Tuesday, 12 February 2008

I love it when he talks Austrian

Ron Paul.  "I love it when he talks Austrian," says Dale Amon.
Hayek? .... Check!
Hazlitt? .... Check!
Von Mises? .... Check!

Ron Paul gave an extremely cogent economics talk to Seattle Business leaders which you can watch here.  He even wants to dump Sarbanes-Oxley. What more could you ask?
Well, as a commenter suggests, how about a candidate who doesn't wear a tinfoil hat and who will finish the job in Iraq.  That said, when he takes off the tinfoil and talks Austrian he is damn good.  Given Alan Bollard's regular departures from reality and Don Brash's own venture into tinfoil-hat territory in the middle of last week, it's a speech they urgently need to listen to themselves.
UPDATE: By the way, if you're in or near Auckland and you too want to talk Austrian economics, then my colleague Julian is about to start delivering a comprehensive year-long course based on George Reisman's textbook Capitalism, which will involve one lecture a week and deliver the goods like nothing else will [course details here].  There are still a couple of places left, so email me if you're interested: organon@ihug.co.nz.

The welcome of the west

Discussing multiculturalism and western individualism with Tariana Turia one evening a couple of years ago, I pointed out that the real joy and great strength of western individualism is that it's open to everybody, and has nothing to do with race.  Unlike the tribal culture she promotes, Western culture is a culture of welcome -- it doesn't say "Go away," it says "Come in."  Naturally she demurred politely ("I've never heard anything so unintelligent," she sniffed), but I explained that I couldn't stay to finish the discussion as I had to go to concert in the Town Hall that rather demonstrated my point: a concert of Russian classical music performed in Auckland, conducted by a Peruvian, with a young Chinese soloist on piano and played by an orchestra containing people hailing from at least a dozen different countries.

I thought of that again when I saw this piece promoted on the Samizdat blog under the heading 'The Plus Side of Multiculturalism': its Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water, performed by a Japanese kabuki orchestra...

Not even a Grammy award for New Zealand's fourth-most popular folk-comedy duo could be as unlikely.

Tree huggers versus solar lover

Irony abounds in California.

California's Solar Shade Control Act protects solar panels from obstructions from sunlight, and in January, Santa Clara County officials sought to enforce the law against homeowners who themselves are staunch environmentalists.  Since the back yard of Prius-owners Richard Treanor and Carolynn Bissett contains lush redwood trees that block their neighbor's panels, the county ordered that the trees be cut down... [SOURCE: Houston Chronicle]

WARNING: White noise on housing (updated)

HLA-NZ-2yr Fascinating to see that in today's speech to parliament outlining her election-year programme, Helen Clark has signalled that her government will be making crown land available for new housing.  This is Clark's first genuine salvo in the battle with increasing housing unaffordability, and a bid to outflank John Key's platititudinous four-point plan for housing affordability announced at last year's National party conference. 

If the Clark scheme does manage to spike one of U-Turn Boy's key 2008 campaign guns, it will only be like spiking a pop gun -- even if the powder of Clark's own scheme is as wet as I expect.  On its face the idea is a good one and I look forward to the details, but I expect that we'll be looking at a similar sort of scheme proposed by the British Labour government last year -- one that that British writer James Woudhuysen called "a kind of Army Surplus approach to housing."

‘Public sector land use’ ... turns out to be barracks, canals, railway sidings, and turf owned by the National Health Service (NHS) or by local councils. Here we are asked to scrape the bottom of a very small barrel. In effect, the [government] searches for the public sector bits of the 5.5 per cent of England’s surface that is brownfield land.

In effect, as Woudhuysen says, this amounts to little more than a little massaging of existing "ultra-restrictive land provisions" in the addled expectation it will have some effect.  It won't. 

The hope is that a tiny relaxation of planning constraints will encourage the private sector ... and numerous hybrid housing vehicles, state monoliths and quangos to build more homes, especially homes that are ‘affordable.’

That approach won’t work. It will mean some extra homes are built, but it will not make proper home ownership cheap. It will provide jobs for – and protracted quarrels amongst – many happy middle-class people: planners, architects, building employers and environmentalists. Yet precisely because what it is proposing amounts to a job-creating exercise in changing jurisdictions and diffusing authority, the government will find that all its eye-catching, bullet-pointed initiatives will not lower the sale price, the rent, the maintenance costs or the buildings insurance attached to a real home.

houseprices1 It's impossible to say without seeing Clark's own eye-catching, bullet-pointed initiatives, but I suspect her proposal is little more than election-year white noise.  Even if Bernard Hickey is right that house prices will drop by up to thirty percent over the coming year, something more radical is needed.  Woudhuysen has such a proposal, one on which both Clark and U-Turn boy should sit up and take note.  I paraphrase his proposal for a New Zealand audience:

Real homes will only become affordable if, in principle, everyone can go to a farmer, buy a hectare of land for $30,000, and freely build a house there at a cost, perhaps, of just $100,000. That kind of transaction would lead to significantly lower prices than the $390,636 average asked for a home in NZ today. The state should stop preventing deals like this from being done. It should step back, and instead provide the infrastructure to let that house-on-a-freely-bought-hectare thrive.

That such deals can't be done, and won't be done as a result of either Clark's or Key's announcements is a measure of the overbearing powers of the state in relation to the land.

Ever since the Town and Country Planning Act of 1927, to buy that $30,000 hectare of land and build on it has been illegal. The nanny state, not the popular will, determines who may build where. The state essentially retains a complete monopoly over what land can be developed for housing and what cannot. To end house price inflation therefore, Britain must end its state-imposed scarcity of land.

The lack of affordability that characterises Britain’s housing market is not about too many people – single-person households, divorced families, immigrants and their children – chasing too few homes. It is not simply an economic question of supply and demand. The housing market is profoundly distorted by the political intervention of the state, which imposes drastic limits on land that can be developed upon. Only a similarly drastic counter-attack on state controls, amounting to a veritable bonfire of National's Resource Management Act and the country's forty-odd District Plans will allow housing in NZ to acquire a semblance of either rationality or efficiency.

What's needed in other words is not massage or spin, but a planning revolution -- one that sees the country's planners joining the shortened queues of the unemployed.

UPDATE 1:  The bureaucrats have obviously been given their talking points this morning ahead of the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon

Government  building 'experts' BRANZ (the chaps who okayed the cheap Tuscan claddings on nineties housing) for example have two chaps talking up Clark's bullet points in advance.  Ian Page is an economist with BRANZ, and if you find yourself wondering what sort of economist would want to work for this sort of organisation, then you only need to read his analysis to find out it's a very poor one.  Burgeoning land prices are affecting housing affordability, says a 'report' co-authored by Page, while developers are controlling ample supply.  Says 'research strategy manager' Chris Kane of BRANZ, the problem is not the state's restrictions on land development but greedy developers who are keeping their land off the market. Wellington City Council urban planning director Ernst Zollner followed on the talking points by "confirming" there were "huge tracts of land in Wellington zoned for housing ... but that doesn't mean it's available. In Wellington the land is tightly held by a few men," he said.

All this is a miasma of bureaucratic bullshit, as just a moment of thought and a sprinkling of real fact is enough to show. 

First of all, New Zealand's cities are among the least dense in the world, and land in them amongst the most expensive compared to income -- it's the planning restrictions put on land by councils themselves that makes them so.  And as with Auckland's planning gurus boasting about "releasing" land (ie., taking some rules off land owned by you and me), the amount 'released' is nowhere near the amount of land that's needed under current planning rules.

Second, and with all New Zealand's major cities ring-fenced by zoning, there's a rent-seeking bonus for any land-owner who owns land just outside the ring-fence or in a lower density area if he can sit tight until the zoning changes (or if he can wine and dine the planners and councillors and encourage them to change it). With the holding costs of empty land, you're only going to keep it empty if there's a huge windfall profit at the end of it -- such profits only come when plan changes rezone land from higher densities, which is what those developers are waiting for, and one reason they have such good budgets for wining and dining*.

Frankly, both ring-fencing around cities and enforcing lower densities within them are the twin causes of the problems (and its the state giving planners power to do both that needs to be expunged).   There's no problem with sprawl if the ring-fencing were relaxed (New Zealand's urban areas account for less than 1 percent of the total country, one quarter of that in the Auckland region. If all of NZ's 1,471,476 existing households were to be rebuilt on an acre of land -- which was the sort of thing proposed by Frank Lloyd Wright in his Broadacre project, right-- we'd all fit in an area less than one-quarter the size of the Waikato , and just think how easy it'd be to thumb a lift out to Raglan!).  And there's really no problem with higher densities within cities if the planners are muzzled, if the private sector gets to offer buyers what they want, and if the state is barred from building the sort of thing the state always likes to build -- which is building the slums of tomorrow.

What it comes down to is choice.  If people were only left free to live in the way they wanted -- however apoplectic that made all the many enemies of choice -- the problems of housing unaffordability would disappear overnight.
                                                                                        * * * * *

* As James Woudhuysen explains the point,

A housebuilder once typically took out an option with farmers so that he could buy their greenfield land at an agreed price in the event that he secured planning permission. However, once state policy shifted decisively toward high density, brownfield development, housebuilders found options on urban land much more expensive than the old sort. That made them build up their own stocks of land, whose price they could rightly expect to appreciate very nicely over just a few years. Land banking is a symptom of the inability of the housebuilder to deal with farmers through options, [and] because the state has decreed that low-density suburbia can no longer be his core business.

UPDATE 2:  Owen McShane told Leighton Smith the BRANZ report itself is one of the best he's seen, and says nothing like what's been reported -- which if true means it's the reporters who are following the Prime Minister's talking points, and those like me who relied on the reporters' integrity have again been misled.

What the report does show, says McShane, is that in Auckland for example it's the ring-fencing of the city by Auckland Regional Council planners that is causing land prices to explode.

UPDATE 3:  McShane also warns that Clark's speech and the talking points foreshadowing it are likely to see the announcement of a new policy from Team Red allowing the taking of private land by the state, to be given to other developers who suck up to nanny.   If true, this  presages the worst violation of property rights ever in this country, and shows what happens once respect for property rights is dead.

And there'll be no opposition at all from the blue corner, since it's a policy already announced by John Key in his point 2a of his "four-point plan" announced last year.

UPDATE 4:  Regarding that speculation about new laws to be introduced by the Clark Government allowing the involuntary acquisition of private property by the state, I could have said its introduction would effect the worst property rights violation proposed since National's U-Turn Boy proposed it himself last year ... or I could have said it will be the worst legislative attack on property rights since the National Party introduced the Resource Management Act in 1991 ... or I could have said that it presages the worst property rights violations since those empowered under the Public Works Act, which was introduced by the National Party in 1981...  Do any supporters of the National Socialists see a pattern here?

As it is, Helen Clark and the Red Team will simply be completing the path of property rights destruction begun by the Blue Team.  Remind me again why anyone would think the National Socialists are the answer?

UPDATE 5:  Helen Clark's speech is here.

Art & Entrepreneurship: The Michael Newberry Interview

Stephen Hicks' Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship has published the second issue of its newsletter, Kaizen, featuring an extensive interview with New York City artist Michael Newberry, no stranger to this blog.

A free PDF copy of the magazine can be downloaded here.  And above is my favourite Newberry: Icaarus Landing (36"x55," acrylic on board, 2000) which as Michael says is very simple, and very powerful -- a memorable image portraying an important virtue: the simple joy of success over great odds.  Hicks calls this Michael's most important symbolic work.   It simultaneously references both the Greek Icarus and the Christian crucifixion, while conquering both tragic tales, and triumphantly affirming man's place on earth.

This is what art can do.  (And below, by the way, is the painting 'on location' in Rhodes, Greece.)


Monday, 11 February 2008

Number five!

NZ's unofficial blogosphere rankings for January were released Saturday by Tim Selwyn and his co-blogger, and I'm happy to report that despite some movement around the rankings and still being incorrectly classified as "right," your loyal correspondent retains his place at number five.

  • Big mover is Whale Oil, who moves from sixth to fourth at the expense of the declining Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn;
  • The Sub-Standard, which moves up two places to seven on the back of some fairly negative publicity, and its companion-in-Labour KiwiBlogBog (the David Farrar attack blog), which leaps into the top ten.
  • Other big risers include Dave Gee, who leaps into both the top ten and my notice; NZ Conservative (up six to sixteen); Poneke, NewzBlog and The Hive (who gallop from nowhere to seventeen, nineteen and twenty-two respectively); and politicians Tony Milne and Aaron Bhatnagar, (who canter from lowly rankings to sit close together at twenty-four and twenty-five).
  • Other decliners include Cactus Kate (down four to fourteen); Jordan Carter (down three to fifteen); and Rodney Hide (down nine to twenty-three).
  • And if Messrs Selwyn and Bradbury deigned to be honest about it, Lindsay Perigo's SOLO 'team blog' would certainly appear at somewhere in the top six, if not higher. (SOLO figures:
    nz1361 * 261,136: 1000 (Google Analytics) + 45 + na + 60 = 1105)

A sea of classic cars


I had a great weekend, I really did, and thanks very much for asking.  Friday we barbecued, Saturday we plotted, and Sunday I had a fantastic time at the Ellerslie Classic Car show.

The day at the car show started far too early (dropping off my car at 7am with matchsticks under my eyelids), and ended in style later in the afternoon driving home in the clouds of delightfully scented exhaust smoke belched out behind this classic 1932 MG 'M' Type 'whale-tail' Midget -- the first true MG Midget, and the first of a long line of MG sports cars!


The J2's owner epitomises the day.  Here were people delighting in the technology of pleasure and the sea of beautiful cars designed with fun in mind, and pictured here are some of my own favourite machines on display.

Ferrari212Ferraris and more Ferrari 212 amid a small sea of lesser Ferraris.

AC CobraAston Martin and AC Cobra.AstonDB5 

Formula Fiat FiatSpider Colin Waite's Formula 1 Fiat, and a Fiat Spider like the one I once owned (in every way, that is, but for colour and condition).

AlfaTwo beautiful Alfa Spiders. Alfa-Red

Here Moggy A Healey or Two A small wave of Morgans and a tidal flow of 'Big Healeys.'

Lotus EliteA Lotus Elite ... and a Mercedes Sport waiting for its rebirth. MercedesSportOneDay

A Carman's KarmannSting in a Karmann's tail A Karmann Ghia with the '1500' badge on the boot, but the full-throated sting of a Chevrolet Corvair in the tail...

J2 Porsche Speedster, MGA and another J2.Porsche Speedster MGA and driverr

A sea of MGs in front of the main stand, including amongst them my own 1967 Midget, and dozens of MGBs, MGAs, Ts, and pre-1956 lovelies.  Just beautiful.

T_and_AMG's_a_crowd As_and_Ys_and Midgets As

Dirty dairying and dodgy drafting

newtechsample New Zealand's present and future prosperity is still based largely on agriculture, yet on the back of the recent report on the NZ environment by Parliamentary Commissioner of the Environment Jan Wright we're heard various fevered calls from water campaigners for a "moratorium" on agricultural development, from the Greens' Russel Norman for farmers to require resource consents for improving their productivy, and -- from this month's environment minister (the punch-drunk Trevor Mallard) -- a call for enforced "downsizing" of dairy farms and "limits on herd sizes." 

Enforced downsizing and limits on herd sizes!  Talk about shooting your prosperity right in the foot.

And following the weekend's fiasco over the alleged "deletion of a chapter critical of dairy farming"  the rhetoric has ramped up again, with the Greens' Russel Norman declaring  New Zealand's "clean green" image has been tweaked, that "industrial dairying" needs to pull its head in -- and this morning Federated Farmers president Charlie Pedersen appeared to concede the point, and National Party appeaser Nick Smith to embrace it.

Never underestimate the ability of politicians (and appeasement of them) to destroy your livelihood, while making a problem worse.

The problem they're mostly attempting to address is water -- how it's regulated, how dirty it is, and the role of agricultural intensification in the declining environmental standards.  Said Parliamentary Commissioner Jan Wright at the report's release, the report finds water quality is "declining" in areas used for farming, and "the Resource Management Act is causing fundamental problems for water management." In response, Murray Rogers of Canterbury's Water Rights Trust campaign group says "agricultural development needs to slow down while research and regulatory structures are put in place to manage water." 

Both Wright and Rogers are right, although not in the way they think they are. 

Since it looks like farmers could have their future prosperity limited on the back of what this report says about water, let's see first what it actually says.  (you can read the whole report here.) On inspection it turns out that the body of the report which contains the actual data  is less frightening than what the headlines and the deleted 'summary' chapter say about it.  (No surprise there -- it's on a par with the various summaries of the IPCC's global warming science.)  About water the body of the report says:

  • By international standards, freshwater in New Zealand is both abundant and clean.
  • Because New Zealand has a low population and high average rainfall, it has more total freshwater per person than more than 90 per cent of almost 200 other countries around the world. However, not all of this water is in the right place at the right time...
  • With land-use practices becoming more intensive, particularly in farming, there is greater demand for water now than ever before, and evidence is building that its quality is declining in many water bodies.
  • As the dominant land use in New Zealand, agriculture has the most widespread impact on water quality.
  • Rivers in catchments that have little or no farming or urban development make up about half of the total length of New Zealand’s rivers and have good water quality. Water quality is generally poorest in rivers and streams in urban and farmed catchments. This reflects the impact of non-point-sources of pollution in these catchments...  The proportion of the total river length that is in farmed catchments is more than 40 times the proportion that is in urban catchments.
  • In recent years, the impact of agricultural land use on water quality has grown as a result of increased stocking rates and use of nitrogen fertilisers. Within the agricultural sector, there has also been a move away from low-intensity to high-intensity land use (for example, converting from sheep farming to dairy or deer farming). The net effect of most intensified land use is to increase the amount of nutrients, sediment, and animal effluent dispersed into water bodies.
  • The median levels of nitrogen and phosphorus have increased in rivers within the national monitoring network over the past two decades. More specifically, over 1989–2003, there was an average annual increase in levels of total nitrogen and dissolved reactive phosphorus of 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent. While this increase may seem small, and is difficult to detect from the slope of the median (dark blue) lines in Figure 10.3, it signals a long-term trend towards nutrient-enriched conditions that are likely to trigger undesirable changes to river ecosystems.  Furthermore, New Zealand rivers with relatively high levels of nitrogen are deteriorating – becoming more enriched – more rapidly than rivers with low levels of nitrogen. This is illustrated most clearly in Figure 10.3.
  • 10.5.1Seventy-five of the 134 lakes in New Zealand for which nutrient data are available have high to very high levels of nutrients (see Figure 10.5, right). Thirteen per cent of these lakes are known as ‘hypertrophic’, meaning they are ‘saturated’ with nutrients and their water quality is extremely degraded. In such lakes, algal blooms are common and the health of aquatic animals is often at risk.
  • Levels of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and algae are between two and six times higher in lakes in pastoral catchments than in lakes that are in natural catchments (see Figure 10.6).
  • A large majority of the 3,820 lakes greater than 1 hectare in area in New Zealand are not monitored. By extrapolating the results for monitored lakes, it is estimated that the majority (about two-thirds) of all lakes are likely to have relatively low concentrations of nutrients and good to excellent water quality because they lie in natural, or only partially developed, catchments (Ministry for the Environment). The remaining third of lakes are likely to have high levels of nutrients and poor water quality.
  • Pollution from organic waste in rivers has reduced since the late 1980s. This indicates improved management of point-source discharges of organic waste, that is, pollution from a single facility at a known location, such as discharges from wastewater treatment plants, meatworks, and farm effluent ponds.
  • Two-thirds of New Zealand’s lakes are in natural or partially developed catchments, such as native bush, and are likely to have good to excellent water quality. Small, shallow lakes surrounded by farmland have the poorest water quality of all our lakes.
  • Sixty-one per cent of the groundwaters in New Zealand that are monitored have normal nitrate levels; the remainder have nitrate levels that are higher than the natural background levels, and 5 per cent have nitrate levels that make the water unsafe for infants to drink.
  • Fertilisers and stock effluent are major sources of the nitrogen and phosphorus in water bodies in agricultural catchments. The erosion of soil also contributes significant amounts of soil-bound phosphorus to waterways.

Now I don't know about you, but overall that looks like a pretty credible pass mark to me.  Says the report:  "By international standards, freshwater in New Zealand is both abundant and clean." So much for the blowhards.

But there do appear to be two main issues:

  1. increased draw-offs for irrigation and resulting 'competition' for water in Canterbury and Southland, and
  2. the effect of farming on water quality in lakes and rivers. 

You won't be surprised to hear I've got something to say about both, nor that what I've got to say involves property rights.

