Monday, 5 May 2008

Boris beats Ken

boris-johnson Let me propose a useful test for all you Tories, and all you died-in-the-wool Boris lovers.  This is for every one of you who has hated everything Ken Livingston has ever done, including breathing, and who's cheered to a standstill Boris Johnson's weekend victory over the mad Marxist. 

I suggest you take a deep breath, and start being realistic. 

I suggest, as one way of measuring Boris's performance in office, that you might want to  award Boris a point every time he overturns something Red Ken introduced -- which was always something egregious.  How many points do you think he'll have earned before London's voters throw him out? 

And what do you think this will say about the nature of Tory government?

Paying for a needless new train set -- through the nose

Ever wondered why the government was the only bidder in the latest rail sale? 

Or wondered why all the people praising the Clark Government's decision to pay Toll Holdings an exorbitant sum to buy back a failing rail 'network' didn't use their own money to  buy their own shares in the network when they were available?

Answer to this last question: rail supporters are dumb, but not that dumb.  Answer to the first question: because, as everybody knows,  this 'network' is not a money-maker it's a black hole down which money gets poured, and as such, perfectly suited to government ownership because the government can simply point the gun at taxpayers to get them to pick up the tab for a train set that too few people want to use.  A tab that's cost taxpayers the princely sum of almost $1.5 billion to buy (you can read Liberty Scott for the breakdown of this huge sum), with hundreds of millions of dollars to come on the likes of new and upgraded rolling stock, and ongoing costs (read subsidies) of tens of million dollars a year.

This is paid for with money taken from our pockets by force. This is money that taxpayers could have used productively. This is money we won't see again. 

This is why when you're berating the 'wastefulness of consumerism' -- and I know there are readers who do -- you might like to know that the biggest consumer and by far the most wasteful is the government.

As I blogged a couple of weeks ago, the government is not a producer, it's a consumer. This is not an investment: it's a waste of bloody resources.  In fact, that's the precise nature of every government so-called investment.  Whereas productive investment is reproductive -- producing the wherewithal by which to  purchase its replacement -- goods used by consumers (and governments) are consumer goods, which are destructively employed. Unlike producer goods, they disappear with use.

You see, when a businessman invests in goods or assets, he expects to make sales from these assets sufficient to replace them, and more. He expects to recoup his expenditure, with a bit left over besides. In other words, sales made on the basis of these assets makes possible their own replacement when they are physically consumed. It is reproductively employed.

Not so with government, "because governments are not producers: they are consumers. "

They are not self-sustaining: they are parasitical.   In other words: government does not invest, it consumes.  Hence only private businesses can be described as self-sustaining, since only the activity of private businesses is so designed as to recoup its investment in assets, and therefore to preserve its 'seed corn.' 

Put bluntly, all that a government produces requires consuming the production of others; all the assets in which it 'invests' are at best only consumptive production that is dependent on mooching off real producers.  Without this mooching, every government asset is on the road to disappearing without a trace.

used by consumers to consume are consumer goods, which are destructively employed. Unlike producer goods, they disappear with use.

This mooching is called "socialising the losses."  It's also called "a waste of bloody money" -- and, if you care about such things, a "complete waste of resources."  In other words, it's neither sustainable, nor an investment.

If you think this assessment is wrong, that this is an excellent investment that the country desperately needs -- the best use of 'scarce resources' -- then go right ahead and challenge Liberty Scott's figures here and here and here and here and here.

NB: And if you disagree with the purchase and think a John Key National Government is going to overturn it?  Then someone needs to tell you you're dreaming: despite the waste and despite earlier pledges that they would, they won't.

"Global warming may 'stop', scientists predict" - TELEGRAPH

Britain's Guardian newspaper whines that the "deliberately contrarian" tone of tabloid newspapers has "damaged public perception of climate change," poor lambs. 

Little wonder the volume of "deliberately contrarian" writing is rising, since as global temperatures simply refuse to follow the course the warmists' models say they should, the "mainstream warmist" position is looking increasingly indefensible.  And the "deliberately contrarian" position isn't just confined to the tabloids.  Even scientific journal Nature is now publishing peer-reviewed articles suggesting that despite global warming models predicting  catastrophic warming, we're unlikely to see any increases in average global temperature until at lest 2015.  The Telegraph (a broadsheet)summarises the uncomfortable news:

Global warming will stop until at least 2015 because of natural variations in the climate, scientists have said...  This would mean that the 0.3°C global average temperature rise which has been predicted for the next decade by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may not happen, according to the paper published in the scientific journal Nature.

For years skeptics have been pointing out that there's just no way the warmists' models can account for every variable in the global climate, and until they can the model's results are just so much hot air. This adjustment is the result of adding several new variables that were previously ignored, including "how the oceans behave over decades,"  "the strength of the Gulf Stream and the El Nino cyclical warming event in the Pacific," and "the giant ocean "conveyor belt" known as the meridional overturning circulation (MOC), which brings warm water north into the North East Atlantic."  All fairily important one would have thought.

Defending the warmists' long-term models, Hadley Centre scientist Richard Wood said that "climate predictions for a decade ahead would always be to some extent uncertain."  To say nothing of climate predictions for a century, or for government action based wholly and solely on these "uncertain" models. 

To put the present result in context, if these new papers are correct it will mean there will have been no warming from 1998 to 2015, a period of seventeen years.  So much for catastrophe. 

In fact, rather than showing catastrophe, the record would show that since the 'coming ice age scare' finished in 1979, when modern warmism began, the globe will have warmed for nineteen years (from 1979 to 1998),and then plateaued for seventeen or so.  Hardly catastrophic.  And hardly a strong endorsement of either the global warming models, or the still unproven causal link between CO2 and global temperature.

Looks like those models are no more reliable than your average TV weather forecast. 

Perhaps those endorsing measures to throttle industrial civilisation on the basis only of the unreliable weather forecasts of the IPCC might use this hiatus to reconsider the headlong rush into poverty and food riots for which they are already responsible.  Perhaps they'll resile from talking up dramatic sea-level rises on the bask of their horrifying models -- from strangling the use of coastal land and all their talk about the millions of "climate refugees" from low-lying islands (of which the world is still waiting to see the first such refugee) .

Perhaps those who've joined the warmist chorus out of ignorance -- not because they know anything more than anyone else, but only to show their friends they 'care about the planet'-- could just keep quiet for a little while.  Perhaps those who've been scaring the crap out of impressionable and illiterate young kids with their 'we're all gonna die' litany could just shut the fuck up for a while, so that kids can realise this is a great world in which to live rather than the place of irrational disaster-prone madness that warmists would have us believe.

And as NZ Climate Science Coalition convenor Owen McShane points out:

    These findings make two important points. The first is that natural climate variation means that there will be no warming until 2015. This is wonderful news, because it gives us lots of time to stop and think before we leap. NO more biofuels and ruminant follies.
    The next point is that all the climate models failed to predict this — until now! That means that all the climate models have grossly underestimated natural variation and they are all must be regarded with extreme suspicion.
    Therefore we need a Royal Commission to look at the whole thing before we completely destroy our economy for something that may not exist and is certainly not imminent.
    Definitely time for a tea break.

I'm not so sure about the Royal Commission, but the fact remains that to destroy your economy on the basis of extremely flawed extremely long-range weather forecasts is just insane.  (And as Climate Debate Daily reports, "An insider exchange between climate modelers reveals the extent to which they are themselves leery of attributing predictive power to their models ...continue » Click on "EXPAND ALL.")

