Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Innovation vs. Invention

Guest post by author, patent attorney and entrepreneur, Dale Halling

innovation_vs_invention I believe there is a lot of confusion regarding the difference between invention and innovation.  This confusion is the result of erroneous definitions and the purposeful intent of some to increase their importance by belittling the contributions of others.

I believe that most of this mischief started with the great economist Joseph Schumpeter.  According to Wikipedia:

_Quote Following Schumpeter, contributors to the scholarly literature on innovation typically distinguish between invention, an idea made manifest, and innovation, ideas applied successfully in practice.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the distinction above, but the way it is applied blurs together a number of different skills.  Blurring skills together shows a misunderstanding of the process of innovating. 

Broadly speaking, innovation can be broken into two distinct sets of skills: creation and dissemination.  By creation I mean creating something new; not simply production – creating something old.

Invention is a subset of creation.  An invention is a creation with an objective repeatable result.  A creation that is not an invention has a subjective result, such as the effect of a painting on a viewer, or the effect of a book on a reader.  Many activities combine both a subjective creation and an invention, such as architecture.  However, we can separate out the invention from the other creative elements and this helps our understanding of the process.

Dissemination may include a number of processes, such as education (marketing, sales), manufacturing, finance, and management.  This is not to say that marketing cannot be creative, it clearly often is very creative.  However, the creative part of marketing can be separated out from the dissemination or execution part of marketing.  The same is true of manufacturing, which can definitely include inventing.  But an invention related to manufacturing is part of the creation step, not part of the dissemination step.

Finance can also have inventions.  For instance, the invention of a fractional-reserve ratio bank is clearly an invention.  It has the objective result of securitizing assets and turning them into loans and currency.  A fractional reserve bank will securitize land and turn into a loan and currency.  Despite this, [and leaving aside all the arguments about the legitimacy or security of a fractional-reserve banking system] it is important to understand that the first person to develop the fractional-reserve bank is inventing and the person operating the fractional-reserve bank is disseminating.

All real per-capita economic progress is the result of inventing.  This is not to say that it is unnecessary to disseminate inventions, but if there were no new inventions there would not be any economic progress. Once all the existing inventions had been completely disseminated, we would be stuck in a declining world of diminishing returns. [“The law of diminishing returns applies in a given state of technology, but not under the conditions of an improving state of technology.” – George Reisman.] Of course, if we stop all dissemination activities altogether we will quickly starve to death.

It is my belief that business and economic professors have focused on “innovation” instead of “invention” because they have no idea how to invent or how the process of how inventing works.  They concentrate on what they know, i.e. business and economic practices.   As a result, the focus is dissemination,  under-appreciating the importance of inventing.  In addition, it results in misleading business theories such as these:

  • “Management teams are more important than the quality of the invention.”
  • “Execution is everything; patents and other IP do not matter.”
  • “Get Big Fast.”

The truth-test of these theories is directly related to the strength of the patent laws at the time the company is created.  When patent laws are weak, these theories are more true and when patent laws are strong, these theories are less true.  Unfortunately, when patent laws are weak these theories do not overcome the disincentive to invest in risky new technologies.  Management teams do not build revolutionary or disruptive technologies, they just disseminate these technologies. These sorts of teams are like large companies and generally can produce a return with less risk by NOT developing high-risk technologies.  They tend to focus on incremental technologies or on stealing someone else’s technology.  While this may be good business advice in a period of weak patents, it is bad for competitiveness and for our real standard of living.

In the long run, the only competitive business advantage is technological progress (i.e., inventing). The best management team in the world selling buggy whips at the turn of the century could not overcome the technological advance of the automobile and stay a buggy whip company.  The best management team in the world selling vacuum tubes in the 1940s, could not overcome the advance of transistors and semiconductors and stay a vacuum tube company. 

America is littered with companies that had great management teams that were overwhelmed by changes in technology.  For instance, Digital Computers had a great management team, but they could not overcome the advance of the personal computer.  Digital Computers failed to invent fast enough to overcome the onslaught of small inexpensive computers.  US steel was not able to overcome the onslaught of mini-mills, aluminium, and plastics.  This was not because they did not have a good management team, it was because the management team under-prioritized invention and over-prioritized execution or dissemination skills. 

Ford & GM have not become walking zombies because they did not have strong management teams, but because they have not invented.  As a result, they have antiquated production systems and weak technology in their products.  86% of the companies in the Fortune 500 in 1959 are no longer there.  Some of these companies disappeared because of bad management, but most companies disappeared because they did not keep up with changing technology.  In other words, they did not invent.

Inventions or advances in technology are the ONLY WAY to increase real per capita incomes and the only long term business advantage.  Business school theories that do not prioritize invention are bad for business, and bad for our prosperity.

Dale Halling is an American patent attorney and entrepreneur, and the author of the book The Decline and Fall of the American Entrepreneur: How Little Known Laws are Killing Innovation.
Read his regular thoughts at his
State of Innovation blog. 
(NB: This post originally appeared at the State of Innovation blog. It has been lightly edited and reformatted for clarity.)

Where's my free will?

Since Leighton Smith is discussing free will this morning, and most of his callers have no clue what he’s talking about, here’s a re-post of an old piece on the subject explaining not just what it is, but where exactly the faculty is located.

Where's my free will?

vermeer32     THE LIKES OF BRIAN EDWARDS still argue that criminals “can’t help it” when they do bad things—which means, conversely, that neither do heroes when they do good.
    Tell that to Thomas Jefferson. Or Nelson Mandela.
    But such is the incredulity of the determinist conclusion: that between them nature and nurture determine human behaviour, so humans themselves should be neither praised nor condemned.
    Sounds like horse shit to me.  But then, according to Edwards et al they have no choice about shovelling shit—and nor do you about taking it.
    So much for the nonsense of “hard determinism”—a theory that says man is nothing more than a piece of meat, controlled by forces about which he knows nothing.
Let us take the determinists at their word then: they know nothing—and by their own theory they’re constrained to demonstrate it.
    Ayn Rand used to reckon that the determinist argument—that you’re neither to be blamed nor lauded for your behaviour—is nothing more than “an alibi for weaklings.” 

_QuoteDon't excuse depravity. Don't drool over weaklings as conditioned "victims of circumstances’ (or of ‘background’ or of ‘society’), who ‘couldn't help it.’ You are actually providing an excuse and an alibi for the worst instincts in the weakest members of your audience. . .
    . . . the best advice I can give you is never to regard yourself as a product of your environment. That is not the key to me, to you, or to any human being. It is not a key to anything, it is merely an alibi for weaklings.

Building on Ayn Rand’s observations on free will and the manifest contradictions in the determinists’ arguments, philosopher Tibor Machan points out that since the determinist argument utterly ignores free will—the faculty that allows us to make decisions for ourselves—it ignores the very faculty that truly does determine our character .
    While nature and nurture certainly play a part in forming our talents and personality, he argues, what we do with what we’re given is up to us.  It’s up to our free will-and the choices we make.
    In his argument, nature and nurture build our personality, but using our free will builds our character.
    But where does our free will come from?  Where does it reside?  How does it work?  To answer you, we’re going to have to go back to bed. . .

    THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE through the fog of sleep is a loud, ringing sound. As you rise up through the fog of sleep you recognise it as an alarm of some sort. Your alarm clock. You focus further and realise that it's not going to turn itself off. As you force yourself awake you direct your focus to your limbs, lifting yourself out of bed, and you turn off the clock on your way to the bathroom, making yourself shake the sleep from your mind as you go. It's the start of another day.
    As you shower, you set yourself thinking about what you need to do today and, as you do and as you shower, the scales of sleep slip ever further away. You understand you have an important day ahead, and you feel yourself rising up to meet it. You choose to. In a few short minutes, by your own direction, your mind has changed from an inert unconscious thing, one barely able to grasp what's going on around it, to one that is now focussed upon the events of the day and is starting to make plans to meet them ... and all this even before the first coffee!
    Most of us manage this process in a few minutes. Some take hours. Some will choose to stay unfocussed for days. But everyone who has ever experienced this -- which is all of us, at some time – even Brian Edwards and his criminals--has experienced what it is to have free will.
    Free will at its root is that process of choosing to focus, of deciding first of all to lift our level of awareness from a lower level to a higher one (or to decide not to), and then directing our focussed attention to something on which we've determined we need to pay attention. A lecture perhaps. Our alarm clock.  A book. A piece of music. A blog post on free will. Someone offering us a beer. At each stage of listening, reading, comprehending, trying to grasp a thought (as Vermeer's Geographer is doing in the picture above) we can choose to maintain attention and focus on what we're trying to take in, to weigh the thoughts and melodies and information that is coming in, or we can choose to float off in a vague fog and let everything just wash over us.
    The process of turning off our alarm clock and heading into a lecture shows the process in microcosm: choosing to focus more intensely at each new level of awareness we reach. From the fog of sleep right up to the intense awareness needed to focus on your lecturer (and spot her errors) every step of the way we’re choosing to focus more intensely.
    And even if we choose not to, we still have made a choice.
    The act of choosing to pay attention (or not to) is a volitionally focussed act by which we first say to ourselves, "I need to focus on this, to understand this," and then acting -- choosing to act -- so as to direct our minds to that on which we ourselves have determined that we need to understand.
    Observe your own mind while you’re reading this post. Are you focussing on the arguments in an attempt to understand and address them, or have you already drifted off into non-comprehension and evasion?
    As I've described above, the act of focussing is voluntary, and is almost like continually turning on a car. At each stage we can choose to go either to a higher level of awareness, or not; we can choose to focus, or we can choose to drift back off either to sleep, or into a state of unfocussed lethargy. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Equally, you can lead someone else's brain to stimulus, but you can't make it respond. That person must do that work for themselves.
    Volition is a powerful factor. Thoughts, values, principles aren’t just given to us out of the ether, or imprinted upon us by our genes; rather, they are things to identify and think about and grasp for ourselves. Or not. No one can do the thinking for someone else. With sufficient will we can work towards grasping the highest concepts open to us, or we can even sleep through the warning alarm clocks of our consciousness.
    That choice -- to focus or not; to switch on or not -- is contained entirely within ourselves, and from that choice made by each of us every minute of every day all human thought and all human action is the result. The fact that we are continually making this choice (or choosing not make it) every waking minute of every working day is perhaps why we sometimes fail to see that we're doing it. We've almost automatised our awareness of it, but honest introspection (if we honestly choose to do so) is all it requires to be identified.
   This is the nature of the volitional consciousness that each of us does possess, even Brian Edwards, and is the fact those who choose to deny free will wish to evade: that this great thinking engine resting on top of our shoulders does not turn itself on automatically. We ourselves own the keys to the engine, and it is in that fundamental choice -- to think, or not to think; to focus, or not to focus; to go to a higher level of awareness, or to drift in and out of awareness -- that the faculty of free will itself resides.
    So given that very brief discussion of free will -- to which, if you like, you can add previous similar discussions here, here, here, here and here -- what then do you make of this discussion from the former Sir Humphrey's blog.  Where does free will come from?  From her God, says Lucyna.

_Quote_Idiot "...if there is no God there’s no free will because we are completely phenomena of matter... we cannot be considered morally responsible beings unless we have free will. We do everything because we are controlled by our genes or our environment." [Comments by David Quinn in The God Delusion: David Quinn & Richard Dawkins debate]

Logically, if you are an atheist, you will believe that we are completely influenced by our genetics and environment. That there is no free-will, that moral responsibility has no ability to manifest in any human being. If you don't believe all of that, then you cannot be an atheist and you must have some inkling that God exists.

What do you make of that then? Let’s turn on our brains ourselves and examine it. "If there's no God then there's no free will"? And “If you are an atheist” then “logically” [logically?] you can't "believe" in free will?
    Doesn’t this sound like horse shit too?
    As I've suggested above, we don't need to "believe" in free will in the same way a Christian chooses to “believe” in the existence of a supernatural being; instead, to identify that we do have the faculty of free will all we have to do is introspect—to apply our cognition inwards (to choose to) and watch ourselves making choices.  (Indeed, you can do it right now as you weigh in your mind that last thought, and choose whether or not to accept it -- or whether to evade the effort or the knowledge. And recognise, dear reader, that if you choose not to accept it or to evade it, you've still made a choice.)
    So much for needing to believe in the supernatural in order to "believe" in free will.  As Ayn Rand identified:

_Quote That which you call your soul or your spirit is your consciousness, and that which you call your "free will" is your mind's freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and your character.”

We have consciousness. Consciousness is endowed by its nature with the faculty of free will. What we each choose to do with our own consciousness is up to us -- it's there that the discussion of morality really begins, yet without this recognition, it’s a discussion that could never even get off the ground.

RELATED POSTS: Nature v Nurture: Character is all - Not PC
The chemistry of love - Not PC
The fatalism of entropy. The dynamism of spontaneous order - Not PC
More on value judgements in art - Not PC
Excusing the 'bash' - Not PC

Jeff Perren: More Tea Party Smears

Guest Post by Jeff Perren

An editorial at the Seattle Post Intelligencer titled “A Mad Hatters' Tea Party?” begins thus:

_Quote A year after it turned Congress' August town meetings into battle zones, the Tea Party movement is battling for power -- in the Republican Party, and the nation -- in the 2010 mid-term elections. “
Note the subtle allusion to a non-incident in which a single individual (ill-advisedly but legally, mind you) carried a gun to a town-hall meeting. The story doesn't mention, of course, that his behavior was roundly condemned in Tea Party circles.

It's mostly downhill from there.

In outlining the Tea Party's views (as if there were such a thing as the Tea Party), the penultimate paragraph states:

_QuoteROUGH JUSTICE: ‘How many of you have watched the movie Lonesome Dove? What happened to Jake when he ran with the wrong crowd? He got hung. And that's what I want to do with Patty Murray.’ - a speaker, name never disclosed, at Asotin County Fairgrounds Tea Party rally.”
This could have been said by a plant, by a journalist, by a lone whacko, by anybody. The author doesn't know, and probably doesn't care.

And people say objective journalism is dead.

There are a few quotes mixed in that actually convey a flavor of real Tea Party sentiments, though the author obviously intends them to be damning. For example,

_QuoteNEW DEAL: On Franklin D. Roosevelt: ‘His policies stripped the free market system and actually prolonged the Depression.- - Glenn Beck.”
Careful, there, Mr. Connelly. You might encourage someone to look into this and find it's perfectly true.

Most interesting, though, is what's missing from this list of 18 items: there's absolutely no mention of the essentials that characterize nearly every Tea Party organization around the U.S.: the desire for more liberty, an advocacy of limited government constrained by the Constitution, and keeping the government more out of citizen's pocketbooks. As usual, it's what Progressive journalists refuse to talk about that's the most important.

