Saturday, 3 March 2007

'Trickle down' again

One or two bloggers have erupted in consternation over Idiot/Savant's discussion of co-called 'trickle-down' economics, but none that I've seen has gone to the heart of his characterisation of 'trickle-down economics,' in my view between them succeeding only in throwing more heat than light on the subject -- and I suspect I/S is a man who responds better to the latter than the former. Let me see if I can succeed in throwing some light, with perhaps a little appropriate heat to follow swiftly on its heels.

I/S began his discussion in this way:
"Remember “trickle-down economics”? That was the lie the Revolutionaries told us in the 80’s and 90’s to justify tax cuts for the rich. The idea was that they would get richer, but that some of their gains would “trickle down” to the rest of us, thus making everyone better off. It didn’t work - instead, the rich got richer, and the rest of us got poorer in real terms."
Leave aside for the moment I/S's claim that we all got poorer, but according this somewhat naive view of economics, capitalism is supposed to be characterised by the poor getting the crumbs that have trickled down from the top tables of the rich. The eminently naive John Kenneth Galbraith characterised it thus: "If you feed the horse enough oats, the sparrow will survive on the highway."

But no sane economist has ever advocated such a view. For a long time now, the eminently sane Thomas Sowell has been inviting anyone -- anyone -- to prove him wrong in that assertion:
A year ago this column defied anyone to quote any economist -- in government, academia, or anywhere else outside an insane asylum -- who had ever argued in favor of a 'trickle down theory'... a stock phrase on the left for decades and yet not one of those who denounce it can find anybody who advocated it. The tenacity with which they cling to these catchwords shows how desperately they need them, if only to safeguard their vision of the world and of themselves.
Frankly, if you want to see "trickle-down" in action -- that's the literal trickle-down as described by I/S and the naive but quotable John Kenneth -- the only place you're going to see it is in Government. In fact, that's precisely where the phrase came from: it was being used to describe the New Deal's quasi-fascist Reconstruction Finance Corporation. It can be seen today in all its Clark Government glory in Labour's Welfare for Working Families programme -- a very model of "trickle down": they take your money, pour a very large portion of it down various departmental drains (boosting 'consumption,' property prices and bar bills around central Wellington), and then dole out a small proportion of it back to some voters (for which these voters are expected to be pathetically grateful).

And you are, aren't you? You're happy to get anything back.

That's trickle-down for you, as administered by the residents of the country's pre-eminent insane asylum, the Beehive.

Now, I suspect that I/S won't agree with me on that point. His loss. (And there are others who won't agree either, some of whom claim the late Wolfgang Rosenberg as a mentor.) But he did make the point, if you recall, that "in the 80's and 90's ... that not everyone shared in the country's growth." This point of his, which is probably the one on which he would wish to stand, I haven't seen anyone address (please let me know if I've overlooked someone -- I make no claim to omniscience on that score), and it is a point on which he assembles a fine array of statistics in support of the claim.

I'll only comment in passing of the unsuitability of undue reliance on changes in the number of people in 'poverty,' since the official poverty figure changes with the seasons. But let's allow him his point. Let's agree that inequality increased after the New Zealand economy, described by David Lange as being like "a Polish shipyard" -- and that in the days when Polish shipyards were less likely to make ships than revolutions -- was freed up, at least to some extent. (We've talked before about how the Douglas years were far from the revolution they were claimed to be -- scroll down to the rocketing tax graph for the chat.) Let's agree that there are many more rich people now than there were when Muldoon had laws that specifically prohibited rich people, excepting those who donated to the Muldoon campaign for subsidies and re-election.

But to concede I/S's point is not to concede the problem. More rich people means more inequality. It's obvious. If Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Ted Turner were to move themselves and their disposable income here, the country would at once be wealthier, and so too would the 'income gap' have increased. It would only be very few who would call this is a problem, and those few are named Bradford, Kedgley and Trotter.

I doubt however that this point will be convincing enough, since it doesn't quite address the substantial point. The substance of I/S's claim is that the poor have got poorer over recent years, even as the economy has been 'freed up.' This isn't supposed to happen. As it happens, economist Paul Krugman (today's John Kenneth Galbraith) pointed out the same thing in the American context not so long ago. And as it happens, George Reisman (today's Ludwig von Mises) agreed with him. But he and and his mentor Ludwig von Mises pointed out three things that Galbraith, Krugman and I suspect I/S and his critics have overlooked:
  1. Neither the American nor the New Zealand economies have been 'freed up.' Look again at that graph of NZ tax rates in the post linked to above, and contemplate too the points made in Lindsay Perigo's speech 'In the Revolution's Twilight,' delivered to an international audience, on the revolution that New Zealand didn't have in the eighties and early nineties.
  2. Rich people who like to remain rich do not consume the majority of their wealth on champagne, caviar, nights out with Paris Hilton and large donations to global warming deniers -- more's the pity -- instead they invest their money, producing new capital goods. Explains Reisman:
    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.
  3. What make wage rates higher in richer countries is, in a word, investment. Explained Ludwig von Mises, back when Krugman was just a boy:
    The average standard of living is in this country higher than in any other country of the world, not because the American statesmen and politicians are superior, but because the per-head quota of capital invested is in America higher than in other countries — because up to now the institutions and laws of the United States put fewer obstacles in the way of big-scale capital accumulation than did those foreign countries.
    This point is frequently overlooked, but it is at the heart of any mature understanding of wage rates and productivity. Explained simply, this means that if we're being paid to move a mountain of dirt and all we have is a shovel, we're going to be significantly worse off than the chap who has a steam shovel; the other chap's wages will be commensurate to the greater productivity brought about by the greater capital investment, as will ours, with the lesser investment.
There are other wrinkles with greater capital, such as greater demand and the like, but the point made here is a simple one when understood: greater capital accumulation in general means higher wages.

A simple point when understood, but let's attack that "in general" point above, since we haven't yet quite finished making our point, have we?

If greater capital accumulation in general means higher wages, then (if we concede I/S's stats) why haven't we seen that happen in recent years? Once again, Reisman has the answer, and since it goes for a few paragraphs and, since I believe it goes right to the point of answering I'S's specific objection, you might want to get a drink ready so as to savour it properly. The answer, says Reisman, is "suggested, surprisingly enough, by Krugman himself, when he referred to 'power relations' in contrast to 'market forces'.”
“Power relations”—i.e., the use of physical force by one person or group against another—are present in all forms of government intervention in the economic system. There is no law, regulation, ruling, edict, or decree whose enforcement does not rest on the threat of sending armed officers to arrest and imprison violators, and, if they resist, to kill them if necessary...

Government intervention in the economic system is the use of force not against common criminals, who have previously initiated its use, but against peaceful citizens engaged in production and voluntary exchange and whose only “crime” is that they have done something the government has decided it does not like. This force serves to prevent people from doing what they judge to be in their interest to do and to compel them to do what they judge to be against their interest to do.

