Friday, 26 November 2021

Debate --> Truth


“Persuade me or prove to me that I am mistaken in thought or deed, and I will gladly change—for it is the truth I seek, and the truth never harmed anyone. Harm comes from persisting in error and clinging to ignorance.”
          ~ Marcus Aurelius
[Hat tip Objective Standard Institute]

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Activists from right + left


"[T]he main problem with right-wing activists is that they are stupid, while the main problem with left-wing activists is that they are insane."
          ~ Philippe Lemoine, commenting on this


Wednesday, 24 November 2021

""The affordable housing problem is one of insufficient supply...."


"The affordable housing problem is one of insufficient supply. The solution to a supply shortage is an increase in production. If we truly want to solve the affordability problem, then we must let those who can produce and operate housing do so without arbitrary restrictions."
~ Texas Institute of Property Rights (yes folks, it's a western-worldwide problem,  for all the same stupid western-worldwide reasons, in which New Zealand has been 'winning' by being the stupidest!)

 

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

"In 50 years time, we may be looking back on the UN climate policies, and this so-called green economy, as using chemotherapy to try to cure a head cold..."


"For the past two decades, people have equated environmental disaster with manmade global warming. We’ve been hearing about the climate crisis, climate catastrophe, existential threat and most recently a code red for humanity. Note that the IPCC itself does not use the words ‘crisis’, ‘catastrophe’, or even ‘dangerous’; rather it uses the term ‘reasons for concern.’ Apart from the scientific uncertainties, the weakest part of the UN’s argument about manmade global warming is that it is dangerous. The link to danger relies on linking warming to extreme weather events, which is a tenuous link at best....
    "In 50 years time, we may be looking back on the UN climate policies, and this so-called green economy, as using chemotherapy to try to cure a head cold, all the while ignoring more serious diseases. In other words, the climate crisis narrative gets in the way of real solutions to our societal and environmental problems."
         ~ climate scientist Judith Curry on 'The Next Environmental Crisis'

[Hat tip Point of Order]

Monday, 22 November 2021

Sometimes we forget where our 'watches' come from

 

The weekend's #Groundswell protests, and the #Groundswell movement itself, were intended to highlight the plight of the New Zealand farmer under an unsympathetic regime. Instead, however, the organisers have allowed it to become easily gaslighted as something it's not. As racist, or anti-vax. 

And the important message has been lost: that it's NZ farmers who allow us to live in first-world comfort -- that it's their exported produce that allows us to buy, at not unreasonable prices, all the technology of the world. As Ludwig Von Mises explained back before electronics took over:

The inhabitants of [Switzerland] prefer to manufacture watches instead of growing wheat. Watchmaking is for them the cheapest way to acquire wheat. On the other hand the growing of wheat is the cheapest way for the Canadian farmer to acquire watches.

The lesson remains the same. To paraphrase now, for us:

The inhabitants of China prefer to manufacture electronics instead of milking cows. Electronics-making is for them the cheapest way to acquire milk. On the other hand the milking of cows is the cheapest way for the New Zealand farmer to acquire electronics. 

It's those dairy exports that pay our way in the world; that, more than anything else, allow the average New Zealander to, at a reasonable price, directly acquire technology that allows them to see, hear, read and interact with the whole world's movies, music, artworks, books, and communications technology  -- to each acquire the sort of library that past royalty would have envied -- and to indirectly live the sort of lifestyles that people around other parts of the world envy still. It's those dairy exports that, more than anything else we do here, make it all possible.

Perhaps some gratitude to the farmers, rather than gaslighting them, should be the response they deserve.

Friday, 19 November 2021

Q; "What's America's longest war?"


"When you ask people, "What's America's longest war?" they usually answer "Vietnam" or amend that to "Afghanistan," but it's neither.
    "America's longest war is the war on drugs.
    "[Almost fifty] years and counting.... And drugs are more plentiful, more potent, and less expensive than ever."

          ~ Dan Winslow, from his book The Cartel

Thursday, 18 November 2021

"The National Party believes in private property rights..."

 Nice to hear this from a National Party leader:

The National Party believes in private property rights, and we believe in a property-owning democracy.
Even nicer of it could be believed -- the National Party being the party that introduced the Resource Management Act (RMA) -- the one law that, more than any other, has destroyed private property rights in this country.

Perhaps we could begin trying to believe it if we were to see them fighting to have private property rights written into the legislation replacing the RMA?

This however is a fair tilt at a competitor for the property-rights voter:
"We've got other parties who say that they do [believe in private property rights]- ACT, yes, and there they are arguing for more planners doing more planning rather than actually letting people get on with building their houses," Collins said.

Boom! 


If there's one thing more apocalyptic than global warming it's ...


“Running out of energy is far more immediately disruptive, more ‘apocalyptic’ even, than anything climate change can throw at us.”
          ~ Fraser Myers on 'Why the failure of COP26 is good news'

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Who decides?


