Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Another day, another series of assaults on freedom [update 4]

Buried deep within the National Party's constitution are espousals of support for "maximum freedom" and "the avoidance of unnecessary controls." You wouldn't know it from yesterday's performance: It was another day, another series of trial balloons for bigger government.

In the face of a statistical blip in the road toll, the National-led Government floated the idea of cracking down even further on your driving freedom. On the back of last weeks ban on hand-held mobile phones, this week it wants a  rise in the age at which you can get a drivers license; a reduction in driving speeds; and an even lower limit on the amount of alcohol in a driver's blood – zero, if you’re under twenty.

You can point out that drunken drivers in accidents are overwhelmingly over the existing limit anyway, so reducing the alcohol limit is going to have no measurable result -- you can make these sort of factual objections -- but of course you'd be wasting your breath.  You'd be wasting your breath because the fix is already in, and the leviathan of big nanny government is already on the march.  A few sober factual objections won’t be enough to stop it – never has.

Anyway, that was just the new controls a National minister was talking about yesterday afternoon. In the morning, anther National minister was floating the idea of new taxes! Plus ça change, plus ca même chose.

In the face of rising deficits and reduced revenue -- facts which were well known before the election -- we're even further from the tax cuts that were their flagship policy. Instead of tax cuts -- which were promised before the election and which would leave more money in the pockets of those who produced it -- instead of keeping their promises and maximising freedom -- instead of tax cuts they're suggesting tax hikes. Specifically, a hike in the Government Slavery Tax. And specifically too, a new tax on home-owners.

Instead of cuts in government spending, which would be the responsible thing to do in the face of falling revenues -- and would be as easy as abolishing useless agencies like the Families Commission and the Ministries of Maori and Island and Women's Affairs -- instead of the things a responsible government would do, this government instead wants to go back and even reverse their election promises.

Instead of helping New Zealanders struggling to pay their bills – instead of slashing their own costs, and even cutting GST, which would help everyone in the country – instead of helping them it wants to kick them in the teeth.

And instead of moves that would actually help New Zealander home-owners and even expand their freedom -- instead of reining in the town planners who restrict the supply of land, the fractional-reserve money-manufacturing process that created out of thin air all the credit that fuelled the credit-created housing bubble, and the Reserve Bank governor (whose expansion of the money supply underpinned it) -- instead of any of these sensible expansions of freedom and removals of unnecessary controls, this government floats the frankly farcical idea of a Capital Gains Tax which, they say, will reduce future housing bubbles.

How? Somehow.

No sign they’re even aware of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary from all those housing markets overseas in which the existence of a Crapital Gains Tax did precisely nothing to puncture the credit-created bubble. No talk at all of removing taxes on savings, or even introducing the likes of America’s 401(k) or the UK’s ISES.  Once again, it’s clear that neither evidence to the contrary nor ideas for even marginally more freedom aren't important when you've got a new tax or a new control to introduce.

"Maximum freedom" and "the avoidance of unnecessary controls"?  Don’t make me laugh.  They've only been in power barely eight months, but already it's obvious this is a government whose never seen a tax they don't like, a control they wouldn’t advance, or a spending cut they'd like to ignore.

It’s ironic that Labour’s lap bloggers are getting increasingly shrill because, if they closed their eyes and listened only to what’s being said instead of who’s saying it, they’d realise this is a government hardly any different to their own.

Big government still has friends in high places. It’s freedom that’s an orphan.

UPDATE 1: Meanwhile, the increasingly idiotic Adolf at No Minister reckons these further incursions on freedom will somehow lead to more freedom, not less. Looks like mental scotoma to me.

UPDATE 2: Even if you concede that it’s the government’s job to reduce the road toll, which is arguable, observe that every measure proposed in the government’s report reduces freedom rather than expanding it.

That’s no accident, and nor is it even necessary.  Consider for example the idea that restricted drivers who cause an accident, i.e.,who actually demonstrate they’re a threat, are restricted for maybe another year from gaining a full licence.  Or the idea of “Naked Streets,” stripping NZ roads of most street signs, getting drivers to focus on the movements of drivers around them, rather than focusing on those signs – an idea already saving lives in the US, UK, the Netherlands and Sweden.

But like I say above, you can talk until you’re blue in the face about ideas like these, because the primary thrust here is not so much for better road safety as it is for even more government.

