telecom; flagrantly dishonest election spending by the ruling party in order to buy their way back on to the Treasury benches (most of the money dishonestly spent being your own)? About which do you really care more?
  • Given that the latter issues are infinitely more serious than the former, why is it that talkback, blogs, media, Heather Simpson, Rodney Hide and Her Majesty's Opposition more concerned with the former rather than the latter?
  • And why on earth are you?
TAGS: Politics-NZ

Labels:

Trees

Four questions for you this morning:
  • Given that a man has been jailed last year for offending the state religion cutting down his own trees on his own property, and that yesterday a man was fined $100,000 after abasing himself before a room full of harpies for the same 'crime,' will you be planting any new trees on your own property any time soon?
  • When you see one of your trees reaching the six-metre mark which makes it protected, will you be giving it a severe prune before it gets there?
  • Do you think it a coincidence that the number of large native trees bought and planted by property owners since the RMA was introduced is less than it was before its introduction?
  • Do you think this might be an example of the 'unintended consequences' of legislation?
TAGS: RMA, Property Rights

Labels: ,

Blog links and searches and stuff

Stats for February: Posts this month - 132. Comments - 417.

Popular searches:
broadacre city (9th on Yahoo)
architecture that portraits freedom (2nd on Yahoo)
global warming not happening politics (1st on Google)
right to property (2nd on Yahoo)
wright disappearing city (2nd on Google)
megson claude (5th on Google)
frank lloyd wright broadacre city (4th on Yahoo)
politics nz (not on front page)
bernini teresa sculpture (10th on Google)
mile high tower (2nd on Yahoo)
google radio programme leighton smith nz (2nd on Google)
right to private property, bill of rights (17th on Yahoo)
why sprawl is good (not on front page)
iago postmodern readings (not on front page)
holocaust denial new zealand illegal (6th on Google)
gigli thoughts on lanza (7th on Yahoo)
female soldiers pictures (2nd on Yahoo)
george reisman blog (2nd on Google)
odd female pictures (not on front page)
female soldiers porn (12th on Yahoo)
bourgeoisie and the enlightenment (not on front page)

Major referrers out of the last 100o visitors:
59 del.icio.us/NotPC/Art
35 www.kiwiblog.co.nz/
14 del.icio.us/NotPC/Sculpture
14 www.scoop.co.nz/
12 www.libertarianz.org.nz/
9 www.google.co.nz/search?hl=en&q=www.pc.blogspot.com&btnG=Google Search&meta=
8 del.icio.us/NotPC/Art?setcount=25
8 del.icio.us/NotPC/
7 del.icio.us/NotPC/Politics-ACT
7 www.bloglines.com/myblogs_display?sub=16513976&site=1559987
6 localhost/wiki/index.php?title=Libertarian_links
6 www.bloglines.com/myblogs_display?sub=22518523&site=2742825
5 www.google.com/reader/lens/
5 www.bloglines.com/myblogs_display?sub=19629431&site=1559987
5 www.kiwiblog.co.nz
5 kiwiblog.co.nz/
5 tcm.tincanit.com/
5 search.yahoo.com/search?p=architecture that portraits freedom&ei=UTF-8&fr=FP-tab-web-t&x=wrt
5 www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&q=broadacre city&meta=
5 www.google.com/search?q=An uncomfortable but undeniable fact is that there are a great many people and institutions in this world that have a v

Labels: , , , , ,

"Swimming Hole' - Thomas Eakins




Eakins' 1884 'Swimming Hole,' strangely similar to the then new stroboscopic photography of people in motion that Eakins was also playing with at the time -- witness for example 'Double Jump' of 1885 (scroll down the page a little to find it).

TAGS: Art

Thursday, March 02, 2006

More RMA iniquities today

News today that:
  • an Auckland developer has just been fined $100,000 under the Resource Managament Act (RMA) for cutting down his own tree on his own land;
  • after years of hearing and more than a million dollars spent on its application under the RMA, a Resource Consent to build a $10million Whangamata marina may be overturned by the Conservation Minister.
  • UPDATE: "A new report on housing says town planning regulations might be partly to blame for high land prices driving up housing costs. The report by Motu Research has found land prices increased by almost three times as much as overall house prices between 1981 and 2004... Motu's senior research associate... says land prices might be rising so quickly because of town planning regulations aimed at restricting urban sprawl." This report of course backs up the earlier report by Wendell Cox Associates that showed NZ's housing affordability "is in crisis."

As Ayn Rand said long ago, when the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce, then you may know that your culture is doomed. Are we there yet? Time to stick a fork in our arse and turn us over to see if we're done? Or perhaps it's time to shred the RMA and take back your property rights -- you betcha!