In all cases of this kind, the government’s force operates to make people worse off than they could have been. And 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.

Inflation, Social Security, and Medicare [and we might add to this Working for Families] undermine the incentive to save and accumulate capital. Vast government budget deficits absorb large amounts of the savings and capital that do exist and divert them from business investment to financing the government’s consumption [as of course do equally vast government surpluses]. More recently, the government-engineered housing boom, built on the foundation of [easy credit] imposed by the Federal Reserve, has operated in a similar way and diverted further vast sums from business investment to housing purchases. And before the housing boom, the dot-com bubble, also created by the Federal Reserve, created the illusion of vast wealth and capital that served to squander substantial portions of the capital that did exist.

Inflation has also played a major role in enlarging the highest incomes in the economic system. This has been the case insofar as inflation (understood in terms of an increase in the quantity of money) entered the economic system in the form of new loans that served to drive up securities prices and thus the value of stock options. Take this away, and the rise in the highest incomes over the period that Krugman complains about would be much less, if it existed at all.

But there is more. The last forty years or so have seen the imposition of environmental legislation and consumer product safety legislation, and numerous other government programs that serve to increase the costs of production. The great majority of people assume that the higher costs simply come out of profits and need not concern them. But the fact is that the general rate of profit in the economic system remains more or less the same, with the result that increases in costs show up as increases in prices, or as decreases in other costs, notably, wages.

The real wages of the average American [and New Zealander] are stagnating in large part because the higher real wages he could have had—precisely on the foundation of the work of today’s great businessmen and capitalists—have instead been used to pay for the cost of environmental and safety regulations. Money that might have been paid as higher wages has instead been used to buy equipment, materials, and components required to be in compliance with these regulations. Larger supplies of goods that might have come into existence and driven down prices or at least prevented inflation from raising them as much as it has, have been prevented from coming into existence, especially by environment regulations.

This is the answer economic theory gives to Krugman and to the hordes of other intellectual dilettantes whose writings and lectures on the subject of economic inequality proceed in ignorance and thus end up amounting to just so much clutter—clutter irrespective of the prestige attached to the venues in which it accumulates.
Make sense? I'll leave you to savour your drink and decide for yourself, thinking it all through perhaps as the liquid in that drink trickles down your throat, and you perhaps reflect that that's the only kind of 'trickle down' that really makes complete sense.

LINKS: Answer to Krugman on economic inequality - George Reisman, George Reisman blog
Capital supply and economic prosperity - Ludwig von Mises, Mises Institute
In the 'Revolution's' twilight - Lindsay Perigo, The Free Radical
Trickle-down in action - Not PC (June, 2006)
Do the rich really make us all poorer? - Not PC (March, 2006)
The 'Trickle Down' left: Preserving a vision -Thomas Sowell
Statistics - Idiot/Savant, No Right Turn
'Trickle down' fails again - Idiot/Savant, No Right Turn

RELATED POSTS ON: Economics, Nonsense, NZ Politics, US Politics

Consequences - Bernard Levin

Here's a postcard I picked up in Highgate in the early nineties, and with it goes a story.

As you might have heard, one of my great pleasures when living in London was reading Bernard Levin's twice-weekly columns in The Times on the way to work. Wit, erudition and warm-hearted insight such as his in one's regular daily rag was partial recompense for many of the daily indignities of London life. Indeed, it was one of his columns therein that helped persuade me to forswear the indignities and return to New Zealand (or more precisely two successive columns, 'Down Under:1,' and Down Under:2' in which, after a short trip here, he praised New Zealand to the skies).

Re-reading an old book of Levin's columns the other day, I alighted on this one, from 198s, almost a decade before communist Eastern Europe collapsed and with that collapse providing the punchline for the postcard above. If the collapse provided the punchline, Levin's column perhaps provides the eulogy, one delivered a prescient eight years before the final burial.
* * * * *

MARX SURELY PROVIDES one of the greatest paradoxes of history. Nearly half the people in the world live under governments that call themselves Marxist, and although the ultimate goal of humanity, in Marx’s philosophy, was the freeing of the individual from the bonds of class and exploitation which had held him since the rise of capitalism, a process of liberation which was to end with the withering away of the state, every one of the regimes which profess to live by his system is a brutal tyranny, in which the individual is less free than any capitalist wage—slave and in which the state, so far from withering away, is more obtrusive, more powerful and more ruthless than any government based on the class system.

How are we to explain this extraordinary looking- glass world? One way is to say — what is certainly true — that none of these ‘Marxist’ governments have anything Marxist about them, and that if Marx could return and examine them he would be quite unable to understand how and why his name had been dragged into the matter.

But of course that explanation, so far from clearing up the mystery, makes it all the more obscure. For if the Marxists have lost their Marxism, wherewith shall they be Marxed? Why should a Russian govern ment in 1983 feel obliged to pretend that it rules by the principles laid down in a big, boring book on Victorian economics written by an old man with a beard in Tufnell Park? None of the rulers concerned has ever read the book; they couldn’t have done, for no one could possibly finish it, not even Marx, who gave up, bored insensible by his own rubbish, after the first volume, though he lived on for more than a decade, sponging off Engels intellectually as well as financially, and leaving him to make what he could of the rest of the book.

This particular part of the Marxist legacy has many sides. The very same fate, it can be seen, has overtaken Trotsky, our own world being awash with idiots who call themselves Trotskyites without having read, let alone understood, a line of their hero or of Marx: for that matter the murderous lunacy called Maoism gave rise to a similar following elsewhere, calling themselves Maoist to the genuine bewilderment of the Chinese leadership, who could discern nothing of their ruler’s views in those held by many who styled themselves his loyal subjects in partibus infidelium.

A theory which, whatever its deviser’s intentions, has given rise to nothing but a barbaric despotism must surely have had something wrong with it in the first place. What is the causal connexion between Marx’s Marxism and the pseudo-Marxism of the Soviet empire, between a theory of liberation and an actuality of slavery, between a Utopian idealist who wanted all men to be brothers and a gallery of thugs who want nothing but the perpetuation of their own power?

I put it like that because of all the excuses for communist tyranny to be heard in the West one of the most repulsive, as well as the feeblest, is the claim that it cannot be laid to the door of Marx, or indeed of Lenin (who, it should be remembered, set up the Gulag). But in law, a man is held to be responsible for the likely consequences of his actions, and certainly it is not difficult to find in those of Marx and Marxism the seeds of the still proliferating evil practised in their name.

To start with, a man as personally intolerant as Marx, who was constantly denouncing and excommunicating all those in his own camp who ventured to question some detail of his argument, can hardly keep intolerance out of the bones of his philosophy. He did not have the power to send those he anathematised to their death, but he offered to those who came later a ready-made set of templates from which the justification of millions of deaths could be constructed, and it is no use saying he did not intend it; maybe not, but he was it.

He was also, in the same sense, the dictatorship of the proletariat, one of the greatest individual paradoxes within the main paradox itself: there is no system of government in the world, no, not the most corrupt personal fief of the worst of Black Africa’s dictators, in which the proletariat have less say in their own destiny than in the lands of communism, Marxism. But it is all too easy for those who dictate to the proletariat, by combining Rousseau (the father of modern totalitarianism) with Marx, to persuade themselves that all they are doing is to carry out the proletariat’s dictatorship by a form of representative government; Rousseau allows such rulers to claim that the proletariat, if they knew their best interests, would approve, and Marx provides a set of principles for the dictatorships to rule by. And the gun and the barbed wire will take care of anyone who points out that on both counts the emperor has no clothes.

The next charge that can be laid to Marx’s account is his historicism; again, the charge is not so much that he was guilty of it, though obviously he was, as that those who came after used it to justify their own crimes, so that Marx faces judgment as an accessory before the fact. If history is seen as a consistent progress through definable stages of development towards an ultimate apotheosis in which ‘pre-history ends and history begins’, then anyone who tries to push history out of its orbit must be an enemy of the people, for whom no fate can be too harsh; from this point it is no great step to arguing that anyone who denies that history is still in its original orbit is an enemy of the people too. Meanwhile the ultimate apotheosis is indefinitely postponed, no
doubt through the machinations of more enemies of the people, who must be sought out all the more ruthlessly, and all the more ruthlessly punished, even if the effort required for such salutary action means that the apotheosis must wait even longer.

But finally, and most important, there is the principle most closely associated with Marx -- though Engels, faced with the realisation that it was manifest nonsense, tried to weasel out of it after Marx’s death: historical materialism. And it is that nonsense, which five miflutes’ conversation with a single real human being would push over, that constitutes the greatest crime
committed by this harbinger of slavery and murder. Once the rulers are possessed of a theory which purports to explain everything in terms outside both the explainers and the explained-to, human beings become objects in a theory, and if there is one thing we know about objects in a theory, it is that they do not feel pain, not even from rubber truncheons or bullets. QED.

Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev, Ulbricht, Jaruzelski, Rakosi, Mao, Castro — such men as these are not aberrations from Marxism, but its most perfect flowers, its juiciest fruits. Marxism gave them the weapons, and they finished the job; the fact that they finished Marxism at the same time is the last great irony of the story, but it is no consolation to those who died or to those who rot in
jail, or for that matter to those who still live still free and wish to stay that way. The revolution envisaged in the Communist Manifesto is, in the communist lands, further off than ever. No doubt that distresses Marx as much as it surprises him. But he has no one to blame except

The Times
March 11th, 1983.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Another guide: How to talk about blokes and be PC

Beer O'Clock: Three Boys Golden Ale

Your Friday beer advice comes this week from Stu at RealBeer.

Christchurch's Three Boys Brewery has the distinction of being the lowest of my beery lowlights in 2006, but not for the reason you might think.

The beer has always been quite splendid, but it was a visit to the brewery that turned particularly pear-shaped. The garden city was the destination for an annual "brewery-by-bicycle" trip that a group of friends and I make. By an unfortunate twist of fate the brewer, Dr Ralph Bungard, was away in Wellington (where I'm from, ironically) conducting a series of tutored tastings on his range of beers. His wife - the woman behind the three boys - was happy to show us around but, in a second unfortunate twist, one of the other two boys (Ralph's sons) was at home sick on the day we were pedalling.

It left me thirsty.

If you haven't heard of Three Boys Brewery you are probably not alone. One of New Zealand's newest breweries, and one of the many in Christchurch, it has only just begun to make a name for itself outside of beer's 'inner circle.' Ralph Bungard, the brewer and owner (and one of the three 'boys'), has actually only been running the brewery part-time while he worked as a biologist at Canterbury University. During that time he picked up a fistful of medals for his fine range of beers, enabling him to launch the brand into the odd supermarket or bottle-store.

He's now working full-time (plus some) in the brewery, so you can be sure to hear more in the very near future.

The very good Three Boys' standards are a pilsner, a porter, a Belgian wheat and an India Pale Ale (reviewed here at Not PC). Earlier this year an Oyster Stout, with real Bluff oysters in the recipe, was released to coincide with the oyster season.

The latest seasonal offering, a summery Golden Ale, gives us all the qualities of a great summer beer without going outside the spectrum of traditional beer ingredients - water, malt, hops and yeast (there's no oysters or secret blend of herbs, honey and spices in this beer, I can promise you). The ale is gently dominated by just a single hop: Nelson Sauvin.

This hop variety is so named to convey it's aromatic similarities to the world famous Marlborough wine. While it can be very reminiscent of tropical fruit (lychee, feijoa, guava, passionfruit have all been evoked at times) it also has that famous Sauvignon Blanc musky note commonly described as 'cat pee.' When talking hops or Sauvignon, 'cat pee' is not at all a bad thing. Think of it more as "an off-note that adds complexity to a piece of music" - a description that I particularly like for a hop that I love.

The Golden Ale pours a very pale straw gold, almost watery, with a fluffy white head. It has classic Sauvin notes, as described above, tending towards the fruitier side than the cat pee. In the mouth it displays a continuation of those subtle fruity aromatics: crisply fermented pale malts deliver an off-dry malt flavour with subtle hop perfume of fruit, herb and musk (I'm even reminded a little of hop's infamous, and illegal, resinous 'cousin'). A subtle bitterness lingers in the somewhat oily finish. Great for a variety of occasions: after mowing the lawns, with shrimp cocktails, or at the barbeque.

All in all the Golden Ale is a deliciously fresh summer ale. Anyone who appreciates quality, and especially those who enjoy Mac's new Hop Rocker, will probably love this simpler, and superior ale.

LINKS: Cat pee
Three Boys Brewery
More on the IPA - Not PC

RELATED POSTS ON: Beer & Elsewhere

Guide for blokes: How to talk about chicks and be PC

Can fatties save the planet?

Aunty has the news that fatties can save the planet. Apparently. Now hear me out here. Every bullfrog and his leg rope has been blathering about renewable fuels. Biofuels from corn, from vegetable oil and from animal fats -- what about liposuctioned ass fat?

Too late. This dickhead has already thought about it; he's sailing round the world to promote 'sustainable fuels,' and he's "powering his speedboat with biodiesel made of fat from his backside."

True story. Sadly.

LINKS: Human ass fat drives sustainability - Quatsch*
It really hauls ass - Wired

What then for the Pacific strategy?

The ill-thought out Pacific strategy of Wellington and Canberra is being found out. Concludes Phil at Pacific Empire, after posting news of new violence in East Timor:
NZ PM Helen Clark will be meeting with Bush in the US later this month, with Pacific security a major focus. With no sign of democracy in either Tonga or Fiji, and an anti-Australian backlash in East Timor and the Solomons, the Pacific strategy of Australia and NZ looks rather shaky. The current style of intervention is looking short-sighted and clumsy, and new ideas are desperately needed.
New ideas?

LINKS: Timor-Leste heats up: Australian SAS in armed siege - Pacific Empire

RELATED POSTS ON: World Politics, NZ Politics, Australian Politics, War

Visit this pundit

If you haven't been reading Vigesimal Pundit regularly, then you should (yeah, I know, disregard the silly name). I keep bookmarking their posts and going back to them to tell you lot about them, by which time another gem has been posted. And even when I disagree, which I do with today's post, there's still food for thought. So how about I just give them a plug, and you do the rest, eh?

Innocent until proven guilty

Is it justice or injustice to withhold the information of a defendant's previous conviction from a jury? That's the question many people are asking this morning.

Shipton and Schollum were found guilty in 2005 of a similar rape to the one with which they were charged in the recent case; that rape happened at a similar time to this one. That conviction surely speaks volumes about their character, doesn't it? Shouldn't juries be made aware of the type of people they are judging?

My answer: Not necessarily.

You see, juries are rightly required to judge only on the facts before them. The prosecution is required to lay out the facts that prove beyond doubt that the defendants did what the prosecution says they did, and if the evidence itself can't convict, then a jury is rightly required to deliver a not guilty verdict. This is how innocent people are protected from unfair convictions. This is what it means to be innocent until proven guilty -- a person's guilt on specific charges must be proved by the facts germane to those charges.

But surely the character of the defendants is important to a case? Well, not necessarily. Character can certainly become an issue during sentencing. And it can become an issue too if the defendants choose to stand on their character and make that part of their defence; at that point, a previous conviction would certainly be germane. If their lawyer was to say, "These aren't the sort of men who would do this sort of thing," then straightaway a previous conviction comes on point.

But Shipton and Schollum's lawyer didn't do that for them. He couldn't -- and not just because of the prior conviction. It's true that former All Black Steve McDowell was called to give evidence on behalf of Clint Rickards (and based on the paucity of factual testimony offered by McDowell, we can only conclude he was called as an 'informal' character witness for a man very much short of the quality) but given the previous conviction -- and what that conviction was for -- the defence knew in this case that they just couldn't go there; they were unable to use their character as any sort of defence, or even to place Schollum or Shipton in the witness box lest they inadvertently make their own character an issue -- and the defence was hamstrung here not just because of the previous conviction, but also because the character of all three defendants is so loathsome.

Rickards did take the stand, and even at the distance offered by the filter of television, radio and newspaper his thuggishness and brutality was clear enough. Yet despite this obvious thuggishness, which we figure must surely have stared the jury in the face, the jury concluded that the facts did not support a conviction in this case. Such is their right. They saw all the facts that the prosecution had determined related to this case, and we didn't. Their verdict was given on the basis of those facts.

Justice, we have to say, has been done in this case, and on these charges.

But the character of all three men has now been laid bare for all time, and it's not a pretty sight. And that sort of character is itself is a life sentence.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Rule No. 1: No Assholes!

Somehow, the conversation around the water cooler this afternoon has come around to the issue of assholes and their employment. What do you do when you find out that you've hired an asshole, and how do you avoid hiring assholes again?

As it happens, Stanford professor Robert Sutton -- the author of the book The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't -- shares a few thoughts on that very subject here: How to deal with jerks, bullies, louts, boors, entry-level brutes, schmucks, rascals, jackasses, antagonisers, tormentors, schmos, browbeaters and assholes.

These people are destructive, he says -- they're assholes! -- and the simple fact is that you should apply a 'no asshole rule' in hiring. He offers up some tips on that. And if you're already encumbered? "You can actually calculate the total cost of assholes, or TCA," and use that in their termination notice, he says. Eminently practical.

And here's a quiz to find out if, just possibly, you are that asshole.

By the way, this conversation has absolutely nothing to do with Clint Rickards. Nothing at all. Not a thing. No relevance whatsoever.

LINKS: The Bully Rulebook & the No Asshole Rule - Inc.Com
Quiz: Are you an asshole? - Inc.Com

So how are your shares doing?

Anyone have any stories? Of the ones that I keep track of, most dipped yesterday, but so far today two are down (NVidia by 0.57% and Iress by 1.82%) and six are up by amounts ranging from 1.2% (Huaneng Power) to 4.8% (Kidicorp).

Any stories out there?

"Downright predatory"

Seems to me that this point from Idiot/Savant is pretty much unarguable:
The jury is out in the latest police rape trial. But regardless of what their verdict ultimately is, it has painted an ugly picture of our (former) police.
Any argument with that?

Whatever the decision today, in each of the cases prior to this one a jury has found them not guilty of the charges laid, but the evidence adduced in all cases (much of which was conceded under oath) has shown them thoroughly guilty of being complete and utter assholes -- of being, as I/S says, "downright predatory," and thoroughly disgusting human beings. And these men were policemen; and one achieved the rank of Assistant Police Commissioner.

That paints an awfully ugly picture indeed about the make-up of NZ's police force.

UPDATE 1: All three men have just been found not guilty of the legal charges of indecent assault and kidnapping. That verdict doesn't alter the point made above in any way.

UPDATE 2: Now that the verdict is out, so too is the suppressed information. Former policemen Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton have been visiting the courthouse every day from their home in jail, after having been found guilty in 2005 of a historic rape charge, and being sentenced to eight and eight-and-a-half year sentences respectively on that charge.

UPDATE 3: Answering one of the many further questions surrounding this case, that is, the future status of suspended Assistant Police Commissioner Clint Rickards, Deputy Police Commissioner Rob Pope has just confirmed that "Police will now move to address employment issues... Mr Rickards will remain under suspension during this process." Stuff story here.

You'd have to feel shat upon if you'd been one of the police team putting together this and related prosecutions, only to find that Mr Rickards employment has been "addressed," he's been reinstated, and he's your new boss.

Does he seem like a forgiving chap to you?

LINKS: An ugly picture - Idiot/Savant, No Right Turn
Police sex trial jury retires for night - NZ Herald

RELATED POSTS ON: New Zealand, Law

The Forgotten Underclass: The Self-Employed

Yesterday's Fran O'Sullivan column in The Herald argued on behalf of The Forgotten Underclass: The Self-Employed, and it had the arguments to fit the promise. The full heading, which I've rearranged slightly, was 'The forgotten underclass: The self-employed, particularly sole traders, are losers the headlines ignore.'

Please feel free to go read it. It's worth it.

