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.

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Friday, 25 April 2008

War. What is it good for?


Today's Anzac commemorations bring many reflections on the nature of war. Here very briefly is mine. 
    War is brutal, destructive, and unutterably horrific. It is heart-breakingly tragic for all involved. War is hell. Wars very rarely have winners, only those who have lost the least. War, as The Age said, "is a dangerous and terrible thing, which should only ever be seen as a last resort." 
    In short, war is the second-worst thing on earth.  
    Like economic depressions and murder by concentration camp, wars are neither acts of nature nor 'Acts of God': Wars are acts of man -- of men who hope to achieve their values by violence, and who will do so if others do not rise to defend their own lives and their own values.  Wars are the result of aggression by those who see value only in force, and who see other human beings as chattel.
    They are the second-worst thing on earth only because the very worst is tyranny, an act of war by governments against those they are supposed to protect. It is with the existence of tyrannical governments and of movements intent on inflicting tyranny and oppression against others that wars of conquest and campaigns of terror begin. It is  those who seek their values through violence that makes war possible; it is the existence of such entities that make wars of self-defence and liberation necessary.
    It is not enough simply to declare oneself against war and wish war's destruction would go away.  Pacifism itself only rewards aggression.  Pacifism kills.  It is necessary to oppose aggression and to resist tyranny. 
    When aggressors seek Lebensraum, then appeasement just rewards the aggression and fuels further aggression.  When slave pens are allowed to flourish, then peace without justice is not true peace. 
   Peace without justice rewards the tyrannical, rearms the aggressor, and is an injustice to those whom the tyrants enslave and kill.  Every semi-free country has the right to defend itself against aggressors, and to liberate the slave pen.  As long as some human beings choose to deal with other human beings with the whip, the chain and the gun -- with stonings, fatwahs and holocausts -- with the torture chamber, the dungeon and the gulag -- as long as some men continue to enslave and attempt to enslave others, then wars will continue to happen, and we will continue to need to be ready to defend ourselves. 
    If we have things worth living for -- and we do -- then for that much at least we all have things worth defending. As Thomas Jefferson observed over two-hundred years ago, the price of our liberty is eternal vigilance. Two-hundred years later, nothing has changed. If war is horrific, then tyranny is worse. 
    In the name of liberty, let us resolve to remember the roots of all war:

If men want to oppose war, it is statism that they must oppose. So long as they hold the tribal notion that the individual is sacrificial fodder for the collective, that some men have the right to rule others by force, and that some (any) alleged “good” can justify it—there can be no peace within a nation and no peace among nations.

    Lest we forget.

[Image is from Charles Sargeant Jagger's Artillery Monument at Hyde Park Corner, London.]

UPDATE 1:  Along these lines, Lindsay Perigo argues we should honour the ANZACs by taking out the Nanny State.

And he's right, you know.  Our soldiers didn't die for this.

UPDATE 2: Reflects Liberty Scott:

    The price for peace is defence, it is deterrence and the willingness to respond to aggression. It is only when belligerence is clearly beyond imagination that this can be rolled back, and western Europe is today an example of countries that could hardly imagine waging war on each other, though they need not go far to find those who will...
[T]ake time today to remember those who lost it all for your freedom. They did more for peace than anyone who protests for it ever have.

As George Orwell is supposed to have said, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." Or as David Kopel concludes, if you want to give thanks for peace, then thank a soldier. 

For those in Australia and New Zealand, today's the day.

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"Our passion for good wins out at the last."

How this delights me: this will and this promise
Of yours for my country!
The eyes of Persuasion–how I adore them
For watching over my lips and my tongue
When pitted against your so wild opposition...
Our passion for good
Wins out at the last.

Aeschylus, The Eumenides 458 B.C. [hat tip Michael Newberry]. 

The speech comes from Athena's persuasive peroration that transforms The Furies, the ancient agents of Revenge, into the Eumenides or 'Benevolent Ones.'


Thursday, 24 April 2008

Crisis meeting of the AGW Politbureau

Vincent Gray has received the minutes of the recent meeting of the IPCC Steering Committee (The Politbureau) to consider the crisis that has arisen from the recent apparent cooling of the climate.  Read them here.

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"It just doesn't wash"

Some interesting observations here from an American outdoorsman commenting on the canyoning tragedy in the Tongariro in which seven people were killed, particularly on the media's "almost surreal" focus on private suffering, and how Americans would have a different focus.  "Current news reports are concentrating on the funerals," he notes, "with the usual media focus on heroism, bravery and related subjects like faith, God, and healing."  In other words, what Lindsay Perigo describes as "the phony grief of the media ghouls."  He continues:

We Americans and our media tend to point fingers hard and fast after adventure fatalities, but Kiwis apparently follow the opposite philosophy to an almost surreal extreme. The prevailing New Zealand attitude seems to be that adventure requires risk, adventurers shouldn’t be coddled, the OPC is very professional, and no one could have predicted what happened. And I’d like to believe that, but it just doesn’t wash.

Read why it won't wash, and wonder why the media here aren't asking the same questions.

Broadband, by order!

New Zealanders need broadband, you say?  Okay, then if they need it as desperately as you say, why don't they seem prepared (as things stand presently) to pay voluntarily for the investment necessary?  Why does one of the two major parties think we need to be forced to pay for nationalised broadband, withdrawing more than $1.5 billion of investment capital from those New Zealanders who voluntarily choose their own investments based on reasonable return, and transferring it to a project that in the present environment is only apparently a goer as long as government force lies behind it.

Do you think perhaps there's a good reason, or several reasons, that New Zealanders haven't paid voluntarily for the sort of broadband that's now being talked about?

The fact is that the alleged need New Zealanders have for broadband -- a need that National says is worth spending taxpayers money at the rate of $2000 per household -- is only a problem from the standpoint of central planning, which necessarily views human beings as a collective incapable of direction, and which finds it simply unfathomable that individuals are capable of understanding and acting in their own best interests.

But this is quite wrong.  In actual fact, if government meddling and government restrictions were removed, then individuals are quite capable themselves of voluntarily redirecting their efforts and their investment capital to filling this alleged need, or any real need.  The fact is that if $1.5 billion of spending were to truly attract a benefit of $4.5 billion (and this figure that's been bandied around isn't just guesswork), then this is $4.5 billion of benefit to specific individuals.  Why wouldn't they be prepared to stump up voluntarily if their risk was minimised by the removal of the various restrictions on doing so?  Or as Annie Fox puts it in itemising the particular restrictions that need to go, "Remove the Red Tape, the Fibre Optics will follow."

Restricting investment and then using government force and taxpayer dollars to pick 'winners' was the leitmotif of an earlier National Government under Muldoon.  Liberty Scott recalls some of the 'winners' that the Muldoon Government picked in its 'Think Big' programme (some of which we're still paying for), muses on the resurrection of this flagship Muldoonist failure, and has eight relevant questions that any supporter of John Boy Thinking Big must be able to answer.

John Key's National Party?  They sure as hell aren't the answer.

UPDATE:  Says Matt Burgess at Anti Dismal:

    This is Think Big 21st century style.
    The objection is not that better broadband is a bad thing. In the 1980s, more electricity was a good thing but Clyde Dam was a disaster. The problem with National's plan is that it's likely to give New Zealanders less broadband at higher cost and lower quality than might otherwise have been achieved, much as Clyde Dam did for electricity.
There are several reasons for this pessimism...

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Debt & demolition

What honest person wouldn't sympathise with this story:

A builder who was not paid for the £22,000 porch and conservatory he built for a customer has taken revenge by demolishing his own handiwork.

Story here in the Telegraph.


There are some things I hate hearing at the funeral of a loved one, you know the sort of thing . . .

  • He's gone to a better place.
    No, he's dead.  He won't be going anywhere ever again.
  • He's gone to join the Lord.
    No, he hasn't gone to join your imaginary friend.  He's dead.
  • God has the last word today, not death.
    It doesn't get any more final than death.
  • God has prepared him a room in His house.
    No He hasn't.  He's dead.
  • At least he's finally out of pain.
    No, he's dead.
  • Now he's in peace.
    No, he's dead.
  • It's a blessing really.
    No, it doesn't get any worse. He's dead.
  • Now he'll have life everlasting.
    No, he's just lost the only life he'll ever have, you arsehole.  He's dead.
  • This is a test from God.
    No, it's a test whether or not I can refrain from punching you in the nose.
  • Life is a vale of tears, with paradise as its reward.
    You unspeakable lowlife.
  • It's for the best, really.
    No , it's not, you arsehole. It's an unspeakable bloody tragedy -- the end of a human life -- a life that can never be replaced.  There's nothing good about it.

Here's about the only one that does make any sense:

  • This is a test of faith.
    Yes. It should be.

If Christians come knocking at our door at any other time the interfering busybodies are generally sent on their way with a well-deserved flea in their ear, yet for some reason the interfering bastards are given a free ride at funerals -- when they take advantage of everyone's emotional guard being down -- with the result that at a time of utter loss and devastation the bereaved don't get a chance to reflect on their loss in peace, but are assailed instead with bullshit, bromides and superstitious fictions. 


Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Kindersymphonies Project - Frank Lloyd Wright


A group of four kindergartens designed in 1926 for the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. Wright archivist Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer reckons "no project more evidently portrays Wright's love of delighting small children than this one for a group of four playhouses in Oak Park, Illinois.  Even the title suggests the romance of the scheme, 'Kindersymphonies.' The names he selected for the playhouses further suggest the gaiety of the project: 'The Goblin,' or 'Scherzo,' 'Two-for-a-Penny,' 'The Iovanna,' after his daughter's name, and 'The Anne Baxter' after his granddaughter."