Time for that cup of tea, I'd say, if not a complete lay down.

PS: Why not go join the legion of voters at Kiwiblog and go vote in the poll on the left-hand side for "Global Warming is a hoax and there is no evidence for it ."  It's currently leading the pack.

UPDATE:  "Can global warming’s vested interests close the deal on greenhouse gas regulation before the public wises up to their scam?" asks Steven Milloy of the Junk Science site:

    When NASA’s James Hansen sounded the alarm in Congress 20 years ago, he predicted that rising concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide, or CO2, would drive global temperatures higher by 0.34 degrees Celsius during the 1990s. But surface temperatures increased during that decade by only 0.11 degrees Celsius and lower atmosphere temperatures actually decreased.
    Global temperatures remain well below an El Nino-driven 1998 spike despite ever-increasing atmospheric CO2. Global warming hysterics purport that manmade emissions of CO2 are the primary driver of global climate and that controlling emissions will favorably affect climate. While this is obviously not so since it virtually supposes that without human activity climate change would not occur, it nevertheless remains their
    The Nature study, however, reasserts Mother Nature in her rightful place as our climate dominatrix. Although there is no evidence that manmade CO2 emissions play any detectable role in
climate change, the very idea that Mother Nature may cool the planet despite humanity’s furious output of greenhouse gases should be even worse for the climate alarmists’ way of thinking.
    It would mean that greenhouse gas emissions are actually beneficial, since without them, Mother Nature’s cooling could be quite damaging.

He concludes:

    The bottom line of global warming—and that is why so many are behind it—is that its many vested interests are on the verge of a financial and political bonanza, something that scientific facts and climatic realities are likely only to spoil.
    So when global temperature doesn’t behave as predicted, excuses and explanations must be found to prevent the almost-mature golden goose from being roasted for dinner.
The spin on the Nature study provided by its authors to the New York Times is that, “We’re learning that [natural] climate variability is important and can mask the effects of human-induced global change. In the end this gives more confidence in the long-term projections.”
    The attempted logic here is that even though the alarmists have been wrong in the past—been there, done that—their failure somehow sets them up for more certain future success.
    We look past this logical fallacy at our own peril. I can’t wait for their Orwellian pronouncement that global cooling is the new global warming.

Petrol Porkies

As petrol at NZ pumps head towards two dollars per litre, commerce minister Lianne Dalziel says his morning there's nothing her government can do to lower prices.

Au contraire, Lianne.  Since the government is taking a fairly savage proportion* of the cost of every litre in tax (which is far more than the profits the oil companies make on every litre of their own oil every litre, and with GST on top) I'd say there's something very tangible the government can do, don't you?  

And this is not to mention the extra twenty-five cents per litre (plus GST) that the government is about to levy to pay for feelgood anti-global warming measures, and for its latest bout of constructing public transport infrastructure that few people want to use.

So frankly, Lianne, there's something very simple your government could do to lower petrol prices: Stop stealing.

* Last I checked this was something of the order of forty-seven percent, and that was before the extra five cents per litre 'green' tax added on April Fool's Day this year.  Perhaps someone with a calculator and access to an accurate account of the theft could let me know this morning what it amounts to now?

UPDATE:   Thanks to commenters JC and 'Spam,' who've come up with these figures:

    Going back to early 2007, taxes were $0.50 excl GST.
    GST is charged on the total price of fuel, and with a total price at around $2 / litre, the GST component is about $0.22. Now, with the importer margin being only around $0.18 the government is making more money out of GST ONLY than the oil companies are making on a per-litre basis!
[On top of that there's] the ACC levy of 7 cents, soon to be 9 cents on each litre. 
    So you have a 50 cent levy, a 9 cent ACC levy plus 22 cents GST... in round figures [that's about] 80 cents per litre to the government.
To put that in perspective, the government's take is about what we used to pay for petrol around 1997/98.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Sunday School reading: The other religion of 'peace'

Another reading today from Christianity's Holy book, this time from the New Testament -- the one that brought a "new covenant" to the world after the Old Testament's reign of blood.  Reading now from Matthew:

More here in a similar vein from the New Testament.

As they say, know your Bible. [Ref: Russell's Teapot]

Friday, 2 May 2008

Beer O'Clock: Hoppy Pale Ales

Stu from SOBA continues his series on all the basic beer types worth drinking. This week, your Hoppy Pale Ales. . .

PC_hoppy pale ales Hoppy pale ale is king in the craft beer market. Whether it be the wildly popular “hoppy” American pale ale (aka “APA”), or the more traditionally hopped English pale ale (aka “bitter”), pale ales are being hunted down all over the world by almost everyone who loves good beer.  Which, if you're reading this, should mean you.

Those who know me tend to class me as a malt lover, but I do love hops too. These warm afternoons and coolish evenings are as good a time as any to drink hoppy pale ales, so here are three local pale ales that I’m particularly digging right now:

  • Mac’s Brewjolais is, by my reckoning, the best special release I’ve tasted in the last 18 months – from any brewery. Celebrating the late summer hop harvest, Brewjolais is quite different from most other beers in the fact that it uses fresh “green” hops straight from the vine (usually they are dried in kilns before being packed and shipped out to breweries). Mac’s release the beer every autumn and, while being slightly different each year, it has always been a hoppy pale ale. This year’s vintage is an in your face, but superbly balanced, showcase of Riwaka hops (the hop formerly known as Saaz D, and made famous by Emerson’s Pilsner). Get to your local Mac’s bar now and experience the difference.
  • Emerson’s Falconer’s Rest, the latest from Emerson’s experimental “Brewer’s Reserve” range, is the most “English” of the three even though it uses no English ingredients (NZ malt and a combination of New Zealand and Slovenia grown ‘styrian golding’ hops). It’s firmly bitter with a nice base of caramelly malt and a good dose of old-fashioned marmalade in the hop flavour. The beer is very reminiscent of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord (Madonna’s favourite beer, for those who care) and hopsmackingly delicious! Get it in takeaway flagons at Regional Wines and Spirits now but, be warned, it is a very limited release. It’ll probably be on tap at Galbraith’s and a couple of the more well-known Christchurch beer bars soon (if not already).
  • Epic Pale Ale is the most widely known of the three and, very importantly for all my hop loving brothers and sisters out there, it is available all-year around. An excellent example of the classic American Pale Ale it has a lean malt character, which allows the zingy citrus fruit hop flavour and aroma to play the lead role. It’s pale golden, hoppy, fresh and always excellent. Get it almost everywhere (alongside its new brother Epic Lager).

Other good pale ales on our shelves (if you can’t find the ones above): Tuatara IPA, Founder’s Fair Maiden, Emerson’s 1812, Croucher Pale Ale, Invercargill Stanley Green and Renaissance Perfection Pale Ale. Harder to get, unless you’re in Nelson, is Lighthouse Brewery’s wickedly named ‘Fug Nose’ (it’s full of ‘fuggles’ hops, for those not up to play with beer humour).

In a fortnight we’ll look at the American Ale category (within which the popular APA sits, alongside American-style Amber and Brown ales). After that we’ll be greeting winter with the warming ales and darker lagers of northern Europe.

Slainte mhath, Stu

"Ban the yobs": Which yobs?

Police2308 The Herald has the news that the Clark Government is about to introduce to parliament this year "a British-style behaviour order to curb anti-social crime."

