Monday, 18 May 2009

Roasting Barack

Celebrity Roasts are all the rage – even Paul Holmes is getting in on the fad.  The Iowahawk surfs the trend with a script for a Roast of the person people are calling President Zero, the man the crowds adore, the saint best decsribed as The One, The ObaMessiah, the new President of the US of A: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s pal Barack Obama.

If you’re easily offended you’d better give it a miss.  But if you’d like to enjoy what Commentary magazine calls “the sharpest pieces of political satire written in the English language in ages,” then check it out: I Guess You Had To Be There: The Barack Obama Celebrity Roast. [Hat tip Barnsley Bill]

Justice delayed is still justice denied, but . . .

I’m in two minds about Simon Power’s latest justice reforms.

A radical review of the welfare system for lawyers that is legal aid is long overdue.  Regular readers of this blog would know that I’ve long been a fan of removing lawyers from sucking off the state’s tit, and replacing legal aid welfare payments with a public defenders’ office.  There’s no species more venal than lawyers making up their bills (un less of course it’s politicians making up their expense claims).

In fact way back in 2005 I wrote that with some very few noticeable exceptions, the more I see of lawyers and their venality, the more I find myself in favour of nationalising the lot of them. When you consider the justice of removing their taxpaid path to riches, you might consider the words of H.L. Mencken:

All the extravagance and incompetence of our present Government is due, in the main, to lawyers, and, in part at least, to good ones. They are responsible for nine-tenths of the useless and vicious laws that now clutter the statute-books, and for all the evils that go with the vain attempt to enforce them. Every Federal judge is a lawyer. So are most Congressmen. Every invasion of the plain rights of the citizens has a lawyer behind it. If all lawyers were hanged tomorrow, and their bones sold to a mah jong factory, we'd be freer and safer, and our taxes would be reduced by almost a half.
Ain’t that the truth. Simon Power should send the country’s lawyers a copy of Mencken’s words on a piece of stiff parchment, with the advice that if they disagree with being removed from the state tit that they fold it until it's all sharp corners, and then insert it where the sun doesn't shine.

So legal aid can go.  I’m quite comfortable with the concept of the public defenders’ office instead. But I’m not so happy to see the right to a jury trial so peremptorily dismissed. The right of a person to choose to be tried by a jury of their peers is just one valuable, time-honoured legal protection against innocent people being rail-roaded into prison. 

It is certainly true that the wheels of NZ justice spin slowly – and it’s true too that justice delayed is justice denied.  But the cure for this is not to remove legal protections to make it easier to lock people up – they key fix would be to remove so many of the ridiculous laws on our books that clog the justice system up.  Restrict law only to those that protect individual rights, you can take a chain saw to the country’s statutes.

Back in the 1800s lawyers like Abraham Lincoln could ride around on horseback from trial to trial with only three legal books in his saddlebag, one of those being a copy of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law of England, the bible of English-speaking law for more than a century.  Right now that lawyer on horseback would have to be a accompanied by a whole wagon train of toadies towing a whole caravan of legal books, if they were to carry with them all the laws that now assail our country.

Start hacking back the intrusions of excessive law and regulation, and you’ll find that courts will unclog themselves very quickly.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Beer O’Clock: Fancy a Pint of the New Tuatara?

Beer writer Neil Miller reappears in the regular Beer O’Clock spot to plug a new local brew:

The two sweetest words in the English Language, according to Homer J Simpson, philosopher, role model and pneumatic cerevisaphile, are “de fault.” However, I tend to think that Pete Brown, beer writer, global pub crawler and all-round bearded bloke, has it right when he suggests that “fancy a pint” is about the most appealing invitation you can get which involves remaining fully dressed.

In his rather marvellous book Three Sheets to the Wind, Pete undertakes a global pub crawl of 400 bars as part of his quest for the meaning of beer. I thought I had the best job in the world until I read that line. On the very first page, he begins to muse about the phenomenon of fancying of a pint.

He writes “every time someone asks me if I fancy a pint, it seems like a remarkably good idea, one that never loses its sheen as an original, inventive, exciting concept. But often there’s more to this little phrase than meets the ear. Usually, when we ask someone if they fancy a pint, we’re asking if they would like more than one. Sometimes, the pint proposer will make this clearer by inserting an important extra word, asking “do you fancy a quick pint?” which seems to imply that your companion only wants to spend a brief time in the pub but of course it means the exact opposite.”

This last phrase ends with an asterisk indicating that there is a footnote at the bottom of the page. Readers of J R R Tolkien have come to fear footnotes. In the middle of an exciting passage of prose there will be a tangential reference to a minor king and the extensive footnote will give his lineage, descendents, major achievements and an in-depth explanation of why he is completely unimportant to the action.

Pete’s footnotes are different. This particular one reads

“Even if the proposer doesn’t realise this, what they mean is let’s stop whatever we’re doing now quickly and spend a long time in the pub. It might not even mean that at the time but that’s what it always ends up meaning.”

Ladies and Gentleman, Pete Brown is right.

One of the many attractive features of beer is its sessionability. Beer can be enjoyed with friends over a long period of time (in moderation of course). Session beers are noted for their balance and subtlety. It is this quest for drinkability that prompted Tuatara to develop a new beer which was unveiled by the brewers Carl and Dion at Wellington’s Malthouse bar on April 30.

The beer is Tuatara Helles (5%), a traditional easy-drinking German style of lager. Carl explains the beer is light gold in colour, has a touch of noble hop aroma, a decent burst of early malt sweetness and then late crispness for balance. His Helles uses the New Zealand-grown Hallertau – a very traditional German hop – and Saaz. This hop mix reflects Tuatara’s on-going focus on using quality local ingredients.

Helles is a permanent addition to the Tuatara range and will be available on tap at Malthouse and in bottles at better bottle stores and supermarkets. It will be the first new beer from Tuatara for several years as they have been focussing on the brewery expansion. In fact, the expansion is still going. When I spoke to Carl on the phone there was a new 10,000 litre conditioning tank going in directly behind him.

* * Cross-posted at the blog for Wellington’s Malthouse Bar, where the first Tuatara Helles keg went very quickly indeed. Kate Blackhouse offers her own entirely independent and unforced opinion of the new drop here. * *

Charles (Bud) Tingwell, R.I.P.

m866127 Australian actor Bud Tingwell (right) died today, but his work (and his blog) lives on – and one of his most well known roles, as the wise old lawyer in film The Castle who rescues the Kerrigan family from being thrown out of their house, is as directly relevant today as it’s ever been.  At least it is if you live in Waterview – or value private property rights.

Watch him here in this edited clip from the film, asking the court to consider the meaning of the words “the acquisition of property on just terms,” and how they relate to real people in homes from which they don’t wish to be moved.  Turns out it’s more than just the vibe.  [The words quoted start around 4:00 in, but the full speech is unfortunately cut short.]

PS: A good American resource on eminent domain abuses like this is The Castle Coalition. Check it out.

Timeline of a short political career

Here’s a timeline on Melissa Lee’s political career arc as measured by the Man in the Street:

  • 2007: “Who’s Melissa Lee?”
  • 2008 Maiden Speech:  “Oh, who’s this Melissa Lee then?”
  • 2009, voted world’s 56th sexiest politician: “Hubba hubba! Who is Melissa Lee!”
  • 2010: “Who’s Melissa Lee?”

The reason she’s in a tailspin is not because what she said on Wednesday night was “offensive,” or “racist,” or anything else along those lines: it was because what she said was something you can’t apologise for – for being a lightweight.

