Monday, 5 July 2010

“New measures controlling the way supermarkets operate may be on the way”

While Americans were celebrating their Declaration Independence yesterday—celebrating that ringing declaration of the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness--here in New Zealand we were instead being told by Minister Power-Lust what time we must be in bed, and by Newstalk ZB that “new measures controlling the way supermarkets operate may be on the way, after allegations they are ripping off consumers and producers.” [Hat tip Mark Hubbard]

chaves_hugo_1 Further evidence that if anything is the inspiration for today’s parliamentarians it is not Thomas Jefferson’s America, but Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.

For Chavez offers the latest lesson that if you think the private owners of supermarkets are ripping you off, just wait until the supermarkets are controlled by the government.  Chavez himself took umbrage recently at the way supermarkets operate after allegations they were “ripping off” consumers and producers. He slapped price controls on food, he opened “cheap” state-run supermarkets—and the result of his officious meddling has been as predictable:

_Quote Mountains of rotting food found at a government warehouse, soaring prices and soldiers raiding wholesalers accused of hoarding…”

I say the result is predictable, and it is—for as George Reisman explains, the inevitable result of all price controls is always shortages, and the natural political outcome of all shortages is almost always to increase the controls, and eventually to send in the guns.  The first is the inevitable result of trying to buck the reality that is price signals; the second is the inevitable consequence of the first: price controls inevitably beget either collapse, or socialism (which amounts to the same thing).  George Reisman has the lesson:

_QuoteThe effect of the combination of inflation and price and wage controls is shortages, that is, a situation in which the quantities of goods people attempt to buy exceed the quantities available for sale.
    “Shortages, in turn, result in economic chaos. It's not only that consumers who show up in stores early in the day are in a position to buy up all the stocks of goods and leave customers who arrive later, with nothing — a situation to which governments typically respond by imposing rationing. Shortages result in chaos throughout the economic system. They introduce randomness in the distribution of supplies between geographical areas, in the allocation of a factor of production among its different products, in the allocation of labor and capital among the different branches of the economic system.
    “In the face of the combination of price controls and shortages, the effect of a decrease in the supply of an item is not, as it would be in a free market, to raise its price and increase its profitability, thereby operating to stop the decrease in supply, or reverse it if it has gone too far. Price control prohibits the rise in price and thus the increase in profitability. At the same time, the shortages caused by price controls prevent increases in supply from reducing price and profitability. When there is a shortage, the effect of an increase in supply is merely a reduction in the severity of the shortage. Only when the shortage is totally eliminated does an increase in supply necessitate a decrease in price and bring about a decrease in profitability.
    “As a result, the combination of price controls and shortages makes possible random movements of supply without any effect on price and profitability. In this situation, the production of the most trivial and unimportant goods, even pet rocks, can be expanded at the expense of the production of the most urgently needed and important goods, such as life-saving medicines, with no effect on the price or profitability of either good. Price controls would prevent the production of the medicines from becoming more profitable as their supply decreased, while a shortage even of pet rocks prevented their production from becoming less profitable as their supply increased.
    “As Ludwig Von Mises showed, to cope with such unintended effects of its price controls, the government must either abolish the price controls or add further measures, namely, precisely the control over what is produced, in what quantity, by what methods, and to whom it is distributed, which I referred to earlier. The combination of price controls with this further set of controls constitutes the de facto socialization of the economic system. For it means that the government then exercises all of the substantive powers of ownership…
    “Of course, socialism does not end the chaos caused by the destruction of the price system. It perpetuates it. And if it is introduced without the prior existence of price controls, its effect is to inaugurate that very chaos. This is because socialism is not actually a positive economic system. It is merely the negation of capitalism and its price system. As such, the essential nature of socialism is one and the same as the economic chaos resulting from the destruction of the price system by price and wage controls.”

May I politely suggest that the lesson provide by Professor Reisman, for which Mr Chavez provides the latest example, prompt those promoting “new measures” controlling the way NZ’s supermarkets operate to reconsider, and those considering their “new measures” to politely tell them to go to hell.

Never mind our liberty, feel the Power-lust [update 2]

On the weekend in which Thomas Jefferson’s declaration of the rights of man is rightly celebrated elsewhere, here in New Zealand Simon Power-Lust feels the power of the Nanny State flowing through him:

Mr Power said he had recently driven through Auckland early in the morning.
“What I saw on the streets of Auckland, on corner bars and the like, at half past four in the morning – no good can come of that,” he said.

I have some advice for Mr Power.  If you don’t like what you see out on the street and in the corner bars of the city at 4:30 in the morning--you know … people enjoying themselves, having fun, paying their own way, pursuing their own happiness—then just stay the fuck home in Palmerston North.

What sort of pin-headed power-luster sees a city full of people out enjoying themselves, and whose first thought is “BAN IT!”?  Answer: Another lemon-sucking unbridled wowser with not even an original idea of his own.

Why does this pin-headed politician wish to use the bad behaviour of a few to impose his own schtick on all the rest of us?

Why does he think it’s his business to tell us how we’re all going to spend our evenings?

He goes out after dark and discovers, shock horror, that people like drinking!

Simon, you pinhead, if you don’t like it then just stay home.  Because what those people are doing after dark is none of your damn business.

UPDATE 1: Some other useful and somewhat related commentary around the traps:

DIM POST: “This is yet another issue which would have the National Party screaming itself senseless with outrage if Labour suggested it: ‘Nanny state passing laws on bedtime for New Zealanders!’”

Brendan O’Neill at SPIKED cracks open “a bottle of unhealthy fizzy stuff and celebrates the possible passing [in the UK] of an irritating political era” of “celebrity-fronted, dodgy science-fuelled, fear-injected authoritarianism.” Says Eric Crampton (In ‘Repudiating Jamie Oliver’) “I do wish that National here would be paying a bit more attention to the direction of change in the UK.”

Motivational posters: The Founding Fathers edition

Title and posters shamelessly stolen from We Stand Firm and The Art of Manliness, where you can find several more:






Sunday, 4 July 2010

Happy July 4th!

Cartoon by Bosch Fawstin

With bailouts to failures, subsidies to things that shouldn’t be and rampant attacks all round on freedom and capitalism, it would be hard to call the year so far a good one for America's founding fathers—or for the freedom and liberty they sought to cement into the America they founded.

Yet with Supreme Court decisions affirming (first) the constitutional right to self-defence, and then (second) annulling the government's power to arbitrarily slap moratoria on business, and the the rise of tea parties in which at least some of those involved understand the moral arguments behind the constitutional republic the founding fathers created (and who understand that it was a constitutional republic they created, not a democracy) it can’t be said that things are beyond hope altogether. Which is as important to us, in New Zealand, as it is important to them, in the States.

Because however much New Zealanders might like to ignore it, the events that Independence Day celebrate are as important to us down here as they to those up there.  July 4 isn’t just a day to celebrate American independence, but our own as well.

What do I mean?  Why does it matter to us down here at the bottom of the South Pacific that a bunch of gentlemen over two-hundred and thirty years ago pledged their "lives, fortunes and sacred honour" to constitute the first government in history dedicated to the task of protecting individual rights -- as expressed in Thomas Jefferson's magnificent Declaration of Independence, the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? 

Why should that matter to us?  As Michael Berliner explains, "Jefferson and Washington fought a war for the principle of independence, meaning the moral right of an individual to live his own life as he sees fit."  The principle of independence for which they fought is universal. 

The United States of America was the first and still the only country on earth to be founded upon the specific idea that human life and human liberty are sacred.  Upon the idea that individual rights be held sacred. July 4th is (still)that day when freedom's anthem is heard around the world!

Despite its occasional breaches in upholding the principle of human rights and human liberty consistently, it is nonetheless for this that we all celebrate (or should celebrate) Independence Day. That for the first time in human history a country was founded on the idea of human rights and human liberty; upon the notion that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are sacred; upon the intention to constrain government to act only in defence of those rights.

This was not just a unique event in human history, it also worked like all hell for nearly a century-and-a-half; it worked because protecting those rights gave individuals the moral space, the freedom, within which to act and to flourish. It was not just that this made America and the world freer and more prosperous (which it did); it was not just that this protection for liberty gave a platform to criticise and remedy the breaches of the principle (which it did, most notoriously the regarding of some human beings as the property of others); it is also the profoundly important illustration that a country founded upon reason, individualism and freedom works. That liberty is moral. That liberty is right.

In that very important sense, The Declaration of Independence that Americans celebrate today was made on behalf of every human being on this earth. And the attacks on it, and on the ideas upon which it relied in in its founding, are attacks on the liberty of every human being on earth. (In this sense it is also, surely, no accident that the greatest presidential attacks on liberty since Franklin Roosevelt have come about at the hands of an erstwhile constitutional scholar.)

Said Thomas Jefferson in the last letter he was to write, reflecting fifty years later on the Declaration of Independence and the July 4 celebrations that commemorate its signing:

06_07_02_IndependDay06May it be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.
Amen. And let those thoughts be heard around the world! For as one commentator said on this day last year, July 4th is not just a National Day for Americans because the Declaration of Independence really is "freedom's anthem heard around the world":
Whenever you hear news of people fighting for democracy, pause and give thanks for the Declaration of Independence. I am thankful every day that by blind luck I was born in this country. I want the whole world to have the comforts and the opportunities that have so enriched my life. When they tear down a wall in Berlin, when an oppressed group is granted a right in Latin America, when a business is allowed to exist in China, a protest is allowed in a former Soviet satellite, a woman attends a school in Afghanistan or a purple forefinger is raised in Iraq, I think to myself, “the world may not know all the lyrics, but they are definitely singing our song.”

And he's right. America's creation was the great political achievement of the Enlightenment: the full political implementation of the concept of individual rights, with a government constrained to protect them. [What are individual rights, and why do they need the protection of government?  Ayn Rand explains.  What specifically was the nature of the government the American founding fathers tried to erect?  Ayn Rand explains that too.]

With the exception of just a few words, the words could hardly be bettered today (although some of us have tried):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness...

A wonderful, wonderful anthem to freedom that rings down through the years. If only the real meaning of those words could be heard and understood. As David Mayer says:
To really celebrate Independence Day, Americans must rededicate themselves to the principles of 1776, and particularly to the absolute importance of individual rights – not the pseudo-rights imagined by proponents of the welfare state, but the genuine rights (properly understood) of individuals to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We must also rededicate ourselves to the Declaration’s standard for the legitimacy of government – a government that is limited to the safeguarding of these rights, not to their destruction – and, with this, an acceptance of the principle that outside this sphere of legitimacy, individuals have the freedom (and the responsibility) of governing themselves.

If Americans are to use this day to re-dedicate themselves to the principles of 1776 as Mayer invites, then non-Americans might use it to take up Thomas Jefferson's challenge "to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded [us] to bind [ourselves], and to assume the blessings and security of self-government."

Human liberty is the most sacred thing in the universe, and today is the pre-eminent day in which to celebrate it, and to salute the authors of America's Declaration of Independence.

To America's heroic founders, I salute you!

NB:  Some final July 4 snippets for you:

  • For the very best version of Star Spangled Banner to play over a martini or your Sam Adams, I recommend Licia Albanese's spontaneous combustion at a Mario Lanza ball a few years ago.  Fortunately, Lindsay Perigo was on hand to record the eighty-year-old drowning out the young tenor who was supposed to be taking centre stage.  Imagine the scene, click on this link, turn your speakers up to eleven, and just bask in the magnificence!

Friday, 2 July 2010

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: The “going wrong with confidence” edition

From the G-20’s 20-2- ability to go exactly wrong, to Gen. David Petraeus’s hope things don’t keep going wrong, to the new Australian PM’s desperate attempt not to go quite so wrong, to New Zealand’s announced intent this week to go completely wrong--it’s been a very, very interesting week for all sorts of interesting reasons.
So let’s take a ramble round the net and see what good people have been saying about it all…

  • “Obama’s letter to the G20 a few weeks ago imploring Western leaders not to embark on austerity measures to rein in their expanding budget deficits but instead to continue stimulating their economies has been the starting gun to an immense battle between the forces of rational economic management and Keynesian claptrap.
    “This is a battle full of misinformation and one needs to remain on their toes to see through the fog.”
    The Keynesian Illusion – Murray Dawes, MONEY MORNING AUSTRALIA
  • The G-20 met, and saw that the world was rooted—and pledged thereat to stabilize public debts by 2016?
    Stabilize public debts by 2016? By then, the US and other major economies “will have more government debt than GDP. It is bound to be too late for many of them.
    “And even this modest goal presumes that economies are able to grow faster than their debt – in real terms. When you get debt equal to 100% of GDP, you’re over a barrel. If interest rates were to return to the double digit levels of the ’70s—and they could—it could cost more than 10% of GDP just to pay the interest.
    ”The recovery won’t work…”
    G20 Meddlers At It Again  - Bill Bonner, DAILY RECKONING
  • If you’ve liked what you’ve heard about European governments cutting their coats according to their dwindling cloth, about talk of “austerity” in their government budgets, perhaps you’ve been under some illusion as to what they mean by “austerity.”
    Austerity, European Style – Doug Reich, THE RATIONAL CAPITALIST
  • ”Deficit Hawks” at the G-20?  Yes, they really are intellectually dishonest.
    ”At Casey Research, we like to focus on facts. Unfortunately, when it comes to government deficits (which beget debt), the facts aren't pretty. They show that the country is already sliding towards financial collapse that will ultimately result in a hyperinflation not dissimilar to the Weimar Republic.
    ”Even the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecasts that the U.S. government will accumulate total deficits in excess of $6 trillion over the next decade. But we think it will be much worse than that….”
    Deficit Hawks at the G-20? – Chris Wood, DOUG CASEY’S DAILY DISPATCH
  • PS: Bye, Bye! G20 summit drops 'climate-friendly' energy pledge -- 'Went through document with vacuum cleaner to remove any reference to clean energy'

"If Gov't spending created wealth
then Greece would be a superpower!"

  • Please consider Krugman’s article ‘The Third Depression.’
               “We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably
            look more         like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great
            Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions
            of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.
                “And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. “
    I completely agree with those statements.
    How Policy Errors Cause Depressions (and how "in isolation" some things Krugman says make sense) – MISH’S GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYSIS
  • In the now much-quoted  Paul Krugman column, our generation’s second coming of Keynes shows just how thoroughly he embraces what Ludwig von Mises called the “Inflationist View of History” by espousing the ridiculous notion that the late 19th century, a time of unprecedented economic growth, was dominated by a “Long Depression.” If only what is in store from us were similar to the economic growth of the late 19th century!
    Krugman and the “Long Depression” Myth - Grayson Lilburne, MISES ECONOMICS BLOG
  • The key fallacy embedded in Keynesian economics is the idea that government spending adds to an economy’s health. In reality, the opposite is true. So let’s bury that GDP equation baloney and get back to work.
    C + I + G = Baloney – Phiipp Bagus, MISES ECONOMICS DAILY
  • “As with inflation, there is a great confusion as to what deflation is. The people who steadfastly insist that inflation is raising prices are consistent in insisting the deflation is falling prices. This is why, time and time again, since the 1930s, they insist that prices need to be kept at least level when the economy hits a bad spot. They hold this position in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary... Maintaining price levels has resulted in some of the most insane actions that we have seen in the free world…”
    Deflation – KRAZY ECONOMY
  • Sschiff “The current economic path of the United States, some argue, is unsustainable. Americans understand this, yet many have been misled into believing that economics is hopelessly complex and the country would be at sea without a paddle if the government weren't around to sort through the mess.”
    In their new book How an Economy Grows & Why it Crashes, Peter and Andrew Schiff “seek to provide readers with a "basic tool kit for cutting through the economic clutter" by sharing a revised and updated version of ‘The Fish Story’ that their father, Irwin A. Schiff, presented in the well-known illustrated book ‘How an Economy Grows and Why It Doesn't.’"
    Cutting through economic clutter  - WASHINGTON TIME'S
    How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes – GOOGLE BOOKS
  • “The fact that there is no apparent end to this crisis gives rise to the question, ‘How much longer might it actually last?’
    ”The accurate answer is that no one can know… for the simple reason that the market is so heavily skewed by government interference. In other words, no one can say what hijinks they’ll get up to next or what the consequences of those hijinks will be.
    “That said, the signs that the end of the crisis is approaching will be unmistakable in that it will coincide with the government capitulating in such a way that makes it clear it will no longer squander the nation’s future in the failed attempt to spend, tax, and regulate the crisis away. Given that none of those standard ‘tools’ of government make things better – quite the opposite – makes the capitulation assured.
    “But when? I have some thoughts on the timing…”
    Monster Money PrintingDavid Galland, CASEY’S DAILY DISPATCH
  • I said it here already at NOT PC: we have no choice about having a recession, the only choice was how long recovery would take. All the world’s  stimulus has merely ensured that what could have taken ten months may now take ten years—and leave multi-generational debt to pay for the failed stimulunacy.  Yet as the US irrevocably enters the double-dip recession, they’re already talking about not just Quantitative Easing (i.e., printing shitloads of money) but Super-Quantitative Easing (i.e., printing so much money you could wallpaper the Grand Canyon with it).
    USA enters the double dip – Sean Corrigan, COBDEN CENTRE
    RBS tells clients to prepare for 'monster' money-printing by the Federal Reserve - Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, TELEGRAPH
  • The Cobden Centre (add them to your blogroll) recommend that in reference to Sean Corrigan’s piece linked above on the problems that Ben Bernanke is facing, you may want to refresh your background to this story by watching this nicely produced YouTube video first broadcast seven months ago, featuring Ron Paul, Peter Schiff, and Marc Faber:
  • New Aussie PM Julia Gillard will be announcing this morning, Friday, at 10am NZ time, what she will be doing about the Kevin Rudd/Wayne Swan Resource Super Profits Tax, and how she will attempt to solve her budget problems if she cans it. How will she square the circle? And will she even try?
    What is the Future of the Resource Super Profits Tax under Prime Minister Gillard? – Dr Alex Cowie, MONEY MORNING AUSTRALIA
    [UPDATE: Gillard cuts a deal. Super-theft only applies to iron ore and coal; theft capped at 30%; company tax cuts halved. 
    News of the tax changes saw the value of BHP Billiton rise by $600 million. Rio Tinto is up by $1.2 billion.
    TIM BLAIR: “If you want to change the tax,” we were told, “you have to change the government.” In fact, all we needed to do was scare them.]
  • Australia’s Catallaxy Files blog is happy at its now-recognised role in overturning some of the major spin of the Rudd government, and ipso facto Rudd himself.
    The power of blogging: Henry edition – CATALLAXY FILE
  • Meanwhile…
    Thanks to Tax Competition, Corporate Tax Rates Continue to Fall in Europe – Cato @Liberty
  • The Afghan War—what was it for again? “We must dramatically reduce expectations for Afghanistan,” says Michael Yon in recommending this article. “It's not suddenly going to wake up from its prehistoric slumber.”
    Taliban rule out negotiations with Nato – BBC
  • Joe Maurone summarises the latest rounds in the Great Objectivist Mosque debate:
    The Mosque Debate Continues: (Paul) Hsieh and (Amy) Peikoff – OBJECTIVISH
  • Time for a reality check on the historical successes of Islam: the error “is in attributing to ‘Islam’  the accomplishments of the Arab world of a thousand years ago. The [error] couldn't be more wrong. It was Arabs qua Aristotelians and not Arabs qua Islamists who are responsible for the accomplishments…”
    The United States Of America And Islam Have Nothing Fundamental In Common – Andy Clarkson, CAPITALISM MAGAZINE

“’The great struggle [is] between the...radicals of all faiths and the
moderates of all faiths.’
No, the fundamental
struggle is between faith and reason.”
- Ari Armstrong

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it
exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and
applying the wrong remedy.
~Ernest Benn

  • Sad news: Christopher Hitchens diagnosed with esophageal cancer
    Christopher Hitchens' Cancer: Author Undergoing Chemotherapy For Esophageal Cancer – HUFFINGTON POST
  • As tribute to man who will hopefully be with us some time, here’s Olivia’s  favourite Hitch interview:
  • Stop with the BP-bashing already, says engineer Matthew Novak. “ I want to illustrate that while BP is being bashed for the company-wide effort to contain its recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico (amidst cries for government to "DO SOMETHING!"), the spill is so difficult to deal with precisely because of government intervention in the marketplace.”
    Bashing BP — When We Should Be Bashing the Corporatist State – Matthew J. Novak, MISES ECONOMICS BLOG
  • President Obama spoke this morning at American University on the need for comprehensive immigration reform, calling for “comprehensive reform” while neglecting to advocate the expansion of legal immigration in the future through a temporary or guest worker program for low-skilled immigrants, “the necessary “third leg” of immigration reform.
    But as Daniel Griswold at CATO has pointed out plenty of times, without accommodation for the ongoing labor needs of our country, any reform would repeat the failures of the past…
      President Obama’s Incomplete Speech on Immigration – Daniel Griswold, Cato Institute
  • Read this.  Go on, read this. Alexander Marriott has a lengthy but superb post on immigration, especially good on the situation at the Mexican Border.
    Immigration: A Problem in Need of Principled Application – ALEXANDER MARRIOTT’S WIT &WISDOM
  • “There seem to be a lot of young people who sing the praises of anarchy…
    ”Last weekend Toronto got to see what anarchy really breeds. It’s not peace, it’s not freedom, it is brutal, mindless violence and destruction. It is the law of the pack, and as an individual you are one with the pack or you are its prey.”
    The Face of Anarchy – UNCOMMON SENSE
  • Ari Armstrong looks at the resurgence of Atlas Shrugged and the various controversies surrounding it.
    Americans Look to Big Ideas of Liberty: Resurgence of Ayn Rand – FREE COLORADO
  • On a related note, when Glenn Beck attempted to get deep with Atlas he more than met expectations by failing to get beyond the shallows, and sticking with his conservative, concrete-bound ways instead.
    Glenn Beck Gives Birth To An Ant – Andy Clarkson, CHARLOTTE CAPITALIST
  • judith-lean You’ve had all you can hear about ClimateGate? Then come on in JudithGate. Yes, she’s cute isn’t she, but the IPCC relied on one person—her--citing her own work to deny all solar influence in global warming
    Judithgate: IPCC relied on one solar physicist – Lubos Motl, REFERENCE FRAME IPCC Relied on a Single Scientist to Deny Solar Influence – HEARTLAND INSTITUTE
  • Confused by them all? Here’s an abridged list of all the various  '-gates' in climate science—from AmazonGate to HimalayaGate to YamalGate--for your future essential  reference. Gate Blowup! Come On In Gate Lovers! – CLIMATE NEWS
  • Penn State clears Michael Mann in Climate-gate probe (Full 19 page report here.) Reaction: 'It has been designed as a whitewash...To admit that Dr. Mann is a conman now would be extremely embarrassing for Penn State. But the scandal will not be contained no matter how many whitewash reports are issued. The evidence of manipulation of data is too obvious and too strong' [hat tip Climate Depot]
    Penn State clears Michael Mann in Climate-gate probe – WASHINGTON POST

  • And “A bombshell from the [Con man] Lord Oxburgh's Climategate 'inquiry': Oxburgh: The 'science was not the subject of our study.” Climate Audit's Mcintyre mocks: 'Why would anyone have expected that science would be the subject of study of the Science Appraisal Panel?'
    Oxburgh and the Jones Admission – CLIMATE AUDIT 

  • Oh, Julia Gillard gives her first interview as PM.  Naturally, it involves John Clarke.
  • And this was ‘her’ last as Deputy PM:
  • If you think the 2010 FIBA Soccer World Cup is whacky, and it is, you haven't seen anything yet! Check out this story about the 1994 Shell Caribbean Cup showing how the delights of perverse incentives ended up with both teams trying to score own goals. 
    Says the Samizdata blog, “Read the whole thing. Really, read the whole thing. It's a classic of perverse incentives, showing how the wrong kind of rules can cause everyone to want to do badly. It's about much more than football, in other words.”
    Soccer Shennanigans – KIDS PREFER CHEESE
  • I’ll bet you didn’t know that your favourite blogger Lindsay Mitchell also has her own art blog, and by “her own” I mean her own art. 
    See, she’s multi-talented: that’s one of her incredible pastels on the right!
  • Young mum Kelly Elmore has a handy helpful guide to a host of children’s books including maths, history, science, and good fiction.
    What Livy and I Have Been Reading – REEPICHEEP’S CORACLE
  • Obseration looks outward, Introspection looks inward. One of the most important ways by which we get to know ourselves is introspection. “Ultimately, just as with all knowledge, the reason to seek introspective knowledge is to guide action, but the first purpose is to gain knowledge.”
    Introspection as a Cognitive Tool – SHEA’S BLOG
  • Who knew that one of the best ways to lose weight would be philosophical—checking your premises. “I have been re-evaluating my premises about eating and health,” says Rational Jenn, and “I've lost 30 pounds so far this year! :o)"
    Checking Premises, Part 2 – RATIONAL JENN
  • Sarah from the Summer Aesthete reviews the film Bright Star, an intensely romantic and tragic film about the 19th century English poet, John Keats, and his love, Fanny Brawne, although she didn’t see much of it. Too much time spent sobbing!
    Bright Star (movie review) – SUMMER AESTHETE
  • Lindsay Perigo posted this clip by pianist Freddie Kempf, the chap responsible for a magical musical weekend in Auckland’s Town Hall a couple of weeks ago.  Magnificent!
    Music Gem of the Day: Fabulous Freddy! – Lindsay Perigo, SOLO
  • And conductor Antonio Pappano, Music Director at the Royal Opera House, has begun  "a journey through the most thrilling art form of all"—Italian Opera, beginning with Claudio Monteverdi. (Keep up with these at SOLO, where Perigo is posting and discussing them all.)
    Here’s Part One:
    And finally, here’s a young chap called Chris Botti playing the Rogers & Hart classic, ‘My Funny Valentine.’  Apparently, as of June 2009, Botti has released twelve solo albums, his latest being  "Chris Botti in Boston.”  Twelve. Who knew!? 
    For added interest, see if you can work out whether his version owes more to Miles Davis or to Chet Baker, or to Chris Botti.

    Thanks for reading.
    Enjoy your weekend.

Mystery and Melancholy of a Street - Georgio de Chirico

Mystery and Melancholy of a Street, by Spanish artist Georgio de Chirico, (1888-1978).
1914. Oil on canvas. 88 x 72 cm

Thursday, 1 July 2010

The green dream team

Every bullfrog and his left-leg-legrope are up in arms today about Nick Smith’s Emissions Tax Scam, which purports to fulfil “our obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.”

Too late! Far too late.

The time to be up in arms was … about twelve years ago when the Kyoto Protocol was signed by National’s Simon Upton; about the time Auckland was suffering the first of what have become regular recent power-cuts; which was the time I penned and sent out this press release below, pleading for some sanity and some sense of the future we’re now living through:




(Friday, 6 March 1998 4:54:08 p.m.)

New warnings today that Auckland’s current power crisis is only a dry run for worse to come. Future restrictions on industry arising from ‘The Green Dream Team’ will dwarf our current problems, according to the Libertarianz Party. The Dream Team’s two players are the Resource Management Act and the Kyoto Protocol: The RMA we know about by now; the Protocol, signed by Simon Upton earlier this year, came out of a Government talk-fest in Kyoto, Japan, and extracts promises that governments of wealthy, industrial nations will ‘work towards the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions’ - the inescapable by-product of the burning of fossil fuels. Stripped of its worthy glow this means nothing less than a promise for the reduction of industry!

“The greenies’ anti-development crusade reached its climax in this country with the RMA, an act making the future construction of necessary infrastructure (like power stations and hydro dams) virtually impossible. The anti-energy crusade has reached its climax with the Kyoto Protocol, promising measures to strangle our existing infrastructure (like power stations and industrial plants). The current power crisis offers a precursor of what life will be like as a result of these measures - together, these bureaucratic monsters will act like a calicivirus on industry, and on all who depend on industry for their survival; which means all of us," said Libertarianz Environment Spokesman Peter Cresswell today. ”

“New Zealanders’ natural and trusting benevolence allows environmentalists’ bizarre claims to pass largely unchallenged. The bogus claims by self-serving, populist myth-makers have been swallowed whole and are being used to camouflage a creeping socialism; the pseudo-scientific, jargon-ridden utterances, and the carefully worded epistles describing what ‘might’ happen (if they can only get their computer climate models to work properly) are being used to conceal the dangerous lack of any real scientific basis to their claims. The Kyoto Protocol, for example, rests on the fraudulent claim that emissions of carbon dioxide are causing a catastrophic warming of the planet, and promises to curb this ‘possible outcome’ by curbing industry.

“The environmentalists’ false claims for disasters that ‘might’ occur will be dwarfed by the disasters that will occur if we continue to blindly accept their rantings. You think that the loss of power to our industrial capital for nine weeks is bad news? Just wait until the Dream Team kicks in - you ain’t seen nothing yet!”


Just coincidence that Nick Smith is minister for both members of the dream team, eh.

The time to kick against these pricks was some time ago, but it’s never too late to wake up.

Would-be Queens Wharf architects would throw their toys over two sheds [updated]

Shed01 It’s amusing to hear that twenty-one Auckland architects have signed a letter protesting the demolition of the Queens Wharf cargo sheds, otherwise known as eyesores in the face of one of the world’s great harbours.

It’s amusing for one reason, because they say these eyesores are in fact “among the few good examples of early industrial architecture left in Auckland.”  They call them “noble,” without any hint of a wink. That’s highly amusing.

And it’s amusing for another reason because of the eight architects listed by the Herald as having signed the letter, at least four of them sent designs into the original Queens Wharf ‘Party Central’ competition (Gordon Moller was so excited he sent in two entries), at least three were slated to be part of the second stage once the competition winners were thrown out, and at least two were seriously upset to later get canned.

Not one of them, at any stage, in any of their designs, retained the sheds.

Yet now they’re all bemoaning their demolition.

Can anyone spell “sour grapes”?

Or is this just twenty-one under-employed architects saying a very loud “Gizza job.”

PS: For your homework, a) see if you can spot how many on the list are or have been part of Auckland City Council’s “Urban Design Panel,” who have total subjective say-so over so much of Auckland’s architecture, with complete veto powers over your next project; and b) what their aesthetic judgement about these sheds says about their qualification for such a position?

Shed02 PPS: “I’m fed up with the bloody sheds… Forget about the sheds, they don’t matter.”

UPDATE: AUT historian Paul Moon, for whom I have increasing respect, argues in the Weekend Herald that we should shed no tears over those eyesores.

_Quote Their aesthetic value, even if they were restored to pristine condition, would be negligible, except for those with very fanciful imaginations… The fact is that the sheds on the Wharf were designed purely for functional reasons, in an age where aesthetic appeal in industrial buildings was considered even less important than it is now. To elevate them to anything even resembling architectural merit is disingenuous…
   “… it is surely a fallacy that just because something is (relatively) old, it therefore deserves a protective case placed over it so that it can be preserved in perpetuity. And all the time that the space is being held hostage by these grim buildings, the opportunity for our present generation of architects to shine by designing something genuinely inspirational on Queen's Wharf is kept out of reach.
    “That, surely, is the bigger architectural offence.”

Battle of the Toons, 4: It’s July Fools Day [update 2]

When Black Thursday comes . . .

ets-july-fools-day-smith-and-key2 Produced by John Ansell and Grant McLachlan “in honour of possibly the stupidest tax in New Zealand history, which comes into effect today.”

_Quote In her first speech as Australia’s new prime minister, Julia Gillard assured her nation that she will not be rushing in any climate change policies, and certainly not carbon taxes, because there is no consensus on the need for carbon taxes.
Read the full story...

So that’s just us then, shooting ourselves in both feet.

UPDATE 2: It’s only lunchtime on the First July Fools Day, and already businesses are heading offshore.

Battle of the Toons, 3: Do you recognise this Dick? [update 2]

Cartoon by NICK KIM

Anyone he reminds you of? Do you need a clue? 

Here’s the scam this entity is introducing this morning: forcing you to pay the govt for having the temerity to use petrol, power or anything relying on those boons, and pay foresters for not cutting down the trees they grew to cut and sell.

_Quote The government’s budget documents this year also showed that the payment due to foresters who planted post-1990, is $1.6 billion over the years 2008-2012 . This $1.6 billion is based on an assumption that 67 percent of eligible post-1989 foresters will take up their entitlement. Unfortunately for National, government officials have advised me that recent projections show that some 87 percent of foresters may now be planning to take up their entitlement. If this happens, the $1.6 billion will blow out to over $2 billion.

And who gets all this dosh? Well, here are the main owners of the trees in NZ’s main plantation forests:

MAF-Forestry OwnersYes Virginia, that’s where the bulk of those billions are going.  So that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars of your money going to the likes of Weyerhauser Global Forest Partners (a huge player in Nick Smith’s electorate)*, Juken Nissho, and the Harvard University Endowment Fund for the boon of leaving their trees uncut.

Thanks Nick.  You Dick. You haven’t got a beard like that cartoon above, but you sure as hell have a head full of hairballs, and a tongue so forked you could hug a tree with it.

* In 2007 Weyerhauser sold its 51% stake in the Nelson plantation forest joint venture to its partner, Global Forest Partners.” The figures in the chart above come from MAF’s 2009 survey …

UPDATE 1: About Global Forest Partners
Global Forest Partners LP is an SEC-registered investment adviser, specializing in the structuring and management of sustainable forestry investments. Founded in 1982, the firm is recognized as a leader in forestry investing and for its unique global perspective and experience. GFP, which is headquartered in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, currently manages a USD 1.5 billion portfolio of closed-end commingled timberfunds and separate accounts on behalf of institutional clients and other qualified investors. Additional information about GFP can be found at

UPDATE 2: Dr Richard McGrath has sent me his latest press release to post here:

PRESS RELEASE: Thank You For The Tax Increase, Mr Smith
Libertarianz leader Richard McGrath heaped praise on Climate Change Minister Nick Smith for lifting energy prices today, but said the BlueLabour Government was far too lenient on Big Business and should have increased petrol and diesel prices by 50 cents a litre and imposed power blackouts on private homes in the face of the global warming Armageddon.
    “Everyone who voted BlueLabour in 2008 will think back to 1 July 2010 as the day Dr Smith got medieval with free markets, with yet another shiny new tax. He’s right of course—what has capitalism ever done for humankind? And what hypothetical problem can’t be fixed by taking more money from private individuals and passing more legislation?”
    “As we head into the coldest month of the year, pensioners and those on fixed incomes will nevertheless feel a warm fuzzy as they turn their heaters down to save power, knowing that Mr Key has more of their tax dollars to use keeping prisoners warm in their cells and to put aside for helping the poor darlings stop smoking next year.
    “There’s no way Mr Smith or anyone else in the BlueLabour government could be profiting from this tax, is there? No way any of them could be planting trees on their land to exploit the laws they imposed on those same pensioners and fixed-income New Zealanders? No way this could result in transfers of money from said pensioners and others into the pockets of said politicians? Surely not.
    “I do have one question, Mr Smith. I know we are being rapidly boiled alive because of the climate cataclysm, but with global temperatures dropping for the past twelve years despite a steady rise in carbon dioxide emissions, can you just remind me again why this tax was necessary?”
    “And don’t forget you farmers, business owners and industrialists out there – but most of all you consumers to whom these tax increases will be passed – don’t forget to vote for those nice BlueLabour people in 2011. And keep your party hats and balloons handy to celebrate the GST increase in October.
    “Finally, Mr Key, if you’re reading this, could I suggest a slogan for BlueLabour’s election campaign next year:

Taxation – I’m Lovin’ It.”

Battle of the Toons, 2: How many others do you recognise?

And could you put a name to one or two?


Battle of the Toons, 1: How many libertarians do you recognise?

And can you put a name to them all?

Cartoon by Leftie Barry Deutsch

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Emissions Tax Scam Day almost upon us

This time tomorrow, you’ll already be paying more for petrol, diesel, power and everything else that uses any of these things—which means you’ll be paying more for everything—paying more because Nick Smith and John Key have been hell-bent on signing you up to a scheme few want, nobody can afford, whose alleged “benefits” will do precisely nothing to fix the alleged problem, and whose economic impact no-one will even be able to quantify.

But just because “it will be difficult if not impossible” to quantify its economic impact—except to say that we know it will be wearing a negative sign in front of it--that doesn’t mean we can’t quantify the sort of impact it’s going to have on our hip pockets, and on the expenses columns of every would-be producer.

So the money you would have spent on more food, more books or a new pair of shoes for your kids—or that a business might have spent on new investment or, you know, creating new jobs--will instead now be going every week to… well, no-one can really tell you where the hell it’s going, can they. Around a billion dollars a year going … somewhere.

Meanwhile, the coal that would have and could have been burned here to provide warmer homes and cheaper power will instead be shipped to China to provide more and cheaper power there.

But don’t complain about it.  This is what madman Nick Smith has been touting since at least 2006. This is exactly what you voted for.

And tomorrow you’re going to get it good and hard.

It really isn’t about science; it’s about control.  After all, even if the IPCC’s worst prognostications came to pass, it doesn’t follow that we all need to stick our head in Nick Smith’s noose. As Bernard Darnton says, we know that socialism doesn’t work at fifteen degrees, so why will it work at seventeen?

So what would a libertarian do about global warmingPlenty. Property rights can still work over international borders. Fact is, it’s not sacrifice and self-abnegation that’s needed, but more self-interested pursuit of technology, more freedom to adapt to price signals -- and what's needed to pursue that is more freedom and less big government.

Tomorrow, John Boy will deliver the opposite. 

Smile.  He might wave back. And remind you there’s more hikes to come

Banks banks on his reputation for profligacy?

banks_3006_2 In just two days John Banks has destroyed whatever reputation he was trying to construct for being economical with other people's money--a reputation that can hardly be taken seriously in any case, having presided over rate rises every single year of his mayoralty.

But it's a reputation that can hardly have been enhanced by his claim that, unlike his colleague to the south, he--John Banks, Honest John--has never, would never, and hasn't ever “charged a sandwich, lunch or coffee to the ratepayers of Auckland"…  Well, apart from-–Oops! What are those!—those receipts in his office files showing him spending ratepayers' money on some mighty fine entertaining.  (Hey, I forgot, they don’t even serve sandwiches at Euro.)

And its a reputation that has now been delivered a fatal blow by his kite-flying suggestion that as president dictator-for-life mayor of the new uber-city he wants to play host to, wait for it, an Olympic Games

An Olympic Games, yet!! The event that left Sydney with a bill it’s still paying for, and London with one it never will. And you want to hand that sort of Olympic-sized bill to this humble little city!!

What an idiot. What an ego. No more perfect method could have been dreamed up to convert Auckland's millions of dollars of debt into billions.

Just more evidence how "uber-cities" beget uber-egos with uber-power lust, who peddle uberly-stupid ideas that will cost us all dearly.

More evidence, it should by now be clear, that Rodney's uber-bureaucracy is not going to go well.


A few readers have been sending me the story about Al Gore. Please don’t. We don’t run that sort of rubbish here.

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR'S: How To Win The Drug War

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

This week: How To Win The Drug War

_richardmcgrath The other day I was reading a regular column in one of our local giveaway midweek rags, penned by a former Wairarapa mayoral candidate, giving his opinion on the woefully lenient 34 month sentence handed down by Judge Judith Potter to the vicious killer of Hawea Vercoe. This brute not only punched Mr Vercoe in the head but kicked him in the swede as he lay unconscious on the ground.

Unfortunately, after calling for a more appropriate sentence commensurate with the scale of the crime, the writer suddenly  dropped in from left field a suggestion that drug dealers be summarily executed with no recourse to the appeal courts. I wasn't overly surprised at this turn of reportorial events, as the author of this piece was the worst sort of teetotaller—one who had for many years enjoyed a tipple but now seems to believe that if he doesn’t drink, no-one else should either.

No doubt writer Walter Block would take issue with this gentleman, as Block considers drug dealers, pimps, slum landlords—even corrupt cops—to be heroes. He lavishes praise on them in his book Defending the Undefendable. Indeed it is hard to feel warmth for some of the people Block idolises—the blackmailer, the slanderer, the strip-miner and the employer of child labour—but he makes a solid case in support of each of them, using the argument that the best, fairest and most socially just way for people to interact is via the free market.

Remembering the Cato Institute’s report on the success of drug decriminalisation in Portugal, I flicked the local rag a response:           

_Quote RL's recent column (June 16) suggested bringing in the death penalty for drug dealers. I suspect the underlying motivation for his radical proposal is a desire to lessen the harm done to others by people who use drugs. Such a sentiment I find commendable. But quite apart from the fact that the state often gets it wrong and ends up killing the wrong person, if the government started executing everyone involved in selling drugs, there would very soon be a grave shortage of liquor outlets, corner dairy proprietors, chemists and pharmaceutical companies, not to mention some very overworked funeral directors.
    “A far more effective way to put the current generation of drug dealers out of business would be to legalise the manufacture, sale and consumption of their merchandise - which sounds crazy, but just think about it for a minute. The people currently selling illegal drugs love the current law because it guarantees them control of the market along with enormous profit margins. The last thing these dealers want is the sort of competition they would face if other vendors were allowed to sell better quality product at a lower price, openly and legally. 
    “R speculates on the motives behind the actions of the thug who robbed and murdered an elderly South Auckland woman. This heinous and disgusting crime may very well have been perpetrated to help finance a drug habit. But has R ever asked himself why illicit drugs are so damned expensive? Could it have something to do with the fact that they are illicit?
    “Just in case anyone is wondering: I don't use currently illegal drugs, I don't promote their use, and I spend one day a week working at the local addiction service trying to help people into a healthy alternative to a drug-centred lifestyle. And I can attest that the exorbitantly high price of drugs does not stop people using them. It just makes them poorer, and makes the people selling these drugs wealthier.
    “R may dislike the thought of other adults taking drugs, but if no-one gets hurt in the process, it's really none of his business. Like it or not, for a multitude of reasons, there will always be a segment of society wanting to self-medicate with whatever drugs they can lay their hands on. I believe the scope for harm to the greater community would be lessened if these people had access to cheap, high-quality product sold by reputable traders. Ideally, they should also have access to education on the risks of drug use. “

If R doubts whether substance decriminalisation works, he should look to what has happened in Portugal, where personal possession of all drugs was decriminalised in 2001. It now has the lowest adult rate of lifetime marijuana use in the European Union. The United States, home of the War on Drugs, has proportionately higher rates of cocaine use than Portugal has of marijuana use. Rates of new HIV infection in Portugal are dropping, and the number of people coming forward for drug treatment has doubled.

R clearly sees the use of drugs as a scourge on society. There is a kernel of truth in what he says. There are more constructive ways of addressing the stresses of past traumas than clouding one's brain with mind-altering medication. But a bigger evil, perhaps, are the laws that drive the market for intoxicating drugs underground, and into the hands of gangs and other organised criminals.

There are so many arguments that can justify legalising the use by humans of any and all drugs immediately. My letter  appeals to the disgust many people feel for the violent and terrifying gang culture enmeshed in the New Zealand drug trade. But more importantly, I should remind readers that it is everyone’s right to self-medicate with whatever they wish, just as it is everyone’s responsibility not to harm other people or their property. My body belongs to me, yours to you. Most emphatically, your body does not belong to the state. It is yours to use or abuse as you wish, depending on what standards you set for the quality of the short time you have on this planet. That is the libertarian view, and that is the view a Libertarianz government would take. It’s nobody’s business but your own what you choose to eat, smoke, snort or inject.

Not only have the Portuguese got a pretty useful football team, they’ve got some inspired politicians willing to give people the freedom to learn from their mistakes they make, and not turn a health issue into a legal one.

Someone is bound to complain that once again I have chosen to support an unpopular cause – drug legalisation – just as I backed the harvesting of sea cattle a week or two back. But issues like these, steeped in controversy and emotional overlay, serve as a litmus test as to whether one’s libertarian values apply to all peaceful people, not just the good-looking ones.        

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