Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Fisking that “step change” [update 4]

It used to be called a “sea change.” Before that it was a “paradigm shift.” But all a “step change” really means is an admission that the way things are done isn’t working, so we have to try something new.

But is that really what Mr “I’m-Ambitious-For-New-Zealand” will be offering New Zealand this afternoon in his programme for the coming year?

To put it simply, the country’s businesses have been mired in shackles, knee-capped by nannying, and hamstrung by hefty taxes.  And John Boy’s solution to that is going to be  . . . well, don’t hold your breath. At a time when the world’s economy is still mired in the Great Recession and none of the old nostrums are working, it’s going to be more rules and new taxes and more of the same old, same old, isn’t it.

So not very hopeful at all, is it.

There are manifesto promises that haven’t been delivered, giving (as Lindsay Mitchell says about National’s welfare promises) “an opportunity to keep rolling them out as 'new' announcements.”  This is known as spin.

And there are manifesto promises that were never going to be delivered, like those manifesto promises to cut back the nanny state, which it’s now clear you’ll never see from these boys, and to give you big tax cuts—which as you might recall as they’re rolled out this afternoon never ever came with the public advisory that any cuts you might see in your taxes will be balanced out by new ones.  So this must be known as lying.

So amidst a sea of broken promises and a morass of spin and froth, will anything proffered this afternoon bring a “step change”? Or a “paradigm shift”? Or will it just be a shift with the ‘f’ missing?  Let’s take a look this afternoon. Bernard Hickey, among others, will be live blogging the announcements as they come, and (as time permits) I’ll be fisking what I see.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE 1: Just clearing the decks here, setting the tone for this afternoon with these two quotes:

    1. "Taxes are the price we pay for civilization
      – Oliver Wendell Holmes
    2. Taxation is the price we pay for failing to build a civilized society, since taxation represents force.”
      Mark Skousen

Two competing worldviews, only one of which is correct.

Which one do you think will be taken out for a ride this afternoon?

Do you think anyone in that National caucus room, or anyone at all in the commentariat who is talking up all the new taxes, understands either the moral point above or the practical point made by Winston Churchill?

_quote We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is
like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”

UPDATE 2: Said John Key this morning: “I want to make sure that in my time in office I make a difference to making New Zealand a wealthier country, where our kids want to stay here.” So based on that standard . . .

UPDATE 3: As H.L. Mencken once observed,

    _quoteWhen a new source of taxation is found it never means, in practice, that
the old source is abandoned. It merely means that the politicians
have two ways of milking the taxpayer where they had one before."

It appears the National Party are following that course. We have another promise of income tax cuts; and with it we have the promise of a hike in GST.  We have some promise of tax relief, and the promise with it of extra spending.  We have a promise of welfare “reform,” but a clear signal that the middle-class welfare reform of Welfare For Working Families (which John Boy once called “communism by stealth”) will be untouched.

If we take those two views of civilisation above, it’s clear from some the “highlights” of John Boy’s speech which is the one of which they approve.

  • No plan to pay off the ever-increasing debt, perhaps by reducing govt spending, but more plans to spend more--and a hike in the only tax that everybody pays.
  • No Capital Gains or Land Tax, but some sort of Property Tax to sweep more people into the grey ones’ net. (Remember how they promised before the election to “force” property owners to build on undeveloped land?  Expect something along those lines.)
  • GST hiked to 15%, with some sort of change made to Income Tax to “compensate.”
  • No change to Welfare for For Working Families—and more taxpayers’ dollars thrown at welfare beneficiaries to “compensate” for the hike in GST.
  • No change to Welfare for For Working Families—but (somehow) will work out how to “compensate” WFF taxpayers on effective marginal tax rates of around 95% for the additional burden of the GST hike .
  • Will now pick winners in Research and Development and throw millions of taxpayers’ dollars around.
  • Will (somehow) free up mining and resource exploration.
  • Will throw billions more taxpayers’ dollars at Conservation to shut the Greens up about mining in Conservation land.
  • Will throw the Public Works Act at property owners getting in the way of infrastructure developments, especially those involving water storage and irrigation.
  • Will improve business’s access to capital, by doing whatever Mark Weldon says.
  • Will throw billions more taxpayers’ dollars at nationalised broadband and other infrastructure—over the next five years, that will be $25 billion plus cock-ups.
  • Will “reform” the welfare system to “get people back into work” (just as Lindsay Mitchell said they would), but will not be touching either the Minimum wage or Youth Rates, which are keeping so many people out of work.
  • Will thrown billions more dollars at education.
  • Says nothing at all about banning planners “ring-fencing” cities (thereby hiking up land prices) but will ban the “excessive proliferation” of liquor stores.

So much for “step change.” This looks like more of the same, only more so.

The fundamental point that must be said again and again was made by Henry Hazlitt:

    _quoteThe mounting burden of taxation not only undermines individual incentives to increased work and earnings, but in a score of ways discourages capital accumulation and distorts, unbalances, and shrinks production. Total real wealth and income is made smaller than it would otherwise be. On net balance there is more poverty rather than less."

Shuffling around that mounting burden does nothing for prosperity.  What is necessary is removing it.

A responsible government would have done that.

That they didn’t tells you precisely how “ambitious” they really are.

UPDATE 4: Comment around the traps on what was signalled as John Boy’s “most important speech since he entered Parliament in 2002”:

  • David Farrar gives it a B.  But he would have given it a B+ if they’d promised even more theft.
  • Phil Goff says “it’s Alan Bollard 1, John Key 0.”  Which is not far from the truth, really.
  • Bernard Hickey summarises the anti-climactic speech: “John Key has just sent Generations X and Y a clear message. Leave the country now.” But Bernard was hoping for swinging taxes on property owners. . .

Some quotable quotes for “Tax Reform” Day

Tax Reform.  It’s what you have when you don’t have real tax cuts—when you don’t bite the bullet and cut your spending to match.

    “Look, over there; it looks like a tax cut.”
    “And look, over there; there’s a tax hike to match.”

So another shuffling of deck chairs.  Another afternoon of spin.  Another day in which to think and meditate on the nature of taxation, whose “reform” is somehow supposed to make us all prosperous.  Somehow.

"To steal from one person is theft. To steal from many is taxation."
- Jeff Daiell

"I think coercive taxation is theft, and government has a moral duty to keep it to a minimum."
- former Massachusetts Governor William Weld

"See, when the Government spends money, it creates jobs; whereas when the money is left in the hands of Taxpayers, God only knows what they do with it. Bake it into pies, probably. Anything to avoid creating jobs."
- Dave Barry

“The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.”
- Jean Baptiste Colbert

"The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."
– Alexis De Tocqueville

“We shall tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect.”
- 'New Deal' luminary Harry Hopkins

"Most of the presidential candidates' economic packages involve 'tax breaks,' which is when the government, amid great fanfare, generously decides not to take quite so much of your income. In other words, these candidates are trying to buy your votes with your own money."
- Dave Barry

“Taxation is just a sophisticated way of demanding money with menaces.”
- Terry Pratchett

“For every benefit you receive a tax is levied.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"It's sad to realise that most citizens do not even notice the irony of being bribed with their own money."
- Anon.