The silly woman went to the meeting utterly unprepared, and almost completely uninformed about the issue she was there to "debate."  The meeting was nowhere near as hostile as has been claimed (as John Key suggested all day yesterday), and nor was she under pressure from people there who were going to lose their houses (as she claimed last night on Close Up).

No, apart from the usual political flunkies you get at every election meeting, the audience was composed mostly of people who had followed the issue of this motorway for years, who wanted to hear the details of Steven Joyce’s decision, and to have explained the reasoning for it. Quite simply however she hadn’t done her homework – so, when she was placed on the spot and asked to make her best argument for Steven Joyce’s motorway proposal, instead of consulting the facts she should have had with her she blithely repaired to something she'd only half heard a few days before.

And then when called on it at the meeting, she pointed the blame for her silly statement to the policeman she claimed to have told her what she'd so obviously misunderstood.

You see, if she was the sort of person who does her homework, neither this nor the making of her video would have tripped her up.

Fortunately for you, the reader, Liberty Scott has put together the briefing on the Waterview motorway that Ms Lee should have insisted on before showing up on Wednesday night.  Read Bullshit about the Waterview Connection, and be more informed than four-fifths of the Mt Albert by-election candidates.

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Polar bears and pissing about

richardmcgrath An irreverent look at some of the past week’s headlines, from Libertarianz leader Dr. Richard McGrath.

  1. Charge an iPod, kill a polar bear? – Alarmist crap from a group of global warmists that call themselves the International Energy Agency, who are terrified that the rising use of electronic gadgets -- especially by individuals in developing countries – will require massive increases in energy generation. Extrapolating to the year 2030, the IEA suggest 200 extra nuclear power plants (or the equivalent in other energy sources) will be required to power all the extra iPods and other electronic toys. Clearly, the spectre of poor people in developing countries becoming affluent and able to afford iPods is anathema to the IEA, as they believe this will lead to increased CO2 emissions, catastrophic global warming, etc. In fact, it has been demonstrated that the wealthier people become, the more attention they tend to pay to the environment around them. Degradation of the air, waterways and countryside becomes a bigger concern than finding food and shelter to someone who has been elevated from poverty to the middle class.
  2. Students Burn NZ Flag – Police are considering charging three students from Victoria University, who allegedly burnt a New Zealand flag. The law that makes such a charge possible is the Flags, Emblems and Names Protection Act, which makes it an offence to damage or destroy the New Zealand flag if the intention is to dishonour it. The police should actually be considering laying charges against the parliamentarians who passed this Act, as it plainly breaches the Bill of Rights Act’s protection of freedom of speech and expression. Because crimes require that objective harm be done to others, the onus should be on the alleged victims to come forward and demonstrate just how they have suffered injury when a flag is incinerated. Let us hope these students also burn their census forms in 2011.
  3. Western Ring Road Dooms 365 Houses – Transport Minister Steve Joyce thinks a plan for the state to evict the occupants of 365 houses in the Mt Albert electorate is a “fair balance between the needs of the local community and those of the country and economy”. Evidently, the rights of the owners of those 365 homes don’t come into the equation at all. And at the Mt Albert by-election candidates meeting on Tuesday night, only Libertarianz nominee Julian Pistorius reminded the audience that property rights are important; it is now apparent that the National Party and ACT regard property rights as an impediment to ‘progress’.
  4. New Zealand May Reverse Stance On Indigenous Peoples – National are now going somewhere even Helen Clark wouldn’t go – they may endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which on perusal of the document itself appears to legitimize, sanction and protect such quaint practices as female circumcision, slavery and cannabilism. Special taxpayer-funded rights are accorded the so-called ‘indigenous peoples’, all in the name of equality. This is simply disgusting.
  5. Bashing The Banks – An opinion piece in the Christchurch Press recognizes that banks are a commercial venture and as such have a right to make a profit for their shareholders. The writer points out the fierce competition in retail banking that is forcing some banks to increase their deposit interest rates in the face of pressure from the Reserve Bank to lower interest rates in order to “stimulate” the economy (as if that was a legitimate government function). The article notes that very few of us have much idea of the financial status of trading banks on a day to day basis, and as author David Hargreaves says, “Who would be happy depositing money with a loss making bank?”. Unfortunately he spoils things at the end by backing the RB’s calls for banks to lower interest rates, when wiser heads have called for the government to leave banks alone and let them manage interest rates in whatever way the banks think is best for their shareholders.

See y’all next week!
Doc McGrath


I’m amazed at how so many people can have so many informed opinions on subjects they can’t possibly know anything about.

How do you have an opinion if you don’t have any facts?

How can you be for or against Matthew Johns, for example, when unless you were in that room yourself you can have precisely no idea for sure what actually happened – and no one who was in the room is likely to be any sort of reliable witness?

Similarly, how could you have been for or against Tony Veitch, when you could have had no certainty about what happened there either. It’s not like either party didn’t have plenty of reasons to keep things out of the public eye.

Learn to sieve carefully through the “facts” that you have before forming an opinion based on nothing more than simple hearsay.  Ask yourself before forming your view what actual hard evidence you have, and whether this constitutes the whole truth.

And how about all that stuff that the media who break the stories never make public?  The information you need to know in order to judge an accuser’s agenda is precisely the information that isn’t made news. In both these stories for example and all the stories like them, the reason they first hit the media hardly ever becomes part of the story, yet that story – the reason a story can hit the news seven years after the events alleged – is often as big or bigger than the story itself.  If it’s British, for example, and Max Clifford is involved, then you know you’re getting only half-truth at best, and you kiss goodbye to any chance of ever getting to the bottom of the story.  If it involves a “celebrity,” then be sure to look out for the self interest.  And if it’s politics, then just give up altogether – because as Whale Oil has been arguing with respect to the Melissa Lee video ‘scandal,’ the way Jesse Guruanathan's story got to the media is probably a bigger story than the ‘scandal’ itself.

But that’s the part of the story you’ll never got to hear in full because that’s all just politics – where facts are not facts, they’re whatever you can manage to make them.

Bad drivers

Yes, the AA driving survey released today was self-selecting, but its results ring true – that around half NZ’s drivers surveyed admitted to having “gestured rudely or yelled at another motorist who has done something they regarded as dangerous or rude.”

Of course, no one’s ever gestured rudely at me. This week.

But I haven’t gestured at anyone else either.  I’m a very relaxed driver.  I’ve taken the approach that everyone around me is about to do something insane, so when they do I’m never disappointed.  Or angry.

Very relaxed, me.  At least when driving.

Happy birthday, Brian

May 15th is Brian Eno’s birthday, and oddly one of the few birthdays I ever remember.  At school a few friends and I used to hold ‘Eno Evenings’ on May 15: once at Auckland Airport where we persuaded the chap in charge of the airport sound system to play ‘Music for Airports’ for us, which was very cool; and once under the stars in the crater of Mt Eden, where we sat around a small fire with several bottles of wine and as large a ghetto blaster as we could get hold of – which, given this was some years before ghetto blasters and none of us were particularly wealthy, wasn’t very large at all.  But it was still fun.

So happy birthday, Brian.  We’ll raise a quiet glass to you again tonight – undoubtedly followed by several noisy ones.  Here’s Brian now:

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Effects of Auckland uber-city already being felt

While Melissa Lee’s mouth was being firmly filled with her foot last night up in Mt Albert, down in Wellington your MPs were rushing through the first reading of legislation to enact NZ’s first fascist state in Auckland.  “One voice for Auckland!” shouted Paula Bennett, trumpeting the`new non-representative Transitional Agency created last night to harness the will of 1.4 million people into “one plan” written for them by four political appointees.  Ein volk, ein voice, ein big expensive politicised stuff up!

