Saturday, November 19, 2005

12 Angry Books, #3

As Magnus Magnusson and Peter Sinclair used to say, "I've started, so I'll finish." That is, today I'm posting the third of my 'twelve influential books' in a bid to finish the job before the end of the year (the first and second I posted quite some time ago; the reason for bothering is here).

I could mention Heinlein's 'Red Planet' which I read early on, and which introduced the young me to the world of Heinlein and to SF; or EW Hildick's novels, which I really enjoyed as a really young me; but I'm sticking here with those that inspired the young adult me, not the young adolescent.

So without further ado, let me introduce you to 'Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture,' selected writings from Frank from the period 1894-1940, edited by Frederick Gutheim. I found this in a second-handbook shop in my first year out of school, and I was bowled over. (As I open it now, with most of its well-thumbed pages falling out, the original price of $5.95 is still there -- a huge price in 1981 for a second-hand book without illustrations!)

This is not a coffee table book -- this is a book filled with Wright's writings on Architecture & the Machine; the Nature of Materials; the Logic of the Plan; the ideas of depth, integration, continuity and plasticity; the cause of Organic Architecture. Thus began my education in architecture. I ate the book up, and its fraying pages today pay the price.

One aspect apparent to many students of architecture is the disparity between architects' writings and their buildings. After reading, digesting and savouring Frank's writings, it was some time before I saw his work (recall that this was in the days before the instant gratification provided by the net). I was not diappointed. Frank became my hero, and his principles and ideas became mine. I'm happy to say I have been on my knees ever since. :-)

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The day the Velvet Revolution began

Adriana at Samizdata remembers the anniversary this week of the Velvet Revolution, the day that communist rule in Czechoslovakia began to crumble. She writes:

I was then a teenager, with a twist - I knew that I had no control over my future and that I faced two choices only. In order to blend in, accept the evil around me in exchange for a semblance of a 'normal' life. Or follow in my parents' footsteps and forsake all that is considered good and rewarding in a healthy society, such as higher education, travel, even family and potentially freedom. I may have been very young but, alas, not young enough to be blind to the full horrors of such life. After all I had seen those around me living with similar decisions. As it happens, that choice was not real - having been part of the dissident movement, I was weighted, marked and tagged as the enemy of the state. I belonged to the dark forces undermining the society - a phrase so beloved of the communist media.

I remember the nervous elation of the 'now or never' moment, as we walked to the main square to meet thousands of others who felt the same. It was a powerful sensation to be surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people knowing that they are there for the same reason - an experience unprecedented in a fractured and diseased society under communism...

Read Adriana's full post here. And if you like, you can read my own tribute to Vaclav Havel, who the Velvet Revolution catapulted into the Czech Presidency.

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Reading first hand

Liberty Scott reckons you should read first-hand the post-election departmental briefings that bureaucrats write for incoming governments, rather than read the mis-reports you see in the paper.
I recommend you read post election briefings from The Treasury at least, and any other department you have a particular interest in. The media wont report on these critically – as New Zealand has precious few journalists, just reporters that take as given what departments say – except Treasury, because journalists are wary of anyone talking economics – they don’t understand it.
Phew. Make sure you have plenty of coffee in the house.

Frank Lloyd Wright: Broadacre City

"Urban sprawl is one of the greatest enemies of good urban design," say some. I don't agree. Lack of choice created by a lack of freedom is the greatest enemy -- 'sprawl' gives people choices: the alternative is mandatory slums. Frank Lloyd Wright's 1932 concept of the 'Broadacre City' -- while somewhat nebulous, and by no means a libertarian vision; it includes for example the idea of benevolent architectural dictators -- shows at least that sprawl is not the enemy. Lack of choice, and lack of imagination are. Wright's concept of the 'disappearing city' represented an abundance of choices of how to live.

"Wright's pattern is closer to today's sprawl than it is to a city, but it is not the same as today's sprawl."

There should be as many kinds of houses as there are kinds of people and as many differentiations as there are different individuals. A man who has individuality (and what man lacks it?) has a right to its expression in his own environment. Wright 1908

[The houses in Broadacre City] would be especially suited in plan and outline to the ground, where they would make more of gardens and fields and nearby woods than now, insuring perpetual unity in variety. Wright 1932, 8-9



And 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.

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. The concept sketches are almost a 'stamp album' of Wright designs.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Beer O'Clock

An ebullient start to beer o'clock this afternoon is this Flash animation: First drink of the day.