"[There are dangers in] the disposition to hunt down rich men as if they were noxious beasts."
- Winston Churchill

"When Barbary Pirates demand a fee for allowing you to do business, it's called 'tribute money.' When the Mafia demands a fee for allowing you to do business, it's called 'the protection racket.' When the state demands a fee for allowing you to do business, it's called ‘sales tax’."
- Jeff Daiell

"Taxation is far greater an evil than theft. It is a form of slavery. If you cannot choose the disposition of your property, you are a slave. If you must ask permission to work, and/or pay involuntary tribute to anyone from your wages, you are a slave. If you are not allowed to dispose of your life (another way of defining money, since it represents portions of your time and effort, which is what your life is composed of) in the time, manner and amount of your choosing, you are a slave."
- Rick Tompkins

"The man who produces while others dispose of his product is a slave."
- Ayn Rand

“We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”
- Winston Churchill

"Taxation without representation is tyranny."
- James Otis

"Taxation WITH representation ain't so hot either."
- Gerald Barzan

"Our forefathers made one mistake. What they should have fought for was representation without taxation."
- Fletcher Knebel

"When a new source of taxation is found it never means, in practice, that the old source is abandoned. It merely means that the politicians have two ways of milking the taxpayer where they had one before."
- HL Mencken

"What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin."
- Mark Twain

"Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."
- Ronald Reagan

"Death and taxes are inevitable; at least death doesn't get worse every year."
- Unknown

"When more of the people's sustenance is exacted through the form of taxation than is necessary to meet the just obligations of government and expenses of its economical administration, such exaction becomes ruthless extortion and a violation of the fundamental principles of free government."
- former US President Grover Cleveland

"Rulers do not reduce taxes to be kind. Expediency and greed create high taxation, and normally it takes an impending catastrophe to bring it down."
- Charles Adams

"The mounting burden of taxation not only undermines individual incentives to increased work and earnings, but in a score of ways discourages capital accumulation and distorts, unbalances, and shrinks production. Total real wealth and income is made smaller than it would otherwise be. On net balance there is more poverty rather than less."
- Henry Hazlitt

"The poor of the world cannot be made rich by redistribution of wealth. Poverty can't be eliminated by punishing people who've escaped poverty, taking their money and giving it as a reward to people who have failed to escape."
- PJ O'Rourke

"A government with the policy to rob Peter to pay Paul can be assured of the support of Paul." - George Bernard Shaw

"Freedom is the quality of being free from the control of regulators and tax collectors. If I want to be free their control, I must not impose controls on others."
- Hans F. Sennholz

"There's only one way to kill capitalism--by taxes, taxes, and more taxes."
- Karl Marx

"The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation."
- Vladimir Lenin

"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."
- PJ O'Rourke

"A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves."
- Bertrand de Jouvenel

"The power to tax involves the power to destroy."
- former US Supreme Court Justice John Marshall

"Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed."
- Robert Heinlein

"Taxes are the sinews of the state."
- Cicero

"Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors, and miss."
- Robert Heinlein

‘Dem bones, ‘dem bones

_Beer More good health news for you: in addition to making you more intelligent, more charming, a better singer and a way better humorist, beer is also good for your boner.* Ahem, for your bones. True story:

    “A regular pint, it turns out, helps strengthen the bones and prevent fractures in old age. . .  The best beers for silicon are the pale malted ales and lagers."

Dr Shaun Holt has more.

* I bet you would have laughed your tits off if you’d just drunk your health tonic.

The Green Police [updated]

Audi’s Superbowl ads have got everybody talking. But they think this is going to sell Audis?


UPDATE: Joe Romm comments at the Climate Progress blog: “Worst (green) Superbowl commercial ever — or best?” he asks.

    _quote None of this means the commercial can’t or won’t be effective.
    “But I do wonder about an advertising strategy whereby you basically poke fun at (some exaggerated version of) the zealousness of your target audience and would-be customers — people who care about the environment.  And I’d say even more here because Audi isn’t perceived as a green car company, so they aren’t poking fun at themselves, a typically much safer strategy.  See more of Audi’s whole “Green Police” campaign here.
    “Of course, it’s possible Audi isn’t actually targeting people who actually care about the environment….”

UPDATE 2: Yes, that is an anteater . . .


“Let Me School You in My Austrian Perspective”

Remember this? 

Watch it again.

With no hyperbole at all, Cato says it “may be humanity’s greatest contribution to the fields of music, theater, and political economy all at once.”  And with no hyperbole whatsoever, I can say that it makes rap watchable, and good economics memorable.  And since being released into the wild just over three weeks ago, it’s pulled down over half-a-million views worldwide in just three weeks—that’s half-a-million views of some good economics, and growing.

If you want to know why it’s so good, then Jeffrey Tucker is your man. Let him school you in our Austrian perspective:

    _quote As with the classical music show on public radio that takes apart a symphony to explain "why it is great," I want to explain why this video is great. To begin with, the character depiction is fantastic. . .
    “Keynes is popular and beloved by all, promoting a high lifestyle, parties, and living it up — the future be damned. Hayek's personality here is more intellectual, sober, and even a bit puritanical, with a focus on reality and the long-term good.
    “The theme of the party animal vs. the sober economist continues throughout the story. The terms of the argument are laid out very clearly. Hayek says business cycles are caused by "low interest rates" born of intervention, whereas Keynes wants to blame "animal spirits" loose in a market crying out for management.
    “Keynes then gets his turn at explaining depression. It is caused by sticky wages and can only be cured by boosting aggregate demand through government spending and the printing press. He favors public works, war, and broken windows, warns against the liquidity trap, favors deficits, brags that he has changed the economics profession, and concludes, "Say it loud, say it proud, we're all Keynesians now!" All the while, the viewer is witness to wild antics of drunken partying.
Hayek-Keynes     “It is left to Hayek to restore reality to the discussion. He dismisses Keynes on the grounds that there is too much aggregation in his equations, which ignore human action and motivation. Hayek compares post-recession stimulus to drinking the "hair of the dog" to cure a hangover. He points out that there can be no prosperity without saving and investment, and he proceeds to school Keynes in the Austrian perspective.
    “He begins by changing the focus from the bust to the boom, which he regards as having planted the seeds of disaster. The boom starts with an expansion of credit. The new money is confused with real, loanable funds and is invested in new projects like housing construction.
    “But sufficient resources to complete these projects are lacking. They are malinvestments. The "grasping for resources reveals there's too few" and the boom turns to bust. As for the liquidity trap, that is only evidence of a broken banking system. The lesson: "You must save to invest, don't use the printing press."
    “This entire explanation takes place against the backdrop of Keynes trying to sleep off a hangover and then hurrying to the bathroom to throw up — the after-effects of partying the night before.
    “What Hayek is discussing in the video is his own theory of the structure of production. But note here that there is a structure of production working in the world of ideas too. The first pieces of the Austrian business-cycle theory were being put together 100 years ago, while Mises was working on his first book, which appeared in 1912.
    “Here we have the first treatise that puts together interest and production theory with the theory of money. Mises's main point is that central banking will end up causing more cycles, not fewer. Hayek followed up in the 1920s and 1930s with a series of studies on the topic. Later came Mises's own improvements in his 1949 book Human Action. Roger Garrison's studies in the 1990s provide some of the language that appears in the video. Still later, there is Jesus Huerta de Soto's book on economic cycles, which explains the role of fractional-reserve banking — a book that builds on insights from Rothbard from the 1960s.
    “What we see in this video, then, is the culmination of many threads of thought that began a century ago. That's a long and complex production structure for ideas, but it is precisely what is necessary to build a theory of this complexity that can be reduced to a rap video anyone can view and learn from.”