Well, one thing is clear. Progressives are running more scared than I've seen them in my entire life. Reagan during his candidacy didn't get this kind of low-life distortions (though some statements were close). You'd have to go back to the Big Lie about Goldwater's wanting to nuke the world to reach this depth.

The author does state at the end one true thing:

_Quote Will these folks populate the corridors of power?
We'll know in November."

Indeed we will. As Shakespeare said in Hamlet, "Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished."

More pearls (but no swine) at Jeff’s Shaving Leviathan blog.

Two new art blogs

No art post from me tonight, instead let me point you to two new art blogs:

  • CLICK FOR THE RATIONAL ARTIST The Rational Artist is a new art blog run by Doug Reich from The Rational Capitalist blog.

            “I titled the blog, The Rational Artist [says Doug] not
        only for symmetry with my main site, The Rational
    , but to emphasize what would seem to be
        a contradiction in     today's subjectivist intellectual milieu;
        namely that, however difficult, art can be defined, analyzed,
         understood, and enjoyed.”

    Come in from the noise!
  • CLICK FOR JASMINE KAMANTE Jasmine Kamante’s blog. Jasmine is a local artist completing her studies in Europe.
    Over the coming months, she hopes to fill her blog with both her academic pieces, and with the major personal pieces she has planned. 
    This should be the start of something very exciting.

Go pay them a visit.

Monday, 2 August 2010

“I’m not John Banks”

It’s often said  in politics that govts, both central and local, are not so much voted in as voted out.  This couldn’t be more true in the competition for the Auckland mayoralty, in which few people even bother to vote, and those who do vote mostly tick the box they think will throw out someone they despise.

If I may summarise things in Auckland over recent years,

  • Les Mills became unpopular.
  • So Christine Fletcher stood against him—her only real platform being “I’m not Les Mills.
    She won.  And quickly became unpopular.
  • So John Banks stood against her—his only real platform being “I’m not Christine Fletcher.” 
    He won. And quickly became unpopular.
  • So Dick Hubbard stood against him—his only real platform being “I’m not John Banks.” 
    He won. And quickly became unpopular.
  • So John Banks stood against him—his only real platform being “I’m not Dick Hubbard.” 
    He won. And then people quickly realised he was John Banks.
  • So now that Auckland’s five whopping bureaucracies are being transformed into a Super-Whopper (by a man who, ironically, talks about small govt) Len Brown and Andrew Williams are both standing on a platform of “We’re Not John Banks.”

So tune in soon for a race barely one-third of Auckland will care about enough to vote; in a competition to take over a Super-Whopper of a bureaucracy with a turnover larger than any New Zealand company; between three candidates unable to articulate any real policy platforms; about whom most Aucklanders, if they feel anything all about them, express quiet loathing; and whose only record in local government is to preside over councils who implemented whopping spending rises.

It’s going to be one almighty super-sized cock-up, this Super-Whopper, isn’t it.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This is the underlying disease of the body politic…” [updated]

_Quote [This is] the underlying disease of the body politic…: That too many people accept (or leave unchallenged) the premise that it's okay to steal from other people so long as the government does it, and passes out the loot equally.
    So long as this idea retains its undeserved respect in our culture, we will elect bandits to office, our [local and central] governments will compete in a race to be the main gang in our neighborhoods, our wealth will be sapped in one way or another (since loot has to come from somewhere), and everyone will be looking for a way to make sure everyone else is equally screwed…
    I don't want an equal share of loot. I want freedom.”
              - Gus Van Horn, in his posts “Equal Tyranny for All?” and “Case in Point
                   [hat tip Wealth is Not the Problem]

UPDATE:  A related quote on the Age of the Moocher:

_QuoteIt is a truly tragic development that in America -- a country founded on the principle of the inviolability of private property -- half of us prey on the substance of our neighbors.”
               - Vasko Kohlayer, “Ban the Income Tax

Jeff Perren: Published at PJM: The Crisis That Wasn't [up[dated]

Guest Post by Jeff Perren

Another of my articles has been published at Pajamas Media, this one about the after-effects of the BP oil spill - environmental and otherwise.

Here's an excerpt:

"Several news reports are showing that the expected devastation of the waters and shoreline of the Gulf simply hasn’t happened. Early (and historical) evidence suggests that it never will. The oil slicks expected to last for months have failed to cooperate with the government’s desire to use the crisis to pass cap and tax."

I also discuss the media reaction and a tiny bit of oil-spill history for comparison.

I invite you to read, comment, and pass the link onto friends and contacts. If I get rich and famous I promise to thank each and every one of you.


P.S. Not that there's anything wrong with a bit of earned pride, but not to worry about my recent good fortune giving me a swelled head. Right after it was accepted I went outside to pick weeds and chase a gopher out of one of the gardens. That sort of thing tends to keep one grounded.

You can read more of my deathless prose moderately coherent rants at Shaving Leviathan .

UPDATE: More related oil-spill commentary collected at The Rational Optimist:

What do you think about in the shower?

The brain is a funny thing.

When I’m working on a particularly recalcitrant architectural problem, I like to load my mind with all the factors involved, then give myself the mental command to work it out while I work away on other things—confident that the creative part of the brain will “pop out” the solution when I’m not looking.  It’s a bit like throwing a whole bunch of balls up in the air, then going away and coming back only once you hear them land—and as long as you’ve first made sure you’ve got all the important balls, it works very well.

Now oddly enough, it’s not uncommon that the most important balls start to land when I’m in the shower (which is probably an unfortunate combination of metaphor and image, but I can’t really help that.) Which is why this piece struck me this morning once I was out of the shower: how what you think about in the shower in the morning is more important than you think:.

_Quote I knew it was a good time to have ideas. Now I'd go further: now I'd say it's hard to do a really good job on anything you don't think about in the shower.
    “Everyone who's worked on difficult problems is probably familiar with the phenomenon of working hard to figure something out, failing, and then suddenly seeing the answer a bit later while doing something else. There's a kind of thinking you do without trying to. I'm increasingly convinced this type of thinking is not merely helpful in solving hard problems, but necessary. The tricky part is, you can only control it indirectly…. ”

Read The Top Idea in Your Mind by Paul Graham. [Hat tip Thrutch]

The semi-detached expat

Expatriates are different, decides an American living in Australia.

_Quote Over lunch with my French co-worker and his Swedish wife, the three of us agreed that the expatriate life renders us unusual by definition. Not only do we constantly evaluate the countries we choose to live in, but also our own countries of birth. The expatriate observes the world in a semi-detached state that non-expatriates don't even consider… “

Something every NZer on their OE understands very well.  We head to the other side of the world, look around, evaluate, and then if we do finally return we bring back the best of what we find.  OE has really built a more cosmopolitan NZ.

Our excellent eateries are just one very visible (and tasty) sign of that important freedom that we still have to travel.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Is a god your source of morality?

Is a god your source of morality --“originating morality and rewarding it and punishing its delinquency”?

You’d have a few questions to answer to make that even sound intelligible.

Which god?

Why that one?

What gives him or her the authority to make the rules, and to judge how you follow them?

And why those rules anyway? 

And how in any case do you choose between a god who says to kill your enemies, and another who says to offer them both cheeks to be flayed?

Between one who says give up your worldly goods, and another who says to rip them from your enemies?

And if you have some basis for choosing between gods, or even choosing between the rules made by your god, then why can’t you choose your own rules yourself based on something more rational than a list someone is supposed to have been given while spending a night up on a mountain, or in a trance under a banyan tree.

Choosing your own guidelines for living in the world  seems to make much more sense than using some questionable old deity’s hand-me-downs. For one thing, neither Allah, nor Zeus, nor Wotan, nor Yahweh has a worldwide monopoly on morality—and neither do these four  nor any of the other popular deities even seem to be what we would call moral.  Consider just the moral character of this last one, as “revealed” in the book written by his followers:
_Quote He routinely punishes people for the sins of others. He punishes all mothers by condemning them to painful childbirth, for Eve’s sin. He punishes all human beings by condemning them to labor, for Adam’s sin (Gen. 3:16-18). He regrets his creation, and in a fit of pique, commits genocide and ecocide by flooding the earth (Gen. 6:7). He hardens Pharaoh’s heart against freeing the Israelites (Ex. 7:3), so as to provide the occasion for visiting plagues upon the Egyptians, who, as helpless subjects of a tyrant, had no part in Pharaoh’s decision. (So much for respecting free will, the standard justification for the existence of evil in the world.)”
And for another thing…


So how do we decide what’s nice and what’s nasty? And what are the consequences if we don’t? If your gods are dead, then is everything really permitted?

To answer that questions presupposes an even more fundamental question: Why do we even need morality at all?  And to answer that, I’m going to have to tell you a story involving beer.

Read on …

How to ruin a great sporting contest

How do you ruin a great sporting contest like the one that was developing in Melbourne last night?


Have rules that few can follow, that no-one will know when they break, and for which no-one even knows afterwards in what way they were broken—and then keep sending players off for these arcane infringements until the game is over as a contest.

“With 14 men,'” said Robby Deans after last night’s non-contest, “the game becomes a bit of nonsense at this level.”

And so it became. Just as it did a few weeks back in the Irish game. 

Rugby: you’re killing yourself.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

On the telly

If you'd like to sit through an hour-long TV current affairs programme to watch me talk about Chris Carter and Phil Goff for about a minute on a shaky Skype connection, then I'm obliged to tell you that a link to this morning's TV3 programme The Nation, hosted by Duncan Garner, should appear shortly at The Nation’s home page.

I show up with about one minute to go.  Making an awful lot of sense. :-)

Friday, 30 July 2010

Raising your glass raises your standards

I bet you didn’t know that it’s people of class who drink alcohol. True story. [HT TVHE]

So naturally you’d also like to know about how alcohol also delays cognitive decline with age? [HT EC]


Time for a martini, I think, to help combat the decline.

Hooray for the Economic Recovery … of 2016 [update 2]

Back around 2007, when things were beginning to get hairy economically, a few of us were saying that governments must not help to prop up all the bad positions that had been taken in the boom; that the poison of all those malinvestments had to be expunged before recovery could take place; that propping up the malinvestments would simply leave zombie companies walking around eating the economy’s sustenance; that there was no choice at all about the economic pain we now had to endure for awarding ourselves an unsustainable boom—the only choice was whether it took a year or so of short, sharp pain or (like Japan) ten years or so of long drawn-out misery.

Sadly, three years and several trillion dollars too late, the US Federal Reserve might finally be coming to that same conclusion.
“Notes from the latest Fed Beige Book that make it clear that the Fed is (finally) beginning to understand the entrenched and endemic nature of this crisis. While the notes are written in shamanic double-speak, the point is clear: members of the Fed don't expect the economy to get back on track until 2015 or 2016.
'Participants generally anticipated that, in light of the severity of the economic downturn, it would take some time for the economy to converge fully to its longer-run path as characterized by sustainable rates of output growth, unemployment, and inflation consistent with participants' interpretation of the Federal Reserve's dual objectives; most expected the convergence process to take no more than five to six years.’
     “The simple reality the Fed is waking up to is that the structural underpinnings of the economy are damaged beyond any quick or easy fix.
    “That's because until the excess and/or bad debts are wrung out of the system - either through default or raging inflation - there's no chance of any sustainable economic recovery. Each new government initiative - the latest being financial reform - that doesn't decisively address the debt, but rather tightens the government's around private enterprise, only serves to delay or prevent economic revival. And so each new day will bring more distress and bankruptcy to homeowners, businesses, and banks.”
Crikey, in an alternative universe we could have seen economic recovery in February, 2009. Instead, here we are eighteen months later getting deeper into the mire.

As we’ve said here before countless times and with every metaphor we can muster, the poison has to be allowed out of the system before the economic patient will come right. No amount of phoney funds is going to turn the lead weighing us down into gold. Letting real prices and wages fall to match the new demand and monetary conditions—remembering that one man’s prices are another woman’s costs--allowing everybody to do more with the lower amount of money and demand now going round--is in the end the only sustainable way to effect that process.  Keeping up prices with unsustainably low interest rates and truckloads of funny money is not.

There is no choice about the pain of correction.  It has to happen.  Unprofitable businesses need to be liquidated and the resources therein transferred to something more profitable. Bad loans need to be liquidated, and any assets involved used as fertiliser for real growth.  People have blundered, and we have no choice about the need to liquidate those blunders so they don't go on consuming real resources.
We have no choice about correction. The only choice is how long it takes -- how long the pain of correction will last -- and how many real resources are consumed along the way.

Here’s Peter Schiff talking about Alan Bollard’s rate rise this week, and why The Fed can’t do the same.  Not for years. And why that's not something in any way to be happy about.

UPDATE 2: In this exchange with Congressman Ron Paul, monetarist Dr Allan Meltzer explains two things.

First, even while they’re contemplating firing up the printing presses for Quantitative Easing II, they still have no plan whatsoever to mop up after those truckloads of dollar bills were pissed away in Quantitative I. Scary.

Second, he asks (quite sensibly) what sensible investor is going to risk his money at the moment when he has no idea what the government or its agents are going to try next. This, people, is precisely the regime uncertainty that Robert Higgs argues helped extend the Great Depression out for more than a decade-and-a-half. [Hat tip The Cobden Centre]

This is what a government car company looks like

Government Motors (GM) has announced the new Government Car: The Volt—the “car of the future” that takes the world back around eighty years.

Back in 1922 a Detroit Electric had a range of 70-100 miles. In 2010 a Chevrolet Volt gets 40 miles per charge.”

40 miles on electricity alone! Gosh! What a wonder! No wonder some people are calling it “The Voltswagen — The people’s car that the people must pay for.” That’s payment through the nose, because even with a price tag of US$41,000, more than a top-range Cadillac, it will still lose money. No wonder government-owned Government Motors is after government subsidies to make it work.

Hooray for Government Money.

Notes Peter Foster at the Financial Post,

“GM’s marketing chief, Joel Ewanick … said the Volt was ‘starting the world on a different path.’ Would that be The Road to Serfdom?”

It would.

The same road now being trod in Australia.

Got Carter

Chris Carter has died politically just as he lived politically.


Ineptly posting an anonymous letter announcing there will be a leadership coup—on Tuesday, no less—and saying when caught that his reason for trying the shabby deception was he hoped it would cause a leadership coup.

A twisted ham-fisted ruse to pretend his idiocy hadn’t just made more unlikely what he claimed to be trying to foment.

Lying low-life power-lusting scum.

Which makes him just like every other politician, really. And utterly undeserving of all the attention.

Kipling vs Mahler

Just got home from a fantastic performance by the APO of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, i.e., The Song of the Earth. It came at a perfect time for me, because I’ve just got the worst kind of news about a young friend from many years ago—and Mahler’s piece, you see is a sort of response to exactly that kind of news.

Gustav Mahler wrote it when he’d just been given the heartbreaking news that his own young life was near its end, observing in the text he then set to music expressing his reaction to that news that while the beauties of the everlasting earth “will stand firm for a long while and bloom again in spring,” in contrast to  the short space of time we humans have to enjoy it.

This could turn to anger, as it does in the text of the opening, The Drinking Song of Earth’s Sorrow, even as the music is telling you a different story …

Strumming on the lute and emptying glasses -
these are the things that go together.
A full glass of wine at the proper moment
is worth more than all the riches of the world!
Dark is life! Dark is death!

The heavens are forever blue and the earth
Will stand firm for a long time and bloom in spring,
But you, Man, how long will you live then
Not a hundred years are you allowed to enjoy
Of all the tawdry baubles of this earth!

Look down there!
In the moonlight, on the graves
crouches a wid, ghostly figure -
It is an ape!
Hear how its howls resound piercingly
in the sweet fragrance of life!
Now take the wine! Now is the time -
Empty the golden goblet to the bottom!
Dark is life, dark is death!

… but moves through contemplation of Youth and Beauty and the changing seasons, before ending with a final Farewell to the earth—a salute that embraces every part of it while resignedly pushing off.

The sun departs behind the mountains.
In all the valleys, evening descends
with its cooling shadows.
Oh look! Like a silver boat,
the moon floats on the blue sky-lake above.
I feel the fine wind wafting
behind the dark pines!

…Quiet is my heart, waiting for its hour!
The dear earth everywhere
blooms in spring and grows green
afresh! Everywhere and eternally,
distant places have blue skies!
Eternally … eternally …

This, mind you, is set to stunning music that You Tube just can’t do justice to.  But as I let it soothe me, I couldn’t help thinking that this was a different way to face death than that famously expressed by Kipling, who counsels not resignation but something very different:

…If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it…

Thursday, 29 July 2010

“It's just dreadful what we have let develop under the guise of a 'caring, compassionate' welfare state.”

Another week, another child killed by a person who was supposed to be their guardian, another evasion of responsibility by those ultimately responsible for this savagery—i.e., the politicians paying no-hopers to have children they don’t want.

Lindsay Mitchell penned a superb letter to a talkback host who was calling for an end to this “free money,” more accurately called blood money.

_Quote Yesterday you called for an end to "free money." People rang in and said "enough is enough." Now the assaulted baby is another infant death statistic. The outpouring yesterday was a replay of the outrage we heard after the death of Lillybing and too many others. After that particular case I got mobilised and started up a petition calling for a parliamentary review into the DPB. I wrote to every newspaper , advertised, called talkback, knocked on doors, as did many others. What happened? We collected 1400 signatures. A hugely disappointing result. Time and time again people wrote to me that they were having difficulty getting others to sign because everybody knew somebody - a friend or family member - on the benefit. Or that they supported the DPB system. Personally it was a very difficult time with a good deal of the opposition to my petition getting nasty via threats and public ridicule. I have continued to do what I can through articles, submissions to select committee, standing for parliament twice and working in the community with needy families. My point is this Dan;
There is not enough political support to stop the "free money" and all of the devastation it visits on children. You will find no support for ending or substantially reforming the DPB from the Maori Party , Labour, the Greens or even National. In fact, the formation of the unofficial Welfare Working Group comprising Sue Bradford, the Child Poverty Action Group, academics and the mainstream churches is gearing up to fight for the status quo, or even higher benefit levels. Your listeners seem to want the sort of change you were advocating yesterday yet at election time they vote for parties that refuse to form policies that would see an end to the cash for babies programme.
It doesn't have to be the way it is in NZ. The only other countries that have DPB-like benefits are England, Ireland and Australia. Elsewhere support is temporary and conditional. In the US teenage mothers must stay at school to be eligible for financial assistance and they must live at home or in an adult supervised setting. Their teenage birthrate, which is high like New Zealand's, has been falling steadily along with the abortion rate and dare I say it, their child abuse and general crime rates. They have a long way to go but at least they are going in the right direction.
Meantime our politicians are too afraid to grab the bit between their teeth and do something decisive despite many knowing that the level of child abuse and neglect New Zealand is experiencing has everything to do with incentivised and casualised child-bearing. Because the state will provide on an indefinite and no-questions- asked basis, mothers are abandoned by or get rid of the fathers of their babies, and are then latched onto by new males who want sex and a roof over their head with no obligation to be a breadwinner. They do not make wonderful step-fathers. It's just dreadful what we have let develop under the guise of a 'caring, compassionate' welfare state.

Not a sea of tears nor a cavalcade of hand-wringing will stop the babies being killed.

Stop the blood money.

And stop voting for the politicians who pay it.

Captain Morgan’s sinking ship

The rum old Gareth “Captain” Morgan continues to demonstrate that the success of his Kiwisaver Fund is inversely proportional to the amount of time he opens his yap to criticise his competitors.  Even Adolf at No Minister reckons it’s Time To Boot The Yapping Fox Terrier::

“[Yesterday's published summary from Morningstar is a jaw dropper, coming just a few days after Morgan had the sheer gall to use his Herald column to castigate his competitors for poor performance.  Here's the 'money quote:-'

    ‘"The biggest contrast is in the growth sector where the Gareth Morgan Growth fund has attracted the most money at $121 million but is the worst performer over two years and bottom of the pack over the last three months.
    ‘The Gareth Morgan Balanced fund was also the largest balanced fund at $165 million but was second from bottom over two years and 18th out of 27 over the last three months.’

“It's time this financial undertaker made an undertaking to get out of the advice business. Clearly, he is a not much more than a mouthier version of Bryers and Petrecovic.”

 As a few of us here have said before.

The  Morningstar figures on Kiwisaver providers show once again that the whole Kiwisaver scheme is little more than welfare for suits with nothing in them—a mechanism whereby your money (and a good dollop of taxpayers’ money as well) is delivered to puffed-up paper shufflers to make smaller than the rate of price inflation  (and if your chosen provider is Gareth Morgan, much smaller) from which they extract exorbitant fees.

Inflation only makes the incredibly poor returns they deliver even poorer.  And frankly, as we should all know by now, inflation is just another word for stealing from savers: stealing from small savers, and giving it to suits to piss up against a wall.  Get rid of monetary inflation, and ipso facto you get rid of the desperate need for fancy schemes that purport to address the superannuation problem.

A comment at Ron Manners’ blog makes this point perfectly:

    “If the Reserve Bank hadn’t presided over such an enormous rise in the money supply, maybe there wouldn’t be such a pressing need for superannuation [and Kiwisaver] in the first place….”

Think about that while you’re perusing your poor returns.

Retirement villages

Here’s a few wee pieces of advice about rest homes and retirement villages it might be useful to know about, stuff I wish I’d known before helping out both my mother and my in-laws move in recent years—my mother into a rest home on medical advice; the latter into a retirement village by choice, then into a rest home because their quack said so. Advice they’ve offered that might just be helpful to you or your folks too.

First, everyone likes to be independent, but when being independent is becoming a struggle why not pay for someone else to sweat the small stuff for you, so you can spend what time and mobility you do have doing what’s really important to you (playing golf; compiling Satanic incantations; plotting world revolution) in what in every respect will still be “your own place.”  Of those I’ve met, few who do make the move seem to regret being able to walk, or be wheeled, home from happy hour.

Also, it seems that the earlier you do move in, the more likely you’re going to be able to make friends there.  If you move in when you’re still healthy and able to sink a couple every night, you’re more likely to make new friends who’ll stay with you as you age than you will if you wait until you’re deaf as a post and completely incontinent.  There’s nothing that turns off a potential new scrabble companion so much as a pool of urine on the floor, and a partner who can’t hear the table talk.
So if you’re going to move, do it early.

Third, there’s a difference between a retirement unit, a rest home and a nursing home (see below). Some villages have all three; some don’t. This is more important than you might think.
There are spry 102 year-olds still living in their own apartments with no more need for medical care than our pedigree cat, but they’re the exception. over the course of most people’s retirement they’re probably going to need all three, choosing a village that does have all three makes the transition from one to the other far less painful for everyone concerned (including your children) and when you do make the move “upstairs” it means the friends you made “downstairs” are still around to remind you of that time you lost your teeth down the waste master.

Fourth, everyone likes to choose their new home themselves. But you never know when bits are going to start falling off, or a fall might leave you immobile, or when your quack might tell you it’s time for a move—and when or if that happens, you’ll be in no condition to look around yourself, leaving your kids to decide for you.
So if you want to plan ahead and make things easy for yourself, you can either be nice to your kids now (and who needs that kind of pressure), or you can make your decision on where you favour now so you’ll know in good time where you want to go.  Just in case.

As for me however this is all academic, since both sets of parents are now well set-up and happy, and I plan on working right up until I’m 92 when I keel over and have a heart attack over my drawing board. I just though you might find it useful.

Q: What’s the difference between a retirement unit, a rest home and a nursing home ?

A: For some reason doctors, nurses, physios, social workers and operators of retirement villages always assume everyone knows the difference. I didn’t. Most people don’t. Why would you?
A retirement unit (either an apartment or a stand-alone unit) is just like a unit in a small village, and in the best retirement villages there is a continuum residing in these, from folk who are still independent, active and vigorous (those who’ve moved in early) to those whose physical horizons are becoming more limited. You usually buy this unit yourself.
A rest home unit provides for less active folk, who need help or care of some description.  Depending on the village, you can either buy or rent, and in either case you pay a substantial monthly service fee on top depending on what services are needed. (Some villages also offer a “serviced apartment,” which is somewhere in between the retirement unit and the rest home unit.)
And a nursing home unit (or “hospital,” even though they can’t even draw blood) is for when you’re unable to do much at all for yourself.

“Jumping the gun”: A meditation on random police stops

Reading Doc McGrath’s piece yesterday on the perfidy of the increasing number of random police stops, I thought immediately of a “short story” the founder of Libertarianz, Ian Fraser, wrote in his Liberty newsletter back in 1986 – i.e., way before most of you were born.

The story’s theme is well summarised by another comment made by Doc McGrath this morning:

_Quote Logically, some people would be happy if the roadside sniffer test was extended to a check of driver licence, warrant, registration and road user charges (oh, I forgot, this happens already). Or if the officer asked nicely if he could have quick look in your boot for illegal firearms, marijuana or a bald spare tyre ("this will only take a few seconds, sir, then you can be on your way"). Or asked for a DNA mouth swab ("there's nothing to fear is there, sir, if you're innocent?"). Or quickly checked the children in the car for signs of child abuse or neglect ("wouldn't want to miss an abused child, sir").
The problem I see is that there is no limit to what the government can tack onto these roadside testing areas. I imagine outstanding fines or rates bills will be another thing people will be asked about. There is no limit, and that's what gets up my nose… It's the principle, people, that the police can stop and detain people who have done nothing wrong, and interrogate them for as long as they like. That gets up my nose.
    “And what about the people who are killed or disabled despite the massive numbers of police out sniffing innocent drivers, while the victims of real crimes such as burglary have to wait days for a policeman to appear?”

So with that introduction I give you “Jumping the Gun,” which I’ve lightly edited for anachronism.

Jumping the Gun
by Ian Fraser

The lights flashed. The young man reluctantly pulled over to the side of the road. The pulsating red glow added a sense of urgency to the dull feeling of despair that suddenly overcame him. But there was nowhere to run and no point in. attempting it.

“Would you mind stepping out sir”, said the officer. His exaggerated politeness underscored his absolute authority. He stepped back from the car door. The young man responded quickly, he felt safer looking the officer in the eye.
“What’s wrong? he said.
“A routine check sir,” responded the officer. The young man had thought he’d asked a question. The officer thought he heard a plea for mercy.
“May I see your ID card?” he continued.
“I left it at home”, the young man replied. He always left it at home at night. He felt much safer without it.
“You realise that the law requires you to carry your ID at all times”, reprimanded the officer, and he paused as if to observe the effect of his words on the face before him. Yes, this is what he liked about this particular job. His carefully measured words nearly always drew a predictable and satisfying response. Not this time. Somehow, the darkness of the night was draining the expression from the young man’s face.
“What’s your name?” queried the officer. His abruptness almost caught the young man off guard.
“William James”, he blurted. It wasn’t really a lie, just a matter of interpretation. He been christened Wiremu and ha preferred the name, but he knew what his name must be tonight.
“What are you doing out at this hour?” the officer prodded, “Aren’t you aware of the curfew?”

The officer’s questions required no answers. Everybody knew of the curfew. It had been in force for nearly one year. There had been some vocal opposition at frst, but not sufficient to thwart the intentions of a government driven by the twin thrusts of the country’s fear and anger. Violent crime was endemic. There was no other solution.

Wiremu thought for a moment, then said, “I was at a friend’s place and I fell asleep. But I just had to get home as my wife is pregnant and is already overdue.” It was all true. The friend was a girl.
“Well I have to take you in for questioning”, said the officer. “You can phone your wife from there.”
Wiremu’s heart missed a beat as he tried to think of a way out. There was none. “I’ll take your keys”, demanded the officer, and he drew his gun as if anticipating trouble. That put an end to any thoughts of escape. Wiremu reached into the car and handed them over. The officer nudged him into the police wagon.
“What about my car?”, stalled Wiremu. “Somebody might nick it.”
“Not bloody likely,” scoffed the officer. “You wouldn’t be able to give it away.”

The distance to the police station was five kilometres, but the ride was interminable. Wiremu contemplated leaping out of the back door but he knew that all police wagons had central locking systems. Anyway, he was no James Bond. He cast his mind back. He’d spent many a night at Lorraine’s in the past few months, and he’d got home safely. He thought he’d found a foolproof way; a particular configuration of back roads and by-passes that were notorious for both their condition and emptiness. Dark as hell, and who would have thought ... the police wagon pulled to a halt. The officer got out and opened the back door.
“We’ll have to ask you a few questions and run the information through to our central computer,’ he said. “It will take about half an hour.”

Wiremu was led into a small, brightly lit office. That didn’t worry him, he knew his appearance wouldn’t give him away. What did worry him was the computer.
“You say your name is William James?”
“Your address?”
“25 Arcadia Way.”
“When were you born?”
“July the second, 1965,”
“Where do you work?”
“I’m self-employed.”

The questions had the precision of a machine gun. Wiremu was sure they would hit target except for one thread of hope. There was a real William James and he did live at 25 Arcadia Way and he was self-employed. Wiremu knew all this, he had rehearsed it many times before, as if his life depended on it-and it did. The officer left the room. Wiremu’s mind raced. Had he stated everything correctly? Had he missed anything out? He didn’t know for sure, he would just have to wait.

The officer returned, sooner than expected, accompanied by one other. His face showed no hint of what he was about say. At that moment Wiremu felt he was in no-man’s land.
“Well, Mr Wiremu Matthews,” said the officer, with an air of triumph. “I have to inform you that you are under arrest. You are charged, under section A of the Emergency Violence Suppression Act, with violating the MPCC laws”.

Wiremu knew the rest. The Maori & Polynesian Control Curfew, called MPCC by its supporters and “black death” by it foes, was perhaps the most loved and hated law in the whole country.

The law was very simple. All males on the streets between 10pm and 6am were liable to random interrogation. If it was discovered that they had 20% or more Maori or Polynesian heritage, then they were arrested, charged and imprisoned for up to one year.

How was the law justified? Easy. It was a well-known fact that Maori & Polynesian men, while representing the smallest percentage of the population, made up the largest percentage of violent offenders.

The statistics were irrefutable. The correlation between being a brown-skinned man and being a violent offender was too glaring to be ignored. Encouraged by massive public support, the legislature had attacked the cause at the root, by putting the potential offender away before he could even commit any crime.

Wiremu was stunned.
“How did you find out my real name?”, he gasped.
The officer just smiled, and led him off to a cell.

An implausible story you think?
Consider this:
The idea of “prior restraint” for Polynesian males, simply because they statistically make up the largest group of violent offenders, now has a socially acceptable precedent - random stopping of drivers for the “crime” of having “too much” Polynesian in their blood was no different in principle than random stopping of drivers for the “crime” of having too much alcohol in their blood.

The justification for random stopping is that the driver may have been drinking. If the driver is found, by breathalyser or blood test, to have above a certain prescribed quantity of alcohol in his system, then he is guilty. Guilty without even having committed an actual crime.

Charging an individual with this “offence” is not justified on the basis that the individual has committed a crime, but because the group to which he now belongs might. Statistically, alcohol plays a large part in road accidents (and brown-skinned males play a large part in crime); therefore an individual with “too much” alcohol, is likely to be involved in an accident (and brown-skinned males out late at night are likely to be involved in crime).

In random stopping and the ensuing convictions for having drunk “too much,” the public has accepted the principle of “prior restraint” on the basis of a collectivised guilt. If an individual seems likely to commit an offence because he or she is part of a particular “statistical cohort”(causing a road accident; breaking into people’s houses) then it is appropriate to “restrain” him or her prior to the act.

If it is a crime to drive with a certain quantity of alcohol in your blood, because, statistically the highest percentage of road accidents are alcohol related, then it could easily become a crime to be out on the streets after dark with a certain quantity of Maori or Polynesian in your blood. There’s a good statistical chance that you’d be up to no good, and it would be better for society as a whole if you were “restrained” BEFORE you could commit a crime.

Just as it is nonsense to assume that a particular individual is at risk just because he has Polynesian in his blood, so too it is nonsense to penalise an individual driver just because he has a certain quantity of alcohol in his blood. There are good drivers and bad drivers and all the shades in between. There are also drivers who drive better, even after a few drinks, than many who are totally sober.

Random stopping, and consequent conviction for blood-alcohol level infringement, is the thin edge of a particularly repulsive wedge. The public mood only has to shift a little to see the same principle applied to other areas.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Now THIS is what I call motivational!

Click through to INSPIRATIONZ

I don’t often post press releases here, though Lord knows I get sent enough. But this one is different.  This one is special. This one is … oh sod it, just read the press release and you’ll know why I’m as excited about it as a toddler in a toy store.

Combining Motivational Posters With World-Leading Motivational Art!

   A New Zealand motivational design and publishing company is taking on the world with a revolutionary line of motivational posters that will alter forever what people expect from motivational art.

    For the first time in the world, NZ company Inspirationz Inc has coupled an all-star line up of sculptors and painters to quotes that inspire and enthuse—producing, for the first time, a catalogue of fine art-quality posters to inspire people to move mountains.
   A contingent of ten nationally and internationally renowned contemporary artists has licensed their art for the catalogue, including two notables, Joseph Sheppard of Pietrasanta Italy, and Bill Mack of Minneapolis Minnesota, both of whom have their work in the collections of US presidents and on display at sites of historical significance, such as Liberty Island, the NBA Hall of Fame, and the Vatican.
   Additionally, artworks from some of the world’s great past masters are featured, including Jules Dalou, Caspar David Friedrich, and Lord Frederic Leighton, to name only a few of the stellar cast.
   “For years I’ve collected quotes to ignite my own enthusiasm and inspiration,” says inspirationz™ founder Terry Verhoeven, “but when I saw the wit and wisdom of Lincoln, Voltaire and Ghandi combined with pictures of amusing orang-utans, placid lakes, and air-brushed shrubs, I thought to myself, ‘those great words – and minds - deserve better than that.’”
   “What we’ve done is to combine the wit and wisdom of the ages with real art that inspires the soul.”
   The result is astonishing, and can be seen at the newly-launched inspirationz.com website and in a sensational new video released to YouTube titled ‘Ignite Your Soul’ which showcases inspirationz’ designs to dramatic effect with the use of motion graphics and special effects.

   “We all need a source of daily inspiration to help us to overcome life's challenges and unlock our potential for greatness,” explains Verhoeven, whose love of art and its power to inspire is at the heart of this new venture.
   “Great art and literature has traditionally fulfilled that role. inspirationz builds on this foundation, but goes a step further, creatively integrating the two by combining the world’s most prophetic and inspiring words with their aesthetic equivalent in art ... the duo is then packaged into an affordable product that may be purchased as a personalised gift or used as the perfect décor enhancement for one’s home or office.”  
   Verhoeven says the goal is for inspirationz designs to find their way onto bedroom and boardroom walls around the globe as a source of daily inspiration, and in so doing, introduce the world’s great art to people who otherwise wouldn’t have seen it.


About Inspirationz Inc
Inspirationz Inc is a premier motivational design and publishing house headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand. The company’s mission is “To inspire the world through great art, affordably.”

Media Contact:
Terry Verhoeven, Managing Director
Web: www.inspirationz.com

Woman 2, thugs 0

Here’s a good news story for the day—a woman who comes out 2-0 ahead in what, without the great equaliser, could well have been goodnight.

_Quote One gun isn't enough.
   “That was what Linda Smith (a pseudonym) was thinking after two thugs broke into her Oklahoma apartment. One was holding a weapon … at her throat, and the other was pacing back and forth while holding her purse and demanding her money and valuables. She screamed, and was told if she screamed again, she'd be dead.
    “She was doing as police recommend in robberies –- comply with a robber's demands. But her Lady Smith & Wesson .38 special, which she carries by permit, was hidden in her purse –- and the purse was being held by one of the attackers.
    “Then the situation, suddenly, got much, much worse: One of the robbers demanded that she take off her clothes. 
    “‘Come on, what are you waiting for,’ he told her as he started to yank on her sweatpants, trying to take them off.
    “Smith pleaded for her safety and distracted the attackers by telling them she would get her money, which was ‘in my purse.’
    “The robbers inexplicably allowed her to drop to her knees and crawl across the floor to her purse, which the second attacker had dropped.
    “She reached inside, and the first shot was clear of the muzzle and into the torso of one of the attackers before she even pulled the weapon clear of the purse. Four more shots followed shortly and, in the end, one of the attackers was dead and the second was hospitalized facing a murder rap for having participated in a felony in which someone died.
    “Smith … explained she comes from a family that believes in self-reliance and courage…”

…unlike the people who, in New Zealand, have been successful in disarming women even from carrying mace. Or a taser.

I really hate to quote the matchstick-like Ann Coulter on this (or anything), but on this, gosh-darn it, she’s exactly right:

_Quote  Guns are our friends, because in a world without guns I'm what is known as prey. Almost all females are. Any male -- even the sickliest 98-pound weakling -- could overpower me in a contest of brute force against brute force. For some reason, I'm always asked whether I wouldn't prefer a world without guns. No, I'd prefer a world in which everyone is armed, even the criminals who mean to cause me harm. Then I'd at least have a fighting chance. 
    “What the arms-control faithful really want is a world without violence, not a world without weapons. These are the ideological descendants of the authors of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which purported to outlaw war. But we can't have a world without violence, because the world is half male and testosterone causes homicide. A world with violence -- that is to say, with men -- but without weapons is the worst of all possible worlds for women. As the saying goes, God made man and woman; Colonel Colt made them equal.” [Emphasis in the original.]

Let’s hear it for sisters being able to defend themselves. Like Cowboy Kate*…


* … who I’m required to say bears no relation whatsoever to Cactus Kate.  None at all. Honest.

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Dry motorists should demand compensation!

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

This week: “Dry motorists should demand compensation!”

One morning recently, I was driving through Masterton on my way to a rest home, where I had been asked to see a sick patient. What should I spot up ahead but a gaggle of police officers, half a dozen of them, blocking the flow of traffic. Up ahead of me, cars were stopped, and police officers were thrusting portable sniffer machines into drivers’ faces, fishing for evidence of alcohol ingestion.

In due course I was stopped by a police officer, asked to wind down my window and to count backwards from five into the hand-held sniffer. Instead of this, I commented that the law that allowed the police to do this was an invasion of the privacy of motorists. The officer did not seem to realise that in earlier days, police or traffic officers were not allowed to detain motorists without just cause -– they could only do so if (for instance) the person was driving erratically, had a light on the car not working, or if the car was obviously not of a safe enough standard to obtain a warrant of fitness. All this officer knew however was that he had unbridled power to stop my car and order me to breathe into his machine, and there he was (ab)using it.

I made my displeasure known to the officer, stating that detaining me without just cause was an invasion of my privacy, and that he had no moral right to interfere with people going about their daily business in peace.

My comments served to inflame him somewhat. Despite finding no alcohol on my breath, this defender of public safety started frantically scanning the windscreen of my car for evidence of missing paperwork –- an expired warrant, or worse: tax evasion via failure to pay road user charges. Sadly for the poor man, all papers were in order, which meant my two-year old car was probably roadworthy, and the IRD had taken their cut. I offered to show him my driver’s licence but he wasn’t interested. I was waved on, and drove away, still fuming. This was 10 a.m. on a Thursday morning. The alcohol from the Emerson’s beer the previous Tuesday evening had been successfully metabolised by my liver into less exciting molecules.

That same evening, I was pulled over again in a different part of town and asked by yet another policeman to exhale into a sniffer. This time I smiled and did exactly as asked. At last, I had won the battle over myself. I loved Big Brother. Well, not quite.

The test was once again negative. I was waved on. Over the next few days I got to thinking about the powers of the police and just what the law allows them to do. In their own words they can stop any car, anywhere, anytime, without the slightest shred of evidence that the driver or anyone else aboard has committed an offence against other people or their property. Innocence is no defence. Unless the fact that you are driving a motor vehicle makes one a carbon criminal. And as carbon dioxide is an end product of alcohol consumption, drinking and driving would thus contribute in two ways to catastrophic global warming.

But I digress. The police can stop anyone randomly with the excuse of checking for one of the many risk factors that cause driver impairment. If one doth protest too loudly, the scope of the examination is widened to include checks for evidence of tax evasion and expired currency of driver licensing and vehicle warrants of fitness and registration.

And why can they do this? Simple – because their masters, the state, own the roads. And this is the same agency that also has the legal monopoly on the use of force. Because of this infernal conjunction of affairs, they can unilaterally set whatever rules they like, regardless of any “buy-in” from those who use the roads, and enforce them in any fashion that they like. They can, and they do, any time they like.  They can turn the roads into checkout terminals, motorists into cash cows, the police into de facto revenue officials—and the citizens they were supposed to serve and protect into subjects who made to comply and shell out.  

It is time we the motorists fought back against this tyranny of tax collectors. Anyone over the limit with breath or blood alcohol faces a stiff fine and temporary loss of their driving permission slip. I have some difficulty with this, as although people with alcohol in their blood are often impaired in reaction times, co-ordination and fine motor skills, technically they have hurt no-one and have committed no actual crime (no crime in the sense that no-one deserves compensation). They have hurt no-one. They have not damaged property or people. There are already laws that provide for redress when a person wrongfully damages someone’s property or person. Drink-drive laws focus only on one risk factor, and one risk factor only. They are the foot in the door. Only a few steps away are roadblocks where police search cars for cell phones switched on, sources of music and even the presence of passengers, all of whom could possibly distract the driver and make accidents more likely. The principle is the same. Very soon we could have mandatory governors in engines to restrict road speed.

This is not targeting crime; it’s punishing pre-crime.

So, what does this libertarian suggest?

First, to stem the increasing loss in public support for the police because of this kind of jack-booted pre-crime policing, there should be instant compensation for innocent motorists when they are detained at dragnets and screened for evidence of toxic impairment. I’m talking five dollars per driver per stoppage. A tax refund, if you like. But just compensation for the inconvenience of being prevented from going about one’s daily business, particularly when time is money. and a lost opportunity to serve a customer is a net loss for both parties.

Second, take the state out of the ownership equation by privatising the roads by both distribution and sale to competing interests so that motorists can come to contractual agreement themselves with road owners on mutually agreed terms and conditions allowing use of the road in question. If motorists feel the owner of one road is excessively zealous, they may be able to choose to bypass that particular route and contract with a different road owner. If the road owner doesn’t want a particular car or driver on their road because (for instance) they pose a likely danger to others, they can exercise their property right and exclude the car or driver from their land.

The incentive will be to make driving on the road more convenient and thus attract more users in order to maintain profit levels for the shareholders in companies that own and manage the traffic routes. There may be other less intrusive ways of screening for alcohol intoxication and other causes of functional driving impairment than the current roadblocks. The free market has a knack of finding solutions to problems that minimise customer inconvenience. Our boys and girls in blue would do well to remember that. And our elected representatives should also consider implementing a pilot scheme to privatise the operation of some of our highways, especially new ones. Give New Zealanders a tax break and allow tolling of roads so that the user pays. Redirect police back into their proper role of protecting the public. End the harassment of motorists. And compensate those who are harassed.

I reckon five bucks per innocent motorist stopped is fair enough, until the law is changed. What do readers think? It would certainly offer a small incentive not to drink and drive!

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