But I note it here not so much to recommend Fran's excellent column. I quote it because it's so close to a rhetorical point that Ayn Rand once made in the title of a speech to a hostile liberal audience: 'America's Persecuted Minority: Big Business.' There too, the promise fit the bill. It begins thus:
If a small group of men were always regarded as guilty, in any clash with any other group, regardless of the issues involved, would you call it persecution? ... If this group had to live under ... special laws, from which all other people were immune, laws which the accuser could interpret in any way he pleased -- would you call that persecution? If this group were penalized, not for its faults, but for its virtues, not for its incompetence, but for its ability, not for its failures, but for its achievements, and the greater the achievement, the greater the penalty -- would you call that persecution? ... That group is the businessmen.
I commend the piece to your attention. You can find it in this book, in between Alan Greenspan's article berating 'Antitrust,' and Rand on 'The Roots of War.'

RELATED POSTS ON: NZ Politics, Politics

Justice delayed makes a mockery of justice.

Michael Bassett makes the point in a recent column that justice delayed is justice denied -- that these days one may wait up to five years just for a court fixture, with all the attendant costs and anguish and uncertainties. It was not always so, he says, and he puts the question: Why?
Why have so many elements of today’s justice system seized up like arthritic joints?
NZ's arthritic justice system has not just denied justice to victims, to litigants and to all those in the dock for years while they await a verdict; it hasn't just denied it to the families of all these New Zealanders; it has not just left people's guilt and innocence in limbo for years; it has not just left a whole mah-jong factory full of lawyers rich beyond their dreams, while delivering little but lawyers' letters and invoices; it has also meant that the arthritis of delayed injustice has fed through to NZ's commercial system, where we find that the delays and the costs of justice are reason enough for justice not even to be pursued, since any gain made in the roundabout of litigation is lost in the swings of delay, and in the litter bin of lawyers' bills.

Contracts below a figure of, say, $50,000 are now hardly worth the paper they're on since a remedy is both too time-consuming and too expensive to realistically contemplate; and contracts between financial unequally parties are hardly worth the risk, since when justice is delayed and debauched as it now is, the winner is generally the one with the biggest pockets -- and of course, their lawyers.

Justice delayed makes a mockery of justice.

Which still leaves the question: Why is this so? Why do we see so much of the justice system and its accoutrements, and so little justice -- why does it take so goddamn long? It's not for a lack of political attention to the question -- as Bassett notes, if anything in recent years we've seen the opposite:
[We've]tried more police, more judges, more prisons and more crisis intervention officers, but our justice system nears a standstill. Many civil litigants have no hope of an early fixture, and dates for serious trials and sentencing take far too long.
Almost everything has been tried, says Bassett, but still the problem increases. But let me sound a cheerier note. There are two thing that haven't been tried - or not at least in recent years:
  1. Fewer laws.
  2. Better law.
I'll let you think about that for a bit.

Thought about it? Well, think about this in relation to dire need for fewer laws: Geoffrey Palmer once boasted of preparing and having passed the most pages of legislation in a year, ever. Boasted, so he did. He's now been surpassed. Legislation is now churned out at the rate of, not hundreds, but thousands of pages a year. Last year alone 1,324 pages of statutes were passed, (comprising 76 public Acts and two private Acts) and 2,762 pages of Statutory Regulation (comprising 325 Statutory Regulations). But this was a slow year, due to the election. In the previous year, the respective figures were 2,062 pages of Statute and 4,116 of Statutory Regulation.

That is over six-thousand pages of legal garbage in just one sitting year. No one can digest all that! No human being anyway. Not even the high-priced vermin that infest so many of our local legal high-rises can read all that.

And Geoffrey Palmer has something else to answer for: the making of bad law. When I call for fewer and better laws, objective law is what I mean by that -- law that is clear, precise, predictable, contextual and rights-based. Geoffrey was explicitly opposed to that. He introduced to local law the concept of ambiguous law -- of law that is intentionally vague and imprecise; law that was totally unpredictable, that in order to be 'understood' needed to be defined in lengthy court struggles (with all parties in limbo until it had been clarified, and with justices frequently asking themselves the question: "What was in the minds of MPs when they wrote this?" Cometh the all-too obvious answer: "Nothing at all.").

The Resource Management Act stands as a monument to Geoffrey's slap in the face of objective law, which principles have been all but forgotten. The undefined (and undefinable) "principles of the Treaty of Waitangi" that Bassett bewails, and that has introduced so much uncertainty into the very heart so much recent legislation is another monument to Geoffrey's work (and as I recall, its introduction to so much legislation was the brainchild of and happened with the enthusiastic support both of Richard Prebble, and indeed of Michael Bassett himself).

Setting a scrubcutter to nonsense law, and to nonsense in law, would at once clear the shelves of law libraries and the overbooked schedules of law courts, and it would give effect too to the promise of the Libertarianz unemployment policy, which promises an enormous rise in unemployment ... among the likes of lawyers, law clerks and court booking agents.

A bonfire of rules, regulations and statutes would lead to less work for lawyers, but better access to law, and more justice for litigants.


The astute reader will by now have a number of questions. Perhaps the foremost amongst them is this one: what did I mean by the term "a mah-jong of lawyers"? Ah, I'm so glad you asked. I shall let the great HL Mencken answer that one:
All the extravagance and incompetence of our present Government is due, in the main, to lawyers, and, in part at least, to good ones. They are responsible for nine-tenths of the useless and vicious laws that now clutter the statute-books, and for all the evils that go with the vain attempt to enforce them. Every Federal judge is a lawyer. So are most Congressmen. Every invasion of the plain rights of the citizens has a lawyer behind it. If all lawyers were hanged tomorrow, and their bones sold to a mah jong factory, we'd be freer and safer, and our taxes would be reduced by almost a half.
Wise words. I must confess, I enjoyed sharing them with the editor of the Law Society's journal, Law Talk before a recent election. I doubt that he published them.

Perhaps, given the current apoplexy over legal aid rates, he might consider doing so now?

LINKS: Slowing down justice - Michael Bassett [Hat tip, Leighton Smith]
What is objective law? - Harry Binswanger
Policies - Libertarianz
Legal snouts - Peter Cresswell

RELATED: Law, NZ Politics

Icarus Landing - Michael Newberry

I like to repost this piece every so often: it is one of my favourites by artist Michael Newberry.


The delicacy and control are masterful, as is his 'reclamation' of two myths and -- by his choice of theme and the delicacy and control with which he has handled it -- making triumph out of tragedy.

