Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Starchitects do battle [updated]


Henry Hobson Richardson said the first rule of architecture was this: “Get the job.”

In these five videos you can see four of the world’s leading starchitects, Richard Rogers, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and Norman Foster, going about getting the job—competing with each other for one of this decade’s plums.

The series of videos below offers a fascinating insight into how this generation of "starchitects" behaves under pressure, as they each pitch to win one of the most high-profile invited competitions in recent years: a new tower for L&L Holding Company on Park Avenue in New York. The site has such daunting neighbours as Mies van der Rohe's Seagram building, and it will be the first full-block office tower to be built on the street in almost half a century.guardian.co.uk

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners Presentation – Round 1, July 2012

Zaha Hadid Architects – Presentation, July 2012

Foster + Partners Presentation - Round 1, July 2012

OMA Presentation – Round 1, July 2012

Did you guess who won?

PS: If you’re wondering why three of the firms invited to compete for the job are based primarily in London, while the fourth, OMA, is in Rotterdam—in other words, why there are no American firms for an American project—the client’s co-founder told the Architectural RECORD: “There is great architecture in the world, but it’s not happening in the U.S. Our country is not leading in this building type.”

[Hat tip Archinect]

UPDATE: Sadly, three of the four videos have been taken down overnight.  You might now be able to guess which presentation won the day, and with it the the multi-million dollar contract—”the one without all the fancy computer graphics and slick presentation techniques on show—the presentation that centred around hand drawn sketches and a physical model.*

Regime Uncertainty: Some Clarifications, by Robert Higgs

A major reason for businesses in a depression being unwilling to invest in recovery is being scared or uncertain about what the government will do next that will damage or destroy those investments. 
This idea is captured in Robert Higgs’ description of “
regime uncertainty”—a variant of an old idea: that the willingness of businesspeople to invest requires a sufficiently healthy state of “business confidence,” and the
continued and unpredictable meddling and “stimulus” of governments ravages the requisite confidence.

Regime uncertainty pertains to more than just the government's laws, regulations, and administrative decisions. A business-hostile administration such as Franklin D. Roosevelt's or Barack Obama's will provoke more apprehension among investors than a business-friendlier administration.

Regime Uncertainty: Some Clarifications
GUEST POST by Robert Higgs

imagePrivate investment is the most important driver of economic progress. Entrepreneurs need new structures, equipment, and software to produce new products, to produce existing products at lower cost, and to make use of new technology that requires embodiment in machinery, plant layouts, and other aspects of the existing capital stock. When the rate of private investment declines, the rate of growth of real income per capita slackens, and if private investment drops quickly and substantially, a recession or depression occurs.

Such recession or depression is likely to persist until private investment makes a fairly full recovery. In US history, such recovery usually has occurred within a year or two after the trough. Only twice in the past century has a fairly prompt and full recovery of private investment failed to occur — during the Great Depression and during the past five years.

In analyzing data on investment, we must distinguish gross and net investment: the former includes all spending for new structures, equipment, software, and inventory, including the large part aimed at compensating for the wear, tear, and obsolescence of the existing capital stock; the latter includes the gross expenditure in excess of that required simply to maintain the existing stock. Therefore, net investment is the best measure of the private investment expenditure that contributes to economic growth.


As the figure shows, net private domestic fixed investment (a measure that excludes investment in inventories) reached a peak in 2006–2007, declined somewhat in 2008, then plunged in 2009 before reaching a trough in 2010. Although it recovered slightly in 2011, it remained 20 percent below the previous peak, and the pace of its recovery to date implies that another three or four years will be required merely to bring it back to where it was in 2007. With adjustments for changes in the price level, the projected recovery period would be slightly longer. (Using the price index for gross private domestic investment to obtain real values, we find that real net private domestic fixed investment is now at approximately the same level it had attained in the late 1990s.) To understand why the current overall economic recovery has been so anemic, we must understand why net private investment has not recovered more quickly.

In a 1997 article in the Independent Review ("Regime Uncertainty: Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long and Why Prosperity Resumed After the War")Download PDF I argued that a major reason for the incomplete recovery of private investment during the latter half of the 1930s was "regime uncertainty." By this, I mean a pervasive lack of confidence among investors in their ability to foresee the extent to which future government actions will alter their private-property rights. In the original article and in many follow-up articles, I documented that between 1935 and 1940, many investors feared that the government might transform the very nature of the existing economic order, replacing the primarily market-oriented economy with fascism, socialism, or some other government-controlled arrangement in which private-property rights would be greatly curtailed, if they survived at all. Given such fears, many investors regarded new investment projects as too risky to justify their current costs.

During the past several years, I have argued that a similar, if somewhat less extreme fear now pervades the business community, which explains at least in part the sluggish pace of the current economic recovery. Other exponents of this view include such prominent economists as Gary Becker, Allan Meltzer, John Taylor, and Alan Greenspan. (Until recently, Austrian economists were more receptive than mainstream economists to the idea of regime uncertainty; see, for example, the recent Mises Daily by John P. Cochran.) In addition, economists Scott Baker and Nicholas Bloom at Stanford and Steven J. Davis at the University of Chicago have devised an empirical index of policy uncertaintyDownload PDF that has remained at extraordinarily high levels since September 2008. However, what most other economists — and all of those in the professional mainstream — have noted is not exactly the same as what I call regime uncertainty, but rather a related, somewhat narrower phenomenon.

Over the years, some economists have urged me to forsake the term "regime uncertainty" and to use instead an expression such as policy uncertainty, rule uncertainty, or regime worsening. I have rejected these suggestions because the idea I seek to convey encompasses more than simply policies or rules. Moreover, regime uncertainly does not necessarily signify only apprehension about potential worsening as a central tendency.

Regime uncertainty pertains to more than the government's laws, regulations, and administrative decisions. For one thing, as the saying goes, "personnel is policy." Two administrations may administer or enforce identical statutes and regulations quite differently. A business-hostile administration such as Franklin D. Roosevelt's or Barack Obama's will provoke more apprehension among investors than a business-friendlier administration such as Dwight D. Eisenhower's or Ronald Reagan's, even if the underlying "rules of the game" are identical on paper. Similar differences between judiciaries create uncertainties about how the courts will rule on contested laws and government actions.

Higgs, Robert

For another thing, seemingly neutral changes in policies or personnel may have major implications for specific types of investment. Even when government changes the rules in a way that seemingly strengthens private-property rights overall, the action's specific form may jeopardize particular types of investment, and apprehension about such a threat may paralyze investors in these areas. Moreover, it may also give pause to investors in other areas, who fear that what the government has done to harm others today, it may do to them tomorrow. In sum, heightened uncertainty in general — a perceived increase in the potential variance of all sorts of relevant government action — may deter investment even if the mean value of expectations shifts toward more secure private-property rights.

Regime uncertainly is a complex matter. No empirical index can capture it fully; some indexes may actually misrepresent it. Only the actors on the scene can appraise it, and their appraisals are intrinsically subjective. However, by assessing a variety of direct and indirect evidence, analysts can better appreciate its contours, direction, and impact on private investment decisions.

Robert Higgs is senior fellow in political economy for the Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review. He is the 2007 recipient of the Gary G. Schlarbaum Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Cause of Liberty.

The difference between the Davids

Bill Ralston set me thinking about the choices facing the Labour caucus  this afternoon—or, more accurately, next February, since the only choice this afternoon is to get unanimous or get out.

So neither of those choices next February are perfect, but if Cunliffe did actually step up and put his mouth where his white-anting has been, the choice would be between a good communicator and a decent, honest, reasonable man.*

But whereas David Shearer is a decent, honest, reasonable man who can conceivably be taught to communicate better, it will forever be impossible to teach Cunliffe to be either decent, honest or reasonable.

Which should be the choice right there.

* * * *

* Bill Ralston’s description, not mine. A difficult one to defend, I would have thought, after his indecent, dishonest and unreasonable proposal for the government to build forty times the number of houses every year that the country’s largest house build currently builds without utterly skewing the land, labour and materials markets.

EXAM QUESTION: On emergencies

Since it’s exam season, NOT PC will begin a short series of exam questions for readers.  Here’s your first:

“The truth is governments are useless in emergencies,” says Robert Wenzel.” “The ‘leaders’ are posers. Christie, Bloomberg, Cuomo et al. They only make matters worse, e.g., enforcement of anti-gouging laws, rationing and interference in privately written property damage insurance contracts. These characters would have fit in nicely under Khrushchev. He looked ready for emergencies also.”

Discuss, with specific application to Christchurch.

This question is worth twelve marks.

Monday, 19 November 2012

And for every first-home buyer, a pony [updated]

Undaunted by the fact that with land and building regulations as they are it is now impossible to produce house and land packages for less than $300,000, this month’s Labour leader announced over the weekend his intention for the government to “invest” $1.5 billion producing 100,000 house and land packages under $300,000—two-thirds of those in Auckland.

This programme will eventually be self-financed by selling something called Home Ownership Bonds, says the nice Mr Shearer, with interest paid out of the returns made by on-selling these house and and land packages.

But if they are selling bonds they are clearly going to be of the perpetual variety, since it’s clear the principal will never be repaid out of the scheme itself. Indeed, it’s hard enough to see where the returns will come from to pay the interest on those bonds? Because if it were possible to produce house and land packages for less than $300,000, which is what is necessary to make the returns they’re dreaming about, then everyone would already be doing it.  And they’re not.

They can’t.

That’s why affordable housing is not being produced.

Which means these Home Ownership Bonds are just a fancy subterfuge to conceal that in the end the taxpayer will be picking up the tab for this “investment.”

And where will those 100,000 cheap sections come from to put those houses on?  If that many sections were at that price, they’d already have been snapped up and hosting affordable houses already. They haven’t been because they don’t exist. They don’t exist because the planners have shut down the market.

The fact that house and land packages for less than $300,000 are not being produced by the market is not because of some “market failure”; it’s because between the Department of Building and Housing’s gold-plated building regulations and the Resource Management Act’s planning restrictions on land have put the costs of producing house and land packages beyond the reach of the lower end of the market—neither of which Labour’s leaders intend to touch. 

And because the Reserve Bank continues to authorise the expansion of the money supply in the form of bank credit into the accounts of house buyers—which Labour’s leaders propose to encourage via even more inflationary bubble-making—we can only expect the demand-side of this explosive equation to keep rising.

So this amounts to a $1.5 billion promise to give potential Labour voters a pony.  Paid for by you and I.

And, when combined with their companion proposal to impose a Capital Gains Tax on New Zealanders—an envy tax on “the rich,” they insist, that in reality will be felt by everyone—a tax that in every country in which it had been imposed has failed to do anything to limit housing bubbles—it amounts to a plan to get existing home-owners and taxpayers to pay for the slums of tomorrow. Like the modern-day equivalents of those vast swathes of slum housing thrown up in Mangere, Otara and elsewhere in the seventies by similarly expansive borrowing—except that this time the slums will be designed by committee to be “sustainable.”

Yeah, right.

The nice Mr Shearer isn’t stupid, however. He reckons he has an answer to some of these obvious problems.  He has spoken to Auckland Mayor Len Brown already, he says, to take up his offer of a partnership with Auckland council to make land available.

But if Len Brown’s planners can magically make 66,666 cheap sections available to help Labour’s election chances, then why couldn’t it make cheap sections available for you and I to build our own affordable homes?

And if Mr Shearer thinks it’s appropriate to allow his 100,000 houses to be “fast-tracked” through the regulatory process, then why can’t houses and projects built by you and I?

In short and in summary, if cheap sections and “fast-tracking” were already available to everyone, then the problem of affordable housing would not be with us.  So let’s start with that now, and forget about buying everyone a pony.

UPDATE: Hugh Pavletich from Demographia and Performance Urban Planning comments:


It is remarkable that, after 8 years of public conversation on these issues, since the time of the release of the first Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey back in early 2005, that this is the best the Labour Party can come up with.

Particularly, when one considers that it was the last Labour Government’s irresponsible management that allowed the housing bubble to erupt between 2002 through 2007.

This Quick Facts graph of the Christchurch City Council on the Our Purposes page of Cantabrians Unite is representative for the whole country over this period ...


After the bubble topped in 2007, Labour deservedly lost the 2008 election (for this reason and others) and the residential construction industry has been in decline ever since,

And since then, while new affordable housing is being provided on the fringes of the affordable United States housing markets for about $US600 per square metre all up – here in New Zealand it is now about $NZ2,500 per square metre all up....and often well beyond that.

I explained this very clearly early 2010, with respect to Christchurch ( 6 months prior to the first earthquakes September 2010 ) in my article HOUSTON: WE HAVE A HOUSING AFFORDABILITY PROBLEM ...

David Shearers speech today is telling us that sadly, the Labour Party has not learnt a thing.

It is an embarrassment.

David Shearer is talking rubbish about housing.


Because David Shearer has been a failure as a leader, he reverted in his speech to the tiresome ideological approach, in talking of “market failure”—when the only failure here is regulation stifling market activity.

It is simply a process of “following the numbers” to ascertain where the problems and solutions are.

Raw rural land costs in New Zealand are generally in the order of $10,000 through $40,000 per hectare. Horticultural land considerably more.  This is the sort of land on the outskirts of our major cities.

Mr Shearer deliberately avoided explaining why Councils are strangling land supply with planning “ring fences,” so that raw land costs, for example, are artificially ramped up to near $500,000 per hectare on the fringes of Rolleston, to $1 million on the fringes of Christchurch, to $1.25 through $1.50 million for raw land on the fringes of Auckland.

Mr Shearer deliberately avoided explaining why Local Government costs have got so badly out of control these past 10 years or so. And why councils are inappropriately financing infrastructure by imposing Development Levies of $20,000 through $70,000 per section – which are nothing more than “revenue milking” exercises whose value in the end comes out of home-buyers’ pockets.

This explains why fringe sections are $200,000 and much more, when they should be $50,000 and less, as Dale Smith, Affordable Land Convenor of Cantabrians Unite explained with ACHIEVING $50,000 SECTIONS ...

Cantabrians Unite set out the solutions with respect to Christchurch with CHRISTCHURCH: THE WAY FORWARD (note Section 4 – Affordable Land)...

These cost explosions are hardly “market failures”—they are instead serious systemic problems at the local level, where councils have lost control of their costs and allowed planners control over property owners, as I explained last November within HOW HOUSING BUBBLES ARE TRIGGERED ...

(Much like the problems they are experiencing in Britain (a degenerate influence on our public service culture) as the UK Daily Mail reporters found when investigating a London Council with THE GREAT INERTIA SECTOR ...)

Shearer hasn’t got what it takes to be a leader [mind you, neither does the other David] and [after the weekend’s constitutional changes allowing unions more say in elections] Labour is even more under the control of the public sector unions that prop it up financially. The Golden Rule of Politics “Those with the gold make the rules.”

Shearer is “parroting” what his Party’s paymasters, the public sector Unions, are telling him to say.

Who’s running the show?

After a weekend of turbulence over who runs the Labour Party—the leader?—the unions?—the caucus?—the wanna-be leader and his gang of white ants?—the Herald headline this morning suggests oil has been poured on the leadership waters roughed up by new rules making it easier to trigger a leadership challenge.

Cunliffe backs Shearer as leadership crisis calms” says the headline. Clearly however, the headline writer hadn’t read the story itself, which quoted from (and linked to) State Radio’s Morning Report on which new hostilities broke out on  this morning.

I support David S, David C. told State Radio this morning after a weekend demonstrating the opposite, and I rang him last night to tell him, he said.

No, he didn’t, countered David S. But I’ll make sure I get that support this Tuesday.

I’m fully in support of David S., reiterated David C., at least I am until February—or earlier if circumstances work out my way.

He’ll never get the chance, responded a hopeful David S., because now I’m running the show.

But is he?

Friday, 16 November 2012


It’s Friday!

Who’s rolling David Shearer? The answer:  No-one.
Guess who is rolling David Shearer? – Monique Angel, YEA OR NAY

As per usual the discussion about the death of J J Lawrence features arguments about child abuse  being a Maori problem. Well, it isn't solely
Family violence deaths and ethnicity – LINDSAY MITCHELL

There should have been no better “shovel ready” project than a destroyed city, yet employment in construction continues to decline. “It's almost as though some kind of regulatory impediments are preventing people from rebuilding and getting on with things.”
Shovel ready – Eric Crampton, OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR

More news demonstrating how the government is “fixing” Christchurch: Richard Middleton, the owner of The Bicycle Thief, the makers  of the best martinis in Christchurch, has been told the building he leases will be confiscated and pulled down.
Quake-hit Bicycle Thief to be demolished – THE PRESS

This is the transcript of events on July 16th as written by the late Stephen McIntyre in his own words right after the two Police officers had visited him and threatened him...
Did NZ Police tactics kill Stephen McIntyre ? PART 3 – TUMEKE!

The Rugby Union has given "owners" of NZ Super Rugby franchises a hospital pass.
Control rights and super rugby – Paul Walker, ANTI DISMAL

“Bill English says there is “market failure” in low-priced housing. It’s somewhat ironic to call it a market failure when there isn’t really a free market in housing anyway.
“How so?
“Well, interest rates are manipulated and currently set artificially low by the Reserve Bank for a start. So the price of money is not freely decided but rather driven by bureaucrats’ guesses as to what is the right price. Then councils and the RMA determine exactly what people are allowed to build and where they can build it.
The nature of a free market is that it is free! So it’s a bit rich to call it a market failure. To us, it seems it is non-free market factors that seem to be the main drivers of the unaffordability problem.
“The world over, high house prices have been driven by an ever expanding bubble of debt. The government can do all it likes to tinker here and there but ever greater amounts of money being created mean people will look for real assets in which to place their wealth. It should be no surprise that since the final link to the gold anchor was severed in 1971 that household debt has grown and housing has become more unaffordable.”
Housing Un-affordability: It’s the Debt, Stupid! – GOLD SURVIVAL GUIDE NZ

Taken seriously, the Kyoto Protocol would have almost shut us down. Thank goodness we’re no longer in it.
Kyoto: Australia “IN” New Zealand “Out” – JO NOVA
Kyoto second commitment period – KIWIBLOG

It’s said “active intervention” is needed to address “gender pay gaps.”
“Why?! Gender pay gaps arise for a number of reasons and only some may be worrying. Unless we know the reasons for a pay gap, we can’t conclude anything about its desirability… It honestly frightens me when people draw angry conclusions from raw numbers. Spokesman of the Pay Equity Challenge Coalition Angela MacLeod admitted the Coalition was not sure of reasons for the pay gap change but said “a higher proportion of women in part-time work had not helped.” Helped whom? Helped what? Help us someone! Help us write better commentaries on such issues.”
More pay gaps  - Andrea Menclova & Eric Crampton, OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR

“Women ought not to be regarded as members of a sex who also just happen to be individuals. They should be regarded as individuals who also just happen to be women.”
Binders Full of Women: The Philosophy Breaking the Business Ladder – Connor Jeffers, THE UNDERCURRENT

What the anti-abortion movement is actually in favour of: killing mothers who miscarry.
Appalling and barbaric – Idiot/Savant, NO RIGHT TURN

In a manifesto too ridiculous to spoof, Mark Boyle argues that we should all live without money to help save the planet. No thanks.
The poverty of environmentalism – Rob Lyons, SP!KED

Guess what…those things you feel guilty about not doing, or that you give in and do, even though they make you miserable, can actually be harming the planet.
Going Green is Bad for the Environment – BUT NOW YOU KNOW

In his first press conference since his re-election, Obama laid out his stance on global warming more clearly than he ever has before. It amounts to this:
1. Global warming is real.
2. We have an obligation to future generations to do something about it.
3. Doing something about it will require tough political choices.
4. I'm not willing to push for those tough political choices.
Obama Makes It Clear He Isn't Willing To Fight for Action on Climate Change – SLATE

Astonishingly, the former chairman of Australia’s ABC is a climate skeptic. And an astute one: “Regrettably for the global warming religion,” he says, “its predictions have started to appear shaky, and the converts, many of whom have lost their jobs and much of their wealth, are losing faith. Worse, heretic scientists have been giving the lie to many of the prophecies described in the IPCC bible. They could not be silenced.
Losing their Religion as Evidence Cools Off – Maurice Newman, THE AUSTRALIAN

imageThe BBC decided to abandon balance in its own coverage of climate after a high-level seminar with some of the “best scientific experts” in the field, said the BBC. Only it now turns out those “experts” consisted of just four scientists and twenty-four climate activists, including the campaign director of Greenpeace.  “This shows that the ‘shoddy journalism’ of Newsnight's recent smear was no ‘lapse’ of standards at all. BBC news programs have for years been poorly checked recitations of the work of activists.”
How The Green Lobby Changed BBC Policy – Benny Peiser, GLOBAL WARMING POLICY FOUNDATION
BBC secret exposed: Greenpeace, activists, BP decide what “science” Brits see — Hello TwentyEightGate – JO NOVA

The BBC Newsnight/paedophile fiasco has utterly exploded the idea that modern British journalism can be divided into Good and Bad camps.
‘Serious journalists’ are the most tabloidesque of all – Brendan O’Neill, SP!KED

“The honest truth is that it is contradictory to the core for a state owned broadcaster, funded through a specific tax on TV owners to not have an institutional bias… There needs to be a fundamental look at what the BBC exists for.”
BBC has failed to meet the moral standards it demands from others – LIBERTY SCOTT

Guido Hülsmann on Mises’s invaluable legacy:

“The growth of government intervention over the last century was built on the back of a handful of myths. A generation ago, the dominant myth was that free markets had caused the Great Depression, a falsehood ultimately debunked by economists like Milton Friedman. Today, the key myth is that financial deregulation caused the 2008 financial crisis.
”What deregulation?”
Why The Glass-Steagall Myth Persists – Yaron Brook & Don Watkins, FORBES

imageBy the way, keen students might like jump into this Mises Academy online class, starting tomorrow with Bob Murphy. “As we will see, the raw facts line up with common sense: massive deficits and monetary inflation, let alone a world war, are not the paths to economic recovery. The lessons from the Great Depression are needed today, but only the Austrians know the right lessons.”
 Learn the Austrian Take on the Great Depression – MISES DAILY

America’s “Fiscal Cliff” is irrelevant. The automatic cuts that are going to take place don't even begin to address the actual problem… The US economy is a speeding train heading towards a ravine at 200 mph, and the conductors are arguing about whether they should slow down to 150 or 175… Bottom line—the “Fiscal Cliff” doesn't matter. The US passed the point of no return a long time ago.
Guess what they're NOT cutting in the Fiscal Cliff... – Simon Black, SOVEREIGN MAN

“The amount of worry over something that needs to happen is staggering. I actually hope the fiscal cliff triggers. Better now than what is 100% certain to hit in a more severe way later.”
Misdiagnosing the Fiscal Cliff; Shrill Voices and Economic Nonsense; 'Tyranny' of Balanced Budgets – MISH’S GLOBAL ECONOMIC TREND ANALYSIS

It took the US government over 200 years to accumulate its first one trillion dollars of debt. It took just 286 days to rack up it's most recent trillion. And it gets worse.
Interesting Factoid on US Debt - The Big Crunch – Mark Hubbard, LIFE BEHIND THE IRON DRAPE

‘Austerity’ quickly became the new black in European political fashion. Austerity in Europe is based on the idea that accumulated sovereign debts are now dangerously large and need to be reduced by some combination of temporary (so they claim) tax increases and spending cuts. Once the debt is reduced to a more manageable level, so the thinking goes, taxes can be cut and spending restored to the previous level.
Sounds oh-so reasonable now, doesn’t it? The problem is, however, it isn’t working…  One key reason is that, concerned about the dire state of the economies in question, the financial markets have dramatically driven up their governments’ borrowing costs. They’ve driven up borrowing costs because private investors are not convinced austerity is going to work.
But if austerity were credible, they would. What is it about austerity as implemented that is failing to win over bond investors? One reason among many: in no major European country is government spending lower than when the crises started in 2007.
The Keynesians’ new clothes – John Butler, COBDEN CENTRE

Still, even when you’re neck-dep in debt and drowning, there’s always enough left over to support a rapidly Islamizing state pursuing an increasingly belligerent path toward Israel.
Amid economic crisis, European Union approves $6.3 billion in aid for Muslim Brotherhood Egypt – JIHAD WATCH

The idea of a modern central bank that controls the money supply, sets interest rates separate from market forces, and is allowed to create money to buy government bonds, is relatively new. A failed experiment.
Understanding the Coming Financial Collapse: Central Banking, Fraction Reserve Banking, and Legal Tender Laws – Dale Halling, STATE OF INNOVATION

Yep, the Central Banks done it: The Ireland and Iceland editions.
Central bank policies and the Ireland and Iceland 2008-12 financial crises – Frank Shostak , COBDEN CENTRE

“’But there is no inflation!’ – This is a statement I hear quite often. So, do present inflation statistics not provide comfort to those who believe in the practicability and even superiority of central-bank-managed fiat money?
“The short answer is, no.
”The long answer I will provide below.”
“But there is no inflation!” – Misconceptions about the debasement of money – Detlev Schlicter, PAPER MONEY COLLAPSE

Discredited economists, much like disgraced politicians, never remain out of favour for long, especially after they have passed from the earthly scene. So it is that John Kenneth Galbraith is increasingly perceived as a misunderstood thinker whose insights were ahead of their time and whose work was too hastily dismissed. Whereas, in fact, he was a nut.
Gaga Over Galbraith – Joseph Salerno, MISES DAILY

“If your main goal is to show that your heart is in the
right place, then your heart is not in the right place.”

- David Schmidtz (quoted in Brennan's Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know)

Michael Hagan explains the manly etiquette of buying a round.
Drinks Are on Me! How to Buy a Round at the Bar – THE ART OF MANLINESS

This is what cyberspace looks like.
Finally, We Can See What Google's Brain Looks Like – BUSINESS INSIDER

Now that’s impressive. New research has found Britain has invaded all but 22 countries in the world.
British have invaded nine out of ten countries - so look out Luxembourg – TELEGRAPH

imageA new book by a Nobel Prize winner! “How China Became Capitalist details the extraordinary, and often accidental, journey that China has taken over the past thirty years in transforming itself from a closed agrarian socialist economy to an indomitable force in the international arena.”
How China Became Capitalist – Ronald Coase, AMAZON

It can be risky teaching Ayn Rand in China.
Teaching Anthem in China – Robert Garmong, NOODLE FOOD

“Here’s a radical thought. Instead of liberals dismissing Rand’s appeal to the American spirit of individualism and independence, as President Obama recently did in his Rolling Stone interview, why don’t liberals make Rand part of a new canon? Why let conservatives monopolize her?”

If you haven’t been to ‘Brel’ yet, then go. GO! There’s still time.


Scott Walker sings Jacque Brel…

[Hat tips Geek Press, Laissez Faire, Whale Oil, Cobden Centre, Erosophia]

Thanks for reading.
Have a great weekend!


NOT PJ: The signs they are a-changin

_BernardDarntonThis week, Bernard Darnton is reading the signs.

The Signs they are A-Changing

The signs around Christchurch have changed. They used to urge us to “stay strong” or proclaim stoically that “We Will Rebuild.” Driving back up from Dunedin this week, I got a somewhat different sense from the billboard asking that I “Don’t Give Up.” There’s nothing that makes you want to give up as much as being told not to.

Something clearly had to change. The claim that we will rebuild was a powerful rallying call in the days after the quakes. Now that claim is farcical. The demolition of the city’s ruins is not yet complete, but Chairman Brownlee is using his almost-total powers to begin demolition of buildings that are not damaged. Worse still, some buildings threatened by the city plan were damaged and have since been repaired.

The Ng Building on Madras Street was damaged in the September 2010 earthquake and repaired and strengthened in time for the February 2011 earthquake. It’s a Canterbury Heritage Award winner and is home to nine businesses including two galleries. It is an oasis of business, culture, and hope in an area that otherwise looks like Hiroshima. CERA will bulldoze it to make way for a stadium that will be desolate 99% of the time.

The message is not “We will rebuild” but the more sinister “We will rebuild”.

There are no signs saying “We will rebuild” on the approaches to Dunedin. Dunedin has done more than enough building to impoverish itself for decades. There’s a moment that every returning Dunedinite relishes: as you come down off the last hill on the Waitati Highway, the road curves down around Pine Hill and in a single moment the foothills part to reveal the city ahead.

Nowadays that view is dominated by the arched steel back of a vast white elephant, the Forsyth Barr Stadium (or FuBar Stadium to some locals). The Otago Daily Times is also dominated by the stadium: Why did it cost so much to build? Why does it cost so much to run? How did nobody predict this would happen? (Ahem.)

The Dunedin public has recently had the opportunity to make submissions to the Council on the topic, “How the fuck do we make the stadium a less staggering abortion?” The place is basically a great big stack of scaffolding with 440 kilowatts of lighting, all wrapped in plastic. The only way the place will ever make money is by growing cannabis.

Dunedin City councillor Lee Vandervis has advice for Christchurch: “If you want to spend a lot of money and get nothing in return, a stadium would be the best way to go.”

For this pointless monstrosity—a white elephant stadium, costing twice what Dunedin’s did, a vast block of dead space in the middle of the city—the Ng Building and other restored heritage buildings in the same block, housing viable businesses, will be destroyed. Stolen by CERA and bulldozed.

Someone will rebuild. Sharon Ng and Roland Logan repaired their building under their own steam and are fighting the theft of their building. Zac Cassels has moved his CBD Bar into the hundred-year-old building next door, knowing that CERA wants to knock it down. These are the people who will rebuild Christchurch.

Don’t give up. The piteous little sign is right. Don’t give up because, if we do, it will give CERA all the room it needs to lay waste to what little remains of central Christchurch.

Read Bernard Darnton’s column every week here at NOT PC. Except when you can’t.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Post-Sandy: A Man-Made Disaster

The good news is that President Obama declined to attribute Sandy to climate change.

Which means even this President is aware Hurricane Sandy is not a man-made disaster.

Sadly, we can’t say the same about the disaster that  is post-Sandy.  This disaster is entirely man-made.

Post-Sandy: A Man-Made Disaster
Guest post by George Reisman

Hurricane Sandy caused the closing of a majority of the gasoline stations in the New York City area, did major damage to petroleum terminals, and reduced the ability of barges carrying fuel to reach their docks. All of this represented a substantial reduction in the supply of gasoline and other petroleum products in the New York metropolitan area. None of it was the cause of a shortage of gasoline or any other petroleum product, a shortage which New York's Mayor Bloomberg can think of no better means of alleviating than by imposing a system of gasoline rationing. (See the New York Times, November 9, 2012.)

In a free market, the effect of a good's becoming scarcer is not to cause a shortage of it, but a rise in its price. The rise in price serves to reduce the amount of the good buyers seek to buy to a point that is within the limit of the reduced supply available. However much the supply of oil and oil products was reduced by the hurricane, it was certainly not reduced to anywhere even remotely near the normal, everyday degree of scarcity in the supply of such things as gold or diamonds. And yet there is no shortage of gold or diamonds. Whoever is willing and able to pay the market price of these goods has no difficulty in obtaining them. But if our government officials, inspired perhaps by some such belief as that everyone should be able to obtain gold and diamond jewelry at an affordable price, decreed that the price of gold and diamonds should be cut in half, say, then, indeed, there would be shortages of gold and diamonds alongside the present shortages of gasoline in New York and New Jersey.

Even goods of which there is just a single specimen, such as a Rembrandt painting, are not in a state of shortage. When such a good is put up for auction, its price rises as high as necessary to reduce the number of bidders to just one. In the face of the high price, all the other bidders give up and walk away. They do not remain in the auction room for hours still waiting to buy the painting. They know that the price is just too high for them. But imagine an auction in which the auctioneer was prohibited from progressively raising the price until only one buyer remained. Imagine that he was compelled to hold to his first or second offer. In that case, the auction room might remain packed indefinitely.

What all this implies is that the shortages of gasoline now being experienced in the New York metropolitan area and elsewhere in the path of destruction left by Hurricane Sandy simply do not need to exist. They could be made to disappear very quickly, within a matter of hours. All that would be necessary is to remove the threat of prosecution of gas station owners, and all others in the chain of supply of gasoline, for raising their prices to the extent necessary to reduce the quantity of gasoline demanded to conform with the reduced supply of it available.

Confronted with such a price — possibly one as high as $10 or $20 a gallon, or even higher, given the apparent extent of the reduction in the supply of gasoline — many of the drivers of the cars presently waiting in line at gas stations, would simply drive off, park their cars, and make arrangements for alternative means of transportation, whether car pooling, bicycle riding, or whatever. Almost everyone would curtail his driving commensurate with the higher cost of driving. No one would drive into a gas station who was not prepared to pay the then-prevailing very high price of gasoline. The people who needed gasoline for such urgent purposes as getting to work, but who could not afford to pay such a sharply higher price, would not be in nearly as bad a position as needing gasoline to get to work and being simply unable to find it, or find it only after waiting in line for three hours. Such people could car pool and spread the high price of gasoline over as many of them as could reasonably fit in an automobile. The environmentalists, who seem to desire that such arrangements become a normal, everyday occurrence, should welcome this chance to see the achievement of their goal, however temporarily.

What caused the shortages and stops them from being overcome in this way is the fact that the necessary rise in prices is illegal. It is against the law. According to a Bloomberg news release of November 9, 2012, "New Jersey law defines price gouging as an 'excessive price increase,' or of 10 percent or more, during a declared state of emergency." The same news article also reports that "New York law prohibits selling goods or services for an 'unconscionably excessive price' during 'abnormal disruption of the market.'"

Thus state laws are what make it impossible for the market immediately to put an end to the shortages. It is these state laws that allowed the shortages to come into existence in the first place, by prohibiting the immediate rise in prices that would have prevented them, and that then make the shortages persist.

The same state laws make it impossible for the market speedily to restore supplies to their normal level, which would serve quickly to bring down prices from their abnormal heights.

If prices were allowed to be "unconscionably" high, it would be possible to bring in vital supplies that are more costly. For example, gasoline from more remote refineries. At prices of $10 to $20 per gallon, it would pay for tanker trucks to bring in gasoline from several hundred miles away. This would serve to spread the loss of supplies caused by the hurricane over a much wider area, with a corresponding reduction in the severity of loss experienced in the area of the hurricane's path.

The price of gasoline would rise in the areas from which the additional supplies came. That rise in price would pull in replacement supplies to those areas from still more remote regions. Thus, for example, while refineries in Pittsburgh and Cleveland were helping to supply New York and New Jersey, other refineries in the Chicago and Detroit areas would be helping to resupply Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The effect would be that the loss of supplies of gasoline in the New York metropolitan and New Jersey shore areas would be spread across much of the country, thereby resulting in a substantially reduced percentage of loss in the New York/New Jersey areas. Instead of those areas experiencing the effects of a 50 or 75 percent reduction in supply, a much broader area would experience the effects of perhaps only a 5 or 10 percent reduction in supply. The rise in price of gasoline would quickly diminish, reflecting this greatly reduced percentage of loss of supply.

The "unconscionable" rise in the retail price of gasoline that made it possible for the gas stations to pay higher prices to their wholesalers and distributors bringing in gasoline from remote refineries would also cover the high costs of speedy repairs, such as those entailed in round-the-clock repair work, using extra crews, and paying premium wage rates. Thus, in the absence of the price controls, in very short order New York/New Jersey area refineries, terminals, and docks would be repaired, and the gas stations now closed would reopen. This would serve to achieve a full restoration of supplies, along with a return of the gasoline distribution system to normal. These results would quickly bring gasoline prices down to their normal level.

All of this is prevented for no other reason than that our government officials are utterly ignorant of economic law. They believe that prices have no connection with reality and can be dictated by them with no effect other than to make supplies less expensive — for people who can't get the supplies, because the supplies don't exist, and who are led to waste endless hours, day after day, trying to get the supplies that don't exist. By what standard is this a more reasonable arrangement than allowing prices to be "unconscionably" high, for what would certainly be a very short time, and thereby quickly fixing the problem?

The press is as much to blame as the government officials. With rare exceptions, the reporters are as ignorant of economic law as the politicians. Both are unqualified for their jobs. They just don't know what they're doing.

The ultimate responsibility, of course, rests with the general public and with the educators who failed to provide people with even the most rudimentary knowledge of economic law.

In a society in which economic law was widely understood, legislators and prosecutors who sought to prevent price increases in cases of emergencies would be regarded as public enemies and barred from office. They would be barred not by a mere lack of support, but by a lack of support manifested in the utmost public contempt and ridicule for their ignorance and destructiveness.

Reisman, George

These laws should immediately be overturned. They are in violation of the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution. The Ninth Amendment states that "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Obviously, the people retain the right to take the steps necessary to cope with catastrophes, such as Hurricane Sandy. These laws fly in the face of that right. They make it illegal for people to take those steps. The Fourteenth Amendment makes the provisions of the US Constitution applicable to the states.

A panel of federal judges should be convened at once and asked immediately to render these laws null and void. New York and New Jersey are in an emergency situation. It is intolerable that their people be made to suffer the effects of disastrous legislation piled on top of a natural disaster and thereby needlessly enlarging and extending the effects of the natural disaster.

* * * * *

Copyright 2012 by George Reisman. All rights reserved except that this article may be reproduced electronically provided that this note is included in full. George Reisman, Ph.D., is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics, Senior Fellow at the Goldwater Institute, and the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics(Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996; Kindle Edition, 2012), The Government Against the Economy, andWarren Buffett, Class Warfare, and the Exploitation Theory. His website is www.capitalism.net. His blog iswww.georgereismansblog.blogspot.com. See his Amazon.com author's central page. See George Reisman's article archives.

Homicide by welfare

With the murder of young JJ Lawrence in the news, I’ve been hearing it from talkback and around the traps all week. I’ve been hearing that “we” have a problem with family violence; that “we” are killing our kids; that “we,” you and I, are to blame.


Let me tell you something: We—you and I—are not to blame. I didn’t kill those kids. You didn’t. The only thing “we” have done is pay children to have children they don’t want, then read too late about what those parent-children have done to them.

Because if there’s one common factor in all these murders, it’s the existence of a regular welfare cheque in these households of horror that appear in the headlines with frightening regularity. These scum were paid to breed, and JJ Lawrence, Cezar Taylor, Coral-Ellen Burrows, Lillybing Karaitiana-Matiaha, Delcelia Witika, James Whakaruru, Craig Manukau, Nia Glassie, Saliel Aplin, Olympia Jetson, Chris and Cru Kahui died of it.

These are little people who will never grow old because their parents, or those who called themselves parents, snuffed out their lives before they had barely begun.

You might call it homicide by welfare.  We pay no-hopers to breed, and then we wonder why their progeny have no hope.

Sure, not everybody paid to breed kills their children. Despite the incentives, most taking a welfare cheque do love and care for their kids--and thank goodness for that. But we all react to incentives, and the incentives set up by being paid to breed—which is what the DPB system promotes—are not good ones.

We pay children to have children. We offer money to no-hopers to have children they don’t want.

Why should we be surprised when so many of their unwanted children don’t survive?

We've been following this hopeless pattern now for more than three generations, and we’ve produced at least three generations of losers. The system has produced three generations of losers.

Who's really to blame here for the hopelessness of it all? Answer: those who put the system in place, and those who feed it and maintain it and argue for its continuing existence.

We don't need inquiries or more hand-wringing; the answer is much simpler than that: It's time to stop paying no-hopers to breed. Here's how to do it.

In the meantime, let’s stop taking the blame for these murders.  We didn't kill these children, either by commission or omission.  It wasn't us: it was the incentives offered by a welfare cheque and whole sorry whanau round each of them.  Babies who were paid paid by the system to have babies. 

Think about that when the busybodies are blaming us.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Q: How does the Queen answer the phone?

QueenboCartoon by Nick Kim

In the only reference yourself you’re likely to see on this blog, however oblique, to the fact we have A Royal Walking Amongst Us this week, allow me to help answer the important relevant questions for you. Such as, how does the Queen answer the phone?

And does she really say, “Wassup! This is Liz.”

Answers here.

[Hat tip Geek Press]

Deep Green

Since I’ve just posted below just some of the dopiness promoted by Hard Labour activists, I thought it only fair to update my on-going study of their coalition partners favourite word: “ban.”

I first examined this back in 2006 when a a commenter took issue with my claim "that the Greens always want to ban things." Turned out my commenter was right. The Greens didn’t want to ban everything, and they still  don't. Just this lot:

  • Californian grape imports
  • ferrets
  • trade in cat and dog fur
  • trade in furniture and timber from China
  • imports of all Chinese milk-related products for children
  • trade in tropical timber
  • kwila outdoor furniture
  • trade in tobacco products to the Pacific Islands
  • trade in live sheep exports
  • TV ads for kids
  • ads on TVNZ
  • television advertising of high fat and high sugar foods to children
  • gangs
  • fizzy drinks
  • diet sodas
  • endosulfan
  • bisphenol A (BPA)
  • fossil-fuel power stations
  • foreigners owning coastal land
  • foreigners owning farms
  • foreigners owning “our assets”
  • foreigners
  • building of new prisons
  • European beef and sheep imports
  • European baby foods containing beef and sheep
  • Californian Douglas Fir
  • tobacco displays
  • direct to consumer advertising of drugs
  • growth hormones
  • party pills
  • embryo selection technology
  • native wood chip exports
  • native logging
  • deep-sea oil drilling
  • on-land fracking
  • the powerwall
  • all advertising of prostitution
  • television and radio advertising of sexual services
  • pig swill
  • xenotransplantion trials
  • smacking
  • GE
  • field trials for GE
  • import of tissue for sheep cloning
  • pesticides
  • property rights from the Bill of Rights
  • quick-fire logging
  • logging
  • fishing for toothfish
  • fishing for shark
  • sale and distribution of shark fins
  • whaling
  • set-net fishing
  • gill-net fishing
  • fishing
  • bottom trawling
  • cluster bombs
  • land mines
  • plastic bags
  • anti-depressants
  • 'toxic timber'
  • methyl bromide
  • cell-phone use in cars
  • feeding animal remains to farm animals
  • battery cages
  • “perilous poultry products”
  • “the screening of programmes which sensationalise violence”
  • Barbie
  • Ken
  • CCA-treated timber in playgrounds
  • direct to consumer advertising of drugs
  • "the screening of programmes which sensationalise violence or use violence"
  • "the routine feeding of antibiotics to healthy animals"
  • GE maize
  • seed sterility technology
  • commercial releases of genetically engineered crops
  • waste incineration
  • "nuclear shipments from New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone"
  • sow crates
  • the dry sow stall
  • "weapons of mass destruction"
  • nuclear powered vessels in our waters
  • beef imports from Britain to other European countries
  • "Japanese fishing boats from New Zealand waters"
  • "the importation of all timber and timber products not certified as sustainable"
  • open-cast mining
  • gold mining
  • coal mining
  • mining
  • human cloning
  • food irradiation
  • spray drift
  • all ships carrying nuclear weapons, wastes and fuel from the EEZ
  • "backyard burning of rubbish such as plastics and treated timber"
  • "smoking in all workplaces including bars, restaurants and offices"
  • smoking in cars
  • smoking in clubs
  • smoking outside clubs
  • smoking
  • "new uses of coal for energy"
  • "factory farming"
  • "project-based approvals for the development of GE organisms"
  • "all further building of prisons"
  • free trade with China
  • junk food advertising to children
  • alcohol advertising to anybody
  • "the sale and long-term lease of New Zealand property to foreign investors"
  • "the sale of toy tobacco products to under 18s"
  • GM wheat
  • "environmentally destructive fishing methods"
  • "uranium shipments"
  • "the use of the antibiotic avoparcin in animal feed"
  • "imports of cars older than 7 years"
  • amalgam use in dentistry
  • the incineration of unsorted waste
  • 'trade in hazardous wastes"
  • "'super baby' selection"
  • shopping bags
  • inorganic farming
  • dihydrogen monoxide

So, you're right. Apart from those very few things the Greens are pretty much live-and-let-live, and I was very unfair to say otherwise.

It could be argued (and it has been) that the Greens don't wish to have things banned, that they only want to discourage things through additional taxes or education campaigns, or minimum standards or suchlike.

Well, let's do a rough check on the Greens's website. It's a fairly unscientific study (like much of the Greens's own literature). A quick check shows that in 2006 the word 'ban' appeared 165 times. It now appears 2030 times. The phrase 'additional taxes' appears not at all, but 'eco taxes' shows up 56 times (16 in 2006); 'minimum standards' 101 (7 in 2006); and 'educational campaigns' brings up the rear with only 2 appearances (down from 6 in 2006).

So it looks like my commenter is still absolutely right, for which I guess I can only apologise.

Hard Labour is coming for you

Want to know what dangerous fantasies inhabit Labour activists’ minds? Wonder no longer, as all the dopy policy remits activists have dreamed up for consideration at this weekend’s Hard Labour conference have now been published online. Fortunately, DPF has done the hard work of extracting the remits from the 25-page conference document. As he says, “Do not read these if you are of a nervous disposition”:

  • Nationalisation of partially-sold assets
  • A state owned insurance company
  • State-owned and managed retirement homes
  • Every NGO receiving even minimal government funding be required to have a 50% gender quota on its governing board! 
  • Require all private boards to comply with a 50% gender quota within five years
  • A gender quota for the House of Representatives (why not a race and sexual orientation quota also!)
  • Compulsory Te Reo Maori until age 15
  • Compulsory worker representation on large company boards
  • Bring back compulsory membership of student associations
  • De-facto compulsory unionism by forcing all employees to “contribute to the benefits of enterprise and multi-enterprise bargaining”
  • Turn contractors into employees
  • Reverse employment law changes and destroy NZ as a location for international film making
  • Lower the voting age to 16
  • End all funding of private schools (which ironically will force them all to be integrated and go from 25% funding to 100%)
  • Bring back the food police to school tuckshops
  • Ban seabed mining for minerals oil and gas
  • Ban fracking
  • Ban coal mining
  • Ban plastic bags 
  • Ban companies that do not pay a “living wage” (which is much higher than the minimum wage) from winning government contracts
  • A tax on all aquaculture
  • A tax on all mineral exports
  • A tax on all financial transactions
  • More taxes on petrol to fund rail
  • Fund a brand new commercial-free TV broadcaster
  • Fund a Pacific TV broadcaster
  • A Super Gold card for transport for under 21s
  • A rail link to the airport for Auckland (think how much taxes will be going up to pay for all of this) 
  • Direct Kiwirail as to who must win their tenders
  • Restore the “social obligation” to the SOE Act (despite the fact they were never repealed!)
  • Insert the Treaty of Waitangi into the Constitution Act
  • Raise the age of Super to 67 to pay for other welfare – except for Maori!
  • A universal child benefit so millionaires get paid money for having kids
  • 52 weeks paid parental leave (why stop there – go for 18 years I say!)
  • All single benefits to be increased by $50 a week!!!
  • And everyone gets a pony

Shorter summary: Gender, gender, gender; nationalisation, nationalisation, nationalisation; ; compulsion, compulsion, compulsion; ban, ban, ban (they’ve been listening to the Greens again, haven’t they); welfare, welfare, welfare.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Happy birthday Auguste Rodin


Today would have been Auguste Rodin’s birthday. He would have been 172.

Burghers of Calais Auguste Rodin

He had the almost unique ability to breathe life into mere stone—to grant a life force to inanimate objects.  He could do with a pair of hands what other sculptors could never manage even with whole constellations of subject matter.

Hands Cathedral Auguste Rodin

After him, sculpture was truly never the same again. 


IMAGES from top to bottom: ‘The Kiss’ aka ‘Francesca da Rimini’; ‘ Cathedral’; Pierre di Wissant from the ‘Burghers of Calais’; ‘The Eternal Idol’ at The Musee Rodin in Paris.

Challenging Bill McKibben and the Green Establishment: The Environmental Case for Fossil Fuels

Last week Alex Epstein from the Center for Industrial Progress got to debate the head of warmist activist organisation350.org, environmentalist Bill McKibben, who’s been called “the world's most powerful opponent of fossil fuels.”

The debate was on fossil fuels.

Given that McKibben is on an anti-fossil-fuel rampage as I write this (see http://math.350.org), and he other environmentalist leaders are using Hurricane Sandy as a pretext for policies that would cause far more permanent blackouts, there’s never been a better time to challenge their fundamentals.

Check out these 2-3 minute clips from debate wherein Epstein does just that:

Prohibition kills

Cannabis campaigner Stephen McIntyre, above, died earlier this year. He killed himself.
Evidence seems to be emerging that Stephen, a good  man, a sensitive soul, was driven to kill himself by police harassment.
You might discount the source, but on a matter this serious I suggest you visit Martyn Bradbury’s blog for the story as it emerges of the death of his friend:
In April last year Stephen talked to Lindsay Perigo about his campaigning. Now, it seems, he died of it.