The proposal, which would establish a scheme for Rotorua [allowing police to issue "community protection orders" against people convicted of a range of mainly property-related offences], has previously been rejected by politicians because its aim - to bar criminals from the city's central business district - had problems complying with the Bill of Rights.

No problem to an MP like Steve Chadwick, the bill's co-sponsor with Annette King, and the main promoter of the ban on smoking in bars -- which has equal difficulties complying with the Bill of Rights.

First of all, we should ask why this law is necessary.  Why are people who've been convicted of  property-related offences free to walk the streets anyway?  Answer: Because the courts don't take burglary and other property-related offences seriously anymore .  Is that good enough?  No, it sure as hell isn't.  Do we need more bad law to fix the result of bad justice?  No, our lawmakers should be concentrating instead on fixing these fundamental failures of our justice system that much more urgently need addressing.

Remember that law, good law, is intended to protect me from you and you from me. Specifically, it is intended to protect you against any initiation of force or fraud by me, and me from any initiation of force or fraud by you.  That's all good law should do, and when it doesn't do what it should be doing, which in this case is to protect us from criminals who've already been convicted, then we start to see laws like this that start to stretch the boundaries of what good law should be doing.

This works both ways.

There is an expectation that if you violate good law, that you will be handled under due process, and that the punishment will fit the crime. This is all part of what it means to have objective law. This is what freedom looks like. This is what Annette King wants to overturn with what is called in the UK 'Anti-Social Behaviour Orders' (ASBOs), which give police the power to deliver summary justice, and courts the power to turn minor offences into a five-year stay in jail if they're arbitrarily deemed to be anti-social.

She means it. We should take this seriously.  If yobs strolling town centres are dangerous enough, then out of control politicians using potentially uncontrollable law to do us over is far more dangerous, since these are the very people who are supposed to protect our rights.  Frankly, when it comes to yobs, the ones in the parliament are far more dangerous to our rights than the ones strolling the streets of our cities.

But as I say, it should work both ways. There's also an expectation that when criminals are convicted, then they lose certain rights (after all, if they don't respect them, why should we).  In which case, and only if safeguards can be put in place to ensure these orders can be applied to convicted criminals, then the orders could be justified -- but that's a big 'if,' especially with the likes of Steve Chadwick involved, who wouldn't know a proper right if she fell over one in the street.

Now having said all that, you might already have observed that the issue doesn't even arise in the case or privately owned property.  This bill is designed to to bar criminals from a city's central business district, and since it requires government action to effect such a ban there are attendant Bill of Rights issues. But just think how it works when a shopping mall wants to bar undesirables from their property . . .

NB: You can read the BBC's ASBO Chronicles to

Justice at last for Keith & Margaret Berryman!

Marvellous news!  After fourteen years of having the weight of the state on their throat -- fourteen years of trying to get justice and clear their name -- Keith & Margaret Berryman have finally got justice, if not yet restitution. Story here.

I salute their heroic lawyer Bob Moodie, without whom the battle could not even have been engaged, and my thoughts go out to Keith & Margaret, two wonderful people.

Read the Berryman archives here at NOT PC to see why this victory is so special.

Some NOT PC stats for April

Some stats for you from last month: 

NZ Political Blog Rank for NOT PC: TBA (Feb, #6)
Alexa Ranking, world: 300,467 (last month 313,902)
Avge. Monday to Friday readership: 1,044/day
Alexa Ranking, NZ: 645 (last month 1021)
Unique visits [from Statcounter] 30,025 (28,016)
Page views [from Statcounter] 46,767 (42,769)

Top posts:

Top referring sites: 
   Search engines, 2693 referrals; Kiwiblog, 733; Libertarianz, 533;  Whale Oil, 346;
Mulholland Drive, 273; Crusader Rabbit,  181; No Minister, 178;  Rod Drury, 165
Top searches:
not pc, 463; broadacre city, 95; studionz, 76;  ipcc bali, 72; nipcc, 65;  peter cresswell, 60;
metservice forecasting, 57; sione vatu, 44; bavinger house, 38; annette presley, 36.
They're reading NOT PC here:
Top countries (measured by Statcounter):
   NZ, 54%; USA, 19.4%; UK, 4.8%; Australia, 4.1%; Canada, 1.9%;  India, 1.2%; France, 1.1%
Top cities (Statcounter):  
   Auckland, 16.3%; Wellington, 2.7%; Christchurch, 1.6%; London, 1.6%; Melbourne, 1.5%;
Sydney, 1.1%; Chicago, 0.8%

Cheers, and thanks for reading and linking to NOT PC, 
Peter Cresswell

Carl Wall House - Frank Lloyd Wright

Built in 1941 in Plymouth, Michigan, for a former student, and nicknamed 'Snowflake' for its hexagonal module.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Dear Judith

L1050511 Did anyone else hear the vice-minister of transport confess on T.V. last night when questioned about the new 'Parliamentary BMWs': "I don't know anything about cars."

Dear Judith. It's easy to see why she’s got the job she has. [Hat tip Riko]

"What can we do to win the war against the drug P?"

With commendable honesty Minister Annette King confesses that the War on the Drug P is already lost.  The Herald follows up and asks, "What can we do to win the war against the drug P?"

Have they ever considered that this is a war than can't be won?  That the real damage is done by the War on Drugs itself? As Milton Friedman once told Bush Snr’s drugs tsar Bill Bennett, “You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is devastating our society. Your mistake is failing to recognize that the very measures you favour are a major source of the evils you deplore.”

I won't bore you with another reiteration of the arguments why the War on Drugs can't win (you can read most of my previous posts here), but just consider these few pointers:

  • Since the government can't even keep drugs out of prisons, how can they keep them off the street?
  • Removing the legal market for recreational drugs (even relatively benign party pills) has created an illicit one, run by criminals.
  • Banning and arrests only reduces supply.  Since it does nothing to reduce demand, what do you think that does to price, and the profits of drug suppliers?
  • Since banning and arresting drug suppliers puts police in conflict with huge amounts of money, what do you think this does to police morals (hint: Clint Rickards was once an undercover cop).
  • Outlawing drugs leaves drugs in the hands of outlaws -- with huge profits driven by the reduced supply. (All praise the War on Drugs.)
  • Criminals have no interest in things like quality control, honesty about the composition of a substance, or refraining from selling to children. (All praise the War on Drugs.)
  • Outlawing drugs only increases the virulence of recreational drugs.  As Milton Friedman explained with his Iron Law of Prohibition, 'P' is precisely the sort of drug you get when you start a War on Drugs, since the more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the prohibited substance becomes.
  • If it is impossible to win the war on drugs, and no government anywhere ever has, then the question surely becomes: should we have a legal, transparent, accountable market for drugs, or an illegal, secretive, unaccountable one?

So what do you think? Could it be that what's too often overlooked in the link everyone sees between illegal drugs and crime is the 'illegal' rather than the drugs?  That's certainly the position of the cops and former cops  from an organisation called LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) who argue that, "We believe that to save lives and lower the rates of disease, crime and addiction, as well as to conserve tax dollars, we must end drug prohibition."

In the end, none of these practical arguments will convince a soul, not as long as good people are convinced the health of their soul depends on having drugs banned. In other words, not as long as the morality behind the war on drugs remains unchallenged.  In the end, here's the telling point: That consenting adults have the right to make our own choices for ourselves, and we do. As with alcohol use, so too with drug use: youngsters need to be able to see both responsible drug use, and people saying no because they want to say no, not because their free will has been lobotomised.

Perhaps if you won't listen to the cops or to people like Friedman, you'll listen instead to the criminals:'

Higher productivity = higher wages

I've noticed that several blogs and more than a few politicians have made a lot of noise about higher NZ wages, with nary a clue how to go about it.   The answer is simple: you can only get higher wages from higher productivity. 

mining pic5086_man_digging_hole_with_shovelIn economist-speak: Productivity is a measure of how efficiently labour produces goods and services, which is essentially a measure of how much capital labour gets to use.  (To put it as simply as possible: You'll dig a bigger hole with an Caterpillar than you will with a shovel.  That's a pure  example of the efficiency of more capital.)

This is why having a government suck money out of capital markets and stop capital investment in NZ is a bad idea: it lessens the amount of local capital that local labour gets to use.  This is why New Zealand wages are 30% lower than Australia -- not because Australia has stronger unions or any other stupid reason, but because Australia has more capital, and is more productive with it.

This is why, in short, if you want higher wages you should be doing all you can to discourage restrictions on NZ's capital markets, and discouraging restrictions on productivity.

I'll let Paul Walker explain the details, and show you all the graphs.

The poor are still with us

"A rising tide lifts all boats."  I don't know about you, but I well remember Helen Clark telling the country at the last election that her wise and benevolent government was committed to programmes that benefit everybody, across the board.  "A rising tide lifts all boats," she said.  Helen's welfare state, (in which she'd just enlisted half-a-million new beneficiaries in the Welfare for Working Families package) would fix all problems, lift all boats and put a chicken in every pot.

Well, if the report issued earlier this week by the Child Poverty Action Group is to be believed, there are at least 185,000 boats that aren't part of Helen's 'rising tide.'  Tide's out.  They've missed the boat. According to CPAG's figures, which haven't been seriously challenged, "at least one in five children in New Zealand was living in poverty while 185,000 were living with severe or significant hardship"  -- "with the children of beneficiaries the worst affected."

poorchild-sm That should worry Labour supporters, shouldn't it?  The whole raison d'être of the Labour movement, if it still has one, is supposed to be that it looks after the little guy.  For nine years, the Clark Government has grown the size and penetration of government to an all-time high; it has and stamped on enterprise and applied the screws and levers of big government to the problem of poverty, all while global commodity prices have given us the type of economic golden weather that is the greatest salve for poverty anyone could possible conceive  -- in other words, they've never had a better opportunity to apply their philosophy to power -- and now, nine years after this Labour Government took the reins of power, all the little guys they're supposed to be looking after are missing their boat. 

With all that on its side, and if you believed that the Clark Government knew what it was doing, you'd be worried, wouldn't you?

Don't worry about it, said Labour's Minister Ruth Dyson.  There's only 130,000 in poverty.

Oh, that's fine then.  We have more people on benefits now that at any time in the country's history (largely due to the Welfare for Working Families package, which has sucked in so many middle class families into becoming beneficiaries), the biggest the welfare state has ever been -- more spending on welfare than ever before -- and it obviously hasn't solved poverty at all.

What's to be done?  Beats the hell out of Ruth Dyson, who trumpets the lowest unemployment figures since Methusaleh was a lad (while ignoring the 200,000 or so now on other benefits) and says "Don't worry"; it beats the hell out of the Child Poverty Action Group, who tell us  (against everything history and research should tell them) that all we need to do it raise benefits; it beats the hell out of 'economist' Susan St John, who (with a straight face) blamed the problem on policies that "promote paid work as a way out of poverty" which, she says, "a major reason for the widening gap between rich and poor"; and it sure beats the hell out of the rest of the poverty industry who've been fighting this War On Poverty since Methusaleh was born, yet after all that time they still find the scoreboard against them. 

Shouldn't they be asking themselves some serious questions?  Or are the poverty industry and the politicians happy to accept that "the poor are always with us" because they're convenient voting fodder to keep the same old game going on.

"The poor are always with us" say the politicians -- the very same politicians who really need the poor. They need them as lobby fodder. It's the poor who provide their power base. Who else would see the poorest of the poor and still want to take the money out of their pockets they could have used for food, but a politician? Who else could watch the poorest of the poor struggling to afford the places in which they have to live and still want to severely restrict the supply of new housing -- who else but politicians?

It's time to put people before politics. Stop stealing.  Stop paying people to breed.  Stop forcing them into factory schools that only teach illiteracy.  Just get the hell out of their way.

The poverty industry blames the problem of poverty on 'the promotion of paid work' and says the solution is more welfare.  Yet as welfare researcher Lindsay Mitchell concludes, "It is the availability of welfare that is central to the child poverty problem - not the availability of work. The solution does not lie in simply giving people more money." Seventy years of just giving people more money has not made things better, it's made them worse. In the last ten years alone around $150 billion has been taken from taxpayers and spent in a war on poverty, that's one-hundred and fifty billion dollars on a war that no one is winning; not the government, not the taxpayer, and as recent studies all show, not the 200-300,000 or so who've been the targets of this war over the last ten years: we're all worse off except for the politicians, for whom this massive sum amounts to very cheap and efficient vote-buying.

That's $150,000,000,000 -- enough to have given every beneficiary in the country a massive $500,000 each to start their own war on poverty, and it still hasn't worked. And it won't. It never will. To paraphrase PJ O'Rourke,

the spending of this truly vast amount of money -- an amount more than half again the nation's entire gross national product in 1995 -- has left everybody just sitting around slack-jawed and dumbstruck, staring into the maw of that most extraordinary paradox: You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money.

When do we realise that government welfare doesn't work -- not for anyone -- and least of all for those who it is supposed to help. Let's try something else. Let's try to stop stealing. let's give people back their future and the money stolen from them, and let them get on with fighting their own goddamn war on poverty.

If these reports tell us anything at all, they tell us it's becoming urgent.   Accordingly, here's a simple suggestion to help the poor: stop stealing from them.

  • You could remove GST in its entirety and still leave the government's accounts in the black, and at a stroke you will leave money in the pockets of the poor to pay for food and housing and heath care.
        But it won't happen.
        It won't happen because the poor are such good lobby fodder for a certain kind of politician: Those who put politics before people.
  • You could relax restrictions on land use so that people can build wherever and whatever they wish on their own land, at a stroke promoting choice and reducing housing and rental costs, allowing the poor a crucial foot up on the housing ladder.
        But it won't happen.
        It won't happen because environmentalists put the environment before people -- and politicians let them.

Evening Snow at Kanbara - Ando Hiroshige

Another wood block print from Hiroshige's series Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Top ten titles in American history

ph_c Historian Scott Powell, who regular readers will recognise as one of the good guys, wants to help you improve your library.  To that end he's just started a series describing the essential history books your library should have: "four weekly top 10s in American, European, Middle Eastern, and Ancient history."

Sign up now (it's free) to get his first post listing the top ten books in American history you need to have in your library. 

P.S. Scott's course on Ancient History starts later this year as part of his First History for Adults programme.  Sign up with a friend and you can save $50!

A simple game

It's been said that if you don't understand the principle of comparative advantage, then you aren't qualified to talk knowledgeably about human affairs -- you're one of those "simple, uneducated men" that university humanities departments tend to produce in vast quantities.

Fortunately there's a handy game you can play to get your head around the principle.  Visit Desert Island Game and see how you can improve your diet by trade.