Compare it, for example, with Herbert Draper's Lament for Icarus, and see how Michael has made of the Icarus story a triumph, a "giant step for mankind." Said author and philosopher Stephen Hicks when first seeing Icarus Landing:
"…[A]bout the Icarus painting: The colors and composition are superb. His body seems real -- the arms especially -- like he actually is in the act of alighting. And the thematic elements are so rich --reversing both the Greek and Christian messages: success following boldness rather than failure following boldness; and a quietly confident success rather than suffering and sacrifice. 
"Looking at Icarus, I had a passing thought that you did for the Icarus legend what Rand's character Richard Halley did [in making of] the Phaethon legend [a triumph]. And afterwards I was reminded of Susan's [McCloskey] which she explained how Rand was aware of the epic figures and forms from the two major traditions in western civilization, the Greco-Roman and the Judeo-Christian, as exemplified in the characters of Odysseus and Jesus, and how with her characters in Atlas Shrugged Rand both incorporated and transcended those traditions. Your Icarus does that with the substance and symbolism of the Greek Icarus and the Christian crucifixion. Incredible." [Stephen Hicks, Ph.D., Philosopher and Author of Explaining Postmodernism.]
Incredible? It sure is. I find that as you study it (especially if you open the image see it as large as you can) , your eye changes from at one moment seeing the figure just hanging by its arms, and the next gently descending in space, and under complete control.

That really is mastery in paint.

  LINK: Figurative Art at RomanticRealiam.Net 

 RELATED POSTS ON: Art, Objectivism

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

More power to "illegal" bookmakers

According to NZ Press Association , a woman who has just been caught and convicted of "illegal bookmaking" "has evoked a seedy part of the New Zealand pub scene of years gone by."

What nonsense. The writer might just as well have said the story evoked the freer, more sunlit experience overseas in which punters are free to choose from the more competitive odds offered by bookies both on-course and off, free to stroll from one to the other and enjoy the many characters, all of them competing for the punter's business. They could have said that, because that would be much closer to the truth.

Such a delightful experience is not allowed, however, in this pathetic authoritarian backwater in which we live, where all betting that isn't nationalised is prohibited, and where anyone who is not the TAB who offers punters a flutter can attract "a fine not exceeding $20,000, or up to a year's imprisonment."

Internal affairs jobsworth Mr Mike Hill -- who revels in the title of "director of gambling compliance" -- said: "Bookmaking effectively diverts money from the community and from the racing industry." That would be the reason the racing industry worldwide is doing do poorly then. Perhaps they should all follow our example then and nationalise their betting, just as Nanny has done here?

Meanwhile Sue Bradford, who can barely let a whole day go past without calling for a ban, now wants a new online betting site banned because it has gone to the trouble of registering offshore to get around the pathetic nannying rules that are this country's gambling laws. The freshly launched Race-O New Zealand site is registered in Costa Rica and its betting licence has been secured from the autonomous Indian territory of Kahnawake in Canada, sending a very solid "Fuck you" to Ms Bradford, to Nanny's "director of gambling compliance" Mr Hill, and to the law that Nanny's director of compliance so assiduously polices.

You can place a bet with Race-O here. Think of Sue Bradford when you do.

RELATED: Privatisation, NZ Politics

Loss of service

Unfortunately blogging seems to be temporarily impossible due to a problem with Blogger. This message has been sent as an email post.

UPDATE: Oddly, it seems as if the problem might only be present on one computer, and only when posting or commenting at Not PC. Very odd.

De Post

I had a great time last evening meeting up in a MT Eden Belgian bar with some effervescent Auckland SOLOists and readers of this blog, some of whom I haven't seen for far too long, and many of whom I haven't met before except on line.

Good beer, good food and excellent company and conversation --you can't beat it --and most enjoyable meeting up with friends both old and new. Salut!

Stem cell research blocked

When "not enough is known" about an important -- possibly life-changing -- subject, you might be forgiven for thinking that would be an invitation to know more, and an incentive for further research. Not so in recent NZ decision, in which an important medical trial has been cancelled because "not enough is known" about the subject being researched.

In a decision that is at once a blow to science, to medicine, and (potentially) to those suffering with spinal disfunction, a recent spinal injury study involving stem cells has been blocked, not by scientists, but by a "Ministry of Health ethics committee."
Cynthia Darlington, from the ethics committee, says not enough is known about stem cells for such a trial to be carried out safely. Ms Darlington says the Society might have given people false hope.
It is unclear from the brief report whether the decision is more about safety, or more about a concern that the research "might have given people false hope." According to the Spinal Cord Society, the study using stem cells from the nose was intended to replicate a procedure developed by Dr Carlos Lima in Portugal (about which more here, and here). The procedure has been performed on fifty patients, some of whom have reported regaining some sensation and function. But the ethics committee here says "not enough is known about stem cells" for permission to be given to carry out this local trial.

But surely the point of a trial is that not enough is known -- the very point is to learn more, isn't it? To know more? To push back uncertainty?

It's unclear from reports whether the audit of Dr Lima's cases has been carried out, or if the trial has been cancelled before this has been done, but the brief report gives no indication of any specific concerns with the safety of Dr Lima's procedures. Rather, it appears to be simply a decision from on high to stop what should have been potentially ground-breaking medical research, and given the reported opposition of a research competitor at the Burwood Spinal Unit in Christchurch, possibly an anti-competitive one.

Writing about the rise of ethics committees such as those making this decision, scientist Stuart Derbyshire calls it "regulation by another name," and its difficult to see it any other way. Rather than studying the actual ethics of a procedure or a study, ethics committees, he says, simply pay hand-wringing obeisance to uncertainty, and all too frequently stand in the way of researchers acquiring real certainty, and in achieving real medical breakthroughs.

Such committees, are often stacked with people unfamiliar with science or medicine, with the result that "too often priority [is given] to the sensitivities and feelings of non-specialists over the expertise of specialists"; they are, he says, "the product of an increasing suspicion regarding the nefarious aims of scientists" -- they represent "the capitulation of scientific authority," with not even the saving grace of efficacy in their stated aims:

Although the aim [of the committees and their procedures] is to prevent harm to subjects and patients, there is no evidence that the application forms, review procedures and consent materials actually do this...
Derbyshire concludes that as a consequence of the rise of regulation by ethics committe, research questions increasingly tend be restricted to conventional, safe and popular areas, with inquiry characterised by deference rather than the challenging of established wisdom, and with what amounts to censorship supplanting academic freedom.

A strong claim, but given the controversy over stem cell research -- with the dissent coming largely from the religious and, locally, from the tangata whenua quarter - one with which I have a lot of sympathy.

Stem cell researchers Thilo Spahl and Thomas Deichmann point out that stem cell research has huge promise for as yet unknown treatments. It "promises the possibility of treatments and cures for a host of different serious medical conditions" -- "it is research that is daily pushing back the boundaries of scientific knowledge." Or it would be, if such research was allowed, "even if the research involves the questioning of contemporary taboos." Such taboos must be challenged, they say, in order to free up scientific research, "which is the very condition upon which scientific discoveries and breakthroughs are made." They conclude:
Developing a morality that is grounded in the attempt to better the human condition is an important task for those of us who wish to live in a society in which we can take full benefit of the advantages which current science offers us.
Hear, hear! As philsopher Craig Biddle said in a similar context, "it's good to play God."