LINKS: Whangamata Marina decision due within week - NZPA
It's time to drive a stake through the heart of the RMA [PDF] - Peter Cresswell
Report links land prices to planning - TVNZ
Regional Housing Markets in New Zealand: House Prices, Sales and Supply Responses [PDF] - Motu (February 2006)

NZ Housing affordability "in crisis" says report - Not PC

TAGS:
Property Rights, RMA, Environment, Common Law, Politics-NZ, Urban Design

Labels:

Still no DBP

Still no comment on DBP here, and nor will there be beyond what I said the other day. Why not attack him for being a useless minister -- for what he's doing out in the open -- instead of this nonsense. The words 'side' and 'show' spring to mind. Best comment I've seen on all the frothing is on a blog that's 'no longer blogging':
I see everyone is all over the Benson-Pope 'scandal'.

So instead of bothering with fact-finding, they pat each other on the back and continue down the road to oblivion, convinced that their main focus should continue to be on overheated scandal-mongering. Most NZers, however, could not care less. And people wonder why the blogosphere is in decline...

To paraphrase Shakespeare:

“A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

LINK: Boreasses - Chaos Theory

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Blog

Enron - smartest guys in the room?

I saw a new film the other night at The Academy. A very simple film in which there are good guys and there are bad guys, and the film makes very sure we know which is which. But it seems to me that the film makes the same mistake as the people it criticises -- rather than showing all the facts, it invites us to take somebody else's judgement for our own, which was in part the reason for the catastrophic failure the film portrays.

The film was The Smartest Guys in the Room, portraying the collapse of what was then America's seventh-largest company. The bad guys were not 'baddies' in the usual Saturday matinee fashion of wishing harm on everyone. They were baddies because they had failed to perform a simple human task: they had failed to think about what theywere doing.

I bet they 'brainstormed.' I bet they thought they were 'thinking outside the square.' They sure as hell thought they were 'ahead of the curve,' because they kept telling each other they were. Seemed to me that here was a bunch of people playing at what they thought big shot executives should be like, with all the cliches that go with that. Only problem was, they had no clue what they were doing.

A basic question for every businessman and every investor to keep in the forefront of their mind at all times is this : how are we making money? If they can't answer that, then they shouldn't be in business. Enron's executrives couldn't answer that simple question, and nor, it turned out, could its investors.

Everyone figured that everyone else knew. Turned out no-one did. How are we making money? Somehow! But they weren't, and they didn't even know it. Turned out all of Enron's senior management and all of its backers and investors were complete second-handers who preferred to have others do their thinking for them, and who had all joined the stampede downhill in the hopes that someone else knew what they were doing. They didn't. One simple question asked by a Fortune magazine journalist brought down the whole house of cards: how does Enron actually make money? They didn't know. And they weren't.

The CEOs were not in control at Enron, the traders were, and all the traders were interested in was their own small piece of the action. Without any executive with an overview, Enron was like an engine revving itself to destruction. The billions of borrowings on the back of a huge trading cash flow and a ballooning share price fed the illusion of success, and allowed even more borrowing and an even higher share price. Short-term successes were reified into belief in the success of Enrons's long-term strategy -- except that there was no long-term strategy, just the casting around for the 'next big idea' -- the 'New Economy's' 'new new thing' -- so that like a bunch of dumb old bastards they could hand out backslaps all round and feel like they were all 'ahead of the curve.'

But these people were not dumb by any means. They were clearly highly intelligent, highly ambitious human beings. How had they been so blind? Why had they failed to think? Answer: they had blinded themselves, and they had done it by their bad fundamental ideas. Enron was a house built, not on sand, but on bad philosophy. And as with all bad philosophy that tries to deny or to fake reality, they soon enough found that reality is the ultimate avenger.

These people were complete and utter pragmatists. As philosopher Leonard Peikoff explains, the philosophy of pragmatism can be summed up as the "principle of not being principled":
In the whirling Heraclitean flux which is the pragmatist's universe, there are no absolutes. There are no fact, no fixed laws of logic, no certainty no objectivity. There are no facts, only provisional 'hypotheses' which for the moment facilitate human action. There are no fixed laws of logic, only mutable 'conventions' without any basis in reality...
The leitmotif of the pragmatist is short-term thinking, a range-of-the-moment obesssion with the here-and-now that blinds the pragmatist to the longer-term reality. What works now is what concerns the pragmatist, and a fig for the long-term consequences. As Lord Keynes put it on behalf of pragmatists everywhere, "in the long run we're all dead anyway." In the modern world, this is called 'being pragmatic.' Being 'practical.' In the real world it's called making yourself a dumb-arse, and setting yourself up for failure.

At Enron they were nothing if not 'practical' -- they were obsessed with the short-term, and at the real expense of the long-term. Obsession with today's share price; with today's 'strategy'; with screwing California's electricity consumers today, despite the long-term consequences for California and themselves; with whatever seemed to work today, whatever its consequnces for tomorrow . Here at Enron was range-of-the-moment thinking taken to its logical conclusion: selling off the future in favour of the present, just like a farmer chewing up his seed corn and then finding he has nothing to plant next year.