Competition for water is complicated by bureaucratic systems of allocation. Protection of water quality is stymied by bureaucratic systems of protection: which means there are no effective legal remedies against pollution, and no effective agent to argue on behalf of that which is being polluted.  Both problems are the direct result of what's known as the Tragedy of the Commons problem.  As long as a resource is either unowned or held in common ownership (which is the case with water in NZ), then the incentive for each resource user is to take as much now as they can, and whenever they can, no matter the consequences for the quality of that resource, and no matter the long-term effect on the quantity of that resource.  That's the tragedy: common ownership provides no incentive for genuine 'stewardship.'

The answer is clearer property rights, and greater common law protection of those rights.

As Jan Wright almost inadvertently pointed out in interviews yesterday, "the Resource Management Act is causing fundamental problems for water management."   She's right, but not in the manner she thinks she is. The fundamental problem caused by the RMA is insufficiently secure property rights. The cure for both problems is more secure property rights.  Let's me tell you how.

1. Competition for water
As water users realise every summer, competition exists for existing water resources.  Bureaucratic distribution of access to water does nothing to secure the resource, and nothing to give water users long-term security of supply.  By contrast, recognising secure property rights in water means that water users have a long-term interest in maintaining security of supply, and that rights to use water end up in the hands of those who are going to value it most. 

Instead of a bureaucratic system of allocating water use, a system of secure tradeable water rights give users of water the benefit of long-term time horizons to plan their use (discouraging the short-termism that generally stymies 'sustainable' resource use), and establishes for all users the real value of those rights.  With tradeable water rights, where and when water is in short supply price signals will communicate that information to users, indicating that more care should be taken with the valuable resource, and more attention paid to expanding the resource (by construction of greater collection capacity for example). 

There's nothing complicated about any of that: that's how the markets for all other resources function, and the long-term effect of such markets is that for all sorts of reasons -- including greater incentives for increased efficiencies -- resources become less and and less scarce, and of better and better quality. 

The key to swiftly effecting such a scheme is to immediately secure the rights of existing users, ensuring that such rights are tradeable so that they can be transferred to others who might value them more. A heavily politicised scheme for tradeable water rights was being discussed in 2006, but like all politicised schema the feet are still being dragged.  What's needed quickly to avert moratoria and meddling is a system of clear property rights by which water can be traded.  

As the Canadian Environment Probe organisation has said for a long time, a system of clear property rights and common law protections of property rights offers the best long-term security for water and those who rely on it. My colleague Craig Milmine has a dissertation from 2000 discussing the theory in detail, and showing how a water rights regime could function in the South Island's Kakanui district.

2. Water Quality
We're told by all the usual suspects that dirty dairying is destroying our clean green reputation, and that agricultural intensification is destroying water quality.  I suggest the answer to that is not more bureaucratic intensification, which is what has produced the problem, but less.

 Property rights under a common law regime provides superior environmental protection -- that is, a system of clear property rights as a means by which water can be protected in common law.  No question about that ( I invite you to follow those three preceding links to check that claim).    When the costs of one's own actions are one's responsibility, a change of behaviour is greatly encouraged.  When producers themselves have to pay for their own pollution, a change in methodology of production has to be considered.  When water users themselves have clear rights in common law to protect the water in which they have property, then looking at it as a long-term resource that merits looking after is going to happen.  And when neighbours' actions start to destroy that resource, then with their property rights secured rights' owners have the motivation to act in protection of that resource, and under common law they have simple and effective remedies with which to take action -- remedies that simply don't exist under the bureaucratically intense RMA. 

Under common law for example, those with recreational or water rights along the Waikato or with rights to fish the lakes of Rotorua or the headwaters of the Tarawera River would have recourse against farmers or pulp and paper mills who polluted the fishery -- whereas with the RMA the polluters get a license to pollute and the affected parties find they have no particular legal standing, and no particular protection in law to protect their resource, common law grants them solutions, standing, and the means by which to protect their resource long-term. 

What common law does in other words is give effective legal power to recognised resource users to protect their resource long-term.  If we genuinely want to rehabilitate NZ's clean green credentials, then I maintain the solution is better protection of property rights and the rehabilitation of common law remedies for environmental protection.  Simple.

But there’s a problem.  In fact, there's two problems -- and it's not dirty dairying, but dirty government . 

  1. The Resource Management Act (RMA) has successfully buried almost all avenues for common law environmental protection.  Despite their proven effectiveness over eight-hundred years, common law measures to protect against pollution are buried under the statutory framework of bureaucratic control set up  by the RMA.  To bring back common law environmental protection requires the RMA to be scrapped, and replaced by a 'codification' of rational common law principles of environmental protection.
  2. Even with the codification of common law, without clear ownership there is still no protection. To work effectively, property rights-based environmental protection needs an owner to stand up for his property, 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, leaving a government department as the conservator of record of much of the country's waterways.  The Environment Report should be regarded as a report card of how well they've carried out the role.

"Chapter 13 "
Whatever the real news about the release, non-release or pseudo-release of the last chapter of the five-yearly Environment Report, the fact remains that water quality in some places is going to get worse, and that it will be "non-point sources" such as agricultural runoff (those that command and control resource management can't so easily control) that will play a large part in that diminution.

The answer is to give greater power to those who value the resources under threat, and there is no greater power in law than the protection of property rights and the legacy of common law -- if only these were allowed to function as they should.

UPDATE:  Professor of  pastoral agriculture at Massey University Jacqueline Rowarth shows that there are no decent voices ranged on the side of farmers in this latest attack, (and, also, that the science side of Massey University is as infected with political correctness as the humanities side of the campus), and that top-down solutions are likely to be the only ones countenanced in the latest round for the dirty dairying debates.  

In this audio excerpt from Radio New Zealand she challenges none of the conclusions of either the actual or the bootleg report, and appears to implicitly regard any possible solution to necessarily involve more of the top down central-planning solutions that have led to the problems reported.  "We" need to stop pointing the finger; instead she says "we" clearly need to be "redesigning New Zealand's agricultural systems" -- on which the country's smartest brains need to be working -- and that playing the blame game will put off the smart brains.

Note both the brazen collectivism, the refusal to countenance evidence and -- instead of any suggestion of bottom-up solutions -- the overt reliance on central planning to solve the reported ills. 

Friday, 8 February 2008

Beer O'Clock is back - long live Beer O'Clock.