“ The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.”
          ~ Thomas Sowell, from his book Knowledge and Decisions

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

“‘Nazi’ actually was a term of disparagement … a traditional joke name.”


“‘Nazi’ actually was a term of disparagement. Nazi was a traditional joke name for dull simple guys from backward Bavaria and used to populate jokes about them, short for Ignatius. To the great glee of amateur comedians, Nazi also worked as a backronym for the German long-form of the National Socialist Workers’ Party. People who didn’t like them (almost everyone if you believe what Germans claimed after the war) started calling them Nazis. Which would get one beaten up and stomped to death. Shows the importance of thinking things through when you develop your brand. Or not, if you have lots of Brown Shirts. 
    “Anyway, people who escaped from the violence in Weimar Germany would tell foreigners, ‘You won’t believe what those fucking Nazis have done now….’ and so foreigners started calling Hitler’s party the Nazis without getting that it was a joke.”
          ~Mark Forsyth in The Etymologicon

[Hat tip Leslie Macmillan]

Monday, 15 November 2021

Destiny?

 

“I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the street.”

          ~ attrib. physicist Stephen Hawking


Monday, 8 November 2021

What is common sense?


"Common sense is a simple and non-self-conscious use of logic... the childhood form of reasoning... That which today is called 'common sense' is the remnant of an Aristotelian influence....
    "But common sense is not enough where theoretical knowledge is required: it can make simple, concrete-bound connections—it cannot integrate complex issues, or deal with wide abstractions, or forecast the future."

          ~ From Leonard Peikoff and Ayn Rand on 'Common Sense'

Saturday, 6 November 2021

"Conflicting ideas about freedom are a mainstay of politics today."


"Conflicting ideas about freedom are a mainstay of politics today. To name just a few:
    "In certain sectors of the right, COVID restrictions and mask mandates have become central animating issues. The right to own guns and the freedom to carry them have been key issues for decades of Republican politicians.
    "The political left, on the other hand, is passionate about a different set of freedom claims. 
Abortion rights, freedom for LGBT+ people, and civil rights have become foundations of Democratic politics.... 
    "When everything becomes a liberty claim, the term itself is at risk of losing its meaning and explanatory power. Meanwhile, the political debates grow ever more hostile and sometimes violent. Everyone seems to love liberty, yet they have come to literal riots fighting over its meaning....  
    "One salutary effect of the Trump era [however] has been the backlash against the new tribalism. Beginning with the 'NeverTrump' right, and joined by centre-left liberals who recognise the threat to liberty on their side of the aisle, a new group of intellectuals has begun to coalesce around, not an agenda, but an approach. There is some hope for genuinely fruitful political discussion—the kind of discussion John Stuart Mill himself fervently wished for, even as he planted the intellectual seeds of its destruction."
          ~ Robert Garmong on 'Where Did Liberalism Go Wrong?'

Friday, 5 November 2021

Why is local government so bad?


Councils are currently under attack here in at least two areas: their performance in delivering water, and their non-performance in allowing the delivery of housing.  There's still argument about their delivery of the former (and long may that argument continue), but their performance in the area of housing could only with great generosity be even called "dysfunctional." (A better term might be "disastrous.")

This non-performance is not unique to Enzed. Nor to the particular jobs they're asked to do. It's worldwide, and universal -- which poses the question: how come local government everywhere is always so dysfunctional? Bryan Caplan argues that the answer is structural:
First, as I’ve argued before, non-profit competition is weaker than for-profit competition, even if the number of competitors is vast. Why? Because no one is trying very hard to win. As I’ve explained before:
Tiebout implicitly assumes that non-profit competition works the same way as for-profit competition. It doesn’t. If a business owner figures out how to produce the same good at a lower cost, he pockets all of the savings. If the CEO of a publicly-held corporation figures out how to produce the same good at a lower cost, he pockets a lot of the savings. But if the mayor of a city figures out how to deliver the same government services for lower taxes, he pockets none of the savings. That’s how non-profits “work.”
With non-profit incentives, neither the number of local governments nor the ease of exit lead to anything resembling perfectly competitive results. The “competitors” simply have little incentive to do a good job, so they all tend to perform poorly.

Second, voters are deeply irrational, even at the local level. Most people [for example] childishly refuse to grant that allowing more construction will reliably make housing more affordable.

Yes, you can point to my book Myth of the Rational Voter and object, “How can voters be so irrational even though the expected cost of voter irrationality is especially high at the local level?” Reply: Even at the local level, the probability of voter decisiveness is so low that the expected cost of voter irrationality is approximately zero. If you have more than a hundred voters, “Your vote doesn’t count” is basically correct.

To reiterate, I am not arguing that local governments have two little blind spots. I am arguing that local governments have two main jobs – and they’re awful at both.

 

Gain of Function Controversy Demands Greater Scrutiny for Government-Funded Science





We will never truly know how close the link was between government funding and research to to increase viruses’ transmissibility, acknowledges Raymond March in this guest post. Regardless, we can learn one clear lesson from this concerning saga: we must reevaluate government involvement in funding scientific research. 

