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:


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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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: