Monday, 19 May 2008

Headcase: 'Farmer Bob' Mugabe

Check out 'Farmer Bob' Mugabe's farm at YouTube [hat tip Julian].

The shape of flip flops to come

On the beleaguered Emissions Trading Scheme, TVNZ reports "In a policy announcement on Sunday morning, [National] leader John Key has revealed the party will not be supporting the scheme in its current form." 

Am I the only one who adds Key's support for "a well-designed, carefully-balanced" Emissions Trading Scheme to the last four words in that sentence above to get the prediction of a(nother) forthcoming flip flop?

Those four carefully chosen words reveal the ghost of flip flops past which hovers Sunday's policy announcement. It's the anti-smacking bill all over again, isn't it.


If you have a spare moment and you read or publish a political blog, then you can help out a young man doing research on political blogging at the University of Political Correctness in the Waikato by filling out his surveys: here if you read political blogs, and here if you also publish a political blog.

Oh, and while you're doing online surveys, here's one that tells you What Type of Trader you are (I'm Strategic, it seems) and another here to see whether or not you can tell females from shemales.  Very important work -- and not entirely unrelated to political blogging.

Stunts dwarf ACT policy announcement

Rodney Hide's twenty-three point pledge card for ACT electioneering has now been announced.  The first twenty points are rather kindly summarised by Liberty Scott, but for some reason he ignores the last three points.

So perhaps someone else can explain how ocean swims, lambada and dressing up as a dwarf advance the electoral cause -- or any cause at all?


MMP?  STV?  First Past the Post?  Doesn't matter to me which electoral system is used in New Zealand -- frankly, the whole argument is a populist sideshow.

What's important is not the method by which governments are elected, but the way in which they're tied up.

What's important is not the counting of heads regardless of content -- whichever method is used to count the empty heads -- but putting things beyond the vote that are far too important to leave at the mercy of an empty-headed majority.

Sure, we can look forward every three years or so to several weeks of no government while the power-lusters negotiate how the cake is carved up, but when the new Government is inevitably formed it frequently looks like a mongrel combination of both fish and fowl, and it frequently ends up spending even more than it would otherwise due to the need to buy off smaller parties (did someone say Families Commission, solar panels and Gold Cards?).

Sure, it can slow down legislation.  A little.  But it's also true that the minority 'tail' gets to wag the whole country, introducing legislation that's a real dog (how amusing that Greens's co-leader Russel Norman sees minorities gaining power through the construction of the electoral system as a problem).

As Lindsay Perigo points out, "MMP has already done its damage, giving unreconstructed socialists like Banderton and the Luddite Greens clout in government out of all proportion to their popular support."  The point is not to change the electoral system, but to to protect ourselves from Nanny governments.  We might begin by remembering that

Democracy, so often and so tragically confused with freedom, allows for the destruction of freedom at the behest of majorities or pluralities. In particular it enfranchises welfare cannibals who vote for the party that promises them the greatest amount of money stolen from its legitimate owners. Elections become, in H. L. Mencken’s immortal words, ‘an advance auction of stolen goods.’

"Any meaningful electoral reform must at minimum disenfranchise those who suck on the state tit. Bailey Kurariki, who is no doubt looking forward to voting Labour, the party that most conscientiously spawns his ilk, should not have the vote at all until he is self-supporting.

"Most importantly, the inalienable rights of every individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness must be placed out of harm’s way, beyond the vote. Politicians must be constitutionally prevented from violating those rights, no matter how many state-indoctrinated zombies demand such violation.

"Every adult human being has the right to live his life as he/she chooses, constrained only by the requirement to respect the right of others to do the same. This right should be enshrined in a constitution and made sacrosanct in law,” Perigo concludes.

Clarifying the cost of liberty

Just to clarify a few things for those who are arguing on another thread, NZ Libertarianz maintain:

Let me stress too that my own silence on a thread does not necessarily indicate assent with any comments in those threads.

Now, it's not a bad thing to have summarised all that this week, because this week is Budget Week -- the week when the government announces how it plans to pluck the taxpayer goose this year with the minimum amount of hissing. On such a bleak occasion, it's not a bad idea to reacquaint ourselves with the reason we have governments in the first place (which is to protect our rights, not to do us over) and just how little a proper government would cost.

Bossy Boris

Many readers of this ramshackle blog have indicated to me enormous support for Boris Johnson's success in the London mayoralty elections, looking forward to a new era without Red Ken.  Said Liberty Scott of the loopy Tory toff for example, "I have no idea what Boris would bring, other than a healthy dose of skepticism about Nanny State..."

Well, no.  Looks like a predictably unhealthy dose of Tory backsliding and New Puritanism.  Brendan O'Neill reports at Sp!ked that "the very first act of London’s new Conservative mayor, Boris Johnson, has been to declare a ban on drinking alcohol anywhere on the public transport system."

As I said before, Johnson's election signals a London without Red Ken, but not a London in which any of Red Ken's policies are repealed (that's the way conservatives roll, you know -- just watch NZ come November).

O'Neill makes the point clear:

You can tell a lot about a political leader by his attitude to alcohol. Historically, your position on the Booze Issue – including the freedom of people to buy it, to consume it, and even to vomit it up again in a hedge if necessary – defined where you stood on individual liberty itself, and on the trustworthiness of the mass of the population to make choices and to live with their consequences.

Where illiberal, elitist, suspicious and quite often Christian outfits sought to restrict people’s access to alcohol, great defenders of freedom and civil liberties groups emerged from the struggle against prohibition. John Stuart Mill’s impassioned defence of freedom, On Liberty, was written ‘in the midst of the growing power of Christian temperance groups’ (1); the American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920, also the year in which the American government prohibited the manufacture, transportation and sale of all alcoholic beverages (2).

[This ban] reveals more about [Boris'] new regime than he thinks. Boris ... wants his booze ban to demonstrate that he will be tough on anti-social behaviour and singular in his determination to restore respect, good manners and possibly cap-doffing to the streets of London. In fact, the ban reveals that, post-Ken, petty authoritarianism and distrust of the London masses is still rife in City Hall.

Over to you, Boris backers.

Adams not hungry any more

I was surprised to hear that former United-No Future MP Paul Adams is alive and well and helping the Density Party Christian Party Family Party launch their election campaign over the weekend, because he undertook a hunger strike three years ago so that God would prevent the "evil' of the Civil Unions Bill being passed into law -- one he oviously failed to finish off.

His God clearly failed to notice Mr Adams' protest (he wasn't the only one), but Mr Adams is obviously eating again, and all the evils he predicted have failed to come to pass.

So too, I suspect, will a repetition of his time as an MP.

Shooting the Koran

Why do some Muslims get incensed about a US soldier using the Koran for target practice, but take to the streets to offer support (or by their silence give tacit support): to fathers who slaughter their daughters ( so called  'honour killings'), to rape victims being executed, to those who insult the Koran being executed, to teenagers being sentenced to death for consensual sex, to adults being sentenced to death for adultery.

Liberty Scott has the question, and the evidence.

As he (almost) says, "the priorities of far too many Muslims are: book first, lives second, goats third ... and women a distant fourth).

And what about those who berate Westerners for being 'offensive' to Islamic culture, but who turn a blind eye to a religion that was born in violent conquest and which today mandates and endorses genital mutilation, the subjugation of women, the stoning of gays, the beheading of those who satirise their stone-age beliefs, and the violent institution of sharia law and dhimmitude across the globe?

What sort of person would get more angry at those being offensive to such a barbaric culture than they would at the practitioners of barbarity themselves?

Frankly, if barbarity like that described above doesn't offend you, then you've failed as a human being. 

And if the barbarity comes from a religious book, then all the more reason to use it as target practice.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Sunday School: Blasphemy

More blasphemy this Sabbath, but this time with humour.


Don't worry if you don't get the joke -- I had to have it explained to me too.  I don't think you'll have any problem understanding this one: Rowan Atkinson welcoming you to Hell:


Saturday, 17 May 2008

Lying about a 'fair tax'

Advocates for the so called 'Fair Tax' say it will result in everyone receiving 100 percent of their paycheck.

FairTaxTheTruth It wasn't true when former libertarian Neil Boortz published his first best-seller on 'The Fair Tax Book'; it wasn't true when he published his much revised mega best-seller paperback edition on the 'Fair Tax,' and it still isn't true now that he's published his follow up, called Fair Tax: The Truth: Answering the Critics.

As one of those critics points out, the critics aren't answered, and truth is utterly at odds with the claims of the  'Fair Tax' enthusiasts -- as can be seen in Boortz's new book itself:

    The book ... is intended to be a sequel to The FairTax Book, published in 2005, that offers "eye-opening new insights not covered in the original book."
Boortz is right. There are some eye-opening new insights unique to this sequel. Like the disclosure that you might "owe more in taxes in the first year of a FairTax system than you do today." Or the admission that "the FairTax could be even more progressive than our current system." Or the confession that the "implementation of the FairTax doesn't mean complete annihilation of the IRS."  Or the proposal that "a procedure should be set up in the Treasury Department to collect taxes on Internet and catalog sales, remitting the state and local governments' share to them."

Fair Tax: The truth is there is no such thing as a fair tax.  Never was.  Never can be.

UPDATE: Now online is an article from that same Fair Tax critic, from the May 12 issue of The New American: "Is Making Taxes 'Fair' the Answer?" Says author Laurence Vance, "This comprehensive article on the problems with the FairTax is not based on a Boortz book, although I think I mentioned him once or twice."  It concludes:

Since it is a tax-reform proposal instead of a tax-reduction proposal, the FairTax merely changes the way that taxes are collected. It is an incremental step toward neither lower tax rates nor lower taxes. And it is certainly not a plan to return the size, scope, and cost of the federal government to its proper constitutional authority. With President Bush’s proposed new budget topping $3 trillion and the national debt fast approaching $10 trillion, the need of the hour is clearly to rein in government spending, not change the way the government raises its revenue. FairTax proponents have the proverbial cart before the horse. Their energy is misdirected. As Congressman Ron Paul has remarked on several occasions: “The real issue is total spending by government, not tax reform.”

The income tax should be repealed, not replaced. The IRS should be abolished, not given a new name. Tax reform should result in revenue reduction, not revenue neutrality. Because the FairTax falls far short of these goals, it should not be considered a “fair” tax. It should therefore be rejected by all Americans who favor a return to the limited government of the Founders.

Who in all honesty could disagree?

On activism

I've just discovered an astonishing essay from 1953, and from the unlikely pen of an economist:  it attacks those who sniff that any proposed policy or proposal that might alter the status quo, no matter how slight, the change, is "too radical" or unrealistic."

As Clarence Philbrook points out (yes, his name is as unlikely as his profession),

the only thoroughgoing escape from the charge of impracticality is never to advocate any change whatever in existing conditions.  But to take this approach is to abandon human reason, and to drift in animal- or plant-like manner with the tide of events.

He might have been talking about John Key, mightn't he?

As Philbrook commentator Daniel Klein points out,

    The "realism" philosophy must, therefore, come down to a set of beliefs about which policy reforms are politically viable and which are not. It must rest on a set of beliefs about the probabilities associated with various reform proposals. Free banking, for example, however desirable it may be thought to be, is regarded to have such a small probability of realization that it is foolish to even discuss it, and hence is dismissed as "unrealistic." ...
    The probability that free banking, for example, will be realized depends on how many other economist-advisors advocate the reform. "If all, however, follow the 'probability' principle, no one can commit himself until many others (nearly all?) have committed themselves." If making their choices simultaneously, economists' advice will "be the product of infinite involutions of guesses by each about what others are guessing about what he is guessing about what they will advocate."

It's like talking to a row of zeroes, isn't it.  One almost expect to find the word "consensus" -- and one almost does.

    Philbrook is pointing out that if science is what scientists say it is, and scientists are those who practice science, then scientists are playing a coordination game with bad equilibria. One equilibrium in particular stands out for its focal properties. Philbrook (p. 858) writes of the "mutual anticipation ending only in universal support of the status quo."
    The focal power of the status quo shapes the evolution of professional ("scientific") norms. The profession suffers from what path-dependence theorists call "lock-in." Philbrook (p. 847) remarks: "There has grown a widespread practice of cooperation with 'things as they are,' without explicit criticism of them, which is bound to have the effect of active approval regardless of whether such is intended."

As Marx would say in support, the point of philosophy is not just to understand the world, but to change it.  But the status quo merchants aren't just relying on an endless row of zeroes for their judgement; they're not just hung up on belonging and fitting in; they're also scared of real change -- which is why they talk up the bogus change represented by a Key or an Obama.

But the honest man doesn't just seek to fit in and preserve the status quo.  The honest thinker wants to make the world a better place.  Another Philbrook fan, Murray Rothbard concludes (well, I've quoted Marx in support, so why not Rothbard):

    We must make clear our policy convictions not on the basis of what others believe [or say they believe] the best course to be and then try to convince others of this goal, and not include within our policy conclusions estimates of what other people may find acceptable.
    For someone must propagate the truth in society, as opposed to what is politically expedient.
    If scholars and intellectuals fail to do so, if they fail to expound their convictions of what they believe the correct course to be, they are abandoning truth, and therefore abandoning their very raison d'être.
    All hope of social progress would then be gone, for no new ideas would ever be advanced not effort expended to convince others of their validity.

And then the grey ones will have won.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Beer O’Clock: Auckland Beer

This week in Beer O'Clock, Neil from RealBeer gives Auckland beer-lovers the benefit of his Wellington wisdom:

In these modern times, many people think nothing of driving for hours and paying a premium to secure local, organic produce. We seem fascinated with the welfare of our chickens, the provenance of our mushrooms and the age of our venison. That’s understandable – it is all about sustainability and flavour.

Where it gets interesting is when these same people are selecting a beer to go with their gourmet conquests. All too often, their “buy local” philosophy is abandoned in favour of the bland certainty of a global mega-brand. It is a shame – there is wisdom in the old saying that beer is best drunk in the shadow of the brewery.

pgm-show_image.phpDuring a recent visit to Auckland I had the chance to try two new local beers and was pleasantly impressed.

Brown Teal Ale (5%) is a rich brown beer with a tight stream of bubbles in the glass. It has a smooth caramel body and a lingering, almost oily, bitterness from the use of organic hops. This beer was darker and more flavoursome than I had expected. Brown Teal Ale has a lovely balance and is very refreshing. It’s not easy to find at this stage but you can contact them through their still rather spartan website.

Before flying back to Wellington, I was enjoying a couple of pints at Galbraith’s with the owner of this august blog. Galbraith’s (left) is a near perfect brewpub. In fact, the only thing I can find to criticise is the constant presence of Chris Trotter when I’m there. One of the scariest sights I’ve ever seen was Comrade Trotter (right) bursting through Galbraith's front door wearing a National Party conference badge. Thankfully, he hadn’t joined the party [hard to notice - Ed.] but he had been drinking their free booze in preparation for another year of relentlessly attacking them in his columns.

Speaking of columns, the new seasonal at Galbraith’s is called Full Nelson, a brown ale. It is not a style I’m usually too keen on. I’ve honestly never really seen the appeal of Newcastle Brown – affectionately known as Newkie or “the dog”. “Taking the dog for a walk” is apparently code for “going to the pub for ten pints with my mates.” However, I always thought Newcastle Brown got “the dog” nickname because it smelt like a wet Bassett Hound.

Full_Nelson The Full Nelson is thankfully a different beast. It is a smooth, creamy, cask-conditioned ale. It pours a rich brown with a small, well-formed head. It has plenty of caramel and malt before a firm hop finish. Overall, it’s very tasty yet eminently sessionable.

Besides, how was I ever going to resist a beer named after a wrestling hold?

As they say, thing globally, drink locally.

