Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The New Deniers


“. . . a fairer tax system”? [update]

BILL ENGLISH HAS BEGUN his working year by talking up his plans for something he calls "a fairer tax system.”  If that bromide is to mean anything at all, then there is only one possible means by which Bill English could deliver such a thing: By not spending so goddamn much.

That, however, is not on the agenda.

Pity, because there’s plenty of easily quashed boondoggles that any responsible Finance Minister would be eyeing up with a sharpened axe:

  • Cindy Kiro's Office for the Children's Commissioner
  • Peter Dunne's Families Commission
  • Paula Rebstock's Commerce Commission
  • David Lange's Ministry for Women's Affairs
  • Jim Anderton's Ministry of Economic Development
  • The Ministry of Youth Development
  • Asia New Zealand Foundation
  • The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs
  • The Ministry for Maori Affairs
  • The Race Relations Conciliator
  • Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand
  • Action on Smoking Hysteria
  • Electricity Commission
  • Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority
  • The National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women
  • The Department of Labour
  • Welfare for Working Families

That's just a few of the bureaucratic sacred cows that any responsible government should have in their sights when they’re talking about “fairer” taxes. If Bill really did want to relieve the burden of big government from New Zealand taxpayers, then those troughs for time-servers should all be wearing a target.

BUT CUTTING SPENDING IS not on the agenda of Sir Double Dipton.  Shuffling around the means by which he fleeces us is.

As Billy Bob and his boys have already signalled, what they mean by the bromide of “a fairer tax system” is simply a slight fall in income tax and a huge hike in GST and Land Tax—a  cynical piece of sleight of hand that will allow them to sock all New Zealanders while pretending they’ve belatedly kept their election promise to deliver income tax cuts.

There’s no possible way there’s anything “fair” about whacking up the price of land, or the price of everything everywhere.  There’s nothing responsible about making everything more expensive just to pay for this over-spending government, no matter how many worthies say otherwise.

MOST OF THE WORTHIES who talk about such things have been banging excitedly on for months about the prospect of a Land Tax—as if we don’t already have such a thing, and as if it would somehow have stopped the housing bubble from inflating.

It can only be abject ignorance that would allow any commentator to make either argument. 

No Land Tax or Capital Gains Tax anywhere in the world stopped any housing bubble anywhere—it can only be blind faith that keeps anyone insisting it will.

And New Zealand land is already subject to iniquitous financial impositions.  I look for example at a cost estimate prepared for a recent subdivision proposal in Auckland’s eastern suburbs, for which the grey ones will be putting their hands into someone’s pocket to the tune of around $40,000 per site, payable in advance.  That’s a $40,000 dead weight on which a developer will be paying interest, and a new-home buyer will have to make up.  That’s $40,000, plus GST!

No wonder the supply of new homes is already so restricted.  No wonder, with such a restricted supply, house-price inflation is taking off again (something that was easy enough to forecast some months ago). 

Now if that’s not a Land Tax that every new-home buyer is already paying, then I’m a banana.  And if there’s anything fair about whacking on higher taxes to New Zealanders who are already struggling, and consuming their savings as they do, then I’m a whole effing fruit salad.

UPDATE:  From Liberty Scott:

    “According to the NZ Herald, the Prime Minister said, ‘The Government would like to lower personal taxes.’
    “Great stuff.
    “The solution involves two words.
    “Don't increase GST …
    “Don't create new taxes …
    “Think about this John.
    “If income and company tax were reduced to a simple 20% with the first $10k tax free (hardly radical and not Libertarianz  policy), then how much MORE would that encourage a shift of investment from land to business?”

‘Kwariitnama (Organ Pipes)’ – Albert Namatjira


Working in the late forties and early fifties, Albert Namatjira is still considered by many to have been the very best at capturing the unique Australian landscape.  This piece from the National Gallery of Austalia is a watercolour over pencil on paper.

Monday, 18 January 2010

SUMMER SIX PACK: Democracy & Freedom. War & Theft. Oh, and I’ll take a side of warming, please.

Today’s selection of good reading from the archives trolley has now been served.  Enjoy!

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Global Warming? Just ignore it.

    Politics behooves some folk to take a position on the science of Global Warming -- even if they really don't understand it.  Find a person’s politics, and you’ll find them insisting  either that Global Warming is happening and is real, or else is not happening and is a scam. And they’ll keep right on insisting, whatever the science says. That‘s neither good science, nor good politics.
    The libertarian position on Global Warming is somewhat different. It was well summed up by George Reisman at the end of his 1990 article 'The Toxicity of Environmentalism,' and his position on Global Warming is reprised today by Cafe Hayek:

    “Let’s assume that global warming is happening and that it’s caused by modern human industry and commerce. Is there a case to be made for the United States government to continue to avoid signing the Kyoto Protocol? More generally, is there a case to be made to shrug our shoulders and say ‘best not to do anything through government about global warming’?
    “I think so.”

    The best way for aspiring politicians to treat all claims about Global Warming is benign political neglect Read on here for the argument.

Linked Articles:
A note on Global Warming – CAFE HAYEK
The Toxicity of Environmentalism – GEORGE REISMAN

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Don't steal ideas!

    Copyrights, patents, trade marks—intellectual property is just as real, just as valuable, as real property. And rights to Intellectual property rights are ust as important, and just as much under attack -- and from some odd quarters.
    Greg Perkins at Noodle Food answers several libertarian critics of intellectual property rights, who argue that “intellectual property” is a contradiction in terms. There is a contradiction here, says Perkins, and it’s in the flawed way that the libertarians justify their theft of private property.
    Frankly, if you want a right to something someone else has created, then trading value for value as honest citizens do is a better method than using straw men, sophistry and theft, as politicians and (some) philosophy students do.

Linked Article: Don't steal this article - Greg Perkins, Noodle Food

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Whatever happened to your "smokestack socialist"?

    I asked yesterday if readers could identify the author of this remarkably vigorous piece of prose in praise of human production:

    “The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all the preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature's forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents or cultivation, canalisation or rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground - what earlier century had even an inkling that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?”
    Written in the mid-nineteenth century, their author achieved worldwide popularity in the twentieth. How rare to hear such a hymn to human industry in the twenty-first.
   I'm delighted that several knowledgeable readers identified the author as one Karl Marx -- a surprise perhaps to some who know the bearded apostle of "scientific socialism" only as the god of today's braindead man-haters. How come, you might ask, we so rarely hear such hairy-chested sentiments from socialists these days? The answer is quite simple: the abject failure of socialism to live up to the promise implied in the old fool's wee hymn to human production.
    In the beginning, everybody was (or seemed to be) a smokestack socialist.  The old style hairy-chested, smokestack socialist revered capitalism’s forces of production--those colossal steam-driven productive forces; the  subjection of nature by capital—they just wanted them shackled for themselves.  The forces that in earlier centuries had "slumbered in the lap of social labour" were erupting out of the feudal past, and were to be shackled in the promise of a glorious socialist future! Communism, said Lenin, is "socialism plus electricity"! Communism, Nikita Kruschev told Richard Nixon, will "bury the west." For many a socialist, the optimistic voice of socialism did sounded like the voice of the sunlit future. Reason and science seemed to be on the side of the central planners.
    The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of every socialist experiment ever tried, however, put paid to that dream.
    The revelation when the Berlin Wall fell that socialist Eastern Europe was no Utopia, but instead an economic, environmental and humanitarian basket case brought on a crisis for socialists worldwide—a crisis making it clear for all time that it was impossible to be an honest socialist. The laboratory experiment in West & East Berlin, and the utter misery of Eastern Europe, smacked everyone in the face like a cold halibut, and made one simple fact crystal clear: Socialism could not produce. Capitalism does. At this revelation, the smokestack socialist had three fundamental choices: either abandon his support for socialism, or for production, or for reason:
  • He could continue to revere production and human fecundity by abandoning socialism altogether (Christopher Hitchens is one of this honest breed), or he could try and shackle capitalist producers to his own socialist ends (Tony Blair, Jim Anderton and most of the Third Way 'social democrat' types adopted this approach).
  • Or: he could retain his socialism but abandon instead his praise of production and wealth. The environmental movement beckoned. In damning production he could continue the promotion of socialism as if nothing ever happened. If you've ever wondered at the take-over of the environmental movement worldwide by assorted Trotskyites, Maoists and Leninists, or by the number of Jim Anderton's former colleagues now at home in the 'Watermelon Party,' then this is your explanation.
  • Or: as Stephen Hicks so eloquently explains, he could abandon reason, science, and optimism altogether, and embrace instead the postmodern promotion of anti-reason, anti-science, double standards, and cynicism. As Hicks says in the thesis of his superb book Explaining Postmodernism, "the failure of [philosophy] made postmodernism possible; the failure of socialism made postmodernism necessary." 
        In his book, Hicks charts the failure and consequent “evolution” of socialism, which helps explain the apparent disappearance of the old “smokestack socialist”:
  • Post-post-socialist


The fall of the Berlin Wall was the crisis that created this mostly misbegotten diaspora. And it's the reason now that an honest socialist is about as hard to find as an honest lawyer

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Friday, September 30, 2005

Global warming and the war in Iraq: The Link!

There is a link between global warming and the war in Iraq that I haven't seen picked up before, and it’s not without irony. The link is the concept of risk, and how it relates to the arguments given for action in each case.
    Since Irfan Khawaja spotted the link, I'll let him explain:

    “Opponents of the Iraq war have typically argued that absent hard evidence of Iraqi WMD stockpiles, we had no business using force to disarm Iraq. In the case [of global warming], however, left-leaning environmentalists argue that absent hard evidence of danger, we're obliged to take drastic action.”
     Scientists such as NASA scientist James Hansen go even further. Hansen thinks it was appropriate to sex up the evidence for global warming in order to gain attention for the unproven. Now however that the scientific gravy train is up and running (with him on it) he is revising his story. "Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue… Now, however, the need is for demonstrably objective climate forcing scenarios consistent with what is realistic." Irfan's translation: "It might have been OK to deceive the public about global warming a few years ago, but now the game is up, so let's just tell the honest truth from here on out."
    “Hansen's ‘principle’ here is an exact replica of the Bush Administration's strategy during 2002-2003 in discussing Iraqi WMD: emphasize extreme scenarios as a matter of consciousness-raising; then, when confronted with counter-evidence, ratchet things back and try haplessly to explain that the exaggerations, while exaggerated, did after all point to a real problem requiring a solution. Then pray that no one calls you on your squalid and stupid rhetorical manuever. Of course, if you are George Bush the Fundamentalist, your prayers will fail, and everyone will forever after say things like ‘Bush Lies--Soldiers Die.’ If you are an atheist environmentalist, on the other hand, your prayers will succeed and no one will notice your brazen manipulation of public opinion. Funny how that works.
    “Anyway, our environmentalists need to get their principles straight. Does weak evidence of a high-stakes event justify drastic action to prevent the event? I think it can--in both the Iraqi and global warming cases. But one can't have one's risk and eat it, too. One can't argue that 12 years of UN reports on Iraqi failure to disarm can be dismissed as ‘insufficient evidence of an imminent threat,’ while simultaneously insisting that weak evidence of global warming has to be played up so as to justify passing the Kyoto Treaty.”

Consistency: there oughta be a law!

Linked article: Global Warming: Pro and Con

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ian Ewen-Street is not on the environmental main highway

    Is the reportedly lazy and ineffective Green MP Ian Ewen-Street going to National a sign of anything? Anything at all?
And apart from Mr and Mrs Ewen-Street, does anyone really care? Looks like it, if you believe all those people reading so much into this move.
    Could it really be a sign, as some commentators and Don Brash have said, that National are "serious about the environment"? Or that National is a broad church--encompassing both the lazy and ineffective Ewen-Street and the similarly qualified Tau Henare? Or perhaps a sign (as Jeanette Fitzsimons indicated) that Ewen-Street was always a Tory anyway? Or something else -- or even, perhaps, nothing at all?
    For mine it's Answer D: something else.  As usual, DPF supplies the clue: "It is incredibly frustrating [says Farrar]that the hard left have captured so much of the environmental brand, and this should help correct that perception." So it's not so much that "National are serious about the environment" but that they’re serious about looking like they’re serious. And that's it, really, folks: This is all about perception, not about substance. The 'centre-right' would like to massage the perception, while the substance will barely change.
    Ewen-Street is hardly someone upon which to base any substance in any case – not at least in a freedom-loving direction. I really hope this idiot is really as lazy and ineffective as reports would have it, because the prospect of the anti-GE Green Ewen-Street and the man who called the RMA "far-sighted environmental legislation" (Nick Smith) writing National's environmental policy between them is not something from which to expect anything substantially less wet or less 'left' environmentally than what the Nats already have.
    The hard left have already captured so much of the environmental brand; so much so that lokking like you’re “serious about the environment” now means outbidding the hard left for environmental credibility.  The hard left have captured the environmental brand for one very simple reason: Because almost the entire political spectrum, including the self-described 'centre-right,' have accepted the nostrum that environmental protection requires command-and-control measures to be effective: amd no-one does command0and control like the hard left .
    But environmental protection doesn't require command-and-control, and it’s time for those who aren’t hard left to realise that.
     The best means for environmental protection is secure property rights. When the non-hard-left parts of the political spectrum begin to realise that secure property rights provide  both superior environmental protection and protection of your freedom, then we might be on the road to seeing something new. Something of substance. Something like that which is happening in the States, where alumni of property-rights-promoters like PERC have been getting their feet under the policy table.
    That really would be the right road down which to travel.  That would be an environmental main highway to get on to.
    But Ian Ewen-Street is not on that road, and neither is Nick Smith or National.
    How about you?


RELATED: Environment, Politics-National, Property Rights, Common Law

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Friday, January 13, 2006

A joke at the heart of Climate Change

    It's hilarious, really, isn't it. Why am I laughing? If you haven't heard already, here's the joke: plants are implicated in the 'global warming problem.' Here's how: Methane is roughly twenty times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping the sun's heat -- it is the third most important greenhouse gas behind water vapour and carbon dioxide -- and a new scientific study has just discovered that "living plants may emit almost a third of the methane entering the Earth's atmosphere. The result has come as a shock to climate scientists." This is a genuinely remarkable result," said Richard Betts of the climate change monitoring organisation the Hadley Centre." [Source, The Guardian]
    I swear I am not making this up. Living plants, especially 'deep-rooted' plants such as trees, contribute about one third of the atmospehere's methane, with the Amazon Basin itself responsible for a hefty proportion. Cow farts and rice paddies are largely responsible for the other two thirds.  Notes JunkScience.Com (who note also that the potential temperature saving by the year 2050 so far achieved by Kyoto is 0.001412424 °C):

