Saturday, February 06, 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.

Protection
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

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Friday, February 05, 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."

- AYN RAND

  • 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!

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Why the Treaty is Holding Us Back [update 4]

If morning TV is your thing, then why not take a look at TVNZ’s Marae programme tomorrow morning, on which from 8:00 to 8:30 a panel of four is debating the point: “The Treaty of Waitangi is Holding Back Our Nation.”  I don’t think I’m giving too much away by posting the opening remarks of my colleague Tim Wikiriwhi, one of four on the panel debating the point (the others are Stephen Franks, Matthew Hooton and Hana O’Regan, in front of an audience including John Minto and Matt & Madeleine Flannagan).

Why the Treaty is Holding Back the Nation
by Tim Wikiriwhi

    We should not be surprised that those who profit from Treaty separatism should be painting you a rosy picture of it.  But what do they really sell us?
    They hope you have forgotten about all the corruption; about all the grievous racial division their Treaty separatism has caused; about all the welfare dependence it fosters.
    They want you to believe the Treaty did not unite us as one people but kept us in eternal division.  They want you to accept their sexed-up version of the Treaty—their talk of “partnership,” which has become just another word for a hand out.
    They want you to forget all the anti-immigration and xenophobia-mongering—all the talk of “holocausts” and “post-colonial traumatic stress disorders”—all the damning of '”Tangata Tiriti” as if that makes them second-class citizens --all the racist slurs against non-Maori (against white mofos) by racist politicians occupying racist parliamentary seats.
    They hope you never question having such a racially perverted democracy—where a racist party sitting in racist seats gets to hold the balance of power—never question all the racially perverted laws.
    They hope New Zealanders have forgotten all the frauds, all the nepotism, all the misappropriations of taxpayers’ money, all the noses in the trough.
    They hope Pakeha never work out that land was confiscated from some tribes because they rebelled against the sovereignty of the Queen and the Treaty.
    They hope you have forgotten Tame Iti’s terrorist threat--how he was planning to kill white people; and how silent his comrades have been about what he was up to.
    Most of all, they hope you have forgotten that for a society to be just it must have laws that uphold the principle of equality before the law—especially racial equality before the law.
    They want you to continue to vote for unscrupulous Quislings like John Key who kiss up to Maori radicals and allow them unquestioningly to impose and expand their racist agenda.
    I consider it my duty to call the perpetrators of this massive political fraud to account.
    I call for the abolition of the Maori seats in Parliament, and a new constitution upholding property rights and the rule of law— that’s one law for all, regardless of race.

UPDATE 1: Matt & Madeleine give out awards.

UPDATE 4: And here’s what Stephen Franks prepared for his own Opening Statement.

"The real Treaty, the one signed 170 years ago was an asset to all New Zealanders, Maori and Pakeha. It was way ahead of its time.  The parties were hugely unequal. The British had only just abolished slavery. Maori of course had not. But it promised all equality before the law.”

Read on here.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

“Public confidence in the state sector has been damaged"

Mary Anne Thompson _2 The State Services Commission says "public confidence in the state sector has been damaged" by the admission of fraud by the former head of the  Immigration Service, Mary Anne Thompson.

Funny.  They say that like it's a bad thing.

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The cognitive dissonance of the main stream media [update 2]

“Cognitive dissonance” is defined as “a condition of conflict or anxiety resulting from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes, beliefs, or the like.”  Cartoonist Blunt suggests the rapid demise of the IPCC’s credibility is leading to something similar.

Sylvester-McMonkey-McBean

The reason for the angst? In summary, “the utterly baseless case for ‘global warming’ is melting a lot faster than the glaciers in India’s Himalayas which, by the way, are not melting.”  And after years of carrying water for the IPCC Team, even CNN is finally reporting on the collapse of warmist make-believe—or in their own words, “how recent scientific scandals are impacting the debate on climate change.” 

    “In just a few months [says CNN] the global view of climate change has changed dramatically.” 

