Wednesday, 17 October 2018

QotD: "It is hard to understand politics if you are hung up on reality. Politicians leave reality to others..."

"It is hard to understand politics if you are hung up on reality. Politicians leave reality to others. What matters in politics is what you can get the voters to believe, whether it bears any resemblance to reality or not."
~ Thomas Sowell

Monday, 15 October 2018

QotD: "If you want to know what politicians want people to want, look at elections. If you want to know what people actually want, look at the market."

"If you want to know what politicians want people to want, look at elections. If you want to know what people actually want, look at the market."  
      ~ Alice Smith. 

Sunday, 14 October 2018

QotD: "We must be careful not to believe things simply because we want them to be true. No one can fool you as easily as you can fool yourself!"

"We must be careful not to believe things simply because we want them to be true. No one can fool you as easily as you can fool yourself!"
        ~ Richard Feynman

[Hat tip 'Richard Feynman']

Friday, 12 October 2018

QotD: "...Then comes the panic, the breakdown. And the depression starts.”

“The advocates of public control cannot do without [monetary] inflation. They need it in order to finance their policy of reckless spending and of lavishly subsidising and bribing the voters.” 
    “One day, because they realise for some reason or other that they must stop credit expansion, the banks do stop creating new credit to lend. Then the firms that have expanded cannot get credit to pay for the factors of production necessary for the completion of the investment projects which they have already committed themselves. Because they cannot pay their bills, they sell off their inventories cheap. Then comes the panic, the breakdown. And the depression starts.” 
        ~ Ludwig von Mises, from his first great treatise linking the central banks' monetary cycle with the economy's business cycleA Theory of Money and Credit
[Hat tip Greg Hairston]

Thursday, 11 October 2018

8 things that the climate creed has to defend ... [updated]

Vinay Kolhatkar lists 8 things that those who follow the climate creed must defend if they are to be consistent -- "all eight, no exceptions—a single weakness in the chain and the climate creed falls flat" -- along with three further (bonus) observations:
Why the climate change movement is a fraud:
The Church of Climate Scientology ("Climate Change") is the creed that claims that 
(1) there is significant global warming,
(2) that any warming is dangerous,
(3) that it is manmade,
(4) that the catastrophe is near-term,
(5) that it can be reversed by replacing a whole lot of fossil fuels with wind and solar
(6) that such a replacement is feasible,
(7) that, to boot, is an expense that an economy can bear,
(8) that such replacement is the only avenue left, since geo-engineering solutions are destined to fail, because they are manmade as against a nature-worshiping withdrawal from fossil fuels, and ...
(9) Virtually any hurricane, flood, volcanic eruption, excess rain, drought, is offered as "evidence" of climate change as if the planet never used to have any of those before WWII.
Oh, and:
(10) Politicians who mouth rising ocean levels in the near-term buy ocean front investment properties.
(11) They get upset when smog from volcanic eruptions creates a cooling effect for years.
You see, when you put it like that, there are 1-8 matters that the climate creed has to defend. All eight, no exceptions—a single weakness in the chain and the climate creed falls flat...
. UPDATE: Bjorn Lomborg puts it in perspective:
The Paris agreement on climate change is already an incredibly expensive way of helping very little. Those using the latest IPCC report to call for bigger political promises miss the point by a mile.
    Cutting carbon emissions is incredibly expensive. Green energy is not yet able to compete with fossil fuels to meet most of humanity’s needs. Forcing industries and communities to shift — or plying them with expensive subsidies — means everyone pays more for energy, hurting the poorest most.
    If all the promises in the treaty are kept, the resulting global hit to growth will reach $1 trillion to $2 trillion a year by 2030. Those resources could have been used to make everyone more resilient and prosperous.

QotD: "So that's it for corals, so dire, the Financial Review has just declared that the next election is the Great Barrier Reef election. This news will come as a shock to corals on the Great Barrier Reef which are obliviously living across a range of 2,000 km and a span of five degrees Celsius from 27 to 32°C"

"That’s it for corals.
    "The IPCC have gone full apocalyptic: “Coral reefs would decline by 70 to 90 per cent with warming of 1.5°C…” And this catastrophic prophesy will unfold sometime around 2040. (See the graph).
    "The IPCC are practically holding the Great Barrier Reef hostage. Things are so dire, the Financial Review has just declared that the next election is the Great Barrier Reef election...
    "This news will come as a shock to corals on the Great Barrier Reef which are obliviously living across a range of 2,000 km and a span of five degrees Celsius from 27 to 32°C. But ...  what would a dumb coral know – possibly something after 200 million years of climate change, most of which was hotter.
    "Corals survived the rock that killed the dinosaurs. They survived Toba, the super volcano that left a crater 100km long. Corals survived a 125m sea level rise at the end of the last ice age. And they survived the ice age — and the fifteen before it. They also survived the super cyclones that have been hitting the coast of Queensland for the last 5,000 years and there is no sign that storms are getting worse....Who knows what handy genes corals carry after 200 million years of climate change?"
        ~ Jo Nova, from her post 'IPCC Coral-apocalypse: 243,000 km² of Great Barrier Reef corals to die in only 20 years'

IPCC: "Extreme weather events" will likely be, in a phrase, less extreme.

While the media this week has been trumpeting the IPCC's headline claim that there is only "ten years left"to save the planet from global warming (note that there is always ten years left to save the planet), they've all but ignored the much quieter recognition by the IPCC that "extreme weather events" will likely be, in a phrase, less extreme.

Roger Pielke Jr. was one of the few to dig through the report to sort the hyperbole from the data, posting on Twitter "a short thread on what the new IPPC report says about trends in extreme events, specifically: on heat waves, drought, floods, tropical cyclones, tornadoes."

Topical stuff, especially in the week of a once-in-a-century hurricane ripping through Florida. So what does the IPCC say we should expect in coming years -- and how likely do they say they know it?

On temperature extremes ...
PIELKE: No change from the IPCC's 2104 Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) or 2011 'Report on Extreme Events' (SREX):
Very likely= fewer cold days and nights
Very likely= more warm days and nights
Likely= "consistent changes are detectable on continental scale in North America, Europe and Australia"
On drought...
PIELKE: No change from AR5:IPCC: "low confidence in the sign of drought trends since 1950 at global scale... likely to be trends in some regions of the world, including increases in drought in the Mediterranean and W Africa & decreases in droughts in central N America & NW Australia"
On floods...
IPCC: "There is low confidence due to limited evidence, however, that anthropogenic climate change has affected the frequency and the magnitude of floods [though some basins see up trends, some down] ...
"In summary, streamflow trends since 1950 are non-statistically significant in most of the world’s largest rivers (high confidence)"
On topical cyclones:
IPCC: "Numerous studies towards and beyond AR5 have reported a decreasing trend
in the global number of tropical cyclones and/or the globally accumulated cyclonic energy... there is only low confidence regarding changes in global tropical cyclone numbers under global warming over the last four decades...
"There is consequently low confidence in the larger number of studies reporting increasing trends in the global number of very intense cyclones."
On tornadoes:
PIELKE: Not mentioned.
Bottom line:
PIELKE: The IPCC once again reports that there is little basis for claiming that drought, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes have increased, much less increased due to greenhouse gases (GHGs). In short, this book is still right:

NB: The original Twitter thread, with all its comments, is here. I've translated from Roger's Twitter shorthand for you. You're welcome.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

QotD: “My pet, the world can forgive practically anything except people who mind their own business."

“My pet, the world can forgive practically anything except people who mind their own business." 
        ~ Rhett Butler to Scarlett O'Hara, in  Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind
[Hat tip Quent Cordair]

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

QotD: 'Modern society is like a gigantic prosperity pool. Nobody today feels that rich because the growth in that pool occurs gradually, drip by drip.'

"Modern society is like a gigantic prosperity pool. This pool is filled gradually, drop by drop, with small improvements in our standard of living. And just as the collection of an enormous number of water drops leads to a much higher water level in a real pool, in the prosperity pool, the collection of an enormous number of prosperity drops creates much higher living standards.
    "While it is often sensible to discuss a society’s overall level of material prosperity—such as U.S. GDP in 2016—these discussions promote insensibility to the countless tiny components of that prosperity. These discussions can blind us to the reality that our prosperity consists overwhelmingly of many tiny drops of prosperity...
    "Of course such innovations are driven chiefly by the quest for profit. And profit is indeed the reward that successful innovators reap. Yet while the profit that each successful innovator reaps might be huge in absolute terms, it typically is only a tiny fraction of the total social value of the innovations. [Nobel-Prize winning] economist William Nordhaus found that only “2.2 percent of the total present value of social returns to innovation are captured by innovators.” Each successful innovator, in effect, personally “drinks” only two drops of prosperity for every 100 drops he or she adds to the prosperity pool...
    "Ordinary Americans in 2016 likely live better than did American billionaires in 1916. Yet almost no ordinary American today feels that rich. The reason, I believe, is that the growth in our living standards occurs gradually, drip by drip. The resulting insensibility to this gradual growth is an important reason for those of us who celebrate and understand it to keep highlighting its phenomenal reality."

        ~ Don Boudreaux, from his post 'The Prosperity Pool'

Seeking social justice by means of the state ends only in destroying social harmony

The state is the wrong means to seek social justice. Take this path and you create discord, explains Jeffrey Tucker in this guest post: The violent hatreds, tribalisms, acts of revenge, and never-ending escalation of the war between left and right (and between races, religions, sexes, and classes) are exactly what you would expect to get when you attempt to organise life according to the zero-sum game that is politics.
Liberalism proposed a totally different idea, says Tucker: It said that everyone should be free to live as they want provided that didn’t interfere with others’ ability to do the same -- to live and let live and embrace the kind of legal order that instantiates that principle. It's the only path to the social harmony that I and so many others seek.

Here is what happened to social harmony
Guest Post by Jeffrey Tucker

America is fracturing right now, and this earnest New York Times column by David Brooks convinces me that neither he nor the legions of other public intellectuals currently warning of the fracturing of the country really have any idea why.

In Brooks’s ideal society, as he explained in his influential 1997 article “A Return to National Greatness,” we should have a large and activist central state that controls national life and takes care of all needs and rules over a happy and unified people who take joy and pride in our civic institutions." That pretty much describes the ideal society of most other public intellectuals as well.

Neither he nor they have given up the dream, which accounts for the palpable shock at the frenzied tribalism in evidence during the controversy over a Supreme Court pick. “This is a complete pulverisation of the actual individuals involved in this case – a retreat from complex particularity to simplistic group prejudice,” writes Brook. “The core problem behind all of this is a complete breakdown in the legitimacy of our public institutions.”

That sounds terrible, but what is it that he wants? He wants a big state plus civic unity. And you can see from his column that he is completely mystified about why this is not happening. Indeed, he is panicked (and maybe he is right to be) about the sheer wickedness of the current moment in politics.

Why the Shock?

Here is what frustrates me about this perspective. It nowhere acknowledges that the current moment is precisely what liberalism (or libertarianism) predicted would happen if you grow the state beyond the most minimal functions pertaining only to a narrow range of particular crimes.

The classical liberal (or libertarian) is not surprised by the growth of partisan tribalism as the state itself metastasises because we understand that the divisions of big-government's pressure-group politics demand it. 

We Chose Wrongly

Over the last hundred years, we've chosen the path of building a total state (a state that knows no limits to its power), and thus did the prediction of the liberals become true, most obviously now in times of relative peace and prosperity (it takes war and depression to unite people in the way that Brooks and others imagine that they should be).

The violent hatreds, tribalisms, acts of revenge, and never-ending escalation of the war between left and right (and between races, religions, sexes, and classes) are exactly what you would expect to get when you attempt to organise life according to the zero-sum game that is politics.

Why is it that so few are willing to see what would strike any liberal from the past, or any educated libertarian of the present, as incredibly obvious?

Brooks is a smart guy. But he can't bring himself to admit the core failing of modern political life: the attempt to achieve social harmony through political means. It can't happen. It's the wrong means to a good end. It's wrong because behind the veil of good intentions of political organisation is the only real tool that the state has, which is the threat of violence against person and property. That is not a basis for social harmony.

The Best Guarantor of Social and Economic Harmony

The liberal conviction from the last several hundred years is that the best guarantor of social and economic harmony is not government), but freedom. Frederic Bastiat wrote his last book with that title. “Liberty!" he proclaimed: "Therein, in the last analysis, lies the source of harmony. Oppression! Therein lies the source of discord. The struggle between these two forces fills the annals of history.”

To be sure, Bastiat was no utopian. It is the social and economic planner who imagines some ideal state to bring about through force. He saw in the institutions of freedom the capacity for improvement. “Harmony does not consist in the complete absence of evil, but in its gradual reduction,” he wrote.

Lord Acton said the same. Power, he emphasised constantly, does not solve social problems; it leads to moral corruption, conflict, and violence.

By the end of his own life, economist Ludwig von Mises had come to understand that the political landscape is divided between two groups. First, there are the harmonists who believe in leaving society alone to manage itself because exchange and association leads to ever more favourable, prosperous, and peaceful social outcomes. Second there are the anti-harmonists who believe that “a community of interests exists only within the group among its members. The interests of each group and of each of its members are implacably opposed to those of all other groups and of each of their members.” Given this, “there should be perpetual war among various groups” with government there to foment the whole ghastly scene in the name of managing it, bringing justice, righting wrongs, making society great, or whatever slogan is popular among the right or the left.

The anti-harmonists, because of their dedication to coerced outcomes, end up causing society to behave precisely as they imagine it does and should behave. They end up creating the world of their fevered imaginations. The harmonists, in contrast, are left calmly to explain that there is another path, but people are less likely to listen in the midst of tribal wars in which the winning group takes all.

The pressure-group warfare of their tribal politics deafens them to those who make the point that this warfare of one pressure group against another is precisely what makes big politics tick!

No Forced Unity

You can do easy mental experiments to discover this for yourself. Let's say that the political elites announce that there would be only one religion, and one sect within that religion, that will prevail in all matters related to morality and theology. What do you suppose would follow such an announcement? More peace or more civic war?

The same pertains to every other aspect of life. What should be done with our private associations, our enterprising aspirations, the property that we own, our desire to travel, our desire to work with others in a business, our willingness to engage in exchange with others, our desire to speak and write what is on our mind, our affections and familial ambitions, our preferences over art and music, the personal preference for what we smoke and eat, and so on through the whole list of life activities?

Every attempt to manage these things from the top down fuels social division. There are literally millions of examples but the most insidious among them touch on the most complex areas of life such as gender relationships in professional life.

For example, when in the 1990s the courts, regulators, and Congress decided to legislate against sexual harassment, it seemed like an innocuous affirmation of meritorious cultural change that was already taking place. Who could possibly object to such laws? All these years later, we see how this use of legislative force mutated into a brutal war in which each side claims the other is plotting the disempowerment of the other.

The anger is palpable on all sides, precisely what you expect when people literally believe they are fighting for their identity and lives. 

And, of course, in the end, well-intentioned laws are being used to manipulate political outcomes. All state interventions, even those that seem to push completely wonderful social results, end up becoming weapons – and weaponising the people who use them to gain advantage over others.

Who benefits? Those who seek power over others – and that’s true whether the power seekers wave flags of the left or right.

The truth that they ignore however is this: That the state is the wrong means to seek social justice. Take this path and you create discord.

Liberalism proposed a different idea. It said that everyone should be free to live as they want provided that didn't interfere with others' ability to do the same. It's the law of equal freedom, enforced by decentralised institutions, the gradual evolution of social norms, and the courts of taste and manners. People are guaranteed rights to liberty, property, and associations of their own choosing; otherwise, the state does not interfere. This approach built civilisation. It created the most harmonious societies in the history of humankind.

Brooks is at a loss about what to do about the civil wars of our time, and pathetically ends up suggesting small group seminars in which we talk amongst ourselves so we gain greater understanding.

The real answer is to live and let live and embrace the kind of legal order that instantiates that principle. It's the only path to the harmony that he and so many others seek. The alternative is to keep tearing each other apart in a great struggle to control the whole.


Jeffrey A. Tucker is Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and eight books in 5 languages. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

Monday, 8 October 2018

What would 'Party X 'do about the environment? Policy #2: Scrap the 'License to Pollute'

So there's a gap in the market for a political party representing what I'm calling "ethical environmentalism" -- and even Simon Bridges will want a part of it come coalition time (Whether it would want him is a whole other story). 
By ethical I mean policies that remove some existing political coercion without introducing any new coercionBy environmentalism I mean today's fashionable environmental tropes. And by some innate cunning involving preternatural judo I propose a Party X that uses those tropes to kickstart both some real environmentalism and a true movement towards liberty. Let me explain how with today's example of a policy that such a party could promote... 

Today, two proposals to propel property rights towards the heart of New Zealand life, while solving several major environmental problems:
diving for pennies2

A few years ago we woke to the news that  the world-famous famous penny-divers at Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa were being told by the authorities not to swim in the Puarenga River if they value their health. It seemed the stream was becoming seriously polluted.
    Tests over the years have shown poor results for water quality and [authorities] says companies like the Red Stag Timber Mill could be doing much better.
    But Tim Charleson, the mill's environmental manager, says the company carries out regular chemical tests on its effluent and it's meeting the conditions of its resource consents.
I have no doubt Red Stag et al were and are  “meeting the conditions of [their] resource consents,” as do farmers, mill owners and waste operators all around the country. But as this story and others clearly demonstrate, these consents merely formalise their pollution instead of protecting against it.

In short, resource consents are not a form of environmental protection. They are a license to pollute.

In cases like this one and all over the country, from the Tarawera River (into which the paper mill has a license to dump chlorine and worse) to Akaroa Harbour (where the council has given itself a license to dump nearly raw sewage), a resource consent full of mealy-mouthed conditions has granted to these producers full license to sully the places and rivers that people value, and that property owners would cherish -- if they were still allowed to.

The RMA, under which resource consents like this are issued, is hopeless at protecting the environment precisely because it’s hopeless at protecting property rights. Contrast this with common law, which has seven-hundred years of sophistication at protecting both, and you realise how far from ideal NZ’s so-called “environmental legislation” really is. 

With strong property rights under common law, for example, the tourism operators along the Puarenga River—and the former fishermen at the head of the Tarawera River; and the aquaculture operators in Akaroa Harbour—would all have had legal standing to take action against polluters damaging their property right. 

And taking and winning these actions against big polluters is the best signal to other would-be polluters not to start.

As Elizabeth Brubaker writes
The age-old common-law maxim 'use your own property so as not to harm another's' has provided the foundation for the resolution of disputes about farming practices [and pollution] .... Under this maxim, the rights of farmers [and other producers] -- like those who own or occupy land -- are tempered by their responsibilities. While they have a right to use and enjoy their property, they have a responsibility not to interfere with their neighbour's rights to use and enjoy their property.
Recognising and protecting that right  has been at the heart of common law "as early as the thirteenth century," explains Brubaker, "when one legal scholar wrote that 'no one may do in his own estate any thing whereby damage or nuisance may happen to his neighbour.'

In cases over the following centuries dealing with everything from pigsties to cattle to railway lines to sewage systems -- and from Britain to Canada to the US and New Zealand -- courts frequently cited and affirmed the principle in providing environmental protection through protection of neighbour's rights against a polluter.

Historically and in principle that’s the best protection the environment ever had – both for the natural environment and for the human environment. Property rights in streams and rivers for example coupled with common law systems of protection would at a stroke solve the ‘dirty dairying’ problem about which so much is said, but so little achieved. Property rights in flora and fauna and land is the best means of ensuring a genuinely sustainable nation. 

Yet the Resource Management Act instead protects polluters. 
Overshadowing all other legal defences [of a polluter] is ... that a statute has authorised a disputed activity. Government statutes take precedence over the common law [explains Brubaker]. If a government approves a nuisance therefore, a court loses its power to enjoin it.... At enormous cost to the environment, governments of all times and all political stripes have overridden the common law to protect favoured industries... Farmers now benefit especially from statutes affording some of the country's clearest and most sweeping protections.
While ignoring the property rights the law is supposed to protect. Fortunately, there are many solutions. I have two:

Method No. 1. Putting Property Rights in the Bill of Rights Act

We know that common law protection of property rights has been buried by statute and regulation and by the Foreshore and Seabed Act and its later replacement--but it’s not too late to resurrect it. Placing property rights in the Bill of Rights Act would be a start—a politically possible start—repairing an omission that Bill of Rights architect Geoffrey Palmer has publicly conceded was a mistake.

It should be simple enough to insert a new clause in the Bill of Rights adding property rights to the rights protected. (And a responsible ‘Party X’ would know they would need to add pressure to make the Bill of Rights  superior to all other law, as it always should have been.) 

After all, the principle of property rights simply promises the protection of the right to peacefully enjoy that in which one has property. What reasonable objection can be brought to a law that protects an individual’s right to peaceful enjoyment? (Let me stress the word "reasonable.") 

Let’s place on the back foot those who object to that right by challenging them to say for what reasons the right to peaceful enjoyment should not be made superior to all other law. 

Why should that right not  be put beyond the vote? That is, put well beyond the power of any politician to tamper with -- for that is surely a power beyond any right!

Our putative ‘Party X’  may not be immediately successful in this goal, of course, but it could at least flush out the bastards who oppose such peaceful rights, and expose the reasons they do. 

In the meantime, you might like to consider what would happen if property rights ever actually were placed at the heart of the likes of the Resource Management Act . . . would it be something like the meeting of matter and anti-matter ?

Method No. 2. Coming to the Nuisance

Planners like nothing more than than telling you where and how you may live.  The RMA gives them that power in spades, and the country is infested with the well-fed bastards writing and administering District Plans empowered by the RMA to boss you and your family around -- and with the utopias they have created and are all their own work ... like Albany and the Manukau City Centre. 

It wasn’t always that way. Back when common law was being invented, the English king was becoming increasingly frustrated at having to fix issues about the damage that someone’s chickens did to someone else’s crops.  Keen to stop his castles being overrun by defendants’ chickens, the king quickly realised the three important questions that could quickly solve these issues:
  1. Whose chickens (and whose crops) are they?
  2. What damage did they do? (And how to remedy it?)
  3. Who was there first?
Such was the birth of common law—and right there in those three questions the English king had hit on the three ingredients that have been at the heart of common law ever since:
  1. Property rights.
  2. Damage.
  3. Nuisance (and who came to it?).
Once these principles were established, the English king was able to solve these problems rapidly, to cleanse his castles of chickens, and to head north to invade Scotland—which is what the king known as “The Hammer of the Scots”  he’d been trying to do when he got bogged down in these disputes. 

What I’m going to propose here is another simple modification to law that would allow New Zealanders to once again repair to the common law protections that “The Hammer” had made possible. In particular, the codification of the common law principle of Coming to the Nuisance (seen in palimpsest in point three above), which on its own would a powerful antidote to the zoning that the RMA has entrenched -- perhaps the strongest possible antidote to zoning there is. Supplementary to putting property rights in the Bill of Rights, then, ‘Party X’ could promote the reintroduction of the Coming to the Nuisance doctrine for use as an absolute in neighbourhood disputes.

The Coming to the Nuisance Doctrine is an enormously powerful principle protecting pre-existing rights, and quickly establishing rights in situations of apparent neighbourhood conflict. Move next door to a clean and well-run chicken farm or pig or mushroom farm for example (even if the place has been re-zoned since the farm opened), and under this doctrine you have no right to have them thrown out. 

Move next door to a speedway track, for another well-known example, and you have no right to complain about excessive noise. 

I assume you see the difference with how things presently work. If the farm or the speedway or whatever it is was there before you chose to buy next door, then that’s probably why you got your land so cheap.

And if the track (or farm) is well and properly run, then those pre-existing rights should and can be protected in law; and if they were you then have a strong incentive to either make a more careful choice in future (whereas now the incentive is there to move in and force them out), or to buy out the speedway or the farm, or buy easements or covenants over the neighbouring land. 

Either way, when the coercion is removed from all parties and bargaining is all that’s allowed, the tendency is for property to end up in its highest value use. This is not something planners can ever claim to have achieved. 

Furthermore, what this principle will demonstrate over long use is that zoning is not only coercive, but unnecessary. It will on its own provide a daily demonstration that sound property rights work for everybody except the grey ones and the looters.

Not only that, at the same time as undercutting the zoning law established under the RMA, if  introduced it would have ensured that if neighbours of Western Springs speedway weren’t prepared to stump up enough for the bikes and midget cars to go elsewhere, then the noise of fast cars and motorbikes would have continue to annoy the luvvies for some years to come. You can’t do better than that.

Coming To The Nuisance then is THE pre-eminent antidote to zoning, the best way to pull the planners' teeth, and the single-best way to silence the NIMBYs who move in next to a circus and then complain to the grey ones about the noisy tent next door.

And what could be better than that?


So you can see the power that this measure would have, and I hope I've shown that it should be politically possible. 

I hope too that I've given you a few other ideas, like how to solve the problem of dirty dairying .... and we will, later in this series.

In the meantime, you can tune in again tomorrow to discover a very simple way to use pressure to solve the housing crisis to solve the problem of property rights in land ...

* * * * *

INTRO: 'The Time is Ripe for a 'Party X' for the Environment
PART ONE: Eco un-taxes 
THE SERIES IS BASED ON THE PRINCIPLE DEVELOPED HERE: 'Transitions to Freedom: Shall We Kill Them in Their Beds?'

Global Warming: In reality, or is it only in the data?

Just as the IPCC is about to issue a new report declaring that renewed effort will have to be taken politically to avert a 1.5 degree rise in global temperatures ("news" that you will hear being shouted from the rooftops by all your favourite media and social-media sources),  a detailed audit reveals that the very temperature set against which all global warming is measured is "unfit for purpose."
The first ever audit of the world’s most important temperature data set (HadCRUT4) has found it to be so riddled with errors and “freakishly improbable data” that it is effectively useless...
    HadCRUT4 is the primary global temperature dataset used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to make its dramatic claims about “man-made global warming”. It’s also the dataset at the centre of “ClimateGate” from 2009, managed by the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University.
    The audit finds more than 70 areas of concern about data quality and accuracy.
     But according to an analysis by Australian researcher Dr John McLean it’s far too sloppy to be taken seriously even by climate scientists, let alone a body as influential as the IPCC or by the governments of the world.
Yes, you read that right. This is the first ever audit of this globally-crucial data set, and it appears unable to bear the load imposed upon it.
Thanks to Dr John McLean, we see how The IPCC demands for cash rests on freak data, empty fields, Fahrenheit temps recorded as Celsius, mistakes in longitude and latitude, brutal adjustments and even spelling errors.
The data set contains absurdities everywhere:
  • There are cases of tropical islands recording a monthly average of zero degrees — this is the mean of the daily highs and lows for the month. 
  • A spot in Romania spent one whole month averaging minus 45 degrees. 
  • One site in Colombia recorded three months of over 80 degrees C. (That is so incredibly hot that even the minimum there were probably hotter than the hottest day on Earth.) 
  • Sea surface temperatures represent 70% of the Earth’s surface, but some measurements come from ships which are logged at locations 100km inland. Others are in harbours which are hardly representative of the open ocean.
  • For two years the entire Southern Hemisphere temperature was estimated from one sole land-based site in Indonesia and some ship data. 
  • We didn’t get 50% global coverage until 1906. We didn’t consistently get 50% Southern Hemisphere coverage until about 1950.
  • The Hadley Met Centre team have not even analysed this data with a tool as serious as a spell checker.  Countries include “Venezuala”,” Hawaai”, and the “Republic of K” (also known as South Korea). One country is “Unknown” while other countries are not even countries – like “Alaska”
  • In probably the worst systematic error, the past is rewritten in an attempt to correct for site moves. While some corrections are necessary, these adjustments are brutally sweeping: When a thermometer is relocated to a new site, the adjustment assumes that the old site was always built up and “heated” by concrete and buildings. In reality, the artificial warming probably crept in slowly. By correcting for buildings that likely didn’t exist in 1880, old records are artificially cooled. Adjustments for a few site changes can create a whole century of artificial warming trends.
The effect of this last, systematic, error is profound -- especially in terms of the alleged global problem the temperature set is supposed to confirm: these scientists simply assume that every time an older site is moved to avoid the warming effects of having been  surrounded by new concrete and asphalt that the older site's temperature should therefore be scaled back, sometimes by as much as 2C (in other words, a greater "adjustment" than the problem the IPCC say the world needs to avoid!  The effect of these systematic adjustments is to systematically lower older temperatures as against more recent temperatures, and give any reasonable person grounds to wonder whether systematic warming appears around the globe, or only in this flawed data!

Because it does not look like data on which a trillion-dollar shut-down of industry should be relying.

Dr McLean, who audited the HadCrut4 global data from 1850 onwards for his PhD thesis, and then continued it on afterwards til it was complete, concludes:
“I was aghast to find that nothing was done to remove absurd values… the whole approach to the dataset’s create is careless and amateur, about the standard of a first-year university student.”

It sounds like it deserves a fail.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

QotD: ''A tomato contains more technology than an iPhone."

"''A tomato contains more technology than an iPhone.' That headline is a metaphor that perfectly encapsulates the point that every modern crop is the result of mankind taking the given in nature and transforming it into something radically different.'"
"The real story of agriculture is the transformation of the rare, inefficient & scarce into the common, plentiful & cheap. It’s the story of creating living tech to solve problems that have plagued generations before us. Ag-tech is something to celebrate, not shun... 
        ~ C.S. Prakash commenting on article by Amanda Maxham:
          'Who should we thank for all those wonderful fruits and vegetables? ‘Not Mother Nature’'

Friday, 5 October 2018

Exposing the corruption of "identity studies", or, What a feminist Mein Kampf reveals about our universities, and modern life

Three academics collaborated to expose a philosophical corruption in academia that is poisoning modern life. Submitting twenty  hoax papers to scholarly journals who specialise in what they characterise as "grievance studies" -- fields of 'scholarship' loosely known as “cultural studies” or “identity studies” (so-called "gender studies," for example) -- they managed to have accepted and published papers with "a slew of bewildering positions, including chaining up privileged school children as an educational opportunity and a push to include 'fat bodybuilding’ in professional bodybuilding competitions as a way to nullify fat shaming.
Another paper rewrote a chapter of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, replacing parts of Hitler’s political manifesto with terms including “solidarity allyship”, “neo-liberal feminism” and “'multi-variate matrix of domination”.

Each of the papers were peer-reviewed before being published, meaning they passed the highest level of critical assessment in their fields.
Something has gone wrong in the university, they say, for any of this to be possible, especially within the humanities.
Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields, and their scholars increasingly bully students, administrators, and other departments into adhering to their worldview. This worldview is not scientific, and it is not rigorous. For many, this problem has been growing increasingly obvious, but strong evidence has been lacking. For this reason, the three of us just spent a year working inside the scholarship we see as an intrinsic part of this problem.
This matters, because, as they argue, the uncontested philosophical corruption of the academies is what is and has been corrupting much of modern life.

Their story -- one of the biggest and most revealing hoaxes perpetrated on the postmodern ivory towers since the Sokal hoax in 1996 -- and frankly one that's also laugh-out-loud funny -- can be read in summary here, in more detail here, and enjoyed on video right here:


What would 'Party X 'do about the environment? Policy #1: It's an Eco-Tax Jim, but not as we know it

So there's a gap in the market for a political party representing what I'm calling "ethical environmentalism" -- and even Simon Bridges will want a part of it come coalition time (Whether it would want him is a whole other story). 
By ethical I mean policies that remove some existing political coercion without introducing any new coercionBy environmentalism I mean today's fashionable environmental tropes. And by some innate cunning involving preternatural judo I propose a Party X that uses those tropes to kickstart both some real environmentalism and a true movement towards liberty. Let me explain how with today's example of a policy that such a party could promote... 

Today, Eco Taxes. Or to be more precise, un-taxes...

Ronald Reagan once observed that government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: "It it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidise it."  I'm going to suggest a way to use today's organic pork-barrel politics to try out the opposite view.

Every party in parliament wants subsidies for its favoured “outcomes,” and “resources” for their favourite pork barrels.  And every party is wont to waffle ad nauseum about “sustainability,” “renewable” energy, and other words they’re ill-prepared to define. Put the two together and you have a buggers muddle of bullshit and budgetary blowouts—of Eco Taxes, Eco Subsidies and Eco Grants—that’s unsustainable both for the taxpayers forced to pick up the tab, and producers trying to survive.

Today's Green-Party-in-Coalition is all set to unleash what they laughingly call a Green Investment Fund on the land, the same sort of pork barrel as the Shane Jones slush fund only with fewer safeguards and more organic fertiliser.

But there could be a better and more principled way. (And by better and more principled I mean taking the long-suffering taxpayer off the hook some.)

You see, all parties blather on about the need for “grass roots” eco businesses and “sustainable” alternative technologies, yet between taxes, regulations and indecipherable rules about how to qualify for the various grants and subsidies they promote, they make it near impossible for alternative technologies and grass roots businesses to thrive.

All of them waffle on about subsidies for this and grants for that and assistance with the other, and at the same time they talk about “sin” taxes to discourage so-called “polluters” like the energy companies who produce the very power that keeps all our lights on.

I say that’s bullshit. I say the only thing that’s truly sustainable is stuff that stands on its own two feet, i.e., stuff that’s economically sustainable, i.e., that produces more resources than are consumed. I say if a profit can't be made on all these schemes for solar panels and wind farms and for turning banana skins into biofuel, then those schemes shouldn’t exist. If they can’t turn a profit, then they’re a waste of the resources that James Shaw and Chloe Swarbrick insist are so scarce.

But what new business of any description gets a chance to turn a healthy and sustainable profit when they’re bullied by the grey ones and buried under tax and compliance costs? So why not let at least some companies in this over-burdened country be freed of the shackles and show just how their profits rise when they’re not being taxed to hell and back—when they’re not burdened by paperwork, and weighed down by bureaucrats.

And why not let the current fad for “sustainable” this-that-and-the-other help drive this gradual unburdening, and let the eco warriors themselves learn at first hand that free trade and profits are always superior to subsidies and socialism.

What I suggest then is this:
  • that all eco industries, eco businesses and eco products be made totally tax free; 
  • that all these eco industries be freed as much as possible from the regulations and compliance costs imposed by the likes of the Resource Management Act (RMA), the Income Tax Act, of collecting and calculating GST, and conforming to minimum wage laws (what’s wrong with volunteers who freely volunteer?); 
  • and that the terms "eco industries," "eco businesses" and "eco products" be defined clearly but also as liberally as humanly and politically possible.

Like I say, what's wrong with using those who are generally opposed to capitalism to promote businesses that demonstrate how well it can work when the shackles come off?

So how might it work? Let’s say you’re doing research and development on micro-power producers or wave turbines. Or you're trying to erect and bring on small and economically viable 'neighbourhood' sewage treatment systems or domestic-scale wind turbines. (You see, we're literally thinking small and affordable here.) 

All of these could be potentially viable and small alternatives to the Big Thinking state-owned/state-controlled power and waste industries (the state always Things Big, doesn’t it), but not when burdened by the Kafka-esque problems with resource consents (for which the large producers maintain a large staff to make opposing submissions), nor by the compliance costs that weigh down every business, by the taxes on research and development and production, and on any profits that might be made down the line.

And all of them would be invaluable products to have developed! (Just think how many subdivisions of affordable homes you could build, for example, if both waste and power could be done 0n site instead of piped in and out!)

So I say let’s help out these smart small potential producers—but not by laying out James Shaw's fatted calf. I say help them instead simply by not goring them with the state’s lumpen big bullocks. Let’s help out every business we can, and let's starting with these ones that have some political traction.

In short, let's introduce some un-taxes. (If "sin taxes" are recognised to discourage certain activities, then un-taxes will assuredly do the opposite.)

In other words, let’s free up these liberally-defined “eco” businesses, and at once we liberate at least some businesses from the shackles of the grey ones (and perhaps help kick start some fashionable export industries selling to the gullible overseas, and initiate the partial removal of the RMA and other onerous laws and regulations here).

At the same time we demonstrate (and to the least easily convinced) the power to produce when the shackles of statism are removed; and we also lay down a serious challenge to the prophets of sustainability that requires them to objectively define what they do mean by sustainability so that investors and the grey ones too know clearly and in advance what an eco industry actually looks like.

Sure, this don’t give every business a break. And on the face of it there's a new bureaucracy there considering who and isn't inside this particular tent (but the Greens Investment Fund means that particular horse has already bolted). But with these eco un-taxes at least there’ll be a little bit more freedom and no new coercion, and nothing here that the eco warriors shouldn’t be chomping at the bit to sign up to. 

It’s a start, right.


An Environmental Party X

INTRO: 'The Time is Ripe for a Party X for the Environment'THE SERIES IS BASED ON THE PRINCIPLE DEVELOPED HERE: 'Transitions to Freedom: Shall We Kill Them in Their Beds?'

Tune in Monday for policy proposal number two: “The Overwhelming Importance of Damn Nuisance”

Thursday, 4 October 2018

QotD: "Government spending does not create wealth but devours it." [updated]

"Government spending does not create wealth but devours it."
    ~ Manuel Su├írez-Mier, from his (Spanish-language article) 'Fighting Against Poverty'
"Real, sustainable economic growth is not the result of high taxes, but of long-term sustainable capital growth and accumulation—and hence, ever-greater and ever-increasing productivity.
"Since government spending is overwhelmingly thrown away on consumption spending instead of on productive spending, however –practically every dollar that governments spend is consumption spending -- capital growth is hampered rather than helped, by high government spending. It’s a handbrake, not a help-mate."

The time is ripe for a 'Party X' for the environment

Political commentary suggests that barking at every passing car is winning the National party few new friends — yet  incredibly, say commentators“National is still polling in the 40s — so New Zealanders like them” (Galt alone knows why). In the age of MMP however that's not nearly enough to form a government. "What National needs," they say, "is a credible coalition partner to help them get over 50 per cent.” 

Why should we care about what National needs?

Because if Simon Bridges himself is to be believed (and generally the wetter the things he says the more likely he is to believe them) then that preferred partner would be one with an environmental focus, albeit one that may actually focus on the environment instead of pissing on the feet of every passing taxpayer. And I am going to make the case that this is a genuine opportunity for liberty folk.

You see, it is possible to be sane and sober and be a serious party with an environmental focus. Indeed, if the will were there in such a party then it would even possible to use that environmental focus to advance the cause of liberty (remember liberty?) instead of to trash it. That could be done by using what I've called Environmental Judo ... not least because the environment is so all-encompassing.

You might recall that when New Zealand first announced it had made up the new position of Minister for the Environment, Owen McShane's then professor at UC Berkeley told him, “If New Zealand now has a Minister for the Environment then eventually he must be Minister of Everything.”

This is true.

But the position could be used for good as well as the bad that it regularly has been. 

Using his position, and making the best use of present-day political pressures, a smart environment minister in a bright new coalition government (were either thing to actually exist) should be able to devise several cunning plans to roll back the state.

Clearly, however, while the current incumbents have no such interest, this party Im talking about should, and could.

So starting this morning, I’m offering up seven environmental policies that a genuine opposition party like that could adopt if they really were serious about rolling back the state. (The vigilant reader will notice they might have read them before in my 'Free Radical' article on 'Environmental Judo' that you used to able to download here in the sidebar.) 

Sure, thinking of Simon Bridge's National Party in that manner stretches the imagination a bit too far--and while Gareth Morgan's former lovechild may have an environmental face, it is no more interested in rolling back the state than in flying to the moon. And while ACT (under the same name or a new name) would quite like to roll back some of the state, it first has to enrol a few more voters.

But how about a credible “Party X” that genuinely did fit that bill? What exactly could they do? Ayn Rand offers the prescription for such a party:
Party X would oppose statism and would advocate free enterprise. But it would know that one cannot win anybody’s support by repeating that slogan until it turns into a stale, hypocritical platitude—while simultaneously accepting and endorsing every step in the growth of government controls.
    Party X would know that opposition does not consist of declaring to the voters: “The Administration plans to tighten the leash around your throats until you choke—but we’re lovers of freedom and we’re opposed to it, so we’ll tighten it only a couple of inches.”
    Party X would not act as Exhibit A for its enemies, when they charge that it is passive, stagnant, “me-tooing” and has no solutions for the country’s problems.
    It would offer the voters concrete solutions and specific proposals, based on the principles of free enterprise. The opportunities to do so are countless, and Party X would not miss them.
Opportunities abound, not least because National are so desperate for both a credible partner, and a backbone. My Party X could offer both: a party genuinely committed to removing the leash from around our throats (without introducing any further tightening); to achieving specific and concrete gains in freedom, with no new elements of coercion; all the while using genuinely beneficial environmental policies to do it (in the same way that a judo master uses his opponent's own strength against them.)

It could be that the time for such a party may have arrived.

And I can suggest at least seven proudly provocative proposals on which it could run. 

For instance . . . Eco Untaxes, about which I’ll talk more tomorrow....

[Cartoon by Nick Kim, from the Free Radical]