But the future does not stay hostage forever to the present. When the sun does eventually rise tomorrow on the hangover of today, it may be seen that the Emperor is naked. So it was with Enron. The collapse happened quickly, so quickly that many are still trying to work out what went on. Alex Epstein has perhaps the clearest diagnosis:
...to Skilling and other Enron executives, there was no clear distinction between what they felt should succeed, and what the facts indicated would succeed--between reality as they wished it to be and reality as it is. Time and again, Enron executives placed their wishes above the facts. And as they experienced failure after failure, they deluded themselves into believing that any losses would somehow be overcome with massive profits in the future. This mentality led them to eagerly accept CFO Andy Fastow's absurd claims that their losses could be magically taken off the books using Special Purpose Entities; after all, they felt, Enron should have a high stock price. Smaller lies led to bigger lies, until Enron became the biggest corporate failure and fraud in American history. Observe that Enron's problem was not that it was "too concerned" about profit, but that it believed money does not have to be made: it can be had simply by following one's whims. The solution to prevent future Enrons, then, is not to teach (or force) CEOs to curb their profit-seeking; the desire to produce and trade valuable products is the essence of business--and of successful life.

Instead, we must teach businessmen the profound virtues money-making requires.
Above all, we must teach them that one cannot profit by evading facts.
Too true. All too true. A lesson all too many in business need to learn.

Now, one final point about the film: There are a number of myths about Enron (some of them debunked here), some of which make it into the film. One significant myth that still gets retold is that the California energy market was deregulated. It wasn't. For chapter and verse on that particular myth, I cannot recommend too highly George Reisman's 'California Screaming, Under Government Blows', and Scott Sutton's 'California Power Trips.'

LINKS: The Unlearned Lesson of Enron - 4 Years Later - Alex Epstein (ARI)
Myths about Enron - William Anderson (
Mises Institute)
California Screaming, under Government Blows - George Reisman (
Mises Institute)
California Power Trips - Scott Sutton (
The Free Radical)

TAGS: Films, History-Modern, Philosophy, Economics, Objectivism

Labels:

Ten good reasons to not like 'The Warehouse'

If you hate the Warehouse, and I know some people who do, then can I suggest you at least dislike it for rational reasons. The Mises Economics Blog gives you ten good reasons (just read 'Warehouse' for 'Wal Mart' - it's the same deal). And after you've read all ten:

If you still prefer the "bad" reasons for not shopping at [The Warehouse] then by all means don't shop at [The Warehouse]. Just quit citing your bogus reasons as if they were facts. [The Warehouse] has never caused any firm to go out of business. [The Warehouse] can't close down any store but one of its own. It is the customers who no longer do business with a company or shop at a particular store who put that company out of business or closed that store.
An important point, that last one.

LINK: How not to like Wal-Mart - Laurence Vance (Mises Economics Blog)

TAGS: Economics

'Da Vinci Code' becomes a thriller

There is more thrill in the Dan Brown copyright infringement case than there is in his book, but at least it has finally become a thriller.

No matter how many copies of The Da Vinci Code have been bought, it's a very tiresome read. As some others have noted (with whom I agree), it reads just like "a dumbed downed version of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum... Same story, more or less, and yet Eco's book (written in 1990) is more thought provoking and detailed while reading Brown's book is like reading Dr. Seuss."

Samizdata agrees about the banality, and suggests it applies to the whole genre:
As someone who loves books and has worked in publishing, I have long been perplexed by the massive sales of leaden conspiracy 'thrillers' ... and of pseudo-histories. These are strange alien artefacts in the literary world. They appear to be books, having the same physical manifestation. Yet the words in them have no rhythm, and make no sense, the world they portray is all surface, all banality: all invented, but paradoxically without imagination...

These... I need another wordname... reads are bought in vast numbers by people who do not otherwise read. You see them swarming on the tube, at bus-stops, in advertisements as book-club special offers, everywhere. And then they are gone. Where?
Sometimes these things turn up in court. And what a curious claim from the authors of the "'non-fiction 'work of non-history," Holy Blood and the Holy Grail: that a fiction author 'stole' the 'historical conjecture' from their 'sort-of non-fiction' work. "The question the court is facing," The Bangkok Post points out, "is whether you can copyright an idea, a conjecture."

Asks Samizdata: "What could make "historical conjecture" original work capable of copyright protection? Only that it bears no relation to history, it seems to me." So does that mean the HBHG authors will only be successful if the court finds their work to be a total fantasy? Or that fiction authors will be debarred in future from using original historical works?

It's taken a court case, but just as Samizdata suggests, The Da Vinci Code has finally become a thriller.

LINK: The case of the recycled tripe - Guy Herbert (Samizdata)
'The Da Vinci Code'
- Six Different Ways
'Da Vinci Code' author begins copyright battle - Guardian

TAGS: Books

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Douglas-Richardson 'revolution': How revolutionary was it really?

When the various lists of Ten Worst New Zealanders were blogged around the traps last week, most of the lists as I said "predictably included the likes of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson... even though the economic golden weather we are presently enjoying is in many ways due to the reforms they both instituted (and which have been left largely untouched by the Clark-Cullen Government)."

Spirit of 76 felt so affronted by their inclusion that he posted a defence of Richardson and Douglas -- a defence consisting mostly, I feel bound to point out, of an article by Michael Bassett on the Douglas era and the "revolution of sorts" it brought about.

