Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The “safety net” is actually a hammock [updated]

Greece’s bankrupt welfare state should have been a recent wake-up call for everyone that state-enforced largesse is neither benevolent, nor affordable. NZ’s ever-growing state welfare monster has finally had a microscope applied—by a team led by former Commerce Commissar Paula Rebstock no less--though not yet any kind of scalpel. The hope, a vain one perhaps, is that the former might engender the latter.  We shall see.

The welfare state itself is unsustainable. That much should be clear to any serious student of politics. In its current form it is a fairly modern invention —the “mature” welfare state and the mechanisms of finance and banking on which it relies are barely six decades old, and on the scale now involved barely half that—and any honest commentator would have to say it’s an experiment that’s failed.

It is a political ruse by which one group of people—”the needy”--seek to make themselves wealthy at the expense of another by means of that great fiction, the state. It is a ruse based on a moral subterfuge—that one person’s need is a claim on another’s life and production. But like every other ruse, it can’t last.

“There are two kinds of need involved in this process: the need of the group making demands, which is openly proclaimed and serves as cover for another need, which is never mentioned—the need of the power-seekers, who require a group of dependents in order to rise to power. Altruism feeds the first need, statism feeds the second, Pragmatism blinds everyone—including victims and profiteers—not merely to the deadly nature of the process, but even to the fact that a process is going on.” *

The needy and the greedy—one needing largesse; the other greedy for political power—both feeding parasitically from the group who keep them both afloat, the producers, who never figure in their thoughts except as anything more than the owners of wallets ripe for plucking.  The needy and the greedy, in both of whom is engendered the disease of Entitle-itis.

“There is only one institution that could bring about [this kind of dependency}: the government—with the help of a vicious doctrine that serves as a cover-up: altruism. The visible profiteers of altruism—the welfare recipients—are part victims, part window dressing for the statist policies of the government.” *

When Germany’s military dictator, Otto Von Bismarck, first began the welfare state on which all others were first modelled, he at least knew what he was doing.  He knew it was a means by which citizens could be turned into subjects.  Those today who still go along with it, thinking mistakenly that extracting wealth from one group and giving to another is somehow a kindness, fail to see either the moral cannibalism on which the system is based, nor where such a corrupt system will end up.

“So long as the power-seekers clung to the basic premises of the welfare state, holding need as the criterion of rewards, logic forced them, step by step, to champion the interests of the less and less productive groups, until they reached the ultimate dead end of turning from the role of champions of ‘honest toil’ to the role of champions of open parasitism, parasitism on principle, parasitism as a ‘right’ (with their famous slogan turning into: ‘Who does not toil, shall eat those who do')” *

As a system, it is both morally and economically corrupt.

“Stripped of its academic jargon, the welfare state is nothing more than a mechanism by which governments confiscate the wealth of the productive members of a society to support a wide variety of welfare schemes. A substantial part of the confiscation is effected by taxation. But the welfare statists were quick to recognize that if they wished to retain political power, the amount of taxation had to be limited and they had to resort to programs of massive deficit spending, i.e., they had to borrow money, by issuing government bonds, to finance welfare expenditures on a large scale. …
”The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit. They have created paper reserves in the form of government bonds which -- through a complex series of steps -- the banks accept in place of tangible assets and treat as if they were an actual deposit, i.e., as the equivalent of what was formerly a deposit of gold. The holder of a government bond or of a bank deposit created by paper reserves believes that he has a valid claim on a real asset. But the fact is that there are now more claims outstanding than real assets…” *

As you can perhaps now understand, the very process of government money creation, which just brought the world to its knees, is itself based on having a welfare state against which the Reserve Bank may issue its paper money.

“The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves… Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth.” *

One might have thought that former Commerce Commissar Rebstock might have understood some of this, or even mentioned how minimum wage laws and youth rates make many people effectively unemployable at those rates, but sadly neither her remit in this inquiry nor the comments in her report go that far.

For perhaps the first time ever, however, a report has been issued that actually looks at some of the problems involved in a state welfare system in which one in eight adult New Zealanders is ensnared, and the facts it outlines are so stark it seems few wish to confront them.

  • In 1960, one in fifty adult NZers were taking a benefit. The proportion is now one in eight adult NZers, and one in five children.
  • Of these present 356,000 adults in name only,
    • nearly half have spent more than half of the last five years spending other people’s money;
    • only 20 percent have any sort of work expectation;
    • only a handful actually attend the “training programmes” in which the likes of PIta Sharples, Phil Goff and Paula Bennett place so much stock.
  • The majority of disabled people are actually in paid work. So much for primary moral justification of the welfare state—that it is necessary to help those who can’t help themselves because of a physical infirmity.
  • Only one in three mothers with dependent children is in paid work, and only one of every two solo mothers.
  • Most children who grow up with a parent on a benefit end up one themselves in their adult life. That’s a big unsustainable “tail” being built up.
  • Half of the 16- & 17-year olds who receive a benefit spend half of their next decade on the mooch—perhaps a result of intergenerational emulation.
  • Even during the boom period of 2004 to 2007, when one in ten adult NZers were receiving a benefit, employers were still finding it difficult to find staff—making it clear that this is not an “unemployment” problem in the sense understood by any of the mainstream commentators.

Written by the unlikely hand of former Commerce Commissar Paul Rebstock, this report on NZ’s unsustainable, unaffordable, iniquitous and destructive welfare system barely scratches the surface of the welfare state’s real problems, but even what it does say is far too much for NZ’s juvenile media to handle, apparently.  Because as Lindsay Mitchell points out, they aren’t up to even understanding it, let alone discussing it intelligently. Says Lindsay Mitchell,

_Quote The paper is titled Long-term Benefit Dependency: The Issues. Author Paula Rebstock said yesterday that it is not about the unemployment benefit which has actually been operating quite well over recent years. The focus is on the DPB, sickness and invalid's benefit… the report is about long-term welfare dependency and what drives it - the type of dependency that persists during good economic times.”

Yet as Lindsay points out, not only did TV One’s alleged news show lead by carefully crunching numbers that failed to address the core points of Paula Rebstock’s report, all of which they could have easily got from the report’s fact sheet, we had to suffer morons like Sue who can’t see past their own noses insist this are all about “a lack of jobs,” fools like Phil Goff and the Labour Party bloggers at The Double Standard wheel out the line that the government has “manufactured a crisis.”

Which is certainly true, but emphatically not in the sense that either Fool Goff or his fellow fools at the Sub-Standard meant.

Darren rattles our chains—with the PM’s sanction

Nanny has reared his ugly head again.  Momentarily and uncharacteristically knocked last week (at least temporarily) by National’s Nanny Steven Joyce, the miasma of wowserness has now passed across the aisle to the son Helen Clark never had, Darren Hughes—whose member’s bill to nearly halve the legal blood-alcohol limit for drivers was last night given the tacit support of Prime Minister Smile & Wave.

Quite apart from all the other points we canvassed last week, the success (if any) of this “Daddy State” bill looks like another case of rewarding policing failure and drawing our own chains ever tighter.

Nannies like chains. Puritans like Darren and Steven seem to like rattling them. Puritans’ greatest pleasure, observed H.L. Mencken, is preventing we simple folk from enjoying ourselves.  They’re motivated by the frightful idea that someone, somewhere might just be enjoying themselves in a way of which they haven’t approved.

Frankly, that’s about all the argument there is for this New Puritanism in this latest manifestation.  That people are drinking, so therefore we have to stop them.

The “argument” given for nearly halving the limit is that “drunk drivers are still killing people” so “we” have to get them off the road.  So how has that worked so far?

Well, since it’s drivers well over the current allowed alcohol figure of 0.08 mcg/ml of blood—those utterly bladdered—who are the drivers doing the damage, that argument doesn’t work very well at all. In the last year, only one driver aged over 25 who died in a car crash had a blood-alcohol content between 0.05 and 0.08—i.e., in the net that Darren Hughes and Smile & Wave would like to cast over us—whereas drivers well over the current legal limit were the ones much more heavily involved.

In other words, drivers who are already illegal under current laws are doing the damage, or at least involved in it; and in response Darren and Daddy would like to punish the rest of us, who aren’t.

That’s not intelligent government—that’s just bloody wowserism.

The problem is not those of us who are safely driving between 0.05 and 0.08, who Young Darren would like to ping. It’s those driving dangerously—and those already well over the existing government-imposed limit. And they’re often “the same driver,”—and the existing laws don’t bother them, and Darren’s new one won’t touch them: Recidivist drink-drivers are two a penny on the roads, and they infest all the courts.  So they’re still driving.  And still getting slapped on the hand for it.

So despite the idea that it’s all as simple as setting a “limit,” that hasn’t worked at all.  So much for setting a “limit” and thinking it will, by magic, somehow stop drunk or dangerous driving.

So why not just do the sensible thing and stop this obsession with alcohol, and just penalise bad driving. Have your police on the roads stopping bad and dangerous drivers when they see them, regardless of what they’ve drunk, instead of obsessing about pointless random stops and quotas. (In fact, take them off the random stops and they might even have time to do it.) Why not penalise bad driving, penalise dangerous driving highly—and punish dangerous driving causing death even higher. Why not sentence even higher those who’ve made themselves irresponsible and dangerous through their imbibition—recognising that this makes them more culpable, not less.

In other words, make people responsible for the actual damage they themselves do to others, not for actions you would just like to stop—and then remove them physically from being able to do it again. That’s what law is supposed to do,not to penalise those who’ve inflicted no damage on anyone else.

The point of good law is not to inculcate a New Puritanism. It’s not to stop people innocent of aggressive action from enjoying their lives in whatever way they wish. The point of good law is to protect innocent people from aggressors. Darren’s lemon sucking won’t do that.  Actually targeting objectively dangerous driving could, and would.

"Fascism strikes the US Auto Industry"

Guest Post by Jeff Perren.

I’m having a purple patch with my writing. Another of my articles has been published at Pajamas Media: “The GM Volt: Fascism Strikes the Auto Industry.” For my loyal readers here at NOT PC, here's an excerpt:

_Quote Whether the American taxpayers get their money’s worth out of the investment, which they won’t, is beside the point. The precedent has been set for a massive public-private partnership in the auto industry, which can easily spread to other industries (and already has).
    Granted, Chrysler gets partial credit for that precedent, owing to its $1.5 billion loan in 1980. Giving credit where it’s due, Chrysler’s loan did get paid back. But several things are different now that raise the Volt fiasco to a new level.
Your comments are invited, both here and there.


H.C. Price House – Frank Lloyd Wright

S378 Price Residence 10

There’s not much of it to be seen from the street, above (although it’s rumoured there’s a better view from the golf course), and since today’s owners of the 1954 Harold Price house in Paradise Valley, Arizona, are very private, it’s fortunate there are still some places where this unusual example of Wright’s desert architecture can still be seen.


One of those places is Daniel Soderberg’s blog, which recently posted some vintage photos and an article about house, the original owner, Harold Price—who also commissioned Wright to design the 19-story Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma--and the subsequent owner, “Mr U-Haul,” and what looks like one hell of an ungrateful family. [Hat tip Prairie Mod]


Photos from AvO and Daniel Soderberg’s blog.


Monday, 9 August 2010

The bomb that ended the war

Friday marked the 65th anniversary of the bomb that ended the Pacific War against Japan—a war that cost four years, 400,000 men and almost the entire economic production of the western world to bring to a successful close.

But talk of the bomb that ended the war almost always comes these days with a whole lot of tut-tutting—mostly because the blessed absence of world wars on that scale for sixty-five years has allowed us to forget a whole other context that usually gets dropped when history’s sanitisers start talking about the war and the two bombs that ended it: first, the nature of the enemy we were fighting, and that would have kept on fighting without it; and second, (as Robert Tracinski notes) “all of the lives that were made possible because of that bomb,” including both Allied and Japanese. “That's what Paul Kengor does in the perfectly guilt-free article below.”

"Grateful to Harry," Paul Kengor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 4
Truman's decision to drop the A-bomb saved millions -- Americans and Japanese
    This week marks 65 years since the United States dropped the atomic bomb…
    Truman's objective was to compel surrender from an intransigent enemy that refused to halt its naked aggression. The barbarous mentality of 1940s Japan was beyond belief. An entire nation had lost its mind, consumed by a ferocious militarism and hellbent on suicide. Facing such fanaticism, Truman felt no alternative but to use the bomb. As George C. Marshall put it, the Allies needed something extraordinary "to shock [the Japanese] into action." Nothing else was working. Japan was committed to a downward death spiral, with no end in sight.
    We had to end the war," said a desperate Marshall later. "We had to save American lives."
    Evidence shows the bomb achieved precisely that, saving millions of lives, not merely Americans but Japanese. The Japanese themselves acknowledged this, from the likes of Toshikazu Kase to Emperor Hirohito himself. Kase was among the high-level officials representing Japan at its formal surrender aboard the USS Missouri. "The capitulation of Japan," Kase said definitively, "saved the lives of several million men."
    As we mark the anniversary of this period, we should first and foremost think about those boys—our fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, uncles, brothers, some now in their 80s and 90s—who lived lives of faith and freedom and family because of Truman's decision. I've met many of them. Any time I find myself in conversation with a World War II vet, I ask where he was when the first bomb hit.
    “I'll tell you where I was!" snapped George Oakes of Churchill. "I was a 22-year-old kid on a troop transport preparing to invade the Japanese mainland....”

Read on here.


  • The Moral Lesson of Hiroshima, John Lewis
        “The bombings marked America's total victory over a militaristic culture that had murdered millions. To return an entire nation to morality, the Japanese had to be shown the literal meaning of the war they had waged against others… 
        “Americans should be immensely proud of the bomb. It ended a war that had enslaved a continent to a religious-military ideology of slavery and death.
        “There is no room on earth for this system, its ideas and its advocates.
        “It took a country that values this world to bomb this system into extinction.
        For the Americans to do so while refusing to sacrifice their own troops to save the lives of enemy civilians was a sublimely moral action. This destroyed the foundations of the war, and allowed the Japanese to rebuild their culture along with their cities, as prosperous inhabitants of the earth. Were it true that total victory today creates new attackers tomorrow, we would now be fighting Japanese suicide bombers, while North Korea-where the American army did not impose its will-would be peaceful and prosperous. The facts are otherwise. The need for total victory over the morality of death has never been clearer.”
  • “Gifts from Heaven”: The Meaning of the American Victory over Japan, 1945 – John Lewis
        “The victory over Japan remains America’s greatest foreign policy success. Today, we take for granted a peaceful, productive, mutually beneficial relationship with the Japanese people. But this friendship was earned with blood, struggle, and an unrepentant drive to victory. The beneficent occupation of Japan—during which not one American was killed in hostile military action—and the corresponding billions in American aid were entirely post-surrender phenomena. Prior to their surrender, the Japanese could expect nothing but death from the Americans.
        “If there is one historical event that every American should study, beyond the American Revolution and the Civil War, it is America’s victory over Japan in World War II…”

Welfare “reform” that socks employers

Lindsay Mitchell comments on the government's latest welfare-reform that isn’t.

_Quote I see that the welfare working group is preferring to focus on promoting insurance for sickness and disability.
Paula Rebstock has prioritised this for the media since the group was created.

    “Employers may be asked to pay part of the costs if their employees have to go on sickness or disability welfare benefits under an insurance-based reform of the welfare system flagged in a new report today.”

    Insurance is fine. But employers can't be expected to stump up for sickness insurance and pay tax for the state-provided sickness benefit as well (not to mention ACC). Or are we looking at another of the National private/public partnership ideas?
    I can hear struggling employers all over NZ groan as they read this latest bright idea which essentially tells them the government is going to punish them if their employees get sick.

Welfare “reform” that socks employers.  That should help them recover.

Too little context in two-part Tuhoe report [updated]

Part Two of the Waitangi Tribunal’s report into the history of government actions against Tuhoe has just been released.

_Quote At 1000 pages, it … is weighty reading…. The report … describes … sweeping confiscations, … and how … land was removed by fraudulent methods. And it describes unjust war too, highlighting a series of engagements from the end of 1865 to May 1866.”

But there’s something missing, as one local commentator mentioned on Friday What the Waitangi Tribunal’s sanitisers historians “neglect to do,” said that commentator, “is set those dreadful deeds in the context of the equally dreadful deeds that preceded them.”

That writer is Chris Trotter, who I’m both pleased and astonished to see has joined me in helping to indicate some of that context, and some of those dreadful deeds, without which any judgement about “injustices” committed by the government are moot.  “Tuhoe picked the wrong side in the war to decide what sort of country New Zealand would become,” concludes Chris.  And so they did.


UPDATE:  “Conveniently one-eyed” Lew at KiwiPolitico calls this insistence on context-keeping--by insisting on knowledge of the full context of Tuhoe’s history, he says, both Chris and I “seem to be of the view that the Crown would have been entirely justified in leaving not one stone upon another, not one man, woman or child alive.”  Go figure. I wonder what he’d say about the bomb that ended the War in the Pacific.

Public-Private Fascism

Guest Post by Jeff Perren

Columbia President Lee Bollinger's advocacy of “blending” public and private media shows the same problem inherent in all such “partnerships” between the dollar and the gun:

_Quote In short, [Bollinger]  prefers yet another ‘public-private partnership,’ the now-familiar progressive corporatist model that met with such success in Italy in the 1920s. Odd, how the ‘private’ party in that arrangement always turns out to be the junior partner. And yet he maintains that ‘state support does not translate into official control.’ He seems not to have learned the popular phrase: he who pays the piper calls the tune.

My article discussing this very thing was just published at Breitbart's Big Journalism site.  Your comments are invited, here and there.

Norman Rockwell models hold reunion

Guest post by Jeff Perren

PC has run features with Norman Rockwell paintings on a few occasions, so his legion of fans might enjoy this curious piece of news:

_Quote Rockwell left Arlington in 1953, and many of his child models grew up and followed suit. But on Saturday, dozens returned for a celebration of Rockwell, a reunion of grown models in the small town that set the stage for some of his most iconic works...

Friday, 6 August 2010

The Third Man



The-Third-Man-1949-Front-Cover-18180[1] Last year, a wine-maker from Waipara was a guest at my home. After a few drinks, I suggested that we watch the film The Third Man.  One of my favourites. Well, the next time he turned up to my door, he was carrying bottles of 'The Third Man' Pinot Noir and Riesling. They are small volume, artisan crafted wines that use only wild yeasts in the fermentation.  And they’re damned tasty.

I mention this, because they have finally made it up here to Auckland and you can taste them yourself at La Barrique in Remuera today from 4:30 to 6:30.

Don’t be late.


FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: The ‘name it yourself’ edition

  • Former constitutional law lecturer Barack Obama might just give the world a demonstration of how the constitution works—by having his laws struck out. On Monday, a federal judge let Virginia's attorney general challenge ObamaCare as unconstitutional.  And on Tuesday, Missouri voters voted overwhelmingly to reject the federal mandate.
    Missouri Voters Overwhelmingly Reject ObamaCare’s Individual Mandate in Referendum – BASTIAT INSTITUTE
  • It seems the ACT Party now has two positions on the Foreshore and Seabed replacement legislation. One principled position that they now keep to themselves, and one they argue in the House.
    Where is ACT on the Foreshore and Seabed replacement legislation? – LINDSAY MITCHELL
  • I’m very glad to see someone is joining the dots on the end of youth rates, the rise of the minimum wage, and rising and ever-rising unemployment numbers—especially among youth and the unskilled. Any humanitarian worth the name would surely be reconsidering their support for measures that only increase the economic misery, wouldn’t they?
    Is A related to B? – Gooner, NO MINISTER
  • Briton Chris Neal proposes a “Cobdenian solution” to Britain’s unemployment problem—one that some folk could take up here.
    A ‘Cobdenian’ Solution to Seeking Work – COBDEN CENTRE
  • Te Rodney King: These police are so frightfully brave… [sent by reader Russell W.]
    Whakatane CCTV footage – NZ HERALD
  • If you still think Tea Partiers are all just dumb ranters, then whatever you do don’t watch this articulate woman explain how rights and the constitution work to a know-nothing Congressthing with a bad case of Entitle-itis and Power Lust. [Hat tip Rational Capitalist]

  • And don’t watch this one either, just in case you learn something [hat tip Capitalism]:
  • “Over 200 years ago, the Founding Fathers of the United States fought a long and bloody war to preserve the laws and principles necessary for a free and prosperous society.  What happened?”
    The Founders' Vision Versus Ours – Walter Williams, ATLASPHERE
  • An op-ed in today’s New York Times “brings to a wider audience key facts about the character of self-professed Arab champions of the Palestinian cause… Arab states — who routinely jockey to be seen as advancing Palestinian goals — have in reality exploited that cause for their own power-seeking ends.” Hat tip Elan Journo, who adds add this point: “even if these backers had been genuine in their motivations and truly sought to serve the cause, that too would be deplorable. From my reading of the issue, the Palestinian movement has at its root an antipathy to Western political values, such individual freedom, and it has pioneered in the vile tactic of terrorism. Regimes that back that movement, for whatever reason, are complicit in its aggression.”
    Championing the Palestinian cause – VOICES OF REASON
    The Palestinians, Alone – Efraim Karsh, NEW YORK TIMES
  • In every important respect it can be said that the trials of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge killers are really Communism’s Nuremberg Trials.  But from media reports of the trial, you’d be hard pressed to even realise that was the ideology these genocidal monsters were killing in the name of.
    Communism's Nuremberg Trials? – Joseph Kellard, AMERICAN INDIVIDUALIST
  • What makes immigration such a hot-button issue? “So much vitriol, so much bluster, so much money! And for what precisely? What are the principles motivating those so upset over immigration? That immigrants use things once they get here? That some immigrants commit crimes? That the immigrants capable of getting around the obtuse and illogical legal immigration system do so? These aren't principles so much as gripes.”
    Immigration: A Problem in Need of Principle – ALEXANDER MARRIOTT’S WIT & WISDOM
  • If a one-size-fits-all education is bad, then why are national educational standards so good?
    One Size Fits All = Bad; Uniform National Standards = Good – Andrew Coulson, CATO @ LIBERTY
  • Um, what’s all this nonsense we keep hearing about the west having “an oil addiction.”
    One Person’s Oil Addict is Another’s Intelligent Consumer – Michael Lynch, MASTER RESOURCE
  • Kiwi ingenuity gets the lame walking again.  It’s a miracle! [Hat tip Terry V.]
    Video 1 : Rex, the Robotic Exoskeleton
  • “Economists are good at presenting the information that seems useful, but as per tying it together, they can't and most people making important decisions know that. This is why economists are always on TV and not in boardrooms… If someone presents themselves as especially credible because they were a chief economist, I know they are fools.” Yes, he’s talking about you Cameron Bagrie, Tony Alexander & Brendan O’Donovan—people who are great at forecasting after the event, but utterly hopeless when time’s arrow goes in its more usual direction. [hat tip Anti Dismal]
    Economists for PR? – Eric Crampton, OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR
    Why does anyone support private macroeconomic forecasts? – Tyler Cowen, MARGINAL REVOLUTION
    The forecasting delusion – NOT PC
  • When alleged economists like Brendan O’Donovan bleat that “no-one can forecast shocks, that’s why they’re called shocks,” what he’s really saying is that he can’t, with his models. And you should believe him. Matt Nolan defends macroforecasters like Brendan here and here, arguing that if anyone can build a successful “macro” model based on real “micro” foundations “they should really just do it or STFU.”  Well, Roger Garrison has just got on and done it—or at least, he’s put into easily understandable graphic form the capital-based macroeconomic model that allowed the likes of Peter Schiff et al to forecast this latest crisis, and the likes of Ludwig Von Mises to predict the crisis of the Great Depression.  You’d think at least some of the alleged economists talking their books would know about it, wouldn’t you?
    Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle – Roger Garrison, MISES UNIVERSITY

  • Speaking of failed economists … no longer taken seriously even in his own columns, alleged economist Paul Krugman finally gives up. Paul Krugman Gives Up – Fred Douglas, AMERICAN THINKER
  • Obama’s new financial bill “is based on the premise that finance is a fundamentally dangerous field, and therefore that we need the government to protect us against financial crises,” says Yaron Brook.
    Financial Reform Makes As Much Sense As Electing The Neighborhood Arsonist To Be Chief Of The Fire Department
  • Not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but I’ve just added the final (or at least the latest) version of the Economics Family Tree to the “Downloads” section of the blog.  Just thought you’d like to know.
    Economics Family Tree
  • David Harriman’s superb new book on induction in physics has inspired economist Per-Olof Samuelsson to begin investigating induction in economics.  He’s come up with some fascinating notions.
    Induction in Economics (A very preliminary remark) – PER-OLOF SAMUELSSON
  • rationaloptMatt Ridley’s book Rational Optimist has got everybody talking. It’s an excellent book, says Dale Halling, “disfigured however by the author’s irrational infatuation with the open source movement” and consequent complete misunderstanding of intellectual property and the relationship between technology and population growth.
    The Rational Optimist: Excellent Book, Disfigured by Open Source Utopianism – Dale Halling, STATE OF INNOVATION
  • Well, “collective intelligence” is clearly Ridley’s misnomer for the division of labour, but isn’t it wonderful how it allows us to live like a king!

  • My, hasn’t Obama been busy!

  • “"There has been a lot of noise lately about banning burkas, and it is all wrong."
    Behind a Veil of Hypocrisy – UNCOMMON SENSE
  • Here’s the credit crisis in pictures [hat tip Justin Ptak]:

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

  • And finally, here’s an exquisite little slice of Mahler for the weekend (Adagietto from his 5th). Because as the woman said, wouldn’t you just die without Mahler?

Have a great weekend!

Letter to a bone-head

Readers sometimes ask me why I don’t post so-called “conceptual art” here at NOT PC.  My simple answer is to say it’s not art. The longer answer involves explaining what art is (it's the technology of the soul, of course).  The middle step involves ridicule and a few pointed home truths.  This is the approach taken by Don Boudreaux in a letter to the Washington Post about an alleged artist they profiled who uses human bones in his “conceptual” anti-art. [Hat tip Tibor Machan]

Dear Editor:

Benjamin Kelley says that his art "represents the dehumanization of modern society" ("An artistic body of work's bone of contention," July 16). I'd like to ask him which aspects of pre-modern society he believes to have been most humane. Was it a life-expectancy of about 30 years? How about mass illiteracy? Maybe Mr. Kelley longs for the odors, lice, and scabs that regularly adorned human bodies that seldom bathed and that slept on dirt or straw?

Possibly Mr. Kelley regrets that the homicide rate in modern society is far lower - as much as ten-times lower - than in pre-modern societies? Perchance he laments modernity's liberation of women from the oppressive dominance of men? Maybe he finds fault with modern humans' greater skepticism of tales of witches and sentient volcanoes? Or perhaps Mr. Kelley is upset simply because modernity has eradicated slavery?

Being only 26 years old in modern society, Mr. Kelley has many decades left to reject his fashionable romantic nonsense about a past Golden Age. Were he born just a few generations earlier, however, not only would he have been unable to earn a living as an artist, his own stint in humanity would have been much shorter.

Sincerely, Donald J. Boudreaux Professor of Economics George Mason University Fairfax, VA 22030

Below is Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Working in Marble.  You can read about it here and here, and enjoy it here:


Thursday, 5 August 2010

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Politics as self-defence

_Quote We are often implored ‘not to be political’ when we approach policy subjects that affect our lives and livelihoods.
Particularly business people are often requested to ’stay out of politics.’
This would be a reasonable request if, ‘politics would stay out of business.’”
Ron Manners, “Should We All Become Political

Someone should have sent that quote to Therese Gattung when she was pretending to herself that David Cunliffe wouldn’t molest her company if she just played nice.  (Q: How do you get a nice small business?  A: Take a large one, and make David Cunliffe the minister in charge.)

The take-home message here: If appeasement of the looters didn’t work for NZ’s (formerly) largest company, it sure as hell ain’t gonna work for you.

Yes, Pita. Hone **is** a racist.

Yes, Pita. Hone is a racist.

Auckland Bloggers Bar Bash tonight!

GALBRAITH'S Since today is the first Thursday of the month, that means it’s Blogger’s Drinks tonight!

It’s the event for bloggers, blog trolls, blog groupies (bloopies) and blog readers

So come along and see if you can talk as much nonsense as we can.

Past blogging celebrities in attendance include bloggers and blog readers from Annie Fox, Barnsley Bill, Beretta, The Fairfacts Media Show, Stephen Franks, Garfield Herrington, Bernard Hickey, Cactus Kate, Kiwiblog, MandM, No Minister, Not PC, Roar Prawn, Lolly Scramble, SOLO, Born on State Highway One, Whale Oil and WHOAR! … though this last one didn’t stay around too long.

So get ye there and buy your favourite blogger(s) a drink.

What: Auckland Bloggers Drinks
Tonight, 5 August from 6.30pm
Galbraiths, 2 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland
Who for: Bloggers, blog readers, blog trolls.
What for: The talking of nonsense and telling of lies.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Afghanistan, an unwinnable war … ? [update 2]

“AFGHANISTAN IS AN UNWINNABLE  war, and our leaders know it,” says the UK Telegraph.  Well, yes, it’s unwinnable as long as you have no idea what winning would mean—which is the situation  in which the war’s leaders have left the soldiers prosecuting the war.

Four years after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack that killed 2,403 souls, Japan lay in rubble, the  military leaders responsible for the attack were dead, and Japan was already on its way to becoming the peace-loving producer it still is.

A Refresher Course ... For Those in Denial Nearly nine years after Al Qaeda killed 2,996 souls in a surprise attacks in Manhattan and Washington, and numerous attacks since from Bali to London to Madrid, the leader of Al Qaeda is still alive, the Taleban who supported him and his group are on the rise, and people are beginning talk about retreat.

So what went wrong this time? Why aren’t we winning?

In a word, because it was never properly understood or defined what “winning” would mean.

On the very evening of September 11, 2001, George Bush almost articulated the right approach:

_QuoteThe search is under way for those who are behind these evil acts. I've directed the full resources of our intelligence and law-enforcement communities to find those responsible, and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts, and those who harbor them.”

“We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts, and those who harbor them.”  This last was an important distinction.  It was the recognition in policy that no terrorist can carry out his atrocities without a safe harbour in which to train and organise (in either a failed state or an allied aggressor state), nor without the oxygen of financial, logistical and materiel support from an allied aggressor state. For Al Qaeda, that safe harbour was the Taliban's Afghanistan, which is why thirty days later virtually the whole world stood behind the US as it invaded Afghanistan, with NZ solders in the van, to eject the Taliban and hunt down Al Qaeda’s leaders.

But “to bring them to justice”?  What was that about? Destroying the Twin Towers and everyone in them was not a criminal act—it was an act of war!  As much an act of war as the attack on Pearl Harbor, from which the US declaration duly followed.  An act of war part of a whole train of infamy that most people would like to forget but should still live in history forever.  Yet nine years after that act we’re still left at the mercy of all the atrocity-mongers, while our solders are running around with their hands tied pretending they’re engaged in some kind of grand policing operation-- with criminal trials as the final outcome. But fighting these anti-human vermin isn't a matter or law enforcement, with all the strings around such a battle; it is war, and we're already in it. As Patrick Henry said in 1775:

_Quote Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace – but there is no peace.
The war is actually begun!'

So Bush was wrong—and the error is only magnified by his successor.  Instead of hunting down and killing Al Qaeda’s leaders and those who succoured them, western forces in Afghanistan have instead let the leaders escape over the border into Pakistan, and their succourers revitalise and once again take up arms—supplied (as the recent WikiLeaks dump confirmed) with both military intelligence and materiel from both Iran and Pakistan. Meanwhile, doing little to arrest that situation and hamstrung by evasion of who’s now harbouring whom, and by rules of engagement that all but forbid actual engagement, western troops risk their lives while planting flower gardens and building sewage plants--“placing ‘compassion’ ahead of the proper task of self-defense.”

“Compassion” for one’s enemies 9and their helpers) looks a lot like injustice to one’s troops.

AND BUSH WAS CRITICALLY wrong on something else as well.  He called the whole operation a “War on Terror."

What the hell is that about?  A war on a tactic?  This would be like, in the wake of Pearl Harbor, declaring war on surprise attacks.  Or a war against dive bombing.

With the help of the heroic Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Joseph Kellard explains the correct approach:

    “It’s not a war on terror, it’s a war on Islam,” [says Ayaan HirsiAli]…
    “Terrorism” is merely an action, in particular a tactic, and actions are derived from people who initiate them. You wage a war against particular people, not their actions or tactics..
    Wars are started by aggressors, those who initiate force. The aggressors in this war are those faithful to Islam, who initiated this war, decades prior to 9/11, specifically on the West – particularly the people who most represent the core Western values that they adamantly oppose: reason, individualism and freedom. Properly described, this war is the Islamic radicals’ war on the West. And Ms. Ali shows that she understands this fact when she says: “It isn’t a war that was declared on Islam, but it is a declaration of war in the name of Islam on civil society and all the freedoms that we believe in.”


First of all, it requires recognition of the real enemy; and that enemy is not a tactic.  The enemy worldwide is Radical Islam.  The enemy on the Afghanistan front  is Al Qaeda and their Taleban, Pakistani and Iranian helpers.

That’s who we’re fighting. Face up to it. 

Second, it requires actually wanting to win. The errors made by George W in waging his “war against a tactic” (and in the wrong place) are now being repeated by his successor, President Zero, a Commander-in-Chief who confessed just last year while his troops were in harm’s way,

“I’m always worried about using the word ‘victory’ because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur.”

But, you know O, when Emperor Hirohito was made to come down and surrender to MacArthur that was the beginning of the end for the medieval warrior spirit of Shinto, and also the beginning of the beginning for the peaceful success of the modern-day Japanese who -- liberated from their medieval past -- gave the whole world a lesson in how ragingly successful the peaceful pursuit of prosperity can be.

The Afghans may never get that lesson themselves. But they won’t if we keep pretending they don’t need to.

Third, it requires defining what winning against them would mean.

Does winning mean peace negotiations with the Taleban and “civilising” Afghanistan? Hell now. Our only selfish interest in sending New Zealand soldiers to Afghanistan is not the thankless task of civilising a place of medieval barbarism—a vain hope in a place that only built its first real school in 1903; where life expectancy went up after the Soviets invaded (life in a Soviet war-zone being more life-enhancing than what went on there before); which hosts the world’s most corrupt government; and where women are still sliced up as a matter of honour.  We have no selfish interest at all in civilising such a place, and little sane expectation of success in such a task –certainly s long as we pretend their culture is no different to ours, our defeat will make that happen.

So what would winning actually mean? In summary, it must mean ruthlessly destroying our enemies, and leaving no place for them to receive succour.

In short, it means the policy that should have been followed nine years ago with Radical Islam, one that was followed seventy years ago with Japanese Militarism.  With abundant success.

There is “No Substitute for Victory in the War Against Islamic Totalitarianism.”  We’re already in that war; about that we have no choice.  Our only choice is whether or not we want to win it.

Do we?

Read more about the book BUY IT AT AMAZON

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Sidestepping judgement & theft by proxy

_richardmcgrath[5]Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath ransacks the newspapers for headlines and stories on issues affecting our freedom.

This week: Sidestepping judgement & theft by proxy

  1. “Namby-pamby language robs us of ways to castigate wrong-doers – Fellow Mastertonian Karl du Fresne has written a great piece on the misuse of the word “inappropriate.'’ Inappropriate touching, inappropriate head-butting, inappropriate watching of blue movies paid for by taxpayers, Hitler’s “inappropriate” behaviour toward Jews. The catchword of the age—used when people are too scared to pass judgement on others – because their moral base, their means of determining right and wrong, is a bit fuzzy. Or when they lack the courage to calla spade a spade.
        Later in the article, Karl observes what a lot of people, particularly from the Blue Team, know but don’t want to admit:
            “[That] Labour governments [have created] a vast network of state-
        subsidised community agencies in the belief that there’s nothing that can’t be solved
        by state intervention…
    National leaves them alone because dismantling them is just
        too much hassle. “

    He further notes that:

            “[They're] making bugger-all difference to anything. But they certainly provide
        careers for a lot of well-
    intentioned, middle-class women.”

    Does Karl know he is a libertarian?

            “An even bleaker view is that these organisations may be part of the problem
        rather than the solution, discour
    aging people from taking greater responsibility for
        their own lives..
    Like the Labour government that New Zealanders tossed out in 2008, they don't think 
        people can be trusted to make their own choices.”

    He really nails it toward the end of the article:

            “At the core of the increasingly hysterical debate … lies a choice between a free
        society - in which we accept that a minority of people will behave criminally or
        irresponsibly, and take reasonable steps to control them and minimise the harm
        done - and an unfree society, in which unreasonable constraints on the responsible
        majority are justified by the need to control the behaviour of the irresponsible minority.”

    Brilliant stuff, Karl. Any further comment from me would be superfluous. Everybody, please read this article in full.

    030810. Photo supplied. Coleraine House at Te Mata Estate.
  2. “Ugly duckling Buck House grows up  a beauty with heritageUgly duckling is right; I wouldn’t want to live in this place (above), but New Zealand’s version of eminent domain has been used to seize it from its rightful owner: the person who, using his own money, commissioned Ian Athfield to design it and someone else to build it. This family home has now been placed on a “heritage list.,” taking away what few remaining property rights the owner once had. 
        For those who don’t know what a heritage list is, it’s a list of assets someone wants to preserve and enjoy at someone else’s expense because of envy. If you can’t own it, but like looking at it, get the government to steal it for you! Great idea.

            “The move, which could stop any alterations to the $1.6 million home,
        including painting it a different colour, has infuriated owner John Buck. It was a prime example of the ‘nanny state gone mad,’ he said. “

    Sorry John.  This is just nanny gone mad—just her at her normal  hysterical best. While the Hysterical Places Trust and Hastings District Council collude to stop the person who paid to build this property from exercising his rights, John Buck himself is effectively being consigned to sub-human status – stripped of the right to own anything. He should never have let the fascists get their jackboots in the door five years ago:

            “Mr Buck had ‘reluctantly’ allowed his home to be included on the trust's heritage list
        in 2005, accepting that the trust wanted it noted as an exceptional building. That
        designation did not impose restrictions on the owner.
    However, now the trust wanted it protected under the district plan.
    A council report presented on Monday said policy was to not list buildings of
        private owners without consent. The trust argued that though consent was preferable,
        it was not necessary."

    Only one political party promises to uphold property rights as though they were something important – Libertarianz.

  3. Not a major news story, this one, but I just want to pay tribute to a nice guy, a gentleman, a classmate and medical colleague, a much-liked GP from Newtown in Wellington, Peter van Dyk, who died suddenly and unexpectedly at the weekend, aged 48. I know Pete’s friends and colleagues will be as shocked as I was at hearing the news. To his wife Steph and their children – you’ll be in my thoughts this week.

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

NZ soldier, R.I.P. [updated]

The first New Zealand casualty in Afghanistan has been announced.

_Quote A New Zealand soldier has been killed and two others injured in an attack on a routine patrol in Afghanistan, the Defence Force announced today.”

Lieutenant Timothy Andrew O'Donnell, 28Our thoughts go out to their families.

UPDATEThe New Zealand soldier killed in Afghanistan has been named.

R.I.P. Lieutenant Timothy O’Donnell.

Article "Waging War" Published at Big Peace

Another of my articles has been published, this one at Breitbart's Big Peace.

As always, I beg invite you to read, comment, and pass the link onto friends and contacts. When I get rich and famous I'll shower you all with expensive gifts, or at least pro-rated gratitude. (On the other hand, if these frequent notices are becoming annoying, by all means weigh in to the comment section here and let me know.)

Thanks, Jeff

P.S. Don't blame me for the accompanying photo of Obama. Personally, I would have preferred an F-22 strafing an al Qaeda camp.

‘Seated Fighter’ - Joseph Sheppard


Another of the fantastic motivational posters using great art that you can buy from the newly-launched  Inspirationz  catalogue.

Hugely inspiring too to see that the Inspirationz Motivational Video has now had well over 20,00 views in less than a week since it was launched; and with such an array of enthusiastic comments too.

See more of artist and sculptor Joseph Sheppard’s work at his website.

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.)