UPDATE 3: If you really want to stop the property bubble and encourage saving – I mean, if you genuinely did -- then how about some good honest deflation.  Time to stop inflating and start learning to love deflation:

    Deflation is good news for savers, who get richer just by hanging on to their cash. And it is beneficial for consumers, who get cheaper prices. It is usually good for workers as well, as they can generally hold the value of their wages, even while prices fall.
    There are winners and losers, just as there are from most economic developments. The important point is that the people who lose are more powerful than the people who gain. That might explain why we hear about the dangers of deflation, and not about its advantages. It still doesn’t make them right.
    There is no threat from deflation. It may even be desirable if it encourages a balance between saving and consumption, and discourages governments and banks [and home-owners flush from their paper profits] from taking on debt.

But of course this wouldn’t work either, since it diminishes government’s power rather than expands it . . .

UPDATE 4: Lindsay Mitchell has 12 compelling arguments against raising the driving age, including statistical, geopolitical and semiotic evidence.  Naturally, despite their persuasive power none of these arguments will be accepted by the powers that be, since none of them serve to expand the power of the state.


  1. Sean Fitzpatrick19 Aug 2009, 08:52:00

    "It’s ironic that Labour’s lap bloggers are getting increasingly shrill because, if they closed their eyes and listened only to what’s being said instead of who’s saying it, they’d realise this is a government hardly any different to their own."

    My thoughts exactly. Further proof of the tribal mentality of both big parties supporters - Labour in particular; they would vote for a block of concrete if you stuck a red rosette on it.

  2. Even Gordon Brown, of all people, was persuaded to cut VAT (GST) in the UK to give some relief during the recession.
    Mind you, it was only temporary and does not go very far towards atoning for his destruction of the economy.

  3. If you didn't vote Libertarianz - don't complain.

    It is mindboggling at the number of National voters who are moaning about some of these proposals! gosh!

  4. Sean Fitzpatrick19 Aug 2009, 09:02:00

    Might be time for a "Don't Blame Me - I Voted Libertarianz" campaign?

  5. Yes! that is a splendid idea Sean.

    We should look at getting bumper stickers, or t-shirts printed.

  6. Adolf's blind allegiance to the Nats is identical to that of older life-long Labour voters who remain committed because "my father voted for Mickey Savage"; the sort of idiocy that Adolf rightly criticised during the last appalling govt's tenure.

    And he wonders why we're scornful.

    Big Govt tax-the-bejesus-out-of-anything-that-moves arses, all of them.

  7. Instead of a Capital Gains Tax if they really wanted to reduce housing speculation, and discourage investment in that neck of the woods, English should simply remove the tax deduction on interest payments.

    The rush for the exits would be deafening...

  8. remove the tax deduction on interest payments.

    Doesn't make any sense from an accounting point of view, and would affect other interest payments. Interest is a valid cost incurred while attempting to earn an income from your capital, and even if it did make sense, removing the tax deduction from it wouldn't be practical to apply only to real estate assets.

  9. It is a simple matter of legislating and saying 'henceforth interest payments on mortgages are not deductible'

    A very simple thing to do.

    Other forms of investment would be unaffected, or business loans, or whatever.

    Do not get me wrong, I am not in favour of such a thing! ha ha! ..but if English really has a bee in his bonnet about property investors this would be the most effective way of popping the bubble because rents would come nowhere near enough to cover interest payments and tax on top.

    As such huge numbers of rental property owners would sell up sending prices collapsing.

    The other point is that, as many Auckland landlords have found out lately, you cannot just charge whatever you want in rent and expect to find a tenant; I think of suburbs like Mt Eden, Sandringham, Grey Lynn, Epsom where rentals for houses are considerably lower now than 18 months ago.

  10. DON'T BLAME ME- I VOTED LIBERTARIANZ bumper sticker. What a great idea!!

  11. DON'T BLAME ME- I VOTED LIBERTARIANZ bumper sticker. What a great idea!!

    Yeah, but I won't honestly be able to display mine until after the next election. Yes, I am very sorry.

  12. Greig: I like a man who mans up. :)

    (Just as a matter of interest -- and if you're in a mind to 'share' -- who *did* you vote for?).

  13. Just read Callum's piece on 'Naked Streets'.

    It reinforces for the umpteenth time that he's the smartest teen in NZ. :)

  14. "It is a simple matter of legislating and saying 'henceforth interest payments on mortgages are not deductible' A very simple thing to do. Other forms of investment would be unaffected, or business loans, or whatever."

    Well, yes, technically it is very simple to enact bad legislation, but it's not very simple to implement the results.

