Monday, 14 July 2008

Let's all have inflation to go

Some people still think the Reserve Bank fights inflation. Poor saps. Here's the history of NZ's inflation, in a graph. Just take a look at what happens to inflation once a) the gold standard was 'suspended' in 1914, and b)when the Reserve Bank is established in 1934. Now, we're all aware that correlation is not causality, but seems to me that the fans of central banking have some explaining to do.

UPDATE: I should have let you know the context for the graph. It was prepared by Bryce Wilkinson from Wellington's Capital Economics Ltd, and referenced in this February article by Frederic Sautet: 'The Disastrous Effects of Central Banking: Let’s Get the Story about Inflation in New Zealand Straight.'

Understanding independent front suspension

Every modern car on the road has 'INDEPENDENT FRONT SUSPENSION,' but many do not know exactly what this means, or how exactly this tremendous innovation works. Essentially, both wheels are independent of each other, hence that expression. For a superb demonstration of how a pair works in harmony, watch this German commercial for the Nissan Pathfinder -- a moving experience which should benefit your understanding of this fine piece of engineering. Best explanation I've seen. These Germans know what they're doing.

Down one.

Oops.  NOT PC has dropped a spot.

Libz leader Bernard Darnton confesses "I'm a spiny ant-eater"

Libertarianz leader Bernard Darnton confesses in this interview with Wellington's Capital Times to being a spiny ant-eater. Who knew?

Q: Should central government contribute more money to the Transmission Gully project than it has already committed?
No. The Transmission Gully project is a wildly overpriced boondoggle that will contribute nothing to fixing Wellington transport. The trouble is that politicians prefer enormous shiny projects - regardless of whether they work or not - to small sensible ones, such as the numerous upgrades that are already relieving congestion on the coastal route. If gold-plated projects like this and the billion-dollar tunnel under Helen Clark's electorate were abandoned taxes on petrol wouldn't need to be 70 cents a litre.

Q: What book are you currently reading?
'
Culture of Fear' by Frank Furedi. Furedi contends that despite being healthier and safer than ever, our culture is suffused with fear. We fear bird flu, pesticides, and paedophiles, even though none of these is ever likely to harm us. We fear that we're incompetent to deal with problems, leading to an infestation of mediators, facilitators, counsellors, and similar nonsense professions. In politics people demand government protection from all manner of imagined ills. We trade real freedom for false security.

Q: What is the key issue Wellington will face over the next three years?
The biggest issue facing Wellington and New Zealand is resource management. Whatever your pet topic is - transport, energy, or house prices - the Resource Management Act has an impact, usually negative. New roads and power stations are delayed or prevented by the RMA. The recent housing boom, and hence bust, was caused by restrictions on land use. Businesses use the RMA to stymie competitors rather than to protect the environment. Protecting property rights rather than “managing resources” would fix all this.

Q: Is the public service bloated and overstaffed or under-resourced given its importance to society?
The public “service” is grossly overstaffed. Bureaucracy is a parasitic growth that lives off the productive sector and it should be slashed. There's a myth that the government “runs the country”. In fact the government's usual role is to get in the way. Those who really run the country are the entrepreneurs, plumbers, and truckies. Without them the country would grind to a halt. It's hard to imagine that a few thousand communications strategists and policy analysts would be missed.

Q: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
A pangolin. Standing for Libertarianz is a bit like being a pangolin. Nobody's ever heard of pangolins either. Pangolins – or spiny anteaters – have thick skins, something that's necessary both in the sub-Saharan forest and the Aro Valley Community Centre election meeting. Like good libertarians, pangolins aren't aggressive but will defend themselves if required. Allegedly, the problem-solving section of a pangolin's brain is highly developed, essential for finding food at night and rolling back the nanny state once elected.

Culture of Fear Revisited: Risk-taking and the Morality of Low Expectation
by Frank Furedi

Read more about this book...

He said "Sloppy"!

I have to say it's always amusing to hear Winston Peters lambast his accusers by calling them "lazy," guilty of "sloppy journalism" and claim the evidence against him is just "malicious lies." It's doubly amusing -- since as everyone knows this is a man who is a complete stranger to details with a near-total aversion to hard work, who can't lie straight in bed.

The primary problem Peters now faces is his own "sloppiness" with the truth (did the Cook Strait ferry ever run aground as he said it did? was anything ever found at the bottom of the Winebox as he claimed? did he really refuse the baubles of office as he promised? was the man with the illegal Winston First sign just "an enthusiastic supporter" who Winston said he didn't know? did Owen Glenn ever give him money, which Winston said he didn't)*; his own party's sloppiness with donations, and who may or may not have deposited what, and when (or not); and his own abject dishonesty in stealing money from the taxpayer to fund his last election campaign, and his childish games ever since in refusing to pay it back.

"Sloppy"doesn't begin to describe the dishonest poseur.

Here's Devo with a song for Winston: 'Sloppy.'

UPDATE 1: The Hive suggests the last job for the Serious Fraud Office before its demise should be investigating the Glenn loan or non-loan to NZ First. That would certainly motivate the SFO troops!

UPDATE 2: The conspiracy theories have started. I just received this in my inbox:

Now, I might be drawing a long bow here, but what if OG’s donations to NZ First were a set-up from the start?
What if he made donations under the direction of the Labour Party to NZ First as an insurance scheme for Labour?
Maybe, Peters either knew about the money but wanted to keep it quiet – why, we don’t know. It seems odd seeing he backed the EFB.
Or, Peters didn’t know about the money, it arrived in NZF’s bank account anyway, and Winston has been made to look a fool when OG comes out stating that he gave NZ First money.
Peters is caught with his fly down after denying the donations publicly, and Clark and Labour cut Peters loose when he looks like he’s becoming a liability.
A year or two ago I wouldn’t have considered something so outlandish, but after seeing Labour in action, I think nothing is beyond the realms of possibility.

Frankly, I think the ability of the Labour Party to organise anything suggests cockup more than conspiracy. But it's entertaining to speculate.

UPDATE 3: Frankly, you can only laugh when you hear Helen Clark saying it's not her job to investigate since Winston Peters's problems are "not the Labour Party's business" and she is "not a private police force" as she did just now on Newstalk ZB, since in the last nine years every goddamn thing anyone in this country does has been deemed to be "the Labour Party's business" -- that is, every goddamn thing except the behaviour of her cabinet ministers -- and she and those same cabinet ministers have unleashed unprecedented police power against productive, hard-working New Zealanders and their families.

And she might reflect too that If she's used the phrase "not the Labour Party's business" more liberally over the last nine years, she might have more support now.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

* The answer to all of these is of course the very opposite of what Winston said was the case. When it came to the crunch, it was found Winston had no evidence to back up any of his self-serving tilts at the headlines, or to do what he said he would -- and now the emails have come out between Owen Glenn and his PR man, they seem top confirm Dail Jones's claim last year that a donation of around $100k was deposited into the NZ First back account in December last year.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

REVIEW: Little Bushman & Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, (Auckland Town Hall)

Crikey, this was good. Starting with an Ornette Colemanseque sax jam sounding a little like Lou Reed's 'Bells,' and finishing with a folksy Led-Zep-goes-bushman romp, Warren Maxwell and his band played a winning evening of music with the APO that wore its influences on the sleeve, and always had the heart in the right place. It was a joy to witness.

