Friday, 9 March 2007
I know it is my imagination but I am sure I can hear the distant call of bagpipes on the Wellington wind. There is Six Nations rugby on this weekend which always gets me a bit patriotic and misty-eyed about the land of my birth: Scotland. They are playing Ireland at some ungodly hour of the weekend and I’m sure it will be the greatest comeback since Culloden [it should be pointed out that Scotland lost at Culloden, beginning a sporting tradition that continues to this day - Ed.].
Unsurprisingly and with the Beer O’Clock deadline looming, today’s topic is Scottish beer. Now, I don’t actually drink a great deal of beer from Scotland. Traditionally, Scots have favoured much darker, hearty, warming ales which are only lightly hopped. My preferences on the other hand are more towards much hoppier beers.
Some beer writers of the English persuasion have insinuated that Scottish beers did not use many hops because they were expensive to import. This is as foul a calumny as the claim that the Scots didn't built Hadrian’s Wall to keep out the English. (With neighbours like that, who wouldn't?)
There is a Scottish beer newly arrived in New Zealand which bucks the malty trend though. Hoppy India Pale Ales are becoming more popular with Scottish brewers and consumers, and Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA is now on the shelves of many supermarkets and stores.
Twisted Thistle is a fine, well hopped, modern IPA. It pours a hazy copper-orange with a lovely herbal, grassy, piney nose. The body is full enough to support a bitter-dry finish.
The perfect pint when defending your “wee bit hill and glen…”
Society for Beer Advocates (SOBA)
RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere
His resignation disappoints me greatly; the reason is the different estimate that he and other Libz place on The Coup of Commodore Bainamarama. Tim thinks the coup should be praised, and Bainimarama hailed as (in Tim's words) a "hero of equality and justice." His reasons for thinking so were as unclear to me then as they are now, but may be deduced from his Open Letter to Commodore Bainimarama -- Tim's first press release as an "independent libertarian".
I say "deduced" because his reasons for thinking the Commodore worthy of support are to me still unclear. A "hero of equality and justice" is to me a figure like Thomas Jefferson, or Frederick Douglass, or William Lloyd Garrison ... it would need an awful lot of evidence that would convince me that the Commodore fits into that pantheon -- and the censorship, beatings and even murders instituted in Fiji since the coup don't speak highly of his chances of being so elevated.
Tim argues that "Bainamarama is determined to make Fiji a nation where indigenous racism has no political stranglehold" and this as "one of the greatest political statements for Equality before the law by any world leader this century."
Bainamara’s intension to abolish the Fijian racist electoral system and have one electoral roll for all can only be described as the highest of political Ideas, and should he be successful, he deserves to go down in history as the greatest benefactor of Fiji!I'm still not so sure. The censorship, beatings and murders do tend to suggest otherwise -- but since the MSM reporting from Fiji has been almost entirely lacklustre one has few facts on which to base a judgement. As I've said several times, I'm still here to be persuaded; if his heroism is so certain, then the reasons for being so certain about it and the facts to back it up should be easy to explain and simple to lay out -- but I've yet to see a full explanation, or those facts.
If anyone has such facts or can state clearly the reasons for supporting the Commodore, I'd be more than happy to see them. The best I can offer as ammunition for either side are these few relevant highlights that appeared recently:
- NBR editor Nevil Gibson suggests, "The Bainimarama coup is widely viewed as progressive because it has a credible finance minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, and is seen as reversing Fiji’s trend toward more race-based policies. Time magazine has this largely complimentary profile." Excerpt:
Bainimarama says entrenched corruption, race-based policies that favored the 51% of Fiji's population who are indigenous, and runaway crime drove his intervention. He rejects [Alexander] Downer's suggestion that he has acquired a taste for power as "the height of insensitivity and arrogance," saying he didn't want to be Prime Minister, and accepted the position only at the urging of his military council. "I hate this job," he says, "but it has to be done. And we are going to stay until we complete this business." How long that will take is anyone's guess... "I have told my troops that power corrupts only if you abuse the authority given to you," he says. "I am continually telling my people, 'This is the line. You can't cross this line. It doesn't do us any good.' "
- The blog Intelligentsiya has become a key site in reporting the Bainimarama regime's activities and abuses every time it does "cross the line," and (reports Idiot/Savant) the military is hunting for them for it, "accusing them of 'portraying a negative image of the Interim Government' - which is apparently a crime in the New Fiji." The bloggers describe themselves as
Free. Fair. Fearless. Intelligentsiya is made up of Fiji Islanders who are libertarians in their own way and who cherish the free flow of news, ideas and information and will peacefully resist any attempts by the country's military rulers to stifle free speech. intelligentsiya will also bear witness, report and discuss human rights abuses by the authorities.
Let me tell my correspondent, if they're reading this, that my feeling toward the ACT Party is not so much hatred as "inveterate disappointment." It's an emotion I've felt ever since that party was set up and issued these founding principles:
- Individuals are the rightful owners of their own lives and therefore have inherent freedoms and responsibilities.
- The proper purpose of government is to protect such freedoms and not to assume such responsibilities.
My own disappointment lies in the fact that the ACT Party clearly feels they're no more than fine words; they have a problem with putting the party's principles into party policy -- which was the very reason that the man who wrote those principles left the ACT Party and founded Libertarianz.
They are, let me repeat, fine principles -- but they are principles from which the ACT Party with all its many resources and many, many fine people has been retreating ever since they were first written down. Right from those early days it's been one step forward, and three more back. The party that should have shouted those principles from the rooftops, who should have lived the values they claimed to stand for, instead became enmired in politics in the very worst sense of the word while the principles went by the board -- and anyone perusing the party's policies could be forgiven now for being befogged as before as to where those principles have gone. Certainly not into policy, or yesterday's speech.
Hence my disappointment. I had seen signs that perhaps, with the very survival of his party at stake, this year might be different. This speech yesterday "setting the scene for ACT for the year" shows that I was wrong. Hence my bitter disappointment. I gave a brief example of what the ACT leader might have said about the issues he canvassed, based on the very principles his party claims to uphold, a small sample of which was at once more principled and inspiring and full of fire than Rodney's uninspired platitudes. Neither fire nor brimstone was evident in that.
There is one thing however to be grateful for. Thankfully, if that speech really does signal the year ahead that Rodney is planning, then it's safe to say that the ACT Party will self-destruct this year out of sheer boredom.
RELATED POSTS ON: NZ Politics, PC on the ACT Party
Thursday, 8 March 2007
But Pierre de Wiessant is a great figure in his own right, one of Rodin's finest in my view, and part of a piece of intense nobility, and powerful human drama -- and doesn't that hand just say so much?
The Burghers of Calais (Les Bourgeois de Calais) is one of the most famous sculptures by Auguste Rodin, completed in 1888. It serves as a monument to an occurrence in 1347 during the Hundred Years' War, when Calais, an important French port on the English Channel, was under siege by the English for over a year.NB: MOMA has a great booklet discussing the Burghers. Definitely worth a read.
The story goes that England's Edward III, after a victory in the Battle of Crécy, laid siege to Calais and Philip VI of France ordered the city to hold out at all costs. Philip failed to lift the siege and starvation eventually forced the city to parlay for surrender. Edward offered to spare the people of the city if any six of its top leaders would surrender themselves to him, presumably to be executed. Edward demanded that they walk out almost naked and wearing nooses around their necks and be carrying the keys to the city and castle...
RELATED POSTS ON: Art, Sculpture
- We can be the proud, prosperous, confident, caring country we all yearn for. We just need to dream it, believe it, work for it.
- ACT's job this year is to spell out how High Performance Government can be achieved. That's what I will be doing in a series of speeches through the year.
- It's not good enough to be 'green'. We need to be 'Smart Green'. That means acknowledging and working with the uncertainties of climate change and climate change policy. Let's be clear - climate change is happening...
- ...we should be smart greens. On the forestry front, it's easy. We should respect people's property - and get the incentives right. That means allowing forest owners to keep the carbon credits that are due to the trees they own.
- Anything that we can do to reduce our dependence on oil has to be good for the country - and co-incidentally helps us with climate change concerns.
- ACT will continue to speak out on the stupidities of government. But we want to do more than that. We want to lift our country's ambitions for what we can achieve and set out what we must do to become the greatest country in the world.
- High Performance Government requires much greater oversight of laws and regulations before they are passed. We also need to regularly review all laws and regulations to keep tabs on their effects and their cost. That's what my Regulatory Responsibility Bill - which is now before Parliament - does...
- We also need a proper contract where the government that takes our money provides a service in return. Right now there's nothing. We pay and pay and pay, but instead of receiving the services we pay for - like healthcare, education and infrastructure - we're made to wait. My colleague, Heather Roy, calls it "the waiting list society".
- Managing a business, being part of a family or running a Government department means making tough choices...