Gain of Function Controversy Demands Greater Scrutiny for Government-Funded Science

by Raymond March

From his National Geographic documentary to the children’s book about his life, American immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci has certainly become a household name worldwide during the Covid-19 pandemic. But the reemergence of an alarming controversy has many calling for his arrest.

Fauci is a clinical associate at the US National Institute Of Health (NIH). More evidence of the involvement of the NIH in funding so-called “gain of function” research continues to surface, linking financial ties to highly controversial experiments. Gain-of-function research aims to genetically alter microorganisms to enhance certain biological properties. For example, recent gains of function research attempts to increase viruses’ transmissibility.

In this case, a document noting that experiments resulting in mutations of viruses that can easily infect humans required further review by the Department of Health and Human Service to secure further funding. The further we dig, the clearer the link between government funding and gain of function research becomes.

These and other findings strongly contradict Dr. Fauci’s comments made to Senator Rand Paul four months ago, where he denied any NIH involvement in gain of function research. Taking Senator Paul’s interrogation personally, Dr. Fauci scolded the Senator, saying “You do not know what you are talking about” and, “If anyone here is lying, it’s you.”

Now Senator Paul has claimed vindication and called for Dr. Fauci to be fired. While “America’s doctor” has some seeking a second opinion, many questions still remain regarding gain of function research, and its connection to the ongoing pandemic.

Did Dr. Fauci knowingly lie about the NIH’s role? What other involvement did the US government have with these projects? Did funding gain of function research lead to the Covid-19 pandemic?

We may never have complete answers to these questions. Regardless, we can learn one clear lesson from this concerning saga: we must reevaluate government involvement in funding scientific research.

In his underappreciated book, The Organization of Inquiry, economist Gordon Tullock explains how funding scientists can distort the scientific method. When scientists make a discovery, they rely heavily on the review and approval of their scientific peers to verify whether they are correct and how their discovery advances knowledge in other fields or helps benefit the public. Tullock likens this process to “the perfect laissez faire.”

However, when scientists receive research funds from the government, distortions in the process occur. First, scientists are encouraged to pursue research tied to political agendas rather than those encouraged within the scientific community or by private actors in the market. Second, feedback provided by the scientific community on the validity and implications of discovery becomes less important. Consequently, erroneous scientific discoveries stemming from public funding take longer to falsify and to remove from public use.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples to support Tullock’s theory.

In his book Good Calories, Bad Calories, science writer Gary Taubes reviews decades of scientific research, casting doubt that a high carbohydrate and low fat diet can prevent heart disease. Noting a large consensus that high-carb diets do not deter heart disease, and often lead to other serious health concerns, Taubes argues that the reason this dietary advice persists is because government funding bolsters this hypothesis, even as evidence against it proliferates.

From 1936 until 1972, over 50,000 Americans were lobotomised, many against their wishes and some for non-medical reasons. Even with the American Medical Association denouncing the procedure in 1941 (after about 30 were performed), public mental asylums continued to regularly use it.

As I argue in my paper published in Research Policy, much of the lobotomy’s overuse and prolonged popularity can be explained by incentives. Many state and federal asylums received federal funding to perform lobotomies, which also allowed asylum managers to increase the number of committed patients (which also increased their funding). Financial incentives overshadowed scientific consensus that the procedure was ineffective and harmful.

Not every failure of government-funded science is as pervasive as the high-carb diet, as ghastly as the lobotomy, or as controversial as gain-of-function experiments. But the risk remains as long as the government remains a major funding source for research.

As of 2013, government funding composed nearly half of basic scientific research – weakening or divorcing a considerable amount of scientific work from the scrutiny of its peers. The result is an overinvestment in haphazard and potentially harmful scientific work. And these results seem very replicable.
____________________________________________________

Raymond March is a faculty fellow at the NDSU Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise (PCPE) and an assistant professor in the NDSU Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics, and a contributor to Young Voices. His research has appeared in the Southern Economic Journal, Public Choice, Journal of Institutional Economics, and Research Policy. He has published articles in National Interest, Washington Times, Washington Examiner, The Hill, RealClearHealth, and elsewhere.
Raymond is a research fellow at the Independent Institute and the director of FDAReview.org, an educational research and communications project on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
His post first appeared at the American Institute for Economic Research.

Thursday, 4 November 2021

How to lie with unemployment stats


Various media and half the House's politicians have been celebrating the unprecedentedly low unemployment figure of 3.4%.

Some have been questioning how on earth we could have a figure so low when business is so, well, locked up.

Chart from Sense Partners, via New Zealand Herald 
[Hat tip Lindsay Mitchell[

Lindsay Mitchell has some of the answer, unearthing some "important numbers to remember whenever you hear Grant Robertson, the Finance Minister, waxing lyrical about the wonderfully low unemployment rate":
To be officially unemployed a person needs to be available for and seeking work. Just over 30,000 Maori in the North Island [for example] are officially unemployed. But over 70,000 are on a Jobseeker benefit.
And since you can be on the Jobseeker benefit with no immediate work obligation, you are not officially unemployed.
[And] in Northland, a region with a high Maori population the unemployment rate is 3.9% yet the Jobseeker rate is 10.5 percent.