NB: The comments on ethics committees and stem cell research come from an excellent analysis called Science vs. Superstition: The case for a new scientific enlightenment. It can be found in PDF form at the Policy Exchange site.

LINKS: Stem cell trial blocked - Newswire
Stem cell trial blocked by ministry - Radio NZ
Stem cells from the nose - Spinal Cord Society of NZ
Clinical trials - Spinal Cord Society of NZ
Home page - Spinal Cord Society of NZ
Olfactory tissue transplantation for spinal research (Part 1) - Laurance Johnston, Alternative & Innovative Therapies for Physical Disability
Olfactory tissue transplantation for spinal research (Part 2) - Laurance Johnston, Alternative & Innovative Therapies for Physical Disability
Science vs. Superstition: The case for a new scientific enlightenment - Policy Exchange
Of mice and men - Craig Biddle, The Objective Standard

RELATED POSTS ON: Health, Science, Ethics, Politics-NZ

Reitz Residence - Arthur Dyson

The Reitz Residence by Arthur Dyson, in Owatonna, Mississippi. More pictures here at Arthur Dyson's website.

LINKS: Arthur Dyson, Architect

RELATED POSTS ON: Architecture

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

A major scientific discovery

A major scientific discovery:
A major research institution (MRI) has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element has been named "Governmentium," extracted from samples of the mineral Bureaucratite.

Governmentium has 1 neutron, 12 deputy neutrons, 75 assistant neutrons, and 224 deputy assistant neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no protons or electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected, because it impedes every action with which it comes into contact. A reaction which would normally take less than a second to complete takes 4 days to complete after contact with just a minute amount of Governmentium -- reactions which would normally take weeks, will take months.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 3 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time since each organisation will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "Critical Morass."

When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.
Many thanks to the UK Independence Party for this. In case you're wondering, that's the same UK Independence Party that may be shut down by the UK's campaign contribution rules -- under similar rules as are proposed here in NZ (and for similar reasons).

That's what happens when any element meets its anti-matter equivalent: annihilation.

LINKS: Political cartoons from a Eurorealist perspective - UK Independence Party, West Bournemouth Branch
UKIP faces ruin over donations - Telegraph
Bureaucratite - Wikipedia

RELATED POSTS ON: British Politics, Free Speech, Humour

Who's Oscar?

Oscars. I don't know who got them. I don't care who got them. I never do. But the good thing about the division of labour is that I know people who do.

The good folk at Samizdata for example.

"...and the nominees in the category of Best Fashionable Issue in a Guilt-Supporting Role are....(pause)...World Poverty (applause)...AIDS (applause)...the Iraq War (bigger applause)...Africa (applause)...and Saving the Planet (huge applause).

And the winner is.....(rustle, rustle, rustle)...
Tune in to Samizdata to find out -- I just know you're on the edge of your seat. And tune to Hit and Run for all the other big winners and losers.

LINKS: Foxtrot Oscars - Samizdata
Oscar roundup '07: Al Gore starts to look like Alec Baldwin - Hit and Run


Good news for warmists

The world is a simple place for warmists. For a warmist, consequences don't matter -- doing the right thing does. Even if our actions to save the planet have no effect, says the warmist, we should do them anyway just so we're doing the right thing.

China is opening a new coal-fired power station every five days until at least 2012? Within two years, China will emit more CO2 than the US? No worries. We should all do what we can anyway, just so we're doing the right thing.

And if the US were to shut down its entire economy, and growth in emissions from fast-emerging new polluters such as China, India, Indonesia, Russia, and Brazil were to replace the US emissions within the next quarter of a century -- as they're predicted to do? No worries. The US should do what it can anyway, just so it's doing the right thing.

And even if a country the size of Britain were to shut down and cease using energy or cars altogether, and the growth in carbon emissions in China would more than make up for that sacrifice long before the Kyoto agreement expires in 2012? No worries. Britain should do what it can anyway, just so it's doing the right thing.

And little old NZ? Even if NZ were to shut up shop altogether, having no discernible net effect on the climate whatsoever, we should go "carbon neutral anyway" just so we're doing the right thing. No carbon, no worries.

For the warmist, the world is a simple place. Even if your actions have no discernible effect, says the warmist, you should do them anyway just so you're doing the right thing. Do the right thing, and you have no worries.

If you do everything you can to offset your carbon footprint, you can sleep easy at night. So here's some good news for warmists: a company selling carbon credits for folks that want to offset their cat’s flatulence. At eight dollars a go, that's got to be a bargain.

And even more good news: They’ll do the same for your grandmother, too.

LINKS: Global warming alarmists can offset their cat's flatulence - Newsbusters

RELATED POSTS ON: Global Warming, Nonsense.

House prices and the business cycle: What goes up...

Sense in the Herald on house prices and the business cycle from one Christopher Niesche, who makes two important points about rising house prices and those who argue they'll keep rising for ever. The business cycle hasn't been repealed yet, says Niesche,
So when people start saying this property cycle is different from the last time and there may no longer even be a property cycle, then that's probably a cue to have a close look at the property market.
And when you do have a closer look, you realise that there is something that makes this cycle significantly different: it's more vulnerable than before. There are more rental investors in the market than ever before, "for the first time in living memory - it's investors and not owner-occupiers who are setting prices and have been doing so since 2003," and these investors are not going to put up for ever with the lowest yields in 35 years.
This means that one way or another rental yields will eventually have to rise back to their more usual levels of between 5 and 6 per cent to justify holding housing as an investment.

The question for investors and home owners is how will this happen? Rents will have to rise sharply or house prices will have to fall. And there's nothing to suggest that rents will rise sharply.
Much though people might wish otherwise, the business cycle still hasn't been repealed.

LINKS: Christopher Niesche: Investment looks safe as houses - and dotcom stocks - NZ Herald [hat tip AB]
Austrian business cycle theory: A brief explanation - Dan Mahoney, Mises Daily
Business cycle primer - Lew Rockwell, Mises Daily
The Austrian theory of the trade cycle - Richard Ebeling, ed., Mises Institute

Housing, Economics

Winston v The Media, Round 156

'Foreign Minister' Winston Peters is spewing, and when Winston spews, "the media" usually gets the whole bucketful. "The media," says Winston, is trying to "undermine" him.

So what's new?

How is "the media" doing it this time? Apparently, says Winston, by asking him questions about NZ's policy on Iraq -- something you would have thought our media is required to do of the Foreign Minister.

"No!" protests the Foreign Minister. By asking both he and Helen about NZ's Iraq policy, the media is trying to make out there's a difference between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister?

No, Minister. I expect they're trying to discover whether there is a difference between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister?

Turns out that there is a difference. A significant difference.