UPDATE 1: To objections that Rodney is simply "talking in language that people can understand," I say he's talking without really saying very much. Here's an example of the sort of thing Rodney might have said, and from the pen of a mild-mannered philosophy professor:
Just as it is possible to know that freeing those held in slavery is better all around than keeping them enslaved -- and that not perpetrating the Holocaust is better than doing so -- in less dramatic matters, too, it is possible to know that certain policies are superior to others. It is the contention of those who champion a free society that implementing the principles of the right to private property on the broadest possible scope would have worked out for better as far as our environmental woes are concerned. And as with those more Draconian evils, so with this one, it is better late than never! Thus the best approach to environmental issues is to privatize—that is how responsible environmental management is encouraged...Now wouldn't that have been a call to arms! Instead, we have this vapid, insipid uninspiring nonsense: "We need to be 'Smart Green'. That means acknowledging and working with the uncertainties of climate change and climate change policy." Bleeecchhh!
UPDATE 2: Vigesimal Pundit has drawn my attention to Rodney's use of "We."
Rodney Hide's recent speech is full of lines like 'We need to,' or 'We should.' I often get confused when politicians call on other politicians to do something that it isn't in their interests.Fifty-one times the word "we" is used. "We" should do this; "we" must dream the other; "we" were once great; "we" can be again. It's not at all clear which "we" refers to all New Zealanders, which to other politicians, which to the ACT party ("we" can be great again!) -- and which to the "Royal We" -- but after fifty-odd usages in what must have been a ten to fifteen minute speech, it must have been somwhat tiresome for those attending, if not more than a wee bit confusing.
LINK: Environmentalism without government - Tibor Machan, Mises Institute
RELATED POSTS ON: NZ Politics, Sustainability, PC on the ACT Party
Quite some achievement.
Rita Hayworth?Ursula Andress?Isabelle Adjani?Or, perhaps, Diana Rigg...
No, there's no contemporary airheads in this list -- I prefer real women, not braindead stick insects. How 'bout you?
[Hat tip Weekend Women by Kim du Toit]
Plans for a controversial coal fired power station at Marsden Point have been scrapped... The decision follows intense opposition from environmentalists and warnings from the Government it would face carbon based costs when the plant was finished. Although the Green Party congratulated Mighty River on "seeing the light", National [energy spokesman Gerry Brownlee] said the cancellation was partly a result of the "policy uncertainty" created by the government.Surprise, surprise. This is a power station project mugged by economic reality -- or more accurately, political reality, which is to say, unreality. Strangled by the twin fictions of global warming and the need for carbon charges to fight it (and all the uncertainty around these charges), and choked to death by the environmental straitjacket of the Resource Management Act (and Gerry Brownlee might like to ask his National Party colleagues which government introduced that piece of work).
Author Ayn Rand once observed that when the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce, then you may know that your culture is doomed. Are we there yet?
Well, in terms of power production we're already there. The Electricity Networks Association (ENA) warned several squelched projects ago that their principal objective of having enough power to meet demand is steadily being eroded. Warned Alan Jenkins from the ENA two years ago,
It's very hard to invest in coal [because of Kyoto], nuclear's a sort of four letter word... hydro is suddenly becoming too hard... what's left? ...we can't do everything on windpower.No, we can't. Solar, wind and microgrids won't cut it, at least not as long as every project from little to large gets caught up in the maw of the RMA. Nine years ago I argued:
The greenies’ anti-development crusade reached its climax in this country with the RMA, an act making the future construction of necessary infrastructure (like power stations and hydro dams) virtually impossible. The anti-energy crusade has reached its climax with the Kyoto Protocol (signed by Simon Upton earlier this year), promising measures to strangle our existing infrastructure like power stations and industrial plants. Auckland's  power crisis offers a precursor of what life will be like as a result of these measures - together, these bureaucratic monsters will act like a calicivirus on industry, and on all who depend on industry for their survival; which means all of us," said Libertarianz Environment Spokesman Peter Cresswell today.Industry is the country's lifeblood, and if there's no power, there is no industry. Everyone's got an energy strategy: What we're short of is energy! So where's the power gonna come from?
UPDATE: George Reisman points out that the effect of global warming is already upon us -- that is, the legislative effect of the faith in global warming is already upon us, as our imminent power shortage makes clear enough. As Reisman says, Global Warming Is Not a Threat But the Environmentalist Response to It Is.