    “So, in the space of a couple of weeks we've had temperate forests harvesting too much sunlight and warming the globe, high latitude forest trees getting 'skinnier' and absorbing less carbon than guesstimated and now, tropical forests as a source of the much more potent greenhouse gas, methane. Anyone get the feeling wannabe energy rationers are getting really desperate to deny there could be any possible avenue to mitigate warming other than ceding control of energy?
    “Anyone noticed that, despite the gales of hysteria, the alleged warming of ~0.7 °C over the 20th Century is about the same as the error range on estimated global mean temperature? Anyone noticed that, while atmospheric carbon levels have measurably increased and global temperature has probably increased, crop yields have more than kept pace with human population growth from ~1.7 billion to over 6 billion while hunger has declined? Anyone noticed that during this time developed nations have returned marginal farmlands to forest and wildlife habitat? Anyone figure the global picture may not be quite as bleak as wannabe energy rationers would like to paint it?”
     Maybe now we might see an end to the environmentalists' call for an Anti-Industrial Revolution. I look forward instead to Greenpeace T-shirts like this one:

Linked Articles: The forgotten methane source - Max Planck Institute
Global warming: Blame the forests - Guardian
The assault on forests as carbon sinks continues - JunkScience.Com

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Democracy vs. freedom: A Middle Eastern case study

    "Democracy is freedom!" I hear you say? Well, no it isn't. There's much confusion abroad about structures of government, and too little understanding of the difference between democracy and constitutional government.
    Many people mistakenly believe that democracy is synonymous with freedom, so if you're saddled with that delusion yourself then you're not alone. It isn't. As Bill Weddell used to say, democracy is not freedom, it is simply the counting of heads regardless of content. And as Yaron Brook points out in The Forward Strategy for Failure, democratic elections across the Middle East that seemed to promise so much have demonstrated instead that the result of counting empty heads will often deliver the opposite of freedom. It's a lesson that we should all ponder.

    “Iraq has had not just one, but several popular elections, as well as a referendum on a new constitution written by Iraqi leaders; with U.S. endorsement and prompting, the Palestinians held what international monitors declared were fair elections; and Egypt’s authoritarian regime, under pressure from Washington, allowed the first contested parliamentary elections in more than a decade. Elections were held as well in Lebanon (parliamentary) and Saudi Arabia (municipal). In sum, these developments seemed to indicate a salutary political awakening. The forward march toward ‘liberty in other nations’ seemed irresistible ...”
     It all looked so promising, didn't it, and - let's face it - we all got excited at the sight of so many so eager to vote in places for which any idea of free and fair elections seemed just a few years ago so unbelievable. I confess, I did too. The Bush Administration's "forward strategy for freedom" seemed to be working, it seemed to be worthy of celebration - but the strategy had and has a fatal flaw. It was and is based solely on the introduction of democracy, and democracy itself is no guarantee of freedom. A majority can just as easily to vote away its own freedoms and those of minorities as it will to have them protected. Case in point: Recent history.
    "Has the democracy crusade moved us toward peace and freedom in the Middle East—and greater security at home?" asks Brook. Answer, NO! Emphatically not. For the most part, the results have been the opposite of stellar.
    “The elections in Iraq were touted as an outstanding success for America, but the new Iraqi government is far from friendly. It is dominated by a Shiite alliance led by the Islamic Daawa Party and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)... Teheran is thought to have a firm grip on the levers of power within Iraq’s government, and it actively arms and funds anti-American insurgents. The fundamental principle of Iraq’s new constitution—as of Iran’s totalitarian regime—is that Islam is inviolable. Instead of embracing pro-Western leaders, Iraqis have made a vicious Islamic warlord, Moqtada al-Sadr, one of the most powerful men in Iraqi politics...”
     How about the elections in the Palestinian territories, then? Any more success there?
For years, Bush had asked Palestinians “to elect new leaders, . . . not compromised by terror.” And, finally, in the U.S.-endorsed elections of January 2006, the Palestinians did turn their backs on the cronies of Yasser Arafat; they rejected the incumbent leadership of Fatah—and elected the even more militant killers of Hamas: an Islamist group notorious for suicide bombings. Hamas won by a landslide and now rules the Palestinian territories. Refusing to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, Hamas is committed to annihilating that state and establishing a totalitarian Islamic regime.
     Since writing that, as you probably know, Palestine has collapsed in what is essentially a civil war between Fatah and Hamas, with the price of war being paid in Palestinian bodies and an increased threat to the territories' neighbours, rather than a reduced one. No increase in freedom here either, then, or security.
    How about Lebanon, where great hopes were held for a rebirth in peace and freedom after elections that followed the drumming out of Syrian-controlled puppets? Sadly, the results there offer little cause for hope either.
    “Hezbollah took part in the U.S.-endorsed elections in Lebanon, formed part of that country’s cabinet for the first time, and won control of two ministries.11 In the summer of 2006, the Iranian-backed Hamas and Hezbollah killed and kidnapped Israeli soldiers—and precipitated a month-long war in the region. Since the ceasefire that ended the war, Hezbollah has continued to amass weapons and foment terrorism, emboldened by its popular electoral support.”
     So no success with recent democracies in Iraq, Lebanon or the Palestinian territories then - majorities have simply voted in totalitarians and killers who've acted to snuff out whatever shoots of freedom that we all fervently believed were beginning to appear.
    Perhaps elections in Egypt provide more hope? Sadly, the biggest beneficiary of the 2005 election was the Muslim Brotherhood, which as Brook points out represent "the intellectual origin of the Islamist movement, whose offshoots include Hamas and parts of Al Qaeda. The Brotherhood’s founding credo is 'Allah is our goal; the Koran is our constitution; the Prophet is our leader; Struggle is our way; and death in the path of Allah is our highest aspiration'” !
    It seems that the "forward strategy of freedom" of implementing democracy in the Middle East is an abject failure - a failure made inevitable by the pathetic faith in democracy to deliver that freedom. As Brook summarises, what democracy in the Middle East actually delivered was the very opposite of freedom: it delivered more power to those enemies of freedom that the Bush strategy was supposed to snuff out.

    “The Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah, the Islamist regime in Iran, the Mahdi Army, Al Qaeda—these are all part of an ideological movement: Islamic Totalitarianism. Although differing on some details and in tactics, all of these groups share the movement’s basic goal of enslaving the entire Middle East, and then the rest of the world, under a totalitarian regime ruled by Islamic law.
    “The totalitarians will use any means to achieve their goal—terrorism, if it proves effective; all-out war, if they can win; and politics, if it can bring them power over whole countries.
    “Bush’s forward strategy has helped usher in a new era in the Middle East: By its promotion of elections, it has paved the road for Islamists to grab political power and to ease into office with the air of legitimacy and without the cost of bombs or bullets. Naturally, totalitarians across the region are encouraged. They exhibit a renewed sense of confidence. The Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah war against Israel last summer is one major symptom of that confidence; another is Iran’s naked belligerence through insurgent proxies in Iraq, and its righteously defiant pursuit of nuclear technology.
    “The situation in the Middle East is worse for America today than it was in the wake of 9/11...”