And in the meantime, I'm looking forward to someone posting a game designed to illustrate the flip side of comparative advantage: Ayn Rand's 'Pyramid-of-Ability Principle.'

Squid cam

If you've ever wanted to watch the dissection of the largest Colossal Squid ever caught -- and let's face it, who hasn't -- then here's a webcam just for you:

Of course, you'll have to watch it thaw first.

Eh up?

Those of us who occasionally read Liz Shaw's blog in the hope that she'll use her migration to Australia to sort herself out and avert the imminent online train wreck that was her life in Auckland might be surprised to see that she's now also apparently migrated to G-Man's blog -- (ie., their latest posts are identical).

Something we should be told?  Are they both "living in Kings Cross, which is known as the hooker capital of Sydney"?  Or something more mysterious?

"Come to Caribia!" - Chavez

PH2007112802143 Here's an ideal opportunity for everybody who's ever felt a ray of sunshine enter their heart at the notion of central planning and socialism; for every town planner who's ever felt a pang at the thought of planning people's lives -- for every busybody who's ever wanted to shoehorn whole populations of people into living the way you want them.  If you can feel your heart bursting already at the thought, then Hugo Chavez has an invitation for you.

The creation of "socialist cities" in Chavez's Venezuela is now under way, focusing  on developing "socialist towns ... intended to promote the endogenous potential and prioritize social economy."  Is your spine tingling at the very idea?

Doesn't get better than that if you're a politically correct busybody.  Here's your chance, the first urban nightmare is already under way. It's called Caribia. The design advice comes from Belarus.  Yes, Belarus.  [Hat tip Crusader Rabbit]

Still waiting for Tax Freedom Day

New Zealand governments both central and local now steal 42.4 percent  of all the wealth produced in this country.  You might look at this in two ways:

At a rate of theft of 42.4 percent, that means one person out of every couple is going out to work just to pay the tax bill.  Think about that when you're thinking about the problems facing New Zealand families -- or when you're wondering why life today seems so much busier than it used to three or four decades ago before the invention of so many labour-saving devices (you might say the benefits of all those devices have been socialised).

Or you could look at it this way.  If you work it out on the basis of how many days you work every year, and match that with the proportion of wealth that government steals, then the day you stop working to pay your tax every year and start working for yourself we can call Tax Freedom Day.

In New Zealand that day is June 4.

We're not there yet. From January 1 to April 29, we've been working for central government.  And starting today, we're working for local government.  The yoke doesn't come off for another six long weeks.

Paul Walker has more.

Trinity Chapel Project - Frank Lloyd Wright

Chapel designed for the University of Oklahoma, in Norman, Oklahoma, 1958. Almost enough to make a man religious.  Almost.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

When producing becomes illegal, prices go through the roof

THE OTHER DAY I was discussing rising oil prices with some friends, who were suggesting to me that the it's the market that is to blame for rapidly rising commodity prices.  I was explaining about the power of price signals and how these get muddled when governments intervene and they interrupted me to tell me that when oil is over one-hundred dollars a barrel, it's too late to talk -- it's obvious we're already running out.

I pointed out that oil is not at one-hundred dollars a barrel because we're running out of oil -- oil is at one-hundred dollars a barrel because in many parts of the world in which oil is (or could be) produced, producing oil is now essentially illegal.

In the continental USA for instance, restrictions on drilling around the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico and other states stymie efforts to tap into what amount to huge resources. (Opening up these areas would provide enough oil to power 60 million cars for 60 years, plus enough natural gas to heat 60 million homes for 160 years, but 85 percent of coastal waters have been declared off limits, along with similar restrictions on 75 percent of the onshore prospects. [Quoted from: Sound of Cannons. Emphasis mine.])

Meanwhile, environmental restrictions on building new refineries and expanding the productive capacity of existing refineries has made it all but impossible to expand production of the reserves that do exist.

==>ERGO 1: It's not that "we" are running out of oil, but that producing oil is rapidly becoming illegal.

==>ERGO 2: It's not a failure of markets, it's an obvious success of government: success in stifling production of the very stuff of industrial life, and in burying the ability of producers to respond to price signals in the way they need to.

THE SAME SORT OF story can be found with other commodities. The problem with price rises in most commodities is not that 'we're running out of room to grow stuff' or that 'we've got too much free trade.' What we have is another government success story.  As the story of rice shows, there is an almost compete lack of free trade in the staff of life for about half of the world's population - trade itself is slowly becoming illegal.

While the global price of rice has almost doubled, for example, adjustment to these prices has been all but impossible. Says Tyler Cowen in the New York Times in a piece called Freer Trade Could Fill the World's Rice Bowl (hat tip Paul Walker):

    Although rice is the major foodstuff for about half of the world, it is highly protected and regulated. Only about 5 to 7 percent of the world’s rice production is traded across borders; that’s unusually low for an agricultural commodity.
    So when the price goes up — indeed, many varieties of rice have roughly doubled in price since 2007 — this highly segmented market means that the trade in rice doesn’t flow to the places of highest demand.

Cowen goes on to say:

    The more telling figure is that over the next year, international trade in rice is expected to decline more than 3 percent, when it should be expanding. The decline is attributable mainly to recent restrictions on rice exports in rice-producing countries like India, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Cambodia and Egypt.

As Walker concludes, "when trade is restricted and food exports are made illegal"there is little incentive to plant, harvest or store rice. High prices should give producers the incentive to expand production, which is just what is needed for rice. But if producers can not access those high prices on the world market because of export restrictions, then they don't have the incentive needed."  It's surely impossible to disagree with his conclusion:

There are few areas in which free trade could do more good, than in the production of food.

UPDATE: Matt B in my comments section brilliantly explains how understanding price signals leads to the proper response to rising prices:

    How different peoples' reactions would be if, instead of reading "high prices," they read "scarcity".
    It would transform the debate. The immediate question that follows would not be demands for price controls or export restraints ,etc., but instead, "how do we raise supply?"

What if?

ONE OF THE FASCINATING things to do when studying history is to speculate about "What if?" questions.

Studying history with Scott Powell offers ample opportunity to speculate.  Scott's current course on the Middle East alone (which you can still join in) offers ample opportunity for speculation.

  • What if Britain hadn't nearly bankrupted itself in two centuries of Middle Eastern military adventures in a bid to protect its Indian colony?  What shape would the Middle East's maps be in today if Britain's flawed mercantilist thinking hadn't entangled it in so many misadventures in which it had no need to participate?
  • What if Harry Truman hadn't entangled America in the Middle East in a flawed bid to restrain communism?  What use would the bankrupt Soviet Union have been able to make of the Mid-East even if Truman had left the sphere alone? (And what threat would it have been if Franklin Roosevelt and Klaus Fuchs hadn't both in their own way helped to arm the Soviets?)
  • What if Dwight Eisenhower hadn't pulled the pin on Britain, France and Israel's recovery of the Suez Canal after Nasser's nationalisation of it?  Would Eisenhower's support for the already successful recovery have helped to nip the incipient Mid-Eastern nationalism in the bud?
  • What if Britain and the US hadn't stood back when the oil fields and refineries owned, established and built up by British and American investors were nationalised by tribal leaders and would be nationalist heroes?  Would this have sent a signal to all potential plundererers of American and British property that property rights would always be upheld by American and British governments, and given a valuable lesson in the importance of property rights?