Cheers, Neil

All but speechless

If a politician gives a speech and nobody willingly shows up to hear it, does he make a sound? 

The question must have occurred to poor Michael Cullen yesterday when only thirty-six people turned up to hear his pre-Budget briefing in Christchurch, most of whom were paid to be there.

Crikey, even the Libertarianz can pull more than that -- and make better sense.

Not exactly Titian, is it.


The world's most expensive painting by a living (bullshit) artist depicts a woman "in training for the Couch Potato of the Year Award in 1995, captured by the trembling hand of Lucian Freud."  (Here, by the way, is the Couch Potato.)  Says Coxsoft Art of the work: "Only a myopic hippopotamus could find 'Big Sue' aka Benefits Supervisor Sleeping aesthetically pleasing."  Apparently a myopic hippopotamus did take note, because  Lucian Freud's painting just sold at auction in New York for the whopping sum of US$34 million.

It's not exactly Titian, is it?


Cue Card Libertarianism: Renewable Energy

Each 'Cue Card Libertarianism' entry forms part of a series intended to introduce newbies to the terms used (or as used) by NZ  libertarians. The series so far can be found archived here, and the Introduction here.

RENEWABLE ENERGY:  To the paltry strength of human muscles and draft animals--which for centuries before the industrial revolution powered the poor production that kept the population in poverty--human beings finally added man-made power to their repertoire, "power far greater than that found ready-made in nature in the form of wind and rushing or falling water."*

And with that discovery and production of industrial strength energy came the industrial production that fuelled the enormous explosion in population, wealth and human fecundity that characterises industrial civilisation.
This man-made power, and the energy released by its use, is the fundamental cause of our higher living standards, and is the result of advances in both theoretical and applied science and in technology. Man-made power is fundamentally human brain power applied to the specific issue of energy production.**
Energy is the very lifeblood of an industrial civilisation.  Hence the hysterical opposition of civilisation's opponents to energy production, and their concomitant support for so called 'renewable energy.'

Renewable energy may be defined as energy produced by means that would be uneconomic without such tax breaks and subsidies.  The distinguishing characteristic of so called 'renewable energy' is not that it is renewable, but that it doesn't produce reliable energy.  For opponents of industrial civilisation, this attribute is not a curse, but a blessing. This largely unspoken argument was voiced by "soft energy" advocate Amory Lovins in a 1977 interview,
If you ask me, it’d be a little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it. We ought to be looking for energy sources that are adequate for our needs, but that won’t give us the excesses of concentrated energy with which we could do mischief to the earth or to each other[Amory Lovins interviewed in 'The Mother Earth–Plowboy‘ magazine, Nov/Dec 1977, p.22]
This is why, for the most part, the "renewables" so heavily touted just aren't available, and just don't produce enough to keep industrial civilisation going. The fact is, they aren't intended to.

What distinguishes the "new energy" touted by the likes of Amory Lovins, David Parker, Nick Smith & Jeanette Fitzsimplesimons from the "old energy" on which industrial civilisation depends is that while "old energy" is reliable and actually produces energy, so called "new energy" is still experimental, and mostly doesn't.

In other words, it's the modern day equivalent of snake oil.

While "old energy" fuels the world's industry, "new energy" still requires your money to prop it up and barely scratches the surface of the sort of capacity required for a modern industrial nation. Aware of this, former Australian PM John Howard said recently (and accurately):
Let's be realistic. You can only run power stations in a modern Western economy on fossil fuel, or, in time, nuclear power.
Alan Jenkins from NZ's Electricity Networks Association issued a similar warning two years ago which has still been widely undigested, saying
It's very hard to invest in coal [because of Kyoto], nuclear's a sort of four letter word... hydro is suddenly becoming too hard... what's left? ...we can't do everything on windpower.
We can't, can we.

Which puts into context the attacks on coal by global warming zealots like James Hansen, who declares,
The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death.
You might now begin to see the reason behind the virulent attacks on real energy.  They are attacks on production and human fecundity itself.

Yet even as they're draining our lifeblood, the anti-industrialists are still taken seriously.

Go figure.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by New Zealand libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. The series so far can be seen down on the right-hand sidebar.

* Andrew Bernstein, The Capitalist Manifesto.
** George Reisman, Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics

"Nanny State - Is the Govt OTT in Telling Us What to Do?"

Did anybody else see Close Up last night?  I must confess, I usually skip the flatulent half-hour of non-news on the two main channels, but last night I was seduced to watch by the invitation to watch an investigation of Nanny's advertising -- "Is the government over the top in telling us what to do?" asked the teaser -- that seemed to have noticed Sus's hilarious anti-Nanny rant posted on Libz TV the other day.

Frankly, I think Libertarian Sus has a much better line in ridicule, but see what you think: 

Who guards the guardians?

Who guards the guardians? That must be a question being asked around the traps today.  As the latest revelations of corruption in the Immigration Service emerge, to be added to earlier revelations of excess, duplicity and abuse of power across the civil service, the Cabinet and the council building inspectorates, the question should be being asked with ever-increasing volume.

Who guards against the abuses of these perfect bastards?  What checks are there on the all-powerful bureaucrats who infest the offices of Wellington?  Why do so many assume that that private businesses tend towards corruption and fraud and dishonesty, needing the guardians of bureaucracy to oversee their activities, whereas these pricks wear the wings of angels?

Where did this myth arise?

Why assume the guardians of bureaucracy are the final word in honesty and efficacy?  Why assume they're immune to corruption?

There's been erected a vast conglomeration of bureaucrats to run our lives -- people who can't even run their own life.  We've put people's lives in their hands.  But who guards against the excesses of the bureaucrats? 

It's increasingly clear that nobody does.

Most politically incorrect country ever

News from northern waters of the gradual emergence of one of the most politically incorrect states in the international community: Greenland, currently petitioning Denmark for independence. It's credentials are impeccable:

Whalemeat figures large in its traditional cooking and its hunters enthusiastically track down some of the cud-dliest animals on the planet, including polar bears, seals and walruses. Even the seats of the lounge at Nuuk airport are covered in seal skin.

As for global warming, Greenlanders cannot get enough of it. The melting of the icebergs may, as some climate scientists predict, ultimately end up by flooding American cities, but it has given political bargaining muscle to the 57,000 inhabitants of the world’s largest island."

In fairness though, it's not the most politically incorrect country ever.  That accolade would possibly go to the Greenlanders' forebears, the Vikings, not known for being backward when rapine and pillage was concerned.

(Or, since political correctness is based on the collectivism of predigested opinions, a case could be made that the most politically incorrect country ever was the America the founding fathers thought they were creating -- the nation that was founded on the protection of individual rights.   That political correctness was invented in America shows how far it has strayed.)

National Space Centre, Leicester - Nicholas Grimshaw


2002_832002_88  Glazed with a plastic membrane, allowing huge spans of transparent walling with minimal structural support, this is a museum of science that looks like it could hold a rocket.  And it does -- albeit a British rocket.

More here on quite an ingenious Science Museum's trail of 'sculptured structures.'

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Thank You Israel

When Israel flew jets over Syria last September, there was much speculation about what they were doing.

Now we know: they were undertaking an airstrike against a Syrian gas-cooled graphite-moderated nuclear reactor, being built (secretly, and with North Korean help) not to produce power, but to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. The airstrike destroyed the reactor for good. [Report here at the Washington Post. Video here released by the US Government detailing Syria's covert nuclear reactor and the North Korean involvement in its construction. Hat tip Prodos.]

Given the nature of fourth-generation warfare -- which requires that some hostile entity provide supplies and materiel to keep terrorists in operation -- and given the nature of nuclear weapons production -- which requires the industrial infrastructure only a hostile state can provide -- the whole civilised world can say Thank You Israel for making sure the plutonium-based nukes that would have emerged from this hostile facility and straight into the hands of terrorists were never, ever produced.

"High as a kite"

For all those who defied common sense and every rational measure of artistic merit by attending last night's Elton John Concert in Auckland, here's a performance' by William Shatner of Elton's 'Rocket Man.'