Great stuff. Send a copy to Bill English.

And for those who are after a more technical description of the debate and its consequences, get hold of John Cochrane & Fred Glahe’s The Hayek-Keynes Debate-Lessons for Current Business Cycle. You’ll see that nearly eighty years after their debate began, on every important point but one Hayek has been proved right, and Keynes wrong.

(Great stuff too. Send a copy to Alan Bollard.)

And that one point?

That the “animal spirits” of politicians, which Keynes understood, would always head for a high-spending agenda, no matter how big a hangover it causes in the long terms. 

That’s the same hangover we’re suffering right now—and however much they try to wriggle out of it, they’re too blame.

Hayek told them so nearly eighty years ago.  They just haven’t been listening.


Art Mini-Tutorial: ‘Zoom!’


The Punishment of Haman (detail) - Michelangelo

How does an artist create a three-dimensional figure on a two-dimensional canvas?  And a related question: how does an artist create movement in what is essentially a static medium?

    _quote The key [says artist Michael Newberry] is to re-create the physiological visual sense of movement by atmospheric spatial depth. In other words, give the viewer a sense of zooming through space.”

Check out his mini-tutorial on how artists use the technique of  ‘zoom’ to bring their two-dimensional works alive in the third dimension.



Sketch: ‘Olivia’ – Michael Newberry

Monday, 8 February 2010

The Gnomes of Canterbury put sophism to the sword

The Gnomes of Canterbury are back, putting economic sophism to the sword.

Brad Taylor,from the University of Canterbury, explains that Alan Bollard Doesn’t Understand Economics.  Some of us, of course, have always suspected that.  But Taylor has him cold:

    “Speaking on TVNZ’s Q+A programme yesterday, Alan Bollard said Australia had been ‘blessed by God sprinkling minerals’ and had handled its economy well. He said New Zealand would do better to make the most of the ‘crumbs that come off the Australian table.’

Responds Taylor to this patronising nonsense:

    _quote Bollard seems to be stuck in a materialist mindset when it comes to economic performance. While resource endowments do matter, assuming that New Zealand’s relative lack of minerals destines those living here to a permanently lower level of income than Australians is absurd. As the Taksforce points out, many high performing countries such as Taiwan and Ireland are extremely resource-poor. Many extremely poor African countries are also very rich in minerals. People become richer when the institutional environment allows them to cooperate for mutual advantage, not when there are lots of shiny things to take out of the ground.
    “New Zealand’s economic stagnation has nothing to do with resource endowments or commodity prices and everything to do with poor institutions.”

Round One to the Gnomes.

And you’ll remember that Paul Walker, also from the University of Canterbury, was last week taking on the Standardistas over their absurd claims that minimum wage laws have no effect on unemployment. In the comments thickets of the Sub-Standard’s posts, Paul explains clearly that they do—that setting labour rates above the market rate will quite obviously leave labour markets unable to clear, which is what the evidence clearly shows.  (Meanwhile his interlocutors do their very best to keep claiming black is white.)

That was Round Two.

And finally, in a series of articles Eric Crampton (also from the University of Canterbury) lays waste to the related and equally ludicrous claims of the Standardistas and other fellow travellers that putting an end to Youth Rates did nothing to affect youth unemployment. For a severe reality check on this absurdity, read Eric on:

And check out this graph, which tells most of his story:

I’ll let you guess for yourself when youth rates were abolished.

Looks like three rounds to the New Gnomes of Canterbury. Must be some goddamn strong stuff they put in the water down there!

And by the way, if you find it odd that the likes of Matt McCarten, Laila Harre and John Minto campaigned so hard to put young people out of work, which is what we can see they were doing, then I suggest you check your premises.  The reason they took on Youth Rates as a project once the voters kicked their Alliance party out of Parliament was that they wanted to radicalise a new generation of youngsters—and this was their best way in. The welfare of young people was never on their agenda—if it was they would reverse their campaign now the evidence is in.

But they won’t.  Of course they won’t. They would rather have one-quarter of young people unemployed and blaming capitalism for their plight than see them working productively and getting themselves on a career ladder.

Which tells you precisely what sort of “benefactors of humanity” they really are.

Thank goodness, then, that there are still folk about like the New Gnomes of Canterbury, whose mission it is to puncture the sophisms of the statists.  All power to their arms.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

GUEST POST: Gimme That Old Time Religion!

James S. Valliant's pictureA guest post here by James Valliant (right), who takes time out from writing his upcoming book on the historical Jesus to puncture another, not entirely unrelated myth: that civilisation is underpinned by Christianity.
Settle back for the full fifteen-minute argument.
[The essay, by the way, originally appeared
here at SOLO.]

On a discussion thread at SOLO, Lindsay Perigo cited an important quotation from Ayn Rand:

    "As a child, I saw a glimpse of the pre-World War I world, the last afterglow of the most radiant cultural atmosphere in human history. If one has glimpsed that kind of art--and wider: the possibility of that kind of culture--one is unable to be satisfied with anything less. I must emphasize that I am not speaking of concretes, nor of politics, nor of journalistic trivia, but of that period's 'sense of life.' Its art projected an overwhelming sense of intellectual freedom, of depth, i.e., concern with fundamental problems, of demanding standards, of inexhaustible originality, of unlimited possibilities and, above all, of profound respect for man. 
    “The existential atmosphere (which was then being destroyed by Europe's philosophical trends and political systems) still held a benevolence that would be incredible to the men of today, i.e., a smiling, confident good will of man to man, and of man to life. It is impossible for the young people of today to grasp the reality of man's higher potential and what scale of achievement it had reached in a rational (or semi-rational) culture. But I have seen it. I know that it was real, that it existed, that it is possible. It is that knowledge that I want to hold up to the sight of men--over the brief span of less than a century--before the barbarian curtain descends altogether (if it does) and the last memory of man's greatness vanishes in another Dark Ages."

One poster replied as follows:

    "The interesting thing about this to me is that this period of time which she clearly sees as the epoch of civilised man, was the last period where Christianity was universally accepted by all except those few who (mis)understood evolution. (More to follow on this...soon!)
    "It was also the last period before socialism came in to being. Although charity and altruism flourished.
    "It was also the time when money could be inherited without being taxed so heavily that it all but disappeared. This meant that many people could pursue their interests without regard to the gas bill (in the words of that rake, Lineberry), patronise artists so that they too did not need to worry about the gas bill and look after the truly poor and the ill.
    "This latter Dickensian aspect I note she ignores in her romanticism but, as far as people were concerned, there was a defined set of values that (almost) all European (Christian) people shared. This is what made this period so great. The history of the West is the history of Christianity. As Christianity declines, the greatness of the Western world follows."

For the moment, let's ignore the fact that the first rise of Christianity in Europe actually corresponded to the decline of Classical Civilization, and the fall of the Roman Empire, and consider her assertion about the 19th Century.

If Christians, in the name of their faith, did horrible things in the more remote past, had they simply misunderstood the Bible that they were poring over in such detail and with such devotion? Did they finally get clear on the meaning of their true doctrine only after the better part of two millennia?

In fact, the 19th Century was far, far less Christian than any of the previous 14 centuries had been in Europe, and the poster seems to have fallen for the recent attempts by contemporary Christians to deny their doctrine and their history.

The burning of thousands and thousands at the stake for no reason other than their heretical faith, the torturing of thousands and thousands more in order to get them to confess to any deviation from the Bible, the burning of books in the city square for being too "worldly," imprisoning scientists if they wrote something threatening to the Church's authority -- and all of it specifically, overtly and exclusively done in name of Christian "love" -- is all a matter of historical record. Can one seriously claim that the faith bears no responsibility whatever?

A religion that explicitly teaches enmity to worldly knowledge and worldly philosophy, with a Christ who suggested the existence of "mysteries" to be revealed only to the select inner few, is a religion at root hostile to reason and science.

The Bible itself has witches, e.g., Saul met the powerful witch of Endor, and ghosts, and angels and demons, and demonic possession, and revelatory visions of the "levels" of heaven, and most of that other stuff the poster later went on to deride as "pagan."

It's not just a crazy coincidence, of course, that Western science only got going again following the rediscovery of pre-Christian Greek ideas, starting with Aristotle's logic and climaxing in the restoration of the observational science of the ancient Ionians. Copernicus, for example, got his ideas about the earth and the sun from an ancient, pagan source, one that he suppressed upon publication.

Isn't it funny how those pagan Greeks seemed to have discovered science, but not those Divinely Chosen Jews, who, indeed, were fighting tooth and nail to keep the influence of Greek culture just as far away as possible. And, to this day, that is what Hanukkah actually celebrates.

But perhaps the most absurd example of this is the American conservative who is convinced that the U.S. Constitution and form of government are based directly on the ideas of the Judeo-Christian tradition. We are asked to believe that it took a mere 1,776 years of reading that darned Bible before any of those great and learned Christian scholars figured out its true political implications!

But scour the text of the Bible and you will not find any recommendation of political freedom or republicanism whatever. No, we are told to just "obey" the governmental "authorities" placed over us, because God has appointed them, by St. Paul himself, who likely wrote during the reign of the monster Nero(!) "Slaves obey your masters," St. Paul commands us in repeated passages (which were cited by slave-owners for centuries). Jesus commanded men to pay their taxes to Imperial Rome, and a Roman centurion, it seems, had more faith than any of Jesus's contemporary Jews, as Jesus himself declared. And tyrants like Louis XIV used the Bible to show that God intended a hereditary monarchy, like the line of King David. Why else would Jesus have had to be David's royal heir if this was not the divinely intended system?

Pre-Christian models of democracy from ancient Athens, and pre-Christian models of republicanism from ancient Rome -- i.e., a purely pagan tradition -- were the true models for America's Founding Fathers, who designed a state complete with two executive consuls, one with "veto" power, a Senate, a popular assembly, etc., etc. Just look at Washington, D.C.: it looks like ancient Athens or Rome, not a Gothic Cathedral, of course.

What about property rights and creating wealth? Christ taught folks not to worry about what they wore, what they ate, etc., and to avoid "storing up treasures" here on earth. Rather, he said, attend to the "Kingdom of Heaven" instead. Christ taught his disciples to hold all of their property communally, that it was (at least) tricky for a rich person to get into heaven, that the "rich young man" should give up all of his property if wanted to be saved, and that poverty was even a "blessing." St. Paul held the love of money to be the root of no less than all evil. And I could go on. In short, it is socialists, not capitalists, who have the much better argument for doctrinal support in the words of the Bible.

What about basic freedoms: speech, religion, etc.? These are not to be found in the Bible, either. And, if they had been there, in any way, then why was this never noticed by the Councils, saints and theologians who piously taught what they thought was good Biblical policy, century after century after century?

No, it was the horrible institution of Christian persecution, century after century, which inspired sensitive minds to first consider the idea of freedom of conscience, and, again, only with a good deal of philosophical help from those ancient, pagan sources, from Aristotle to Cicero -- and from natural law to the experience of the Spartacus slave rebellion.

Indeed, America's Founding Fathers refused to "render unto Caesar" (even a modest tea tax) and that was the very basis for their refusal to obey the "authorities placed over them by God," in direct disobedience to St. Paul. Many of those Framers thought slavery was evil, too, and it was this belief that provided the basis (e.g., see the Gettysburg Address) for later abolishing it. These men were not "peace makers" but war makers. They battled, not praised, the Imperial "centurions" of their own time. And they were not "meek" about it, either.

The principal author of America's Declaration of Independence, Jefferson, cut the miracles out of his own translation of the New Testament, and the author of the most popular and persuasive political text of the age, Paine, was an even more severe critic of the Bible, and an atheist. Ben Franklin was an Enlightenment scientist. American Founders taught that the pursuit of personal happiness and material wealth were virtuous.

Sexual repression is one the great legacies of Christianity, of course, but contemporary Christians have rewritten the text and their history here, too. Jesus praises those who "become eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake," and St. Paul advised celibacy for any Christian who could handle it (like himself). For the birth of Jesus to be "sinless" his mother must have been a virgin. Monastic and priestly vows of celibacy are well grounded in Biblical text. (Just as vows of poverty are.) And, of course, simply "lusting in your heart" (along with other thought crimes) is itself a sin! Now, where is all the contemporary blather about sex being "holy" in the actual text? Answer: it ain't there.

Only the most incredible game of mental Twister has converted in people's minds the New Testament into saying anything positive about sex whatever.

Racism has its Biblical authority, as well. Jews were to keep themselves racially pure as any reader of Ezra becomes oppressively aware. The very idea that God had a Chosen People, if even only a temporary basis, is racist, and, thus, so is the Mosaic Law itself. And when those Chosen had killed their own Messiah, as the New Testament asks us to believe, Christians then took to abusing them on the same racial basis.

