Friday, 28 November 2008

Best of NOT PC, to 28 Nov

Dozens of people murdered in cold blood and continuing politico-economic meltdown casts a pall over the month's end.  This week at NOT PC "we" (yes, with more regular contributors it really is now "we") we've been looking forward to a rational Christmas, looking at how government wrecked (and continues to wreck) the economy, and continuing to explode some the more risible yet most persistent economic myths.

And those new contributors have really been stepping up.

Here's just some of you might have missed this week at NOT PC -- the most popular posts of the week as measured by the readers who cam flooding in to click on them:

  1. 'How The Government Wrecked The Economy' - Peter Schiff
    While all about him were losing their heads with irrational exuberance, economist Peter Schiff was one of the few sufficiently clear-eyed to predict the coming catastrophe, and to stay rock solid in his analysis.  His YouTube appearances are now some of the most popular on the internet.  This longer fifteen minute interview linked below demonstrates the reasons for his present popularity as a commentator, and suggests some of the basis for his far-seeing analysis.
  2. Rational Christmas cards
    Here’s a great idea for Christmas cards for your rational friends this silly season.  As you can see from the comments, they’re clearly not for everyone.
  3. It's a YouTube afternoon here at NOT PC
    A YouTube afternoon that includes several of those top-ranking Peter Schiff appearances, and more!
  4. Consumers don't drive the economy, stupid
    So called economic stimulus packages never do what they’re supposed to do. The only thing they stimulate is bad headlines, and worse economic commentary – because the whole idea of an economic “stimulus” package from the government is not just the world’s most expensive oxymoron, it’s also based on a complete fallacy: an error that means Keynesian macroeconomics is only playing with half a deck of cards.
  5. Another Victim of P & Prohibition
    Susan Ryder points the finger at the obvious place for the ‘P’ epidemic: prohibition.
  6. White ribbon day
    Sure, it’s a nice day for a white ribbon – but what the hell does a white ribbon do to protect you that a gun or a taser couldn’t do better?
  7. Seven Random or Weird Facts About Myself
    Crikey.  Galt knows why you’d want to know anything at all about me, let alone seven random and weird things.  (And these are the seven that Annie Fox declared were boring!  These here are the other seven.)
  8. How to fix everything
    Hugh Laurie tells you how to fix absolutely everything.  It’s as easy as lager and lime.

Thanks for reading NOT PC.  And if you’d like to receive this weekly summary as an email, why not sign up here.

Beer O’Clock: Epic Scrambled Eggs

Our beer correspondent Neil Miller from RealBeer sends this missive on a strange but true beakfast food.  Read on, McDuff.

When Paul Mercurio (right) was announced as the Master of Ceremonies for the 2008 BrewNZ Beer Awards, I have to confess to immediately heading for Google. A quick perusal of his career quickly explained how he had completely evaded my pop culture radar. He leapt to stardom in the 1992 film hit Strictly Ballroom which I have not and undoubtedly never will watch.

His more recent fame has been as a judge on both the Australian and New Zealand edition’s of Dancing with the Stars which I also avoid. I consider these shows to be long, pointless affairs culminating the crowing of the “least worst amateur dancer” by the person willing to send the most text messages of support. Sadly, the viewing figures suggest I am in the minority on this one.

On further investigation, I have actually seen one of Paul’s other films. I was one of probably the hundred or so punters who watched “The First Nine and a Half Weeks”, an ill-fated sequel to “Nine and a Half Weeks” minus all the stars.

The Internet Movie Database describes the movie’s “plot” (the quotation marks are mine) as: An investment banker (Paul Mercurio) travels to Louisiana to snag the account of an eccentric millionaire (Malcolm McDowell) but gets involved with his lusty wife, Mardi Gras, and (possibly) a satanic cult. The events in and around New Orleans change him forever and give a new slant on The American Dream.

Despite such a promising premise, the users of IMDB gave it just 3.3/10 on the IMDB. This is around half the rating of Star Wars: Episode One starring Jar Jar Binks.

These days however Paul is still dancing, but also presenting a credible food show called Mercurio’s Menu currently airing on Sky’s food channel here. He is also a noted beer enthusiast which explains his invitation to MC the beer awards. In person he is a cheeky, personable chap and he did an excellent job on the night.

Over several beers, Paul mentioned a recipe which again had me rushing for Google the next day. He claimed to have developed a recipe for scrambled eggs (one of my favourite dishes) made with Epic Pale Ale (one of my favourite beers). Somewhat to my surprise, he has and here it is:

4 Free range eggs
Fresh Dill
2 Epic Beer (Epic is a NZ brand, comes in six packs)
Vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
Salt and cracked pepper
NZ Smoked Trout, in strips
Sourdough bread, good quality to slice thinly
New Zealand Goats Cheese, good quality spreadable

Beat the eggs in a bowl, add one part cream to two parts beer - a slurp of cream and a splash of beer. Mix in the cracked pepper, salt and fresh dill and taste for seasoning. Heat butter in frypan, when butter starts to foam tip in egg mixture. Fold eggs as cooking - don't overmix. When eggs are about three quarters cooked mix through finely flaked smoked fish. Remove from heat just before the eggs are cooked as they will continue to cook. Leaving cherry tomatoes on the vine, coat with olive oil and cook in a hot oven for 10 minutes until broken down. Thinly slice sourdough and lightly toast. Spread with goat’s cheese and cut into wedges. Serve.

This is truly a breakfast of champions, though it does appear very similar to the Little Creatures Scrambled Eggs he developed for Australian television! This recipe appeared first on the TVNZ website so I know that no one has seen it before. If anyone cooks it, please leave a comment below.

Cheers, Neil

Warmists need Christmas gifts too [update 2]

NZ’s Climate Science Coalition has the ideal Christmas gift for you, or a warmist friend:

If you are looking for the ideal gift for the person who is really fretting about Climate Change and how they can change their life to save the planet the Centre has the perfect gifts for you.

First, if they cannot actually read, or have difficulty with anything more challenging than TV news then a single image they can hang on the wall may be the most appropriate.

The Centre has acquired a graph of the satellite temperatures in the mid-troposphere for the years 1978 – to Sept 2008.

The graph (below) also plots CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere over the same period. If it looks remarkably "flat" this is because you may well be looking at the first graph of CO2 concentration which is plotted against a base of zero. Most are plotted against a base of say 250 parts per million which makes it look as though CO2 levels are "going through the roof." Presumably, this is called "unbiased reporting."

The time period is thirty years which by convention is about climate rather than weather. Your exercise for today is look at this graph and compare it to the graphs presented by alarmists and explain the difference. Ponder this good news here, and below.


UPDATE 1:  It is all too readily apparent that many people who attempt to function in the modern world and who purport to comment intelligently on the events of the day are utterly unable to read, undertstand and intelligently interpret a simple graph.   Staggering.

The self-defence of How to Lie with Statistics, particularly an understanding of the 'gee whiz' graph (in common use to show, for example, the "scary" CO2 rise) has never been more urgent.

UPDATE 2Christopher Monckton and Scientist Willie Soon tell an International Symposium on Climate and Weather “Carbon dioxide is not an air pollutant. It is plant food. All life on Earth depends on it. It is natural. It forms the bubbles in bread, champagne, and Coca-Cola. You breathe it out, and plants breathe it in.

    “The Earth contains a lot of CO2, but the atmosphere contains so little that the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) rightly calls CO2 a “trace gas”. A scientific mystery is why the air does not hold more CO2 than it does. Half a billion years ago, there was almost 20 times today’s CO2 concentration.
Most farmers would prefer to grow crops under much-higher concentrations of CO2 than today’s 385 parts per million—less than 1/25 of 1 percent of the atmosphere. To feed the world, low CO2 concentration is not such a great idea. High concentrations are better, and they cause no harm. Experiments have shown that even delicate plants such as orchids thrive at CO2 concentrations of 10,000 ppm.
That is why U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia has declared that if CO2 is to be labeled an “air pollutant”, then so must Frisbees and flatulence.
What about the danger of overheating the Earth by CO2? Al Gore is spending $300 million telling us “global warming” will be a catastrophe. Yet a survey of 539 scientific papers containing the words “global climate change” and published between January 2004 and February 2007 found not a single one that provided any evidence that “global warming” would be catastrophic. It does not matter how many scientists or politicians say that more CO2 will cause a catastrophe. To true scientists, what matters is whether any real-world data support the idea.”

Mumbai mass murder [updated]

These were terrorists who make no serious concrete demands.  They’re not after riches.  They don’t genuinely want prisoners released or captured revolutionary leaders handed over. They don’t want to be flown to Cuba.

All they truly want is blood.  American and British blood.   Western blood.  The cold, calculated and cowardly slaughter of innocent, prosperous people enjoying their lives, and the collateral killing of anyone who gets in the way of that goal.  All the training of these killers was evidently directed towards death: their ideology, their outlook and their ingenuity in putting together a coordinated city-wide assault was all directed to that end. 

A religion that began in violence has become a culture that now sees violence as their major message to the world.

“This is how Islam solves its problems, with violence. This is not an ‘isolated incident’ or the product of a ‘few extremists.’ One bombing is isolated, two is the work of a few extremists ...”  What do you call this litany?

New York.  Washington.  The USS Cole. Embassy bombings. Rabbi Kahane.  Pim Fortyn. Theo Van Gogh. Daniel Pearl. Luxor. Madrid. Beslan. Jaipur. London. Sharm el Sheikh. Cairo. Bali.  Mumbai, 2006 and 2007. Karachi. Mumbai, 2008.

The ‘religion of peace’ now has over a hundred new victims to add to its ‘glory’: new sacrifices to a culture of barbarism and the failure to take this threat seriously enough.

Like it or not, but the west is still at war.  Barbarism declared war on civilisation decades ago, yet civilisation has still not truly woken up to it.  “We” didn't start this war or encourage the threat, but a litany of appeasement has ferociously fanned its flames, encouraged the attackers, emboldened the growth of violence.  And in the litany of attackers is a common thread: Islamo-totalitarians who by their own admission "worship death" as we in the west worship life; who want the prosperous, freedom-loving west dead, as dead as their own dark souls; and who see the cowardly west as easy prey.

On this last point at least, they're right.

I’ve said this before more than once: the war we are in is as much an ideological war as it is an actual hot war. The blood-soaked voices from the stone age like this one know it:

“no we do not apologize … i'm happy they were attacked and i don't feel a bit sorry for them… Those who disbelieve and who wrong muslims, they will get something similar to it. because what goes around comes around… mumbai is one of the most shaytanic places on earth. all that bollywood crap is there, and maybe this is a sign for them to take heed.”

To barbarians like these,the free and prosperous west is a personal affront; their war on the west is the last gap of the Dark Age they've submitted to themselves and wish to impose on the rest of the world. Their own ideology has failed at everything but the production of penury and death, and now it's all they have left. In the words of their chief spokesman, we in the west know how to live, but they “know how to die.”  And don’t they just.

Meanwhile, the ideological war on behalf of the west has still to be fully engaged, and in most of the west is still resolutely undercut by the voices of "useful idiots" from the academies who use the freedom of the west only to attack and undercut it.

A principled, rational, consistent, philosophical defence of the ideas that support freedom and western civilisation is long overdue; the barbarians themselves know their enemies -- the ideas of reason, of individualism, of property rights and freedom and capitalism: but who among those who enjoy these boons will lift a finger to seriously defend them.

UPDATE: Coinciding with Thanksgiving in the States, historian Scott Powell lists those thinkers who built and defended western civilisation -- to whom it’s never more appropriate to to turn and say “Thank you.”  See: Those to whom I would like to offer my thanks.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Knob’s jolt [update 2]

Thomas Sowell has a message that could be directly addressed to Billy Bob English, who as we speak is warming up his printing presses to “stimulate” the local economy by debasing the local currency (Story here). Says Sowell,

“The economy today has some serious problems but things are not desperate, though they can be made desperate by politicians.”  

Too true.  But when has that ever stopped a politician?  They act when they shouldn’t, and don’t act when they should -- and the answer to “why the hell they do that?” is impossible to unravel.

Read Sowell’s ‘"Jolting" the Economy’ while you ponder the question.

UPDATE 1: Danyl at the Dim Post comments on the knob’s “brilliant plan.”  The title gives you the clue: Then Lancelot, Galahad and I jump out of the rabbit . . ..

UPDATE 2Libertarianz deputy Dr Richard McGrath says “Butt Out Bill!”

    Libertarianz deputy leader Richard McGrath said today the $7 billion spend-up announced by Finance Minister Bill English was both detrimental to the prospects of economic recovery, and damaging to the moral fibre of New Zealanders.
    "This golden shower of handouts will be funded by churning out yet more worthless paper notes – debasing the currency, and punishing those who try to put New Zealand dollars aside for a rainy day – or by borrowing, so that future generations of Kiwis are burdened with debt."
"These 'rescue' packages undermine the lessons taught by the free market," said Dr McGrath. "If you lend money to high-risk customers such as sub-prime mortgage holders, or sink money into dodgy investments, there is a significant chance of losing some or all of it."
"Forcing the taxpayer to rescue incompetent banks and investors stops the latter from learning from their mistakes and encourages more of the same foolhardy speculative behaviour," McGrath added.
"The best thing the government could do is step aside and let the banks and businesses that have failed their customers - and the investors and entrepreneurs that have failed themselves - quietly close down, so that valuable time and resources can be allocated into more productive activities."
"Rewarding failure is irrational; stealing from taxpayers to reward failure is unjust. Libertarianz calls for an end to this Keynesian madness." 

UPDATE 3: Cox and Forkum encapsulate the response:



Obamessiah_in_class “Hypocrisy is alive and well in Washington, DC,” says Montessorian Marsha Enright.  Nothing new there, but this is the Obamessiah we’re talking about!  In this Wall Street Journal opinion piece  The Obama-Elect comes out against vouchers because “Although it might benefit some kids at the top, what you’re going to do is leave a lot of kids at the bottom.”   And at the same time The Obamas themselves have chosen a private, $30,000 per year Quaker school for their own girls.

What a hypocrite! As Enright says here:

   I am for the privatizing of all education. In private education, children have the best opportunity to get the kind of education they need.
    However, I'm incensed by those who send their own children to private schools, yet are against steps towards educational freedom for those without the current means to go to a private school.

Exactly.  It’s the same old “Good for me, but not for thee,” isn’t it.

And by the way, just for those who think this is an endorsement of vouchers, it’s not.  Enright’s criticism of this is spot on:

   I AM concerned about using vouchers to expand educational freedom because they are doled out by the government...which inevitably means government oversight...and it's consequent leveling-by-regulation of whatever it controls. I'm worried that, with vouchers, private schools will need to conform to government standards, instead of individual school goals and innovations.
    And their differences will end up being wiped out. Andrew Coulson at Cato
describes the problem in the Netherlands, and offers a solution.

