Monday, 13 October 2008

Desperate for bribes

Things are desperate.

The government has no spare money in its trousers. 

Things are so bad, in fact that there's only just enough left for election bribes.

Thats $720 million of bribes per annum promised so far this week.

That's the measure of how desperately irresponsible this government is.

Nick Smith at your Xmas table

NZ's Environmental Risk Management Authority -- the crowd National's Nick Smith's wants to make into an even bigger bureaucracy called the Environmental Protection Agency -- has just sent out a memo "reminding importers that under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, Christmas crackers are covered by the definition of, and controls on, the importation of fireworks."

    As such Christmas crackers require a completed Certificate to Import Explosives from Erma (the Environmental Risk Management Authority) New Zealand before they may be imported into New Zealand,” the circular states.
   
It is estimated that only approximately 60 percent of Christmas crackers being imported into the country obtain the required certificates.

So that means no Christmas crackers this Christmas, just like there's no decent fireworks on fireworks night.  And it also means that this summer you'll have Helen Clark in your shower, Jeanette Fitzsimons changing your lightbulbs, and now Nick Smith sitting at your Xmas table holding a wet blanket.

That's a pretty foul trifecta.

Clark and Key 'agree' plans to prop up the banking system [updated[

NZ'S TWO MOST POPULAR political parties have leapt into action in the last twenty-four hours in response to the worldwide economic turmoil.

The National Party reconfirmed their pathetic tax cuts based on a decade of government deficits, and also confirmed it will/it won't/it might build "infrastructure" [choose one] paid for from borrowing/not from borrowing/through public-private partnerships [choose one].

And it makes these promises while trumpeting its competence, and whining that Labour hasn't told it what it's doing.

The Labour Party meanwhile has just made the NZ taxpayer, you and I, the guarantor of every banker and every director of nearly every finance company in the country, and of all $150 billion of the deposits on which they earn some pretty impressive commissions.  (Oh, and they too want to "bring forward" government spending on "infrastructure," and add lots and lots of "retraining.")

Perhaps it was better when they weren't reacting to the crisis?

Sure, when your neighbouring government promises to "back up" the deposits in its country's banks, you have to do something to stop the inevitable movement from your country's banks -- Germany's Angela Merkel learned that lesson when Ireland started the European rush to backstop depositors in their banks -- but it doesn't change the fact that a short-term promise to backstop deposits itself is utterly unrealistic.

And does being forced into a destructive promise that's impossible to back up alter the fact that it is a destructive error that's impossible to back up.

Just how realistic is the promise can be seen from the amounts involved. How one million taxpayers are going to underwrite a $150 billion contingent liability is a question you just aren't supposed to ask. 

ArchimedesLever The reason they have to make the promise (and John Key has now confirmed it's their "plan" as well) is simple: it's the inherently fragile fractional reserve banking system -- a "leveraged" credit pyramid that balloons rapidly when the small fraction of real reserves increases in value, and plunges just as quickly when the equity base propping it up loses value. The whole fragile system is predicated on important questions about its stability not being asked.

If you want to know whether your friendly local bank is "sound" then just ask yourself what would happen if every depositor wanted their money out all at once.  The answer is: you can't. Modern banks are inherently bankrupt; their promise to pay is based on the assumption that everyone won't turn up at once to ask for their money back.

Image (3) When they do, or they look like they might, then modern banks tend to either fall over like the fraudulent house of cards they are, or they run off to Nanny like a crybaby kid to have their hands stroked and their losses made up by taxpayers. And those few that do act honestly by revaluing their assets and "de-leveraging" the credit pyramid -- the essential prelude to economic recovery -- are punished by Nanny for their diligence by having to watch their less honest colleagues rewarded for failure, and the smoke-and-mirrors concealing the fractional reserve system stay in place to ensure failure on some other day far off in another election cycle altogether.

NOW, WE HAVEN'T YET SEEN a full "economic plan" from either party to address the crisis -- Labour cunningly promises to deliver one after the election -- National seems to think the mere presence of John Key on the Ninth Floor will automatically cause all stocks to rise and a steak to materialise on every plate -- but the remedies we've seen bandied about are all as destructive as the cause of the crisis, every one of them used by the likes of Hoover and Roosevelt to extend the 1929 correction for another fifteen years.

When  markets need to correct, when real savings are being consumed on malinvestments that urgently need to to closed off, then here's what you can do to make sure the necessary correction won't happen:

  1. Prevent or delay liquidation by propping up shaky businesses and shaky credit positions.
  2. Further inflate the money supply, creating more malinvestments and delaying the necessary correction.
  3. Keep wage rates up --or keep money wages constant when prices start falling (which amounts to the same thing) -- which in the face of falling business demand is a sure recipe for unemployment.
  4. Keep prices up (by means of the likes of green-plated building regulations) or add new costs to struggling businesses (such as the dopey Emissions Tax Scam), delaying the necessary corrections that will make businesses profitable again.
  5. "Stimulate" demand by spending on "infrastructure" projects just to make it look like the government is doing something -- when what that something actually does is to take money from profitable businesses in order to bid resources away from struggling businesses.
  6. Discourage saving and investment by increasing government spending (all of which is consumption spending) and maintaining high tax rates.
  7. Subsidise unemployment with make-work schemes paid out of money from profitable businesses that bid resources away from struggling businesses, delaying the shift of workers to fields where genuine jobs would otherwise be available.

As Murray Rothbard points out in America's Great Depression (from which I draw the above seven points) when you list logically the various ways that government could hamper market adjustments and hobble the adjustment process, you find that you have precisely listed the favourite "anti-depression" arsenal of government policy.

Expect to see them all used here.

UPDATE 1: Bernard Hickey disgracefully called "in March and again last week" for the government to guarantee deposits.  As he says today, " I should have been careful what I wished for."  This is a scheme with "two big holes to drive trucks through":

We now have a scheme that Rod Petricevic could (in theory) use to launch new government-guaranteed finance company to repurchase loans from the receivers for Bridgecorp. It could also be used by Doug Somers-Edgar to fire up the Money Managers empire again. Allan Hawkins could start raising money for his Budget Loans finance company and promise that it was backed by the government.

Yet it may do nothing to solve the fundamental problem facing our major banks — a shortage of wholesale funding between banks. Our banking system could still freeze up in the same way that the European and US systems have and this plan does not stop that.

Frankfurt School of Finance professor Thorstein Pollett simply explains the importance of "interbank" loans, and why their rapid diminution is a sure sign that confidence is leaving the fiat money system

And an astute commenter at Hickey's site makes another excellent point:

What I don’t get is… if everything is guaranteed…. will all the rates offered converge? I mean, why should I buy safe NZ government Kiwibonds at 6% if I can get guaranteed deposits at 10% in a finance company? I think everyone will pull their money out of government bonds, out of banks even, and into finance companies. And that just seems entirely backwards, causing the money to move to it’s lowest and worst use.

UPDATE 2:  Expect all seven ways of hampering recovery to be used here, I said above.  The Standard in all its ignorance not only applauds the use of  most of the seven in Labour's "economic plan" -- propping up liquidity,  subsidising employment and re-training money, spending on public works  -- but delightedly refers to it as

a programme of infrastructure construction, labour up-skilling, and idle capacity utilisation akin to the policies that got the world out of the Great Depression.

Well, no, it's certainly on a smaller scale (at this stage) than anything of the sort done in the depression, but every part of this programme actually made the depression longer by jacking up costs and bidding resources away from where they were most needed.

Readers of  The Standard might like to ask themselves why the US, which adopted every single one of  the policies above that hamper correction, was one of the last countries out of the depression (not really out until the mid-forties) whereas New Zealand, which actually allowed prices and wages to fall as they needed to, was among the first to emerge from total gloom (by 1935/36 production was nearly back to 1929 levels and next year exceeded it; from its 1933 high of 79,435, about 12%, unemployment had by 1937/38 come  back down to 29,899). 

NZ still ran public works and make-works programmes however, sucking up resources needed for recovery.  In 1932/33 these absorbed 45,000 men, whereas by 1939 the number "employed" was just 77.  By contrast, in 1939, one decade after the Wall St crash, Roosevelt's America had virtually the same number unemployed and on relief as they had in 1932, the year Roosevelt was elected.

So much for "policies that got the world out of depression."

Bubble, bubble, housing and trouble

ATM-Housing How do you tell the difference between an investment and a hole in the ground?  It's not always as as easy as you might think. 

When prices of widgets or wodgets are going up and up and up, it's easy to think that widgets or wodgets -- or tulip bulbs, or llamas, or ostriches -- or houses -- represent a real investment, and not just something whose returns are based solely on the number of 'investors' stampeding into the market desperate to make 'capital gains.' 

The 'capital gains' for these 'bubble commodities' are real enough, at least at first, but the cause of rising prices is frequently nothing other than the same thing that drives your friendly, neighbourhood pyramid scheme: new people with new money coming on board all the time. So too is the cause of the eventual collapse the same: no new people, no new money, and a slow realisation that the market has been inflated beyond all reason -- that the reason for the gains was illusory.

TulipPriceIndex1636 The chart for the seventeenth century Tulip Bulb Mania (right) stands for all such bubbles -- a brief inflationary bubble that literally feeds upon itself, followed by rapid collapse as early 'investors' leave the scheme, only to see the pyramid/bubble collapse and prices go back to a level based on fundamentals rather than flatulence.

The same thing happened with the South Seas Bubble in the eighteenth century, the Railway Mania in the nineteenth, the Florida Land Bubble in the 1920s, the Japanese Asset Bubble in the 80s, the Dot.Com Bubble in the 90s ... and now the Housing Bubble of the 2000s, the one that we're all now paying for.

You see, real resource are used up in these false 'booms' -- real resources that are bid away from genuinely productive  businesses into sectors that are considered (at the time) to be sexier, and more profitable.   Sometimes there's a real reason underlying price gains -- increased profits from railway companies; restrictions on land supply imposed by governments - but the bubble builds on the back of these initial gains and leverages them into something insane, whose returns are measured only by the new money coming into the market.

You might have noticed that bubble behaviour in the last century has been more frequent and more virulent:  US Fed chairman Ben Bernanke's favourite technology, the printing press.   Said Bernanke in 2002, when his then boss Alal Greenspan was inflating his way out of the collapse of the Dot.Com bubble and sowing the seeds for the collapse of the housing bubble:

The US government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost... under a paper-money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending and hence positive inflation.

"Positive inflation."  Central banks and their printing presses, and the "positive inflation" of their bubbles, are in all important respects a twentieth-century inventionEvery time the central banks inflate the money supply, we see a boom.  An inflationary boom, followed by a bust.  This time it happened in housing, and everyone thought they were making a million dollars.  Alan Greenspan's inflation of the money supply from 2001 to 2004 (right) underpinned the housing bubble that is only just starting to burst here and elsewhere.

When you look at charts of the US housing market (right) you can easily see the bubble and its correlation with Greenspan's inflationary injection.

Notice [says the bubble watcher from whom I pinched that graph] that in the 25-year period from 1975 through 1999, real house prices stayed roughly within the range of $132,000 to $171,000. Only since the year 2000 have real house prices risen above the top of this range. The United States median price was at approximately $206,500 as of the second quarter of 2008. This is 21% higher than the previous housing boom peak of an inflation-adjusted $170,900 in 1989.

imageThe NZ housing market performed the same way, based on our own Reserve Bank's inflationary credit creation, as this chart (right) from Rodney Dickens latest 'Raving' demonstrates.

In both markets, relative stability over recent decades erupted into a credit-fuelled bubble that can only collapse once the air is taken out.

Gareth Morgan reckons the drop in prices will be something like thirty percent.  Study those graphs and you'll see why. 

And if you want to know where all the money has gone, to understand what happens when central banks use Ben Bernanke's favourite technology to "generate higher spending and hence positive inflation," study your credit card statements to see how you've been using the "investment" in your home to consume your capital.  Take a look at the empty subdivisions and unsold or uncompleted developments around the likes of Orewa, Omokoroa, Tutukaka, Mangahawai, Raglan, and other 'boom' areas in recent years.  Inflationary credit creation has bid resources away from genuinely profitable work, and into malinvestments such as these whose replacement cost (over-inflated by regulation) is now higher than their price that buyers are willing to pay.

Such is the inevitable result of resorting to the printing press to fake economic reality.

FURTHER READING:

  • Confidence Is Leaving the Fiat Money System, by Thorsten Polleit, October 10, 2008
  • What's Behind the Financial Market Crisis? by Antony Mueller, September 18, 2008
  • Our Financial House of Cards, by George Reisman, March 25, 2008
  • The Housing Bubble in Four Easy Steps, by Mark Thornton, September 27, 2008
  • The Economics of Housing Bubbles, by Mark Thornton, June 6, 2006
  • Did the Fed Cause the Housing Bubble? By Robert Murphy, April 14, 2008
  • Housing Bubble: Myth or Reality? By Frank Shostak, March 4, 2003
  • UPDATE: Jean-Paul Rodrigue at NY's Hofstra Uni has a chart that describes all bubbles over time:

    bubblesandmanias

    Sunday, 12 October 2008

    Rational help in uncertain times

    In addition to the  Mises Institute's Bailout Reader and the Ayn Rand Center's Financial Crisis page, Canterbury economist Paul Walker is writing and linking to some excellent stuff at his Anti Dismal blog.  Head there now to read up on the basics of property rights and, in a crucial historical lesson, how Franklin Roosevelt's meddling and utter economic ignorance extended a five-year depression into a fourteen-year worldwide disaster.

    All this and more, including cartoons ...

    ... and limericks:

    There was a Fed head named Bernanke
    Whose money supply hanky panky
    Created inflation
    And beggered the nation
    All for the love of his banke.

    Friday, 10 October 2008

    Beer O'Clock: Brown Ale

    Beer O'Clock comes to you this week from the SOBA pen of brewing magnate Stu:

    For a country steeped in a tradition of “Brown O’Clock”, and with two main breweries competing for years in a battle of “brown against brown” (Double versus Lion), I am surprised that Brown Ale has not been pushed more in the craft beer market.

    Brown ale might be looked upon by some as the big brother of mild ales, which I wrote here at Not PC around this time last year, and by others as the middle brother between that and porter, which I wrote about here a few months ago. It is bigger and hoppier than a mild without being as robust and roasty as a porter. The British-style versions are inclined to be malty with some hop, while the American versions (as regular readers will have come to expect) tend to be hoppy with some malt presence. The New Zealand versions I’ve tasted all lean towards the British-style, perhaps at the hoppier end.

    New Zealand’s most easily found brown ale is probably Generation Ale, a British-style brown (ironically made with German malt). This brown ale was the first ale from Duncan family’s Founder’s Organic Brewery – a brewery more known for their Tall Blonde, Red Head and Long Black lager beers. When Generation Ale is fresh, preferably on tap in Nelson, it is a magnificent showcase of nutty, biscuity malt, with a subtle fruity smack of hops. Perfect with roast chicken.

    Unfortunately I’ve only had it this fresh in the bottle a few times but one of them was my most recent experience – truly delicious. As it ages the malt character subsides and a grassy hop flavour comes to the fore. It then tends to taste like a hoppy “kiwi brown.” Founders Generation Ale is available in most good bottle stores, supermarkets or from The Beer Store (no, they are not paying me for the constant plugs – their service is just worth it).

    A lesser-known craft brewed brown ale is Broomfield Brown from the Brew Moon Café in Amberley near Christchurch. I spot it occasionally in bottle stores but your best bet is to head straight to Beer Store (or pop into the café next time you are driving through Amberley, I’ve heard nothing but good reviews about this place and their beers have always been in very nice condition when I’ve sampled them).

    Bigger than both of these, in alcohol terms and metaphorically, is the Mammoth from Pink Elephant Brewery in Blenheim. I wouldn’t call it brown ale, in either looks or taste, but the good folk at both RateBeer and Beer Store have placed it that category and it is most definitely worth a mention. Roger Pink is a mythical figure in the New Zealand brewing scene and a near cult figure amongst beer lovers (even beyond New Zealand). He is probably worth an entire Beer O’Clock trilogy in himself. He certainly brews beers as he likes them, rather than to a style that someone else has described, and he likes to place a little of his own personality in his beers and on his labels. He has been rewarded with several favourable mentions from the late Michael Jackson (acclaimed beer and whisky writer), which is no mean feat.


    I’d place this beer between a strong bitter and a barley wine… try it and think about that yourself. If classifying it to a style is not your thing it’ll at least make a nice digestive after you’ve paired the above two beers with your Sunday roast. Sleep tight.

    Slainte mhath. Stu

    "Price Stability" is Chaos

    F.A. Hayek talking as if he were talking yesterday, with sage advice for today's politicians and central bankers:

    Hayek-Shirt    Instead of furthering the inevitable liquidation of the maladjustments brought about by the boom during the last three years, all conceivable means have been used to prevent that readjustment from taking place; and one of these means, which has been repeatedly tried though without success, from the earliest to the most recent stages of depression, has been this deliberate policy of credit expansion. ...
        To combat the depression by a forced credit expansion is to attempt to cure the evil by the very means which brought it about; because we are suffering from a misdirection of production, we want to create further misdirection--a procedure that can only lead to a much more severe crisis as soon as the credit expansion comes to an end. ...
        It is probably to this experiment, together with the attempts to prevent liquidation once the crisis had come, that we owe the exceptional severity and duration of the depression.
        We must not forget that, for the last six or eight years, monetary policy all over the world has followed the
    advice of the stabilizers. It is high time that their influence, which has already done harm enough, should be overthrown.

    He said that in 1932, just three years after the US economy had crashed under the ministrations of the two 1920s apostles of "price stability,"  central bankers Montagu Norman and Benjamin Strong.  At least Strong had the decency to die before he saw the final results of his destructive reign at the NY Federal Reserve.  Norman was rewarded by the British government for his disastrous failure by having his contract renewed for another twelve years, at which time he was made a Lord.

    The bigger your blunder, the bigger the reward by your government. 

    I wonder who will get the reward for the disastrous monetary bubble spewed out by the Fed from 2001 to 2004 (see right), the leading cause of the present worldwide calamity?

    Anyway, buy the T-shirt and spread the message.

    Lilypads - Vincent Callebaut

                lilypad2 

    The Lilypad, by Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut, is described as "a concept for a completely self-sufficient floating city intended to provide shelter for future climate change refugees."

    Forget the dripping wet justification, it's still a pretty neat concept.  Each 'lilypad' is "designed to house about 50,000 people in a man-made landscape that includes an artificial lagoon and three 'ridges'" -- producing its own energy through its "titanium dioxide skin" they're intended either to be moored near the coast, or "to float around on the ocean's Gulf Stream."

    I can see a few being moored off the coast of Dubai.

    More details here.

              lilypad4

    Thursday, 9 October 2008

    "Stark differences" on health care

    Yesterday the two US presidential candidates both demonstrated once again they have no idea at all about either the causes or the cure of the man-made economic storm now sweeping the world from its source in the States -- I'm going to stop "markets running wild" said Obama -- "what he said," said McCain -- and proceeded to lay out their starkly different views on health care:

    "Health care is a right," said one.

    "Health care is a responsibility," said the other.

    In fact, it's neither -- not that either of those bozos would know.  I doubt they'd even know what a right look like, not unless it jumped up in front of them dressed as a campaign contribution.

                               

    Moving breast awareness

    It's still Breast Cancer Awareness Month; still an ideal opportunity to talk about ... well, about breasts, of course, those delightful endowments without which the world would be a much less attractive place

    The website Film Threat is helping to raise awareness by celebrating the best breasts to ever grace the cinema screen.

    Fine work, complete with the video evidence.

    Taxing times taxes Nats' timid tax-cuts

    Before the Nats' lame tax-cut announcement yesterday I suggested that given the parlous economic conditions, it would be foolish indeed not to recognise the economic Charybdis ahead and to slash the Scylla of bloated state spending in response -- to realise the urgent necessity of getting the hordes of bureaucrats off our backs if for no other reason than to allow us to be productive again, not to mention the clear and present need to save everyone millions of dollars in tax so they're ready for the economic onslaught to come.

    You could do all or even some of what I suggested, I said, or you could make it obvious to everyone that you're not a responsible party, that you have no idea how to respond to the world's economic crisis, that you'd be no damn different to the current bunch of thieves except in the form your election bribes take.

    And we got our answer, didn't we.  While headlines presaging our parlous economic future get worse by the hour, all we saw from National's John Key after years for promising sweeping tax cuts was tinkering -- or a promise just to tinker -- while they watch the world burn.

    Pathetic.

    Liberty Scott summarises: The top tax rate inches down to 37% over 2 years, the bottom rate from 21% to.... 20%! The envy tax stays. The threshold for reaching the 33% rate moves up to NZ$50,000.  And for low income earners, there's actually a small increase in tax. 

    Truly pathetic.

    Govt spends while economy burns

    While the world's economies collapse, and the NZ dollar heads for life support, "your" Government just spent $40 million of your money to buy a high country South Island sheep station you can only get to by helicopter.

    Do you think "your" Government has their priorities right?

    Forest & Bird and the Department of Conservation -- in whose lap Helen Clark has just thrown this pre-Xmas spend-up -- are both over the moon.  "Forest and Bird's vision to create a coast-to-coast protected corridor is now a reality," said Forest and Bird.  Have the very considered backing up their "visions" with their money -- or, like us, do they have more important things to do with it.

    UPDATE: Owen McShane comments:

        Helen actually said out loud that they had to buy the farm to make sure a foreigner didn't get it!
    Is she moving into Winston's territory.
        And as always we have a few environment court decisions which turn down a few subdivisions on the grounds they use up a few hectares of "productive farm land."
        But thousands of hectares is OK.?

    A hopeless shower

    It's like you've just won the radio competition from hell, and for your prize Helen Clark and Jeanette Fitzsimons will be jumping in to join you in your morning shower -- and to show you who's in control they're going to force you to turn the tap down. Permanently.

    Anyone who already knows the green-plated building regulations under which builders, designers and developers have laboured for years will be unsurprised at yet another imposition that makes decent showers illegal -- but for most of you, Nanny's new rules on showering will be a straw that challenges the strength of your camel's spine.

    They've fucked up everything else, and now they're fucking up our showers.

    "First they came for our lightbulbs," says DPF, and now they're coming for our showers.

    It's time to tell Nanny to fuck right off.

    'Bonaparte before the Sphinx' - Jean-Leon Gerome

    "In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte changed history.  In 1868, Jean-Leon Gerome showed us why."

    Gerome_Bonaparte_before_the_Sphinx

    What does historian Scott Powell mean by that comment above?  Find out here, in a thorough and entertaining historical analysis.

        Whatever may be said morally about Napoleon, there can be no question ... that he commands our attention. All of subsequent world history has been irrevocably conditioned by his presence in the time line, and it is in this regard that those of us who wish to change the world for the better should examine him.
       
    What was it about Napoleon that was exceptional, not mundane? What made him ... a world-changer, as opposed to a mere cipher of history? The root of the answer is provided in the deceptively simple painting: Bonaparte before the Sphinx...

    Read on here for the answers to these and other questions.  (And just by the way, it's still not too late to sign up for Scott's Ancient-History-by-correspondence courseSign up now before the NZ dollar tanks completely.)

    Wednesday, 8 October 2008

    Laugh! What else can you do.

    From Gus Van Horn, news of

    a hilarious Saturday Night Live skit that lampoons various figures in the "bailout" debacle, including Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, the Georges Bush and Soros, and Soros's pals, Herbert and Marion Sandler:

        NBC keeps yanking it off the Internet every time it gets posted ... presumably under pressure from Soros or his friends .... NBC is also apparently deleting all mentions of the skit from its online message boards.
        It is HILARIOUS. It also parodies Bush and Pelosi and they have both of their personalities down pat -- including just how utterly pathetic Bush has become.
    The video, at least for now, is posted here.

    Message to National: Stop the spending [updated]

    The Hive has a bunch of excellent questions that have just the one obvious answer:

    Here we are in the midst of the greatest shock to the global financial system since the 1930s and where is the government response???
    Everywhere around the world governments are in crisis mode trying to do something about restoring confidence but all we have here is a government talking about the money being spent, something they seem pleased about because it makes it difficult for the opposition to campaign on the positive agenda of providing support to the productive sector.
    We welcome National's announcements today on the tax front, but hope they move more onto the front foot during the election campaign about the need to refocus activity away from boosting government to boosting more productive activity. Don't worry about Michael Cullen. He has no credibility left. He has just been forced to admit that he has squandered nine years of good growth.
    What have we got to show for it? One of the lowest productivity growth rates in the OECD and continuing slippage in the per capita wealth ladder.
    Why is National not hammering home this message, and why are they not slamming the current crowd over the waste that has occurred under their management?

    Why is National not hammering home this message? For the simple reason that their message to date is essentially no different to the other team's. This afternoon is their opportunity to change that.

    Let's be clear, if by "government response" is meant bailouts, deficits and spending on "public works" -- the "depression fighting" nostrums tried and failed in the past -- then I definitely mean none of the above.

    But National's tax-cut announcement today, so strongly signalled long before the arse fell out of the world's banking system, leaves them in a bind. The Dominion's Tracy Watkins understates the problem:

    After a day of carnage on world money markets and grim Treasury predictions of rising government debt and ballooning deficits, National has taken a knife to its tax-cut package - but leader John Key said the pledge to deliver about $50 a week to workers on the average wage remained on track.

    Let's get some perspective: the tax-cut announcement comes not just after "a day of carnage," but (as the Hive says) in the face of the greatest shock to the global financial system since the 1930s, with more, much more, to come. It's not just "rising government debt and ballooning deficits," it's collapsing economies and expectations we're staring into an economic void. In the US in the 1930s the sort of carnage we're seeing now led to a whole decade of carnage. That's the enormity of the problem that any tax-cut package needs to address, because whatever problems with government spending were presaged in the 'PREFU' figures, they're dwarfed by the scale of the economic collapse now racing around the world's markets.

    And just by the way, if anyone thinks that in a time of such uncertainty that economists can predict government receipts for the next ten years then I have a bridge I can sell them. There's no way to predict ten years ahead as the PREFU has tried to do -- and especially not now with all the changes afoot in the world's economy. This is the sort of crystal-ball gazing that makes economists look about as reliable as TV psychics. Hell, the PREFU figures were prepared just five weeks ago, and with the world collapsing around us they were already out of date on the very day they were released.

    Not the least of the many uncertainties is how governments will respond to the ongoing crises, and the effect that will have on the chaos.

    Which is the real interest at the heart of this afternoon's announcement, isn't it: Not so much in the size of the tax cuts, but whether Key and English have realised the enormity of the international problem, and whether they're adept enough to address it. (And when you see the words "adept" and "Bill English" used in close proximity, you realise the nub of the problem.)

    English said on Monday immediately after the books were opened that the tax cuts would still go ahead as planned. Key said yesterday they would still go ahead, and would be slightly altered. And he said they'd be tax cuts without borrowing,

    That doesn't give cause for encouragement. First of all, we're all of us aware the economic outlook has more than slightly altered. If the plans haven't more than slightly altered, that's a worry. And second, we already know Key is spinning when he says he's not borrowing for tax cuts.

    A responsible political party doesn't spin. They don't need to.

    A responsible political party would know that a cut in taxes should be accompanied by a corresponding cut in government spending.

    They would know that when the economy tanks, then government receipts go down -- so even more cuts need to be made.

    They would know that if they cut taxes without borrowing to fund either tax cuts or infrastructure, they bid valuable resources and capital away from the people who do grow the economy, leaving them in the hands of the unproductive government sector.

    (They would know too that to the extent they don't cut government spending at all, they divert valuable resources and capital into the unproductive government sector, and away from the people who do grow the economy.)

    And they would know too that they need to resist the siren calls of those who claim deficit spending is desirable in a depression because it provides the "purchasing power" to "stimulate" the economy. They know that the US government under both Hoover and Rooosevelt ran enormous, eye-watering deficits right throughout the thirties and early forties, with the only effect being to delay the recovery for that long (the deficit went from 20% of US GDP then to 40%, then finally, desperately, to 128% of GDP! It was "bold" interventions like this that prolonged the Depression, turning it into the only market correction that is associated with an entire decade. (The Depression actually lasted 16 years, all of which featured high-powered deficit spending.))

    What anyone with a brain does know is that things are going to be bad, and that when things are bad government receipts will drop -- there's just no way round that. So what's crucial this afternoon is to see whether National knows this, whether it has planned for this, and whether therefore its tax-cut plans include plans to cut spending to match those cuts in receipts.

    It's not like Mother Hubbard's cupboard is bare. It's not. It's just dripping with fat, fat rich with pork -- much of it very easily excised. It's just laden down with sacred cows that need killing. You could start with these boondoggles and just work on down:

    • Cindy Kiro's Office for the Children's Commissioner (he hasn't stopped the killing, has he)
    • Peter Dunne's Families Commission (ditto)
    • Paula Rebstock's Commerce Commission (AKA Communist Commission)
    • David Lange's Ministry for Women's Affairs
    • Jim Anderton's Ministry of Economic Development (the economy would develop quite nicely without Jim, thank you)
    • The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs
    • The Ministry for Maori Affairs (let all 'their people' organise their own damn affairs)
    • The Race Relations Conciliator (have you noticed him successfully conciliating any races? No, me either)
    • The Ministry of Youth Development (let hoodie-wearers buy their own spray cans)
    • Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand
    • Asia New Zealand Foundation
    • Electricity Commission (nice work, guys, well done)
    • Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority (ditto)
    • The National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women, part of Department of Labour (bet there's some unemployable women on this 'council,' right?)
    • The Department of Labour (let's see them work for their money)

    As PJ O'Rourke points out, the first secret when you're trying to balance the budget and give tax cuts the size of Texas is to avoid looking for ridiculous examples of government waste. Nope. What you have to do, particularly when things are as parlous as they are now, is to slash wholesale, cutting bone if necessary -- after all, this is only government bone, with most of it concentrated around government skulls.

    There's no shortage of spending to cut.

    There's no shortage of parasites to sack -- thirteen more hectares of the buggers since 1999!

    There's at least $20 billion of fat to cut.

    You can stop the wasteful spending on FailRail in its tracks -- stopping the expensive electrification, and the upgrades to Auckland's rail network from which few will ever benefit.

    You can stop some of the more ethereal roading projects, like the Penlink highway in Whangaparoa, freeing up construction resources for more important private activity.

    You could pull some or all of past and future election bribes -- interest-free student loans, Welfare for Working Families and the like.

    You can realise there are 407 -- four hundred and goddamn seven! -- government departments, offices, organisations, councils, SOEs and quangos just waiting, nay demanding, to be chopped down to size, in which hundreds of thousands of people spend their days drawing down a tax-paid salary just to dream up new methods by which to get in our way. Given the parlous economic conditions, it would be foolish indeed not to liberate these guys and gals just to get them off our backs, not to mention to save us millions of dollars in tax.

    You could do all or even some of that ... or you could make it obvious to everyone that you're not a responsible party, that you have no idea how to respond to the world's economic crisis, that you'd be no damn different to the current bunch of thieves except in the form your election bribes take.

    In just a few hours time I guess we'll have our answer.

    UPDATE 1: We had our answer: it was the latter. Liberty Scott summarises: The top tax rate inches down to 37% over 2 years, the bottom rate from 21% to.... 20%! The envy tax stays. The threshold for reaching the 33% rate moves up to NZ$50,000. And for low income earners, there's actually a small increase in tax.

    Truly pathetic.

    UPDATE 2: Pacific Empire updates the complete list of bureaucratic sacred cows that need to be slaughtered. See How Big is Our Government?

    It's Breast Awareness Month!

    And to celebrate, here's Sophia Loren checking out Jayne Mansfield:
                                  sophia-loren-and-jayne-mansfield-are-bosom-pals
    Sophia just kept right on looking ... and why the hell wouldn't you.

    Come on people: let's see more celebrations around the blogs.  And remember:
                                                  NationalBreastAwarenessMonth

    Winking witches

    Did you know winking is evil? 

    Well, yes it is according to some people's favourite book

    No wonder Sarah Palin needs regular cleansing from witchcraft.

    No wonder she thanked her witchdoctor for his help in getting her elected governor. "She said his invocation was 'very, very powerful'."

    Let's play 'Poke Winston'

    Cactus is right: "The election campaign is sucking the big one at present. Boring. Boring. Boring."

    And politics will be a damn sight more boring when/if/eventually voters finally dump Winston Peters.  Which other parliamentary party leader would be so, ahem, colourful.  Just prod Winston and watch him go.

    One thousand reasons to despise the Electoral Finance Act

    Here are one-thousand reasons not to have home addresses on political literature: one-thousand knives stuck into Family First's Bob McCroskie's lawn:

    As a couple of bloggers have noticed, this is precisely why Libertarianz have placed the following statement on their billboards:

    We figured that since Helen Elizabeth Clark, of 4 Cromwell St, Mt Eden, had introduced a law regulating political speech one-year-in-three, including a rule that all such speech must include the name and address of the person who "authorises" it -- in McCroskie's case his Value Your Vote website -- she needs to personally understand the chilling effect of such a law.

    After all, if she's going to write laws placing at risk the homes of people who criticise her, people whose homes don't come complete with police protection...

    NB: The photo comes from the Herald, who for their own reasons chose to digitally remove the number of Helen Clark's house, while leaving the address above. Go figure.  [Hat tip

    Epsom push-polling

    We were phoned last evening by an automated push-poll.  The meat-and-potatoes questions were:

    Which party will you be voting for?  Press:
        1 for Act
        2 for National
        3 for Other
        4 for Don't Know

    Which candidate will you be voting for? Press:
        1 for Rodney Hide
        2 for Kate Sutton
        3 for Richard Worth
        4 for Other
        5 for Don't Know

    So which party do you imagine was pushing this poll?  Not hard to figure out, eh.

    Keep in mind the methodology when you see that party push the results upon us as if this were a proper poll ... just as they did last election.