    And worse too for the Middle East.
    Without a culture that values freedom and a constitutional structure that protects life and liberty, any nascent democracy is simply a hostage to whatever outrageous fortunes may sweep across a country, just as they did in the Weimar Germany of the 1930s. It seems clear enough that democracy alone is not enough to either preserve or introduce liberty and freedom, and it now seems abundantly clear that the strategists of the Bush Administration are entirely ignorant of that point - but it's also clear that they're not alone in that ignorance.
    Americans themselves will mostly tell you they live in a democracy, but in saying that they'd be wrong. The model of government introduced to America by its founding fathers was the most successful historic example of constitutional protections of liberty.
    America is not a democracy, it's a constitutional republic. For nearly one-hundred and fifty years the constitution introduced by the founding fathers and the enlightenment culture derived largely from sixteenth-century Britain between them provided the best protector for freedom the world in all its dark history had yet seen. It was a model introduced successfully in part to Japan after WWII, but all too sadly forgotten in the recent Middle East forays.
    No matter what you've heard, and no matter how many American strategists insist upon it, America's model of government is not a democracy. In fact, the founding fathers were assiduous in protecting liberty from the threat of unlimited majority rule that democracy delivers. What they did was put the things of importance beyond the vote, delivering to the world not a democracy but a constitutional republic. (Yes, I've repeated the point. It bears repeating.) The system of checks and balances of the United States Constitution was described by Ayn Rand as "the great American achievement." It is an achievement richly deserving of study, and (with some few modifications) of emulating.
    A nice summary of the workings of that successful Constitution is provided by a new course offered by the Ayn Rand Institute:

    “A Constitution is "[t]he system or body of fundamental principles according to
which a nation, state, or body politic is constituted and governed."
    “Paraphrasing Ayn Rand, a proper government protects men from criminals and
foreign invaders and provides for the settlement of disputes according to objective laws. A government, therefore, does three things: it makes laws (the legislative function), enforces them (the executive function) and runs law courts (the judicial function).
    The United States Constitution divides these functions into separate departments; this is the doctrine of separation of powers. It also divides governmental powers between the state and federal governments by enumerating the powers of the latter and by specific limitations on both. Thus, both the federal and the state governments have sufficient powers to secure rights and are limited in their ability to violate them.

    Simple but effective. Not democracy then but constitutional government - a constitution protecting essential liberties through a government constrained only to those protections. It's a model that failed states and would-be freedom fighters around the world would do well to understand and to emulate, as should those who unthinkingly parrot the idea that democracy alone is a saviour.
    It's not.

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Thanks for reading.  Here’s a Serge Gainsbourg song, ‘Lemon Incest’:

“The music is a Chopin air, but the lyrics are all Gainsbourg. . .” Most of your other questions about it will find answers here and here.  Most of them.

Himalayan meltdown [update]

The world’s warmists are melting down. 

Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick is pucked.

“Hide the decline” is no longer just a phrase used in Phil Jones’s emails—and the world and his wife are now hip to the legerdemain of Jones’s CRU.

And the UN’s IPCC—the scientific central planning unit to whom every warmist and his wet dream make obeisance—are now exposed as desperate, if not yet dateless: New Scientist magazine exposes the IPCC’s scientific credibility as something approaching zero.  Tim Blair rounds up the story:

Two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a benchmark report that was claimed to incorporate the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming. A central claim was the world’s glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.

In the past few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC’s 2007 report.

But that news story must itself have had some rigorous science behind it, right? Wrong:

It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

Still, Hasnain is a scientist, so he wouldn’t have just been offering idle speculation, would he? He would:

Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was “speculation” and was not supported by any formal research.

Yet surely the IPCC had the sense to review this claim and not overplay it? They didn’t:

When finally published, the IPCC report did give its source as the WWF study but went further, suggesting the likelihood of the glaciers melting was “very high”. The IPCC defines this as having a probability of greater than 90%.

The London Times summarises: “If confirmed it would be one of the most serious failures yet seen in climate research.” Which is saying something.

Hence Blair’s headline: Ice Remain, IPCC Melts

UPDATE: Poneke has a must-read post.  In real life, Poneke is (or was) one of the country’s top investigative journalists.  His post should really be gracing the pages of one of the country’s top investigative journals . . . if we had one.

Instead, here it is: 13 years of Climategate emails show tawdry manipulation of science by a powerful cabal at the heart of the global warming campaign.  Says he in introduction:

    “This is the longest and most important article I’ve yet written for this blog and I make no apology for its 4600 words — more also than in any newspaper article. As a journalist, I believe the Climategate emails have exposed one of the most significant news stories of the decade. As the mainstream news media has so far barely gone beyond giving those who wrote them and their supporters time and space to deny their undeniable contents, I present here an extensive journalistic account of what they actually say in the context of the dates and events in which they were written, with full links to all the emails.
    “Having now read all the Climategate emails, I can conclusively say they demonstrate a level of scientific chicanery of the most appalling kind that deserves the widest possible public exposure. . . ”

Poor William

When I was a kid I remember being forced to stand out beside the road from the airport as a car alleged to contain the Queen of England whistled past.  It must have been quite a sight. Thousands of small children and their teachers standing in ditches, fighting sunburn and waving small flags while holding up signs saying things like "Kia Ora Queenie." 

I don't think she read them.

PICT0196 How things have changed. Now, when the Queen's son shows up, only ten people manage to make it to the airport, and a reporter has to make some signs up to make it look like anyone cared.  And when the poor chap finally got to his home for the night, which happens to be next door, he had Dave Dobbyn inflicted on him.

It almost makes you feel sorry for the chap.

Still, at least his neighbours tried to make him feel at home by flying his family flag (right)*.  You have to make a Saxe-Coburg Gotha feel welcome, don’t you?

* Yes, that’s an Imperial German flag up there.  Up until 1917 today’s Windsors revelled in the surname Saxe-Coburg Gotha—making them about as German as a pickelhaube. Their  German name came from Victoria’s husband, Albert.  Their new English name came from one of their castles.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Strange O’Clock

“Interviewing” me yesterday, Jimmy Jangles asked a great question.

“Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever had a beer?”

I fear my own answers weren’t anywhere near strange enough. But I know you can do better.

So, what are some of the stranger places that you’ve ever had a beer?

Gore’s books cause warming in Britain

What’s the highest and best use of Al Gore’s books?  The Freedom Action organisation has a pretty shrewd idea:

Gore’s Books cause Warming in Britain
    “Washington, DC., January 8, 2009 – It has been reported in the London press that poor old-age pensioners are having to resort to buying books at thrift shops to burn to keep warm during the prolonged bitterly cold weather in the United Kingdom. In response to this humanitarian crisis,Freedom Action is calling on former Vice President Al Gore to join an effort to collect and airlift copies of his science fiction bestsellers to British people in dire need.
    “ ‘We are collecting copies of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Our Choice, and Earth in the Balance and will send them to Oxfam in the UK to distribute for free to vulnerable people trying to survive the cold weather,’ said Myron Ebell, Director of Freedom Action. ‘We call on Mr. Gore to co-operate in our effort to relieve human suffering by providing copies of his books for burning in stoves and fireplaces.’
    “ ‘It is appropriate that Al Gore’s books should be used to help keep poor people warm,’ Ebell explained, ‘since the principal reason the British government is totally unprepared to deal with the brutally cold weather is because they have fallen for the global warming myths propagated by Gore himself in his bestselling books. Burning Gore’s otherwise worthless books to keep people from freezing is their highest and best use.’ ”

Thanks to Owen McShane for spotting the story.

And not incidentally, if you’d like to than Owen for all his work with the Climate Science Coalition and elsewhere—and have a Great Day Out in the process—then why not join him on 28 February at The Great Day Out at the Farm.  The farm in question being Alan Gibbs’s—so if you get bored you can laugh at the sort of stuff con artists have got him to buy.

Friday’s Summer Six-Pack: Books, blogs and burghers

Six more delicious desserts from the Archives trolley here at NOT PC.  Seen any of these posts before?

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Warmists, lies, and 3000 deaths per day from malaria.

    Stop obsessing about global warming says the Neo-Jacobin, an obsession he says that "threatens to marginalize and overlook more pressing problems for humanity in the here and now – like, for example, the fight against malaria in Africa, and other Third World countries."

