Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hayek-Keynes rap video: The making of [update 2]

CLICK HERE FOR RAP VIDEOThe Hayek- Keynes rap video ‘Fear the Boom & Bust’ has now been seen over a million times, and translated into around a dozen languages.

Not bad for the best seven-minute economics lecture you’re ever likely to see.

It’s like a college economics course in just even minutes!

The maker of the Hayek-Keynes rap video, John Papola, talks at the Austrian Scholars Conference about the making of the video.

Take a look .

(NB: there’s a few sound troubles in the first few minutes.  No huhu.  Just flick past it.):

PS: You can watch the whole Austrian Scholars Conference online here.

PPS: Learn from monetary scholar George Selgin in 30 minutes why the Federal Reserve “system” has proven in every possible way to be an inferior system of money and banking to the standard it replaced… and using empirical studies by the most mainstream economists out there to prove it.
Audio here: George Selgin on the Fed’s Dismal Record.

UPDATE 1: And here’s a related piece from on  PBS, featuring a (brief) debate between the rap’s co-author, Russ Roberts, and Keynes’s latest biographer Robert Skidelsky.

UPDATE 2: And here’s the real thing--a five-minute excerpt of an interview with Friedrich Hayek on the subject of Keynes. 
Head here to watch it, and for some context: Hayek on Keynes.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Morning Ramble: Tax attacks

Here’s the latest edition of your regular Friday morning ramble, coming to you this afternoon…

  • The whole blogosphere has been excited  by Janet Wilson’s attack on the falling standards of the Royal New Zealand Herald.  But isn’t it ironic that the slide in standards she documents parallels the same slide ion standards that her husband Bill Ralston oversaw at what is now laughingly called the TVNZ News department?  And isn’t it relevant that she’s taking against the Royal New Zealand Herald just at the same time that they are taking against John Banks, the mayoral candidate for whom she’s employed to give media advice?  Or is that just a coincidence?
    God piece anyway:
    Shock, Horror!!! Holding The Front Page At The Royal NZ Herald
  • Alan Bollard says it’s time for government to tighten its belt.  Meanwhile, Sir Double Dipton is boasting that he’s “only” going to increase spending by $1.1 billion this year. This at a time when government debt is already at an eye-watering $51.716 billion—and the government is borrowing the equivalent of around fifty Mark Hotchin’s gin palaces a week just to pay the interest.
    Only in the Bill English household is this sort of spending increase known as “austerity spending.”
    And only in New Zealand would people care more about Hotchin’s chutzpah than Bill’s.
  • Spare a thought for Queensland property owners, who have just been hit with a retrospective land tax going back to June 30, 2002!
    `Retrospective land tax to hit Queensland property investors
  • Lou Taylor has a sign that will make the politicians feel more at home when they’re flying into Wellington than a ‘Wellywood’ sign.
    A bit more realistic
  • raf-133x100 Stephen Hicks reveals a fundamental truth bound to get Sub-Standard readers excited:
    Marxism = Nazism (another datum)
  • I like this point made by Gus Van Horn:
            “An article at Politico makes a common mistake: Judging
             the relevance of a nascent political movement [in this case
             the Tea Party movement] by how many of its candidates
             getelected. Far better is to have any major candidate who wants to get elected
            making sure   he has something to offer you.”
    Some friends of Rodney Hide might want to consider that one.
    And Gus makes a good point too about the fruitlessness of so much misguided third-party politics—another (related) point that’s worth giving some time to.
    "Indeed" Indeed.
  • Jim May debunks the story of Sarah Palin "hustling" over to Canada (as an adult) for looted medical care.
    But you know why she writes notes on her hand?  Because God told her to.  True story.
    "God does it, too!"
  • "'Liberals' and conservatives agree on one thing: all men ought to live their lives in servitude to the needy."
    Leftists and Evangelicals Make Excellent Bedfellows
  • The quality of US political debate is not high. Representative Louise Slaughter knows people who wear other people’s dentures.  Apparently this is un-American. Or something.
  • Speaking of which: Did She Really Say That? 
    Pelosi re health bill:
            “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from
            the fog of the controversy."
  • aykf0p And here’s some Obama photo-ops from the health-summit that reveal what a good listener he is.
    Video: Obama’s Frustrated Faces During The Health Care Summit
  • Despite their new-found grass roots revival, conservatives are still being whipped in the intellectual battle.  They’re being whipped in the intellectual battle because they long ago gave up the intellect altogether. Message to conservatives who want to know better:
            “Conservatism’s vulnerability in the realm of ideas is precisely why the Left
            has been corrupting your concepts out from underneath you, unimpeded,
            for over a century now.
    Here’s  few examples of such corrupted concepts that mainstream conservatives use routinely:
    A few examples of corrupted concepts that mainstream conservatives use routinely
  • Just another example here of another corrupted conservative: i.e., Anthony Daniels, a.k.a Theodore Dalrymple, who, because he steers clear of ideas, can neither ask real questions about the ideas that move the culture, nor offer any decent answers. These two posts go to the heart of this failure—which for a commentator writing on culture borders on rank dishonesty—concluding:
            “Anthony Daniels's writing can sparkle. He can entertain with erudite and
            obscure trivia. But he seems unwilling to think deeply about ideas. Consequently,
            his intellect is as wide as an ocean, but as shallow as a puddle.”
    Wide as an Ocean, Shallow as a Puddle
    A Critical Account of Anthony Daniels on Ayn Rand
  • Ayn Rand would have been 105 this March.  Harry Binswanger talks to The Big Show about her impact on today’s culture, and tomorrow’s.
    Ayn Rand and Today’s Culture
  • What was revealed in the ClimateGate emails  “has far-reaching consequences for the reputation of science as a whole, with the ability to undermine the public's confidence in science,”  two respected British scientific organisations have warned.
    Apart from substituting the words “has already undermined” above, I’d say that’s spot on.  Wouldn’t you?
    Row over leaked climate emails may undermine reputation of science
  • Meanwhile, the real science keeps coming in:
            “Another error in the influential reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on
            Climate Change (IPCC) reports has been identified. This one concerns the rate of
            expansion of sea ice around Antarctica.”
    Wouldn’t it be easier just to mark up the sections of IPCC reports that haven’t been error-ridden?
    Yet Another Incorrect IPCC Assessment: Antarctic Sea Ice Increase
  • Oh, and the temperature record itself? The munted record from East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit—the record that Phil Jones altered in some unspecified way, and then lost the originals—it’s now been confirmed that the other two major temperature databases have been contaminated with Jones’s slime.
            “Following Climategate, when it became known that raw temperature data
            for CRU’s “HADCRU3″ climate dataset had been destroyed, Phil Jones, CRU’s
            former director, said the data loss was not important — because there were other
            independent climate datasets
    available.
            “But [newly released] emails reveal that at least three of the four datasets were not
             independent, that NASA GISS was not considered to be accurate, and that these
            quality issues were known to both top climate scientists and to the mainstream press.”
    Climategate Stunner: NASA Heads Knew NASA Data Was Poor, Then Used Data from CRU
    The newly-released emails
  • No welfare-state debate is complete without bringing up the Scandinavian countries as the perfect example of massive statism bringing prosperity.”  So what’s the real story about Scandinavian prosperity?
    The Scandinavian-Welfare Myth Revisited
  • A Swedish cartoonist who offended Islamists by poking fun at their heroes explains the measures he needs to take to defend himself against the apostles of the religion of peace.
    Lars Attacks
  • And still in Scandinavia, turns out Denmark’s much-touted wind-power is nothing more than a con job.
            “Flemming Nissen, the head of development at West Danish generating company
            ELSAM (one of Denmark’s largest energy utilities) tells us that ‘wind turbines do
            not reduce carbon dioxide emissions.’ The German experience is no different. Der
            Spiegel
    reports that ‘Germany’s CO2 emissions haven’t been reduced by even a
            single gram,’ and additional coal- and gas-fired plants have been constructed to
            ensure reliable delivery…
            “’Industrial wind power is not a viable economic alternative to other energy
            conservation options,’ they conclude.”
    Speaks for itself, really.
    Danish patsies
  • ASB_460x230 The ASB Bank head office is moving from Auckland’s CBD out to the Tank Farm, which has all the usual suspects all a-flutter.  Good to see head offices start moving out there—even if their building is only an uneventful low rise with a “volcanic cone top” to “reflect” the local context (right).
    But if there’s ever to be an “iconic” building on Auckland’s harbour, my bet is that it will be somewhere on that Tank Farm land.  Mind you, to be properly “iconic” on the scale needed for Auckland’s harbour it will need to be much taller than the 52m of this. And do something more than just reference Auckland’s volcanoes…
  • All change at the top as Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu replaces Bill Gates and Warren Buffett at the top of Forbes’s list of the world’s richest men. “One of the reasons for the switch [says the Herald] is Slim's view of philanthropy. Were it not for his charitable giving, including the setting up of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Microsoft founder would be worth more than $80bn today; Buffett, who is giving away his fortune in tranches to the Gates Foundation, would be worth $55bn. Slim, meanwhile, was quoted in 2007 saying ‘poverty isn't solved with donations’.”
    There’s a lesson in that, for those smart enough to take it.
  • And here are five reasons you aren’t earning more (and it’s not just because you’re reading this when you’re supposed to be working).
    5 Reasons You’re Not Earning More
    And while we’re on Tod’s website [hat tip Noodle Food], there’s this :
    Suggestions for New Businesses
  • And speaking of giving money away, a group of New Zealand philanthropists businessmen including Stephen Tindall, Sam Morgan, Rod Drury, Mark Rushworth, John Humphrey, and Lance Wiggs have announced a $900 million project to build a high-speed broadband cable between NZ, Australia and the US before 2013. Before sinking any of their own money into this however, potential suckers investors in what they’ve calling Pacific Fibre may wish to take note of Sam Morgan’s comment on their proposed cable.  "We desperately need a cable that is not purely based on profit maximisation,” he says . . .
    Mind you, this could be just a ploy to get their hands on that $1.5 billion of taxpayers’ money that Steven Joyce will soon be throwing at “ultra-fast” nationalised broadband for all.
  • Did you know that the NZ Government is already censoring filtering the internet here, just quietly.  The Department of Internal Affairs flunky who admitted his colleagues were already hard at work making sure your internet access is limited by their morals “refuses to say which other ISPs will be joining the filter, claiming the right to negotiate in secret.” (They have rights; we don’t.)  However, online freedom lobby Tech Liberty understands that Telstra Clear, Telecom and Vodafone have said they will implement the filter, with Orcon, Slingshot and Natcom saying that they won't.
    At least one NOT PC reader has already shot of a missive to his provider.

          "Dear Slingshot.
            I have heard that since 1 Feb The New Zealand Government operates
            an Internet Filter.
            I would like to know if Slingshot uses this filter (forced or not) or does
            want to use this filter in the future.
            I want to be notified of such an action as it will result in an immediate
            cancellation of all my services with your company."
            I suggest others do the same.

    And so do I.
  • On the same front, Whale Oil says:
            “It has started, we now have un-elected officials deciding what we can and
            cannot see on the internet
    . Except we don’t know what they are filtering.
            They won’t tell us that. The Department of Internal Affairs calls it filtering,
            such a nice unobtrusive name for C E N S O R S H I P.”
    Read ’First they came . . .
  • And another reader writes:
            “Start off "optional and secret" and within 5 years I guarantee you we'll have an
            internet wall.
            “And you know, in addition to child porn, there's lots of fringe lunatics like
            Tea-Partiers and libertarians publishing horribly hateful information on the
            internet. It's very clear it's in everyone's interest those extremist ideas are
            excluded from the public debate.”
  • The Sport Review blog offers some hope.  In cricket, anyway:

    4411238701_6059556800_o5 
  • And Andrew Bolt (among many others) reminds Michael Clark (poor lamb) of something fairly straightforward:
    A captain isn’t a real captain if he isn’t on the field
  • But what’s Bolt doing falling love with Julia Guillard?!
    Why the Right loves this lady of the Left
  • I don’t often say this, but Auckland Uni students should be aware that some copies of Darwin’s Origin of the Species could be a gateway drug to something far less reasonable.
    Lying for Jesus
    A Special Introduction to a Special Introduction
  • Hey, you know all those Catholic priests fiddling with their altar boys?  Apparently it’s because “"the Devil is at work inside the Vatican.”
    True story—if you believe “the Holy See's chief exorcist,”  Father Gabriele Amorth, “who has been the Vatican's chief exorcist for 25 years and says he has dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic possession.”
    Seriously, are there really several million people who believe this shit?
    Read ‘Chief exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth says Devil is in the Vatican
  • Amit Ghate takes on the popuar leftist fallacy that equates violence with force. “The error and its consequences are manifest in what the left condemns and condones.”
    Force and Violence: How the Left Blurs Terms
  • When exactly did the American constitution begin its fall into disrepair and neglect?  Thomas Bowden dates it to when Justice Olive Wendell Holmes declared in the Lochner case that while many people might interpret the Constitution “as if it embodies a principled commitment to protecting individual liberty… no such foundational principle exists … and the sooner judges realize they are expounding an empty Constitution—empty of any underlying view on the relationship of the individual to the state—the sooner they will step aside and allow legislators to decide the fate of individuals.”
    Nothing could be more disastrously wrong—or more widely accepted by today’s jurists.
    Bowden explains why they can’t read:
    Justice Holmes and the Empty Constitution
  • Logical%20Leap Scientific induction has been left without philosophical hand-maidens for too long.  A new book by philosopher-physicist David Harriman promises to change that with “a ground-breaking solution to the problem of induction based on Ayn Rand’s theory of concepts.”  Why is this so important?  As an excerpt from the front page makes clear, because “the ‘problem of induction’ is not merely a puzzle for academics—it is the problem of human survival.”
    The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics
  • Specially for my American readers, many of whom may have never seen a decent TV show before, the BFI has announced its list of The Best British TV Shows Ever.  The Telegraph has a gallery of the top fifteen.  Bet you can’t guess what’s at number one . . .
    The best British TV ever
  • Here’s some fairly depressing news.  This has been
    The Worst Economic Decade Since the Great Depression.”  Thanks Alan.  And Ben.
  • Meanwhile, Bernie Madoff --the only chap qualified to take Ben Bernanke’s job—is in the news again, this time because the chap who blew the whistle on him, Harry Markopolos, has revealed that no-one wanted to know about the fraud that was right in front of their eyes. (Which is yet another analogy for what Alan and Ben have been doing at The Fed.)
    Madoff whistle-blower: ‘No One Would Listen’
  • Oh, and by the way, does anyone know exactly just how fast the rain-forests are disappearing?
    No, I thought not.  Neither does anyone else.
    Killing Rainforests–by the second!!!
  • Hey look, it’s Mighty Casey Obama at the Bat.  Humorous re-working of an old American classic [hat tip Trevor Loudon]

  • I know Objectivist parents with autistic kids will appreciate this: Rachel Miner “shares the experience of discovering the thinking challenges my son faced and first learning about their label, autism. He has progressed so much in the last three years, that I can look with some fascination at how he dealt with epistemological issues like concrete thinking and scripted language. It was quite painful at the time though and I found this post difficult to write."
    Autism Experience
  • A reminder for you, in case we hadn’t pointed it out recently:
    An Armed Society Means Moral Progress
  • I know Sub-Standard readers and Paul Krugman both believe it, but that doesn’t make it true.  Unemployment benefits do not decrease unemployment.  Sheesh!
    On Unemployment Benefits-Part 1
    On Unemployment Benefits-Part 2
  • In the week that played host to International Women’s Day, it’s astonishing how little talk there was  of some of the more delightful ways some parts of the world treat women.  Multiculturalism; it’s so disarming, isn’t it.
    Women's Rights Trampled in Much of Developing World’ – JONAH GOLDBERG
  • Straight-talking Czech president Václav Klaus visited Florida this week to talk to the Club for Growth, a pro-market think tank. Here is the transcript [hat tip Reference Frame]:
    Global Warming Alarmism is a Grave Threat to our Liberty’ – VACLAV KLAUS
  • Artist Michael Newberry posted this neat time-lapse video of an eye drawing.  (More like this here.)

  • And finally, enjoy the pace and precision of the near-legendary Arturo Toscanini conducting Verdi’s La forza del destino Overture (The Forces of Destiny).  Careful listening will elicit the source of a popular beer ad.

Enjoy the weekend. I will be.  :-)

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Female nude leaning on a table – William Blake

2

A study by the poet Blake for the 1822 painting ‘The Wise and Foolish Virgins.’ (Other studies here.)

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Truth in headlining

I’ve seen a few quotes and headlines around the traps today that need to be rewritten to make them more accurate.  There used to be a move for “truth in sentencing.”  Here’s what “truth in headlining” might look like.

* * At the Sub-Standard the headline reads High unemployment helps Nats keep wages down , when if accuracy was important it would instead say:

_quoteHigh wages help keep unemployment up.”

* * Hone Kaa of the Maori child lobby organisation Te Kahui Mana Ririki told a select committee enquiry that "For the sake of our children we support the prohibition of tobacco."  When if accuracy was important what he should have said was:

 _quoteFor the sake of our own commitment to the the notion that nanny knows best, we want to show you what real bullying looks like.

After all, which is more dangerous: tobacco, or government force?

* * At Labour’s Red Alert blog, David “Silent T” Cunliffe opines, “There is a quiet revolution underway in macroeconomics,” when what he really should have said if he were accurate would be:

_quote Central bankers looking for excuses to let inflation rip.”

* * And in any number of places, John Key has been quoted as saying about Don Brash’s stolen emails, “"I think the computer system was hacked into, that's my view but I can't back that up."  When what he would really be saying if honesty were a virtue would be:

_quoteI know who stole them and passed them on to Nicky Hager--and anyone with even half a brain could work it out for themselves--but I’m still not telling, so there.”

And that’s just a few from an almost random sample.  What other examples can you find?

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The measure of a man: What he does.

Blunt sent me this topical cartoon after yesterday’s post on The widening John Boy credibility gap.

 

measure-of-a-man

 

Of course, that used to be the measure of a real man.  Not a hollow one.

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Environmentalists: Follow the money [updated]

What does it mean when governments pay lobbyists to lobby for policies that the government itself wants to implement?  What does it mean when they call those lobbyists “independent.”

While you’re thinking about that, consider this report, from Europe:

Green pressure groups get €66 million from the EU       
    “Have you ever wondered why the eco-lobby is so pro-EU? Now you have your answer. Green pressure groups are becoming financially dependent on Brussels. Ten years ago, they received €2,337,924 from the European Commission; last year, it was €8,749,940.
    “A study by the International Policy Network reveals the extent to which Green lobbyists look to the EU for their income: Climate Action Network, Friends of the Earth, WWF, they’re all at it. Much of this money, the paper shows, is then recycled into lobbying the EU.
    “You see how the system works? The EU pays eco-lobbyists to tell it what it wants to hear. Its clients, naturally enough, tell it that the EU ought to increase its powers. A similar racket goes on between Brussels and the mega-charities (see here).”

Just to clarify, the top ten recipients of European taxpayers’ money for telling European governments what they want to hear are:

Green 10 Members
Birdlife International
Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) Bankwatch Network
Climate Action Network Europe (CAN-E)
European Environment Bureau (EEB)
Transport and Environment (T&E)
Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL)
Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE)
Greenpeace
International Friends of Nature (IFN)
WWF European Policy Office (WWF-EPO)

And that’s just in Europe. (Think about that the next time some charming young thing on a street-corner rattles a Greenpeace collection can under your nose.  Or they complain about how much Exxon supposedly is paying all us global warming skeptics.)

And while you’re thinking about that, just consider that the same things happens all round the world (here, as just a few examples, think Association of Smoking Hysterics (ASH), the wowsers of ALAC, the Fight the Obesity Epidemic anorexics, Gary Taylor’s anti-development Environmental Defence Society, Guy Salmon’s pro-government Ecologic, and—once again--Greenpeace). 

And in the States, as just one example,

    “The Competitive Enterprise Institute has uncovered, via a Freedom of Information Act request, a fascinating instance of the symbiotic relationship among 1) left-wing advocacy groups, 2) left-wing Obama administration officials, and 3) lobbyists for moneyed interests who benefit from left-wing policies. It has to do with wind energy…
    “Emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the Obama Department of Energy is using the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) -- the lobbying arm of "Big Wind" in the U.S. -- to coordinate political responses with two strongly ideological activist groups: the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and the George Soros funded Center for American Progress (CAP).”

As the Powerline blog asks: Where do the lobbyists end and the government begin?

The same could be asked in every country, of nearly every environmental lobbyist.

And if the word “corruption” occurred to you while you were thinking about all this, then I think your answer to my first question is going to be in the right ballpark.

  • Al Bore’s Generation Investment Management (GIM)

  • Goldman Sachs

  • World Resources Institute

  • Morgan Stanley

  • Bank of America

  • World Rainforest Movement

  • Winrock International

  • Nature Conservancy

  • Resources for the Future

  • Woods Hole Research Center

Story here. As Deborah Corey Barnes is quoted as saying therein: “

When a non-profit group takes money from oil companies and advocates drilling for oil as a solution to energy shortages, it is certain to be attacked as a tool of Big Oil. So far, the groups linked to Al Gore have avoided similar scrutiny.”

Why is that, do you think?

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“Life Imitating Rand: Al Gore, Doctor of Ecology & Enemy of Freedom” [update 2]

“Life Imitating Rand,” says PJTV:

    “In a move seemingly ripped from the pages of an Ayn Rand novel, the University of Tennessee flatters Gore and itself with an honorary doctorate in ecology – and evolutionary biology too.”

Click the pic to head to the PJTV discussion.

ManBearGorePig_

UPDATE 1:  Blunt sent me a relevant cartoon, which I think we have to file under “wishful thinking”:

AlGore

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Internet access a “fundamental right”? [updated]

CLICK HERE FOR CURRAN'S PLEADING Labour’s Clare Curran quotes a BBC World Service poll saying “Almost four in five people around the world believe that access to the internet is a fundamental right.”

Which doesn’t make it a right.  Especially not a fundamental right.

Even Tapu Misa gets that much about rights, or at least is prepared to quote it in her Herald column: “As the philosopher and writer Ayn Rand observed, ‘Individual rights are not subject to a public vote’.”  And thank goodness for that.

To paraphrase Tapu Misa’s new favourite author just a little,

    “the source of man’s rights is not divine law or parliamentary law—or popularity contest--but the law of identity.
    “A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival.”

And the idea that access to the internet is a fundamental right?  Well, even if “four in five people around the world” would go that far, Clare Curran wouldn’t. Not quite. Not yet. “I am not saying categorically that access to the internet is a human right,” she says.

And thank goodness for that, because it isn’t.  It can’t be.  Because the test of a genuine right is not whether or not you can get four out of five people to agree with you about it, but whether or not it would, as a right, impose positive obligations on others. Even the Herald’s editorial writers understands this much:

    “Human rights are typically rights that everyone can enjoy equally at no cost to others. Society can recognise and uphold certain rights and freedoms because they can be applied equally to everyone; they do not require some people to be awarded rights at the expense of others. ‘Social’ rights are quite the opposite. They can be awarded only at the expense of others.”

“Social” rights? I’d call them bogus rights. Bogus rights are non-rights, since they can be awarded only at the expense of those required to service them—which means they serve to destroy real rights.  Fundamental rights. For example:

Create a “right” to a job, and you take away the rights of employers.

Create a “right” to a house, and you take away the rights of house-builders.

Create a “right” to health care, and you take away the rights of doctors and nurses.

Create a “right” to internet access, and you take away the rights of internet providers—as the assault by Clare Curran’s colleagues on Telecom’s shareholders demonstrates.

These are all good-things-to-have, to be sure, but being a-good-thing-to-have does not make it a right to have it. Free pizza and a big-screen TV are good things to have, about which we can be very sure, but to manufacture a “right” to those things would play havoc with the rights of Hell’s Pizza and the shareholders of Noel Leeming.

Rights are not to be multiplied beyond necessity, not even if our out of five people think they can be.

And not even when a Labour MP floats the idea on her blog as a trial balloon.

UPDATE: Good for Richard McGrath and Falufulu Fisi, whose straightforward common sense in the comments of Clare Curran’s post (here and here respectively) the Labour Party’s commenters are now doing their best to ignore.  They say it way better than I did:

Falufulu Fisi:

    “Clare, the argument that internet isn’t a right, it’s a privilege is right on the dot there.
    “Think about it as a property rights issue. This means that the provider of the internet services has no obligation to be forced (by law) to allow a person that it had banned for example from its services on the ground/s that this person had violated its rules. This banned person can’t run to court and complain that his access rights to the internet are being violated. The online services are properties that belong to the owner/s and not the citizens whom may have mistaken to believe that access to the internet is their rights by birth, but actually not. They (citizens) have a right to setup their own services (i.e., their own properties which they have rights to their use), but they can’t claim that getting access to the internet is being violated because no entrepreneur has setup such services in his village/town/country, etc…”

Richard:

    “Falafulu Fisi is correct. Fundamental rights are timeless. Such as: the right to freedom of speech and expression; the right to possess and carry adequate means of self-defence; the right to be secure in one’s possessions from search and seizure. The sort of things that governments everywhere try to limit.
    There is no fundamental right to broadband access, just as there is no fundamental right to spaceship travel to the moon. These are things to be paid for if you have the money. Otherwise something has to be forced to pay for them and to provide or create them.
    The essential aspect of rights and freedoms is that no-one has to be forced to pay for or supply them. They impose no burden on anyone else.”

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“After Barrias”

I’m happy to report that “the following work after Louis Ernest Barrias,” i.e., a sculpture featured here before, is up for auction this weekend at Clars Auction Gallery.

AfterBarrias Lot: 6380
Estimate: US$8,000-US$12,000
Bronze, silver and gold patinated bronze sculpture, ''Nature Reveals Herself to Science'' (La Nature se devillant la Science), by Louis Ernest Barrias, bearing artist's signature and Susse Freres foundry marks to base, 22.5''h

Please contact Callai Nagle at callai@clars.com for more details.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tertiary courses are a dogs’ breakfast—and Steven Joyce ain’t gonna change that

Wrestling with the explosion of degrees in such pursuits as Lithuanian Pottery, Zen Origami and the Semiology of Waiata, Steven Joyce is going to have to confront the reason for that explosion: government funding. What he’s going to have to confront, but won’t, is Milton Friedman’s four rules on spending money--which PJ O’Rourke put this way:

There are only four ways in which you can spend money.

  1. You spend your money on yourself. You're motivated to get the thing you want most at the best price. This is the way middle-aged men haggle with Porsche dealers.
  2. You spend your money on other people. You still want a bargain, but you're less interested in pleasing the recipient of your largesse. This is why children get underwear at Christmas.
  3. You spend other people's money on yourself. You get what you want but price no longer matters. The second wives who ride around with the middle-aged men in the Porsches do this kind of spending at Neiman Marcus.
  4. You spend other people's money on other people. And in this case, who gives a shit?

I can offer a graduate diploma (and an audience with Stephen Joyce) to anyone who can work out which of those four corresponds to the way tertiary education is presently funded—i.e., with a virtual voucher system—and why, therefore, the enrolment calendars of NZ’s tertiary institutions look more like Neiman Marcus on a bender than places to kick-start a career.

Frankly, it’s time to reflect on the mess governments have made of tertiary education, and are about to make again. Because there are no shortcuts.

When you’re throwing around money at students, as governments have been doing, there are no ways to limit the waste--and Joyce is trying to piss up a stick if he thinks he can.  In the absence of having students pay themselves for what they value—which would truly determine which courses were worth the candle—all he’s left with is some form of command-and-control, which as even Labour tertiary education spokesman Maryan Street recognises, is bound to fail:

“Hitting tertiary education providers with funding penalties for high student drop out and fail rates [which is the specific type of cammand-and-control Stephen Joyce has just announced] will put teachers under pressure to give passes even when they were not deserved.”

And when a Labour tertiary education spokesman recognises stupidity for what it is, its got to be really pretty damn stupid.

So I counsel reflection on those rules of spending; reflection on the failure of our virtual voucher system; and reflection on the increasingly obvious truth that as long as state and school remain unseparated, we may continue to expect the various dogs' breakfasts that we keep being served up.

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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Gareth Morgan fails his health check

A slight change this week for Richard McGraths regular column – a brief critique of Gareth Morgan’s musings on what can be done to improve our health system . . .

Gareth Morgan recently seems to have appointed himself Minister of Health, perhaps to draw attention away from the abysmal performance of his company’s KiwiSaver fund.

He is flogging a book called Health Cheque, and on his website makes the observation that the public health budget is consuming vast amounts of taxpayer money. Is it, he asks, a sick puppy, or the victim of unrealistic expectations?

He investigates “why there is so much political instability around the organisation of health services,” and offers his own 14-item prescription for improving health care in New Zealand.

Dr Morgan persists in misnaming political manipulation of the health market as “reforms.” My understanding of reforms is that they should simplify things and peel away layers of regulation and bureaucracy.  By that standard, mothing the National Party has done in the area of health care since their election in 2008 could be properly labelled “reforms.” At best they are a rearrangement of the current state-imposed system of DHBs, PHOs and other acronyms that health care providers have had to accommodate into their daily working lives. Any reform is (hopefully) yet to come.

So, what are Gareth Morgan’s 14 prescription items? In essence a rather disappointing collection of platitudes, one of which pays fleeting lip service to individual freedom, along with some patronising advice to health care providers and a heavy dose of PC bullshit and some rehashed socialism.

Let’s start with a bright moment. Number 14 on his list states: “Individuals are ultimately responsible for their own health.” Bravo, Gareth! But this comment should be placed at the top of the list, where it belongs - not tacked on the end as an afterthought and ignored.

Three of his 14 points focus on some of the services he thinks health providers should offer – doing simple treatments well in the interests of economic efficiency, explaining the pros and cons of specific treatments to patients, remembering the role of palliative care, and the notion of arranging advance directives.

Morgan states one aim of his prescription is to “stop the need for frequent cash injections into the public health system.”  So what does he think the government should do? Get out of the way? Sadly, no.

Let’s do a “health check” on some of Gareth’s prescription items.

“Item one: There will never be enough money to fund all healthcare demands, which are growing faster than our ability to pay.”

He forgets to mention that in a free market the cost of products  tends to drop and their quality improve (or both) over time.  And as health services improve—driven not by governments but by free market innovation-- people's expectations of what can be achieved also rise, driving further discoveries and breakthroughs in order to try and match the demand of individual consumers.

Dr Morgan also collectivises demand, which is actually just the sum of this individual demand. He neglects to tell us that in many cases, people are willing and able to fund their own health care--and do so, despite being taxed to pay for the health needs of others as well.

“Item two: We spend enough on the health system, and there will be negligible benefits from additional public funding.”

He’s right there - too much is spent propping up the failed socialist model of health care. Funding should be withdrawn and redistributed back to those who were made to put money into it – the taxpayer. Not that he suggests doing this.

“Item three: The purpose of health system is longer, healthier lives for all.”

Bollocks. It’s about better health for me. And you. And anyone willing to invest in their health. As individuals. I don’t want people like Graeme Burton or David Benson-Pope to have a longer healthier life, thank you very much.

Other items drone on about limited budgets and the “greatest improvement in collective health and lifespan”, a “formal, evidence-based non-political process to oversee prioritisation of care”, more “prioritisation” of services and an emphasis on preventive and early intervention, especially for the underprivileged.

For prioritisation, read rationing. That’s how socialist systems work. The government (politicians and bureaucrats) decides who gets treatment. People such as the “rich pricks” who fund the system get no guarantee of care. In fact, no-one is guaranteed care. A number of my poorest patients have recently been denied health care at Wairarapa Hospital because, despite paying taxes all their lives, they are not considered sick enough.

That’s how socialised medicine works. It’s not a health insurance system where there is a contract to cover certain conditions. In fact, a lot of the time it’s a Ponzi scheme bordering on insolvency.

I won’t run through some of Gareth’s other points, as they assume a role for the coercive funding of health services and a politically-run state health sector that he wishes wasn’t so political. He assumes such a system is morally justifiable. Sorry, Gareth, but I can’t justify a die-while-you-wait medical care structure based on the ethics of Joseph Stalin. You seem to be able to sidestep that inconvenient little eight-hundred pound elephant with deftness and ease. I can’t.

The most egregious item in Gareth’s prescription is number 13, which basically states that the treatment of obesity-related and other problems may need to “parallel” that of smoking –which means reliance on bullying, bans and taxes. A new focus for Nanny State.

Gareth, you are truly a piece of slime if you believe this.  Notwithstanding that the draconian disciples of dictatorship who want to ban smoking, drinking and all forms of pleasure model themselves on the people that ran Germany in the 1930s, can’t you see that one of the first things to be banned in the reign of terror which your health system would inevitably become is riding your beloved motorcycles, statistically a very unhealthy practice. One of my surgical colleagues calls motorcycle riding the fast track to the orthopaedic ward. Another calls them donorcycles. Gareth, you moron, don’t you see a prohibition on motorcycle riding would follow shortly after that on smokes, booze and fat people?

Perhaps then, to have the next and final item on the list suggest that individuals should be responsible for their own health is an Orwellian private joke, Gareth?

So what would I suggest instead? Obvious, really.

Here then is Dr McGrath’s prescription:

  • Individuals are ultimately responsible for their own health.
  • Health care is a commodity which can be traded.
  • The fairest, and most efficient, means of transacting health care is in the private sector, in a deregulated free market.
  • A transition from the state-run, politically vulnerable model of health care provision to the private deregulated model is possible.
  • This transition can be achieved via a number of small steps whereby taxation is reduced, and personal wealth increased, allowing for personalised health plans pitched at different levels of affordability.

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Recovery? Must be around the **next** corner [update 7]

ManWearingBarrel[6] Remember that economic recovery you've been told is already under way? 

Turns out it wasn’t around the last corner, and is unlikely to be around the next.

Strong economic recovery is some way off, data suggests:
    “A raft of economic data suggests a strong bounce back from the recession is still some way off.”

Says the report, economists (many of whom were front and centre talking up “recovery” and cheering on government “stimulus”) now admit that “recent consumer spending and unemployment figures have been more disappointing than predicted” – not to mention figures showing production, if they even bother to look at those.

    “A UMR Consumer Confidence Index survey of 1000 people has found nearly two-thirds remain wary about buying new goods.
    “Official figures on electronic card transactions show core retail spending, which excludes fuel and car-related purchases, fell a seasonally adjusted 0.2% to $3.2 billion in February.
    “It is the second consecutive monthly drop.
    “ANZ National Bank has ditched its assessment that the first half of the year will record solid growth and now says it will be early 2011 before the economy fires up.
    “ANZ Chief economist, Cameron Bagrie, says with the unemployment rate still rising and consumers not spending, the economy is clearly still stagnant.”

Good to see economists actually admitting their crystal ball is broken—admitting what everybody in business knows who looks at their own situation instead of the pronouncements of the various economic sooth-sayers.

And Bagrie also admits that this is still an economy "not firing on all cylinders" – and how could it  be ? Recession should be just another word for recovery—that time in the business cycle when  all the malinvestments due to “irrational exuberance” are liquidated and things readjusted back onto an even keel.  But government policy has been focussed on resisting that necessary adjustment process.

Explains Murray Rothbard in America's Great Depression (which you can, and should, read online here in PDF),

    “The ‘boom’ ... [was] actually a period of wasteful misinvestment. It is the time when errors are made, due to bank credit's tampering with the free market. The "crisis" arrives when the consumers come to reestablish their desired proportions. The "depression" is actually the process by which the economy adjusts to the wastes and errors of the boom, and reestablishes efficient service of consumer desires…
    “The adjustment process consists in rapid liquidation of the wasteful investments. Some of these will be abandoned altogether (like the Western ghost towns constructed in the boom of 1816–1818 and deserted during the Panic of 1819); others will be shifted to other uses.”

Resources were misallocated during the boom.  The process of adjustment reallocates resources to more productive uses—that has to happen to have any “strong bounce back,” and it hasn’t.

It hasn’t, because  the  job of adjustment here and overseas has been made much harder by all the government work, all the government subsidies, and all the government "stimulus"—all of which has changed the economy’s price signals and made it harder for the necessary readjustments to take place.

The mainstream economists and government cheerleaders failed to heed the point of Eugen von Beohm-Bawerk, a giant of the Austrian School of economics: 

    "Either we let economic law run its course or we destroy the engine of prosperity. We must defer or we make matters worse by attempting to control society."

They have made things worse.  By trying to avoid economic law running its course, they have ensured that resources have remained misallocated instead of being put to more productive use.  By holding down interest rates to below inflationary levels, they have ensured that capital continues to be consumed instead of being profitably reproduced.  And, tragically, with all their bluster and boosterism, the crystal-ball gazers have ensured that many, many businesses in delicate positions have listened to the talk of existent “green shoots,” and instead of readjusting themselves to the new economic situation, they’ve been borrowing to maintain their unstable positions. 

That can’t last. 

As this blog was saying while all thestimuluswas being talked up, there is no choice at all about the pain of recession—the only choice is how long the pain is going to take:

    “There is no choice at all about experiencing the pain of retrenchment and slump -- the only choice is whether recovery is allowed to be short and quick (by rapid liquidation of malinvestments) or, like Japan in the nineties, those malinvestments are propped up like corporate 'Weekend at Bernies' survivors that drain the economy for years to come.”

Your governments have made the choice for you. Everything that’s been done has ensured the pain is not going to go away any time soon. 

PSPlus ce change . . . here’s a classic cartoon from 1935 showing NZ’s then-Prime Minister Forbes and his Finance Minister Coates …

And remember, New Zealand was one who emerged first from the Great Depression.

UPDATE 1:  Christchurch blog readers should be excited to hear about a new economics study group organised by the local Mises Circle, starting tonight:

WHAT: Discussion and drinks
WHERE: 113D Tancred Street, Linwood.
WHEN: Wednesday 10th March, 7pm.

Discussion will centre around Frederic Bastiat’s article ‘What is Seen and Unseen,’ available on-line here. http://mises.org/resources/2735.

“Come along and learn all about the Broken Window Fallacy,” says organiser Michael Darby.

UPDATE 2: Crikey, even “The Sranded” gets it:

    “The world’s economy has not truly recovered from the recession, it has just been artificially reanimated by vast injections of Government bailout money.”

True!

    “Capitalism has been rescued by good old fashioned Socialist Big Government, and the bill is being sent to we the taxpayers. . . ”

Well, almost.  Capitalism isn’t being rescued, it’s being smothered.

UPDATE 3:  Courtesy of Bernard Hickey:

A member of the European Central Bank, Jurgen Stark, has warned the global economy faces a ‘Japanese style’ lost decade because of a failure of many to restructure their budget situations.”

About friggin’ time the central bankers started noticing the bleeding obvious.

UPDATE 4: Even CNBC’s talking heads are starting to realise the obvious (around twenty-six months too late): “  Economic Stimulus Was a Waste of Time.”  And Keynes is wrong again.

UPDATE 5: Oh, and on a somewhat related note: 

Govt Debt 'The Most Dangerous Market' Now: Loomis Sayles .

    “There is some particularly good news on the capital goods front. The prices for capital goods continued to fall – they dropped 8.5% for the quarter, the largest quarterly fall since March 2003. This follows decreases of 7.2% and 5.2% for the previous two quarters.
    “This is partly driven by the high New Zealand dollar, and partly by suppliers overseas dropping prices in the face of the global recession.
    “That is not, in itself, particularly good news. What makes it so is when the volume figures for capital goods imports are looked at.
    “Capital goods imports rose 8.2% for the quarter, and these were the largest single component in the overall rise in import volumes. The main contributor within capital goods was increases of capital machinery and plant, which rose 4.3%.
    “That means New Zealand firms are, firstly, making use of the high New Zealand dollar and the other drivers of lower prices to boost their investment in plant and machinery.
    “That should pay off in higher productively as the economy turns around.”

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‘September Morn’ - Paul Chabas

“Art can never exist without naked beauty displayed.”
- William Blake

 

septembermorn_big

This particular naked beauty, September Morn (“Matinee de Septembre”) by French painter Paul Chabas, caused such a scandal in the States in 1913 that prints of it sold in the millions –- and not just prints, but calendars, postcards, candy boxes, cigar bands, cigarette flannels, pennants, suspenders, bottle openers, and more --  making it one of the most famous and popular paintings of the twentieth century. 

The full story of the success du scandal is told here.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Saving endangered **what**, exactly?

save_the_whale_502135 Here’s a question for you: Is it a waste of resources to try and save the not-endangered whales from whaling when there are plenty of endangered species on which they could concentrate instead?

Conservationist Brendan Moyle says yes.

    “Nearly a third of all amphibian and reptile species are estimated to be in serious risk of extinction. We are at a point where thousands of species are at much greater risk than minke whales. Yet the choice is to take those resources we have and put them into "stopping whaling". Trying to save a small set of species not actually threatened by whaling, and giving up on so many more species that are in more urgent need, isn’t the optimal approach. And the fact that this strategy to stop whaling has not succeeded in 30 years feels like a colossal waste of money.”

But there’s an assumption built into that, notes Eric Crampton: It “assumes that activist attention tends to improve outcomes for the target species.

    “I'd been of the impression that it often did more harm than good, ensuring that property and market based solutions were politically impossible.”

For example:

    “Do the odds of weka meat farming being legalized go up or down if Greenpeace suddenly stops caring about whales and starts caring about weka?”

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Quote of the day: On women’s “equality” [updated]

    “Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up with the dirty end of the stick. What they are and what they can do makes them superior to men, and their proper tactic is to demand special privileges, all the traffic will bear. They should never settle merely for equality. For women, ‘equality’ is a disaster.”
                                          - Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

UPDATE: On a not entirely unrelated note:

    “Lots of folks seem very upset about a government press release about a paper that doesn't seem yet to be publicly available.  If the press release comes out without the paper, my prior is that they want the headline but don't want anybody looking too closely 'till the media's lost interest…
    “The press release says that the Ministry of Women's Affairs has found that, comparing students with the same Bachelor degree (Commerce, for example), men earn more than women right after graduation and that the gap rises over time.
    “Using ocular least squares, peering into the main classes for the different Commerce subdisciplines, I can't help but wonder whether they've missed something rather important.  Namely, Economics and Finance are male-dominated while Marketing and Management are not..
    “If we've got gender differences across majors, and if we've got reasonable pay differences across majors, then it would be shocking NOT to find substantial pay differences across genders if we aggregated at the degree level…
    “Luckily, most of the wage gap goes away once you condition on the kinds of things that are observable: part time and full time status, industry, and so on.”

More on that last point here and here.

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The widening John Boy credibility gap

Former National ad man John Ansell lays into John Boy as the reason the principled ad-man left the National Party:

     “Key’s motto, as far as I can see, is ‘You can fool most of the people most of the time.’ And it seems to be working a treat…
    “Say you’re ambitious for the country. (When you’re not.)
    “Say you’ve got a plan for growth. (When you haven’t.)
    “Join forces with a party that actually has a plan. (And ignore it.)
    “Say you agree with the ‘catch Australia’ goal. (When you don’t.)
    “Commission a plan to catch Australia. (Then reject it.)
    “Chide your central banker for saying we can’t catch Australia with your policies. (When you know damn well he’s right.)
    “Press on with your Emissions Trading Scheme. (When the country you’re supposed to be catching has put the brakes on theirs.)
    “(And when the science increasingly supports your first instinct that man-made global warming is a hoax.)
    “So why is our prime minister doing these things?
    “And why did he take such a ‘principled’ stance in defying his core supporters on the anti-smacking referendum?
    “The answer is simple. . . ”

Read on for Ansell’s answer: The widening Tasman Wage Gap (AKA the John Key Credibility Gap) .  Hat tip Berend]  Oh, and here’s one of Ansell’s new billboards, asking Can NZ catch Tasmania?:

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Thanks, Lara [update 2]

Lara-Bingle3 Not sure why a topless photo of Lara Bingle has her and fiancé Michael Clarke, Australian cricket vice-captain, so concerned—because a simple Google search will uncover many more photos of the sort she now says she’s so upset about.  “I just felt like I’d been violated,” says the topless model when she found out about this topless photo?  Oh, please.

Perhaps she’s simply embarrassed to be reminded she was once attracted enough to Brendan Fevola to get topless for him, the boofhead who in December was finally found too embarrassing even for Carlton and its fans—and now for the Brisbane Lions’ ads.

All a bit of a storm in  a ‘C’ cup really.  But at least it’s got Clarke leaving his Australian cricket team in the lurch—which leaves their batting line-up looking (hopefully) a bit topless.

So good news, eh, just before the third ODI. 

Thanks, Lara.

UPDATE 1: “Personal reasons”?  Clarke’s gone home for the Women’s Day photo-shoot, hasn’t he. And with an average of 42.31 at a strike rate of 77.46, let’s hope it takes a while.

UPDATE 2: Lucky, wasn’t it, that Lara’s photo turned up in the news only days after she took on a new publicist.  Now that is what you call a coincidence.

And Brendan Fevola is starting a new business too . . .

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