“One voice” might sound great if you’re a naive young thing, or it’s a voice with which you agree today, and whose profligacy you’d like to keep paying for forever. Not so great if you don’t. Not so great if you’re standing in the path of the uber-bulldozer.  Not so great at all.

The huge expense in merging eight councils into one supreme uber-city authority has still yet be costed (but the cost of the Royal Commission’s amalgamation proposal was all of $240million) and the full cost of the new bureaucracy itself to the pockets and property rights of Auckland ratepayers will only be felt once the behemoth lumbers into life next year.

Nevertheless, as Owen McShane points out in his CRMS newsletter this week, even though the bill establishing the uber-state is yet to be rammed through completely (there are still two readings to go) the effects of the amalgamation are already being felt. Call it another example of “regime uncertainty”:

    The Government's RMA Amendment Bill is intended to streamline and simplify the processing of applications for consents. And it may well do so. [Yeah right.]
    However, there is little point in streamlining and simplifying the processing of such applications if no one is making any significant applications to their council. 
I have spoken to many people who are involved in the development of land and property in the Auckland region and they are all reluctant to spend any money on preparing applications for major developments for the next few years because of the multitude of uncertainties they now face. 
For example:

  • When all the Auckland Councils disappear do their plans disappear too?
  • How long will it take to replace these plans with the new One Plan?
  • If the new staff of the Super City have to carry on with the six plans from the old cities how long will they take to get familiar with them.
  • Will the ARC be merged into the Super City or will it be dissolved and replaced with an Environmental Protection Agency?
  • When applicants finally get into the Environment Court what body of law, and whose body of law, will apply?

    The Managing Director of a major land and property developer told me bluntly that the Auckland Region was "off the company's radar" for the next few years, and he would be directing his attention to Northland or the Bay of Plenty.
Another retired Managing Director of a major land development company wrote to me in these equally blunt words:

    No subdivider in his right mind will be even contemplating any more developments in Auckland over the next 3 - 4 years.
    The market is a bloodbath for section sales and subdividers. The Super-city will only make matters much worse.
    Every subdivider I know has literally given up trying to fight all the ridiculous bureaucratic nonsense under RMA.  ...
Rates will go sky-high under the Super-city.  Everyone will be worse off except John Banks whose ego will get a great big boost when he is Lord Mayor. 
    It will be almost impossible to get anything done or approved. Resource consents for all but very large projects should be processed by the local community boards. Councillors from Papakura won't give a damn about Orewa, and vice versa. 
    I promise you, the Super-city will be one almighty, expensive shambles; very likely the downfall of the National Government.
    Sadly, most of our existing city councils have performed so badly in recent years, they deserve to be abolished !!! ...  The ARC has poked its nose into every little planning issue, instead of confining itself to regional matters.  The ARC is now a great, unnecessary bureaucracy we could well do without.  All the ARC ever does is impede progress.
    The ideal size for a local council is circa 25,000 to 75,000 people or thereabouts. Throughout NZ and over the years, councils of that size have always given the best and most economical service.  Between the head surveyor, head engineer and head planner, they know just about everything worth knowing, and can be personally accountable.

    People more expert than I am in electoral politics tell me that if it comes to a Mayoral race between John Banks and Mike Lee (the current Chairman of the ARC), Mike Lee would win. The larger the council the more it tends to be Left/Green. The first Mayor of Super London was "Red Ken". Think about it.
It would seem that one of the first tasks of the Transition Agency will be to stop Councils from initiating new projects during the transition period.
So if the Councils stop their new projects, and the private sector starts no new projects, what sector drives the economic and job growth in the Auckland Region? Will the Super-City soon become "Dole County"?

Will it?

Nats’ ad man attacks Nats’ bulldozer [updated]

The copywriter for National’s election billboards in 2008 (“Wave Goodbye to Higher Taxes” – Yeah Right!)  attacks National’s Waterview motorway decision this morning

“Residents of Mt Albert and Waterview in Auckland are preparing to defend their homes against government bulldozers,” says Glenn Jameson at SOLO of the decision by the government he helped to elect, “and every citizen in New Zealand who values their own property should stand beside them in solidarity”:

    Transport Minister Steven Joyce is planning to use 1.4 billion dollars that don’t belong to him to level 365 homes that don’t belong to him or the citizens who will benefit from the 4.5km motorway link. Using the excuse that it’s for the greater good of the community effectively crushes the rights of every member in that community – and the only ones who have the temerity to call that good are thugs.
One has to sympathise with resident Leonard Purchase: ‘Bastards. They're a bunch of no-hopers – rats. I've been here 23 years. I inherited this place from my father. My old man bought it [and] he died here – I thought I was going to die here too... Nobody's come to talk to me – it's just things that have come through the mail.’
    The day a government reserves the right to flatten your house without your permission is the day you cease to actually own your property. Your beloved garden, hand-built barbeque, and painstaking renovation are disposable chattels to the politician who coldly draws a line across a map on his way to building another monument to draconian law. It’s time we all linked arms and told the government to get off our land and bugger off out of our lives.

True.  You want to build a motorway without doing people over?  Then learn how to do it peacefully.

UPDATE:  Nat’s ad man Glenn Jameson clarifies in part:

While it is true I did co-write the National Party campaign I wish to point out a glaring and embarrassing inaccuracy from my own agency, which has only just now been linked to my attention: I have never been nor will ever be a "dyed-in-the-wool National Party supporter” . . .

Read the whole clarification here.

NOT PJ: Einstein, Gay Marriage and Beer

What do the theory of relativity, homosexual rights, and East India Pale Ale have in common, asks Bernard Darnton? Bizarrely, it turns out to be bugger all.

cp2 The new Miss California, Carrie Prejean, is opposed to gay marriage because, like, that’s how she was brought up and stuff.

She became an instant hit with the born-again family-values crowd who had her all over their talk shows to discuss her down-home traditional views on gay marriage (and stuff). With perfect comic timing, just as her moralistic Christian fĂȘting peaked, the nudie pics were released.

I assume this matters because of some version of the authority fallacy. Commentators across America were scared silly (or wildly excited) that the opinions issuing from Prejean would be persuasive because of her exalted position.

Usually the authority fallacy attaches itself to someone who has achieved great things in some field and who then decides to make utterances in another. No doubt Albert Einstein’s opinions on gay marriage, if such an institution had even been thought of a hundred years ago, would be treated as argumentative gold if they existed.

einstein “Einstein was a clever bugger,” the argument would go, “way cleverer than you. He invented relativity which is just the height of cleverness and so when he says that homosexuals should be allowed to marry he must be right.” Nonsense. Reinventing the law of gravity was a work of genius but it gives him no special authority to comment on our connubial arrangements. His laws of universal attraction aren’t that universal.

If the authority fallacy doesn’t apply in Einstein’s case it certainly doesn’t apply to Miss California. No doubt she’s an expert in shoes and lip gloss and where the double-sided sellotape goes in the swimsuit round but she probably knows as much about moral philosophy as she does about using tensor calculus to describe the curvature of the universe.

thedon-782059 All this discussion of logic, ethics, and politics, however, misses the main point of the story – that it got Donald Trump on TV for a few minutes (and a picture in this column). Donald Trump, who neither knows where the double-sided sellotape goes in Annals of Physics nor how to use tensor calculus to describe the curvature of Miss California, is the ultimate authority here because he owns the Miss USA pageant.

Not a million miles from the Trump Tower, but quite a long way nonetheless, is the Mangatainoka Brewery where Kristina Vergis has just been crowned Miss Tui.

Tui2[6]Miss Vergis’ biography reveals that she came sixth in the New Zealand Monopoly championships a few years ago. Dominion Breweries is hoping that punters dreaming of landing on the Community Chest will be persuaded to take her advice on what to drink. Here again the authority fallacy is alive and well. She may be a legend at passing Go but she clearly knows nothing whatsoever about beer.

Accept the winners of beauty pageants for what they are – decoration. I don’t expect anything more and happily ignore their opinions on everything. Likewise, the winners of other popularity contests like elections. They may be good at chatting up voters but that doesn’t confer any great expertise in health, education, welfare, or finance. So don’t expect too much from them. And for God’s sake don’t ask them about world peace.

* * Bernard Darnton appears every Wednesday here at NOT PC.  There is no room for a picture of him here this week.  We are all the richer for that * *

Quote of the Day: LGM on Melissa Lee [update]

Funny how this daft bat blames South Aucklanders for stealing when she is part of an outfit that is about to steal people's homes. I wonder if the irony of that ever occurred to her.”
- Little Green Man

UPDATE: And this, from commenter Buggerlugs at Kiwiblog is very good too, in response to Lee's "... it will stop criminals from South Auckland coming into the suburb to commit crimes . . . "

as opposed to the criminals currently living in Mt Albert? Oh, that’s right…one of them has already shifted out. To New York apparently.

Keep those quotes coming in.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Flight & Pursuit - William Rimmer

No, this is not a portrait of South Aucklanders stealing through Mt Albert homes on their way through the electorate -- though I can see why National's Melissa Lee might think it is.

No, it's William Rimmer's magnificently eerie piece 'Flight & Pursuit,' a personal favourite.

Mt Albert: Where South Aucklanders come to burgle? [update 2]

Given Transport Minister Steven Joyce's announcement today of his decision for the Waterview motorway, tonight's Mt Albert electorate meeting -- a "Q&A on transport issues" -- was always going to be a debate on The Motorway. A noisy debate. Little did we know it was about to turn into a debate on South Aucklanders' propensity to burgle. On that more later.

First of all, as a Q&A it was hopeless: The politicians all brought their fictions to a fact fight. No candidate actually had the facts to answer the audience's questions. (Well, the Greens' Russel Norman did, but he preferred to make up whatever hurt the other candidates the most; and ACT's John Boscawen did, but unfortunately they weren't the facts about Steven Joyce's project but on the project Boscawen himself would like to see built.) It was all very bizarre, particularly as Melissa Lee's refrain for most of the evening was "I don't know," and "I'm here to listen."

Either National's Steven Joyce hadn't bothered to brief his party's by-election candidate about the motorway that's about to bisect her would-be electorate, or (being both a pretty girl and a former journalist) Melissa Lee simply hadn't bothered to find out the facts and thought a nice smile would be enough instead. Either way, it was apparent even to people in the room holding up National Party signs that when Melissa Lee says "I don't know" or "I can't remember" that on this much at least she's probably telling the truth.

I don't say that like it's a good thing. Clearly, details are not Ms Lee's thing. (And if she really was "there to listen," then why the hell was it so hard getting her to shut up when other people were talking?)

Details really are Russel Norman's thing. He thrives on details like the envirogeek he is, but he uses details less to explain than he does to explain away.
  • He berated National "borrowing billions" to fund the motorway (which Liberty Scott points out it won't be), but was happy to have it borrow several billions to pay for his train set. He lambasted National for for building a motorway that will "cut the community in two," but is happy to build a heavy rail line that will have the same effect.
  • He was happy to characterise the National proposal as "the above-ground option," when as he quietly conceded to David Shearer it is in fact to be in tunnels for around sixty percent of its length -- expensive tunnels built simply to avoid sites that are considered politically sensitive.
  • He talked about how some American cities have up to eighteen lanes in their motorways "and we won't need that if we invest in public transport" -- strangely oblivious to the fact that all major American cities have made significant investments in public transport, but people still choose to use their cars.
  • And in a question about the need to build roads to carry freight, he started blathering on about cycleways, prompting the person sitting next to me to ask if he really thought we were going to have the city's freight carried on a few cyclepaths?
Surprisingly though, I found Russel oddly impressive for a man who clearly believed hardly a word of what he was saying, but was comfortable just spinning these fatuous one-liners for the benefit of the Green goon squad in the room.

The one candidate who did mean what he said was Libertarianz candidate Julian Pistorius. (Disclosure: I was there carrying his pamphlets.) And ironically the one group with whom he made the strongest connection were the chaps from the Socialist Aotearoa grouping. It was only Julian, they pointed out, who is prepared to stand up for the people who the State is going to throw out of their homes against their will. And they're right. He is. Everyone else is prepared to use the "Federal Bulldozer" to ram through their own preferred option of either road or rail (and as Scott points out, if even the French can work out how to build motorways without throwing people out of their homes, then surely we could learn something from them, couldn't we? Couldn't we?) but only the Libertarianz candidate was prepared to point out that the government is supposed to protect people's property rights, not do them over.

And what of Labour's David Shearer -- "the grey machine man"? Well, his own goon squad was noisy, but he wasn't. His tie was colourful, but he wasn't. I'm sure he can write a memorable report, but whatever it was he said tonight left me as soon as I left the room. Perhaps that's why he was known as a bureaucrat's bureaucrat. What he said was so forgettable, but said with such authority, that he's bound to romp in come polling day.

In fact, most of what every mainstream candidate had to say on the night was both instantly forgettable and intended only for short-term political advantage. But there was one thing one candidate said that is now going to dog her through the rest of the campaign. Maybe longer. It will probably be the meeting's headline tomorrow morning. I say "her,"because the foot in the mouth belonged to Melissa Lee.

Asked to explain how the new motorway would most help the good people of Mt Albert, she explained that it would stop the bad people of South Auckland driving to Mt Albert to burgle people's homes. Asked to clarify by a questioner, she repeated the claim. Showing she's truly not one to stop digging when she creates a big hole for herself -- a hole as big as the number of open mouths in the room -- she insisted that the local police commander had told her this very morning that the biggest issue with which he has to deal is the number of South Aucklanders driving to Mt Albert to burgle people's homes.

I swear I am not making this up. It's true that the likely winner of the by-election, David Shearer, grew up in South Auckland . . . and in being Labour's "machine candidate" he could be said to be burgling the seat . . . but what the hell she was talking about, only Melissa Lee herself would know. Probably.

It was as incongruous and frankly ludicrous as Jenny Shipley's comment in Parliament several years ago (apropos of nothing relevant) that Polynesians tend "to climb in the windows of other New Zealanders at night." And it deserves to be treated with equal contempt.

UPDATE 1: Let me clarify something here. Steven Joyce and several commentators around the traps -- and now John Key -- have all suggested Melissa's South Auckland comment was made "in the heat of the meeting," "in the face of a hostile audience" and so forth.

That's not the case, and those commentators weren't at the meeting, which was hardly "hostile" in any sense. More bemused. Posting at Hard News, commenter Stephen Horsley is spot on:
I was at the meeting, and I would have to disagree [that this was a rushed response to a hostile audience]. It wasn't something that she just blurted out, in fact she seemed very pleased with herself for having thought of it. When asked to clarify the comment, she went into a fair amount of detail justifying herself. . . it appeared to be a view that she genuinely subscribed too.
That's exactly as I saw it too.

UPDATE 2: Liberty Scott runs the rule over the Mt Albert candidates, and says Vote For Freedom in Mt Albert:
I said on 4 May that "It might be better to just wait to see who all the candidates will be, before making a choice." of candidate. So I am pleased that Julian Pistorius is standing for Libertarianz.
Let's be clear, the motorway will be built, but only Julian can be a solid advocate for the private property rights of landowners who may face compulsory purchase, and for ways to respect that while progressing the road (for example, the Melbourne Citylink motorway was built by the private sector negotiating the land purchase from all those along its route).

Let's also be clear, a Labour MP will mean no change, a backbencher in a party that has no power over the next 2.5 years and which has shown a willingness to pillage taxes to buy an electorate.
A National MP will mean no change. Melissa Lee is already in Parliament, being MP for Mt. Albert will just give her a little more to do, but she won't be fighting for private property rights.
A Green MP will mean no change. Russel Norman will lead obstructive direct action against motorway building, whilst cheerleading on the pillaging of Mt. Albert taxpayers for a railway that even ARC has as a low priority.
ACT candidate John Boscawen has shown his level of judgment in voting for the W(h)anganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Act.
ALCP candidate Dakta Green is worthy of your vote if that one policy matters above everything else.
However, Julian Pistorius IS worthy of your vote if you want to shake up Parliament and get a man dedicated to standing up for Mt. Albert taxpayers and property owners. He wont be a backbench voice on a major party, or speaking to increase taxes or spend more of other people's money. He won't be claiming to speak for property owners on the motorway issue, but at the same time running roughshod over them with the RMA. He wont be supporting the megacity -- or even existing local government as long as it continues to have a legal "power of general competence" to do as it sees fit.
You see Julian will call for the government to undertake the tax cuts it promised. Julian will support private property rights as an absolute. Julian will also support the right of ALCP candidate Dakta Green to campaign to legalise cannabis without harassment, because Julian too supports legalising consumption and sale of cannabis for adults on private property.

Mt. Albert voters might baulk at voting Libertarianz when it is about choosing the government, but this is a by-election not a general election, and who could have a louder voice for Mt. Albert than a Libertarianz MP? Who will in principle oppose the confiscation of land for a road, or any purpose, and call for less government so Mt. Albert residents can make their own choices?
So go on Mt. Albert, vote Julian Pistorius as your local MP. Beyond anything else it will give Helen Clark the most unwelcome surprise when she wakes up in New York the next morning to see who she handed the seat over to.
Isn't that a delicious thought!

Vote Julian P in Mt Albert

To the Grey Machine Man, the Ginger Whinger, the world’s sexiest Asian MP, and Galt knows who else, Mt Albert voters can now add the choice of voting for Libertarianz candidate Julian Pistorius in the coming by-election.JP007

Unlike the other candidates, Julian – a former Libz Deputy – doesn’t have to leave home or a job with the UN to visit the electorate, and he’s keen to highlight some local and national issues that no other candidate will be brave enough to mention:

  • Who else is going to championwaterview1 the people whose homes are about to be stolen from them to build the new motorway, by a government to whom the words “property rights” are still a dirty word.  People like 85-year-old Leonard Purchase (right), who says of the thieves
        "Bastards. They're a bunch of no-hopes - rats. I've been here 23 years. I inherited this place from my father. My old man bought it [and] he died here - I thought I was going to die here too. The tunnel sounded all right, but this - where the hell am I going to go now? Nobody's come to talk to me - it's just things that have come through the mail. I didn't think for a minute that it would come to this. I don't feel like moving - this is my home - and now they're going to go right through. What are they thinking?"
    A government that did respect property rights wouldn’t need to bulldoze people’s property – they’d know it’s possible to purchase voluntarily a motorway route that’s been planned for decades, and they’d do it.
        Is Leonard the local Darryl Kerrigan?  Is National a party of principle?  Julian for one will tell ‘em they’re dreaming.
  • Who else is going to provide principled opposition to the ACT/National super-shitty Super City. It should embarrass local ACT supporters that their leader is setting up (in Owen McShane's words) "the first fascist state in New Zealand."
  • Who else is going to remind people that the new law on Gang Patches allows any local council to add themselves via regulation. Just another reason to worry about an out-of-touch Uber-City able to ram things through by decree (and local ACT supporters might also remember just which party leader’s vote tipped the balance on this bill? and which Mt Albert candidate and erstwhile supporter of free speech also voted for it!)
  • Is anyone else going to point out that National’s RMA “reforms” are not reforms in our favour, but are only intended to make it easier to bulldoze through Steven Joyce's billion-dollar Think Biggish infrastructure programme (of which this motorway is a lading part), and for councils to take your property rights away without challenge (of which every council District Plan is a leading example)?  If not us, then who?
  • It’s Budget Month, and is anyone else pointing out that National is about to break a major election promise – their pledge to cut taxes?  That they’re about to backtrack on a major part of their election platform? That they value their promise not to cut spending more than the promise to give taxpayers their money back when they most need it. That they must have either been lying about their intention to deliver them, or so incompetent they didn’t notice they were never affordable. They broke their promise on superannuation in 1991 – and they’re breaking this promise now.  Let’s make this a referendum on Trust in Taxation!
  • Is there anyone else going to defend local shop-owners who have the temerity to want to defend themselves?
  • Is any other candidate going to speak out on behalf of “political criminal” Dakta Green, Mt Albert candidate for the ALCP Party, bullied, harassed and arrested three times in one week for cannabis activism?

If not Julian, then who the hell else in Mt Albert is going to speak up on all these issues!

Look out for his billboards starting to go up this weekend. And if you’d like to help out, then why not email him:  (And if you’re looking for dirt, just ask him about those photos. The ones with the coconuts.)  

UPDATE:  Keep up with Julian's campaign, or better yet join in, at his Facebook Campaign Page.  Go to it!

The state of journalism, part six, “the live cross”

You might have to sign up to Facebook to read it (don’t worry, signing up is easy and there’s no communicable diseases to catch) but Simon Pound’s wee Facebook rant piece on modern so-called journalism is spot on:

    It used to be that the rule of reporting was that the reporter was not to put themselves in the story at all unless there was a very good reason. Accepted reasons were:
    1 - There were absolutely NO other possible pictures to use to make the point.
    2 - If the reporter was at a place people had to see to know they were actually there – like on Mt Everest or something similarly impressive.
    And that was it. Otherwise you were meant to use pictures that added to the story.
    That has rather changed, in fact now it is pretty much mandatory for reporters to wander all over the story.
    Once upon a time (up till about two years ago) the point of news was that people had spent all day gathering the most pertinent pictures and expert comment together into a package that told the story with the greatest economy and authority.
    It could then be reviewed before transmission by senior journalists and exist as an example of the very best communication that the station could produce – harnessing the talents of camera operators, editors, reporters, producers etc.
    This approach makes a lot of sense. Even if the product is often nonsense it was carefully assembled nonsense.
    Now though, with the current rage and compulsion for live crosses this is all out the window. Completely.
    Now, rather than look old fashioned with a carefully researched and complied account they will cross LIVE to someone to tell us what happened.
    To ‘tell’ us. As opposed to ‘show’. Therefore doing away with the thing telly is most useful for – pictures – and replacing it with a live shot of someone stuttering, and scared witless while trying to convey complex information while put on the spot in front of hundreds of thousands of people.

