Monday, 16 July 2012

Becroft is bonkers

Judge Andrew Becroft received a standing ovation over the weekend from teachers and school trustees for his call for government schools to become the “front line against youth crime.”

He says three quarters of all youth offenders are not in school, because they have either been expelled or suspended, or have slipped through the system…He says ideally schools should act as hubs for social support services so resources can be targeted at students who are most at risk.

This is absurd.

More than ninety percent of people in prison have never been taught to read and write. Yet instead of teaching children to read, he thinks teachers should be outreach workers for the social welfare department.

A regular drumbeat of statistics and stories confirms the government’s factory schools are already failing at their primary job of teaching kids how to read, write and think. Yet Becroft J. wants it to further divert themselves by taking their few resources and giving back to their communities more of what already ails them. Which is welfare.

Welfare is already killing communities. There is is more welfare in South Auckland—more government “help,” government housing and government social workers per capita than anywhere else in the country. It hasn’t helped. It’s made things worse. Welfare pays no-hopers to breed. It pays them to breed more no-hopers. It sends these to factory schools that teaches them nothing of any use, and spews them out to be the same.

Government welfare is not improving lives, its diminishing them. We don’t need more of it. We need less.

And the factory schools? We need them to educate, not to hold hands.

Friday, 13 July 2012


It’s Friday, so let’s get into it…

First tobacco, then alcohol? No, that would never happen.
No slippery slopes, nothing to see here – Eric Crampton, OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR

Nine things that will disappear in our lifetimes?
Will these last our lifetimes? – HOME PADDOCK

A question many Americans are asking:
Is President Obama's Prostate Gland More Important Than Yours? – Paul Hsieh, FORBES

Difficult even for an honest European politician to do anything, even if one existed.
Eurozone's electorate becoming increasingly polarized – SOBER LOOK

A new quick and comprehensive resource for those interested in the history of inventors and intellectual property or who are personally involved in the creation of patents is. From Samuel F.B. Morse and the telegraph system to James J. Wynne and LASIK Eye surgery, this online tool compares over 450 of the world’s most revolutionary inventors, both living and dead, and their intellectual property.

We live in an era of technological wonder. Yet we fear every new wonder we produce. Why?
We Have Nothing to Fear but the Fear of Fracking – Alexander Hrin, THE UNDERCURRENT

While other brands trip over themselves to generate the impression they are new-age, planet saving, social-service adjuncts, Apple were busy building a formidable company, creating thousands of jobs and changing the lives of millions of people with kick-ass consumer products. Oh, and telling the U.S. government-backed registration of environmentally friendly electronics to naff off.
Apple Shun Environmental Registration – MOTELLA

You want to a fiscal cliff? Then look what happens when cans are kicked down the road.
The Real Fiscal Cliff – Peter Schiff, BASTIAT INSTITUTE

Repeat after me: World War II did NOT end the Great Depression.
The Keynesian Myth about World War II and Prosperity – ECONOMIC POLICY JOURNAL

Repeat after me: Cheap money DOES inflate the stock market.
Chart of the Year: The Fed Has Doubled the S&P Admits...the Fed – Tyler Durden, ZERO HEDGE

Repeat after me: Capitalism isn’t dog-eat-dog: It’s win-win. It’s the welfare state that’s lose-lose.
The dog-eat-dog welfare state is lose-lose – Don Watkins & Yaron Brook, FORBES

And despite the public’s and politicians’ Alice-in-Wonderland confusion about trade, even unilateral free trade is good. So why do trade negotiations never even acknowledge that?
Mercantilist Myths Persist – CAFE HAYEK

Message to Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Ben Bernanke: A fall in interest rates cannot grow the economy. All that it can produce is a misallocation of real savings. So what’s with Operation Twist Again?
Yet Another "Operation Twist"? – Frank Shostak, MISES DAILY

Good news from the Philippines?
This country is the next economic tiger in Asia –SOVEREIGN MAN

If GDP measures production, then why do GDP figures and figures for industrial production diverge so sharply? The answer is that GDP measures money flow, not production—so when debt is fuelling a consumption-driven bubble, numb nuts who think GDP does measure growth are deluded into thinking things are growing. When instead they’re heading for disaster (as shown in this graph, blue showing US GDP, red showing US Industrial Production):
imageA question for a bonus point: If the real problem is increasing debt without increasing production, them how does more “quantitative easing” tackle that—isn’t deleveraging the answer, not the problem the central banks are trying to avert?
The Deleveraging Trap – John Aziz, ZERO HEDGE

So what’s wrong with the Labour Theory of Value?

You think things are bad now?
14 First World Problems From The 90s – BUZZFEED

Many parents say they want a successful kid, but what exactly does a successful kid mean?
A Successful Kid – Daniel Wahl, NEARBY PEN

What is a central purpose in life and do you need one?  In this post, John Drake takes another look at how a central purpose can guide and enhance your life.
Central Purpose in Life - Another Look  - TRY REASON

What about parenting as a central purpose in life?
More on Central Purpose – Diana Hsieh, NOODLE FOOD

Pandora Internet Radio and Spotify are now both accessible in New Zealand. If you love music, check them out. You won’t regret it.
Pandora Internet Radio

Paul Krugman and friends need to get out into the real world:


You want trumpet? You got it.

The last three minutes of Wagner’s opera Die Walkure (The Valkyrie), with the full five hours coming soon to a New Zealand city near you
Great Opera Videos explains the scene: “Just as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are protected by briar thickets to daunt prospective suitors, Brunnhilde will have a ring of fire, which Wotan lights in this Met performance of the Magic Fire Music from Wagner's Die Walkure.

Click for details.

[Hat tips to Marginal Revolution, Cafe Hayek, State of Innovation, Motella]

Thanks for reading.
Have a great weekend.


…is from page 572 of Paul Johnson’s 1991 book, The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830, discussing the freedom that caused and accompanied the birth of the modern world:

Such clever and enterprising men came [from all over Europe in the early 19th century] to the British Isles because of the opportunities provided by its great wealth and, still more, by its free economic climate.  The English universities might be comatose and the government indifferent to industry, but the law left the entrepreneur and the self-advancing artisan free to pursue their genius….
That was not the only advantage of the free climate. In early industrial Britain, qualifications, degrees, certificates, professional rules and trade conventions were swept aside by masters and men who were anxious to get on.


