Friday, 19 February 2010

Friday morning ramble

Julian provides your regular Friday morning ramble today. PC will be back banging away on his keyboard next week, so you have a few days of respite before he returns to slay the looters and moochers, who, annoyingly, just don't go away. So sit back and enjoy the liberty-related news that came our way during the week.
  • Cactus Kate asks some fair questions: Is it possible for WINZ to “rip off its clients?” And “How can a beneficiary ever be a client at WINZ?" Not surprisingly, she has an opinion.
WINZ Rips Off Clients? – Cactus Kate
  • “Obama sees in a mirror only what other people see. He cannot be “free to be himself,” because he not only has no respect or “concern for facts, ideas, or work,” but he can have no self-respect….”
Obama the Pseudo-Narcissist  – Centre for the Advancement of Capitalism

  • The Adam Smith Institute gets a letter published in the Telegraph
Taxing the Sheriff of Nottingham will harm the poor 

  • Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Centre for Individual Rights critiques neoconservative foreign policy, exposes the real meaning of their vaunted patriotism, and argues that their policies will lead to failure in America’s war against Islamist totalitarians.
"It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself."  
- Thomas Jefferson 
  • It was tough being a global warmest this week. The truth can, at times, be, well, inconvenient. In an interview with the BBC’s Roger Harrabin, Professor Phil Jones, the warmest at the centre of the Climategate emails finally acknowledges that there has been no significant warming from 1998 to 2009, and that the science is not settled. 
The global warming emperor is scantily clad  – Watts Up With That?
  • We even saw Donald Trump call for Al Gore to be stripped of the Nobel Peace prize he was awarded for campaigning on climate change.
  • And this would come as no surprise to our North American readers but the data show that last week, the Northern-hemisphere snow extent was the second highest on record. According to Rutgers University Global Snow Lab, which has kept records continuously for the last 2,227 weeks, last week’s snow extent was only topped by that in the second week of February, 1978.
Northern hemisphere snow extent – Watts Up With That?

"Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place." 
 - Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850)
  • Peter Martin of The Sydney Morning Herald has the shocking details of the modus operandi of the thugs at the Australian tax office (ATO). “The Tax Office has been given a ''tick of approval'' to break into homes, cars and workplaces…[A] senate report found that the ATO conducted as many as 280,000 raids without warrants yearly.”
Taxman free to break in to homes -  Sydney Morning Herald [Hat tip: Money Morning]
    • Kris Sayce from Morning Money thinks that this report on what the ATO are up to should be the scoop of the month.  “…[G]overnment lovers will probably write to tell us it's appropriate as it makes sure "everyone pays their fair share." Whichever way you look at it, taxation is theft and this report by Peter Martin reveals the ATO is happy to use physical violence as well..."
    Kris Sayce comments on the ATO  Money Morning
    • Speaking of tax...

    • From Mangrove to Metropolis: In fewer than 200 years, an island was transformed from a swamp into one of the world's richest countries on a GDP/capita basis.  This island, Singapore, with no natural resources, chose to embrace Free Trade, and as the following Discovery Channel programme shows, this remains fundamental to its economic success. Who would have thought that freedom and prosperity were linked?

    [Hat Tip: Bastiat Society]
    • North Korea
    From the relative freedom of Singapore to the hell hole that is North Korea; “the most odious regime on earth by an incredibly long margin," as Liberty Scott puts it.  Not only is he right, but, as he points out, it gets all too little attention by the left inclined protest movement.  I guess it must be hard for them to see what their ideals look like when brought into reality
    Nevertheless, we don’t often get to see what existence is like for the human beings in that slave pen. Fortunately, the online broadcast network VBS recently travelled to North Korea and gave viewers a glimpse into a world where things are not exactly as they seem. In it, you will see some of the most bizarre footage. It is a portrait of a brainwashed society, of individuals without souls, and of life under a totalitarian regime
      Part 1: The vice guide to North Korea
      Part 2: The vice guide to North Korea
      Part 3: The vice guide to North Korea

      • And while PC is away, let's sneak in something to do with Apple....well...actually it's a new application for the iPhone called Square which turns your iPhone into a credit card. Quite possibly one of the best apps yet. 