Read it all here, it’s good:  Pointless Live Crosses in the News, an Artform.

Quote of the day: “If you are an economist and did not see this coming . . . “ [updated]

The Key Government has continued to signal that they are going to backtrack on the tax cuts that were at the centre of their platform in the recent election campaign – and the mainstream media has continued to ignore this broken promise. 

As I’ve said before, to say now that you didn’t know last October that the world’s economies were collapsing is a sign of either abject incompetence then or cynical dishonesty now.  Bluntly, Bill English is either a liar or a loser.

Sure, there were plenty of trained economists who didn’t know at the start of 2008 what was about to happen (though there was little enough excuse for that abject ignorance), but you’d think that by the 9th of October, when the Dow Jones had dropped by nearly half what it was the previous October, even a prospective Minister of Finance might have noticed something was up?

And what about all those “trained economists” who never saw the train wreck coming?  A commenter on a housing blog, Patrick.Net, wrote recently that economists did a worse job of forecasting the housing market than either his father, who has no formal education, or his mother, who got up to second grade. And his comment, which has now gone around the world, is my quote of the day:

"If you are an economist and did not see this coming, you should seriously reconsider the value of your education and maybe do something with a tangible value to society, like picking vegetables."

UPDATE: As always, Susan makes a comment worth repeating:

    Not going ahead with promised tax cuts signifies that the govt believes that *its* spending requirements are more important than those of taxpayers.
    Thus, I think it's right and proper to henceforth refer to John Key as John Keynes.

Uptown Top Rankin [updated]

There must surely be many more useless government departments than the Fatuous Family’s Commission, and there is surely fierce competition for the spot, but the government department created by the Clark Government as a bribe to keep Peter Dunne on side (and to foster the illusion that his years in parliament had actually achieved something) must be the most well known as a prime candidate for the chop.

What has it actually achieved? Nothing. What was it supposed to achieve? To fool Done-Nothing's supporters into thinking he'd achieved something in his career.

So when former bureaucrat Christine Rankin was appointed to the position of head of the Fatuous Commission yesterday it hardly made my heart sing. Yes, she took the right stand on the anti-smacking bill promoted by Sue Bradford (who yesterday was disgracefully characterising Rankin as being a promoter of violence towards children) but she’s still just a wasteful bloody bureaucrat in charge of a department that should not exist.

So that’s what I was thinking as I listened to her interviewed on Newstalk ZB last night. That anyone who could make both Sue Bradford and Peter Done-Nothing expose their true character can't be all bad (and aren't they nasty when they're crossed) , but this is still just another high-spending bureaucrat in charge of just another useless quango.

But then she said something that made my jaw drop. Larry Williams put to her that very point – that the Families Commission was nothing more than a political creation, by expediency out of MMP, and a complete waste of time, space and money – and she agreed. And she said that if after examination she still held that view, then she would be working to close it down.

I’ve never heard a bureaucrat say that before – even with those few weasel words. So just this once, I’m going to support the appointment of a new bureaucrat, no matter how wasteful she's been in the past. Well done Ms Rankin. You now have a year’s grace before I see you as just another jobsworth.

Here’s a song which may or may not be related to this discussion:

 UPDATE:  Oops.  A commenter points out that Rankin isn’t boss, “she's only one of seven. Also look up the FamCom website to check out the drivel they produce. The thing should have been abolished....full stop.”

Understanding economic crises [update 3]

Here’s a good deal.  Most of the country’s business reporters – and nearly every single one of the mainstream economists – have no idea what actually happened in the Great Depression.  With these bargain buundle of four myth-busting books, offered at the Mises Store, you can get one huge step ahead of them all:

GDKCCB918 Four telling books for just US$49 – four books that will help you understand what went wrong then, and how so many of the policies that made the Great Depression deeper in the US are being repeated around the world nowHead to the Mises Store to find out more.

If you’re keen, you could add Meltdown, the best short introduction to what just went wrong to cause this latest economic disaster, and Lionel Robbins’s 1934`book The Great Depression, which gives a rational British perspective on the world disaster.

Good reading.

UPDATE 1:  Roosevelt got away with so many of his boondoggles because, for the most part, he had a compliant media on side.  He didn’t have to contend with the blogosphere.

But the ObaMessiah does. 

Blogger Geoff at Innocent Bystander has been checking Team Obama’s projections of US unemployment with and without Team Obama’s pork-barreled stimulunacy  – checking them against reality – and guess what: The charts show that after the passage of the most costly legislation known to man, the US is doing worse not only than the 'With' curve, but even worse than the 'Without' curve.

What do you think that says about the success of spending gobs of money you haven’t got?  What do think that says about the ability of the Messiah’s economists to predict the future? What do you think that says about the sense of all that fiscal child abuse?  As John at Powerline says, "Does it suggest that the administration's wild, wasteful spending and impending tax increases are actually destroying jobs? Shouldn't someone at least think to ask these questions at Obama's next press conference?” [Hat tip Jeff Perren at Shaving Leviathan ]

UPDATE 2:  I posted this here below as a reply to an anonymous commenter yesterday.  Looking at it again, I figured it might be good enough for the front page.  (I’ve tidied it up slightly.)

My interlocutor berated me for criticising Krugman without reading him, and for saying that far from being a bad thing, a collapse of prices would be the very means by which springs to recovery would open up.  “Piffle,” said my un-named adversary, “The recession is caused by a vast drop in demand. And your solution is to reduce wages, ie reduce demand. You're mistaking micro-economic changes with macro-economic outcomes. Unsurprising, since that's the classic blunder of Austrian economics.”  Here’s how I replied:

Yes I will criticise Krugman. He deserves it. And yes, I'm fully aware of what he's been saying. As I said in the post, it's the very Austrian economists Krugman so frequently derides who’ve been pointing out for some time that there is no choice at all about experiencing the pain of retrenchment and slump -- the only choice is whether recovery is allowed to be short and quick (by rapid liquidation of malinvestments) or, like Japan in the nineties, those malinvestments are propped up like corporate 'Weekend at Bernies' survivors that drain the economy for years to come.

That even Krugman is finally starting to wake up to the truth of that, even partially (since he gave it no credence a year or so ago when Jim Rogers et al were making that case) is actually reason not to criticise him in this case -- which is why I didn't. At least, not explicitly. :-)

Piffle? Yes, piffle is certainly a very good short summary of your mainstream economists' understanding of depression economics. You mistake so called "macroeconomics" for something fundamentally separate from "microeconomics," hiding all the important economic 'news' beneath your aggregates, and then you and your colleagues wonder why so called "macroeconomics" is in crisis.

Talk about a classic blunder.  Who exactly are the fools here?

As Ayn Rand said, Macroeconomics is in effect
"a science starting in midstream: it observed that men were producing and trading, it took for granted that they had always done so and always would—it accepted this fact as the given, requiring no further consideration—and it addressed itself to the problem of how to devise the best way for the "community" to dispose of human effort. . .
    "But, in fact, consumers qua consumers are not part of anyone's market; qua consumers, they are irrelevant to economics. Nature does not grant anyone an innate title of "consumer"; it is a title that has to be earned—by production. Only producers constitute a market—only men who trade products or services for products or services. In the role of producers, they represent a market's "supply"; in the role of consumers, they represent a market's "demand."    
    “The law of supply and demand has an implicit subclause: that it involves the same people in both capacities.
    "When this subclause is forgotten, ignored or evaded—you get the economic situation of today.