And reflect on this as you down your first one: Beer drinkers are becoming "promiscuous" in our "repertoire"-- marketing-speak for 'we drink more than one brand.' There you go. Several years ago when he bought Swan Breweries, Alan Bond declared that changing a man's beer brand was like trying to change his religion; these days it seems we're all pretty ecumenical.

The missing Michael Erceg has probably helped with that, allowing us to enjoy some pretty good foreign beers at a very good price, albeit most of them locally brewed. Tonight, in honour of Mr Erceg I'll be drinking one of his Kingfishers, which probably means seeking out a curry to go with it.

Cheers.

Sharples talks shit

I can't let this go without comment. From yesterday's Herald comes the headline: Sharples attacks 'redneck New Zealanders'

Here's Sharples's point, such as it is, from the Herald's account of his maiden speech in parliament:
It strikes me as somewhat amazing that half the country and probably half of this House actually believes that Maori are the privileged group within our society. Cries of racial funding, gravy train, special courses are constant within these walls and eagerly published by every arm of the media to promote a negative stereotype of Maori...

He asked whether "privilege" meant diabetes, heart disease, asthma, glue ear and dying 10 years earlier than Pakeha. Or is our real privilege to be revealed in this country's disgusting incarceration figures? While one in every 570 New Zealanders is in jail, for Maori the number is one in 180.

See the error? He sees the problems he cites as self-evident proof that the Government isn't doing enough for Maori. Has he ever considered whether the very real problems are a sign the Government has been doing too much?

The signs of Maori 'privilege' are real, and are written right across the law books, and on welfare payouts and treaty cheques that trail a large number of zeroes. The 'privilege' is real -- racial funding, the gravy train, the special courses are all real; the question really is whether or not this has been a good thing. It is all to clear it hasn't been. Sharples litany of Maori problems is not evidence that the privilege doen't exist, they're evidence that the privilege has done many Maori no bloody good at all.

A point from an article posted here yesterday is worth repeating. To paraphrase a commenter on that thread, we need to rethink the role of the welfare state in forestalling the development of individual responsibility. That is what has caused the problems that beset Sharples's Maori -- it is not lack of favours, it is too many. Government efforts have come to replace individual effort; the result is too many individual failures.

I can't help thinking a policy of benign neglect would have been kinder.

Wow!

Who would have thought it? Not me! This is great news. Rugby World Cup here in NZ in 2011. Just great. Apparently South Africa lost out in the first round, and they supported New Zealand against Japan in the second.

"Former All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick said: "New Zealand fans will be over the moon." Well, he would say that, wouldn't he. :-)

Do you think there's any chance of the events in that picture on the right happening again? You'd have to rate our chances, wouldn't you.

Sprawl is good; regulation is not

John Howard has realised that so-called suburban sprawl is not a problem, it is the solution to a problem: specifically, the problem of young people finding it f'ing hard to afford their first home.

The reason buying a first home is getting beyond many first-home buyers is not the fault of banks, real estate agents or 'greedy developers' -- as you might think if you read the New Zealand press -- it is the fault of a political market that has locked up land and over-regulated its use, adding tens of thousands of dollars to the price of a new home. Howard at least seems to recognise that, even if planners and local journalists don't.

In comments reported in an offline article in The Australian Financial Review (but strangely nowhere else), Howard said while there was "no easy solution to the problem," some of the answers, he said, lay with "more adventurous land release policies and rather more realistic development policies to be adopted by state and federal governments."

His comments reflect in part the findings of a two-year-old Australian report into First Home Ownership; in the New Zealand context they would translate as "gut the Resource Management Act, eviscerate the District plans, and let development rip." First-home buyers currently locked out of the market in New Zealand would surely thank any politician for following that prescription. Or we could go the way of Houston and get rid of zoning altogether: first-home buyers there have more affordable options available to them than do many Australian buyers -- it takes more than twice an average household's income to buy a house in Melbourne than it would take in Houston. The same is true of Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.

Sprawl is good. It's about choice, and letting people afford to have one.

NB: If you want to have a really good look at where exactly New Zealand's cities rank in terms of density [PDF downlaod] and affordability, the excellent Demographia site has all the figures, and much more.

Recent movements

I've presently got the Brain Stab crew on my Blogroll filed under 'Off the Radar,' but based on recent offerings, perhaps they should join Span, Krimsonlake, St Molesworth and Blogging it Real in the 'Off the Planet' section. Waddya think?

And bid au revoir to Ruth's Chaos Theory blog. Now you see it, now you

Predicting the future

As you know, I hate to be rude, or to turn down an invitation from a lady, so I feel honour bound to tell you when I'm going to die.

That is, Maria von Trapp tagged me to do a 'Death Test' which will slip me (and now you) the answer. Here it is:

I can expect to die on Monday, January 7th 2030
At the below average age of 66 years old. On that date, I will most likely die from:
Contagious Disease (21%)
Alcoholism (12%)
Drowning (7%)
Heart Attack (6%)

As these things have as much ability to predict the future as palmistry -- ie., none -- feel free to tell me what my lifeline (right) tells you about my demise, and whether or not these Spark Notes people know any more than that old gypsy woman at the fun fair.

Anyway, as Roger McGough would say, 'I Want to Die a Young Man's Death'

Two Tramps in Mud Time - Robert Frost

...But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.

Last stanza of Robert Frost's poem, 'Two Tramps in Mud Time'

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Keith Locke, the naked hypocrite

Welcome to the blogosphere Trevor Loudon.

In a previous life, ie., before becoming a Compulsion Touter, Trevor was The Free Radical's archivist extraodinaire. Sadly, none of his encyclopaedic exposés of socialist wildlife written for TFR are presently online, although they shortly will be, but his blog has kicked off today by reviving one of his gems of research to point out that Keith Locke's naked hypocrisy over his condemnation of more NZ SAS troops being sent to Afghanistan, when the
February 1980 issue of 'Socialist Action' (which Mr Locke edited) [contained] an article on a talk Mr Locke gave Wellington "Why workers should support Soviet Action in Afghanistan."
Sprung, Mr Locke -- you dopy hypocrite. Paint yourself out of that corner.

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Nasty N.O. employers exploiting workers

In shock news recently, New Orleans employers were seen to be paying more for new employees in order to attract them back to the area. Burger King was offering to exploit those agreeing to work in one New Orleans outlet by offering a $6,000 signing on bonus, and the president of New Orleans-based Southern Electronics concedes he is exploiting workers by "paying two to three times as much as I would in normal circumstances." The shocking report from the New York Times notes
On any given day, contractors and business owners pass out fliers in downtown New Orleans promising $17 to $20 an hour, plus benefits, for people willing to swing a sledgehammer or cart away stinking debris from homes and businesses devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Canal Street, once a crowded boulevard of commerce, now resembles a sparsely populated open-air job fair.
Workers don't need minimum wage laws to life their wages: they just need the price system to be allowed to operate freely. If you're a worker and you're not being exploited, then you're just not doing it right.

Cutting envy taxes makes us all rich

Despite what you've heard from Michael Cullen in response to Treasury's recommendation of yesterday, cutting the top tax rate is good. Unequivocally good. That sort of advice is not an "ideological burp," it is damn good advice. The truth is that -- despite what you've heard -- the richer the rich become, the better off everyone is.

I'll let you ponder that for a second. It's true.

In fact, cutting the top rate is so good it should be the primary fiscal goal of any honest government. Not cutting it is the perfect example of cutting off your nose to spite your face, except it's not Michael Cullen's nose he's cutting off, it's ours. These 'envy taxes' are paid for by all of us in lower savings, and in correspondingly lower productivity and lower real wages for all of us.

The richer the rich become, the better off everyone is. As George Reisman points out in Envy Unleashed at the New York Times, the reason is simple:
The extremely high incomes to which the Times objects are overwhelmingly saved and invested. In this way, they bring about large-scale capital accumulation. Capital is the foundation both of the demand for labor and the supply of consumers’ goods. Its continuous accumulation is the foundation of high and rising real wages and a high and rising standard of living for everyone...
Great wealth invested in business signifies precisely a great demand for labor and a great supply of consumers’ goods. It does not signify the heaping up of a massive supply of food, or other consumers’ goods, on the plates of fat capitalists who gorge themselves while the masses starve. But that is how the ignorant writers and editorialists of The New York Times and the whole “liberal” “intellectual” establishment see matters.
The key is capital -- "the foundation both of the demand for labor and the supply of consumers’ goods." Capital is the real fertiliser for growth and productivity, and the more of it an economy has, the better. For all of us.

The amount of actual labour each of us is capable of is the same all over the world -- in fact, workers in the third world work far harder than any of us. But first world workers don't work with picks and shovels, we work with capital goods that make us infinitely more productive than we would be otherwise, and that greater production is reflected in greater real wages. It is this greater capital that makes us more productive, and that capital comes from savings -- that's what capital is: money put aside for a rainy day and invested in production. It's a simple formula: More capital invested -- more production -- higher real wages. And it is overwhelmingly true that those on greater incomes save and invest more of their income as a proportion than anyone else. It is those savings that are the fertiliser for growth.

There will always be profligate waste, but the more you earn then the more as a proportion you save... and the more that is saved and invested, the more capital there is available for growth and productivity. The number one reason that New Zealand workers are relatively unproductive as compared with other western countries is our low level of capital, which reflects our low level of savings: it is greater capital that increases productivity, and it is greater productivity that lowers prices and increase real wages. Nothing else can.

Envy taxes are a tax on savings, a tax on productivity, and a handbrake on rising real wages.
As Reisman explains in the last chapter of his book Capitalism:
Reductions in the upper brackets have the greatest impact in strengthening economic incentives and saving, and thus do the most to bring about economic progress. We need to make the public aware of how everyone benefits from these tax reductions--of how they operate to raise the demand for labor and thus wages, and, at the same time, progressively to increase the productivity of labor and thus the supply of goods relative to the supply of labor, which steadily reduces prices relative to wages and thereby steadily raises real wages.
Capital is the real fertiliser for growth and productivity, and the more of it the economy has, the better. Once you understand that, you will realise the foolishness of diverting the immense sums that would have gone into savings and investment into government coffers instead, to pay for intervention, regulation and keeping 300,000 New Zealanders on welfare instead of in productive employment.

Cutting the top rate of tax is not an ideological burp -- it is damn good advice.

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Paris not by Clockwork

Now, I'm a big fan of Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange -- as I've confessed here before -- but I'm well aware of the limits of its arguments. Unfortunately, 'Reason' magazine isn't, and I'm not really sure they understand it.*

According to 'Reason' magazine, A Clockwork Orange "was the leading indicator of the French riots." Really? See for yourself. Reason has come up with a hook in search of some facts to hang on it: unfortunately while making a few good points, they've come up a little short.

Linked article: Orange Méchanique
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* Says 'Reason':
Specifically, A Clockwork Orange was born of Burgess' lifelong efforts to popularize the works of James Joyce, and specifically to demonstrate that there was any point to Joyce's catastrophically polyglot last novel Finnegans Wake.
Um, no it wasn't.

Introducing Ayn Rand

Here's a great introduction to Ayn Rand for those who are curious. Go on, confess. If you are curious, then this online interview is ideal: Australian internet radio host Prodos interviewing Alan Gotthelf on the occasion of his short book On Ayn Rand being published.

The interview itself acts as a great short introduction to who Rand was, what she was about, and why she is so damned important

What for example is this 'benevolent universe' she talked about? What's the connection between reason and emotion, and how does your self-esteem relate to them both. What does human survival require and why is it good to be selfish? Why do rational people enjoy a 'harmony of interests.' And just what is the meaning of life?

All these questions answered in this short interview, and more -- including the reason Rand was never perfectly satisfied with the title of her best-seller The Fountainhead.

If you want more, then by all accounts Gotthelf's book itself is an excellent introduction to Rand, as is Tibor Machan's own short introduction Ayn Rand. (Here's a comparison of the two.)If it's an overview you want, then these two are probably it. If it's Rand herself you're after, then I'd suggest the best fictional intro is either Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged; the best non-fiction depends on your own interests, but one of either The Virtue of Selfishness (if ethics is your bag), Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (if it's politics that spins your wheels), or Philosophy: Who Needs It (if thinking interests you at all) should do you. The title essay on its own is worth the price of admission.

Linked online interview: Alan Gotthelf talks about his book, On Ayn Rand.

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You failed

I set up a wee test yesterday that proved a little disappointing: in this post I offered you, gentle reader, two possible links -- one was a link to a magnificent tribute to the explanatory power and the wonder of Darwin's insight into evolution; of the exquisite vision that 4 billion years of constant change, of a Great Unfolding, has ready for us to find; of the grandeur in this view of life.

The other linked to a seedy piece of net gossip. I thought seeing the true nature of 'Not PC' readers exposed might be instructive. It was.

And which link did you lot click on most? The gossip. 3rd ranking link here yesterday. Oh dear.

Please see me in my office after school.

Palazetto dello Sport -- Pier Luigi Nervi


Pier Luigi Nervi's innovative Palazetto dello Sport, designed and built for the 1960 Rome Olympics by a genius. Frank Lloyd Wright said of concrete that it is the ideal material to bear the impress of human imagination -- Nervi shows what human imagination can do with such a material.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The passion of science

Perhaps the only good thing about the Intelligent Design shibboleth is that it has brought scientists out to eulogise about their passions. One such is Xavier at About Town, who has penned a truly wonderful paean to evolution which deserves to be read in its entirety. I'll quote from his conclusion:
There are literally millions, billions of species that exist or have existed, and every one, every single one, is connected, at some point, to every other. This is the beauty of evolution, of life. Intelligent design and creationism can never explain or express that inherent connection of the living world. They could never explain the relationships between the parasitic wasps and hippopotamus, or between the cow and the bacteria that live in its gut, helping it to digest its food. The saddest fact is they don't want to. Intelligent design and creationism doesn't have the power to make sense of the world, to express the subtleties or the fundamentals, or to find our place in it, now or in the past. They rob us of the exquisite vision that 4 billion years of constant change, of a Great Unfolding, has ready for us to find. They literally don't allow us to see the branches for the leaves.

Charles Darwin said it best, I think, in The Origin of Species:

"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
Wonderfully put. Almost makes up for the little scam the About Towners have been running.

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Top searches landing here this week

No surprise that females in uniform excite some people. No suprise either to see Nicky Hagar and totalitarianism featuring together in a list.

female soldiers in uniform (11th on MSN search)
mt. laurel alabama new urbanism (1st on Yahoo Search)
seven lesson schoolteacher (7th)
Libertarian basics (3rd)
pc sex (3rd on Yahoo)
nicky hagar (not on front page)
totalitarianism (10th on Google Blog Search)
"undercover economist" "tim harford" wonderful (not on front page)
jorn utzon (7th on MSN)
maoritv (not on front page)
billy ice bagging (2nd on MSN)
"giving good tongue" (2nd)
kilo cocaine value (not on front page)

The Serenity of Buffy

Has anyone seen the movie Serenity yet? You know, the libertarian film Serenity by a bloke called Joss Whedon, the one I mentioned here? [Julian has: see his enthusiastic report here]

I've heard conflicting reports so far, but I confess to one reservation already: this is a movie by a guy who earned his fame and fortune with a TV show in which, and I quote, "a high school cheerleader discovers that she has become The Chosen One, the lone girl of her generation called to fight vampires and demons and the forces of darkness."

Now, I'd presumed any TV show with that as its main 'idea' -- and I do use the word loosely -- must surely be a comedy. But no. There are people who take Buffy the fucking Vampire Slayer seriously (I know, I know); so seriously in fact that some of them think I should too. I think they're fighting a losing battle myself: first, because I hate so-called dramas set in high school (see Rule 6), and second, because the idea is so fucking solipsistic. Why would a fucking American cheerleader become the magnet for "vampires and demons and the forces of darkness"? Clearly because vampires and demons and the forces of darkness sell well, and 1) American cheerleaders are one demographic they sell to -- and I am not of that demographic -- and 2) teenage boys are a demographic to which American cheerleaders sell well. If you've seen my photo, you'll know I'm not in that demographic either.

So this sounds like a series untouched by human minds, right? Whatever happened to classic drama? Apparently it got thrown off-screen in favour of this stuff. However, my persistent friends persist. One has sent me a link "just for me." Lucky me. Here, for people like me who would rather spend an evening reading the 'Complete Achievements of Helen Clark' (the illustrated version) by Barry Soper & Brian Edwards than watch Buffy, is The Official Amazon Guide: So you'd like to... cease being a cultured despiser of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Oddly, it seems the way to cease being a cultured despiser of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is to watch gobs of Buffy slaying the forces of darkness who just happen to hang out around her high school. Sigh. Apparently this will all help me when I do get to see Serenity. It better be worth it. I feel sick already, and that's before I've even started on the popcorn.

Online maps with AA

I remember when I was a kid and we'd get our fold-out 'Journey Maps' from the AA before each holiday, which we kids would sit with in the back and spill ice cream on. Now, you can go online and print out clean copies that show you where all the ioce cream stores are. Almost. The just-launched AA Maps seems like a great toy, and one you might want to bookmark, one that might be supplementary to Wises Maps. I would think however that AA's servers still seems to be full following the public launch, as service sometimes seems very slow. Good when it is working though: online NZ maps, with local shops and bars and stuff, and all at the touch of just a few buttons!

NB: AA site still slooooow. Have a look later this avo perhaps, but do bookmark it now -- you'll need it later.

New to my Blogroll

New people added to my blog: Teenage Pundit, Bright & Shiny Thinking, and last but not least John Stossel -- who surely needs no introduction. If you do need to be introduced, then do yourself a favour and visit his site now!

Cue Card Libertarianism: 'No man is an island'

No man is an island, says the poet... As for me, I see myself as a sort of a peninsula -- with a good bar located near my connection with the mainland.

The thing with the 'no man is an island' argument is that those who normally use that line have a wrong idea about individualism. They have an idea that 'individualism' is some kind of 'atomistic individualism' -- another line frequently used. But a genuine individualism has no need to be 'atomistic'; one of the pleasures of life is interacting with others, enjoying the pleasure of their company (and their drinks cabinet), gaining knowledge from those who have it, and trading with others to help achieve our values. Life without other people would be a pretty miserable existence.

The key to genuine individualism is the important aspect of choice: when interactions with others are voluntary -- are chosen -- then there's no problem, and indeed an enormous benefit to being and dealing with others. It's when the element of choice is removed that things go awry, and conditions begin to deteriorate. Once interaction is no longer voluntary, then other people become -- not a benefit -- but a threat; our values are up for grabs by others, and we have no way of defending against their destruction by busybodies who declare that everyone else's life is their business.

This is why libertarians make better supporters of real community values than so-called 'communitarians' who would force their values on others. Communities in which the interaction of individuals is voluntary make better places to live than those in which interaction is forced, and where all our lives are lived in the public realm, meat for others to pick over like carrion.

That's been a basic insight shared by thinkers from Aristotle to Jane Jacobs, summarised by Ayn Rand when she boldly declared "civilization is the progress towards a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting free of man from men."

No man is an island, entire of himself -- but it's good to have a choice about who we invite ashore.
-------------------------------------------------

Further reading: 'Individualism, Naughty or Nice?' -- Chapter VII of The Virtue of Liberty, by Tibor Machan. (Foundation for Economic Education, 1994) Online here.

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

Illustrations by Alberto Baruffi

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Subscribe

If you're wondering why there's a "Subscribe Me!" button up there on the right-hand sidebar, it's so you can get your daily 'Not PC' fix by email in the form of a daily digest. Ideal for those readers who, um, well, I don't know... prefer email to browsing the web?... whose computers are so primitive they can't handle the browsers needed to read the blogging software?.. who want to make sure they've got a record of 'Not PC' for history, or litigation.

Whatever your reason, if you want the service, there it is.

From intervention to freedom, in several easy steps.

How do you get from the mixed economy which we presently 'enjoy' -- that is, the 'hampered market' economy in which capitalism is shackled by regulation, intervention and meddling -- to a truly free market in which governments butt out, as they should?

Tibor Machan, writing at SOLO today, suggests that
the progression from a messy mixed economy in the direction of a free one is highly unlikely to come about by way of a sudden leap. Indeed, that is very likely never going to happen, because people are very unlikely to get on board the train to liberty all at once, with equal conviction and commitment. To believe otherwise is to perpetuate that very widespread mistake best captured in the motto, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”
For my own part, I've long maintained that any measure in the direction of freedom is good, just as long as there are no new impositions involved -- and as Tibor suggests, if you adopt this approach you can get people on the train to liberty one carriage at at time. Of course, it doesn't hurt to let people know what the destination looks like, why it's worth the journey, and some of the possible routes for getting there. Nathaniel Branden explains here why the journey is worth it; George Reisman gives a suggested route to take, in plenty of detail.

Linked articles:
The Hampered Market Economy - Ludwig von Mises
Gradualism Revisited - Tibor Machan
Foundations of a Free Society - Nathaniel Branden
Towards the Establishment of Laissez-Faire Capitalism - George Reisman

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Aaron?

Just heard the news that a Lamborghini has crashed into a fence in Parnell.

I suspect that many blog readers have a suspicion who the driver probably was, and I'm sure we all hope that Aaron is okay. :-)

Pakistan earthquake

Irfan Khawaja has been keeping track on some of the aftermath of the Pakistani earthquake, in particular some of the oddities or points worth noting amid the tragedy.

For example, in Pakistan Earthquake (6), Irfan recommends a column with,
Some unpalatable but accurate thoughts on the donor response to the Pakistan earthquake from Irfan Husain of the Pakistani newspaper, Dawn (Karachi). Husain's columns are worth bearing in mind as a handy counter-example to the loose talk about the "lack of self-criticism" in the Muslim world. Not that the Muslim world couldn't use more criticism (and more internal critics), but it's worth giving credit where it's due.
And from Pakistan Earthquake (5) come these questions:
[Why is it that] American relief efforts are widely interpreted in conspiratorial terms, whereas Islamists efforts are not so interpreted. Why the double standard? If Americans have ulterior motives in sending help, do Islamists have only pure ones? Bear in mind that Islamists have said that the earthquake was punishment for Pakistan's sins. Why the acquiescent receptivity for so troglodyte a message?
From Pakistan Earthquake (4) comes:
A very informative piece at Slate by Mahnaz Ispahani on the workings of private relief efforts in Pakistan in the wake of the earthquake.
And Pakistan Earthquake (3) points to a Pakistan Daily Times editorial meditating on, first, the TV footage of pain and suffering that was often repeated needlessly and in contradiction to the needs of acccurate reporting -- and these images themselves apparently persuaded local politicians that the relief operation was less coordinated than the reality, and in consequence persuaded them to separate their own efforts from the coordinated relief that had been happening.

Highly recommended.

Eco's mysterious flame

Umberto Eco's latest novel 'The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana' is another delightful and encyclopaedic cornucopia of references, quotes and tempting diversions; this one, like all Eco's novels, almost demanding to be hyperlinked just so you can work out where he's going, and why. It's worth the effort.

Eco's protagonist in 'The Mysterious Flame,' an antiquarian bookseller called Yambo, has lost his personal 'episodal' memory but would still score highly in Mastermind with 'Literature' and 'Mid-Century Italian Comics & Popular Culture' as his two possible specialist subjects; Yambo seeks to rediscover himself through an attic's worth of boxes containing books, cigarette packages, magazines, comics, stamps and other miscellany -- the book includes many of the beautiful and politically incorrect illustrations mentioned in the text.

I say the book almost demands to be hyperlinked, about which Eco is delightfully aware -- in an interview with Village Voice "Eco says he structured Mysterious Flame to mimic the free-associative behavior of electronic navigation" -- and he sets the book in pre-Google 1991, requiring Yambo to rummage through his past instead of Googling it -- but a new Wiki project has taken up the challenge "to create a thorough and accurate set of annotations to Umberto Eco's latest novel," and as always with a Wiki, "anyone is free to add or modify entries."

You can just imagine his eyes twinking at the thought. "Books," he said once, "belong to those kinds of instruments that, once invented, have not been further improved because they are already alright, such as the hammer, the knife, spoon or scissors." But as a professional semiologist, he's not unaware of what his readers might be using Google to do with the signs he's made available in his book, and that's no doubt part of his plan, as the Village Voive interview suggests.

In the Eco-ian universe, books aren't merely stand-alone islands to be traversed in linear fashion; they are nodes in an exponentially expanding extranet. To read one book, you sometimes have to pass through several others, accumulating countless references and subtexts along the way. "We've been reading books in a hypertextual way ever since Homer," Eco says. "We read a page and then we jump, especially when we're rereading it. Think of the Bible. When people read it, they're always jumping here and there, constantly connecting various quotations."
It took sixteen years to produce a published Key to 'The Name of the Rose,'Eco's first novel -- and very welcome it was too. Now we've got the beginnings of a similar project in just six months, and with the wide participation that a Wiki invites. Excellent. Says Eco of his books, "I construct Aristotelian Machines, that allow anyone to see with Words." It doesn't hurt to ask for help in order to see what he's asking you to see.

You can find the Queen Loana Wiki here. And you can find the definitive Eco site here.

UPDATE: Eco's comments from a 1995 interview with 'Vogue' are priceless, and worth repeating:
People always ask me, 'How is it that your novel, which are so difficult, have a certain success?' I am offended by the question. It's as if they asked a woman, 'How can it be that men are interested in you?' Because I am beautiful, of course!" he roars. "To ask such a question insinuates that you are very ugly.

"I myself like easy books that put me to sleep immediately. But the normal reader who does not spend his day fighting with Kant or Hegel feels respected if there is a jujitsu with a novel, a resistance, a seduction. If the book says yes immediately, it is a whore. There is no challenge in seducing a whore." Only as energetic a bibliophile as Eco, it occurs to me, would regard it as the reader's job to seduce the book.

