Saturday, February 10, 2007

What Reserve Banks do to our money

Spotted by Tim Swanson at the Mises Blog:

Four years before he became chairman of the Federal Reserve, Benjamin Bernanke (then "merely" a Fed Governor), gave a speech commemorating the 90th birthday of Milton Friedman. Below is his concluding statement:

Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You're right, we did it. We're very sorry. But thanks to you, we won't do it again.
This goes up on the mantel next to Greenspan's essay lauding the Gold Standard.
The Federal Reserve was responsible for the Great Depression, and for much more besides. New Zealand's own Reserve Bank is modelled in many ways on the US Federal Reserve Bank (about which more later today).

For a great history of the Federal Reserve and what it's done to the money supply, this Mises Institute video up at You Tube is just the thing. 42 minutes of good Saturday doco. Enjoy.

LINKS: Bend it like Bernanke - Mises Economics Blog
Money, banking and the Federal Reserve Bank - You Tube

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Holy bar stools!

These ladies aren't getting none... Errr...

[Pic stolen from Real Beer. Ta, guys.]

Beer O'Clock: A Valentine's Day introduction.

Advice this week for your forthcoming Valentine's Day date from Stu at Real Beer. Send all complaints to him. ;^)

Women don't like beer. I know that's a generalisation but there is a good reason why generalisations occur and persist, and that reason is this: They're generally true.

Anyway, true or not, in my skewed sample (i.e. the six women I know) the majority of women don't really like beer. If it's not too fizzy and bloating for them, then it's too bitter, or it's too big a serving, or it's going to make them fat, or it takes up too much room in the fridge, or the advertisements are degrading, or ...

Women are not the only ones to have turned their backs on beer, I know plenty of middle-aged men that became sick of brown soda pop and are now supping chardonnay or sauvignon blanc at the barbeque, and many, many metrosexuals who drink Heineken or Corona and who think they're drinking beer.

Poor fools.

I think it's time to reintegrate (or integrate) these women and men into the beer drinking domain. They need to be introduced to real beer. Beer with flavour and body and delight. This job must be undertaken by us, the beer advocates, and can't be left to the breweries. If it were left to the breweries they would introduce a sugary fizzy drink with berry, peach or citrus flavourings (oh, they already tried that - anyone remember DB's 'limited edition' "Hopper" range?), or a range of summer beers with lime and and spice in it (come in DB's Radlers et al), or they'd market a flavourless beer with a lime in it just so you could think you looked cool (you don't).

There’s so much exposure to this rubbish that people are scared of trying the micro-brewery’s beers.

Big breweries have shot themselves in the foot, time and time again, by persisting with bland products, marketing over substance, blatant sexism, and a type of male bravado that puts off many men as well as women. [That, by the way, is a Tui Girl at left, just so you have an example of the sort of outrageous goings-on the man is talking about - Ed.] By these goings-on, they've cut off a large chunk of their potential market (and a high-income market it is too) by focussing so much on the young and impressionable Neil Millers of this world. Give that man a DB or a Tui couch and he'll drink your product to the fizzy end. But ask a more refined type to partake, and you'll find s/he's left the building altogether.

All is not lost however. A new breed of breweries has emerged, producing distinctive, great quality beers of various colours and flavours. There’s also an excellent range of imports (beyond the pseudo-imports Stella and Heineken) beginning to join them on the shelves. And there are ways to get around the most ardently held excuses for enjoying good beer; here are some example:
"Beer is too fizzy." It doesn't need to be. Pour it into a glass to help release the carbonation (and also the beer's wonderful aromatics). A wine glass, or special beer glass, may add to the visual appeal.
"Beer is too bitter." If that's your problem, then maybepick a mildly hopped beer such as a strong Belgian ale, a wheat beer, a fruit or spiced beer, or a lambic.
"There's just too much volume!" Share a glass -- or share a bottle between two glasses, so nobody suffers from 'portion anxiety.'
"Beer makes you fat." The beer belly is a myth. It should actually be renamed more accurately the "chips, nuts, pies and kebabs belly" -- if it had a ring to it. A stubbie of beer is no more fattening than a glass of wine. It's the appetite the beer gives you that causes the belly. So watch that.
"Beer has degrading ads." Okay, this is true. But those sorts of beers are crap anyway, so don't bother with them. Drink something decent instead.
So there you have it. No reason not to enjoy a decent drop. This Valentines Day, why not introduce the women (or man) in your life to a decent beer. Even better, introduce her (or him) to a wide array of beers with a small sample of each. S ometimes it only takes a sip to arouse one's interest...

You could try any of these widely available beers to get a rise: Emerson's Weiss Bier, Belle-Vue Kriek, Duvel, Mac's Hop Rocker, Leffe Brune, Founder's Long Black or Greene King Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale. For those more inclined to a bitter drop then, being adventurous, try out a Cock & Bull Monk's Habit, Emerson's 1812, Tuatara Pilsner or either of Limburg's Hopsmacker or Czechmate. All of these can be found reviewed in the Beer and Elsewhere archives of this site.

And while you are contemplating what to try, sign the SOBA petition against the ridiculous banning of glasses at Blenheim’s Blues Brews and BBQ’s. Links to petition and background information here.

LINKS: Become a beer advocate with SOBA, the Society for Beer Advocates
More on women and beer
Real beer and real women
Real women.

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere

Message to planners: "Don't fence me in!"

Most of the planners in New Zealand's major cities have imposed what's called a Metropolitan Urban Limit around the cities. This is sometimes called an 'urban fence,' inside which development proceeds (in theory) according to the planners' whims, and (in reality) to the extent that developers and builders can get around these whims and get something done.

Outside the urban fence, development only proceeds to the extent that land-owners outside the fence can dodge the planners' desire to make a rural museum of the area surrounding the cities, and to the extent that developers who have built up land banks around the city can encourage their chums on council to relax the zoning, or to release the urban fence just a little. You might call this a sort of 'informal' public-private partnership. (Ask around, for instance, about how the car yards of Henderson were re-zoned from rural and who benefited most from the re-zoning; and -- more recently -- ask yourself who the major beneficiaries were of the recent relaxation of controls around Botany, Flat Bush and Albany.)

In Auckland, the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) rigorously police this fence, even to the extent of taking other councils to court for attempting to overturn it. As I noted a few months ago, even Auckland's mayors have now realised this urban fence might have some role to play in limiting the supply of houses, and this helping to make houses more unaffordable in NZ cities than in less constrained cities elsewhere. Said the mayors in a joint press release:
Mayors of Manukau and Waitakere say the region's master plan for growth is throttling economic opportunities in their cities and needs an urgent overhaul. When it was introduced in 1999, the Auckland Regional Council's regional growth strategy [which set in place the present Metropolitan Urban Limits] was hailed as the answer to managing the effects of growth such as in urban sprawl...
... The shortage of land for housing was pushing prices sky-high and making it difficult for young people to get homes.
Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey said he also wanted a review of the strategy to be completed as soon as possible.
He was impatient about the lack of progress in having potential new development areas at Westgate, Whenuapai and Hobsonville brought inside the metropolitan urban limit and made available.
"Anyone that is in local government is frustrated by long delays, procrastination and the inability to see the big picture - not by this council but by regulatory officialdom that stifles growth and prosperity."
Let me remind you, this is Bob Harvey -- Bob Harvey! -- and his fellow mayors talking about relaxing the urban limits, and talking about "growth and prosperity" being stifled by "regulatory officialdom."

