Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Punishing success: It's not un-European

Some people see lots of other people buying stuff in large quantities and they think, "Hmm, people must want that." The Europeans see a company churning out products that people have been queuing up to buy and ask, "How can we put a stop to that?"

Microsoft is getting another spanking for the crime of producing products that people want, this time in the European courts who fantasise that "consumers are suffering at the hands of Microsoft." The Europeans are pig ignorant buffoons who are ensuring that consumers will suffer, just as they always do with every antitrust decision.

"Once again," as Onkar Ghate pointed out last time Microsoft was given the finger by the courts,
Microsoft is being attacked for its success: in reality it has no monopoly power just brilliant management.... Microsoft is today's prime example of what Ayn Rand called 'America's Persecuted Minority.' Like an increasing number of big businesses, Microsoft is being punished for being successful, for making products that people want to purchase.
Microsoft has no monopoly power? It's true. Microsoft has no political power to force to consumers to buy its products, only the economic power to offer them products worth buying. In fact, as George Reisman explains, it is Microsoft's competitors who are after the monopoly:

What underlies such an incredible outcome is the utterly mistaken belief that overwhelming competitive success, to the point that one man or one company dominates an entire industry, constitutes monopoly. This, of course, is the kind of success that Gates and Microsoft have enjoyed.

The fact is that such an outcome of free competition is not monopoly. But it is monopoly when those capable of bringing about such an outcome are forcibly excluded from an industry, or any part of an industry. The accompanying forcible reservation of an industry or part of an industry even to a mass of less capable producers is the real monopoly, as much as if the industry had been forcibly reserved to the possession of one man or one company. The essential element in monopoly is forcible exclusion and forcible reservation, not the number of producers.

So the Europeans fantasise that "consumers are suffering at the hands of Microsoft." Mark Hubbard looks at the European decision and confesses to "a fantasy" of his own, a "daydream, that Bill Gates will hold a press conference and announce the demise of Microsoft forthwith: no new products, no support for existing ones, they are simply going to disappear: and then see what the world looks like."

It's an interesting thought, isn't it. Who would suffer then, I wonder. Who needs whom more?

EFB: Drown it.

I'm told Libz just got quite a long mention in Newstalk ZB's 9 O'Clock News about their Electoral Finance Bill submission with Colin Cross quoted saying the bill doesn't need watering down - it needs drowning.

The perfect one-liner.

UPDATE: David Farrar says, "I am hearing whispers from Parliament that Labour is 100% determined to get the Electoral Finance Bill passed into law."

It's becoming increasingly clear why they're so determined: at the next election the Labour Party intends to use the taxpayer as their personal cash machine, and the departments of state as their personal publicity departments -- meanwhile using the Electoral Finance Bill to ban criticism, and to muzzle anyone else doing very much electioneering at all. This, for instance:
Leaked draft documents reveal the extent to which Labour plans to campaign on the public purse. This campaign includes a script for call-takers at an 0800 phone line who will sing the praises of Labour's health policies.
It's hard to overstate how disgustingly cynical this is, more cynical even than introducing retrospective 'Get Out of Jail Free' legislation last year to head off Bernard Darnton's legal action over the pledge card outrage.

Even the normally state-worshipping Human Rights Commission told the Select Committee is against this outrageous assault on democracy,
the Bill will infringe certain human rights - most obviously freedom of expression but also the right of all citizens to participate in the election process. ...It is difficult to conceive of a greater limitation on freedom of speech than this.
You didn't think the HRC had the balls, did you.

Nanny can't drive

Oswald and Lindsay Mitchell together bust the rapidly developing myth that teenagers' driving is out of control, is getting worse, and urgently requires restrictions.

Trouble is, while there's been an increase in headlines that suggest teenagers' driving is getting progressively worse, and there's been a concomitant increase in hysteria over teenagers' driving, the statistics show a completely different story about teenage driving itself. As Lindsay points out, if safe driving is your criteria then the statistics on young drivers are actually getting better, not worse.
The performance of 15-19 year-old drivers has improved significantly. Twenty years ago they accounted for 16.9 percent of accidents involving fatalities. Last year they made up 11.7 percent. An even bigger drop applies to 20-24 year-olds from 22.2 to 11.9% percent. Perhaps some attention should be paid to older age groups.
So despite the headlines, the driving of teenagers is actually getting better -- a disturbing sign for those who look for a bit of spirit in the next generation.

However, if it's bad driving you want, then Oswald points out where attention should really be paid: to the group making the most noise about imposing restrictions on other people's driving. That's right, it turns out that as a group the country's worst drivers are those driving politicians' self drive cars. And the biggest irony? Annette King, leading the charge against bad young drivers today is also responsible for "the most serious smash" in this 2001 report:
her car was in a head-on accident in December 2000 and was written off. The driver of the other car was in intensive care for six days.
So perhaps the minister should be looking closer to both home and House before casting stones further afield at young drivers who (unlike King's family and parliamentary colleagues) are becoming increasingly responsible.

No tax cuts please, we prefer inflation

It's been revealed this morning that earlier this year Cabinet was considering personal tax cuts of up to one billion dollars, but the idea was knocked on the head because advice was received that tax cuts would be inflationary.

That was bad advice. Tax cuts are not inflationary.

However, here's something that really is inflationary: carbon taxes and fuel surcharges that are going to raise the prices of fuel, of electricity and of food.

So, to summarise, the government decided to abandon the idea of tax cuts on the mistaken view that they would be inflationary, yet they've now decided to stampede towards new taxes that have the absolute certainty of being inflationary -- ignoring meanwhile, their own rampantly and inflationary spending binge with our money.

Would you perhaps call these examples of an ideological burp? Or just sheer bloody incompetence? As Gerard Jackson said earlier this year of the very successful Australian tax cuts, "One can only wonder at the intellectual powers of [people] who fear the so-called inflationary consequences of tax cuts while blithely ignoring the Government’s massive monetary expansion."

What would 'Party X' do about the environment? - PART 5: A very special carbon tax

Continuing this serialisation based on my 'Free Radical' article 'Environmental Judo' - seven environmental policies that a genuine opposition party could adopt if they were serious about spontaneously shrinking the state, without any new coercion along the way.

Today, what I like to ironically my 'Carbon Tax Plan.''

5. The 'Carbon Tax Plan'

We've all heard the litany: We’re all gonna die. We’re all gonna die because of man-made global warming. We "need" a carbon tax, urgently, to stop runaway global warming.

Really? How about a show of hands?
  • Do we really have "runaway global warming" anywhere but in computer models?
  • Do we really need a carbon tax to stop those nasty emissions?
Interesting. Well, I’m proposing something to bring honesty to warmist science and warmist politics. Yes, it's a carbon tax. A very special carbon tax. A carbon tax that is a substitute for other taxes (yes, a condition of our support would be the removal of another tax. Company tax for example. Or income taxes. Or those eco-untaxes I suggested earlier.)

What I’m actually suggesting is a proposal first put forward by Canadian Ross McKitrick, who was the co-debunker with Steve McIntyre of the IPCC’s infamous ‘Hockey Stick: the proposal is for a carbon tax whose rate is linked to actual global temperatures – specifically, it would be linked to the temperature of the tropical troposphere, which is precisely where the IPCC's science says the primary CO2 "fingerprint" is to be found.