    “Environmentalists constantly bang on and on about forcing the most powerful leaders of the Western world to do this, that or the other, in order to ‘save us all from global warming’, but meanwhile in the real world, the body count for malaria in Africa alone is a million per year, and rising. What makes me really angry is that these deaths need not have occurred. In fact, all those death lead right back to earlier environmentalists political obsessions – the banning of pesticides [and in particular of DDT].”
    But, say warmists, global warming is itself exacerbating malaria! Isn't it? Well, says malaria scientist Paul Reiter in yesterday's International Herald Tribune, no it isn't. Not only is the self-claimed warmist consensus a "mirage," but the idea that warming is causing the disease to spread is what Reiter calls an "unsubstantiated claim." That's scientist-speak for "the bastards are lying."
The claim in the Blair Government's Stern Report, for example, "released with much fanfare in late October, predicted increases in temperature will produce up to 80 million new cases of malaria."
    “This claim relies on a single article that described a simplistic mathematical model that blithely ignored the most obvious reality: Most Africans already live in hot places where they get as many as 300 infective bites every year, though just one is enough. The glass is already full.”
    Here’s another “unsubstantiated claim,” one of many made by Al Bore in his movie An Inconvenient Truth, "which claims that Nairobi was established in a healthy place "above the mosquito line" but is now infested with mosquitoes because— naturally--of global warming." Notes Reiser:
    Gore's claim is deceitful on four counts. Nairobi was dangerously infested when it was founded; it was founded for a railway, not for health reasons; it is now fairly clear of malaria; and it has not become warmer.”

    In other words it's a lie, just like all the other warmist's lies. Says Reiter, "We have done the studies and challenged the alarmists, but they continue to ignore the facts."
    Ignoring the facts while ignoring real issues. That's so like a warmist, isn't it.

LINKS: Climate change in Africa? Fight malaria instead - A neo-Jacobin
Malaria is alive and well and killing more than 3000 African children every day - World Health Organisation
Dangers of disinformation - Paul Reiter, International Herald Tribune
Global warmist - Urban Dictionary
RELATED: Global Warming, Science, Health, Environment, Politics

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Extreme tree-huggers

If you're wondering what sort of people get so upset about exotic plantation pine forests being converted to productive dairy farms-- upset enough to do this, and this --  then here you have the answer; it's the sort of people who do this:

Morons.  Reminds me of this Nick Kim cartoon:


UPDATE:  Don’t laugh.  Jeff Perren reminds us that tree huggers grow up to be coal industry destroyers.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

NZ's 'independent' anti-nuclear stance

    nuclear-005 New Zealand has enjoyed few really prominent international moments in the sun -- the most celebrated by the chatterati is that 'glorious moment' in the mid-eighties when the country thumbed its collective nose at one of the world's superpowers: telling our ANZUS treaty partner and former ally the United States we wanted no more of its nuclear umbrella, and to go take a hike.
    New Zealand's  foreign policy turnabout was taken in the very midst of the Cold War -- it was celebrated then as a courageous sign of independence and is celebrated still as an outstanding and iconic example of New Zealand's vigorous and free-thinking independence.
    As we now discover, however, tt was nothing of the sort.  It was neither rational, nor independent.
    The knee-jerk anti-American, anti-science anti-nuclearism still infects the country's thinking today, to everyone's detriment.  And far from being an assertion of New Zealand's independence, an article by Trevor Loudon and Bernard Moran from Australia's National Observer magazine confirms the anti-nuclear position to have been a strategy cooked up in Moscow. 
    The 'peace movement' was the chosen trojan horse -- "We have many clever people in the Soviet Union," a local peace activist attending a course in Moscow on how to destabilise a country was told, "but no one has even been able to come up with a weapon potentially as powerful as the peace movement."  The stalking horses were three Labour MPs who still bestride the local political stage.
    That 'peace activist' quoted above was actually an SIS agent called John Van de Ven who was interviewed in 1990 by Loudon and Moran, upon whom they rely for their account.  Van de Ven was told by his tutors that then Soviet leader (and former KGB chief) Yuri Andropov had "initiated a strategy for taking a social democratic country out of the Western alliance, by utilising the 'correlation of forces' provided by the peace movement and the trade unions. New Zealand was given a high priority by the Soviets, for its strategic propaganda potential -- show the strategy worked here, and you demonstrated you could apply the same pressure to less distant dominoes like Denmark.
    The immediate  result of the strategy (and one still evident today) was the Soviet infiltration of the peace movement and the trade unions, and consequently of the left wing of the then Labour Government as well. As the late Tony Neary of the Electrical Workers Union related to an audience in 1987

    "In the New Zealand trade union movement, those who mutter about Reds under the beds must be joking. The Reds are already in the beds and have been there for some years. By now they are sitting up and getting breakfast brought in."

nuclear-001    The "Reds" were as thoroughly in charge of NZ's anti-nuclear groundswell in the seventies and eighties as they were of the US State Department in the thirties and forties.  The anti-nuclear legislation they brought about here knocked New Zealand permanently out of ANZUS and the western alliance, and it still paralyses both our relationship with the US and our ability to produce clean energy.
    Given its long-lasting and entirely negative results, it's as crucial to understand the mechanics of how it came about as it is to understand that those who learned this methodology are still about. In the Oxford Union debates David Lange famously shot back at a heckler that he could "smell the Uranium on his breath"; it remains unfortunate still that he couldn't smell the borscht on the breath of his foreign policy advisers, or didn't care that he did.
    If you want to understand how the Soviets made the local peace movement and the Labour Party their puppets, then read and digest 'The untold story behind New Zealand's ANZUS breakdown' from the National Observer.

Labels: Energy, History-Modern, History-Twentieth_Century, New Zealand, Politics-World, Socialism

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Books for a 21 year old

    A friend asked me to recommend four books to a twenty-one year old boy with a brain but few if any passions; an interest in science and how the world works, but little enthusiasm for really investigating it; and a reading ability that allows him to consume lots of reading matter, but of a type that is mostly of little substance and no challenge.
    I hit on the following list:

  • Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead opens up a world in which great passions are played out on a broad stage. More than one person has found that this book has given them a reason to live -- this scene on its own for many readers gives the inspiration it itself describes. Great for readers old and young, especially as an antidote to today's fashionable cynicism and too-cool-to-move languor.
  • The more analytical twenty-one year old might prefer to read Rand's Atlas Shrugged first. "Might" because Atlas touches the parts other novels don't even acknowledge, and explains how all those parts fit together to make the world move ... or not. An analytical brain looking for or needing inspiration should eat this up, as they will the adventure story that keeps building and rebuilding on itself. Magnificent fuel for a young fire needing a spark.
  • A teacher recommended Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon to me when I was just a teenager, and although I didn't read it until much later it would have fitted the teenaged me like a glove, as it should any youngster with even a passing interest in politics and idealism. This perfectly crafted novel proves, as Nat Hentoff famously described it, "that dishonest means irredeemably corrupt all ends, no matter how noble." And that doesn't just describe the Stalinism of the story, as we older ones soon come to realise.
  • If science fiction is already your youngster's bag, then Robert Heinlein's Time Enough for Love should be their introduction to adult science fiction. The long life of protagonist Lazarus Long and the struggle to give the old Lazarus meaning in that life allow Heinlein to muse rhapsodically on themes of life, death and sex, and what it all means for each of us.

So there you have it. Don't buy that twenty-one year old a book or CD voucher (they'd only waste it). Buy them something to introduce them to the life of an adult, and to show them it's all worth it.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

How to write a good blog post, #1: Use a sniper's rifle, not a shotgun

    Okay, for those who wanted it, here it is: my tired, ten-year-old advice on how to write a press release, nipped and tucked so it now advises how to write a good polemical blog post (see if you can spot the joins). Not every blog post is a polemic, but every poster of polemic blogs might find this useful. If you don't need it, don't read it.

    Want to be a libertarian blogger? Great!! Here's a few guidelines to help you put together your posts:
    Unlike this one, every good post needs a hook on which to hang your argument. A post is a seduction, and you have to seduce people into reading it, however you try and do it. The readers you want to seduce are busy people -- you have to find some means of giving them a way in by making it seem worth reading on. And then you have to make sure it is worth reading on.
     Most people won't read beyond the first paragraph (particularly if they're reading you on a news reader), so that opening paragraph must be provocative enough to grab the attention AND to make your point in one hit -- AND try and seduce them into reading further. Make that first paragraph count. That's as much as most people are going to know (or care) about what you think.
    If they want to read further, they probably want to know why you said what you said. Tell them - that's why second, and sometimes third, paragraphs were invented. Explain your position, and make those paragraphs count.
    Notice I said "second, and sometimes third, paragraphs"? Don't piss around. Your readers are busy people, and so are you.
    Press releases need the oxygen of timeliness to survive; not so much for blogs. Press releases make the news; blog posts generally comment on the news. So unlike press releases you can get something off your chest even a week or more later -- a great way to relieve that blood pressure. But a week or so later you have to have something to say that hasn't already been said - and most people's minds were already made up on Day One.
    A good post uses a sniper's rifle rather than a shotgun - it has ONE strong point rather than several, and it doesn't spray its load around: it shoots straight for its target. (If you do have two points to make on a subject, then write two posts.  Or link them.)
    On a similar point: no flab. Put your posts on a diet. If a post was a muesli -- a bit of a stretch, I know -- then it needs lots of sultanas, and bugger-all bran. Too much filler and too many filling words and you're on your way to sounding like a Hubbard's cereal. Edit your posts, with brevity being the virtue prized above all, clarity being second.
    Every post is a missionary, trying to change the world, but each one goes out on its own, without you hanging around to explain what you meant by it all. Before pressing 'publish,' read it through as if you're an intelligent reader without any clue what you're talking about. How does it sound to them? If it sounds like you don't have a clue, then you have more work to do.
    Invite the reader to form your conclusions for you. If for example you're going to insult someone, by the time you've given all your reasons for despising somone your insult should just be the logical conclusion -- your reader should be able to join you in agreeing.
    Argue forcefully. If you don't appear to believe what you're talking about, then why the hell should your reader?
    If they've read all the way to the end, your reader will want to know why they bothered. So leave them a moral. "It's enough to make you vote Libertarianz" is an obvious one. "Politicians are scum," is another. “Need does not create an entitlement,” goes deeper. Whatever it is, try to leave the reader some quotable one liner to remember, one that sums up what you just said.
    And finally, if you want to use words like 'vermin,' 'scum,' 'maggot,' and so on, then just go right ahead. If you don't, your comments section will soon be filled with them anyway -- best you get in first. :-)
    And if people complain then just remember Oscar Wilde’s advice: the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.  And if you don’t want to be talked about, then what are you blogging for?

Hope that helps you. Go to it!! And as my footie coach used to say: Do as I say, not as I do.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Burgher - Rodin

One of the magnificent 'Burghers of Calais' group, by Auguste Rodin, that I used to love spending time with in a park just south of Westminster.
TAGS: Art, Sculpture

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Thanks for reading.  As your reward, here are three great guitarists. The John Butler Trio:

The great Joe Pass:

And the immortal Django Reinhardt:

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Google Shrugged

From Liberty Scott:

Google says no to the Communist Party of China
    “. . .  the announcement by Google that it will pull out of China unless it can provide a free open uncensored service is astonishing. It has justified it on the grounds that there have been hacking attempts at Gmail accounts from China, and presumably it has little recourse to the Chinese authorities to prosecute this. However, it is a brave move in the country that has now got the largest number of internet users in the world.
    “Google has apparently stopped censoring google.cn, which must be causing great angst amongst the Chinese government and the Communist Party. Previously censored articles and images of Tiananmen Square, critiques of Mao Tse Tung and support for Chinese dissidents, Taiwan and indeed much porn will now be easily accessible.
    “More important than that, Google has let all users in China know of its policy. It has called upon the 300 million or so Chinese internet users to note what their government is doing . . .   kudos to Google. It [has] declared its hand as being the search engine for a free world, it [has] shown how a private company can frighten the world's largest authoritarian government . . .”

Go Google.  Perhaps they’ve learned something from last year’s Tea Parties about saying “no” to government goons?

MACHINE OF THE DAY: Inflatable jacks—perfect for earthquake rescue

Our ‘machine of the day’ today has to be the amazing rescue air bag. An inflatable jack.  So simple, yet such an effective way to rescue people trapped under wrecked cars or buried under tons of rubble.

Just like they are in Haiti (where the only good news today is that their tax office now lies in ruins).


capt_photo_1263417015962-1-0 It’s especially effective if a building’s floors have “pancaked”--when the columns collapse in a quake, and the floors fall, sickeningly, in sequence, one on top of another.  With people trapped in between. Just like that pile of rubble on the right that used to be a six-storey building.

But you’re no less trapped under the one below.


capt_eef7439a8ab54a728e1d6f634dc6dc67_aptopix_haiti_earthquake_xra110 Instead of using your regular hydraulic or scissors jack to lift the rubble (with their point-loads and inherent instability0 or the agony of hacking through layers rubble with pick and hammer, these inflatable babies can be slid underneath and inside the layers and easily inflated: safely spreading the load as they lift so they don’t  disturb the debris any father, or set up dangerous new load paths to endanger other folk who are trapped. 

You can lift gently, simply, and always be controlled and stable—even during aftershocks.  The bag is always its own “safety mat.”

Brilliant!  The mind’s ingenuity applied to the rescue of human life.

I hope there are truck loads of ‘em on their way to Haiti right now.

NB: I can’t finds any clips showing the inflatable jacks in use in earthquake rescues.  I guess everybody’s always too busy.  But here’s a few clips showing ‘the power of the bag’ for lifting vehicles.  You’ll have to extrapolate.


As you see, they come in all sizes, large and small. And they can be used so delicately, they’re just the thing for moving your Polaris rocket:


SUMMER SIX PACK: Breakfast with some masters—and a villain!

Another six-pack of posts from my blog archives  for your summer reading pleasure. Enjoy!