The words "high as a kite, tonight" take on new meaning.

Wellington, we have a problem

Darnton_silenced Libertarianz leader Bernard Darnton (at right, uncharacteristically silent) has some thoughts for those eager to vote the Clark Government out of office.

What can you say about a Government with a finance minister who despises money, a foreign minister who hates foreigners, and a police ministe who thinks crime is caused by the phases of the moon.

Darnton says all you'd like to say, with great humour, and great insight. See it here at Libz TV.

Television Meltdowns

Bob_the_KnobSpeaking of TV, here's a collection of clips of the Top Ten (US) Television Meltdowns.  Hilarious.

And here's one of New Zealand's favourite television meltdown moments:  Bob Tizard (Judith's Dad, far left) spitting the dummy in an interview with Lindsay Perigo [link here, interview starts at 1:45].   Tizard was defence minister at the time.

You can see where Judith gets the 'losing the rag' gene from.

How to farm subsidies with the world's biggest wind farm

The result of tax breaks and subsidies for so called renewable energy -- defined as energy produced by means that would be uneconomic without such tax breaks and subsidies -- is that the likes of biofuels and wind farms are used by investors not to farm corn and wind, but to farm tax breaks and subsidies.

The irony for many environmentalists must surely be that the result of their banging the drum for 'renewables' will be to bring on a whole new wave of corporate welfare -- the only welfare most environmentalists object to.

boone_pickens The case of West Texas investor and natural gas man T. Boone Pickens (right) is instructive.  Mr Pickens intends to spend $US10 billion to build the world’s biggest “wind farm,” consisting of 2,700 turbines producing a planned 4,000 megawatts of generating capacity.  According to Reuters, Pickens expects "to turn at least a 25 per cent return" on this 'investment -- an investment only possible because of five particular tax breaks and subsidies that will see large sums forcibly transferred from taxpayers to Mr Pickens's pocketbook, courtesy of the US Government.

Researcher Glenn Schleede summarises the corporate welfare Pickens intends to mop up, all of which he says represent "harmful wealth transfers and misdirected capital investments."  (Not to mention that they're extracted from taxpayers by force.)

For more than a decade, wind industry lobbyists and other wind energy advocates have greatly overstated environmental and energy benefits of wind energy and understated its adverse environmental, ecological, economic, scenic and property value impacts. Only during the last 3 years have the facts begun to emerge about the low quality and value of electricity from wind turbines, the high economic cost, and the adverse environmental, ecological, scenic and property value impacts.

Facts, by the way, are irrelevant to politics -- as I'm sure you're aware by now.

And also by the way, this is not the first time T. Boone Pickens headed to the taxpayer with his hand out.  Back in the eighties when he was losing his shirt in natural gas, he all of a sudden became a lobbyist for tax breaks and subsidies for natural gas in large vehicles (compressed natural gas buses and the like).  He began speeches around that time with "I'm in favour of free markets, but..."

Ayn Rand used to point out that there are essentially two kinds of businessmen.  There are the honest businessmen -- "the producers, the providers, the supporters, the Atlases who carry our whole economy on their shoulders" -- and then there are the moochers, "the products of a mixed economy, the men with political pull, who make fortunes by means of special privileges granted to them by the government."   As she points out, it is the political power behind the activities of the moochers — "the power of forced, unearned, economically unjustified privileges" — that causes "dislocations in the country’s economy, hardships, depressions, and mounting public protests."  

For contemporary evidence of this, just look at the world's food markets and the increasing reports of food riots, products not of the free market and the free businessmen, but of of the biofuels boondoggle and the moochers who use political pull to make (or to supplement) their fortunes.

We're looking at the likes of you, Mr Pickens.

The Mary Anne Thompson saga

Thommo The Mary Anne Thompson saga has certainly got media in a frenzy -- the level of coverage suggests it's more important to most of the local hacks than the tragedies in Burma and Sichuan.

That doesn't seem right to me.

But even with all that focus, once again the reef fish from the Fourth Estate are at the wrong end of what's relevant.

Mary Anne Thompson was supposed to have a BA, an MA, and a PhD in Economics. She was employed in the Civil Service on the basis of those degrees (known euphemistically as a 'Bugger All,' a 'Mockery of Academia,' and a 'Piled Higher & Deeper' respectively) and then rose to the top of the bureaucracy on the basis of her performance. Her degrees got her in the door, but it was her performance including in the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet, achieved without apparent benefit of university education, that got her promotion -- and right to the very top, over the heads of those who did hold genuine degrees. Her performance, sans degrees, was clearly head and shoulders above theirs, with degrees.

Doesn't that pose some important questions -- far more important than the questions being asked by the media?

The most important thing here is not that Mary Anne Thomson lied -- after all, politicians and senior civil servants lie for a living every day (to say nothing of many of the media). It's absolute humbug now for those very people to say Ms Thompson's chief crime is to lie.

It certainly brings into question the over-importance that's been given to what used to be called 'personnel departments,' and are now known as 'human resources sinecures.' These are the time-servers who act as gatekeepers for most employment these days, despite knowing next to nothing about the jobs for which they're employing people, and (clearly) next to nothing about the credentials of candidates they're supposed to be checking.

But the chief question, it seems to me, is how relevant those qualifications really are to one's on-the-job performance? How much use is a handful of degrees in one's day-to-day work in the Civil Service, or indeed, anywhere else?

I'd strongly suggest the value of a university education (and certainly of the university education one would receive today) has has been widely assumed, but largely irrelevant. These things have been used as entry tickets to a career, but as an accurate guide to judging an employee's likely performance, they're about as much use to employee and employer both as tits would be on a bull.

In sum, and conventional wisdom notwithstanding, the value of a contemporary university education has been vastly overstated.

Ohau A Power Station


More South Island industrial architecture: this time the Ohau A power station in the McKenzie Country, another part of the Upper Waitaki power scheme. [Photo by David Wall.]

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Why is Hillary still there? It's moral turpitude, stupid

080114_FW_HillaryTN Why, when it's obvious to everyone but herself that she can't win -- when even her former backers are stampeding towards Obama -- is Hillary Clinton spending bucketloads of her own money to stay in the race for the Democratic candidacy? Christopher Hitchens plumps for the simple answer: she's deluded.

For Sen. Clinton, something is true if it validates the myth of her striving and her "greatness" (her overweening ambition in other words) and only ceases to be true when it no longer serves that limitless purpose. And we are all supposed to applaud the skill and the bare-faced bravado with which this is done.

Gus Van Horn disagrees, It is "dead wrong to say that Clinton has no 'reality base'," says Van Horn. In reality, Hillary and husband Bill have two strong bases for persisting:

Part of this ['reality base'] ... we could put as "fortune favors the persistent" and part lies in the Clintons' uncanny political acumen. They understand on a gut level that America has been intellectually gutted by generations of pragmatism and altruism.

In the end it's those two philosophical allies that are the most important. To make this point, Van Horn quotes Dick Morris's summary of how "time heals all":

"When they left the White House in utter disgrace over their ethical lapses and greed [sic], [the Clintons] were under attack from even the friendliest of liberal media. But years of keeping their heads low, working hard at getting along with people in the Senate, turning to charitable works (with a little help from George W. Bush) and helping the party regulars erased the sordid images. Memories of pardons sold for campaign and library contributions, their scoundrel lobbyist brothers, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of 'gifts' that were solicited from people who wanted favors from the White House disappeared. Once again, time healed all."

This aspect of the Clintons' thought process might seem irrelevant to the current situation, says Van Horn, but he sees it as highly relevant.

Without pragmatism to make Americans dismiss principles enough to regard the Clintons' criminal behavior as not that important after a time, and without the insurance of their altruistic "good deeds," Hillary wouldn't even be around at this point ... [ready and waiting] should something sufficiently bad come to light about Barack Obama.

Concludes Van Horn, "having the requisite moral turpitude to make it as politicians in today's culture [gives the Clintons] a firm basis in reality to hope that Obama has another yet-to-be revealed skeleton in his closet. He is, after all, one of them under his skin."

