Monday, 26 July 2010

Jeff Perren: Obama's Sunny Fantasy

Guest Post by Jeff Perren

I've just had an article published at Pajamas Media arguing that in true postmodern fashion, when it some to solar energy objective facts vanish in the mist of a progressive wish.

I invite you all to read it, comment, and pass the word to everyone you’ve ever met, for which I'll be eternally grateful, or at least until I'm dead since—after the passage of ObamaCare—the odds of medical experts being able to thaw my frozen head and reattach it to an indestructible android body are now considerably less. [Thanks Jonah Goldberg for generating a great line to steal adapt.]

So read on and recommend: Obama’s Solar Energy Fantasy

Here's how it begins...

_Quote Obama has now committed $2 billion more of the taxpayers’ money to pursue his solar energy fantasy...”

Please visit Shaving Leviathan for more of Jeff’s writing.


How to open a bottle of wine WITHOUT a cork-screw...

Ever been caught with a great bottle of wine and no corkscrew?

Then never fear, a time-honoured French solution is here: give it a bit of slipper.

KRIS SAYCE: Keynesian Groundhog Day

_Kris_Sayce_headshot Kris Sayce from Money Morning Australia wonders why big-time spend-ups are being favoured over big-time saving. Surely someone has to think  of the future?
* * * *
Where did all those green shoots of recovery go?
I mean, by now we would have expected the global economy to be in full swing considering how much taxpayer money has been spent bailing things out and propping things up.
After all, that’s what we were told.
That the bailouts and stimulus were required to ensure markets and economies wouldn’t collapse. That afterwards it would be all blue-sky.
But almost three years after stock markets topped out and nearly two years after markets hit rock bottom, that’s not the message we’re hearing now.
“Canada lifts rates, cuts growth outlook”, advises today’s Australian Financial Review.
While BHP Billiton [ASX: BHP] said earlier this week that it “continues to be cautious on the short term outlook for the global economy.”
And retailer Country Road, when announcing a 15-20% expected drop in full year profits said “the immediate economic outlook remains challenging but the business remains cautiously optimistic for the year ahead.”
Well that’s alright then.
But that was before US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke stuck another fly in the economic recovery soup:
_Quote Of course, even as the Federal Reserve continues prudent planning for the ultimate withdrawal of extraordinary policy accommodation, we also recognise that the economic outlook remains unusually uncertain.”
Naturally our friend at the New York Times, Dr. Paul Krugman is still saying that the economy needs more stimulus not less,
_QuoteThe best way for Mr. Obama to have avoided an electoral setback this fall would have been enacting a stimulus that matched the scale of the economic crisis.”
And in today’s The Age, Robert Skidelsky of Warwick University in the UK quotes John Maynard Keynes:
_QuoteAn act of saving means … a decision not to have dinner today. But it does not necessitate a decision to have dinner or to buy a pair of boots a week hence. … Thus it depresses the business of preparing today’s dinner without stimulating the business of making ready for some future act of consumption.”
We’ve spent enough time being bored rigid by Keynes’ General Theory, so we’ll take Lord Skidelsky’s word for it that he’s provided an accurate quote.
The fact is Skidelsky and Keynes have got it completely wrong. And so has Krugman who Skidelsky claims said about Keynes’ revelation: “Getting to that realisation was an awesome intellectual achievement.”
“Awesome” isn’t quite the word we would’ve used. We would have picked “awful” instead.
Think about it. Keynes says “An act of saving means… a decision not to have dinner today. But it does not necessitate a decision to have dinner or to buy a pair of boots a week hence… Thus it depresses the business of preparing today’s dinner without stimulating the business of making ready for some future act of consumption.”
While it’s correct to say that not buying something today doesn’t necessarily mean that someone will definitely buy something in one week, it also doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t buy something the week after, or the week after that.
You see, saving money today simply means preferring to have the money in your pocket or bank account rather than buying goods or services.
It’s what Austrian economists call “value scales.”
Consciously or subconsciously, whenever you choose to buy or not to buy something you’re making a choice between either having money now or having the good or service now.
If you spend then you’ve made the choice that you’d rather have the good or service than the money.
If you save then you’ve made the choice that you’d rather have the cash than the good or service. But it doesn’t mean you won’t change your value scale next week. Next week you may take the opposite view and prefer to have the good or service rather than the cash.
Even if you’re spending on frivolous items such as putting money in one of those claw machines that you see at an amusement arcade, you’re still using a value scale.
You’re making the decision that $1 spent on trying to pick up a cuddly toy with a flimsy claw thing is more value to you than keeping the $1 in your pocket. Maybe that’s because you like your odds of winning a $10 gift for just $1.
Or it could be that you think $1 is a good price to pay for the entertainment value and the enjoyment you get from trying to win something.
Naturally enough, if you spend that $1 today on the claw machine and received your enjoyment, it means that you won’t be able to spend that same dollar on similar amusements next week.
But, providing you continue to work productively over the next week you should have earned another $1 which you can also choose to spend on amusements.
However, if you choose not to spend the money on amusements today then you’ll have this week’s dollar plus next week’s dollar to spend. You’ll have twice as much.
Here’s the point, ultimately you save for a reason. Few people save just in order to build a massive pile of cash just for the sake of having a massive pile of cash.
The reason most people save is so they can spend in the future. In other words saving is just another way of expressing future spending. For instance you may be saving for retirement or to buy a new car or saving for a holiday.
That’s what saving is, building up your future spending capacity.
But according to wise-guys like Keynes, Skidelsky and Krugman, if you don’t spend today but instead save, the money just disappears. Because apparently it “depresses the business of preparing today’s dinner without stimulating the business of making ready for some future act of consumption.”
They couldn’t be more wrong. Because “stimulating the business of making ready for some future act of consumption” is exactly what saving does.
If Keynes was right, then as we’ve pointed out before, businesses wouldn’t bother with a stock inventory. Machinery makers would build machines that lasted for just one day. Imagine what a ridiculous and unsustainable economy that would be.
In actual fact it’s the act of stimulating an economy through quantitative easing, excessive government borrowing, and credit that does what the Keynesians claim saving does.
It encourages people, businesses and governments to spend today to stimulate the economy. All of which has the consequence of robbing money from the future.
So that when the future arrives the people are so overwhelmed by paying back the interest that they can’t afford to consume.
Yes, not spending today may depress spending today, but bringing spending forward simply creates the kind of boom and bust cycles that created the problems we’re going through now.
The massive expansion of credit – which the boffins want to recreate – is just like taxpayer funded stimulus spending. There’s little difference.
Both involve taking future income and spending it today, leaving nothing for the future. Hence the boom and bust cycle.
But that’s only half the problem. Perhaps the biggest problem created by stimulus spending is the impact it has on creative destruction.
It’s a pretty tough sounding phrase isn’t it?
The kind of phrase that should be said with a deep and booming voice. An Orson Welles type voice if you like.
But just what is creative destruction?
Well, simply put, it’s a fancy economic term to describe the occurrence of new innovations replacing older innovations.
It involves new companies replacing old companies. Old companies getting shoved aside by bright new companies and ideas.
Obvious examples are the typewriter losing out to the word processor, and then the word processor losing out to the personal computer.
Or horse drawn carts being replaced by motor cars, and sail ships losing the battle against steam ships.
I’m sure you get the picture.
The key message is that creative destruction is what drives progress. But creative destruction can only occur if there is investment. And that includes savings.
It enables entrepreneurs to finance and bring to life the new idea that could change the way individuals or businesses do things.
Incidentally, creative destruction is what I try to look for when tipping stocks in Australian Small-Cap Investigator.
Most of the time I’m looking for a stock that is out of the ordinary. A stock that holds the key to a game-changing technology or a new approach to its chosen market.
But it can also mean looking at companies that aren’t necessarily innovative in what they’re producing but rather that they’re innovative in how or where they do it.
Last month’s tip is a good example. However, I won’t give away any clues here though as even the smallest clue could give the game away, and that wouldn’t be fair to paying subscribers.
Anyway, back to the point. As I mentioned above, creative destruction drives progress. Or to be more precise, the entrepreneurial activity behind creative destruction drives progress.
Without it you’d still be foraging and hunting for food, and probably still mulling over the problem of how to easily move things from A to B.
That’s why when you see or hear a vested interest – such as a corporate executive or trade unionist – tell you that a particular change or the lack of a subsidy or bailout will destroy jobs and harm business, you should consider what the real full implications are, not just the immediate impact of the change.
I mean, if we take one of our examples from above, horse drawn carts, it goes without saying that it’s not just the pilots (or whatever they were called) of the horse drawn carts that would have lost their jobs as the motor vehicle took over, but those in allied industries as well.
Such as hostlers and blacksmiths, wheelwrights and tanners. Many of them would have been dumped out of their job. Years of apprenticeship and on-the-job training would have been lost.
But imagine if hostlers, blacksmiths, wheelwrights and tanners had received a massive bailout or subsidy by governments. What impact would that have had on progress?
Sure, odds are that eventually the motor powered vehicle would still have pushed the horse and cart aside, but it would have made the development of the new technology much harder.
It would have taken resources away from new innovation and given it to an industry that was about to die.
It would have made it harder for consumers to afford these new machines as they would have been funding the subsidy to the horse and cart industry through their taxes. And it would have made it harder for the bright new industries to compete.
Anyway, that’s just an example, I think you can see the point we’re trying to make.
We’ve seen exactly that happen over the last couple of years, especially in the finance industry. But it will have flowed through to other industries as well.
Right now they will be millions of entrepreneurs worldwide being denied access to investment funds because governments are too busy using taxpayer dollars to prop up corrupt and insolvent banks.
Entrepreneurs being denied capital because governments are more interested in propping up the construction industry with taxpayer dollars rather than allowing new industries and ideas to flourish.
The problem as we see it is that Keynesians and their like actually have no concept of the future. They only see the present. They see less spending today as a lost opportunity. They have no consideration for tomorrow until tomorrow arrives.
They are stuck in their own Groundhog Day, believing that yesterday’s actions will have no impact on today. And because tomorrow will be just like today there’s no reason to save or prepare for it.
It’s that attitude which not only causes boom and bust cycles and the gradual impoverishment of the individual, but just as importantly it impedes creative destruction and therefore impedes progress.

Kris Sayce

Judith Collins. Making New Zealand less safe. [Update 2]

Why has the licensing of air gun owners suddenly been announced by this government?  Because of three shootings involving air guns.  Judith Collins reckons after these three shootings that we’ll all be safer if she passes a new law requiring all owners of air guns to get a license.

But will we really?

The man the police gunned down for defending his family’s West Auckland home against intruders—the armed police having failed to identify themselves before breaking in to question him--was holding a stolen air rifle.

The man who shot and killed Police Sergeant Don Wilkinson outside his Hain Ave, Mangere East, house with an air rifle--—the police having failed to identify themselves before going on his property as part of a drugs operation—was using a stolen air rifle.

Things might have been different in both these incidents if police hadn’t gone about their work by acting so like criminals themselves that they were easily confused for being intruders. But since both these incidents involved stolen guns and people quite happy to break other laws, it’s unlikely that either would have been any different because of Ms Collins’s knee-jerk law change. Criminals are unlikely to be slowed down because they haven’t got the right paperwork with them.

That’s also the case with the other tragic shooting in recent weeks involving an airgun.  Keith Kahi was shot and killed in a Botany Downs driveway. Shot by a man holding a high-powered airgun over what’s suggested involves drugs. But while being “pleased” the government is doing something, Keith’s older brother Derek still wonders if this law change is the “something” that should be done. “Since most criminals did not have firearms licences, he questioned what impact it would really have.”

_QuoteIt's the old saying: `Guns don't kill people, people kill people.'
    "The legislation might stop your average Joe Bloggs from going along and buying a lethal weapon. That's a good thing, but it's not going to stop the criminals out there, they'll find other ways."

Yes. They will.

Frankly, there’s nothing at all in Ms Collins’s proposed law change to suggest that either Don Wilkinson or Keith Kahi would still be alive if she’d been any quicker off the mark in jerking her knees. It’s simply foolish to pretend that criminals are going to start doing their paperwork simply because Judith Collins says they must. (And if she’s successful in licensing airgun owners, then what’s next: boys who own shanghais?) What her law might do, however, is to encourage owners of airguns who do become licensed owners to then head out and buy a real gun—or even several real guns, putting even more guns into circulation, in the hands of people who may not yet be ready to use them-- which is not exactly what she’s after, I’m sure.  A view confirmed by Petone gun shop owner John Howat, who says,

_QuoteIf you require someone to have a gun licence they will just go for that and never buy an air-gun, they'll go straight into real guns. It cuts out those learning steps out, which is the last thing you want to do."

If Ms Collins really wants to make New Zealand safer, she might contemplate the other link in the two fatal shootings that have encouraged her to spring into action. She should take the advice of Dr Richard McGrath after the recent shooting of two Christchurch policemen who (like Sergeant Don Wilkinson) were shot by occupants while invading their property as part of a drugs operation.