The Foreign Minister says (angrily) that in asking him -- the Foreign Minister -- about Iraq, the media is being "an absolute pest and nuisance, and trying to undermine NZ's foreign policy."

No, Winston, I expect they're trying to establish whether the Clark Government has a coherent foreign policy.

Turns out that there isn't one. Certainly not anything that could be called coherent. Not with this Foreign Minister. Not with the pathetic farce that he is a Minister, but is not part of the Government.

No wonder Winston is spewing. Because as Foreign Minister in the Clark Government, on the issues that matter his opinion doesn't matter. Helen makes the policy, while he picks up the baubles. This is the Foreign Minister you have when you don't really have a Foreign Minister.

The irony is that on the substantive issue, he's substantially correct. If coalition troops were to leave Iraq, it undoubtedly would slide into chaos. But not for the first time, his petulance undermines his point -- and not for the first time, you realise why he was named after a concrete block.

RELATED POSTS ON: NZ Politics, World Politics, War, The Winston First Party

Monday, 26 February 2007

The rates problem

The Rates Inquiry presently travelling the country is intended to address "the rates problem."

"The rates problem" is at least two problems, but both are related. For most ratepayers, the problem is that rates are too bloody high -- they want lower rates. For councils, the problem appears is insufficient revenue to do all the things they want to do, and to pay for the ballooning wage bill that every upstanding expanding council faces -- what they currently lever out of ratepayers' pockets isn't enough for them; these thieving bastards want the legal power to tap into new forms of theft: bed taxes, poll taxes, visitor taxes and the like.

Libertarianz predicted this very problem
when Sandra Lee's Local Government Act was introduced five years ago -- the Let-Councils-Do-Whatever-They-Fucking-Like Act -- the result of all that new fucking around by councils was obvious enough even when first mooted: councils would run out of revenue, and would need to hit ratepayers up for more.

For me, the solution to the rates problem is obvious enough, and it comes down quite simply to what councils do. You might call it the Stop-Doing-So-Fucking-Much solution to "rates problem. If councils stop doing so fucking much then they won't need "new revenue streams," and neither will they need to charge so fucking much either.

So much for the "rates problem."

LINKS: Mayor hopes for new solutions in rates inquiry - Radio NZ
"No!" to more council powers - Peter Cresswell, Libertarianz, Scoop (2001)


They're making houses unaffordable over there too

Housing unaffordability isn't just an issue here in NZ, it's a problem worldwide -- or at least in those cities worldwide in which planners have locked up land, regulated its use, and forced people to live in the way that planners have decreed they live. A British think tank has now published a major study into the effects of the planning system on the UK economy:
The Best Laid Plans: How planning prevents economic growth.
In three previous publications the report's authors, Alan W. Evans and Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich, have shown that most of the problems with the housing market - low supply, high prices, overcrowding - can be attributed to the planning system. They conclude in this report that the main objective of planning has been to limit the spatial extent of cities and that this artificial reduction of land supply has severe consequences for society, the environment and the economy.
You can download the report here [PDF].

LINKS: The Best Laid Plans: How planning prevents economic growth - Policy Exchange [52-page PDF]
Message to planners: "Don't fence me in!" - Not PC
'Sustainable' cities are unaffordable cities - Not PC

RELATED POSTS ON: Sprawl, Housing, Urban Design, Politics-UK, Sustainability

Our "fateful wish for price stability"

The Reserve Bank's inflation-fighting is keeping interest rates high and our dollar high, nailing producers, exporters and home-buyers to a cross of price stability that is itself a mirage. This "fateful wish for price stability" is analysed by Thorstein Pollett at the Mises Economics Blog:
The Austrians' great concern is that a government-dominated money-supply regime would ultimately lead to economic and therefore political disaster; the objective of price stability would not alter such a dismal prediction. Even if a central bank succeeds in stabilizing a targeted price index, it would — by an ideologically motivated increase in credit and money supply — generously increase credit and money supply. It thereby distorts the economy's price mechanism, promotes malinvestment and initiates subsequent economic downturns...
In other words: removing real price signals from the market (or trying to) plays havoc with your markets.

Full article here. Comments here.

LINKS: The fateful wish for price stability - Professor Thorstein Pollett
Denying prosperity by misunderstanding inflation - Not PC (Dec, 2005)
More myths about inflation - Not PC (Sept, 2006)

Economics, Politics-NZ

Bigots ban book

Previously only allowed to be sold in Australian shops in a plain brown wrapper, Australian authorities have now slapped a ban on The Peaceful Pill Handbook for voluntary euthanasia, launched here in New Zealand by Lindsay Perigo a couple of weeks ago.

Bernard Darnton has the news at his Section 14 blog, and this comment:
So there you have it. In Australia (and stay alert in New Zealand), free speech is less important that the idea that citizens should surrender control of their lives to their political masters and the loss of free speech is regarded as the acceptable collateral damage from the war on drugs.
Perigo's advice at the launch now has even more currency after the Australian ban:
Grab the book while you can, because governments both here and in Australia are making moves to have it banned. Irony of ironies. Not only do the religious bigots ban you ending your own life, or having help to do so, they also want the political bigots to ban you reading about being able to end your own life.
LINKS: Peaceful Pill book banned in Australia - Bernard Darnton, Section 14
Perigo launches voluntary euthanasia handbook - Not PC

RELATED POSTS ON:Politics-Australia, Health, Libertarianism, Religion, Free Speech

Maori Party still in the stone age

There are people who my have forgotten that the Maori Party is a racist party. It's useful to be reminded:
The Maori Party is calling for limits on immigration from Western countries, accusing the Government of trying to stop the "browning of New Zealand". [Stuff, NZ]
A call as absurd as it is racist.
UPDATE from around the blogs:
  • Idiot/Savant: "Turia's comments are in short a nasty, racist little blurt."
  • Liberty Scott: "Tariana Turia is racist and does not believe in democracy... She's called for restrictions on immigration because of what it means for Maori political representation - presumably, she doesn't like the fact that a cornerstone of liberal democracy is one adult one vote."
  • Blogging It Real: "But, Mrs Turia seeks to reassure us, "we aren't playing the race card, because we are not talking about Asian immigration." Right, so it's not racist to try and shut the door to white folks, only yellow ones? Sorry, brown ones. Anyone else care to join me in a hearty "fuck you"?"
  • Bryce Edwards notes: "Unfortunately Maori nationalists have for a long time been anti-immigration. In the past Maori radicals have called for a complete halt to immigration (and especially pacific island immigration) until Treaty grievances are resolved."
  • Falloon: "For absurdity, Turia's comments are right up there with Maori Party Ikaroa-Rawhiti candidate Atareta Poananga's statements- "Racism cannot be exercised by Maori" & "Racism is about having personal prejudice and the power to enforce it. So Maori can not be racist.

RELATED POSTS ON: NZ Politics, Maori Party, Racism, Immigration