Very true. (Keep up with the almost hourly revelations at Climate Depot and Watts Up With That)

It’s great fun to watch the whole thing unravelling. Frankly,   The mainstream media are finally realising they’ve been treated like fools by The Team—and there’s none so furious as a journalist scorned.

UPDATE 1: The Australian visit by the ever-polite Christopher Monckton is setting a cat amongst the warmists’ pigeons, exposing many supposed idealists as “often disguised haters and totalitarians.” Here are the ABC’s Joe O’Brien and Virginia Trioli doing their best to ignore the litany of bent and exploded warmist science he cites.

Here he is on ABC Radio.

And here he is as part of a climate debate in Brisbane.

 

UPDATE 2:  Beleaguered IPCC head Rajenda Patchauri sticks two fingers up at his critics and says those who attack him “are people who say that asbestos is as good as talcum powder – and I hope they put it on their faces every day.”

So like a bureaucrat.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Ohariu Hard Dunne-By, and Paula at Parachute

Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath ransacks the newspapers for stories on issues affecting our freedom.

This week: Ohariu Hard Dunne-By, and Paula at Parachute

1. Dunne’s seat ‘ripe for the picking’Labour have kicked off their campaign to kick Peter Dunne-Nothing out on his arse at next year’s general election. Dunne’s Ohariu electorate seat is no longer one of the safest seats in Parliament, and if the trends of the past two elections continue, he will be looking for honest work in 2012.
    First elected in 1984 when Bob Jones split the conservative vote to ensure the demise of National’s Hugh Templeton, Dunne –- like Rodney Hide -– has assumed that being thrown a cabinet post will ensure a high profile and enhance his re-election chances.
    The only thing consistent about Peter Dunne is that with every change of government, Peter dumps his old girlfriend and starts cuddling up to the new one. The voters of Ohariu may very well give this hobo the bum’s rush in 2011 – and not before time. But just look at who came runner-up in 2005 and 2008 –- the oleaginous Chuck Chauvel -- yuk!! Better vote Libertarianz instead!

2. NZ begins talks for free trade deal with India – Tim Groser, having flown all the way to Copenhagen in a carbon-spewing jet airliner a few weeks ago to listen to a bunch of climate fraudsters wringing their hands over a non-existent problem, finally sets his mind to something important: a free trade deal with India. This is potentially of huge benefit to New Zealanders, if tariffs can be removed and peaceful commerce allowed to develop.
    With a population of 300 million and growing, the Indian middle class is an enormous market for our products. New Zealanders may also benefit from products exported from India. Everyone wins from the division of labour -– consumers, who can often buy a given product, imported from a Third World country, at a better price than the same product made at home; and the workers in Third World factories and so-called sweatshops whose continued employment is supported. 
    Free trade is the best form of foreign aid a person can give.

3. Police follow strong leads in taxi murder – I hope the person who murdered taxi driver Hiren Mohini is apprehended and brought to justice swiftly, and that an appropriate sentence is handed down.
    Unfortunately, the compulsion touters have used this apparent homicide as an excuse to force taxi companies to install cameras in their vehicles. At no cost to the compulsion touters, of course - unless they happen to want to use a taxi, at which time they will probably find the fare more expensive than it was before and their digital image available to the taxi company for all eternity thereafter. Bet they didn’t think of that.
    I say let the taxi companies decide for themselves what level of security measures they wish to utilise. Let the do-gooders mind their own business; while their suggestions might be helpful, they have no right to ask the likes of Stephen Joyce to assist in imposing their bright ideas on others by force.
    Common sense dictates that if a proposition is that good, people will embrace it by choice without having their arms twisted up their respective backs.