Now, one would think that as a historian himself Bassett would be careful with words like "revolution" to describe New Zealand's reforms of the Eighties and early Nineties -- even with the modifier "of sorts" -- but as a new generation of activists has aparently been sold the line that a revolution was what was had, it's time to be reminded that it wasn't one at all.

Recall for instance that when Lange called for his famous 'cup of tea and a lie down,' Douglas had just announced both a Flat Tax, and with it a welfare scheme called the 'Guaranteed Minimum Family Income' that would have done for New Zealanders what Helen's 'Working for Familes' has only just done - made most New Zealanders into welfare moochers. Douglas was no libertarian.

The best summary I can point you to of the Douglas-Richardson reforms is here, written by Lindsay Perigo to answer "some U.S. libertarians who believe these reforms represented a veritable revolution. Indeed, Perigo explains how the various reforms have ultimately failed — and describes the philosophical revolution it will take for liberty to succeed":
When I first spoke on a similar topic to an [American Objectivist] gathering in 1995, I said that New Zealand was a nation reformed by Hayekians, run by pragmatists & populated by socialists. The editor of Liberty magazine, Bill Bradford, quoted that line in his March 1997 Liberty article, Revolution in a Small Country, a glowing account of the nature, scope & future of New Zealand's economic reforms...

In a fit of ridiculous hyperbole, Mr Bradford implicitly likened New Zealand's revolution to the Industrial Revolution itself; he called it the "one occasion in the twentieth century when the Leviathan State has been successfully challenged," and described its architect, Sir Roger Douglas, as "the most effective libertarian politician of this century" who "slew the statist dragon." Well, I hate to be a party-pooper, but Bill Bradford was wrong on all counts. The Industrial Revolution analogy is self-evidently fatuous; the Leviathan State in New Zealand is as invasive and pervasive as ever — indeed, more so; and Sir Roger Douglas, effective politician though he undoubtedly was, was and is most assuredly no libertarian.

What the New Zealand experience affords, is — an intriguing object lesson in how far one can go, in a democracy, in making economic changes without a proper philosophy, without a popular mandate, and therefore, without accompanying attitudinal changes.

As the man says, I commend it to your attention. And as I've said myself before, if it's a revolution you really want, then the place in which to start is with that attitudinal change -- getting a revolution going on inside New Zealanders' heads.

LINKS: Stupid Kid - Spirit of 76
In the Revolution's Twilight - Lindsay Perigo
Ten Worst New Zealanders - Peter Cresswell
A Spoonful of Principle Makes the Revolution Fire - Peter Cresswell

TAGS: New Zealand, History-Modern, Libertarianism, Politics-NZ

Auckland councils in broadband bid

NZ HERALD: Auckland local authorities are investigating building a broadband network in Auckland to take on Telecom. The seven local councils and the Auckland Regional Council are concerned the region's economic and social well-being is being stunted by Telecom's virtual broadband monopoly...

Did you feel the same way I did when you read that? If Auckland's councillors are so bloody concerned
about "Telecom's virtual monopoly," then instead of risking ratepayers' money in a bid to build an alternative network -- that is, risking your money and my money that's been taken from us by compulsion -- THEN WHY DIDN'T THEY JUST GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY OF LEGITIMATE BUSINESSES WHEN THEY WERE TRYING TO LAY THEIR OWN CABLE?

Sheesh! Sorry for shouting, but the contradiction is frustrating, no?

On the one hand you have companies like TelstraClear who gave up trying to lay their own telecommunications cable into and around New Zealand's biggest city because councils, with the Resource Management Act in hand, made it economically prohibitive to install it around suburban Auckland (it was made a "notified activity" if you recall, making construction of an alternative network
virtually impossible).

And now, on the other hand, you have those same councils who, having restricted the operations of these other businesses, now want to take up those operations themselves -- and you have those other telecommunications companies joinng in the call for their major competitor to be dismembered and their lines nationalised!

Doesn't this stuff make you angry? Don't you see that government meddling only begets more meddling? Can't you see that the lack of "
a broadband network in Auckland to take on Telecom" is not the result of of so-called 'market failure,' but of government intervention?

Or are you just happy at the way government meddling, both local and central, helps to restrict investment and to keep us poor -- while keeping the the
fingerprints of meddling concealed?

Writing in 1959, Ayn Rand pointed out a curious American phenomenon that is being replicated before our eyes here and now in New Zealand:
If a detailed, factual study were made of all those instances in the history of American industry which have been used by the statists as an indictment of free enterprise and as an argument in favor of a government-controlled economy, it would be found that the actions blamed on businessmen were caused, necessitated, and made possible only by government intervention in business. The evils, popularly ascribed to big industrialists, were not the result of an unregulated industry, but of government power over industry. The villain in the picture was not the businessman, but the legislator, not free enterprise, but government controls.
Beware of politicians' promises. As they say, "If a goverment is big enough and poerful enough to give you all you want then it's big enough and powerful enough to take it all away again." And if you look carefully, you'll sometimes find the order reversed - they'll give back only after they've taken away, but only if they get to receive the credit.

