Sunday, 28 February 2010

GUEST POST: One 'Green' Job Kills Two Others (Or More)

[Guest post by Jeff Perren]

Greens like Obama often assert that using government to encourage 'green' technology will decrease unemployment.

Veronique du Rugy says otherwise, and I'm much more inclined to believe her than nearly anyone else.

    “This study, from the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Spain shows that the reality is quite different. After examining Spain’s experience with an aggressive wind-power program, the researchers concluded, among other things, the cost of creating a green job in Spain was 571,000 Euros each (so roughly $800,000) and for each green job created 2 private jobs were lost.”

In fact, as Sunil Sharan demonstrates, some 'green' technology — like the 'Smart Grid' — is actually designed to reduce the number of jobs...

    “Now let's consider job losses. It takes one worker today roughly 15 minutes to read a single meter.  So in a day, a meter reader can scan about 30 meters, or about 700 meters a month. Meters are typically read once a month, making it the base period to calculate meter-reading jobs. Reading a million meters every month engages about 1,400 personnel. In five years, 20 million manually read meters are expected to disappear, taking with them some 28,000 meter-reading jobs.
In other words, instead of creating jobs, smart metering will probably result in net job destruction. This should not be surprising because the main method of making the electrical grid "smart" is by automating its functions. Automation by definition obviates the need for people.”

...and that's as it should be. As free market economists have noted again and again, it's easy to create full employment by simply having half the unemployed, for example, dig ditches and the other half fill them in again. Only the free market can create long-term productive employment.

Of course, they also point out what should be obvious to any casual reader of history. There have been many jobs eliminated by technology, but such advances invariably free up resources to create even more — and more productive — jobs in the future.

So much for the typical fantasy-based — and counter-productive — Progressive optimism over state-coerced social engineering in employment.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Man’s life . . . ”

_quote Man's life is a continuous whole: for good or evil, every day, year and decade of his life holds the sum of all the days behind him.”
                                 - Ayn Rand, ‘The Objectivist Ethics’

[Hat tip Per-Olof Samuelsson, who says, “If I ever write an autobiography, this quote will stand as a motto.”]

Saturday, 27 February 2010

GUEST POST: My new pin-up girl is Ann McElhinney

Guest post by Jeff Perren

Nicole Gelinas and Heather MacDonald at City Journal, Kimberly Strassel at the Wall St. Journal, Caroline Baum at Bloomberg, the mighty Veronique du Rugy at Reason... all fine thinkers. But — fickle heel that I am — I have to declare my new devotion to the heroic Ann McElhinney.

Ms. McElhinney is the director/producer of "Not Evil Just Wrong" – a smackdown of Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and other viro nonsense — and a defense of mining called, "Mine Your Own Business."

Writing at the Big Hollywood blog site, Ms. McElhinney urges James Cameron, director of Avatar* to grow up. That will never happen, of course, but in the process she does a superb job of defending human extraction of the Earth's resources for human benefit. Her argument is so simple even a Hollywood director could follow it:

    “Mining makes everything about James Cameron’s life and our lives in the developed world, beautiful, possible, bearable, majestic, gorgeous and full of promise.
    “The people of the rain forest on the other hand who live the simple, organic, back-to-nature life so adored by the Hollywood elite such as James Cameron, also have short lives of misery, disease and squalor. They would do anything to have a piece of the James Cameron life and escape their subsistence hunter-gathering nightmare. . .
    “Mining companies bring jobs, roads, infrastructure, health clinics and opportunities to some of the poorest people on the planet.”
    “James Cameron, even more than rest of us, uses the earth’s resources for his pleasure and his very profitable business. His films all employ enormous quantities of heavy metals in planes, boats, trains and the latest cutting edge camera, lighting and computer technology.
Everything about Cameron’s work uses metals mined from somewhere and his gigantic transport needs are fueled by oil.”

So that's why I'm in love with Ann McElhinney, 'cause I just can't resist a woman with really big b-b-b-brains. I'm pretty sure this one's going to last.

[You can become a Facebook fan here.]

* * * * *

* Best quote ever on that silly piece of viro propaganda, Avatar:

Hollywood: For their own gain, Military and corporate villains kill and pillage a peaceful indigenous population that is in tune with Mother Nature.
Reality: In Haiti, Mother Nature kicks the hell out of a backward, indigenous population and American military and corporations immediately come to their comfort and aid.
[From a commenter at HotAir, Feb 22, 2010 - 2:11 pm]

Friday, 26 February 2010

BEER O’CLOCK: St Francis Abbey

autoscale-300 At a quiz last night we were all asked which beer is brewed at St Francis Abbey. To my shame, my team had no idea.

The answer, of course, is Kilkenny, which I’d know if I’d ever read the damn coaster.

coaster-300 St Francis Abbey occupies around 25 acres of Kilkenny City, Kilkenny, and is the home of Smithwicks Ale, as in “…the Smithwick and the Harpic, and the bottled draught and keg.”  It is the oldest brewery in Ireland, standing on the site of a Franciscan Abbey founded in 1231. Brewing (says the Kilkenny tourism site) was carried on here for centuries until the dissolution of the Monasteries (around 1540), and started again with its conversion to better things in 1710.

I did drink Smithwicks itself once for a full evening and early morning, but I’ve forgotten what it was like. And who I was drinking with.  Nonetheless, both the very forgettable Smithwicks Ale and far less forgettable Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale, “with its deep red hue and rich, creamy head delivering a distinctively smooth and flavourful taste,” have been brewed at St Francis Abbey ever since.

can-300 It’s a favourite with Guinness drinkers, former Guinness drinkers and would-be Guinness drinkers – and everybody who likes a good creamy, session beer with a creamy head the size of a Guinness glass but with an easier-drinking beer underneath.

And the cans you can buy it in here in New Zealand give you the full draught experience, if not the friends to have the session with.

Here’s Christy Moore.  He’s saying goodbye to the port and brandy, the vodka and the stag.; the Smithwick and the Harpic, and the bottled draught and keg . . . ”

Friday morning ramble: The desperately sorry edition [updated]

I can’t tell you how sorry I am as I type this.  Sorry that I’ve had to put up with all the public blubbing from people who should know better.  Which is as good a way as any to lead you into this week’s ramble around things on the net that caught my eye, starting with something about all those unsavoury public tears:

  • Frankly, says Thomas Sowell, there’s been too many goddamn apologies.  (Except he’s to refined to say “goddamn.”) “Public apologies to people who are not owed any apology have become one of the many signs of the mushy thinking of our times. . . This craze for aimless apologies is part of a general loss of a sense of personal responsibility in our time. We are supposed to feel guilty for what other people did but there are a thousand cop-outs for what we ourselves did to those we did it to. ”  Too damn right.
    Too Many Apologies  - THOMAS SOWELL [Hat tip Gus Van Horn]
  • Someone who does say “goddamn” also gets in on the “sorry” frenzy. “Tiger Woods's ritual self-abasement before the world on the matter of his marital infidelities was pitiful, unnecessary and improper,” says SOLO Principal Lindsay Perigo.
    When Tigers Become Pussies – LINDAY PERIGO
  • On a related note, Rituparnu Basu reflects that the plight of the likes of Tiger Woods and Bernie Madoff and Elliot Spitzer, all of whom would conventionally be called “selfish” for what they did, should actually cause you to call into question your conventional view.  None of these mean at all look like they’ve been rationally selfish—in fact they’ve all been decidedly unselfish in any rational sense--and that, in fact, is the leading cause of their downfall.
    The Unselfish Actions of Today’s “Selfish” Men  - THE UNDERCURRENT
  • So on a related note, Ifat Glassman has a look at what selfishness actually does mean in practice.
        "Selfishness [he says] is a principle by which one pursues one's happiness above all else. How is this translated into every day choices and what does it mean to be selfish in practice?
    The article discusses this."
    What is Selfishness? – PSYCHOLOGY OF SELFISHNESS
  • Blunt contemplates the retrospective ethical standards of a professional politician.

  • With only “200+” people prepared to turn out to protest some minor cost-cutting at Radio New Zealand (you’d think with all the hyperbole flying around something much more drastic was being proposed), Liberty SCott wonders why Radio NZ’s estimated 650,000 listeners can’t pay the $60 each it takes to run the thing themselves, instead of putting their hands in other people’s pockets:
        “Go on, Radio NZ supporters, cough up. Stop wanting non-listening taxpayers to fund what YOU like, indeed if it is so valuable you should be jumping at the chance.
        “Does it just speak volumes about the hypocrisy of those who say how ‘valuable’ it is, how much ‘we’ should appreciate it, that THEY wont spend a dollar of their own cash to help out?”
    $60 a year for Radio NZ listeners to pay – LIBERTY SCOTT
  • Tom Stelene reminds me of a great book that demonstrates that Russia throughout its history has been a nett parasite on the world.
    Old, Obscure, Great Books Review: 'East Minus West = Zero: Russia's Debt to the Western World,' by Werner Keller – THE AUDACITY OF INDEPENDENCE
  • How do we know what we know?  Especially, how do scientists know what they know? From whence comes scientific certainty?  The leading thinker still on scientific induction was Francis Bacon.  Roderick Fitts has some thoughts on “nine things that Bacon said are helps in our ability to properly inductively reason.”  A very helpful guide.
    Bacon on the "Helps" of Induction   - INDUCTIVE QUEST
  • So what exactly are our troops doing in Afghanistan? Edward Cline reflects on an interesting Spiked column on the current "offensive" in Afghanistan.  “The author makes several valid points. He all but says that if the war is fought, not to achieve victory, but to attain some altruistic hearts and minds’ goal, then it is pointless to even wage the war."
    Islam is the Enemy - RULE OF REASON
  • Scott Holleran concurs. “[Obama’s] Marjah operation is a major test of a new NATO strategy that stresses protecting civilians over [defeating enemy combatants]…” No wonder it’s achieving neither.
    Update on Obama’s Marjah – SCOTT HOLLERAN
  • Ever wondered when exactly people with clipboards took over your life? Steven Greenhut reflects on how public servants became our masters. [Hat tip Eric Crampton]
    Class War: How public servants became our masters – REASON ONLINE
  • Remember when the US government took over General Motors?  Remember when they said they’d run it like a “proper business”? (Yeah right.)  Looks instead like they’re using government force (and the insanity of antitrust legislation) to close down their competitors.  The latest assault: raiding the U.S. offices of three auto suppliers as part of an antitrust investigation . . .
    The Antitrust Wars Rage On  - MISES ECONOMICS BLOG
  • Eric Crampton has more on Google being done over by the antitrust maggots.
    Google and antitrust – OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR
  • plato And just to remind you of the origins and errors of the antitrust arguments,  George Reisman shows in this classic essay that they are quite literally unreal.
        “The doctrine of ‘pure and perfect competition’ [he says] is a central element both in contemporary economic theory and in the practice of the Anti-Trust Division of the US Department of Justice [and of NZ’s own Commerce Commission] . . . [yet] "pure and perfect competition" is totally unlike anything one normally means by the term "competition. . .
        “This ‘concept’ divorced from reality, this Platonic ‘ideal of perfection’ drawn from non-existence to serve as the "standard" for judging existence, is one of the principal reasons why businessmen have been imprisoned, major corporations broken up and others prevented from expanding, and why economic progress has been retarded and the improvement of man's material well-being significantly undercut." 
        This article demolishes the philosophical and theoretical foundations of antitrust policy.  It should be in every liberty-lover’s reading list.
    Platonic Competition – GEORGE REISMAN
  • goldberg1 I’ve just started reading Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Facism: The Secret History of the American Left.  If you can skip over the religiosity, both explicit and implict, that oozes from every page it’s a mostly excellent account of how the twentieth-century “progressive” project shares the same roots, and many of the same goals and methods, as the fascists they so liberally castigate.
        William M. Briggs, the statistician to the stars, is starting a three-parter on the book at his blog. Looks like it’s going to be a good one. [Hat tip Blunt]
    Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg, Part I  - WILLIAM M. BRIGGS
  • And since you’ve heard the word bandied around so often, just what the hell is “progressivism” anyway?  “In practice,” says Charles Anderson, “the one single principle of Progressivism is a desire for government to have more power so it will have greater control over the People, while the college-educated elite control the government.”  Looks to me like a good working definition.
    What is Progressivism? – OBJECTIVIST INDIVIDUALIST
  • Led by philosophers in that very first Boston Tea Party, revolutionaries brought freedom to America. Jo Kellard reflects that unless they realise that the battle for freedom is primarily an intellectual one, then the present crop of Tea-Party would-be revolutionaries “will be impotent to effect any substantive or lasting change toward liberty.”
    Letters on Tea Party and Founders & Religion – THE AMERICAN INDIVIDUALIST
  • While the headlines of the last few years signal news that shows liberty heading for the trashcan, Jeremy Lott reckons we should look at some of the quieter victories for liberty that have been won in the US Supreme Court by libertarian justice organisations – those few honest lawyers who still remember why they went to law school;  to get justice.
    Victories include the recent Citizens United decision, which effectively scrapped most restrictions on independent campaign spending by individuals, groups, and corporations.
    Would that we had a constitution in this country that allowed us to strike down the anti-free-speech campaign rules being cooked up here by the present ruling party.
    Quiet Libertarian Victories – REAL CLEAR POLITICS
  • ConciseGuideCover It’s said that to understand economics is to understand the practical case for freedom. A new book brings out the connection in the clearest and shortest possible way. “The Concise Guide To Economics [says the book’s blurb] is a handy, quick reference guide for those already familiar with basic economics, and a brief, compelling primer for everyone else.”  No maths, no equations,  no waffle: “the book combines straightforward, common sense analysis with hard-core dedication to principle, using the fewest words possible to explain the topic clearly.”  Even better, you can read it all online if you want to:
    The Concise Guide To Economics – by JIM COX
  • Via Pharyngula comes news that you can be good without God.  It’s true.

    And, in fact, a new study shows you’re more likely to be good if you’re not religious.  That’s a really inconvenient true story for some people.

  • And while we’re mentioning religion, James Valliant is still taking on (and overcoming) all-comers over at SOLO following his recent flaying of the historical record and morals of religion and its practitioners (which he was kind enough to let me post here).  Recent combatants include Dr and Mrs Flannnagan from the M & M blog, who I believe are yet to respond on James’s last substantive reply to them . . .
    Gimme That Old Time Religion! - [Scroll down for comments, of which there are currently about 190]
  • The senior writer at the Greens’s Frog Blog confesses “I am not an economist,” while writing a dozen or so turgid paragraphs on minimum-wage laws to prove it.  According to The Frog, “In our economy the people being paid minimum and near minimum wage are doing jobs that must be done” and therefore and minimum-wage increase “simply transfers wealth from those who invest to those who labour.” [Emphasis in the original]. This ignores, among many others things, that prices for the products of these jobs can only be as high as the market can bear; that paying above the odds to bring that product to market only reduces profits, and therefore the jobs that can be offered; that the wealth must come from somewhere, and that if enough investors’ wealth is “transferred” against their will they’ll soon be investing elsewhere; and that if they do then even if it’s true that these are jobs that must be done, that doesn’t make them jobs that will be done at any price.
    For more rational views on minimum-wage laws than you’ll find at the blogs of non-economists, arguments that will actually protect the jobs of the low-paid instead of throwing them out on the street, the local repository of good advice is still Eric Crampton’s posts on Minimum-Wage.  (It’s worth bookmarking this, since I suspect the same bad arguments will need to be knocked down over and again all year.)
  • I’m quietly amused to see The Standard talking about the country’s CEOs as “Atlases” who will never “shrug,” no matter how many taxes are thrown at them. I say “amused” not because I find the post attacking Paul Reynolds et al in any way amusing, or the thesis in any way congenial, but because it’s an indication of just how far Ayn Rand’s  novel Atlas Shrugged has seeped into the culture when The Standard can write a post like that expecting its readers to know what the imagery means.  And they do.
    ‘Atlases’ don’t deserve a tax cut – THE STANDARD
  • Standard readers, or anyone else, who wants to know more about the imagery of Atlas Shrugged, or anything else, will enjoy Diana Hsieh’s regular podcasts at her Explore Atlas Shrugged blog.  She’s up to Podcast #12 already.
  • And whatever you do, don’t kick sand in the face of Charles Atlas Shrugged [hat tip Scott P.]:

  • So here’s a starter questions for ten points: “was all of Obama’s stimulunacy last year and this
         (A) a job creation bill or,
         (B) a liberal spending wish list?
    A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) study suggests that option B is closer to the truth. Small wonder it did not bring unemployment down.
    What Exactly Was the Stimulus? – THE FOUNDRY
  • I’m still haunted by this post from July last year, suggesting that with better economic management (and less of the stimulunacy) the world’s economies could have been out of recession in February last year.  That we haven’t and still aren’t--and everyone is still talking blindly about “recovery” without actually seeing any-- is largely due to all those short-term fixes everyone said was necessary to get us out of the Great Recession, but in reality have only served to keep us in it even longer.
    In an alternative universe we could have seen economic recovery in February 2009– NOT PC
  • Gooner applauds John Key acting decisively, boldly and courageous in accepting the resignation of Phil Heatley—and he has a list of all the other things highlighting John’s “bold and decisive” leadership.
    Bold, decisive leadership – NO MINISTER
  • New blog Today’s Dissent (welcome to the blogosphere, guys) examines in a very studious way why compelling students to join students associations against their will violates the right to freedom of association under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.
    VSM: Go your own way  - TODAY’S DISSENT
  • I’m coming to this a little late, but the abortion debate between the politically correct and the religiously inspired kicked up while I was away last week in a particularly delicious fashion. 
        Ironically, Catholic Doctors like Mary English who exercised their own free choice in refusing to counsel abortion to patients (while refusing to allow it in their patients) were castigated by women like Deborah From a Strange Land for refusing to recognise that women are moral agents who have the right to exercise free choice—and on the basis of “free choice” Deborah and others maintained that doctors should just shut up and do what they’re told.
        The irony seemed to escape all parties.
  • It’s hard keeping up with all the bleeding now the climategate scab has been ripped off, but The Briefing  Room has been doing good work with the updates.  Latest is an account of how South Africa’s urban/rural temperature record suggests good reason to mistrust the global temperature record.
    STUDY: Urban heat effect seriously underestimated – BRIEFING ROOM
  • In America at least, the continuing revelations of Climategate and beyond are spelling the death of cap-and-trade.  Yaron BRook discusses the good news on PJTV. [Hat tip ARC-TV]
    The Death of Cap-and-Trade? – PJTV
  • The treatment of peer-reviewed science as an unquestionable form of authority is corrupting the peer-review system and damaging public debate, says Frank Furedi.
    Turning peer review into modern-day holy scripture – SPIKED ONLINE
  • The mainstream media is slowly cottoning on to what ClimateGate means. Here’s part one a TV special on San Diego station KUCI on the Global Warming Meltdown that looks to be another good roundup on the collapse of the consensus. (An index to all nine parts is here.)

That’s all for now. Have a great weekend!  Maybe I’ll see you down at Mission Bay?

Get over it [updated]

Is it just me, or does all the jubilant Telecom-bashing this week look like just another chance to bash a big business. 

After all, Telecom were hardly the only ones this week to have outages.  There were two that I know of:

  • Vodafone’s email server was out for much of Monday morning, meaning no Vodafone customers could send or receive emails—yet while bitching about Telecom filled the news wires I didn’t hear a peep about that.
  • And Orcon’s internet service was out for a good part of yesterday– and once again, not a word about this from any of the news services so excitedly bashing the big boy.

Bear in mind that these are just the outages that I know about—I’m sure there’d be many more to report—yet neither these nor any other problems attracted national attention, headlines, or press conferences with apologetic CEOs using carefully chosen words of apology. (Which is a pity, because I let loose a few carefully chosen words myself at both services during both outages that would have looked really good in their apologies.  Well, maybe not.)

No, only Telecom gets picked on.  It’s almost as if it’s personal.

UPDATE: Great comment below from Matt, who suggests you get some perspective:

    “From memory around 100 people a year needlessly die in NZ hospitals. So perhaps 2 died this week because somebody put the wrong drug in the drip. Rather more serious, one would have thought, that a phone network going down.”

‘The Resignation of George Washington’ – John Trumbull

A resignation that really meant something: having vanquished the British army, Washington lays down his sword to head back to the plough.

More here, with links.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

RE-POST: NZ's water problems cured by property rights?

Since problems with water use and water “allocations” are in the news again, as discussed in Dr McGrath’s column two posts below this one, I’m reposting this post from July 2006 (with just a few more recent links). 

    Water has become an issue here in Godzone - dirty lakes in Rotorua; “dirty dairying” around the country; falling lake levels in South Island hydro lakes; rising demand for limited river water for agricultural irrigation.
    As Federated Farmers say regularly, the problem isn’t that New Zealand’s running out of water, it’s that water is running out of New Zealand—to which I would add that it’s precisely what you’d expect when the only organisations deputed to oversee the collection of water before it runs out are government appointees, and the first reaction to every problem is to call for government involvement.
    Frankly, all of these problems have been caused either largely or in part by too much government control, and too few sufficiently clear property rights in water.  In other words, it’s a Tragedy of the Commons problem, and one recognised even by the Clark Government who has spent the last three years putting together a scheme for tradeable water rights, and by Rotorua Maori who are just beginning to talk about property rights as a means of protecting water quality in local lakes.
    It's easy to get too excited about this sort of progress. The general manager of Rotorua's Ngati Whakaue Tribal Lands Trust is not yet ready, it seems, to call for clear property rights as a means by which lake water can be protected in common law. And the cabinet paper on tradeable rights was prepared by David Benson-Pope and Jim Anderton, hardly friends of the market, and whatever emerges from their deliberations will not unfortunately be full full property rights: Benson-Pope has been insistent that water is a "public good" and that any rights will not be treated as rights in perpetuity -- "I think there's going to be discussions about trading regimes, about charging and so on," he says -- so it is just another government-driven halfway house. It is, as they say, a start. Just a start.
    The reason it's a good start is that secure property rights gives people the ability to cure these various Tragedy of the Commons problems, giving owners incentive and legal standing to protect, conserve and to maintain what is theirs. As the Canadian Environment Probe organisation has said for a long time, a system of clear property rights and common law protections of property rights offers the best long-term security for water and those who rely on it. And my colleague Craig Milmine has a dissertation from 2000 discussing the theory in detail, and showing how a water rights regime could function in the South Island's Kakanui district.
    I highly recommend hunting down the nuggets in both sources.

LINKS: Cabinet moves to trade water - Dominion Post
Tragedy of the Commons - Garrett Hardin, Concise Encyclopedia of Economics
Rotorua lakes face long battle for health - Stuff
How can we save our lakes? - Daily Post
The role of property rights in protecting water quality - Environment Probe
Sustainable water programme of action - Ministry of the Environment
Water & wastewater publications - Environment Probe
Kakanui water study - Craig Milmine [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

Resignation, No. 1 [update 2]

So if Phil Heatley has resigned for being caught using the taxpayer as his family’s personal ATM Machine, what’s keeping Sir Double Dipton, aka Bill English, in office?

Double standards?

UPDATE 2: Richard McGrath argues the Heatley’s self-immolation means “the long wait was over for a National Party MP to act in accordance with commonly accepted principles of honesty and responsibility.”

    “Perhaps now that Mr Heatley has demonstrated a shred of decency, Bill English may wish to reconsider whether he should have at least offered to resign, after taking a thousand dollars a week from the taxpayer to fund his million dollar home in Karori - with his wife already earning a comfortable income as a doctor.”
    “The Libertarianz Party commends Mr Heatley. He has raised the bar for his cabinet colleagues. . . ”

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Creech, credit cards and Christ-deniers

Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath ransacks the newspapers again for stories on issues affecting our freedom. This week: Creech, credit cards and Christ-deniers.

  1. _richardmcgrath Atheists claim bias over rejection of ‘No God’ ads – NZ Bus (which appears to be what was Stagecoach, now owned by Infratil) has rejected an offer by a group calling itself NZ Atheist Bus Campaign to run God-denying ads on the sides of its buses. The NZ Atheist Bus Campaign is now contemplating legal action against the bus company, calling the rejection “discriminatory”. And you know what? They’re dead right. It is discriminatory.
        These days the term ‘discriminatory’ has gathered such negative associations that it is often used as an insult or an  accusation. In fact, to discriminate literally means to distinguish or differentiate; in this case, the bus company  has made a distinction between advertising it wants to run on its vehicles and advertising it chooses not to feature .
        As owners of the buses, NZ Bus has the perfect right to reject any or all advertising on its buses. The issue here is not only one of property rights; it involves understanding what freedom of speech entails. Freedom of speech does not mean a  person can demand a microphone, a loudhailer or the side of a bus from someone else who owns it in order to propagate their beliefs (or in this case, lack of belief). The NZ Atheist Bus Campaign simply needs to find a billboard somewhere else, and to drop any thoughts of legal action against those who own the buses.
        They need to realise that others are under no obligation to run their ads.

  2. Creech wrong for water review, say Greens – Greens leader Russel Norman says former Nat deputy PM Wyatt Creech has  too much of a conflict of interest in leading a review of water management in Canterbury. And Mr Norman certainly has a  point, with Mr Creech being a director of a dairy company. A “polluting” dairy company.
        Just as Mr Norman must consider himself a “polluting” human. I wonder if he purchases carbon credit for the CO2 he  emits every time he exhales, a gas that the green lobby keeps telling us is “poisonous”. Except to plant life, that is.
        Anyway, Mr Creech and his review team recommended replacing Environment Canterbury with a team of commissioners. Environment Canterbury is another regional council monopoly, with responsibility for such things as monitoring  pollution, irrigation schemes, local parks and enforcing the Resource Management Act. Unfortunately governments have a poor track record at preserving the environment in the command-and-control fashion prescribed under that piece of legislation, the prime examples being the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic, and the degradation of large areas of East Germany through neglect and pollution by the governing Socialist Unity Party, unchecked by any possible recourse to property rights by the citizenry.
        I say well done, Mr Creech. Many of the functions of Environment Canterbury would be rendered redundant if people were held accountable for their actions and could more easily pursue claims for damages. If people were permitted to use their land for productive purposes, as long as they were not harming others the government should take no interest – hence the Resource Management Act could be abolished, with recourse to common law precedent in settling disputes.
        The legal system needs to be made cheaper and easier so that justice is not delayed (and thereby denied). Such things as irrigation schemes should be managed by mutual consent between neighbouring properties, not the nightmare of eminent domain. The educational activities of Environment Canterbury could be privatized and run by those with an interest in preserving clean air and waterways, funded voluntarily.
        All these layers of state bureaucracy – national, regional and local government – must be coercively bankrolled through taxation.
        The Libertarianz Party believes there has to be a better way for people to interact – in peaceful co-existence, not with government seizing an ever-increasing fraction of our earnings to build empires of bureaucrats who might mean well, but who stifle productivity and frustrate those who genuinely want to achieve and succeed with the limited resources at their disposal.
  3. Ministers sorry for credit card spending – Sorry?! Don’t make me laugh!! Three senior cabinet ministers have proven themselves unable to adhere to the strict guidelines for use of the taxpayer-funded credit card. These same people are part of a government that oversees a multi-billion dollar budget. Do you trust them to be able to control their spending urges with this money? Do you trust them to be able to live within their means, or will they rack up further deficits, to be paid for by our children and grand-children?
         But what can you expect from a generation whose main economic influences were Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes? When you are told incessantly that spending money you don’t have  is a recipe for prosperity-- as in Greece -- as in other soon-to-be-revealed European basketcase economies -- as in the United States –– then after a while you start to believe it. 
        It’s so easy, and great fun, spending other people’s money. And if the coffers are running low, just bump up the rate of GST! Fifteen percent is for wimps. Roll on twenty! Hell, the Tories in Britain are planning to do just that.             
        The credit-card spending of these specimens is just an example in microcosm of their attitude to spending in macrocosm.
  4. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny - when the government fear the people, there is liberty.
    - Thomas Jefferson  

Hate the brew, love the brewery [updated]


Sundry ads for Bud Light beer prove once again the old adage that the worst beers have the best ads. (Latest hilarious example on that score here).

25The new brewery for Lion Nathan being built out at East Tamaki suggests that something similar might also be true for breweries.

Driving past the new brewery, the effect is stunning.  Looking from Ormiston Rd, the centrepiece is a sheer five-storey glass wall emblazoned with a sand-etched Lion logo, revealing behind it a clutch of blinding stainless steel brewing tanks.  Like the Te Rapa dairy factory, which is equally dramatic on a drive-by, the effect (in person) is stunning.

26This is superior industrial architecture. The honest corporate pride of simply showing what you’re made of.

Strangely, however, I can find very few decent pictures of the project online to show what the hell I’m talking about, and none at all that convey the excitement of what I felt when I saw it “live.”  Worse, I can find barely anything to suggest who the architect is of this gleaming triumph.

27So you're left to look at these few photos of the project gleaned from Mainzeal's website, and to speculate whether the centrepiece (at the right of that computer-generated pic at left) was designed by Beca, who did the site planning, or by Lion Nathan's own architects. 

Somebody certainly deserves some praise either way, so if anybody knows (or can send me better pictures) I'd love to hear from you.

UPDATE: Greig the Beer-Drinker advises that all is not lost on the beer front either, “Not all the beer coming out of there is terrible. Brewjolais is almost upon us!”  The sound of hope!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The entitlement culture starts here

David Slack has a short quiz today. You have thirty seconds for this question, starting now

    "You are at Showgirls and you have a ministerial credit card in your pocket. Should you pay by the glass or get a whole bottle?"

Cue laughter.  Cue ministerial apologies.  Cue ministers and their apologists arguing that the sums being spend on ministerial credit card are “trivial.” Cue the ministers’ own boss being frankly unmoved and all ready to move on. “In my opinion,” says a Prime Minister frankly relaxed about his ministers’ just happening to get out the wrong card when they get to the till, “[errant ministers weren’t] attempting to rort the taxpayer but they are stupid mistakes.”

Sure, the amounts they are spending is trivial.  And to be perfectly sure too, all those teary apologies are perfectly meaningless when even the senior man in charge of putting hands into your wallet intends to change nothing, to fix nothing.

After all is said and done, however apparently trivial, it's your money that  they're spending on themselves, and with such little care and respect for where it comes from.  What they really think is “trivial” is the idea that anyone should find it wrong, let alone questionable, that a minister who’s already being well remunerated for being on the news every night should have to put his own money into his pocket to pay for his families’ lunches, his families’ trips movies, and his trips to the South Island with his family on fishy, ahem “fisheries business.” 

What the spending and the blasé reaction to it really reveals   is the extent to which senior cabinet ministers feel they're entitled to your money. Frankly, that’s the whole story here in a nutshell.  They’re not embarrassed at slipping their hand into your pocket to pay for their own trivial little peccadilloes, they’re only embarrassed about it when they’re caught.

These truly are the country's biggest beneficiaries.  No wonder they’re all slobs.

And lo, a miracle!

6a00d83451d75d69e20120a6fadc2a970b-320wi I was fascinated to discover that Steven Joyce, that former example of hard-nosed and successful entrepreneurial ability, has now metamorphosed during his sort time in the ministerial saddle into a more soft-shelled being with an almost mystic belief in the power of legislation.

Case in point: Confronting the problem that Telecom’s XT customers are unable for large periods of time to access emergency services when they dial 111 (or any other service when they dial anything else) Mr Joyce says he may “introduce regulation forcing telcos to ensure New Zealanders can connect to 111 emergency services from their cellphones even when networks are unstable.”

Has he not heard of King Canute?  From whence, one wonders, comes the power of legislation to do the impossible—to reverse the tides; to heal the sick; and to allow NZers to make contact with emergency services “even when” one telephone is manifestly unable to communicate with another one?  The power can only come, I suggest, from a belief in the magic properties of Govermentium, that magic ingredient which at the stroke of a legislative pen allows a rising minister to verily do the impossible. And yea, even to create connections with other telecommunications devices when there are none!

I look forward to legislation being introduced into the house forthwith to repeal gravity.  And minister’s credit card bills.

Subsidising failure

Cartoon89 While Australia’s insulation subsidy stimulunacy has already cost their taxpayers $2.5 billion, killed four people, set fire to more than 90 homes and left 1000 more with lethal faults in their ceilings -- and not incidentally left the career of environment minister Peter “How-Do-You-Sleep-While-the-Roofs-Are-Burning” Garrett dangling by a faulty wire – rumour has it that New Zealand’s own “Green New Deal” insulation-for-everyone lunacy has been or is about to be pulled.

It would be no surprise to discover the rumours are true.

While New Zealand’s failures have been nowhere near as dramatic as Australia’s high-profile disaster, the list of cock-ups created and fire risks caused by shoddy installation here is huge.  Around 26,000 NZ houses have taken advantage of the insulation subsidy scheme (budgeted to cost around one-third of a billion local dollars, plus cock-ups, over four years), but random inspections suggest all is not well. “Of 570 checked in the first round of audits, inspectors found problems with 359 - 17 of which were fire risks.”


But this should surely come as no surprise to anyone, because like everything bureaucratic the whole scheme was really set up to ensure failure.  At at time of rising unemployment installers leapt in to get their chance at the pots of taxpayers’ money being doled out, installers (sometimes) with no other qualification for the job  than being able to fill out a government form.  And instead of paying out half the sum before the job started and the other half once installation was completed (a fairly normal procedure for an installation job of such magnitude; ensuring that payment is only made once the quality of the installation has been established), this scheme required home-owners to pay installers upfront – paying installers they hadn’t yet seen and never before heard of for work they hadn’t yet done.

It was a scheme only a bureaucrat could have devised.

No wonder so many installers took such advantage of so many home-owners – and so many tax-payers – to simply crash, bash and grab that cash.  If the rumours of its demise are true, then the real winners here will be the taxpayers who have been paying to subsidise failure.

NB:  I hasten to add that not all installers should be tarred with this brush.  As one example: I was delighted to discover (when my mother told me she had signed up for the scheme) that despite the perverse incentives in place that encourage shoddiness and incompetence, the team who installed her own new ceiling and underfloor insulation was thorough, professional and courteous at all times–and their work when I inspected it was sound.  In fact, more than sound. And since it’s a pleasure to endorse good work, I can tell you that it was installed by the Auckland Central team from PinkFit, run by a chap called Gus Gilmour.  Thanks Gus.

Holiday “road toll” examined

Despite every holiday period being followed by black headlines trumpeting something the newspapers call “the holiday road toll” (a ritual undoubtedly part of a Calvinist heritage preaching every pleasure must be paid for), the number of deaths on roads in the holiday period is actually no more statistically than they are at any other time of year. 

This is in spite of newspapers attempting to divine meaning in numbers that themselves represent too small a sample from which to divine anything.

In fact, as Chris Worthington from Infometrics points out in one of those great “check-your-premises” posts, it’s astonishing to discover that while everyone drives a heck of a lot more during their holidays, fatalities in general occur only 20% more frequently than they do at non-holiday times, and injuries only 5% more.  Which is to say, as Worthington does say, “that, despite the large amount of media attention given to it, the holiday period is not strikingly a more dangerous time to drive.”

And on the general “road toll” (that grim Calvinist cliché used to suggest  the near-inevitability of some bodies being forced to pay the piper for venturing out onto the sinful tarmacadam of terror) Worthington has more good news:

    “Annual road fatalities have fallen from around six per 10,000 vehicles in the early 1950s to about one now – modern drivers have just 20% the annual mortality risk of drivers two generations earlier.”

So why, then, do we require all those interminal tax-paid TV ads warning us against enjoying ourselves when we get out and about behind the wheel?  You’d have to wonder, wouldn’t you.

Wheels falling off the climate science deniers [updated]

climate-gate-cartoon-2 Robert Bryce at the Master Resource blog provides a useful summary of ways the wheels are falling off the real climate science deniers—ie., The Team who have been part of “hiding the decline.”

The wheels have been falling off for several reasons. First of all, because even politicians interested in no more than their own careers are rational enough to recognise that in the middle of a Great Recession, with unemployment rising with each new report, this is no time to impose additional shackles on producers in the form of an Emissions Trading Scam.

But the science of the IPCC Team has also given new meaning to the saying “good enough for government work.”

    “Sloppy work has tarnished the reputation of the UN-sanctioned Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), perhaps irretrievably so. The most dramatic error was that 80% of Himalayan glacier area would very likely melt by 2035. But it is hardly the only one.”

It sure isn’t. As Chip Knappenberger explained yesterday at MasterResource:

    “Another new problem with the IPCC’s AR4 was reported earlier this week. This one involved the IPCC’s reliance on a book chapter instead of the peer-reviewed literature to conclude that sea ice extent around Antarctica had changed little since the late 1970s. In fact, it is well-established in the scientific literature, dating both prior to and subsequent from the production of the AR4, that there has been a statistically significant increase in the extent of sea ice in the Antarctic. That the IPCC AR4 projects Antarctic sea ice declines to accompany global warming, it is little wonder why the IPCC AR4 Chapter 4 authors wanted to downplay the actual behavior of Antarctic sea ice.
    “The Antarctic sea ice problem adds to an ever growing list of problems uncovered recently (since the EPA’s Endangerment Finding) that exist within the IPCC AR4 reports. Other errors involve IPCC findings on Himalayan glaciers, Amazon rainforests, African agriculture, Dutch geography, attribution of extreme weather damages, and several others.”

The list of errors is long.  The list of excuses for them is short, and increasingly shrill.  And as more and more errors come to light in the wake of the release of the Climategate emails--revealing as Bryce says, “an agenda at work where desired ‘science’ trumped careful, open, respectful scholarship”—much of Europe and the U.S. still lies under several feet of global warming, having been hit with “record-cold temperatures and record amounts of snow.”

And that’s not all. The IPCC’s “keeper of the records,” Phil Jones, has admitted that his record keeping is frankly appalling, and he has trouble “keeping track” of them all--a major admission when it’s solely on the basis of Jones’s manipulations of those records that so much of the manipulation of the world’s surface temperature records has been justified. 

And he also admitted to the BBC’s environmental reporter, Roger Harrabin that “from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming.” Yes, you read that right.

    “While that statement is enormously important, another Harrabin question was just as significant. Harrabin asked Jones to comment on the claim that ‘the debate over climate change is over.’ Jones responded:

    ‘I don’t believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the paleoclimatic) past as well.’

As Robert Bryce says, “All this has the establishment climate industry rethinking a number of things.” As it should. Because even the “denier” smear is beginning to backfire.

     “Last month, Rolling Stone magazine published a list of “the 17 polluters and deniers who are derailing efforts to curb global warming.” The article, called, ‘The Climate Killers’ lambasted a range of people — Warren Buffett, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Oklahoma US Senator James Inhofe, and columnist George Will, among them.
    “Yet less than six weeks after Rolling Stone published its list of ‘climate killers’ Phil Jones, one of the world’s most prominent climate scientists, [can tell] the BBC that
    a) there’s been no statistically significant warming of the earth over the past 15 years, and  
    b) that the science of global warming is not, in fact, settled and that, in his words, ‘there is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties.’”

So in the face of that admission then, who in fact are the real deniers?  They’re those who still insist the opposite—and who want to impose an Emissions Trading Scam on us regardless.

READ: The Rapidly Melting Case For Carbon Legislation   - Robert Bryce

UPDATE:  The avalanche of inconvenient truth emerges. The Guardian has news that “Scientists have been forced to withdraw a study on projected sea level rise due to global warming after finding mistakes that undermined the findings.”

    “Study claimed in 2009 that sea levels would rise by up to 82cm by the end of century – but the report's author now says true estimate is still unknown.”

Spring is coming – Han Wu Shen


Dianne Durante describes her reaction to this painting:

    "I liked Spring Is Coming more after learning its title. At first glance I had focused on the stark branches, but the title made me pay attention to the faint hints of green, so delicately rendered. It reminds me of that day in February or March when I first notice buds on the trees, and realize with relief that the long, cold Northeast winter will soon be over.”

And naturally, the prospect of spring’s onset can refer to more than just the seasons.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The ‘Settler Revolution’ on air [updated]

replenishing_the_earth Much has been written about the Agricultural Revolution, the American Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution—those great events in human affairs—but very little about what NZ historian James Belich calls in his new book “the Settler Revolution”: that spectacular event in world affairs when English-speaking settlers exploded out from a small, dank island off the coast of Europe and began to populate nearly two-thirds of the globe; bringing with them British law and European culture, and making what are now some of the best places in the world to live.

Four simple facts from Belich’s book tell the story of the unprecedented explosion.

  • In 1780, the seven largest cities in the Americas all spoke Spanish.  But a century later the English speakers had caught up, and by then they inhabited all but one of the largest. As one diaspora was diminishing, the other was exploding.
  • “Before 1800, few if any cities had ever reached a population of one million, though ancient Rome, medieval Baghdad and eighteenth-century Beijing came close.” But by 1890 there were two: London with six millions & New York with three.
  • In 1830 the cities of Melbourne and Chicago were small villages on a dirt track (the Chicago of the time was described as “consisting of ‘about half a dozen house,’ a few Indian tepees and one hotel”—and Melbourne in 1835 “after a perilous flirtation with the name ‘Batmania’” contained precisely zero inhabitants, but by 1890 they were packed to the rafters and thriving.
  • At the start of the 1800s the world contained around 12-15 million English-speaking souls.  By the time of the First World War, there were around 150-200 million.  Even the slaughter of the First World War couldn’t slow down the rise.  “Leaving aside the 400 million people in Britain’s subject empire, English-speakers grew over sixteenfold from 1790 to 1930 … [and] as their great cities suggest, Anglo wealth and power grew to match. . . .”