UPDATE 2: John Howard echoes the words of the ENA's Alan Jenkins:
Let's be realistic. You can only run power stations in a modern Western economy on fossil fuel, or, in time, nuclear power."\LINKS: Marsden Point power station plan scrapped - NBR
No Power - Not PC (July, 2005)
RELATED: Energy, RMA, Environment, Common Law, Global_Warming
He's fighting a losing battle. He's losing it because of a myth, and because of a mis-integration.
The myth is that "inflation" consists of rising prices. It isn't, or at least not exactly. As Milton Friedman was fond of pointing out, “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon” -- or to put it another way, "inflation" is specifically a measure of the expansion of the money supply. This is something of which Alan Bollard seems wholly ignorant -- he's still labouring under the idea that it's rising prices, for which the expansion of the quantity of money is generally the cause.
Inflation (understood in terms of an increase in the quantity of money) enters the economic system in the form of new loans, driving up prices first in those markets in which this credit expansion has taken place.
Ask yourself which market is rising above all others at present? If you answered, "the one Bollard is trying to squelch," then you get the prize.
Now, on to his mis-integration: The thinking, if one can call it that, behind Bollard's raising interest rates is the traditional one that a lowering of interest rates creates a credit expansion (credit becomes cheaper, you see), and by contrast raising interest rates reduces credit expansion. This is considered a general rule of economics, one which Bollard follows assiduously. He is nothing if not a man who follows his textbooks.
He doesn't however appear to have looked around at the New Zealand situation, which is rather different to his textbooks. In the textbooks, credit expansion comes in the main from a large central bank -- in the US, that's 'The Fed.' However here in Godzone, being a rather small (but perfectly formed) country, things are different. In New Zealand, foreign investment has a far greater effect on credit expansion than it does in many other markets: raise New Zealand interest rates above international rates, and you attract a flood of investment -- or to flip that coin, an expansion of credit. Hence the housing boom. New credit and new foreign buyers and investors in the NZ housing market help drive up housing prices -- and each time Bollard whacks up interest rates, he invites more foreign buyers and investors into the NZ market.
But in one hour from now he's going to whack them up anyway.
Bollard doesn't seem to have realised that his own nostrums may have exacerbated the very boom he is trying to squelch -- strangling producers in the process as the interest rates they are paying to expand their businesses go up -- strangling exporters in the process as the New Zealand dollar rises again on the back of the increased foreign investment in New Zealand -- and leaving him looking, not for the first time, like an economic wizard without a wand.
UPDATE 1: The dumbarse has whacked them up, exactly as predicted. Sigh.
UPDATE 2: Here's NBR on the dumbarse and his dumbarse meddling:
Today’s hiking of the Official Cash Rate by a quarter basis point to 7.5 percent will further drive the New Zealand dollar above its fair market value and damage the productive sector of the economy... the chances of the interest rate increase were helped by the [recent] depreciation of the currency: a falling currency stokes inflation though higher import charges, especially for fuels...LINKS: Cue Card Libertarianism: Banking - Not PC
The housing market has been surprisingly resilient, with January sales 19 per cent higher year on year and the median time to sell a house was unchanged at 38 days. The economy is showing signs of accelerating in growth.
The RBNZ has shown some tendency to blame society for its exuberance, but it does not cease its own money creation. M2 has been rowing at about 12 per cent a year for some time, and this is a factor in inflationary expectations and a culture of consumption.
Today’s OCR decision will inflict great damage on the productive economy. The rise in interest rates will depress and discourage demand. It will encourage capital inflows, and a high dollar (which until this month was the “best performing” currency)... This is a structural impediment: it encourages imports and is a disincentive to exports...
New Zealand’s benchmark interest rates are 2 percentage points above the US and 6 per cent more than Japan. The governor is doing his best to make New Zealand the most favoured factor in the Japanese carry trade.
More myths about inflation - Not PC
What Reserve Banks do to our money - Not PC
PLUS CA CHANGE: Questions, rhetorical and otherwise, about Reserve Bank meddling - Not PC (Dec., 2005)
RELATED: Economics, Housing, NZ Politics
Wednesday, 7 March 2007
Love him or hate him, you have to admire his work ethic.
Which is just one reason to give some thought to a fundraising initiative to help out Russell and his family in a time of need. Advocates for voluntary charity and a good time should give it some consideration. Read some more background, and details of the fundraising bash here.
Far be it from me to boast, but I'd say this has to be close to the best yet.
If all goes well, you should see this hitting your letterboxes early next week.
So as I said the other day, now's the time to subscribe (0r re-subscribe, or buy a subscription for a friend) to make sure you don't miss out!
After all, you won't read anything like this anywhere else.
The Free Radical: 74 Blows for Freedom, and still going strong!
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An ornamental bank teller's grille by architect Louis Sullivan below left, and the bank for which the ornament was designed, below right. (1908)
QUESTION: Is the chair, on its own, art? Is the ornamental grille art?
They're both very nice -- exceptional, in my estimation -- but is there enough in them on their own to be that "shortcut to our most deeply-held premises" which is the defining characteristic of art, particularly good art? Is their sufficient scope in a chair or an example of ornament to perform that role? Or are these things somewhat like a good and well-crafted phrase in a poem, or a peculiarly apt metaphor in a short story, or a telling chapter in a novel: things we can sometimes enjoy in their own right as well -- particularly if we know they came from and are part of the same theme as a major work -- but which we nonetheless know are part of an art work?
In other words, is it true to say that the ensemble is art -- the sum of all the parts -- but not the parts themselves, however attractive?
As they say in Glasgow, "What say you, Jimmy?" (My own answer, if you haven't guessed already, is of course suggested in the questions, but I've sketched it out a little more here and here.)
Oh, and the New York Times has a very brief piece on Sullivan's beautiful series of banks. And antiquarian Eric Knowles does the job for Hill House.
RELATED POSTS ON: Art, Architecture
Tuesday, 6 March 2007
I pinched this from Callum's fantastic set of Sydney under lightning pics. You can just hear the crack of the ozone, can't you.
The Great Global Warming Swindle - backed by eminent scientists will - will be the first major TV expose of the GW hoax.I wonder if Al Gore will ask for a copy? Perhaps you can ask someone in the UK to tape it for John Key, and Helen Clark?
The programme will see a series of respected scientists attack the "propaganda" that they claim is killing the world’s poor. Even the co-founder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, is shown, claiming African countries should be encouraged to burn more CO2.Director Martin Durkin says: "You can see the problems with the science of global warming, but people just don’t believe you – it’s taken ten years to get this commissioned.
"I think it will go down in history as the first chapter in a new era of the relationship between scientists and society. Legitimate scientists – people with qualifications – are the bad guys. It is a big story that is going to cause controversy.
More here at AntiGreen.Com. Info, trailer and the Global Warming Quiz at the UK Channel 4 site.
RELATED: Global Warming
- The Parole board's decision to release killer Graham Burton on parole was "a reasonable and responsible decision," says the report, issued by the Parole Board.
- The information given to the Parole Board by Corrections Department was "generally adequate," says the report issued by the Corrections Department.
"We're vindicated," says the chairman of the Parole Board. It wasn't our fault, says the Correction Board.
Do you spot the problem here? One man was killed after a violent four-day rampage, just six months after this killer had been released from prison ... and no one is to blame.
I don't believe any human being in the country was concerned that the "guidelines" might not have been followed -- I have no doubt the jobsworths in Corrections and on the Parole Board would have covered their arses properly -- what people are concerned with are the guidelines that allowed this to happen.
That no-one involved sees anything wrong with what they've done, or nothing that requires any more than impotent hand wringing ... that perhaps is the final tragedy in this already tragic story, and a lesson for us all. With bureaucrats, it's always all care and no responsibility - and the 'care' is only for their own sorry arse.
UPDATE: Leighton Smith is interviewing the co-author of the report on the Parole Board as I type this. Burton he said, had been exhibiting "positive behaviour" in prison since at least 2004. Well that's okay then. (Newstalk ZB should have the audio for the interview up here soon.)
A fragment of stained glass from Frank Lloyd Wright's Coonley House playhouse, from 1903 -- and one of my own favourites -- currently part of a Chicago exhibit of Frank Lloyd Wright furniture, textiles and glass. Says the curator,
The design philosophy of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright was actually much more than that – it was a philosophy of living.RELATED: Architecture
Wright believed that if a person created an environment that was beautiful, it would enrich and nourish the lives of the people who lived in it.
His influence extended beyond architecture, encompassing [landscape[, furniture, textiles, paint and wallpaper. He wanted all of those elements to harmonize with a building’s architecture.