Mercenaries for Myanmar

Liberty Scott calls for the use of mercenaries to deliver to devastated Burmese the aid that "the murdering thieving scum in Rangoon" are blocking.

"We have no intention of hoarding the strong surplus for its own sake. This money is not ours."

Message to Michael Cullen from Australia. Australian Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan delivered his first Budget, delivering tax cuts, middle class welfare cuts (called by some ignorant commentators "picking the pockets of the rich"), a $21.7 billion surplus ... and this amazing statement: "We have no intention of hoarding the strong surplus for its own sake. This money is not ours."

Bravo!  I have no idea whether he meant what he said, (decide for yourself, the whole speech is here) but that's an incredible statement to hear from  any country's Treasurer.  It would be nice to think Michael Cullen was listening.

And there's a message in the budget too for John Key. Unlike other politicians who fail to realise that tax cuts must be met with concomitant cuts in spending, the ALP's Treasurer pointed out (as the Courier Mail puts it) "the $47 billion in tax cuts had been checked by an equivalent $47 billion in savings measures."  Bravo, a second time.

Now, it may be true, as Opposition treasury spokesman Malcolm Turnbull says, that Swan's budget is an "economic con."  It may be true that this is all spin -- after all, along with the cuts, there's $55 billion in there for a "Working Families Support Package," and $20 billion for a "Building Australia Fund" -- and in saying that the money isn't his, it was in the context of announcing "a new Health and Hospitals Fund to finance improvements to hospitals and the health care system, and "a new Education Investment Fund to finance skills, TAFE colleges and universities" -- but it's fascinating that this is one Labor Treasurer who at least wants to spin in the appropriate direction, and who looks as if he might enjoys letting people keep more of their own money.

It's not just Labour who shoulders the blame for 'brain drain'

It's just tragic watching New Zealanders with get-up-and-go who are getting up and going to Australia.  These people were New Zealand's backbone -- skilled tradespeople, middle managers, nurses, teachers, young doctors.

NetMigrationAustralia With numbers leaving already in their thousands (and the graph at right from Bernard Hickey's site suggests the number is if anything accelerating), a recent poll suggests as many as 1 in 10 adult New Zealanders is "fed up with high interest rates, worried about the housing market, and want better wages," and is thinking about leaving the country to get them.

    Kiwis say New Zealand is no longer the safe and happy country they grew up in and many are fed up with being told how to run their lives, and not enough attention going on law and order and controlling crime.

Since these are all problems either manufactured or made worse by government, it's only natural the 'brain drain' has already become an election issue -- and the National Party DVD in which John Key stands in the middle of an empty football stadium to show the numbers that leave annually for Australia strongly suggests his party intends to make the transtasman exodus a major election issue. But as the Herald points out,

    National's right to point to the increase in the figures is not unqualified: Key may like to remind himself that when National took office in 1990 it inherited an almost-unheard-of transtasman net migration gain of 1200 which it managed to turn into a loss of almost 25,000 by the time it lost the Treasury benches to Labour at the end of the decade. The worst year ever was to March 2001, arguably as attributable to National as to Labour. And he might like to specify what precisely a National-led Government would do to turn the tide...

John KeyPrecisely.  It's all very well playing "me too" to win an election, but it's no good when it's those very policies they're "me too-ing" that are driving people away.

And here's something that should really concentrate the minds of those in the National Party who want to use the trans-Tasman exodus as an election issue: since most people emigrate based on long-term expectations (and included in those expectation would be the quite reasonable assumption that National will win the November election), they're not just showing a lack of confidence in what Labour is already doing to the country, they're expressing almost equal lack of confidence in what National will do.  They've already factored in their expectations of how little a John Key administration will do to change the country, and they've realised Labour-Lite is as bad for their future as Labour.

In other words, the reason for that empty stadium John Key's using for electioneering is as much him and his party as it is Helen Clark. 

Think about that one.

Benmore Dam


Aerial view of Benmore Dam and Waitaki Valley in North Otago, with the Southern Alps in the distance.  A stunningly located piece of industrial architecture, turning landscape into power. Magnificent.  [Picture by David Wall.]

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Tiwai shrugs?

It's not possible to accurately model or predict the effect of new taxes, new regulations and new impositions by governments.  However much politicians and treasury officials might wish it were otherwise, every new tax, regulation or imposition will fall differently on every producer -- the fact is that no one person knows or can know what the cost is going to be of any new law or tax.

Despite the polished ease of treasury mandarins in predicting that the latest fashionable ban, regulation or tax will cost exactly 3.765 quintupple spondulicks (predictions backed by a forest of hefty paperwork and a library's worth of OECD figures), the result of any ban, regulation or tax is not a smooth function easily modelled by sleek treasury mandarins -- it's not a smooth function easily modelled because the overall cost is really a product of every producer doing his own equations to determine whether or not the extra cost on his production is worth it.

In other words, he's deciding on his own tipping point. He's deciding whether or not it's time to shrug. 

There's just no way a central government planner or treasury mandarin can predict that point even for one producer, let alone a whole country's worth (although the government makes their job easier by actively trying to reduce the number of producers able to stay in business in this country) and there's no way at all they can predict the knock-on effects of all these individual tipping points.

This in essence is what Hayek used to call "the problem of knowledge" that is faced by government planners.  (It's strange that a party of Hayekians seems to have forgotten this basic point.  If you want to know more about it, you can read Hayek's basic point here.) 

{76C81E68-8C98-4153-8B35-094F11C62F8B}If you found all that talk just a trifle too obtuse, an example of this very thing was thrown up in this morning's news all the way from the very bottom of the country.

While the talk around the government's emissions trading scheme has been around what the precise cost will be to New Zealand business in the aggregate, sums that treasury officials and David Parker have been waving around with some abandon, the CEO of Bluff's Tiwai Point aluminium smelter has been doing his own sums on what it will mean to his business in particular: he says that if the scheme passes, the Tiwai Point smelter will be "on the path to closure."

    The smelter’s owners, Rio Tinto Alcan, said the proposed emissions trading scheme was likely to make its operation unviable and the work it does would be moved to a country without such costs.
    Rio Tinto said the move would be a blow to the Southland economy as it directly employed more than 900 staff and contractors, while sustaining 2600 jobs and 20% of the region’s economy.
    The multinational flew in its regional president, Xiaoling Liu, to warn the select committee considering the climate change legislation that it could close down the operation.

This closure will not help "the environment."  Rio Tinto will simply move operations to location without this particular brand of lunacy.  It will simply help pauperise the country, with no gain at all to New Zealand.

And this is not just about jobs in Southland -- it's a sign of which every economist should take note, and which every business should take understand.   Make no mistake, the effect on the New Zealand economy of just this one closure would literally be incalculable.   Every New Zealand fridge is full of aluminium cans -- cans made with aluminium that came from Tiwai; nearly every New Zealand home is replete with aluminium windows -- windows made with aluminium that came from Tiwai; every single manufacturing operation still left in New Zealand is be the beneficiary of aluminium components made vastly cheaper because they come from Tiwai. 

Cups, cans, pens, torches, cooking pots, cars, ladders, lightweight scaffolding ... every house, fridge, garage, workshop and factory in New Zealand has taken advantage of the relative cheapness of local aluminium, and all because of what was once cheap power.  And Tiwai is only the most obvious of locally-based businesses doing their sums in the face of this forthcoming new imposition.

This is how an economy goes.  Not with a bang, but with a series of quiet shrugs.  This is what the first of the 'last straws' looks like. 

But don't worry, say the advocates of emissions trading, those apostles of punishing business.  Don't worry, we've heard this whimpering before, they say, and Tiwai Point is still with us.  This is tantamount to saying that no matter how many hurdles are placed in the way of producers, they'll  always find a way to "do something"—even in the face of the most irrational and impossible demands.  How?  Somehow .  As the head of the American Transport Workers' Union said when announcing yet anther city transit strike a few years ago, "A lot of people are thinking we are taking this to the brink. But it so happens that every time we went to the well before, there was something there." Do you think he, or any of today's politicians, would know a 'last straw' when they saw one?

What happens when the well has run dry and there's nobody left to shrug -- when the Fisher and Paykels and the Rio Tintos have gone offshore for good, and the likes of Dubai Aerospace and Canada Pensions has been told to sling their hooks, and we're left with just high taxes, lush forests and the rusting carcass of a nationalised rail network -- nationalised in the name of this same environmental lunacy. 

Who will be the "rich pricks" then?

UPDATE 1:  The Hive has spotted that The Wall Street Journal is Laughing At Us, and kindly reproduced their  scathing editorial on NZ's cap-and-trade madness.  As The Hive comments,

Just what we don't want at a time when foreign funds are more difficult to access, an Editorial in the Wall Street Journal pointing to enormous country risk! Well it happened to New Zealand today.

UPDATE 2: Wouldn't you know it.  Labour's SubStandard bloggers play the Venezuela card:  "Rio Tinto should fuck off," they say, leaving behind their "state of the art smelter and trained workforce in Bluff" so Labour can nationalise it.

They really are evil, ignorant scum-sucking bastards.  (And some people still say politics is about playing nice.)

BERNARD DARNTON: "What was the question again?"

Here's the core of Libertarianz leader Bernard Darnton's speech at the Libz conference over the weekend.

2008 looks good for all of us who have struggled to dislodge Helen Clark from the Premiership.  The Labour government no longer looks invincible.  Its ministers look more and more foolish every day.

We have a finance minister who hates money; a foreign minister who hates foreigners, and a police minister who blames a month of rising crime on a full moon -- suggesting that, under this government, crime will only fall when we start having months without full moons. Lunacy indeed.

There are many reasons for wanting rid of Labour.  Labour has continued the destruction of New
Zealanders' property rights: vandalising Telecom (our largest listed company); denying forest owners their newly minted carbon credits; and confiscating the foreshore and seabed from its rightful owners -- not to mention the myriad abuses of the Resource Management Act.

Labour has squandered a decade of economic golden weather -- extorting wealth from the creative and spending the gains like  a drunken sailor on an engorged, vampiric bureaucracy.

Most ominously, Labour has taken every opportunity to silence dissent: threatening charities
with the loss of their charitable tax status if they criticise the government; banning the use of
parliamentary images for satire or ridicule; and, with the Electoral Finance Act, attempting to muzzle
everyone during election year.

With this list of crimes against freedom, who can't welcome Labour's two-year slide in the polls and
National's complementary rise?  I for one will be damn glad to see the back of Helen Clark, come November. But I'm not so sure I'll be pleased to see the front of John Key.

National Party acolytes will tell you that National is “a broad church.”  What that means is that National is a brand name.  It doesn't stand for anything.  To National, politics is a sport -- they'd quite like the blue team to beat the red team, for all the reasons we all like our teams to win out over the other teams, but like all sports teams there's no fundamental difference between them and the other team.  In this respect, John Key is the perfect captain.

Witness National's “me too” politics. Interest-free student loans to bribe university-age voters? Me too.  National orginally said it would oppose interest free student loans "with every bone in its body." Now, not only will National keep interest free loans but will also introduce a ten percent voluntary repayment bonus, meaning that I can borrow $10,000 on Monday, pay back $9,100 on Tuesday and pocket the discount.

Where are the bones in National's body now -- in particular the 33 vertebrae?

This is only one example of how we're going to see a "me too" election from the Blue Team.  We've seen it already.  KiwiSaver? Me too. Foreign policy? Me too. Waffling on about climate change? Me too. Cap on GP's fees? There's the faintest whiff of controversy? Oh, go on then, me too.

Even National's greatest recent challenge, the Electoral Finance Act wasn't met with outrage. It was
simply taken as an opportunity for point-scoring against the red team. They didn't ask for freedom, they asked for "consensus."

If the question at the next election was simply how to get rid of Labour then the answer itself would be simple: vote National. However, the question at the next election is not how to get rid of Labour. It is how to end Labour's assault on our freedom.   John Key's National Party shows no signs of being willing, ready or able to end that assault. And that means that voting National is not the answer.

A vote for National sends the message to all parties that it's business as usual. And business as usual is exactly what we don't want. Only a vote for Libertarianz says that the game is up. We'd like our freedom back please.

NB: Keep an eye out on the Libz TV site for the video of Bernard's speech to appear soon.
Inside this Issue:
1. What was the question again? – Bernard Darnton
2. Three Simple Remedies for Housing affordability – Peter
3. Libertarianz Conference 2008 – Craig Milmine
4. Compulsory Third Party Insurance Nonsense – Liberty
Libertarianz on Campus – Daniel Aguilar
5. Letters to the editor
6. Libertarianz Press Releases
7. Deadline Approaching for Candidates – Craig Milmine
8-9. Candidate Nomination Forms
10-11. Support Libertarianz
12. Contact Details

It’s not the Advertising, It’s how we’re Advertising

Sick of government bloody advertising taking over your evening?  Famous to Leighton Smith’s listeners, “Susan the Libertarian” just has to vent over the constant state-sponsored interruptions to Coronation Street.

"It’s not the Advertising," she says, "It’s how we’re Advertising."  See her venting over at the new Libz TV site.

NOW ON VIDEO: "The National Party report card: 'Not Achieved' "

A video of Craig Milmine's report card for the National Party's performance -- part of what  got you all so excited here yesterday -- is now up at the Libz TV site.


Chuey House - Richard Neutra

                              wg051503_14, 5/17/03, 12:36 PM, 16C, 2482x2610 (427+1276), 62%, Repro 2.2 v2,  1/25 s, R64.5, G57.3, B91.5

Photographed by Julius Shulman.

Monday, 12 May 2008

The only one missing was Minto

Before the Libz Party conference over the weekend, a few of us spent part of Friday evening in Galbraith's.  I watched some fascinating musical chairs in the table right in front of us.

A 'pair' of Keith Locke's aides arrived first along with communist Wayne Hope (who once confessed to me that he and his comrades joined the Greens after the Alliance folded because they knew they could make it serve the same goals) and with them was a young girl from Greenpeace.  As the evening progressed the table was filled by a revolving group of comrades and fellow travellers, all clearly on very friendly terms, including commentator Chris Trotter and unionist and former Alliance leader Jill Ovens -- who was, if you recall, the proximate reason for the megaphone bashing during last year's Labour Party conference.

Also joining them for cloth caps and glasses of warm bitter were Ovens's husband Len Richards, the megaphone diplomat and former Alliance flunkie.  Following the Alliance's demise he's now gone Labour too.  And sharing the table with Richards was the young fascist from 'Socialist Worker - New Zealand'' who edits the Socialist Unity magazine, who organised the court-session protests on behalf of the Urewera 16, and also the noisy protest outside the Labour conference that  included slogans such as 'Helen Clark, terrorist,' 'State Terrorists Kidnapped My Friends,' and 'Chris Trotter, leftist imposter,' at which protest Richard's smacked his comrade-in-arms in the mouth.

The obvious camaraderie of this group of authoritarian shits belies the images of conflict they produce for the media.  Their goals never change -- only the vehicles they choose to achieve them.

Ruthenasia II

Kudos should go to Labour's Double Standard blog for (almost) recognising the irony of Ruth Dyson presiding over the lowest beneficiary rates since Ruth Richardson's Mother of All Budgets in 1991.  (And kudos too to Ruthless Ruth Dyson for maintaining those low, low rates).

Blair Mulholland gives Sue Bradford the Dunce Cap for this revealing observation on the news:

The Green Party has accused the Government of running a "cruel and deliberate" benefit system that forces desperate people to find work...  "It was clear Labour believed the best way to motivate beneficiaries into paid work was to keep benefits so low that people were desperate to find work whatever situation they were in."

"Ooh do ya think?!" Says Blair. " OMG the cruelty!  Making people actually go out and find work!  Those bastards!"

Labour outlaws Greens

New blog The Dim Post looks to be outstanding satire.  It reveals, for example, how the Green Party intends to support Labour’s law to outlaw the Green Party:

The Labour Government's proposed bill to dissolve the Green Party took a step closer to being passed into law today after Green leaders Jeanette Fitzsimons and Russell Norman confirmed that they would vote in favour of the legislation.

The Environmental Electoral Vengeance Bill is currently before the Justice and Electoral select committee. If the law is bought into effect then membership of the Green Party will become a criminal offense punishable by ten years in prison and fines of up to three hundred thousand dollars.

‘This bill clears up many of the problems caused by potential Labour supporters casting their votes for inappropriate parties,’ Justice Minister Annette King announced during a pre-committee press conference. ‘It is undemocratic and unfair for votes rightfully belonging to Labour to be squandered on a bunch of hippies...'

Green Party cooperation was critical to passing the controversial law. The National Party withdrew its support when Justice Minister King introduced an amendment incorporating National into the bill.

While the National Party will not be outlawed, votes cast in favour of the opposition party will be transferred to Labour and counted in their favour. Under current polling this will see Labour voted back into power with approximately 110 seats and able to govern alone. National leader John Key has condemned the bill and criticized King’s handling of the legislation, although he has confirmed that if he somehow becomes Prime Minister he will not seek to change the bill in his first term.

As David Farrar says, "That one hits the mark on so many issues."

NZ Government needs a Burma Shave too

Libertarian Sean Fitzpatrick sent me this Guest Post:

BurmaShave-280 Politicians playing silly bugger debates in NZ over GST being cut in the face of rising prices of vital commodities now have a sinister parallel in the response to the hurricane disaster in Burma by Burmese politicians.

While tens of thousands of Burmese are rained on for lack of shelter, starving for lack of food, and dying for lack of water and basic medicines, the Burmese government is restricting access to suppliers of food, water, shelter and medical supplies. 

While aid agencies are kept out and the supplies they send in are seized, we bear witness on TV to the sickening sight of military rulers handing out aid in the most contrived way.

These bastards see the crisis as little more than a photo opportunity; a propaganda exercise.  They do not give a monkeys for the health and welfare of the people - they see the disaster only as a threat to their grip on power.

How else is this different to politicians using the financial strife hitting kiwi families as a chance to 'outscore' each other on 'solutions' that will not make a blind bit of difference?The answer in both places is the same: get the government the hell out of the way!

The Government report card: 'Not Achieved'

Libertarianz party president Craig Milmine welcomed an enthusiastic group of activists and supporters to the election year party conference in Auckland over the weekend.  Here's a lightly edited copy of his welcoming speech:

Good morning

My name is Craig Milmine, president of the Libertarianz Party, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to the 2008 Libertarianz Annual Conference.

I am proud to preside over Libertarianz because it seeks to protect individual rights and works to reduce government interference in all aspects of our lives.   Since I'm a teacher in my professional life, I would like to present this morning an NCEA report card in individual rights for the parliamentary parties, and offer the only sane and rational alternative available: Libertarianz.

Let's look first at the Labour Party's result for 'Helping the Poor: 101,' which will assist in showing you that at this 2008 general election the Libertarianz Party is effectively the only opposition party around.

In an upcoming election where there is no discernable difference between Labour and National, or Labour and anyone else, Libertarianz is the only party that in this election will be offering tax cuts and cuts in government expenditure.  We do not have our heads in the sand and think we can have our sand and eat it too; unlike every other party we understand that cutting taxes means cutting government expenditure. We are the only party that knows that cutting taxes and government expenditure is a good thing, and why.

  • We know that reducing people's dependence on the state promotes independence and cooperation. Living on a state benefit would have to be one of the most soul-destroying and ambition-destroying lifestyles there are. It offers no incentive to improve your lot; it leaves beneficiaries at the mercy of the bureaucracy; and it actively punishes beneficiaries for earning money by imposing an incredibly high marginal tax rate on any earnings you might make.
  • We know that at the same time as having supposedly record low unemployment levels, the Clark Government also has a record high number of people on state benefits. Along with the usual array of benefits, there is Working for Families where families on the government benefit are given an incentive not to work because (once again) the marginal tax rate actively punishes families for earning more money.
  • We know this too: that Labour is determined to have more beneficiaries stuck in poverty with barriers preventing their ascent, because Labour needs a poor class who they they rely upon for votes.

Cutting government expenditure is a fantastic thing and Libertarianz are proud to say it. Cutting government expenditure allows us to cut taxes. Cutting government expenditure allows people to keep their own money in their pocket, or their savings account.  Cutting government expenditure means that government consumes less, while businesses can invest more.  To everybody but Michael Cullen and Bill English, it should be obvious which is more productive.

As a transitional policy, Libertarianz will happily support moves to remove all income tax below $10,000, effectively making this a tax-free threshold for everyone. This will reduce the high marginal tax rate that beneficiaries face when they look for paid employment. This simple act will do more to help Labour’s underclass of poor than anything they have offered up in their eight and a half years of born-to-rule power.

With the value of the surpluses that Labour has been taking, they could have gotten rid of GST altogether. This would have directly helped the poor of New Zealand because the poorest in New Zealand have to spend the highest proportion of the income on GST. I am brought to the conclusion once again that Labour needs the poor to stay poor so that the Labour Party can maintain their block of gratefully miserable beneficiaries.

At a time when low-skilled jobs are being exported overseas, the government has raised the minimum wage –- effectively driving these industries out of the country even faster.  As the market responds to a more expensive labour market, the results are a smaller manufacturing sector, automated supermarket checkouts, low numbers of restaurant serving staff per customer and highly automated factories .

We are seeing all of these in New Zealand but we still have record beneficiary numbers and the largest drop in people in paid employment in 19 years.  These are the people locked out of earning a wage by the government making their labour too expensive. Price fixing of low-skilled labour through minimum-wage laws is causing unemployment, poor service and the flight of New Zealand industries overseas.

If elected Libertarianz will move to reduce or preferably remove minimum wage laws in New Zealand.

So by Labour’s declared standards of “we must help the poor,” Labour themselves are failing abysmally. Only Libertarianz will remove the government barriers that are keeping  New Zealand’s poor poor.

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh on the Labour Party. Perhaps its time to give them some NCEA gradings. Being a secondary school teacher I have to give out the grades of Not Achieved, Achieved, Achievement with Merit, Achievement with Excellence and Not Yet Competent. At this point I must ask you all to stop laughing.

For all the reasons already stated, I’m going to give the Labour Party a Not Achieved for 'Helping the Poor: 101.'

For their grade in 'TAX:101,' you will recall that in 1999 the Labour Party pledged no tax increases for 95% of the population. With over 15% now in the upper income tax bracket -- inflation caused by government expenditure has pushed incomes into higher tax brackets -- while new taxes on petrol, and increased taxes on cigarettes and alcohol have added to this effective tax increase, I think it is fair to give the Labour party a Not Achieved for 'TAX:101.'

Michael Cullen has been promising tax cuts since 2004 – perhaps in this instance we should take him at his word about promised upcoming tax cuts and say that it is Not Yet Competent for 'TAX:102' – however missing the assessment deadline by four years would normally count as a Not Achieved, even under NCEA's low standards.

In 'Economy:101' -- the Labour Party upon taking office promised to turn New Zealand into a knowledge economy and raise our incomes up into the top half of the OECD.  That’s a pretty straight forward Not Achieved.

In 'Education:101' – literacy rates are appalling. Not Achieved.

In 'Health:101' – Not Achieved doesn’t even begin to describe the mess that is the public health system.

In 'Free and Fair Elections:101,' the Labour Party initially did not achieve, but in an unprecedented revision of the course through retrospective legislation, Labour managed to Achieve with Merit in the newly named course of 'Protection of Incumbency:101.'  This course has recently awarded a scholarship to Robert Mugabe, so the Labour Party is in good company. Of course in passing 'Protection of Incumbency:101' they automatically failed to achieve in 'Rule of Law:101' and 'Lack of Corruption:101.'