Things have to be pretty bloody obvious for people like Bob Harvey to notice them, and to come out in favour of "growth and prosperity" over "regulatory officialdom."

Not so fast however, replied ARC chairman Mike Lee a few weeks back. Over the past five years, says Lee, "Auckland councils have released 1000ha of land for development." Ten-thousand hectares! Gee thanks, Mike. At 500 square metres per unit (which applies on average through much of Auckland's metropolitan area), this represents land for just 4,000 new houses per year (and this figure ignores the roads, parks, shopping areas, service centres and workplaces that will be built to accompany these new houses). This land has been "released" by councils by the simple expedient of relaxing the urban fence in areas deemed appropriate by planners, which simply means rezoning land which is otherwise idle -- land which individuals own who are restricted by these regulations as to what they can do on their own land.

Four thousand new houses doesn't go far when as the ARC's own website concedes, fifty people every day are moving to the region --that's "one person every 29 minutes" (or nearly 20,000 per year). And those new houses are built according to the planners' so-called 'smart growth' dogma: laid out in row-upon-row of regulated sameness, just as the planner ordered.

The sameness and the sprawl that many people object to in our present-day suburbia are in large part due to the regulatory measures that the anti-sprawlists themselves favour. Specifically, the "carpet sprawl" that would have few explicit defenders is created by the very 'Smart Growth' policies considered so progressive by so many planners. Owen McShane explained the process in a recent presentation (pdf), of which this the briefest of excerpts:
WHY SMART GROWTH DELIVERS CARPET SPRAWL.
Smart Growth delivers Carpet-Sprawl because even the most rigorous Smart Growth city eventually has to extend its Metropolitan Urban Limit (MUL) to provide more land for residential, commercial and industrial use.
In recent weeks the Mayors of both Waitakere City and Manukau City have pleaded for extensions to their MULs. Even Smart Growth planners acknowledge these “adjustments” will be necessary from time to time.
The sequence of events is as follows:
• The MUL is initially set to allow for the next period of growth to take place within the existing “urban form”.
• Eventually this enclosed area fills to the point where there is essentially no zoned land left for further growth or it has become so expensive that no one can afford to use it.
• In the meantime many activities have simply leap-frogged into territory outside the Smart Growth planners’ jurisdiction, which is why Northland Region is now growing so rapidly.
• Open space inside the MUL is sacrificed to high density carpet development to “save” open space outside the MUL.
• At some point the situation becomes intolerable and the people and their representatives demand an extension of the MUL to enclose some piece of surrounding rural land.
• Once this “bulge” is made legal then development and intensification begins again until the new “bulge” is also full of high density carpet development and some relief is allowed in some other part of the city.
Obviously, as this process is repeated the city expands into the rural area as medium or high density “carpet sprawl.” The only difference from the post-war sprawl is that there will be a greater variety of housing types because the market demand is more varied and regulations covering section sizes and housing types have been relaxed since the sixties, and the overall density will be higher.
I'd be interested in hearing from supporters of planning, zoning and so-called 'Smart Growth' how they feel about producing the very thing they say they oppose.

LINKS: Some Auckland mayors realise ring-fencing the city is 'unsustainable' - Not PC East Germany in East Auckland - Not PC
Alternatives to Smart Growth - Owen McShane [15-page PDF]

RELATED: Sustainability,
Housing, Urban Design, Politics-NZ, Auckland, RMA

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A debate on taking property for the public good

The pylon battle in the Waikato and the taking of Suzette Kelo's Connecticut home so a developer can build a shopping mall have between them raised the issue of what the Americans call eminent domain, or what we might call taking private property for 'public' use.

Anyone who has ever seen the film The Castle will know what I'm talking about: taking someone's property, or a portion of their property, on the basis that you have the legal force to do so, and that compensation 'on just terms' is provided for the 'taking' of the property.

In The Castle, of course, the issue was what exactly those 'just terms' would be. For Daryl Kerrigan, the owner of the house being taken for development of the neighbouring airport by a private company, no terms could be considered just. "You can't buy what I've got," he wails. No value anyone else could offer would replace what he's already got.

In the American context, of course, the Constitution actually protects the taking of private property for public use - "nor shall private property be tken for public use without just compensation" says the so-called 'takings clause' of the Fifth Amendment -- but in the submission of some people (which list includes me) inclusion in that Constitution doen't make it right; and given the experience of history (which as I explain in this post, shows that routes for rail and pipelines and the like can and have been put together voluntarily, without any need for public theft) it's not true that it's even necessary.

However there are people who think that eminent domain is marvellous. Many of these people are developers. Many of them are politicians. One of them recently agreed to debate Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute on this issue. Yaron is not in favour of eminent domain. Not in any way whatsoever. His opponent is. His opponent is a leading advocate of taking private property for public use, and he used to head the department that some have called The Federal Bulldozer, a department that spent years throwing people out of their homes against their will in the name of 'urban renewal' (the slums his department built are now know as 'The Projects,' and are more like urban sinks than examples of renewal). This prick still thinks he was justified in everything his department did.

You can listen to the debate between Yaron Brook and this advocate for public theft here, at the Principles in Practice blog. Yaron is a lot more polite than I would have been in the circumstances.

Listen here. And come back and let me know whom you found the most convincing.

LINKS: Eminent domain: To preserve or abolish - Principles in Practice
ACT protecting property rights? - Not PC
Pylon pressure ignorant and unnecessary - Not PC
Political plundering of property owners - James Bovard, Freedom Daily

RELATED: Property_Rights, Objectivism

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Returning the smear of the warmists

Everyone knows how nasty "McCarthyite" tactics are -- everyone knows because collectivists never tire of letting us know how evil it was for Joe McCarthy to launch witch-hunts and campaigns of intimidation against people on the basis simply of whom they associate with, smearing their character and credibility and insinuating a "guilt by association" that "infected" American politics for generations afterwards.

As Robert Bidinotto notes, those same tactics are now used regularly by the collectivists themselves. His example is the ad hominem assault on global warming skeptics; he recounts how professional scientists have had their credibility laid to waste by hatchet-jobs that barely merit the recounting -- except that these are hatchet-jobs that you'll see splashed across your news headlines every day.

"Exxon Mobil!" "A hired gun for the oil industry!" "Denier!" Leaving aside the basic logical error of the ad hominem attack - that in attacking the arguer the argument itself is left unchallenged -- Bidinotto instead cries havoc, and lets slip the McCarthyite attack dogs himself. "Okay, let's play the same game," he says, "and see if these attack dogs like it."
At the head of this pack we find the Union of Concerned Scientists, a pseudo-scientific advocacy group with a long pedigree of radical leftist activism, and whose own funders include virtually the entire funding apparatus of the agenda-driven American left. Joining them is that bastion of sober scientific research and thought, Greenpeace. We find a political hack, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who, in the Joe McCarthy tradition, launches a political-legal witch hunt and campaign of intimidation, suing oil companies "to disclose their dealings with climate change skeptics" -- and First Amendment be damned.

All of this coercion and smearing is clearly meant to frighten into silence any legitimate scientists who challenge Gang Green.