This week's Beer O'Clock post sees the return of beer writer Stu:

Recently, PC's two favourite politicians, Helen and John, fired their opening shots in what is bound to be another relentless tirade of worthless (and very breakable) election-year promises.  I won't promise anything for Election 2008, but I will give you a few of my hopes for the upcoming beer year:

  • I'd like to see some decent beer in a restaurant or two.  Restaurants have been dragging the six-pack for sometime now and I'm demanding a lot more of them.  You should too.  Frankly, a well-matched beer is at least the equal of any wine when matching with food (especially the buttery and/or spicy dishes that we love to dine out on).
  • Please, please, please, NZ brewers:  It's time we started to see a wider variety of styles being brewed right here at home.  Too many New Zealand craft breweries produce beers to compete with the big players, and more still produce lesser imitations of well known craft beer icons.  I'd like to see some of our best brewers really get out there and take a risk.  There are so many styles that have not yet been explored in the local beer industry (more on this in the coming weeks and months, as I take a trip through the many beer styles of the world and wonder why our brewers aren't brewing more of them).
  • Is 2008 the year we'll see an expansion of the Epic range?  Epic Pale Ale burst onto our shelves a couple of years back with a shed-load of hops.  It was a taste awakening for many casual beer drinkers, and continues to be so for those only just finding it.  Brewer Luke Nicholas recently left his longtime post as head brewer for the Cock and Bull chain of pubs to take over sole charge of the Epic beers and brand.  He's tentatively released a couple of white labels under the Epic brand but we're yet to see the widescale release of beer number two.  Rumour has it that a hoppy pale lager is on the way...
  • A new flag bearer for great tasting craft beer.  Richard Emerson (Emerson's) and Luke Nicholas (Epic and until recently, as noted above, Cock and Bull) have been tirelessly waving the flag of great beer for a few years.  Others have come and gone, risen and faded, or simmered away promising big things.  With success at last year's BrewNZ being split among some of the lesser known microbreweries, there is a possibility that either Three Boys, Renaissance or the huggable Steve Nally of Invercargill Brewery will take up the flag and wave it higher.
  • DB stepping up and making a decent beer for a change.  Beer for beer, Lion trumps DB in every department. The balance and subtlety of Stella Artois has it all over Heineken. Mac's Hop Rocker gives Monteith's Pilsner the hoppy run around.  Mac's Sassy Red is in a class that no DB has ever (in my lifetime) been within shouting distance of.  DB seem keener on producing over-priced alcopops, like Radler, than in making a beer with any sort of depth of character.
  • Of course, being election year, I'd like to see a political party campaigning on a decrease in the excise tax on alcohol.  That's the tax cut I'd most like to see (and probably the one we are least likely to get).  At least I'd like to see them answer why it is that all beers pay a higher-level of excise tax (per litre of alcohol) than the average bottle of wine?

Most of all: I'd like to see all New Zealand brewers sending me [and your editor] beer for evaluation.  The best of the best will make it into the limelight of 'Not PC', while the ones that don't make the grade will receive invaluable feedback from one of the country's most dedicated students of beer.  Call me on 0274186639 for shipping details - and I'm sure PC, in true Libertarian spirit, will not tax me a single drop.

All the best for 2008.  Have one for me.

Slainte mhath, Stu

Record high spin

Once again Lindsay Mitchell puts the spin about "record low unemployment figures" into perspective.

"In 1970 under 2 percent of working-age people were on welfare and more than half of those were widows."

In 1986 "under 7 percent of working-age people relied on welfare."

"Today, however, over 10 percent of working-age people rely on welfare." I don't think half of them are widows.

So when one-in-ten working age New Zealanders isn't working, how can you can call that "record low unemployment."

A tunnel under a safe electorate

Taxpayers have been told that we're going to spend $2.3billion plus costs to put a motorway in a tunnel under Helen Clark's electorate, with the dangled carrot that a "public-private partnership" could take up part of the slack.  Whale Oil notes an even more attractive carrot here, but David Farrar spots a contradiction: "Just three months ago Labour was hysterically attacking public-private partnerships as evil (despite passing a special law to allow them), and now they are embracing them again."  I think it's called an election, David.

08bridge435b That's not the only contradiction.  You'd think a better use of $2.3billion plus costs would be to get going on a second harbour crossing to relieve the most congested drive in New Zealand, and as Graham Reid reminds us, former councillor Richard Simpson and JASMAX have between them already come up with a scheme that's a beauty -- it's not only full of borrowed beauty, it could not only free up St Mary's bay, it could actually pay for itself. (More details in this post.)

The revolution will be Facebooked

A guest post here from Julian, who was at Tuesday's anti-FARC protest in Auckland.
1_239802_1_16The internet is transforming the way people communicate and organise, and now Facebook (and one engineer in a Colombian city) is being credited with creating "the widest international demonstration in history." A Facebook group set up by Oscar Morales less than one month ago culminated in over 4.8 million people in Colombia and thousands more in 140 cities around the world coming together in a _44404146_streamap220rejection of the activities of Colombia's Marxist revolutionary group FARC.
Oscar Morales, an engineer based in Barranquilla, Colombia, reportedly launched the No More FARC movement with five Facebook friends. The group now has some 272,578 members, which networked to produce Wednesday's worldwide groundswell against FARC's programme of murder, mayhem and kidnapping.
_44404187_bannercali_ap300_44404151_spainap220 Those who recall how brigades of text-messaging youngsters helped overthrow corrupt Philippines president Joseph Estrada seven years ago might reflect on how modern communications have changed things for today's protesters (and the failure of a recent Filipino coup has other lessons). This is likely to change the way elections and even revolutions occur in the future.
The photos above show the hundreds of thousands of anti-FARC protestors in Colombia's capital, Bogota, in Cali (below right), and Spain (left). [Pictures from BBC News.]
Colombians living in Auckland along with some New Zealanders joined the global protest in Queen Elizabeth Square at dawn on Tuesday.  The National Anthem of Colombia was sung and speeches were made (in English and Spanish) demanding liberty from the activities of the FARC. Photos below…..FARC_off_002
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Economics made easy -- we hope

Gonzo economist Steven Levitt , 'Stevo' to his friends, has announced he's offering a $10K top prize for the best video presentation of economics concepts. [Hat tip Division of Labor.] Most economics lectures are not pretty, he says, and he wants to help change that.

If there were a prize given for the best economics lecture at the University of Chicago in a year, I know who would have won it last year. I brought in a very high-priced call girl to guest lecture at my undergraduate Economics of Crime class. The next day, I asked my students whether they liked the lecture. More than one-third of them said it was the single best lecture they had attended in their four years of college. I had to agree with them.

Max Borders has already made his entry, which you can see at YouTube.  It's better than it sounds -- a less off-putting title might be 'Why Central Planning Doesn't Work':


After yesterday's 'Doctors for Freedom' post, commenter Mawm reminded me of the British GPs at Dr Rant who are beginning to rebel against the straitjacket of government interference that is the NHS.  Worth bookmarking.

And I'm happy to say that my old favourite Save the Humans is back up and running after a lengthy limbo.  Go visit, the site's writers are right back in form.  The latest post discusses how "with TV terrorism ratings down, Al-Qaeda is turning to the celebrity sex tape business in hope of generating publicity."  And 'Save the Humans' principal Jason Roth comments on what journalists have called "the race issue" in the Democratic primaries race -- an "issue" presumably because one of the Democratic candidates has a darker complexion than the other.

However, the issue of race is such a non-issue that journalists rarely find it necessary to say precisely what is “the issue”. And, hence, the issue.