In the general population the figures are:

Unemployment rate 3.4%

Jobseeker rate 6.1%

All benefit-dependent rate 11.3%

So what's the real unemployment rate? Whatever it actually is, there's no point asking Grant Robertson for the answer. 


"A Primer on Objective Journalism"


"Objectivity [in journalism] does not mean not having an opinion. It means that one’s opinion is as fact-based and as logically integrated as one can make it.
    "[It] does not mean unbiased. A bias is an automated result of one’s previous experience and thinking. A bias will be good or bad depending on how good or bad that previous thinking was. For example, one may have a bias against child-abusers or a bias in favour of clear language. 
    "Objectivity does mean that one engages in introspection to be aware of one’s biases, that one is willing to challenge and change one’s assumptions, and that one is willing to put one’s beliefs to social testing via editorial review, debate, and other types of feedback."
          ~ Stephen Hicks, from his. "Primer on Objective Journalism"

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Tribalism v Vaccination


"Institutional racism in our health establishment and the grim consequences of colonisation have been given as reasons for explaining the disparities between Maori and non-Maori vaccination rates.
    "[Morgan] Godfery seems to be telling us the tribal nature of Maori society is [instead] a significant consideration."

"GreenMageddon is no hyperbole." #COP26


Data on disaster deaths come from EM-DAT, CRED / UCLouvain, Brussels, Belgium 
http://emdat.be (D. Guha-Sapir)
"GreenMageddon is no hyperbole. It’s is the virtually certain outcome of attempting to purge CO2 emissions from a modern energy system and economy that literally breathes and exhales fossilised carbon. Indeed, the very idea of converting today’s economy to an alternative energy respiratory system is so far beyond rational possibility as to defy common sense."
           ~ David Stockman, from his post 'GreenMageddon, Part Five'


FURTHER READING:

"While climate catastrophists claim that our climate is less livable than ever because of fossil fuels, it is actually more liveable than ever thanks to our fossil-fuel powered climate protection..."
    Climate Crisis - Energy Talking Points

"The upcoming UN Climate Conference, COP 26, is a continuation of the celebrated "Paris Climate Accords." But these accords required, among many other evils, the senseless sacrifice of America."
    Paris Climate Accords - Energy Talking Points

The only practical way to lower global CO2 emissions is to encourage innovation that could make low-carbon energy cheap for everyone. 
    CO2 Emissions - Energy Talking Points 

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

" ‘What can one do?’—the answer is ‘SPEAK’ (provided you know what you are saying)."


“Today, most people are acutely aware of our cultural-ideological vacuum; they are anxious, confused, and groping for answers. Are you able to enlighten them? Can you answer their questions? Can you offer them a consistent case? Do you know how to correct their errors? . . . 
     “If you want to influence a country's intellectual trend, the first step is to bring order to your own ideas and integrate them into a consistent case, to the best of your knowledge and ability…
    “When or if your convictions are in your conscious, orderly control, you will be able to communicate them to others.
    “If you like condensations…I will say: when you ask ‘What can one do?’—the answer is ‘SPEAK’ (provided you know what you are saying)."

          - Ayn Rand, from ‘What Can One Do?’ in Philosophy: Who Needs It

Monday, 1 November 2021

Rule of Law v Rule of Men (Plague Edition)


On Saturday afternoon I watched a mob of what seemed 10,000 closely-assembled shouters, mouth-breathers and sovereign-citizen conspiracists crawl past my office window. They were chanting "freedom" -- a subject about which I do profess to know a little -- yet the only freedom about which there appeared any articulated concern seemed to be the freedom to ignore reality.

It's ironic. For years I've struggled to interest folk in freedom. I would have given my left ball to have a parade of 10,000 people marching to demand freedom. But I would really have wanted a reasonable percentage of that number to know what they were talking about. 


I was asked the other day why so many apparent libertarians themselves don't seem to know what they're talking about when it comes to dealing with a pandemic. Or freedom. I suggested it's the difference between being genuinely pro-freedom (recognising that a context-sensitive application of rights will require govt involvement, and may require quarantines/vaccines/masks etc.) and simply being anti-govt (throwing your toys out of the cot and looking for guidance from the likes of Brian Tamaki, Mother Teresa, and Princess Diana*). It's a divide that since its inception has continue to plague (ahem) libertarianism -- the division between anarchy (no govt, on its way to mob rule) and the rule of law.

Mind you, if laws are imposed, such as laws about things like quarantines/vaccines/masks etc, the proper rule of law requires they be imposed objectively. Shops, offices, factories, schools, hospitals, employers, employees should be able to see understandable, predictable, objectively-derived criteria by which they may open, and how. Governments everywhere are trying, and flailing (and failing), but this is the standard we should stick them with: that all law, when applied -- even in times of plague -- must be objective. Which means that it must be objectively defined, interpreted, applied, and enforced. This is something all freedom-lovers should be focussed on, at all times. Not just now.