[Hat tip Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek]

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Giveaway: Christine Brewer singing Wagner and Strauss [update]

UPDATE:  Well, that question was obviously too difficult. So since we’re running out of time, how about I make it that the first person under 35 who texts on 021 1209443 gets the tickets. (Why under 35? Because youngsters should be thrilled by this music too.)

I have good news for two of you: I have two free tickets to give away to tonight’s performance with the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra of leading soprano Christine Brewer—singing some of the most evocative music ever written.

Christine was a late replacement for an injured Deborah Voigt in tonight’s concert in Auckland’s Town Hall, and reports from those at rehearsals suggest Brewer (who was fortuitously in this part of the world singing Wagner in Australia) is going to be amazing. The New York Times declared her a “superlative Strauss singer” admired around the world for her range, golden tone, power and control, and BBC Music Magazine named her as one of the Top 20 Sopranos of the 20th Century.

Not a bad “replacement.”

This is going to be stunning!

Here she is singing Morgen, by Richard Strauss:

So, here’s the question to get your free tickets. Which piece is Ms Brewer singing tonight that has been called “the longest orchestrated orgasm in music”? (Leave your answer in the comments, and I can arrange with the winners to meet you beforehand.)

ANSWER: The answer, of course, is Wagner’s “Prelude and Liebestod” from his opera Tristan and Isolde—containing what Stephen Fry reckons are “the four notes that changed everything.”

NZ leads the world!

The NZ Herald reports NZ lags in teaching about religion – and that “a number of primary schools in Auckland have opted out of teaching the Bible in class because of a lack of interest and support from students and parents.”

I think the headline is misleading. The word should not be “lags,” but “leads.”

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

GUEST POST: From Florence to Auckland

Kamante - Seated Nude ISeated Nude I, by Jasmine Kamante

Guest Post by Dr. Angela Mackie

imageTwo artists launching exhibitions this week offer Aucklanders an opportunity seldom found: to see in the flesh artists upholding Renaissance traditions and using them as a springboard into new territory.

Having studied in both Florence and Paris, it is not surprising that Jasmine Kamante’s work evokes that of late Renaissance artists such as Rosso Fiorentino yet, at the same time, suggest the works of Degas or Rodin or even Brancusi. In utilizing her thorough knowledge acquired through classical training to spring into another, seemingly non-classical, mode of expression, she follows the lead set by such as Manet, Degas, Cézanne, Matisse, and Magritte.

Jasmine Kamante and her husband Jesper Sundwall met whilst receiving their classical training at the Angel Academy in Florence. Jasmine also spent a year at an atelier in Paris drawing and painting the nude. These two talented artists form part of the late 20th century movement of classical realism—proponents of which wed traditional training methodologies with individual skill to produce representational work of great beauty combined with the necessary ingredient of imagination.

How fortunate we are that Jesper and Jasmine have decided to make New Zealand their home. In this exhibition Florence to Auckland we can enjoy the fruits of this journey. Jasmine’s figure work such as her Seated Nude I has the tactile quality of an Ingres bather enlivened by subtle patches of colour and twists of the upper torso, shoulders, and head. The angularity of her Female Nude Reclining and her Magdalena Poster Study recall not so much Cubism but the sharp angles of Rosso Fiorentino’s forms in his Descent from the Cross and Degas’s Carmelina.

Jasmine’s story is one of an artist in revolt. Of Persian heritage, she fled a restrictive upbringing in which she was forbidden to draw, to paint, to make representative marks of any kind. We see this epitomized in her twenty small autobiographical works. In the Mask series, females hide their personality (or do they?) In another two paintings the subjects push against unseen restrictions. NO! a painterly Brancusi head, with overtones of Magritte, covers his ears with his hands but does not utter a Munch scream. No expression of the senses in a restrictive world is possible.

Two works of cell-like rooms in primary colours, one blue, the other red, are both empty and claustrophobic and more sinister than Graham Sydney’s Killing House. The only opening in these two works is that towards the viewer and, of course, the artist. Both are unseen but their mind is implied. Is this where we find true freedom?

It is to the still-life that Jasmine’s husband Jesper Sundwall turns his attention. His carefully composed and skillfully rendered paintings transport the viewer. In true classical tradition, the light in these works comes from the left-hand side. The shadows fall, as fall they must, but these shadows are alive, acting as alter-ego to the object depicted. The glossary of the Tate Museum defines the subject of a still life as "anything that does not move or is dead." Well, yes, all but one of the subjects of the pieces by Jesper Sundwall fit that description—the subjects are dead, but as paintings they are alive. These paintings live and breathe the same air as the viewer!

Walnuts spill out in Jesper’s Walnuts and Pot (below). Collectively it is a waterfall of walnuts yet each walnut has a character adding to the total image: little helmeted faces jostle for position.

Shearer, a word so familiar to the New Zealand public, is an image so intense in its simple depiction that it conjures up a narrative of round woolly sheep and black singleted, swarthy men. Bottles gains life from the shadows and from the cracked wooden shelf on which the bottles stand—the shadow of the drapery in the top right-hand corner creating a spear for the male figure shadowed in the blue bottle. Vitality in the yellow bottle comes from the reflected light and strange shapes, while the absence of the lid for the brown bottle raises a question about its contents! No-one would have guessed that the upturned bird shadow had its origin in the bunch of keys of Metal Rings.

The duck-like quality of Resin Containers comes largely from the colour, but the pairing of the two containers evokes male and female, a drake and a duck complete with suggestive aperture. We are reminded of how these modern day objects can pollute the very creatures from which they take their design. There is potential life here, but it is vulnerable. The opposite could be said of the Memento Mori 1, where the aggressive bite of the skull into the table-cloth is almost in denial of its usual description as the ultimate “memento mori.” And, lest you forget, put oil into the lamp!

Life is to be had in all of Jesper’s paintings, summed up in his award-winning self-portrait Sven and I, featuring an honorary tuatara if ever I saw one!

For all those who appreciate art that speaks to you, but can seldom find any worthy of the name, this is an exhibition that must not to be missed. Welding classical techniques to modern imagination, and with a rich knowledge of artistic history, these are two young artists to watch.

Florence to Auckland runs from Opening Night, Friday 13 July at 6.00 pm, to 1 August at the Railway Studio, Railway St, Newmarket, Monday to Saturday, 10.00 am to 2.00 pm.

And don’t miss their public ‘Artists’s Talk’ at the same venue this Sunday, 15 July, 4pm—bookings for which are essential!

Dr. Angela Mackie

Dr Angela Mackie is an art historian, a lecturer in art history, and an enthusiastic promoter of Renaissance art.
Her Cathedral Lectures, featuring both
full-sized and bite-sized art history classes, are legendary. Enrol now.

Sundwall - Walnuts and pot

Walnuts and Pot, Jesper Sundwall

Asian History By Induction


It’s impossible to contemplate the future without knowing what happened in the past. In the twenty-first century—said to be the coming Asian Century—it’s more important than even before to understand what made Asia today, and thus where it might go.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve found one of the most enjoyable and productive ways to learn history is with Scott Powell’s online history courses, using a unique method for teaching history he calls History By Induction. It works.

And you’re in luck, because his new online Asian History course starts this weekend with a free introductory lecture on Japanese history.

So what have you got lose ?

Especially when Chairman Mao warns you against it!


Don’t count out Spain

Roving economic commentator John Mauldin reckons that however bad Spain is economically, it’s impossible to be pessimistic for very long about a place with the spirit to do this!

The Prime Minister is wrong

Prime Minister John Key says it’s not possible to own water.

The Prime Minister is wrong.

Yes, of course you can own water. Rights in water are not generally rights to water molecules themselves—not unless you own the Evian Corporation—they are more usually either a riparian right to a water flow; a harvesting right to fish or shellfish; a useage right to swim or surf or paddle on; or a right negotiated with other rights-holders to take etc.

If you have rights in water you can prove, to a proper legal standard of proof, then your rights in water should be recognised.

Neither the Prime Minister now his advisers may have ever read a book of common law—and the loss is very much ours—but if they did choose to crack one open they would discover that none of those rights listed above are at all problematic under common law, and if they crack open one old enough they will discover all were well-recognised property rights when the Treaty was signed.*

The collectivisation of water has failed New Zealanders.  Recognising ownership rights in water however is not only possible, it’s often highly desirable. It’s not only moral, it’s practical:

It de-politicises arguments about resources.**

It solves the Tragedy of the Commons in water.

It solves the increasing problem of dirty dairying.

It solves the problems involved in the South Island river systems, where there are many competing uses for the limited water available.

Properly recognised, it could even solve the apparent political impasse caused by the objection to water being taken for powr generation against the will of the putative owners.***

Truth is, there is no greater protection for environment and water users both than the protection of property rights and the legacy of common law – if only these were allowed to function as they should, by placing the power of law behind those who truly value the specific resource under threat.

Ownership of water not only could happen, it should happen.

If the way to open those floodgates**** is by recognising specific claims to ownership, however flawed initially,  then so be it.

Better it begins some way than never to begin at all.

* * * * *

* I make no comment at all here on the veracity of claims now hitting the headlines, nor on the anachronistic argument asserting property rights were recognised in New Zealand before 1840.
But as Ronald Coase points out, once a property right is finally recognised in law then (as long as these rights are tradeable and  transaction costs are kept low) it will end up in the hands of those who value it the most. And that would be a good result, right?

**So in addition to the excellent links I’ve provided above, I’d like to highly recommend a Canadian organisation called Environment Probe who have written many excellent things on The Role of Property Rights in Protecting Water Quality, including these many wonderful publications.

*** Interestingly however, in terms of the latest Waitangi claim, even in the common law of 1840 taking water for “non-riparian use” (such as the abstraction of water for power generation)  was “a wrong actionable at the suit of any riparian owner whose portion of the stream is thus affected…” If the non-riparian use, however, “is unaccompanied by any permanent abstraction, and so causes no diminution of the stream as it flows past plaintiffs’ land, is not actionable…” [Law of Torts, John Salmond, 1910]
Suggesting that even if iwi rights to water were proven, there was no case in common law either now or in 1840 that using water for power generation and then putting it back would damage those rights in any way at all.

****Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Monday, 9 July 2012


While students are still on their break, participants in the weekly Econ Group meetings have been invited this week to deliver “ten-minute talks” on an economic subject of their choice.

Feel free to come along and join in!

When: Tonight, Monday, 9 July
Time: 6pm
Where: Room 215, Level 2, Business School Building, Auckland University

All welcome.
Look forward to seeing you there.

GUEST POST: Cut-price sections for #EQNZ red-zone residents

"Cut-price" sections are being released in Christchurch for residents of red zones. Where in Christchurch? Rolleston. How many sections? Eighteen. What price is cut-price? $113,000 to $139,000. Still, let’s not be churlish.

Hugh Pavletich of Cantabrians Unite responds:

_hugh-pavletich-smlTHE TEAM INVOLVED WITH the Canterbury Cooperative Land Trust is to be applauded for bringing sections to market for Red-Zoners in Rolleston for between $113,000 to $139,000. This is is not as good as things could be, but it is an extremely helpful step in the right direction.

There is still massive scope to lower prices further, but only when the serious structural and infrastructure issues in Christchurch are effectively dealt with by the Authorities at both central and local level.

Back in early 2010, well before the earthquakes, I set out the whopping differences of new-home costs between an affordable North American housing market  such as Houston, where housing costs 2.9 times household incomes, and, Christchurch—where the multiple between housing and income is a "severely unaffordable" 6.3.

There’s a a huge difference in building costs. On the fringes of the affordable US housing markets, starter-housing stock has an ALL UP build price of around $US600 per square metre. Compare that to here in Christchurch, where we enjoy a staggering build-cost of $NZ2,500 per square metre  and beyond.

Our residential development / construction sector is a shambles.

In her lead article this week’s Listener, Rebecca Macfie illustrates just how woeful our residential development & construction costs are in comparison with those in Australia. Yet Australia is not even in the same ballpark for cost efficiency as the United States.

TO OFFER RED-ZONE RESIDENTS sections at the $113,000 to $139,000 quoted in The Press, the Canterbury Cooperative Land Trust has taken the approach of attempting to wipe out developer margins—while no doubt allowing within this pricing a risk/costs overrun contingency. No doubt there will be further "savings" to end purchasers if, in the final wash, costs are controlled and the contingency is not required.

The Trust is being somewhat generous in suggesting the savings are quite as much as 40%. After all, this is South Rolleston. Lets just call it novice developer enthusiasm! In having said that, all involved (for little if any personal financial reward in most cases) are playing a hugely important role: first, in bringing better priced sections to market; and second, in illustrating to the wider public just how this is possible.

This is, however, a “one-off” deal. The major impediments to allowing affordable sections at and below $50,000 are not addressed at all by the Trust’s initiative: first,  the urgent need to eliminate the artificial fringe scarcity values created by planners strangling land supply; and second, the need to finance new infrastructure appropriately. (These points were covered in more detail in my article "Christchurch: The way forward.")

IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. New housing construction internationally today is a very formulaic business, and has been ever since the creation of the modern production construction industry by Bill and Alfred Levitt following World War Two.  Professor Peter Bacon Hales of the Art History Department of the University of Illinois at Chicago outlines this remarkable history—the "democratization of prosperity" if you like.

The truly remarkable Levitts supplied new starter homes for $US8,000 to single-earner  young families (yes....single-earner) earning an average of just $US3,800 a year—that means starter homes selling at just 2.1 times annual household earnings, with a mortgage load of only 18% of the family’s annual gross income!

Our young people today deserve these same opportunities. Buying a house should be as easy as buying a car (although the former is of course more expensive and financed over a longer period).

The major reason this was allowed in Levittown—because even then in the States planners were out there arguing against what the Levitts were doing—was because the Authorities in the end were too frightened to deny affordable housing to soldiers returning from World War Two. They didn't want a repeat of the civil unrest that occurred with returning veterans following World War One, which in Europe helped usher in Mussolini and worse. Indeed, when politicians and planners got in the road, Levitt often called the Veterans Association in for support.

You would think there would be abundant political pressure around Christchurch to similarly focus attention!

ON THE FRONT PAGE of my archival website I offer a clear definition of an Affordable Housing Market:

For metropolitan areas to rate as 'affordable' and ensure that housing bubbles are not triggered, housing prices should not exceed three times gross annual household earnings. To allow this to occur, new starter housing of an acceptable quality to the purchasers, with associated commercial and industrial development, must be allowed to be provided on the urban fringes at 2.5 times the gross annual median household income of that urban market (refer
Demographia Survey Schedules for guidance).
The critically important Development Ratios for this new fringe starter housing, should be 17 - 23% serviced lot section cost, with the balance being the actual housing construction cost.
Ideally, to ensure maximum stability and optimal medium and long term performance of the residential construction sector through a normal building cycle, the Median Multiple should move from a Floor Multiple of 2.3, through a Swing Multiple of 2.5 to a Ceiling Multiple of 2.7.

So even with the commendable numbers at which the Canterbury Cooperative Land Trust is offering these sections—and I do applaud them for what they are trying to do—we are still a million miles from where fringe sections should be priced.

Recovery Minister Hon Gerry Brownlee is well aware of all this too, as he chaired Parliament’s Commerce Committee Inquiry into Affordable Housing Inquiry back through 2007/08.

He knows it, but he’s not prepared to do anything about it.

Hugh Pavletich
Coordinator, Cantabrians Unite

QUOTE(S) OF THE DAY: Isabel Paterson


There is no means by which "the rich" can be taxed without ultimately taxing "the poor" far more heavily. And one tax tends to increase all other taxes, instead of lessening them, because tax expenditure goes into things which require upkeep and yield no return (public buildings and political jobs).
            - Isabel Paterson, God of the Machine

Government Spending

When paper currency is depreciated, the difference has to come out somewhere; and the main cut is in wages. The fact is that heavy government expenditure must always be taken from the workingman's wages; there is no other possible source. But the depreciation in currency comes out of wages immediately; whatever anyone gets in his pay envelope will simply buy him that much less in goods.
            - Isabel Paterson, God of the Machine

Great Depression

What was the cause of the panic [that led to the Great Depression]? Enormous government loans abroad which were not repaid; and the existence of the Federal Reserve system, a political creation, which made an inordinate credit extension possible.

If a financial system is unsound, it can only be so by the possibility of overextension of credit, and paper currency. A true remedy could only consist of limiting such facilities. Government "guarantees" merely put the property of prudent men at the disposal of speculators in case of loss. There is no such thing as a "money panic"; a financial panic occurs from collapse of credit.
            - Isabel Paterson, God of the Machine


Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends. This is demonstrably true; nor could it occur otherwise. The percentage of positively malignant, vicious or depraved persons is necessarily small, for no species could survive if its members were habitually and consciously bent upon injuring one another. Destruction is so easy that even a minority of persistently evil intent could shortly exterminate the unsuspecting majority of well-disposed persons. Murder, theft, rapine and destruction are easily within the power of every individual at any time. If it is presumed that they are restrained only by fear or force, what is it they fear, or who would turn the force against them if all men were of like mind? Certainly, if the harm done by willful criminals were to be computed, the number of murders, the extent of damage and loss, would be found negligible in the sum total of death and devastation wrought upon human beings by their kind. Therefore, it is obvious that in periods when millions are slaughtered, when torture is practiced, starvation enforced, oppression made a policy, as at present over a large part of the world, and as it has often been in the past, it must be at the behest of very many good people and even by their direct action, for what they consider a worthy object. When they are not the immediate executants, they are on record as giving approval, elaborating justifications or else cloaking facts with silence, and discountenancing discussion....
    Then there must be a very grave error in the means by which they seek to attain their ends. There must even be an error in their primary axioms, to permit them to continue using such means. Something is terribly wrong in the procedure, somewhere. What is it?...
    The root of the matter is ethical, philosophical and religious, involving the relation of man to the universe, of man's creative faculty to his Creator. The fatal divergence occurs in failing to recognize the norm of human life.... No one person, though his income be $10 million dollars a year, can take care of every case of need in the world. But supposing he has no means of his own and still imagines that he can make "helping others" at once his primary purpose and the normal way of life, which is the central doctrine of the humanitarian creed, how is he to go about it? ...
    There is only one way, and that is by the use of the political power in its fullest extension. Hence, the humanitarian feels the utmost gratification when he visits or hears of a country in which everyone is restricted to ration cards. Where subsistence is doled out, the desideratum has been achieved, of general want and a superior power to "relieve" it. The humanitarian in theory is the terrorist in action. ...
    Why do kind-hearted persons call in the political power? They cannot deny that the means for relief must come from production. But they say there is enough and to spare. Then they must assume that the producers are not willing to give what is "right." Further, they assume that there is a collective right to impose taxes, for any purpose the collective shall determine. They localize that right in "the government," as if it were self-existent…
    But if taxes are to be imposed for relief, who is the judge of what is possible or beneficial? It must be either the producers, the needy or some third group. To say it shall be all three together is no answer; the verdict must swing upon majority or plurality drawn from one or other group. Are the needy to vote themselves whatever they want? Are the humanitarians, the third group, to vote themselves control of both the producers and the needy? (That is what they have done.) The government is thus supposed to be empowered to give "security" to the needy. It cannot. What it does is to seize the provision made by private persons for their own security, thus depriving everyone...
            - Isabel Paterson, God of the Machine

On what moves the world

“An abstraction will move a mountain: Nothing can withstand an idea.”
            - Isabel Paterson, God of the Machine

[Hat tip Jeffrey Tucker]

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Farewell, Wim Verhoeven

With the greatest sadness, I have to pass on the news to you that Wim Verhoeven has died, passing away in his sleep Sunday July 1st.

Many of you will know Wim. He was a regular contributor to the Libz party, both intellectually and financially, and actively participated in conferences, events and demonstrations right up until a couple of years ago when he no longer felt up to it.

Wim’s funeral will be held at 11am Wednesday 11th July at the Lychgate Funeral Home, corner Willis and Aro Street, Wellington City.

He was a good man. A very good man. Be sure, if you’re there, to give him the sort of send-off he deserves.

Friday, 6 July 2012



The conjunction of last week’s US Supreme Court decision shredding their Constitution with this week’s July 4 celebrations commemorating the commitment at the birth of that country to the protection of individual rights has not been missed by intelligent commentators:
Thoughts For the Next American Revolution – MICHAEL HURD
What to Celebrate on Independence Day – Ari Armstrong, OBJECTIVE STANDARD
U.S. Declaration of Independence (and declaration against government dependence) – Richard Ebeling, MASTER RESOURCE
Our Constitution is too Good for Us - THRUTCH
My Fourth of July Reflections – Tibor Machan
The Eternal Meaning of Independence Day – Scott Johnson, POWERLINE
New at Reason: Nick Gillespie on What Frederick Douglass Teaches Us About American Exceptionalism – REASON

The Green Party claims Amy Adams’s planned amendments to Section 6 of the Resource Management Act are “a major assault on the Act and on sustainable management.” Sadly, they’re not. Not any more than National’s last tinkering, and this like that looks like it only giving even more power to planners—planners like the arsehole below.
Report is major assault on RMA - Greens – VOXY
Eco-Fascism in NZ—the Beginning of the End? – Lindsay Perigo, SOLO
Report of the Minister for the Environment’s RMA Principles Technical Advisory Group – M.F.E
Unsustainable management – NOT PC, 2005
What would 'Party X' do about the environment? - PART 3: Small Consents – NOT PC, 2007
Unaffordable housing? No wonder! – NOT PC, 2012
It's time to drive a stake through the heart of the RMA – Peter Cresswell, FREE RADICAL, 2005


Speaking of “sustainable management” and the ethos behind it, here’s an excellent piece on the recent Colorado wildfires—several responses to which exposed the caustic, anti-man, soul of the environmentalist movement.
Incinerating America’s West – Robert Zubrin, PJ MEDIA

Beware of mere “good intentions” on environmental issues, and run from “deep ecology” like the plague.
Do You Want to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint to Zero? – Diana Hsieh, PHILOSOPHY IN ACTION

Meanwhile, well-meaning big-government environmentalists continue to pick winners losers. (Can someone please tell Russel Norman that in the real world a Green Economy is an oxymoron.)
Yet Another DOE Green Failure as Abound Solar Goes Bankrupt – NLPC

The Miracle that Is the iPhone (or How Capitalism Can Be Good for the Environment)CATO@LIBERTY

And it’s not even trying to become a nuclear threat or anything!
Over the top Aussies liken Christchurch to Iran – THE PRESS

Obviously short of a headline recently, Shane Jones has picked a good issue with which to find it, saying :“We in Maoridom must not buy uncritically into the hostile rhetoric from the Greenies. It’s about time they showed as much concern for the brown kiwis disappearing to Aussie as for the habitat of the brown spotted kiwi.”
Shane Jones on the Greens and mining – WHALE OIL

“There are two types of people in life: those who get on with the business of living, and those who try to get in their way. Politicians and bureaucrats are of course foremost in the latter category, but in this crony-capitalist society we have now it is not uncommon to find those who ought to be in the former category sidling up to those in the latter. Thus the obscene spectacle of NZX, the company that runs New Zealand's stock exchange, announcing a new Diversity Listing Rule, requiring companies listed on the stock exchange "to provide a breakdown of the gender composition of their directors and officers; and, if they have a formal diversity policy, to give an evaluation of their performance with respect to that policy."
NZX Dildoed by MWA – Lindsay Perigo, SOLO

Yes, I agree, we should end fossil fuel subsidies. But…
The Amazing Ignorance of #EndFossilFuelSubsidies – Tim Worstall, FORBES

The Greens' Metiria Turei calls the Accommodation Supplement a "landlord subsidy" and points to it as part of the general problem of housing affordability: it pushes up the price of housing. She’s right, you know.
Accommodation incidence – Eric Crampton, OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR
Fiddling with Housing Benefit won't solve the cost explosion – Richard Wellings, IEA.ORG

“Primary and secondary school education is in a shambles. Universities are
increasingly in academic decline as they endeavour to make comfortable
environments for the educationally incompetent. Universities should refuse
admission to students who are unprepared to do real university work. That
would not only help reveal shoddy primary and secondary education but also
reduce the number of young people making unwise career choices. Sadly, that
won't happen. University administrators want warm bodies to bring in money.”
- Walter Williams, Too Much University

Let’s not get too excited about China’s continuing ability to keep our economic heads above water.
China’s Economic Policy of Denial – Greg Canavan, DAILY RECKONING
The Question China Has To Answer Fast to Save it’s Economy – Callum Newman, DAILY RECKONING

Don’t think Germany is immune either.
Germany’s economy is only king in the blind valley of the Eurozone – Detlev Schlicter, PAPER MONEY COLLAPSE

The crash is speeding up. Will the Europeans manage to spend the last of Germany's money? Will it make any difference?
The greatest financial collapse the world has ever seen – Egon von Greyerz, KING WORLD NEWS

This story illustrates yet another of the moral hazards of a government-controlled paper-money system.
Bank of England dragged into rate-rigging row – TELEGRAPH
RBS & Lloyds drawn into rates-rigging scandal – TELEGRAPH
LIBOR: When Bankers Try to Shift the Blame – Murray Dawes, MONEY MORNING AUSTRALIA

On Monday, July 2, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a program on the gold standard as part of their Analysis series. Detlev Schlicter was one of the interviewees.
BBC Radio 4 – Analysis: The Gold Standard – BBC AUDIO

It’s happening, just quietly.
Gold reentering the monetary system – COBDEN CENTRE
How the Gold Standard is Returning Through the Back DoorMONEY MORNING AUSTRALIA

Mind you, it’s not a proper gold coin standard they’re talking about—one that leaves gold coins in the hands of workers.
A cross of gold, part 5 of 5 – Edwin Viera, TO THE POINT

“One of the things that separates good thinkers from not-so-good thinkers is the attention they give to terminology.”
To Discredit The Anti-Capitalists, Pro-Capitalists Need To Learn How To Use Words 
- Harry Binswanger, FORBES

Our favourite motelier had a strangely unsatisfied guest last week.
Unsatisfied Motel Guest – MOTELLA


Is Washington’s libertarian CATO Institute undergoing an Objectivist takeover? And why the hate from The New Yorker?
Who Is John...Allison? A Randian, Libertarian Business Icon Takes Over the Cato Institute – FORBES
The Kochs vs. Cato: Winners & Losers – NEW YORKER
Cato, Koch Brothers Settle Suits Over Control Of Think Tank – BLOOMBERG

Are formerly active blog comments sections losing out to Twitter and Facebook? But how meaningful a debate can you really have with 140 characters?
Blogging and Facebook- ROBERTO SARRIONANDIA

Here’s a topical question answered:
How much were the original Olympics like the modern Games? – HISTORY NEWS NETWORK

Yes, it’s true.
Your E-Book Is Reading You – WSJ

And now for the important stuff…
Formula 1 design evolution visualised – ROBIN’S CAD BLOG

There are some facts you really need to know. This is one of them:
Random Facts #2: Merkins – EROSOPHIA

Artist Michael Newberry has created a new video section on his website. “Cool time-lapse of wip paintings, lectures, presentations, and a few friends chiming in about art related stuff. All of it,” he says, “shares my love of figurative art and the road ahead with knowledge and innovation.”


And another artist friend, Auckland artist Jesper Sundwall, has just won a Highly Commended Award in the highly regarded Art Renewal Center 2012 Salon for the piece below, ‘Sven and I.’ Congratulations, Jesper.
International 2011-2012 A.R.C SALON – ART RENEWAL CENTER

You can catch up witH Jesper and his equally-talented artist wife Jasmine Kamante at their Newmarket exhibition next Friday, and public lecture Sunday week.
Exhibition "Florence to Auckland" – JESPER SUNDWALL
Artist's Talk on Sunday July 15th, bookings available now – JASMINE KAMANTE


If you’re living anywhere near Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch, then you’re in luck! Because at the end of this month the NZSO with Simon O’Neill, Edith Haller, John Wegner, Margaret Medlyn and other stellar singer will be presenting Richard Wagner’s opera ‘The Valkyrie’ as an “Opera In Concert.” Don’t miss out!
Here’s New York’s Met Opera giving the famous Ride of the Valkyries earlier this year:

A brief history of rock music100 guitar riffs in 12 minutes!

It’s a bit of a spotty presentation, but it does tell the story of my favourite album by my favourite 20th-century composer:

[Hat tips to Hugh Pavletich, Thrutch, Don Watkins, Geek Press, Julian D.  And thanks for cartoons to Bosch Fawstin and Nick Kim]

Thanks for reading…

Thursday, 5 July 2012

And the biggest drinkers are…

No, men over fifty are not the nation’s biggest drinkers.

Whatever the sub-editors at the Royal NZ Herald say.

As two of the experts actually quoted in the Herald’s story said, men over 50 accounted for the largest chunk of the booze because there are a lot of men over 50, not because they are the heaviest drinkers.  A little simple arithmetic shows that, per person, men over 50 drank less than men 35-50, and less than men 25-34.

We men between 35-50 clearly need to pick up the pace.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “…conceived to eradicate the illegal drug market, the war on drugs cannot be won”

“If there is one number that embodies the seemingly intractable challenge imposed by the illegal drug trade on the relationship between the United States and Mexico, it is $177.26. That is the retail price, according to Drug Enforcement Administration data, of one gram of pure cocaine from your typical local pusher. That is 74 percent cheaper than it was 30 years ago.
”This number contains pretty much all you need to evaluate the Mexican and American governments’ ‘war’ to eradicate illegal drugs from the streets of the United States. They would do well to heed its message. What it says is that the struggle on which they have spent billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of lives over the last four decades has failed…
Conceived to eradicate the illegal drug market, the war on drugs cannot be won.”
      - New York Times, July 3, 2012

The Higgs-Boson Particle explained

The Higgs-Boson Particle explained by PhD Comics. [Hat tip Geek Press]

And now the particle has been spotted, here are the politicians’ reactions

Why Government Intervention Hinders Progress and Innovation

_Kris_SayceGuest post by Kris Sayce from Money Morning Australia

‘The success of Asian economies such as Korea didn’t happen through the ideological miracle of economic bushfires, where the conditions need to be just right for their creation naturally.
‘They were deliberately built through considered and targeted government policy – picking winners and planning for long-term growth.
‘The Samsung story itself is incredible.
‘Driven by government-sponsored credit and policy vision, Samsung now accounts for more than ten per cent of the country’s GDP.’
Paul Howes, National Secretary, Australian Workers Union

In one breath, Mr. Howes denies the existence of entrepreneurialism and creative destruction.

In Mr. Howes’ (and other central planners’) world, it’s government that creates jobs.

They believe that a nation needs a group of wise overlords to guide and direct the economy.

In their view, nothing happens without government intervention.

As they see it, governments come up with the bright ideas and it’s then up to the market to fulfil those ideas. If the market doesn’t do it, it’s not because the idea is rubbish, it’s because the market has failed.

But while Samsung may be a wonderful example of a government picking winners, let’s not forget the other side of the coin — the hundreds or thousands of South Korean businesses that failed, the money lost and the lives ruined because the government backed Samsung while not giving the same favours to others.

Or let’s look at an example of another global brand that received government support — Nokia.

Until recently, Nokia was the world’s leading mobile phone company. And it was Finland’s biggest company.

Government Intervention and the Lesson of Nokia

But having favoured status didn’t protect the company from error. It made two crucial business mistakes that would cause it to miss out on the two biggest trends in the mobile phone industry during the past 10 years.

First, it missed the trend towards ‘flip’ mobile phones. It stayed with the ‘brick’ style that had won it millions of customers over the years. But at the time consumers wanted compact and sleek phones. The kind you could neatly hide away in a pocket or handbag.

But as you know, technology changes quickly. The trend for compact and sleek phones didn’t last long. Perhaps if Nokia caught the next trend wave it would be fine.

But no, it missed that too. That was where consumers wanted theopposite of sleek and compact. Mobile phones (smart phones) became fashion accessories.

Consumers wanted big screens. The bigger the better. No longer were mobile phones stashed in pockets or handbags, now they were laid out on the table or desk where everyone could marvel at the size of your screen and the smallness of your pixels.

Nokia missed out. But Apple and Samsung didn’t.

The result is that Nokia’s share price has fallen from USD$40 in 2008 to just USD$2.82 today.

Success and failure come and go quickly in business, especially in technology. So the idea that any business should account for 10% of a nation’s GDP (gross domestic product) isn’t a point of pride, it’s a point of concern.

Take an example close to home. BHP Billiton [ASX: BHP] and Rio Tinto [ASX: RIO] made combined revenues of $127 billion last year.

That’s about 10% of Australia’s GDP. Again, that may sound great, but not so much when those revenues are at the mercy of a slowing Chinese economy.

So South Korea, like Australia, isn’t a poster-child for positive government intervention. Rather they are poster-children for what happens when a government intervenes and manipulates to create a lop-sided and fragile economy.

Of course, the idea that government intervention creates prosperity is nonsense.

Government Intervention Hinders, Not Helps

Government’s don’t create opportunities…or plan for long-term growth. Governments hamper opportunities. And they only ever plan for short-term growth (even though they pretend they’re planning for the future).

That governments take the credit for progress, wealth and high standards of living is a falsity that must be corrected. Progress and wealth comes from freedom and opportunity, not from central planning and State intervention.

Tomorrow, we’ll explain how it hasn’t been the increase of government intervention powers that has created so much wealth and progress. Instead, it was the end of centuries of human oppression and the reduction in government involvement.

Kris Sayce
Editor, Money Morning Australia

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

“Peak oil” is past

It’s fascinating to see someone’s delusions falling off before your eyes. Environmentalists George Monbiot is moving bit-by-bit with baby steps away from his more lunatic ideas, and down the path trod before him by the likes of Bjorn Lomborg, David Bellamy, James Lovelock and Patrick Moore—sane folk who looked again at some of the enviro-lunacy they helped to promulgate and found it wanting.

He still has a long way to go before you’d call him sane.  But he did call out The Team on what was exposed in their ClimateGate emails.  And he has come out in today's Guardian admitting he was wrong on “peak oil.”  Rather than being at its peak, as he and his colleagues had claimed so noisily, even he now can’t avoid noticing oil is pouring out of the ground all around the world in increasing amounts even as available oil reserves are growing.

And why were he and his colleagues so wrong? In a word: Economics—the very laws of economics he’d never bothered to notice before, especially the principle observing that as prices for commodities go up, more production of those commodities (or substitutes for them) tends to comes on stream. For there is compelling evidence, writes Monbiot, that despite the best efforts of the likes of the Lucy Lawlesses and George Monbiots of the world to stop exploration and slow new production, a new boom in oil production has just begun.

The constraints on oil supply over the past 10 years appear to have had more to do with money than geology. The low prices before 2003 had discouraged investors from developing difficult fields. The high prices of the past few years have changed that.

Great news!

Unless, like George, you’re still a warmist and convinced fossil-fueled climate change is the new Armageddon.

Free trade is good in the real world too

Posting at NZ’s Anti Dismal blog, Paul Walker is great at finding snippets of interest around the net—like this one, a letter to the editor from Don Boudreaux to the Washington Post on free trade:

[Your correspondent] Steven Pearlstein correctly notes that the economic theory in support of free trade “is based on a number of assumptions” – but he mistakenly suggests that many of these assumptions often don’t hold in the real world.
    In fact, the critical assumptions on which the economic case for free trade rests are highly descriptive of reality:
(1) the ultimate justification for economic activity is to improve living standards for consumers;
(2) producers facing competition serve consumers better than do monopolists;
(3) each party to a voluntary trade is generally made better off by such trades; and – most importantly –
(4) the first three assumptions aren’t nullified merely by putting a national political border between consumers and producers.
    Other subsidiary assumptions, when they hold, explain particular trade patterns and the size of trade’s benefits.  But the proposition that trade between America and, say, India is beneficial for the people of both countries rests on assumptions no more unrealistic, tentative, or fragile than does the proposition that trade between Arizona and Indiana is beneficial for the people of both states.

So as Paul summarises,

if people in the South Island are made better off by trading with people in the North Island (and vice versa) then people in the South Island are made just as well off trading with people in Iceland (and vice versa).

And there are enough geographic barriers between us trading with the rest of the world to make us better off (and vice versa) without adding legal ones as well.


The 7.0 quake off Opunake was reported to have been felt all the way north up to Te Kuiti. I didn’t feel it myself—and to be fair, we’re not in a building that would stand too many earthquakes—but a friend felt it in his tall building in downtown Auckland.

Hope everyone’s okay.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Live at the Witch Trials

This week, Doc McGrath has been filling out tax returns.Dick_Turpin_and_the_taxman

_McGrath001According to Wikipedia, tax avoidance and tax evasion are part of a greater sin covering all actions deemed "unfavourable to a state's tax system.” Tax avoidance refers to the legal arrangement of one's financial affairs in order to minimise what the state regards as taxable income. Evasion, on the other hand, is generally understood to encompass fraudulent activity designed to render one's finances invisible to the tax collectors in a dishonest fashion.

Peter Dunne, Minister of Revenue, is overseeing the IRD's selective persecution of tax avoiders—people  legally trying to minimise their tax liability. Yet he is treating them like criminals.

Note that in this situation the IRD are not chasing tax evaders, who are clearly breaching the law, only targeting people who file income tax returns and disclose to the IRD how they have managed their financial affairs.

Peter Dunne represents the United Future political party, whose tax policy clearly encourages tax avoidance. Dunne claims to believe that the tax system "should empower family and community self-sufficiency rather than creating dependency." What better way to create self-sufficiency than to make New Zealanders responsible for the costs of their own health care, pensions, income protection and other facets of their lives? What better way of avoiding dependency than to leave income in the hands of those who earn it, to dispose of as they choose, taking responsibility for their long term future?

But Dunne is nothing if not a purveyor of meaningless blather. To him, empowering families and offering communities self-sufficiency is blather. But chasing tax avoiders? That’s real work.

"This is not witch-hunt stuff," says Dunne. Well, only because there’s no actual stakes being erected at which folk are burned. Other than that it looks a hell of a lot similar. "People who are paying their taxes steadily and normally aren't a concern of ours in this regard,” reckons Dunne against the evidence, “it's the people who just wilfully avoid and ignore their responsibilities that we're after and we employ a full range of measures to get to them."

So, he is talking about tax evaders, isn’t he. Describing people as evaders who obey the law to the letter, and who use duly qualified and registered accountants and legal advisors to follow perfectly legal avenues with the aim of distributing wealth back to themselves and their families and communities. This is a witch-hunt targeting people who have broken no law, a witch-hunt with one aim: to maximise the amount of money they can remove from private citizens to fund state wealth-redistribution programmes.  

According to the Dominion Post "The expected returns [on this exercise] show why this was one area the Government was keen to spend more on."

Government may not be in surplus by 2015—it sure as hell won’t be spending any less—but by the efforts of its Revenue minister (motto “You Can Get Blood From a Stone”) they hope to at least be sucking in more from you and me.

Speed_Camera_CriminalsYes, folks: this is similar to those “rogue cops” who ignore the speeding non-registered gang car with dodgy lights because it’s so much easier to get your quota by harassing law-abiding drivers for going five kmh over the speed limit. It's all about the IRD taking money from whoever they can most easily coerce it, the easiest source being the law-abiding citizenry—those suckers who think that by being honest and open with the IRD, they will avoid persecution.

This is nothing short of disgusting. Peter Dunne has betrayed United Future party members and voters. He clearly believes a person's justly-earned income belongs to the government, not to themselves; that legal counter-measures taken to retain earnings are immoral, not perfectly sensible; that anyone "deliberately seeking to avoid paying tax" is fair game, not a prudent taxpayer.

By Peter's logic, any downward adjustment at all of taxable income by a New Zealander leaves that person liable for action by the IRD.

Presumably then, all of our MPs have a moral obligation to maximise their taxable income so that the state can receive the maximum possible cut for redistribution?

Any attempt by an MP to divert income into family trusts, companies or other entities, or even to claim expenses against self-employed income, must count as tax avoidance measures and should thus be liable to the full weight of IRD investigation and demands for money. Any MPs manipulating their financial affairs, and tax return in this manner, are hypocritical to say the least.

If Dunne is to unleash the IRD pit bulls on law-abiding New Zealanders, the very least we deserve is a statement that he and his MPs are maximising their taxable income, after which the tax returns of all public service employees should be examined by the IRD to make sure that the government is complying with its own arbitrary rules. First three people to supply affidavits they are paying the maximum possible tax should be Peter Dunne, Bill English and Michael Cullen—the man who prostitutes himself to every government that comes along; the man who set up his domestic affairs to make himself the country’s highest-paid welfare beneficiary; and the man who hiked the marginal income tax rates for rich pricks thus giving Dunne and English the fuel for their witch hunt.

Oh, and by the way, I wonder if Helen Clark submits a tax return in our local jurisdiction? Surely, she must believe her income should not be immune to the maximum possible taxation and would be taking steps to pay it for the greater good of her fellow New Zealanders. Ah, hang on. The income from her Very Important Job is tax-free. Of course: it's one rule for the elite—for our intellectual betters—and another for us proles.

Sorry, Aunty Helen, I forgot.   

See you next week!  
Richard McGrath