The 19th Century which Rand praised actually begat many of the greatest threats to established religious opinion, certainly many of the greatest since the advent of Christianity itself: Darwin and evolution, women's rights, Biblical "form criticism," the discovery of a prehistoric world that long predated the generational calculations of the Old Testament, etc., etc., not to mention material comfort of the sort despised by Christ.

The Christian faith is founded on the older Jewish faith, and it was a savage one. A religion that sought racial purity once upon a time, one that fought any injection of that scientific, Hellenistic culture just as hard as it could, one that hoped for a monarch from their ancient line of hereditary kings, and one that slaughtered animals in order to appease their God (when its temple stood), like most of the other ancient faiths. And, before that, again, like other faiths, it almost certainly practiced human sacrifice. (Why should God have had to tell Abraham not to kill little boys,if the killing of little boys was not happening?) The Old Testament God also favored genocide on occasion, telling King Saul to slaughter the Amalekites, all the men, women, children, slaves, and even animals(!) When Saul failed to slaughter every living Amalekite and Amalekite beast, this was a sin of such magnitude that God took the throne away from Saul, and gave it to David, Saul's rival, and to David's descendants, like Jesus himself.

Thus, Jesus's ancestors owe their royal status to the fact that David's predecessor was not as assiduous in his genocide as God would've wanted!

Christians will often suggest that it was God who, through Moses, invented laws against murder, theft and perjury (see DeMille's intro to The Ten Commandments), when most other ancients also had forbidden these things, of course. They make it sound as if Jesus actually invented the Golden Rule, when others had stated it well before his alleged birth. They make it seem as if Jesus even invented love and compassion, when, of course, the models for this also long pre-dated Christianity.

Well, Jesus did give us a concept of forgiveness which would permit eternal rewards for murderers and despots who simply accepted him in their "hearts," and one that condemned to eternal punishment good people who had simply failed to accept a certain belief. Yes, we have a gun to our heads, it seems, just as Jesus declared repeatedly, for we must believe or be condemned to "the lake of eternal fire," and, as St,. Paul told us, "good works" will never earn you place in heaven. It simply cannot be earned by sinners such as we.

And, why? Adam and Eve sinned. Thus, all of their descendants, all of us, apparently deserve to die -- no, we deserve eternal torture -- because of the sin of distant ancestors. Sound fair? Okay, we get blamed for the sins of our distant ancestors, but, just as bad, our only hope is in the sacrifice of someone else, too.

Adam sins, you get punished. Jesus dies, you (might) get saved. Ask yourself what YOU did to merit forgiveness, or what YOU did deserve eternal torture, and you're barking up the wrong tree -- YOU don't matter. God is angered. God is appeased. (And like the common ancient practice of human and animal sacrifice, apparently it requires blood-sacrifice to appease this angry God, the mere belief in which conditions our salvation.)

No, your only role is to deny your own judgment and to accept without evidence, proof or logic, the epistemological blackmail offered. Believe or be condemned to eternal torments. Nice set up for a religious faith, right? (And don't tell me that Catholics are any different from others here, for Purgatory itself is open only to believers in good standing, as well.)

Your own eyes, your own mind, your own reasons do not matter, and the only basis for belief that we are given is the threat of damnation, pure and simple. You will search the Bible in vain for any Thomistic arguments for the existence of God, for there are none. And with or without them, one is expected to believe or be damned for all time.
Doesn't all of that sound fair and compassionate?

Christianity codifies a virulent hatred of life on earth every bit as savage as any other faith in history. Fortunately, this faith significantly and substantially weakened in the Enlightenment long enough for political freedom to be born and for science and industry to gain a foothold. Both science and freedom came about among European Christians despite the best efforts of pious Christians to prevent their development, and only on a foundation of pagan, pre-Christian ideas, and with conservative Christians fighting each and every step of the way.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Feb 6 Should be One-Law-For-All Day

IT’S WAITANGI DAY. FEBRUARY SIXTH. THE day that, traditionally, the country’s “founding document” is used as a club to beat each other over the head with.

A day that should be something to celebrate is instead widely seen as nothing but a national embarrassment. And no wonder. The traditional celebrations usually involve pictures being sent around the country of the Prime Minister (sometimes crying) holding Titewahai Harawira’s hand as wet T-shirts and clumps of earth are thrown around.  Celebrations, this year, in which arguments about flags and about journalists having to shell out to be allowed onto the Te Tii Marae conceal the deeper rumblings underneath.

Because this year the usual arguments are in quietus. They haven’t gone away. Oh no. But with John Key kissing up to the Maori Party, most of the professional grievance industry can now be found inside the tent pissing out instead of outside the tent pissing in--as they traditionally were. They’re all standing around expectantly waiting for John Key to throw stuff into their laps. Like the country’s beaches. But come next year if they haven’t been handed all the goodies they used to scream for (but now just demand quietly in back rooms) the noise will start once again.

And even if they’re given all they wanted, like Oliver Twist they’ll still be back asking for more, sir.  Such is the culture to which modern Treatyism has delivered us: one of separatism and race-based welfare—in which government is seen not as the referee in disputes between free individuals, but the great, all-encompassing deliverer of goodness (and the Browntable to whom the goodness is delivered, in the form of cash and goods and large tracts of the North and South Island, are sparing indeed when handing on the cash and goods and large tracts to those whom they claim to represent.)

What were three simple clauses written in haste by a British sea captain to bring British law to these islands has become one-hundred-and-seventy years later a charter for separatism (and an income to a ‘Browntable’ aristocracy). We don’t need that.  We simply need good law -- good colour-blind law. And that in fact was what the Treaty actually promised.

We don't need more nationalisation of land, of seabed or of foreshore—or demands from moochers for the unearned; we simply need a legal system in which what we do own is protected, in which real injustices can be proven swiftly and without great expense, and where justice can be done and be seen to be done.  That was what the Treaty actually made possible.

The disappointment is that the promise has not always been the reality.

Perhaps the greatest disappointment every Waitangi Day is to reflect that for all the time spent on Te Tiriti in New Zealand school rooms, there's so little understanding of what it means, nor of the context in which it was signed.  Teaching real history is no longer fashionable.  Teaching myths is.

Partnership? The Treaty was not about 'partnership' of the form now espoused -- neither word nor concept appeared in the document. It was not a Treaty offering permanent welfare to moochers, nor a tax-paid gravy train for looters.

In three short articles it simply offered the introduction of British law, and the rights and protections that were then protected by British law.  That was it. 

Biculturalism?  The Treaty that was agreed to talked neither about race nor culture.  Like British law itself at the time it was colourblind.  What it promised was not the politics of race but the same protection for everyone, regardless of race, creed or skin colour.

Would that today's law was so blind.

AT THE TIME IT WAS SIGNED, the context of British law really meant something.  By the middle of the nineteenth century, British law -- which included British common law -- was the best the world had yet seen.  It was what had made Britain rich, and what still makes the places where British law was introduced some of the most prosperous places in the world in which to live today. From the perspective of one-hundred-and-seventy years later, when individual rights and property rights are taken for granted even as they're slowly expunged, it's easy to take the framework and protection of British law for granted.  Looked at in the context of the history of human affairs however it was a tremendous achievement: the first time in which individual rights and property rights were recognised in law, and protected in a relatively simple and accessible framework.  Perhaps history's first truly objective legal system

The introduction of British law to the residents of these Shaky Isles at the bottom of the South Pacific, which at the the time were riven with inter-tribal warfare, was a boon -- and those who so eagerly signed knew that.  Their immediate perspective might have been short-term -- to forestall a feared annexation by France; to end inter-tribal violence; to secure territorial gains made in the most recent inter-tribal wars; to gain a foothold for trade -- but there's no doubt they had at least an inkling that life under British law promised greater peace than they’d previously enjoyed, and a much greater chance at prosperity.

"He iwi tahi tatou"
'He iwi tahi tatou.' We are now one people. So said Governor Hobson to Maori chieftains as they signed the Treaty that has become the source of so much division. But are we really 'one people'? Not really. No more than our ancestors were then. But nor are we two, three or fifty-four peoples -- do you have a people? -- and nor does it actually matter, since What Captain Hobson brought to New Zealand with the Treaty was British law (which then meant something) and Western Culture, which makes it possible to see one another not as 'peoples,' not as part of a tribe or a race, but each of us as sovereign individuals in our own right.

That was a good thing, and is one of the reasons that some of the most prosperous places in the world to live today are those who were also granted the boon of being run by British law.

But unfortunately, despite the colour-blind law, we still don't see each other as sovereign individuals so much, do we?   The tribalism is still there (albeit the warring parti4s now hurl lawyers at each other instead of spears) and the myth-making about 'partnership' and 'biculturalism' is just one way to avoid seeing it.

To be fair, the Treaty itself isn't much to see. What Hobson brought was not the founding document for a country but a hastily written document intended to forestall French attempts at dominion (and the Frank imposition of croissants and string bikinis), and which brought to New Zealand for the first time the concept of individualism, and the protection of property rights and of an objective rule of law.

    “The Treaty of Waitangi should be commemorated [says Lindsay Perigo] because it bestowed upon Maori the rights of British subjects, thus introducing the notion of individual freedom within the rule of law to gangs of tribal savages who hitherto had been cannibalising and enslaving each other. But it has become a de facto constitution in the absence of a formal one, a brief for which it is woefully inadequate,” argues Perigo.
    “The five-paragraph, three-point Treaty is silent on many matters with which a constitution must deal. Moreover, there are ongoing arguments about what it really meant and which version is authentic. The best thing to do is scrap it and start over.”

The five-paragraph, three-point Treaty was short, spare and to the point. It was silent on many matters with which a constitution must deal because what it relied upon was the context of British law as it then existed.   The Treaty's three short clauses promised little in themselves -- as everyone understood, the intent was to point to the wider context and say 'We're having that here.'  But that understanding is now clouded with invective, and the context of British law as it once was is no longer with us. 

British law is not what it was, and there's a meal ticket now in fomenting misunderstanding of what it once promised.

The Treaty signed one-hundred-and-seventy years ago today was not intended as the charter for separatism and grievance and the welfare gravy train that it has become - to repeat, it was intended no more and no less than to bring the protection of British law and the rights and privileges of British citizens to the residents of these islands -- residents of all colours.

That was the context that three simple clauses were intended to enunciate. And one-hundred-and-seventy years ago, the rights and privileges of British citizens actually meant something -- this was not a promise to protect the prevailing culture of tribalism (which had dominated pre-European New Zealand history and underpinned generations of inter-tribal conflict, and which the modern myth of 'partnership' still underpins), but a promise to protect individuals from each other; a promise to see Maoris not as part of a tribe, but as individuals in their own right; a promise to protect what individuals own and what they produce by their own efforts. That the promise is sometimes seen more in the breach than in the observance is no reason to spurn the attempt.

The Treaty helped to make New Zealand a better place for everyone. Especially those New Zealanders whom it liberated.

Life in New Zealand before the advent of the rule of law recognised neither right, nor privilege, nor even the concept of ownership. It was not the paradise of Rousseau's noble savage; force was the recognised rule du jour and the source of much barbarity (see for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand').  Indeed just a few short years before the Treaty was signed, savage inter-tribal warfare reigned, and much of New Zealand was found to be unpopulated following the fleeing of tribes before the muskets and savagery and cannibalism of other tribes.

Property in this war of all against all was not truly owned; instead, it was just something that was grabbed and held by one tribe, until it was later grabbed and held by another. To be blunt, life was brutish and it was short, just as it was in pre-Industrial Revolution Europe, and - let's face it -- it was largely due to the local culture that favoured conquest over peace and prosperity. As Thomas Sowell reminds us:

    "Cultures are not museum pieces. They are the working machinery of everyday life. Unlike objects of aesthetic contemplation, working machinery is judged by how well it works, compared to the alternatives."

Pre-European local culture was not working well for those within that culture. Let's be really blunt (and here I paraphrase from this article):

    “In the many years before the Treaty was signed, the scattered tribes occupying New Zealand lived in abject poverty, ignorance, and superstition -- not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included). The transfer of Western civilisation to these islands was one of the great cultural gifts in recorded history, affording Maori almost effortless access to centuries of European accomplishments in philosophy, science, technology, and government. As a result, today's Maori enjoy a capacity for generating health, wealth, and happiness that their Stone Age ancestors could never have conceived.”

Harsh, but true. And note those words before you hyperventilate: "not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included)."   Some one-hundred and fifty years before, the same boon was offered to the savage, dirt-poor Scottish tribesmen who were living then much as pre-Waitangi Maori were.  Within one-hundred years following the embrace of Western civilisation, Scotland was transformed and had became one of the centres of the Enlightenment.  Such was the cultural gift being offered.

The boon of Western Civilisation was being offered here in New Zealand not after conquest but for just a mess of pottage, and in return for the right of Westerners to settle here too. As Sir Apirana Ngata stated, "if you think these things are wrong, then blame your ancestors when they gave away their rights when they were strong" - giving the clue that 'right' to Ngata's ancestors, equated to 'strong' more than it did to 'right.'

Who 'owned' New Zealand?
It's said that Maori owned New Zealand before the Treaty was signed, and that while the 'shadow' of sovereignty was passed on, the substance remained.  This is nonsense.  Pre-European Maori never "owned" New Zealand in any sense, let alone in any meaningful sense of exercising either ownership or sovereignty over all of it. 