Yes, it’s a new tax, of sorts, but the proposal has a number of advantages, not least the diminution of one tax which is about to be imposed and the removal of another. Most of the advantages consist of focussing minds on the fact that proposals by the world's politicians to limit carbon emissions by fifty percent are blanket policies to strangle industry … to say nothing of what Al Bore’s proposed emission cuts of ninety percent would so.

This proposal should really focus minds on what warmists really want: do they want to attack what they say is the real problem, or do they just want to shackle and shut down industry; do they really want "action” to fix what they say is a real problem, or do they just want government action to ban private action.

It's crucially important to keep industry free of the warmists' political shackles, and this unique carbon tax offers the prospect of doing that in the warmists' name.

Listen up:
  • First, it calls the bluff of warmists. If you really believe that temperatures are going to rise precipitately, then how could you reasonably oppose it -- surely, from the warmist point of view, that's a one-way bet, right?
  • Second, it offers a real fiscal bonus. If the globe warms we pony up, true, (but remember this is offset by the removal of another tax). But what happens if the globe cools as many solar researchers expect? That’s right. If the globe cools, we all get a refund. “If models are right, then the tax would go up a lot,” [points out economist Geoffrey Plauche], “but on the other hand, if the tropical troposphere temperatures continue to decline as they have since 2002, then the tax would go negative and turn into a subsidy on carbon emissions. Of course, the alarmists are convinced this won't happen so it shouldn't be an obstacle to them endorsing the tax...” Like I say, let’s use this to call their bluff.
  • But that’s not all. With carbon taxes linked to global temperature, people would begin to really focus on the actual measurements of global warming – on how the measurements are produced, what they actual temperatures are, and how closely (if at all) they correspond with predicted temperatures. They might notice too that the methods by which the surface temperatures are presently produced are seriously shonky, but considered “good enough for government work.” And they might even notice that there has been no warming since 1998.
  • There will be serious attention paid to this ongoing temperature figure, so much so that we might even see warmists forced to admit there has been no warming since 1998. We might expect to see the measurement recorded at the Stock Exchange, and shown on the news each night right after the Dow Jones and the Nikkei, and for the same reason those figures are reported, and with the same pressures regarding accuracy and accountability.
  • In a further wrinkle suggested by economist Arnold Kling and others, we would expect there to develop a futures market in the temperature indicator, with taxes, profits and predictions tied to the futures price in a way that rewards accurate forecasting instead of political horse-trading.
  • Furthermore, all those computer models that predict warming (and since 1998 that’s the only place we actually see any warming) – all those models would be under much closer scrutiny. And as Climate Science Coalition convenor Owen McShane points out, we’d expect to see the rise of real, non-government, climate experts to make real non-government sponsored predictions about where troposphere temperature is going, Those whose "predetermination and bias" always encourages them to predict "warmer" would soon lose their clients and their track record would be there for all to see. No doubt too these experts would be listed in the same pages as the share market and similar "real" information. As Owen says, “Augie Auer would be thrilled.”
  • Finally, as I said before this idea was originally proposed by Ross McKitrick (the chap who helped debunk the bogus IPCC hockey stick) so it already has serious credibility, and has received significant international attention. No harm at all in using that spotlight to help promote more freedom here.
[Tomorrow, Part 6: A fishy story]
* * * * *

INTRO: 'What Would Party X Do?'
PART 1: 'Eco Un-taxes
Part 2: 'A Nuisance and a BOR.'
Part 3: 'Small Consents Tribunals'
Part 4: 'Privatisation: Iwi then Kiwi'

'Transitions to Freedom: Shall We Kill Them in Their Beds?'

Erickson by Erickson

The late Don Erickson's own home, which is where he had his studio and office and which he designed, built and lived in for forty years. From his Chicago Tribune obituary:
A disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright, architect Don Erickson's 55-year career featured houses and buildings that were delicate, beautiful and always original.

"Every building is a unique piece of art," said his wife, Patricia, citing a building she and her husband called the Bird Cage apartments near Ridge and Pratt Boulevards on the Far North Side of Chicago. "[The building] inspired me to become an architect," said Mettawa architect Thomas Heinz [who is writing a biography of his mentor]. He said Mr. Erickson's design incorporates thin vertical black metal elements reminiscent of bird cage wires against a creamy rough stone structure. Perhaps Mr. Erickson's best-known design is Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale, completed in the 1980s.
More on Erickson and his design philosophy at this post showing three houses by the man in his prime.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Good bastards I know

In the spirit of Cactus Kate's post on "good bastards we've met," some good bastards I know have just launched their new website. Legacy Productions is an Auckland photographic and video production company. If that's what you need, then they're who you need. Check them out.

Atlas Rocketed

After this article appeared in the New York Times citing numerous successful businessmen who are Ayn Rand fans and declaring Rand's Atlas Shrugged "one of the most influential business books ever written," the Amazon ranking of Atlas jumped from a healthy 388 to a positively euphoric 52.

Gus van Horn has the news, and plenty of links and commentary.

UPDATE: Stephen Hicks tells me the euphoria is even healthier. After the Times piece, the highest he saw for the paperback version was:

Amazon.com Sales Rank: #29 in Books (See Bestsellers in Books)

Also, the hardcover of Atlas moved up strongly:

Amazon.com Sales Rank: #89 in Books

And here’s The Fountainhead:

Amazon.com Sales Rank: #167 in Books

Even today the paperback of Atlas is doing well and is at:

Amazon.com Sales Rank: #35 in Books (See Bestsellers in Books)

Greenspan puts finger on conservative failure

Self described "libertarian Republican" and former Ayn Rand associate Alan Greenspan has everybody talking about his forthcoming book [hat tip Russell Brown at Hard News], in which he sagely observes the reason for the Republican demise in last year's US election, and from which he draws a pertinent lesson for conservatives everywhere. The Republicans deserved to be soundly stomping, he says, because the party "swapped principle for power."
In the book, Greenspan wrote that Bush essentially left an unbridled GOP Congress to spend money however it saw fit, and by not vetoing a single bill in six years, the president deprived the nation of checks and balances. "The Republicans in Congress lost their way," Greenspan wrote. "They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose."
Are you listening David Cameron? Are you listening John Key? Do you listen 'Key Wees'? Greenspan's lesson is this: In swapping principle for power, you end up with neither.

The Republican congress was hopeless: the biggest spending congress in history, betraying whatever small government principles to which Republicans ever laid any claim. As Brad Thompson pointed out in a series I ran last year at Not PC on the collapse of American conservatism:
  • "Government spending increased faster under George Bush and his Republican Congress than it did under Bill Clinton.."
  • "More people work for the federal government today than at any time since the end of the Cold War..."
  • "If post 9/11 defense spending is taken off the table, domestic spending has ballooned by 23 percent since Bush took office..."
  • "...despite President Bush’s much vaunted tax cuts, Americans actually pay more in taxes today than they did during Bill Clinton’s last year in office..."
  • Asks Thompson in the introduction to his analysis of the Decline and Fall of American Conservatism, "What happened to the idea of limited-government conservatism? Have the conservatives been corrupted by power, or is there something in their basic philosophy that has led them to embrace big government?"

    That's the question answered in his article, summarised in the following posts:


    Sporting questions

    Another great sporting weekend. And some questions:

    How good would it have been if Georgia scored that last try against Ireland?

    When you first heard the South Africa-England score was 36-0, did you have to ask which team got zero?

    What chance Tonga or Samoa to beat England? Or one to beat up England, and the other to beat them? How good would that be?

    Are there any northern hemisphere teams at all that are firing? Or will it be a SANZAR semi-final line-up?

    Do you feel any sympathy for Gareth Thomas (whose Rugby World Cup is probably over), who if he hadn't so cynically taken out Australia's new first five he might not have been so decisively flattened by Stirling Mortlock?

    How come no team seems able to take advantage of Australia's almost non-existent scrum?

    Did anyone bother to get up to watch the All Blacks-Portugal game? When do we get out first real game?

    Is anyone watching 20/20 cricket? Does anyone care?

    Why do NZ rugby league teams have no ticker? Should anyone care?

    Can you see anyone else but Port Adelaide and Geelong in the AFL final? Or is it only me that cares?

    Italian Muslims

    While there are about one million Muslims in Italy, only 60,000 or so of those are Italian Muslims.

    This movie shows why.

    Reminds me of two reasons why the Brazilian soccer team can beat any Muslim country's team.

    The effects of global warming are already upon us

    Looks like the effects of global warming are already upon us, and will soon hit the pockets of consumers and home-owners.

    That is, despite there being at best only threadbare evidence of human effect on climate, and there being little evidence (if any) for the worldwide climate forecast to be catastrophic, we're already seen the all too real effect of global warming in legislation and regulation designed to limit human activity, and human industry -- and now something else is about to hit us both here in NZ, and worldwide.

    The latest effect of the threadbare global warming bandwagon will be increased power and fuel prices (courtesy of the Clark Government's 'cap and trade' emissions scheme to be announced Thursday, probably to the applause of John Boy Key), and rapidly increasing worldwide food prices due in part to increasing demand from Asia and India, but also crucially because acreages normally used to produce food are being used instead to produce biofuels. Protests over rapidly rising pasta, baguette and tortilla prices have already been seen in Italy, France and Mexico respectively. As more than one British commentator has suggested, "The era of cheap food is over." If true, then we we have human-induced global warming hysteria to thank for it.

    So, big and probably permanent price rises coming up then for power, for fuel and for food -- and, once the world's central bankers catch up, higher interest and mortgage prices to dampen down what they will no doubt be calling "inflation."

    The effects of global warming are already upon us -- specifically, the effect of irrational behaviour in pursuit of a pathetic charade.

    UPDATE 1: "Global warming is an entirely natural phenomenon and its effects can even be beneficial, according to two leading researchers." They "have looked at the work of more than 500 scientists and concluded that it is very doubtful that man-made global warming exists" and that GW itself is beneficial. Story here. [Hat tip Marcus.]

    UPDATE 2: Meanwhile, while we can be assured that whatever Clark can do Key will do even wetter, The Observer has found a list of environmental and safety policies that Key's UK idol Wavy Davy Cameron is contemplating. These include:
    • Household recycling to become easier by making it mandatory for all new houses to be built on land-fill sites, thus cutting out the middle man. Rubbish simply to be tipped out of the back door or first-floor windows.
    • Anyone taking a long-haul flight must pay for two seats. The seat next to the passenger to be occupied by a tree, to be planted at the destination.
    • All cars to be edible and consumed at end of journey.
    • Carrot-and-stick approach to car pollution. Research into whether it's possible to come up with a car engine that runs on carrots and sticks.
    • Everyone to wear a permanent seatbelt, which they then attach to whatever motor vehicle they get into.
    • A height tax to encourage couples to have shorter children.
    Expect to hear the more idiotic of these announced here soon.

    UPDATE 3: Cameron's actual policies are even more absurd than the satire, if that's possible. [Hat tip No Minister].

    What would 'Party X' do about the environment? - PART 4: Privatisation

    Continuing this serialisation based on my 'Free Radical' article 'Environmental Judo' - seven environmental policies that a genuine opposition party could adopt if they were serious about spontaneously shrinking the state, without any new coercion along the way.

    Today, a politically possible method of ending the tragedy of the commons, by getting rid of the commons.

    4. Privatisation: First Iwi, then Kiwi.
    There’s something missing in this series so far, isn’t there. Every proposal presented so far responds to already existing pressure in the political environment, using it to advance the depoliticisation of the natural environment. So far there’s been something for nearly everyone here, something (so far) that nearly every political party could sign up to.

    Nearly every party. There’s been nothing yet specifically for the Maori Party.

    And there’s something else missing. We’ve said that property rights under a common law regime provides superior environmental protection, but there’s a problem there too, isn’t there. That’s right. To work effectively, property rights-based environmental protection needs and owner to stand up for it, yet nearly half of this beautiful country and most of the seabed, foreshore and waterways still have no property rights attached. Most of it is essentially un-owned, ie., nearly half of the country is still nominally Crown Land, with no owner in the least interested in standing up for their patch. (Yes, that’s right, about thirty percent of the country is so called “conservation estate” that is “protected” by Chris Carter and the Department of Conservation (DoC). Here’s a favourite joke told by DoC employees that reveals their own view of their efficacy: “How do you get rid of possums?” Answer: “Give them to DoC to protect, and wait three years.”)

    So what do we do? Using our ‘judo’ principle of using our opponents’ strengths to gain our goals, what do you think the easiest way would be to establish property rights in all that land that needs property rights protection. Anyone? I’ll give you that clue again, shall I?

    What about giving the Maori Party something to vote for?

    Who’s going to advocate loudest and longest for the title in all Crown land and in seabed, foreshore and waterways to be passed to Maori (or as I like to call it, privatisation) than the same brown roundtable who are presently riding the gravy train. If I may use the expression, that’s a fair weight behind a proposal for privatisation.

    So am I really advocating giving all this un-owned land away to a bunch of tribalists!? Well, yes I am. What have they done to deserve it? Well, nothing.

    Nothing, that is, except develop rights in land and water over long historic use, and agitate loudly enough today so that they’re on point as the easiest way to effect this privatisation. If we can have titles created in land where there presently isn’t any, if we can extract land and water from the hands of the state and turn it into private property with covenants and easements attached that protect all existing rights, then that’s as good a thing as any peaceful freedom fighter can hope to achieve, and perfectly in line with our goal of more freedom, with no new coercion.

    There’s just three things we need to ensure so that both freedom and prosperity are secured.

    The first thing is to ensure that only Crown Land is involved. Scrutiny will be essential to ensure no already existing private property will be in the mix.

    The second is that tribalism must taken out of the mix: title must be transferred NOT to tribal leaders so they can increase their control or create new tribal fiefdoms, but to individuals. I suspect that the main opposition to this condition will come from tribal leaders who realise they’re being made redundant, and not before time—and that opposition in itself will reveal that the interests of the tribal leaders and the people on whose behalf they claim to speak are not the same, and are actually at odds with each other.

    The third thing to ensure is that all titles created must be transferable. As Ronald Coase points out, as long as titles are made transferable and transaction costs are kept low, then land titles so created will tend to end up in the hands of those who most value them. The first holders of these new titles can do anything they wish with them (and making land individually owned and transferable is between them a necessary condition to allow the holders of these titles to borrow against them to advance their wealth), but as we’re all aware the deadbeats and the astute will both quickly sell to those who value them more than they do, and the productive who wish to will keep theirs and use it to produce something more.

    The choice will be entirely up to these new first-time owners. Over time we would expect to see this land and water which was initially un-owned and unprotected (the main reason for problems like ‘dirty dairying’) used first to raise people out of poverty who are in urgent need of that boon and to reduce the importance of tribalism, and then (with covenants and easements still attached) it will end up in the hands of those who value the land and the waterways the most, owners who have most to gain from its protection.

    In short, this is a privatisation even talkback callers can support.
    [Tomorrow, a very special carbon tax plan ...]
    * * * *

    INTRO: 'What Would Party X Do?'
    PART 1: 'Eco n-taxes
    Part 2: 'A Nuisance and a BOR.'
    Part 3: 'Small Consents Tribunals'

    'Transitions to Freedom: Shall We Kill Them in Their Beds?'

    Sunday, 16 September 2007

    Osama Bin Liar

    Osama Bin Laden's recent video message to the world of saints and scholars and suicidalists has been compared to the rantings of your basic leftist, your postmodern academic, your death-metal nihilist and your common garden anti-globalisation nutcase. (But of course, I repeat myself.)

    No surprise then that, like most specimens emanating from those entities -- and here we're looking at the likes of Michael Moore and Al Bore -- it's awfully full of what we might politely call "untruths."

    My colleague Barry Paul has picked out the most egregious factual errors and contradictions (Bin Liner's claims are given in italics; Barry's fisking appears in bold).


    Bush not giving the United Nations expanded jurisdiction in Iraq.
    The UN had in fact established its HQ in Baghdad until the suicide bombing of Aug 2003 killing de Mello and others.

    US engaged in genocide of peoples, only "a few specimens" of Red Indians were spared.
    More than 6 million Native Americans today identify themselves as such, hardly “a few specimens.”

    More than a million orphans in Baghdad alone, hundreds of thousands of widows, killing of 650,000 people of Iraq as a result of the war.
    These figures are disputed, but the vast majority of civilian casualties are the the direct result of ongoing sectarian Shia v Sunni violence.

    During the Vietnam war Rumsfeld and his aides murdered two million villagers.
    In fact, Donald Rumsfeld was not the Sec of Defense until 1975-77, under Gerald Ford, AFTER the Vietnam war had ended.

    "When Kennedy took over the presidency and deviated from the general line of policy and wanted to stop this unjust [Vietnam] war, that angered the major corporations who were benefiting from its continuation, and so Kennedy was killed.
    In fact, it was Kennedy who ramped up the US engagement in what was then a French war, sending 1,364 advisors to Sth Vietnam in 1961; increasing this number in 1962 to 9,865 -- at the time of his untimely death in Nov 1963 there were 15,500 Americans in this country. So much for the claim he was wanting to stop the war.

    "You neither brought to account nor punished those who waged this war [Vietnam], not even the most violent of its murderers Rumsfeld."
    See comment above.

    "Bush [Jnr] picked Rumsfeld as Sec of Defense in his first term, after picking Cheney, Powell and Armitage despite their horrific and bloody history of murdering humans."
    In fact, Dick Cheney was prominent in commercial life; Colin Powell has a distinguished career as a professional soldier; and Richard Armitage was an advisor, emissary and negotiator. Unlike Osama who murders people in cold blood, they are far from being “bloody murderers.”

    "They are the same reasons which led to the failure of Kennedy to stop the Vietnam war."
    See comment above. Kennedy began the large-scale US involvement in Vietnam.

    "Emissions from the [US] factories of the major corporations, plus not observing Kyoto accord, are causing death and displacement of millions of human beings especially in Africa."
    The pseudo-scientific opinion is premature, to say the least, and the population claim palpably false.

    "And from his [Allah’s] law is retaliation in kind: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and the killer is killed."
    "Religion of peace," anyone?

    "Bush is working with al-Maliki to spread freedom in Iraq. but he is in fact working with the leaders of one sect against another sect in the belief that this will quickly decide the war in his favour."
    OBL shows his hatred for the Shia. Once again, "religion of peace" anyone?

    "In fact, burning living beings is forbidden in our religion, even if they be small like the ant, so what of man?"
    Try telling that to the relatives of the 3 thousand innocents burned on 9/11, or the thousands killed by Al-Qaeda and their comrades in Madrid, Bali, Cairo, Sharm-el-Sheikh, Cairo, Iraq and London.

    "The holocaust of the Jews was carried out by your brethren in the middle of Europe, but had it been closer to our countries, most of the Jews would have been saved by taking refuge with us."
    ! Then why wage intifada now against the Jews in their chosen haven(s) today?

    "There are two solutions for stopping the [Iraq] war. The first is from our side, and it is to continue to escalate the killing and fighting against you. This is our duty and our brothers are carrying it out."
    That is one way to stop the war?

    "The world is being dominated by the democratic system, which confirms its massive failure to protect humans and their interests from the greed and avarice of the major corporations."
    Railing against the capitalist system, yet the bin Laden family is immensely wealthy and intimately connected to the Saudi royal family. The Saudi Binladin Group, a global construction and equity management conglomerate from whom the murderer Bin Liar derives his wealth, grosses US $5 billion annually.

    "Since the essense of man-made positive laws is that they serve the interests of those with the capital, and thus make the rich richer and the poor poorer..."
    See comment above re Saudi Binladin Group.

    "It would benefit you to listen to the poignant messages of your soldiers in Iraq who are paying with their blood, nerves, and scattered limbs."
    All US troops form a volunteer force, and as such take pride in doing their job in a professional manner.

    "I invite you to embrace Islam. The true religion also puts peoples’ lives in order with its laws; protests their needs and interests; refines their morals; protects them from evils; and guarantees for them entrance into Paradise."
    There are only two snags. First,nobody is able to confirm the wonders of Islamic Paradise. And second, as the Danish cartoonists pointed out (and they would know), Allah has already run out of virgins.

    * * * *
    It seems that whatever amenities Bin Liar has with him in his cave, he has neither a basic encyclopaedia or even a textbook of elementary logic-- unless that is he simply intended to rely upon the ignorance and braindead reasoning of the ill-educated and unwashed anti-globalisation nutcases to pass on his rants as if it were one of their own.

    After all, most of them are only too happy to wear murderers like him on their T-shirts and pass shit like this around. Just ask the agents of Che Guevara and Michael Moore.

    Of all the claims about what the tape shows, only two seem to have any veracity:
    1. That it really was put together by an American death-metaller.
    2. That in peddling pissant propaganda like this it's even more clear than it has been than that this is a man on the run who is virtually impotent.

    Saturday, 15 September 2007

    What would 'Party X' do about the environment? - PART 3: Small Consents

    Continuing this serialisation based on my 'Free Radical' article 'Environmental Judo' - seven environmental policies that a genuine opposition party could adopt if they were serious about rolling back the state without any new coercion

    No serious environmental policy can avoid the elephant in the room that is the Resource Management Act (RMA). For all the high-profile RMA horror stories that hit the news, as Federated Farmers president Charlie Pederson says, "it's little, not large, that suffers most RMA pain."

    Today, I present for your consideration a simple solution for removing RMA pain from the little guy, and a step towards making more affordable housing.

