Friday, 8 January 2010

It’s the first New Year’s Ramble [updated]

Happy New Year everyone.  I trust you’ve been having an enjoyable summer, and a great start to the year.  Here’s your first ramble for the year, some of the best liberty links around during this silly season.

  • The “stationary” Ady Gil was "rammed," say the Sea Shepherds. But it’s hard to be “stationary” when your boat has a wake. . .
  • The ACT Coup has been FaceBooked. Hilarious
  • Joke of the Day, 67 Years Ago, Explains Why We're Losing the War Against Islamist Totalitarianism Today
  • Ben Bernanke: Man of the Year, or 'A Deer in the Headlights'?
    'A Deer in the Headlights'
  • The central problem, say George Reisman & Robert Klein in Barron’s, is the central bank. “The Federal Reserve's easy-money madness must end.”
    Central Problem: the Central Bank
  • Harry Binswanger damns the two new AynRand biographies in a comment at the Volokh Conspiracy: I knew AynRand, he says, and she was nothing like the Ayn Rand in those two books. [hat tip Lindsay Perigo]
  • Binswanger also said as much in a letter to the New York Times back in November:
    ”Adam Kirsch’s review [of Ann Heller’s Rand bio] repeats a story from Bennett Cerf’s 1977 autobiography At Random about Rand’s response when Cerf asked her to cut Galt’s speech: ‘Would you cut the Bible?’ she supposedly said. When Cerf’s book came out, I asked Rand about the story. With obvious indignation, she replied, ‘I never said that — the Bible needs cutting.’
        “In general, the portrait of Rand contained in the review [and the bio] clashes dramatically with the Rand whom I first met in 1964 and with whom I was good friends in her final years. The Rand I knew was a unique combination of disciplined rationality and emotional intensity. Well, not completely unique: there are also the fictional heroes she created.”
  • "The Source and Nature of Rights (Part I)"
  • Bosch Fawstin reviews Avatar: "A good looking piece of shit."

  • Finally someone has a solution for that expensive eyesore Te Papa: "Blow it up and start again." It can’t happen too soon.

  • How come "It’s Always the End of the World as We Know It"? wonders Denis Dutton in the New York Times.

  • Can you beat the market? Can an Austrian would-be investor resist becoming a permabear? Calandro says "Yes you can!"

  • No better off since 2000? Neither was the US economy. Take a look at the US economy's lost decade:

  • If the monetary base has exploded (and it has) then how can the Fed possibly avoid explosive price inflation?
  • Meanwhile, in the Northern Hemisphere . . .
    ttm191901cc_rgb_onl_661678a [hat tip Inquiring Mind]
  • “Karl Rove is a damned hypocrite.” [hat tip Ari Armstrong]
  • Here’s some New Year’s Predictions you haven’t seen, but should have: the gathering economic storm clouds of 2010.
    New Year Predictions You Haven’t Seen
  • The Home Office sends an Open Letter to John Minto.
    An Open Letter to John Minto
  • “Reading Homer’s Odyssey … I came across a passage which I think is very indicative of the difference between the ancient Greeks’ attitudes and those of the (Plato-inspired) Christian ones which followed. The Classical Greeks thought of life as meaning life on this earth and were the first, and perhaps still the best, practitioners of a true mind-body integration. These fundamental attitudes are instrumental in explaining why the classical world was so culturally and materially successful, and why, when the Christians substituted the opposite approach, they ended up with a thousand years of stagnation and decline. . . ”
    Odysseus and Achilles
  • Our Australian Objectivist friend Prodos has a whole slate of great films organised for 2010 for the PRODOS Film Society (Melbourne, Australia). Great idea. Here's the full list (2 MB PDF file).
    PRODOS Film Society 2010 program
  • Here’s John Stossell on Ayn Rand’s relevance:
    Keep an eye out for Stossell’s Ayn Rand special, which should be appearing on the interweb soon.
              And finally, this poetic thought for you from the editors of the New Zealand Week:
              T'was the first week of new year
              and all through the house
              not a politician was stirring
              not even a louse.
              Enjoy your weekend!


              1. Ocean Commons need to be consigned to the dustbin. Everyone who cares about the environment should support privatisation of the ocean floor.

                Over fishing would become a thing of the past and hopefully whales would be left in peace.

              2. Yup, it turns out that the trimaran skipper managed to run down a 5 metre fishing skiff during a previous voyage. One of the fishermen died and the other ended up in hospital.

                If this guy is so concerned about doing the right and moral thing why didn't he sell the trimaran and support the family of the dead fisherman? Guatemalan widow and children- they'd have to be doing well in the two years since the collision and drowning.

                I guess rich white environmentalists don't like ethnic fishermen very much.


              3. I can't believe the Austrian Economists have renamed their blog. I view it every morning before work and now when I go in it is headed up 'Coordination Problem'.

                More like a branding problem now. Austrian linked one directly into what the site was about.

                The change of name is a moronic decision.

              4. Thanks PC. This issue really gets to me. Some idiot wrote somewhere "Why protest killing whales when people kill cows" or some such rubbish. Property rights just mean nothing.

                Decades of exploitation of fish and other marine creatures has devastated the biodiversity of the oceans. More and more govt regulation, subsidies and quotas has just hastened the devastation.

              5. Happy New Year, PC! Thanks for the link!

              6. I'm surprised you libertarians don't like the application of property rights to fishing.

                Quotas are property. They're just a way of applying property rights to fishing. The quota is a right to fish which is parcelled up and sold off to people who can then sell their quota, use their quota, or gamble their quota away in a poker game if they want to. It gives those in the market an incentive to keep the fishing industry going because they own a stake. If they overfish then their stake gets smaller fast.

                "Privatization of the sea floor" wouldn't work so well to stop overfishing, since big ocean fish are migratory.


              7. Icehawk

                You write, "Quotas are property. They're just a way of applying property rights to fishing."

                That's wrong. You are confusing the receipt of a government permission with private property. A grant of permission is not a right. They are not the same.

                Some questions:

                Who decides what the quota should be (which species of fish, how many, where, etc)?

                Who decides which party is the recipient of a quota?

                Who, then, has ultimate control of the "property"?

                Who gets payola for setting up and operating the quota system?

                What happens to a fisherman who decides to operate privately, homestead his fishing grounds independently of the government's powers and quotas?

                What right does an organisation have to set up and enforce an arbitrary system of quotas?

                Who grants the right of power to centrally plan and enforce quotas year on year?

                Consider this, quotas are to privatre property what central banks are to economic freedom.


              8. LGM:

                Your argument is silly.

                1) That the govt initially distributed the quotas is irrelevant: the govt initially parcelled up and surveyed 90% of the privately owned sections of land in NZ too.

                Property rights aren't simple, they're complex. My land has easements, I've a right of way over another section, etc.

                2) If a fisherman attempts to claim a bit of ocean as his patch, claiming property he doesn't own and ignoring the property rights of others, then he is doing something illegal and the courts will sort that out. Just like you can't simply put of stakes in a patch of Queen St, claim it's yours, and start building on it.

                3) What right does the govt have to run a quota system? Well, what right does the govt have to enforce property rights on real estate? Or patents? Or shares in companies?

                You seem to think that property rights are simple and obvious. They're not. Consider patents, for example, where the "property" owned is a concept - not to mention trademarks, without which modern commerce would completely break down. Not to mention the complexities of ownership of corporate bodies, which is really complex. The govt has a patent register, a companies register, etc, etc. Because our govt (aka the source of our laws) has decided that such property should exist.

                Property rights do not come from god. They come from a legal system. And the source of our laws is our goverment.


              9. The idea of sub-dividing the sea floor as private properties, for the purpose of fishing is silly and ridiculous.

                First, fish are migratory and mobile from place to place. One can tag them electronically, but still the fish will migrate out into someone else's property (ocean floor). Not only that, it would cost more to electronically tag the fish than to make a profit than to make profit from the fish stock.

                This is the same reason it is ridiculous to define property rights in regards to air/atmosphere that we breathe, since air molecules are migratory (diffusion). If a person in my neighbor is sick, perhaps suffering from some Infectious disease which is airborne, then I have no guaranteed protection against the disease, since there is a possibility of the disease being spread to my property (or others). The other option is to privatize the air/atmosphere, where one's emission/pollution/air-borne-diseases should be confined into one's own property. This is an impossible task, because one would have to tag the air molecules perhaps by radio-active labeling to differentiate them since 2 different CO2 molecule that originated from different properties such that one diffuses from property A and one diffuses from property B both into property C are completely indistinguishable.

                The same thing applies to pathogens. It is really hard to tell a type of bacteria that suddenly appeared in my property (assuming that the specific strain has never been found to occupy my property previously), whether it came from David’s property or from Mike's property, since these micro-organisms are indistinguishable. Unlike the cows, if one escaped from farm 'A' and wondered into farm 'B', the 2 owners would definitely able to identify who's the rightful owner of the animal (perhaps by some markings, etc,...). In this case the property is clearly identified. Besides, cows and pigs can be restrained easily, ie, they can be made to live in a restricted boundary of the property of the owner. Their nature is to be migratory in the wild, but not when they're being domesticated for the purpose of food, etc,...

                Fish, can be treated like cows, ie, mark them or identify them electronically, if they're to be left to wonder freely in an unrestrained ocean-floor which has been sub-divided, but that would be too costly to do and I doubt that even Bill Gates with his billions, he wouldn't want to spend such ridiculous amount of money to electronically tag his fish stock.

              10. [... Continue on ...]

                This is one issue that libertarians have overlooked, by saying that everything/space on the planet should be privatized, such as air molecules, particulates, fish (Ok, if it's a fish-farm because one can identify what belongs to him/her). I seriously doubt that privatizing roads would work, based on what I have just described above. We should be free (from coercion of others - states or individuals), but that doesn't mean that we can confine to our own space/property, because we (humans) are suppose to be mobile. I want to get from location A into location B, which I can use route C (owned by everyone/citizens, where the state's look after it). It is easy that a few owners of the roads around my neighborhoods will ban Falafulu from crossing their roads, even if we had a prior agreement to pay my way per my usages of those roads. When I want to use those to get to the beach, then I have no way of doing that simply because the road owners are disgusted with me continuing to cook dog umu (in my own place), unless of course I have my own helicopter to be able to get anywhere I want if I am being banned for the use of nearby roads.

                I am keen to argue on the principles of dynamical system theory (something I assumed that Ayn Rand, never thought about), that it is unlibertarians to privatize roads (because of restrictions that is going to impose on people's activities in their own property because road owners don't like what you do).

                I support privatizations of businesses and properties but not roads, ocean floor nor the atmosphere. The notion of privatizations look silly and absurd if they’re applied there.

              11. Peter: either I'm blind or there's no contact link on this blog. Anyway, I wanted to contact you because I thought that this might interest you:

                The Myth Of Public Property

                BTW, the audible captcha is truly awful - difficult with good hearing, impossible with anything less :)

              12. You are quite right LGM. With quotas there’s no private ownership of the underlying asset being used; only permission from a government agency to extract something from that asset. So a free-for-all ensues and companies have no incentive to care for the asset long-term.

                So what if fish are migratory. A relative of mine is a well known marine biologist - I'm certainly no expert - and one of the boring parts of his job is fish counting. In marine reserves owned by govt - let's say for arguments sake an example of exclusive ownership - the counts are far higher than in open water.

                The best example of the tragedy of commons occurs in the oceans. Why is it that we regularly hear about how we're running out of various species of fish, but we're always well stocked with beef, pork and poultry? The difference is that the latter are raised on dry land, where there are clear, discernible property rights. Radley Balko

              13. "Until this basic moral premise: is repudiated--that need generates an entitlement--then socialised govt will continue to grow."

                From your keyboard to the ear (and mind) of every voter in America! (I would say "every politician" but with rare exceptions they're too far gone to even hope for.)