The “issue” of race is that Americans are both afraid to discuss a person’s race and at the same time compelled to discuss it. Somehow, race matters, but it only matters in some vague way that affects other people’s judgment. And everyone seems to know that race is a “sensitive” issue. They prove it through their fear of telling you what’s so sensitive about it.

Feel free to post further recommendations for site visits in the comments. Or not.  Up to you.  If I'd visit them myself, I'll post them here on the front page.

The worst building in the world

ryugyong-hotel-lg Here's two serious contenders for the title of world's worst building. 

On the left (appropriately as you'll see) is the world's twenty-second tallest skyscraper, and Pyongyang's largest hotel -- although since the North Korean capital has few tourists and of those few barely any wish to spend a night in a vertical mausoleum, it remains steadfastly empty. 

Just as the North Korean economy if modelled on the economic thinking of Joseph Stalin, so too the un-hotel is designed somewhat in the manner of the Stalinist hotels built around Moscow in the forties and fifties.  But the one-hundred and five storey Ryugyong Hotel stands on a vastly different scale even to those brutes and with an aesthetic taste rarely if ever seen before.  Fortunately.

Amidst Pyongyang's skyline of uniformly tawdry ugliness, the Ryugyong Hotel's carcass stands tall.  "The hotel is such an eyesore," says Esquire magazine, "the Communist regime routinely covers it up, airbrushing it to make it look like it's open -- or Photoshopping or cropping it out of pictures completely." [Hat tip James Heaps-Nelson]

On a different scale, but no less repellent for that, is the new Akron Art Museum by competition winners Coop Himmelb(l)au*, who in their design statement say,

eyesore_200801aThe museum design introduces the firm's unique approach to historic structures, pioneered in Vienna, to the United States.... The museum of the future is a three-dimensional sign in the city, which transports the content of our visual world. There are no longer showrooms, which show digital and analogue visual information in the most diverse forms, but also the spaces which cater to urban experiences... Rather than going to the museum simply to look at art, visitors are welcomed to engage in artistic discourse, attend music and arts festivals, or maybe just hang out on their way elsewhere. Blah, blah, blah.

Says John the Recovering Architect (who's bestowed on James Howard Kunstler the accolade of Architectural Critic of the Year for his sterling work in identifying the world's eyesores every month ):

eyesore_200801b_2Another American city bends over to pick up the soap for a gang of Eurotrash art theory hustlers... To me it just looks like a mechanical alligator snarfing down a Beaux Arts post office... The upper jaw thing hanging over the original building is called "the roof cloud." I suppose it will allow visitors to "hang out" on the roof of the old building when it's raining out. Or something like that.

Feel free to click on all three images to feel the full grotesqueness of them all and, if you can handle a video of the un-hotel, click on that Esquire link.
                                                                               * * * * *

* Yes, that is the correct spelling.  A commenter at John's blog suggests "the "(l)" is to put emphasis on 'blaah' sound that one makes when they throw up, the same reaction one gets when they see their work."

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Key = Hide

Finally waking up from both his long political slumbers and his taxpaid weight-watcher's programme, in his first speech for the year ahead (which is helpfully titled "The Year Ahead" so it won't be confused with other years about which he might be talking) Rodney Hide appears to have been taking policy lessons from John Key. 

In a speech that shows every sign of setting the direction for the ACT party's last year in parliament, Hide claims ACT "has the opportunity to change the country's direction," and the goal "to get into a position where our vote is needed to form a government."

I'll let the voters themselves decide whether the latter is likely, but I was interested to see him declare that "to get [ACT] MPs elected we need to drive decent policy -- and to announce and campaign on policy that will make a difference to how the country is run."

Naturally curious what these policies might be, especially since ACT's website shows precious little sign of either announcing or campaigning on any such things -- and having a fair idea of what such policies might look like -- I scoured the speech like a schoolboy through a box of chocolate assortments to find those tempting policy treats from ACT that, as promised, "will make a difference to how the country is run."  I came up short.  For a start, this promised box of goodies has only three treats within --  those covering "the key areas we have been working on," says Hide, which are "Health, Education and the Economy" -- and while each one is wrapped in a tasty coating of criticism of the current state of play in each "key" area, there's little of substance to show why Rodney Hide's party is the answer should he ever get into a position where his vote is needed to form a government. 

To put it bluntly, despite the narrow focus -- and despite "working on" these keys to "making a difference" for some time -- there's precious few goodies here to show for it.  After removing the wrapper on Health, for example, we find just this small soft centre:

What Health desperately needs [says Hide] is greater transparency and accountability. Patients need to know what they're entitled to and what they can expect. Taxpayers need to know what their tax dollars are buying and that they're getting value for money. That alone would be a good first step in a sector where political success is still determined by money spent rather than results achieved.

Sounds like marshmallow to me, I'm afraid, and that's all the policy you're going to hear on one of the three "key" policies on which he's been working.  Just those two buzzwords of "transparency" and "accountability."  Buzzwords abound too in the second "key" area, Education. On removing the wrapper on this shy treat we find an even softer centre than before:

ACT [says Hide] is working on exciting policy in education that will improve vastly the opportunities for young New Zealanders and their families. We can make a big difference in education. And by making a big difference in Education, we can make a big difference to our country's future success.

This is clearly a policy that's big, exciting and different all at the same time (please pause for a moment to recover your breath from cheering), but one looks in vain to find out how, or why it's any one of these. Once again our hunger is unfulfilled,  but in the meantime at least there's there's plenty of cliches in the places where real delights should be. 

Maybe all the time spent "working on key areas" has been spent on the chocolate labelled 'Economy'?  On that there's much more of a hard centre, and what's said is allright ... as far as it goes ... but as policies these sure do put the "micro" into economics.

Hide talks hopefully about his Regulatory Responsibility Bill putting "a bonfire under mindless red-tape" and about ACT's Taxpayers Rights Bill "capping taxes to what they are now"  Fond hopes, I suspect.  And he talks fondly, once again, about his strangely obnoxious concept of "High Performance Government" -- an idea both frightening and oxymoronic at the same time.

He talks too, like all opposition politicians do at this time in the election cycle, of the "need to cut red tape" and to "cut taxes to boost the incentive to work and to invest."  True enough, but when even Hard Labour are using that line, the reawaked Rodney Hide starts to look somewhat like a time-worn Rip van Winkle who's awoken to find that the world has moved on around him, and he hasn't yet caught up. Time for radicalism, man, not soporific soft-soap and the resounding echo of me-tooisms.

At at a time when there IS no parliamentary opposition, this is a time for real radicalism, not cliches, buzzwords and promises to announce something later that other parties are already promising to promise. 

If this speech was a bid to announce Hide's intention to campaign on detailed policies that will make a genuine difference to "how the country is run," then it might have been better in my view to have fronted up with some.

To give the same policy advice I'd give to National's policy directors, if you're truly genuine about policies that change the country's direction then you'd better start campaigning with some policies.  And you wouldn't be worrying about those policies being stolen, because if they are and you're genuine about changing the country's direction, then you'd know that you'd just done that. You'd cheer every time they're stolen, and then you'd go even further out on your road to making your final goal nearer. 