Question: If the scientific evidence supporting the Gang's claims about climate change were so overwhelming, irrefutable, and convincing, why these goon-squad tactics to shut down dissent? What are these people afraid of?
That's the question I find so interesting. If you do have the evidence, why wouldn't you simply rest on it?

LINK: The ad hominem assault on global warming critics - Robert Bidinotto

RELATED: Politics, Politics-US, Science, Global Warming

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Uluru-Kata Tjuta cultural centre - Greg Burgess


Greg Burgess's Uluru-Kata Tjuta cultural centre, in Australia's Red Centre. The description comes from his site:
Located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, the building sits in a delicate environment both ecologically and politically. The building has been designed as an expression of Aboriginal culture, with integral display and interpretative themes. Opened in October 1995, this complex is visited daily by thousands of Australian and International tourists. Through its animated relationship with its powerful site, extensive use sustainable materials, low energy consumption and sympathetic responsiveness to people and the environment, the building celebrates the spirit of Anangu culture.

The complex was designed in collaboration with the Aboriginal community and is to be build in 3 stages. To date Classes 1, 2 and 3, Art and Craft rooms, special education rooms, library, kitchen and administration offices have been constructed. Natural materials have been used where possible in the construction with finishes.

Architecturally, the Centre provides users with some imaginative keys to strengthen relationships and understanding of the land, as well as practical spaces for learning and play.
LINKS: Uluru-Kata Tjuta cultural centre - Greg Burgess Architects
Organic architecture in Oceania - Architettura Organica

RELATED:
Architecture

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

The buzzword for this year is sustainability

NZ HERALD: Helen Clark will kick off the parliamentary year next Tuesday with the opening speech. She said it would outline the programme for the year based on the theme of sustainability.
See. Told you.

LINK: Clark regathers Labour's reins - NZ Herald
The buzzword for this morning is sustainability - Not PC (October, 2006)

RELATED: Sustainability, Politics-NZ

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More sprawling arguments

Tom Beard has responded with panache to my arguments the other day on why envy is making houses unaffordable. As I summarised in a comment the other day, when it comes to sprawl, to housing and to regulations on housing, I'm Pro-Choice.

What that means, in short, is this:
  • Let people live where they will.
  • Restricting where and how people live is wrong, and reflects the use of force to impose the regulators' values on people who don't agree with those values.
  • The result of this imposition has been to make houses in the most regulated cities mostly unaffordable, and those in the least regulated cities most affordable.
Tom disagrees with all of this. Read why at his Well Urban blog. I'll respond more substantially at some stage (and feel free to jump in yourself), but in the meantime here's part of what he says with which I do agree:
Of course, choice is always going to play a vital role in where people live, but as I've said, the factors behind any individual's choice are varied and complex. That's part of the reason that WellUrban is what it is: by celebrating the richness of urban life, I hope to go some small way towards countering any anti-urban prejudices that linger on from the days when cities were rife with crime, cholera and pollution. By pointing out good examples of high-density housing, I try to counter the perception that the only alternative to suburbia is ugly concrete boxes. I don't (usually) rant on about the evils of suburbia, or tell people that they should live more closely just because it's good for their health or the environment: I want to show that compact cities are great places to live.
Yes, they can be, as many of his examples demonstrate beautifully. (But the "ugly concrete boxes of suburbia" are themselves the creation of planners, aren't they?)

In celebrating the richness of urban life and countering anti-urban prejudice I applaud Mr Beard. At that, he does a fine job, which is one reason I read him (another is his fabulous Martini posts). But my point here is that not everyone wants to live that way, and forcing people who would rather live otherwise into the planners' favourite cookie-cutter solutions removes any possibility of their planning their own future the way that they would like to; it removes their ability to make their own decisions based upon long-term considerations; and it's causing something no-one could really celebrate. And that's really the whole point, isn't it?

When it comes to housing, let's all be Pro-Choice.

UPDATE: In celebrating the richness of urban life as it could be and should be, let's not forget to also celebrate 'sprawl' as it could be and should be. The planners' favourite cookie-cutter solutions are not what low density has to look like -- as always, Frank Lloyd Wright had a much better notion. See Frank Lloyd Wright: Broadacre City.

LINKS: A sprawling argument - Tom Beard, Well Urban
Envy is making housing unaffordable - (Peter Cresswell) Not PC
Sustainable cities are unaffordable cities - (Peter Cresswell) Not PC

RELATED:
Urban Design, Politics-NZ, Housing

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The nuclear option

While the west wrings its hands about how to produce power without offending today's religionists, China's nuclear power industry is taking off. Notes China Daily, China's nuclear energy plants to power up.
China has become the third-biggest nuclear energy producer in Asia, after Japan and South Korea, according a 2006 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Nuclear power has become the third important method of electricity generation in China, following coal power and hydropower...

China Huaneng Group, the nation's largest power company, also launched the construction of its first nuclear power plant using high temperature gas-cooled reactors.
Notes Nuclear Engineering International, this will be just the third new-generation high-temperature gas-cooled nuclear power plant to come on stream around the world.

I love reading stuff like this, and knowing I've got shares in the company.

LINKS: China's nuclear energy plants to power up - China Daily
Very high temperature reactor - Wikipedia
China launches nuclear construction - Nuclear Engineering International
Religionists for nuclear - Not PC (April, 2005)

RELATED: Energy, Politics-World, Environment

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Confiscation at Waitangi

I loved this comment from Blair:

The Definition of Irony: When the New Zealand Government wants to confiscate the land where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.

Yes, we've learned a lot in 167 years, haven't we?

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Malthus meets the Greens

Greens' co-leader Russel Norman (left) has been reading Thomas Malthus (right). Who exactly is Thomas Mathus, I hear you ask?
Economist Thomas Robert Malthus, in his Principles of Population, forecast that with unchecked population growth, the demand for food would inevitably become greater than the food supply. “Population increases in a geometric ratio, while the means of subsistence increases in an arithmetic ratio” were his words. War, pestilence, vice and crime were the inevitable checks on population growth. It was a grim prediction of catastrophe for mankind.
Thomas Malthus was writing in 1798. But here's Russel writing yesterday afternoon on the Greens' blog, channeling Malthus and pointing out what he says are
obvious problems with exponential growth in a finite world and the problems that we humans seem to have understanding what it means.
Russel's problem is the same 'problem' identified by Malthus, ie., "“Population increases in a geometric ratio, while the means of subsistence increases in an arithmetic ratio,” or in Russel's words:
[If] we reached LabNats' nirvana of 4% GDP growth then the economy would be 16 times larger at the end of just one human lifetime, which just could have very significant resource implications!
Wow. What a deep thinker is Russel. Thomas Malthus can perhaps be forgiven for being so egregiously wrong -- he was after all writing before the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution that followed, which together proved conclusively that production is not a zero-sum game, and that, as everyone from Julian Simon to Bjorn Lomborg to George Reisman has pointed out, the ultimate resource is not what we dig out of the ground -- the ultimate resource is the human mind. But Russel has no such excuse. He's watched the progress from Stone Age to Silicon Age, with all the production along the way, and he's still at a loss to explain how we're all still here.

As they say, the reason for the end of the Stone Age was not because we ran out of stones, it was because someone produced better things to use than stones. It was the human mind applied to production that produced those better things; it isthe human mind applied to production that is the reason we're all still here.