What does that mean, you ask -- too focus on new law being objective? Well, you're in luck: here's a short summary from University of Texas philosopher Tara Smith (courtesy of Stephen Hicks , who's running a course on this) of what it means, and how it's different to other views.


Any questions?

* I swear, I am not making this up.


How many days left to save the planet? #COP26 [updated]


Glasgow's meeting of climate luminaries, aka COP26, is "the last best hope" to save the planet ... say the press secretaries and promoters of COP26.

They're in good company. They've been many "last best hopes" in recent decade. 

"I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change," said NASA's James Hansen. He said that in 2006.

"We have only four more years to act on climate change," he said in 2009.

Hansen was a piker. In 2008, climate change researchers Andrew Simms and Victoria Johnson revealed we only had 100 months to save the planet. Or just 96 months! (This was Prince Charles; and this was 2011.)

These can be added to a long list of apocalyptic enviro-predictions with which the planet blithely refuses to cooperate.

And yet the planet is still here, and calamity has yet to occur. And, despite falling freedom and diminishing respect for reason and science, the human environment continues to get better, not worse. Historian Scott Powell puts this down to what he calls “The Hank Rearden Effect”—the tremendous ability of entrepreneurs, industrialists and inventors to continue producing, in the face of expanding efforts to slow them down. 

The great irony is that the race to continue proving the doomsayers wrong is between producers on one side, and ranged them on the other side are the vast mass of politicians, regulators and cultural mavens who wish to shackle them.

And still, after more than three decades of doom-saying we have still to see the predicted effects of global warming. We are however feeling, and about to feel even further, the effects of regulations to (allegedly) arrest global warming.

Expect promises of many more to spew forth from COP26.

How many days left to save the planet? Apparently exactly as many as it takes to grab another headline.

UPDATE: To keep yourself updated on the latest gloomy predictions, you really can't go past The Extinction Clock. A slice...




 

Saturday, 30 October 2021

25+ of the Greatest Quotes on Economics and Capitalism (That You've Probably Never Heard)


There are a handful of economics books everyone should read, explains John Miltimore in this guest post. I have a different list myself, but he delivers 25+ quotes here that will get anyone started -- even you! -- timeless insights from some of the greatest thinkers in economic history.

25+ of the Greatest Quotes on Economics and Capitalism (That You've Probably Never Heard)

by John Miltimore

There are a handful of economics books everyone should read.

Economics in One Lesson and Free to Choose, the classic works written by Henry Hazlitt and Milton Friedman, respectively, are on that list. A personal favourite is Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics, a book that kindled my own interest in economics many years ago.

From The Wealth of Nations (1776) to Freakonomics (2005), there are many and more works in between that people would argue are must-read economics texts, including Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action.

Though I’d encourage people to read in full all the best economics books, it’s unlikely most will find the time. Fortunately, with David L. Bahnsen’s forthcoming book There's No Free Lunch: 250 Economic Truths, they don’t necessarily have to.

In his latest work, Bahnsen has collected centuries worth of economic wisdom into a single text to show precisely what the title implies: there are no free lunches.

The notion that free lunches don’t exist—TNSTAAFL, an idea popularised by the Nobel Prize-winner Friedman* who used it as the title of a 1975 book—is both obvious and self-evident. Yet following a year that saw the Federal Reserve “flood the system with money” to fund an unprecedented government expansion—which included simply sending $1,400 checks to individuals—it’s a lesson that has never been more important.

Bahnsen’s book, scheduled for release on November 9, helps readers understand why there is no such thing as a “free lunch”—and much more. Exploring topics ranging from self-interest, free trade, incentives, credit and sound money, private property, and socialism (and many more), Bahnsen curates some of the most profound economic insights in history, adding his own reflections along the way.

While some of the reflections will be familiar to readers, many of them will not be—even for seasoned readers of economics. Here is just a small sampling of the insights you’ll find...

“The farmer and manufacturer can no more live without profit than the labourer without wages.” - David Ricardo

“The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.” - Thomas Sowell

“Nothing is more deadly to achievement than the belief that effort will not be rewarded, that the world is a bleak and discriminatory place in which only the predatory and the specially preferred can get ahead.” - George Gilder

“I prefer true but imperfect knowledge, even if it leaves much undetermined and unpredictable, to a pretense of exact knowledge that is likely to be false.” - F.A. Hayek

“Prices are important not because money is considered paramount but because prices are a fast and effective conveyor of information through a vast society in which fragmented knowledge must be coordinated.” - Thomas Sowell

“What one person disdains or values lightly is appreciated by another, and what one person abandons is often picked up by another.” - Carl Menger

“Demand and supply are the opposite extremes of the beam, whence depend the scales of dearness and cheapness; the price is the point of equilibrium, where the momentum of the one ceases, and that of the other begins.” - Jean-Baptiste Say