Perhaps the greatest tragedy thrown up by these 'what-ifs' is a real failure of ideas. I've already mentioned the flawed mercantilist thinking that empowered Britain's military misadventures -- an entanglement that cost Britain in both wealth and manpower, without any real gain. 

Perhaps the most important thing demonstrated by the whole tragedy of the Middle East  -- and the Mid-East's failure to ever really lift off is certainly a tragedy -- is the failure to properly communicate the ideas that underpin the freedom and prosperity of the west.   This is the real failure of the west with respect to the non-west.

YOU SEE, ALL THE countries of the Middle East at one time or another were confronted with the need to to shake off their superstitious pasts and to modernise their bad selves (to use the words of educator Maria Montessori, they developed a 'sensitive period' for learning about what made the west great); when confronted with the obvious military and economic superiority of the west all of them looked westward for inspiration  -- but what countries like Turkey and Egypt and eventually even Afghanistan saw when they realised their own backwardness and looked westward for inspiration was not the ideas of the likes of John Locke or Thomas Jefferson or Adam Smith -- the ideas that had underpinned the west's freedom and prosperity -- but instead the intellectual pygmies who then crawled across the intellectual wastelands of the late-nineteenth century who were then doing all they could to undercut freedom and prosperity altogether.

Instead of Carl Menger, Turkey's Kemal Atatutk picked up Karl Marx.  Instead of Frederic Bastiat, Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser picked up Frederick Engels.   It's a powerful example of the necessity for good intellectual hygiene and of the power of even bad ideas -- that ideas can as easily destroy as make prosperous, depending on the particular ideas one picks up.  

Each Middle Eastern country modernised at a different time, each picking up the intellectual current of that time -- and unfortunately by the latter half of the nineteenth century when most were modernising, the intellectual current of the west was already fast dwindling to become a cesspool*.  The results in large part can still be seen today, with the secular shibboleths of collectivism and nationalism fighting the secular battle against the superstitious backwardness of Islam, and losing.

You see, the game of 'Historical What-If?'  is endlessly fascinating, and what I've said here has only just scratched the surface: I've only posed questions arising from the first few lectures of Scott Powell's Islamist Entanglement course

It's fascinating to speculate for example about what the whole Middle East would be like, hell, what  the whole world be like, if it had never been infected with the stinking collectivism of Marx and the nasty nationalism of the likes of Hegel and the German 'ethnic nationalists': if all the many millions slaughtered by the dictators of the twentieth century had been allowed to live, and if all the billions enslaved by totalitarian ideology had been allowed to live free.

JUST IMAGINE IF THE world hadn't been intellectually empowered to give power to those killers, "those depraved individuals who would rather kill than live, who would rather inflict pain and death than experience pleasure, whose pleasure comes from the infliction of pain and death. Unfortunately," observes George Reisman in his book Capitalism, "there is no lack of such individuals...

[and no shortage of] philosophical justification for [their] murders, such as the security of the State, the will of God, the achievement of Lebensraum,or the establishment of communism and a future classless society. Each of these alleged values supposedly justified the murder of living human beings. As the Communists were so fond of saying, “The end justifies the means.”

And with enablers like Hegel and Marx to  state the ends -- which amount to making one neck for one noose -- the killers were given power and the means by which to carry out their atrocities.  But "just imagine," as Reisman invites ...

In eras that are philosophically and culturally better than our own, [these killers] might even pass their entire lives quietly, in modest obscurity, causing harm to no one. In such a better era, Hitler might have passed his days as an obscure paperhanger, Himmler as a chicken farmer, and Eichmann as a factory worker or office clerk. Lenin would probably have been just a disgruntled intellectual,and Stalin perhaps an obscure cleric. But in the conditions of a collapse of rationality, frustrations and feelings of hatred and hostility rapidly multiply, while cool judgment, rational standards, and civilized behavior vanish. Monstrous ideologies appear and monsters in human form emerge alongside them, ready to put them into practice.

In short, the real lesson from even these few 'what-ifs' is the life-saving necessity for good intellectual hygiene.

How's yours? 
* Thank goodness New Zealand was settled in 1840, when John Locke and Adam Smith were at least remembered, if not still admired.  The Treaty of Waitangi at least pays homage to the shadow of John Locke, which is really its chief and perhaps only boon. (And thank goodness that when Asian tigers like Hong Kong and Taiwan began to take off in the latter half of last century, they chose to ignore the then-fashionable intellectual fads of the west, and go for prosperity instead)

Temperatures on the March?

It's said that a lie goes around the world while truth is still getting its boots on.  It works the same for deception.  For example:

"March warmest on record over world land surfaces" worries the Daily Times of Pakistan. "Second-warmest March globally, cool in US," demurs the Baltimore Sun.  "March's record sizzle," says Melbourne's Age.  "Global Land Temperature Warmest On Record" says Science Daily. "Global land temperature in March sets record" says China Daily.  And The Australian follows up the pack by announcing: "Global average temperature has warmed substantially, by about 0.3C from January 2008 to March 2008," 

So that's about 0.3C since January's cold snap and the 0.7C drop in temperatures across all of last year

Note that you should never accuse a warmist of fudging figures; just ask the US Government's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), who last week issued a press release on which most of those reports above were based which said:

The average global temperature (land and ocean surface combined) for last month was the 2nd warmest on record for March, while the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was near average (ranking the 63rd warmest) ...

Its notable that the headlines pick up on the scarier picture -- "2nd warmest on record for March" -- rather than the business as usual news that the US experienced the "63rd warmest."  But just ask yourself for a moment why, with only 129 years of records, they didn't write that last March was "the 66th coldest March on record," or "the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. ranked about average for the past 129 years of records." Says Bob Wester,

Characterizing it as the "63rd warmest" is yet another example of the pervasive bias in the handling of climate data by many US scientists whose job is dependent on the free flow of federal funding for "global warming" studies.

But why do these figures seem so disparate?  In the same sentence we're told that average global temperature for last month was "the 2nd warmest on record for March," and then we're informed that the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was "only 63rd warmest."  What's going on?

What's going on is that neither the NCDC nor the media are making meaningful comparisons, and nor is the scariest measure meaningful.  We're not comparing apples with apples, but we're still trying to make apple sauce.

You see, the key word above is "land."  While this last March showed the third warmest figures "on record" for surface temperatures in March (and the NCDC is finally beginning to realise that Anthony Watts' criticisms of their collection of the surface record is highly questionable), the figures for oceans and for the troposphere -- the parts of the globe which global warming models says should warm first -- gave temperatures that are the third and fourth lowest for the past twenty years, as satellite figures from University of Alabama at Huntsville and NASA's RSS both show, and which most of the world's media neglected to report.

Let's just repeat that and put it in bold: global warming models say that the oceans and the troposphere should warm first ... and these temperatures are the third and fourth lowest for the past twenty years.

Why did NCDC and most of the world's media neglect to report this apparent, um, falsification of the models?  Feel free to speculate.

But what do these figures mean, if they mean anything at all?  Well, it certainly means that the climate models on which all the scary scenarios for the future are manufactured are shown to be less reliable for predicting the future than the horoscopes the world's media also regularly run.  It certainly demonstrates that whatever causal factors are present in temperature changes, the scientists programming the models and Al-Goreithms certainly don't have the first clue about them -- especially in terms of the scary "positive feedback loops" they mutter about to sound really scary. 

And so, since all the warmist scaremongering is based on the predictions of these models, it probably means (to say this as gently as possible) that it's safe to say the warmist case is still yet to be proven.