A former Trinity Roots lead, the sweep and textures of Maxwell's psychedelic-cinematic songs lend themselves beautifully to the orchestral experiment initiated by the APO and local composer John Psathas, who arranged Maxwell's pieces for orchestra and band. It worked. It worked damn well. There were a few worrying moments when it might have been Spinal Tap in their 'free jazz phase' up there -- just moments, however, which were gloriously swept away with soaring melody, or riffs that nibbled their way up from within to sweep to glory over the sea of sound.

It was a neat night, and (like Maxwell's music), the very best of Enzed -- kiwi through and through. Amid all the concern for the future of New Zealand, the night, the songs, the audience and orchestra -- an audience including young hoodie-wearers in awe of the orchestra and of Maxwell's music -- all seemed to say, "We're going to be okay."

I loved it. Here's an interview to give you some idea of what you missed.

UPDATE: See, it wasn't just me; the Herald thought it was special too:

This is one of those once in lifetime gigs you're unlikely to see the likes of again...

Owen who?

Confused about Owen Glenn -- about why he's relevant to NZ politics, and what his behaviour and treatment says about NZ politicians? Then read David Farrar's short summary, 'Some facts about Owen Glenn.'

Welcome to 'Sunday Star Times' & 'Herald' readers


Hi there, and welcome to NOT PC --- and to NOT PC's posts on Education.

Check out the Libertarianz' transitional education policy here at Libz TV. Read the full Libertarianz education policy here. And here's just a few of my favourite posts on the subject here at NOT PC...
NB: Libertarianz advertising is entireley funded by the voluntary donations of supporters. If you want to help support Libertarianz advertising this year, including the weekly promotion of Libz transitional policies in the Sunday Star and elsewhere, then head here to donate. Thanks.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Question for the weekend

H.L. Mencken once defined a demagogue as "one who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots."

Which NZ politician does that best describe? Which US politician?

The best of July, so far!

If your blog reading has been slow and you've missed any of NOT PC since the start of July, then have no fear -- here's the best posts of NOT PC since July 1, as judged by you the visiting reader, you the linking blogger, and me and my own superior judgement.

  1. Are the Greens ten feet tall?
    Some of the 'highlights' from Green high-flyers' speeches at their party conference -- including how the Treaty of Waitangi cures cancer...
  2. Jordan Bad Luck
    Labour's Hunua high-flyer Jordan "I find trade immoral" Carter explains he was a knob when he was 'young.' He's now twenty-six.
  3. Dirty old trains
    What's the greenest way to travel? Wrong. If you want to increase carbon emissions, then get out of your 4WD, and get into a train. These are the real carbon behemoths.
  4. The forecasting delusion
    Economists can never get it right, so why are their crystal balls taken seriously?
  5. No Veitch
    No, I won't be commenting on Tony Veitch -- so why was this the fifth most popular post last week? Beats the hell out of me.
  6. Take off your slippers, John Key...
    ...and start putting the boot in! Susie the Libertarian gives the best radio rant you're going to hear this month.
  7. The Green business oxymoron
    Green business experience? Might as well talk about nomadic urban planning. Or Australian culture.
  8. What a character
    Stephen Franks argues that a candidate's character is more important than his policy. No wonder he's standing for National.
  9. Expo 2000 pavilion - architect Thomas Herzog and structural engineer Julius Natterer
    Who knew you could do this with timber!

And of course, don't miss the Objectivist blog carnival over at Ed's place - everything from McCain to Rockwell, from ecology to freedom of speech. It's all right here at this week's Objectivist round-up.

Have a great weekend -- might see you at Little Bushman. I'll leave you with a few quotes on politics from Oswald's.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Beer O’Clock: Stupid Beers

Neil Miller from Real Beer writes today about beer ideas that go horribly wrong. This column first appeared in Salient magazine, but only readers of Not PC get the pictures.

While many students live by the creed that the best beer in the world is the one right in front of them (preferably that someone else paid for), there are some beers which are simply stupider than Paul Holmes in a burka.

The Japanese actually have some very sound ideas about beer. You can buy a two-litre can of decent beer from a vending machine. Politely, they have even installed these vending machines on the tops of mountains for thirsty climbers.

This makes it even more baffling why they thought it would be a acceptable to make a low-malt beer with milk. This creamy, fruity drink – called “Bilk” – is basically designed to use up surplus milk. Perhaps they should simply sell the milk direct to New Zealanders given dairy prices here.

Surely the Aussies must be coming the raw prawn with Dog Beer (DB). This is a non-alcoholic, un-hopped, low-carbonated “beer” which tastes like beef so you can apparently ‘shout your best friend a beer.’ The big question is – is DB actually any worse than VB?

In their never-ending quest for efficiency, the Germans have managed to fit two vices into one glass by successfully putting nicotine into beer. NicoShot beer claims to help drinkers stop smoking by providing a steady, controlled release of nicotine as they quaff. Three cans of NicoShot is the equivalent to an entire pack of cigarettes. Thankfully, it does not seem to have caught on.

At least the nicotine beer contains the nicotine promised. Ben and Jerry’s Stout Ice Cream in America has been proven to contain no beer at all. It does however contain “natural flavours, guar gum and carrageenan” – the later being a seaweed extract.

Before we get too smug, it is not like we are immune to stupidity as anyone who watches “New Zealand’s Got Talent” will know. After Anheuser-Busch launched the ludicrously named “B-to-the-E” beer with caffeine, guarana and ginseng, 'we' spent a couple of years developing the equally ludicrous MASH range. Our innovation was replacing the vaguely natural ginseng with Food Acid 330.

Similarly, while we laugh at some of the beer laws in the United States – beer in Utah cannot be over 3.2%, a Californian beer was not allowed to be called “Chronic” and shoppers in Pennsylvania stores cannot buy beer in less than 24-packs – we had the six o’clock swill from 1917 to 1967. Who was stupid enough to think that was a good idea?

Cheers, Neil

Fear & loathing with Alan

Hunter S. Thompson takes a trip to Canberra with Alan Bollard. Armed. And hilarious.

Election date

Those who put money on it are putting it on November 8th. You heard it here first.

ECE: Me too.

National has just released its policy on early childhood education for the election, specifically on Labour's forced retraining, which has single-handedly led to severe teachers shortages, and its ill-named 'twenty hours free' policy that's led to the diminution of quality in early childhood centres.

Here's the short summary of National's policy response: Me too.

Five Miles too far?

When I heard news that Dave Henderson's Five Mile development in Queenstown was having trouble with its financiers, I must confess the effect on the development's cash-flow of five years of planning hearings to get permission did cross my mind -- five years of hearings that have already cost the development up to $35 million, not to mention the holding costs -- hearings for permissions that have still not been granted.

Put that sort of delay in your cash flow, and see if you can smoke it.

Remember, all he's after is permission to build on his own land. That shouldn't be a problem, you'd think, except that under the RMA every Tom, Dick and business competitor gets to object and drag things out -- and when you're proposing a whole new town centre, that's a lot of disgruntled business competitors feeling objectionable about their coercive monopolies being removed that need to be placated.

As long as those permissions have been withheld, there's been no chance of income to keep the cash flow flowing. Death by a thousand delays.

I thought too of Ayn Rand's observation that "when the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce, then you may know your culture is doomed." Who, ever, speaks out for the productive? Who, ever, speaks out in support of what productive people are trying to produce? Hardly at all, not in this culture. Too many snivelling mediocrities who like to see tall poppies trampled, and too many vultures who see no value in human production, or human fecundity. Too many who care nothing about what the unholy process does to the producers, and that which they're trying to produce.

That said, and whatever the circling headlines, I feel sure that Dave isn't a man who gives up his dreams easily. Anyone already writing up headlines writing him off would do well to examine the now well-known record of his tenacity. One or two of those miles will be difficult, but Five Mile is unlikely to be a mile too many.

Another good person gone

Another good person is being driven from these fair shores by overwhelming political effluent. Farewell, Elliot, and all the best.

Ironically, every good person leaving because of the destruction of private property rights, killer taxation, rampant socialism/communism, stupid Greenies, taxpayer funded apartheid, no-hopers paid to breed, global warming hysteria, and a corrupt, bossy, nannying Government makes it even harder to overturn said government -- or more particularly, to overturn the cravenly sheeple-like mentality in the voting classes that makes such a government possible.

And for the most part, where else in the world is any different?

Every time I'm tempted myself to up sticks like Elliot, I think of Dave Henderson's response when friends suggested he let the thugs from the IRD drive him out. "Fuck 'em," said Dave, "this is my home." That's how I feel too.

Utopic takeover

The Landed Underclass muses in a science fiction fashion on a Libertarian revolution in a Britain "finally ‘Browned off’ with totalitarianism." Very entertaining, with more to come.

His assessment of the likely national and international reactions to such an event is spot on, and reminded me somewhat of a 1907 piece of science fiction, The Secret of the League.

Chrysler Building - William van Allen

chrysler-building

42nd_street_chrysler_buildingAmerica's favourite art deco skyscraper is now Abu Dhabi's. No, the 1930s work of art hasn't been stripped down, boxed up and shipped to the desert paradise -- it's been sold to an Abu Dhabi pensions fund for the princely (or should that be sheikly) sum of US$800 million, the sum the fund paid for a 90% stake.

Of course, this will not make one whit of difference to the way the building is used, run or managed, despite the worst fears of the American equivalents of Winston Peters who fear that it will now disappear from Manhattan's streets, or the loonies who will claim it will become a haven for terrorists. It will continue to be the icon it ever was, in the same place it ever was, giving the same joy it ever did. And the American economy is $800 million richer for the purchase.

9481499Those same xenophobes might care to consider however that this sort of sale is happening every day, and more and and more of it will keep happening as long as the American Federal Reserve Bank keeps trying to destroy the value of American dollar by inflating the currency ( a policy most of the 'phobic wonders support), and as long as American environmentalists (most of whom are rabidly 'phobic) keep holding up the development of new oil fields and the construction of new refineries -- supply-side restrictions that are transferring huge wealth to the oil economies of the Middle East.

In other words, the sale is a symbol that the 'conventional wisdom' of both central bankers and enviro-wankers -- not to mention politicians -- is making America and the rest of the non-oil-producing world poor. That's the sort of thing you might really want to worry about.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

There'll be missiles over Tel Aviv

Hands up all those who think the reaction of the world's peaceniks to Iran having test-fired nine missiles, including a new missile with the capability of hitting Tel Aviv, will be to picket Iranian embassies, burn Iranian flags and remind everyone of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's public call for Israel to be "wiped off the map"?

Anyone who thinks that will happen? No? Brig Gen Hoseyn Salami, commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' air force, said: "Our missiles are ready for shooting at any place and any time, quickly and with accuracy." Any non-violent peaceniks want to take a stand against that? Anyone?

Or are peaceniks more likely to criticise the 'demonisation' of Iran by "a compliant media," like this apostle of non-violence and former Greens' high-flyer not long out of jail for grievous bodily harm, who wishes us to believe that Iran is not a belligerent. Yeah right. Just like he wasn't. [Hat tip Liberty Scott and AB]

Fact is, as ARI's Elan Journo identifies, either with or without nukes Iran is a mortal threat.

UPDATE: Oops! How many missiles? Looks like Iran's Photoshoppery Guards have been playing come tricks on the western media. They can't even lie straight.

NZ ~ 100% there for the taking!

Plans have just been uncovered of a new Australian Federal Government initiative for the 'closer economic integration' of New Zealand. Visit InvadeNewZealand.Com for details.

No Veitch

No, I won't be commenting on Tony Veitch. I don't know enough about what happened and there's nothing I can do about what happened ... and neither can you.

But why this gosh-darned obsession with celebrities and what they get up to, whether good or bad? Don't you have lives of your own to go home to?

Here's Graham Parker, with 'Empty Lives.'

Too many chiefs, not enough Indians

Too many bureaucrats, too few people doing the work. That's what ANZ economist Cameron Bagrie says is the case in too many government departments.

While the government has embarked on a multi-billion dollar spending binge over the last decade, the numbers of front-line people -- police, teachers, health professionals -- the people governments boast they're putting into the front line -- has been growing, but nowhere as fast as the demand for them. And they haven't been growing anywhere near as fast as the back office bureaurats -- the number of these parasites has been growing at a rate of seven percent per year, which means that in ten years their number has doubled -- and it's not like there were too few of these bastards ten years ago!

As Ludwig von Mises observed, "Only to bureaucrats can the idea occur that establishing new offices, promulgating new decrees, and increasing the number of government employees alone can be described as positive and beneficial measures." These bastards haven't been helping the productive, they've been getting in our way.

It's worth reading Bagrie's news along with a copy of Phil Rennie's analysis of the government's multi-billion dollar spending binge, released last year, which demonstrates that government spending is now higher by every measure than it was under Muldoon, and has little if anything to show for it. Life expectancy, infant mortality, hospital outputs, literacy, violent crime, suicide, poverty and income inequality have all barely changed in ten years, despite a massive increase in so called 'social spending.'

Governments like to boast about how much of your money they're spending on 'education,' or 'health,' or 'law and order' -- and the more zeroes in those money amounts, the more they like it -- but they're demonstrably uninterested where all that money goes. Where it's gone has been on bureaucratic management that's more interested in building empires than building 'infrastructure.'

But that's just what bureaucrats do.

And remember --National have no intention of getting rid of these parasites.

UPDATE: No Minister rounds up the various follow-ups to the story from the likes of NBR, Bernard Hickey and elsewhere..

NB: "It is in the very nature of government management (bureaucracy) that it will be inefficient, and prone to corruption," says a recent article at the Mises Daily. It was Ludwig von Mises in his book Bureaucracy who drew the important distinction between between "bureaucratic management" and "profit management," and who explained why the former necessarily fails: "In public administration, there is no connection between revenue and expenditure … there is no market price for achievements." Says John Chapman:

[Mises] explained that neither incentives nor exploitation of useful information are optimal under bureaucratic management, and by definition there could be no rational calculation via profit and loss...
Conversely, after privatization, operations and cost efficiencies improve because once incentives are in place and aligned, and people are empowered and incited (by the lure of profit) to utilize "particular knowledge" of markets, methods, competitive conditions, et al., performance improves.

Much more important even than this loss of "efficiency" is Mises warning of "a byproduct of bureaucratic management": the gradual vanishing of the "critical sense."

When one sees ministers in charge of hospitals that kill, schools that spit out illiterates, and a police force unable to perform its most basic duties, but with no sense of shame at the manifest failure, what we're looking at is exactly what Mises warned about.

Greens reveal their approach to law and order

While demand grows across the country for increased action to protect individuals from criminals, the wife of Green Party list candidate Gareth Hughes releases the Green Party's informal law and order policy at the Green Party blog, announcing that for any "proud activist ... within reasonable limits a bit of trespass, a bit of property damage, a bit of general disruption is fine. Quite fun, too." [Hat tip Whale Oil]

Since one searches in vain for a law and order policy at the Greens' site, feel free to ask co-leaders Jeanette Fitzsimons and Russel (with one 'l') Norman if they agree with that informal policy, and if this is indicative of the Greens' general attitude t0 people and their property.

Email Jeanette: Jeanette.Fitzsimons@greens.org.nz
Email Russel (with one 'l'): Russel.Norman@greens.org.nz

Queen of the Night

Schinkel_Friedrich_The_Queen_Of_The_Night

Funny. I spent an evening with a friend from the Opera Factory not long ago comparing performances of the Queen of the Night from Mozart's 'Magic Flute,' his very best opera, and then what do you know: these recent performances posted at YouTube showed up in my inbox this morning from a list that I frequent. Now, I haven't yet had a chance to compare them, so if you'd like to let me know which ones you rate, I'd be grateful.

Diana Damrau
Acte I. www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EUOmdxo2jE www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysCvFTE9O8Y
Acte II. www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZG90IhvGZk www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvuKxL4LOqc

Nathalie Dessay:
Aix-en-Provence, 1996:
Acte I. www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mvRPekFqJg
Acte II. www.youtube.com/watch?v=02yf6RHIQjQ

Paris, 2006:
Act(e) I: www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1ODbDKmSEc
Act(e) II: www.youtube.com/watch?v=02yf6RHIQjQ

Edita Gruberova:
Acte II. www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HXHTHgNfnw

Pour cet extrait, le volume de vos haut-parleurs devrait être réglé un peu plus fort.

Elena Mosuc:
Acte I. www.youtube.com/watch?v=gri31wll8aU
Acte II. www.youtube.com/watch?v=bofe64-dG0A

The image, by the way, is the Queen of the Night, by Carl Friedrich Schinkel.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The oxymoron of Green business experience

I posted yesterday on the sad and sorry lot that are the Greens' new 'high-flyers,' as revealed by their own words. This morning The Frog (who is paid for by you, the taxpayer) defends, or tries to, the all too obvious charge that the Green Party knows nothing about and has no experience of business by posting a list that "proves" their top twelve candidates for 2008 are steeped in business experience (complete with careful massage -- David Clendon, for example morphs from Resource Consultant, ie., parasite, to "Business Adviser").

They have to go to twelve because that's the first genuine appearance of genuine business experience among the planning lecturers, "community development workers" and "climate change campaigners" that dominate. I invite you to view the complete list of losers who seek political power over you, and ask yourself how many have spent any appreciable hours earning a genuine profit instead of sucking off the taxpayers' tit?

Looks like Green business experience is as much an oxymoron as 'Australian culture,' or 'government initiative.'  More like ivory tower experience.

UPDATE:
Q: What's the biggest theft of NZers' property rights since the war? 
A: National's Resource Management Act.
Q: How many of the Greens' top twelve have been feeding from this particular trough?
A: Fully one third of them, for most of their working lives:

  • Jeanette Fitzsimons: Planning Lecturer
  • Metiria Turei: Resource Management Lawyer
  • Catherine Delahunty: tutor and 'mediator' under the Resource Management Act
  • David Clendon:  Resource Consultant and lecturer in the RMA

Snouts in a $750 million trough

What species of persons would meet together to discuss exploding food prices, food shortages and the sacrifice of world industry to the goddess Gaia while troughing down more food than a small African country could consume in a year?

Answer: politicians. The political leaders of the world's eight wealthiest countries (known as 'the G8') have gathered together in Hokkaido, Japan to glad-hand, be photographed, and to suck up luxury in a summit costing NZ$750 million, augmented by course after course after course of rich food. Rich, in more ways than one.

In a questionable public relations move, the summit’s Japanese organisers proudly displayed to the press the menus for a sumptuous eight-course banquet laid on last night and a five-course lunch a few hours earlier.
The leaders tucked into truffle soup and crab as they discussed Zimbabwe and aid to Africa’s poorest people. The evening feast of 19 separate dishes included diced fatty flesh of tuna fish and milk-fed lamb with aromatic herbs. Tomorrow, after working up an appetite discussing soaring food prices, the leaders will enjoy a £200 dinner of giant crab, £50-a-kilogram langoustine and sweet clover ice cream...
It is all in keeping with a summit that has cost a total of 60 billion yen (NZ$750 million) - enough to have bought 100 million mosquito nets to save Africans from catching malaria...
[Meanwhile], on Sunday, Gordon Brown advised householders at home not to waste food as the world copes with a shortage.

And on Monday, these same G8 leaders emerged to announce their agreement to so strangle their countries' industry that 'emissions' will plunge by fifty percent by 2050.

Renunciation and sacrifice -- only politicians could demand of us both these evil twins with their own mouths so full of pork.

Kiwisaver? Me too.

Whatever the questions about the precise details of National's position on Kiwisaver, and Kate Wilkinson and Shane Ardern appear to have different views to their leader over what precisely those details should be, there are three things about National's position on Kiwisaver that are abundantly clear:

  • they're going to keep it.
  • there will be "no radical changes" to it;
  • they could have killed it.

How could they have killed it when they're in opposition? Simple. They could have killed it at birth if they'd wanted too with one sentence delivered as unambiguously as they know how: "If elected, we will kill this bureaucratic mare's nest and return your money to you." Since signing up to Kiwisaver was a decision made by taxpayers based almost wholly on their expectation of the scheme's political support over its lifetime, the success or otherwise of the mare's nest was wholly dependent right from its inception on the degree to which people assumed it had cross-party support.

By announcing that they would deal to it as forthrightly as Muldoon once did to the last compulsory savings scheme Labour dreamed up, at a stroke it would have rendered Cullen's successor stillborn -- as I pointed out at the time. Instead, we're now encumbered with it, with all the impositions on small business employers that are now being more widely understood, all the implications for ongoing state control of capital markets that will become only too clear over time -- and the ongoing annual $2 billion cost of the Kiwisaver subsidy bill that John Key and Michael Cullen are forcing down taxpayers' throats.

Once again, we pay the price for John Key's 'me too.'

Their Standard

It's instructive that most of NZ's top ranking political blogs are run by people who are self-employed. Of the top ten political blogs as measured by Tumeke, Kiwiblog, Public Address, Whale Oil, Not PC, The Hive, Poneke and No Minister are all largely run by people like myself who are self-employed. No Right Turn? Who would know.

Which leaves just two certain exceptions: the Greens' Frog Blog, which is run by Green MPs and paid parliamentary staffers (and recently touting their high ranking 'high flyers'), and the group blog The Standard, of which two of the bloggers are Beehive communications employees, a third is the Labour Party Head Office Communications Manager, and a fourth and maybe a fifth are employed by the Engineering, Printing & Manufacturers' Union (EPMU).

The Greens are at least up front with their rort. Not so the Labour Party and Their Standard. David Farrar and Whale Oil have the story.

Remember this is the same Labour Party that purportedly introduced the Electoral Finance Act to protect "transparency" in politics. Yeah, right.

Good economics teaching

Here's what good economists do: they correct the myths and misapprehensions of the likes of Alasdair Thompson of the Employers and Manufacturers' Association, who maintains that central bank tinkering with the money supply "means little to the real economy of physical production and employment." Contrary to "Mr Thompson's assertion that money and credit do not matter as long as central banks step in to maintain confidence," economist Peter Lyons points out, "The availability of money and credit, if poorly managed, can create major distortions in economies."

[Thompson] argues that despite the nefarious dealings of money men the actual ability of an economy to produce goods and services is little affected...
What he has failed to appreciate is that the damage of easy credit policies in other countries on the New Zealand economy has already occurred. The full realisation has yet to become apparent.
The main effect of loose monetary policy and lending practices in other countries on the real economy of New Zealand has been a major distortion in resource allocation...

Specifically, it's distorted what Austrian economists call the 'intertemporal structure of capital' -- that is, how the production of capital goods is structured over time -- a field of study which mainstream economists completely ignores, and which, as Mr Lyons acknowledges, is the most susceptible to the meddling of money suppliers. He continues:
The availability of money and credit in an economy as determined by a country's monetary policy has a major effect on the real economy. The New Zealand dollar is overvalued against our major trading partners because of our high interest rates compared to other countries...
An analogy would be to compare the New Zealand dollar to Wile E. Coyote clinging to a branch on a cliff face. The branch is the Official Cash Rate set by the Reserve Bank. When the branch finally snaps the New Zealand dollar will fall. The branch will snap at the first hint that the Reserve Bank is about to lower short-term interest rates.

Thompson's assertion that as long as central banks prop up demand and keep issuing credit out of thin air then everything will be rosy in the garden is illusory. Thank goodness for good economists like Mr Lyons. Parents of St Peters' students should be grateful they have such an insightful chap teaching their youngsters.

Lloyds of London - Richard Rogers

lloyds

Lloyds interior Completed in 1986, Roger's building "with the insides on the outside" and an atrium at the centre caused a stir when it was built, as every thing even remotely tall or modern does in London, but like everything remotely controversial once completed it's now a London icon.

Ironically, when Rogers won the competition to complete the building, he was on the verge of giving up his architectural career, and he and his partner were already scanning the situations vacant pages.

016-Lloyds_building_london

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Are the Greens ten feet tall?

"Luckily someone managed to capture on video some of the speeches that high ranked Green candidates gave at the Green Party conference a month ago," boasts the Green's Frog Blog, which luckily enables us to observe the calibre of some of these newcomers who are ranked so highly by their peers. Taken together, they look like a group of people running for the job of class blackboard monitor, with all the poverty of understanding of the modern world that implies. Here's just some of the highlights from their show reels that caught my eye:

  • "The Green Party may not yet have achieved total economic and environmental transformation of this country," says self-described “activist, feminist, mother, gardener, writer, teacher, mediator, advocate, and stand-up comic” Catherine Delahunty, but we have pulled down lots of government money to pay our community activists, and "we are the only party with majority pakeha membership that has stood up in Parliament for Te Tiriti O Waitangi." Easy to see why she describes herself as a "stand-up comic," even if the humour is unintentional.
  • To "fix" Maori smoking, says health board bureaucrat Kevin Hague, "all we actually need to do is honour the Treaty of Waitangi." It's so simple, who would have thought?
  • What really motivates me to stand for the luddites, says the really unmotivating David Clendon, is "the ability the Greens have, and I think it's unique, to be able to identify complex problems and to see solutions." David, by the way, is a consultant and lecturer in the Resource Management Act, making him very definitely part of the problem.
  • Under a Green foreign policy, says lecturer and bureaucrat Kennedy Graham -- a subscriber to "the hand wringing school of foreign policy" -- we will not labour under "misplaced fears ... but by reaching out to all peoples, [will] banish those fears together." If only Neville Chamberlain could have had Kenny boy as his adviser when he gave away the Sudetenland for peace -- it really would have been peace for all time, eh?
  • My motivation for standing, says the baby-faced Gareth Hughes, is my new baby son. "He deserves, when he is older, not to have to ask for the right to bring a child into this world." Whatever that means. Passing over that inanity he concludes, to canned applause, "In 2008, we're going to show that future generations are bigger than politics..." And obviously bigger, too, than things like basic logic.

These are just some of the high ranked Green candidates seeking your vote at this election -- not to mention 856 of their facile one-size fits-all solutions.

And not to mention the Greens' co-leader person Russel (with one 'l'), who told parliament in his maiden speech that "in the Auckland CBD there is a memorial to Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson, it is a casino in the shape of a syringe," and who took up parliament's time last week so he could tell everyone how he caught the bus to 'work.' (I looked in vain for the former Green Party high-flyer who only missed the last election because he was sent to jail for grievous bodily harm.)

Anyway, this is the calibre of the "newcomers" to a party which maintains that the welfare of snails should be placed before human beings.

Luckily, someone's been capturing on video some candidates from another party offering something far more sane.

The new Auckland winger

    The Auckland rugby manager sends scouts out round the world looking for a new player to hopefully win them the NPC.
    One scout informs him of a talented young Iraqi winger.
    The coach flies to Iraq to watch him,is suitably impressed and arranges for him to come over to play for Auckland.
    Two weeks later, Auckland are 30-0 down at home to Wellington with only 20 minutes left. The coach gives the young Iraqi winger the nod to go on.
    The lad is a sensation, scores 6 tries in 20 minutes and wins the game for Auckland.
    The fans are delighted, the players and coaches are ecstatic, and the media love the new star.