"Consumption is the final, not the efficient, cause of production. The efficient cause is savings, which can be said to represent the opposite of consumption: they represent unconsumed goods. Consumption is the end of production, and a dead end, as far as the productive process is concerned." - Ayn Rand

“The disdain of profit is due to ignorance, and to an attitude that we may if we wish admire in the ascetic who has chosen to be content with a small share of the riches of this world, but which, when actualised in the form of restrictions on profits of others, is selfish to the extent that it imposes asceticism, and indeed deprivations of all sorts, on others.” - F.A. Hayek

“All people, however fanatical they may be in their zeal to disparage and to fight capitalism, implicitly pay homage to it by passionately clamouring for the products it turns out.” - Ludwig Von Mises

“Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state lives at the expense of everyone.” - Frédéric Bastiat

“Everything we get, outside of the free gifts of nature, must in some way be paid for. The world is full of so-called economists who in turn are full of schemes for getting something for nothing.” - Henry Hazlitt

"Whoever claims that economic competition represents "survival of the fittest" in the sense of the law of the jungle, provides the clearest possible evidence of his lack of knowledge of economics. The truth is that economic competition is the very opposite of competition in the animal kingdom. It is not a competition in the grabbing off of scarce nature-given supplies, as it is in the animal kingdom. Rather, it is a competition in the positive creation of new and additional wealth." - George Reisman

“The principle that the end justifies the means is in individualist ethics regarded as the denial of all morals. In collectivist ethics it becomes necessarily the supreme rule.” - F.A. Hayek

“Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own. Nobody uses somebody else’s resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness, if you want knowledge to be properly utilised, you have to do it through the means of private property.” - Milton Friedman

“All trades, arts, and handiworks have gained by division of labour, namely, when, instead of one man doing everything, each confines himself to a certain kind of work distinct from others in the treatment it requires, so as to be able to perform it with greater facility and in the greatest perfection. Where the different kinds of work are not distinguished and divided, where everyone is a jack-of-all-trades, there manufactures remain still in the greatest barbarism.” - Immanuel Kant

“It is not true that Congress spends money like a drunken sailor. Drunken sailors spend their own money. Congress spends our money.” - Art Laffer

“The message from history is so blatantly obvious—that free trade causes mutual prosperity while protectionism causes poverty—that it seems incredible that anybody ever thinks otherwise. There is not a single example of a country opening its borders to trade and ending up poorer.” - Matt Ridley

“Love locally, trade globally.” - Russ Roberts

"Industry is limited by capital... Capital ... is the result of saving ... Capital ... although saved, and the result of saving, is nevertheless consumed. What supports and employs productive labour, is the capital expended in setting it to work, and not the demand of purchasers for the produce of the labour when completed. Demand for commodities is not demand for labour.” - John Stuart Mill

"The production of commodities creates, and is the one and universal cause which creates a market for the commodities produced.
   "When goods are carried to market what is wanted is somebody to buy. But to buy, one must have wherewithal to pay. It is obviously therefore the collective means of payment which exist in the whole nation that constitute the entire market of the nation. But wherein consist the collective means of payment of the whole nation? Do they not consist in its annual produce, in the annual revenue of the general mass of its inhabitants? ...
    "Whatever be the additional quantity of goods therefore which is at any time created in any country, an additional power of purchasing, exactly equivalent, is at the same instant created..."
- James Mill

“The great danger to the consumer is the monopoly— whether private or governmental. His most effective protection is free competition at home and free trade throughout the world. The consumer is protected from being exploited by one seller by the existence of another seller from whom he can buy and who is eager to sell to him.” - Milton Friedman

"Every individual... neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it... he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention....
    "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantages."
- Adam Smith

“People who lack the capacity to earn a decent living need to be helped, but they will not be helped by minimum-wage laws, trade-union wage pressures or other devices which seek to compel employers to pay them more than their [labour] is worth. The more likely outcome of such regulations is that the intended beneficiaries are not employed at all.” - James Tobin

“Nothing should be more obvious than that the business organism cannot function according to design when its most important ‘parameters of action’—wages, prices, interest—are transferred to the political sphere and there dealt with according to the requirements of the political game or, which sometimes is more serious still, according to the ideas of some planners.” - Joseph A. Schumpeter

"To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers…The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it." - Adam Smith

“Failure is part of the natural cycle of business. Companies are born, companies die, capitalism moves forward.” - Thomas Sowell

“The way to maximise production is to maximise the incentives to production. And the way to do that, as the modern world has discovered, is through the system known as capitalism—the system of private property, free markets, and free enterprise.” - Henry Hazlitt

“A people averse to the institution of private property is without the first elements of freedom.” - Lord Acton

“Once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of the government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments.” - Ludwig Von Mises

"Today, in the Twenty-First Century, an age of jet aircraft, personal computers, wireless telecommunications, laser surgery, and incipient space travel, the mentality with which many presumably educated, intelligent people approach matters of economics and business is, however astonishing it may seem, still that of the Dark Ages" - George Reisman

“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialised discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.” - Murray Rothbard

"The moral code which is implicit in capitalism had never been formulated explicitly. The basic premise of that code is that man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the end of others, that man must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself, and that men must deal with one another as traders, by voluntary choice to mutual benefit. This, in essence, is the moral premise on which the United States of America was based: the principle of man’s right to his own life, to his own liberty, to the pursuit of his own happiness." - Ayn Rand
____________________________________________

++ Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has been the subject of articles in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Star Tribune.
Bylines: Newsweek, The Washington Times, MSN.com, The Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, the Epoch Times. A version of this post first appeared at FEE.Org.

