Friday, 17 September 2021

No, CO2 does not drive disasters


There's something nasty in the way warmists gloat whenever there's a natural disaster -- a bushfire, a hurricane, a flood -- something evil in the glee which these disasters are reported, always with a link to 'global warming, almost alway revelling in the human tragedy as a 'payback' for our comfortable lifestyles driven by high energy use.

No surprise to hear that these ghouls are also fantasists. On top of similar studies elsewhere comes three from Australia, affirming ...

... there has been no significant change in natural disasters, precipitation, or bushfire across Australia for the last several decades.
    “Here we utilise an Australian natural disaster database of normalised insurance losses to show compound disasters are responsible for the highest seasonal financial losses. … There has been no temporal trend in their frequency since 1966.
    "The predominant and most predictable driver of climate-related disaster events is not anthropogenic global warming, or CO2 emissions, but the El Niño Southern Oscillation."

No wonder, really, because how could a one degree rise in 150 years possibly cause any such acceleration of disaster on the scale regularly claimed by warmists.

No, our planet is not totally safe. It has always delivered natural disasters, situations which are beyond our ability to cope. But rather than take this already unsafe planet and make it more unsafe, our abundant use of energy takes this unsafe planet and makes it safer. The more energy we have, the less we have to fear.

Especially comforting news when you know the rate of disasters aren't increasing. And won't be.

"Sacrificing progress makes people poorer, and ... puts them more at the mercy of natural disasters."

"As an indication of how much better wealthy countries are at resisting flood and tempest, look at July’s floods in the city of Zhenghou, which were reported by Western media as a kind of cataclysm – the sort of climate change-induced event from which the world must save itself. Those floods killed 219 people. By contrast, in the much-poorer China of 1975, 26,000 people were killed by a typhoon in the surrounding Henan province."
          ~ Ross Clark, from 'The West Has Doomed COP26 to Failure'
[Hat tip GWBF Newsletter]

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

“It is plain that the Forgotten Man and the Forgotten Woman are the real productive strength of the country.”

"As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine what C shall do for X or, in the better case, what A, B and C shall do for X... What I want to do is to look up C. I want to show you what manner of man he is. I call him the Forgotten Man. Perhaps the appellation is not strictly correct. he is the man who never is thought of. He is the victim of the reformer, social speculator and philanthropist... He works, he votes, generally he prays—but he always pays..."
    “It is plain that the Forgotten Man and the Forgotten Woman are the real productive strength of the country.”

          ~ William Graham Sumner, from his The Forgotten Man + Other Essays


Monday, 13 September 2021

Sam Spade takes on 9/11

Someone on Twitter was asking why everyone felt the need to tell the world where they were twenty years ago when terrorists destroyed the twin towers. Yes, it affected everybody -- it seems almost all of us around at the time have or had only one or two degrees of separation at most from those buildings -- but it did seem to smack a little more of self-indulgence than commemoration. 

So I did like Robert Tracinski's take on things.

PS: Pretty sure the 'Flitcraft Parable' appears in The Maltese Falcon not The Thin Man. But you should read both anyway just to make sure. ordinary word

"Over time, some men trade their passion for domesticity."
          ~ from a review essay of Graham Parker's Struck by Lightning

Saturday, 11 September 2021

"In short, postmodernism is relativism run riot, skepticism on stilts..."

"In short, postmodernism is relativism run riot, skepticism on stilts. In terms of the culture wars, it informs the arguments of those who think that American society is inferior to others and on the decline, that there are no 'Great Books' of a higher order of merit than others, that science and technology are socially constructed and are not making genuine progress, and that modern free-market economics has lowered living standards. As Hicks notes, there is a contradictory tone to all this — all cultures are equal, but ours stinks; all truth is relative, except the unquestionable po-mo truth; no race, class or gender is superior, but middle class white males are clearly inferior; and no books are superior, except, of course, those by third-world authors. Where does this farrago of resentment come from? 
    "Hicks rightly views postmodernist philosophy as the most recent manifestation of the reaction against the Enlightenment, what we might call the Counter-Enlightenment..."
          ~ Professor Gary James Jason reviewing Stephen Hicks's Explaining Postmodernism 

Friday, 10 September 2021

"Trusting and unworldly kids attending university today are victims of a gigantic fraud..."

"There are intangible reasons to justify say a year or two at university as a bridging experience between childhood and adult status. But otherwise, unless studying for a traditional career such as medicine or law, to a very large degree trusting and unworldly kids attending university today are victims of a gigantic fraud.... luring the simple-minded seeking letters after their names....
    "The modern university is today largely a scam, exploiting the vulnerable with its ever expanding range of non-intellectual bullshit degrees.... academic nonsense, in which the participants waste their lives at public expense, pointlessly pursuing esoteric imaginary elements of their utterly bogus purported field of study.... [while universities are] transforming themselves into competitive commercial enterprises while maintaining a veneer, largely imagined, of being intellectual institutions."

          ~ Bob Jones, from his post 'The Contemporary World's Biggest Fraud'

Thursday, 9 September 2021

"It is art that lights the fire for us to push and grow..."

Artist Michael Newberry with a painting from his Eudaemonia series

“So many disciplines add to our evolution—philosophy, psychology, sciences. . .—but none of them are ends in themselves except for art. . . . It is art that lights the fire for us to push and grow, it is art that refuels our spirit when it is exhausted and can’t do more, and it is art that rewards us for a job well done and life well lived.”
~ Artist Michael Newberry, from his stunning new book Evolution Through Art 

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

"Capitalism is a system of class harmony..."

"Capitalism is a system of class harmony, in which the accumulated wealth of the capitalists, i.e., their capital, is the source of the supply of products and the demand for labour, and progressively enriches wage earners.
    "The result is that today the average wage earner in a capitalist country has a higher standard of living than did the kings and emperors of the past, such as Augustus Caesar, Louis XIV, and Queen Victoria."
          ~ George Reisman. For proof, see his Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

"Happiness lies in being privileged to work hard for long hours in doing whatever you think is worth doing...."

"Happiness lies in being privileged to work hard for long hours in doing whatever you think is worth doing.... Each man or woman must find for himself or herself that occupation in which hard work and long hours make him or her happy."
~ Robert Heinlein, talking through his character Jubal Harshaw in his novel To Sail Beyond the Sunset


Monday, 6 September 2021

“Giving back” really is a terrible phrase

The phrase “give back” is as common as it wrong. It implies that something was taken in the first place. It paints the successful entrepreneur as a taker who through their success has deprived us of something that must be returned. Even worse, as philosopher Stephen Hicks explains, "the phrase also denies the benevolence of the giver. If you are only giving back what is rightfully someone else’s, then you do not deserve any special praise for your action. Your benevolence need not be acknowledged or honoured."
Jacob Hibbard picks apart the nonsense in this guest post.

Why People Should Stop Saying CEOs Have a Duty to 'Give Back' to Society

by Jacob Hibberd

It is not uncommon for successful businessmen, entrepreneurs, and celebrities to talk about what they are doing to “give back” to society or how they feel a need to “give back.”

Kelli Richards for example, CEO of The All-Access Group, maintained in a 2017 Inc. article  that “companies and individuals who [have] done well financially [are] honour-bound to look around and philanthropically offer a helping hand to those who weren't as fortunate—to honour the greater good.”

While it is can sometimes be praiseworthy for entrepreneurs and successful individuals to engage in non-sacrificial philanthropy, the idea that successful innovators need to “give back” in order to honour the "greater good" is faulty and ultimately immoral.

First, the phrase “give back” implies that something was taken in the first place. It paints the successful entrepreneur as a taker who, through their success, has deprived the rest of us of something that must be returned. This could not be further from the truth.

Jeff Bezos isn’t roaming the country with his brute squad demanding your business or your life. No taking has occurred that would require “giving back” as compensation. Instead, innovators and entrepreneurs— including the derided billionaire class—are creating immense value for us, not only by providing goods and services, but also by creating jobs that allow us to earn a living. 

In a capitalist society with the rule of law where individual rights are secured, wealth or success is not taken, it is produced, earned, and voluntarily given through mutually beneficial trade. Innovators create products and provide services that we, the consumers, value more than the dollars in our pockets and enter into voluntary transactions to acquire. The idea that the resulting wealth, peacefully acquired, comes with it a demand to "give back" is as wrong as it is insulting to producers.

The concepts of the duty to “give back” and serving the “greater good” also lead to greater resentment in society and ultimately lead to immoral policies. When we embrace the idea that the successful have a duty to “give back” to us and serve an amorphous “greater good,” we begin to resent the innovators when they do not “give back” in the ways that we want them to. It’s too little, people say; or, it’s to the wrong people; or, it’s serving the wrong sort of greater good -- and of course the complaint that it’s not being given to me.

This resentment festers until we turn to our common agent, the government, and demand that it uses force to take the wealth of the successful and “give it back” in the way that "we" judge best, serving our vision of the “greater good,” violating the rights of the successful and perverting the government from its proper role.

Societies built on resentment and the plundering of the successful in the name of the “greater good” implode. If you want to see it in real time, look at what’s happening to California now. Innovators are fleeing due to burdensome regulations and taxes.

So instead of demanding that entrepreneurs and innovators “give back,” and resenting them when they don’t use their wealth the way we like, let’s strive to have some gratitude.

Let’s recognise the immense value that Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk (in his non-grifting mode) have created for us and society. They give us a greater quality of life when they create the next Amazon, the next smartphone, or open the next factory that creates thousands of jobs. They don’t need to be forced to help society. They are already helping.
* * * * 

Jacob Hibbard is the Grassroots Director for Americans for Prosperity Utah and a first year law student at Brigham Young University. His op-ed first appeared at the Foundation for Economic Education. It has been lightly edited.
[Hat tip to Stephen Hicks for the link and post title.]

"Integrity is the principle of being principled..."

"Integrity is the principle of being principled, practicing what one preaches regardless of emotional or social pressure, and not allowing any irrational consideration to overwhelm one's rational condition."
~ Thomas Becker, from his article 'Integrity in Organisations: Beyond Honesty and Conscientiousness,' paraphrasing Leonard Peikoff (p. 242)

Thursday, 2 September 2021

"Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back, for their private benefit. That is all'.”


“'There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to the public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute not common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back, for their private benefit. That is all'.”
~ Judge's verdict, delivered in Robert Heinlein's excellent, and once-again topical, 1949 novella 'The Man Who Sold the Moon'

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

"Those who believe in the ideal of human non-impact tend to endow nature with godlike status..."

"Those who believe in the ideal of human non-impact tend to endow nature with godlike status, as an entity that nurtures us if only we will live in harmony with the other species and not demand so much for ourselves.
    "But nature gives us very few directly useable machine energy resources. Resources are not taken from nature, but created from nature. What applies to the raw materials of coal, oil and gas also applies to every raw material in nature -- they are all potential resources, with unlimited potential to be rendered valuable by the human mind.
    "Ultimately, a resource is just matter and energy transformed via human ingenuity to meet human needs. Well, the planet we live on is 100% matter and energy, 100% potential resource for energy and anything else we would want. To say we've only scratched the surface is to significantly understate how little of this planet's potential we've unlocked. We already know that we have enough of a combination of fossil fuels and nuclear power to last thousands and thousands of years, and by then, hopefully, we'll have fusion (a potential, far superior form of nuclear power) or even some hyper-efficient form of solar power.
    "The amount of raw matter and energy on this planet is so incomprehensibly vast that it is nonsensical to speculate about running out of it. Telling us that there is only so much matter and energy to create resources from is like telling us that there is only so much galaxy to visit for the first time. True, but irrelevant."
          ~ Alex Epstein, from his 2016 post 'The Truth About Sustainability' [bold added]

Monday, 30 August 2021

"These words are no less true about indoor plumbing as they are about space travel."

“The luxury of today is the necessity of tomorrow....
    "[O]ne must first of all realise that the concept of luxury is an altogether relative one. Luxury consists in a way of living that stands in sharp contrast to that of the great mass of one’s contemporaries. The conception of luxury is, therefore, essentially historical. Many things that seem to us necessities today were once considered as luxuries. When, in the Middle Ages, an aristocratic Byzantine lady who had married a Venetian
doge made use of a golden implement, which could be called the forerunner of the fork as we know it today, instead of her fingers, in eating her meals, the Venetians looked on this as a godless luxury, and they thought it only just when the lady was stricken with a dreadful disease; this must be, they supposed, the well-merited punishment of God for such unnatural extravagance. Only a few generations ago ... an indoor bathroom was considered a luxury; today the better homes of every Auckland worker contains an en-suite. A century ago there were no automobiles; then after short while, the possession of such a vehicle was the sign of a particularly luxurious mode of living; today in New Zealand even the poorest working home has his Ford or Toyota. This is the course of economic history....
    "Every advance first comes into being as the luxury of a few rich people, only to become, after a time, the indispensable necessity taken for granted by everyone. Luxury consumption provides industry with the stimulus to discover and introduce new things. It is one of the dynamic factors in our economy. To it we owe the progressive innovations by which the standard of living of all strata of the population has been gradually raised.

~ Ludwig von Mises, from the chapter “The Inequality of Wealth and Income” in his book Liberalism. Quoted by Brittany Hunter, whose words appear as this post's title, in her article 'Thank Billionaires for All Your Favourite Innovations' [edited to localise the time and place] 

Friday, 27 August 2021

"Back to the stagflation of the seventies and eighties..."

"So, what do you think? Should the Fed continue to fuel the fire or perhaps start to think about tapering its record-setting levels of economic stimulus? Should the Fed, in other words, continue to manipulate bond prices lower by continuing to sop up more than half of all US treasuries in order to maintain the illusion of a bond market that sees no inflation coming? Clearly anyone thinking bond prices have anything to say about inflation in today’s world is oblivious to how the Fed has completely destroyed price discovery in bonds by owning the market as its biggest whale with a heavy tale on the scale.
    "What surprises me are the number of people who know the Fed is soaking up the bond market who continue to think bond yields convey anything. It’s impossible to buy more than half of a market and not be the price-setter. (Which also makes you the yield-setter on bonds.) We all know, the Fed owns the bond market, especially in government bonds. Continually hosing up $80 billion in US treasuries across the maturity spectrum very month, assures yields will stay low in order to keep government debt affordable. Because buying bonds is how the Fed achieves its target interest rates, bond yields will stay where the Fed is setting them until the Fed decides it absolutely must raise interest rates to curb inflation, which recklessly assures one fierce inflation fight because the Fed has already waited too long."
          ~ David Haggith, from his post 'Inflation Growing More Persistent'

[Pics from David Haggith's Great Recession Blog

Thursday, 26 August 2021

"...from the very beginning of life we mould the child to undergo tyranny, to obey a dictator"

"How can we speak of Democracy or Freedom when from the very beginning of life we mould the child to undergo tyranny, to obey a dictator? How can we expect democracy when we have reared slaves? Real freedom begins at the beginning of life, not at the adult stage. These people who have been diminished in their powers, made short-sighted, devitalised by mental fatigue, whose bodies have become distorted, whose wills have been broken by elders who say: 'Your will must disappear and mine prevail!' – how can we expect them, when school-life is finished, to accept and use the rights of freedom?"
          ~ Maria Montessori, Education for a New World

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

"But we fill schools with digital technology instead of literature? It's crazy."

Italian philosopher Umberto Galimberti argues the rupture of Covid is an ideal time to re-examine and reform the disaster that is modern schooling. "Philosophy must be extended to all schools," he argues, "and included in the first grade." The schools, furthermore, “should take advantage of Covid to make structural investments that change it forever, how to reduce pupils per class: no more than twelve, if we really wants to educate our young people. [Instead, they are producing] more and more nihilists, deprived of the future and induced to live at night or to take drugs and drink because during the day no one recognises them."
“[School teachers] should be selected using personality tests, to prevent teachers unable to teach and lacking any passion for their profession, from ruining in 40 years of their career the life of entire generations of students.”
    "[Furthermore], I would expel parents from schools. They must be expelled from school because their presence prevents the child from taking on his own responsibilities. Parents are interested in promoting their child -- and the teacher, to avoid appeals to the TAR [Tribunale Amministrativo Regionale], another institution that should be eliminated by law, ends up promoting everyone.
    "And in high schools, the children have to be left alone without the protection of their parents, they have to learn to see what they can do without that protection. If it is prolonged over the years, as I see it, it leads to the indolence we see in adulthood. At school you have to become men, to grow up.
    "But in this way a meritocratic structure is not built.... And until it comes to merit, we won't have any civil society. This is my school reform but it will never happen.
    "At school you have to bring literature back.... Literature is the place where you learn about things like love, despair, tragedy, irony, suicide. If you learn to deal with these concepts, you are polite and respectful, and can avoid doing the tragic things that we periodically witness. What kind of society we are building?”
    "But we fill schools with digital technology instead of literature? It's crazy. We look on the trains: while in other countries young people read books, we play with our mobile phones. Today kids know two hundred words, but how can you formulate a thought if you lack words? You don't think or think little if you don't have the words."

[Hat tip Marco Fois] 

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

This time last year ...


This time last year, I posted this: a series of quotes briefly critiquing the way we'd been locked up last year. I thought it might be useful to review them to see if we've learned anything a year on.  

ONE YEAR AGO, we were being given the argument that we were being locked up to mitigate the threat to an already overloaded health system, that we were 'flattening the curve' to buy time to build up supplies and expertise:

"This is not to say that there are not good reasons to use mitigations as a delay tactic... But mitigations themselves are not saving lives in these scenarios; instead, it is what we do with the time that gives us an opportunity to improve the outcome of the epidemic."
~ Maria Chikina and Wesley Pegden on 'A call to honesty in pandemic modelling'
VERDICT NOW: So what did the Government do with the time available? Andrea Vance provided the briefest summary on Sunday: " 
"While New Zealand was free of community transmission, the Government took a leisurely approach...
"It was slow to order the vaccine....
"[E]mergency departments were at capacity, even before the outbreak...
"[T]esting centres [a]re struggling to cope with demand, swabs running low and PPE supplies again in question.
"Self-collecting saliva testing is still not available to the public, despite being widely used overseas and much more convenient. It was only introduced as an option for border workers last month.
"These are failings that were foreseeable and are unforgivable.
We're no longer hearing about "flatten the curve" to give us time, because the time has been ill-used. The mantra now is no longer "mitigation," but "elimination" -- under a regime that insists that possibly-infected nurses still show up for work, and puts a quarantine exercise area in the same air-space as a public walkway and a vaccination centre.

ONE YEAR AGO, it looks like this complacency that caused the failings was already extant this time last year too:
"The Government wasted the 100 days New Zealand was free of community transmission... officials sat back and basked in New Zealand's relative success during past pandemics, which meant systems and plans were not reviewed to an adequate standard."
~ Nick Wilson and Michael Baker from 'Political Botch-Ups: How serious are the Govt's border botch-ups?'
VERDICT NOW: The foreseeable and unforgivable failures are a legacy of that basking. They wasted those 100 days, and it seems now that they also wasted the next 365. 

Our relative success last year was more about luck than good management. And as the many reported MIQ failures seem to reveal, that still seems like that's all we're relying on.

ONE YEAR AGO, we were still getting to grips with the authority that governments have to impose quarantine, the rationale behind the methods, and how much force might be appropriate ...
"Public health policy should not be exempt from the 'non-aggression principle.' Force must be prohibited from interpersonal relationships, except when used in self-defence or retaliation.
    "In the case of a highly contagious lethal disease, I believe that screening potential carriers, and containing them via quarantine, represents an act of self-defence.
    "One of the few legitimate functions of the government is to protect people from physical assault. The transmission of a disease with significant lethal potential fits that description.
    "Therefore, it is appropriate to screen people reasonably considered potential carriers. It is completely proper to confine people found to be a threat to the lives of others until that threat no longer exists.
    "That's the easy part. The hard part is the science. Who poses a threat and who does not? How long should the quarantine last?
    "Here, panic and emotion must not cloud rational evaluation of scientific data. It would be a tragedy to curtail liberty through quarantine without a sound, evidence-based rationale. But it is also important to remember that all knowledge is contextual. We know what we know based upon the available evidence. We must be willing to revise our conclusions as more is learned. We must rapidly adjust the criteria for quarantine as new knowledge dictates."

        ~ Jeffrey A. Singer on Pandemics & Personal Liberty (2014).
VERDICT NOW: More has been learned. More is known. But it's not clear that the criteria for quarantine have changed in any real way at all. We're not even learning from porn.

ONE YEAR AGO, we were talking about how people can do business safely in a pandemic, and asking about why butchers and greengrocers and the like can't stay open safely:
"That's where reasoned opposition should be focussed. Understand that this is an emergency; that government does have a legitimate role; that if handled properly it will be temporary; and focus instead on having proper due process and getting things right: Talk about how people can do business safely in this pandemic. (Talk about the need for objective rules [rather than goverments deciding who's 'essential'] and for due process in introducing regulations and police powers)."
        ~ NOT PC on 'Yes folks, it's real...'
VERDICT NOW: Nothing at all, not a thing, has changed. Instead of a set of objective criteria by which any business could measure its ability to open up, the government still relies on enforcing a list of services that bureaucrats have decided are essential. And greengrocers remain closed -- and, while supermarkets are rationing meat supplies, butchers are throwing the stuff out.

ONE YEAR AGO, several of us were calling for this very thing:
"A safety standard, rather than essential-business standards, couldn't be set overnight. But it could have been developed over the past months."
        ~ Eric Crampton on The Nation
VERDICT NOW: Nothing's changed. Nothing's been developed. Instead of objective criteria by which businesses can show themselves to open safely, we remain instead at the mercy of the planners deciding for us.

Will we have learned anything more a year from now?

Monday, 23 August 2021

"The responsibility to stop the spread is once again on us – because the Govt failed to play its part."

"[H]ere we are back in the world’s strictest lockdown. As much of the rest of the world de-masks, we are back to fitting ours.
    "Once the source of admiring headlines, we are now the subject of mocking incredulity.
    "The rest of the world is embracing its post-pandemic future while New Zealand enters a March 2020 time warp....
    "We were overconfident about the elimination strategy and our ability to keep the virus out. But whereas the virus got more sophisticated, more 'tricky' to use Ardern’s own parlance, we did not....
    "[Instead, w]hile New Zealand was free of community transmission, the Government took a leisurely approach...
    "It was slow to order the vaccine.... 
    "[E]mergency departments were at capacity, even before the outbreak...
    "[T]esting centres [a]re struggling to cope with demand, swabs running low and PPE supplies again in question.
    "Self-collecting saliva testing is still not available to the public, despite being widely used overseas and much more convenient. It was only introduced as an option for border workers last month.
    "These are failings that were foreseeable and are unforgivable. We are yet to learn how the variant penetrated New Zealand’s defences, but the most obvious pathway is a border incursion.
    "So for now, we will do our bit. Stay home, mask up, relinquish our freedoms and hope the consequences of a lockdown are not too severe.
    "The responsibility to stop the spread is once again on us – because the Government failed to play its part."

~ Andrea Vance, from her op-ed 'Failings that were foreseeable and unforgivable let Delta loose'

Misinformation” and “disinformation” ... are simply jargon for “things I disagree with.”

"The sense prevails that no two people who research disinformation are talking about quite the same thing. This will ring true to anyone who follows the current media discussion around online propaganda. 'Misinformation' and 'disinformation' are used casually and interchangeably to refer to an enormous range of content, ranging from well-worn scams to viral news aggregation; from foreign-intelligence operations to trolling; from opposition research to harassment. In their crudest use, the terms are simply jargon for 'things I disagree with'.”
          Joseph Bernstein, from his article 'Bad News: Selling the story of disinformation

Saturday, 21 August 2021

Reasons to be Cheerful

 However bad things might get, right now, anyone reading this can still open your fridge and feast...

[Credit to What Colour's the Sky in Your World. Hat tip Lumen Progress.]

Here's Ian Dury:

Tuesday, 17 August 2021


CIA officer helps evacuees up a ladder onto US helicopter in Saigon, 29 April 1975.
[Pic by Hubert Van Es, Wikipedia]

It's looking like Saigon in 1975 all over again, isn't it.

There was no good time to pull out of Afghanistan. We can probably all agree on that. But it is possible to question how the pull-out was done -- starting with the 'peace talks' with the Taliban (peace! with the Taliban!) that delivered to those butchers the US's timetable of withdrawal, and right up to the advice from the world's most expensive 'intelligence' agencies that the government, the army and the whole damn place would not collapse in a heap once that withdrawal happened.

Won't happen, they said back in July. Won't happen within 90 days, they said last Thursday. Turns out it took less than 90 hours -- "which is close enough for US intelligence work," as Mark Steyn quipped.

Make no mistake, for anyone concerned with peace -- or with the idea that a Pax Americana could be its source -- this is another dark day indeed in the continuing collapse of that myth. As the great Bernard Lewis warned nearly two decades ago, 

the danger here is that America risks being seen as harmless as an enemy, and treacherous as a friend... It's a very dangerous lesson to teach the planet.

That's no longer a risk. That's the lesson the whole world has just watched and learned. Again. To quote a line of Steyn's from about a decade ago, 

Afghanistan is about Afghanistan – if you're Afghan or Pakistani. But, if you're Russian or Chinese or Iranian or European, Afghanistan is about America.

So since we're posting old observations about America and Afghanistan, I thought I'd go back and briefly examine some of mine. Here's what I said on Afghanistan's day of liberation way back in 2001, when the coalition took Kabul:

The beards are coming off, and singing is heard again in Kabul. Although the war against terrorism is far from over, the Taliban retreat makes it possible to believe the war in Afghanistan just might be reaching a conclusion, and that civilisation and peace might come to Afghanistan some time soon. However, I have nagging doubts that will ever happen. First: while the occupying Northern Alliance is less single-mindedly oppressive than the Taleban, they are no less brutal. Second: the Taleban retreat to the hills puts them in their area of competitive advantage - these murderous witchdoctors don't know very much, but they do know all about killing and cave-dwelling.

Third, and most worryingly of all, the West has forgotten how to set up a successful civil government in an occupied area. In the long run this last concern is the most serious, and it might mean that the brutality becomes more visible, and Afghanistan more bloodstained....

If Bush can't set up successful civil government ... then he may have to call off the War Against Terrorism early, just as his father called off the Gulf War early for the self-same reason.

As you may recall, the Gulf War ended in 1991 with the US reluctant to finish the war as they should have - with the toppling of Saddam Hussein. When Bush senior stopped the turkey shoot on the road to Baghdad, it wasn't just a loss of courage - it was also the realisation that they had no end-game, that they wouldn't know what to do when they got there.

Our current statesmen may not know how to go about successfully rebuilding a conquered country, but we only need to travel back half a century to find some statesman who did know how.

Out of the rubble of Japan and Germany, Douglas McArthur, Ludwig Erhard, Wilhelm Röpke and Konrad Adenaur built new countries that abandoned their militaristic, totalitarian and feudal pasts and instead embraced peace, prosperity and freedom.

In the words of Röpke: "Men are gripped by a desire to be told what to do and to be ordered about, to the point almost of masochism. The state has become the subject of almost unparalleled idolatry." He and his colleagues recognised that attitude as the very source of war, and sought to banish it, new German Chancellor Adenaur declaring in March 1946: "The new state must no longer dominate the individual. Everyone must be allowed to take the initiative in every facet of existence." They set up governments large enough to maintain the rule of law and protect initiative, and small enough to get out of the way otherwise. And they worked like all hell!

Their minimal governments, constitutionally constrained to protect contracts and property rights, allowed free trade to flourish and prosperity to blossom. German and Japanese young men soon realised that there was more to life than butchery and invading their neighbours, and they set about getting rich instead.

They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Germany and Japan could hardly have started at a lower point. At the end of 1945, both countries were in ruins, yet only twenty years later they were flying. It was called a miracle, but it was in fact the work of some remarkable men.

We can only hope that the lessons from these remarkable men can be learned by the current crop of statesmen. It won't be easy, but if terrorism is to be eradicated and the gun-toting young men and the veiled women of Afghanistan offered any future at all - then the lessons must be learned, and they must be applied.

And if they are successful, then the world might have cause to give thanks once again to Douglas McArthur, Ludwig Erhard, Wilhelm Röpke and Konrad Adenaur.

In 1945, the knowledge existed to successfully rebuild countries after they'd been liberated from savagery. But by 1991's Gulf War, even the victors had realised that knowledge had gone. Disappeared. Gone with the wind. So they didn't drive to Baghdad, because they knew enough to know they wouldn't know what to do when they got there.

They still don't.

The result can be seen today in Kabul.

Taking questions from the press in July, Biden was asked if he saw “any parallels between this withdrawal and what happened in Vietnam.”

“None whatsoever. Zero,” he replied.

He was, in some way, right. The Afghan collapse was far more precipitous ...
UPDATE: "The Taliban have entered the Afghan capital, having rapidly swept to power throughout the country, while the U.S. is frantically airlifting its diplomats to safety. What explains the fall of Afghanistan? In 2001 U.S. forces targeted the Taliban’s Islamic totalitarian regime, which had harbored the 9/11 plotters. What went wrong? Join Onkar Ghate and Elan Journo for a special episode of the New Ideal podcast":

Advice to writers

"You do not always have to exhaust a subject so much that you leave nothing to the reader. [At some point] it is not a matter of reading, but of thinking."
          ~ Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, bk. 11, chap. 20

[Hat tip Per Bylund/ Steven Kates

Monday, 16 August 2021

"We’re outsiders in Afghanistan, and this is Occam’s razor for explaining the Taliban..."

"Someone in Afghanistan must think the Taliban on the other side are good for something too. Otherwise there wouldn’t be an 'Afghan issue.' 
   "The Taliban offers bad law—chopping off hands, stoning desperate housewives, the usual things. Perhaps you have to live in a place that has had no law for a long time—since the Soviets invaded 31 years ago—before you welcome bad law as an improvement.
    "An Afghan civil society activist, whose work has put him under threat from the Taliban, admitted, 'People picked Taliban as the lesser of evils.' He explained that lesser of evils with one word, 'stability.' 
A woman member of the Afghan parliament said that it was simply a fact that the Taliban insurgency was strongest 'where the government is not providing services.' Rule of law being the first service a government must provide....  [W]e have been—ruled. We have been ruled, not governed.”
    "A journalist for Radio Azadi said, 'Afghans were happy in principle that Americans brought peace and democracy. But when rival tribes began to use the U.S. to crush each other, the attitude of the Afghan people changed.' 
    "Afghans think Americans have sided with the wrong people. It’s not that Afghans think Americans have sided with the wrong people in a systematic, strategic, or calculated way. It’s just that we came to a place that we didn’t know much about, where there are a lot of sides to be on, and we started siding with this side and that side and the other side. We were bound to wind up on the wrong side sometimes.
    "We’re outsiders in Afghanistan, and this is Occam’s razor for explaining the Taliban…"
          ~ PJ O'Rourke, writing in 2010 as a 72-hour expert

Friday, 13 August 2021

"Engineering is understanding things all the way to the bottom..."

"Engineering isn’t something you study and learn, and memorise, and know where to look up. Engineering is understanding things all the way to the bottom, no matter what field they are called, and being able use that to build stuff and make it work."
          ~ Carver Mead, on 'the thing that’s going to be the most important 100 years from now'

[Hat tip John D. Cook]

It reminded me of the distinction between a tradesman and a professional: in that a tradesman knows how to do a thing; whereas a professional also knows why.

Thursday, 12 August 2021

Engaging China was the Right Strategy Then; It Remains the Right Strategy Now


Free trade is said to be one of the greatest weapons for liberty abroad -- the “spirit of free trade” in the popular mind inevitably leading to liberalisation, policy reforms, and the onset of the trifold union of "Free Trade, Peace, Goodwill among Nations." 

Yet as Xi Jinping seems to be taking China back to its authoritarian past, that formula is being questioned, and New Zealand's engagement with China -- for some years now our largest trading partner by far -- is being questioned.  Yet as Doug Bandow reminds us in this guest post, the west's growing relationship with China helped nurture its liberation from Maoism in the past, and provides support to liberal opposition now ... the existence of islands of freedom within China continuing to owe much to China's continuing engagement with the West.

Engaging China was the Right Strategy Then; It Remains the Right Strategy Now

by Doug Bandow

China has gone from valued partner to prospective enemy. The easiest way to pass legislation in Washington is to claim that it is directed against Beijing. The conventional wisdom today is that engagement with the People’s Republic of China has failed.

Indeed, the PRC is an ever-worsening tragedy. President and Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping has positioned himself as the new Mao Zedong. Alas, that isn’t a compliment. The latter’s madcap crusades, the Great Leap Forward and Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, killed tens of millions of people. Only his death in 1976 opened the way for change.

Deng Xiaoping won the ensuing power struggle and initiated dramatic economic reforms. The U.S. recognized the Beijing government, opened America to Chinese imports, and supported the PRC’s entry into the World Trade Organisation. China became the world’s greatest trading nation. The West hoped for the PRC’s eventual political evolution even after the bloody response to the 1989 demonstrations in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere.

Alas, that vision looks kaput. China is descending deeper into autocracy, even revived totalitarianism, with especially brutal repression in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. On the mainland religious practice and even modest political dissent are punished. Xi dominates the country like no one since Mao.

George Will observed that with the opening to China, Americans bet that “the culture of capitalism would seep into the country and would lead to a civilising effect.” In his view, “the wager has been lost.”

He was wrong, however. He ignored the progress made before Xi. And the fact that the future is not set.

Deng’s ascension allowed an unprecedented transformation of one of the most oppressive nations on earth. Economic freedom spurred a dramatic increase in personal autonomy. Modernisation replaced class struggle, wrote Jeremy Brown of Simon Fraser University: 
“For many people, especially students and intellectuals, it meant freedom to seek higher education, debate controversial issues, read foreign articles and books, and travel abroad for academic conferences.”
The demand for liberty spread to politics. Indeed, two successive CCP general secretaries, Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, were removed by Deng for their relatively liberal views. The Tiananmen Square crackdown could have gone the other way. Zhao’s missteps and Deng’s connections made the difference.

Even after Tiananmen the country remained much freer than it was under Mao. The authoritarianism, which I observed on more than a score of trips to China, was loose. There were independent journalists, reform-minded NGOs, and human rights lawyers. Universities invited foreign scholars, sent professors abroad, and held conferences. Social media was censored, but usually enforced through removal of material rather than punishment of people. Although criticism of the CCP was forbidden, ideas and principles could be debated with care. In much of China religious belief was tolerated so long as politics was avoided. The existence of islands of freedom owed much to engagement with the West.

Now Xi Jinping is shoving almost everything in reverse. Terrible as that is, Xi’s tyranny may be no more permanent than Mao’s. Xi is simultaneously on the mountaintop and the precipice. Party reformers have been silenced, not eliminated. In fact, despite almost a decade in power, he recently felt the need to publicly denounce his critics.

A new publication of Xi’s “selected discourses” included an attack on what he called ‘discordant and cacophonous voices’ in the party. He cited unnamed cadres saying that, ‘we have for the past five years sufficiently stressed concentration [of powers] and unity in the party… [and] from now on we must put the emphasis on developing democracy within the party.” He criticised these advocates’ “political obfuscation and mental obtuseness” and “ulterior motives to push through [evil] agendas.” He would not publicly criticise this view if it did not have strong advocates including, it is thought, former president Hu Jintao.

Moreover, the CCP’s thoroughgoing assault on freedom of thought and expression is likely to adversely affect Chinese economic growth. Politics already has baked inefficiency into economic policy: poorly managed, highly indebted state enterprises; state banks loaded with bad debts; overbuilt ghost cities awaiting residents; party interference with private management. Moreover, the lengthy state assault on fertility has delivered an aging and soon-to-be shrinking population.

In past years I met entrepreneurs who still appreciated the stability provided by CCP rule. However, they expected freedom for themselves, for instance utilising VPNs to break through the Great Firewall. They now realise that nothing is off-limits to the state, leaving them as vulnerable as anyone else.

For instance, businessmen are being jailed for holding politically incorrect views, companies are being coopted to advance regime priorities, and industries are being attacked for offending revolutionary mores. International companies in Hong Kong are looking elsewhere after the loss of the rule of law, death of free inquiry and expression, and rise of CCP control. Beijing might be willing to trade economic growth for political power, but the Chinese people are likely to prove less forgiving.

Americans [and New Zealanders] should address the very real challenges posed by the PRC’s oppressive shift under Xi Jinping. But they should remain engaged with China and especially the Chinese people. Liberty is under siege but not forever lost.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, specializing in foreign policy and civil liberties.
He worked as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and editor of the political magazine Inquiry.
He writes regularly for leading publications such as Fortune magazine, National Interest, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Times.
His post first appeared at the American Institute for Economic Research.

"Extreme speculation" =/= "Code Red for humanity"

Forty years after their first we-have-ten-years-to-save-the-planet report, the UN's latest catastrophist reports on our latest "last chance," calling it a "Code Red for Humanity." Alex Epstein from Energy Talking Points disagrees...

  • LINK to original Twitter thread here.
  • LINK to Alex's Congressional Testimony here.