LINKS: Councils keen to fight Telco - NZ Herald
Stealing Telecom's property with weasel words - Not PC


TAGS: Politics, History, New Zealand, Politics-NZ, Economics

Kiwisaver

"Good in principle," says National Finance spokesman John Key on Radio Live this morning describing Cullen's Kiwisaver. Key's only stated objections are "he has doubts about the number of employees who will choose to stay in the scheme," and "you can still move your money in and out of your account."

Sounds like he doesn't really have an objection. After all, he has no objection "in principle" to a government-run savings scheme. He's just unhappy it's not him bringing in the scheme.

This much of what Key said is almost true: "The fundamental problem is that Kiwis don't save enough because they don't earn enough." It's almost true: Kiwis don't save enough -- not because they don't earn enough, but because they don't take home enough. If you want people to save, and NZ certainly needs the capital, then just stop taxing them over forty-percent of their income so that there's something left from their pay packet to save!

You don't need fancy government schemes in which taxpayers get back some small amount of their own money from the government. You just need to let people keep their own money in the first place. Ending tax on all interest-earning accounts might be a start, eh?

TAGS: Politics-National, Politics-NZ

Labels:

Can someone tell me...

Can someone tell me why is is considered worse to "mislead the House," ie., to lie to other politicians, than it is to mislead the voters, ie., lie in a bid to win an election, or to mislead the taxpayers, ie., those who pay their wages?

I'm just asking is all.

Q: How can you tell when a politician is lying anyway?
A: Their lips are moving.

TAGS: Politics

The Alhambra, Granada, Spain


There was a time when the Islamic world was reasonable and focussed on life in this world -- and its thinkers debated and passed on the great ideas of the Classical world. This was back when the West was going through its own Dark Ages, and western Europe was an ordure-strewn hemisphere of crosses and graves and misery. The Alhambra, in dry, sun-drenched Granada, Spain, was built at just this time, as an Islamic fortress and pleasure palace just when Islam was at the very zenith of its influence and worldly power.

The courtyard shown here is the Lions' Court, part of the harem.

TAGS: Architecture, Religion, History

Labels:

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

DBP

  • David Benson-Pope - why not attack him for being a useless minister instead of this nonsense. The words 'side' and 'show' spring to mind.

Brainstorming for show, not for go

Need ideas fast? Thinking of organising a 'brainstorming' session to get them? Don't waste your time, say Dutch researchers. You're better off thinking alone, and without the crutch of others to make you feel better about failure. Like much contemporary MBA mummery, brainstorming is largely a fatuous illusion.

Lateral Thinking exponent Edward de Bono agrees:
I find that people who have a brainstorming background tend to perform rather poorly... It is as if during a brainstorming session each participant is trying to make the other participant laugh at the craziness of an idea. I would also like to point out that creativity does not have to be a group activity. Creative techniques can be used in a powerful way by individuals working entirely on their own.
LINKS: Why do we still believe in group brainstorming? - BPS Research Digest
Serious creativity - Edward de Bono

TAGS: Nonsense, Science, Ethics

A socialist calculator anyone?

A joke was told before the fall of the Soviet Union: A Marxist economist says "We wish Communism to triumph over all the world - except for New Zealand."

"Why New Zealand?" a Western economist asks? "Because prices have to be set somewhere!" The Marxist replies.

It took nearly a century, but the argument by Ludwig von Mises that price-setting and economic calculation is impossible under socialism -- that establishing the economic value of anything in a command economy was just not possible -- was eventually so widely recognised by the Soviets themselves they made a joke about it.

Economic value is not determined primary by the amount of labour consumed in production, but by the price people are willing to pay for something when their choice is free and uncoerced. Without a free and uncoerced market, establishing economic value is just so much guesswork.

Now, to make the point to your socialist friends, the jokers at the Mises Institute are offering a calculator for them. One commenter suggests, "Maybe there ought to be three different settings: (1) total socialism where the calculator is off; (2) socialistic economy where the results somehow come out distorted; and (3) the free-market where the calculator is on the normal setting."

LINKS: What do you think of this? - Mises Economics Blog
The impossibility of economic calculation under socialism (excerpt from Human Action) - Ludwig von Mises

TAGS: Economics, Politics

Civil war in Iraq?

RJ Rummel asks and answers one of the questions of the week:
With the bombing of the Shi'ite golden Mosque and aftermath, has the terrorist/insurrectionist war on the Iraq constitution, democratization, and Shia, become a civil war? No, not yet. Watch closely what happens to the new Iraqi security forces. If they divide into units and start fighting each other, then it's civil war.
As a test of whether civil war is real or just reported, that makes good sense. I for one sure hope Iraq doesn't explode into civil war, and that the attacks on civilians and Shia are mostly initiated only with the hope of enflaming civil war, and are short-lived. I sure hope so. But today's Iraq does look awfully like former Yugoslavia after the tyrant left, doesn't it, when all the pent-up centuries of tribal hatred became armed and dangerous and started looking around for blood to let.