* To be fair, it was Robert Heinlein who popularised the expression in his 1966 novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Friedman took the popularity and ran with it.

Friday, 29 October 2021

"Surging [price] inflation, skyrocketing energy prices, production bottlenecks, shortages – economic orthodoxy has just run smack into a wall of reality called 'supply'."


"Surging [price] inflation, skyrocketing energy prices, production bottlenecks, shortages, plumbers who won’t return your calls – economic orthodoxy has just run smack into a wall of reality called 'supply.'
    "Demand matters too, of course. If people wanted to buy half as much as they do, today’s bottlenecks and shortages would not be happening. But the US Federal Reserve and Treasury have printed trillions of new dollars and sent cheques to just about every American, [so monetary demand is way up too]. Inflation should not have been terribly hard to foresee; and yet it has caught the Fed completely by surprise.
    "The Fed’s excuse is that the supply shocks are transient symptoms of pent-up demand. But the Fed’s job is – or at least [is said to be] – to calibrate how much supply the economy can offer, and then adjust demand to that level and no more. Being surprised by a supply issue is like the Army being surprised by an invasion."
          ~ John Cochrane on 'Supply'

NB: Interpolations are my own, PC.
Some Relevant Definitions:
Price Inflation - rising prices across an economy, e.g. most recently seen in asset-price inflation; generally caused by ...
Monetary Inflation - expansion of the money supply beyond the productive capacity of an economy; often the result of low interest rates (a swift mechanism for transferring wealth from savers to spenders; see Cantillon Effect, ZIRP)
Demand - desire backed with wherewithal 
Federal Reserve - the supplier of general wherewithal to those who would otherwise have only desire

Thursday, 28 October 2021

"Draconian policies'

 

I like this proposed addition to Ambrose Bierce's deservedly famous Devil's Dictionary:

draconian policies, stuff that a slogan can dismantle before a paragraph can defend

Some existing entries...





 

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

People are losing their minds #ThreeWaters

 

People are losing their minds -- and it's not just about the virus.

According to half the internet, several advocacy groups who should know better, and much of parliament (who never will), this morning we witnessed the central government nationalising local government's water assets.

"The great water theft is on," screams Davis Farrar's hyperbolic headline. National's Chris Luxon, spokesman on the local branch of government, hurls out a claim that transferring water assets from local to central is "tantamount to state-sanctioned theft of assets.” "Make no mistake," says the Taxpayers Union, "this is an asset grab."

An asset grab!

State-sanctioned theft!

Nationalisation!

There was a time when words meant something.

Since the National party is already a lost cause, I'll focus on the words of that last organisation, one representing (so they say) the interests of all those making forced contributions to all branches of government -- so that you might think they may realise the difference between what happened to (say) the British motor industry in the seventies, and what's happening now.

Because what happened then was nationalisation, i.e., state theft of privately-owned assets. And what's happening now is simply this: moving the management and water assets out of the hands of the country's 67 councils, to four large water entities that will be effectively controlled by central government and iwi. 

So it's not a state-sanctioned theft. And what difference does it really make if it's central government rather than local government who's making an expensive balls-up of things?

Oh, but it will lead to "higher water costs" and "inefficiencies" says the Taxpayers Union at its new protest website. Yet you could hardly say that water costs under current council management are in any meaningful way "constrained," and anyone under Watercare's care over the most recent period of undersupply could hardly vouch for them being efficient.

But it will lead to "unnecessary bureaucracy," says the Taxpayers Union. All bureaucracy is unnecessary; its' not clear to me that 67 council water entities is any less (or more) unnecessary than four? Hard to see this as a reason to be so opposed?

But councils will "lose their rights of control," says the Taxpayers Union, who argue that "decisions around selling assets, receiving dividends, and setting charges will [now] be made by unelected entities." So what? It's not clear that those who have actual rights, i.e., you and I (councils qua councils don't have rights), are any better served whether decisions about these things are put beyond us at local govt level, or beyond us at central govt level. In either case, we're not part of the bureaucratic management involved. So how is this new plan worth opposing so savagely?

It's not really clear from their protest website why they're so incensed enough to start a protest campaign -- one involving a dedicated website, a petition, TV commercials, for all of which they're asking for crowd-funded. It's very far from the Bolsheviks storming the Winter Palace. And like I say above, it's not even anything like the nationalisations that crippled post-war Britain.