    For example, what about mortgage interest on your factory buildings? What if those factory buildings have a flat or two included which you rent out? What if that rental is to employees at a reduced rate as part of their employment package? What if the building is not a residential property but is being used as one?

    The reason there are so many tax accountants employed is that legislators have tried to implement "simple" solutions to complex situations, then over time added complexity to deal with the "unforeseen" consequences of it.

  15. Sean Fitzpatrick19 Aug 2009, 12:33:00

    Sus said...

    Greig: I like a man who mans up. :)

    Another quality to add to the list(s) of desirable traits in yesterdays posts there eh Sus?? :o)

  16. NCT - I like your idea. I'd go one step further and also disallow deducting losses from one business (ie rental property) from another source of income such as your wage/salary.

  17. Sus: I was one of the many who, while realising that the Nats would sell their values down the river once again, honestly believed Rodney Hide and ACT wouldn't. I've met Rodney. He'd talked about his awakening to freedom and libertarian views. Stupidly, I forgot that this is what politicians do - they schmooze people and misrepresent their ideals in order to get a vote.

    Unfortunately it worked on me, and they got mine. Twice in a row. I really didn't think it was worth voting for Libertarianz, as I bought (and largely still do buy) the wasted vote theory, despite PC's excellent and stirring posts around election time.

    Even though I don't believe changing my vote to Libz will honestly achieve anything this time around, I have joined the party (unfortunately my slightly-more-than-minimum donation reflected my means rather than my level of enthusiasm), have begun promoting Libz philosophy wherever possible, and shall certainly vote Libz next time. To do otherwise would be hypocrisy of the highest order.

    One thing I have noticed is the sneering and open hostility whenever I espouse the values of freedom and responsibility which are encompassed by the Libertarianz party. I know there is discussion on how to change this (the Kaimai 13 etc) and I really look forward to a party strategy which will demonstrate a way forward in real terms. I'd like to help in any way I can.

    Interestingly, the captcha for this is "subbact" - I certainly shall.

  18. Greig,
    Same thinking as me, same disappointment. Now is the time I'd have expected ACT to be vociferous, opposing tax, increases, new taxes etc (i.e. all the things that weren't in National's manifesto.
    I also thougth Libz would have been a wasted vote, much as I would have liked to vote for them. I'm still not convinced I would like to see Libz as the party of government, but I would definitely like them to be a substantial and troublesome minority party.
    I guess the problem is critical mass -until they have some electoral success then they won't have any electoral success! I'd love to see a strategy that stood a chance of overcoming this.
    ( cue insults from LGM )

  19. "One thing I have noticed is the sneering and open hostility whenever I espouse the values of freedom and responsibility which are encompassed by the Libertarianz party"

    - people prefer believing what they are told by the government and the media. It's easier.
    Just try suggesting that maybe the recession wasn't solely caused by evil and greedy bankers - people will look at you as if you are insane.

  20. Stevew: I'm still not convinced I would like to see Libz as the party of government

    Why not? Surely you can't have Libertarianz philosophy implemented without that happening? And if you don't want that, why vote for them?

    Not hassling, just interested.

  21. Thanks, gents. Getting puzzled looks from folks? Welcome to *our* world!

    Here's a suggestion (if you're not already doing it):

    Less is more. An oldie but a goodie. Eg:

    Q: "Libertarian? What's that?"
    Me: "More freedom, less govt. Good, eh?!"

    It's actually hard for anyone to argue *against* "more freedom" outside of North Korea ...

    Me: "Ok, so what did we fight the Nazis for in WW2?"
    A: "Freedom."

    Me: "Exactly. It's still worth it, don't you think? Unless you like being bossed about, of course ... "

    And then, appetite whetted for want of a better term, you pick your topic, depending upon the person: Commerce/Environment/Welfare/Drug legalisation/Parental rights, etc.

    Give them a smidge (ie, short answers) & let them come back if they're interested.

    Less is more.

  22. If only they were simply curious or ignorant Sus. Unfortunately many of my friends are hardened academics. Very intelligent people, who already know (or think they know) what Libertarianz are all about and just plain don't like it. They say things like (and this is a direct quote from an online conversation this morning): "progressing as a nation and a society depends on helping everyone reach a common starting level. That's the purpose of taxation, and socialism".

    Yes, he actually thinks socialism is the answer, and loves being a condescending prick about it too. :) I have many friends like this.

    And no, I won't just "get better friends". ;) The more I attempt to explain libertarian views, the more hostile the response in general. It's worse than arguing with christians.

  23. I understand, Greig. But if some statist arse made that sort of comment to me, I'd delight in responding with:

    "Wow! You sound just like Stalin!"

    A big grin throws them completely, too. Mock the bastards. Ridicule is your best weapon. Being so self-important, they truly cannot stand it.

    Trust your Aunty Sus, it's a beautiful thing to do. :)

    Oh, and if someone's foolish enough to say "I'm a socialist", I delight in replying with ..

    "Mmmm, so was Hitler!"

    Brings them to the point of apoplexy, that.

    Don't worry about them. Others are out there. We're only after Sam Adams's "tireless, irate minority", after all. ;)

  24. I stupidly voted ACT as the party (I thought) with libertarian tendancies that had a chance of "getting in".

    If all us disapointed ACToids can switch to Libz...

  25. "Stevew: I'm still not convinced I would like to see Libz as the party of government

    Why not? Surely you can't have Libertarianz philosophy implemented without that happening? And if you don't want that, why vote for them?"

    Greig, I didn't mean that I couldn't be convinced, but rather that I'm not there yet. I am in no doubt that we would all be a lot better off if we were much, much further along the spectrum towards the "total" libertarianism that many commenters on this blog espouse, but I still have difficulties with some issues (witness my views on cellphones and driving).
    I'm still quite new to thinking seriously about these ideas though - maybe my views will change. My reading so far is limited to "Atlas Shrugged" (and I freely confess to skipping some of the boring bits!)

  26. Mr Fist, we've been waiting for you. Now as penance for “Acting Up” you’ll have to bring 20 – at least - disaffected Actoids over to the party of principle.

  27. Stevew: Heh, remember that Atlas Shrugged espouses Objectivism as a philosophy. One doesn't necessarily have to be an Objectivist to believe in a libertarian society. I happen to think the two complement each other perfectly, but that's just my opinion. Skipping the boring bits? We must have read different novels. ;)

    I'm sure we'll get you on the cellphone thing yet... If only all roads were privately owned, it would be a non-issue! :)

    Sus: "Aunty Sus"? Now I'm worried! All my relatives are Natbour and Lational supporters... what are you trying to say? ;)

  28. "I am in no doubt that we would all be a lot better off ..."

    Good boy, SW. Keep tuning in for now. ;)

  29. "Keep tuning in for now. ;)"

    I will!

    Any suggestions for the next book for me to read? Not Ayn Rand this time please...

  30. Stevew: I'd suggest "Libertarian" A primer by David Boaz. Or spend some time at FEE, or the

  31. Steve, there is some worthwhile reading at

    ...and my blog, of course, just click my name and you get there.

  32. Hi Steve,

    Allow me to recommend perusing the Recommended Reading List at the top left of this humble blog.


  33. Hi PC Yep, I saw your reading list, but if you had to pick one book off it to start with, which would it be?

  34. Fiction or non-fiction?

    Why not try 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,' by Robert Heinlein

    How about 'Economics in One Lesson,' by Henry Hazlitt.

    You can find the first in just about every second-hand store in the country -- and the second you can get free online. Just Google it. :-)

  35. SteveW, Peter and others... I just noticed my previous post above does not read quite as intended! ha ha!

    I was recommending my own blog not as the ultimate in libertarian reading..ha ha! ..but because it contains numerous links to libertarian websites.

  36. Greg said "Even though I don't believe changing my vote to Libz will honestly achieve anything this time around..."

    I strongly disagree. As was said before the last election, it is never a wasted vote to vote for your principles and for your freedom. Further, given the small number of people in NZ who actually understand the principle of individual rights and individual freedom, every vote for a party that advocates those ideas (i.e. Libz) is extremely valuable. This is because it sends a message that these ideas are important - at least to some people. To not vote for such a party is a sure way of undermining the work of those who tirelessly promote these ideas.

    What we have witnessed with ACT since the election, is what happens when a party has no principles; They were a pragmatic option it is said - well I challenge anyone to identify one concrete thing they have achieved which advances the course of freedom in this country. When it comes to our freedoms, there is no room for pragmatism or for compromise for what is there to gain in any compromise.

    Remember, Libz do not care of they do not get into government. What they want is for their IDEAS to get there. Unfortunately, no other party has shown an interest in these ideas so the choice of which party to support is fairly clear.

    By the way Greg....welcome onboard.


  37. Thanks Julian. Rest assured, I'll never vote anti-freedom again.

  38. A couple of them voted against the gang patch ban.


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