First of all, they had no concept at all of ownership by right; 'ownership' was not by right but  by force; it represented taonga that was taken by force and held by force -- just as long as they were able to be held (see again, for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand').  Witness for example the savage conflict over the prosperous lands of Tamaki Makaurau, over which generations of Kawerau, Nga Puhi, Ngati Whatua and others fought.  There was no recognition at any time that these lands were owned by a tribe by right -- they were only held as long as a tribe's might made holding them possible, and as long as the fighting necessary to retain them brought a greater benefit than it did to relinquish them (and by the early 1800s, with so much fighting to be done to hold them, all tribes gave up and left the land to bracken instead).

Second, even if the tribesmen and women had begun to develop the rudiments of the concept of ownership by right (the concept of ownership by right being relatively new even to 1840 Europeans) they didn't own all of the country -- they only 'owned' what they owned.  That is to say, what Maori possessed were the specific lands and fisheries and foreshore and seabed they occupied and farmed and fished and used.  This was never all of New Zealand, nor even most of New Zealand. The rest of it lay unowned, and unclaimed.  They only ‘owned’ what they owned

Third, prior to the arrival of Europeans, Maori did not even see themselves as 'one people'; the word 'Maori' simply meant 'normal,' as opposed to the somewhat abnormal outsiders who had now appeared with their crosses and muskets and strange written incantations. The tangata whenua saw themselves not as a homogeneous whole, but as members of various tribes.  This was not a nation, nor even a collection of warring tribes.  Apart from the Confederacy of United Tribes -- an ad hoc group who clubbed together in 1835 in a bid to reject expected overtures from the French -- there was no single sovereignty over pre-European New Zealand, no sovereign entity to cede sovereignty, and no way a whole country could be ceded by those who had never yet even laid claim to it in its entirety.

Our 'Founding Document'?
So the British came, and saw, and hung about a bit. The truth is that some of the best places in the world in which to live are those where the British once came, and saw, and then buggered off -- leaving behind them their (once) magnificent legal system, and the rudiments of Western Culture. See for example, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and of course (as noted in obituaries of former governor John Cowperthwaite) Hong Kong. We lucked out.

What the Treaty did do, for which we can all be thankful, was to bring British law to NZ at a time when British law was actually intended to protect the rights of British citizens, and it promised to extend that protection to all who lived here. For many and often differing reasons, that was what the chieftains signed up to.  To become British citizens, with all the rights and privileges thereof.

But as we’ve been at pains to day already, the Treaty itself was not a founding document. No, it wasn't. On its own, with just three simple articles and a brief introduction, there was just not enough there to make it a document that founds a nation. As a document it simply pointed to the superstructure of British law as it then was and said, 'let's have that down here on these islands in the South Pacific.'

The treaty's greatest promise was really in its bringing to these islands those rights and privileges that British citizens enjoyed by virtue of their then superb legal system; the protection of Pax Britannia when those rights and that protection meant something, and when British power saw protection of British rights as its sworn duty. The result of this blessing of relatively secure individual rights was the palpable blessings of relative peace, of increasing security, and of expanding prosperity.

Sadly, British jurisprudence no longer does see its duty that way, which means the legal context in which the Treaty was signed has changed enormously, and the blessings themselves are sometimes difficult to see. Law, both in Britain and here in NZ, now places welfarism and need above individualism and rights. That's the changing context that has given steam and power to the treaty-based gravy train, and allowed the Treaty and those who consume the Treaty's gravy to say it says something other than what is written in it.

The truly sad thing is that the Treaty relied on a context that no longer exists -- and the only way to restore that context, in my view, is with a new constitution that makes the original context explicit.  To restore the original legal context, and to improve upon it with a legal context that protects and reinforces an Objective rule of law -- as British law itself once did -- one that clarifies what in the Treaty was only vague or was barely put. And in doing so, of course, such a constitution would make the Treaty obsolete.

Thank goodness.

The Dream
Waitangi Day comes just two weeks after Martin Luther King Day. It might be worthwhile to remind ourselves of King's dream for the future of his own children:

    "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character..."
Perhaps we will one day celebrate that same dream down here -- not as a dream, but as reality.  Celebrating our national day not as a charter for grievance that continues to poison discussion, but instead with real joy.  Shaking off the gravy train of grievance, and celebrating that the colour of a man's skin is of no importance compared to the content of his character. 

Perhaps one day we will actually celebrate the birth of this great little country, instead of seeing its birthday as an annual source of conflict. Wouldn't that be something to celebrate?

* * * * *

Linked Articles: Unsure on foreshore: A Brash dismissal of Maori rights? - Not PC
Do you have a people? - Not PC
Property Rights: A Gift to Maori New Zealand - Peter Cresswell
What is Objective Law? - Harry Binswanger
No Apology to Indians - Thomas Bowden
Superseding the Treaty with something objective called "good law" - Not PC
All hail the Industrial Revolution - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Individualism - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Rights - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Need - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Welfarism - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Ethnicity - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Government - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism:Constitution - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Property - Not PC
A Constitution for New Freeland - The Free Radical

Friday, 5 February 2010

FRIDAY RAMBLE: Print ‘em out for the weekend [updated]

Time for another ramble through a few sites and sounds that caught my eye this week and last, beginning with . . .

  • . . . the shock news of the week for most NZers: Jobless rate rise shocks markets, puts back rate rises
        Of course, the revelation that the economy is still in the toilet and 276,000 NZers are out of work and looking for the start was only a shock for those who believed that GDP figures can tell you when you’re out of recession, and who thought we were. That we are. The fools.
      The big shock really should have been for the real morons who are still talking about hiking minimum wages at a time when minimum-wage laws should be abolished—abolished so that the labout market can clear. 
        Not for those morons any reflection on the news that “The increase in unemployment was particularly marked among youth, with the unemployment rate for 15 to 24 year olds rising 6.4 percentage points to reach 18.4 percent,” or that “the unemployment rate for Maori is 15.4 percent, for Pacific people it is 14 percent, while just 4.6 percent of the European ethnic group were unemployed.”  No, those same morons who refused to believe Paul Walker when he told them “minimum wages reduce employment of low-skilled workers” still refuse to believe the evidence in front of their own eyes—and continue to damn those low-skilled workers to being low-skilled non-workers instead.
        Morons, thy name is The Standard.
        Like Paul says, they need to be smacked with a textbook. Paul and Eric Crampton deliver a good first serve:
    Econ 101 and the minimum wage – ANTI DISMAL
    Posts on Minimum Wages – OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR
  • In fact, the high unemployment figures “are actually surprisingly low,”says Peter Osborne.
    Big Government = High Unemployment – Peter Osborne, LIBERTARIANZ
  • And I’ve been disparaging about John Key’s government imposing an Emisssions Tax Scam on us all, so what then about the declaration to which he’s finally signed up: “to take on a responsibility target for greenhouse gas emissions reductions of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, if there is a comprehensive global agreement” including both developed and developing countries.  Given that there isn’t a snowball’s chance in Hades of such an agreement being reached, does that just leave Australia “like a shag on a rock, boldly promising to slash emissions hard, regardless”? 
    In other words, have we been saved?
    Appendix I - Quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020. Annex: Parties – UNFCC
    Rudd leads world in climate stupidity – ANDREW BOLT
  • Herald columnist Jim Hopkins has purloined an unauthorised excerpt from IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri’s raunchy work of fiction.  And I’m not talking the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report here. It’s so hot it could melt a polar icecap. Here’s several inches of the inconvenient truth:
        “’Oh, sir, is that a hockey stick graph in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?’
        "’Both, my angel,’ he cried, as their lips crashed together like waves on a drowning atoll's shore.”

    Scientist's racy novel turns up the heat – JIM HOPKINS
  • “Waitangi weekend is a good to stop and appreciate what a deeply weird country we are,” says the Dim Post.  Best you go visit to see what he means. It’ll only take a minute.
    Jamais vu – DIM POST
  • “Some sectors of American culture have not gotten the message yet: [that] Ayn Rand was more than a grumpy ignoramus with no friends who couldn't write.” Latest evidence in chief, a tawdry hit job by Theodore Dalrymple, aka Anthony Daniels, well dissected by the Fun With Gravity blog.
    Why, oh why, do so many lies have to be told about Ayn Rand simply in order to smear her?
    Ayn Rand In The New Criterion – FUN WITH GRAVITY
  • 108229181_full When I was a kid I remember reading C.S. Forester’s Hornblower books (based on my father’s enthusiasm for them, as I recall), and had forgotten all about them until this week when a friend lent me the Hornblower mini-series on DVD.  I can unreservedly recommend it.  Heroic, courageous, tautly written and utterly uncynical—the books are faithfully transferred to the screen in as un-post-modern a production as you could hope to see.
    Hornblower on TRADEME
  • ( As a bonus, can you remember which American president committed a nomination speech blunder in which he called Hubert Horatio Hornblower “a great man who should have been President, who would have been one of the greatest Presidents in history.”? Answer here.)
  • The Cato Institute’s ‘Unbound’ blog has been examining Ayn Rand and her contribution this month.  “Ayn Rand has been dead for 27 years, but the influence of the iconoclastic novelist and philosopher shows no sign of flagging. . . The time would seem ripe, then, for a reappraisal of her ideas.”
    Sadly for that project however, wanting to do something is not the same as doing it. Perhaps they should have invited contributors who know a little more about their subject?
    What's Living & Dead in Ayn Rand's Moral & Political Thought – CATO UNBOUND
  • Put aside 40 minutes sometime this weekend to watch George Reisman offer a pro-free market program for economic recovery: the cause of the collapse, and its cure.  Sheer brilliance that everyone affected by the economic downturn needs to understand—which is to say, all of you.

_quote The issue is not slavery for a 'good' cause versus slavery
for a 'bad' cause; the issue is not dictatorship by  a 'good'
gang versus dictatorship by a 'bad' gang.
The issue is freedom versus dictatorship."


  • If stalking MPs is your thing, then your thing is going to be the new Watching Your MP website, which invites readers to post sightings of your employees out and about around the country. Lots of low-level stuff—Simon Bridges spotted in a Gull Service Station in Mt Maunganui—lots of odd sort of stuff—Paul Bennett spotted at the AC/DC concert in Wellington—but this has the potential to at least keep the MPs’ alibis honest.
    Watching Your MP
  • Bookmark this one for your Sunday reading and more: James Valliant takes on and demolishes the anti-historical notion that Christianity is what underpins civilisation; that “the history of the West is the history of Christianity”; and that “as Christianity declines, the greatness of the Western world follows."
    Bollocks, says Valliant.  But he says it masterfully.
    Gimme That Old Time Religion!SOLO
  • Nelson Mail-2A British man’s castle can’t be his home, poor bastard. Sayeth the bloody bureaucrats [Hat tip Roger W.]
    UK man's castle won't be his home, court says – YAHOO
  • Some more poor bastards here, on the right another example of the hard-heart of the welfare state: A German family who moved to Nelson looking for a new life, but who have lost their employment, have been told by Immigration to get the hell out, and (not being allowed to be citizens, or even residents) cant even get their tax money back, and are now reliant on donations to survive. Another example of the welfare state’s inhumanity to immigrantsThe Welfare State is a killer for open immigration, and a killer for many immigrants.
    Global crunch [and the NZ immigration department] upsets family dream – NELSON MAIL
    [PS: If you’d like to help this family out, email Janett at janett dot peter at gmx.net ]
  • Some people think those “dumb Chinese” are going to keep bankrolling America for ever.  How many times have you heard, on the one hand, that it doesn't make sense for China to keep buying US government debt, but on the other that they will keep right  on buying it?   Check your premises. [Hat tip Sovereign Life Blog]


  • Considering the many blunders that make up the rich tapestry of history, it would be a brave newspaper indeed that made up a list of history’s fifteen greatest mistakes.  Which is what the Telegraph has done.
    History's 15 great mistakes – TELEGRAPH
  • “Glenn Beck can be both illuminating and infuriating,”  says Brian Phillips. His latest infuriating populism?  Suggesting that that the states of the United States have a “right” to institute universal health care, hand out free cars, etc. if enough citizens of that state want such thing.
    Conservative Populism - HOUSTON PROPERTY RIGHTS
  • Here’s QI’s John Lloyd.  The write-up says “nature's mysteries meet tack-sharp wit in this hilarious, 10-minute mix of quips and fun lessons, as comedian, writer and TV man John Lloyd plucks at the substance of several things not seen.” Whatever the hell that means. There is a point, even if you can’t see it (and yes, that is a pun).

  • I betcha George Washington’s State of the Union would look a little different to the ObaMessiah’s.
    President George Washington's First State Of the Union Address – WORDS BY WOODS
  • Anybody else remember that great British TV programme Connections in which James Burke showed all sorts of exciting and frankly bizarre connections between great events, and great discoveries. John Drake remembers—including a special memory of a special episode discussing the connection between the ideas of philosopher Immanuel Kant and the career of Adolf Hitler, via a once-famous environmentalist. The story overlaps both these videos (the first of which starts, unfortunately, with a mistaken paean to mercantilism):

  • Tom Utley reckons Republicans could learn a lot from Ron Paul. See:
    Republicans could learn a lot from Ron Paul – IT’S MY BLOG
  • "How long before some of Cuba's laws are enacted under Obama?" wonders Sandi Trixx.
    Digging Che – SANDI TRIXX
  • I love Paul Hsieh’s little philosophical quiz. Three views on building a shelter; three on choosing what food to eat; three on knowledge; and three more on happiness. Can you spot the similarities?
    A Few Parallels From Shelter, Food, Epistemology, and HappinessNOODLE FOOD 
  • Hat tip for these last few, by the way, to this week’s Objectivist Blog Roundup over at Kelly’s place.
  • And a big hat tip to Jazz On The Tube for this historic Louis Armstrong performance recorded in Ghana.

Enjoy your weekend!