Wednesday, 19 August 2009

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: On ‘P,’ GST & music not being free

Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath takes his regularly irreverent look at some of the past week’s headlines . . .

1. Gyms fight to keep music playingLocal fitness clubs are worried that copyright charges may rise on music used at aerobics lessons and other classes. The owners of the intellectual property rights to the music have experienced a significant drop in sales due to the increase in illegal downloading of music, and this is their response.
    To me, the issue is simple enough. First question, who owns the rights to the music? This seems fairly well settled: the Phonographic Performances Company of Australia holds the copyright. Second question, what contractual arrangement did PPCA have with the fitness clubs? It appears the fitness centres have been getting a very cheap or even free ride up until now, and will shortly be paying market rates. If the fee is too high for them, they will need to source music from elsewhere or come up with some other plan to keep customers coming through the doors.
    Those who lack the imagination and drive to make the necessary changes may, as Fitness NZ CEO Richard Beddie claims, go under. However, no business is guaranteed a free ride forever, and the music industry is hurting too as a result of file-sharing piracy.

2. Higher GST proposed to shift tax focus from incomes – Yes, we need income tax relief; no, we do not need an increase in GST which disproportionately hurts the poorer in our community.
    A review of the tax system by a working group has suggested raising GST to 15%, or even 20%, in order to raise “economic efficiency” – i.e. to make the theft of individual wealth harder to avoid.
    The committee acknowledges some “fairness issues”, and says “compensation” for those on lower incomes should be included in any new system. Somehow this whole package of increased wealth redistribution is called tax reform.
    Note there is no hint at reducing income tax rates; rather leave them at their current extortionate rates, and ratchet up GST instead. Other advisors to John Key advocate throwing in a Capital Gains Tax for good measure. God, how I love this free market pro-capitalist National Government.

3. PM’s advisor recommends P Precursor drug ban – In the tradition of all good prohibitionists, John Key’s Science Czar Peter Gluckman has recommended banning the sale of tablets containing pseudoephedrine in an effort to stop people using it to manufacture methamphetamine. Does he really think the demand for P will suddenly evaporate if pseudoephedrine supply is driven underground? Does he have no knowledge of how markets work – that if someone tries to put a finger in the dike, another hole will appear somewhere else?
    As in physics, for every action, there will be an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, it will not be the reaction that Peter Gluckman and John Key want.
    As the Libertarianz Party and others have been banging on about for years, the way to get the recreational substance market out of the hands of criminals and gangs, and to eliminate the demand for dangerous drugs such as methamphetamine (and thereby to reduce the harm its use is having on our community) is to approach drug use from a health angle rather than a legal one. Legalise all drugs now.
    Portugal legalized possession of all drugs several years ago. The net effect has been slightly less drug use after an initial rise, and more people seeking help for problems related to substance use and abuse. John Key and the Czar seem more interested in punishing New Zealanders for their vices.       

4. Lib Dems demand curbs on spying - from the BBC website comes news that even the left-wing Liberal Democrats are becoming uncomfortable about the scope and depth of violations of individual privacy in the Surveillance State, where there is now said to be a CCTV camera for every seven Britons. About 1500 requests a day are made – up 40% on three years ago - so that the state can spy on its citizens by prying into e-mails and telephone records. There is even an Interception of Communication Commissioner. How creepy is that?
    Borough Councils are spying on their rubbish collector employees and checking which dogs are fouling the footpaths. Some cameras even have loudspeakers mounted next to them so that orders can be barked out if, for instance, people drop rubbish on the street. One in every 78 people in Britain is being spied on. In communist East Germany this figure was nine in ten - one in ten people was a Stasi agent, spying on the other nine! Clearly, Britain is not yet another German Democratic Republic, but the trends are worrying. How much more will the British people tolerate before there is serious resistance to these egregious attacks on freedom by Gordon Brown’s increasingly totalitarian government? A once proud nation is dying as we watch.
    As someone opined on Samizdata a few days ago, George Orwell’s book 1984 was meant to serve as a warning, not a blueprint.

See y’all next week!
Doc McGrath


  1. I want to know why I can't buy cheap legal heroin from my pharmacy. I'm serious. It would improve my life no end.

  2. At the turn of last century, you could. And oddly, society didn't collapse in a heap because of it.

    In fact, speaking of turn-of-that-century figures, I understand Sherlock Holmes for one considered the habit rather improved his performance. :-)

    Fact is, when pure pharmaceutical-grade Bayer heroin was legally sold in local pharmacies for about the same price as Bayer aspirin, drug lords, drug cartels and drug-related crime, didn’t exist -- and didn't come to exist until prohibition.

  3. Holmes may have thought it was a good lifestyle choice - Rand didn't. She didn't hesitiate to pronounce moral judgement on users:

    Drug addiction is the attempt to obliterate one's consciousness, the quest for a deliberately induced insanity. As such, it is so obscene an evil that any doubt about the moral character of its practitioners is itself an obscenity.

    She also said that "drug addiction is nothing but a public confession of personal impotence."

    Most people can understand and even support the libertarian view of legalisation because of gangs, but you don't need to glamorise the use of narcotics.

  4. Good quotes, Ruth, but I'm struggling to find this "glamorisation" of which you speak.

  5. Ruth: Holmes is a fictional character. Note that little ":-)" in PC's comment? ;)

    To be fair though, I do agree with you to a point. I'm all for freedom, but there's no point encouraging drug use. I just take issue with your assertion that this is what PC was doing.

  6. And of course the Home Bake revolution that occured in 70's NZ was a direct result of the authorities assault on the heroin trade, leading to less safe products, and encouraged the gangs to get people hooked as it was relatively easy to set up and manufacturer. There is ample evidence that the war on drugs is harming many more poeple than would be otherwise, I think it's high-time that politicians & Police, and those that advocate more drug laws were called to account for the harm they doing. Ignorance of the evidence is no longer valid, they should be blamed for the problems we now have. (not the personal responsibilty element of individual users, but the over all increase of the problem). So if you'd all be so kind as to submit a "wanted" poster of your fourite drug fascist or policeman please do so. I'll start: "WANTED- Judith Collins. For Giving an incentive to Gangs to get Rich From the Sale of Illegal Drugs to Young NZers".

  7. On the music issue: I can see a market for a group of popular NZ musos to get together and sell their songs at a cut price rate to the gyms. Problem is they're probably already under contracts which won't permit that.

    There's also and other sources of creative commons and other such licensed material. Just because it's not on the shitty top 100 stations doesn't make it bad music, and it's free for use (in most cases - some licenses may not allow commercial use, check first).

    Sheesh gym owners. Quit whinging and use your imagination. If you don't like the rules, play on a different field.

  8. Delighted that gyms may have to stop the music. Everyone wears i-pods or watches DVD's at my gym.

    The background noise is just high thumping pollution.

  9. Actually you've made an excellent point Cactus - problem solved, at no cost to the gyms!

  10. On GST: The committee acknowledges some “fairness issues”

    - too right: what's fair about being taxed for spending income that has already been taxed once?

  11. Good quotes, Ruth, but I'm struggling to find this "glamorisation" of which you speak

    The glamorisation is in saying (in effect) "Hey bro, Sherlock Holmes thought heroin was cool too."

    The first poster is a loser. Losers do not deserve positive validation.

  12. Ruth: If the first poster is a troll, then sure. If they are an addict however, their post is 100% accurate, and a prime example of WHY libertarians favour legalisation of drugs. S/he would be able to get drugs safely in a non-judgemental environment, while coming to terms with and dealing with the addiction.

    By the way anonymous, there's another reason to sign in. I HATE playing the gender pronoun game.

  13. And in other breaking news, Sir "Kill-Joy" Palmer says being drunk in public should be an offence.

    -- Gimme liberty or gimme whine --

  14. Not at all Greig. My position stands - addicts are losers. Addiction is a choice, not a disease.

    Take a look here:

    Part of the libertarian canon.

  15. Ruth: I have never taken illegal drugs in my life and I personally consider use of something like P or heroin to be brain damaged, but the issue is whether you should be free to destroy your own life if you so choose.

    Peter: I think Holmes preferred cocaine to heroin (must check on that).

    Anonymous: I want to know why cigarettes and alcohol are not available at the chemist

  16. Bruce Hamilton19 Aug 2009, 17:08:00

    AFAIK, Portugal did not legalise drugs, they decriminalised possession of them. People caught with drugs such as heroin, cannabis ( other than dealers importers etc. ) are required to undergo therapy/treatment.

    The attendance at therapy/treatment is directly correlated with the amount of their welfare payments.

    The use of some drugs ( eg cannabis ) increased slightly, and use of some party drugs significantly increased - as concurrently happened in other countries.

  17. Ruth: Sure it's a choice. Does that mean if someone regrets the choice, and wants to change their mind, people should be without compassion in helping them do so? Choosing to stop is a choice too, and as long as the addict bears full responsibility for the results of their choice, how is it un-libertarian to want them to be able to get help?

  18. And how is it either helpful or compassionate to lock them up if they want to continue?

    "The glamorisation is in saying (in effect) 'Hey bro, Sherlock Holmes thought heroin was cool too'.""

    Oh, okay. Although it wasn't exactly intended as glamorisation, so much as an example of how a best-selling Victorian story writer expected his audience to view heroin/cocaine use by a thinking hero. Clearly, the audience thought it no hindrance to functioning well.

  19. I agree that it is not helpful to lock people up for drug offences. Heaven knows there are far too many people in our prisons as it is.

    But let us not go on about narcotic use as if it is a lifestyle choice like any other - as I think Elijah said the other day - it is ok to disagree.

    If one chooses to eject oneself from reality one is contemptible.

    You can still say drugs should be legalised, but cast judgement about those who choose to use them.

  20. Jesus Ruth. You really need a joint.

    Maybe then you wouldn't be such a judgemental stuck-up cow.

  21. The usual vulgarity so many low class men on the internet repair to.

    What a loser.

  22. In 25 or 35 years from now NZ's ageing population will mean a significant increase of sterile old bigots like Ruth.

    What a depressing thought.

  23. Why do so many here resort to personal attacks? I guess there's a lot of history I'm not aware of. I used to read all the posts, but have only visited the comments section over the last year or so.

  24. "Drug addiction is the attempt to obliterate one's consciousness, the quest for a deliberately induced insanity.."
    One of the few statements by Rand I disagree with. Firstly, drug use is not necessarily drug addiction. Second,some drugs certainly do not "obliterate one's consciousness"--quite the reverse in fact.
    And to suggest that drug users are chasing "deliberately induced insanity" is just plain wrong. There are many motives for using drugs and the effects are just as many and various.

  25. And there is no moral judgement to be made about drug users since there's no moral component involved in their use unless that use affects others.
    If I choose to drop a tab of pure lysergic acid diethylamide in the privacy of my own home, when alone, where exactly does the 'immorality' of that action reside?

  26. Ok I am the first poster. Let me tell you a little about myself. I run my own company that employs myself and one other. I export about a million dollars of software a year, that I write.

    I have a medical condition that means I take various opoid painkillers, on prescription. But it's a struggle; a couple of years ago the main medicine I relied on was taken off the subsidised list and now I pay $300 per month to get it. I also am forced to go to the pharmacy every week to get my supply of methadone as apparently I am not trusted to have a month supply.

    And the supply of this is unreliable. So, I repeat. I wish I could just go and buy cheap heroin. I reckon it's a better painkiller that the cockatil that I am taking now.

    Most people don't know, but opoids are not that dangerous if taken correctly. With junkies it's the dirty needles, lifestyle and danger of oversose that's the problem.

    So kindly don't tell me I'm a troll.

  27. I should point out that it's not the methadone supply that's unreliable. It's the other opoid I take. Problem with that is that I take considerably more than the recommended dose (with my doctor's blessing). However if I were able to get a stronger painkiller like heroin I would not need as much.

    There is a big difference between addiction and dependence.

    I am dependent (physically) on my drugs, but I am not addicted the way a junkie is. I have several times tapered the dose to zero to try other medications, but nothing works as well as opoids.

  28. See Ruth? Pretty good reason, yes?

    Anonymous: Nice work on the clarification, now PLEASE sign in or use a tag line! ;P

  29. Guys,

    I can personally confirm the positive results of drug reform in Portugal.

    I'm currently living in Lisbon. I live in a dodgy street full of drug dealers, prostitutes (thats still illegal here) and the general riff-raff of society.

    The dealers both in my street, and in other places I've encountered on my nights out, are the *least threatening* I've ever encountered.


    Are the Portuguese just so lovely?

    I think not. (Though generally they are have a wonderfully kind culture. I love the people here.)

    The reason the dealers are so unthreatening is because there's no real threat to buyers here.

    The dealers can't rape, rob or beat you because you have the rule of law on your side.

    They do you in? They threaten you? They hit you? They rape you?

    Tell a cop. You're safe. The worst that happens is you have to turn up to a community hall to explain your habit to senior locals in your community. Not such a bad thing I guess.

    What happens in other countries where the law comes down hard on users? Like India for instance, where the dealers made my skin crawl.

    Look the wrong way for a second and you're lying in the gutter with a broken face. And you can't do nothing. Tell a cop and you're up for 10 years (or a handsome bribe) just for wanting to smoke a joint.

    Drug reform makes a whole lot of people a whole lot safer.

  30. "The dealers can't rape, rob or beat you because you have the rule of law on your side".

    well said Willie!

  31. "If one chooses to eject oneself from reality one is contemptible."

    "I reject your reality and substitute it for my own."

    Someone had to say it

  32. Willie:
    "The reason the dealers are so unthreatening is because there's no real threat to buyers here.

    The dealers can't rape, rob or beat you because you have the rule of law on your side.

    Drug reform makes a whole lot of people a whole lot safer."

    Well said.

    I agree with KG & NCT respectively on this.

    "Addicts are losers". Those who choose to continue their habit, eschewing the available help are lost causes, for sure. But what of the clean & sober addicts who work hard every single day to stay that way? They might be clean & sober, but they're still technically addicts.

    Far from being "losers", they're incredibly powerful and should be applauded for their efforts. I have two people in my life who are, thank goodness, sober alcoholics today. A little compassion can work wonders.

    Rand might have been a remarkable woman, but she had her faults - (she liked "Charlie's Angels", FFS). She wasn't a god; something that really shouldn't have to be pointed out to atheists ...

    "Most people can understand and even support the libertarian view of legalisation because of gangs, .."

    I don't believe that for a second ... more's the pity. Unlike alcohol, drugs are seen as a bogey by the community at large.

    But instead of considering the problem rationally and act to neutralise the black marketeers, they become emotional and demand even more of what isn't working, which serves only to escalate the problem.

    And on it goes. :(

  33. Anonymous:

    I sympathise with your plight. I know of a young, married father of two who was hit by (ironically) a drunk driver. His injuries were very serious, but he was desperate to get off ACC & get back to work asap. A good company run by good people gave him a chance & employed him.

    No legal pain relief works nearly as well as marijuana ... and no, he was never a recreational drug-taker prior to the accident, but the subsequent forced him to seek other remedies & marijuana did the trick.

    So because of our absurd drug laws, this chap is forced to do illegal business with repulsive criminals and pay high prices for product, the quality of which is not subject to the usual market controls.

    It takes all my self-control to not explode when some do-gooder harps on about the necessity of keeping drugs illegal. I should like to introduce them to this young guy and see if they remain so bloody sanctimonious.

    And that's all aside from the fact that what adults voluntarily do is nobody else's business.

  34. s/be 'subsequent pain forced him to seek other remedies ..'

  35. > Nice work on the clarification, now PLEASE sign in or use a tag line! ;P

    I normally post under my name here, but due to the stigma of "drugs" I'd rather not on this post. Right now I want to keep my dependence private. There are people who I simply don't want to know this as they might not understand.

  36. Fair enough, there's just been a run on anonymity of late. :)

  37. You should pick another pseudonym temporarily so we can tell the anons apart.


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