_Quote The elephant in the room is this: The escalation of violence occurred because the two officers involved had decided to investigate a house that smelled of cannabis. And handling cannabis is currently illegal. If the house smelt of incense or fried chicken, there would have been no reason for the policemen to try and execute a search of the house, and no reason for the occupants to fear visitors. It was the smell of an illegal substance that set the whole sorry train of events in motion.
    “The libertarian solution to what is essentially a non-problem (a house smelling of cannabis) is to legalise all acts of non-aggression—which includes adults making, selling and smoking dope. That is not to endorse the cannabis industry, but to remove it from the sphere of crime, where it simply does not belong. If cannabis handling was legal, talkback callers would not now be wringing their hands over bringing back the death penalty and allowing police officers to carry side-arms.”

Prohibition escalates violence in New Zealand just as much as it did in 1920s Chicago, and in Underbelly-era Australia. If she’s really serious about making New Zealand safer for everyone, including policemen, she’d be giving those facts some serious thought.

That’s if she is serious about safety, instead of just a populist headline.

UPDATE 1: The anatomy of a kneejerk:

knee_jerk1 [Pic taken from NZ Conservative]


UPDATE 2:  Keith Locke goes populist—calling for not just gun-owners to be licensed, but for every single firearm in the country to be registered—something that cost Canada $2 billion and still failed to achieve anything.  “Bad timing Mr Locke, on gun registration” says Stephen Franks.

_QuoteKeith Locke's call for gun registration maintains the Greens' usual faith in government  It follows last week's Sunday Star Times 'expose' of how many firearms are circulating. But both come at a curious time.
    “Because New Zealand's law has just been praised  by the authors of an international survey of firearms law, and firearms murder rates. The Herald's story on that study knocks the stuffing out of the efforts of Mr Locke and the SST.
    “Sadly for  Taupo's Jeremy Graves a willingness to look at the law and the evidence together is still too much for the Police to handle…”

Read on here.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

SUNDAY READING: Religion & Mythology

_Quote     "Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions … are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies…
    “Mythology may, in a real sense, be defined as other people's religion. And religion may, in a sense, be understood as a popular misunderstanding of mythology.”
        - Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That


Friday, 23 July 2010

BEER O’CLOCK: Here Be Monsters – Hop Monsters

small_Yeastie_Boys_logo_270_0 If you’ve been worried about what’s happened to our once-regular beer correspondent Stu, then don’t be. As our other even-less regular beer correspondent Neil Miller explains, he’s been busy creating a monster.

Here Be Monsters – Hop Monsters
by Neil Miller

They are, according to the Made from New Zealand website, “the hottest and most unusual brewing company in New Zealand right now.”  The Yeastie Boys have just released their latest pair of beers, Yakima Monster and Motueka Monster… 

Because there is no substitute for primary research, I rang Stu McKinlay, the ginger half of the Yeastie Boys, and asked him some thoughtful questions.  The first related to the Yeastie Boys’ moniker.  Some people hate it, most people love it, but where exactly did it come from?

Well, it turns out Yeastie Boys was originally the name of Stu’s award-winning home brewery.  He says he turned up to a home brewing event and everyone else had great names for their breweries.  It was at that moment he realised then he needed one too.  Stu wanted a brewery name with a bit of a musical theme (because music is a huge part of his life) but not one which mentioned malt or hops like so many bars and breweries did. *

_QuoteOff the top of my head,” Stu said, “Little Creatures was the only brewery that referenced yeast in its name.  One day I happened to see a Beastie Boys album and the name just popped into my head.”

He admits to not particularly being a Beastie Boys fan [Me either, Ed.] but that does not stop the brewery and others constantly making references.  One media article on the Yeastie Boys was titled “Fight for your right to party” (one of the Beasties’ more famous songs) and even the Yeastie Boys’ own website has a section called “Swill Communication”, a clear play on the Beastie Boys fourth album title of “Ill Communication.”

Of course, this all meant that Stu’s still fully functional home brewery once again lacked a sobriquet.  His ingenious solution was to call it Eastie Boys, a reference, he claims, to its location deep in the eastern suburbs of Wellington.  “It has the added advantage that when I give a bottle to someone, I can use a Yeastie Boys label and just cut the letter Y off,” Stu explains.

The next question was about how the business operated.  Stu admitted it was a difficult question -

_QuoteI guess we are a brewing company but slightly more complex than most because we make different beers all the time.  We don’t own a brewery but there are lots of them around.  The Yeastie Boys just make good beer.  Maybe the best description is that we are a post-modern brewing company.” [Eeks! – Ed.]

On their Made from New Zealand profile, the Yeastie Boys note

_QuoteWe're also utilising excess capacity at small local breweries that we respect.  So, while growing our own business we are supporting other businesses made from New Zealand that we love.  The whole really can be greater than the sum of the parts. 1 + 1 = 3!!!” 

So far, all their beers have been made at Invercargill Brewery under the watchful (yet huggable) eye of Mr Steve Nally.

Then it was time to talk about The Monsters.  Both are 6% India Pale Ales brewed for winter with 100% UK malt (Golden Promise, Caramalt) and a ‘monster-load’ of hops (9g/L).  Two near identical batches of the beer were produced on subsequent days with the sole difference being the hops used.  Yakima Monster is an American Pale Ale with Nugget, Simcoe and Amarillo hops.  Motueka Monster is a New Zealand Pale Ale using the same amount of Southern Cross, Nelson Sauvin and NZ Cascade hops. **

It turns out that the idea for these particular beers was a long time in the making.  Shortly after the Yeastie Boys were set up, Stu were approached by Joseph Wood, an exceptional home brewer.  Joseph asked Stu to make one of his beers in commercial quantities.  Stu acknowledges that it was a little unusual for a home brewer to ask another home brewer to make a beer this way.

At the time, the Yeastie Boys had basically sketched out all the beers they planned to make over the next year but Joseph and Stu kept discussing the issue.  Finally, they nailed a time to do.  The Yakima Monster is based on Joseph’s beer of the same name.  The added dimension was that Stu had been toying with the concept of “cross town challenges.”

Stu had seen the Annual West Coast Challenge between Epic and Hallertau and, while he loved the beers, found them hard to compare directly because they were just so different.  He wanted people to be able to try two beers where the only difference was the hops.  It would be, in his words, “an education in hop terroir.”  

This was the thinking which led to the recent Nerherder beers from Yeastie Boys.  Nerdherder B used Motueka hops (formerly Saaz B) while Nerdherder D used Riwaka hops (formerly Saaz D).  Fundamentally, the same approach has been taken with the monsters, just with everything turned up a notch. 

So, what is the difference between the two new beers?  Well, Yakima is more assertive and, frankly American.  Motueka is more balanced and, feedback suggests, more complicated.  Both have the exact same bitterness units (around 56 IBU) but Stu believes the perceived bitterness is quite different.  In the mouth, the Motueka seems a lot less bitter.

Stu is reluctant to pick a favourite Monster saying

_QuoteNah – I sway a bit.  Initially I would have said Yakima because I’m much more familiar with aggressive American style rather the New Zealand Pale Ale style.  Now I’m not so sure.  I did a tasting last week and both nights saw pretty much a 50/50 split between the two.  The crowd came up with three or four descriptors for the Yakima and about 20 for the Motueka.  That is interesting but unexplainable.”

The only real explanation is to taste the beers.

Motueka Monster and Yakima Monster are two new beers from the Yeastie Boys, “specialists in all styles.” ***

Monsters are real and they are at Malthouse now [and around the country – Ed.]. 

* * * *

* Exhibit A: Malthouse
** The Yeasties freely acknowledge the irony of having a beer called Motueka Monster which does not use Motueka hops.
*** According to their Twitter profile.  Remember, if it’s on the internet, it must be true.


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand 
Beer and Brewer Magazine 

The post originally appeared at Wellington’s Malthouse Blog, which is almost as good as Wellington’s excellent Malthouse Bar.

Friday breaking news: Breasts are better then ever

In important news this Friday afternoon, scientists have now determined that "Women's breasts are better larger than ever - and it's not due to implants."

This is an excellent trend, one that this blog would like to celebrate.

So here’s Dita Von Teese inviting you to drink water.

At least, I think that’s what this UK ad is trying to encourage.

High-speed broadband clusterf**k coming right up

While Australians are starting to realise they’re going to pay dearly for their government-run national broadband network, some New Zealanders are starting to question whether or not we even need ultra-fast broadband—particularly if it comes with a government label—and especially since New Zealanders are already world leaders in stealing films over their existing connections.  Something some of us have pointed out before.

These are the sort of people who were (and still are) cheering Obergruppenfuhrer Cunliffe’s break-up of Telecom in the hope it might make it easier to steal more movies and TV shows more quickly—cheering the vandalism of Telecom’s private property here while Telstra’s former CEO Sol Trujillo over there gave the spineless Therese Gattung a lesson in how to tell a thieving government to go to hell.

Trujillo was one chap who knew long ago that the government’s interest in high-speed broadband would only impede private investment in it; and having the government involved at all would only be a clusterfuck. As it has been both there and over here. The question, really, boils down to a simple value judgement:

“”The question is not whether there are, or might one day be, cool things that you can only do with 100mbps broadband.
    “The question is whether enough of us are prepared to pay what it would cost to make that available down every suburban street.”

And if we’re not prepared to pay that cost upfront to a private company--and clearly most New Zealanders aren’t, or they would have—then why pretend to ourselves we won’t be paying through the nose when (having delayed private investment in those places where it might be economic) the government starts doing it themselves.  Or trying to.

Like they’re been trying to, and failing to, in Australia.

John Banks’s mega-money grab [update 2]

So now we’re getting some idea about the nature of the big plan is in extending the authority of John Banks’s council from Tuakau to Wellsford: it’s not just to give planners even more unbridled power over the lives of even more good folk, it’s to extend John Banks proven super-revenue-gathering powers from bus land and parking fines to 1 million people instead of just a paltry 250,000.  $20 million gathered from 430,00 people by 80 revenue-gathering traffic wardens, with $12 million more expected to be gathered by the 30 new pieces of filth about to be appointed by John Banks. Now when you’re monarch of 1.4 million, with your super-revenue-gathering imposing walletectomies on unsuspecting drivers, that would be over $100 million, and counting.

Who needs to rein in rates when you can always just keep whacking the motorist, already harassed by driving on roads that don’t work, through shortcuts infested with speed humps, on to motorways whose on-ramps no longer allow you to get on, to places where you’re not allowed to park.

Who needs to rein in rates at all when your own supporters cheer if you manage to keep your spending blow-out below ten percent every year. “Hurray!” “Great stuff'!” they hurrah while the pepple who try to pay them go to the wall.

Not bad for a mayor who campaigned on a platform of stopping rate rises altogether, and who’s raised them every year he’s been in office—while raising the revenue gathering every year just to try to keep pace.

There’s a word for a thieving arsehole like that.  And I think I just used two of them.

UPDATE 1: Owen McShane points out that everty study ever done demonstrates that bus lanes don’t drive people out of their cars, they drive them out of the city. [Hat tip Leighton Smith]

UPDATE 2: Oh crikey. Who wants mayors of a 1.4 million-people city to start unveiling “visions”! Given the size of the egos involved in doing a job that should just involve little more than making sure the sewers work, you can just about do the back-of-the-envelope calculation yourself, can’t you:

“Visions” + ego = millions and millions of dollars of your money down the drain.

Goodbye chucker

Murali-Protractor Good to see that the chucker is finally leaving the beautiful game, leaving it with a world chucking record of 800 wickets—a permanent stain on the game. 

“Throw, throw, throw the ball, gently down the seam, Murali, Murali, Murali,
Murali chucks it like a dream."

Still, now he’s gone, I look forward watching cricket again. Instead of baseball.

Bellerophon & Pegasus


Selected to perform great deeds, the sculptor chooses to depict the moment when the hero finds his mount – the famous winged horse, Pegasus – drinking peacefully from the spring,  sent there by Athena to be his instrument in the hero struggle.

And just look how easily this anonymous sculptor from 2350 years ago depicts his scene. While barbarians all about were hacking hieroglyphics into stone, or daubing it with savagery, our Classical Greek chooses to depict the peace before battle, and by his mastery of his medium, transforms a two-dimensional surface into an image with real depth.

A good example of the power of simple relief sculpture, when done so well.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

'Atlas Shrugged' » The Documentary

Here's the trailer, a sneak peak at one filmmaker’s exploration of one book’s impact on society:

Atlas Shrugged » The Documentary.

Brash wants to wean NZers from the unsustainable super pyramid

Don Brash is in the news again for another good transitional proposal—not yet to help wean NZers from the great unsustainable pyramid scheme that is govt superannuation, but at least to help get that process started.

From the time Michael Joseph Savage’s Labour Government set up New Zealand’s retirement and pension scheme (you know, back when average life expectancy in New Zealand was about three weeks after you got the gold watch), this was never a pay-as-you-go scheme.  It always relied on those still working paying for those who no longer were.

But now there’s too many of the latter and not enough of the former, and while the rapidly increasing number of oldsters is spending more and more, the youngsters whose savings should be paying for them are saving less and less, and being taxed through the nose to fund what will soon be un-fundable. 

Actually, when the government is borrowing a quarter of a billion a week just to pay its welfare bill, it’s clear the whole welfare thing is already un-fundable. But while that’s just un-fundable, ‘super’ is becoming super-un-fundable, and it’s only going to get worse. This is a pyramid scheme that is near collapse. It is unsustainable.

So you would think that a simple proposal to begin gradually raising the retirement age would be welcomed, or at least discussed; something that would be announced long in advance, and would come with incentives—i.e., “those who chose to draw the pension down early being paid a lower rate over the rest of their lifetime compared with those who chose to draw the pension down late.”

Dr Don timidly suggests offering this only up to age 67. Actuary Jonathan Eriksen sensibly suggests making such as scheme accessible between 60 and 75.*

A good idea, you would think. Something worth discussing, you would imagine. Except, huh, what’s that … oh, we’ve just been told by those who must be obeyed, that no discussion will be entered into. Hard questions like this will obviously be left to the next generation to sort out.

* (My own suggestion would be to simply announce a gradual raise of the qualifying age one year at a time every couple of years until the whole unsustainable pyramid scheme is gone altogether—giving a grace period of two to three years, while compensating everyone over 65 now by making them entirely exempt from income tax. But that’s just me.  And George Reisman.)

The biggest X since the Great Depression [insert your own answer] - updated

Barack Obama has just signed into law what he boasts is “the biggest financial reform since the Great Depression.”  (Just so you know, that was the reform that gave the world Fannie Mae—"one of the US government's most ill-fated welfare creations, ever, on the part of the United States government” and at least one of the proximate causes of the latest depression.)

So how’s the latest Dodd-Franks reform going to work, then? Explains Chris Dodd, the bill’s co-author,

“No one will know until this is actually in place how it works."

Uh, haven’t we heard this somewhere before?

"But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it..."

Ah, yes.  I thought it sounded familiar. That’s exactly the sort of “rule of law” the Obama Administration and its tame Congress can believe in.

The sort of “rule of law” ushering in precisely the sort of regime uncertainty last experienced in, you guessed it, the Great Depression.

No wonder most surviving American businesses are saving, not spending. Under this regime they literally have no idea what laws they have to follow tomorrow.

Oh, and just so you know. You know Fannie Mae The govt’s big mortgage lender who almost single-handedly generated a nation in negative equity?  Yep, that’s right. “Fannie” is exempt from all the new rules.

[Hat tip Kate]

UPDATE: Peter Schiff, who intends to stand against Chris Dodd in the forthcoming Senate elections, had this to say:

Washington did it again.
    “Last week the Senate passed a financial overhaul that balloons the role of government while suffocating small businesses. It's Washington theatrics at its worst, and I've had enough.
Instead of punishing the fat cats, Washington has given them the opportunity to feed off the American taxpayer and grow even fatter. And in failing to address the root causes of the financial crisis, this bill actually ensures that the next crises will be even worse!
    “These shenanigans are destroying our economy and they must end. That's why I'm running for the U.S. Senate…
    “I'm appalled by the Senate's carelessness in passing this financial overhaul. But you and I both know that the career politicians and their cronies don't care about the taxpayers. And a bill that enshrines mechanisms for future bailouts into law only proves that.
    “Enough is enough.
    “We need to allow market forces to restructure the economy and we cannot do that with all of the regulations Washington is imposing on the financial sector. That's why I need to be in the U.S. Senate.
    “Unlike the majority of the Washington political establishment, I understand the economy.   That means I will never support legislation like this financial overhaul bill, and I will do everything in my power to make sure that our economy has the mechanisms to thrive.
In other words- no more regulations, bailouts, tax hikes or bogus stimulus plans.
So if you are a patriot and you want America to prosper, I need your immediate help.

“Red Delicious” - David Bowers

Red Delicious, 2009
Oil on Linen
12” x 26”

This original piece was another of the finalists in this year’s Art Renewal Center competition.  Go and give the artist praise at his website.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Pragmatism & Mr Nixon: The Car Crash that was Watergate

frost_nixon_ver2 I PROMISED YESTERDAY TO to discuss the single most important, eloquent and disastrous, example of Pragmatism in the modern political era.*
So sit back, pull up your cushions, and make yourself comfortable.

I give to you as first prize-winner the great political car crash that was Watergate—the scandal that sunk a President, launched a thousand suffixes, and wrote itself so much into modern history that a film merely dramatising four interviews about the scandal could still gross nearly $30 million last year
As one reviewer said, that film, Frost/Nixon,brilliantly presents “twin profiles in pragmatism”: dramatising two “corrupt, self-loathing defeatists who seek power,” and whose rise and fall between them signalled the full-blooded introduction of pragmatism to their respective worlds—something we’re still with today.

While Nixon’s  pragmatic credo (“whatever works”) gave the world wage and price controls, the Vietnam War, and the politics of image over substance -- and delivered to him the scandal that made him one of only three U.S. Presidents to face impeachment-- the self-same credo was shared by David Frost  (“whatever works”), and his work here helped delivered to the world “agenda journalism masquerading as moralism… in retrospect preview[ing] the plunge of the press into the tawdry, trashy institution it is today.”  

Seminal stuff indeed, then, based on a scandal that people still talk about.

Yet the scandal itself that brought Nixon down was simply small beer compared to many other things going on at the time (Vietnam, Chappaquiddick, the bombings of sundry Weathermen) and was unravelled because of little more than a failed break-in to the hotel that gave the scandal its name—a break-in organised by a Pro-Nixon group who self-identified as “practical men” unconcerned with ideology who would simply do whatever was necessary (“whatever works”) to re-elect their man.

Praised for his “pragmatism and flexibility” by no less than the NY Times’s leader writers earlier in his time at the White House, the car crash that was Watergate revealed just how impractical he and his team of so-called practical pragmatists really were. For Watergate and their reaction to it was really a car crash waiting to happen. A car crash that pragmatism drove, and made inevitable.

NIXON HIMSELF WAS THE ultimate pragmatist, a man who it was said “could make a U-turn on a dime (or on a paper dollar), discarding overnight every approximate principle he was approximately believed to stand for.” This is hardly a contentious claim. Writing recently in the Washington Post, Elizabeth Drew says
oogmynqcwn_i-am-not-a-crook-1_QuoteNixon, who ran a rather disorganized presidency, wasn't interested in domestic policy. He essentially handed it off to his aide John Ehrlichman. And there was no unifying philosophy. Nixon called himself a ‘pragmatist,’ and he should be taken at his word: His domestic policy was a blend of the enlightened, the pragmatic and the cynical. In 1969, a Republican senator described Nixon to me as ‘the man with the portable center…’
(Remember yesterday’s post: “The Pragmatists declared that philosophy must be practical and that practicality consists of dispensing with all absolute principles and standard…”)
In a 1973 NY Times column "Pragmatism and Zeal" by Tom Wicker, he declares the Watergate corruption to be “qualitatively different" from the scandals of the past.
_Quote Without memorable exception, most political corruption has concerned itself with money—payoffs, bribes and kickbacks for crooked or dubious services rendered, or simple theft of the taxpayers' dollars...No charge has yet been made that any part of the vast sums involved in the Watergate case were simply pocketed by larcenous men .... It does not appear that any of the principals had the usual grafter's motive of enriching himself...The motive underlying Watergate was to insure the re-election of the President and the retention of power of those around him .... In their cold pragmatism, some Nixon men apparently saw neither right nor wrong but concentrated on their goal, regardless of right or wrong."
And James Reston, in the same issue of the same newspaper:
_QuoteThe problem [of Watergate] is the assumption that chiseling pays, that dishonesty is the best policy, that loyalty to the President is the same as loyalty to the Republic, and that if the President's objectives or ends are good and honorable, his men can use any means to support him, including discrediting, bugging, burglarizing or vilifying his opponents. [Watergate may] make us wonder whether expediency and pragmatism, divorced from right and wrong, are worthy of the American republic, and even whether they work."
(“Pragmatism wedded to ‘right and wrong’ (i.e., to morality) is a philosophical
contradiction in terms…; Pragmatism denies the validity of any principles, moral
or epistemological. Pragmatism holds expediency as the only criterion of human
values and actions. Truth or falsehood, it claims, cannot be known in advance of
action: truth is "that which works" in a particular situation. According to this
standard, the only way the Watergate burglars could know that they were
doing wrong in their particular situation, was by getting caught.”**

BOTH THE PRESIDENT HIMSELF and all the President’s Men who fell with him were pragmatists to the core.   This was a President who called for polls to decide whether or not to bomb Haiphong harbour, and then waited for the results while his minions worked to skew those very polls. A President whose chief domestic adviser, John Ehrlichman, the ideologue of the White House, confessed at the Watergate hearings that he was neither a constitutional lawyer nor an “ideas man.”  Whose adviser’s lieutenant, John Haldeman, “looked upon himself not as an 'issues' man but as a technician and organizer, and the young men he hired and promoted met the same qualifications."

For what use would ‘issues’ or ideas be to such people? For them, politics wasn’t  a battle of ideas, it was a battle of warring political tribes.

(“But the big dilemma for all the pragmatists of the Right, is: what are they to fight
and by what means, if principles are inoperative? Politics is a field in which one deals
with ideas and it requires the ability to argue, to discuss, to persuade. What does
one do in politics if one has discarded the whole realm of ideas? One fights

And Nixon’s young pragmatists who bungled the burglary were all too happy to sign up to such a battle.  Readers can get a sense of the stunted world-view of these entities by reading the autobiography of the man who “organised” the burglary, G. Gordon Lilly. (Called without irony Will,  reviewers at the time called the book “a comedy masterpiece.” It’s that and much more, even if all the comedy was unintentional.)  This is a man whose party trick was holding his hand over a candle until the flesh burned, indicating to everyone (including himself, he hoped) how tough he was; a man who had served his political apprenticeship as part of Richard Nixon’s failed “War on Drugs,” and on which operation he based  what John Dean later called “his dream to build a clandestine police force for the White House”; the man whose “organisation” was responsible for the Watergate operation, after which he offered to stand on whatever street corner he needed to so his bosses could terminate him if their Commander-in-Chief wished it ("...on a street corner, I'm prepared to have that done. You just let me know when and where, and I'll be there”).

Liddy and his fellow “soldiers” in the Committee to Re-Elect the President, a semi-autonomous organisation run out of their Commander-in-Chief’s White House and dubbed by its own troops CREEP, signed up not to an intellectual battle, but to help put down the bombings, riots and mayhem instituted by the various bands of hippies, Yippies and the Weathermen of whom Obama’s friend William Ayers played such a large part.

They did this not by seeking evidence that might convict the perpetrators of these crimes, or engaging in a battle to discredit the ideas the goons used to justify the mayhem, but instead by what they called “rat-fucking” their Democratic opponents in the Presidential election. They gave this campaign of Dirty Tricks the grandiose title of “Operation Gemstone,” and almost immediately began laundering money to pay for the operation; sending out inflammatory bogus letters purporting to be from Democratic candidates; paying for spies in opposing campaigns, and planting bugs in their offices; planting rumours about illegitimate children; burgling psychiatrists’ offices to find material blackening opponents; buying prostitutes to “get close” to their opponents; and organising (or trying to) to put sand in the air-conditioners at the Democrats’ Miami convention in the hope the resulting heat would throw it into chaos.
_QuoteSuch ‘technicians’ [observed Ayn Rand] would know that one is supposed to fight, at election time. What would be a pragmatist's idea of a fight? Ideas—he has been taught—are impractical, it is only immediate events that count; what is true today, may not be true tomorrow; rigid values are childish, cynical ‘flexibility is mature. People—he has concluded—don't think; people are not interested in ideas, only in scandal, they do not care about the good, only about some sensational exposé of somebody's evil.
    “Thus the younger, more impatient pragmatists would come to believe that bugging, spying, burglary, in pursuit of somebody's scandalous personal secrets, are more effective than years of speechmaking about ‘issues.’ Pragmatism is a philosophy of action, of the ‘now. The mentality of the activists of the Left, becomes, on the Right, the mentality of the Watergate conspirators.”
Despite their grand plans for maximum electoral chaos paid for with purloined funds, the burglary that brought them all down was  in fact one of only very few operations they carried out, and it was a triumph of pragmatic “organisation”: it had no aim that anyone involved was aware of; even if successful it would have achieved precisely nothing; and everyone involved thought everyone else had authorised it.  The rest of the Watergate scandal was simply the Nixon White House trying, both pragmatically and unsuccessfully, to put down the whole apparatus of the pragmatic political “operation” that it then exposed—an operation that in the final analysis consisted of little more than eavesdropping on electoral opponents (the Democrats) who their own polls said they were going to beat in a landslide anyway.
_QuoteThe biggest mystery of Watergate [concluded Ayn Rand] is not what Richard Nixon did, but what he thought. No enemy could have destroyed him as thoroughly as he destroyed himself: consistently, systematically, he undercut his own case with every successive public statement he made  and every step he took, until there was nothing left of him or to him. Yet he was known as a ‘smart’ politician, a clever manipulator, not a man of thought, but of action. Moral issues apart, what happened to his purely practical judgment?
There is a paragraph in the first part of Dr. Peikoff's article ‘Pragmatism versus America,’ which answers this question. Reading it, I had an eerie feeling, as if a psychologist were describing the nature of Mr. Nixon's thought-processes—yet that paragraph was written over two years ago, about a philosophy originated in the nineteenth century:
        “ ‘In the normal course of affairs, the pragmatists elaborate, men do not—and need
    not—think; they merely act—by habit, by routine, by unthinking impulse. But, in
    certain situations, the malleable material of reality suddenly asserts itself, and habit
    proves inadequate: men are unable to achieve their goals, their action is blocked
    by obstacles, and they begin to experience frustration, tension, trouble, doubt, ‘disease.’
        “ ‘This, according to pragmatism, is when men should resort to the ‘instrument’ of
    thought. And the goal of the thought is to ‘reconstruct’ the situation so as to escape
    the trouble, alleviate the tension, remove the obstacles, and resume the normal process
    of unimpeded (and unthinking) action.
  “Mr. Nixon's desperate, contradictory, incomprehensible actions were aimed at ‘reconstructing the situation (even though it is unlikely that he had ever heard of this particular metaphysical prescription). But the malleable material of reality stubbornly refused to let itself be reconstructed.
    “This, dear readers, is an example of philosophy's power—of what a particular philosophic theory, pragmatism, did to its most consistent practitioner.”
My advice, therefore, to political proponents of the right whose leaders pledge to govern “in a pragmatic and balanced way,” is to run like hell the first chance you get.
* * * * 
* The “modern political era”? I’d define it fairly loosely as the period that today’s practitioners still remember well.  So in New Zealand we have people still telling war stories about Muldoon; in Britain we have unionists still bewailing Thatchers’ victory in 1979; and in the US we still have people around who’d like us to forget they were once a part of the Nixon Administration. So in short, it’s the era starting just before ABBA, or maybe, just after the Beatles.
** Unless otherwise attributed, quotes and 1973 NYT columns were taken from Ayn Rand’s masterful, full-length, 1976 summary of the Watergate car crash, “Brothers, You Asked For It.”

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR'S: Cancers – Personal and Parliamentary

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

This week’s haul highlights stories on cancers, both personal and parliamentary.

  1. “Dying GP’s plea for euthanasia – Stricken by a particularly nasty form of cancer, GP Dr John Pollock has written a powerful and moving letter outlining why euthanasia should be legalized, addressing some of the common arguments trotted out in defence of the status quo.
        He points out that the NZ Medical Association opposes legalizing euthanasia. I believe the NZMA should rethink its stance on this issue, to recognize the individual sovereignty of people and their right to control the manner in which their life ends. The state should not usurp people’s ownership of their bodies. Libertarianz advocates that government step back and allow people to decide for themselves the manner and timing of their death.
  2. “St George’s treats Auckland cancer patients The Press notes that Auckland cancer patients are being sent for private radiotherapy in Christchurch, while Canterbury cancer patients have to join a die-while-you-wait queue for treatment. Why don’t all hospitals send their patients for private treatment, instead of allowing the disease to progress to a less curable state? That’s the beauty of private enterprise – its responsiveness to demand.
        People are not thrown off waiting lists in the private sector.  Supply is based on the ability to pay, it’s true, but this usually reflects how much purchasers themselves value their care; and those supplied are selected based only on their ability to pay - not excluded by skin colour or age, nor selected based on some bureaucratic idea of “subjective need.”  They are “self-selected” instead simply by the system of free exchange of values.
        People who make provision for their health needs are thus rewarded; those who make no such provision need to look to family, friends or charity for the means to afford health care. There is no right to receive hi-tech Western medical treatment – or any other health service for that matter. Only one political party pledges to give people back control over the health care they receive: Libertarianz.  
  3. ““MP fears for bill to beat loan sharksLabour MP Carol Beaumont believes some New Zealanders are too stupid to be lent money, while others who are willing to lend money to high risk debtors should be prohibited from charging for the extra cost of lending to high risk debtors.
        Does she think the less well-off will thank her when they find themselves unable to find anyone willing to lend them money?
        As with any government intervention in the economy, there would no doubt be further intervention to address the problems caused by Carol’s original intervention. But wait – will Carol herself come to the rescue of these poor deserving souls to whom no-one will now lend money?  Or will that new intervention take the form of a state lender, who will throw sackfuls of other people’s money at these toxic debtors, many of whom have already been showered for years with all manner of benefits unrelated to productivity.
        So it is that the whole depressing cycle of growing dependence on the state for handouts is perpetuated.
        Why doesn’t Carol just mind her own business and butt out of people’s lives--leaving Stacey Jones and Instant Finance free to serve those folk who want they can provide? Let the people for whom she expresses such concern learn the value of thrift and saving without her busybody sticky-beak interference.
        Carol seems determined to shield others from the consequences of their free choices – in the long run, she is not doing them – or the taxpayer – any favours.
  4. “Coroner blames MPs for not actingFunnily enough, I sat next to the coroner quoted in this article for breakfast this morning, at a meeting here in Masterton with local doctors and funeral directors to discuss some of the finer points of death certification. Coroner for the Wellington and Wairarapa districts, Ian Smith, notes that 10 people a year die in accidents involving all-terrain vehicles. He was particularly upset that an adult, with no experience riding a quad bike, chose to ride one which he borrowed from a farmer, and came to grief. His employers were fined a total of $140,000.
        Mr Smith suggests making roll cages, seat belts and helmets compulsory on quad bikes. Yet he remains oblivious to the fact that there are more than 70,000 quad bikes in active service throughout New Zealand. It is likely that around 69,990 of these bikes will not be involved in fatal accidents next year, yet all their owners will be penalized on the basis of 10 deaths. How does he even know that these safety features would have prevented any of the 100 deaths over the past 10 years? What about those people who don’t stupid risks while riding their quad bikes? Does their liberty count for anything? Obviously not.
        The onus for minimizing the risk of death from accidents on quad bikes rests with the individual rider, or in the case of children with their parents. Personally, I have refused to allow my children to ride quad bikes. They can do that once they reach adulthood if that is their wish. But I firmly believe that adults should face up to their responsibilities and be allowed to decide what are reasonable safety precautions when riding a quad bike. It’s a dangerous world out there, machines can kill, and it appears that the vast majority of ATV riders (69,990/70,000 = 99.986%) are capable of keeping themselves alive despite a general lack of rollcages, helmets and seat belts.

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

The malapropisms of refudiation

Following SarahPalin’s now (in)famous malapropism (or was it a corrigendum) we’d like to air a few more famous examples, starting with some from Mrs Malaprop herself:

  • "He is the very pineapple of politeness!" – Mrs Malaprop
  • "...promise to forget this fellow - to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory."– Mrs Malaprop
  • "I hope you will represent her to the captain as an object not altogether illegible."– Mrs Malaprop
  • "Your ambition - is that right - is to abseil across the English channel?" - Cilla Black
  • "This is unparalyzed in the state's history." - Gib Lewis, Texas Speaker of the House
  • "He's going up and down like a metronome." - Ron Pickering
  • "We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile." - George W. Bush
  • "I am mindful not only of preserving executive powers for myself, but for predecessors as well."- George W. Bush
  • "He was a man of great statue." - Thomas Menino, Boston mayor
  • "Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child." - Dan Quayle, Vice President
  • "Well, that was a cliff-dweller." - Wes Westrum, about a close baseball game
  • This series has been swings and pendulums all the way through." - Trevor Bailey, cricket commentator
  • “Don’t upset the apple tart.” - Irish Taoiseach (PM) Bertie Ahern
  • “We shall reach greater and greater platitudes of achievement.” – Toronto mayor Allan Lamport
  • This is the crutch of the problem.” – Toronto mayor Allan Lamport
  • “The chief is inclined to believe that a crossed wife might be the cause of the fire.” - Leo Rosten
  • “A rolling stone gathers no moths.”
  • “Arabs wear turbines on their heads.”
  • “The Bible is full of interesting caricatures.”
  • “He's a wolf in cheap clothing.”

The Uncyclopaedia swears that this was “The Contraception of Malapropism”:

_Quote The very first intense of malapropism was recorded in the filming of the 'The Munich Putsch' in 1923. What started as a civil concussion as to who would play the leading role of Adolf Hitler between Adolf von Thadden and William Pierce, soon escalatored into a viscous, savage argument. Sensing the argument would soon turn to cufflinks, Pierce took initiation and struck Von Thadden's forehead with a nearby fire distinguisher…”

Finally, it was reported in New Scientist magazine (June 18 2005) that an office worker once described a colleague as "a vast suppository of information". (i.e., repository) The worker then apologised for his "Miss-Marple-ism." (i.e. malapropism).  New Scientist reported it as possibly the first time malapropism has been turned into a malapropism.

Mine, mines, mining

You know, it’s great that Gerry Brownlee is still trying to keep the mining momentum rolling, but you’re probably wondering now why the government will now be spending up to five-million dollars of your money to undertake a “magnetic aerial survey in Northland and the West Coast, to explore for minerals.”

You’re probably asking yourself, “Isn’t this something on which private companies should be risking their own money?’ to which the answer is, of course, yes.

The reason, however, that it’s the government risking your money instead of a private company spending their own is that mineral rights in New Zealand are nationalised.  Owned by the government.  Just like it used to be in the Soviet Union.

Before the first Labour Government passed legislation in 1937 nationalising whatever mineral and petroleum resources might be found around New Zealand, ownership of that potential resource was determined by the common law, essentially giving rights to the resource to whomever discovered it and/or owned the space on which the resource lay—a great incentive to discover and exploit new resources. After 1937, however, any oil, gas, radioactive minerals, gold, silver, coal and all other metallic and non-metallic minerals and aggregates found anywhere in New Zealand belonged not to those who discovered and were prepared to exploit them, but by the government in perpetuity. Just like it used to be in the Soviet Union.

Which explains why the government is now using your money to pay for the magnetic aerial survey in Northland and the West Coast to explore for minerals, instead of a private company paying for it themselves. Just like it used to be in the Soviet Union.

Which as much as anything else also explains why Australians derives so much greater wealth from that country’s mineral resources than we do from this one’s, even though ours is nearly as much per-capita than theirs.

And which as much as anything else also explains why anything involved with mining in New Zealand is so heavily politicised, so hard to undertake, and puts the government in the position of both miner and environmental guardian. Just like it used to be in the Soviet Union.

Further reading:

By smearing the Tea Party, what exactly is the NAACP advancing?

America’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has been crying “racist!” about the disparate elements that make up the Tea Party movement. Guest poster Gen LaGreca reckons there is better work the NAACP should be doing.

* * * *

More articles by Gel LaGreca After dredging up a dozen objectionable posters from the millions of people attending Tea Party rallies across the country, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—on the basis of these few placards—is asking its members to sign a pledge to “repudiate racism within the Tea Party.”

Instead of addressing the ideas raised by the Tea Party, the NAACP has launched a gratuitous smear campaign. At the moment of the most crucial debate of our lifetime, a fervent debate over the role of government in human affairs, the NAACP has choked off intellectual discussion and placed itself in the anteroom of human thought, forfeiting ideas for smears.

What are the central ideas driving the Tea Party movement, ideas the NAACP neglects to mention to its members? Taken from the “Mission Statement and Core Values” of the prominent national group Tea Party Patriots, here’s an indication of what the movement stands for:

— The “Declaration of Independence” and our other “founding documents,” which means the unalienable rights of the individual to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

— A “constitutionally limited government,” which means a government that serves as the protector of the individual rights of everyone, and not as the provider of the needs and wants of some groups at the expense of others.

— “Free markets” and “freedom of the individual to spend the money that is the fruit of their labor,” which means the right to private property and freedom in the economic affairs of life.

— “Fiscal responsibility by government.”

These issues encompass the most pressing moral and political questions of our day. Does a person have control over his own person and property, or does the government hold a superior claim to someone’s life and possessions? What is the proper structure of government—freedom or controls, capitalism or socialism, private property or government redistribution? This is the debate that the Tea Party has launched, and the fate of all of our lives and those of future generations rests on the answer.

Instead of hurling baseless smears and stirring racial animus, the NAACP needs to carefully examine the ideas driving the tea party and hold its own opposition up to scrutiny.

— The Tea Party stands for an individual’s right to be the master of his own person and property. Does the NAACP stand for an individual’s not being his own master, but of some other entity having control over a person’s life and possessions? How is that an advancement of colored people or anyone else?

— The Tea Party stands for limited government. Is the NAACP for unlimited government? How would that be an advancement of colored people or anyone else?

— The Tea Party upholds a person’s right to keep the fruits of his labor. Does the NAACP instead want its members to have the fruits of their labor seized from them? How would that constitute an advancement of colored people or anyone else?

— The Tea Party calls for fiscal responsibility of government. Is the NAACP for fiscal irresponsibility? Wouldn’t that lead to higher taxes and a lower standard of living? How would that foster the advancement of colored people or anyone else?

If the NAACP doesn’t stand for the advancement of the individual—for the pursuit and enjoyment of one’s life, with the full exercise of one’s liberty and the protection of one’s property—then it must stand for the only other alternative, i.e., the advancement of government as the provider, regulator, intruder, and controller of the individual’s life. If the NAACP doesn’t stand with the Tea Party in upholding individual rights—the bedrock of our country and of any civilized, free society—then it does not stand for the advancement of its members or anyone else, but for the regression of all of us to a state of servitude.

Gen LaGreca is the author of Noble Vision, a ForeWord Magazine Book-of-the-Year award-winning novel about the struggle for liberty in health care today.  This post originally appeared at The Daily Caller, and is re-posted here by permission.