Thursday, 15 April 2021


"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of."
          ~ Confucius, Analects

 [Hat tip Tony Morley]

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Why the Captain of the 'Ever Given' Should Get a Medal

Ship blocks trade. Why weren't protectionists celebrating?
(Pic by Wikimedia Commons)

For decades, protectionists have been arguing for greater barriers to trade. So, says Tom Palmer in this guest post, instead of bemoaning the recent blockage to the Suez Canal by the container ship 'Ever Given,' they should have been giving the captain medals.

Why the Captain of the Ever Given Should Get a Medal

by Tom Palmer

What a brilliant achievement! Supply chains repatriated. Trade deficits cut. Predatory trade reduced. A massive 1,312 foot-long container ship, the 'Ever Given,' did with its enormous bulk what mere laws had failed to do: it blocked the international flow of goods, something for which protectionists the world over have been calling for years! Where they've been passing laws to do the job (or calling for them) the ship did the job simply by running aground in the Suez Canal, through which roughly 30% of global shipping container volume passes every year -- running aground, and then staying there. Stuck like a cork in a bottle.

For any protectionist, it should be rated a truly heroic achievement.

By running their ship aground in the Suez Canal, the owners of the Ever Given, Japanese firm Shoei Kisen KK, unilaterally realised the dream of Winston Peters, of Peter Navarro, of his former boss Donald Trump, and of sundry other rabid protectionists going back to Edward III. 

For seven glorious days over $9 billion dollars worth of goods per day were stopped from flowing through the Suez Canal. Much of that was headed to the United States and according to the arguments of protectionists would only have added to their “trade deficit,” thus (allegedly) wrecking havoc on the United States. Many hundreds of ships loaded with hundreds of thousands of containers full of all kinds of exports were backed up. The impact on supply chains will continue to be felt long after the forces of free trade got the ship back on its way. According to Lars Jensen, chief executive of Denmark-based SeaIntelligence Consulting, “The effect is not only going to be the simple, immediate one with cargo being delayed over the next few weeks, but will actually have repercussions several months down the line for the supply chain.”

The protectionists should award the captain of the Ever Given a medal for – quite literally – blocking trade. Protectionists seek to block trade. And that’s what the Ever Given did for those seven days. (Free traders argue that protectionism isn’t a useful descriptive term, because blocking trade doesn’t protect a country, although it does protect special interests from competition.)

Of course, no serious person would propose an award to the captain of the Ever Given, but there’s really no economic difference between the bulk of a gigantic ship physically blocking trade and the armed police of the Customs and Border Patrol coercively blocking trade.

Some people see trade across borders as negative. They believe that when you buy something from foreigners, you lose. They should thus be happy when goods are blocked from entering their country. Former president Donald Trump famously stated, “China has been taking out 500 billion dollars a year out of our country and rebuilding China.” In his view, that wealth left the U.S. and went to China, a view that oddly overlooks all the things that producers in China send to Americans, including computers, furniture, integrated circuits, sports equipment, electrical machines and, yes, tea. And it leaves out all the things American producers send to China, from aircraft to soybeans, cars and trucks to optical and medical instruments. 

The protectionist thinks that if you send money abroad, you’re losing. By the same logic, when I send money to my local grocery store, wealth is leaving my house in order to build someone else’s. I “lose” every time I buy food from the grocery, or electricity from the power company, or medicine from the pharmacy. That view is known as the “balance of trade.”

Adam Smith in his 1776 masterpiece, noted that “Nothing … can be more absurd than this whole doctrine of the balance of trade, upon which, not only these restraints, but almost all the other regulations of commerce are founded. When two places trade with one another, this [absurd] doctrine supposes that, if the balance be even, neither of them either loses or gains; but if it leans in any degree to one side, that one of them loses and the other gains in proportion to its declension from the exact equilibrium.”

The doctrine of the balance of trade has been around for centuries. It has also been refuted for centuries, but, like the “gambler’s fallacy” (thinking that observing five coin tosses resulting in “heads” makes it more likely that the next one will be “tails”), it’s persistent. As with the gambler’s fallacy, the fallacy of the balance of trade has to be exploded over and over.

Frederic Bastiat satirised proponents of protectionism by arguing if they were consistent they would surely propose for Europe a system of Negative Railroads, one composed entirely of breaks in the tracks so that local industries and retailers might benefit from the business. And the economist Henry George once pointed out that to block trade is to impose an embargo on ourselves, and that, “What protection teaches us, is to do to ourselves in time of peace what enemies seek to do to us in time of war.”

We could add that it also teaches us to celebrate blocking goods-carrying ships from passing through canals. Of course, if we don’t celebrate physically blocking trade, we shouldn’t celebrate any other means of blocking it. Like the gambler’s fallacy, the fallacies of protectionism, can be exploded with just a bit of logical thinking.
* * * * 

Dr. Palmer is executive vice president for international programs at the Atlas Network and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and director of the Institute's educational program, Cato University. A version of this post first appeared at FEE.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

The Establishing of an Enzed Arts Establishment ...

"Poetry and fiction should, in my view, remain completely exempt from State patronage – except for the recording function provided by the State Literary Fund. They are of value only when they are the work of independent artists. Put a novelist on the payroll, and sooner or later you turn him into a tomcat ... that comes to the kitchen door for its milk and in return begs prettily or catches mice." ['The Culture Industry,' 1956]


'Note on the State Literary Fund' [1947]

Here is a piece of wisdom

I learnt at my mother's knee:

The mushroom grows in the open,

The toadstool under the tree.


~ NZ poet A.R.D. Fairburn, opposing the Fraser Government's extension of the state into art funding

Monday, 12 April 2021

The Silicon-Chip Aristotle

"If there is a philosophical Atlas who carries the whole of Western civilisation on his shoulders, it is Aristotle."
          ~ Ayn Rand
"The philosophers he influenced set the stage for the technological revolution that remade our world." 
          ~ Chris Dixon, The Atlantic

[Hat tip Louis Le Marquand. Image from The Atlantic

Saturday, 10 April 2021

GUEST POST: Why Postmodernism Is Incompatible with a Politics of Liberty

It's sometimes argued that postmodern philosophy should underpin liberty, rather than challenge it. In this guest post, Michael Rectenwald argues that postmodernism's denial of the self destroys any possibility of individual agency, and its denial of the concept of truth is anathema to liberty -- and to the possibility of any knowledge claims at all.

SEVERAL MONTHS AGO I debated Thaddeus Russell on The Tom Woods Show. The proposition debated was “Postmodern philosophy is compatible with a politics of individual liberty.” Thaddeus defended the proposition and I opposed it. Here, I want to flesh out some of the points I made in the debate, adding more context than I could marshal under the constraints of the format. For better or worse, this requires a somewhat deeper look into the foundations of postmodern ideas.

I argue that Postmodernism is incompatible with liberty because it sees the individual as a mere product, as constructed by language, social factors, and so on. Further, the cultural obsession with social identity that is current today actively derives from the social constructivism of postmodern philosophy. As such, postmodernism effectively denies self-determination and individual agency. Furthermore, for the postmodernist the very concept of truth is denied in favour of "subjective belief." 

As I explain below, the denial of the concept of truth is anathema to liberty.

Thaddeus Russell takes postmodernism’s “anything goes” epistemological subjectivism, skepticism, and idealism for a kind of epistemic “humility.” Because postmodernism eschews or denies “truth,” suggesting instead that there are merely different “narratives” that pass for truth, he argues that this allows for people to escape from the truth-claims that others, like the state, would impose on them. He argues that this rejection of meta-narratives is "liberational,"as some kind of invocation of freedom.

Further, it is clear that the social constructivism of postmodern philosophy's led inexorably to the cultural obsession with social identity that is widespread today. Such social constructivism further denies individual agency. 

But this is a mistake. As I argued in my book Springtime for Snowflakes:
Once beliefs are unconstrained by the object world … the possibility for assuming a pretense of infallibility becomes almost irresistible, especially when the requisite power is available to support such beliefs. In fact, given its willy-nilly determination of truth and reality on the basis of [subjective] beliefs alone, philosophical and social idealism necessarily becomes dogmatic, authoritarian, anti-rational, and effectively religious.
When coupled with the premium that Michel Foucault, Jean François Lyotard, and others place on power, when everything is a power struggle, as they maintain, then the lack of objective constraints, the lack of belief in “truth,” -- or in any criteria at all for the judgment of facts! -- opens us up to the arbitrary imposition of beliefs, i.e., to authoritarianism. When “my truth” becomes as good or better than any objective truth, or to any attempts to approach truth -- when “lived experience” trumps facts -- then, when one has the requisite power, one can impose one’s own "truth claims" with apparent impunity. There is nothing to push back against belief. When objective criteria are eliminated, there is no court of appeal—other than authority. The ideal of objectivity, always asymptotically approached, should be the court of appeal, but it is thrown out in advance by postmodernism. 
So, postmodernism resembles nothing more than it does the religious creeds that Russell apparently deplores.
We see this playing out in the social justice movement. And, contrary to what Russell maintains—that "social justice" has nothing to do with postmodernism—social justice ideology adopts the postmodern epistemology, and this adoption has consequences. Take transgenderism for example. When belief is unmoored from observation, and when such unmoored belief is institutionalised as it is today, it leads to the abolition of others’ rights, including the right to make statements about observable facts. One is compelled to acknowledge the self-described genders of believers and to use their self-assigned pronouns, or else. If one denies the self-declared gender of one’s child, one may lose custody, or may even be thrown in jail. 
Similarly, critical race theory, which derives its epistemology from postmodernism, posits “lived experience” above all other criteria. Statistics, historical evidence, etc., are of no importance. “Stories” become the only valid evidence, and such stories are unfalsifiable. When coupled with state and institutional power, such unmoored belief becomes dictatorial: "Believe my lived experience, or else." "You must take me at my word." "You must accept my unfalsifiable stories."

In his book Explaining Postmodernism, Stephen Hicks has a related but different explanation. He suggests that the postmodern epistemology is a cover for the authoritarianism of postmodernism. With its extreme epistemological subjectivism and skepticism, the postmodern epistemology allows postmodernists to deny socialism’s historical failures, while maintaining its ethos and goals. As Hicks puts it, 
Postmodernism is the academic far Left’s epistemological strategy for responding to the crisis caused by the failures of socialism in theory and in practice.
This would account for the authoritarianism of such postmodernists as the literary critic Stanley Fish, who in his most recent book, The First, argues for the curtailment of First Amendment rights, including the elimination of religious expression in the public square and the elimination of speech that others find offensive or harmful. If given power, Fish would no doubt impose such sanctions. Thus, Camille Paglia is right in calling Fish a “totalitarian Tinkerbell.” While Hicks’s argument has merit, it doesn’t explain the connection between the authoritarianism and the epistemology, except as an incidental relationship. [To be fair to Hicks, this is not really an accurate summary of his book's thesis, which is that "The failure of epistemology made postmodernism possible, and the failure of socialism made postmodermism necessary." (p. i) This is more like entanglement than "cover."]

My explanation, as I have said, is that epistemological subjectivism, idealism, and relativism are intrinsically connected to authoritarianism. Take the case of Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union, for example. Despite the claim that Marxism is materialist and objective, Lysenkoism was an example of philosophical idealism wielded by the state. The neo-Lamarckian creed became state policy and led to widespread famine and the death of millions, as well as one of the worst witch hunts in the history of science. Lysenkoism underscores the danger of denying our best science. There was a better biological science at the time—Mendelian genetics coupled with the Darwinian model of natural selection. Agreement with this better science could have saved millions of lives. The authoritarianism of unmoored belief led to famine and persecution.

In the debate, Russell suggested that I was antilibertarian because I referred to “objective constraints on discourse.” But I did not refer to “objective constraints on discourse.” I referred to objective constraints, period. I didn’t thereby suggest that states could impose constraints on discourse with impunity. I meant that the material world imposes constraints on us. We deny these constraints at our own peril.

MY SECOND MAIN POINT concerned Russell’s crediting postmodernism with the gains of liberation movements like feminism, civil rights, etc. Thaddeus’s story goes that “Postmodernism allows people to escape the social constructs that contain them.” But feminism, for one, doesn’t need postmodernism, and it never did. Further, it would be much better off without it.
Feminism preceded postmodernism by decades, if not centuries. Mary Wollstonecraft, for example, argued effectively for the expansion of women's rights in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published way back in 1792. And Wollstonecraft wrote very much in the Enlightenment, modernist tradition, extending Enlightenment ideals and ideas to the case of women. The suffragette movement preceded postmodernism by decades. The best feminism, like the best movements for civil rights, have involved the extension of Enlightenment ideas and ideals. 
So, feminism did not need postmodernism, and neither did civil rights.