In fact, looking at Labour’s record of achievement – there are only two things a libertarian can find favour with; these were the passing of the Civil Union legislation and prostitution legalisation. That is all I can find in nine years of rule. On that basis, it is well and truly time for them to go.

But what of the alternatives.

Let’s take a minute to count all the ways that the National Party policies differ from the Labour Party’s.

  • The Labour Party has bought a big train set.  National has pledged not to sell it.
  • National is looking to reintroduce Think Big for telecommunications. Labour is looking to Think Big with Rail.
  • Labour will continue to grow New Zealand’s bloated bureaucracy.  National will keep our bloated bureaucracy as it is.
  • The Labour Party will not charge interest on student loans. The National Party will not charge interests on Student Loans
  • National will bring in tax cuts without any cut in expenditure. Labour will bring in tax cuts without any cut in expenditure.
  • The National Party supported banning Party Pills. The Labour supported banning party pills
  • The Labour and National party will not get rid of the Maori seats
  • Labour and National both supported the prohibition on smacking.
  • Labour will introduce policies to destroy New Zealand’s economy in order to have no actual impact on global warming. National has berated the Labour Party for delaying the introduction of policies that will destroy New Zealand’s economy in order to have no actual impact on global warming.
  • Both National and Labour support the Resource Management Act, which is preventing new, cheap electricity generation. The RMA is now restricting housing development in New Zealand so much that we have some of the most expensive housing in the world as a proportion of income. The mortgage interest payments alone on the average house price in New Zealand is nearly twice New Zealand’s average income. That is without paying any of the principle off. Both Labour and National’s response to this has been a mixture of more rules and regulations about forcing developers to build cheaper housing.
  • The one thing to National’s credit is that they will get rid of the Electoral Finance Act – the largest assault on Free Speech that New Zealand has seen since the Muldoon era of controlling the media. For this National should received an Achieved – which could rise to an Achieved with Excellence if only they would get rid of taxpayer funding of political parties, and remove the law that prevents political parties from spending their own money on election broadcasting.

So, while I will be thrilled to see the Labour Party go because I believe that politicians should be changed as regularly as nappies– and for the same reason -- National offers absolutely no alternative.

What of the other parties?

The report card for the Greens reads as follows (in language that would not be deemed "supportive" enough to go on an actual school report card):

  • 'Legalising Marijuana:101' - the Greens show a general disinterest in this subject – which is a shame because it was the only thing they were good at.
  • 'Transport Efficiency:101' – The Greens opposition to any transport initiative except highly subsidised, often empty, wasteful, carbon dioxide spewing buses and trains indicate that they have no fucking clue about the environment whatsoever.
  • 'Energy Alternatives:101' – The Greens's opposition to electricity generated by hydro, coal, gas, wind or nuclear indicates that for the Green Party, the lights are not on, and there is nobody home.

Moving to New Zealand First:

  • In accepting the 'Baubles of Office:101' Winston has done exceptionally well and he has continued to excel in the course 'Typical Xenophobic Rant Against Anyone Slightly Foreign:101,' managing to just outdo the Maori Party.

In 'Being a Member of the Labour Party without Actually being in the Labour Party:101,' United Future and Jim Anderton’s Progressive Party have done very well this year, andhave excelled in Lapdog:102 and 103. However they will need to maintain this level of achievement in the course of 'Being a Member of the Labour Party Without Actually Being in the Labour Party:101' if they want to be a member of the National Government next year.

Out of the parliamentary parties – that leaves the ACT party. What have they been up to?

When Labour, United Future, the Greens, Jim Anderton and NZ First were rorting the electoral system, Rodney Hide was busy showing off his new body. The leader of the Libertarianz got over showing off his body years ago and (much to the consternation of Dunedin’s letter posters) and has moved on to showing up the government. While Rodney Hide was busy dropping his dance partner on dancing with the stars, Bernard Darnton was dropping off papers in the high court challenging the Labour party’s 2005 election pledge card rort. An action that Bernard would have won, had the government not retrospectively changed the law.

However in doing so, Labour started the electoral slide that they are now experiencing. Labour’s slide continued with the passing of the anti-smack law. Libertarianz were right there in the organisation of opposition to this law. Mitch Lees organised a march on parliament. Where were ACT?

My understanding is that the ACT tax policy is that the total tax take will not rise beyond the level of inflation. This makes ACT the only party in parliament not offering a tax cut!

If any one of these parties offered a consistent message of freedom and rolling back state interference in our lives then we could dismantle Libertarianz right now and join them. However, there is no sign of that happening. Libertarianz has been around 12 years and we are here to stay.

We are effectively the only opposition party. We have been in amongst all of the important political questions of the day from the freedom of speech, free and fair elections, through to providing real solutions to government caused problems such as housing unaffordability and a failing health system.

When we make submissions to parliament, our principles are recognised and the politicians occasionally take heed of what we say. The “nanny state” argument is reported as being a “huge” factor by government insiders in preventing the government from introducing even more draconian legislation than we have already seen.

At the Last election, all of the small parties were squeezed by a close election between National and Labour, and the Libertarianz vote was squeezed by a National leader with visible libertarian leanings.

All that has changed. The National Party is the Labour Party is the National Party is the Labour Party. One party has a lot of teachers, gays and unionists, the other has a lot of farmers and middle class businessmen. The people may be different. The policies are not.  They are statist from top to bottom.

Libertarianz have very different policies. Our policies are radical in that they will get the state out of our lives and allow human ingenuity, ambition and compassion to flourish. We offer an enormously positive and liberating set of policies. In contrast to every other political party we are offering to hand back control of your life – to you.

Libertarianz has developed a number of transitional policies that show how we can reduce government in a step-by-step process – always with the libertarian goalposts in sight. Today we will hear another of the transitional policies being presented.

We have some strong advertising campaigns well into the planning stage. Today we will present Libz.TV and Libz in Print.

This election, Libertarianz will be putting up more candidates than ever before – both in electorates and on the list. Nominations are still open but we already have more people putting their name forward to stand as electorate candidates for Libertarianz than stood in 2005.

Many of these candidates are first-time candidates and we will be hearing from a number of them as well as some experienced ones throughout the day.

We plan to fight this election as serious contenders. Our ideas are interesting, principled and they work. This makes a huge contrast with the other parties. If we can get the necessary publicity and funding -- and our programme for both is already underway -- we can make a realistic go at getting Libz in parliament. Electoral success in New Zealand is not that hard, despite the Electoral Finance Act.

I hope that by the end of today that you will come away with ideas, confidence and networks to enable you spread the freedom message this election.

Well, that completes the report card, so it is now my great pleasure to declare the Libertarianz Conference open for business. . .

You can visit the Libertarianz website now and join up for Election '08.  Go to it!

UPDATE 1:  A video of Craig Milmine's report card for the National Party's performance -- part of what  got you all so excited here -- is now up at the Libz TV site.


UPDATE 2:   We said earlier in commenting upon this post that

    If we are under some misapprehension [about ACT's tax policy] Rodney can simply stand up in Parliament this afternoon and announce ACT's tax policy is to cut taxes to [?]%.
    He can then announce a long list of freedom related policies, legislation ACT would repeal, spending cuts ACT would manifest and all other measures that [former] ACT supporters desperately want.

And it looks like Rodney and Roger were listening.  Today at lunchtime, Rodney and Roger held a press conference to announce at least the first of the two points above.  Reports Stuff:

    ACT would immediately make the first $10,000 of income tax free, which would give an average wage earner an immediate tax saving of $50.
Then it would abolish the 39c "envy rate" and make the whole system as low and flat as possible.
ACT will release details of its tax and other policies on Sunday.

Do you see now what honest criticism can do? I look forward now to seeing announced on Sunday the long list of freedom related policies, legislation ACT would repeal, spending cuts ACT would manifest and all other measures that [former] ACT supporters desperately want to see.