Indeed, it's not nationalisation at all -- and in the way the minister is spinning off these 67 creaking and partially shambolic entities into just four, and partially transferring of control to various iwi, it could in the future lead to something more like the sort of privatisation that happened to water in Britain in the late eighties. And since I'm very much in favour of that sort of thing -- and have advocated before for iwi to have greater property rights recognised as a pathway to that sort of thing -- I find it hard, myself,  to understand why so many seem so opposed.

Perhaps they're losing their minds?


"...the Reserve Bank has forgotten what its core business is."



"[Price] inflation hit 2.2% in the most recent quarter. Not the annual rate - the rate for the quarter.
Arguably, Reserve Banks shouldn't be making statements about inflation outside of the scheduled monetary policy schedule.
    "But it seemed a bit odd that the Bank put out a release on establishing the Māori Bankers Rōpū to coincide with the release of the inflation statistics. 
    "They came out within minutes of each other, as though the Bank were saying 'Yes, the CPI numbers are out today, but here's what we're really interested in.'
    "Today the Bank released its Climate Change report.
    "New Zealand has an Emissions Trading Scheme that caps net emissions.
    "The ETS is nowhere mentioned in the report.
    "The Executive Summary tells us that 'Climate Change is part of our core business.'
    "It simultaneously tells us that the Reserve Bank has forgotten what its core business is."
          ~ Eric Crampton, on 'Core business for a central bank'

Tuesday, 26 October 2021

"That sounds reasonable." #LizGunn


"Former TV One Newsreader Liz Gunn has informed the nation that the recent earthquake centred on Taumarunui was nature’s reaction to the 'tyrannical Prime Minister’s vaccine policy,' which Liz equated with rape.
    "That sounds reasonable."
          ~ Bob Jones, on 'Refreshing Visionary Thinking'

Libertarian Debate Club: Virus Edition


From two editions of Rob Tracinski's always excellent Letters:
If you want to get into Libertarian Debate Club with me, I will acknowledge that the government does have a proper role in a pandemic. Just as your right to swing your arms ends where your fist hits my nose, your right to liberty does not include the right to knowingly or negligently transmit a deadly disease to others. Above, I mentioned Typhoid Mary, who was involuntarily confined for 26 years because she refused to stop seeking work as a cook after being identified as an asymptomatic carrier of salmonella typhi. So government has its role in ensuring the humane quarantine of the infected.
    But that alone is not what’s going to get us through [to normal conditions], especially not at this point. What will get us through is innovation, which will be led by a dynamic private economy....
    The key word here is “normal.” As I explained, “normal” in this context is a metaphysical term. I cited what Ayn Rand had to say on this in writing about the “ethics of emergencies.”
By “normal” conditions I mean metaphysically normal, normal in the nature of things, and appropriate to human existence. Men can live on land, but not in water [i.e., a flood] or in a raging fire. Since men are not omnipotent, it is metaphysically possible for unforeseeable disasters to strike them, in which case their only task is to return to those conditions under which their lives can continue.
That is why it was so inappropriate for people to try to apply all the formulas and assumptions of our normal politics to the pandemic.
    But note the necessity of getting back to normal life as soon as possible. With vaccines now approved and being distributed ... we [can possibly] return to the metaphysics of normal life, and the only question is how soon ... it will happen. It will definitely take longer than we would like, and it will probably take longer than it has to.
    When it happens, and we finally get the all-clear on the pandemic, one consequence we will have to deal with is that the pandemic has made it more acceptable for us all to stick our noses into how other people live their lives, and some people will not want to give that up. In my overview of the political philosophy of the pandemic, I quoted British politician [Steve Baker] explaining his vote for lockdown measures but warning that it created a “dystopian society” that should not “endure one moment longer than is absolutely necessary.” I followed that with my own observation.
In the previous edition, I quoted someone who compared our response to the pandemic to Germany in the 1940s. I think that’s the wrong comparison. It’s more like America in the 1940s. Then, too, we saw a vast expansion of government power—both legitimate wartime powers and many illegitimate ones. There were those who loved the mass regimentation, the central planning, the idea of everyone drafted by the state and taking orders, and who wondered why we couldn’t keep all of that in place and apply it to other favorite causes that were “the moral equivalent of war.”

What actually happened is that the moment the war was over, the American people were incredibly eager to get back to normal life and sweep away all vestiges of wartime regimentation.

I hope and expect the same thing to happen again.

The goal of stopping this pandemic is to return to normal life: to what is metaphysically normal, to the normal activities and goals of human life, and to the normal scope and powers of government in a free society.
That is one of the things we will be looking for in the next year: not just the end of the pandemic, but the unwinding of the social and political measures conjured up to deal with it.

Saturday, 23 October 2021

Why not have fries with that vaccine?

 

"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."
          ~ Harry Binswanger, 'Government Force Sabotages Vaccine Delivery'