The story is dramatic. But what explains those very pregnant facts about a revolution about which heretofore so little has been intelligently said?  Belich’s new book Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld, 1783-1939 seeks to address that point and answer those questions, and many more like them.

I have to say it was in the box of books I took away on holiday (I had a great time; thanks for asking), but never got time for more than a cursory browse that whet my appetite for more.  Which means that I thoroughly enjoyed his thirty-minute interview with Bryan Crump last night on Government Radio, which is as good an introduction to the book and his answers as any.  So I commend it to your attention:

And, hey look: here he is talking to Kim Hill (well, mostly the reverse) a few months back:


UPDATE: Just to note, this is the same book Tyler Cowen called “one of the very best non-fiction books of the year.”  True story.

How Australia’s Stimulus Destroyed 77,000 Manufacturing Jobs [updated]

by Kris Sayce

If it was possible for a market to whistle without a care in the world that’s exactly what it would be doing right now…

Greece on the verge of default – [whistle].

China trying to engineer a soft economic landing – [whistle].

US Federal Reserve increasing interest rates – [whistle].

Australian property bubble bubbling – [whistle].

Millions of your taxpayer dollars wasted on home insulation stimulus – [whistle].

But funnily enough, it’s the mainstream response to the last one that baffles us the most.

After four insulation installers have been killed – and doubtless tens or hundreds of others have been injured – and at least 87 fires have resulted from the installations, Environment Minister Peter Garrett has abandoned the scheme.

Of course, already, billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on this monumental waste of money.

But here’s the thing we don’t get. At the time all these whacky schemes were announced, the mainstream told you that it was necessary to spend money because spending money was good for the economy.

You remember that don’t you?

Well, if spending money is good for the economy, then surely the disastrous outcome of the housing insulation scheme is an unexpected boost for the economy.

Because if simply spending money is good, then surely spending more money is even better.

The government now has to fork out hundreds of millions of dollars more to arrange for inspectors to make sure the work on at least 48,000 properties has been done properly.

Doubtless it hasn’t – hence the four deaths – so those inspectors will need to arrange for the work to be fixed up. That will cost more money.

Then we’re sure that just to be on the safe side, the government will send inspectors out again to make sure the fix-ups are safe – there’s even more taxpayer dollars spent.

According to the lame thinking of the mainstream that should all equal a boost to the economy, as more taxpayers dollars are spent.

Not surprisingly, the mainstream press haven’t mentioned any of this. Either because they’re too thick to work it out, or because they realise how illogical the idea of stimulus spending is, but they don’t want to admit it. After all, spending other people’s money is fun!
Aside from the wasteful spending, the 6,000 job losses suffered in the home insulation sector is another perfect example of how the misallocation of resources can permanently damage the economy.

As Paul Howes, national secretary of the Australian Workers Union points out, “77,000 jobs went in manufacturing, and the knock-on of that will be felt for years and decades ahead as factories were shut that will never re-open.”

Of course, what Mr. Howes fails to point out is that it’s the unions that help to ensure there are job losses. Their push for higher minimum wages guarantees that Australian businesses will either go bust or have to ship the work offshore.

And he doesn’t mention the millions of other manufacturing jobs that have vanished over the years thanks to the trade union movement.
But here’s the bigger problem. All the excitement about the stimulus programmes ‘creating’ new jobs masks the fact that those jobs which didn’t benefit from direct stimulus spending – such as manufacturing – lost jobs.

Not only that, but once a factory has closed down, as Mr. Howes correctly points out, they “will never re-open.”

If it was uneconomical to maintain a manufacturing business, it will be ten-times more uneconomical to try and re-start one from scratch.
Yet, all those jobs that were ‘created’ by the government to install insulation, what’s happened to them? Oh, that’s right, the programme has been cancelled. So the billions of dollars spent on ‘creating’ jobs have not only destroyed 77,000 manufacturing jobs, but it’s not even benefited the industries that were supposed to gain.

As we wrote a year ago on 4th February 2009:

“The government economic stimulus package will have no positive impact on the broader economy whatsoever. None.”

Yet again we’ve been proved right, and the mainstream press proved wrong.

At the time we also quoted some of the shrill headlines from the mainstream press:

“Rudd throws $42bn at economy” – Australian Financial Review
“Schoolyard blitz to avoid recession” – AFR
“We’re all in this together: except Turnbull” – AFR
“Rudd and the Reserve free up billions to beat recession” – The Age
“Rudd splashes the cash” – The Age

Every last one of them cheering for the government to spend your money to save the economy. Not a single journo was capable of expending one brain cell to figure out what the terrible consequences for the Australian economy would be.

An economy that believes the best solution to national wealth is to build, and then buy and sell houses between each other.
But there’s the consequence for you. One industry gets a bunch of stolen taxpayer money to keep prices sky-high and the credit bubble growing. The other industry gets swamped and ravaged by trade unions and minimum wage legislation which forces it to close down forever.

The upshot is the Australian economy hasn’t benefited one jot from the billions spent in the stimulus programme. All it’s done is allocated resources to prevent a bubble from popping – for now – and ensure thousands of people have received training for an industry that can’t possibly sustain them without the presence of taxpayer money.

Because if it could, then they wouldn’t need the stimulus to begin with – it’s not rocket science.

Despite the complete failure of stimulus spending we’ve little doubt the spin doctors will continue to call for more taxpayer dollars to be thrown at the economy – especially the housing sector.

And as long as that happens then we’ll continue to see headlines such as this:

“Housing debt in overdrive”News Ltd

According to journalist Anthony Keane, “Total housing debt is set to reach $1 trillion within a year. The figure itself is not a worry, but there is concern the pace of borrowing is exceeding household income growth.”

“Not a worry”! Is he mad?

Nearly $1 trillion isn’t a worry? Oh Lordy. We’ve heard it all now.

Says Art Carden:

    “I'm reminded of other ventures that create "prosperity," such as when rural Chinese peasants were melting down useful pots, pans, tools, and doorknobs to meet iron and steel production quotas under Chairman Mao (of course, most of the metal they ultimately produced was worthless) and when Hurricane Katrina created prosperity by wrecking New Orleans.”