Monday, 4 July 2011

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: I divorce thee, I divorce thee,I divorce thee

_McGRathLibertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath invites you to come on down to his surgery for an inoculation against this week’s stories and headlines on issues affecting our freedom.
This week:

  • NZ HERALD: “Swim star 'divorces' parents - A 17 year old New Zealander wins a court battle to allow him independence from his parents so that he can compete under his own steam as a swimmer without his parents' permission…

THE DOCTOR SAYS: This sort of situation may become more common over time, as social norms evolve. With 18 year olds now having the vote and being considered adults, there will be 16 and 17 year olds who feel they are ready to take on the rights and responsibilities of adulthood, and who are entitled to take that case before a court equipped to hear it. (Equally, there is very little option left to parents when their offspring will not accept 'house rules' and declare they wish to charter their own course through life.) 
    Of course, for the teenager this will mean having to finance all their living expenses and the cost of leisure activities, health maintenance and the like, and pay rent if they wish to remain living with their parents. It will mean teenagers having to do the time if they do the crime, or parents being expected to settle the bill for their children's misdemeanours - but not the taxpayer having to pick up the tab, as is too often the case now. 
    In a society based around respect for individual rights, there would need to be a clear indication as to exactly when parents pass onto each of their children the rights they hold "in trust." Either this would happen at age 18, or earlier if the child decided they were ready to assume adult responsibilities. 
    The Libertarianz Party supports the court's decision but hopes that in time the process of 'divorcing' ones parents could be streamlined and settled outside of the formal (and expensive) justice system through mediation and therefore with the consent of both parties.

THE DOCTOR SAYS: Fair enough comment, as far as it goes. Deborah points out that if you want to make sure that MPs rejected in electorate seats don't sneak back to the trough through the back door, then cross MMP and SM (supplementary member) off your list of options. Personally I like the sound of Single Transferable Vote, as you can vote for only those candidates you like, in order of preference. 
    But the Libertarianz Party's preferred electoral system is any system you like—provided the activities of our elected “representatives” are strictly limited to the protection of individual rights. Ideally, New Zealand would be a constitutional republic, a 'New Freeland' as it were. 
    Years ago, a handful of Libertarianz Party members wrote a suggested constitution for New Zealand that has stood the test of time. It is set on the bedrock of a principled defence of human rights, not the liquefaction of a 'living document' that can be interpreted to mean whatever the government of the day wants it to mean.  
    Basically, the Libertarianz Party doesn't have an opinion on the system by which MPs are elected but what they are able to do once they have been. We want more freedom and less government, regardless of how our governments are elected.

Our Constitution was not written in the sands to be washed away by
each wave of new judges blown in by each successive political wind.

- Hugo Black (American jurist, lawyer and politician best
known for his absolutist belief in the Bill of Rights)

See y’all next week!
Doc McGrath

Obama Gets It: It's the Morality, Stupid

Guest post by Jeff Perren

Like most shrewd Democrats, one reason Obama,usually wipes the floors with Republicans is that he unashamedly defends his positions from a moral point of view.

In another biased editorial masquerading as a news report, the LA Times lays out this one gem:
"This is not just a numbers debate," Obama said Thursday in Philadelphia. "This is a values debate."
Would that the Republican leadership understood that – and had the courage to fight back the right way.

Instead of endlessly talking about jobs, haggling over deficit reduction numbers and the like, Republicans should be talking about what the Federal government should and should not be doing. Mostly the latter.
They'll only make substantial progress when they're willing to declare, as even the generally head-and-shoulders-above Rep. Ryan does not, an important moral truth: that Social Security and Medicare aren't just absurdly expensive, they're morally wrong.

No rational moral argument could justify taking from some citizens to support others, particularly at the Federal level. No taxpayer in Illinois has the moral obligation to support another in Idaho, no matter how much I might need it. Theft is considered wrong in almost every moral code adopted in the past 2,500 years.

While Progressives sometimes lose debates over economics, they've been winning the culture war for a long time, and will continue to win because of this very reason. Only if — and it's a very big if — Republicans will confidently come out in favor of self-reliance as a moral imperative, and in favor of charity as a marginal, personal matter, only then will the welfare state get significantly shrunk.

No, I'm not holding my breath, either.

Friday, 1 July 2011

“Little Hitlers”


All the chatterati are pretending to be incensed about Don Brash’s characterisation of council’s clipboard-wielders as “little Hitlers.”

Oh the outrage! I’m so offended! What sort of term is that to call all those nice helpful folk at the council!

What sort of term is it? Answer: as a random trawl around the internet “reveals” (as if you didn’t know) it’s a very common one:

  • 1957, "Three Ways," Time, 1 Apr.:
    Editorial writers were saying last week that Egypt's Nasser was getting too big for his boots. . . . The tabloid New York Daily News asked: "What has this little Hitler ever done to make himself noteworthy?"
  • 2001, “"SI" Equals "System Imbecilic",” APS Physics website
    The new abomination is SI. Because the size of approved units progresses by thousands it is awkward for almost everybody. Democracy has been achieved. The Angstrom is verboten. One must use nanometers, which make molecular structures harder to think about. The Pascal (one apple-weight per desktop) is the approved unit of pressure, perfect in the eyes of the little Hitlers because it is unintuitive and unpopular. Here even scientists rebel. Many authors give pressures in atmospheres, thus using a familiar and enduring standard. Their papers will be understandable after the Pascal is forgotten-which it will be if scientists have any sense.
  • 2002, “ Rooker attacks council planning 'Hitlers' ,“ The Guardian
    The new housing and planning minister, Lord Rooker, complained today about "little Hitlers" in council planning departments and urged them to be more supportive of new developments.
  • 2005, “Unleashing the Little Hitlers,” No2ID website
    Carol Sarler, writing in The Observer, warns of the tide of petty bureaucracy that would follow in the wake of compulsory ID cards
  • 2005, “Cricket Fan Piers Lashes Out ar Council's 'Little Hitlers',” Mid-Sussex Times
    PARISH councillors have been accused of acting like 'little Hitlers' by controversial newspaper editor Piers Morgan in a row over a village cricket match
  • 2006, “The labyrinthine links of the 'Little Hitlers',” Website of the Families & Social Services Information Team (UK)
    “A significant number of (abusive) parents,” say the guidelines, “are likely to report having experienced genuine medical problems. They may or may not have been substantiated by medical investigations.” Come again? Their children may “present a rosy picture to the outside world”, “have been seriously ill” or have a medical history that started early in life. This is a charter for Little Hitler's and busybodies.
  • 2008, “Now the Little Hitlers at the town hall are getting bigger and nastier,” Daily Mail
    Why is it - and this could concern you directly, since you may be helping one of their number either into or out of power on Thursday week - that so many of our local authorities these days are swinishly vindictive?.. Little Hitlers, we used to call them 60 years ago. Now they're getting bigger.
  • 2009, “Little Hitlers,” Sunday Times
    Encouraged by Silvio Berlusconi, groups of far-right vigilantes are patrolling the streets of Italy…
  • 2010, “Why aren’t the Conservatives doing better?,” Adam Smith Institute
    I also think that there is a rich vein of public sentiment to be exploited by railing against all the incremental infringements of our liberty that we have suffered over the last decade – promising to get rid of all the bureaucratic little Hitlers that make British lives a misery would surely be a vote winner. In 1951, Winston Churchill campaigned under the slogan "set the people free". If the Conservatives want to reverse their decline in the polls, they desperately need to capture that same sentiment.
  • 2010, “Banned by 'little Hitlers' for daring to speak out? ,” Letter to ThisIsDerbyshire website
    The little Hitlers who run Derby City Council have really exposed themselves.
  • 2011,” Spoke too Soon,” Chrissie’s Place
    The traditional image of the typical council manager as a micro-managing "Little Hitler" is well entrenched in British comedy, and that is because it is so often true.
  • 2011, “Bureaucracy in America,” The Economist
    The common description of bureaucrats as “little Hitlers” (does anyone know who first used this phrase?) fails, or wilfully refuses, to recognise that we all have a little Hitler in us, or more to the point, that Hitler had a little human in him too, and that a human given power will exercise it, no matter how measly it may be.
  • 2011, commenter at CiF Watch , CiF Watch
    I am afraid I really think that was overkill on Spielberg’s part [to “demand Megan Fox be fired from ‘Transformers’ for calling the (Jewish) director of the film, Michael Bay, a Nazi]. Saying ‘X is a jumped up little Hitler’ is part of common discourse. C. S. Lewis described his prep school as ‘Belsen’. OK, poor taste, maybe deserves a talking to and a slapped wrist with a public apology, perhaps, but not firing. This is unhelpful, I think, and totally unnecessary.

Get the point?  And if you’re still pretending you don’t know what the term means:

little Hitler (plural little Hitlers), Noun (derogatory)
An unnecessarily or pretentiously dictatorial person - a jobsworth.
A little Hitler is a self-important tosspot who thinks he's in charge. Someone who makes up arbitrary and/or self-serving rules and has a tantrum if they aren't obeyed. They tend to have a park-keeper/traffic-warden mentality; rules are Law and rules come first. They can't handle people who threaten their authority.

Looks like the perfect term to call these jumped-up sawdust Caesars who tread so heavily on other people’s dreams.

My only disappointment then is that instead of proposing to abolish the Resource Management Act, the RMA, the Act that gives these little Hitlers their power, he instead offers only to “reform” it. Frankly, after nearly two decades of evidence against the RMA and its abuse of property rights, that’s just pissweak. Even Nick Smith talks about “reform.” And he doesn’t mean it either.

Ayn Rand once observed that “When the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce, then you may know your culture is doomed.” They do. And we are. And with the explicit approval of the chatterati.

Here’s Nick Lowe from his album Jesus of Cool:

Here’s Elvis Costello:

And here’s Everything But the Girl (undoubtedly the only time they’ll ever appear here, I promise!):

Some propositions on free speech

Since the country’s going insane over the so-called “death of free speech” because of folk boycotting an opportunistic book by a peddler of cherry-picking innuendo* (indeed, it was the cherry-picker himself who called the boycott the “death of free speech”) let’s examine again some basic propositions of free speech, just so we know what the animal looks like:

Some propositions on free speech

The right to free speech means the right to express one's ideas without danger of coercion, of physical suppression or of interference by the state. 
Censorship is interference by the state in the expression of ideas. (And laws against murder, rape, assault and child sex are sufficient to cover any violation of rights in the censor's current domain.)
A private network refusing to publish your views or a bookshop deciding not to sell your pamphleted screed is not censorship - it is their choice. (Remember choice?)
A private network choosing to offend is their business. Choosing not to watch or to withdraw advertising is yours.
Bad ideas are still ideas. You should be just as free to air them as I should be to ignore them, or to pillory them, ore to refuse to give them a home.
Just as the right to pursue happiness doesn't require that you be made happy, the principle of free speech doesn't demand that anyone provide you with a platform and a microphone.
Just as the right to do what I like with my health and my life does not mean that I have to smoke cannabis, neither does the right to free speech mean I must offend. Just as I must take responsibility for what I do with my health and my life, so too must I take responsibility for what I say.
I may choose to offend, and I have the right to, but free speech doesn't mean I have to. However, anyone able to épater le bourgeosie has always been able to count on free publicity from those being épater-ed. Drawing attention to something you dislike may give that which you dislike even more attention. Think about it.
By itself, "I'm offended," is not an argument. It's just a whine.
Saying you don't like 'South Park' is not a call for censorship. Saying you want it banned would be. Saying "I don't like that," is not censorship.
Organising a voluntary boycott is not censorship. Organising a government ban however would be.
I may be offended, but I may not commit violence against those who offend me. I may boycott, but I may not behead.
Blocking traffic, threats, and forced entry are no part of the right to protest. They are respectively a traffic hazard, an initiation of force and an act of trespass.
"Hate speech" is an illegitimate package deal. Laws against "hate speech" are illegitimate. Laws against conspiracy to commit murder are not.
The right to free speech gives the smallest minority the absolute protection of the state to air their views. The smallest minority is the individual.
My freedom ends where your nose begins. My free speech ends where your rights begin. The right to free speech does not mean that I may incorrectly besmirch your reputation by telling lies about you. This would be called fraud. Nor does it mean you may shout "fire" in a crowded theatre in which there is none, and in which the exit doors have been locked. This would be called fraud with menaces.
Speech is speech, not violent destruction.
Ridicule is better than bans.
Moral persuasion is better than force.
When tyranny occurs, it can be challenged from a thousand presses - but only if free speech and a free press has been valued in the interim; tyranny can never be easily challenged in the absence of the freedom to speak out.
Free speech has been more valued in the abstract than in reality.
"Freedom but..." is not freedom.
Forcing ideas underground does not eradicate them, it incubates them. Bad ideas are anaerobic -- the oxygen of free inquiry kills them. Bad ideas can only be fought with better ones.
If you don't like it, then just turn it off.  Don't get an arm of the state to do it for you.

_ _ _ _ _ _  _

* No, there’s no more need to read this book than any other of the blowhard’s books. Like his Inwhishtigate magazine, they all follow the same pattern of carefully chosen facts, selected out of context and smothered in oodles of innuendo. Why would you read this one? You’ve read one, you’ve read them all.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

QUOTE OF THE DAY: On RWC Bans [updated]

Just for the record, folks, it’s not a ban if the public boycotts another work of fiction by a blowhard. But it would be a ban if the govt decided to outlaw it. Alright? Great.  Just wanted to clear that up.

Because while the whole country gets itself all in a lather about a non-ban on a boorish book, the government continues to pass laws, without opposition, that will impose an actual ban on economic activity around or anywhere near a sporting event.

Latest result of them over-reaching themselves: no-fly zones, no-sign zones, a battalion of jackbooted clipboard wielders warming up to fan out around the country to say “No!” … and now a  New Plymouth school offside with the govt's Rugby World Cup laws because they want to do the same thing they’ve done for every major rugby event at Yarrow Stadium  since time began, which is park a few cars on its sports field to raise a bit of dosh for the school.

What insanity.

I loved this quote by friend Daniel Bell on a Facebook thread discussing this:

It's quite silly really. The tournament is running at a loss, pretty much everyone has admitted this now, but the original reason the Government decided to do this was apparently because of the economic benefits it would provide, yet now they're passing laws saying you can't benefit economically from the Rugby World Cup.

We really are a pathetic authoritarian backwater.

In fact (with that first paragraph in mind) make that a pathetic and confused authoritarian backwater.

Wish hard.

UPDATE: See, it’s not difficult to understand: A boycott is not a ban.

Word cloud

Every now and then it’s fun to see what a word cloud of recent posts throws up. Like this one. Hmmm. Interesting.


Do your own word clouds with Wordle.

‘St Francis in Meditation’ by Michelangelo Caravaggio

The internet has opened up a virtual cornucopia of art history to anyone with the curiosity to seek it out. But it’s still virtually impossible to convey the brilliance of Michelangelo Caravaggio by way of a picture on the internet—impossible because his method of layering his paint and leaving them partially transparent means that when seen in the original his figures look not so much like paintings as three-dimensional holographs.

This St Francis is just another electrifying figure from Caravaggio’s brush that translates very poorly to a blog post. But here it is, nonetheless, because my memory of it makes it one of the most memorable paintings of the nobility of man I’ve seen.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

“Conventional wisdom” was wrong

Guest post by Vedran Vuk of Casey Research 

The current economic crisis has turned a lot of common wisdom about recessions on its head. Hence, I wanted to make a short list of these ideas. Despite the ideas' faults, many are still followed to the detriment of those who follow them. I know that I won't be able to list everything; so if you have some more points to add to the list, please send them over.

1. Hide from a recession in school - Unless one is getting a doctorate, this strategy has completely failed. Anyone entering a Master's degree in 2008 or 2009 should be done with the degree by now. Unfortunately, in the meantime, the employment situation has not improved.
In some ways, the situation for the students could actually be worse than prior to acquiring the degree. These students are now unemployed with huge loans. If this recession continues into 2012 and 2013, even the PhDs will lose on this strategy.

2. Don't hire overqualified workers - This is pretty standard recession advice for companies. Sure, the overqualified person might be great for the job and a good deal for the moment, but as soon as the economy recovers, the employee will leave the company. And the company is left holding the bag without an employee in a more competitive job market. It's a bad deal.
However, in this recession, the companies that hired overqualified workers scored big. The job market hasn't recovered at all. Furthermore, it takes unemployed workers about six months on average to find a job. If one hires an overqualified employee, they likely wouldn't be able to locate a better job searching part-time for a whole year or more. This has been a great time to get some amazing workers on the cheap.

3. Bet on the next boom - Many investors had a textbook version of a recession in their mind. There's a crash followed by yet another roaring boom. Sure, stocks recovered from their lows, but there's no raging boom taking place now. A bunch of folks are holding bank stocks ready for a leveraged play on the economy, but the banks are doing nothing but collecting dust.
This view has kept many investors away from gold as they still believe in an oversimplified version of the business cycle. As soon as the economy recovers, supposedly gold should collapse. Well, where's that recovery?

4. Fiscal and monetary stimulus creates jobs - In my opinion, never has the United States government spent so much money and created so few jobs. The stimulus didn't even put a dent in the unemployment rate, and even the president has admitted that those shovel-ready jobs weren't so shovel-ready after all. Some have called this crisis the failure of capitalism, but with these sorts of results, big government abysmally failed even more so.

5. The effects of monetary policy are relatively quick - Admittedly, this took many free-market types by surprise. The Fed printed tons of money, and it has taken inflation nearly three years to show its ugly face. Many were expecting hyperinflation as early as 2008. Even the textbooks cited two years as the time frame for monetary policy to filter through to the economy. In this case, it's taking much longer.

6. Wait out the real estate market - This one is pretty self-explanatory. No, house prices don't always go higher, but many still hold on to this hope.

Well, that's it for my list. I know that I've missed some things; so be sure to send in your thoughts.

Forget the GDP figures, we’re still all neck deep in the pooh

“Keynesian macroeconomics is literally playing with half a deck. It purports to be a study of
the economic system as a whole, yet in ignoring productive expenditure it totally ignores
most of the actual spending that takes place in the production of goods and services. It is
an economics almost exclusively of consumer spending, not an economics of total
spending in the production of goods and services.”
        - George Reisman

If GDP measurements  were a good measure of economic health, then the US economy (and, by extension, the world economy) would be in fine fettle.

But who are we kidding? Bill English and Tim Geithner might think things are growing, but it’s not, and we aren’t.

In fact, GDP Is Useless and Deceptive: There Was No Recovery—and probably won’t be until this barbarous Keynesian relic  has been thoroughly discredited.

The GDP figure is next to useless, unless you want to trumpet government’s good works.

The measurement of so-called Gross Domestic Product doesn’t measure production at all, it measures spending.

And it doesn’t even measure all the spending in an economy: Sure, it measures all the govt’s spending—every cent of it, all of which attracts the big tick from the statisticians—and it measures every cent ever spent on big screen TVs, small screen smartphones and Little Lucy’s little pony, but it only measures the tiniest fraction of  business-to-business spending, i.e., the stuff that actually is the economy.

Nice ruse, wouldn’t you say, especially since it allows the govt to posture as a saviour when it uses its own extra spending to “top up” that fraction of business-to-business spending that’s dropped—spending that comes either by borrowing from investment markets, printing new money or taxing the hell out of business folk—al of which hinder rather than help production, and all just to help fake the figures for the next quarter.

So GDP doesn’t measure production at all, it measures spending. Mostly consumption spending. Spending that doesn’t last. Which means, when you think about it, that the more money there is in the system to spend (and after Quantitative Easing I and II, there’s an awful lot of it sloshing around the globe) the more you can pump up your GDP figures.

See how the smoke and mirrors work? See how you can be “not in recession” according to the figures, while all around you is a sea of losses, unemployment and general business-to-business misery. All you have to do is pump out new money, pump up your spending and WHAMMO! everybody’s happy!

Except they’re not. Reality can’t be so easily faked. Because as James Mill pointed out almost two-hundred years ago:

“The whole annual produce of every county is distributed into two great parts; that which is destined to be employed for the purpose of reproduction, and that which is destined to be consumed. That part which is destined to serve for reproduction, naturally, appears again next year, with its profit. This reproduction, with the profit, is naturally the whole produce of the country for that year.”

But this is not what is being measured by the GDP. Instead, this “seed corn” is stolen to pump up a fake figure.

 Fact is, the figures themselves are fake:

We have not recovered from the Great Recession and thus our current economic stagnation is less a new event than a continuation of the original collapse. The basis for the so-called "recovery" was a rise in GDP, that measure of what we have spent in the economy. It's a fairly useless bit of data…
   Economic growth doesn't start with spending: it starts with saving and production and ends with spending. And that is why we should not rely on GDP to measure the health of the economy…
    So when the conventional wisdom says that the economy recovered in June 2009, it didn't.

In fact, we’re all still kneck-deep in the pooh. Just as we were this time last year.

And the GDP equation? Here’s how it really looks:


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

ECONOMICS FOR REAL PEOPLE: ‘The Commanding Heights’

Here’s what’s happening tonight, courtesy of our friends at the Uni Econ Group:

Hi all,

In tonight’s seminar,  The University Economics Group presents the film, “The Commanding Heights.”  A sweeping political and economic history of the 20th century, it portrays the battle across the century between freedom and control--and how globalisation and free trade came out on top.

We will see the power of ideas, specifically economic ideas, and how they have transformed the world for both better and worse.

   Date: Tuesday 28 June (tonight)
    Time: 6pm
   Room: University of Auckland Business School, Owen G Glenn Building, Room 260-325

Look forward to seeing you there.

More broken windows [updated]

Before the Christchurch earthquakes even began, Canterbury’s network of stopbanks, river control assets, and many of its bridges were wholly uninsured. From Thursday however, every part of the rest of Canterbury’s council-controlled infrastructure (and much of it around the rest of the country) will also be wholly uninsuredabout $4.7 billion worth of above-ground and underground infrastructure in Canterbury alone that isn’t already damaged.

Turns out councils’ own insurance organisation, Civic Assurance (who have already paid out several hundred-million), can’t get reinsurance for the now-risky services.

So it turns out taxpayers and ratepayers will be directly on the hook for the multi-billion dollar risk.

So it looks like those who thought insurance payouts might be like a free lunch—like the stimulus a Krugman or Keynes might dream about—were wrong.

Turns out there really is no such thing as a free lunch, and the Broken Window Fallacy really is true: there really are no blessings from destruction. None. At. All.

UPDATE: Just to update the insurance situation then post-earthquake:

  • reinsurers across the world are staying away from NZ
  • council infrastructure around the country is likely to be uninsured—with the risk picked up by taxpayers
  • one of the largest insurance companies in the country fails—and is bailed out half-a-billion dollars by taxpayers
  • the government has begun a process whereby it will be nationalising virtually every damaged home in Christchurch—with taxpayers picking up the tab that should have been picked up by insurance companies
  • it is revealed that the government’s antediluvian Earthquake Commission (who have been slowing down the Canterbury re-building) has more than two-thirds of its “investments” in government bonds—meaning little more than a “promise to pay” by taxpayers.
  • Bill English continues to borrow $380 million more each week.

Lucky taxpayers have deep pockets, eh.

Vote for “change”?

As Lindsay Perigo used to say, one of the maddening delusions of our time is the knee-jerk idea that changing our voting system is going to protect our freedom—far more important, we would say, to put our freedoms beyond the vote altogether.

The knee-jerk idea is back again nonetheless, with a group of worthies, unworthies and former examples of both  announcing this morning a Vote for Change organisation to promote a voting system that allows voters to throw bums out the front door, without them coming in the back.

Unusually for me, I have no opinion on them, their arguments, or the various voting systems they suggest we (might) change to.

How about you?

NB: The 2011 referendum on the voting system gives you five systems to vote for.

  • More Morons in Parliament (MMP);
  • First Past the Post (FPP);
  • Preferential Voting (PV);
  • Single Transferable Vote (STV);
  • Supplementary Member (SM)

All five are summarised here.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Bavinger House, by Bruce Goff [updated]

A stunning animation of Bruce Goff’s masterpiece featured here many times before (click the button to enjoy the vid full-screen):

Bruce Goff: A Creative Mind - Bavinger House 1950 from skyline ink animation studios on Vimeo.

Sadly, it looks like the masterpiece may be in the process of being slowly dismembered by its present owners.

UPDATE: More news about the house’s apparent demise here, here, here here

Friday, 24 June 2011

Friday morning ramble: The ‘Bleeding Obvious’ edition

Once again, while the world burns and economic fortunes tumble, the local politicians and their commentariat are more interested in a race-based by-election and a bloke who had the temerity to point out the bleeding obvious. So let’s look at more important things, shall we?

  • Don Brash appears to understand the RMA “is the biggest single obstacle to economic growth in New Zealand.” He just doesn’t know how to replace it—or doesn’t care to. But it’s not difficult…
    RMA impeding economic growth: Brash -  N Z   F A R M E R ‘ S   W E E K L Y
    What would 'Party X' do about the environment? - PART 3: Replacing the RMA -  N O T  P C , 2007
    New Zealand's Persecuted Minority: Property Owners  - S C O O P , 2002
  • There are two ways to tackle the mounting welfare crisis. Confront it head on, or lie about it. Which method do you think this govt (helped by an asinine media) have adopted?
    DPB - more going on than leaving – L I N D S A Y   M I T C H E L L
  • Sections in a beleagured Christchuirch are still on the maret $200,000 when they should be around $50,000, if not for the absurd ring fenvcing of New Zealand’s most tragic city. Never has cheap land been so essential, and finally, after years for pressure, we have what High Pavletich calls “ a belated step in the right direction”: The “planners” have released one small part of the ring fence to allow around 5000 plots to be built on.
    Environment Canterbury looks to release land on Christchurch fringes for up to 5,000 homes; up to Environment Court 
    – I N T E R E S T . C O . N Z
  • By the way, here’s something to ponder if you think little old NZ is going to continue weathering the world’s storms while racking up new debt at the rate of more than a billion dollars per month…
  • Here's a thought on the Greek/euro crisis brought to you by Austrian
    economic thinking. As you know, bond yields in the peripheral countries
    are spiking. Greek 10-year bonds are nearly 17 per cent, Irish and
    Portuguese 10-year yields are around 11.5 per cent. Conventional
    thinking says these high yields reflect concerns about default.
    While that's true, they also tell you something far more important.
    That is, there is very little real savings left in the banking systems
    of these economies. Rising market interest rates is
    an indication of scarce savings. Therefore, the price of money
    must rise to encourage saving and discourage consumption.
    When savings are plentiful, the price of money falls to encourage
    consumption and discourage saving. This process doesn't occur
    in a market distorted by central banks and currency unions.
    It only reasserts itself when the money fiddlers
    lose control, as they now have...

    - Greg Canavan, Daily Reckoning Australia

  • This week marks the 40th Anniversary of the "War on Drugs.” Begun by Richard Nixon, everyone’s favourite President. his war has resulted only in failure, misery, violence and death. Isn’t it time to review?
    40 Years of Protecting Us from Ourselves – Valery Publius,  U N D E R C U R R E N T
    War on drugs produced swollen prisons and little else – Zachary Goelman,  R E U T E R S
    Another Admission 'War on Drugs' Has Failed 
    - Charlene Muhammad,  N E W  A M E R I C A N   M E D I A
    Tough birthday for War on Drugs  - C H I C A G O   N E W S
    The Drug War: What is It Good For? – Art Carden,  F O R B E S
  • Warmists constantly claim skeptic scientists make a fortune from their skepticism. They don’t … but warmist James Hansen (who just toured NZ)  does.
     NASA Scientist Accused of Using Celeb Status Among Environmental Groups to Enrich Himself 
    – F O X  N E W S
  • By contrast, here’s a good example of  “principled climate science scepticism.”
    Prof Kelly shows the middle way- Prof. Mike Kelly,  C L I M A T E   C O N V E R S A T I O N
  • Germany shoots itself in the foot (the one they didn’t shoot by joining the European Monetary Union).
     Germany Finds Going Green is Tough Going – N C P A
  • You have one minute on the over-population myth, starting now:

  • Human productivity allows mankind to escape the Malthusian population trap—and with freedom and a greater population, even greater productivity was possible. So why are the anti-industrialists against this? “Today, environmental groups call for a reduction in carbon on scales that would require a gigantic decline in our population numbers: we are told we must self-sacrifice and surrender our standard of living for the general good of a much lower population.  The most extreme voices would send us spinning back to the dark ages and the more moderate would see us stagnating in development.” Why?
    Global Warming: The New Malthusian Scare – Toby Baxendale,  C O B D E N   C E N T R E
  • Just one example of how ingenuity and productivity combined open up whole new areas of the environment in which to live—making even greater population possible: the air conditioner. Hurray for Mr Carrier!
    The Heat Is On! – Mark Thornton,  M I S E S   D A I L Y
  • Shit cars. Cool doors. [HT Tomahawk Kid]

  • “If we pursue another economic stimulus of similar size to the previous one, we may as well condemn the economy to another 10-20 years of recession.”
    "Stimulus is like using morphine to fix a broken arm"
    -  Veronique de Rugy, N A T I O N A L  R E V I E W
  • ‎"It's almost as if Washington envisions the economy not as a complex network of billions of voluntary, mutually beneficial relationships, but as a lawn mower which could be forced to run smoothly if only they'd yank hard enough on the starter cord...
    ”Lawmakers should face the facts: Intervention is hurting, not helping, the economy."
    The One Stimulus Government Hasn't Tried – Jonathan Hoenig, S M A R T   M O N E Y
    [Hat tip Keith W.]
  • Is the US economy worse than Greece? The world’s biggest bond buyer says “Yes!” But is he right? And what does it mean for future interest rates? [No, Bernard Hickey won’t  understand any of this.]
    Is the U.S. Economy Actually in Worse Shape Than the Greek Economy? – P J T V
  • So, ah, just how are those risk signals looking in the European Zone? I know, let’s ask the European Central Bank governor…
    Trichet Admits the Obvious "Risk Signals Are Flashing Red"
    – M I S H ‘ S   G L O B A L    E C O N O M I C   T R E N D     A N A L Y S I S
  • Price controls always raise prices. Latest example: U.S. healthcare.
    Confessions of a Price Controller -  T H E  A M E R I C A N
  • Santiago CalatravA’s Chicago Spire was going to be one of the world's tallest buildIngs. But the financial downturn torpedoed its funding, and now it is all but dead. With other major projects on hold or cancelled, some critics say this is the end of North America's love affair with skyscrapers. Robert Bruegmann, of the University of Illinois, considers the fate of super-tall buildings in the US, and explains why he believes the spire may yet be built. And it’s a beautiful slideshow…
    Audio slideshow: Chicago's doomed spire – Robert Bruegmann,  B B C
  • 4472 (1)A poor interviewer takes on the world’s best apologist for his own mistakes, and fails. Watch the man who brought down the world explain over thirty minutes that it was all someone else’s fault, that he and his friends always knew what they were doing, that basically their shit doesn’t stink—helped by an interviewer who never knows how to ask the right question at the right time.
    Charlie Rose interviews Alan Greenspan – C H A R L I E   R O S E
  • “Alan Greenspan has always cared about one — and only one — thing. Every nerve ending in his body at every moment in his life has been devoted to the promotion of Alan Greenspan.”
    Chairman Greenspan: A Fiat Mind for a Fiat Age
    -  Fred Sheehan,  M I S E S  D A I L Y
  • More broken economic theory coming right up: The Phillips’ Curve is really just a load of old junk.
    The Phillips’ Jumble – C A F E    H A Y E K
  • Wealth in a market economy is not a static quantity of stuff, never an inexhaustible fund that pays out goodies to lucky passive owners; wealth has constantly to be created and re-created; it’s never fixed. But the market “distributes” stuff unequally, you say? Baloney. The market is constantly redistributing wealth far more productively and fairly than any government efforts.
    Ludwig Lachmann on Income ‘Inequality’ -  C A F E    H A Y E K
  • Want a bigger slice of the pie? Then bake your own.
    “When It Comes to Wealth Creation, There Is No Pie”
    • Don’t worryabout (former) All Black Stephen Donald. Stephen Donald is holed up at Peka Peka Beach. Just him, a penguin, and a werewolf. [Note: Parts of this may be satire.]
      Stephen Donald resting up on Kapiti Coast beach – S P O R T   R E V I E W
    • Wow!
      Turning The iPad Into A Weapon  - S T R A T E G Y  P A G E
      [Hat tip Geek Press]
    • The ten best things about smartphones (and you doubted there was even one!)
       Why I Love & Hate Having a Smartphone –  T H E   O A T M E A L
    • Turns out you really can make a silk urse out of a sow’s ear.
       Can Do  -  F U T I L I T Y   C L O S E T
    • In March 1974, Ayn Rand faced the improbable task of lecturing on the crucial importance of philosophy—to the graduating class of West Point. She succeeded magnificently: she attracted three times the expected attendance, she elicited an enthusiastic ovation, and her lecture was reprinted in a new philosophy textbook published by the U.S. Military Academy. Set aside a spare hour to relive this memorable occasion and insightful speech, and (re)discover the irresistible intellectual power of Ayn Rand.
      Philosophy: Who Needs It  - A Y N   R A N D
    • Parents, teachers, anyone interested in education … listen up! Here’s the ideal weekend workshop for you: a Montessori weekend in Matakana no less. What could be a better way to learn about the best philosophy in which to raise your children?
      A Montessori Workshop in NZ – A  M O N T E S S O R I   H O M E
    • Should the state waste time and resources tracking down “deadbeat dads”? Or recognise instead that just as there should be no involuntary servitude, there should be no involuntary parentitude (to coin a phrase).
      Video: Fatherhood Should Be Voluntary –  N O O D L E  F O O D

    • Here’s Paul Kelly’s tribute to a favourite place. You know, he’d give you all of Sydney Harbour, all that land and all that water, for that one sweet promenade.
    • Here’s Billy Strayhorn’s impressionistic masterpiece, inspired by the sight of London’s Chelsea Bridge through the fog, played by the masterful Ben Webster. [HT Jazz on the Tube]
    • And this, a few final moments from another of my current obsessions, takes up where Ben & Billy leave off.
    Final moments of Bruckner’s 4th Symphony, with paintings by Caspar David Friedrich

    Enjoy your weekend!

    PS: Thanks to all those who deserve a hat tip, and my apologies for not remembering who was responsible for which link. My thanks, and my fault.

  • Thursday, 23 June 2011

    Storm, by Tim Minchin

    A nine-minute beat poem about idiocy, by Tim Minchin.

    My favourite line:

    “Alternative Medicine
    Has either not been proved to work,
    Or been proved not to work.
    You know what they call ‘alternative medicine’
    That’s been proved to work?

    Disappearing in a cloud of Athenian tear gas

    They’re rioting in Greece because decades of welfarism has proved unaffordable.

    They thought the post-war experiment with the welfare state guaranteed every Greek a living at every other Greek’s expense. Now they’re learning otherwise.

    They thought their membership in the EU’s monetary union guaranteed Greece a living at Germany’s expense. Now they’re learning that was never possible.

    They thought that a policy of borrow and spend would work forever—spending based not on necessities of production but on the siren-song of “need,” and borrowing based on an ever-expanding pyramid plan of debt.

    It won’t. It can’t. It isn’t.  The bill is finally being presented, and the post-war welfare-state experiment that supposedly guaranteed everyone a living at everyone else’s expense is revealed for what it is: as unaffordable as cancer, and as destructive. For Greece as for every other welfare state.

    “The state,” as Bastiat once said, “is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at everyone else’s expense.” The fiction is now disappearing in a cloud of Athenian tear gas.

    The biggest clusterfuck in modern European history was as unavoidable as the collapse of welfarism will be in every other place—and a first taste of what it will be like when the reality hits home in every place, either with or without riots, that the welfare state experiment is unaffordable. That borrow and spend is over. That mortgaging your grandchildren’s future to pay for your welfare state today will impoverish their generation, and eventually bankrupt this one too.

    And that lesson goes for us as well.

    How long do you think we can continue borrowing a third-of-a-billion a week to fund middle-class welfare, especially when bond yields start turning—as they can do overnight.

    DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Welfare for the Rich

    _McGRathLibertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath invites you down to his clinic for an inoculation against this week’s stories and headlines on issues affecting our freedom.

    This  week: Welfare for the Rich …

    THE DOCTOR SAYS: Doesn’t it give you a warm fuzzy to know your taxes are being used to make more wealthy someone who I would pick as already doing very nicely thank you, given her first album sold a third of a million copies internationally.
        Isn’t there something wrong with a system that gouges low-earning New Zealanders and hands this loot over to a wealthy singer whose sales indicate she is already well-established on the music scene?
        But I guess that after dragging the iPod/mobile phone middle class into the welfare trap with Welfare for Working Families (an election bribe introduced by Hard Labour and now managed by the National Socialists) there’s only the rich left to mop up--at which point then everyone will be sucking at the teat and willing to vote for more of it.
        But wait, there’s more: another recipient of taxpayer largesse is none other than Annabel Fay, daughter of local knight Sir Michael, who could surely afford to subsidise his daughter rather than have the rest of us do it.
        Have you no shame, Sir Michael, at your daughter’s parasitical exploitation of low-income New Zealanders?
        Have you no conscience, Miss Fay?
        Apparently not. Instead, parasitism like this is considered to be just the way things are.
        The Music Commission is a disgrace to the country and should be disbanded immediately, with its funds returned to the people from whom they were stolen. Ditto Creative NZ who is funding a couple of NZ acts to attend the Glastonbury Music Festival.
        Why should taxpayers have to put up with this sort of nonsense? Answer: because they voted for it. Because both National and Labour believe hand-outs are a better way for a musician to make money than having to sell concert tickets and CDs.
        Unless of course you’re a musician who engages in victimless non-crime, in which case you should be locked up. 

    "If Congress can employ money indefinite­ly to the general welfare …  it
    would subvert the very foundation­, and transmute the very nature of the
    limited Government establishe­d by the people of America."
    - James Madison, future U.S. president

    EDITOR’S NOTE: For those who don’t know the musician to whom Doc McGrath refers in the last paragraph above, that’s him in cartoon form on the cover of John Dix’s classic history of NZ rock ‘n’ roll (pic below)—chosen by Dix because “there are a great many characters in New Zealand rock ‘n’ roll, but Rick Bryant stands unique… As much as anybody, Rick Bryant represents the spirit of New Zealand rock ‘n’ roll. That’s why he’s on the cover.”
    And now, he’s in prison.
    One of his early bands was called Rough Justice. A suitable moniker, you might think.


    Wednesday, 22 June 2011

    How’s that global warming working out for you? [updated]

    Just thought you’d appreciate an update on global mean surface temperatures over the last decade, as measured by NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies in the US, and the Hadley Centre for Climate Research in the UK.


    trend-24Source: Steven Goddard’s Real Science, Wood For Trees.

    See all that “dangerous” warming, huh. See the out-of-control trend.

    Is it any wonder the likes of Australia’s Julia Gillard is being savaged for using the global warming bugaboo to introduce a new tax?

    UPDATE: Thanks to Blunt for the cartoon, and John Boy & Julia for the fiction-based shakedown:


    Nozick left? [update 3]

    NozickA few of you  have sent me a piece by Steven Metcalf in Slate, trumpeting the alleged fact that “philosophical father of libertarianism,” Robert Nozick, “gave up on the movement he inspired.”

    It’s all very entertaining, except for two things:

    Nozick didn't start libertarianism.

    And he didn't leave it. [Don’t just believe me, here’s what he said himself about it in one of his last interviews.]

    So, the article is a bust. But so too is Nozick himself. Sure, he’s taught in political studies departments as a (if not the) libertarian with whom to get to grips. Indeed, as the “philosophical father of libertarianism” (to cut and paste a phrase). That’s for three simple reasons:

    1. Academics are dumb.
    2. Nozick was one himself.
    3. Nozick’s ideas were easy to knock over.

    Nozick’s ideas slipped inside the academic tent because Nozick was an academic at Harvard—and when you’re an academic at Harvard it’s hard to be ignored. (He got the gig because he was originally a socialist, an ideology he renounced on the way to his chair). But being an academic from Harvard, his ideas had to be taught. And fortunately for those who taught them, his ideas were easy to knock down.

    This suited political science professors right down their mouldy, Marxist jumpsuits. Just imagine: teaching ideas that make you uncomfortable by teaching the weakest version of those ideas you can find. A version with the academic imprimatur of Harvard no less. What could be more ingenious! Or more useful—if you’re a politicised pol-sci professor with a penchant for collectivism, and a knack of persuading your more pliable students.

    As Sean Kimpton pointed out in 'The Free Radical' a few years back, when it comes to defending liberty, Robert Nozick has long been “doing more harm than good..."

    [Nozick] is considered by academics to be the leading advocate for libertarianism and freedom amongst modern political philosophers, but his weak arguments are too easily trumped by self-serving intellectuals who only feel obliged to answer Nozick, rather than more substantial political thinkers like Rand....
        But perhaps it is the very weakness of his arguments that add to his attraction, he is the ideal libertarian straw man - easy to knock down, and to burn while he's down.
        But Nozick does have value. He shows us that if your arguments lack foundations you will undo your conclusions, no matter how true they might be.

    Nonetheless, a few fellows at Cato have still been trying to defend the poor, late libertarian against the slings and arrows of Mr Metcalf’s outrageous verbiage. If you wish defence against Mr Metcalf, then here it is (nice title on that first piece, by the way:

    UPDATE 1: Matt Welch from Reason magazine weighs in with a slate of further replies, rejoinders and rebuttals to Metcalf’s monstering of the dead professor:

    And someone just emailed me to ask why I’ve bothered posting a defence of someone whom I hold in such little respect. Two reasons, really:

    1. Mr Metcalf’s shotgun blast against Nozick is intended to be a take-down of the political philosophy Nozick was supposed to represent, using him as the target and taking out sundry others in the scattergun
    2. Because tender young pol-sci students who have been taught that I must subscribe to the Nozick wisdom and who tune in here daily (and eagerly) for my gems of insight and political wisdom need to know that all is not as it appears be Nozick-wise—just not in the way that Mr Metcalf thinks.
      So now you know. Both of you.

    UPDATE 2: Nozick admirer Julian Sanchez reckons the very central contention of Metcalf’s is frankly wrong, and the piece proves little beyond “ that there’s nothing too fundamentally confused to be published on Slate as long as it gets in a few good jabs at libertarians.”

    UPDATE 3: So why, you might wonder, have baseless attacks on the godfathers of libertarianism—or even the alleged godfathers of libertarianism—increased in recent times? Well, maybe it’s because they’re getting traction. Hell, even the New York Times thinks they are:

    Legal plunder

    As Frederic Bastiat observed long ago, there are only two means by which people can gain values from one another: Either by trade or free exchange, or by plunder.

    The real problem begins once parties realise they can legalise plunder, and then live off it…

    “Legal Plunder” by the Foundation for a Free Society

    More people fleeing Key than were fleeing Muldoon [updated]

    Looks like whatever the polls are saying, New Zealanders are voting with their feet.

    Record Kiwi exodus to Oz
    The Kiwi exodus across the Tasman has hit a 32-year-high… Statistics NZ figures show 3300 New Zealanders  left for Australia last month, topping the record of 2900 set in 1979.

    That’s more people fleeing Key than were fleeing Muldoon.

    Makes you think, huh?

    And no fear saying it’s all due to earthquakes.

    "The number of New Zealanders leaving permanently, particularly to Australia, had been high prior to the February earthquake, reflecting the challenging New Zealand economic environment and the attraction of the strong Australian labour market," ASB economist Jane Turner said.

    Um, didn’t this government promise to “fix” this problem? Didn’t John Boy stand in the middle of Eden Park at some point before he was elected saying he’d arrest the departure of one football-stadium of NZers per year who were leaving to follow a better dream. I seem to recall there was even a rather mediocre billboard campaign along those lines.


    Turns out it was a lie.

    Turns out that that even the “real tax cuts” were a lie—especially since the tax cuts promised were vaporised, and GST and borrowing went up to fund the derisory “cuts” finally acceded to.

    Turns out then that while a smile and wave might do wonders for your poll ratings, it does nothing at all to fix the problems John Boy was elected to address.

    Turns out perhaps that all John Boy is truly “ambitious” about is sitting at the desk with the title “Prime Minister” next to his name.

    UPDATE: The figure includes “carpenters, plumbers and other building trade professionals [who] left for Australia last month at a rate of 20 a day.”

    Twenty a day!

    A legacy, among many things, of the utter mismanagement of the leaky homes fiasco—absolving BRANZ, DBH and Hardies while loading blame onto responsible tradesmen—and the complete, blind, dictatorial ineptitude now going on in Christchurch, where these tradesmen are urgently needed but have been (like many Cantabrians) locked out.