    'Walking inside a Grahame Sydney painting' - Diane Brown

    That uninterrupted blue, then the mountains, snow
    rapidly disappearing on this first real day of summer
    and closer, another range, lower and crouching, shadows
    draped over brown hides, and in the foreground, fields
    wheat-coloured, rolling, legendary as the sky. Inside,

    the sun stalks the angle of the dormer window, bleaching
    clothes thrown not artfully enough on a chair. My lover
    and I are writers, after all, and careless of  fabrics and folds.
    I tell Grahame I’d use this but I’m not sure how
    my poems are usually peopled, crowded with conversations

    and this view is too large to contain in words.
    Upstairs, windows divide the landscape into bite-sized
    chunks. Perhaps if I take it one line at a time?
    Already I notice I’ve forgotten three power poles
    sprouting in the paddocks opposite. Lines I can’t see

    but can imagine, ushering in the rest of the world.

    - Diane Brown -

                                              8128_Grahame_Sydney_Fiddler 

    Hat tip to Home Paddock for the poetry, from Brown's 2004 collection learning to lie together -- and for the brief biographical note on Diane Brown.

    Image above is Sydney's 'Fiddler's Flat,' available (as a print) at NZ Prints.  And don't forget to check out Grahame Sydney's website.

    Tuesday, 7 October 2008

    Correction!

    An economic recession is the sign that a correction is necessary.  Prices are too high -- resources are misallocated -- prices and wages need to be corrected so that markets can clear and resources be reallocated so that the economy can recover and get back on track.

    But what if prices don't drop when they need to?  Any student of supply and demand can tell you the answer: markets don't clear. Instead of You're left standing there with your dick in your hand and a big bundle of unsold oversupply -- and that's the same for every producer. Businesses that need to reduce costs in order to recover, and can't, are forced instead to go to the wall, and the labour they would have employed is forced instead to go hungry.

    So just when the urgency of a major correction -- especially the necessity of price flexibility -- should be on the mind of any sober commentator over the age of twelve, the dim bulbs at The Standard blog are instead talking up the notion of a rise in the government-mandated minimum wage.  A rise to $15/hour!

    Have they not seen the news?   Do they not realise an economic tsunami is on its way?  Do they have any idea what happens when you keep prices artificially high at the  start of a depression?

    In fact, have they any idea what happened when prices, including labour prices, were kept artificially high at the start of a depression?  The answer, as the total and complete failure of Herbert Hoover at the start of the 1930s depression would tell you, is widespread capital destruction and a giant leap in unemployment.

    great-depression4 Hoover's plans, continued by Roosevelt in 1932, did precisely the opposite of what he intended: instead of protecting labour and failing businesses and providing the funds necessary for recovery as he hoped, the failure to let the market contract and flush out the dead wood and malinvestments (urgently necessary for recovery) simply prolonged the pain.  As Murray Rothbard points out in his history of America's Great Depression:

        Led by President Hoover, the government embarked on what Benjamin Anderson has accurately called the "Hoover New Deal." For if we define "New Deal" as an antidepression program marked by extensive governmental economic planning and intervention – including bolstering of wage rates and prices, expansion of credit, propping up of weak firms, and increased government spending (e.g., subsidies to unemployment and public works) – Herbert Clark Hoover must be considered the founder of the New Deal in America.
        Hoover, from the very start of the depression, set his course unerringly toward the violation of all the laissez-faire canons. As a consequence, he left office with the economy at the depths of an unprecedented depression, with no recovery in sight after three and a half years, and with unemployment at the terrible and unprecedented rate of 25 percent of the labor force.

    I'm sure none of us want that -- whatever our political persuasion -- so can't we please learn from the mistakes of history?

    More records from Bob

    BobDylanSmileyBuzz The economy's goin' to hell, but at least there's still free, legal downloads.

    NPR has a free download, if you're quick, of Bob Dylan's new double album from his Bootleg series, Tell Tale Signs covering Dylan's past 20 years, a period that produced the albums Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, Modern Times and Oh Mercy.

    Head here to fill your boots up while you can.  As the man says, for those who like this sort of thing, and I do, this is very much the sort of thing they will like.

    Parlous plonkers right across the media

    Penny Wise at NZBC deplores the local so-called news media; she compares the recent childish reactions of the two main channels to the global economic crisis, which they both treated with all the gravity you'd expect of a story about a cute cat stuck up a tree.

    As she points out, the problem of flatulent content is exacerbated by the plonkers who regularly appear all over most of the media, spreading their expertise like manure across a parched paddock.

    Plonkers like this muppet, a one-time senior political advisor with aspirations to that same job again, who in his most recent blog peddles this crap:  "that Franklin Roosevelt [led] the world out of the Great Depression in the 1930s."

    This is bullshit on stilts upon Acrow props.  Allow me to recommend again to him, and to every other commentator who opens their mouth on this topic just to let the wind blow their tongue around, that they try to divest themselves of the many myths about the Great Depression and about how the world eventually escaped it.

    On the former, Lawrence Reed's 'Great Myths of the Great Depression' is ideal reading.  And on the latter, Mark Skousen's 'Saving the Depression: A New Look at World War II' is the most succinct explanation.

    Print them out and keep them by your phone so you have them to hand when the media come calling.

    Planned Chaos!! [with a Douglas update!]

    FedDecline Well, that worked!  The overnight collapse of world stock markets, led by a seven percent one-day drop in the US Dow Jones index, shows just how well the trillion-dollar bailout worked to arrest economic collapse.

    In two words: It didn't.

    One trillion dollars of printed money just disappeared down the black hole marked "failed economic theory."

    The lesson is obvious to those who know what they're looking at.  The naked emperors of mainstream economic theory have no clothes. To everyone else however -- and sadly, "everyone else" seems to describe most of the emperors themselves: the people with their fingers in the till, their heads up their arse and their hands on the legislative tillers -- the failure of the bailout is only going to lead to more calls for more bailouts, more regulation and even more government control of the economy.

    And like the leeches and blood-letting of an earlier age, the cures will only exacerbate the disease, and credit crunch will lead to credit crunch which will eventually lead to near-complete state takeover of the financial system.

    For most of the ignorati in positions of power and influence, the state played no part in the economic collapse.  No part in the government-sponsored mortgage banks and the state's insistence on lending to people who couldn't pay for it; no part in the state's restrictions on land and lack of restrictions on their own destructive spending; no part in setting up and backstopping the inherently bankrupt fractional reserve banking system ,and Alan Greenspan's pumping of the money supply.  For people with bone where their brain should be, all this was the product of "deregulation." 

    Talk about ignoring the obvious: especially the multi-billion dollar golden shower that Alan sprayed over financial markets in his post-Dot.Com "bailout" from 2001 to 2004.  What we're left with is economic destruction combined with widespread economic ignorance -- which means, as Sharon Harris observes, we now face "The biggest assault on free market ideas since the 1930s New Deal. That's what we're facing with the current economic crisis. Overnight, decades of hard work building public support for free markets has been threatened. Enemies of economic liberty are gleefully using this crisis to discredit free market ideas and ram through a Big Government agenda. We're hearing them everywhere."

    We sure are, some from people who should know better, but most from people in a position to do even more damage:

    • "Raw capitalism is dead." -- Henry Paulson, U.S. Treasury secretary, TIME magazine, September 18.
    • "The high priests of capitalism are in sackcloth and ashes, their belief in markets shattered, their catechism of risk-taking renounced. From Wall Street to Detroit, once-devout believers in unfettered private enterprise are running from their religion. ... Perhaps the pendulum is finally swinging back to a widespread recognition that government has a role to play in regulating markets, protecting consumers and providing a social safety net. ... The worship of unfettered private enterprise has been exposed for what it is -- just another cult." -- Cynthia Tucker, syndicated columnist and editor of the opinion page of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the South's largest newspaper.
    • "[The idea that] the market knows best -- that era is over. Market fundamentalism is taking a beating in policy circles and the public mind." -- Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute.
    • "This can bring about a turn toward a new era. If we have the money to bail out Wall Street, we can provide funding for health care, childhood poverty, infrastructure and sustainable energy." -- avowed socialist U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.
    • "... The free market in finance, unregulated and unsupervised, has failed." -- New York Times.

    Well, no it hasn't, but it's going to be a hard job convincing the ignorati of that.

    The plaintive cries are almost messianic -- a clear and present danger when the present US election pits two economic ignoramuses against each other, one of them with a messianic aura not seen since Franklin Roosevelt hit the White House and began to strangle the US economy.

    Roosevelt is a reliable litmus test of statism: as an unreconstructed apostle of big government, exuberant interventionism, voodoo economics, and state welfare used as an electoral club, anyone who calls himself an admirer can be seen immediately as a statist of the first water.

    There are two admirers just one election away from the White House.

    We are in a crisis of political economy.  The crisis is economic; it was caused by politics.  As Chris Sciabarra argues, "The current state and the current banking system require one another; neither can exist without the other.  They're so reciprocally intertwined that each is an extension of the other."

    The present banking system needs the state's imprimatur to maintain its dangerously fraudulent (and fragile) fractional reserve system, and the credit spigot of the world's central banks; and the state desperately needs the smoke and mirrors and the inflation of the fractional reserve system, and it regularly mainlines from the banking system's credit spigot (and as of yesterday afternoon we've all been reminded of just how much NZ's engines of state need the products of that credit spigot).

    The crisis was caused by governments.  It will be exacerbated by governments.  Just as there is no escape from the crisis, there is now way out from the intellectual battle against those who would squelch recovery and make the crisis worse.   Said Ludwig von Mises:

    No one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result.

    When we see the destruction caused by the depression of the thirties and the means by which the Roosevelts of the world both extended it and then used it to permanently enthrone big government, it should be clear to anyone with eyes to see that what politicians do in the next few months will effect us all for good or ill for at least a generation. 

    I urge all readers of NOT PC who do understand the issues at stake to make your voices heard.  Loudly! 

    As Ayn Rand writes in “What Can One Do?”: “When you ask ‘What can one do?’—the answer is ‘SPEAK’ (provided you know what you are saying).”

    A few suggestions: do not wait for a national audience. Speak on any scale open to you, large or small—to your friends, your associates, your professional organizations, or any legitimate public forum. You can never tell when your words will reach the right mind at the right time. You will see no immediate results—but it is of such activities that public opinion is made.

    Speak up: Write blog posts -- and comment on blogs that toe the statist line.  Write letters to the editors of newspapers and magazines, to TV and radio commentators and even to politicians (who depend on their constituents). If your letters are brief and rational (which will be an unusual pleasure for them to receive), they will have more influence than you suspect.  Take every opportunity you can to debunk the lies, and to tell the truth about the failures of government intervention

    Two invaluable resources for intellectual ammunition are the Mises Institute's Bailout Reader and the Ayn Rand Center's Financial Crisis website. Bookmark them now.

    UPDATE 1: "Regulators cannot avert the next crisis," says Johan Norberg in The Australian, but they can make it much, much worse.

    UPDATE 2: European commentators are now screaming for the printing presses to be turned up high to rescue all the blunderers.  Screams one idiot in The [UK] Telegraph:

        We are fast approaching the point of no return. The only way out of this calamitous descent is “shock and awe” on a global scale, and even that may not be enough.
       
    Drastic rate cuts would be a good start. Central bankers still paralysed by a misplaced fear of inflation – whether in Europe, Britain, or the US – have become a public menace and should be held to severe account by our democracies. The imminent and massive danger is now self-feeding debt deflation...

    Well, no, the imminent and present danger is more of what caused the problem in the first place, which is more and more money pouring off the government's printing presses. The Telegraph commentator quotes approvingly US Fed chairman Ben Bernanke from his 2002 "helicopter" speech extolling the virtues of his inflationary central bank:

    The US government has a technology, called a printing press(or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost... under a paper-money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending and hence positive inflation.

    As Lew Rockwell explained a year ago, when the cost of Bernanke's printing press was already obvious to those who knew what they were looking at:

        Picture the Joker from the movie Batman throwing money from his float on the parade and you can see where this is going. Or imagine the alchemist of medieval lore, attempting to conjure up wealth from chemical mixtures. 
        The sea of inflationary credit is the core problem behind the falling dollar, the subprime crisis, the housing meltdown, not to mention the rise in the national debt and a thousand other problems.
        And how do they deal with it? More credit and more calls for controls. No one in Washington seems to understand the reason for the crisis, much less how to fix it...
        A good indication is President Bush's [December '07] freeze on subprime mortgage rates. It is a classic case that provides serious lessons for all of us. It shows the political penchant for intervening in the market, the market response, and the further interventions that are called forth when the first round doesn't bring the utopia they imagine.
        Here is the great mortal threat that intervention poses to the economy: not the first round, not even the second round, but the relentless dynamic of political rescues that drive us further into the pit of state planning...

    As Austrian economists, and some of the saner mainstream economists have been saying to little notice, the pain caused by Bernanke's printing press is now inevitable -- the only choice is whether the pain is dragged out for years and even exacerbated by meddling and interventionism, as Roosevelt did in the thirties; whether it's dragged out for a decade of stagflation, as it did for Japan in the "lost decade" of the nineties; or whether we bite the bullet and have our correction, including the necessary correction in wage rates, and get back on track as swiftly as corrections such as that of the early twenties were effected.

    UPDATE 3: NZ politicians don't even appear to look like they've realised there's a tsunami on the way. Yes, they've all noticed that the money coming their way is looking somewhat slimmer, but there's little sign they see it as a any reason to slim down -- and no indication at all from any of them that they even see the wider world beyond Molesworth St.

    In this interview on Leighton Smith's show this morning, the finance minister who pulled NZ out of a hole in the eighties, Roger Douglas, sounds like he's at least halfway to understanding what needs to happen this time.  Listen here courtesy NewstalkZB - Douglas starts about 34:00 in.

    The world's ugliest tall tower, Dubai

                                          0,,6285963,00

    A new "world's tallest building" for the Arab Emirates:

    World's next tallest tower in Dubai revealed: DEVELOPERS in Dubai have announced plans to build a tower 1km high - beating the booming city state's own world record.
        With the world's tallest building, the Burj Dubai, nearing completion, Dubai World president Sultan Ahmed bin Sulaim said the new tower would be "one of a kind."
        ...Foundation work has already begun on the tower, Nakheel Chief Executive Chris O'Donnell told FoxNews.
        ...The final height of Nakheel's proposed tower is likewise a secret, as is the price tag. The company would only say it will be more than 1km tall, or the height of more than three of New York's Chrysler Buildings stacked end-to-end.

    Sure will be.  Ugly, but tall. 

    The world's skyscrapers are not where they used to be.  Says Pardeesh Bata:

    Asia and Middle East are the new “high-rise” dream locations... William F. Baker, a partner at Skidmore Owings & Merrill Properties and the chief structural engineer of Burj Dubai, has summarized the world-wide phenomenon of this new type of 21st-century supertall proposals:

    “If skyscraper construction had stopped in 1990, one would say that the tallest skyscrapers are made of steel, built in the United States, and are office buildings. Today, one would say that the tallest skyscrapers are made of concrete or composite, are erected in Asia or the Middle East, and likely to be residential.” (source)

    Look at this distribution of proposed and under-construction super-tall skyscraper projects in the world:
    Architecture, Real Estate
    Asian projects definitely dominate the scene.

    Monday, 6 October 2008

    Pinching policies? Be our guest.

    I like it when other parties pinch Libz policies. That's what good policies are for. Amidst the baloney about entrenching the Maori seats and a Waitangi gravy train that goes on for ever, here's what the Maori Party has "pinched" for their "social policies":
    Social policies are aimed at eliminating child poverty by 2020 - including no tax on the first $25,000, removing GST on food and increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. It also wants business tax lowered to 25 per cent for small businesses to help small Maori enterprises grow.
    No tax on the first $25,000; removing GST on food; business tax lowered ... drop the other garbage and the economically illiterate minimum-wage proposal (just watch how the present minimum-wage law increases unemployment over the next few years, let alone a higher one) and they're nearly halfway there.

    Laura Norder wins elections

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. To my great surprise, John Boy Key appears to be sending that very sensible message to violent criminals, and to shop-owners and others who've been the target of those criminals he's sending the message (well, sort of) that it's okay to defend themselves.

    Bravo for that much.

    John Boy has finally come out with a policy that's both worth a damn, and is different to the other team's. Yes, it's election year, but two cheers for that anyway. It's been twelve years since Libertarianz first introduced its policy that "Life sentences for real crimes will mean life" -- unlike other parties I could mention it's not changed every few years depending on which way the wind is blowing -- so it's worth a cheer or two when the mainstream parties finally catch up.

    National's policy of ensuring, or trying to, that thugs won't get the chance to destroy people's lives *more than twice* is half-good, and will keep the rest of us half-safe. Two very loud cheers for that.

    Contrary to the claims of both Helen Clark MP and Peter Williams QC in objecting to his policy, "corrections" isn't about "redemption" or rehabilitation for criminals -- and contrary to John Key's claim it's not primarily about "deterrence" either -- it's primarily about restitution for victims, and then protection for us.

    The only reason not to take violent criminals off the street -- the only reason -- is that not doing so would safely allow a criminal to make recompense for their crime to the victim.

    Government's primary job -- the only one for which it has any moral justification -- is to protect those who value their life, liberty, property and happiness from those who've shown beyond reasonable doubt that they're quite partial to taking them all away. ("The rights of the accused are not a primary," argues Ayn Rand, "they are a consequence derived from a man’s inalienable, individual rights. A consequence cannot survive the destruction of its cause.") That's the only reason to lock people up: not to not to rehabilitate criminals, and nor even to punish them, but to protect us from their savagery.

    If John Key understands that much, then he perhaps understands more than I'd ever given him credit for.

    That said, Key still resolutely ignores a fairly significant elephant in the room, and his policy has a fairly substantial fish-hook -- its price-tag: at least $314 million plus $43 million annually for a new prison to lock up the estimated 572 or so thugs that will be locked up under this policy who aren't locked up now.

    That's why he gets just two cheers. Ignoring the obvious, and a new prison that's both expensive and unnecessary. Repairing to the reason we have laws against violent crime will tell you why it's unnecessary:

    All actions defined as criminal in a free society are actions involving force—and only such actions are answered by force.

    Do not be misled by sloppy expressions such as “A murderer commits a crime against society.” It is not society that a murderer murders, but an individual man. It is not a social right that he breaks, but an individual right. He is not punished for hurting a collective—he has not hurt a whole collective—he has hurt one man. If a criminal robs ten men—it is still not “society” that he has robbed, but ten individuals. There are no “crimes against society”—all crimes are committed against specific men, against individuals. And it is precisely the duty of a proper social system and of a proper government to protect an individual against criminal attack—against force.

    Which means "crimes" without a victim are not in fact a crime -- "crimes," that is, such as smoking a joint, cutting down a tree on your own land, or putting a chocolate bar in your kid's lunchbox. Locking people up who've committed no crime against anyone else is not only immoral, its not only expensive, but it's urgently necessary to solve the problems Key seems at least to want to.

    The main point here is of course the failed War on Drugs, whose results we can see on the streets of South Auckland and the gangs of Wanganui, in the increased profits of those gangs and the increased abundance of more and more dangerous drugs -- in the increased time taken away from real crimes by concentrating on bogus victimless crimes; in the rise and rise of 'P' -- the ideal prohibition drug -- and in the explosion of prison numbers in recent years.

    It's now so serious that even a mainstream political parties really has to focus attention on what the War on Drugs has done, and how ending it will solve so many problems:

    • End the War on Drugs to fix the gang problem, by taking away their source of profits.
    • End the War on Drugs to fix the 'p' problem by taking away the need for such a *virulent* drug -- the ideal prohibition drug.
    • End the War on Drugs to fix the prison overcrowding problem, by not locking up people who have committed no crime against anyone.
    • End the War on Drugs to solve the policing problem, by taking police resources from so called 'crimes' with no victims so that real crimes with genuine victims like rape, robbery, murder, theft and fraud can be vigorously pursued and the rights of these real victims enforced and upheld.
    UPDATE 1: More on the damage that dullards do:
    BZP ban boosted the illegal drug market, survey shows - A survey of Otago University students has found the ban on party pill ingredient BZP has only boosted the illegal drug market. [Hat tip Whale Oil]
    UPDATE 2: Lindsay Mitchell reckons the Nats "two strikes" policy has gazumped her own party's "three strikes" headline policy. "Clever move by National," she says. "Makes ACT irrelevant on the very ground they chose to fight the election on."
    Where ACT should have gone [she says] is to the root of most crime and the best way to prevent it: Serious and radical welfare reform. National would never follow them there.
    Thanks goodness one party at least has pointed out that road, huh?

    But as Susan says at Lindsay's, why stop at two strikes?
    I don't know why you'd subject another one (or two, in the case of ACT) innocent people to a serious [violent] offence before locking the offender away for a long time?
    Why not get serious with the first conviction for violent crime?
    As long as the justice system is fixed first and it's restricted to violent crimes only, why not?