Tuesday, 21 June 2005

Go the Catters

An Australian friend just rang from Melbourne for a chat. After sharing uplifting stories about the cricketing abilities of Bangladesh he told me that ‘The Age’ has an article on our old footy club in London, the West London Wildcats. (You might need to register for Fairfax's 'Real Footy' site.)

Great to see them doing so well. I was there in what ‘The Age’ calls the “rough and ready” era. I doubt whether I’d even be allowed to carry water there now.

Tax cuts writ large

TVNZ report: Labour says tax cuts are not affordable. Prime Minister Helen Clark says she couldn't look the electorate in the eye and say significant across the board tax cuts can be afforded, while maintaining spending in critical areas.

Perhaps we can give her some help. How about pruning, selling, closing, abolishing or otherwise divesting yourself of the large majority of this list of government departments, bureaus, boards, committees, quangoes and consultative bodies. As Libertarianz says, most could be "gone by lunchtime," and many by morning tea.

That would buy us a lot of chewing gum.

RMA reforms a lane-change, not a U-turn

The Government's proposed changes to the Resource Management Act are not so much a U-turn as a 'lane-change,' as even with the changes the RMA still proceeds in a direction that destroys property rights. This is minor tinkering, not major reform.

The proposed change allows the government to 'call in' projects of national significance and send them directly to the Environment Court, bypassing lower level hearings. This may help speed up a few large 'headline' infrastructure projects -- but God help Waikato farmers fighting Transpower's pylons' project, and as Federated Farmers has said before, "it's little, not large" [that] suffers most RMA pain." 'Little' projects, which constitute the bulk of outstanding RMA consent applications, will continue to suffer pain as the property rights of applicants are ignored.

A 'test' of these proposed reforms is perhaps to note that they do nothing to help the Western Springs speedway, organisers of which are in the High Court today arguing that they have existing use rights under the RMA. I wish them well but I'm not optimistic, since we've seen before that the RMA does nothing to protect the property rights of those facing complaints by those who 'came to the nuisance.'

The test for real RMA reform will be whether property rights can be introduced to the heart of the Act. I still say they can't -- the RMA still needs a stake through its heart.

World's shortest Wagner quiz

You've probably seen the World's Smallest Political Quiz by now, for which I've been compiling the results from NZ quiz-takers over the years . A Wagner group I'm on has now come up with the world's smallest Wagner quiz to determine whether you're really a Wagnerphile. And here it is:

Early one morning, just prior to whatever time the alarm is set to, you and your life partner (or your partner du jour, if you're that sort of person ;-) are in the middle of a passionate, amorous moment, when the clock radio switches on, and the station it's tuned to happens to be broadcasting somethingby Wagner. Do you...

(A) Immediately switch it off and get back to the business at hand?

(B) Leave it on, using the music to enhance your experience?

(C) Abandon your lovemaking so that you can better focus on the music?

(D) It would depend on what Wagner excerpt they were playing.

Reforming superannuation the Reisman way

The problem of superannuation -- what Americans call Social Security -- is what predicated the 'Cullen Fund.' As baby boomers get older and there are fewer and fewer people in the workforce to pay for their pensions, the system begins to get into difficulty.

Invested wisely (as governments will always do) the 'Cullen Fund' is supposed to start picking up the tab at this point, just as President Bush's 'privatised' Social Security is intended to do in the US.

But as George Reisman says of the US system, the "problem is that implementing the President's proposal would almost certainly mean a major increase in the government's power over business... The consequences of the government's necessary control over such stock-market investments would be extremely grave. [To the extent such investments are successful] it would mean that the government would come to control a substantial portion of the stock of most major corporations in the United States."

As a famous National Party ad once said: when the government ends up owning the whole country -- you know what that's called!

And of course, should such investments be unsuccessful, we're all out of luck anyway -- and out of money. George Reisman doesn't just point out problems however. He also has a solution: "The only really proper reform of Social Security," he says, "is the gradual abolition of the whole system." Here in brief is how he proposes to go about it.

N.B. I'll just add these two 'backgrounders' to Reisman's proposal, the first -- from Director of Regulatory Studies from the Cato Institute Ed Hudgins -- stressing the moral themes of autonomy and independence with respect to arguments over superannuation; the second from David Kelley on the history, economics, and philosophy of social security. [Hat tip, Stephen Hicks.]

Jared Diamond collapsed again, and again

Jared Diamond's influential theory of societal collapse 'attributes the demise of societies such as Easter Island principally to environmental degradation and destruction.'

I pointed to one critique of Diamond's thesis here some weeks ago, saying that his analysis ignores the historical importance of culture and of property rights in protecting against such 'degradation and destruction.' Here's another by Gene Callahan making that same point. And a more lengthy critique by John Bratland says it again, arguing Diamond fails because he ignores the value of individual entrepreneurship:
For Diamond, societies are entities that act independent of the actions of individuals. He sees societal ascent or collapse as being contingent upon the extent to which societies embrace a centralized structure and management. But in so doing, he ignores institutions critical to peaceful, prosperous social interaction and the formation of society: (1) private property rights and (2) human action leading to division of labor and emergence of cooperative monetary exchange. With these institutions, individuals are able to avoid conflict and rationally reckon both scarcity and capital. Without these institutions, societies such as the Soviet Union and Easter Island are seen to have a common fate in that scarcity implies conflict, chaos, ‘waste’ and eventual collapse.

Cell-phone addiction - get over it

'People are addicted to mobile phones,' carp people addicted to decrying what other people like to do.

Jeffery Tucker at the Mises Institute has a go at those who decry what others like to do:
The pundit class has a penchant for judging the culture of freedom harshly. If ten years ago, these same critics had walked up and down the block peering into people’s windows, they might have spied people on the phone in every home. They might have decried this as a phone addiction but nobody would have taken them seriously. In fact, the response would have been readily at hand: mind your own business, bud, and get a life.
'Addiction,' says Tucker, is just a word attached to any habitual behaviors of others that the 'pundit class' do not like.

A celluloid meme

I've decided to pick up a meme for the first time. It's all down-blogging-hill from here for sure. So, the film meme, (from NZ Pundit):

1. Total number of films I own on DVD and video: About 40

2. Last film I bought: aaah ... does the DVD of Wagner's 'Tannhauser' count? :-)

3. Last film I watched: A Very Long Engagement. Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a genius, the ensemble cast is brilliant ... and Audrey Tautou isn't bad either. A wonderful, wonderful film.

4. Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order):

The Castle
The Fountainhead
Breaker Morant
Life of Brian

5. If you could be any character portrayed in a movie, who would it be?
Frank Loyd Wright, from Frank Lloyd Wright. ;^)

Monday, 20 June 2005

Winslow Homer, 'The Fog Warning' Posted by Hello

Kiwi Carnival

The inaugural edition of the blogosphere's Kiwi Carnival has just made its appearance with posts by most of the usual kiwi blogging suspects, including a humble contribution from moi.

(I explain here what the Kiwi Carnival is about.) Enjoy. And if you're a kiwi blogger make sure you send your contribution along next week.

Harm offensive

Watch out, there are Labour MPs about. The Herald reports this morning that they're being sent out on a 'charm offensive' to recover their poll ratings. Given the complete charm-free zones of most of them, personally I'd be more charmed if they just stayed out of my face for a few months.

But maybe that's just me.

Big Brother is bullshit

Fans of Penn and Teller's 'Bullshit'* will probably appreciate their 17min. debunking of America's PATRIOT Act, ostensibly introduced to fight terrorism in the US. Beware of hyperbolic paranoia though: there's still enough freedom under the PATRIOT Act to criticise it; P&T argue however this is absolutism limited only by idiocy.

Best line then is about politicians and bureaucrats: "All that protects us from their evil is their incompetence."
* And remember I told you how to get hold of 'Bullshit'?

Sunday, 19 June 2005

Icarus Landing

'Icarus Landing,' Michael Newberry

Immigration -- agreeing with Jeanette

It's not too often that I agree with Jeanette Fitzsimons, but aside from the usual feel-good buzzwords there's not much to complain about here:

Winston [Peters] and I seem to look at the same reality but see quite different things. When Winston Peters walks down Queen Street and sees Asian faces, he wonders whether he is still in New Zealand. When I walk down Queen Street and see Asian faces, I see the essence of New Zealand: the coming together of many peoples, under a shared vision of a fair, compassionate, sustainable society.

When Winston Peters realises that we are taking in refugees from the world’s wartorn places, he cries blue murder, and shouts ‘bludger!’ A Cambodian taxi driver recently told me his story of how, alone among his family, he barely escaped mass murder in his native country – a story that had me in tears as I reached my Parliamentary office. I was overwhelmed at how fortunate this country is, and relieved and thankful and yes, a little proud, that he had found safety and a job in New Zealand.

It's a fair reminder of what being a refuge is about. As Emma Lazarus' great peom says:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

A pity the Greens have to ruin it with proposals for Ministries, migrant welfare, and issuing immigrants with copies of Te Tiriti. I'd prefer to see them getting private sponsorship, as I suggest here.

Freedom, through thick and thin

The superior freedom of the capitalist system, its superior justice, and its superior productivity are not three superiorities, but one. The justice follows from the freedom, and the productivity follows from the freedom and the justice.
- Henry Hazlitt, 1962

The concept of freedom, in its socially relevant sense, means the condition of individuals being free from aggression by others… It rests on the recognition of every individual’s equal moral nature as a self-determined and self-responsible agent, regardless of admittedly enormous circumstantial difference.
- Tibor Machan, 1998

As some of my blog readers will be aware, I have been engaged in a debate with Richard Chapple from the Philosophy et cetera blog who’s been enjoying bashing what he thinks to be libertarianism. In his view, libertarians advocate ‘thin freedom’ because we advocate only that human beings should be free from the initiation of force; he maintains that we should instead advocate a ‘thicker’ form of ‘freedom’ – namely the forcible appropriation of wealth and the enslavement of other human beings for our own ends. He calls this ‘substantive freedom,’ but perhaps ‘thick’ might be the correct term.

"If you tie me up," says Richard, "that's bad because it stops me from doing the things I want. If untying me wouldn't change any of that, then it wouldn't do me any good. And if I could continue to do all the things I wanted despite being tied up, then it wouldn't really be much of a harm. What matters, in either case, is what opportunities are open to me. Whether I've been "interfered" with is of secondary (and derivative) importance." Not only should we untie Richard, he claims, but we should clothe and feed him as well ... or at least provide him with an income to do so.

Naturally, I view this as sophistic nonsense (ie., bullshit) and said as much in the comments thread.

I’ve already argued against his substantive views here, and then replied at some length here in a piece entitled ‘Why libertarians don’t own their bodies.’ Richard has not however been persuaded.

I posted a reply to the so-called 'problem of initial acquisition' below, and here is a link to my second lengthy sally, 'Freedom, through thick and thin.' The lietmotif is from Ayn Rand's 'Anthem':

I do not surrender my treasures, nor do I share them. The fortune of my spirit is not to be blown into coins of brass and flung to the winds as alms for the poor of the spirit. I guard my treasures: my thought, my will, my freedom. And the greatest of these is freedom.

Read on here.

The Site of Brian

DPF has the link to the website of the newly crowned and extraordinarily humble Bishop Brian Tamaki of the Destiny Church. It's hard to know which site is funnier, the offical Brian site or the unofficial 'happy clapping for Jesus' Brian site hosted by the Density Church. Some of the comments on the DPF thread are hilarious:

"Look on the bright side - no doubt Tamaki's political start-up will corner the stupid bigot market..."

"I liked his use of grammar in this quote, 'The Christian religion must prevail over all other false religions.'"

"The man has all the potential to be the leader of the Maori Taliban."

The site itself is even funnier: "The Media: a modern day witchcraft," declares Brian. He's not really serious, is he? Sadly, he is.

So too is his political party: leader and former policeman Richard Lewis was interviewed yesterday on 'Agenda.' He didn't mention stoning sinners, but he did look like he was about to start taking names ...

Saturday, 18 June 2005

The ‘problem’ of initial acquisition

Philosopher and academic Gerald Cohen has a problem with how values come into the world; how they came to exist. He calls this ‘the problem of initial acquisition.’ I call it trivial idiocy, but he and his supporters set great store by it.

Cohen argues that all the world’s resources were originally ‘jointly owned’ and therefore like Proudhon he claims that all property is therefore theft. “Why was its original privatization not a theft of what rightly should (have continued to) be held in common?” he asks.

There is a ‘dilemma’ in this ‘theft,’ says Cohen:

1. The acquisition of most natural resources was by force. 2. Either force made the acquisition illegitimate or not. 3. If it did, then governments may now rightfully confiscate and redistribute it. 4. If it did not, then governments may now rightfully confiscate it and redistribute it. 5. Hence, either way, if force was the source of the initial acquisition, then governments may rightfully redistribute current holdings.

You will observe then that he follows Marx’s programme for the abolition of property as advocated in point one of the Communist Manifesto, and that he makes the same error as Proudhon of stealing the concept of ownership in order to argue against it – as Marx himself pointed out.

But let’s be clear: he is advocating theft. Ironically, Proudhon wasn’t advocating anything of the sort; unlike Cohen, he was being ironic. “Property in its modern form…,” Proudhon went on to say, “may in fact be considered as a triumph of Liberty. For it is born of Liberty, not, as it may first appear, against right, but through the operation of a better understanding of right.... There is a corollary to this principle, that property is the only power that can act as a counterweight to the State…”

Indeed. And this is what Cohen is arguing against. He wants a State large enough to give him anything he wants. As Thomas Jefferson pointed out, such a State is big enough to take it all away again - and take it away big governments frequently do.

In any case, Cohen's claim that the world is or ever was “jointly owned” itself requires some support. Where's his evidence for this? Quite apart from stealing the very concept of ownership, to which Cohen can certainly claim no right, the claim is absurd on its face.

If, for example, the island on which Robinson Crusoe were to find himself turned out be be vast -- turned out to be, say, the coast of West Australia -- then Crusoe would have no more claim to an ownership share in the entire continent of Australia than would an aboriginal tribe living 2,500 miles away on the New South Wales coast, and in no sense can either be said to have ever ‘jointly owned’ the whole continent. In fact, if those two locations were the only Australian locations to be inhabited, then no one would own Australia – it would in fact not be jointly owned as Mr Cohen claims, but entirely unowned, with the exception of course of the small area that each group or each person is using to sustain themselves. They would notbetween them own all of Australia; they would each only own what they owned. Having recognised that, we can see that, contra Cohen, Crusoe no more takes food out of the mouths of those 2,500 miles away on the opposite coast than those living there do so out of his, and it is fatuous to base an entire argument on the assertion that they do.

This argument of initial acquisition is of little importance outside the academies; it is of little importance for three very simple reasons:
1) Most land isn’t acquired by theft anyway, except in those few remaining bastions of Marxism that still follow Mr Cohen’s antediluvian social model.
2) Most ‘property in such and such’ is in things other than land: sweaters, for instance; cars; laptops; skyscrapers; cyclotrons; the beer in my fridge, etc. Was the ‘initial acquisition’ of my Dell Inspiron 8000 done by force? Of course it wasn’t. Would I retaliate if you tried to take the beer out of my fridge? Of course I would.

3) As I’ve said before, most importantly, most property is in things that have been brought into the world as a new thing that did not previously exist. In such things the producer has a clear natural right. In this respect, John Locke's argument that property rights come from "mixing one's labour" with nature is clearly lacking, but James Sadowsky's 'entrepreneurial theory of property' offers support. As Sadowsky points out: Examples of good judgement do not necessarily involve production, or even any real labour. It may for example be doing something as simple as moving something from one place to another. A jug of water for example is more valuable in the Sahara than on the shores of the Nile. Moving it there adds value, and makes the world wealthier. If I moved it, that new value is mine. (Note here that if that ownership right is not recognised and the water is taken away, I might very well die of it. This shows again the important connection between the right to property and our right to life, and the consequence for the latter if the former is taken away.)
In fact, it 'entrepreneurial' activity such as this that explains how all wealth is built. Wealth and property are not created by theft, but by moving things from lower value to a higher value (see for example my brief explanation of wealth-creation in 'The Miracle of Breakfast.'), whether that is done by trade, or by recognising a resource where it did not previously exist, or by creating a value where it did not previously exist. It is not, as John Locke asserted, that the mixing of our labour with property justifies our right in that property; what make sit ours is that we have mixed our minds with what exists to bring a new thing into existence.

So Cohen has a problem with ownership and with wealth. He doesn’t like it, and he clearly doesn’t understand it. To use his example, if I own a sweater, Cohen maintains that somehow deprives someone else of that sweater – as if a) there are only so many sweaters to go around, and b) the sweater was plucked from a sweater tree jointly owned by all of us, and not produced and brought into the world by a certain individual who has the rightful claim of ownership of that sweater, and who may then wear it, destroy it or use it to trade for other goods or services – just as I did with the producer in order to take possession of the sweater.
But that sweater-producer owes a debt to others, you say. To whom? To the person who claims he is deprived of it because he doesn’t want to offer him a value in exchange? To that moocher he owes nothing but contempt. To the shepherd? The wool-sorter? That debt has already been paid: they each produced part of the sweater, and each exchanged the value of what they produced for a greater value, such as their own beer vouchers to put their beer into their own fridge.

How about the people who ‘jointly owned’ the sheep, or who ‘jointly owned’ the fields in which the sheep were grazing then? Get outta here. Neither fields nor sheep are any more ‘jointly owned’ than is the beer in my fridge. Enclosing an unused field takes away nothing from anyone else. Buying a used field from one who has already enclosed it takes away nothing from anyone else. Growing sheep on that field takes away nothing from anything else, and brings into the world a new value that never previously existedas in fact does each stage of this process, from enclosure to shearing.

If it were I that enclosed that bought that field and produced those sheep, then these newly produced values are mine, and I have every right to them. Producing these values and trading those which are surplus to my requirements is what keeps me alive, and allows me to stock my fridge.

So if Mr Cohen wants one of my beers, let him ask nicely. And let him realise too that a beer tastes best when you know you've earned it.

[UPDATE: Updated and slightly revised, 24 September 2005]

The owner of [such] property performs an entrepreneurial function. He must predict the future valuation that he and others will make and act or not act accordingly. He is ‘rewarded’ not primarily for his work, but for his good judgement.

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Force

The precondition of a civilised society is the barring of physical force from social relationships – thus establishing the principle that if men wish to deal with one another, they may do so only by means of reason: by discussion, persuasion and voluntary, uncoerced agreement. – Ayn Rand.

Rand’s formulation is similar to earlier injunctions against force by such thinkers as Auberon Herbert, Herbert Spencer, and Wilhelm von Humboldt.

It is important to note that it applies not to all use of force, but to specifically to the initiation of its use. Force is never justified when initiated against others, but only when used to in retaliation against its initiators, i.e. in self-defence.

To rule out force used in self-defence -- or to collapse the distinction between initiatory force and force used in retaliation by labelling both as 'violence' -- does not remove aggression, it rewards it.

'Non-violence' invites agression, it does not disarm those who choose to ignore your 'peaceful protest.'

It’s important to note also that the notion of physical force is not intended to be confined to direct acts of first-strike violence, but also their precursors and derivatives, e.g. threats and fraud – intimidating or deceiving someone into a course of action to which he would not otherwise have consented.

The essence of the evil of force is that it is the negation of a person's mind and the choices otherwise freely made, effected by an attack or the threat of attack on a person’s body and/or property. It is an assault on his distinctively human attributes, his very essence as a human being. It is only by such direct physical coercion that man's rights may be violated, by compelling him by force to act against his own judgement.

People generally have no difficulty identifying and condemning individuals who coerce other individuals, but they are conditioned to accept and applaud coercive behaviour by governments. Therein lies the challenge to libertarians!

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians. Originally published in The Free Radical. The 'Introduction' to the series is here.

Don't be smart

The Onion has a point here when they say "I can't think of anything ruder than people who have to be all brainy and intelligent. As my mother used to say, if you can't say anything mundane, don't say anything at all."

Quite right too. In future I'll be keeping my opinions to myself. And that's my firm opinion.

Coalition options

The Fairfax poll released this morning suggests 68% of people polled say they want coalition preferences known before the election.

As I've said before here, in my opinion the presumption of coalition is not necessarily a good oner for a minor party.
Every coalition party in the MMP era has either been burnt by being too close to power (think Alliance), or is simply irrelevant (think Progressive). Which raises the question: How exactly should a minor party act when confronted by holding the balance of power?

If they're principled and in favour of more freedom and less government, then they have no problem: they can simply say "We will support every measure that advances freedom without introducing any new coercion." And then they would do so. Such support would be reliable (as long as freedom is advanced) and consistent. Such a policy is that followed by the Costa Rican libertarian party Movimiento Libertario, who hold 5 of Costa Rica's 57 Congressional seats, and it's worked fine for them.

I explain here how the studious application of this principle would suggest that killing the entire front bench of Government in their beds would be unprincipled; and here (scroll down to 'We'll get our fair share of abuse') how this principle would rule out support for a flat tax, for educational vouchers, and for state welfare being a 'hand-up and not a hand-out.'
Seems to be that principled support such as this is better for everyone involved, and would certainly advance freedom while concentrating people's minds on what exactly "new coercion" looks like. There's plenty of it about at present.

Friday, 17 June 2005

Liberty's birthday

Statue of Liberty120 years ago today, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbour from France as a gift to the American people from the people of France. Her creator, sculptor Frederic Bartholdi called her "Liberty Enlightening the World."

For generations of new Americans, it was their first glimpse of America as their ship came into New York Harbour; for others around the world it is still a symbol of the advance of liberty.

Happy Birthday, Libbie.

[ See how you score on this Liberty Trivia challenge. I got 94% -- not that I'm boasting of course -- but for some reason it refuses to believe Emma Lazarus is the author of 'The New Colossus.' ]

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
with silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Hey, Che

Another birthday to commemorate today, that of Che Guevara, immortalised in the 'Motorcycle Diaries' and on countless bedroom walls, a man who "was monumentally vain and epically stupid. He was shallow, boorish, cruel and cowardly. He was full of himself, a consummate fraud and an intellectual vacuum. He was intoxicated with a few vapid slogans, spoke in clichés and was a glutton for publicity." Not my words, but those of this guy.

In short, Che was just a cheap thug and a murderer. So to mark his birthday, Duncan Bayne has a better poster than the one you usually see, and a photo of his corpse. I guess he's glad Che's gone.

When breast is not always best (reposting)

[Blog reposting from April 11]

Liz Weatherly, a mother of three from Torbay, is spearheading an effort to have the Human Wrongs Act amended to protect women who breastfeed on other people's property from being asked not to. The petition follows in the path of much other legislation ensuring that that the views of property owners are ignored, so she has every chance of succeeding.

Weatherly it was who was asked by an Auckland Early Childhood Centre some eighteeen months ago not to breastfeed her nearly-three-year-old at the centre without first discussing it with the centre's owners. Instead she removed her child from the school, waited a year and then called the Holmes Show, who she told she was "not after publicity."

Yeah right. Don't mention the word 'grand-standing.'

Ms Weatherly has never apparently heard of the word 'weaning' either, so perhaps I could point her towards it now. While there, might I suggest that Ms Weatherly and her supporters read and reflect on the independence of the child, and the concept of private property, and the nature of choice.

The rest of us can read this: 'Why doesn't she just use a baby's bottle?'

Kyoto cockup

Right here is what I think of Labour's blunder on the Kyoto Protocol.

See here what it's cost the world so far, and what the World's average temperature is on a moment-by-moment basis.

And see here how the G8 "has removed plans to fund research and put into question top scientists' warnings that global warming is already under way." They "also explicitly endorse the use of 'zero-carbon' nuclear power." Environmentalists might want to think about joining them in that endorsement...

Yeah right, Helen

How does taking people's property to give the public free access to private land impact on people's property rights?

"It doesn't impact on their property rights at all."

That must be true, because Helen Clark on Michael Laws' radio show just said so. And she wouldn't lie, would she.

Remember, as Helen told us in the 1999 election campaign: "The State is sovereign." What she says goes.

It doesn't impact on their property rights. Yeah right.

Join Action Orange

If you're an advocate of property rights, this is your week to protest. Here's how.

Legalisation protects quality

See what happens when you have legal drugs? If you keep them out of the hands of criminals and corrupt policemen you can make sure the people who do sell them are honest, and the drugs are safe.

Who would you rather have in charge of the quality of recreational drugs? Criminals? Corrupt policemen? Or honest businessmen from the Social Tonics Association of New Zealand?

Creating a class system

More from the credit where credit is due file:

You might remember me discussing the myth that in free markets the rich get richer and the poor just stay poor. I quoted Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell, who make the point that it's not rich businessmen who keep the poor in penury, it's the dumb white liberals.

Rodney Hide has some evidence of this with the Working for Families scheme introduced by Little Steve Maharey. Now, as liberals go there's surely few dumber than Little Stevie, and this programme is sure going to keep families poor. As Rodney says, "It doesn’t matter how hard you work – you can’t improve your lot. It doesn’t matter either if you slack off – your income stays much the same... That’s the re-creation of a class sytem – everyone stuck where they are now are."

He's right you know.

The miracle of breakfast

There'll never be a perfect breakfast eaten until some man grows arms long enough to stretch down to New Orleans for his coffee and over to Norfolk for his rolls, and reaches up to Vermont and digs a slice of butter out of a spring-house, and then turns over a beehive close to a white clover patch out in Indiana for the rest. Then he'd come pretty close to making a meal on the amber that the gods eat on Mount Olympia.
- O. Henry
Of course, O. Henry wrote those words nearly a century ago.  And he wrote them with a wink.

We need neither long arms nor a big breakfast table to feast on this breakfast of the gods -- we enjoy it now, as O. Henry did then. All that's needed is the division of labour and the freedom to trade; the 'invisible hand' of the market does the rest. As Adam Smith said,
"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest." 
The butcher, the brewer and the baker "direct [their] industry in such a manner as [their] produce may be of the greatest value," and we are the beneficiaries of their labours -- each "intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention." 

There's nothing miraculous about Smith's 'invisible hand,' it is simply the recognition that when each producer trades the fruits of their labour, they each win by that trade.

In the words of the economists, when I trade my apples for my neighbour's oranges to the goods are moved from 'lower value' to a 'higher value'; that is, I value the oranges more than my apples, and my neighbour values my apples more than his oranges. The sum result of this and every voluntary trade is that both traders win - everyone kicks a goal! -- and from each trade new wealth is created thereby: the economy is greater for the sum of the higher values achieved, and my breakfast table is richer by some freshly squeezed orange juice.

The same is true when I pay for butter from Vermont (or the Waikato) to be brought to my breakfast table: the chain of trades necessarily increases the wealth of all involved. Frederic Bastiat identified the miracle himself when observing that sleeping Parisians worried not about their next breakfast:

On coming to Paris for a visit, I said to myself: Here are a million human beings who would all die in a few days if supplies of all sorts did not flow into this great metropolis. It staggers the imagination to try to comprehend the vast multiplicity of objects that must pass through its gates tomorrow, if its inhabitants are to be preserved from the horrors of famine, insurrection, and pillage. And yet all are sleeping peacefully at this moment, without being disturbed for a single instant by the idea of so frightful a prospect. On the other hand, eighty departments have worked today, without cooperative planning or mutual arrangements, to keep Paris supplied. How does each succeeding day manage to bring to this gigantic market just what is necessary - neither too much nor too little?
Paris gets fed. How?

Bastiat of course knew the answer to this seemingly complex puzzle: what ensures that Paris is fed is freedom. More specifically, an individual's freedom to think, choose, act, produce and to trade his produce with other individuals for his own reward.

By working to satisfy his own needs and wants, the free individual produces new values, and makes life (and breakfast) better for all of us who have ourselves produced something to trade with him. The 'miracle of breakfast' is that it is really no miracle at all. It is the fruit of freedom.

Thursday, 16 June 2005

I want to be a consumer, sir

Poetry afternoon here. See if you can spot the logical fallacy in the following poem by Patrick Barrington, originally published in 'Punch' in 1934. Don't say I never give out clues.
"And what do you mean to be?"
The kind old bishop said
As he took the boy on his ample knee
And patted his curly head.
"We should all of us choose a calling
To help society's plan;
Then what do you mean to be, my boy,
When you grow to be a man?"

"I want to be a consumer,"
The bright-haired lad replied
As he gazed up into the Bishop's face
In innocence open-eyed.
"I've never had aims of a selfish sort,
For that, as I know is wrong,
I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And help the world along.

"I want to be a Consumer
And live in a useful way;
For that is the thing that's needed most,
I've heard Economists say.
There are too many people working
And too many things are made.
I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And help to further trade.

"I want to be a Consumer
And work both night and day,
For that is the thing that's needed most,
I've heard Economists say.
I won't just be a Producer
Like Bobby and James and John;
I want to be a Consumer, Sir,
And help the nation on."

“But what do you want to be?”
The Bishop asked again.
“For we all have to work, as must,
I think, be plain.
Are you thinking of studying medicine
Or taking a bar exam?”
“Why, no!” exclaimed the lad
As he helped himself to jam.

I want to be a Consumer
To do my duty well;
For that’s the thing that’s needed most,
I’ve heard Economists tell.”
And so the boy resolved,
As he lit a cigar, to say:
“I want to be a Consumer,Sir,
And I want to begin today.”

Top twenty searches for Not PC, to June 16th

Some new but still odd searches. Galt knows what Benny Elias fans found to excite them, except perhaps that he's probably a knuckle-dragging moron. (As always, all searches are Googled unless otherwise noted.)
christina's world (not on front page)
blasphemy debate stephen fry (3rd)
the seven-lesson school teacher (4th on Yahoo)
benny elias rugby league rape charge (not on front page)
pc sex (4th on Yahoo)
Peter Cresswell (10th)
gangsters 18th amendment (1st on Yahoo)
midgets tiger Cambodia (3rd)
conservatives suck (5th on Yahoo)
Fallingwater Cresswell (10th)
defeat for santa barbara county district attorney tom sneddon (2nd on Yahoo)
'global warming bjorn resignations scientists un' (3rd)
bishop brian tamaki (8th on Yahoo)
invention of beer (11th on Yahoo)
velvet revolution ian wishart (9th)
16. classic sex (not on front page)
libertarianz (not on front page)
one less meddling (not on front page)
why do people street race (5th)
paul keating speech unknown soldier (not on front page)

"What nuisance?" And who came to it?

What sort of person moves next door to a chicken farm and then complains about the smell?

The sort of people who live in Inglewood in Taranaki perhaps, who come to the nuisance and then seek to make windfall profits from someone else's destruction. Story here.

I have no sympathy for people like Greg and Debbie Mitchell of Humphries Street Inglewood who move into a place knowing there's been a chicken farm just across the fence since 1966 and then complain about the smell. Neither does the common law -- at least, not in some jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions, where the common law is unenumbered by statute law such as our own Resource Management Act, the principle of coming to the nuisance would apply.

Not here. According to the Regional Council Hearings Committee decision, the business of Inglewood chicken farmer Dallas Green must close within five years.

Whilst most if not all of the submittors have `moved to the nuisance', the fact is that this is no longer an appropriate location for this type of operation... The operation is now bounded on both sides by small lot residential development with no buffer areas of rural land. This is a classic `reverse sensitivity' situation.
If land prices do rise enough, then eventually it will become uneconomic to farm chickens there ayway, but this council have basically given this farmer five years to clear the decks and bugger off.

It's time to end the practice of zoning and of rule by town planners. It's time to put a stake through the heart of the RMA. And perhaps it's time to give back legal teeth to property rights, and to the doctrine of 'coming to the nuisance.'

Pakistani justice on menu at Musharraf trade talks?

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf arrived in Auckland tonight for trade talks, his party reportedly squeezed out of Wellington by the Barmy Army.

His arrival has prompted some suggestions that Pakistan is not really a country that we would want to do business with -- at least not at arm's length -- and the 'judicial gang rape' of Mukhtaran Bibi followed by the gag order placed on her does seem to highlight the human rights problems in this 'enlightened Islamic' country.

Former Pakistan citizen and now an American, Irfan Khawaja has had enough of supporting Musharraf's role in the war on terror. "I've offered my reluctant share of 'We-have-to-support-Musharraf- because-there-are-no-better-options' excuses up to this point, but I'll never offer another," he says. "Time to see through the General's power-lusting charade, and time for the Bush Administration and the State Department to put the pressure on this fascistic pretender to the throne."

Irfan's full commments are here on his blog, including more links to further related stories. So the question arises again, is trade a tool of liberation as I argue here in the case of China? And can it help in the Pakistani case?

Is there anything else that will? Do we want to punish the Pakistani people for the infractions of their leaders? Perhaps Clark and Goff can at least join in 'putting pressure on this fascistic pretender to the throne' through the trade deal, as NRT seems to be arguing for:
Mukhtaran Bibi may have been silenced by the Pakistani government, but Helen Clark has not. And she should use her meeting with President Musharraf to be a voice for the voiceless, to demand both Bibi's release and an end to the obscene tribal justice system which abused her in the first place.
I agree with him.

[UPDATE: Following the NYT story to which I linked above, a US State Department spokesman has said, "The government of Pakistan informed us today that Ms. Mai has been removed from its Exit Control List, permitting her to travel out of Pakistan." The New York Times says there are still questions to answer.]

Schiavo autopsy

The 'Reason' blog summarises the result:

We learn from the autopsy:

  • Schiavo's brain was about half the size of a normal brain, damaged beyond any possible hope of recovery.
  • There are no signs that she was abused (by her husband or otherwise) as some had claimed, though it remains unclear what caused her to fall into a vegetative state in the first place.
  • Remember those carfully edited clips that purported to show Schiavo following a balloon with her eyes? Well, turns out she was blind.
Does it matter? Probably not: I expect most people put the whole circus out of their minds long ago, while for the true believers, this is doubtless just further evidence of how elaborate and sinister is the anti-life conspiracy to hide the "truth."

Stateless standards

The Mises Institute has an interview here on how markets protect consumers better than governments do. Beyond laws against force and fraud, as NZ libertarians advocate are necessary, is anything else really necessary -- or even desirable?

How about purchasers of 'leaky homes'? Libertarianz' Peter Osborne argues the government isn't doing a good job anyway ...

'McJobs' a foundation for success

Thomas Sowell is having a go at the notion of 'dead-end jobs.'

Many low-level jobs are called "dead-end jobs" by liberal intellectuals because these jobs have no promotions ladder. But it is superficial beyond words to say that this means that people in such jobs have no prospect of rising economically....You don't get promoted from such jobs. You use the experience, initiative, and discipline that you develop in such work to move on to something else that may be wholly different. People who start out flipping hamburgers at McDonald's seldom stay there for a full year, much less for life...

The real chumps are those who refuse to start at the bottom for "chump change." Liberals who encourage such attitudes may think of themselves as friends of the poor but they do more harm than enemies.

Full article here.

Bill of Rights birthday

This week marks the birth of the worlds' first real Bill of Rights, which oddly enough occurred in Virginia in 1776, nearly a century after England's landmark Bill of Rights of 1689.

In contrast to the "rudimentary" English version on which it was based, says historian Bernard Schwartz "the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776 was the first modern bill of rights, since it was the first to use a written constitution to insulate individual rights from the changing winds of legislative fancy."

Rick Sincere celebrates the birthday here. Compare it to the rather 'wet' version currently extant in New Zealand which has barely has any power at all, and that exhibits a version of 'Gresham's Law' in which bad rights drive out good.

Wednesday, 15 June 2005

The die-while-you-wait health system

No, I don't mean the New Zealand health system, although you could easily be forgiven for thinking I do.

What I'm referring to is a Cox & Forkum cartoon, Queutopia, and a Wall Street Journal article, Unsocialized Medicine; A landmark ruling exposes Canada's health-care inequity:
The larger lesson here is that health care isn't immune from the laws of economics. Politicians can't wave a wand and provide equal coverage for all merely by declaring medical care to be a "right," in the word that is currently popular on the American left.

There are only two ways to allocate any good or service: through prices, as is done in a market economy, or lines dictated by government, as in Canada's system. The socialist claim is that a single-payer system is more equal than one based on prices, but last week's court decision reveals that as an illusion. Or, to put it another way, Canadian health care is equal only in its shared scarcity.

So okay, I do mean the NZ health system. Replace 'Canadian' with 'NZ' in the above and the argument is the same, isn't it?

Care to queue?

Building slums while banning growth

The same high-density planning imposition that Mother Hucker wants to impose in places like Glenn Innes and Panmure to make building slums compulsory are the same impositions planned for 51 'nodal developments' from Pukekohe to Warkworth that are zoned for minimum densities greater than Central London, and these impositions come from the same planning mindset that is already making it virtually impossible to build at all outside the Metropopitan Urban Limit (MUL). Don't believe me? Then listen up.

But listen first to the Eastlife Community newspaper, whose editor has had a good look at what's going on and says, "The planners have really gone to town on this one and if you're the type that gets bothered about social engineering then it might pay to pop a few heart pills before you start."

"So what's the 'Metropopitan Urban Limit'?" I hear you cry. Good question. ' Here's how the Auckland City Council planning department defines the 'MUL': "... a planning technique used to define urban limits and limit sprawl on rural areas. It is a line drawn on regional planning documents to define the allowed extent of urban zoning. Sometimes called Urban Limits or growth boundary." So there you have it. It's where the planning busybodies have waved their pen, making properties on side one more valuable (those 'within the growth boundary') than those on the other side.

What's new now is that the Auckland Regional Council's planners have upped the stakes. With the so-called Smart Growth of 'Plan Change 6' they've decided 'Countryside Living' -- that's the stuff you do outside the 'growth boundary' -- is “unsustainable” because, get this, it “undermines public transport.” They mean it. This 'plan change' is in essence a plan to end countryside living and to make rural New Zealand a National Park.

They do mean it. Manukau councillor and former Olympian Dick Quax has listed just a few of the projects outside the ARC's MUL already facing problems or predicated on this nonsense:

  • Beachlands and Maraetai are outside of the Metropolitan Urban Limits (MUL). Plan change 6 states that urban activity is prohibited outside the MUL. This means that, schools, kindergartens, churches will not be able to set up in Beachlands, Maraetai or Kawakawa.
  • The proposed Flat Bush development undertaken by the Manukau City Council is driven by the philosophy that says that Auckland must not grow outside the MUL. Quite clearly this has created an artificial scarcity of available land. This artificial scarcity has the effect of driving up the cost of land shattering the plans of the middle or low income people to owntheir own house.
  • The ARC has objected to an application to the Rodney District Council to develop a daycare centre in a rural zone on the grounds that it should be an urban activity.
  • The ARC is the sole objector to a proposal to redevelop the old Villa Maria winery in Mangere on the basis that this will allow urban activities in a rural area.
  • Small farms are the most rapidly expanding activity within the rural economy. From all accounts the ARC now requires that any new small farm must be developed within the MUL or within existing townships.
  • Even the countryside bed and breakfast establishments will be outlawed because they are not supported by public transport.
But there's just no rationale for any of this. As Quax points out, "The notion that Auckland is running out of land is simply not so. Urbanised land in New Zealand only occupies 0.8% of all land available. Even the most densely populated country in Europe, Netherlands which has a population density of 400 people per square kilometer (NZ has 15 per square kilometer) has only 7% of its total area urbanized. The remainder is forested or used for agriculture."

"It is a fact of life," says Quax, "that the vast majority of us are just too busy getting on with our lives to pay much attention to matters such as the Auckland Regional Growth Strategy, the Local Government (Auckland Amendment) Act or plan changes that will affect how we live, where we and most importantly our quality of life." Tough. Time to get involved and start fighting back if you want to protect your property rights.

Owen McShane says "the ARC's proposed Plan Change 6 represents the greatest intervention into our personal freedoms and property rights ever proposed under any land use legislation in New Zealand." That's even worse than Owen's beloved RMA!

Pressure on the ARC's politicians has already brought a result, reports the Herald this morning: "The chairman of the Auckland Regional Council, Mike Lee, is calling for an overhaul of the region's controversial growth strategy, including a freeze on intensification plans in suburbs like Glen Innes in the meantime. "

Don't believe a word. From the same article Mother Hucker says "
the growth strategy was basically sound and needed no overhaul," and Lee declares "Yes, it is sensible to intensify areas like the CBD and around rail corridors but I would like to look at a more necklace-like approach whereby we look at centres along the rail corridor such as Pukekohe, Te Kauwhata in the Waikato and north to Helensville and Kaukapakapa for a hamlet-type township approach." He's not backing off at all, is he? He advises that "a look at growth from a broader perspective [is] needed, to get a national policy statement on population and development."

What is needed is to give these busybody blowhards the bum's rush, and to get our property rights back. It is the Local Government Act and the Resource Management Act that have allowed this travesty to be contemplated. You can't say you weren't warned.


You know, the internet is a wonderful thing. While I'm having a coffee break here I'm watching the TV programme 'Bullshit' by "self-proclaimed pit-bulls of truth" Penn and Teller on my Winamp. Okay, I am cheap.

Winamp is my new net enthusiasm (I still like Firefox but). It's so good, you have to download it yourself, which you can do here, then scroll down to 'SHOUTcast TV' and look for the channels currently playing Penn and Teller -- there appears to be something of a marathon at the moment. And do try and avoid all the 'live nude girl' shows ... if you can.

Graham Kelly, diplomat

Well , Graham Kelly is clearly no diplomat. And we might remember that as Labour Housing spokesman our present High Commissioner to Canada called for all State houses to be lifted up and turned north to face the sun. So apart from causing offence, being an idiot, and being a Labour party hack, is he any sort of historian?

Well, if you read his comments in the speech he gave to the Canadian Senate -- the one that has now got him in so much trouble -- you might well wonder why he chose a senate inquiry as a place to break into stand-up comedy (perhaps he thought that compared to the Canadians he might be considered a humourist), but apart from the usual exaggerations for comedic effect I can't see that he's historically incorrect in what he's reported to have said.

So is it now 'racist' to tell the truth and to joke about it? Are we all just too bloody ready to be offended?* As Stephen Fry said in the 'Blasphemy Debate,' when someone says to you as if it's the final word on a matter 'I'm offended by what you said,' the correct answer is "So fucking what?"

But Stephen Fry is not a diplomat either.
A list of those in a lather about being 'offended' includes (in no particular order) Aaron Bhatnagar, Sir Humphreys, Tariana, the Green Party, Kenneth Wang, Whale Oil, Kiwi Pundit, Pansy Wong, John Tamihere, Georgina Te Heuheu - and Uncle Tom Cobley and all are queuing out the back to take seconds.

Kelly's full testimony can be found here.

A spiritual quest

Two inspiring reflections on libertarianism came to mind as I was putting together this piece, a rather mechanical argument for libertarianism put together to answer a critic, as I explain here.

What the merely mechanical arguments miss is the idea that the battle for freedom is a 'spiritual quest.' It's true. Author Nathaniel Branden puts the case in his essay'Foundations for a Free Society' (which appeared in 'Free Radical' #21):

[p]eople have not only material needs, they have psychological needs, they have spiritual needs. And it is the spiritual needs that will have the last word. Until the libertarian vision is understood as a spiritual quest and not merely an economic quest, it will continue to face the kind of misunderstandings and adversaries it faces today.
... A free society cannot flourish on a culture committed to irrationalism. And 20th-century philosophy has witnessed a virulent worldwide rebellion against the values of reason, objectivity, science, truth, and logic — under such names as postmodernism, poststructuralism, deconstructionism, and a host of others.
It's not an accident that most of the people doing the attacking also happen to be statists. In fact, I don't know of any who aren't. You cannot have a noncoercive society if you don't have a common currency of exchange, and the only one possible is rational persuasion. But if there is no such thing as reason, the only currency left is coercion.


We cannot talk about politics or economics in a vacuum. We have to ask ourselves: On what do our political convictions rest? What is the implicit view of human nature that lies behind or underneath our political beliefs? What is our view of how human beings ought to relate to one another? What is our view of the relationship of the individual to the state? What do we think is "good" and why do we think so?
Any comprehensive portrait of an ideal society needs to begin with identifying such principles as those, and from that developing the libertarian case. We do have a soul hunger, we do have a spiritual hunger, we do want to believe and feel and experience that life has meaning. And that's why we need to understand that we're talking about much more than market transactions. We're talking about an individual's ownership of his or her own life. The battle for self-ownership is a sacred battle, a spiritual battle, and it involves much more than economics.

All very true, and all too easily forgotten. Ayn Rand summed it up in her 1938 novella Anthem (her own 1984/Brave New World), first published in England one year before World War II:

I am neither friend nor foe to my brothers, but such as each of them shall deserve of me. And to earn my love, my brothers must do more than to have been born. I do not grant my love without reason, nor to any chance passer-by who may wish to claim it. I honor men with my love. But honor is a thing to be earned.
I shall choose friends among me, but neither slaves nor masters. And I shall choose only such as please me, and them I shall love and respect, but neither command nor obey. And we shall join our hands when we wish, or walk alone when we so desire. For in the temple of his spirit, each man is alone. Let each man keep his temple untouched and undefiled. Then let him join hands with others if he wishes, but only beyond his holy threshold.

If you enjoyed reading this small sample, you might enjoy hearing the climactic speech of the book in MP3 form. The executive producer of the audio recording, Bob Bidinotto has the sample here.

The philosophical deduction of a genius

Cartoon by Nick Kim, courtesy of The Free Radical.

Why libertarians don't own their own bodies

I’ve been intending for some time to respond at length to the libertarian-bashing of Richard Chapple from the ‘Philosophy et cetera’ blog, about which I referred here. So I have. At some length. Here.

I commend it to your attention.

Tuesday, 14 June 2005

Hell of an apology

The vote to send a politician to Hell has been 'apologised' for by Hell Pizza whose competition it is.

Hell Pizza is offering a free boogie board and a "holiday that could last a lifetime" to Bali to one lucky person who enters a poll asking which politicians should be "sent to Hell" for their sins.
The winner also gets "an extra $500 ... if they get a photo of themselves with Schapelle Corby."

has apparently prompted wowser Australians to complain, to whom Hell Pizza have offered an apology. Sort of. "In the art of reciprocation," they say the Hell Pizza MD will only apologise if the Australian government themselves apologises for a list of things including:
  • Fosters and XXXX
  • Ignoring the refugee kids chucked over boats off the coast of oz
  • Big Brother and all other car crash tv
  • Hunting aborigines up until the 1970s
  • Apologise to the stolen generation (54% of ozzies already think the govt should)
  • Claiming Neil Finn and Phar Lap
  • The govt allowing British scientists to test nuclear weapons on aboriginal land in the 1950s - land marked "uninhabited".
  • Pauline Hanson.
  • All the immigrants to oz wrongfully locked up in detention centres
  • The angry Australian actor beating up on poor hotel workers
  • Australian Idol
  • The underarm bowl......
An Australian has not yet been found to comment on the sin of taking umbrage.

RMA kills $6.5 million exhibition centre

Do you think National's Tauranga candidate Bob Clarkson knows who introduced the Resource Management Act? Does he realise that it was National's Simon Upton that introduced the RMA, and National's Nick Smith who administered it after Upton left for his sinecure in Paris?

Clarkson built and paid for the $15 million Blue Chip Stadium, "used for conferences, rugby and concerts as well as housing the Baypark speedway," but has just abandoned plans for a $6.5 million exhibition centre next door due to bureaucratic hassles and fourteen months of delays caused by -- you guessed it -- the RMA.
"I have been hit in the pocket. There is actually a bottom to the barrel."

So far, [reports the Herald] pursuing the necessary consent had cost him $100,000 "and we haven't even got started yet".

He accused "people in places of power" of being small-minded. "I run on adrenalin and I had a passion to get this thing underway. But I can't have my dream interrupted all the bloody time. It's unrelenting."
It's hard to knock a man when he's as all-fired go-getting as Clarkson obviously is, but do you think he knew what he was doing when he signed on to the National Party ticket?

Message to Bob Clarkson: Dump the RMA!

Michael Jackson verdict

Don't care.

Two views on China

Mark Steyn looks at China today and sees "a cunning simulation of external wealth and power that is, in fact, a forbidding false front for a state that remains a squalid hovel."

Sheldon Richman looks and says "some people just can’t take good news. They have to look for the gray lining in every silver cloud. ... The new anti-Chinese hysteria makes less sense than the old did. When will we get it through our heads that it is good for others to get rich? It makes us even richer."
Economically, the Chinese are freer than they used to be. Chinese entrepreneurs can raise capital, and foreigners can invest their money, to create productive enterprises. Chinese workers have far more choices than they used to have. The result has been stunning economic growth and an export boom fueled by low-priced high-quality products.
Steyn's point perhaps is that this success may not be sustainable as long as the authoritarian regime remains in place. "Betting on Beijing," he says, "will find the China shop is in the end mostly a lot of bull." But as I argue here, it is possible that trade with China will itself be a tool of liberation that eventually means the demolition of the 'squalid aithoritarian hovel.' As Richman says, "although China still has a communist-inspired authoritarian government, this is not your father’s Red nemesis. Much has changed in the world’s most populous country." Trade and prosperity is what is making that change possible.

Monday, 13 June 2005

Crystal Heights

Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Crystal Heights' project for Washington DC, 1939

The 2005 Big Mac Index

The Economist's authoritative 'Big Mac Index' has just been released, naturally prompting discussion about the relative strengths and weaknesses of currencies, and the notion of purchasing-power-parity (PPP) which underpins this 'index.' Oddly, no discussion is had on whether or not McD's new Deli Rolls will serve to undercut or supplant the Big Mac Index any time soon.

The cheapest Big Mac is in China and the most expensive in Switzerland. NZ falls in between, with our Big Mac price the closest of those measured to the US, and if these figures are to believed suggesting a 4% over-valuation. The Economist notes also that "the euro buys less burger than it should," "suggesting "perhaps inflexible wages, not a strong currency, are to blame."
The Big Mac index, which ['The Economist' has] compiled since 1986, is based on the notion that a currency's price should reflect its purchasing power. According to the late, great economist Rudiger Dornbusch, this idea can be traced back to the Salamanca school in 16th-century Spain. Since then, he wrote, the doctrine of purchasing-power parity (PPP) has been variously seen as a “truism, an empirical regularity or a grossly misleading simplification.”
The Salamanca school themselves can be considered proto-Austrians; the Mises blog discusses the Salamancan theory of purchasing-power parity and its modern incarnation here.

Iraq war pits 'freedomist' against 'libertarian'

A question frequently asked of me is 'Why are some libertarians for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and some against?' Why for example are libertarians at Rockwell.com and antiwar.com against the war against terrorism, and me for.

I've answered that question about my support by arguing in summary that 1) libertarianism is not necessarily isolationist, 2) that anyone has the right to liberate a slave state, though not a duty to do so, and that 3) in the context of Arab terrorism Saddam Hussein, his subterfuge over weapon inspections, terrorist activity, and his military-industrial infrastructure taken together constituted an objective threat.

But that still doen't answer the question itself. On the first of those issues, Democide researcher , Nobel Prize nominee and former libertarian R.J. Rummell suggests that libertarians have become isolationists, and his argument illuminates and helps answer the question posed above.

Rummel now calls himself a 'freedomist' (unneecessarily in my view), and he recently issued a challenge at his Freedomist Network blog to any anti-war libertarian "who wishes to make a reasoned argument for isolationism, or from a libertarian perspective, an argument against our war in Iraq. I will respond in a page, and then the libertarian will have a page to rebut me."

The challenge is here. The response to this, from Tom Knapp is here, followed by Rummel's response and Knapp's rebuttal. And just so you know Knapp's credentials, Robert Bidinotto raises them here and here.

So why has Rummel abandoned the name 'libertarian'?
[L]ibertarian is what I called myself until recently. I remain libertarian in domestic policy, which is to say the more domestic freedom from regulation, government control, taxation, and oppressive laws, the better up to a point. I am not an anarchist, but believe social justice means minimal government consistent with protecting and guaranteeing all have equal civil and political rights.

However, on foreign policy the libertarian, with some exceptions, is an isolationist, fundamentally opposed to foreign involvements and interventions. Let international relations also be free, the libertarians say, which means free trade and commerce, and freedom for other countries to do whatever they want with their people. Not our business.

On this, the libertarians are blinded by their desire for freedom, not realizing that everything, including freedom demands contextual qualification (should those with a dangerous infectious disease remain free, when they could spread it far and wide, killing maybe hundreds with it?). By their isolationism, libertarians are making the world safe for the gangs of thugs (called dictatorships) that murder, torture, and oppress a people, and rule by fear.
Now, I agree entirely with him that "by their isolationism, [some] libertarians are making the world safe for the gangs of thugs (called dictatorships) that murder, torture, and oppress a people, and rule by fear." I agree that this issue has divided libertarians, but this libertarian doesn't see the need to change my 'name' -- the inconsistent isolationists can do that.