    3. Small Consents Tribunals “When the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce,” said Ayn Rand, “then you may know that your culture is doomed.”

    That’s true.

    Just ask anyone who has waited in line for a resource consent.

    But although it’s practical to remove the RMA overnight, it’s not yet politically possible. Here’s one way to get that particular ball rolling.

    First, enact a codification of basic common law principles such as the Coming to the Nuisance Doctrine and rights to light and air and the like.

    Second, register on all land titles (as voluntary restrictive covenants) the basic “no bullshit” provisions of District Plans (stuff like height-to-boundary rules, density requirements and the like).

    Next, and this will take a little more time, insist that councils set up a ‘Small Consents Tribunals’ for projects of a value less than $300,000 to consider issues presently covered by the RMA.

    This would mean that instead of sitting around the table with pimply-faced graduates of Bruce Hucker’s planning school discussing whether or not your new carport “promotes the sustainable management of natural and physical resources” – which is what happens now under the RMA – and instead of cluttering up the Environment Court with minor projects that only add to the already lengthy delays there, these Consents Tribunal should function in a similarly informal fashion as Small Claims Tribunals do now.

    The Consents Tribunals would consider your small project on the basis of the codified common law principles and the voluntary restrictive covenants on your title. Simple really. You should be able to reach agreement in an afternoon. 

    I think setting up such tribunals should be sensible, relatively simple, and politically achievable. And at some point it should become clear to most land owners that these restrictive covenants on their titles are not vague prescriptions coercively mandated by statute, but instead are ‘voluntary’ in the sense that (as with basic common law principles) they are covenants in favour of neighbouring landowners–covenants that protect your neighbours’ legitimate rights, over which you may negotiate with them to add, subtract, amend or otherwise revise these covenants, making any reciprocal deals you may negotiate with people whose business it really is.

    If for example you like my tree, and I like my view over that corner of your section, then we can negotiate at our leisure and have these interests registered on our titles as a covenant and an easement respectively. Over time we should slowly see emerging a network built up of reciprocal covenants between neighbouring properties reflecting the voluntary agreements over land that neighbours have freely negotiated. In time, it is these voluntary agreements on which the Small Consents Tribunals will be adjudicating.

    Now at a stroke these Small Consents Tribunals will make affordable housing more affordable, and encourage more interest in projects at this end of the market.

    At a stroke too it should free up the Environment Court and council offices for more important projects than these small ones, and depoliticise many neighbourhood disputes. Everyone kicks a goal.

    As the success of these Small Consents Tribunals becomes more evident, as I'm confident they would be, and as their own sophistication in common law increases, then public pressure should build up to raise the financial value of projects accepted by the Tribunal first to $400k, then to $500k and beyond, and eventually there should be sufficient public pressure and political will built up to abolish the RMA altogether in favour of common law protections.

    That’s the secret of good judo: using simple means to rid yourself of a large opponent.

    [Tune in Monday for policy proposal number four: Iwi then Kiwi - a unique privatisation.]

    * * * * *
    THE SERIES SO FAR: INTRO: 'What Would Party X Do?' PART 1: 'Eco Untaxes.' Part 2: 'A Nuisance and a BOR.' THE SERIES IS BASED ON THE PRINCIPLE DEVELOPED HERE: 'Transitions to Freedom: Shall We Kill Them in Their Beds?'

    Friday, 14 September 2007

    Beer O'Clock: A week of it!

    In this week's Beer O'Clock our irregular correspondent Stu from SOBA sums up this year's BrewNZ: one week, one liver, 184 beers...

    BREWNZ 2007 HAS JUST WOUND UP with the realisation that the New Zealand craft beer scene has just come of age.

    The last few years have been dominated by Lion Nathan, Emerson's and Steam Brewing (of Cock & Bull, Limburg and Epic fame). This year the spread of medals and 'Best in Class' trophies was spread as far and wide as were my eager eyes on Day One, and by my at liver by week's end.
    • Sunshine Brewery - best known for Gisborne Gold - had their Black Magic judged best 'Dark or Amber Lager'.
    • Hawkes Bay's K.E.A. brewing, one of New Zealand's youngest breweries, picked up trophy as best 'Wheat and other grain beer' for their outstandingly fresh German-style Admiral's Weisse Bier.
    • The Christchurch-brewed Three Boy's Oyster Stout took out 'Stouts and Porters.'
    • And Wellington's only microbrewery - Tuatara - was awarded best 'UK or European-style ale' for their well-known Tuatara IPA.
    • Meanwhile Blenheim's Renaissance scored another big coup with their Stonecutter Strong Scotch Ale being judged best in the 'Strong ales and lagers' class.
    These little guys are now hitting the benchmarks set by our very best breweries. All in all, it's a great sign for NZ beer fans. The quality, consistency and stylistic range of your local brewery just gets better and better.

    In amongst it all, the usual suspects still managed to shine.
    • Emerson's limited-edition JP won best in class for 'French & Belgian-styles.'
    • Steam's Cock & Bull Monk's Habit was the best 'New world / American-style ale.'
    • Limburg's Czechmate won in the 'International-style golden lager' class.
    • And the ever consistent Mac's Gold beat off the bulk standard kiwi brown's and golds to become the best 'Classic hybrid New Zealand style beer.'
    Amongst all this excitement, however, the biggest individual highlight for me had to be Invercargill Brewery receiving the the trophy in a very hotly contested 'Fruit, Spiced, Herbed beer' class for the delightfully named Smokin' Bishop. A 6.5% strong, malty German-style lager described by one friend as "a beautiful beer full of smoky bacon bits." We're not just making great interpretations of well known styles, we're starting to become a little more adventurous too! Limited stock of this seasonal beer can still be found at Regional Wines and Spirits and The Malthouse. Steve Nally, the Invercargill Brewery owner and brewer, has flown himself to Wellington for each of the last three years where he's volunteered as a BrewNZ steward. Once again his beers are all the better for the experience he's been gaining here (he also received gold for his flagship Pitch Black Stout). If you're ever in Invercargill pop into the brewery, buy a few beers and give the man a great big hug.

    Meanwhile... A final call to all SOBA members to get yourself down to Bar Edward at 11am tomorrow 9Saturday) and have your say at our 2007 AGM. There will be a couple of special surprises for the members attending (hint: one of them is a 26% special surprise!). If you're not already a member, then come along and join up.

    Slainte mhath, Stu

    Harder than Play School for whacky Jacqui Dean

    The all-too easily fooled National MP and shadow Drugs Czar Jacqui Dean reveals this morning in another deluded revelation that it was "left wing bloggers" who exposed her idiocy in wanting to ban water -- a surprise I'm sure to the mostly ACT Party activists who pulled off the hoax.

    If you missed this before, then co-hoaxer MikeE has the whole story on his blog. Scoop has Whacky Jacqui's letter to Banderton seeking "a view on the banning" of dihydrogen monoxide, ie., water. And Radio Live's website now has the audio of this morning's interview in which poor Dean says mean left-wingers are after her [scroll down to "LUSH talks to Jacqui Dean..."].

    Can someone please send the deluded fool a tinfoil hat for the weekend?

    Whatever happened to the "smokestack socialist"?

    I asked yesterday if readers could identify the author of this remarkably vigorous piece of prose in praise of human production:
    The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all the preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature's forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents or cultivation, canalisation or rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground - what earlier century had even an inkling that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?
    These words, as I said, were written in the mid-nineteenth century - its author achieved worldwide popularity in the twentieth. How rare to hear such a hymn to human industry in the twenty-first.

    I'm delighted that several knowledgeable readers identified the author as one Karl Marx -- a surprise perhaps to some who know the bearded apostle of "scientific socialism" only as the god of today's braindead man-haters. How come, you might ask, we so rarely hear such hairy-chested sentiments from socialists these days? The answer is quite simple: the abject failure of socialism to live up to the promise implied in the old fool's wee hymn to human production.

    The old style hairy-chested, smokestack socialist was a fan of production -- of colossal productive forces, of the steam-driven subjection of nature by productive forces, forces that in earlier centuries had "slumbered in the lap of social labour" and had now erupted out of the feudal past in the promise of a glorious socialist future! Communism, said Lenin, is "socialism plus electricity"! Communism, Nikita Kruschev told Richard Nixon, will "bury the west." For many a socialist, the optimistic voice of socialism did sounded like the voice of the sunlit future.

    The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of every socialist experiment ever tried, however, put paid to that dream.

    The revelation when the Berlin Wall fell that socialist Eastern Europe was an economic, environmental and humanitarian basket case brought on a crisis for socialists worldwide that made it clear for all time that it was impossible to be an honest socialist. Socialism could not produce. Capitalism does. At this revelation, the smokestack socialist had three fundamental choices: either abandon support for socialism, or production, or of reason.
    • He could continue to revere production and human fecundity by abandoning socialism altogether (Christopher Hitchens is one of this honest breed), or he could try and shackle capitalist producers to his own socialist ends (Tony Blair, Jim Anderton and most of the Third Way 'social democrat' types adopted this approach).
    • Or: he could retain his socialism but abandon instead his praise of production and wealth. The environmental movement beckoned. In damning production he could continue the promotion of socialism as if nothing ever happened. If you've ever wondered at the take-over of the environmental movement worldwide by assorted Trotskyites, Maoists and Leninists, or by the number of Jim Anderton's former colleagues now at home in the 'Watermelon Party,' then this is your explanation.
    • Or: as Stephen Hicks so eloquently explains, he could abandon reason, science, and optimism altogether, and embrace instead the postmodern promotion of anti-reason, anti-science, double standards, and cynicism. As Hicks says in the thesis of his superb book Explaining Postmodernism, "the failure of [philosophy] made postmodernism possible; the failure of socialism made postmodernism necessary."
    The fall of the Berlin Wall was the crisis that created this mostly misbegotten diaspora, and it's the reason now that to be an honest socialist is no less impossible than it is to find an honest lawyer.

    Under-regulation on naked streets

    Speaking of rolling back the state -- or at least, beginning the process of getting nanny state off your back and out of your face -- submissions are now being heard on Rodney Hide's Regulatory Responsibility Bill, which surprisingly has the support of the two major parties. So far.

    Making her own submission on the Bill, Lindsay Mitchell has a good analogy on what the Dutch call “Naked streets":
    In a nutshell the naked streets policy, originated in the Netherlands but adopted in some parts of Britain, involves removing road-markings, street signs, traffic signals etc. Counter-intuitively this has reduced speeds and accidents. Why? Simply because people become more careful and cautious when they aren’t being told what to do.

    The ‘naked streets’ policy is a great analogy for remedying over–regulation in all sorts of areas.
    It rather reminds me of a story used by the head of (I think) Chrysler to demonstrate the counter-intuitiveness of safety regulation.

    Which car would be driven in the safest, most cautious manner, he asked: Car A which has air bags, ABS brakes, ride control, a roll cage, a crumple zone and every other safety feature known to man to ensure driver and passengers can pass through everything short of the second coming without harm? Or Car B, which has drum brakes, poor suspension and a steel spike directed at the driver's forehead?

    Do you get the point?

    What would 'Party X 'do about the environment? Part 2: 'A Nuisance and a BOR'

    Continuing this serialisation based on my 'Free Radical' article 'Environmental Judo' - seven environmental policies that a genuine opposition party could adopt if they were serious about rolling back the state without any new coercion. This morning, two solutions for promoting property rights towards the heart of New Zealand life:

    2. Putting Property Rights in the Bill of Rights Act
    Regular readers of The Free Radical and this blog should already be aware of the sophistication of seven-hundred years of common law protection of the environment brought about by protecting property rights.

    Protecting the right to peaceful enjoyment of property . . . enshrining that protection in law . . . historically and in principle that’s the best protection the environment ever had – both for the natural environment and for the human environment. Property rights in streams and rivers for example coupled with common law systems of protection would at a stroke solve the ‘dirty dairying’ problem about which so much is said, but so little achieved. Property rights in flora and fauna and land is the best means of ensuring a genuinely sustainable nation.

    We know that common law protection of property rights has been buried by statute and regulation and the Foreshore and Seabed Act--but it’s not too late to resurrect it, and placing property rights in the Bill of Rights Act would be a start. In fact, this policy very nearly happened. Proposed by Gordon Copeland, things were looking hopeful, until this week the bill had its throat cut by National's disgraceful about-turn.

    Copeland's proposal was to simply insert property rights in the Bill of Rights, repairing an omission that Bill of Rights architect Geoffrey Palmer has publicly conceded was a mistake. I would add pressure to make the Bill of Rights, or at least this proposed new clause, superior to all other law. The explicit rejection by NZ's two main parties of even the relatively tepid proposal suggested by Copeland, however, underscores how far we are from even getting the principle of property rights on the table.

    Continuing pressure to place property rights in the Bill of Rights is one means by which to get it there.

    After all, the principle of property rights simply promises the protection of the right to peacefully enjoy that in which one has property. What reasonable objection can be brought to law that protects an individual’s right to peaceful enjoyment? Let me stress the word "reasonable." Let’s place on the back foot those who object to that right by challenging them to say for what reasons the right to peaceful enjoyment shouldn’t be made superior to all other law.

    We may not be immediately successful in our goal, but at least we can try and flush out the bastards who oppose such peaceful rights, and expose the reasons they do.

    In the meantime, you might like to consider what would happen if property rights were placed at the heart of the likes of the Resource Management Act . . .

    2a. Coming to the Nuisance
    The principle of Coming to the Nuisance is a powerful antidote to the zoning that the RMA has entrenched -- perhaps the strongest possible antidote to zoning. Supplementary to proposal 2 above, then, promotion of the Coming to Nuisance doctrine for use as an absolute in neighbourhood disputes is something worth advocating for.

    The Coming to the Nuisance Doctrine is an enormously powerful principle protecting pre-existing rights, and quickly establishing rights in situations of apparent neighbourhood conflict. Move next door to a clean and well-run chicken farm or a pig farm for example (even if the place has been re-zoned since the farm opened), and under this doctrine you have no right to have them thrown out. Move next door to a speedway track, and you have no right to complain about excessive noise.

    I assume you see the difference with how things presently work.

    If the farm or the speedway or whatever it is was there before you chose to buy next door, and if it’s well and properly run, then those pre-existing rights should and can be protected in law; and if they were you then have a strong incentive to either make a more careful choice in future (whereas now the incentive is there to move in and force them out), or to buy out the speedway or the farm, or buy easements or covenants over the neighbouring land.