The perspective shows a Froebelian playhouse with coloured globes and a reflecting pool.


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Tuesday, 22 April 2008


I'm off to Christchurch on business shortly, and unlikely to be posting for twenty-four hours -- feel free to talk about me while I'm gone.  Or instead, to catch up on Popular NOT PC this last month:

  1. Where was God?
  2. Testing liberty against slavery
  3. I will arise now, and go from Glenbrook Beach
  4. Even freeish trade is a good thing
  5. Why Aucklanders don't use public transport
  6. Peter Brown is right
  7. Frank Lloyd Wright's 1938 Dream House
  8. You can be too thin
  9. Stop attacking John Boy
  10. Auckland Domestic Airport

Or check out some of my regular reads:

Hypar umbrella, by Felix Candela

The formwork, falsework and idea of Felix Candela's thin concrete-shelled hypar 'umbrellas' has always fascinated me with their possibilities . . . so simple,  so elegant, so suggestive.  I have several models along these lines around the house just waiting for the right opportunity . . .


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Monday, 21 April 2008

MG meets Montessori


I did get to Napier over the weekend for the Montessori Association conference -- in a different MG than the one I'd intended, and just in time to take keynote speaker Cheryl Ferreira for a spin around the Art Deco city.  As she said, there's nothing like a bit of wind through your sari.
[Photo by Fred Stevens from Studio NZ Photography,]

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Australia's Rudd 2020 GabFest

As is to demonstrate Ayn Rand's  point that you can't force a man to think, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's ThinkFest 2008 has drawn to a close with commentator Piers Akerman declaring, "If there was an independent thought voiced in opposition to the generally anodyne motherhood statements, it went unheard"; Melbourne mother Kate Hands saying, "Most of the suggestions were obvious and had already been done in the past"; and Tim Blair judging this the summit’s best idea:

"Make death a better experience"

Cate-BlondesGetMoreBill Must have been a good show.  Meanwhile luvvie Cate Blanchett "set the audience nodding in approval when she stated her belief in ‘a long and meaningful relationship between arts and government’."  Story here from the sycophantic ABC. Sounds like if you'd endorsed the idea of ‘a long and meaningful relationship between anything and government' you'd have this handpicked audience nodding in agreement, and probably awarding extra marks for originality.  This was after all, as Prodos describes it, "a Summit of Fashionable Fascism."  And as Tim Blair notes,

"Each of the summit’s 10 groups have until three o’clock this afternoon to identify their three ideas, including one that costs nothing to implement."  Imagine the panic if they’d been asked to come up with ideas that made money.

Entertaining commentary here by Tim Blair, here and here by Andrew Bolt, and this definitive report by Annabell Crabb, who described the weekend's GabFest as "Vatican II, with Kevin Rudd playing the role of God."



"The whole truth"

In a court room one is required to present the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  This litany remains an excellent guide for anyone undertaking the job of making a genuine case against something or someone.

To make a case, whether scientific or criminal, one must present to an audience the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  In other words, one presents all relevant facts without distortion or deception: one presents the truth, and nothing but.  We might testify in court, for example, that a defendant owned a gun that matched the bullet found in the victim, and then invite the appropriate conclusions about culpability to be drawn.  Or we might report from the lab that experiments showed judicious application of our new wonder drug caused an abatement in a disease we hope to cure.

But this in itself is insufficient -- one must not leave out facts which are inconvenient to one's case.  One may have footnotes and witness statements for everything we do report, but if relevant facts remain unreported, then the footnotes and witness statements are either cherrypicking, if intentional, or unfortunate,  if inadvertent -- but the result in the end is that our report is worthless.

(By the way, to establish precisely which facts are relevant, it's helpful to fully understand the causal link between those facts of which we are aware -- just another reason that no explanation is complete without causality.)

Telling the whole truth means looking for facts that contradict one's argument, and then reporting them.  If we know that on the night the victim died, for example, that the defendant spent the entire time in full public view at a function for police prosecutors, then it would be wrong to omit this fact from our testimony.  If we know that not all our experiments have worked, and we are unable to explain the causality behind those that do or don't, then it would be wrong to say we know the whole truth, and dishonest not to seek a full explanation.

It's important to understand that if the omission of relevant facts is intentional, then being economical with the truth is the same thing as lying.  If unintentional,  then it begins to look like incompetence.  If done repeatedly it begins to look like a modus operandi, and one is entitled to simply disregard intentionality, and simply ignore anything further from that quarter.

So to conclude: Honest reportage and honest scientific discussion represents the whole truth -- that is, all relevant facts.   A report or discussion that ignores or fails to present all relevant facts is worthless.  So too is a reporter or interlocutor who cherrypicks.

What prompted me to write this post today?  Simple.  Because Ian Wishart has a new book out.

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