That's what you'd do if you were really genuine, in this year and in every year.

It's worth repeating this for the record: if National aren't the answer, then on this sort of evidence neither is ACT.

Looks like a good bloke to me

I'm beginning to like the cut of Phillip Field's gib, especially as it looks like he's happy to thumb his nose at bureaucracy as he has his gib installed.  I had no problem with him helping out a constituent who was being mucked around by the Immigration Department, I appreciated his voting against Labour's speech rationing and nationalisation of children bills, and I enjoyed hearing yesterday's news that he's pushed on with much need building work at his rental homes without worrying himself about getting pesky building consents first.

If he wasn't a politician, I could almost like the man.

No email

If any readers have sent me an email in the last day or so, allow me to point out that iHug's email is down, and I don't have it. iHug say their engineers "know about this issue and are working to fix it as quickly as possible."  So don't hold your breath for a reply if you're waiting for one.

Doctors for Freedom

We've had Doctors Without Borders, Doctors for Global Health and Doctors For Life.  Now it's time for something new: Doctors for Freedom, an organisation "dedicated to the single most important component of excellence in medical care:  personal autonomy."  They're two American doctors who believe in freedom first -- who say, "Letting drunken sanctimonious blowhards control health care is the same as, to steal from P.J. O'Rourke, "giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys..."

Do you believe that we must "keep the promise to our seniors" that became the disastrous glutton called Medicare?  Do you believe that people should have a right to purchase cigarettes and stereos and still receive free health care? Do you believe that individual physicians have a duty to society at large?  Do you believe in the goodness of big government compassion?  Do you believe that doctors have an obligation to  to face the daily threat of criminal sanctions including fines and imprisonment, in order to care for certain patients?

"If you believe any of this malarkey," the say, "then you badly need to spend time with us here at Doctors for Freedom." Looks like an invitation worth taking up, but note their warning:

WARNING: The material contained [there] should NOT be viewed by those lacking intellectual honesty, or a sense of humor!  Proceed at your own risk.

New UK libertarian party

Britain now has a much-needed libertarian party.  Their website is here, but sadly their promised "radical manifesto" has yet to appear.

Let them know they're welcome to borrow as many policies as they like from this radical manifesto.  They could do a lot worse, you know.

"A new concept for John Key. It's called a principle." (Updated)

Liberty Scott has "a new concept for John Key.  It's called a principle."

Obviously not something seen a lot around John Boy's office.  Rarely to be observed in National's policy manifesto.  And Certainly nowhere in evidence in his latest flip flop:  National's promise to abolish the Maori seats was one of the few remaining policies on which John Boy still hadn't backed down, so it comes as no surprise to see him finally get on to it.  His new policy is to hold off abolishing the race-based seats until all the treaty grievances that can be dreamed up by the grievance warriors -- every single one of them -- has wended its way through all the lawyers' offices of New Zealand. 

As Scott says, offering the backdown in this particular form offers a significant incentive to all the gravy train riders to keep the train right on rolling, and is presumably a prelude to making coalition deals with the Maori Party.

700053If a vote for Labour gets you a communist or two for no extra charge, looks like a vote for National this year gets you a tribalist who believes that the chief problem for most Maori is that they suffer from  “Post-Colonial Traumatic Stress Disorder,” and that the holocaust happened in Taranaki.

If you thought it was absurd yesterday to see Key hongi-ing the leader of an armed group who talked abut assassinating him, just think about him hongi-ing Tariana Turia later in the year as he welcomes the woman who was considered too unstable for a seat at Helen Clark's cabinet table to a seat around his.

UPDATE: Lindsay Perigo is at his deliciously acerbic best in describing yesterday's Key Waitangi shenanigans:

Yesterday’s Waitangi Day celebrations, acclaimed by the media as the most peaceful in a long while, were actually the most sickening ever.

They plainly confirmed the voluntary servitude of the media to Mordi separatists and the dearth of decency among mainstream politicians. In fact, the only one who came through with her dignity intact was Helen Clark.

First was the revolting spectacle of John Key, now double-jointed from all his recent flip-flopping, brown-nosing one of the specimens implicated in the proposal to assassinate him. Craven cowardice doesn’t come any more craven and cowardly than this.

Then came the brown-nosing of the same wannabe terrorist and his family and other co-conspirators by TVNZ’s Close Up programme, which had paid some of the expenses of these creatures. Close-Up was simply wall-to-wall Harawira/Iti, including nauseating genuflection by reporter Janes and presenter Sainsbury...

Read on here for Perigo's full report.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

One-Law-For-All Day

Expect another day tomorrow of protest, anger and hot air, all now par for the course for the day on which New Zealand was founded.  You'd think, in a country with as much to offer and as much to celebrate as New Zealand has that our National Day itself would be something to celebrate. Not likely.

Even without a full moon, Waitangi Day instead regularly produces a ragtag cavalcade of mischief-makers intent on misunderstanding whatever anyone else says -- no matter how simple and however straightforward. Every year there's a whole lot of people doing a whole lot of talking very loudly past each other -- often the same people every year. I expect no less this year. I expect another Waitangi Day with the same protests as last year, the same people loudly proclaiming that the state owes them a living ... and more claims for even more legal privilege  based on race.

Another Waitangi Day in which the the usual parade of politicians and protestors confront and avoid each other, in which the professional grievance industry bewail their fate and issue further demands for the taxpayer to give 'til it hurts.  Frankly, we don't need another tax-paid gravy train or another grievance industry or yet another charter for separatism or a forum in which to demand it -- and this was never what was promised by the Treaty.  We simply need good law -- good colourblind law.  That was what the Treaty promised.

We don't need more nationalisation of land, of seabed or of foreshore; we simply need a legal system in which what we own is protected, in which real injustices can be proven swiftly and without great expense, and where justice can be done and be seen to be done.  That was what the Treaty made possible.

The disappointment is that the promise has not always been the reality.

Perhaps the greatest disappointment every Waitangi Day is to reflect that for all the time spent on Te Tiriti in New Zealand school rooms, there's so little understanding of what it means, nor of the context in which it was signed.  Teaching real history is no longer fashionable.  Teaching myths is.

Partnership? The Treaty was not about 'partnership' of the form now espoused -- neither word nor concept appeared in the document. It was not a Treaty offering permanent welfare, nor a tax-paid gravy train into perpetuity.  In three short articles it simply offered the introduction of British law, and the rights and protections that were then protected by British law.  That was it. 

Biculturalism?  The Treaty that was agreed talked neither about race nor culture.  Like British law itself at the time it was colourblind.  What it promised was not the politics of race but the same protection for anyone, regardless of race, creed or skin colour.

Would that today's law was so blind.

At the time it was signed, the context of British law really meant something.  By the middle of the nineteenth century, British law -- which included British common law -- was the best the world had yet seen.  It was what had made Britain rich, and what still makes the places where British law was introduced some of the most prosperous places in the world in which to live today. From the perspective of one-hundred and sixty-eight years later, when individual rights and property rights are taken for granted even as they're slowly expunged, it's easy to take the framework and protection of British law for granted.  Looked at in the context of the history of human affairs however it was a tremendous achievement: the first time in which individual rights and property rights were recognised in law, and protected in a relatively simple and accessible framework.  Perhaps history's first truly objective legal system

The introduction of British law to the residents of these Shaky Isles  at the bottom of the South Pacific, which at the the time were riven with inter-tribal warfare, was a boon -- and those who eagerly signed knew that.  Their immediate perspective might have been short-term -- to forestall a feared annexation by France; to end inter-tribal violence; to secure territorial gains made in the most recent inter-tribal wars; to gain a foothold for trade -- but there's no doubt they had at least an inkling that life under British law promised greater peace, and the chance at prosperity.

"He iwi tahi tatou"

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

That was a good thing.

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

To be fair, the Treaty itself isn't much to see. What Hobson brought was not the founding document for a country, but a hastily written document intended to forestall French attempts at dominion (and the Frank imposition of croissants and string bikinis), and which brought to New Zealand for the first time the concept of individualism, and the protection of property rights and of an objective rule of law.
But the Treaty itself was short, spare and to the point. What it relied upon was the context of British law as it then existed.   The Treaty's three short clauses promised little -- as everyone understood, the intent was to point to the wider context and say 'We're having that here.'  But that understanding is now clouded with invective, and the context that is no longer with us. 

British law is not what it was, and there's a meal ticket now in fomenting misunderstanding of what it once promised.

The Treaty signed one-hundred sixty-seven years ago today was not intended as the charter for separatism and grievance and the welfare gravy train that it has become - to repeat, it was intended no more and no less than to bring the protection of British law and the rights and privileges of British citizens to the residents of these islands -- residents of all colours. That was the context that three simple clauses were intended to enunciate. And one-hundred and sixty-seven years ago, the rights and privileges of British citizens actually meant something -- this was not a promise to protect the prevailing culture of tribalism (which had dominated pre-European New Zealand history and underpinned generations of inter-tribal conflict, and which the modern myth of 'partnership' still underpins), but a promise to protect individuals from each other; a promise to see Maoris not as part of a tribe, but as individuals in their own right; a promise to protect what individuals own and what they produce by their own efforts. That the promise is sometimes seen in the breach than in practice is no reason to spurn the attempt.

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


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

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

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

Harsh, but true. And note those words before you hyperventilate: "not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included)."   Some one-hundred and fifty years before, the same boon was offered to the savage, dirt-poor Scottish tribesmen who were living then much as pre-Waitangi Maori were.  Within one-hundred years following the embrace of Western civilisation, Scotland was transformed and had became one of the centres of the Enlightenment.  Such was the cultural gift being offered.

The boon of Western Civilisation was being offered here in New Zealand not after conquest but for just a mess of pottage, and in return for the right of Westerners to settle here too. As Sir Apirana Ngata stated, "if you think these things are wrong, then blame your ancestors when they gave away their rights when they were strong" - giving the clue that 'right' to Ngata's ancestors, equated to 'strong' more than it did to 'right.'

Who 'owned' New Zealand?

It's said that Maori owned New Zealand before the Treaty was signed, and that while the 'shadow' of sovereignty was passed on, the substance remained.  This is nonsense.  Pre-European Maori never "owned" New Zealand in any sense, let alone in any meaningful sense of exercising either ownership or sovereignty over all of it. 

First of all, they had no concept at all of ownership by right; 'ownership' was not by right but  by force; it represented taonga that was taken by force and held by force -- just as long as they were able to be held (see again, for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand').  Witness for example the savage conflict over the prosperous lands of Tamaki Makaurau, over which generations of Kawerau, Nga Puhi, Ngati Whatua and others fought.  There was no recognition at any time that these lands were owned by a tribe by right -- they were only held as long as a tribe's might made holding them possible, and as long as the fighting necessary to retain them brought a greater benefit than it did to relinquish them (and by the early 1800s, with so much fighting to be done to hold them, all tribes gave up and left the land to bracken instead).

Second, even if the tribesmen and women had begun to develop the rudiments of the concept of ownership by right (the concept of ownership by right being relatively new even to 1840 Europeans) they didn't own all of the country -- they only 'owned' what they owned.  That is, what Maori possessed were the lands and fisheries they occupied and farmed and fished and used.  This was never all of New Zealand, nor even most of New Zealand. The rest of it lay unowned, and unclaimed.

Third, prior to the arrival of Europeans Maori did not even see themselves as 'one people'; the word 'Maori' simply meant 'normal,' as opposed to the somewhat abnormal outsiders who had now appeared with their crosses and muskets and strange written incantations. The tangata whenua saw themselves not as a homogeneous whole, but as members of various tribes.  This was not a nation, nor even a collection of warring tribes.  Apart from the Confederacy of United Tribes -- an ad hoc group who clubbed together in 1835 in a bid to reject expected overtures from the French -- there was no single sovereignty over pre-European New Zealand, no sovereign entity to cede sovereignty, and no way a whole country could be ceded by those who had never yet even laid claim to it in its entirety.

Our 'Founding Document'?

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

What the Treaty did do, for which we can all be thankful, was to bring British law to NZ at a time when British law was actually intended to protect the rights of British citizens, and it promised to extend that protection to all who lived here. For many and often differing reasons, that was what the chieftains signed up to.  To become British citizens, with all the rights and privileges thereof.

But the Treaty itself was not a founding document. No, it wasn't. On its own, with just three simple articles and a brief introduction, there was just not enough there to make it a document that founds a nation. As a document it simply pointed to the superstructure of British law as it then was and said, 'let's have that down here on these islands in the South Pacific.'

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

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

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

Thank goodness.

The Dream

Waitangi Day comes just two weeks after Martin Luther King Day. It might be worthwhile to remind ourselves of King's dream for the future of his own children:

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character..."
Perhaps we will one day celebrate that dream down here -- not as a dream, but as reality.  Celebrating our national day not as a charter for grievance that continues to poison discussion, but instead with real joy.  Celebrating that the colour of a man's skin is of no importance compared to the content of his character.  Shaking off the gravy train of grievance.

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

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Linked Articles: Unsure on foreshore: A Brash dismissal of Maori rights? - Not PC
Do you have a people? - Not PC
Property Rights: A Gift to Maori New Zealand - Peter Cresswell
What is Objective Law? - Harry Binswanger
No Apology to Indians - Thomas Bowden
Superseding the Treaty with something objective called "good law" - Not PC
All hail the Industrial Revolution - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Individualism - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Rights - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Need - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Welfarism - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Ethnicity - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Government - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism:Constitution - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Property - Not PC
A Constitution for New Freeland - The Free Radical

More from the Archives: Maoritanga, Racism, History, Law, Constitution

UPDATE: Lindsay Perigo forgoes the idea of 'One Law For All Day' and plumps instead for going the whole hog: "Dump the Treaty and the Day; Let’s Have Western Civilisation Day!" he says.