True, huh?

Mainstream economists say that "The recession is caused by a vast drop in demand."  They say that it’s caused by “a general collapse of prices.”  Not much of an analysis, is it? But that's the only answer your mainstream economists have got. That's really the best they can do.

In fact, the Depression isn't caused by either a vast drop in demand or by a general collapse of prices  -- in fact those are both part of what, by definition, constitutes a Depression. They’re actually two of the defining characteristics of a Depression. But so far are they from being a primary cause of depression, they’re actually the result of earlier actions. But your mainstream economists know nothing about that.

  • What caused the slump itself? Don't ask a mainstream economist, they have no idea – and no genuine interest in knowing.
  • What caused the drop in demand? Blank out.
  • How should businesses respond to such an economy-wide drop in demand? Blank out.
  • In which part of the capital structure has the drop in demand been greatest? Blank out.
  • What are the implications of a greater demand drop in the earlier part of the capital structure? Blank out.
  • What is a capital structure? Blank out?
  • How come those mainstream economists who were in the driving seat, who never even saw it coming -- who had no idea then it was about to happen and no idea now what to do -- how come it's those same mainstream economists who are still in the driving seat now (fixing the mess they had no idea they were even creating) whereas those who did see it coming and know what needs to be done now are derided as cranks.
    Doesn't that strike you as something worse than "piffle"?

You might deride Austrian economics as "piffle," but frankly on all these important questions above the Austrian school has answers where your mainstream boys don't even know there are questions -- and what the mainstreamers do know (or think they know) amounts to less than piffle.

Let me show you what I mean by giving some Austrian-based answers to those questions.

Q: So what caused the original slump then?
Well, it sure as hell wasn't laissez-faire!
But let's face it, your "demand drop" theory has a very real problem in getting traction: you see, it only explains what happened after the crash, after the bubble burst.
But what caused the bubble to inflate in the first place?
What fed the bubble for years? (Yes, that is a pun.)
What organisation and which mainstream economic theory was fundamentally responsible for the economy-wide misallocations of credit, and consequently for all the malinvestments[1] for which there is now too little demand?
If you don't know the answer, then why not read those (unlike Krugman) who did know it before it happened. Check out those classic 2006 videos of Peter Schiff for example[1], or the writings of Austrian economists like Stefan Karlsson, Mark Thornton, Thorstein Polleit et al, who were saying this back in at`least 2003[2] (or George Reisman, who was saying it back in 1975!). Or Ludwig von Mises, the development of whose business cycle theory[3] won Hayek his Nobel Prize, and who predicted the 1929 crash and resulting slump -- and whose theory was used by the economists above to make their forward assessment.
1. "Malinvestment" at Mises Made Easier.
2. There's a link to that Schiff compilation video
3. Check out the Mises Bailout Reader: Scroll down to
'Who Predicted This?'
4. Check out the Mises Bailout Reader: Scroll down to
'The Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle'

Q: So what caused the subsequent drop in demand?
i) it’s because a substantial amount of real capital was destroyed in all those collapses, bankruptcies and malinvestments -- things that looked profitable on the back of all the counterfeit capital flooding out of the central banks -- and the pool of real savings has now been largely consumed. (Which means that for recovery to happen, the existing capital has to be entrepreneurially reallocated, and the pool of real savings will have will now need to be built up anew.)
So the money supply is reduced, and what were thought to be real assets turn out not to be.  Which means people have less with which to exercise their demand.
ii) it’s because in a slump there's more demand for money than there is for goods -- which in mainstream terms is to say that both the "velocity" and quantity of money has dropped.
People want to hold more money to protect themselves from job uncertainties and the like, and banks (particularly in the inherently fragile fractional reserve banking system) need to urgently rebuild their own reserves (and not just with little bits of new printed paper) and are reluctant to lend out what they do have on bad risks.
But note again that none of this caused the crash: this is all the result of the crash.

Q: So how should businesses respond to such an economy-wide drop in demand?To state the problem precisely is to see the remedy clearly.
First of all, bear in mind what demand actually is: it's desire backed by the means to pay. Fundamentally, that means exchanging real goods and services for real goods and services. Now that real capital has been wiped out, and both the quantity and "velocity" of money have diminished, the "means to pay" has diminished and goods and services now are no longer worth what they were before.
So it's not that demand itself has now dropped, it's that demand at the prices now being offered has dropped.
Fundamentally, the only way to sell now is to lower prices to meet the new lowered level of demand. (Remember the simple equation, Prices = Demand/Supply?)
And since to sell goods and services at that new level means essentially selling at a loss (another defining characteristic of depressions) then we see the urgency of businesses adapting to the new lowered level of demand by lowering their costs to suit the new economic realities. It's either adapt or die.  (If only governments would get out of the way so this could happen!)
It's in this way that "deflation" (as you and your colleagues would call it) is not the cause of the problem, but actually the solution to getting things back on track again.[5]
But, you might object, why not just reinflate the world's various money supplies, as all the world's central bankers are now trying to do (the most vigorous along these lines being Mr Bernanke and Mr King)? The short answer to this, to paraphrase Ludwig von Mises in a similar context, is that trying to reinflate the money supply in the hopes of achieving economic recovery is like backing over a man you've just run over in in the hopes of effecting a medical recovery.
The eggs are already scrambled -- the body is already mangled. Reinflating simply exacerbates every problem created by the slump, it sustains every zombie malinvestment, it rewards every failed lender and borrower, and it puts every unstable position on life support -- not to mention the new misallocations brought about by the new bubble and the enormous sums now being printed (and the theft from savers such profligacy represents).
This is fundamentally what Japan tried in the nineties -- and Roosevelt tried in the thirties. Didn't work then, won't work now.  Japan’s stimulunacy led to what they still call “the lost decade.”  Roosevelt’s led to an extension of the depression. The fundamental reason is that the "lack of purchasing power" is not the fundamental problem[6]; the consumption of capital and the diminution of the pool of real savings is.
Real capital has been consumed. Stimulunacy won't help that; quite the reverse. Printing more little bits of paper won't replace it all-- and you'd have to be a very special kind of fool to delude yourself that they could[7].
5. See especially George Reisman's 'Falling Prices Are Not Deflation but the Antidote to Deflation.'
6. No, it's not. At lower wage rates, more workers are emplyed and total wage payments actually increase -- as mainstream macroeconists would understand if they looked beyond their phony aggregates. See George Reisman's '
Standing Keynesianism on Its Head: as Employment Increases in Response to a Fall in Wage Rates, the Rate of Profit Rises, Not Falls'
7. See for example on this point George Reisman's '
Capital, Saving and our Economic Crisis.'

Q: What are the implications of a greater demand drop in the earlier part of the capital structure? What's a capital structure?
No, these are not questions mainstream economists are even asking, are they - as Austrians from Robert Murphy to Mark Skousen point out it's mainstream economists’ blanket ignorance of this whole field that is a fundamental part of the problem, since at the end of the day it's misallocations in the capital structure brought about by all that counterfeit capital that kick off all the problems in the first place.[8]
But everyone from Krugman to Chicago school economists, from Keynesians to neo-Keynesians, from supply siders to the so-called Rational Expectations wallahs seemingly have no idea such a thing as the capital structure even exists -- they think you can subsitute the simple number 'k' for what is essentially the engine of the whole economy, the place where in fact over two-thirds of all spending actually does happen -- which is, as I say, really the problem here. Ignoring the structure of production (to use Skousen's title[9]) or the Macroeconomics of capital Structure (to use Roger Garrison's[10]) is just downright ignorance, and allows alleged economists like yourself, sir, to cite the easy Keynesian gloss of "a drop in demand" (what kind of demand? in what areas of the capital structure? demand backed by what?) as the leading cause of our economic collapse.
8. See Robert Murphy, 'The Importance of Capital Theory.'
9. Mark Skousen, The Structure of Production10. Roger Garrison Time & Money: The Macroeconomics of Capital

In fact, you know, the leading cause of our economic collapse is the fundamental intellectual bankruptcy of all schools of mainstream macroeconomics:

They didn't see it coming.