Corrierino

A striking illustration from the Italian 'Corrieriono' from 1936, taken from Umberto Eco's 'Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana'

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sketching

"He undressed her with his eyes." See how an artist does it in reverse. Beautifully.
[Hat tip Mark]

Nazism = socialism = totalitarianism

I've noticed some bloggers and commentators around the traps that still get upset at claims that the Nazis were socialist. Well, they were. It's true that the National Socialists didn't nationalise the economy's commanding heights; they didn't need to -- as Hitler said, they nationalised people instead. Political correctness at the point of a gun. George Reisman makes the case for Nazism = Socialism in an article here, (which he also delivered as a lecture on video.)
De facto government ownership of the means of production... was logically implied by such fundamental collectivist principles embraced by the Nazis as that the common good comes before the private good and the individual exists as a means to the ends of the State. If the individual is a means to the ends of the State, so too, of course, is his property. Just as he is owned by the State, his property is also owned by the State.
The Mises Economics Blog describes Reisman's thesis thus:
Contrary to myth, Germany was a socialist state, not a capitalist one. And socialism, understood as an economic system based on government ownership of the means of production, positively requires a totalitarian dictatorship. Indeed, the identification of Nazi Germany as a socialist state was one of the many great contributions of Ludwig von Mises.
And here's another claim that might raise a few eyebrows: "In the United States at the present time, we do not have socialism in any form. And we do not have a dictatorship, let alone a totalitarian dictatorship." Read on to find out what Reisman says about the present system in the US, and by implication the rest of the west.

FULL ARTICLE Here is a video of the speech too.

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Fiddling while Paris burns

The debates on the French riots continue.

Cox and Forkum have a selection of columns arguing for the point of their cartoon at right (some of which you will have already seen here at 'Not PC').

Arnold Kling argues, rather in the vein of 'The collapse of Europe's 'social market' dream.' "My reaction to the riots," he says, "is to view them as teenage rebellion against the state as parent." It is time he argues to effect a separation of state and family. Paternalism hasn't worked; it's time to look to individualism.

Linked article: Separation of Family & State -- Arnold Kling

How scary is Nandor really?

Is Nandor really so scary? The Whig puts the case for and against. His conclusion: Hysteria Nandor-wise is our fault -- well, your fault.
[It is due to] the disgraceful redneckery in this country that Nandor is seen as the most dangerous of the Green MPs. He's not even that scary. Sue Kedgley wins that prize hands down, with or without makeup. At least Nandor wants to legalise something. All Kedgley has is a list of things she wants banned.
Think about it. And while you're contemplating, imagine what Nandor would be like without the dreads. Don't imagine it: see it. Will has done the artwork. Scary.

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Frank Lloyd Wright - house for Ayn Rand

Sadly, never built.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Media bias

Sick of media bias? Convinced your faves are not getting a fair shake from the media? Then GMan needs YOU! Specifically, he wants your help with contributions to his NZ Media Bias site. Says GMan:
-I am inviting readers to become contributors. If you want log-in rights I'll give them to you (if I can figure out how to do it)
-if you have comments I'll publish them.
-I'm also interested in giving non-partisan critiques on the accuracy of blogs on this site, as well as reporting sloppy journalistic standards here.
You can email him at revolver@paradise.net.nz

On Blogging

Thinking of starting your own blog? Rajesh Setty has a Blogging Starter Checklist for you, most of which I haven't done myself, partly because I have no idea what some of his suggestions actually mean -- what for example is a 'chiclet'? -- and partly because I've already tried and failed on others (I have yet to get my categories to work successfully for example, but I will have another go some day). [Hat tip Robin]

And the Business Opportunities Website has calculated the monetary value of blogs, basing their figures on the recent purchase price of Weblogs Inc. by AOL. See what yours is worth according to their figures.
The Technorati Weblog also scores zero, but it doesn't make this blogger feel any better. At least I have the satisfaction of knowing that DPF's is also palpably worthless. :-)

Buy one pollie, get another free?

I notice new things are afoot at the Libertarianz site. There is a merchandise section in the process of being added, at which you can purchase (so far) T-shirts, books and politicians. The politicians may not be the best that money can buy -- and it's uncertain whether they'll remain bought -- but you can be sure everything else will be of the very highest quality.

100,000 at 'Not PC'!

I've just notice that this morning I received my 100,000th hit on this site since starting up back in April with this post - or at least since I worked out what a StatCounter is. Here's the first week's effort: has it got better here since then, or worse? You be the judge.

The 100,000th hit was logged by a visitor from Reston, Virginia, USA, who came here to listen to Lindsay Perigo's classic doco on PC, and to download some terms of political abuse. Clearly a highly discriminating person. I salute you sir/madam/mademoiselle.