I sent out a couple of posts last night that don't appear to have 'taken.'  I'll see if I can find them in the ether shortly, and hang them back up here where I'd intended them to be.

Beach Haven Spec House(s) - Organon Architecture

                                            SE Perspective Option 1 Colour

PICT0021 PICT0014 Here's a couple of houses I drew up as 'possible projects' to help a friend sell a difficult bush-clad site in Beach Haven, on Auckland's North Shore, mainly to show potential purchasers what was possible there.  Simple but (I like to think) effective. 

I particularly liked how the most radical plan was the most conservative looking of the two:

Option 2 Revision A SW Perspective
Oh yes, and just as it's possible to produce more than one house for the same site, so too one can produce more than one house from the same plan, as for example the house below and the one at the top  of the post ...
                                                 SE Perspective Option 1a

Monday, 28 April 2008

Higher wages need higher taxes?

The Labour Party's Hunua candidate fails basic economics.  Put your laughing gear on and head over to this 'Higher Incomes Need Higher Wages' post at Jordan Carter's Just Left blog (yes folks, this is Labour's official Hunua candidate), and maybe stay around to help his commenters shoot all the fish in his barrel-- and make sure you bookmark his site it so you don't miss out on further mirth over the coming months.

Oh, and by the way, young Jordan has said some interesting things already in his short and ignoble political career, as Whale Oil steadily catalogues . . .  my favourite is this one selected by Cactus Kate: "I wouldn’t go into business if my life depended on it. I find trade immoral."

Taxing food as food keeps getting dearer

As food prices go through the roof for all sorts of reasons -- most of them involving government meddling -- people are sensibly demanding that government here removes GST on food.  Quite right.  Government Slavery Tax on food is an abomination.  As I've said before, "Who else but a politician would see the poorest of the poor and still want to take the money out of their pockets they could have used to eat."

Turns out however that defenders of big government have no intention of taking their hand out of food-buyers' pockets.  Helen Clark, says nay.  So too does Michael Cullen.  And, of course, David Farrar -- never one to miss a chance to defend bigger government just as long as it his brand of bigger government -- who gives four reasons Grab Snatch and Take shouldn't be taken off food, and not one of them holds water:

  1. While poorer people struggle to pay their food bills, David says we can't take GST off food because "it would impose significant compliance costs on retailers" if GST were removed on one category of goods and not from others.  The answer, surely, is a simple one: remove it from all categories of goods. But a defender of bigger government like David Farrar wouldn't countenance this.
  2. While poorer people struggle to pay their food bills, David says we can't take GST off food because "it would start a trend of removing GST on more and more items, and the future political scene will be a series of debates about what GST should be one." And the problem with that is?  What better way could the "the future political scene" spend its time than discussing ways to remove the encumbrance of government from people's lives? But a defender of bigger government like David Farrar wouldn't countenance this.
  3. While poorer people struggle to pay their food bills, David says we can't take GST off food because "this is a one-off change that can never be repeated, and any benefits from it could well be swallowed up by further changes in international food prices."  This is insane.  A permanent removal of GST on food is not a one-off change -- it leaves poorer people permanently better placed to respond to price rises, and to better plan their lives with their money.  On the other hand, if GST isn't removed and there are further increases in food prices coming down the pike, then poorer people will be even less well placed to deal with them, and permanently less well off.  But a defender of bigger government like David Farrar wouldn't consider this.
  4. Finally While poorer people struggle to pay their food bills, David says we can't take GST off food because "it would mean direct taxes would be $2.4 billion higher than they need to be, to compensate for the GST loss."  Not if you put the bung back in the pork barrel ands cut spending by that same amount it wouldn't.  And don't tell me there are no means by which you couldn't kill of some of the bigger white elephants and put our own money back in our pockets.  But a defender of bigger government like David Farrar wouldn't countenance this.

The only argument for the government not taking its hand out of food buyers' pockets is government greed.  Instructive, isn't it, which bedfellows are in favour of government greed at the expense of greater penury from their countrymen.

White elephants on the hoof

With all the investment on public transport in Auckland over recent years -- tens of millions of dollars spent creating 'bus lanes' that throttle Auckland's roadways and slow down traffic; hundreds of millions of dollars on the Britomart Transport Centre for the several dozen people who use it; hundreds of millions of dollars on upgrading rail lines and railway stations for those same several dozen people; $150,000 per car spent on a busway on the North Shore that is mostly empty while neighbouring motorway lanes are clogged -- after all those hundreds and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars poured down these various black holes of unprofitability, the result has been ... no increase at all  in patronage of public transport*.

You'd think there'd be a lesson there, wouldn't you, one that the "planners" of Auckland's public transport and the "guardians" of taxpayers' money might like to consider?
*Result is from figures discussed this morning on RadioNZ, and here at Liberty Scott's last month.

UPDATE 1: By the way, those without an "ideological commitment to buses" might care to know that buses  need to carry eight passengers to be a better use of road space than a car, and twice as much as that to be more environmentally friendly.  Info here at Liberty Scott's.

UPDATE 2: Looks like the only trains the gummint wants to see running are trains that are gummint-owned and unprofitable.  Story here.  Comment here at, naturally, Liberty Scott's.

Making us poorer

Does anyone else find it ironic that in the same month that John Key has pledged to borrow $1.5 billion to install broadband in their homes (that's a cost of about $2000 per home, the cost to be borne by the taxpayers who live in those homes), the government has told Canadian investors who wanted to voluntarily give shareholders a similar amount that they won't be allowed to?

In other words, Key wants to take $1.5 billion out of capital markets to build a network that in the current regulatory environment is going to lose money (and if it weren't going to lose money, private investors would already be doing it), while shareholders and those capital markets from which those funds will be taken have just been denuded by a similar amount because of government regulation.

In other words -- and given that greater productivity comes about from ever greater application of capital to the job of producing wealth -- government regulation is making us poorer twice over.

UPDATE: Just to restate the point: 

The more capital invested, the better equipped are our places of work;  the better equipped a plant is, the more the individual worker can produce within a unit of time; and the more the individual worker can produce within a unit of time, the higher is what the economists call the marginal productivity of his labor and, thereby, the higher real wages he gets. [ref Mises: 'Wage Earners & Employers']

Or to restate the point in even simpler terms: The more capital a country invests productively, the higher are the real wages in that country. If you want higher real wages, then you need more and more capital invested productively, not consumed destructively.

And since these two measures between them take around $3 billion directly out of NZ's capital markets, and indirectly suggest to offshore investors that their money is unwelcome here and their investments are insecure, I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to suggest what effect this has on real wages.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Sunday School: More Good Biblical Advice, #137


More of God's good advice on torture here from his Big Book of Stories and Stuff.  Just remember, children, sometimes you have to beat people for their own good (although don't try it at home).  And remember, too, that the Christian God isn't evil for giving such advice, he's just misunderstood -- or as one commenter argued recently here at Not PC, "Sometimes you have to do evil to do good."

If you're a real adept, you can say all that with a straight face.

[Image from Russell's Teapot.  Torture advice collected by Dwindling in Unbelief.  There's plenty more advice and humour at both places.]

Saturday, 26 April 2008

The three horsemen of peace

I ended my Anzac Day post yesterday with the thought "if you want to give thanks for peace, then thank a soldier."

On a weekend in which we give thanks to those who fought and died for our freedom, it's important to be reminded that veneration for those who defended our freedoms is not veneration for nationalism or for martial values; at a time in which we're reminded of the violence and destruction of war, of the generations ruined by the wars of the twentieth century, it's imperative we not be confused about the distinction between those who initiate physical force and aggression, and those who defended our freedoms against the militant horsemen of doom and destruction.

D9-viking rembrandt112 If you want to understand the roots of war, you must also understand that war's greatest antagonists are not those whom your schoolteachers might have led you to believe.  War's greatest antagonists are free trade and capitalism, and the industrial civilization built on free trade and capitalism that your schoolteachers take for granted even as they damn it.  The truth is that throughout history, the two fundamental antagonists have been the trader and the warrior.  

The trader relies buys and sells to everyone's advantage; he relies on voluntary action and peaceful cooperation -- in his work he demonstrates the harmony of interests of free men.  The trader is a man of peace.  The warrior by contrast is a man of plunder, someone who needs and feeds on destruction.  His values are inimical to human life.

I invite you to keep this fundamental antagonism in mind as you read this post, and to reflect on the all too obvious fact that despite the trader being the force for peace, it is the warrior who has always got the better press.

Trade.   Trade works. As Frederic Bastiat observed, "when goods don't cross border, armies will." Countries that trade with each other don't go to war with each other: there's too much to lose.

    Further, free trade helps quell government's passion for war. "It creates powerful lobbying groups on all sides that demand the preservation of peace and the triumph of diplomacy over hostility. International trade networks create intermediating structures of business relations that work as a barrier to bombs and belligerence."
Trade trumps conquest. Rather than seeing trade itself as a conflict, as something involving embargoes, sanctions and aggressive 'trade wars,' we should realise that peace and free trade are mutually dependent.

Let those who are actually concerned with peace observe, for example, that trade brought benefits to twentieth-century Germany and Japan that their destructive attempts at conquest never could.  You can read that short lesson here: Trade versus Conquest.]

"Laissez-faire capitalism is the only social system based on the recognition of individual rights and, therefore, the only system that bans force from social relationships, observed Ayn Rand in her article 'The Roots of War.' "By the nature of its basic principles and interests, it is the only system fundamentally opposed to war."

    Statism—in fact and in principle—is nothing more than gang rule. A dictatorship is a gang devoted to looting the effort of the productive citizens of its own country. When a statist ruler exhausts his own country’s economy, he attacks his neighbors. It is his only means of postponing internal collapse and prolonging his rule...
    Statism needs war; a free country does not. Statism survives by looting; a free country survives by production.

By contrast:

    Men who are free to produce, have no incentive to loot; they have nothing to gain from war and a great deal to lose. Ideologically, the principle of individual rights does not permit a man to seek his own livelihood at the point of a gun, inside or outside his country. Economically, wars cost money; in a free economy, where wealth is privately owned, the costs of war come out of the income of private citizens—there is no overblown public treasury to hide that fact—and a citizen cannot hope to recoup his own financial losses (such as taxes or business dislocations or property destruction) by winning the war. Thus his own economic interests are on the side of peace.
In a statist economy, where wealth is “publicly owned,” a citizen has no economic interests to protect by preserving peace—he is only a drop in the common bucket—while war gives him the (fallacious) hope of larger handouts from his master. Ideologically, he is trained to regard men as sacrificial animals; he is one himself; he can have no concept of why foreigners should not be sacrificed on the same public altar for the benefit of the same state.
The trader and the warrior have been fundamental antagonists throughout history. Trade does not flourish on battlefields, factories do not produce under bombardments, profits do not grow on rubble. Capitalism is a society of traders—for which it has been denounced by every would-be gunman who regards trade as “selfish” and conquest as “noble.”
Let those who are actually concerned with peace observe that capitalism gave mankind the longest period of peace in history—a period during which there were no wars involving the entire civilized world—from the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

Industrial civilisation and the values that gave rise to it are fundamental antagonists to the values of war and conquest.  The benefits of industrial civilisation are fundamentally dependent on freedom -- the freedom to trade; the freedom to produce; the freedom to pursue our own individual happiness, secure in our right to do so.  Just as aggressive war is antagonistic to every one of these fundamental freedoms, so too are the fruits of war and conquest.  For centuries man pursued wealth by conquest -- the industrial revolution and the industrial civilization it produced now demonstrates conclusively that wealth comes from production, not from destruction.  Says George Reisman:

    It is vital to recognize the enormous contribution that the essential vehicle of economic progress, namely industrial civilization, has made to human life and well-being since its birth over two centuries ago in the Industrial Revolution.
    Industrial civilization has radically increased human life expectancy: from about thirty years in the mid-eighteenth century to about seventy-five years today. The enormous contribution of industrial civilization to human life is [dramatically] illustrated by the fact that the average newborn American child has a greater chance of living to age sixty-five than the average newborn child of a nonindustrial society has of living to age five. These marvelous results have come about because of an ever improving supply of food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and all the conveniences of life . . .
    In the last two centuries, loyalty to the values of science, technology, and capitalism has enabled man in the industrialized countries of the Western world to put an end to famines and plagues, and to eliminate the once dread diseases of cholera, diphtheria, smallpox, tuberculosis, and typhoid fever, among others. . .
    As the result of industrial civilization, not only do billions more people survive, but in the advanced countries they do so on a level far exceeding that of kings and emperors in all previous ages . . .

Trade and the fruits of industrial civilization beat all the conquests made by all the kings and emperors throughout all history into a cocked hat.

    . . . not only do billions more people survive, but in the advanced countries they do so on a level ... that just a few generations ago would have been regarded as possible only in a world of science fiction. With the turn of a key, the push of a pedal, and the touch of a steering wheel, they drive along highways in wondrous machines at sixty miles an hour. With the flick of a switch, they light a room in the middle of darkness. With the touch of a button, they watch events taking place ten thousand miles away. With the touch of a few other buttons, they talk to other people across town or across the world. They even fly through the air at six hundred miles per hour, forty thousand feet up, watching movies and sipping martinis in air-conditioned comfort as they do so. In the United States [and most other industrialized parts of the world] most people can have all this, and spacious homes or apartments, carpeted and fully furnished, with indoor plumbing, central heating, air conditioning, refrigerators, freezers, and gas or electric stoves, and also personal libraries of hundreds of books, records, compact disks, and tape recordings; they can have all this, as well as long life and good health—as the result of working forty hours a week.

These are the benefits of production, not of destruction; of science and technology put to human ends, not to martial ends; of the fruits of freedom and individual rights, not of tribalism, or nationalism or the gang rule of dictatorship.

Ludwig von Mises saw at first hand the destructive result of two world wars.  After the second, he observed:

    The statement that one man's boon is the other man's damage is valid only with regard to robbery war and booty. The robber's plunder is the damage of the despoiled victim.  But war and commerce are two different things...
    What distinguishes man from animals is the insight into the advantages that can be derived from cooperation under the division of labor...  The emergence of the international division of labor requires the total abolition of war.  Such is the essence of the laissez-faire philosophy of [free trade] ...  This philosophy is of course incompatible with [state worship]...
    The root of the evil is not the construction of new, more dreadful weapons.  It is the spirit of conquest...  Modern civilization is a product of the philosophy of laissez faire.  It cannot be preserved under the ideology of government omnipotence...  To defeat the aggressors is not enough to make peace durable.  The main thing is to discard the ideology that generates war.

Which, in summary, is to discard completely the ideology of state worship and omnipotent government.  

I couldn't have said it better myself.