Monday, 18 October 2010

‘The Hunted Slaves’ – Richard Ansdell

Richard_Ansdell_hunted_slaves‘The Hunted Slaves 1861
Richard Ansdell (1815 – 1885)
Oil on canvas, 184 x 308cm

Painted in 1861, when the slave trade had been abolished, but slavery still existed—and war over slavery was breaking out in North America—it depicts two runaway slaves fighting off the pack of mastiffs sent to hunt them down.

As a metaphor for that global struggle in which they were enmeshed, it’s dead on.

More about the painting and its context here.

Saints, and scholars—and maybe a pagan or seven

So Australian Mary MacKillop has been declared a “saint” by the Pope in Rome for her “submission to the will of God.”  [VIDEO]

A farce built on a fatuity. A submission of a self to a shaggy dog story.  A veneration of nonsense over fact, and of sacrifice over self-interest.

Every time I hear of someone being declared a “saint” I think “how stupid”—since every saint must be recorded has having committed two “miracles,” a fatuous fiction that the “saint”  has the ability (somehow) to suspend or to alter the laws of reality.

I think “how wrong”—how wrong that the only life one human being will ever have has been devoted to denying their chance at happiness on this earth in the vague hope of buying themselves some happiness in another.

And I wonder “by what authority?”—since neither Jesus nor any of his disciples ever mentioned “sainthood” at all.

Which is why, at the same time, I smile quietly to myself. I smile quietly to myself because the whole institution of “sainthood” is just a throwback to the very pagan religions that Christianity claims to have usurped, and to the very idols the pagans worshipped.

Every new saint is a victory for the pagans.

You see, rather than force the good pagan folk of two-thousand years ago to abandon their golden calves, statues of Horus and keepsakes of Venus (as the rules of new religion actually demanded), the second and third century Christians instead began designating “saints” to supplant them all, which in some cases meant building new churches over the very sites the pagans venerated (S. Maria Maggiore, on the site of a temple to the goddess Cybele, is one celebrated example), inventing Christian holidays to supplant the time-honoured pagan ones (an abstemious Christmas most-famously taking over from the far more salacious Saturnalia), and in virtually every case it meant slicing body parts off the new saints to perform the same tasks a superstitious pagan’s rabbit’s foot was called to do.

As barbarous as it was nonsensical.

A “saint” makes about as much sense now as a rabbit’s foot or a horoscope ever did. Which is why the celebrations for this new “saint”—like the celebrations of every “saint”—are as farcical as celebrating the purchase of a new good luck charm.

Affordable housing: Learning from Levittown

For almost two decades now New Zealand homes have been becoming increasingly unaffordable for would-be New Zealand home-buyers.  Even the global financial crisis and the bursting of the housing bubble has done little to arrest the growing problem.

But it’s not difficult to solve.  All it takes is realising the consequences of restricting supply while demand grows or stays the same—which as any first-year economics student could tell you, causes prices to rise.

There was some who believed that even new National ministers Nick Smith, Phil Heatley and the other bozos with building portfolios understood some of that.  There were people who thought they’d been hearing the right noises from these arrogant arseholes before the election, and were prepared to believe the noises meant something.  Until one Tuesday last month…

On Tuesday 12 September 2010, New Zealand’s Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith released the keenly awaited Resource Management Act (New Zealand’s land use law) Phase 2 Reforms, under the rather grand title “Planning reform needed for NZ cities to be competitive” stating –

            “We are not getting the right infrastructure in place at the right time” Dr
        Smith said. “Poor quality decisions on land planning are making homes too expensive.”

He got that much right, but that was all. Sadly, everything else in Smith’s document dump was a continuation of the same poor decisions from the same goddawful bureaucrats who’s caused the whole problem of unaffordable housing in the first place—or, more  accurately, an example of complete inability to make a goddamned decision, and decision at all, with the correct decision being to place a firmly wielded boot up the backside of all them. 

Instead, we got 165 pages of bureaucratic mush concluding that it’s all just too hard, so here’s some blancmange to make it better.

But it’s not that hard at all. After the Second World War a chap called Bill Levitt showed how making affordable homes could be done. 

After the Second World War ended, there was a worry that the 10 million home-coming American GIs were going to be all wanting houses at once, pushing housing prices through the roof.

It didn’t happen because of people like Bill Levitt, who out in Levittown, Long Island, “dragged the American residential construction sector from the ‘horse and buggy’ era to the modern disciplined production one we know today. Bill Levitt figured out how to supply US$7,000 - US$8,000 new suburban houses to SINGLE EARNER young families, earning US$3,500 a year. The wives/partners were not forced to be ‘mortgage slaves’ through that era either.”

A young family could buy a house in Levittown for just 2 to 2.3 times one of their salaries. This was just after the war. For young families who bought there, this set them up for life. Yet in New Zealand’s cities today, a land of peace, young families struggle to buy a home costing less than six or seven times the salary of both of them put together. And that’s before tax.

The resulting problem is almost in-human.

But it’s not insoluble.

As I’ve pointed out frequently here over past years, the simple solution is to stop ring-fencing New Zealand’s cities with planners’ edicts not to build. Take planners’ hands off people’s property so they can   have some certainty over what they can do with it—so they can free up their land to meet demand, and maybe even make a profit off it rather than a catastrophic loss. In the long term, abolish the Resource Management Act that gives these planning creatures power, and replace it with a codification of common law that gives power over land-use back to those who own it.

And in the meantime, as Hugh Pavletich points out, we can learn from the likes of Bill Levitt.  Who to solve the problem of affordable houses just went out and started building lots of them, on affordable land.

If only New Zealanders were allowed to.


UoA Econ Group 19 Oct

Here’s what’s on the bill tomorrow night for the Auckland Uni Econ Group:

The topic for this week’s economics presentation to our ‘Economics for Real People’ group involves one of the most important ideas in economics - and one that is rarely understood. That is, what is the key driver of interest rates? We will see that interest rates depend on the concept known as Time Preference and this implications of this concept are huge.
    We are lucky to have this seminar taken by Sean Kimpton, an economics lecturer from AUT who took us through Say's Law earlier this year. Sean will integrate the idea of Time Preference with reference to all the ideas we have covered this year, and illustrate Time Preference with reference to taxation.
    Some job!
    Gene Callahan notes that “Time preference itself is implied by the existence of human action…All other things being equal, if we didn't prefer the same satisfaction sooner rather than later, we would never act.”    
    “Time Preference” is little known, but it as the centre of all economic calculation.
    “Natural” interest rates are set by Time Preference. The degree to which people save (and consume) is explained by their time preference—this preference is subjective and different for each person and will change over time.  The difference between the Reserve Bank’s interest rates and the “natural” rate set by Time Preference is the very source of the Business Cycle.
    So come along and hear about this little known but hugely important topic.
    We will also provide more information about the November seminar being run in Auckland by Professor Fekete which we have mentioned in recent weeks.  Don't miss the opportunity to listen and learn from another interesting International Economist coming to our shores. 

    What: Presentation on Time Preference
    Date: Tuesday 19th October
    Time: 7:00pm
    Location: Engineering School, Room 3402

It’s Economics for Real People. All real people welcome.

NB: Please note the room and time change for this week.  If you are unsure, the Engineering Building is 20 Symonds St, opposite the Rec Centre.  If you walk through the Engineering School’s main doors off Symonds St and straight across the hall, room 3402 is almost directly opposite the entrance.

See you there!
Fraser, Julian & Peter

The Risk of Republican Betrayal

_jeffrey-perren Guest Post by Jeff Perren

My new article at Pajamas Media, “The Risk of Post-Election Republican Betrayal,” is hot off the presses. It notes:

_Quote There’s been a sea change in the U.S., much quicker and more substantial than liberty lovers might have expected as recently as a year ago. Yet for some of us, it’s hard to escape a nagging question.

And asks:

_QuoteWhat happens after January when the new congressional
session begins … ?

Answers at Pajamas Media.


Sunday, 17 October 2010

Did Winston write Phil Goff’s speech? [update 2]

The Labour Party announced new policy today committing it

  • to raise taxes on anyone with the temerity to earn more than a garbage collector;
  • to ban New Zealanders selling their land or shares to anyone who doesn’t look like us; and
  • to encourage the Reserve Bank to substitute its production of printed paper for the production of the real goods that New Zealand really needs.

Which is to say that it’s abandoned common sense in favour, respectively, of envy, xenophobia, and the economic alchemy of inflationism.

No wonder Winston Peters felt so much at home when he was sitting around their cabinet table.

UPDATE 1: According to Martyn Bradbury, making Labour look like NZ First is “making Labour stand for something.”

Martyn Bradbury is  45  36  12  take your pick.

UPDATE 2: This comment from Ruth is worth repeating:

All Goff needed to say was:
        "We know NZers can not afford to purchase desirable farmland in their own
     country, so Labour is going to create the economic conditions in which they can."

How uplifting and positive that would have been. Instead he chose to drag everyone down.
The conditions required to allow a foreigner to buy land are nothing short of blackmail already.

Ain’t that the sad truth.

Something Heroic in Their Way of Trading

Guest post by Robert Tracinski

_robert_tracinski Until a few days ago, I had only been loosely following the drama of the miners in Chile who were trapped a half-mile underground after a mine collapse in early August and who managed to stay alive until they were rescued on Wednesday night. But it was during the coverage of the rescue, when the last of the miners came to the surface, that I heard something that made this story much more interesting.

Photo 1 of 6 It was the statement of the last miner to be rescued, shift supervisor Luis Urzua, whose first words to Chile's president were, "I hand the shift over to you."

I thought that was a wonderful expression of the ethics of work. It conveys the mentality, not of a victim, but of a productive man who takes seriously his responsibility to act to achieve his values. Urzua viewed the problem of his and his men's survival as part of his job, to be approached with the same professionalism and rationality. He was "on the job" throughout the emergency, completing what some observers are already calling "the longest shift in mining history."

An item on a CNN blog tells us about Urzua's crucial role.

_Quote After the Chilean mine collapsed on August 5, shift boss Luis Urzua divided the lone cans of tuna in the dark cave among the men to keep them alive.
Without food, light, or contact with the outside world for days, the shift boss organized the 32 others into three work shifts. He kept them busy, and he helped keep them alive. He led the group that was forced into living in continual darkness—and kept their spirits and solidarity intact as they faced living in a cramped area with high humidity and hot temperatures....
    Inside the underground cavern, Urzua, who has worked in mining 31 years, pored over diagrams of the mine, working with rescuers to construct a plan for the escape.
And so it was fitting that he would be the one who offered to be the last man out. Only after all the other men were each lifted to safety one by one would Urzua leave the mine.

This last detail really struck me. It is the kind of attitude we associate with military heroism; Chile's president compared Urzua to a ship's captain who leaves a sinking boat only after he is sure all of his men are safe. And this comparison reminded me of something Alexis de Tocqueville observed, more than 200 years ago, about American merchants. After recounting the hardships and risk-taking that made Americans the leaders in global shipping at the time, he concluded: "I cannot express my thoughts better than by saying that the Americans put something heroic into their way of trading." So, apparently, do Chilean miners.

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan is good at capturing the sense-of-life dimension of political events, and her column on this story names the reason why it has captivated the world.

_QuoteWhat a thing Chile has done. They say on TV, "Chile needed this." But the world needed it. And the world knew it: That's why they watched, a billion of them, as the men came out of the mine.
Why did the world need it? Because the saving of those men gave us something we don't see enough, a brilliant example of human excellence—of cohesion, of united and committed action, of planning and execution, of caring. They used the human brain and spirit to save life. All we get all day every day is scandal. But this inspired....
Chile this week moved the world not by talking but by doing, not by mouthing sympathy for the miners, but by saving them. The whole country—the engineers and technicians, the president, the government, the rescue workers, other miners, medics—set itself to doing something hard, specific, physical, demanding of commitment, precision, and expertise. And they did it. Homer [Hickam], the coal miner's son turned [NASA engineer] who was the subject of the 1999 film "October Sky" [As usual, the original book, Rocket Boys, is much better.—RWT], said Wednesday on MSNBC that it was "like a NASA mission." Organized, thought through, "staying on the time line, sequential thinking." "This is pretty marvelous," he said.  "This is Chile's moon landing," said an NBC News reporter.

She then brings out the obvious comparison between Chile's achievement and the helpless floundering of America’s current president.

_QuotePresident Obama this week told the New York Times, speaking of his first two years, that he realized too late "there's no such thing as shovel-ready projects." He's helpless in the face of environmental impact statement law. But every law, even those, can be changed if you have the vision, will, instinct and guts to do it, if you start early, if you're not distracted by other pursuits.
"Shovel ready." Chile just proved, in the profoundest sense, it is exactly that.

Noonan gets only so far: that the mine rescue is a sight of competence and human achievement. The Journal's Daniel Henninger goes the rest of the way, identifying this specifically as "a smashing victory for free-market capitalism." He runs down a list of the technological achievements—many of them made in America—that "showed up in the Atacama Desert from the distant corners of capitalism."

_QuoteIf those miners had been trapped a half-mile down like this 25 years ago anywhere on earth, they would be dead. What happened over the past 25 years that meant the difference between life and death for those men?
Short answer: the Center Rock drill bit.
This is the miracle bit that drilled down to the trapped miners. Center Rock Inc. is a private company in Berlin, Pa. It has 74 employees. The drill's rig came from Schramm Inc. in West Chester, Pa. Seeing the disaster, Center Rock's president, Brandon Fisher, called the Chileans to offer his drill. Chile accepted. The miners are alive....
Samsung of South Korea supplied a cellphone that has its own projector. Jeffrey Gabbay, the founder of Cupron Inc. in Richmond, Va., supplied socks made with copper fiber that consumed foot bacteria, and minimized odor and infection.
Chile's health minister, Jaime Manalich, said, "I never realized that kind of thing actually existed."

I love that last quote. If everything were left up to the health ministries of the world, no matter how sincere and well-intentioned their employees, all of these life-saving and life-enhancing goods would never be available. As Henninger concludes, "In an open economy, you will never know what is out there on the leading developmental edge of this or that industry.... [W]ithout this system running in the background, without the year-over-year progress embedded in these capitalist innovations, those trapped miners would be dead."

And note also the benevolence of capitalism: that these products were offered to Chile's rescue effort by entrepreneurs who were eager to demonstrate to the world the value of their achievements.

The Chilean mine rescue merely shows us in a particularly dramatic form what is being demonstrated every day in the ordinary functioning of a free economy. After more than two centuries of such demonstrations, it is time to recognize the life-and-death value of capitalism—and of the moral virtues it embodies.

* * * *

Robert Tracinski Robert Tracinski writes daily commentary at He is the editor of The Intellectual Activist magazine and the TIA Daily e-newsletter. 
This post is copyright Robert Tracinski, and  appears by permission.

Friday, 15 October 2010

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: The miner miracle edition

Friday, thank Galt it’s Friday—and time for another ramble ‘round the ‘net.  And with the miner miracle yesterday in Chile and the minor miracle on the netball court in Delhi, it’s the end of a week with much to celebrate.  But first, there’s more to be said about Simon Power-Lust ‘s wish to “regulate” the “Wild West” of the internet….

  • Eric Crampton is incensed. “I moved to NZ taking less money for more freedom. National is reneging on the deal. Somebody punch Power for me.”
    MacDoctor explains the point for Simple Simon: “There is a word for regulation of opinion: censorship. New Zealand is a free society precisely because I can call you an idiot, Mr Power, and not be shot at dawn by your goons.”
    Go Fer Yer Guns, Power! – MACDOCTOR
    Regulate What?PUBLIC ADDRESS
    The Thought Police are Mobilising – OSWALD BASTABLE
    Cry “Power-Lust” and let rip the censorship of the blogosphere – NOT PC
  • God gets none of the blame for getting the miners trapped, but all of the credit for them getting saved? Does that seem fair? Especially when it was capitalism that saved the miners. “The profit = innovation dynamic was everywhere at the mine rescue site.” [Hat tip Ari Armstrong]
    Capitalism rescued the miners – Daniel Henninger, WALL STREET JOURNAL
    Where Was God when the Miners Needed Him? - SOLO
  • Why is the Royal NZ Herald going so hard to sell Ian WishHard’s new book? A “story that fills the entire front page … a story about an unsolved murder committed forty years ago, a story prompted by the reaction of the victims' daughter after reading a book by Ian Wishart, a book which puts the blame on a man who is now dead and which offers no new evidence.” Why?
    Second that emotion – Paul Litterick, FUNDY POST
  • Len Brown’s been dreaming the Think Bigger dream—an Auckland train set bigger than any ever seen before in these parts. The simple truth however is that his ideas will (at best) benefit only a tiny percentage of commuters at a cost of thousands of dollars for every other Aucklander.
    Len's boondoggle – LIBERTY SCOTT
  • Do we really need to have several years effort and $1.7 billion (plus cockups) of our money spent on a new motorway between Puhoi and Wellsford, when with a little tinkering, a quarter of the time and just one-tenth of that sum the existing road could be made to work?
    “Operation Lifesaver” – a better solution for Puhoi-Wellsford – AUCKLAND TRANSPORT BLOG
  • bigmac Oh yeah, the Big Mac Index is out this week, “a clever, if simplistic way” to measure the purchasing power of the world’s currencies—and potentially very useful as currencies begin their race to the bottom.
    The Big Mac Index is Out – ECONOMIC POLICY JOURNAL
  • And because you’re bound to ask, according to the Big Mac Index, the NZ Dollar is undervalued by 4% according to this measure. 
    Big Mac Index 2010 – ANTI DISMAL
  • More on moron Bernard Hickey.  And there’s something strange when the Business Editor at left-leaning Scoop, for goodness sake, has to explain free markets to someone who claims to have been a one-time supporter.
    SMELLIE SNIFFS THE BREEZE: What future for Smellsianism? – Patrick Smellie, SCOOP
  • Pakistani jihadists are insisting that American aid to the benighted state should have all the branding deleted because it offends them. Delete the branding? You know what, says Pamela Geller, why not just delete the aid?
    Perhaps we should just delete the aid – ATLAS SHRUGS
  • John Lennon would have been seventy this week. In a land that had forgotten what music sounded like, it’s easy to remember how refreshing his music was.
    It’s Johnny’s Birthday. . . – RATIONAL JENN
  • Margaret Thatcher was eighty this week.  In a grey, fey socialist seventies, she truly was a real breath of freedom and fresh air.
    Happy Birthday, MaggieLIBERTY SCOTT


  • Now this is cool, especially with your speakers up to eleven: Obama can’t Gymkhana [hat tip Marcus B]
  • There are a thousand reasons for procrastination—and a thousand ways to do it—but (as Austrians could have told you) Time Preference has a lot to do with it.  And Victor Hugo might have had the best way to avert it. [Hat tip Amy P]
    Later: What we can learn from procrastination – NEW YORKER
  • A recovering anti-plastite confesses.” Plastic is a good thing. Why did I let the Luddites infect my thinking for so long? (Warning: this post is a rant, and only a rant.)”
    Don’t Be a Plastic Bashing Luddite! – Amy Mossoff, THE LITTLE THINGS
  • "Don’t give him the Nobel – he’s right-wing!” Some members of the Nobel committee are wondering if they might have made a blunder with the award to Mario Vargas Llosa.
    "Don’t give him the Nobel – he’s right-wing! – SPIKED
    Mario Vargas Llosa wins the Nobel Prize despite having abandoned the Left – Daniel Hannan, TELEGRAPH
  • Here’s a few simple solutions to every country’s immigration problems.
    How Should the US Reform its Immigration Policy? – MOTHER OF EXILES
  • “Global warming is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life.”
    brGlobal warming fraud: the tide begins to turn – James Delingpole, TELEGRAPH
  • Carbon dioxide is bad for the planet? Hell no, Carbon dioxide makes plants grow.  Latest evidence of the bleeding obvious:
    Warmer, wetter climate helping US farmers grow more crops – USA TODAY
  • Long delays, usurious costs, and messy decision-making means High Court litigation cases are in “a death spiral,” with most potential litigants plumping instead for arbitration, mediation and other initiatives to resolve disputes rather than go to the main courts. The collapsing of the courts has been in full plummet for some years…with the result that many enterprises are not willing to do any business at all in New Zealand because of their lack of confidence in the courts.
    ”Meanwhile, down at The Northern Club, members mourn – after 70-odd years of coining it at the estate’s expense - the hasty settlement in Jarndyce and Jarndyce.”
    Why 'private courts' are booming – NBR
  • Today’s sage advice is that older women are always better.  They don’t tell, they don’t smell, they won’t yell, and they’re always grateful as hell.  Apparently Benjamin Franklin understood this 230 years ago!
    On affairs with older women – STEPHEN HICKS
  • And you thought you knew how to make a pencil?  It’s a little more complex than you might have thought…

  • Reuters picks the world’s top ten sexiest building.  They only score five out of ten by my count, but any list with both Calatrava and Wright is my kind of list. (Make sure to click on the slideshow at the top right.)
    Top 10 sexiest buildings – STUFF
  • You want to know what the world of online communities looks like?  Here’s an online map.
    Online Communities 2 - XKCD
  • Dear friend,
    Do you want to learn how to use Web 2.0 Social Media to become a millionaire overnight? How would you like to increase your Twitter followers by eleventy-billion in 3.68 seconds? Do you want to use Twitter to make a gazillion dollars through affiliate marketing and multi-level marketing schemes? Do you use the term "Twitter Coach" to describe yourself?
    Great news! You're well on your way to becoming a Social Media DouchebagTM already!
    Now with more Web 2.0! – SOCIAL MEDIA DOUCHEBAG
  • The Onion has caught up with a script that’s been floating around Hollywood for at least 75 years. It’s had more than 250 stars and 300 directors attached, and been rewritten 600 times, but backers swear this time it’s a go.
    Script Has Been Floating Around Hollywood For 75 Years – THE ONION
  • MaxAndHarry Cult hero Max Rooke announced his retirement this week from Australian football—not even Geelong’s Man of Steel can last forever—prompting #MaxRookeFacts to immediately become the top trending Twitter topic in Australia. Sample “facts”:
        * Max Rooke once participated in the running of the bulls. He walked. The bulls ran away.
        * Godzilla is a Japanese rendition of Max Rooke.
        * Max Rooke faked his 2009 concussion to allow Joel Selwood a few moments to experience what it's like to be Max Rooke.
        * BREAKING NEWS: RAAF unveils new weapon consisting of Max Rooke and his mate Harry (right)
        * I've just got word from the International Chess Rules Committee... They have renamed the Castle piece the "Max Rooke"
        * Aus $ surging for parity against US$ due to Australia being a safe haven – it’s protected by Max Rooke.
        * E.T. only went home because Max told him to.
        * Max Rooke has refused to be in the next series of 'Underbelly'...he wanted something tougher.
        * Retiring after Max Rooke is like going on stage after Elvis.
        * Max Rooke didnt retire because his body wont hold up, he was worried about the body of every other player.
    And from his former captain, Tom Harley:
        * A-Gift-to-My-ChildrenI just told Max about #maxrookefacts. He said "What's twitter?" I'm closing my account because what Max doesn't know, isn't worth knowing.

  “Beware of all politicians everywhere.
They excelled at recess
when they were in school but
have excelled at little since."
             - investor Jim Rogers, from his new book A Gift to My Children

  • fed-spending-krugman But the US government needs to spend more, says Paul Krugman!!  Open your eyes, Paul, it already has been.
    Yes, Paul Krugman, Spending Has Steeply Increased – HERITAGE
  • When the US sneezes, we catch a cold.  So when the US gets pneumonia … Doug Reich has a great summary of where the US is now. Economic illiteracy. Bailout crack. Capital strike. A “race to the bottom” for the world’s currencies. New ways for the govt to get into your pocket.  Yes, Virginia, it’s all bad.
    What I'm Thinking #1 – Doug Reich, RATIONAL CAPITALIST
  • It happened this way with the Roman Empire too, you know.
    Inflation and the Fall of the Roman Empire – Joseph Peden, MISES DAILY
  • When you can see economic disaster from the air, you know a country is really stuffed. Here’s the Florida housing bust from the air. “The images of half finished (and barely started) developments are strangely beautiful, with a geometric symmetry that belies the state of human misery these developments represent: Lost deposits, bankruptcy, misallocated capital.”
    Aerial Footage: Portrait of a Housing Bust -  Barry Ritholtz, THE BIG PICTURE
  • Even devotees of Austrian Economics have debates about Fractional Reserve Banking—to what extent it’s part of the problem, and how it might be made not. John McVey suggests talking a little bit of Fractional Reserve Banking is like taking a little bit of radiation…
    Historical data in the fractional reserve banking debate – JOHN McVEY
  • Former chairman of BB&T Bank John Allison—who during his 2o years at the helm saw it expand to thirty times the size it was when he took over—and who ensured it was one of the few to successfully weather the present financial storm—has a few things he wants to tell you about the financial meltdown. And when Allison talks, it makes sense to listen. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks, who’s linked all eight clips in the series together for you]

  • The week before he was in Sydney talking to us, Yaron Brook was in Guatemala talking to the only institution in the Americas dedicated to freedom.  A busy man before a receptive audience.  And guess what, people: not everybody is a “utility maximiser.”
    Ayn Rand: Radical for Capitalism – Yaron Brook, UNIVERSIDAD, FRANCISCO MARROQUIN
  • Eric Crampton has made his debut in Sydney on the Mont Pelerin stage (something Yaron can’t do until next year) with a presentation arguing that nannying is bad economics—i.e., “that paternalism is far less beneficial and far more costly than voters expect.”  As a public choice economist however, he is unfortunately silent on the morality of minding your own damn business.
    Address to the Mont Pelerin Society - OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR
  • Pssst. While the danger still exists of the American Tea Party movement being commandeered by religionists, it’s worth reminding ourselves of a bit of history.
    America is a Monument to Reason, not Faith – RULE OF REASON
  • I’ve said it before. A love of good art is essential to human cognition.
    The Cognitive Function of Art – ROBERTO SARRIONANDIA
  • Induction is at the root of all knowledge. And Francis Bacon is at the root of virtually all induction. So wouldn’t you want to know what he had to say about it?
    Bacon’s Theory of Induction as Presented in the Novum Organum Part 1 of 2 – Roderick Fitts, INDUCTIVE QUEST
    Bacon’s Theory of Induction as Presented in his Novum Organum, Part 2 of 2 – Roderick Fitts, INDUCTIVE QUEST
  • Pretty much every Objectivist in the world wants to know what’s going on between Leonard Peikoff and John McCaskey, and what it means for Objectivism. The Doctors Hsieh do their best to get to the bottom of it all.
    The Resignation of John McCaskey: The Facts – NOODLE FOOD
  • An online US College advice blog has a list of the 30 best blogs for exploring Objectivism. A few strange ones there (Kinsella, FFS!), but a good start.
    30 Best Blogs for Exploring Objectivism – ACREDITED ONLINE COLLEGES
  • And an Objectivist blogger is volunteering to do for Objectivist blogs what Tim Selwyn hasn’t had time to do with NZ blogs since December—to rank them all.  Big job.
    Who’s Actually Getting Read in Objectivism (Online) – DANIELLE MORRILL
  • How does drug prohibition affect current violence in the U.S. and Mexico? How do you think.
    Prohibition Déjà vu – THE UNDERCURRENT
  • To mark what would have been Beatle John Lennon’s birthday this week, here’s his best song from their second-best album:
  • And to mark the passing of Australian soprano Joan Sutherland this week, here she is in the very scene of the very opera that first brought her fame, and which she and her husband brought back to the stage: the Mad Scene from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. First a short one, then the full scene (complete with a very strange intrusion from the TV show on which it appeared)

Have a great weekend!
And keep an eye out for those possums on Great Barrier.

When the possum hits the island

The Hauraki Gulf paradise of Great Barrier Island is mercifully free of possums. 

That is to say, it was mercifully free of the pests … until now—until the arrival this week of an Auckland City Council roading gang, who showed up to play around on the roads armed with a truck, a crane and a barge.  And a possum.

The possum came in hidden somewhere around the crane, locals surmise, and once the barge nosed up to the island the possum swiftly identified its chance and made its bid for freedom.  Successfully, as it happens.

Naturally, the local (fully-staffed) Dept of Conservation (DoC) office sprang immediately into action. They looked at each other for a few moments, brewed up several cups of tea, wrote thesmelves a report, then sent a memo to Head Office calling for reinforcements.

This is how things are done in the local (fully-staffed) DoC office.

So now the small island has several extra trappers, many extra DoC staff, many new cars zooming about the roads with sirens wailing … and one small possum happily making itself at home in its new habitat.  And there’s at least one eagle-eyed local who’s prepared to swear it’s a pregnant female…

Which reminds me of an old joke told around DoC office water coolers:

Q: How do you wipe out possums?
A: You give DoC the job of protecting them.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Man Exalted (aka, God Releasing Stars Into the Universe), by Michael Newberry

emStars (1) The Man Exalted (aka, God Releasing Stars Into the Universe),
oil on linen, 7' x 5'
Michael Newberry,1993-2000

Here’s something that makes concrete the exaltation I’m sure we’re all feeling at the rescue of the miners, and with the Silver Ferns’ last-second win in Delhi.

Stephen Hicks describes the work:

_Quote This is a big composition that is in transition from black and white underground painting to color overlay. The subject is a man on his outspread knees, with his eyes and mouth open wide, and his outreaching hands extended in an ecstatic gesture. The man is releasing a current of fantastic light that weaves and curves through the night space. There are rocks in the foreground and underneath him. In the background there is indication of mountains to come. The artist is only beginning to apply color to his black and white underground work but the vibrations of light and shadow are already perceptible.
    The man is naked, unaffected, pure. And he becomes one with the energy. The man is a physical catalyst for the expression of the light; the light is the man’s nature.

Cry “Power-Lust” and let rip the censorship of the blogosphere [updated]

While most eyes here and round the world were on the miner miracle in Chile, a speech in the House by Simon Power-Lust this afternoon signalled (if anyone were looking) that things ahead are looking ominous for bloggers.

Cameron Slater’s tilt against name suppression did eventually earn him a partial victory. But as I said when Cameron, aka Whale Oil, was given his lumps earlier by Justice Harvey, that decision was very much not a victory for free speech—because in his bewailing the lack of official “oversight” of the blogosphere, Harvey was floating a trial balloon to which Power-Lust this afternoon gave motive power by asking Jeffrey Palmer’s inveterately lemon-sucking Law Commission “to review the adequacy of regulations around how the internet interacts with the justice system.”

In other words, to begin drawing up plans for full regulation of the blogosphere by bureaucrats like Jeffrey—who has never seen a committee, board or tribunal he hasn’t wanted to join.

We may continue to post what we like and what we think. For the moment.  But all that will stop when Jeffrey Palmer and Simon Power-Lust—men who look at the freedom of the blogosphere and see only a “Wild West” that needs manacles—men between them who have a face that needs punching and an ego that needs puncturing—bring in the very shackles on we bloggers that Justice Harvey’s 70-page decision presaged.

This is how easily censorship comes to a country.

Who now will rise up in protest?

UPDATE: Question answered. Voices already raised in protest among those about to be shackled:

  • FIGJAM dreaming if he thinks he can control us – Cam Slater, WHALE OIL
    ”Instead of embrac ing freedom, FIGJAM has decided to go all 1984 on us. He will succeed in regulat­ing me and my fellow bloggers like Andrew Williams succeeded in winning re-election. I’ve been looking for a new target and I think I just found one…”
  • Government looking at further regulation of speech on the Internet – Thomas Beagle, TECH LIBERTY
    ”These is no mention in the press release of the freedom of expression guaranteed to New Zealanders in the Bill of Rights Act. Nor is there any recognition that many forms of old media such as leaflets, posters and books are also unregulated…”
  • Eff Off, Power! – CRUSADER RABBIT
    ”…this, in a socialist country where the MSM are no more than lickspittles pushing government propaganda and recycling handouts!  No wonder this little statist creep wants blogs to conform to the same standards’.”
  • High Noon – ROAR PRAWN
    ”…who in tarnation advised him to set about making the bloggers and online community the enemy?”
  • From The Hood : Absolutist Simon Power Corrupts Absolutely – Lyndon Hood, WEREWOLF
    ”Simon is so powerful nobody’s allowed to argue with him..”
  • Internet no wild west – lawyer – NBR
    “I don’t agree internet is the Wild West,” Rick Shera told NBR…

While other voices are raised just to clear their own throats and say “on the one hand…”

More worthless degrees please - Cabinet

Cabinet this week decided to take $55m of your money out of training new apprentices to instead create more undergraduate places in worthless degrees. Why worthless? Just think about this simple attempt at barter—a great way by which to measure real value:

I want an electrical engineer and computer programmer and a automechanic to make me a laptop, and I-Pad and a car, and in return I will give them "sociologicizing," a "lecture on women's studies," and a dissertation on deconstruction."

Is there any way in which that would be any kind of a bargain?

[Hat tip Small Dead Animals]

NZ is unaffordable [updated]

With ballooning debts and interest payments of a quarter-of-a-billion a week – and NZ’s elderly population set to double in the next 40 years --  it’s obvious even to ratings agencies who failed to spot the coming of the global monetary crisis that NZ’s current system (whence one group steals from another using govt as intermediary) is long-term unsustainable.

More old people, combined with a declining working age population, could escalate pressures on New Zealand's long term fiscal position, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services says
    "Without further reforms to address these mounting spending pressures, increasing net general government debt over the period may weaken New Zealand's long-term credit quality," he said.
    The increasing trend was in line with global findings, with S&P projecting that the government debt burdens of most advanced economies could reach unsustainable levels of more than 300 percent of GDP in the next 40 years, without fresh measures to address long term age-related spending trend.

There is only one sure-fire way to address the rise and rise of Borrow-and-Spend—which even at today’s record low interest rates is imminently unaffordable: Stop borrowing; stop spending.

In other words, stop the moral cannibalism of thinking an ever-growing group of people can live at the expense of everyone else.

How do you begin that? Simple, says my colleague Dr McGrath, taking a deep breath:

The government should immediately take transitional steps toward a privatization of health, welfare, education, accident insurance, scientific research, sport, broadcasting, the arts, charities, aviation, housing, environmental property rights, fisheries, consumer research, trade, electricity generation, sewage services, rubbish collection, water reticulation, gas supply, railways, land information, transport, roading, agriculture, the maritime industry, the fire service, earthquake and fire insurance, the blood service, artificial limbs, forest research, food quality rating, gambling, postal services, symphony orchestras, walking, tourism, deer hunting, apartheid, land ownership, children, disabled people, drugs, property valuation, banking, superannuation arrangements, fishing, business mergers, Maori people, Pacific Island people, motor vehicles, women, weather forecasting, welfare, widgets and juveniles.
    Our credit rating is heading toward junk status, our currency sinking next to the Australian dollar. New Zealand is fast becoming the new Greece. There will be riots in the streets when our debt level leads to cuts in welfare benefits and pensions. This can be avoided if our government acts now.

That’s what a responsible government would do—or at least contemplate. Instead, Smile-and-Wave will keep on spending his time apologising for things TV hosts might say, while continuing to Borrow and Spend.



Ayn Rand, by Bosch Fawstin _Quote Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage ... Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.
            - Ayn Rand

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Helen’s Puppet, and Winston’s Antidote

Libz leader Dr Richard McGrath ransacks the newspapers for stories and headlines on issues affecting our freedom.

This week: Helen’s Puppet, and the Antidote to Winston Peters

** (NZ HERALD) “Carter Tells Council: I’ll Dish Dirt On Senior MPs: Expelled ex-Labour MP Chris Carter threatens to not only throw the toys from the cot, but burn the whole house down…”

Professional victim/invalid Chris Carter declares war on the Labour Party establishment after he is chucked out for dissing Phil Goff. Now we wait to see whether Carter’s threats are hot air, or whether he can actually do further damage to the red socialists. If Carter’s  bluff is called and he is found to be the Hollow Man most of us think he is, I’m sure he’ll need another two months of sick leave.
    Chris, I’m sure you were thrown out of Labour because you’re gay. Go on, there’s still some mileage in that. Never mind about all the other gay people in the Labour Party. You’re special. You were always Helen Clark’s favourite lapdog. One has to wonder if the Great Painter herself, now busy running the lives of people in other countries with the UN, might have a hand in the shit-fighting going on in the red camp.
    Meanwhile, I can only cheer on Chris Carter from the sidelines and encourage him to rip the Nanny State Party to shreds.
    The blue socialists will also be watching with a broad smile on their fat little Tory faces.

** (CHRISTCHURCH PRESS) “Is Foreign Ownership Of Land So Bad?University lecturer Stephen Hickson challenges the xenophobic racists who only want people who look and sound like New Zealanders to own land here. Or rest homes…”

I agree with the arguments Stephen Hickson makes in favour of free trade and foreign investment, questioning petty demagogues like Winston Peters who shun foreign investment in New Zealand and who would prefer if we pulled down the shutters and became the North Korea of the South Pacific.
    (Poor old Winston Peters. On the comeback trail, he plays shamelessly to his constituency of those older folk taxed into poverty by the red and blue socialists (with the help of enablers like NZ First, the Maori Party, the Alliance and ACT) yet these poor impoverished folk keep voting their own thieves back into government.  Winston doesn’t want ownership of rest homes falling into the hands of foreigners (read: Asians). Does he know that ‘foreigners’ have bought up large swathes of the funeral directing industry?)
    Much of what Hickson says is good common sense. For instance:

        “The pool of savings in New Zealand is too small to fund this expansion and so we
      use the savings of people overseas who are willing to invest in a great place with
      great prospects.”


        “To increase our savings is very simple - as a nation we just need to consume less.
      Of course the reality is never as simple as all that.”

Hickson gets a bit wobbly here though:

        “Are we prepared to reduce expenditure on health and education in order to save
      more? Remember the Government is a consumer and a saver as well. Are we prepared
      to reduce our standard of living in some other way?”

He seems to assume that the state is the best (?only) provider of “quality” health care and education. In fact, the record shows again and again that state provision of services is inefficient, coercive,and leaves people harmed.
    But he gets back on track later in the article:

        “New Zealand is a small trading nation in a much bigger world. That bigger world has
      a lot to offer us and every time we restrict foreign ownership we also reduce our access
      to the best know-how that the world has to offer.
        “For every foreign buyer looking to buy there is a New Zealander looking to sell.
      By restricting or preventing foreign ownership we are preventing a fellow New
      Zealander from selling what they themselves own for the best that they can get.”

And later:

        “When it comes to private businesses, assets and land it is odd to think that "we" own
      them. On the day before a New Zealand farm is sold to a foreign owner, I didn't own it
      and I had no right to say how that farm should be used.
        “The day after it is sold I still don't own it and I still don't have any rights to say how
      it is used.
        “The new foreign owner is also subject to the laws of the land just as much as the
      previous owner. If a piece of land is important for, say, access to a river or beach then
      that should be written explicitly into the title of the land. Who owns it is then irrelevant.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself. Bravo, Stephen!  For the record, my Party welcomes foreign investment in New Zealand,  and the jobs and prosperity such investment would without a doubt create.                

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

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose - John Singer Sargent


Anybody can paint a sunset.  And virtually everybody who can hold a brush and paint straight has painted “the innocence of childhood.” But only an artist of the calibre of Sargent could combine the two to create this unforgettable scene, evocative of our own summer childhoods when snatching that last moment of daylight seemed so precious, and so important.

The skill it takes makes me proud to be a long-lost, distant, relation.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

It’s not every day you meet a real-life hero [updated]

A small but very loud enthusiastic New Zealand contingent flew over to Sydney to hear and meet up with Yaron Brook, who’s been doing a fantastic job as head of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights

Sydney-Brook 04We’re the excited-looking bunch around him. Yaron’s the nervous-looking one in the middle. 

Keep your eyes and ears peeled for some very exciting plans afoot for Australasian Objectivists—about which, more soon.

UPDATE:  No matter how many times you’ve visited Sydney, it’s impossible not to enjoy it. It’s a great city in which to be a tourist.



R.I.P La Stupenda

La Stupenda, aka Joan Sutherland, Australia's greatest-ever soprano, has died at 83.  Lindsay Perigo has two ear-shattering memories.

Overhauling the urban planning process, to make life easier for whom?

Once again, this National-led Government is on the move.

Seizing the opportunity of Auckland’s new super-sized bureaucracy, Environment Minister Nick Smith has leapt into the public eye to announce he’s going to free up the rules of the Resource Management Act to make life easier for … for … for whom?

Will he be freeing up the rules so that property-owners can build on and develop their own properties without first jumping into the maw of a bureaucracy now made much bigger?

Hell no.

Will he be getting rid of all the rules and regulations that mean you sometimes have to wait years and pay thousands of dollars just to build a bigger garage?

You’ve got be joking!

Will he be removing the restrictions on using urban land, so that land prices might finally have a chance to be affordable again?

Nothing could be further from Nick Smith’s small mind.

What he proposes is not to make life easier for home-owners, property-owners and would-be home-builders. The people he wants to make things easier for are the planners. The busybodies. The unproductive aresholes to whom you already have to go cap in hand to ask permission to produce. The gorgeous bastards who have already got your property by the balls.

This, according to this government, is what it means to “overhaul the urban planning process”:

_Quote The Environment Minister has launched a plan to overhaul urban planning and development policies to speed up the planning process.
    Nick Smith and new Auckland mayor Len Brown released a discussion document on Tuesday night on changes to how approval is sought for land use, transport and public works in cities.
    The proposals include changes to the Resource Management, Land Transport and Public Works acts…

Changes that will allow planners to write bigger and more bossy planning documents, and to give their infrastructure-building colleagues greater and greater ability to slip all the regulatory leashes that will still bind everybody else.

This is what this government still thinks is “simplifying and streamlining” the planning process.

_QuoteDr Smith says current planning systems are cumbersome and inefficient. He hopes a bill will go before Parliament early next year…

NickTheDickIt’s sure as hell true that “current planning systems are cumbersome and inefficient”—not to mention iniquitous—but once again we see confirmed that the focus of this government is not on making life easier for the ordinary New Zealanders who actually keep this country moving. They want instead to make the country safer for big government. They want to make our lives harder, while making it easier for all the bastards who get in our way.

And Auckland’s super-sized bureaucracy has just gone and made it all worse. 

That’s worse for you and I. But much, much better for them.

Chilean Rescue [update 2]

All eyes on Chile today.

We might—we hope—be witness to a dramatic rescue.

UPDATE 2: Forget that live stream. It’s busted. Try this one.  Or this one, if you prefer a BBC talking head over your footage.

McDonald's ObamaCare Waiver Violates Rule of Law

Guest Post by Jeff Perren

Please pop over to Breitbart's Big Government and read my newest article, a short commentary on McDonald's grant of a waiver to avoid some of ObamaCare's mandates.

It begins:

_Quote In a blatantly unconstitutional move, the Feds have let McDonald’s off the hook from some of ObamaCare’s requirements. This violation of the Equal Protection clause is just one more reminder, as if we needed it, that D.C. is now completely ignoring the rule of law and deciding issues based on political pressure and pull.

I encourage you to comment, there and here. Especially there.