Their own economic models were responsible for it happening.

And now they've caused it, they're still in the driving seat trying to effect a cure with the very means by which they caused the problem in the first place.

As Thomas Woods says in his excellent book-length summary of the whole sorry saga, Meltdown[11], it's like watching medievalists applying leeches.

So finally, as Mark Brandly says: "If you are an economist and did not see this coming, you should seriously reconsider the value of your education and maybe do something with a tangible value to society, like picking vegetables.”
11. Thomas E. Woods Jr., Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse.

UPDATE 3: Anti Dismal has a note about a new British book that looks worth getting hold of:

A very interesting statement was published, 12th May, in the Daily Telegraph (UK), in which fourteen leading economists - authors of the new IEA study, Verdict on the Crash - explain how government failure caused the financial crisis and why politicians’ calls for tighter regulation are misconceived. The statement reads:

“The prevailing view amongst the commentariat (reflected in the recent deliberations of the G20) that the financial crash of 2008 was caused by market failure is both wrong and dangerous. Government failure had a leading role in creating the conditions that led to the crash. . .”

Read on here for the whole statement and more!  (And don’t neglect to check out The Standup Economist.

The Resignation of George Washington – John Trumbull


Julius Caesar, Henry V, Oliver Cromwell: each of them used their military success, and the military forces with which they brought their victories, to attain supreme political power.  Once their military victories were achieved they donned the mantle of dictator.  Such was the way things were done for most of history, and would be done again after the event depicted here (Napoleon most famously only a few decades later).

But George Washington broke that mould.  After fighting off the British to establish, for the first time in history, a nation of free people, Washington tendered his resignation to the Congress – surrendering whatever ambitions to absolute power a lesser man might have harboured and, like Cincinnatus of legend, returned once more to the plough.

Painter John Trumbull, who worked as Washington’s aide-de-camp during the War, considered this resignation “one of the highest moral lessons ever given to the World.”  Years later he painted the scene in tribute.

The Seattle Art Museum has an interactive website bizzo giving a whole lot more information on the historical content of this piece.  [Hat tip Scott Powell of Powell History]

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

LIBERTARIAN SUS: Whatever next!

This  week Susan Ryder tries to avoid being so easily distracted . . .

Ex-pats may or may not agree, but something I always found interesting when living overseas was the capacity to privately look at local issues from an outsider’s perspective. And even though I’ve been home for years now, I still like to do that. To take the proverbial step backwards and watch what is going on, as if from a distance. The events of the last few weeks have provided no shortage of material.

The New Zealand media has been obsessed respectively with Susan Boyle, the Swine Flu, the banning of the wearing of gang patches in W(h)anganui and the events in Napier late last week, flooding us to saturation point each time with important information and equally important pictures varying from reporters in front of closed schools to reporters in front of closed roads.

Let’s start with Susan. Exactly one month ago an unknown 47 year old Scot auditioned live on ITV’s popular Britain’s Got Talent, performing ‘I have a dream’ from “Les Miserables.” Rather plain in appearance and not a little ungainly, Susan Boyle strode onto the stage and after a short chat with the judges it was apparent that nobody was expecting much from the oddball character – but clear from the editing that something was about to happen.

However, the following two minutes took Britain and the world by storm. Thanks to the power of the internet a star was, literally, created. Within hours a YouTube video clip had been seen by millions internationally, let alone in the UK. Within days, she was appearing on television shows such as Larry King Live and in contract negotiations with recording company executives. It wasn’t possible to open a newspaper, listen to the radio or watch a televised newscast without her name being mentioned. There are now several online versions of her Britain’s Got Talent performance which have collectively been viewed more than 100 million times.

Media obsession with Susan came to an abrupt end however when news started coming in of pigs, colds and sick people returning from Mexico. Well, she’d had a good run but a frumpy, middle-aged woman turned People’s Pop Princess couldn’t hold a candle to a full-blown pandemic, dammit! So that saw the end of Sue. And bugger third world Mexicans, too, in spite of the rhetoric. Who really cares about them? Hold the front page for the first local fatality!

It never happened. But after mass coverage of dire global predictions that stubbornly refused to materalise, local health authorities and media who ought to have been wiping egg from their faces were handed a lifeline by the government. Specifically, the law allowing W(h)anganui City Council to ban the wearing of gang patches in its environs, neatly diverting public attention from growing ridicule of the H1N1 beat-up.

Fair play to John Key, it was a neat move. If there is one way to get the public back on side, it’s by taking a potshot at a common enemy – with both words applying to the loathsome criminal gangs. But what did the legislation entail?

That answer is best left to Ayn Rand. To paraphrase, she once wrote that the state, when increasing its power, invariably starts with targeting society’s ugliest characters. With the exception of child-abusers, it’s hard to find a better local example than the gangs. And the general public, fed up with years of gang intimidation and blatant disregard for the law, fell right into the trap of applauding the move loudly.

Only it wasn’t really a move at all. Even John Key yesterday on Newstalk ZB admitted that little will change as a result of the legislation. It was a clear example of the government doing something in order to be seen to be doing something.

For as the government is aware, laws currently exist that prohibit intimidation and force. They just need to be enacted upon which would require some hard calls, e.g., police resources being diverted from manning lucrative speed cameras to dealing instead with crime such as theft, rape and intimidation. Instead, the state has now increased its power by telling people what to wear, while individuals still cannot specify the gender of the person they wish to employ or smoke inside their own commercial premises.

Just as the freedom of association debate was hotting up (thanks largely to ACT MP’s Heather Roy and Sir Roger Douglas voting against the bill, and ‘libertarian’ Rodney Hide voting for it) the  Napier shootings wiped W(h)anganui and the gang patches from public focus, replacing it with arguments for and against the arming of the police force – and for and against the banning of guns.  (Naturally, the small matter of the individual’s right to self-defence has been largely ignored, as has the stupidity of drug laws that encourage violence and directly result in black market profits for criminals.  Not nearly sexy enough to get sufficiently distracted by those debates.  Far, far too abstract.)

There was, however, one bright spot regarding the latter, from the unlikely source of Deborah Hill-Cone’s Friday evening appearance on Newstalk ZB. “It’s time for a rational debate on our drug laws”, she said, referring to The Economist. She said that she had been reading about Prohibition and what happened with alcohol, “and perhaps it’s the libertarian in me, but I think it makes sense to legalise all drugs” in order to remove the criminal element, etc. Well said, that woman.

So readers, there we have a précis of what New Zealand media has chosen to highlight over the last month, which begs a few questions.

Does anything ever get resolved with so short a general attention span?

Are we so easily manipulated by media and/or government?

Does life really imitate art?!

And what do you think?

Here’s a cartoon:


* * Susan Ryder’s column appears every Tuesday here at NOT PC, except when it doesn’t. * *