    When he comes off the field he phones his Mum to tell her about his first day playing rugby for Auckland.
    'Hi Mum, guess what?' he says. 'I Played for 20 minutes today, we were 30-0 down, but I scored 6 tries and we won.  Everybody loves me, the fans, the players and the media, they all love me'.
    'Great,' says his Mum, 'now let me tell you about my day'.
    'Your father got shot in the street, your sister and I were attacked and beaten, and your brother has joined a gang of looters, all while you were having a great time.'

    The young lad is very upset. What can I say Mum, I'm so sorry.
    'Sorry?!' says his Mum. 'It's your fault that we moved to Auckland in the first place!'

TVNZ: Sell it.

National's Jonathan Coleman insists that National's new broadcasting policy is simply to open up TVNZ to competition.  He confirms that National has no plans to sell TVNZ.

But why the hell not?  What particular virtue is there in keeping a television station in the hands of the state?

Once again we see that when National does release policy we find that it's already been written for them by the existing Labour Government.

National is not the answer.

UPDATELiberty Scott offers a more virile broadcasting policy, and puts paid to the argument about "balance" in public broadcasting:

Note, you'll never ever ever hear any serious balanced debate about abolishing public broadcasting on Radio NZ - which, of course, destroys any of their claims for being balanced and presenting all points of view.

Not PC's blog stats for June

Here's some of the main stats for NOT PC's last month:

NZ Political Blog Rank for NOT PC: 5th (March, 4th)
Alexa Ranking, NZ: 558th (last month 569th)
Alexa Ranking, world: 254,965th (last month 275,373th)
Avge. Monday to Friday readership: 979/day (1,019)
Unique visits [from Statcounter] 26,265 (28,672)
Page views [from Statcounter] 42,680 (45,240)

Top posts:

Top referring sites: 
   Search engines 2832 referrals;  Kiwiblog 1311; Libertarianz 896; Whale Oil 650; No Minister 422; Cactus Kate 331; Lindsay Mitchell 221;  Mulholland Drive 202; NZ Capitalist 202; The Hive, 166
Top searches landing here:
    not pc 877; studionz 91; peter cresswell 86; john key me too 74; sean fitzpatrick libertarian 70; vultures fibre future 69; heineken mini keg 56; broadacre city 45; nipcc 45; organon architecture 42; boobs on bikes 37; asian sirens 33; alfred browning parker 29; peter rabbit tank killer 29
They're reading NOT PC here: 
June-08
Top countries (measured by Statcounter):
   NZ 45%; USA 19%; UK 5.1%; Australia 4.1%;  Germany 1.7%; Italy 1.3%; Holland 1.2%; Canada 1.2%
Top cities (Statcounter):  
   Auckland 14.4%; Wellington 4.9%; Christchurch 2.7%; Melbourne 2.0%; Washington DC 1.7%; London 1.6%; Canberra 1.3%; Mt Laurel, New Jersey 1.3%; Omaha, Nebraska 1.3%; New York 1.3%

Cheers, and thanks to you all for reading and linking to NOT PC this month, 
Peter Cresswell

Zephyr dancing with Flora - Giovanni Maria Benzoni

23detr_slide01

2114371814_c776f480b2_b 2114372430_c92936cc9a_b Nineteenth-century sculptor Giovanni Maria Benzoni was the creator of the famed 'Veiled Rebecca' -- reason on its own to visit Hyderabad where the original is displayed -- and of this delightfully dancing pair, completed in 1870.

Compare the loose-limbed hold of the dancing male on his partner with the more demanding grasp of Bernini's Pluto.

2259608430_5764769ca7_o

Monday, 7 July 2008

Taking with both hands

billboard If there's such thing as the opposite of an 'Indian-giver,' then John Key is it.  Taking on one hand, and then giving it right back. 

Case in point, the 3pm TRN news bulletin:  Key announces that National will abolish the $15 million currently given to TVNZ in order to meet its Charter ... but will instead redirect that money straight to Creative NZ [hat tip Sus].

He just doesn't get it, does he.

In the red corner, ladies & gentlemen ... Helen the Harridan.  And in the blue - well, the other corner, anyway .... a smiling chump.

Learning from Brezhnev

facelift_c1 It's not every day Helen Clark makes you think of Joseph Stalin (insert obvious jokes here), but I have to confess when I heard Helen Clark praising previous National leaders while bagging the current model I had to think she's been learning taking her lessons in public relations from the likes of Brezhnev and Stalin.  The subtitle from this post might be 'What Helen Clark Learned from the Five Year Plan.'

You see, over the weekend she compared National's present leader, John Key, to previous holders of the job.  Don Brash, she declared, has "presence and authority -- "which must surely have surprised Brash since three years ago she told New Zealanders "I regard him as a cancerous and corrosive individual"!  And she performed the same job on past opponents whom she's previously dispatched with similar alacrity, including Bill English( "a clever man" she says of a man deservedly taken lightly), Jenny Shipley (a "very considerable presence" says Clark) and Jim Bolger ("someone people could relate to").

What a crock -- and how like the way the leaders of the former Soviet Union hid their disasters publicly, as Ayn Rand describes in the introduction to her first novel, We the Living:

  To those who might wonder whether the conditions of existence in Soviet Russia have changed in any essential respect since 1925 [when the novel was set], I will make a suggestion: take a look through the files of the newspapers.
    If you do, you will observe the following pattern: first, you will read glowing reports about the happiness, the prosperity, the industrial development, the progress and the power of the Soviet Union, and that any statements to the contrary are the lies of prejudiced reactionaries; then, about five years later, you will read admissions that things were pretty miserable in the Soviet Union five years ago, just about as bad as the prejudiced reactionaries  had claimed, but now the problems are solved and the Soviet Union is a land of happiness, prosperity, industrial development, progress and power; about five years later, you will read that Trotsky (or Zinoviev or Kamenev or Litvinov or the "kulaks" or the foreign imperialists) had caused the miserable state of things five years ago, but now Stalin has purged them all and the Soviet Union has surpassed the decadent West in happiness, prosperity, industrial development, etc.; five years later, you will read that Stalin was a monster who had crushed the progress of the Soviet Union, but now it is a land of happiness, prosperity, artistic freedom, educational perfection and scientific superiority over the whole world. How many of such five-year plans will you need before you begin to understand?

Fortunately the Soviet spin is long dead and buried -- buried under the rubble of the Berlin Wall.  Clark's own spin is just as threadbare, and equally doomed.

The forecasting delusion

I've posted before on the failure of economic forecasters to do what they purport to do: forecasting the future (see here and here, for recent examples.)  When it comes to most economic predictions about the future, the evidence shows that it's a matter of the blind leading the sightless. 

