Monday, 8 October 2012

Russel Norman wants to make bankers richer, and wage-earners poorer [updated]

_Russel-WagesThe world is full of monetary cranks.  Russel Norman is one of them.

If the Reserve Bank were to go out and print $2 billion of new money, as Russel Norman wants them to, are we all better off?

That is, two billion dollars of new paper money on the back of the current base of nearly four billion.

Imagine, as David Hume did years ago, that we all woke up in the morning to find an act of magic had somehow increased the quantity the number of notes and coins in our pockets, in our wage packets, in our piggy banks, and under the couch and chairs.  Everyone of us now goes about our business feeling richer. And so does everybody else—and we all of us would know it.

But have we all become richer? Has anyone? Because as even a moron would know (from which classification Norman is clearly excluded) since we all have the same increase and everyone knows about it—including salesmen—in this fantastical scenario all that increased money is just going to increase all our prices. And nothing will have changed fundamentally*.

And no-one will be better off.

This magic injection of new money [explains Detlev Schlicter in his book Paper Money Collapse] has no impact on the production of goods and services, on resource allocation, or on income distribution…

But that is only true in this magical, unrealistic situation.

Because of course, money never comes into existence in this way.

In reality, it’s very different. In our modern floating-currency paper-money economies, money is borrowed into existence on the back of “securities” like government bonds and assets like the contents of the housing bubble.  Which means when new money comes into existence, the first users of those dollars are borrowers and governments.  So what happens to prices? Well, they still go up, but since  these folk get first use they get to spend the new money before prices rise.

But can you see who misses out? Can you see who’s paying for these new riches?  No new paper notes have been put into your pocket, or into your savings accounts. The pool of real savings has not increased one iota. And no new resources have been brought into existence by the creation of this counterfeit capital.  Which means the new assets now enjoyed by borrowers and the resources distributed on the back of government bonds are simply transferred from savers and non-borrowers to governments and other big borrowers.

Oh, and also transferred to the pockets of those bankers who clip the ticket all along the way.

This is what Russel Norman wants more of.

This is what Russel Norman dreams about today.

Issuing $2 billion of “Earthquake Bonds” to be bought with printed money which will then bid up the prices of building materials and supplies, raid the pool of real savings, and make instantly poorer every wage-earner and every holder of existing dollars (which is almost all of us), making it instantly more impossible for anyone struggling to afford our already unaffordable houses (which is many of us), and transferring to Christchurch resources created by savers and non-borrowers—by means of what can only be called a stealth tax. 

At least his idea of an Earthquake Levy was up front—and would not have helped to wreck the whole price and structure and make you and I and every wage earner so much poorer (and every banker involved so much richer).

Oh, but he says this will help bring the exchange rate down! Which as I pointed out last week, will simply make fuel food and imports more expensive and all wage earners even poorer!

But, says Norman: “They’re doing it everywhere else.”

Yes, and everywhere they’re doing it, it isn’t working.  It was used by Japan for the last two decades—the two decades they call Lost. It was used by Weimar Germany and Zimbabwe. I trust even Russel knows what happened there.

Oh yes, and it’s been used over the last six years in the US, UK and Europe to produce figures showing economic growth when there’s been none.  I trust you’ve noticed with what (lack of) success. And you should perhaps have noticed it has reached a dead end.

It is not a crime not to know anything about economics. But it is to talk as if you do.

Frankly, this is the sort of fantastical pie-in-the-sky kind of monetary quackery that used to be the province of Social Credit.

Perhaps Russel should go out today and join them.

* * * * 

* Except of course for the overnight damage to the price structure and the longer run damage to the structure of bond prices and interest rates. But that’s a longer story not fully relevant to this one.

UPDATE: Liberty Scott: “It is a fundamental attack on the poor, and on those with savings on average incomes.”

Saturday, 6 October 2012

A Party of All the Talents #LibzConf2012 [updated]

UPDATE 2: Welcome Herald readers, with this clarification: No, we didn’t discuss merging with Act. But we did talk about a home for their many and increasing ex-members…

UPDATE 1: Lindsay Perigo’s speech here.

Thanks to everyone from Libz, Act, True Liberals, ALCP, Pirate Party, C&R and Auckland Now for a great conference. Here's what I said to the #LibzConf2012 conference this morning.

Good morning everyone.

My name is Peter. And I am a Recovering Libertarian. 

It began for me around 30 years ago. It started small. Just me and a few grams of Ayn Rand. But pretty soon I found myself with fellow addicts, gathering together to drink in John Locke, imbibe Thomas Jefferson, and to snort FA Hayek. 

17 years ago we met in a small smoke-filled room to set about spreading our addiction.

We had big plans for Project Libertarianz. 

We met, and we plotted, and we set out to make a revolution in people’s heads. 

We were hard-arses! flag-flyers. Non compromisers. Not for us the timid wimperings of focus groups too scared to frighten the horses. We plotted and planned and produced policies forged from the sterling silver of sound principle. All policies all principle all the way down the line. 
We planned to get these ideas and our policies into parliament, we said. By any means necessary, we said  

With a radio show, a magazine, and a small army of foot soldiers, we did. We got rid of the TV tax from outside parliament, a thankless victory but a hard-earned one. We got parties talking about one law for all; we got some of them offering a tax-free threshold. We got right-wing politicians starting to talk about decriminalising cannabis. 

But this wasn’t enough. We wanted MPs in parliament. Oh, we said we didn’t, we always said we didn’t. But we were in denial about our addiction. We knew we had to have MPs. We just found it impossible to get enough votes to have them. Or, for some reason, enough money to promote them properly.

And we found it impossible to find anyone amongst us who really wanted to be an MP. 

Partly because none of us actually even likes politics. Or politicans. 

We know deep down, all of us addicted libertarians do, that what Thomas Jefferson said is true—that whenever a man has cast a longing eye on political offices rottenness begins in his conduct. 

The only reason we libertarians are truly interested in politics is because politics can’t resist being interested in us.

Project Libertarianz began however with the explicit goal of getting Libertarianz MPs into parliament. It was right there on our brochures. Still is, as far as I know. 

But I think everyone who’s suffered from this addiction now knows the truth. 

It’s never going to happen. 

If it isn’t already obvious to you, then please remain seated while I tell you truth: Project Libertarianz has been a failure.

I’ll say that again. Project Libertarianz has been a failure. 

I say that not with any glee, only with huge disappointment. 

What we began with such promise was weighed down by the difficulty of running a never-noticed political party and beset by the never-ending problem of never-enough money.

But let’s be clear here. Project Libertarianz has failed just at the time it is most urgently needed.

We meet here now at a time when a hole the size of the ACT Party has appeared in National’s coalition partners; at a time when there has never been a more urgent need to articulate the goals of economic and social freedom. And to get that voice into parliament by any means necessary.

And I guess that we’re all here today means we understand that. 

So let’s be blunt about the reasons you’re all here. It isn’t just Project Libertarianz that’s been a failure, has it. So too has Project ACT. 

[Come on, how many recovering ACT members are there here? The first stage of any cure is accepting reality.] Project ACT has been a failure. If ACT’s lack of any real achievement hasn’t made it obvious—and I trust no-one here wants to defend the super-sized Auckland bureaucracy that ACT’s second-to-last leader delivered us-- If ACT’s lack of any real achievement hasn’t made it obvious; if the infighting and lack of direction in recent years hasn’t made it clear enough, then the size and quality of today’s ACT caucus surely has to. 

Is THAT what it was all for, all those years of effort? One super-powered mayoralty, and John Banks’s nose in the parliamentary trough again? 

Surely all those millions of dollars and all those years of effort should have delivered something much, much better.

And don’t fool yourself it will all change if you can just eject your current feral conservative from the leadership. The ACT brand is now so poisonous that instead of Don Brash dragging it up, the once well-respected man was dragged down himself by its toxic slick. 

So Project ACT and Project Libertarianz are both failures. 

And if success is measured by achieving measurable goals, then failure has unfortunately been the only thing about which the single-issue Legalise Cannabis Party has to boast.

And that’s despite virtually every MP in the New Zealand parliament happy to confess they’ve inhaled.

I think economic and social liberals from all parties—classical liberals, if you like—can learn from all our failures.

Project Act and Project Libertarianz are failures for opposite reasons.

ACT abandoned principle in favour of populism, and ended up losing both. Libz embraced principle over populism, and while we’ve succeeded in putting some of those principles on the public stage, it’s not as much as we’d hoped from 17 years of trying. 

For similar reasons, ALCP supporters have faced similar disappointment. And many convictions.  

Why the failures? 

Well, why did Project ACT fail? It’s principles are certainly sound, as they should be. they were written by the Libz founder. and I for one would have no difficulty embracing them as the foundation of a new party.

The principal object of the ACT Party is to promote an open, progressive and benevolent society in which individual New Zealanders are free to achieve their full potential.

To this end the ACT Party upholds the following principles:

that individuals are the rightful owners of their own lives and therefore have inherent rights and responsibilities; and
that the proper purpose of government is to protect such rights and not to assume such responsibilities.

Nothing there to argue with.

But it wasn’t that ACT’s MPs ever argued with the principles. They seemed to just forgot they were there. And where they should have been waging a battle of ideas against the enemies of their principles, instead they waged a battle of personalities within their own ranks.

And why did Project Libertarianz fail? Not because of any lack of principle, or of talent. Nor because of any lack of intellectual grunt. I still smile when I remember one journalist gleefully recounting the tale of one MP who shall remain nameless making the mortal error, as the journalist described it, of publicly engaging two lanky libertarians in intellectual combat. 

That was our reputation.

But it won us no seats. 

Our ACT critics were right. Victories like this, however delicious, were no substitute for being an MP in parliament with the one single goal of increasing freedom and rolling back the state. (The lack of such a goal being our own criticism of virtually every single ACT MP.

Why did we not get any traction? I’m sure you all have your own answers. We’ve always seen Project Libertarianz very much as a vehicle to educate people. But perhaps it is too early for people to hear what we have been saying. Perhaps, in what Lindsay fondly calls this pathetic authoritarian backwater, we always were just pissing in the wind. Perhaps we did just frightened the horses a little more than we needed to. Perhaps we scared people off.

That’s what Richard McGrath told TV3 last weekend. That our policies were too scary for most people. That they scared people off.

We were told that again during the week by someone putting up her hand to be our in-house Agony Aunt.“In the past,” said Deborah Coddington, who was once our party’s deputy leader.

the Libz narrow dogma -- total free market, wholesale selling of state assets including having all schools and hospitals run by private enterprise, the right to carry guns, and complete freedom to take whatever drugs you like so long as you accept the consequences -- have scared the bejesus out of people.

She’s probably right. We probably did. But someone did have to say those things were right, and so we said them.

And it was fun.
But if if I may continue her Agony Aunt column, she offers this advice: [Ahem]

Cliches are usually true,” she says. “as in there's only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time. So when you say you want freedom, you can only achieve it one step at a time. Don't terrify people who've been enchained for 30 years. It's like stripping them naked, when you should be persuading them they can just remove their overcoat. It will take time for some to be convinced they don't need to hold Nanny's hand.

Right again. It does. And don’t we know it.

So “finally,” she continues,

tell us what you're for, as well as what you're against. When campaigning for Act, this was a common criticism, and today when I switch on the news or pick up a newspaper, all I see are killings, crashes, our youth are all drunk, the country's broke, we're going to hell in a handcart.
How refreshing it would be for a change, to be asked to give my vote to a party with a sense of life.

Right once again. There is much in the present world about which to be honestly afraid. Hell, there’s enough just here at home about which to be terrified. But we need to explain simply how freedom makes things better.

If I may quote a libertarian litany from a fellow who essentially put up his hand last week to be our Agony Uncle, 

With all the this government is doing, said Matthew Hooton in last week’s NBR,

the classical liberal movement should be booming, especially with National’s support falling and the combined Labour/Green vote leading the polls. That ACT languishes on 0.5% underlines that party’s abject failure.

Government spending as a percentage of GDP has grown since 2008 and Finance Minister Bill English borrows hundreds of millions of dollars a month, mainly for welfare.

Prime Minister John Key broke his promise of further tax cuts, yet his pledges to keep Labour’s Working for Families, interest-free student loans and current superannuation entitlements remain inviolable.

Fiscal surplus is elusive. Even if New Zealand reaches balance for a year or two this decade, Treasury’s long-term fiscal outlook indicates that, without major policy change, public debt will surpass Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain well before mid-century.

A vast new bureaucracy has been established to hand out corporate welfare while other bureaucracies work on five-year plans.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the Ministry of Maori Development, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, the Office of Ethnic Affairs, the Ministry for the Environment, NZ On Air and dozens of other unpopular agencies and quangos continue to exist.

Efforts to expand the private sector into health, education, welfare and ACC are half-hearted at best.

Nothing serious has been done to reform the Resource Management Act, which Steven Joyce rightly points out has already held up new job creation on the West Coast for seven years – with no end in sight.

There is no true freedom to contract under the Employment Relations Act.

While SOEs are not being privatised, management of Te Urewera National Park will be, as part of a Treaty of Waitangi deal with a tribe that didn’t sign it.

Rogue spy agencies are intercepting New Zealand residents’ communications and passing their business secrets to foreign powers.

The nanny state is re-emerging in welfare, including the requirement to enrol children in early childhood centres, seen by some as peddlers of socialist doctrine.

And now National is flirting brazenly with NZ First's Winston Peters…

  It is quite a list.

And, as he says, faced with that, the classical liberal movement should really be booming.

It should be a gift to parties like ours.

But they’re not booming, we’re dying.

And the faces of the alleged classical liberal parties today, if we don’t put something better out in the field ourselves, will be John Bank. And Colin Craig. And, if the United Future Party is successful in changing the name of his party to the Liberal Democrats, Peter Dunne-Nothing—the Minister of Internal Revenue.

Which is why Aunty Deborah and Uncle Matthew and many others like them in the media are just quietly beginning to realise that “Libertarianz representation on councils and parliament would undoubtedly be good for New Zealand.”Better especially than the much less liberal alternative of Colin Craig.

But like them, we must know that achieving that will not be easy.

THERE IS INDEED MUCH about which to be honestly afraid . Our job however is to tell people how more freedom can drive away the fears; how less government will makes their their petrol cheaper, their jobs more plentiful, their houses more affordable and their lives inside them better.

How refreshing it would be for a change, to ask people to give their vote to a party with a sense of life.

But there is opportunity from ACT’s collapse, from Libz realisation of failure, and from National’s desperation for new “partners.” Opportunity for a Party of All the Talents attracting like-minded adherents from all parts of the political spectrum. A party firmly based on sound principles, promoting a small suite of popular policies that get us there one principled step at a time.

Politics is the art of the possible. Does that mean compromise is necessary? Not a bit of it. Look again at that advice from our Agony Aunt. We’ve been trying to eat the whole elephant. But the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. 

Even though we’d been snorting Ayn Rand, we hadn’t realised that Ayn Rand would not even agree with our approach. 

It’s too early for politics, she said fifty years ago. It still is. Too early to be standing at the goalposts demanding that everyone play towards us—which is what, with our all-or-nothing policies, we were doing.  

Ayn Rand talked instead about a “Party X” that wouldn’t just wave at everyone from the goalposts saying “up here,” but would dive into the ruck in the middle of the park and start moving the ball in the upward direction. 

Of course, Rand never used that metaphor. I doubt she ever saw a rugby game, But she did offer a brief prescription for her’ Party X,’ one that rolls back the state even from opposition : A party that uses its principles not as a set of handcuffs, or as something to be banished from its website. Rand’s Party X would use its principles as a weapon.

Party X [she said] would oppose statism and would advocate free enterprise. But it would know that one cannot win anybody’s support by repeating that slogan until it turns into a stale, hypocritical platitude—while simultaneously accepting and endorsing every step in the growth of government controls. 

Party X would know that opposition does not consist of declaring to the voters: “The Administration plans to tighten the leash around your throats until you choke—but we’re lovers of freedom and we’re opposed to it, so we’ll tighten it only a couple of inches.” 

Party X would not act as Exhibit A for its enemies, when they charge that it is passive, stagnant, “me-tooing” and has no solutions for the country’s problems. It would offer the voters concrete solutions and specific proposals, based on the principles of free enterprise. The opportunities to do so are countless, and Party X would not miss them.

No, it wouldn’t .

For example, every political bullfrog and his legrope is presently all afire about child poverty, about mothers being forced out to work, and children being forced into child care by an uncaring Paula Benefit. A Party X wouldn’t miss a challenge of that kind. It would proceed to demonstrate to everyone who would listen that early childhood centres survive on subsidies—which just barely covers the cost for the ever-increasing number of regulations they have to follow. It would point out to everyone that the salary of one parent in every couple is spent just paying their tax bill. That one partner in every couple is effectively going out to work just to pay their tax bill. 

Our Party X would demand to know why, say, the couple can’t even get a tax credit for any money spent on the education of their children, or for those children whose education they might choose to sponsor. And Party X would offer this proposal to voters: a tax exemption for the educational expenses of all citizens.

And Party X would also declare that if people really wanted to put other people first they might begin by taking their hand out of other people’s pockets.

For another example, every hand wringer and his box of tissues likes to wail about the problem of affordable housing. But they have no idea of how to make housing affordable. And they wail about it while doing all they can to make housing even more unaffordable. 

Now I rejoice in the fact there are now many more people already singing from our songsheet—about rolling back the planners’ power over land and building that makes our overregulated housing more than four times the build-cost of freer markets. 

But their proposed changes will take time. A Party X would want to know why councils couldn’t have small consents tribunals for projects under, say, $300,000. As former Federated Farmers president Charlie Pederson observed, "it's little, not large, that suffers most RMA pain." These tribunals, charged with using common sense and common law to make quick decisions, would fix that. 

And Party X would also declare the wider principle that when the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce, then you may know that your culture is stuffed. 

I want us to be that Party X.  

And something more. 

We who understand the power of genuine freedom to deliver real prosperity might even realise we can spike the guns of our opponents, to silence those who are only too eager to put us in the ashcan of being “right wing”, by declaring that we are the party of affordability. Because only real economic freedom can make things that are genuinely affordable.

WE might even, if we were to stand for local govt in the likes of Auckland or Ashburton next next year, develop a sort of franchise, calling our loose franschise as necessary, Affordable Auckland, Affordable Ashburton and so on. 

Of course, our Party X would recognise the only way Wellington would ever be affordable would be the erasure of whole govt departments. 

And the only way Christchurch will ever be affordable again, or even a real city instead of a welfare project, will be if it can be made an enterprise zone.  

And we will say that. 

Face it, there are no shortage of opportunities.  

Our only choice should be which particular battles to fight. About which more later.

Let me tell you first what I mean by using our principles as a weapon. 

To start with, let’s realise that eating the elephant one bite at a time doesn’t mean compromise. Let’s realise that right now.  

We certainly have to recognise the realities of what’s politically possible, but that’s no reason at all to withdraw from a commitment to removing the leash from around our throats. Quite the opposite. 

What it does means is that we direct our work as far towards our final goals as possible, and wok fervently for every small gain we can get --- and we formulate our policies on principle to reflect that. Writer Robert Tracinski gives us the big tip:

In judging a measure, he says, one cannot hold it responsible for all aspects of a mixed economy - only for those aspects it changes.  

These changes can be evaluated by a straightforward application of the principle of individual rights: Does the reform remove some aspect of government control or does it add more control?...It is not a compromise to advocate reduced government control in one sphere even if controls in other spheres are left standing. It is a compromise, on the other hand, if one seeks to purchase increased freedom in one area at the price of increased control in another.

Clear enough: Start with what you find, and don’t take responsibility for it. Then design the means to work towards your goal one baby step at a time, without ever purchasing increased freedom at the expensed of increased coercion.  

This is what is meant by the phrase ‘ratchet for freedom.’ 

This approach gives us a real weapon if we can make it into parliament. It would be a game changer.  

We could spurn altogether any idea of coalition, which has killed every minor party who embraced it. Instead, we could give every party in the house the firm commitment that we would vote for every single measure just as long as it removed some government control, just as long as it advanced freedom, just as long as there were no new element of coercion. 

And how could anyone object to that? 

And just think. No need for made-to-be-broken coalition agreements, because any party who needed it would have our cast-iron commitment to vote with them on every measure removing some government control, as long as there were no new element of coercion—which means supporting every budget that removed spending, just as long as there was no new increased burden on anybody. 

Just imagine it. Every politician in the house will be hurrying to understand what the words more freedom and less government actually mean. 

Just think about it. Every journalist in the country who wants to talk up votes in the house will be doing our job for us, because to understand how our votes would be committee—if we get to parliament—would require them, too, to understand what the words more freedom and less government actually mean. 

A principled opposition of course – our putative 'Party X' -- would also promote such policies. An intelligent opposition would design such policies to be picked up and passed around. 

To be picked up and passed around (and to be worth passing around) every policy should pass The Test of the Three Ps: it should be Practical, it must be Principled, and it will have been designed to be arse-grabbingly Provocative.  

Provocative enough to be passed around; Practical enough to be work; Principled enough to move the game in the right direction. The principle with each policy must be clear: More freedom with no new coercion. 

Now I know there are policy wonks in this very room who if we let them would talk enough would all say which specific policies we should promote and why. 

But I’m going to say we shouldn’t sweat the specific policies now. Not yet. Not this afternoon. I say if we get broad agreement now on our general approach, we can put ACT's principles at the top of the page, and meet early next year to thrash out the main policy platform arising therefrom. 

One think I think we can agree on now is that we keep it simple, stupid. 

Here’s what I mean. At the last election, the Greens had great success from promoting just three basic policies. Sorry, three “priorities.” If you recall, the three “priorities” were green jobs, clean rivers and child poverty. It worked. 

Now without commenting on those priorities themselves, I think we’d all say it worked. They found a small number of areas on which there’s huge popular support, and articulated their positions with all the energy and taxpayers’ money they could command..

I think we can learn from that. I’d like to think however that our target voter is smarter than the Greens’s. I’d like to think that. So I think we can do better than three. I reckon we should promote five major policies, a “tight five” of priorities, promoted over and over again until we’re bored with talking about them—because only then will others start to notice. 

So which five do we promote?  

That’s the sixty-million dollar question, isn’t it.  

The populist way for a party to capture support is to find people’s itches and scratch them. Ours is a harder route, but with greater long-term payoff. 

Political parties must first of all capture support, so their policies do have to be popular. But they also have to continually expand the market for their ideas, (something ACT failed to do) so every policy also has to teach.  

Remember, if we’re going to be successful we need to attract the support of around 100,000 people. So I’d suggest the test for being in our “tight five” should be these five points:

  1. Select those policies that clearly demonstrate our principles;
  2. Select those policies for which we estimate there are already 100,000 people in the country who agree with us; and
  3. Select those policies for which those 100,000 will vote for us instead of anyone else.
  4. Reject policies too closely associated with past failure.
  5. Accept those policies that promote the benevolence and sense of life of freedom.

NB: All five points are important.

Selecting those policies that demonstrate our principles keeps us honest, and it helps educate others. (Promoting affordable cities, for example, allows us to teach people that only by making people freer can our cities become more affordable.)

Without popular policies we’re wasting our time. (Promoting marijuana legalisation, for example, which we already know has large support—and tells anyone who needs to know that this is not a right-wing party, it’s one serious about freedom.)

Without policies for which we alone have a competitive advantage, we’re spending time promoting policies for which other parties receive the rewards. (there’s little point in us spending time promoting law and order, for example, because the Nats will lap up that support, not us.)

We have to learn from the sad career trajectory of Don Brash that anything publicly associated with ACT (and possibly everyone associted) is now poison for most people. So that means policies directly and publicly associated with them will be too (which means, unfortunately, that one law for all must be out.)

For too long we’ve rained on everyone’s parade by scaring them about Nanny State and telling them what we’d like to abolish, what we’d like to take away. And that’s scared them. How about we tell them all them instead all the benefits of freedom, like prosperity, like affordability, like choice. Yes, that will be much harder, but I think the sugar pill will prove more palatable to more people.

There is one policy however which by necessity violates this last guideline of being positive.

Let’s face it. Economically, the world is in a mess. I’m convinced that we need to promote balanced budgets and hard money. The payoff for this will be when the unfortunate GFC 2.0 crash happens, and (unlike the other parties) we will be seen to know what we're talking about, just as the likes of Peter Schiff, Detlev Schlicter, and John Allison had their reputations enhanced by warning of the coming of the last calamity.

There is yet another reason to keep our suite of policy themes to a minimum. 

And that’s because not all of us in this room agree on everything.

That’s both the strength and the weakness of a party of all the talents. 

I draw inspiration from the Ministry of All the Talents formed in Britain during the Napoleonic War, and again during the Second World War, that drew on talents from across the spectrum, coming together with the one aim of winning the war.

Our divisions are fewer than those between, say Nai Bevan and Winston Churchill. But with their aims limited to specific goals, they could find agreement.

So can we.

WE have a mission. We have a goal. We share an understanding, I think, of how to get there.

Now, to the extent that we are successful in attracting large numbers, we’ll all be running into people we’ve had run-ins with before. To that I say “suck it up.” That’s a good thing, it will be one early sign of our success—that we’re drawing in people who have left the lists for other things and have now returned to the battle. If it happens, as it should, embrace it. And as long as we’re honest with each other, and all our aims are the same, we can agree and get on with it.

OUR IMMEDIATE AIM must be to give a home to ACT's disenfranchised libertarians and social liberals, along with like-minded souls from Libz, ALCP, socially liberal Young Nats and elsewhere. 

AND OUR LONG-TERM AIM must be to produce by education and activism a “freedom bloc” in parliament of intelligent, articulate, knowledgeable advocates of freedom. A principled and powerful Party of All the Talents that regenerates itself by continual education of members and MPs.

(And for those who do read Matthew Hooton, let me assure you that doesn’t mean re-education in the art of romantic realism. Well, not necessarily.)

** AIM OF FREEDOM BLOC: The aim is obviously to be in Parliament within six years. 

Let’s not think that will be easy.It’s certainly possible. But it’s not going to be easy. 

If we’re going to do it, we have to be credible. We have to be financial. And we have to be active.

Outside parliament and struggling for attention, what we really need here is a constant campaign--a permanent revolution, if you will. Not just a three-week burst in some far-distant November, but an ongoing concerted campaign to capture attention for the party, and teach the ideas. 

Q: How many of you are really up for that? How many of you are willing to back that.

The opportunity exists for us to Take advantage. But how many of you value it enough to get behind it. Because this is where it all gets that much harder.


Campaigning costs money. Campaigning credibly costs big money.

We have a wealth of ideas. But do we have wealth and funders sufficient to bankroll us?

On that, I bow to those more qualified to answer. But I do know that being credible attracts big money. And I know that some of you know how, and from whom, to extract it.

And we are also going to need grassroots financial support.

I reckon no party with the goals that we have can be taken seriously, or can do the job we need to do, unless there’s regular and decent funding from the membership. Unless there is serous money not just at election time, but all through the electoral cycle. Unless the leader of the party, the man or woman who (like it or not) is going to be the party’s face, is at least getting an honorarium for all the time that doing the job properly will take.

Whatever we choose to call it, if we’re going to do it properly this new project will demand a lot of our time, and cost a lot of money.

So to those who are thinking of applauding me now I’ve finally concluded, just let me say this.

Don’t clap. Just throw money. 

Because if we’re not just pissing in the wind, we’re going to need it. 

* * * * * 


  • Small Consents Tribunals – accept RMA but insist that Small Consents Tribunals are set up, something like Small Claims Tribunals, to deal with projects under $300,000 on the basis of a Codification of Common Law. At one very easy stroke you make more low-cost housing much more affordable for many more people.
  • Iwi then Kiwi – accept ToW, insist only that all property involved (which, let’s face it, is the only way we’re going to see any real privatisation this decade) is individualised and transferrable. And call it what it is. Privatisation. At one simple stroke you have the biggest political power bloc in the country, the Browntable, behind privatisation.
  • Balanced Budget
  • Legalise cannabis
  • Voluntary euthanasia
  • Abolish Search & Surveillance Act, 2012
  • Abolish Maori seats
  • Enterprise Zone for Christchurch
  • Affordable Cities
  • 40/15 tax: $40k income tax free threshold, 15% GST
  • A Very Special Carbon Tax: linked to temperature rise in troposphere at equator
  • Eco UnTaxes
  • Putting Property Rights in the Bill of Rights.
  • Replace zoning with “Coming to the Nuisance”
  • Tax credits for education

Friday, 5 October 2012

The political destruction of NZ’s residential construction sector in one graph

_hugh-pavletich-smlGuest post by Hugh Pavletich

Study the graph below comparing the rates at which houses are being built in Australia and New Zealand, and see how the politicians and urban planners have decimated the residential construction sector in New Zealand these past 30 years.

imageChart kindly supplied by Leith van Onselen (aka the Unconventional Economist)

The measure employed is the “build rate per 1000 population,” which of course appropriately factors in population changes over time.

It illustrates just what a truly massive hole this country has to dig itself out of since the industry began being bureaucratically bludgeoned back in to the Stone Age of cottage building.

It illustrates too just how incompetent the industry and professional groups have been these past few decades—more interested in political boot licking than being socially responsible.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

China, Japan, those islands--and the coming collapse of ‘the bargain’


The Middle Kingdom Problem

LAST WEEK I POSTED pictures of riots inside China against Japanese “occupation” of some rocks in the East China Sea the Chinese call the Diaoyu Islands, and the Japanese call Senkaku Islands. We might call them just islets, because these rocks (see them above) just don’t make the grade as islands.

So why is feeling running so high in China about the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islets that smiling car dealers can hold up banners with perky slogans boasting: “We will kill every Japanese person even if it means deaths for our own”? And Chinese movie theatres can have signs outside saying, “If you find Japanese men, kill them; if you find Japanese women, rape them”?  And hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Chinese can march in streets, burn Japanese businesses and beat anyone driving Japanese cars. 

A national wave of nationalistic sentiment is directed (at the moment) at the moment, at Japan—over a bunch of unimportant rocks that are not even habitable.


There’s clearly, you would think, something more significant going on here, something more symbolic than actual.  Historian Scott Powell pointed out, in the first of our online Chinese History lectures last weekend, that whenever you see such anger over something so apparently insignificant—whether it’s one person or millions of people--there is clearly something there deeply connected to that person’s—or those people’s—core values.*

So what core values could be involved here ?  And how might understanding them help us evaluate China’s future?

Scott’s answer was to go back 200o years, to something of which commentators (who talk just about oil and gas and geopolitiks) and economists (who talk just about trade ties and GDP and China’s manufacturing base) would both be unaware, but good historians will not. 

Scott calls it the “Middle Kingdom problem.” Which is to say that for over 2000 years, Chinese considered China the natural centre of the world.  Even the universe. For 2000 years they were the power in Asia—in the world; in the universe!—to which all others paid tribute. This has a powerful effect on a nation’s psyche.

Then came a shock from which the psyche has still not recovered.  First was the growing western impingement upon China—evidence, increasing with each contact, that China was a declining world power. Then came the serious shock: in its war with Japan of 1894-1905, when Japan first annexed these islands, China was beaten. Beaten by what, for 2000 years, had been a small tributary power but which now, through its emulation of western technology, had vaulted ahead.

For China, this represented a gigantic, barbaric, 200o-year-old loss of face. Symbolically, it represented the arrival of Japan on the world stage, and the end of the illusion of China as a great regional power.

This hurt. Deeply. It still does.

And this is the deeper significance of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islets for both nations. For Japan, about to hit the economic wall, it symbolises the beginning of its own international glory days. And for China, now sinking in the economic mire, it symbolises the beginning of China’s embarrassing subordination in world affairs.

So why has this all bust out now?

Answer: Because both nations are sinking in the economic mire and so are retreating to their core values. Both of which rest, dangerously, on barbaric illusions about nationalistic pride.

The Collapse of the Bargain

A RELATED POINT, ONE becoming more relevant as economic shit hits Chinese fan, is the essential “bargain” Chinese people have so often made with their rulers. That bargain—made partly out of pragmatism, and partly out of a Confucian sense of duty—essentially allowed their rulers to be as authoritarian as they needed to be just as long as they delivered the national goals, be it national pride, military success or economic growth or prosperity. Chinese core values have never included freedom, but they do include having leaders deliver on their implicit promises.

This is why the most evil bastard in history, Mao Zedong, is still considered a hero in China—because, say Chinese, he “saved” China.  And this why the Chinese Communist Party have been so eager (so over-eager) to continue “stimulating” economic growth: because their bargain involves the state promising more wealth. So now that wealth is drying up, the ChiComs are doing everything they can to fake wealth creation—even if it means empty cities, empty savings accounts and a generation’s worth of malinvestment.

But what happens when stimulus collapses, and the “bargain” with it?  They could be as authoritarian as they liked as long as they delivered wealth/prestige/power/national pride/insert-latest-goal-here—but when delivery is not made, what then?

“The collapse of the bargain” will be interesting.

Time to enrol in a good course on Asian History—and as you’ll have read here before, I can highly recommend this one.


* Don’t believe me? Then ask yourself why so many grown men and women were chewing their nails so intensely around New Zealand last September about a few blokes throwing a pointy ball around?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Only in China

Guest post by our roving China correspondent Suzuki Samurai
China announced last month it had commissioned a new aircraft carrier.
This is not that aircraft carrier.  These are photos of a concrete aircraft carrier in a man-made lake in a city called Binzhou.
True story.
Legend has it the thing was built as a casino, but the hapless mug who did so forgot that there are no 'official' legal gambling establishments allowed in mainland China. So what is there is instead is a complete  concrete carrier the size of a Charles de Gaulle class concrete block.
On the deck you can look down into the casino through glass panels; and see staircases, marbled banisters, and the shell of a massive ballroom. It defies belief when looking at it, and standing on it. It sits atop a man-made lake at the new western edge of town. Rumour has it that the chap who commissioned this thing is now at the bottom of the lake.
There is some commercial activity here though...a wee fella selling bottles of water.     
Let no one call it malinvestment.
Suzuki Samurai is … well you know who he is:
[Pictures by Suzuki Samurai]

Labour loser wants printing presses to run faster to “help” exporters

Labour Finance Spokesman David Parker still talks about giving the Reserve Bank “other targets” than just leaning against inflation. He’d like them to also meddle with our money to lean against (in no particular order) our high exchange rate, rising unemployment, slowing GDP growth, falling savings rates and the quality of chardonnay in Grey Lynn.

How? Somehow.

Why worry about him and his ramblings? Because this ardent inflationist is very likely to be the next Finance Minister.

TI have my own problems with the phony price stability pursued by the Reserve Bank. There’s clear evidence the policy of price stability always leads to more instability. Or worse. Learning nothing however from the lessons of the past suggesting using monetary policy to “target” cherished policies can achieve anything beyond instability, in this penetrating interview with Alex Tarrant (good work, Alex) Parker admits he leans himself towards either “nominal GDP targeting” or targeting the prices of a basket of export commodities instead of the CPI–both ideas espoused by his new hero Jeffrey Frankel.

This, to Parker and to Frankel, would be “modern central banking.” And he’s probably right. Using monetary policy to tinker with “targets,” boost exports and bail out failure probably is thought “modern” by those who never learned the reasons for the failures of antediluvian mercantilism.  Or who still remain blind to

 the role of central banks in this crisis, let alone the very concept of monetary central planning, of the idea that some ‘wise men and women’ in Frankfurt, Washington, ]Wellington] or London can fix the supply of base money and certain prices (interest rates) in order to control, guide and manage overall economic performance. Like [so many of the chattering classes, Parker] is in awe of the power elite that supposedly runs our economies and our societies to our benefit. Difficult times only seem to require more determined politicians and more determined central bankers. And when central planning fails, the central planners simply need a new plan. Or a new target.
    Not surprisingly, [Parker] is an advocate of nominal GDP targeting, the new fad in monetary central planning. There is allegedly nothing wrong with monetary policy. The central bankers only need a new target, and, naturally, a more comprehensive one. [FT journalist and] trained mathematician Münchau lectures us how this works:

“This is a debate about nominal income targeting, where a central bank no longer stabilises the inflation rate directly but focuses instead on stabilising nominal gross domestic product. You can think of nominal GDP as the sum of real GDP and inflation. If real growth falls, the central bank would thus have to drive up inflation. Conversely, if real growth rises, the central bank would have to bear down on inflation much harder than it would do under the pure inflation targeting regime used by central banks such as the ECB.”

There is a dangerous naivete about all of this, a blindness toward real-life complexity. There is also a kind of narrow-mindedness, of which Münchau accuses the central bank critics, but of which he himself is the prime example. Münchau and other advocates of GDP-targeting are consistent macro-economists, which means they necessarily ignore many important micro-economic phenomena.
    Here is the prime fallacy behind the nominal GDP target and, in fact, all of Münchaus’ argument: It tacitly assumes that money is neutral, which money never is.

Those paragraphs above come from a great piece by Detlev Schlicter: “The fallacy of nominal GDP targeting” appearing at his blog Paper Money Collapse. Schlicter points out the abject fantasy of believing the “easy money” of central banks can be used to produce stability.  The fantasy focuses on price indexes and statistical constructs while ignoring the real world; ignoring, for example, that

when new money is injected into the economy, it does not raise all prices simultaneously and to the same degree but some faster than others, and some more than others.
   This is important and has far-reaching consequences. ‘Easy money’ does not just directly affect growth and inflation, or any desired combination of the two. It does not just affect the statistical average of prices, the price level, or the statistical aggregate of economic transactions, real GDP, or any other statistical macro-variable. ‘Easy money’ always means changes in relative prices, changes in resource allocation, and changes in income and wealth distribution. In particular, ‘easy money’ lowers interest rates, which are crucial in a market economy for coordinating investment activity with the public’s time preference, i.e. the public’s propensity to save and thereby support and sustain the capital stock. Monetary expansion means distorted interest rate signals and thus necessarily capital misallocation. This fundamental insight is the basis of all monetary theories of the business cycle, that is, of the insight that monetary expansion leads to booms that must be followed by busts. Every monetary expansion creates distortions, the liquidation of which cause the next recession. Every monetary expansion creates economic instability. This was already the basis of the business cycle theories of the British Classical economists of the Currency School in the 19th century, but more importantly, it was the basis of the so far most convincing business cycle theory, the one developed by
Ludwig von Mises in 1912 and 1924, a theory that is now widely known as the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle.
    This theory explains why modern fiat money central banks can never be a source of ‘stability’, whether that means the stability of the inflation rate or the stability of nominal GDP. Central banking, whether old fashioned or modern, is always a source of instability. This theory also explains why modern central banking has now maneuvered us into a veritable economic cul de sac. Repeated attempts over the past decades to buy near-term economic growth at the price of persistent marginal debasement of money has now left us with such a distorted and over-indebted economy that any further monetary expansion has to be ever more scarily aggressive to even cut through the thicket of accumulated imbalances and have any effect on inflation and GDP, whether real or nominal.

Here’s a target for the central bank: stop printing new money.

That would be a target they should manage.

Police excited at new search & surveillance powers

New law giving extended powers over search and surveillance quietly came into force on 1st October.  The law gives the police and dozens of govt agencies the power to stop and search anyone, anytime—simply on suspicion they might do or have done something wrong. And it then gives police and that same long list of govt agencies the powers to search homes and businesses without a warrant—as long as those agencies can articulate a suspicion that, for example, evidence is about to be destroyed. And most govt agents can be fairly articulate when they need to be.

Oh, it also lets more govt agencies carry out more surveillance operations. Presumably because those govt agencies that used to carry out surveillance operations have proved themselves so good at it. 

After revelations of supreme incompetence in the Urewera and DotCom raids and surveillance, you could be forgiven for thinking this is hardly the right time to be giving further powers to proven incompetents. In fact, it never is the right time to remove from power-hungry rank incompetents the few legal safeguards protecting from their misguided ardour. Giving them carte blanche to manufacture suspicion and produce retrospective justification for doing anything they feel like to do you over, really, is never right.

There are those who disagree with me.  The Herald quotes a fellow who says he did not see the changes as a massive expansion of police powers. Says who? Says the Police Assistant Commissioner.

His minions beg to differ.  As part of the local Business Association, I sat through a police presentation on local crime a fortnight ago.  The constable presenting was excited at how the coming new powers were going to help police clean up the streets, essentially suggesting suspicion could always be found to justify stopping and harassing anyone unwelcome in that part of town. He was excited at the new powers to enter and search without a warrant, saving the trouble of all those bothersome legal restrictions that used to hold them up.

He was so excited his eyes gleamed about the future of police operations in the brave new world of The Search and Surveillance Act, 2012.

That constable certainly say the changes as a massive expansion of police powers. And I do too.

Quote of the Day: On deviation from the norm


[Hat tip Donny F.]

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Why This Crisis Still Has a Long Way to Run

_Kris_SayceGuest post by Kris Sayce of Money Morning Australia 

When is a cut not a cut?

When it’s an increase.

Sorry to be cryptic, but we laugh when we see presidents, prime ministers and finance ministers talk about ‘austerity’ and ‘slashing budgets’.

Because just like central bank money printing, the markets get excited for about three minutes before they realise what even an idiot can see…

Cut spending isn’t what governments do. For governments, spending only ever goes one way. That’s up.

Last week the papers were going batty on the news that, ‘Spain unveils austerity budget as political turmoil mounts.’ So says the Australian newspaper.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

‘The Spanish government presented 13 billion euros ($16 billion) of spending cuts and tax increases for 2013 and said it will place new limits on early retirements as political turmoil heightens investor concerns over Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s ability to slash a towering budget deficit and stabilise one of Europe’s largest ailing economies.’

We wish Spain luck. Especially considering the following post to the UK Daily Telegraph‘s blog covering the Spanish budget overnight:

‘Spanish government sees unemployment bottoming out and has predicted an average rate of 24.3pc [per cent] for next year.’

The same blog also reveals:

‘Spanish deficit targets: 6.3pc in 2012, 4.5pc in 2013, 2.8pc in 2014, 1.9pc in 2015.

‘These cuts are aimed at chopping €40bn off Spain’s budget deficit next year.’

Right on cue, of course, Spaniards began rioting in the streets. Here’s a bit of free advice for Spanish Prime Minister, Mario Rajoy. When your government is announcing welfare cuts, it’s probably best not to be photographed chomping on a cigar in New York:


But before you start getting too excited about so-called spending cuts, and the positive impact it could have on the world economy, just remember this: when governments cut spending, it doesn’t mean they cut spending.

Not as Good as the Treasurer Claims

It was a bit like the smoke and mirrors from Aussie Treasurer, Wayne Swan. Last week he spun the argument that the Aussie federal budget was $661 million better off than predicted.

The mainstream press fell for it hook, line and sinker. What a great Treasurer they said. What a good boy.

What they didn’t focus on (just as the Treasurer hoped), was that last year the government spent $43.7 billion more than it raised in taxes.

To cover the shortfall the government had to issue more bonds…in other words go further into debt. And with commodity prices collapsing, the Aussie budget position is set to get worse.

It’s the same for Spain. Just because it reduces the annual budget deficit doesn’t mean the economy or debt position is any better. Last year Spain’s budget deficit was 8.5% of GDP, or about €97.8 billion. And its total debt will hit 85.3 percent of gross domestic product by the end of this year, and continue rising.

So even if Spain cuts spending by €40 billion, it’s still spending €57.8 billion more than it takes in with taxes. And by the end of next year its total debt will reach 90.5 percent of gross domestic product by end 2013—and continue rising.

And that’s assuming the Spanish economy doesn’t get worse, which it probably will given the proposed tax increases.

So, when is a cut not a cut?

When it’s an increase.

What we’re getting at is this: it’s nearly five years since the world economy started to fall apart.

The US Federal Reserve has virtually admitted that it’s out of ideas. The only solution it’s got is to print money…even though that’s never worked before.

The Eurozone thinks it can fix its spending problems by keeping on spending and creating a bigger debt problem instead.

And China thinks it can stop its economy from crashing by building more roads, buildings and railways…that no-one can afford to use.

And as for all those in the mainstream media who love the Chinese economy, and fall over themselves to praise it, just remember what we’ve said about China for the past four years – it’s a brutal economy and leadership that sees the Chinese people as a means to stay in power and line their own pockets.

How Chinese Infrastructure Projects Work

Take this news story from the New York Daily News that you won’t read in the compliant, China-loving Aussie press:

‘Stomach-churning photos have surfaced allegedly showing the moment a Chinese protester was crushed by a steamroller while trying to stop government officials from relocating his village to make way for a commercial development.

‘A local government official allegedly ordered the trucks forward, and the man was flattened beneath one six-wheeled hulking behemoth, the report said.’

How are you enjoying your iPhone now? And anything else that’s ‘Made in China’.

All this tells us that those in power are getting desperate. They’ll do anything to make sure the economy doesn’t collapse on their watch.

That means pretending to cut budgets while increasing debts, it means printing money as a last resort, and it means crushing people to death in order to erect a new building paid for with government stimulus money.

Kris Sayce is editor of Money Morning Australia. He began his financial career in the City of London as a broker specializing in small cap stocks listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM). At one of Australia’s leading wealth management firms, Kris was a fully accredited adviser in Shares, Options and Warrants, and Foreign Exchange. Kris was instrumental in helping to establish the Australian version of the Daily Reckoning e-newsletter in 2005. In late 2006, he joined the Melbourne team of the leading CFD provider in Australia.

This post first appeared at Money Morning Australia on 28 SEPTEMBER 2012

Monday, 1 October 2012

“Can Libertarianz step up?”

The media has been talking up Libertarianz in recent days.  Mostly as a means by which to bash John Banks, but amidst Banks-bashing there are both truth and lies—and good points and bad.

No one could be unaware that ACT’s meltdown has left a yawning gap where a National coalition partner used to be. TV3, NBR and the Sunday Star Slime have all had pieces arguing once the corpse of ACT is finally taken out the back and buried then Libz, or a new vehicle including Libz, should be the next big thing. I’ve been arguing that the coming GFC2.0 and the failure of this National government to do anything to roll back the state makes it urgent.

As it happens, many liberty lovers agree—hence the forthcoming Liberty Conference calling for all freedom lovers to work towards a new “true liberal” bloc in parliament.  [Only four days away, book your tickets now punters!)

TV3’s piece appearing on The Nation, and featuring yours truly along several current Libz and former ACT members, argues “the ACT Party has stood by John Banks through the Kim Dotcom donations scandal, but it hasn't impressed core supporters.” Frankly, their disgust with Banks pre-dates that particular scandal—as a feral conservative holding the reins of a purportedly liberal party should disgust its supporters.


Naturally, to talk down John Banks the media needs to talk up our chances of a new freedom alliance. We’re happy to help them. But there is some confusion about what a new freedom alliance actually means.  Writing in the Sunday Star Slime, Simon Day for example, reckons “The Libertarianz party is ready to tone down its image in order to take advantage of the political hole left by Act.”

Peter Cresswell… believes the party is in need of a facelift [says Day], which could be revealed as soon as Saturday at their party conference in Auckland.
    “Project Act and Project Libertarianz have been failures," McGrath [sic] said. "The upcoming conference is a call for everyone involved to look at a new vehicle.”
    The party must join the middle ground while pointing to their goals if they hope to achieve any success, he said.

Actually, I didn’t say that, but I can understand why a media obsessed with image and “middle ground” would think I did. And I can understand why former Libz and ACT stalwarts like Deborah Coddington would be appalled to think we would.  I’d be appalled too.

But it’s not our image we’re looking to change. We’re not going to “soften out stance.” And I never use words like “facelift.” As I said to Simon, it’s the whole approach of all related parties that needs to change. For opposite reasons, Project Act and Project Libertarianz have both been failures--and Project ALCP continues to go up in smoke. Economic and social liberals from all parties—classical liberals, if you like—can learn from our failures.

Project ACT abandoned principle in favour of populism, and ended up losing both. Project Libz embraced principle over populism, and we’ve succeeded only in putting those principles on the public stage. That’s a big “only,” but not as big as we’d have liked when we started Project Libz seventeen years ago. For similar reasons, ALCP supporters have faced similar disappointment.

What I’ve been saying in recent months is that there is an opportunity from ACT’s collapse, and from National’s desperation for new “partners,” for the appearance of a new vehicle: for a Party of All the Talents attracting like-minded adherents from all parts of the political spectrum.  A party firmly based on sound principles,* promoting a small suite of popular policies that get us there one principled step at a time. **

As I see it, that’s what this coming weekend’s conference is about. To take the first step with new friends and old to make that happen.

Can Libertarianz step up?” asks Matthew Hooton in the National Business Review. That’s a fair question.

But we need to.


* * * * *

PS: Like Lindsay Mitchell I laughed like a drain at Bryce Edwards' complaint about Libertarianz:

“Part of the problem is that Libertarianz are just too damn principled, and all about promoting their core ideology," said political commentator and lecturer Bryce Edwards.

At least  they have some principles and ideology to adhere to, responds Lindsay.

Or would it be better if they had some political wannabe minor celebrities using the party as a personal vehicle. Or a leader who appealed to old ladies and racists. Or embodied any of the new religions like global warming, freedom from genetic engineering, or putting trees before humans. Or provided a hitching post for old religionists who cling to biblical ideas of sin. Or played to separatists and first-people privilege sentiments. Or were such a broad church as to be indistinguishable from the next broadest church.
Are these political entities Libz should be looking to emulate?

Put that like, you realise the opposition is really only paper thin.

* * * * *

* ACT’s stated principles were always fine, and should have been since they were written by Libertarianz founder Ian Fraser. The problem was not their principles, which could easily be the founding principles of a new party, caused problems was their inability to follow them up in any way that meant anything.

**Policies like my Environmental Judo policies. Or Peter Osborne’s Canterbury Enterprise Zone.

New Zealanders are getting “screwed” on housing

_hugh-pavletich-smlIt is hoped there will be a major government announcement on housing supply by the end of October. Hugh Pavletich says the Roost Home Loan Affordability Report released Friday demonstrates why a major announcement, and a major govt rethink, is urgently needed.

NEW ZEALANDERS ARE GETTING “screwed” on housing. Let’s compare  Christchurch and Auckland with, let’s say, the housing markets of Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth,and Atlanta--using a simple "mixed measure" reflecting the cost of money and housing, current interest rates, and median house prices and gross annual median household incomes; in other words, the methodology employed by Demographia, the World Bank, United Nations and Harvard University.

What we find is astonishing, especially when correlated with the level of regulations on land.


By this measure, with a multiple of 6.4, Auckland is the tenth-least affordable large metropolitan market in the English-speaking world.

This is not the sort of prize we want to win.

Not appearing on this chart because it’s not large enough, poor destroyed Christchurch is however not far behind, with a house price/income multiple of 6.3. Houston(1) however has a multiple of just 2.9; Fort Worth and Atlanta and 2.8 and 1.9 respectively.

Readers may like to check out the listings and latest Monthly Report of the Houston Assn of Realtors to get a sense of what a normal affordable housing market looks like. Our major markets in contrast are severely unaffordable....and therefore abnormal.

They may like to ponder why the Houston economy grew by 8.5% last year and is expected to do so again this year... perhaps because without spending so much on their houses there are more savings available for business.

They might also like to learn about those American cities where the paycheck stretches furthest, and why their disposable household incomes look so pretty.(2)

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Lindsay Perigo: Total Passion for the Total Kindle Book!

Guest post by Sam Pierson


Great news, punters: Lindsay Perigo's new book The Total Passion for the Total Height is now available on Amazon for Kindle. Get it here!


This is the first collection of Perigo’s writing, on everything from religion to politics to opera. Just as Perigo can light up the switchboard on talkshow radio, this work will light up the mind of its reader because, as Wimbledon finalist and friend Chris Lewis says in the Foreword, "he's going to make you think."

Those who value thinking and an independent spirit will find a unique source of personal fuel as they follow Perigo's evaluations of the philosophical landscape, his no-holds-barred aesthetic and cultural commentaries, and his accounts of his heroes.

Those comfortable with the status quo, with consensus-building, with further political extension into private life, will find a worthy opponent and may risk conversion.

Subtitled 'Life, Liberty ... and the Pursuit of Their Enemies' it is salvo after passionate salvo for the advance of liberty and reason. Boldly militant and genuinely caring, like a Mencken or modern-day Voltaire, Perigo challenges the status quo with wit, intelligence and urgency. He clears away cant. He speaks from mind and heart. He wants to change the world.

Grab it here.

(NB: Kindle book reader software is available free for Mac, iPad or PC. A quick Google search will take you there. eg; search for 'Amazon Kindle for PC')

Friday, 28 September 2012

Friday Morning Ramble: Let’s get started

The media are still talking about John Banks. And Kim Dotcom. I can’t be arsed. Let’s take a ramble…

More on China…

Ah yes, the book that started the modern environmental movement. “This week Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring will turn 50.”

  • “In Silent Spring, Carson crafted a passionate denunciation of modern technology that drives environmentalist ideology today. At its heart is this belief: Nature is beneficent, stable, and even a source of moral good; humanity is arrogant, heedless, and often the source of moral evil. Rachel Carson, more than any other person, is responsible for the politicized science that afflicts our public policy debates today.”
    Silent Spring's 50-Year History of Selective Data – Ronald Bailey, REASON
  • “It’s not polite to talk about brown and black people dying because rich white people in America feel better about themselves when the brown and black people don’t get to use DDT," says the University of Alabama's Andrew Morriss, co-editor of the new book Silent Spring at 50: The False Crises of Rachel Carson“The legacy of Carson's best-known book - widely considered the starting point of the modern environmentalist movement and the international ban on the malaria-fighting pesticide DDT  - has caused many more problems than it has solved.”
    Rachel Carson's Silent Spring at 50 Years – Joshua Swain, REASON
  • “Did cancer doom ever arrive? No. In Silent Spring Carson cites data showing that American farmers were then applying about 637 million pounds of pesticides to their crops. The most recent EPA estimate is that farmers used 1.1 billion pounds in 2007...What happened to cancer incidence rates? According CDC, age-adjusted incidence rates have been dropping for nearly two decades.”
    Silent Spring's 50-Year History Of Selective Data – CLIMATE DEPOT
  • “I don't want to talk about the particular topics she was hyping: they don't deserve it.
    Instead, I want to say that she was a pioneer of an ideologically driven pseudoscience pretending to be science. When she talked about the life of birds and their interactions with the environment, it sounded like a science – ecology. When she talked about pesticides, it sounded like a science, too – some kind of biochemistry. So by the choice of words, she could have pretended she was speaking as a scientist. A problem is that the claims she was making were actually never scientifically justified, at least not with good enough standards. They were ideological slogans. And she was one of the first people in the West who intensely insisted that the compatibility of a proposition with her ideology may replace the scientific rigor that was normally needed to establish scientific claims…
    “While pesticides are pretty important to feed the whole mankind today, they're not really an essential and omnipresent part of the civilization… What the newest fearmongering wants to ban – carbon dioxide emissions – is much more universal and crucial for the civilization…”
    Fifty years after Silent Spring – Lubos Motl, REFERENCE FRAME
  • How about praising a real hero.
    When it Comes to Human Flourishing, Forget Rachel Carson & Remember Bruce Ames – REASON
  • Disaster sells. But do the facts matter when we're scaring ourselves to death, or is it okay to lie in order to "wake people up" to calamity?
    Selling disaster: The four horsemen of modern apocalypse – NOT PC, 2006
    When politics masquerades as science – NOT PC, 2006

Do you think the National Cabinet could sit still for long enough to discover what a Reagan-era apparatchik has to tell them about how “crony capitalism”corrupts?  Would they even understand?

Is he really talking about Mittens?Potentially the most transforming president of the twenty-first century – Steve Kates, CATALLAXY FILES

Mitt Romney, class warrior?
Economic Status Doesn't Determine One's Ideas – Harry Binswanger, FORBES

Freely trading EnZed would not do well with a Mittens presidency. “But the bigger and more disconcerting story in all of this is the apparent ascendancy of economic nationalism within the GOP [and] Romney’s persistence in trying to brand himself the “most protectionist” … in the presidential race … Have you seen the Romney ads? … It was once the case – not too long ago – that Republican candidates argued in support of trade and the freedom of Americans to partake of the opportunities afforded by the global economy. But things, apparently, have changed.”
Mitt Romney’s Contrived Trade War – Daniel Ikenson, CATO

They sure have.
Peter Schiff Smacksdown Mitt Romney – ECONOMIC POLICY JOURNAL

Know your enemy. If affordable housing is your wish, then developers are not your enemy. Planners are.
Developers fight to house citizens – NZ HERALD
High price of land thorny issue – NZ HERALD
Factions divided on why NZ housing so expensive – NZ HERALD
Building Battle: Fees drive up prices – NZ HERALD
The Answer Is Urban Consolidation – What Was The Question? – CITIES MATTER
Housing Affordability Inquiry [343-page PDF] – PRODUCTIVITY COMMMISSION

For those who need assistance…
Ahmadinejad and Morsi lay out the Islamic agenda – Robert Spencer, JIHAD WATCH

Just in case you missed the agenda behind the latest pretext for protest: “Freedom of expression must come with ‘responsibility’-- i.e. it must be restricted in accord with Sharia.”
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi at UN, calls for restrictions on free speech – Robert Spencer, JIHAD WATCH

Pretext? Yes, pretext.
Libyan President Confirms: Movie "had nothing to do with this attack." – REASON
Shameless liars – Steve Kates, CATALLAXY FILES

Yes, it is possible.
Feature Length, Honest Muhammad Movies in the Offing? – ANDREW BOSTOM

Only in Pakistan?
Minister willing to pay for contract killing – LIBERTY SCOTT

There’s a lot of pseudo-intellectual blog wankery about. Fortunately, with a Grade Level of 13 and Reading Ease Score of 40, there’s much less of it at this blog than is spouted forth from your average Labour MP.
There's a lot of pseudo-intellectual blog wankery aboutWHALE OIL

Q: How do you confuse an Apple FanBoys and Girls queuing for the latest model? A: Drop a case full of iPhone 5s at their feet. “Do thy get irate at the bigmouthed handtruck-tipping klutz? Do they offer to help out? Do they look up from their earlier-gen iPhones? Do they try to get an irregular discount? None of the above. As Alex Goyette finds out in this prank, Apple users do what they do best: sit passively and wait to be told what to do.”

“Your teacher asks you to challenge me to give ‘one good reason why the law should not require that women be paid the same as men for the same work.’  I’m happy to oblige.  There are many good reasons, but I’ll here stick to one… Suppose that the law your teacher endorses were applied to the market for women’s dresses…”
Letter to a Very Bright 11th Grader – Don Boudreaux, CAFE HAYEK

“Last summer, two researchers from the New England Complex Systems Institute published a short paper examining the correlation between rising food prices and civil unrest. It was a timely analysis, to say the least. A number of food riots were occurring throughout the world, not to mention waves of revolution sparked by the high cost of food… The researchers’ [reached] a simple conclusion– whenever the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)’s global food price index climbs above 210, conditions ripen for social unrest. Today, the FAO’s food index is at 213… and rising.”
Two no-brainer ways to play rising food prices – Simon Black, SOVEREIGN MAN

See, I told you. “Don’t get me wrong, that high Kiwi dollar hurts me like billy-o. Yet as one exporter to another there is much more than monetary policy involved. We know from experience that we cannot take on the world. Nor should we start pumping out five dollar notes because that is a race to the bottom.”
Whining about the high exchange rate misses the key point; it is our fiscal and regulatory failings that are doing the real damage. – Bruce Wills, INTEREST.CO.NZ

It’s now officially a 3-way race to the bottom between the dollar, the euro, and the yen. Why would we want to join in?
It’s officially a 3-way race to the bottom – Tim Staermose, SOVEREIGN MAN

A bunch of links, most courtesy of Cafe Hayek, on Ben Bernanke’s bazooka:

  • “We are reaching — or may already have passed — the practical limits of “economic stimulus.” … Let’s do the sums.”
    Bernanke on the brink – Robert Samuelson, WASHINGTON POST
  • “Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke evidently thinks that driving up the stock market will quicken the animal spirits of the affluent 20 percent who own 93 percent of equities, and this “wealth effect” will spur economic activity, eventually benefiting others. So, the interest rates Barack Obama favors are a form of the trickle-down economics he execrates.”
    A different kind of inflation problem – George Wills, WASHINGTON POST
  • "The increased dependence of the individual upon government which inflation produces and the demand for move government action to which this leads may for the socialist be an argument in its favor.  Those who wish to preserve freedom should recognize, however, that inflation is probably the most important single factor in that vicious circle wherein one kind of government action makes more and more government control necessary.” Pete Boettke finds inspiration in FA Hayek.
    Quotes of the day inspired by recent ECB and Fed actions – Pete Boettke, COORDINATION PROBLEM
  • You have to be kidding!
    The Fed Has Another $3.9 Trillion In QE To Go (At Least) – Tyler Durden, ZERO HEDGE
  • Here’s the reason many investors pulled back this week. “There has been very little coverage in mainstream media about the Fed super-money printing and how much of it is going into excess reserves… But for the second time in two weeks, Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser is warning about the time bomb that is excess reserves.”
    HOT: Fed Prez Spills the Beans on the Excess Reserve Inflation Time BombECONOMIC POLICY JOURNAL
  • Yes, Virginia, it’s true.
    Fed Virtually Funding the Entire US Deficit: – CNBC

The problem is not just the Reserve Bank targeting inflation. The same problems occur whatever they choose to target.  “Here is the prime fallacy behind the nominal GDP target and, in fact, [of all similar targets]: It tacitly assumes that money is neutral, which money never is. Let me explain…”
The fallacy of nominal GDP targeting – Detlev Schlicter, PAPER MONEY COLLAPSE

“Indeed, the fact that central banks can create money out of thin air, so to speak, is something that many observers are likely to find surprising and strange, perhaps mystical and dreamlike, too  – or even nightmarish.” Says the President of the Bundesbank!
Money out of thin air, mystical and dreamlike – Ralph Benko, COBDEN CENTRE

Speaking of fractional-reserve banking (come on, you knew that was the topic), it’s interesting to see the capital ratios of local banks.
Fitch Ratings says NZ banks' will be barely impacted by RBNZ's tougher new Basel III capital standards given they already meet them - Gareth Vaughan, INTEREST.CO.NZ

“You have probably seen this video here, where Paul Krugman explains why the threat of an alien invasion could be a good thing. It would lead to the kind of stimulus package he wants: politicians would put their philistine concerns about the budget deficit and inflation aside, and bring on a fully-fledged fiscal and monetary bazooka.”
What if Paul Krugman’s aliens had already landed? – Kristian Niemitz, IEA BLOG

“The monthly unemployment report is not much use as a real-time statistic. The data is meaningful only after it has been revisited, revised and is no longer current.”
Any month's Unemployment Report is useless – PRACTICE GOOD THEORY

The BBC has a new three-part series they call “Masters of Money,” a title belied by two of the three “masters” chosen to eulogise: Keynes and Karl Marx.  In the first episode, they repeat all the usual Keynesian fallacies, including Keynes’s description of unexpected changes in economic behaviour as “animal spirits”. “Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England no less, said on the programme that it was the best explanation for the banking crisis five years ago. To describe such an event in those terms is not an explanation and exposes a yawning gap in King’s knowledge.
“Animal spirits” amount to the failure of Keynesians to explain a basic phenomenon of human action.”
Animal spirits – Alasdair McLeod, COBDEN CENTRE

The BBC’s other choice, presumably due to dialectic necessity, is Hayek. But if you want to watch it to learn anything, even one word, about his economics, you’re going to be disappointed.
Masters of Money: Hayek (BBC) – YOU TUBE

Even The Economist doesn’t have a clue about the actual economics of the Nobel Prize winner.  Here’s a letter to The Economist
The Price of Monetary Meddling – Don Boudreaux, CAFE HAYEK

You’ll learn more about Hayek’s actual economics in five minutes from this than you will from the BBC’s sixty minutes:

A random web search led me to this neat site (click to head straight there):


I’m excited. The Ayn Rand Bookstore has finally joined the e-age, allowing lectures to be downloaded for peanuts that formerly cost megabucks to buy on CD, or cassette (remember cassettes?).
For me, I’m putting time aside over the weekend to listen to A Brief History of the Middle East, Philosophy of Education, and The 19th-Century Atomic War. Optimistic? Me?

Speaking of history, I know some readers are going to be fascinated with these:
JFK audio recordings available – HISTORY NEWS NETWORK

Now, this is very cool: “Even the most skilled and steady surgeons experience minute, almost imperceptible hand tremors when performing delicate tasks. Normally, these tiny motions are inconsequential, but for doctors specializing in fine-scale surgery, such as operating inside the human eye or repairing microscopic nerve fibers, freehand tremors can pose a serious risk for patients.  By harnessing a specialized optical fiber sensor, a new "smart" surgical tool can compensate for this unwanted movement by making hundreds of precise position corrections each second -- fast enough to keep the surgeon's hand on target.”
Cyborg Surgeon: Hand and Technology Combine in New Surgical Tool That Enables Superhuman Precision – SCIENCE DAILY


I confess, I’ve always wanted to design Tatami mats into my houses. I’ve yet to find a client with a matching enthusiasm.
Quick History: Tatami Mats – APARTMENT THERAPY

“We’ve talked about the myth that the post-WWII period demonstrates that Big Government fosters Big Economic Growth. A new report from Mercatus takes a careful look at the postwar boom. Particularly interesting, it addresses the left’s claim that much of the boom was a result of the GI Bill.”
Economic Recovery: Lessons From The Post-World War II Period – Don Watkins, LAISSEZ FAIRE

I doubt you go to Law School for an enjoyable career path. So does it pay?
The Economics of Law School – Orrin Kerr, VOLOKH CONSPIRACY

If you’ve ever wondered why only white people can be racist, the two word answer is “Karl Marx.”
Only white people can be racist – LIBERTY SCOTT

Should an atheist refuse to have a religious wedding?
Question: A Religious Wedding for an Atheist Groom [AUDIO] – Diana Hsieh, NOODLE FOOD

When should nuclear weapons be used, if ever? Under what circumstances should a free society use nuclear weapons?
Question: The Morality of Nuclear Weapons [AUDIO] - Diana Hsieh, NOODLE FOOD

Yes, it surely is the age of the Infographic.
Greg Beato on the Age of the Infographic – REASON

No, it’s not easy is it.
On having sex in the bath – GIRL ON THE NET


In preparation for OctoberFest, UBS Bank has been doing important work, showing showing the cheapest parts of the world to buy a beer. See above. Yes, America wins … but have you ever drunk American beer!
U.S.A. Wins In Beer Affordability Index – REASON

But where the hell is EnZed I hear you ask? Fear not, the noble folk at Stats Chat have heard your plea. “On average it takes 13.62 minutes to earn a pint in New Zealand. There are no figures on the plot, but we seem to sit somewhere between Australia and Argentina, our fellow Rugby Championship competitors, but a long way below South Africa.”
How is the beer up (down) here? – James Curran, STATS CHAT

And in homage to their homage, here’s NZ’s La De Das’ “How Is the Air Up There,” pithily described on YouTube as “a stormer of a garage track”!

I’ve never heard him play it himself, but I’m told Duke Ellington was a lifelong fan of Scott Joplin’s almost classical ‘Solace.’

Isn’t YouTube great! We can now watch, at our leisure, any time we want, brilliant performances by legends like Toscanini.

And finally, it’s Grand Final weekend in Melbourne—Swans v Hawks. (No, no Geelong this year. But having beaten both in recent weeks, we do have bragging rights, no?)
So … enjoy the start of the Special Grand Final Edition of the AFL Footy Show…

[Hat tip Michael D., Russell W., Julian D., Noodle Food, Thrutch, Robert Wenzel]

Have a great weekend!