Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Douglas offers taxpayers a ‘Conscientious Objection Option’ [update 2]

Roger Douglas has been reading Libz policy again, and he’s put it at the heart of his new plan to save the economy and put it on the path to prosperity, to be announced at Orewa tonight. 

Libz have pushed for a tax-free threshold for income tax of $50,000.  Douglas is willing to allow $30,000.

Libz have for years pushed for a ‘Brian Edwards Option,’ allowing those like Edwards who advocate higher taxes to keep paying them and to keep receiving state-funded health and education, while the rest of us can opt out and in return look after our own health, welfare and education.  We call this last the Conscientious Objection Option, which over time would become the preferred option.  Douglas is allowing an “opt in” system which is not a million miles away, and not at all difficult to introduce. Says Douglas,

I believe that the only way to change our economic prospects is to radically redesign our income tax system in concert with our social welfare system. Individuals should have the ability to opt in to the new system. Individuals who like high tax rates and monopoly-run health, welfare, education, and superannuation services can stick with the old system. But if you want to opt out of that failing system, then you should be able to have a lower tax burden in exchange for taking personal responsibility over your life.

It’s not all that’s needed by a long chalk, but it’s a start.  Would that he were listened to.

UPDATE 2: The only things that travels faster than bushfires is ideas.  From Libz, to Douglas to America’s influential National Review Online in … less time than it takes for politicians to start pointing the finger.

Libertarianz: setting brushfires in people’s minds since 1996. [Hat tip New Zeal]

New blog, new voice of reason

New blog added to to the ‘Regular Reading’ blog roll is Voices for Reason, where experts from the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights will provide daily commentary on breaking news from the perspective of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism.

Debi Ghate from the Ayn Rand Center says, “It is our goal to make Voices for Reason the go-to source for our unique perspective on the most important news of the day and the state of our culture. Our writers will share their insights, evaluating current events using Ayn Rand’s philosophy of reason, individualism, and laissez-faire capitalism as their guide.”

Sounds good to me!

Minimum wage rise: everybody loses

minwage We’re in recession, moving inexorably into depression. 

Jobs are short, confidence is low, and prices and profits are falling.

Yesterday’s announcement that “the minimum wage” is going to be raised is an indication, however, that economic recovery is what politicians are eager to avoid.

We’re in a hole, and all they want to do is keep digging.

Let me explain that point.

When the prices producers can get for their produce are going down, as they do in a recession, then producers themselves need to cut costs if they're going to survive.  That’s a law of reality that affects everyone from car-makers to Christchurch prostitutes.

It’s serious.  When the prices for goods and services are below the cost of producing those goods and services, as they so often are in a recession, then producers either cut their costs or go under.

What happens to those marginal businesses (and to economic recovery) if they can’t cut their costs?  I’ll leave that question as an exercise for you.

How can governments help? Well, a responsible government could help this process of recovery by cutting their own spending and removing any legal impediments to letting prices fall -- which, crucially, includes the price of labour. Allowing viable producers to cut costs in the face of falling prices, especially the cost of labour, is what leads the economy into a genuine recovery.

Conversely, prohibiting cost cutting delivers the opposite result. By meddling and over-spending, by keeping prices high and setting ‘price floors’ that make it hard for marginal producers to survive, they either delay or kill stone-dead any genuine recovery.

Yesterday's decision by the National/Act/Maori Government to **raise** the minimum wage in the face of falling prices and falling production confirms that this Government intends to take the latter route.

The minimum wage is a price floor below which staff are not legally allowed to work.  The result of setting the price for labour above the market clearing price is to put labour out of work.

It’s as simple as that.

If the National/Act/Maori Government knew what they were about they wouldn’t be raising the minimum wage, they’d be abolishing it.

Prices don’t need to be fixed or kept up – at the present time they urgently need to fall.  One man’s price is another man’s costs.  As the likes of Pigou and Haberler and Patinkin have argued, “falling wages and prices would increase the real value of money holdings, and the spending out of those real cash balances would restore the economy to full employment” -- and while monetary wages might fall, as they need to, as productivity increases and the purchasing power of every dollar increases, then real wages will actually rise

It’s not a balancing act: Everybody actually wins.

But this benevolent process can only come to fruition if the politicians and the union reps get out of the way first.

The sad thing about yesterday afternoon’s announcement however is not just the number of people it will throw out of work and the businesses it will throw out of business, it’s the clear indication that the actions of this government will not be determined on the basis of economics, but instead on ordinary politics. And that ladies and gentlemen is the problem.

Despite the comments from so-called economists this morning, this is not good economics.

There are so-called economists arguing that a hike in the minimum wage will help recovery by inducing an increase in consumer spending.  These are people who think money grows on trees.  They are utterly ignorant of where this “extra spending” is supposed to come from, which is from the earnings of producers – earnings that are now severely reduced.  This is not even economics, it’s just stupidity.

There are so-called economists who’ll insist that the derisory “tax cuts” delivered last week should be enough to fund today’s cost increase.  These are people who one can only assume have never seen a balance sheet, nor grasped the extent of today’s problems.

And there are so-called economists who argue that wages are inherently “sticky downwards,” that lowering the price of labour is inherently impossible so don’t even bother trying.  Now, it’s certainly true that wages are going to have trouble falling in the context of minimum wage laws and the refusal of unions and policy-makers to let wages decline – and the insistence of so-called economists that they don’t need to.

But sadly for these theorists, their theory is contradicted by cases such as this one, and by the history of depressions past.

Remember the Great American Depression of 1920?  No?  There’s a very good reason for that: there wasn’t one.  Unlike the Great American Depression of the thirties, when the US economy went into a tailspin and President Hoover did everything he could to keep prices and wages high, in the recession of 1920, prices and wages were allowed to fall, allowing things to get back on an even keel, and within a year the economy was booming away again.

The same thing happened in New Zealand in the early thirties.  While FDR was meddling away trying to keep prices high (prolonging the American depression for nearly a decade), New Zealand’s political leaders allowed wages and prices to fall, and by 1934/45 the New Zealand economy was back into recovery mode.

These are the lessons from economic history that honest historians, economists and politicians should be learning, and talking about.

Sure, you can listen to the likes of Sue Bradford and Phil Goff and Helen Kelly and the boys at the Double Standard who demonise private enterprise and spout economic illiteracy.

There are important lessons from history they do need to learn.  In the context of economic recovery they need to learn that the demonisation of private enterprise is counter-productive, especially to the low-paid people they clam to be speaking for. They need to learn it just as much as American president Barack Obama needs to learn it, as Lew Rockwell explains:

    With his rhetoric and policies, [Obama] has decided to demonize private enterprise, just as FDR did, as a way to present government as the great savior. Now, think about this. If there is a way out of the recession, it will have to be provided by private enterprise. It will come by new businesses, business expansions, entrepreneurship, new technology, and this will be the source of lasting jobs and prosperity.
You cannot make a country rich by looting taxpayers and paying people to pound nails into siding at public schools! These activities amount to capital consumption. They are not sources of investment. You can say that they are stupid tasks or wonderful tasks, but it is not a matter of ideology as to whether such public projects will make us all wealthier. They will not. They drain the sources of wealth from society. They represent a cost, not a blessing.

Neither jobs nor spending grows on trees.  That’s not ideology: that’s reality.  Private enterprise is the engine of both new jobs and any real recovery we’re ever going to see – it is the solution to recovery, not the impediment.  Responsible governments understand that. 

Does this one?

LIBERTARIAN SUS: Political Correctness = Fear

There is more than one way to exercise control, says Susan Ryder (originally published in the Franklin E-Local).

“I disapprove of what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it.“  This aphorism has long been attributed to French philosopher Voltaire (born Francois-Marie Arouet, 1694-1778), although some believe it the work of SG Tallentyre in her biography The Friends of Voltaire, where she summarised his attitude toward another writer’s controversial book. No matter who is actually responsible for the line, the phrase accurately defined Voltaire’s philosophy of individual liberty.

Central to this philosophy is freedom of speech, something we in the western world take for granted. New Zealanders turning seventy this year were born the year the Second World War started, which means that most of us here today have no experience of that dark time and no concept of living in a country where freedoms are severely restricted or unknown.

My own personal experience of totalitarianism is limited to a visit to Bulgaria and Yugoslavia in the early 1980s. The Berlin Wall was several years from falling and the Iron Curtain appeared as fortified as ever. My Bulgarian visa was valid for a mere forty-eight hours with strict instructions as to where I stayed and went.

The country was bleak, grey and poor, there was virtually nothing to buy and the people were reluctant to engage in conversation. Yugoslavia was different in that though its people still endured a markedly lower standard of living than their western counterparts – the daily sight of long queues for basic food items will stay with me forever - it was not a member of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. The late President Tito had long defied Moscow by allowing his people certain freedoms, e.g. to travel outside its borders and to engage in limited private enterprise. Having said that, the people I met, although considerably more outgoing than those in Bulgaria, were still mindful of what they discussed with strangers.

A better example was one related in the late 1970s by a family friend who travelled to the former West Germany annually on business. One year he had the opportunity to visit East Berlin for the first time, where his contact invited him home to meet his wife and family, the latter of which consisted of two teenage sons and his elderly parents. Our friend – let’s call him Bob – always carried a few family photos and upon request brought them out to show his hosts, particularly the boys, who were keen to know about faraway New Zealand. They enthusiastically commented that “your government provides wonderful homes and vehicles!”

As diplomatically as possible, Bob explained that he and his wife saved up for their house and cars over time, buying them personally. He tried to lighten the situation by joking that they certainly lived more modestly in the earlier days of their marriage. The teenagers flatly refused to believe him, while
their parents, Bob’s contemporaries, also looked askance at the concept of private ownership. At that point the grandparents leaned over and addressed him for the first time, nodding quietly. They well
remembered the days before German communism and the Third Reich, but their children and
grandchildren simply wouldn’t listen.

Thirty years on, that story still horrifies me. That a government in modern times could wield so much power as to blatantly deceive its population, so much so that younger citizens firmly disbelieved any contradictory viewpoint held by close elder relatives.

So what has that to do with political correctness? In a word, control.

Freedom and control are diametrically opposed. The measure of a country’s freedom lies in how far the balance tips either way. Thomas Jefferson, third US President and principal architect of its Declaration of Independence said that the natural progression of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. In other words, the struggle for freedom is ongoing and hard going.

Once upon a time, people controlled other people via the club, the mace, the spear and the arrow. It was brutal and effective. Centuries later, weaponry has developed to include the gun, the bomb and the nuclear warhead. They are brutal and effective.

But today, in more peaceful parts of the world, there is a more subtle, cheaper form of civil control. It is much less messy, but remains powerfully effective and yes, its effects can be brutal. It is, of course, the placing of restrictions upon free speech, thereby interfering with one’s right to hold opinions without fear of persecution. Political correctness, as I have said before, dictates thought and behaviour by the imposition of certain beliefs to which everybody must adhere or be ridiculed or punished. It conjures images of an angry mob of finger-pointers towering over a cowering individual for committing the cardinal sin of speaking her mind. It is ironic that those who scream against intolerance are themselves so often guilty.

And for those who would defend the process by suggesting that political correctness prevents Peter from making derogatory remarks against Pita or Peta, I again refer to Mr Jefferson. In his lifelong defence of the rights of the individual, he eloquently said that errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. He understood that respect for free speech automatically includes the toleration of dissenting viewpoints. He rightly saw that two wrongs did not make a right, that censorship of the individual to stop incivility was precisely the wrong way to go about it. That, in fact, in order to combat it, freedom of expression was paramount.

Voltaire would have cheered.

* * Read Libertarian Sus every week here at NOT PC * *

Rain, Steam, and Speed - J.M.W.Turner [updated]


If you had a problem with the Monet the other day – if Impressionism just isn’t your bag – then Turner’s work, which inspired Monet and his contemporaries, will give you heartburn.

It does me.

There is a whole wing of London’s Tate Gallery dedicated to the work of Turner, described as “a painter of light.”  And with this piece, The UltraOrange blog seeks to draw you into his web with words and music and the power of the image.

See if you fall prey to the seduction.

Monday, 9 February 2009

“Way Down in the Hole” [update 3]

If you're in the 'this-recession-won't-be-so-bad' camp, then have a look at this graph comparing American job losses in the two most recent recessions with job losses so far in this one.

Sobering, huh? That figure down there that the arrow is pointing at? That’s 3.6 million so far.

Does this matter for us down here in NZ? Says TVHE,from whom I stole the pic (after they borrowed it from The Big Picture)

Well the US accounts for 10% of our merchandise trade, and they are a major driver of economic activity in Asia - an area which accounts for another 35% of our exports …

UPDATE 1: Be aware of a few things in this graph, not least the stamp “Office of the Speaker” in the corner. As a Cafe Hayek commenter says, “After all these years, Pelosi's reputation precedes her, and that stamp automatically makes the plot highly suspect.” Nonetheless, says Andrew Sullivan, “Pelosi's graph is not that misleading.”

UPDATE 2: The Calculated Risk Blog has a graph allowing you to compare in percentage terms the pace of unemployment growth in this latest panic to unemployment growth in recessions going all the way back through Carter’s recession of 81/82, to Nixon’s of 74/75, and Eisenhower’s of 60/61.

UPDATE 3: The latest Peter Schiff video backs up that lovely employment graph above [hat tip RW].

The "John Galt Effect" [update 2]

Molecular biologist Arthur B. Robinson, who has obtained the signatures of more than 31,000 scientists to his 'Oregon Petition' opposing the theory of climate change, has identified what he calls a "John Galt Effect" at work in the US elections and "the national events that preceded them."
Named "in honor of Ayn Rand's famous character in Atlas Shrugged.... it is occurring to a very significant extent," he says. It is an "opportunity cost" about which economists are utterly ignorant, but shouldn't be. Read about it here [hat tip Ellen Stuttle].

: George Reisman reckons the Age of Show Trials, with Capitalist Defendants in Shackles is already imminient -- and the likes of New York Times columnist Maureen Down "will be there, perhaps with knitting needles, in the role of a modern-day Madame Defarge, the Dickens character who knitted while watching aristocrats being guillotined during the French Revolution."

: An economist (one of the good ones) smacks me down. Responds Eric Crampton,
Economists utterly ignorant of the John Galt effect? It's called the tax elasticity of labour supply. And, surprisingly enough, economists have studied it. In fact, the world's top expert in the effects of tax policy, Joel Slemrod, who visited Canterbury last year to give the Condliffe Memorial Lecture, edited a book on it, available at Amazon called "Does Atlas Shrug? The economic consequences of taxing the rich." There's also plenty of work that's been done showing the horrible consequences of the kinds of top marginal tax rates we had in the 50s-70s.
Read on here for more.

One-eyed idiocy

While Australia burns and the world's economies plummet, Britain is in an uproar because Jeremy Clarkson called Gordon Brown a "one-eyed Scottish idiot." Poor lamb.
The Sun reports:
Jeremy Clarkson said sorry yesterday for calling Gordon Brown a “one-eyed
Scottish idiot” — EXCEPT for the IDIOT part.

Call that a catch?

American sports media has made much of Santonio Holmes's Superbowl-winning catch.
Take a visit and see what a real catch looks like.

Tragedy [update 3]

It's a tragedy in Victoria. Over 100 dead. Horrifying stories. Worse than Ash Wednesday. Worse than Black Friday.
Just tragic.
UPDATE 1: From Andrew Bolt: "[Historian] Geoffrey Blainey says there have been bigger fires in Victoria’s history, but none deadlier."
UPDATE 2: Tim Blair has updates.
UPDATE 3: The Australian Greens play pseudo-science over the corpses. Says the shroud-waving Senator Bob Brown, leader of the Australian Green party,
summer fires would get worse unless Australia and other nations showed more leadership on reducing greenhouse gas emissions."It's a sobering reminder of the need for this nation and the whole world to act and put at a priority our need to tackle climate change," he said.
Clearly he hasn't taken any lessons in not talkng your book before people have even been able to bury their dead. And all too clearly, neither has he been following either history or the news from the Northern Hemisphere. Summarises Andrew Bolt:
Fact: Cold, not heat, is what really kills people, as we see now in Britain.
Fact: A warming world would save countless lives, not cost them.
Fact is, heat waves can and do kill people. And bush fires can and do kill people. But let's put this in historical context before hysterical over-reaction makes it impossible.
In 1939, for instance, 438 people died in the Black Friday heat, not including
the 71 Victorians killed by the fires.
The temperatures back then were higher than those in Victoria and South Australia last week, but the heat this time hung around for longer. Yet despite our much greater population today, no more than 50 people died from heat, a fraction of the 1939 toll.
What changed? Mostly our ability now to stay cool -- most obviously through
And the news from up north -- what does that tell us? Well, Britain (to take just one Northern Hemisphere example) is now having its coldest winter in 13 years. The result?
So vulnerable are the elderly to cold that a World Health Organisation report
last year estimated that 40,000 Britons died every winter, and these "excess
winter deaths are related to poor housing conditions -- insufficient insulation,
ineffective heating systems and fuel poverty".
That's right: 40,000 Britons die each year in the cold, often because they're too poor for warming.
The evidence is that excessive cold is a far bigger killer than excessive heat.
So tragic as the bush fires are, they are neither evidence of global warming nor the "sobering reminder" that Senator Brown so crassly contends. What his comments are evidence for however is that politicians like Mr Brown will leave no stone unturned, no matter how distasteful, to peddle their particular brand of bilge.

Stimulus: Because all economies have performance issues [update 2]

This year, Australian taxpayers will receive, from their Government, an Economic Stimulus Payment. A shopping subsidy. This is a very exciting new programme that can be explained using the Q and A format:

Q. What is an Economic Stimulus Payment?
A. It is money that the federal government sends to taxpayers.

Q. Where will the government get this money?
A. From taxpayers.

Q. So the government is giving me back my own money?
A. Only a smidgen.

Q. What is the purpose of this payment?
A. The plan is that you will use the money to purchase a
High definition TV set or a new computer, thus stimulating the economy.

Q. But isn't that stimulating the economy of China?
A. Um.
Q: Well, how on earth does it stimulate the one whose taxpayers are paying to be stimulated?
A: It's all about the "multiplier."
Q: The "multiplier"?
A: Yes, the "multiplier." Every dollar the government "injects" into the economy creates an even larger increase in national output -- a multiple up to one-and-a-half times the original spend-up. The money the government is giving away goes to retailers, which then goes to producers, which then goes to other producers and so on. The net result of the spend-up, as the theory goes, will be new jobs and an overall increase in the nation's income.

Q: So the government is giving me back a smidgen of my own money, and this smidgen is multiplied several times to create a "stimulus?
A. You've got it.

Q: And it keeps prices up?
A: We hope so.

Q: But don't prices need to fall in a recession to get real production going again?
A: Well, yes.

Q: And it's not even backed by real demand, is it?
A: Well, no.

Q: So how long can such an artificial stimulus last, then?
A: Um, the theory is that it's only temporary at best.

Q: And what sort of stimulus would it have created if I'd been able to keep that money myself, and either spend it or save it?
A: Well . . .

Q: Or if producers had been able to keep their own money?
A: Um . . .

Q: So it would be fair to argue that "not only does the increase in government outlays not raise overall output by a positive multiple; but, on the contrary, [it actually] leads to the weakening in the process of wealth generation in general.”
A: But . . .

Q: And this is the whole theory? This is all you economists can come up with?
A: Well, that's about it, yes.

Q: So it's a bit like when "a carnival magician produces a quarter from behind a child's ear," isn't it. "The 'magic' of the multiplier is mere illusion."
A: Hush your mouth. People are listening.

Q: No answer?
A: Sorry, we're a bit busy right now shovelling money out the door.