Just look at the recent evidence gathered by Whangarei commentator Rodney Dickens [What are the economic forecasters up to now? - pdf], which compares predictions-against-performance for the top ten economists surveyed each quarter by the NZ Institute of Economic Research. The average predictions bythe economic forecasters are called the 'consensus forecasts.'

Here's what that 'consensus' predicted would happen with the unemployment rate:
                                     Unemployment-NZIER

As Dickens says, "not much use to firms and individuals who make the mistake of trying to use the consensus forecasts for business or investment risk management purposes."  Here's that same 'consensus' trying to predict consumer spending, measured against what actually happened:
                                     ConsumerSpending-NZIER

Not a complete dead loss, perhaps, but if you were relying on the "top ten" to help you out in June '02 and June '03 you'd have been in trouble.  Frankly, one can see why some contrarians make money by betting against the forecasters ... except that just occasionally the forecasters are right.
SometimesTheyAreRight-ButWhen

Despite their lack of forecasting success, economists nonetheless persist in making public predictions that are lapped up by media and business.  And many people will have locked themselves into fixed-interest mortgages on the basis of predictions of how interest rates will move, which can be contrasted to what actually happened:
                                             Interest-NZIER

The phrase "friggin' hopeless" might occur to you about now.  If it did, then think of something stronger because here's what that same "top ten consensus" made of exchange rates, as measured by the Trade Weighted Index (i.e. the weighted value of the NZD against the USD, AUD, Euro, Yen and GBP):
                                               ExchangeRate=NZIER

Not much success there either, huh?

Now, you might object about now that using the 'consensus' prediction here hides the few forecasters who've been successful.  Just to test that particular hypothesis, the chart below shows the range of predictions made by those top ten...
      

Looks lik e that hypothesis can be abandoned too. 

Now, these charts are hardly a compelling argument for the efficacy of economic forecasting.  Of course, Rodney is himself a forecaster --  his newsletter 'What really drives the NZD/USD,' he boasts, "shows that we have a much better understanding of what drives the major cycles in the NZD/USD than all the economists combined"  -- but he's at least aware that the public, that is, you, need to be aware not to take forecasters' predictions as gospel.

Unlike politicians and central planners, who do take these forecasts as gospel (and Alan Bollard, who thinks he writes the gospel) entrepreneurs themselves rely largely on their own independent judgement of what the future holds-- and it's them after all who actually move the economy and drive production.  Entrepreneurs will certainly listen to forecasters, and they definitely don't mind forecasts being taken seriously by the easily led, since it sets up opportunities to take advantage of their poor estimates.  ( What entrepreneurs are often looking for is, as Israel Kirzner explains, "unexploited opportunities for reallocating resources from [low-valued] use to another of higher value [which] offers the opportunity of pure entrepreneurial gain.  A misallocation of resources occurs because, so far, market participants have not noticed the price discrepancy involved.  This price discrepancy presents itself as an opportunity to be exploited by its discoverer.  The most impressive aspect of the market system is the tendency for such opportunities to be discovered.")

Entrepreneurs generally recognise the truth stated by Ludwig von Mises, "that the main task of action is to provide for the events of an uncertain future."  If, for example, the date of booms and busts and the like could be predicted "with apodictic certainty" according to some formula or other, then everyone would act at the same time to make it so.

    In fact, reasonable businessmen are fully aware of the uncertainty of the future. They realize that the economists do not dispense any reliable information about things to come and that all they provide is interpretation of statistical data from the past...   
    If it were possible to calculate the future state of the market, the future would not be uncertain.  There would be neither entrepreneurial loss nor profit.  What people expect from the economists is beyond the power of any mortal man.

The greatest danger of 'the forecasting delusion' is the illusion that "the future is predictable, that some formula could be substituted for the specific understanding which is the essence of entrepreneurial activity, and that familiarity with these formulas could make it possible for [bureaucratic management] to take over the conduct of business."

    The fact that the term 'speculator' is today used only with an opprobrious connotation clearly shows that our contemporaries do not even suspect in what the fundamental problem of action consists.
    Entrepreneurial judgment cannot be bought on the market. The entrepreneurial idea that carries on and brings profit is precisely that idea which did not occur to the majority. It is not correct foresight as such that yields profits, but foresight better than that of the rest.

NB: I can recommend the regular ravings of Rodney Dickens to you, from whom most of the charts above are sourced.  Click here to go straight to his latest Raving. Or click here to enter the 'Literacy Centre,' where you can access all Rodney's past Ravings.

Can't get no protection

It's the measure of a community's desperation in the face of crime that ten-thousand people would march in South Auckland's bad weather to demand their fundamental right to protection from criminals to be upheld.  March organiser Peter Low of the Asian Anti-Crime Trust says "far too often victims are being treated like criminals, and that the law needs to be toughened, police need to work more efficiently and the court system has to be more sensible."

That they expect their demands to once again go unheeded, even after three brutal killings, can be seen in their ultimatum to the police that if the police and justice systems won't do the job they're supposed to do, the protection of life and liberty, then the community will have to do the job themselves -- including, if necessary, hiring triad gangsters to provide the protection the police either won't, or can't.  In other words, if you can't protect us, we'll have to hire people who will -- or might.

This is desperate stuff, but just what happens when the state defaults on the very thing for which it's constituted : we see real objective justice replaced with vigilantism and the threat of the streets being taken over by gangsters.  But what else can people do when their lives are at stake?  In Afghanistan they were so desperate to be safe the people welcomed in the Taleban -- Mr Low may not be serious in his suggestion of hiring Triads, but there will undoubtedly be people desperate enough who will be.

It's time the state did its job properly.  Protecting us from the initiation of force by criminals is their number one job.  Time they started doing it, instead of doing us over.

Here's Graham Parker singing 'Protection.'

What injustice did Treelords remedy?

The so called Treelords deal was the biggest ever struck in the Treaty settlements process so far, at a time when Labour is desperate for the Maori vote. So what exactly were the injustices that Treelords ostensibly remedied, since neither Treaty Minister Michael Cullen nor chief iwi negotiator Tumu te Heuheu had specified these in their speeches celebrating the deal, and why were Minister Parekura Horomia and the Waitangi Tribunal so reluctant to answer questions on the matter?  Lindsay Perigo isn't the only one who would like to know.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Give the hospitals back!

                           Libz_Health_TV

As long as the taxpayer is fleeced to fund the die-while-you-wait health system, there's little chance of anything better emerging.

And as long as the state runs the health system, it will feel entitled to tell you that you can't do this and you can't do that and you can't smoke this and you can't snort that.

The state's die-while-you-wait health system has to be ended -- personal freedom requires it; economic freedom requires it; and our own personal health demands it.

Libertarianz health spokesman Dr Richard McGrath explains how to wean the health system off the taxpayers' tit and take it totally and painlessly out of the state's hands in just five years, and give the hospitals back to those who paid for them: taxpayers.

 Head to Libz TV to watch Doc McGrath's five-minute presentation on the five-year privatisation programme.  Take your hospitals back!

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Quote of the week

"Those who keep their values on a shelf too high to reach never really possess them."