4. Message at Parachute: family before moneymaking – Paula Bennett regales the masses at the Parachute Christian music festival on the virtues of raising children, citing the importance of spending time with one’s children if one is able, rather than focusing solely on moneymaking. And yes, the taxpayer was involved, via Peter Dunne-nothing’s Family Commission who sponsored a ‘debate’ on ‘the family,’ in which Bruce Pilbrow, of Parents Inc, raised the topic of income splitting.
    What wasn’t said, but should have been, was that if taxes were lower then couples wouldn’t feel they both had to work to support their children’s nutrition, education and leisure. If there was a flat low income tax, then income splitting wouldn’t be an issue. If the government didn’t trap people in welfare and encourage solo parenthood, fathers would be more inclined to live with their children.
    Paula Bennett should look at the destruction government has visited upon families, and then do something positive: shut down the Family Commissariat, swing a wrecking ball through IRD’s head office, and most importantly stop paying no-hopers to breed. Remove the financial incentive for people to procreate. Stop the miserable cycle of unwanted and unloved children who end up bashed, tortured and killed by the drug-addled and indifferent adults to whom their welfare is entrusted.
    It’s not rocket science, Paula.   

“When the people fear the government, there is tyranny – when
the government fear the people, there is liberty.”
- Thomas Jefferson  

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

SUMMER SIX PACK: Property & Prosperity [updated]

Six more cold ones from the beer fridge of the NOT PC archives.

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Property

    Murdering Soviet scumbag Leon Trotsky understood property rights better than most of the so-called ‘centre-right.’ He pointed out, as he was raining down famine and destruction on the peasants he’d decided were expendable, that where there is no private ownership individuals can be easily bent to the will of the state under threat of starvation or worse. Only ghosts can survive without property, he recognised; human beings cannot.
   Leon Trotsky thought that was a good thing—that men can’t survive the way animals do.  He understood the crucial importance of property rights.
   Unlike other animals we humans can’t survive as we come into the world; in order to stay alive and to flourish we each need to produce and to keep the fruits of our production. If our minds are our means of survival – as Julian Simon used to say, our Ultimate Resource – then property is the result of applying the creative potential of our minds to reality in order to enhance our lives.
    The need for a legal framework protecting property has been long ignored or taken for granted by economists and legal theorists of all stripes, but its importance is slowly being re-learned by contemporary thinkers.
    Tom Bethell’ s landmark book The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages is itself a triumphant example. It traces successes and disasters of history consequent upon the respective recognition or denial of property through the ages: Ireland’s potato famine, the desertification of the Sahara, and the near-disastrous US colonies at Jamestown and Plymouth can all be traced to lack of respect for property argues Bethell. He identifies four crucial blessings of property

that cannot easily be recognised in a society that lacks the secure, decentralised, private ownership of goods. These are: liberty, justice, peace and prosperity. The argument of [his] book is that private property is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for these highly desirable social outcomes.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

'Recognise rights in river' says PC

    Sometimes recycling works. Here's an example in the form of a press release. The Government are about to close a deal to return the Waikato River to Tainui. All the usual suspects are up in arms.  The Whig The Tory however has a good discussion and a link to the 1999 Maori Law Review article discussing an earlier proposal to return the Whanganui River from the perspective of common law property rights. Sample:

    English common law presumed that non-tidal waterways were held by the owners of adjoining land to the centre line, with no general public right of use or access... While the popular view was that rivers are ‘public property’, there is no legal basis for that view, apart from places where the Crown retained ownership of adjoining lands eg., in national parks etc.
      Quite right.  So why is everyone so unhappy that the waterway is being privatised?  As I said in a press release at the time on behalf of the Libz:

‘Give Tribe Full Ownership of River’ says Libertarianz
    Libertarianz supports full ownership of the Whanganui River being transferred to the Atihaunui A Paparangi tribe - not the so-called ‘partnership’ of state and tribe the Waitangi tribunal recommends, but the full and final creation of ownership rights in this river, and in every other river, lake, forest, mountain and waterway in New Zealand.
    “The main issue to me is not to whom property rights in the river are transferred to,” says Libertarianz Environment Deregulation Spokesman Peter Cresswell, “the important thing is that transferrable property rights in the river be created so the river and its surrounds can end up in the hands of those people who valuable it most.”
    Property rights protect the interests of the property owners – as people who have had their land confiscated should understand – and protects the environment in the process. The environment needs to be de-politicised as crucially as does the economy. Creating property rights in rivers – and getting the state out of them - would be a crucial first step.

    The important words were and still are "transferable," and "property rights" -- as long as rights in the river are made both secure and transferrable -- and as long as no other existing property rights are violated -- then those rights will end up in the hands of those who value them the most, as they should be, and out of the hands of Government, where they shouldn't.
Sadly, that doesn't quite appear to be what's proposed here.

LINKS: Government set to return Waikato to Tainui - NZ Herald
Rodney Hide missteps - The Tory

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Q: Do you have an inviolable right to do whatever you want on your property?

    I'm going to answer that question in the title above by linking to an earlier piece on neighbourly relations, and I need to answer it because of misunderstandings like this from people who should know better:

    I don't subscribe to the notion that you have an inviolable right to do whatever you want on your property. I'm comfortable with not being able to build a 100 foot high fence as it may block your neighbour's views...
The 'notion' being argued against in that extract is a straw man. It’s a child’s notion of property rights. The reality, however, is quite different.
    But first, an introduction: let me tell you about something called 'freedom.' Freedom in this context means to be free from physical coercion; in other words, having political freedom means that you're free to do whatever you're able and whatever you damn well please as long as you don't initiate force against anyone else. My freedom ends, in other words, where your nose begins. In this respect you might call your neighbour's nose your 'side-constraint,' just as his nose is yours -- which means some of us do get more freedom than others.
    Now, under common law, which is what I would propose to repair to once the RMA is abolished, you have the secure right to peaceful enjoyment of your property. And as both you and your neighbour would enjoy that same right, his right of peaceful enjoyment is your side-constraint. Your freedom ends where your neighbour's peaceful enjoyment begins. The 'side constraints' for land use under common law require you to take account of, among other things, your neighbour's rights to light, to air, to support, and to road access and the like. These are significant side constraints, but they are both objective and reciprocal -- your neighbour is equally constrained to recognise your similar rights.
    So how are neighbourly issues resolved under common law? How for instance might I ensure my view or a neighbour's tree was retained? Voluntarily, as I explained here.
    Voluntary agreements and the use of easements and covenants is the key. If, for example, I want to protect my existing view over your land, then I can negotiate with you to buy an easement over it for that purpose, and that easement would be registered on the title, and legally protected. It might be that my neighbour doesn't want money; it might be that he values very highly the stand of trees on my property. How highly? Highly enough perhaps to ask for a restrictive covenant over those trees to be registered on my title, in his favour. We shake hands. We have agreement.
    We each have want we want, we each have security over what we want, trees and view are both protected, and not a bureaucrat or resource consent was needed to do it--just common sense, the tools of common law, and respect for each other's property rights. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it.

    And no room for the Jackie Wilkinsons of the world -- or, at least, no house room for them.

UPDATE: The ‘Jackie Wilkinson’ link above has been fixed.

LINKS: Ms A. Presley gets community service – NOT PC 
The 'right' to a view - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Cue Card Libertarianism - Freedom - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Cue Card Libertarianism - Common Law - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
TAGS:
Common_Law Conservation Environment Property_Rights RMA

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Property rights are human rights: let’s protect them say NZ academics!

    I’m astonished.  The last two decades have seen attack after attack on New Zealanders’ property rights.

  • the imposition of the Resource Management Act, which gave planners full power over your land;
  • the confiscation of crown pastoral leases;
  • ‘right to roam’ laws attacking the sanctity of farmers’ land;
  • the destruction of Maori land value by Crown pre-emption rights;
  • the nationalisation of petroleum;
  • the partial nationalisation of Telecom;
  • the confiscation of the legal right to claim the foreshore and seabed under common law;
  • the destruction of value of pre-1990 forests under the Emissions Trading Scheme;
  • unwanted power pylons being imposed on Waikato farmers;
  • the attack on the value of shares in Auckland International Airport Ltd.