Monday, 5 March 2007
You have to remember that trade unionists and antinuclear campaigners didn’t go away. They just morphed into eco-mentalists because they realised that global warming was a better weapon than striking, or doing lesbionics for mother Russia in Berkshire. [Hat tip Marcus]
This is the 'newspaper' that in recent times splashed spectacularly across its front page the stories of Tariana Turia's bugging by the SIS (she wasn't), loudly compared Don Brash to racist Pauline Hanson (he isn't), and broke the news that conspiracy specialist Ian Wishart was about to publish [gasp] 'news' about Helen Clark's husband (he didn't). None of these 'scoops' were out of character, and nor did the editor seem at all chastened by the fact that her front page and the truth apparently dwelt in different counties.
The lesson seems to be that if it's in the Sunday Star Times, particularly anywhere near the front page, then don't believe a word.
Yesterday's Focus puff piece (seemingly written and photographed by Clint Rickards' press agent) was just another piece of drek to add to the pile, and almost the only part of last weekend's offering that didn't get a well deserved going over by Paul at The Fundy Post, who seems to have the same opinion of the back pages of the rag as I do about the front [Hat tip Russell].
That the SST's editor considers Michael Laws' opinion as worth publishing is just one more reason to read something else, anything else, on a Sunday.
It's going to be packed with reasoned argument, searing analysis, leaked billboards -- and the same wholesale slaughter of sacred cows you've come to expect and enjoy here at Not PC, only moreso! You do not want to miss out.
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[PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: No Pink Tories were harmed in the making of this magazine. Not physically, anyway.]
Sue Bradford wants to give police discretionary power over parents with her 'don't-worry-the-police-won't-prosecute' anti-smacking bill. Advocates for the War on Drugs dismiss the idea that police will be corrupted by prosecution of prohibition.
Both parties might like to thinks about Messrs Shipton, Schollum and Rickards when they make their claims.
These were young men at the time of the acts recounted and admitted to in recent trials, whose jobs and uniforms gave them power over the young, the weak and those who were easily intimidated -- and like man young men in such a situation, they were tempted by it. Whatever these three were like when they entered that environment, they were worse once they had. In Schollum and Shipton were two men who seemed to recognise no other power but their own -- the young, the weak and the easily intimidated they saw as their oyster. In Rickards was a man who went undercover in the war on drugs, and like so many like him who did so, he 'went native' (he is not the only one; former head of Scotland Yard's drug squad Eddie Ellison used to point out that no policemen in his drug squad could remain uncorrupted for longer than two years, such is the environment of prohibition).
These were young men who saw themselves above the law they had sworn to uphold; rather than serving the law, they apparently saw the law as serving their pleasure. These are the sort of young men to whom Sue wants to give more discretionary power.
Do you really want to give young men in the police force the temptation of even more discretionary power? Don't you really think it's odd that Sue Bradford does?
Sunday, 4 March 2007
If you truly think the answer does start with a big fat 'B,' then Richard Dawkins has something for you to consider. In his book The God Delusion he argues that it can't be from the Bible since as we've seen here over recent weeks so much of Biblical morality is bloodthirsty drek; modern Christians don't buy it all; they pick and choose, says Dawkins, they "contextualise" the obvious into something other than the obviously bloodthirsty (and thank goodness they do, lest we return to a time when yesterday's Christian would have been indistinguishable from today's Islamofascist).
He points out that no modern Christian or Jew would (thank goodness and reason) be likely to follow the Old Testament moral examples of Abraham (Genesis) and Jephthah (Judges) who both were willing to offer their children as human sacrifices to please God. Nor are they likely to share the morals of Lot (Genesis, here and here) and a Levite priest (Judges), who when demanded by a mob to hand over their male guests to sodomise, offered up their own daughters for rape instead. Dawkins notes:
…we do not as matter of fact derive our morals from scripture. Or, if we do, we pick and choose among the scriptures for the nice bits and reject the nasty. But then we must have some independent criterion for deciding which are the moral bits: a criterion which, wherever it comes from, cannot come from scripture itself and is presumably available to all of us whether we are religious or not.An interesting thought, don't you think? If Christians are prepared to throw out the unreasonable from their big fat Book, then which for them comes first? Reason, or the Book? And if so, then why don't they go full speed with the former and abandon the latter altogether?
And from whence do your morals come? If, like me, your answer is: by reason from this earth, then may goodness and reason follow you all the days of your life.
Have a happy Sunday.
LINKS: Family values - Skeptics Annotated Bible
Cruelty and violence - Skeptics Annotated Bible
Cartoon from Russell's Teapot
Morality without God? - Not PC
Is-Ought? Not a problem - Not PC
RELATED POSTS ON: Religion, Ethics
Saturday, 3 March 2007
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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...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.
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.
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 RadicalTrickle-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
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.
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, né 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
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
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
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