The human mind applied to production has refuted Thomas Malthus, Stephen Schneider, Paul Erlich, The Club of Rome, Jared Diamond, the Four Horsemen of all the various enviro-Apocalypses all predicting disaster ... and unless Russel Norman and Al Bore and Nicholas Stern and their colleagues succeed in shackling producers as they're trying to, the human mind applied to production will have no trouble refuting Russel Norman.

Let me explain why.

The human mind when it's left free to produce is an astonishing thing. Understanding why Uncle Tom Cobley and all keep predicting catastrophe for mankind, and why they keep getting it so wrong, is because they lack the understanding of the capacity of the human mind to produce when left free and unfettered, and because they lack the understanding of how the dynamic system of capitalism works to make scarcity a thing of the past. As I've said before:
What they got wrong of course was not just their arithmetic, but their whole understanding of the role of price signals and entrepreneurialism -- indeed of the capitalist economy as a dynamic rather than a static engine of production. The capitalist engine of creation is a supple beast when left free and unshackled, allowing human minds to read price signals and opportunities, and to adapt their own resources to suit. The results are astonishing.

They are. True. Our world and everything that it provides is limited -- though as George Reisman points out, hardly as limited as you might think -- but the 'tragedy of the commons' argument strongly advocates private property in order to internalize the costs of using resources, and strongly advocates the system of capitalism to produce ever-new resources.

How do we "produce new resources"? Because, as Reisman explains, it is the human mind applied to resources that transforms what nature provides into "goods" for human use.
The goods-character of natural resources... is created by man, when he discovers the properties they possess that render them capable of satisfying human needs and when he gains command over them sufficient to direct them to the satisfaction of human needs...

Nature’s contribution to natural resources is much less than what is usually assumed. What nature has provided... is the material stuff and the physical properties of the deposits in these mines and wells, but it has not provided the goods-character of any of them. Indeed, there was a time when none of them were goods.
Indeed, there was a time when these things were just trees, rocks and mud puddles. Reisman explains how these things provided by nature acquire what he calls "goods-character":

If a thing is to become a good, or in other words, if it is to acquire goods-character, all four of the following prerequisites must be simultaneously present:

    1. A human need.
    2. Such properties as render the thing capable of being brought into a causal connection with the satisfaction of this need.
    3. Human knowledge of this causal connection.
    4. Command of the thing sufficient to direct it to the satisfaction of the need (p. 52).

The last two of these prerequisites, it must be stressed, are man made. Human knowledge of the causal connection between external material things and the satisfaction of human needs must be discovered by man. And command over external material things sufficient to direct them to the satisfaction of human needs must be established by man. For the most part, it is established by means of a process of capital accumulation and a rising productivity of labor.

All this has immediate bearing on the subject of natural resources. It implies that the resources provided by nature, such as iron, aluminum, coal, petroleum and so on, are by no means automatically goods. Their goods-character must be created by man, by discovering knowledge of their respective properties that enable them to satisfy human needs and then by establishing command over them sufficient to direct them to the satisfaction of human needs.

For example, iron, which has been present in the earth since the formation of the planet and throughout the entire presence of man on earth, did not become a good until well after the Stone Age had ended. Petroleum, which has been present in the ground for millions of years, did not become a good until the middle of the nineteenth century, when uses for it were discovered. Aluminum, radium, and uranium also became goods only within the last century or century and a half.

Summarises Benjamin Marks in 'The Malthusian Trap,' it's possible to take seriously Malthus's warning, but as Reisman and Ludwig von Mises point out, "it comes true only under socialism" -- only under a system in which private property has not been introduced and the tragedy of the commons is still in effect, and under a system of (non)production where the human mind is not able to read price signals and opportunities, and to adapt their own resources to suit.
Only can a society based on private ownership of the means of production harmonize the number of births with the limitations of the means of subsistence. The Malthusian problem is one that economics solves. No wonder the Malthusians want to get rid of economics. Their rule only applies in noneconomic "societies." And, even then, only in its abridged Misesian form. The environmental movement of today is aiming toward living in a non-economic "society" by showing why it would be unpleasant to live in. It is staggering how a movement like this could amass such a following.
LINKS: Exponential growth - Russel Norman, Frog Blog
Selling disaster: The four horsemen of the modern apocalypse - Not PC (Nov, 2006)
Environmentalism refuted - George Reisman, Mises Institute
The Malthusian trap - Benjamin Marks, Mises Institute
The doomslayer - Wired
Why are we so afraid of the future? - Reader's Digest

RELATED: Politics-Greens, Environment, Conservation, Economics, Politics, Tragedy of the Commons

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The Honey House' - Marlon Blackwell

Marlon Blackwell's tiny 'Honey House,' North Carolina, 2002.

RELATED: Architecture

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The 'consensus' catechism about global warming

George Will summarises for Newsweek outlines "the 'consensus' catechism" for warmists, all but one point of which are unproven:
1. Global warming is happening.
2. It is our (humanity's, but especially America's) fault.
3. It will continue unless we mend our ways.
4. If it continues we are in grave danger.
5. We know how to slow or even reverse the warming.
6. The benefits from doing that will far exceed the costs.
Only the first tenet is clearly true, and only in the sense that the Earth warmed about 0.7 degrees Celsius in the 20th century. We do not know the extent to which human activity caused this [ie., so called Anthropogenic Global Warming]. The activity is economic growth, the wealth-creation that makes possible improved well-being—better nutrition, medicine, education, etc. How much reduction of such social goods are we willing to accept by slowing economic activity in order to (try to) regulate the planet's climate?

We do not know how much we must change our economic activity to produce a particular reduction of warming. And we do not know whether warming is necessarily dangerous. Over the millennia, the planet has warmed and cooled for reasons that are unclear but clearly were unrelated to SUVs. Was life better when ice a mile thick covered Chicago? Was it worse when Greenland was so warm that Vikings farmed there? Are we sure the climate at this particular moment is exactly right, and that it must be preserved, no matter the cost?
Are we? Read on here. Bear in mind, as you do, the concluding paragraph from the Independent Summary for Policymakers [pdf] of the IPCC's draft Fourth Assessment Report:
There is no evidence provided by the IPCC in its Fourth Assessment Report that the
uncertainty [surrounding the hypothesis for Anthropogenic Global Warming] can be formally resolved from first principles, statistical hypothesis testing or modeling exercises. Consequently, there will remain an unavoidable element of uncertainty as to the extent that humans are contributing to future climate change, and indeed whether or not such change is a good or bad thing.
The fact is that the warmists in the consensus crowd have a problem: they're scaring themselves (and us) to death over something that's highly uncertain -- as the Wall Street Journal notes, the latest IPCC report contains "startling revisions of previous U.N. predictions" -- and still not proven. The science As Canadian climatologist Dr. Tim Ball says:
This in fact is the greatest deception in the history of science. We are wasting time, energy and trillions of dollars while creating unnecessary fear and consternation over an issue with no scientific justification.
And what are those "startling revisions of previous U.N. predictions," and what has the UN/IPCC conceded it got wrong? Again, the Wall Street Journal summarises:
Take rising sea levels. In its 2001 report, the U.N.'s best high-end estimate of the rise in sea levels by 2100 was three feet. [The 2007] report's high-end best estimate is 17 inches, or half the previous prediction. Similarly, the new report shows that the 2001 assessment had overestimated the human influence on climate change since the Industrial Revolution by at least one-third.