    Either way, when the coercion is removed and bargaining is all that’s allowed, the tendency is for property to end up in its highest value use. This is not something planners can ever claim to have achieved.

    What this principle will demonstrate over long use is that zoning is not only coercive, but unnecessary. Coming To The Nuisance is THE antidote to zoning. Not only that, at the same time as undercutting the zoning law established under the RMA, it would ensure that if neighbours of Western Springs speedway aren’t prepared to stump up more than speedway organisers would like to go elsewhere, then the noise of fast cars and motorbikes will continue to annoy wankers like Peter Williams QC for some years to come.

    You can’t do better than that.

    [Tune in tomorrow for policy proposal number three: Small Consents Tribunals.]

    * * * * *

    INTRO: 'What Would Party X Do?'
    PART 1: 'Eco Untaxes.'

    'Transitions to Freedom: Shall We Kill Them in Their Beds?'

    Hand of God - Rodin

    I love Rodins' figures emerging from the stone of which they're made -- as if the very rocks he works with are alive.

    Thursday, 13 September 2007

    Census protest ends in fine

    As you've probably heard, libertarian Nik Haden was fined severely for burning his census form in protest at the imposition on his privacy, and unilaterally promoted by TV3 to party leader. (You just can't trust these journalists, can you.)

    Two decades ago, local Objectivist Bill Weddell ( a mentor of many present day Objectivists including Lindsay Perigo) took a similar principled stand against the census, although without the benefit of a warming fire. His statement to the court is worth studying by any student of freedom:

    "In failing to comply with a government order to disclose private information concerning my private life and private property, my intention is not to flout the Law as such, but to lodge formal protest against the Statistics Act, and to register my rejection, on moral grounds, of the widespread practice of State expropriation of private property and related information under threat of forcible punishment.

    "I hold, as a moral absolute, the conviction that in a civilised society all relationships between men must be voluntary; that compulsion abolishes morality altogether, and must be outlawed; that no man shall gain a value from another by the use or the threat of force; and that it is the only proper function of the Law to protect men against those who do.

    "I have declined to plead or to offer any legal defence since the very existence of the Statistics Act abolishes objective justice, the only legal principle that could defend me. The Law as it stands arbitrarily declares the contradiction that guilt defined by Law can co-exist with and overrule provable innocence in objective reality.

    "I do not regard my actions as a crime, but as an act of self-defence...
    Read on here for Bill's full statement.

    Freedom fetishism?

    Don't look now -- you might be a freedom fetishist too. [Hat tip LP]

    UPDATE: Gus Van Horn explains why the article shouldn't be taken seriously, and (once again) why Objectivists and US libertarians do never the twain meet: "anti-intellectual" libertarians allow braindead fools like the article's author to "channel their inner five-year-old" to damn liberty, damn capitalism and damn Ayn Rand. Ouch!

    What would 'Party X 'do about the environment? Part 1: 'Un'taxes

    Continuing the serialisation of my 'Free Radical' article on 'Environmental Judo' - seven environmental policies that a genuine opposition party could adopt if they were serious about rolling back the state without any new coercion. (Intro is here.) This morning, Untaxes:

    1. Not Eco Taxes or Subsidies, but Untaxes,
    Helen Clark says she wants a sustainable nation. Jeanette Fitzsimons says she wants a really and truly sustainable nation. And Nick Smith says he wants what they’re having with a side order of bullshit thrown in.

    All of them blather on about the need for grass roots eco businesses and sustainable alternative technologies, yet between them they make it near impossible for alternative technologies and grass roots businesses to thrive. All of them waffle on about subsidies for this and grants for that and assistance with the other, and at the same time they talk about “sin” taxes to discourage so called polluters like the energy companies who produce the power that keeps our lights on.

    I say that’s bullshit. The only thing that’s truly sustainable is stuff that stands on its own two feet. Stuff that’s economically sustainable. If a profit can't be turned on all these schemes for solar panels and wind farms and for turning banana skins into biofuel, then those schemes shouldn’t exist. If they can’t turn a profit, then they’re a waste of the resources that Helen Clark and Jeanette Fitzsimons and Nick Smith say are so scarce.

    But what new business gets a chance to turn a profit when they’re buried under tax and compliance costs? We know that tax is theft. We know that how you run your company is your business. Why not let at least some companies be free of the burden and show just how their profits rise when they’re not being taxed to hell and when they’re not burdened by paperwork and by bureaucrats.

    And why not let the current fad for green shit help drive this unburdening, and let the eco warriors themselves learn at first hand that free trade and profits are always superior to subsidies and socialism.

    What I suggest is that eco industries, eco businesses and eco products be made totally tax free, and that all these eco industries be freed as much as possible from the regulations and compliance costs imposed by the likes of the Resource Management Act (RMA), collecting and calculating GST and minimum wage laws.

    Let’s say for example you’re doing research and development on micro-power producers or wave turbines, or trying to erect and bring on stream small and economically viable hydro stations or domestic wind turbines. All are potentially viable and small alternatives to the Big Thinking state-owned and state-controlled power producers (the state always Things Big, doesn’t it), but not when burdened by Kafka-esque problems with resource consents (for which the large producers maintain a large staff to make opposing submissions), by the compliance costs that weigh down every business, and by taxes on research and development and production, and on any profits that might be made down the line.

    I say let’s help out. Let’s help out every business we can.

    Let’s free up “eco” businesses, and at once we liberate at least some businesses from the shackles of the grey ones (and perhaps help kick start some fashionable export industries selling to the gullible overseas, and initiate the partial removal of the RMA and other onerous laws and regulations). At the same time we demonstrate the power to produce when the shackles of statism are removed, we lay down a serious challenge to the prophets of sustainability that requires them to objectively define what they mean by sustainability so that investors and the grey ones know clearly and in advance what an eco industry actually looks like.

    Sure, this don’t give every business a break, but with eco untaxes, at least there’s more freedom and no new coercion, and nothing here that the eco warriors shouldn’t be chomping at the bit to sign up to.

    It’s a start, right.
    [Tune in tomorrow for policy proposal number two: Coming to the Nuisance.]

    In praise of industry and human production ...

    Any historians in the audience? Without Googling to find out, have you any idea who wrote this remarkable piece of prose? I assure you, the answer will be both surprising and enlightening -- and will be posted here at lunchtime if no-one has it by then. [Words have been changed only slightly in order to deter would-be queue jumpers, and because I can.]
    Across the span of scarce one hundred years, entrepreneurs and industrialists have created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature's forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents or cultivation, canalisation or rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground - what earlier century had even an inkling that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of human endeavour?
    It makes one almost proud to be a bourgeois, doesn't it.

    These words were written in the mid-nineteenth century - its author achieved worldwide popularity in the twentieth. How rare to hear such a hymn to human industry in the twenty-first.

    Transitions to freedom: Shall we kill them in their beds?

    Two bakers are talking politics. "How do you roll back the state?" asks the first. "One roll at a time," answers the second.

    A poor joke, but good advice. If you're serious about rolling back the state, then you set your compass in the direction of more freedom and less coercion, and you start hacking a path in that direction through the overgrown thickets of the overbearing state one hard-fought step after another.

    You might start by preparing 'transitional policies' - policies that introduce more freedom and reduce coercion one machete stroke at at a time.

    Writing in the Intellectual Activist (July 1995), Robert Tracinski gives the necessary principle for formulating all such policies:
    In judging a measure, one cannot hold it responsible for all aspects of a mixed economy - only for those aspects it changes. These changes can be evaluated by a straightforward application of the principle of individual rights: Does the reform remove some aspect of government control or does it add more control?...It is not a compromise to advocate reduced government control in one sphere even if controls in other spheres are left standing. It is a compromise, on the other hand, if one seeks to purchase increased freedom in one area at the price of increased control in another.
    Ayn Rand explains Tracinski's point about the error of compromise: “When a man has ascertained that one alternative is good and the other is evil, he has no justification for choosing a mixture. There can be no justification for choosing any part of that which one knows to be evil."

    Clear enough: Start with what you find, and design the means to work step by step towards your goal, without ever purchasing increased freedom at the expensed of increased coercion. This is what is meant by the phrase ‘ratchet for freedom.’

    A principled opposition -- call them 'Party X' -- would promote such policies. An intelligent opposition would design such policies to be picked up and passed around. To be picked up and passed around (and to be worth passing around) the policy should pass The Test of the Three Ps: it should be Practical, Principled, and arse-grabbingly Provocative. Provocative enough to be passed around; Practical enough to be work; Principled enough to move the game in the right direction. The principle with each policy must be clear: More freedom with no new coercion. Below are some examples of some policies that pass the test, but first, here's four proposals that fail:
    • Shall we kill them in their beds? How about this: presently, a strong case can be made for the proposal to kill the entire front bench of Government in their beds, along with the Leaders of all Opposition Parties and all the various Human Wrongs Commissars. Practical, and easily done (although I'd expect difficulties coordinating the overabundance of volunteers.) Certainly provocative – and strongly based on the principle of self-defence. A proposal I’m sure we could all live with, so to speak.
      But as Tracinscki says, we activists must beware of purchasing freedom in one sphere at the expense of increased controls in another - the subsequent police crackdown on the assassins would undoubtedly remove all the freedoms gained by such a move, and for that reason it should be shunned -- and I say that with obvious sadness.

    • Flat Tax: Here’s another example of this same error. A “low flat tax” would reduce taxes for some, true, but this reduction would be purchased at the expense of increased sacrifice by those whose present tax rates are below the chosen flat rate. Far preferable is the Libertarianz transitional proposal (and Green policy) to offer a threshold below which no tax at all is paid, along with the slow and gradual increase in the level of this threshold.

    • School Vouchers: The idea of school vouchers is popular (not least with the purveyors of twilight golf and the owners of Wananga o Aoteaora). Vouchers do purchase wider choice, it’s true, but only at the expense of either bringing private schools even more under the Ministry’s boot (as a once relatively free early childhood sector now understands), or of throwing the taxpayer’s money away on bullshit. Best just to give the schools back and be done with it.

    • Cap & Trade & Fishing Quotas: For some reason these two are currently fashionable with some US free-marketeers, but it doesn't take much examination to realise both measures purchase the very minimum of freedom, if at all, and do so at the expense of increased bureaucracy and the effective nationalisation of industry and of fish stocks respectively – and in the case of ‘cap and trade’ sets a finite limit on industrial production. Even carbon taxes would be better than this. Tax credits even better.
    So those are some failures. By contrast, here’s two measures that do pass our test:
    • A Conscientious Objection Tax Policy would increase freedom and, far from requiring more controls and more regulation, would actively promote and engender their removal. Here's how it could work: The Conscientious Objection Tax Policy should allow an individual to opt out of paying for and using the government’s die-while-you-wait Health system, its factory schools, and its featherbedded welfare – to conscientiously object to the theft required to pay for these multiple disasters, to agree to make his own arrangements for these (thank you very much), and in return to pay only 10% income tax!
      At a stroke the objector is better off (and with no new government controls introduced), and like all good policies, the Conscientious Objection Tax Policy would have a flow-on effect, kickstarting an explosion of freedom in the currently stagnant Health, Education and Welfare pools.

    • Here’s another intelligent transitional measure, the Transitional Drugs Policy proposed by my colleague Dr Richard Goode.
      Why not make drug law both more rational and more free by legalising all drugs less harmful to health than tobacco and alcohol? Who could object, right? Even Jim Anderton and Jacqui Dean don’t want to ban alcohol. Yet. (Although Jacqui isn't too sure about water). According to Britain’s Lancet journal of medicine, under this standard we could immediately legalise for recreational use (in decreasing order of harm): Buprenoprhine, Cannabis, Solvents, LSD, Methylphenidate, Anabolic steroids, GHB, Ecstacy, Alkyl Nitrites, Khat, and di-hydrogen monoxide.
      On what rational basis could anybody object? More freedom, less government, safer drugs, less money going into gang leaders’ pockets – and the apostles of moral panic challenged to explain the rational basis of their War on Drugs. Everybody except Jacqui Dean kicks a goal.

    Wednesday, 12 September 2007

    Petraeus reports

    Gen Petraeus' testimony to Congress on the state of play in Iraq had a lot riding on it. As they so often do, cartoonists Cox and Forkum go straight to the heart of the issue:

    Couple that with the point made by Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker that any withdrawal plan could spark Iraqi 'street fight'.
    Announcing a plan for rapid troop withdrawals in Iraq would signal Iraqis to start "building the walls, stocking ammunition and getting ready for a big nasty street fight" rather than working toward reconciliation, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq said Tuesday.

    Dawkins on Hitchens on the Big Guy

    Those, like me, who find great value in either Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens -- or both -- will appreciate Dawkins' review of Hitchens' book (in many ways a companion to his own) God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

    And if that's enough to get you twitching, then you'll enjoy Hitchens' account of taking his book on tour through the bible states of the US -- a sort of literary equivalent of the frightening tour through Alabama that Jeremy Clarkson and the Top Gear boys did with their cars daubed with slogans such as 'Man Love Rules, OK' and 'Country Music is Rubbish.' Dawkins describes Hitchens' tour, which went off with far less threat to life and limb than did that of Clarkson and the lads:
    With characteristic effrontery, [Hitchens] took his tour through the Bible Belt states – the reptilian brain of southern and middle America, rather than the easier pickings of the country’s cerebral cortex to the north and down the coasts. The plaudits he received were all the more gratifying. Something is stirring in that great country. America is far from the know-nothing theocracy that two terms of Bush, and various misleading polls, had led us to fear. Does the buckle of the Bible Belt conceal some real guts? Are the ranks of the thoughtful coming out of the closet and standing up to be counted? Yes, and Hitchens’s atheist colleagues on the American bestseller list have equally encouraging tales to tell.
    It's worth reading both pieces:

    Evidence please, says the skeptic

    "Evidence is all," said the skeptic. "So tell me," he said, staring at the pellucid liquid in his ice cold martini, "given that there's been no warming now for nearly a decade, what do you suggest are the four strongest pieces of evidence supporting your hypothesis of man-made global warming? And what are the four strongest pieces of evidence that any warming, whether man-made or natural, would be catastrophic?"

    What's your answer? Keep it brief.