              14. Thanks for all these links PC - there are some real gems in there.

                And thanks for linking to the Stossel special on Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand. Thoroughly enjoyed that - and I even thought that the audience questions were good, in that they allowed the guests to clarify and explain what Rand's philosophy actually advocates. John Allison is a real hero by the way!

              15. Icehawk

                You remain deeply in error.

                You write, "Property rights do not come from god. They come from a legal system. And the source of our laws is our goverment."

                Your fundamental premise is that property is derived from government. Government "(aka the source of our laws) has decided that such property should exist."
                That necessarily requires government be soverign above all individuals and that government exercise ultimate command over all property & resource. In effect, by controling the status, use and disposal of property, the government is the ultimate owner- the owner of final repose. What this means in practice is that individuals are granted permissions to occupy and use property according to government largess. The system of permissions is the antithesis of the Individual Right to private property.
                {It also has the unfortunate result that all individuals themselves become the property of the state- compulsory conscription for military service being an obvious example when the notion is reduced to practice.}

                Private property is not "that which can be legally owned." It is not derived from law or from government. Nor is private property derived from the granting of permissions from a government. It is properly derived from the Nature of Man and the recognition that he is individual and soverign, owning his own mind and body. It is derived from answering the question, "How should an individual properly treat other individuals?"

                It is recommended that you research the derivation of the Right to Private Property, what private property actually is, how these principles came to be developed and what premise must be recognised. The writings of Hans Herman-Hoppe are to be recommended, as are the works of Reisman, Von Mises (who is completely opposed to the idea that private property is derived from government), Peikoff and Rand. There are others as well, but these (in particular Hoppe) are a good start.

                It is to be strongly recommended that before you start excoriating libertarians about private property you actually have some knowledge about the subject.


                PS I asked you some simple, basic questions. An example was this one, "What happens to a fisherman who decides to operate privately, homestead his fishing grounds independently of the government's powers and quotas?"

                You answered, "If a fisherman attempts to claim a bit of ocean as his patch, claiming property he doesn't own and ignoring the property rights of others, then he is doing something illegal and the courts will sort that out. Just like you can't simply put of stakes in a patch of Queen St, claim it's yours, and start building on it."

                Either you evaded the question deliberately or you do not know what homesteading is.
                Hint: Homesteading does not involve claiming someone else's property.

                Again, it is to be recomended you find out about a subject before you comment in regards to it.

                PPS "Our government"? Not mine bucko. I don't own it and I have no control over its actions. It's more than likely that you don't either.

                PPPS Patents? A register of property? Risible.

              16. Ruth, the argument by environmentalists that overfishing will lead to extinction is ridiculous and nonsense. One can setup a fish-farm and farm a specific species of fish, there preserving that species from extinction.

                Political protests is something that Libertarians hold dear to their hearts. Imagine if our roads are privatized. I bet that the owners of Queen St, would allowed protesters to use it for their protest march. First it is disruptive to businesses located there and second, even the protest numbers are only in the tens (not disruptive), owners wouldn't allow crackpots such as John Minto to walk thru their privately owned road.

                Some may argue that road owners will allow protest marchers to use their roads, but that is a big big if. If that's the case, then your protest is being scheduled by the road owners. They may allow protests only at 12am (mid-night) so as not to disrupt businesses and traffic flow, etc, but then freedom of expression becomes conditional on the courtesy of the road owners (if they allow protests on their private road). IMO, freedom of speech (FOS) must not be subjected to any such conditions like that. It becomes meaningless in a democracy if FOS is conditional, afterall, this concept is what underpins western democracy.

                The argument that roads should be privatized based perhaps that residents of another city, say Wellington shouldn't have to pay for roads being built in Auckland, is a different argument all together. This is a valid argument, but that is not a good ground to privatize roads, because that issue can be addressed in a different way, such that aucklanders should only pay for roads build in Auckland and likewise other cities will do the same, but roads should just remain with public ownership.

              17. correction:

                ...allowed protesters to use it for their protest march.

                meant to say:

                ...not allowed protesters to use it for their protest march.


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