Saturday, January 21, 2006

Betrayal and biography

I've been persuaded to read a certain book that has Ayn Rand enthusiasts in a lather. I was persuaded to read it reluctantly, and I ended it enthusiastically -- but in some anger.

You can find out why in my review, here, of the book -- an examination of Rand's erstwhile biographers. If you need to be persuaded, Noodle Food's Diana calls it:
a fantastic review ... of James Valliant's The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics (PARC). It's perhaps the most passionate book review I've ever read -- and thus perfectly appropriate to its subject. It's also a delight to read, so I'm pleased to strongly recommend it. Those who've already devoured PARC are sure to particularly appreciate its stubborn refusal to mince words.
I expect regular readers of Not PC would be fairly unsurprised to hear about a refusal to mince words. Read more of Diana's review of my review here. Read the review itself here. And listen to an entertaining interview with the author of PARC here.

Links: A Review of The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics - Diana Hsieh
Betraying the self - Peter Cresswell
Valliant vs Branden & Branden - Prodos interview

'Not PC' Post-Holiday Blog Carnival

There are blog carnivals for everything these days: football, philosophy, psychology, pharmacology... so as I write so much and you lot need to read it all -- every last sentence! -- I'm having my own. In the last week-and-a-few-bits 'Not PC' has had something for everyone who can read and who has a pulse and some grey matter. Here below is just some of what you would have seen recently if you'd slithered towards your keyboard and pushed the 'Not PC' button (and that's not counting all the art, architecture, cartoons and jokes). What are you waiting for, dive on in:

'ACT: the Libertarian Party'?

The other day I offered a challenge to the new ACT on Campus President Helen Simpson and her President in Charge of Vice Andrew Falloon to have the courage of their freedom convictions and to let us "hear them calling for the Association of Compulsion Touters [ACT] to expunge all vestiges of compulsion, and to truly represent its stated freedom principles." A Five Point Programme was offered...

Bird flu immunity

Beethoven Pleydenwald from the Whinging in New Zealand blog (WINZ) has been keeping an eye on H5N1 bird flu hysteria. Despite it's imminence -- it's all around us you know -- he's noted one surefire way to gain immunity: Still no H5N1 deaths amongst attractive young women who have performed fellatio on me...

Why did the whale cross the beach?

Whales are not just ungrateful, they're also not the sharpest mammal in the biosphere. While mass whale strandings are greeted with surprise and sadness around the world, they still just keep right on happening. And sometimes whales are so ungrateful even to be rescued they they just up and turn around and re-beach themselves. One pod yesterday was even graceless enough to sink a launch...

Setting light to Nosy Parkers

I was about to prepare a post on why I will be burning my census form come Census Day -- just as I've done in previous years -- when I find that a pretty enlightening debate on that very subject has been taking place at DPF's. Get a job with The Man, says Dave, and earn a little extra money helping th Nosy Parkers. " Go piss up a rope," respond commenters including LibertyScott...

On infighting and 'fellow travellers'

Phil Sage asks a question I thought I'd already answered many times before: Why can't 'we' just all get along. Phil thinks all those "travelling in the same direction" -- whom he decribes variously as "Libertarian Travellers" and "travellers in the direction of Freedom with Responsibility" -- should stop their infighting, and work together...

Rosenbaum Floor Plan - Frank Lloyd Wright

To an architect, a floor plan is like a musical score -- all the information is there if you know what to look for, and how to read it. Frank Lloyd Wright's floor plans were incredibly nuanced, and deceptively complex. The example shown here is from the 1939 Rosenbuam House, one of Wright's forty-odd moderate cost 'Usonian Houses' -- just 143 sqm, but with the soul of a larger house packed in...

Saving those whales with good hard sense

There's nothing like an argument about whales to make everyone lose their marbles. A revivified Ruth, for example, has posted various thoughts on morality and animal rights, and on her former membership of Greenpeace. 'Go Greenpeace' she says. 'Stop the hand-wringing and break out those guns.' (I paraphrase, of course) Unfortunately, she offers no argument for her position...

Superseding the Treaty with something objective called "good law"

Waitangi Day is rushing down upon us, so it's worth re-posting Nick Kim's cartoon demonstrating what the mythical Treaty Principles are doing to our law (cartoon courtesy The Free Radical)... in my view the Treaty is insufficiently comprehensive to be a founding document of a nation and should be superseded and made an historical nullity by an objectively written constitution. The gravy train has to be derailed, and justice put back in its seat...

Change of helm at ACT on Campus

Congratulations to Helen Simpson and Andrew Falloon, the new president and vice-president respectively of ACT on Campus. I look forward to Helen and Andrew having the courage of what they say are their freedom convictions, and to hear them calling for...

Commenting on the commentators

Deborah Coddington has belatedly discovered blogs and has told the Herald all about it. She finds "Planet Blogger" to be nothing short of "a sad, pathetic sphere..." "I feel genuinely sorry for the blogsite hosts who strive to supply a political service the market obviously wants," she says, before scurrying back to the safety of the MSM, which clearly isn't supplying the market...

Explaining Capitalism

Perhaps the most exciting recent book for capitalists released in the last year has been Andrew Bernstein's Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic and Philosophic Case for Laissez-Faire (reviewed here and here.) Capitalism Magazine has a brief excerpt up at their site: A proper understanding of capitalism is sorely lacking among current politicians, intellectuals and even the American...

Cue Card Libertarianism - Harmony of interests

As I said here recently, no man is an island and neither should we be. In a free society, we each gain an incalculable boon from the existence of others. Just some of the benefits of living in a free society are the following: the learning and knowledge we may glean from others -- being able to stand on the shoulders of geniuses...

Some thoughts on the harmony of men's interests

Did it ever occur to you that there is no conflict of interests among men, neither in business nor in trade nor in their most personal desires — if they omit the irrational from their view of the possible and destruction from their view of the practical? There is no conflict, and no call for sacrifice, and no man is a threat to the aims of another — if...

A joke at the heart of Climate Change

It's hilarious, really, isn't it. Why am I laughing? If you haven't heard already, here's the joke: plants are implicated in the 'global warming problem.' Here's how...

Careful with that harpoon, Eugene!

Want to jump on to the back of whaling boats and spike their harpoons? The entertaining Generation XY blog has conveniently linked for you a game put together by Greenpeace to give you some practice. And once you've had your fill of all that political correctness, you can get out the Hawaiian Harpoon and do some serious fishing. Sadly, no game as yet apparently to give you practice with...

Still flowing. Still in the zone.

More information on the concept of Flow - what sportsmen call 'being in the zone,' and what psychologists call a state of being in focused attention (about which I previously wrote here): here's a short interview with Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi (Dr Mike), answering questions on his work with Flow and a few more of its applications, this time for education. Money quote: Q: Why aren’t teachers...

Health, wealth & nannying

Popular Mechanics magazine has judged the top fifty inventions of the last half-century, and they're online here. And here's some tables (for the US) showing what such inventions have helped bring about -- historically significant rises in life expectancy across the course of the last century. Stephen Hicks, whose site has these links, describes the dramatic rises simply as "fruits of the enlightenment..."

Opening a whole new can of whales

We eat cows. The Japanese eat whales. The only difference is that cows are privately owned, and whales are much larger. Despite the hand-wringing over the killing and eating of whales , it's no more or less barbaric than the killing and eating of cows. Here's what really is barbaric: trying to stop whaling by sinking whalers with a 'can opener' -- as the self-appointed Sea Shepherds have...

Get rid of Queen St's trees

A storm in a 'tree-cup' going on in Auckland's Queen St over the holidays has had all sorts of people saying all sorts of nonsense -- the politically correct at loggerheads with the politically conservative over the architecturally stupid...

Reviewing Narnia

How do you write a film review? Dianne Durante gives a Master Class by giving you a 'how-to' of her own The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe review...

Too-fast growth is bad. Right?

... "the economy is slowing down after five years of, perhaps, too-fast growth." Now that's a pretty common view, and one heard from many voices -- at least one of them emanating from the Reserve Bank. 'Too-fast' growth in productivity causes rapidly rising prices, and has to be stamped down into mediocre growth, or even no growth at all. 'Too-fast' growth is A Bad Thing.
Better no growth at all, says this view, than 'too-fast' growth. But can it be true?

Bad news for NZ's economic freedom

The various Economic Freedom Indices are a pretty blunt instrument to my mind -- for some reason they still award New Zealand as a perfect 'One' for property rights, for instance, despite the many well-documented abuses inflicted upon NZ's property owners by government's both central and local. However, like all such things, while the precise figures are questionable the trend across several...

Taming the inflation monster

As you might recall, we ended the year wondering why the Reserve Bank of New Zealand is strangling growth in a bid to keep down the prices of property -- nailing producers and exporters and all the rest of us to a cross of 'price stability' that is itself a mirage. This, says Alan Bollocks and RBNZ supporters, is neccessary to underpin the currency and restrain the infltaion monster. "No!" say people with a brain...

Things we all should have learned by now

Here's something to ponder as you gaily engage in debate: How much do you really need to know in order for your opinion to be an informed one? Not all opinions are equally valid -- uninformed opinion is less equal than most. In the 21st Century, there are some basics that an educated person really should know if they're to be considered educated enough to pound sand, let alone to survive...

What I learned on my holidays, 2.

What else did I learn while I was away? Well, I learned that some bloggers don't even stop for Christmas or for intercontinental travel! Phew. That's dedication for you. I learned too that there is more than one perfect breakfast -- I found another. This one is a version of fried eggs with what the Americans call Hot Biscuits (scones to you and me) and Gravy....

What I learned on my holidays, 1.

What a great holiday. I trust you've all enjoyed my absence. Amongst my holiday reading was the new Anthony Burgess biography: mentioned is Burgess's enthusiasm for inventing what he called "life-threatening cocktails," and a recipe for one such is included -- with time available and the ingredients to hand, a number of our party felt compelled to try it out. Here, according to Burgess's biographer is a recipe for the 'Hangman's Blood'...

Thanks for stopping by!

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This evening: Budvar

Crisp, light, refreshing. Those Czechs sure do know something about yeast and hops. :-)

Friday, January 20, 2006

The 'Dream' of Martin Luther King Day

What's the message of Martin Luther King Day, celebrated by Americans on Monday last? One that has a clear resonance for us here in New Zealand too. Edwin Locke reminds us of 'The Dream':
What should we remember on Martin Luther King Day? In his "I Have a Dream" speech Dr. King said: "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character"...
On Martin Luther King Day--and every day--we should focus on the proper antidote to racism and the proper alternative to racial thinking: individualism. We need to teach our children and all our citizens to look beyond the superficialities of skin color and to judge people on what really matters, namely, "the content of their character."
Character is all. Skin colour is just something you're born with.

Linked Article: What We Should Remember on Martin Luther King Day: Judge People by Their Character, Not Skin Color - Edwin Locke

Hayley's comet

I've never sat down and heard a whole Hayley Westenra album until a friend imprisoned me in a living room over the Christmas break and played a copy at me. I was stunned. Stunned at how little there was to hear: an uninspired choice of songs performed with even less inspiration than even these limp compositions deserved; unchallenging, immature singing; and all the passion of a wet dish-towel.

I headed for the door as soon as I was able, mystified how such a performance could sell so widely and so well. It was immature stuff to be sure -- and that is surely the point -- but could the whole world be in love with childish, passionless dreck such as this? If innocence is all that you want in your singing, surely there have been far more accomplished performances than this? While the teenage look and sound may appeal to some, it's not at all my cup of cold beer.

For those who haven't already heard, at least one Christchurch reviewer feels the same after hearing Hayley in concert on Wednesday night, and Christchurch is in an uproar:

There is no disputing that Hayley Westenra has a lovely natural voice. But whether in fact, or due to the levelling effect of the ever-present microphone, it is a voice of little musical character. In fact, there were three voices, regardless of what she sang – a girlish upper voice, a bland lower voice, and a few notes in between that were always harsh and piercing...

Fiona Pears is too big a musician to deliberately upstage Hayley Westenra, but it was only when she played that the concert came to life. Her powerful natural ability as a violinist and uninhibited musical expression provided an excitement that even a somewhat restrained audience could not resist.

I left the hall sadly, wondering whether Hayley Westenra could sing softly, loudly, fast or really slowly, with passion, not to mention adult musical technique, or whether she will move out of her teens in a little over a year's time, having musically already done all she is capable of.

Linked Article:
Lovely voice but is Odyssey at end of Hayley's musical road? - Press

What's good about VSM?

How many of you know what VSM means? For the unitiated, it means Voluntary Student Membership. For those who did recognise the acronym, hopefully you've already been out their waving the flag on its behalf because it's a perfect issue for freedom-lovers to take up their cudgels and support. For existing students and new students getting ready to start on a New Zealand campus, may I invite you for a moment to listen up as to why you need to know about VSM.

The VSM issue pits freedom, individualism and voluntarism on one side, against collectivism, compulsion and bossyboot busy-bodying on the other. It is, in microcosm, the very issue of our age, and one perfectly calculated to appeal to present students, and most importantly to help make them (if you argue well enough) lifelong supporters of freedom. What could be better? If I wasn't a committed atheist, I'd call it a God-given gift to freedom lovers. Taking part in such a campaign should be a no-brainer whatever your chances of electoral success, because it's not just with immediate electoral success by which such victories are judged.

The important thing with a VSM campaign is not whether you win or lose on campus -- though don't let that stop you fighting to win; life on a VSM campus such as Auckland's is infinitely better than the compulsory alternatives, and Auckland students wallets so much heavier: The real victory of a VSM campaign comes in the number of people each and every year that your campaign permanently switches on to freedom. That's your number one job as a VSM campaigner -- everything else is gravy.

As a political training ground, there is a lot to be said for mounting and/or helping out with a principled VSM campaign: a great battle to be had, one in which moral right is clearly and unequivocally on your side, and as such a great apprenticeship for young student politicians -- on one side, collectivists of all stripes demanding a right to students' wallets; on the other side, strong, sound arguments for the right to choose, and for freedom of association.

In some ways, it would be an awful shame for the opportunity for that on-campus debate to be taken away by a change in legislation in whatever direction. But as long as the law is as it is, I would urge every freedom-loving student as emphatically as I can to get involved in their campus's VSM campaign, and help make it a principled one.

[NB: a debate on VSM is presently under way at the AoC blog, and probably elsewhere for all I know. Join in. Libz on Campus would be another excellent place from which to help launch a principled VSM campaign. Release the hounds!]

'Skip' - David Knowles

The delightful 'Skip' by New Zealand artist David Knowles, presently on sale at the Quent Cordair Gallery. Rarely has such a sunlit, benevolent sense of life been seen in paint.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

'ACT: the Libertarian Party'?

The other day I offered a challenge to the new ACT on Campus President Helen Simpson and her President in Charge of Vice Andrew Falloon to have the courage of their freedom convictions and to let us "hear them calling for the Association of Compulsion Touters [ACT] to expunge all vestiges of compulsion, and to truly represent its stated freedom principles."

A Five Point Programme was offered by moi (see here and sumarised below) to which Helen swiftly gave her very promising views. Onya Helen. No word yet from Andrew, although I know he's been visiting here. Hi Andrew. And ACT candidate Lindsay Mitchell, who has been campaigning on Point Five for some years has indicated on her blog that's she's also enthusiastically behind Point Two. "It is the job of the state to protect people from each other - not themselves," she says. And so it is.

So who's next? Can we help to overturn ACT's compulsion axis from without? Will we ever see 'ACT: the Libertarian Party'? Here's a summary of the offered Five Point Programme (fleshed out here in greater detail):
1) Abolish the RMA, replacing it with property rights, and common law means to protect them.
2) End the War on Drugs.
3) Privatise, privatise, privatise
.
4) Abolish the Treaty of Waitangi
, superseding it with a rights-protecting constitution.
5) End the DPB. You can do it in just three years.
Sign up below, or on your blog, or make your voice heard in emails to your ACT friends, candidates and MPs, or just at your next ACT or Act on Campus meeting.

Linked Posts: Change of helm at ACT on Campus - Not PC
Comment on Not PC's Five Point Programme - Helen Simpson
Unpublicised cost of the "war on drugs" - Lindsay Mitchell

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Bird flu immunity

Beethoven Pleydenwald from the Whinging in New Zealand blog (WINZ) has been keeping an eye on H5N1 bird flu hysteria. Despite it's imminence -- it's all around us you know -- he's noted one surefire way to gain immunity:
Still no H5N1 deaths amongst attractive young women who have performed fellatio on me. There is still time for those of you who want similar protection to contact me. Or you can stop french kissing chickens, the choice is yours.
He's also very, very happy at news that the US Senate is "raising money for bird flu."
Thank god for that. Unless we put vast resources behind the problem of H5N1, it will never evolve into the virulent human transmissible form everyone is hoping for. I hope 4 billion is enough.
You have to laugh. For the real oil on bird flu, skip the headline news and head for the Avian Flu blog. It offers the headlines, true, but without all the accompanying hysteria. Meanwhile, the Otago District Health Board's Dr Malcolm McPherson "has criticised the news media for hyping-up the threat of bird flu":

Dr Macpherson says in reality there is no evidence that bird flu spreads between people and he says it is very difficult to catch from birds. He says a worldwide pandemic is unlikely and, at worst, many years away. Dr Macpherson says the news media is pumping up the shock-horror story; public health experts are relishing their hour in the spotlight; and the drug industry is peddling its products.

As Lindsay Mitchell has noted, McPherson's is a rare voice of reason.

Links: When the Brain Eating Zombies Attack - WINZ
US Senate Raising Money for Bird Flu- WINZ
Nearly $4 Billion OK'd for Bird Flu - WebMD
Avian Flu blog
Criticism for hyping up bird flu - McPherson

Why did the whale cross the beach?

Whales are not just ungrateful, they're also not the sharpest mammal in the biosphere. While mass whale strandings are greeted with surprise and sadness around the world, they still just keep right on happening. And sometimes whales are so ungrateful even to be rescued they they just up and turn around and re-beach themselves. One pod yesterday was even graceless enough to sink a launch containing seven people. [Herald story here.] Baaad whales. Bad.

So why do whales strand themselves? Is it suicide or misadventure or plain old lack of the grey stuff? No one knows for sure, but another Herald story has a litany of hypotheses that begin to sound like those sorry lists of excuses for traffic accidents -- you know the sort: "I was driving along quietly, Officer, when the tree jumped out at me so I hit it." Theories given for whale strandings include the following:
  • weather patterns
  • navigation failure
  • hunting for seasonal food
  • suicide
  • seeking rest, or the 'safety' of land
  • to rub their skin
  • trying to give birth
  • escape during stress
  • one or two animals in a pod were ill and drew the remainder of the mammals inshore
  • snowstorms
  • naval manoeuvres
  • submarine sonars
  • disease
  • the drive to stay with a sick pod member
  • military tests
  • confusing underwater topography
  • previous experience of deep water, pelagic environments gives some whales less knowledge of navigating or orienting in waters close to land
  • nearshore intrusions of deep water
  • turbidity
  • heavy surf
  • wind-driven onshore currents
  • "sonar blasts"
  • the sun
  • parasitic and pathogenic infection of the inner ear
  • confusion of sonar signals in shallow water
  • changes in the earth's magnetic field
  • magnetic minima
  • noise from ships' engines
  • John Boy Walton's television performance
An interesting, if highly speculative list to which I might suggest an obvious conclusion: we really have no idea. Maybe the poor things are just so dumb they don't have the brains to avoid self-destruction. Maybe all those whale noises you hear are really the few smart whales laughing amongst themselves about how dumb the younger whales are? FIRST WHALE: "I told them yesterday, you know, but they just don't listen!" SECOND & THIRD WHALES (nodding in agreement) "Oh, I know. Why, only the other day..."

Just maybe we need to accept, however reluctantly, that whales will continue to insist on stranding themselves, that common law principle on harvest might perhaps be invoked, and that beached whales be quickly shovelled up, packaged, and sent to Japan as a sushi ingredient. Waddya say?

Linked Articles: Whale sinks launch, passengers rescued - Herald
Weather blamed in whale strandings - Herald

'The Thames at Westminster '- Monet, 1871


A very simple painting with an awful lot of depth. Michael Newberry explains how Monet and other artists gave spatial depth to their works.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Setting light to Nosy Parkers

I was about to prepare a post on why I will be burning my census form come Census Day -- just as I've done in previous years -- when I find that a pretty enlightening debate on that very subject has been taking place at DPF's. Get a job with The Man, says Dave, and earn a little extra money helping th Nosy Parkers. " Go piss up a rope," respond commenters including LibertyScott and Libertarianz Leader Bernard Darnton.

Go and join in the fun, and let me know how you get on. My money's on the guys with the matches.

Linked Post: Census Collector Jobs - DPF

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On infighting and 'fellow travellers'

Phil Sage asks a question I thought I'd already answered many times before: Why can't we all just get along. (Here's one of my more recent answers, disagreeing with The Whigette on her proposition that ideas don't matter.) The first and most obvious question is, "What's with the 'we,' white man?"

Phil's questioning ensues from his observing with "bemusement & frustration ... the almost complete self destruction of ACT over the last 12-18 months." Phil thinks all those "travelling in the same direction" -- whom he decribes variously as "Libertarian Travellers" and "travellers in the direction of Freedom with Responsibility" -- should stop their infighting, and work together in the same covert way as the Marxists, Trotskyites and fellow travellers have been in order to get their own noxious ideas into parliament.

As one of those named by Phil as an "infighter" happy to "stand on the sidlines sniping" I thought I should answer the question again, and correct a few misconceptions. (And as Phil called me both "brilliant" and "insightful" I'll do so very, very gently.) My own position has always been that any move in the direction of freedom that has no associated new compulsion is a good thing. A Very Good Thing. Anyone travelling in that direction is just fine with me, just as long as they get on with it. However, rather than standing on the sidelines sniping, I've always considered myself to be one of the chaps who erects the goal posts, marks out the field, and keeps persuading the players to move the ball as rapidly as possible towards the correct end of the field - the one with 'More Freedom!' painted on the hoardings.

To mix metaphors, if Phil and others are really serious about fighting the good fight with like-minded others in order to get your ideas into parliament -- if that really and truly is your aim -- then the most important thing in your combat unit is not footsoldiers, of which there is an abundance, but Intellectual Ammunition and plenty of it; a Quartermaster to keep it in order; and a good understanding of the bullets your soldiers are actually firing. In short, you need to know what ideas you're aiming to get into parliament, and why they matter.

Confusion on this is endemic. For instance, that idea of moving in the right direction; that position of More Freedom with No New Compulsion -- who could possibly object to that? But what exactly does "the right direction" mean? What does "compulsion" look like, and why is it wrong? And what exactly does 'freedom' mean anyway, and why does it matter? (Here, at least, is what I mean by 'freedom.') If we can't even agree on the words we use, then why assume we're even heading in the sme direction? And if everyone simply chooses their own path, then whatever expedition we decide to mount in whatever company we decide on is not going to get very far before some travellers are distracted by the delights of easy compulsion and bright lights of the baubles of office.

No, if you want to get your ideas into parliament by working with fellow travellers, you at least have to some basic agreement on the direction in which you're travelling, and on what your fellow travellers mean by their most basic notions. If we can't even agree on the meaning of words such as 'freedom,' we're not going to travel very far together.

And why assume that your fellow travellers appear only on your putative side of the aisle? If more freedom with no new compulsion is your rallying cry, then Labour's Civil Union Bill and legalisation of prostitution are both Good Things, as is the Greens' now unfortunately muted call for legalising decriminalising marjuana. And on Phil's side of the aisle we can point to National's introduction of the RMA, NCEA, BIA and the whole hand-wringing, cheque-writing, holy-rolling Waitangi Gravy Train as Bad Things -- Very, Very Bad Things (not to mention some of the Very Bad Things wearing National's colours in the House). And speaking of good things from odd places, how about that 1984-1990 Labour Government, eh? (Such a shame about all the new compulsion, such as the increased tax take and Douglas's fortunately canned proposal to put the whole country on welfare via his Government-funded Minimum Family Income (GMFI) scheme.)

If getting your ideas into parliament is your standard, then be prepared to celebrate whenever and wherever they appear. And be equally prepared too to point out the backsliding and the compulsion. If a politician thinks they can get away with the easy road of more compulsion, then be assured they always will.

But there's another problem. One other significant problem with getting the ideas of freedom into parliament is that the very people Phil describes as my fellow travellers freely confess that ideas per se bore them rigid -- as this thread confirms only too sadly. "I just don't fucking get libertarian philosophy. And I don't care that I don't get it," says one particular wet hen who Phil presumably thinks should be a bedfellow. These are allies, Phil? In getting ideas into parliament? Are you sure?

Phil wonders why I "stand so firmly on points of principle," and why I don't just join in with the compromisers. Coming back full circle, one answer to that is contained in his own introduction: look at how well compromise has worked for ACT. Ironically, it is "the almost complete self destruction of ACT" that kicked off Phil's musings, but he fails to see the connection between ACT's self-destruction and its penchant for compromise, and as a contrast National's recent rise and its belated rediscovery of principle -- however partial and mealy-mouthed that rediscovery has been. Given Phil's stated disppointment at the self-destruction of the party of compromise, it would be odd if he were now to advocate ACT's past pursuit of compromise and me-too-ism as the solution for his Fellow Travellers.

In the end, it is not compromise and vacillation that moves the world, it's ideas and principles -- the trick then is to have your principles being the ones at work. (See for example Vaclav Havel's espousal of this point.) As Victor Hugo once observed, you can stop an army of soldiers but you can never stop an army of ideas; the only way to fight ideas is with better ones. It's about ideas, stupid!

As Ayn Rand points out so often, defending your ideas badly is worse than not defending them at all. Allowing in silence the ideas you value "twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools" is hardly calculated to see your ideas victorious, and nor is seeing it happen likely to enamour you to the various twisters. If you do know right from wrong and freedom from coercion, then why would you continue to advocate for even a little coercion -- for just a few people beign roughed up -- instead of shouting from the rooftops for freedom ? Is there any doubt that if all 'fellow travellers' really did that they'd make a voice loud enough to be heard, and powerfully enough to 'make a difference'?

If politics is truly the art of the possible, then the more shouting about freedom you do outside parliament, then the easier it is for the political ballast inside the House to move in that direction -- in fact, you're making it politically expedient to do so.

So on the subject of laying down and being walked all over I'm with Margaret Thatcher, who famously told a Tory conference eager to force a U-turn on her then-bold policy of privatisation and deregulation, "U turn if you want to, the Lady is not for turning." If that's being a Lady, then I'm all for many more of them.

And if you're still not sure what a libertarian is for, then hearken to this: What's a libertarian for?

Linked Articles:
ACT, The Whig, Loudon, Falloon, Bhatnagar, Not PC & infighting among Libertarian fellow travellers - Phil Sage
In Answer to The Whigette on 'Definition of a Libertarian' - PC
From intervention to freedom, in several easy steps - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism - Force
Cue Card Libertarianism - Freedom
What's a libertarian for? - PC

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It's International De-Lurking Week...

Lurker: n. Someone waiting in concealment [syn: skulker, lurcher]. One of the `silent majority' in a electronic forum; one who posts occasionally or not at all but is known to read the group's postings regularly. This term is not pejorative and indeed is casually used reflexively: "Oh, I'm just lurking." Often used as in: `the lurkers', the hypothetical audience for the group's flamage-emitting regulars. When a lurker speaks up for the first time, this is called `de-lurking'. See also Lurker at Wikipedia.
Span has noticed that many US bloggers have self-declared this to be International De-lurker Week, and being (as you know) a dedicated follower of fashion myself, and also bloody curious about the people who read this here blog, perhaps you'd care to take up this once-a-year invitation to turn on, log in, and say "Yo!" We bloggers value every single one of you. (I'll turn off the anti-spam Word Verification for a day or so just so's it's easier for you.) Now is the time for all good people to de-lurk!

PS: Thanks to those who commented on my question about comments. All useful stuff. Ta. :-)

UPDATE: Ruth, who did try to comment, sent me this link to someone who didn't:
What kind of shitty comment whoring ploy is National De-Lurking Week anyway? Is it some feeble attempt to guilt readers into taking a whiz on your Blogs? A marking of the territory so to speak? It’s all bullshit I tell you.

Let’s face it. Most Blogs are shit. It’s bad enough that I have to read through some shitty post you wrote about your shit ass cat, or that recipe for some vile and disgusting gruel you prepare for your family. I read through your tired old jokes that have been floating around the internet for two years already, some lame bullshit quiz that means absolutely nothing, or look at some cutie pie pictures of your shit and piss soaked kid with the daily meal smeared all over his face. Oh please don’t get me started on your regurgitated political commentary that I’ve already heard three times from every radio and television talk show host.

Bottom line…Your fucking posts just aren’t comment worthy, at least by me anyway.

So there, and right back atcha, Dude! You might not get Dax at your site, but here's some tips to take to heart if you want other people to enjoy your sorry-ass blog: Ten Tips on Writing the Living Web, by Mark Bernstein. Make use of them.

Top searches landing here this week

Top searches this week to this blog -- all very worthy:

claude megson (3rd)
broadacre city (not on front page)
morality quiz (8th on Yahoo)
no man is an island (not on front page)
frank lloyd wright huntington hartford country club (2nd)
philosophy and logic who needs it (15th)
csikszentmihalyi flow (10th)
economic growth is bad (11th on Yahoo)
eat them. skin them. save them. (1st)
coromandel mining (9th)
mario botta riva san vitale (2nd)
racism and banking (13th on Yahoo)
montessori anti (not on front page)
robert johnson clapton (1st on MSN Search)
villainy (26th on Yahoo)

And as usual, there's some oddballs:

is that your daughter? & suck & dick
dover samuels sex girl
anarchy tactics (23rd on Yahoo)

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Rosenbaum Floor Plan - Frank Lloyd Wright

To an architect, a floor plan is like a musical score -- all the information is there if you know what to look for, and how to read it.


Frank Lloyd Wright's floor plans were incredibly nuanced, and deceptively complex. The example shown here is from the 1939 Rosenbuam House, one of Wright's forty-odd moderate cost 'Usonian Houses' -- just 143 sqm, but with the soul of a larger house packed in there.

See if you can identify some of the 'tricks' he's used to make the small house appear much larger. Can you spot three of them?

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Saving those whales with good hard sense

There's nothing like an argument about whales to make everyone lose their marbles.

One local blogger, for example, has posted various thoughts on morality and animal rights, and on her former membership of Greenpeace, and how that pertains to Greenpeace's opposition to the Japanese whalers presently in the South Seas. 'Go Greenpeace' she says:'Stop the hand-wringing and break out those guns.' (I paraphrase, of course) Unfortunately, she offers no argument for her position, just simple assertion and a quote from Jeremy Bentham, who was himself not even in favour of rights for human beings ("nonsense on stilts" is what the stupid man called the idea).

The simplest short explanation why animals don't have rights is that they don't understand them -- as PJ O'Rourke pointed out you can tell the lion all you like that it's wrong, but he's still going to rip the guts right out of Bambi. And what do you do when that happens? If Bambi has rights, then you have to throw the lion in jail And if animals really do have rights, what happens when you tuck into Daisy the cow? Should you get thrown in jail with the lion? Who's going to tell the lion about your rights?

Fact is, and much as we may wish it otherwise, rights pertain not to animals, but to species that use their conceptual faculty to produce and to plan long range, and who need the protection of law to do so. As far as is presently known, ours is the only species that does so; if whales or any other species want their rights recognised, then let them show up in court and argue for them. It's not like whales don't talk to each other enough -- all that bloody singing that they do all day.

No, much as we may wish it otherwise, animals have rights only by virtue of our ownership over them -- kill my cat and I'll see you in court (and probably outside as well). But kill a stray cat, and all we can do is judge you by what you've done. How we treat animals is one way to judge a person. And maybe, in all the moral indignation about the whales, we forget that New Zealanders ourselves aren't too bad at slaughtering animals for food (as I pointed out the other day). Writing in The Dominion however, former MP Stephen Franks reminds us:
We are lathered in moral indignation about whaling. Yet as a nation we live off the proceeds of slaughtering up to 40 million cuddly young animals a year. Japanese think lambs are impossibly cute.
The Green Party blob objects that Franks "has missed the point. New Zealand has a huge industry in farming sheep. As we all know sheep are generally bred for either their wool or their meat. They are not an endangered animal. Whales on the other hand are."

There are two responses to make here. Minke whales, which the Japanese are hunting, are not endangered. Numbers in the Southern Ocean are in dispute, and are probably not as many as the 760,000 claimed in 1990, but even if much less that is not the sort of order of magnitude one sees if a species is dying out.

But some whales are endangered. True. The second point to make is that perhaps if whales were farmed, they wouldn't be so endangered. I've mentioned this point here many times (just check out some of my posts on Conservation) but developing a property right in whales is perhaps the best way to ensure they don't die out. As a headline describing the work of conservationist and crocodile farmer Dr Graham Webb once summarised: "Eat Them. Skin Them. Save Them." Or, as you might say if you're a Kaikoura whale tourism operator, 'Watch Them, Photograph Them & Save Them.' Pay your money and make your choice, and all that's needed then is a legal and a technological breakthrough, and a change in attitude.

As I say above, there is no case for protection of animals on the basis of their rights, but there is a strong case to be made for the protection of animals based on human rights -- specifically on the real, human property rights of ownership. As Dr Graham Webb has long argued, "The proposition that wildlife conservation can sometimes be enhanced through allowing and even promoting the harvesting of wildlife is a sensitive issue," but it is a necessary one to consider.

There is a very good reason that cows and lambs are not endangered, but kiwis, kakapo and some species of whale are: the value of the former is recognised and protected in law, and that protection is in favour of those to whom the animals are a real tangible value, and who own them. The notion of the 'intrinsic value' of animals is not required since real value is protected, and the bogus notion of 'animal rights' is not needed as real, human property rights are protected. As that headline says, 'Eat Them, Skin Them, Save Them.'

Graham Webb's discussion of the proposition makes the point that recognising a property right in animals makes for 'sustainable conservation' [PDF download]:
...An increasing body of conservationists believe local people should not be treated as the enemy of conservation (Hutton and Dickson 2000). They should be active partners, at the frontline. To achieve and sustain this, they need to receive tangible, sustainable benefits for their efforts. In most cases, the only sustainable way of providing those benefits is through using wildlife for economic gain. That is, conservation through sustainable use (CSU).
Graham's own crocodile park outside Darwin is a great example of one way this can work. The private conservation projects here in NZ and the various Southern African private wildlife parks are other good examples of private 'sustainable conservation' that succeed by eschewing vague ideas of non-existent 'intrinsic values' or of animal rights or of simply wishing we'd all just be nice to God's creatures , and instead by answering the question, "Of value to whom, and for what?" and then proceeding to protect the property rights of those to whom there is a recognised right and a clear value.

And if it's just whales you want to protect, then Zen Tiger has yet another solution. Like Ruth, he's on the side of the whales too, only unlike Ruth he's come up with a viable plan: Eat more McDonalds:

...the last hope for the Whales is MacDonald's. Their plan is to substitute the demand for whale meat with demand for a Big Mac. By all accounts, Japanese youth are increasingly turning away from Whale to Big Macs, so it seems to be working.

We need to speed the process. I suggest two more initiatives:

Read on here to find out how eating more cows can help save the whales.

Linked Articles:
Cue Card Libertarianism - Rights
Opening a whole new can of whales - Not PC
Barbed wire for Kaikoura's whales - Not PC
Eat Them. Skin Them. Save Them.
PDF] Conservation and sustainable use of wildlife — an evolving concept - Dr Graham Webb
My secret flaw - Zen Tiger
More Conservation from Not PC

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Superseding the Treaty with something objective called "good law"

Waitangi Day is rushing down upon us, so it's worth re-posting Nick Kim's cartoon demonstrating what the mythical Treaty Principles are doing to our law (cartoon courtesy The Free Radical):

The cartoon also nicely accompanies a discussion about the Treaty in the comments section below following a question from Berlin Bear. As I say there, in my view the Treaty is insufficiently comprehensive to be a founding document of a nation and should be superseded and made an historical nullity by an objectively written constitution. The gravy train has to be derailed, and justice put back in its seat.

When palpable injustices have taken place then the Treaty of Waitingi is both unnecessary and unhelpful. If proveable injustice has taken place, then no matter the race of those involved the mainstream courts can deal with it under the principles established by that objectively written constitution. If there is no injustice, there is nothing that can be or should be done. If there truly is, then it should be dealt with justly, and seen to be dealt with justly. Further, the mainstream courts acting under an objective constition would be and should be colour-blind -- this cannot be said of the racist Waitangi Tribunal. If theft or injustice has truly taken place then the colour of the victim is irrelevant; you don't need the Treaty to repair the injustice. If theft has not taken place then the colour of the claimant is still irrelevant, and the Treaty serves only to obfuscate, and in fact to produce injustice.

The Treaty itself is now irrelevant, divisive, and a meal ticket for those riding its gravy train. It is also insufficiently comprehensive to be a true founding document of a country, and should be replaced with a constitution that is.

Linked Articles: Treaty Out, Constitution In - Lindsay Perigo
A Constitution for New Freeland - Libertarianz

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Do you have a people?

The announcement by the Stats Department that they will very kindly allow you to declare your ethnicity in the next census as 'New Zealander' has prompted discussion on how you define yourself.

Some people define themselves by what they call 'their people.' Do you have a people? Willie Jackson says he's spent his life looking out for "his people" -- when resigning as a Labour MP Tariana Turia declared "it came down to a question of integrity and I had to act for my people" -- her present Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said in his maiden speech that "the hurt to my people" in being called "haters and wreckers" by Helen Clark was "very deep."

So Willie, Tariana and Pita seem to think they have 'a people,' and they're basing it on their race. They are making a virtue of their skin colour, about which they have no choice, but because of which they demand special 'race-based' favours. Such is the mistaken value of ethnicity:

ETHNICITY: The elevating of one’s racial identity and associated cultural traditions to a position of supreme importance – a racist version of collectivism, under-pinned by post-modernism in philosophy, and still very fashionable in academia.
How about you? Do you have 'a people'? If so, how do you decide who that 'people' is. Think about it for a minute, and while you do, let me ask you a question and offer you a proposition.

Do you choose 'your people' by something you can't do anything about, like your skin colour or the colour of your hair, or by something about which you have some choice. For instance, your kind of people might be tennis players. Or stamp collectors. Or foodies. Or Formula 1 drivers. Or thinkers, achievers, bon vivants, or humourists. All of these various 'persons' have something in common: they have chosen their pursuit, and they could have chosen otherwise. By contrast, defining yourself or others primarily by race, about which none of us can do nothing, takes away an important element of our humanity: our ability to make choices.

What I want to suggest to you is this: that the foundation of what it is to be human is our ability to make choices; fundamentally, our faculty of free will consists of our ability to choose to think, to turn on what makes us distinctively human: our brains. Defining 'your people' not by things that are consciously chosen but instead by things over which you have no control denies what it is to be human -- and this is the very evil of racism: that it de-humanises people, and views them as little more than as various kinds of cattle. This is the very reason Ayn Rand identified racism simply as a "barnyard form of collectivism" -- a grouping of people on the basis of attributes that deny their humanity.

This is the sort of view that still unfortunately persists in the Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Centuries, and which still allows all sorts of bad stuff to proliferate: from the persistent demands of the Turia/Sharples Maori Party for race-based favours; to the soft bigotry of low expectations decried by Walter Williams; to the outright evil of trainloads of human beings poured into the gas chambers and crematoria of Nazi Germany, buried in the mass graves of Bosnia, and bombed in the present mass murders in Iraq. When you ask yourself in depair how these horrors of 'ethnic cleansing' and inter-tribal warfare are able to happen, it starts with the de-humanisation of human beings; racism is the pre-eminent form of de-humanisation.

Recognition of free will is the enemy of racism. It is also the foundation of a genuine individualism.

Defining oneself by one’s race and tradition -- things over which one has no control -- is utterly incompatible with defining oneself by one’s conscious choices. Deriving pride in one's own achievements rather than just those of one's ancestors -- this is the very essence of individualism.

So, do you have a people then? And what exactly will you be writing on your Census form?*

Linked Articles: Cue Card Libertarianism - Ethnicity
Conservative, Liberals & Blacks - Walter Williams
Tragedy in Iraq - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism - Individualism

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*Yes, that last one is of course a trick question -- as every good libertarian would know. ;^)

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'Portrait of Madame Pierre Gautreau' - John Singer Sargent


The infamous 'Portrait of Madame X' that scandalised Paris in 1884. Rumour has it that Singer Sargent was a distant relative, but as Lou Reed says, "you can't always trust your Mother."













[UPDATE: Painter Lindsay Mitchell has an explanation of what exactly was considered so scandalous about this painting: Parisians took their art more seriously then than we now do, and apparently the painting was also subtly different then... See Lindsay's 'Spot the difference']

Monday, January 16, 2006

Change of helm at ACT on Campus

Congratulations to Helen Simpson and Andrew Falloon, the new president and vice-president respectively of ACT on Campus. (That's Helen pictured left, celebrating at AoC's weekend conference with an unnamed friend. Naturally enough, Helen is the one on the right.)

I look forward to Helen and Andrew having the courage of what they say are their freedom convictions, and to hear them calling for the Association of Compulsion Touters to expunge all vestiges of compulsion, and to truly represent its stated freedom principles. Given ACT's present reliance on its youth wing for its energy and enthusiasm, there is more power for AoC to move minds within ACT than perhaps they presently realise.

I've suggested more than once five simple policies that need to be changed in order for ACT to fit the bill of a true freedom party...
1) Abolish the RMA. Use the 'A' word! Tell people you want to put a stake through its heart. Start promoting property rights, and common law means to protect them.
2) End the War on Drugs. You tell people you're the party of freedom -- show that you mean it. This would really put the acid on the Green Party authoritarians, and you might even pick up a few of those Green supporters sick of their party's ban-everything wowserism. You don't need to smoke the stuff yourself (most libertarians don't) -- just joining with Milton Friedman in saying 'Legalise Marijuana' might help you feel better about your libertarian credentials, and help you sleep better at night.
3) Privatise, privatise, privatise
. Don't fiddle, tinker or bugger about with 'restructuring' Government departments and state assets: sell, give away or otherwise dispose of them all. Give back the schools and hospitals to those using and running them; recognise the property rights that already inhere in beaches and foreshore and let the government lease back the Beehive to hold cabinet meetings. Call for government to get the hell out of everything it shouldn't be in, and really make the rhetoric of small government really mean something.
4) Abolish the Treaty of Waitangi
and rescind the apartheid-based 'Treaty Principles' that poison too much New Zealand law by their lack of objectivity. Replace the Treaty with a constitution protecting individual rights, regardless of colour.
5) End the DPB.
You've got a candidate advocating it, why not start shouting it from the rooftops!
I look forward to hearing from Helen and Andrew regarding their views on the above.

[UPDATE: Helen has given her views on the Infamous Five above -- no word yet from Andrew, altough I know he's ben visiting. Hi Andrew. And ACT candidate Lindsay Mitchell, who has been campaigning on Point Five for some years has indicated on her blog that's she's also enthusiastically behind Point Two. "It is the job of the state to protect people from each other - not themselves," she says. And so it is.]

Linked Helpful Advice: Question for Act's libertarians

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Commenting on the commentators

Deborah Coddington has belatedly discovered blogs and has told the Herald all about it. She finds "Planet Blogger" to be nothing short of "a sad, pathetic sphere..." "I feel genuinely sorry for the blogsite hosts who strive to supply a political service the market obviously wants," she says, before scurrying back to the safety of the MSM, which clearly isn't supplying the market -- or is at least supplying it only very poorly.
This could be a good forum for free discussion. I imagine, however, that the genuine commentators, who use their real names and don't hurl abuse, get fed up and find a life in the real world.
Deborah's sympathy is not something too many bloggers will appreciate, but her bitching about some commenters on some blogs does resonate, even if her understanding of defamation doesn't. (Yes, Deborah, bloggers are subject to the law of defamation as well.) "Illiterate ranters" she calls commenters -- and that's you lot she's talking about, just so you're clear. Being called names herself by some commenters hasn't endeared her to the breed apparently:
What did the pundits say about me on David P Farrar's blogsite? Singling out the most colourful quotes - "anorexic drag queen in high heels", "Boring, Irritable, Testy, Catty, Hateful [spells bitch]", and my favourite - "white trash gold digger".
Poor Deborah. But what is it with some blog commenters anyway? If they're anonymous, they are too frequently rude and unhinged. If they're pseudonymous they're too often too poorly argued. And if they're here at Not PC there's just not too many comments to go around -- at least not so many after the rude and unhinged are deleted. Why Not PC doesn't reap a rich harvest of comments commensurate with the number who read it, I really have no idea - instead, most posts have tumbleweed running through the comments section. I've been told I put people off because I'm "so cold and unfeeling"; because I "use too many big words"; and because, I've been told more than once, I'm "too frightening"! Little old me!

Feel free to leave your own theory below. I promise not to bite. In fact, I won't say anything at all lest I scare you away.

Linked Article: Free rein for illiterate ranters - Deborah Coddington

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Explaining Capitalism

Perhaps the most exciting recent book for capitalists released in the last year has been Andrew Bernstein's Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic and Philosophic Case for Laissez-Faire (reviewed here and here.)

Capitalism Magazine has a brief excerpt up at their site:
A proper understanding of capitalism is sorely lacking among current politicians, intellectuals and even the American people, who generally support it. In order to gain such understanding, it is helpful to start with a true story that reveals the spirit, the sense of life, the emotional stance and outlook that characterizes capitalism. Then it will be possible to comprehend the deeper principles it embodies and the intellectual causes that give rise to it...
Read on here.

Linked Articles: The Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic and Philosophic Case for Laissez-Faire - Review
Release of the 'Capitalist Manifesto' - Not PC
The Capitalist Manifesto - Excerpt

Japanese Garden, Philadelphia


A Japanese House beautifully related to a gorgeous Japanese Garden, and in the unlikely place of Philadelphia. Note the transition space between the inside and outside; the diagonal planning and the gentle, easy relationship between house and garden; the objects placed in foreground and middle ground to help lead the eye out, including paths and bridges to entice you out; the gentle transition from man-made to natural -- including for example the man-made post in the foreground leading the eye out to its more natural forebears in the distance -- it becomes difficult to identify where house finishes and garden begins.

All in all, a beautiful example of just how special is Japanese garden design, and how much it has to teach us -- and how much it has to show us about our houses can relate to the landscape around them.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Cue Card Libertarianism - Harmony of interests

As I said here recently, no man is an island and neither should we be. In a free society, we each gain an incalculable boon from the existence of others. Just some of the benefits of living in a free society are the following:
  • the learning and knowledge we may glean from others -- being able to stand on the shoulders of geniuses underpins all subsequent scientific, technological and artistic advances;
  • the love, friendships and artistic gifts we may share with each other;
  • the 'seed capital' produced from prior production that may be made available to us for our own projects;
  • the abundance of wealth and technological progress made possible by capitalism which makes our existing lives happer, healthier and longer than they would otherwise be.
So what good is sitting alone on your island. "Come hear the music play!"

In a free society, all the many benefits to be gained from others are non-sacrificial ones. Advancement, wealth-production, love and friendship... all derive not from plunder and conquest, but by cooperation and voluntary exchange. By mutual benevolence. As David Kelly explains in his book Unrugged Individualism, "Benevolence is a commitment to achieving the values derivable from life with other people in society, by treating them as potential trading partners, recognizing their humanity, independence, and individuality, and the harmony between their interests and ours." A free society is not do-eat-dog, since we all gain incalculably from all those who are 'winning.'

Benevolence is both the result and the pre-condition of enjoying the fruits of a free society. Robert Le Fevre, for example, in explaining ownership [audio] -- how you acquire it, and why it's to everyone's advantage to respect boundaries -- also explains implicitly the need and result of benevolence in the principle of property ownership. (You might want to compare Le Fevre's presentation to my own on the same subject. Or you might not.)

The field of economics also helps explain the harmony of interests amongst free people. The Law of Comparative Advantage, while somewhat difficult to grasp, is just one side of an economic coin explaining the harmony:
Free people are not a threat to each other. Your neighbour may be bigger, stronger, more efficient, more productive, and even better looking, but it's to the advantage of both of you to keep working at what you do best. (If you didn't do it the other day, and this still sounds screwy, then try the Desert Island Game. It's a good introduction to this important idea.) The law of comparative advantage, first identified by David Ricardo, recognises that no matter how poor you yourself may be at your work, if both you and your neighbour specialise in what you each do best, then at the end of the day you are both better off. The best way, for example, for the Swiss to get grain is not to grow grain, but to make cuckoo clocks and watches so they can trade for grain. And when they do, we're all better off.

If you think the Law of Comparative Advantage seems to make no sense, then don't worry, you're not alone. As PJ O'Rourke writes in his book Eat the Rich, "Todd G. Buchholz, in his book New Ideas from Dead Economists, says 'An insolent natural scientist once asked a famous economist to name one economic rule that isn't either obvious or unimportant.' The reply was 'Ricardo's Law of Comparative Advantage.'" If you're struggling with the concept, and the game doesn't help explain it, O'Rourke's short explanation is one of the best on record, and undoubtedly the only one using Courtney Love to help explain things.
In a free society there is room for all. The Law of Comparative Advantage explains how the less able contribute to the more able, to the great benefit of both. On the other side of this coin representing the harmony of interests of free people is the Pyramid-of-Ability Principle identified by Ayn Rand -- this principle recognises the enormous contribution made by the more able to the less able:
As George Reisman puts it, the law of comparative advantage explains the "contribution of the cleaning lady to [noted inventor, Thomas] Edison"; by contrast, the Pyramid-of-Ability Principle explains the "contribution of Edison to the cleaning lady." What Edison makes possible for the cleaning lady is much, much more than she coudl have achieved under her own steam. As David Kelly explains: "The men with the greatest minds and talents confer on others much more value than they ever receive in return, no matter how much wealth they acquire, [while] the least able receive much more value than they create."

The concept that integrates this principle is what Ayn Rand called the Pyramid of Human Ability. Rather than the strong exploiting the weak, as popular wisdom would tell you is the case, the 'weak' are far more 'exploitative' of the strong. But the strong are not complaining; they just keep right on producing.

Frederic Hamber explains the reason: it is our minds, not our muscles that are the real source of wealth and progress:
Contrary to the Marxist premise that wealth is created by laborers and "exploited" by those at the top of the pyramid of ability, it is those at the top, the best and the brightest, who increase the value of the labor of those at the bottom. Under capitalism, even a man who has nothing to trade but physical labor gains a huge advantage by leveraging the fruits of minds more creative than his. The labor of a construction worker, for example, is made more productive and valuable by the inventors of the jackhammer and the steam shovel, and by the farsighted entrepreneurs who market and sell such tools to his employer. The work of an office clerk, as another example, is made more efficient by the men who invented copiers and fax machines. By applying human ingenuity to serve men's needs, the result is that physical labor is made less laborious and more productive.
Now, there is one crucial caveat to all this. There is a harmony of human interests in all respects except one: Force! When the gun comes out to force people against their will; to take by force or fraud the fruits of another's production of creative effort; to shackle, by force, the great creators and producers in order to make them milch-cows for the unproductive and the non-creative... when such a situation occurs, then no-one wins, and the 'harmony of human interests' is torn asunder. Such an existence really is the 'dog-eat-dog' situation of popular complaint, in which each of us is potentially a threat to each other. Our minds cannot owrk by compulsion, and if the fruits of productive work are subject to plunder, production will be meagre indeed.

The absence of initiatory force is the very pre-condition of a free society; in the absence of force, we have the opportunity to enjoy the very real fruits of freedom and the harmony of interests enjoyed by free men.

Main linked Articles: Cue Card Libertarianism - 'No man is an island' - Not PC
The gains from trade: understanding comparative advantage - LibertyGuide.Com
Desert Island Game
Ricardo explained by O'Rourke
Pyramid of ability and individual moral worth - Will Thomas
Time to celebrate man's mind - Frederic Hamber
Cue Card Libertarianism - Force - Not PC

Linked Books: Unrugged Individualism - David Kelly
Eat the Rich - PJ O'Rourke

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