Such reversals (and there are more) are remarkable, given that the IPCC's previous reports, in 1990, 1995 and 2001, have been steadily more urgent in their scientific claims and political tone.

U.N. scientists have relied heavily on computer models to predict future climate change, and these crystal balls are notoriously inaccurate. According to the models, for instance, global temperatures were supposed to have risen in recent years. Yet according to the U.S. National Climate Data Center, the world in 2006 was only 0.03 degrees Celsius warmer than it was in 2001--in the range of measurement error and thus not statistically significant.

The models also predicted that sea levels would rise much faster than they actually have. The models didn't predict the significant cooling the oceans have undergone since 2003--which is the opposite of what you'd expect with global warming. Cooler oceans have also put a damper on claims that global warming is the cause of more frequent or intense hurricanes. The models also failed to predict falling concentrations of methane in the atmosphere, another surprise.

Meanwhile, new scientific evidence keeps challenging previous assumptions. The latest report, for instance, takes greater note of the role of pollutant particles, which are thought to reflect sunlight back to space, supplying a cooling effect. More scientists are also studying the effect of solar activity on climate, and some believe it alone is responsible for recent warming.

All this appears to be resulting in a more cautious scientific approach, which is largely good news. [The 2007] report is also missing any reference to the infamous "hockey stick," a study by Michael Mann that purported to show 900 years of minor fluctuations in temperature, followed by a dramatic spike over the past century. The IPCC featured the graph in 2001, but it has since been widely rebutted.
The WSJ's conclusion:
The IPCC report should be understood as one more contribution to the warming debate, not some definitive last word that justifies radical policy change. It can be hard to keep one's head when everyone else is predicting the Apocalypse, but that's all the more reason to keep cool and focus on the actual science.
LINKS: Inconvenient Kyoto Truths - George Will, Newsweek
Global warming: The cold hard facts - Dr Tim Ball, Canada Free Press
Climate of opinion: The lates UN report shows the "warming" debate is far from settled - Wall Street Journal
Independent Summary for Policymakers - Fraser Institute [62-page PDF]

RELATED:
Global Warming, Science, Politics-World

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Tuariki John Delamere: What goes around comes around

It's nice to believe in natural justice: that scum who think they're above their just desserts will one day get what's coming to them.

In that light, it's good to see former Minister of Prohibition in the Shipley Government 'Tuariki' John Delamere (left) finally getting his -- the banner of magazines; the promoter of racial quotas; the deporter of hard-working Petra and Gunther Schier and their kiwi kids; the chap who parleyed his job as immigration minister into a job for life (he thought) as an immigration consultant, where he navigates the thickets of the rules and procedures he played a part in setting up -- this low life is now in court charged with fraud. I have no idea whether or not he's guilty of these charges but, as a friend says, he's certainly guilty of being a rude, arrogant, racist prick. I will be among those celebrating if the case is proven, and the judge throws the book at this bullying busybody.

It will be a victory for natural justice.

LINKS: Ex-immigration minister goes on trial for fraud - NZ Herald
Donald slams Delamere on Schier decision - Rod Donald, Greens (1999)
The salvationist urge of Messiah Tuariki - Lindsay Perigo, Politically Incorrect Show (July, 1999)
Banning Cigar Aficianado - Lindsay Perigo, Politically Incorrect Show (November, 1999)

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Immigration, Politics-Winston First, Politics-National

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History of the Libertarian Party


A brief video history here of the US Libertarian Party, complete with candidates' campaign ads from across the thirty years of the Party -- including just a few that the candidates might wish had been long buried. [Hat tip Joe Libertarian]

RELATED: Libertarianism, Politics-US, History-Modern

Stats for Not PC this week

Most popular posts at 'Not PC' this last week:

  1. What's with all the religious material?
  2. "New report says global warming is negligible, short-lived, and now ended" - Dr Vincent Gray
  3. Beer O'Clock: Heineken Mini-Keg
  4. One country. One law. One constitution?
  5. 'News' from The Herald
  6. Ownership and state sovereignty
  7. No call for climate alarmism - scientists
  8. Guidelines for warmists
  9. Envy is making houses unaffordable
  10. Frank Lloyd Wright: Broadacre City

Browser wars:
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Connections of people visiting:
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Top search terms:
heineken mini keg
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Thanks everyone for another great week. (And I think either Robert Winefield has a stalker, or he's been Googling himself. Either way, I think we should be told.)

RELATED: Blog

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Bugger

Bloody Black Caps just came up short, and so the Poms have squeaked into the finals. Bugger!

Fleming got his hundred, but in such slow time he put pressure on all the other batsmen. And I hope poor Ross Taylor is telling him so.

Pictured left is Paul Collingwood, who is (or should be) the Man of the Match. Certainly no one in the NZ team gave him any competition for the title.

UPDATE: Cactus agrees:
A disgraceful day in New Zealand Cricket... The difference between the competitive Australian sporting psyche and the New Zealand one will be shown here. An Australian batsman who batted the way Fleming did despite the hundred would be publicly lambasted as selfish and dropped for the next match. In New Zealand everyone will be glad Fleming's finally back in form.
Fuck 'im. He lost us the game.

RELATED: Sport

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Great moments in the political exploitation of children, 1

Remember when the late Saddam took out and displayed his British hostages on world television?

Responding to a mother's worries about her child's education, Saddam Hussein offered to send "experts from the ministry of education." Putting his hand gently on the head of seven year old Stuart Lockwood, he remarked, "when he and his friends, and all those present here, have played their role in preventing war, then you will all be heroes of peace."

While the broadcast appeared on Iraqi television, the program seemed entirely aimed at a Western audience. Western media picked it up quickly and broadcast it around the world the next day. It drew instant and predictable official and media responses. The British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd called it the "most sickening thing I have seen for some time." Rupert Murdoch's English tabloid press dubbed Saddam Hussein the "Butcher of Butcher of Baghdad". The American State Department called this event "shameful theatricals". A "repulsive charade" said the British Foreign Office.

Great moments in the political exploitation of children, 2

RADIO NEW ZEALAND: The mother of an Auckland schoolgirl attending Waitangi celebrations as a guest of the National Party denies her daughter is being used for political purposes...

Yeah right.

That's twelve-year-old Aroha Ireland from McGehan Close, above left. On the right is a politician. That's her below not being used for a political purpose.
UPDATE
: In related news, the Kiwi Herald reports that after seeing John Boy's success, Madonna is to adopt a Kiwi child.

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Great moments in the political exploitation of children, 3

British schoolchildren are to be forced to watch Al Bore's film, An Inconvenient Truth. While most schoolchildren could be expected to be more critical and more savvy about such things than, say, John Boy Key, the fact remains that Bore's film has a shortage of facts, and an overdose of hot air - and is hardly the thing to show scientifically untrained high school students. (See for example this Skeptics Guide to Bore's misleading misanthropy, something those high school students will be unlikely to be shown in class.)