Liberating the Iraqi slave pen freed Iraqis from Saddam, for sure, and it has now left Iraqis themselves free to take their future into their own hands -- in short they are free either to succeed or to fuck up. Jihad Watch suspects the latter, echoing the call byIraq's defense minister of the prospect of "endless civil war":
Of course it would never end. In fact, it hasn't ended, ever since the days of Ali. It has never ended, it has only fallen into abeyance now and again. Just as the jihad has never ended, but ebbs and flows with the resources and will of those who wish to pursue it.
Pessimistic maybe, but the Balkan parallel is all too clear. Jihad Watch's Hugh Fitzgerald counsels realism on this score:
Now the Administration is said to be "worried" about "civil war." The thing to worry about, if you are not in the Administration, but simply an intelligent Infidel, is why anyone in the government of the United States expresses "worry" about sectarian violence between different sects of mujahedin, who otherwise would be devoting their energies to our destruction.

And still worse, why do they "worry" about this sectarian violence "spreading" elsewhere in the Middle East and in Muslim lands further away?

I understand why the Al-Saud family should be worried. I understand why the Ruler of Bahrain (oh, did he promote himself to king yet? I can't remember) should be worried. I understand why the government of Yemen should be worried. I understand why the Sunnis and Shi'a in Lebanon might be worried. I understand why some Shi'a and Sunnis in Pakistan and Afghanistan might be worried.

But why, exactly -- please explain so I can get it through my thick skull -- should the Infidels in charge of the non-Muslim government of the non-Muslim (in everything which made America America) United States "worry" over the "threat" of Sunni-Shi'a civil war?

When the Balkans collapsed into inter-tribal warfare and Bosnian Muslims were being slaughtered by the truckload -- often while the UN looked on ineffectually and wrung its own bloodstained hands in dismay-- Margaret Thatcher stated the only viable solution: "End the [Muslim] arms embargo and seal the borders." If civil war does erupt in Iraq, that may be the only solution there too, but it does run the risk of leaving Iraq as the 'safe haven' for thugs that the war was originally intended to destroy. However:
...here is the American army, still smack in the middle of Iraq. It is still there, with money and materiel and men's lives being put on hold, and risked, and sometimes ended altogether. Meanwhile the pretense continues that a "united" army -- an "Iraqi" army, an army of "Iraqis" -- can be trained and produced beyond more than the handful that are now so carefully being nurtured and given endless amounts of care by the American soldiers who are their nurses. They are the premature babies who have to be tended to at every step. At this rate, we will be in Iraq, and spend another half-trillion, before there are even 20,000 "Iraqi" soldiers. They will be the only 20,000 Sunni and Shi'a Arabs, and Kurds, who will be found willing, at this point, to fight together -- which means, to trust their lives to each other.

It can't be done. Facts, history, that sort of thing - stubborn things. Remember?

Undue pessimism? Or a necessary dose of realism? If Rummel is correct, it's the Iraqi security forces themselves we need to watch in coming weeks.

UPDATE: Free Iraqi has his own take on the question as well: Civil war, is it close, and is it really a disaster?
...nothing would actually change on the ground if any side declares civil war. They are not likely to be able to take it to an open war and we would just have faces replacing masks... I think all this could have been avoided if it was not for the interference of Sunni Arabs and Iran. Now things seem to be too tense to resolve on their own. There's still a remote chance of resolving this without even needing to declare a civil war...and it lies in the secular She'at and Sunnis, the Kurds (if they decide to play a more positive role) and also the way the Americans will react to what may happen.
LINKS: Saturday responses - Democratic Peace
Iraq government warns of risk of "endless civil war" - Jihad Watch
Fitzgerald: The Shi'a, the Sunnis, and Bush - Jihad Watch
Cartoon by Cox & Forkum
Civil war, is it close, and is it really a disaster? - Free Iraqi


TAGS: War, Politics-World

Labels: , ,

Putting freedom beyond the vote...

There are some things that are so important they should be put beyond the vote. That's the proposition I want to offer you this morning.

Consider this for example: Western countries around the world express concern at how waves of Islamic immigration could put at risk the freedoms we take for granted -- or at least the freedoms that some of you take for granted, such as the right to free speech, the separation of church and state, and the blessings of secure of secure property rights.

As long as there was widespread understanding of and support for these important bulwarks of liberty, the secure retention of them was relatively assured; but as ignorance overtakes knowledge and the population changes any of these things of importance can be easily taken away by citizens'-initiated referenda, government vote-buying, or the easy, knee-jerk clamour of populism.

There are some things that are so important that they need to be beyond the vote. You might disagree with me on what exactly those things should be, but I invite you to consider that some are so important that they simply must be. The only secure way to put things beyond the vote is with a Bill of Rights that defines those rights to be protected, and a written constitution that enshrines their permanence, and their superiority to all other law. New Zealand's present unwritten constitution and our toothless Bill of Rights offer insufficient protection from the venality of vote-buying and the turbulence of the modern world. Democracy is not liberty.

When democracy is all you have, you really do need to realise that some things are just so important that they need to be put beyond the vote. A written constitution is how you put them there. When you do, you can move beyond democracy and go for liberty instead.

TAGS: Constitution, Politics, Democracy, Cue Card Libertarianism, Rights , Free Speech

Labels:

Monday, February 27, 2006

Zappa takes 'Crossfire' on free speech

A hat tip straight from Russell Brown:
For all that we've been deluged lately with pronouncements about speech, free and otherwise, this clip might actually be the best thing I've seen all year. The late Frank Zappa deadpans his way through a 1986 episode of CNN's Crossfire dedicated to the scourge of obscene pop music. I hate Zappa's music, but gee he's good on this. It's a 50MB QuickTime file from some mouldering VHS tape, but it's really worth the download.
Highly entertaining, if not entirely libertarian, but Zappa is often great. "How much money have you made out of this stuff?" asks an oily John Lofton. "I've made millions, Mr Lofton," deadpans Zappa proudly. "Millions." You might also enjoy George Carlin's take on the Seven Dirty Words, and my own piece clarifying what exactly Free Speech looks like.

LINK: Zappa on Crossfire - CNN/WFMU
Seven Dirty Words - George Carlin

Some propositions on free speech - Peter Cresswell

NZ beachfront property-owners denied rights by council tsunami

As a recent hearing under the Resource Management Act (RMA) demonstrates, the days of enjoying a beachfront barbie on a beachfront deck may soon be over. In fact, as the Tauranga hearing for a $300 million 741-unit development on the Papamoa beachfront shows, the days of beachfront living may themselves be numbered.

Unfortunately, I do not exaggerate when I say that.

For some years now the Tauranga District Council, Environment Bay of Plenty and other councils around the country have had district plan rules written under the RMA that make the construction of new homes on beachfront land well-nigh impossible. Property-owners who have bought on the Papamoa coast for example have found that Council will simply refuse to issue a permit for new work because, they are told by Council planners, 1) global waming, rising sea levels and future tsunamis make such building unsafe, and 2) the so-called 'intrinsic value' of ecosystems means that sand dunes must take precedence over property-owners. Beachfront property that was bought in fulfilment of a dream has turned into a nightmare for some property-owners who have no way of building their dream on their own land -- or in some case of even building anything!

Individual property-owners having their dreams rejected no longer make headlines. A recent hearing to consider an application by developer Frasers Papamoa to build 741 apartments has made headlines, but only in the Bay of Plenty.

The regional council is fighting construction of a $300 million luxury apartment complex in the Western Bay because of fears a tsunami could inundate it. Environment Bay of Plenty has objected to the proposed 741-unit Papamoa Gateway project. The complex would be a mixture of architecturally-designed houses, duplexes and apartments on the 25ha Rifle Range site on Papamoa Beach Rd. Part of it would contain 100 luxury beachfront apartments.

Martin Butler, a resource policy manager, yesterday told a commissioners hearing panel in Tauranga the council was most concerned the tsunami threat had not been addressed by developer Frasers Papamoa or by Tauranga City Council...

Kate Barry-Piceno, representing Frasers Papamoa, said in earlier meetings with Environment BOP it was acknowledged that high apartment buildings were far safer on the beachfront than single-level dwellings.

"Mr Butler seems to be suggesting, based on his submission, that Environment BOP will now oppose all persons living on the coastline," she said.

Read that last sentence again, and give it some thought. "[Council planner Martin] Butler seems to be suggesting, based on his submission, that Environment BOP will now oppose all persons living on the coastline," said Kate Berry-Piceno. She does not exaggerate. At present, it seems, sand dunes have rights and people don't; council planners have rights but property-owners don't; the RMA has taken away property rights and common sense, and it really, really, really needs to go.

In the meantime, if councils want to have parks and reserves along the beachfront then let them buy the land from property-owners instead of stealing it by artifice and bullying.

UPDATE: An article on the Papamoa problems from November 1998 by one home-owner denied the right to build on his own land can be found here: Dune Madness.
An earlier 'Not PC' opinion piece on the same subject can be found here: Clark in a Cossie.
An update on the situation can be found here: Dune Madness - Updated.

LINKS: Tsunami fears bring fight against $300m apartments - Bay of Plenty Times
It's time to drive a stake through the heart of the RMA [PDF] - Peter Cresswell
Dune Madness - Jonathan Livingston Seagull (November, 1998)
Clark in a Cossie - Peter Cresswell (April, 2002)
Dune Madness - Updated - Jonathan Livingston Seagull (April, 2005)

TAGS: Property Rights, RMA, Environment, Common Law, Politics-NZ

Labels:

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Left wing? Right wing?


Featherbrains, by Nick Kim. Courtesy The Free Radical magazine.

Stealing Telecom's property with weasel words

Let me try a phrase on you: "Local loop unbundling." There. I'll wager most of you have switched off already, haven't you? But you shouldn't. While geek phrases aplenty are being flung about, plans are afoot to dismember NZ's largest company and to nationalise the bits left over.

What "local loop unbundling" really means is this: nationalising Telecom's telephone lines because other telecommunications companies can't be arsed building their own, and the RMA makes it all but impossible to do so if the will were there in any case -- which it isn't. In a word, it is theft.

Why invest in your own lines when the RMA makes it too damn difficult to lay them or string them, and when you can get them anyway by stealth - by theft, and with the vigorous support of all sides of the traditional one-dimensional left-right spectrum it seems, from Green to Tory and all points in between. (Observe that the very terminology of left and right was derived from the post-Revolutionary French parliament when both left and right sides of parliament were arguing over to whom to dole out all the proceeds of loot and pillage.) The honorific seems no less appropriate to today's apologists for theft and interventionist dimememberment of private property, who think their desire for broadband internet trumps Telecom's right to keep what is rightfully their's.

You may argue about how Telecom was set up if you like, but the fact is that Telecom exists as it is and may rightfully go about their business as they and their shareholders wish, with their private property remaining their's just as long as they wish it to do so. LibertyScott fisks Russell Brown's own piece in favour of and concludes his piece with the promise to...
blog later on what I think should be done about New Zealand telecommunications, after reading the report from InternetNZ. It comes down to being more creative than simply the government taking away property rights, but about those who want a better deal negotiating it and using the power they have. After all, Telstra is hardly a minnow in the lake.
The fact is that as long as Telstra et al figure they can get their way by theft, they'll be unlikely to be making their own plans to install their own wires. The sooner this demand for nationalisation is closed down, the better for us all. As former Libertarianz leader Russell Watkins said last year:
The only thing that needs to be regulated is the government, the only price that needs fixing and reducing is government spending, the best savings for the consumer will come when the government abolishes outfits like the interfering Communist Commission—and many more government departments besides.
LINKS: Left? Right? A plague on you both - Peter Cresswell
Telecommunications and Russell Brown - LibertyScott
Leave phones alone - Libertarianz

TAGS: Politics, History, New Zealand, Politics-NZ

Labels:

Nagging bloody music

Have you ever wondered why some of the world's greatest music sometimes leaves your head straight after hearing it, but just let 'Who Let the Dogs Out?' be played anywhere nearby, or hear 'Macarena' at a drunken party, and the damn thing stays with you for days.

This is not just idle whinging. There is a name for these songs, and a whole field of research into them - an odd field of research to be sure, and an even odder name: Earworms (from the German Ohrwurm). Songs that stick in your head on just one playing; tunes of bone-shaking banality that you just can't shake; advertising jingles that gnaw their way right down to the spending parts of your brain. A sort of 'cognitive itch' we can only scratch by playing the bloody things again. Arrggh!

The name Earworms was given to such melodies by researcher James Kallaris, who says:
The ear part is obvious, but the worm part isn't incidental. Kellaris, a consumer psychologist, says it conveys the parasitic nature of the travel of songs into their listeners' ears, only to then get lodged and played on mental continuum. He found that some 98 percent of listeners were at one time or another bothered by a tune that wouldn't leave their heads. The study also found some common offenders, including the Kit-Kat jingle ("Gimme a break"), "Who Let the Dogs Out," Queen's "We Will Rock You," the theme to "Mission: Impossible," "YMCA," "Whoomp, There It Is," "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and "It's a Small World After All."

The BBC reports that "even the greatest musicians had suffered with earworms":
Mozart's children would "infuriate" him by playing melody and scales on the piano below his room - but stopping before completing the tune. "He would have to rush down and complete the scale because he couldn't bear to listen to an unresolved scale," Mr Smith related.

Mozart
Even Mozart suffered with 'cognitive itches'

Professor Kellaris said that his research had shown that there was, however, no standard for creating an earworm - people could react differently to different tunes. "I compiled a top 10 list of earworms in the US, but the number one item is simply the category 'other' - which means that any tune is prone to become an earworm," he said. "It's highly idiosyncratic." And he added that there was also no guaranteed way of ever getting the song off the brain.

Bugger. Been attacked by any Earworms lately?

UPDATE: Sam Anderson at Slate.Com blames bloody Earworms for his own tragic addiction to childrens' music, poor chap. Here is a man truly beyond help:
I find myself crossing new thresholds of aesthetic debasement almost daily. Someone recently gave us a CD by the incredibly popular Australian band the Wiggles. I listened to it once and knew, for a fact, in the same way I know that I have hands, that it was one of the worst travesties in the history of recorded music. The band members seemed to have infantilized themselves to the point of Play Mediacatatonia. Then, somewhere around listen 50, I saw the light—I finally got it—and I sang the Play Mediaopening track over and over until my wife threatened to slap me.
I would too.

LINKS: 'Brain itch' keeps songs in the head - BBC News
Researcher confirms existence of 'earworms': 98% of people have had songs stuck in their head - San Francisco Chronicle

A Thousand Little Melodies: My unfortunate addiction to children's music - Slate.Com

TAGS: Music, Science

The future is a serious matter

I would to heaven that I were so much clay,
As I am blood, bone, marrow, passion, feeling-
Because at least the past were passed away--
And for the future--(but I write this reeling,
Having got drunk exceedingly today,
So that I seem to stand upon the ceiling)
I say--the future is a serious matter--
And so--for God's sake--hock and soda-water!

Byron, from Don Juan

TAGS: Poetry