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Friday, June 17, 2005

The miracle of breakfast

_quote There'll never be a perfect breakfast eaten until some man
grows arms long enough to stretch down to New Orleans
for his coffee and over to Norfolk for his rolls, and reaches up
to Vermont and digs a slice of butter out of a spring-house, and
then turns over a beehive close to a white clover patch
out in Indiana for the rest. Then he'd come pretty close to
making a meal on the amber that the gods
eat on Mount Olympia.”
- O. Henry

    Of course, O. Henry wrote those words nearly a century ago, and even then was writing them with a bit of a wink. We need neither long arms nor a big breakfast table to feast on this breakfast of the gods -- we enjoy it now, as O. Henry did then. All that's needed is the division of labour and the freedom to trade; the long arms and 'invisible hand' of the market do the rest.
    As Adam Smith said, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest." The butcher, the brewer and the baker "direct [their] industry in such a manner as [their] produce may be of the greatest value," and we are the beneficiaries of their labours -- each "intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention."
    There's nothing miraculous about Smith's 'invisible hand,' it is simply the recognition that when each producer trades the fruits of their labour, they each win by that trade. In the words of the economists, when I trade my apples for my neighbour's oranges to the goods are moved from 'lower value' to a 'higher value'; that is, I value the oranges more than my apples, and my neighbour values my apples more than his oranges.
    The sum result of this and every voluntary trade is that both traders win - everyone kicks a goal! -- and from each trade new wealth is created thereby: the economy is greater for the sum of the higher values achieved, and my breakfast table is richer by some freshly squeezed orange juice. The same is true when I pay for butter from Vermont to be brought to my breakfast table: the chain of trades necessarily increases the wealth of all involved.
    Frederic Bastiat identified the miracle himself when observing that sleeping Parisians worried not about their next breakfast:

    “On coming to Paris for a visit, I said to myself: Here are a million human beings who would all die in a few days if supplies of all sorts did not flow into this great metropolis. It staggers the imagination to try to comprehend the vast multiplicity of objects that must pass through its gates tomorrow, if its inhabitants are to be preserved from the horrors of famine, insurrection, and pillage. And yet all are sleeping peacefully at this moment, without being disturbed for a single instant by the idea of so frightful a prospect. On the other hand, eighty departments have worked today, without cooperative planning or mutual arrangements, to keep Paris supplied. How does each succeeding day manage to bring to this gigantic market just what is necessary - neither too much nor too little?”

     Bastiat of course knew the answer to this seemingly complex puzzle: what ensures that Paris is fed is freedom. More specifically, the freedom of every individual to think, choose, act, produce and to trade his produce with other individuals. By working to satisfy his own needs and wants, the free individual produces new values, and makes life better for all of us who have ourselves produced something to trade with him.
    The 'miracle of breakfast' is that it is really no miracle at all. It is the fruit of freedom.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

“Drug use is not a victimless crime”

    "Drug use is not a victimless crime" argued a friend recently. Drug users harm themselves and other people too, said my friend; they are all victims.
    Well, as I've explained before, yes it is a victimless crime. Drug use may well make of the user a 'victim,' but as long as nobody initiates force against another, no crime is involved. As I explain here, a crime is when somebody does initiates force, or its derivative fraud, against someone else:
    Cue Card Libertarianism – Force
    In fact, that's what moral governments are set up for: not to protect us against ourselves, but to offer protection for each of us against the initiation of force by others. This gives us the 'moral space' in which to live our own lives in our own chosen way, as I point out here:
    Cue Card Libertarianism – Government
    Being free gives no guarantee of success. Freedom means we are free to succeed, and also free to fuck up. 'Free to get it right' means you must also be free to make mistakes. And being free means we must take responsibility for our actions and our mistakes, as I argue here:
    In Dreams Begins Responsibility
So if you want freedom for yourself to win or to fail, then you must accept that same freedom for others too, which means you must accept freedom right across the board. You may disagree with another person's choice of recreational activity, but you are not morally entitled to bring down the weight of government force against them just for that.
    Freedom is not something that you can cherry-pick; not something from which you can pick or choose according to your own prejudices; freedom is indivisible: allow a government to take freedom over here, and you have given it the power to also take freedom over there. Pretty soon freedom becomes challenged and tied up in all directions, and big government gets biggerand better at tying us up. By athat standard, any man's battle for his own freedom is our own battle too.
    So a 'victimless crime' is one in which no force has been initiated against anyone else. If you choose to inflict harm against yourself that's your business. ~If~ you do. Drug use is a victimless crime--the classic textbook example of a victimless crime-- as I say here:
    Cue Card Libertarianism – Drugs
    Further, in the present environment of prohibition, it's no accident that organised crime and petty crime is intertwined, nor that organised crime is heavily involved with providing something that is illegal.
    It's interesting that people such as Eddie Ellison, former head of the Scotland Yard Drug Squad, says he and many other British policemen have now come to the conclusion that practical policing means that drugs should be made legal. Making them legal, says Eddie and other practical policemen like him, removes drug profits and the control of drug quality from criminals and corrupt policemen, and slashes the costs enormously -- removing the need to steal to pay for drugs, and removing the criminal connection between drug supply and drug use.
    Removing drug laws from the books means police can concentrate on protecting you and me from real crimes that ~do~ involve the initiation of force, instead of spending time, energy and effort on people committing 'crimes' only against themselves -- 'crimes' which are never going to stop: If it's not possible to keep drugs out of prison, then how in hell are you going to keep them out of people's home?
    Frankly, too many people have a blind spot on this subject. Admit it. You do. Arguing for legalisation of drugs is not an endorsement of consuming drugs, any more that arguing for freedom of religion is endorsing going to church. It's simply arguing for freedom.
    People will still say, "don't expect me to be happy paying for other people's lifestyle choices."  Neither should any of us be made to, and there perhaps is the nub. None of us should be paying for the lifestyle choices of drug users, but nor should we for the lifestyle choices of racing-car drivers, skydivers, alcoholics, left-wing academics, people who eat too many pies or church-goers. The problem here is not with drug use per se, nor with the misunderstanding of victimless crimes: the problem lies in the ethic and existence of the welfare state, which demands that you do pay for the lifestyle choices of others.
     When I hear the objectors to drugs call for the demise of the welfare state, I'll know they've understood the issue.
   Here's the crux of it all: As long as people are using drugs without initiating force against anyone else and they're taking responsibility for their actions, then what they do is entirely their business. It's not yours. It's not mine. And it's not the business of Jim Anderton or any other Drug Czar either.
If users or suppliers ~do~ initiate force, then they should be convicted for that, and without any bullshit about 'diminished responsibility' either. But convictions for crimes in which there is no physical coercion is a victimless crime. That ain't hypocrisy, that's the truth of it. Drug use is a victimless crime.
    So now let's let's translate the objection that my friend really has to legalising drugs. She says "Drug use is not a victimless crime," but what she really means is this: "I don't like drugs." Fine. Her business. I don't like Pink Floyd. But I don't demand that anyone write a law about it, nor do I ask for the criminalisation of otherwise law-abiding Pink Floyd users. There are many objections one can make about Pink Floyd users, but making them criminals is not a valid action.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Sometimes breast isn’t always best

    Liz Weatherly, a mother of three from Torbay, is spearheading an effort to have the Human Wrongs Act amended to protect women who breastfeed on other people's property from being asked not to. The petition follows in the path of much other legislation ensuring that that the views of property owners are ignored, so she has every chance of succeeding.
    Weatherly began her campaign when she was asked by an Auckland Early Childhood Centre  not to breastfeed her nearly-three-year-old at the centre without first discussing it with the centre's owners. Instead she removed her child from the school, waited a year and then called the Holmes Show, who she told she was "not after publicity."
    Yeah right. Don't mention the word 'grand-standing.'
    Ms Weatherly has never apparently heard of the word 'weaning' either, so perhaps I could point her towards it now. While there, might I suggest that Ms Weatherly and her supporters read and reflect on the independence of the child, and the concept of private property, and the nature of choice.
The rest of us can read this: 'Why doesn't she just use a baby's bottle?'

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tugendhat house - Mies van der Rohe

exterior1_v tugendhat-CRTugen1930deSandalo

045_0002    One of European modern architecture's early classics, this house was designed by Mies for for textile factory owner Fritz Tugendhat in Brno Czechoslovakia, 1928. 
    If it looks familiar, it's because so may of today's 'classics' are simply stylistic recyclings of Mies' early work—which were at their best were simply unstylish recyclings of much of Frank Lloyd Wright’s early Prairie Houses.
    The villa was seized from its Jewish owners Fritz and Greta Tugendhat by invading Germans in 1939, and was never returned to the family.