In fact, Gore is a Greenhouse Gasbag says an entertaining recent attack on the man who only last fortnight side-stepped a debate on his facts with skeptical environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg.
"[An Inconvenient Truth's] glossy production,' says [scientist Bob] Giegengack, 'is replete with inaccuracies and misrepresentations, and appeals to public fear as shamelessly as any other political statement that hopes to unite the public behind a particular ideology." This from a guy who voted for Gore in 2000 and says he'd probably vote for him again."
So why is Bore's celluloid shocker going to be shown to unsuspecting schoolchildren? I guess for precisely the same reason that Stuart Lockwood had to hold still while Saddam stroked his hair: because they're held hostage. Sean Gabb of the UK's Libertarian Alliance is unequivocal on this outrage.
"This is political indoctrination lifted in all but its content from Soviet Russia. Children are to be taught the at best highly questionable claims of the global warming lobby as if they were facts. They are then to be marked up or down in their examinations according to how well they can parrot these alleged facts.

"To environmentalism is to be added propaganda about racism and sexism, and every other politically correct obsession. Ten years into the creeping totalitarianism of New Labour, the final link is to be severed between state schooling and education of children in the values of their parents. From now on, the function of schooling will be to produce a new nation, created in the image of George Monbiot and Yasmin Alibhai Brown.

"Our ruling class has taken to heart the old Jesuit maxim: 'Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man'. The only difference is that raising the school leaving age will give them the child till he is eighteen.

"The Libertarian Alliance calls on all parents to resist the brainwashing of their children."
Dr Sean Gabb, by the way is the Director of the UK Libertarian Alliance. He is also Deputy Director of the Truancy Unit at Buckingham University and author of 'Home Schooling: A British Perspective,' published in Homeschooling in Full View: A Reader (2005) by Bruce S. Cooper (Editor). He ascribes much of his success in life to systematic truancy at school.

LINKS: Will Al Gore melt? - Bjorn Lomborg and Rose Flemming, Wall Street Journal [reprinted at Peter Gordon's blog]
Al Gore is a Greenhouse Gasbag - Philadelphia Magazine
A Skeptic's Guide to An Inconvenient Truth. by Marlo Lewis, Jr - Competitive Enterprise Institute
More in the global warming hoax: Political brainwashing of UK children - Dr Sean Gabb, UK Libertarian Alliance

RELATED:
Global Warming, Education, Politics-UK, Science

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Envy is making houses unaffordable

Sprawl is good. Sprawl is choice. The opponents of sprawl are not just against sprawl, they're against choice -- the proof of this is that if people wanted to live in the way the enemies of choice wanted, they wouldn't need to be forced into it, they'd be doing it anyway.

The enemies of sprawl are the enemies of choice -- they simply use the power of government and the powers that the Resource Management Act gives local government to force people to live in the way that they prefer, rather than the way the people themselves wish to live. They're just another brand of interfering busybody who want to force their own predilections upon others.

The result in New Zealand is severe restrictions on building and development, and the result of that is some of the most unaffordable housing in the world.

The enmity of the anti-sprawlers is expressed in restrictions on building and development -- on where and how and how many houses, shops, offices, studios and workshops people can build on their own land -- and is is expressed in severe restrictions on the growth and expansion of New Zealand's cities -- including ring-fencing cities and prohibiting urban development beyond an artificially imposed 'urban fence.'

The result of all the planners' restrictions has been a severe dampening of housing supply at the very time that demand for those houses is going through the roof, so much so that New Zealand's cities now rank amongst the most unaffordable cities in the world in which to buy a home: as you might have heard, in a recent report released by Wendell Cox's Demographia and Hugh Pavletich [blogged here many times], Auckland was shown as the twenty-first most unaffordable city in the world in which to buy a home (as measured by the income of people in those cities) with NZ's other cities not far behind.

There are dickheads about who either don't think that it's restrictions on sprawl that raises costs, or they simply ignore the evidence; dickheads like Colin James for example who, writing in Tuesday's Herald, suggests the reason for the unaffordability of housing is due solely to lending policies.

But this just ignores the reality. The evidence is clear enough that where lending policies are equal -- across the continental US for example -- that the most unaffordable cities are those that have applied the so-called 'sustainable' solutions to growth; and it is the cities that have applied most restrictions on people's choices that are the most unaffordable in which to live. (The chart at left shows the western world's most unaffordable cities; the chart at right shows the cities following the anti-sprawlers' nostrums; this post discusses the correlation) It's no surprise that cities ranking highly in one chart generally rank rather highly in the other chart as well.

The difference between affordable cities and unaffordable cities is not in lending policies, which are the same across whole countries, it is in the level of restrictions placed on building new houses, which differ from city to city. This should not be rocket science. Restrict supply, and you increase prices. Thinking you can do otherwise is trying to refute a basic law of economics -- and even dictators can't do that, however much they like to try.

Notes a recent article in the Washington Post: sprawl, suburban living, and the cars that make the sprawling suburbs possible have been demonised in all sorts of ways.
They don't rate up there with cancer and al-Qaeda -- at least not yet -- but suburban sprawl and automobiles are rapidly acquiring a reputation as scourges of modern American society. Sprawl, goes the typical indictment, devours open space, exacerbates global warming and causes pollution, social alienation and even obesity. And cars are the evil co-conspirator -- the driving force, so to speak, behind sprawl.
In objecting to sprawl and to the evidence adduced by Pavletich and Cox for the unaffordablility of cities with more restrictions on development, blogger and 'Smart Growth' advocate Tom Beard demonstrates the sneering mixture of envy and myth on which restrictions on turning bare land into new housing are based:
In reality, what actually concerns [Hugh Pavletich] and right-wing American lobby group Demographia is the ability of suburban property developers to make a quick profit from subdivisions while externalising the cost of infrastructure...

The price of a house is only part of the story: how "affordable" will it be to live in his sprawling, car-dependent suburbs when oil prices soar even higher? Meanwhile, the entire city shares the costs of roading, sewerage and water, as well as having to put up with increased pollution, road deaths and having motorways driven through our neighbourhoods.

Pavletich... can't wait to convert the country into a debased landscape of McMansions, megamalls and motorways, pocketing the profit while the rest of us pay for the physical and civic infrastructure required to turn it into some semblance of a city
Beard is representative of many anti-sprawlers; people who want to force others to live by the anti-sprawlers' own envy-ridden sensibilities. But ignoring the envy-ridden barbs, let's boil down his real objections to sprawl, the claim that suburbs are "unsustainable."
  • Anti-sprawlers argue that roads, sewage, water and "the physical and civic infrastructure required to turn it into some semblance of a city" are paid for by "the rest of us," so therefore the extension of infrastructure must be restricted. But what is their reaction when someone suggests that roads, sewage, water and "the physical and civic infrastructure required to turn it into some semblance of a city" are provided privately, and the real costs sheeted home to buyers? Apoplexy. Let infrastructure be provided privately, however, with costs sheeted home to users, and this objection dissolves.
  • And "how affordable will it be to live in his sprawling, car-dependent suburbs when oil prices soar even higher?" Well, isn't the future affordability or unaffordability up to those who choose to live in these sprawling, car-dependent suburbs, and to invest in their own future?
    After all, neither Tom Beard nor Dick Hubbard nor Al Bore nor any planner anywhere in the world has a direct line to the future. Freedom means we're each allowed to plan our own futures, with the full knowledge of our own context, our own lives, and our own hopes and dreams, and -- provided we don't initiate force against anyone else -- we should all be free to do so. In fact, when people have been left free to plan their own lives, and to react freely to price signals that indicate resources and lifestyles are or should be changing, the results have been vastly superior to those achieved in the planned societies and planned economies so beloved of Beard and Hubbard and Bore.
As Joel Schwartz at the American Institute summarises, in a related context:
I suspect these people and others like them must at bottom believe that businesses don't deliver what's best for consumers unless the government forces them to. They hold this belief, or at least fail to examine it, even as businesses continue to supply them with what they actually want, as revealed by their purchase choices, rather than with what they say they want.

Perhaps we need to define a new type of 'market failure.' Market failure occurs when businesses supply what people actually choose to buy, rather than what people claim they want to buy.
As I've suggested, the idea that that sprawl is bad is essentially one of envy; what gets anti-sprawlers apoplectic is the idea that someone, somewhere, is being allowed to live their life in the way that they want too, rather than the way the anti-sprawler wants them to. Economic ignorance allows them to think they can get away with it.

Ted Balaker and Sam Staley discuss five other envy-ridden myths of the anti-sprawlers in that Washington Post article mentioned above, myths they explode in the American context, and which are equally mythical here in NZ.
  • Myth #1. Americans are addicted to driving.
    Fact is, Americans are no more addicted to driving than Europeans. Europeans -- who live in the European cities that are so often cited by planners as being our ideal (that's a suburb near Paris on the right, by the way) -- they drive almost as much as we do. As Balaker and Staley point out: "The key factor that affects driving habits isn't population density, public transit availability, gasoline taxes or even different attitudes. It's wealth. Europe and the United States are relatively wealthy, but American incomes are 15 to 40 percent higher than those in Western Europe. And as nations such as China and India become wealthier, the portion of their populations that drive cars will grow."

  • Myth #2. Public transit can reduce traffic congestion.
    Public transportation still has an important role, concede the authors, but they say, "We have to be realistic about what transit can accomplish."
    Suppose we could not only reverse transit's long slide but also triple the size of the nation's transit system and fill it with riders. Transportation guru Anthony Downs of the Brookings Institution notes that this enormous feat would be "extremely costly" and, even if it could be done, would not "notably reduce" rush-hour congestion, primarily because transit would continue to account for only a small percentage of commuting trips.
    In any case, public transportation use itself is generally declining, but like auto use, suburbanisation itself is driven not by use or non-use of public transportation, but by wealth. "Workers once left the fields to find better lives in the cities. Today more and more have decided that they can do so in the suburbs."

  • Myth #3. We can cut air pollution only if we stop driving.
    "Although driving is increasing by 1 to 3 percent each year, average vehicle emissions are dropping about 10 percent annually. Pollution will wane even more as motorists continue to replace older, dirtier cars with newer, cleaner models." Cleaner cars and better roads -- so those cars aren't sitting around in traffic jams all day -- between them, that's going to do more for pollution and greenhouse gas emissions than raising the price of houses by restricting growth.

  • Myth #4. We're paving over America.
    "How much of the United States is developed? Twenty-five percent? Fifty? Seventy-five? How about 5.4 percent? That's the Census Bureau's figure... In truth, housing in this country takes up less space than most people realize. If the nation were divided into four-person households and each household had an acre, everyone would fit in an area half the size of Texas."
    The same sort of figures apply here in New Zealand, except even less so. According to the Landcover Database of Terralink, urban areas and urban open space in New Zealand account for less than 1 percent of total area, one quarter of that in the Auckland region. If all of NZ's 1,471,476 existing households were to be rebuilt on an acre of land (which was the sort of thing proposed by Frank Lloyd Wright in his Broadacre project, right), we'd all fit in an area less than one-quarter the size of the Waikato -- and think how easy it'd be to thumb a lift out to Raglan!

  • Myth #5. We can't deal with global warming unless we stop driving.
    Really? Does the myth-making of the anti-sprawlists depend solely on the myth-making of the warmists? Seems so.
    But as Dr Vincent Gray notes, even the alarmists on the IPCC only suggest it is "very likely" that between 0.3ºC and 0.5ºC of the last century's warming is due to us humans, and only one-tenth of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions are due to "household transport." In fact, and if you believe the threats are real, then you will know that livestock are a greater 'threat' to the planet than our cars. Are we going to 'save the planet' by ploughing under our livestock and paving all the farms? Or by bulldozing all our existing housing just so we can pack ourselves all in within walking distance of each other?
    And even if you take seriously the alarmism of the warmists, that's not going to stop everyone driving, particularly not the drivers in China and India who are just going to go right on getting rich and driving more -- the only thing to do is ensure that price signals here reflect the true realities, and leave people free to choose.
Such is the quality of the reasoning by which our houses are becoming unaffordable.

What the anti-sprawlists are doing with their restrictions on development is making housing unaffordable for every first-home buyer, and pushing up rent and mortage payments for everyone else.

And what they're also doing, ironically enough, by artificially ring-fencing our cities with restrictive zoning, is offering a great boon to the bigger developers they claim to despise -- the mega-developers who are the only ones to have the capacity and the political connections to buy up the ready-to-be-rezoned land that sits outside the ring-fence, encourage its rezoning, and then release it on to the market once the ring-fence is relaxed.

But that's another story ... one we'll talk about here very, very soon.

UPDATE: Tom Beard has responded here, to which I've responded briefly here.

LINK: Five myths about suburbia and our car-happy culture - Washington Post
Sustainable cities are unaffordable cities - (Peter Cresswell) Not PC

RELATED:
Urban Design, Politics-NZ, Housing

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One country. One law. One constitution?

You'd think, in a country with as much to offer and as much to celebrate as New Zealand has that our National Day would be something to celebrate.

Not likely.

Even without a full moon, Waitangi Day always produces any number of people intent on misunderstanding whatever anyone says, no matter how simple and however straightforward; there's always a whole lot of people doing a whole lot of talking very loudly past each other. I expect no less this year. I expect another Waitangi Day with another set of protests, a new bunch of people loudly proclaiming that the state owes them a living, and more claims for even more legal privilege.

Another Waitangi Day in which the the usual parade of politicians and protestors confront and avoid each other, and in which the professional grievance industry discuss and issue their demands for the taxpayer to give even more.

Partnership? The Treaty was not about partnership. In three short articles it simply offered the introduction of British law, and the rights and protections that were then protected by British law. It was not a Treaty offering permanent welfare, or a tax-paid gravy train into perpetuity.

Frankly, we don't need another tax-paid gravy train or another grievance industry or yet another charter for separatism or a forum in which to demand it; we simply need good law -- good colourblind law. We don't need more nationalisation of land, of seabed or of foreshore; we simply need a legal system in which what we own is protected, in which real injustices can be proven swiftly and without great expense, and where justice can be done and be seen to be done.

'He iwi tahi tatou.' We are now one people. So said Governor Hobson to Maori chieftains as they signed the Treaty that is now the source of so much division. But are we really 'one people'? Not really. No more than our ancestors were then. But nor are we two, three or fifty-four peoples -- do you have a people? -- and nor does it matter. What Governor Hobson brought to New Zealand with the Treaty was British law, which then meant something, and Western Culture, which makes it possible to see each one another not as 'peoples,' not as part of a tribe or a race, but as sovereign individuals in our own right.

That was a good thing.

But unfortunately, we still don't see each other that way, do we? And the myth-making about 'partnership' and 'biculturalism' is just one way to avoid seeing it.