NOT PJ: As-Salaamu Alaykum Me Hearties! [updated]

Bernard Darnton gives John-boy a rest this week. Instead, he takes aim at pirates...

I used to think that if I missed the six o’clock news I wouldn’t know what was going on in the world. That’s true. But I’ve since realised that even if I do watch the six o’clock news I still won’t know what’s going on in the world.

Once you skip past the four weather reports, heroically refusing to be drawn in by the cliffhanger endings of three of them, and all the nonsense “human interest” stories about blind acupuncturists and the like, there’s barely time for any real news.

Apparently the world is being held to ransom by pirates. By “the world” they obviously mean “a handful of boats” , but hyperbole is hardly the worst crime the news media commit.

Somali pirates famously have control of a supertanker with two million barrels of oil on board and a Ukrainian freighter carrying 33 Russian-built T-72 tanks, crates of anti-aircraft missiles, and more small arms than an octopus kindergarten.

The Horn of Africa is being patrolled by the Italian, Greek, Turkish, British, Indian, American and Russian navies. Having the Italians around probably doesn’t do much for maritime security, but even if they swap sides half way through the rest should be able to sort the problem out. However, they’re doing nothing except asking the pirates if it’s OK to supply the hijacked ships with food and water.

Saturday’s newspaper informed me that “Somali sea bandits” “appear undeterred by non-violent tactics.” I checked with Mrs Darnton, who’s a cognitive-behavioural psychologist (that’s the vaguely scientific kind rather than the pervert Freudian kind), and she told me that pirates aren’t known for their retiring wallflower personalities.

This assessment obviously isn’t based on clinical interviews of Somali pirates and so possibly crosses the line from “vaguely scientific” to “witchcraft” , but the conclusion still stands. These are people who live in a country with an average income of $600 a year and they’ve discovered how to make people drop burlap sacks containing tens of millions of dollars from the sky. A stiffly worded letter from the Secretary General isn’t going to dissuade them.

Two-hundred years ago, when America had better presidents than it does today, the US Navy was created with the express purpose of dealing with pirates. The US Navy’s first overseas engagement was in the First Barbary War. The Barbary War is sometimes called “America’s Forgotten War” – a name shared with several other conflicts. (I don’t remember which. They are the forgotten Forgotten Wars.)

At the end of the 18th century, 20 percent of America’s federal government budget was spent buying off pirates. Jefferson rightly said, “Bugger this,” and sent the newly-built US Navy and the newly-recruited US Marines off – not for the last time – to sink boats off the coast of Libya.

The switch in tactics from “pay the people who hijack our ships” to “kill the people who hijack our ships” was a resounding success. One we could emulate today. A modern carrier battle group is the most lethal collection of things that go bang ever assembled, packing more firepower than all the American wars I can remember put together.

Even if the tanker-borrowers are made of sterner stuff than the one-legged be-parroted sorts evoked by the word “pirate”, it would be nice to think that several of the world’s most powerful militaries plus the Italians could take on six guys in a skiff. If they were allowed to.

* * You can read Bernard Darnton's NOT PJ column every Thursday here at NOT PC.  * *
* * Do come back now.
* *

UPDATEEnding Piracy Should be a U.S. Government Priority says Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.

More random and weird things

Trevor, Elijah and MacDoctor haven't noticed I've already told you seven random and weird things about myself -- but since Annie Fox told me my first lot of seven things were too boring (and no-one I tagged has bothered to respond), I guess I'll have to try again. So here goes.

1. David Lange lived at the top of our street when I was a kid, and rugby league legend Olsen Filipaina (and whanau) at the bottom. My friend at the time used to share a swimming pool with the Langes, but if David decided to swim it was very difficult to share ... especially if he decided to dive in!

2. Technically, I've played international sport for three different countries: for NZ, Australia and Great Britain.*

3. My Standard 4 teacher Neil Wood was an Objectivist, but I only found out many years later when he rang me: turned out he was also a 'Free Radical' subscriber, and he enjoyed my first article. Or so he said.

4.In 1985/86 I worked at the service station in Tinakori Rd, at the top of Molesworth St and the bottom of Wadestown Hill -- just where the bureaucrats used stop to fill up on their way home up -- just at the time Roger Douglas was giving them all the Spanish Archer. It was great to see them pull in grey-faced after getting their pink slips (I could sound awfully sympathetic when I wanted to) and then come in again months later having got theselves a real job.

5. I saw Manic Street Preacher Richey Edwards at the Astoria in his last gig with the Manics before he disappeared. (And this week he was finally officially declared deceased. R.I.P. wherever you are, you dumbarse.)

6. I once threw up in a Sheik's house after a twenty-four hour drinking binge (okay, the house was in Kent, not the Middle East; and the Sheik and his family weren't actually there at the time. But it did seem weird.)

7. I helped build Twickenham's East Stand -- true story -- and I confess, the first time I was there, which was early on a cold winter's morning, I ran down the touchline and scored a try. It was unopposed.

8. My 'uncle-in-law' Tony Tozzoli had an office high up in the World Trade Center (which I visited in 1990 and was awestruck by the experience), and his brother Guy, as head of the World Trade Centers Association, oversaw the building of the WTC.**

- - - - - - - - - -
* As you've probably guessed, the sport was Aussie Rules. I played for Great Britain in Canada, for 'an Australian selection' in the curtain-raiser to a British final, and for New Zealand in Darwin. And in 1987 I broke my cheekbone playing for Auckland at the Basin Reserve.

** Yes, that's eight. Don't ever say I don't give you full value.

Casa Mila apartments - Antoni Gaudi


The famous roof terraces from the Casa Mila apartments, Barcelona, Spain.

More info at the Gaudi Designer website.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Real Estate Downfall

Downfall of a man who followed all the 'experts.'

Watch it here. [Hat tip Whale Oil]

Rational Christmas cards

sale Here's a great idea for rational Christmas cards this silly season. On the cover you read:

On December 25th, a Savior was born. He revealed eternal Truth, bringing Joy to millions. He astonished the world with His command over Nature. He changed history forever.

And on the inside:

Happy Birthday, Sir Isaac Newton. December 25, 1642 - March 20, 1726

Card-maker John Powers, an Objectivist graphic designer, reckons we should celebrate reason and science on December 25th, instead of the same old bearded mystic!

    I like to send Christmas cards, but as an atheist, I have had to limit
myself to the hundreds of bland cards that neutrally say "Happy Holidays." I
decided that if it's okay for (almost) everyone else to stamp, seal, and
deliver their philosophy to me every Christmas, I'll do just the same.
    Sir Isaac Newton's ideas helped to rescue mankind from drudgery and propel
it into the space age. I am a lover of reason, and I love it unashamedly,
and I want my friends to know it too. They will this Christmas. Yours can,

Buy them here. [Hat tip Noodle Food]

Cry havoc (again) and let rip those printing presses of destruction! [update 3]

US Treasury Secretary Henry (Benito) Paulson has unveiled yet another $200 billion bailout package to help Americans max out their credit cards this Christmas ($200 billion that will be "expanded and increased overtime")and yet another $600 billion package to buy up mortgage securities. (Story here.)

If you've lost count of the number of hundred-billion dollar bailout packages thrown into US markets, then you're not the only one. Paulson himself is all at sea too. He's already lost track of what happened to the "urgent" $700 billion bailout he secured pre-election to buy up mortgage securities (memo to Henry: you blew that on loads of Super Highly Important Things), so now he wants another one.

"I wish," says Paulson in describing yet another desperate attempt to prop up an economy destroyed by years of credit inflation with even more inflated credit, which pretty much describes his economic plan. A wish predicated upon a printing press.

But will it "work"? Well what do you think? More multi-million dollars of printed money poured down that black hole marked failed economic theory? More printed money that can only further dilute the rapidly diminishing purchasing power of the US dollar? More diminution of the already parlous pool of real savings to prop up junk that's already gone bad? What the hell do you think will be the result of all that outright fucking foolishness!

It's harder for American to borrow now for a very good reason: because they've been borrowing and spending other people's money on junk. American consumers have been borrowing lines of inflated credit from Alan Greenspan's Fed to buy up houses they couldn't afford -- houses they were told were going to be "investments" (yeah right) paid for with inflated credit they were told was real money; meanwhile American producers were borrowing from the same inflated credit lines to pour that same debt-backed money into what are now all too clearly malinvestments.

That's why the economy tanked. Propping up those bad "investments" now just leaves the poison in the system. What's desperately needed, as Robert Murphy so gently points out to a colleague, is not to prolong the agony, or squander even more resources while the economy tries to adjust to a sustainable configuration:

Of course nobody likes vomiting. But if someone has ingested poison, throwing it up is a good thing. Efforts by physicians to numb the person's gag reflex and settle his stomach will lead to disaster.

To a disaster even bigger than the present disaster. Believe it. it will happen. Because the crux of the present problem can't be fixed with a printing press.

The crux of the current economic malaise [as Steve Saville points out] is that mal-investment on a grand scale over many years depleted the pool of real savings. Consequently, recovering from this situation requires the accumulation of savings -- on an individual-by-individual basis and an economy-wide basis. An increase in savings will lay the foundations for an eventual strong and sustainable recovery, whereas policies that discourage saving will act to prolong the agony.

Expect the agony to be prolonged until such time (if ever) that policymakers actually buy themselves a fucking clue about what the hell is going on. Here's that clue: "We are in this mess because the pool of real savings has been depleted and it is time to stop spending and replenish savings." Here's another: "If money is used to prop up failing companies, that's particularly bad since it is an attempt to override market realities, an attempt that is about as successful as trying to repeal gravity by throwing things up in the air."

We can either endure the immediate pain of correcting to the present reality and then building back slowly to real prosperity on the basis of sound money and real savings; or we can continue to fake reality and ensure the pain goes on for years . Which would you prefer?

UPDATE 1: Giving you some idea of your new Prime Minister's economic ability is this, from NBR: "Prime Minister John Key has welcomed [the] $1.5 trillion United States rescue package." Said Key: "Confidence ... blah, blah ... stimulus ... car-makers ... governments must act." What an utterly gormless fool.

UPDATE 2: Another good comment from The Sturminator:

The western economies are stuffed - the US and UK in particular.
Take a look at this graph, which shows future US mortgage resets. We've had subprime, but two other poor home loan categories are not due to hit the US until 2010 and 2011.
Incidentally, I came across this graph in this fantastic tribute to Peter Schiff, which shows that economists rock after all.

Well, mostly good. He spoils it with the last four words.

UPDATE 3: Oh, for fuck's sake. The printing presses have just been turned on at Number One, The Terrace: Bill English has just announced a $7 billion "stimulus" package for the New Zealand economy. Read $7 billion of extra money that the government is going to print and spend instead of what you might have done with it -- like, who knows, invest it productively?

John Boy's big day out

A big day in London yesterday for NZ's newest Prime Minister:

  • Meet long-lost half-brother Martyn Key
  • Visit long-lost twin-brother David Cameron
  • Photo with Queen at Buckingham Palace
  • Talk about taxes with UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown at No 10 Downing Street
  • Visit giant rugby ball near Tower Bridge

Lucky The Herald's Court Diary can help us keep up! [Hat tip AB]

Real building reform? You have to be joking.

Fair play to TVNZ's 'Close Up' programme, which in successive nights has highlighted the iniquities and bureaucracy of the Resource Management Act, the Building Act and the NZ Building Code. 

On Monday night we saw the would-be supermarket on the North Shore whose doors have been kept closed for years by the Resource Management Act [see 'Supermarket'], and last night we heard stories of two small projects whose Building Consent applications cost up to a third of the cost of the buildings themselves [see 'Permits'].

One could almost begin to think there was some collusion between the 'Close Up' programme and a reforming government, eager to soften us up for sweeping reforms to these two handbrakes to growth, and significant contributors to housing cost inflation.

If only.

Instead of talking to either of the new ministers responsible for the Building or Resource Management Acts, Rodney Hide was wheeled out as the new Minister of Local Government.  Yes, he talked about what he'd like to do about regulations generally -- if he can; if John Key lets him; if he had responsibility for these acts -- but neither he nor his interviewer seemed aware that his ministerial warrant for Local Government doesn't extend to doing anything to either the Resource Management Act or the Building Act.

mo For that you need to look to the ministers who actually are responsible for these two acts.  Which means (for the Building Act) Maurice Wimpianson, the minister for signs, the man responsible as a former Minister of Transport for imposing the new lifetime driving licenses on us; and (for the Resource Management Act) Nick the Dick Smith,  the man who calls the RMA "far-sighted environmental legislation," and who in the nineties administered the Act for three years without change.

So far from expecting any real change, I suggest all we can expect is disappointment.  Neither of these two either understands or is even interested in the real and serious problems with these two Acts.

Nick Smith for example promises no change at all to the heart of the RMA, which is where the real poison lies -- he exhibits explicit disinterest in property rights (which is what is so desperately needed at the heart of the RMA) -- and no interest at all in making the RMA work better for you and me: only in making it work better for the government's Think Biggish public works programme.

In fact, only last month Nick the Dick was telling audiences around the country that instead of expunging the poison at the heart of the act "National supports the underlying principles of the Resource Management Act..."

Just so you know what that means, the underlying principles of the RMA are stated in those sections of the Act Smith has promised not to change.  These stated principles uphold the toxic collectivism of kaitiakitanga - or "stewardship" - while completely ignoring ownership, which means property rights (in fact, in all its 455 pages the RMA fails to even mention property rights, even once, while harbouring a savage penalties regime if you do things on your own property of fines up to $200,000, and up to two years in jail!); the principles uphold the nonsense of 'intrinsic values' while destroying distinctively human values; they tout 'effects-based planning' while prescriptively regulating and prohibiting human activities; they have empowered an enormous army of consultants to interpret and manage the Act, and of bureaucrats to administer the consents required by the Act;  they protect trees, rocks and mud puddles while providing no protection for human life and human property; they "protect" "future generations" while doing over and impoverishing this generation.

These are the underlying principles that the National Party supports.   More power for planners, politicians and consultants ... and none at all for you.

So don't expect much from either of these National Party ministers.

Colonia Güell Crypt - Antoni Gaudi


An ambitious project never fully completed, of which this crypt was finished in 1916 (and disastrously restored in 2002).

The form and geometry of the crypt was cunningly worked out by loading an upside-down model of the structure in tension, and photographing the resulting load paths to be built in compression.

Read more about the project and Gaudi's other work at the Gaudi Designer website.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

White ribbon day

Another day another bloody lapel ribbon.

The ribbon de jour today is white, I think.  Wearing one today tells everyone how 'right-on' you are. How much you care.  Or at least, how much you want everyone to know that you care.

What you're caring about today is Violence Against Women, okay?

Violence Against Women is Bad.  It's Not Okay.  Let's All Just Get Along.  If you and your friends can just wish hard enough and recite those mantras to each other long enough and loud enough (loud enough to drown out the voice of reason that tells you mantras alone won't fix anything) then bad men will become good, bad relationships will heal themselves, and everyone everywhere will get their pony.

What a load of self-deluded bollocks.  It's a white ribbon, arseholes, not a bloody tool of self-defence -- or a means of self-reflection for the self-deluded.

But wearing your ribbon isn't really about fixing anything, is it -- it's just about showing your friends how worthy you are.  That you care.  That you're one of them.  One of us!  You'll sit around today in your little coffee groups and luncheon circles with your little white ribbons on -- or whatever the colour of today's 'I-Care-a-thon' is -- and agree with each other that hitting women is a bad thing, that 'we' shouldn't do it, that violence doesn't solve anything, that men have a lot to answer for blah, blah, blah ...

And you know what: you won't make a blind bit of difference.  Men will go on hitting women.  Women will carry on staying with men who hit them.  And you and your friends wringing your hands about it?  Not going to change a thing.

But you'll feel better for your worthiness, won't you, as you sip your trim latte and nibble on your biscotti -- and that's all the white ribbon's about, isn't it.  Saying, "I care."

So bloody what.    It's appropriate that white is the colour of surrender, don't you think?

Another Victim of P & Prohibition [update 2]

By Susan Ryder

Damn the Kiwis.  Any other weekend I’d have been ecstatic at the upset win over the Kangaroos in Brisbane on Saturday night, to capture the Rugby League World Cup for the first time in its 54 year history. To say that the win was unexpected would have been refuted by only the most diehard of diehard supporters, and therefore all the sweeter.

But I couldn’t savour the win on Saturday due to receiving some shocking news that morning. It was the sort of news that you just can’t stop thinking about, try as you might.

I’d heard the radio news report of a brutal sexual attack (is there any other?) upon a 99 year old woman in her home during the early hours of a morning last week. You read it correctly: the lady was 99.  I remember being momentarily horrified. The story was repeated over the next couple of newscasts and then that was that.  Just another forgotten victim of another horrific attack right here in Godzone.

Until, that is, I spoke to Mum on Saturday morning.  It turns out that the victim – let’s call her Mrs X - has three children, one of whom we’ll call Jean.  Mum and Jean share a hobby and when Mum rang her on Friday, Jean was just leaving for the hospital where she and her two siblings are providing a 24-hour watch over their mother who, unsurprisingly, is in a terrible physical and mental state.  This sprightly, independent, female nonagenarian tried to defend herself against a 20 year old male under the influence of P.  Jean does not believe her mother will come out of hospital.

If it’s possible to feel sick and numb and horrified and repulsed simultaneously, I did.  I still do.  I have a 95 year old grandmother who’s of the same ilk as Mrs X.  Nana, too, insists on living alone and doing for herself.  These women have lived good lives and raised families.  They have witnessed the events of most of the 20th century in all its glory and despair.  They do not deserve even a fraction of the fate that befell Mrs X.

Which brings me to her attacker and his choices, namely to take an illegal, highly dangerous drug.  The media is full of stories as to the potency, danger and addictive properties of methamphetamine, known in New Zealand as “P”.  It is the latest drug horror story to reach our shores.  And with each horror story, the calls for even more regulation and policing are heard all over again.  I know, because I used to be one of those voices.

I used to scoff at those who called for the legalisation of marijuana.  Well, it was pretty easy to scoff.  They were largely hippies and no-hopers or, most painful of all, affluent varsity students sporting Greenpeace t-shirts and adopting the latest social cause … while quietly cashing regular cheques from boring old Mum and Dad.  Notwithstanding my ongoing scorn for the hippies, the truth is that they were right and I was wrong.

It’s oh so difficult to be rational about the subject of illegal drug use -- it’s an emotive topic and you’ll appreciate that I’m very emotive at present -- but if you wish to reduce the problem, it is essential to be so. Consider this:

  • When you ban something – anything – you create a black market: an illegal market that operates underground, ie outside the law.
  • Black markets are run by outlaws. In NZ’s case, they're run by gangs -- those despicable criminal gangs.
  • In contrast to the peaceful resolution carried out in ordinary legitimate businesses, criminals solve problems associated with the distribution and supply of their products violently.
  • Not being subject to the natural product regulation that occurs in an open, legal market, the banned product is always of sub-standard quality.
  • Consumers have limited knowledge as to product ingredients, which may be dangerous and harmful.
  • Black markets create artificially inflated product prices, perfect for criminals who are only interested in high profits with no regard for their own risk.
  • Addicts resort to crime to pay the high prices, creating community distress and further stretching police resources.
  • Criminals do not care to whom they supply, hence your children and grandchildren become prime targets.

Contrast all that with, say, the sale of paracetamol, a widely-used, easily available pain relief medication.  No matter from which outlet you purchase paracetamol -- a pharmacy, supermarket, dairy or even petrol station -- you can be assured that it has been legitimately manufactured by a reputable company, and duly tried and tested before being released for sale at a price acceptable to the market.

But if we banned it, and overnight tried to limit its supply, you would then have to resort to buying your pain relief (whatever it consists of) from some crook behind a filthy public toilet in your local crappy council park.  Gee, I can’t wait.  And who knows what is in that bottle you'd be so keen to purchase.

Did you ever stop to think that neither kids nor criminals are interested in stealing Viagra or Cialis from their local pharmacy?  These are wildly popular but the kids aren't interested precisely because they are legal, which means there's no money in it for them.

Did you ever stop to think that the government is not there to tell adults what they may voluntarily put into their bodies?

That the great majority of people who use illegal drugs do not abuse them, are not addicted, are harming nobody (are just getting on with their own lives), but are nevertheless considered criminals in the eyes of the law?

That we already, rightly and properly, have laws that prosecute those who harm others or neglect children, whether “under the influence” or not?  And that every single time you call for more regulation, you have just put even more money into the gangs’ pockets?

Yes, I’m talking to you, the well-meaning person who’s actually making matters worse. You cannot save people from themselves (and God knows the state can’t) but you sure as hell can make things worse -- and you have.

Your local pharmacist is a drug-dealer. But he or she is a much nicer person with whom to do business, and you can do it in much nicer surroundings. They are fully qualified, supplying reputable products priced to meet the market. They are hardly likely to hang around school gates in order to supply children. They stand and fall upon their service as per any legitimate business.

Criminals, on the other hand, can never compete with private enterprise for the reasons provided, which means that a drug like P would simply not exist in an open market.  No pharmaceutical company would manufacture it, marketing a safer substitute instead.  But in the market made by prohibition, it's the ideal drug for dealers to push.

Look, I don’t like drugs any more than you do.  I don’t even like taking prescription drugs if I can avoid it. But the truth is that the likes of Al Capone and Pretty Boy Floyd only went out of business in Chicago after Prohibition was thankfully repealed. Their black market profits disappeared at the stroke of a government pen (virtually the only good thing Roosevelt ever did with his pen) and at that stroke the gang violence and the police corruption of alcohol prohibition ended as well.  The only difference between the Chicagoan gangsters and New Zealand’s Black Power?  Capone and his colleagues had better dress sense.  Prohibition of alcohol didn’t work then, and prohibition of drugs doesn’t work now.

One last word, please.  Do not make excuses for the vile individual who attacked Mrs X.  I’m in no mood to listen.  You see, he could have chosen an alternative drug that day, one that wasn’t so destructive.  He could have chosen not to consume anything, not to fry his brain at all. He could have done a lot of things.  But the choices he did make saw him end up brutally violating, perhaps destroying, a sweet lady old enough to be his great-great-grandmother.  For that, I damn the bastard to hell.

* * * More brave and brilliant writing from Libertarian Sus here at Sus's Soundbites * * *

UPDATE 1: Disgraced former media tycoon Conrad Black, convicted last year for his theft of company funds, and now sharing a prison with assorted Florida felons  ("It is a little like going back to boarding school," he says of his stay) has finally woken up to the effects of The War on Drugs - a war he himself once championed.  But in a letter to London's Sunday Times he says the the War has failed:

    "U.S. justice has become a command economy based on the avarice of private prison companies, a gigantic prison service industry and politically influential correctional officers' unions that agitate for an unlimited increase in the number of prosecutions and the length of sentences."
Fruitless attempts to wipe out the illegal drug trade are to blame for the situation, says Black, taking up a battle cry long espoused by people he's never traditionally associated with - those on the left of the political spectrum, including groups like the American Civil Liberties Union.
"The entire 'war on drugs,' by contrast, is a classic illustration of supply-side economics: a trillion taxpayers' dollars squandered and (one million) small fry imprisoned at a cost of $50 billion a year; as supply of and demand for illegal drugs have increased, prices have fallen and product quality has improved."

Says PM Jaworski at The Shotgun Blog,

it looks to me like Black thinks money spent on the war on drugs is money "squandered." That in spite of blowing through ridiculous sums of money, there is just about nothing to show for it.
Conrad Black understands what Milton Friedman said so long ago: "The war on drugs is a failure because it is a socialist enterprise." It always amazes me that there are still so-called conservatives who manage to somehow reconcile opposition to social engineering and big government, with the ultimate social engineering and big government program: the war on drugs ...

UPDATE 2: And let's not fail to mention Milton Friedman's Iron Law of Prohibition,,which explains why outlawing drugs only increases the virulence of recreational drugs: The more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the prohibited substance becomes.  Which means  'P' is precisely the sort of drug you should expect when you start a War on Drugs.


'Girl Jumping Rope' - Jose Manuel Capuletti

(Image from the Paper Tiger)

Monday, 24 November 2008

'How The Government Wrecked The Economy' - Peter Schiff

The shorter YouTube interviews I posted with economist Peter Schiff have proved very popular -- and no wonder: while all about him were losing their heads with irrational exuberance, he was one of the few sufficiently clear-eyed to predict the coming catastrophe.  This longer fifteen minute interview linked below suggests some of the basis for his far-seeing analysis.  Says Sovereign Life's David McGregor (who sent me the link):

If you're wondering why nothing governments are doing to stave off the financial/economic crisisis working - and are looking for some clear thinkingon this - then I certainly recommend you spend 15 minutes listening to this interview.You'll get a lot more insight in a few minutes than thousands of hours on CNN, Fox News or BBC ....For a crash course on the coming depression, the"how", "why" - and the way out, listen to: How The Government Wrecked The Economy.'

Perfect lunchtime listening.

Who won?

Oh yes, I believe there was a game of five-tackles-and-a-kick over the weekend.  A game that purports to be a World Cup Final.  And one team five-tackled-and-a-kick better than the other. 

You should probably go tell someone who gives a shit.

Go tell it to the economist

One of the only fully rational economic bloggers in the country wants to hang up his keyboard: Paul Walker, posting at Anti Dismal.  Please go tell him he's needed; that you want him to keep going; that there's no more urgent time for rational economic commentary.  Tell him here, at what he purports to be his last post.  And keep telling him.  Go on, do it now!

The urgent necessity of sound money, instead of unsound politics

A former economist at the US Federal Reserve says Forget Bretton Woods II - We Need A New Gold Standard:

    Too much credit and easy money. Those were the biggest culprits behind this financial crisis. Yet, appallingly, the government's rescue attempt is built on more credit and even easier money. That's like giving a procrastinator a deadline extension. By choosing this course, Washington has steered us on to the "road to Weimar" - the road to runaway inflation.
    It didn't have to come to this. And it still doesn't. But the proper remedy will take tremendous political courage: Bring back the gold standard. That, more than any byzantine regulations that emerge from the Bretton Woods II conference this weekend, would provide stability and safety for nations and individuals around the world.
    Sadly, current policy seems to reflect a desire to weaken the dollar as quickly as possible.

Discuss, with reference to 1) "the doubling of Federal Reserve credit, the main component of the US monetary base. Since Labor Day 2008 it has risen from $894 billion to $2.2 trillion. That's the greatest monetary expansion in the Fed's 95-year history" -- and 2) Peter Schiff's comments on the inevitable collapse of the dollar.


Hollow men & women

Mulholland Drive takes against two National Party minister-morons:

First, Paula Bennett:

    Stealing from people with no kids to pay for those who choose to have kids is wrong.
    Any questions?
Good.  STFU then.

And Nick Smith:

Nick Smith Doesn't Get It
    He sums it up in one sentence:

        "Why do we have this idea that somebody has to own a thing?"

    Yeah, property rights, what a silly notion!  You FAIL at being a National MP, Nick.  Just bugger off and join the Greens, or RAM, or something.

So what sort of CHANGE was it when these morons took over from the other morons?  And how come you all got so damned excited?

Politician lowers the tone at brothel

News here that New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees has moved into the same building as a brothel, which has prompted the obvious complaints.

"It's a little embarrassing, yes," said the brothel owner, Mr X [about his new neighbour]. "We're sick of all the seedy characters hanging around. But respectable businesses like ours aren't going to be driven out by the likes of them."


The building is shared by a mob of drug-dealing money launderers, an international arms dealer, an arsonist, a gang of slave traders, the crew of a Somalian pirate ship and a merchant banker, but the arrival of the politician has prompted complaints about the tone of the neighbourhood being lowered.  "A council insider told The Sun-Herald: "We have to take all complaints seriously. Apart from the merchant banker's, obviously."

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Great advertising

How's this for a great poster:


If you're in Oakland and a fan of the two great movies Inherit the Wind, as you'll see above the theatrical version is currently being performed by The College Preparatory School, directed by Salil Singh.  [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

Saturday, 22 November 2008

It's a YouTube afternoon here at NOT PC

It's a bit of a YouTube afternoon here at NOT PC, and you're invited.

** Here's a compilation video that's deservedly doing the rounds: in 2006 and 2007 economist Peter Schiff was using Austrian economic principles to explain to the mainstream morons why a housing price crash, a market crash and recession were inevitable.  Watch them laugh.  Watch them advise us to buy shares in "underpriced" finance houses like Merrill Lynch. And Goldman Sachs.  "I like Bear Sterns," says one of the grinning morons. Oh how they laughed at Schiff's good sense, based on good Austrian fundamentals. And ask yourself who's laughing now.  Watch The Curse of Cassandra.

** Naturally, interest should now turn to what Schiff's saying now.  Here's what he said yesterday on CNBC:

Our markets are going lower. This is just not a financial crisis. This is an economic collapse. Our entire phony economy is collapsing around us. There is nothing the government can do to stop it. They should just get out of the way, and let it happen.

He's been been promoting gold as a store of value: but it appears that gold hasn't done quite as he would have hoped.  Schiff answers the objection in this video: Peter Schiff: Gold Will Rise, Dollar Will Collapse, and at the link above, which points to the next big worry about this collapse.

And on the present value of gold, bear in mind that, as Hayek pointed out in 1977, "I think it is quite as legitimate to say that under a gold standard it is the demand of gold for monetary purposes which determines that value of gold, as the common belief that the value which gold has in other uses determines the value of [commodity] money."  The flip side of this means that when the use of gold for monetary purposes has been prohibited, we need to value gold slightly differently (or else to recognise the necessity of reinstituting sound money).

Any way, on with the videos.

** I like the new short clips just posted by the Ayn Rand Center, among which are these topical insights: 

And this much longer one (65 min. long):

** Since I'll be up to my ears in 'Tristan and Isolde' tomorrow afternoon in Newmarket, here's the great Waltraud Meir singing music's longest orgasm: the conclusion to the whole four-and-a-half hour music-drama. There's nothing else like it in all music: Liebestod - Tristan & Isolde 'Set it at full screen and turn your sound system up to eleven, and be stunned!

** And finally, if you're keeping up with CricInfo to keep up with how we're unaccountably giving the Australian cricket team heart trouble, you might like to keep an eye on Richard Irvine's hilarious Sport Review blog.  I feel sure he'll have some great things coming once he comes down from the shock of it all.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Best of NOT PC, week to Friday 21 Nov

Another round-up of the week here at NOT PC.  A week in which new contributors at NOT PC were revealed and embraced, and the new NACT government began to unrolled its favoured strategy: to  bore us all into submission.

If you haven't yet had time to catch up on the gold-plated goodness that was NOT PC this week, then here's what other regular readers seemed to like (and if you'd like to get this weekly 'Best of' emailed to you, then why not sign up here at Yahoo.  What's to lose?):

  1. The global financial/economic crisis: causes & solutions
    Still the most popular post this week, this month (but not quite this year). A guest post and a great summary of the global financial and economic crisis: it's real causes and the only long-term solution.  Yes, it was from last fortnight-- but it's still ranking through the roof!  And deservedly so.
  2. NOT PJ: Mourning Helengrad
    Bernard Darnton ponders the renaming of Helengrad now the ruling regime has changed...
  3. Too dishonest to be a policemen...
    ...and therefore perfectly suited to be a lawyer. Yes, we're talking Clint Rickards here.
  4. "We" didn't do it! But we can stop it.
    Yes, we're talking Nia Glassie.  There's an awful lot of talk, but what does it really amount to?
  5. SUSIE THE LIBERTARIAN: Saving the Environment from Environmentalism
    How do you save the environment from environmentalists like Nick Smith? And how do we save ourselves from this weasel?
  6. Let Ford fail
    If the government is prepared to print money to bail out the banks, then why shouldn't it tax, print and borrow to bailout car-makers?  Um, I can think of several reasons.
  7. More myths from the Great Depression
    Did FDR save the US from depression, or did he make it worse.  Was Herbert Hoover a hands-off laissez-faire champion, or a meddler second only to FDR himself?  Find out the answers to these and many more timely questions.

Lots of good reading there, and plenty of intellectual ammunition with which to fill up your shot bag. Read like you mean it!  :-)

Enjoy your weekend! PC

Going Belgian (part one)

Our friend Stu from SOBA, the co-producer of the very drinkable Yeastie Boys' beers, brings you your regular Friday afternoon Beer O'Clock post. This afternoon, the delights of going Belgian:

logo_marques When people think of Belgian beer they usually think of one of the many local Belgian-themed beer cafés and their big bowls of mussels with pomme frittes (a fancy term for fries) with mayonnaise. Some people may think of the fact that the beers are generally quite high in alcohol, should be approached with caution, and are somewhat “funky” (I’m sure the odd business lunch has turned into a rather funked up afternoon).

In truth, the beers you taste in the Belgian-themed bars, besides one (sometimes two or three), are about the least funky beers Belgium has to offer. Nonetheless they are usually excellent beers and well worth an investigation.

leffeTap beers at these bars are generally the decent Stella Artois (a better local drop than its green-bottled nemesis and European neighbour), the deliciously quaffable Hoegaarden, the lightly-spiced and highly-drinkable Leffe ‘brothers’ (Blond and Brune) and the cherry-infused Belle-Vue Kriek. All good beers, usually served in smart glasses and in very good condition.

The bottled range branches out through some of the more interesting drops (and interesting glasses) from Hoegaarden, Chimay, Westmalle and Belle-Vue, as well as the omnipresent Duvel, the funnily named Kwak and its unusual glass, the marching elephants and crocodiles of Delirium Tremens, and the dangerously drinkable Gulden Draak (a 10.5% liquefied Christmas cake). Thinking about these beers makes me want to sneak down to my local Belgian-themed bar and sip the afternoon away, with a few friends and a whole lot of conversation.

bel-rodenbach For the more adventurous, the funkier beers in these bars are Orval and – very occasionally – a beer from the Frank Boon range or Rodenbach Grand Cru (I was once told by staff at Wellington’s Leuven that Rodenbach had been removed from the beer list because it was returned too often - it seems that its fruity “balsamic vinegar” character was not appreciated by the average drinker). We’ll look further into the more funky Belgian ales next time.

It is a shame that corporate practice prevails and these bars don’t have a policy of stocking some of New Zealand’s better Belgian-styled beers, such as Emerson’s JP (an annual release), Tuatara Ardennes or Mac’s Great White. They’re all as good, or better, than most of the imports. Another top New Zealand ‘Belgian’, though only available at the Mt Eden brewpub is Galbraith’s Resurrection – it even comes served in a chunky Belgian-style goblet.

When I was last in Auckland (earlier this year to see an excellent PJ Harvey make mediocre piano-playing a fantastic experience) I felt almost ashamed for having done a “30-something version of McDonald’s” by lunching at Occidental. In reality it was anything but – I had a couple of glasses of Orval, undoubtedly one of the very best (and most remarkable) beers in the world, and a very competent meal.

Many of these beers are available in the better supermarkets and bottle stores around New Zealand, while an even wider and more interesting range is generally available at the more specialised liquor stores. My picks are Rumbles in central Wellington, Regionals Wines and Spirits by New Zealand’s best test cricket venue, New World in Island Bay and the online Beer Store. Do you go Belgian and, if so, where?

Cheers, Stu

Seven Random or Weird Facts About Myself

I've been tagged!  When the first person tagged me, I was too busy. When Annie Fox tagged me, her cancer card got me thinking.  And now Whale Oil's tagged me, and that makes three -- so being a good blog citizen, here I go: Seven Random or Weird Facts About Myself.
  1. I have a favourite conspiracy theory.  See.
  2. I have an unusual talent or skill: I can offend several dozen people at several paces simply by entering a room.
  3. I once made money by making fine tofu for a natural foods outfit. It was good stuff too.
    And when Britain was in recession and there were 10,000 architects out of work (no this wasn't last week, it was 1990) I made money for a while on the horses.  Yes, I found a system that worked -- just enough of the time, anyway.
  4. I live in a castle.  True story.
  5. I can play 'Sweet Jane' on the guitar.  Not well, mind, but it's recognisable.  Well, I can.
  6. My favourite building in London is John Soane's house, which is now a museum.
  7. There are still more than four-hundred Frank Lloyd Wright buildings I need to visit.  And at least one Wagner Ring Cycle to see at Bayreuth.  :-)
The rules are:
1. Link to the person who tagged you
2. Post the rules
3. Share seven random or weird facts about yourself
4. Tag 7 random people at the end of the post with their links.
I tag:

Blogger drinks this evening

This just in from FairFacts Media: "Blogger drinks are at The Cavalier in College Hill, Ponsonby, today, Friday at 6pm."  Sadly, I'll have to make my apologies -- I'll be enjoying myself in Onehunga.

Drinks cabinet

Danyl at the Dim Post cops a load of the new National cabinet. It's incisive analysis like this that puts Danyl at the top of the press gallery pole (or should do):

Bill English
Background: Policy analyst.
Portfolios: Finance and Infrastructure
Analysis: Rumoured to have tricked Key into thinking he is actually the National leader's butler, causing Key to let his guard down around his ambitious deputy.
Murray McCully
Background: Lawyer.
Portfolios: Foreign Affairs. Sport. Rugby World Cup.
Analysis: Was probably just a big coincidence that McCully’s time as National election strategist saw his party spend nine years in opposition; I’m sure he’ll be a great diplomatic envoy.

Consumers don't drive the economy, stupid [update 2]

bernanke-helicopter THERE'S A POPULAR misconception that, once exploded, explains why so called stimulus packages don't do what they're supposed to do. It's so popular that even luminaries like National Business Review editor Nevil Gibson subscribe to it: "Consumer spending," says Gibson in last week's NBR, "drives more than two-thirds of the overall ... economy," implying all that needs to be done to fix things is put more money in the hands of consumers and then everything will be sweet. What we need is a helicopter full of cash spraying its golden shower over the suburbs.

Simple, not to say simplistic.

As I say, Gibson's not the only one who's fallen prey to this popular yet facile misconception: you can read the same mistaken notion at Forbes magazine, Reuters, L'Express and Bloomberg, to name just a few, and closer to home at 3 News, TVNZ News, Radio NZ News, the Dom Post, the Otago Daily Times and Businessday --- all of them saying it's consumer spending that drives two-thirds of the economy, and consumer spending that must be supported. Urgently! What we need is shopping subsidies, and we need then now!

As I say, it's conventional wisdom. You can read it almost everywhere. Such a pity then that it's dead wrong. Insanely and destructively wrong.

FIRST OF ALL, as Bernard Darnton pointed out yesterday, that money put into the hands of consumers has to come from somewhere, else we're just committing another Broken Window Fallacy. As Brian Riedl points out in the Wall Street Journal,

Government stimulus bills are based on the idea that feeding new money into the economy will increase demand, and thus production. But where does government get this money? Congress doesn't have its own stash. Every dollar it injects into the economy must first be taxed or borrowed out of the economy. No new spending power is created. It's merely redistributed from one group of people to another.

And who knows what that first group (or groups) would have done with it? They sure as hell wouldn't have thrown it out of a helicopter.

Governments don't create new purchasing power out of thin air. If Congress funds new spending with taxes, it is redistributing existing income. If the money is borrowed from American investors, those investors will have that much less to invest or to spend in the private economy. If the money is borrowed from foreigners, the balance of payments must still balance. That means reducing net exports through exchange-rate adjustments, thereby leaving net spending on the economy unchanged.
Yet Congress will soon borrow $300 billion from one group of people and then give it to another group of people and tell us we're all wealthier for it.
Lawmakers commit this fallacy repeatedly...

Yes, and so do newsmen and economists. You'll hear some of the latter group whining about something they call 'the paradox of thrift' -- they'll say that in times of recession people need to spend, spend, spend and if they don't -- if they save instead (the horror!) -- then everything will collapse in a heap. But this is just dumb. Saving doesn't mean "not spending." It simply means deciding to spend later, rather than spending it all now. And in the meantime, unless that money just goes into a hole in the ground, the money that people save goes into investment, which means it goes to producers (or would do if it weren't diluted by printing money to produce stimulus packages) which brings me to my second point.

YOU SEE, CONSUMERS don't drive more than two-thirds of the economy at all. This is just horse shit on a stick. Though it's hidden in the arithmetic of the GDP, by far the majority of spending and income payments in the economy are not consumer spending but productive spending, i.e., spending for the purpose of making sales. In other words, for the stuff that really makes the economy go round.

As George Reisman explains it, this productive expenditure constitutes "all the expenditures made by business firms in buying capital goods of all descriptions and in paying wages,"

"Capital goods include machinery, materials, components, supplies, lighting, heating, and advertising. In contrast to productive expenditure, consumption expenditure is expenditure not for the purpose of making subsequent sales, but for any other purpose. In the terminology of contemporary economics, consumption expenditure is described as final expenditure. Productive expenditure could be termed intermediate expenditure. Implicitly or explicitly, productive expenditure is always made for the purpose of earning sales revenues greater than itself, i.e., is made for the purpose of earning a profit."

And this figure is huge! It is

"an amount equal to the sum of all costs of goods sold in the economic system plus all of the expensed productive expenditures in the economic system. It is these costs which must be added to GDP to bring it up to a measure of the actual aggregate amount of spending for goods and services in the economic system... And because productive expenditure is the main form of spending, most spending in the economic system depends on saving. Even consumption expenditure depends on saving, inasmuch as saving is the basis of the payment of the wages out of which most consumption takes place."

Which means that it's not consumer spending that drives the economy at all: it's saving.

Just contemplate that for a moment.

So how can such an enormous figure be hidden in the arithmetic? Well, I blame Keynes. Essentially that GDP figure is his; when the GDP (or National Income figure) is totted up it counts profits, but it ignores completely the costs required to make those profits, i.e., it completely ignores productive expenditure, which by any rational measure is the spending that drives everything. In Reisman's words, that means that "Keynesian macroeconomics is literally playing with half a deck.

"It purports to be a study of the economic system as a whole, yet in ignoring productive expenditure it totally ignores most of the actual spending that takes place in the production of goods and services. It is an economics almost exclusively of consumer spending, not an economics of total spending in the production of goods and services."

And being an economics almost exclusively of consumer spending it sees "stimuli" only in consumer terms.

But once you realise where most of the deck of cards resides -- i.e., in productive spending -- you really do see what you're doing with consumer stimulus packages: you're taking real resources away from the behemoth that really does drive the economy, which is productive expenditure, and you're pissing it up against a wall.

That might be popular, but in the long run it's just flat-out dumb.


UPDATE 1:  If you would genuinely like to make sense of the wider discussion here, the clearest and most integrated pieces are these:

  • Bastiat: 'What is Seen and Not Seen.'
    "There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen."
  • Bastiat: 'What is Money'
    "I cry out against money, just because everybody confounds it, as you did just now, with riches, and that this confusion is the cause of errors and calamities without number.
  • Rand: 'Egalitarianism & Inflation'
    "If I told you that the precondition of inflation is psycho-epistemological—that inflation is hidden under the perceptual illusions created by broken conceptual links—you would not understand me. That is what I propose to explain and to prove."  And she does!

UPDATE 2: Don Boudreaux's brilliant letter to the Washington Post has much wider relevance than just the proposed auto bailout [emphasis mine].  See if you can spot the Bastiat reference:

Dear Editor:
Martin Feldstein and George Will each offer excellent reasons for opposing a bailout of Detroit automakers (Opinion, Nov. 18). Here's another: resources given by government to these corporations must be taken from somewhere else. Government cannot conjure billions of dollars of resources out of thin air.

The number of different places from which these resources will be taken is large and spans a continent. So it's easy to overlook the fact that each of many productive firms from across the country will, as a result of this bailout, pay more for steel, machine tools, fuel, and other inputs they use in production. These other firms will contract their operations; they'll employ fewer workers; they'll produce less output.

The bailout might well save GM, Ford, and Chrysler. If so, politicians will celebrate it as "successful." But that success – which will be easy to see and capture on video tape – will likely really be an economic failure because of the resulting (if hard to see) contracted economic activity throughout the economy.

Donald J. Boudreaux