In fact, postmodernism has done nothing for feminism, except to befuddle feminists with foggy notions of social constructivism and psychoanalytic theory—self-constructed boxes out of which they’ve been trying to fight their way ever since. For feminists, the social construction of gender does not mean that gender can be wished away. Instead, escaping it is a never-ending struggle—to undo the supposed effects of “patriarchy,” or (in the case of the psychoanalytic feminists who followed Jacques Lacan) of the phallus. 
Yet even gender constructivism preceded postmodern theory. In the psychological literature, the word “gender” was first applied to human sex difference in 1955, when the “sexologist” John Money introduced the phrase “gender roles.” From there it became not only gender roles that were constructed but also gender itself. Later, sex difference was deemed to be socially constructed as well. This is why I have called John Money’s intervention “the gender jackpot.” Ever since Money's intervention, gender has multiplied and sought ever-new pronouns, an absurd development that institutions have ludicrously attempted to keep pace with. 
The ironic result of gender constructivism is that feminism is now being run by people with penises. If gender is a social construct, then anyone can adopt the gender of their choice. Thus, males can be women. But that isn’t even what feminists meant by the idea. They saw gender constructs as obdurate social categories that had been established by long-standing conventions and enforced in multiple, almost inscrutable ways. For these feminists, gen­der was no less real for being socially constructed. Undermining gender involved a long, arduous social struggle. And gender-critical feminists figured sex and gender as tightly coupled. The attack of second-wave feminists was not against biology but against socialisation and social constraints based on biology. They did not suggest that sex itself was socially constructed, only that roles based on sex were socially constructed. Postmodernism however, in third-wave feminism, suggests that sex itself is a social construct. While our ideas about it surely are socially constructed, sex difference exists no matter what we think about it.

Gender difference and sex difference are very different things. Yes, sex roles, or gender roles, have changed across time, but, to the best of our knowledge, sex difference itself has not, at least not appreciably. And thank goodness for that—unless you believe, with some postmodern environmentalists, that human reproduction is “evil.”

Furthermore, that postmodernists, according to Russell, don’t believe in biological determinism doesn’t make biology any less determining. We are more or less biologically determined. I’ll say more about this below. But I believe that the introduction of the concept of “gender constructivism” to describe human beings has been pernicious, causing confusion and doing immeasurable harm to feminism and Western culture at large.

Meanwhile, the idea that gender is a social construct—determined by social factors—can be as deterministic as biological determinism. This is especially the case in the hands of postmodern theory. That’s because, under postmodern theory, the notion of the autonomous, pre-existing self itself is denied. The self becomes nothing but a mere aftereffect, a product of language and/or other social factors. Under postmodernism, the self is “de-centered,” that is, removed from the centre of history and importance. And the agency of the self is virtually denied. We can read this in the writing of the poststructuralists Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault, for example, in “The Death of the Author” and “What Is an Author?,” respectively. Here, we find that authors do not create texts. Texts themselves produce their authors! Authors, and, by extension, the human subject itself, is the mere product of text. Or, as described by Jean-François Lyotard in The Postmodern Condition (1979), the self is a mere “node” in a communications circuit. Lyotard made his demotion of the self quite explicit: “And each of us knows that our self does not amount to much…. A self does not amount to much.” This is hardly a formula for self-determination, which requires individual agency, agency that postmodernism denies human beings.

SO POSTMODERNISM LITERALLY DENIES THE individual, whereas libertarianism begins with the individual (from which derive the first forms of property). To the extent that the postmodernist does value the individual, therefore, he’s not a postmodernist. And to the extent that he buys into postmodernism’s denial of the self-determining individual agent, he’s not a libertarian.
Furthermore, postmodernism’s constant emphasis on "social constructs" suggests that they are all-determining. This accounts for the social justice obsession with social identity categories and its denial of individual identity and agency. Every outcome is determined by gender, by race, or what have you. Everyone is reduced to their social identity category. This obsession has led to the rabid identity politics of such groups as Black Lives Matter, who see race as the sole determining factor for everything that happens to persons of colour. Such determinism denies their individual agency, reducing them to mere objects of history.

Meanwhile, there are different kinds of social constructivism. My epistemology may be called, following David Hess, a “moderate constructivism.” Hess advanced the term in his An Advanced Introduction to Science Studies (1997) to refer to a position that regards science as representing its natural object(s) and the social and political orders, rather than either one exclusively. Martin J.S. Rudwick developed a similar standpoint based on his detailed and remarkable study of the Devonian controversy in geology. Rudwick suggested that “a consensual product of scientific debate can be regarded as both artifactual and natural, as a thoroughly social construction that may nonetheless be a reliable representation of the natural world.” The point is that there is a difference between the social construction of knowledge, on one hand, and the utter incommensurability of knowledge and the object world, on which the postmodernists insist. The latter position implies that all scientific knowledge is constructed, willy-nilly, and even that the object world itself is socially constructed -- and since no one’s construction is any better than anyone else’s, this leads inexorably to an epistemological nihilism.
Take for example  Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts (1979) by Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar. Laboratory Life is an anthropological examination of a scientific labora­tory as a strange but not altogether exotic culture. Almost “going native,” but not quite, the assumed strange­ness effect allowed Latour and Woolgar to see science’s final product in terms of what they called “literary inscription,” or writing. Despite Latour’s subsequent break with the implications of “the social construc­tion of scientific facts” arrived at in Laboratory Life, this first book is constructivist through and through. The anthropologists aimed to show that “the construction of scientific facts, in particular, is a process of generating texts whose fate (status, value, utility, facticity) depends on their subsequent interpretation.” Latour and Woolgar thus reduced the objects of scientific knowledge to “text,” just as Jacques Derrida had done with ontologies in philosophy. 
Of course, a fallacy was at work. Latour and Woolgar’s sleight of hand demonstrated (they claimed) that scientific facts exist only within texts—“there is no outside of text,” to quote Derrida. But as with all magic tricks, the deception had taken place earlier, before we were looking. Latour and Woolgar stealthily conflated the knowledge of scientific facts—established in the process of science and expressed in language—and the reality referred to by that knowledge. Confusing knowledge and the objects of knowledge, our postmodern magicians seemed to make the material world itself disappear into the text. The error is known as the fallacy of reification—or treating an abstraction, like the knowledge of an object, as equivalent to a concrete object or thing, like the object to which the knowledge refers. Russell makes the same mistake.

YES, SOME POSTMODERNISTS DO in fact deny objective reality. In Of Grammatology (1967), for example, Derrida wrote that “[t]here is nothing outside of text.” Derrida’s Of Grammatology is a philosophical excursus into the philosophy of language. It draws on Ferdinand de Saussure’s notion of "the sign"—the signifier-signified-referent construction—to undermine any relationship between language and the object world. The sign is the word, which has no necessary relationship to what it refers to. The signifier points to a signified, or an idea, not to the referent, or to something in the object world. Derrida goes further than Saussure and breaks the connection between the signifier and the signified, arguing for the self-referentiality of the signifier. The signifier points to itself and not to the signified. But Derrida also ends up conflating the signified and the referent and thereby denying any relationship of language to the object world. This makes him an epistemological nihilist. Knowledge becomes virtually impossible under such a sign system.

Language, however, is a tool. It allows us to connect particular words to particular objects, more or less accurately defined, thus enhancing their use and manipulation. To pretend otherwise is sheer nonsense. (The title Of Grammatology allows us to find Derrida’s ideas in said book by that title.) The point here is that by denying a relationship between language and the object world, postmodernism abandons truth claims, as does Russell himself. This epistemological nihilism would not be a problem if not for its likely consequences.

Some years ago, physicist Alan Sokal wrote a parody paper for insertion into a leading postmodern journal, in part to expose the ignorance of the postmodern luminaries. In “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” Alan Sokal argued, parodically, that gravity itself is a social construct. The postmodernists at Social Text fell for the parody. The Sokal Hoax pointed to the absurdity of the postmodern position inaugurated by Derrida as applied to science.

Take the denial of biological determinism that Russell vaunts as a credit to postmodernism. Forget about identity categories for a moment. We are more or less biologically determined and ignoring the extent of our biological determination can be dangerous. The key is to find out just how biologically determined we are, and in what ways. To investigate the extent and ways by which we are biologically determined is not necessarily to cede authority to the state, as Russell suggested in the debate. Rather, it allows us to approach an understanding of the scope of freedom itself. Liberty, if it is to be meaningful, depends on the acknowledgement of constraints—those imposed by the object world, and those imposed by other people’s rights. Without such an acknowledgement, liberty loses all meaning. We wouldn’t know what we are at liberty to do.

Finally, as discussed above, the lack of an objective court of appeal leads to the possibility that others may impose their unmoored beliefs on us, given the requisite power to do so. “Pseudo-realities,” as James Lindsay notes in a recent installment of New Discourses, “being false and unreal, will always generate tragedy and evil on a scale that is at least proportional to the reach of their grip on power … ”

Totalitarianism depends on the enforcement of false beliefs. Postmodernism admittedly and purposively leaves us no way to adjudicate beliefs. Likewise, postmodernism lends itself to totalitarianism.
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Author: Michael Rectenwald is the author of eleven books, including Thought Criminal, Beyond Woke, Google Archipelago, and Springtime for Snowflakes. His post first appeared at the Mises Wire.

Friday, 9 April 2021

"The overall quality of every true artist's work is a rebellion against Black Codes."

The Black Codes were a historic reality: restrictive racial laws re-imposed after the all-too brief Reconstruction era following the US Civil War. They were a restriction from above. In his 1985 composition 'Black Codes From the Underground,' trumpeter Wynton Marsalis attacks "contemporary definitions of Black Codes" which folks impose upon themselves. An important observation. Explaining himself:

"Black Codes mean a lot of things. Anything that reduces potential, that pushes your taste down to an obvious, animal level. Anything that makes you think less significance is more enjoyable. Anything that keeps you on the surface. 

    "The way they depict women in rock videos -- Black Codes. People gobbling up junk food when they can afford something better -- Black Codes. The argument that illiteracy is valid in a technological world -- Black Codes. People who equate ignorance with soulfulness -- definitely Black Codes. 

    "The overall quality of every true artist's work is a rebellion against Black Codes. That's the line I want to be in ..."

... a rebellion against self-limitation. That's a line we should all be in.

Enjoy the tune.

"So that’s another problem with Rand’s philosophy."

"When philosophers or intellectuals claim that we cannot know reality because our sensory apparatuses distort the data before it reaches consciousness, they may sound profound or impressive. . .
    "But, then, along comes Ayn Rand, who points out that such claims amount to the view that 'man is blind, because he has eyes—deaf, because he has ears—deluded, because he has a mind—and the things he perceives do not exist, because he perceives them.'
    "As you might imagine, such straightforward clarifications, which abound in Rand’s works, can make skeptics feel as ignorant as they claim to be.
    "So that’s another problem with Rand’s philosophy."
          ~ Craig Biddle, from his article 'Here's What's Wrong With Ayn Rand's Philosophy'

Thursday, 8 April 2021

"Socialism Is Not, at Root, About Economics"

"What is striking is that no matter what the economic failures, true socialists rarely give it up. Why not. Because it has a moral base.... 'The power of morality is the strongest of all intellectual powers…men will not act, in major issues, without a sense of being morally right.'*
    "Morality trumps economic facts if there is a conflict. This is true even if one’s accepted code of morality is objectively wrong."

Wednesday, 7 April 2021



“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
          ~ Ray Bradbury


Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Integrity and what a life means


“The mature lifetime of the integral individual is a single act, spread over time by the condition of existence that a thing cannot present itself all at once. But in a profound sense, integrity hereby abolishes time by containing its past and its future in its present.” 
          ~ David L. Norton, Personal Destinies 
[Hat tip Stephen Hicks, whose words are used in my title]

Thursday, 1 April 2021

"Government Force Sabotages Vaccine Delivery"

New Zealand's vaccine "roll-out" is looking increasingly shambolic, and unerringly politically-driven in selecting whom should be vaccinated when, and with what[1] 

Regardless of the many complications, however, you don't get to choose. A 42-year-old boy with no life (or medical) experience does. His basic instruction: "Hurry up and wait" -- while explaining away why New Zealand was never first in line for any vaccine, why there are long queues now for New Zealanders to get the selected vaccine, why it may not actually be 95% effective, and how an MIQ worker twice-vaccinate with this vaccine still managed to catch and transmit the virus.

It's now April. Last November the boy told us "as vaccines start to come to market New Zealand will be at the front of the queue to be getting vaccines," with "front-line" workers the first to be treated.  Yet even as he said that he knew that the queue had already formed up, and New Zealand was well at the back. And as of today, only two-thirds of those front-line border workers have had their first dose, and only a quarter of that number their second. At the present rate of 5500 government-given vaccinations per day, it will take 365 days to vaccinate 2 million people. That's just 2/5 of a "Team of 5 Million." This is hardly stellar.

How does the boy get to brush over all the problems, and tell us when, in what order, and with what we'll be vaccinated? 
The first step [explains Harry Binswanger] was to involve the government in 'public health'—a concept as invalid as 'public interest.'
    Government's [legitimate] retaliatory force to quarantine a Typhoid Mary is not an action to promote 'public health' but to protect specific individuals against tortious contact with disease spreaders.
    By analogy, the fact that the police would stop a vandal from smashing a statue is not something done to promote 'public aesthetics.'
    After promoting 'public health' was accepted as a proper function for government [however], it followed that the government should take control of the whole country during a pandemic. Which is exactly what was done. No longer is the question: 'Should I take the risk of going to that store, restaurant, tennis court?' No longer would parents decide whether to risk sending the children to school. No longer would businesses decide on what terms they will deal with suppliers, employees, customers. Now all that is decided by government. [Without any due process.] Because it's a matter of 'public health,' you see.... 

Once the concept of enforced blanket lockdowns (without any due process) became accepted came the corollary that, if government is in total charge of 'public health,' then it must ipso facto also be in charge of vaccinations, both of their quality and their delivery...

    Then the testing, treatment, and vaccine development had to be placed under the control of the government. And now, incredibly, the distribution of the products is to be done by government. And it must be doled out for free....
Is it any wonder that commentators are bewailing the "staggering difficulties" of getting everyone vaccinated?
If government were in charge of distributing eggs, there would be lines for eggs.
    If eggs were to be given for free, there would be no lines. Because there would be no eggs.
    Eggs are in fact produced and delivered for private gain—the profits of the egg producers, the profits of the distributors, the profits of the supermarkets, and the equivalent of profit for the egg buyers. The egg buyers prefer the eggs to the other things they could buy with the money to be spent on eggs. That is their gain from the trade.
    Under this system, we witness what John Ridpath called "The Miracle of Breakfast." The supply of eggs is always matched to the demand for them. You never have to think about whether enough eggs (and bacon and bread and . . .) will be available for you to get some. Miraculously, there always is...
    The only reason that the commentators are bewailing the "staggering difficulties" of getting everyone vaccinated is that they never dream of putting the vaccine on the free market.... 
    Things spring up overnight when there is big money to be made. How many homes bought Christmas trees last year? ...  about 8% of the population ... in a couple of weeks....
    There's no practical problem with fast-delivery of the vaccine to eager buyers. There's only a political problem. Based on a moral problem: altruism.
    Supplying, distributing, and inoculating the vaccine should be a for-profit, supply-and-demand-respecting private business operation. That would turbo-charge the whole process.
    Adapting the line from 'Fields of Dreams': Charge for it, and they will come.
* * * * * 
1. "'Vaccine developers are already anticipating variant issues and are working on redesigning the current vaccines to work better against B.1.351,' Moore said.
    "'Another strategy is to give a third dose of the mRNA vaccines [Pfizer and Moderna] and a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,' or possibly combining different types of vaccines in some sequential order to enhance immune response against the variants."

[Hat tips Monica, Dave K, Bill S.] 

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

What's objectionable is shutting down free speech

"Injurious to the public good"? "Objectionable content"? Do you want to give the grey ones power to declare what is isn't "objectionable"? To determine which of your internet contributions are "injurious to the public good"? Then you're almost too late to object to a proposed Bill cementing in this attack on free speech: submissions close tomorrow on the grey ones's Bill to censor the internet.
    “This Bill is part of a wider government programme to address violent extremism,” said the moron Minister who introduced the Bill. “This is about protecting New Zealanders from harmful content they can be exposed to on their everyday social media feeds,” she lied. 
    Feel free to crib from this guest post by Terry Verhoeven to make your own submission telling her and her cronies about the importance of free speech ...

Below is my submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification (Urgent Interim Classification of Publications and Prevention of Online Harm) Amendment Bill. Tomorrow is the last day for submissions.
To whom it may concern,
    I write in dismay about and in opposition to the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification (Urgent Interim Classification of Publications and Prevention of Online Harm) Amendment Bill, which if enacted is going to violate countless individuals’ right to freedom of expression and property rights. It is going to violate those rights by instituting privilege: the privilege of being able to force others not to say things that might possibly offend.
    Many of us are offended by this assault on rights.
    Authentic rights are not a Western idea, but an Enlightenment one; rights result from us reasoning about our nature, and may be arrived at and enjoyed by any human being who makes the mental effort to grasp and uphold them.
    Why are rights so important? Because they are our only means to freedom. New Zealand’s national anthem proudly calls this country a “free land.” It won’t stay a free land for long if rights are forgotten about and replaced by privileges.
    Let us turn to some basics about rights, because this submission is taking a principled stand.
    What is an authentic right, as opposed to a privilege or a printing-press “right”? A right is a principle which defines and sanctions individual action in a social context. More specifically, a right is what the facts of reality determine reasoning minds need to function and flourish in a social context. The principle “right” is arrived at by making a proper identification of that need. Rights begin with, end with, and serve to protect the reasoning mind, our defining characteristic as an enlightened species.
    What does a reasoning mind need to function and flourish in society? Is it not being offended? No! A reasoning mind can still function perfectly well even when it is offended. What a reasoning mind needs is freedom, which can only be achieved by the absence of coercion, the initiation of physical force. The existential requirement of any reasoning mind is the freedom to think, speak and act, limited only by the obligation not to infringe on another’s right to the same.
    The proposed bill is itself an infringing act. Its purpose is to force people to stop speaking and acting in an offensive manner, according to some subjective standard. There is no such thing as a right not to be offended. Any such claim constitutes a privilege, not a right.
    Property rights are perhaps the most important right missing in all this. Property rights implement the right to liberty, which in turn implements the right to live as a reasoning being, commonly called the right to life. In a free and just society, if you do not like what someone says on or with their legitimately acquired property, you are free to go about your way and avoid them and what they say. Conversely, if you want to say something on or with your own legitimately acquired property, no one has the right to stop you. Property rights enable people to live and let live by resolving conflicting claims to freedom of action in a compossible way. Upholding property rights does not lead to a utopia by any means, because people are free to do dumb things with or on their property, but it is nonetheless the best and most just system of rights-implementation there is.
    It is down the path of upholding property rights that legitimate governments must go for authentic rights to be upheld. Enacting laws that aim to protect people’s feelings at the price of doing away with authentic rights is to travel down a civilisation off-ramp and onto a motorway of injustice against a large “WRONG WAY” sign.
    If people abuse the freedoms given them by rights, for example by saying things that are irrational (including being unwarrantedly offensive), the disgruntled or disaffected may then exercise their right to freely boycott, protest, condemn, mock, retort, and/or take any other action within their rights to affect change. That is how a society remains free while progressing towards better outcomes. Without property rights as the arbiter of what can or cannot be said with or on one’s own property (such as on a website), a chaos of clashing claims ensues, whereby a culture of political pull and ultimately corruption becomes the arbiter. The latter is the direction this bill will take us if passed into law as presently worded.
    I urge you to speak out against this misguided bill, both for the sake of our future as a free nation, and to honour all who have died to keep this country a free nation.
    I have only one suggestion if this bill must pass, and that is to insert a provision to make it subject to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and specifically sections 13 and 14, which should override it.  
          Terry Verhoeven


Rent Control Did to Vietnam What US Bombers Couldn't [+ QUIZ]


THINK HIGH RENTS ARE BAD for your city? Then wait until you see what happens under rent control. Since we're all of a sudden debating rent control as if it's a (possible) thing, it's worth reminding ourselves of Swedish economist Assar Lindbeck's observation that "in many cases rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city—except for bombing." Literally, as David Henderson reminds us in this short guest post ...

Rent Control Did to Vietnam What US Bombers Couldn't

by David R. Henderson

[Gunnar] Myrdal stated, "Rent control has in certain Western countries constituted, maybe, the worst example of poor planning by governments lacking courage and vision."

His fellow Swedish economist (and socialist) Assar Lindbeck asserted,
In many cases rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city—except for bombing.
Unfortunately, Lindbeck was wrong. Rent control is the most efficient. Case in point, South-East Asia, where rent control did to Vietnam what millions of tons of US explosives couldn't:
NEW DELHI—A “romantic conception of socialism” … destroyed Vietnam’s economy in the years after the Vietnam war, Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach said Friday.
    Addressing a crowded news conference in the Indian capital, Mr. Thach admitted that controls … had artificially encouraged demand and discouraged supply…. House rents had … been kept low … so all the houses in Hanoi had fallen into disrepair, said Mr. Thach.
    “The Americans couldn’t destroy Hanoi, but we have destroyed our city by very low rents. We realised it was stupid and that we must change policy,” he said.
—From a news report in the Journal of Commerce, quoted in Dan Seligman, “Keeping Up,” Fortune, February 27, 1989.

** Quotes are from Walter Block, “Rent Control,” in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.


** This post first appeared at FEE.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

"The power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas."


"The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not, indeed, immediately, but after a certain interval; for in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.

~ John Maynard Keynes, from the 'Concluding Notes' to his General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money


Monday, 29 March 2021

"Be kind..."


"Benevolence [alone] is inadequate for the task of building cooperation in a large society, because we are irredeemably biased in our benevolence to relatives and close friends; a society built on benevolence would be riddled with nepotism. Between strangers, the invisible hand of the market, distributing selfish ambitions, is fair."

~ Adam Smith, from his Theory of Moral Sentiments (as summarised by Matt Ridley)


Friday, 26 March 2021

"Price gouging"?


"There is no such thing as 'price gouging.' There is only price discovery. 'Price gouging' is what people call it when they don't like the price that's been discovered."
           ~ John Bejanaro

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Vale John Ridpath


I'm posting this video today of this landmark debate to mark the passing of John Ridpath, the professor of intellectual history who largely dominates it. [Bookamark it and come back to it again when you have time.] I know many New Zealanders have seen it, and enjoyed it -- and been persuaded by it to rethink many of their views -- so will join with me in mourning the passing of this articulate, passionate man with a deep well of well-integrated knowledge he was always eager (and very able) to share.

His lectures on his field of intellectual history were mind-expanding. I was lucky enough to enjoy one in person, to see his intellect up close: a series in London on "how Say's Law integrates all of economics" literally tied up the whole field of study with one bow -- and then integrated it with all of human endeavour. It was astounding.

Tie that to what became a near-annual tribute at Objectivist conferences to the founding of America -- the first nation of the Enlightenment -- at which he unfailingly came to tears when telling of the final victory at Yorktown, and you may understand how his broad intellect fired his passions: and that he understood that freedom, and its birth, to be so selfishly important. That he was Canadian, and not American, indicates simply that he knew it also to be universally important.

The Ayn Rand Institute has posted this brief tribute:

Dr. Ridpath was an emeritus associate professor of economics and intellectual history at York University in Toronto, Canada, and featured Rand’s ideas in his courses at the university. During his long career, he received numerous teaching awards and was much sought after throughout Europe and North America as an engaging and charismatic public speaker.
    Dr. Ridpath was outspoken in defense of reason, individualism and capitalism. His writing appeared in, among others, The Objectivist Forum, The Intellectual Activist and The American Journal of Economics and Sociology; he also contributed chapters to Essays on Ayn Rand’s “We the Living” and Why Businessmen Need Philosophy.
    In a powerful 1984 debate, “Capitalism vs. Socialism: Which Is the Moral System?,” Dr. Ridpath joined Dr. Leonard Peikoff to present the moral case for capitalism against two democratic socialists, Gerald Caplan and Jill Vickers. With the permission of the copyright holder, ARI will soon publish the video of that enlightening must-watch debate.
    A topic of special interest to Dr. Ridpath was the impact of philosophic ideas on Western history, particularly America’s Founding era. His course on the philosophic origins of Marxism is available on the Ayn Rand University mobile app and on the ARI Campus website. Additional talks by Dr. Ridpath can be found here.
    The Institute plans to discuss in more depth the contributions Dr. Ridpath has made to the advancement of Ayn Rand’s ideas and the Objectivist movement.
His appeal too was truly universal. A Brazilian reader of Atlas Shrugged posted this brief clip of Ridpath a few years back, saying "this truly captured the way I felt reading Francisco Danconia."

It also truly captures the sense of life of this wonderful intellectual warrior for freedom, Vale, Mr Ridpath. Vale.

Incentives matter


"Much confusion comes from judging economic policies by the goals they proclaim rather than the incentives they create."
          ~ Thomas Sowell, from his Basic Economics

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

How Three Inspiring Women Moved the Needle Away From Socialism

When the world last century was ravaged by war and everywhere seemingly doomed to collapse into the abyss of collectivism, as Kerry McDonald outlines in this guest post for Women’s History Month, three articulate women fired a generation to reimbibe the universal human values of individual liberty, limited government, free-market capitalism, and entrepreneurship, and reignite a movement for their rebirth ...

How Three Inspiring Women Moved the Needle Away From Socialism

by Kerry McDonald

In 1943, as war ravaged the world and collectivist policies were ascendant worldwide, an extraordinary thing happened. Three women published three books that year that would jolt folk from their socialist stupor and remind them of the fundamental American values of individual liberty, limited government, free-market capitalism, and entrepreneurship. This Women’s History Month is an ideal time to reflect on how Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, and Ayn Rand helped to catalyse the late-20th century movement toward freedom.

The “Libertarians of ‘43,” as Paterson biographer Stephen Cox dubbed these women*, were outspoken advocates of individualism and human ingenuity, and vocal critics of socialist ideology and big government policies. Cox explains that “women were more important to the creation of the libertarian movement than they were to the creation of any political movement not strictly focused on women’s rights.” The work of these three women continues to inspire a new generation of libertarian writers today, with their message more urgent than ever.

Rose Wilder Lane

The daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Almanzo Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane is “Baby Rose” who many of us remember from the ninth book in the Little House on the Prairie series, The First Four Years. Born in 1886 in Dakota Territory, her years of growing up on the prairie likely instilled in Lane a sense of rugged individualism and self-reliance that ultimately found their way into her writings throughout the 20th century. Initially sympathetic to the ideas of socialism during World War I, after visiting the Soviet Union and parts of Europe with the American Red Cross (and witnessing the widespread corruption and the eradication of personal freedoms) she became one of its fiercest opponents. Returning to the US, she wrote widely, publishing books and writing articles for outlets such as Good Housekeeping, McCall’s, Ladies’ Home Journal, Harper’s, and the Saturday Evening Post.

By the late 1920s, Lane was reported to be one of the highest-paid women writers in the US. She became a vocal critic of Roosevelt’s New Deal, Social Security, and other government programs she felt disempowered individuals and gave greater authority to the state. In 1939, Leonard Read, who would go on to launch the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in 1946 as the country’s first libertarian think tank, republished an expanded version of one of Lane’s earlier influential essays, Give Me Liberty, where she describes her evolution from socialist-communist sympathiser to staunch individualist: “Many regard the collectivist State, as I did, as an extension of democracy. In this view, the picture is one of progressive steps to freedom,” she wrote. She went on to describe her experience living in the Soviet Union and seeing the results of collectivist policies first-hand:
I came out of the Soviet Union no longer a communist, because I believed in personal freedom. Like all Americans, I took for granted the individual liberty to which I had been born. It seemed as necessary and as inevitable as the air I breathed; it seemed the natural element in which human beings lived. The thought that I might lose it had never remotely occurred to me.
This essay set the tone for her influential 1943 book, The Discovery of Freedom, where she persuasively promotes individual liberty, limited government, and free markets. She explains how American freedom unleashes the full capacity of the human mind to discover and invent, thus leading to unprecedented progress and prosperity for all. Lane writes:
Human energy works to supply human needs and satisfy human desires, only when, and where, and precisely to the extent that men know they are free. It works effectively only to the extent that Government is weak, so that individuals are least prevented from acting freely, from using their energy of body and mind under their own individual control. All history shows this fact. Every detail of common experience today proves it. The electric light proves it; the car in the garage proves it. How did Edison create the electric light? How did Americans create the millions of American cars? They used free thought, free speech, free action and free-hold property. The unhindered use of natural human rights creates this whole modern world. Nothing else makes it possible for men to create new things, and improve them and keep on improving them.

Isabel Paterson

Lane’s contemporary and early ally, Isabel Paterson, echoed Lane’s ideas on individualism and freedom. Like Lane, Paterson was a prolific writer and enthusiastic proponent of libertarian ideals. Also born in 1886, in Canada, Paterson’s poor family moved around the American west and Canada when she was a child. Similar to Lane, Paterson had very little formal schooling and was mostly self-educated. She left home as a teenager to find work, taking a series of low-paying jobs, including one as a secretary to the publisher of a Washington newspaper who discovered her writing talent. From there her career took off.

In 1924, Paterson began writing a prominent literary column for the New York Herald Tribune, a position she held for 25 years where she emphasized libertarian themes. She was opposed to Prohibition, military conscription, government schooling, and crony capitalism. She favored free trade and immigration and was against the New Deal and central planning. Paterson defended free-market capitalism and celebrated entrepreneurship and invention. She became a US citizen in 1928 at age 42.

In 1943, Paterson published her pivotal book, The God of the Machine, that fully articulated her libertarian vision of personal and economic freedom and showed how statist policies can stifle human energy. “Capitalism is the economic system of individualism,” writes Paterson. She goes on to explain that 
it was assumed by superficial minds, such as Marx, that capitalism tended to concentration of wealth and a ‘class’ division of interests. But the ‘interest’ of capitalism is distribution. All the inventions of man have individualism as their end, because they spring from the individual function of intelligence, which is the creative and productive source. Freedom being the natural condition of man, inventions making for greater mobility resolve into individual means of transport. So far as co-operative action is useful toward the development of the individual, capitalism is fully able to carry out by voluntary association vast and complex operations of which collectivism is utterly incapable, and which are self-liquidating at the limit of their usefulness, if they are allowed to complete the process. No collectivist society can even permit co-operation; it relies upon compulsion; hence it remains static.
Rose Wilder Lane, who was friendly with former president Herbert Hoover, wrote to him in praise of Paterson’s book: “I try to restrain my enthusiasm, but it seems to me a book ranking with the best of Paine and Madison,” she said. Ayn Rand, the third of the “Libertarians of ‘43” also celebrated Paterson’s book. Rand wrote: "The God of the Machine is a document that could literally save the world ... The God of the Machine does for capitalism what Das Kapital does for the Reds and what the Bible did for Christianity.” Paterson, in turn, eagerly endorsed Rand’s 1943 novel, The Fountainhead, in her literary column.

Ayn Rand

Born in Russia in 1905, Rand lived through the Russian Revolution of 1917 when she saw her father’s pharmacy business in Petrograd confiscated by the state. The family escaped to the Crimean Peninsula where Rand attended high school. They returned to Petrograd in 1921, living through the Great Famine when they suffered from periodic starvation and millions of Russians perished. Rand was issued a visa to visit the US and arrived in New York City in 1926 at the age of 21, changing her name from Alissa Rosenbaum to Ayn Rand. She became a US citizen in 1931.

Rand’s childhood experiences revealed to her the evils of collectivist ideology and the doctrine of “altruism,” shaping her views in favour of individualism and the doctrine of “egoism.” The Fountainhead, along with her later magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, eloquently and entertainingly articulate her philosophy of “man as a heroic being with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”

In The Fountainhead, Rand’s main character Howard Roark explains the virtues of egoism and individual achievement more clearly: 
Men have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet one cannot give that which has not been created. Creation comes before distribution—or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire the second-hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement.
Rand became known as a “radical for capitalism,” explaining that capitalism is the only political and economic system that recognizes and respects individual rights. In her 1966 book, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Rand writes: 
Capitalism was the only system in history where wealth was not acquired by looting, but by production, not by force, but by trade, the only system that stood for man's right to his own mind, to his work, to his life, to his happiness, to himself.

Today’s Libertarian Moment

For Lane, Paterson and Rand, 1943 was a lonely time with only a small group of libertarian thinkers denouncing the collectivist policies and socialist ideology that the elites applauded. Their courage and conviction set the foundation for a renewed commitment to American ideals of individualism and opportunity, restrained government, free enterprise, and entrepreneurship. As the journalist John Chamberlain recorded: “Indeed, it was three women — [Isabel] Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, and Ayn Rand — who, with scornful side glances at the male business community, had decided to rekindle a faith in an older American philosophy.”

Today, there are thankfully more of us who recognise and relay the principles of a free society, and there are more organisations that support these efforts, including Cato and FEE and the Ayn Rand Institute in the US, the IEA in London, which did so much to support Britain's late-twentieth century turn away from socialism -- and CIS in Sydney, which did much to inspire the dismantling of New Zealand's "Polish Shipyard."

At a time when individual rights have been relentlessly eroded due to lockdowns, economic freedom has been crushed for many of the small businesses deemed “non-essential,” and government has swelled while spending reaches unfathomable heights, the words and warnings of these three libertarian pioneers are more important than ever. Today’s freedom fighters have a crucial role to play in continuing to champion individualism over collectivism.

As Rand reminds us in Atlas Shrugged, we can each create the world we desire: “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours.”
* Although Rand always fiercely spurned the term, calling libertarians "hippies of the right," and dubbing herself "a radical for capitalism."

Kerry McDonald
Kerry McDonald is a Senior Education Fellow at FEE and author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom (Chicago Review Press, 2019). She is also an adjunct scholar at The Cato Institute and a regular Forbes contributor. Kerry has a B.A. in economics from Bowdoin College and an M.Ed. in education policy from Harvard University. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and four children. You can sign up for her weekly newsletter on parenting and education here.
This post first appeared at the blog of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). If you are an emerging writer with a passion for liberty and free-market economics, check out FEE’s Hazlitt Fellowship and be part of their new generation of freedom-fighting writers. Or check out the annual Ayn Rand Essay Contest, which over the last thirty years has awarded over $2 million in total prize money to students around the world! (And to help you, there are a ton of new online resources to learn more about Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

Tell me something untrue...

"When you tell me something patently untrue -- that I'm a racist, say -- my response is not going to be to examine my heart or change my conduct. It will be to simply file you under 'people to ignore' for the future."
          ~ Iona Italia

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

"The Market ... "

"The Market is the mass of voluntary exchanges that people choose to carry out. The State is an organisation claiming the monopoly on violence. Thus, to say the market must be regulated [by the State] is to say violence must be imposed upon people's voluntarily exchanges. Neither more nor less."
          ~ Per Bylund

Monday, 15 March 2021

“12 Myths of International Trade"

"As Adam Smith noted more than two centuries ago, a nation can gain from trade whenever a good can be acquired from foreigners more cheaply than it can be produced domestically. When foreign governments subsidise their exports to us, they are subsidising [New Zealand] consumers. Of course, the subsidies are costly to the taxpayers funding them. With time, they are likely to tire from the burden and bring the subsidies to a halt. If foreigners are subsidising their producers, some argue we should do the same. This makes no sense. Merely because foreigners are wasting their resources propping up inefficient suppliers is no reason for us to engage in the same folly. As with other trade restrictions, export subsidies will channel more of our resources toward production of things we do poorly and away from things we do well. A smaller output and lower level of income will result. Put simply, neither individuals nor nations can expect to get ahead by spending more time producing things they do poorly."
~ from “12 Myths of International Trade,” a June 2000 Staff Report of the US Joint Economic Committee. This paragraph probably written by Jim Gwartney

"It is the maxim of every prudent master of a family, never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy. The tailor does not attempt to make his own shoes, but buys them of the shoemaker. The shoemaker does not attempt to make his own clothes, but employs a tailor. The farmer attempts to make neither the one nor the other, but employs those different artificers.
    "What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom. If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better to buy it of them with some part of the produce of our own industry, employed in a way in which we have some advantage."
~ Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations


“Hence it is not enough to establish the technological feasibility of a production plan; it is also necessary to determine its economic cost – that is, the value of opportunities forgone by this plan. The complexity of deliberately tracing out such cost implications of each plan necessitates that this be done unconsciously by relying on the information supplied by a price system.”
~ Don Lavoie, Rivalry and Central Planning, Cambridge University Press, 1985, p. 148

[Hat tip Don Boudreaux]

Friday, 12 March 2021

So the RMA is being reviewed again ...

Here's what I wrote about the Resource Management Act (RMA) in the Herald way back in 2004
"The solution is simple. Don't tinker with the procedures for acquiring a resource consent. Don't tinker with the Environment Court. Don't recraft the RMA. Don't streamline it; don't fix it or reform it. Instead, drive a stake through its heart. The RMA review team must reinstate the common law protection of property and environment - and then get out of our way." [Here's the larger piece from which that smaller one came.]
Sadly, nothing has changed since then -- and nor will it this time, except perhaps for a change of form (three Acts instead of one), and a change of name. But the principles that always made it suck will still stay the same ...

"Every revolution was first a thought in one man's mind..."

"Every revolution was first a thought in one man's mind, and when the same thought occurs to another man, it is the key to that era. Every reform was once a private opinion..."
          ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his essay 'History'

Thursday, 11 March 2021

"Smith was on the side of the angels..."

This week marks 245 years since the publication of The Wealth of Nations, one of the most important books ever written. An Adam Smith Institute commemorative email reminds us, at this time, that ignorance never sleeps:
Smith revolutionised our understanding of commerce. He explained how trade enriches our lives and his works laid the foundations of a whole new field of study: economics.
    Today though, Adam Smith’s legacy is under threat from those that would rewrite history.
    Smith’s grave and statue have been linked to “slavery and colonialism,” according to Edinburgh City Council.
    The grave and statue are being reviewed by the SNP-Labour Coalition Council’s Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group. Their claim rests upon a quote by Adam Smith that said “slavery was ubiquitous and inevitable but that it was not as profitable as free labour“.
    This is an extraordinary mischaracterisation.
    Smith not only argued that slavery was morally reprehensible, but also provided intellectual ammunition to the abolitionist movement. The link Adam Smith has to slavery was as one of the authors of that vile practice’s destruction.
    Smith, writing in the 18th century, thought slavery would continue. He could not have foreseen humanity’s subsequent liberal turn.
    But it is abundantly clear that Smith thought slavery was grotesque. Smith wrote, in no uncertain terms, that slave owners’ “brutality, and baseness, so justly expose them to the contempt of the vanquished.”
    Smith also argued that slaves are inefficient workers, because they cannot keep the fruits of their labour. His arguments against slavery were used by abolitionists.
    Smith was on the side of the angels, holding humanist views well ahead of his time.
Hat tip to Brian Micklethwait, who points out that "the links, all in the original email, are well worth clicking on."

On the pack-hunting behaviour of political journalists ...

"Why do they act this way?
    "My pop psychologist view has always been the same.
    "As a general proposition the Press Gallery personnel are reasonably bright people. Conversely, many politicians ain't too smart.
    "By the time the journos reach say their late thirties, they’ve woken to the fact that what seemed a glamorous career back in their teens, is anything but. Poorly paid they find themselves mere reporters of other lesser mortals who are now prominent decision makers.
    "The result is envy and thus the blood-lust to pull down the politicians they’d created a mythology of wonderfulness about....
    "The criticisms now being levelled at the government and the Prime Minister in particular, could have and should have been made months ago.
    "History shows once the media posture turns, eventually the public follows."
          ~ Bob Jones, from his post 'The pack-hunting political media'

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

From the 'Irish Times' ...

From the Irish Times:

Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.
    Beyond this, it’s the stuff of children’s stories. Having a queen as head of state is like having a pirate or a mermaid or Ewok as head of state. What’s the logic? Bees have queens, but the queen bee lays all of the eggs in the hive. The queen of the Britons has laid just four British eggs, and one of those is the sweatless creep Prince Andrew, so it’s hardly deserving of applause.
Thank the gods that all we've got to put up with next door is a bunch of boastful gobshites.

[Hat tip Ewen H.]