To be fair, the Treaty itself isn't much to see. What Hobson brought was not the founding document for a country, but a hastily written document intended to forestall French attempts at dominion (and the Frank imposition of croissants and string bikinis), and which brought to New Zealand for the first time the concept of individualism, and the protection of property rights and of an objective rule of law.

But the Treaty itself was short, spare and to the point. What it relied upon was the context of British law as it then existed. It is that context that is no longer with us, and the understanding of British law as it then was that is missing.

The Treaty signed one-hundred sixty-seven years ago today was not intended as the charter for separatism and grievance and the welfare gravy train that it has become - it was intended no more and no less than to bring the protection of British law and the rights and privileges of British citizens to the residents of these islands -- residents of all colours. That was the context that three simple clauses were intended to enunciate. And one-hundred and sixty-seven years ago, the rights and privileges of British citizens actually meant something -- this was not a promise of unlimited tribally-based welfare (which is what the modern myth of 'partnership' underpins), but a promise to protect individuals from each other, and to protect what individuals own, and what they produce by their own efforts. That the promise is sometimes seen in the breach than in practice is no reason to spurn the attempt.

The Treaty helped to make New Zealand a better place for everyone.

Life in New Zealand before this advent of the rule of law recognised neither right, nor privilege, nor even the concept of ownership. It was not the paradise of Rousseau's noble savage; force was the recognised rule du jour and the source of much barbarity (see for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand') -- indeed just a few short years before the Treaty was signed, savage inter-tribal warfare reigned, and much of New Zealand was found to be unpopulated following the fleeing of tribes before the muskets and savagery and cannibalism of other tribes.

Property in this war of all against all was not truly owned; instead, it was just something that was grabbed and held by one tribe, until it was later grabbed and held by another. To be blunt, life was brutish and it was short, just as it was in pre-Industrial Revolution Europe, and - let's face it -- it was largely due to the local culture. As Thomas Sowell reminds us: "Cultures are not museum pieces. They are the working machinery of everyday life. Unlike objects of aesthetic contemplation, working machinery is judged by how well it works, compared to the alternatives." Pre-European local culture was not working well for those within that culture.

Let's be really blunt (and here I paraphrase from this article):

In the many years before the Treaty was signed, the scattered tribes occupying New Zealand lived in abject poverty, ignorance, and superstition -- not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included). The transfer of Western civilization to these islands was one of the great cultural gifts in recorded history, affording Maori almost effortless access to centuries of European accomplishments in philosophy, science, technology, and government. As a result, today's Maori enjoy a capacity for generating health, wealth, and happiness that their Stone Age ancestors could never have conceived.

Harsh, but true. And note those words before you hyperventilate: "not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included)." The boon of Western Civilisation was being offered here in New Zealand for just a mess of pottage, and in return for the right of Westerners to settle here too. As Sir Apirana Ngata stated, "if you think these things are wrong, then blame your ancestors when they gave away their rights when they were strong" - giving the clue that 'right' to Ngata's ancestors, equated to 'strong' more than it did to 'right.'

In any case, did Maori even "own" New Zealand in the sense of exercising ownersip of sovereignty over all of it? No, they didn't.

First of all, they had no concept of ownership by right; 'ownership' was ownership by force; it represented taonga taken by force and held by force, just as long as they could be held by force (see again, for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand').

Second, even if they had begun to develop the rudiments of such a concept (the concept of ownership by right being relatively new even to 1840 Europeans) they didn't own all the country -- they only 'owned' what they owned: that is, the lands and fisheries that were being occupied, farmed, fished and used. But note that this did not encompass all of New Zealand, nor even most of New Zealand. The rest lay unclaimed by anyone.

Third, Maori did not even see themselves as 'one people'; the word 'Maori' simply meant 'normal,' as opposed to the somewhat abnormal outsiders who had now appeared with their crosses and swords and strange written incantations. The tangata whenua saw themselves not as a homogeneous whole, but as members of various tribes - this was not a nation, it was a collection of warring tribes -- and there was no way a whole country could be ceded by those who had never yet laid claim to it.

So the British came, and saw, and hung about a bit. The truth is that some of the best places in the world in which to live are those where the British once came, and saw and then buggered off -- leaving behind them their (once) magnificent legal system, and the rudiments of Western Culture. See for example, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and of course (as noted in obituaries of former governor John Cowperthwaite) Hong Kong. We lucked out.

What the Treaty did do, for which we can all be thankful, was to bring British law to NZ at a time when British law was actually intended to protect the rights of British citizens, and it promised to extend that protection to all who lived here. That, for many and often differing reasons, was what the chieftains signed up to. But the Treaty itself was not a founding document. No, it wasn't. On its own, with just its three simple articles there was just not enough there to make it a founding document. As a document it simply pointed to the superstructure of British law as it then was and said, 'let's have that down here on these islands in the South Pacific.'

The treaty's greatest promise was really in its bringing to these islands those rights and privileges that British citizens enjoyed by virtue of their then superb legal system; the protection of Pax Britannia when those rights and that protection meant something, and when British law saw protection of rights as its sworn duty. The result of this blessing of relatively secure individual rights was the palpable blessing of relative peace, of increasing security, and of expanding prosperity.

Sadly, British jurisprudence no longer does see its duty that way, which means the legal context in which the Treaty was signed has changed, and the blessings themselves are sometimes difficult to see. Law, both in Britain and here in NZ, now places welfarism and need above individualism and rights. That's the changing context that has given steam and power to the treaty-based gravy train, and allowed the Treaty to say something other than what is written down.

The truly sad thing is that the Treaty relied on a context that no longer exists; that, in my view is the chief reason a new constitution is needed: to restore that legal context, and to improve upon it with a legal context that protects and reinforces an Objective rule of law -- as British law itself once did -- one that clarifies what in the Treaty was only vague or barely put. And in doing so, of course, such a constitution would make the Treaty obsolete. Thank goodness.

Waitangi Day comes just two weeks after Martin Luther King Day. It might be worthwhile to remind ourselves of King's dream:

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character..."
Perhaps we will one day celebrate the same dream? Perhaps we will one day celebrate our national day without the colour of a man's skin being more important than his character, and without what has become a charter for grievance continuing to poison discussion, and empower a gravy train of grievance.


Perhaps one day we will actually celebrate the birth of this great little country, instead of seeing this day as an annual source of conflict. Wouldn't that be something to celebrate?

Linked Articles: Unsure on foreshore: A Brash dismissal of Maori rights? - Not PC

Do you have a people? - Not PC

Property Rights: A Gift to Maori New Zealand - Peter Cresswell
What is Objective Law? - Harry Binswanger
No Apology to Indians - Thomas Bowden

Superseding the Treaty with something objective called "good law" - Not PC

All hail the Industrial Revolution - Not PC

Cue Card Libertarianism: Individualism - Not PC

Cue Card Libertarianism: Rights - Not PC

Cue Card Libertarianism: Need - Not PC

Cue Card Libertarianism: Welfarism - Not PC

Cue Card Libertarianism: Ethnicity - Not PC

Cue Card Libertarianism: Government - Not PC

Cue Card Libertarianism:Constitution - Not PC

Cue Card Libertarianism: Property - Not PC

A Constitution for New Freeland - The Free Radical


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