Labels: Architecture, History-Twentieth_Century, Mies Van Der Rohe

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Friday, September 26, 2008

'A System of Architectural Ornament' - Louis Sullivan


    "In these little masterpieces of poetic imagination,' said Frank Lloyd Wright in 1949 of Louis Sullivan's ornamental drawings produced around half-a-lifetime before, "the poet in him shines forth on the record as a free, independent spirit characteristic of the free of all time."

    “'Wright,' he would say [when Wright worked under Sullivan] concerning details which I was trying (as yet by instinct) to work with T-square and triangle ... 'bring it alive, man!  Make it live!'  He would sit down at my board for a moment, take the HB pencil from my hand and, sure enough, there it would be.  Alive!
    “... He did "make it live." 
    “...Say this greatest feature of his work was esoteric.  Is it any the less precious for that?
    “Do you realize that here, in his own way, is no body of culture evolving through centuries of time but a scheme and "style" of plastic expression which an individual working away in this poetry-crushing environment ... had made out of himself?  Here was a sentient individual who evoked the goddess whole civilizations strove in vain for centuries to win, and wooed her with this charming interior smile -- all on his own, in one lifetime too brief.
    “... Although seeming at time a nature-ism (his danger), the idea is there: of the thing not on it; and therefore Sullivanian self-expression contained the elements and prophesied organic architecture.  To look down on such efflorescence as mere "ornament" is disgraceful ignorance.  We do so because we have only known ornament as self-indulgent excrescence ignorantly applied to some surface as a mere prettification.  But with the master [Sullivan], "ornament" was like music; a matter of the soul...

    The ornament shown here comes from Sullivan's 1924 book, A System of Architectural Ornament, According with a Philosophy of Man's Powers.  Giles Phillips from MIT has a complete collection of the book's twenty plates, and a Flash presentation of the System based on a study of Sullivan's Guaranty Building (above) here at his website.

sullivan-plate-06 sullivan-plate-10 sullivan-plate-17

Labels: Architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

East Germany in East Auckland

    Back in the twenties when the villas and bungalows that many Aucklanders love so much were being flung up across Auckland, and town planning and zoning regulations were still just a twinkle in a busybody's eye, about that time a young Swiss poseur called Le Corbusier began promoting something he called the Radiant City. Here it is below.
    If you find 'radiant' the thought of row upon row of grey, unappealing concrete boxes full of bourgeois-proofed worker housing hovering above a barren and hostile landscape, then you'll find Corbusier's city is just the thing for you and your authoritarian worship -- and perhaps you should move to the former Soviet bloc where decidedly radiant bourgeois-proofed cities jam-packed full of this kind of wall-to-wall worker housing were thrown together, and into which people from Leipzig to Vladivostok were thrown. East Germany’s Halle-Neustadt shown below is an example of this appallingly inhospitable place -- ‘Hanoi’ as its residents
soon came to call it.
    Corbusier's 'radiant city' was also very popular with western planners after the war when zoning regulations and town planning took hold with a vengeance. The plans were never popular with the people who had to live in them however. The Pruitt Igoe housing complex in St Louis (below) was eventually blown up when it became apparent that like many 'brave-new-world' housing projects blowing up was actually the only solution for it.
    As the schemes for worker housing became increasingly uninhabitable, the plans for radiant cities drawn up by planners quietly began to be shelved, but the town planners themselves were harder to get rid of, and they began to look around for other pastures to pollute.
    Jane Jacobs pointed out in The Death and Life of American Cities that some of the places so hated by Corbu and the planning fraternity actually worked very well. The ‘mixed use’ of streets of terraced housing and brownstones in places like Manhattan she pointed out are very good places to live, with private houses often cheek by jowl with shops, cafes, and the like all an easy walk away. People choose to live in such places because they like them.
    So too with the explosion of the suburbs – people everywhere including NZ like living in their own house in the suburbs. But planners hate suburbs. Too bourgeois! And they never really understood Jane Jacobs. They drew up plans that zoned the hell out of everything, ensuring that ‘mixed-use’ became a dirty word, and restricted the density of suburban subdivisions, thus ensuring more of the sprawl they are so against.
    Planners hated suburbs all the more for the sprawl they themselves created. American suburbs are “a chaotic and depressing agglomeration of building covering enormous stretches of land,’ said, not a planner, but a book titled ‘The New Communist City’ produced by Moscow State University, whose graduates has designed Halle-Neustadt. Western planners agreed with those graduates, and bought into their “search for a future kind of residential building leading logically to high-density, mixed-use housing.”
    Thus was born a new movement called ‘Smart Growth’ that eager young planners have subscribed to in droves. Portland, Oregon is the home of this drivel, and as an eager young Portland planner told a reporter in the late sixties, "We got tired of protesting the Vietnam War, read Jane Jacobs, and decided to take over Portland." They did, and the city is only now beginning to recover.
    With the zeal of those for which there is only ‘one true way,’ smart-growth advocates gloss over Jacobs’s’ key point that choice is the key to what makes some places work and other places just suck, and they declared that everyone must live in the one true way prescribed by the planning profession. In Auckland we now have a document to ensure that everyone will.
    ‘Plan Change 6’ from the Auckland Regional Council sounds like it could have been written by that same team of Moscow State University graduates who built Halle-Neustadt, and it reads the same way. The document has been written with one eye on the Radiant City and the other on the public transport network that exists only in the heads of city planners.
    Under ‘Plan Change 6’ no growth or activities will be allowed outside the Metropolitan Urban Limits, or outside existing town centres without the express permission of ARC planners. None. Countryside living according to this document is “unsustainable” and “undermines public transport.” How they must hate people making choices for themselves! This provision is in essence a plan to end countryside living and to make rural New Zealand a National Park.
    Meanwhile, inside the Metropolitan Urban Limits plans are taking shape to force developers to build the slums of tomorrow. All development must take cognisance of the ARC’s plans for the public transport that doesn’t really exist and that few care to use. Minimum densities and minimum heights are prescribed for developments near transport ‘hubs.’ ‘Sprawl’ and private cars are the enemy, and gross intensification is the answer prescribed by the ARC planners.
    If you felt yourself wanting to Sieg Heil as you read all this then go right ahead – you’re on the right track with where it’s all heading.
    Under ‘Plan Change 6’ from the ARC, as the old joke goes, whatever is not illegal has become compulsory. Countryside living is to become banned; new suburbs discouraged; high density intensification the wave of the future. And the very villas and bungalows that are loved so much and were thrown up back before planning was born are now to be protected in heritage zones, even as council plans strive to ensure that such swathes of ‘unsustainable’ suburbia are never built again.
    And the choice of people to live where they want in the manner of their own choosing will once again be taken from them by the zealots of central planning.
    O brave new world! O worker housing! "Oh," as many Aucklanders might now be thinking, "My God!"

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

'The Homecoming Marine' (1945) - Norman Rockwell


    I must confess that I’m not an admirer of the paintings of Norman Rockwell, but I do admire the masterful analysis of art. Nick Provenzo's illuminating discussion of this Rockwell classic, of what seems at first glance just a simple naturalistic painting, is a signal lesson in how to begin analysing a figurative painting -- or any real artwork. It's first rate.
    The key is to understand that nothing in art is accidental -- the artist has chosen everything with some purpose in mind. Everything is intentional; it's the viewer's task to answer the why.

Labels: Art

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Thanks for reading.  Here’s two sisters singing Offenbach: