Saturday, June 03, 2006

Cue Card Libertarianism: Power

There are two kinds of power that are too frequently confused: political power and economic power. Economic power comes from production and trade, "the ability to produce material values and to offer them for trade"; by contrast, and in Mao Tse-Tung’s memorable formulation, political power comes from the barrel of a gun.

The great danger in confusing the two is that too frequently political power is either put in the service of economic power, or it is set against it. In the libertarian view, it is essential that the two powers are separated totally and completely and constitutionally.

The separation of economy and state is as important as was the seperation of church and state, and for the self-same reasons: the abuse of political power without any effective separation of powers. Governments have a legal monopoly on the use of force – citizens have no choice but to submit to it. It makes no essential difference that they may have elected the government. Political power is coercive.

This is true, be it noted, even in a free society, where the initiation of force by citizens is illegal, but governments reserve the legal right to use force against those who initiate it. (That is the proper use of political power; it is much more commonly used improperly. See Government.)

Economic 'power,' by contrast, is wielded by producers of goods and services by virtue of the voluntary patronage of their customers – who are free to withdraw or relocate their patronage the moment they become dissatisfied. Economic power is non-coercive. As Harry Binswanger says so memorably, the symbol of political power is the gun. The symbol of economic power is the dollar.
The only power a business has to induce customers to give it money is the value of its products. If a business started to produce an inferior product, it would eventually lose its customers. By contrast, the only power that the government has to offer is a threat: "We'll dictate what businessmen can and cannot do—and businessmen better toe the line or we'll throw them in jail."
Blurring the distinction between the dollar and the gun is a favourite ploy of statists, who use this equivocation to justify the curbing of economic freedom through the extension of political controls. "There is no difference between being dictated to by a politician and by a businessman," fudges the statist, "so what harm is done by giving more to the politician and less to the businessman?" Answer – immeasurable.

MORE READING: Harry Binswanger, 'The Dollar and the Gun,'

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

LINKS: Cue Card Libertarianism - Not PC .

TAGS: Cue_Card_Libertarianism, Libertarianism, Politics, Economics

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CO2: They call it pollution

If you want to see the global warming TV ads that I'm told got up John Campbell's nose the other night, then here they are: Energy, Glaciers and "a special web-only bonus on the occasion of the release of The Inconvenient Truth: Al Gore's Big Fat Carbon Footprint."

These are, say the producers, "television spots focusing on the alleged global warming crisis and the calls by some environmental groups and politicians for reduced energy use."

You can get them all in one place here, at the website of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

LINKS: We call it life - TV Ads by the Competitive Enterprise Institute

TAGS: Global Warming, Humour

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How postmodermism gutted the left

Stephen Hicks points out a review of leftist radical Todd Gitlin’s "new book on how postmodernism gutted the Left." Gitlin's book bewails that as if it's a bad thing.
His new book, a collection of essays titled The Intellectuals and the Flag, hopes to inspire a "new start for intellectual life on the left" because "Marxism and postmodernism ... are exhausted."
That last point at least is indisputably true.
Gitlin [says the reviewer] is surefooted in identifying the problem. The left, he argues, took a wrong turn when it abandoned knowledge as its guiding light on the grounds that knowledge, as argued by theorists like Michael Foucault and Edward Said, was merely a masked form of power...
Hicks of course argues that the left had "already suffered a brain-stroke," which is why it had to turn to such nonsense, hence the thesis of his excellent Explaining Postmodernism --
"Thesis: The failure of epistemology made postmodernism possible, and the failure of socialism made postmodernism necessary." If you don't already have a copy of Hicks's book, already into its fifth printing, then now's the time.

LINKS: Post-Postmodernism - Fred Siegel, Blueprint magazine
Explaining Postmodermism - Stephen Hicks, Amazon

TAGS:
Postmodermism, Philosophy, Socialism, Objectivism

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Beer O'Clock: Monk's Habit

Our guest columnist Stu from Real Beer assures me this is no Cock and Bull story. ...

It's about a beer that is quite probaby New Zealand's most awarded ale, and yet is still virtually unknown to the vast majority of New Zealand beer drinkers. It's Monk's Habit - a beer that even my fellow beer columnist Neil Miller (the hop head) and myself (the malt monster) can agree is great [see this review for explanation, Ed.].

Monk's Habit is a veritable feast for the senses and is certainly not for the faint-hearted (nor, sadly, thanks to Helen's excise tax, for those with shallow pockets). Pouring chestnut brown with a creamy light tan head, the nose is full of toffee, caramel, pine resins and woody spices. Sappy caramelised malt and more of those resinous hops are balanced wonderfully in the mouth, and the finish has that perfect brewers secret - just the right level of bitterness to have you begging for more (a dangerous quality at 7%). My tip: let it warm up, just a little, before drinking, and then savour every drop.

Judges are virtually unanimous - twice Supreme Champion Beer at the NZ Beer Awards, Best in Class at the last two Australian Beer Awards and a swag full of other gold medals from various beer awards. As to Ms Clark's thoughts: perhaps Luke Nicholas - the champion brewer of this and many other fine beers, regular blogger, and man behind RealBeer -- though not behind Helen -- will be able to fill us in on what she thought? Or perhaps readers might like to speculate below... ?

In any case, you can start your own habit on tap at any of the Cock and Bull pubs around Auckland and Hamilton, or at the Malthouse in Wellington. For those of you who don't have the luxury of living near one of these establishments, there is a secret stash of limited release bottles at the brewery (contact Steam Brewing and ask nicely - just tell them Stu sent you).

Slainte mhath Stu

LINKS: Steam Brewing, Monk's Habit, RealBeer

TAGS:
Beer_&_Elsewhere

Super 14. Genius.

According to some bloggers who shall remain nameless, Super 14 rugby players aren't just great at make-up and accessorising, they're pretty sharp when it comes to quotable quotes as well. From this latest Super 14 season comes, allegedly, these gems:

"Nobody in Rugby should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein." - Jono Gibbs - Chiefs

"I'm going to graduate on time, no matter how long it takes." - Rodney So'ialo - Hurricanes - on University

"You guys line up alphabetically by height." and "You guys pair up in groups of three, then line up in a circle." - Colin Cooper - Hurricanes coach

Chris Masoe (Hurricanes) on whether he had visited the Pyramids during his visit to Egypt: "I can't really remember the names of the clubs that we went to."

"He's a guy who gets up at six o'clock in the morning regardless of what time it is." - Colin Cooper on Paul Tito

Kevin Senio (Auckland), on night vs day Games "It's basically the same, just darker."

David Nosafora (Auckland) talking about Troy Flavell "I told him, 'Son, what is it with you. Is it ignorance or apathy?' He said, 'David, I don't know and I don't care.'

David Holwell (Hurricanes) when asked about the upcoming season: "I want to reach for 150 or 200 points this season, whichever comes first."

"Andy Ellis - the 21 year old, who turned 22 a few weeks ago" - Murray Mexted

"Colin has done a bit of mental arithmetic with a calculator." - Ma'a Nonu

"He scored that try after only 22 seconds - totally against the run of play." - Murray Mexted

"We actually got the winning try three minutes from the end but then they scored." - Phil Waugh - Warratah

"I've never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body." - Jerry Collins

"That kick was absolutely unique, except for the one before it which was identical." - Tony Brown

"I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father." - Tana Umaga

"Sure there have been injuries and deaths in rugby - but none of them serious." - Doc Mayhew

"If history repeats itself, I should think we can expect the same thing again." - Anton Oliver

"I would not say he [Rico Gear] is the best left winger in the Super 14, but there are none better." - Murray Mexted

"I never comment on referees and I'm not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat." - Ewan McKenzie

Murray Deaker: "Have you ever thought of writing your autobiography?"
Tana Umaga: "On what?"

"Well, either side could win it, or it could be a draw." - Murray Mexted

"Strangely, in slow motion replay, the ball seemed to hang in the air for
even longer." - Murray Mexted

I say "allegedly" because they really come from here. I expect he's ridden a camel or two in his time but, just ask yourself, when was Chris Masoe last in Egypt?

TAGS: Humour, Sport

Hushed expectation around the office...

Here's what's getting us excited around the office at the moment -- apart from our exciting projects of course: Graphisoft has just released ArchiCAD 10 (left), and it's due at our office (right) any day now!

What started in 1984 when Hungarian physicist Gabor Bajor smuggled two Macs into his country to start writing a 3d architectural programme -- this was at a time and a place when even owning a computer was illegal -- is with each year getting better and better.

I can't wait to get my hands on this release.

TAGS: Architecture

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It's blogger vs journo on global warming

The waves made by Sceptical Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg are still being felt. As we speak, a global warming-fuelled blogobrawl is erupting between Brit journo Johann Hari, who's taken a tilt at Lomborg, and blogger Scott Burgess, who's taken up the cudgels on behalf of the sceptics.

Good reading. I recommend starting from the end and working back.

LINKS: Sceptical Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg - Official website
My response to Johann Hari - The Daily Ablution (Scott Burgess)

TAGS: Global_Warming

Cullen's a grumpy little thief this week

A few of you have sent me the latest evidence that the megalomania of Lord Cullen of Michael is beginning to bite. In short, he's lost it, he's nasty, and -- even better -- you can see the evidence for yourself right here in a TV interview on tax cuts. [Click the link and go to 'Cullen attacks press over tax cuts']

Where does the desire for tax cuts come from according to Michael? Why, it's a "personal issue, that is driven by the press gallery" who just want a raise. What about the survey showing the majority of New Zealanders want tax cuts? "It's biased too," says Michael, who's beginning to resemble nothing so much as a child having a tantrum because he wants to keep all the cake for himself.

As one friend said who sent me the link, "See it now before TV1 get a ring from the Politburo."

UPDATE: Another friend made a useful comment. When people in the real world make mistakes or find their whole approach to something not working, they re-evaluate what they're doing. Not politicians. When a politican finds they've stuffed up, when for instance they read studies on illiteracy that show their policies aren't working, or they view surveys showing people are slowly but surely realising they're being stolen from and want some of it back, then what a politician does is spin. And shout. And start to lose the head. Which might be a sign that it's time for them to try the real world again.

LINKS: Cullen attacks press over tax cuts - TVNZ

TAGS:
Budget_&_Taxation, Politics-Labour, Politics-NZ

Queenstown House - Michael Wyatt, Architect


A surprise from this month's Trends magazine: a contemporary NZ house that holds up to its spectacular setting. The website has plenty of photos so you can 'walk through' the house, but sadly no floor plans.

LINKS: Under the mountain - Trends

TAGS: Architecture, New_Zealand

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Newsworthy indeed: Good Sense on bad planning

Sometimes people surprise you, but I was entirely unprepared to be surprised by Richard Worth, MP. He has this comment in the latest weekly missive:

A tale of two cities

There has been a fierce internet debate on urban sprawl versus the determination of the Auckland Regional Council to fix urban limits to growth.

Along comes an interesting speech by Bob Day of the Housing Institute of Australia, comparing Sydney where the medium house price is just over A$500,000 and Houston Texas, where the medium house price is a mere A$140,000.

In affordability terms that is an extraordinary difference and why might it be. Well Houston has no zoning.

Day cites the situation in Australian cities

"We have the ludicrous situation in Australian cities where urban growth boundaries cause land on one side of the boundary - residentially zoned land to sell at $100 a square metre while land outside the boundary zoned agricultural thereby prohibiting residential development, sells for $10 a square metre.

These absurd zoning practices drive land prices through the roof and worst of all, lock low and middle income earners out of the home ownership market."

There are three primary reasons for my astonishment: first that Worth has the common sense to recognise Day's points; second, that he's been following the "internet debate on urban sprawl versus the determination of the Auckland Regional Council to fix urban limits to growth"; and third ... well, have another look at that jpeg of RMA villains I posted yesterday. I put it together a couple of years ago after a certain party leader told me just who needed to be persuaded for real RMA reform to happen from that direction...

So this is promising.

LINKS: News Worthy, #74 - Richard Worth, Scoop
Not PC's Urban Design Archive

TAGS: Urban_Design, Auckland, RMA,
Politics-National

Today is Tax Freedom Day

Yes, that's right. After working for the grey ones for nearly half the year, you now get to go out to work for yourself and your family. According to some of you "that's the price of civilisation." According to Not PC that's obscene.

Staples Rodway -- who should be formally excluded from the slight on accountants in the post below --have the figures and all the charts. It's not pretty. [Hat tip DPF]

LINKS: June 1st is Tax Freedom - New Zealanders work nearly half the year to pay tax - Staples Rodway
Today is Tax Freedom Day - Kiwiblog (DPF)

TAGS: Budget_&_Taxation, Politics-NZ

Cue Card Libertarianism - Unemployment

Unemployment: [n.] That of which there is not nearly enough. Politicians, bureaucrats, and the excess of lawyers and accountants they make necessary should be added to the ranks of the unemployed forthwith.

Were that to happen, with the reduction in taxes and regulations and the concomitant leap in prductivity such a joyous event would presuppose, the number of real jobs that would become available would rise even more impressively than it is already thought to be. Too often in present-day New Zealand, the productive are to be found cap in hand asking permission from the unproductive in order to produce. For the good of all of us, the unproductive have to be put in their place and the productive left free to produce.

The 'full employment' supposedly enjoyed by New Zealand prior to the eighties was an illusion, just as it is now. Armies of people were then 'employed' but were not working, as evidenced by the dramatic improvements in productivity which followed the shedding of tens of thousands of jobs in newly corporatised and privatised industries. The irony today is that thousands more are now working, but are not just unproductive -- there too many thousands working far too often on putting hurdles in the path of those who are productive, or who would be if they were not so shackled.

We might perhaps have been better with featherbeds than with petty fascists, but the fact is we would be better with neither. Real jobs create wealth, they don't seek to shackle those who are creating wealth.

NZ is is still awash in bureaucracy, and in the state worship that fuels the affliction. The quantum leaps in unemployment that began during the Muldoon administration were the inevitable result of decades of living in a Fools’ Paradise to which the Greens et al would bid us return. And the recent year-on-year quantum leaps in the infestation of bureaucrats over the are the inevitable result of not having abandoned the state worship that still afflicts New Zealanders.

If there was a revolution in the eighties, then it certainly hasn't been inside New Zealanders' heads. The state worship imbibed by many with their mothers' milk is still with us, and still weighs us down.

The surest and quickest way to end the periodic crises of unemployment permanently is, as always, to walk the path of freedom. To get the unproductive permanently the hell out of the way of the productive, and let laissez-faire rip. To let the law of supply and demand determine the real price of labour – minimum wage laws should be scrapped and the Employment Court should stop making it impossible for employers to fire anyone (which deters them from hiring in the first place). A time limit should be placed on the dole (“Its chief effect is to turn the unemployed into the unemployable” – Dean Inge) and Company Tax first cut to the bone and then scrapped.

Employers should not be made financially liable for their employees’ pregnancies, their hobbies, their after-hours accidents, weddings, funerals, etc, unless they voluntarily take on such responsibilities. The state’s role should be confined only to providing the machinery for parties who wish to prosecute for breaches of freely negotiated contracts. The underlying principle here is: what’s good for freedom is good for business; what’s good for business is good for jobs.

Part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians. Originally published in The Free Radical. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. The series so far is here.
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LINKS: Cue Card Libertarianism - Not PC
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TAGS: Cue_Card_Libertarianism, Libertarianism, Politics, Politics-NZ, Economics

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Still questions about Timor intervention

A week or so ago I suggested that with 160 NZ soldiers (and counting) now in East Timor for at least a year, it's surprising that there's been so little debate. Have I missed it somewhere? I invited debate here at Not PC, but it was muted, though intelligent, unlike the comments my invitation attracted elsewhere from bloggers who apparently can't read.

When troops are sent overseas into battle, most Parliaments and most people debate the intervention. Not here. I find that odd. It's essential to know what your goal is with any military intervention, and it's essential there's widespread public support for an intervention - if for no other reason than that support beeing needed if things do go pear-shaped. A debate would at least crystallise what's going on and why we're there, wouldn't it? Or should we just trust Helen and Phil now? Anyway, in response to my questions, Phil Howison responded [italics mine]:
If the intervention is well-led, it will probably be successful, at least in the short term. The gangs, rebels and factions are completely outgunned. It seems like the Aussies have allied themselves loosely with the ex-guerrillas - a smart move. After all, they defeated the Indonesians in guerrilla warfare, they could certainly force an Australian withdrawal if they saw it as opposed to their own interests (I certainly can't see the Aussies staying for 24 years, like the Indonesians).

As for the strategic rationale, this is definitely in Australia's interest, and New Zealand should contribute both to give more regional legitimacy and to support an ally. Operations like this pose little risk and offer troops a chance to put their training into practice.

Australia is currently surrounded by weak and failing states to the north and east. A full collapse of any of those countries poses risks for Australia including disease, refugees, arms trafficking, smuggling etc. One major threat to Australia is terrorism. Weak states north of Australia - Indonesia, the Philippines etc - are home to Islamic terrorist groups like JI and Abu Sayyaf. They haven't attacked Australia yet, but failed states close by could offer secure locations for training camps and staging grounds unless Australia intervenes. This would particularly be the case if those Islamic groups (or radicalised elements within the Indonesian military) launched a jihad against East Timor and the Australians based there.
Good points. The threat of failed states is a real one, which makes taking an interest in preventing failed South Pacific states is in our selfish interests, which is of crucial importance, but the items I italicised still worry me. Is there really so little risk? And as you say, the intervention is likely to be successful in the short term (we trust), but what about the longer term? Is there sufficient support for a longer haul there that starts to get messy? Mark responded to my question as to whom the beneficiaries of the intervention might be:
The beneficiaries will be the people of East Timor. Yes, the NZ taxpayer foots the bill, but we have an obligation to help out in our region. The troops will bring peace and stability, and save lives.
Well, let's hope so. But Trevor at New Zeal has a series of posts that might cast a less attractive light on who the political beneficiaries might be. Is Xanana Gusmao really such an unalloyed good thing as he's being said to be? And Helen Hill in The Age wonders why now-sacked PM Mari Alkatiri is being so demonised -- but then she's a sociologist, so we know she can't be taken seriously. Trevor has information about him too that sounds less savoury. The pertinent question is, do we really know enough about either man or about the so-called rebels to know who is worth defending and which side to take, which is a question we are ineluctably going to have to answer - if not in Wellington and Canberra but of necessity on the ground in Dilli. Beyond "peace and stability," who exactly are our troops fighting for, and against whom exactly? And let's not even mention Helen's UN ambitions -- unless of course they're relevant?

There's been little debate here in NZ. Paul Buchanan however asks some good questions, first about whether recent South Pacific crises might have highlighted a failure of intelligence:
Political instability and collective violence in Fiji, the Solomons and East Timor in recent months raises questions about New Zealand’s intelligence and security capabilities in its primary area of geostrategic concern, the southwestern Pacific Rim.
Given the surprise with which each crisis was greeted, that seems the case doesn't it. He continues with some concern about the vagueness to date of the precise mission on which NZ's troops are engaged:
Then there is a more fundamental issue. What exactly is the mission being undertaken? Geostrategic perspectives determine mission definition. Mission definition determines force composition, and force composition determines tactical orientation and deployment. The entire syllogism ideally determines weapons system acquisition and professional training, which are the ultimate determinants of mission accomplishment.

What then, is New Zealand’s security mission in the Solomons and Timor Leste? Originally defined as defending the East Timorese from Indonesian-backed militias and military aggression during the period surrounding national independence in 1999 and operating under UN mandates, the mission has evolved into something else. But what exactly is it? Peacekeeping? Nation-building? Embassy protection? Policing? Establishing Law and Order (if not the Rule of Law)? Showing the Flag? Humanitarian assistance? Support for the UN? Support for the (widely despised) Timorese and Solomon Island governments?

The reason mission definition matters is that without clear and concise grounds and guidelines governing the rules of engagement in conflict zones, these military expeditions run the risk of suffering mission creep: the re-definition of the objectives and rules of engagement over time due to changing circumstances in-theater. When that happens, as in the case of US military interventions in places as disparate as Vietnam, Somalia and Iraq, the threat of being bogged down in an irresolvable political-ethic quagmire looms large. This means a potential waste of resources and possible weakening of New Zealand’s security position there and elsewhere, as well as potentially compromising its economic and diplomatic interests in the region.

More importantly, mission creep is most often a product of inadequate strategic planning resulting from faulty intelligence, lack of foresightedness and logistical incapacity. This scenario courts disaster, as mistakes in the field of international security assistance are measured in blood—in this case potentially that of Kiwis as well as those they seek to dissuade or protect.


Hard questions need to be asked of New Zealand’s national security leadership regarding these matters.
I agree. As Greg Sheridan warns in The Australian,"it is time to speak bluntly." I agree with him at least on that.
The situation in East Timor is much worse than even most analysts and commentators realise. The savage killings and lawlessness of the past few days, the fighting between soldiers and police, and between soldiers and soldiers, and police and police, represent a catastrophic failure of the East Timorese Government...

This crisis reveals dreadful underlying problems in East Timor that cannot be solved quickly but that must be addressed...
So are our own troops up to that job? Are they well-enough equipped? Should they be there? What precisely is their mission? Was there an 'intel failure' in our security services -- or only in our own civilian radar screens? What intellectual horsepower (if any) is there for 'nation building'? Is that what we're doing there? Why is there seemingly so little debate about all this? Without direction, any involvement will be flawed. And without a decent debate, will there be enough support when (or if) things start to go pear-shaped.

I for one think these are reasonable questions to ask.

LINKS: East Timor: Why? How many? And for how long? - Peter Cresswell, Not PC
Stand up the real Mr Alkatari - Helen Hill, The Age
NZ Intel failure evident in Timor Leste crisis - Paul Buchanan, Scoop
Dig in to save Timor - Greg Sheridan, The Australian

TAGS: War, Politics-NZ, Politics-Australian, Politics-World, Timor

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'From dark to light' - A mini-tutorial from Michael Newberry

See in this mini-tutorial how artist Newberry goes step-by-step through one session with his model, sketching with pastel on dark paper.

Says Michael,
I love working pastel on dark paper for one important reason: the pastel being lighter than the paper directly creates a pure colored light... The idea is to gradually add light and color one tone at a time starting with those dark tones just one step lighter than the paper.
Read the whole mini-tut here, and get a feeling for how an artist approaches producing something like this in just one sitting.

LINK: Mini-tutorial:Pastel on dark paper - just add light - Newberry Workshop

TAGS: Art

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Student philosophical 'research'

Stephen Hicks has a compilation of some recent philosophical 'research' that's passed across his desk from his students. Clearly, some haven't been listening too well in class ...
Is philosophy a waist of time? Ethical debates have been around for a long time, but nobody seems to have any answers. Ethnics are very important... For the world to be good means having strong Altruistic people to help the society survive in this doggy dog world.

The existence of God is questionable since evil does have some good points to make. John Hick rebukes the concept that God would not allow suffering if he existed in the third paragraph of his essay. Because of evil there is said to be another force in the universe, a dark force. His name is Satin.

According to Freud, the child has lust during the breast-feeding stage. Eventually his mother stops, and his lust is suppressed until his adultery stage.

In feudal times, jobs were passed on from fathers to sons. For example, if your father was a priest, you would probably become a priest too.
Read on here for more 'insights.'

TAGS: Philosophy, Humour

Celebrate Smokefree Day with a cigar

Today has been mandated as World SmokeFree Day by a bureaucrat somewhere. Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor rejoices, saying as a country we are doing well to make as many places as possible smokefree.

Isn't that irony. The only time you hear the word 'free' these days its associated with a ban.

Here's what I'll be doing later to celebrate SmokeFree Day: I'll be smoking the biggest, dirtiest, smelliest cigar I can get hold of. I'll smoke it on principle, and I'll damn well enjoy it.

Won't you join me!

UPDATE: Here's someone (left) gettin' wit' da program in the correct manner. Onya, Jean.

TAGS: Political_Correctness, Beer&Elsewhere

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Q: Do you have an inviolable right to do whatever you want on your property?

I'm going to answer that question in the title above by linking to an earlier piece on neighbourly relations, and I need to answer it because of misunderstandings like this from people who should know better:
I don't subscribe to the notion that you have an inviolable right to do whatever you want on your property. I'm comfortable with not being able to build a 100 foot high fence as it may block your neighbour's views...
The 'notion' being argued against in that extract is a straw man. The notion being suggested, by me at least, is something quite different.

But first, an introduction: let me tell you about something called 'freedom.' Freedom in this context means to be free from physical coercion; in other words, having political freedom means that you're free to do whatever you're able and whatever you damn well please as long as you don't initiate force against anyone else. My freedom ends, in other words, where your nose begins. In this respect you might call your neighbour's nose your 'side-constraint,' just as his nose is yours -- which meams some of us do get more freedom than others.

Now, under common law, which is what I would propose to repair to once the RMA is abolished, you have the secure right to peaceful enjoyment of your property. And as both you and your neighbour would enjoy that same right, his right of peaceful enjoyment is your side-constraint. Your freedom ends where your neighbour's peaceful enjoyment begins. The 'side contraints' for land use under common law require you to take account of, among other things, your neighbour's rights to light, to air, to support, and to road access and the like. These are significant side constraints, but they are both objective and reciprocal -- your neighbour is equally constrained to recognise your similar rights.

So how are neighbourly issues resolved under common law? How for instance might I ensure my view or a neighbour's tree was retained? Voluntarily, as I explained here.
Voluntary agreements and the use of easements and covenants is the key. If, for example, I want to protect my existing view over your land, then I can negotiate with you to buy an easement over it for that purpose, and that easement would be registered on the title, and legally protected. It might be that my neighbour doesn't want money; it might be that he values very highly the stand of trees on my property. How highly? Highly enough perhaps to ask for a restrictive covenant over those trees to be registered on my title, in his favour. We shake hands. We have agreement.

We each have want we want, we each have security over what we want, trees and view are both protected, and not a bureaucrat or resource consent was needed to do it--just common sense, the tools of common law, and respect for each other's property rights. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it.
And no room for the Jackie Wilkinsons of the world -- or, at least, no house room for them.

LINKS: Tree chopping - Kiwiblog (DPF)
The 'right' to a view - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Cue Card Libertarianism - Freedom - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Cue Card Libertarianism - Common Law - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

TAGS: Common_Law Conservation Environment Property_Rights RMA

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Where does their power come from?

I know some of you are unclear where the power comes from for the Jackie Wilkinsons of this world to tell you what you can and can't do on your own land, so perhaps I can help clear it up.

First of all, it come from the local District Plan. Like arseholes, every council planner's got one. Here's the one that Auckland's planners use. That's an awful lot of rules. Here's the rules dealing with trees, and other stuff council planners think you should like.

I can sympathise with you hating the District Plan and trying to 'fix it.' But that takes time. The real power comes from the Resource Management Act (RMA)-- that piece of excement that former Environment Minister Nick Smith calls "far-sighted environmental legislation." The RMA required councils to write District Plans telling you what you can and can't do on your own land. In fact, it's quite explicit:
9. Restrictions on use of land—
(1)No person may use any land in a manner that contravenes a rule in a district plan or proposed district plan unless the activity is—
(a)Expressly allowed by a resource consent granted by the territorial authority responsible for the plan; or
(b)An existing use allowed by [section 10 or section 10A].
(Just for reference, the "existing uses" allowed by section 10 are now severely limited.) Let me repeat the important phrase from the RMA's Section Nine: "No person may use any land in a manner that contravenes a rule in a district plan..." In other words, you may only do on your land what you are allowed to by the council. (This is an example what RMA author Geoffrey Palmer called "permissive legislation.") By contrast, under the Local Government Act, councils may do whatever they wish unless the Act denies them. Kind of neat, huh?

"But they can't do that!" you might say. "They can't have carte blanche can they, while making me ask permission for absolutely anything, can they?" Well, yes they can. And they have. And they do. Yes, there is a word for this kind of political system (it starts with 'F'), and they do make you ask permission, and they frequently deny it. People have been denied permission to do things as simple as mowing their lawns because it would "disturb local wildlife"; to cut down trees, to plant trees, to build driveways, to put up fences, to take down fences -- the list goes on, let alone the number of people denied permission to build, to renovate, and to improve their own properties. There are people around the country who own gorgeous beachfront properties on which they're not allowed to build -- and there are people like Jackie Wilkinson and Sandra Coney who have made it their job to ensure they won't.

And don't forget the RMA has a draconian penalty regime attached if you do what those in charge of your property haven't previously allow you to, and people have ended up in front of local goon squads to be pilloried -- George Bernard Shaw, for example, in Onehunga recently -- and they've also ended up in jail -- Andrew Borrett, for example, who was jailed for cutting down his own trees to get a driveway to his house.

"When the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce," said author Ayn Rand, "then you may know that your society is doomed." Well, we're there. Under the RMA, you must ask permission from poeple like Jackie Wilkinson so you can "use" your own land -- and "use" under the RMA has a very particular meaning: Almost everything. I quote again from Section Nine, 'Restrictions on Use of Land,' "the word 'use' in relation to any land means:
9. 4(a)Any use, erection, reconstruction, placement, alteration, extension, removal, or demolition of any structure or part of any structure in, on, under, or over the land; or (b)Any excavation, drilling, tunnelling, or other disturbance of the land; or (c)Any destruction of, damage to, or disturbance of, the habitats of plants or animals in, on, or under the land; or (d)Any deposit of any substance in, on, or under the land; or [(da)Any entry on to, or passing across, the surface of water in any lake or river; or] (e)Any other use of land— and ``may use'' has a corresponding meaning.
Happy now? Can you see now that the cartoon in the post below isn't funny, it's tragic. The enemy to attack is the RMA. That's where it all starts. If you object to all this, it's the RMA that has to go. As someone once said, a Ministry for the Environment is a ministry for everything. A law that seeks to control the environment with the means adopted by the RMA means laws for everything. This is eco-fascism pure and simple. Offend the prevailing state religion, and expect to be done over for your crime.

And who brought it in? Who's responsible for this blot on our freedom and property rights? Have a closer look at the picture above. Print it out a PDF and pin it on your wall, and throw a dart at it every time you hear another story like that of Alice Presley's -- and then email each of the people on it and tell them the RMA has to go.

I've said it before: It's time to put a stake through the heart of the RMA. It's time to abolish it. Time to replace it with the simple common law protections of property rights and environment that once existed, and can be given power once again.

UPDATE: A correspondent reminded me that when Nick Smith updated the RMA's penalty regime some years back by bringing in instant fines, court-imposed fines of up to $200,000 and up to $10,000 a day, and up to two years in jail for not doing as you're told, Nick ("this is far-sighted environmental legislation") Smith declared that for the Jackie Wilkinsons of the world to properly get their way "all we need to do is 'ping' one or two people. Then everyone will get the message." What a creep. This is the character you National Party supporters expect to 'amend' the RMA if they ever get near power.

LINKS: Section 9: Restrictions on use of land - RMA
Section 5C: Auckland City District Plan
'No' to more council powers - Libertarianz, Scoop (August, 2001)
RMA villains - PDF
Submission on the McShane Report on the RMA - Peter Cresswell, Libertarianz (1998)
It's time to put a stake through the heart of the RMA - Peter Cresswell, Free Radical [4-page PDF, 2005]

TAGS:
Auckland RMA Common Law Cartoons, Property_Rights Urban_Design Environment New_Zealand Politics-NZ

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Whose bloody land is it anyway?


Cartoon by Nick Kim, courtesy of The Free Radical magazine.

TAGS: RMA Property_Rights Cartoons Humour Politics-NZ Environment Property

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Desert Hot Springs Motel - John Lautner

A superbly planned and delightfully designed set of four motel units by one of Frank Lloyd Wright's former apprentices. Built all the way back in 1947.

LINK: Desert Hot Springs Motel website

TAGS: Architecture

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ms A. Presley gets community service

Yes, that's right customers. Ms Alice Presley from Avondale has been tried and convicted of cutting down her own tree, and has been sentenced to 180 hours community service for her pains.

Just a reminder if you weren't already sure: here in the People's Republic of Aotearoa, your property is not your own. Just as Theresa Gattung can be now be sure who owns Telecom's lines, ie., not her, I'm sure Alice Presley is nowfully aware who owns her trees: the planner's. Not her.

Auckland City’s services requests commissar, Jackie Wilkinson, says the sentence serves as a timely warning that the courts take the unauthorised felling of the Council's trees very seriously.

“It’s really important that people understand that trees over a certain height no longer belong to the people on whose land they reside. These trees are protected, which means they are ours, and the courts will hand down stiff penalties to those who do not abide by our rules for our trees.

The rest of you who still haven't got it can perhaps expect a cast of Shortland St stars to begin making the same point for you in an award-winning series of TV ads. And those of you who have already got it will no doubt continue to cut down existing trees as they get to six metres tall, and refrain from planting anything that is likely to ever reach over six metres tall.

[Caution: some trees may be harmed in the printing out and distributing of this post.]

UPDATE 1: In an interview on Newstalk ZB, Commissar Wilkinson demonstrated that words like "medding arsehole" and "bitch" might perhaps be too mild to describe those of her ilk. Interview starts twelve minutes into the linked radio show segment, and -- frustratingly -- continues at the beginning of the 5:30 segment. If anyone would like to combine both sections of the interview as one MP3 and send me a link I'd be very grateful.)

UPDATE 2: Lindsay Mitchell and Elliot have a well-deserved crack at both the decision and the Commissar.

UPDATE 3: Jackie Wilkinson clearly enjoys her job. She gets to tell people what they can and can't do. She gets to threaten. Just in the last few months she's been responsible for threatening and then involved in tearing down signs in Dominion Rd (remember Sound City (right), whose signs were removed in what the Herald called "a pre-dawn raid"?), threatening to put an end to summer dining in Ponsonby cafes, and warning Aucklanders zat zey need to follow the rules "voluntarily," or else Jackie and her commissars will "work with them." How do you spell 'busybody'? Or 'petty fascist'? Funny, isn't it, how such jobs provide a comfortable berth for such aggressive busybodies. Feel free to contact the council and remind them who their employers are.

UPDATE 4: If you're not sure what a Liquid Amber looks like, that's one there on the left. If you're particularly keen, you can click on it and watch the clouds move.

UPDATE 5: Listen to Alice Presley's twelve-minute interview with Kathryn Ryan on Radio NZ's Nine-to-Noon. Link here.

UPDATE 6: Some of you who sent money to me to help out if Annette Presley continues with her legal threats (mostly sent through the PayPal link at the top of the page) suggested that if it were found not to be necessary I should pass it on to someone else, perhaps someone who's in the midst of a property rights battle. Someone just like Alice Presley. Who is Annette Presley's mum. Who Annette hasn't apparently spoken to since 1987. You can hear the irony from Papatoetoe to Avondale, and all the way over to Takapuna.

LINKS: Community service for illegal tree felling - Scoop
Interview with Commissar Jackie Wilkinson from Auckland City Council - Newstalk ZB (interview starts 12 minutes into linked segment, and continues in the next segment at 5:30pm)

TAGS: Property_Rights, Common_Law, Conservation, RMA, Auckland

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'Pure and perfect competition'

So what is it with monopolies, eh? Clearly not content with my own wee Cue Card on the subject, I saw someone yesterday (somewhere) asking what the heck problem we free-marketeers have with regulating and stealing from Telecom -- after all, said the questioner, it's only regulating and stealing from a monopoly so as to increase competition, right? So that must be a good thing, right, for markets and consumers? The more 'pure and perfect competition the better,' right?

Sigh. Not right. Not right at all. Clearly I haven't said enough about 'competition,' and since my own chat on monopolies was insufficiently persuasive, then let me offer you something much longer, much more learned, and much, much better written than my own poor contribution: George Reisman's recently republished classic on monopolies, the theoretical foundations of 'anti-competitive' legislation, and the nonsense of "pure and perfect competition." Here's just a taste:
'Pure and perfect competition' is totally unlike anything one normally means by the term “competition” ... While competition as normally, and properly, understood rests on a base of individualism, the base of 'pure and perfect competition' is collectivism...

According to contemporary economics, no property is to be regarded as really private. At most, property is supposedly held in trusteeship for its alleged true owner, 'society' or the “consumers.' 'Society,' it is alleged, has a right to the property of every producer and suffers him to continue as owner only so long as 'society' receives what it or its professorial spokesmen consider to be the maximum possible benefit...

According to the tribal concept of property, 'society' has a right to one hundred percent of every seller’s inventory and to the benefit of one hundred percent use of his plant and equipment. The exercise of this alleged right is to be limited only by the consideration of 'society’s' alleged alternative needs...

The ideal of contemporary economics—advanced half as an imaginary construct and half as a description of reality, with no way of distinguishing between the two—is the contradictory notion of a private-enterprise, capitalist economy in which producers would act just as a socialist dictator would wish them to act, but without having to be forced to do so...
Or maybe forced, just sometimes -- just when enough people can be found who expect to benefit from the resultant looting. Read on here to find out why the 'ideal' of competition militates against real competition, and why Plato really is to blame. (And if like it so much you want to buy a few pamphlets and pass them around, then here's a link to George's shop.)

LINKS: Cue Card Libertarianism - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Platonic Competition (Part 1) - George Reisman's blog
Platonic Competition (Part 2) - George Reisman's blog
Pamphlets by George Reisman - Jefferson School of Philosophy, Economics and Psychology

TAGS: Economics, Politics, Nonsense, Telecom

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Let's play 'meet the bureaucrat'

Watch what happens when "a junior policy analyst makes a visit to a notorious bureaucrat, desperate for help in understanding the bureaucratic mind." Good morning Dr Lecter...

LINK: The silence of the regulated - YouTube

TAGS: Libertarianism, Films, Humour

Handbags at 7

Things aren't what they used to be, are they. All Blacks in pub brawl. Former All Black captain swings handbag. New All Black cries. All Blacks offer public apology.

A public apology? What for? One damaged phone is being replaced. Everybody involved has already been apologised to. I think perhaps they should apologise for being unable to produce the headlines they used to. They should apologise to Keith Murdoch. They should apologise for crying in public. (And I can say that, because Chris and Tana can't find me. I hope.)

So what exactly happened? Says the Hurricanes CEO, "Numerous reports are now in circulation which have provided various accounts about the incident." I'll bet there are. The Herald reports: "The incidents occurred in The Jolly Poacher tavern between 6.30am and 8am on Sunday, witnesses told the Herald." Now, given that the incidents would have taken less than thirty seconds, and the 'time period' for those incidents as given by witnesses still in the bar as the sun came up was an hour-and-a-half, you can only wonder how reliable those witnesses are.

I have to say, however, that having previously been in The Jolly Poacher myself
between 6.30am and 8am on a Sunday, I can highly recommend it for an all-nighter. I can also confirm that the bouncers there are exceptional. I never had a chance. But I swear I would have made a perfect witness.

LINKS: Players say sorry over handbag incident - NZ Herald
All Blacks blue ... with a handbag -
Rugby Heaven

TAGS: Sport, Humour

Dancing with Quasimodo

I know I said I wouldn't mention 'Dancing with the Stars.' Okay, I lied.

In commenting on Gen XY's ACT on Campus lookalikes over at DPF's -- you know Clint Heine is Paul Giamatti; Helen Simpson is some bint from some TV show -- Brian S. unkindly suggested that Rodney Hide looked like Quasimodo. How unkind, I thought. How terribly unfair, I thought. Perhaps I could make some contribution along those lines myself, I thought.

So I have. Do you think Krystle looks like Esmerelda? "Any chance of a dance, love?"

(Click on the pic to enlarge.)

LINKS: SPOT THE DIFFERENCE #18: ACT on Campus - Generation XY
ACT on Campus lookalikes - Kiwiblog (DPF)

TAGS: Politics-ACT, Humour

Unbundling thanks

A mighty big thanks to all of you who have contributed to my 'Annette Presley Legal Defence Fund' through the Tip Jar up on the right. If you haven't already, you might like to email and let me know what to do with it all if she doesn't try to unbundle me.

LINKS: Annette Presley: The face of threats - Not PC

TAGS: Telecom, Blog

Interview with a cartoonist

Many of you will have enjoyed the cartoons of Cox and Forkum -- you've certainly seen plenty of them here - there's a few below and over there at left - click on the cartoon to go to its story -- and perhaps you've wondered what sort of mind could have produced them.

Well, now you know -- or you will know if you tune in to Martin Lindeskog's interview with Alan Forkum. [Hat tip Prodos] How for example did they come up with the idea for that apple down there? Tune in and find out.


LINKS: Interview with editorial cartoonist, Allen Forkum of CoxandForkum.Com - The Egoist at Solid Vox
Cox and Forkum website
Interviews - Cox and Forkum

TAGS: Cartoons, Humour, Politics, Objectivism

Forth rail bridge - Baker and Fowler


Speaking of great nineteenth-century bridges, here's Scotland's magnificent Forth rail Bridge, a spectacular cantilevered steel bridge completed in 1890.

The photo at right gives an idea of the epic scale of this structure that links Edinburgh to the highlands, and stands exposed to the worst the North Sea can throw at it.

A famous demonstration of the structural principles at work in this innovative bridge was undertaken by the proud designers. Click on the pic to above for a more detailed description.

LINK: Forth bridge - Wikipedia
Demonstration of structural principles: the Forth rail bridge - Imperial College of London

TAGS: Architecture

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Monday, May 29, 2006

He was a Rocket Man

William Shatner's oddball performance in 'Boston Legal' brings to mind an earlier period of oddball Shatner performances, and I don't mean in Star Trek. Here's one: Blair Anderson has plucked out a gem in which Shatner almost sings, and almost makes Elton John musical.

Well, sort of. Click the link and scroll down to view.

LINK: Rocketman, William Shatner - courtesy of Blair from the Mild Greens

TAGS: Humour

Rural backlash under way?

Julian tells me he senses "a growing backlash by rural New Zealanders against bureaucrats of both local and central government." Are the news reports he posts in support of that question evidence enough to demonstrate such an encouraging sign? Are the meddling bureaucrats in trouble? Or might this be wishful thinking?

LINKS: Trouble for meddling bureaucrats in rural New Zealand? - Julian Pistorius

TAGS: New_Zealand, Politics-NZ, Property_Rights

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When snobs attack your property rights

A commenter here, now sadly departed, was disappointed at the inflammatory language I used to describe ARC Parks chairman Sandra Coney's use of ratepayers' money to ensure that caterer Rae Ah Chee cannot build his retirement house on his 4.8 hectares Pakiri land -- what Coney called "this intrusion of a trophy house on the landscape."

I'm happy to see that at least a few other people share my outrage at Coney's high-handed meddling and insulting attempts to acquire a 'public open space' at the expense of Mr Ah Chee, the ratepayers of Greater Auckland, and the property rights some New Zealanders still think they enjoy.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association declared in response to Coney:
"Ms Coney's attitude to Mr Ah Chee is anti-success and anti-development. "Her derogatory description of the plan as a 'trophy house' shows she is unable to think of a serious environmental objection to it.
Good for them. And Owen McShane -- who suggests "the history of central planning is almost entirely a history of an elite standing in the way of change," which in the present context means "the planners are anti countryside living and want to crowd the people into cities even at the expense of increased congestion and pollution"-- suggests that Mr Ah Chee is perhaps the "victim" of a new kind of "class prejudice" in which class and the architectural taste of that class has beome a surrogate for race, and "intrusive trophy houses" [intrusive to whom, by the way?] become "the local surrogate for McMansions." As Owen notes in an offline post, this attitude has been encapsulated by author Robert Bruegmann as "the attack of the snobs" -- of which Coney is clearly one:
There is an obvious class bias in these judgments. The indictments against sprawl almost never target architecture or landscapes acceptable to upper-middle-class taste, no matter how scattered or consuming of land. One doesn't hear complaints about the spectacular British villas, the private gardens of the French Riviera created in the 1920s, or the great country houses built by American industrialists at the turn of the century on northern Long Island or in the Brandywine Valley in Delaware. "Sprawl" means subdivisions and shopping centers for middle-and lower-middle-class families. Today it is notoriously "McMansions"--houses judged by some observer to be excessive in size or stylistic pretension...
I can recommend the entire article to get a handle on why Sandra Coney's 'taste' is used to justify the violation of Mr Ah Chee's property rights.
LINKS: Dreams killed north of Auckland - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Comments of ARC parks chairman out of line - EMA, Scoop
Planners are grinding our cities to a halt - Owen McShane, Scoop
How sprawl got a bad name - Robert Bruegmann, American Enterprise Online, 'Attack of the Snobs' issue

TAGS:
Property_Rights, RMA, Auckland, Urban_Design, Environment

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