A comment by author James Valliant to a post by broadcaster Lindsay Perigo on the importance of really living one's values.

Islamapartheid in the UK

If the reports that Britain's Lord Chief Justice has defended the "right" of Muslims in Britain to live according to Sharia law, and if this is in any way representative of modern British legal thought, then perhaps, after all, it wasn't such a bad thing to remove NZ's link to the Privy Council.  Reports SOLO's Marcus Bachler:

    "I thought at the time similar separatist lunacy was being voiced by the Archbishop of Canterbury he was standing in an asylum of his own building. Supposedly even the Muslim Council of Britain did not support his view. However, today it is reported in the Daily Telegraph that Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice, supports him. Baroness Warsi, the Conservative shadow-Minister for Community Cohesion, also backs the judge.
    "Lord Phillips is quoted from a speech he gave to the East London Muslim Centre: 'There is no reason why principles of Sharia law, or any other religious code, should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution.' According to the article, he means that Muslims in Britain should be able to use Sharia to decide financial and marital disputes.
    "This is a scary development, whereby Muslims are being encouraged by wealthy bleeding-heart liberals to embrace their religion and carry on treating their women like cattle and distinguish themselves legally and culturally from everyone else.
"I hope this nonsense will be shouted down again as it was after Rowan Williams's speech.

UPDATE:  On a related note, read  'Then they came for the puppies, and I did not speak out....' posted at Laissez Faire. "The new Islamist Frontier seems to be the removal of images of dogs from society. One can guess what they have in mind for the actual dogs."

Happy July 4th!

As most New Zealanders won't know, yesterday (our time) was American Independence Day -- and today (our time) it's their time. 

Why does it matter?  Why does it matter to us down here at the bottom of the South Pacific that a bunch of gentlemen over two-hundred and thirty years ago pledged their "lives, fortunes and sacred honour" to erect the first government in history dedicated to the task of protecting individual rights -- as expressed in Thomas Jefferson's magnificent Declaration of Independence, the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? 

Why should that matter to us?  As Michael Berliner explains, "Jefferson and Washington fought a war for the principle of independence, meaning the moral right of an individual to live his own life as he sees fit."  The principle of independence for which they fought is universal. 

The United States of America was the first and still the only country on earth to be founded upon the specific idea that human life and human liberty are sacred.  July 4th is a day when freedom's anthem is heard around the world!

Despite its occasional breaches in upholding the principle of human rights and human liberty consistently, it is for nonetheless for this that we all celebrate (or should celebrate) Independence Day. To found a nation upon the notion that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are sacred - to constrain government to act only in defence of those rights - was not just a unique event in human history, it worked like all hell; it worked because protecting those rights gave individuals the moral space, the freedom, within which to act and to flourish. It was not just that this made America and the world freer and more prosperous, it was not just that this protection for liberty gave a platform to criticise and remedy the breaches of the principle; it is it is the illustration that a country founded upon reason, individualism and freedom works. That liberty is moral. That liberty is right.

The Declaration was made on behalf of every human being.

Said Thomas Jefferson in the last letter he was to write, reflecting fifty years later on the Declaration of Independence and the July 4 celebrations that commemorate its signing:

May it be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.
Amen. And let those thoughts be heard around the world! For as one commentator said on this day last year, July 4th is not just a National Day for Americans because the Declaration of Independence really is "freedom's anthem heard around the world":
Whenever you hear news of people fighting for democracy, pause and give thanks for the Declaration of Independence. I am thankful every day that by blind luck I was born in this country. I want the whole world to have the comforts and the opportunities that have so enriched my life. When they tear down a wall in Berlin, when an oppressed group is granted a right in Latin America, when a business is allowed to exist in China, a protest is allowed in a former Soviet satellite, a woman attends a school in Afghanistan or a purple forefinger is raised in Iraq, I think to myself, “the world may not know all the lyrics, but they are definitely singing our song.”

And he's right. America's creation was the great political achievement of the Enlightenment: the full political implementation of the concept of individual rights, with a government constrained to protect them. [What are individual rights, and why do they need the protection of government?  Ayn Rand explains.  What specifically was the nature of the government the American founding fathers tried to erect?  Ayn Rand explains that too.]

With the exception of just a few words, the words could hardly be bettered today (although some of us have tried):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness...

A wonderful, wonderful anthem to freedom that rings down through the years. If only the real meaning of those words could be heard and undeerstood. As David Mayer says:
To really celebrate Independence Day, Americans must rededicate themselves to the principles of 1776, and particularly to the absolute importance of individual rights – not the pseudo-rights imagined by proponents of the welfare state, but the genuine rights (properly understood) of individuals to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We must also rededicate ourselves to the Declaration’s standard for the legitimacy of government – a government that is limited to the safeguarding of these rights, not to their destruction – and, with this, an acceptance of the principle that outside this sphere of legitimacy, individuals have the freedom (and the responsibility) of governing themselves.

If Americans are to use this day to re-dedicate themselves to the principles of 1776 as Mayer invites, then non-Americans might use it to take up Thomas Jefferson's challenge "to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded [us] to bind [ourselves], and to assume the blessings and security of self-government."

Human liberty is the most sacred thing in the universe, and today is the pre-eminent day in which to celebrate it, and to salute the authors of America's Declaration of Independence. To America's founders, I salute you!

NB:  Some final July 4 snippets for you:

  • In one of those historic coincidences that resonates for centuries, 1776 wasn't just the year in which Thomas Jefferson published his Declaration of Independence, it was also the year that Adam Smith published his world-changing book, The Wealth of Nations.  Appropriate then that on July 4th the city fathers of Smith's home town Edinburgh have unveiled a statue of the genius.  Paul Walker has the details. [And an update.]
  • 1,215 servicemen celebrated July 4th Petraeus style, by re-enlisting in a huge ceremony in Baghdad. "Fittingly," says Powerline, "the re-enlistment took place in one of Saddam's former palaces." [Hat tip Jeff Perren.]
  • Consider the founders' ringing declaration of unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of property and happiness with the mealy mouthed suck-up-itude of the Obama clown, who on American patriotism is proud to declare "...the call to sacrifice for the country's greater good remains an imperative of citizenship..."  Pause for reflection.  As Myrhaf points out, the "call to sacrifice' is the regular call of those in power to make the people voluntarily enslave themselves to the state.  "Ideologically, Obama is just the latest mediocre representative of the collectivist counter-revolution to the American Revolution. The American Revolution stood for the Enlightenment values of individual rights, liberty and prosperity. The counter-revolution stands for collectivism, statism and sacrifice."
  • For the very best version of Star Spangled Banner to play over a martini, or your Sam Adams, I recommend Licia Albanese's spontaneous combustion at a Mario Lanza ball a few years ago.  Fortunately, Lindsay Perigo was on hand to record the eighty-year-old drowning out the young tenor who was supposed to be taking centre stage.  Listen here. Magnificent!
  • And of course, don't miss the Star Spangled Objectivist blog roundup at Kim's Place.