      And that's it for another week. Thanks for reading and having us guest posters at your place this week. We hope you'll have us back some time. Have a great weekend.


      1. Peter:

        I beg to differ with your unequivocally positive assessment of Singapore. First, it was not a swamp 200 years ago. Instead, for over 800 years it has been a major trading and commerical hub located on one of the world's most vital sea lanes. Successive waves of immigration and colonialisation added both diversity as well as administrative depth to island life long before LKY showed up.

        Secondly, although Singapore thrives on trade, it is a not a free market economy but instead a state capitalist one. The state has its finger in 80% of productive activity (check out the portfolio of Temasek Holdings, which just happens to have the wife of the PM (LKY's son) as CEO). It has heavily subsidised public housing, food, transportation and health care, and state monopolies control all telecommunications. Business and labour groups, as well as most social organisations, are state-controlled. All menial labour, including the construction of those pretty skyscrapers, is done by ant hills of Tamil and Bangladeshi workers who are afforded little labor rights or occupational safety and work 12 hour shifts for less than SG$10/day. There is much more to this story of explotation, including the overt racial stratification and biases that permeate SG society, but suffice it to say that the picture is not one of unfettered freedom of choice.

        Which brings up the most onerous part of your description: the comment that SG is a bastion of "freedom." Although you subsequently qualify that remark in your comparison with North Korea, it is surprising that an astute observer like yourself would make such an erroneous characterisation. It may not be North Korea, but it is no utopia either.

        Instead, it would have been wise to note that SG is a one party authoritarian state, led by the People's Action Party (PAP) founded by LKY and now headed by his son (the current PM) and his cronies, with LKY still working as the power behind the throne at 80+ years of age. The regime has liberalised relative to the hard early days of 1965-80, and uses manipulated elections to legitimate its rule, but by no means is it "free." In fact, rights to expression and assembly are strictly controlled, and dissent is still punishable by prison (for locals) or deportation (for foreigners). It spends 6% of GDP on security and its internal security legislation is expansive and draconian.

        Although the majority accept the trade-off of voice and individual rights for material prosperity, that should not be confused with their being "free," or with their having a choice in their form of government.

        This is not to say that all is bad with SG--to the contrary, it is a shining example of modern political, social and economic engineering, which is still unfolding. But that has been done under authoritarian aegis where freedom has been sacrificed for prosperity, rather than run along with it.

        Rather than offer an objective account, the Discovery "doco" (made witht he assistance of the SG regime)just parrots the PAP official line (and in fact is shown every year during national day celebrations)

        I apologise for the length of the reply. But, as a current resident of the "little red dot," I could not allow the erroneous charcterisation to stand unchallenged.

      2. Pablo

        As noted at the top of the post, PC is away and so I wrote the weekly roundup. He wouldn't wish that I tarnish his reputation. :-)

        I don't disagree with what you say. But I don't think I said what you say I said. The context and specifics of my remarks (which to me were also reflected in the Discovery documentary) were on the role of trade, or more specifically, free trade in helping Singapore become one of the wealthiest nations in the world. This wealth generation clearly accelerated with the arrival of the British and British common law and the prosperity of Singapore today owes a lot to the economic environment that existed many years ago. I see this as probably analogous to the United States which is overtly statist these days but is still benefiting from an economic engine which was created during a time (i.e. 100 years ago) when their markets were significantly freer.

        But we certainly agree, the Singapore of today is not a free market, nor is it one of unfettered free choice. In fact, there are many aspects of it which are clearly anti-freedom and I join you in condemning such policies. I guess to use the term "freedom" to describe any country is particularly dangerous these days. I used the term "relative freedom" when comparing it to North Korea, maybe I would have been better to use the term "less enslaved".


      3. Julian: Apologies for the misidentification. I assumed the Friday ramble was PC's work.

        I like the term "less enslaved," although that may be a bit to harsh on the Singaporeans. "Restricted" or "limited" freedom might be the best compromise characterisation of the SG system.

      4. "Taxman free to break into homes"

        In any civilized country, the tax man breaking into your home would very quickly find one or more bullets lodged in inconvenient parts of his body...this is why they outlaw guns, of course...


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