* * * * Stimulus: Because all economies have performance issues * * * *

[Hat tip (and pic) Tim Andrews & Sus]

UPDATE 1: Courtesy of Greg Mankiw [with a hat tip to Anti Dismal], here is John Maynard Keynes of 1942 six years after The General Theory, showing he was still wrong about his general theory, but moving towards being right on specifics:
Organized public works, at home and abroad, may be the right cure for a chronic tendency to a deficiency of effective demand. But they are not capable of sufficiently rapid organisation (and above all cannot be reversed or undone at a later date), to be the most serviceable instrument for the prevention of the trade cycle.
UPDATE 2: Subsidies for everyone? If we all have to endure the "stimulus" packages of politicans, then how about a stimulus package for bloggers? The excellent 14-point case for prudent profligacy [hat tip TVHE] concludes,
This is an important campaign. Your comments of support ... help make the case to government...
With sufficient momentum we can make sure the stimulus is not wasted on filling in freshly dug holes, fixing the environment or building bridges to nowhere - all things that the market is perfectly capable of doing by itself. Instead of Bridges to Nowhere, what this economy really needs is a serious infusion of Blogs about Nothing.
Amen to that. May I forward you this humble blogger's bank account details? ;^)

Friday, 6 February 2009

Waitangi Day Ramble

No Waitangi post this morning. Instead, I’ll point you to what I write every year: One-Law-For-All Day, since all I’d need to change is the prediction about the protests. And point you to historian Paul Moon’s thoughtful piece from Wednesday’s Herald, which looks ahead to “a post-Waitangi Tribunal era for the Treaty,” and why the Treaty isn’t a suitable candidate for inclusion in any new constitution.

And while I’m sending you elsewhere, how about I point you to a few more posts from all sorts of places that I wanted to write about, but haven’t had time.

  • Keynesian policies are not the answer,” writes John Montgomery in The Australian. He’s right, you know.
  • Even Dick Armey, former majority leader of the House of Reps (and economics professor) has seen the light: Washington Could Use Less Keynes and More Hayek he says in the Wall Street Journal. “The late Austrian economist offered good reasons to be skeptical of government action,” says Armey. “It's clear why Keynes's popularity endures in Congress. Intellectual cover for a spending spree will always be appreciated there. But it's harder to see any justification for the perverse form of fiscal child abuse that heaps massive debts on future generations.”
  • A numb nut in Wednesday’s Herald argues the economy can be revived with the “cash boost” of a raise in the minimum wage, which will (he says) fix “one of the key problems facing our economy … a lack of purchasing power.” I would have thought one of the key problems is precisely the sort of economic ignorance he exhibits!
    Henry Hazlitt explains root and branch why a raise in the minimum wage will do the very opposite of what our numb nut argues for, and will hurt the very people the advocates argue it will help.
    Head here, Economics in One Lesson, and then scroll all the way down to Chapter Eighteen: Minimum Wage Laws. It’s the authoritative debunking.
  • More than 100,000 NZers now “officially unemployed” (not to mention nearly 300,000 on welfare)and the antediluvians want the minimum wage raised! The proper solution to getting them back to work is to abolish the minimum wage. Even the Ashburton Guardian gets the message.
  • “What matters most right now,” says stimulus-mongers, “is getting money into people's hands!” Um, says Jeff Jacoby, Money for nothing won't grow the economy. Never has. “A new New Deal will not work any better than the old one did. Recessions hurt, but recessions compounded with colossal government growth hurt worse. So much worse, sometimes, that they turn into depressions.”
  • The BBC has a TV series on The Great Depression, which shows the BBC’s favourite economists don’t have a bloody clue about economic history. Read The BBC Account of the Great Depression.
  • Here’s what their historians need: Four great essays explaining the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle. This stuff is, almost literally, gold! Turn your printer on now.
  • Something else that might be useful depression-era fodder: Ari Armstrong aimed to survive on just US3.57 dollars a day for food! And you can too, if you need to. Here’s how it worked out.
  • And did you know the American Government has a food policy? “Surely, what food to buy and eat should be an individual or, at most, family decision,” says Jeff Perren at Shaving Leviathan. “But it points to a much larger problem, one that reveals one of the root causes of the current crisis: the longing for the 'safety' of dependency, the desire to have an all-wise parent solve your problems.” Read Letting Government Order (for) You, Recipe for Disaster.
  • “A precedent-setting High Court ruling will deprive individuals of their rights over their own land, says a frustrated landowner.” Hasn’t he been keeping up? The Resource Management Act did that long ago.
  • Do you need more examples of Why the Liberal View of Government is Wrong?
  • American bank lending has stalled, despite the nearly trillion-dollar bailout (remember how they promised to cover us in TARP). So that worked, didn’t it. Here is a Tip to Policy Makers: Don't Bail Out Insolvent Banks Ever Again.
  • BB&T is one of America’s most profitable, and least leveraged, banks.
    Last Thursday the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights hosted a lecture by BB&T board chairman John Allison focusing on the current financial crisis from a free market banker’s perspective – the causes, and thirteen necessary cures. Interestingly, NZ had already stumbled into four of the thirteen.
    Read a write-up of the talk an listen to an audio file of the Q&A here at the Free Agents blog.
  • Speaking of bankers and economics, here’s another economic concept you need to get your head around: Fractional Reserve Banking, one of the major causes of the banking collapse. The Rational Capitalist has the lesson for for you.
  • Even Pam Corkery’s defending banks now! And David Slack (and his readers) gets real about “borrowers who find themselves marooned on the desert island known as Fixed Rate.”
  • The New York Times has 2008 in photos.
  • Lindsay Mitchell has a tale from the underclass.
  • And Stephen Franks looks at the tut-tutting about Fiji. Nothing about the present Fijian situation as outlined to me, says Franks’s colleague, was as simple as he’d been led to believe.
  • Over at Spiked Online, editor Brendan O'Neill comments on the fact that the recent birth of only the second set of octuplets to be born alive in the United States seems to have devolved into a "finger-wagging morality tale," with busybodies of all descriptions getting in their two cents' worth. Gus van Horn suspects the problems might be even bigger than O’Neill suspects. Read Whose womb is it, anyway?.
  • A lesson for the Obamessiah: As Wall Street Bonuses Go, So Goes the Liberty of All of Us.
    Government should not be handing out bailouts, nor should it be telling employers whether they can pay bonuses.
    First they came for the CEOs . . .
  • Another lesson for the Obamessiah: The ‘Buy American’ earmarks affixed to Obama’s USD$800 billion “stimulus” package won’t save jobs, it’ll cost ‘em. And by raising prices, it will mean that fewer roads and schools will be built with the “stimulus” money. The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again, as Paul Walker summarises. ‘Buy American’ is un-American.
  • “A lot of people get annoyed with Austrian economists because they tend to be so dogmatic (we prefer the term consistent),” says Austrian economist Robert Murphy, “and because they cloak their strictly economic claims with self-righteousness (we prefer the term morality). After a good Austrian bashing of the latest call to steal taxpayer money and waste it on something that will make a given problem worse, the stumped critics will often shout, ‘Oh yeah? Well do you guys have a better idea?’" Responding to the challenge, Murphy has An Austrian Recommendation for President Obama.
  • For those of us who were alive at the time of the Soviet Union and its Evil Empire, who would have thought we’d live to see a Russian political leader lecture the US on the dangers of statism, and the fallacies of Keynesianism: Vladimir Putin gives the US’s political leaders an economics lesson on free markets.
  • Message to Obama (yes, another one): fewer and fewer Americans believe that we are causing climate change. Obama's America:It's a denier nation.
  • John Lewis analyzes the resounding Republican defeat in the 2008 election, and shows that the party faces a fundamental decision that will determine whether it orchestrates a comeback or stumbles into further defeat. Read Reason or Faith: The Republican Alternative.
  • And Craig Biddle shows why capitalism is the only moral social system on earth. It’s true. Read Capitalism and the Moral High Ground and challenge yourself.
  • Liberty Scott does some back-of-the-envelope cost-benefit analyses for Steven Joyce, National’s Minister for Roads. Read Roads under National. [NB: Looks like Steven is already reading.]
  • Martin Weitzman argues you can’t do ‘cost-benefit analyses’ on the 'need' for carbon taxes. It’s technical.
  • The Daily Telegraph reports that an 84 year old man is suing UK Labour MP Ann Keen for laziness, saying she breached her “duty of care” to a constituent [hat tip Kiwiblog]. Why sue? I want my MPs to be lazy – the lazier they are, the less they get in my way. You know my two favourite NZ MPs in recent years? Judith Tizard and Jonathan Hunt. In the current cultural environment, the country needs fewer zealots in parliament and more Ministers of Wine and Cheese like those two.
  • Marcus says No to Green Communism!
  • It’s prayer time at No Minister.
  • Some recommendations from Stephen Hicks:
    • William Easterly on an entrepreneurial education success story: Ashesi University in Ghana.
    • Meanwhile, back in the States, poor educational achievement is not a money problem - somewhat exasperatedly, Neal McCluskey explains for the umpteenth time that schools have plenty of money.
    • And there’s Life at Wal-Mart! A former senior writer at Wired magazine gets a new job and ponders upward mobility for low-pay employees. Mininum-wage advocates take note.
  • And while we’re talking Stephen Hicks, here is Michael Warby's review for Australia's Quadrant magazine of his masterful book Explaining Postmodernism. FWIW, here’s my short review: It should be in every student’s backpack.
  • Positive Parenting! There, that got your attention.
    Rational Jenn talks about Positive Discipline: What's In Your Parenting Toolbox?.
  • In the week of her birthday The Hero of Capitalism this week is an obvious choice: Ayn Rand. She leaves us with A Legacy of Reason and Freedom.
    Happy Birthday, Ayn Rand.
  • Read the First Impressions of viewers of the Impressionist masterpiece Boulevard des Capucines posted here the other day when it first appeared in 1874 at the World’s First Impressionist Exhibition.
  • And while we’re on things artistic, things French, nearly veryone I know loves the film Amelie. For at least half the the people I know, it’s their favourite film. The Nearby Pen has a great series of posts analysing the film that all of those people will love. Scroll down and start with the post at the bottom of the page.
  • And finally, some beautiful music from a post I was just sent. “Joseph Hoffman steps up to the piano to fill our ears with delight.
    The Magic Fire music of Wagner: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCPkKCOI1m8
    And the Chopin-Liszt The Maiden's Wish: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G14YEue6XVg
    And Mendelssohn's Spinning Song followed by Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G (this is so fresh, so exuberant, so new!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ubc5V_0MI2w

And don’t forget to read last week’s Objectivist blog roundup, which this week has posts on religion, activism and a possible pathway to Objectivism's penetration in Washington. Enjoy, and have a great weekend!


Thursday, 5 February 2009

January Blog Stats [updated]

What with holidays, recovering from holidays -- and now recovering from rolling power cuts around my home and office -- I haven’t done my blog stats for quite some time. Here's some of the main stats for NOT PC last month which clearly indicate that holidays are not good for blog stats, even if they’re damn good for bloggers:

NZ Political Blog Rank for NOT PC: 3rd (November: 6th)
Alexa Ranking, NZ: 1,155th (November: 538th)
Alexa Ranking, world: 251,650th (November: 239,877th)
Avge. Monday to Friday readership: 1011/day (1591)
Unique visits [from Statcounter] 32,605 (45,674)
Page views [from Statcounter] 45,351 (70,548)

Top ten posts this month:

Most commented upon posts [added at the instigation of No Minister]

Top referring sites:
Search engines 4784 referrals; Kiwiblog 811; No Minister 695; Libertarianz 370; SOLO 240; Facebook 193; Tumeke 168; Lindsay Mitchell 147; Libertarian Front 135; Annie Fox 114; Roar Prawn 113;
Top searches landing here:
not pc/pc blog etc 814; causes of global financial crisis 345; subprime mortgage peter cresswell 106; broadacre city 85; nude olympians 79; john galt speaking 113; the toxicity of environmentalism george reisman 68; new zealand libertarian constitution 62; nz government departments 46; beer songs 43; fred stevens nz 39; nipcc 39; in dreams begins responsibility 37
They're reading NOT PC here:
Still No Readers from Alaska Still no readers from Alaska, but a higher percentage from the places that didn’t shut down for January…
Top countries/territories
NZ 35%; USA 28%; UK 5.3%; Australia 3.9%; Canada 2.8%; Germany 1.8%; India 1.6%; Italy 1.3%; Philipines 1.1%; France 1.1%; Netherlands 0.9%; Poland 0.9%; Spain 0.8%; Romania 0.8%; Brazil 0.7%
Top cities
Auckland 21%; Wellington 6.1%; Christchurch 3.9%; Sydney 1.9%; London 1.8%; Palmerston North 1.1%; New York 1.0%; Melbourne 0.8%; Hamilton 0.8%; Dunedin 0.6%; Hannover 0.5%
Readers' Browsers
Firefox 44%; IE Explorer 43%; Safari 8.1%; Opera 2.7%; Chrome 2.4%
Readers' Connection Speeds
Unknown 38%; DSL 32%; Cable 20%; T1 7.5%; Dial-up 2.8%; OC3 0.4%; ISDN 0.1%

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


Serial apologist for criminals Peter Williams QC says killer Antonie Dixon's death in prison from self-inflicted wounds further highlights the “failure of our judicial system.”

No, dickhead, it doesn’t. If anything, this outcome is an example of its success.

NOT PJ: Haven’t the Vegas Idea

Bernard Darnton invents a government department that will make us all rich . . .

The banking crisis can be fixed by making banks less profitable and the value of their loans less certain.

This nonsense comes from Phil Goff Goof, who is supposed to be “on the right wing of the Labour Party” – suggesting, presumably, slightly more economic nous than the rest. Every major political party in New Zealand has policies to ignore property rights in our planning laws; for heavy progressive income taxes; for a national bank with state capital; for state ownership of roads, rail, and an airline; and for free education for children in public schools, giving them all at least five out of ten on the Communist Manifesto checklist: so “on the right wing of the Labour Party” is presumably a relative term. As is “slightly more economic nous than the rest.”

Goof Goff suggested that banks should be punished for charging “break fees” for switching from fixed rate mortgages to lower floating rates, following the Reserve Bank’s kamikaze interest rate policy. He believes that the Government should “make it clear” to banks that they “have got to come to the party.”

The phrase “make it clear” sounds like a request for a stiffly-worded letter. It sounds like a terse but rational appeal and that banks might have a choice. In truth, backed with absolute power, governments “make things clear” clear in the same way that Attila the Hun “made it clear” that he and his hundred thousand mounted archers would like to “come to the party” across the Rhine.

Fixed rate mortgages are a gamble. They’re your bet against the bank about which way the interest rate is going to go (and you’re betting against the house). You swap the possible benefit of a rate drop for the certainty that your repayments will never increase. If only some Government official with a magic wand – or a big stick – could let you have it both ways.

Much financial pain could be avoided if everyone who lost on their financial gambles was compensated. The Government urgently needs to create a Lotteries Ombudsman. Customers who, through no fault of their own, didn’t win Big Wednesday could line up outside the Office of the Lotteries Ombudsman on Thursday morning and have their numbers replaced with a winning array.

When someone is made redundant and then doesn’t win Powerball it can cause huge financial stress for a family. The Lotteries Commission makes huge surpluses and it’s inequitable that people have to choose their numbers before the results are drawn. Aston Martins for everyone!

Regulating banks to make them act against their best interests isn’t going to fix the credit crisis. As Don Brash noted recently, New Zealand has one of the least regulated banking systems in the civilised world and our banking system is one of those least affected by the current economic cyclone. Let’s try not to bugger that up.

One way not to bugger that up is for politicians to think before they speak. I know that the job of an opposition leader is to utter short words and try and get on the telly – and it probably plays well with Janice from Porirua – but suggesting quack remedies that will further debilitate the patient is a gaffe.

* * Read Bernard Barnton’s NOT PJ column every Thursday here at NOT PC * *

Drum Bridge Meguro – Ando Hiroshige

100_views_edo_111 From the series of wood block prints, ‘100 Famous Views of Edo.’

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR'S: Madness and Minimum Wages

Two topical observations from the good Dr McGrath . . .
End Minimum Wage Madness
Libertarianz leader Richard McGrath today urged Prime Minister John Key to abolish all minimum wage laws and allow prices to fall as they should during a period of economic recovery.

"Forcing employers to raise wages regardless of employee productivity is a recipe for staff layoffs and a disincentive to job creation," said Dr McGrath. "If raising wages by decree is such a good idea, why isn't $25 an hour better than $15 an hour? Why shouldn't we all get $100 an hour?"

"The National Party's values include limited government, individual freedom and competitive enterprise," he added. "Abolishing minimum wage laws is entirely consistent with these core values. The Libertarianz Party ask John Key to be true to his values and repeal the destructive, repressive minimum wage laws that threaten to prolong the economic recession."

Dunedin Stadium Fundraising Should be Voluntary
Libertarianz leader Richard McGrath today praised the 1300 people who marched in protest against the Dunedin City Council's plan to force ratepayers, and possibly other taxpayers, to underwrite the cost of a proposed new sports stadium.

"As a former resident of Dunedin, I believe a new stadium would be a great asset for its owners and for the people of Otago. Personally, I am quite excited at the prospect of replacing Carisbrook with a bigger and better venue. However, that is no reason to shift the burden of funding this venture onto people who are already struggling during a time of economic recession," he said.

"The Libertarianz Party opposes coercion in all its forms, including this attempt by the DCC to shackle ratepayers to someone's dream," he added. "This project should be financed voluntarily, and entirely, from private sources. And other activities that Dunedin ratepayers are currently forced to pay for should be privatised and opened up to competition."

"The time has come for the people of Dunedin, and our other towns and cities, to ask whether they really need councils interfering in their lives," said Dr McGrath. "My party would like to see the scope and depth of city council activities scaled right back. By privatising the various services currently run as council monopolies, these and other local bodies could eventually be abolished."

"Meantime, the DCC should step back and allow those who wish to fund this project step forward, put their money where their mouths are, and stop trying to extort funds from other people who may not support the idea of a new multi-million dollar stadium."
* * Read Doc McGrath's regular column every Wednesday here at NOT PC * *

Is that it?

Another day, another announcement. Today, it’s National’s “half billion package (0ver four years) of policies to help small and medium sized businesses, during the economic downturn,” at the heart of which is “a suite of 11 tax changes costing $480 million” (over four years).  Details here at Kiwiblog.

Q: Costing who?
A: Costing the government.

Q: So is this actually a “cost,” then?
A: No, not unless you think that $480 million was government’s in the first place.

I won’t go over the 11 tax changes that make up the derisory promise to refund such a small amount of the money small businesses make since Mr Lineberry does a pretty good job on that.  Instead I’d like to note that nearly a third involve changes to the iniquitous  Fringe Benefits Tax, and ask readers if they can wrack their brains and remember who it was who introduced the whole iniquitous FBT regime, which effectively and at a stroke reduced many people’s take-home pay.  Anyone?

Let the trade wars begin!

The seeds of the 1930s Great Depression were laid in the US Federal Reserve’s inflationary credit expansion of the twenties, which led inexorably to the Crash of 1929 and thence to the Great Contraction. 

The destruction was exacerbated, in the US, by the medding, “stimulus,” and attempts at price-fixing by President Hoover, and then exported worldwide by the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930, which brought down for decades the globalised system of free trade that had operated (for the most part) for over half-a century, and laid the seeds for the decade-long depression that led almost inexorably to world war. 

(As Frederic Bastiat used to say, when goods don’t cross borders soldiers will.)

Alas, dear readers, history once again is repeating.  Thank goodness that this time at least there are some who oppose the rush to protectionism.  For now.

RMA changes: let’s all look at some examples [updated]

There were few surprises in yesterday’s announcement on National’s proposed changes to the Resource Management Act, since most were telegraphed back before the election – and the RMA has been so bad for so long that so many are now so pathetically grateful at any change that even the relatively minor changes proposed have been welcomed, even by those like Owen McShane who know better.

Let’s face it, National has never made any commitment to respecting or protecting property rights, and they haven't changed that now – property rights will still be recognised only by their breach --except to promise they’ll make it even more difficult for property owners to protest the regulations that planners impose upon them.

But they have backtracked on some of the relatively minor changes proposed back in October.  They’ve  retreated for example from their election promise to remove the bullshit from the definition of "environment," and they’ve retreated as well from their commitment to "rewrite" much of the craven "Tiriti" bullshit in the Act.

So as far as bullshit goes, all that will still remain -- everything from the "Sustainable Management" ecobabble of section 5 (ie., rights for “future generations”, none for this one); to the “Intrinsic Values of Ecosystems” nonsense of section 7(d) (ie., rights for trees, rocks and mud puddles, none for you and I); to the "Kaitiakitanga" of section 7(a) (ie., rights for Iwis, none for Kiwis); to the bald presumption in section 9 that “no person may use [their] land in a manner that contravenes a rule in a District Plan” unless a planner, an Environment Court judge or an Environmental Protection Authority bureaucrat says (after a long and expensive process) that you can.

I've characterised yesterday's announcement "simplifying and streamlining" the RMA as merely making life simpler for planners, and more streamlined for the Government's ThinkBig 2.0 spend-up. All I expected to see was the chocolate-coated turd they promised that will promote easier theft of property rights by this government, and that’s how it still looks to me.

I’ve been arguing against the RMA since I returned to New Zealand in 1995 (here, for example, is my submission to Simon Upton’s “review” of the RMA back in 1998, and most of what I say there still stands). I’ve been arguing against it because it ignores land-owners property rights, and I see every day in my work I see how it destroys clients’ dreams. I wrote an article back in 2004 arguing that the RMA is so misguided and destructive that it doesn't need to be amended, it needs a stake through the heart (an article that was picked up, and abridged, by the Herald). 

So to illustrate what's proposed, and how little things will change from this “simplifying and streamlining,” let me look at the examples I highlighted in that article along with a few others to see how the proposed changes might have worked for these puppies.  (While it's impossible to know in advance the DETAILS, the how of what's being mooted --- which is going to make a huge difference to how things work -- let's make a few assumptions.)  Here’s the list of examples pasted in below.  I’ll start working through the examples over the course of the morning -- but how about, as a simple exercise until then,  you work through them yourself based on the details already supplied to see if my characterisation is correct.

Going beneath the headlines, here’s how I think they would have worked out under the regime proposed by Nick Smith:

  • Project Aqua cancelled. 
        - After much backroom dealing, including being granted Requiring Authority Status
         (which gives it “the right to take private land” against the wishes of property-owners),
        Project Aqua is declared a Project of National Significance by the Environmental
        Protection Agency, and granted consent after nine months (or so) by the Board of Inquiry
        to whom the decision was referred, after which it spends three years in appeal …
  • New prisons delayed.
        - After much backroom dealing, consents for new prisons granted non-notified status
        by councils dealing with the applications. Protest groups lodge $500 deposit
        with Environment Court, after which the applications spend three years in appeal …
  • Waikato upgrade of State Highway One delayed by Taniwhas. 
        - Despite much teeth-gnashing by everyone involved Waikato upgrade of State Highway
        One still delayed by Taniwhas – until John Key strikes an eleventh-hour to fund a Museum
         of the Taniwha to be run by local iwi.
  • Plans by US giant Weyerhauser for a timber-processing plant in Nelson shelved.
        - After much backroom dealing over this project in Smith’s marginal electorate, it
        is declared a Project of National Significance by the Environmental Protection Agency,
        and granted consent after nine months (or so) by the Board of Inquiry to whom the
        decision was referred, after which it spends three years in appeal …
  • A homeowner in Waitakere jailed for cutting down his own tree.
        - While it will be difficult to impose blanket tree protection rules under District Plans,
        councils can still impose protections on individual trees – something councils will now
        be able to do very swiftly.  If the tree in question here is such a tree, then our
        home-owner would still receive such a penalty, with perhaps an even bigger fine (up
        to $300,000) and a ban on using the site for several years to accompany it.
  • Marine farm applications left in limbo until at least the next decade.
       - Marine farm moratorium lifted during the last Parliament, accompanied by race-based
        quotas for marine farms, short-term-only permits for such farms, and the imposition of 400
         additional pages of regulation.  No changes under presently proposed amendments.
  • Construction of Pakiri Beach retirement “dream home” prohibited by “envy-ridden” planners and politicians
        - District plan rules imposed by “envy-ridden” planners effectively excluding the likes of Rae
        Ah Chee’s would-be dream house would be cemented in by the removal of the “costly
        consultative processes” whereby land-owners get to object to the rules imposed upon
        them.  Which means Sandra Coney and her brood  would still be locking out the so called
        “trophy houses” they so despise, and would-be dream-home owners are unable to build
        and live on beach-front land they’ve bought for that very purpose.
  • Auckland “ring-fenced” by planners, pushing up the price of land 
        - Auckland still “ring-fenced” by planners, pushing up the price of land, while objectors
        to the District Plan rules imposing the ring-fencing are effectively locked out of any say
        in the imposition of these rules.
  • Interminable delays and extortionate “development contributions” accompany subdivision applications, pushing up the price of land 
        - Extortionate “development contributions” accompany subdivision applications, pushing
         up the price of land.  Delays now just lengthy instead of interminable.
  • An entire Banks Peninsula farm declared a “Recommended Area of Protection” and made
        - Owner of Banks Peninsula farm now effectively excluded altogether from protesting at
    the arbitrary imposition of such a declaration.
  • New supermarket in Takapuna still awaiting consent after fourteen (now eighteen) years.
        - Trade competitors barred from openly objecting to resource consent applications . . .
        but (say trade competitors to themselves) there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
  • Plans for a new mall and shopping complex in Wanaka abandoned.
        - Unless developers can do a deal to have the complex designated a Project of National
    significance, then this is still the most likely outcome – although Smith’s promise to “'look at
    how companies win the right to take private land” might help. Unless, of course, it’s your
    land they’re talking about.
  • A new township proposed for Woodend, Canterbury, shelved.
        - Unless developers can do a deal to have the new township designated a Project
    of National Significance, then shelving is still the most likely outcome – although
    Smith’s promise to “'look at how companies win the right to take private land” might
    help. Unless, of course, it’s your land they’re talking about.
  • Coastal properties effectively nationalised by District Plan declarations of beachfront “Hazard Zones” and “Coastal Wilderness Areas.”
        - Coastal properties still effectively nationalised by District Plan declarations of beachfront
    “Hazard Zones” and “Coastal Wilderness Areas,” while owners of coastal properties so
    designated are effectively excluded from objecting to the theft, by such means, of their
    dreams and their property rights.
  • Gridlock in Auckland while much-needed roading projects await consents.
        - Roading projects full-speed ahead – and don’t spare the analysis!
  • Eighty dollars an hour paid to local Iwi to “ward off mischievous spirits.”
        - One-hundred and eighty dollars an hour paid to local Iwi to “ward off
        mischievous spirits.” It’s inflation, you know.
  • A ban on filming mountain peaks in Tongariro National Park announced.
        - A ban to which objectors will be less able to file their objections.
  • Whitianga Waterways Project saved (just) despite the best efforts of Sandra Lee, and at a cost of one million dollars per year in gaining consents.
        - It appears the Conservation Minister will still retain a veto under Nick Smith’s
        Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act.
  • Millions of dollars extracted by Iwi around the country under the guise of “consultation.”
        - Millions of dollars extracted by Iwi around the country under the guise of “consultation.”
  • Eight years of resource consent delays (ten, finally) for Orewa to Puhoi motorway extension.
        - Full speed ahead!
  • Long delays to the development of oil and gas fields and pipelines.
        -  After much backroom dealing, including being granted Requiring Authority Status
         (which giving pipeline constructors “the right to take private land” against the wishes
        of property-owners), pipelines are declared Projects of National Significance by
        the Environmental Protection Agency, and granted consent after nine months (or so) by
        the Boards of Inquiry to whom the decision was referred, after which property owners
        are moved out while the consents spend three years in appeal …
  • Private Olivine waste-to-energy plant at Meremere rejected by council in favour of a council-owned landfill site next to Auckland’s new water supply, and the existing Meremere plant mothballed.
        - Section 7(i) is invoked, that decision-makers “have regard to … the effects of climate
         change,” Olivine leave the country for good, and Aucklanders still take their drinking
        water just slightly downstream from the North Island’s biggest landfill, owned by a
        consortium of councillors.
  • Forestry industry concerns at time and cost of consents for wood-processing plants, and for tree planting, harvesting and roading.
        - Tree planting, harvesting and roading has no slowed so much that forestry concerns now
        revolve instead around the subsidies they seek from the government under the Emissions
        Trading Scam.
  • Coastal residents refused permission to protect beachside homes from erosion.
        -  Coastal residents discover that  their councils’ District Plans still refuse them permission
        to protect their beachside homes from erosion, that objecting the imposition of new and
        similar rules is now more difficult, and that for the “crime” of protecting their homes
        they will now face fines of up to $600,000 and two years in jail.
  • Globe Hill goldmine project in Reefton vetoed.
        - Is it ever likely to be declared a Project of National Significance by the Environmental
        Protection Agency?  What do you think.  Veto still applies.
  • 1500 projects still left waiting at the Environment Court . . .
        - 1000 projects still left waiting at the Environment Court, and hundreds more being
        heard at the Environmental Protection Agency and all the various Boards of Inquiry. . .