    And in the last Parliament, when offered the opportunity to place the protection of property rights in NZ’s Bill of Rights Act, MPs peremptorily voted it down –- with John Key’s National Party being prominent in the ‘Noes’ lobby when it finally came to the vote.
    So much for the National Party’s commitment to property rights.
    Despite abundant historical evidence of the many blessings of property rights, and cogent arguments defending these life-sustaining rights, both academics and politicians of all stripes have been on the front foot against property rights for years.
    So how astonishing then to see National Party hack Matthew Hooton promoting the work of two academics from the state-worshipping climes of Victoria University, who argue in advance of next week’s Jobs Summit that “if the new Government moves to protect property rights, there will be more jobs in our economy than otherwise.” 
    Professor Lewis Evans and Professor Neil Quigley of the Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation at Victoria University of Wellington, along with NERA Economic Consulting, entitled ‘Protection of Private Property Rights and Just Compensation: An Economic Analysis of the Most Fundamental Human Right Not Provided in New Zealand.’

    The paper compares New Zealand’s record on property rights with the rest of the OECD; finds our record to be among the worst in the developed world; details the economic harm being done to all New Zealanders as a result; and proposes a legislative solution involving an amendment to the Bill of Rights Act to ensure a canary in the mine exists to alert the public if and when future parliaments seek to confiscate property rights without compensation.  [The full paper can be found at  http://www.iscr.org.nz/n493.html and it was also previewed on page six of today’s National Business Review.]

    There is much to be disappointed with in an argument made on practical grounds alone, without any statement of the moral grounds on which property rights must be protected –- and much to object to in the notion that property rights equates only to ‘compensation for takings’ instead of outright protection against theft of what you own –- but in these times seeing support for property rights from any local quarter is welcoming.
    And they’re right, you know. If the new Government would move to protect property rights, then there will be more jobs in our economy than otherwise. 
    An understanding of the vital role of property rights and lawfulness in creating wealth should be basic knowledge for every thinking person, shouldn’t it?  Even a politician.
    Tibor Machans' authoritative piece on the Right to Private Property would be a good place for honest thinking persons to start their education: "The institution of the right to private property," says Tibor, "is perhaps the single most important condition for a society in which freedom, including free trade, is to flourish."

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Wealth, and why we don't have it

    Wealth. What is it? Where does it come from? Why are some people in some places wealthier than others? And why does New Zealand have to borrow so damn much in pursuit of it?
    These are the sorts of questions people have been asking for centuries, and at least since Adam Smith it's been something for which we have some pretty good answers.
    We've all heard the commitments to get New Zealand back into the top half of the OECD, and many of us have seen those graphs that Rod Deane pulled out recently showing NZ's rise and decline in those rankings over the last century-and-a-half -- and we've realised that getting back into the top half of the OECD isn't as easy as politicians' promises would have you believe.
    According to my dictionary, wealth is defined as "affluence, plenty and prosperity, a profusion, great plenty (of); prosperity." Clearly, wealth has something to do with productivity, with resources, with capital, and with what Julian Simon called the ultimate resource: the creative human mind applied to productivity. But how to explain and quantify the relationship?
    Two years ago, the World Bank began examining questions such as these, and unusually for such an organisation, they came up with something worth studying. They found something that hadn't been accounted for in all their previous studies on the subject. Ronald Bailey explains:

    Two years ago the World Bank's environmental economics department set out to assess the relative contributions of various kinds of capital to economic development. Its study, "Where is the Wealth of Nations?: Measuring Capital for the 21st Century," began by defining natural capital as the sum of nonrenewable resources (including oil, natural gas, coal and mineral resources), cropland, pasture land, forested areas and protected areas. Produced, or built, capital is what many of us think of when we think of capital: the sum of machinery, equipment, and structures (including infrastructure) and urban land.
    But once the value of all these are added up, the economists found something big was still missing: the vast majority of world's wealth! If one simply adds up the current value of a country's natural resources and produced, or built, capital, there's no way that can account for that country's level of income.
      What's missing in those traditional measures is what links the human mind with productivity: the rule of law—specifically, the legal protection of property. In a sentence, the creative human mind is more productive the more that property rights are legally protected.
    The explanation for that is simple. You see, when the protection of law is weak, then the mind is only able to plan short range. When property rights are weak, for example, people tend to build their furniture before they build their roofs -- and you can see the evidence of this in shanty towns all over the globe. When time horizons are short, this is rational behaviour. But shanty towns aren't the natural human environment, are they. Take a shanty town dweller out of the shanty and set him down in a place where the rule of law is better recognised, and immediately his time horizons become longer, his prospects much brighter, and his house and his wallet much richer.
Extent time horizons by setting in place the rule of law, and immediately you bring the distinctive attribute of the creative human mind -- the ability to think and to plan long range -- to bear on the question of productivity. That's the real link between wealth and law, and it's something politicians actually can do something about.
    You see, this is what the World Bank's researchers realised in their study. What's more important in determining wealth than natural resources or real capital is what they eventually termed this "intangible capital" -- that is, "the wealth product that comes from securing people's rights through the rule of law," so called "intangible factors" such as "the trust among people in a society, an efficient judicial system, clear property rights and effective government."
    All this intangible capital ... boosts the productivity of labor and results in higher total wealth. In fact, the World Bank finds, "Human capital and the value of institutions (as measured by rule of law) constitute the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries."
    Once one takes into account all of the world's natural resources and produced capital, 80% of the wealth of rich countries and 60% of the wealth of poor countries is of this intangible type. The bottom line: "Rich countries are largely rich because of the skills of their populations and the quality of the institutions supporting economic activity."
      This "intangible capital" can be quantified, and what we find when that exercise is done is that "the natural wealth in rich countries like the U.S. is a tiny proportion of their overall wealth—typically 1 percent to 3 percent—yet they derive more value from what they have."
    Cropland, pastures and forests are more valuable in rich countries because they can be combined with other capital like machinery and strong property rights to produce more value. Machinery, buildings, roads and so forth account for 17% of the rich countries' total wealth.
    Overall, the average per capita wealth in the rich Organization for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD) countries is $440,000, consisting of $10,000 in natural capital, $76,000 in produced capital, and a whopping $354,000 in intangible capital. (Switzerland has the highest per capita wealth, at $648,000. The U.S. is fourth at $513,000.)
    By comparison, the World Bank study finds that total wealth for the low income countries averages $7,216 per person. That consists of $2,075 in natural capital, $1,150 in produced capital and $3,991 in intangible capital. The countries with the lowest per capita wealth are Ethiopia ($1,965), Nigeria ($2,748), and Burundi ($2,859).
      So what does this mean for New Zealand, and any hope we have of getting rich, and getting back into the top half of the OECD?
Well, here's the bad news. In the rankings of "intangible capital," New Zealand comes a pitiful twenty-first with just $243,000 of "intangible capital" per head, behind Spain and Singapore at nineteenth and twentieth, and just ahead of Greece, Portugal, South Korea and Argentina.
   That's a measure of how poor we are in the rule of law.
    And just look at our performance as compared to Australia, often known as "the lucky country" because of its resource riches. But Australia's resource wealth only amounts to $25,000 per Australian, compared to our own resource wealth of $43,000 per head; the difference between the lucky country and us is that they're "luckier" in terms of the rule of law: in the "intangible capital" represented by that measure, Australians are half again as wealthy as we are, with $371,000 per head compared to our own $243,000 per head.
    So the message is clear, and when you boil it all down it's not complicated. If wealth is your goal, and if ambitions to be in the top half of the OECD are genuine, then concentrate on the rule of law, and on the "intangible capital" of an efficient judicial system, of clear property rights and of effective government.
    Simple.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Market forces destroying the Amazon?

    "The market forces of globalization are invading the Amazon, hastening the
demise of the forest and thwarting its most committed stewards."

    So begins the latest National Geographic cover story, documenting the Amazon's demise in pictures and stories -- "during the past 40 years, close to 20 percent of the Amazon rain forest has been cut down, more than in all the previous 450 years since European colonization began" -- and sheeting home the blame to the ubiquitous enemy named in that opening line: "market forces and globalization."
    The destruction of the Amazon has been a common theme for journalists and professional busybodies more than a decade. Today's highest profile busybody Al Gore wrote in his 1989 vice-Presidential manifesto Earth in the Balance that the devastation of Brazil's forest was "one of the great tragedies of all history." Gore, too, blamed the desire of "large landowners to earn short-term profits," ignoring "long-term ecological tragedy."
    But there's a problem with this analysis. As Tom Bethell writes in his book The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages,

    Although he visited Brazil and is a professional politician, Gore showed little interest in the political origins of the Brazilian debacle. [Neither does the National Geographic.] ... It's real cause, however, was not greedy landowners, but unwise laws governing land ownership.
      Those familiar with the subsidies and destruction wrought in rural New Zealand by Muldoon's Marginal Lands Board would recognise the debacle in the Amazon, but on a very much larger scale. You might say that (just as with the land clearances promoted under Muldoon's programme) the forest clearances were not so much a sign of market forces and globalization, but instead of government forces and nationalistic sentiment.
    Here's the story that's not told by either Gore or the National Geographic. Notes Jorge Cappato, writing for the UN Environment Programme,
Towards 1970, the Brazilian president Medici decided to build a Transamazonian highway of 5,000 kilometers to offer "a land without men to men without lands". However, neither the land was fertile nor was it empty: there were natives, riverside people, seringueiros, and people who lived from and took care of the forest.
      The project, run by Brazil's military government, was funded by the World Bank over opposition from its own ecological officer. Said Adrian Cowell in his Decade of Destruction documenting the disaster,
   The momentum of the Bank's financial machine, the need to lend money to Brazil as its debt developed, had overidden the practical warnings of its specialists.
      As Tom Bethell notes in his book, the construction of the Federal road
opened up access to the Amazon region, and a competition for the (state-owned) land ensued. Squatters received the right to 100 hectares if they could show effective use of the land for a year. The problem was that only cutting down the trees counted as effective use...
      And here's where the "unwise laws governing land ownership" come in. None of those people displaced by the military government's project -- in Capatto's words, the "natives, riverside people, seringueiros, and people who lived from and took care of the forest" -- none of them had their pre-existing property rights protected, or their rights to the use of the forest protected. Instead, the military government claimed ownership of all land 100 kilometres either side of their highway (as Bethell notes, such a claim made in the US would see "most of the US mainland nationalised") and then parcelled it out to friends, fellow-travellers and squatters who could clear trees fast enough to claim 'their' 100 acres. Bethell again:
    Only the traditional "sustainable use" of harvesting rubber and nuts did not count. For those who had already arrived and staked their claims, the best way to guard against competition from newcomers was to cut down trees as quickly as possible... In effect, if not in law, "the land-claiming process itself has required deforestation," the economist Gary Libecap wrote.
Even the World Bank's own advisers belatedly acknowledged the problem they themselves had helped cause:
    Governments responsible for the Amazon region, for example, have exacerbated the negative environmental externalities. Public subsidies and tax incentives to large cattle producers and loggers were responsible for more than 50 percent of the deforestation in the Amazon region in the 1970s and the 1980s (Binswanger 1991). Moreover, public investments in infrastructure into the frontier areas have magnified the externalities associated with the lack of well-defined property rights in such areas.

    So there you have it. Not for the first time, the story is not quite like the National Geographic tells it.
    And now ask yourself: who's the real villain here then? Market forces and globalization? Greedy landowners? Or, as Bethell and others argue, Big Government, nationalistic sentiment, a lack of real property rights and "unwise laws governing land ownership."
    And why doesn't National Geographic tell this side of the story at all?

LINKS: Last of the Amazon - National Geographic magazine
The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages - Tom Bethell, Amazon.Com
Who was Chico Mendes? - Jorge Cappato, Global 500 Forum, UN Environment Programme
The Decade of Destruction - Adrian Cowell, Bullfrog Films [film review]
Land Reform Policies, the Sources of Violent Conflict and Implications for Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon - Gary Libecap, Social Science Research Network [Abstract]
The Quality of Growth - World Bank, 2000

RELATED: Politics-World, Property Rights, Environment, History-Modern

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Thanks for reading. And now, ‘Something to Live For.’ An historical recording: Ella with Duke Ellington's Orchestra (led here by Mercer Elllington), performing a Billy Strayhorn song.

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