Saturday, 11 June 2005

Sacrifice at Makara

A cast ewe on the hills over Cook Strait -- taken some twenty years ago, and still one of my favourite photos. It's just missing Abraham and Isaac to complete the scene.

Don't mention wind farms.

Economics for the citizen

Fans, foes or friends of Austrian economics might enjoy a series of recent lectures by Joseph Salerno, which are available online at the Mises site. Wow. Don't worry, there's plenty of reading recommendations and online reading as well -- the equivalent of a whole university level course if you want to follow it through. And yes, Ruth, there's two lectures on gold which should make you very happy.

If that's a little much for you on a weekend, but you still want some economic learning, Walter Williams has a short series of ten articles comprising "a few lectures on basic economic principles to my readership. We'll name the series 'Economics for the Citizen.' The first lesson in economic theory is that we live in a world of scarcity..." Here it is.

Hubba hubba from the Trojan Games

If you don't have a rubber then you can't compete at the Trojan Games. The sport of 'pelvic powerlifting' looks to be my favourite event.
[Hat tip Noodle Food]

The blasphemy debate - Hitchens v Fry

The well-read and witty Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens entertainingly debate blasphemy, religious freedom, multiculturalism and hate speech, and whether or why there should be limits on speech and offensive behaviour. A bit too much agreement for a genuine debate, but there you go. The site is here, along with a number of other fascinating debates from the Hay Festival, including whether "history will be kinder to Bush and Blair than to Chirac and Schroeder."
[Hat tip SOLO.]

Friday, 10 June 2005

Mile high tower

As I've said before, what was needed as an architectural response to the destruction of the twin Towers was the swift design and construction of another proud and soaring thing, a building demonstrating defiance to the savagery that made such a replacement necessary, and a celebration of the values under attack. Something like Frank Lloyd Wright's Mile High Tower perhaps.

Unfortunately that's not going to happen, here's something exciting: the good people at Columbia University have put together a series of very impressive digital images and movies of the Tower in a setting that includes some of Frank's other 'Usonian' designs. Visit and download, and live in Frank's world for a few minutes:Introduction, Images, short movie, longer movie. Read here about Frank's 'Broadacre City' concept - everything the planners hate -- and for Frank's own drawings which he prepared to indicate what such a place might be like, go here, and then scroll down past the sc-fi and Buckminster Fuller pictures.

Beethoven on the cheap

If you're cheap, and you've got musical taste (unlike some I could name) then here's an opportunity to download all Beethoven's nine marvelous symphonies in MP3, courtesy of the British taxpayer. [Hat tip, Patrix.]

Outrage at Ground Zero

Remember this?
Well, as you stare at those smoking buildings, now hear this (from Robert Bidinotto):

"The hard Left has hijacked the [rebuilding] project to build a memorial to the victims of Islamist terror at Ground Zero in New York City...and are going to turn it into a 300,000 square foot anti-American propaganda center."

Bidinotto has the story, the anger, and the contact details to make a noise in protest.

[UPDATE: Cox and Forkum comment on the story here.]

Orauta court protest

Libz protestors this morning outside the Kaikohe courthouse, protesting at the prosecution of Orauta School trustees and parents. See story on the blog below, or go here. (L to R, Helen Hughes - Libz candidate for Whangarei, Lady Liberty, Julian Pistorius - Libz for Northland, and Robin Thomsen - Libz for Hamiton East.) More pictures here.

United: Release the drug hounds!

Russell Brown pulls apart the United Party's absurd 'arrest-them-all-let-God-sort-them-out' policy on drug use. What are they smoking?, he asks. God probably knows. As Russell notes, according to St Peter (Dunne) "teenagers caught with a joint could expect a prison sentence [or compulsory re-education] ... if United Future got its way. It would, he maintained, teach people that drugs are bad. It is more likely to teach them that the law is an ass."

Sure would. And the law is an ass, and not just here. As some of you may have heard, the US Supreme Court has decided that medial marijuana users can go to hell, and they can go there screaming in pain (summary here). Bizarrely enough, the 'interstate commerce' section of the US Constitution was used to justify this injustice, opening the door to allowing the federal government to regulate any activity of any individual if, "when aggregated together with all similarly situated people, that person’s activity will have a 'substantial effect' on interstate commerce." Isnt it great how the law can be used to justify anything.

The law is an ass.

Orauta School still fighting, but not in court

The Ministry of Education appeared in court this morning to prosecute Orauta School's trustees and parents, but instead a statement was read from Trustees Chairman Ken Brown stating he didn't recognise the authority of the court. In front of 'a couple of dozen supporters,' some of whom had flown in from Australia pledging financial support for the defendants, the judge postponed the fixture until the 26th of June. [This account comes courtesy of Julian Pistorius, who phoned in with the news.]

As 'Not PC' readers are no doubt aware (see for example stories here and here) this row began when some months ago Trevor Mallard declared the school closed, and unlike many other parents of other schools they refused to bow to his wishes. (Some other schools have followed suit.) The Orauta school trustees, on whose land the school stands, immediately served trespass notices on Education Minister Trevor Mallard, Ministry of Education staff and contractors and Members of Parliament.

Now, they're doing what they can to keep their school open, their children educated properly and the bureaucrats from the door. But why do the grey ones want to close them down? Who the hell knows. Asked in parliament, "Why is the Associate Minister threatening to prosecute parents who are sending their children to Orauta School, where the children are receiving a schooling, whilst at the same time he says that nothing can be done about the three families at Môkau, whose children are receiving no schooling at all?" Benson-Dope blathered, "Such situations as the two mentioned are clearly not in the best interests of the students concerned. The reason there are prosecutions proceeding at Orauta is that the statutory checks and controls on that situation cannot be exercised. However, that situation is much less serious than the Leader of the Opposition visiting such places and endorsing such breaches."

God alone knows what "the statutory checks and controls on that situation cannot be exercised" actually means, but the last refererence there is to Don Brash's visit to and endorsement of Papakura's Kotahitanga Trust. A pity he and others been so quiet about Orauta, but at least the Libertarianz haven't been (see here and here for example).

Look for the story and pictures to appear tonight on Maori TV, TV1 and TV3 news.

[UPDATE (2:45pm): TVNZ story here.]

Smacking or beating?

There are people who don't understand the difference between smacking and beating. Sue Bradford says on 'Breakfast TV' this morning that she is not one of them. Her Private Members Bill to remove the defence of 'reasonable force' from parents who smack their children says otherwise however.

Bradford claims her bill would simply stop parents beating 'our chooldren' with leather straps, lumps of wood, bamboo canes and horse whips, but surely these things are already illegal now if what's being dished out causes serious injury. She also denies that the bill would turn parents into criminals -- "I don't believe any policeman would go into someone's home and arrest them for lightly smacking a child" -- but that is preciely what her bill will do. In any case, 'Bradfud's bool' isn't going to stop people who are already inclined to beat their children senseless, but it will needlessly criminalise those who choose to smack their children. And they are their children, not Sue's.

For once, Phil Goff is talking sense. "Justice Minister Phil Goff said he did not oppose the bill going to a select committee, but did not want to make criminals out of parents. 'As a parent, I know the sort of frustrations and the tensions that can build up, and parents, from time to time, will smack their children.' He said Section 59 did not allow the use of unreasonable force, and 'child abuse is child abuse'."

Quite right.

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Coldplay, White Stripes - relieve the hype

Lots of hype recently over new albums by the White Stripes and by Coldplay (hell, they announce this stuff on the news these days, and EMI's share price apparently stands or falls on a Coldplay sales success) so if you want to listen before you buy -- or just to listen to whether the hype is justified -- by downloading Winamp you'll get both albums on your player in streaming form, along with a bunch of other stuff including Wynton Marsalis's new soundtrack album 'Unforgiveable Blackness,' Deborah Voigt's 'Dich, teure halle' from Tannhauser, a fine 'Celeste Aida' from Jose Carreras and lots more . And with it you get a mighty fine music player for your computer. I've been very impressed since a friend recommended Winamp for playing my CDs; give it a crack -- it's a free download.

And the hype? Coldplay is dull as cold porridge; the Stripes sparky and inventive. But check them out for yourself.

[UPDATE: Crikey, the more I look the more I find; the selection is enormous. I'm just playing Gang of Four's 'Entertainment' album, streaming over Winamp. Not for everyone of course, but I haven't heard this since the copy I won from Barry Jenkin went missing years ago. Although the 'bonus' material includes what must be the worst version of 'Sweet Jane' ever put on record, the rest of the album still shits all over Coldplay]

Thursday, 9 June 2005

Ken Burns: Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright's birthday yesterday was a great excuse to kick back tonight and watch the Ken Burns' 'Frank Lloyd Wright' biopic. I confess, I've seen it before. A few times. (In fact my copy is a well-used gift from a grateful client.) But it's so well done, and tells such a wonderful story -- and it plays so well with a few friends and a martini -- that repeated viewing is a pleasure.

The film is so well-crafted I personally recommend it - in fact, I already have: here's a review I wrote when the film first came to
Auckland a few years ago for the Film Festival.

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Hubbard: Do as we say, not as we do

As NZ Pundit and others have pointed out, “It's become obvious that Auckland Mayor Dick Hubbard's style police don't believe in property rights, but it now seems they don't believe in privacy either.”

Rules to ban the construction of new 2m-high solid masonry or stucco fences in Auckland City’s Residential 2 zone have been defended by Council heritage manager George Farrant, who said "the reason for reducing heights was to allow people to look at homes in the character zone.”

Very well then here’s one to look at: Mother Hubbard’s home in the Res 2 part of Epsom, with a vista to the east across to Mt Hobson. Perhaps appropriately, a ‘Stop’ sign greets Dick every morning when he eats his breakfast cereal and looks out at the sunrise.

The new motto of Auckland City Council, then:

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State pensions still a pyramid scheme -- Friedman

A new interview with Milton Friedman has appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle site. He still maintains that what Americans call 'Social Security' and we call Superannuation is a dishonest and immoral pyramid scheme. Asks the interviewer,

What about the fact that Social Security has reduced poverty among the elderly?

"Well," he replied, "what it has done is transfer a lot of income from the young to the old. It is certainly true it has made the old people of the United States the best treated old people in the world."

But why is that a bad thing? "Oh," he replied. "It's not a bad thing for them, but what about the young?"

The UN 'towards Arab freedom'

The UN is developing an odd leaning towards and an understanding of freedom and markets. I commented a few months on a UN Environment Report unfairly characterised by the usual suspects as a call for more authoritarian environmentalism, but which in fact "recognised[d] that environmental degradation would be best reduced by more trade and more economic growth, and less taxation and less interference by Governments. In short, by more freedom and less government."

And now R.J. Rummell points out that a new UN Report on 'human development' in the Arab World subtitled 'Towards Freedom in the Arab World' "focuses on the acute deficit of freedom and good governance" that impedes any Arab renaissance. As Rummell says, it "has much to gladden the freedomist."
No Arab thinker today doubts that freedom is a vital and necessary condition, though not the only one, for a new Arab renaissance, or that the Arab world’s capacity to face up to its internal and external challenges, depends on ending tyranny and securing fundamental rights and freedoms.
The report establishes that the thirst for freedom in the Arab World exists -- "there is a rational and understandable thirst among Arabs to be rid of despots and to enjoy democratic governance" -- the problem is a similar one to that existing in Africa and so clearly overlooked by Bob Geldof's simplistic grandstanding: not 'the Arab mind' but "the acute deficit of freedom and good governance," which "has sapped the democratic movement of any real forward momentum."

In short, people in Arab countries are ready for freedom and democracy, but Arab dictators have been killing and suppressing any real opposition.

Concludes Rummell,
Even if it is projecting on the Arab world a bias toward freedom, this report still contains enough undoubted detail and facts, like the [World Values Survey], to question the view that democracy is incompatible with Arab culture, and [the view] that President Bush's Forward Strategy of Freedom for the region is grossly unrealistic.


Gold bugs v gold standard

"There will always and forever be a confusion concerning the conceptual distinction between advocating a gold standard as a path to monetary reform and suggesting gold ownership as an lucrative investment vehicle," says the Mises Economic Blog this morning. "Fortunately for the theorists, the viability of the reform path is not bound up with the predictive power of the financial practitioners."

The Mises blog links to a New York Times article on investement gold bugs: "It's a charming piece of reporting," they say, "that does no harm to the sector of the investment community that is devoted to gold as a investment," and should they say be of interest to Austrians -- and perhaps also to others who share the confusion over the distinction between gold bugs and advocates of securing the currency by means of precious metals.

Govt spending can't even get public transport right

Chris Trotter's 'Independent' column, posted yesterday morning at DPF's blog, makes the point among things that "Six years of unprecedented spending on health and education have not produced the anticipated results."

This should be no surprise however, and seems to be a rule with government spending: the more that's spent, the more that needs to be spent. The more that's spent on welfare for example, the more problems are created and the more that still needs to be spent to fix those problems, and so on. As public choice theorists explain, Government spending has very different outcomes and incentives to those that exist in free markets, and the results are often counter-intuitive.

A good example is the spending that takes place with public transport -- the more that is spent on a system of public transport, the better for everyone, right? We just have to pump in a little money up front to get the right system so thatwe can get the bums of taxpayers and ratepayers on public transport seats and then hey-ho a merry-o, right?

Wrong. As 'Reason' magazine points out today, Washington DC Metro is a $10 billion lavishly subsidised world-beating public transport system that is so all-powerfully successful it needs more money. That's right. Says 'Reason':
Metro officials lament that their system is beset by too many riders and that funding must increase to cope with them all. And this is a $10 billion modern system, the oldest parts of which are only a few decades old, one that has been lavished with federal subsidies since its inception, one that has benefited from a good design and the necessary development density to make light rail function. And yet Metro wants its own dedicated regional sales tax to keep the system running.

Cities contemplating pumping tens or hundreds of millions into light rail systems need to ask themselves how they would avoid the problems Metro now grapples with. Absent a good answer, maybe the best idea is to pass on the projects and avoid the whole too few/too many dilemma.

The Washington Post analysis is here. Send it to an ARC councillor.


Wednesday, 8 June 2005

Happy birthday Frank

Google have pulled their finger out for Frank Lloyd Wright's birthday today. Check out the Google homepage, and follow some of their links.

Happy birthday Frank.

House by Claude Megson

A 'pavilion within a clearing' -- House in Whangarei by the late Claude Megson.


Cue Card Libertarianism -- Immigration

As with compulsory income tax, it is salutary to remind ourselves that extensive border controls are a recent invention. Prior to this century, the United States in particular was a model of unfettered right of entry (the forced entry of black slaves and exclusion of Chinese being ignoble exceptions). The paraphernalia of immigration, or mere travel – passports, visas, exit permits, quota numbers, etc – were not required. People made the journey at their own expense and risk, knowing that on arrival they would have to support themselves. Not all enjoyed or conquered, so that between a quarter and a third of all pre-1920 immigrants left again voluntarily.

When America developed a welfare state and immigrants entered expressly to take advantage of it, the familiar arguments ensued. Numerical restrictions were established, and various criteria for entry – skills, family ties, need, refugee status, etc – were experimented with. The welfare state is the death of open immigration. The otherwise laudable Schengen agreement in today’s Europe is only possible by enforcing the paraphernalia of welfarism across all of modern Europe.

As a corollary of the principle of freedom of movement libertarians favour completely open borders, while acknowledging that terrorism, refugees and welfare systems have complicated the implementation of this principle. The refugee ship Tampa symbolised the latter two complications, and showed up the hard heart of welfarism. Ahmed Zaoui symbolises the last. Ending welfarism and commencing private sponsorship of entrants solves both 'complications.'

Despite these complications, libertarians recognise however that as author Robert Heinlein suggested, successful immigrants demonstrate just by their choice and gumption in choosing a new life that they are worthy of respect. As James Kilbourne says,God damn you if the only two words you can find to put together when talking about people who leave their homelands to seek a better life for themselves and their families are ‘illegal aliens.’”
In the New Zealand context, TFR rejects the envy-ridden xenophobia of those who fear they might pick up ‘diseases’ from immigrants like hard work and enterprise, and supports letting all peaceful people into the country who are prepared to present an open return air ticket and sign a declaration that they will not request or accept any form of financial assistance from the state (on pain of having to use the return ticket!). Programmes for private sponsorship are also possible, which was essentially, if belatedly, the solution found for Zaoui.

Such a policy, in conjunction with the progressive removal of government from most areas and attendant reduction in tax levels, would encourage people keen to make a success of their lives to come to New Zealand to do so. Equally, it would discourage the deadbeats and loafers who have often been the beneficiaries of our immigration system. And it would challenge two particularly pernicious forms of collectivism that are rife in New Zealand – racism and xenophobia. That too would be no bad thing.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by New Zealand libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here.

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The 'sharp' test for films

I like adult films. There, I’ve said it. Can anyone else remember a time when the term ‘adult film’ referred to something other than the ‘stroke flicks’ you pick up from behind the curtained section of your local video store?

I for one am heartily bored with what passes for movie entertainment these days – there’s more formulas than a chemistry lab, fewer real adult themes than you'll find at a corner bar, and better acting on most soccer fields after a heavy tackle.

Your video store has movies categorised for everything. Everything that is, except for one category that for me is the most important: movies that makes you think, instead of making you want to put your foot through the screen. If, like me, you want something celluloidal that doesn’t insult your intelligence, then the one important question when choosing a movie should be, ‘Is it sharp?’

Sharp, (shahp), a. having a keen edge or fine point; terminating in a point or edge; biting, piercing; acute, keen-witted; alert, penetrating …

So as my video store won’t do the job, I’ve sorted out my own ten working rules for finding movies that are sharp – or at least won’t blunt an evening’s entertainment with the usual dross. As a public service to help you avoid wasting valuable minutes of your life watching crap, I offer them here for your guidance. Thank me later.

  1. The ten-minute test. This is most important: If it don’t grab you in ten, let it hit the bin.
  2. Plot. The three most important things in a movie are plot, plot and big ti ahem, plot. As Tarantino should have said, ‘If it don’t have a plot, then it ain’t worth squat.’
    Aristotle identified nearly two-and-a-half-thousand years ago what made a good plot, but the news still hasn’t got to LA: in two words, dramatic conflict. Without a decent dramatic conflict, there is no plot, and you fail on the Rule One Test.
    The only thing better than a good plot is a really good plot. The only director who can break this rule is Fellini. Why? Because he can.
  3. No coming of age movies. Just because the entire population of the planet over the age of fifteen passed through puberty once doesn’t mean we have to share every one of those experiences. Who cares what they’re a metaphor for.
  4. No movies starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Nicole Kidman or anyone from the Sheen family. Or pop stars (with the exception of ‘Hard Day’s Night.’ That pretty much rules out at least half of Hollywood’s movies, and clearly rules out Oceans Eleven, Twelve or (God help us) Thirteen. Having said that, ‘Snatch’ was sharp – possibly because Pitt was both mercifully unintelligible and got punched a lot. Didn’t save ‘Fight Club’ though.
  5. Anything with David Mamet involved is worth a look. He might insult your sensibilities, but never your intelligence.
  6. No high-school romances/sports stories/problems in class etc., etc., etc. Yawn. See rule 3 above. If it’s set in a high school, let it hit the bin.
  7. Black and white. If it’s in black and white and your video store has it, there’s probably a good reason: the film has legs. It’s lasted. Think ‘Casablanca’ or ‘The Thirty Nine Steps,’ however, not the entire first year of ‘Coronation Street.’ If it’s ‘B and W,’ it’s worth the trouble. But bear in mind rule 1 above.
  8. No gun fights/sword fights/car chases/explosions. Now, I don’t mean films like ‘The Longest Day’ or ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ here. Think ‘Die Hard,’ if ‘think’ can be used about a whole franchise untouched by human minds. Aristotle identified that without conflict, there is no plot, but in my revised edition of his ‘Poetics’ he went on to add that loud noises and Bruce Willis are no substitute for a film with a plot. ‘Hey, who cares,’ say the money-men, ‘let’s have a half-hour of gun fights/car chases/explosions to pad out the end of the movie.’ No, let’s not. Best to watch a movie in which the story actually has a real story.
  9. Every rule has at least one exception. Except this one.
  10. Goodies and baddies are for cartoons (and don’t bother with that childish Spider Man/Batman/Hulk/Arnie crap on film either, unless you’ve either just got to the head of the lobotomy waiting list and you want to show off, or you watch coming-of-age movies to pick up tips for the future). The best, most intelligent drama sets good against good, the worst sets good against psycho, sicko with a grudge or serial killer.
    Psychos and sickos makes for cartoon viewing and poor drama;
    good-against-good makes for really good plot conflict, out of which real, memorable drama develops. Unfortunately, while there's a slew of good novels like this I can’t remember the last time I saw a film which adopts this technique. Perhaps I schould eschew film-watching and just read a good book.

So what does that leave me with then? Here’s a list of my favourite film things that I made up a few years back; a list -- sadly – I haven’t needed to revise since. And if you like real drama, here’s what you could be enjoying when you’re filling your head with George and Julia.

[UPDATED to add 'No psychos or serial killers' to the list -- the inclusion of these as a major plot device are once again just an excuse for a poor screenplay. And no Spielberg: his telegraphic directoral style amounts to little more than watching cartoons. It affects you like you feel it ought to do.]

An anniversary you might have missed

Here's an anniversary you might have missed. On this day in 1981, Israel took out the Iraq nuclear reactor at Osiraki, near Baghdad, "saying they believed it was designed to make nuclear weapons to destroy Israel." Story here.

As Mugged by Reality points out, last Sunday was also the anniversary of when in 1967 the Israeli Air Force "destroyed the Egyptian air force in comfortably less than three hours." You've got to admire their lethal professionalism. As MbR concludes "Here's a prematurely raised glass for when they inevitably pay the same compliment to the Iranian nuke programme."

Perhaps they could be persuaded to take a flight over North Korea as well?


Fishermen, 21; Greenpeace, 0

I'm all for the right to protest, as long as it's done without destroying people's property, but despite the po-faced all-get-out seriousness with which Greenpeace protests are often reported, I usually find myself falling about with laughter at the response they elicit. They're great entertainment.

Take their latest tilt against bottom trawling. No, not down Ponsonby Road (that's a protest for Brian Tamaki's 'keep-your-bottoms-holy' crowd) -- the world's minor media is this morning carrying the report of a seaborne Greenpeace protest against bottom-trawl fishing being broken up when the fishermen began lobbing potatoes at them. No doubt the only reason the spuds missed was that it's hard to shoot straight through tears of laughter. I haven't laughed this much since the French confiscated a fleet of motley Mururoa-bound Greenpeace vessels over the screams of protest organiser Stephanie Mills back in 1997.

Somehow I doubt whether the organiser of this protest, Msss Carmen Gravat -- official title: "Greenpeace campaigner on board Rainbow Warrior" -- would share my sense of humour about this. However, you can tell her how funny you found it on +872 1302412.

[UPDATE: Amaltal Fishing says it will go to court today to seek an injunction against Greenpeace, which it accuses of high-seas "piracy"...

...Amaltal director Andrew Talley said Greenpeace campaigners from the Rainbow Warrior cut Ocean Reward's net in the Tasman Sea on Tuesday with knives and gaffs. "They are being attacked by a bunch of hairies and hippies with knives and gaffs," Talley said of his crew. "We are shocked at this attack. It's an act of piracy."]


Top ten (sex) hits to 8th June -- sex

I’ve had lots of good advice since starting to blog, including tips on driving people through the site. As one advisor told me, Google changes the way the internet is used: mention sex or stupidity and you’re onto a winner. How right they are. (Sex) (Stupidity) It works.

And I’ve learnt some things checking out my top twenty that I didn’t even know I needed to know! You do not want to know.

  1. classic sex (6th)
  2. brian tamaki (3rd)
  3. midgets fight tiger in Cambodia (3rd in MSN Search Preview)
  4. the importance of being ernest (9th)
  5. peter Cresswell (3rd)
  6. classical sex (1st)
  7. foreshore brash (1st)
  8. biggest cocks to smallest by ethnicity (4th)
  9. kiwi derogatory (1st)
  10. frank lloyd wright’s Guggenheim (3rd)

Tuesday, 7 June 2005


Posted by Hello

Making freedom concrete

Many people misunderstand the nature of freedom. Many, many people. Most people however can easily identify what freedom is not, and when to run from places that it isn't.

So what exactly is it, then? 'Freedom' is not freedom from reality, as is sometimes claimed; it is not freedom to have your own way regardless of the rights of others; it is not a license to ride roughshod over others or their property. As Ayn Rand identified, 'freedom' means being being free to act upon one's own judgement, while recognising that same freedom in others: "Freedom, in a political context, has only one meaning: the absence of physical coercion."

Freedom is ... not freedom from the landlord, or freedom from the employer, or freedom from the laws of nature which do not provide man with an automatic prosperity. It means freedom from the coercive power of the state. [Rand]

There is sometimes confusion as to the 'limits' to freedom, as if for example rules against murder are a restraint against some sort of 'absolute freedom,' therefore we should drop the 'delusion' of freedom and agree that freedom is whatever society decides it is. This is of course errant nonsense:

It is not society nor any social right, that forbids you to kill -- but the inalienable individual right of another man to live. This is not a 'compromise' between two rights -- but a line of division that preserves both rights untouched. The division is not [ultimately] derived from an edict of society -- but from your own inalienable individual right. The definition of this limit is not set arbitrarily by society -- but is implicit in the definition of your own right.
Within the sphere of your own rights, your freedom is absolute. [Rand]
So how do you know you are free? Well, as it happens, David McGregor at SovereignLife asks and answers that very question this week on his weekly website update:

Let's get personal. How do YOU rate your own freedom? And what is it that defines the freedom you think you have? How would you answer the following?

  • Are you able to start a business without bureaucratic overload?
  • Are you able to cut down a tree in your own back yard?
  • Are you able to keep the money you earn?
  • Are you able to smoke marijuana?
  • Are you able to read any book, or see any movie?
  • Are you able to express your opinion without fear?
  • Are you able to gamble at offshore online casinos?
  • Are you able to travel without undue harassment?
  • Are you able to buy, sell or trade whatever you like?
  • Are you able to keep your personal information private? The list could go on, but you get the drift.
Freedom, when it comes down to the wire, is the ability to make choices about your own life and property. Freedom is NOT about negating the same choices for other people. So, I cannot claim the freedom to steal another's property. Freedom can only be related to actions which do not impinge on someone else's freedom...
I think that freedom is best evaluated and defined by comparison to its complete opposite - slavery... This brings me to the conclusion that freedom is best measured by reference to how much of one's life remains in one's control.
How much of your life remains under your control?

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Tiananmen remembered

Seventeen years ago thousands of pro-democracy Chinese students occupied Tiananmen Square for several weeks while the Beijing public held off the military by blocking convoys unwilling to shoot those in their way. For those of us watching at the time, we thought we'd seen it all before: the fall of the former Soviet regimes of Central Asia and Eastern Europe and the liberation of millions of human beings from their Communiust masters had begun in just such a way, and liberation had been effected in the main peacefully, and without bloodshed.

Not in China.

On May 30, protestors in Tiananmen Square erected a papier-mâché ‘Goddess of Democracy’ which for a time faced down the iconic portrait of Chairman Mao hanging from the gates of The Forbidden City. It lasted just five days before the killing began.

There has been no public commemoration in mainland China of the 17th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, but there has been elswhere:
  • In London local Chinese and officials gathered in Trafalgar Square last weekend to remember the victims of the massacre. "There are tears that flow in China for the children that are gone," said the lyrics of a song played on a stereo. "Oh children, blood is on the square. Oh children, blood is on the square."
  • In Hong Kong, thousands of protestors staged a candlelit rally to mark the pro-democracy rally that ended in the slaughter of 3,000 civilians.
  • In the US, the State Department called for China to provide a full accounting of those who were killed, were detained, or went missing during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations 17 years ago, and of "the government's role in the massacre."
Meanwhile, Human Rights in China (HRIC) have "launched a podcast series of interviews with participants of the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement." And the BBC have have archive reports including Kate Adie's on-the-spot reporting from the China of 1989.

LINKS: 17th Tiananmen aniversary passes in China - San Jose Mercury/AP
'Oh children, blood is on the Square' - Epoch Times
Thousands mark Tiananmen Square anniversary in Hong Kong - Fox News

US calls for accounting of Tiananmen Square deaths, detentions - US Department of State
HRIC launches podcast interviews for June 4th anniversary - UN Observer
1989: Massacre in Tiananmen Square - BBC News: On this day

TAGS: History-Twentieth_Century, Socialism,


One fewer meddling arsehole for Shania

Well, at least there's one fewer meddling arsehole blocking Shania Twain's house plans in the Upper Clutha after planner Andrew Henderson resiled on his evidence. Recent story here. Although Henderson's erstwhile colleague would still not be happy even with a camouflage net, it just shows that public exposure of these bureaucrats can achieve something.

Site Poll: Party vote progress

It's hardly a scientific poll, but it's amusing to me that at present my new 'party vote poll' on the sidebar has Labour equal with 'None of the Above' at five votes each, and the Greens one ahead of National at fourteen -- and Libertarianz out there at forty-five.

As I say, it's early days and hardly scientific, but it is amusing. To me at least. And helpful. Vote early and (if you must) vote often.

Prohibition works. Yeah right.

There's a handy list of the harms of prohibition up at Helen Hughes's' 'Speakeasy' newsletter site. If the Greens hadn't lost their freedom mojo (did they ever really have it?) they might themselves have spent some time at their weekend conference pointing out some of these iniquities, or trumpeting the new US report which calculates the cost of prohibition -- it's not cheap.

Sadly, their conference has ended instead with little of substance beyond name-calling (Peters as Hitler and a "snake oil merchant" -- one of which is at least correct -- Brash as sexist and racist), context-free scare-mongering (somebody has stolen all the clean water and it's all your fault), and a call for more theft in order to buy the votes of students.

So, nothing really new then, apart from the name-calling from Rod and Jeanette.

Monday, 6 June 2005

Inner courtyard of Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Taliesin East.' Of the hill, not on the hill. Posted by Hello

In dreams begins responsibility

Why don't people get excited about freedom? I'm not talking about the people who used to risk everything going over the Berlin Wall to freedom, or those Cubans who in a bid for freedom brave shark-infested seas on inner tubes ... I'm talking about most people in most modern democracies who have happily traded their liberty for a little temporary security, and in most cases have ended up with neither.

Why, as Bob Jones once asked when fronting a party promoting 'Freedom and Prosperity!' is it so easy to promote prosperity, and so damned difficult to get people excited about freedom? The answer, dear reader, is that to be free means to be free to fail, and as HL Mencken observed, "most people want security in this world, not liberty." To be free means to take responsibility for one's actions. Too frightening. Much easier, many people think, to hide behind Nanny's skirts instead.

As libertarians often point out, the flip side of freedom is responsibility. If you are free to live your life as you choose, you must also assume responsibility for your choices. You cannot saddle someone else with that responsibility; in particular you cannot make him pick up the tab forchoices that have adverse consequences. Like teenagers still living at home, it's amazing how far some people will go to escape that fact, or to evade it.
  • In a bid to get all heads into one noose, liberal intellectuals try to prove that responsibility is an impossibility by preaching the doctrine of determinism – i.e. none of us can help what we do, all of us are helpless playthings of our genes and our environment, and the successful businessman is no more responsible for his success than the criminal is for his dishonesty, or the politician for her power-lust.
  • In a bid to tie us all to the state, politicians offer womb-to-tomb security, while relying on an all-care-no-responsibility get-out clause for their own innumerable failures.
  • In a bid to smoke their pot and eat their cake too (and to mercifully overlook munchies metaphors like that last one) many advocates of marijuana reform like to ignore the health problems associated with the drug's use, and demand that others pay for their lifestyle choice.
Says Tibor Machan, "There simply are too many people who want to take shortcuts, refuse to take responsibility for their own conduct and believe they can get away with this—and sadly often do—by calling upon the government to force others to shoulder burdens they ought to assume." But without responsibility there can be no freedom, and nor can their be any maturity. Like teenagers still living at home we must all, if we want to be fully human, someday spread our wings and feel the warm winds of freedom beneath us.

Taking responsibility for ourselves is not just the first step towards freedom, it is also the first step towards making those successes possible, and rewarding ourselves for them. In the modern parlance, it is 'taking ownership' of our lives. 'In dreams begins responsibility' said Yeats -- to truly live our dreams, we must begin to take responsibility for them.

He's right, you know.

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Libertarian-bashing for fun (and Nozick)

There's some instructive libertarian-bashing going on over at Richard Chappell's 'Philosophy, et cetera' blog, based largely it seems on the poor chap having to wade through the late Robert Nozick at school -- for which he has my sympathy. Read here and here and here (and half a dozen posts either side, to boot).

It's instructive for two reasons, the first because of his wonderful use of the Straw Man argument, at which poor Richard is a master; the second because it underscores once again just how bad are Robert Nozick's arguments for liberty -- as Sean Kimpton pointed out in 'The Free Radical' a few years back. When it comes to defending liberty, as Sean concludes, Robert Nozick, like many anotther supposed advocate for freedom "while advocating a libertarian political philosophy is doing more harm than good..."

[Nozick] is considered by academics to be the leading advocate for libertarianism and freedom amongst modern political philosophers, but his weak arguments are too easily trumped by self-serving intellectuals who only feel obliged to answer Nozick, rather than more substantial political thinkers like Rand....

But perhaps it is the very weakness of his arguments that add to his attraction, he is the ideal libertarian straw man - easy to knock down, and to burn while he's down.

But Nozick does have value. He shows us that if your arguments lack foundations you will undo your conclusions, no matter how true they might be.

[UPDATE: My detailed response to Richard's arguments are here. My more 'spirited' response is here.]

Junk science - junk philosophy

Enough of junk science supporting authoritarian environmental agendas and political power-trips, says Tibor Machan, we need to be equally alert to "junk philosophy put in the service of political utopia."

Tibor points out a recent unwelcome (and incorrect) trend in which "the ordinary, simple idea of a single person will come to seem quaint some day." We should, say the advocates of this stupidity, come to see ourselves not as individuals but as "nations" or "teams." Tibor says they've kicked an own goal. Read more here.