So rather than just relying on me, why not work through those examples of disgraceful bureaucratic bullying yourself to see what will change, and I’ll come back later on and gradually answer them myself in an update or three.  Why not start with the small example I cite in the Herald article.  What will change here?

    Let’s say you own a small home on a small site, and you want to extend your carport
to accommodate something more sizeable than your grandmother’s Morris Minor.
    In most instances, that means you will have to sit down in your local council offices with a person fresh out of planning school and talk seriously about whether the extension is a "sustainable use of natural and physical resources" - at which point I’ll bet you will begin start scratching your head.
     Or, whether it will "safeguard the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil and ecosystems" while "avoiding, remedying or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment".
    If you are not sure, you could assess whether or not your proposed new parking stall "pays particular regard to kaitiakitanga [or] the ethic of stewardship", to "the maintenance and enhancement of amenity values", or to "the intrinsic value of ecosystems".
    At which point you either run screaming from the planner's office, or pick your jaw up from the floor and write out a cheque proportional to the amount of nonsense about to be put into a report arguing such things on your behalf. 
    [Believe me, grown adults pulling down sizeable incomes spend time in these conversations – they have to, by law!  And so do you, if you really want that carport extension.]
    So, you hire a consultant to write that report of meaningless phrases. Meanwhile, objectors hire other consultants to say that your proposal is not a sustainable use of resources, and won't safeguard ecosystems.
    Eventually you all end up in the Environment Court, and the one with the biggest pile of nonsense in front of them wins - after which the lawyers and consultants go off to lunch at Antoine's; you go off to take out a new mortgage; and the consultants' reports go off to fill up a landfill somewhere . . .

UPDATE 1: I’ve written in below each project above my best informal assessment of how they might have fared had the projects or examples come up under Smith’s proposed regime.  I haven’t bothered to assess our nominal carport – I think it’s obvious enough how that will “change” without me needing to spell it out.

Here’s a list of the winners and losers as I see it:


  • Tree nurseries, particularly native tree nurseries (iff blanket tree protection rules can be successfully removed, then the enthusiasm for planting native trees that died in 1993 should return)
  • Consultants, who can now look forward to prestigious appointments to Boards of Inquiry, while they argue the other side of the fence in their spare time.
  • Planners, for whom objections against their misery-inducing regimes will now be far easier to ignore.
  • Steven Joyce and Bill English, the promoters of the delusional ThinkBig 2.0 spend-up.
  • Nick Smith, who has got both voters and commentators excited about “radical” changes that do nothing fundamentally to alter the handbrake on prosperity of this Act.


  • Private property owners
  • Private property developers
  • Supporters of private property rights
  • Arborists
  • Would-be home-owners
  • First-time home-owners
  • Objectors to District Plans
  • Objectors to “licenses” being issued to pollute

UPDATE 2: For a less negative appraisal, listen to Owen McShane’s appearance on Leighton Smith’s show this morning [interview starts about 36:30 minutes in]. And for a contrast, listen to me on Jim Mora’s show yesterday afternoon [discussion starts about 17:30 minutes in].

Boulevard des Capucines – Claude Monet


No, it’s not London – which I remember from 1991 as being beautiful in the snow.  It’s Paris, painted from a ‘Japanese viewpoint’ borrowed from Hiroshige.

And this is beautiful too, Monet’s Boulevard des Capucines, from the First Impressionist Exhibition in 1874.